The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Connection is concerned with the staging of a play within the play, the inner play to be performed by heroin addicts and musicians. A few minutes before the play begins, the actors arrange themselves onstage; most of them are dozing. Dressed in suits, Jim Dunn, the producer of the play-within-the-play, and Jaybird, its author, enter. Jim introduces himself and Jaybird and comments on the media’s distorted treatment of narcotics, which, he says, are also the subject of the present play, supposedly written by Jaybird after living with drug addicts for several months. Jim is interrupted by one of the jazz musicians, who wants to know if the heroin dealer Cowboy is back. At this point, the distinction between the play’s reality and the play-within-the-play is blurred: The producer and the author become participants in their own play and interact with the actors they hired. Jim and Jaybird comment on the importance of jazz and its relation to drugs. Jaybird stresses that his play is as improvisatory as the jazz played onstage for about thirty minutes in each of the two acts. The two jazz musicians onstage are joined by two others.

Leach, the occupant of the apartment which Jim rented to film Jaybird’s play, asserts his leadership, complaining that he is the only one who eats, while his guests do nothing but sleep and make his apartment dirty. Leach is interrupted by Jim, who returns with two photographers—a black man in a white suit and a white man in a black suit; as the play unfolds the two photographers will gradually exchange their clothing and personalities. Then Jim introduces heroin addicts Leach, Solly, Ernie, and Sam and the four musicians and is again interrupted by questions about the arrival of Cowboy. Sam describes the state of heroin addiction as a constant running that is no worse than other people’s addiction to money, clothes, nature, medication, or vitamins. Solly adds that Sam’s vice happens to be illegal and explains that Sam is fed up with the uncertainty of waiting and that all he needs is hope. Ernie, tired of hearing about addictions and the human condition, announces that he was hired to play his trumpet that night. Unfortunately, he will be unable to take this job because he had to trade in his instrument at a pawnshop, and all he has left is the mouthpiece he blows time and again.

The dialogue is interrupted by the grotesque Harry, who walks into the apartment and, without saying a word, plugs in his portable phonograph and plays a Charlie Parker jazz record. After two minutes, during which everyone listens intently, Harry picks up the record and leaves again with his phonograph, still not saying a word. The musicians start playing but are soon interrupted by Jaybird, who accuses the actors of murdering his play because they are not presenting the characters he had laid out for them.

Leach and Solly decide to integrate Jaybird and the photographers into the action of the play, and Solly comments on the twentieth century’s antisocial attitude and its fascination with warfare. He then talks...

(The entire section is 1255 words.)