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Edward Albee Alan Pogue he’d jumped the species fence. Wife Stevie’s reaction to the revelation raises similar questions. Heflin puts her character into a rather magnificent, furniture-tossing rage, but she too responds as if her husband were having an affair with her best friend, or maybe with a friend of their 17-year-old son. It seems more likely that she would respond, initially at least, with total incomprehension, and then ship him off for some very serious therapy. Or try to ship him off, at any rate. Getting him to the doctor wouldn’t be easy, because Martin himself doesn’t think he has a problem. Martin’s stance is essentially that of the misunderstood lover. Of the Montague in love with the Capulet, or the Palestinian in love with the Israeli. Why can’t the world just leave us alone? It’s not clear ifAlbee sees him as being deranged, depraved, or simply unlucky in love. Who’s being hurt? the writer seems to ask. \(Other writers have pointed out a possible similarity between Albee’s poker face vis a vis his character’s weaknesses is exactly what makes the play unsettling. He refuses to point out the difference between right and wrong for us, or even to acknowledge that such differences exist. At least when it comes to love, sex, and passion. Ross’ betrayal of his friend’s confidence is portrayed as the most immoral act in the play. Albee’s stance seems to be that our high-minded, Pritzker-granting civilization is only a veneer covering our darker, perhaps even bestial natures. In other words, that there was never any need to idealize this highly educated, highly liberal family in the first place, because when you put its members under enough pressure, they’ll show their teeth. Their true nature, that is. This is hardly a novel observation, but Albee makes those teeth bite when Martin is confronted by his son, Billy \(Matt Hune, just come out of the closet to his parents. They’d said all the right things when he told them he was gay, but as soon as Billy passes judgment on his father’s own sexual preferences, Martin snaps “fucking faggot,” at his son. It’s actually in the interaction between Martin and Billy that Albee begins hitting the audience where we really live. It’s hard to take the goat business altogether seriously, after all. But nobody laughed when, in the middle of an acceptable father-son embrace, Billy and Martin suddenly exchange a passionate kiss. Or later, when Martin tells the story of a father who became aroused while holding his infant son in his lap. “Was I that baby, By the end of the play, Martin, the architect, has lost his sense of boundaries. He couldn’t remember trivial matters when the play began, now he can’t remember why we’re not supposed to have sex with goats or our children. Because Martin doesn’t agree that he has a problem, the tensions in the play seem almost beyond the power of drama to resolve. Bestiality is, after all, only wrong if we say that it is. But with a single brilliant strokeoffstage, Stevie takes her revenge on her rivalAlbee does in fact conclude his story in stunningly and classically tragic fashion. That Albee is able to infuse the death of surest sign that he has reached far beyond his darkly comic premise, and delivered one of the strangest “goat songs” in the history of drama, but a tragedy nonetheless. David Theis is a writer in Houston. The Goat or Who is Sylvia? will be published by Overlook Press this spring. 2/28/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27