Showing 31 - 40 of 84 Plays annotations

Heroes and Saints

Moraga, CherrĂ­e

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This searing play takes place in California's central valley where Mexican immigrants are employed at survival wages to work in fields poisoned by pesticides. Their ramshackle government homes are built over dumps where toxic waste poisons the water. The community has suffered a high incidence of cancer--especially in children--, birth defects, and other illnesses related to long-term intake of toxic substances.

One of the main characters, Cerezita, has only half a body, and often occupies center stage encased in an altar-like contraption where only her head shows. She turns pages, points, and performs other basic functions with tongue and teeth. She is a prophetic figure, willing to see and speak, because seeing and speaking are all she can do, and to name the evils that others prefer to call the will of God.

She seeks and finds intellectual companionship in the local priest who is struggling to find an appropriate way to minister to a parish divided among disillusioned cynics turned alcoholic, pious women who want nothing to do with politics, and the angry young, including one young homosexual who feels driven to leave a loving but uncomprehending family, and reveals to the priest that he has AIDS.

The community has been involved in recent protests that consist of hanging the bodies of recently deceased children on crosses in the fields. This dramatic protest has caused public outrage and attracted media attention. The play culminates in a protest in which Cerezita and the priest are shot down and the young man with AIDS cries out for the community to burn the fields. The curtain falls on burning vineyards.

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The Fever

Shawn, Wallace

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Dramatic Monologue

Summary:

In this dramatic monologue, the speaker is traveling in a warring country, and wakes up shivering and vomiting in a "strange hotel room, in a poor country where my language isn't spoken." As to the cause of this illness, he points out that an execution is occurring on this day at this hour. He lives through the execution as if it were his own ("And so now they come--they come for the man who lies on his cot").

He sees the "breaking of the skin" and his "body shifting upwards, slightly in the air" as the electricity is activated (4). He knows that it is the Marxists who are "being tortured and killed" (16). Throughout the monologue, the speaker attempts to make sense of his privilege in the face of poverty, violence, and injustice.

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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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