A two act play about two deaf sisters, one who signs and one who doesn't... it's all very well, until one of them introduces her boyfriend to the other...
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Julia and her sister Helen are both deaf. Whereas Julia is deeply involved in the hearing-impaired community, Helen has always inexplicably refused to learn sign language. The two sister’s world is turned upside down when Helen’s new, hearing, boyfriend becomes obsessed with learning to sign. The relationship between the two sisters becomes quickly strained. What is the reason behind Helen refusing to sign? And what does Julia really have in mind? The death of the two sisters’ mother triggers a series of events that no one could have predicted. And there is no turning back…
MY SISTER’S CHOICE
JULIA: In her thirties; deaf and fluent in sign language; can speak and lip-read.
HELEN: Julia’s younger sister; deaf, but doesn’t sign; can speak and lip-read.
FRANK: Julia’s best friend; deaf and fluent in sign language; can speak and lip-read.
MICHAEL: Helen’s boyfriend; thirty-five or so; hearing; cannot sign in ACT ONE but has learned to sign in ACT TWO; very good looking.
ACT ONE: Helen’s place
ACT TWO: Julia’s place (scenes 1, 3 and 4); Helen’s place (scene 2)
“My Sister’s Choice” is a bilingual play (Spoken English / Sign language). It is suitable for both hearing and deaf audiences.
* * * * *
HELEN’s living room. The place is very neat and tidy. FRANK is alone. He is looking at an abstract painting on an easel. JULIA enters, carrying a birthday cake. She puts it down on the coffee table and starts placing candles on it. JULIA and FRANK sign to each other.
JULIA: Maybe we should go to a different club next week?
JULIA: It was boring last night.
FRANK: I thought it was OK. Where would you like to go?
JULIA: The Rex?
FRANK: The Rex! It’s full of teen-agers with pimples.
JULIA: What about Full-up?
FRANK: Um… I haven’t been in ages, but… why not?
JULIA: It’s the same people every weekend…
FRANK: Maybe we should go to a straight club?
JULIA: A straight club?!!! Are you mad? Why?
FRANK: You could get lucky.
JULIA: I get lucky, thank you very much!
FRANK: Who? When?...
FRANK: Aaron? Come on, that’s ages ago!
JULIA: Who cares? I’m happy being single.
FRANK: That’s not what you were saying last night…
JULIA: I was drunk, OK?
FRANK: Yeah, right.
JULIA: Let’s go to Full-up. It’ll be more fun.
FRANK: You’re the boss!
(HELEN enters the room, carrying a bottle and four glasses in one arm and a cake in the other. She speaks. FRANK and JULIA stop signing and speak, too.)
HELEN: Frank, can you help me, please?
(FRANK takes the bottle and glasses. JULIA takes the cake.)
JULIA: Yummy! Where did you get it?
HELEN: The patisserie at the corner of Bovis and Elizabeth. I didn’t really have time to bake one.
FRANK: Who does?
HELEN: Who invited you?
FRANK: Relax! I was only joking……. (pointing at the painting on the easel) This is sort of… interesting… Is it new? I can’t remember seeing it last time.
HELEN: I got it last week. Do you like it?
JULIA: Since when are you buying paintings?
HELEN: Do you like it?
JULIA: It’s nice, really. Goes well with the carpet.
FRANK: It’s quite…. unusual…
HELEN: I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. The colours are so intense, so expressive…. they keep changing with the light.
FRANK: Have you started drinking already?
JULIA: Helen, why are there four glasses? Are we expecting someone else? (HELEN nods.) A surprise guest! Who is it?
HELEN: A friend.
JULIA: Do I know her?
HELEN: No, you don’t know him.
JULIA: Him!... Sorry! I assumed…
FRANK: The more, the merrier! Is he good-looking?
HELEN: As a matter of fact, he is. But I may as well warn you, he’s not gay.
FRANK: That’s not what I meant.
JULIA: Of course that’s what you meant… (to HELEN) Who is he?
HELEN: His name’s Michael. We met at my book group.
