It appears that "revision" was the incorrect word to use for the work I've been doing on my play. I've essentially been rewriting it. Only one scene escaped the scrap pile.
What have I done to it? Well, after my fabulous playwrights group (I so love them) delved through the first scene, the number one piece of advice I received was "tighten." But I couldn't just take out a few exchanges. I had four women all talking around each other, creating a world where the main character--Mary, the youngest of the four women--had no power, no say in how the others perceived her. How was I supposed to tighten that?
The solution? Not cutting out bits of dialogue here and there. That simply wasn't enough. I printed off the scene, then deleted the electronic copy and started over, this time with the main character and only her mother, who was on the phone with a third character. Suddenly the misunderstandings, the mixed up memories, and the shifts in control occurred between the two most important characters, and no time was wasted in trying to develop two other women who were not key to the play's ideas.
A 26-page scene became an 11-page scene, and went from distracted and manic to focused and powerful. Was it easy? Not at all. But it worked, so I don't mind the extra time it took in the slightest.
Once the two characters were gone, though, all but the second scene fell, too. But I realized that the main weaknesses of the play would also be resolved, and the action would have a focus I could never have accomplished had I held onto those characters.
Suddenly the arc of the story became clear: two arcs, one with the main character moving up, slowly making choices that would allow her to live, while her mother's arc fell, as her disease ate her mind, turned her into a child, and finally killed her. In the past, readers (actors, theatre people, playwrights) had asked me which person the story was about. Now I knew the answer. It was about both of them, moving in different directions. One story couldn't work without the other.
I have probably an hour of work left, and the play will be done. I already know how the final scene will play out. Amazing what I can accomplish when I don't hold myself back.
What's most ironic is that this is exactly what my main character learns... not to hold herself back...
Art imitates life.