Southern Women Playwrights: New Essays in Literary History and Criticism

By Robert L. McDonald; Linda Rohrer Paige | Go to book overview

15
Postmodern Monologues in Regina Porter's
Tripping through the Car House

Mary Resing

Regina Porter's 1997 play Tripping through the Car House is a hybrid formed of several theatrical categories. In the tradition of American realism, Tripping provides a compelling domestic drama, dealing with love, kinship, and betrayal. However, as a postmodern work, it mixes a linear plot with a variety of oblique and fanciful elements. With this play, Porter borrows from the traditions of Black and Southern women writers to compose a unique and nonholistic world and culture. Set in an environment half house/half car, the play combines moving narrative and strong characterization with a pastiche of images. Several monologic scenes which involve the characters Dee, Dale, and Nita Myers clearly reveal this world.

Tripping through the Car House progresses on two distinct but related levels. On the first level, it presents a coming-of-age story—the tale of twelve-year-old Nita, who struggles to come to maturity as the marriage of her restless parents, Dee and Dale, deteriorates. On the second level, the play embodies the internal conflicts of the three main characters. Memories, dreams and deeply imbedded bits of popular culture make up the identities of these characters; their divergent identities are embodied, given movement and voice, through conversations with “ghost” characters. The multiple identities of these characters betoken the fragmented world in which they live.

In Performance: A Critical Introduction, Marvin Carlson, citing an argument by Fredric Jameson, states that “in postmodern expression, the traditional unified work of art expressing a unified personality gives way to a 'schizophrenic' art, reflecting a shattered and fragmented culture” (135–36). Tripping ' s playwright, Regina Porter, herself embodies a number of separate identities. Born and raised in Savannah but a resident of New York, an African American but also a woman, Porter represents no single category. She discloses her multiple identities in the disconnect between herself and her dramatic characters. Although Porter herself is highly educated, her characters speak in slang. As the

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