And Things That Go Bump in the Night

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And Things That Go Bump in the Night
Written by Terrence McNally
Characters Lakme
Date premiered April 26, 1965
Place premiered Royale Theatre
New York City, New York
Subject fear, relationships, and family structure
Genre Drama
Setting A room below ground level

And Things That Go Bump in the Night is a play by Terrence McNally. It premiered on February 4, 1964 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and ran on Broadway in 1965 for 16 performances. McNally was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant to write this play.


McNally received a Rockefeller Foundation grant,[1] and wrote And Things That Go Bump in the Night. McNally had the understanding that the play would receive a public performance at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. However, the University of Minnesota said that, in a misunderstanding, "the project did not necessarily involve production or public performance" according to Donald Smith, Assistant Vice President for Academic Administration. McNally planned on presenting the play for "himself and the director, Lawrence Kornfeld" from February 3 through February 6.[2] The University of Minnesota did finally permit the production to take place with an invited audience in February 1964.[3]


And Things That Go Bump in the Night premiered on Broadway on April 26, 1965 at the Royale Theatre. Directed by Michael Cacoyannis, the cast starred Susan Anspach (Lakme), Robert Drivas (Sigfrid), Eileen Heckart (Ruby), Clifton James (Fa), Ferdi Hoffman (Grandfa) and Marco St. John (Clarence). The play closed on May 8, 1965 after 16 performances and six previews.[4][5]

Critical reception[edit]

And Things That Go Bump in the Night was the first McNally play to be produced at a legitimate theater. The Broadway production opened to generally negative reviews.[6] One review said, "It would have been better if Terrence McNally's parents smothered him in his cradle."[7] McNally recalls, "Actually, two reviews of my first play mentioned my death." Nevertheless the production ran to sold-out houses for three weeks after the producer lowered the price of tickets to one and two dollars.[8] [9]

Before it was over twenty thousand people saw the play in New York. Moreover, the play garnered enough favorable notice for McNally to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1966. A second review in the Village Voice was generally favorable, as quoted in the Samuel French acting edition: "…the most impressive new American play I have seen this season…" by the Village Voice. [10]

Plot summary[edit]

The play depicts a vaguely apocalyptic and futuristic family transformed by fear, living in their basement, and treating each other with suspicion, threats, and contempt. Family loyalty has been destroyed and everyone engages in dark and disturbing games. The mother Ruby, a faded opera diva, is egotistical and manipulative. Thirteen-year-old daughter Lakme engages in malicious sibling rivalry with her brother Sigfrid, charming but unfeeling. The father Fa spends most of his time sleeping in his chair ignoring the chaos around him. Into this mix a friend named Clarence visits for the evening. Since Clarence is hopeful and idealistic, the family feels compelled to destroy him. Clarence fights a losing battle against the culture of fear surrounding him aided sometimes by crotchety Grandfa who remembers when the family was not ruled by fear.[11]


  1. ^ Harbin, Billy J.; Marra, Kim and Schanke, Robert A. "McNally, Terrence" The Gay and Lesbian Theatrical Legacy: A Biographical Dictionary of Major Figures in American Stage History in the Pre-Stonewall Era (, University of Michigan Press, 2005, ISBN 047206858X, p. 273
  2. ^ Zolotow, Sam. "Kopit Withdraws Plays in Dispute", The New York Times, January 13, 1964, p. 26
  3. ^ Zolotow, Sam. "First Musical Set By Actors Studio", The New York Times, February 4, 1964, p. 30
  4. ^ Ballet, Arthur H, ed. "McNally" Playwrights for Tomorrow: A Collection of Plays, Volume 1, U of Minnesota Press, 1966, p.159, ISBN 0816603812
  5. ^ " And Things That Go Bump in the Night Broadway Listing", accessed April 17, 2014
  6. ^ "Playwright Terrence McNally: 'The Most Significant Thing a Writer Can Do Is Reach Someone Emotionally' ", Parade Magazine, March 24, 2014
  7. ^ Healy, Patrick. "Theater. A Playwright’s Status Report" The New York Times, February 27, 2014
  8. ^ Marks, Peter. Playwright "Terrence McNally's love of opera takes center stage at Kennedy Center" The Washington Post, March 14, 2010
  9. ^ Hadleigh, Boze. "Who's Afraid of Terrence McNally?" Broadway Babylon: Glamour, Glitz, and Gossip on the Great White Way, Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony, 2013, ISBN 0307830136, p. 165
  10. ^ And Things That Go Bump in the Night, accessed March 2, 2016
  11. ^ " 'Bump in the Night' at the Bug Theatre shows effect of culture of fear" North Denver Tribune, February 28, 2012

Further reading[edit]

  • McNally, Terrence (1966). And Things That Go Bump in the Night. New York: Dramatists Play Service. OCLC 291924. 

External links[edit]