Nocturne is a play by Adam Rapp in which a young man accidentally decapitates his younger sister with a '69 Buick Electra. The threads that hold this family together are severed almost instantly by the tragedy. Distraught over the accident, the father nearly murders his own son. He puts a loaded gun in the boy's mouth. The mother has lost all feeling. Completely numb, she passes her time making potholders. Understandably disturbed by these events, the son runs off to New York where he finds a job working in a bookshop. Here, he introduces himself to the masters of literature: Don DeLillo. James Baldwin. Dorothy Allison. Cormac McCarthy. J. D. Salinger. Gertrude Stein. Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Haruki Murakami. William Faulkner. He recites their names like some kind of liturgy. Or an exorcism. He literally builds his furniture out of books. His coffee table. His desk. Eventually, he saves enough money to buy a typewriter. It calls to him. He starts to write a novel about a young man who accidentally decapitates his sister with a '69 Buick Electra. He attends poetry readings where he meets a red-headed girl with gray-green eyes. Her eyes call to him like Hemingway's sea, but he is impotent. The girl is unbelievably understanding. She helps him get his book published. His father reads the book and sends money for the son to come home. He goes. The father is dying. Reunited for the first time in fifteen years, they forgive each other. That night, the father passes in his sleep. The son returns to New York with a sense that something has changed. He will call the red-headed girl. They will get together soon. He has so much to tell her. And the typewriter still calls to him.
In a CurtainUp review, Elyse Sommer wrote: "Nocturne is in fact a labyrinth of detailed descriptions festooned with brilliant similes and metaphors. The richness of its language is the play's strength and its weakness. Poetical as it is, the lyrical thinking out loud style seems more suited to the page than the stage. We have a mother and father and sister and even a girlfriend but their voices are muted by that of the playwright. With little or no dialogue to bring them to life, these characters are primarily animated illustrations for a lengthy interior monologue or, as defined by Grieg's 'Nocturne' (the inspiration for the title and musical leitmotif), a symphonic poem." Critic Carolyn Clay, of the Boston Phoenix, disagreed, writing: "The language in Nocturne is visceral and, literally, a saving grace; the protagonist uses words, literature, as a lifeboat.... Rapp's racked hero may talk too much, but what has he other than words?"
The staging of this play is crucial. Rapp has included several mute characters: a father, a mother, a sister, and a girlfriend. The ways in which the director utilizes these silent characters will go a long way towords determining whether any given production comes across as a full theatrical experience or a just long-winded monologue.