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(Book, Music, Lyrics by John Jennings)

Actor's Playhouse Off-Broadway - 11 December, 1962 (443 perfs)


Riverwind is a run-down resort on Indiana's Wabash River run by Leona Farrell and her daughter, Jenny. The hired boy, John, is shy about his love for Jenny, and she is upset at his lack of attention. Annual guests to the resort are Burt and Virginia kookie lovers with an understanding about being unmarried. New guests are Dr. Fred Sumner and his too-long-married wife, Louise. rw

They spent their wedding night here 17 years ago and Louise wants to see if a visit can rekindle their love. Their unhappiness is easily apparent. To Fred, Riverwind is just some rundown river cabins, until he spots Jenny. In pursuing his interest in her he discovers himself describing Jenny as he did Louise those many years ago. Spurred by competition, John finds the words to express his love to Jenny. The spirit of people finding themselves spreads to Burt and Virginia. He asks her to marry him, an event for which Virginia has waited seven years, but she turns him down in favour of the current, unmarried faith in each other.

The next morning the Sumners have resolved the chasm between them. In a way, Louise's plan has worked. Only her method has failed. And when it did, Leona's philosophy and Riverwind were there to fill the gap.


Act I

Riverwind is a "tourist rest" in Indiana. We see a small rustic summer cabin perched several feet above the ground supported by poles. A warm country charm is immediately apparent despite the years of neglect. On one side of the stage - the interior of one of the cabins. The audience represents the Wabash River. It is a late summer afternoon.

We discover Jenny Farrell, an attractive youngster under eighteen sitting on the steps, a basket of beans by her side. She is thumbing through a copy of Photoplay Magazine - posing glamorously. On the opposite side are Virginia and Burt, two intellectuals in their early thirties. Virginia is reading, and Burt is thumbing through his dissertation. The two are arguing as Burt attempts to concentrate on his dissertation and Virginia bothers him by rambling on asking questions. Something appears to be a bit odd about their relationship.

Mrs. Farrell, proprietress of Riverwind, enters carrying some lemonade. She asks her daughter, Jenny, to finish breaking the beans, and Jenny quickly rises to the task. John Stone, a very shy young man just under eighteen who works at Riverwind, enters carrying several catfish on a line. Mrs. Farrell tells him to ask Virginia and Burt (the guests) if they want some lemonade. He does, and they accept. John then goes over to Jenny and tells her that Jean Robbins said Jenny was the most arrogant girl she'd ever seen in her life. Jenny gets upset when she finds out that John didn't disagree with Jean. In reality, he didn't say anything because he never says anything at all. She shoves a plate of beans at John and tells him to work while she reads her Photoplay. He breaks the beans and laments why it is he can't tell Jenny he's crazy about her. ("I Can Not Tell Her So")

Burt and Virginia talk some more, and it's obvious that they are more apart emotionally than together. She's wrapped up in getting a good role in their community theater production back home while he's still working on his doctoral dissertation of Beowulf. He's been doing this for the last seven years. Things were so much easier when they met seven years ago. On the other side, John finally tries to talk with Jenny. During their conversation, she tries to get him stirred up. All Jenny really wants is some excitement - something she hasn't ever found around Riverwind. ("I Want A Surprise")

An automobile horn is heard and Mrs. Farrell excitedly runs out announcing that guests have arrived! She tells John to go and prepare one of the cabins. Louise Sumner, a pretty woman in her early forties, enters carrying a cosmetic case and fur piece, and goes right for Cabin D. It appears that she has been here before. In fact, seventeen years ago because of terrible rain she and her husband were forced to spend the first night of their honeymoon at Riverwind as they drove to Canada. Louise wants to surprise her husband by bringing him back here and wants to see if he remembers it. This also might bring some life back to their troubled marriage. ("Riverwind")

Her husband, Fred, enters and looks around - proclaiming the place to be "a goddamn dump." He is now a doctor and would like nothing more than to drive the extra couple hours needed to get home from their vacation, but he reluctantly signs the register. Burt and Virginia notice Fred's reluctance and talk a while with Louise who tells them about her plan to come back to Riverwind. Watching Fred and Louise in their cabin getting ready for dinner, it's obvious that they are two people who really don't talk to each other anymore - a couple who stay together only out of habit. In fact, Louise tells Burt and Virginia that the most important thing for a couple is to stick together - no matter what. After Virginia and Burt watch Louise and Fred, they both sit alone and wonder if indeed this is the best plan after all. You see, the two of them have been living together out of wedlock for the past seven years. ("American Family Plan")

