Dead frog (2021)

One-act play

Character list: 

KATHLEEN- Desperate and distraught daughter of fighting parents

VICTORIA- Best friend of Kathleen

SHANNON- Mother of Kathleen

CHAD- Father of Kathleen

Scene 1.

Lunchtime on Friday. Three more hours till the end of school. A secondary-one classroom boxed in with whitewashed walls. There is a noticeboard at the back hung with student paintings, posters announcing events, and other such classroom notices. Desks are arranged in groups of four. Students’ sculptures are placed at four corners of the classroom. 

The classroom is empty save for KATHLEEN, who sits at the front of class, downstage centre, her head resting in her folded arms on the table. The side of her face upturned, expressionless. VICTORIA approaches her from upstage right. Energetically grabs KATHLEEN’s arm and shakes it. 

Victoria Kathleen! Finally, we can talk. I need to show you something. Kathleen (murmurs) What? (sees her friends’ excited face) Is it another potion? Victoria (beaming and tugs at KATHLEEN’s arm again) Not here Kath, someone might come in. (pauses and notices her friend’s expression) Are you ok? 

Kathleen Not really, you know what happened. 

Victoria Yeah, that sucks. I’m sorry girl. Did you get to talk to your father? 

Kathleen He’s been really detached lately, he only ever gives me one word replies.

Victoria (touches her friend’s hand) I wish I could make you feel better.

Kathleen Me too, I don’t know what to do anymore, it’s like nothing I say gets through to him anymore, I’m tired. 

Victoria (energy renewed, with earnestness) Listen you have to come with me. Just to the back of the classroom where no one will see. Please. 


KATHLEEN looks up at her friend and reluctantly gets up. VICTORIA is already at her side, pulling her arm. Halfway to the back of the classroom, VICTORIA screams and points to a limp- looking frog on the ground. 

Victoria Is it alive? 

Kathleen It’s not breathing. 

Victoria Okay? Is it alive though? 

Kathleen If it’s not breathing, how could it possibly be alive? 

Victoria Oh yah, true. (pause) but can we revive it? 

Kathleen No? Unless your potions actually work. 

Victoria (ignores her) What about in that video? The one where they pour salt on the slug and it melts? 

Kathleen I thought you were trying to revive it, not season it? 

Victoria But what if it’s alive? It looks dry. Do you have water? 

Kathleen You’re going to pour water on it? 

Victoria Yeah, make a little puddle so it feels more at home. 

Kathleen That’s gross! Why are you so obsessed with bringing the frog back to life? 

Victoria Frogs are good omens! I can’t just leave it without trying! I’ll poke it. 

Kathleen You might get salmonella. 

Victoria Don’t you get that from eating salmon? 

Kathleen What? 

Victoria Nevermind, I’ll just use a pen. (Tentatively pokes the frog with a pen and watches for movement). No reaction. 

Kathleen (says emphatically) Yeah, it’s dead. Dead things don’t usually move. Let’s go downstairs. 

Victoria Okay then, (shrugs) mission save the frog aborted. 


Kathleen So what was it that you wanted to show me? 

Victoria Ok, so… (fidgets) You know I saw a really funny film on the weekend. Parent trap. Have you seen it? 

Kathleen Um… no. I’m not in the mood for funny movies. 

Victoria It’s about these twins who were separated at birth, one’s English, one’s American, and they meet at summer camp, and they switch places and they get up to a whole load of mischief, and they— 

Kathleen Hey Vic I’m sure it’s great but I’m really not— 

Victoria (Excitedly) Listen, let me finish. So these twins were trying to reunite their parents, who divorced when they were babies so the twins never knew each other existed. Are you following so far? 

Kathleen (perks up at the word ‘divorced’) I’m not sure. Are you implying I have a long-lost twin who might help me get our parents back together? 

Victoria (snorts) You are so unimaginative! I’m saying that I might just have the answer to your problems. (grins) It’s no Hallie or Annie but… (hesitates, then softly) I finally finished the love potion I’ve been working on. Months, I tell you, but it’s finally ready. Just one drop of water and it’ll be good to go. 

Kathleen Really? 

Victoria Come on, I’ll show you! 

VICTORIA busily rummages through her bag and takes out a vial and her water bottle. VICTORIA (pours water into the rosewood-coloured concoction) I’m going to try now. Don’t speak. 

Kathleen Is this really going to work? 

Victoria Shush! I’m trying to concentrate! 

Kathleen Oh! Sorry. 

VICTORIA mutters a chant under her breath and effervescence rises in the vial.

Kathleen Woah, it’s bubbling! 

Victoria (triumphantly) Yes and look, it’s done. Make sure that your mother drinks it and I promise she will fall in love with your father again. 

She puts the stopper back on the vial and gives it to KATHLEEN who takes it with caution. 

Kathleen Uh… okay? How do I know it is going to work? I’m not very sure about using this. What if you poison my mum? 

