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 Posted: Sun Dec 8th, 2013 04:51 am
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John Watts
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PASSING AT THE PLAYERS by John Watts November 17, 2013

This is my first attempt at combining music with dialogue in a play. I would not go so far as to call it a musical comedy yet. The play takes play in 1932, therefore to find appropriate music I used recordings of music from that period on youtube as facsimiles for what will hopefully be composed for the play. Most music from 1923 onward will still be under copyright. Using actual songs that can be played however does allow me to create the kind of sensibility I would like for the piece. I am checking with a couple of composers as possible collaborators. If you hit the youtube links it will help give a sense of what I am after.



The play is a tangle of interconnected stories about people passing for someone or something they are not. It takes place at a famous private club called,The Players, at Gramercy Park, New York City, in 1932. This was at the height of the Great Depression and the ending days of Prohibition. Pretentious James Thornton, is actually Tony Depaola, a palooka from Jersey City who is a closeted gay running the reception desk and accumulating liquor by siphoning off a third of every bottle of quality booze smuggled in from Canada to the players. Wilber Jackson, a member of the Players, achieved this through blackmail and is actually an out of work actor attempting to make contacts in showbiz. Fannie is Wilber’s girlfriend brought into the club disguised as a man. After a lover’s quarrel Fannie gets a job at the club as a male waiter. Harold is the African American bartender, who is secretly a playwright and hiding his university degree to keep his job. Clarence/Clarisa is the transgender chauffeur for Gerimia Aldrick, a movie producer. Clarisa is also African American, passing for white and running a bootleg booze distribution scheme from the boot of Mr. Aldrick’s Bentley. Detective Michal O’Fresco, is actually Luigi Fresco pretending to be Irish to make it in the New York Police Department, taking unspoken bribes to protect the Players from non compliance with the law of Prohibition.

James Thompson/Tony Depaola Gay man in his early thirties

Detective O’Fresco Italian American man in his forties

Fannie/Frank Gilbert White Jersey girl in her twenties very a strong accent

Wilber Jackson White man in his thirties

Clarence/Clarisa African American, transgender, passing for white in her
thirties with a strong southern accent

Harold African American man in his twenties, well educated

Gerimia Aldrick White man in his forties, pompous movie producer

Edward G. Robinson The movie star in his thirties

Man with a pool cue White any age

Humphrey Bogart (one line off stage)

Man (one line off stage)

Scene One

The stage is dark as a 1929 recording of, Singing In The Bathtub, begins to play. A spotlight gradually brightens downstage center on two male figures singing as they enter the spotlight dressed in tuxedoes from stage left and stage right. As the song plays they gradually move toward a second spotlight upstage center focused on an old fashioned bathtub. They do simple dance steps removing their clothing as they go. When they finally reach the tub we see that one of them, Frank Gilbert is actually an attractive young girl stripped down to nineteen thirties underwear with stockings and a garter belt. The other is Wilber Jackson, a middle aged man in his underwear. The song ends as they step into the tub and sit with bubbles surrounding them. They kiss as lights slowly fade to black.

Singing In The Bathtub
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rj5OQirHfY

Scene Two

(It is the lobby of the Players at Gramercy Park, an early evening in September 1932. Two well dressed men, Edward G. Robinson and theatrical producer, Gerimia Aldrich, enter. At the reception desk Mr. James Thomson greets them.)

JAMES
Good evening Mr. Aldrick, Mr. Robinson.

EDWARD G
Evening James.

GERIMIA
All right Edward lets head to the lounge. I haven’t tasted the real thing since twenty-nine.

EDWARD
You go ahead Gerimia. This requires a little consultation with the staff. I think Bogie is there. Maybe he’ll join us.

GERIMIA
Yowzah!!

(Aldrick exits to the lounge.)

EDWARD
James, inform Darrel I need my bottle of Jack Daniels. This is an important evening. Mr. Aldrick and I are in discussions to produce, “Little Caesar”, as musical. If there are any calls for me, I am not at the club tonight.

JAMES
Yes sir, Mr. Robinson. I will take care of it immediately.

(As Mr. Robinson exits to the lounge, James snaps his fingers and Harold, the waiter, hurries to the desk.)

Tell Darrel to bring up Mr. Robinson’s bourbon from the cellar, and tell him to make sure it’s filled to the mark on the bottle, Darrel knows what I mean.

HAROLD
But Darrel is out sick. That new guy Jake has his shift.

JAMES
Well tell Jake to make sure he marks to bottle when they finish.

HAROLD
Yes Mr. Thomson.

(The Harold exits hurriedly to the lounge. The Fannie dressed as Frank Gilbert and Wilber Jackson enter the club. Both are dressed in tuxedos as in the opening scene. Fannie unsuccessfully attempts to lower her voice and disguise a very strong Jersey accent.)

WILBER
Good evening James. Is the room I asked for—

JAMES
Yes sir, Mr. Jackson, everything is arranged.

WILBER
I can always count on you James. This is my assistant, Frank Gilbert. We have important business to discuss so I do not wish to be disturbed.

JAMES
I understand. Good evening to you Mr. Gilbert.

(Fannie looks down as she responds in a poor attempt of a male voice.)

FANNIE
Yea, thanks—ah, James.

WILBLER
Well Frank, let’s get started—with the—ah—paper work.

(They exit up the stairway as the Harold rushes back to the desk.)

HAROLD
Jake says the bottle isn’t there Mr. Thompson.

