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Tiny Play #8/100 (Boing.)

May 15, 2010

SETTING: Living room of a medium-nice apartment.  The only furniture we need to see is a sofa, a coffee table if desired.  The entrance to the apartment is the stage right wing.  Off left, there is an unseen balcony.

AT RISE: The MAN enters the flat, dressed for summer, with a messenger bag over his shoulder.  Hot, sweaty and exhausted, he collapses on the sofa, lets out something akin to both a sigh and a grunt.

WOMAN: From the “balcony”. Honey is home?

MAN: At long last.

The WOMAN enters from the balcony.  She looks like she goes to a fair amount of trouble to maintain her overall appearance, although she is currently wearing what look like gardening clothes.  Still, she looks good, and if we can’t quite place her age, that’s perfect.  She has a script she has been reading in one hand (folded over to a page near the middle) and a glass of lemon water in the other.  She comes around behind the MAN, lowers the glass to him, and rubs his shoulder with her now-freed hand while he drinks.

WOMAN: Honey sounds like today blew chunks.

MAN: Interesting choice of words.

WOMAN: How so?

MAN: Dear Diary, today I went out and got my dumbass face spat on.

WOMAN: Ew.  Seriously?  Who spit on you?

MAN: You know I don’t like to name-drop in the bedroom.

WOMAN: This isn’t our bedroom.

MAN: We’ve done bedroom things on this couch.

WOMAN: Okay, but spitting is exceptional.  Spitting is breaking news.  It’s like somebody snogged you, but with rudeness.  This needs to be a rule: if somebody spits on my man in the line of duty, I get to know whodunnit.

MAN: No, I mean it, I really —

WOMAN: Male or female?

MAN: Female.

WOMAN: I see.  Was it…Paris Hilton?  She seems like a spitter.

MAN: No.  Nobody that big.

WOMAN: This 20 Q thing is kind of fun.  Uhh…so, are we talking TV, movie star, stand-up, pop sensation — what?

MAN: 20 Q is supposed to be yes or no only.

WOMAN: Come on…

Beat.

It’s not somebody I like, is it?

MAN says nothing.

Oh God, you’re right; don’t tell me.  Ugh.  Except now I’m going to think it’s every likable female who’s even marginally less big than Paris Hilton.  Oh god, tell me it wasn’t — no.  I shouldn’t even….This is terrible.  Who spits?!  Rhetorically, I’m asking.  Like what kind of person…?  It’s just weird.

MAN: It was a rising starlet — obviously not well versed in handling guerilla press.  It wasn’t even her; it was her mother.  Or possibly an ugly stepsister.  Anyways.  Total Mama Bear protective reflex.  And I kind of deserved it.  There’s a fine line, and I obviously tripped over it somehow.  I thought I was treading carefully, but…whoops.

WOMAN: She didn’t fuck up your equipment, did she?

MAN: No.

He opens his messenger bag, takes out his camera.

Mixed blessing: it all landed ptooey in my non-viewfinder eye.

WOMAN: This is gonna drive me nuts.  I’m going to find out from your blog anyways, right?  Gimme.

She drops the script she is holding on his lap and grabs the camera from him, opening it to review the footage on the LCD screen.

MAN: Babe, no.  I’m almost out of battery power.

WOMAN: So I’ll plug it into the charger as soon as I — Oh My God.  Is that–?  You’re putting me on.

MAN: I’m not really comfortable with this.

WOMAN: No, wow, it’s definitely her, isn’t it?  There’s the trademark dimple…

MAN: It’s just very weird to be sitting here watching you watch that.

WOMAN: She’s like the most genteel person on the face of the planet.  How is it possible that anybody remotely related to her even produces saliva?

MAN: Remember how we had that agreement that you don’t read my blog when we’re under the same roof?  This is kind of an extreme violation of  / that agreement.

WOMAN: Aw, shut up muffin.  Oh wow.  Wow.

MAN: Oh wow oh what?

