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Just Around the Corner: A Comedy in One Act

by Mark Frank

Characters

Actor 1: PENNY HALE, Jeff’s daughter. A ten-year-old little girl.

Note: Actor 1 should be played by a male actor.

Actor 2: JEFF HALE, Penny’s father. Once a prosperous architect, now a janitor.

             MILTON RAMSBY, Nephew of Samuel Henshaw. Ten years old. Penny’s playmate.

             REPORTER

             MISS. VINCENT’S LITTLE GIRL

Actor 3: GUS, the chauffer

             CORPORAL, the doorman

             MAN

             DOG

             POLICE OFFICER

             REPORTER

             MRS. VINCENT’S LITTLE GIRL

Note: Actor 3 should be played by an African-American actor.

Actor 4: WATERS, A pompous, flamboyant hotel concierge

               SAMUEL HENSHAW, a billionaire tycoon banker who Penny sees as Uncle Sam.

               MUGSY, friend of Penny’s.

               DOG

             MISS VINCENT’S LITTLE GIRL

Actor 5: LOLA HENSHAW, Jeff’s sweetheart and daughter of Samuel Henshaw

             AUNT JULIA RAMSBY, Milton’s mother.

             MRS. DINET, Head of the Miss Vincent’s School for Girls,

             KITTY, the maid.

             REPORTER

Note: Actor 5 should be played by a female actor.

TIME: 1938, The Great Depression.

SETTING: Various places with simple sets and costume pieces. Actors can be dressed in black except Penny who should be dressed in the typical Shirley Temple dress and blonde wig. The cast should use costume pieces and wigs for quick changes to become other characters. The production should move quickly with dramatic moments played over the top. Any music of the period can be used for musical numbers and dramatic scenes can be underscored for more dramatic comic effect. The play is a parody of the motion picture, Just Around the Corner.

AT RISE: (A MAN walks onto a bare stage with a cigarette hanging out of HIS mouth. HE carries a sign with the 20th Century logo on it and then hums the 20th Century theme song very unenthused.)

MAN

Just Around the Corner, in color. Starring Shirley Temple.

(HE exits and then enters back on.)

In ten minutes… maybe fifteen.

(HE exits as a WOMAN enters and blows a whistle as four little GIRLS run on stage and line up in front of HER. The MAN returns with a sign that says, Miss Vincent’s School for Girls. HE holds it up, drops it on the ground and then exits off. The GIRLS giggle and run off.)

MS. DINSET

Penny, just a minute. I have some sad news for you. You’ll be a brave little girl won’t you?

PENNY

(Wearing a bolo hat and carrying a riding crop.)

Is it about my daddy?

MS. DINSET

Yes. He’s sent for you, and you’re going to leave us.

PENNY

I’m going to go live with my daddy at River View…for keeps?

MS. DINSET

(GUS enters carrying PENNY’S bags.)

Yes!

PENNY

Oh Gus!

(SHE hugs GUS and the three actors run offstage. A MAN comes on with a sign that says, River View Penthouse. HE exits. MILTON enters. HE wears nerdy glasses and runs into PENNY running on. HIS hair is disheveled.)

MILTON

Who are you?

PENNY

I live here, my daddy and me.

MILTON

This is my uncle’s apartment, now kindly vacant these premises.

PENNY

(Holding up HER fists.)

Unless you want trouble with my daddy you better get out of here!

(SHE starts to wrestle with HIM on the ground. WATERS, a flamboyant concierge, runs in and separates THEM and takes PENNY off as MILTON runs off. PENNY comes running back on with KITTY and crosses the stage with the other actors becoming barking DOGS. PENNY and KITTY chase the DOGS around the stage laughing and exit off. PENNY comes back on stage and notices a MAN who enters from the opposite side of the stage.)

PENNY

Daddy! Daddy!

JEFF

Penny!

(SHE runs to HIM. HE tries to pick HER up but after many failed attempts HE gives up.)

Oh Penny, I sold our car, I have no job, and no money in our pocketbooks which means we can spend more time together.

PENNY

It’s time I look after you. A man without a woman around the house is quite a problem.

(THEY share a smile with each other in an awkward frozen pose and then hug. THEY run off stage. PENNY runs onstage carrying a stuffed dog with LOLA and GUS. GUS should sound like Burt Lahr.)

