Last Friday evening I attended the opening of THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS at Town and Country Players. The play was written by William Inge and opened on Broadway in December of 1957. Inge wrote PICNIC, BUS STOP and COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA. DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS was a play he dedicated to Tennessee Williams who he admired very much. It is set in the 1920’s and shows us that although things have changed drastically over the last 90 years, the human condition stays very much the same.
I talked with the shows director, Kate Fishman, several weeks ago. We discussed the challenges in attracting an audience to a drama. Comedies and musical presentations seem to appeal to audiences. There is a lovely escape in laughter and music, well, music lifts our spirits and speaks to the soul. But drama forces us to look at ourselves. Drama makes us think. It gives us the opportunity to look at situations from several points of view.
THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS is a show that urges reflection. Serious subjects are explored that still plague families today. People are still losing jobs and finding themselves obsolete in a changing world. Kids are still being bullied and broken hearts are still masked with smiles and bravado. In DARK, we see the rapid changes of the 20’s adversely affect the Flood Family. Rubin sells harnesses for a living in a time when people are turning to the automobile. He can no longer provide for his family. His inability to communicate his declining income and his fear of losing his job leads him to drinking, hanging at the pool hall and other distractions. His wife, Cora, can’t see what is really going on and feels he is neglecting the children. She overcompensates by doting on, spoiling and babying them. She suspects that he is having an affair. The family is the epitome of dysfunction. Sound familiar? Today we face many of the same problems as technology makes some traditional jobs obsolete. Enter Sammy a seemingly happy go lucky kid who puts a smile on the face of everyone in the family. Sammy like the young Flood boy is a victim of bullying and prejudice. Just pick up the paper or listen to the nightly news, the stories today are still the same and the consequences just as tragic.
The show is divided into three acts. In the first act, the basic problems and dysfunction are presented. The characters are understated in spite of the darkness of the material. The second act brings needed levity and some comedy to relieve the tension of the story as we are introduced to Cora’s sister and her husband. It is soon evident that what appears funny and lighthearted is simply a mask for heartbreak. Act three pulls it all together and gives us hope that these characters will indeed find their way.
All the actors in DARK are from Bucks and Montgomery Counties. The show will be running for two more weekends. I urge you to see it and support our local thespians. Community Theater really is alive and well in Bucks County.
For tickets and additional information go to the web site at: http://www.townandcountryplayers.org/