‘Gallows Humor' scores in its intensity
According to Freud, ‘Gallows Humor' arises from the refusal of the ego to accept the trauma of the external world, and in fact, this so called trauma can become a source of pleasure.
Jack Richardson's two-act play, Gallows Humor, directed by Vaishali Bisht, is the story of four people, victims of life and their own compulsions.
The play opened with Death (Pritham Chakrvarthy), mocking conventions; bemoaning a time when the line between good and evil wasn't so blurred. Seeking the audience's forgiveness for her travesties, Death's monologue ushered in the first act.
Walter (Saharssh), a prisoner on death row has been offered the company of a beautiful woman, Lucy (Sandhya Raju) to ease the burden of his last two hours as a mortal. All this is set in motion by the warden (Vijay Marur), who believes that a death row inmate's last few hours should be blissful.
As a wilful Walter, a lawyer by profession, resolutely refuses the advances of the lascivious Lucy, a lady of the night, we witness a struggle inherent to a situation where people fight their compulsions. And ultimately, lose.
Act two sees the warden at Philip's (Suresh Kumar), the hangman's, house, engaged in a debate over the feasibility of Philip donning a hood. Thrown into the melee is Philip's wife, Martha (Smita), who is the archetypical manipulator of strings; pulling both the warden's and her husband's. Philip, afflicted with life, refuses to continue as the doorman of death anymore, and decides to take up things that matter to him. Martha will have nothing of the sort and we see, yet again, how a fight against our true nature is a futile one.
There was little or no connection between the characters of Walter and Lucy, where lines were thrown off the other in an inexplicable hurry. Saharssh's voice was barely audible and Sandhya, with the enticing drawl, captivating at first, slowly slipped into a monotonous rendition of a “government employee” turned pop psychiatrist.
Vijay Marur, a veteran of the stage, gave little reason to complain, however, his character could have benefitted from a little more vocal and emotional digression.
The banter, weak at best, between Suresh and Smita failed to elicit any sense of discomfort at the sight of a familial bond being tested and strained. Suresh's mannerisms did get its share of laughs from the audience, while Smita's act as the manipulative wife had its moments in an otherwise uneven performance.
A minimalistic set did ensure that all eyes were on the actors, but the costumes made it hard to figure out the geospatial setting of the play. The warden sounded and looked like a British gentleman off to the corner pub, whereas Lucy and Martha were dressed up like your quintessential Indian women. A minor grievance, nevertheless, where were the events, in the context of the play, taking place?
Ideally, the play makes for a strong subject, both relevant and insightful. Unfortunately, two hours saw its adamant refusal to do just that.