Our Lady of 121st Street Jesus Hopped the A Train; In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings

Stephen Adly Guirgis

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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Short-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

Jesus Hopped the A Train
Winner of the Edinburgh Fringe First Award
A Detroit Free Press Play of the Year
Nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play

Our Lady of 121st Street
Nominated for Best Play for both the Drama Desk and the Lucille Outer Critics Circle Award

In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings
Named One of the Ten Best Plays of 1999 by Time Out New York

Stephen Adly Guirgis has been hailed as one of the most promising playwrights at work in America today. A masterful poet of the downtrodden, Guirgis portrays life on New York's hardscrabble streets in a manner both tender and unflinching, while continually exploring the often startling gulf between who we are and how we perceive ourselves.

This volume includes his most recent work, Our Lady of 121st Street (an acclaimed comic portrait of the graduates of a Harlem Catholic school reunited at the funeral of a beloved teacher), along with his two previous plays, the philosophical jailhouse drama Jesus Hopped the A Train, and In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings, an Iceman Cometh for the Giuliani era that looks at the effect of Times Square's gentrification on its less-desirable inhabitants.


Praise for Our Lady of 121st Street

Our Lady of 121st Street

"Guirgis . . . may be the best playwright in America under 40 . . . [He] already belongs on the list of accomplished young . . . playwrights that includes Suzan-Lori Parks and David Auburn . . . Our Lady of 121st Street . . . is a knockout."—Bruce Weber, The New York Times Magazine

"The immensely gifted Stephen Adly Guirgis just fills me with hope . . . His urban voice is startlingly fresh and new—an unmistakable great talent in the wilderness [with] an unpredictable, original mind . . . [Guirgis is] on par even with the manic farce and subterfuge of Joe Orton . . . but it is the dramatist's seamless transition to quiet revelation that makes him a poet of tender mercies . . . Our Lady of 121st Street is the best new play I've seen in a decade."—John Heilpern, The New York Observer

"[Guirgis] has a hilarious, sympathetic, terrific ear for Harlem . . . He heightens the rhythms of the street until there is a brilliant buoyant cacophony . . . [Written] with desperate and fierce and funny life, Our Lady of 121st Street is exciting theater."—Donald Lyons, New York Post

"Guirgis has a fresh, furious, yet sympathetic voice, and . . . a gift for mosaic, for creating a throbbing canvas from the accumulating bits of people's lives."—Linda Winer, USA Today

"A wild, woolly dark comedy . . . which has exploded off the stage of off-Broadway . . . Guirgis is an original."—Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

"Guirgis is an exciting talent with a gift for raw but rich dialogue and an entertaining ability to find the absurd humor in emotional extremis."—Charles Isherwood, Variety

"Guirgis would qualify as the poet laureate of the angry . . . [He] has one of the finest imaginations for dialogue to come along in years."—Bruce Weber, The New York Times

Jesus Hopped the A Train

"This probing, intense portrait of lives behind bars . . . considers subjects of Dostoyevskyan reach: crime and punishment, free will, moral responsibility . . . [Full of] intellectual vigor and sophistication on the one hand and . . . anguished passion on the other . . . Jesus Hopped the A Train . . . has been written in flame. Plays of this ilk automatically raise the body—and mind—temperament of New York theater."—Ben Brantley, The New York Times

"An incendiary piece of theatre rife with complexity and pulsing energy . . . Guirgis . . . creates dialogue that is so pitch-perfect you hang on most every word."—Michael Lazan, Back Stage

In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings

"An updated Balm in Gilead for the 1990s."—Wilborn Hampton, The New York Times

"Guirgis has a real talent for capturing the wit and absurdity in the most hopeless situation."—Jason Zinoman, Time Out New York

"You can't dismiss the author's knack for brutally realistic dialogue . . . There are moments so authentic, you feel as though you're in the seedy W. 43rd St. bar where the play takes place."—New York Daily News

"Guirgis is harking back to the abiding theme of American drama: the conflict between dreams and reality . . . In the tradition of Tennessee Williams, [he] combines sympathy for the walking wounded with sharp humour."—Michael Billington, The Guardian

"A fascinating portrait of a group of New York City denizens who will do anything to survive . . . Guirgis has filled his script with colorful characters and daring dialogue . . . [This play] does not pull any punches in dramatizing life on the street."—Elias Stimac, Back Stage

"If Adly Guirgis is not one of the freshest new voices in theater he is certainly one of the most courageous . . . In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings is a magnificent achievement."—Ricky Spears, In Theater

"Guirgis [has] a Mamet-like ability to catch and express the nuances of angry low-life vernacular."—Nicholas de Jongh, The Evening Standard

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Our Lady of 121st Street

Our Lady of 121st Street was originally produced by the LAByrinth Theater Company, Jinn S. Kim, John Gould Rubin, and Robin Framer at Center Stage, New York, on September...

Read the full excerpt


  • Stephen Adly Guirgis

  • Stephen Adly Guirgis is a proud longtime member of New York City's LAByrinth Theater Company. The plays in this anthology were all originally produced by LAByrinth at Center Stage, New York, and were directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. These plays have also been performed at theaters in New York City, London, Edinburgh, Chicago, Australia, Norway, Finland, Chile, South Africa, and elsewhere.

    Guirgis is a member of New Dramatists and the MCC Playwrights Coalition, and has received new play commissions from Manhattan Theater Club and South Coast Rep. A former violence prevention specialist and H.I.V. prevention educator in New York City area prisons, shelters, and schools, he is an honoree for The PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Awards for Drama and lives in Hell's Kitchen.