Showing 31 - 40 of 82 Plays annotations

A Lesson from Aloes

Fugard, Athol

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The time is 1963; the place, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In their lower middle-class home, Piet Bezuidenhout and his wife Gladys are waiting for friends to arrive for dinner. Piet is an Afrikaner man who hasn't achieved much in life, but has found sustenance and meaning in liberal politics. His wife is a South African of English descent, who, we later learn, has recently returned home from being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. Visible on the stage (or at least to the protagonists) is Piet's collection of indigenous aloe plants. He is attempting to classify a new aloe that he has just found, but which doesn't appear to fit into any of the listed species.

Their awaited guests are Steve Daniels and his family. Steve, a colored man whom Piet met in his political work, was recently released from jail, where he had served time for "subversive" activities. We learn that Steve has obtained a one-way exit permit; the following week he plans to sail with his family to England. When Steve finally arrives two hours late (and a little worse the wear from drinking), it turns out that his wife and children stayed home. In fact, everyone in the movement, including Steve's wife, believes that Piet (the white man) is an informer.

As the two old friends begin to talk, the conversation becomes painful; they circle cautiously around important personal questions. Was Piet really the informer? What happened to Gladys that caused her nervous breakdown? And, finally, why has Steve decided to give up the political struggle and go into exile?

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Othello

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: Nov-28-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This is a play about gullibility, evil, and jealousy. Iago, the embodiment of evil intent, resents not having been promoted. In the opening scene, he announces his intention to avenge the wrong done him by Othello and Cassio. He devises elaborate schemes to turn Othello against Cassio by implicating Cassio in tryst with Desdemona, Othello's bride.

The scapegoating plan works and in a jealous rage Othello smothers his beloved. When he learns he has been duped, Othello kills himself. The author of the tragic deaths, Iago, is ordered by the new general, Cassio, to torture and execution.

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Oleanna

Mamet, David

Last Updated: Oct-29-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Act One: The professor, John, receives his student, Carol, who is seeking help with an essay. She readily admits that she does not understand the premise of the course. During the interview, he is animated and cavalier about her difficulty. He is also distracted by preoccupations from home and allows their encounter to be interrupted by phone calls about the sale of his house. Insisting that academic work is not as difficult as some would pretend, he suggests that she simply come to see him from time to time.

Act Two: Carol and John meet again in his office. She has reported to his tenure committee, accusing him of sexism, elitism, grandiosity, and offering good grades in exchange for coming to see him. He is upset and angry because he thinks she has misinterpreted his offer. He had considered himself a good and original teacher. More than insulting, the accusations now mean that he is in financial trouble because he had bought a house on the strength of his bid for tenure. He asks how he can make amends. She interprets the question as attempt to force a retraction. She moves to leave, he moves to restrain her, and she screams.

Act Three: Carol comes to John’s office at his request and against advice. There has been an investigation and he is to be disciplined. He refers to her complaints as “allegations,” but she insists that they are “proven facts.” She has asked that his book be banned, and is considering criminal charges for battery and attempted rape. His career and perhaps also his marriage are ruined. Outraged he starts to beat her—but suddenly stops as if he finally understands her position.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The young Beatrice Cenci (1577-1599) is kept with her stepmother, Lucretia, in the appalling isolation and darkness of a forbidding castle outside the Papal States by her cruel father, Francesco, whose enormous debts and misdeeds make him unable, as well as unwilling, to support his offspring. He wants to prevent Beatrice from marrying to avoid paying a dowry. She has suitors, among them a “smooth” prelate, but is unhappily resigned to her lot until her father rapes her.

With the support of her brother, Giacomo, she commands two servants--Olimpio and Marzio--to kill her father, but they waver in their resolve. She taunts them and they return to strangle the man, tossing his body below a balcony as if he had fallen. She rewards them with a bag of coins.

Suspicions about the death are raised almost within the moment of its discovery because of the wounds on the body, bloody evidence in the bedchamber, and the apparent lack of grief in the family. Confessions are extracted by torture.

The defense argued sexual abuse of Beatrice as a mitigating circumstance, but failed to convince the court. Beatrice, her stepmother, Lucretia, and Giacomo are to be executed while a younger brother is forced to watch. In the doleful final scene, the family accepts their fate with tenderness and courage.

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'night, mother

Norman, Marsha

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A daughter and her mother play out a psychological drama that is the culmination of a lifetime of poor communication and limited understanding. Laced with humor and a bit of the macabre, the scenes in this short, two-act play work inexorably toward the climax--suicide of the daughter and incomplete resolution of the mother’s confusion.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Anthology (Plays)

Summary:

The contents include dramatized versions of the following classic stories, many of them in this annotated in this database: William Carlos Williams’s A Face of Stone, The Girl with a Pimply Face, The Use of Force, (annotatd by Felice Aull and by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan), Old Doc Rivers, Richard Selzer’s Fetishes, Imelda, and Whither Thou Goest, Susan Onthank Mates’s Ambulance, and Laundry, Pearl S. Buck’s The Enemy, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Round the Red Lamp, Katherine Anne Porter’s "He”; Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s "A Mistaken Charity”; Margaret Lamb’s "Management”.

