The Sandbox (play)

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This article is about the play. For other uses, see Sandbox (disambiguation).

The Sandbox is a two-act play written by Edward Albee in 1959. The first performance of this play was April 15, 1960 in the Jazz Gallery in New York City.

The play is approximately 15 minutes long and involves direct address by the actors to the audience, their acknowledgment that they are performers in a play, and the offering of cues to the musician. The play received an almost universally negative reception, as critics attacked the confusing, absurdist plot.


  • Mommy: (55, a well-dressed, imposing woman) She is Grandma's daughter. After marrying Daddy, she brings her mother from the farm and into their big town house in the city. She gives her mom an army blanket, her own dish, and a nice place under the stove.
  • Daddy: (60, a small man; gray, thin) He's the rich man that Mommy married.
  • Grandma: (86, a tiny, wizened woman with bright eyes) She is the protagonist of the play. She married a farmer at the age of 17. Her husband died when she was 30, and she raised Mommy by herself from there on. Grandma is at conflict with her family, society, and death.
  • The Young Man: (25, a good-looking, well-built boy in a bathing suit) He is the angel of death, performing calisthenics that suggest the beating of wings. He is from Southern California, but hasn't been given a name yet.
  • The Musician: (no particular age, but young would be nice) He does not speak and must be directed to play or stop playing his music.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Beginning with brightest day, the Young Man is performing calisthenics (which he continues to do until the very end of the play) near a sandbox (or sandpit) at the beach. Mommy and Daddy have brought Grandma all the way out from the city and place her in the sandbox. As Mommy and Daddy wait nearby in some chairs, the Musician plays off and on, according to what the other characters instruct him to do. Throughout the play, the Young Man is very pleasant, greeting the other characters with a smile as he says, "Hi!". As Mommy and Daddy cease to acknowledge Grandma while they wait, Grandma reverts from her childish behavior and begins to speak coherently to the audience. Grandma and the Young Man begin to converse with each other. Grandma feels comfortable talking with the Young Man as he treats her like a human being (whereas Mommy and Daddy imply through their actions and dialogue that she is more of a chore that they must take care of). While still talking with the Young Man, she reminds someone off-stage that it should be nighttime by now. Once brightest day has become deepest night, Mommy and Daddy hear on-stage rumbling. Acknowledging that the sounds are literally coming from off-stage and not from thunder or breaking waves, Mommy knows that Grandma's death is here. As daylight resumes, Mommy briefly weeps by the sandbox before quickly exiting with Daddy. Although Grandma, who is lying down half buried in sand, has continued to mock the mourning of Mommy and Daddy, she soon realizes that she can no longer move. It is at this moment that the Young Man finally stops performing his calisthenics and approaches Grandma and the sandbox. As he directs her to be still, he reveals that he is the angel of death and says, "...I am come for you." Even though he says his line like a real amateur, Grandma compliments him and closes her eyes with a smile.


  • Albee, Edward. 'The American Dream and The Zoo Story: Two Plays by Edward Albee. New York: Plume,.

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