A Salute To The Cycle Play Event

* * * Breaking News on Black Friday, November 29, 2013 * * *
We congratulate The Studio Theatre on the great notices being received for the first two Apple Family Plays. Read more here.

When we launched this season with Amy Herzog’s After The Revolution, we were aware that Amy had another play about the same Joseph family set 10 years later; a play involving the same matriarchal character, Vera, who appears both in

Nancy Robinette and Megan Anderson in "After The Revolution" by Amy Herzog (photo by Stan Barouh)

Nancy Robinette and Megan Anderson in “After The Revolution” by Amy Herzog (photo by Stan Barouh)

After The Revolution and in the subsequent 4000 Miles; a play written after Revolution, but one which appeared, quite successfully, in DC earlier in spring at Studio Theatre. There’s a great deal of fun (and more, deep meaning too) that comes from watching a character or whole family evolve from one play to the next.

Tana Hicken and Grant Harrison in Studio Theatre’s production of "4000 Miles"

Tana Hicken and Grant Harrison in Studio Theatre’s production of “4000 Miles”

How fascinating it would be to run After The Revolution and 4000 Miles in rolling rep, and see a great actress (like Nancy Robinette or Tana Hicken) age ten years in the process of moving from one relationship with a grand-daughter in Revolution to a very different relationship with a wayward grandson in Miles.

Of course, Amy Herzog’s not the only playwright to thread the same character from one play to the next. Lanford Wilson did so famously in his “Talley Trilogy,” weaving in the story of Sally Talley in his Pulitzer Prize winning Talley’s Folly into the action a play written 10 years later, Talley and Son (or, in another version, A Tale Told) involving action happening at the exact same time as Talley’s Folly but in the family home at the top of the hill, while Matt Friedman was proposing to Sally Talley in the boathouse down by the river.

Rick Foucheux and Colleen Delany in Talley's Folly

Rick Foucheux and Colleen Delany in Talley’s Folly

Part III of the Talley Trilogy was the play written first; The Fifth of July, involving the same Sally Talley some 30+ years later. Lanford’s achievement made a mark on me as I encountered his work as a young intern at Circle Rep, the theater company he founded. And indeed the idea of an interlocking collection of plays, bound by family, character, place or theme has always felt to me to be an exhilarating theatrical proposition.

Washingtonians remember with fondness and exhaustion the 9 hour, 3 part The Great Game: Afghanistan which came to the Harmen Center via London’s The Tricycle Theatre.   And the Kennedy Center presented all ten of the August Wilson 20th Century Plays which are now being restaged, the whole ten of ’em, in New York.

I’ve of course been involved in a trilogy of my own creation, “The Born Guilty Cycle,” comprised of three plays, Andy and The ShadowsBorn Guilty and The Wolf in Peter.

Colleen Delany and Alexander Strain. Photo by Stan Barouh

Colleen Delany and Alexander Strain. Photo by Stan Barouh

The cast of "Born Guilty" directed by John Vreeke

The cast of “Born Guilty” directed by John Vreeke

There are lots and lots of examples of plays and their sequels; trilogies of plays; 8 hour extravaganzas — Feel free to add to a list below, while we hear from our student subscribers who returned to Studio Theatre this last Thursday to see part II of “The Apple Family Plays,” Sweet and Sad, once again written by Richard Nelson, staged by Serge Seiden.

Jeremy Webb, Kimberly Schraff, Sarah Marshall, Ted van Griethuysen, Elizabeth Pierotti and Rick Foucheux at Studio Theatre

Jeremy Webb, Kimberly Schraff, Sarah Marshall, Ted van Griethuysen, Elizabeth Pierotti and Rick Foucheux at Studio Theatre

(Serge will be making his Theater J directorial debut this spring when we produce Freud’s Last Session and Serge will teamed up once again with the great Rick Foucheux — who famously played Bernie Madoff for us in Imagining Madoff in 2011.

