The Silence of God and Other Plays by Catherine Filloux

Silence of GodPlaywright Catherine (pronounced Ka-treen) Filloux has built her dramatic reputation on giving voice to lost, overlooked souls.

In Lemkin’s House, Filloux presents the struggle of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish American lawyer whom she refers to as her “historical soulmate,” a man who coined the term “genocide” – as in “race-murder” – in the 1940s and risked all to have it recognized as an international crime. In The Beauty Inside, a Harvard-trained lawyer returns to her native Turkey to try and save the life of a 14-year-old ‘honor killing’ survivor.

Cambodia’s history of atrocity looms large in both Eyes of the Heart and The Silence of God. In the former, a newly arrived Cambodian immigrant suffering from psychosomatic blindness caused by witnessing the atrocities of the “killing fields,” helps her American eye doctor as much – if not more – to “see” as they come to share their lives with each other. In the title play, an American journalist travels to Cambodia to interview Pol Pot and learns too much about her own country’s complicity with the monstrous despot.

In the collection’s final play, Mary and Myra, Mary Todd Lincoln speaks from an insane asylum – a far cry from the White House – where she’s been shuttled off by her only surviving son. Lincoln’s friend, Myra Bradwell (reported by some to be the first woman lawyer in the U.S., although Arabella Mansfield apparently was granted permission to practice law in 1869, years before Bradwell was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1892) comes to her rescue to try and gain Lincoln’s freedom. Who has more sanity in that asylum is a question up for grabs …

This first, and overdue, compilation of Filloux’s signature plays hit earlier this year, offering a diverse mix of backgrounds and cultures contained within … and in her deft writing, characters who are silent no more.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2009

1 Comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Drama/Theater, Cambodian, Jewish, Nonethnic-specific, Southeast Asian, Turkish

One response to “The Silence of God and Other Plays by Catherine Filloux

  1. Sam Leigh

    Mary and Myra provides fodder for many discussions. The image systems, dialogue and historical relevance of the play could all be noted on, but this analysis aims to focus on the fluctuating sanity of the characters, especially Mary.

    Through dialogue and stage directions, Mary proves to be a complex character. As a reader it is difficult to know if she is truly insane or picking up the behavior of the other patients. Her anger towards her son, which is periodically unleashed, implies that she might be truly mad. But for the severity of the situation, isn’t it normal for her to be so upset?
    Another possible indicator of madness is seen in her relationship with Myra. At times, she adores, kisses and laughs with her, but close in context, she also hits, scolds and teases her.
    More elusively, her diction could be a sign of her sanity. Strangely, her usual articulation slacks in certain situations, lazily ending words like -in’ instead of an articulate –ing, almost like a drawl. This could correlate with her sanity, as she maintains her true self, she speaks properly and at the itch of madness, it starts lackin’.
    The color red reoccurs throughout the play, both in dialogue and stage direction—suggesting thematic significance. In certain context, it could be said that the color red induces Mary’s madness.
    “Why should I have to prove I’m sane?” (72) Mary asks. This statement shows that her seemingly erratic behavior could be out of comfort and confidence with her sanity. This presents the argument Mary is sane. One who was truly insane might try to enamel themselves in discipline and a conservative air to disguise their inner madness. That said, it could be argued that it is more insane for someone to deceptively use a client for their own success, as Mary accuses Myra of doing.
    The balance of sanity between both characters can be seen in their shared weakness, their children. Through many meetings and conversations, Mary and Myra learn each other’s weaknesses, which forms trust between them. Though, at the same time, the knowledge of such vulnerabilities gives each character fodder to poke the other nearer to madness. Mary aggressively responds to any comment about her son and likewise, Myra’s temper is inflamed at the utterance of her daughter’s name, Myra.

    In sum, this play equates Mary and Myra, through their growing friendship and exposed flaws. The state of their relationship contrasts what it had been through the play, for they become distant and polarized.

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