Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Someone I Wanted to Kiss But Didn’t (freewrite)


Someone I Wanted to  Kiss But Didn’t  (10-minute freewrite for Brighde Mullins)  3/12/2002

There must‘ve been someone I wanted to kiss but didn’t and I can’t think of anyone. Is it because I’ve always kissed the ones I wanted to kiss, or is it because I didn’t allow myself to dream. I’ve been living with someone for so long who doesn’t seem to like kissing so I guess I could wish to kiss him, but that doesn’t count, does it? Something memorable, like First Kiss is easier. I have imagined kissing a stranger’s lips, where they haunted me and I looked but to look was to get too close. Like getting burned in the fire. They say when the Gods kiss a woman, she dies, pfft! Consumed by flame. I learned that from The Man Who Would Be Kink. Now I would like to kiss Sean Connery’s lips but I assume we’re talking about real people. Not that Sean isn’t real, he isn’t available. I like the idea of a kiss being so hot that it consumes. Feed the flame.

Yes. Arthur. There was a man I wanted to kiss and that desire lasted for years. I never kissed him because he was happily married (ah, the guilt and secret deliciousness of  repressed desire. Arthur Dawson was a co-worker, a poet in the schools like me. He and I often went to conferences together. There was one conference in particular in southern California at Happy Valley where we shared a room and it was one of those magical times where we couldn’t stop talking to each other...I mean we downloaded lives that night. and only twin beds separating us. .

I couldn’t deal with the close proximity of it all, I was climbing the walls. literally. The next night, I had to distract myself by way of sublimation, several of us broke into the resort bar and got very loaded. Poets behind the bar, poets everywhere being bad poets. It was a scream. Hilarious. But that’s our job to be naughty. My sublimation was rowing out on the pond with a girlfriend till dawn, talking of everything under the sunexcept it was the moon we really were drunk out of our minds...that was my escape ’cause all I wanted to do was to jump Arthur’s bones.  He was safely sleeping back in the room while I was freezing my ass off on the pond with Kim but she wasn’t my type either and I certainly didn’t want to kiss her.

I never know if Arthur even sensed it but the attraction was so great that I’m sure he couldn’t help but notice.  But then again, he could have been as preoccupied as me. I knew something was up when he’s had a real Freudian slip saying that we could have a meeting at his house, instead of asking his wile Jill, he said, “I’ll KILL Jill..” There’s a long road between Tell and Kill. Right?  I said that kind of loyalty to the organization wasn’t necessary. But that’s where it all began, where I knew our connection was more than skin deep. But not only was he married, I was the older woman. I couldn’t explain it . Why I couldn’t shake the attraction. Forbidden love and all that was part of it. Yes, I was alone, and no Tryggve, my sometimes lover, didn’t exactly  do it for me. Besides, he had a girlfriend.

See, I was really on the rebound after the disastrous break-up with John Oliver Simon, I went very anorexic and all that, and had a few interesting relationships while on the rebound. Bruce Isaacson was one. See, I kissed him and all hell broke loose. I t was April Fools Day and the moon was full at Fort Mason. We were at a poet’s dance after the festival, and I had tuberoses in my hair and the moon was full and we couldn’t help ourselves. Well, I wrote him a poem and read it over the phone to him and his girlfriend found out and she sent me threatening letters and hostile phone calls...sometimes nothing on the other line. It went on for years. I think she cracked up after Bruce left her. Barbara was her name, the barbarian, and she really banked on it. Riding on Bruce’s leopard skins. I mean we were not in the same standing poetically or anything. Bruce was a suburban bad boy playing at the stud, busy kicking off the Babaarians—great new blood poets after all that Language School crap—new blood was sorely needed in the poetry scene, but  sometimes kissing is like that, it has no logic, no boundaries. It takes you out of your world, makes you risk everything. Whole kingdoms have been lost because of it. Look at Helen of Troy. I was no Helen (even if it was my mom’s middle name—there are some storys there, I tell you!)  but I didn’t fancy destroying a kingdom for a kiss.

