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States of Shock


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A: Sam Shepard Pf: 1991, New York Pb: 1992, prose and songs G: Drama in 1 act S: Restaurant in indeterminate location, early 1990s C: 3m, 2fA White Man and White Woman, dressed all in white, wait motionless in a restaurant for clam chowder. The Colonel pushing Stubbs in a wheelchair sits at another table and orders coffee and dessert. The Colonel is taking Stubbs out on the anniversary of the death of his son in battle, when Stubbs was wounded and rendered impotent by artillery fire. The Colonel tries to find out exactly how his son died, but Stubbs is evasive (later revealing that the son tried to desert and was accidentally killed by friendly fire). The Colonel toasts ‘the enemy’, for ‘without the enemy we're nothing’. At two points the restaurant becomes a battle scene; the manager dies and the cook is wounded, although the waitress Glory Bee had hoped that they ‘were invulnerable to attack’. The White Man refuses his clam chowder, so Glory Bee tips it in his lap. As he cleans himself up, he masturbates to a climax. The Colonel, showing Glory Bee how to carry drinks, breaks into a dance with her, and then plans to run away with her to Mexico. Stubbs staggers to his feet, and ends up embracing Glory Bee, finding himself no longer impotent. Suddenly Stubbs remembers: it was the Colonel who wounded him and killed his own son. Donning a gas mask, Stubbs is just about to decapitate the Colonel with his sword, when he freezes, and the others break into song.

A: Sam Shepard Pf: 1991, New York Pb: 1992, prose and songs G: Drama in 1 act S: Restaurant in indeterminate location, early 1990s C: 3m, 2f

Subtitled ‘a vaudeville nightmare’, Shepard's angry absurdist piece, reminiscent of early Albee, was written in response to the 1991 ‘Desert Storm’ repulsion of Iraq from Kuwait. However, its analysis of the ‘American nightmare’ (‘This country wasn't founded on spineless, spur-of-the-moment whimsy. The effects are international! universal!’) is even more relevant to the ‘war against terrorism’ and the invasion of Iraq a decade later. John Malkovich played the Colonel at the premiere.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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