Page 28 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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trouble, I pick up things. A friend of mine and I once started a
little fight just for fun. Before we began, I remember unconsciously
picking up a chicken. One of those ready-made roasted things. I
wasn’t going to use it or anything . . . I just seem to need something
in my hands.” Try as he may, the weapon is only a personal and
obviously tenuous security object. The attractive and nubile Miss
Janus who intrudes upon the catastrophe of Mrs. Wonder’s dis-
appearance with assurances of comfort, serves further to heighten
his terror by battering at the security of the solid life plan set
down for him. Sexually liberal and unencumbered by convention,
she becomes Harold’s first tempter. Thoroughly leashed, Harold
threatens interminably to become the roue for the sake of ven-
geance, but can’t manage the breakthrough. As a signal heralding
Harold’s innate dependency comes a call from Harold’s mother.
The Jewish mother syndrome, vital to the efforts of Friedman
and Roth among others, is much in evidence here. As staged,
Harold’s mother slips on as a cardboard cutout, bedecked in jew-
elry, a bouffant hairdo, super-stacked heels and evidencing a mys-
tical perception which could only be the gift of the Jewish Mother.
“Mother’s Voice: Harold, you have something heavy in your hand,
don’t you? Harold: (Looking at scythe, then dropping it) How
the hell did you know that? Mother’s Voice: I ’ve been your mother
for a long time, darling.” Harold desperately pleads his case but
Mother’s responses are stalwart, standard, and totally predictable.
As he hangs up, he blurts out the final treason perpetrated by his
wife: “. . . France you picked to pull this on me. Not in Queens
where I have defenses”; not a wholly inappropriate accusation.
The ultimate absurdity of having a black scuba diver spirit
away his rather dull but necessary wife, acts as a kind of emetic.
As the play proceeds Harold begins vomiting up his repressions
by targeting the black scuba diver—up from the depths come
reams of epithets all of which, while ineffectual in solving his
dilemma, please him immensely. Almost maniacally, Harold alter-
nates between being incredibly patronizing and spewing out every
derogatory epithet he can summon up from the cellar of his frus-
trations. As his wife leaves him, holding the remnants of his
securities in his hands, for a new life with the black scuba diver
and his black compatriot, the immensely articulate, hypereducated
Ambrose Reddington, Harold remains totally suspended, sputter-
ing and insecure.
In their own drama of recent years, beset by a similar loosening
of repression, Negro playwrights have exploded in various direc-
tions. In a number of instances the Jew has been used as subject,
either central to the play or peripheral, but nonetheless significant.
Both Jew and Negro have, of course, shared various common
repressions and have collectively, a core of mutual experience.