Bad Habits (play)

Bad Habits (play)

"Bad Habits" is play by Terrence McNally.

The comedy is comprised of what originally were written as two one-act plays set in sanatoriums. In "Dunelawn", a doctor allows his patients to indulge in all their bad habits as means of finding happiness. In "Ravenswood", a serum is used to provide a cure.

Under the auspices of the Manhattan Theatre Club, the play premiered on February 4, 1974 at the off-Broadway Astor Place Theatre, where it ran for 96 performances. The Robert Drivas-directed cast included F. Murray Abraham, Paul Benedict, and Doris Roberts.

On May 5, the production moved uptown to the Booth Theatre, where it ran for 177 performances. The cast was joined by Cynthia Harris.

"Bad Habits" won the Obie Award as Distinguished Play for the 1973-1974 season.


A day in a rehab centre that deals with various "bad habits". The three patients that are introduced through the dialogue are an alcoholic, a drag queen and a perverted sadistic deluded man. Doctor Toynbee the man in charge of the centre is described throughout as a great man, a saint, revered by everyone in his presence. The doctor has developed a “serum” that is meant to help get rid of his patience’s flaws and worries. However, it lasts momentarily and the effects don’t seem to eliminate any amount of the patients’ previous bad habits as a sign of gradual elimination of their bad habits. The play is over the course of a sunny afternoon at the centre. Bruno a worker who helps out Ruth Benson and Becky Hedges, the nurses, and tends to the garden and hedges brings the patients out one by one, where the nurses are giving patients serum, some sun and some fresh air. As he goes back and forth he “leers” at Hedges, attempting to seduce her. As they wait for Bruno to bring along the next patient, we learn about the two nurses, their own bad habits, past lives, regrets and their striving for reformation. We learn of the trigger for their quest, men, at least in Ruth Benson’s case one man, Hugh Gumbs.

External links

* [ Lortel Archives listing]
*ibdb name|id=3331|name=Bad Habits
* [ New York Times review from March 1990]

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