Trifles by Susan Glaspell

Jeanie Hackett as Mrs. Peters
Amy Madigan as Mrs. Hale
Sam McMurray as the Sheriff
Steven Vinovich as Mr. Hale
Steven Weber as the County Attorney
Directed by Rosalind Ayres.
Recorded at The Invisible Studios, Los Angeles in April, 2011.

Once again I get the pleasure of attending a theatrical performance without leaving my home, okay, actually I left my home because I listened to this production from L.A. Theatre Works in my car on my commute to work. Being just under 30 minutes of performance time I heard the entire play from beginning to end without interruption. This one act play is loosely based on the murder of John Hossack, which the author, Susan Glaspell, reported on while working as a news journalist for the ‘Des Moines Daily News. Hossack’s wife, Margaret, was accused of killing her husband. However, Margaret argued that an intruder had killed John with an axe. She was convicted but it was overturned on appeal. The play was written and first performed in 1916.

Even if it is a one act play, such as this one, L.A. Theatre Works, puts their all into it. The recordings of the performances are so clear that every movement made by the actors is clear in its intent. Such as when the women in the play are checking the canned fruit jars, some of which were cracked due to the excessive cold in the house, when the women are pulling out the jars to find one undamaged, every clink of the glass and the scooting of the jars in the cabinet can be heard. It is amazing that they can create the complete theatre of the mind aspect without over emphasizing anything, it all has intent and once again the production value from L.A. Theatre Works captures all the ambiance of the performance.

While the title of the play is taken from one of Mr. Hale’s lines, “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.” It also can refer to the time period when women were treated as mere trifles themselves. “Trifles” is seen as an example of early feminist drama, because it is two female characters’, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale’s, ability to sympathize with the victim’s wife, Minnie, and so understand her motives, that leads them to the evidence against her, while the men are blinded by their cold, emotionless investigation of material facts.

While the men are investigating the murder scene and other aspects of the house it is the women that uncover the whole story from the clues in the quilting, the broken birdcage and more. The play doesn’t end with the trial, but only after the women discuss their found evidence and decide not top pass the info on to the men, who probably wouldn’t listen anyway. The sheriff, says of the kitchen “Nothing here but kitchen things.” This dismissal of the importance of the woman’s life and the male reluctance to enter the “woman’s sphere” is key in the men’s failure to discover the crucial evidence for the case. The most important evidence is found hidden in Minnie’s sewing basket.

A very haunting play and a brilliant performance produced by L.A. Theatre Works makes for a solid performance you won’t forget.

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