Monday, August 13, 2012

"Puccini Under"

A play by Barry Martin. Copyright by the author May 24, 2011.
(This version was presented in a staged reading in Napa, CA in April 2012.)  


Translation of relevant portion of “In quelle trine morbide” from Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini

“In those soft lace curtains in the guilded alcove, there is a silence,
a cold fatal silence, a chill which turns me to ice!
And I, who was used to the voluptuous caress
of burning lips and passionate arms, now have something quite different!
Now my humble dwelling, you come back to me
gay, secluded, white,as a sweet dream of peace and love”

Translation of relevant portion of “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot by Giacomo Puccini

“Nobody shall sleep!... Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess, in your cold room, watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me, my name no one shall know...
No!...No!... On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!...
(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)
Vanish, o night! Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!”

(Author's note: This is a play performed by three actors. The character of The Writer/Jerry/David remains consistent throughout, while the actors playing The Director/Scott/Jeeves and The Actress/Vanessa/Vanessa/Etc shift in and out of several roles as indicated. The first portion of the play should be played without acknowledgment of the audience, as if it is an audition/rehearsal in an empty theatre. The words in parentheses and italicized are the actual stage directions. Words in the Actresses' speeches that are in parentheses but not italicized are spoken. In the middle portion, Jeeves and The Actress address the audience directly in a dual monologue. The final portion is a mixture of the two. There should be broad theatricality in some places and simple naturalism in others. The two pieces by Puccini are essential to the play. The pop song referred to by The Actress can be whatever is current, familiar and irritating.)

Characters

The Actress/Vanessa, 30s
The Director/Scott/Jeeves, 30s or 40s
The Writer/Jerry/David, 40s

Setting

A stage as it appears between productions. There may be flats, platforms, miscellaneous furniture pieces scattered around appearing to be randomly placed. There is traditional work light center stage.

The time

The past and the present

                        (“In quelle trine morbide” in Italian, plays for a bit. An actress walks on alone. There is the feeling of an audition. The music continues as she begins to speak passionately.)

ACTRESS

Sometimes I just need to get it all out, just let it all flow for awhile and tap the untapped  let my thoughts flow and let go of what I’ve been holding in and set my mind free and then I am angry angry angry over losing her, still angry and hurt and sad and I still don’t get it and I am afraid I never will and I will always be angry and sad and hurt over her, that there is no other option because I’ve tried and tried to forgive and to not care and to let go and to replace her and there’s just no solace, no peace, no respite, no end to nursing my wounds, no washing the bitterness from my mouth, even though I know it’s all my own fault, that I tried too hard, held too close, wouldn’t or couldn’t be what she wanted me to be or needed me to be, got my ego all wrapped up in it and just wanted to be the winner, and so I know it’s my fault and it was a dead end from day one anyway, but the pain is the same no matter how I try to think it, I just feel it, and sometimes I need to get it all out and so I  –

DIRECTOR

                                    (From the wings as he walks onto the stage.)

Okay, let’s hold it there, thank you.

                                    (Turning to the back of the house, shielding his eyes from the                                                light.)

Jerry, not sure where you’re going with this but it’s not working for me.

WRITER

                                    (From the back of the house)

Um…that’s not part of it. That’s not –


DIRECTOR

What’s not part of it?

WRITER

None of that is part of it.

                                                            DIRECTOR

(Hard to hear each other over the music.) Some of it is what of it?

                                                            WRITER

(To himself, about the music. ) Why is that Puccini playing under?

                                                            DIRECTOR

Kill the music. (It ends abruptly.) You were saying?

                                                            WRITER

I said that’s not part of it. What she read.

                                                            DIRECTOR

She read from your script. The words that are in your script that you wrote.

                                                            WRITER

Not that part, that part is not part of it. The part she did is not part of  it. (The director and the actress exchange a look.) It’s just something I do to get started. It’s not part of the script.

DIRECTOR

Well, where does it start then, you’ve got kind of a mess here.

WRITER

Next page, Vanessa’s monologue?

DIRECTOR

(To the actress) Do you know where he is, sweetheart?

ACTRESS

Yes, I worked on that part, too.

                                                            WRITER

That’s where it starts.
DIRECTOR

Ok, then sweetheart let’s hear it. (He moves to the side of the stage.) Lights up.

                                                            ACTRESS

(She gathers herself for a brief moment, then in a very different style and      trying to meld it all together...)

Long hours I sat in front of my mirror today, combing out my hair, thinking about him. (“In quelle trine morbide” fades in again.) All we had together those impossible weeks together – the walks in the rain, the quiet nights abounding with the questions in our minds, haunted by what might be and what can’t be. (This sounds like it’s from Gone with the Wind. Why? Why?) (Pause) I just don't know. Another day. I start my day like any other. As I brush my hair I think of the meaninglessness that is this moment, this brush in my hand, my hand, my hair, my life. All meaningless. Then, in the quiet part of my mind I think that it is all about him, and I must have him again. (And what is this shit? Strindberg now? Why? Why? Why?) (Pause, then to the audience.) This is a story you just have to hear to believe, ok? So I’m just going to tell you the story without a whole bunch of “actory-y” stuff, just you and me and the story of how it all went wrong. So, the way it got started –
                                                           
`                                              
WRITER

(To the director) Scott, can we stop there? 

                                                            DIRECTOR

Hold it, sweetheart.

                                                            WRITER

(To the actress) Yeah, um….hi.

                                                            ACTRESS

(Drops the character. Eager to please) Hi !

WRITER

I’m sorry, what’s your name again?

                                                            ACTRESS

Vanessa.

                                                            WRITER

No, your name, not the character.

                                                            ACTRESS

Vanessa.

                                                            WRITER

Your name is Vanessa, and you’re auditioning for the role of Vanessa?

