(Richard Natale’s and Brent Lang’s article appeared in Variety, 3/24; via Pam Green.)
Terrence McNally, the playwright behind “Master Class” and “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” has died of complications from coronavirus. He was 81.
The four-time Tony Award winner was a lung cancer survivor who lived with chronic COPD. He died on Tuesday at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida.
McNally’s resume was notable for its range, barrier-breaking depictions of gay life, and interest in subjects such as middle-aged romance and opera considered taboo by the commercial theater. His career moved from farces like “The Ritz” to thought-provoking, award-winning dramas such as “Love! Valor! Compassion!” and “Master Class.” McNally is one of the first major celebrities to die from coronavirus complications. Broadway and New York theaters have been closed for more than a week due to the pandemic — it’s a public health crisis that threatens the institutions where McNally lived, worked, and received great acclaim.
Though his debut on Broadway, “And Things That Go Bump in the Night,” was universally panned, McNally buckled down and slowly developed his reputation through successful one-act productions, eventually triumphing on Broadway and winning four Tonys, two for dramatic works “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “Master Class,” and two for the musical books of “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Ragtime.”
McNally developed a home at the Manhattan Theater Club, where many of his Broadway productions were developed and refined. And while musical productions “Kiss” and “Ragtime” were bigger hits than any of his plays, he was nonetheless one of the few consistent dramatic voices on a Broadway otherwise dominated by lavish musicals and stage versions of hit movies. He was clearly devoted to the theater and worried about the fate of drama on the commercial stage, authoring numerous articles in which he discussed his fears.