Cover art by David Prittie

Mrs Farnsworth

A R Gurney

Enter total users


The very proper, well educated Connecticut wife and mother Margery Farnsworth signs up for a writing course with the intent of penning a tell-all book about the President, with whom she has shared a shady past. Instructor Gordon Bell is all too happy to help Mrs Farnsworth get the truth out. In swoops her husband, Forrest Farnsworth, who with beguiling charm and tender passion for his wife presents quite a different view of their collected history and politics. A R Gurney exquisitely captures Mr and Mrs Farnsworth, and once again presents the fading WASP way of life with humor and compassion.

Production Info

Cast: 6 total (3 female, 3 male)
Full Length Comedy (about 100 minutes)
Single Set
Contemporary Costumes

Press Quotes

“Politicians poised to sling mud might take a pointer or two from A R Gurney: Good manners can be lethal weapons, and a glancing sideswipe may cause more damage than a punch in the nose. An expert demonstration of such tactics is on … in Mr Gurney’s disarming new play, MRS FARNSWORTH … Though it deals with revelations that are the stuff of smear campaigns, MRS FARNSWORTH is as polite and sweetly subversive a political attack as you’re likely ever to come across. Like Tim Robbins’s EMBEDDED currently at the Public Theater, MRS FARNSWORTH takes aim at the sitting president of the United States. But whereas Mr Robbins’s series of satiric sketches registers as a loud and angry a scream, Mr Gurney’s latest offering feels as if it’s spoken out of the side of the mouth, sotto voce through a firmly locked jaw. Well, jaws would be locked, as this is Gurney country, land of the endangered species called WASP … fine specimens of this breed: wealthy, inhibited folk who wear their sense of entitlement with sheepishness and smugness. They’re people you might run across at a Bush fund-raiser. Mr Bush, however, would be woefully mistaken to perceive them as allies … MRS FARNSWORTH is set in a creative-writing class in Manhattan, run by a sardonic, harried teacher named Gordon. Class is under way when a resplendently well-groomed student makes a late and incongruous entrance, like a rara avis in an urban pigeon coop. That’s the pastel-clad Marjorie Farnsworth, fresh from the Connecticut suburbs and fluttering with apologies. It seems she wants to learn to write because she has a story that urgently needs to be told. It’s the tale of a Vassar girl who becomes pregnant by a hard-partying Yale boy, who then pays her (by proxy) to have an abortion. Mrs Farnsworth’s narrative starts to sound like a memoir in which only the names have been changed. Could be the boy in question be the young George W Bush? The left-leaning Gordon is atremble with excitement. Despite surface evidence, Mrs Farnsworth is a registered Democrat, deeply concerned about the state of the nation and keen on making her tale public. There is, however, one serious problem, she says: her disapproving husband. Enter Mr Farnsworth, with the contained apprehension and curiosity of a Victorian explorer in darkest Africa. It wouldn’t be cricket, as the Farnsworths might put it, to divulge more. Though MRS FARNSWORTH is essentially a debate play, there is nothing dry about it and little that’s predictable. This despite Mr and Mrs Farnsworth’s being utterly true to their high WASP form, with all the expected geographical references (Fisher’s Island, Greenwich) and locutions (‘Pardon my French’). As one of Mr Gurney’s playwriting antecedents, Philip Barry, said in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, there are no rules for human beings, including pure-bred, thin-blooded WASPs. As Mr and Mrs Farnsworth present their respective cases to Gordon and his students, they reveal unexpected facets. Neither emerges as someone entirely to be trusted, but both come off as people of good faith. That is more than can be said of the focus of their argument, Mr Bush, who by the play’s end has been effectively cut open and found empty … Mr and Mrs Farnsworth may be prisoners of their class and its superficial trappings. But like the central figures in Mr Gurney’s COCKTAIL HOUR and LATER LIFE, they harbor doubts and conflict beneath their decorous surfaces. While breeding usually trumps their more rebellious instincts, it’s not before a human heart is glimpsed within the cartoonish outlines … Mrs Farnsworth is obviously longing to escape her identity and doomed to fail. It’s the longing that makes you like her so much … ‘Political writing and political discussions are simple-minded and reductive,’ Mr Farnsworth says. That’s the opposite, he continues, of good writing, ‘which should be subtle, complicated and ambiguous.’ Even standing on a soapbox, Mr Gurney happily heeds Mr Farnsworth’s admonition.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times

About the Author


  • A R Gurney

    A R ("Pete") Gurney's work has been produced in New York at Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons, and Primary Stages. Among his plays are THE DINING ROOM, THE COCKTAIL HOUR, LOVE LETTERS, SYLVIA, FAR EAST, THE FOURTH WALL, and BIG BILL. Four of his more political plays — O JERUSALEM, MRS FARNSWORTH, SCREEN PLAY, and POST MORTEM — have been produced at the Flea Theater in Tribeca. Gurney also wrote several published novels, as well as the libretto for Michael Torke's opera Strawberry Fields, presented by the New York City Opera. A former Professor of Literature at M I T, he was elected in 2005 to the Theater Hall of Fame and in 2006 to The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He passed away in June 2017. Audio Interview [audioplayer file="//" titles="Leonard Lopate Interviews A R Gurney" artists="" bg="434343"]

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 11/30/2004
Pages 72
ISBN 9780881452372

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:

Originally produced by The Flea Theater, New York

The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
Mrs Farnsworth is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC


Upcoming and Recent Productions


11/7/2023 – 11/7/2023
Mishawaka, IN

8/13/2018 – 8/13/2018
Carlsbad Playreaders
Carlsbad, CA