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Most Influential Gay & Lesbian Plays
These plays have been suggested by our readers. Some do not appear to have any GLBT or feminist content.
Please send your suggestions to purplecir@aol.com.
Include: author's name, a brief annotation about the play, and the year first performed.
  • Adam and the Experts
        Victor Bumbalo
                A seriocomic play about the last days of a person with AIDS. (1990)

  • Angels in America
        Tony Kushner
                Fictional and historical characters explore sexual relationships,
                politics, religion, and AIDS in the Reagan era. (1993)
                Part I: Millennium Approaches
                Part II: Perestroika

  • Another American: Asking and Telling
        Marc Wolf
                One-man show that documents the U.S. military’s “don’t ask,
                don’t tell” response to the gays and lesbians in its ranks. (2000)

  • As Is
        William Hoffman
                The struggle with AIDS and its impact on friends, lovers, family,
                and the medical community. (1985)

  • Auntie Mame
        Robert E. Lee and Jerome Lawrence
                The extravagant follies and demented escapades of a grand dame
                with a heart of gold who teaches her innocent young nephew how
                to “live” life to it’s fullest. (1956)

  • Baltimore Waltz, The
        Paula Vogel
                A brother takes his ill sister on a trip to Europe to save her
                life, when in fact he’s dying of AIDS. (1995)

  • Beautiful Thing
        J. Harvey
                Called an urban fairytale, it is old-fashioned love story with a
                fresh and contemporary twist. (1993)

  • Beauty
        Steven Patterson and John Sowle
                Genet-inspired one-man play. (1997)

  • Belle Reprieve
        Split Britches
                Burlesque of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” (1991)

  • Bent
        Martin Sherman
                A relationship develops between two inmates in a World War II
                concentration camp. (1979)

  • Bible Belt and Other Accessories, The
        Paul Bonin-Rodriguez
                Trilogy of solo performances concerning a high school sissy
                coming of age in fictional Cedar Springs, Texas. Includes:
                Talk of the Town (1992)
                The Bible Belt and Other Accessories (1993)
                Love in the Time of College (1994)

  • Blood on Blood
        Rebecca Ranson
                A man comes into his bedroom and finds his brother in bed with his wife.
                (1987)An examination of their past, dreams and failures.

  • Box 27
        Michael Mann
                Concerns a career Master Sergeant in the United States Marine
                Corps, his long time friend, and his
                friend’s son who is his lover. (1995)

  • Boy Meets Boy
        Bill Solly and Donald Ward
                A gender revised romantic romp through the conventions
                of 1930s film musicals. (1979)

  • Boys in the Band, The
        Mart Crowley
                A classic of gay literature, self-hate turns a birthday
                party into a punch bowl of piranha. (1968)

  • Burn This
        Lanford Wilson
                A dancer’s accidental death brings together his brother and
                the two people he had shared a loft with. (1988)

  • Camille
        Charles Ludlam
                A document of what was arguably Ludlam’s greatest performance,
                indeed an acting landmark of the twentieth century. (1989)

  • Children’s Hour, The
        Lillian Hellman
                A vengeful child destroys the lives of two women who
                run a girl’s school. (1934)

  • Chorus Line, A
        Kirkwood, Sante, Hamlisch and Kleban
                Broadway gypsies (dancers) audition for and
                rehearse a new show. (1975)

  • Corpus Christi
        Terrence McNally
                A retelling of the end of the life of Jesus, with the assumption
                that Jesus and Judas were lovers (in the Biblical sense). (1998)

  • Clit Notes
        Holly Hughes
                A performance art tour across America;
                explores female sexuality. (1996)

  • Cloud 9
        Caryl Churchill
                A cornucopia of sexual permutations energize a cross-dressed
                condemnation of British colonialism. (1983)

  • Confessions of a Female Disorder
        Susan Miller
                Performed at The O’Neill, then produced by Mark Taper Forum. (1974)
                Published: “Gay Plays, The First Collection,” Avon (1979).

