Elaine (Vaguely, dreamily, moving to the window): The question is… the question is….What really happened that awful morning.
Helga: Why, you saw that shade go up! You saw that dead man, yah.
Elaine (Brooding, staring at the window): I thought I did, But did I? Did I, Helga? Did that shade go up – or was it only me?
Elaine Wheeler is a troubled woman, haunted by the past and unable to sleep. When the play opens, she is moving restlessly in her living room, when suddenly her eyes fall on the dilipidated building opposite her own apartment. Her screams bring her concerned husband, John, running to the room. Elaine explains that through the window she had seen a man sitting in a chair in the house opposite. And the man, she is sure, was dead. The police are called and after a thorough search they tell her that nobody has been in the building for long, nobody has disturbed the dust settled over there. But, yes, there was a chair as described by her over there.
John and Elaine’s friend, Blanche Cooke try to convince her that it is just a figment of her imagination. However, her maid, Helga (who has a habit of eavesdropping) cautions her that all is not what it seems. The same idea is in the mind of the Wheelers’ neighbour, Curtis Appleby. A journalist by profession, Appleby somehow recalls seeing John but can’t put his finger as to exactly where. Meanwhile, Elaine’s mind seems to be fixed on the house opposite and she repeatedly sees the corpse over there and then that corpse is joined by another corpse, that of a woman. Troubled by her erratic behaviour, John brings a renowned psychiatrist to examine his wife though Blanche is surprised as to how that psychiatrist could come at such a short notice from Switzerland. Meanwhile John convinces his wife to go on a vacation with him though brfore that he makes her sign a number of documents, after all she runs a financial empire….and all this time the police are having hard time responding to Elaine’s hysterical calls.
So what’s happening in the Wheeler household? Gaslighting? Or is Elaine really losing her mind? Fletcher provides a twisted end to a play that at one point on page 99 with Elaine speaking to Helga sent a shiver down my spine. Much recommended.
Have you read this? What did you think?
First Line: It is five o’ clock of a winter morning in New York city.
Publication Details: NY: Random House, 1972
First Published: 1972
Source: Open Library
Trivia: Made into a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey in 1973.