Kim Stanley on William Inge: Chemical Magic

Kim Stanley on William Inge/1992/Los Angeles.

Let me tell you something about Bill Inge. This is what I tell my students, most of whom arrive having decided that he's old and tired and out of style and dishonest. Inge is one of the most honest of playwrights--straight and simple in his style. This may make him seem less literary, less daunting, than some of his peers, but you cannot say that his plays are not honest. Are they fully honest in the presentation of his own autobiography? No. Bill could never be fully honest about his own sexuality, so I think a lot of people fault him for not writing an inverted character in his plays who could represent him, but I always point out that he DID write such characters in his plays, and the fringe witness that was Bill Inge is in those plays. You can knock Bill for his style, and you can knock him because the place from which he hailed wasn't a place that inspires your dreams, but the primary reason that people can't embrace Bill Inge or the primary reason that they chuckle and dismiss him is because he forces you to remember what physical attraction and physical love can and should do to you, and what the lack of this same chemical magic can and will do to you. We cannot go through this world alone, and the dreams and the fantasies will grow old and, like our prescriptions for drugs and alcohol, will have to be continually and dangerously raised in order for them to have any effect. We need other people--one wonderful other person--to make ourselves whole. That was his belief. That was his dream. That was what he never achieved. I cannot believe that this theme does not resonate within everyone, so I am always angry and amazed when Bill's plays are produced and there is this chorus of disbelief about the subject matter. Admit it: You lack the love or you lost the love or you destroyed the love. That's hard to do, but that's what you are confessing when you submit to the plays of Bill Inge


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