It is 1858. Charles Darwin struggles to finish On the Origin of Species and give the world his theory of natural selection, while coping with family illness and his own impending loss of faith. Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Alfred Russel Wallace, a brilliant but virtually unknown explorer and Utopian socialist, has come up with the exact same theory. The one person he sends his abstract to is Charles Darwin. Can Darwin claim priority? And what will happen if he doesn't finish his own book in time? Vibrantly comic and deeply moving, TRUMPERY examines what it means to live in a Darwinian universe from the points of view of the men who discovered the idea.
"TRUMPERY is a tightly focused study of Darwin, his family and his intellectual circles in the years just before and after the 1859 publication of his earth-shaking, faith-shattering book about natural selection…Mr. Parnell manages to conjure unexpected jokes from the unlikeliest of subjects…He also puts firm flesh on Darwin and his colleagues, who might have come across as fossils." —NY Times. "The play makes a sly running comparison between scientists' struggle for priority and the animalistic survival struggle embodied in Darwin's theory. Parnell frames this action in a familial version of the big battle, still going on today, between believers in Christianity and evolution: Darwin's refusal to acknowledge a spiritual cause behind his scientifically observed findings gets locked in mortal combat with his wife's grief over their dying daughter…Parnell makes this personal side of the play riveting…" —Village Voice. "…A spellbinder…A play of ideas that resonates today as significantly as a century and a half ago…as clashing truths enlist us in a thrilling, funny and terrifying combat we must, as human beings, inescapably join in." —Bloomberg.com. "Artfully written…taut dramaturgy…damned effective theatre." —Variety.