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“Sure Thing” the Play by David Ives Essay

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Updated: Sep 26th, 2021


The play “Sure Thing” written by David Ives has become, since the mid- 1990s, a sure thing. In SAE (Standard American English), the expression sure thing means success. It is a favorite with readers and playgoers. “Sure thing is also the most performed contemporary play in the nation. If one is to hazard a guess, perhaps it was because it came out at a time Americans needed it most – when America entered into a war. The country confronted with a life-and-death situation needed good old wholesome American humor to preserve their sanity and this short play has enough of that humor to spare. With much of the male population away from home, it is interesting to observe how the women took things in stride and also how the Americans, in general, preserved their humor as well as their courage and individuality.

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The setting takes place in the Denver Metro area. The script is written to use one couple, but for our interpretation of the script, three couples were used. Doing this showed how various couples were used. Doing this showed how various couples can interact in one world and come together with similar tactics, yet get varying results. Utilizing multiple couples made the script more playable and much more enjoyable to watch and the audience is kept guessing as to what is going to happen.

The play presents several possibilities that exist when two people (strangers to each other) try to have a cup of coffee together. It starts with the question “Is that seat is taken?” with responses starting with “Yes, I’m waiting for someone” to “No, have a seat.” It takes a short time to relax with the switching of scenes, but it is eerie to watch the scene unfold and realize that you could have been in the same situation.

The play includes a cast of two characters. Bill and Betty. Betty is a woman in her late twenties. She is reading at a café table with an empty chair opposite her. Bill who is of the same age approaches her.

In the first five encounters, the conversations start with the question “Is this seat taken?” and in four of them, it ends with “sure thing”, indicating acceptance of the situation. In the third encounter, the woman sees through the man’s ruse when she says “Sorry. Nice try though.” The discomfiture of the man here is humorous to any listener. In the fifth encounter, the man’s efforts to strike up a conversation are twice rebuffed by the monosyllabic answer of “Mm-hm”. When he doesn’t take the hint, that she is unwilling to contribute to the conversation, she becomes feisty saying, “I just wanted to read in quiet, if you don’t mind.” This shows that no one can trample on her rights.

An ice breaker, on the other hand, could be a remark about the book being read. A comic incident is triggered by Bill when he mentions Hemingway and Faulkner as the author of the book (Anything to get acquainted). But admission to having read it almost invariably leads to friendship and to a revelation of Bill’s having gone through college or not and to what particular college.

Surprise revelations that may turn out to be rather embarrassing are also in order as in the following:

  • Betty: Do you like Faulkner?
  • Bill: I love Faulkner. I spent a whole winter reading him once.
  • Betty: I’ve just started
  • Bill: I was so excited after the first ten pages that I went out and bought everything he wrote. What do you think?
  • Betty: I think it’s pretty boring. I think this is probably what they call the “big letdown”.
  • Most people would conclude that Bill deserved this “perfect squelch” for boasting and exaggerating about buying everything that Faulkner wrote.
  • A big deterrent to embarking on a friendly relationship that hasn’t even begun is such responses to the query. “Do you come in here a lot?” Such answers as “Actually I’m just in town for two days from Pakistan” and “Not as much as I used to before my nervous breakdown”.
  • Probably the most humorous rejoinder could be the following dialogue:
  • Bill: Do you come in here a lot?
  • Betty: Why are you asking?
  • Bill: Just interested
  • Betty: Are you interested, or do you want to pick me up?
  • Bill: No, I’m interested.
  • Betty: Why would you be interested in whether I come in here a lot?
  • Bill: I’m just…getting acquainted.
  • Betty: Maybe you’re only interested in the sake of making small talk long, enough to ask me back to your place to listen to some music, or because you’ve just rented this great tape for your VCR or because you’ve got some terrific unknown Django Reinhardt record only all you want to do is fuck which you won’t do very well after which you’ll go into the bathroom and pee very loudly, then pad into the kitchen and get yourself a beer from the refrigerator without asking me if I’d like anything and then you’ll proceed to lie down and confess that you’ve got a girlfriend named Stephanie who’s away at medical school in Belgium for a year and that you’ve been involved with her off and on in what you’ll call a very intricate relationship for the past seven years. None of which interests me, mister!” What would one expect with a lot of lying being bandied about?

Lastly, in response to “You weren’t waiting for somebody when I came in, were you?” Curiosity would kill the cat with such responses as: “My husband” or “my boyfriend” or my lover (from Betty) or “my mother.”

Since the play turned out to be a sure thing, the global situation has not changed much. The world is now beset by more problems than ever before. The polar caps are melting and the oceans are filling up. Pretty soon there will be no more islands to speak of. There is a food and water shortage to contend with. More than of the animal species have disappeared. Terrorism is the new unseen enemy. Humanity is in the grip of diseases that defy curative measures. Governments all over are ruled by greed. Crime has even reared its ugly head all over the world.

On the bright side, the war in the Middle East is, at last, coming to an end. World leaders and scientists have recently convened to discuss the possibilities of solving the dire problems of mankind. People on the other hand can help themselves by practicing economy; following the health rules and teaching their children the same; avoiding as much as possible any wrong-doing and on the whole-cheering up themselves. People can dream up whatever amusement comes their way such as viewing plays like “Sure Thing” which is guaranteed to be a sure thing when it comes to entertainment seeing themselves as they are in the characters portrayed. “Sure Thing” can truly help by bolstering the spirit, strengthening faith, and increasing courage to face the future no matter how bleak. It encourages viewers to never give up.


As the play suggests, there is the human race in all its splendor. It’s a sure thing that everyone is different, unpredictable, and FUNNY!

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1. IvyPanda. ""Sure Thing" the Play by David Ives." September 26, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sure-thing-the-play-by-david-ives/.


IvyPanda. ""Sure Thing" the Play by David Ives." September 26, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sure-thing-the-play-by-david-ives/.


IvyPanda. 2021. ""Sure Thing" the Play by David Ives." September 26, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sure-thing-the-play-by-david-ives/.


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