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The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden & Pullman Car Hiawatha
By Robert Hicks
A woman is the central figure in both plays. The first play dramatizes the Kirby family's simple journey in their Chevrolet to elder daughter Beulah's house in Camden. But there is more to this play than the banal rituals of a family excursion. Along the way, Ma reprimands her son Arthur for his wisecrack about her pious devotion to God. Her daughter Caroline is a daydreamer, but when she spits out the car window, Ma scolds her too. Ma is a strong woman who has a habit of sitting in judgment of other people, but she cares little about what others think of her. She has lost a son to war, so she is resigned to the inevitability of death. Another tragedy awaits her when the family arrives in Camden. Despite another loss of life, she knows people must continue to go about their business, placing their faith in a benevolent God, even if mankind doesn't understand how He controls the universe.
In Pullman Car Hiawatha, Wilder reveals the outer and inner lives of train passengers en route from New York to Chicago. A Stage Manager orchestrates our understanding of these people's lives. We see how trivial and irritating they can act toward one another and how separated are their lives. An insane woman screams, announcing her desire to get off the train and return to New York. Later, she believes archangels have come for her. Unburdened now by her own thoughts, she remains misunderstood, so she is resigned to wait for death.
A Stage Manager summons the geographical, meteorological, astronomical and theological forces of a cacophonous universe. Amid all the activity, what captures our attention is Harriet Milbury, a young ill woman who unexpectedly dies in her berth. Archangels in blue serge suits gently take her away to heaven. She does not accept death. She'd rather be a ghost, roaming her house in the presence of her husband Philip. Harriet has lived an unfulfilled life and she seeks punishment for her shortcomings, so she can renew her self-identity. A doctor consoles her disconsolate husband. Harriet's final sad goodbyes anticipate Emily's farewell in Wilder's later, classic play, Our Town.
LINKS TO OTHER REVIEWS OF THORNTON WILDER PLAY
The Skin Of Our Teeth; (London)
The Skin Of Our Teeth/
The Skin Of Our Teeth (Berkshires)
Wilder, Wilder (Berkshires)
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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Go here for details and larger image.