A Few Stout Individuals: A Play in Two Acts

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Grove Press, 2003 - Drama - 121 pages
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This latest work from award-winning playwright John Guare, author of House of Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation, addresses ideas of history and memory, fame and ignominy, reason and insanity with his trademark Guare imagination. In a Fifth Avenue brownstone in 1880s New York, Ulysses S. Grant is penniless, dying of throat cancer, and attempting to finish his memoirs while he's cajoled and pestered by everyone from his wife and children to his publisher Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) and, via his drugged hallucinations, the emperor of Japan. Although the memoirs are eventually completed, the audience is left questioning their accuracy and, ultimately, the authenticity of history itself.

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About the author (2003)

Born of Irish Catholic parents in New York City, Guare was an only child. His parents led intense but somewhat separate lives and young Guare found himself increasingly alone as he grew up. He spent his childhood reading, listening to albums of Broadway musicals, and writing plays. His first play was presented in a neighbor's garage when he was eleven. Guare first came to public attention with his one-act play Muzeeka (1968), a biting social satire about an ambitious man who works for a canned-music company that inflicts its banal arrangements on the entire country. The hero, Jack Argue, is a modern guilt-ridden "Everyman" who has sold himself out to the system. The play was first performed at Connecticut's Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre, then at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. On April 28, 1968, it opened off-Broadway at the Provincetown Playhouse on a double bill with Sam Shepard's Red Cross. Muzeeka ran for 65 performances and earned its author an Obie Award that year. The House of Blue Leaves (1971), Guare's first full-length play, is set in a Queens apartment on the day the Pope is making his first visit to New York City. A savage farce, The House of Blue Leaves presents an unrelenting attack on lower middle-class values. It shows the emptiness of the characters' inner lives and the horror of their senseless acts of violence. The play won both an Obie and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1971. In 1986 it enjoyed a highly successful revival at New York's Lincoln Center, which further established Guare as a unique and critically acclaimed American playwright. His more recent plays, such as Six Degrees of Separation (1990), show the playwright turning toward a more tragic outlook. Critics have been almost universal in their praise of Guare's screenplay for Louis Malle's film, Atlantic City (1981). Although not published in book form, the Canadian-French film has been distributed by Paramount in the United States. It is a bittersweet, Runyonesque tale about a small-time numbers runner, played by Burt Lancaster, and a small-town waitress, played by Susan Sarandon. Atlantic City received a number of honors, including best-screenplay awards by the National Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Society, and the New York Film Critics Circle.

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