Po’ White Trash in the Theater

 

 

Maybe you’re having a difficult time processing what a pro-abolition minstrelsy play would look like. Maybe you’re having a hard time coming to grips that someone that claims to be against slavery could, would, and did create blackface minstrelsy plays. Either way, I would like to present to you: Po’ White Trash.

Po’ White Trash written by Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland opened in Boston in 1897. The play was only performed a handful of other times, and then fell into obscurity.  The reasons as to why it didn’t tour any further are unclear but I have my suspicions. By 1897 although blackface unfortunately had NOT gone out of style, minstrelsy plays and shows were on the decline. Maybe audiences saw no need for white actors to play black characters. Maybe the minstrel show was past it’s welcome. Maybe melodrama was giving way to other theater conventions. Maybe the play wasn’t entertaining. To save you the trouble of digging through archives, allow me to summarize the play for you.

Upon raising the curtain, the audience found themselves in a swampy wasteland with the sounds of Stephen Foster’s  “Old Folks At Home” playing in the background. The first character on the scene is Zep Poon, and African American man played by John Bunny(pictured above, left) who is falling asleep below a tree.  Running on to the stage is his perhaps girlfriend Milly, played by Mabel Dixey (also pictured above, right). Milly was noted in the stage directions to ALSO be in blackface. Mabel pesters Zep for being lazy. Together they talk about what is going on down the street with the “quality people”. They do not refer to these quality people as white or black, just quality. When Sal rushes in to see Suke who just moved back in to the neighboring cabin, Milly refers to her as “po’ white trash”. And being as such, the “po’ white trash shouldn’t speak to a quality [person] that way.”

This scene is interrupted with Suke telling her backstory to the Doctor who has come to visit her nephew, Drent, after his mother had passed away. Suke knows Drent’s father and wants to confront him, as well as get Drent the help he needs because like his mother he has been sickly. The doctor becomes upset because he is spending time with “po’ white trash” and is tired of waiting for Drent.  Magically, the sounds of whistling come from backstage. The tune is “My Old Kentucky Home” and the whistling turns to singing from a male voice that moves every character on stage to tears.

The Doctor wipes his eyes, and scolds Drent for arriving late from his coon hunt. Drent’s bag is empty which causes the doctor to scold him again for coming home without an animal. While strumming the tune of “My Old Kentucky Home” Drent tells the doctor that he came face to face with a scared raccoon and realized his own life was no different than this poor animals. He decided then and there that just like the song he was strumming, “no longer will I hunt the possum or the coon”, and he reflects that he found “something more miserable than po’ white trash”.

Drent’s lady crush comes by to ask him to sing for her and her soon to be husband. Of course Drent says no and throws what seems to be fit. He even goes so far as to throw Carol out of the way. Carol screams bloody murder, and her future father-in-law (also the town judge) comes to her rescue. The judge questions what he should do with the boy, but is stopped short because he realizes that Drent took a rattlesnake bite that was meant for Carol. Suke hears the commotion and sees the Judge who, prepare yourself,

 

 

 

 

 

 

IS DRENT’S REAL FATHER! Suke tells all about the Judge who tried to play her sister. He had found a man traveling through town and paid him some money to go “speak marriage words” upon the Judge and Suke’s sister so he could “consummate” the fake marriage. What he didn’t know was that the traveling man was an actual preacher and his marriage, and child was legitimate. Judge’s life crumbles before him, but the dying Drent tells Suke and everyone to forget about it as he sings the last chorus of “My Old Kentucky Home”. And that’s it. The end.

What are your thoughts as to why it didn’t have widespread fame? Too much melodrama? Too many racist implications?

 

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Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland and Stephen Foster: Abolitionists or nah?

stephen foser

Meet songwriter Stephen Collins Foster. Some call him “the father of American music”,https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126035325 others call him “America’s Troubadour” https://books.google.com/books/about/Stephen_Foster.html?id=JWUJAQAAIAAJ

while others have insisted upon his likeness removed from public spaces http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-bc-pa–stephen-foster-mural-repainted-20170901-story.html. Stephen Foster’s legacy has left America with many memorable songs, such as “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Oh! Susana!”, “Old Folks at Home (Suwannee River)”, and “Cam

 

ptown Races”. He is heralded as being a genius that weaved together slave spirituals and parlour songs to create a uniquely American sound. Foster had always described himself as a proponent against slavery; however there are people who would disagree. Let’s look at the lyrics of two of the songs that are included in Po’ White Trash.