Arthur? Well, there was always a buzz there between us. Christmas parties were always the hardest with little angels on the tree. Angel lips. See, he had these pouty Greek or Roman statue lips. Full, curved, like David’s statue. In fact his body was smooth and white as marble. He and Jill finally settled in and had a baby, and then another one after that, and that just about took care of it. After all those babies, I was no longer interested in kissing him. But sometimes I still dream of those Greek statue lips!

Ding-Dong Daddy


DING-DONG DADDY


(Nota bene: Ding-Dong Daddy, Bigamist of the “D” Line was a trolley car operator with three wives, all women whom he’d met on the job. He was a real character, caught and arrested for bigamy circa 1947—it was in all the newsreels. However, other than the moniker, this character portrayed is entirely fictitious.)

The scene opens at a bar circa 1950 where four men have been drinking and playing darts. Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” is playing on the juke box. There is a roughshod camaraderie between them, but they don’t know each other very well outside the context of the bar at the end of the trolley car line. One man is a trolley car operator, the others are common laborers—in a working class. neighborhood.)

Characters:

DING-DONG DADDY, a trolley car operator

GEORGE, a bricklayer,

JIMMY, a collier

JOHN, a plumber


GEORGE: OK, Jimmy, Ante up. Mug’s away. C’mon. Let’s go.

JIMMY: What’s wit’ youze guys? Who you callin’ a mug? Why I oughta...

JOHN: Just play the game. Hey, You lost the last one, remember?

DING DONG DADDY: Dem’s da rules. Let’s go. Let’s go.

JIMMY: Aww! (He throws a dart at the board.) C’mon, baby. Double to score. (He misses.) Wait. We’re playin’ 301 this time, Right?

DING DONG DADDY: (He calls the shot.) Nope. Doubles outside.

GEORGE: Hey just a minute, we said 501, not 301. You can’t just change the rules mid-game like that.

JOHN: Yeah, An’ we all agreed tonight the game’s 501.

JIMMY: But 501 takes too long. Look, I gotta go see the little woman. She’s been waitin’ for me.

JOHN: Can’t leave the game now, Jimmy. You gotta see it out.

DING DONG DADDY: Double or quits. (He tosses his dart. Scores)

GEORGE: Doubles away. Way to go Daddio! Double 20 tops! No flies on you.

JIMMY (steps up, misses the double ring again by a fraction.) Hey look I got a double 20 too.

GEORGE: Well, it was a 20 tops but it’s in the bed, in the bed. Sorry Jimmy.

JIMMY: Is not! I scored. I scored. Look guys.

JOHN: You did not. Any jackass can see it’s in the bed.

GEORGE: Yep. In the bed, in the bed. (The rest of the guys take their turns, easily scoring points while Jimmy is left high and dry, unable to even enter the game. He’s becoming increasingly agitated. It’s more than just the game.)

GEORGE: Whoa Daddio! Triple 2o at the top. You outa the game?

DING DONG DADDY: Pretty close. I need a double 7 to get out and then I’m done.

JOHN: Aww! You’re always cleanin’ up. We gotta start givin’ you a handicap. You know. Like at the races.

GEORGE: OK Jimmy, so tell us, why are you so off your game?

JIMMY: (almost to himself, the others aren’t really taking it in.) It’s Marlene. She’s been actin’ a bit strange lately. I think she’s seein’ some other guy.

JOHN: Daddio, you seein’ any dolls these days?

DING DONG DADDY: (Aiming a dart). Every day. They just keep throwin’ themselves at me. I score every day. It’s the job, I tell you. I just keep plantin’ my dart in the bed. In the bed. Bullseye! 

Marlene? Say, I know a gal named Marlene....


(I envision dialogue where DDD talks about his conquests, and the other three slowly recognize what sounds like their women, but nothing is above board. I still need to establish solid character types for each person and assign appropriate game language to them to create the arc.)