Victoria (grumbles) Well, all the others worked…(pause) Anyway… I’ve got the love potion here, you decide. 

Kathleen (firmly) Ok, let’s do this. 

Scene 2

SHANNON’S living room. The choice of colours used impose a delightful air of trendy sophistication. Cotton white walls and dark wood floors act as a blank canvas allowing colour to be introduced by its furnishings and accessories. SHANNON is listening to music, eyes closed. KATHLEEN rings the doorbell and SHANNON goes to open the door Enter KATHLEEN 

Kathleen Hi 

Mom (Beams at the sight of her daughter. Walks across the room to hug KATHLEEN) Hi, I missed you! How has school been? 

Kathleen Uh… oka 

Mom Do you want anything? Food, water? I don’t know how you survive off your fathers’ cooking, you look so skinny. 

Kathleen (pauses) Do you want me to get orange juice for both of us? 

Mom Don’t worry, I’ll get it 

Kathleen (murmurs) Um okay… 

Mom (Brings the drinks out and passes a glass to kathleen) 

KATHLEEN picks up her glass and pretends to stumble. She tips the entire glass of juice onto her mom’s clothes. 

Kathleen Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry! 

Mom (looking down at the large patch of orange in the middle of her pink shirt) It’s no big deal, I’ll go change (walks out of room) 

(KATHLEEN rushes towards her mom’s cup and stealthily pours the potion into it) 

Mom (comes back with a new shirt on and a cloth in her hand. She cleans the table up and signals to Kathleen’s empty cup) Do you want me to get you more juice? 

Kathleen No thanks, I’m not thirsty anyway. 

They sit in silence for a few moments. Kathleen staring at her Mum’s OJ, Mum looking timidly at Kathleen. 

Kathleen Are you coming home? 

Mom (smiles weakly) Home? I am home! 

Kathleen You know what I mean, home to me and dad! 

Mom Kathleen… (reaches out and puts a hand on Kathleen’s) 

Kathleen (violently shrugs her mum’s hand away.) Why! Stop being so selfish! Mom (shrilly) How dare you? 

Their eyes lock. KATHLEEN’S gleaming with anger and her mum’s starting to brim over with tears. KATHLEEN is a bit surprised as she has never seen her mum cry before. 

Mom (her voice softens) Kathleen. Listen to me. (waits but Kathleen turns away now. Mum sighs) I have been crying myself to sleep every night for the past two months.

Kathleen Wh… what? Why? (she turns to look at her mother) 

Mom I don’t know. I haven’t been happy with your father. I felt like I was trapped (she looks up at Kathleen) But since living alone, I am slowly feeling more like myself again. I go out and do things. I sometimes catch myself smiling in the mirror. (she looks sad but manages another weak smile) 

KATHLEEN is quiet, thinking, realising that she doesn’t have a recent memory of her mother laughing. She softens now as her mother opens up to her. 

Mom Are you… ok? 

Kathleen No, I didn’t really want to accept the fact that you guys… separated

Mom I’m sorry, pumpkin. I know I left very abruptly. Everything is still up in the air. But I had to. I promise I will talk to your father. And I promise that one day you will understand. I love you, but I cannot be with your father. Do you forgive me? 

They are both in tears now. A weight is lifted off KATHLEEN with her mum’s confidence. She nods. 

Mom (with a beam that lights up her face) Cheers to that! (she drinks the orange juice in one gulp) 

(Kathleen gasps in horror. She had forgotten about the potion) 

Mom (Suddenly) Let’s go back home! 

Kathleen (Her expression is still frozen) Really? Uh, okay then… 

Scene 3 .

DAD’S living room. the carpeted floor and leather armchairs. A grey couch at the side of the room, DAD is sitting on it. Enter KATHLEEN and MOM 

MOM knocks on the door. DAD comes to the door and looks taken aback to see MOM there 

Mom Hello 

Dad (nervously) Oh! Hello.. 

Kathleen (awkward laugh) Okay then… this is a little awkward 

Dad Please, come in (gingerly steps aside to let MOM and KATHLEEN in)

Mom (turns to KATHLEEN) Kathleen, I’m going to have a chat with your dad. Do you mind going to your room for a bit? 

Kathleen No, of course not! I’ll come back when you’re done 

KATHLEEN enters her room, and she can be seen putting her ear to the thin wall separating the living room and her bedroom, listening intently. 

Dad Why are you here? (His voice cracking) And… I hope you know we both miss you. 

Mom I know, I miss you too. You will always be a part of my life. But this hasn’t been working for a while now. Wouldn’t you agree? 

A heavy silence as KATHLEEN and DAD breathe deeply. 

Mom I feel so guilty for walking out on the both of you. That night replays in my mind like a broken record. All the things we said at the end… 

Dad I’m sorry I didn’t see it before. (puts his head in his hands) I’m sorry I got so sucked into my work. 

