Full-Length Play

The Fidelity Clause

A Play in Two Acts by William Ivor Fowkes

How secure can anyone feel in their marriage?

 

LENGTH: 1 hour 50 minutes (plus intermission)

CAST: 3M, 3F (9 characters)

 

SYNOPSIS: While appearing on an interview show, playwright Owen Griffith goes into a rant when the host prods him into defending his belief in open relationships--and the video goes viral. When he and wife Valerie discuss the video with friends Norbert and Janine, Norbert brags about the "fidelity clause" included in their pre-nuptial agreement. Soon both marriages fall apart; Owen gets involved with Janine and becomes a big proponent of fidelity; Norbert tries to win Janine back; and Valerie finds companionship in a surprising place. In the end, Owen's relationship bliss is tempered when Janine's past starts to catch up with her, and his newfound commitment is put to a test. 

 

SETTING: After an opening scene in Cleveland, OH, the play takes place entirely in Manhattan. 

 

TIME: The recent past.

 

 



PRODUCTION HISTORY

 

2017: PUBLICATION: The Eddy, an online subscription service and repository of plays.

 

2017: READING, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, Manhasset, NY.

 


AN EXCERPT

 

ACT ONE

 

Music plays. Lights up.  

 

Scene 1: 2014. A cable TV studio in Cleveland, Ohio. A banner or projection displays a TV show logo: “CLEVELAND ARTS TALKExclusively on Cleveland Cable.”

 

OWEN and the INTERVIEWER sit on chairs and wear clip-on mikes. An interview is in progress. 

 

OWEN

(laughing)

And despite all that, it still went on to win the Tony!

 

INTERVIEWER

                                                (laughing)

Wow! Very funny story! Now, let’s talk about your latest play, The Philanderer’s Commitment—provocative title, by the way. It got gushing reviews at Playwrights’ Horizons in New York and Steppenwolf in Chicago. 

 

OWEN

(with false modesty)

So, I’ve heard.

 

INTERVIEWER

But, alas, that’s no guarantee we’ll take to it here, is it? You make a rather bold assertion in this play, don’t you, Owen? You say that, in the future, everyone will think it’s natural to have affairs—healthy even—and all hell will break loose!

 

OWEN

I’m not making predictions. I’m simply exploring possibilities.

 

INTERVIEWER

But do you think the audience here at the Cleveland Play House is ready for such possibilities?

 

OWEN

I don’t write for the audience in Cleveland—or anywhere else, for that matter. 

 

INTERVIEWER

Careful, Owen! Can you really afford to take your audience for granted in this day and age?

 

OWEN

I’m not some market researcher trying to figure out what the public will buy. I write from the heart.  

 

INTERVIEWER

                                                (patronizing)

But with the market for plays shrinking faster than the glaciers, shouldn’t playwrights care about what the audience wants?  

 

OWEN

(imitating the interviewer)

Shouldn’t you be encouraging your viewers to attend more theater rather than sounding its death knell?  

 

INTERVIEWER

                                                (suddenly giddy)

Ah, yes! Touché. Touché. Owen Griffith always gets right to the heart of the matter, doesn’t he? That’s why he’s America’s most important playwright.

 

OWEN

Let’s not go there.

 

INTERVIEWER

Okay, then let me ask you this—do you cheat on your wife? 

 

OWEN

(getting upset)

There’s no need to drag my wife into this discussion!

 

INTERVIEWER

I think you already dragged her in by telling everyone to go out and cheat.

 

OWEN

That’s not what I’m saying.

 

INTERVIEWER

I think the audience will be the judge of that.

 

OWEN

Look, I just think we place too much of a premium on marital fidelity. Think of all the careers and reputations that have been destroyed just because someone strayed outside their marriage. The celebrity rags are filled with this.

 

INTERVIEWER

                                                (to the audience)

NEWS BULLETIN: Owen Griffith reads the celebrity rags!

 

OWEN

You’re missing my point. Our attraction to other people doesn’t stop once we enter into a long-term relationship. I’m just saying there’s nothing wrong with that—we’re sexual creatures!

 

INTERVIEWER

But how is society supposed to function if everything turns into one big orgy? That’s what your play seems to be recommending.

 

OWEN

                                                (getting frustrated)

I’m just asking—is there a better way than insisting on complete fidelity on the part of one’s spouse?

 

INTERVIEWER

                                                (triumphantly)

So, you do cheat on your wife!

 

OWEN rips off his microphone. Throws it on the floor. Jumps up on his chair.

 

OWEN

(letting loose)

Okay, you want to get personal? I’ll get personal! My wife and I have an open relationship! Hear that, Cleveland? We screw around, and we like it! But it’s our choice and none of your goddamn business! So, get over it! 

                                                (to the Interviewer)

Now, why don’t you tell us all the intimate details of your private life? Do you still sleep with your wife? Or do you prefer your dog? You pathetic little shit!  

 

OWEN storms out.

 

INTERVIEWER

(to the audience—excitedly)

This is going to be huge on YouTube!

 

Music up. 

 

END OF EXCERPT