ACTRESS

Just one reason I think I’m perfect for it! (Giggles)

WRITER

Yeah, well. Look – the parts that are in parentheses – you’re not supposed to say them out loud.


ACTRESS

Oh, they’re stage directions?

WRITER

No, not directions, just thoughts.

ACTRESS

Oh! The inner thoughts of the character!

WRITER

No! My thoughts, they’re MY thoughts.

ACTRESS

What are your thoughts doing in Vanessa’s head?

WRITER

(Beginning to be frustrated.) It’s just, sometimes when I’m writing I make little commentaries on it as I go. It’s just a way of talking back to myself.

ACTRESS

Oh!  Part of your writing process! That is so interesting! (Giggles. Beat.) But how do the actors know what to say and what not to say?
           
WRITER

I take them out! I take them out later! This is a first draft, ok? Look, what I’m asking – Scott, can you have her read it without the parts in parentheses? I’m sorry, I mean –

                                                            ACTRESS

(Gaily) Don’t be sorry, there’s plenty of time to be sorry later!

                                                            WRITER

What does that mean?

                                                            ACTRESS

What does what mean?
                                                            WRITER

“There’s plenty of time to be sorry later.” What does that mean? 

                                                            ACTRESS

I just came out.

                                                            WRITER

Yes. Of course it did. Ok then.

                                                            DIRECTOR

From the –
                                                                                                                       
                                                            WRITER

Yes, from there.

                                                            DIRECTOR

From the monologue then, sweetheart. And read it without the parts in parentheses, alright?

ACTRESS

Of course! Sure! I’ll do it any way you want it.

DIRECTOR

Yes, I bet you would. Lights up.

ACTRESS

Long hours I sat in front of my mirror today, combing out my hair, thinking about him. All we had together those impossible weeks together – the walks in the rain, the quiet nights abounding with the questions in our minds, haunted by what might be and what can’t be. (Pause) So right here you don’t want me to say “This sounds like it’s from Gone with the Wind. Why? Why?” right? I’m sorry, I just lost the – line, please?

DIRECTOR

“I just don't know.”

ACTRESS

I’m sorry, I was asking for the line.

DIRECTOR

That is the line. “I just don't know. Another day.”

ACTRESS

Oh! (Giggles.) Yes, that is the line! “I just don't know. Another day.” Yes, yes. I know this part.

DIRECTOR

And by the way you still have the script in your hand, sweetheart.

ACTRESS

Oh, Jeez! I’m sorry, I am a little flustered, I’m sorry. All this “what’s in parentheses and what’s not in parentheses” just threw me off for a moment. But just for a moment! I’m ready now. (Brief pause.) I just don't know. Another day. I start my day like any other. As I brush my hair I think of the meaninglessness that is this moment, this brush in my hand, my hand, my hair, my life. All meaningless. Then, in the quiet part of my mind I think that it is all about him, and I must have him again. (And what is this shit? Strindberg now? Why? Why? Why?)


WRITER

No, excuse me, that is a part you are not supposed to say out loud.


ACTRESS

I’m so, so sorry…

WRITER

That is a parentheses part.

ACTRESS

Where does it – oh ---

                                                            WRITER

Maybe just scratch it out...?

                                                            ACTRESS

--- right before “And what is this shit? Strindberg now?” that’s a parentheses there.

                                                            WRITER

Yes, yes.

                                                            ACTRESS
 I’m sorry, I had a salad at lunch and I got some dressing on the script I think. (She dabs at the script with a tissue. Then coyly.) Give me just as sec to get undressed here.

DIRECTOR

Oh Jesus. 

ACTRESS

Ok, now I am really, really ready.

DIRECTOR

Ok, sweetheart, take it from “All meaningless…”?

ACTRESS

All meaningless. Then, in the quiet part of my mind I think that it is all about him, and I must have him again. (Her lips move very quickly as she mouths “And what is this shit? Strindberg now? Why? Why? Why?”) This is a story you just have to hear to believe, ok? So I’m just going to tell you the story without a whole bunch of “actory-y” stuff going on, ok? Just you and me and the story of how it all went wrong. So, the way it got started –

                                                WRITER

Ok, please stop, just stop.

                                                DIRECTOR

Stop, please, sweetheart.

                                                WRITER

You can stop, too – Scott. Why did I name you Scott anyway?

DIRECTOR/SCOTT

(Differently, now “Scott”) Same reason you made the character a stereotype, by which I mean, no good reason. Or because you’re a dumbshit.

ACTRESS

(Differently, now “The Actress”) Why did you make her out so stupid and slutty. Is that what you think women are?
                                               
DIRECTOR/SCOTT

I mean, he's calling her “sweetheart”? Really? You use words like that, you just force me to play it like a queen. Either that or Edward G. Robinson. “Sweetheart, Sweetheart!”

                                                WRITER

That would be Bogart, not Robinson...

                                                ACTRESS

And why did you use the word “actress” in here. Is the non-sexist word “actor” not adequate?

                                                WRITER

Hold it, hold it, hold it. First, I do not deserve to be called a dumbshit, thank you very much, and second, to indicate that the person on the stage is a female - it’s not sexist to indicate someone’s gender, in a script for a play.

ACTRESS

It’s a mindset, to identify me by my gender, not by my abilities -

                                                            WRITER

I suppose I could write “acting person of no specific sex.”

                                                            ACTRESS

(A glance at “Scott”) That's telling, isn't it?

                                                            WRITER

What's telling?
           
                                                            ACTRESS

You said “sex.” I said “gender” and you said “sex.”

                                                            WRITER

Oh, please.

                                                            DIRECTOR/SCOTT

Somebody's horny.

                                                            ACTRESS

It always ends up about sex with you, doesn't it?

                                                            WRITER

Oh, come on, that’s facetious.

                                                            ACTRESS

Why don't you just call her “Actress Under 30” because that's what you want isn't it?

