The stage sets in both acts are dominated by books, symbolizing the importance of literature to Isaac. His guilt at having survived, when his family was murdered by the Germans, so saturates his soul that he publishes works about Nazi atrocities in the hope that they will find readers and will not compromise by publishing a novel that may be a best-seller. His doggedness is admirable but makes him inflexible. The walls of books that surround him in both office and home symbolize his rigidity; without them, he is afraid he will weaken and crumble.
However, it is the family drama that really commands the audience’s attention. Baitz has based his play, in part, upon William Shakespeare’s King Lear (pr. c. 1605-1606, pb. 1608), in which Lear decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters but angrily disinherits Cordelia when she will not lavishly flatter him as do Goneril and Regan. The two daughters who take over the kingdom soon show their ingratitude and even force Lear outside in a storm, where, in the course of a wild night, he realizes how selfishly he has behaved. Like Lear, Isaac appears to be slowly losing his mind, though it is unclear to what extent he realizes that he has destroyed his family. Like Lear, Isaac gives too much responsibility to his children while wanting to retain all authority and finds himself losing control because of his inflexible standards and demands. However, after a night stormy in snow and in...
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