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home.

‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay,

The corn top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom

While the birds make music all the day.

The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,

All merry, all happy, and bright.

By ‘n by hard times comes a-knocking at the door,

Then my old Kentucky home, good night.

Weep no more my lady, oh! weep no more today!

We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,

For the old Kentucky home far away.

They hunt no more for the ‘possum and the coon,

On the meadow, the hill and the shore,

They sing no more by the glimmer of the moon,

On the bench by the old cabin door.

The day goes by like a shadow o’er the heart,

With sorrow where all was delight.

The time has come when the darkies have to part,

Then my old Kentucky home, good night!

Weep no more my lady, oh! weep no more today!

We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,

For the old Kentucky home far away.

The head must bow and the back will have to bend,

Wherever the darkies may go.

A few more days and the trouble all will end,

In the field where the sugar-canes grow.

A few more days for to tote the weary load,

No matter ’twill never be light.

A few more days till we totter on the road,

Then my old Kentucky home, good-night!

Weep no more my lady, oh! weep no more today!

We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,

For the old Kentucky home far away.[5


“Old Folks at Home”, by Stephen Foster, 1851[4]

Way down upon de Swanee Ribber,

Far, far away,

Dere’s wha my heart is turning ebber,

Dere’s wha de old folks stay.

All up and down de whole creation

Sadly I roam,

Still longing for de old plantation,

And for de old folks at home.

Chorus

All de world am sad and dreary,

Eb-rywhere I roam;

Oh, darkeys, how my heart grows weary,

Far from de old folks at home!

 

2nd verse

All round de little farm I wandered

When I was young,

Den many happy days I squandered,

Many de songs I sung.

When I was playing wid my brudder

Happy was I;

Oh, take me to my kind old mudder!

Dere let me live and die.

 

3rd Verse

One little hut among de bushes,

One dat I love

Still sadly to my memory rushes,

No matter where I rove.

When will I see de bees a-humming

All round de comb?

When will I hear de banjo strumming,

Down in my good old home?

Let us bypass the use of the abhorrent word ‘darkey’, since it could be argued that in 1850, when these songs were produced, that a much worse word could have been used. Where I think the argument lies is whether or not this song romanced the plantation, or sentimentalized the plight of the slave. One one hand, we could say that “still longing for the old plantation” and “den many happy days I squandered” makes it seem like the freed slave was wishing to return to the plantation to get back to a better life. On the other, you could read “oh, take me to my kind old mudder” and “when I was playing wid my brudder, happy was I” could be interpreted as a way to hit pro-slavers right in the feels. Slavery was well-known to tear families apart, and it could be argued that the song is making the case that slavery was wrong to separate family.

 

evelyn greenleaf

 

Now meet, Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland. Her father James Baker was an avid abolitionist, and she has been touted as such as well. While relatively unknown, Evelyn contributed to American literature through her playwriting and journalism. Sutherland wrote many plays, although many have fallen into obscurity. Her one act play, Po’ White Trash  published in 1899 seems to contradict her standing as an abolitionist as the play was written as a minstrel show. It is important to remember that not ALL minstrel plays used ‘blackface’, http://black-face.com/minstrel-shows.htm but it IS important to remember that any sort of minstrelsy relied on largely incorrect and offensive stereotypes of the African American population. Sutherland made the explicit choice as noted in her directions to employ the use of white characters donning burnt cork on their face in order to play the lone two African American characters. Although she uses blackface and calls her work a minstrel play, her main character, Drent Dury recognizes there is no difference between ‘black’ and ‘white’. When asked why he didn’t kill the coon (colloquial word for racoon but also please note that ‘coon’ was also a pejorative term for an African American)  he responds with:

Everythin’ thet hed ever been ‘fraid—an’ I’ve been ‘fraid!—looked out o’ that coon’s eyes. Everythin’ thet hed ever got beat,—an’ I’ve got beat!—looked out of that coon’s eyes. Everythin’ that ever been hurt,—and God-a-mighty! I’ve been hurt!—looked out of that coon’s eyes. “Be ye goin’ to kill me?” they sez. “Be ye goin’ to kill me?” An’ I flinged my gun’s far’s she’d flew, an’ I sez, “No, yo’ mean, scared, hunted critter, yo’! I’ll be damned if I kill yo’!”.

Easily, you can interpret Po’ White Trash as being anti-slavery/racist propaganda.