                                                            WRITER

This is really distracting from the –

                                                            ACTRESS

-- so you can easily toss me on the dumpheap by not writing any decent roles for women over 30!

                                                WRITER

What is going on here?

                                                ACTRESS

You're supposed to know.

                                                WRITER

This is pointless.

                                                ACTRESS

Is it?


                                                WRITER

Ludicrous.

                                                ACTRESS

Really?

                                                WRITER

Of course it is. (Pause) Are you over 30?

                                                ACTRESS

And there you go.

                                                WRITER

All I’m trying to do is –

                                                ACTRESS

(Attacking) You fill your stories with young women, empty-headed young women, and we play them, we stick our tits out and giggle where you tell us to and give your play a little sex appeal, and then just a few years go by, and it doesn’t matter how much you go to the gym, all of a sudden there’s no decent part for you. You’re lost between the ingĂ©nue and the cranky old lady because there’s nothing in between! And that is your fault, all your fault. Don’t you owe us something? Don’t you owe us a few decent parts for women of a certain age who have waggled their asses for you? And by the way – “Give me just as sec to get undressed here” – that’s got to be the worst line ever. Ok?

                                                WRITER

This is not working. It’s going nowhere. It’s time for everyone to exit stage right and don’t look back.

                                                DIRECTOR/SCOTT

That’s convenient for you, isn’t it?


                                                WRITER

I don’t want to hear it, “Scott.”

                                                DIRECTOR/SCOTT

It’s your script.
                                    (He begins to exit stage right, stops, looks back.)

But don’t ever say I didn’t –

                                                WRITER

Didn’t I say “don’t look back”?

                                                DIRECTOR/SCOTTT

(A look. He exits.)

                                                WRITER

(Looking at actress, deliberately A considerable pause.)

She exits, stage right, without looking back.

                                                ACTRESS

(After a look at him, she exits stage right without looking back.)

                                                WRITER

She didn’t even look back. Bitch.

(There is a long moment as the writer observes the empty stage, then gathers himself and his things and walks onto the stage with a laptop, notebook, coffee cup, etc, and locates a chair. A heavy sigh.)

Well, now what?

(Pause. The writer writes.)

                                                ACTRESS

(Rentering, changed. A softer tone.) I think she comes back.

                                                WRITER

Really?

                                                ACTRESS

Yes, she comes back because there is unfinished business.

                                                WRITER

I like the sound of that.

                                                ACTRESS

She’s not done with him, no matter what she says.

                                                WRITER

Yes.

                                                ACTRESS

She misses him. She realizes what she’s lost. She wonders if she’s made a mistake.

                                                WRITER

Yes, yes…

                                                ACTRESS

She knows it’s impossible but her heart says “I want him back,” and she feels that not only in her heart but feels it in other places, important places…

                                                WRITER

Oh, yes….

                                                ACTRESS

She feels it, she knows it, she wants it.


                                                WRITER

Vanessa!

                                                ACTRESS

So she comes back for more.

(Pause. She waits. He looks at her.)

                                                WRITER

Keep going.

                                                ACTRESS

You first.

                                                WRITER

What?

                                                ACTRESS

I’ll keep going if you keep going.

                                                WRITER

I need you to keep going.

                                                ACTRESS

You need me to say…?

                                                WRITER

I’m not sure.

ACTRESS

What are you thinking?

                                                WRITER

I’m thinking that, ok, it’s –
                       
                                    (He resumes writing.)


                                                SCOTT

                                    (Re-entering, speaking to the Actress, as the Writer gives way.                                  More Puccini. “Nessun Dorma”)

Since when have you had this doubt in your mind? You said it was over, and now –

                                                ACTRESS

There’s no doubt in my mind, it’s certainty. I was wrong. I’m sorry.

                                                 SCOTT

Sorry is such an easy word. So smoothly it spills from your lips.

                                                ACTRESS

But you know I mean it this time. It will all be different now.

                                                SCOTT

Will it? Will it be different?

ACTRESS

(Melodramatically) Yes, yes, because I’ve learned so much now, and I know I was wrong, and I should have stayed with you, always, because there was never a man more perfect for me than you. Never more perfect in every way, just for me. 

                                                            SCOTT

You expect me to believe that now? After all that’s happened?
                                                           
ACTRESS

You must, you must believe me! Everything depends on it!

                                                            SCOTT

You broke my heart, Vanessa. You broke my heart in a way that can’t be fixed. And now you say –

                                                            ACTRESS

I say I was wrong, I was a fool – and I will mend your broken heart, David.

                                                            SCOTT

Why, tell me why you’ve –

                        (Drop the character and speaks to the writer as music fades out quickly)

David? I was Scott, wasn't I, David?

                                                            ACTRESS

                        (Softness gone, speaks to the writer)

David? Weren't you Jerry? And now you're David?

                                                            SCOTT

Am I Scott here, or am I David, David?

                                                            ACTRESS

(To the audience) He was Jerry, wasn't he?


                                                            WRITER/DAVID

Scott, you are Scott. It doesn't matter! Keep going.

                                                            ACTRESS

(To the audience) Are you as confused as I am right now?

                                                            WRITER

Please! Keep going!

                                                            SCOTT

All right, all right. (To Actress)Can you give me that line again?

                                                            ACTRESS

Which one?

                                                            SCOTT

The one you say before the one I say.


                                                            ACTRESS

There are a lot of those, can you narrow it down?

                                                            SCOTT

You say something like “believe you me, it all depends.” And then I say “you broke my heart” et cetera…

                                                            ACTRESS

Oh, yeah, right – “Believe you me, it all depends,” from right there, ok…(Resumes the soft sincerity) ”Believe you me it all depends.” (“Nessum Dorma” starts again.)
 
                                                            SCOTT

                                    (Back into the character as before)

You broke my heart, Vanessa. You broke my heart in a way that can’t be fixed –

WRITER

Hold it a sec.