JAMES
This is not the time to lose a bottle. Tell him to use Mr. Barrymore’s; he won’t be in for few days. And hurry!

HAROLD
Yes sir.

(Harold hurries back into the lounge as a little man with a long pool cue enters from the lounge.)

MAN
The eight ball is missing.

JAMES
Sir?

MAN
The eight ball, it’s missing. It was there and now it’s gone. You can’t shoot pool without the eight ball.

JAMES
It’s in your left coat pocket.

(The man reaches in his pocket and pulls out the eight ball.)

Someone has been having the same joke for the last three nights.

(The man returns to the lounge as he calls out.)

MAN
Ok which one of you chiseling rummy bimbos is playing with my balls?

(Harold rushes in from the lounge.)

HAROLD
Jake says that one’s not there either sir.

JAMES
Well tell Jake to improvise.

HAROLD
Yes sir, Mr. Thompson.

(Harold rushes toward the lounge then turns back to James.)

Improvise?

JAMES
Use whatever is at hand. It’s been so long since they’ve had the real thing they won’t know the difference.

(Harold rushes back to the lounge as Detective O’Fresco enters the club. Detective O’Fresco is a short stout man with a badly fitted suit and a horribly loud long tie.)

Detective O’Fresco, good to see you, is this an official visit?

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Well I wouldn’t call it official Mr. Thompson. I’m here in more of a friendly advisory capacity, if you get my drift.

JAMES
You have my full attention sir.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
The department as you know has the utmost respect for the Players and its distinguished members and understands that the club would not be involved in breaking the law with respect to the consumption of alcohol on the premises.

JAMES
Of course not.

(Detective O’Fresco gives a little knowing laugh.)

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
And even if such beverages were served at the club, there certainly would not be anything but the best of the best of imported……beverages.

JAMES
We keep the highest standards at the Players.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
On the off chance however that some guest of a member should unknowingly bring what is referred to on the beat as, bootleg hooch, in on their person, I would give fair warning.

JAMES
I’m all ears Detective O’Fresco.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
There has been a dangerous shipment of hooch brought into the city from Dixie that has made its way into the most discriminating of places in this very neighborhood. Some very refined gentlemen have found themselves overcome by its affect causing them to hallucinate in a most unbecoming manner.


JAMES
Is there a means of identifying this—hooch, as you call it? Not that I would know anyone that would have access to—

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Georgia Moonlight, that’s the name on the jugs. It’s a very cleaver ploy changing moonshine to moonlight, obviously designed to appeal to a more refined clientele.

JAMES
That is a very romantic label for such a demon. (beat) Did you and your wife enjoy Mr. Zigfield’s latest show?

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Absolutely wonderful, every bit as good as the last one. She loves the Follies.

JAMES
Well we’ll have to make sure you don’t miss the next one.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
The Mrs. would be ever so pleased. You’re a good egg Mr. Thompson.

(Detective O’Fresco exits as Harold enters from the lounge.)

HAROLD
Judging by the smiles on their faces, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Aldrick seem to be quite pleased.

JAMES
Let that be a lesson to you Harold, delegation of authority is the best way to achieve success in shortest time possible.

HAROLD
Jake said Georgia Moonlight makes everybody smile.

JAMES
What did you say?

HAROLD
Georgia Moonlight, it makes you smile, at least that’s what Jake says. He’s from Atlanta and he thinks anything from Georgia is just peachy.


JAMES
Tell Jake to stop serving that hooch!

HAROLD
Hooch?

JAMES
Don’t just stand there get a wiggle on!

(As James speaks to Harold we hear the sound of voices singing, “Sweet Georgia Brown”, coming from the lounge.)

HAROLD
But Mr. Thompson—

JAMES
Now!
(Harold runs down the steps and opens the door to the lounge. As the doors open we hear voices singing, Sweet Georgia Brown. Edward G. and Gerimia Aldrick enter from the lounge followed by an entourage of club members all singing and dancing their way up the steps. Several of them are carrying pool cues that they incorporate into their dance number. They use the steps to the lounge and the steps to the second floor as a performance stage for the song. Bogie comes up the steps wearing his trilby hat with his suit jacket tied around his waist as a skirt, playing the role of Sweet Georgia Brown doing a seductive little dance number.)

Sweet Georgia Brown
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj3uFtF861E

(As the music ends they all follow Bogie back into the lounge, except for three members of the club who dance their way out the entrance door of the club singing. Suddenly there is silence as Harold comes back up the steps.)

HAROLD
I’m sorry Mr. Thompson. I didn’t know that—

JAMES
Sorry? The most distinguished private club in New York City—in the Western Hemisphere has been brought to the verge of utter disgrace because of that giggle juice and all you can say is I’m sorry.


HAROLD
It was Jake that—

JAMES
Have you ever tended bar Harold?

HAROLD
One time I work in a speak on sixteenth and—

JAMES
Go back in there and tell Jake to leave by the back door or I will personally come in there and give him the bum’s rush. You are now the bartender for the Players.

HAROLD
But Mr.—

(James points to the lounge with great authority.)

JAMES
Take a powder Harold.

(Harold exits to the lounge as Detective O’Fresco enters from outside the club.)

JAMES
Detective O’Fresco, back so soon.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Sorry to disturb you again, but an unusual incident has occurred this very moment outside the Players. Regrettably it is symptomatic of earlier behavior at the other clubs I for mentioned.

