Sweet Eros & Witness


Terrence McNally

Published by Dramatists Play Service

4 Male 1 Female

Sweet Eros ~ is a monologue delivered by a poet, with interruptions, in the form of sobs (at first), muffled protests (at first), and the croaking of a song, 'Plaisir d'Amour' (at the end)

The poet, formerly a math teacher, has kidnapped a young woman and driven her to a remote house in the country. When we first see her, she is gagged and bound to a chair, and in the course of the action she is on the receiving end of a nonstop spate of reminiscence, personal philosophy, sharp instruction, and true confessions and observations, many of them repulsive

Nothing her captor does stems the tide of his own conversation. He strips her bare then goes over her face with a magnifying glass. Eventually he frees her of gag and bindings, and takes her to bed, and as time progresses she minds less and less (M1,F1)

The Off-Broadway presentation of this provocative play (on a double bill with Witness) was hailed as a milestone of the "new" theatre. Sensitive yet boldly frank, the play explores the dark recesses of an unsettled young man who kidnaps and enslaves an unsuspecting girl

" demonstrates some real theatre" ~ Women's Wear Daily

" he is funny and ingenious in nicking his targets" ~ The New Yorker

" has an emotional unity and force" ~ Newsweek

In Witness a gagged victim is trussed up in a chair, this time a man. His captor hopes to assassinate the President of the U.S. during a motorcade, and he wants a witness to his own sanity in committing the act

The stuff of madness has been crammed into this young would-be assassin's head, principally by newspaper reading and television viewing

He knows all about the cabinet crises in Lebanon, but he doesn't know right from wrong. He hopes to resolve his baffled impotence with a high-powered rifle shot

Another potential witness shows up on the scene, a hilariously surly window washer, a sharply drawn caricature of the New York City 'prole' ('I may be 40 stories up but I'm the man in the street'), who coolly surveys the tied-up man straining to free his bonds and ignores his gagged pleas and his plight with magnificent aplomb

An atmosphere of hysterical malediction gradually infests the room, until, at the crucial moment, the young man loses his chance for infamous glory as a hundred assassins gun down the President in a communal murder

Despite its grisly theme, the play is acridly funny in its satire of a society that, in the playwright's view, is teetering toward terror, anarchy and nihilism (M3,F1)

A timely and bitingly satiric black comedy, successfully produced Off-Broadway (with Sweet Eros), which gives as much pause as laughter in its antic depiction of a would-be assassin and the odd assortment of visitors who unknowingly intrude on his moment of truth

" a talent for dramatic opposition and, markedly, for dramatic humor" ~ NY Times

"Mr McNally has compassion and a sense of comedy" ~ Newsday

" fine comic and caustic fettle" ~ Time

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