Yes Is for a Very Young Man
At the Brattle
Repetition is a very difficult technique for a playwright to use; if employed too little, it seems like a series of trivial mistakes; if used too frequently, it is monotonous. Getrude Stein, however, is an artist at repetition--of words, of thoughts, of dramatic situations. In her play, "Yes Is For a Very Young Man," the obvious use of this technique is in the repeating of single words; in the first act, "yes" is exhausted of all its symbolic meaning in an excellent dialogue between Ferdinand, a young, confused French boy and Constance, a characterization of Gertrude Stein herself. There is a more subtle repetition, however, in the fact that each of the three main French characters have a sequence of interviews with Constance. Constance is the symbol of what she was named for, of fixed repetition in a changing environment.
The plot progression is a series of reflections in a three-faced mirror. Through the mirror--Constance--are presented the thoughts and experiences of Henri, a French soldier, his wife Denise and brother, Ferdinand, during the period of the French Resistance. The plot is in sharp focus all the way. But if the greater part of the story is concentrated, the climax is too diffuse. Instead of having a three-way plot solution in a single unified scene with Constance, the portrayal of each character reaches a separate culmination in a scene alone with her. The audience is left to wonder which of the three scenes is the more climatic and to speculate on the relations that the three solutions will have on each other.
Jan Farrand as Denise and Albert Marre as Henry were very good indeed; whatever humor the play had came in the squabbles between these two and their acting pointed it up excellently. Sylvia Stone was somewhat stiff as Constance. She gave such sombre dignity to the part in the earlier scenes that it was hard to imagine the exuberance that Constance showed on the day of Liberation.
"Yes Is For a Very Young Man" is more technique than drama. Gertrude Stein is examining "all the different points of view of a Frenchman's mind"; she is much less concerned with a story that must have a beginning and an end. Though moments of dramatic interest appear occasionally, "Yes Is For a Very Young Man" is really only a play on a series of well-repeated words and situations.