cover image Arcadia, Indiana

Arcadia, Indiana

Toby Altman. Plays Inverse, , $12.95 ISBN 978-0-9914183-8-1

In this daringly avant-garde collection designed as a stage play, Altman chronicles an epic clash between his hero, “Steelman,” and the villainous CEO and board members of Arcadia Steel. The play is presented in five acts (plus “deleted scenes”), and includes other characteristics of a traditional drama, such as set descriptions (“packed with pastoral trash”) and stage directions: “enter the poet, with insufferable need.” In addition to the employees of Arcadia Steel, their wives, and the poet himself, Altman’s characters include Oedipus and the Sphinx, the biblical Adam and Abel, and characters referred to as “the Verb” and “Ego.” The dialogue is disjointed and strange, though frequently stirring; unfortunately, such gems as “April ocean and insatiable folding./ How do we know this storm of withholding” must be mined from a vast reserve of non sequiturs, including such contextless lines as “Come beat the genital drum, skeleton.” The story is “a corporate pleasure for a corporate age” that involves a martyred working-class hero, though the specifics are intentionally hazy; ambiguous stage directions--“he stabs him”--make it hard to nail down a plot. Altman has done some interesting things with form, however. Readers willing to set aside the need for clarity and embrace instead the compelling imagery, sounds, and performative aspects of the drama should find a gratifying and immersive experience. (June)