A Full Length Play
2 acts, unit set, 2 women, 2 men
By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2000
Systems analyst Bart Mallory tries to sell his wife Terri on
the idea that understanding problems is not enough. Terri should
concentrate on getting into a position where she can use her intelligence
and financial skills to solve them. Terri's business success will
be the top priority for both of them.
Bart's secretary Kathy is making errors because her mind is
on her kids and their troubles. Bart agrees that being a single
parent is hard, but suggests it'd be easier if women were logical.
When Terri tells Bart about a set-back at work, her husband decides
that she's got "Kathy's Disease"--feminine conditioning. Bart
offers to take over responsibility for their domestic life, so
that Terri can concentrate on being businesslike and aggressive.
They'll phase out "husband" and "wife": be partners. Bart can
improve on anything a wife does- except having babies.
Terri's boss, John Stillwater, is willing to be her mentor:
he likes strong women. But he also has reservations about women
in general buying in to the macho-culture and its values. Stillwater
and his wife aimed for balance in their own lives, rather than
Terri is sick in bed with a virus when Bart comes home early-
he's got it too: caused, no doubt, by role-stress. They reveal
their doubts and vulnerabilities, tease and comfort each other,
feed each other home remedies and "infant treats". At last they
make love- "just what the doctor ordered."
Bart has been using Kathy to fill in some of the gaps in his
comfort and feeding now that Terri isn't acting the wife-role.
And, as usual, he shows a great interest in Kathy's kids and their
progress. Kathy protests: he's getting a little unprofessional.
But Bart claims he's "falling apart", and as he details his domestic
problems, Kathy gets the impression he and his wife have split
up. Hope rises- Bart's secretary has a crush on him. When Bart
assures her that he's still married, and contrasts Terri's steel-trap
mind with homebodies like Kathy and his own mother, that's the
last straw. Kathy throws the jacket she's been mending at him
and slams out.
Bart's tells Terri they ought to hire household help: especially,
he teases, help that'll look after their "little exemptions" --
childcare's deductible. While they're celebrating Terri's promotion
at work, Stillwater warns Bart privately that she's in line for
a job that'll mean moving to San Diego-- is Bart willing to go?
Bart's enthusiastic. He wants to create a superwoman who can Up
the Gross! (i.e. National Product) But as Kathy helps Bart pack
up at his office, he begins to realize how much he's going to
miss his job and his role- and his secretary. Terri's careless
discard of the baby things her mother gave her during the pregnancy
that miscarried forces them to compare visions of the future.
Bart wants to settle in San Diego -- or somewhere -- and have
a family. Terri reminds him that he encouraged her to aim for
the top. She sees it's possible, now: but not if she takes time
out to raise babies. Parenthood's the one domestic burden that
can't be "solved" by logic or organization or some other bright
Bart pays a 2am visit to his secretary, ready to tell her his
problems. Kathy hesitates, then lets him in. When Bart doesn't
come home, Terri reconsiders: she is willing to have children,
if it's important to him. Bart rejects this-- she's convinced
him motherhood's not for her. When he lets slip that he's already
come up a new plan to partner Kathy, Terri explodes PARTNERS
first appeared as a 1980 Playwright's Platform Festival one-act
titled WORKING IT OUT, and in that form played three engagements
in local churches. Revised and extended to full-length, it that
was done in New York as part of WIT's Spotlight on Women series
in March of 1984, directed by Leslie Hoban Blake. That revision
of PARTNERS was part of the Atlanta New Play Festival, produced
by Onstage Atlanta; and chosen by June Judson 's Theatre In Process
for a no-frills production May of 1984, directed by Richard Lawrence.
Sample Scene from PARTNERS by G. L. Horton
BARTON MALLORY, 34, systems analyst employed by Dataspecs, a
consulting firm along Boston's route 128. He is bright, brash,
and boyish, with an insistent puppylike charm.
THERESA MALLORY, 34, M.B.A., his wife, employed by the research
department of Altschuler Tool Die & Engineering, a old family-
owned company that has grown to a national multiproduct business
still known, anachronistically, as ATD&E. Terri is angular but
pretty, though not strikingly so, not like a model. She has a
soft, lost, slightly out-of-focus quality that could be mistaken
for shyness or even stupidity. Terri has a great deal of intelligence
-- but it is of the sort that gave rise to the legend of the "absent-minded
professor", and because it has been a source of embarrassment
for her, she doesn't really trust it. She compensates by taking
the advice of more worldly people, and by making lists.
JOHN ADAMS STILLWATER, 60, Vice President of ATD&E, Terri's
boss. He is a Boston Brahman, and a gentleman of the old school.
KATHY FITZPATRICK, 30, Bart's secretary; plump, spunky and warm.
A divorced mother of two (Andy and Alice), she has coped very
well in spite of her working-class education and background.