WOMAN: This is who you’re calling the ‘ugly stepsister’?  She is so not ugly.  Or step.  Look at their noses.  Bloodlines, clearly.  Are you blind?

MAN: Well you know, it’s possible my vision did get a little blurred with her loogey in my eyeball.

WOMAN: I’m not there yet.  I still think you’re pulling my leg.  Look at this woman: she’s an absolute goddess.  Goddesses don’t — oh.  Would you look at that.

MAN: Yeah.  I’m familiar with the events.

WOMAN: Unbelievable.  You’re right.  She is kind of ugly when she’s getting ready to hork.  But also weirdly not.  She’s oddly athletic about it.  Such a pro.  Like this is just her MO against anyone who crosses the line.  Gross, but respectable.  And you were kind of being a dick.

MAN: Yes, I’m aware.  It was an utterly reasonable discharge of saliva.  May I have my camera back now?

She passes it back.

WOMAN: It’s actually really good footage.  You’re still going to post it, right?  In spite of the personal humiliation factor?

MAN: I dunno; I’m kinda torn on it.  Not so much the I-look-like-a-dick thing….Thing is it’s my first encounter with her — let alone the sister — and I don’t want to antagonize her right off the bat.  I mean I really like her.  That’s partly why I got so up in their faces, you know?  I was excited.  But on the other hand, I was excited because, you know: she’s new; she’s hot; she’s fresh…

WOMAN: Is she Canadian?

MAN: Right now, she’s an enigma.  And this whole thing that transpired on the tape with her and me and the sister — it’s like.  I don’t know.  It’s interesting.  Because it answers some stuff — like all of a sudden she comes from some kind of real family — like here’s the hitherto unknown also pretty hot sister — and then it takes this bizarre turn.  In a weird way, it’s sort of exactly how I hoped to construct her.  I mean, I never planned on involving fluids, but…it could really work.

WOMAN: Totally.  Just don’t rag on the sister.  Like don’t be all “Bitch-Cunt Sister Smashes Stereotype of Clean/Polite Canadians.”  You’re not Perez Hilton.

MAN: And I never will be with you around to veto my best headlines.

WOMAN: Honey, you never will be with me around period.  The world is not ready for a straight Perez Hilton.

MAN: Thanks for the vote of confidence.

WOMAN: No, I mean — gays and pop culture, it’s like N-word privileges.  Or how moms can say true mean stuff that would be so out of line from anyone else.  They’re the ones who do all the thankless work, and it’s always turning around and puking on them, so of course they’re within their rights to rip it a new one whenever they see fit.  If a straight guy oozes that kind of bile, it’s like “where did that come from? why is he an asshole?”  Then everybody assumes you’re a closet case and the real Perez posts a screencap of you photoshopped so the spit looks like cum, and I end up romantically linked to Rosie O’Donnell’s ex-wife.  Is that the career you want?

MAN: What would I do without your oddly specific foresight?

WOMAN: I’m just saying: you don’t need to do the whole overplayed bitchy tabloid thing.  I mean this is gold.  If you frame it right — yes, some of your readers are going to slam the sister around in comments; so be it.  But if you can be totally self-deprecating about it — and you totally can; you just were — and if you can do that on your blog — in your own words, totally self-aware — but it’s not contrived; this is a completely real, sincere, godawful moment of you standing there with egg on your face, pretty much literally — and you’re putting it out there….That’s rare; that’s special — that’s like so human and inhuman.  People are going to want to figure you out.

MAN: An enigma who wraps enigmas.

WOMAN:  Too bad you can’t say that about yourself.  I bet Vicky would say something like that, though.  She usually links to you when you deserve it.

MAN: I’m going to sleep on this one.  If nothing else thrilling and psychotic happens in the next 24 hours…

WOMAN: It’ll look good if you can honestly open with ‘I hesitated to post this,’ anyways.  Hesitation indicates moral fibre.  And thoughtfulness.  And posting it anyways shows you have a sense of humour.