  • Conversations with a Diva
        Shirlene Holmes
                Culled from interviews with divas — of the male variety —
                who make the journey from self-loathing and security
                to becoming proudly gay and black. (1999)

  • Design for Living
        Noël Coward
                Otto, Leo and Gilda attempt various combinations of living
                arraignments until they settle on a ménage à trois. (1930)

  • Destiny of Me, The
        Larry Kramer
                Companion play to “The Normal Heart,” Ned seeks to
                understand his life as a gay man and as a leader of the
                AIDS activist movement. (1993)

  • Dog Plays
        Robert Chesley
                Three very short plays written by Chesley
                after his AIDS diagnosis. (1990)

  • Drag, The
        Mae West
                Three people in a love relationship ends in murder. (1927)

  • Drag Queens On Trial
        Sky Gilbert
                A comedy about three drag queens who must defend
                themselves against society. (1994)

  • Dream Man
        James Carroll Pickett
                A gay, phone-sex host finds that his own loneliness does
                not have such easy answers. (1986)

  • Dresser, The
        Ronald Harwood
                The relationship of a theatrical dresser and
                a self-centered aging actor. (1980)

  • Dying Gaul, The
        Craig Lucas
                Two men weave a complicated emotional web
                in an America on-line chat room. (1998)

  • Edward II
        Christopher Marlowe
                The public and private life of England’s Edward II,
                terminating in history’s most ironic execution. (1594)

  • Entertaining Mr. Sloane
        Joe Orton
                A closeted car salesman bring home a young lodger who quickly
                becomes a sexual target for him and his sister. (1964)

  • Execution of Justice
        Emily Mann
                Docudrama about the trail of Dan White for the assassinations
                of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone. (1983)

  • Fairy Garden, The
        Harry Kondoleon
                A woman decapitates her husband, much to the amazement
                of a homosexual couple, but disaster is averted by
                the arrival of a genuine fairy. (1982)

  • Falsettos
        William Finn
                Musical trilogy investigating the angst of mid-life coming out.
                Includes:
                    In Trousers (1987)
                    The March of the Falsettos (1981)
                    Falsettoland (1990)

  • Fefu and Her Friends
        Maria Irene Fornes
                Eight women gather to plan a program for the educational society,
                as the audience is divided and rotates from room to room in Fefu’s
                house, viewing scenes featuring the party’s individual guests. (1996)

  • Fierce Love: Stories from Black Gay Life
        Pomo Afro Homos
                Members included: Djola Bernard Branner, Brian Freeman,
                Eric Gupton, and later Marvin K. White. (1991)

  • Fifth of July
        Lanford Wilson
                A comedy/drama about a gay man who lost his legs in Vietnam.
                With the help of his partner, he learns about the liberating side
                of commitment and the rewards of risk-taking. First performed
                by Wilson’s Circle Repertory Company, NY. (1978)

  • Fortune and Men’s Eyes
        John Herbert
                A sexual attraction between teenagers in prison leads
                to rape and a death. (1967)

  • Game of Fools
        James Barr Fugate
                Four gay friends in a small town are caught engaged in sex and sent to prison.
                Later, two of them leaving town to seek a better life together. (1954)

  • Gemini
        Albert Innaurato
                Harvard graduate from a working class Italian family in
                the throes of homosexual panic. (1978)

  • Glory Box
        Tim Miller. Performance piece on same-sex, binational couples
                and the denial of immigration rights. (2000)

  • God of Vengeance, The
        Sholom Asch
                Presented one of the earliest depictions of lesbians. First produced in
                Berlin, then in Provincetown in 1922, and, in 1923, created a scandal
                with the first passionate kiss between two women on a Broadway
                stage. Originally written in Yiddish. (1907)

  • Great Nebula in Orion, The
        Lanford Wilson
                Two women, who were schoolmates, meet years
                later and compare lives. (1971)

  • Green Bay Tree, The
        Mordaunt Shairp
                An older bon vivant disapproves of the pending marriage
                of his young “protégé.” (1934)

  • Gross Indecency: The three trials of Oscar Wilde
        Moises Kaufman
                Combining courtroom testimony with excerpts from Wilde’s writings,
                the play not only unveils his genius and human frailty, but also the
                era he lived in, with all its complacency and repression. (1997)

  • Hannah Free
        Claudia Allen
                Hannah and her closeted lover, Rachel, desire to grow old together,
                but due to the restrictiveness of their hometown, Hannah must
                leave, but returns again and again for Rachel’s love. (1995)

  • Haunted Host, The
        Robert Patrick
                An East Village playwright confronts an overnight guest who bares
                a ghostly resemblance to the host’s recently dead roommate,
                trying to exorcise an unresolved relationship. (1969)

  • Have and to Hold, To
        Paul Harris.
                The first play to portray a relationship between two gay men,
                who were HIV+, where one of them didn’t die.
                Ends on an up-beat note. (1995)

  • Here Lies Henry
        Daniel Maclvor
                A combination of off-the-wall contemplation,
                mordant wit, and timing. (1997)

  • Hot ’n’ Throbbing
        Paula Vogel
                A woman who writes feminist “erotica,” her teenage son and daughter,
                and the estranged husband who comes to call, in a savagely funny
                and disturbing investigation of sexual violence. (1990)

