Twigs (play)

Twigs is a play by George Furth which premiered on Broadway in 1971.


The play consists of four sections involving three sisters and their mother, each focusing on one of the women as she confronts various issues with the man in her life. Emily is a recent widow, relocating to a new apartment, who finds herself attracted to the owner of the moving company. Celia is the wife of a bigoted ex-Army Sergeant whose reunion with an old pal leaves her out in the cold. Dorothy and her spouse discreetly try to learn if each has been faithful to the other as they celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Last of all is Ma, the stubborn Irish matriarch who rises from her deathbed in order to have a priest sanctify her common-law marriage to a Dutchman.


Furth wrote his play intending it to be a tour de force for a single actress playing all four roles. The title is derived from the quote, "Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined", written by Alexander Pope in his Moral Essays in 1773.

The play premiered on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on November 14, 1971 (previews from November 9) and transferred to the Plymouth Theatre on January 5, 1972, closing on July 23, 1972 after 289 performances and 7 previews. Directed by Michael Bennett, the cast included Sada Thompson, Conrad Bain, and Simon Oakland; Bob Avian was production assistant. Thompson won both the Tony and the Drama Desk Award for her performance.[1]

Stephen Sondheim provided incidental music, including a song for "Celia" titled Hollywood and Vine.[1][2][3] Sondheim wrote: "George [Furth] asked me to write a song for Celia, who mid-scene is reminiscing about a number she had sung in her movie days."[4]

Some of the plays used in Twigs were originally written for the musical Company.[5]

The Los Angeles Times, in Sada Thompson's obituary, quoted Walter Kerr: she "does not simply give a stunning performance. She gives four of them."[6] According to Furth's obituary in The New York Times, the play received mixed reviews, but Walter Kerr "called its four interconnected pieces 'funny and touching and freshly conceived.' "[7]

Television film

Furth adapted his play for a 1975 television film co-directed by Alan Arkin and Clark Jones. The cast included Carol Burnett, Ed Asner, Liam Dunn, Pat Hingle, Gary Burghoff, and Bain reprising his Broadway role.[8] The film was telecast on CBS on March 6, 1975.[3][9]

A second telefilm was made in 1982, starring Cloris Leachman.[10] The film was telecast on November 7, 1982 on the Entertainment Channel.[11]

Further reading

  • Mandelbaum, Ken (1990). A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett. St Martins Press, ISBN 0-312-04280-9
  • Kelly, Kevin (1990). One Singular Sensation: The Michael Bennett Story. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-26125-X.


  1. "'Twigs' Broadway", accessed September 10, 2015
  2. Twigs, accessed September 10, 2015
  3. Dietz, Dan (2015). The Complete Book of 1970s Broadway Musicals. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 514. ISBN 978-1442251656.
  4. Sondheim, Stephen. "Commissions" Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011), With Attendant Comments, Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, ISBN 030759341X, p. 400
  5. "George Furth Papers" New York Public Library, accessed September 10, 2015
  6. McLellan, Dennis. "Sada Thompson dies at 83; stage and TV actress known for playing matriarch on 'Family'" Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2011
  7. Weber, Bruce. "George Furth, an Actor and Playwright, Dies at 75" The New York Times, August 11, 2008
  8. "Twigs". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  9. "'Twigs' 1975 Summary, Production", accessed September 10, 2015
  10. "'Twigs' Telefilm, 1982", accessed September 10, 2015
  11. Terrace, Vincent. "Twigs" Television Specials: 5,336 Entertainment Programs, 1936-2012, 2d ed., McFarland, 2013, ISBN 0786474440, p. 378
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