The son of a well-to-do New York Jewish family, Miller graduated from high school and then went to work in a warehouse. His plays have been called "political," but he considers the areas of literature and politics to be quite separate and has said, "The only sure and valid aim---speaking of art as a weapon---is the humanizing of man." The recurring theme of all his plays is the relationship between a man's identity and the image that society demands of him. After two years, he entered the University of Michigan, where he soon started writing plays. All My Sons (1947), a Broadway success that won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1947, tells the story of a son, home from the war, who learns that his brother's death was due to defective airplane parts turned out by their profiteering father. Death of a Salesman (1949), Miller's experimental yet classical American tragedy, received both the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1949. It is a poignant statement of a man facing himself and his failure. In The Crucible (1953), a play about bigotry in the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, Miller brings into focus the social tragedy of a society gone mad, as well as the agony of a heroic individual. The play was generally considered to be a comment on the McCarthyism of its time. Miller himself appeared before the Congressional Un-American Activities Committee and steadfastly refused to involve his friends and associates when questioned about them. His screenplay for The Misfits (1961), from his short story, was written for his second wife, actress Marilyn Monroe (see Vol. 3); After the Fall (1964) has clear autobiographical overtones and involves the story of this ill-fated marriage as well as further dealing with Miller's experiences with McCarthyism. In the one-act Incident at Vichy (1964), a group of men are picked off the streets one morning during the Nazi occupation of France. The Price (1968) is a psychological drama concerning two brothers, one a police officer, one a wealthy surgeon, whose long-standing conflict is explored over the disposal of their father's furniture. The Creation of the World and Other Business (1973) is a retelling of the story of Genesis, attempted as a comedy. The American Clock (1980) explores the impact of the Depression on the nation and its individual citizens. Among Miller's most recent works is Danger: Memory! (1987), a study of two elderly friends. During the 1980s, almost all of Miller's plays were given major British revivals, and the playwright's work has been more popular in Britain than in the United States of late.
Born of Irish Catholic parents in New York City, Guare was an only child. His parents led intense but somewhat separate lives and young Guare found himself increasingly alone as he grew up. He spent his childhood reading, listening to albums of Broadway musicals, and writing plays. His first play was presented in a neighbor's garage when he was eleven. Guare first came to public attention with his one-act play Muzeeka (1968), a biting social satire about an ambitious man who works for a canned-music company that inflicts its banal arrangements on the entire country. The hero, Jack Argue, is a modern guilt-ridden "Everyman" who has sold himself out to the system. The play was first performed at Connecticut's Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre, then at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. On April 28, 1968, it opened off-Broadway at the Provincetown Playhouse on a double bill with Sam Shepard's Red Cross. Muzeeka ran for 65 performances and earned its author an Obie Award that year. The House of Blue Leaves (1971), Guare's first full-length play, is set in a Queens apartment on the day the Pope is making his first visit to New York City. A savage farce, The House of Blue Leaves presents an unrelenting attack on lower middle-class values. It shows the emptiness of the characters' inner lives and the horror of their senseless acts of violence. The play won both an Obie and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1971. In 1986 it enjoyed a highly successful revival at New York's Lincoln Center, which further established Guare as a unique and critically acclaimed American playwright. His more recent plays, such as Six Degrees of Separation (1990), show the playwright turning toward a more tragic outlook. Critics have been almost universal in their praise of Guare's screenplay for Louis Malle's film, Atlantic City (1981). Although not published in book form, the Canadian-French film has been distributed by Paramount in the United States. It is a bittersweet, Runyonesque tale about a small-time numbers runner, played by Burt Lancaster, and a small-town waitress, played by Susan Sarandon. Atlantic City received a number of honors, including best-screenplay awards by the National Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Society, and the New York Film Critics Circle.