  • Hyde in Hollywood
        Peter Parnell
                Dreams perpetrated by the dream factory during the movies’
                golden age were as monstrous as Harry’s nightmares,
                but far more lasting and lethal. (1991)

  • I am a Camera
        John Van Druten
                Based on Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories, the play
                depicts Germany during the rise of Hitler and is the
                basis of the musical “Cabaret.” (1952)

  • The Invention of Love
        Tom Stoppard
                A comedic tale of A.E. Houseman’s unrequited love for Moses
                Jackson, with many scathing comments on classical and academic
                homosexuality, as well as an imaginary meeting with Oscar Wilde. (1997)

  • If This Isn’t Love
        Sidney Morris
                Romantic comedy about the vicissitudes of a gay
                couple over a span of twenty-five years. (1982)

  • Jack
        David Greenspan
                Jack sits alone in a circle of folding chairs, while a trio of
                women chatters away about his sex life, his mother’s
                illness, his illness (presumably AIDS), and death. (1987)

  • Jeffrey
        Paul Rudnick
                AIDS prompts a fear of physical evolvement and
                avoidance of emotional attachment. (1992)

  • Jerker
        Robert Chesley
                Phone sex in the age of AIDS develops into
                a profound if isolated intimacy. (1985)

  • Judas Kiss, The
        David Hare
                Oscar Wilde’s relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas on the day
                Wilde decides to stay in England and face imprisonment, and the
                night after his release, two years later. (1998)

  • Kennedy’s Children
        Robert Patrick
                In a downtown New York bar, a representative group discusses their
                shattered dreams in the aftermath of U.S. president John F. Kennedy’s
                assassination, and the end of the idealism he represented.
                It ran on Broadway and in London’s West End. In 1978 it became
                the first contemporary gay play to be televised by the BBC. (1973)

  • Lady and a Woman, A
        Shirlene Holmes
                The working class love story of Flora Devine, an innkeeper and
                midwife, and Biddie Higgins, an itinerant butcher. (1995)

  • Language of our Own, A
        Chay Yew
                Witty dissection of the break-up between two gay men who seemed
                destined for each other — until one tests HIV-positive. (1997)

  • Laramie Project, The
        Moises Kaufman
                Based on interviews of Laramie, Wyoming citizens, during
                the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard,
                and subsequent trial of his killers. (1999)

  • Last Summer at Bluefish Cove
        Jane Chambers
                Lil, dying of cancer, spends a last summer with friends in a
                summer resort on the north shore of Long Island. (1982)

  • Levitation
        Timothy Mason
                A play about a family that actually cares for one another. (1993)

  • Lilies or The Revival of a Romantic Drama
    (Les Feluettes ou La Repetition d’un Drame Romantique)
        Michel Marc Bouchard
                Inmates of a Quebec prison re-enact the devastating tale of
                impassioned love between two young men at a Catholic
                boys’ school in rural Canada in 1912. (1987)

  • Lips Together Teeth Apart
        Terrence McNally
                Two heterosexual couples vacation in a Fire Island house one of
                the wives inherited from a brother who died of AIDS. (1992)

  • Lisbon Traviata, The
        Terrence McNally
                Less than self-loving gay men escape in the fantasy world of
                opera ending in a jealous murder reminiscent of Carmen. (1985)

  • Loot
        Joe Orton
                A farce involving a nurse, two young thugs/lovers, and stolen
                money hidden in a mother’s coffin, and introducing the seminal
                Inspector Truscott of the Yard. (1965)

  • Lord Alfred’s Lover
        Eric Bentley
                The relationship between Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas. (1991)

  • Love! Valour! Compassion!
        Terrence McNally
                Eight gay men spend summer weekends at the upstate New York
                summer house of a celebrated dancer-choreographer who fears
                he is losing his creativity — and possibly his lover. (1995)

  • Madness of Lady Bright, The
        Lanford Wilson
                On a hot summer day, Leslie contemplates his unhappy past,
                and an equally unpromising present and future. (1964)

  • Maids, The
        Jean Genet
                One-act play: the first and ultimate presentation of role-playing
                and exchange of identities, frequently performed in drag. (1975)

  • Making Porn
        Ronnie Larsen
                Behind-the-scenes spoof of the gay porn industry, skewering the
                gay-for-pay straight men who appear in the movies. (1995)

  • Marriage of Bette and Boo, The
        C. Durang
                The marriage of a man (with an alcohol problem) to a women
                (with a few dead babies on her hands). (1998)

  • Math and Aftermath
        Jim Grimsley
                Set on the Bikini Atoll just before the historic bomb testing, it
                investigates the Passion and just about everything else. (1995)

