a ringing of doorbells

A Ringing of Doorbells represents the sin of Envy in Wilder’s projected cycle on The Seven Deadly Sins.

MRS. BEATTIE, sixty-five, crippled with arthritis
MRS. MCCULLEM, her housekeeper
MRS. KINKAID, a caller, forty-five
DAPHNE, Mrs. Kinkaid’s daughter, eighteen

SETTING: The front room of Mrs. Beattie’s home in Mount Hope, Florida, circa 1939

A mother-daughter team of con-artists are putting the touch on the widows of military brass. Mrs. McCullem, housekeep for the wonderfully regal but now wheel chair-bound window of General Beattie, recognizes them in the drug store–having witnessed the two pull their game on her previous employer–and overhears them asking directions to the Beattie home! The play begins as she rushes back to warn Mrs. Beattie of the impending danger.

Sure enough, the doorbell rings and our charlatans appear with quite a story. But instead of throwing them out or turning them over to the police, the widow Beattie allows the game to be played.

Directed by Tazewell Thompson, A Ringing of Doorbells had its world premiere at the 13th Annual Brown-Forman Classics in Context Festival October 30-November 22, 1997 at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Note: Thornton Wilder did not complete A Ringing of Doorbells in his lifetime. The actor and director F.J. O’ Neil, who knew Wilder well, is responsible for the research and editing that made it possible to stage this work and to publish it for the first time in The Collected Short Plays of Thornton Wilder, Volume I(Theatre Communications Group).