the birthday party play
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Act I of The Birthday Party opens with a traditional domestic scene of a husband and wife around the breakfast table. Their conversation is bland but comfortable. On the page, it can seem hardly theatrical: there is no conflict, no exposition, and no challenge to expectation. However, hidden beneath the surface of Petey and Meg’s morning routine is a heavy sense of apathy, a recurring theme within the play. Both Petey and Meg, like Stanley, have accepted their tedious existence to the point that they fear change, as proven by Meg’s reaction in Act III when she does not have breakfast ready. Her morning routine is disrupted and she is extremely upset. In performance, one can sense the undercurrent, which gives the scene tension if not conflict. Again, their relationship on the surface seems perfect - in the silence beneath it, however, an audience can sense a problem.