MFA Playwriting
Brighde Mullins
March, 12, 2002

PORTRAIT: “SEATED WOMAN WITH BENT KNEE”



PORTRAIT: “SEATED WOMAN WITH BENT KNEE”
Egon SchieleNational Gallery - Prague 1917

Look at how she sits at the edge of the bed,
lost in thought, hands clasped on her knee, in black stockings,
voluminous white bloomers, a green silk camisole too big for her.
She must have been a real flame. Someone’s daughter,
neither dancer nor runner—or a bit of both—
a fine sheen of sweat transforming the lucent candle of her skin.
Hennaed hair carelessly piled on her head.
No. A real redhead. You could tell by her skin.
How many kisses stolen from those rosebud lips—a cliché at best,
but if life deals out a cliché, what can you do?
DNA isn’t a literary agent in search of original language
for porcelain skin, rosebud lips, and sloe eyes.
Dressing and undressing for the mirror of men’s eyes.
Boots laced up. Ready to flee at a moment’s notice.
Was she thinking of a lover? Not a lost one,
for the mask of disappointment hasn’t yet hardened her face,
where she will be recovering from someone or another
like an alcoholic—always on or off the wagon.
Just a small one for the road, thanks.
No. Let her stay a little while longer in that slow-lidded gaze
where time drowzes beneath the sheets like a satisfied lover.
For one day, she’ll wake to discover a portmanteau
of lost hours and years—unable to account for the ashes of a life
in that same white room, of yet another country,
still undressing memories of Prague after the Great War.


© 2002 Maureen Hurley

CW 855 MFA Playwriting
Brighde Mullins
March, 12, 2002

Someone I Wanted to Kiss, But Didn't (monologue)

SOMEONE I WANTED TO KISS BUT DIDN’T (from 10-minute freewrite)

When she asked me if there was someone I ever wanted to kiss but didn’t, I couldn’t think of anyone. I just drew a blank. Is it because I’ve kissed the men I wanted to kiss, or is it because I no longer allow myself to dream?

You know, I’ve been living with someone for so long. now, I hardly remember. He doesn’t like kissing much—a peck here and there—he’s pretty much trained me out of it. He says it’s like permanently being on Novocain. Not exactly romantic. Ever since the accident—did I tell you his whole face got smashed in? His jaw was wired shut for three months. The doctors did a real good job but they used so many titanium stars to patch his face, he can’t get through a metal detector without setting off alarms..

Since the accident, he doesn’t get many calls for work. A commercial shoot here and there. Don’t get me wrong,, he still sets off some alarms. The women all think he’s eye candy. They drool all over his sleeves. It drives me crazy. I guess I did it too. But we’d only just met and then the accident took front seat in our lives. You can hardly see the scars..
The real problem is the invisible ones, the ones you can’t see.

When was the last time I imagined kissing a stranger’s lips? To look, but to imagine was to get too close? Like getting burned in the fire. They say when the gods kiss a woman, pfft! she goes up in smoke, consumed by passion. That was from The Man Who Would Be King. Now I wouldn’t mind kissing Sean Connery, but I assume we’re discussing real people. Not that Sean isn’t real, he isn’t available. I like the idea of a kiss so hot that it consumes. Yeah, I’d like to feel like that again.

Come to think of it, there was a man I wanted to kiss and I swear it lasted for years. But I never did it because he was a happily married man. Ah, guilt. I never let it stop me before, but this was different. Maybe I was afraid if we started it, we couldn’t stop it, and it was one of those rare times I had enough sense to know I was on the rebound. Because he was a co-worker, we often went to events together. There was this conference in southern California, so we carpooled down to Happy Valley, and for ten hours we just couldn’t stop talking to each other. It seemed natural to share a room too... we must’ve downloaded our lives to each other that night. And only the twin beds separating us.

* * * *

The next night, I couldn’t deal with it, I was climbing the effing walls. I had to distract myself, so we broke into the resort bar and got loaded. Poets behind the bar, poets on the bar—poets everywhere being bad poets. It was a scream. Amazingly we never got caught. Anyway, about 3 AM, a girlfriend and I got this crazy urge to row out into the middle of the frog pond like a couple of Vikings yakking about everything under the sun—except it was under the moon— we really were drunk out of our minds...that was my escape ’cause all I wanted to do was to jump Arthur’s bones. He was safely sleeping like a babe back in the room while here I was, I was freezing my ass off on the pond with Kim but she wasn’t my type either as I certainly didn’t want to kiss her.