MAN: Yeah, who knows.  Maybe I’ll think better of it.

He picks up the script in his lap.

What is this?

WOMAN: Oh.  That.  That is kind of big news, actually.  Or it might be.  It’s kind of in Schrodinger mode right now.

MAN: It looks like a script.

WOMAN: Yes.  That part’s for sure.  That’s the box part.  The cat part is…I’ve been offered a part.

MAN: Really?  Wow.  It’s fat.  What is it, like one of those all-night infomercials?  Are you the new spokes-face for people who find ordinary toenail clippers such a hassle?

WOMAN: No.  It’s actually, um.  A movie.

MAN: Wow.  Really.

WOMAN: Really.  Well, made-for-TV Really, but…

MAN: But big!  This is big!  Oh my god — congratulations!!  Did you seriously just let us dissect my crappy day for 20 minutes while this was just sitting on my lap?  You are so crazy.  Oh my God we need to be popping corks and throwing confetti out the window and making babies!  Loudly!  All night long!  And then when the cops come ’cause the neighbors complained about us breaking the peace or whatever, you just say, “It’s all right officer, I’m a movie star.”

WOMAN: Yeah, I’m sure they’ve never heard that line before.

MAN: Holy shit.  This is amazing.  What’s it about, anyways?

WOMAN: Okay, don’t laugh…

MAN: Whenever you prep me like that I never actually find the next thing you say very funny.  It’s like we have completely different concepts of what amuses me.

WOMAN: Uh huh.  So who’s right?

MAN: Well, you’re the movie star.  So come on, what’s the logline?  Or should I read it and find out for myself?

WOMAN: No, no, it’s not….It’s one of those celebrity biopic things.  Which — okay, you’re right; I’m the one who’d laugh at….It’s just I always end up watching that kind of thing when I’m in lonesome housewife mode, which is a bad setup to begin with: all sweatpants, kimono, drinking gin and planning dinner at 10:30 in the morning, this close to making place cards or Jello salad or something, and then, you know, the click of ultimate desperation, and there’s always, always, always something like this on when I do, and I always think — even if it’s, you know, well done and everything — I always think, “o geez, tell me something I don’t know.”  But maybe that’s just from living with you.  Not in a bad way —

MAN: Okay, slow down, back up, who’s it about?

She takes the script, flips it around to the first page, hands it back to him.

MAN: Ooh.

WOMAN: Yeah?

MAN: You don’t think so?  I mean I haven’t read the script, obviously, but lots of juicy material to work from.  And smart casting; you’re totally perfect to be her —

WOMAN: Oh, no no.  They don’t want me for her.  I’m playing — I mean they’ve offered me the mother part.

MAN: Oh.  Oh, okay.  Well that’s great.  I mean, I don’t know too much about —

WOMAN: I’m not disappointed.  I mean yes, it’s a little weird that I’m going to be playing a couple of scenes with a “daughter” who’s really like six years older than me, but it’s actually kind of a bigger part.  I mean, not that size matters, but they’re getting four different actresses to play the lead at different ages, whereas I just get aged up from around 30 to 75 for the different parts.  Which means you know what: wacky wardrobe time warp fun.

MAN: I don’t know how they think they’re going to make you look 75.  Even 30’s a bit of a stretch…

WOMAN: I’m 28, dear.

MAN: Yeah, but…

WOMAN: I’m gonna live forever?

MAN: Yup.

Beat.

Anyways.  I know you can act anything.  30, 15, 110.

WOMAN: Not this time.  I die in the ’80s.  Car crash, big tears, she never forgave me for being a crazy-ass stage mom.  Should be fun.

MAN: So you’re going to do it?

WOMAN: I’d be pretty nuts not to.

MAN: Totally.  It’s just you said —

WOMAN: Yeah.  Schrodinger.  I know.  But come on.  Of course I’m taking it.  Even if it was just an infomercial — what am I gonna say, “no thanks, no career for me”?  I mean this is what I do; I pretend to be other people.

