The story opens on Thanksgiving morning as Barbara Tompkins, prepares a feast for her and her young lover Marcus Ford as the threat of an unseasonable blizzard looms. Barbara’s younger sister Denise Tompkins and her domineering boyfriend Freddie Gaines, blow into town quite unexpectedly, on the winds of the storm. Denise’s presence in their childhood home after over a decade of absence strikes Barbara as...
The story opens on Thanksgiving morning as Barbara Tompkins, prepares a feast for her and her young lover Marcus Ford as the threat of an unseasonable blizzard looms. Barbara’s younger sister Denise Tompkins and her domineering boyfriend Freddie Gaines, blow into town quite unexpectedly, on the winds of the storm. Denise’s presence in their childhood home after over a decade of absence strikes Barbara as strange, but she relents her apprehension and welcomes her sister home. After awkward introductions, the group decides to break bread. It is immediately evident that Freddie is a shit stirrer with a lustful eye on Barbara and a contentious one on Marcus. After the meal, an emergency weather announcement screeches over the old fashion stereo in the living room. The storm is going to be bad, really bad, and they are stuck with each other.
To ease some of the tension created by the weather announcement and Freddie’s shit stirring, Denise suggests the group play games, and heads to the attic to get a box of them. She returns to Find Marcus and Freddie draped on either side of Barbara on the couch as Barbara recounts the sordid history of their childhood home. Denise, discomforted by Barbara’s version of the “truth”, interrupts. They set up and play a game of Monopoly. Freddie does a healthy amount of trash talking to Marcus who, to Freddie’s amusement, is easily rousable. Having grown increasingly frustrated with the way Denise is playing the game, Freddie, lets it slip that Denise has sold the house without Barbara’s knowledge.
Barbara explodes. In the midst of the turmoil a bird, blinded by the storm, breaks through the living room window. Denise attempts to apologize, and offers the sale of the house as an opportunity to start life anew outside of the shadow of her past. Barbara calls bullshit, and let’s Denise know that she sees her attempts at being helpful for what they are, guilt. As Barbara seeks supplies to repair the window, Freddie and Denise argue about his ill timed revelation and their next steps. Marcus attempts to intercede on Barbara’s behalf, but is shut down and essentially called an outsider by Denise. He pushes back revealing that he’s been with Barbara since he was 15 years-old and is well aware of Barbara’s past history as a sexual pariah. He feels in this way, he knows Barbara better than anyone ever could.
The men repair the window the women make drinks and all seems well until it becomes clear that Barbara has decided to Fight back the only way she knows how; with her sexuality. Barbara shamelessly Flirts with and is sexually aggressive towards Freddie. This is devastating to Marcus because though Barbara can be incredibly cruel to him, he lives to please her. She has groomed him that way. For Denise, it begins to unearth memories that present as subconscious spells which cause her to hallucinate and give rise to suppressed sexual feelings from her childhood, a time when Denise felt she lived in the shadow of Barbara’s problems with hyper-sexuality.
As the evening presses on: The games continue, the storm and spells intensify, and the couples get increasingly intoxicated. The intricacies of their respective relationships are laid bare. Marcus’s co- dependence on Barbara is their glaring issue, while Denise practically lives to enable Freddie’s raging chauvinism. The evening reaches a boiling point when Denise confronts Barbara about her version of the truth of how the house came into the family. Barbara then bulldozes Denise with the reality of who their grandparents were: A sexual predator, and his enabler.
Overwhelmed, and now in candlelit darkness because of the storm, the couples retire to bed. Barbara and Denise fall into a dream where they are children again. Sixteen year-old Barbara teaches six year-old Denise to dance. It is very sweet, until Barbara notices young Denise with her hand in her panties massaging herself. Barbara, terriFied, begins to slap her sister. She demands to know where she learned the behavior. She asks Denise if it was their grandfather. The sisters snap out of the dream. Denise returns to bed, Barbara heads to the kitchen. Freddie checks on Denise who recoils from his touch. Freddie, sexually frustrated, goes into the kitchen where he Finds Barbara. He confesses that he’s heard about her sexual prowess from living in their neighborhood for a brief time as a child. He advances on Barbara who agrees to have sex with him, if he will walk away from her sister. He’s apprehensive, but Barbara’s seductive touch proves too much to resist.
As Barbara and Freddie have sex in the kitchen, a branch of the oak tree that has engulfed the house for years begins to beat against the roof, and eventually breaks through. Snow begins to pour into the house. Denise and Marcus are awakened. They look for their lovers only to Find them, together. The house devolves into chaos, but Barbara is satisFied that she has once again used her body to shield her sister from danger. Barbara sits Denise down and bares her soul. She confesses to being a monster, unable to stop seeking out sexual gratiFication in unhealthy ways. Denise commits to helping her Find a new way to live. They seal this pact by tipping the candles that were lighting the house until the house catches Fire. The house burns, taking with it the memories, the men, and leaving the sisters together in their new commitment to one another.
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2 May. 2021
A powerful look at the affects of trauma and abuse as one finds their way toward a new way to live. Well done. ”
2 Jun. 2020
I was fortunate enough to see an early production of this play at KC Rep, and it was more than worth another read. The way the trauma of the past unflinchingly unfolds into the drama of the present is unexpected, often funny, and always courageous. It meticulously takes on the responsibility of painting a fully-realized picture of abuse and trauma unfolding from childhood and manifesting in adulthood with care while always staying inherently dramatic. ”
1 Jun. 2020
This play is tough and funny, with language that is poetic and then sometimes as harsh as a slap in the face. The sisters' complicated relationships with each other, their partners, and their past literally combust. Stacey Rose's writing moves assuredly from kitchen-sink realism to hallucinatory fantasy and back again; it's a fantastic work. ”