William Inge understood both the people and the social order of the Midwest, particularly the matriarchal family structure common to much of the area. Inge’s midwestern plays reverberate with authenticity. His first four Broadway plays depict their commonplace characters with extraordinary sensitivity, building through accounts of their prosaic lives toward a pitch of frustration that is communicated to audiences with enormous impact. By capturing so deftly this pervasive sense of frustration, Inge presents the universal that must be a part of any successful drama. Audiences left Inge’s early plays with an internalized sense of the gnawing isolation and conflict that his characters experienced. This is his legacy to American drama.
Come Back, Little Sheba
All Inge’s best instincts as a playwright are at work in Come Back, Little Sheba, the story of Doc and Lola Delaney, who are twenty years into a marriage that was forced on them when the eighteen-year-old Lola became pregnant while the promising young Doc was a medical student. Their hasty marriage was followed by Doc’s dropping out of medical school and becoming a chiropractor as well as by the loss of the baby through the bungling of a midwife, to whom Lola went because she was too embarrassed to go to an obstetrician. Lola ends up sterile and, as the action of the play begins, fat and unattractive. Doc has become an alcoholic, but as the play opens, he has been dry...
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