Cover photos by Joan Marcus

The Apple Family: Scenes from Life in the Country

Richard Nelson


This bundle consisting of four books is sold at 20% off the regular price for its individual titles.


Book — That Hopey Changey Thing

The Apples reflect on the state of their family and discuss memory, manners and politics as polls close on mid-term election night 2010 and a groundswell of conservative sentiment flips Congress on its head.

Book — Sweet and Sad

An Apple family brunch stirs up discussions of loss, remembrance and a decade of change.

Book — Sorry

The Apples sort through family anxieties and confusion on the day of electing the President.

Book — Regular Singing

Unfolding on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, REGULAR SINGING is the final play in Richard Nelson's series chronicling the lives and times of the Apple family in upstate New York.


This compelling quartet of plays is about family, politics, change, and the way we live today. They resonate with remarkable immediacy and relevance. Each of these plays originally premiered on the night on which it is set. Like Chekhov’s characters, the Apples are decent, highly educated, caring people who love their country, understand that something has gone terribly wrong in its politics, and have no confidence in their own ability to change it. They are the worried citizens of a nation on the brink of great upheaval, and they register with seismographic sensitivity and precision the temblors to come.

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Press Quotes


“Brilliant.” —The New Yorker

“About the loss of memory, family devotion and having an individual voice.” —Associated Press

“A neo-Chekhovian serious comedy, with conflicting viewpoints eloquently yet understatedly represented … It deals provocatively and entertainingly with political realities.” —John Simon,

“Ms Palin did, of course, coin the cutesy phrase that gives the play its title. But far from being a four-square assault on the conservative upswing that has fed Ms Palin’s popularity, Mr Nelson’s play is a quiet … examination of the state of the liberal-leaning mind of the current moment, two years into a Democratic presidency …” —New York Times


“If you see (and you need to) [Richard Nelson’s] soul-stirring new play, SWEET AND SAD, the odds are that you you’ll experience the kind of shivery moments that come when someone articulates ideas that have been lurking in your head, unexpressed and perhaps even unrecognized … Without ever steeping onto a soapbox, SWEET AND SAD ultimately dares to ask questions about our responses to September 11, that we might be afraid to tackle ourselves, even among friends, such as the relative definitions of victim and hero. At the same time Mr Nelson is asking us to consider what role art — and particularly theater — plays in how we assimilate the fears of loss that are always, on some level with us.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“As someone who mostly avoided the memorializing and marmoreal-izing of 9/11, I can think of no better tribute to the dead than this show, with its itchy frustrations with humanity, its deep sympathy for the same, and its absolute refusal to let itself, or us, off easy.” —Scott Brown, New York Magazine


“SORRY is about as big and as small a family drama as there is in American literature these days. It deals in the quotidian and the trivial, but it keeps us aware of how every seemingly insignificant detail in one family’s life is infused and informed by a much bigger picture … [A] beautiful, deeply cathartic play.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“I’ve been trying to find words to describe what it felt like to be inside [the Public Theater] as the election raged noisily outside, what it’s like listening to the Apples speak to each other in inside-voices. It was a lovely, near-religious feeling of shared citizenship, one of the things theater was invented to foster.” —Scott Brown, New York Magazine

“One of the marvels of the Apple plays, each set at a pressing national moment, is how the family marks the huge event as they grapple and go on with their own urgent matters. The big picture illuminates and informs what’s happening close to home and vice versa. SORRY is the richest installment so far in the series, and that’s saying something after the wonderful SWEET AND SAD. SORRY is smart, funny and unapologetically heartbreaking.” —Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News

“SORRY is Nelson’s almost unbearably poignant reflection on the inseparably intertwined states of a family’s and a nation’s existential misgivings.” —Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News


“To my knowledge, no previous works of theater have been topical in the resonant and specific ways as the Apple Family plays. REGULAR SINGING, the fourth and final installment of Richard Nelson’s wonderful, sui generis Apple Family plays, this deeply intimate drama is about how we remember our living and our dead … A rare and radiant mirror of the way we live — and fail to live — now.” —Ben Brantley, New York Times

“After a holiday weekend, it is natural to miss the family. But the family I’m missing now is named Apple and lives up the Hudson in Rhinebeck. These are the six people with whom I spent intimate, deeply moving and satisfying evenings. THE APPLE FAMILY: SCENES FROM LIFE IN THE COUNTRY [is] an extraordinary four-play cycle … one of the major American plays of our time.” —Linda Winer, Newsday

“Smart and funny, moving and touching, honest and thoughtful … The fantastic fourth and final installment in Mr Nelson’s Apple Family plays.” —Jesse Oxfeld, New York Observer

