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DRAMA 367 Drama ALEXANDER LEGGATT One of the most familar devices in recent drama - particularly the drama of the Toronto underground theatres - is to take two or three characters (four if the playwright feels ambitious), put them into a room, and let them fight it out. The results are generally predictable: the room becomes their world; whatever reality there is outside the room is shifting and confused. Within the room the characters play games of sex and power with each other. They spin fantasies (at least one member of the cast has seen a lot of old movies), they tell lies, they contradict each other and themselves. There is at some point a bedding, a beating, or a murder. Carol Bolt's One Night Stalld (Playwrights Co-op, 52, $3.50) both exemplifies this tradition and in some important ways goes beyond it. Rale has picked up Daisy (or Daisy has picked up Rafe-since it happened outside the room we're never sure) and they have come back to her apartment. Their relationship develops more or less as expected: they lie to each other, spin fantasies, drink, and go to bed. There is some sourly funny dialogue: 'What I try to tell my sister is there's more to life than sex.' 'In Kapuskasing?' Part way through the second act, the tone alters sharply from bitchy comedy to horror: the telephone wires are cut, a body is discovered. What gives Bolt's play an edge over others of its type is her willingness to use not just the tradition I have outlined but the older, more commercial tradition of the cat-and-mouse thriller- Dial M for Murder, Wait Until Dark. Her intention is declared in the subtitle, 'A Comedy Thriller;' and is effectively carried out in the play itself. The turn towards violence is not merely a Serious Comment on Life; it is a fine theatrical surprise, one that has been prepared in the honest, oldfashioned way. The final stage direction for Act One includes the following : 'There is something frightening about the way he holds her neck. DAISY decides it's an accident.' Such moments have the authentic Hitchcock touch. At the same time the thriller format carries, easily and naturally, a commentary on the characters and their world. The emptiness of Daisy's life leads her to seek out Rafe, or anybody; she has been stood up on the night of her birthday, and there is an untouched birthday cake in the refrigerator. She is representative of the urban apartment-dweller: essentially alone, she is surrounded by the noises of other people. Though there are only two speaking parts, the cast seems much larger: the neighbciurs are noisy, the telephone and tape recorder are in constant use. In one characteristic moment DaiSY is alone on stage: but she is talking to her friend Sharon on the telephone, the tape recorder is playing 368 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 the giggles of a girl being seduced, and Riva next door is laughing. All this noise only emphasizes Daisy's ultimate isolation, as Rafe insists: 'Why aren't your neighbours beating down the door? You're screaming like I killed you and nothing happens. (There is a shriek from the apartment next door) You don't care about Riva next door and she doesn't care about you.' Social commentary and suspense are neatly combined. In the same sequence Rafe shouts at the neighbours, 'Where are all you people? Daisy was screaming! She could have been dying in here and you all want to pretend it's a K-Tel commercial.' We feel throughout the play the dead weight of contemporary pop culture. When Daisy's friend Sharon broke into show business 'It was just like you read about in the movie magazines except that she didn't get into the movies. She danced the part of Dewey Duck for eighteen months with a big papier mache head on her head .. .' (That is the eeriest image of broken dreams I have encountered for a long time.) Pop culture images also convey the emptiness of the characters' relationships: Daisy claims that the basis for her friendship with Sharon was 'I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 367-377
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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