MAN: Good.  So, we’re excited?  Champagne, babymaking?  All we have in the kitchen is top ramen and melba toast.  Let’s go out.  I could spring for someplace schmancy.

WOMAN: If you want.

MAN: Okay, you were more pumped about the gob in my eye.  What gives?

WOMAN: I’m pumped!  I’ve just had more time to sit with it than you have.  I’ve gotten used to the idea.

MAN: No you haven’t.

WOMAN: What?

MAN: You never get used to ideas.  You get ground down by them.

WOMAN: I’m psyched.  I’m quietly psyched.  Maybe I’m stunned.

MAN: Can you please just act like whatever you’re actually feeling right now?  I know you can do the subtle conflicted thing with brilliant restraint, but I’m your boyfriend, not your audience, okay?  I am not going to enjoy this suspense, no matter how fucking inspired it is.

Beat.

Are you down because they gave you the mom part?  Because people are going to want to hire you for plenty of non-mom parts after this thing airs.  I swear.  You’ve got dozens and dozens of sexy ingenue years left ahead of you.

WOMAN: Okay, no, that’s your fear of entropy shit, not mine.  You’re the one who’s ticked off that somebody thinks his girlfriend is mom material.  I have belly fat and laugh lines and more than a couple of grey hairs coming in, okay?  Deal with it.

MAN: Okay, but Schrodinger.  You are and you are not delighted to accept this part.  What’s the not?

WOMAN: I don’t know, I….I was just.  I was happy.  When I got the call.  Right at that moment, I was just a really happy person.

MAN: Of course.

WOMAN: No, I mean, before the call.  I was down at our garden plot, pulling up weeds around the herbs.  Dandelions, mostly, and this little kid kept stealing them out of my weed pile and wobbling over to drop them in the trench his dad was digging for onions or something.  And he thought he was being so sneaky and so helpful: the scavenger, the provider, the big hero.  Amazing.  And it was amazing how much dirt could fit in the little crescent moon rooms under my nails, and amazing how fat and pink and happy worms could get just munching on our dirt.  And I was thinking, for 7 years I’ve been trying to convince somebody to let me be what I came here to be, and it’s astonishing how little I mind not being that person.  I was thinking how much I like this.  How well failure is working out for me.  I’m good at it.  Little jobs, little life.  With you, when I can be.  Friendly awkward chit-chat with soccer moms in the break room.  By myself in my cubicle, on the balcony, in the bathroom, pretending to be the people on the pages, plus the others.  Lonely hausfrau, shower ninja, Cover Girl.  It’s all about equally silly, whether they give it to me or I make it up.  And I’m good at it.

MAN: Making it up?

WOMAN: Being.  Anyone.  Walking around with imaginary people’s ideas in my head.  Letting them use my eyeballs, my sneakers, our taped-crack plastic deck chairs, whatever I’ve got to give.  And it helps.  I mean, I’ve always got secret company, and I end up feeling pretty friendly towards most of the real strangers I run into out there.  Except when I go to auditions.  And they look at me, and they don’t see me, and they don’t see the people I’m being for them either.  Which is fine; they’ve got their own people and they’ve gotta find them and they don’t have all day, but I’m sick of being in those rooms.  It’s the only thing I’m officially supposed to care about and it’s the only thing I’m really sick of.  And I was thinking I’d just pull out my phone and tell my agent I was calling it quits, standing right there in my pillaged pile of weeds before I have time to think any better of it, and my hand is about three inches from my pocket when it rings.

MAN: Oh weird.

WOMAN: And it’s her, of course.

MAN: Of course.

WOMAN:  Of course it is.  And she says they want me, and for what, and where am I, and I have to get my ass to a computer and read the script they’re emailing as soon as goddamned possible because they need an answer by tomorrow and they start shooting in three days and congratu-fucking-lations sweetheart you fucking made it and I can’t even remember if I’m supposed to know what that means but she is my zombie master, and I leave my weeds right there in the path to do her bidding.

