The Theater of Terrence McNally: Something about Grace

The Theater of Terrence McNally: Something about Grace

by Raymond-Jean Frontain

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Terrence McNally’s canon of plays, books for musicals and opera libretti possesses such a breadth of subject matter and diversity of dramatic modes that critics have had difficulty assessing his accomplishment. This book is the first critical study to identify the four major stages of McNally’s development in terms of his understanding of how theater helps the modern person trapped in a seemingly profane existence to find a gateway to the transcendent. Drawing upon such diverse religious thinkers as Martin Buber, Mircea Eliade, Ilia Delio and Carter Heyward, Frontain analyzes the evolution of McNally’s understanding of grace, not as a gift bestowed by an all-powerful deity upon a desperate soul, but as the unwarranted—and, thus, all the more unusual—“act of devotion” (McNally’s phrase) that one person performs for another. By seeking to foment community, most importantly at the height of the AIDS pandemic, McNally’s theater itself proves to be a channel of grace. McNally’s greatest success is shown to be the creation of a theater of empathy and compassion in contradistinction to Artaud’s “theater of cruelty” and Albee’s Americanization of the theater of the absurd.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683932161
Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
Publication date: 10/15/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 374
File size: 830 KB

About the Author

Raymond-Jean Frontain is professor of English and former director of the Humanities Institute at the University of Central Arkansas.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Something about Grace: McNally’s Religious Humanism

Chapter One: Someone is Out There: Existential Angst in And Things That Go Bump in the Night

Chapter Two: “I Can’t Believe This Whole Night”: Redemption by Farce in The Ritz

Chapter Three: Long Night’s Journey into Day: Frankie and Johnny as Sexual Eucharist

Chapter Four: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Swimmer: Lips Together, Teeth Apart

Chapter Five: “Allow, Accept, Be”: McNally’s Engagement with Hindu Spirituality in A Perfect Ganesh

Chapter Six: Communal Survival and the Dance of Death in Love! Valour! Compassion!

Chapter Seven: “All Men Are Divine”: Religious Mystery and Homosexual Identity in Corpus Christi

Chapter Eight: McNally on the Cross: Dead Man Walking, Crucifixion, and A Man of No Importance

Chapter Nine: Discovering the Authentic Self: Dedication and the Salvific Function of Theater

Chapter Ten: Sing for Your Supper, Sing for Your Salvation: Golden Age, Master Class, and The Lisbon Traviata

Conclusion: The Music of Forgiveness: The Visit and Mothers and Sons

Appendix: A Calendar of the Works of Terrence McNally

Works Cited


About the Author

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