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    playwrites

      CHEWING THE EXISTENTIAL CUD:

      THE TRANSFORMATION OF TRAGEDY IN

      *THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS.*

      David Johansson..page1

      William Inge is neglected by anthologizers and other *cannon-makers." And it's strange when you remember that he was as important on Broadway in the fifties as either Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams -- The Dark at the Top of the Stairs was dedicated to Williams. For aside from sharing the theme of the mysterious tension of family life, the three shared a decade when they were young and hot and in New York, artistic talents ready for action.In the foreword to his 1958 Random House edition, Inge wrote, "I regard a play as a composition rather than a story, as a distillation of life rather than a narration of it. It is only in this way that I feel myself a real contemporary."

       

      *Inge's work reveals the deep passion seething beneath the surface of ordinary lives.

      In this view, Inge belongs with Miller and Williams. Like them, Inge found the American Dream not to be a dream at all but a damaging nightmare, crippling all those exposed to it and forcing them to take refuse in a world of glass animals as in William's Glass Menagerie, or in pictures of movie stars as in Inge'sDark, or in the comfort of being "well-liked" as in Miller's Salesman. Inges's work reveals the deep passion seething beneath the surface of ordinary lives, and thus he exposes the deep psychological truth: we are all mythic to ourselves. This is the grand passion contained in "the common man". Miller wrote about in his famous essay in the New York Times following the opening of Salesman in 1949.

      Like Miller in New England or Williams in the South, Inge's work evoked sympathy and interest not in the highbrow society element, but in the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, owners, or renters, rather, of the post-war optimism which formed the core of the American Dream.


      [page2]

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