by Carol K. Mack
Published by Samuel French in Ten-Minute Plays: Volume 5, 2000
Ten-Minute Comedy, 6 pages
"WHY!? It says Happily Ever After!" - Cindy
Carol K. Mack is a prolific playwright and writing teacher who has taught at NYU, Marymount, and Fordham and has had pieces produced off-Broadway, the Berkshire Theatre Festival, and the American Repertory Theatre. After was my first exposure to her work.
After is a two-hander between Glynda, a tour guide who happens to be a fairy, and Cindy, a human who has run away from her tour bus. It opens with high stakes as an unseen tour bus driver screams to catch an escapee as she is entering an off limit area. From there, the stakes continue to rise. Cindy has stumbled upon Happily Ever After, she's a journalist and is making a recording of what she sees, and she ran away in the first place because she's getting married this weekend and is scared of the commitment. Glynda has a lot of problems to solve and very little time in which to do so.
We never see what Cindy is seeing. Happily Ever After is at the back of the house behind our heads. The image has to be communicated through the language, and this is successfully done. We figure out we're in Disney World through a reference to Mr. Walt, and Cindy, dictating to her tape recorder, reveals that there are white horses and couples dressed in what looks like prom clothes just lying there as far as they eye can see with smiles plastered on their faces. Cindy is rather distressed.
Cindy: (Crying.) It's... I always thought that after was only the Beginning. I thought they'd go a long way after After!
Glynda: Oh dear, I know. But you see nothing was written for them.
Glynda: Just: "The End."
It's quite depressing, but Cindy soon realizes that the solution is to write your own ending which, arguably, is the theme of the piece. At this point the boyfriend on the bus is brought up and Cindy decides she wants to go back to him. Through a spell, Glynda makes her forget:
Glynda: "Now, forget this field and all tale-spinning, the horse, and all the princes grinning. Forget The End and make a new beginning! Forget the pumpkins, the mice, and all witchcraft, forget it all in love and laughter. Forget, and keep your dream of After."
Cindy forgets and, conveniently, her tape recorder is destroyed.
Overall, the play was quite enjoyable and covered a lot of ground in only ten minutes. Mack uses a lot of stage directions throughout the piece, which helps guide the story. One thing I found particularly interesting was a secondary use of paratheticals: using them to provide the ends of sentences not spoken. Two examples:
Glynda: It's not real grass, it's... (all right)
Cindy: Oh no! I bet they didn't even... (get a chance.)
This is a very smart choice as it tells the actors, director, and other readers the intention of the line. Additionally, it could provide a safety net if an interruption is missed.
The biggest question I have about the piece is the character of Glynda. Cindy is explained away - she is a human, not Cinderella, but Glynda does reference having known a Cindy once. It's cute, and it remains in the world. Glynda, however, feels out of place.
In this play, Glynda is a fairy. There are two characters that pop into mind - Glynda Goodwitch from RWBY and Glinda from The Wizard of Oz. Neither is a fairy. Now, RWBY premiered in 2013, well after this piece was written, so that leaves us with the Wizard of Oz reference. Although that is an MGM property, it was licensed to Disney for use in their theme parks (think the now closed Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios) so her presence makes sense, but she was a witch, not a fairy. The piece acknowledged this in a sense, having her use a magic wand for her spell, referencing munchkin giggles in the sound design, and using the stage direction of "Simply, Glynda the Good" when directing how to deliver a line, but her rant of fairies being misunderstood doesn't work for me. It was the one weakness in an otherwise strong piece but, to be fair, it is something that I may not have noticed if I was watching, and not reading, the piece.
After covers a lot of ground, has high stakes, and delivers a clear message. It's a piece I'd have enjoyed seeing.