Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Young Man from Atlanta by Horton Foote (1995)

Summary:  Following the apparent suicide of their adult son Bill, upper middle class Houstonians Will and Lily Dale build their expensive dream home.  Will is fired from a company where he has worked for 38 years shortly after they move in.  When he asks his wife for some of their savings, she sheepishly tells him that she has given much of it to their son's "friend" from Atlanta.  After Lily Dale reveals that she has been speaking to Will's friend and sending him thousands of dollars, Will is incensed.  When the friend unexpectedly shows up, Will refuses to see him on the grounds that, "There are things I'd have to ask him and I don't want the answers" (109).

Thoughts:  The word "gay" never appears in this play, but all talk of Bill's friend is fraught with tension.  In her final monologue on the last page of the play, Lily Dale says, "He said Bill insisted on giving him the money, for buying nice things.  He said he was like a father to him....He said, too, that he wished he could have gone down in the water that day with Bill.  That's how much he loved him and missed him" (110).  Her husband assures her that everything will be "all right" soon and the play ends.

This play is short and confined to familial interactions.  Family secrets surrounding money, suicide and homosexuality are omnipresent, but rarely verbalized.  Foote's characters suggest that these are the three topics that should, under no circumstances, be discussed outside of the stifling confines of family...and sometimes not even inside the confines.

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