Critical Context

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Getting Out anticipated many of the themes that would characterize Marsha Norman’s later plays. In the years immediately following the success of Getting Out, she wrote Third and Oak (pr. 1978, pb. 1985), about two women in a Laundromat and two men in the pool hall next door who are forced to shed their illusions about the people they love, and The Hold-up (pr. 1980, pb. 1987), which charts the liberation of a young farmworker who finds a way to break free of his northern New Mexico home.

’night, Mother is Marsha Norman’s best-known play. It was her first to be performed on Broadway (in 1982), and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. Like Arlene in Getting Out, Jessie in ’night, Mother must sever her ties with the past in order to assert her right to self-determination. Unlike Arlene, Jessie can only take control of her life by ending it. Getting Out reflects the growing influence of women playwrights as they tackle controversial subjects. The support of regional theaters, national and private foundations, and the feminist movement did much to nurture women writers in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s, both in New York and in regional theaters around the country.

Getting Out received national recognition rare for a first play. It was co-winner of the Actors Theatre of Louisville Great American Play contest for 1977 and won the Oppenheimer/Newsday Award. It also won the Outer Critics Circle’s John Gassner Playwriting Medallion, and the American Theatre Critics Association cited it as the outstanding new play produced outside New York during the 1977-1978 season. In 1979, The Burns Mantle Theatre Yearbook featured it as one of the best plays of the New York season.

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