After dinner, The two couples sit around outside drinking coffee while Mrs. Farrell cleans up. The two couples learn more about each other. Most important of all, Fred proclaims to be in the restaurant business. Actually, he's a maitre d' at Howard Johnson’s while he's finishing his doctoral philosophy dissertation - for the past fourteen years! Virginia dreams of being an actress, too. While Burt and Virginia go off for an evening stroll, Fred and Louise watch John and Jenny cleaning up after dinner. All four of them wish that they were somebody other than who they are right now. The youngsters want to be older and the oldsters want to be young. ("The Wishing Song") After all this wishing, Louise is left alone. Burt and Virginia return and apologize to Louise for fighting in front of her before. She says that it is okay - in fact, she thinks it's healthy for married couples to fight. That's when she learns that Burt and Virginia aren't married - they just live together. Burt has been promising to marry her as soon as he finishes his dissertation. In reality, Louise sees just how honest this couple is with each other. She goes off to watch some television while Burt and Virginia realize that they are actually happy being who they are. ("American Family Plan" - reprise)

Walking along, Fred bumps into Jenny and learns that the girl wants desperately to see the world and get away from Riverwind. She's only been to Indianapolis - and she didn't even stay there overnight. She also tells Fred how glamorous his life as a doctor must be. Acting on an impulse, he creates an imaginary scene where the two of them are dining at the famous Maxim's in Paris. ("Pardon Me If I Dance") After whirling her around, he asks to kiss her and she obliges. Instead, he gives her a peck on the cheek and leaves full of new found feeling. John enters and touches Jenny on the arm. She tells him not to and runs off. The situation is getting a bit screwed up here! John leaves and Jenny re-enters and attempts to have a grown-up conversation with her mother - asking her when life is going to start happening for her. Mrs. Farrell just tells her to not try and force anything - life is right here in front of her. Jenny wants a little talk about "the facts of life"; unfortunately, Mrs. Farrell can only talk about the mundane chores she does at Riverwind. ("Sew the Buttons On") That's enough for her. When Jenny tries to ask about being kissed, Mrs. Farrell assumes that she means young John, but still doesn't offer any advice. She really isn't in touch with her feelings at all.

Fred returns to his cabin and tells Louise that perhaps they should spend a few more days at Riverwind. Louise is a bit confused since this isn't the same man who before had to get back to the hospital so quickly. She tells him that they will talk about it in the morning. Right now, he goes off to take a shower. Mrs. Farrell brings in a quilt and compliments Louise on her beautiful nightgown. Louise tells her that things have never been better. In fact, she asks Mrs. Farrell to get her a bucket of ice - she wants to chill some champagne. It's obvious that she's trying to recreate the magic of her wedding night. Mrs. Farrell quickly sends Jenny in with a bucket of ice. As Jenny talks with Louise, we learn that she has never tasted champagne. Louise opens the bottle, gives her a taste, and talks a bit about being a woman. Jenny leaves, Fred returns, and Louise is ready for a night a fun. She is dressed in her new nightgown leaning against the post of the porch. Fred doesn't really notice his wife; instead, he sees Jenny folding laundry and is captivated by her. Louise is ready for something more. ("Riverwind" - reprise)


The act opens with Virginia and Burt fishing. On the porch, Fred is napping and Louise returns from showering and angrily begins throwing things into her suitcase. Obviously, something went wrong last night. Acting on an impulse, Virginia asks Burt to marry her. It is obvious that they both have been after something else. She's been trying to be an actress, and he claims that he simply needs to finish his dissertation. They seem so close to making their relationship work yet so far. ("Almost But Not Quite")

