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Absurd Person Singular

nouveau riche

a play by Alan Ayckbourn, first performed in 1972; it well exemplifies its author's technical adventurousness and the moral seriousness he brings to comedy. Each of the three acts is set in a different kitchen on a consecutive Christmas Eve, and each charts the changing circumstances of three couples: the lower middle-class Sidney Hopcroft, who moves from insecurity to assurance with his growing business success, and his wife Jane; the adulterous architect Geoffrey, whose reputation collapses along with one of his buildings, and Eva, who is transformed by his failure from an anguished neurotic to the dominant figure in their marriage; and Ronald, the manager of the local bank, and Marion, whose upper middle-class arrogance is subverted by worsening alcoholism. The play ends with a graphic reminder of the social mobility that has been its main theme, a frantic party in which the educated professionals literally dance to the nouveau riche Sidney's tune; but the most critically admired act is the second, which somehow succeeds in finding a not unsympathetic humour in Eva's attempts to poison, hang, gas, knife, and defenestrate herself.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: 110A Piccadilly to Nelson Algren Biography