JAMES
I hope no one was confronted with the possibility of incarceration.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
There wasn’t time. Three gentlemen came out of the Players singing, hailed a cab and proceeded to force the cabbie into the back seat. One of them drove the cab as the other two stood on the running boards waving and singing, “Sweet Georgia Brown”, as they roared off to Second Ave.

JAMES
Quite a rousing tune, don’t you think?

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
I’m sorry Mr. Thompson, but this has all the hallmarks of Georgia Moonlight.

JAMES
Right—well—then I do need to explain given that prohibition is still is the law of the land, at least for a few more agonizing months.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Exactly.

JAMES
A most distinguished member, Mr. Alfonse Broderick, was fifty three today and decided to celebrate with friends. As it is the policy of the Players to support members with discretion in their joyous moments, we the staff at this hallowed ground, let nature take its course.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
A very honorable approach to life Mr. Thompson.

JAMES
Thank you.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
However there is the small issue of appearance.

JAMES
Appearance?

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Three of these gentlemen of prominence were observed leaving the Players singing loudly by rather proper older ladies enjoying a pleasant early evening in Gramercy Park.

JAMES
To sing is to express the sheer joy of living.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
I have been known to do so myself on many occasions. However these gentlemen apparently were splifficated, singing, “Sweet Georgia Brown”, and hailing a cab.

JAMES
With the intention of taking their joy elsewhere, and as you said yourself, this is a very honorable approach to life.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
I couldn’t agree more Mr. Thompson. However these ladies do not share our view of a gentleman’s need to celebrate life.

JAMES
One of the gentlemen you are referring to is on the board at Metropolitan Opera. Perhaps orchestra seats for an opera of their choice for the ladies, and a chance to meet the lead singers would soften their vitriol. Not that I am in anyway attempting to influence their—

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Say no more. I’m sure the ladies would be thrilled with the opportunity.

JAMES
Perhaps Mrs. O’Fresco would also enjoy such an experience.

(Fannie comes down the stairs trying to look inconspicuous.)

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Without a doubt sir, and might I suggest that you check with the other member of the club here this evening to be certain they have not partaken of this evil concoction.

(Fannie notices Detective O’Fresco and turns to go back up the stairs.)

JAMES
Ah Mr. Gilbert. Have you and Mr. Jackson concluded your business?

(Fannie keeps her head down as she comes down the stairs and walks passed them.)

FANNIE
Yea, thanks.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Good evening Mr. Gilbert. I can’t quite place it but I’m sure we have met.

(Fannie attempts to sound southern by saying (yea-all) making her Jersey accent even funnier.)

FANNIE
That’s applesauce. I’m from Atlanta, Georgia—yea-all.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Atlanta, Georgia, a fine city. Are you by any chance involved in the beverage industry?

FANNIE
No sir. I have just finished a degree from a very big university.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
And you’ve come to New York to find employment.

FANNIE
Now you’re on the trolley.

JAMES
Did Mr. Jackson make you an offer?

FANNIE
Yea, but I didn’t like the terms.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
It’s a difficult time young man, even in New York City. You may need to settle for a lot less than you want.

(Detective O’Fresco exits the club.)

JAMES
I do not wish to demean the value of an education but given the state of things in New York City, perhaps that hard boiled Dick’s advice is worth taking.

FANNIE
Yea, you may be right.

JAMES
As it happens I am in need of a staff replacement immediately. Have you ever worked as a waiter?

FANNIE
Well I’ve worked in—establishments—that have waiters.

JAMES
Given that you are dressed appropriately, I can put you to work right now.

FANNIE
I do need a job, and I ain’t no lollygagger.

JAMES
It’s settled then. Go to the lounge and ask Harold what you need to do.

(Fannie exits to the lounge as James collapses onto a chair in complete exhaustion. As he does so, Mr. Wilber Jackson comes down the stairs looking forlorn. Seeing Wilber, James jumps up.)

WILBER
Sit James. You look as forlorn as me.
JAMES
This has been a very trying evening Mr. Jackson. New York City can beat a man down.

WILBER
And if there’s a woman involved you get the big city blues.

(James and Wilber sing.)

Big City Blues
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IicDhYkr9Q

WILBER
You always been a city boy James?

JAMES
Born and raised in Jersey, but Manhattan streets are a lot tougher. I’d be home right now but this job keeps bread on the table for the whole family.

(Fannie enters from the lounge.)

FANNIE
Mr. Thompson, Harold asked if he should empty the jugs of Georgia Moonlight under the bar?

(Wilber is startled to see Fannie.)

WILBER
Fan—ah—Frank? What are you doing—

JAMES
I hope you don’t mind Mr. Jackson. Since Mr. Gilbert has not been employed by you and I am in need of a waiter on short notice I asked—


WILBER
Of course not, but ah—Frank, do you think you can handle such a position. I mean to say, this is gentleman’s club.

FANNIE
I know my onions. A waiter needs to handle the plates not the gentlemen.

JAMES
Tell Harold to take the beverages to the cellar.

FANNIE
Yes sir, Mr. Thompson.

JAMES
On second thought I’d better tell him myself. I’ll be right back.

(James exit into the lounge. As he opens the door we hear the sounds of loud laughter and singing of Sweet Georgia Brown. Then as it closes there is complete silence.)

WILBER
Fannie I—

FANNIE
You’re a cake eater Wilber.

WILBER
That’s not true.

FANNIE
Says you.

