The Play's Literary and Cinematic References

Jean Fordham and her college professor parents, Bill and Barbara, are fond of using references to film and literature to convey images and ideas that often resonate ironically with the characters’ own needs and struggles.

Some of those references include:

  • Maria Full of Grace: María llena eres de gracia is a 2004 Colombian-American film, directed by Joshua Marston, about a pregnant 17-year-old Colombian girl who agrees to work as a drug mule to provide for herself and her family. The job requires her to swallow 62 wrapped pellets of cocaine and carry them in her body as she flies to New York City, all the while risking capture by U.S. customs agents, the chance that a pellet might rupture and kill her, and death at her employers’ ruthless hands.


  • Lolita: A reference to the 1955 novel of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov, about the obsession and sexual relationship the middle-aged protagonist and first-hand narrator, Humbert Humbert, has with a 12-year-old girl named Dolores Haze. The novel remains one of the most famous and controversial works of literature of the 20th century.
  • Night of the Hunter: A 1955 thriller directed by Charles Laughton starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters, adapted by James Agee from the 1953 novel by Davis Grubb. The novel and film are based on actual events in the 1930s, where an ex-con posing as a chaplain marries and kills a former cellmate’s widow in an effort to find the hiding place of a stash of stolen money, which only the widow’s two children know about. The pivotal murder scene takes place in an attic bedroom that one critic describes as “heavy ecclesiastically apse-like.”


  • Phantom of the Opera: A silent 1925 film directed by Rupert Julian and featuring Lon Chaney in the title role. The film is most famous for Chaney’s intentionally horrific, self-applied makeup, which was kept a studio secret until the film’s premiere and reportedly made audiences scream and faint in theaters. The film’s “Bal Masqué” scene was highlighted by its use of the Technicolor process. When the film was originally released, it contained 17 minutes of color footage, including all of the opera scenes of Faust as well as the Bal Masqué scene. Only the Bal Masqué scene survives in color.


  • Claude Rains: Rains’ Technicolor version of Phantom was released in 1943, directed by Arthur Lubin. While the horror film used the auditorium set created for Lon Chaney’s 1925 version, the remake has little else in common with the earlier film and made no attempt to film the masked ball sequence.


  • Jean Seberg: Jean Dorothy Seberg (1938-1979) was an American actress who starred in 37 films in Hollywood and France. The beloved but emotionally-fragile actress had a tumultuous personal life and an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs, finally committing suicide by massive overdose in Paris in August 1979 in the back seat of her car.
  • Carson McCullers: American novelist whose most famous novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, explores the spiritual isolation and deep loneliness of the misfits and outcasts in her Southern settings. Tennessee Williams once wrote that “Carson’s major theme [was] the huge importance and nearly insoluble problems of human love.”