Marvin's Room (play)

Marvin's Room
Written by Scott McPherson
Date premiered 1990
Place premiered Goodman Theatre, Chicago
Original language English

Marvin's Room is a play written by American writer Scott McPherson.

It concerns two sisters, Bessie, their father's saintly caretaker who has leukemia, and Lee, a wisecracking, psychologically unstable free spirit who has not helped with the caretaking.

It is based upon McPherson's experiences with older relatives who lived in Florida. McPherson cared for his partner, cartoonist and activist Daniel Sotomayor, who died from AIDS. His experiences living in the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic influenced his writing.[1] McPherson himself died in 1992 of AIDS at age 33.[2]

Historical casting

Character 1990 Goodman Theatre cast 1991-92 Off-Broadway cast 1992 West End cast 1994 Los Angeles cast 1996 Film cast
Bessie Wakefield Carol Schultz Laura Esterman Alison Steadman Mary Steenburgen Diane Keaton
Lee Wakefield Lacker Mary Beth Fisher Lisa Emery Phyllis Logan Jean Smart Meryl Streep
Aunt Ruth Jane MacIver Alice Drummond Carmel McSharry Jane Cecil Gwen Verdon


Marvin's Room had its premiere at the Goodman Theatre Studio in Chicago in 1990, directed by David Petrarca.[3][4]

It then played Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, opening on November 15, 1991 and closing on February 23, 1992.[5][6] The play re-opened Off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theater in March 1992 and closed on September 6, 1992, directed by David Petraca.[7][8]

It went on to run at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. in September 1992-October 1992, directed by David Petrarca.[9]

A London production ran in 1993 at the Hampstead Theatre, and transferred to the West End at the Comedy Theatre for a short-run.[10]

In 1994, a production was staged in Los Angeles at the Tiffany Theater.[11]

The Roundabout Theatre Company will present the play on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre from June 8, 2017 to August 27, directed by Anne Kauffman.[12]

Film adaptation

Marvin's Room was adapted by John Guare for a film of the same title in 1996. Diane Keaton was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Bessie.[13]

Awards and nominations

1991-1992 Obie Award for Distinguished Performance by an Actress - Laura Esterman (winner)


Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play - (winner)
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play - Laura Esterman (winner)

1992 Drama Critics' Circle Award Runner-Up, Best American Play (nomination)


  1. Marvin's Room Women Take Care: Gender, Race, and the Culture of AIDS, by Katie Hogan, Published by Cornell University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8014-8753-6. Page 14.
  2. A Door Left Ajar in 'Marvin's Room' by David Richards, Washington Post Staff Writer, January 5, 1997.
  3. Bommer, Lawrence. " Marvin's Room Review", March 1, 1990
  4. Christianson, Richard. "Review. 'Marvins Room' Offers Up a Breathtaking View" Chicago Tribune, February 20, 1990
  5. " 'Marvin's Room' 1991", accessed September 7, 2016
  6. Walking the Tightrope That Is 'Marvin's Room' New York Times, December 12, 1991.
  7. "Review/Theater; 'Marvin's Room': Life, As It Is and Could Be" The New York Times, March 6, 1992
  8. Marvin's Room, accessed September 7, 2016
  9. Rose, Lloyd. Light-Filled 'Marvin's Room'" The Washington Post, September 18, 1992
  11. Los Angeles Times accessed 11/23/2016
  12. Clement, Olivia. "Roundabout Announces Broadway Premiere of 'Marvin’s Room'" Playbill, September 6, 2016
  13. Two Wrenching Dramas Find Unexpected New Lives New York Times, December 8, 1996.

Further reading

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