A DINNER BELL RINGS–MARJ O’NEILL-BUTLER

CAST OF CHARACTERS

CARRIE Wife of Brian 28-65 F
BRIAN Husband of Carrie 30-67 M

SETTING:
Carrie and Brian’s kitchen counter.

TIME:
Mornings.

PLAYWRIGHT NOTE:

If desired, the play can be cast with six actors by dividing up the scenes as to: young

married, middle aged and mature characters.

(A dinner bell rings. Unpacking the china.)
CARRIE
Look what just arrived.

BRIAN
Dishes?

CARRIE
The ones we liked.

BRIAN
I don’t remember.

CARRIE
You were with me when we picked them out.

BRIAN
At Macy’s?

CARRIE
No. Pottery Barn.

BRIAN
I thought you decided they were too feminine.

CARRIE
Well, they are a bit, but I really like them.

BRIAN
So, I’ll eat off pretty plates. They’re fine. As long as you’re happy.

CARRIE
You are so sweet.

(A dinner bell rings. Packing up the china.)
BRIAN
What are you doing Sweetheart?

CARRIE
Putting away the good china. Molly’s at that stage…

BRIAN
What am I supposed to eat off?

CARRIE
I got some unbreakable stuff at Target.

BRIAN
I hate eating off plastic. Can’t we teach her to be careful with things?

CARRIE
Accidents happen. I don’t want her to ruin our good dishes.

BRIAN
What are we saving them for? Your old age?

CARRIE
Very funny.

BRIAN
Really. My mother did that. We’d have to use these really ratty towels in the bathroom. But
when company came, she’d put all these fancy ones out. Which I wasn’t allowed to use. I think
they’re new to this day. Let’s use the dishes. Enjoy them.

CARRIE
We don’t have the money to replace them if they break.

BRIAN
If they break, then we’ll have to use the Target specials.

CARRIE
Okay. But I’m not happy.

BRIAN
Yes, you are. You married the man of your dreams.

CARRIE
My nightmares, maybe.

(A dinner bell rings. Unpacking the china.)
CARRIE
This is a nightmare.

BRIAN
What?

CARRIE
She doesn’t want to use the china for her party.

BRIAN
She doesn’t want anything to do with us and our stuff.

CARRIE
It would have been a beautiful table. She could have been more polite about it.

BRIAN
She’s a teenager. They don’t have manners.

CARRIE
She has manners. She just doesn’t use them.

BRIAN
Enjoy this time. She’ll be grown up and out of here before we know it. Then you’ll be a mess.

(A dinner bell rings. Packing up the china.)
BRIAN
You’re a mess. What’s going on?

CARRIE
I’m packing up Molly.

BRIAN
Oh, come on. Stop. You’ve been longing to have the house back. Send her off with some
pleasure. Some joy.

CARRIE
Molly wants to take some of our good plates.

BRIAN
I thought she was eating in the dining hall.

CARRIE
She is, but wants some china in her room to entertain.

BRIAN
She should concentrate on her studies, not her social life.

CARRIE
Molly wants to pledge the best sorority and thinks entertaining in the dorm will help her get in.

BRIAN
Serving food in her dorm room? I’ll talk to her.

CARRIE
Don’t be too hard on her.

BRIAN
Who’s paying her bills?

CARRIE
We both are, so don’t be too hard on her!

(A dinner bell rings. Unpacking the china.)
CARRIE
This is so hard.

BRIAN
They’re young newlyweds. Mobile. Giving our dishes to them is not a great gift. Don’t be hurt.

CARRIE
Our parents bought us our china. Everyone should have a nice set of china.

BRIAN
I’ve never read those rules.

CARRIE
Very funny. It’s a tradition.

BRIAN
Not anymore. Or haven’t you noticed.

CARRIE
Traditions never change.

BRIAN
Everything we grew up with is now outdated. We have to go with it.

CARRIE
I don’t.

BRIAN
Okay, cry over the china then.

(A dinner bell rings – packing up the china.)
BRIAN
I don’t know why you’re trying to give them the china again. They didn’t want it when they got
married.

CARRIE
I thought it might help them stick it out.

BRIAN
In all of history, dishes never kept a marriage together.

CARRIE
She’s talking about moving out to the coast.

BRIAN
Good thing we’re not sending the dishes.

CARRIE
Don’t joke around.

BRIAN
We haven’t broken one plate in all the years we’ve had them. Sending them to foreign ports will
break them.

CARRIE
Los Angeles is not a foreign port.

