The Unmentionables

Trade Paper – $16.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-2584-1
Publication Date
April 2009
Page Count
144 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

The Unmentionables

A Play

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.

About the Author

Bruce Norris is the author of several plays, including The Infidel, The Pain and the Itch, Purple Heart, and We All Went Down to Amsterdam, all of which have been produced by the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre also produced his play The Vanishing Twin and his adaptation of Joe Orton’s Up Against It. The Pain and the Itch and Purple Heart and The Infidel were published by Northwestern. Norris lives in Brooklyn, New York.


"Pleasingly knife-twisting satire about the foul odors that ugly Americanism continues to spray over the developing world." —Washington Post

"There are no pure acts, no altruistic gestures, and certainly no heroes in Norris's theatrical world. He is the bard of unintended consequences—every attempt to do right becomes its own punishment and nobody but nobody comes away untainted... which is why Norris's satire can seem as deeply sad as it is hilarious." —Chicago magazine

"Fluid, disturbing, and thoroughly engaging, The Unmentionables is a significant step forward for a challenging playwright." —Chicago Reader