  • Meet My Beat
        Alberto “Beto” A. Araiza
                Solo performance work about gay identity and empowerment. (1991)

  • Men on the Verge of an Hispanic Breakdown
        Guillermo Reyes
                The gay lives of Latino immigrants in a wild
                tragicomic one-man romp. (1997)

  • Mr. Universe
        Jim Grimsley
                The rescue of a mute bodybuilder from the gritty streets of
                New Orleans by a couple of drag queens. (1995)

  • My Left Breast
        Susan Miller
                An autobiographical play that tells the story of losing
                a breast, a lover, and rediscovering a son. (1995)

  • My Night with Reg
        K. Elyot
                Six London gay men during the '80s; onset of AIDS crisis. (1994)

  • My Queer Body
        Tim Miller
                Solo performance art work. (1992)

  • Myron
        Michael Kearns
                Inspired by Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” the comedy-drama
                concerns an interracial love relationship between a black man with
                AIDS, his cousin, and his white buddy. (1992)

  • Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, The
        David Drake
                One-man show tells the story of Drake’s call to gay pride and
                activism through a series of vignettes. (1994)

  • Normal Heart, The
        Larry Kramer
                Ned Weeks fights the AIDS services establishment by preaching a
                radical response to the disease, including abstinence. (1985)

  • Now She Dances!
        Doric Wilson
                Characters from “The Importance of Being Earnest” act out “Salome,”
                in a nightmare metaphor of the trial of Oscar Wilde; a subtle
                scrutiny of homophobia. (1961/2000)

  • One
        Jeff Hagedorn
                One of the first play to address the AIDS crisis, it depicts a
                young man’s bewildered confrontation with his illness. (1982)

  • One Fool
        Terry Baum
                Celebrates and criticizes Lesbian courtship and coupling. (1992)

  • One Foot to the Sea
        Harold N. Levitt
                A merchant ship’s cook and a young sailor are lovers. Their relationship is tested
                when the youth goes to a prostitute to prove he is a “real” man. Musical. (1953)
                Music includes:
                    “One Foot to the Sea” by Fran Ziffer and Gordon Burdge
                    “Waiting for Tomorrow” by Fran Ziffer and Hardy Wieder
                    “Devil Take the Heart of a Woman” by Gordon Burdge and J. Russel Robinson
                    “Sailorman” by Gordon Burdge

  • Oscar Remembered
        Maxim Mazumdar
                Lord Alfred Douglas reflects on his love affair with,
                and his betrayal of, Oscar Wilde. (1977)

  • Party
        David Dillon
                A positive gay play affirming “it is fabulous to be gay.” (1992)

  • Perfect Relationship, A
        Doric Wilson
                Roommates find their friendship, not to mention apartment,
                is up for grabs thanks to a trick with a penchant
                for plants and bedtime stories. (1978)

  • Pleasure Man, The
        Mae West
                A back stage Casanova gets comeuppance in a play
                that has its climax at a gay party. (1928)

  • Poor Super Man
        Brad Fraser
                Sexual intrigue and the blurring sexualities in today’s culture. (1994)

  • Porcelain
        Chay Yew
                Confessional drama about a horrible crime, a caring priest,
                police detective, and psychiatrist; each with an agenda. (1997)

  • Private Lives
        Noël Coward
                A divorced couple reconnect on their Riviera honeymoon. (1930)

  • Psycho Beach Party
        Charles Busch
                A mischievous gay beach-fest in the style of old 50-70s
                thriller beach party/slasher movies. (1987)

  • Quaint Honour
        Roger Gellert
                Two-act play about a British public school boy who bets he can
                seduce another lad. In the process he falls in love, is found out, and
                subsequently expelled. The seducee quits the school in protest. (1958)

  • Queen of Angels
        James Carroll Pickett
                Drama with music, encompassing AIDS, medieval miracle plays,
                carnival clowns, Punch and Judy shows, all mixed into a
                retelling of the Orpheus myth. (1992)

  • Remedial English
        E. Smith
                A gay schoolboy obsessed with a classmate. (1986)

  • Safe Light
        Adele Prandini
                A dying Lesbian, her lover, and her best friend deal
                with love and loss. (1984)

  • Satan and Simon Desoto
        Ted Sod
                An AIDS play based on the Faust legend. (1994)

  • Six Degrees of Separation
        J. Guare
                Inspired by a true story, a young black con man insinuates
                himself into the lives of a wealthy New York couple (1993)

  • Small Craft Warnings
        T. Williams
                A group of lonely and disparate individuals, rejected
                by “normal” society, come together in their need for
                human contact and understanding. (1973)

