In Absurd Person Singular, Alan Ayckbourn analyzes the rise and fall of the middle classes, the precariousness of status within class, and the way in which that status is determined by economic and social behavior. The play is also an illustration of marital relations, their equally precarious state, and their ability to improve or worsen according to wealth and position. Each act presents a view of each couple’s relationship and personality; they are in turn hosts and visitors, and their behavior as one or the other highlights their private and social abilities or inadequacies. While it is easy to interpret the social veneer each character imposes by banal chatter or gushing enthusiasm, it is important to recognize how each of them is the victim of betrayal, usually and ironically by his or her own hand.
Ayckbourn peers into the essence of human egotism, allowing his characters to blunder repeatedly and to betray their weaknesses, all the time believing themselves to be socially adept and perfect as marital partners. In turn, the audience has its ego massaged by being permitted to perceive what a character cannot fathom about himself or herself. The petty self-importance of the upwardly mobile and the nouveau riche is lampooned, along with the meaninglessness of the whole class struggle and its obsessions with appearances.
Each couple represents a parody of success in a varying way. The Hopcrofts must appear successful; they care...
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