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The God of Hellby Sam Shepard
Synopses & Reviews
Set: Early morning. Interior, very simple Midwestern farmhouse. Frosty windows looking out to distant vague, snowbound pastures-no details. Two rooms separated by a simple kitchen counter. Small kitchen stage left with faded linoleum floor. Modest living room, stage right, with plank wood floor; small couch downstage right. Many potted plants of various sizes line the walls of the living room, not arranged with any sense of design or order. An exterior door upstage right leading out to a small mudroom and porch landing. A black cast-iron school bell hangs from the porch ceiling on a short rope. Stage left wall of kitchen has an open arched entranceway leading to other rooms dimly lit offstage. The usual kitchen appliances, cupboards, and sink-all dating from the fifties. Down left corner of kitchen is a semiconcealed staircase leading down to the basement, dim yellow light leaking up from stairs. Handrail and first flight of stairs leading down are all that's visible to the audience.
Lights up on EMMA in blue terry-cloth bathrobe, slippers, moving methodically back and forth from the kitchen sink, where she fills a yellow plastic pitcher with water and carries it to the plants. She waters plants and returns to refill pitcher, then repeats the process. FRANK, her husband, sits on couch with pair of work boots in his lap, greasing them with mink oil. It's a while before they speak.
EMMA: He's not up yet?
FRANK: Haven't heard him.
EMMA: I thought they were supposed to be early risers.
EMMA: These scientists.
FRANK: He's not a scientist. What made you think that?
EMMA: I thought you said he was a scientist.
EMMA: Well, what is he then?
FRANK: I'm not sure. I mean, I'm not sure about his official title.
EMMA: Official? So, he's working for the government or something?
FRANK: I think he's in research.
EMMA: I thought you said it was something to do with the government.
FRANK: No, I don't think I said that.
EMMA: Arms or something.
FRANK k: Arms?
FRANK: I don't know. It has initials.
EMMA: What does?
FRANK: The outfit he works for. Out there in Colorado. DMDS or SSCI or something like that. You know how everything has initials now.
EMMA: DMDS or SSCI? Is that what you said?
FRANK: Something like that.
EMMA: What the heck is that? What does that stand for?
FRANK: I have no idea, Emma. I wasn't really following it. He was kind of panicky on the phone.
FRANK: Yes. Panicky. Breathless. Like he was in a rush.
EMMA: Running away from something, maybe?
EMMA: Oh, flustered. That's different. Flustered.
(Pause. She continues watering.)
Well, how come I haven't met him before this? He's such an old friend of yours, supposedly.
frank: Supposedly? There's no "supposedly" about it.
EMMA: Well, how come you've hardly ever mentioned him?
FRANK: I don't know. He kind of disappeared for a while. I thought he was dead, actually.
FRANK: Yeah-or missing.
FRANK: Yeah-or tortured even.
EMMA: Tortured? My God
EMMA: What kind of research is he involved in where he gets tortured?
FRANK: I didn't say he was tortured. I said, I thought he mig
Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard's latest play is an uproarious, brilliantly provocative farce that brings the gifts of a quintessentially American playwright to bear on the current American dilemma. Frank and Emma are a quiet, respectable couple who raise cows on their Wisconsin farm. Soon after they agree to put up Frank's old friend Haynes, who is on the lam from a secret government project involving plutonium, they're visited by Welch, an unctuous government bureaucrat from hell. His aggressive patriotism puts Frank, Emma, and Haynes on the defensive, transforming a heartland American household into a scene of torture and promoting a radioactive brand of conformity with a dangerously long half life.
About the Author
Sam Shepard is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of more than forty-five plays. He was a finalist for the W. H. Smith Literary Award for his story collection Great Dream of Heaven, and he has also written the story collection Cruising Paradise, two collections of prose pieces, Motel Chronicles and Hawk Moon, and Rolling Thunder Logbook, a diary of Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Review tour. As an actor he has appeared in more than thirty films, and he received an Oscar nomination in 1984 for his performance in The Right Stuff. His screenplay for Paris, Texas won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, and he wrote and directed the film Far North in 1988. Shepard's plays, eleven of which have won Obie Awards, include Buried Child, The Late Henry Moss, Simpatico, Curse of the Starving Class, True West, Fool for Love, and A Lie of the Mind, which won a New York Drama Desk Award. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Shepard received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy in 1992, and in 1994 he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
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