The Dinner Party

Nicolette Dobson

Act I

[A dining room filled with tall columns and white walls. Assilence occupies the air, ideas move like wavelengths across the room. As each sound bounces off of the white walls, sounds echo and ring throughout. In the center of the room near the main window lies an old, Burk table. Gold-embellished ivory plates and glassware rest on the table while white mahogany chairs surround it. At the end of the table, a young woman is sitting, eyes gleaming at the white interior of the dining room around her. Her face is pale and her body limp; she waits for the guests to arrive. Her mind transitions out of a state of daydreaming when she hears a knock at the door. Alice removes herself from a seated position and walks to the door.]

ALICE: One moment, I’m coming. Alice moves from the dining room to the main entrance. She opens the large wooden door. 

ELIZABETH: Hello, Alice! Elizabeth enters wearing a bright dress and a painted face. Her hair is perfectly curled and is resting on a white fur coat. How have you been, Alice? It has been ages since I last saw you!

ALICE: I am doing well, thank you. I have been residing here since the settlement, so things haven’t been too busy. How have you been?

ELIZABETH: Ah, yes! That’s right! I wish I could have gotten the house, but things have been going well in New York. Now that I’m with Richard I have all the time to myself— more than a girl could ever dream of. While he’s away working on his medical career, I find myself exploring the city and its delicacies. She strokes her hair, flashing her ring.  

ALICE: I see. That sounds lovely, Elizabeth. Well, the other guests will be here soon, so feel free to take a seat at the dining room table. 

Alice motions for one of the servants, Greed, to enter. Elizabeth hands over her coat to GreedAnother knock is heard at the door. Alice opens the door to see her sister, Clara. Clara is wearing a yellow dress with white flowers. Her hair is slightly disheveled, and her cheeks are rosy. 

CLARA: Alice, how have you been? You look ravishing! Clara examines the home with beaming eyes. I love what you have done with the place. The rustic gold paintings suit the ivory color of the walls quite nicely. 

Alice nods, smiling at Clara.

ALICE: How has life been treating you, Clara? Are you still pursuing a writing career? 

CLARA: Unfortunately, not. Initially, after the settlement, I was writing a lot, but now things have been slow, and the critics are too harsh. I spend most of my days working at the bakery downtown that mom used to take us to; the sweet smell of lemon meringue cookies still entices me. 

ALICE: That sounds very pleasant… Well, Elizabeth is also here so you can join her in the dining room if you would like. 

Alice motions to another servant, Innocence, to collect Clara’s belongings. Her sister leaves the foyer, and Alice composes herself once again as she hears another knock at the door. Alice opens the door to her father. On her father’s arm is her stepmother Lucile; Lucile is clinging to her father’s drooping arm. Both her father and Lucile are wearing a gray suit and dress respectively. Their cool, blue eyes scan the inside of the house, ignoring Alice. 

FATHER:Alice, darling, it has been some time, hasn’t it? Look what you have done to the place— the house hasn’t looked this nice since… 

Lucile pulls on her husband’s arm, motioning him to move on with the conversation. 

ALICE: Thank you, I am glad that you could make it to the dinner party. Alice motions to the maid, Pain, to collect Lucile and her father’s belongings. Please, follow me this way to the dining room. Everyone is here now. 

Act II

All of the guests are seated at the dinner table. Each exchange glances with the others, waiting for someone to begin the conversation. The first meal is brought out by Peace: a fresh Caesar salad with dressing. Each individual quietly eats, keeping to themselves. After Peace finishes clearing each salad plate off of the table, Dispute enters with the main course, chicken stew with radishes and potatoes.

ALICE: Thank you for coming, everyone. As you know, it has been another year since the settlement, so we are required to meet again.  Alice smiles.

CLARA:  Woah, I cannot believe another year has passed, it seems like just yesterday that…

ELIZABETH: That mom passed? Yes, it has been hard on all of us, Clara, but a lot has changed in this past year! I am eager to see how everything will work out this time… pertaining to the settlement, of course. Clara’s face turns bright red as her sister’s comment seeps into her ears. Lucile nudges the father, motioning him to speak. 

FATHER: Yes, speaking of changes, Lucile and I would like to make an announcement. We have decided to sell the gallery and are looking for a new place to move into to get out of the city. Now that another year has passed, and the house is up for auction again, I would like to propose that Lucile and I move into the house. Lucile and I would like to start a family and are looking for a new home to do that… This house would be the perfect option; it would be large enough for the two of us. 

ELIZABETH: You are wanting to start a family and sell the gallery? Are you both mad? That is Mom’s gallery and aren’t the two of you both a little too old to start a family? Greed walks into the room, lighting the candles in the dining room. I think it would be better if Richard and I move into the home now— it is quite extravagant and accommodates our lifestyle. This house would be perfect for us and our future family— I want my children to prosper and grow up in a suitable environment.

CLARA: Start a new family? I thought that we were all still family… maybe we should do what Mom would have wanted; we should keep the house in Alice’s name. She is the oldest after all and has done a great job taking care of the house. Everything has been beautifully decorated and reminds me of the house when I was younger…. 

ELIZABETH: The house is not fit for a new family; it is fit for our family. Innocence leaves and Greed walks in, closing the curtain of the main window. Greed leaves and Pain walks into the room filling each glass with water. Dispute rushes in with hot rolls to accompany the stew.

