‘If Larry were alive he wouldn’t act like this…’ (Joe, Act Three)
Even though Larry is never seen in the play, he’s an essential character to the story. He symbolizes the past. He symbolizes the war. He symbolizes the height of idealism. The revelation that he purposefully crashed his plane brings the ‘fake past’ crashing to a halt for the Kellers. It’s impossible for the characters to continue on as they have with this revelation. They must address the truth and move forward. Joe chooses to kill himself rather than face prosecution. Kate finally let’s the past go in a fashion: “Don’t take it on yourself. Forget now. Live.” (Act Three)
It’s interesting to think about how the present would have turned out for these characters if Larry had lived. Given how he ended his life, there is certainly the notion that of all the characters in the play he would not have let a suburban life get in the way of the truth.
Activities and Exercises
- Create a picture of what Larry looks like. Is he solidly built like Chris? Completely different? We know he’s an idealist, how does that translate to his physical presence?
- In groups create a specific memory of Larry for each character.
- Imagine a confrontation between Larry and Joe. How would it go?
‘I resent living next door to the Holy Family.’ (Sue, Act Two)
Jim, Sue, Frank and Lydia are the neighbours on either side of the Kellers. Frank and Lydia have been around the Kellers a long time. Frank knows Annie, and Lydia used to date George. Jim and Sue moved into the Deevers’ old house. The Deevers left after Steve Deever was sent to jail.
The purpose of Jim and Sue is clear in the play. If the Kellers are the fake perfect suburban family, Jim and Sue are the real deal. Jim is weary and aware of what he’s given up for money. Sue is bitter and angry all the time even though she has exactly what she wants. The two clearly have no love for each other anymore. They both know Joe is guilty and choose to keep quiet.
What is the purpose of Frank and Lydia? What do they offer to the landscape? They are well off – Frank’s house is paid for – and have a lot of leisure time. Frank sees movies and does horoscopes. Lydia designs hats. They always seem happy, if a little dim. Neither has a true sense of reality or the real world.
Activities and Exercises
- Improv conversations between Jim and Sue, and Frank and Lydia. How do they talk about the Kellers behind closed doors?
‘You know in your heart Joe did it.’ (Act Two)
George is the messenger character. He’s the one who brings the bad news. The truth. The other characters try to placate him, woo him with the past, seduce him with grape juice and food. And because the pull of the past is so strong in the Keller’s back yard, George almost falls for it. As a character, George is like that. It seems that he’s always falling for something, rather than leading the way. This the first time he’s stood up. When Kate slips and tells the truth when she should have told a lie, George rises up. He delivers his truth, which starts the collapse of the Keller’s perfect suburban life.
Activities and Exercises
- Come up with a list of lines of dialogue describing George before we meet him. Describe George physically based on your list. Compare and contrast your description with his actual entrance.
- Ann does not seem overly surprised during her phone call at George’s behaviour, more irritated as if he’s acted like this before. Later on Chris says that George ‘dives’ into things without thinking. Improv a moment between Ann and George, where George’s behaviour is excitable and over the top. George is the older of the two, why does it seem that he is the younger?
- George is described as being on the ‘edge of self-restraint.’ In groups work on George’s lines in Act Two that begin, “My life turned upside down since them.” Each person gets a small chunk. As each individual speaks, they are held down by the other members of the group. How does it feel to perform like that? Which lines make more sense when they are restrained and which need to be out of control?
- Create a scene between George, Chris and Larry before the war. George states in the play that he looked up to Chris. What would that look like in action? Did George follow the brothers around like a puppy? Did he imitate them? Did the brothers ignore him? Tease him? Bully him?
- What was George’s relationship with Lydia like before the war? Was he embarrassed of her? Improv a conversation between them.
Questions To Answer
- What made George decide to go and see his father?
- Why does George believe him now, when he didn’t before?
- Did George decide at the same time as Ann not to talk to their father, or did he do it because she did?
- What was George’s experience during the war?
- What was he like before the war in comparison to what he’s like now? He mentions that Lydia ‘laughed too much.’ How does that reflect his character?
- What is his relationship with Ann like?
- Why did George decide to go into law? Why is he disillusioned with law now?
- How does George view the world?