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Essay

Backstory: Selected Works of Adam Bock

By Sarah Lunnie, Literary Director

Adam Bock’s plays combine formal playfulness and effervescent wit with disarmingly penetrating insight into the human condition. Sly, incisive, and endlessly inventive, he has established himself as an indispensable voice in the contemporary dramatic canon. As we welcome him back for his third production at Playwrights Horizons, we invite you to take a stroll through his anthology-to-date with this selected production history.


Medea Eats
2000, Clubbed Thumb (NY)
Directed by Pam McKinnon 

Staged in its premiere at Summerworks, Bock’s Medea Eats chronicles a dinner party gone awry when Medea’s tycoon husband brings home yet another new date.

  


The Typographer’s Dream
2002, Clubbed Thumb (NY)
Directed by Drew Barr

If you are what you do, what happens when you hate your job? A typographer, a geographer, and a stenographer strive to explain their work in this comically honest look at the struggles of self-definition.

 


Five Flights
2004, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (NY)
Directed by Kent Nicholson

In this comedy of love and grief, three siblings must decide what to do with an elaborate aviary their newly deceased father constructed in honor of his late wife, who died years before.


Swimming in the Shallows
1999, Shotgun Players (CA)
2005, Second Stage Uptown (NY)
Directed by Trip Cullman (NY)

Learning that Buddhist monks own only eight possessions, Barb embarks on a mission to shed literal and emotional baggage in this absurdist comedy that includes a shark-meets-boy romance.


The Shaker Chair
Playwrights Horizons commission
2005, Humana Festival of New American Plays (KY)
Directed by Marc Masterson

Bock weighs the personal costs paid for passivity and action in this sensitively drawn drama of conscience, chronicling one woman’s unlikely odyssey from complacency to activism.


The Thugs
2006, Soho Rep. (NY) 
Directed by Anne Kauffman

Bock and Kauffman both won Obies for their work on The Thugs, a taut, paranoid play about rumors spreading among bored temps in an office high-rise.


The Receptionist
2007, Mahnattan Theatre Club (NY) 
Directed by Joe Mantello

A charming representative from the Central Office disrupts a receptionist’s friendly routine. As the true nature of the company’s business becomes apparent, the play raises disquieting, provocative questions about the consequences of complicity with evil.


The Drunken City
2008, Playwrights Horizons (NY) 
Directed by Trip Cullman

Three twenty-something brides-to-be find their lives going topsy-turvy when, on the bar crawl to end all crawls, one of them suddenly begins to question her future after a chance encounter with a recently jilted handsome stranger.


The Flowers
2009, About Face Theatre (IL) 
Directed by Trip Cullman

The gay couple that runs The Flowers acting troupe is as star-crossed as the 40-year-old actors they have playing Romeo and Juliet. For one of them, the world has become too small; the other can’t imagine another life.


We Have Always Lived in the Castle
2010, Yale Repertory Theater (CT) 
Directed by Anne Kauffman

Adapted from a 1962 novel by Shirley Jackson, with music by Todd Almond, Bock’s haunting, darkly funny We Have Always Lived in the Castle is set in a rambling country house, where the shadows cast by a multiple murder loom over the sisters who reside there.


A Small Fire
2010, Playwrights Horizons (NY) 
Directed by Trip Cullman

When a tough-as-nails contractor finds her senses slipping on the brink of her daughter’s wedding, the impact on her family is nothing less than seismic. A human parable in which unexpected loss leads to an unlikely love story.

 

Photo credits: Meg MacCary in Medea Eats, photo by Frank Oudeman. Tim MacGeever, Meg MacCary, and Kate Hampton in The Typographer’s Dream, photo by David Evan Morris/Juliet Chia. Kevin Karrick, Alice Ripley, and Lisa Steindler in Five Flights, photo by Sandra Coudert. Rosemarie DeWitt and Susan Pourfar in Swimming in the Shallows, photo by Joan Marcus. Kathleen Butler and Geraldine Librandi in The Shaker Chair, photo by Harlan Taylor. Carmen M. Herlihy, Lynne McCollough, and Mary Schultz in The Thugs, photo by Monique Carboni. Jayne Houdyshell in The Receptionist, photo by at Sarah Krulwich. Cassie Beck in The Drunken City, photo by Joan Marcus. Benjamin Sprunger in The Flowers, photo courtesy of About Face Theatre. Alexandra Socha in We Have Always Lived in the Castle, photo by Joan Marcus. Michele Pawk and Reed Birney in A Small Fire, photo by Joan Marcus.