This is the first draft of an old play. Thinking of reworking and would like some feedback.
The setting is a working class living room, dining area and kitchen in a downstairs apartment somewhere in the greater L.A. area. The furniture is the kind people rent when they have no past of their own and no future to hope for except what they are given by television gurus and gossip on the factory assembly lines.
There is a beige, formica kitchen counter over which we can see the small, blue-painted kitchen illuminated with harsh, white flourescents. On the short drop wall above the counter there is a collection of historical display plates containing beautiful scenes of elegantly coiffed women in gorgeous period dresses, seated primly in perfect sitting rooms filled with expensive furnishings.
There are two worn, brown naughahyde stools at the counter. Downstage, in front of the counter is a red formica topped, chrome-legged table with four matching chairs. It sits on a multi-colored rag-braided, oval rug from Sears. In the center of the table there is a faded-orange bouquet of plastic Day Lilies in a large, ribbed plastic water tumbler its surface crazed by endless rasping with a scrubbing sponge. This bit of cheer sits on a round, white, hand crocheted doily that covers none of the worn spots in the red formica.
The 9×12 version of the dining area rug sits under the coffee table, couch and two chairs in the living room area downstage left. The living room furniture is “Colonial maple” upholstered in Orange, black and white plaid Herculon. On the coffee table is another water tumbler on it’s side with water dripping off the edge of the table. There are two, large, empty, orange prescription bottles on the table and one that has rolled downstage center with some capsules spilled out onto the floor. A jacket is thrown on the floor next to the capsules. The logo on the back reads SATAN’S ANGELS under a figure of a cherub holding a gun pointed at the audience.
Fifteen year-old Otis Schrage is walking his mother, Elaine Schrage, around the room. Elaine is thirty-three, only half conscious and leaning heavily on Otis for support in her stupor. When she talks she slurs her words and makes very little sense. She will display sudden bursts of energy and then a drooling affection for her son Otis.
There is a large, new television set in the corner that is tuned to the cable channel that has “T.V. Land” on it and old commercials as well as old television shows will come on throughout the action. A Geritol ad proclaiming the youth giving benefits of this nauseating brown liquid is on at the opening. It should contain as much bouncing, singing and dancing as can be found.
There are no books in the room, a few Reader’s Digest magazines are scattered around, the pictures on the walls are framed, generic prints found at the Pic-n-Save art department.
Elaine: I…sroory you came home my baby boy. Daddysss work late…I thought…I thought…
Elaine tries a gurgling version of the Christmas carol “O’Tannenbaum” as Otis stops downstage center to adjust her arm over his shoulder. He takes her drugged face in his free hand and shakes it. She spits up, he takes the towel off his shoulder and gently wipes her face. He seems to be an old hand at this too familiar dance. She grins at no one in particular.
Otis: Yeah, you thought. What is it you thought you thought, huh? (They start circling again) I’ll tell you what you thought. You thought that you would die and leave us all to mourn and miss you or you thought that you would live and get sympathy or you thought that there was no reason to destroy anymore of people’s lives so you would destroy your own and get back at…at what? What the fuck is wrong with us? We don’t love you enough?
Elaine: …ov me?
Otis: Love…of! It’s like some kinda goddamn code! No one can “of” you enough, can they? Not the girls, not… (he takes a long pause but keeps walking her in circles) ….nobody.
Elaine stumbles and they fall in a heap in one of the overstuffed chairs. Elaine’s blouse tears and her exposed breast ends up in Otis’ hand. She looks young enough to be a drunken date and Otis sees this at the same time we do. He jumps up from the chair dumping her on the floor. He is then overcome by remorse and struggles to lift her dead weight, desperately trying to avoid any intimate contact.
He starts this next speech as he tries to straighten his mother’s clothes and then gives up trying to make her look normal.
