Act 1 Scene 3

Plot

Justin, the social worker has returned as a result of the fire chaos. The atmosphere has calmed down, with everyone practising their role in the play. Justin stresses to Lewis that ‘this experiment was to bring them out of their shells, not to allow them to wreak havoc’ [pg 23]. Justin, seeing his experiment as a failure, orders everyone to return to their wards. However, Cherry, exasperated by the idea, pretends that it was she who accidently lit the fire by dropping a cigarette in the toilet. Everyone including Justin looks at Lewis for confirmation. Lewis agrees explaining, ‘that’s why [Cherry] spends so much time in the toilets when she should be at rehearsal. It’s where she smokes.’ Seemingly persuaded by the group, Justin informs Lewis that doing the play will be his best education yet.

The group resumes practise. The actors become irritated at one another. Roy and Zac debate about playing a piano accordion in the overture while Cherry and Doug argue about the ‘deliberate’ [pg 25] fire. Once again, Ruth is preoccupied with the fake coffee, stating that ‘I can live with an illusion as long as I know it’s an illusion’ [pg 28]. Henry refuses to deliver his lines when it is his turn. Roy jumps at Henry, calling him a ‘failure’ [pg 27] but Lewis interrupts, suggesting ‘I don’t think that approach will help, Henry’ [pg 28]. Lewis suggests that they move on to scene 2, set in a garden involving Cherry and Ruth as Fiordiligi and Dorabella respectively. Ruth obsesses over the number of steps she needs to take in order reach her position on stage. Zac comes back with a piano accordion, only to present Wagner, not Mozart. An incredulous Roy argues that they can’t play Wagner in a Mozart play, but Lewis allows it, convincing Roy that ‘people don’t really listen to overtures’ [pg 30].

With everyone headed outside for a break, Lewis begins to read a newspaper edited by Nick and Lucy, yet notices that Julie is still inside. Julie jokes about how psychiatrists ‘don’t know how to deal with drug users’ [pg 32], that’s why she’s a ‘bit over the shop today.’ She shares with Lewis that she was surprised that he came back after a day with the group. Lewis explains that his grandmother was in a mental institution once, and although she was mad, she was still his grandmother. Seeing a picture of Lucy at the moratorium in the newspaper, they move onto the topic of free love. Lewis states that Lucy is more interested in politics than love, believing that ‘love is the last gasp of borgeuois romanticism’ [pg 33]. Lewis also explains that she ‘hates me doing an opera about love and fidelity while thousands of Vietnamese are being killed by American troops.’ Julie asks if Lucy sees other men, and while an amused Lewis denies the idea, Julie insists that women are just like men in that they are ‘flesh and blood.’ She goes on to assert that men have double standards since they see that women are disloyal, yet many men are exactly the same.

Cherry enters with cake and Julie leaves with Lewis’ newspaper. Cherry divulges to Lewis that she has a flick-knife, incase Doug gets up to any mischief again. She admires Lewis’ translation of the play, that ‘Woman’s constancy is like the Phoenix of Arabia. Everyone swears it exists but no one’s seen it’ and declares that she could be loyal if she and Lewis were together. She stuffs Lewis with cake, choking him. Suddenly, they both smell kerosene, and when accompanied with Doug’s excited voice, ‘it’s burning like a beauty!’, Cherry pulls out her flick knife stating, ‘if there is anything worse than the wrath of God, it’s the wrath of Cherry’ [pg 35].

Analysis

This scene highlights the beginning of Lewis’ learning and development. When Cherry fabricates a story about dropping a cigarette down the toilet and hence the fire, Lewis quickly supports the lie and convinces Justin to allow the project to continue. From his short experience with the patients, his loyalty demonstrates that although the patients may be ‘insane,’ Lewis can see their enthusiasm in performing the play and helps them to retain their privileges.

The question posed about whether or not people can absolutely determine what is indeed reality or not is explored to the play-within-play structure of Così. The rehearsed play, Così Fan Tutte is an ‘illusionary performance’ [pg 28], since the patients adopt ‘an illusion of a garden, carrying an illusion of tiny paintings’ [pg 29]. While the play is merely the patients staging an act, Ruth struggles to divide truth and fiction apart. Her confusion is contrasted to Lewis and Roy’s clarity that they will use fake props on stage, demonstrating that reality is subjective, meaning that different people possess different perspectives on reality.

Julie’s discussion with Lewis confirms how society undermines the intelligence and capabilities of ‘insane’ people. Her humourous comment, ‘I had to go and see one of the shrinks. They don’t know how to deal with drug users…Needless to say, we didn’t get it on’ [pg 32], emphasises the lack of understanding non-patients possess towards the patients. Black humour, while hilarious but has an underlying seriousness, is employed when Julie jokes about Lewis pretending to be his father, ‘don’t ever tell a psychiatrist that story, they’d have a heart attach on the symbolism of it all.’ Furthermore, Julie’s insight into men and women’s fidelity highlights her clear perception of the world. She believes that ‘men are flesh and blood. Women are flesh and blood too’ [pg 33] indicating that neither sex is exempt from behaving unfaithfully. The irony in their conversation lies in the fact that while Julie is ‘insane’ and Lewis is ‘sane,’ it is Julie who appreciates the truth about both men and women in regards to relationship and loyalty.

Important Passages

‘Where’s the coffee?…All right.’ [pg 26 - 27]

‘Henry, your lines: ‘My hair is grey, so I speak with authority’…A break! Let’s take a break.’ [pg 27 - 31]

‘It’s not so bad…With someone like you I could be true and faithful.’ [pg 32 - 34]

Important Quotes

‘The experiment is over.’ [pg 22]

‘This experiment was to bring them out of their shells, not to allow them to wreak havoc…This does not look good for me or for you, does it?’ [pg 23]

‘You don’t want greater disasters, do you?’

‘It was me! It was me! Doug isn’t to blame I dropped a ciggie down the toilet.’

‘That’s why she spends so much time in the toilets when she should be at rehearsal. It’s where she smokes.’

‘….this is probably the best education: doing theatre, working with such people. You couldn’t learn this at university. You know why, because it’s about people!’ [pg 24]

‘The most important thing is to feel you are in control, but still at the same time listening. Are you listening, do you feel you are in control?’

‘Remember what I said and don’t forget you’re going out there a nobody and coming back a star’

‘I can live with illusion as long as I know it’s illusion, but this coffee is not real, is it?’ [pg 26]

‘An illusion of reality.’

‘I can handle something being an illusion or real but not at the same time.’

‘Così offers you a chance to do something successful at least once in your dismal life.’ [pg 27]

‘I liked my grandmother, I knew she had gone mad, but she was still my grandmother.’ [pg 32]

‘…Nick, is the one who knows all about theatre, only he’s more interested in politics. He says politics is the real theatre.’

‘She’s into politics. She hates talk about love. She thinks its icky.  ‘Love is the last gasp of borgeuois romanticism’ she says. She hates me doing an opera about love and fidelity while thousands of Vietnamese are being killed by American troops.’ [pg 33]

‘Flesh and blood. Women are flesh and blood too.’

‘I don’t like men’s double standards, I guess. Men want women to deceive them because it’ll prove their worst tthoughts about women – and they have a lot of bad thoughts about women. And then they become so rightweous, like Guglielmo and Ferrando.’

‘Woman’s constancy is like the Pheonix of Arabia. Everyone swears it exists but no one’s seen it.’ [pg 34]

‘Do you believe women are like that? That they aren’t true and faithful? I am. With someone like you I could be true and faithful.’

‘[She goes outside with great purpose]’ [pg 35] 

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