Note: If you’d like to produce this play, on stage or in a class — please email me and ask permission. It will be granted, but I’d really like to know about it.
Copyright 2005. Samuel M. Post
How do you Solve a Problem like Maria? was performed as part of Theatre Charlotte’s 9×9 in April, 2005.
An attractive, community theatre diva. In a mid-life crisis. Late 40’s, trying, of course, for a younger look.
A serious, successful young man trying to find his way. Acting against his better judgement, he is presently in the throws of the passion of theatre, Spring, and senioritis (that is, he’s a high school senior). He’s 18.
Wesley’s mother. She’s wearing her nightgown, ready for bed. Late 40’s.
SALLY and WESLEY enjoy a romantic moment on the couch. They relax, basking in the dim afterglow of a performance at which the lights were bright upon them.
He sits on the couch while she reclines — her head propped with a pillow, her legs across his lap. Wesley holds a glass of wine. Sally’s glass, and the bottle, are on the coffee table, within easy reach.
(Sally is swept away by the joy of her evening and the bounty of the moment. As if to make an existential comment on her life, his life, and all the things that make life worth living, she exhales a long sigh, filled with pure pleasure and relaxation.)
WESLEY: Need another pillow?
(He reaches for the pillow, to his right.)
SALLY: I don’t need a thing.
(She reaches for her wine and takes a sip and leans back again.)
SALLY: This is perfection. Can you smell the azalea blossoms?
(His mind is on anything but azalea blossoms, but he tries to feign appreciation.)
WESLEY: I think so.
SALLY: So lovely. So brief. So…vulnerable. The mixture of dogwood and azalea. My mother planted those.
SALLY: “Somewhere in my youth, or childhood.”
(He turns and moves his lips very close to hers. They look dreamily into each other’s eyes and sing together.)
WESLEY and SALLY: “I must have done something good.”
(a bit more distance between them)
SALLY: That was such a good show tonight. Wondrous, wasn’t it?
WESLEY: Our best night.
SALLY: What was wrong with the audience?
WESLEY: Fuck the audience.
(She breaks into laughter over this. After a moment, when the laughter subsides, he leans over and they kiss.)
Sally: You’re a doll.
WESLEY: I like you pretty good too.
(The phone rings.)
WESLEY: Don’t answer it.
SALLY: You think I shouldn’t answer it?
WESLEY: Please don’t.
(He leans over and kisses her until the phone stops ringing.)
SALLY: You’re so amazing.
WESLEY: So are you.
(The phone rings again. She begins to reach for it and he stops her.)
SALLY: I think I better.
(He tries to kiss her but she refuses.)
SALLY: It could be one of my children.
WESLEY: Or your husband.
SALLY: (snapping, with confidence) It’s not him.
(She picks up the phone.)
(Here, a second location is introduced. This can be done with lighting, such that the lights come up on Rita. Or, Rita can bring a chair on stage and situate herself opposite Sally and Wesley. She’s nervous. It also might work if Rita is on stage the whole time, pacing before and between dials.)
RITA: Sally? This is Rita.
(An abrupt break in Sally’s mood.)
RITA: Hope I didn’t call too late.
SALLY: No — of course not.
RITA: I knew with the show you’d almost surely be up — if you were home yet.
SALLY: Sure. Of course.
(Sally rises from the couch and moves away from Wesley. She keeps her eyes down, focusing fully on the phone conversation. Rita stands up and begins to slowly pace, also looking down — such that both women are pacing the floor as they talk.)
RITA: Actually, that’s sort of why I called, to see if you were home.
SALLY: Here I am.
RITA: You didn’t have a cast party tonight?
SALLY: We all went up to Centros.
RITA: Wesley’s not home yet. You think he’s up there?
SALLY: He probably is.
RITA: Were there a lot of people still there when you left?
SALLY: Quite a few.
RITA: Was Wesley there?
SALLY: Wesley? Uh, yeah — I think he was. As a matter of fact, I’m sure he was.
RITA: So he’s probably still there.
RITA: I’m a little worried about him.
SALLY: Oh — I wouldn’t. He’ll probably be home soon. I left maybe half hour ago and I doubt they’ll stay a lot longer.
(Wesley rises and pours himself more wine. He lights a cigarette and sits down in another chair.)
RITA: (anxious) You think he was drinking? I mean, theatre is such a great experience for him, but there are some partiers in that group. He’s eighteen and he seems awfully adult, but it’s kind of a fake sophistication, you know? Kids these days are learning things they don’t understand. I mean, he’s still in high school. He has school tomorrow morning and here it’s after–
SALLY: Now Rita, calm down.
RITA: I’m overreacting.
SALLY: Maybe a little.
RITA: You think he’s drinking?
SALLY: You know they won’t serve him. But Rita. Let’s face facts. How many kids get out of high school without ever–
RITA: (overlapping) Have you seen him drinking? I mean, with this show you’ve been with him a lot.
SALLY: Me? Honestly? No, I don’t think I have. That doesn’t mean–
RITA: (overlapping) That makes me feel a little better.
SALLY: But it’s not like I’m keeping track of everything Wesley does.
