Playwright A. R. Gurney died Tuesday, June 13, 2017 in his home in New York City. He was 86.
A native of Buffalo, NY, the beleaguered city appeared as the setting for some of his 86 plays. Among his most produced were The Dining Room (1982), The Cocktail Hour (1988), the gift to actor couples everywhere, Love Letters (1988), and perhaps most often produced in our area, Sylvia.
Gurney, popular in regional theatre, gave his thoughts on Broadway in a chat with Jonathan Mandell in 2014. ““I’ve had very little success on Broadway,” he says. Despite his high profile and prolific output, only three of his plays have wound up on the Great White Way, none lasting more than a few months. “I normally do not write for Broadway; I don’t like it. If someone has to pay one-hundred and fifty dollars, it puts a particular type of frame around the play—the emphasis on a large cast and elaborate costumes and scenery in order to make the customer feel as if he’s gotten his money’s worth. I am not comfortable with that.”
“A.R.Gurney is a national treasure, who earned his sobriquet slowly and surely by writing over forty plays in the past 60 years, rivaling his contemporary Sir Alan Ayckbourn in productivity” Richard Seff wrote for DCTS in 2014.
Local playwright Audrey Cefaly (The Gulf, Maytag Virgin) sent us this tribute today.
“I was first exposed to A.R. Gurney’s work at a time when I was just starting out as a writer. A devotee of Ayckbourn, Pete was a pioneer in the art of interleaving, often superimposing multiple narratives–all occupying the same physical space. And while I appreciated his clever use of structure, my real takeaway had more to do with the power of “intersections.” He stacked his phrasing as a means to facilitate his layered story lines, but that technique served as more than just a practical consideration. For me, there was the rather radiant idea that humanity is a shared experience, even as we ache alone in our private rooms. And these rooms — these living galleries — not unlike the ancient caves, with their well-kept secrets, existed long before us and will outlive us all. At the end of each curation, when the faded walls are stripped of artifacts, leaving only the curious geometry of dark and light, we understand more fully about the transcendence of time. About how small we really are. And perhaps too, the awareness that if through good fortune in the moments we were afforded in the cosmos, we somehow managed to feel like kings, it was because of the love we made.”
“He seemed to have [a] way to find that thread that linked us all,” Buffalo actress Mary Kate O’Connell told The Buffalo News.