Synopsis

One-act play. Jim and Carol are sitting in a cabin furnished with twin beds, two windows, and a screen door. Everything onstage is white - the sets, the costumes, the people. Carol wonders why she feels so sick, imagines skiing in the Rockies and having her head burst open in the middle of the slope, then runs out the door to do errands. Jim knows something she doesn't, because as soon as she's gone, he takes off his pants and starts picking crabs off his skin. The maid comes in to change the sheets on the beds, and Jim shows her his crabs. Then he gives her a demonstration of how to swim, each of them lying on one of the beds while Jim spins out a verbal rhapsody on swimming. The maid responds with a vivid fantasy about drowning and turning into a fish. She leaves, and Carol rushes in to tell Jim about the crabs she's discovered crawling all over her, but Jim's mind has been blown by the maid's story. The play ends him turning to Carol with a trickle of blood running down his forehead.

 
Performance History

Judson Poets Theater,  NY: January 20, 1966. Directed by Jacques Levy with Less Kissman and Joyce Aaron.
Revived: Provincetown Playhouse in double bill on April 28, 1968.
First London production at King's Head Theater on August 15, 1972.
 
Reviews

Richard F. Shepard, NY Times, 8/29/68 (Provincetown review)
The productions of "Red Cross" by Sam Shepard and "Muzeeka" by John Guare, were extremely well staged, so that the mind could give way to the ear and the eye and be content to absorb osmotically what was happening on stage. A large portion of credit must go to Sam Waterston, who had the major role in each of the two short plays and shone brilliants in both.

It is best to describe it than to explain it. The entire scene is in white - a white room, with two white cots, a white pitcher, three people in white attire. It all suggests a dizzy, immaculate, sick bay timelessness in which nothing shadows, nothing changes. The conversation, at first between the man and woman he shares the room with, later between the man and the chambermaid, seems pointless - funny but without direction. Indeed, it seems at times that the play is composed of a number of well-written revue bits, silly hilarity that might be found in a situation comedy, such as when the man eaches the maid to swim and she strokes madly on the bed until she screams as she seems to drown with a cramp.

But it is not all silly - or, at any rate, not all silly. There is nothing immaculate in the room, the man, the woman or the maid, and the one infects the other. A flamboyant smear of blood, startling in the white setting, ends the act.

Mr. Shepard carries through his serious absurdity with lines that are dramatically counterpointed: hysteria followed by dead calm, panic in opposition to a chuckle. It is an interesting essay. Jacques Levy's direction complements the script admirably, spacing the words and fitting t hem to actions. Florence Tarlow makes a wonderful maid, the practical woman who is really as intense as the obviously nervous ones whose room she cleans. Marcia Jean Kurtz was most effective as the roommate. "Red Cross" may not have had as much to say as one might be tempted to read into it, but it spoke well for itself.

 
Publications:
Five Plays, Bobbs Merrill, Indianapolis, 1967

The Unseen Hand and Other Plays, Bantam Books, 1986

Chicago and Other Plays. New York:
Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1981.
Also by Urizen Books, NY, 1981
Faber and Faber, London, 1982.

 
Notes:
Won the Village Voice's Obie Award for Distinguished Plays (1965-1966 season)