John Guare Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Compare John Guare’s visual imagery in two plays.

Compare Guare’s musical imagery in two plays.

What are the thematic similarities of The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, and Four Baboons Adoring the Sun?

Compare Guare’s treatment of dysfunctional families in two plays.

What is Guare saying about Roman Catholicism in The House of Blue Leaves?

How is show business a metaphor in The House of Blue Leaves?

Is the theory of six degrees of separation merely a plot device, or is it central to the themes of Six Degrees of Separation?

How is the 1980 film Atlantic City similar to Guare’s plays?

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

John Guare’s short teleplay Kissing Sweet, a satirical pastiche about pollution, appeared as part of New York’s WNED-TV program Foul! on November 25, 1969. His 1971 screenplay for director Milo Forman’s Taking Off was actually a revision of a script by Forman and Jean-Claude Carrière. His screenplay Atlantic City (1981) was Guare’s original work. The 1986 revival of The House of Blue Leaves resulted in a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) televised version on the Great Performances series; similarly, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcast on radio a version of Women and Water in October of 1988. In 1993 Guare wrote his own screenplay for the MGM film version of Six Degrees of Separation.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Although John Guare has been recognized from early in his career as one of the United States’ best playwrights Off-Broadway, the distinction of success on Broadway was late in coming. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among the early ones Off-Broadway’s Obie Award in 1968 honoring Muzeeka as the Best Distinguished Play of the Year. The following year, Variety magazine named Guare the Most Promising Playwright of 1969. The House of Blue Leaves won for him another Obie Award, in 1971, as well as the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, also in 1971, for Best American Play of the Year and an Outer Critics Circle Award. In 1972, Guare was honored with Broadway’s Tony Award for his triumphant musical version of Two Gentlemen of Verona, for which he wrote the lyrics and which was produced by Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Two Gentlemen of Verona also earned for him a New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1972 for Best Musical. Guare was playwright-in-residence at the New York City Shakespeare Festival in 1976 and 1977. In 1981, he received the American Academy Award of Merit Medal, and in 1987, a New York Institute for the Humanities Fellowship. Twelve years later, Guare was the 1999 honoree of the William Inge Theatre Festival.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bernstein, Samuel J. The Strands Entwined. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1980. A survey of contemporary drama, this volume includes an excellent chapter on The House of Blue Leaves, which also touches on Guare’s other plays. A particularly helpful feature of this book is the summary of, and quotation from, major reviews.

Guare, John. “The Art of Theater IX.” Interview by Anne Cattaneo. The Paris Review 34 (Winter, 1992): 68-103. A wide-ranging interview that provides valuable insights into Guare’s working methods and his conception of theater. “I love the part of playwrighting that is a craft to be learned continually,” Guare remarks, “The-wright part, like shipwright or wheelwright or cartwright.” Particularly interesting are Guare’s comments on the journal he has kept for many years, a resource frequently mined for his plays.

Guare, John. Preface to The House of Blue Leaves, and Two Other Plays. New York: NAL Penguin, 1987. Intended as an introduction to The House of Blue Leaves after its successful revival in 1986, this essay by Guare also touches on Bosoms and Neglect and Landscape of the Body.

Guare, John. Preface to The War Against the Kitchen Sink. New York: Smith & Kraus, 1996. Guare’s...

(The entire section is 440 words.)