Musical: I Do! I Do!
As the audience arrives, we see the fourposter bed in the center of the stage, with an easy chair and chaise lounge. Two dressing tables are set in front of the proscenium downstage right and left, and we see bits of props and costumes from the show strewn and hung about the dressing table areas.
As the music begins and lights come up, we see MICHAEL (HE) and AGNES (SHE) seated at the two tables, their faces illuminated by lighted mirrors, partially dressed and applying makeup, actors preparing for the show and characters preparing for a wedding.
They sing the overture: “Dearly Beloved,”as they finish their makeup, then Michael begins “I Do! I Do!” as he dresses for the wedding. Agnes joins in and dons her wedding gown and veil. They move forward for the ceremony as a stained glass window appears. They sing “Together Forever,” as they stand for the ceremony, and the music accelerates again into “I Do! I Do!” She throws her bouquet into the audience and he carries her across the “threshold” into the bedroom, then runs off for the luggage. The song ends with the happy newlyweds falling backward onto the bed.
Agnes’ feet hurt. Michael, showing great concern, is happy to remove the shoe and kisses her foot. Agnes protests, a little drunk, a little weepy, and very nervous. Michael professes his belief that they were married in a former life, and his sweetness makes her cry. We get a glimpse of the Michael we will soon get to know when he ruins her happy moment by pointing out to her that she should go ahead and cry. After all, her “youth is over,” he says, and Agnes cries all the harder. She marches into the bathroom with her suitcase and Michael begins to prepare for their wedding night. He sends his top hat sailing into the wings and performs a nervous, elaborate sequence of undressing, peering around and listening for Agnes’ return. In his nightclothes, he sits rigidly in his chair and feigns nonchalance as Agnes returns dressed in her nightgown. They climb nervously into bed and pull the covers back to find, to their horror, a pillow embroidered with the words “God Is Love”. Michael awkwardly turns out the light and, in the dim stage lights, they sing “Goodnight,” a lovely, gentle lullaby, in which Agnes shyly tells Michael she’s never seen a man undressed and asks if he’s ever seen a woman unclothed. He says he “must have seen one once, I suppose,” and is met with an awkward silence at the end of the song. She gets him to kiss her under the ruse of smelling champagne on his breath. They embrace passionately, the music builds and the lights go to black.
After a moment of darkness, a spotlight comes up on Michael, sitting on the lip of the stage. He stretches and smiles and, when the music begins an easy soft-shoe rhythm, he performs “I Love My Wife” directly to the audience. He wakes her and they dance together. The song ends with Michael asleep. She puts the “God Is Love” pillow under his head, tucks him in and kisses him.
The music becomes soft and tender as Agnes straightens the room. She folds his clothes and puts them away, gets the robe hanging at her dressing area and slips into a new costume. We see that she is very, very pregnant. Smiling contentedly at the audience, she sings, “Something has happened.” After the inevitable laughter, she settles into a lovely, soulful ballad about her impending motherhood.
In the blackout following, we hear an old-fashioned, hand-ringing bell, as Michael calls for Agnes. We see him in bed with a washcloth on his head as she enters – still hugely pregnant -- pushing a bassinet. Michael is having sympathetic labor pains and is very needy and upset. We discover that he already feels displaced by the baby to come. They quibble about her lack of attention for him and they make up. Sitting on his lap, Agnes goes into labor -- the real thing. He gets her into bed and becomes the take-charge man of action he was raised to be as he goes for the doctor. He runs back into the room, sets the bassinet at her bedside -- just in case -- and runs out again.
After the blackout, lights come up on a very frenetic Michael, pacing and worrying and praying that his wife and baby survive as he sings “The Waiting Room.” All is well as the fanfare finally builds and blares, and Michael marches downstage and sings that he has a son, tossing cigars into the audience. The music changes and Agnes enters, pulling a clothesline strung with diapers and baby clothes like banners in the breeze. She sings “Love Isn’t Everything,” as Michael enters, wearing an Indian headdress and laden with toys for his boy. They bring more and more baby boy paraphernalia on stage and, seated on the floor, Michael plays cowboys and Indians. Agnes reappears and Michael looks up to find his wife very pregnant again. Michael reprises “The Waiting Room,” this time to discover that Agnes has given birth to a girl. They sing again, this time bringing onstage girly toys and clothes and a baby carriage, concluding that “Love Isn’t Everything,” but love “makes it sort of fun.”
Michael casts a pall when, at the end of the song, he tells Agnes to, “Clear all this stuff away. I have work to do.” Agnes restrains herself, but the tension between them has become palpable. It’s clear that Michael has become very self-involved with his work and success, as a best-selling writer, and Agnes, in her own passive/aggressive way, clangs bells and squeezes bicycle horns just to annoy him. He treats her as a lowly domestic as he lectures the audience on writers and writing, themes and works. She interrupts him in the middle of his diatribe and calls his work “dull.” He corrects her grammar, criticizes her cooking and habitual lateness, and insists that she accompany him to literary parties at which she feels uncomfortable. As they are dressing for one such party in elegant, formal attire, they sing “Nobody’s Perfect,” a scathing, accusatory, bitter duet. As the song ends they leave for the party.
After a bit we hear a door slam and Agnes marches angrily back into the room. She drops her purse on the settee, throws her ermine stole on the bed and sits at her dressing table. Michael enters distastefully lifts her stole with his cane and lets it slide off the bed. Pleased with himself, he puts his top hat on the bed and changes into his nightclothes. They argue bitterly and he admits to his ongoing affair with a younger woman. He accuses Agnes of “driving him into another woman’s arms,” and says he has outgrown his wife. He claims it is not his fault that he’s become so irresistible, and sings, “It’s A Well Known Fact,” in which he claims that a man is more attractive the older that he grows, but that women, when they approach their “matron station, begin a certain process of deterioration.” Agnes exits in disgust, and Michael finishes the song, making a fast, showy exit, a matinee idol in all his glory.
