Fat Chance by Linda Felton Steinbaum

This Play is the copyright of the Author, and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author's prior consent






It is evening at the home of the MATTHEWS. ALISON MATTHEWS, an attractive professional woman (aged 32- 38) is sitting opposite her husband KARL (aged 35-45)

With them playing Texas Hold'em poker are JILL and ROB. Most of the chips are in front of Alison implying that she is winning. As the lights come on, Alison is shuffling the deck.

ALISON Rob? Please cut the cards.

Rob obediently cuts the cards. Alison picks them up and deals two cards to everybody face down.

ALISON OK. Here we go. Ante up!

They all toss in a chip and peek at their hands.


JILL? You bet first round.

JILL puts on sunglasses, peeks at her cards, puts them down. Peeks again, taking too much time. Alison and Rob get impatient.

JILL Alright. I will…check.

Everybody exhales.

KARL I'll check.

ROB Check.

ALISON Alright, I'll check.

Alison picks up the deck, turns one card over face down, then places three cards face up in the center of the table. They all nervously peek at their cards. And think. Now they all look at

JILL. And stare.

JILL squints at the cards.

JILL Let's see. Oh, well, then…I'll check.

ROB Honey, take those stupid glasses off. You're not fooling anybody. More importantly you need to be able to SEE the cards. Check!

JILL takes off the sunglasses.

KARL (disgustedly) Check.

ALISON Alright, then here's the turn.

Alison deals one card face down and then places the fourth card face up next to the other three. They all look at the card, peek back at their hands - doing this several times as if the cards will change.

Then they all look at


JILL is looking at Alison's necklace.

ALISON (impatiently)

JILL, hello—your turn to start the betting.

JILL (clueless) What a pretty necklace you have on.

ROB Honey, pay attention. I'm not buying you any more chips.

Alison touches her necklace adoringly.

ALISON Oh, thank you. This piece is an heirloom from Great Grandma. Brought over by her grandmother from England.

ROB Yeah, yeah. Brought over on the Mayflower. So, what is it

JILL—what's this hand gonna cost me?

JILL (examines her cards) Let's see. I am going to… check.

KARL I check.

ROB I'll check, too.

ALISON Fine, wimps, I won't bet either. I don't want to scare you guys away. Let's see what the last card brings.

Alison deals a card face down, then the final card face up on the table.

Groans are heard.

JILL Great. That couldn't have been any worse.

ROB Not quite the poker face you're supposed to have, honey.

JILL Not quite the poker cards I'm supposed to get, honey.

JILL throws her cards down.

JILL I'm out.

KARL I'm out, too.

Alison starts SINGING quite well.

ALISON "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em… know when to walk away, know when to run…

KARL (finally interrupts and pulls her down) Great honey, I know you like a good conquest, but please settle down.

JILL Wow, you really could have been a pro, Ali.

ALISON Poker player?

JILL No, singer. You've got a great voice.

ROB (mocking) That would be a waste of her "Ivy League" education. I check.

ALISON Get over it, Mr. "State college."

ROB So sorry, Miss Matthews. Playing poker and drinking beer with you I forget your true background.

KARL So does she.

There is a moment of silence. Alison looks at Karl.

ALISON What does that mean?

KARL Nothing.

ALISON (angry) Alright then. One dollar. No more of this quarter stuff.

Alison throws two chips into the center of the table.

KARL Give it up, Rob. I bet the birthday girl has a good hand, again.

ROB No, I'm gonna take this hand.

ALISON No you won't. I going to take all your money tonight.

ROB You've been lucky, Alison. But everything has to come to an end.

ALISON Yes. And your end is near.

JILL Gee, I thought this was a friendly game.

ALISON It is. It's a game and we're playing with friends.

JILL But you guys get so competitive.

KARL Alison does like to win, if you haven't noticed.

ALISON What's wrong with that?

KARL Nothing, I guess.

ROB Alright. I call. Here's my dollar. Let's see what you have.

Alison lays her hand down.

ALISON Read 'em and weep. Three jacks.

ROB Damn, you're a lucky broad. Rob throws his hand face down on the table.

ROB In fact, you've been lucky all week.

JILL told me about that case you won for the airlines.

ALISON That was skill, my friend.

ROB Winning with that poor old fat guy suing you? That was lucky.

KARL Not lucky. Alison can be successful in cases where a heart would get in the way.

ALISON Karl! What are you talking about? It was only fair for the plaintiff to purchase two tickets. He was so fat he would have taken up two seats.

KARL (sharply) Perhaps. But it was cruel the way it was handled. He should have somehow known ahead of time, been prepared. Not stopped at the gate and embarrassed.

An uncomfortable silence.

ROB Hey, give me the cards, I'll shuffle.

