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Cocaine (play)

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Cocaine is a play by Pendleton King. The following one-act play is reprinted from The Provincetown Plays. Ed. George Cram Cook & Frank Shay. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1921. It is believed to be in the public domain and may therefore be performed without royalties. But it's Pendleton King's Cocaine that's the intriguing dark horse, the kind of lesser-known, infrequently-staged classic that Savage Rose is known for producing. King was a playwright of great promise whose career was interrupted by the first World War. Savage Rose producing artistic director J. Barrett Cooper first discovered Cocaine in a used book store anthology. The dialogue is so alive and sounds like anything that would be written today, says Cooper. But what we've been able to find in it is a real grittiness. It's not a romantic take on cocaine addicts. King's own story is an American tragedy just begging to be produced. He was a totally secret rich guy slumming it down in the Village, says Cooper. He was very unassuming, very nice, well educated, and he wrote this incredible play. A young gambler and the jail's cook fall in love at first sight and make plans to run away together, but fate intervenes. One-act plays were frequently the warm-up for the main show, Cooper says. That was when you'd go to the theater and expect to spend three or four hours at a theater. They're an hour and twenty, an hour and a half. The new idea is get 'em in and get 'em out because that's all the audience can take. Jake, a Mississippi cotton gin owner, burns down his rival's mill, who retaliates by seducing Jake's emotionally fragile young wife. Addiction, obsession, revenge - it's a bit of a bleak bill, Cooper admits. But, he says, each play contains a certain amount of hope.

Characters Edit

The play has mainly two characters:

  • Joe
  • Nora

Synopsis Edit

Here is a small summary of the play from the cited sources[1][2][3][4]:

The near total neglect of American one-act plays is one of those systematic injustices that becomes apparent only when someone does something about it - something as simple as putting a few of them on the stage in finely crafted productions that highlight the courage, power and wit that playwrights - both famous and little known - have lavished on these brief dramas.

Over the last few years, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company has carved a distinctive niche with productions of challenging but well-known masterworks by writers from Christopher Marlowe to Samuel Beckett. With its current bill of one-acts by Pendleton King, Tennessee Williams and William Saroyan, the company revives a set of striking but seldom performed pieces.

Directed by Jennifer Pennington, it's a chilling, beautifully written study of corruption, greed and madness that features three extraordinary performances. Brian Hinds plays Jake, the scheming owner of a failing cotton gin; he brutalizes his wife, Flora (Lauren Maxwell), with cruelties that are all the more frightening because of his cool, clinical approach - Hinds plays the fellow as if he were one of those folks who could commit mayhem without a change in blood pressure. Maxwell plays Flora as a giggling sexpot-savant who may or may not understand the role she's to play as the human currency that funds Jake's good neighbor policy. And Jeremy Sapp gives a fine performance as the mustachioed martinet whose riding crop furnishes creepy punctuation to the sinister unfolding of events.

Its stark, natural language - and its subject matter - give it a grim authority that's still compelling nearly a century later. Joe, a has-been boxer (Jon Patrick O'Brien), and Nora (Karina Strange), a hooker whose luck has turned against her because of a scary cold sore on her face, inhabit a derelict flat near a rumbling train track in New York City (kudos to Cooper for the sound design as well as for the direction). Because the couple is behind on the rent - and have been without cocaine for four days - the boxer is contemplating selling his own sexual favors for money, a proposition that elicits a furious response and a dreadful proposal from Nora.

It's a finely written work about a charming young gambler locked up on what seems to be a bogus rape charge and the drab small-town girl who cooks for the prisoners. Here, Jon Patrick O'Brien channels the dreamy, optimistic energy of a gambler betting on the future as he paints a future for himself and the cook (Alexandra Burch). At least until reality (in this case, the ostensible rape victim, her husband and an accomplice, played by Karina Strange, Brian Hinds and Jeremy Sapp) forces its way through the jailhouse door.

Scholarly ArticlesEdit

Some notable references on the play from scholarly articles are as follows:

"Last year they put on 'Cocaine' by Pendleton KingPendleton King, by the way, is another playwright of promise whose playwrighting has been interrupted by the war." -- Quarterly Bulletin of the Providence Public Library:Providence Public Library (R.I.) - 1918 [5]


"The Provincetown Players produced at their laboratory theatre in New York in March The Prodigal Son by Harry Kemp, Cocaine by Pendleton King, and The People by Susan Glaspell." -- Theatre Arts Magazine - Volumes 1-2 - Page 144:1917 [6]

References Edit

  1. http://www.theatrealliance.org/job/rebelyard-theatre-collective-op
  2. http://www.one-act-plays.com/dramas/cocaine.html
  3. http://leoweekly.com/ae/theater-savage-rose-resurrects-american-one-act-plays
  4. http://wfpl.org/post/american-drama-three-one-acts
  5. http://books.google.com/books?id=i5QiAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA154&dq=%22Cocaine%22+%22Pendleton+King%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UQBfUpfTI4Wt4AOW_oGACg&ved=0CD8Q6AEwAQ
  6. http://books.google.com/books?id=4klJAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA144&dq=%22Cocaine%22+%22Pendleton+King%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UQBfUpfTI4Wt4AOW_oGACg&ved=0CGAQ6AEwBw

External links Edit

Performances and Videos Edit

  1. ▶ Cocaine part 1.avi - YouTube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcAGBBnrL-o
  2. ▶ Cocaine part 2.avi - YouTube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s4H2TELuKI
  3. ▶ American One Acts trailer - YouTube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY8flCFf_CI
  4. ▶ Cocaine - YouTube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi37kAd3Ag4

Online script links Edit

  1. http://www.one-act-plays.com/dramas/cocaine.html
  2. http://www.provincetownplayhouse.com/cocaine.html
  3. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1961237/

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