15 American Plays It'd Be Great to See Revived

The unusual suspects

The Ceremony of Innocence (1967) by Ronald Ribman. You're an American, your country's mired in a meaningless war, what do you write about? If you're Ronald Ribman—another leading candidate for the title of our most underrated playwright—you create a fierce drama about the medieval King Ethelred, who retreats to a monastery rather than wage war. Another American Place Theatre discovery that urgently deserves rediscovering.

The Credeaux Canvas (2001) by Keith Bunin. Art, love, forgery, and integrity, all wrapped in one taut, tidy package about a chameleonic painter whose businesslike buddy convinces him to fake an old-master canvas. Playwrights Horizons did splendidly by it, with the then-unknown Annie Parisse and Lee Pace as model and artist. Young wannabes, take note.

A Few Stout Individuals (2002) by John Guare. Everyone's favorite theatrical fantasist spun this dizzying web of words for the Signature's all-Guare season. The dying U.S. Grant, ruthless general and hapless President, struggles to make sense of his life, nursemaided by his would-be publisher, Mark Twain, and a host of Gilded Age figures low and high. I'd gladly take this exhilarating trip again.

Zero Positive (1988) by Harry Kondoleon. High on the list of writers one can't forget, Kondoleon turned out maddeningly original plays that shed their light prismatically, in disorienting multicolored flashes. At least six of Kondoleon's plays merit revival, but this one, set partly in an AIDS ward and given a troubled premiere at the Public Theater, manifestly leads the disorientation course.


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Love this. Thank you!

Jasper Taylor
Jasper Taylor

I wish a lifetime of revivals on Michael Feingold. Blech.


Thank goodness there are people out there who think "The Mound Builders" is a masterpiece! But this is a terrific article with some terrific ideas--many thanks!

bruce henderson
bruce henderson

What a wonderful column. While I've heard of and or read/seen most of the playwrights (though a few are new to me), most of the plays themselves are not ones I know as well as their more celebrated ones (i.e. the Wilson, the Fornes, the Gurney, the Guare). One of my most breath-taking memories of theatre is seeing Fornes' "Mud," a play about poverty and illiteracy, featuring JoAnn Schmidman and an actor from the Omaha Magic Theatre whose name I do not know, performed in the theatre at Kearney State College in Nebraska as part of a Nebraska Humanities Council project. Of course, none of the theatre faculty could be bothered to go (I think they were working on really up-to-date productions of things like "Hair"--I mean it was 1985, after all)--and one said to me he didn't consider their work really theatre). The production was directed by Megan Terry and the talk back with Terry and the actors was exciting--for the forty of us who showed up for the performance. It began a three-year relationship I had with the warm, welcoming OMT, who invited me to their performances and were generous with time and ideas. Still the best part of my three years in the hell-hole of rural, Bible-belt Nebraska, an inspiration of what could be done in what seemed like the hinterlands, and an inspiration to my as an aspiring performer/director/teacher to see what performance could do socially, politically, and culturally. Thank you, Megan and JoAnn, wherever you are these days! You may have saved my life that night.