Landscape of the Body

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Landscape Of The Body is a two-act play by John Guare, written in 1977.


The play is episodic and non-linear, as it travels back and forth in time. The plot centers around a woman named Betty, whose son, Bert, was recently murdered and decapitated in lower Manhattan. The first and last scenes are the same. They take place on a boat, with Betty, who throws bottles filled with notes overboard, and an absurdly disguised Detective Holahan. Initially, Holahan accuses Betty of killing her son, but Betty insists this is not true. The audience later finds out, indeed, this is not true, as it is revealed that Bert's friend, Donny, killed him. Betty, whose past is dramatized in chunks, came to New York from Bangor, Maine, after having been sent to fetch her sister Rosalie, who has been acting in porn films. Incidentally, Rosalie gets hit by a bicycle and dies, so Betty takes Rosalie's place in life: she takes her job as both a worker for a Honeymoon Agency and a porn actress, dates Rosalie's Cuban boyfriend Raulito, and lives in New York with Bert. Bert, with his group of friends (Donny, Margie and Joanne) become hoodlums to some extent, as he and Donny lure men into their house and hit them over the head with a wrench so they can steal their watches. A childhood friend, Durwood Peach, confronts Betty after years of non-communication, claiming that his doctor said it would be best for him to propose to Betty, being that she has been the true love of his life his whole life. She goes with him down south, just to find that Durwood's parents just needed Durwood to return, and that she is not wanted. She goes back up to New York to find that Bert and Raulito both have been killed (the latter killed as a result of an inadvertent bank-robbery prank pulled by Bert). The audience finds that the whole play is the previous happenings of the first scene of the play.

Performance History[edit]

Landscape Of The Body was first produced by William Gardner at the Academy Festival Theatre, in Lake Forest, Illinois, in July, 1977. It was directed by John Pasquin, and Shirley Knight starred as Betty, F. Murray Abraham as Holahan, Paul McCrane as Bert, Rex Robbins as Durwood Peach, Jay O. Sanders as the Bike Messenger/Dope King/Bank Teller, Bonnie Deroski as Margie, Alexa Kenin as Joanne, Anthony Marciona as Donny, Richard Bauer as Raulito, and Peg Murray as Rosalie.

The show was also presented in New York City, by Joseph Papp, at the Public Theater, on October 12, 1977. The lead roles were played by the same actors with Remak Ramsay as Durwood Peach, and Tom Klunis as Bike Messenger/Dope King/Bank Teller.

The first production in London, UK, opened at the Southwark Playhouse on March 29, 2001, directed by Joss Bennathan, with Holley Chant as Betty, Shaun Hennessy as Holahan, Elliott Young as Bert, Fredrick Ruth as Durwood Peach and Pianist, Jamie Lennox Scholes as Donny/Masked Man/Dope King, Elizabeth Kiernan as Margie/Bank Teller, Carol Duval as Joanne, Gary Condes as Raulito and Elizabeth Yeats as Rosalie.

The play was produced Off-Broadway in April and May 2006 by the Signature Theatre Company, directed by Michael Greif and starring Jonathan Fried as Durwood Peach, Paul Iacono as Donny, Colby Minifie as Margie, Stephen Scott Scarpulla as Bert, Sherie Rene Scott as Rosalie, Brian Sgambati as Masked Man/Dope King of Providence/and others, Jill Shackner as Joanne, Paul Sparks as Captain Marvin Holahan, Lili Taylor as Betty, and Bernard White as Raulito. This production was nominated for a 2007 Lucille Lortel Award.[1]


  1. ^ Landscape of the Body, Lucille Lortel Awards webpage.