The Qualms image 1

Photo by Joan Marcus

The Qualms image 2

Photo by Joan Marcus

The Qualms image 3

Photo by Joan Marcus

The Qualms image 4

Photo by Joan Marcus

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The Qualms image 6

Photo of Bruce Norris by Zack DeZon

The Qualms

Mainstage Theater

A new play by Bruce Norris
Directed by Pam MacKinnon


Thou shalt covet thy neighbor's wife. And thy neighbor, too, at this suburban get-together for partner-swapping couples. Drawn in by The Lifestyle's promise of freedom and titillation, newly married Chris and Kristy attend an alcohol-fueled party for swingers, only to find themselves at odds with the idea of free love and, suddenly, each other. Idealism devolves into chaos in this sharp, sardonic assault on the struggle for power, and the sexual politics of getting laid.

Kate Arrington
Donna Lynne Champlin
Noah Emmerich
Sarah Goldberg
Julian Leong
Andy Lucien
Chinasa Ogbuagu
John Procaccino
Jeremy Shamos

Scenic Designer: Todd Rosenthal
Costume Designer: Jessica Pabst
Lighting Designer: Russell H. Champa
Sound Designer: Rick Sims
Production Stage Manager: Cole P. Bonenberger


More Reviews


Scene from The Qualms

Deb meets Chris, who seems to be a little “nervous” about what's to happen next in at his first swinger party.


Pam MacKinnon on The Qualms

Pam MacKinnon and Bruce Norris, the team that brought you ‘Clybourne Park,’ are back with ‘The Qualms.’ Pam dishes on the illustrative rehearsal conversations and the nature of Bruce's work.

Playwrights' Perspectives

Bruce Norris on The Qualms

So people have been asking me a lot lately, “Why did you want to write a play about swinging? And how did you do your research?” Well… the thing is, it was never really meant to be about swinging. Not exactly.


Tim Sanford on The Qualms

One of the most distinctive aspects of Bruce Norris’s The Qualms can be ascertained visually just by skimming through the script. Every couple of pages you will find occasions where four or five characters speak simultaneously, represented in the script by those characters’ names spanning across one line. One can virtually feel the hew and outcry these various moments represent. What on earth could incite all this tumult? Well the answer is, of course, “sex.”


The American Voice: Human Nature

For the most part, since Ancient Greeks paraded across proskenions in their masks, the intent of satire has been to expose a world plagued by hypocrisy and hubris, in the interest of discrediting these ills. From Aristophanes to The Book of Mormon, writers have placed man’s folly center-stage in the interest of giving it a good flogging. But however scathing the ridicule, however harsh the mockery, the satirist’s aim is traditionally meliorative at its heart: surely with knowledge of our flaws, we can take ownership over them and correct them. Though we laugh like teenagers at the humiliation of Malvolio or the comeuppance of Tartuffe, these characters reflect writers who share faith in the essential corrigibility of man; faith in progress.


Backstory: Looking for Swingers

Armed with only a search engine and overwhelming curiosity, I set out across the murky vastness of the internet in a voyeuristic search for “swingers,” hoping to learn more about “swinging,” and am back to report my findings. I’m 24 years old and single.