In The Summer House

About the Play

Date
An early version of the play was published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1947, though Bowles continued to revise the script up to its 1953 Broadway premiere.
First Production

1951, Hedgerow Theatre, Moylan, Pennsylvania. A revised version premiered at the Playhouse Theatre on Broadway in 1953.

Cast Breakdown
10F, 3M, 2E
Genre
Tragicomedy,
Length
Full-length
 
Availability

 Anthologized in Plays by American Women 1930-1960. Judith E. Barlow, ed. New York: Applause Books, 2001 and My Sister’s Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2005.


Summary

Set on the border between Mexico and California in the 1940s, the play explores the mysterious, powerful, and sometimes suffocating attachment between a mother and her daughter—the beautiful, aristocratic Gertrude Eastman Cuevas and her seemingly impassive daughter Molly. Molly wants a new life far from her mother’s influence—but what price is she willing to pay for freedom?


Background

Bowles began writing the play in the mid-1940s, perhaps inspired by her own complex relationship with her mother. Its style baffled some critics—one called it “naturally surrealistic.” Tennessee Williams considered it groundbreaking, observing: “It is not only the most original play I have ever read, I think it is also the oddest and funniest and one of the most touching. It is one of those rare plays which are not tested by the theater but by which the theater is tested.”

About the Playwright

Jane Bowles
Jane Bowles
Jane Bowles (1917-1973) wrote only one novel, one play, and seven short stories in her lifetime, but her impact on American literature is significant. Both Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams cited her as influences, and her surprising, spiky surreal writing style anticipated a changing literary landscape. Bowles was known for her wry, self-deprecatory sense of humor. “I’m Jewish, homosexual, alcoholic, a communist—and a cripple!” she once replied when asked why she remained on the literary fr…
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One Play at a Time Participating Universities

Philip Dawkins
Loyola University, Chicago
Araceli Gonzalez Crespan
University of Vigo
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