The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII
as long as Jewell lives. Even Jackson Bennett, exposed to new ideas and attaining a rudimentary level of literacy during his prison sentence, returns to his smug self satisfaction and finds another fiancée pleased with his limited sophistication garnered from his prison sentence. As O’Malley now extricates Evelyn from this mud, the play confirms that most of the other characters lack any potential or opportunity to evolve. Only Faye’s personal sacrifice for Evelyn indicates her vague appreciation of what life offers on the other side of the mountain. The play leaves us with a dismissive image of this side of the mountain. During her panel presentation, Bush indicated her early ambitions in describing the Kentucky of her past: I am not native to Kentucky, but some of my best experiences and a lot of my growing up were in eastern Kentucky. And I thought, “No one writes about these people. No one tells their stories.” At least, that’s what I thought in my very limited, very small Soho apartment in New York City. I thought, “I’m going to set a play back home for my friends and for my experience with it.” Given that she soon afterwards said that “Playwriting is about service, service to our audience,” one must ask for whom Bush has written this play. In her talk, Bush said, “Most of my plays in Appalachia have an outsider coming in, because that is my perspective still. [. . .] I don’t know how long you’d have to live here to actually be from here. I don’t know if that happens. You can tell me. I don’t think it does. I have not been here long enough.” Here, Bush concedes that she is not writing about Appalachia in service to Appalachians. Being the perpetual outsider, in The Other Side of the Mountain , she identifies with O’Malley, whose “experiences are very similar to my experiences going to that part of the world.” And, while O’Malley makes an unenthusiastic offer to abandon her career to begin a new Mud Creek life with Evelyn, she offers unrestrained vocal relief that Evelyn has already decided to return to her career as a biologist. Being of Appalachia, Evelyn has undergone refinement, and O’Malley can take what she considers best from this squalid setting, benefiting herself and, assuredly, Evelyn by
leaving the dross behind. The stage business of Jackson’s spitting a wad of chewing tobacco, aside from its image of violation and filth, evokes comparison to an early scene in Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , when Maggie attacks her sister-in-law’s social climbing. Mae, whose family has suffered some dire financial reversals, has been a local beauty queen; and Maggie recalls that in a later year, a drunk has spit tobacco juice into the face of another young woman who has won the title. Maggie intends to suggest that some inherent worthy qualities endure while fame and fortune can pass; she implies that she remains a far worthier person. Williams’ stage direction indicates that Maggie “gaily” recounts this event, but her pleasure ends when she notices that her estranged husband, Brick, reservedly evaluates her character though denying he does so. MARGARET: Don’t you think I know that—? Don’t you—?—Think I know that—? MARGARET [ struggling for expression ]: That I’ve gone through this— hideous! — transformation , become— hard! Frantic! [ Then she adds, almost tenderly: ] – cruel!! (27) Because this exchange occurs so early in the play, we members of the audience do not yet have the opportunity to determine whether Maggie has undergone a small epiphany that shifts her understanding of worth. We do, however, see that Brick’s immediate reaction to learning of this assault contrasts with Maggie’s amusement over it. During the Emory & Henry Literary Festival performance of The Other Side of the Mountain that I attended, the moment when Jackson spits the tobacco wad into Evelyn’s face elicited more gasps than laughs. Jackson does not even apologize: “Oh. Hey there, Evelyn.” Evelyn wipes her cheek and replies, “Hey, Jackson. Still chewing Red Man, I see.” The stage direction describes the action as “ A direct hit ” ( The Other 20), and Evelyn’s scripted response tries to extend the attempted humor of the moment. However, for most of us watching, it was a dirty joke. BRICK [ coolly ]: Know what , Maggie?
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