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Coffee Therapy — the play

Copyright 1996, by Samuel M. Post.
Note: If you’d like to produce this play, on stage or in a class, that would be a thrill for me and hopefully a fun time for all involved. However, a modest but fair royalty is in order. Please email me and we can discuss this.

Coffee Therapy is also a feature film.

From the Palmetto Play Service 1998 Catalog of Plays:
“Darnell Shacklebee, the proprietor of a hotel coffee shop, gets slammed one Saturday morning — but not by the usual rush of Java drinkers. This Saturday, the hotel hosts a psychotherapist’ convention, and all of Darnell’s former therapists happen to convene in Latte Lane. Darnell — who, if therapy were travel, would have accumulated enough frequent flier miles to fly around the world — remembers all of his therapists with painful, comic clarity; they don’t remember him at all. Like ghosts from a forgotten therapeutic attic, these encounters cause Darnell to suddenly re-experience more than twenty years of wanderings through therapy and family conflict. Darnell isn’t laughing, but the audience is. With multiple casting and quick costume changes, three men and three women romp through twenty-five characters to produce the kind of laughter that cures what ails you.”

Productions

Coffee Therapy premiered at Rutherfurd’s in Salisbury, NC, on May 15, 1996. It ran for three weeks.

It opened at Spirit Square, in Charlotte, NC, on October 11, 1996, where it was staged for two weekends.

The Spirit Square production was funded, in part, by a grant from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Arts and Science Council.

The original production was directed by Maureen Shay.  Gary Thornburg played Darnell Shacklebee.  The other characters were played by Mary Ann McCubbin, Darryl Casper, Tammie Casper, Anne Hoffman, and Joel Smeltzer.

Coffee Therapy was produced by Queen’s College Music and Drama Society at Melbourne University — May 7-10, 2003.

It was produced by Actor’s Scene Unseen, in Charlottte, NC, January 10, 2004.

I’ll always be grateful to the original cast of Coffee Therapy, and Maureen Shay — who took on the task of directing a new play by a first-timer. We produced this upstairs at Rutherfurd’s in Salisbury (now The Wrenn House).  We ran for six weeks as dinner theatre with a full-house every night (small room). We actually made a little money and split it between the eight of us. One night, before one of the shows in Charlotte, I remember Darryl Casper saying that this — being my first play — “was like having a baby.” It was.

Original Cast
Gary Thornburg — Darnell
Mary Ann McCubbin
Darryl Casper
Tammie Casper
Anne Cote Hoffman
Joel Smeltzer
Director: Maureen (Mo) Shay

Characters
Darnell Shacklebee proprietor of the coffee shop
Nellie a customer
Roy a customer
Dr. Sandra Winkerbloom a therapist
Girlfriend Darnell’s roommate’s girlfriend
Roommate Darnell’s, in his college days
Howard Shacklebee Darnell’s father
Aileen Shacklebee Darnell’s mother
Judy Darnell’s sister
James Darnell’s brother
Dodie in bed with Darnell
Man in coffee shop
Dr. Susan Freebocker a therapist
Dr. Harvey Smithbar a therapist
Corrie Darnell’s wife
Dr. Louise Dubinscott a therapist
Dr. Bill Blazer a therapist
Patsy Blazer’s lover
Grandmother Darnell’s grandmother
Dr. Cal Ross a psychiatrist
Person 1, Person 2, Person 3, Person 4, Person 5 support group

With multiple casting, six actors — 3 male, three female — can do this play. The following groups have been used.
1st male actor……Darnell
2nd male actor……Roy, Roommate, James, Man
3rd male actor……Howard, Dr. Smithbar, Dr. Blazer, Dr. Ross
1st female actor….Nelly, Judy, Girlfriend, Dr. Freebocker
2nd female actor….Dr. Winkerbloom, Dr. Dubinscott, Grandmother, Baby
3rd female actor….Aileen, Dodie, Corrie, Patsy
all actors……….support group

————————–

ACT 1

SCENE 1
SL is “Latte Lane.” It’s a small espresso shop in a hotel. There is a bar, cups, an espresso machine, a sink, and stools.
A sign posted inside the coffee shop reads “Today’s Special: 30% Discount for all Psychotherapists”

SR is a kind of generic space that can handle DARNELL’S memories; it’s s a therapist’s office, a bedroom, living room, or hotel room. There are five chairs and a couch. There is a door, and a window.

DARNELL SHACKLEBEE, the proprietor of Latte Lane, is alone. He is an ordinary looking fellow, about forty. He wears nothing particularly fashionable. In fact, he might have worn these same clothes in the 80’s, or 70’s: a casual shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes.

There is a lull in business, so he uses the time to throw away a few odd paper cups and wipe the counter.

DARNELL
Aside.
This is wild. A psychotherapists convention.

As he wipes the counter, NELLIE, a perky, wide-awake coffee lover, and ROY, a sleepyhead in need of a wake-up boost, enter the coffee shop. They sit down on the stools, glad to see DARNELL and have a cup of coffee.

NELLIE
Good morning, Darnell.

DARNELL
Good morning, folks.

ROY
How ya doing, DARNELL?

DARNELL
Pretty well. What would you like this morning, Nellie? The usual?

NELLIE
Yeah, a cappucino!

DARNELL
And you, Roy?

ROY
Sure. A cappucino will be fine. Double shot.

He begins to fix the coffee.

DARNELL
I know it’s Saturday when I see you two come in.

ROY
What’s going on here, anyway? A convention for psycho’s?

NELLIE
Psychotherapists, idiot. You know – like guidance counsellors, but…more intense.

DARNELL
Have you two ever considered therapy?

NELLIE
No.

ROY
Absolutely not.

DARNELL
Just asking.

