Home > New Classics > The Lears at Home

The Lears at Home

June 7, 2010

by Monica Raymond

Regan broke things
by accident, Goneril
broke them on purpose, and Cordelia
was careful (careful!) and saved them, milky china girl
holding the does, thumbsized miniature piano
with gilt keys and a rose. That was before
they were fiends, when Goneril, if she wasn’t
winning, would only tear up the Monopoly money, saying
“It isn’t real money, anyway.” And how they would nudge
her, kick her, actually, at the end, saying
“Get up!” and “You’re not really dead,” which was less
consolation than you might suppose, as the
whole idea of us all being actors
when looked at closely
is less than reassuring, implying
that simply getting up and on cancels dread,
as if there were no politics or cruelty
in theater. Anyway, for Cordelia
acting the role was just like
playing the part, what with not having any good lines
or kisses and having to be banished
and then blindfolded for Gloucester and be pushed down
and be Kent in the stocks (though at least she got to yowl
for that one)–it’s no wonder she took up
tumbling to get attention. And Goneril would make them all
get off the phone, that hot tense silence
to listen for Edmund’s calls. She’d throw herself
at the cold whorled elements, ocean, storm,
hoping they’d cool her down. At first she’d hoped
he’d be like that, but soon saw he was too
sizzling, viperish, and Regan never told her
he could come on differently,
though pinching at odd moments.
Now they’ve learned to pause
for commercials. You can tell Goneril’s passions
by her coiffure, square cut, solid as
villainy, dits of liner like hard girls
in the fifties, her emphasis
soothing in its relentlessness.
Regan’s a pale poufy blond who talks kind, leaves you tired.
They talk about the old man,
how he runs up his phone bill, flies with his
cronies to Vegas, how they’re going to have to
put him in a home. Some smarmy practitioner
comes on, folks call in
aging parent stories. But it’s hard to keep
to this rhythm,
once you’ve seen that this play
is written and put on
by three girls, sisters at the edge
of puberty: the sex all hard hugs and partings, the vagueness
about strategics and real land values, small kings
schoolgirls in drag.
And the father, Regan trying to learn
to be Goneril, saying
lines you might invent for an absent man.

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Monica Raymond won the Castillo Prize in political theater for her play The Owl Girl, which is about two families in an unnamed Middle Eastern country who both have keys to the same house. She was a Jerome Fellow for 2008-09 at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, among many other honors and awards. Her poetry has been published in the Colorado Review, the Iowa Review, and the Village Voice, and her work has been selected for publication by every pair of qarrtsiluni editors for eleven issues in a row now.

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  1. Lucy
    June 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Amazing, virtuoso stuff. Deeply funny and sharply sad, leaves me wondering.

  2. Chris
    June 8, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Wonderful work. Clever and insightful and I think accurate. I am glad I was not their neighbors…

  3. djvorreyer
    June 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    This is so strong – I especially love
    “You can tell Goneril’s passions
    by her coiffure, square cut, solid as
    villainy,” – wonderful language.

  4. JJS
    June 24, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Yes, really wonderful language and sharply funny, sad, insightful –

    I love that your re-visioning of these characters put me and the Lears in a ’70’s split-level.

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