Sticks and Bones

by David Rabe

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Sticks and Bones is one of several plays playwright David Rabe wrote about the Vietnam War and its effect on those who fought in it. In this play, a black comedy/drama, Rabe focuses on David, a physically blind veteran who has returned home to his morally blind family. He is alienated from them because he has changed and they cannot understand or accept him and what he has experienced. The tensions surrounding David reveal problems with each member of the family. Rabe emphasizes the denial common to many Americans who were stateside during the war by parodying an archetypical American family. Some of the characters' names come from a popular television sitcom family of the 1950s and 1960s, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Rabe uses many varied writing styles, ideas, and symbols in the play. Critics were divided over the play, Rabe's writing, and its effectiveness.

A Vietnam veteran himself, Rabe wrote Sticks and Bones while he was a graduate student at Villanova University in the late 1960s. The play made its debut there in 1969. After the off-Broadway success of another Vietnam play of Rabe's, The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel in early 1971, Sticks and Bones also opened off Broadway at the Florence Sutro Anspacher Theatre in November of 1971. Sticks and Bones later transferred to Broadway's John Golden Theatre in 1972 and ran for a total of 366 performances. The play won numerous accolades, including the Elizabeth Hull-Kate Warriner Award from the Dramatists Guild in 1971, the 1972 Antoinette Perry Award (Tony Award) for best play, and the Outer Critics Circle Award.

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