You Never Can Tellby George Bernard Shaw
Format of Original Source: Play
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours
Candidate for Adaptation? Not Likely
A long-absent father shows up to try to run the lives of his son and daughter, against the extreme disapproval of their mother. A seaside resort in England plays host to a set of anarchic twins, their stunning sister and their highly unusual feminist mother. When the play begins, the Clandons have just returned to England after having spent 18 years in Portugal. Now that they’re back, the children have decided to insist that their mother tell them who their father is, or was. At first Mrs Clandon puts up some resistance, but eventually she has her solicitor admit that the guilty party is a bad-tempered, wealthy landlord, Mr Crampton.
VALENTINE. Take care. I’m losing my senses again. (Summoning all her courage, she takes away her hand from her face and puts it on his right shoulder, turning him towards her and looking him straight in the eyes. He begins to protest agitatedly.) Gloria: be sensible: it’s no use: I haven’t a penny in the world.
GLORIA. Can’t you earn one? Other people do.
VALENTINE (half delighted, half frightened). I never could–you’d be unhappy- My dearest love: I should be the merest fortune-hunting adventurer if- (Her grip on his arms tightens; and she kisses him.) Oh, Lord! (Breathless.) Oh, I- (He gasps.) I don’t know anything about women: twelve years’ experience is not enough. (In a gust of jealousy she throws him away from her; and he reels her back into the chair like a leaf before the wind, as Dolly dances in, waltzing with the waiter, followed by Mrs. Clandon and Finch, also waltzing, and Phil pirouetting by himself.)
DOLLY (sinking on the chair at the writing-table). Oh, I’m out of breath. How beautifully you waltz, William!
MRS. CLANDON (sinking on the saddlebag seat on the hearth). Oh, how could you make me do such a silly thing, Finch! I haven’t danced since the soiree at South Place twenty years ago.
GLORIA (peremptorily at Valentine). Get up. (Valentine gets up abjectly.) Now let us have no false delicacy. Tell my mother that we have agreed to marry one another. (A silence of stupefaction ensues. Valentine, dumb with panic, looks at them with an obvious impulse to run away.)
DOLLY (breaking the silence). Number Six!
DOLLY (tumultuously). Oh, my feelings! I want to kiss somebody; and we bar it in the family. Where’s Finch?
McCOMAS (starting violently). No, positively- (Crampton appears in the window.)
DOLLY (running to Crampton). Oh, you’re just in time. (She kisses him.) Now (leading him forward) bless them.
GLORIA. No. I will have no such thing, even in jest. When I need a blessing, I shall ask my mother’s.
CRAMPTON (to Gloria, with deep disappointment). Am I to understand that you have engaged yourself to this young gentleman?
GLORIA (resolutely). Yes. Do you intend to be our friend or–
DOLLY (interposing). –or our father?
CRAMPTON. I should like to be both, my child.
The twin son and daughter are a lot of fun, and there’s a droll waiter who could steal the show. But there’s really not much plot in this play, and that might stall its chances for musicalization.
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