Resonant American Voices
First produced in 1946, the revival of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh was one of the most sought-after tickets of the 1998-1999 Broadway season, and that same season, the revival of Arthur Miller’s 1948 classic Death of a Salesman earned a Tony Award for Brian Dennehy for his portrayal of the beleaguered title character Willy Loman and a Tony nomination for Kevin Anderson for his portrayal of Willy’s eldest son Biff.
New works by such long-declared masters of American theater as Miller, Williams, and Foote were also being performed. To commemorate his 1944 Broadway debut, Miller opened a new play, Last Yankee (pr. 1993), doing so nearly fifty years after the day of his first Broadway production, The Man Who Had All the Luck (pr. 1944). Not surprisingly, that play was revived in 2002.
The master of the southern gothic genre, Williams proved that a great playwright’s work quite literally survives its author when Williams’s Not About Nightingales (wr. 1939) was given its Broadway premier in 1998, fifteen years after Williams’s death. Fellow southerner Foote also had new work mounted on the American stage during this period, including The Carpetbagger’s Children pr. 2001), and he was richly rewarded when he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for his The Young Man from Atlanta (pr. 1995). For nearly half a century, Foote’s writing had explored family life and its assorted dynamics, reminding his audiences that the middle-class nuclear family is—at once—the strongest and weakest of our social constructs.
This focus on family life also proved to be an ongoing concern of Sam Shepard extended the familial theme of True West (pr. 1980) and his Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child (pr. 1978) with yet another play set in the Southwestern desert, The Late Henry Moss (pr. 2000), a play distinctive for giving the missing father figure of Shepard’s earlier works a presence on the stage, as two brothers tried to lay to...
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