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19-20 Marvin’s Room

Synopsis: Winner of the 1991 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, the 1991 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play and the 1991 John Gassner Award for Best New American Play, Marvin’s Room tells the story of sisters Bessie and Lee.  Bessie lives in Florida where she cares for her pain-ridden aunt and ailing father, Marvin, who is confined to his bed and unable to speak. When Bessie is diagnosed with leukemia, her only hope is to contact her long-estranged sister, Lee, to see if their bone marrow is compatible for a transplant. Lee reluctantly makes the trip from Ohio, bringing along her two sons, one of whom, Hank, has just been released from an institution after a wave of arson. The sisters’ reunion is uneasy at best, with long buried recriminations coming to the surface even as love slowly overwhelms Lee’s veneer of selfishness and glib denial. By the end of the play, the sisters find themselves gradually transformed for the better by the bonds of family and the unconditional love that comes with that.  Beloved for its mordant humor and unflinching wisdom, Scott McPherson’s dark comedy allows us a moving view of one woman’s commitment to family and response to despair.


Upon its premiere in 1991, a New York Times reviewer said, “What separates Marvin’s Room from so many synthetic American plays…is that even at its occasional sunniest, it never lies or sentimentalizes the truth. Mr. McPherson takes the time to ask, “What good can we do with the time that we have left before our inevitable fate arrives?” My first impulse after seeing Mr. McPherson’s play was to gather those I care about close to me and take them into Marvin’s Room so that they, too, could bask in its bouncing, healing light.”


Marvin’s Room was made into an Academy Award nominated film in 1996 starring Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Hume Cronyn & Gwen Verdon.