Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Shadow Box by Michael Cristofer (1977)

Summary:  Three individuals are separately living at a hospice for the terminally ill.  As each struggles with their impending death, their familial relationships are explored.  The dying individuals stay in their own cottages and never interact with other patients or families.  They are, however, questioned about their feelings by a nondescript "Interviewer."

In cottage one, Joe is joined by his wife Maggie and son Steve.
In cottage two, dying Brian and his partner Mark are joined by his ex-wife Beverly.
In cottage three, Felicity cares for her dying mother Agnes.

Thoughts:  Though the summary is straightforward, the play is actually quite ambiguous about it's given circumstances.  The stage directions do not reveal that it is a hospice, but rather a hospital that contains "cottages."  Early in the play, Joe reminds Maggie that he will not be coming home, and that they need to find a way to tell Steve.  He does not explicitly state that he will die at the hospice, but attempts to convey that he has come to terms with death and that Maggie should attempt to follow suit.  Death is talked about very indirectly; and typically, the relatives are more emotional than the patients in the cottages.

Though the play details the relationships of three individuals, each scene has a very intimate tone and clear objective.

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