The Symbolic Self-Awareness of The Sandbox's Characters

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The Symbolic Self-Awareness of The Sandbox's Characters

Post by Rachid Amri on Sun Mar 09, 2008 4:56 pm

The Symbolic Self-Awareness of The Sandbox's Characters
Jennifer Bayot, Junior
Through his one-act play The Sandbox, Edward Albee has extended the allegory; his characters not only exist as symbols, but are more than vaguely aware of themselves as such. As caricatures rather than characters, they maintain a consciousness of their presence on stage as well as the stereotypical rules and emotions they are meant to display. Specifically through Mommy and Daddy's vacuous and immediate shifts to "appropriate" attitudes, Edward Albee issues his value statement. In effect, Shakespeare's assessment that "All the world's a stage,/And all men and women merely players" has been reanalyzed and extended by Albee, culminating in a work which declares the conventional conception of death as affected and contrived.

Almost deceiving in its straightforwardness is the opening note on Mommy and Daddy and the "pre-senility and vacuity of their characters." Daddy's ensuing questions as to what is to be done, and Mommy's resulting composed answers set in motion the implication of an end-of-life ritual whose spiritual meaning has long since passed away. At one point, Daddy asks Mommy if they should conduct a conversation. Mommy responds, "Well, you can talk, if you want to...if you can think of anything to say...if you can think of anything new." Daddy's rejoinder in the negative establishes early on that his and Mommy's existences, and therefore actions, are hackneyed, artificial, mundane, and devoid of any true, personal meaning.

By the air of preparation which pervades the play, and by Grandma's death in the end, a connection is made, and The Sand Box is duly noted as Albee's address on custom surrounding the coming of life's passing. The creation of an W W W W W W in which the actors are aware of their presence of stage breaks ground for Albee's take on society's engagement in role-playing. Requesting appropriate background music, and making remarks on lighting, Albee's characters cannot escape discredit regarding the genuine. Similarly, Albee greets the close advance of death with the suitable stereotypes of sudden darkness, violin playing, "a violent off-stage rumble," and Mommy's brief tears.

Inevitably, the sincerity of Mommy and Daddy has been cast in doubt and all subsequent words and actions bear resemblance to conventions. In a remarkable shift of attitude, Mommy declares to Daddy: "Our long night is over. We must put away our mourning..." They do so by gazing at an inanimate Grandma and casually observing how "It's hard to be sad... she looks... so happy." Mommy's hesitation, and Albee's exclusion of a stage note recommending a serenely content-in-death Grandma, indicate the affected nature of Mommy's statement, and inherently, that of The Sand Box, as a whole.

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Re: The Symbolic Self-Awareness of The Sandbox's Characters

Post by rahma beji on Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:01 pm

The Sandbox is a one act play written by Edward Albee in 1959. The first performance of this play was April 15, 1960 in The Jazz Gallery in New York City.
The play is approximately 15 minutes long and touches on elements of the Alienation Effect by having the actors talk to the audience, acknowledge they are performers in a play, cue the musician, and deal with the sandbox as if it were the beach.
The P Mommy: (55, a well-dressed, imposing woman) She is Grandma's daughter. After marrying Daddy, she brings her mother from the farm and into their big town house in the city. She gives her mom an army blanket, her own dish, and a nice place under the stove.
Daddy: (60, a small man; gray, thin) He is the rich man that Mommy married.
Grandma: (86, a tiny, wizened woman with bright eyes) She is the protagonist of the play. She married a farmer at the age of 17. Her husband died when she was 30, and she raised Mommy by herself from there on. Grandma is at conflict with her family, society, and death.
The Young Man: (25, a good-looking, well-built boy in a bathing suit) He is the Angel of Death, performing calisthenics that suggest the beating of wings. He is from Southern California, but hasn't been given a name yet.
The Musician: (no particular age, but young would be nice) He does not speak and must be directed to play or stop playing his music.
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Plot
Beginning with brightest day, the Young Man is performing calisthenics (which he continues to do until the very end of the play) near a sandbox (or sandpit) at the beach. Mommy and Daddy have brought Grandma all the way out from the city and place her in the sandbox. As Mommy and Daddy wait nearby in some chairs, the Musician plays off and on according to what the other characters instruct him to do. Throughout the play, the Young Man is very pleasant, greeting the other characters with a smile as he says, "Hi!". As Mommy and Daddy cease to acknowledge Grandma while they wait, Grandma reverts from her childish behavior and begins to speak coherently to the audience. Grandma and the Young Man begin to converse with each other. Grandma feels comfortable talking with the Young Man as he treats her like a human being (whereas Mommy and Daddy imply through their actions and dialog that she is more of a chore that they must take care of). While still talking with the Young Man, she reminds someone off-stage that it should be nighttime by now. Once brightest day has become deepest night, Mommy and Daddy hear on-stage rumbling. Acknowledging that the sounds are literally coming from off-stage and not from thunder or breaking waves, Mommy knows that Grandma's death is here. As daylight resumes, Mommy briefly weeps by the sandbox before quickly exiting with Daddy. Although Grandma, who is lying down half buried in sand, has continued to mock the mourning of Mommy and Daddy, she soon realizes that she can no longer move. It is at this moment that the Young Man finally stops performing his calisthenics and approaches Grandma and the sandbox. As he directs her to be still, he reveals that he is the Angel of Death and says, "...I am come for you." Even though he says his line like a real amateur, Grandma compliments him and closes her eyes with a smile.

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