Rick Foucheux in "Imagining Madoff"

Rick Foucheux in “Imagining Madoff”

Matt Friedman in our production of Talley’s Folly in 2003, and Peter Sichrovsky in both Born Guilty and Peter and The Wolf in 2002). Some of us will be commenting on part III of the Apple Quartet, the play Sorry, which Rick has just sent us in manuscript form.

Eager to hear how seeing Part II of a 4-part opus deepened our experience after our initial viewing of That Hopey Changey Thing. The Apple plays open this weekend for press over at Studio. We wish everyone there a great opening! As our production of The Argument comes to a close… (sad face)! Happy Weekend!

* * *

Following up, here are some crowd-sourced suggestions of other play cycles of note, culled from a facebook shout-out for suggestions:

In Trousers/March of the Falsettos/Falsettoland – the musical trilogy by William Finn
Kentucky Cycle by Robert Schenkkan
Little Foxes and Another Part of Forrest by Lillian Hellman
• “The Arnold Wesker Trilogy:” Roots, Chicken Soup with Barley, and I’m Talking About Jerusalem
• Tarrel Mc Craney’s The Brother Size and its sequels, In The Red And Brown Water and Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet
• August Wilson’s 10-play cycle, one for each decade of the 20th century
• Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (Millenium Approaches and Perestroika and throw in Slavs!: Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness as well)

Any other suggestions?

24 thoughts on “A Salute To The Cycle Play Event

  1. Similar to last week’s “That Hope Changey Thing”, I thoroughly enjoyed Studio Theatre’s production of “Sweet and Sad”, although perhaps not quite as much. For me, issues with the tempo begin to become apparent in this outing, something that was echoed by several others in comments following the play. Perhaps this issue wasn’t present in the first play in this series, or was just not present to quite the same extent, but, for whatever reason, that was one of the principal areas of difference that I found between the two. There also seemed to be an interesting retreat away from dealing with Uncle Benjamin’s ailments as a somberly humorous condition, from something that one laughs at because that is the only thing that one can do, to a condition which is somehow inherently comical, overshadowing any ominous portent that his condition may carry with it.
    Coming back to the issue of tempo, another interesting idea that occurred to me while watching “Sweet and Sad” was that this series of four plays should be experienced together if one hopes to capture their entire meaning. This is both frustrating and exciting to me. On the one hand, it requires a larger time investment and more attention to be devoted to the plays, but balances that out with the promise of a greater emotional payoff at their close. On the other hand, it is frustrating because it will be some time, if ever, before I will be able to attend the last two plays of this series. This means that for me, in the interim I am left largely wondering what the bigger picture actually is. Is it Uncle Benjamin’s illness and shifting New York State politics as the first play seemed to focus on, or is it the death of Marian’s daughter or the societal impacts of 9/11 as the second feature seemed to emphasize? Or is it some as yet unknown theme or event that will be introduced in the final two plays?

    • Hey Joe,

      really interesting thoughts about Benjamin’s condition used as comedy. I agree with your analysis–it almost seemed a regression of sorts from “That Hopey-Changey Thing,” where the playwright seemed to delve deeper into into the implications of amnesia for a once great actor and his family. In this play, however, it really felt like half of Ben’s character was this big punchline. Ben would say “Where am I?” or something to that extent and the audience would burst out laughing. While I wasn’t sure this was in the best taste, I wasn’t terribly offended, although I thought the humor grew stale pretty quickly. Plays with aging and elderly characters are often difficult for me to watch–they bring up some not so pleasant memories of feeling helpless watching grandparents and relatives fight similar battles. Yet Uncle Ben’s character has the potential to explore important conversations about aging and amnesia–a potential that was realized in the first play–and I was disappointed that his character seemed to come off a tool for comedy this time around.

    • Joe,

      I also felt the uncertainty of what the audience member was supposed to focus on, since there were so many large events occurring. I hadn’t thought about the big picture before you mentioned it, but now I am wondering. It seems that each year, some new political event is happening, and a new personal event is happening as well. In addition to the events you mentioned, another main one was the fact that Jane and Tim had broken up and gotten back together. I was confused about what the point of that fact was. The only main thread between the two seems to be Uncle Benjamin though, who’s condition continues to deteriorate. Perhaps the finale of the four plays involves him.