WILBER
There is more to me than chasing skirts. I’ve got plans to make it in this city and I want you to be part of the plan.

FANNIE
Well now you can make your plans in the bathtub all by yourself.

WILBER
But why?

(James enters the hall from the lounge.)

FANNIE
Cause this tomato wants out.

JAMES
Never mind tomatoes Frank. Promote the Beef Wellington. We have a considerable portion left from last night and it won’t keep another day.

FANNIE
Ok Mr. Thompson.

JAMES
Remember, that is juice being served in those wine glasses. Do you understand Frank?

FANNIE
Sure I do. I ain’t no dumb Dora.

(Fannie exit to the lounge. Then Wilber sadly climbs the stairway to the second floor and exiting as Clarence the chauffeur enters the club. Clarence is actually transgender, hiding this orientation while on the job. Clarence/Clarisa is from Georgia and has a very strong southern accent and has been secretly selling Georgia Moonlight, which is kept hidden in the boot of Mr. Aldricks Bentley.)

CLARISA
I’m Mr. Aldrick’s chauffeur. He asked that I inform him if anyone he does not want to see, visits the area near the club.

JAMES
And who would that be, if I may inquire?

CLARISA
Mrs. Aldrick.

JAMES
Frank inform Mr. Aldrick—discreetly mind you.

FANNIE
You mean don’t let nobody hear what I’m sayin?

JAMES
Exactly.

(James turns to Clarence.)

JAMES
You’d better wait Mr.—ah, your name?

CLARISA
Everyone calls me Clarence.

JAMES
Right—Clarence, there may be instructions for you. Would Mrs. Aldrick recognize the automobile?

CLARISA
It’s a 1931 Bentley 8 litre.

(James becomes excited when he hears the car is a Bentley.)

JAMES
The YX115 8 litre short chassis H.J. Mulliner Weymann Paneled Salon?

CLARISA
I took the liberty of parking it on Irving Place, just in case.

JAMES
A man with initiative, I’m sure Mr. Aldrick will be pleased. That is a vehicle one only dreams of riding in. You are a lucky man Clarence.

CLARISA
You may be right sir.

JAMES
Oh please call me James. First names do break the ice so to speak. I must say your uniform is quite becoming. Nothing is more attractive than a man in uniform.

CLARISA
Yes—well, I would be grateful if you would inform Mr. Aldrick of the issue at hand.

JAMES
And such hands. I can see how they would hold a firm grip on the steering wheel of that robust Bentley YX115.

CLARISA
Am I missing something here—James?

JAMES
I certainly hope not Clarence.

CLARISA
I need to keep an eye out for Mrs. Aldrick.

(James watches longingly as Clarence exits and Edward G enters from the lounge followed by Gerimia Aldrick.)

EDWARD G
James, would you explain to this young man that staff never contradicts the comments of guests at the Players.

FANNIE
But Mr. Aldrick said women are only good for one thing and that’s—

JAMES
Frank you better button up that tongue of yours or tonight will be your last night of employment at the Players.

EDWARD G
Thank you James. And Frank, I do not appreciate these new liberal ideas of young men who haven’t developed sufficient facial hair to shave more than once a week.

GERIMIA
Perhaps Frank needs some clarification as to the proper role of women in this turbulent world of skyscrapers and motor cars.

EDWARD G
New York is fraught with the equivalent dangers of the Wild West.

GERIMIA
Or the jungles of darkest Africa.

EDWARD G
This new world of stress can beat a man down Frank but for the relief a woman’s warm comfort.

GERIMIA
And the rapture of her gentle enclosing limbs.

EDWARD G
And the purring of her soft voice.

(Edward G and Gerimia break into song sharing the verses. While they sing, a chorus of pool players holding their cues comes up the stairs from the lounge. They serve as backup on the chorus with the addition of a little dance step.)

My Girl’s Pussy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIfcKy-VcXo

(As the song ends Edward G. and Gerimia lead the chorus line back into the lounge, leaving James and Fannie on stage.)

JAMES
This is not the gentle southland Frank. New York City will test your ability to survive the turmoil of the evolving social order.

FANNIE
You mean don’t take any wooden nickels?

JAMES
The role of men, the role of women, and the role of those who cross the divide is changing. It’s too late for me but you are young enough to one day have that freedom.

FANNIE
Are you ossified Mr. Thompson?

JAMES
Just get back in there and do your job.

(Fannie exits to the lounge as Clarisa enters the club.)

CLARISA
Mrs. Aldrich has spotted the Bentley. I was standing near the corner watching but she came from the other direction. I don’t know how she—

JAMES
Now is not the time to panic Clarence.

CLARISA
But she was talking to a police detective.

JAMES
Was he a rather stout gum-shoe with a badly fitted suit and a tie that would embarrass any resident of Gramercy Park?

(Detective O’Fresco enters the club.)

CLARISA
You know him?

JAMES
Fear not. The problem is under control.

(James turns to Detective O’Fresco.)

Ah Detective O’Fresco.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
It seems the Players has become the primary destination for my watch this evening Mr. Thompson.

JAMES
Always glad to see you sir.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
You must be Clarence the chauffeur, given Mrs Aldrick’s description.

CLARISA
Yes sir.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
A very fine lady is Mrs. Aldrick, and quite distraught about the whereabouts of Mr. Aldrick. The last she heard, he was having a business meeting with none other than Mr. Edward G. Robinson. I must say I always enjoy his films.

