Only to Penny
or: The Curious Appearance
of Saint Ruben at the Pancake Breakfast


A short play on the theme: " Reason to Believe "

by Paul Shipp & K. Brian Neel

© 2008 all rights reserved


14/48 — January 5, 2008

PLAY # 2





Reverend Mother Virginia 

Sister Irene 

Sister Penny 



In scene change, the band plays and sings a hymn: 

Oh lord, most wonderful lord
Who watches over us
In our needs,
In our wants,
In our prayers
We Thank thee, O’ Lord
For the blessings you grant us daily.
For the mere breadcrumbs
You allow us to indulge in,
The mud we toil in, day in, day out, in your name.
These alone give us reason to believe. 

Lights up on the nuns, holding plates of pancakes. They join in on the final chorus:

Nuns: Amen

The nuns enter the house and serve their plates through the next dialogue.

VIRGINIA: I hear your concerns about attendance, Sister Irene. 

IRENE: Mother Sister, it’s just getting depressing. (counting the attendance) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 “people.”

VIRGINIA: 5 people or five hundred people, this is what Saint Ruben’s is all about. 

They have arrived at their designated audience members. 

All: (not in unison) Good morning, welcome to St. Rubens Pancake Breakfast. Enjoy your meal, may God be with you.

They return to the stage to make more pancakes.

VIRGINIA: This tradition has been around long before you and I. 

IRENE: But every third Sunday of the month has become the most depressing Sunday of the month. 

VIRGINIA: That is when we should be at our best, Sister Irene.

IRENE: But even the Mass numbers are down. And you know that father Keane…

Sister Virginia shuts her up with a look. 

IRENE: I’m sorry Reverend Mother. I meant no disrespect to our pastor. 

VIRGINIA: We all know he’s either at the golf course or betting on Notre Dame. Let’s move on, shall we. Sister Penny, are you dawdling?  

Sister Penny has been dallying in the audience.

PENNY: I dropped a pancake, Reverend Mother. 

VIRGINIA: The lord doesn’t look fondly on waste, Sister Penny. Clean your mess and come to the griddle, please. 

Joining the others, Penny confesses to Irene in a hushed manner:

PENNY: I served the dropped cake. Should I tell Mother? 

IRENE: Girl... 

The three have some business with the grill. 

IRENE: Sister Mother, you’re always telling us to be our best, yet you refuse me my strengths and passions. I know that we could increase attendance if you took some of my suggestions to heart. 

A homeless man—Ruben enters and sits at on the other side of the stage.  

VIRGINIA: It’s a risk, Sister Irene.

Penny notices Ruben and takes him pancakes.

IRENE: To switch it up—one month have a waffle breakfast, one month French toast. Latkes. We can bring in other faiths. Cross-pollination just by serving latkes. 

PENNY: Hash browns would be nice. 

Penny reaches Ruben. 

PENNY: Sir. Here are some pancakes for you. I put a little bit of syrup on them. There’s more on the table. I could get it for you if you want more. Sister Irene says I put too much on mine, but I like sweet foods. 

RUBEN: Hello Penny. My name is Saint Ruben. When I was six, my palms bled with stigmata. At sixteen the Virgin Mary appeared to me the first time while working the harvest in the Gaston fields. From then on I cured sick friends at my orphanage. I grew older and went on a sojourn to heal lepers in the Moor colonies. I toiled there for many years. And then through a vision of Christ, I tried to lead a revolt and bring freedom from the abuses of the aristocracy. I was drawn and quartered by a drunken French battalion. 

PENNY: That sounds awful. I’m sorry. 

RUBEN: Thank you, Penny.

PENNY: This church is Saint Ruben’s. Is that you?


PENNY: This is your pancake breakfast? 

RUBEN: In a way. 

PENNY: These are cold now. I’ll… go… away. 

Cross fade back to the griddle.

IRENE: … The key to a good hollandaise sauce is the exact proportion of Tabasco, and not too much tarragon vinegar. And a drop of sherry. 

VIRGINIA: We don’t have the kitchen or staff to serve eggs benedict. 

IRENE: Well, technically we don’t even have the proper licenses to serve this. 

VIRGINIA: There are other ways than food to burgeon the flock, Sister. 

IRENE: Bingo. Bingo is good. The Indians have done well with bingo. 

PENNY: Sister Mother?

VIRGINIA: Yes, Sister Penny. 

Penny doesn’t respond.

VIRGINIA: Do you need something?

