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Click here to read the interview with  the playwright. Image Copyright (c) 2000, Linda Lee Bower. THE PROM DRESS
By
Linda Lee Bower
© 1994 Linda Lee Bower

Click on the picture on the left to read an interview with the playwright.Have a comment about the work in progress? Click here to post your message to the author.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

TIME
The present day.

SCENES FEATURED IN EXCERPT:
Scene 1: The modest suburban home of MARY GREGG. A Saturday afternoon in early summer.
Scene 2: The same; that evening.

Scene 1

SETTING: The modest home of MARY GREGG. There is a sofa, a coffee table, an end table, etc. We see the front window and the front door. A partial view of the bedroom can also be seen.
AT RISE: It is late afternoon on a Saturday in early summer. MARY GREGG stands at the front living room window looking out. She is nervous and agitated. Sitting on the sofa is EDITH LITTLETON, MARYís SISTER. Both women are in their sixties. Draped across EDITHís lap and taking up half the sofa is a frothy evening gown. EDITH is mending the hem of the dress with needle and thread.

MARY: Edith, how can you just sit there so calmly?

EDITH: Will it help if I run around in circles like you?

MARY: It would keep me company.

EDITH: Now, now, Mary, Iím sure -

MARY: A car is turning the corner.

EDITH: Only the seventeenth car in the past half hour.

MARY: So youíre keeping count, too.

EDITH: Just in case you decide to give a pop quiz.

MARY: Itís slowing down.

EDITH: Maybe itís a spy, casing the place.

MARY: Itís a taxi.

EDITH: A very clever disguise for a spy.

MARY: Itís stopping.

EDITH: Better get away from the window. Maybe itís a hit man.

MARY: Itís her.

EDITH: Are you sure? It may be a decoy.

MARY: Here she comes!

(MARY runs to the front door and flings it open)

MARY: Christine!

(CHRISTINE GREGG, MARYís daughter, enters the front door carrying a suitcase. SHE is in her early forties, slender and very attractive, and is wearing an elegant suit. SHE drops the suitcase inside the door and hugs MARY)

CHRISTINE: Hi, Mom.

MARY: Is that all? 'Hi, Mom'?

CHRISTINE: (breaking into song) 'M is for the many things she gave me'

MARY: Donít give me sass when weíve been so worried about you.

CHRISTINE: What were you worried about?

MARY: When we heard about the terrorist attack on the Embassy -

CHRISTINE: Hah! No terrorists can keep me from my high school reunion. I havenít missed one yet.

MARY: Thereís always a first time.

CHRISTINE: And this is a very special one - twenty-five years.

MARY: Do you think terrorists care about that?

CHRISTINE: I just dodged around the grenades.

MARY: But we were expecting you yesterday.

CHRISTINE: What made you think I would be here yesterday?

MARY: Well, when I called the State Department -

CHRISTINE: Oh, Mother, you are too much.

MARY: I have a perfect right to find out where you are and if youíre all right.

CHRISTINE: I understand now why the pilot said, ďYou go right home now, young lady,Ē as I was disembarking.

MARY: Is he single?

CHRISTINE: Is that all you ever think about?

MARY: Can I help it if I want grandchildren?

(CHRISTINE) catches sight of EDITH, runs to the sofa, and flings herself into EDITHís arms)

CHRISTINE: Aunt Edie!

EDITH : Hello, Christine, dear. Welcome home. Iíve missed you.

CHRISTINE: Iím so glad to see you. It seems like forever.

EDITH: My goodness, honey, be careful! You almost got stuck with this needle. Whoops, it came unthreaded, too.

(EDITH sticks the needle in the pin cushion on the coffee table)

CHRISTINE: Always sewing. Are you whipping up some gorgeous new creation for Mother?

EDITH: No, dear.

CHRISTINE: Aunt Sarah?

EDITH : No.

CHRISTINA: Grandma?

EDITH: Wrong.