  • Small Domestic Acts
        Joan Lipkin
                Complex friendship between a heterosexual couple
                and a lesbian couple. (1996)

  • Some Golden States
        Tim Miller
                Solo, autobiographical performance pieces covering Miller’s
                childhood in Whittier, Calif., and teenage coming out. (1985)

  • Stray Dog Story
        Robert Chesley
                The Fairy Dog Mother turns Buddy the dog into a boy, who begins
                a troubled adventure in newly gay-liberated Manhattan. (1984)

  • Street Theater
        Doric Wilson
                Drags, dykes, leather men, flower children, cruisers,
                and vice cops on Christopher Street in the hours
                leading up to the Stonewall riot. (1982)

  • Streetcar Named Desire, A
        Tennessee Williams
                Blanche du Bois, undermined by romantic illusions and tragic
                self-delusion, goes to New Orleans, where an encounter with
                her sister’s husband leads to madness. (1947)

  • The Strip
        Phyllis Nagy
                A vast epic of sexual identity and synchronicity. (1995)

  • Suddenly Last Summer
        Tennessee Williams
                Mother love, cannibalism, a pending frontal lobotomy, and a hot
                and steamy garden-run riot. (1958)

  • T-Shirts
        Robert Patrick
                Three gay males of varying generations investigate
                the new — or lack of — morality. (1978)

  • Take Me Out
        Richard Greenberg
                Humor and questions about masculinity, sexuality, and race
                ensue from the collision of sports and sexual politics when
                a star baseball player outs himself in a press conference.(2003)

  • Taste of Honey, A
        Shelagh Delaney
                A young, gay man befriends an unwed pregnant woman,
                abandoned by her mother when it is discovered the
                father of the baby is black. (1961)

  • Tea and Sympathy
        Robert Anderson
                An effeminate teen is suspected of being gay. The respectable(?)
                headmaster’s wife offers herself to him as a “cure.”
                Originally banned in England. (1953)

  • Ten Percent Revue
        Tom Wilson Weinberg
                Songs and dance that tackle many issues of the
                gay and lesbian experience. (1985)

  • Terminal Bar
        Paul Selig
                A comedy in which three people meet in a bar
                at the end of civilization. (1986)

  • This Island’s Mine
        Philip Osment
                Gay Sweatshop’s definitive English soap opera for the 80s. (1988)

  • Torch Song Trilogy
        Harvey Fierstein
                Arnold, a professional female impersonator, his bisexual
                boyfriend, a street hustler, a gay teenager and Arnold’s
                Jewish mother; the perfect nuclear family. (1982)

  • Total Eclipse
        Christopher Hampton
                Fact-based story of the great 19th century French poets,
                Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine (1969)

  • Two Lives
        Arthur Laurents
                Autobiographical play by a New York theater legend. (date?)

  • Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love
        Brad Fraser
                A world of drinking and one-night stands, heroin use, and
                a morbid fear of AIDS. (1995)

  • Untold Decades
        Robert Patrick
                Seven, one-act plays that trace the romantic comedy of gay
                male love in America through the last seven decades (1988)

  • Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
        Charles Busch
                Parody of various show-biz genres, from biblical epics and
                silent films, to glitzy Vegas floor shows. (1984)

  • Voluptuous Madness
        Fabulous Monsters and Robert Pryor (a review lists “Richard Prior”)
                A spectacle delving into mythology. (1999)

  • Warren
        Rebecca Ranson
                One of the first heartfelt plays about the loss
                of a dear friend to AIDS. Autobiographical. (1984)

  • Weldon Rising
        Phyllis Nagy
                Ground breaking dark comedy about personal responsibility
                within the gay and lesbian community. (1992)

  • West Street Gang, The
        Doric Wilson
                Denizens of a bar defend themselves from a variety of bashes,
                ranging from a street gang to Anita Bryant. (1977)

  • What the Butler Saw
        Joe Orton
                Sex farce in a private clinic, with doors slamming and people
                caught in their underwear, and an ending that includes
                Winston Churchill’s missing projectile. (1969)

  • What’s Wrong with Angry
        Patrick Wilde
                A 16 year old schoolboy falls in love with the school jock. (1994)

  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
        Edward Albee
                A blistering late night confrontation of genders
                and generations, combining too much alcohol with
                potentially lethal “fun and games” (1962)

  • Young Man from Atlanta, The
        Horton Foote
                A couple attempts to cope with the suicide
                death of their only son. (1995)

  • Zoo Story, The
        Edward Albee
                A man reading on a park bench is confronted by young, unkempt
                vagrant, who tells a story about his visit to the zoo,
                ending in a bloody encounter. (1960)

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