Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On

A Stage Play by Erin

Inspired by a Commedia Dell'Arte Scenario, this story deals with the female role in the 1950s, and reality in general.


PATRICIA: And while he was in Pennsylvania he ran into some old childhood    acquaintance and fell head over heels for her; a Miss Colette Stevens. 

ISABELLA: Colette? How dreadfully European! (Teeth gnashing) 

PATRICIA: Oh and its not the worst. You can't possibly judge her on that when    you know what I do, but I couldn't say.... 

ISABELLA: (gasp) You must! You can’t leave me hanging on like this. It’s much too    cruel and unchristian! 

PATRICIA: Oh dear, well in that case I can’t possible torture you so anymore. Her    parents.... 

JAMES: Patricia! 

PATRICIA: (coos) James! Oh, do come in! (Hissing to Isabella) Put that cookie    down. You certainly don’t need it. (James enters) It’s been too long! 

JAMES: Well I was only supposed to be gone the month, and then there was    the wedding and then the honeymoon. (Chuckles) The office wasn't    too pleased. 

ISABELLA: (laughing) Of course, how could they continue without you around? 

JAMES: Oh, always so gracious Isabella. (Colette nudges James) Oh dear, I    forgot the most important bit! My wife, Colette. 

PATRICIA: Pleased to meet you Mrs. Davis. 

COLETTE: Oh, it’s Colette, Mrs. Jones. I hope we will be dear friends in the future. 

PATRICIA: Ah, thank you Colette. 

(Awkward silence) 

JAMES: Yes, well, I suppose Richard and John are waiting for me in the study.    You’ll be all right dear? 

COLETTE: Of course Jim, I will. I'll miss you though. (A little lower) do we have to   stay much longer? I don’t think they like me much... 

JAMES: (firmer) Now Colette, these people have been my closest friends since    I moved here and Patricia and Isabella are two of the finest women in    this town. I wont hear you doubting their hospitality any longer, are    we clear? (Softer) Now I'm sure you're overreacting. It’s been a long    day I'll miss you terribly as well. 

(James and Colette share a lingering, intimate good-bye. There are whispers and James softly cups Colette's face) 

PATRICIA: (While James and Colette are talking) Right in front of us! The     impertinence! Calling him Jim, and insulting us like that. It's our    Christian duty to put a stop to this nonsensical match. (Grabs cookie    that Isabella is trying again to sneak) James! Here, have this before    you join the boys. You're looking far too skinny; it doesn't look like    you're being fed right. 

JAMES: (Dismissive laugh) Oh, Patricia, what a wonderful mother you are! I'm    sure Quinn feels blessed. 

(James name is called from offstage) 

JAMES: Oh! There's Richard calling me now! See you ladies at dinner. (Exits) 

PATRICIA: Why don’t we all sit down and get to know each other. (Colette acts    grateful) 

(All sit down. Silence, clock ticks. Isabella's stomach loudly growls) 

PATRICIA: Isabella!!!! 

COLETTE: Oh my.... 

ISABELLA: (snapping) Well if you hadn’t taken the last cookie from me! 

PATRICIA: (stopping her with a look) That's enough! We'll talk about this later.    Now, Mrs. Davis... 

COLETTE: (Ingratiatingly) Colette. 

PATRICIA: (Sarcastic) That's right, Colette. 


ISABELLA: (Conspiratorially) so that name, Colette, wherever did it come from?    It's so terribly.... fashionable. 

COLETTE: (Missing out) Oh thank you! It was my grandmother's name. She was    French. 

PATRICIA: Not just European, but French! How lucky our friend James is in    finding you. 

COLETTE: Yes, well, I feel the same with him. 


COLETTE: So, do you have any children? 


ISABELLA: And I have 3 children. 2 boys and a little girl. 

COLETTE: Oh! That's wonderful! I really hope to have a large family one-day.    (Laughs) Lots and lots of children! 


ISABELLA: A large family? (Stage whisper to Patricia) Like a Catholic or one of    those Eye-Talians! 

PATRICIA: So, Colette, with such heritage, whatever do you cook? I’m sure    it’s as exotic as you are. 

COLETTE: (Confidential manner) Well, I shouldn't be letting anyone but James    knows, but I'm dreadful in the kitchen. I burn toast. Now that we're    setting up the house, I guess I'll have to learn, or who knows? Maybe    James will decide he'd rather be the chef of the family!) 

(Aghast, long silence. Clock strikes half hour) 

COLETTE: (Realizing her mistake, rushing) Well, who knows, really? I'd do    anything for Jim; I mean James, of course, James, looked how we came    to be married! We weren't even very close as children, but I was    visiting with his mother when he came back into town that day, and it    was like lightning. A whirlwind! And though the rush was a little    unconventional, it really was for the-- 

PATRICIA: (slamming tea cup) PRECISELY!  Unconventional! Abnormal!     Regrettable! Where was the courtship? Compatibility> There is no    such thing as Happily Ever After. After this newlywed stage, where    will that leave you? And poor James? He'll be stuck with you, and all    he wanted was a normal, conventional wife. 

