Awkwardness in The Bald Soprano

I attended the Thursday night showing of The Bald Soprano, the first thing I noticed that wasn’t nearly as prominent in the book was the sheer awkwardness of everything in the play. In the book it just seemed like a bunch of British people yelling gibberish at each other, but it was so much more awkward when acted out. The audience actually started laughing out of pure discomfort several times throughout the play. The first few chuckles occurred when the clock sounded over and over and over and after about five times it became unsettling.

Each of the props were carefully selected to simultaneously fit in with the whole “perfect suburban family” theme, but also be as ridiculous as the dialogue. Even the yarn that Mrs. Smith is knitting is absurdly pink. The outfits were dramatic, the portraits were oversized, and the clock was giant, which all just added to the whole effect. The clock in itself is a character, it drew plenty of attention to itself with the sound effects and crazy motions, if it had been any other play there would have been no need for it to be so huge, but in The Bald Soprano it worked perfectly.

Every time the maid, played by Summer McCollough, spoke the audience laughed.  Sometimes it was out of discomfort, but other times it was because what she would say would further derail an already falling apart image of what this evening, or dinner, was supposed to be. After the whole scene of the Martins discovering that they know each other and are married and have a daughter, with so much in common that they live in the same apartment and sleep in the same bed, the maid, Mary (if that is her real name), just waltzes out and gleefully tells the audience that they are not in fact who they believe they have just discovered they are. She delivered many of her lines with such inflections that they sounded even more ridiculous.

It was a bit uncomfortable when the women started arguing with the men over whether when the doorbell rings someone is always there and someone is never there, each being so sure that they are right, but the last time the doorbell rang and it was the fire chief, played by Jonas Maines. As soon as he walked in the whole audience knew thing were about to get more awkward. The men and the women were fawning over him offering him a seat asking him to tell stories. His stories didn’t make much sense, but neither did much else in the play so it worked quite well. It was easy to see all of the characters had a little bit of a crush on the fire chief.

After a bit of ridiculous story telling, the maid walked in, asking to tell a story. At first the Martins and the Smiths were yelling that she was out of place, but the fire chief wanted to hear. They realized they both knew each other and boy they did not hold back at all. They both started exaggerating their lines and adding a breathiness to them, and then began advancing towards each other with blatant sexual tension. The whole audience started giggle and squirming watching them go further and further. The other characters were appalled, although they didn’t lose any respect for the fire chief. The whole room physically felt awkward watching the two paw at each other, but it was so funny, and the audience’s reactions just made it funnier. Finally, the maid had to be carried out and the characters each composed themselves and calmly, but dramatically, said goodbye to the fire chief.

The Uncanny in The Yellow Wall-Paper

In Freud’s The Uncanny we learn that the uncanny is what is both familiar and mysterious, in such a way that it is unsettling. What is uncanny is different to each person. For the narrator in Charlotte Perkins Stetson’s The Yellow Wall-Paper many things incite the phenomenon of “The Uncanny.” The most obvious is the wall-paper itself, the more she learns its details the more it unsettles her, but there are other things. In the beginning she is wary of her brother and husband and sister-in-law, but only as much as any anxious person would be. As the story continues she becomes consistently more paranoid until she is completely untrusting of those around her.

It’s easy to assume that the narrator is hallucinating throughout the entire story. The solitude and heavy restrictions caused her to go completely mad. She is so alone she creates company for herself by imagining life within the wallpaper. She pictures another woman trapped in the room behind the paper, even more restricted than she herself is. As the story continues the hallucinations become more vivid and she allows them to further overtake her mind. By the end of the story she is so deluded that she becomes the woman in the wallpaper. She is no longer anxious at the end of the story because she’s able to create the feeling of freedom. By creating the character of the woman in the wallpaper and transforming into her as she rips away the paper she creates that feeling of release for herself. Her husband faints at the end realizing he’s blindly accepted his wife is getting better, but all the while his actions and firm hand were driving her crazy.

Because the story is fictional, there is always the possibility that the narrator was either the woman in the wall-paper the entire time, only pretending the people in the house were there for her, or the narrator really did become the character in the wall-paper in a supernatural plot twist. The unreliable narrator creates more mystery. The consistent “uncanny” theme that fits each of these possibilities is the way everything is perceived by John, the narrators husband. He fears his wife is becoming nervous and distant, changing for the worse, but he also believes he can and is making her better. While the reader never gets to directly see his perspective, the narrator paints a relatively clear picture of what he sees. The more he feels that she is getting better the more he is losing her. In each scenario John’s wife isn’t who he thinks she is, he’s not completely oblivious to her “condition,” however he is misreading it.