The second volume of Tom Anselmo plays Three 1-Act Plays (Red Brindle Press, 2006) is not a series like the first one Gail’s Place by virtue of the same protagonist and unity of place, but by the common motif resolution of self’s internal conflicts. As Anselmo puts it in his preface to the plays ‘I write about people who are on the verge of self-discovery’, the book causes the conflicts in an individual’s mind peep through the voice of the leading characters. As the person in the story discovers his or her own suppressed urges, values of familial love, commitment, and obligation undergo critical scanning.
The plays begin with Matt and Sara, set in a resort, in which the protagonists consciously deny themselves aspects of their personalities that society might find obnoxious. Matt gives up speaking in company to evade any awkwardness on account of his stuttering. Sara is a self-restrainer, ashamed of her aunt’s showy manners practiced for winning men’s affection. Their need and struggle for self-acceptance bring them together on common grounds. The theme of the play symbolically comes out to be the victory of human understanding over flirtatious ostentation in any meaningful relationship.
Getting deeper to the core of the conflict is The Voices, a play in which two different impulses of Cathy, the heroine, are personified characters. The issue at hand is Cathy’s suspicion of Steve in regard to his sincerity to Ellie, Cathy’s friend and Steve’s girlfriend. Cathy has seen Steve with another young woman in way that makes her inner voices contend for keeping or revealing the incident to Ellie. The first voice presses on retaining the secret for the sake of intimacy while the second one is resolved on squaring things at the surface for the sake of making relationships better. Anselmo presented the conflict in Gail’s Place. Only this time both impulses are vis-à-vis, sweeping dust off the true nature of social reality: is social reality there as matter of course, or is it created when one impulse gets over the others to seize the self? The author leaves the question open to the audience, to be taken up by their own inner voices.
Summing up the argument between the inner voices in the third play Penny is again Gail Stanza, heroine of Anselmo’s trilogy of 2-act plays Gail’s Place. Eponymous Penny is Gail’s sister in law who has continued pampering her husband Robby despite his repeated indulgence in gambling. As Penny asks Gail for help with their debt, Gail reacts crossly to Penny’s blind devotion to her husband in the name of love. The dialogue between Gail, Ron, and Penny brings out the issue of familial obligation versus common sense. The underlying question is whether sympathy should be furthered or checked when one’s peace of mind is knuckling under it.
Anselmo’s plays renovate the tradition of serious drama by invoking a debate over the limitations of social norms and individual obligation to follow them. The scope of his discussion is multifold, pertinent to matters of family, sense, obligation, spontaneity of one’s self, and discovery of new ways of existing against the modus vivendi.
Anselmo’s Three 1-Act Plays is the thoughtful mind’s donut.