Maria Irene Fornes

Abingdon Square

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Abingdon Square Summary

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Abingdon Square is a contemporary drama in two acts by Cuban-born American playwright and director, María Irene Fornés. The story follows fifteen-year-old Marion who marries Juster, a much older man. As the years go by, Marion realizes that the relationship is emotionally unfulfilling, and she engages in extra-marital affairs to satisfy her needs. In a note to the play, Fornés writes that Abingdon Square was first performed as a Workshop production at the Seattle Repertory Theater in 1984, and later opened at New York’s American Palace Theater in 1987 under the direction of Fornés herself. Abingdon Square won the Obie (Off-Broadway Theater) Award for Best Play in 1987.

Abingdon Square is set in New York City during the years 1908 to 1917. Act 1 opens in the living room of Juster’s home on 10th Street. Young, recently-orphaned Marion is playfully joking around with Michael, Juster’s son from a previous marriage. Michael is the same age as Marion. She tells Michael that she loves him as a brother, but must try to love him as a mother, for she will soon marry Juster. Marion feels “blessed” by the “kindness” and the “solace” Juster has extended to her. With her great aunt Minnie in tearful attendance, Marion weds Juster. Months later, Marion and her cousin, Mary, gossip about a threesome: a man, his wife, and her sister all sleeping together. The girls squeal and Marion thinks it is “perverse” and the three will go to hell, as will Marion and Mary for thinking about it, but Marion admits she imagines lewd scenarios. She asks God for forgiveness.

Months go by, and Minnie finds Marion up in the hot attic in a white camisole, strenuously reciting from Dante’s Purgatorio. Marion confesses to Minnie that she feels as if “she is drowning in vagueness,” doesn’t know who she is. Marion believes that memorizing and reciting poetry in the heat will strengthen her mind and body to help her overcome this vagueness. Michael surprises Marion one day as she writes in her diary. Marion explains that her diary is to record “things that are imagined.” Marion describes an imaginary romance with someone whose name starts with the letter “F” and who looks like a “soulful” poet.

Confiding in Michael, Marion describes an encounter with a man at bookstore, whom she later follows. Ashamed of herself, she feels she must do penance. In September of 1912, Marion sees Frank standing in her garden. Notes for the scene indicate that “Marion’s manner of speaking reveals sexual excitement.” Frank acknowledges that he has been spying on Marion and knows she has been watching him. Marion tells Frank that she lost her heart when she saw him and has dreamed of him and thought of nothing but Frank, but she is married to the man Frank mistook for her father. She tells Frank to leave.

Act 2 begins in Juster’s home, at the start of 1915. Marion is transfixed by a glazier working on a window. He playfully drinks water out of a vase, then puts flowers in Marion’s hair and carries her off behind the sofa. Five months later, Juster excitedly tells Michael that he and Marion are going to have a child. Michael looks unhappily at Marion.

A year later, Marion, now a mother, is thrilled to see Frank again. She agrees to meet him in Abingdon Square. Time passes and Marion tells Michael that she believes Juster knows what she has been doing, and she thinks he is ready to divorce her. Michael is upset because he loves both his father and Marion. He doesn’t blame Marion for her affair, because she is young and in love with Frank, but he feels that he is betraying his father, and he must go away. Marion wishes to be with Frank permanently; she feels deceitful and impure to everyone else in her life. Juster finds a receipt for an apartment rental and angrily asks Marion what she has done. Seeing Marion with Frank, Juster demands Marion leave his home immediately, threatening that if she does not, she will never see her child, Thomas, again. Juster will expose her adultery and sue for custody.

Months go by, and Juster tells Mary that he never deserved Marion’s love, but felt a “profound tenderness” towards her and thought she had been happy with him. Now, they both hate each other. Juster also worries that Michael will be drafted into the coming war. Juster confides in Michael that Marion has “gone berserk,” and is stalking him. Juster now carries a revolver to shoot either Marion or himself. Michael announces that he has enlisted. Marion feels “Now that life has come unto me I am destroyed and I destroy everything around me.” She discloses to Mary that her child is not Juster’s or Frank’s. Marion wants the boy back. She imagines shooting Juster, whom she feels is unforgiving and insane.

In August of 1917, Juster confronts Marion and pulls his gun on her, then decides to kill himself instead. Marion lowers his gun hand and Juster fires at the floor. Juster suffers a stroke and falls into a coma. Frank tells Marion he is moving on, and Marion agrees he “must go.” Marion cares for Juster, feeding, bathing, and changing him, hoping for the day she can speak to him again. Juster comes out of his coma and wonders what Marion is doing there. Juster tells her to leave, but Marion argues she has been caring for him. Juster still wants her to get out. Marion starts to leave, but Juster stumbles, crawling after her, calling her name. She holds him in her arms and Juster tells her he loves her. Marion says she loves him too and doesn’t want him to die. Michael arrives in uniform. Juster’s hand touches Marion’s face and she ends the play saying, “He’ll be all right.”