ISABELLA: Oh My! I feel faint! I must go get some iced tea, maybe a cookie to get    my strength back up...I wonder if there's any of that cake left.... LINDA!    I need a sherry! (Exit) 

COLETTE:  Patricia--  

PATRICIA:  Mrs. Jones! I have not-- 

COLETTE:  PATRICIA. You can't tell me what is right and wrong in my     relationship, I- 

PATRICIA: Shhh! The children are coming! 

(Quinn enters wearing a man's dress shirt and capris) 

PATRICIA: Quinn! What are you wearing? Where are your clothes? Go put on a    decent skirt and sweater set on right now! 

QUIN:  No Mama, I won't! I'm sick and tired of this place, the way you live! It's   like a museum. 

PATRICIA: Quinn I haven't the slightest clue as to what you're speaking of! We've    always given you the best of everything! What could you want? 

QUIN:  Freedom! Everything! Nothing! The chance to choose either or and    everything in between... I want to cultivate my garden. 

PATRICIA: Uhh, you can do that you can do that! I can fire Orlando tomorrow! I'm   sure your father won’t mind, you can tend the flowers and plant and-- 

QUIN:  No! It’s from Candide. (Patricia doesn't understand) Voltaire? He's a    philosopher Mama, and he knows things. 

PATRICIA: So does your school! What about your education? And your piano    recital's in two weeks. We've already sent the invitations Quinn, you    can't possibly leave now. People have already RSVP'd! 

QUIN:  That's not important to me anymore. I went to this poetry reading and   I met this cat Allan Ginsberg and he has this friend Ken who's written    the most amazing novel, Mama, about mental institutions, and they're    going to New York to get it published. And I'm going with them and    their friends and their club. 

PATRICIA: (faint) Club.... is it a social club? 

QUIN:  They call themselves The Merry Pranksters, and they're all geniuses!    Really, you should be happy I was invited. 

PATRICIA: Happy?!? This is no life for a daughter of mine! Quinn, you're not going    to be a Merry Prankster, I forbid it! 

QUIN:  You have no choice Mama. This is my life, not yours. (Gestures to    room) THIS is your life. Not mine. (Turns to Colette) Oh! You must be    Mrs. Davis. I'm sorry this is how we met; this was very rude of me.    (Clasps her shoulder) Don’t let her get you down. 

PATRICIA: WHAT ABOUT YOUR DEBUT!?!?!?! (Crumples onto settee) 

(Isabella enters, munching on a cookie) 

ISABELLA: I really must get this recipe Patricia, who would have ever thought    bananas would--Oh, dear, what did I miss? 

(Colette motions Isabella over and whispers. Isabella intermittently interjects while Patricia sits, stunned.) 

ISABELLA: (Going to Patricia and kneeling upstage of her) Oh, she'll snap out of it    Patricia! We all had foolish dreams. I wanted to be a ballerina! 

COLETTE: (Sipping) I've always wanted true love... 

PATRICIA:  (Breaking her silence and sipping) I... I wanted to be a circus     performer. 

(Silence. Patricia is oblivious. Colette and Isabella look at each other and break glance.) 

COLETTE: Oh, Patricia...(rushes over) 

PATRICIA: (Abruptly rising) Don't call me that I have not given you leave to do so   and I certainly never will! It's you and your ilk that caused this! No    one in my generation would be wearing men's shirts or talking to cats    or writing about mental institutions! It's not polite conversation!    Polite company! I won't have someone with divorced parents in my    circle! 

(Silence. Clock strikes 3/4 of the hour) 

COLETTE:  Oh, you know... 


(Isabella loudly unwraps hard candy. No one notices)


COLETTE:  It doesn’t matter anymore! It's 1958, Patricia, things have changed! Your girl's classmates are a bunch of coloreds, rock n rollers, and girls in trousers! Give it up.


PATRICIA: I can't! This is what I know. And you can't just dismiss it like it's untrue, because it still is contrary to public opinion. And you think my old-fashioned ways don't apply to you? Tell me, even now in the beginning of your marriage, how does James act when you're at home? Does he lift a finger and help you out at all?


COLETTE: (flustered) Well, when we first got married he helped with everything, cooking and cleaning and settling in.... He's just busy now.


PATRICIA: Oh really? And how long has he been 'busy'?


COLETTE: ...just a few weeks.


PATRICIA: And when did he start back at work again?


COLETTE: (mumbles)


PATRICIA: What was that? I couldn't hear you?


COLETTE: A week.


PATRICIA: So you think that, even though he was 'too busy' while still on vacation, he'll start helping you out again while working? (trying a different approach) What about school? I'm sure a woman of your age was in school?


COLETTE: Well, yes, I was. I had to drop out of the college I was attending to be able to move here, but once we're settled, I'd like to get started again!