                                                            SCOTT

--And now you say –

                                                            WRITER

Hold it!

                                                            ACTRESS

I say I was wrong –

                                                            WRITER
Stop, ok?


                                                            ACTRESS

I will mend your broken heart, David.

                                                            WRITER

Enough!

                                                            ACTRESS

Scott?

                                                            WRITER

Stop!

                                                            ACTRESS

Jerry??

                                                WRITER

Enough, enough!

                                    (Music ends abruptly)

                                                            ACTRESS

                                    (Drops the character again)

Thank God, that was some turgid shit you were cranking out there.

                                                            SCOTT

Not one of your better days, David.

                                                            WRITER

No, that is not why I stopped you. You were paraphrasing. Badly.

                                                            SCOTT

I’m sure I had it right.

                                                            ACTRESS

I am always word perfect.

                                                            WRITER

No, no, you were both barely in the ballpark there. The line is “You must, you must believe me! Everything depends on it!”

                                                            ACTRESS

What did I say?

                                                            WRITER


I think it was something like, “Believe you me, it all depends.”


                                                            ACTRESS

(To Scott) Didn’t you say that was the cue line?

                                                            SCOTT

It’s something like that, yes! When you say the word “depends” I start talking again, that’s all I know.

                                                            ACTRESS

You think only of yourself, don’t you, Scott? Typical. (She glares at Scott, and then at the Writer. Her look draws Scott to glare at the writer, too. Unhappy beat.)

                                                            WRITER

What?? (Scott and The Actress roll their eyes.) Look, let’s just step back a bit and see if we can get back into it.

                                                            ACTRESS

Fine with me.

                                                            SCOTT

Fine with me.

                                                           
                                                            WRITER

Fine.

                                                            SCOTT

Where from, Miss Word Perfect?

                                                            WRITER

Vanessa, from where you say, “Yes, yes, because I’ve learned so much now.”

                                                            ACTRESS

That far back?

                                                            WRITER

That’s where this moment starts, yes…

                                                            ACTRESS

All that lame shit again, seriously?

                                                            WRITER

Will you please just start there!

                                                            ACTRESS

Fine, whatever. (Takes her time. Then listlessly as “Nessun Dorma” fades in again uncertainly.)Yes, yes, because I’ve learned so much now, and I know I was wrong, and I should have stayed with you, always, because there was never a man more perfect for me than you. Never more perfect in every way, just for me. 


                                                            SCOTT

You expect me to believe that now? After all that’s happened?
                                                           
ACTRESS

You must, you must believe me! It all depends! On it!

                                                            WRITER

(Sotto voce) Jesus.

                                                            SCOTT

You broke my heart, Vanessa. You broke my heart in a way that can’t be fixed. And now you say –

                                                            ACTRESS

I say I was wrong, I was a fool – and I will mend your broken heart, David.

                                                            SCOTT

She said “David” again.

                                                            WRITER

She said “it all depends” again, too.

                                                            ACTRESS

That is my line! That is the line you gave me!

                                                            WRITER

No, it’s “You must, you must believe me! Everything depends on it!”

                                                            ACTRESS

That’s what I said.

                                                            WRITER

(Frustrated) No! You said “it all depends”! That it totally different from “Everything depends on it”! “It all depends” means nothing really matters enough to make a choice – like I ask you out to dinner for Friday night, and you say “it all depends.” Or I ask you out to dinner and you say “Everything depends on it!” These are distinctly different thoughts!

                                                            ACTRESS

Ok, I transposed a word, I still got the meaning across.

                                                            WRITER

(More frustrated.) No, no ! That’s my POINT! You completely CHANGED the meaning!

                                                            ACTRESS

It’s easy to sit there and nitpick.

                                                            SCOTT

Do you need me at this point or should I --

                                                            WRITER

I’m talking about the meaning of the words! The meaning of this play!

                                                            ACTRESS

The meaning of this play? That’s a good question. I usually think I’ve figured it out by now, but this one’s all over the place, what is the meaning of this play?

                                                            WRITER

How do I know what it means until I’ve written it?

            (Pause. ACTRESS and SCOTT exhange a look. Pause. They begin to laugh.)

                                                            SCOTT

You can add “pretentious” to “turgid,” Vanessa.

                                                            ACTRESS

“I won’t know until I’ve written it”!! Ha!

                                                            SCOTT

The great auteur, creator of sacred words!

                                                            ACTRESS

He won’t know what it means AFTER he’s written it either! Ha!

                                                            SCOTT

Each word a precious pearl to be worshiped through eternity!

ACTRESS

Throughout which this play goes unproduced! Ha!

                                                            WRITER

Sure, it’s easy for you. All your words are a gift to you.

                                                            ACTRESS

A gift? Where is the exchange counter? Can I get store credit?

                        (More laughter between Scott and the Actress.)
                                                           
                                                            WRITER

Okay, look – great! This is great. This is really helping! Thank you, so much.

                                                            SCOTT

Come on, come on, you’ve got to see the humor. You’re all concerned about specific words and you don’t even have the meaning! It’s hilarious!

                        (He and the actress have another laugh.)

                                                            ACTRESS

“You can add pretentious to turgid, Vanessa.” Oh God, that’s precious!

                                                            WRITER

Fine, fine, fine. You’re telling me I need to go in a whole new direction here…

                                                            SCOTT

He won’t know what it means until he wrote it! (More laughs.)


                                                            WRITER

(Writing) “Scott exits.”

                                                            SCOTT

I need a smoke, give me five here.(Scott exits SR)

                                                            WRITER

(As Scott exits) It is time for something completely different.

                                                            ACTRESS

Some completely different version of barfing up your guts over this girl?

                                                            WRITER

No, completely different!

                                                            ACTRESS

Basting yourself in self-pity gravy?

                                                            WRITER

No!

                                                            ACTRESS

Uh huh.

