Edward Albee burst onto the American theatrical scene in the late 1950s with a variety of plays that detailed the agonies and disillusionment of that decade and the transition from the placid Eisenhower years to the turbulent 1960s. Albee's plays, with their intensity, their grappling with modern themes, and their experiments in form, startled critics and audiences alike while changing the landscape of American drama. He was unanimously hailed as the successor to Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O'Neill.
Albee moved to New York's Greenwich Village when he was 20, where he took to the era's counterculture and avant-garde movements. He has shown a fascination for a wide variety of theatrical styles and subjects. The Zoo Story conveyed the alienation and disillusionment of the existentialist drama. In 1959, Albee explored American race relations in the southern Gothic atmosphere of The Death of Bessie Smith. He gave birth to American absurdist drama with The Sandbox (1959) and The American Dream (1960). Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance are classic studies of American family life in the mode of O'Neill's Long's Day's Journey into Night. 1964's Tiny Alice is a metaphysical dream play in which Albee explores his persistent theme of reality versus illusion, this time out in mystical, abstract, and even religious terms. In 1975, Albee won his second Pulitzer Prize with Seascape, which combined theatrical experiment and social commentary in a story about a retired vacationing couple who meet a pair of sea lizards at the beach. The Lady from Dubuque (1979) is a fable in which the title character is none other than death. Death, in fact, has been a running character throughout his works. In spite of the wide range in styles and subject matter, Albee has said that all his plays confront being alive and how to behave with the awareness of death.