In the two-year period when Frank, April, Shep, and Milly were becoming close, but before they had joined the Laurel Players, the two couples had often gone to dance at Vito’s Log Cabin to the music of the Steve Kovick Quartet. Steve Kovick is a washed-up drummer who tries to put all his passion into his performance, but mostly hurts the audience’s ears. The bar is full of high school students who drink without showing ID, tough guys in leather jackets, and lonely bar regulars. Frank discovered the place and decided it was “so awful it’s kind of nice.” The two couples stopped going to the Log Cabin during rehearsals for The Petrified Forest, and have not been back since the play ended.
Frank takes the position that he only likes Vito’s Log Cabin for ironic reasons. During the period when April, Shep and Milly were working on the production of The Petrified Forest, they stopped visiting the bar because they were looking to pursue a more culturally enriched life, instead of laughing at cultural failures like Steve Kovick. The name “Vito’s Log Cabin” even seems intended to contrast to the name of the play—after all, a “petrified forest” is also made of logs: fossilized logs replaced with stone and minerals over hundreds of thousands of years. Thus, while The Petrified Forest may represent a rich cultural tradition created over generations, Vito’s Log Cabin represents its low-brow opposite.
One night, after failing to come up with conversational topics, Frank, April, Shep, and Milly go back to the Log Cabin. April is withdrawn and silent, but Frank thinks of her unhappiness as her own problem. Frank feels confident because he’s wearing a new suit similar to Bart Pollock’s, and because of his affair with Maureen. He feels he will have to end the affair soon, but in the meantime, it is satisfying him perfectly. Her roommate has been home lately, so they have gone to a hotel where the anonymity makes him feel free.
Frank has begun to think that he no longer needs April’s affirmation to be happy. He feels a boost in his confidence from the upcoming new job and from the resumption of his affair with Maureen. Instead of feeling he must live up to April’s standards, he has decided that this is no longer his problem.
Frank dances with Milly, because he knows if he dances with April, she will say she wants to go home. Milly gets too drunk and needs to be brought home, but when they look for their cars, one is blocked in. April says that Frank should take Milly home while she and Shep stay at the bar until the car is free. Shep can hardly believe that he is left alone with April. He realizes that it would have been just as logical for April to drive Milly home, leaving Frank, and wonders if this means April wants time alone with him. April and Shep go back inside. As they dance, he shyly touches her back and remembers pressing himself against her last summer, on a night when she had been too drunk to care. Now she seems receptive to his touch. They have another drink, but Shep can think of nothing to say. He goes to check the car, praying that it is still blocked in. It is. He feels angry at himself for thinking something might happen between himself and April, but cannot shake his hope that it will.
Frank feels self-satisfied and dismissive of April’s mood. It does not occur to him that either April or Shep might be interested in one another and he readily agrees to be the one to drive Milly home. April, on the other hand, seems to realize that Shep has feelings for her. Whether or not she returns these feelings is unclear, but she is happy to be distracted by them and to spend a few hours away from Frank. Shep sees April as the embodiment of taste and elegance, things that are missing in his life because he decided to pursue the life of a tough guy when he was young. Unexpectedly left alone with her, Shep studies everything April says and does for clues about her feelings towards him.
Shep returns to the bar. To his pleasure, April says she doesn’t mind that the car is still there and they must stay longer. She begins to talk about the music the band is playing, saying it doesn’t make her nostalgic because she never had any dates in grade school to dance to it. Shep says it is hard to believe that she didn’t have dates, but he is too shy to say that it is unbelievable because she is lovely. Instead he says she must have had fun on vacations. April says she never had fun on vacations either, which is a sure sign that it was her own “Emotional Problem” to blame for her unhappiness. Shep says he didn’t mean that. April continues to talk, and Shep feels she is airing out grievances to him, without being interested in speaking to him.
April opens up to Shep in a way she no longer will to Frank. Although she may see Shep as nothing more than a sounding board, she knows he is a sympathetic one. But when she raises the idea that she has an “emotional problem,” Shep is confused. April reveals how unhappy she was in social circumstances as a child and young adult, revealing that she has never felt that she fit in with those around her. Shep can relate to her experience because he has also felt alienated from those around him, but he is too shy to explain this, and April doesn’t realize that they have anything in common.
Suddenly, April asks Shep to jitterbug. Shep abandons himself to the dance, enraptured by the way April looks dancing. They have another drink, and Shep is sure that April is interested in him. He thinks about going to a motel or finding a place in a pasture to lie on his army poncho under the stars. In the parking lot, April kisses him, then they get into the car. He says he wants to take her somewhere, but she insists on having sex in the backseat of the car. Afterwards, Shep tells April he loves her, but she tells him not to say that. Shep is shocked to remember that April is pregnant. He says she must think he is an idiot. April says she doesn’t think he is an idiot, but she doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t know who she is herself either.
For Shep, this sexual encounter is a dream come true. April, meanwhile, seems to be trying to forget her cares and feel free by dancing and sleeping with Shep, but she finds that her unhappiness is only more intense after they have sex. When Shep tells her he loves her, it doesn’t matter to her at all, neither for his sake, nor for her own. Unlike Frank, who looks to Maureen for a confidence boost, April is far too unhappy to be cheered up by casual sex. She is so unhappy that she is unable to listen to, or connect with, a kindred spirit.