Spring/Summer 1993, Volume 10.2
One Act Play
Infrastructures (A One-Act Play )
Charles, Mid to late 30s. A first-amendment lawyer. Married to Meg.
Meg, Mid to Late 30s. Owner of a bookstore. Married to Charles.
Lane, Mid to late 30s. An actor. Married to Jessica.
Jessica, Mid to late 30s. A literary agent. Married to Lane.
Hope, Mid to late 30s. In the R&D department of a biotech company. Married to Kyle.
Kyle, Mid to late 30s. Plays French horn in the symphony. Married to Hope.
Charles's and Meg's coop apartment. 12th floor. A major city.
Principally the living room and front foyer. Back windows look out over the city skyline.
The furnishings reflect taste and depth. Nothing showy. Lots of books, art; nice music system. Flowers here and there. Solid elegance in the furniture.
Outsideover the arc of the playmoving from imperceptible to undeniable: (1) the keeing of emergency vehicles, (2) incendiary light.
Evening. The Present. Early Spring.
At the Curtain. Music: Maybe C&W Crossover. Maybe The Art of the Fugue. Maybe Eric Clapton. Maybe some Wyndham Hill Anthology of a Season. At any rate: it's well chosen . . . and for a reason.
Lights down and out. Curtain in the dark. Fade lights in. Just the set. The space looks like it's waiting for someone. And it is. Charles enters. He's dressed for friends and carries two icebuckets for winesetting them on what's to serve as his bar. He opens a cabinet door. The bar is a converted . . . . Something: cherrywood, walnut. He removes two bottles of wine and proceeds to open them.
Charles: (off) . . . I finished that new Jack London biography. By whatshisname? It's dreadful. Don't waste your time. Talk about the imitative fallacy!
Charles: . . . He poses Charmaine as some kind of "other." . . . Talks about "object loss." . . . It's very Winnecottean. Except, of course, there's no soul.
Charles: Ohand it absolutely guessesthis will drive you crazyguesses at a relationshipcan you imagine this?between London and Remington. Save us from post-Freudian Freudianism!
Charles: I think Knopf has cornholed itselfpardon my whateverever since Bob Gottlieb left. Although The New Yorker hasn't done too badly in his absence. I like Tina Brown . . . what she's done . . . for the most part.
Charles: . . . Hi.
Charles: So, how're we doing? We on schedule?
Meg: I think . . . : "admirably."
Meg: Very "close."
Meg: Very "near."
Meg: Though. . . .
Meg: Though not quite, as they say, "inside the paint."
Charles: Well: you can't have everything. How was that celery?
Meg: That was celery?
Charles: Well: in its original form.
Meg: Charles, I don't want to be critical.
Charles: No; do it; go ahead; go for it; be critical. It's what I live for.
Meg: Well, the color was fine. But the stalks themselves, the essential celery was, I'm afraid a bit. . . .
Meg: I don't want to . . .
Charles: Stringy? Really; do it; go ahead; be critical. I'm strong.
Meg: No; it was fine. It was justI thinkprobably yesterday's celeryI suspect.
Charles: I'm sorry.
Meg: It's no . . . I said "I suspect." I wasn't blaming.
She lifts one of the wine bottles, checks the label.
Meg: "Pebble Creek?"
Charles: Uh. . . .
Meg: I'm serious: this is not a joke label"Pebble Creek?!"
Charles: It had, in fact, a nice mention in Food & Wine.
Meg: (examining) . . . Oh . . .
Charles: Full actual paragraph.
Meg: By. . . ?
Charles: I. . . . (searching) I don't. . . . I can't. . . . [remember]
Charles: Well. Right: yes! Exactly! Whatshername! In her column.
Meg lifts the bottle, drinks directly from it.
Charles: Wellthat's a model of grace and hospitality. I suppose one's fist around the neck of the bottle can get pretty. . . .
Meg: It's a little fruity, I think.
Charles: Welladd some vinegar. Besides, you know Jessica.
Meg: On occasion.
Charles: What I mean ismeant wasJessica likes fruit.
Meg: Wellthen, indeed: let's please Jessica!
Meg: How about a fifth of Absolute Citron? Do you have one in the freezer?
Charles: Is that an edge in your voice? Slightly? Possibly? Just the tiniest. . . . what? serration?
Meg: No; never. . . . Not me; not in talking about Jessica; never.
Charles: You want to lie on the carpet? I'll stand over . . . . pour the rest of this down your throat?
Meg: You mean: like men have been doing now for 2000 years?
Charles: Ah-ha, who's that? Andrea Dworkin. . . . or someone?
Meg: Don't consign.
Charles: You read her Times piece?
Meg: (on her way out) We say six-thirty?
Charles: We said sixthirty-ish.
Meg: Okay; good: sixthirtyish. All Right. (looking at her watch) Then: any minute.
Charles: Well, I'm ready.
Meg: Good. You get everyone settled and happy. You get them chirpy. Then I'll arrive. Add the appropriate tone.
Charles: . . . "Chirpy?"
He laughs. He continues icing the wine. An intercom sounds. He moves to it.
Voice over intercom: It's us.
Charles: Well, hello "us." Greetings. Twelve E.
Voice: We remember.
Charles: I was sure you did. Happy elevator.
Charles switches off the intercom, moves back to the "Bar," begins to set glasses out. He moves to the music system. What's on doesn't seem quite "right." He considers, changes the music, likes it better. He returns to the bar, cuts a lime. Sound: the door. Charles moves to it, opens. It's Lane and Jessica. Hugs, Handshakes, etc.
