Lips Together, Teeth Apart

McNally, Terrence

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Annotated by:
Donley, Carol
  • Date of entry: Jul-03-1998


Two married couples spend the Fourth of July weekend at a summer house on Fire Island. The brother of Sally Truman has recently died of AIDS and has willed his Fire Island house to her. Her husband, Sam, opens the play testing the chlorine level of the water in the pool.

It becomes clear that everyone is afraid of somehow getting AIDS from swimming in the same pool that Sally's brother used to swim in. As she believes, "One drop of water in your mouth or an open sore and we'll be infected with my brother and his black lover and God knows who else was in here."

Sam's sister, Chloe, and her husband, John, share the apprehension, though John has cancer of the esophagus and is not particularly worried about AIDS. In fact he intentionally sticks his head in the pool and gets a mouthful of water which he spits at the others. The play reveals both marriages in trouble and many examples of superficial values and prejudices.


This play opened in New York in 1991. Though the witty play is a comedy, it has sufficient pain and stress to undercut much of the humor. It's a good portrait of people's unreasonable fears about homosexuals and about AIDS.



Place Published

New York



Page Count