These plays about the American Dream have characters who are pursuing the American Dream of upward mobility and improving the lives of themselves and their families.
Some will give insight into the lives of characters who are seemingly living it already. Others show people who have failed to achieve the American dream.
Plays About the American Dream
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
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)
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (3 Acts)
The Younger family lives in a low-end apartment with a shared bathroom and limited space. The grandmother, Mama, is expecting a life insurance check from the death of her husband. Her son, Walter, wants some of the money to buy a liquor store to escape his low-level job. Mama wants to buy a house for the family.
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.
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.
Brighton Beach Memoirs by Neil Simon (2 Acts)
Eugene is a fourteen-year-old who wants to be a pro baseball player or a writer. His father works two jobs to support his immediate and extended family – Eugene’s aunt and two cousins also live with them. His beautiful sixteen-year-old cousin Nora has been offered a dancing job. His older brother Stanley is having problems at work. Bringing enough money into the household is a major concern.
I’ll keep adding plays about the American Dream as I find more.