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Carnal Knowledge



Childhood buddies and then college roommates, Sandy and Jonathan seem more concerned with mysteries of women than with their respective studies in medicine and law. Sandy has been dating Susan, and as he reports on his “progress” to date the intrigued Jonathan decides to find out for himself just how available Susan might be. Although he never tells his friend, he is the first to succeed with her; but while Susan is strongly attracted to Jonathan it is Sandy she decides to marry—a rejection that is deeply disturbing to Jonathan and which sets a pattern he follows for the rest of his life. Choosing sex over love, while failing to realize his need for both, Jonathan embarks on a long and varied series of liaisons that, to Sandy, seem to embody a sexual freedom and excitement that far outstrips what married life can provide. Eventually his marriage to Susan founders, and he emulates his friend by seeking fulfillment in a series of affairs. But, like Jonathan, he also finds that fantasies are no substitute for stable commitment, and that while chasing money and women may seem enough when you are very young it can become shallow and even pitiful as you grow older. Told in a series of brief, fast-paced scenes, filled with the sharp, satiric dialogue for which the author is so justly famous, the play, in the end, moves from biting humor to poignant self-realization as Sandy and Jonathan become aware that what they really need and want they have never found—and that their long and tumultuous odyssey, for all its indulgent excesses, has left them both feeling empty and embittered.

Character Breakdown