The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sweet Bird of Youth opens on Easter morning in the bedroom of an old-fashioned grand hotel, the Royal Palms. Chance Wayne rises from bed, where Princess Kosmonopolis (the alias of actor Alexandra Del Lago) is sleeping uneasily. Fly comes to the door with coffee and recognizes Chance, who has just returned to his native St. Cloud. Fly leaves, but immediately another voice is heard outside the door; it is Scudder, who enters and warns Chance that he is unwelcome in St. Cloud because he disgraced Heavenly Finley. Chance says he will stay until he can get Heavenly to leave with him.

Scudder leaves as Princess awakes from a stupor of alcohol and drugs. She does not remember how she got to St. Cloud or who Chance is. As she struggles to her senses Chance explains that he accompanied her as she fled from another state, where she had attended the disastrous premiere of a film with which she had hoped to make a comeback. As they talk, they resume drinking and smoking hashish. Unbeknownst to Princess, Chance is tape-recording their conversation, and he soon lets her know that he intends to blackmail her. She has the power to put him in films—his dream—and with the recording he has the power to ruin her. Princess, acquiescing, now wants Chance to make love to her; that is how she forgets pain and time and shame.

After Chance has made love to Princess, she gives him a mock screen test: He is to tell his life story. He describes a youth of frustration, without money or fame. All he had was beauty and erotic power. By the time he was discharged from the Army, he was past his prime, he explains, and that is when he found real love with Heavenly. Now that love for Heavenly has brought him back to St. Cloud.

Heavenly is forbidden to Chance; at their last meeting she warned him away. He has returned to St. Cloud to find her, and (with Princess’s cash and expensive car) he wants to take her away in style to a film career in Hollywood. As act 1 ends, Chance leaves Princess at the hotel and goes in search of Heavenly.

Act 2 opens at Boss Finley’s seaside mansion. Boss knows that Chance is back in St. Cloud. He is incensed because earlier Chance had infected Heavenly with venereal disease, and...

(The entire section is 913 words.)