Humanities › Literature "The Good Times are Killing Me" Share Flipboard Email Print Stockbyte Literature Plays & Drama Play & Drama Reviews Basics & Advice Playwrights Monologues Improvisation Games and Activities Best Sellers Classic Literature Poetry Quotations Shakespeare Short Stories Children's Books By Rosalind Flynn Theater Education Expert Ph.D., Educational Drama, University of Maryland B.A., Drama, The Catholic University of America Rosalind Flynn, Ph.D., is the director of the Master of Arts in Theatre Education degree program at The Catholic University of America. our editorial process Rosalind Flynn Updated January 03, 2020 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. Format 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 reveal the story of friendship between two adolescent girls 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. Roles 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 integratedLucy Arkins: Edna’s younger sisterEdna’s Parents and Extended Family: Mom, Dad, Uncle Don, Aunt Margaret, Cousin Steve, and Cousin EllenBonna Willis: A black 12-13-year-old girl who recently moved into Edna’s neighborhoodBonna’s Parents and Extended Family: Mom, Dad, younger brother Elvin, and Aunt MarthaRecurring Minor Roles: Two black teenagers named Earl and Bonita, and Cousin Ellen’s friend SharonEnsemble: 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, streets, 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. Music 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.