                                                            WRITER

A total departure.

                                                            ACTRESS

Yeah.

                                                WRITER

A new direction!

                                                ACTRESS

As if.

                                                WRITER

(Writing) “Vanes – The Actre-- (pointedly) the acting person of non specific gender or age exits.”

                                                ACTRESS

I need five myself. (She exits SL)

                                                WRITER

Here we go, new direction.

                                    (A beat. He closes his eyes, thinks, then begins to write.)

                                                SCOTT/HURRICANE

(Entering. Now very different, in an 1898 style.) My name is Leroy McMinn, but people know me as Hurricane Bones Jeeves, the world’s boldest man.

                                                ACTRESS

(Entering. Now very different.) Leroy walked into my life in 1898.

                                                SCOTT/HURRICAN

Never a challenge I didn’t match, never a contest I shrank from, never a wager too burdensome to accept.

                                                ACTRESS

I was entertaining a friend in the House of Lords in Joplin, Missouri, and suddenly there he was, and it was like a king had entered the room.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

How did I come to this rapturous stature, you ask? Well, that’s the tale, now, isn’t it?


                                                            ACTRESS

The chatter subsided and all eyes turned his way, and the gentlemen wore looks of admiration and the ladies wore looks of something else and I heard them whispering, “It’s Jeeves, by God! It’s Hurricane Bones Jeeves!”

                                                            SCOTT/JEEVES

Some say, as a swaddlin’ child I was stolen away by passing gypsies and steeped in their dark and strange ways. Some say I was left in the woods and raised by varmints, and came by my cunning ways from suckling at the teat of the she-wolf. These stories may not be true.

                                                            ACTRESS

As they cleared a path to the bar. I saw as he approached that he looked into the eyes of everyone he passed and he held their gaze until they batted their eyes or turned away. Except for me. I never blinked.
                                                           


                                                            SCOTT/JEEVES

For my own part, I have no remembrance of those early days. In my own true mind I sprang fully formed into this world, a complete and practical man fully fledged, not unlike the goddess Athena leaping forth from the dome of great Zeus.

                                                            ACTRESS

Do you know that feeling when, so suddenly, someone walks into your life and you know you're life will never be the same again?                                                          

                                                            SCOTT/JEEVES

But let us forget the past and live for today. I am a man of games, you see, a man of opportunity. I am a man who will get on your insides and know you better than you know yourself, and in the end, I will possess the contents of your pocketbook and a piece of your soul. It’s as simple as that.

                                                 
                                                            ACTRESS

It was as simple as that. (Beat) But nothing is ever as simple as it seems, is it?


                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

Perhaps I was born to be a wagering man – but a shaping experience came in the bustling town of Granby, Missouri when I was but a mooncalf of a boy, and a fellow by the name of Alexander Vanelli – I will never forget that name – came upon me adjacent to the local pool hall. “I can fit eight tomatoes inside my mouth,” he says to me. No introduction - just a simple declarative statement he made to me. Eight tomatoes? I thought. Can’t be done, but before I could open my mouth to speak he says “I’ll bet you two bits I can do it.” Now keep in mind, this was a time when two bits was a fancy piece of spending money for a boy of my tender years. But seeing the immutable logic of my reasoning and the shower of riches about to befall me, I hastily agreed to the proposition. “One condition only,” says he. “I get to pick which tomatoes.”

                                                ACTRESS

He was a tall man but not a truly handsome one. Something a little off center about his face. But my, oh my, a captivating man.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

Ponder a tomato now, and picture it in your hand. Picture one you just picked from the garden out in the side yard, warm from the sun and dusty.

                                                ACTRESS

The one eye cold and hard, the other full of fancy. The way his hat dipped over that full-of-fancy eye.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

Slice it up, chop it up, mash it up – it’s got a bit of heft, it fills your hand no matter.

                                                ACTRESS

He was crisp in every way, from the crease in his trousers to the closeness of his shave, a meticulous man, from the tips of his shoes to the tips of his gentle, clever fingers.


                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

Put one, two into your mouth at once? At most, one or two. Eight tomatoes fit inside one man’s mouth? It is a physical impossibility.

                                                ACTRESS

He was known for his boldness and his fearless wagering and every man held the desire to challenge him. His losses were large in number but small in dollars, and the wins were just the opposite.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

A few weeks passed and the early summer came on in the Ozarks, the days growing longer and the nights more intriguing. One day marking time outside the pool parlor I spied Vanelli a piece down the boulevard and he sauntered my way looking up into the sky as if expecting pennies to come raining down any moment.

                                                ACTRESS

Leroy had learned a power over other men, the power of making them lose their wits – and their dollars – betting again and again on his outrageous and wondrous claims.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

I called out “Here comes the tomato man!” and just as loudly I proclaimed to my equally misguided fellows of the street, “Here's the man who says he can fit eight tomatoes inside his mouth!” And they laughed and jeered, and I went on to say “Are you ready to make good on that wager, sir?”

                                                ACTRESS

And yet with me – and as I later learned, with many other willing women – he had a power of an entirely different nature.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

As he came closer I saw just a smidgen of surety in his eyes, a discomforting surety, and the smallest glimmer of a smile playing on his lips. And, as it says in the Bible, I was most suddenly sore afraid.

                                                ACTRESS

When the music would play he would doff his hat and cross the room, fixing me in his gaze, and never looking left or right he came closer, and he would extend his hand, and say – I remember that very first time what he said -

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

“Eight tomatoes,” he said. From his pockets he filled his hands and turned them out to me. “Eight tomatoes,” he repeated and displayed them and into his mouth he began to place them. Each bright green, and about the size of a marble.

                                                ACTRESS

“I'd like to dance with the prettiest girl in the room,” he said, flashing that wild and playful right eye and that cool and calculating left eye. Well, a girl had no choice.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

Then like Demosthenes, with all eight inside his maw, he spoke with remarkable clarity - “I believe you owe me two bits, young fella.”

