Theater: Violence and Affection Precious Sons

by George Furth

Some young women seem to believe that female self-assertion was invented around 1960. But in bygone times, plenty of housebound wives and mothers found ways to control their destinies, often while cannily seeming to submit to the menfolk. That is what happens with mounting clarity and power in Precious Sons, a rousing, historically apt and splendidly played family comedy that opened on Broadway last week.

The time is June 1949, and the place is Chicago's South Side. The characters are the combative, loving members of a middle-class family who are barely hanging on; a strong wind could blow them into the...

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