MAN: Scriiipt, scriiiiipt…

WOMAN: Yeah.  But then a flash of yellow and silver stops me in my tracks.  I tumble off  my bike onto the lawn of a mom-lady who’s sitting on her official mom-lady lawn chair that has a sign taped to it: LEMONS 50 CENTS, and a big round stainless steel bowl full of them at her feet.  I have exactly one dollar in my pocket and I fork it over and she says, “Take 3 if you want.  You’re my first paying customer.  I told my kids, they should have a lemonade stand.  Learn some business skills.  They say, ‘that’s lame, mom.’  Well, I guess I’m a lame mom.”

So I’m picking out my lemons and chirping “I don’t think you’re lame!  You just sold me 3 lemons for the price of 2!” and I see one of the kids sprawled under the lemon tree, rolling her eyes at me over her Gameboy, and I wish she was nicer to her mother, but at least she’s consistent with strangers espousing similar philosophies.  And the really weird thing is that she has eyeballs a lot like mine, and our hair could be the same colour too, in the shade.  So I’m home reading this script where I’m the mom and I keep thinking she’s the daughter.  There I am on the balcony but also in this movie already in my head being the villain mother who makes her cry if necessary, and I feel just sick about it.  Because it was a sweet thing to be a stranger and get an extra lemon, and what if I do this thing and the movie airs on TV in between commercials for antibacterial disinfectant cleaning products and I run into her, the mom-lady, in the grocery store the next day and she saw the movie because she really is an honest-to-god lonesome house lady who these things are made especially for and she has to tell me that she knows I’m someone now, but she has to keep that little glint of how-dare-you in her eye, because how dare I play the wicked fairy tale queen just doing the thing that moms have to do by definition: you have a lemon tree there should be lemonade; you have a bakery there should be little aprons for the kids; you have talent so shouldn’t there be fame?  And she’s right: it’s strange that you can know a person from before they know themselves and still be wrong about what their life is for.  And how can I open my mouth and let strange thoughts drip out when I belong inside the TV, and she already knows I’m just a mean ol’ caricature of mom-ladies everywhere?  I could never say anything simple enough to change that standing in front of the dairy cooler.

MAN: I think you can give her a little more credit than that.  People do know that TV isn’t real life, babe.

WOMAN: Bullshit!  That’s like knowing that carrots help your eyesight.  It’s a fun fact, but it doesn’t change what’s true for you really.

She picks up the camera, sets the footage to replay again, and shoves the screen in his face.

Look.  Tell me you aren’t jogging across that street waving ‘hey girl’ like she’s your new best friend.  Tell me part of you doesn’t still feel like she should have at least said ‘gee mister you do look familiar’…

Beat.  The MAN takes the camera in his hands, folds up the screen.

MAN: Okay.  I’m like that.  Maybe everyone is a little bit like that.  What are you saying?

WOMAN: I’m saying I was wrong!  I was gloriously, sensationally wrong about this whole ‘being an actress’ thing.  I thought, if you’re always pretending to be other people, that’s what you do, you do it big, you do it on a screen, but God no.  God.  You have to pretend to be yourself, too.  I don’t want to.  I don’t.  I feel crazy right now.  I don’t even want to finish reading this thing.  I already know how I die.  I don’t want to.  I’m just going to make the call; I’m just going to turn it down already.

She pulls her phone out of her pocket.  The MAN grabs her hand with the phone in it, stopping her from opening it.

MAN: Okay wait.  Breathe.  I get what you’re saying.  Believe me, nobody wants to avoid having your sister spit on some jackass like me more than I do.  But you are blowing things out of proportion here; you know that, right?  Nobody said you get stopped on the street, or that your imaginary daughter’s mother hates your guts, or any of that.

WOMAN: You want me to say yes.

