A Covered Dish
AT RISE: A porch with a rocking chair,
in Savannah, Ga. It’s a July
afternoon, present day. ALETHEIA, 53,
sits in the rocker, fanning herself.
HELEN, 52, paces while holding a
casserole dish wrapped in Saran Wrap.
What is going on over there?
Whether or not, that —
(reference HELEN’S dish)
Should be allowed on the buffet table.
Deliberating? What’s the issue? It’s a picnic, this is food.
Darlin’, this is not simply a picnic, not a picnic at all.
It’s a gatherin’, a family reunion.
Right, a gathering where people eat, so —
People want to eat what they know, and they know a covered
And that’s what this is. So, what’s the “deliberating” for?
Well, sugar, that is a dish, without its lid, but it is
covered, in its own way, I guess. But, it’s not a covered
dish. Have you been away that long that you’ve forgotten
the rules? Bless your heart.
Forgotten the rules?
It’s all right, darlin’. It’s been a while and Lord knows
the last time you were at a family reunion. No one’s blaming you, they’re just glad you’re here, bless their hearts, and they’re glad that you brought one of Mama’s casseroles … well, the bottom part at least.
What rule did I forget?
You’re supposed to bring a covered casserole. Always,
to family reunions one brings a covered casserole.
Preferably, a recipe made by one who’s gone “Home” to keep
their memory alive, you know, for the young ones. This way,
we can eat their food and explain to the new generations who they were, and how their gifts enriched our family. Me, I brought mama’s famous Chicken Spectacular. You remember, with the cream of celery soup and the Velveeta pimento sauce, or as Mama called it, “The orange and red speckled glue that holds
everything together on a paper plate.” I do add a touch of mayonnaise for added moisture, don’t want it to dry out in this unforgiving summer sun. Don’t know why they insist on July … September’s much less cruel and the foods keep better.
(looks off to the table)
And there it is, my casserole, smack in the middle of that
table, sayin’, “I am Chicken Spectacular.” Funny thing is,
took like nothing’ to make —
You mean, it’s easy.
Baby, you say that like bein’ easy’s a bad thing. Easy
makes it popular. Men like easy.
Right, this way everyone gets some.
Haven’t heard any complaints so far.
I decided to do something new, different.
Sugar, people don’t want new, different. They want safe
and secure. Men want to know what they’re gettin’.
(points to HELEN’S dish)
The committee doesn’t know what that is.
So, basically, I’m hoping that this dish, I made, is worthy
by their standards to be placed on that buffet table so it
can be eaten off a Chinet paper-plate and eaten with plastic cutlery.
If you’re lucky, and isn’t that what we all hopin’ for in life; that what we got to offer is eaten with a plastic fork.
You don’t even want to try my dish?
I’m not on the committee, this year, not my choice, and
that’s fine. So, my opinion don’t count for much. Plus, gotta watch my waistline. Maybe later.
I think it’s more important that I’m here rather than what I brought.
And I agree, but that ain’t a criteria for our family
committee. Joycelynn, Glenda, they like tradition.
A traditional covered dish —
A covered dish, that’s right. And I know you got ’em,
’cause I sent them to you, all 23 of ’em as Mama wished,
Lord, bless her soul. I didn’t keep a one, not a one.
Well, this is a covered dish. Grilled Chicken with
sundried tomatoes, laid out on a bed of wheat-berries.
Go ahead, try it.
Later. As far as it bein’ a covered dish, questionable.
It’s a dish, and it is covered, however it’s not what
we’d call a covered casserole.
Then what is this?
That’s certainly [a]dish, a vessel, filled with stuff you
learned up north … a bit pretentious —
And precious and[at?] the same time … that’s a talent.
… it’s covered in Saran Wrap, darlin’. All Mama’s
casseroles, 23 of ’em, had matching lids, I know, I
shipped them, ALL of them, to you. Not that I begrudge
goin’ all that way to the liquor store, getting'[gettin’] ALL
those cartons, newspaper, oh, the packaging tape …
which was a different store, ’bout a mile down the road,
wrapping each casserole, with their matching lid, taping
up the boxes and bringin’ ’em to the post. I was happy to
do it, extra fee for insurance en’ all, wanted to be sure they all arrived safely.
I couldn’t find the correct lid, so I used the next best thing.
The next best thing would have been, dare I even say it,
Tupperware. I do know that’s not up to their standards,
but I didn’t make the committee this year. They didn’t
want me. No, darlin’, that is Saran Wrapped. We have our southern traditions and Saran Wrap, to cover a dish,
isn’t one of them.
Saran Wrap is for left overs[leftovers[, left overs[leftovers], bless its heart —
Saran Wrap doesn’t have heart. It does have a jagged,
sharp, mettle edge that will cut you if you’re not careful.
That’s right. Saran Wrap has its place, it is needed,
because people didn’t want what’s wrapped in it. The
unwanted, the first time around, the first servin’.
It’s become … seconds, possibly thirds, hopefully not
fourths, and heaven forbid the worst … fifths —
This isn’t left overs[leftovers]. Why don’t you taste it to see?
Honey, I’m full-up from Di-Anna’s poorly executed apricot
Bless Di-Anna’s heart?
I’m not blessing her heart so fast. Let me see how my
insides feel in an hour or so. So, see, I couldn’t
possibly try your dish.
Meaning you don’t want to try my dish.
I can’t make sense of it. I told you to fix granny’s
Chicken Ranch casserole, so easy, too easy, it’s a sin.
I gave you the recipe; store bought rotisserie chicken,
bottle of Hidden Valley, bake until bubbly brown, serve
with Pringles on the side. Why couldn’t you just fix
that?!?! Something with a thick sauce to keep everything
stuck together —
This way we’re all stuck together on one Chinet paper
Yes! Then they would have loved you, accepted you, and
we could have been a family again.
Honey, we are a family. We’ll always be a family. We
just have different needs at this point, and that’s okay.
It’s like my dish here; it’s all together in Mama’s
casserole, but still separate at the same time. Each
component has its own personality, yet they’re all laid
on the same foundation. It’s something new, try it.
ALETHEIA takes a fork
from her pocket.)
(takes a fork from her pocket.)
I carry my own fork. I don’t like the plastic … tacky.
(she tastes the dish)
Why, baby, that’s quite tasty.
See? Something new.
(A beat, then …)
Yes, quite tasty, but you know what would make that dish
amazing, Mama’s Velveeta and pimento sauce … now you
think about that.
END OF PLAY
DREW SACHS, playwright, received his M.F.A. in dramatic writing from Carnegie Mellon University. He was a semifinalist at the Eugene O’Neill Conference with his works I am Not Breakfast and Hadrian’s Favorite. His short play Chris Squared was part of the Boston Theater Marathon IX. Other productions of his works include Anya, A Borough Park Antigone, and The Why, a play focusing on the aftermath of the publishing of Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery.” His play, Who are You Dancing with Now? received honorable mention at the Kennedy Center Playwriting Competition. Stabbing O.J., a play about the Anita Bryant scandals of the ’70s was produced at Queens College as part of The College Plays, which later went on to the Samuel French Festival. Other works include Miss Understanding (finalist; Nantucket Short Play Festival), “You Never Miss What You Never Had” (PBS Television). Sachs has taught play writing at Carnegie Mellon, Adelphi University and The Roundabout Theatre Company’s Teaching Artist Program. He is a nationally certified sign language interpreter for the Deaf, and has studied theatrical interpreting at Julliard and Gallaudet University and was recently featured in an episode of HBO’s High Maintenance.