NELLIE
Well, the truth. My mom goes all the time, and she took me with her once. So I guess I’ve been, kind of – and I guess I didn’t like it.

ROY
Huh. My mom goes to a shrink, too. Not me.

DARNELL
You might try it, sometime.

NELLIE
You’ve been?

DARNELL
Oh yeah.

ROY
Nellie, please.
ROY lights a cigarette
Damn, Darnell, I need that coffee. Can’t get the sleep out of my eyes this morning. I think it’s the full moon, or the tide, or the sap – something.

DARNELL
Depressed?

ROY
Nah.

NELLIE
If you are, it looks like you’ve come to the right place.

DARNELL
Hey, therapy is not a dirty word in my book.

NELLIE
Were you one of those personal growth junkies, back in the seventies?

DARNELL
Not really.

NELLIE
I’ve got a cousin who really tried to find herself. First she went to Europe. Then she got into therapy, then group therapy, EST, Lifespring, Singles Encounter, Amway. Then she got in touch with her inner child. She did everything. Then she got heavily into ropes. Then she joined the Marine Corps.

DARNELL
I spent over half my life in therapy.

NELLIE
Hm. You don’t look–
Pause.

DARNELL
What?
Pause.

ROY
Abnormal?

NELLIE
No. The opposite. I mean, a person who spends that much time in therapy should be really…you know…sort of super self-actualized and healthy. You don’t look that…

ROY
Healthy.

NELLIE
He looks healthy.

DARNELL
Listen. They should have invited me to lead a workshop at this convention. They could call it, “The Patient’s Perspective.”

ROY
Go in there and sign-up.

DARNELL
In fact, if they had wanted to really spice up this convention they could have a psychotherapy consumer convention next door – let the two conventions take place side by side.

ROY
to Nellie
He’s into it.

DARNELL
Why not let the practitioners and the clients meet separately for a day, then come together for a day? Mix ‘em up for a few roundtable discussions.

NELLIE
to ROY
You can’t beat Darnell’s coffee.

ROY
to NELLIE
It’s the best in town.

DARNELL
Why not? They could sell us a few books, present a few papers – skip the case studies, since the cases themselves are here – squeeze in a few therapy sessions after dinner – it could be a money maker. They could even have a little ‘choose your therapist’ activity. Let the therapists set up booths. Then the general public could wander around and talk to them for a minute, even do a little compatibility checklist.

NELLIE
Like a job fair. But…a therapist fair…

ROY
For the emotionally challenged.

DARNELL
Aside.
Why not? We go into the process blind as bats. After a month or two we start to figure out who we’re dealing with. By then we’re pretty vulnerable – we’ve told a few secrets, invested a piece of our souls. A relationship has begun – so we carry on, for a year, or two, or three.

ROY
Well, if that’s your ticket, Darnell…get it punched. You got any muffins, today?

DARNELL
No. I’ve got bagels. Want one?

ROY
Nah. I’m not hungry. Thanks.
They finish their coffee. He puts some money on the counter. To Nellie.

ROY
Let’s go.

NELLIE
Bye, Darnell. Good luck with the therapists.

DARNELL
Here, Roy. Have a cup to go. On the house.
He pours Roy a cup of coffee in a paper cup.

ROY
Thanks. See ya, man.
They exit.

DARNELL
Aside.
You know, folks will stay home from work, go to the doctor, and take three different kinds of medicine for a sniffle, or a tummy ache. They’ll get brain scans. Have all kinds of surgery. But mental illness? Huh uh. They ignore it in themselves and lump us into one big category. The stigma is rough, hard to talk about. Yet, we are just as unique as anybody else – each with a kingdom, or prison, unto ourselves.

He goes back behind the counter and washes a couple of utensils.
A woman, DR. SANDRA WINKERBLOOM, perhaps in her early sixties, enters the shop. He’s surprised.

DARNELL
Aside.
Well what do you know? A familiar face.
Now he’s anxious.

DARNELL
To the customer
Dr. Winkerbloom!
DR. WINKERBLOOM remains calm and smiles. After a moment, she extends her hand and speaks quietly.

WINKERBLOOM
Uh, yes. Nice to see you.

DARNELL
You were my therapist. In college! Remember? At the counselling center.

WINKERBLOOM
Of course.
She doesn’t remember.
Give me your name.

DARNELL
Darnell Shacklebee.
She still shows no sign of remembering.

DR. WINKERBLOOM
How are you?

DARNELL
It’s been a long time. You really, really, were…um… probably the most important person in my life at one time.

WINKERBLOOM
How interesting.

DARNELL
In fact, you represent one of the turning points in my life as a whole.

She still doesn’t remember, but she indulges him.

WINKERBLOOM
It’s been a few years.

DARNELL
About twenty-two.

WINKERBLOOM
And you’re doing well?

DARNELL
Sure. I could tell you everything, but it would take hours.

DR. WINKERBLOOM
looking at her watch
That would be…so special. But I’m afraid I’m on a schedule right now. Just stopped for a quick coffee.

DARNELL
No no no no no. Not to worry. I’m not like that anymore. You remember? You could never get rid of me. You had to walk me to the door while I yapped along. You nearly had to push me out the door.

WINKERBLOOM
Well, don’t draw any conclusions from that; that’s a reflection on me as well. In any case…

DARNELL
What would you like?

WINKERBLOOM
Oh, nothing.

DARNELL
It’s on the house.

WINKERBLOOM
Hmmmm. I’ll have an Irish Mint Latte. Lowfat milk. Easy on the espresso. Maybe just half a shot. In a tall cup please, with just a wee wisp of foam and a chocolate sprinkle.

He gets to work, making the coffee.

DARNELL
Casually.
You got it.
Aside.
This woman…our relationship…she was my whole life, at one point. She was my first therapist, back in college.

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