Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone? shares with other Terrence McNally plays of the 1960’s and 1970’s the witty yet pointed satiric tone of protest against a society that threatens individual freedom. In a clutch of plays that combine rambunctiously amusing surfaces and darkly disturbing depths, he creates a stylish but barbed satire that explores the problematic relations between the communal and the individual. By means of an array of misfit heroes, he skewers his characteristic targets (conventional morality, the Vietnam War, intolerance for nonconformity and eccentricity, governmental blindness, and authoritarian brutality) with an anger that is searing even when cheeky and high-spirited.

Next (pr. 1967) takes on the dehumanized absurdity of induction into the military, a process that turns a mild, middle-aged man into a sadistic, pompous parody of the very bureaucratic forces that threaten him. It is also the theme of Witness (pr. 1968), a play which shows again the pernicious effects of an individual’s being subjected to an intense dose of the normative: It can turn one into a desensitized assassin. In Bringing It All Back Home (pr. 1969), McNally presents an American family (eroded by drugs, promiscuous sex, patriarchal power, and mindless television watching) as it confronts both the return home of the elder son, a soldier killed in Vietnam, and the television crew that comes to film the family’s reaction for...

(The entire section is 549 words.)