The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Wings is an attempt to portray the world as it appears to a person who has just suffered a stroke. Spoken thoughts, recorded voices, and fragmented images all help to create the chaotic perceptions of the leading character’s mind. The “Prelude” to Wings begins with a simple picture: a cozy armchair in a pool of light with the sound of a clock ticking in the darkness. The lights fade, and when they return an elderly woman, Emily Stilson, is sitting in the armchair reading a book. The ticking sound is louder than before. Suddenly, Mrs. Stilson looks up and a portion of the setting disappears into the darkness. She tries to continue reading, and the clock skips a beat. The clock stops, and Mrs. Stilson drops her books and stares into space. The lights go to black.

Next a collage of images and sounds fills the stage. These consist of the images that Mrs. Stilson perceives, the sounds that surround her, and the words she thinks and speaks. The author clearly states that the particular order of these images and sounds will be developed in rehearsal. Visual images include dazzling whiteness, explosions of color, mirrors, and partial glimpses of doctors, nurses, and hospital equipment. The sounds include wind, random city noises, a siren “altered to resemble a woman screaming,” incomprehensible questions, and endless echoing. At the same time, Mrs. Stilson’s voice is heard questioning, reacting to her visions, describing her physical sensations, and attempting to determine a rational order.

The chaos fades to reveal Mrs. Stilson in a chair surrounded by darkness. Act 1, “Catastrophe,” depicts her struggle to overcome the effects of the stroke. She struggles with her sense of isolation and her inability to identify clearly the sounds and images that surround her. In broken speech interspersed with moments of clarity and some totally incomprehensible series of words, she attempts to create order out of the chaos. Gradually the outside world begins to take form, and Mrs. Stilson exclaims, “Oh my God! Now I understand! THEY’VE GOT ME!”

In a series of short scenes, Mrs. Stilson gradually is able to piece together some sense of her world, although speech is still impossible and information is presented too randomly and rapidly for her to discern clear meanings. Struggling to explain her condition and her surroundings, she comes to the conclusion that she was flying a plane and...

(The entire section is 997 words.)