One-act play. 4-H Club is an angry meditation on the American frontier. Three men, named Joe, Bob and John, living in a trashed apartment with the 4-H mission poised on the wall, spend their time wrestling, horsing around and talking. They smash coffee cups, bicker over apples and terrify themselves as they try to rid their home of rats. Though their fantasies involve shattering societal mores and ravaging untamed landscapes, the trio are incapable of even leaving their apartment. With nothing to conquer, the myth of the American West disintegrates leaving little in its place.

Performance History
 Playwrights Unit at Cherry Lane Theater, New York - September 1965. Directed by Charles Gyns.

Jack Helbig, Chicago Reader, August 15, 1991:
In the early 60s, when Sam Shepard, barely out of his teens, first began writing plays for New York's young off-off-Broadway scene, he wrote with amazing speed. Shepard claims to have written Chicago, for example, in a single day. As he told a reporter for the British journal Theatre Quarterly: "The stuff would just come out, and I wasn't really trying to shape it or make it into any big thing." Usually he gained more in power than he lost in coherence by following this Kerouac-like writing method. As Village Voice critic Michael Smith once wrote: "It's always hard to tell what, if anything, Sam [Shepard's] plays are about - although they are unmistakably alive." The method's down side was that Shepard continually took the risk of coming up with something like 4-H Club, a play so plotless, aimless, and infuriatingly vague that Shepard's strengths - his ear for dialogue, his eye for odd quirks of character, his absurdist sense of humor - are all but lost in the chaos.

It's possible that Shepard is just having fun, tweaking our noses a la Samuel Beckett, playing with our notions of what is and isn't theater. That might explain his insistence on breaking up the play's action--or rather its inaction--with several long digressive monologues, none of which draw us more deeply into the story. Such theatrical experiments may have seemed breathtakingly daring in 1965, when 4-H Club was first produced. But what we're left with 26 years later is a play fragment, something that works better as an actor's exercise than as part of an evening's entertainment.

The Unseen Hand and Other Plays - published by the following:
Bobbs Merrill, Indianapolis, 1971
Urizen Books, NY, 1981
Applause Theatre Book Publishers, NY, 1981
Continuum, NY, 1983
Bantam Books, NY, 1986
Vintage Books, NY, April 30, 1996
Fifteen One-act Plays, Vintage, 2012