Jessica: I was just saying: that has got to be the most non-kinetic ascent in the universe.
Lane: Jessica's into motion.
Jessica: Lane, I'm not into "motion." My husband: the "actor."
Charles: (mock) How do you do.
Lane: I'm just saying that my own perspective, my own evaluation is: it was more silent than non-kinetic. I'm not trying to be contentious . . .
Jessica: Of course. Never.
Lane: No; never; I'm just trying to be accurate.
Charles: Hey: you guys look greatsilent/non-kinetic/contention/accuracy aside.
Jessica: We're going to Belize.
Charles: No! Jesus!
Lane: (doing a little "Belizean" dance) "Be-liiise!". . . . !
Charles: God: you dicks! (picking up his "look great" comments above) And I can't stop eating!
Jessica: Charles: What.
Lane: (almost simultaneous with above) Oh-oh!
Charles: I'm sorry: did I . . .? [say something?] "Eating?" Was it the comment about. . . . (getting it [if he hasn't already]) Oh!Oh right; no: Dorks! I meant dorks. Didn't I say dorks? I meant dorks. I don't know how the other word came outbut really. I meant dorks.
Jessica: That's enough.
Lane: (big, bold, theatrical) "Some Day He'll Come A-long! da-da-da-da! The Man I Love!"
Charles: Hey: but anywayI'm jealous. God: Belize!
Lane: "And He'll Be Big And Strong. . . !"
Jessica: Lane, please; enough.
Charles: Hey: excuse my . . . . you guys want to dispose of . . . you want to hang anything? A new lithograph? Your heads in shame. Possibly your coats? I
didn't mean to. . . .
Lane: No; we're fine.
Jessica: I'd love this jacketsomewhere other than on my body. If it's not too much. . . . Where's Meg?
Charles: I'm supposed to get everyone. . . her word was "chirpy." Then she'll appear.
Laughs. Lane pulls an Audubon birdwhistle out of his jacket.
Jessica: Lanereally; this is too muchplease.
He gets playful with it. Charles laughs.
Meg: Lane! (to Charles) He carries all these stupid props.
Lane: Some of them, actually, attached to my bodyothers not.
Lane: The attached ones annoy her the most. I take them out, and. . . .
Jessica: Could we not. . . ?
Charles: (calling off) Meggie? You listening?
More bird music.
Jessica: It's his conversation piece.
Charles is herding them into the living room.
(The next two lines are essentially simultaneous.)
Jessica: (to Lane) So: tell Charlie about your film.
Charles: Right. So: what's this new movie you're doing.
They all laugh
Lane: "After you my dear. . . ." It's nothing. I'm doing my annual college-fund-for Mick-and Jennifer-piece-of-shit film. And I justof courselove it. It just fulfills me so much. It seems so perfect right now, so right, for the infrastructure of my life.
Jessica: It's not that bad.
Lane: (to Charles) It's . . . in fact: rubber dog-shit.
Charles: Wine? Beer? Serious stuff?
Jessica: Do you have. . . oh-no; that's fine; anything.
Charles: Do I have what?
Jessica: Anything's wonderful; really; I'm appreciative, but . . Merlot? Opened? But it's really all the same to me. I wouldn't want to. . . .
Charles: Hey: have corkscrew; have infinite storewill travel: it's not a problem.
Jessica: Well: if it's easy.
Charles: (to Lane) Buddy?
Charles: Absolutely! Dewar's! Dewar's for the famous actor! And what a
memory! am I right?!neat?!
Lane: Thank you.
Setting about making the drinks.
Charles: So this year's piece-of-shit-into-the-education-fund project is . . . don't hold out on me: what?
Lane: Well . . . okay: this year's piece-of-shit-into-the-education-fund project. . . .
Jessica: Lane: really, don't.
Lane: (aside to her) What?
Lane: No; really: what?
Jessica: I think you know what I'm talking about.
Lane: Well, maybe I don't.
Charles: Who's directing?
Lane: Freddy Fuckface.
Jessica: Lane: I'm serious; I mean it. We've had conversations about. . . .
Lane: I'm sorry. (revision) The man who's directing is a less-than-inspiring less-than-artist. (to Jessica) Okay? Better?
Jessica: (to Charles) You wouldn't know his name.
Lane: Which is not surprising because He. . . . He doesn't even know his name.
Charles: (delivering the glass) Kenwood okay?
Lane clears his throat.
Jessica: I'm sorry; excuse me; but (clears her throat in imitation): that was what?
Lane: I was just . . . (pointing to his throat) A gnat, a small bug, a mote, a tickle. It was your word.
Jessica: I see.
Lane: No big thing.
Jessica: (a statement) You didn't like "nummy."
Lane: No, I. . . . (smile) Well, but I've taught myself to understand difference, you seeand I can live with it.
Jessica: Tell your story. Save the belittling of your wife, please, for another time.
Charles: (for Jessica's benefit) Like courtright?
They all laugh: varying degrees of heartiness.
Charles: So, the flick's a dog.
Lane: The flick. . . . I don't even know if I can bring myself to talk about this. The flick's a cur. The flick's a mongrel. The director's a cur and a mongrel. The script's a cur and a mongrel with three legs and two heads . . . which, once it's wrapped, they'll obviously keep on display in Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. The flick is, in fact, the unhealthy defecation of a mongrel.
Charles: (handing it) Dewar's neat.
They all "settle."
