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No Place to Be Somebody


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A: Charles Gordone Pf: 1969, New York Pb: 1969 G: Trag. in 3 acts; prose, verse, and songs S: Johnny's Bar, New York City, 1960s C: 11m, 5fJohnny's Bar is starting up for the day, and his staff arrive: Shanty, a young white would-be drummer; Melvin, a young black would-be dancer; and three hostesses, Dee, Johnny's white girlfriend, Cora, Shanty's black girlfriend, and Evie. Gabe, a young black writer and actor, comes in and performs a black militant poem. Mary Lou, a white civil rights protester, comes in for a drink, and Johnny tells her to stay away from black politics. Sweets Crane, an elderly black who was ‘like a father’ to Johnny, is released from jail. Sweets steals off Gabe and off a small-time Mafia crook, then reveals that he is dying and is leaving all his considerable property to Johnny. Cora buys a drum kit for Shanty, but his playing is unimpressive. Johnny starts seeing Mary Lou, whose father is a judge; Johnny hopes that she can find information from her father that may stop a mafioso Pete Zerroni from forcing Johnny to close his bar. Dee, feeling rejected, blacks her face, then slashes her wrists and dies. Mary steals information from her father, which Johnny is in fact going to use to blackmail Zerroni, so that he can set up his own black mafia. Judge Bolton, who is in Zerroni's pay, comes to retrieve the stolen information, and in a shoot-out, Sweets gets killed. When Johnny insists that he will continue to fight the war against the whites, Gabe is provoked into killing him.

A: Charles Gordone Pf: 1969, New York Pb: 1969 G: Trag. in 3 acts; prose, verse, and songs S: Johnny's Bar, New York City, 1960s C: 11m, 5f

This first black play to win a Pulitzer Prize attempts to take on too many issues: the bar setting and unfulfilled dreams, like a reprise of O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh; a B-movie theme about the corruption of the Mafia; questions raised about the relationships between blacks and whites and the legitimacy of using illegal methods in the liberation struggle; several emotional relationships; and the celebration of the delightfully unreformed character of Sweets.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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