The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

A two-act play with an epilogue, Short Eyes takes place in a New York prison. The play’s action covers the course of one day in a cell-block dayroom of the prison, and the audience is introduced to the grind of prison life, the characters sharing the dayroom, and the relationships among these prisoners. The play opens with a traditional roll call, as the prisoners’ disembodied voices call out their locations for dayroom assignments. As Ice, Omar, Longshoe, El Raheem, Paco, Juan, and Cupcakes enter the “B” side of the dayroom, the play begins to distinguish among their characters and establishes their relationships with one another. The inmates alternatively argue, play cards, fight, “jam,” cajole one another, and familiarize the audience with prison slang, such as “plexes” (psychological complexes) and “on the help” (a prison job).

Such an apparently “normal” day is interrupted as Clark Davis enters, a white man with whom Longshoe initially attempts a connection based on race. Longshoe explains the complex “protection” network among white, black, and Hispanic prisoners, attempting to advise Davis about survival. However, he is horrified and nearly violent when he discovers that Davis is a “short eyes,” prison slang for a pedophile. All the inmates exit and return to their cells for the count, while Juan remains behind, cleaning, with Davis. Left with Juan, Davis makes a full confession of his pedophilia, and Juan responds with disgust. The others return to harass Davis, and the act closes as they force Davis’s head into the toilet while he screams.

Act 2 opens thirty minutes later, with the same group of inmates reading, writing, playing chess, and exercising. Davis is not in the dayroom but has been called for a lineup. The clowning and discussion continues as Longshoe shares “heist” (drugs) with several of his fellow inmates. As Cupcakes leaves to shower, Mr. Nett arrives “on the gate” to...

(The entire section is 804 words.)