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Plays About Appearances or Illusion Vs Reality

In these plays, appearances are deceiving in some way. Some are more obvious in their depiction of unreality, but all demonstrate a contrast between how things are and how they seem to be.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (2 Acts)

Willy Loman is a 63 year old traveling salesman. He returns home early after canceling a trip to Boston. His wife, Linda, is concerned about his mental health and the strain of his job. She wants him to request a non-traveling position. Their two son’s, Biff and Happy, both in their 30s, are visiting. Willy is disappointed that they haven’t made anything of themselves, particularly Biff. Biff plans on asking a former employer for a job.

The beginning of this play can be read in the preview of Death of a Salesman: Revised Edition(44% in)

Workout by Wendy Wasserstein (1 Act)

A woman in athletic wear puts on music and starts leading an exercise class. While exercising, she urges her class on and talks about herself. She’s got a lot going on—with her work, husband, kids and hobbies. She seems to be living an exemplary and fulfilling life.

Right You Are, If You Think You Are by Luigi Pirandello (3 Acts)

The Agazzi family are discussing a social affront they suffered from a newcomer to the neighborhood, Signora Frola, who wouldn’t see them when they called on her. On a second visit, they were again rebuffed by her son-in-law, Ponza. They’re curious about his wife, who stays inside. Others arrive and add to the speculation. They then get a visit from Signora Frola herself, who explains her behavior. Soon after, Ponza visits and gives a different explanation of what is going on.

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (5 Acts)

After a show one night, Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering have a run in with a Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle. Higgins is a phonetics expert; he claims that with three months of tutoring he could pass that girl off as a member of high society. The next day Liza shows up at Higgins’ place to begin.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (3 Acts)

George is a college professor, married to Martha, the daughter of the college president. They’re a middle-aged couple who have just come home from a faculty party. Martha has invited a younger couple over to continue the evening. George and Martha engage in escalating verbal sparring as details of their life come out.

No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre (1 Act)

A valet leads Garcin, Inez, and Estelle into a drawing room. They have all died and were expecting to be tortured. They talk about why they are there, telling the stories of what they have done.

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov (4 Acts)

Professor Serebryakov, an older man, and his wife Yelena, a young woman, have come to the Serebryakov estate as they can’t afford to live elsewhere. Vanya dislikes Serebryakov and is attracted to Yelena. Vanya has many regrets about how he has lived.

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams (7 Scenes)

Tom and Laura, young adults, live with their mother, Amanda. She is critical of Tom, and worried that Amanda cannot support herself and doesn’t have any gentleman callers. She wants Tom to bring home a young man from work.

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen (3 Acts)

Nora comes home after some shopping. Her husband, Torvald, a bank manager, scolds her over her spending. Nora had secured a loan years earlier by forging her father’s signature. She has been secretly paying it back but is finding it difficult. Krogstad, a man who works for her husband, knows Nora’s secret and threatens her when he runs into some problems.

The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance (21 Scenes)

Dr. Treves is the new lecturer of anatomy at London Hospital. He becomes aware of John Merrick, a man with severe deformities. He pays the manager of the freak show, Ross, to study Merrick for a while. After a problem with his employment, Merrick becomes reacquainted with Treves.

The Ghost Sonata by August Strindberg (3 Acts)

A poor student, Arkenholz, spent the night helping the people in a house collapse. After, he talks to the Milkmaid, whom no one else can see. He then meets The Old Man, who recognizes him and knew the Student’s father. They have differing stories on his history. The Student has admired a beautiful building where the Girl lives and wants to live a prosperous life in a building like it. The Old Man agrees to help leverage his heroism into wealth and success.

The Two-Character Play by Tennessee Williams (2 Acts)

Felice and Clare, a brother and sister, are the only two from their acting troupe to arrive at their destination, a run-down little theater. They perform The Two-Character Play. There’s confusion around the audience, the story of the play, and between what’s real and what’s illusion.

Ring Around the Moon (Invitation to the Castle) by Jean Anouilh (3 Acts)

Hugo is a confident, popular man. His identical twin brother, Frederic, is unsure of himself. Frederic fawns over Diana, his fiancee, but she really loves Hugo instead. Frederic is from new money while Diana is from new money, her father being a self-made businessman. Hugo plots to redirect his brother’s attentions.

Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello

The performers wait for a play rehearsal to begin. The Producer enters to get things started. The group is interrupted by six strangers. They claim to be unfinished characters who haven’t had their story told. They’re looking for an author to finish them.

The Shadow Box by Michael Cristofer

Three terminally ill patients. Joe focuses on helping his wife, Maggie, deal with his death. Brian notices that people are in denial over his condition. Felicity is pessimistic and losing her grip on reality. They talk to an interviewer about their situations.

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