What was the public reaction to the work?

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The play won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001.
It also won the Joseph Kesselring Prize, the Drama Desk Award, and the Tony Award for Best Play.

Since you asked about the public reaction, rather than the critical reaction, that might be better measured by a successful off-Broadway run, a national tour (with over $2 million in advance ticket sales in San Francisco alone), and a film adaptation.

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