By John McNeil
A husband whose sexual relationship with his wife has been less than satisfactory tries to improve it by following a plan outlined in a book.
Suzanne, his wife
(The lounge of Nigel and Suzanne’s home. There is a coffee table, a small couch, and a CD or tape deck. There are sounds of a baby crying intermittently – as if going to sleep - in the background. Nigel sidles in, looking round to check that Suzanne is not in the room. He is carrying a large brown paper shopping bag with handles.)
Nigel: Good. She must be putting Joshua down to bed. (Slightly bitter) Maybe we’ll get a bit of time to ourselves tonight. Maybe even ... (pause, then with feeling) It’s been a long time. Where did we lose the plot? Is a baby the world’s ultimate contraceptive? (Puts down the bag.) Perhaps this will help. It’s got to! (Pulls out a small book, reads) “Sex for Dummies”. (Turns the page) “To turn a woman on, the first rule is to set the scene. A woman wants romance in her surroundings. Dim the lights, light candles, play her favourite piece of music.” Right!
(Nigel takes a candle holder and candle out of the bag. He sets them on the coffee table and lights the candle. Admires the effect. Then he takes a CD/tape out of the bag.) “Richard Clayderman plays Barry Manilow.” (He puts the CD/tape on, but not too loud.) Perfect! (Takes the book out again.) “A woman needs to know she is appreciated. Compliment her – on her cooking, about the way she looks, the perfume she is wearing – anything.” (Practises) “Darling, that was a fabulous meal you dreamed up tonight. And the way you look is .... (can’t find an appropriate word, pulls the book out for some ideas. This is all new to him, he is struggling.) ... exquisite. I am intoxicated by your perfume, and that dress is the perfect compliment to....
(During the last short speech, Suzanne enters. She is dressed in jeans and T-shirt, folding some baby’s diapers as she enters. She takes a couple of large safety pins out of her mouth.)
Suzanne: You are home, Nigel! At last! And you could have warned me you were bringing a guest!
Nigel: I’ve not brought anyone home.
Suzanne: Then who were you talking to just now?
Nigel: (Flustered) No-one. You. Myself.
Suzanne: Have you been drinking?
Nigel: No, but what a wonderful idea! (He dives into the brown bag and pulls out a bottle of wine.) It’s celebration time! Happy anniversary, darling. (He gives her a kiss.)
Suzanne: What for?
Nigel: Our 18 month anniversary.
Suzanne: That was last week.
Nigel: (Tries to recover) Then every week should be a celebration. (Draws breath, does his best to take her in his arms again.) Darling, you look exquisite. And your perfume is intoxicating.
Suzanne: (Barely responding. Looks over his arms at her unkempt clothing.) Oh, really!? (Pulls at her top. Sniffs.) Overpowering, more like it. Your son just threw up all over me.
Nigel: (Holds her at arms length) But he’s down now? (Suzanne shrugs noncomittedly) Then let’s make the night ours! (Goes back to the bag, brings out a bunch of flowers and hands them to her.) Your favourites, I think.
Suzanne: (Softens a little) Oh, Nigel, they are lovely. I’ll get a vase for them. (She goes out with the flowers, and also takes the bottle of wine.)
Nigel: (In relief) Whew! (Sniffs) She’s right. (He goes to the bag, and pulls out a bottle of Calvin Klein or other eau de cologne, which he liberally sprays around. Hurriedly takes another look at the book.) “But words are not sufficient. A woman needs caring touch. Caresses. Try a sensuous massage...”
(Suzanne returns carrying the flowers in a vase, which she places on the table. They are thrown together, rather than arranged. She also has a now uncorked bottle of wine, which she puts on the table. Nigel hurriedly stuffs the book in his pocket.)
Suzanne: They never stay where I put them. But they were a lovely thought. (She becomes aware of the eau de cologne, sniffs, looks puzzled.)
Nigel: Not as lovely as you, Suzanne. (Leads her to the couch.) Here... sit down, relax. Let me give you a sens... your feet and neck a rub.
(He kneels, takes her shoes off and starts to rub her ankles and calves. Suzanne relaxes for a moment.)
Suzanne: That’s nice. I’ve been on my feet all day. (A baby’s half-hearted cry is heard from the other room. Suzanne starts to get up.) Blast! I’d better go and...
Nigel: (leaps up quickly, pushes her back in the chair) No! He’ll settle. Relax. Here, this will help you. (He sloshes some wine into a glass and thrusts it at her. He gulps down a little for himself as well, then goes behind Suzanne and starts to rub her neck.)
Suzanne: Mmm, a little to the left....now down. (She takes a sip of wine.)
(As he continues to rub with one hand, with the other Nigel takes out the book. Reads to himself)
Nigel: “When it comes to the food of love, chocolates are the way to any woman’s heart”. Chocolates! I nearly forgot. (He dashes round to the bag, and takes out a box of chocolates.) How could we celebrate without these?
Suzanne: But we’ve not had dinner yet!
Nigel: Who cares about dinner? (Quotes) “Chocolates are the food of love.” (Pushes them into her hands. She is left trying to juggle the glass and the box, as Nigel dashes back round behind her. Remembers he hasn’t taken a chocolate himself. Goes back round, takes one, returns to his position behind her, starts rubbing her neck again, a little too vigorously.)
Suzanne: Nigel, what’s going on?
Nigel: You. Me. Us. A celebration. Of our love. (Tries to be gayly offhand, without succeeding.) Have a chocolate. Drink some wine. (He leans down and kisses round her neck.) Let me drink from your well.
(Suzanne is obviously very unsure, but submits. Nigel steals another look at the book.)
Nigel: (reads) “The clincher will be a personal gift of something intimate – something to enhance her femininity, and show off her body to best advantage.” Yes! (He dashes back to the brown bag, and takes out a wrapped parcel, which he hands to Suzanne.) For you, my darling Suzanne. Even the most beautiful painting looks even lovelier in the right frame.
Suzanne: Frame!?? (She doesn’t know what to do with the chocolates and glass. Nigel tries to take the glass, and in the process spills wine on Suzanne.) You clumsy... you’ve spilled wine all over me.
(Kneeling, Nigel takes out a handkerchief and tries to mop up. Suzanne pushes him away, exasperated.)
Suzanne: Oh, leave it. It wasn’t that much, and I suppose it’s no worse than what your son’s done already. (She starts to unwrap the parcel.)
Nigel: This will be something far nicer for you to wear.
Suzanne: (finishes unwrapping, and holds up a filmy/lacy garment.) A teddy!? A crotchless teddy!You... (very pregnant pause) I’m speechless!
Nigel: I just can’t wait to see you in it, darling. Why don’t you go and change into it now. (He stands. As he does so, the little book falls out of his pocket.)
Suzanne: A crotchless teddy! You went and bought me.... (spots the book) What’s this? (Picks it up, thumbs through, gets more indignant as she continues) “Sex for Dummies... candles... soft music... flowers... caresses... chocolates... wine... lingerie...” A celebration? Manipulation, more like it! How could you?
Nigel: Suzanne, we’ve not made love in weeks. We’re losing touch with each other. I needed to do something ...
Suzanne: I do not appreciate sex by numbers, thank you very much. Or being set up.
Nigel: Then how am I supposed to get through to you?
Suzanne: Try from inside your heart, rather than inside a book. (She storms out)
Nigel: (Crying) But how else can I learn, except from a book? (The baby’s crying starts again, with more vigour. Nigel mouths...) Blast! Blast! Blast!
Copyright John McNeil 2001, all rights reserved.
This play may be performed free of charge provided no charge is made for admission or programmes. In return, the author would like to be notified of any performance. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org