THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM, a ten-minute play

 When Angela decides to give a dog to her mother as a holiday gift, sibling rivalry threatens to morph into canine homicide … Read THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM, a ten-minute play for two female actors.

 Like all scripts and monologues shared on this site, THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM may be used without charge in classrooms and for auditions.  Any other use requires the author’s permission and may be subject to royalty/licensing fees.

THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM

a ten-minute stage play

by Carol S. Lashof

TIME: The present

PLACE:  The living room of Angie’s apartment in San Francisco

CHARACTERS:

SYDNEY (SYD): A middle-aged woman.

ANGELA (ANGIE):  Also a middle-aged woman, SYD’s younger sister.

THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM

(ANGIE and SYD are sitting at the kitchen table of ANGIE’S  apartment in San Francisco.  They’re wrapping gifts. ANGIE wraps carefully, slowly, meticulously, with sharply creased edges and using lots of curling ribbon.  SYD moves through her stack of presents much more quickly with less attention to detail.  ANGIE hums off key as she wraps.  SYD tolerates the humming as long as she can.  Which isn’t long.  She glares at ANGIE.  ANGIE continues to hum, oblivious.)

SYD

(Sharply)

Maybe you want to put on a CD or something?

ANGIE

My CD player is broken.

SYD

Oh.

(SYD grits her teeth and keeps wrapping.  ANGIE keeps humming.)

Why don’t you let Mom buy you a new one?  You know how she likes to spoil you.

ANGIE

It’s okay.  I’ll get this one fixed.

(A dog barks offstage.)

SYD

What’s that?

ANGIE

What’s what?

SYD

The barking.  It sounds like there’s a dog in your bedroom.

(Pause.  More barking.  ANGIE hums louder, trying to cover the sound of the barking.  The dog’s barking will continue intermittently, but never very loudly or insistently, throughout the scene.)

That has to be a dog.

ANGIE

It doesn’t have to be a dog.  It could be a recording of a dog.  Or a person imitating a dog.

SYD

But it is a dog, isn’t it? In your bedroom?

ANGIE

Well.  Yes.

SYD

You have a dog?  In this apartment.  I didn’t know you were even allowed to have dogs in this building.

ANGIE

She’s a small dog.

SYD

Still.

ANGIE

Her name is Frederica.  She’s an English cocker spaniel.

SYD

(Not a question)

It’s not really a good idea, is it, to have dogs in the city.

ANGIE

I wasn’t planning to keep her in the city.

SYD

You’re moving?

ANGIE

I mean, she’s not really mine.  She’s a gift.

SYD

For who?

(Pause.)

ANGIE

For Mom.

SYD

What?

ANGIE

I got her all her shots and everything.  She’s housebroken.  And I got the special crate you need to take her on the plane, and I made the reservations for her.  I was surprised actually.  It wasn’t that expensive, even with the transfer in Chicago—

SYD

Wait a minute.  This dog is going back to Wisconsin with me?

ANGIE

No.  With Mom.  She’s going with Mom.

SYD

But that means with me.

ANGIE

Mom is Frederica’s owner.  Her guardian, I mean.

SYD

I am already the owner of two cats.  And one of them needs daily insulin shots.  Twice daily.  I can’t deal with a dog.

ANGIE

It’s Mom who will be dealing with her, not you.

SYD

But Mom lives with me.

ANGIE

Don’t worry.  They’ll take good care of each other.  Frederica will be a great source of comfort to Mom.

SYD

Mom is doing just fine.  Without a dog.  She doesn’t need “comfort.”

(Pause.)

And why does a small dog need such a long name?  Four syllables!

ANGIE

She’s named after the opera singer.  But you can call her Freddie.  Or Fred even.

SYD

Frederica!  Freddie!  Fred!  She’s going to be a pain in the ass.

ANGIE

Do you know that dog owners over 65 make 30% fewer doctor’s visits than non-dog owners over 65?  That’s from the Harvard Health newsletter.

SYD

Do you know that dog owners over 65 make thousands of emergency room visits every year due to injuries caused by tripping over their dogs?

ANGIE

Where’d you get that from?

SYD

I don’t remember, but it’s true.  Ask Siri.

