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To the editors:

I was appalled to read Lewis Lazare’s commentary regarding Scott McPherson’s program notes for his phenomenally successful play Marvin’s Room [Culture Club, December 20]. The play has deeply touched the thousands who have seen it as evidenced by favorable reviews in Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times, not to mention its extended sold-out stay in New York City.

Each reviewer has commented on the play’s ability to make one alternately laugh and cry about impending death. Many of us born in the United States have little preparation for dealing directly with issues around death and dying. Reviewers implied that perhaps the failing economy and the AIDS epidemic is changing our perspective.

It is in that context that Mr. Lazare implies that Mr. McPherson was trying to force sympathy in a “cheap” manner by writing about his lover who has AIDS, his father who died when he was three, and his ill grandmother. These are not insignificant events. In fact one might assume that they are/were major turning points in his development and in his current state of affairs. Assuming that program notes are intended to enable one to better understand the playwright’s message, this information is of utmost relevance.

In Marvin’s Room, Mr. McPherson reminds us that we can celebrate, even when we live amidst apparent pain. That he as an individual not only survived but flourished in spite of a seemingly tragic upbringing is what the play is about. That Mr. McPherson continues to thrive while he and his partner live with AIDS is great testimony to the play’s message.

Aliza Becker

Chicago