A Man of Much Importance: The Art and Life of Terrence McNally

Applause Bks. Jul. 2023. 360p. ISBN 9781493053773. $34.95. BIOG
Theater critic Byrne’s (Toy Time!) admirable history of the impressive body of work by dramatist Terrence McNally (1938–2020) is not a traditional biography. Instead, it’s a comprehensive catalogue of almost the entirety of McNally’s artistic career, which spanned nearly 60 years. It covers not only his well-known plays (The Ritz, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class, and more) but also his television and movie scripts and his musical Ragtime—all set in the context of the social, political, and aesthetic zeitgeist in which they were written. While McNally’s sexual relationships are covered both in the context of the emerging gay liberation movement and as a part of his personal life, Byrne focuses on the contributions that McNally made to art and the LGBTQIA+ rights movement throughout his prolific career. Filled with interviews with those who knew McNally firsthand and worked with him, plus the research from 64 boxes of McNally’s papers housed at the Univ. of Texas, this highly readable book is a significant addition to understanding an influential playwright. The appendix includes a comprehensive list of McNally’s works, including plays, musicals, operas, television work, screenplays, and more.
VERDICT Highly recommended for all libraries with drama sections.
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