Showing 71 - 80 of 82 Plays annotations

A Question of Mercy

Rabe, David

Last Updated: Mar-26-1998
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play dramatizes the story of Anthony, a character with AIDS, who implores a retired surgeon to end his suffering. Torn between his ethical beliefs and empathic response, Dr. Robert Chapman finally agrees to advise Anthony and his partner, Thomas, as to the method and means for committing suicide. Dr. Chapman's moral conflict is mirrored by Thomas's emotional one as he is caught between respecting a lover's wishes and fearing his premature death. The couple's friend, Susanah, reinforces Thomas's and Dr. Chapman's concern about criminal consequences. After a failed suicide attempt on his own, Anthony has a change of heart.

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The Elephant Man

Pomerance, Bernard

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play is based on the life of John Merrick, a horribly deformed man who lived in London in the late 19th century. After being abandoned by the traveling freak show in which he had been exhibited, he was admitted to Whitechapel Hospital under the care of Dr. Frederick Treves. Merrick is given a permanent home in the hospital.

Treves educates him and introduces him to London society, including the famous actress, Mrs. Kendal. Merrick becomes quite the favorite of the "in" group. However, as he learns more about society and human nature, he realizes that he will never be accepted simply as an ordinary person. Eventually, he dies in his sleep, presumably because he tries to sleep lying down (like ordinary people do) and the size and position of his enormous head compresses his windpipe and he suffocates.

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Gabriel

Sand, George

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Jules, the Prince of Bramante, has been disappointed in his hopes of having a male heir. His oldest son and wife produced only a girl child, then died. Jules decides to have their child, Gabriel, raised as a boy. She is to be instructed that women are mindless slaves to men, born to suffer, so that when, at adolescence, her sex is revealed to her, she will decide to accept instead the sex her grandfather has given her.

When she is told the truth, Gabriel does not abandon her male costume or demeanor, but she does want to make sure that Astolphe, her cousin who should rightfully inherit the family fortune, has all the money he needs. She sets out to find him. They meet in a bar and before Astolphe learns her identity, they fight with some thieves and are taken to prison. In prison, they swear life-long affection and decide to travel together, winding up in Venice for the carnival.

Astolphe, who has long been disturbed by his attraction to the gentle Gabriel, asks her to dress as a woman to attend a masquerade. She agrees, and he is dumb struck by her appearance. Every man at the ball falls in love with her and when Astolphe reveals that (as he believes) she is really a man, many are astonished. When Astolphe returns home that night, he catches a glimpse of Gabriel undressing and realizes that she is a woman. They become lovers.

Gabriel dresses as a woman and becomes submissive. But Astolphe is unable to achieve the higher love to which Gabriel aspires. He is consumed by jealously, finally locking Gabriel in her room. She escapes and leaves him, returning to her male identity. The story ends when Gabriel is murdered by a man hired by her grandfather to cover up her disobedience. Sand revised the play in 1850 and made Gabriel into a much less independent character named Julia.

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Equus

Shaffer, Peter

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A 17 year-old boy, Alan, is brought to a psychiatric hospital because he has blinded several horses with a hoof pick. A psychiatrist, Dysart, works to "normalize" the boy, all the while feeling that though he makes the boy 'safe' for society, he is taking away from him his worship and sexual vitality--both of which are missing in the doctor's own personal life. He actually envies Alan the sexual worship he has experienced.

In spite of his own hang-ups, though, the doctor does help the boy work through his obsession, which identifies the horse Equus with God. But the doctor comments that "when Equus leaves--if he leaves at all--it will be with your intestines in his teeth. . . . I'll give him [Alan] the good Normal world . . . and give him Normal places for his ecstasy. . . Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created."

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Ivanov

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Nikolai Ivanov is a young estate-owner, heavily in debt, especially to Zinaida Lebedev, the wife of the head of the County Council. Ivanov used to be energetic, creative, and unconventional, the "star" of the local gentry. He married for love--a Jewish woman (Sarah, now called Anna) whose parents disowned her when she married a gentile--and Anna is totally devoted to him. Yet Ivanov is suffering from profound depression.

