Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Play #16: Mud by Maria Irene Fornes

Mud takes place in a sort of amorphous rural past, sometime on the verge of mass production, but still completely removed from it. 20-something Mae lives in a small, ramshackle house with 20-something Lloyd, who was taken in by her father when they were children. They are not siblings, and they are not lovers, but they are also both. Mae has been going to school to try to make herself feel like she is not a hollow waste - Lloyd sees no need for this ridiculous schooling. Mae and Lloyd argue a lot since they are poor, and Lloyd does not seem to have a job. Their only income is probably from Mae's laundry business. Also, Lloyd is very ill, but refuses to go to the doctor. Mae eventually describes his condition to a doctor, and brings him a pamphlet on Prostatitis, but she also has to bring 50-year-old Henry to read it for them, as the language is far too advanced for her. Mae confides to Henry that she loves him because he is intelligent and eloquent and makes her feel like she is worth something. She kisses him and invites him to live with her and Lloyd. Lloyd is, unsurprisingly, unhappy with this arrangement. He even gets kicked out of his bed and has to sleep on the floor. He does eventually go to the doctor and he steals money from Henry to pay for his prescription. In his anger over this theft, Henry falls on the street and injures himself severely, so when he returns to Mae and Lloyd, he is disfigured and possibly paralyzed. Mae is disgusted with him and with Lloyd and plans to leave, but Lloyd chases after her with a shotgun and returns to the house with her dying body in his arms.

This is an ugly play about a woman who has aspirations, but no knowledge or apparatus to make them come true. She is tethered to two men - one who has always dragged her down, and one who she had so badly hoped would elevate her. Instead, he becomes an even heavier weight around her neck. The tone of this play felt very much like Fen by Caryl Churchill - the episodic structure, the faded hopelessness of the world, the heroine who believed in something better, but was never able to experience it. In between each scene, Fornes directs the actors to freeze for eight seconds - like a photo of the final moment of the scene. It ends up feeling like the old photos of tenement life: pictures of desperation that make the viewers feel pity, but also a certain level of distance and relief that we are not the subjects of those photos. From time to time, Mae reads from her schoolbook - she reads about Starfish (yes, I know they're properly called Sea Stars... but I'm just quoting) and Hermit Crabs. These oceanic denizens are representative of the characters who cannot seem to breathe anywhere but where they are. As she lies dying in Lloyd's arms at the end of the play, Mae cries out that she is a Starfish, longing to see just the tiniest sliver of light. You see - it seems that Starfish cannot see, but they can tell the difference between light and dark. Poor Mae cannot accurately discern what lies beyond the darkness she's been living in, but she knows that there is light just out of her reach, and she would give anything to find it.

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