                                                ACTRESS

He danced like silk sheets, that man, his right hand strong in the middle of my back. Not like the usual whisky-soaked rough man in the House of Lords. A gentle command of the dance at every turn. Even a tested woman was softened in his arms.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

I learned a lesson that day.

                                                ACTRESS

When the music and the wine had left me with no resources, he took me to his room.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

I learned a lesson and I saw my future.

                                                ACTRESS

We made love seven times that night. I saw my future.  (Beat) Or so I thought.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

My lesson that day was in thinking I had taken control, when in fact, I had given it away.


                                                ACTRESS

I had given away my control.

                                                SCOTT JEEVES


 I had agreed to terms without understanding those terms.

                                                ACTRESS

I had allowed myself to fall without understanding his terms.

                                                TOGETHER

I never let that happen again.

                                    (Beat)

                                                ACTRESS

He came around now and then. I never knew when I would see him again.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

My days were spent with cue sticks and playing cards and little ivory cubes. Daytime was for training my hands and my mind – nighttime was for reaping the rewards in close rooms filled with false bravado and fear.

                                                ACTRESS

As time passed, other men came into my world. They came and they went. Some of them I loved, some I did not. And always, I waited for Leroy.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

I learned the myriad ways to mark a deck, to know the value of every card I dealt, to fill an unfillable straight with a magical fifth ace. (He winks)  A smart man makes his own luck from time to time.

                                                ACTRESS

He would be away for weeks, months at a time. I would hear the men talking in the House of Lords, talking of this man they called Hurricane, or Bones, or Jeeves.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

As time passed, I became a master – if I may be so bold, and I will – a master of what is known as the proposition wager. What I had learned from Alexander Vanelli on the streets of Granby was that every man wants to get a little something for nothing.

                                                ACTRESS

Stories of outrageous claims, his monumental wagers – and his equally monumental winnings. I knew they spoke of Leroy.
I learned to propose outrageously to create the prospect of easy winnings – to make the  mark believe “There is no way to lose.” And then show him a way to lose.

                                                ACTRESS

Leroy had the power to make you believe.                                          

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES       

One crisp October day on the streets of Joplin, a group of sporting men spoke of the shining new Connor Hotel across the street, standing a full three stories tall. “Tallest building in town now,” they said. “Right up into the clouds,” they said. “A marvel,” said I. “It's a far piece up to that roof indeed. Do you think a fella could throw a rock up there?” I asked. The bait was cast upon the water.

                                                ACTRESS

Time passed, and night after night I longed for him to walk through the door. Unfulfilled longing. Night after night.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

Night,came and with it the conversation on the street was forgotten in a sea of cheap lager – forgotten by the others, that is, for I never touched the alcohol – and the topic of the rock and the roof of the Connor Hotel surfaced once again. I boasted then, as a man would boast if he had the Dutch courage - that the height of that roof was not so  impressive after all, and that I was most certain I could toss a rock up onto that third floor.

                                                ACTRESS

I was on the third floor of the Connor Hotel one night, late one night, and saw him down below, on the corner of the street, talking to a group of drunken men, and then they were reaching into their pockets and I saw the green of bills displayed, and the nodding of their heads as Leroy talked.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

“Can't be done,” they said, “It would take a mighty throw.” To which I protested “No, that height is easily reached!” I said. “For that matter, I could toss a PUMPKIN up onto that roof!” “A pumpkin??” they hooted and they laughed.

                                                ACTRESS

There he was, on the street below me, knowing I was near, but he never called on me that night.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

“I can throw a pumpkin from this spot onto that roof,” I said, “and I am willing to put my money on it.” This was an irresistible offer – a can't lose proposition, they thought. (He winks.) Terms were arranged and I made just one caveat – I would choose the date and time and I would choose the pumpkin.

                                                ACTRESS

The next night, in the wee hours I saw him again, walking to the corner with a bucket, looking up past my window. I watched as he  took off his coat and limbered up his arm, like a pitcher preparing to take the mound.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

At the time I was known on the ballfields from Fort Smith to Ponca City. Some said none had more mustard on the ball than I, except for the great Van Lingle Mungo. Many's the time I had pitched both ends of a doubleheader on a sunny Saturday – and returned to do the same on Sunday.  Apparently my new friends on the street had never attended any of those games.

                                                ACTRESS

He stood on the corner, peered up into the sky, reached back and hurled a baseball up toward my window. At first I thought he was trying to rap on my glass, but it disappeared above. And then another, and another, until the bucket was empty.  That was just the first of many nights I saw him with his bucket on that corner. Never once did he come knocking on my door.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

Fall turned to winter and winter to spring. From time to time, I would see my new friends at the pool hall and they would call out “Here comes the pumpkin throwing man!” and they would laugh. “About ready to consummate that wager?” they would shout. They laughed and laughed.

                                                ACTRESS

I began to wonder where I had gone wrong with Leroy. I had never known a man to turn away from me, once he had looked into my eyes.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

One late June day I saw them there on the street and I said, “Well, fellas, I'm regretting having made that wager with you all, but I suppose, despite my doubts, that I'd best own up and give it a try. Say 3 o'clock tomorrow.” They smiled and laughed knowing they had a sure thing, and I let them taunt me into doubling that wager, and then doubling it again. What was I thinking? (He winks)

                                                ACTRESS

What was I thinking letting a man get that far inside me?

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

A small crowd gathered at the appointed hour. I arrived promptly at three. My “friends” were all smiles.
                       
                                                ACTRESS
                                               
Long hours I sat in front of my mirror, combing out my hair, thinking about him. All we had together  – the walks in the rain, the quiet nights... (Suddenly this sounds familiar. She shoots a look at the writer) ...abounding with the questions in our minds, haunted by what might be and what can’t be.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

I hung my hat on the carriage post and said, “Well, boys, here we are. Does anyone happen to have a pumpkin?” They jeered and snickered and reminded me that the terms of the wager stated that I would choose the pumpkin to be thrown.

