Topor, Tom (American playwright, novelist, 1938-____), “Answers,”
a __-minute drama in English, set in the interrogation room in the headquarters of Homicide South in Manhattan, possibly 1972,
© 1972 by Tom Topor;
• in The Best Short Plays 1972, edited by Stanley Richards (New York: Chilton Book Company, 1972);
• also, in Tom Topor’s Answers(New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., ____), ISBN 0-8222-0055-4, DPS 811;
• script/rights available from Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 440 Park Avenue South, New York City, New York 10016, U.S.A., telephone 212-683-8960, fax 212-213-1539, http://www.dramatists.com;
• script available in Lewis W. Heniford Drama Collection, http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/hasrg/ablit/amerlit/heniford.htm, Stanford University Library, Stanford, California.
• Cited by Allen L. Hubby via e-mail email@example.com, March 20, 1997; the citation says,
Ed (m), first police officer; Frank (m), second police officer; Suspect (m).
“Having been detained for questioning, in a crime about which he claims to know nothing, a suspect is grilled by two persistent police officers. They call him ‘Byron’ (although he insists this is not his name) and their initially bantering attitude turns steadily more ominous as they attempt to force a confession. Ultimately, in a scene of shattering intensity, they succeed but disturbing questions linger. Have justice and truth indeed been served? Or has another hapless victim been sacrificed to society’s inexorable need for retribution at any cost?
Ed and Frank assail the Suspect in an interrogation room. These detectives impose an identity on him that he rejects and that he would correct if his wallet had not been lifted. They say he murdered a woman. He claims to have been asleep in his room at the time. They tempt him to a drink of whiskey, then knock it from his hand, blaming him for making a mess. In a staccato barrage of accusative details and questions, the detectives psychologically abuse the Suspect. He lengthily claims innocence and demands to see their notes on the interrogation. They tease him with the notebook but ultimately allow him to read their conclusion: “Suspect wrong man.” He responds with weary hope and accepts whiskey-laced coffee. They follow their brief kindnesses with another fast, long inquisition and record on tape his disjointed answers as incriminating misstatements. They claim he has assaulted them and the law. Reduced to babbling incoherence and left by himself with a confession to sign, the Suspect picks up the pen.
“A successful off-off-Broadway production, also selected by Stanley Richards for inclusion in his noted Best Short Plays series, this gripping and powerful play probes into the helpless terror experienced by a suspect undergoing a relentless police interrogation. ‘[A] compelling, contemporary comment on society.’—Ira J. Bilowit, Show Business. . . . ‘Mr. Topor as a dramatist writes cleanly, with flair for sharp dialogue.’—Jerry Tallmer, N. Y. Post.” In this strong indictment of misguided police.
Themes confession, identity, incrimination, innocence, inquisition, interrogation, murder, police, psychological abuse.