Westside story takes the form of a musical. The plot works itself around the songs which are structured in each scene. There are two acts and within the acts are scenes that help to create the storyline and structure the play.
As there are two scenes we could say there are two episodes because the first act builds up the story and develops the key roles of the characters so the audience gets to know what they are like. In the first scene in act one, we are immediately introduced to the two gangs. The audience finds out what is happening between both gangs and the reasons why these events are happening. The first scene is structured so that it builds into both gangs having a ‘rumble’. After this scene, the rest of the play is set out to reveal the build-up tension before a big climax at the end of both acts.
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There are a number of scenes within both acts. It is set in chronological order; however, act two has fewer and shorter scenes compared to act one. This could be in order to build up tension and the last scene of the whole play releases this for the big final. This is shown in the scene involving Tony and Doc at the drugstore and Doc reveals to Tony that Chino has shot and killed Maria. This is a very short scene; it has created an effect on the audience because it straight to the point and it leaves the audience thinking what is Tony going to do next?
As the play has taken the form of a musical. Songs and dance have obviously been included. These are used within the play and must work well to have the desired effect with the storyline for the play to work as a whole. This is shown in act one scene five when Tony is outside Maria’s window and they both sing, ‘Tonight, Tonight’.
They are showing their true love for each other and nothing can stop them from being together. This song has been structured so that it finishes towards the end of the first act and the eventual climax of it. Another example is also in act one scene five when the Puerto Ricans sing the song, ‘America’. This fits in with the storyline because of the fact that they are immigrants who have just moved here showing their feelings and views about America and Puerto Rico.
Dance is used to reflect movement and physicality. An example of this is the opening scene when the Sharks and Jets are introduced.
We acted out this scene as a class. We divided ourselves into two equal groups, lined up and faced the opposite group about ten feet away from each other. We each held a pose for a few seconds and began walking around the room keeping eye contact with everyone especially those in the opposite group.
Each of us had our eye on one particular rival gang member, we both would eventually come together making unfriendly gestures towards each other and try and get a nasty reaction out of one another, like imitating the way one walks. After getting away from one another, each and every one of us in the whole class would suddenly hit someone, be hit or dragged by our hair by an imaginary person, but with no one physically just imitating as if someone was really there.
The sequences of the balance of dialogue, monologues and songs were factors that do effectively create the desired effect.
The actions and dialogues used in the play help to show us their background culture. For example, the Sharks; Puerto Ricans are always clicking their fingers and are always in an upright matter. This implies their status and thinks highly of themselves. This is also shown through dialogue, for example when Bernardo clicks his finger, all the gang follow without him having to say a word.
When discussing monologues, they are spoken in both verse and song. Monologues of the characters have been structured so that they take the form of a song. Some songs involve more than one character, but whatever way the last sentence is always left with one person communicating with the audience.
The structure of the play as a whole does not change very much. At the end of both acts, there are major climaxes and they built up in the previous scenes.
The two main scenes are at the end of each act. At the end of act one, tension has been increasing slowly between the two gangs and in this scene, both gangs want to end their rivalry once and for all. Also, Tony has fallen in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, and Maria made Tony promise to not let ant fighting go ahead between both of the gangs. This keeps the audience from wondering if Tony would keep his promise to Maria or not. Both gangs meet under the highway; this provides a necessary image for the fight scene and does actually work really well. Tony does try to stop the fight, however resulting to Bernardo stabbing and killing the Riff, Tony’s best friend.
Tony, in rage, that his best friend has just been murdered accidentally, without thinking of the consequences grabs a knife and stabs Bernardo and kills him. Tony is left standing over the two bodies and screams out Maria’s name. This scene ends with Tony running away and then it is a blackout, the end of act one. This leaves the audience on the edge of their seat wanting to know what is going to happen next.
The playwright has considered the form of the play and has carefully balanced out what has happened and why.
The final scene of the play is the most important of them all. The setting fits with the storyline and as it is set in a street in darkness does give the impression the story is near to an end.
The audience wants to know what is going to happen now. What one small character can say or do can change the whole course of the play.
The scene begins with Tony screaming Chino’s name. Tension is still increasing as the audience know that Chino didn’t really kill Maria, as this is what Doc told Tony earlier. However, the audience still wants to know how this is all going to turn out. To Tony’s surprise, Maria appears from the shadows and they both begin to run towards each other. Everyone in the audience thinks they are finally found out the truth and all can be forgiven and they are going to live happily ever after. They are wrong, to the audience’s shock when Tony is running towards Maria a gunshot is fired from the shadows and Tony falls into Maria’s arms and eventually dies.
All the characters appear and both gangs reunite and carry Tony’s body out and the play is ended.
The structure has been created to build up the audience for a happy ending; however, the complete opposite has been made giving an unexpected shock to the audience. This is a very powerful scene and the way the scenes have been structured and set out help make tension and give satisfaction to the audience.
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