America has given us some exceptional plays for theatre that have become classics of their age. Each of the plays that we have considered has a history of its own that befits or works seamlessly the spectre of the time when it is being staged. Quite interesting is the naming of one of the world’s first slot machines: the automatic salesman title seems to have been inspired by the salesman profession which is found in many classic American plays.
Fiddler on the Roof
This is one of the most popular plays ever to be staged on Broadway in New York City. The play was a musical based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem about Tevye the Milkman, but the play received its title from Marc Chagall’s painting The Fiddler. The musical-play is about a Jewish family living in a small town in Russia. The patriarch is bewildered by the encroaching cultural difference of the Russian society and at the same time is wary about anti-jewish sentiments in a turmoiled country.
The plot revolves around Tevye deploring his material conditions, a matchmaker suggests a widowed rich man for one of the daughters, and there is a looming pogrom that has the community on the edge. The play has memorable songs, dancing and a lively display of the Yiddish spirit that struggled to stay alive and well at the time of Aleichem’s stories.
The play had more than 3000 runs on Broadway and became one of the most viewed in the history of the art institution.
Death of a Salesman
One of the most popular modern plays is Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller, a recipient of a Pulitzer and Tony award for drama and best play respectively. Death of a Salesman is about Willy Loman, the salesman, who deplores his own existence due to his self-perceived underachieving and insecurity, but imposes higher expectations on others, specifically, on his older son Biff. The only time that Willy is able to reach closure is when he hears a commitment from either of his sons to turn their lives around and do well. However, both Biff and Willy have an unsuccessful encounter with their current and former bosses, which results in despair, which leads to a falling out between the both.
The play’s ingenuity is in the use of self-delusion and depression to set the stage for fierce dialogues that reflect the intricate social conditions in early 1940’s, mere years following the Great Depression.
Long Day’s Journey into Night
Eugene O’Neill wrote an autobiographical play that depicts the ravaging effects of family discord. The characters in the play use a littany of individual disaffections to inflict honest retorts with the goal of coming out right and better off from the other. Long Day’s Journey into Night throws light on the societal ills of a well-to-do middle-class American family that is struggling to keep things together and secure the much-needed buttress to each of the individual’s ill-fated tendencies that arise from their outspoken introspection.
O’Neill did not want his play to be published until 25 years from his death, but his widow insisted that Random House, to which the author deliver a sealed copy of it, complied with the fact that there are no legal reasons for them not to publish it. The rest is history, as Long Day’s Journey into Night has been recognized with multiple awards, including a Pulitzer for drama to Eugene O’Neill.