Hello Out There

Hello Out There is a short play by William Saroyan, who is hailed as one of America's Greatest Playrights. The production I saw was put on by The American Century Theatre, and directed by DeAnna Duncan.

The plot is simple and bleak: a Young Man (played superbly by James Brown-Orleans) is in jail for an alleged rape of The Wife (Kathryn Barnhardt) of The Husband (Paul Danaceau). Emily (Deen Lynn Rubinson), the cook at the small town jail where the Young Man is being held, is attacted to him. The Young Man enlists Emily to help him escape, so they can run away to San Franciso together, before The Husband and his friends come to the jail to lynch him. However, while Emily is gone getting him her father's gun, The Husband arrives and (inadvertently?) kills the Young Man.

The play closes with Emily taking the Young Man's position in the cell and saying "hello out there", just as he had done in the beginning of the play, thus coming full circle. This existential moment resonates powerfully and is probably the reason the work was hailed by critics everywhere. Saroyan himself didn't think much of the play (probably due to the critical acclaim, which had escaped his other plays that he considered more important and non-conventional).

The play has an universal appeal because both the Young Man and Emily are outcasts, and in a time of need they are drawn together. But before their relationship is seen to fruition, it is shattered. The question of whether Emily can get away from her small town life is left open-ended.

This is truly an excellent play, and it was made all the more powerful by the cast of the characters, where the Young Man is black and Emily is white (Saroyan wrote the play without references to race). Definitely worth checking out.

Play ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org