Monday, October 25, 2010

Topdog/Underdog by Suzan Lori-Parks (2002)

Summary:  Lincoln and Booth are adult brothers whose parents named them as a joke and later abandoned them when they were 16 and 11, respectively.  Younger brother Booth has recently developed an affinity for three-card monty, a game accompanied by a painful history for Lincoln.  While Booth is attempting to make money on the street, Lincoln holds a job as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator at an arcade.  At work, he sits in a chair (in whiteface) and gets "shot" by children on field trips and those seeking interesting entertainment.

Throughout the play, Booth attempts to get Lincoln to play three-card with him--arguing that they could go into business together and be wildly successful.  As the play progresses, the brothers laugh and fight and laugh and fight--until Booth reveals that he has killed his girlfriend and then kills his brother.

Thoughts:  I read this play shortly after reading some of Parks' other work (Fucking A, In the Blood, Venus) and it is evident that there are themes and characters that continue to reappear in her work.  In all four of these plays, Parks seems to argue that, whether we like it or not, our relationships with our families are significant and binding.  Even when her characters do everything in their power to break these bonds (including murder), they still remain.

The play also examines the the imperfection of memory--individuals in the same household remembering things in vastly different ways.  Although Booth is the younger brother, he saw his mother leave and was given the task of taking care of Lincoln--though he was certainly not old enough for this kind of responsibility.

"People are funny about they Lincoln shit.  Its historical.  People like they historical shit in a certain way.  They like it to unfold the way they folded it up.  Neatly like a book.  Not raggedy and bloody and screaming." 
-Topdog/Underdog, Scene 3  


No comments:

Post a Comment