Tuesday, March 20, 2012

two plays: a comment and an excerpt

I had an Edward Albee morning -- not thematically (I'm not even sure what that would mean), but in that I read A Zoo Story and The American Dream shortly after waking up while snacking near a breezy open window (an indoor picnic).

The best thing about The Zoo Story (spoiler until next paragraph) is that Peter (the bourgeois) kills Jerry (the outcast) incidentally, wiping Jerry out in much the same way a newly built McDonalds wipes out a nearby park -- that is, sooner or later, everything around it turns to concrete (a requirement of its very presence). Likewise Jerry is wiped out simply because the status quo exists. His death may be incidental, yet it's put in motion because Peter is unwilling to concede what he perceives to be his territory. Peter is there, therefore Jerry must go.

pacino, cruising, film, friedkin, albee, zoo story, park benches, jerry and peter
Cruising (Friedkin, 1980)

The American Dream is a disarmingly funny play, a kind of re-imagining of The Bald Soprano that's much more accomplished than Albee's aforementioned debut. The following excerpt is a sad and humorous account (hopefully an exaggeration) of how we tend to view and treat the elderly. Having spent a lot of time with my grandfather over the past several months, I've been able to observe the various ways in which people interact with a hard-of-hearing (and hard-of-remembering) 94 year old. The cumulative experience of those encounters made me nod along with Grandma as I read the following.

MOMMY. Daddy! What a terrible thing to say to Grandma!
GRANDMA. Yeah. For shame, talking to me that way.
DADDY. I'm sorry.
MOMMY. Daddy's sorry, Grandma.
GRANDMA. Well, all right. In that case I'll so get the rest of the boxes. I suppose I deserve being talked to that way, I've gotten so old. Most people think that when you get so old, you either freeze to death, or you burn up. But you don't. When you get so old, all that happens is that people talk to you that way.
DADDY. (Contrite.) I said I'm sorry, Grandma.
MOMMY. Daddy said he was sorry.
GRANDMA. Well, that's all that counts. People being sorry. Makes you feel better; gives you a sense of dignity, and that's all that's important; a sense of dignity. And it doesn't matter if you don't care, or not, either. You got to have a sense of dignity, even if you don't care, 'cause, if you don't have that, civilization's doomed.
MOMMY. (Crossing to Grandma.) You've been reading my book club selections again!
DADDY. How dare you read Mommy's book club selections, Grandma!
GRANDMA. Because I'm old! When you're old you gotta do something. When you get old, you can't talk to people because people snap at you. When you get so old, people talk to you that way. (Mommy sits chair right. Grandma crosses to her.) That's why you become deaf, so you won't be able to hear people talking to you that way. And that's why you go and hide under the covers in the big soft bed, so you won't feel the house shaking from people talking to you that way. (Crossing to Daddy.) That's why old people die, eventually. People talk to them that way. I've got to go and get the rest of the boxes. (Grandma exits, left.)
DADDY. Poor Grandma, I didn't mean to hurt her.
MOMMY. Don't you worry about it; Grandma doesn't know what she means.
DADDY. She knows what she says, though.
MOMMY. Don't you worry about it; she won't know that soon. I love Grandma.

And later on, the following observation:

GRANDMA. ...I'm going to have to speed up now because I think I'm leaving soon.
MRS. BARKER. Oh. Are you really?
MRS. BARKER. But old people don't go anywhere; they're either taken places, or put places.

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