(SYD gets out her smart phone and offers it to ANGIE, who waves it away.)

ANGIE

Mom’s smart enough to watch where she’s going.  And Freddie is smart enough to get out of the way.

SYD

Mom does not need a dog.  She’s got me.  And Joel.

ANGIE

But you’re at work all day.  And Joel is leaving for college in September.

SYD

She has friends. Lots of friends.  They go to movies, concerts, lunch, bird watching!  She plays mahjongg! You should see her calendar.  She goes out more than I do.  Way more.

ANGIE

You should go out more often.  It would be good for you.

SYD

We’re taking an early flight home on Saturday morning because Mom has a ticket for a cello concert on Saturday night.  Some classical luminary.

ANGIE

Aren’t you going?

SYD

I can’t.  I have a grant proposal due on Monday.  It was hard enough to take the time off to be here this week, what with helping Joel finish his college applications …

ANGIE

See.  That’s my point.  You have your own life.

SYD

Of course I do.  So do you.  And yours happens to be as far away from Mom as you could get without leaving the country.  Well, the lower 48.

ANGIE

My daughter is living in Hawaii.  I’m splitting the difference.

SYD

And I’m in Madison and Mom’s in Madison and this yappy dog is going to be in Madison.  With me.  In my house.

ANGIE

(Talking over SYD)

Which Mom helped you buy.  And which is, I might add, a very big house.

SYD

(Talking over ANGIE)

Peeing on my rugs.  And scratching my furniture.

ANGIE

And Frederica doesn’t yap.  She barks sometimes, in a friendly sort of way.  Come and meet her.  You’ll love her.  I promise. She’s totally adorable.

(ANGIE stands up and starts to walk towards the bedroom.  SYD remains sitting.)

Or you can wait until tomorrow.  If you want.  At the party.  When I give her to Mom. She’ll be so pretty, curled up under the tree with a big pink satin bow around her collar.  And a cute little tag that says “For Mom.  Love, Angie.” Or maybe I’ll let her jump out of a box, and we can all yell “Surprise”!

SYD

A big pink satin bow? Where did you get that idea?  From a Hallmark commercial?

ANGIE

It doesn’t have to be pink.  Or satin.

(ANGIE shuffles through a pile of ribbons and decorations, holding up one and then another for SYD’s approval.)

How about this one?

(ANGIE wraps one particularly large and gaudy ribbon around her own neck.)

What do you think?

SYD

I think I’m going to strangle you with that goddamned ribbon.  And then I’m going to strangle the goddamned dog.

(SYD reaches for the ribbon.  ANGIE laughs—but nervously—and dodges away from her sister, leaving the ribbon in SYD’s hands.)

ANGIE

You wouldn’t, would you?  You wouldn’t hurt Freddie!

SYD

If you force me to take that canine diva home with me—I can’t promise what I’ll do.

ANGIE

I’m not forcing you to do anything.  I thought you’d be pleased.  Haven’t you always wanted a dog?  I thought you always wanted a dog.

SYD

Me?  No.  It was you.  Every Christmas.  And Hanukkah.  And Kwanzaa.  Every birthday.  Every day in between.  You whined and you begged.  And Mom said no.  Because she knew that she would end up being the one who walked it three times a day and scooped its poop and took it to the vet.  And now you’re trying to get revenge on her by giving her a dog, which she isn’t even going to want.

ANGIE

Her.  She’s a her.  And Mom will walk her and brush her and love her and … and they’ll make each other happy.  Don’t you want Mom to be happy?

SYD

Of course I do, but—but Mom doesn’t even like dogs.

ANGIE

Well, maybe not dogs in general—

SYD

Any creature not capable of intelligent conversation—Mom is not interested.  Simply not interested.  Bored.  By dumb animals.  And babies.

ANGIE

But Frederica.  She will love Frederica.

SYD

You don’t know that.

ANGIE

Yes, I do.  She adores Frederica.

(Long pause.)

SYD

What are you saying?

ANGIE

Mom loves Frederica.

