Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Street Scene by Elmer Rice (1929)

Summary: The entire play takes place on a street in New York when neighbors actually talked to each other and sat on their stoops in an attempt to obtain the most recent gossip. The neighborhood contains a wide range of immigrants and people who are fairly comfortable discussing their own religious biases and prejudices.  No one seems to have much money, but it also doesn't seem to matter very much.

From the outset, the older married females in the play are gossiping about Mrs. Maurrant who is having a not so secret affair with the milk collector. Meanwhile, Mrs. Maurrant’s daughter Rose is starting to have feelings for a neighbor boy named Sam.  Sam's sister cautions Rose against falling in love with her brother because he is Jewish, stating that mixed marriages are just too complicated. Ultimately, Mrs. Maurrant’s husband shoots the milk collector in a jealous rage. However, after all of this excitement, things in the neighborhood seem unchanged. Love will remain unrequited and gossip will continue to be an insidious way to make the time pass.

Thoughts: Random library selection caused me to read this play the day after reading Why Marry? and I was impressed that another play written decades ago contained women with such progressive attitudes toward the relationship between love and marriage.

Some of this play was a struggle to read because, instead of specifying race or nationality through stage directions, Rice actually scripts the variations in speech. Sentences like, “E talka lika dat een Eetaly, Mussolini's gonna geeve 'eem da castoroil” needed to be read aloud for comprehension.

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