The Effects of Unrealistic Elements on a Play
The play by Ishmael Reed’s “The C Above C Above High C” is a great play to analyze and see the effects of how unrealistic elements really affect a play. By using unrealistic elements the author is really able to open up the realm of possibilities and has limitless options in front of them.
This play really lends itself to the use of unrealistic elements since most of the play is people talking and conversing about events or topics that others either cannot see or do not happen at the same time. The best example of this is when Mamie Eisenhower is in a spotlight watching Dwight and his mistress Kay Summersby in the hotel room where they have just had a fling. “They begin to dance to Glenn Miller’s “Starlight.” Spotlight on Mamie Eisenhower while they’re dancing. She glares at them, her arms folded. Speaks to audience.” (45) This is a highly unrealistic element of the play. Mamie may have very well known of her husbands infidelities but it is highly doubtable that she would be somewhere lurking in the shadows watching their affair unfold.
The scene that follows this is one with Mamie Eisenhower and Lil Armstrong having a conversation about their husbands while Ike and Kay carry on in the background.
lil: And who may she be?
mamie: My husband’s whore. Kay Summersby.
lil: Spindly little thing.
mamie: You think so?
lil: Flat as roadkill.
mamie: Well, these men and their wars. Gives them an excuse to stay on the
road. They meet women and pour out their souls to these tramps.
lil: You’re not telling me anything. I practically created Louis. When he came to Joe Oliver’s band, he didn’t even know how to wear a hat. (57-63)
This is a great use of unrealistic elements. Clearly these two women are not really standing in the room carrying on a conversation and watching while Ike is having an affair with his mistress. But by putting these women there it really pulls the emotion into the scene and helps to bring the two events together into one. It really shows clarity as you can see how one scene affects the other and the characters involved.
Another example of unrealistic elements that really added to the play was when Mamie and Lil are talking and in the background we can see someone in the hotel room behind them.
lil: What’s that man doing?
Hoover, in drag, is still creeping around the hotel room, emptying drawers, etc.
mamie: Oh, that’s J. Edgar Hoover. He’s blackmailed everybody in Washington. He was the first to know that Kay was registering in the hotel under an assumed name. (77-78)
This was a great element to add since it showed us what kind of person J. Edgar Hoover was in the play. Again there is no way these two women are sitting idly by as this man scours the room looking for incriminating information to blackmail Ike with but it is a great way to give the audience information into the characters and the scene.
The play really shows how using unrealistic elements like these scenes inside scenes in a play can really add another dimension and help to give insight in some difficult scenes. But unrealistic elements can also open up a somewhat confusing arena for the audience. Unrealistic elements can be a great addition but should only be used when the writer deems necessary and used carefully as not to confuse the audience unless that is the writer’s intention. The unrealistic elements in this play were helpful and gave much needed insight in this play.
Reed, Ishmael. “The C Above C Above High C” 290-307. ENGL
200: Composition and Literature. America Public University
System. New York: McGraw- Hill, 2011.