Full-length play

Marriage

A Play by William Ivor Fowkes

 

When no other option seems to make sense.

 

On the verge of committing suicide, a college student who fears he might be gay decides to marry his girlfriend instead. Eight years later, Chip and Sally Miller seem to lead a perfect life in Manhattan, but a secretly tormented Chip considers walking out on their marriage until Sally announces that she's pregnant and convinces him to move out to Bronxville, far away from the city's temptations. As the Miller clan grows over the years, so do Chip's despair and desperation as he secretly acts out in increasingly dangerous ways. MARRIAGE is told through excerpts from the therapy sessions they attend when the marriage starts to fall apart.                   



 

LENGTH: 90 minutes

CAST: 3M, 1F (playing 10 roles + one voice)

 

PRODUCTION NOTE: MARRIAGE is a "standalone" full-length play that may be performed on its own or together with the other 2 plays (ROOMMATES and AFTERMATH) that make up THE BRONXVILLE TRILOGY, or Marriages of Inconvenience. (MARRIAGE is the second play in the trilogy and includes a PROLOGUE when performed with the other 2 plays.)


SETTING

Cornell University; Manhattan; and Bronxville, NY

 

TIME

1977 to 1997

 

CHARACTERS

Chip Miller. Senior executive at a packaged goods company. Ages from 19 to 39.

Sally Miller. Chip's wife. Good at taking charge of things. 19 to 39.

Franklin Mancuso. Openly gay. Charming real estate agent. 35, then 36.

Will Dent. Chip's work colleague. 40.

Dr. Devlin. Chip's junior high school principal. 48.

Officer Johnson. Police officer. 33.

Leo Schwartz. Family man with a double life. 40.

Tony. A rough but sexy man in great shape. 30.

Mr. Miller. Chip's father. 40.

Bouncer. 32.

Therapist (Voice). 

 


HONORS

 

FINALIST, Sparkfest 2023, Amphibian Stage, Fort Worth, TX, 2023.

 

SEMI-FINALIST (Top 6 plays), Southeast Texas Festival of New Plays, Beaumont, TX, 2022.

 



EXCERPT:

 

SCENE 1

 

PROJECTION: “1977. Cornell University.”

 

SALLY (age 19) and CHIP (age 19) come crashing into SALLY’s dorm room. They are seriously stoned on marijuana.

 

SALLY

How’d we get here so fast?

 

CHIP

(goofily)

Jed took a shortcut—right across Cayuga Lake!

 

SALLY

(staring at Chip defiantly)

What are you talking about, silly?

 

CHIP

You’re silly!

 

SALLY

I’m Sally

 

SALLY laughs.

 

CHIP

Don’t you remember, silly Sally?

 

SALLY

Jed can’t drive on water!

 

CHIP

(in awe)

He can do anything! He’s amazing!

 

SALLY

(teasing)

Oh, do you have a crush on him?

 

CHIP

So, what if I do?

 

SALLY

I’m just kidding, honey.

 

CHIP

Well, don’t make fun of Jed. He’s a good guy. He knows all the tricks.

 

SALLY

How about you?

(seductively)

Do you know all the tricks?

 

CHIP

I know a thing or two.

 

SALLY

Like what?

 

CHIP

Like—well, I know all about . . hot lovin’!

 

SALLY and CHIP laugh hysterically and then start to imitate a country music act they saw earlier that evening.

 

SALLY and CHIP

(singing)

“Nights of hot lovin’! Nights of hot lovin’! I’m dreamin’ of nights of hot lovin’ with you!”

 

SALLY 

Was that the greatest country music act you’ve ever seen or what?

(dreamily)

I wonder what that’d be like—to be a country singer. Two country singers. Take our act on the road.

 

CHIP

But I can’t sing.

 

SALLY

Sure, you can, Chip! If you put your mind to it, you can do anything—be anything

 

CHIP

Hey, I got an idea! 

 

CHIP charges across the room.

 

SALLY

Don’t leave me!

