Albert Innaurato’s plays alternate in their effect from farcical comedy to unrelenting pathos. The consistent aspect of his work is not a matter of genre or formula, but one of theatrical style. Innaurato populates his plays with grotesque misfits, vivid personalities that depart from traditional theatrical types. The settings are drawn from contemporary lower-class dwellings and ground the desires of his sympathetic characters in a run-down atmosphere that predicts their eventual defeat. Actions, too, are frequently grotesque, particularly when the plays’ themes combine death, eating, and debased sexuality. Innaurato’s vision disturbs and fascinates audiences because he has created new voices for the expression of obsessive concerns, new ways to dramatize important themes through characterization. Innaurato’s work is uneven, however, almost equally divided between adeptly constructed scripts that shift cleanly from one scene to the next and plays that diffuse his obsessions into shrill, unfocused energy. If any single work can be said to predict the themes and style of Innaurato’s work, it is John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves (pr. 1971).
Unlike many young playwrights, Innaurato was given little time to develop; instead, his work was consistently condemned as disappointing. Tangential debate over his portrayals of homosexual characters only tended to fuel the critical fire. Yet in retrospect, Innaurato’s achievements are great...
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