Charles: So: defecation.
Jessica: Tell him about your "leading lady."
Lane simply screams.
Jessica: Lane: why can't you simply. . . ?
Lane screams again.
Lane: I'm sorry. It happens. It's my Tourettes. "Leading lady": really; Jesus!
Jessica: Lane: please.
Lane: "Tourettes?" "Leading lady?"
Jessica: You know what I'm asking.
Lane: Jessica's back into church. (to Jessica) No: which isno; no; I'm being serious now; this is not a numberno; which is great. Really. Because. . . . You know I feel that. We've talked. (to Charles) St. Marks. I go. In fact. Most Sundays. With. Right? Right, Jessica?Right, Jessica?Right?
Jessica: He's actually being quite supportive.
Lane: For me.
Charles: (to Jessica) Meg will want to hear.
Jessica: It just fills a certain space.
Lane: In the infrastructure of her life.
Jessica: (pausing; is Lane "getting" her? . . . No) There are times when a person needs. . . . I don't know: what?: what does it get called "these days" . . . "in our times." Whatever. You know what I'm talking about I'm sure. That.
Charles: Hey: you're talking to the guy who applied to Union Theological. So I'm there; I'm aboard; I'm with you; you don't have to. . . .
Jessica: You applied to. . . ?!
Charles: Many moons! Many moons; it was a long time ago. It was in my youth. (to Lane) So: "leading lady."
Lane: Does the name "Karen Romaine" mean anything?
Jessica laughs. The laugh seems, in part, inappropriate.
Charles: I don't. . . . I'm not sure. Should. . . ? I don't think so; no.
Lane: Hey: you are not alone! (shift) What're you drinking?
Lane: And. . . ?
Charles: Vodka. Vodka and . . . with a splash of vodka. So: "leading lady;" "Karen Romaine."
Lane: Who changed itfor professional reasonsfrom, of course, "Karen Raduscio."
Another Jessica laugh.
Lane: I'm just kidding. Look: I don't really want to talk. This dog; this film. Hand That Rocks the Cradle meets Silence of the Lambs! I play the "tempted husband." It's unbelievable. And it'll gross, I'm sure, about 700 million zillion dollars. Of which I'll see. . . .
Charles: You have points?
Lane: I have: point 75 percent points!
Jessica: He's feeling guilty.
Lane: (to Charles) Dung-dung-dung! Guilty isn't the word! "Conspiratorial!" Dung within dung. And then, possible, within and within again.
Jessica: Honey, please: don't do this: you did Measure For Measure at The Public for five weeks last winter.
Lane: (quoting) (he's quite good) "Ay, but to die . . . "
Lane: ". . . and go we know not where; . . . "
Jessica: Yes-okay-fine-thank you.
Lane: "To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot; . . ."
Jessica: Thank you, Lane: (she applauds) we get it; we commend; we appreciate.
Lane: "This sensible warm motion to become/ a kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit/to bath in fiery floods or to reside/ in thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice; To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,/ and blown with restless violence round about/ the pendent world; or to be worse than worst/ of those that lawless and incertain thought/ imagine howling'tis too horrible!" I did Measure For Measure at The Public for five weeks last winter.
Laughter/applause from Charles.
Jessica: Darling: please, don't. I was trying to be supportive.
Lane: I'm sorry. I know. I'm sorry. (more to Charles) I get carried away.
Charles (to Jessica) So: tell me about . . . The Reformation; Church.
Jessica: (self-conscious) Oh, it's nothing; it's fine. I wasn't. . . .
Lane: Hey, Jes: no; really; seriously. Don't withdraw; don't pull back; tell him; he's into it.
Jessica: I. . . . Charles: I'd rather. . . . Does Meg need help?
The kitchen? I'd be
happy. . . . (what the hell) Oh. . . : I was home for a weekabout two months ago. Different things. I don't knowI started reading Proverbs. Revelations. First, Second Kings. And I justyou know how those things go sometimes: I just . . . what? I got lonely. . . . for all of that, I guess. And decided to do something. In response. Not just feel I was . . . how does a person put this? . . . no just feel I was letting a particular dimension. . . . slip away.
Lane: No; it's actually great.
Jessica: So Lane and I set a half hour.
Jessica: Right: every. . . . each week. And . . .
Lane: Three times.
Jessica: Right: and. . . . (she acts embarrassedshifts the topic) Anywayif Lane won't tell it I willthis Karen Romaine . . . powders her nose half the dayif you get my point
Charles: I think: yes, I. . . .
Jessica: . . . and has the world's worstyou would not believe thisworld's worst consonant problem.
Charles: (not quite sure) Consonant. . . .
Lane: She mixes them. Up.
Jessica: Up. We're serious. Her consonants. It's incredible.
Lane: Ms for Ns.
Jessica: Zs for Xs. Of course her thighs are absolutely concave. In this one scene, Lane has to wear exploding pajamas.
Charles: No! . . . No!
Meg enters with goodies: cheeses, an artichoke dip.
Meg: Hello friends!
Jessica: Hi hon!
Charles: This movie Lane's doing: he has to wear exploding pajamas.
Meg: You in them?
Lane: Absolutely! Absolutely; I wouldn't do it any other. . . .
Jessica: (cutoff) I used to get terrifiedbut it's all very safe. They pre-test all of the. . . .
Meg: Charles has a new "exploding" client. Tell them about your exploding client, sweetheart.
Lane: (pointing) Is that artichoke or avocado?