(Patricia and Isabella derisively laugh)


COLETTE: What? What's so funny?


ISABELLA: Well, how will you be able to handle the housework AND your babies AND school?


COLETTE: Babies? (checks self for obvious signs of pregnancy)


ISABELLA: Yes, Junior and little Debbie of course! Your large family!


COLETTE: Oh! (laughs) Well I didn’t mean right away, we're going to wait a little bit.


PATRICIA: (shares a look with Isabella) Have you talked to James about this?


COLETTE: In a way. We talked of waiting a little for children, but I just assumed he knew I would want to go back to school first.


PATRICIA: All men want are their mothers, Colette, and their mothers are old-fashioned. They are me. And that means you will not be going back to school.


ISABELLA: They want their mothers, but once they firmly have you in that place, who wants to be married to their mother?


PATRICIA: Ahh, the secretary.


ISABELLA: The assistant.


PATRICIA: The coffee-shop girl.


ISABELLA: The maid.


PATRICIA: (laughs) Ahh yes that one too.


COLETTE: Wait.... What.... No! James would never do that to me!


PATRICIA: He would, he will, he probably already does.


(Isabella shrugs)


COLETTE: ...Is this how it always is?


ISABELLA: (helping, conspiratorially) Try making rum cake sometime, it makes it all wonderfully better, splendid in fact!


COLETTE: (nodding, then catching self) Wait, wait! You cannot... you just cannot.... Rum cake is not a substitute for love!


PATRICIA: You should apologize to Isabella. You know, before she was married, she was a beauty queen.


ISABELLA: Everyone told me I could be a dancer on Broadway, but it was such a ludicrous idea. (hums show tune to herself)


COLETTE: Just because this is reality for you does not mean it is for me! I mean... What about your daughter? It obviously will not be the same life for her!

(a bad reference. Clock chimes 3/4 of the hour)


PATRICIA: (shaking cup slightly) What daughter? I do not have a daughter.


COLETTE: But, but, Quinn, Patricia, Quinn!


PATRICIA: I might have once had a daughter, but if this girl decided to leave her family, then her family would leave her as well.


ISABELLA: But....Richard?


PATRICIA: I will tell him what happened, he will have no choice but to accept. And Jr. will understand that if anyone knew he had a sister like that he would never get invited to a club! Or, one that matters.


COLETTE: You are so cold Patricia. You're heartless.


PATRICIA: Because I have to be! Everyone does sometimes. No one will ever move on if they cannot let go.


COLETTE: Letting go... But I do not want to let go, not to love and James and life and hopes and dreams, and you don't either. And neither does Isabella! If you let go of your daughter now, when will you find that kind of love again?


PATRICIA: I have nieces.


(Isabella is nervous, so goes and turns radio on. Inane jingle plays.)


PATRICIA: Turn that damn thing off!


COLETTE: So that's it then?


PATRICIA: What is it?


COLETTE: It. The Dream. You grow up being fed nonsensical stories about Cinderella's and Little Orphan Annie's, waiting for your turn and just as you feel it might not be true you meet your prince and Yes! It is everything you thought it would be and you are swept off your feet and you get married in the castle and then... and then...


ISABELLA: And then Happily Ever After is not so happy after all.


COLETTE: We should have all just done nothing instead. It's safer.


PATRICIA: Yes, well, it is our duty. Family: The Great American Pastime.


COLETTE: (chuckling) Yes, I suppose you're right!


ISABELLA: (flipping through academic book) Did you know a Happy Ending is an oxymoron? There's no such thing as an ending that's happy. Oh, and athambia means imperturbability. I'm not quite sure what that means...


PATRICIA: I always cry at endings.

COLETTE: Really? Like what?

PATRICIA: Well, Richard took me to see The King and I when it came out, and when that handsome Yul Brynner is dying, well, who would not shed a tear? I think even Richard had 'something in his eye'.


COLETTE: When James Dean died, I cried for a week. Wore black. Of course that was before James came back... hah! James and James. I never thought about that.

ISABELLA: A door is closed and a window is opened.


PATRICIA: One James goes out of your life, another comes in.


COLETTE: Or, technically, one James comes into my life, goes out of my life, and another one comes into my life, has a horrible and untimely car accident, goes out of my life, and the initial James comes back into my life.


PATRICIA: Yes, quite.


(all sip from cups simultaneously. The clock strikes the hour and all subtly freeze for a moment before putting cups down)


PATRICIA: Oh, it's time for dinner.


(all stand and smooth skirts, etc. all simultaneously)


PATRICIA: Shall we go gather the men? I'll have to go tell Linda to get the salad ready, I've tried this new thing....


(Music turns on and speech fades out. Lights dim.)



© 2009 Erin

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I really like this, such a big family she has as well.
This is a most wonderful stage play youhave going on.
Dramatic and gripping. Like this enjoyable to read.

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Added on October 13, 2009



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