Two men exchange dolls in an alleyway, a simple trade that isn't so simple.

Gregory - Male, 20s/30s, Black

Carl- Male, 20s/30s, white
“John Mabey has written an effective and beautiful play that, albeit only 10-minutes long, addresses a broad spectrum of important issues. "Playing with Dolls" - which is a great title - is a thoroughly enjoyable read.”
(David Lipschutz)
“There is so much to love about this beautiful play, which in a mere ten minutes touches on so many root issues: race, masculinity, sexual identity, fatherhood, and, most especially, the particular awkwardness men display in their (often thwarted) yearning for friendship. And it does all this through heartfelt humor and with unabashed humanity. Bravo!”
(Robert Weibezahl)
“This is such a sweet play. When two strangers come together to trade dolls and fears. It doesn't come easy. I think the theme of parenting and manly stereotypes is handled so skillfully in these quick pages. A great addition to any evening of theatre and actors will love tackling these roles!”
(Jacquelyn Floyd-Priskorn)
“Some very profound truths come out in this short but powerful piece. Parenting is a seemingly endless series of trials and second guessing, and Mabey nails the uncertainty AND the confidence. Side note - I used to work at a toy store, and this kind of scenario was not uncommon. Really engaging.”
(DC Cathro)
“Two fathers, one black, one white, trying so hard to get it right, and they do – but in ways they never anticipated. Mabey's taut, swift ten-minute play lingers long after one has read it, mainly because it so well written, and it makes its points with sharp precision. Intelligent and engaging, it should be embraced by short play festivals everywhere.”
(Doug DeVita)

“A sweet, nuanced, slice-of-life that touches on a lot of topics, but all boils down to themes of white cis male awkwardness: about race, sexuality, and most of all simple homosociality. It does a lot with <10 minutes, showing us the foundations of, if not a friendship, at least the sort of connection from which friendships are formed.”
(Tom Moran)

“The ingenious setting/premise of PLAYING WITH DOLLS - in an alley behind a toy story - an interracial meeting between fathers exchanging dolls - is so ominous and curiosity-inducing. John Mabey has such a light and magical touch for difficult subjects. Even after a second reading, I'm agog at how he pulls off the art of making friends by two male parents. I love it that Carl appreciates Gregory for his honesty and gentle antagonism and Gregory tolerates Carl's clumsy attempts at openness. It's not easy for adult men to make friends and this wise play offers a pathway.”
(Charles Scott Jones)

“The dad struggle is real. This awkward conversation behind a toy store digs into issues about race, gender norms, and the isolation that toxic ideas about masculinity and manhood can create. Mabey explores these bigger ideas with his trademark humor and compassion, filling this encounter with fallible human grace notes that made me laugh and smile and nod. The kids are alright, if their dads can be, too -- in Mabey's world, and hopefully in ours.”
(Vince Gatton)
Redwood City Play Festival, CA - 2020

The Crowbait Club, ME - 2020
River's Edge Theatre Company, NY - 2022

Dragon Productions Theatre Company, CA - 2023
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