Walter WykesWalter Wykes is a graduate of the MFA Playwriting program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has had over thirty plays produced across the United States and internationally. Four times he has received the American College Theatre Festival’s Award for Excellence in Playwriting.

The bulk of his plays have an absurdist or surrealist bent, creating a dreamlike or nightmarish atmosphere that reflects the sometimes senseless nature of the world we inhabit. In Fading Joy, a young woman comes to fear that she may actually fade out of existence.

EDDIE: What—what do you mean? Just vanish?
JOY: Yes.
EDDIE: Poof—you’re gone?
JOY: That’s what I’m afraid of.
EDDIE: That wouldn’t make much sense—would it?
JOY: Well … no. Not really.
EDDIE: I mean, to just … disappear … vanish without a trace … as if one never existed! It sounds a bit preposterous … don’t you think?
JOY: I … I suppose it does.
EDDIE: I mean, where would one go? [A nervous little laugh.] Although, it … it is very dark.

This play can be viewed as an existential microcosm of life. A boy and girl meet on a beach. She, at least, is innocent—childlike. For her, the world is a place of wonder. Through the course of a comically accelerated relationship, they court and establish a sort of domestic relationship before petty squabbles and misunderstandings tear them apart. Jaded by this experience, they separate. When the boy returns after an undisclosed amount of time, they have both grown wiser and sadder, having been schooled in the ways of the world. They reminisce of their younger days—of those few innocent, happy moments on the beach—but their memory has already begun to deteriorate and they cannot agree on the details. Their minds become clouded, cease to function, and in the end they simply vanish from the face of the earth—as if they had never existed at all.

The Father Clock offers a somewhat more hopeful view of the human experience. It tells the tale of two actors and a stage manager who have been abandoned by their aging director. As the auditorium begins to fill and the lights dim, they desperately attempt to pull the show together with the help of a few artifacts the director has left behind, including a prompt book and a grandfather clock with no hands. In spite of their efforts, however, the show falls apart, and it soon becomes apparent that the Stage Manager’s mind has been affected by some strange venereal disease that she has caught from the Director. Realizing this, the younger of the two actors finally rebels against the Director’s vision.

SNUB: How can you go on?! LOOK AT HER! Look! Is that how you want to end up?! Is it?! Don’t you see what he’s doing?! [FLUB covers his ears.] He wants to keep us eternally beneath him!
FLUB: I can’t hear you!
SNUB: Idiot children forever worshipping at his feet!
FLUB: I’m completely deaf!
SNUB: Feeding his overgrown ego!
FLUB: You might as well be talking to a pole!
SNUB: As soon as we get comfortable in one role, we have to take on another! Why?! Because he wants to keep us off balance! That’s why! Because he doesn’t want us to THINK! He doesn’t want us to QUESTION HIS AUTHORITY! So he keeps us busy! Keeps us running in circles! Like mice! Rushing from one role to the next! Well, I’m on to his game! I see what he’s doing! And I refuse to participate!

When the grandfather clock—which has towered menacingly over the entire action of the play—suddenly stops ticking, they come to the terrifying conclusion that the Director has really abandoned them. Even Flub gives up hope that he will ever return. They are confused and alarmed a few moments later, however, when they realize that there is still a faint ticking noise coming not from the grandfather clock but from the Stage Manager’s belly. She is pregnant with the Director’s child.

FLUB: It’s a miracle! I knew he’d make arrangements!

After driving off Snub—who he sees as a threat to the child—Flub delivers the baby, or rather delivers a ringing alarm clock. As the play ends, he stands befuddled and alone, with his clock ringing into the darkness.

Rich with religious symbolism, The Father Clock, deals with the eternal questions of man’s origin and his purpose in the universe. Is there a God? Where did we come from? What are we doing here? Do we have a higher purpose, or is our existence just a meaningless series of random events? Should we embrace some sort of religious faith, or do we only delude ourselves by doing so? The absurd nature of the play serves as an effective vehicle for exploring these issues and expressing the confusion and misunderstanding that sometimes accompanies such weighty topics.

In Family 2.0, Wykes again deals with a character who is searching for some sort of meaning in his life. The play tells the story of a man who, having grown weary of his boring routine, decides to shake things up by invading a stranger’s home and convincing the family he finds there to accept him as their new husband/father.

HUSBAND: Aren’t you going to ask how my day was?
WIFE: [Attempting to pacify him.] How … how was your day?
HUSBAND: It was awful! Just like every other day! Same old boring job. Same old boring boss. Same old boring life. And then, on the way home, suddenly it hit to me—why come home to the same old boring wife and house and kids and dog when I could try something new?
WIFE: But you can’t just—
HUSBAND: I’ve always admired your home. It’s very well kept.
WIFE: Thank you, but—
HUSBAND: I pass it every day on my way to work, so I thought today I’d give it a try. It has to be more exciting than the one I’ve been coming home to for the past fifteen years.

Not surprisingly, the experiment is a disaster. After being accepted by the woman and her children as their new husband/father (and demoting the previous husband to the position of family dog), the man comes to realize that nothing has really changed—that his new family is no different than his old one and that happiness has eluded him once again.

The intellectual offspring of Ionesco, Beckett, and Pinter, Walter Wykes is proof that the Theatre of the Absurd lives on. In his plays, he creates a series of modern myths, tapping into something in the strata of the subconscious, through ritualism and rich, poetic language. The worlds he creates are brand new, and hilarious, yet each contains an ancient horror we all know and cannot escape and have never been able to hang one definitive word on.

© 2006 Moonstruck Drama Bookstore