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A One Act Play for Five African American Women.
Tony Devaney Morinelli
This piece examines alcoholism and the barriers it creates
in an African American family.
Two maiden daughters are trapped at home with their
alcoholic mother where bitterness and
resentment replace love and understanding.Inheritors of their grandmothers sin the two daughters seek their
Language: Language may be the most difficult part of this
piece. Among the African-American population there are distinct speech
patterns.The older women in this piece
may speak with a dialect closer to North Carolina.The two younger women will have Northern
influences in their speech.Pink, the
elder daughter will make every effort to speak in the most unaccented way. This
text makes no pretense as to the exact distinctions in African-American
language but there are passages where the instructions are "with
attitude."Such passages assume an
understanding on the part of the actor and director. The essential necessity is
how these distinctions are used and the intrinsic value they have within the
Tony Devaney Morinelli
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The Sins of the Mother
Mariah (the mother)
Pink (the elder daughter)
Rose (the younger daughter)
Aunt Bessie (Mariah’s sister)
Grandmother (a vision)
THE SET: A faded living room. A large worn armchair center
stage.The chair has a pillow and a
coverlet.In front ofthe chair, a small coffee table.To one side a small couch to the other a
small chair.A sideboard with side
cabinets is to the left. There is a 1950's (or earlier) style record
player.Near it a tableTo the right is a dark area with a chair
where the GRANDMOTHER remains throughout. (the GRANDMOTHER may also be placed far
upstage behind a black scrim.)
IMPORTANT STAGING NOTE: All soliloquies are delivered out to
(Pink is about the room puffing pillows, fixing things.On the sideboard are a birthday cake and a
present. Pink finishes the wrapping on a package as she looks in the side board
drawer for a box of candles she calls:)
PINK: (to herself)
Where are those candles?
(to Rose) Rose!
(to herself) I
know I put them in here somewhere.
(again, to Rose.) Hey!
ROSE: (In the vestibule
at the door.) Just a minute I can’t hear you!
ROSE: I can’t hear you!
(To herself)Where did they get to?
I know I
put them in here.
(Pink unlocks one of the side doors
of the cabinet.
She moves out some liquor bottles,
puts them on top of the sideboard.)
I bet she moved them.
rummages in the cabinet then returns the bottles and relocks the cabinet.)
ROSE: I said I can’t hear you.
(Coming in from the hall.)
you always shout from the other room?
speak in a normal voice?
on the farm.
PINK: (with disdain.) The
wanted you to hear me.
ROSE: You're just like her.
PINK: I wasn't shouting,
And,I’m not like her.
not on a farm....
I didn’t know where you were.
(semi beat - changes the topic.)
seen the box of candles
The box of
candles I put in here?
ROSE: Did you look under the table cloths?
getting the mail.
PINK: The mail ...
anything come for me?
(She pokes her fingers into the mail that
(examining a piece of junk mail.)
been payin' the waterbill?
PINK: It's taken care of.
ROSE: (She holds the
letter with curiosity.)
This sure ain't no bill..
(She grabs the letter)
ROSE: ( with attitude)
What you doin' with some college?
PINK: It doesn’t concern you.
Where are those candles?
ROSE: (repeating with
emphasis and attitude.)
What you mean- "doesn't
PINK: You heard me.
ROSE: (with more
pardon me, miss college girl...
PINK: Where are the candles?
ROSE: Did you look under the table cloths?
haven't answered my question.
PINK: And I'm not going to.
sure you didn’t move them?
(As she rummages through the cabinet she
leaves the letter on the sideboard.)
ROSE: (Rose looks in
the drawer, lifts the table cloths and pulls out the box of candles.)
(Almost to herself but enough for her sister
just like her.
don’t go your way and you get all hyper.
PINK: I’m not hyper.
can’t seem to keep anything in order around here.
ROSE: (with attitude.)
What you talkin''bout with them
to standard language.)
They were right
where they always are.
PINK: But this drawer is such a mess
ROSE: Don’t look at me.
I didn’t leave it that way.
who’s always rummaging through the cabinets.
not to hide the key.
the whole room to find it.
trouble than it’s worth.
And I still
want to know what that college business is.
PINK:None of your business....!
ROSE: (crossing her
arms across her chest and raising her noseShe takes on an "attitude"..)
Well, ok, - "none of my
business..." Miss college!
I didn't leave this drawer like this.
gets on a binge
ransack the whole room.
with that ROSE.
(Pink breaths her annoyance and redirects the
Do you want to call her in now?
ROSE: (folding to her
sister.) I suppose.
really don’t see the purpose.
PINK: Ya know,
For once ....
just do something without a comment?
ROSE: Well, she messed up those drawers.
PINK:Who am I
hear what I just said?
what I asked you,....