CHRISTINE: (looking more closely at the dress) This dress looks familiar.

EDITH: Does it?

CHRISTINE: Why, this looks like -

EDITH : Like what?

CHRISTINE: My prom dress.

EDITH: Really?

CHRISTINE: Yes!

EDITH : For goodness sakes.

CHRISTINE: It is! Itís my prom dress.

EDITH: Are you sure?

CHRISTINE: Yes, Iím sure.

EDITH: Well, what do you know.

CHRISTINE: (to MARY) Where was it?

MARY: Down in the basement in a box with some of your other dresses.

CHRISTINE: You mean you kept all those things?

MARY: Of course. And after you went into the Foreign Service, those dresses saw a lot of use. Most of the girls on the block wore one or another of them to their dances.

CHRISTINE: You let other girls wear my dresses?

MARY: This one, though, I never let anybody else wear. It was so special.

CHRISTINE: (to Edith) But what are you doing with it?

EDITH: You must have caught your heel in it doing the twist, or the salsa, or whatever it was.

CHRISTINE: I remember that. It was the last dance of the prom.

EDITH: You must have really been carrying on.

CHRISTINE: We didnít want to stop dancing.

EDITH: I was just whipping up the hem.

CHRISTINE: What for?

EDITH: We didnít know what you were planning to wear to the reunion dinner-dance at the country club tonight, but -

CHRISTINE: Oh!

EDITH: We thought -

CHRISTINE: Oh, yes, yes!

(CHRISTINE snatches up the dress and holds it up to herself)

EDITH: Maybe -

CHRISTINE: How wonderful!

EDITH: If you didnít have something else in mind -

CHRISTINE: It will be perfect.

EDITH: The most beautiful dress I ever made, if I do say so myself.

CHRISTINE: Will it fit?

EDITH: Of course it will fit. You havenít gained an ounce since you were a teenager.

CHRISTINE: (dancing around the living room with the dress) This is wonderful. How did you think of it?

MARY: Just my usual creative thinking.

CHRISTINE: Iíll have to wear my hair the same way, too.

EDITH: And the dance is going to be at the exact same place.

CHRISTINE: Everything will be exactly the same.

MARY: You wonít be going with the same fellow.

CHRISTINE: Well, no, but he was a cad anyway.

MARY: Iím glad you finally realized that.

CHRISTINE: For heavenís sake, Mother, that was years and years ago.

MARY: I know, dear. People do change.

CHRISTINE: No, they donít. They just get more so the way they always were.

MARY: My, my, how cynical.

CHRISTINE: I guess Iíd better start getting ready.

EDITH: Let me have the dress back so I can finish it up.

CHRISTINE: Oh, Iím sorry I grabbed it away from you.

(Christine gives the dress back to Edith)

EDITH: Itíll just take a few more minutes, and then Iíll press it.

CHRISTINE: I donít think I have time to go get my hair done. Iíll have to try to do it myself.

EDITH: Iíll help you, dear.

CHRISTINE: Oh, thanks, Aunt Edit, youíre an angel.

EDITH: We want you to have a good time tonight.

(CHRISTINE picks up HER suitcase and heads for the bedroom)

MARY: James Chapman called this morning.

CHRISTINE: Who?

MARY: James Chapman.

(CHRISTINE stops and turns around. During the ensuing dialog she puts the suitcase down)

CHRISTINE: James Chapman? Whoís that?

MARY: Surely you remember James.

CHRISTINE: James Chapman ? James Chapman, Oh, you mean Jimmy Chapman? Jimmy, the paper boy?

MARY: Well, he hasnít been the paper boy for quite some time.

CHRISTINE: Oh, I suppose not, but I always think of him as the paper boy. What about him?

MARY: He called this morning.

CHRISTINE: What did he want?

MARY: He wanted to know if you were going to be in town for the reunion.

CHRISTINE: Why would he call out of the blue like that? I havenít seen him since graduation. The day after that, he joined the Marines.

