In Dogwood, we meet three adult children still nursing the scars of childhood, and their aging parents who seem to not be aware of the damaged adults their children have grown into (much like the friend of the family who comes along for the weekend). “Dogwood” is at once shocking, touching, and funny. As the story unfolds, demons surface, and tempers are lost, and we slowly come to realize that many of the secrets that members of the family were keeping, were in fact not secrets at all.
Rachel- Rachel is the eldest child in the Dogwood family. Her marriage is on the rocks again, and her once busy career as a real estate agent has suffered with the economy, she comes home for her parents wedding anniversary pretending everything is fine, but instead of a husband, she brings her young assistant.
Adrian- A young man in his 20’s who stumbled into real estate like he stumbles through most of his life. He agrees to spend the weekend with his boss, Rachel, under the pretext of business, but he might have also discovered an actual agenda for his life.
Evelyn- Evelyn is the youngest of the Dogwood children and perhaps the most lost in a family of lost children. She has forgone her adult life in order to manage her parents life, but is she making this decision for them or for her?
Nat- Nat is the typical middle child; self-indulgent, arrogant, but still honest. He has kept his sexuality masked under a smoke screen of pretend girlfriends and a life more important than it actually is.
Cora- Cora is the mother to beat; she loves her children beyond exception, but does she know them or they her? Her life has been focused on keeping everyone happy, so she never takes a moment to consider her own happiness.
Leo- Leo is the father, a war vet who never saw battle, but his stories would not tell that story. He has been absent as a patriarch, or has he been present but not willing to participate?
Phil- Phil is Rachel’s husband; he lives in the orbit of the Dogwood family but his connection may be deeper then we could know.
Excerpts from the script
A1 Sc1 (Partial)
Evelyn: (heard from inside house) I said I got it. I said I got the door! (She opens door with her hands in rubber gloves, holding a kitchen knife and full of something wet. She yells back into the house before addressing Rachel. It’s Rachel. (louder) Rachel. And some dude! (to Rachel) Where’s Phil?
Rachel: Hello to you too, and may I come in? (Evelyn elbows open door and sighs) Did you just murder someone?
Evelyn: No, Why would you ask a thing like that? (Rachel points to her knife) Oh, you won’t believe this. Mom is un-stuffing the turkey…well as you can see I’m actually the one un-stuffing the turkey because she’s in tears. She was watching Alton Brown and he said Stuffing Is Evil. He actually said those exact words. A little dramatic if you ask me….He says that's because stuffing goes into the middle of the bird and is extremely porous. That means that as the turkey around it cooks, juices that may contain salmonella bacteria soak into the stuffing. I mean wouldn’t we have dies from salmonella long ago if this were true?...So the stuffing, I guess, needs to be cooked to a minimum of 165°F in order to be safe. Getting the stuffing to this temperature usually means overcooking the turkey. Well. Now the world will end if we don’t pull all of this shit back out of the turkey. (in the time Evelyn is speaking, Rachel opens a bottle of wine behind her and pours Adrian a big glass and fills up a mug of wine for herself.)
Rachel: Adrian, my sister, Evelyn. Evelyn, Adrian, my assistant.
Evelyn: (To Adrian) Pardon me. I’d shake your hand but (indicates her wet hands)
Adrian: Oh, that’s fine. Nice to meet you.
Evelyn: Assistant? Do mom and dad know you’re bringing an assistant instead of a husband?
Rachel: They know he has to work.
Evelyn: They hold classes on Thanksgiving now?
Rachel: There’s a faculty event he couldn’t miss. You didn’t bring a boyfriend or anything this year?
Cora: (enters) Rachel Marie!
Rachel: Mom. (They hug. Rachel hands her gift bags) Here I brought you and dad something?
Cora: What is it?
Rachel: Well open it:
Cora: It’s a gift?
Cora: It’s not Christmas. Why are you bring us a gift?
Rachel: It’s just something from Chicago I thought you’d like.
Cora: But we didn’t get you anything.
Rachel: That’s fine. It’s just something for you and dad, just because.
Cora: Because why though? We didn’t get you or the other kids anything. Oh, Leo won’t like this at all. Leo!
Rachel: Mom. Sometimes people bring things when they come to visit, That’s all. Just a small offering like a flowers or a tray of cookies.
Cora: Oh, is it cookies?
Rachel: No, ma. I’m just saying.
Cora: I don’t understand. Leo! (Leo enters.)
Leo: There’s my kitten!
Rachel: Hi dad.
Cora: Look, she got us a gift.
Leo: What for?
Cora; I don’t know.
Leo: It’s not Christmas. Cora, is it Christmas?
Cora: No. That’s what I told her. I said that. I said it’s not Christmas.
Leo: What are you getting us a gift for? We didn’t get anyone anything.
Rachel: Forget it. Sorry (She pulls bag away. Cora pulls it back.)
Cora: No, well let’s see it--this gift that’s not for Christmas or any birthday. (She opens it.)
Leo: What is it?
Rachel: A snow globe.
Cora: What are we supposed to do with it?
Rachel: Remember how much you liked the ones you saw at the airport when you visited?
Leo: (examines it) This can’t be to scale. Look at Wrigley Field. It’s the same size as the Cab and the whole Navy Pier. There’s no craftsmanship left these days.
