Albert Innaurato 1948–
American playwright, screenwriter, and director.
Innaurato's works blend naturalism and surrealism and center on the need of all individuals, no matter how unusual or eccentric, to be loved and understood. Many of his characters are grotesques, losers, and misfits, and his situations often border on farce. But Innaurato places serious themes at the core of his plays, despite the madness at their peripheries. He believes contemporary society judges people on the basis of appearance and sexuality, and forces them into competitive situations they are unable to handle. Innaurato feels, however, that people have an intrinsic strength and dignity that enables them to transcend background and environment. He explores the effects of society on emotional life by examining such subjects as sexual dilemmas, prejudice, the loss of the American heroic impulse, and the search for love. Because of his success in depicting these concerns, he is considered one of the most promising talents of the American theater.
Innaurato has said that all of his characters are reflections of himself. Raised in South Philadelphia, the setting of many of his plays, Innaurato was considered a backward child. Because of this experience, he became interested in the problems of those rejected by society. At the age of eight, he began composing opera librettos; several critics have noted the structural similarities between his plays and the opera. Innaurato began his career as a playwright while a teenager. His first major work, the black comedy The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie, is based on recollections of parochial school brutality and on the Catholic fixation with suffering; Innaurato saw the play, fully formed, in a nightmare. Benno, a grossly overweight adolescent who literally eats himself to death, is Innaurato's Christlike symbol of the innocent victim of society. Innaurato was praised for his imaginative conception and for the excellence of the play's language; he has since been recognized as a leader in the new emphasis on language in the theater. His next play, Gemini, is a humorous look at sexual identity: Francis, a Harvard student, is unsure whether he is hetero- or homosexual. The appeal of Innaurato's principle and secondary characters, and the sensitivity with which he approaches the issue, won accolades from critics and audiences; however, some homosexual critics found the play inaccurate and offensive. Gemini moved from its initial off-off-Broadway location to off-Broadway to Broadway, where it has become a long-running classic.
None of Innaurato's subsequent plays have equalled the popularity of his earlier works. Though he is not considered an unqualified success, Innaurato is usually perceived as a highly original playwright with a vivid moral vision. Young people appreciate his representations of their doubts and concerns and his satiric stabs at contemporary society.