MARY: Thatís because you broke his heart.

CHRISTINE: What do you mean, I broke his heart.

MARY: He was in love with you. He worshipped you. Didnít you know that?

CHRISTINE: No, I didnít. How could I know?

MARY: If you didnít have your head full of silly dreams of adventures in foreign countries -

CHRISTINE: And how do you know?

MARY: Never mind how I know. I just know.

CHRISTINE: You are omniscient, Mother. The Oracle of Delphi should have had your talent.

MARY: Donít get smart with me.

CHRISTINE: But why did he call?

MARY: He was hoping he could take you to the dance tonight.í

CHRISTINE: And what did you say?

(EDITH retrieves the needle, finds the end of the thread, re-threads the needle, and goes to work on the hem again)

MARY: Since some of your other old friends have become, ah,' unavailable' and as far as I was aware, you didnít have -

CHRISTINE: So you accepted for me.

MARY: In a manner of speaking.

CHRISTINE: Why do you do that to me?

MARY: Do what?

CHRISTINE: Why do you always try to hitch me up with somebody so unsuitable?

MARY: Whatís so terrible about James Chapman?

CHRISTINE: I donít want to be stuck with some skinny boy - who isnít - that I donít - Iíd rather go by myself, so I can mingle and talk to everybody and catch up on the news.

MARY: But James was a classmate. Just because he wasnít a football hero - and may I call to you attention again where your football hero is now?

CHRISTINE: Are you every going to let me forget that my first big, mad love is now spending twenty years in jail for embezzlement?

MARY: No, never.

CHRISTINE: Mother -

MARY: Iím sure James will want to talk to everybody, too. He was well liked. Youíre not going to be stuck in a corner with some geek.

CHRTISTINE: Geek? Where did you pick up that word, Mother. I donít even use that word.

MARY: Of course not. You use some French or Italian word, which makes it sound more elegant.

CHRISTINE: Do I have to?

MARY: Will it ruin your life to be escorted to a dance by James Chapman? He was a very nice boy.

CHRISTINE: But he was so - so -

MARY: You only associate with ambassadors and Ministers of State?

CHRISTINE: What time is he picking me up?

MARY: Eight oíclock.

CHRISTINE: But the paper boy? Good grief.

(BLACKOUT)

End Of Scene One

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Scene 2

SETTING: The same; that evening.
AT RISE: MARY and EDITH are in the bedroom. EDITH is fluffing out the skirt of the evening gown. MARY is at the dresser sorting through a jewelry box. A pair of high-heel pumps, with tissue in the toes, is on the floor next to the bed.

MARY: Didnít she wear my garnet necklace to the prom?

EDITH: No, the pearls.

MARY: Are you sure?

EDITH: Absolutely.

MARY: Youíre right.

EDITH: Of course.

(MARY searches and comes up with the pearl necklace)

MARY: Here it is.

EDITH: The earrings, too.

(MARY looks in another compartment of the jewelry box and finds the earrings)

MARY: Right again.

EDITH: I can remember what she wore to every single dance.

MARY: I can remember her date for every single dance.

EDITH: Always sizing them up. And none of them ever measured up.

MARY: The one I wanted her to go out with -

EDITH: Donít push it, Mary. That would just put her off.

MARY: Oh, I know.

EDITH: She has to discover for herself.

MARY: But -

EDITH : Donít even think about it. Just think about getting her ready.

MARY: What about my velvet stole?

EDITH: Itís so warm. I really donít think she needs a wrap.

MARY: But the weatherman was saying that a cool front is coming in later.

EDITH: I think sheíll be warm enough.

(CHRISTINE enters wearing a bathrobe)

CHRISTINE: I donít know why weíre going to so much trouble for the paper boy.

MARY: If I recall, you read the paper every day.

CHRISTINE: I used the telephone every day, too, but I donít feel obligated to go out with the telephone installer.

MARY: Canít you be a little considerate?