She notices the pancakes in her hand, and the man without food.

VIRGINIA: Didn’t you serve that man over there? 

PENNY: Who is Saint Ruben? 

VIRGINIA: Dear lord, child… I don’t remember… he cured lepers, I believe. Had visions of the lord, I’m sure. Standard Vatican prerequisites. He was a Saint.

PENNY: Is that him?

Virginia and Irene are dumbfounded. They look at penny. They look at the man. Reverend Mother takes over:

VIRGINIA: Why do you ask this, Sister Penny? 

PENNY: He told me he was Saint Ruben. 

VIRGINIA: Come with me, Sister.

Penny puts down the plate of pancakes and follows Virginia to Ruben.

VIRGINIA: Good morning sir. 

RUBEN: Can’t a guy get something to eat in this joint? Thought this was a pancake breakfast, not a prayer meeting. 

VIRGINIA: I’m sorry sir. We’ll bring you a stack shortly. 

The nuns leave him.

RUBEN: Not too much syrup. I got an abscessed cavity. Hurts like a motherfucker. 

VIRGINIA: Sir! One more foul word… 

RUBEN: Sorry, sorry, sorry.  

Back at the griddle: 

VIRGINIA: Penny? Why do you think he’s a saint? 

PENNY: He told me. 

IRENE: Hey! That could work. We can announce that we’ve had a vision of our patron saint. Attendance will jump to heaven. Oh come on, it’s not like all those Mexican restaurants where they burn tortillas in the image of Christ. Or that cheese sandwich on ebay…

VIRGINIA: Enough you two. Penny, take this to that man. 

Penny takes a deep breath, turns, walks gingerly to the man.

VIRGINIA: (to Irene) What about a drama? I studied drama before I got thee to a nunnery.  (chuckle) We could do the Passion Play at Easter. Shakespeare in the Summer! 

Penny reaches Ruben.

RUBEN: I have something to give you, Penny. Only you. 

Penny runs back to the nuns. Virginia is acting out a scene from King Lear.

VIRGINIA: I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad:
I will not trouble thee, my child; Farewell.
We’ll no more meet, no more see one another:
But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter;
Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine: thou art a boil. 

Victoria breaks away.

VIRGINIA: Sister Penny! Why won’t you feed that man? 

IRENE: Give it to me, I’ll do it. 

Irene takes the plate and goes to Ruben. 

RUBEN: Why won’t she bring me pancakes?

IRENE: These are nice and hot. 

RUBEN: I want her to bring me pancakes. Something wrong with me.

IRENE: Just take them, please.

RUBEN: I’m not taking them from you. I’m not taking em. I’m not taking em. 

Irene goes back.

VIRGINIA: That’s it. I’m calling the police. 

PENNY: No. Reverend Mother, I’ll just take them to him. 

VIRGINIA: Are you sure?

Penny takes the cakes from Irene and walks deliberately to the man. 

PENNY: Here are your cakes. 

RUBEN: Behold… 

He stands and raises his hand to her forehead. Though his speech, she kneels before him. 

RUBEN: I give you a vision of  your future: You will bring great joy and great comfort. Divine contentment will be sought through you. And you will be the answer. There will also be anger and contempt from others. There will be great danger. Lives will be lost. But many souls will be gained. This place will gather many people seeking you, Penny. This is our gift to you. 

Ruben kneels with her, forehead to forehead. 

Penny rises. 


Ruben rises. 

RUBEN: I don’t want your fucking pancakes!

Ruben leaves. Penny slowly turns to the other Sisters, but stays in this place. 

VIRGINIA: Sister Penny. Are you allright?

IRENE: Should we call the police?

PENNY: No. I’m fine. 

She steps into the audience and offer the cakes to someone. 

PENNY: Good morning, welcome to St. Rubens Pancake Breakfast. Enjoy your meal, may God be with you.


Copyright © Paul Shipp and K. Brian Neel. All rights reserved. Except for brief passages quoted in newspaper, magazine, radio or television reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.Professional and amateurs are hereby warned that this material, being fully protected under the Copyright Laws of the United States of America and of all other countries of the Berne and Universal Copyright Conventions, is subject to a royalty. All rights including, but not limited to, professional, amateur, recording, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio and television broadcasting, and the rights of translation into foreign languages are expressly reserved. Particular emphasis is placed on the question of readings and all uses of this play by educational institutions, permission for which must be secured from the authorá║s representatives. For all rights, including amateur and stock performances, contact K. Brian Neel.