In Group S.O.S. by Bonnie Culver, survivors of sexual abuse confront each other’s strengths and weaknesses in the setting of group therapy sessions. Each character has his own story and his own secrets which lead to a redemptive past.
Group S.O.S. consists of two versions of the same play, which run about an hour each. The plays are male and female explorations of a therapy group for survivors of sexual abuse in which the characters meet, clash with, and eventually work to heal one another. The language and delicacy with which the subject matter is handled makes it accessible to high school and college students, a number of whom, statistically, have probably experienced some of the situations in the plays.
From the Play
CHARACTERS (in order of appearance)
PAUL Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse Group counselor, middle thirties.
LOU late twenties, single father of one small boy, has never been, but would like to be married. Wears cowboy boots and jeans.
RAY late thirties, fiercely independent, an overachiever and workaholic. Exudes the dress-for-success look.
JUAN late forties, heavy-set, takes care of his elderly father and their home. Wears older style clothing, shirts buttoned and hair combed boyishly, the way his mother likes it.
BOBBY late forties. Belongs to several self-help groups besides S.O.S. Has long, straggly hair and clothes he buys at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. The clothes never quite fit nor match and are obviously poorly made.
J.J. Seventeen-years-old. Slim, small for his age.
THE SCENE: The scene is a group therapy meeting room at a mental health agency.
AT RISE: PAUL enters, carrying some pamphlets and manila folders that he sets down as he glances around room and counts chairs. LOU enters and sits in chair next to PAUL’S folder. He pulls a thick sheaf of papers from a battered book-bag and studies them. RAY enters with lighted cigarette in his hand. He sees LOU, he puts cigarette back outside the hallway.
RAY: Lou. Right? (LOU looks up and nods) Early, too, huh? (LOU nods again) Since it’s just you and me, do you mind if I finish this in here. . . (Brings cigarette into room) I hate sitting in that
from downtown. (Holds up cigarette again) So you mind? (LOU nods again, still silent.)Is that a yes I can or a yes, you mind. I need more than a head signal here.
LOU: (Seriously) This is a no smoking room.
(RAY backs out of the room.)
RAY: Sure. Sure. No problem. (RAY pauses, then stepping in again and speaking conspiratorially) It isn’t just the people outside. Some of the. . . people inside. . . the waiting room. . . well. . . you know. . . (Quickly) I don’t mean anyone from this group. . . Who knows what’s meeting down the hall, you know. (LOU studies him seriously, but doesn’t respond) Right. Right. Back out front. (RAY exits, mumbling) There’s got to be a corner to hide in somewhere.
(PAUL enters, carrying decanter filled with water and crosses to coffee maker)
PAUL: You’re early again, Lou.
LOU: I had to get a ride.
PAUL: (Nodding at papers LOU clutches in his hands) Is that your letter for this week?
LOU: (Immediately holds them out to PAUL) You want it now?
PAUL: No. We’ll read them later when everyone else is here.
LOU: We’re going to read them aloud? In front of everybody?
PAUL: Yes. Does that bother you?
LOU: (Shrugs, but puts papers back in his bag) Not if everyone reads theirs, too, I guess.
(RAY enters followed by JUAN)
RAY: . . . and the one by the elevator? (Sees PAUL) What group meets down the hall?
PAUL: Why do you need to know that?
RAY: (Laughing nervously) Never mind. Curious, that’s all. No big deal.
(JUAN sits at right of LOU and speaks to PAUL)
JUAN: BOBBY asked me to tell you that he’d be in shortly. He’s in the men’s room.
PAUL: (Glancing at his watch) Good. We can start soon.