A Theater of Compassion

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The Theater of Terrence McNally: Something about Grace
by Raymond-Jean Frontain
Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press. 374 pages, $115.

 

 

THE LATE Terrence McNally [who succumbed to covid-19 after this was written]has hardly been neglected or undervalued. Many of his works, including The Ritz (1975), Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune (1982), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1992), Love! Valour! Compassion! (1994), Master Class (1995), and Corpus Christi (1998), are familiar to even casual theatergoers. His many awards include four Tonys and three Drama Desk Awards, and he was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

            But for all the acclaim that McNally has received from his colleagues in the theater, academic critics have paid far less attention to his work. Perhaps this is because the sheer size of McNally’s corpus and its great range make it difficult to grasp the whole. In any case, critics have generally failed to recognize that his varied works—including numerous short plays, books for musicals, screenplays, TV scripts, and opera libretti—are unified by a consistent preoccupation with particular themes, recurring motifs, and a restless experimentation with form and genre.

            Given this relative neglect of his work, Raymond-Jean Frontain’s new book, The Theater of Terrence McNally: Something about Grace, is especially welcome.

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Claude Summers is author of Gay Fictions: Wilde to Stonewall, among many other titles.
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