The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The play begins on a snowy Christmas Eve. Rachel is having a “euphoria attack” as she looks out her bedroom window and anticipates the happiness that Christmas Day will bring to her family. She remembers thinking that as a child she “wanted to live in Alaska because it always snowed and Santa was up there, so it must always be Christmas.” Her husband, Tom, is in bed watching television with the sound turned off and seems preoccupied and conflicted. Suddenly, in a fit of conscience, Tom tells his wife that he has taken a contract out on her life and that a professional killer is about to enter their home and murder her. At first, Rachel thinks Tom is kidding, but once convinced that he is telling the truth, she leaps out their bedroom window clad only in slippers and pajamas.

Rachel trudges to an Arco gas station and is rescued from her precarious predicament by Lloyd, a physiotherapist, who takes her home and introduces her to his wife, Pooty, a deaf-mute paraplegic confined to a wheelchair. The couple welcome Rachel (who tells them her name is Mary Ellen Sissle) and help her get a job at Hands Across America, a nonprofit humanitarian foundation, where Rachel meets Roy, the head of the foundation, and Trish, its budget director. When Rachel returns from her first day at work, she discovers that Pooty is neither a deaf-mute nor a paraplegic. Pooty pretends to be disabled because Lloyd (who escaped a bad marriage and changed his name to keep from paying child support) feels better about himself if he works with physically challenged people. Lloyd will later tell Rachel that in reality he walked out on his wife, who had multiple sclerosis, and his two children—one brain damaged—because he was too drunk to see his boy playing in the snow and he ran over him with a snowblower. He left his family destitute and with no hope for their future. Pooty tells Rachel that she met Tom at work and pretended to be disabled to get his attention and keep his interest. Now Pooty must continue to feign her conditions.

Bizarre events continue to occur, and Rachel is convinced she needs therapy. She seeks the counsel of a number of inept psychiatrists, none of whom does her any good. Eventually, Lloyd confesses to Rachel...

(The entire section is 914 words.)