In Tender Offer by Wendy Wasserstein, little action occurs in that no one dies or screams or cries. However, enormous changes take place within the characters. The subtle theme of the play underscores a specific shortcoming in the American lifestyle, the need for compassionate communication between a distanced father and daughter. Wasserstein demonstrates that the special ingredient in effective communication is dependent upon mutual understanding.
The central conflict here involves the father, Paul, who has missed his daughter, Lisa's, dance recital. The opening scene presents Lisa in a dance studio practicing alone. The first line of the play shows Wasserstein sympathizing more with Lisa than Paul as he is introduced as simply "a man." In fact, the audience does not realize he is father until the eighth line of the play. Wasserstein makes a point of using realistic dialogue. There is a short, back and forth conversation that is typical in American households. So it is also apparent that, while there is an obvious weakness in their relationship, Paul truly cares about Lisa and is not snide and compassionless. However, just as the play unfolds, so does the weakness between the two. "Lisa: Daddy, Miss Judy wanted to know why you were late today. / Paul: Hmmmmmmmm. / Lisa: Why were you late? / Paul: I was in a meeting. Business. I'm sorry" (1773). This is the first apology mentioned from Paul for missing his daughter's recital. Also notice that Lisa first lets Miss Judy do the accusations toward his being late. This is the first of many instances of inadequate communication.
The characters are central in understanding the play's theme. Lisa is a typical nine year old American girl. She completely devotes her days to school and dance practice. To her, dancing is life, and her recitals are the epitome of that life. The fact that she had a performance and, as the play shows, won a second place trophy, is one of the biggest achievements for which she could hope....
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