The play is in twelve scenes. The set, which should be sketchy,
indicates the Mallory's modern apartment, and alternately Terri's
office and Bart's. The time is this year and next.
PARTNERS ACT ONE SCENE ONE
EIGHT-THIRTY P.M. ON A FRIDAY. THERESA AND BARTON MALLORY ARE
AT HOME IN THEIR MODERN APARTMENT OVERLOOKING BOSTON'S BACK BAY.
TERRI IS AT THE KEYBOARD OF THEIR MICROCOMPUTER. HER BLAZER JACKET
HAS FALLEN ONTO THE FLOOR, HER SCARF IS ASKEW, AND SHE HAS BRIEFCASE,
PAPERS, GRAPHS, AND PRINTOUTS SPREAD ALL AROUND HER. ON THE COFFEE
TABLE. ONE OF HER MEDIUM-HEELED PUMPS IS SERVING AS A PAPERWEIGHT.
BART HAS TAKEN OFF HIS SPORTCOAT AND LOOSENED HIS TIE, BUT OTHERWISE
HE IS STILL DRESSED IN HIS "TECHNOCRAT" WORK OUTFIT. BART'S BRIEFCASE
IS OPEN, BUT HE HAS FINISHED HIS "HOMEWORK" SINCE THEN HE'S AMUSED
HIMSELF BY LEAFING THOUGH A PILE OF MAGAZINES WHICH ARE STREWN
AROUND, AND NOW HE IS MUNCHING ON A HUNK OF FRENCH BREAD WHILE
HE TALKS ON THE TELEPHONE.
BART (on phone)
Yeah, sure, that's what I said. But that was last week.
Before I heard about the By-tech phasedown. ... Ok, sure. But
if you and I just go ahead and spec the job, what's Klerowski
going to do? Fire us? We're the only guys who even know the access
code. ... All right, hey, I'm sorry I mentioned it. Go back to
your chess game.
(Silence. magazine shuffling. Barton finishes the bread, looks
at his watch, clears his throat. Terri's still lost in thought.
( bangs on the table with her shoe.)
Terri! Do you realize how late it is?
TERRI (looks up, blank)
Late? It is? Why didn't you say something? (still working)
Hey, short of setting off a bomb, I don't know how to get your
attention once you absorb. Don't you get hungry?
(no response. BART goes into the kitchen)
Snuggles? Anything to eat out here? Tch, tch, just left- over
dried up Meow Mix.
TERRI (at computer)
This is going to come out, I know its going to-
Our woman is so busy. Maybe I oughta shoot us a couple rats. (comes
to the door with a bread-pistol, mimes) Blam! Blam!
TERRI (looks up, puzzled)
BART (growls, wolfs down bread)
TERRI (points to print-out)
Oh, Bart, look! Will you look at these beautiful numbers! (shows
him, bouncing with excitement)
BART (still playful, he bounces too)
TERRI (wads up balls of scratch paper and tosses them up in
Oh, God, oh Eureka! I've done it!
BART (looking exaggeratedly grim)
But wait - just a minute before you celebrate. There's more to
the corporate game than just being right. Are you ready for the
TERRI (hugging him)
OK, OK, I hear you. But I love just being right! Don't you?
BART (kissing her)
Well, I'm used to it.
So should I get the champagne now?
On an empty stomach? One glass and you'll pass out.
I suppose we'd better have something to eat. (looks at watch)
My God! I've starved you! I'm sorry, honey. (goes to kitchen)
We'll eat just as soon as I make up the garlic bread.
Everything's cold out in the kitchen. I checked.
TERRI (at kitchen door)
I had the timer set to turn the oven off at seven. I just turned
it back on, so as soon as I figure out where I put the loaf I'll
make the garlic bread, and..
Never mind, dear. I'm ..uh .. kind of full.
The bread for the garlic bread?
Long stuff? (Terri nods) That must've been it.
But Barton, I've squeezed fresh garlic. Since you read that book
on Cellular Awareness I've been juggling menus like a like an
eight handed Hindu Goddess. Natural fiber. Balanced aminos. Ethnic
diversity. So now the oven's full of balanced mousaka, and you're
full of bread.
Natural, ethnic bread!
TERRI (into kitchen)
I wonder if the cat'll like it.
All right, punish me. But don't exile me to restaurants! After
suffering through your MBA I never want to see another restaurant.
Give me ethnic bread and water here by my hearth, I won't complain.
TERRI (begins to clean up the mess)
You complained about the tabouli.
You left out the mint!
The recipe left out the mint!
You shouldn't need a recipe to know that it has mint in it! You've
eaten it often enough, at the Algiers.
TERRI (hangs up clothes)
I didn't notice!
You never notice! Set you down in front of a computer, and you'll
work 'till you faint! After which you'll lie there on the floor
and let the bully-boys in your office walk all over you. (Terri
Do you at least want salad?
