Urlicht, pr. 1971
I Don’t Generally Like Poetry But Have You Read “Trees”?, pr. 1972 (with Christopher Durang)
The Life Story of Mitzi Gaynor: Or, Gyp, pr. 1973 (with Durang)
Wisdom Amok, pr. 1973?
The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie, pr. 1973
The Idiots Karamazov, pr., pb. 1974, augmented pb. 1981 (with Durang; music by Jack Feldman, lyrics by Durang)
Earth Worms, pr. 1974
Gemini, pr. 1976
Ulysses in Traction, pr. 1977
Passione, pr. 1980
Bizarre Behavior: Six Plays, pb. 1980
Coming of Age in Soho, pr., pb. 1985
Best Plays of Albert Innaurato, pb. 1987
Magda and Callas, pb. 1989
Gus and Al, pr., pb. 1989
Verna, USO Girl, 1978
Coming Out, 1989
Albert Innaurato (ihn-ohr-AH-toh) was born in the Italian area of South Philadelphia. His background in this neighborhood provided a source for many of the situations and characters in his plays. He received his bachelor’s degree from Temple University in Philadelphia and graduated from the Yale School of Drama with an M.F.A. degree in 1974. Innaurato was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975 and an Obie Award in 1977. He has also been playwright-in-residence at the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Circle Repertory Company in New York.
Innaurato’s first major success in the theater occurred with the highly successful production of The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie, which was staged Off-Broadway and won for him an Obie Award. In that play Innaurato deals with several themes that would recur in later plays, especially the problems of obesity and the problem of the artist in contemporary American society. An artist, Benno Blimpie is literally consuming himself because of his lack of personal and artistic recognition. In the process the character addresses, with humor, the plight of the obese in American society and the problems of the unappreciated artist. Benno’s constant hunger is a symbol for the need for recognition that characterizes the personality of the artist.
Innaurato gained a significant position in American theater in the 1970’s and 1980’s because of the power of his comedy and the perception of his social analysis. His plays often involve the themes of homosexuality, the problems of obesity, the problems of ethnic identity (especially for Italians), and the difficulty of human relationships (especially within a family). His most successful play, Gemini, earned for him an Obie Award and ran on Broadway for three years. A comedy, the play is set in South Philadelphia.
In Ulysses in Traction Innaurato creates a play involving the 1960’s and the special problems of a drama department within a university. Innaurato suggests that the isolated world of subsidized theater, in this case a university drama department, has very little to do with the realities of theater or the realities of life. The play also questions the relationship between theater and the conflicts of modern American society. What relevance can theater provide in the face of the urgent social problems of poverty and racism? The play presents the audience with different viewpoints on these social and artistic problems.
Innaurato’s Coming of Age in Soho had a very short run Off-Broadway; nevertheless the play broke new ground for the playwright. Aging and the possible conflicts and connections between the young and the old are major concerns in this play. Coming of Age in Soho is set in New York and tries to dramatize the social milieu of New York in the 1980’s, especially regarding homosexuality and the conflicts of gay people with the society around them. As a result, some of the problems of minority awareness and minority rights are illuminated.
Magda and Callas is another venture into opera territory, the story of an opera singer who has lost her voice who returns to her South Philadelphia home. Most of the play revolves around attempts to bring Magda out of her potentially suicidal state. Gus and Al is Innaurato’s comment on the frustrations of an artistic life in which one is at the mercy of reviewers. In the play, a playwright whose recent work has been panned tries to electrocute himself but instead finds himself transported to turn-of-the-century Vienna, where he encounters Gustav Mahler, himself a recipient of bad press. The friendship that develops between the two helps Al to come to terms with his situation–which turns out to be not quite so bad, after all.
Innaurato is recognized as a significant modern American playwright capable of producing some superb comedy involving important contemporary concerns. The playwright’s sense of humor is certainly one of his most striking characteristics. His love of opera is evident in the plays as well; there are many operatic allusions in several of his plays–especially in Gemini, whose main character is an avid opera fan. Innaurato has also been closely identified with Italian American culture and its position in modern America. His plays often present Italian Americans and their unique problems in adjusting to life outside an Italian American community. Life beyond Little Italy generates both comedy and confusion, newer awareness and pain, larger horizons and major embarrassments. Plot development is certainly a weakness in his drama; his ability to create fascinating characters who interest theater audiences is his strength. The playwright has also created a uniquely surreal form of comedy with an operatic component, often within a painfully personal context. Innaurato’s plays continue to be performed in theaters around the United States.