Rabe, David rāb [key], 1940–, American playwright, b. Dubuque, Iowa; grad. Loras College (B.A., 1962), Villanova Univ. (M.A., 1968). Rabe served in Vietnam (1965–67) and his experiences and observations there inspired his first two plays–The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel (1971, Obie Award) and Sticks and Bones (1971, Tony Award). Both realistically depict the brutality of war and its aftermath using dramatic situations, searing characterizations, and explosive dialogue. In his third wartime drama, the prize-winning Streamers (1975, film 1983), race and homosexuality tear apart a Vietnam-era Southern army camp. Rabe's best-known play is probably Hurlyburly (1985, film 1998), a gritty and tragicomic exploration of Hollywood's aimless, dissolute, and shallow culture. His other plays include In the Boom Boom Room (1973, film 1999); The Orphan (1975), a version of Aeschylus's Oresteia; Goose and Tomtom (1982); A Question of Mercy (1997); The Dog Problem (2000), a dark comedy; and The Black Monk (2002). He has written the screen versions of his plays and other film scripts, e.g., for I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can (1982), Casualties of War (1989), and The Firm (1993). In more recent years he has also turned to fiction, writing three novels, Recital of the Dog (1993), Dinosaurs on the Roof (2008), and Girl by the Road at Night (2010), and a book of short stories, A Primitive Heart (2005).
See studies by P. V. Kolin (1988) and T. S. Zinman, ed. (1991).
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