In 1975 JACK, OR THE SUBMISSION
played at New Yorks Direct Theatre. In this play by Ionesco, James Morrison played
An absurdist study of a wildly dysfunctional family in the Never Never Land of playwright
Ionescos unfettered imagination. Ionescos eccentric Jack family, exaggerated
and preposterous, might be called the mother of all dysfams. Mother Jack is the mother of
all Terrible Mothers. She is so terrible she doesnt think to ask where she went
wrong; she blames it all on Jack.
Theres blame enough to go around. Members of the Jack family totter from behind
sliding doors that seal off the ordinary world. Father Jack is an ineffectual, blustering
tyrant in ragged, spotted velvet knee breeches and coachmans hat who depiltates his
legs with giant tongs as he angrily denounces his son as unworthy of his ancestors.
Sister Jacqueline is an overage teenager with one sequin-sparkled eye and one whitened one
-- her middy blouse, kneesocks and hair ribbons proclaim her an eternal schoolgirl.
Grandfather Jack is doddering on the verge of collapse until he reveals his true nature.
Gramps is a singing, dancing, blooming vaudevillian. Expressions of consternation escalate
to agony as they all plead for Jack ("So stubborn!") to emerge from the
chrysalis, or caul, of curtains where he silently sequesters himself.
With the perpetually petulant and aggrieved look of an anguished adolescent, or brat, Jack
sits unmoved -- until at last he utters the magic words, "I adore hashed brown
potatoes!" What rejoicing ensues!
Now the Roberts may enter. Father Roberts enters with his mate, who first snorts like a
pig then coos like a dove. They present their only daughter, Roberta, "a pig in a
poke," as a candidate to become Jacks fiancée. She enters, a small veiled
vision of bridal loveliness -- a hopeful sight, until she removes her veil and we see she
has two noses. Jack demands a fiancée with three.
Roberta leaves and returns as the Roberts "second only daughter," this
time she has three noses. Finally left alone with Jack this Roberta woos him
resourcefully, and she wins him over with a tale of flaming stallions and word games
inspired by the protective cap of cat fur Jack wears to protect his brain from harmful
influences. Everything that needs to be said can be said with one word: cat. Catamaran,
catacomb, catechism, cataclysm, and so forth.
Jack is enchanted.
Absurdist, nonsensical, meaningful as you please, Jacks Submission is difficult, a
bit overlong, and it ends in a rather terrifying rite of primitive celebration with Jack
as a sacrificial victim and Roberta now seated in the chrysalis.
Synopsized from a review by Polly Warfield for Drama-Logue (but, notably, not of the
Direct Theatre production).