‘THE CLIMBERS’ BY CLYDE FITCH (METROPOLITAN PLAYHOUSE)
ARE WE THERE, YET?
By Alex Roe
In the land of opportunity, no star is beyond our grasp. No aspiration is too high, if only we will reach for it. But is the invitation to continually strive a gift, or a curse? Is opportunity-worship devotion to a jealous idol? Is it, in fact, a goblin haunting the American dream?
Farcical and heartbreaking by turns, Clyde Fitch’s 1901 The Climbers defies easy categorization, but by changing its own tone, this long-overlooked play captures an elusive quarry and an essential conundrum for the American social animal. At the dawn of the 20th century, the altruistic and esteemed head of the Hunter family has died before his time, leaving his wife and three daughters with an unwelcome surprise. Desperate in his final months to keep up with the demands of their extravagant social life, he made a risky investment and lost the family’s once substantial fortune, leaving them with no assets or income at all.
If the fires of adversity prove one’s mettle, the various members of this family seem to be made of different stuff. Mr. Hunter’s widow, youngest daughter, and son-in-law scheme to dupe others into making up their losses. Meanwhile, his sister and two elder daughters vow to care for themselves and their families whatever the personal costs. From these different campaigns spring both the wicked comedy and tender pathos of the play.
Photo: L to R: Levi Adkins, Becca Ballenger, Margaret Catov, Matt McAllister