Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1193
Act I, Scene 1
The scene opens with Doc entering the set, a cluttered and untidy downstairs kitchen and living room. Doc offers to prepare breakfast for the boarder, Marie, but she declines. When his wife, Lola enters, her disarray offers a distinct contrast to the other two character's neatness. She begins by telling Doc that she has again dreamed of her dog, Little Sheba, who was lost twenty years earlier, and she wonders if she'll ever find her lost pet. But Doc doubts that the dog will ever return. Both characters are nostalgic for a period more than twenty years earlier, when both were young and still dreaming of a different life. Lola was a popular beauty who longed for children before a botched midwife's delivery ended their infant's life and any hope of another child. Doc had planned on being a medical doctor before he was forced to marry and support a pregnant Lola; instead he became a chiropractor.
Lola applauds Doc for being sober a whole year. Doc then tells Lola that he will be at Alcoholics Anonymous that evening helping other people resist the urge to drink. When Lola asks Doc if he drank from disappointment, he responds that to stay sober he needs to forget the past. Doc leaves for work after noting that Marie is too nice a girl to waste time on a man like Turk.
Marie then thanks Lola for taking such good care of her. Lola wants to hear about Marie's romance with Turk, but the young man soon comes to pick up Marie. After she is left alone, an obviously lonely Lola tries to engage the postman, her neighbor, Mrs. Coffman, and the milkman in conversation. Lola finally turns to the radio for company when a messenger appears with a telegram for Marie. Lola cannot resist and steams it open to find that Marie's fiancé, Bruce, will arrive the next evening.
As Lola is reading this message. Marie walks in to ask if she can complete her drawing of a semi-nude Turk in the living room. After quickly hiding the telegram, Lola watches Turk pose for Marie. When Doc returns, he is angry that Turk is semi-nude in front of Marie, but Lola assures him that it is for an art class. When Lola confesses to Doc the contents of the telegram, he is angry that she is so nosy. But Lola dismisses his concern and tells him that she is planning a wonderful dinner for Bruce. Marie, and the two of them. Just before Doc leaves the room, he tells Lola that if something happens to Marie, he will never forgive Lola. But he does not see the passionate kiss that Marie and Turk share after he has gone upstairs.
Act I, Scene 2
When this second scene begins, it is clear that Lola has spent the day cleaning house. The rooms are neat and very clean. When Lola returns after borrowing silver polish from Mrs. Coffman, she asks Doc to show her some of his card tricks, and the two recall the happiness of their courtship. Lola observes that their youth has vanished like Little Sheba, and she regrets that she has gotten fat and slovenly. When Lola wonders if Doc regrets being forced to marry her. he replies that what's done is done and must be forgotten. Lola cheers him by doing the Charleston, but the mood is broken when Marie returns and casually makes fun of Lola's dancing.
Lola finally gives Marie the telegram announcing Brute's arrival the next evening. When Marie goes into the next room. Lola watches her and Turk kissing. The two are engaging in some light-hearted sexual banter, and it is clear that their relationship has progressed beyond kissing. Doc is irritated at this spying, but Lola cannot see anything wrong with watching this bit of romance. After Doc leaves, Lola watches for a few more minutes, and then, when the couple leaves for a walk. Lola returns to the porch to call again to her lost dog.
Act II, Scene 1
It is the next morning, and Lola and Doc are at breakfast. Lola chats about Marie and Turk, but Doc tells Lola he would rather not talk. He says he did not sleep well and that he thought he heard a man's voice in the house when Marie returned after midnight. Doc walks into the living room and thinks that he hears a man's laugh coming from upstairs. He is forced to accept that Marie is not the virginal young women he had thought. A few moments later. Doc stumbles into Turk sneaking out the door. While Marie and Lola are getting the china for that evening's dinner. Doc goes into the kitchen and takes the bottle of liquor that has sat untouched for the last year. He wraps it in a coat and leaves the house. The scene ends with Lola telling Marie what a gentleman Doc is.
Act II Scene 2
It is 5:30, and Lola is finishing her preparation for the dinner celebration. When Bruce arrives, Lola offers him a drink and goes into the kitchen to get the bottle. She discovers that the liquor is missing, and, understanding immediately that Doc is drinking, she calls his Alcoholics Anonymous mentor, Ed Anderson, for help. The scene ends with Marie and Bruce eating alone at the candle-lit table
Act II, Scene 3
Lola awakens on the sofa the next morning. She calls Ed to come over, and after she hangs up, Doc toes to sneak into the house, pretending to be sober. When Lola confronts him, his anger, resentment, and disillusionment come out in a horrifying verbal attack directed toward Lola. Doc is so out of control that he takes a hatchet and chases Lola, telling her that he is going to cut off all her fat and accusing her of only cleaning house when a young man is due to visit He collapses when Lola reminds him of how pretty she was when they first met.
At this point, Ed and another AA member, Elmo, arrive. They convince Doc to go with them to the hospital for treatment After they leave, Mrs. Coffman, who came over when she heard the noise of the fight, also goes home. Lola is alone when Bruce and Mane arrive, announce they are to be married, and tell Lola that Marie is moving back home with Bruce They are gone within minutes. Lola calls her mother and asks if she can come home, but it is clear that her mother says no.
Act II, Scene 4
It is one week later. Mrs. Coffman enters to ask if Lola would like to go to the relay races with her family, but Lola declines, since Doc is to come home that morning. After Mrs. Coffman leaves, Doc enters and apologizes to Lola for his behavior and begs her not to leave him. Lola tells him of a recent dream she had. She tells him that she now realizes that Little Sheba is gone forever Both Lola and Doc understand that this story is an agreement to put the past behind them and move forward.