ALISON (quickly) And I'll have you know that I recommended that all Airlines employees get some sensitivity training.

KARL That makes it all better. Employees learning how to sensitively say, "hey, come back here, fatso."

Alison gives him a dirty look.

ROB Alright, children. Let's get back to the game. I've gotta make some money back. This time we'll play seven card stud.

JILL Anything wild?

KARL Just our spouses if they don't win.

ROB That's not true. (aggressively shuffling) I'm not a competitive person. (angrily) I'm just enjoying myself!

JILL Sorry to spoil your enjoyment, but after this hand, we're gonna have to call it an evening. I'm getting tired.

ALISON What? (looks at watch) It's only 10:30. We just started.

JILL I gotta work in the morning, Alison, in case you've forgotten.

ALISON You can be late tomorrow morning. I won't dock you.

ROB Isn't that kind of the boss lady.

JILL Come on, we have children, Alison. You know we don't go out during the week except for poker night.

ALISON Just because you have kids you can still have a life.

JILL Yeah. But you'll understand when you guys have them.

KARL You mean IF we have them.

ROB Can I deal now?

ALISON (turns to Karl) Wait a minute. Karl, don't start that again. You said you were ready to start a family.

KARL I might be. But, I'm not sure you are.

Karl gets up to get another beer.

ALISON Damn it. Now you're starting to sound like your mother.

KARL (O.S.) How do you know. You said she doesn't talk to you anymore.

ALISON Right. But unfortunately, I still remember how she sounds.

ROB Hold on. What's the problem with the mother-in-law? You should be happy to have at least one mother still around.

ALISON I was happy with her when we first got married. But the last few years she's gotten ice cold.

KARL And that's what she says about Alison.

JILL She's probably just anxious for you guys to start a family.

ALISON I'm not so sure about that. She made some crack about the kind of mother I'd be. And that was the last time I talked to her.

JILL Gee I wish Joey still had a grandmother.

ALISON That reminds me, I have something for Joey—wasn't it his birthday last week?

JILL Yes, last Friday.

ALISON Rob, did you get stuck taking his buddies to that roller coaster park?

ROB That was the plan. We went there but we left. Joey was too short to go on any of the rides. There's a height limit.

KARL I'm sorry. That must have been very disappointing.

ROB (trying to joke around) Well, the corn dogs were tasty.

JILL Joey was very upset. Rob took them to a movie instead.

ROB I wasn't the tallest in my class at his age but I was the best athlete.

JILL roles her eyes. Rob notices.

KARL Don't worry about it. Most boys mature late. Rob puts the deck down.

ROB You know what? Too much chit chat. Forget it—You guys aren't into the game.

ALISON Yes we are. Deal the cards, already.

ROB No. That's it for me. Get your stuff, Jill.

Rob gets up and starts stretching.

JILL (nervously) Rob, it's Alison's birthday. If she wants to play some more, we should.

KARL No. It's okay. You have my permission not to play if you don't want to.

JILL Well, then at least we should sing happy birthday.

JILL turns to everybody with arms conducting…

JILL One, two, three. (sings) Happy birthday to you, (no one joins in) happy birthday to you, happy birthday…

JILL glares at Rob.

ROB (grudgingly) To you. Happy…

ALISON (interrupting) Thanks but hold on. It's not quite my birthday yet. It's still November 26th and I've told you guys that I wasn't born at St. Francis till the very stroke of midnight.

ROB St. Francis. I'm surprised your waspy family went to a Catholic Hospital—

ALISON (ignoring him) So, if you really want to wish me a happy birthday you'll have to stick around till 12 and sing to me then.

Rob sits back down and yawns.

ROB That's not gonna happen. I'm tired.

JILL And I've lost enough money in one night—it's definitely cutting into my botox fund.

ALISON You both will forget about your loses with this incredible bottle of champagne I bought to toast my midnight birth.

ROB (sighing) If I did that at midnight, I'd also forget how to wake up in the morning.

ALISON My God, you're like two old ladies.

ROB No, you and Karl are like two old ladies. Bicker, bicker, bicker.

JILL (horrified) Rob!

An uncomfortable moment. Rob turns away.

KARL I'm sorry if we're making you both uncomfortable.

JILL I'm not uncomfortable. At all.

JILL jumps on the sofa and relaxes.

JILL I'm very comfortable.

ROB Hey, I was just kidding. Don't worry about it. You're right about me, I get cranky when I lose.

ALISON We're not really bickering. It's that I want to have a child. Tick, tick, tick.

ROB I understand. But let me ask you, Alison. Be realistic. Do you think you can carry your case load and take care of a family?

KARL Alison has applied to the American Arbitration Association. If she's accepted, she'd only be called to mediate big cases. It's very prestigious and lucrative. And can be part time.

