Last Updated on March 9, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1345
Becca, Izzy, and their mother, Nat, are celebrating Izzy’s birthday at Becca’s home. Becca cuts her homemade cake and offers everyone a piece just as Howie comes downstairs. It’s clear Nat has asked Howie to print something for her, but she can’t seem to understand the document. Howie explains that it’s a timeline. Nat says this “list” doesn’t necessarily mean “it was a curse.”
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Nat starts talking about the Kennedys and how the family was cursed, which caused multiple deaths. She says they acted recklessly by flying around on private jets and playing football while skiing. The “list” is a timeline of all the Kennedy deaths. She says Rose Kennedy’s story is the saddest because she lived to be 104 and witnessed multiple tragedies. Becca changes the subject by suggesting they open gifts. Upon this suggestion, Nat realizes she’s been rambling for some time, unable to remember her original point. Becca blames the wine she’s drinking.
Becca hands Izzy a large present, but the mood shifts when Becca tells Izzy it’s a “practical” gift. Howie blurts out that it’s a bathroom set, and Becca shoots him a disapproving look. Izzy feels like this is Becca’s way of telling her she doesn’t like her Three Stooges shower curtain, but Becca denies that claim. Nat, however, calls Izzy’s current shower curtain “crap.” Izzy tries to reinforce to Becca that she is appreciative of the gift, but Becca feels Izzy doesn’t like it.
Nat, telling Izzy she doesn’t trust her with cash, gives Izzy a gift certificate to a maternity clothing store. Izzy is thrilled, but this gift causes Becca to become frustrated. She mentions the phone conversation where they decided they weren’t going to buy baby things until the shower. Nat disagrees, saying maternity clothing doesn’t count. Becca becomes more upset, which causes everyone to try to appease her. Howie suggests returning the bathroom set and getting something else, but Izzy rejects the suggestion. Becca attempts to physically take the gift back from Izzy, which causes a quiet struggle until Izzy tells Becca to let it go. Becca, embarrassed, releases the gift.
After more silence, Howie shifts the conversation toward Taz, Nat’s dog, but the audience soon learns the dog previously belonged to Becca and Howie. They argue about dog food until Nat remembers where she was going with the conversation about the Kennedys. She brings up Aristotle Onassis and his son dying in a plane crash. Nat says Onassis couldn’t accept the fact that the crash was an accident and offered a reward for anyone who could prove the plane was sabotaged. She explains that he died of grief a few years later because he was never able to process the incident.
This story causes Becca to become angry, but Nat feels the anger is misguided. She says Becca missed the point. Becca makes flippant remarks about buying “comfort” on eBay as Izzy unsuccessfully tries to change the subject. Nat mentions Becca’s refusal to go to a support group. Becca turns to Howie to explain himself, but Nat continues to describe how group support will help her connect with others who are going through the same thing. She explains that group support was helpful for her when their brother, Arthur, died. Becca refuses to hear anyone’s point, believing no one could ever understand her pain.
Becca says she doesn’t like group support because all they talk about is God’s plan and faith. Nat tries to explain that faith is comforting to some people, but at this point, Becca’s attitude is sour. Becca makes sarcastic remarks against God as she denounces clichéd messages about life. She doesn’t want to hear about “everything happening for a reason” or that her son is in a “better place.”
As the group tries to reason with Becca, she calls God a “sadistic prick.” In an uproar, Izzy, Nat, and Howie talk over each other, telling Becca she’s gone too far. Becca continues and suggests that God sounds just like their father. Upset by this comment, Nat says she’s just trying to help and wishes someone had said these things to her when Arthur died. Becca yells at Nat, resenting the fact she keeps comparing Danny to Arthur. The audience learns that Danny ran into the street chasing their dog, and Arthur was a thirty-year-old heroin addict who hanged himself. Nat tries to connect to Becca through the fact that they both lost their sons, but Becca refuses to engage. She excuses herself and goes to bed.
Howie tells the group he knew the party was a bad idea because they received a letter from Jason Willette earlier that day. Howie says he knew it bothered Becca and apologizes to Izzy for a ruined birthday.
In Danny’s room, Becca sits on Danny’s bed, takes a letter out of an envelope, and rereads it. Lights shine on Jason Willette, a seventeen-year-old boy. Jason recites the letter to the audience.
Jason writes directly to Becca and Howie. He tells them he read the article in the paper about Danny and that he, too, likes robots. He encloses a short science fiction story he wrote for his high school literary magazine and wants to dedicate it to Danny. He asks for their approval and to let him know if they don’t want it dedicated. He closes the letter by saying he’s sorry for what happened, and how even though he is in pain, he knows they are suffering far more than he is. He wishes he had driven down a different block that day. His post script asks if he can meet them in person.
The lights dim on Jason as Becca places the letter on the bed, and the lights rise on Howie in the living room. Howie puts a tape into the VCR, but something is wrong. The audience can’t see the screen, but they can hear that the tape contains a documentary about tornados. Howie tries the tape again and yells upstairs to Becca. The lights fade on Danny’s bedroom as Becca runs downstairs to Howie.
Howie asks about the documentary. Becca explains that she recorded it over Pride and Prejudice because he had said he wanted to watch it; she used the tape from the previous night. Howie reveals that he watched Danny’s tape after Becca went to bed, which means Becca recorded over the wrong tape. Howie panics as Becca apologizes. She didn’t know he had switched the tapes.
Becca says it was an accident, but Howie questions her motives. He feels like Becca is erasing Danny by removing his pictures from the walls and packing everything away. Becca states she is preserving his pictures for “safekeeping,” but this answer isn’t enough for Howie. He brings up the Goodwill items, selling the house, and their dog. Becca says she just can’t handle some of the reminders. She is struggling, too.
This dialogue sets off an argument about the day Danny died. Howie blames himself for buying the dog, and Becca blames herself for running into the house to take a phone call. They both blame themselves for not latching the gate. Becca stops the conversation, saying it won’t get them anywhere; it was an accident. Howie “los[es] it” and starts yelling and crying. He feels Becca is trying to take every memory of Danny away from him.
Becca, confused, approaches Howie and changes her tone. She tells Howie that no matter what physical items she removes to make it easier on herself, nothing will ever erase the memory of Danny. Becca feels like she doesn’t feel bad enough in Howie’s eyes. She is sick of people telling her how to grieve. Howie states that something has to change; he can’t live like this. He tells Becca he wants the dog back and heads upstairs alone.