 

One thing is for certain, the line between racist and abolitionist was very thin. Did Foster and Sutherland use their abilities to help or hurt their cause? While we can never be sure of their true intentions, I think there is one thing we can all agree on. Let’s let African Americans play black characters and write their own damn songs about slavery. In this way, the work is authentic and can be clearly construed. Bing Crosby in Suwanee River is asked to sing along with the plantation workers and he says “why spoil it?”. He had the right idea.

The Bad Seed in Context

In my last post, I gave a summary of the play, The Bad Seed and now I think I would like to tell why I chose this play as well as some context about the author and production. I watched the film adaptation of this play without knowing it was originally a play and I liked it very much. It was probably the first black-and-white film I truly appreciated. It is appealing in the same way a thriller or crime drama is and is something that could easily fit in the “Twilight Zone.” Besides nostalgia, I like it for the low dose of cathartic fear it induces – because it is realistic.

Image result for maxwell anderson

Originally adapted from a novel of the same name by William March, this play is written by Maxwell Anderson. Anderson was born on December 15, 1888 near Atlantic, Pennsylvania. His father was a Baptist minister and during the first few years of his life, his family moved frequently from parish to parish. He received an informal education from reading constantly and by the time he graduated high school he had read John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Shakespeare, and other great poets. Anderson began to write poetry and while attending college at the University of North Dakota he became increasingly involved in poetic and dramatic studies – even writing a class play in 1911, which was the start of his theatrical occupation. He later took a focus in poetic drama for the modern stage. Some of his more notable plays were Saturday’s ChildrenGods of the Lightning, and Both Your Houses, which won for Anderson the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1933.

“Between 1925 and 1951 Maxwell Anderson became one of the most eminent and exciting playwrights in the United States. His original productions during that period amazed his contemporaries with their versatility and poetic power. He believed that playwrights must celebrate whatever is good and worth saving from the often confusing events of their own time. His high sense of purpose drove him to try to rise above contemporary acclaim—to write plays with the power to move audiences over the ages. According to most critical opinion, the results were impressive even when Anderson fell short of his own high standards. Anderson’s moral purpose, facility with language, experimentation, and very real accomplishments across a range of dramatic forms have made him one of the preeminent American playwrights of the twentieth century.”

This information can be found at this link: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxyse.uits.iu.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=0e583ec1-bfd5-4dc0-adf3-a106c6fd4f7f%40sessionmgr120&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=88828675&db=ers

Before taking this project I never read his work, but now I am glad I did. Though I have gathered from my research that he is a well-known playwright I don’t believe The Bad Seed is one of his better-known works despite being adapted for the big screen. According to IMDB.com, the original Broadway production of “The Bad Seed” by Maxwell Anderson opened on December 8, 1954, and it ran for 334 performances. It was successful at the time but does not seem to have had many showings since. Anderson had a penchant for social commentary and finding out what he thought was good and worth saving about The Bad Seed is my goal.

“Dead Mother, or Shirley Not All in Vain”: Worth the Taxpayer’s Dime

20080121_095104_deadmother_02

 

In my last post I briefly summarized the bulk of the David Greenspan’s “Dead Mother, or Shirley Not All in Vain” and gave a few reasons why I think it holds literary value. I also said I would deliver a justification for it being funded by taxpayers through government arts programs like the one it was initially published under. I hold the belief that by arguing its literary value I will also be justifying its funding in this manner. My justification for this belief is that a more educated and enlightened public is an investment for its governing body and future generations. It may be a detriment to certain officials who wish to manipulate the uneducated masses and those who are lacking in critical thinking skills; however, such investments can become a safeguard against the election of such individuals to power if enough citizens see value of critical thinking and possess knowledge of how history has unfolded.

“Dead Mother” requires a certain degree of experience with arguably the most exalted literary works of the Western world. Without experience in works such as Dante’s Inferno, The Bible, and some iconic Greek and Roman myths such as the “Story of Prometheus,” and the “Judgment of Paris” from Homer’s The Odyssey, the viewer or reader of “Dead Mother” will most likely not understand the humour or the reason for the allusions at all.

