The Black Comedy of John Guare

The Black Comedy of John Guare

The Black Comedy of John Guare

The Black Comedy of John Guare

Synopsis

"During the last thirty years of the twentieth century, John Guare, largely due to the universal appeal of his best-known dramas, The House of Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation, has been lauded as one of the most successful American playwrights. However, his plays have been perceived by critics as problematic and paradoxical; as a result, with no books and a paucity of articles written about his theater, Guare has not received the critical attention he deserves. This book, the first full-length study of Guare's theater, will make his plays more accessible through an examination of the often unnerving type of black comedy that makes his plays work. With regard to content, Guare's plays offer insights as profound as any in twentieth-century American drama. Acting as a sociologist examining a troubled contemporary American society, Guare is motivated by scorn for the fraudulence of our own way of life. His protagonists fail to "connect" with others and with their own unique sense of individuality. Instead, they are lured by the glitz and glamour of the promised American dream. Guare demonstrates how we are inculcated with the notion that success in America is equated with money, beauty, and fame. Dreaming of an idyllic life in the past or future, Guare's characters have no time for relationships in the present and thus are left with a life that is passionless, love-starved, and devoid of friendship or spirituality. Guare's theater depicts how American society has turned individuals into neurotic automatons out of tune with self and others. He demonstrates how commercial values and the media hype of American life have channeled its citizens into a worship of celebrities. In short, Guare writes about a crazed, chaotic society of bewildered people out of touch with their individuality, mesmerized by a media and pop culture hype of fame and fortune. Guare's theater suggests that the neuroticism of the modern age must be subsumed by our personal dreams that will help us create our own unique mythologies free from pop art and commercialized media icons." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

D URING THE LAST THIRTY YEARS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, JOHN Guare has been lauded as one of the most successful American playwrights. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Guare was depicted as an aspiring young dramatist whom critics assumed would follow in the footsteps of the masters of American drama: Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams. Indeed, Guare's awards began to accumulate; he has won three Obie Awards, New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards, Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards, Drama Desk Awards, the New York Film Critics' Award, the Los Angeles Film Critics' Award, the Outer Critics' Circle Award, an Olivier Best Play Award, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. In the latter part of the twentieth century, Guare, largely due to the universal appeal of his best-known dramas, The House of Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation, as well as to the commercial success of his adaptation of Two Gentlemen of Verona and the fine writing he did for the screenplay of Atlantic City, has been placed in the company of Edward Albee, David Mamet, and August Wilson— playwrights who have given renewed life to the contemporary American theater.

However, unlike Albee, Mamet, and Wilson, Guare's plays have been perceived by theater critics and scholars to be much more problematic and paradoxical. Guare is often characterized as a witty playwright who has a good ear for language but one who does little with plot or character development. The form of his plays can range from zany farce to black comedy to theater of the grotesque. In a Guare play, anything can happen and usually does. These surprising twists and turns of the action force critics to assume that his plays are unstructured, chaotic, and therefore undisciplined. Gautam Dasgupta describes what we are likely to encounter in a typical Guare play: “Normal conversations easily give way to song, and characters frequently break away to converse directly with the audience.

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