"The Good Times are Killing Me"

By Lynda Barry

Friends to the end?. Stockbyte

If you are looking for a compelling play for a young mixed-race cast, you may want to take a look at The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry. This play, published in 1993, offers two strong female roles in which teenagers can play teenagers and a multiplicity of issues to discuss with cast and crew during rehearsals and with audiences in talkbacks.


This is a two-act play, but it is unusual in that it is comprised of 36 short scenes or vignettes—26 in Act One and 10 in Act 2.

The story is adolescent Edna Arkins’s story. She is the main character and she appears in every scene; she breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the audience before, during, and after interacting with the other characters.

Each vignette has a title like RECORD PLAYER NIGHT CLUB or BEST FRIENDS that communicates the essence of the scene. The scenes—some only a half page long, some three pages long—reveal the story of friendship between two adolescent girls—one white and one black—in mid-1960s America. One vignette flows into the next creating a collection of scenes that reveal the difficulties of coming of age in the midst of family heartaches, personal growing pains, and racial prejudices.

Cast Size

There are roles for 16 females and 8 males. Broken down by race, the play calls for 10 white females and 6 black females, and 3 white males and 5 black males. Doubling in roles is possible, resulting in an overall minimal cast size of 16.


Edna Arkins: A white 12-13 year-old girl who lives with her family in a house on a city street that has slowly become integrated

Lucy Arkins: Edna’s younger sister

Edna’s Parents and Extended Family: Mom, Dad, Uncle Don, Aunt Margaret, Cousin Steve, and Cousin Ellen

Bonna Willis: A black 12-13 year-old girl who recently moved into Edna’s neighborhood

Bonna’s Parents and Extended Family: Mom, Dad, younger brother Elvin, and Aunt Martha

Recurring Minor Roles: Two black teenagers named Earl and Bonita, and Cousin Ellen’s friend Sharon

Ensemble: There are multiple scenes that would be enhanced by friends, neighbors, classmates, and other people. There are also several small roles—a teacher, a mother, a pastor, a Girl Scout leader and her daughter.

Set and Costumes

Most action occurs on the porches, street, yards, and kitchens of Edna’s and Bonita’s houses. Other settings are Edna’s basement, a campsite, a meeting room, a tough neighborhood, a church, and a school hallway. These can easily be suggested with lighting or a few moveable small set pieces.

The time period of this play is critical to the story, so the costumes need to be early 1960s American clothing—mostly casual and inexpensive-looking.


Songs and singing occur throughout this production, providing mood, underscoring emotions and actions, and contextualizing the story in 1960s urban America. Much of the singing occurs with the records that the characters play; some singing is a capella. The script identifies the precise songs and provides lyrics within the text or in an appendix.

Content Issues

Much of the content and language of this play seems so innocent given the 20-plus years since its opening night and its setting of 50-plus years ago. Even so, it’s worth noting that the play deals with marital infidelity, racial discrimination (One of Edna’s lines mentions the “No Negro Kids Can Come in Our House Rule.), and the accidental drowning of Bonna’s brother. The language is relatively tame, but the dialogue does include the words  “ass,” “boodie,” “pimp,” “butt,” and the like. There is, however, no profanity.

Lynda Barry also published this story as a 144-page novel with Edna as the narrator.

If you would like to hear Lynda Barry talk about her life work, please visit Accessing the Imaginary.

Here is a video trailer of a high school production of the play.

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Your Citation
Flynn, Rosalind. ""The Good Times are Killing Me"." ThoughtCo, Oct. 13, 2015, thoughtco.com/the-good-times-are-killing-me-2712835. Flynn, Rosalind. (2015, October 13). "The Good Times are Killing Me". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-good-times-are-killing-me-2712835 Flynn, Rosalind. ""The Good Times are Killing Me"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-good-times-are-killing-me-2712835 (accessed March 24, 2018).