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The Director
Playwright D.L. Coburn
Dick Van Dyke
Mary Tyler Moore
Playing Fonsia
Themes and Conflicts
The Shoot
Key Scene Study

Themes and Conflicts

A Contest of Wills 


Weller is angry on the surface because Fonsia's winning all the games. But as it evolves and he begins to divulge things about himself then he gets angry at himself. And that emerges and takes over his character. She is seemingly more innocent in the beginning, and she seems to be just delighted that she's winning these games. But as she sees his hostility emerge she then gives vent to her memories of her life and where she had failed. And she can't quite forgive herself so she takes it out on him.

Fonsia certainly is a very religious person and was raised to be a lady and raised to always read the Bible and be fluent in it and call upon the Lord in the most embracing terms that one can, never to take the Lord's name in vain. And Weller is just the opposite. He's gone berserk. I have a feeling that he was probably like that even when he was young, before he started getting so inverted as a human being.

This is heady stuff, this is good stuff. It's timeless because it's truthful about human nature, and the human nature of people who have lead a kind of life. It's recognizable. You see it. You see parts of yourself in these characters.
 


Head Games 


The play is about the head games that people get into even in old age. Sometimes especially in old age. It's only then that you can feel free enough to recall the reality, the brutality of what you did in your life. It's not about, Oh my arthritis, or Oh my whatever. It's about the psychological dissipation, and the psychological hope that is out there.

Weller represents a lot of what her ex, now deceased, husband was. That maniacal determination to win, the use of foul language. All of those things really oppressed Fonsia. And now she sees it in him and so, in the strange way that we folk do - we tend to gravitate toward what we know, even though it's awful, even though it's bad for us and we hate it, you tend to want to go back to that. Child abusers produce child abusers, alcoholics beget alcoholics.

The play is about wasted opportunity. It's about a seemingly hopeless situation that presents a happy ending. The possibility of a happy ending. And in seeking it, how our pasts take us over and prevent that happy ending from occurring.
 


Hope and Tragedy 


I love the fact that it deals with older people and how insoluble it seems, dealing with deteriorating health and encroaching age. If you're very lucky you can stay in your own home with nursing care, but for the most part, people have to go into institutionalized care, and there's no way that can be anything but bleak.

I think the ray of hope is in showing these people before their own self-centered drive started pushing them beyond what was good. What hope there is, from new friendships, at a very later age.

You see how close these two people could have been. They could have been right for each other and they miss it. They just don't have it in them to make it happen.
 


 

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