I never knew if Arthur even sensed it, but the attraction was so strong, I’m sure he noticed it too. He could have been as preoccupied as me. I first knew something was up when he made a wild Freudian slip, saying that we could have a meeting at his house, but instead of saying, “I’ll tell Jill,” —that’s his wife—he said, “I’ll KILL Jill..” There’s a long road between tell and kill. Right? I said, “that kind of loyalty to the organization wasn’t necessary.” But that’s when it all began. Not only was he married, I was the older woman. I couldn’t explain it. Why I couldn’t shake the attraction. Forbidden love and all that was part of it. Yes, I was alone, and no, Tryggve, my sometimes lover, didn’t exactly do it for me. Besides, he had a girlfriend. I’m not into playing second fiddle.

See, I was really on the rebound after a disastrous break-up with John, I went anorexic and all that. He dumped me for this blonde teenager. I was hurting pretty bad and had a few intense relationships. Bruce Isaacson was one. See, I kissed him on April Fool’s Day, and all hell broke loose. We were at a dance at Fort Mason—it was after the poetry festival, and I had tuberoses in my hair and the moon was full and we just couldn’t help ourselves. Poets are so incestuous. Well, I wrote him a poem and I read it to his answering machine. He neglected to tell me about his girlfriend and she found out and went ballistic with threatening phone calls... often there was nothing on the other line. It went on for years. I think she cracked up after Bruce left her. Barbara was her name, the barbarian woman, and she really banked on it. Riding on Bruce’s leopard skins. I mean we were not in the same standing poetically, or anything.

Bruce was a suburban bad boy in black leather and chrome, playing at the stud, busy kicking off the Babaarians—great new blood after all that Language School crap—new blood was sorely needed in the poetry scene. Sometimes kissing is like that, it has no logic, no boundaries. It takes you out of your world, makes you risk everything. Whole kingdoms have been lost because of it. Look at Helen of Troy. I was no Helen (even if it was my mom’s middle name—she had some stories to tell) but I didn’t fancy destroying a kingdom for a kiss.

Arthur? Well, there was always a buzz there between us. Christmas parties were the hardest with all the little angels on the tree. You know, baby cupid lips. See, he had these pouty lips like on Greek or Roman statues. Full, curved, like David’s. In fact, his body was smooth and white as marble. It made me wish I was born a few years later. He and Jill finally settled in and had a baby, and then another one after that, and that just about took care of it. After all those babies, I was no longer interested. But sometimes I still dream of kissing those lips.

2002 
for Brighde Mullins class





Someone I Wanted to  Kiss But Didn’t  
(10-minute freewrite for Brighde Mullins)  3/12/2002

There must‘ve been someone I wanted to kiss but didn’t and I can’t think of anyone. Is it because I’ve always kissed the ones I wanted to kiss, or is it because I didn’t allow myself to dream. I’ve been living with someone for so long who doesn’t seem to like kissing so I guess I could wish to kiss him, but that doesn’t count, does it? Something memorable, like First Kiss is easier. I have imagined kissing a stranger’s lips, where they haunted me and I looked but to look was to get too close. Like getting burned in the fire. They say when the Gods kiss a woman, she dies, pfft! Consumed by flame. I learned that from The Man Who Would Be Kink. Now I would like to kiss Sean Connery’s lips but I assume we’re talking about real people. Not that Sean isn’t real, he isn’t available. I like the idea of a kiss being so hot that it consumes. Feed the flame.

Yes. Arthur. There was a man I wanted to kiss and that desire lasted for years. I never kissed him because he was happily married (ah, the guilt and secret deliciousness of  repressed desire. Arthur Dawson was a co-worker, a poet in the schools like me. He and I often went to conferences together. There was one conference in particular in southern California at Happy Valley where we shared a room and it was one of those magical times where we couldn’t stop talking to each other...I mean we downloaded lives that night. and only twin beds separating us. .

I couldn’t deal with the close proximity of it all, I was climbing the walls. literally. The next night, I had to distract myself by way of sublimation, several of us broke into the resort bar and got very loaded. Poets behind the bar, poets everywhere being bad poets. It was a scream. Hilarious. But that’s our job to be naughty. My sublimation was rowing out on the pond with a girlfriend till dawn, talking of everything under the sunexcept it was the moon we really were drunk out of our minds...that was my escape ’cause all I wanted to do was to jump Arthur’s bones.  He was safely sleeping back in the room while I was freezing my ass off on the pond with Kim but she wasn’t my type either and I certainly didn’t want to kiss her.