JULIA: Nice… He’s just a friend, isn’t he? (HELEN doesn’t reply.) Oh, my God! You have a boyfriend, and you haven’t told me! How long have you been seeing him?
HELEN: Calm down.
JULIA: I don’t know what to say…
HELEN: How about nothing?
FRANK: Julia, say nothing? (to HELEN) Congratulations. I’m very happy for you.
JULIA: Is he hearing?
JULIA: Of course he is!
HELEN: What do you mean “Of course he is!?”
JULIA: Hello!!??... How many deaf people do you know?
HELEN: Then why are you asking?
JULIA: How old is he?
JULIA: What’s his name?
HELEN: I’ve said it before. Michael.
JULIA: And what does he do for a living?
HELEN: Why don’t you ask him yourself?
JULIA: How long have you been seeing each other?
HELEN: Six months.
JULIA: Six months!!! And you’re only just telling me today?!!
HELEN: I wasn’t ready.
JULIA: He hasn’t moved in, has he? (a beat) He has!!!! (JULIA goes round the room, looking for something.)
FRANK: (to JULIA, signing) What the hell are you doing?
JULIA: (picking up a magazine) There you go! “Wheels Magazine”!
(The front door light flashes.)
HELEN: It must be him. He forgot his keys this morning. (She exits. FRANK and JULIA sign to each other.)
JULIA: She’s seeing someone!!!!!
JULIA: Don’t you think I should be the first one to know?
JULIA: I can’t believe it!
FRANK: What’s the big deal?
JULIA: I’m her sister!
FRANK: Helen is old enough to do what she wants.
JULIA: Of course she is! I’m just a little… surprised, that’s all.
FRANK: Aren’t you happy for her?
JULIA: Of course I am. And he’s hearing!
FRANK: Where’s the problem?
JULIA: There’s no problem of course, but…
FRANK: So stop behaving like a goose. Come sit down and relax.
(HELEN comes back, followed by MICHAEL. FRANK discreetly signs “very cute” to JULIA. Everyone speaks.)
HELEN: Guys, this is Michael. Michael, this is my sister Julia, and this is Frank, her best friend.
MICHAEL: I’ve heard a lot about you.
JULIA: All good, I hope.
MICHAEL: I don’t know… what do you think? (JULIA makes a face.) Of course it was all good! (to FRANK) How are you, Frank?
FRANK: Does Helen talk a lot about me, too?
MICHAEL: Um… um… yes, yes, of course!
FRANK: Thanks, Helen!
HELEN: Sit down, sit down… (pointing at the champagne bottle) Frank…
JULIA: (to MICHAEL) Helen knows how to keep a secret. She’s only told us today!
MICHAEL: A birthday surprise, maybe?
JULIA: You can say that again!
HELEN: Great news deserves a great occasion. That’s what Mum used to say.
JULIA: Helen said you met at her book club.
MICHAEL: We did. Instant connection! I must say we both like the same books - mystery novels…
FRANK: So do I! What a coincidence!
(FRANK finishes serving champagne. They grab their glasses.)
MICHAEL: To Helen! Happy birthday!
JULIA: To my favourite sister!
FRANK (overlapping): To Helen! Happy birthday! And to Michael, her gorgeous boyfriend!
HELEN: And to the three of you for being here with me today!
JULIA: Michael, where were you living before moving in with Helen?
MICHAEL: Darlington Heights.
JULIA: Sorry, I missed that.(FRANK fingerspells “Darlington Heights” for JULIA.) Ah! Darlington Heights! Did you grow up there?
HELEN: (to MICHAEL) I hope you like being interrogated.
MICHAEL: I grew up near Williamstown.
JULIA: And what do you do for work?
MICHAEL: I’m a painter. You?
JULIA: Free-lance journalist, health and lifestyle magazines mostly.
FRANK: And I work in IT!
MICHAEL: Cool banana.
FRANK: Um… Michael….when you say you’re a painter… do you mean… buildings, walls, fences, roofs or….
MICHAEL: I’m an artist.
FRANK: An artist! How fab!
HELEN: Michael is very gifted.
JULIA: What kind of painting? Abstract stuff, landscapes, street scenes, flowers, animals…?
