EDWARD ALBEE’S FIRST full-length play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, was an instant success when it premiered on Broadway on October 13, 1962. Yet the trustees of Columbia University refused to award the drama the Pulitzer Prize. One board member said, “My personal opinion, and I’m sure…
So yes, Shakespeare was a playwright – an actor, a director, a producer, in fact a man wholly of the theater – and The Winter’s Tale is a play. But we can’t always have the benefit of an actor as skilled as Simon Russell Beale interpreting Leontes for us, and even then, it’s his interpretation, not ours. When we read the plays, we’re actor, director, and lighting designer at once. And what we’re reading, it’s worth pointing out, is very largely poetry.
BILL. You want to argue? Is that what you need to do? Well, pick a subject, all right, and let me know what it is, so I can have a fighting chance—
BARBARA. The subject is me! I am the subject, you narcissistic motherfucker! I am in pain! I need help!
(Jean enters from the second-floor hallway, sits on the stairway, listens.)
BILL. I’ve copped to being a narcissist. We’re the products of a narcissistic generation.
BARBARA. You can’t do it, can you? You can’t talk about me for two seconds—
BILL. You called me a narcissist! And when I try to talk about you, you accuse me of psychoanalyzing you!
BARBARA. You do understand that it hurts, to go from sharing a bed with you for twenty-three years to sleeping by myself.
BILL. I’m here, now.
BARBARA. Men always say shit like that, as if the past and the future don’t exist.
BILL. Can we not make this a gender discussion?
BARBARA. Do men really believe that here and now is enough? It’s just horseshit, to avoid talking about the things they’re afraid to say.
BILL. I’m not necessarily keen on the notion of saying things that would hurt you.
BARBARA. Like what?
BARBARA. What? Say it. You must realize there’s nothing you can say that would hurt me any more than I’m already hurting. The damage is done.
BILL. I think you’re wrong. I think you get in this masochistic frame of mind that actually desires to be hurt more than—
BILL. Barbara, please, we have enough on our hands with your parents right now. Let’s not revisit all this.
BARBARA. Revisit, when did we visit this to begin with? You pulled the rug out from under me. I still don’t know what happened. Do I bore you, intimidate you, disgust you? Is this just about the pleasures of young flesh, teenage pussy? I really need to know.
BILL. You need to know now? You want to have this discussion with Beverly missing, and your mother as crazy as a loon, and our daughter twenty feet away? Do you really want to do this now?
BARBARA. No. You’re right. I’ll just hunker down for a cozy night’s sleep. Next to my husband.
(She calmly gets under the covers.)
BILL. This discussion deserves our care. And patience. We’ll both be in a better frame of mind to talk about this once your father’s come home.
BARBARA. My father’s dead, Bill.
Tracy Letts, August: Osage County
WOMAN. I don’t want to miss everything. I really don’t. I like everything.
MAN. Me neither. (Pause.) I meant to yell.
WOMAN. (Pause.) Name a season.
WOMAN. Name another.
WOMAN. We were made for each other.
MAN. Name an animal.
WOMAN. The otter.
MAN. Name another.
WOMAN. No thanks.
MAN. We were.
WOMAN. Can we go be alone somewhere?
MAN. Both of us?
MAN. I know just the place.
MAN. I don’t know I’ve just heard people say that before.
Will Eno, The Flu Season