Whether dramas, comedies or musicals, love plays have stirred the imagination of audience members since actors first took to the stage. Stories of love, romance and passion often become classics that immortalize great lovers. Their stories get told again and again on stages throughout the world as they explore all the complexities of the human heart and the intricacies of relationships.
Love in Olden Days: The Classics
Love is a favorite topic of playwrights. Aristophanes' "Lysistrata" is a comedy that explores the battle of the sexes when Lysistrata convinces women to withhold sex as a way to end the Peloponnesian War. Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" is oft-cited as the pinnacle of love stories, although several of his other plays also are love stories, including "Much Ado About Nothing," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Twelfth Night," "The Merchant of Venice" and "Antony and Cleopatra." Pierre Corneille's "Le Cid" is a French five-act tragicomedy that tells the love story of Chimene and Rodrigue. Oscar Wilde's farce, "The Importance of Being Earnest," is a delightfully silly love story that ends in a brace of marriages.
Laughing Over Love: Modern Comedies
Love on stage often is as funny, absurd and witty as it is in real life. A.R. Gurney's "Sylvia" is a man's love affair with a stray dog, an affair that almost destroys his marriage. "Blithe Spirit" by Noel Coward features a dead past wife who returns to haunt the current one. "Fools" by Neil Simon relates the fable of a teacher who must break the curse of stupidity on a village and falls in love while doing so. Sarah Ruhl's "In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)" tells of a young Victorian woman discovering love, sex and passion as her doctor husband gives vibrator treatments to women. "On Golden Pond" by Ernest Thompson features the love of an elderly couple who have been married for decades.
Roadblocks to Love: Modern Dramas
Many lovers in modern dramas struggle and experience tragedies. Lanford Wilson's "Talley's Folly" is a romance in which Matt and Sally meet in a boathouse and struggle against their love for each other. Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" is a love story of violence, lies, passion, marriage and rape. "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches" by Tony Kushner contains the tragic love stories of men struggling with AIDS and death. A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" relates 50 years of love letters between Melissa and Andrew. William Inge's "Picnic" and "Bus Stop" are tragic love stories that upset the society around the main characters. Craig Lucas' "Prelude to a Kiss" is a romantic fantasy in which the supernatural heavily figures.
Cue Up the Music: Musicals
Love stories long have been a mainstay in musicals. "West Side Story" is a modern telling of the Romeo and Juliet story. "Phantom of the Opera" tells of a man's obsessive love for a singer. "Rent" includes several love stories of couples in New York struggling with poverty and AIDS. "Man of La Mancha" is the story of Don Quixote and his love for Dulcinea. "Spring Awakening" tells of the love between teenagers whose ignorance creates tragedy. "Legally Blonde" is a love story in which Elle learns she is more than just someone's blonde girlfriend.