JAMES
As it happens, Mr. Aldrick is a guest of Mr. Robinson this evening here at the Players.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
That was a bit of my Sherlock Holmes deduction Mr. Thompson, which also assumes that his Bently YX115 8 litre short chassis H.J. Mulliner Weymann Paneled Salon was parked on Irving Place to avoid detection by Mrs. Aldrick.

JAMES
You really do have the reasoning capacity of the famous detective.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
All in a day’s work Mr. Thompson.

JAMES
I am very impressed.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
In the interest of matrimonial harmony, perhaps it would be best that I inform Mrs. Aldrick that the Bentley broke down while Clarence was looking for gasoline. I can arrange for the vehicle to be towed to a local station where Clarence can pick it up before the evening is over.

JAMES
What clarity of thinking.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
I will make the arrangements then.

(Detective O’Fresco walks away then turns back to James and pulls out a notebook.)

Oh by the way, do you think it is possible to have Mr. Robinson write a simple autograph for me? I am such a big fan. And if it’s not too much, could he phrase it read, to my pal Mickey, the Sherlock Holmes of the thirteenth precinct?

JAMES
I’m sure that could be arranged.

(Detective O’Fresco sniffs the air and looks toward the lounge.)

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Unless my nose deceives me Mr. Thompson, and it rarely does, that is the aroma of Beef Wellington wafting from yonder lounge.

JAMES
Amazing sir, you even display the attributes of a bloodhound.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Actually it is the desperation of a man whose wife is on a diet.

(Detective O’Fresco breaks into song.)

My Wife Is On A Diet
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K557zrvaywc

JAMES
That can cause the downfall of the most robust of men. Frank!

(Fannie enters hurriedly from the lounge.)

FANNIE
Now what’s the problem?

JAMES
Tell chef to prepare some Beef Wellington for Detective O’Fresco to take with him.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Mr. Thompson you are saving the life of a starving man. I will attend to the removal of the Bentley.

(Detective O’Fresco exits the club. Fannie turns to exit to the lounge as James looks longingly at Clarisa.)

Hold on Frank. I imagine you are hungry too Clarence.

CLARISA
Yes sir.

JAMES
Frank, chef can prepare one for Clarence too.

(Fannie exits to the lounge.)

CLARISA
I appreciate your kindness James. I don’t know how to thank you.

JAMES
Oh I’m sure we can work something out.

(James sings to Clarisa seductively moving around her touching gently as Clarisa carefully pulls away.)

I Wanna Sing About You
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvyqiq7E0Ns

(As the song ends James removes Clarisa’s Chauffer’s hat, which causes Clarisa’s long wavy hair to fall upon her shoulders. James is shocked.)

CLARISA
How did you know?

JAMES
Well I—I—I thought that you were—

(Clarisa quickly gathers her hair into a neat pile and covers it with her hat.)

CLARISA
Just call me Clarisa, James. You are so clever. I must admit I do find you very attractive and I know you wouldn’t reveal my true identity to Mr. Aldrick.

(Clarisa and James now reverse the touching and pulling away.)

JAMES
This is very awkward.

CLARISA
I need this job badly. I would do anything—anything James to keep it.

JAMES
We need to talk Clarence—ah—Clarisa.

(While Clarisa is fondling James’s hair, Fannie enters from the lounge carrying a package of Beef Wellington in each hand.)

CLARISA
Mum’s the word James.

FANNIE
I got the Beef Wellington.

(James grabs both packages.)

JAMES
Right. Frank keep an eye on the recepton desk for a moment. I need to deliver this to Detective O’Fresco. Let’s go outside Clari—Clarence.

FANNIE
But Mr. Thompson I don’t know how to handle the desk.

(As Frank exits with Clarisa, he calls back to Frank.)

JAMES
Improvise Frank. Improvise.

(Wilber enters coming down the stairway.)

WILBER
Already handling reception, I must say Fannie that is a fast move.

FANNIE
I’m just watching it for Mr. Thompson. Please don’t say nothing Wilber. I need this job.

WILBER
You’re the bees knees. I need you Fannie.

FANNIE
I am not a toy Wilber.

WILBER
I have never thought of you as a plaything.

FANNIE
You told me that tonight was going to be the beginning of somethin special.

WILBER
Jeepers creepers Fannie, you wanted to see the Players and there are no women allowed.

FANNIE
This will be our secret place for love, that’s what you said. Well I don’t want secrets anymore Wilber. I ain’t no bug-eyed Betty. There’s lots of Joe Brooks out there looking for a swell dame like me.

(James enters the club and stops as he hears Wilber speak.)

WILBER
I’m telling you true Fannie. You’re the only girl for me.

FANNIE
Go tell it to Sweeny.

(Wilber exits up the stairway reluctantly as James joins Fannie.)

JAMES
It seems we both have a problem Frank.

FANNIE
Not unless Clarence is a woman.

JAMES
How did you know?

FANNIE
In an all gentleman’s club, one woman can tell when another is around.

JAMES
You mean—

FANNIE
You tipped your mitt Mr. Thompson. I ain’t Detective O’Fresco, but I’ve finally got it figured. You’re a three-letter man. You like fellas.

JAMES
Frank I—

FANNIE
It’s Fannie, but call me Frank. We both got a secret and keepin that secret will let both of us keep our jobs.

(They both sing.)

