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Plays About Murder

Spoiler Alert! The murder could be an unexpected plot point in these plays.

In these selections, a murder occurs or a character has murderous intentions. There’s no, or very little, doubt about the killer’s identity, or the focus of the story isn’t on identifying a killer.  For that type, see:

Trifles by Susan Glaspell (1 Act)

A small group has gathered at the Wright farm. John Wright was found murdered in his bed. The county attorney, Henderson, has been called to investigate and get the story. Also present is Henry Peters, the sheriff and Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale. The neighbor who found the body, Lewis Hale, explains what happened. The men take the lead in the investigation. The women look over the kitchen and gather a few things to take to Mrs. Wright, who’s being held on suspicion of the murder.

This play can be read in the preview of Plays by Susan Glaspell(Go into “Paperback” preview first, then select “Kindle”, 5% in)

Machinal by Sophie Treadwell (9 Episodes)

Helen works at an office. George, a wealthy man, asks Helen to marry him. Helen wants to escape her job but doesn’t find George attractive. They eventually get married. Helen is soon unhappy, and after giving birth, even more so. When she goes out with a friend one night she meets Roe, and they are attracted to each other.

Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez (2 Acts)

In the barrio in the 1940’s, a brawl breaks out between opposing gangs at a dance. The police break it up and make arrests. One of the men, Henry, is told that he will go to jail regardless of his innocence, and his future plans won’t pan out. A trial begins, uncovering the details of the evening, including the murder of Jose Williams.

The Advertisement by Natalia Ginzburg (3 Acts)

Teresa, who is separated from her husband, rents out a spare room to Elena, a college student. Teresa tells Elena her story, focusing on her childhood and tumultuous relationship with her husband, Lorenzo, including the incident that finally ended things.

Buried Child by Sam Shepard (3 Acts)

Dodge and Halie, an elderly couple, live on an unproductive farm. They have two sons—Tilden and Bradley and are visited by their grandson (Tilden’s son), Vince, and his girlfriend, Shelly. Another son, Ansel, was murdered years ago. Vince’s family doesn’t recognize him. There’s a terrible family secret that they’ve had to live with.

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