Agnes enters and calls him a “silly, stupid, pompous, idiotic ass.” She spots shopping bags by her dressing areas and unwraps an elaborate necklace, a Spanish shawl, and an attractive – if rather vulgar – hat, complete with large feathers and a veil. She sings “Flaming Agnes,” a provocative, jazzy, bump and grind number in which she fantasizes her life as a saucy, single divorcee: “Used to find her tendin’ to the kiddies / Up to here in cream of wheat. / But the day her husband up and left her / That’s the day that Agnes turned the heat on...Now she flames from night ‘til early morning / While he slaves to raise the alimony / He must pay to Flaming Agnes!
Michael reappears to finish their discussion. She tells him to get out; he refuses, since, he claims, it is his house and his mortgage. She resolves to leave, taking the checkbook with her. He begins throwing her things into a suitcase: her alarm clock, her nightgown and cold cream, the “God Is Love” pillow, and they sing, “The Honeymoon Is Over.” She stalks out, with her ermine thrown over her nightgown and the Flaming Agnes hat set determinedly on her head. He waits for a moment, certain of her return. When she doesn’t come back, he springs to his feet and bellows, “Agnes! AGNES!” He rushes off to get her. We hear a struggle and he reappears, dragging her into the room. They fight and he throws her on the bed. The music changes, becomes less abrasive. The anger seems to be all spent. Looking at her pleadingly, he sings of his loneliness and regret. Her eyes fill with tears and she sings, “Well, Nobody’s Perfect.” They lay together and embrace as the lights go slowly to black. End Act One.
Act Two opens with Agnes and Michael in bed celebrating New Year’s Eve with balloons, noisemakers, etc. The “God Is Love” pillow is gone, as is the gaudy chandelier. Time has passed; their children are teenagers now, celebrating at New Year’s parties of their own. They sing about growing older in “Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear?” Michael worries about their son and goes downstairs to wait for him, as Agnes sings her own tender reprise of “Where Are the Snows?” Michael storms into the room, having found bourbon in his son’s room. They argue about parenting and Michael takes a swig from the bottle, only to discover their son has filled the bottle with the cod liver oil his mother thought she was administering for three years. We hear that offstage Michael has confronted his son at the door with the razor strap, only to discover his boy is a man, dressed in his father’s tuxedo. Michael and Agnes reflect on the dreams and regrets of their early married years, and Agnes asks Michael if he is disappointed. “Not at all,” he replies, and they sing “My Cup Runneth Over,” a beautiful love duet: “In only a moment we both will be old / We won’t even notice the world turning cold. / And so in this moment with sunlight above / My cup runneth over with love.”
They fantasize about their children growing up and moving out and sing, “When the Kids Get Married,” making plans for their middle age and retirement: he’ll finally finish his Collected Tolstoy; she’ll cruise to Tahiti and learn to do the hootchi-koo; he’ll play the saxophone, she the violin. They finish the song playing their instruments, albeit badly. Laughing, she chides Michael and the lights go to black.
After a moment, lights rise on the stage and music comes up, staccato and intense. Michael is dressing, with little success, for his daughter’s wedding, singing, “My Daughter is Marrying An Idiot.” Agnes enters, crying. The stained glass window appears again, and Michael and Agnes sing a sad reprise of “When the Kids Get Married,” as they watch the ceremony. They wave to the departing couple (offstage) as the music dies, and Michael and Agnes are home to face the empty nest. He says, “Suddenly this is the biggest house in the world.”
Agnes faces her transition to middle age, singing, “What Is A Woman.” She doesn’t know what to be now that her role of mother has been taken away as she sees it.“To be a woman can be so lonely. / That doesn’t mean she is only alive when in love.” Michael enters the scene with two packages, but Agnes announces she’s going away, that she doesn’t love Michael anymore. She feels he neither understands nor appreciates her, and reveals her infatuation with a young poet. Michael confesses his love and concern for his wife. He shows her he loves her, and she breaks down, laughing and crying at once.
He gives her a charm bracelet with a charm for each of them, one for each of their children, and room for lots of grandchildren and their, “whole damn family tree!” She sings an exuberant waltz, “Someone Needs Me.” They dance together and multi-colored ribbons cascade from above.
The music changes, becomes softer and more carousel-like as together they pick up the boxes and papers, singing, “Roll Up the Ribbons.”
The music continues as they go to their dressing tables and apply old-age makeup, wigs, whiten their hair, put on spectacles and overcoats. It’s eight a.m., and the much older Michael and Agnes are moving to a smaller apartment. They are gathering the last bits and pieces to take along with the movers. He pulls out a steamer trunk and finds the “God Is Love” pillow. Agnes wants to leave the pillow for the newlyweds who have bought the house. Michael refuses, said he was mortified to find it on their wedding night and won’t have another young groom traumatized. Agnes sends Michael to look for a bottle of champagne and sneaks the pillow back under the covers. Michael returns with the champagne, but they determine that they won’t drink it, since there are only the tooth glasses left and it’s too early. They look at each other across the bed and sing, “This House:” “This has been a very good bed / Ever since we married. / It has kept both of us cozy and warm.” They feebly get the steamer trunk closed by sitting together on it, and sing a last verse of “This House:” Marriage is a very good thing / Though it’s far from easy. / Still, it’s filled this house with life...and love.”
They take a last look around, and leave the room together. Michael comes back in for the champagne, finds the “God Is Love” pillow under the covers, puts it on Agnes’ side of the bed and the champagne on his side, and exits. Music swells, and curtain falls.
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