Cold Storage, A Play in Two Acts

Ribman, Ronald

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Annotated by:
Terry, James
  • Date of entry: Jan-29-1997


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.


Both characters in the play are in search of a meaning for seemingly random instances of suffering, loss, decay and death. Why does an ant climb eight stories to the roof garden, only to crawl onto a hot radiator and die? Why do beautiful objects of art get lost, made over, destroyed? Why were some saved and others lost in the Holocaust? Why do I have cancer?

Parmigian comes out the more catholic of empathizers; the destruction of Landau's fine art is neither more nor less regrettable than the loss of his own pomegranates. Parmigian's restless pursuit of conversation and relentless string of absurdities and jokes become a kind of surrogate meaning, a provisional compromise when the big questions turn up no big answers. Against an uncertain future and a fragmented past, only the play of the mind in this moment seems to count. At the end of the day, Parmigian asks to meet Landau tomorrow and promises him all he really can: "a very interesting day."


Copyright, 1976; opened on Broadway in December, 1977 starring Len Cariou and Martin Balsam; won the New York Dramatists Guild award.

Primary Source

Five Plays by Ronald Ribman



Place Published

New York