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Innaurato, Albert (b. 1948)  
 
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The grotesqueness or ridiculousness of Innaurato's early plays is succeeded by a comically operatic quality in his later ones. In Gemini, for example, Lucille complains about Francis's constantly playing opera records: "all that screamin'--that's what I got against opera, Fran, ain't like real life." Ironically, she delivers this observation only after the household has forestalled neighbor Bunny's attempt to commit suicide by jumping off from the telephone pole she's climbed; after Bunny has overturned a piano on her son and worries that she's "ruptured him for life"; and after nearly everyone in the play has confessed a forbidden or conflicted passion, often by "screamin'" loudly enough for the entire neighborhood to hear.

Similarly, in Coming of Age, after a Mafia enforcer has tied up the three boys that he and his cohort have found in Beatrice's apartment in an attempt to force Beatrice to comply with their demand that he remain married to Patricia, the boys compete to sacrifice themselves for Beatrice. "They think they're in an opera," Patricia sneers. (Indeed, references to Wagner's great love tragedy, Tristan und Isolde, abound in Innaurato's plays.) And a record of Tito Schipa singing "Passione" fills Berto's apartment several times in the play of that title. For Innaurato, the passion of life is deeply operatic.

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Innaurato's style of characterization is related to his early fascination with operas in which "fat people were young and beautiful forever" and "the darkest deeds and most horrible tragedies were celebrated in the most glorious music." His characters may appear grotesque to people accustomed to looking at life on a small screen, but their emotional extravagance and outsized gestures are presented by Innaurato as being perfectly natural--indeed, far more natural than the hypocrisy, repressed desires, and altogether anemic existence of the WASP majority. "I'm still writing operas; I think that's the only way to put it," Innaurato says of his plays. "Operas without music."

"Liv[ing] freely, without a safety net"

Operatic in its extravagance, Innaurato's theater is a theater for voices. "I love voices and I believe the human voice is the most perfect instrument, the most completely expressive sign of humanity," he says. Conversely, people who refuse to listen to another's voice--in particular theater critics who object to the seeming freakishness of Innaurato's characters--display a lack of compassion that is inhumane.

If the first great theme of Innaurato's theater is the need of the "freaks" to courageously seek satisfaction in a world where people will not "let them be what they are" (Passione), the second is the need for people to accept others, no matter how freakish they may seem.

"In all my plays I deal with the person who doesn't really fit into any kind of prefabricated identity, either a gay identity or a straight identity," Innaurato told an interviewer. Generally, his characters accept that they don't fit in, even while on some level they wish they could.

In Gemini, for example, Lucille blithely assumes that her daughter did not gain admittance to Yale University because she has buck teeth and lacks the requisite "poise." And Fran explains his divorce from Francis's mother by describing her (like Aggy in Passione) as "one of them people that like to fade inna the air. Don' wanna stand out. Francis and me, well, we stand out. Don' wanna, understand, but we talk too loud, cough, scratch ourselves, get rashes, are kinda big. You have to notice us. Don' have to like us but you gotta see us."

In Coming of Age, Beatrice recognizes that "I want to stop working to define myself by every standard but mine. I want to stop judging myself. Some of us sit outside the standard categories our great society thinks so immutable. I have to find out what that particular truth is for me."

In Innaurato's plays, the "particular truth" that each person must discover for him or herself most often regards the ambivalent nature of sexual desire. "You see, as in sexual experience, I don't believe in limits," Innaurato explains in an interview with John DiGaetani. "I don't believe experiences are black or white. I don't believe in the small screen in life since I think life is not a small screen. I don't believe there is one sexual feeling. I think that in the course of a lifetime we all have many sexual feelings, though we may or may not choose to act on them."

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