    • Joe, your response stands out to me because you are one of the only ones who seems to be genuinely satisfied by these plays. For that reason, I wonder what it is about you inherently as a theater-goer that these plays connected with. Knowing just some of your background, I wonder if there is some part of your experiences that allows you to relate with these two plays that, for most of us, have been non-relateable.

      I do think what you said though about the greater time investment of four plays means there must be greater emotional pay off has some truth to it, though I wonder if the emotional value is the same after four plays for someone like you (who enjoyed the plays) as it would be for someone like me (who did not enjoy the plays). I would be curious to see the difference in what we took away from the four plays as a whole just knowing each of our responses to the two plays we have seen so far.

  2. My classmates and I made our return to Studio Theatre this past Thursday to view Part II of “The Apple Family Plays” entitled Sweet and Sad. Our post-show discussion with director Serge Seiden was particular elucidating. Mr. Seiden acknowledged that the actors were still perfecting the finer details of the production and that “each moment still has an equal amount of weight” prompting Lisa to say that she had trouble choosing what moments and details were significant in this rather plot-less work. Seiden metaphorically equated directing the work to conducting an orchestra composed of many instruments working in concert. When reflecting on his comments, I prefer the metaphor of a roller coaster. The theatre is supposed take the audience on a ride with varying degrees of heightened expression, movement, and tempo. I believe that the source of our dissatisfaction and discontent with the Apple family is that their dinner progresses at one speed and one speed only. And as a result, it is difficult for the work to personally resonate with us; the dinner moments are indiscriminate and meld together.

    While the political focus of Part I of the four part opus was the increasing dissatisfaction among progressive liberals regarding President Obama’s tenure and the resulting Tea Party revolt of 2010, the events of Sweet and Sad took place on September 11th, 2011, the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Amidst a general sense of resentment in the family and Uncle Ben’s preparation for a commemorative performance, I was hard pressed to ascertain any views or substantive dialogue on 9/11 and our country’s response since that tragic day from anyone at the dinner table. This may be due to the perceived shortcoming of the play I previously discussed.

    On a brighter note, I thoroughly enjoyed Kimberly Schraf’s performance as Jane. She has a complicated relationship with her brother Richard as the two characters align in some ways and are estranged in others. Her character adds some much needed salaciousness to the play when it becomes clear that she is a “cougar” and is dating Tim, a much younger aspiring actor with a daughter from a previous relationship. On the other hand, even though I am relatively sympathetic to her politics, Marian comes off to me as too outspoken and bully-like; it was interesting to see her views—and the communication of them—soften in the year that passes between Part I and Part II.

    • Szymon,

      I really enjoyed reading your post, especially the end about your feelings towards the characters Jane and Marian. I think that I would have agreed with you that I preferred the character Jane to Marian after “That Hopey Changey Thing”, but after “Sweet and Sad” I felt that Jane was immature and self-centered. I thought that we saw Marian without her overbearing facade in the second play and it seemed to me that her heart is in the right place, while Jane seems to be stuck in her youth, most apparent through her younger boyfriend. It seemed to me that Marian had embraced motherhood and wanted a relationship with her daughter. Jane, on the other hand speaks as if she does not care that her son does not want a relationship with her. It seemed unfair to me that Jane does not even care to mend her relationship with her son while Marian does not have the chance to do so.

    • Hey Szymon! I’m wondering if you feel like the plays would be better if the tempo were to be fined tuned as the director assured us it would, or if you believe that the play itself may lack substantive ways for us to relate to it? I agree with your view that Jane added something fun to the play. I was wondering what you thought of the addition of Tim being there, especially knowing that Tim and Jane’s relationship was not continuous throughout the year between the first and second plays. Do you think that that piece of storyline will be brought up again in the next two plays or will it just be left up to our imaginations to figure out what happened? Do you think that Marian was just being that way because she is still mourning after the tragic events of the previous year or do you think that is part of her personality? Thanks!