“An extraordinary achievement … A quietly devastating look at final things, and the last word in the unmatched power of stage naturalism.” —Jesse Green, New York Magazine

“… bids farewell to the clan we have come to know with almost unbearable intimacy throughout four plays … These plays approach the question of how we live now with an immediate, nearly pointillist specificity.” —Alexis Soloski, The Village Voice

“This intensely naturalistic drama consists of hushed, emotionally resonant conversations about matter personal and political, amid laughter, tears, food and drink … [These plays] are civilized ways for an audience (leaning in, listening close) to form a temporary clan with some lovingly rendered fictional creations. It’s good to be home.” —David Cote, Time Out New York

About the Author


  • Richard Nelson

    Richard Nelson's plays include the four-play series, THE APPLE FAMILY (THAT HOPEY CHANGEY THING, SWEET AND SAD, SORRY, REGULAR SINGING (Nominated for Outstanding Play in Drama Desk Awards 2014; Public Theater, 2010 – 2013), NIKOLAI AND THE OTHERS (Lincoln Center Theater, 2013), FAREWELL TO THE THEATRE (Hampstead Theatre, 2012), HOW SHAKESPEARE WON THE WEST, (Huntington Theater, 2008), CONVERSATIONS AT TUSCULUM (Public Theater, 2008), FRANK'S HOME (Goodman Chicago, Playwrights Horizons, 2007), RODNEY'S WIFE (Playwrights Horizons, 2004), WHERE I COME FROM (National Theatre Connections), MADAME MELVILLE (which ran in the West End starring Macaulay Culkin and Irene Jacob and opened in May 2001 Off-Broadway); GOODNIGHT CHILDREN EVERYWHERE (winner of Olivier Award for Best New Play, 2000), KENNETH'S FIRST PLAY (with Colin Chambers, RSC), THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA (at the RSC and the Lucille Lortel Theatre, New York), NEW ENGLAND (RSC and Manhattan Theater Club), MISHA'S PARTY (with Alexander Gelman, RSC and Williamstown Theater Festival), TWO SHAKESPEAREAN ACTORS (Tony nomination for Best Play, RSC and Broadway), COLUMBUS AND THE DISCOVERY OF JAPAN (RSC Barbican), SOME AMERICANS ABROAD (Olivier nomination, Best Comedy; RSC, Lincoln Center and Broadway), LEFT, BETWEEN EAST AND WEST (Hampstead), PRINCIPIA SCRIPTORAE (winner of Time Out Award, RSC and Manhattan Theater Club), THE RETURN OF PINOCCHIO, AN AMERICAN COMEDY, BAL, CONJURING AN EVENT, RIP VAN WINKLE, JUNGLE COUP, THE KILLING OF YABLONSKI, THE VIENNA NOTES (Obie Award). His musicals include JAMES JOYCE'S THE DEAD (starring Christopher Walken and Blair Brown; Playwrights Horizons, Belasco Theatre, Broadway, Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, Kennedy Center, Washington; for which he received a Tony Award in 2000 for Best Musical Book), CHESS (the book for the Broadway musical), PARADISE FOUND (dir: Harold Prince and Susan Strohman), MY LIFE WITH ALBERTINE (with Ricky Ian Gordon; Playwrights Horizons), UNFINISHED PIECE FOR A PLAYER PIANO (with Peter Golub). His translations and adaptations include TYNAN starring Corin Redgrave (with Colin Chambers, RSC and West End), LOLITA with Brian Cox (National), Molnar's THE GUARDSMAN (Kennedy Center), Carriere's THE CONTROVERSY (Public Theater), Fo's ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST (Broadway), Strindberg's THE FATHER with Frank Langella (Broadway) and MISS JULIE (Yale Rep), Beaumarchais' THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (the Guthrie and Broadway); Molière's DON JUAN, Ibsen's WILD DUCK and ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE, Pirandello's ENRICO IV, Goldoni's IL CAMPIELLO, Erdmann's THE SUICIDE. With the esteemed translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, he was co-translated Chekhov's THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Gogol's THE INSPECTOR, Turgenev's A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY and Bulgakov's DON QUIXOTE. Films: Hyde Park on Hudson, staring Bill Murray and Laura Linney (Dir: Roger Michell), Ethan Frome, starring Liam Neeson (Dir: John Madden); Sensibility and Sense, staring Elaine Stritch and Jean Simmons (Dir: David Jones). Television: The End of a Sentence with Edward Herrmann (Dir: David Jones). Radio Plays include: HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, LANGUAGES SPOKEN HERE (Giles Cooper Award), EATING WORDS (Giles Cooper Award), ADVICE TO EASTERN EUROPE, AN AMERICAN WIFE (all BBC).