MICHAEL: (pointing at the painting on the easel) Do you like it?
FRANK: Oh my God! Are you joking or what? I adore it!!!
JULIA: It’s a beautiful piece!
FRANK: I loved it as soon as I saw it!
MICHAEL: I did this one for Helen.
HELEN: My birthday present.
FRANK: Lucky you!!
JULIA: And there was me thinking that book groups were full of wives bored of staying home while their husbands went to work.
HELEN: Thanks, Julia!!
JULIA: Except for you, of course.
MICHAEL: There’s four guys in our book group, out of twelve in total. I suppose it’s not a bad percentage, is it?
FRANK: (signing, to JULIA) I think you should join a book group. If they’re all like him, you’re bound to get lucky. I’m actually thinking of joining one myself!
HELEN: Stop signing. It’s rude
MICHAEL: What is it you were saying?
FRANK: Um… I was telling Julia about the new curtains I want to buy for my flat… I was asking her about… colours, things like that…
JULIA: He wanted to know if he should buy the green ones he’s seen in the store last weekend.
MICHAEL: Green curtains???
FRANK: Or maybe white? Or navy blue? Pink? What’s your favourite colour, Michael?
FRANK: Yellow could look good too… Would you like to help me choose them, you being an artist and all that…?
HELEN: You weren’t talking about curtains!
JULIA: What about some cake?
MICHAEL: I didn’t know you two could speak sign language.
JULIAL: We don’t really speak it…
MICHAEL: Well, you know what I mean.
FRANK: I learned to sign when I was eight.
MICHAEL: (to HELEN) You never told me your sister could sign.
HELEN: You never asked.
FRANK: And I teach it, too! Community programs, two nights a week. I could teach you if you were interested, Michael!
HELEN: Now, who wants some cake?
JULIA: I’m the only one in the family who can sign. Helen and my parents never learned.
HELEN: We didn’t need to.
JULIA: Frank was luckier. His parents are hearing but they learned. They’re even involved in the deaf community, aren’t they, Frank?
HELEN: (to MICHAEL) OK, I’ll do it!!! Give me the knife.
(HELEN cuts the cake and gives everyone a piece.)
MICHAEL: Great choice, Helen. Very tasty.
FRANK: I would even say “scrumptious”!
HELEN: (to JULIA) Speaking of family, when was the last time you went to see Mum?
JULIA: You know I hate to see her like that.
HELEN: So do I, but she’s only got us.
JULIA: I’ll go soon. I promise.
FRANK: I think it’s time, don’t you?
JULIA: Nobody tells me when to visit my mother, OK?
FRANK: Calm down! I meant time for presents… Hello! This is supposed to be a birthday party, remember?
MICHAEL: Yeah! Let’s do prezzies! (MICHAEL takes a small box out of his pocket and gives it to HELEN, who opens it. It’s a necklace.)
HELEN: Oh, Michael, it’s so beautiful! You shouldn’t have. Thank you! Thank you so much!
JULIA: Can I have a look?... It’s stunning!
FRANK: Michael, buddy, not bad for a straight guy!
HELEN: (to MICHAEL) Help me put it on. (MICHAEL helps HELEN put the necklace on. HELEN, then opens FRANK’s present. It’s a book.) “The Mystery of the Golden Clock”. Thanks, Frank!
FRANK: You haven’t read it, have you?
HELEN: No, but I’ve seen it at the bookstore. I even thought of buying it.
FRANK: Good. Maybe you’d like to read it too, Michael, and tell me what you think?
(HELEN opens JULIA’s present.)
HELEN: Another book! “How to Relax, no Matter What, in Ten Lessons.” (Pointed look to JULIA.)
FRANK: Helen, this necklace sparkles on you!
HELEN: Stop humouring me.
FRANK: I mean it.
HELEN: It’s a marvellous present. And the painting as well… I’m so lucky!
MICHAEL: And you’re not the only one here who’s lucky…
(MICHAEL and HELEN kiss for a very long time. JULIA and FRANK watch them, and look at each other and around the room, slightly embarrassed. After a while JULIA makes a face.)