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Curse of the Starving Class


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A: Sam Shepard Pf: 1978, New York Pb: 1976 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Living area of a farm on outskirts of a town, California, 1970s C: 7m, 2fElla's husband Weston is a drunkard, who has lost his job and only comes home violent to sleep off his drinking bouts. Her son Wesley looks after the farm, while her daughter Emma, a teenager, dreams of escaping from her squalid home life. Ella plans to sell the farm and move with her children to Europe to start a new life, while Weston dreams of selling the farm and moving to Mexico. Ella stays out overnight with a lawyer Taylor while she prepares the sale of the farm. Meanwhile, Weston has already sold the farm to a nightclub owner Ellis for a price that barely covers Weston's heavy debts. A policeman comes to report that he has arrested Emma for damage she has caused to Ellis's nightclub. Ellis seizes back the sale money and runs off, pursued by Wesley. The next day, Weston is a changed man, intending to start a new life. Wesley comes back bleeding from his encounter with Ellis, and, reminding his father about the money he owes, urges him to escape to Mexico. Emma returns home briefly and leaves to embark on a life of crime. Two enforcers blow up Weston's car as a warning that he will have to settle his debts, and mother and son await their impending eviction.

A: Sam Shepard Pf: 1978, New York Pb: 1976 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Living area of a farm on outskirts of a town, California, 1970s C: 7m, 2f

With their dreams of beginning a new life elsewhere and the financial pressure to sell the farm to developers, Shepard's characters are like impoverished versions of those in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. Despite being grittily naturalistic, Curse of the Starving Class contains bold theatrical elements, including a live lamb on stage, nakedness, and poetic monologues, especially the central image of the ‘curse’: an eagle that flies off with a cat, which defends itself so violently that both crash to the ground and die.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Sam Shepard (b. 1943)


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