I never know if Arthur even sensed it but the attraction was so great that I’m sure he couldn’t help but notice.  But then again, he could have been as preoccupied as me. I knew something was up when he’s had a real Freudian slip saying that we could have a meeting at his house, instead of asking his wile Jill, he said, “I’ll KILL Jill..” There’s a long road between Tell and Kill. Right?  I said that kind of loyalty to the organization wasn’t necessary. But that’s where it all began, where I knew our connection was more than skin deep. But not only was he married, I was the older woman. I couldn’t explain it . Why I couldn’t shake the attraction. Forbidden love and all that was part of it. Yes, I was alone, and no Tryggve, my sometimes lover, didn’t exactly  do it for me. Besides, he had a girlfriend.

See, I was really on the rebound after the disastrous break-up with John Oliver Simon, I went very anorexic and all that, and had a few interesting relationships while on the rebound. Bruce Isaacson was one. See, I kissed him and all hell broke loose. I t was April Fools Day and the moon was full at Fort Mason. We were at a poet’s dance after the festival, and I had tuberoses in my hair and the moon was full and we couldn’t help ourselves. Well, I wrote him a poem and read it over the phone to him and his girlfriend found out and she sent me threatening letters and hostile phone calls...sometimes nothing on the other line. It went on for years. I think she cracked up after Bruce left her. Barbara was her name, the barbarian, and she really banked on it. Riding on Bruce’s leopard skins. I mean we were not in the same standing poetically or anything. Bruce was a suburban bad boy playing at the stud, busy kicking off the Babaarians—great new blood poets after all that Language School crap—new blood was sorely needed in the poetry scene, but  sometimes kissing is like that, it has no logic, no boundaries. It takes you out of your world, makes you risk everything. Whole kingdoms have been lost because of it. Look at Helen of Troy. I was no Helen (even if it was my mom’s middle name—there are some storys there, I tell you!)  but I didn’t fancy destroying a kingdom for a kiss.

Arthur? Well, there was always a buzz there between us. Christmas parties were always the hardest with little angels on the tree. Angel lips. See, he had these pouty Greek or Roman statue lips. Full, curved, like David’s statue. In fact his body was smooth and white as marble. He and Jill finally settled in and had a baby, and then another one after that, and that just about took care of it. After all those babies, I was no longer interested in kissing him. But sometimes I still dream of those Greek statue lips!

Monday, March 4, 2002

Aristotle's Poetics meets Bock's FIve Flights

AN ATTEMPT TO APPLY ARISTOTLE’S POETICS TO ADAM BOCK’S “FIVE FLIGHTS”

Presented by the Encore Theatre Company, at the Thick House, Jan, 17 - April.


To apply Aristotle’s “The Poetics” to San Francisco-based Canadian playwright Adam Bock’s “Five Flights” is somewhat of an anachronistic exercise in that though “Five Flights” touches upon tragic themes, it is not a tragedy, but a dark comedy. Aristotle considered comedy to be less worthy of attention because it did not provide a proper catharsis or purgation of emotions—considered to be a primary goal of good drama circa 2500 years ago.

Though Aristotle deemed that learning should be a pleasurable experience, he did not think that comedy upheld the virtues of higher moral value or purpose. “...Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life.” (p. 52, Aristotle’s Poetics, H.S. Butcher, transl.). He further suggested that comedy was not a proper Attic Greek art form, but was invented by the Dorians of the Peloponnese and the Megarians of Sicily. (p. 54, ibid). A curiosity in that he himself was not from Athens, but from a colony near the Black Sea...but I digress from my storyline, much in the same convoluted manner as Bock’s play does.

In Chapter VI, considered to be the heart of “The Poetics,” Aristotle scribed that “Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete and whole, and of a certain magnitude.... which has a beginning, a middle, and an end.” (p. 65, ibid). He desired a beginning of “causal necessity,” a middle which follows, and an end, either by necessity or rule, has nothing following it. “A well-constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin at haphazard, but conform to these principles.” (p. 65, ibid).