Masculine Women and Feminine Men
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXdZ_HETRr4

FANNIE
It’s a cruel world outside these walls Mr. Thompson. I will do what I need to put food on the table for my family.

(James now speaks with a strong jersey accent.)

JAMES
You do what you gotta do Frank. I got my mom and three sisters and without me they’d be on the street.

FANNIE
Jersey! You sound like home Mr. Thompson. I’m from Hoboken.

JAMES
The name’s Tony DePaola from Jersey City, but I gotta keep this Thompson moniker if I want this job.

FANNIE
Jersey guys gotta stick together. I’m feelin better about this already.

JAMES
Mum’s the word Fannie.

FANNIE
You got it Tony.

(Harold enters from the lounge.)

HAROLD
We got trouble Mr. Thompson.

JAMES
I already know Harold.

HAROLD
But this is new. We ran out of vodka so I had Charlie the bartender from the National Arts Club next door push a couple of bottle through the hole in the wall behind the bar as usual.

JAMES
You’ve got to mark it down in the notebook next to the hole.

HAROLD
I did, and I served it to some members. They liked it so much everybody else tried some.

JAMES
This is good news, so what’s the problem?

HAROLD
Georgia Moonlight, it seems that hooch made its way into their vodka bottles. Mr. Bogart is stretched out on the pool table fast asleep and the pool players are doing some very strange things with their cues. I don’t think Mr. Bogart’s going to like it when he wakes up.

JAMES
This has got to be a nightmare. Somebody pinch me hard.

(Harold and Fannie both pinch James butt at the same time.)

Oh yes! Do it again.

(Harold and Fannie both pinch James a second time. At the same moment the pool players holding their cues, open the doors to the lounge and come up the stairs singing. They do a dance number using their pool cues as part of the routine.)

Doing The New Low Down
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G8iEHejD7E

(As they exit to the lounge Detective O’Fresco enters the club followed by Clarisa.)

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Mr. Thompson we have a serious dilemma. It seems that while the Bentley was parked on Alvin Place someone with great expertise managed to unlock the boot and deposit twelve jugs of Georgia Moonlight neatly inside.

JAMES
Really?

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
It was only discovered when the tow truck driver accidently bumped the rear of the Bentley as he lifted up the front end. The boot popped open and there was the hooch.

CLARISA
Like I told Detective O’Fresco, I was amazed. Seems these bootleggers have no regard for the property of well respected gentlemen.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
I immediately confiscated the evidence. That panther piss, if you’ll excuse my derogatory language, is now securely locked in the boot of my squad car.

JAMES
Has the Bentley been moved?

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
As soon as the tow truck driver stopped crying he took the Bentley to his gas station.

JAMES
And Mrs. Aldrick?

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
My sergeant says she is in Gramercy Park talking to the ladies who complained about the singing of Sweet Georgia Brown.

JAMES
Clarence perhaps you better keep an eye on Mrs. Aldrick.

CLARISA
Sure thing Mr. Thompson.

(Clarisa hurriedly exits.)

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
For the sake of Mr. Aldrick’s reputation, and that of the Players, I will dispose of the hooch and we can assume that this unfortunate incident never occurred.

JAMES
You are a gentleman of incomparable discretion. Such concern for the honor of others should be well rewarded.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
All in a day’s work Mr. Thompson; the only reward I wish is to be appreciated for any help I give the inhabitants of this fair city. Now I must attend to the disposal of that hooch before it causes more harm.

(Detective O’Fresco exits.)

FANNIE
The Hoochy Coochy Club.

JAMES
What?

FANNIE
That’s where I saw him. I was selling cigarettes at that clip joint till I got in a fight with the hat check girl and they fired us both. It’s where I met Wilber. Detective O’Fresco came in there all the time.

(James reverts to his Jersey accent.)

JAMES
Finally I got somethin on that copper.


FANNIE
That goofy piker wore a phony mustache but you can’t hide that tie and that suit.

JAMES
The Hoochy Coochy Club has a bad reputation.

FANNIE
Don’t I know it, parading around with that tray selling cigarettes while these mugs stare at my gams and keep pawing at me.

(Lights drop to a spotlight on Fannie as she sings.)

Cigarettes, Cigars
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ2kGlVfUP8

(As the song ends lights come back up.)

JAMES
That gin mill is all snow birds and trouble boys. If O’Fresco was there, he was undercover or he’s in somebody’s pocket. It’s swell of you to give me the lowdown on that palooka. If you want help giving Wilber the gate just say the word.

FANNIE
It ain’t that simple Tony. This lug ain’t my butter and egg man. Wilber makes me feel good but I want to be bad.

JAMES
That can be real dangerous. When Clarias was Clarence I wanted to be a naughty boy.

FANNIE
And now you feel different.

JAMES
That’s what’s confusing. I still want to be naughty. I’ve always loved a man in a uniform but just thinking of Clarisa driving that Bentley makes my toes tingle.

FANNIE
It ain’t always what someone is supposed to be, it’s who they are.

(Detective O’Fresco enters the club laughing and singing Sweet Georgia Brown. His suit jacket is open and his tie is now in full view. It is very wide as it reaches down passed his waistline almost to his crotch.)

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Well hellooooo Mr. Thompson, and helloooooo Mr. Gillbert.

(James and Fannie stare at Detective O’Fresco and then at each other as Detective O’Fresco stumbles to the stairway to the second floor and plops down on the bottom step.)

FANNIE
That’s what he looked like when he came to the Hoochy Coochy Club.