PENNY

Hi Ms. Lola!

MS. LOLA

Hi Penny!

PENNY

Hi Gus!

GUS

Hi Penny!

(PENNY starts to sing and tap dance in iconic Shirley Temple fashion. SHE rips apart the stuffed dog while she sings and tap dances. LOLA and GUS tap dance very badly behind HER.)

PENNY

This is a happy little diddy

I know the music isn’t pretty

You know the words are not witty

Anyone can sing this song.

Change keys it really doesn’t matter

Sit still a lot is just chatter

Hoe Hum we’re coming to the patter

Anyone can sing this song.

(LOLA and GUS run off and CORPORAL, the doorman comes running on stage and does a very quick bad tap dance with PENNY. WATERS enters.)

CORPORAL

Retreat now and explain later!

(PENNY and CORPORAL quickly tap dance off stage. WATERS follows in pursuit and exits. WATERS enters holding JEFF by the arm. )

MR. WATERS

You cannot reside here at the River View any longer! Your daughter is causing everyone to go berserk. Control her or you’re out!

(HE storms off. PENNY runs on with a head-kerchief on, similar to one Aunt Jeremiah wears. SHE comes on stirring fudge. SHE has it all over HER mouth and face.)

PENNY

Oh, hi, Daddy. I was working so hard I didn’t hear you. Isn’t that funny?

(SHE laughs nervously.)

JEFF

What have you been doing Penny!!

PENNY

(Pulls out a rolling pin.)

Well, Daddy, I guess you better let me have it.

(SHE bends over.)

JEFF

No, no! If you don’t behave Waters is going to throw us out. Now I’m going to see a man about a money job and everything will be fixed.

(THEY hug, and JEFF has trouble letting go of HER as the hug ends. THEY both exit off in opposite directions. JEFF re-enters in the opposite direction with LOLA. THEY meet center, kissing and tearing THEIR clothes off of each other.)

LOLA

Oh Jeff!

JEFF

Oh Lola!

(THEY run off. JEFF runs back on and sees SAMUEL HENSHAW across the stage, who has tons of money sticking out of his pocket. HE is VERY old and walks with a cane.)

JEFF

Mr. Henshaw? It’s Mr. Hale I worked for you for two years!

SAMUEL

Mr. Hale the expensive? The architect? The dreamer? You cost me and my bank ten million dollars! Look at your vision!

(A MAN comes out holding a drawing in crayon of a half built skyscraper. HE looks at both men, laughs, and exits.)

JEFF

Lola believes in me. I love her!

SAMUEL

Using my niece to get in here, feeding her your schemes! Now get out!

(HE exits as LOLA runs in)

LOLA

I know how to get around my uncle, let’s get married!

(SHE tries to kiss him, but HE retreats.)

JEFF

What about pride Lola? You’d make up with the old geezer just to move up to the penthouse alone.

(LOLA slaps HIM across the face dramatically.)

LOLA

You could have been proud once that building was built but now you’re a failure. Just because you’re a quitter, you think I’m a quitter?

(SHE slaps again and HE slaps HER back. THEY both slap each other again.)

JEFF

I’m quitting right now!

(LOLA and JEFF storm offstage in opposite directions. PENNY runs downstage to the audience)

PENNY

(In a very sad, pouting little baby girl voice to the audience.)

You couldn’t stand anymore good news today!

(PENNY and MILTON come onstage chasing each other as WATERS grabs PENNY.)

MILTON

She stays if I want her to!

(HE kicks WATERS in the behind)

WATERS

I never!

(HE runs off. PENNY runs off crying as MILTON chases her off. PENNY comes back on and collapses to the floor crying. CORPORAL runs on and tries to cheer HER up with a tap dance number. PENNY looks at HIM and in a very scary deep male voice screams, “NOT NOW!” CORPORAL runs off at the same time JEFF comes running on and tries to pick HER up but can’t so HE sits next to HER.)

JEFF

What’s the matter Penny?

PENNY

Got something in my eye.

JEFF

I’ll get it.

PENNY

(Hugging HIM as HE hugs HER and smells HER hair and rubs HER back.)

Oh, Daddy, Mr. Waters caught me in the penthouse and now he’s going to throw us out. He said I shouldn’t be there because I was only a janitor’s daughter. Why daddy why?

