Thursday, April 14, 2011

More A Hand of Bridge Notes


I don’t know how realistic you want the staging of A Hand of Bridge to be. But, if it were completely faithful to reality, this is what would happen:

The players are seated at the card table as pictured below:

Bill          (Table)                  Sally

Bill and Sally are across from each other. Geraldine and David are across from each other. Geraldine is to Bill’s left. Each player is holding thirteen cards. There is a second deck face down on the corner of the table between Sally and Gertrude. (Bill has just finished dealing the cards. Sally was shuffling the other deck and has placed it next to Geraldine, who will be dealing the next hand in the sequel to this opera whenever it’s written--which is whenever you give the word.) There is also a score pad  (I’ll see if I can find one. I may have one at home.) and a pencil by whoever is keeping score.

The bidding proceeds as discussed in my previous email. David’s “You play” at the end of the bidding is directed at Geraldine. Bill’s “put down your cards” is directed at Sally (who, as dummy, is supposed to place her cards face up on the table). He is, however, jumping the gun. She isn’t supposed to put down her cards until Geraldine has played.  Geraldine is obviously taking awhile to decide what to play, because David prompts her again with “You lead.” At the fermata, Geraldine leads (places a card face up on the center of the table). Sally then places her entire hand face up on the table, with the suits arranged in columns, the hearts to her own right.  The hearts should be placed down first. The cards should not be quite at the edge of the table but closer to the center, because Bill must be able to reach them. The “dummy” photo attached shows how they should look from Bill’s perspective.

The play proceeds as follows:  Bill plays a card from dummy (i.e., pulls a card from the dummy toward the center of the table near Geraldine’s card). David plays a card. Then Bill plays a card from his own hand.  Bill then gathers all four cards and places them face down in front of him. (I’ll assume the audience won’t be able to see which cards are played, so  if the choice of cards is logically impossible, it won’t matter.) This collection of four cards is called a “trick.”  Bill then starts the next trick by playing a card either from his hand or from the dummy. Each person, in clockwise rotation, contributes a card to this trick. Bill then gathers this trick and places it face down in front of him, staggered over the first trick, and play continues similarly. The picture “tricks” shows what Bill’s stack looks like after three tricks have been played.

There will usually be some pause between the conclusion of one trick and the start of the next trick as Bill decides to what to do. Geraldine and David will sometimes play immediately and will sometimes pause to think. After six tricks have been played, Bill will gather those six tricks together into a single stack, then proceed with staggering the remaining tricks as before. (This is simply an aid to counting how many tricks he has. The number of tricks he has in excess of six is what he is interested in.)

At one point, Sally says “From the table, darling!”  What has happened here is that Bill has thought a long time since the conclusion of the last trick and has forgotten whether the next trick should be started from his hand or from the dummy. He has, incorrectly, reached to pull a card from his hand to start the next trick. Sally, alert to this fact, stops him and tells him that the first card to this new trick should come from the dummy. Bill replaces the card in his hand and starts the trick from the dummy. (This is perfectly proper. Stopping declarer from playing from the wrong hand is one of dummy’s jobs.)

Of course, you may not care about any of this. But these are the actions implied by the text.  And be aware that any action completely out of sync with the text will annoy the heck out of any bridge players in the audience. I’m reminded of a movie I once saw on TV where someone was reading Psalm 100 from a Bible. But they were reading from somewhere toward the beginning of the book. “You mean to tell me there isn’t a single person on the lot who knows that the Psalms are in the middle of the Bible?” I thought. I was so disgusted I turned the movie off.

More later. I can’t make much sense out of the dialog after rehearsal 9. I’m going to have to think about it.

Phillip Martin
Hartford Opera Theater, Inc.

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