ROSE:Why do you keep
it in the house anyway?
why do I keep it in the house?
ROSE: Exactly what I said.
Why do you
keep it in the house?
PINK: For company.
PINK: You never know.
always be ready to offer something to company.....
Oh, ..... you
mean like the guy you had here couple weeks ago?
back for another visit?
PINK: That’s not necessary....
ROSE: Neither is having...
PINK: Why must you make an argument of everything?
ROSE: I’m not arguing,
PINK: Well, don’t say.
helps sometimes to keep her home.
ROSE: Only in a snowstorm.
boys down the Big Bamboo wouldn’t know what to do without her.
PINK: Can you have a little respect, please.
of spending your time with useless comments you could be helping me
ROSE: I don’t know why you bother.
she’s going to make a fuss.
PINK: And she'd make a worse fuss if we don’t.
ROSE: Some fusses are worse than others.
You didn’t answer my question.
(She picks up the letter from the
What’s in this letter?
PINK: It’s addressed to me.
(She grabs the letter back.)
I was just
PINK: You don’t have to know everything.
ROSE: I was just asking a simple question.
PINK: And I’m giving you a simple answer.
ROSE: Touchy aren’t we.
PINK: Can we just drop this please?
ROSE: Don't know.
PINK:What time did
she come back?
ROSE: She was home just before you came in.
Just before six.
to the letter in Pink’s hand.)
just curious, that’s all.
PINK: Will you stop with the letter?
Was she feeling
well when she came in?
ROSE: Feeling well?
PINK: Was she?
ROSE: Was she what?
PINK: Feeling well.
ROSE: Well enough to find her way home.
PINK: No need to bring that up again.
ROSE: It’s a long walk from The Big Bamboo.
PINK: Why must you be so sarcastic?
ROSE: It’s not sarcasm.
PINK: There you go again.
ROSE: Come off it, Pinky.
PINK: See if she’s awake yet.
ROSE: (to herself) Little Miss Perfect.
her Happy Town dreams.
up a little vase with a plastic flower and moves it to the small table in front
of the chair.)
(Goes to the bedroom door and
moving around in there.
PINK: Should we wait until Aunt Bessie is here?
(Pink fusses about the table settings.)
I wanted to
wait for her.
do is talk about aches and pains and tell mom how bad she looks.
PINK: She’s still her sister.
ROSE: Who keeps telling her that she looks like death?
PINK: That’s just her way.
ROSE: She’s annoying.
pushin Ma around.
PINK: It’s just her way.
ROSE: Just her way?
PINK: Just the way some people are.
ROSE:Ya know, you
got a lot of her in you too.
PINK: Aunt Bessie..
ROSE: Who'm I talkin' about?
PINK: I do not.
ROSE: Yeh, you do.
PINK: I’m not like her at all.
ROSE: She’ll come trippin in here with her little hat,
think she’s kidding?
PINK: What are you talking about?
ROSE: That’s not the point.
always trying to be something your not.
Always puttin' on airs.
be one a' them High Tones.
some blue-eye light-skin......
her- Putting candles on the cake.)
difference between putting on airs and just trying to do things nicely.
trying to ...
putting in airs.
PINK: Trying to do things nicely makes what you already have
airs is pretending to be something you’re not.
ROSE: Have you ever looked in the mirror?
ever seen where we live?
ever looked at what’s outside that front door?
PINK: What goes on outside has nothing to do with what goes
ROSE: Yeh, until you try to step outside
trip over a drunk
a drunk passed
out on the front step.
PINK: Why do you always have to see the dark side?
ROSE: Dark side?
around you girl.
I just try
to make sense.
Just try to
everything we did made sense..
ROSE: You don’t have to explain to me.
your sister too long not to know.
in the letter?
PINK: I told you more than once.
(Trying to change the subject.)
have been here a half hour ago.
(Pink starts looking through the drawers
are the matches?
ROSE: She’s always late.
No sense in
PINK: We should wait for Aunt Bessie.
(Continuing to rummage through the drawers.)
those matches get to?
ROSE: They should be right there with the candles.
(Shouting over her shoulder towards the
bedroom as she walks toward the sideboard.)
Come on in
here a minute.
PINK: You tell me I yell.
Now who’s yelling?
so different either.
And I said,
wait for Aunt Bessie.
ROSE: I’m not yellin'.
(Rose goes to the sideboard.)
look in the drawer?
PINK: And you’re not.
ROSE: Sometimes I wish I were.
It might be
a lot easier.
(Rose stops searching for the candles in the
All lights dim.Rose is lit in a single beam. This is a
easier to be deaf.
Deaf to everything in this house
Deaf as the
girl behind the coats
The coats and
camphor and smoke and drink.
my knees tight under my chin;
between my legs.
the light when she opened the door.