“Dead Mother” does not offer many allusions or parodies of literary works in the first act. The first act is manly original content to my knowledge that uses the absurd history of the brothers and their family to create humourous events and develop a groundwork for the allusions and parodies to come. The first act is worthy of study, however, because the opening lines to the play are a self referencing speech by Maxine with regards to the play itself having a homosexual man playing the main character and the play itself being centered on homosexual oppression and that as a heterosexual she feels it would be nice to have a play with a heterosexual lead and story. This is a very meta action, which is to say, it makes a comment on not only the work in which it is presented, but also references that other works are similar as well. Greenspan did this in my opinion to draw attention to the fact that most entertainment centers on hetero-experiences and to call out how ridiculous it sounds when the majority complains about feeling like they are a minority being excluded, ie: how homosexuals probably felt about prime-time television and movies for decades. I think that by starting the play this way the first act can provides context for the play and informs the audience of its political agenda from the very beginning. This in itself provides a grounds for arguing close reading of the allusions and the parodies there of throughout for how they interact with the text itself and the social implications they may entail.

Act two parodies the Greek and Roman myths and shows how sexual dominance and hetero lust can lead to great destruction like that of Troy in The Odyssey. To get this interpretation one must know that Peleus captures, weds, and then beds Thetis the sea nymph. At the wedding the uninvited Eris spirit of discord throws a golden apple “inscribed for the fairest.” This lead to the “Judgement of Paris” which started the Trojan War in The Odyssey when the goddesses Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite were told to have Paris decide who among them was most beautiful. In The Odyssey Paris is a prince, in “Dead Mother” he is a shepherd  who has intercourse with a sheep. The lewd act itself provides humor to the play, however this is also a message and critique on how one man’s lust can screw the flock or in the case of Troy lay ruin to a city. This act also provides context on the family dynamic between the brothers as Danny’s lust to marry Maxine puts Harold into a psychologically destructive state that eventually leads to his abandoning his family at the end of act 4.

I would gladly go into more detail on the intricacies of the second act and the play itself, but seeing as this is a blog post, and discussing each act separately and in extreme detail would lead to an oppressively long post I will move on to Act 4 as I discussed Act 3 in my previous post and see no reason to repeat myself here. Act 4 introduces the bulk of literary references in the text. for example the Dante’s Inferno allusion and parody is used when Harold enters a hallucinogenic dream state and is lead underground to Heaven by Alice Toklas – an important lesbian figure in literary history who held events for great authors and artist of the early 1900’s to gather and socialize in Paris, France. I almost want to say there is a connection between Paris of Troy and Paris, France at work here, however I think it more important to focus on the discussions between Harold and Toklas. The head down into the Earth to Heaven as Toklas says, “Heaven is within the earth…. your life is hell. Why dream a Hell that’s after life?” There is lewd humor at work again in reference to Heaven being found in the earth as the “e” is not capitalized as it would be in “the Earth,” ergo, it is a reference to anal sex as Greenspan is choosing to play off of an old slang phrase for anal sex, “taking the dirt road.” This is a tasteless joke for some, but it is delivered in a highly sophisticated fashion as it is not immediately seen. There are more complex Inferno references, however I chose this as Shakespeare used humor in the same way and I think it valuable to acknowledge that his plays have long been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and therefor using such humour as an excuse to not allow government funding falls short at the hands of the greatest playwright in Western history.

The act goes on to critique the use of The Bible for homosexuality being an evil act by having Toklas discredit it on the grounds of it being written by “some alter knockers schmoozing in the desert three thousand years ago.” Immediately following this she describes how both Jews and homosexuals have been oppressed throughout history and blamed for “wars, misfortunes, and plagues.” clearly Greenspan is trying to show the parallel that Jews have lost a lot of the stigma against them yet people just as innocent of these things are still blamed for them. Towards the end of Act 4 Toklas warns Harold of an impending AIDS epidemic caused by blood transfusions from homosexual people that will claim the life of his yet to born nephew Kenny. The stage is littered with DVDs depicting children and hetero families who have contracted the disease which the actors much trudge through to get through the rest of the act. Clearly Greenspan was criticizing the belief that gay men were responsible for the AIDS epidemic through imagery calling the idea garbage.

To close this out I will skip discussing Act 5 as I have done so previously and I contains less literary allusions and more meta criticisms of society with regards to how people use labels to oppress one another, yet, often times, those fighting civil rights and using labels often shout the hardest against being labelled things such as fascists. More importantly I have just provided a brief glimpse of how higher education and critical thinking can provide better insight into the world around us. “Dead Mother” has many opportunities for an audience to develop a new interest in the literary history of the world, and how knowledge of that history can be relevant to how we perceive the actions and beliefs of the societies in which we live.

