Setting: Somewhere in the south, sometime in the 1920's
Length: One hour
Cast: 4 women, 2 men
It's opening day at the Lily Pond Tearoom and society hostess Lydia Sunnybrook has invited a guest speaker, the reclusive horticulturist Fern Well. However, Miss Well - a fashion disaster - arrives prepared to speak on a most unexpected topic. An old rival of Fern's, determined to goad her, also puts in an appearance. As if all could go any further amuck, Mable Fontaine has high hopes of taking over before the day is out. The stage is set for comedy, mishap and ...murder.
(walking through the house, speaking to various guests)
Thank you SO much for coming! How FABULOUS to see you! Why look at you! Aren’t you just the butterfly’s boots! It’s been AGES since I set eyes on you darlin! That MUST be a new cloche! Do you like my hair? Why yes, I did have it done - just this morning! How kind of you to notice. Mable...as always, I can count upon your attendance.
(turns to WILLIE HEIGHTS, waving a fan flirtatiously)
Willie Heights! I’m so glad you’re here, but darlin, don’t you ever tire of takin my picture?
(strikes a pose for WILLIE HEIGHTS while MABLE pushes closer to LYDIA)
Just Mrs. Sunnybrook...if you don’t mind.
MABLE sighs loudly and takes her seat. LYDIA moves to the front of the room after having her picture taken.
In case any of you don’t know me…
(gestures as if such a thing couldn’t possibly be)
…I’m Lydia Sunnybrook. Now, tell me you agree! Isn’t The Lily Pond simply marvelous! And we’re in for such a treat! I know many of you are familiar with my own humble, yet astonishingly successful efforts with roses. I see the question in your eyes Willie Heights and YES! Those ARE my roses gracing the tables.
(looks around and sees Venus Fly Traps rather than her roses)
What are these?
Why Lydia, I believe they’re Venus Fly Traps.
(turns to a guest, speaking in a loud voice)
Personally, I think they’re inappropriate for teatime but as we all know, Lydia’s “The Tea Lady”.
(WILLIE HEIGHTS begins snapping photos.)
Venus Fly Traps? I did not authorize this! Willie Heights, would you mind, darlin, holdin that picture takin for just a teeny moment? Why...
(horror stricken as she looks in the air around her)
…there aren’t flies, are there?
Well, I saw something with wings over there....
(with false sweetness)
You do think of everything Lydia. Mr. Heights, the common house fly is called musca domestica. That’s M…U…S…
Mable! That is hardly newsworthy! And besides, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation.
(taking a deep breath to regain her composure, she smiles brightly)
On a much more interesting note, may I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that I have arranged for quite a delightful afternoon! Our guest speaker is none other than…
(pause for effect)
…Fern Well, the fascinating and most reclusive botanist and master gardener. I anticipate her arrival at any moment so if you’ll pardon me, she may be at the door as I speak!
(exits to kitchen)
(calls loudly from outside)
Lydia! Lydia Sunnybrook? Am I in the right place? It’s Fern, Fern Well.
(dropping flowers along the way, enters from front carrying a large straw basket
filled with bunches of flowers, gardening shears, seed packets, headless rose
stems, and a framed picture of belladonna)
(to a guest)
Would you pick that up for me? Thank you, thank you. I’m late, aren’t I? I lost track of time yet again. It happens quite a lot I’m afraid. But I did have a ducky of an idea. Picture this: two sweet old ladies - say spinsters - murder gentlemen with poison. Strictly as an act of charity of course…because the men are lonely. It could make for quite an amusing movie.
(to another guest)
At first, I thought it might be called…Arsenic and Old Lace. But upon reflection…boring. And, it has no legs - nowhere to go. Anyway, I need my Bertram. Perhaps someone can help me with the ol’ boy?
I’d be happy to help with Mr. Bertram. He’s....?
Right outside the door. You can’t miss him.
I don’t see...
The plant, my dear. Right…outside…the…door. Just bring him in and place him gently next to the podium.
(enters from the kitchen and gushes to FERN)
Fern Well! Darling you had me the teeniest bit worried! And…
(looking FERN up and down)
…this is not the gown I sent to you.
(smiling but clearly expecting an answer)
Where is that gown?
I didn’t care for it Lydia. I prefer organic couture.
I see…well, I must say, you…defy description. But you’re here now so all is….perfection. And you’ve brought a specimen, haven’t you? It must be an heirloom rose! I beg you to not keep us in suspense! Is it a Eugene de Beauharnais? Perhaps a Blanc Double de Couvert?
(laughs and replies with a far off look in her eyes)
Oh, Bertram was never a rose but I loved him anyway. He was, as you young people say, my big cheese. At least until that scheming gold digger got her claws into him! Well never mind, there’s no sense in getting myself in a lather over ancient history. That glass of milk is spilt, spoiled, and been cleaned and put away. Now where was I….
(shakes her head and continues talking in a rambling fashion)
…Ah yes, Bertram. Years ago, I did so many of these speaking engagements – back when I was still clinging to introductory botany. Oh, the countless seedlings I toted about in those days! I lost all but Bertram. They drowned, dropped, fell beheaded.
(to the house)
More than you might think were crushed under my microscope. Only Bertram survived. His memory, I mean…Bertram – the plant…gives me confidence.
MABLE enters from front, carrying a three foot tall plant with some width to it. Her face can’t be seen.
Miss Mable, if you’ll stop right where you are. Yes, right there.
(snaps a photo)
Got it! Thank you, Ma’am.
Careful! Careful! Be gentle, child!
(turns back to LYDIA. MABLE puts the plant next to the podium and takes her seat)
You know, Lydia, I’ve never really liked public speaking. I can impersonate an extrovert for an hour at the most before I begin to feel the strain.
Well now, isn’t that a fascinating tidbit of information? On that note, ladies and gentlemen, Miss Well will begin her presentation on The Rich & Fragrant World of the Rose.
Oh...yes, Lydia, about that. Roses...well they've simply been talked to DEATH! I thought instead I might discuss my specialty - botanical toxicity.
Why Lydia, you’re right! Ms. Well is fascinating!
(to a guest)
But, it is a far cry from what was advertised for today. Poor Lydia – she’s so easily mislead.
(with enthusiasm to FERN)
You were saying Miss Well!
(showing the first signs of distress)
What is botanical toxicity?
(lovingly fondling Bertram before looking enthusiastically at the house)
...the useful extractions from poisonous plants.
(begins fanning herself in distress)
The useful extractions from poisonous…Fern...darling. This isn’t quite what we had discussed. I really think...
(seeing Venus fly traps upon several tables)
Ah…capital! I see my little surprises arrived safe and sound. I knew you’d be thrilled Lydia. I always say there’s nothing like a carnivorous plant to help a party get its wiggle on.
Thrilled barely conveys my sentiments, but…
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Copyright: Laurie Nienhaus, 2006 All Rights Reserved
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