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The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (1964)


Production still from The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, 1964


Lorraine Hansbury (Playwright)

15 October, 1964 – 10 January, 1965 

          The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window depicts Sidney, an intellectual writer and his wife, Iris, who are in a difficult marriage. Sidney struggles through life in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood as an unsuccessful artist. His ideals cause him to avoid politics and its corruption while facing a painful home life. Iris is a struggling actress who, during the course of the play, leaves her antagonistic husband to enter the television scene. Both Sidney and Iris attack each other's self-confidence through extensive dialogue, despite their affection for each other.

          Alton Scales is an African-American activist and Sidney's friend who falls in love with Iris's beautiful sister Gloria, a supposed international model. He is able to persuade Sidney to support the candidacy of Wally O’Hara despite Sidney's initial refusal to incorporate politics into his newly established artistic newspaper. Wally is a local reform politician who is appalled by the extensive drug use in Greenwich Village and the surrounding area. Sidney agrees to support him but later learns of O’Hara’s corruption; afterwards Sidney harbors significant hatred for the reform politician.
          Gloria's idealistic image is shattered when Alton learns that she is a prostitute and not an international model as she and her sister Iris had insisted. Wrought with anguish at the idea of his beloved being used as a commodity, and tying it to the same ideology used to justify the African slave trade (to which he traces his roots), Alton leaves Gloria. In an act of desperation and shame, she commits suicide.
          Attributing Gloria's suicide to the campaigning slogans of Wally, Sidney develops a position in opposition to the politician. This creates problems that reconcile Sidney and Iris. The play ends with a scene of Sidney and Iris in a devastated embrace at the loss of Gloria. Iris indicates with her last lines of the play that she wants to come home. Sidney makes a silent agreement that they will figure everything out. Despite the constant dark bickering that the two had throughout the play, it closes while the two are interlocked as the sun rises. (Source: Wikipedia)

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