Cora: (Startled) Oh my goodness! Why hello, Dear. Who are you? (to Adrian.)
Adrian: Adrian Vovk.
Cora: A what?
Rachel: He’s my assistant. He couldn’t fly home to his family, so he drove up with me.
Rachel: You’re humming.
Evelyn: Am I?
Rachel: Why are you in such a good mood?
Evelyn: No reason.
Rachel: It’s annoying.
Evelyn: Is it? Today is the day they start twenty four hours a day of Christmas music until Christmas. (she turns on Christmas station.) We can hear that instead.
Rachel: (remembering the letters) Oh, shit. Hey you left your laptop here last night I think. It kept dinging.
Evelyn: It did? Did you…look at it? Open it?
Rachel: No, of course not. Unless mom started Facebooking, I just assumed it was yours.
Evelyn: Yeah. (goes to it. Reads. Smiles a telling smile.)
Rachel: Can I help with anything?
Rachel: Yeah, I’m not monkey. I could probably peel a potato or something.
Evelyn: (places bowl of green beans) Let’s start with these and see how it goes.
Rachel: What do I do with these?
Evelyn: Why don’t you just drink coffee and sit there?
Rachel: Just tell me what to do.
Evelyn: You pick off the ends. Like this.
Rachel: Then do you save the ends? What are they for?
Evelyn: My, God. (picks ends and throws them in one pile and bean in another very quickly.) No…like this…Do you wanna eat the little brown curl at the end? You pick it off.
Evelyn: Alright. (She goes back to dicing.)
Rachel: You’re so dressed up today.
Evelyn: It’s a special day.
Rachel: Yeah, but it’s just us. Nat’ll probably be passed out by two, and I probably won’t change out of pajama’s so…
Evelyn. No, you have to.
Evelyn: It’s the civil thing to do.
Rachel: Well, anyway…you look very pretty.
Evelyn: No I don’t.
Rachel: You do!
Evelyn: I set my hair last night so it would be poofy.
Rachel: Well it is…it’s poofy. It looks nice.
Evelyn: Doesn’t matter though…still too fat for this dress.
Rachel: No, it looks fine.
Evelyn: Just fine though. Not good.
Rachel: No I didn’t mean…
Evelyn: You can stop…please. I know it’s just fine and that’s all it will be…barely fine at that.
Rachel: I don’t like it when you say stuff like that.
Evelyn: I don’t care though…I’m not fishing here…it’s just how I am I guess.
Rachel: Well that’s sort of cop out, isn’t it?
Rachel: Well if you say it’s just the way you are, then you don’t really have any responsibility to do anything about it.
Evelyn: What would you like me to do about it?
Rachel: I’m just saying, for your health. I don’t care about how you look. (Evelyn stops her work. Hurt. Rachel seems not to notice.) You know there was this diet I tried once. I read in about in Marie Claire and it says that scientists say that blue is the most unappetizing color. It says that if you get blue food coloring and dye the food in your house, you won’t want to eat it. It’s always the most simple solution you don’t even think of, isn’t it? How amazing. I lost four pounds just like that. You should try it.
Cora: (enters.) Look at my girls in the kitchen.
Rachel: Hi, Ma.
Evelyn: You should rest more. We got it all under control.
Cora: I’m fine, dear. (Evelyn hands Leo his pills. He takes them. It’s a silent exchange.) Nathaniel, it’s too early to be drinking.
Nat: It’s a special day, Ma…and it’s nearly dinner time.
Cora: Oh, you’re a bad influence on our guest, don’t you think so, Rachel?
Leo: (his show has ended.) That’s it! (He gets a beer and sits at table.)
Nat: Pop, don’t you usually watch a game today?
Leo: What game?
Nat: (leans to as Adrian to ask, and then answers.) Football!
Leo: Which game?
Nat: (looks to Adrian who shrugs)
Evelyn: Dad gave up on the Packers.
Leo: Those losers. I’m only allowed to watch the Colts later.
Evelyn: Doctors orders. It bothers his blood pressure.
Leo: That’s cause they’re losers! (begins to putter with mess of model airplane parts)
Evelyn: You should probably just not talk about it.
Rachel: How’s Jillian doing?
Rachel: Dad, did Nat tell you that Jillian is modeling now.
Leo: I thought she was an accountant?
Rachel: She was discovered.
Cora: Oh, but honey, she’s short, and a little pear shaped. Are you sure you’re making a good career choice?
Nat: I’m not making it.
Rachel: I talked to her just last week, Ma, and I think she’s gonna be able to come for Christmas.
Cora: Oh, wonderful.
Nat: Rachel was just saying last night how nice it is being home.
Cora: Were you, sweetheart? That’s so nice. Oh we love having you kids here.
Nat: Man, Rae, when the baby comes, wouldn’t it be nice to live closer?
Leo: Kids should have their grandparents close. Your generation is too uptight to raise kids on your own. The three of you used to pile into the back of that Caprice and have the best time flyin around back there, hanging your feet out the back window…you’d play on a rusty jungle gym…no one needed helmets and tetanus shots, and look how you turned out, Now it’s all antibacterial this and reinforced that. Nonsense.
Nat: See. They need their grandparents. There’s plenty of houses to sell in Milwaukee I’m sure.