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The Root of Chaos - Full Length Play

The Root of Chaos

Douglas Soderberg

Full Length Play

3m, 2f

ISBN: 9780822209669

The place is the home of the Cernikowski family in Centralia, Pennsylv…

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Description | Characters
: DPS Acting Edition

Full Length Play


Interior Set

The place is the home of the Cernikowski family in Centralia, Pennsylvania, where a subterranean fire in the abandoned coal mines has been burning out of control for years and moving steadily closer to the houses of the few remaining residents. The Cernikowskis, father Joe, mother Wilma, teenage daughter Doublemint (named after her grandmother) and nine-year-old son, Skeeter, seem to be oddly unconcerned about their own peril, although Wilma does make daily measurements of the ever-widening crack in their cellar wall. But the grotesque unreality of their threatened existence is reflected in the matter-of-fact way in which they discuss events which, to "normal" people would seem something more than casual—such as Doublemint's off-hand announcement that she decided to take off her clothes in the school principal's office; or Skeeter's deadpan mention of having been sexually molested by a group of neighborhood bullies; or, worst of all, their ho-hum reaction when Wilma is incinerated in the cellar by escaping coal gas, ignited when Joe strikes a match to light Doublemint's cigarette. Eventually, after Doublemint is killed by lightening, Skeeter begins to show the first hints of honest fear and concern. But this is short-lived when he is felled by a fatal stroke, leaving Joe gamely trying to convince himself that he is not afraid, despite the collapse and destruction all around him, and notwithstanding the arrival of a foul-mouthed Officer of Surface Mining, who helps himself to the Cernikowskis' leftover casserole before sending Joe off to join the others by means of a well-placed bullet.
A bizarre, acerbic black comedy, using absurdist theatricality to underscore its bitingly funny comments on the fate of a small-town family which has fallen victim to modern man's mindless plundering of the earth's riches. Produced (twice) with great success by the Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of its '84 Shorts and 9th Annual Humana Festivals. "…the family relationships are hilarious and the dialog campy in the best sense." —Variety.


3m, 2f

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