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Tea and Sympathy is a 1953 stage play in three acts by Robert Anderson about a male private school student, Tom Lee, who faces accusations of homosexuality. A woman, Laura, who is married to an instructor, opposes the students' shaming of Lee and romantically pursues him so he can prove that he has a masculine character.[1]

Everett Evans of the Houston Chronicle called it "one of the first plays to tackle the then-taboo topic of sexual orientation and related prejudice."[2] Evans stated that the play's final line, "Years from now, when you speak of this, and you will, be kind," is "one of the most quoted curtain lines in stage history".[2]


  • Tom Lee – A student at a New England preparatory school who is accused of being effeminate and is targeted after sunbathing with a male professor.[2]
  • Bill Reynolds – The head of Tom Lee's dormitory house, Bill is hyper-masculine and in conflict with Tom. He prefers activities with the boys to spending time with his wife, Laura, from whom he is distant. Everett Evans of the Houston Chronicle wrote that Bill married Laura "apparently" because colleagues pressured him into doing so, and that "The play suggests Bill's persecution of Tom stems from doubts about his own masculinity."[2]
  • Laura Reynolds – Bill's wife, Laura assists Tom and helps him during his troubles.[2]



The play premiered on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on September 30, 1953, in a production by The Playwrights' Company, directed by Elia Kazan with scenic and lighting design by Jo Mielziner.[3] The play starred Deborah Kerr, Leif Erickson, and John Kerr. It transferred to the Longacre Theatre, and later the 48th Street Theatre.[3] The play closed on June 18, 1955 after 712 performances. During the run, Joan Fontaine[4][5] and Anthony Perkins[6] took over the roles played by Deborah Kerr and John Kerr.


The play was first performed in London at the Comedy Theatre under membership conditions, because of the ban imposed by the Lord Chamberlain. "The formation of The new Watergate Club in 1956 allowed plays previously banned under the Theatres Act 1843 to be performed, which allowed the theatre to host the UK premieres of Tea and Symphony..."[7][citation needed]


A French adaptation was presented in 1956 at the Théâtre de Paris, Paris, starring Ingrid Bergman[8] and Jean-Loup Phillipe and directed by Jean Mercure.[9]


The play was presented Off-Broadway by the Keen Company at the Clurman Theater, from March 6, 2007 to April 14, 2007. Directed by Jonathan Silverstein the cast featured Heidi Armbruster (Laura Reynolds), Dan McCabe (Tom Lee) and Craig Mathers (Bill Reynolds).[10]


The play was adapted into a 1956 film. In 1956 Bob Thomas of the Associated Press wrote that "many said [the play] could never be made into a movie."[1]


In 2013 Everett Evans of the Houston Chronicle wrote that "Sixty years on, this once controversial play is a little dated, but a lot more timely, its potent moments outweighing its imperfections. When you speak of 'Tea and Sympathy', be kind."[2]


  1. ^ a b Thomas, Bob. "Deborah Kerr Signs For Unusual Role." Associated Press at the Milwaukee Sentinel. Thursday May 17, 1956. Part 2, Page 15. Retrieved from Google News (9 of 18) on November 8, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Evans, Everett. "Sensitive 'Tea and Sympathy' teaches lesson of acceptance." Houston Chronicle. August 7, 2013. Retrieved on November 8, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Tea and Sympathy Playbill, retrieved August 30, 2017
  4. ^ "Joan Fontaine Broadway" Playbill, retrieved August 30, 2017
  5. ^ Horwell, Veronica. "Joan Fontaine obituary" The Guardian, 16 December 2013
  6. ^ "Anthony Perkins Broadway" Playbill, retrieved August 30, 2017
  7. ^ "History", retrieved August 30, 2017
  8. ^ "Miss Bergman On Stage; Bows in French Adaptation of 'Tea and Sympathy' in Paris" The New York Times (archive), December 4, 1956
  9. ^ Quirk, Lawrence J. Tea and Sympathy The Complete Films of Ingrid Bergman, Citadel Press, 1989, ISBN 0806509724, pp. 208-209
  10. ^ Sommer, Elyse. "A CurtainUp Review 'Tea and Sympathy' ", March 13, 2007, retrieved August 30, 2017

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