My proposal to the class is the play A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee. It is a psychologically based drama dealing with the issues and complexities of upper-middle-class suburb dwellers. There are six characters, including two men and four women. All of the characters are in an adult age range.
The plot of the play takes place in the living room of Agnes and Tobias, a middle-aged married couple as their life is disrupted by the coming and going of friends and family with many problems to face. The story opens with Agnes and her husband discussing madness and how easy it would be to go insane. Agnes suddenly finds the notion silly, remembering that she has her husband to take care of, so she cannot go mad. Agnes’ younger sister, Claire, lives with the couple permanently. She is an alcoholic. Drinking serves as a motif throughout the play, many of the characters holding drinks most of the time. In conversation, Claire predicts the ending of Agnes and Tobias’ troubled daughter, Julia’s fourth marriage.
Soon Agnes announces that Julia will be coming home because her marriage, in fact, has ended. Tobias then tells the story of a cat he once had that he had to put down because it no longer liked him. Following this, Harry and Edna arrive. They are Tobias and Agnes’ best friends. They ask if they can stay in the house for a while to escape some unnamed fear.
In act two, the scene begins with Agnes and Tobias discussing the fact that Harry and Edna will be occupying Julia’s old room. This upsets Julia, and she makes this known to Tobias. Tobias brings up all of Julia’s failed marriages. Julia’s brother, who died at a young age, is brought to light. Claire enters and nags Julia about her disordered life. Julia retorts about Cla...
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...t are relevant to everyone. They are universal— existing throughout humanity and throughout the ages. People could be touched, moved, and changed by this piece. I’m a total advocate for that. “Theatre is to disturb the comfort and comfort the disturbed,” right? I love that quote. This, I think, would cause a few comfortable people to call their own lives and sanity into question. It would also remind the insane that they are indeed not alone or really crazy at all. We all have issues. They are just not as good at hiding it as the rest of society. It may be a challenge, but I say we go for it. Maybe we’ll even be surprised.
The awards A Delicate Balance has won are as follows: 1967 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1996 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play, 1996 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play, and a nomination for the 1967 Tony Award for Best Play.