(SHE starts to cry.)

JEFF

(HE stands and faces the audience.)

Because people pull on Uncle Sam, even though he tries to make everything right.

PENNY

Maybe I could help Uncle Sam! Thanks Daddy!

(SHE kisses a long kiss on the lips and runs off. JEFF runs off as GUS chases KITTY on stage eating a dog biscuit wearing a Cowardly Lion mask. THEY both laugh and run off. Reporters come on chasing SAMUEL. PENNY attacks and brutally beats up the reporters as THEY run off.)

PENNY

Come on Uncle Sam, I’ll protect you!

SAMUEL

Here’s a penny. Thank you little girl!

PENNY

No, I couldn’t take money from Uncle Sam!

(THEY both exit in opposite directions. PENNY comes back on cutting MILTON’S hair. A BOY enters.)

Mugsy, give Milton your man clothes and he will give you a dollar.

(MILTON gives MUGSY a dollar, but HE takes off with it. MILTON tackles MUGSY before HE gets offstage. MUGSY punches MILTON in the face. PENNY beats the hell out of MUGSY and chases HIM offstage with MILTON. PENNY comes back on with MILTON. THEY run into MILTON’S mother, AUNT JULIA RAMSBY who enters and screams seeing MILTON disheveled, and runs off. PENNY draws a black eye on MILTON. SAMUEL enters and looks at MILTON.)

SAMUEL

Well upon my soul, here’s a silver dollar for every black eye you get. Now get!

(SAMUEL exits. LOLA runs on wearing a white dress not zipped up in the back.)

PENNY

(Upstage whispering to MILTON.)

First she walks and gives a sigh.

MILTON

That’s love for you!

PENNY

I’ll tell her how much my daddy loves her!

(SHE crosses to LOLA.)

LOLA

What have you been doing Penny?

PENNY

Taking care of my daddy. He’s not so cheerful inside.

LOLA

Probably worried about his buildings.

(SHE sighs.)

PENNY

I think he’s worried about you, just like you’re worried about him.

LOLA

Oh Penny!

(THEY hug. PENNY and MILTON exit as JEFF enters.)

JEFF

You called for me?

LOLA

I didn’t call you but I’m glad you’re here. I was (looks at audience) just around the corner.

(THEY kiss and start tearing each other’s clothes off while WATERS enters wearing a handkerchief over his face trying to figure where he is going as PENNY and MILTON follow behind laughing. The ACTOR playing JEFF must break away from LOLA to become MILTON until MILTON exits off with WATERS and PENNY. HE then needs to quickly enter back on to become JEFF and run downstage to continue to make out with LOLA. There is a loud noise offstage like someone falling into a swimming pool and WATERS enters soaking wet chasing PENNY and MILTON. Again the ACTOR playing JEFF must break away from LOLA to become MILTON who is chased offstage with PENNY. The actor returns onstage to resume HIS role as JEFF making out with LOLA downstage. SAMUEL enters. HE grabs LOLA away from JEFF.)

SAMUEL

You here again. Get out! I forbid you to see him!

LOLA

I’m going to marry him!

(LOLA turns into AUNT JULIA RAMSBY.)

AUNT JULIA RAMSBY

Where’s my son?

(SAMUEL becoming WATERS. JEFF becomes MILTON as PENNY enters.)

WATERS

It was your son’s and Mr. Hale’s daughter’s fault!

(HE quickly runs offstage and pours more water on himself and then enters back on only to slip and fall. AUNT JULIA RAMSBY turns into LOLA and WATERS turns back into SAMUEL. MILTON runs off stage scared with PENNY but then runs back on to become JEFF again. CORPORAL runs onstage and starts to tap dance downstage as music plays. All the ACTORS stop and yell at him, “NOT NOW!” HE runs offstage.)

SAMUEL

Over my dead body will you marry my daughter!

LOLA

Daddy, just listen to Jeff about the building project!

SAMUEL

(Studies JEFF.)

Well…go ahead and marry him. Maybe there is something I can do for him.

LOLA

Oh, Uncle Sam. You’re a peach!

(SHE hugs HER uncle as THEY all exit as a MAN enters with a sign that says, Now Boarding Borneo, Alaska. HE exits. The following dialogue is done in spots of light that flash on and off downstage with each CHARACTER in a spot of light.)