JAMES
He’s drunk as a skunk.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
The comparison to a skunk is totally inappropriate. My slightly inebriated condition is due to testing the contents of the jugs discovered in the Bentley. It is my duty as an officer of the New York Police Department to be sure that suspect substances are what they appear to be.

FANNIE
What are we going to do with him?

JAMES
Get the sergeant to drive him home.

(Fannie exits the club.)

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
I think I’ll stay right here with my pal Tony Depaola from—Woops! I spilled the beans. I wasn’t going to say nothing but I feel a touch splifficated.

JAMES
You been spying on me?

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
I had the sergeant follow you home. Uncle Giovanni lives right across the street. We’re the same Tony.

JAMES
Giovanni Bortellini? But you’re a copper. I thought you were Irish.

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
To be a proud member of the New York Police Department your name has to be Irish. So I chanced it from Luigi Fresco to Michael O’Fresco. You see if you put an O in front of—

JAMES
I get it.

(Fannie and Clarisa enter together.)

CLARISA
Sergeant O’Riley is asleep in the back seat of the squad car.

JAMES
Detective O’Fresco, I would appreciative in a big way if you kept our discussion—

DETECTIVE O’FRESCO
Ab-so-lute-ly. Mum’s the word James.

(Wilber enters from the lounge and sees Detective O’Fresco who is spread out on the stairway singing, Sweet Georgia Brown.)

WILBER
What’s the problem with Detective—

JAMES
Ah Mr. Jackson. It seems Detective O’Fresco has had a slight mishap. Perhaps you could assist Mr. Gilbert in taking him upstairs to one of the rooms until he recovers. The image of a police detective spread across the stairway is not in keeping with the appearance of the club.

FANNIE
But Tony—ah Mr. Thompson —I—

JAMES
For your job and mine you need to do this. Savvy?

WILBER
It’s ok Frank, I don’t mind at all.

(Fannie and Wilber take Detective O’Fresco exiting up the stairway.)

CLARISA
I know what you’re thinking James—

JAMES
Tonight no one is what they seem, including my pal Mickey, the Sherlock Holmes of the thirteenth precinct.

CLARISA
That was just a bad batch of hooch that—

JAMES
Driving that Bentley around town is the perfect cover for delivering Moonlight to all of the best clubs.

CLARISA
In Georgia, a backwoods still, keep’s a poor family from eating grass. I ain’t ashamed of what I done. I’ve been traveling all alone for a long time pretending to be something I’m not and if that’s what I’ve got to do to survive then that’s what I’m going to do.

(Clarisa sings, Travelin All Alone. As she sings James joins her. Then gradually Fannie and Wilber enter from the stairway and join in the singing. Fannie has something rolled up and tucked under her arm.)

Travelin All Alone
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_4KlHGlod0

FANNIE
Traveling alone is so lonely. Ain’ that right Wilber?

(Fannie reaches out and holds Wilber’s hand.)

WILBER
It sure is Fannie.

JAMES
I thought that you and Wilber—

FANNIE
Everything’s changed Tony.

WILBER
Fannie said it is safe to tell the both of you. I am an actor. I have been using my considerable talent to project the image of a successful business man. My knowledge of the escapades of a Players member, who shall not be named, gave me an introduction to the club and membership paid for a year.

FANNIE
Tell them why Wilber.

WILBER
If you want to make it in showbiz you’ve got to be where the action is and the Players is the center of the theatrical world.

FANNIE
He is so smart.

JAMES
So what’s your real name?

WILBER
Wilber Jackson, no one had taken it, so I claimed it for showbiz, now and forever more.

JAMES
That makes you unique at the Players this evening.

FANNIE
I told you he was smart.

JAMES
Mr. Robinson is actually Emanuel Goldberg, which doesn’t present quite the appropriate image for an American gangster.

CLARISA
What about detective O’Fresco?

FANNIE
He ain’t going nowhere.

(Fannie unrolls Detective O’Frescos trousers holding them up.)

How’m I doin Tony?


JAMES
Jersey girls know how to improvise.

(Fannie sings and the others join in singing and doing a dance routine.)

How’m I doin?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9bR5tA09ac

(As the song ends Fannie and Wilber exit hurriedly up the stairs hand in hand. Then Detective O’Fresco appears at the top of the stairs in his underwear wearing his suit jacket with the buttons open and his loud tie hanging down to his crotch. He is singing Sweet Georgia Brown as he dances down the stairway. As he sings we hear a chorus coming from the lounge. The doors open and the pool players come up the stairs from the lounge singing to join him. Gradually they make their way back into the lounge with detective O’Fresco, closing the door behind them.)

JAMES
This is getting complicated. The entire club seems to be on a toot. It’s that southern elixir.

CLARISA
Down home when this happens we give them a dose of Chattahoochee beetle juice.

JAMES
I know I will regret this, but what is Chattahoochee beetle juice?

CLARISA
Three parts buttermilk, two parts hot pepper sauce and one part Georgia Moonlight, a little hair of the dog so the mix has a chance get acquainted before it goes to work.

JAMES
I do not want members upchucking on the floor of the lounge.

CLARIA
You only give them a spoonful. Sometimes they fall asleep but only for a little while.

(James yells to Harold.)

JAMES
Harold!!!

(Harold comes running from the lounge out of breath.)

HAROLD
They’ve pinned a photograph of President Hoover on the wall and they’re taking turns throwing darts at it.