Jessica: This looks fabulous! What are the cheeses?
Meg: Brie. Brie with walnut. And a. . . . it's a hard Italian I can't pronounce.
Meg: No; not that hard. The pronunciation. I'm just kidding. (to Charles) Tell them about your client.
Charles: (changing subject) Meg's rearranging the bookstore.
Jessica: Putting the greeting cards in the back.
Meg: No; It's no big thing. I'm just mixing the paperbacks and the hardbacks. Can I get anyone except Lane [who has helped himself] anything? (to Charles) Tell them about your exploding client.
Charles: Also: she's not carrying the last Studs Terkel.
Lane: Last Studs Terkel?
Meg: It's no big thing. I'm just offended. A white journalist? writing "a major book on race." Please: it's just more of the same.
Charles: You don't want the list.
Meg: Presumption. White Euro-centrism. Imperialism.
Charles: For starters.
Meg: It's no big thing.
Charles: She wouldn't carry the Shelby Steele book a couple of years ago either.
Lane: Hey! you must do a hell of a business!!
Charles: (modulating out of his laughter) It's a matter of principle.
Jessica: Charlie: I don't want to talk about it; I don't want this to be a topic over drinksbut you're doing a very male thing, right now, you do know.
Charles: Obviously. Always. Butjust so I don't miss the pointwhat?
Meg: Sweetie: don't prod me.
Lane: Hey: so just to put closure: you didn't carry this other . . . whatever, Shelby Steele. . . . why? because. . . ? Isn't he black? or hyphenated, a hyphenated-American or something? So why wouldn't you. . . ?
Charles: (amused but warning) Careful; watch it.
Lane: You know: I just love talking . . . and wondering whether the infrastructure of my commas is appropriate.
Meg: It's not.
Lane: Thank God.
Meg: No: he was just positing a very cooptive stancethat's all. And he's, of course, very good with words. Clever with logic. So it's a very convincing. . . .
Charles: (aside; under) This is the Steele book.
Meg: (continuous) . . . convincing and enticing tract . . . essentially denying the legitimacy of anger to a colonized people. So I just felt. . . .
Lane: Oh: now I get it.
Jessica: (to Lane) You're bad.
Lane: "Of those that lawless and incertain thought/ imagine howling'tis too horrible."
Jessica: Lane, really: Enough! Behave yourself!
Meg: Enough. New topic. (to Charles: cuing) Your exploding client.
All: (picking it up as a chant) Your exploding client! your exploding client! your exploding client!
Charles: (to shut them up) All right!! . . . It's just this guy who's a hothead. I have this client who's a hotheadthus: Meg's little play on words. So. . . . (to Jessica) What made the news? What was the agency bookdeal of the week?
Jessica: (some pride) Well, actually. . . !
Lane: (to Charles) Nonono!no. We've got to get through this. First! Then. . . ! Finish your paragraph. Hothead. What kind of hothead?
Charles: Uh . . . : Intemperate. Volatile. Short-fused. The kind of person we used toonce upon a timecall a "Dickhead." (to all) Quiet: I think Jess is about to announce something.
Lane: (because Charles has seen) Bingo!
Charles: I don't know why I sense this.
Meg: Because you're a sensitive and "intuitive guy." Why else?
Charles: Because I'm a sensitive and intuitive guywhy else? Also: she has this "I'm-just-dying-to-tell you" look on her face. I think you're right: that's why I. . . .
Lane: Bingo-bingo! I'm telling you: this lady here hit the jackpot.
Jessica: Well: not. . . . I wouldn't. . . .
Lane: (hands as megaphone) My wife, the literary agent, has hit the Jackpot!
Jessica: Honey, I wouldn't call it jackpot.
Lane: My wife, the literary agent, has hit. . . !
Charles: Lane-buddy: don't you have a show to perform?
Meg: He's performing it.
Charles: Somewhere else? (to Jessica) So. . . ? . . . jackpot? . . . the triumph of this week is:. . . ?
Meg: Jessie, enough: tell us.
Lane: This is great. (to Charles) Except. . . . except when she's through, I need to come backbecause he slipped awayto this hothead.
Meg: (almost an aside) It's an interesting story.
Charles: Sweetie: the Law is never an interesting story. It's an elaborate invoice. It's a monthly statement. Especially first-amendment law. But I'll give youbecause the request's been made and once Jessica is througha precise. Okay?
Jessica: (steamy: her joke) Oh; please! A precise! I need a precise. I haven't had my precise today. Charles: don't be shy; 'fess uphow long is your precise?
Brief strange take.
Lane: (embarrassedif that's possible) Jess was being suggestiveactually quasi-suggestivein case you. . . .
Charles: NoI. . . .
Meg: We. . . .
Lane: It's just: "suggestive" isn't exactly her. . . whatmetier? is metier a word?
Meg: In some cultures. Yes.
Charles: Absolutely. Certain semi-pretentious people will almost invariably use the word. . . ! (he laughs)
Jessica: Sorry; it was just a stupid thing. It was bad taste. I don't know why I. . . .
Lane: Hey: you said it because you thought it was going to be funny. Right? How were you to. . . ? It's no big. . . .
Jessica: (a bit deflated) WellI suppose. But. . . .
Meg: Jessicasweetheart: tell us about your. . . .
Charles: . . . triumph: absolutely.
Jessica: Well . . . .
Lane: (aside: to Meg) Brie and walnut is a great combination. (mouth full) I'm sorry. (starting her story for her) Someone discovered. . . .