 

CHIP

I’m not! I’m just—

 

SALLY stares into space, still imagining what it would be like to be a country western singer. CHIP lights a candle and approaches SALLY.

 

CHIP (CONT’D)

So, what do you think?

 

SALLY

About what?

 

CHIP

Isn’t it pretty?

 

SALLY

(stoned and confused)

Pretty?

(finally focusing on the candle)

Oh, my God, Chip! Yes, it is! Wow—I never noticed how beautiful a candle can be!

 

CHIP

How much pot did you smoke, anyway?

 

SALLY

Same as you. Same as Jed and Trudie.

 

CHIP

You’re so cute when you’re not in control!

 

SALLY

(overly defiantly)

Who says I’m not in control?

 

SALLY and CHIP think about her response and then burst into hysterical laughter again.

 

CHIP

God, I love pot! I think it’s my favorite thing in the world.

 

SALLY

I thought I was your favorite thing in the world.

 

CHIP

You are, sweetheart! You’re the most wonderful girl in the whole world.

 

SALLY

Ah, gee. 

            

CHIP

Seriously. You are beyond groovy!

 

SALLY

Way beyond groovy!

 

CHIP

You’re the mostest fun. And you’re like the best student at Cornell. You’re my Super Woman!

 

SALLY

That’s just the pot talking!

 

CHIP

I didn’t know pot could talk!

 

SALLY and CHIP break out laughing again.

 

CHIP (CONT’D)

Why isn’t it legal already?

 

SALLY

It’s never gonna be legal, Chip.

 

CHIP

Jeez, are you sure?

 

SALLY

(suddenly no longer stoned)

Of course, I’m sure.

 

CHIP

But that’s not gonna stop us, right? When we’re married, we’ll still smoke dope.

 

SALLY

I don’t think so, Chippy.

 

CHIP

Why not?

 

SALLY

You don’t want brain-damaged children, do you?

 

CHIP

(sadly)

Bummer.

 

SALLY

I’m sure no one in Scarsdale smokes grass, anyway.

 

CHIP

Who cares what they do in Scarsdale?

 

SALLY

That’s where we’re gonna live—or maybe Larchmont.

 

CHIP

Then let’s not move there.

 

SALLY

Don’t you want to live in a nice house in a good community?

 

CHIP

I guess.

 

SALLY

(dreamily)

Well, I do! I want a big yard and a fourposter bed and a big station wagon in the driveway!

 

CHIP

Why do you want all that?

 

SALLY

Because—why do you even have to ask?

 

CHIP

I just want to have fun.

 

SALLY

We’ll have fun! Hey, how about some of that hot lovin’ right now?!

 

CHIP

I don’t think I’m in the mood anymore.

 

SALLY

Aw, c’mon! Hey—I’ve got something that’ll help.

 

SALLY rummages through her bag and pulls out a half-smoked joint. 

 

CHIP

(perking up)

Where’d you get that?

 

SALLY

From Jed.

 

CHIP

I thought we smoked that all up.

            

SALLY

I saved a little bit.

 

CHIP

You little sneak!

 

SALLY

Well, I know a few tricks, too.

 

CHIP

Well, let’s have it, then!

 

SALLY gives CHIP the battered roach. He lights it, and they pass it back and forth with the exaggerated gestures of old pros.

 

CHIP (CONT’D)

Mm! Mm! That is good!

 

CHIP lets out a satisfied sigh. 

 

SALLY

You like that?

 

CHIP

I like that!

 

SALLY

You like this?

 

SALLY reaches over to kiss him. CHIP moans, signaling his approval. They continue kissing.

 

SALLY (CONT’D)

And how about this?

 

SALLY starts rubbing CHIP between his legs. 

 

CHIP

(shocked)

Sally!

 

CHIP removes SALLY’s hand.

 

SALLY

What’s the matter?

 

CHIP

Nothing—I just liked what we were doing.

 

CHIP hugs SALLY and resumes kissing her.