SYD

Are you saying that Mom already knows you’re giving her this dog, that she’s already met the dog?  Because you said it was going to be a surprise at the party tomorrow, so I thought—

ANGIE

I said we would all shout “Surprise!”  I didn’t say Mom would actually be surprised.  She promised to pretend to be surprised.  But of course she already knows.  How could I give her a dog without knowing whether they would like each other?  Besides, she had to sign the adoption papers, didn’t she?  We went to the breeder together, and she picked Frederica out right away.  It was love at first sight.  You should have seen them … well, you will see tomorrow … Freddie crawled into Mom’s lap and nuzzled her cheek.  It was the sweetest thing.

SYD

And what did Mom do?

ANGIE

She cooed.

SYD

She what?

ANGIE

Cooed.  She cooed.  She was in raptures.  She beamed.  She petted her and rubbed her tummy and cooed to her in baby talk.

SYD

You’re talking about our mom?  Our mom “cooed”?  Over a dog?  She talked to it—her—in baby talk?  She beamed!?

(ANGIE imitates their mother fussing over the dog.  She talks in a high, sweet voice.  SYDNEY watches in astonishment.)

ANGIE

Oh, you sweet wittle thing … Aren’t you adorable?  Oh, you are just the cutest wittle doggy in the whole wide world … that’s a good baby … oh, good girl, good girl … who’s my wittle sweetie-poo …

(ANGIE continues to coo and babble, using nonsense words and blowing kisses.  SYD twists and yanks the ribbon in her hands.)

SYD

I don’t believe it.

ANGIE

You will.  When you meet Frederica.  When you see the way Mom babies her.  And the way Frederica curls up in her lap.  And purrs.

SYD

Dogs don’t purr.

ANGIE

This one does.

SYD

And Mom doesn’t fuss. She doesn’t coo.  It’s just not who she is.

(ANGIE shrugs, giving SYD a “wait and see” look.)

Mom never fussed and cooed over us when we were babies.

ANGIE

How would you know?  You couldn’t possibly remember.

SYD

I don’t remember her ever fussing and cooing over her grandchildren.  Do you?

(Pause.  ANGIE thinks about it.)

I would remember if she cooed over Joel.  Did she coo over Amber?

(Longer pause.  The answer is clearly “no.”)

When you and Paul and Amber were living in Chicago, and Mom came to visit for the weekend, did she babysit so you and Paul could have a date night?  Or was she too busy going to the Art Institute and the Symphony?  How many diapers did she change?

ANGIE

You can’t blame her for not liking to change diapers.  Nobody likes to change diapers.

SYD

Did she coo?  Did she beam?  Did she babble away in baby talk?

ANGIE

She took Amber to the ballet.  You remember how much Amber used to love ballet … And she took her to the planetarium as soon as she was old enough.

SYD

Exactly.  Once her grandchildren were old enough to be interested in ballet or art museums or the solar system, once they were old enough to talk and read and get good grades, then she was interested in them.  But not before.  Not when they were babies. Not when they were little helpless bundles of neediness. Our mother is not interested in dumb little creatures who only need to be loved.

(Pause.)

ANGIE

Except Frederica.

SYD

(Ominously)

Except Frederica.

(SYD tugs on both ends of the ribbon in her hands, testing its strength. She walks quickly towards the bedroom door.  ANGIE grabs hold of SYD’s arm, trying to stop her, but SYD breaks free.  She runs into the bedroom and slams and locks the door behind her.  A furious barking erupts. ANGIE pounds on the door, shouting to be heard above the noise of the dog.)

ANGIE

No, Syd!  No!  Don’t!  Please, don’t!  I’ll bring her back to the breeder.  Or I’ll adopt her myself.  I’ll move to a place where I can keep a dog. I promise.  Don’t hurt her.  Please.

(Suddenly the barking stops.  There is a long silence. ANGIE presses her ear to the bedroom door.)

Sydney?  … Frederica? …

(From the other side of the door comes a small, happy “yip,” then the rhythmic thump of a wagging tail hitting a hard wood floor and the coo of an enraptured dog lover.)

SYD

(Off)

Ohhh, aren’t you the sweetest little thing?   Oh, you cutie-pie!  Who’s Mommy’s favorite little baby?  Come here, Freddie.  Give Mommy a kiss …

(And now the dog is purring.  The purring and cooing continue until the lights fade out.)

END OF PLAY

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