Back in their cabin, Fred notices that their suitcases are all packed. Fred thought that they were staying for a few more days; obviously, things have changed. Louise now claims that she has an important appointment in Indianapolis. Also, she wants to know why he slept on the porch last night. All he says is that they have been married for seventeen years. What upsets Louise so much is the fact that he never responds to her at all. It's one thing to fight - it's another to be treated with indifference. She has had it! In fact, she's planning to go home and start divorce proceedings. They basically have a huge fight where they act more like children than ever before. After Fred angrily storms off, Louise ponders her situation ("A Woman Must Think of These Things")

Mrs. Farrell tells John to go and knock on Jenny's door and get her to come to breakfast. He confesses to Mrs. Farrell that he has problems talking with Jenny. She tells him to just get up the courage and talk with Jenny - maybe even tell her what it is about her that he likes. ("I Love Your Laughing Face") After this advice from Mrs. Farrell, he goes off to attempt to talk.

In the picnic area, Virginia is rehearsing her lines for the upcoming production of Macbeth - playing one of the witches. Burt enters and tosses his dissertation into the air and asks Virginia to marry him. It seems only natural that after waiting seven years she would jump at this chance; however, she turns him down. If they have waited this long, they are not gong to let some "silly-ass, bourgeoisie, pagan ritual get in their way." She wants to be an actress and he wants to finish his doctorate. That's what they both should do. In fact, she wants to go off to New York and audition for a play - and she's going to do it! The most important thing is that they love each other.

Louise calls Mrs. Farrell to her cabin to talk and the two have a some champagne - before breakfast. Louise just needs to share her situation with someone. She tells Mrs. Farrell that things with Fred aren't going that well. After getting just a little tipsy, Mrs. Farrell (now wanting to be called Leona) surmises that a woman's real problem is that she just isn't allowed to age gracefully. Louise calls her a born philosopher and shares that thought with her. ("A Woman Must Never Grow Old")

Fred is then found knocking on Jenny's door coming to say good-bye. He confides in Jenny that he and Louise are going for a legal separation - possibly a divorce. While talking with Jenny, Fred realizes that what attracted him to Jenny was the fact that she reminded him of Louise when they were first married. Instead of trying to search for something that isn't there, he just needs to remember how beautiful she was then. ("I'd Forgotten How Beautiful She Could Be") He isn't in love with Jenny! He still loves his wife! No sooner does he finish talking with Jenny that he runs to tell Louise he still loves her - now and forever.

So, as it turns out, everything works out rather nicely. John finally gets up enough courage to talk with Jenny. Fred and Louise get "love" back into their marriage. Virginia and Burt realize that what they have going on between them is fine - even if other people don't think so. Even Mrs. Farrell has let her hair down and talked frankly with her daughter and shared some advice with Louise. This time together at Riverwind has made everyone grow! ("Sew the Buttons On" - Reprise)

Musical Numbers:

  1. I Cannot Tell Her So - John
  2. I Want a Surprise - Jenny
  3. Riverwind - Louise
  4. The American Family Plan - Virginia, Burt
  5. The Wishing Song - Fred, John, Louise, Jenny
  6. Pardon Me While I Dance - Fred, Jenny
  7. Sew the Buttons On - Mrs. Farrell, Jenny
  8. Almost, But Not Quite - Virginia, Burt
  9. A Woman Must Think of These Things - Louise
  10. I Love Your Laughing Face - John, Mrs. Farrell
  11. A Woman Must Never Grow Old - Louise, Mrs. Farrell
  12. I'd Forgotten How Beautiful She Could Be - Fred, Jenny


3 Male, 4 Female. Total cast - 7.


Bass, percussion, piano/conductor.

Scenes and Settings

2 acts, 8 scenes. Realistic unit set - 2 or 3 rustic cabins on stilts. Summer cabin opens up to reveal interior (perhaps rolls forward); there is also an area of river bank (with log) for fishing scene.


Scene 1: Riverwind Tourist Resort.
Scene 2: Same.
Scene 3: Same.
Scene 4: Sumner Cabin.


Scene 1: Riverwind Tourist Resort.
Scene 2: Same.
Scene 3: Picnic Area.
Scene 4: Sumner Cabin.


The present along Indiana's Wabash River: house dresses, travelling clothes, recreation slacks, shorts and cut-offs, bathrobes, lounging lingerie outfit, work clothes, fishing hat.


Outdoor and indoor general lighting. Some night lighting required.


This is a good show for small budgets and/or small stages.