  3. I couldn’t do it. If I were one of the six actors in Richard Nelson’s Apple Family Plays at Studio Theater, I could not do it. Having seen two of the four plays in the past two weeks, I am impressed by the stamina and energy of the actors, having memorized, rehearsed and gone through every step of two separate plays, lasting over an hour each. As someone who easily gets out of breath after two and a half flights of stairs, I can’t even consider rehearsing and performing two separate plays at the same time, it just doesn’t seem possible. Yet, they do it and they did it. I have a lot of praise for the actor’s abilities to accomplish such an artistic challenge day in and day out of rehearsals in performances. While the abilities and stamina of each actor shines in each play, I wasn’t captivated or impressed by the material presented. The Apple Family plays feel old and site-specific. As someone who doesn’t have a full grasp on what it means to be a New Yorker, I found myself confused during the scenes where it was most relevant. Yes, I think there are a handful of really beautifully written parts during the plays; the one of which is when Barbara recounting her focus on compensation in her high school class. Yet, the majority of it was confusing for me because there were many separate plot lines and backstories going on that seemed underdeveloped and forgotten throughout the play, which resulted in this drawn-out feeling. Like the lights & dings, it faded in and out too much. I found myself losing focus during one scene, and then regaining it for another. This fluctuating rhythm throughout the play was difficult to deal with and while I think the problem lies within the text and the script, I have a lot of respect for the actors and their abilities to make it through two plays in such a short period of time.

    • Adam, I am so glad to see someone recognize the actors’ ability to perform in both plays within such a short period of time. So many of us left the production feeling agitated, as we were confused, and even exhausted, with the fluctuating rhythm throughout the play. However, the actors deserve to be applauded for their stamina and desire to portray the Apple family as well as they possibly could under such stress. As the productions continue, hopefully the actors will find a way to both slow down and speed up certain areas of the play to keep the audience’s focus. Because there are so many story lines, it is necessary to give the audience the time needed to catch up and truly grasp the plot, especially for audience members who may not have seen the first part.

    • Adam, I agree with you ! These actors deserve so much acclamation! I can not imagine how they are able to rehearse and perform 2 different pieces of work, and do it so well. I was particularly struck by our post-show discussion with the director this past Thursday, when he mentioned that EVERY movement is choreographed. So not only do they have to memorize the actual lines, intonations, and pace of the work, but they’re also memorizing when to eat, when to drink…for 2 PLAYS! Yet, they make it look so organic. Both times I saw the characters at work, I genuinely felt like I was watching a family share a meal. Bravo to the wonderful cast!

  4. Last Thursday, we went to watch “Sweet and Sad”, the second in “The Apply Family Plays” series. I enjoyed this play more than “That Hopey Changey Thing”, the first of the series, but aside from some emotionally jarring moments, I did not find Sweet and Sad to be a play I would recommend.

    One reason I enjoyed the second play more than the first was that I was better able to connect with the characters. I was especially attentive to the character Marian during this show. I found it interesting to see how she was dealing with her daughter’s death and how the rest of the family tiptoed around her. I wonder what Marian and Evan were fighting about that caused Marian to ignore her phone calls and I wonder what their relationship was like leading up to the tragedy. It seemed to me as though the other characters did not know how to deal with the situation. They tried to avoid the topic and anything that might remind Marian of Evan. However, I felt that Marian wanted to be reminded of Evan. She played the CD of Evan singing and she was reading the Harry Potter books because it was Evan’s favorite series. While her family was trying to help her forget, all Marian wanted was to remember. We all deal with death differently, but I think we all want to hold onto the memories of our loved ones. It’s both a tragedy and a blessing of the human brain that we cannot keep them forever. We have written words and photographs, but it’s hard to remember the sound of someone’s voice or their scent with the passing of time. I hope that as Marian heals she will find herself in a place where she can forgive her husband. A death in the family so often leads to further divide, but I have seen that when families come together during hard times it makes the healing process much easier. It was very difficult to watch Marian grieving without the support from her family. They seemed to pity her, especially Jane. I was disappointed that Jane was not a better support for Marian. She should be the one who understood the most, having a child herself, but she seems to be the least concerned. She even has the audacity to talk about her poor relationship with her son. I would have hoped that Jane would have used this situation to make amends with her son, but it seems that she is too self-involved to extend an olive branch to him.