All but the last three stories enjoy separate entries in this database. Porter’s story is of a family who copes with a handicapped son. Freeman’s describes how local do-gooders move elderly sisters from their dilapidated home. Lamb writes of an aging African American woman living on social security in dangerous surroundings.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A theatre classic about a dysfunctional family, whose summer on the shore is flawed by alcohol, tuberculosis, drug addiction, and denial of all of the above. Considered by biographers to be highly autobiographical, the plot of the play centers about the progressive retreat by wife and mother into drugs as her husband and sons pretend they do not see. Alcohol abuse among the men of the family contributes to the rising tension in the work, as does increasing concern about one son’s tuberculosis. The action and psychological power of the play accelerate steadily through the first three acts, then climax with recognition of the brutal realities in the final act.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This short play is set in rural Spain at the turn of this century. The characters, all women, exist in a cloistered household managed by a newly widowed mother of five daughters. Under the shadow of the church and the tyranny bred from a need to protect the reputation of the family, the matron (Bernarda Alba) represses her daughters by enforcing an eight year mourning period. The tensions build rapidly among the imprisoned women, with a demented grandmother playing a role resembling that of a Greek chorus. Eventually, the natural spirits of the daughters circumvent Bernarda, but the result is violence and a suicide.

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The Hasty Heart

Patrick, John

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Written in 1944 and first staged on January 3, 1945 with Richard Basehart and Anne Burr and Earl Jones as Basuto, The Hasty Heart grew out of the playwright’s experiences in an ambulance unit on the Burma front in World War II. The play was made into a movie in 1949 (with Richard Todd and Ronald Reagan) and was revived on Broadway in 1984.

The Hasty Heart concerns, initially, six characters in a British General Hospital in the rear of the Assam-Burma front: a nurse (Sister Margaret--"Sister" is a British term for a nurse; she is not a religious--and five Allied patients: Kiwi (a New Zealander), Tommy (a Brit), Digger (an Australian), Yank (an American), and Blossom (an indigenous Basuto) who understands and speaks no English, an important fact for later developments in the play.

Patrick introduces us to Sister Margaret and the five original patients who are, for all their good-natured bickering and nationally directed gibes, clearly a cohesive unit characterized by the camaraderie of an in-patient ward with residential patients. For instance, Tommy, who is chronically kidded about his obesity, claims to be proud of it and accuses Digger of being jealous about Sister Margaret’s giving Tommy therapeutic back rubs.

Enter Colonel "Cobwebs," the medical officer. He solicits the group’s help and cooperation in keeping a new patient "contented." It seems the Colonel has just successfully removed a patient’s kidney damaged by shrapnel only to discover that the soldier’s remaining kidney is "defective." The wounded soldier, Lachie, a Scottish Sergeant, will therefore die in only six weeks of uremic poisoning. The Colonel has "decided against telling him" since "[W]orry won’t help him."

The Colonel tells the men and Sister Margaret that "The only help anyone can give him now, [sic] will come from you." When Yank asks, "And he thinks he’s well, sir?" the Colonel replies, "In a sense--he is. But it would be criminal to release him just to collapse up forward. Do what you can to keep him contented--and happy."

With the arrival of Lachie, an incredibly difficult, abrasive and unfriendly Scot with pathological chips on both shoulders, the scene is set for "an archetypal story about friendship under fire." [Mell Gussow as quoted in a 1984 NY Times review in the obituary above, op. cit.] Despite all their earnest attempts at striking up a friendship, the other patients find themselves rebuffed, often quite rudely, by Lachie. Eventually, at the insistent urging of Sister Margaret, they are successful. A birthday gift of a complete Scottish highlander outfit touches Lachie who admits that he’s never had friends and is, to no reader’s deep surprise, a truly lonely man.

Near the end of the play, the Colonel, following orders, tells Lachie his diagnosis and prognosis, and his superiors’ desire for Lachie to return home, despite his wishes to remain with his friends, in order to become a military hero to be honored before his death. Lachie understandably retreats into a shell of resentment, blaming the men for treating him with pity instead of friendship. Eventually things right themselves and the play ends happily.

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Doctor Faustus

Marlowe, Christopher

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Faustus was born into lowly circumstances. He studies hard and masters all the knowledges known to man, but he is still dissatisfied. Faustus determines to study magic, the one knowledge that can break the limits of all others. He engages two master magicians to teach him. While he awaits their arrival, a good and an evil angel appear. The good angel urges him not to go through with his plans, but Faustus is determined. He learns quickly and for his first act calls up Mephistophilis, Satan’s messenger. Faustus is very pleased, thinking he has control over the forces of evil, but Mephistophilis says he only showed up because Faustus had rejected God. Faustus offers to give his soul to Lucifer if Mephistophilis will wait on him for twenty-four years. Lucifer agrees.

Faustus is not troubled by this pact because he does not believe in eternal life. With Mephistophilis’ help, Faustus makes a great career for himself. He amazes the Pope by becoming invisible and stealing things from his hands. He calls forth the spirit of Alexander the Great for the Emperor. As his twenty-four years draw to a close, he begins to fear Satan and nearly repents. Instead, he asks Mephistophilis to bring him Helen of Troy to be his lover in his final moments. Just before his end, he reveals to his fellow scholars how he gained his powers. He is then carried off by a group of devils.

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