Mom (takes his hands) Hey, we’ve talked about this before. It’s more than that… (sighs) Aren’t you tired of all the fighting? It was constant. Do you remember? I know I was. At some point we have to tell ourselves that enough is enough. I’m… being selfish, too. (lowers voice) Chad, I’m worried about Kathleen. Has she been eating? There are dark rings under her eyes. 

Dad (looks up and frowns deeply as he appears to consider his daughter for the first time lately) Oh… I’ve gone and done it again. Neglecting people is apparently what I do. First you, now Kathleen… 


Dad Will you ever come back to live with us? 

SHANNON looks around the flat and her eyes land on the sofa. 

Mom (emotional) Looks like you haven’t got rid of that wine stain. 

Dad Yes. Remember that night? Kath was away at camp and – 

Mom (her expression twists) Something has changed now. Inside me. (stifles a sob) Chad I can’t do this, I’m sorry. (sobs quietly) I have to go. Will you please look after Kathleen? 

Dad (resigned) That’s all I ever want to do. 

Mom And tell her I love her. (half-turns towards the door, half-turns towards Dad) Bye. (hesitates) I’m sorry. The papers will arrive next week. (exits sniffling) 

Dad remains on the sofa, staring at the wine stain on the grey couch at the side of the room. He inhales deeply and pushes himself up with hands on both knees. 

KATHLEEN lets herself drop to the floor and begins to cry. 

DAD enters the room. He sees her on the ground and goes to hug her. 

Dad (scoops her into his arms) Did you hear our conversation? 

KATHLEEN nods then lets out a sob 

Dad I know you didn’t want her to leave, but it’s for the best, this whole time when she’s been acting strange has also shown me that we just aren’t meant for each other. 

Kathleen (an expression of twisted agony) That’s what everyone says! (in a mocking voice) it’s for the best! But is it really for the best for me? Why does she have to leave? Is it me? What did I do? 

Dad (calmly) If there is anything I want you to know it’s this – it was never you. Sometimes when two people live together for too long, they become invisible to each other. Of course that’s not always the case, I don’t want you to think that about marriage. But that’s what happened with your mother and I. (more sombrely) Kathleen, you are the product of some of our best times together, the treasured fruit of our love. And we will always be here for you.

Kathleen (Stops crying and regains some of her composure) Thank you dad. 

Dad I’ll always be here for you. Do you want some time alone? 

Kathleen Yes please 

Exit DAD 

Scene 4

KATHLEEN flops on her bed, looking defeated. She picks up her phone and calls VICTORIA. 

Victoria Hey! What’s going on? You look upset… oh no… was it 

Kathleen Mom’s not coming back 

Victoria I’m so sorry Kath… 

Kathleen No, it’s fine, you must be disappointed too. 

Victoria (Confused) What? 

Kathleen It’s your first failed potion… 

Victoria Oh, that. Uh, about that… it wasn’t a potion… 

Kathleen What? 

Victoria It was grapefruit sparkling tea from the canteen… I was upset seeing you so downcast, but my potion wasn’t ready. I’m so sorry… I ruined everything… 

Kathleen It wasn’t real? Bu- but…

Victoria I’m truly sorry for lying to you, but i still think that you shouldn’t keep them both together if it means that they won’t be happy 

Kathleen To be honest, I don’t know what I was doing! Giving a love potion to my mom? I think I’m out of my mind. 

Victoria It wasn’t your fault! You were scared, things were changing so fast, I would’ve done the same! But look at it like this; you’re me, your parents are the dead frog we found, and I’m the pen! You can’t keep prodding them with my magic to force them to stay together when the love is already deader than the dead frog. You should just let them be. I know it’s hard, but you have to try to accept that you can’t change it. Maybe if you just let her live the life she wants, you and your dad will be happier too! 

Kathleen (Slightly smiling) Stop being so responsible Victoria, you’re making me feel bad! (Sighing) I can’t believe I let myself be overcome with the desire of seeing my parents together again, just for the image of a perfect family. I really want to thank you, for supporting me through all of this 

Victoria (Cheekily) Don’t worry, I’ll always support you. You wouldn’t be able to get rid of me if you tried. 

Scene 5

Kathleen A life without Mum and Dad… imagine that. (pause) Just imagine that for a second. The image leaves me as soon as I start to imagine it. At first, I had, in the case of the blissfully ignorant, assumed that their estrangement was just going to be a phase and that we’d all go back to normal in no time. How foolish of me! Stupid, stupid Kathleen. (dreamily clasps her hands in front of her in a submissive gesture) If it were up to me, I obviously wouldn’t choose a life without my parents, but this is beyond my control. And (pauses) I want them to be happy. 

(looks to her left, where CHAD steps out from the darkness and smiles at her). And mum (looks to her right, where SHANNON steps out from the darkness and throws a little wave). 


Sophie Sarginson is a writer of the class of 2026