                                                ACTRESS

(Now just saying words.) Another day. I start my day like any other. As I brush my hair I think of...(She rolls her eyes, the character falls away.) the meaninglessness that is this moment, this brush in my hand, my hand, my hair, my life. (With emphasis, to the writer.) All meaningless. (Beat. Disdainfully) Are you kidding me??

                        (The writer glances at her, waves her off, waves Scott to keep going)

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

And so, at long last, the moment had arrived. In a clear voice, strong enough to be heard by all gathered there, I then said –

                                                ACTRESS

(To the writer) You are absolutely freaking ridiculous.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

(Lost now, drops the character) What? That's not -

                                                ACTRESS

(To the writer) You're right back where you started! You had something going -

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

Did you get some pages I don't have...?

                                                WRITER

I still HAVE something going, stay on task here!

                                                ACTRESS

You've wandered in a circle and you're right where you started.

                                                WRITER

I have not, stay out of it.

                                                ACTRESS

The next line was going to be “there was never a man more perfect for me than you” wasn't it?

                                                WRITER

                        (Scratching something out and lying.)

No.

                                                ACTRESS

And I thought for a moment you were getting somewhere.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

I'm confused. (To the audience) Are you confused?

                                                ACTRESS

You actually had a story going for a change, a story – not just your relentless broken-hearted “lost the girl” bullshit -

                                                WRITER

That's part of the story!

                                                ACTRESS

It's every story for you!

                                                WRITER

What is a story without love?

                                                ACTRESS

There's no love left in you, it's only loss, and sadness, and feeling sorry for yourself –

                                                WRITER

Easy for you to say, from the other side -

                                                ACTRESS

(Earnestly) Don't you think she feels it, too?

                        (A long beat, they exchange a look)

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

What happened to the guy with the pumpkin?


                                                WRITER

                        (Ignoring him)

No, she doesn't feel it the way I do..

                                                ACTRESS

That is so selfish – so YOU! To think your love is greater, more profound -

                                                WRITER

No one knows how I feel!

                                                ACTRESS

– and you cast yourself as the victim every time, at the mercy of the heartless woman.

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

What happened to the guy with the pumpkin??

                                                WRITER

Not now, “Scott”! (To her) Maybe heartless is the right word.

                                                ACTRESS

(She turns sarcastic, challenging him) So you're eating your liver over a woman who has no heart? What does that say about you?

                                                WRITER

All right, I know she's not heartless –

                                                ACTRESS

What does it say that you're stuck on this little fling -

                                                WRITER

It was not a fling!

                                                ACTRESS

- this flash in the pan thing that meant more to you than it meant to her.

                                                WRITER

I can't believe that is true!

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GUY WITH THE PUMPKIN!!

                                                WRITER

NOT NOW, SCOTT!


                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

Arrrrrggghhhh! (He stomps off.)

                                                ACTRESS

Think about it – it was nothing but a trifle.

                                                WRITER

Stop saying that.

                                                ACTRESS

You screwed her, what – one time?

                                                WRITER

What? No!

                                                ACTRESS

Twice then. And here you are pining -

                                                WRITER

Three times, okay? I screwed her three times!

                                                ACTRESS

Whoop-dee-doo!

                                                WRITER

And I didn’t “screw her,” we made love! Okay? And it was three times!

                                                ACTRESS

Are you sure?

                                                WRITER

Yes three times, a trinity of times!

                                                ACTRESS

Jesus.

                                                WRITER

Yes! The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, it was a religious experience.

                                                ACTRESS

You are so far gone I can't even hear you.

                                                WRITER

(Intensely) I love her, okay?

                                    (“Nessun Dorma” begins to play, and swells...)

I love her with all my heart. Am I supposed to pretend that's not true?

                                                ACTRESS

You wallow in your denial of the reality.

                                                WRITER

The reality is my love!

                                                ACTRESS

It's over!

                                                WRITER

I will always love her!

                                                ACTRESS

She left you for another man!

                                                WRITER

My love burns in my heart!

                                                ACTRESS

She's GONE!!

                        (The music stops abruptly. Long beat. Then quietly...)

She's gone, David.

                        (Beat)

And what's with the opera, why make your life an opera? All the weeping, the moaning? Why not a pop song? Something cheery!

                        (Some cloying teen love pop song plays. She dances to it a bit, quickly loses interest.)

Well, maybe not that one.

                                                WRITER

It's just – I can't -  I love her.

                                                ACTRESS

Maybe, maybe you do. But you love your misery more.

                                                WRITER

I want to be happy.

                                                ACTRESS

(Pressing him) No, you don't. If you wanted to be happy you'd accept things the way they are and move on.

                                                WRITER

“Move on.” I hate the way people say that, like you're browsing for socks.

                                                ACTRESS

Move on means take what you've learned and find someone new.

                                                WRITER

So superficial.
           
                                                ACTRESS

Take your time with someone new, let love grow.

                                                WRITER

I don't want to play that game, play that falsity again. “Oh, I could learn to love her, I suppose, over time, if I try.” That's not real love! Real love is a tidal wave! It overwhelms! I don't want to dip my toe into love, I want to dive into the deep end!

                                                ACTRESS

You did that, and you nearly drowned. And now you just tread water.

                                                WRITER

True love wins in the end. I believe that true love prevails.

                                                ACTRESS

What kind of chick lit are you reading these days? Get real.

                                                WRITER

Love is all that matters!

                                                ACTRESS

All right then (she takes on a cross-examination tone) –  love – that's what it's all about?

                                                WRITER

Yes, that's all that matters. Love endures, love cannot be denied.

                                                ACTRESS

What is love to you anyway? What does it mean?

