Both are meta plays; almost vacuous.
Upstage Contributor Alison Louder spoke with Director Daniel Beresh about McGill Players Theatre current presentation. Below is an abridged version edited by Estelle Rosen, CharPo Editor-in-chief.
In studio is Daniel Beresh. We’ll be speaking about an Edward Albee double bill The American Dream and The Sandbox playing at McGill Players Theatre. How was opening night?
Fantastic. The actors really pulled the show together in a good way; I’m excited about the rest of the run
This was written in 1960 yet is incredibly relevant today.
You were telling me that you’re treating the two plays as two acts of one similar play.
They were both written by Edward Albee at about the same time. Both feature the same characters with a similar plot. I thought The Sandbox was a nice complement toThe American Dream.
The American Dream is an absurd play about family life in the 1950s. In The Sandbox we return to absurdism but we go deeper. The American Dream at the same time as absurd makes a great comment about society’s superficial values yet retains comedic value.
The Sandbox isn’t a comedy. So you leave the theatre at the same time as having been entertained...you think about our lives. This was written in 1960 yet is incredibly relevant today.
...it’s a play about listening; listening to each other and more often not listening to each other.
Why do you think it’s still relevant?
I think we’re faced with the same problems as Albee was trying to point out. For example capitalism; the drive to buy things just because they’re there. Also it’s a play about listening; listening to each other and more often not listening to each other. I see this as ultimately a problem because you’re having conversations with people and not really having a conversation at all.
Funny because as you’re talking, I’m listening, I’m taking notes so even this is so meta. Albee has a knack for taking the everyday and turning it into sometihng that’s explored in an interesting way. Most people know him for Who’s Afraid of Vrginia Woolf. You’ve obviously chosen not to do that play. Why are the characters in The American Dream and The Sandbox so important in relation to what we’re discussing and why do you think Albee decided to focus on their stories not once but twice?
What’s interesting about the characters is that they almost aren’t characters. Four of them don’t have names. They’re known as Mommy, Daddy, Grandma and Young Man. Even Mrs Barker, we don’t know her first name.
This is interesting because Mommy and Daddy don’t have a son so they’re married but not a Mommy and Daddy so Grandma isn’t really a grandma. Both are meta plays; almost vacuous. They’re calling each other mommy and daddy but they’re not mommy and daddy. They’re almost living this fake existence which they’ve created for themselves within the realm of the performance. It’s almost as if they have a sense of you sitting in the theatre and they’re putting on a performance for you and none of it is real.
The great thing about Albee is that we don’t have to construct it for ourselves.
What do you think Albee is trying to do with the absence of a relationship? In this case the child that isn’t there but that justifies mommy daddy grandma in our everyday lives. Do you think he’s using that in the context of his writing or are titles more reflective of audience perceptions of seeing actors of a certain age on stage?
I think Albee is trying to get at that kind of fake relationship you’re talking about. Not to spoil the play but the young man does come in and there’s a little discussion about whether he will then come in to fill the role. There’s a hint that Mommy and Daddy had a child in the past. The great thing about Albee is that we don’t have to construct it for ourselves.
Since working with this play, every time I re-read it I understand something else Yet mysterious elements remain. There’s so much depth in this play.
To Oct. 29