Robert Anthony Playwright
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Hand To Mouth

A Full-Length Play Consisting of 2 Acts with a Cast of 10

Full Synopsis

This play visits a family living in the backwoods of the deep South. Caught in the grinding grip of abject poverty they struggle to put food on the table. The husband, Carl, is a weak and irresponsible man who comes and goes, sleeps wherever he pleases, and contributes very little to the household. He is unstable and unpredictable, having suffered a breakdown some months ago. His wife, Estelle, a tired but loving mother, does her best to cope with the change in Carl and its effect on the children, all teenagers, one of which is severely deformed. They love each other and their parents and are wishing their father will come home to stay. Carl loves his family but objects to Estelle's father who has recently moved in. This new member of the clan, Grandpa, is cantankerous, very religious, and likes to give advice. He spends his time reading the Bible and building bird houses and has promised Wormy, the deformed child, that he will show him how to build one. Wormy likes to spend time alone in his treehouse reading comic books. His brother, Wilbur, likes to spend time with his best friend, Billy Wayne. Lou Ann, Wilbur's sister, likes to join the boys but they are caught up in daydreams of becoming fur trappers when they grow up.

Estelle sometimes goes to get eggs from Annie Lee, an old reclusive woman who lives alone with her chickens a short distance through the woods. At other times, Polly, Estelle's sister, will stop by with food of some kind.

During a visit from the local schoolteacher, Ms. Renfro, Estelle learns that Wormy appears to have potential as a writer and she is shown an assignment she would like to enter in a competition. Estelle shows the essay to Grandpa and the old man is very impressed. Another visitor stops by, a young Bible salesman who shows the children a large colorful version they cannot afford, but he tells them they can have it for a small down payment and even smaller monthly payments. With the contents of LuAnn's piggy bank they are able to make the first payment. The salesman is introduced to grandpa, who is now in failing health, and helps take him out on the porch where he can sit in the sunshine.

The family continues to struggle. Carl makes regular visits and tries to explain his feelings to Estelle. When Polly sees the strain on her sister's face she convinces her to come live with her for a few days. Estelle finally give in to this idea and tells the children they will have to look after themselves and grandpa.

And then one day Wormy is not to be found. It is the fate of this child that is seen as bringing the family closer together. Carl is coming home to stay. Near the end of the play, Carl is alone when he is surprised by the sudden appearance of the old woman, Annie Lee. She tells Carl she is lost and is asking him to show her the way home. During their conversation Carl may or may not realize who she really is.

Cast of Characters

ESTELLE LEDBETTER Southern housewife, 35-45; caring, hopeful; churchgoer; has troubled marriage; often tired and depressed.
CARL LEDBETTER Estelle's estranged husband, 45-55, erratic, victim of nervous breakdown; mentally unstable.
LUANN Estelle's daughter, almost 16; lively, very pretty, loves her brothers; wants parents reunited.
WILBUR LuAnn's younger brother; animated; excitable; has boyhood dreams.
WORMY Wilbur's deformed brother, also in his teens; happy and upbeat despite his handicap; spends time alone; has literary potential.
GRANDPA Estelle's father, 70-75, cantankerous; opinionated; very religious; likes his grandchildren, dislikes Carl.
POLLY Estelle's older sister; warm, down to earth; has stable marriage; concerned about her sister's welfare.
BILLY WAYNE Wilbur's best friend; fun loving; full of mischief.
MRS. RENFRO Local schoolteacher, 30-50; devoted; businesslike but concerned and caring.
SALESMAN College student, about 20; has summer job; friendly and pleasant.
ANNIE LEE Demented old lady, 65-75; distant neighbor of the Ledbetter family; unkempt and reclusive.