Jessica: (stopping him) Lane, sweetie; I'm capableall right?I can tell it.
Lane: I know; I'm sorry: I never. . . .
Jessica: Anyway. . . . (flustered) Are you sure you all want to hear this?
Charles//Meg//Lane : Absolutely!//Certainly//It's a great story!
Jessica: Well, quickly then: rapidement . . .
Lane: Anyone remember the French word for "ejaculate?"
Lane: I'm just kidding. I'm just. . . . I'm sorry.
Meg: Very good.
Jessica: Anyway: it seems that when he was about . . . twenty-three, four, J. Robert Openheimer(in case they're not tracking) . . . as in . . ?(the nods tell her to go on) anyway: rented this little third-floor apartment on Brattle Street in Cambridge. Short term. Briefly. There were things he didn't likeincluding how far it was from work. But: the point is: he kept a journal. Personal. Every once in a while there's a mention of some projectsomething related to a conversation, work he was doing. But mostly it was, you know: just essentially him. Private. And so muchand what I'm getting at here will be clear in a moment, butso much that he wasn't, it would appear, proud. Forthcoming. Or maybe that's a resumption, but . . .
Lane: Well, except. . . .
Jessica: Lane? please?
Lane: I'm sorry. Muteness is all. I know.
Lane busies himself with the cheese and dip.
Jessica: Anyway: so . . . he hid the journal. Away. Cut a block out of the wallboardor maybe it was there already; somebody else hadand hid the journal. In, obviously, the wall. There were like two generations of wallpaper, so it was hard: you couldn't really see there was this block cut away. And so, apparently, when he movedto a some closer place . . . to his labhe left or forgot or one can speculate, I suppose, endlessly, but . . . he didn't bring the journal with. And so it's been therein this third-floor-room wall of this house on Brattle Street for . . . ohmygod, what?: seventy-odd years.
Lane: Until. . . ! whoops (he clamps a hand over his mouthlaughs: spitting cheese.)
Jessica: Yes; right; ta-da; thank-you-LaneLane-the-actorfor allowing me to . . . anyway: yes; until. . . ! The new owner, who'd bought the house and was doing a fairly extensive remodelingwas futzing or having his carpenters futz with the wall, and lo! lo and behold: J. Robert Oppenheimer's diary! . . . which the guy, the owner, read throughand, one assumes, had his voyeuristic thrills from or whatever beefier it hitand actually it wasn't him; it was his daughter, daughter-in-law, who was into biotech and waswho the writer was. That it wasn't just some guy named Oppenheimer. And some other very famous person who was the object of Oppenheimer's do-we-dare-say "lust."
Charles: I think the more literary types prefer "desire."
Meg: Desire's, actually, very big now.
Jessica: Fine: "desire" then. So: not two steamy unknowns. Rather it was the
J. Robert ofblah-blah-blah, as we all know, and. . . .
Lane: (to Charles) Really. Actually. I said.
Jessica: I mean: when you stop to think.
Lane: Or even when you don'twhich is more my approach.
Jessica: But the point isI suppose: He had this reasonably snaky thing withwould you believePaul Tillich.
Meg: Good Lord!
Jessica: Really. Though quick. It would seem. At least in its description. Stillon the pagerather gluttonous, rather hungry.
Jessica: Possible. But certainly clandestine. And reasonably lubricated. The thing is: Tillich threwaccording to this . . . whatever, thing, diary, journalthrew him, threw Oppenheimer over.
Charles: For whom? God?
Lane: Well: in the long-term; of course, yes. But. . . .
Jessica: In the short term: a young Italian delivering tomatoes and pearl onions to Fanueil Hall.
Lane: So: that's our storystory of the week. What's yours?
Meg: First; noI just want to establish thisso how does the Paul Tillich family feel about. . . . this unearthing, this discovery?
Lane: They're. . . . How would you put it, hon?
Jessica: They're disappointed. They're less than happy.
Lane: They're less than happy: (holding up his glassto Charles) Freshener?
Charles: Absolutely. My neglect. Bad host.
Charles points to Jessica, she shakes her head "no."
Lane: So: tell your exploding client story.
Charles: (going about getting the drink) Okay: short version. Flash fiction.
Jessica: This is. . . . [fiction]?
Charles: Just a booktitle. But the story's true. Man hires private detective to watch wife. Private eye discovers wife meets same bozo, same motel, same room, timeMondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. Detective takes room on Tuesday. Installs quick-cam before he leaves Wed. a.m. Quick cam has 24 hours of tape. He gets two pops of infidelity on the tape. Three days later, guy's wife/bozo-lover have a massive altercation. Not at the motel. In the city. On a side street. He decks her. She scrambles, pulls pistol: Pow! Splits.
Passerby finds guy on sidewalk . . .
Meg: He's getting to the real stuff.
Lane: I think I know where this is going.
Jessica: Me too.
Charles: Never be too sure. Passerbyetc, etc. Calls 911. Guy's still in ICU. Detective reads about it. Goes to local network affiliate. Shows the 2-pop video. They break it. Show it. Blur "the moment"irony-irony!withget it?!vasoline.
Lane: We saw it.
Jessica: Who didn't?
Lane: Pretty. . . !
Jessica: For Lane, it was a turn-on.
Lane: Well . . . .
Jessica: Darling: toothpaste is a turn-on for you. Face it.
Lane: Toothpaste is a turn-on for me.
