Amlin Gray Gerald Weales - Essay

Gerald Weales

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[How I Got That Story] is set in Amboland, a lightly fictionalized Vietnam which might stand for any place in which the American presence shores up a dictatorial government and the Americans display the combination of corruption and high platitude that such a situation demands. Although there is a deal of pretty obvious satirical comment on such American actions, the title suggests that the real subject is the role of the American press. Not exactly. The reporter, the play's protagonist, arrives in Amboland, alive with naivety and ambition, only to discover that he understands nothing and is continually pained and bewildered by people and events when he feels he should observe with professional objectivity. Since the first half of the play is broadly funny, my description may make it sound more solemn than it actually is, but the first act does set the theme which is reiterated in the second when the reporter, without ever losing his helpless and hopeless innocence, discards his calling and attempts to sink into an Amboland that does not want him….

Part of the appeal of [the play] … lies in the opportunities [it provides] … for thespic ingenuity, but there is more than technical games at work here. The [play consists] … of fragments; the characters are suggested, assumed rather than developed. American innocence abroad, as Vietnam taught us, can be deadly …, but the loss of that innocence … has brought not knowledge and individual strength, but uncertainty, unhappiness, disorientation. It needs no well-made play to tell us that. The form of [the play] … reflects [its] … subject matter. (p. 244)

Gerald Weales, "Goodbye to all That: Loss Is More," in Commonweal (copyright © 1982 Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.; reprinted by permission of Commonweal Foundation), Vol. CIX, No. 8, April 23, 1982, pp. 243-44.∗