It seems to him that all his good ideas (like building a school for the poor) were for naught and he has become a "superfluous man." He spends every evening socializing at the Lebedev estate, even though he knows how this hurts his wife. Doctor Lvov, Anna's physician, is a humorless and terminally sincere young man who has no insight into Ivanov's depression.

One night Anna gets fed up and follows her husband to the Lebedev house, where she discovers Ivanov kissing the Lebedevs' daughter, Sasha, who is hopelessly in love with Ivanov, although he doesn't reciprocate her affection. Some weeks later Anna's illness (tuberculosis) has gotten worse. Lvov condemns Ivanov, various hangers-on while away their time in Ivanov's study, and, to complicate matters further, Sasha shows up unannounced. After Anna dies, Ivanov and Sasha are set to be married, but at the last minute he can't go through with it. At the end of the play he runs offstage and shoots himself dead.

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Woyzeck

Buchner, Georg

Last Updated: Jun-19-1997

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Woyzeck is the all-purpose servant of a German Captain. The Captain considers him amoral and stupid, largely because Woyzeck is poor. Woyzeck also makes money by allowing the Doctor to experiment on him. He has eaten nothing but peas in order to prove some unstated scientific premise.

Woyzeck discovers his girlfriend, Marie, with whom he has had a son, having an affair with the drum major. He brings Marie to the side of a pond and slits her throat. After getting drunk, Woyzeck realizes that people are looking at him suspiciously and he returns to the pond and presumably drowns himself.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This short dramatic monologue is in the form of a public lecture by Ivan Ivanovich Nyukhin, the "husband of a wife who keeps a music school and a boarding school for girls." Nyukhin begins by indicating that his wife has insisted that he lecture today on the harmful effects of tobacco, though he himself smokes. He invites those who are not prepared for a dry, scientific lecture to leave, but then keeps postponing the topic while he talks about how forceful and dominant his wife is.

He longs "to take off this vile old frock that I wore to my wedding thirty years ago" and assert himself. Yet, he can't; his wife is waiting in the wings. At the end of the monologue, Nyukhin begs the audience not to "tell" on him: "tell her that the lecture was... that the booby, that is me, behaved with dignity."

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Three Tall Women

Albee, Edward

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play takes place in the bedroom of a sick and forgetful old woman (A). In the first act she is cared for by a middle-aged companion (B) and visited by a young woman (C) sent by the lawyer to settle some financial affairs. A is imperious and acerbic; B, practical and compassionate; C, impatient and curious. In the context of A's life, they discuss the human condition with its love, pain, wit, sex, and inevitable decline. At the end of the first act, A suffers a stroke that leaves her on the edge of death. In the second act a mannequin of A lies in the bed. B and C are joined by A on-stage in discussing events in their mutual life and how one became the other--for they are, in fact, all the same woman ("everywoman") at different stages of her life.

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Red Noses

Barnes, Peter

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays — Secondary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play is set in Auxerre, France, in 1348 in the midst of the Black Plague. The main character is Marcel Flote, a wandering monk who after an inadvertently humorous run-in with a flagellant discovers what God has called him for--laughter in the face of plague, "bright stars not sad comets, red noses not black death. He wants joy."

Flote then sets forth with a troupe of clowns (a new order without order) to make merriment against all odds. Although initially supported by the Church in this endeavor (for its own gain), the Church in the end (not surprisingly) turns against Father Flote and his anti-establishment followers.

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Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Two radically different people find themselves together on a hospital roof garden, where they first come to terms with each other, then with their pasts, their illnesses, and death. Parmigian has a fruit and vegetable stand, a terminal cancer, and a bitter wit. Richard Landau is an investment adviser in fine art, fastidious, but haunted by his childhood escape from the Holocaust.

Only in for tests, Landau becomes forced to confront Parmigian's fatalistic view of the world. As Parmigian taunts and jokes, he draws Landau into his laughter and wild imaginings, as key weapons in the fight to stay alive.

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