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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Cost of Living

When the Pulitzer Prizes are announced it always puts a bee in my bonnet--I need to see or read the winner for Drama. When I lived in New Jersey and the show was still running, that was easy, or if the play has been published. But Martyna Martyna Majok's Cost of Living is not playing in Las Vegas (surprise!) and has not had a publication yet. But! I found that there is an acting version available from Dramatist's Play Service, so ordered it and read it.

Majok is one of a number of women playwrights who have reinvigorated the American drama scene. Of the last ten Pulitzers for drama, half have gone to women, which is a positive development.

Cost of Living is not a reference to monetary conditions but just the basic cost of living, that is living our lives. There are two parallel stories, bot involving a "differently-abled person." (One of those people hates that designation, and calls it "fucking retarded"). One pair is a man and his wife. They are separated, but she has sustained an accident making her a quadriplegic. She is understandably bitter, as the man, Eddie, has left her for another woman but comes around offering his services as a caregiver (he's an out of work truck driver).

The other has a wealthy man with cerebral palsy, John, hiring a new caregiver. She is Jess, an immigrant's daughter who is also working two other bartending jobs. She's from the lower class, although she says she's a Princeton grad, while he is from the upper class. An attachment of sorts forms, as she must wash him, but it's not the attachment she thinks it is.

The other pair also have an intimate moment when Ani, the disabled woman, allows Eddie to work for her. He bathes her, and there are stirrings of their married life. At least until he runs into the kitchen and she slides under the water (temporarily).

I can't think of another play that deals so frankly with the disabled, and in the introduction Majok implores those who put on the play to use disabled actors, as the previous professional productions have done.

The dialogue in Cost of Living is smart, sarcastic, and frank (as Majok notes, the word "fuckin," is used frequently in New Jersey, where it is set. I found the last act, when the two stories intersect, the weakest part of the play, as it contains a decision that seems a bit half-baked. But otherwise, it's a worthy winner, and I would love to see it performed.

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