Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Raised In Captivity - Nicky Silver

Another shocking gaping hole in my play-reading life. Nicky Silver. Other than this one, just read today (by the fire, very nice) I'm shamed to say I'd only read Free Will and Wanton Lust, and that only because we were producing it. Which is probably one of the very best reasons to read something.

So, 1995 this opened at the Vineyard. It's in two acts. The first act has 8 scenes and the second is two scenes. In the first we meet Sebastian, estranged from his mother and twin sister, he's disconnected from himself, from his feelings, from others. Through the play he tries to connect with a convicted murderer, through letters and a hustler that he feeds - and re-connect with himself by shedding his therapist. At the end of the first act, a violent attack, brings his mother to him, back from the dead, to describe the truth of his father. In the second act Sebastian has been taken in by his twin sister and her husband, who has quit dentistry to take up painting - only with white paint. His sister, Bernadette, calls his fired therapist for help (throughout she has been punishing herself for her failures, forcing penance - not washing, stabbing herself, gouging out her eyes) the therapist agrees to help and stays - discovering a resemblance between Bernadette's husband and her own, dead one. Sebastian only speaks to the baby.

To untwine this wicked stew of past crimes, inherited pain, guilt, failure and grief, Silver lets each character find his or her unique redemption. And the redemption often lives in letting go, setting another free, and finding an honest way to grieve those loved and lost.

The pace is fast, in the first act scenes tumble one on top of the other creating a pile that suffocates the main character. In the second he struggles to get out. In writing about it, I'm focused on Sebastian - it is his play - however it's not in a lead kind of a way. Each of the other characters have their own stories and arcs - but these each relate - not story-wise, but thematically, to the pile that Sebastian's trying to crawl out from under.

and any play that can reach the end with "I miss everyone." as a line well earned is one that I like a lot.


  1. Raised In Captivity is Nicky's 2nd best play. Read Pterodactyls. Brilliant brilliant brilliant, and highly (and largely undocumentedly) influential.

  2. excellent - thanks, it is now on the list.