Cover design by Cynthia Krupat
Woodcut by Hans Holbien the Younger

Death & Taxes: Hydriotaphia & Other Plays

Tony Kushner


This collection includes one full-length play, HYDRIOTAPHIA OR THE DEATH OF DOCTOR BROWNE, and five short plays, REVERSE TRANSCRIPTION: SIX PLAYWRIGHTS BURY A SEVENTH, G. DAVID SCHINE IN HELL, NOTES ON AKIBA, TERMINATING OR SONNET LXXV, and EAST COAST ODE TO HOWARD JARVIS. “This is an odd assemblage of plays,” writes Tony Kushner, “for which gathering-together there is no overarching thematic justification. Because several of the plays deal with death, and one of the death-plays deals as well with money, and the last play deals with taxation, we’re calling the book DEATH & TAXES. But all plays, directly or indirectly, are about death and taxes … ” All of the plays in this collection by Kushner are poetic masterpieces. An exploration in form and style, from comedy to farce to what can be called hip-hop theatre, Kushner makes each style his own, writing with the mind of a great social reformer and the heart of a poet. HYDRIOTAPHIA OR THE DEATH OF DOCTOR BROWNE: An epic farce about death and primitive capital accumulation, HYDRIOTAPHIA chronicles the final hours of Sir Thomas Browne, an English physician and writer known for his attempts to reconcile Christian values with scientific knowledge. REVERSE TRANSCRIPTION: SIX PLAYWRIGHTS BURY A SEVENTH: Six playwrights gather to illegally bury a seventh in an exclusive cemetery on Martha’s Vineyard. G. DAVID SCHINE IN HELL: The infamous Roy Cohn and his former lackey G. David Shine meet in hell, a place that “resembles a dinner theater in Orange County,” soon to be joined by Alger Hiss, Richard Nixon, and finally J. Edgar Hoover, in a Chanel dress and stiletto pumps. NOTES ON AKIBA: A fascinating dialogue concerning Jewish traditions and rituals, from Passover to the Seder, between the author and a director that touches on many of the questions and concerns that arise in the practice of them. TERMINATING OR SONNET LXXV: A therapist tries to rid herself of a difficult patient while the pair’s lovers hover in the ether. EAST COAST ODE TO HOWARD JARVIS: The play concerns an elaborate New York tax-evasion scheme involving public employees.

Categories: ,

Press Quotes


“… [HYDRIOTAPHIA] shows off its author’s dazzling intellect, wit and ambition to richly enjoyable effect … Subtitled ‘An Epic Farce About Death and Primitive Capital in Five Scenes,’ the play flourishes Kushner’s trademark ability to mix up wildly diverse tonalities and ideas — bawdy humor, theological and class warfare debate, fourth-wall-breaking, dizzying monologues, fantasy and domestic intrigue all whirl like a juggler’s pins.” —Dennis Harvey, Variety

About the Author


  • Tony Kushner

    Born in New York City in 1956, and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Tony Kushner is best known for his two-part epic, ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES. His other plays include A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY, SLAVS!, HYDROTAPHIA, HOMEBODY/KABUL, and CAROLINE, OR CHANGE, the musical for which he wrote book and lyrics, with music by composer Jeanine Tesori. Kushner has translated and adapted Pierre Corneille's THE ILLUSION, S.Y. Ansky's THE DYBBUK, Bertolt Brecht's THE GOOD PERSON OF SEZUAN and MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN, and the English-language libretto for the children's opera BRUNDIBÁR by Hans Krasa. He wrote the screenplays for Mike Nichols' film of Angels in America and Steven Spielberg's Munich. In 2012 he wrote the screenplay for Spielberg's movie Lincoln. His screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award, and won the New York Film Critics Circle Award, Boston Society of Film Critics Award, Chicago Film Critics Award, and several others. His books include But the Giraffe: A Curtain Raising and Brundibar: The Libretto, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak; The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present; and Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon. His recent work includes a collection of one-act plays entitled TINY KUSHNER, and THE INTELLIGENT HOMOSEXUAL'S GUIDE TO CAPITALISM AND SOCIALISM WITH A KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES. In addition, a revival of ANGELS IN AMERICA ran Off-Broadway at the Signature Theater and won the Lucille Lortel Award in 2011 for Outstanding Revival. Kushner is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, an Emmy Award, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, an Arts Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a PEN/Laura Pels Award, a Spirit of Justice Award from the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a Cultural Achievement Award from The National Foundation for Jewish Culture, a Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for lifetime achievement, and the 2012 National Medal of Arts, among many others. CAROLINE, OR CHANGE, produced at the National Theatre of Great Britain, received the EVENING STANDARD Award, the London Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Olivier Award for Best Musical. In September 2008, Tony Kushner became the first recipient of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, the largest theater award in the US. He is the subject of a documentary film, Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner, made by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock. He lives in Manhattan with his husband, Mark Harris.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher TCG
Publication Date 12/1/1998
Pages 360
ISBN 9781559361569