I believe this is the first time I have been able to read something by Don DeLillo. I’ve tried in the past, not recently. This is a play, his third, with four characters. Staging is minimal, consisting of chairs on the stage. Set changes are made by lighting, by who is on stage, by clothing changes for one character who is in a wheelchair.
He touches, in practically so many words, the big themes: life, death, familial and sexual love, time, compassion, generosity, jealousy, resentment, desire, beauty. A man, a painter, suffers one, then two, massive strokes. His family, such as it is, gathers.
They discuss him. But mostly they discuss themselves, their needs, wants, desires. He has a second wife, much younger. She focuses on the painter, but it is her love, in the end, that she wants to preserve. They discuss what is fair treatment, what is right and what is good, now, about his life. How long should it be preserved? He dies.
The spare dry air of the southwestern desert plains is clear in a few short sentences:
ALEXThat was before, before the strokes. Time grows short, and it is almost always time for bed. What is the good, the right, the fair thing to do?
I’m just here. In winter the sharp-shinned hawk comes down to the scrub. I can sit and watch a hawk in a tree for unnumbered hours. I’m on his time. He don’t move, I don’t move. I drive to the site and stay four five days at a time. Work and sweat. Talk Spanish to my crew.
Masterly in its control, this short play condenses a lot of experience into an hour or so, without giving us any sense that the answer given here finishes the debate. It is a moment, in a wide open plain, when the sun slowly sinks into the west and the Love-Lies-Bleeding evokes color, suffering, mystery. “That’s what being in the world means. At times we suffer.”
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