Craig Lucas’s What I Meant Was: New Plays and Selected One-Acts by Guy Gallo

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 72 Summer 2000
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Craig Lucas hears voices. And he has the gift of ventriloquism. He has the ability to cast these voices—of yearning, rage, guilt, and equivocation—onto the page for us to hear.

I find it ironic that the plays most enjoyable to read are those that are most intrinsically themselves only in performance. The plays collected in What I Meant Was are not auditions for Hollywood; nor are they dramatized short stories, or essays disguised as dialogue. They are written with a keen awareness of theatrical space. And theatrical silence. At a time when American theater would seem to have forgotten how to read a play, relying too often on that mutant form The Reading to authenticate a work as potentially stageworthy, it is refreshing to be reminded, as I was in reading Lucas’s collection, that the second best theater is the mind. And to meet again a writer who provides, on the page, the necessary subtlety and craft, and the theatrical finesse to enable a reader to create an approximation of the intended staging.

The collection consists of two full-length and nine shorter pieces, and a motley crew of characters—strident, broken, and malicious, with voices that manage, in each play and as an aggregate, to draw in the reader frissons of recognition. You do, in fact, hear these voices. And no matter the specifics of their situation—mourning lover, widow, writer, Hollywood asshole or street kid—in each, there exists the faint echo of bewildered longing: the constant keynote of a millennium’s end.

—Guy Gallo


Craig Lucas’s What I Meant Was: New Plays and Selected One-Acts was recently published by Theater Communication Group.

Orpheus In Love by Craig Lucas
Guillermo Calderón’s Villa by Tom Sellar
Crystal Finn, Vivia Font, and Harmony Stempel sitting around a wood table in Villa, a play by Guillermo Calderon at the MESS International Theater Festival in Sarajevo, 2012. Photo by Maria Paz Gonzalez.

It takes a rare kind of playwright to evoke the head-spinning contradictions in our national political psyches.

Dan Scardino by Michael O'Keefe
Dan Scardino 01

Don Scardino tells actor pal Michael O’Keefe about escaping a dead-end acting career to become a director, and his battle to stay loyal to theater work while being wooed by offers in film and television.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins by Hilton Als​
Branden Jacobs Jenkins 1

The playwright discusses his formative years, rejuvenation of historical material, and how race is coded into theatergoing itself.

Originally published in

BOMB 72, Summer 2000

Featuring interviews with Om Puri, Uncle Mame, Donald Baechler, Monique Prieto, Aleksandar Hemon, Paul Beatty, Arthur C. Danto, Julien Temple, and Miriam Makeba.

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