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Lucas, Craig (b. 1951)  
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A leading contemporary American playwright, Craig Lucas integrates high-spirited, kaleidoscopic storytelling with provocative explorations of the meaning of family and love in all its varieties. With the almost-simultaneous successes of the Broadway romantic comedy Prelude to a Kiss and the landmark AIDS film Longtime Companion in 1990, he gained access to a platform for speaking out; he has continued to use that forum for discussing the role and responsibilities of gay artists in society.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia on April 30, 1951, Lucas was abandoned that very day in the back seat of a car parked at a gas station. Before he was ten months old, however, he was adopted into a Pennsylvania family; his adoptive father was an FBI agent, and he was raised in a very conservative home and community.

During the political, sexual, and creative ferment of the late 1960s and 1970s, Lucas was drawn to the political left and came to terms with his attraction to other men. To this day he contends that only after he came out could he embark on a course of emotional healing that was essential to his growth as a writer. The freedom he has achieved to create work on his own terms appears not only in plays that include gay and lesbian characters and issues (Blue Window and The Dying Gaul), but also in plays that concern characters with quite different profiles (Reckless and Prelude to a Kiss).

After he graduated from Boston University in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in theater and creative writing, his teacher and mentor poet Anne Sexton urged him to pursue his writing ambitions in New York. While he worked at various day jobs, his acting, singing, and dancing talents helped him land small parts in Broadway musicals, including Shenandoah, On the Twentieth Century, and Sweeney Todd.

Early Work

When Lucas was rewriting a play about a family's Thanksgiving dinner that eventually emerged as Missing Persons (1991), a friend showed a draft to director Norman René. That play centered on Gemma, a reclusive literary critic and the kind of person who can't keep from telling her son how his poetry fails; the wary family members and sparring friends in Missing Persons are typical of the mix of characters Lucas loves for his casts. René, who promised to produce the completed play, became his closest collaborator over the next fifteen years; he directed all of the early plays, as well as the films from Lucas's screenplays for some of those works.

As Lucas was working on Missing Persons, he and René also developed Marry Me a Little. In this cabaret revue of little-known Stephen Sondheim songs, a man and woman living in apartments next to each other without ever meeting sing of yearning and failure to connect. A favorite with showtune enthusiasts, the original cast album features Suzanne Henry and Lucas in a rare recording of his way with a song.

Blue Window (1984) and Reckless (1988) showcase Lucas's talent for fusing meditations on personal identity with exuberant, often zany, satire. Blue Window follows seven people (including a lesbian couple and the probably-gay character Griever) before, during, and after a comically tense New York dinner party; its spiky collage-like structure, with songs and sidetrips into dreams and memories, injects fresh energy and surprising resonance into a comedy of Yuppie manners that is both funny and thoughtful.

The hostess Libby breaks a cap on a front tooth before her guests arrive; she goes through much of the party trying to be the perfect hostess while hiding the broken tooth from everyone. This scenario of an absurd accident and its awkward aftermath enables a mercurial actor to jump back and forth between anxiety and comedy as Libby's story of her recovery from an earlier more serious injury unfolds.

Lucas's determination to present multiple facets of his characters in a highly theatrical way is also evident in his treatment of Griever. On the one hand, he offers a private moment in which Griever delivers an over-the-top imitation of Diana Ross's response to the torrential rain at her infamous 1983 Central Park Concert, and then later shows how deeply attuned Griever is to Libby's anxiety and struggle to reconnect with others.

In Reckless, Lucas once again balances comic routines with heartbreak. This black comedy in the John Waters vein introduces us to Rachel, one of the world's most trusting and long-suffering women. Driven from her home on Christmas Eve and forced to leave her baby son by a husband who has ordered a hit on her, she wanders abroad, like Voltaire's Candide, amid horrors and catastrophes.

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