Friday, February 27, 2015


Play #37 - Scarcity by Lucy Thurber

Well, it's been a depressing couple of days in Play a Day land. Scarcity is the story of a blue collar family with a hard-working mother (Martha), a drunk, layabout father (Herb), and two very intelligent children (Billy and Rachel). Billy is 16 and has made it into the gifted and talented program at his school. He's in there among all the rich kids, really learning and seeing possibilities for growth. His teacher, Ellen, sees great promise in him, and is trying to help him apply to boarding school. Rachel is 11, and has high hopes of following in Billy's footsteps and far beyond. The whole family seems to agree that she is the smartest one. She is certainly the most ambitious. She keeps asking Billy to talk her up to Ellen so that she'll have support when the times comes. The family is barely scraping by, mostly with the help of Martha's cousin Louie, who is also in love with Martha, despite being married to Gloria. Ellen does help Billy get into school with a scholarship, and he leaves his sister feeling trapped in her circumstances - if he gets out... will he ever come back for her?

Poor Rachel is sort of the only character with redeeming qualities in the entire play, and she ends up being left to stagnate all on her own. Billy and Ellen develop a physical relationship (though they say they haven't slept together, so I guess that's something). Martha barely even notices her daughter, and never holds her husband accountable for his terrible behavior. Herb is a lousy drunk and a jerk to pretty much everyone pretty much all the time... and he may or may not have abused Rachel... and Martha may or may not have covered that up - it's unclear. Louie is totally selfish and disregards his wife because she has the audacity not to be Martha. Gloria is sort of an afterthought in the world of the play, but she seems to hold her own pretty well when all is said and done. It's a play about a slice of life that is hard and ugly and frustrating. It's a picture of an economic cycle that threatens to trap even the most hopeful, capable or extraordinary people, keeping them from living up to their potential. It's a play about a family that hardly seems like one at all except in the biological sense. Once again, I find myself recognizing that the writing is good, but I still can't say I enjoy the play. Tomorrow I'm going to have to find something a little more upbeat. 

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