    • Hi Katy,
      I was also curious as to what Marian and her daughter were fighting about that caused her not to answer her phone. To me it seems that explaining that relationship and the strain that it was under prior to Evan’s suicide would greatly strengthen the play, as that is a relationship that is central to “Sweet and Sad” but is one that the audience will never be able to see in action. Similar to Jane’s influence in “House Beautiful”, this dynamic interested me greatly as it continues a theme from throughout this term of characters not physically present in the play greatly influencing those who are (e.g., Joe Joseph in “After the Revolution” or the unborn child from “The Argument”) and is something that I feel adds a great degree of realism to the play.

  5. I was not a huge fan of the first Apple Family Play and the second play was also a disappointment. While I will confess that this second play was more interesting in terms of the story lines that came out through the night, I still felt like it was just another boring family dinner that I was anxious to leave from. While there were certainly more twists and turns, I felt like there were new problems introduced without any resolution on old problems. For example, Richard’s problems with his wife were barely touched on in this second play while it seemed to be a huge part of the first. On the flip side, we learned about the tragic loss of Marian’s daughter but we heard nothing about Marian’s family at all in the first play. Maybe it’s just my family but when I see relatives that I don’t talk to on a daily basis I always ask how their children/significant other is doing. It didn’t make sense that I didn’t know who Evan was until after she had died.

    It wasn’t only the script I was disappointed with though. While the director explained to us at the end of the show that there was still a lot of fine tuning that had to be down for the show, I am writing this blog post about my experience going to the show and therefore will critique the show as it was presented to me. One serious issue I had was that every single moment was so incredibly significant to the family. It was just odd. I feel that a good metaphor for how I felt could be found in humans walking. When a baby takes its first steps it’s a momentous occasion. We are celebrate and applaud it and its a joyous and important thing. Now when the person is 30 years old, we don’t applaud their ability to walk. We don’t see them walk into the kitchen and stop everything to celebrate their ability to put one foot in front of the other to move from one place to another. In the play it seemed like every single moment was the first steps a baby took, when in reality most of the moments were about as significant as me walking from my desk to the kitchen to get some coffee. I quickly became annoyed with the portrayal of every single time Uncle Benjamin said something or Tim acted or Mariam portrayed an emotion as the most important/wonderful/amazing thing that ever could have happened. It felt forced, awkward, and inauthentic. I really hope this was simply a result of the show still being in it’s early stages, because I left feeling as though the show was not worth the time I gave up to watch it.

    • Lisa, I appreciate your honesty! I also found the first installation of this series rather boring. Perhaps I need more than a simple conversation to stimulate my interest. It’s not as though conflict is lacking, there is conflict presented throughout. But I think some of their reactions and behavior seemed forced and consequently difficult to relate to. Maybe I just don’t care about some of the issues they have been concerned about– harsh public treatment of Sarah Palin, excess campaign financing-which just seems inevitable and thus futile to debate, and so on. It’s also possible that I missed more important political themes that were introduced- which is another result of the play failing to capture my attention. I found “Sweet and Sad” much more entertaining. Maybe that’s what “That Hopey Changey Thing” was missing-entertainment rather than just discussion.

  6. The second part of The Apple Family Plays, Sweet and Sad, lived up to its title. Uncle Ben deteriorated, Jane fell for Tim once again, and Uncle Richard found additional ways to argue with his siblings about politics. Although every character slightly evolved from the first part, That Hopey Changey Thing, Marian faced the most dramatic change as she dealt with and mourned the suicide of her daughter and the resulting divorce from her husband.

    The first part of The Apple Family Plays took place of Election Day of 2010. The second part is set on September 11, 2011, which I found much more relevant to the students in our class. Very few of us remembered the major players in the elections of 2010, yet we could all relate to September 11th and the emotions surrounding the anniversary.

