The action in Please Give centers around the expected death of elderly arthritic Andra and the New York City apartment her neighbors are eager to take over. Andra rarely stirs from her apartment, and her two nearby granddaughters Rebecca (the dutiful one) and Mary (the selfish one) regularly handle her shopping and cleaning.
Neighbors Kathy and Alex covet Andra’s apartment; she covertly, he overtly. In one uncomfortable scene, they visit for Grandma’s birthday and Alex and Mary openly discuss what to do with the apartment once she dies. The usually blunt to the point of unkindness Andra sits quietly and eats her cake during this exchange, perhaps not offended to be talked about in the same manner she speaks to others in. Later, everybody discusses whether or not the superintendent’s wife is a wheelchair user, and whether or not she could have sex and children as such. What a party! Grandma dumps her unwanted gifts down the trash chute once she gets a moment alone.
To assuage her guilt about making a profit at her vintage furniture store while there are homeless people in her neighborhood, Kathy decides to explore volunteer opportunities. The first one doesn’t work out because wheelchairs at the senior center “look too painful”. The second one proves even more taxing to Kathy’s delicate sensibilities; she can’t finish a volunteer session with developmentally disabled adults, happy and playing basketball, because (though they are clearly humanely and appropriately treated) it’s “just so sad”. She begins to weep when a young man tries to help her shoot a basket, and the volunteer coordinator (who also had to explain that no, the developmentally disabled people were not confused by the cones on the gym floor) hustles her out in thinly-veiled disgust. A woman with Down Syndrome tries to comfort her, but Kathy just can’t keep it together.
Dutiful Rebecca is rewarded for her pains with a new boyfriend, the grandson of a friendly cancer patient at the mammography clinic where she works. The two take their respective grandmothers on their first date to “see the leaves” in upstate New York.
At the denouement, Mary skips out on her planned shopping trip for Grandma to have a rendezvous with Alex, and Andra dies (possibly from eating from a tainted can). The EMTs try to usher her out quietly through a back door in the super’s apartment, and the almost-vulturous Kathy commits yet another faux pas; she tells the super’s wife that she’s glad she’s feeling better. When the woman asks why Kathy thought she was sick, Kathy says that she thought she had once been in a wheelchair. The super’s wife is horribly offended at the suggestion, and angrily denies any past wheelchair use as if it were taboo.