RITA: This whole year has been hell. The changes! I mean, it’s been exciting, but, just, this spring — the whole senior thing.
SALLY: Oh — you don’t have to tell me. I’ve had two graduate, remember?
RITA: They just — I mean — they make these decisions that impact the rest of their lives. They don’t have a clue about the weight of it all. It’s so arbitrary and so important. He had to go to Carolina and then he was on the waiting list all that time. He handled it pretty well, but inside, I know it was…
SALLY: (overlapping) Rita. Take a deep breath. He’s fine.
RITA: Yeah. You’re right.
SALLY: He’s in, right?
SALLY: So the big decision is over. Relax.
RITA: You know he gets calls to join the military like almost every night?
RITA: It’s ridiculous. For awhile there —
SALLY: (overlapping) He’d never do that.
RITA: They promise him the world. “A chance to serve a cause bigger than yourself! A chance to be a hero!”
SALLY: Tell ‘em to quit calling.
RITA: They’re not calling me. They call him. Scares me out of my mind.
SALLY: Rita. Please try to relax. Wesley strikes me as very level-headed.
RITA: On the surface. But you don’t know him that well.
SALLY: For God’s sake, Rita. He likes theatre. Has he ever shown any interest in the military?
RITA: No, but he stops what he’s doing and talks to those people. He’s young, ya know?
SALLY: I know.
RITA: I’m afraid something could throw him off, you know? A girl or something? Or — getting so hyped up about this play and letting his grades drop. He seems really scattered lately.
SALLY: (overlapping) Rita.
RITA: (overlapping) Suddenly — if he got an impulse to sign up with the military — and then he’s in Iraq! God! That’s scary. Terry Riddle joined the Marines. Did you hear that?
SALLY: God no.
RITA: Stella is a basket case. She couldn’t stop him. I’m telling you, that’s what keeps me up at night. That — and this show — which is a great and all, and a good experience — but all the late nights. It’s his last semester. I think he’s quit studying.
SALLY: (overlapping) Calm down, Rita. He’s fine. Next year, you’ll be dealing with an empty nest. Trust me. That’s worse.
RITA: At least I won’t be sitting at home wondering where he is.
SALLY: You won’t know.
RITA: That might be better.
SALLY: You’ll have to trust him. You’ll have to trust yourself. You’ve done a good job. Wesley’s a good kid, Rita. You should be proud.
RITA: Yeah — you’re right.
SALLY: I know I’m right. Wasn’t he like all conference in…something?
RITA: Swimming. And he’s always been a good student, and a good…a good boy…I guess I should…
SALLY: (overlapping) He’s gonna be fine.
RITA: Yeah. You’re right.
SALLY: Of course I am. He’s got a great future in front of him. You’re a good mom, Rita.
RITA: (unconvinced) Sure I am. I’ve tried.
SALLY: Rita — you’re amazing. How you can doubt anything…
RITA: (overlapping) You think I should go up to Centros?
SALLY: Go up there now?
RITA: To see if he’s there.
SALLY: I wouldn’t. I’m sure he’ll be home in a minute. In fact, I’m gonna take care of it for you. Jerry’s always the last one out. I’ll call his cell and tell him “to send Wesley home right now, his mother wants him in bed.” How’s that? I guarantee he’ll be there any second.
RITA: You wouldn’t mind?
SALLY: Not a bit.
RITA: It’ll embarrass him.
SALLY: Not if I call. Not as much as if you go up there. Kids need limits, Rita. Sometimes they want to be taken care of a little and need a little prodding. I guarantee, if he hasn’t already left, in which case he’ll walk in any second — he’ll be home within fifteen minutes.
RITA: You don’t mind?
SALLY: No problem. And relax, okay?
(She hangs up. Lights down on Rita. Sally sits down. She’s emotionally spent, wallowing in guilt.)
SALLY: (to WESLEY ) You gotta go.
(He sits down beside her and tries to put his arm around her, but she rises. He walks to her and tries to touch her, but she backsteps.)
SALLY: Are you crazy? You gotta go.
WESLEY: She can’t tell me what to do. I’m eighteen years old.
(The phone rings. Sally answers it.)
SALLY: Hey Rita. Haven’t called him yet. Had to find his number.
RITA: Forget about it. Wesley just walked in.
SALLY: No kidding.
RITA: Right when I put the phone down. Guess where he’s been? Studying! You know Stu Green? He’s been at Stu’s house, studying — for hours.
(Her voice gets shaky, almost cracking.)
RITA: After all that worry. Listen, I’m sorry to bother you…
RITA: Crying on your shoulder all that time. I feel terrible…
SALLY: (overlapping) Oh no. It’s okay.
RITA: Bye Sally.
SALLY: Are you okay?
RITA: I’m great. He’s home. I’m just sorry I went crazy like that.
RITA: Bye Sally.
(She hangs up. Keeping his distance, Wesley moves a bit, trying to make eye contact, but it’s as if he can’t get her attention. Sally takes a drink of wine and looks at the floor.)
WESLEY: You don’t think she knows?
SALLY: (abrupt and impatient) Go home.
End of play