|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (July 2011)|
Synopsis & Themes
The play parodies a panel discussion, regarding the identity of an enigmatic (fictional) writer named Archer Aymes decades after his death, formed to debate Aymes's life and work. The play explores themes of mixed race as both an aesthetic challenge and a social concern, gesturing toward a poetics of social justice for the “mulatto millennium” as well as art as both social memory and cultural production. The play is influenced by Euripides' play The Bacchae, held in the ruins of a museum of Greek antiquities, and has characters inspired by the Socratic dialogues (Phaedo, Crito, Meno, Apollodoros, and Ion) written by Plato, which attempts to determine the definition of virtue and the meaning of art. TALK also delves heavily in theoretical arguments regarding the likes of André Breton, Clay Felker, Mark Van Doren, Jonas Mekas, James Baldwin, Wayne Shorter, Jack Kerouac, Maya Deren and Robert Giroux (among others) with film clips from an alleged unfinished film by the author, shown and narrated by one of his collaborators.
Early in the play, a woman (Apollodoros) exhibits to the audience ancient Greek amphora painted with scenes from The Bacchae, and introduces the architectural history of the play's setting (the Museum of Antiquities), alluding to the death of an unidentified woman some years earlier. The Moderator proceeds to read an excerpt from Mother and Son, a "novel by Archer Aymes", then welcomes the audience into the "curious room of forgetting what had been remembered" (both a complaint about forgetfulness, since the play revolves remembering a forgotten artist, and a call to action that requires letting go of moribund or memorialized Truths). Introducing five invited panelists, and one uninvited guest (Apollodoros) who unexpectedly insists she be included as a participant in the conference (even though she elects to sit apart from the others), quietly observing and occasionally interrupting it with remarks of intentional ambiguity as she serves food and wine. In the course of the play, the audience learns Archer Aymes became an overnight literary sensation for his first book, Mother and Son during in the age of the Beat poets and the McCarthy era. Ten years later he was found dead in a prison cell. The play premiered at the Joseph Papp Public Theater (co-produced by the Foundry Theater) directed by Marion McClinton.
Original Off-Broadway cast
- Anthony Mackie as The Moderator
- Karen Kandel as Apollodoros
- John Seitz as Meno
- James Himelsbach as Ion
- Maria Tucci as Phaedo
- Reg E. Cathey as Crito
- Signatures of the Past: Cultural Memory in Contemporary Anglophone North American Drama, edited by Marc Maufort, Caroline De Wagter; p. 83, Race and Cultural Memory in Carl Hancock Rux's Talk by Michele Elam