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Hir is a story that explores the effects of dealing with trauma poorly, How too much change can alter ones morals and the fluidity of gender and how that can shape who we are. The play is seemingly funny but is ultimately very dark. The characters are all very different and have different opinions on the same thing. While the plays main protagonist seems to be I, the play really revolves around his mother Paige.
I have a lot of problems with Paige (and this play as a whole). I was really on board for the first act and the beginning of act 2. Mac is very witty with his humor and really plays at the dysfunctionalities of this family in a light hearted way. He throws heavy topics at the audience very quickly but does a good job at making light of them. Ultimately tho the dysfunction of the family seems to stem from Paige and how she coped with her son going to war, her husband having a stroke, and her daughter having a sex change. It obviously became too much and she had some sort of mental break where normal things like cleaning and School flew out the window.
What I feel the play lacked was a redeeming moment for the family. We see a little of it at the beginning of act two where Max starts to bond with their brother in a way they didn’t in the first act. Even Arnold the father starts to feel like part of the family again in his disabled state. But then the play takes a huge left turn and Paige kicks Issac back out of the house and goes so far as to tell him to kill himself. To add to it this all happens in a span of less than three Paige’s. What was a humours and on it’s way to be a heartwarming play became a sudden tragedy. One that left me feeling nothing but hate for Paige and a disconnection to the play as a whole. Don’t get me wrong i have nothing against sad plays, but this ending seemed SO abrupt that it felt completely out of place with the rest of story.
Ultimately Paige who started off as a quirky mom in a weird predicament became a villain. I can’t help but feel that if she wasn’t there the family would be better off. She also took away from a story that should’ve been about sexual identity and turned it into a play about how change and trauma can turn people into monsters.
How do you think Paige initially reacted to Max’s transexuality?
I doubt it was similar to the her feelings toward it in the play. Paige’s whole lens of the situation seems to be one of overcompensation and fear than true acceptance. She’s morphed her child whole identity into her sexuality instead of seeing them as more than that because she’s to ignorant to understand the nature of gender. Sure max may may have been very vocal about their gender, but i can’t help but feel that Paige encouraged this of them in a way that depersonalized them. You can see when Issac comes that max suddenly becomes more of a rounded character, which Paige does not like. I think Paige’s true feelings towards Max’s teansexuality are ones of ignorance and fear.
Does Arnold deserve what’s happening to him?
The play talks about his apparent abusiveness towards his family and how he wasn’t a good father. His stroke is seemed to be some sort of karma for his actions. This i can somewhat agree with. However drugging him with estrogen pills, the verbal and physical abuse, and the overall dehumanization of him creates a really uncomfortable environments for the audience. Granted, the humorous nature of the play at the beginning makes up for it. But by the end of the play it becomes too much and the darkness really overpowers the play. Arnold was an asshole but this play ends up being about the torture of Arnold which as the audience disconnects me from the other characters.
Before the 20th century, Brighton Beach was a area called Gravesend. After being purchased by a Mr. William A. Engeman in 1868, he renamed the land Brighton Beach after a city on the coastline of England called Brighton. In the following years due to the increase of infrastructure In New York, Brighton Beach became much more accessible to many New Yorkers living in the dense city. During the Early 20th Century many of Jews living in East New York found there way to quieter coast of Brighton Beach. Once there the Jewish population began to make significant cultural and political presence. During the 1930s and 40s Brighton Beach became flooded with European refugees escaping Fascism in their home countries. Due to the increase in immigrants moving to Brighton Beach, many of the streets became numbered “Bright” in order to make navigation in the area easier for these immigrants. During the 1950’s and 60s, the beach grew in popularity but the surrounding neighborhoods began to degrade as its inhabitants grew old. In the following years many of the families moved out of Brighton Beach into other quieter suburbs, leaving the houses there to rot away since no one wanted to move into them. Fortunately a few years later the soviet union began to relax its immigration policies, allowing several Russian jewish immigrants to move into the neighborhood where there presence is still heavily felt today. Because of its heavily Russian population, the area became known as little Odessa, named after the port on the black sea.
What is the significance of Oscars character?
Oscar is the personification of the immigration problem all the main characters face. He also is the main antagonist. With majority of the characters all working together at the Olstead plant, the main conflict they all face is losing their jobs to cheaper immigrant workers. This is revealed in scene 5 and at the end of Act 1. Oscar is the only “immigrant” in the play (I put the word immigrant in quotations because he really isn’t but is perceived as one by all the other characters in the play). Its amazing that Nottage was able to put this much meaning into a character while simultaneously have them do nothing for majority of the play.
Why is the olstead mill left unseen.
The olstead mill is the main place of action in the play. It’s the setting that brings all the characters together leaving it unseen gives the audience and reader more room for imagination By doing this Nottage engages the audience more into the world of the play without them even knowing. This is very similar to the unseen character technique like in waiting for Godot. It also emphasizes the effect of the obstacles in the play rather than showing the obstacles themselves.
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