The action takes place in the trophy room of a rather stuffy men's club in a midwestern city. As the play begins we meet Barney, the son of the club president, as a teenager—and already a rebel against the WASP-ish virtues so dear to his family. He is infatuated with Eleanor, a local girl of good background, but she is wary of his wildness, and opts to date, and then marry, his stolid brother, Billy. In a series of flashbacks we encounter Barney at various stages of his life: as he runs away to join the Navy during the Korean war; as a campus activist in California; as a graduate student; and ultimately, as a successful producer of porno films. The flashbacks take Barney and Eleanor from youth to middle age—and throughout Barney, to his father's growing distress, continues to profess his love for Eleanor and to challenge the validity of the lifestyle she has chosen. He remains the zany, charming, unpredictable rebel, shocking family and friends alike with his outrageous behavior until, at his father's death, a kind of reconciliation is reached—as changing times and fading youth soften Barney's belligerency and offer the promise of quieter, but happier, years to come.
A bright and warmly humorous portrait of a would-be free spirit, whose turbulent individuality is deftly contrasted against the stodgy background he is determined to escape. Produced successfully by the Mark Taper Forum, in Los Angeles and Off-Broadway in New York City. "As a chronicler of contemporary America's most unfashionable social stratum—upper-middle-class WASP's—this playwright has no current theatrical peer…THE MIDDLE AGES often recalls Philip Barry." —NY Times. "It is a most engaging and witty play…Gurney's dramatic taste is impeccable—he works on a small landscape but draws with understanding and compassion." —NY Post.