 

CHIP (CONT’D)

Isn’t this better?

 

SALLY

(underwhelmed)

Sure.

 

CHIP

(childishly)

Who’s my little silly Sally?

 

SALLY

You nut.

 

SALLY jumps up.

 

CHIP

Hey, what’s the matter?

 

SALLY starts to dance—a sexy seductive dance.

 

CHIP (CONT’D)

What are you doing?

 

SALLY continues to dance around the room

 

SALLY

Come on—dance with me!

 

CHIP

I can’t dance.

 

SALLY

Sure, you can!

 

SALLY pulls CHIP up onto his feet and they dance together, a slow, tight body-on-body dance.

 

SALLY (CONT’D)

Yeah, that’s good—you sexy man!

 

After a few moments, CHIP breaks away.

 

CHIP

I’m a little dizzy. I need to sit.

 

CHIP sits down.

 

SALLY

Are you all right?

 

CHIP

Yeah, yeah—fine.

 

SALLY

Here—let me relax you.

 

SALLY sits behind CHIP and starts to massage his shoulders. CHIP starts to soften. SALLY expands the massage to his full upper body.

 

SALLY (CONT’D)

Does that feel good?

 

CHIP

Yeah—real good.

 

SALLY reaches down and starts rubbing CHIP between his legs again, more slowly and gently this time. 

 

SALLY

Now—how about this?

 

CHIP moans his approval.

 

SALLY (CONT’D)

Am I doing it right?

 

CHIP moans some more.

 

SALLY (CONT’D)

English, please!

 

CHIP

Yes! Yes!

 

SALLY

(seductively)

So, what do you say? Are you ready to give me some of that hot lovin’ now?

 

CHIP

Whatever you want, Sally.

 

CHIP picks SALLY up and carries her off.

 

BLACKOUT.

 

PROJECTION: “1997”

 

Lights up on SALLY (39) in a chair.

 

SALLY addresses the audience. (It will eventually become clear that SALLY’s soliloquys—as well as CHIP’s—are being addressed to their therapist.)

 

SALLY

So, you just want me to talk? Okay. Well, let’s see—

(beat)

I met Chip at the beginning of sophomore year at a fraternity party, and something just kind of clicked for me. I thought—that’s the man I’m going to marry! Where did that come from? I grew up in Schenectady—my father worked for General Electric—well, okay, he was a janitor—but maybe Chip reminded me of some of the GE executives I saw around town. Or maybe some of the rich kids from Union College. I don’t know, but I felt it immediately—the potential for a better life, a real future! So, I went out of my way to cultivate that relationship. Decided not to jump into bed with him right away. Not go that route. Because that route doesn’t lead to a Norman Tudor or a Center Hall Colonial in Westchester County. And, no, winding up back in Schenectady was not an option. No, no, no. 

(beat)

And another thing—there was a softness in Chip I liked. A sensitivity maybe? Not something everyone noticed, but something I saw immediately. And I was really attracted to that. But it meant I’d have to tread lightly and make him feel loved and supported to make this work. 

 

Cross fade to CHIP (39), also in a chair.

 

CHIP

So, what did Sally tell you?

(responding)

Oh, I get it. So, what I say is confidential, too, right? 

(responding)

You’re sure?

(responding)

Okay, good. Here we go. When I met Sally, I thought she was the perfect—I mean the ultimate—woman for me. You see, I didn’t date many girls in high school—that was back in Alexandria, Virginia—because I needed to focus on my studies and extracurricular activities. Especially if I wanted to get into a school like Cornell. At least that’s what I told myself at the time. The truth is—I was worried there might be something really wrong with me. I, uh . . . well, you see, I liked to think about men when I jerked off. Is it okay to talk about that?

(responding)

Good. Did that all through high school. I don’t know why. But when it was time to head off to Cornell, I told myself—that’s it, Chip! Time to stop doing that! Now, don’t laugh. It’s all about self-control. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work. I mean, I did start thinking about women, but sometimes I’d slip back into my old habits. 

