Tennessee Williams with a comic twist

This is my review of The American Plan by Richard Greenberg.

First produced in 1990, but dated in its fifties setting, this play with its focus on a neurotic young woman reminded me strongly of Tennessee Williams but with an often comic dialogue which seems at times out of kilter with the underlying pathos and forewarnings of possible tragedy.

In the remote Catskill Mountains, a beautiful although apparently unstable girl flirts with a young man who climbs up from a lake onto the jetty where she sits reading. Is her widowed German Jewish mother really a control freak who has spent several previous summers scaring off her daughter's boyfriends, and will she do so again? Is the young man himself quite what he seems? Who is the the publisher of about the same age who insinuates himself into the isolated household shortly afterwards?

This is about the blighting effect of lies, and the way in which people may be reduced to inaction by conflicting desires and emotions.

Greenberg develops some interesting relationships, such as that between the snobbish, prejudiced mother and her enigmatic black servant, who is prepared to "play her part" in public whilst communicating with her in an almost equal role of companionship in private. The author establishes an intriguing drama which promises much, although I found the ending rather flat and disappointing. His suggestion that "happiness is for others" seems a bit trite, simplistic and unmoving in its self-absorbed excuse for passive acceptance of life's blows.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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