    Sad and Sweet gave more emotional depth to the characters. I originally viewed Marian as the fighter of the family and the dominant sibling, yet this production transformed her into the weak and needy sister. After her daughter, Evan, committed suicide, she moved in to live with Barbara. Although the date of Evan’s death is unknown, the audience is able to figure out that has happened between January 2011 and September 2011. However, the pain and struggle is still very relevant and very real for Marian as she struggles to make it through a conversation with her family without thinking of Evan.

    This production had a hidden message of the lack of focus and discussion of mental illness in our society. The Apple family even has a hard time discussing it, as they continue to refer to Uncle Ben’s memory loss as amnesia and state that Evan was simply not happy. However, both characters face real problems, regardless of the family’s attention to the problems.

  7. While “Sweet and Sad” was more interesting to me than “That Hopey Changey Thing,” I didn’t find it any more captivating. I felt like I was watching the same play, with the same setup (dinner, buffet style, chairs in the same places), same unrelatable political conversation, same intermittent emphases on acting. The addition of Marion’s tragedy, that her daughter Evan killed herself, adds a little more drama to the plotline, but it was not developed deeply enough to the point that I felt a connection. If anyone mentioned it, it was very superficial, and then the characters moved on.

    One thing that was interesting to me, more noticeably in this play than the last, was thinking about the children from the parent’s point of view, whether it was Jane talking about Billy, or Marion’s feelings about losing Evan. Since I am a daughter but not a mother, I really only know firsthand how a child feels about their parents. They are the people who make the rules, who give out discipline, who take care of you. I never thought of them as real people, until recently, my mom started speaking to me more as a friend. The more I talk to her as an equal, the more I understand how she feels about me as a daughter, and the fears and responsibilities and the joys that come with being a parent. It is through this lens that I viewed Jane and Marion’s relationships with their children. They were both lost, but in drastically different ways. Jane just doesn’t seem to care about Billy or what happens to him, which shocks me because I’m used to parents loving and being very invested in their children. Marion and Evan’s relationship obviously ended with Evan’s death, but I could obviously see the pain that Marion was in after losing Evan. That kind of reaction makes much more sense to me.

  8. As I reflect on the past two weeks of theater we have seen–“The Hopey Changey Thing” and “Sweet and Sad”–I wonder what it was about the plays that was wildly unsuccessful. Was it the script? The direction? The actors? The content of the script? I am sure that I could draw some minute connection to my life on which I might be able to elaborate to write a sufficient 300 word blog post, but I think that misses the point of what these plays cultivated within me as a viewer.

    I felt compelled to watch the audience over the course of this play, having been displeased with last week’s “The Hopey Changey Thing”. As I scanned the room, though some of the audience laughed with the comical one-liners, there were more people asleep than I could count on two hands, including, at one point, over half of the people in my row. Having had a long week at work, I felt even myself drifting off throughout the play. That is when something that Jane said in “Sweet and Sad” caught my ear, as she described how the audience was just as much part of the play as the actors–they bring to the play how they feel on a particular day, the emotions that they deal with, etc. How ironic, I thought, as many in this audience were asleep. Does this say something more about the character of those in the audience–that many came in, just as I, after a long week of work or in the middle of an emotional crisis–or about the play itself–that it was not captivating?

    So, if the audience is indeed as much of the play as the actors, it seems to me that the audience reflected the character of the play–slow, disengaged, tired. I think it is true what Ari said as we exited the play, that our minds learn what is important about a play and disengage during those parts that are not important. With that in mind while thinking about “Sweet and Sad,” it would seem that not much of its content, acting, or direction was maybe important or relevant, as it was unable to effectively engage its audience.