The object of imitation (whether of higher or lower types) is the basis by which the distinction between Tragedy and Comedy is made. Aristotle stated that “Comedy is...not...bad, the Ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly.” (p. 59, ibid). His main concern was that the comedic play promotes a lesser, rather than a higher, or noble character. 

“Five Flights” is episodic, not epic. Convoluted, not complex. Art should imitate life; the manner and mode would meet with Aristotle’s expectations. But “Five Flights” becomes a complicated plot to analyze on a one-off basis without my being familiar with the play or script

By Aristotle’s time, the art of tragedy was already a well-established genre, a fixed form with strict rules and essential features including unity of plot, character, thought, diction, song and spectacle. It also required recognition and/or reversal, or hamarteia, or a tragic flaw where a hero’s consistent behavior leads to his inevitable downfall. 

In “Five Flights” one could argue that there is no one protagonist. “Five Flights” opens in a garden with Tom as narrator, but the story is retold from each character’s point of view, and at different times of their lives. Stasis, rather than the hero’s downfall seems to be the medium and the message.

Aristotle wrote: “Of all plots and actions, the epeiosodic are the worst. I call a plot ‘epeiosodic’ in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence.” (p. 69, ibid). 

Adam Bock’s play begins with a seemingly simple plot, embellished with many episodic themes. A father has died; two of his three children, Adele and Tom are to decide how best to dispose of his property. But Adele’s friend Olivia wants to convert the aviary into a church, while Adele’s offstage brother Bobby is represented by his wife, Jane—who wants to sell the property. The conflict is over Jane’s need for materialism and Olivia’s need for spirituality. Or is it? Other threads unravel a love story or two.

Before the play opens, the audience hears Classical Russian music and bird song...we later find that this is no accident, it is the subtext. We begin with the establishment of a problem (what to do with the aviary), we have the development (more than one suggestion for the aviary which creates conflict), and we have a resolution of sorts, or denouement (stasis—the aviary is left to crumble into the ground). More than one false ending to the story is presented.

The set is simple, long benches in a garden Shadows of trees. Birds twittering. The same set later doubles as a hockey arena and a theater, and there is clever opening scene with Tom explaining the architect’s mock-up of aviary as a prop. A central motif that ties the stories together is that the souls of the dead are housed in birds. Tom, as narrator, begins in medias res, in the middle of things...to explain to the audience that the aviary is to house his mother’s soul... “so she could remember flying.”

The play is presented in five acts, or flights (of fancy). As with Tennessee William’s play, “The Glass Menagerie,” this is a memory play replete with the use of multiple narrators and overhead projections: The self-defined parts of the play are: 1. Narration, 2. Vision, 3. Mad Scene, 4. Conclusion, 5. Frivolous Dance. If we isolate the basic elements of theater listed in “The Poetics” and apply it to “Five Flights” we find that many of Aristotle’s requirements are indeed met:

1. Plot: The central dilemma is whether or not to rebuild or tear down the aviary. Each character negotiates some obstacle. Olivia wants to preach in it. Bobby (offstage) doesn’t care about the aviary. Jane is his proxy with her own agenda. But the father’s will deeds power equally to Bobby, Tom & Adele who are ambivalent, wanting inertia to decide on it and their fate.

The modern plot doesn’t stand up to classical ideals. There is a complete action but no one protagonist, or one through-line. The same story is told with multiple views by different characters. The only thing cohesive is the thread of an idea... that of possibility & of inertia. Fear and pity should be aroused by plot. But one could argue that there is no one hero, no one flaw—the characters are collectively fighting off inertia.

Many of the scenes are episodic. The plot becomes convoluted with the introduction of a gay love scene with Tom and a neighbor, Ed; this subplot is also mirrored by Adele who is rejected by Olivia. A hockey rink tableaux with Ed and Andre, who is a straight guy, offers an interesting twist, and a brilliant dumb show of the characters watching Swan Lake offers the audience comic relief from the tension of the escalating war between Jane and Olivia and from Ed—Tom’s rejected suitor.