And who he
The sour smell
from dragging lips.
The gin smelly
I am deaf.
I’ve had to
closets of camphor
screams to stop?
beatings to stop?
the silence where I could fall into sleep
(The Lights return to normal full stage)
ROSE: (Rose finds the
matches beneath the table cloths in the drawer)
MARIAH: (Emerging from
her room in night gown and robe.She is disheveled
PINK: I told you not to yell.
MARIAH: I’m not dead yet.
ROSE: Cut me a break, will ya Pinky?
(Rose goes over to her mother.)
ROSE: Need a hand?
MARIAH: Think I’m a cripple too?
PINK: (going up behind
Mariah and covering her eyes)
MARIAH: What’s all this nonsense?
(She breaks away and moves toward the
PINK: Not nonsense.
MARIAH: (Mariah moves
toward the sideboard.She fingers the
cabinet with the key.)
ROSE: Not now, Mom.
MARIAH: Why you lock this?
MARIAH: How you know it’s my birthday?
PINK: Because it’s the twenty fifth.
birthday is on the twenty fifth.
MARIAH: The twenty fifth.
know it’s the twen'y fifth.
I don even
know if it’s the twen'y -fifth.
ROSE: (under her breath) Here we go.
Not in the
room two minutes and already she starts.
fifth is good because that the day of your baptismal certificate.
It must be
make it any day
any day you
want it to be.
MARIAH: What’s a birthday anyway?
to grow old.
Born to grow
Born to die.
Born to put
you in that box.
youin the box an' let you on down.
Down in the
where it ends.
It ends in
get crazy ideas like that?
Don't be so
likes their birthday, Mamma.
gotta go may as well ....
(she moves towards the sideboard again.)
ROSE: (interrupting) You should have let her stay
probably not slept it off yet.
PINK: (continuing to
her mother and ignoring ROSE)
(PINK walks her mother to the large
And Aunt Bessie
will be here.
PINK: She’s your sister isn’t she?
bossin' me around.
me what I should do.
me what ta do.
younger ‘an me.
she's some Jack and Jill.
PINK: Aunt Bessie’s family
needs to stay together.
for your birthday.
MARIAH: My birthday?
care 'bout no birthday.
nail in my coffin.
put you in the ground
ground with the worms
and you's six feet under
be talking that way.
when y'er dead?
'M I gonna
Or he just
in my drems?
better if ya didn't.
the whole thing off.
Turn it off
turnin' off the radio.
ta listen to.
Be a whole lot
easier if you could take a little somethin
somthin to put ya in dream
Put ya in a
dream that ya jus' keep dreamin'
ta wake ya up
Nothin to bother
ROSE: (quietly to herself))
Leave you alone?
PINK: (but PINK hears it).
I want you
to stop talking that way.
We have a
cake and a present....
and as soon
as Aunt Bessie gets here ...
MARIAH: (Still in her
point of all the fuss?
you forget all about it
next day you’re dead.
is kids’ stuff.
An’ I ain’t
no kid no more.
MARIAH:(Aside.The lights dim except for a single beam on Mariah.
We are back in time with Mariah who speaks to her mother. Mariah’s mother is on
her hands and knees with bucket and floor brush. She speaks with a heavy
Carolina accent. Mariah speaks ormally, an innocent child. Each speaks directly
to the audience.)
at school invited me to her birthday
She said she's having a cake and ice cream
the all the girls
Can I go, Mamma?
Can ya go?
Go to that
tone yellow thinks she's better than anybody else.
Wellyou can just get that idea out of your head.
MARIAH: Oh, Please, Mamma?
can’t I go?
GRANDMOTHER: No you can't go and
get the back a my hand.
MARIAH: But Mamma,
girls are going.
GRANDMOTHER: Them other girls maybe got dresses to wear
presents to bring.
They got dresses.
Whatyou gonna wear?
daddy' on the Pullman,
know what his woman's doin' when he's up
on them North bound trains.
there workin and making any money?
Get out to
work the way I did and make yourself a penny
and then you can think about it.
look at you
got nothin to wear.
party dress gonna make no diff'rence.
MARIAH: Yes, Mamma?
(MARIAH changes the subject.)
GRANDMOTHER: Now what?
MARIAH: When is it my birthday Mamma?
When is it
girls have birthdays.
in pink with
When is it
When is it
will have a birthday.
I know when
she was born.
know when was mine?
Can I have
a party like the other girls?
GRANDMOTHER: So, you want a party.
you some greedy
little thing ain't ya.
Like your ol’man.
thinkin of you-self.
You want a
tone colored-girl party....
yo think the money come from to pay for yo party?
You's want a party?
her in pantomime.MARIAH reacts in