Composers and their stage works 

Box and Quotations From Chairman Mao

Edward Albee

Two interrelated plays performed without intermission.

2 men, 2 women, offstage female voice; unit set.

Buffalo, Studio Arena Theatre - Mar 6, 1968
New York, Billy Rose Theatre - Sept 30, 1968



The play opens with a recorded voice reciting a long song of lamentation on the human predicament and the degree to which art can serve as a solace as well as a spur.

During the recital, the stage is empty except for a wooden framework of a large cube. The recital over, the cube is seen to contain a portion of a ship's deck, some deck chairs, and four people. One is Mao, who spends the rest of the evening wandering about the stage and the adjacent boxes and aisles, quoting his own deadly political clichés. Another is a raddled-looking old lady who recites, in a whining Midwestern singsong, Will Carleton's celebrated ballad 'Over the Hill to the Poorhouse.'

In one of the deck chairs sits a minister, book in hand and blanket tucked cosily about his legs; never uttering a word. He listens with sympathy to a middle-aged lady's non-stop monologue about her dead husband, her ungrateful daughter, and her narrow escape from drowning. Mao and the raddled-looking old lady have nothing to do with the minister or the middle-aged lady, nor have they anything to do with each other. They may or may not exist in the same place and the same time. Nothing that anyone says has the slightest effect on anyone else. Time passes. Words accumulate. Eventually, Mao stops quoting himself, the old lady finishes the last stanza of the ballad, and the middle-aged lady brings her monologue to a close.