Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kissing The Floor - by Ellen McLaughlin

Published in the 2009 New York Theater Review, McLaughlin states in her introduction,
Kissing the Floor is the ninth play I've written that is directly inspired by a Greek text, and though it wanders farther from its source than any of my other work, it is still along the lines of a modern rendering of the Sophocles. I've always approached the adaptation of Greek plays aslant, privileging intuition over intellect and allowing the plays to disturb and disarm me before I make any moves to find my on way in.

She continues to provide a fascinating narrative of the process of thought, feeling and intuition that led her to the play. (I love introductions, I may be a playwright and reader of plays today because I poured devotedly over used bookstore finds of Tennessee Williams plays with his fabulous, heart-rending, poetic words to his readers tucked like a love letter into the books.)

In this re-telling the focus is on the children of Oedipus and Jocasta - dead before this play begins. The girls, Annie and Izzie, and the twin boys, Paul and Eddie. Izzie, becomes the guide through this world of the destroyed, broken family, she is the one who seems to have chosen life, despite the cursed pair who created her. Because she's chosen this, she tries to reach a hand out to Annie, who may, perhaps, also be able to let go of their origins and have a life of her own. Annie though, refuses.

Annie wants to stay by Paul, save what she can of her brother. Here, McLaughlin departs from the Greek original. She leaves the brother alive - and instead chooses to make him morally despicable in such a way that Annie's pure devotion to her brother, only because he is her brother, is less heroic and more a death-wish, a refutation of life.

Using a hypnotic, recurring childhood game, where Annie guides her siblings into imagined worlds, demanding them to describe what they see, McLaughlin takes us into the world of these grown children. Annie's quest to save and protect her brother - cursed and reviled for what he is, Izzy's attempts to bring her sister into the light, into the world of the living, Paul's inability or lack of interest in changing - no matter what his sister sacrifices, and a brief appearance by Eddie (the twin) who tells us the Oedipus and Jocasta story, set before the 1929 Wall St. Crash. His story comes mid-way through the play in the form of a 3 page monologue, it brings back the original horror of the old story which then colors the continued attempts of the siblings to achieve their goals, providing a context that elevates the stakes and darkens all possible outcomes.

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