Set in the turbulent 1960's, 1963 and the day of Dr. Martin Luther
King's march on Washington to be exact, Ralph Pape’s play “Beyond Your
Command” is billed as a Comedy/Drama but achieves little of either.
The play is set in a low-income black neighborhood.
A white door to door salesman, Nick, is trying to sell vacuum cleaners
to Frances, a kind black woman. He has hired his friend’s son, Danny,
as an assistant and they have worked out an elaborate ploy to be
invited into homes. Danny, however, does not feel as comfortable as
Nick does in exploiting hard-working people. As Nick tries to work his
magic on Frances, who is already on bad terms with her husband for
spending too much money, Danny begins to antagonize him more and more.
The conflict erupts as Frances’ husband arrives
home, after she has already purchased a vacuum. Danny sides with the
angered father and after the husband tears up the purchase receipt,
Nick attacks Danny.
Thematically the play mainly concerns itself with
the three young adults in the play: Danny, Frances' daughter and son,
who is not in the action. Their main purpose is to show that the
prejudices and racism of the older generations is beginning to fade,
that the young people of the 1960's were perhaps more "enlightened"
than their parents.
While in itself it is not a bad play, neither is it
exactly what one would call a good play. The writing is for the most
part solid, the characters heightened yet grounded in reality. But as a
whole, it leaves just a little more to be desired. Instead of the
statement the play sets out to make, the reader is left instead
slightly indifferent, if not annoyed, by the heavy-handed moralism
conducted by Pape.
The title itself is taken from the Bob Dylan song
"Blowin' In The Wind". The playwright was unable to obtain permission
to have a stanza of the song on the first page, and perhaps it was for