In this brilliant study, Marc Robinson explores more than two hundred years of plays, styles, and stagings of American theater. Mapping the changing cultural landscape from the late eighteenth century to the start of the twenty-first, he explores how theater has—and has not—changed and offers close readings of plays by O’Neill, Stein, Wilder, Miller, and Albee, as well as by important but perhaps lesser known dramatists such as Wallace Stevens, Jean Toomer, Djuna Barnes, and many others. Robinson reads each work in an ambitiously interdisciplinary context, linking advances in theater to developments in American literature, dance, and visual art.
The author is particularly attentive to the continuities in American drama, and expertly teases out recurring themes, such as the significance of visuality. He avoids neatly categorizing nineteenth- and twentieth-century plays and depicts a theater more restive and mercurial than has been recognized before. Robinson proves both a fascinating and thought-provoking critic and a spirited guide to the history of American drama.