CHRISTINE: I donít want to be a laughing stock.

MARY: Nobodyís going to laugh at you.

CHRISTINE: Theyíll think Iím desperate.

MARY: I expect you to be polite to him, young lady.

EDITH: Just pretend that heís the Minister of State of Argentina.

CHRISTINE: Sure.

(CHRISTINE slips out of her robe; she is wearing a camisole and petticoat underneath. EDITH and MARY put the dress over her head)

MARY: Where do you get the idea that youíre so superior?

CHRISTINE: I donít think Iím superior.

MARY: Yes, you do, you snob.

CHRISTINE: Oh, Mother -

MARY: Donít 'Oh, Mother' me in that tone of voice.

CHRISTINE: What a minute. Somethingís caught on my hair.

EDITH : Just a second. Whoops, itís the zipper pull. Hold still.

MARY: Be careful.

(EDITH disentangles CHRISTINEís hair)

EDITH: Okay, now. Here we go.

(EDITH AND MARY get the dress properly arranged)

MARY: (zipping up the dress) Be still, please.

CHRISTINE: And the fairy godmother turns Cinderella into a princess.

MARY: See it fits perfectly.

EDITH: How do you stay so slender?

CHRISTINE: Trying to keep up with my mother.

MARY: Donít be a smarty pants, Miss Chris.

EDITH: And here are the glass slippers.

(EDITH picks up the shoes and hands them to CHRISTINE)

CHRISTINE: Are these the same shoes, too?

MARY: I kept them wrapped up with tissue stuffed inside.

(CHRISTINE carefully removes the tissue and puts on the shoes)

CHRISTINE: Iím still waiting for my Prince Charming.

MARY: Do you think youíre going to find him in Timbuktu?

EDITH: (fluffing out CHRISTINEís hair) I can hardly believe itís been twenty-five years.

CHRISTINE: I know, it seems like just yesterday that I had this dress on.

EDITH: So much has happened. Youíve had such an exciting life, Christine. So many different overseas posts.

MARY: Oh, so exciting, wondering every day if some new fanatical group is going to blow up the embassy or kidnap everybody.

CHRISTINE: Daddy would be proud of me.

MARY: Oh, sweetie, of course Iím proud of you.

CHRISTINE: He always encouraged me.

MARY: Since your daddy died Iíve been proud enough of you for both of us. You have had a wonderful career. But heís not here now to hold my hand when we read about the uprisings and bombings and everything.

CHRISTINE: Youíre right, Mother.

MARY: What? What did you say? Did I actually hear you say, 'Youíre right, Mother'?

EDITH: Do you want to get a tape recorder and have her repeat it?

CHRISTINE: What I mean is, it isnít as romantic and fabulous as it used to be, with all the senseless terrorism these days.

MARY: Dare I hope that maybe youíve had enough?

CHRISTINE: What would I do if I left the Foreign Service?

MARY: For heavenís sake, Christine, there are any number of things you could do.

CHRISTINE: Like what?

MARY: You could teach at a university, for example.

CHRISTINE: How dull.

MARY: But not life-threatening.

CHRISTINE: I could die of boredom.

MARY: I have an even better idea. Why donít you get mar -

CHRISTINE: No, donít say it! Please donít say the M word again.

MARY: Why? Is it now considered obscene?

CHRISTINE: Itís your fault.

MARY: Whatís my fault? My fault that you wonít marry and settle down?

CHRISTINE: Yes.

MARY: How did it get to be my fault? What did I do wrong?

CHRISTINE: You didnít do anything wrong. You raised me to be independent.

EDITH: And you succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.

MARY: Good Lord, canít you be independent and married, too?

CHRISTINE: No.

MARY: I thought men liked independent women these days.

CHRISTINE: They only say that, to make you think theyíre sensitive.

MARY: There are some men who -

CHRISTINE: Name one.

MARY: You wouldnít be interested.