(beat)

Sally was very patient with me. We never really talked about any of this, but everything gradually worked out. Like that night we got stoned with Jed and Trudi. That was the first night we had sex. Maybe it was the pot—I don’t know, but for the first time in my life, I actually did it! And it actually felt good. I felt like—well, a stud! But in the middle of things, everything stopped working, and I panicked, so I made a special exception and pulled up an image from my mental file of hot men—I think it was this country singer we heard up in Trumansburg earlier that night—this good-looking guy with a big muscular chest who wore a spandex cowboy outfit while he crooned his love songs—and bingo! I had the biggest orgasm I’d ever had in my life! So, what if I had to use a crutch that one time? After that, Sally and I had an active sex life. Very active, actually. Well, okay—maybe I continued to use that crutch sometimes.

(defeated)

Maybe most times. But I couldn’t have been the only guy who did that, right? 

 

Cross fade to SALLY, still in her chair.

 

SALLY

So, you’ll be happy to know—things worked out exactly as I hoped—I mean in the area of sex. I waited till he insisted we start sleeping together. But here’s the odd part. For weeks—well, months, actually—we just slept. Oh, we cuddled, and made out, and all that. But there was no sex. No actual, technical sex. And most of the time he kept his pajamas on. God, if my sorority sisters ever knew! But I stuck to my plan. Eventually, I came up with the idea of going out with our friends, because I knew Jed was a big pothead. I can’t say it was the best sex I’d ever had, but Chip eventually got the hang of it. Frankly, I was so relieved, because now my future was secured.

(beat)

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound so calculating. I really loved Chip, and he really loved me. We were both incredibly happy. And my life had purpose now. My sorority sisters noticed the change, too. One of them said she marveled at my energy and cheerfulness. Yeah, that felt good.

 

Cross fade to CHIP, still in his chair. 

 

CHIP

But wait—there’s more! Here’s where it gets ugly. My secret fantasies started getting out of control. I was thinking about men all the time—fantasizing about every hot-looking guy I passed on campus. Every male professor worth undressing in my mind. Then senior year, it finally happened. After one of Alpha Delt’s wild frat parties—so wild that Sally stormed off in a snit—I ended up in bed with one of my frat brothers. A big, hulking red-haired soccer player. The next day, I suffered a brutal hangover. But whenever I thought about the encounter, I realized it was everything I was afraid it would be. It was—

(change of mood—suddenly happier)

—so great!

(back to a dark mood)

And I couldn’t live with that. So, I vowed I’d never let that happen again. I would not be gay. But when I realized that might not be in my control, I started questioning how to go on living. And soon enough—whether to go on living.

(beat)

There’s something you need to know about the Cornell campus. Gorges run right through it—beautiful, inviting gorges, voluptuously green in the warm months, chillingly bleak in the snow months. And bridges that make it easy to stop and stare down into the void while you contemplate the possibility. Every so often, someone would fall under the spell of that possibility and leap over the wall to their death. In rare years, several people took the plunge, and the national press swarmed the campus interviewing students about the pressures of campus life. And so, I, too, found myself stepping up onto the wall, staring down, seriously pondering the alternative, the beautiful icy white alternative that frigid afternoon, no longer wondering whether to do it, just when.

 

Lights up on SALLY (19), weighed down with books and buried in down.

 

SALLY

Chip! What in the world are you doing up there?

 

CHIP (19) stands up and stares at SALLY.

 

SALLY (CONT’D)

Come on—get down from there! It’s dangerous!

 

CHIP continues to stare at SALLY oddly for a while. Finally—

 

CHIP

Sally, will you marry me?

 

SALLY

Get down from there!

 

CHIP

Not until you answer! Will you marry me? Please!

                                                            

SALLY

Of course, I will! Now, get down from there!

 

Lights down on SALLY.

 

CHIP

(to the audience)

A much better solution.

 

END OF SCENE

 

END OF EXCERPT