                                                WRITER

What?

                                                ACTRESS

What is love to you? Define it.

                                                WRITER

Love is – a person you think about the moment before you fall asleep, and the moment you wake up.

                                                ACTRESS

Okay....

                                                WRITER

Love is caring about someone else more than you care about yourself.

                                                ACTRESS

Dangerous, but okay, keep going.


                                                WRITER

Love means never having to say -

                                                ACTRESS

Don't even go there.

                                                WRITER

Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast –

                                                ACTRESS

No plagiarism, please, original thoughts.

                                                WRITER

Love is – I would give up everything I have to be with her!

                                                ACTRESS

Possessions or people? Possessions mean nothing.

                                                WRITER

Everything!

                                                ACTRESS

That's unhealthy. Keep trying.

                                                WRITER

Love is – the feeling that you would do anything to make her happy.

                                                ACTRESS

No one can make another person happy. Try again.

                                               
                                                WRITER

Love is – I want her to be happy.

                                                ACTRESS

Ah hah!

                                                WRITER

Love is the feel of her hand in mine, to see her smile.

                                                ACTRESS

Getting colder.

                                                WRITER

What?

                                                ACTRESS

You approached it, then you veered off.

                                                WRITER

Approached what?

                                                ACTRESS

Something true.

                                                WRITER

What, what did I say?

                                                ACTRESS

“I want her to be happy.”

                                                WRITER

Yes?

                                                ACTRESS

That was loving. That was about her. And then it was about you again – you want to hold her hand, you want to see her smile.

                                                WRITER

What's wrong with that?

                                                ACTRESS

Nothing wrong with it, but it's not love, it's your need.

                                                WRITER

But I – I just –

                                                ACTRESS

Can you love without possessing?
           
                                                WRITER

What?

                                                ACTRESS

Think of something you love.

                                                WRITER

What??
                                               
                                                ACTRESS

The category is – famous places. Name one you love.

                                                WRITER

Uh....well...Paris at night.

                                                ACTRESS

Good. Now a painting.

                                                WRITER

Um...Guernica.

                                                ACTRESS
Fine. Music.

                                                WRITER

Puccini.

                                                ACTRESS

Obviously. Now – these things you love – do you possess them?

                                                WRITER

No, of course not.

                                                ACTRES

And do you love them any less?

                                                WRITER

No, but it's not the same –

                                                ACTRESS

Why? Why is it not the same? Can you not love a person as you love a Picasso canvas, or “Nessun Dorma”? Unilateral love, fully committed love, without reservation or expectation? A love that gives and has purity, a transcendent love truly from the soul?

                                                WRITER

But what about (He struggles for the word)– intimacy?

                                                ACTRESS

Sex, you mean. You want to have sex with her.

                                                WRITER

Well, yes!

                                                ACTRESS

Sex is not love. Which has more meaning? Which is more important?


                                                WRITER

                        (He makes a strangled, frustrated sound that says he knows the answer but doesn't want to say it. )

But I know she would be happier with me!

                                                ACTRESS

You don't know that, you wish for it. Wanting it to be true doesn't make it true. People make choices. Sometimes you disagree with those choices. The question is this - can you divide your love from your want and your need?

                                    (The writer grasps for words but fails. A beat. She walks to him and strokes his hair tenderly in silence, then exits. He rises and starts toward her point of exit as if to follow, then stops, turns back. Gathers himself. A heavy sigh. He picks up his pencil and prepare to write again.)

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

                                    (Poking his head out from the wings. Sheepishly.)

What happened to the guy with the ---

                                                WRITER

Give me a second.
           
                                    (Scott/Jeeves withdraws for a moment, then re-enters and resumes the character as before as the writer begins to write)

                                                SCOTT/JEEVES

And so, at long last, the moment had arrived. In a clear voice, strong enough to be heard by all gathered there, I then said – “Never you mind, fellas, I have a pumpkin right here,” and I reached into my pocket and held it out for all to see – a shining green pumpkin about the size of a baseball. An hour or so before I had picked it myself and – though I did not share this with the crowd – had bored a small hole and filled it with just enough buckshot to make it about the weight of a baseball as well. Those who had money on the line against me? Well, I watched their faces fall a bit as I briefly limbered my arm and asked for a tad bit of room, and then I sighted my target there on the rooftop as I had done many times before, took my windup, and let 'er fly. The others tracked it in flight and there was a groan as it cleared the roofline – but my eyes were fixed on a figure there in the window, a figure I had seen those many nights from the street corner. I knew she had watched me down below, and I knew she had wondered why I never came to her door. (Beat) My ears were filled with the bleating of the fleeced. “You've tricked us!” they said, and such, and as was the case many times eventually one said he would not pay, then joined by another. “I believe,” I said, as I pulled back my coat to show the handle of the pistol that settled many such disagreements, “I have met the terms of the wager, and I'll have my winnings now. “ Need I say that I collected on on the spot?
My pocket was fat with bills as I watched them wander away. But my thoughts were there in that window above. 

(He drops the braggadocio for the first time, speaks simply and sincerely.)

I wanted to go to her, every night. I needed to be inside her soft acceptance, her gentle, silent understanding. It was because of my want and my need that I walked away.
I walked away. You see, I am a man of games, a man fixed on winning, and in every exchange, I take more than I give. I knew she loved me – loved me enough to look past my failings. But I loved her too much to do to her what I knew I would do to her. So I walked away. I never saw her again. I loved her chaste and from afar. Many women came and went from my life in the years that followed, but I ever had only one true love. Each night I thought of her the moment before sleep, and in the first moment of awakening. My Vanessa. I wanted her to be happy.

            (He and the writer exchange a look, a nod, a salute, and Scott/Jeeves exits. The writer watches him go, closes his writing pad, puts his pencil in his pocket, gathers his things, takes a glance around, and exits.)

                                    END OF PLAY