The Philadelphia

Much like The End of the World clip, The Philadelphia uses stereotypical expectations to satirize place. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a stereotype as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” In the case of The Philadelphia, it is the stereotypes of cities that are used. The Philadelphia is a one-act play. Al is seated at a restaurant in New York and he orders food from the waitress. He is very excited about the eccentric items that they have, and upon completion of his order, his friend Mark enters.   Mark complains that he has had a terrible day, and everything has been going wrong. Any time he asks for something, he cannot get it. He says, “I just got into a cab, the guy says he doesn’t go to 56th street! He offers to take me to Newark instead!”  Al claims to know all about Mark’s predicament, and he tells him not to worry. He explains,

Physically you are in New York. But metaphysically you are in a Philadelphia…you see, inside of what we know as reality there are these pockets, these black holes called Philadelphias. If you fall into one, you run up against exactly the kinda shit that’s been happening to you all day…Because in a Philadelphia, no matter what you ask for, you can’t get it.  You ask for something, they’re not gonna have it. You want to do something, it ain’t gonna get done. You want to go somewhere, you can’t get there from here.

Mark asks if he should put himself out of his misery and kill himself, to which Al replies “you try to kill yourself in a Philadelphia, you’re only gonna get hurt, babe.” Meanwhile, the waitress informs Al that his boss called and he has been fired. Al replies “Cool! Thanks,” and continues his conversation.   He goes on to explain that while Mark is in a Philadelphia, Al woke up in a Los Angeles where everything is great. He plans on turning his life into a movie and selling it. Mark figures out that in order to get what he wants, he needs to ask for the opposite, and a comical scene ensues as he orders his meal from the waitress. When Mark attempts to call the waitress, Al helps him get her attention.

MARK: Waitress!

AL: Don’t call her. She won’t come.


AL: You’re in a Philadelphia, so just figure, fuck her.

MARK: Fuck her.

AL: You don’t need that waitress.

MARK: Fuck that waitress.

AL: And everything to do with her.

MARK: Hey, waitress! FUCK YOU! (WAITRESS turns to him.)

WAITRESS: Can I help you, sir?

AL: That’s how to get service in a Philadelphia.

Mark wonders if he has been in a Philadephia his whole life, and Al says he could have been in a Baltimore, which is similar to a Philadelphia. When the food comes Al gets a cheesesteak, which is not what he ordered. He realizes that he caught Mark’s Philadelphia, and begins to panic about losing his job and his wife. Continuing to panic and not getting what he needs, he leaves. The waitress comes over and explains that she has been in a Cleveland all week, and Al asks what that is like. She explains, “It’s like death, without the advantages.” Mark ends the play by saying, “everybody has to be someplace.”

The stereotypes used in The Philadelphia ascribe characteristics of a city to a state of being. According to the author, in Philadelphia, you can never get what you want. In a Philadelphia, you can also never get what you want.  Los Angeles is a city of relaxation and hope. In a Los Angeles, the person is worry-free, and ready to write a movie. In The Philadelphia, David Ives found a clever way to draw attention to the stereotypes placed on cities.  In this case, the satire is the stereotype.




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