One of the milestones of the dynamic Off-Off-Broadway theatre movement, this critically-acclaimed play illuminates the bleak and terrifying world of young exiles and outcasts who refuse to lose. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson based Balm in Gilead on the all-night Manhattan coffee shop he lived above in the s. He regularly took his pen and notebook downstairs, soaking up the desperate, confessional exchanges between junkies, pushers, hookers, and hustlers. He turned them into a play focusing on Joe and Darlene, two young people who would seem to have the strength and the need to transcend the turmoil and ugliness of the life in which they found themselves — but are, instead, crushed by it. But their loss is quickly absorbed in the maelstrom, as the others go on desperately seeking the joy and release and purpose in life which will, most certainly, continue to escape them. Balm in Gilead offers insight into addiction, not only to drugs but also to hope and love.

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To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions. The play - a naturalistic visit with 29 low-life denizens of an all-night Upper Broadway coffee shop - caused a sensation at the Cafe La Mama in ; witnesses say that the doors had to be locked to keep out excess theatergoers.

Wilson soon went on to co-found the Circle Repertory Company and to produce a body of work that only one other American playwright - a fellow Off Off Broadway renegade, Sam Shepard - has matched over the last 20 years. Wilson again, of course; we settle gladly instead for reacquainting ourselves with the youthful, naive brio he brought to this early play. Though Mr. As if to accentuate the roots that Mr. Wilson and Mr. Malkovich and his designer, Kevin Rigdon, have transformed the entire theater into Mr.

That community consists of whores, pimps, junkies and pushers of all races and sexual orientations. Stone for whom she develops a passion. One feels that Mr. There are beautiful, idiosyncratic speeches explaining the anthropology of cockroaches, the relationship of prostitutes to pimps and the ability of heroin addicts to remain upright at their counter stools.

Malkovich never falters in creating the cyclical behavorial patterns of his unruly crew; we recognize that each night is the same in the coffee shop, that no passing tragedy can alter the tribal dynamics. Those bodies belong to Mr. In her marathon stream-of-consciousness monologue, she reminisces to another whore the excellent Glenne Headly about her married past in Chicago - all the while wrapping tragic events within the most inane and trivial digressions. Mason, artistic director; B. Rodney Marriott, acting artistic director; Richard Frankel, managing director.

At 99 Seventh Avenue South.



It features many unconventional theatrical devices, such as overlapping dialogue, simultaneous scenes, and unsympathetic lead characters. The play takes its title from a quote in the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah , chapter 46, verse He approached Marshall W. Mason , whom he knew from the Caffe Cino , to direct the production. After being workshopped in the directing and playwriting units of the Actors Studio , it debuted off-off-Broadway at La Mama Experimental Theater Club on January 20,


Lanford Wilson

After his parents divorced when he was 5, he moved with his mother to Springfield, Missouri , where they lived until she remarried. Lenhard, a farmer from Ozark, Missouri , and they both moved in with him. He had two half-brothers, John and Jim, and one stepsister, Judy. He worked in odd jobs, such as a temporary typist, a reservations clerk at Americana Hotel , at the complaint desk of a furniture store, and at a dishwashing job where a co-worker incorrectly called him "Lance". The experience left him thinking that theatre "could be both dangerous and funny in that way at the same time". In Cino, Wilson found a mentor who would not only critique his plays, but also stage them. He continued working odd jobs to support himself during these early years.


Balm in Gilead


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