EDITH: You are beautiful, Christine, dear. Even more beautiful now than the evening of your prom.

CHRISTINE: Oh, Aunt Edith. How can I ever thank you enough for all the lovely dresses! I always had the prettiest dress at every dance. I was the envy of all the girls.

EDITH: It is your mother you must thank. She paid for them.

MARY: With the sweat of my brow.

CHRISTINE: What do you mean?

EDITH: You see, I hated to iron. So your mother would come over and do my ironing while I sewed.

CHRISTINE: I never knew that.

EDITH: I loved sewing for you, honey. I never had girls to make pretty dresses for - only boys.

MARY: And she had them change their clothes five times a day, so I would have plenty to do.

EDITH: Thatís not true.

MARY: I even had to iron her sheets.

EDITH: Donít exaggerate.

MARY: But it was worth it.

CHRISTINE: You know, you two should have opened a designer boutique.

MARY: Then you wouldnít have been able to afford the dresses.

CHRISTINE: Wouldnít you have given me a discount or anything?

MARY: If we gave all our customers special treatment, we wouldnít make any money.

EDITH: Donít be silly.

MARY: We would go through Bloomingdaleís designer shop and get ideas. And then we would gloat when we made something ten times prettier for a tenth of the price.

EDITH : Your mother would plow through the fabric shops to find nice material on sale.

(CHRISTINE turns around in front of the mirror)

CHRISTINE: Am I ready?

MARY: Donít forget the pearls.

(MARY fastens the necklace around CHRISTINEís neck)

CHRISTINE: You are so sweet to let me wear your jewelry.

MARY: And here are the earrings.

(MARY hands the earrings to CHRISTINE, who puts them on)

CHRISTINE: Iíll take good care of them, as always.

MARY: These pearls are yours now, Christine.

CHRISTINE: Oh, Mother! You know I have coveted these pearls forever.

MARY: Your daddy gave these to me as an engagement present.

CHRISTINE: But how can you bear to part with them?

MARY: I want you to have them now.

CHRISTINE: Oh, thank you, Mother, thank you, thank you. I will treasure them so much.

MARY: I have cast a spell on them so that they will bring you a husband.

CHRISTINE: Oh.

EDITH: So you see, thereís no escape from her clutches.

(THE DOORBELL RINGS)

MARY: (heading for the living room) Iíll get it.

EDITH: (following MARY out of the bedroom into the living room) Itís probably the paper boy coming to collect.

CHRISTINE: (running after EDITH) Aunt Edie, if you say one word -

EDITH: Me?

CHRISTINE: Yes, you.

EDITH: How could you think such a thing of me?

CHRISTINE: I know you.

(MARY goes to the front door and opens it. Standing at the threshold is JAMES CHAPMAN. He is in his early forties. HE is a tall, handsome Marine colonel in full dress uniform with a chest full of ribbons and medals. He is carrying a floristís box tied with a bow. CHRISTINEís mouth falls open)

JAMES: Hi, Mary. Your Marine is home from the wars.

MARY: (throwing herself into JAMESí arms and receiving a bear hug) Itís been two years! Youíre almost as bad as Christine.

JAMES: Well, you know how it is. From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.

(Over MARYís shoulder, JAMES throws a dazzling smile at CHRISTINE. SHE is dumfounded)

EDITH: My turn! My turn!

(EDITH gets a hug, too)

JAMES: How are you doing, Edith?

EDITH: Weíve missed you so much.

JAMES: I missed you, too.

EDITH: It looks like you got a promotion, too.

MARY: Of course. I knew he would.

EDITH: She no doubt had a word with the Commandant.

JAMES: And for my favorite ladies, a little something from the exotic bazaar in Cairo.

(JAMES reaches into his pocket and brings out two small ivory carvings [or some other trinkets], and presents one each to MARY and EDITH)

MARY: arenít you just the sweetest thing.

EDITH: You darling boy.

JAMES: These magical ivory carvings will bring you good luck and grant you three wishes.