  9. “Sweet and Sad” was actually much more enjoyable to me than the first play of this series, “That Hopey Changey Thing”. We briefly discussed how the second piece was a little more relatable for people my age. We were able to identify with a few of the themes presented—the experience of witnessing the 9/11 attacks, troubled youth—indicated by the suicide of Marian’s daughter. One moment that really stood out to me was Barbara and Tim’s contribution to the discussion about the 9/11 attacks. They introduced a very controversial idea by questioning the heroism of the people who lost their lives in the attacks. I believe Tim told a story about a parent who had lost their child, who was wondering why they called the child a hero. The child was a victim surely, but what made him or her a hero? Were the firemen and women who worked relentlessly at ground zero really heroes- martyrs? What makes us want to heroify Americans that die in tragedies? Does it in fact justify desires to invade the countries of attackers? Does it reinforce our patriotism and love for our country? Or, with great respect to those that did lose their lives in the attacks, is it bullshit? Barbara, who discussed how the government will give monetary donations to the surviving family members of victims in the attacks, really opened my eyes to another idea. Why are victims of national attacks given money, when thousands of others who die in our nation every year are given nothing? Something to think about.

    • I can understand calling firefighters, emergency crews and others who risked their lives helping people during 9/11 heroes. I can understand calling survivors of 9/11 heroes as they showed courage and perseverance to life in facing the great tragedy. And then there are those who perished during the tragedy. Maybe they did show courage and persevered as long as they could, but due to the severity of the situation which was beyond their control, they passed away. So when you think about it that way, they are heroes as well. Perhaps another reason the word “hero” is used is it simply sounds more dignified and noble than calling them “victims”. What else can we offer those who already passed away other than praising them and giving them a dignified name? Also, the word “victim” is negative. It makes citizens sound weak and lost. It victimizes citizens of America, which empowers the terrorists. The government wants to show its people are strong and do not cower towards terror.

  10. I think the structure of the Apple Family Play series is very entertaining. I appreciate that the story line grows and builds with each consecutive play. Ideally, the structure should keep the audience invested to the play itself -if you miss a play you won’t understand what is going on in the next one – and the series as a whole. This past Thursday our class went to see the second installment of the 4 play series. While I was very fond of the 1st play “The Hopey Changey Thing”, the second, “Sweet and Sad” did not grasp my attention in the same way. I’m not sure if it was due to the story line itself, or perhaps the tempo of the play.

    After leaving the first play I was interested to know if what appeared to be shaky familial relationships had grown stronger, if Uncle Ben’s conditions had worsened, and most importantly, what the actors were going to have to eat for dinner during the next hour and half installation of the series? I expected the second play to build upon the first, resolving issues and dramas while potentially introducing new plots. I was sad to see that the once robust relationship between Jane and Richard seemed to have diminished. I was shocked to find that Marian was now living with Barbara, and I was actually surprised to see that Jane was still dating Tim -although we learn that they had broken up and gotten back together.

    I found it appropriate, although grim, that the play took place on the anniversary of 9/11, a day which to our nation, triggers pain and sorrow but also remembrance at the memory of loss and danger. I thought this day was appropriate because we learn of the loss of Marion’s daughter Evan. While the family tends to recoil from the melancholy details of Evan and the impact that has to have on Marion. It is obvious that on the anniversary of the loss of thousands of lives, Marian is also grieving the loss of her child, and while on that day our nation remembers the heroes and victims of that tragic event, Marion remembers her daughter.

  11. “Sweet and Sad” is a highly compacted play containing a lot of stimulating topics of conversation blossoming one after the other. There are a lot of subtle foreshadowing and metaphors. However, as the dialogues in the play are rather tightly knit and fast paced, audience may not get a chance to understand all the fine details and take time to reflect on all the issues raised. Nevertheless, the play is enjoyable as it manages to explore interesting moral and political issues.
    One of the most memorable topics of discussion for me was the idea of compensation. Characters in the play raise questions of why we send troops to Iraq to fight the war. Why the government pays for people who passed away on 9/11 and whether those who die should be considered heroes or victims. The characters are unable to come up with answers to these questions, but does reflect on them and provide the audience some insight to their interpretations. I thought it was very clever of the playwright to tie these questions back to Richard losing vision in one eye. His poor sight of vision becomes a metaphor to what compensation is and whether it exists. “When one loses vision in one eye, does the other eye gets stronger?” Richard asks rhetorically. I have heard of stories of those who lost vision or hearing develop a stronger sense of touch to help them navigate their surroundings. However, human body does not automatically become stronger to “compensate” for its loss. I believe the mind trains the body to become stronger in order to overcome the loss. And it takes an enormous amount of time and practice to get use to the body’s new shortcomings. Perhaps there is no such thing as compensation. Similarly, I believe no matter how much the government pays for those who passed away due to 9/11, money cannot compensate for their lives.

