Cosi Essay

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In the play Cosi by Louis Nowra, recent university graduate Lewis Riley takes on a group of asylum patients and sets out to perform a play to earn some quick cash. In an attempt to bring the patients ‘out of their shells’ Lewis learns more than just the patients names; instead he is set on a journey of self-discovery where he learns about the importance of love and fidelity, the burden of stigma and the transformative power of the arts. Louis Nowra portrays stigma associated with mental illness throughout Cosi. Even from the very beginning of the play Nick refers to the patients as ‘madmen’, a derogative term, while expressing his dismay that Lewis is working with these kinds of people. Nick’s point of view is one shared by the general public in 1971, a view shared by Lewis in the beginning. The derogative label of madman is repeated throughout the play, even by social worker Justin, revealing his real opinion of mental illness and reiterating to the audience the stigma associated with mental illness. As the play progresses Lewis learns to be able to see through the label of madness to the vulnerable human being beneath. His patience with Ruth exemplifies this. At the time of her most neurotic obsessiveness Lewis reassures her “That fine Ruth, I never doubted you…” Lewis is able to identify with the patients the more he learns about each one of them. He learns about life inside an asylum which leads to him siding with the patients against Justin, agreeing it was Cherry rather than Doug who started the fire, realizing how much this play means to them. The relationship between Lewis and the patients changes him, allowing him to recognize the importance of ‘love and fidelity’. Lewis, his girlfriend Lucy, and his best friend Nick, along with a lot of other people in the 1970’s believe in the concept of free love, where one person does not belong to another in a relationship but can belong to many different people. Lewis is reluctant to perform Cosi fan tutte with...
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