Full-Length Play

Marriages of Inconvenience

A Play in Two Acts                                        by William Ivor Fowkes

Three married men pay the price for leading double lives in a time of social change.

 

LENGTH: 2 hours (plus intermission)

CAST: 5M, 3F (17 characters)

 

Marriages of Inconvenience is based on a portion of my unpublished novel of the same name.  

 

 

“Weird and wonderful. One hand, light and frothy, the other, almost epic. I’m sure there’s a production looming.”

- New Phoenix Theatre, Buffalo (Eric Bentley New Play Competition)

 

 


SYNOPSIS

When marriage isn’t the perfect solution, you may have a problem on your hands. This play presents the lives of three men living in the same town whose marriages may have turned out to be less than ideal. Two of them have been best friends and lovers since college, but nevertheless set off to marry women, start families, and live as next-door neighbors, hiding the true nature of their relationship from their families and the rest of the world. A third man marries his college sweetheart, who may or may not be manipulating him the whole time. These stories are played out against the backdrop of sweeping social changes—beginning shortly after Stonewall and ending in Provincetown after gay marriage has been legalized in Massachusetts. Set in New York City and Bronxville, one of its affluent suburbs, and spanning 30 years of changing attitudes toward homosexuality, this play addresses themes of fidelity, social convention, authenticity and, ultimately, self-acceptance.

 

 

THE SETTING

The play begins in the Walker kitchen in Bronxville, New York, moves back to Yale and then on through various settings in New York City and Bronxville, ending in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Although the play spans many years and covers a wide range of locations, it can be performed on a bare stage with props indicating each setting.

 

THE TIME

The play begins in the fall 1971 and progresses until summer 2000.

 

 

SCENES

 

ACT ONE

Scene 1: 1971. A dorm suite at Yale.

Scene 2: 1975. A dorm room at Cornell.

Scene 3: 1977. A gay bar in Greenwich Village.

Scene 4: 1983. The ladies room of a singles bar.

Scene 5:1984. A conference room at Smith Barney.

Scene 6:1985. Chip & Sally’s apartment on Park Ave.

Scene 7:1985. The NYC Department of Health.

Scene 8: 1992 and 1995. Siwanoy Country Club.

Scene 9: 1996. The Walker kitchen.  

 

ACT TWO

Scene 1: 1996. The Walker master bedroom.

Scene 2: 1997.A gay bar in Chelsea.

Scene 3: 1998. A room at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Scene 4: Four months later. The same gay bar in Chelsea.

Scene 5: 1999. The Siwanoy Country Club.

Scene 6: The same day. The same gay bar in Chelsea.

Scene 7: 2000. Outside a guesthouse in Provincetown, Mass.

 

 

CHARACTERS

Major Roles:

Graham P. Walker. Investment banker from Westport, CT. Articulate and intense.  Ages from 19 to 48 during the play. 

Chip Miller. Senior executive at a packaged goods company. Very handsome. Ages from 20 to 42.  

Dan Carlsen. Lawyer from Fargo, ND. Athletic and boyish. Ages from 20 to 44.

Kitty Flemington Walker. A book editor, then a stay-at-home mom. Attractive, but shy. Ages from 28 to 41. 

Sally Miller. Chip’s wife. Good at taking charge of things. Ages from 20 to 40. 

Debbie Hess Carlsen. Account exec at an ad agency, then a stay-at-home mom. Preppy and Jewish—but looks like a WASP. Funny and chatty. Ages from 28 to 44.

 

 


EXCERPT

 

Scene 3: Two years later. Early 1977. A gay bar in Greenwich Village.

 

Dan and Graham stand huddled together at

one end of the bar.

 

DAN

(uncomfortably)

Graham, why did we have to come here? I don’t like the looks of this place.

 

GRAHAM

It’s time we checked out our people.

 

DAN

These aren’t our people, man! We have nothing in common with them except the fact that we’re… Well, we’re just not like them.

 

GRAHAM

Dan, drink your beer and pretend you’re happy—I’M happy!

 

DAN

(dryly)

I’m happy you’re happy.

 

GRAHAM

I love my life—being an investment banker, living in New York—the whole package! And thank you for inviting me to move in with you.

 

DAN

Just helping out a friend.

 

GRAHAM

I missed you up in Boston.

(snuggling up to Dan)

And I kinda got the sense you missed me, too. Right? Kinda? Sorta?

 

DAN

Okay, you win! For the time being—until I get married—until YOU get married—it’s a nice arrangement.

 

GRAHAM

Nice? Down comforters are nice.

 

DAN

Okay, more than nice. It means we don’t have to go to places like this. So why DID we come here?

 

GRAHAM

Because I thought this would be the perfect setting for a little speech I’ve prepared.

 

DAN

Oh, brother!

(raising voice)

Ladies and gentlemen—I mean, GENTLEMEN—Graham Walker is about to demonstrate his amazing powers of elocution.

 

GRAHAM

Shush! This is for your ears only. I know you’ve had this grand plan for us. This great marital suburban vision. But lately, I don’t know… It doesn’t seem so pressing. Life with you’s been…well…sweet. So maybe we’ve already found our spouses. Maybe we’re them!

 

DAN

Graham, that’s absurd!

 

GRAHAM

Is it? We live together. Sleep together. And we love each other. The only thing missing is being open about it. None of our friends even know we’re a couple.