Charles: Anyway: husband sues network. They keep showing the tape. He walks into the studio during a "News at 10" with a sledgehammer. Hurls it into the equipment with the tape in it. So we got lawsuit now and counterlawsuit. "Exploding client!"
Front door buzzer.
Meg: Must be Hope and Kyle.
Meg moves to the door.
Lane: So: who hired you?
Charles: The station.
Lane: (assuming/judging) Guy doesn't have a chance.
Charles: Well . . . .
Lane: Hey: he hired the Dickexcuse me: dorkto take the film. The two people in the film become news. Obviously. Or the news becomes them. whatever: "dancer from the dance." That's the infrastructure: no question: News at 10! First amendment!
Jessica: Well, yesbutam I right, Charles?he didn't become news. Isn't that the point? (to Charles) Did he?
During the above, Meg has opened the front door. Hope has arrived. There's the underscore of their greeting voices. They begin to move in to the living room.
Jessica: (waving) Hi, Hopie!
Lane: You make her sound like an Indian.
Jessica: "Native American."
Lane: Excuse me. (his greeting) Hi, Native American! Where's "Kylie?"
Hope: He'll be up.
Jessica: Hopie said there was a thing on the street.
Hope: There was a thing on the street.
Jessica: A scene.
Hope: Actually: an altercation.
Lane: Oh, my God!: not an altercation.
A deep, growling, death-throe scream.
Jessica: Well: there are altercations and there are altercations.
Charles: Ille a fagot et fagot! (to Hope) Jess is having Merlot. Lane's having scotch. I'm having vodka with vodka. Andoh, my God, we forgot about Meg.
Meg: Meg served herself. Meg's having half-mextaxa/half-campari. I read about it in Architectural Digest.
Lane: Where?! (to Jessica) She read about it where?
Hope: Do you have white? Something sweetish? Riesling?
Lane: (behind the abovehis riffbegun right after his "altercation." He may have to interrupt it for his line abovethen go right on.) "To be imprisoned in the viewless winds/ and blown with restless violence round about/ the pendant world; or to be worse than worst/ of those that lawless and incertain thought/ imagine howling'tis too horrible./ The weariest and most loathed worldly life/ that age, ache, penury, and imprisonment,/ can lay on nature is a paradise/ to what we fear of death!"
He finishes alone. The others are all looking at him.
Lane: Ohexcuse me: hello! Charles was just telling us about his exploding client. (to Meg) Half-metaxa/half-campari? (to Hope) Hi, Hopi.
Hope: How are you, dear?
Jessica: (explaining the above) He's representing the husband of the woman who shot the man she was having the affair with and they've been showing the films of on television.
Hope: OhmyGod, that. Him. Are you going to win or lose?
Lane: (mock, scornful) "Win or lose!" What's happened to Justice?
Meg: It's coming back. Clinton's bringing it back. The signs are everywhere.
Charles: (serious) In fact.
Jessica: Well: my father always used to say. . . .
Lane: Without, believe me, the least provocationand endlessly.
Jessica: "The Verities may seem, at times, to go on vacation . . .
Jessica/Lane together: . . . But they always return."
Charles: So: Kyle. . . ?
Hope: There was a thing. On the street.
Meg: There was a thing on the street.
Hope: Thank you.
Lane: So: how's the First Lady of Biotech?
Hope: It's been a busy time.
Lane: (at the barrefilling) What: Replicating? Splicing?
Meg: You still on the Alzheimers project?
Lane: She doesn't remember. (immediately) I know; I'm sorry; it's inappropriate. We don't make jokes about Grey Poweror grey-matter disempowerment: I can't. . . . whateverright?
Meg: (to Lane) I have to say: you're really babbling tonight.
Jessica: Meggie, this is nothing.
Lane: This is nothing. You ought to. . . ! You see: the thing is: I have to just keep talking and talking untilhit or missI can find something that's acceptable. There's so little that's appropriate or acceptable these days. Hope: you look great.
Hope: Thank you.
Lane: That St. John knit is fabulous.
Meg: Well: aren't you the fashion. . . .
Lane: Really shows off your tits. Nope! Tits are out; hooters are out! Not appropriate. I'll try again. I'll keep plugging. Shows of your. . . .
Jessica: (to Lane) Honey: are you sure you want another. . . ? We've got that Relief Fund dinner after this we have to. . . .
Hope: (out of nowhere) There was a thing on the street.
Meg: Sweetie: you said; you said that.
Hope: Did I?
Hope: Oh. . . . I'm sorry.
Charles: We forgive you.
Lane: All of uswhether we feel like it or not. Hopie: I'm still holding on to EcoGen. Dumb? Smart? They going to pull it off in the next little while?
Hope: I think so. I hope so. (to Charles) Is this Riesling?
Hope: Are you sure?
Charles: The best.
Hope: I thought for a minute it was blush.
Lane: It's the light.
Jessica: It's a blush Riesling. (when nobody laughs) Are there blush Rieslings?
Charles: Well: if there aren'tthere should be.
Charles laughs. Lane laughs (mocking?)
Jessica: (her watch) Lane: I think maybe we should be thinking about. . . (to the others) We have a Relief dinner for Bosnia Herzegovina.
Lane: Hey: we're fine.
Jessica: I think the dinner starts at. . . .
Lane: Hey: we're fine! So: we'll be late. Possibly. I mean: they have our money; why do we even have to. . . .
Meg: Mygod, Lane: you sound angry that there's a Yugoslavia.
Lane: Hey: I am angry that there's a Yugoslavia. I'm angry that there's a South Dakota. . . . I'm angry that there's a Wake Forest University. I have this indiscriminate anger.
