First produced Off Broadway at LaMama ETC, February 1991, directed by Greg Keller. The cast included Rosemary Quinn, Wayne Maughans and Preston Dyar; previously produced at the University of Colorado, Boulder, directed by Joel Glick. A play about an artist coping with HIV/AIDS.


"Often the images presented are haunting and beautiful, told and acted with compassion and humour. And each provides a compelling and sometimes contradictory miniature of Reuben. …. While pointing out environmental and political crises, the play never loses sight of the individual. Ancient Boys confronts serious material with humor and grace." Colorado Daily.

"van Itallie’s deceased hero is Reuben, a manic, mercurial artist who embodies everything that’s wonderful and horrible in New York’s gay male vie de boheme, downtown style. A generous giver of tenderness, imagination, and practical help when needed, he’s also a merciless user, a compulsive fantasy tripper, and a control freak who keeps his friends locked in separate compartments from each other — and from him when he’s not in the mood for them. He’s as endlessly restless as he is creative…" Michael Feingold, Village Voice.

Anthologized in Gay Plays: An International Anthology, Ubu Repertory Theatre Publications.

"Ancient Boys, by the Belgian-born American playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie, is a deft and moving tribute to the fallen of the epidemic...A dead man’s friends gather in his apartment to eulogize him. His ghost assists them in playing out scenes of his life...van Itallie brings it off with the humorous melancholy one would expect from the translator of Chekhov..." Craig Smith, New York Native.


LUKE (quietly): When he called last August, I was in the vegetable garden. It was a gorgeous day.

(Luke stands in his phone light. Reuben is working hard on his structure.)

REUBEN (speaking as if on the phone): I just got back from the doctor, Luke.

LUKE: My hands were full of earth -— I was trying not to get everything dirty. As I listened to his voice I was squinting at a postcard of Piazza San Marco in the rain pinned in front of my desk, my eyes getting used to the indoors.

REUBEN: I have it, Luke.

LUKE: I felt far away, as if he were speaking to me through a long dark tunnel.

REUBEN: I was expecting it. I actually feel relieved.

LUKE: I'm sorry.

REUBEN: He says I need a haircut and my penis is turning green. Luke — don't tell anybody.

LUKE: Okay.

REUBEN: He wants me to start chemotherapy. We have to figure it out.

LUKE: Be down tomorrow.

       (Luke's phone light out.)

LUKE (to the others): There's this literal pain in my heart. Did I say the right things? Was I loving enough? Did it sound like pity? I feel guilty: he may be dying and I'm not. I go outside. I can't

make it fit. Here's all this August sunlight, the trees, the fields. Everything is different because of the phone call but nothing is different. The spade is just where I left it. I remember how much Rube hates working in the garden. I don't love it much myself. Why do I bother?