Sticks and Bones

by David Rabe

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Act I Summary

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Sticks and Bones opens with a slide show of family pictures. The offstage voices of an adult couple explain who are in the slides to the voices of children.

The scene moves to a home headed by parents Ozzie and Harriet. By phone, Ozzie learns that the government is sending their elder son David home from serving in the war in Vietnam. The family is excited by the prospect. Ozzie and Harriet share memories, some negative, about David. Ozzie also discusses his experiences in World War II, justifying his non-combative role to his younger son Rick; though Ozzie was not a soldier, he played an important role building war vehicles.

A Sergeant Major delivers the now-blind David to his family. The family is uneasy about David's disability and appearance. David is also uncomfortable and wants to leave. The sergeant will not let David come with him. He has other soldiers to deliver to their families. After the sergeant exits, David remains upset. As his parents look for something to calm him down, the Asian Girl appears in the doorway. Harriet cannot see her and slams the door shut on her.

Later that night, the Asian Girl enters when Ozzie opens the door to check on a noise. He also cannot see her. Harriet knocks on David's bedroom door, insisting that he had called her. Harriet talks at David without listening to him. When she leaves, the Asian Girl enters. David can sense her presence.

During the afternoon, Ozzie tries to watch television, but the sound does not work. His attempts to fix it are interrupted by Harriet. She is worried about David, who has been uncommunicative. David comes downstairs and mentions an old friend of Ozzie's, Hank Grenweller. After sharing memories of him, David contradicts what Ozzie remembers about Hank. Harriet enters and changes the subject. She and Ozzie ask David about his talking in his sleep. David tells them that he was not asleep but speaking to a presence he felt in the room. Ozzie becomes angry when David talks about the Asian Girl. His parents call her names. To make an ill Harriet feel better, Ozzie suggests that David ask her to make him food. When Harriet suggests they go to church, David goes to his room, not eating anything.

Despite Ozzie's disapproval, Harriet decides to ask Father Donald to talk to David about the Asian Girl. Rick comes home and his parents immediately brighten up. They return to superficial conversation. As Rick becomes impatient waiting for Harriet to serve him food, Ozzie becomes upset over David's relationship with the Asian Girl as well as over his own lost youth. Ozzie tells the audience about how he used to be a good runner in his day. David returns and reminds Ozzie that those days are over.

At night, the family gathers to watch home movies shot by David. Before the film begins, Rick sings a song and plays the guitar that he has carried throughout the play. David wants to sing as well, but his parents insist that only Rick can sing. David calls Rick selfish and tries to grab the guitar. They get in a tug-of-war that David wins. Harriet and Ozzie are upset over David's actions.

After everything calms down, David turns on the projector. The movie is nothing but a flicker. David describes disturbing incidents from his time in Vietnam, mostly concerning the Vietnamese. Harriet pulls the plug. David is upset and uses his cane to knock things over. David strums the guitar and comes to a realization about his situation. He goes to bed...

(This entire section contains 773 words.)

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with the Asian Girl following him. Harriet tries to keep her subsequent conversation with Ozzie on superficial topics, but she loses her temper and exits the home. Ozzie is angry and confused. He calls the police and uses a fake voice to inform them that there are odd happenings at his home. Ozzie expresses his frustrations with his own life, past and present.

At a later time, Ozzie is asleep on the couch. A disturbed David whispers in his ear that he can see the Asian Girl sometimes. When Rick is present, David tells Rick that he hates him and wants to see him die. Upon Harriet's return, Ozzie wakes up and tells her about a horrible dream, in which David whispered in his ear. David denies doing this. The conversation turns superficial, until Ozzie loses control of himself again. He yells at David, informing him he never wants to hear about the Asian Girl again. After Ozzie slaps David, David can see the Asian Girl and holds her so she will stay.


Act II Summary