The Pain and the Itch

The Pain and the Itch

by Bruce Norris
     
 

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In this brief but staggering two-act, playwright Norris demonstrates his skill at drawing out the dark truth that lurks beneath the surface of the “perfect” family. His crackling satire takes dead aim at the self-satisfied, left-leaning American upper-middle class and its many self-delusions.

          

Overview

In this brief but staggering two-act, playwright Norris demonstrates his skill at drawing out the dark truth that lurks beneath the surface of the “perfect” family. His crackling satire takes dead aim at the self-satisfied, left-leaning American upper-middle class and its many self-delusions.

            On a winter afternoon, Kelly and Clay—an attractive, prosperous, seemingly happy couple with a four-year-old daughter and a newborn baby—must explain to a visitor the events of the previous Thanksgiving, on which, so it seems, someone or something had been gnawing at the avocados on their kitchen table. In the course of this holiday gathering—attended by Clay’s mother, a well-meaning but clueless first-grade teacher who spouts pointless liberal bromides; his brother, a plastic surgeon with a nihilistic streak and a taste for martinis; and his brother's girlfriend, a sexy Balkan immigrant with a love for all things American (racism included)—the recent past is unearthed along with revelations of failed marriages, fraternal hatred, infidelity and venereal disease, in the form of their daughter’s nasty genital infection. And it’s a comedy. As the story is gradually unfolded to their visitor, a Muslim cab driver, his relationship to the events becomes increasingly clear, as does the emptiness of the family’s supposed benevolence and sensitivity.

            With its crashing emotion and cutting humor, this vicious dissection of the comfortable progressive life lays bare the lies that people use to feel righteous even as they veer off a genuinely ethical path.

Editorial Reviews

NY Observer
The best new play in many a season. There are heady, farcical peaks to this comedy that approach the manic genius of Preston Sturges. But Mr. Norris' real target is that great sentimental sham, the idealized American family.
New Yorker
One of the most satisfying theatrical events available today...Norris writes with a mind that is attuned to the blindness that passes for a shared vision among the emotionally smug and upwardly mobile.
Time Out (Chicago)
A smashing new satire...Norris' uncompromising, cagily crafted cockfight all but leaves blood on the stage.
Time Out
Playgoers hungry for smart, vicious drama will feel like an itch has been scratched.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810124974
Publisher:
Northwestern University Press
Publication date:
06/28/2008
Edition description:
1
Pages:
128
Sales rank:
962,617
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Norris is the author of several plays, including The Infidel, Purple Heart, The Unmentionables, and We All Went Down to Amsterdam, all of which have been produced by the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. The Infidel and Purple Heart were published together in 2005 by Northwestern University Press. Norris lives in Brooklyn.

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