Subscribe to RSS Subscribe to Comments

Jeffrey Jones, 70 Scenes of Halloween


The following is from the Village Voice review of the original production of 70 Scenes of Halloween in 1980:

Jones’s deadpan farce with intellectual aspirations ends long after it should, but on the other hand it could end anywhere. Time in the play is out of joint, non-continuous, as fragmented as a series of television programs. It does not flow forward with the certainly of out-and-out narrative; events follow one another in a series of near repetitions, so that you feel they are overlapping.

Unlike most plays, 70 Scenes does not seem to be taking place in time at all, but in space. It is as if each scene were a discrete sketch traced onto the thinnest of translucent paper, and then all 70 of the tracings were juxtaposed one on top of the other in order to create a complex, multilayered drawing in which the lines were sometimes a little fuzzy but the total image was deep and singular and memorable.

It is also possible to interpret the play with old fashioned Freudian tools. Then you would say that the Beast and the Witch personified the sexual underminds of Jeff and Joan, although I would prefer them to remain the separate creatures they so palpably are on stage.

Although he gently needles them, Jones seems to have an affection for the characters he created. One thing I take him to be saying is this: In a sexual age which rightly relegates D. H. Lawrence to a dim time of prerevolution, the dominion of the libido is finally populated with likable citizens.

Jopes’ website has complete editions of other plays of his, as well as his provocative manifesto against mainstream drama, “Geezer Theater”:


  1. afox
    February 22nd, 2006 | 12:34 pm

    I, for one, would like to view the witch and the beast as the libidinal correlates of Joan and Jeff. The fragmentary nature of the play is reflective of human subjectivity – that, to me, is a given – but I think what makes the play really fascinating are the physical manifestations of the veiled desires – whether they be murderous or lustful or loving – with Holloween as a conceit to make the piece surreal but not out of place. Along that vein, I like the presence of the sound man – a non-narrative character that does well to bridge the gap between the surrealist vision of the play and its audience – blending performed and actual worlds.

    I think, beyond character, what makes the fragmentary approach work is binding emotional energy to physical spaces. That’s to say – the kitchen for instant is established as this foreboding place of conflict, and so in scenes where one character doesn’t have a knife waiting for the other, we are still geared towards expecting it. The television room seems to be the one place of armistice, and peace. But this convention too can be smashed. So as we become familiarized with the kind of conflictual potentional that a space contains, or doesn’t, that there is no consistent thread of narrative becomes less and less of an issue (given that the characters are relatively unpredictable.)

    But even if it wasn’t entirely sequential, a narrative was there – which is an important fact to consider given the duration of the piece. I wonder if in a shorter piece one could still be sucessful without an overarching storyline.


  2. Dcannizzaro
    February 27th, 2006 | 5:43 pm

    This piece really worked for me because of its characters. The snippets of dialogue really do work in any order as they give more information about jeff and joan’s relationship than they do any major plot points. The way they interact, and the repitition of certain scenes with slight variation work well with the non linear format. The play feels very surreal and the breaks in continuity from scene to scene further increase this environment. Setting it at halloween felt a little bit like cheap ploy to try and make the absurd more palatable. I personally feel it would have worked better without that as it only drew more attention to those details. I couldn’t help but wonder how the experience of seeing this performed would be different than the reading of it. especially since i read it whenever i had a bit of time, thus in a few sittings with breaks between them. Also a staging in which the audience was allowed to call out the next scene to be performed might bring another interesting element to the piece. furthering the use of the soundman that andrew mentions as a bridge between the worlds.


  3. Lisa
    February 27th, 2006 | 7:49 pm

    I think one of the most interesting aspects of this play is that Jones’s
    use of non-continuous, overlapping, and fragmented scenes allows him to
    get away with making the Beast and the Witch personifications of “the
    sexual underminds of Jeff and Joan” without falling into cliche. I would
    guess that by the early 80s the theme of the suburban, heterosexual couple
    alienated from each other as a result of their pop-culture constructed
    gender roles and desires was getting kind of stale — especially if it was being
    narrated via psychoanalytic theory. The play’s avoidance of the conventions
    of realism — in particular, of linear or chronological time — not only gives the
    theme of domestic conflict and the use of psychoanalytic theory a freshness but,
    perhaps most importantly, offers the viewer a new way of experiencing them. In a
    sense these themes are most directly and viscerally experienced via the
    form of the piece, which, one could argue, in its fragmented, repetitive
    and non-linear quality is structured like the unconscious (or a dream) as
    Freud understands it. It feels, at least when reading the play, that you
    have indeed entered into the collective unconscious of both characters —
    a place that is pure space, heightened space and full of “conflictual
    potential” as Andrew suggests. This place of pure, condensed space, rather
    than the traditionally symbolic or metaphorical devices Jones employs,
    seems to offer the most expressive manifestations of the characters’
    internal states.

  4. Billy Durette
    February 28th, 2006 | 12:40 am

    The criticism suggests that it is possible for the beast and the witch to remain as separate characters. I don’t see how someone like us could convincingly read them that way. It seems like if you have learned some Freud, you have to think of them as some kind of representation of the unconscious. We can’t just choose not to think of them like that.

    Sorry for the brief comment, but I’m stuffed with work right now. More to come if I have time.

  5. August 3rd, 2012 | 9:17 am

    […] Jeffrey Jones, 70 Scenes of Halloween – arras.netThe following is from the Village Voice review of the original production of 70 Scenes of Halloween in 1980: Jones’s deadpan farce with intellectual aspirations … […]

Based on FluidityTheme Redesigned by Kaushal Sheth Sponsored by Web Hosting Bluebook