MARY: Only three?

EDITH: Donít be greedy, Mary.

MARY: Well, maybe three wishes will cover it.

CHRISTINE: Excuse me, but would someone introduce me to this tall, handsome stranger?

MARY: No. You donít deserve him.

CHRISTINE: Mother.

MARY: Edith and I have decided to keep him for ourselves.

CHRISTINE: Mother!

MARY: (putting her hands on her hips and vamping at JAMES) How would you like to have not one, but two beautiful women on your arm this evening?

(MARY AND EDITH each take one of JAMESí arms and act like they are going to take HIM out the door)

JAMES: Iím at your disposal, ladies.

CHRISTINE: MOTHER!!!

MARY: Well, all right, but only if you promise to be nice to him.

CHRISTINE: Who do you always insist on embarrassing me?

MARY: Itís the only time I have any fun.

(MARY and EDITH move aside, and CHRISTINE and JAMES stand facing one another. He takes off his cap)

JAMES: Will you be my date for the dance, Christine?

CHRISTINE: That has already been decided.

JAMES: Your mother is very persuasive.

CHRISTINE: Iíd love to be your date.

(JAMES holds up the floristís box and hands it to CHRISTINE)

JAMES: And a little something.

CHRISTINE takes the box, opens it, and takes out a corsage)

CHRISTINE: Orchids!

JAMES: I hope it goes with your dress.

CHRISTINE: Itís beautiful.

JAMES: Shall I pin it on?

CHRISTINE: Yes, please.

MARY: Wait a minute. Let me get a picture.

EDITH: Yes, by all means. We have to save this for the album.

MARY: And if I donít get my three wishes, Iíll at least have something to look at.

(MARY opens a drawer in the end table and takes out a camera. She snaps a picture as JAMES pins the corsage on the dress)

JAMES: How about right here?

CHRISTINE: Yes, thatís fine.

JAMES: The color seems to be right.

CHRISTINE: Itís perfect. Itís as if you knew I would be wearing this very dress.

JAMES: I had a vision.

MARY: (indicating the window) Another one over there.

JAMES: Sure.

EDITH : (drawing the draperies to make a backdrop) Here, in front of the curtain of the Opera House in Buenos Aires.

MARY: No, No, itís the Kennedy Center in Washington.

EDITH: Wherever.

(JAMES and CHRISTINE pose as instructed. MARY tries to take a picture, but the shutter doesnít work)

MARY: Whatís wrong here?

JAMES: Did you advance the film?

MARY: Ooops!

EDITH: High tech stumps her.

MARY: Just a second.

CHRISTINE: I hope we make it to the dance before itís over.

EDITH: We donít very often get to take pictures of you, honey, so forgive us if we go overboard.

(MARY advanced the film, tries again, and gets the picture)

MARY: Got it.

CHRISTINE: May we go now?

MARY: Now sit on the sofa.

CHRISTINE: How original.

(CHRISTINE and JAMES sit on the sofa. MARY focuses the camera and takes a picture)

MARY: Thatís really nice. Let me get another one here.

CRISTINE: Are you going to use up a whole roll of film?

MARY: Donít worry about it. I have plenty more.

CHRISTINE: Good grief.

(MARY takes another picture)

MARY: Oh, dear, I think I cut off your heads. Let me do one more.

EDITH: Closer.

CHRISTINE: Aunt Edie.

JAMES: (moving closer to CHRISTINE) If you say so.

MARY: One more for good measure.

EDITH: Closer.

JAMES: You bet.

CHRISTINE: Aunt Edie!

MARY: (moving around to get a better angle) Let me get a better angle here.

EDITH: Put your arm around her.

(JAMES puts his arm around CHRISTINE)

CHRISTINE: AUNT EDIE!!!

EDITH: He doesnít mind.

JAMES: Not a bit. Iíve been waiting for this chance for twenty-five years.

(BLACKOUT)
End of Scene 2

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