OTIS: If you would just try to talk with me maybe I could . (he pauses and looks around the room) Naaah. . . I guess not. It can be uncomfortable sometimes, looking people in the eye, but it is like in order to be sure you’re clear about something you need to clearly lay it out for someone else. (He takes two of the pills from the floor and swallows them without water) So many bottles hidden around here that you can’t be sure if she has really overdosed. Since she hasn’t puked anything back up I have to complete today’s drama. Don’t worry. I came home early to meet some friends. All the tough street kids would say hang with my homies. All they really mean is get together with their friends. Close male friends. same sex. homiesexuals. The only security they accept, like all aliens is to be with their own kind. Don’t worry about her. She’s gotten so good at timing these suicides of her’s that I can talk to you for a long time and still get her stomach pumped in time. (He picks up the phone and dials as he talks) These 911 people are quick to answer the phone but when they find out it’s an old customer they slow waaay down. (He laughs) Oh, hi there. This is 707 W. . . . yeah, it’s the Schrage residence . . . yeah, overdose. . . her name is Elaine . . . .She’s taken . . . I’m not sure what she’s taken except some Dilaudin . . .yeah, pain pills I think . . . . well, she has a whole shoeboxful of prescriptions . . . I dunno for sure what the pain pills are for. . . . I mean they’re pain pills. . . .they must be for pain. . . what am I a goddamn doctor? Maybe she has a low threshhold for pain. . . . I tried walking her around but she doesn’t want to puke . . . . no she just drools a little. . . . no, I’m her son . . . yeah, that would make her my mother. . . . my father? He’s in the fucking closet hiding. Hiding from what? Bill collectors what else. No I’m not kidding. He has a lot of debts he can’t pay. . . . .as soon as you can. . . . yeah, I’ll be here.
He hangs up the phone and starts to pick up the empty pill bottles. He finds a few more tablets in one of them and puts them in his pocket. He looks at the audience and smiles.
Hi. I’m fifteen. Fifteen years old. My teachers tell me that I act older than my years and that I should try to laugh more. I don’t know what they are talking about. Fun is trying to figure out what that crazy fucking Hesse meant by writing a book sub-titled The Glass Bead Game. Or, why after writing “Shoveling Mercury With a Pitchfork” Richard Brautigan killed himself and why after writing “The Valley of the Dolls” Jacqueline whats-her-name didn’t.. . .
He looks at his mother on the couch. Goes to the door. Looks out. Comes back to his mother, looks down again, reaches down and brushes a strand of sweaty hair from her forehead.
Laughter has slowly drifted away from me. It makes me sad that I had hoped to live a different life than I have but beggars can’t be choosers. . .we all have debts we can’t pay. I was told once by one of my teachers that I seemed to have a proclivity, now there’s a word for a twelve year old, for Eastern religious thought. At the time I thought she meant East L.A. Catholics or something, I mean teachers can be cryptic, y’know? Especially the ones who don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. . . .
He indicates his mother snoring and drooling on the couch.
She told me that the best things in life are free and only God can make a tree or progeny. How could you argue with such a primo example of
.motherly wisdom and tender concern.
He goes to the refrigerator, looks for a moment, takes out a tin can with the lid still on, pries open the lid with a fork and starts to eat the contents.
I ‘m pretty sure that progeny is plural so it would include my two sisters and my youngest sister’s twin brother. The idea of being born into this world can be tough enough but unlike me he must’ve been sensitive to being born into this family and never made it through her birth canal. Stillborn. A not unintelligent choice but a choice anyway.
Does he stay or leave the door open and go away(what does away mean?)
Is the dead brother a character? He is represented by multiple photos of perfect youngmales demontrating all degrees of success in framed photos around the room. Have Otis explain them? Is the dead brother onstage as a jar of ashes or a real mummified newborn corpse?
If it’s a tiny shriveled corpse where did he find it? does the mother take it out and cry over it? A “Day of the dead” celebrationCeltic style?
Do the sisters appear?
Does the father appear?
. (He starts talking to the audience or is it a soliloquy?) I find that sometimes it helps to look people in the eye when you talk to them, mom? Actually, I’ve known this for three or four years which would make it a puberty discovery if I wasn’t such a fucking late-bloomer
Character enters with a set of “dolls” that copy his every move on a rod that he controls. These “dolls” are not painted copies of him but the crowd he carries with him?
Work out idea of masks, dead little brother who was a twin, and does Elaine die at the end of the first act?
The figures on the couch become “stuffed” figures and the actors begin to use masks and come in as other people and discover themselves. They can comment ont the action (whatever that is? ) by dropping the mask or finding one hidden on stage (Reversed props could become masks i.e. the decorative plates?)
After the masks are used can they remain onstage propped up or stuck in something so that the character can comment over the sound system( sound cue) to an onstage character and in the end all of the people in the play would be these “remains” (masks, filmy costumes, etc…) of the dreamy or nightmarish quality of the play’s contents.
thought that this time I wouldn’t call the para-medics. Why should I? Just to get my ass chewed out when you wake up and smile at them.
Why can’t you drink like the rest of us, huh? At least we could talk.
There is an empty sameness and a fear that his life will be no more at the end than what he is looking at . . . . this has to be more than just “is this all there is” whining. desert – wind – dryness – southern california death.