Saturday, May 22, 2010

One-act play

In Feb. 1995 I wrote a one-act play as an assignment for an Intro. to Theater class.  I changed a few words for this post...


Time:  1990's
Setting:  An apartment high-rise elevator in a large city

(The six characters are without identity, and although we do learn two characters' names in the course of the play, they are known to us simply as #1, #2, etc.  A brief description of each character is as follows:

#1 - Male, 28-32 years old, well-dressed for a night out
#2 - Female, 40-50 years old, casually, inexpensively dressed
#3 - Female, 20-25 years old, dressed in the gothic style of the time, wearing all black, dark eye makeup, etc.
#4 - Female, about 35 years old, smartly but inexpensively dressed
#5 - Female, 38 years old, casually dressed
#6 - Male, about 70 years old, casually dressed

As the play begins, all of the characters except for #3 are on the elevator or entering the elevator.  #3 is the last to enter, running toward the elevator as she looks to an apartment behind her and says:)

#3     Sure, see you tomorrow.  (Turns to elevator)  Hold the elevator!

(#3 squeezes in as the doors close.  For a few minutes all stand quietly, in their own worlds, until suddenly the elevator lurches to a halt.  For a moment all is dark, then we see a small, dim emergency light in the elevator ceiling and the old-fashioned illuminated dial above the elevator, the arrow hanging in limbo somewhere between two floors, motionless.  We see at most the tops of the characters' heads, definitely not their faces.  At first there is stunned silence.  Then...)

#1     Uh-oh.

#2-6     (All speaking at once)  What's happening?  Oh my God!  Why'd we stop?  etc.

#1     Does anyone know how to get this thing running again?  (We can hear him pushing the elevator buttons frantically)

#5     There should be a phone somewhere--

#1     Yeah - I found it....It's dead.

#2     Oh my God.

#6     The power must have gone out.  I'm sure someone will get us running again soon.

#3     (Drily)  At least the Musak stopped.

#5     Isn't there an alarm button somewhere?

#1     Probably, but I can't tell which one it is - it's too dark.  Does anyone have a light?  (Silence)

#2     (Getting hysterical)  Well push ALL of them!  (We hear people being jostled as she pushes toward the panel, trying to do it herself)

OTHERS     Hey!  Look out!  Watch it!  etc.  (Soon #1's voice is heard above the rest)

#1     Hey, HEY, HEY!!!  Stop panicking!  It's alright!  I pushed them!  We'll be alright!

#6     I'm sure this is just a temporary outage.  There's nothing to worry about.  Let's try not to panic.

#2     (Quietly)  I'm not panicking.

#5     (Ignoring her)  Well.  I guess we just wait.

#4     I don't have time for this.  I've got to pick up my daughter at school in ten minutes.

#3     You're not the only one.  I've got to be at an audition--

#2     (Eagerly, grateful for a way to take her mind off the situation)  Oh?  What kind of audition?  For a play?  A commercial?

#3     A band.  The Screaming Vigilantes.  They need a drummer.

#2     (Not sure how to respond)  Oh.  How nice.

#1     I've got a date.  She's gonna' kill me.

#6     Surely she'll understand when you explain--

#1     You don't know Maria.  She'll think I set the whole thing up....Hey, your voice sounds familiar.  Have we met?

#6     (Uncertainly, after a brief pause)  Who, me?

#1     (With a small laugh)  Yeah, you.  I'm Joe Mitchell.

#6     I'm Joe Michaels.  I think we have met...

#1     Yes!  We keep getting each other's mail--

#6     And passing it back and forth.

#3     (Slightly, but not quite under her breath)  It's like old home week in here.

#6     (Ignoring her)  Did you ever talk to that mailman?

#1     Are you kidding?  I've tried twice.  I don't think he speaks English.

#2     That's comforting.

#5     Of course he speaks English...

#1     Well, in any case, I don't think he understood me.

#4     (After a lull in the conversation)  Say, is someone wearing Giorgio?

#2     (Hesitating, after a brief pause)  Oh, that must be me.  It's not really Giorgio.  It's that stuff that's supposed to smell like Giorgio...(embarrassed pause) Georgette.  Do you really think it smells like Giorgio?

#4     Oh, yes.  It's very nice.

#2     It must be overwhelming in this small space.

OTHERS, except #3     (Murmurring unconvincingly)  Oh no, it's fine, etc.

#3     (Again slightly under her breath)  Oh.  My.  God.

#5     (After another awkward lull in which we can hear the characters rustling around impatiently)  I wonder when this thing will get working again?

#2     (Nervously)  I don't do well in tight spaces.

#3     Oh, great.  You're not going to lose it, are you?

#2     No, I just get nervous...

#6     My mother had the same problem.  She never stepped foot in an elevator, not once in her 89 years.  She sure was stubborn.  (Slight chuckle)  I had to admire her strength in the midst of weakness.

#1     I know what you mean.  I have the same problem with heights.  It sounds silly, living and working in high-rises and being afraid of heights, but when I'm inside I'm okay.

#5     I'm scared to death of spiders.  Even tiny ones.  I won't go near them.

#3     That's nothing.  I'm scared every day.  (Her voice softens, seems younger and more vulnerable) I live on the streets and believe me, I have a lot more to be scared of than spiders or heights.

#1     Hey, it's the same in the business world.  I may not fear the same things, but it's there - having to watch your back all the time, making sure the guy who gives you a tip one minute isn't going to walk all over you the next, always having to do a better job, make a better deal, or be left behind--

#4     What about trying to raise three kids on a single income?  Or trying to believe you're worth something and to go on living when your husband walks out on you after 16 years and marries a girl half your age?

#2     I'm afraid my husband's having an affair.  He comes home late, seems distracted...I know the signs.  He says there's no other woman, but I wonder.  I don't know what I'd do if he walked out on me.  I married so young; I was still living with my parents.  I've never had to take care of myself.  I don't think I could begin now.

#5     You may learn faster than you think.  I'm 38 years old and have never been married - never even been asked.  I'm scared of being an "old maid" the rest of my life, of the lonely, quiet nights, of my friends getting married and moving on with their lives, leaving me behind...

#6     You think it's lonely now.  Wait 'til you're 68 years old and your wife of 45 years, your beloved partner through all of the trials and celebrations you can remember, dies and leaves you to carry on alone.  You haven't been lonely until someone you've loved so deeply for so long, someone who's become a part of yourself, is gone.  (Softly)  Just like that.

(Suddenly the elevator lurches again, and the lights come on.  Musak returns.  The men and women blink in the light and look at each other hesitantly, embarrassed by what they've revealed to total strangers.  They clear their throats, shuffle their feet, adjust their belongings, and look up, down, anywhere but at each other, until the elevator reaches the lobby and the doors open.  The group disperses, heading in different directions, and each person leaves the stage, silent and alone.)

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