P.S. I apologize for the length of this post. I realize that it may be lengthier than most of the others on this blog, however, I tried to shorten it as much as I could while still providing essential information for my argument.

-William Sapp

The Satirical Element of The Elopers

PB2

While The Elopers is a comedic farce that seems set on making the audience laugh, there are a few points in which it seems like it could possibly be advocating for some of the issues that were happening during the early 20th century. The satire in this play seemed to be used to highlight the historical context and issues that were happening around the time that this play was published.

Of course, during this time period, women still did not have a lot of rights. This play was published in 1913, and it would not be until 1920 that they would even receive the right to vote. It was also by the 1920’s that birth control would become something that was more accessible by women. Birth control also gave both women and men more freedom in terms being able to be more sexually active (possibly before marriage! Scandalous!).

This play could possibly be making a commentary on the changes that were happening in terms of women during this time period. This seemed to be a period of rapid change–and would continue until WWI.

Since Paul Merion is a bit of mystery overall, it is hard to know whether or not he thought these changes were a good thing. The play sometimes seems to depict Phyllis, the main character, as a ditz. She makes rash decisions and marries a man that she barely knows (who could possibly be a murderer). Even so, I personally feel like the main message of this play is that she was given a choice. With the historical context given to this play, and the fact that women were beginning to make choices sexually and personally, I feel is enough to say that this was supposed to be seen in a positive light.

To learn a bit more about the birth control movement click here.

-Paige Mosson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Mother, or Shirley Not All in Vain: Why I picked it.

2017-11-15 11.20.48 (1)As stated in posts from my classmates the object of this blog is to discuss the works of American Drama that we have “rediscovered” to have academic value. In our course, we have studied works from the time of the American Revolutionary War up to 1993. The common theme of the texts that we studied centered on disenfranchised members of American society fighting against whatever form of oppression was prevalent during the era of which it was written. Without our instructors intent all of the dramas we studied ended up being tragedies.

When I was trying to select a drama for my recovery project I did so knowing that outside of this course I had only been exposed to the works of Shakespeare and a few well known Greek plays. This gave me some freedom to appreciate a texts for their styles yet unfamiliar to me. This is freedom is a large part of why I chose to use David Greenspan’s “Dead Mother, or Shirley Not All in Vain” as the text I would write about.

“Dead Mother” is a five act farce play. I had never been exposed to farcical drama until this point and found it utterly refreshing. Farce plays are neither tragedies nor comedies in the classical idea of tragedies having bad ending and comedies having happier endings. Farce  plays are comedic in the more contemporary sense, because they create humour through over the top unrealistic situations, are riddled with sarcasm and in many cases spite.

“Dead Mother” epitomizes the farce play by having a homosexual man (Harold) dress up as his dead mother (Shirley) to meet the guardian (Saul) of his brother’s lover (Maxine) and gain Saul’s blessing on them getting married, and by using numerous allusions to literature to critique the perceptions of and the judgments on the homosexual community throughout time. The farce aspect shines brightly during the scenes in which Harold undergoes this charade, because, as far as costuming goes, the actor who plays the cross-dressing protagonist merely dons a string of pearls and the disguise is complete. Harold agrees to do this for his brother Danny, because Danny agreed to distract their mother years earlier so Harold could pull the same trick on their half asleep father to get his blessing on the heterosexual marriage between Harold and his wife Sylvia. The absurdity of this ruse is compounded by the  introduction of his father (Melvin) to the end of Act 1 where we see the ruse unfold on a fully alert Melvin. Melvin is instantly fooled and dumbfounded by the presence of his dead wife. Instead of building on this scene, the act ends almost immediately after this encounter by having the characters decide to go to a theatre.

The following acts play upon abrupt shifts in topic to create more instances of  sarcastic wit and criticism of the Western world in relation to arguments and opinions on sexual orientation. The final four acts of the play contain the bulk of literary, biological, and psychological  references that I believe greatly add to the literary value of the text.  Act 2 has the actors portray Greek and Roman myths in a satirical way. The male characters all have a cartoonish and large phallus on their costumes and each myth presented revolves around sex, sexual aggression, and deception. Act 3 is a single character monologue delivered by, the nearly silent up to this point, Uncle Saul. The monologue is Uncle Saul reciting the words spoken to him by a dental hygienist during his last dental appointment. The discussion is, in essence, the history and resilience of microbial life delivered in a way that provides the message that the procreation of mankind is unimportant in the grand view and continuation of the world. Act 4 becomes a parody of Dante’s Inferno, coupled with the final blow out between Harold (as Shirley) and Melvin. The parody serves to spitefully critique Judaeo Christian views on homosexuality and the prevailing views of psychologists who argued that homosexuals are as such due to deficiency of moral and emotional development. The final act is a monologue by Sylvia to Harold. Sylvia tells of how Harold has absconded from his family the same day she decided to leave him and how their marriage had fallen apart all while peppering in references to all the allusions made throughout the play.

