The Play

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

The Member of the Wedding begins as the lights gradually reveal a kitchen in which Berenice Sadie Brown is preparing refreshments, and a backyard where Mr. Addams and his daughter, Frankie, are entertaining Jarvis Addams and his fiancee, Janice. Their wedding is to be two days later, on Sunday. Also present is John Henry West, Frankie’s cousin, who lives next door. Frankie rushes to serve the couple and then perches at their feet.

When Janice asks about music from a nearby girls’ clubhouse, Frankie admits that she is not yet a member but soon hopes to be. After the couple leaves, Berenice, John Henry, and Frankie begin their usual card game, but soon stop because John Henry has cut the pictures from the jacks and queens. With nothing to do, Frankie is restless; she has outgrown playing with the neighborhood children and does not want the doll Jarvis has brought her. When the club girls tell her that Mary Littlejohn is the new member, Frankie is crushed. In her frustration, she turns to thoughts of Janice and Jarvis. Suddenly, she realizes that both their names begin with J and a. Wanting her name to fit this pattern, she changes it to F. Jasmine Addams.

Concerned about her friendless condition, Frankie worries about becoming a freak because of her height. When John Henry irritates her, she sends him home. Trying to raise Frankie’s spirits, Berenice starts teasing her about having a crush on the wedding; in retaliation, Frankie angrily throws a carving knife at the bedroom door and threatens to leave home after the ceremony.

When Berenice leaves for the evening with Honey Brown and T.T. Williams, Frankie again feels excluded. She invites John Henry back to spend the night but then thinks of a solution to her loneliness: She will go with Jarvis and Janice after the wedding. She realizes that she has been an “I” person too long; she belongs with her brother and Janice “because they are the we of me.”

Act 2 opens on the afternoon of the next day; Frankie, missing all morning, informs Berenice and John Henry that she has been to town to buy her wedding clothes and to tell everyone of her plans to be a member of the wedding.

Berenice decides that Frankie’s wedding infatuation can be cured if she has a beau of her own, such as Barney MacKean, whom Frankie, however, calls “nasty.” When T.T. and Honey arrive collecting for a friend’s funeral expenses, Frankie models her wedding clothes for them: an obviously...

(The entire section is 1019 words.)