Overview (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
Incident at Vichy is a one-act play that takes place in a detention room in Vichy, France, during the German occupation. When the curtain opens, the stage reveals a grim setting with little furniture except for a long bench on which sit six men and a young boy. In the playwright’s words, these characters are “frozen there like members of a small orchestra at the moment before they begin to play.” In the course of the drama, each man anticipates and experiences a dreaded event: his being called into the office of the Nazi captain who is conducting an interrogation and checking identification papers to determine whether the detainee is Jewish. Before each summons, the characters demonstrate their mounting terror, fearful that the interrogation will result in their slaughter.
During the tense moments between interrogations, the detainees discuss their fears, their disbelief that their countrymen are detaining them, their alternating desire to flee and inability to escape for fear of being killed in the process. Each character reveals his own value system, from Marchand and his capitalistic businessman’s attitude to Prince Von Berg, who had fled Austria and rejected Nazism because of its vulgarity. Marchand’s and Von Berg’s summonses produce the same result: a white pass that means freedom. The reasons for the passes and the uses of those passes, however, are radically different.
Marchand’s words and actions suggest that,...
(The entire section is 1682 words.)
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