This play requires only three characters: a father and his two sons. One son should be younger than the other. They can be dressed in modern clothes.
Younger Son: Dad, I want to leave this town and go out and find my way in the world.
Dad: You don’t need to go into the world, son. You’ve got everything you need and could ever want right here. And you know I need your help on the farm.
Son: I’m sick of this farm. I’m sick of doing the same ol’ thing day in and day out. I want to go and see what the world has to offer. But, the problem is, I don’t have enough money.
Dad: Well… I don’t think I can help you. All my money is tied up in this land. Someday, (motions with hand) all this will be yours and your brother’s.
Younger Son: I’ve been thinking about that, Dad. I don’t want this stupid land. I hate being here. And I don’t want to wait until you die to get my inheritance. I want it now. If I have to wait until you’re gone, I’ll be too old to enjoy it.
Dad: But…that’s not how inheritance works. It’s unheard of to ask someone for an inheritance before the person dies. (Dad adds quietly) It’s a little hurtful…
Son: You were young once; can’t you understand how I feel? Can’t you see I hate being here?
Dad: Well, yea…I know you’re not as excited about the farm as your brother. But it’s good and honest hard work.
Son: (Angrily) I knew you wouldn’t understand.
Dad: I want you to be happy. (Sadly) Let me see what I can do. (Dad exits the stage)
Son: (talking to himself) I can’t wait to get out of here. I’m going to call my friends and were gonna party big time!
Dad: (enters stage with a briefcase) Here you go. I sold off some property. Here’s all your share of the inheritance. (Dad holds up briefcase towards son)
Son: (snatches away the briefcase and turns to leave) Thanks, old man. (Son crosses stage and exits out opposite stage door)
Dad: (yelling after son) Be careful, son. I love you. Keep in touch, ok? (Father leaves stage area with shoulders down and head hung low.)
*Lights fade. Dad quickly changes shirt to look like a new day has passed. He is standing on the stage looking through some mail when older son enters the stage carrying some tools.
Older Son: What’ch doing out here, Dad.
Dad: I’ve been waiting for the mailman to come. All he brought was bills.
Older Son: You were hoping you’d get a letter from him, didn’t you? YOU know he’s not going to take the time to write. He’s too selfish. He’s out there partying, not thinking once about his family. Give up on him. He’s not worth the time.
Dad: (Turns toward the older son) He is my son….your brother. And I will never give up on him and you shouldn’t either.
Older son shakes his head in disgust and leaves. Father bows his head.
*Light fades off of father and onto younger son.
Younger son enters stage opposite of where Dad and older son were. He’s shirt is torn, his face is dirty. His briefcase is opened to show it is empty.
Younger Son: I can’t believe all my money is gone. I was such a fool to blow it on woman and drugs. I can’t even buy food… (Shoulders drop and he hangs his head and walks towards the trash can. He goes through the trash and finds food and eats it. After a few bites, he throws it back into trash can and digs through trash until he finds something to drink. He drinks it and puts it back into trash. He falls to his knees.) The people who work for my Dad eat better than this…what have I done.
*Lights come up on Dad checking his cell. Older Son comes out stage door behind his father.
Older Son: (Wiping his brow) Did you get a call?
Dad: No, son….just…hoping…to get one.
Older Son: (Grabs his father by the shoulders.) “Why do you waste your time worry about him? He’s been gone for months and he’s not coming back. (Takes his hands from his fathers’ shoulder and turns- not able to look at his Dad) He played you, Dad, and made you look like a fool to all our friends and neighbors. He took your money and left.
Dad: (putting his hand on the older son’s shoulder and turns son to face him). Until you have a son of your own, you will never understand a father’s love. He’ll come back one day….and when he does…I’ll will be here…waiting.
Older Son exits stage area. Younger son enters sanctuary from the back. He yells for his Dad. The Dad goes to edge of the stage with his hands over his eyes, as if he is trying to see far off.
Dad: (excitedly) Son! Is that you?
Younger Son: It’s me, Dad!
Dad opens stage door and yells for older son to come quickly.
Dad: Jeff! Come quickly! Your brother’s coming up the road. He’s come home!
(Older son enters stage but stands back and watches father and younger son)
Dad goes to center stage where he helps younger son up on stage. He embraces him.
Younger Son: I am so sorry, Father. I’ve done some terrible things with the money you gave me. And it’s gone…all of it….I have nothing left. Please, can I just work in the fields? I don’t want any money…just some food and maybe a place to sleep?
Dad: (Embraces his son again) Don’t be ridiculous, you are my son! There is always a place for you at my table and under my roof. Go get cleaned up. Tonight we celebrate your return with a big party!
Younger son and Dad embrace again and younger son exits stage
Older Son: Are you kidding me, Dad? He comes back, smelling like a drunken pig, and you act like he’s not even been gone! I don’t get you! He has done nothing but cause our family embarrassment and shame-and you throw him a party? I’ve been here this whole time, doing his job AND mine…and I’ve asked nothing from you…this is like a slap in the face to me. How could you?
Dad: I’m sorry you’re upset, son. I know you’ve been here the whole time, right by my side, doing whatever needed to be done. Don’t you see, all this is yours? It always has been. Everything I have…is yours. And every day that you have been here with me has been a celebration. I thank God for you! But, my heart was broken over the son I thought I’d lost…I thought he was dead! But now, he has returned…he has come home! Yes, I want to celebrate his return. Please…come join us. There is nothing I want more than to have BOTH my sons by my side tonight. (Dad heads to the door and holds it open for older son. Older Son hesitates for just a second than joins his Dad.)