I told you. I'm not hungry. Sit down. We have to plot the revolution
Is that what we want?
Sure it is. Power, riches, notoriety. Why else have you spent
the last five months glued to the grindstone?
I ask myself. Spite? I had to prove that even though those guys
are engineers and sons of engineers and tough-minded hard-hat
sons of bitches, they're screwing up their own business.
So, we've proved it. So now what?
TERRI (looks for missing shoe)
Turn in a memo and take a well-earned rest, Clean the apartment.
Catch up on our social life. Maybe even see a movie. What was
the last one? Terminator II?
I think it was Gone With The Wind.
TERRI (searching under furniture)
I don't have to work this hard. Altschuler Tool Die & Engineering
does not expect me to.
I expect you!
Landing this kind of job was supposed to bring us closer,
TERRI (finds shoe)
Closer does not mean in the same room with you feeling neglected.
I enjoy helping you outgun 'em! Sweetheart, we have so much more
in common, so much more to say to each other, than Karen and I
ever had, or even our folks ...
TERRI (straightens magazines)
God, I hope so! Are you done with these magazines?
Yeah, sure. Wait! Leave me INfoworld. Your Mom and Dad were teachers,
they had that to talk about.
Did they? My mom? Have you heard her?
Go ahead, quote me something. Something memorable.
About anything! One quotable word! Do you realize she graduated
4th in her class? So at one time she must've had a brain. At least
before she had kids she did.
Since when does motherhood cause the brain to atrophy?
Look at our mothers!
My Mom's fine! It's Dad who's atrophied!
There must be a chemical change in female brain function. When
I was pregnant, even though it was only four months, there were
these weird responses, I don't suppose you noticed.
I noticed. You slept all the time! You even ate.
More than that. My breasts got big, sure; but my attention span
went haywire. I'm the one with the concentration, right? Nothing
distracts me: I could work though a hurricane-
Maybe a bomb!
Besides which I had zero interest in babies ... but as soon as
I started growing one, all of a sudden I tune in to all these
crying babies, it's like I'm supposed to DO something about them.
The hormones must set off a latent female instinct.
Parenting's not a female instinct. Didn't you see that article
in the Times? Men do it.
The latest fad. Like racquetball.
I LIKE racquetball!
Now, you like racquetball. Last year you liked motorcycles.
Some men even like KIDS! Phil's crazy about little Greg. He even
does the 4am feeding.
Sure he does! If Eileen wakes him up, and puts the bottle on.
Eileen says Phil's more trouble than --
Oh, my God! Eileen! She called. I forgot to tell you.
Tuesday. About getting together.
You'll see Phil on Sunday, won't you? For racquetball?
Not this Sunday. No game because it's the 19th and it's...
Eileen's birthday! Oh, no! We should've given her a party.
She vetoed that. Says the onset of middle age is nothing to celebrate,
She's only 35!
Well technically, Terri, 35 is the middle of three score and ten.
She wants her oldest friends to take her somewhere glamorous and
Are they our oldest friends?
They're mine. My ex got custody of the friends. Along with the
car and dog and the summer place. I think Karen made them sign
some kind of divorce pact, never to give me aid or comfort. Even
the dog growls at me.
TERRI (timer rings in kitchen)
Mousaka's ready! (goes to kitchen) I can't celebrate Sunday night!
Monday morning's my presentation.
I suppose I could ask for a postponement. What difference'll a
week make? Or a year? God! Thirty-four, and what have I done?
Hey, I'm not the heavyweight I expected to be, either. I thought
by now I'd have my own consulting firm, four or five kids, a big
old house with a strawberry patch.
TERRI (at kitchen door, with plate)
Didn't I tell you? It must've been my first wife I told. Or maybe
she told me.
TERRI (towards him with mousaka)
Are you sure you don't want this? Smells good. (he shakes his
head. She brings her plate and joins him) It's hard to be a heavyweight
and bounce around as much as you have. You spent two years on
that patent: and just six months ago you were ready to dump technology
and run for congress.
All it takes is a web page and a computerized mailing list.
TERRI (blows on forkfull)
And a tolerance for fools.
I don't mind that they vote. I mind that they come up to me at
parties and make me smile at them.
You don't want to go to Dottie's fund-raiser.
Do I have to?
No, you don't have to. You already sent her campaign money.
But Dottie's anti-abortion! How much did you send her?
YOU sent her two hundred bucks. And I told her if she's elected
you want me to be her Secretary of Commerce.
My God, is that a bribe?
No, hey. With two thousand bucks it'd be a bribe. Two hundred,
it's a suggestion.
It's always smart to include some goodies when you make a suggestion.
Like with your memo.
You mean for John? Bribe John?! Stillwater?
What's the matter? Afraid you'll both be fired?
