The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia opens in the meeting room of the Knights of the White Magnolia in the Cattleman’s Hotel. Ramsey-Eyes sweeps in preparation for the evening’s meeting, giving the audience time to take in the play’s single setting. The room is run-down, with stained walls and shabby furnishings. At one end is a podium decorated with a grimy painting of a white magnolia. Behind it, flanked by Confederate and Texas flags, hangs a cross ornamented with light bulbs. Opposite is the doorway, with a coatrack and tattered banners on the upper wall.
Rufe Phelps and Olin Potts enter arguing, setting the tone for the meeting, which will be marked by petty bickering. They totally ignore Ramsey-Eyes’ greeting and other pleasantries, as does Red Grover, who enters next. Ramsey-Eyes, snubbed, leaves to return to the hotel lobby and is thereupon accused of being “uppity.”
L. D. Alexander enters, and, after some ribbing, the men plan a practical joke on Skip Hampton, the lodge lush. When Skip comes in, they hide the bourbon provided by Red, claiming that Skip was to bring the “refreshments.” Skip is fooled only briefly, much to Red’s irritation. When Rufe and Olin leave to fetch Colonel Kinkaid, the rest discuss Floyd Kinkaid, his son, venting their resentment because Floyd has never joined the lodge.
Rufe and Olin, followed by Ramsey-Eyes, carry in Colonel Kinkaid, an invalid, and set him in a wheelchair. Once Ramsey-Eyes is dismissed, L. D. administers the oath and announces that instead of playing dominoes and drinking, the usual activities, the Knights are going to initiate a new member, one Lonnie Roy McNeil, from Silver City. The others manage to placate the Colonel, who damns all Silver City men as cowards, but Skip and Red break into a quarrel over Skip’s desire for a drink. Their wrangling is interrupted by the comic arrival of Lonnie, who enters held by Ramsey-Eyes like a captured spy. Red, with characteristic intolerance, sends Ramsey-Eyes packing back to the lobby.
Once underway, the meeting is frequently interrupted with abrasive confrontations. The audience does manage, however, to get a brief history of the organization, which flourished during the 1920’s and 1930’s but has since come on hard times. The...
(The entire section is 948 words.)