Jessica: (of his scotch) Please: don't have any more to. . . .
Lane: I'm angry that there's a team called The Portland Trail Blazers. (to Hope) So, Hopie: the bottom line on fetal tissue benefits. (backing off) I know; I know: There was a thing on the street.
Hope: Did you hear?
Jessica: (to Hope) He's just being obnoxious.
Lane: I'm just being obnoxious. I'm just doing a piece-of-shit movie. So: who can blame me?: self-loathing.
Charles: (to Hope) He did Richard III for five weeks at the Public Theatre this winter.
Jessica: Measure For Measure.
Charles: Measure For Measure. Richard III, I guess, without the hump. (to Meg) It was a joke. It was a joke; I'm not disability-bashing.
Meg: I think Lane's influence has crept into the party.
Lane: (to Hope) Do you know Measure for Measure?
Jessica: Lane: stop this.
Hope: Well: I know it; I've read it. Not yesterday, but. . . .
Lane: (to Hope) Meg's rearranged her bookstore. Charles has an exploding client. Jessica just sold the Faggot Notebook of J. Robert Oppenheimer to Tickner & Fields. (bit) "Lane: are you homophobic?" "I don't know. I haven't really been tested." "Anyway: what's the infrastructure of homophobia?"
The front door chimes.
Meg: (primarily to Hope) Good; it's him.
Lane: (to Jessica) There was a thing on the street.
Jessica: Please stop drinking.
Lane: (to Charles/Meg) You know the problem with having friends over for cocktails?
Meg: No; what? tell us, Lane.
Lane: It privileges drinking.
Lane laughs. Charles laughs less freely.
Lane: I think people ought to have non-canonical cocktail parties. . . . which foreground things like antifreeze. I knowI'm drunk. But that's my point. It's not just people in the artscreative peoplewho drink. There are other "People of Liquor." And I don't think we should "ghetoize" . . . nevermind; fuck it.
Silence. The others are basically waiting for Charles to get the door and let Kyle in. The door opens. Lane moves to a windowjust stands there. Looks out. The tremulous yellow light outside has become almost visible flames now. The sound of emergency vehicles are undeniable. Kyle enters. He is dressed wellas are the rest of them, perhaps even a bit better. What is immediately apparent is that his face (and possibly his hands) are bloodied, beaten, misshapen. Critical: No one treats him any differently than any other arriving "guest." No comment is made about his condition. No gesture is made to minister to the wounds. He makes no allusions to his condition. At most: Lane may silently stare. . . . then look to the othersa glance which reads "are they seeing what I'm seeing?" Final note: It's possible that Kyle is Korean.
Hope: Hi, Sweetie.
Jessica: It's our favorite French horn player.
Kyle moves in to the living area with the others.
Kyle: There was a thing on the street.
Lane laughs maniacally.
Meg: Hopie said.
Hope: I told them you'd be delayed.
Kyle: Is it possible . . . ?
Charles: Name it. Anything.
Kyle: Rob Roy?
He goes about it.
Kyle: So how's the arts crowd?
Jessica: Kyle: you're the arts crowd. All we do is. . . .
Lane starts singing "all of me" to himselfstill facing outat the window.
Jessica: . . . supporthold up some of the. . . . whatever.
Meg: Perhaps infrastructure.
Lane: (interrupting himself, briefly) Great. . . . great.
Charles: (cautioning) Babe. . . .
Jessica: Meggie: you let him call you "Babe?"
Meg: (smile) No.
Charles: There'll be a reckoning later.
Hope: (to Kyle) Charles has an exploding clientthough I don't know what that means.
Kyle: I actually met him and talked with him on my way over here.
Jessica: You met . . . ?
Kyle: He's a man of few words though. I'm being cryptic. (calling over) Hello, Lane.
Lane: (still not turning in) Hello, Kylie-babe. How's the symphony?
Kyle: Underappreciated. Underpaid. How's "the film?"
Lane: Overappreciated. Overpaid.
Kyle: Well, that's. . . as it should be, I suppose. I mean: It's very yin-yang. (to Meg) Who should I be reading?
Meg: Not John Irving . . . not Harry Crews . . . not Jim Harrison.
Kyle: Good. I'm freed up. I love it. More time.
Jessica: There's going to be a new Isabelle Allendein about seven months.
Charles: To replace the Isabelle Allende who wrote the books?
Charles: (to Kyle) Rob Roy.
Kyle: Thank you. (pointing) Lane a bad boy? Someone send him into the corner? Or . . . ?
Lane: (still not turning) Kyle: I've been . . . "cornered"orcornsomethinged all my life.
Jessica: (to Kyle; of Lane) Don't pay any attention.
Lane: Pay attention! Pay attention! "Attention must be paid."
Charles: (to Kyle) So: is it busy? . . . outside? . . . out there? active?
Kyle: I suppose.
Jessica: Symphony goes todoes Scandinaviaisn't it soon?
Kyle: Three weeks.
Meg: You excited.
Kyle: Oslo. Copenhagen. I'm not crazy about Stockholm. But. . . We're usually treated well, so. . . .
Lane's rendition of "all of me" becomes undeniable and foreground. It's half himself, half Willie Nelson.
Kyle: Lane's comingif you haven't heardto do the vocals.
Meg: He's done his share tonight, certainly.
Lane: (from the same position at window) It's all right: I'm in treatment. I'm in a program. One of the many. . . "programs." Everything becomes excused if you can say that you're in a "program."
