A small bag carries extraordinary secrets
as one couple struggles to recognize each other
and themselves.

Doug - 20s/30s / Man
(but exploring gender expression and identity) 

Zoe - 20s/30s / Woman


Gender identity & expression, relationship intimacy, LGBTQIA+

“A stunning piece of work from a writer who couldn't write a false beat if they tried. Playwright John Mabey once again makes me question my own writing career with a short play so perfect, so full of subtext and humanity, that grown humans will weep. A fantastic twist, an opportunity for two humans - Zoe and Doug - to bridge the gap that secrets create. This play deserves many productions and all the accolades. The stage directions are as much fun to read as the play, and have a whole world within them as well. Read, weep, smile.”
(Arianna Rose)
“Being such a 20th-Century-men-and-women-Bogart-and-Bacall kind of guy, I will always welcome with enthusiastically open arms any well written work that allows me to explore this "new" world, peopled with compelling, humanistic and complex individuals, a world which - due to my upbringing - was kept hidden and out of touch. The dialogue in "Little Black Dress" is the best thing about this short work because, from beginning to end, it dances on the periphery. And the ending will have you clutching your heart. I look forward to reading more work by John Mabey!”
(Ken Love)

“The act of keeping secrets is almost more painful to the secret keeper than to the loved one from whom the secret is being kept. Little Black Dress is a deft and compelling exploration of the discovery and release of a secret and a heartening look at the way release of a secret can allow a relationship to deepen. There is impressive craft at work here in the levels of emotion undergirding natural dialogue.”
(Paul Donnelly)
“Coco Chanel famously said “Scheherazade is easy; a little black dress is hard.” But playwriting magician John Mabey makes the hard look effortless in his LITTLE BLACK DRESS. It is everything a great 10-minute play should be: inventive and intriguing, instructive yet never didactic, driven by characters both extraordinary and relatable, poignant throughout yet funny at times, too. Doug and Zoe’s moment of confrontation is specific, but through it Mabey captures universalities about the limits of relationships and the limitlessness of love with bull's-eye accuracy.”
(Robert Weibezahl)
“The secrets we keep are almost always the keys to knowing us better. Probably the most frightening moment of any relationship is when you are clinging on to the last secret you have worried that it will be the one that ends it all. Or the one you wanted to keep all to yourself. John Mabey writes a complex moment that reads so smoothly you barely realize it’s over at lights out. Brilliant work by a brilliant playwright.”
(Christopher Soucy)

“One scientific survey found that 87% men who dress in women's clothing for psychological fulfillment are not gay. They are straight and most of them are married. Zoe's discovery that her husband Doug is one such man is painful, but as they talk, really talk for a change, she begins to understand who he is when he's not hiding an essential part of himself from her. With his usual skill, Mabey has here produced an emotion-packed play full of love and empathy.”
(Donald E. Baker)

“In 10 minutes, John Mabey more skillfully explores a complex secret and its effect on a marriage than Harvey Fierstein managed in his full-length, Casa Valentina. Tension and confrontation from the start that give way to understanding and perhaps acceptance. Storytelling at its finest!”
(Morey Norkin)

“There are moments in a relationship when people reveal elements of themselves that are tells, the signs that only they share, that don't need to be spoken. John Mabey's ability to convey these moments with a word, a pause, a look, a touch, is in this piece in a masterful way. The subtext of this couple's relationship is immediate and understood: heartfelt and honest.”
(Philip Middleton Williams)

“There are moments in a relationship that move it to another level and that is what Doug and Zoe are facing here. The discovery of a little black dress draws the audience in but the story then twists in a way you wouldn't expect as it draws you into the true complexity of their relationship. While the circumstances in which they find themselves questioning their relationship may be rare the raw and honest dialogue they share in the moment isn't. Relationships all have moments that can change or define them, and that is what John has created perfectly!”
(Rachel Feeny-Williams)
“ This short play...delves into fluidity in gender and challenges traditional conceptions of masculinity. I really enjoyed how this play focused both on a positive acceptance of a partner’s gender identity and reflects on their own struggles and courage in expressing this part of themselves to their partner.”
(THEATRE & TONIC, UK Theatre Review)

“Gender affirmation, trans acceptance and body positivity ring out in John Mabey’s Little Black Dress, where we witness a seemingly cisgendered, heterosexual couple come to grips with the new reality of queer coupledom…hearts were melted by the duo’s happy ending.”
(Fringe Biscuit, UK Theatre Review)

“Little Black Dress...focuses on identity within relationships and not hiding your true self...a completely unique perspective on acceptance, which is refreshing given how often we hear negative stories in the arts about experiences around identity and sexuality.”
(Kat Masterson, UK Theatre Review)

"An anxiety-filled bedroom where a young couple try to come to terms with a new revelation in their relationship...themes of sexual identity and takes them on a constructive journey...good interjections and the couples’ fights seem genuine and heartfelt." 
(London Pub Theatre Magazine,
UK Theatre Review​​​​​​​)

“The handling of this delicate theme was spot on, setting a positive and seamless tone for the evening...the couple’s dynamic remained genuine...a standout moment for me was a brief sequence featuring a rapid exchange of questions and incisive responses between the two characters...exceptionally well-tuned...heartwarming, overwhelmingly sweet and uplifting.”
(WEST END EVENINGS, UK Theatre Review)

“Mabey manages to sweep away cobwebs and give us an affirmation of gender in all ways. With secrets revealed, a couple learns to love and accept all because in a good world, love wins.”
(Claudia Haas)

“In this play, love really does conquer all. A thrilling exploration of what it means to love somebody. The benefits of accepting ALL of them. Fantastic writing and very human characters. Highly recommend.”
(Dan Taube)
“Beautiful. John Mabey has quickly become one of my favorite writers for their ability to tell meaningful stories with emotion, subtext and characters we care about, all skillfully presented in spare and concise language that offers so much to actors and enables audiences to lean in and leave changed. This is an absolutely wonderful play, but read anything by Mabey and you will see what I mean.”
(Jennifer O'Grady)

“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. To have a play filled with so much internal conflict and met with nothing but love, is so joyous. Not to leave out the fact that the dialogue is gorgeous on top of these characters who we absolutely love and root for. And one more time for good measure... beautiful. ”
(Bailey Jordan Garcia)

“I was lucky enough to see this lovely play as part of Boston Theater Company's Queer Voices festival. John Mabey has carefully crafted a heartfelt and positive piece about the challenge of revealing identity and the way that true love means true acceptance. It's a subtle piece that speaks big and hopeful truths.”
(John Minigan)

“I saw this play as part of Boston Theater Company's Queer Voices Festival and love how Mabey throws us into the action and conflict. Mabey paints an honest picture of a story that would normally be hidden and brings us into an intimate and powerful conversation that touches the heart and the brain.”
(Stephen Kaplan)
BrooklynONE Productions, NYC - 2024

The Fab 4, GA - 2023
Boston Theater Company, MA - 2024

Theatre Reset, OH - 2023

Barons Court Theatre, Kibo Productions, London UK - 2023
Kibo Productions UK
Kibo Productions UK
Kibo Productions UK
Kibo Productions UK
Kibo Productions UK
Kibo Productions UK
Kibo Productions UK
Kibo Productions UK
Kibo Productions UK
Kibo Productions UK
Nile Scott Studios - Boston Theater Company
Nile Scott Studios - Boston Theater Company
Nile Scott Studios - Boston Theater Company
Nile Scott Studios - Boston Theater Company
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