In Come Back, Little Sheba, Lola Delaney, fat, forty, and childless, has been married to Doc, a chiropractor whom she has driven to drink, for about twenty years. Doc seemingly had ahead of him a glorious future as a physician until he met Lola, a nubile beauty queen, whose father approved of few of her boyfriends. Doc was smitten but was slow to act; it took him a year to muster the courage to kiss Lola. Once he overcame his initial reticence, however, he promptly proceeded to impregnate her. Their marriage followed quickly, and Doc’s plans to become a doctor were scuttled for less ambitious ones.
Lola, too shy to go to a male obstetrician for her delivery, went instead to a midwife. The midwife botched the delivery, the baby died, and Lola was left barren. When the curtain rises, the main interest in Lola’s life has become her little white dog, Sheba, now lost. Lola looks for her and calls her, but Sheba does not return.
The Delaneys’ boarder, Marie, is an art student at a nearby college. Because her fiancé, Bruce, lives in another town, she has as well a casual sex partner, Turk, a brawny javelin-thrower, long on muscles and short on brains. Lola encourages Marie’s dalliance with Turk because she lives vicariously through their encounters.
Doc, replete with Oedipal hang-ups, is in love with Marie and uses her to feed his Madonna complex. He does not make any moves toward her, but he does pick up her scarf and fondle it, and his expression when he sees her reflects his love. (At such times, Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” 1825, is used by the playwright as background music to show Doc’s illusions of Marie’s purity.)
Much of the business of the play is accomplished during the slatternly Lola’s long talks with the neighbor, the milkman, and the...
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