BRIAN
Could’ve fooled me.

(A dinner bell rings. Unpacking the china.)
CARRIE
She babbles like a fool. She’s met a man. Says this time it’s for real.

BRIAN
If it’s that real, maybe we’ll get some grandkids.

CARRIE
I thought that was my line.

BRIAN
What?

CARRIE
About getting grandkids.

BRIAN
It’s a new world, Carrie. We’re allowed to speak our truths. Have emotions.

CARRIE
Help me get everything ready. They’ll be here soon. And no mention of grandkids. She’s not
engaged yet.

BRIAN
If he’s sleeping with my daughter, I’ll mention anything I want because-

CARRIE
I know. It’s a new world now.

(A dinner bell rings – packing up the china.)
BRIAN
Now where are you sending the dishes?

CARRIE
What?

BRIAN
You’re packing them up. Yet again.

CARRIE
She wants to use them for her rehearsal dinner.

BRIAN
I thought there were only about twenty people. She doesn’t want to make a big deal out of this.

CARRIE
For the head table. These are only for the wedding party.

BRIAN
So I eat off what?

CARRIE
The restaurant plates.

BRIAN
I’m beginning to feel the china plates don’t like me.

CARRIE
Don’t be silly.

BRIAN
I’ve never gotten to eat off them.

CARRIE
Of course you have. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

BRIAN
So that’s…let’s see…sixty times in thirty years. Strangers have eaten off these plates more than I
have.

CARRIE
Are you starting a fight?

BRIAN
Not at all.

CARRIE
Then why bring it up?

BRIAN
I don’t know. I guess I’m feeling left out.

(A dinner bell rings. Unpacking the china.)
CARRIE
Why are the dishes out?

BRIAN
Getting ready for a tea party.

CARRIE
I’m not following.

BRIAN
You deserve a celebration after what you’ve been through.

CARRIE
I’m fine…

BRIAN
Yes, now. We need a celebration. You were so brave going through everything.

CARRIE
I just did what they said. Nothing more.

BRIAN
I was so afraid you were going to…

CARRIE
Don’t get soppy.

BRIAN
I love you, Carrie. I…I didn’t know if you’d make it. Even the dogs knew something was wrong.
Don’t make me get emotional. Sit down and let me pour the tea. I got scones from the Rose’s.
And clotted cream. And homemade strawberry jam.

CARRIE
How did I get so lucky?

(A dinner bell rings – Packing up the china.)
BRIAN
Luckily, kids don’t want stuff like silver and china. They live very uncomplicated lives.

CARRIE
She recently told me she wants the china. When we die.

BRIAN
We’re not dead yet. Just moving to a smaller place.

CARRIE
But we can’t take it. There’s no room in the condo.

BRIAN
Why not?

CARRIE
Because we have all the Target ware.

BRIAN
I’ve had to eat off plastic on and off my whole married life. I want the china. I’m going to eat
off the china.

CARRIE
But what if it breaks?

BRIAN
We’ll have one less dish. How many plates do the two of us need? Really?

CARRIE
Um…a set of four, I guess.

BRIAN
Good. Pack up a set of four and we’ll put the rest away in our storage unit.

CARRIE
Can we keep the box towards the front of the unit in case a plate breaks and I need them?

BRIAN
You’re testing me.

CARRIE
Can we?

BRIAN
Of course. You always get what you want.

(A dinner bell rings. This time three times – the
china is finally unpacked.)
BRIAN
You got what you wanted. A full set of plates.

CARRIE
China.

BRIAN
China. Now, can we please eat?

CARRIE
Let me finish unpacking this box. I want to put the teacups out.

BRIAN
Out where?

CARRIE
Granny’s hutch. So I can see them through the years.

BRIAN
And if I want a cup of tea, can I use one.

CARRIE
Can’t you use one of the mugs. These are very fragile.

BRIAN
Is this china going to rules our lives?

CARRIE
Don’t be silly!

END OF PLAY

***

Marj O’Neill-Butler, a resident of Miami Beach, Florida, is the Regional Rep for the Dramatists Guild – Florida Region. She is also a member of the New Play Exchange, Honor Roll and the International Center for Women Playwrights. Her work has been seen in 31 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Great Britain, Scotland, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Seoul, S. Korea. She has had 58 different plays produced in multiple theatres, numerous readings and of course, many rejections.  A published playwright and mother of two grown sons, Marj is a proud member of Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA. Her work can be viewed on the New Play Exchange at https://newplayexchange.org/users/2803/marj-oneill-butler