Chris Keller

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‘So who flew those P-40’s, pigs?’ (Act Two)

 

On the surface Chris seems like a straightforward character. Dig a little deeper and he turns into an enigma. What he says and what he does are often two different things. Always a great find in theatre!

 

  • He is presented as an idealist but never rejects the money his father makes.
  • He’s upset that the war didn’t really change the world, but when he returns from the war goes right to working in his father’s plant. He doesn’t carry through on his words.
  • He tells Ann how difficult having money and materialism has been for him after the war, but the instant Ann agrees to marry him, he declares he’s going to make a ‘fortune’ for her.
  • He chastises Joe’s ‘talent’ for ignoring things. But Chris has the same talent – it is revealed at the end of the play that Chris suspected Joe and did nothing.
  • He’s presented by Ann as someone who speaks the truth. But Chris also has the same talent for lying that Joe has. He says that none of the neighbours talk about Ann’s dad anymore, which isn’t true. He supports the lie that Larry is alive.

 

Activities and Exercises

 

  • Chris is described in his initial stage direction as: ‘solidly built, a listener. A man capable of immense affection and loyalty.’ Give this description to students before reading the play. Have the students stand and create a physical presence for him. How do these descriptive words become three-dimensional?
  • Alternatively, draw a picture or choose pictures of someone who fits this description. Then once students have read the play, have them draw a picture of Chris. Compare and contrast the two pictures.
  • What are the physical similarities between Chris and Joe? Are they built the same way? Do they have a similar laugh? An identical gesture? Read the opening conversation between Chris and Joe establishing the physical nature of both characters. If Joe is a boxer, what is Chris?
  • Now that you’ve established each character’s physical presence, switch the lines but keep the presence (So Joe would read Chris’ lines keeping Joe’s physical presence and vice versa). What is the response from those observing the scene?
  • In groups, define what it means to be a good son. What does that mean in the present day? Now give each group a character (Chris, Joe, Kate, and George) and define what it means to be a good son for each of these characters. How do these definitions compare and contrast with your own?
  • In groups discuss Chris and Ann’s relationship. Chris has been writing to Ann for the past two years, but has not seen her since the war. Why do you think Chris went after Ann? What is the timeline of his feelings for her? When did Ann know that she was in love with him?
  • Write Chris’ first letter to Ann and Ann’s first letter to Chris. What initially prompts Chris to write to her?
  • In groups decide what Chris was like during the war. Jim says that he was known as ‘Mother McKeller.’ Kate says she heard he was a ‘killer.’ Which is the more accurate description and why? Create an improv of Chris interacting with his soldiers during the war.
  • What was Chris and Larry’s relationship like? Improv a scene between the two brothers. Now add Ann into the mix. What were the three like together? Did Chris like Ann when she was dating Larry?

 

Questions To Answer

 

  1. Does Chris live up to his description in his initial stage directions?
  2. Chris also says that he likes to keep ‘abreast’ of his ignorance. How does his ignorance differ from Joe?
  3. He says he’s a good son and a good sucker: In what way has Chris been a sucker? Is this statement true or an exaggeration?
  4. What are the differences between what Chris says and what he does?
  5. Does Chris idolize his father?
  6. Chris says that he never saw Joe as a man – “I saw you as my father.” What does this quote mean?
  7. Is Chris better than Joe? Why or Why not?
  8. Is Chris right or wrong to pursue Ann?

 

 

 

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