The American Dream is an early, one-act play by American playwright Edward Albee. It was first staged on January 24, 1961 at the York Playhouse in New York City. The play, a satire on American family life, concerns a married couple and their elderly mother. On a particular day, they are visited by two guests who turn their worlds upside down.
The family in this play consists of a dominating Mommy, an emasculated Daddy, and a clever and witty Grandma. An honorary member of the community and idol to Mommy, Mrs. Barker, enters and the dialogue continues with the occasional interjection by Grandma. Mommy and Daddy exit, leaving Mrs. Barker and Grandma alone. Grandma apparently knows why Mrs. Barker has been asked to come by and explains to her that Mommy and Daddy had adopted a son from her many years previously. As the parents objected to the child's actions, they mutilated it as punishment, eventually killing it. After Mrs. Barker exits, a Young Man appears at the door, looking for work. After hearing his life story, Grandma realizes that this Young Man, whom she dubs "The American Dream," is the twin of Mommy and Daddy's first child. As the first child was mutilated, he too was experiencing the pain and has been left as an empty shell of a man. After seeing this Young Man as a way out, she moves her things and leaves. The Young Man is introduced to the family as a suitable replacement for the original child.
Albee explores not only the falsity of the American Dream but also the status quo of the American family. As he states in the preface to the play, "It is an examination of the American Scene, an attack on the substitution of artificial for real values in our society, a condemnation of complacency, cruelty, emasculation, and vacuity; it is a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen."