The set for this road trip can be four chairs and a steering wheel.
Emma and Harold show that life is a continuing process of change, that age is to some extent, relative to our attitudes. They set off, in the back seat of the car, for a road trip with Jean, their daughter, and Sam, her husband. Petty disagreements abound over the selection of pants, food, and anything else that comes to mind. All of the bickering, however, has a purpose. Harold is beginning to show a clear process of aging. Old wounds and memories resurface. Will the marriages and the families survive this road trip?
We all deal with the challenges and fears of aging and family relationships in our own way, and in doing so we don’t always leave ourselves open to other possibilities. A touching one-act dramatic comedy for four actors by Kay Rhoads.
From the Play
EMMA: Woman in her late 70s. Emma is fashionably dressed. She is strong minded, difficult at times, but can be endearing when her façade slips and reveals her vulnerability.
HAROLD: Man in his late 70s. Harold is recovering from a stroke and walks slowly with a cane. Harold is quite accustomed to Emma but nevertheless often plays the foil in her repeated dramas.
JEAN MARIE: Daughter of Harold and Emma. She is in her mid to late 30s and is very familiar with her parents’ style of communication and interaction but never fails to get drawn into it.
SAM: Sam is married to Jean Marie. He enjoys the family dynamics as long as he can remain an observer only.
Place: Anywhere in the USA
(HAROLD is in the driver’s seat. EMMA is in back of him.)
HAROLD: I wish Sam had left the keys. I’d just drive back and pick them up.
HAROLD: Sam and Jeanie, who else?
EMMA: How about Rudolph Valentino and Jean Harlow? I swear you’ve forgotten why we’re sitting here. Don’t you think, if this car could be driven we wouldn’t be here?
HAROLD: Remember when the car stalled outside of Hollis? 1948?
EMMA: 1947. When you shut my finger in the car door.
HAROLD: You shut your finger in the car door when you locked me out and left me standing in the rain.
EMMA: I had to. You brought it on yourself. Told me you would take me to a movie. Short-cut, my eye. I didn’t believe you then and I don’t believe you now that the car stalled.
HAROLD: I think it overheated. You were beautiful, Emma.
EMMA: Something overheated. I’m old now so don’t expect me to be beautiful and that was just like you, Harold. I loved the movies, seeing all of those beautiful clothes, those places. Paris and Rome and Casablanca. It was the life I wanted.
HAROLD: We went to Tucumcari.
EMMA: When I was sixteen Dad brought home a whole load of shoes. And they were new, wherever he got them. They didn’t fit any of us quite right, but…there was one pair that was red with high heels. I’d never had high heels. They weren’t what I needed to wear to school but I did. Mom told me I’d ruin my feet. Reiley O’Neil asked me to the school dance and I could just see myself in those shoes and a new dress with an orchid pinned on it. Mom came home with material, must have spent our grocery money. Red with white polka dots. I’d seen one in a movie on Dorothy Lamour. I was in such a hurry I had to cut it out that night. Mom was tired and went to bed. Told me to wait but I couldn’t and I cut it wrong. Two backs. I didn’t have enough material to finish it. Mom cried the next day but I just took one of my sister’s dresses and cut it down for me. Audrey had a conniption but I needed something to go with my red dress.
HAROLD: Red’s your color, Em.
EMMA: Then Audrey threw my red shoes down the well. I could have killed her.
HAROLD: Sounds like Audrey.
EMMA: After all that work Mom told me I’d have to stay home. Well, I wasn’t about to do that. I took my red nail-polish and painted Audrey’s sandals. She didn’t know it till the next day.
EMMA: I’m watching all these cars go past to make sure Jeanie hasn’t been kidnapped. That green one that just went by was the same color as the Chevy I wanted.
HAROLD: I’m going to buy you a new car, Em. A green car to go to all those places.
EMMA: Oh, Harold, why would we get a new car? The old one will last longer than both of us.
HAROLD: We’ll go together.
EMMA: It isn’t likely but I could go before you. Now listen to me, Harold, I want to tell you what you’ll need to do.
HAROLD: I know. You’re right. I’ll need to practice. Wish Sam had left those keys.
(HAROLD pulls an Atlas from under the seat.)
EMMA: I want Pastor Fountain to officiate. He has such a nice voice. A nice casket. Don’t put me in a tacky one.
HAROLD: We’ll go to Tucumcari. Take the interstate.
EMMA: Orchids from you. Not white. Purple. And for final rites I want to go back to Hollis.
HAROLD: I guess we could go by way of Hollis.
EMMA: Now this is important. I want each person coming to the service to receive two one dollar bills in a nice little envelope with…with an orchid on it…purple orchid…and on the card, Harold, I want it to read, ‘Go to Bishops and have pie and coffee on Emma’.
HAROLD: We’ll stop for meals and you can have pie. We can take two days to get there.
EMMA: I want to go in my black dress. You know the one.
HAROLD: You always look nice, but your black dress might be a little hot down there.
EMMA: Down there? Who said I was going down there?
HAROLD: I did?
EMMA: I can’t believe what you just said.
HAROLD: Oh, I just meant…well, it’s warm down there and I just don’t want you to be hot. That’s all. I like your black dress.
EMMA: You just go down there yourself, Harold, you’re going before I do anyway.
HAROLD: We’ll go to Minnesota instead. That’s it. I’ll take you to Minnesota. You can wear your black dress. It’s cooler north.
EMMA: I should have gone to the movies with Reiley O’Neal. He wouldn’t have pulled that trick. When he said he’d take me to the movies that’s where we went. He became a lawyer you know.