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Plays About the Human Condition & Life: Disappointment or Disillusionment

These plays explore the human experience, usually with a focus on the challenges in life and disillusionment. See also:

Beyond the Horizon by Eugene O’Neill (3 Acts)

Robert and Andy live on the Mayo family farm. Robert is a reader and is drawn to life off the farm. He’s leaving tomorrow on a sea voyage with his uncle. Andy is strong and loves farm life. They both love Ruth, who lives on the neighboring farm. She comes to visit for Robert’s farewell. Her comments throw a wrench into everyone’s plans.

The first act of this play can be read in the preview of Plays of Eugene O’Neill. (3% in)

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.

Come Back, Little Sheba by William Inge (2 Acts)

Doc is a chiropractor and recovering alcoholic. His wife, Lola, is a former beauty but is now fat and untidy. They both long for the past. They have a boarder, Marie, who is engaged and also involved with another man.

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.

Antigone by Jean Anouilh (8 Parts)

Creon has become king of Thebes after Antigone’s brothers have killed each other. He ordered that one of them, Polynices, not be given a proper burial. Antigone sneaks back home at dawn. She’s confronted by the Nurse, who questions her. Later, Creon is given some unwelcome news.

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.

Hot l Baltimore by Lanford Wilson

The residents of a hotel are notified that it’s being torn down; they have a month to leave. Some of the residents include two prostitutes, a hustler and her brother, an argumentative old man, and a college student. They figure out what they’re going to do.

The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky

We see learn about the lives and see the interactions between the residents of an underground lodging house. Life is harsh, with much despair and indignity.

The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder (3 Acts)

We’re informed of some theatre news and world news, as well as the fact that Mr. George Antrobus has invented the wheel. It’s set in the Antrobus home in New Jersey. The maid, Sabina, gives a speech to the audience. A dinosaur and mammoth are in the house. George comes home and brings some wanderers with him.

Time Flies by David Ives

Horace and May, mayflies, arrive at May’s pond. Horace has seen May home after they met at a party. May invites Horace to stay, and they talk about some of the events from their very short lives. They have a drink and watch television, where they see something surprising.

Look Homeward, Angel by Ketti Frings (3 Acts)

In 1916, in North Carolina, the Gant family runs a boardinghouse. The father, a binge drinker, comes home and makes a scene. The mother, Eliza, the matriarch, tries to control everyone. The oldest brother, Ben, feels everyone is trapped. Laura, a new woman in town, comes for a room.

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