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5.0 3
by Adam Rapp

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"A startling, unnerving work of art that fiercely pushes the boundaries of theater."—Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

"Fifteen years ago I killed my sister."

So begins Adam Rapp's highly acclaimed play Nocturne, in which a 32-year-old former piano prodigy recounts the tragic events that tore his family apart.

With a keen


"A startling, unnerving work of art that fiercely pushes the boundaries of theater."—Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

"Fifteen years ago I killed my sister."

So begins Adam Rapp's highly acclaimed play Nocturne, in which a 32-year-old former piano prodigy recounts the tragic events that tore his family apart.

With a keen eye for human relationships and a deft ear for language, Rapp explores the aftershock of this unimaginable event. The father is so incapable of forgiveness he puts a gun in his son's mouth; the mother so shattered, she deserts the family and eventually takes leave of her sanity altogether; the son—only 17 years old at the time—sets out for New York City. There, he seeks an uneasy refuge in books and reinvents himself as a writer. Across the decade and a half that follows he tries to cope with the ramifications of his own anguish and estrangement while making a desperate search for redemption.

A devastating, elegant, and gripping dissection of the American dream, Nocturne signals a brave new voice in American theater.]]>

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Nothing can nullify the horror contained within this play's opening sentence: "Fifteen years ago I killed my sister." One hot summer afternoon when the narrator was driving home from work, he noticed a small creature run out into the street. Then he heard a thud. When he returned to the scene of the accident, he discovered his little sister lying dead in the street. The rest of the play portrays how grief can unravel a family. The narrator takes a job in New York City and refers to himself in the third person, perhaps in attempt to assuage his grief and dissociate himself from the person who caused the accident. His parents eventually separate. His father dies of testicular cancer in a dingy room, and his mother enters a mental institution. The play is really a monolog in which the narrator quotes other characters' words. Rapp, winner of many awards for his plays and young adult novels, has created a poignant and sensitive play about lost lives. Recommended to any collection, specifically in public libraries. Bob Ivey, Univ. of Memphis Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

“A brilliant, terrifying, perceptive, occasionally funny play . . . bold, daring and succesful.” —Donald Lyons, New York Post

“A playwright . . . to watch with keen interest.” —Markland Taylor, Variety

“A startling, unnerving work of art that fiercely pushes the boundaries of theater.” —Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

Product Details

Broadway Play Publishing Inc
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.


I said it.

I can change the order of the words. My sister I killed fifteen years ago. I, fifteen years ago, killed my sister. Sister my killed I years ago fifteen.

I can cite various definitions. To deprive of life: The farmer killed the rabid dog. To put an end to: The umpire killed the tennis match. To mark for omission: He killed the paragraph. To destroy the vital essential quality of. The dentist killed the nerve with Novocain. To cause to stop: The bus driver killed the engine. To cause extreme pain to: His monologue killed the audience.

To slay. To murder. To assassinate. To dispatch. To execute.

You can play with tenses. Will kill. Did kill. Have killed. Will have killed. Would like to have killed.

You can turn it into a gerund. Killing. There's a kind of progress with a gerund.

If you conjugate in the past tense, it's all the same. I killed. You killed. He, she, it killed. They killed. You all killed. We killed. There's no way around it.

Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.

It's dumb-sounding, the way most facts are. Like a former President or the names of bones.

Grover Cleveland.

Fibula. Tibia. Femur.

There's a finality in a fact. Something medical almost. A fact is crafted. Vaguely industrial. It has permanence. It's a stain or a smudge. A botch or a spot or a blemish. A fact is a flaw. It's made of wood and left to fossilize; to gather minerals and geologically imprint itself on the side of a mountain.

You can look at the back of your hand and know exactly how the bones move.

(The sound of a distant piano.)

The piano doesn't sing. It sobs. It aches without release. Like a word that can't wrench itself from the throat. Like an alkaline trapped in the liver. Even one note. A C-sharp. The death of small bird. An F. A stranded car's horn bleating for help on the highway. The piano has permanence. A factual permanence. You walk into a room and there it is, in all its stoic grandeur. It has omnipotence. It waits for you without pursuit. The hulking, coffinlike stillness. The way it comes to know your touch. Like a lover's private indulgence. A kind of glacial intimacy. A cold, sexless knowing.

Grieg. Chopin. Tchaikovsky.

There's a kind of death with the piano. The final note falling. Perhaps it's the inevitable, ensuing silence. The deafening return to stillness. The instrument itself is a homicide waiting to happen. Its physical weight. Its gravity, which slows you. The seeming need it has to render you inert. To turn you into its motionless companion. As though it doesn't want to be played. As though its potential — the crushing unheard music — as though this absence alone is some kind of motion deterrent.

The final movement of a sonata. An almost-human tragedy. Slow, brutal heart failure. Coronary thrombosis.

The weaving voices interloping a fugue. A political death. A kind of vocal assassination.

Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.

I was seventeen, she was nine. A fact. Now I'm thirty-two. She would be twenty-four. Fact. The hipbone's connected to the leg bone.

The '69 Buick Electra 225 is a very lengthy car. There's something almost illegal about the expanse of its back end. From grille to taillight it's sixteen feet, nine inches long. It has a 440 engine, and when you accelerate you can feel the horsepower buzzing in your ribcage. It's like a car out of a comic book.

At my father's insistence, I buy the Electra from Bob Ranzini — our family's insurance broker — for two hundred and fifty bucks. Mr. Ranzini pats me on the back He brags of its classic American pedigree. He speaks of its great sluicing hum and his yearly drive down to Jupiter, Florida, and all the old two-lane highways in the South.

Sitting in the Electra is like lounging. There's this sense that platters of food will be served. The seats buzz back. The windows buzz down. This infinite buzzing. Like the invisible drone of bees at work. Locusts in the fruit trees. A car humming with electricity.

Copyright © 2001 Adam Rapp

Meet the Author

Adam Rapp is the author of numerous plays and young adult novels. He lives in New York City.

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Nocturne 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a staggering theatre experience and a tour de force for the actor that narrated the story. I was exhausted at the end of the performance and deeply, deeply, moved
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw the premiere of this play performed here in Boston. It was the single best piece of drama I've ever seen. Well acted and well written.