(Note: For some years Neil Simon made a foreseeable impression on Broadway audiences, who were always ready to laugh at his one-liners and enjoy the light-hearted comical situations he had a certain genius for inventing, as in the present example, The Sunshine Boys. One of the true classics of the American theatre, A Streetcar Named Desire followed Tennessee Williams’s wistful memory play The Glass Menagerie with a deeper but comparably sad story about a doomed heroine who meets her nemesis in the person of an angry war veteran whose coarseness and cruelty drive her to mental breakdown. The film version of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh followed on the success of the New York production, bringing to cinema audiences this marathon drama about a salesman’s life-defining struggle against self-delusion. The missing “e” in the sign that gives title to Lanford Wilson’s quintessential off-Broadway play Hot l Baltimore grows to symbolize the dramatist’s ironic yet sympathetic understanding of the plight of lonely persons stranded in a hotel lobby, each with a burdensome life story to tell.
The playwright’s voice that emerges in Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers speaks of contrary forces implicit in complex human character — leading invariably to enigmatic outcomes. The intended pun in the title of Peter Nichols’s The National Health draws knowing smiles from British and American audiences alike, who find much humor and additionally much insight in the sometimes lugubrious connections between love and death played out here in a hospital ward. Left in fragments at its author’s untimely death, Georg Büchner’s Voyzeck in production brings clarity out of incipient chaos, portraying in stark, unrelentless terms the life of an ordinary soldier bent by forces beyond his understanding. A twenty-fifth anniversary production of Arthur Miller’s tragic portrayal of the common man, Death of a Salesman, captures the fatal attempt of its central character to remember enough to make sense of his life.)