Thomas Hardy didactically preserved his Tess, a young woman who attempted to be honest in her intimate relationship by revealing her secret, and thus ended at the gallows. Tom Anselmo takes care to let his Gail clinch a footing in both her inner and social worlds as she unveils the mask of falsity in relationships. Anselmo’s first volume of plays is a trilogy of two-act plays by the title Gail’s Place (Red Brindle Press, 2006). While each plays stands on its own plot, central to all is Gail Stanza’s character, a woman who is bent on reconciling her inner self with that of her social role by cracking secrets that tend to stifle one’s individuality and true identity.
The opening play Secret Burdens centers Gail Stanza at the heart of their party in the honor of their friends’ marriage anniversary. While Lily attributes her marriage’s success to care in keeping secrets from the spouse, as do Mark and Evelyn, Gail is disposed nearly in excess to resurrect past grievances so as to ensure calm in the future. Gail’s character has no hint of sullenness about her and so the audience is likely to appreciate her assertiveness as the moral implications of it unfold.
Clues starts as a detective drama with Evelyn Harper lying in coma in the hospital. Gail’s speculations about Mark are turning into reality and the question of responsibility arises from the depth of Gail’s character. We meet Gail’s inner self, personified, and conversing with Gail over shutting down of vital human sensibilities. Gail’s self-conscious speech makes her a lovable character: ‘I have the distinguished honor of being a big-mouth.’ And her pride in her truthfulness is an impetus to secretive sufferers like Margaret: ‘I’m glad I don’t have the kind of ties that turn us into moral pretzels.’ As Gail scatters the shards of hypocrisy for good, Lily sees her own inner self, clad in a shroud, rising and walking. Anselmo’s genius shows, not tells, how to connect with your being’s center.
The third play The Place moves the argument closer into Gail’s home as her husband Ron finds himself at odds with his inner self against his colleague’s promotion grounded on Ron’s support. Carl is suspected of sexual harassment of one of his students. Again it is Gail who goads her husband to act in harmony with his inner voice. Gail’s personified, abstract, self finds a mate in form of Ron’s resurrected center. Alongside we see the false consciousness of Lynn, Carl’s wife, who accepts compromise as matter of course.
Anselmo has fixed the familiar signboard of serious drama in the history of modern literature. With no foul language, no hip-hop mania, conscientious protagonists, and character-driven situations, Anselmo’s plays speak the truth about the nature of secrets, their implications, and behavioral significance.
The serious subject matter and ease of writing style place Anselmo’s book among lovable reads.