Dramatists Play Service
Bennie and Arlene
THE STORY: Released from prison “Arlene” returns to a rundown apartment in Louisville, intent on starting her life over. Rebellious and disruptive as a young girl, she has found strength in religion and wants to put her youth (as “Arlie”) behind her. But her struggle to find her way in the present (as “Arlene”) is counterpointed by flashbacks of her past (as “Arlie”), her two personalities being represented by two performers, who sometimes appear on stage simultaneously. We meet the guards and prison officials with whom “Arlie” waged a running battle; and the unfeeling, slatternly mother, the lecherous former prison guard, the pimp ex-boyfriend, and the touchingly friendly neighbor with whom “Arlene” is confronted in the present. Ultimately the play, like life, offers no simple answers—but it conveys, with heartrending honesty and compassion, the struggle of someone fighting for her life against incredible odds.