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Don Flynn was raised in the neighborhood in which I live in St. Louis. He went to one of the local public school, Roe School, here in “Dogtown.” He lived in the area, but not actually in the “Dogtown” section, but he uses that neighborhood in the play.
I’d been in touch with Don for some years, but with only occasional letters or e-mails. One of my friends, another person who was raised in Dogtown, received the play from the author and shared it with me to read. While it has not been formally published, I read it and was quite taken with it, thus I decided to share my thoughts about the play with others.
The Shea family lives here in Dogtown, a neighborhood of St. Louis. The play is set in their home and it is 1947. The Sheas are a working class family in a working class neighborhood. The home is actually owned by Grandma Shea and she lives with her 42 year old son, Richard, a teamster and hardworking union man. His wife Rose is in a very difficult position. Grandma Shea is quite a domineering woman and she treats Rose as definitely a second-class citizen and won’t even allow her to cook in their kitchen, yet they’ve lived with her for years now, and Rose’s husband is the sole provider of the household’s finances.
The Sheas have three children. A central figure of the play is the 18 year old son, Randall. He has just finished high school and wants to get out of the house and on his own. He is more in a wanting and dreaming stage than an “active” period, but he has a dream of going away and getting a job for a few years, at least, in the Merchant Marine. His mother is very hopeful that he will go to college; his father would like him to come into the Teamsters Union with him and follow his footsteps of living the same life in this same neighborhood. Either those two options seem abhorrent to Randall.
There are two younger sisters, Mary and Patricia, one who thinks she’d like to become a nun. The family is Roman Catholic and faithful to the 1940s rules of the church, except for Randall who is just beginning to rebel and has stopped going to mass.
Word comes that June, daughter of Grandma Shea, and sister to Richard, the father of the Dogtown Shea family, is coming home for a visit. She left home when she was about 18 and she’s now in her early 40s. She’s never even written letter in those years. Grandma has idealized her as a very successful, beautiful and happy person. She is certainly neither successful nor happy, though she may well have been beautiful once. She comes home and a great surprise is that she is travelling from California to New York with a man. What shocks the Dogtown family is that she’s not even married to this man. It becomes clear to all but Grandma that June is simply not who they thought she was.
However, she is a fascinating model for the young and restless Randall and he wants to run off and go with June and Dave, her companion, to New York where he can fulfill his dream to join the Merchant Marine.
From this point on the play is very powerful and believable. June remembers when she was in Randall’s space and she is most cautious in encouraging him. He is beginning to see that Aunt June isn’t whom he thought she was, but he still feels he should imitate her and run off to follow his dream, however, he is sure he will do better in fulfilling his dreams. Yet, her failure does affect him and he is no longer as sure of himself as before she came.
The working out of this family’s troubles and drama is extremely well done and challenging to all. I think the play would be excellent to put on stage, and would even make an interesting short film. Don Flynn’s writing is gripping and once I started the play I just didn’t want to put it down.Bob Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Corbett email@example.com