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Curse of the Starving Class by Sam Shepard

Curse of the Starving Class

by Sam Shepard

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I just thought this was a piece of crap. The characters were ridiculous. The play doesn't work as a drama or as a farce, yet seems to want to be both. I obviously missed the point, but I DON'T CARE!!!! ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 18, 2014 |
Insidious and insinuating. Curse of the Starving Class starts out feeling like Shepard pastiche--the flat non sequiturs just that little bit flatter; the drunk deadbeat dad finally showing up, just that much drunker and, um, deader. But then it develops into something serious, as each of the four family members (what will we do in the future when the Father and Mother and Brother and Sister family is no longer the model? We'll have lost our core. In this family, they disembowel the pet) makes their big entrances in time to encounter one of the others, ask for something neither can define, not receive it, do a little id-play, and exit again so Brother or Mother can take their place.

And in that way there's something powerful and singular going on here, a sort of Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt made more pithy and pointed and 'ppropriate for Bertolt's particular political project by a canny admixture of social realism. That is, if there's one thing this play is, it's not sensationalistic. There's nudity and blood and violence, but they are used to unsettle, not for their frisson and certainly not for cheap melodrama. You get touches that verge on surrealism, but then you also get a sad family being ground down by the relations of production.

And that's my gloss, the "relations of production"--Shepard is American and knows better than to make an ideological argument when he can tell a story about reg'lar folks with a Packard. This is 1978--the very beginning, the fraying forward edge of the American Dream, and it hits the fuckups and skids first and you can so easily say "that's not ME", but flash forward thirty years and we no longer have that luxury, so in that sense what Shepard is doing here is also semon and prophecy.

And in come Emerson and whatsisguy at the end, grinning imps ushering out the Packard, the family, the story, out goes the candle and out goes the light and out goes a life, and a way of living. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern crossed with brownshirt collection agents. Not tragic, because in tragedy everyone dies and here it's only the losers that lose. But cruel, cruel, and unfair, and they don't even get to lose beautifully. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | Feb 18, 2010 |
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Weston Tate is deep in debt and has his hands full trying to deal with a son who loves to hate him, a daughter on the brink of womanhood, and a wife who wants to get rid of him-- not to mention a shady real estate salesman, a slick bar owner and a crazed motorcycle gang who are all out to get the family and their farm.… (more)

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