LOLA

You can’t go Jeff!

CORORAL

He’s going up north with the polar bears and icebergs.

KITTY

Will he come back alive in two years?

GUS

(Still wearing the Cowardly Lion mask)

Not a chance!

PENNY

(Unpacking JEFF’S suitcase crying.)

Daddy!!!!!

SAMUEL

(Laughing manically)

Muhahahahahahah!

JEFF

Listen everyone, I must go!

PENNY

What if Uncle Sam did something? Then you wouldn’t have to go!

(Lights return to normal. A MAN enters on with numerous signs that he holds up towards the audience, Ten Star Act for Uncle Sam, Extra! Extra! Poor Children Raise Money for Richest Man! Financier Gets Children’s Penny’s! HE exits as SAMUEL enters with PENNY.)

SAMUEL

It’s a plot against me! Why would you do a benefit for me?

PENNY

Well, Uncle Sam…so my daddy wouldn’t have to go away.

SAMUEL

Did you tell this child I was responsible for all the troubles in America?! I look like the biggest laughing stock.

JEFF

(Runs in.)

I can explain, Mr. Henshaw!

PENNY

Didn’t you say, Daddy everyone should help Uncle Sam and not pull on him? Isn’t he Uncle Sam, Daddy?

SAMUEL/JEFF

Uncle Sam! (THEY both look at audience.) Ah ha!

PENNY

(Handing SAMUEL two giant money bags.)

Here’s the money. I’ll have a benefit for you every week Uncle Sam to help you out! The shows beginning, got to go! Thanks Uncle Sam!

(PENNY exits followed by JEFF and SAMUEL. CORPORAL enters tap dancing and singing.)

PENNY

We the boys who meet you

The boys who greet you

Cream of cream

stone cadets

It’s the brass buttons and epaulettes…

(PENNY comes on in a raincoat, hat and umbrella and interrupts CORPORALS song. SHE pushes HIM off stage and starts to sing and dance.)

Oh Mr. weather man

Where is the rain you promised me?

Oh Mr. weather man

I’ve been waiting patiently

Mr. can you spare a drop

Here a drop

There a drop

Two drops

Four drops…more drops

Now it’s all around me, gosh I’m glad you found me

I love to walk in the rain, look for me when it’s stormy

I may be late but I’ll be there

I love to walk in the rain, the lightning might be frightening but I don’t care

I feel wonderful, I don’t complain

I love to walk in the rain

(SHE starts to tap dance but CORPORAL comes on and tries to upstage HER by tap dancing in front of her until they get into a fight. The POLICE come in and pull corporal off HER beating HIM and exit off stage with HIM.)

POLICE OFFICER

What’s going on here?

SAMUEL

What’s the big idea breaking up my show? You can read, can’t you? This is a benefit for Uncle Sam!

WATERS

(Enters)

Sorry, sir, this has all been a mistake.

POLICE OFFICER

A mistake! We should take you in for this!

WATERS

(Very flamboyant and dramatic.)

All right, take me, lock me up, and throw away the key! Away, solitary confinement! Take me away!

POLICE OFFICER

Take him away!

(HE notices he’s the only POLICE OFFICER so HE takes WATERS offstage. JEFF and LOLA enter with a REPORTER.)

REPORTER

Are you closing down the industry? Give us a statement!

SAMUEL

No! I’m going to triple my payroll! We need that big American spirit. I’m starting the East Gate building project with this young man right now.

(SAMUEL puts on an Uncle Sam hat and then puts HIS arm around JEFF and smiles. The REPORTER runs off stage after snapping a photo of the two shaking hands. JEFF grabs LOLA and starts to make out with HER as THEY tear at each other’s clothes and go to the ground in front of SAMUEL and PENNY who watch smiling.)

PENNY

It’s good old American Spirit Uncle Sam!

(SAMUEL and PENNY start laughing until SAMUEL has a massive heart attack and drops to the ground. PENNY tries CPR by slamming on HIS chest but still smiling towards the audience while JEFF and LOLA continue to make out behind THEM. CORPORAL comes out and starts to tap dance frantically as the lights fade to black and the play ends. The curtain call should involve a bad tap dance number with all characters.)

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