The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Absurd Person Singular takes place on the Christmas Eve of three consecutive years—past, present, and future—when three couples gather to celebrate the festive season. Each act takes place in a kitchen, with the events taking place in the rest of the house authenticated by offstage noises, the raucous laughter of Dick and Lottie Potter, who in fact never show their faces, and the Jacksons’ large, gruff-sounding dog.

Act 1 is set in the kitchen of Jane and Sidney Hopcroft. Husband and wife are in a state of panic, anxious to impress their guests. Sidney is struggling to climb the social ladder, whereas Geoffrey Jackson and Ronald Brewster-Wright are already successful businessmen. As Sidney and Jane bungle their way through the evening, the other characters find themselves in the kitchen for varying reasons, usually farcical. One of the first to appear, Marion, appears attractive but cynical. Her laudatory remarks about the Hopcrofts’ kitchen are so exaggerated as to be sarcastic and false, and her attitude epitomizes the overly polite scorn which the upper middle class feels for the merely respectable middle class. Ronald, her husband, is by contrast pleasant and relaxed, but incapable of standing up to Marion.

When they return to the living room, Jane Hopcroft enters the kitchen in a state of utter dismay; she has forgotten to buy tonic water. Always ready to play the martyr, she dons a ridiculous outfit consisting of a huge raincoat, a trilby hat, and outsized Wellington boots. In this ensemble, she launches herself out the back door, only to find herself exiled from the party for the rest of the evening. Her absence is remarked on only with the utmost politeness, and the evening continues with everyone being exceedingly nice to one another. Act 1 gives the audience an insight into the characters’ personalities as well as the relationships existing among the three couples. Eva Jackson establishes herself as a self-confessed pill addict, whose husband has led her to believe that she will go insane without tablets and who thinks that she is a spare part in their marriage. Only the Hopcrofts appear to have a stable marriage, based as it is on the purely practical. The act closes with the guests gone and Jane once again polishing the spotless kitchen surfaces, her equilibrium restored.

Act 2 is set in the present, this time in the kitchen of Geoffrey and Eva Jackson, which proves to be quite a contrast to the...

(The entire section is 1005 words.)