The Promised Land
The Promised Land
March 22-30, 2013By Bill Cook
The Columbus Performing Arts Center, Van Fleet Theatre
The Promised Land is a dream play about unemployment that creates the palpable sense of uncertainty and ongoing insecurity that often follows a job loss – the sense of “What next?!” The dream form allows the action to move forward at a headlong pace and creates comic, indeed, farcical possibilities, for a condition that is hardly amusing in reality.
Simon, the protagonist, is a 55-year-old financial analyst until he loses his job in the second scene. Subsequently, he responds with energy but without success in a flow of shifting scenes that test him and his wife in increasingly trying and often outrageous circumstances. His wife oscillates between her desire to be supportive and her anxiety she will lose everything. At the heart of the ensuing tension are growing feelings of desperation and despair experienced by the couple.
A third actor plays nine different characters, adding to the texture of the play’s dream form (where a few simple elements take strange, sudden and often opposing turns). Unseen Voices also help expand the world of the play. This is a work that conveys not just the plight of the unemployed, but also the felt texture of their experience, and the generally perilous uncertainty of employment even for those who have it.
It also addresses the inadequacy of status based on work and position as the primary standard of value so prevalent today. The unraveling of these characters’ lives includes not only the material loss experienced by them but also the disintegration of self worth and pride that goes with it.
Although The Promised Land is a comedy, the play ends with a lack of resolution that reflects Simon’s continuing sense of disruption and insecurity.