Not a chance. Not from our department. Stillwater's backwater
-- where employees who can't be fired are shuffled off to rot.
BART (begins to eat Terri's mousaka)
Hey, anybody can be fired --
I can't -- not for a while, anyway. I'm their token woman. And
Wilkins can't be fired because he designed the Wilkins Valve back
in nineteen forty seven, and now he's got palsy...
How about old Stillwater himself?
I told you -- he's married to a big chunk of the stock! There
we sit, the backlogs, collecting data like moss. We ponder, we
analyze, once every eon or so we put out a memo.
You've got to do better than that. Somehow you've got to get Stillwater
all fired up over this. He's got to take these graphs of yours
and stick em right under the nose of the founding father, what's-his-name?
Walter. But he's the son: Walter Altschuler the Engineer, son
of the Founder, Walter the Tool and Die Altschuler--
Right. Stillwater's got to grab Altschuler-the-engineer by the
lapels and tell him he's got no business throwing Tool and Die's
money down a rathole! Tell him he'd better reorganize along the
lines you've mapped out, or there'll be Big Trouble at the annual
John do that? To his brother-in-law? Come on!
I know old John's a wimp, but--
He's not a wimp. He's a gentleman! But with his "vice- president"
on the door, a nice steady income: Why should he make waves?
He could have a lot bigger income.
I don't think he cares, really. Money kind of bores him.
Well, if bores him, why doesn't he quit and knit doilies? He can
afford to! Or at least have the gumption to back somebody who
does care, who has the ideas and the guts--
John has ideas. He knew the problem was in inventory - somewhere.
He got me started-
But having more important things to think about--
Maybe he does! His wife wrote a book about pre-Socratic philosophy:
maybe he thinks metaphysics! Or maybe John knows his brother-in-law
doesn't WANT another memo!
You'll have get it to him whether he wants it or not. Go over
BART (rises, pacing)
You. March right in and force Altschuler to listen.
Altschuler talks right through me! He never lets me finish a sentence,
even if I'm answering a question, he just--
BART (cuts her off)
Don't put up with that! Talk louder.
You mean yell?
Sure, yell! Pound on the desk if you have to, stir up some adrenaline.
I- I can't.
Sure you can. Try it. "Mr. Altschuler, the answer to this company's
profit problem is right there!" (he pounds)
He'd throw me out. He'd fire me.
Believe me, he'll be impressed. Try it.
Mr. Altschuler (she winds up to pound, Bart stops her before she
smashes her plate)
Wait! (moves the mousaka) Now. (Bart eats mousaka)
Mr. Altschuler--- (awkward, feeble pound) I'd look ridiculous.
Besides how could I double-cross John? After all he's done for
BART (picks up Terri's papers and pretends to dump them in the
O.K. Might as well dump this stuff right now!
TERRI (trying to rescue them)
Then what are you going to do about it?
I figured it out, that's what I do about it! Looking at the numbers,
and seeing what's there, what's possible, that's very satisfying,
whether my projection gets carried through with or not.
BART (finishing up Terri's supper)
Believe me, that's nothing compared to making it happen! That's
the rush! You'll love it! Why do you think Phil works on weapons
His stuff gets built! Then it has fascinating bugs in it to be
worked out, and then design a better one.
You mean you're frightened! What're you going to be when you grow
up, Terri? One of the clods who nerd along from day to day doing
what's always been done, or someone who puts ideas to work, who
can change the world? Change, growth, struggle: that's pretty
scary, Ter. I'm not surprised that you're frightened.
TERRI (notices mousaka's gone)
I think I'm hungry, actually. Bart, what happened to my dinner?
I ate it.
But you were full of bread.
Man lives not by bread alone. Where are you going?
TERRI (starts for kitchen)
To get some cold mousaka.
BART (catches her wrist)
Pay attention! If you were concentrating on this problem, you'd
forget all about eating.
Your problem! Well, hey, it's our problem, isn't it? I've got
a lot invested. Our problem. Your success.
If I don't eat between now and success...
BART (charting it on paper)
We've got till Monday morning, right? Monday morning as the first
round, the initial battle of the war. Basic strategy. Allies..
Is John an ally? Will he see this move as being in his own interest?
Maybe he'll buy into an alliance for some other reason. To piss
off an old enemy, say. Or impress his family, something like that.
Got any ideas? What's his weakness?
Well... He LIKES me.
Likes you how? Does he think of you as a turn-on, or--?
I told you, he's a gentleman! An old-fashioned --
Like a kid sister then? Or a peer?
Do men ever think of a woman as a peer?
Maybe that's it. He has four of his own, but they've all flown
the nest now, but he's gotten used to daughters. Or maybe I'm
like his niece.
BART (pulls her down beside him)
All right! Incest! That's a place to start.
END OF ACT I SCENE I