Pratt, David. “Two Plays: The Snow Queen, November Door” , Hosta Press, 2020.
Two Plays, Two Actors, One Fine Playwright
David Pratt has one of my favorite fiction writers for several years now but I have really only known him as a novelist. In “Two Plays”, I meet Pratt the playwright. Both plays are set in New England making for a wonderful evening since they can easily be performed together.
“The Snow Queen” is set in 1968 in a small town and tells of eleven-year-old Steven and his friendship with thirty-eight-year-old Jo, a lonely, ostracized woman who shows him friendship, understanding and kindness that he has been unable to find anywhere else. There is something mysterious about the woman—if she is willing to show the boy the friendship that he needs, why is she so lonely? There is something masculine about her and while this is not discussed in the script, Steven sees that the two share something that makes them different from others. Steven’s parents who know little about the relationship destroy it.
In “November Door” set years later, Steven is thirty-eight and Jo is sixty-five. They reunite when he seeks absolution for a betrayal of his older friend some years earlier. Both characters as they have carried their scars and thwarted desires for thirty years and their coming together again is a bittersweet reunion that ends with a hard-won grace.
They plays are written in the tradition of memory plays, a technique used by Tennessee Williams in his “The Glass Menagerie” and Truman Capote in “A Christmas Memory and “The Thanksgiving Visitor”. Pratt admirably follows this with two short plays that have a great deal to say about how we live and the nature of friendship. I found it important to read his notes on the plays before actually approaching the texts themselves. Pratt suggests a few musical cues and this reminded me of “Menagerie” when Tom says that the play is memory and memory happens to music. Taken together, we become very aware of what we carry with us and what we choose to remember and what we prefer to forget.
The plays themselves are relatively and technically simple whereas the ideas they bring are complex and exceedingly meaningful. Grace is not something that is easily won and sometimes we carry ideas that prevent us from seeking grace and that depends upon ourselves and/or how others see situations. Of course, we are rewarded when it is achieved here and I believe we are well aware of the price paid for waiting so long to act on feelings. When grace comes here, it is bittersweet and I wonder if it had come earlier, would it have been sweeter and less painful? I especially love that Pratt looks at social issues that others might have been afraid to touch and he does so with tenderness and sensitivity.
Sometimes reading a play can present an insight that we miss on the stage or vice versa. The two plays here demand to be performed so that we can hear the lyrical text spoken aloud and so that we can see ourselves experiencing them with others. Nonetheless when that is not possible we have the texts and we can read ourselves into them. Now that I have read them, I can only hope that one day I will have the chance to see them performed but until then, I have these beautiful and meaningful words to refer to.