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Four Plays: Come Back, Little Sheba / Picnic / Bus Stop / The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  414 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
'Inge has presented with astounding veracity the oppressive banality of the lives of his characters: the events of their lives have the nerve-lightening regularity of a dripping faucet. His female characters especially are engulfed by the bathos of their lives, and Inge capitalizes on this fact in order to heighten dramatically the moment of personal crisis which comes to
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 21st 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1964)
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Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theatre
Inge is one of my favorite playwrights. Years before there was a David Lynch, there was a writer who looked at Middle America and saw thru its lies and hypocricies to the bleaker realities of its existence. With a sarcastic but not unsympathetic eye, Inge presents characters stuck in predetermined roles and struggling with lusts that would have had no place in the Saturday Evening Post. Inge was not the first to satirize the social realities of small town America (Sinclair Lewis comes to mind), ...more
Sheila Rocha
Dec 28, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Dramatists, Midwestern theater buffs, post-war players
The Dark at the Top of the Stairs for me is a very interesting demonstration of the failings of Victorianism and the consequences that ensue. As society moves now from an agrarian culture to an urban illusion, families and communities begin to feel the crippling effects of their supposed America. The rigid expectations of post victorian comportment coupled with the excessiveness of consumerism so prevalent in the Flood's fast changing world calls into question what now in the 1950's is the true ...more
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
William Inge was one of the first serious playwrights I read and liked. I first encountered him in high school, and I recently found this collection in a corner of my bookshelf and decided to reread these four plays.

There’s something a little terrifying about rereading a book that heavily influenced a younger you. In the case of Inge, I can see why his plays caught my attention. Despite some awkward beats and stilted conversations, Mr. Inge was a phenomenally talented playwright. His plays are b
the gift
this was pulitzer-prize material in mid-century midwest america: popular culture which i came to through movies hollywood made of picnic and bus stop. i thought of the movies as i read the plays, believing that they had been corrupted by hollywood, but found them very close to the originals. i find them interesting as cultural documents of their time. they feel dated. they feel sexist. they feel closed-cultured and the worlds explored helplessly naive: on the other hand, one of my favorite nonfi ...more
Apr 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Eh, Inge is extremely good at writing dialogue and creating a sense of place, but there's something about his work that never appealed to me. Maybe it's that his plays disproportionately are about small-town life in the fifties, a subject that holds little more than passing interest for most people who didn't live in that era. I understand why this book was assigned in my scene study class (and it served its purpose well), but outside of an academic survey of contemporary American theater I doub ...more
John Tipper
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Inge was one of the most accomplished playwrights of the 1950s Broadway Stage, and this volume contains the his four most successful. Picnic won him a Pulitzer Prize. It's interesting to note in the 1953 production, a young Paul Newman made his theater debut. Tennessee Williams, Inge's contemporary, praised his talent and power.
I found a lot of strength in the dialogue of these four works, but near their endings at times sentimentality creeps in, especially in Bus Stop. In most of the plays the
Ronald Wise
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A collection of four of Inge's most famous plays. I had previously seen movies based on Come Back, Little Sheba, Picnic, and Bus Stop and enjoyed reading the stage versions. My favorite of this collection was The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. All four had a major component of aging adults vicariously reliving teenage romance through the youngsters in their lives, tainted with their own sexual attractions to those youngsters. I added this book to my reading list from a Writer's Almanac tribute t ...more
J. Lee Graham
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Inge is great at really delving into the passion and the pain of unrequited love. Plays are meant to be seen, but to be able to read the text and analyze his universal characters (even if they appear dated for today) truly illuminate why he was a master at his craft. Too bad his tragic internal pain forced him to do what he did.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was originally published in 1958, fairly early in Inge's career, but it includes all of his best known plays. "Picnic" and "Bus Stop" live up to their status as classics, the other two are good but don't quite come up to the same high standard.

Reading Inge's plays now really is a stroll into the past, the attitudes (particularly about sex) are so different now.
Aug 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
These plays were really beautiful. I loved the language, and the character's emotions were so wonderfully described. My favorite was The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. That one was so sad it affected me for days! And how could I resist the cowboy or the waitress in Bus Stop?
Aug 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: to anyone.
Recommended to BurgendyA by: No one. I decided to read after watching Comeback Little Sheba &
The Four Plays of William Inge was a fantastic books. Those plays were really hard core to the drama and characters were soulfully indepth with their struggles. All beautifully expressed. I give this books 2 tumbs up, and 5 stars. =)~
David Castro
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Inge is a very underated playwright in my opinion. Picnic and Bus Stop really have a quiet power. And what may look like characters who are not doing anything are far from it. It is just that the power of what is going on internally is so forceful, they can be rendered immobile.
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Four great plays, by an insightful author. Each piece really delves into relationships and the nature of love and relationships. Great plays, and wonderful monologues for any actor.
Nov 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Excellent Compilation.
Leah Wagner
Jun 16, 2008 rated it liked it
I like Inge, his plays usually have a sad undertone, but they're very realistic and enjoyable.
Aug 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Mrs. Potts: I feel sort of excited, Flo. I think we plan picnics just to give ourselves an excuse--to let something thrilling happen in our lives.

Flo: Such as what?

Mrs. Potts: I don't know.
Aug 25, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Natalie Wood fans, the sexually confused, alcoholics.
I actually enjoyed the plays, which is actually surprising, because I'm actually a not-so-big fan of plays.
Ann Canann
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
"Come Back Little Sheba" Found in : Contemporary Drama 15 plays pg 453
Also: Found in paperback "William Inge, Four Plays
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Dec 08, 2015
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Feb 19, 2011
Jimmy Holliday
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Jun 25, 2008
Doug Long
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Apr 21, 2012
Laura Biering
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Jan 02, 2015
Cheryl Frederic
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Oct 05, 2015
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Jul 11, 2012
Mark Woodland
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Jul 28, 2011
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William Motter Inge was an American playwright and novelist, whose works typically feature solitary protagonists encumbered with strained sexual relations. In the early 1950s, he had a string of memorable Broadway productions, and one of these, Picnic, earned him a Pulitzer Prize. With his portraits of small-town life and settings rooted in the American heartland, Inge became known as the "Playwri ...more
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