ROB Good luck with that. Sure, you're a a good attorney with lots of experience, but you always represent one side—the big corporations. What lawyer representing the "people" would want you to be their judge?

KARL I'm always reminding Alison of that obvious bias. I've tried to convince her to switch sides.

ROB But not a bad bias, however. Alison seems to know where the big money is.

ALISON Hey, can I help it that the last few years big companies have been calling me to defend their discrimination cases?

ROB Of course not. You've developed a great reputation. But, listen to Karl. You might think about switching sides once in awhile if you want to be seen in the industry as impartial.

JILL Can we please stop talking about work? Poker night is supposed to be my escape.

ROB (looks at watch) Honey, we really should be going.

JILL No birthday cake?

KARL Cake? You know Alison doesn't eat cake. Didn't you like that fresh mango and kiwi sorbet?

ROB It did cleanse my palate.

KARL You're lucky you got anything with sugar, buddy.

ALISON If you still want something sweet, we do have a sugar-free, low-carb zucchini loaf I could heat up.

JILL Tempting, but let's go, Rob. I almost have a dollar left and if we hurry, Krispy Creme will still be open.

ROB You're right! Grab your purse, I'll start the car. They laugh and get up. Karl gets the money jar, looks at their chips and counts out the money.

KARL Here's your change,

JILL. Sorry. And… (counting the bills) fifteen for you, Rob. You didn't lose much tonight.

ROB I'll get you guys next time.

KARL And, sorry about the craziness.

ROB (waves it off) Forget about that stuff. Thanks for dinner and all the fun. Have a happy, happy birthday, Alison. They head for the door.

ALISON Thanks.

JILL Happy, happy. See you tomorrow.

They all hug. Alison walks them to the door.

ALISON So I guess Karl and I will have to polish off that bottle of champagne all by ourselves. Right love?

Alison smiles at Karl—he turns away. Rob and

JILL exit. Karl starts putting the poker chips away and straightening up.

Alison approaches.

ALISON We'll do that in the morning. Let's go upstairs, hon.

KARL You go. I'll put this stuff away.

Alison puts her arms around him playfully.

ALISON Not now. Come on, let's go celebrate.

Karl doesn't respond.

ALISON (disappointed) What's this about?

KARL Nothing. I'll be up soon. I just don't want to have to face this mess in the morning.

Alison seductively tries again with no response, then lets her arms drop and steps back.

ALISON Why do you always seem mad at me lately?

KARL I'm not mad at you.

ALISON Then tell me what's wrong. You've been distant and we're always arguing.

KARL (sighing) Ali, we need to sit down and talk. Really talk.

ALISON Talk about what. About how I've changed in the last few years? I got enough of that from your mother.

KARL Don't bring her into it. This is between you and me. And we have some real issues we have to work out.

ALISON Don't you love me anymore?

KARL Of course I do. But we're talking about having children. Starting a family is a big commitment and before that happens we have to talk about our lives and where we are.

ALISON (getting upset) What, that my work has become my life and I've become insensitive? If that's what you want to talk about, no, I don't want to talk about that again.

KARL Ali, it's your birthday and I don't want to fight with you tonight. I hope you liked the earrings I bought you.

ALISON Thank you. I love my present.

Alison approaches Karl.

ALISON (seductively) Let me remind you that I bought that bottle of Cristal to celebrate.

Karl doesn't answer but continues to straighten up.

ALISON (hurt) Do you still want the champagne? Or should I save it for another occasion?

KARL Whatever you want, I don't know. It really is getting late.

ALISON Forget it. (angry) And don't forget to turn on the dishwasher when you're done.

Alison turns in a huff. She looks back, doesn't catch Karl's eye and exits while Karl continues to straighten up.


SCENE 2 Street sounds are heard.

Front center stage lights up on ERMA, an obese 65 year old woman, who has some clothing in her hand. She stands waiting.

ERMA (calling out) Hello? Hello?

Moments later Tammy, the owner of the dry cleaners "Friendly's, hurries out and greets her.

TAMMY So sorry, we're very busy.

ERMA Good morning. I see that you now do alterations.

Sizing her up negatively.

TAMMY (attitude) Yes, that is correct, we've… (looking her over) expanded. Is there something I can do for you?

ERMA Well, I have four new slacks here. They need to be shortened two inches.

TAMMY No problem.

ERMA (points) That sign says you charge five dollars to hem skirts or pants. And included in that price you check for loose buttons and press the garment. Is that right?

TAMMY Yes. Please fill out this card, I just need your name and telephone number. They will be ready in 24 hours.

ERMA Thank you.

He takes the pants from Erma and looks at them, as Erma fills out a claim check. Tammy looks at her with some disdain.

They exit.


[end of extract]

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