Four Baboons Adoring the Sun Summary

John Guare


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The questioning of the rewards of success in the lives of Ouisa and Flan Kittredge in Six Degrees of Separation are again enacted in Four Baboons Adoring the Sun. Here, however, the couple—Penny and Philip McKenzie—and their children (ranging in age from thirteen to seven) are younger. Philip has left his successful “empire” as an archaeology professor at a California university, and Penny has severed her typical suburban existence “off Exit 4 of the Connecticut Turnpike” as wife of a congressman. Having realized the rewards of the American Dream, both need, more than anything, change and love, and they wish the same for their children.

In Philip’s words, there are two universes—Universe A, which is “all facts and reasons and explanations,” and Universe B, the universe of childhood, which is essentially mythic. It is this mythic level to which the play aspires. In no other play has Guare so richly invested the style and symbols of myth; for example, the family’s children are given mythic names (the most important of which is Wayne’s appellation of Icarus). The mythical ambience is created immediately with the appearance of Eros, Guare’s version of the Greek chorus. As background to the action, Eros is onstage throughout, chanting aspirations and forebodings in the tradition of the chorus. Beyond Eros, there is a replica of a four-thousand-year-old granite Egyptian sculpture of four baboons who have stared at the...

(The entire section is 403 words.)

Four Baboons Adoring the Sun Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Cohn, Ruby. New American Dramatists: 1960-1990. 2d ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.

Curry, Jane. John Guare: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

DiGaetani, John L. A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Gillian, Jennifer. “Staging a Staged Crisis in Masculinity: Race and Masculinity in Six Degrees of Separation.” In New Readings in American Drama: Something’s Happening Here, edited by Norma Jenckes. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

Martin, Nicholas. “Chaos and Other Muses.” American Theatre 16 (April, 1999): 26-29, 51-52.

Plunka, Gene A. The Black Comedy of John Guare. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002.

Plunka, Gene A. “John Guare and the Popular Culture Hype of Celebrity.” In A Companion to Twentieth Century Drama, edited by David Krasner and Molly Smith. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2005.

Rose, Lloyd. “John Guare.” In The Playwright’s Art: Conversations with Contemporary American Dramatists, edited by Jackson R. Bryer. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

Slethaug, Gordon E. “Chaotics and Many Degrees of Freedom in John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation.” American Drama 11 (Winter, 2002): 73-93.

Zimmerman, David A. “Six Degrees of Distinction: Connection, Contagion, and the Aesthetics of Anything.” Arizona Quarterly 55 (Autumn, 1999): 107-133.