Corinne Jacker; playwright won Obies in the 1970s

Mrs. Jacker also wrote scripts for public television, including an episode of “The Adams Chronicles.”
Michelle Litvin/New York Times
Mrs. Jacker also wrote scripts for public television, including an episode of “The Adams Chronicles.”

NEW YORK — Corinne Jacker, an Obie Award-winning playwright known for bringing wry humor to often wrenching domestic stories, died Jan. 11 at her home in Manhattan at 79.

The cause was complications from several strokes, said a friend, Laura Brown.

Mrs. Jacker came to prominence in off-Broadway, regional, and repertory theater in the early 1970s. Over the years more than a dozen of her plays were staged in prominent houses like Manhattan Theater Club; the Circle Repertory Company; Playwrights Horizons; the Eugene O’Neill Theater in Waterford, Conn.; and the Yale Repertory Theater in New Haven.


She was best known for two of her earliest plays, ‘‘Bits & Pieces’’ in 1974 and ‘‘Harry Outside’’ in 1975, both of which received Obies, the off-Broadway theater awards presented by The Village Voice.

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“Bits & Pieces,’’ which opened at Manhattan Theater Club, tells of a young college professor who has died and donated most of his organs for transplants, and how his wife tries to cope with her loss by roaming the world to seek out the recipients.

‘‘What could, in less talented hands, be morbid, becomes both humorous and touching,’’ Mel Gussow wrote in The New York Times, adding that ‘‘Jacker is very much a playwright to watch.’’

‘‘Harry Outside’’ opened a year later at the Circle Rep to another round of favorable notices. The play centers on an aging architect who seems to be fading into dementia. Surrounded by four women devoted to caring for him, he refuses to stay indoors, living and working on a mysterious project in a forest clearing.

Victor Wishna, the author with Ken Collins of ‘‘In Their Company: Portraits of American Playwrights’’ (2006), said Mrs. Jacker’s work ‘‘could be very lighthearted, but the subject matter was certainly serious — things like divorce, the death of loved ones, living with terminal illness, petty differences that can define and also destroy relationships.’’


Jacker’s play ‘‘Domestic Issues,’’ in 1981, reopened wounds of the Vietnam War era, telling of a former radical activist whose estranged wife tries to lure him back into the marriage and the underground.

Mrs. Jacker also wrote scripts for public television, including ‘‘John Adams, President,’’ an episode in the 13-part miniseries ‘‘The Adams Chronicles,’’ which commemorated the American bicentennial in 1976; and episodes of ‘‘The Best of Families,’’ a 1977 series about three fictional New York City families in the 1890s.