POST: 'Widowers' Houses' - a poor man, working for a rich man

What's it about?

In our lives, how many times have we found ourselves with injustice right in front of us? And how many times has that made us question ourselves? In this play, Harry Trench would get a taste of his own medicine and decide whether his actions would keep taking place or not.

What'd I experience?

The stage turned black. Everything and everyone remained static for a few seconds. A rush quickly consumed me, eager to know what would suddenly appear.

Harry Trench appeared at the side of the stage. A single light from the bottom of the stage made him appear, like a storyteller, and that made it seem mysterious. He was accompanied by a sound that I could very much relate to, like a symphony from early time periods - I was reminded of the telenovelas I watch from time to time. The setting would be back at the beginning of the 1900's - I hope it's not boring. But something seemed promising about this world, it wouldn’t be the regular boring business with serious faces.

As the lights brighten the stage, Harry and William appear on a hotel terrace having a regular talk. They are soon met with Sartorius, a businessman, and his daughter Blanche. William is more than amazed to meet them, especially Blanche. Soon enough, Sartorius notices, and although at first he is not pleased - he's okay once William points out all of Harry’s fortunes and that he is from a good family. But something confused me. At first, I thought Harry and Blanche had noticed each other and were attracted to one another. Yet, it seemed Mr. Sartorius played a part in it too, he and his interest in Harry’s fortune.

 Were they in love or was there just interest between them? Could it be both? Hmm.

As the play continued, Sartorius seemed to be very serious in caring for his daughter, wanting things to be done correctly. He asks Harry to write to his family about Blanche, whom Harry wishes to be engaged to. If Harry's family approves, they should marry. It was his condition in order to be sure that his daughter would not be an unwelcomed person into Harry’s family. Now, I wondered if this was all a part of a plan, could he have had this as a strategy? I thought I might have been overthinking things, maybe even missing the whole point of the story, but I couldn’t seem to understand it any other way.

Even so, I decided to give the whole romance thing the benefit of doubt. So, they were in love. Everything seemed to be going fine.  All of the sudden, all I could remember was a scene between Blanche and her servant, Annie. For one reason or another, Blanche seemed to have lost total control of herself, it seemed that she disliked Annie’s presence. All that stuck with me was Blanche's arrogance and dominating manner, the way she threw Annie down on the floor like a doll and then picked her up holding her by the neck. I felt as my eyes widened in disbelief, I was transported to one of those scenes in my telenovelas where a murder was about to take place. WTH is wrong with this girl? Blanche was like this little harmless pup, who suddenly was fueled with rage. I could understand that she may have a temper. I can even relate to that, I admit sometimes I can get crazy. But she just went totally crazy.

Just as soon as Blanche and Harry are settled for marriage. Lickcheese, a money collector for Sartorius’ properties, makes his entrance. His clothes seemed ragged, with several patches sewed around his slacks and suit. Yeah, he was a poor man, working for a rich man, trying to provide for his wife and kids. A fact that, besides being repeated several times, Sartorius did not care about as he dismissed him from his job permanently. It was here that I connected emotionally.

I didn't understand. It got to the point where Lickcheese was begging for his job back, down on his knees, and still the other remained as hard as a rock. Through his desperation, he put out all he had to say. He claimed that he was the one who had to do all of the dirty work. He was the one to show up at the properties, which were, btw, unequipped for any being to live in, and still  he had to collect their monthly rent. He was the one who had to show his face to the tenants and deal with the claims of poor conditions in the buildings. 

Where was Sartorius’ recognition was for that? Why didn’t he show up, and collect the money instead? To a point you could say that my blood was boiling as I witnessed this. Why, deny this man the chance to provide for his family? Why deny those others a chance to live in better conditions? Are the wealthy blind to these problems in society? All that Sartorius had were excuses to justify himself in denying everything.

It turned even more interesting when Harry learns from Lickchesse about Sartorius' profits. He quickly disagrees. At least not all of the wealthy were so insensible. Yet, when asked for help by Lickcheese to intervene on his behalf to get his job back, he doesn't.  What would it cost him to do that favor? But Harry claims that Lickcheese's actions have put him in this place. I was divided on that. Harry was right to a point, Lickcheese was the face of all those negotiations, if it can be called that.  He wasn't forced to do it, yet his own necessity left him no other option. SMH

The surprising thing came when Harry confronts Sartorius. But, we found out that although Sartorius benefits from the collection of rents, it is only after he has already deducted what he owes to his boss. Who's his boss? None other than Mr. Harry Trench himself. (Clap, clap, clap) What the heck? All I could think about was the turns of life. Yeah, of course there was an ending to this play, but I want to leave you with my question. The same I asked myself, what do you think Harry did next? Better yet, what would you have done, if in his place? Who do you help - yourself? the little man? the middle man? 


Want to see it?

$27 (thru TDF Membership)

Widowers' Houses
Beckett Theatre
@ Theatre Row
thru Apr. 2