Balm in Gilead

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Balm in Gilead is a 1965 play written by American playwright Lanford Wilson.

Dramatic structure

Wilson's first full-length effort, Balm in Gilead centers on a cafe frequented by heroin addict, prostitutes (both male and female) and thieves. It features many unconventional theatrical devices, such as overlapping dialogue, simultaneous scenes and largely unsympathetic lead characters. The plot draws a parallel between the amoral, often criminal activity that the café's denizens engage in to provide temporary relief from their boredom and suffering, and the two main characters' becoming a couple in order to escape from their lives.

The play takes its title from a quote in the Old Testament. (Book of Jeremiah, chapter 46, v. 11)

Production history

Wilson wrote the play while living in New York City, finding inspiration by sitting in cafés and listening to different conversations. He approached Marshall W. Mason, whom he knew from the Caffe Cino, to direct the production. After workshops in the directing and playwriting units of the Actors Studio, it debuted off-off-Broadway at the La Mama Experimental Theater Club on January 22, 1965, and was a notable critical and commercial success. It was the first full-length play ever produced off-off-Broadway, and became the first play from off-off-Broadway to be published (by Hill and Wang). Its two most notable productions since were a 1981 revival by Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and another, the 1984 John......
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