LUCILE: Oh, girls, please! This idea should not come as a surprise to you. Now that your father and I are together, what were you expecting? We have plans, big plans, and they do not involve the likeness of you girls. Where were you during difficult times? Watching your father stand by and suffer? I, on the other hand, saved him from his past life and can offer him the world if I can merely have a say in the house settlement.… Anyways, someone of Alice’s stature does not need such a grand house! She’s just an artist anyway and can focus her creativity somewhere else.She is just one person!

Peace momentarily enters, picking up leftover crumbs that have fallen onto the floor due to Dispute’s dismay.

ALICE: Everyone, please! Why must we always rush into arguing? Dispute drops part of the dining ware, catching it mid-fall. I have news to share with all of you. I have spent the past year renovating this house so that I would be able to auction it off to whomever I picked. After mom’s passing, I took on the responsibility of refurbishing the house in remembrance of her. This house merely isn’t something you can receive; you have to earn it. So… 

Clara interrupts Alice. Innocence bumps into Peace. 

CLARA: Alice is right. We do not have a say in who gets the house; it is Alice’s decision.Alice nods, thanking her sister. Dispute leaves, and Peace enters momentarily. Pain then comes to collect the dishes.

FATHER: Alice, please! You are both selfish and foolish to keep this house to yourself— it is too large for just one person to live in! You have spent the past year, cooped up in this house, decorating it for whom— your mother? She is gone, Alice— you have to face the truth sooner than later— you need to move on with your life as I have moved on with mine. 

Pain remains in the dining room.

LUCILE: Your father is right; listen to him, Alice! He and I both are beyond your years! 

Greed enters.

ELIZABETH: Oh, please, Lucile! Do not fill this room with lies! You only want the house so that you can reside in it and Father can slave away, working to keep up with the financial endeavor that this house implores. You don’t have a say in this matter! And the gallery! How dare you trick our father into selling the gallery! 

LUCILE: Excuse me, my opinion is just as valid as yours, and there is no trickery at hand; your father loves me and respects my opinion. Whether you like it or not, we are completely different in every regard. You’ve never worked a day in your life. I, on the other hand, have spent my fair share of time in an office setting, and it is now time for your father and me to settle down and move on with our lives. Ever since your mother’s passing, we have been working at the art gallery nonstop and without new paintings of hers coming in, we rarely get any visitors. So, we are selling the gallery because it is a dead-end. Nothing will ever come of it. This house is all we have left.

Pain fans the air with a fan.

ELIZABETH:  You have no right to this house— you aren’t part of our family! Begone, Lucile! 

FATHER: Elizabeth, enough! How dare you to talk to Lucile like that! You are just as stubborn as you were as a child— nothing has changed.It was my idea to sell the gallery, not Lucile’s. I cannot continue to work in that place, being constantly reminded of your mother and the sorrow she has left me with. Without reason, she decided to take matters into her own hands— leaving us all alone. I have no idea why she would do such a thing, and I will resent myself forever for not knowing.

Pain walks in, placing small dessert plates on the table. Elizabeth holds back her tears.

LUCILE: See girls, look at what you have done to your father! This is a toxic environment. 

Innocence moves past Pain.

CLARA: Father, please! We had no idea that you felt this way. Please don’t sell the gallery, it means so much to us, especially Mom. 

Innocence walks in, placing new napkins and small spoons on the table. There is a moment of silence and then Pain walks back into the dining room.

FATHER: Clara, it’s not that simple darling. This matter began when your mother took her life into her own hands; I cannot bear to hold on to what is left of her. 

ALICE: Listen, we don’t need to rush the sale of the gallery quite yet. Maybe we can still make some use of it…. All I know is that we cannot let another year go by; we cannot hold the same grudges. Now I would like to share an announcement with all of you. While I know that we all have different wants and needs for the house, the house is large enough for all of us— but not for our problems. This house was once a safe place, a happy place. Now, I remain alone in this house, filled with old memories of Mom. I repainted the house in hopes that we could all live in it together again. Therefore, I have decided to extend an open invitation to each of you to live with me in the house. There are three bedrooms upstairs that I have designed and decorated for each of you.

CLARA: Alice, that is lovely, just lovely!I hope my room looks like it did when I was younger.

Innocence momentarily enters, accompanied by Greed.

ELIZABETH: I’m not sure if that is the best idea, Alice. Richard and I would prefer to be on our own, and we will need plenty of space… Elizabeth looks at Lucile with disgust.

LUCILE: Alice, that is quite the offer, but your father and I will keep to ourselves. We’ll see ourselves out and will see you again next year. Maybe you’ll have more to offer us by then. 

The Father and Lucile move from the dinner table. Pain hands them their items, and the two leave the house. Peace stands close to the kitchen door with the next meal. 

ALICE: Well, Clara, Elizabeth, the offer still stands for both of you. Is it yes or no?

CLARA: Yes! I would love to stay with you, Alice! 

Peace places down a slice of lava cake onto Clara’s plate. Greed enters.

ELIZABETH: Thank you for the offer Alice, but this is all a lot to think about… a lot to come back to… I don’t know if Richard or I would be willing to settle for only part of the house as well. I’m sorry. Goodbye.

Alice leaves, and Greed accompanies her out of the dining room. Clara and Alice are the last two characters left at the dinner table. Pain cleans up the dishes, accompanied by Peace.

ALICE: Well, that did not go as planned. Are you sure you still want to live in this house, Clara?

CLARA: Of course, it will be just like the good old days- I cannot wait to gather my things!

ALICE: Very, well, I will have someone send them to your room. Welcome home, Clara.

A new servant, Hope, collects Clara’s belongings and brings them upstairs to her room.

EXIT

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