The Day Room
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From Library Journal
DeLillo ( The Names, White Noise) is a well known novelist with a loyal following; this is his first play. As one would expect, it is a fractured view of reality, a black comedy. For those who thought absurdism was finished as a stage language, here it is, full blown, still able to puzzle, shock, and amuse. Set in a hospital, the play rapidly destroys the distinctions between patients and staff until it is impossible to tell who is ill and who is not. Our fears of hospitals, death, and insanity are allowed full reign. Language breaks down, and finally, the perception of reality dissolves into questions about personal identity and the possibility of meaningful communication. This is not for everyone, but it plays well. A new turn in DeLillo's career. Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., Mass.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The Day Room definitely raises interesting questions about what is real and what is an illusion. The circular ending really saves the entire play, but it can't make up for 111 pages of confusion before that. While trying to build up to the shocking and consciousness-raising ending, the play sputters for a while in pseudo-intellectualism and leaves the reader wanting at least a little clarification to hang their hat on. Some randomness is beautiful, too much leaves nothing solid to hold the randomness up, and throws the reader off.
Delillo's style is reminiscient of Beckett and other experimental minimalists. There's not a typical plot, with a character arc to follow. There are hospital patients, and hospital workers, and the audience never really knows who's who or what's going to happen next. At times this is exciting, but at other times it separates the reader from the story.
There are some very good monologues sprinkled throughout the play, both in Act I and Act II, but sometimes long-winded monologues can get boring and slow a show down on stage. And if you're looking for good monologues, look somewhere besides a long-winded production set in a psychiatric ward.
Still, I enjoyed the writing and reading the play.