Themes and Meanings
Two for the Seesaw tries to show that even though two people are ill-suited to spend their lives together, their fleeting but intimate contact gives them new insights which will improve their separate lives in the future. Most of the original reviewers concentrated on Henry Fonda, who played Jerry Ryan, and were even more laudatory about the young actor, Anne Bancroft, who played Gittel. Interestingly, when a musical adaptation called Seesaw appeared on Broadway in 1973 (fifteen years after the original play), with much of the original dialogue intact, many reviewers noted some of the factors which weighted the seesaw in favor of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) Jerry Ryan and against the Jewish Gittel Mosca. Presumably having gone through the 1960’s, they felt freer to critique the play on this basis.
From the beginning, Gittel’s New York accent contrasts with Jerry’s cultured speech. She is shown as a lovable loser; he is pictured as a man temporarily confused but an eventual winner. Jerry makes jokes which Gittel does not understand because she takes everything literally. For example, there is an interchange between them at their first meeting. She asks Jerry what state he is from and he answers, “Nebraska,” after which Gittel says, “Nebraska. That’s somewhere way out in California, isn’t it?” Gittel is not aware of the patronizing tone of Jerry’s reply: “I think it’s Nevada that’s in California.”
In the course of the play, Gittel...
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