Abraham B. Yehoshua Eli Pfefferkorn - Essay

Eli Pfefferkorn

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Yehoshua] brings to his plays a knack for structural compactness, for manipulation of character and for creating a sense of an impending turning point. All these dramatic commodities are dynamically galvanized by a dialogue that rapidly alternates between poignant staccato utterances and a kind of lingering meditative lyricism. Using a dramatic strategy similar to that of Pinter in The Birthday Party and The Homecoming, Yehoshua gradually builds up a situation fraught with emotional tension that is abruptly discharged in a fierce dialogue by characters engaged in a series of interpersonal confrontations. Unlike Pinter's characters, however, who openly display an impulse toward wanton destructiveness, Yehoshua's dramatis personae often hide under the garb of urbane civility. Though not possessed by death, Yehoshua the playwright seems to enjoy depicting the emerging skull beneath the skin of his characters. Minutely exploring the tortuous contours of their psychic landscape, Yehoshua presents his characters as they abruptly vacillate between realism and fantasy. Out of joint with their immediate environment, they are either wearing an apocalyptic chip on their shoulders or else are hopelessly entangled in a psychological labyrinth. His [is a] predilection for the unique and the weird…. Yehoshua is at his best when engaging his characters in the game of psychological brinksmanship, pushing them to the extreme edge of their endurance. (pp. 198-99)

The compression of time and space [in "A Night in May"] functions as a catalyst to advance a series of sharp confrontations between the characters, whose latent conflicts are exposed in a nervous exchange of verbal fencing…. By the time the play has reached its climactic point in the middle of the third act, the emotionally wrought-up characters have spent themselves in a night of frenzied verbal combat. When the first rays of the Jerusalem dawn break through the window, the play makes its final movement, and the...

(The entire section is 819 words.)