As you may see from the utter complexity and chaos summarized here the play did not have a great reception of its first production. For example, in 1991 John Simon of New York Magazine gave a scathing review in which he says, “Dead Mother, or Shirley Not All in Vain, [is] a special blend of homosexual provocation, Jewish self-hatred, and brazen self-display.” He even went so far as to end the review saying there would be a cash prize for whoever writes to him with the best justification for the play being put on with taxpayer money. When I found this review it only made me want to write about “Dead Mother” even more, because I cannot resist such a blatant challenge over something so rich with literary references and spiteful humour. In my next post I will include what I have found that, in my opinion, justifies this play being put on through the use of government arts funding.

-William Sapp

Amulets Against the Dragon Forces Summary

Now that I have talked a little bit about Paul Zindel, it’s time to focus on the actual play, Amulets Against the Dragon Forces.

amulets playbill

The Characters:

  • FLOYD DIPARDI–a shipyard worker
  • BOYD–a practical nurse
  • CHRIS–her son
  • HAROLD–Floyd’s friend; a street kid
  • DIPARDI–Floyd’s dying mother
  • TWO AMBULANCE ATTENDANTS (can double for “party boys”)

The Setting according to Paul Zindel:
“Like destiny itself, the set is fragmented, in motion, secretly inevitable. We suspect a bungalow made of wood, touched by shutters and beams. As the realities clarify, we will have seen areas in which our story was lived and told: there is a jalousie porch with a screen door; a kitchen area, old and abused, with–of all things–a crystal chandelier hanging over the kitchen table; a living room with overstuffed squatting pieces dominated by a tallboy used to hoard liquor; and a wall of shelves spilling with books. The master bedroom has a queen-sized, vulgar bed, with a dyed sheepskin cover –and a smaller rear bedroom hides like the past down a dark hallway. A ”bumper” pool table squats somewhere; and above all is the attic loft, a slanting roof with a bed for a boy, a sanctuary from whose shadows life itself could begin anew.”

Summary:
Amulets Against the Dragon Forces opens up with Mrs. Boyd bringing home Mrs. Dipardi from the hospital. Floyd, Mrs. Dipardi’s son, is not happy about it and seems very bitter in general. He doesn’t try to help take care of his mother or even go near her. When Mrs. Boyd talks to the neighbors she finds out that he is not well liked in the neighborhood.

Very early in the play Mrs. Boyd makes it clear that she is only taking care of patients that are soon to die. She wants the money from these jobs to get a house for herself and her son. I almost wondered if she was helping them along once she got into their homes. That is never said in the text however. What is said in the text is that she steals from all of the houses she works at because “We’ll have our own house, but we’ll need to eat.”

Poor Chris doesn’t want to live with his mother anymore and tries all throughout the play to get a hold of his dad, who had left them years ago and now lives in Florida. He is pretty much on his own while his mother works and during this job he has been put in the attic bedroom so there is little company for him. He uses this time to make up his own stories using action figures and placing himself as the hero.

When Mrs. Dipardi dies towards the end of the play, Mrs. Boyd has the money to buy the house she wants. However, Chris tells her that he isn’t going with her. Even though his father refuses to take him in and his adventure with Harold, another boy in the house, falls through Chris still refuses to leave with his mother. The play ends with Chris talking to Floyd. Chris tells Floyd that he doesn’t want to grow up and hate himself the way Floyd does. In return Floyd tells him “that part of you you don’t like so much … don’t be so afraid of it. Someday it may fit you more kindly.”

Maybe not the happiest ending, but it does give hope that one day Chris will grow up better than the other characters in the play. There is hope that he won’t grow up with the bitterness that in seen in the rest of the play.

I have linked a monologue I found on YouTube. These lines come from the scene where Chris is trying to convince Harold to leave with him for adventure.