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Written by Timothy Sexton
The Old Man
He’s ninety-five years old, although he has not actual name, the descriptive term for the main male character in The Chairs is achingly appropriate. He is married to the Old Woman, is employed as a handyman and has been waiting a very, very long time to deliver his important message to the rest of the world. By a very long time, think almost half his life. The level of significance attached to the message he is to deliver can be gleaned from the number of extremely distinguished guests that have been invited to his home to hear it in person. While the audience has only the Old Man and his wife to trust on the subject of being endowed with the job of delivering such a message, his actions bring this trust into question. The play opens with him nearly falling to his death out a window and very quickly after that he plops down in his wife’s lap even though there is an empty chair right next to her.
The Old Woman
The Old Man had an eye for younger girls, apparently; the Old Woman is only 94 years old. She is very maternal toward her husband and clearly respects his brilliance, suggesting that this job as a handyman was less than what he should have aspired to. At the same time, she can also be the stereotypical demanding wife, which seems only natural considering that her husband could have done much better for them if only he’d tried. The Old Woman is also not too old to make entirely inappropriate sexually suggestive overtures to a much younger married man, but in the end proves herself to be the ultimate soul mate as she joins her husband for the long ride down to the afterlife outside that dangerously open window.
The Orator is the only other character in the play who is not invisible to the audience. He arrives with the task of delivering the message of the old man to the assembled ethereal and intangible audience that has collected in the couple’s home to receive this most important of messages. He arrives in dress that makes him look like he is an artist who has just stepped into the present directly from the 19th century world of art. Turns out that he’s a deaf mute who must transmit this vital message via the medium of chalk put to chalkboard. He may also suffer some unidentified literacy problems as well as being deaf and mute as his message makes pretty much no sense and he ultimately must admit that he has failed to communicate the Old Man’s message properly.
The guests who arrive to hear the Old Man's important message include a married couple who may or may not have been intimately involved with the couple at some previous point and the Emperor. Neither they nor any of the other guests (excepting the Orator) are visible.
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