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Jesse Castellanos

Play Script Analysis


Charles Nelson
May 1, 2017
WASP Analysis
Steve Martin has proven himself to be a Renaissance man of the Performing arts. Not

only has he found success as a comedian/actor, but also as a musician, producer, and even a

playwright. Now, one of his plays that has really stuck out to me is the One-Act Satirical Dark-

comedy WASP which premiered in the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1995. WASP is a

peculiar little play with absurdist themes that pokes fun at Caucasian Suburban Families in the

style of a 1950s sitcom, however this is no Leave It to Beaver.

The term W.A.S. P is an acronym for the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture that was

more dominate in the mid to late 50s. Now, Steve Martin, being the comedian his is, couldnt

resist criticizing their values in the best way possible, parody. So, with this information in mind,

before reading or seeing the play, it simply sounds like a quirky staged version of Cheaper by

the Dozen However, even though Steve Martin himself would most likely be considered a

WASP, he (and most of todays society) has realized the many issues with these families

including distant relationships, meaningless routines, and an overall sense of emptiness in their

lives. And these themes arent just lightly touched upon either. There are two main ways that

Martin address these issues, either by a character throwing out an absurd line with confidence

and ignorance, or whole scenes which reveal that the characters (more like caricatures) are

completely aware of the lives they lead but decide to not do anything about it.

They play begins the with Father character appropriately named Dad saying grace at

the dinner table beginning with Oh God in Heaven, which is 17 miles above the earth. The
scene continues with the son named Son questioning the odd facts presented in prayer and how

most of their Christian logic does not match up with what he has learned in his science class.

Dads response to all of this is Do you like your science teacher? ...Well, thats too bad because

hes going to have his tongue pierced in hell by a hot poker. Right of the bat Martin displays the

problem with the P in a W.A.S.P family, their Protestant values. Even though Dads Logic on

religion does not make any sense at all, he is too proud to admit that there is a flaw in their

beliefs and that science itself isnt very Christian, clearly a jab at stubborn Christian values. The

rest of the scene continues with a series of overlapping dialogue exaggerating the lack of interest

for each others thoughts and conversations, an angry phone call Dad gets but never talks about

again hinting at the life he doesnt share with the family, and a suggestion that the parents have

put the grandparents to sleep.

Another example of a line thrown out without care is when the daughter Sis askes to be

dismissed from the dinner table because she has choir molestation. Just like that. Uncensored

and unashamed, the daughter gets ready for choir practice where she most likely is molested.

This is explored more in Scene 3 where she is at practice and begins to zone out, thinking about

more fascinating stuff like herself and how others (mostly men) view her. This, in Steve

Martins head, is the stereotypical WASP teenage girl. Her looks are always a priority and second

comes boys and men. Throughout the play, she desperately (but hilariously) waits for a phone

call from Jeremy, a boy from her school, and during choir practice she admires the choirmaster

and almost deliberately zones off so that she will be asked to be seen after class by the

choirmaster. This is most likely where the molestation part comes in. But during her internal rant,

it is also revealed that she regards herself with such confidence and power as she claims she will

give birth to the baby Jesus. This desire to be a sort of celebrity and to be admired by men
most likely comes from a lack of acknowledgment from her own father who cant even

remember her name as shown in scene 1 where he accidently calls her Judy then Sandy

where her name is Kathy. But she is not the only child disregarded by him.

In Scene 2, Dad enters Sons room to have a conversation, perhaps their first real

conversation as dad states Son, we dont get to talk that much; in fact, as far as I can remember,

weve never talked. And in this strange encounter, the father seems to take an interest in the

sons future only to rant on about his own life and what he expects of his son which includes

putting up a building to earn that bike he wants. Finally, Dad leaves Sons room with a

reminder that no matter what in life you choose, I will always be there to shame you Once

Son is left alone, he calls for an alien from another planet named Premier through a ham radio,

who tells him an erotic yet depressing story about the sons future and the love he will endure,

and finally, that he will receive the gift of the desire to work. If you read the story of Sons

future carefully, it sounds much like the life his father is living. It is as if Son is destined to turn

in to the man that Dad is. The desire to work comes from the Dads workaholic behaviors that

compensate for his meaningless life, and in this story, there are accounts of his future wife dying

symbolizing the emptiness his mother feels when she is with Dad, almost as if she was dead.

Mom is probably the saddest character of them all. Not only does she question the

legitimacy of her marriage but also her very existence. And she does so by speaking to Female

Voice. A voice that seems to be in her head, but is later revealed in scene 4 that Female Voice is

very much a human who has had to undergo training to become this omniscient being who

delivers advice and wisdom to those in need. Through these conversations between Mom and

Female Voice, the audience learns that Mom yearns for some sort of romance or closeness to her

husband. Perhaps one that used to be there. She even asks Female voice some heavy questions
such as when he says he loves me, what does he mean? and what would it be like if I left

him? She is dealing with some serious emotional and moral issues however; she lives under the

rules of Dads commands and mustnt share these deep feelings for it goes against WASP

tradition of controlled emotions. Yet, these feelings and thoughts are seriously affecting her. She

describes to Dad that she has been having these episodes of a rapidly beating heart and feeling

like she is going to die. These seem to be symptoms of panic attacks, and when Dad becomes

aware of this, he simply states Youre deeply love. I admire you as a person, as well as a wife.

Im interested in what you have to say and if theres anytime you need me, I will stop at

everything to help you as he keeps his face behind the morning paper. Not only does he neglect

her cry for help, but he makes her very aware of it as well.

Now, Dad represents all the flaws of a WASP father, but is unashamed to admit it. His

religion is faulty but his devotion is strong, he dismisses any sort of affection whether its to him

or from him, he is cruel and controlling, and only cares for the materialistic things in life.

However, that is only the surface of his character. We dont get to see who Dad really is until the

fifth and final scene as to where he ponders on the logic his life and life itself, in the style of an

aside, while his family sits at the dinner table. This monologue begins with him calling out for

some sort of voice like the female voice, but there is no answer. Every other family member has

some sort of way to keep their feelings to themselves through different forms of expression.

Mom has the Female Voice; Son has Premiere and Sis has her own ego. But Dad seems to be

missing a voice, perhaps a Male voice that he has repressed for so long, it has left him. Dad

has no other choice but to express himself to the audience to where he reveals that he too has a

longing for his wife and a passionate love for her that he cannot showcase for it will make him

weak. He has denied his own feelings so much that he lacks any real emotion, but deep inside he
is fully aware of his decisions to not feed the desire of his wife and the decision to disregard his

children. What Steve Martin is trying to say in this monologue is that even though the

stereotypical WASP life is one of repressed feelings, questionable morals, and a lack or worth,

these people are completely conscious to the emptiness they are surrounded by, but do nothing to

change it.

Steve Martin expertly creates a dark and twisted comedy which falls half in the genre of

farce and half in the genre of absurdist theatre. And after fully understanding the play, it makes

you wonder if its ok to laugh at this subject matter and whether this lifestyle is still practiced

throughout America. Clearly it is, as other art forms have tackled the subject such as the poem

In the Suburbs by Louis Simpson, and a more modern example, the film American Beauty

starring Kevin Spacey. Steve Martin fills this play with a subtle theme of hope as all the

characters question their place on this earth. This hope seems to have succeeded today as we

know that all of America isnt stuck in this lonely suburban lifestyle, but there are definitely

those who still are, and may never get out.