  12. I saw “Sweet and Sad” at the Studio Theatre as part two of The Apple Family Plays. The play follows up “That Hopey-Changey Thing” as all the characters meet up for a second dinner more than a year later. We learn about some of the changes the characters have gone through (Jane and Tim have broken up and gotten back together, Marian’s daughter has committed suicide) and the ways that they have stayed the same (Ben still struggles with amnesia and identity, Richard still has doubts about the political system and left wing politics). The core of their discussion is in the backdrop of the anniversary of September 11th, as the characters struggle to make sense of the tragedy ten years later.

    The discussion I found most interesting was about the victims of 9/11 and the compensation their families receive from the government. The family wonders, why do families of 9/11 victims receive compensation? Marian points out that the government doesn’t pay people who die in car accidents. Are their deaths any less tragic? Similarly, people who died are called “heroes,” and Marian and other characters call this into question. Is death heroic? What kinds of death are more heroic than others? The conversation between characters was provocative, bold, and challenging.

    Like many other students, however, I had trouble really engaging with the Apple Family plays and the characters. While some moments held my attention better than others, overall I was confused at how all the different conversations related to each other, and what the main theme or takeaway was from the production. I can’t say I enjoyed myself or enjoyed this production. The fault perhaps could be with me rather than the play itself. Many times I have reread books at an older age and found much more meaning and even wisdom the second time around—it might be the same for a play like this. Then again maybe not, maybe this was just boring. If there is another showing of “Sweet and Sad” 20 years down the road I’ll round up the theater class and we’ll all have to go watch it again.

    • Hey Devin,

      I think it’s really refreshing to hear your talk about revisiting the themes and plots of stories when you get older. I never quite envisioned myself doing that for a play like “Sweet and Sad,” but perhaps that’s because I don’t take the time to revisit old stories. Despite all of that, I still ahve to say that I think I will still find this play to be confusing. Were it not, I think that the older members of the audience would have been far more astute and intrigued by the plot. I mean, they all fell asleep–and I refuse to blame it on their old age! If anything, I think it just takes a certain kind of individual to like this series. There may be absolutely nothing wrong with it, it’s just a difference in tastes. Good post.

  13. Once again I have to say that I was utterly disappointed with the Apple family series. The second play in the series, “Sweet and Sad,” although well performed completely failed to hold my attention. I often found myself thinking about homework that was due at the end of the week and how tired I was. Apparently most members of the audience also thought about how tired they were because throughout the entire play there were more than a handful of people sleeping at any given time. Even though I found this play to be fairly boring and uninteresting, it did have its merits.

    For a play set on an anniversary of 9/11, it didn’t have an extremely oppressive feeling. Most times when we commemorate the lives of the victims, there tends to be a dark and heavy cloud resting above our heads. This play, much like “That Hopey Changey thing,” didn’t let the topic at hand completely overwhelm its audience. For that, I appreciated the play. Nevertheless, this play was slightly different than the first. Aside from all of the shifts in the characters’ relationships with one another, there were also slight changes in the characters’ personalities. For instance, Richard seemed less happy and a lot more on edge. His sisters often pointed to the fact that his new job was pretentious and unfulfilling, Richard, however, seemed to know that. Even so, his outlook on life seemed to be despairingly grim.

    Although this play primarily focuses on 9/11, it kind of lingers in the background. Towards to the end of the play for example, the main focus had been on Marion and how she was coping (or not) with the suicide of her daughter. Even though this is a very sensitive and important subject, I think that it was extremely inappropriate to have it in this play. I don’t think it was inappropriate because of the topic, it was simply misplaced. Compared to the other storylines, Marion’s daughter seemed out of place and tacked on to the overall production. If anything, the series should focus more on Uncle Benjamin since his story is central to the entire series.

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