Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Joseph Kramm The Shrike

The Shrike is a play written by American dramatist Joseph Kramm. It debuted on Broadway at the Cort Theater, on January 15, 1952, with Jose Ferrer as the producer, director and star. Kramm received the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work.

The play is set in the mental ward of a city hospital, and revolves around a theatrical director named Jim Downs, who has been driven to the verge of insanity and suicide by his estranged wife Ann, who is the "shrike" alluded to in the play's title.

To outsiders, Ann seems to epitomize sweetness, kindness and graciousness. In reality, she is a bitter, manipulative shrew. Like the shrike, a small predatory bird that kills and impales smaller birds, Ann seems harmless but brings death and destruction to everyone she grows close to.

Ann married Jim in hopes that he would eventually gain fame, wealth and stardom, and so his lack of success galls her. Her mockery and nagging led Jim to an unsuccessful suicide attempt, by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills. This led to his commitment to a mental hospital, where Jim finds that it will not be easy to secure a release. Getting out of the hospital will require the help and cooperation of Ann, who enjoys holding power over her husband.

Ann regularly visits Jim at the hospital, supposedly to provide comfort and love, but really to continue her hectoring and manipulation of him. She is also able to charm the doctors, who usually accede to her wishes and follow her advice as to what is best for Jim.

In order to win his freedom, Jim must give all the "right" answers expected by his doctors, and in doing so, he places himself utterly under Ann's control.