MAN: I want you to get what you want.  It just seems unlikely to me that you’re going to wake up tomorrow and still not want what you’ve wanted for as long as I’ve known you.  Longer than that, obviously.  Since…

WOMAN: Since I was six.

MAN: Yeah.  I mean I don’t know what it’s like to want something for that long.  You’re the big expert on that around here but it just seems…

WOMAN: Crazy.  It seems completely fucking demented to wake up one day and be sick of your heart’s desire before you’re even close enough to lick it.

MAN: More poetical than I would have put it, but yeah.  It is Hollywood tradition to wait until you’re actually in the public eye to let it make you all…you know.

WOMAN: Crazy.

In chiding macho voice.

Such a coward, needs his little woman to finish his sentences for him.

MAN: But you’re not crazy.  I mean not crazy-crazy.  You’re something odd right now, but I know you, and crazy is not the word.  I don’t want to be one of those guys who gets all sputtery and resorts to libel in his own living room.

WOMAN: You’re funny.

MAN: Oh.  Kay.  Why?

WOMAN: You always have to get the right words.  It might not be the truth, but you know when you find it.  The thing that fits right in your mouth.  I like to watch you kneading it in your hands when you’re not sure about it yet.  I like to kiss you when it’s sealing all the spaces between your teeth so you can’t talk.  I run my tongue across it to see if I can guess, or change it if I already know.  It’s kind of an amazing thing.  In case I never told you that.

Beat.

But no I’m not crazy.  Which is interesting.

MAN: In that you choose to live with me anyways.

WOMAN: Yup.  And…

She picks up the glass and starts trying to fish out one of the pieces of lemon.  The task might threaten to make her forget she is in the middle of explaining something

I’m acting crazy.  It’s so easy to think of the crazy things like I’m scared of being interviewed by a shiny shiny TV show and dropping a Schrodinger and they ask what’s that mean and I say whatever I say when I’m explaining a thing I wasn’t expecting to explain and the next day it’s all over every blog like yours ‘dumb bitch thinks she’s a physicist’ but I’m not afraid of that because that would be crazy and I’m not crazy, I’m just…

She succeeds in pulling the lemon slice out of the glass.  This takes as long as it takes.

Done.  It’s nice to be wanted, but I’m done.

She holds the lemon towards him.  They both admire it for a moment.  He holds out his hand and she drops the lemon into it.  He pops it into his mouth, making whatever faces he is inclined to make as he sucks the fruit from the rind.

Is that all right?

MAN: Yeah.  I don’t know exactly / what you want to

WOMAN: Me either.

She puts the glass down, and completes the downward motion such that she ends up lying on the floor — or possibly the coffee table, if there is one.

It’s good.  It feels good.  Doesn’t it?

She holds a hand up to him.  He takes it and she gently pulls him towards her.  His face hovers a few feet above hers.  She licks her finger and pokes his forehead as if pressing a button, makes a silly machine noise.  He makes a noise back.

MAN: Reset.

WOMAN: Yup.

BLACKOUT

If you are interested in using this script, in whole or in part, for any reason, please a) credit me (Emmet Forsythe) as the author, and b) let me know about it, including links to any video or audio recordings you may make.

Contact emilythesecond (at) gmail (dot) com if you wanna tell me somethin’ too special for comments, or go to my formspring if you have a question you wanna be all publicly anonymous about.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Katie permalink
    June 6, 2010 12:49 am

    Hey lover ❤ I really like this one. I can hear their conversation in my head really well, if that makes sense.
    This part is absolutely fantastic:
    "You always have to get the right words. It might not be the truth, but you know when you find it. The thing that fits right in your mouth. I like to watch you kneading it in your hands when you’re not sure about it yet. I like to kiss you when it’s sealing all the spaces between your teeth so you can’t talk. I run my tongue across it to see if I can guess, or change it if I already know. It’s kind of an amazing thing. In case I never told you that."

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