 

DAN

Well, that’s what we wanted.

 

GRAHAM

(getting revved up)

But aren’t you ever sick of it? When they hold hands and smooch right in front of us, don’t you want to hold my hand and nuzzle my neck, too?

(forcefully)

That’s why I brought you down here, Dan—because here WE’RE the norm and they’re the queer ones!

 

DAN

(looking around self-consciously)

Graham, this place gives me the creeps. No one takes these people seriously. Our families don’t—I’m sure Smith Barney doesn’t—so don’t pretend they’re our people. I know you too well to believe you want to be a loser.

 

GRAHAM

I give up.

 

Graham drapes his arms around Dan.

 

GRAHAM

But isn’t it nice to be able to be affectionate in a place where no one we know could possibly catch us in the act?

 

DAN

I thought down comforters were nice. Now, can we go home please?

 

GRAHAM

I’ve got a better idea.

 

Graham grabs Dan’s face with both hands,

kisses him, and then pulls him into a tight

embrace. Dan gives in fully to the embrace.

Richard Hamlin enters with a companion

trailing behind, spots Dan and Graham, and

approaches them.

 

RICHARD HAMLIN

Well, fasten your seatbelts—it’s my two favorite Yalies!

 

GRAHAM

Richard Hamlin?

 

RICHARD HAMLIN

(dramatically)

Flash from the past! Yale’s most popular resident faculty fellow—at your service!

 

DAN

(curtly)

What are you doing here? You won’t find any undergraduates in the whole place, you know.

 

RICHARD HAMLIN

Oh, please—undergrads are fine, but every now and then I need something more substantial. You know how it is! … I’m glad to see you two are still a couple.

 

DAN

We were never a couple, Richard!

 

RICHARD HAMLIN

I seem to remember playing a critical role in bringing the two of you together. You never thanked me, of course, but I knew what was going on.

 

GRAHAM

We’re just catching up on old times.

 

RICHARD HAMLIN

In a gay bar?

 

GRAHAM

That’s all!

 

Walter Griffith steps forward and joins the circle.

 

WALTER GRIFFITH

Really, Richard! Have you no shame? I leave you alone for a few moments, and you take up with the two best looking men in the whole place.

 

RICHARD HAMLIN

(laughing)

Forgive me, Walter. I have no manners. These are two of my prize students from Yale, class of ’74—and frequent companions in debauchery.

 

Walter shakes Dan’s hand and stares quizzically at him.

 

WALTER GRIFFITH

You look familiar. Are you in one of my classes?

 

RICHARD HAMLIN

Walter teaches law at Columbia

 

DAN

(sheepishly)

Securities, Tuesdays and Thursdays at ten.

 

WALTER GRIFFITH

Ah, yes! Well, now that I know you’re one of Richard’s prize students, I’ll have to keep a closer eye on you.

 

GRAHAM

(seeing Dan’s discomfort)

Well, we were just going. Good to see you, Richard.

 

RICHARD HAMLIN

Just like old times—you two were always scurrying away from me.

 

GRAHAM

Nice to meet you, Walter.

 

Graham ushers Dan out the door. They

continue their conversation just outside the

bar.

 

DAN

See what you’ve done!

 

GRAHAM

I was just trying to help you make a quick exit.

 

DAN

No, I mean—you dragged me down here, and now you got me in trouble. Now Professor Griffith thinks he knows something about me. If word ever got out, no law firm would ever hire me if they thought I was gay!

 

GRAHAM

You’re exaggerating.

 

DAN

Graham, Professor Griffith SAW me!

 

GRAHAM

So what? You saw HIM. You could just as easily cause trouble for HIM.

 

DAN

That’s not how it works!

 

Graham puts his arm around Dan.

 

GRAHAM

You’re overreacting!

 

Dan pushes Graham’s arm away.

 

DAN

Leave me alone! You’re an irresponsible fool! You think life’s one big fairy tale!

 

GRAHAM

I love the way you make puns when you’re angry.

 

DAN

Fuck you! My future’s at stake here, damn it!

 

GRAHAM

Hey, what’s the worst that could happen? So maybe you don’t get a job at a top 10 law firm. There are lots of other firms out there. I’m sure you’ll find a job.

 

DAN

I don’t want just any job! I’m a Yale man. A Columbia Law student. You don’t end up with a big house and a nice car working at firms that hire losers.

 

GRAHAM

Is that all your life’s about?

 

DAN

You’re the one who wants a Mercedes Benz.

 

GRAHAM

It’s not about cars and houses and country clubs.

 

DAN

That’s easy for you to say! You’re from Westport—you’ve had those things. You’re not from North Dakota.

 

GRAHAM

Dan, you didn’t grow up in a teepee. And what does any of that matter? What about people? Relationships? Love? The rest is all bullshit.

 

DAN

(pointing at himself and Graham)

No, THIS—THIS is bullshit! You go back in there and hang out with your new friends. And then go find your own place to live!

 

Dan starts to exit.

 

GRAHAM

Dan!

 

Dan pauses before exiting.

 

DAN

(said with great determination)

I tried, but this is not who I am. It’s not who I was meant to be. I can’t be what you—I just can’t do it anymore!

 

Dan exits.

 

END OF SCENE