Director: David Greene
Writer: Earl Hamner
Cast: Barry Morse, Joan Hackett, Don Durant, Muriel Landers, Philip Coolidge, and Cyril Delevanti
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 2/16/1962
Production Code: 4825
To celebrate the birthday of his wife Esther (Joan Hackett), theater critic Fitzgerald Fortune (Barry Morse) brings home a special gift: a player piano that forces people to express their inmost thoughts and desires. Later that evening, Fitzgerald activates the piano for party guests Marge Moore (Muriel Landers), Gregory Walker (Don Durant), and several others—with a most embarrassing outcome.
This episode deserves praise for its delicate acting and poignant subject matter. Additionally worth noting are the revelations of each main character, which offer an insightful commentary on human social behavior.
While affected by the magic piano, Marge—an overweight, middle-aged woman—shares her lifelong dream of performing as a ballerina. Thereafter, Fitzgerald encourages Marge (now referring to herself as a little girl named Tina) to dance for the group, inviting mockery from the other attendees—an emotionally stirring display, and one that serves to elicit contempt for Fitzgerald prior to his comeuppance.
“A Piano in the House” contains one minor character flaw: Fitzgerald behaves in a sadistic manner toward the only woman who treats him with love and kindness—a bizarre reaction from a lonely, psychologically wounded man.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Also problematic is the twist ending, wherein Fitzgerald predictably becomes a victim of his own malice. (Viewers with a sense of justice will, however, enjoy watching Fitzgerald throw a childlike tantrum during an elegant birthday party.)
For exposing the artificial nature of modern human interactions, “A Piano in the House” should be commended. Specifically, the actions of Fitzgerald, though motivated by cruelty, reveal the elaborate disguises that people often wear in order to avoid criticism or humiliation from others—a message that remains quite relevant in the current age of social media.
“A Piano in the House” is a touching, if slightly underwhelming, episode. Those of a sensitive disposition will thus appreciate this offering, which benefits from the performances of Barry Morse, Muriel Landers, and Cyril Delevanti—known to fans of The Twilight Zone for appearing in “The Silence,” “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” and “Passage on the Lady Anne.”
Overall Quality: 8/10
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