Big Bill

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BIG BILL captures tennis player William Tilden's turbulent life in a series of scenes that shift back and forth in time. Performed on a set that resembles a tennis arena, the play illuminates the sportsman's distinguished career, extravagant style, personal travails, and, ultimately, his calamitous downfall. A fascinating look at the glory of sport, the power of fame, and the anguish of being an outcast. "BIG BILL is one of A R Gurney's most affecting plays. When Gurney began writing in the early '70s - the era of Rabe, Babe and Bullins - playwrights were supposed to do quasi-Marxist screeds. His portraits of WASP America seemed out of synch until the early '80s, when THE DINING ROOM made people realize the deep resonance of his work. These days, the authorized topic is homosexuality. Again, Gurney has followed his own path. Although his BIG BILL is about one of the most important tennis players of the 20th century, Bill Tilden, who happened to be a homosexual, Gurney has a deeper focus - the struggle of a man to reconcile the most rigorous WASP standards with sexual inclinations that do not yield to any abstract code. Tilden's high standards are illustrated in the first scene, when we see him outraged at a linesman's ruling - in his favor. Tilden, an athlete of unusual prowess and grace, was also, alas, vain. This led him into a ludicrous career on the stage. His sexual tendencies - his attraction to teenagers - led to his ultimate decline. Gurney depicts this sad trajectory in short, pungent scenes, alternately comic and poignant." -Howard Kissel, Daily News "BIG BILL is A R Gurney's impressionistic, jumpy, jaunty biographical play about Bill Tilden, the first tennis superstar, who won zillions of titles in the '20s, maintaining at great cost his enforced status as an amateur until his death in 1953. Like many players then, Tilden came from money - in this case, a rich, old family in Philadelphia. He was an active, though closeted, homosexual, surrounding himself with young ballboys (with whom his relationships varied) and picking up young hustlers, which got him into repeated trouble with the law ... In this short play, Gurney simply presents the story of a damaged but gifted man who never grew up, alongside the absurdities of L A law. On the whole, though, it makes for a lovely theatrical experience." -Donald Lyons, New York Post "In BIG BILL ... A R Gurney elegantly considers the cataclysmically unfortunate timing of '20s tennis legend Bill Tilden ... Gurney ... has returned to his specialty, the American WASP, with renewed focus and expanded vision ... we are taken back and forth through the buoyant ups and dignified downs of this complex and, ultimately, inspirational character ... Tilden died alone, in shame, ignored by the tennis association. Gurney imagines a big, appreciative send-off, and finally gives him one here." -Linda Winer, Newsday - from Amzon 
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