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Lucas, Craig (b. 1951)  
 
page: 1  2  3  

The success of two such different projects in film and on stage ignited media interest in Lucas, including some that was very curious. For example, one queer critic attacked him for being "a closeted gay writer" because Prelude to a Kiss did not focus on gay and lesbian characters. Others took Lucas to task for Longtime Companion: one prominent movie reviewer dismissed its characters as devoid of interest, whereas a gay critic criticized Lucas for not using an all-gay cast.

Defending his creative rights against such criticism, Lucas has given notice that the popularity of some of his work would not "prevent (him) from writing other, perhaps even different, plays as time goes on," and that "the business of artists is to offer what they have seen and to imagine what they cannot truly know . . . I believe I can speak sympathetically towards (straight people's) hopes and fears as well as to the issues facing queer people." Following those media dust-ups, Lucas moved on to write the screenplay for Prelude to a Kiss (starring Meg Ryan as Rita, a performance that drew ire from many fans of the play in 1992). The experience of making a major Hollywood movie proved to be another an eye-opener for him.

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Later Work

Whether in reaction to reviewers sniping in 1990 or in response to the commercial pressures he felt during production of the film of Prelude to a Kiss, a new, angrier playwright emerged in his next play. The Dying Gaul (1998) follows the journey of Robert, a screenwriter grieving after his lover's death from AIDS. The play is savage in its portrait of the film industry and the compromises demanded from artists who wander into it unprepared. If Rachel, the innocent survivor of Reckless, seemed only moderately tarnished by her run-ins with an absurdly harsh world, Robert is clearly damaged goods in The Dying Gaul and admits it.

As Lucas has written, "My lover, my best friend, my closest colleague over decades . . . and . . . several dozen friends, ex-lovers and colleagues all died rather horrible deaths in rapid succession, and I did not find myself ascending into a compassionate, giving place, but instead a significantly meaner and less generous one." Not surprisingly, his later dramatic work is informed by searing anger and grief and is set in eerier territories than his early romantic comedies occupied.

Since 1998, Lucas has also been expanding his theatrical reach. As director and writer on musical theater pieces in various stages of development, he has collaborated with a number of composers (Adam Guettel in The Light in the Piazza and Jeanine Tesori in Don Juan de Marco, among others). He has also directed productions of classics by his theatrical idols, including August Strindberg's Miss Julie and Joe Orton's Loot. On the film front, he has written the award-winning screenplay for Alan Rudolph's The Secret Lives of Dentists (2002), adapted from Jane Smiley's novella The Age of Grief, and has directed his own screenplay of The Dying Gaul.

At the same time he was involved in these collaborations, Lucas was also developing a major new work for the stage. Singing Forest (2004) charts one family's forced march from Nazi-infested Vienna in the 1930s to celebrity-intoxicated New York City in the year 2000. While exploiting the two geographical and time settings for farcical and tragic dramatic effects, Lucas casts a cold eye on psychotherapy (Freud appears as a friend of the family in 1930s Vienna) and dramatizes how it has succeeded in some of its aspirations to enrich lives yet has fallen short in others.

Lucas's comparison of the two eras and places also throws into high relief the changes in the status of gay men. In 1930s Vienna, same-sex relationships could lead lovers to Nazi death camps; in millennial New York, Lucas seems to indicate, homosexuals are now just as likely as our heterosexual brethren to have comically complicated love lives but without fatal results.

Yet Lucas, for all his comic flair, clearly wants more than zany antics for the conflicted, struggling survivors of Singing Forest; and his ability to portray them with equal measures of affection, empathy, and irony is what keeps him at the forefront of contemporary American playwrights.

John McFarland

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    Bibliography
   

DeGaetani, John L. A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights. New York: Greenwood, 1991.

Hopkins, Billy. "Craig Lucas." Bomb (New York) 28 (Summer 1989): 56-59.

Lucas, Craig. "Equality in the Theatre." Bomb (New York) 57 (Fall 1996): 66-70.

_____. "Justifying Our Love." The Advocate (November 12, 2002): 87.

_____. Prelude to a Kiss and Other Plays (Missing Persons and Three Postcards). New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1992.

_____. Reckless and Blue Window: Two Plays. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1989.

_____. What I Meant Was: New Plays and Selected One-Acts. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1999.

Swartz, Patti Capel. "Craig Lucas." Gay & Lesbian Literature, Volume 2. Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast, eds. Detroit: St. James Press, 1998. 232-34.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: McFarland, John  
    Entry Title: Lucas, Craig  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated August 16, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/lucas_c_art.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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