The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

This three-act play is set in a Midwest American town during the 1930’s. The plot centers on the long relationship of four elderly Gibbs sisters and the secrets that remain unspoken in order not to disturb the tranquillity of their family. The younger sisters Cora, Arry, and Ida have lived next door to one another for fifty years. The oldest sister, Esther, who is nearly seventy, lives only one and a half blocks away. However, the sedentary lives of the sisters and their quirky husbands are disrupted when Homer Bolton, son of Ida and Carl, decides to bring home his fiancé of eight years, Myrtle Brown. Homer, who still lives at home, is terrified by sex and commitment. When his mother suggests that Myrtle and Homer share a double bed, he is deeply embarrassed. Homer’s parents and his uncles and aunts are thrilled to finally meet the girl Homer has been dating for twelve years. Myrtle, who is just as naïve as Homer, demonstrates her childlike attitude throughout the play with syrupy comments like, “I’ve just never had so many people so nice to me all at once!”

The backyard setting, with the Bolton and Swanson porches positioned next to each other, functions well in demonstrating how the proximity of the relatives has taken its toll on the psyches of the sisters and the men with whom they share their lives. It is Homer’s return home that initially propels the action of the play. Homer’s father, Carl, who cannot stop thinking about what his life might have been like had he become a dentist, reveals his quiet desperation by leaning his head up against a backyard tree and by wandering for hours through the neighborhood looking for the “fork” in the road he missed years earlier. These “spells” that Carl endures recur throughout the play. Homer reacts to his father’s “spells” by distancing himself from Myrtle Brown and by comforting his mother. Finally, he tells Myrtle that he can no longer...

(The entire section is 787 words.)