Meg: Except, of course, rudeness.
Lane: Except, of course, rudeness. I forgot. You in a "program," Kyle? One of the many "programs?"
Kyle has sat on the couch, spread his arms. Everything, everyone he toucheshe leaves a bloodstain.
Kyle: Yes. Adult Children of Asian-Americans Who Fought On The Other Side.
Jessica: Is there actually . . . ?
Charles: (to Kyle) So you found a parking place?
Kyle: More; one was provided. Created.
Lane finally turns back in: takes in Kyle. If anyone is capable of "countenancing" Kyle, it is Lane.
Lane: So. . . .
Lane: . . . I'm looking at Kyle.
Everyone waitsas long as it takes.
Lane: . . . And . . . so . . . Kyle.
Lane: What was your "thing?"
Lane: Now. Or. . . .
Lane: On the street.
Kyle: Oh. . . .: Rudeness.
A general silence. No one moves. Tableau.
Kyle: . . . It's that time of year. The temperature's up. There's restlessness. There's disenchantment. It's what happens. It's a very periodic thing.
Lane: In the infrastructure.
Kyle: In the infrastructure: yes; exactly; precisely. I'm sure you've seen it. People act up. People agitate. It's the inner-city sort of menopause thing: I'm sure there's a better metaphor, but it's seven at night, and I recorded for four hours this afternoon and I can't think.
Lane: (to Meg) So the . . . ?
Lane: Bathroom's . . . ?
He points to an off-stage door.
He moves to and exits into the bathroom.
Jessica: Hands over your ears, People!
She sticks a finger into her mouth, indicating that all are in store for an explosion of gagging noises. A beatout of which all are brought back to animating and life by.
Kyle: Meg: what's a new masterpiece? Every year I try to read at least one major masterpiecebut I haven't found one yet this year.
Meg: I'd say . . . Almanac for the Deadthe new Silko book. Leslie Silko. Leslie Marmon Silko.
Charles: Take your pick.
Kyle: In fact?
Meg: Well, I don't know "in fact." But certainly: my feeling.
Kyle: I've heard very mixed things.
Meg: Wellrumors to the contrary: her being on coke when she wrote it . . . compliments, they say, of the MacArthur FoundationI just think that: if you care about the future of the planetyou need to read it.
Kyle: Set a copy aside.
Meg: I will.
Lane exits the bath with a steaming towel. He will move to Kyle and tryvery gently and carefullyto pat the blood away. Kyle submits easily and without resistance. Lane will have some success in "cleaning" Kyle up. Nevertheless: Kyle's face "underneath," is hatched with slices, distorted with puffiness. No one will comment on the ritual of cleaning and ministering. The conversation will simply continue.
Charles: Anyone tried the new Thai restaurant?
Hope: It's disappointing.
Jessica: We liked the new Mexican.
Jessica: They have fabulous Margueritas.
Charles: Excellent carnes!
Meg: Charlie: "excellent carnes," I think, is being redundant.
Charles: Well, I never met a carne, I guess, I didn't like.
Kyle: There's a new Peking Duck restaurant.
Meg: Do you have to do the 24-hour thing?
Kyle: No. That's the point. You just walk in.
Lane: (low energy to his "joke") Like K-Mart.
Jessica: (checking her watch: to Lane) Honey: we need to get to the Relief Fund dinner.
Lane: I'm almost done.
Meg: Has anyone seen Hear My Song?
Hope: No. We were goingbut it came and went.
Jessica: Why do the best things always do that?come and goI get so angry. They're here! they're gone.
Charles: Meg bought the CD.
Meg: Darling: I not only bought the CDI bought the original music. I bought the real man.
Charles: Sweetie: you bought the real man years ago. You're just slow in realizing.
Jessica is standing, waiting for Lane to finish.
Meg: (to Jessica) Did you have a coat?
Charles: (signalling that he'll get the coat and moving to do so) Thing about Jessica and Lane: they're here! they're gone!
Hope: (her joke) Why do the best things always do that?come and go?! I get so angry.
Lane is "finished." He steps back from Kylelooks at him. Kyle immediately turns back into the group, rejoining them, leaving Lane standing, towel in hand.
Kyle: We're doing Philip Glass in Oslo!
Meg: Oh, good Lord!
Hope: He's serious.
Meg: That's outrageous! Who's idea was that?
[Note: In this final sequence, the roaring yellow light outside and the sounds of emergency vehicles will rise considerably. As at a huge cocktail party with a rock bandeveryone will have to shout over the sound to have their words heard.]
Kyle: The maestro's.
Meg: Kyle: that's just stupid!
Kyle: [what can you do?] Well. . . .
Meg: I mean, Philip Glass would be fine in Munich or Barcelona, but . . . my god!
Kyle: I know! Exactly! It's nuts: Oslo!
Jessica: We'll just let ourselves out.
Meg: Nonsense! Nonsense: Charles will see you [to the door]. (to Kyle and Hope) Drinks okay?
Kyle: I could use another Rob Roy.
Jessica: Thanks for having us.
Lane: (much subdued) Yeah . . . thanks. . . . Thanks.
Charles: Knock'em dead in your shit-for-the-college-fund movie, old man!
Jessica: Charlie: good luck with your exploding client!
Meg: And make a million with your Tillich-Oppenheimer blockbuster!
General hugs, handshakes, "Ciaos," as the stagelights fade to black, the flames and the sirens outside roar.