by Bruce Norris
Northwestern University Press, 2009
Paper: 978-0-8101-2584-1
Library of Congress Classification PS3614.O768U66 2009
Dewey Decimal Classification 812.54

Set in western equitorial Africa on the estate of a wealthy American businessman, The Unmentionables opens with a pugnacious monologue warning the audience to get out now, while they still have a chance to do something really fun, like watch cable television. For those who choose to stay despite the allure of TV, the play follows the intersecting lives of members of the local population with the various Americans who have come to "do good in the world": a young Christian missionary who brings both food and the New Testament to the local children (and whose predecessor met with a grisly fate); a disenchanted Hollywood actress in search of meaning but finding only brutality; and the aging businessman and his wife, a woman simply desperate for conversation. Over the course of one long night their humanitarian notions of themselves are called into question as they come up against the realities of money, politics, and power. As the events escalate from calm to crisis with shocking speed, the worth of one American life is measured against the worth of their so-called American values, as they become the agents of violence against one sixteen-year-old African boy.

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