2. Character must be good, true to life, consistent. None of the characters are altruistic. In their search of self-recognition, they don’t know who they are. Olivia is out of touch with reality and they are all struggling with self-identification. They don’t find it. Tom proclaims: “Nothing stupider than being in love.” Is Tom’s indecisiveness akin to that of a lesser Hamlet? He’s offered a relationship, wholeness, but his fear and hurt are too great to overcome. Does Ed really want love or sex? He says, “My strongest weapon is not caring.”

Adele is a listener. From her we learn how the aviary got built to house the soul of their mother. She. uses backstory to explain. “At the funeral, a wren landed in my father’s hand and he said ‘this bird is my wife .... I’m gonna build Mom a house...’” She introduces doubt. “Bobby said it’s just a dumb bird....” From her we learn of Bobby but we never meet him. Much of her monologue is done in kid-speak. Dad collected the souls of all the dead —even Mrs. O’Leary. “Sometimes the birds would die which was confusing. When the wren died, it was very confusing. My father went pale, just sat in there and eventually all the birds escaped....”

Jane’s epiphany about religion comes as a surprise to us for we associate Jane with the far right: rigid conventional religion—supported by Jane’s choreographed movements which are militaristic in nature. She states, “I see my God in a hedge that someone has cared for....” Her character stands for reason. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Jane who wants to clean up on the property, feels obligated to also clean up after Olivia’s preaching sessions. Jane says that it easier for others to follow someone, but doctrine stops people from thinking But Ed says to Jane: “You and Olivia aren’t that different. You both want to leave your mark on the world.”

Olivia, is driven by pure passion, she is irresponsible. We learn Olivia’s spiritual ambitions aren’t pure. Her desire for belief system is an urge for self-empowerment—her raison d'etre. Her faith is based on synchronicity and a need for faith: it’s necessary for people to believe in something.” We are charmed by Olivia’s insight that the bird is the essence of God. “The fifth day of creation is the holiest of holy days... .” Olivia tells us that “the soul is a bird we keep in our hearts.” But then Olivia is deluged by “the pure tedium of a congregation.”

3, Thought: general maxims in the play: materialism vs. spirituality, pursuit of love and truth. There are numerous dyad—themes: of good/evil, power/ powerlessness, roles of men/ women... Use of rhetorical oration is directed at the audience in opening scene...but later becomes casual. There is good use of formal presentation, precise physical language, formal gestures, contrived and stylized movement & gesture to uphold action of Thought.

4, Diction is historically appropriate, and time & action are consistent with character’s fantasy lives. The three unities of a play; time, place, action are met; the play takes place in linear time, a recognizable place, characters are real people who conform to certain predictable standards. The language employed is witty, pithy and riddled with metaphoric juxtaposition; it works on several levels. A bird is to the soul as a soul is God And there are musical puns: Swan Lake is not only a reference to the ballet (high artifice), it also is an oblique reference to the life of the gay composer Tchaikovsky. And the pun embedded within the closing music by “Status Quo” is no accident.

5 & 6. Uses of song and spectacle. (Or 5. Frivolous Dance?) The dumb show representation of Swan Lake with its clever use of sight gags, jokes, and miming provides brilliant comic relief. It serves to take the characters out of the play so that the audience can see them in a different context. Even Andre, who hates ballet, is transformed by it. The choreographed movement of the characters provides interesting use of rhythm as does the occasional use of the characters as a chorus. Aristotle wrote that it is better to have impossible but probable action. But complications must arise out of the plot, not out of Deus ex Machina. He stated that “The Deus et Machina should be employed only for events external to the drama—” (p. 82, ibid). God appears offstage to motivate Olivia’s behavior—she claims to have seen God in the garden—the use of Deus ex Machina gives her character motivation to act.

Though Aristotle deemed comedy to be a less-worthy art form than tragedy as a vehicle for catharsis, and therefore, transformation and pleasure—the primary goal of good drama, some 2400 years later, we tend to lean towards comedy as the preferred vehicle of purgation. Adam Bock’s “Five Flights” brilliantly executed by a superb cast and director, works on multiple levels, not all of which are immediately obvious upon first viewing. Though there are occasional areas in the construction of the play which could be edited or tightened, Bock is forgiven; the play doesn’t just entertain, it transcends—which is still the primary goal of good theater.



for Brighde Mullins MFA Playwriting
March 4, 2002