JAMES
Well that’s at least one positive result of this bacchanal. See if there is any buttermilk and hot pepper sauce in the kitchen and take one of those jugs with you. I’ll join you momentarily.

HAROLD
You making Chattahoochee beetle juice?

JAMES
You know the recipe too?

HAROLD
Everybody down home knows it. But you got to add a little sugar to make the mess slide down easier. Sometimes they even lick the spoon. Ain’t that right Clarence?

(Harold exits to the lounge.)

JAMES
You’re sure this works?

CLARISA
Back home we got a canary named Joe-Joe, and when we let him out sometimes he takes a sip from Granddaddy Azariah’s glass. That bird starts flying into walls, then gets back up and does it again. The only thing that stops him is a drop of Chattahoochee beetle juice.

JAMES
The canary in the coal mine.

CLARISA
Joe-Joe ain’t right for weeks after. He even gets circles under his eyes.

(Clarisa sings.)

My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyxMrdOtauE

JAMES
It defies logic but my canary perks up when it hears you sing.

CLARISA
We are birds of a feather James, lost between worlds, which compels me to tell you more. You are looking at a passionate woman but I am trapped in the body of a man.

JAMES
Well that explains my perky canary.

CLARISA
We need to explore the possibilities.

JAMES
Then I need to come clean too Clarisa. This is the body of Palooka named Tony Depaola from Jersey City trapped in the persona of a pretentious Daisy. Tony is still a flower but not pretentious.

CLARISA
How brave of you Tony. It gives me the courage to tell you that my skin provides another deception. I am in fact what is often referred to as a high yellar.

JAMES
A woman of color—and trapped in the body of a white man. That is incredibly stimulating. You are breaking all the rules.

CLARISA
When you’re too white to be colored and to sweet to be a man, rules don’t apply.

JAMES
Then I have a proposition.

CLARISA
What rules do you want to break Tony?

JAMES
Quite a few, but the one I have I have in mind is prohibition.

CLARISA
That could mean a lot of things.

JAMES
Well—I mean to say—there are a series of gender modifications that could be explored.

CLARISA
Ooh, that sounds exciting.

JAMES
But what I have in mind is strictly business. You have the means of distribution to clubs that will pay a high price for quality booze and believe me Clarisa, I have the real thing.

CLARISA
I’m sure you do Tony

(Clarisa sings to James.)

I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGypxhxCE5Q

JAMES
I appreciate the inclination but I was referring to alcoholic beverages.

CLARISA
I have my own supply.

JAMES
Forget that tiger’s milk. I’ve been taking the top third of every bottle of scotch, cognac, vodka, and rum smuggled into the Players from Canada for twelve years, quality stock refilled and sealed in the original bottles.

CLARISA
How many do you have?

JAMES
Over a hundred, that’s a lot of mazuma. It’s my bank account and it’s time to cash in. Prohibition is going to end and the price will drop and splatter, like those Wall Street bankers in twenty-nine.

(Harold enters from the lounge.)

HAROLD
Mr. Thompson?

(James ignores Harold.)

JAMES
Now’s the time Clarisa before it’s too late.

HAROLD
Mr. Thompson?

(James suddenly realizes Harold is there.)

JAMES
Harold! Don’t sneak up on me like that. What are you squawking about?

HAROLD
I quit.

JAMES
This is not the time for silly games. There are too many problems—

HAROLD
I quit Mr. Thompson. I can’t take it anymore. They want me to be Juliet. They’ve moved on from Sweet Georgia Brown, now their doing scenes from Shakespeare.

JAMES
A lot of members of the Players are actors. What do you expect?

HAROLD
Mr. Bogart is doing Romeo and he wants me to stand on top of the bar for the balcony scene.

JAMES
Then stand on the bar. We need to get through this evening without further disruption.

HAROLD
But they want me to sound like a girl.

JAMES
Jake will be back to tend bar tomorrow and you can return to your regular duties. Fan—ah, Frank has resolved his issues with Mr. Jackson, so you can have your job back.

HAROLD
I can’t do it Mr. Thompson, I just can’t.


JAMES
Didn’t you ever pretend to be something you’re not?

HAROLD
Every day of my life.

JAMES
Then it should be easy for you.

HAROLD
Shakespeare’s words should never be demeaned by pandering to the ignorance of the masses.

JAMES
What have you been hiding?

HAROLD
A degree in English lit from Howard University in DC.

JAMES
And survival requires you do not let the Players realize you know more than them.

HAROLD
It’s a hard time for any man and worse if you look like me.

JAMES
Given the experience of the evening there has got to be an issue with your name.

HAROLD
How about Bradford Collingwood.

JAMES
Harold works fine for me.

HAROLD
I still can’t play Juliet.

CLARISA
I’ve always wanted to.

(Clarisa pushes Harold aside and dramatically moves down the steps to the lounge, removes her cap letting her hair fall to her shoulders. She opens the door wide and speaks loudly with her strong southern accent.

Romeo, Romeo, where for art though Romeo?

(A loud cheer and applause comes from the lounge as she steps inside and closes the door.)

JAMES
You see Harold? That’s initiative. If you want to make it in this world you’ve got to open the door wide and say, ready or not here I come. Now keep an eye on the desk for a minute, I need to check on the stock in the cellar.

HAROLD
You mean that private stock you’ve got covered up in that back room.

JAMES
That’s none of your beeswax.

HAROLD
You said open the door wide. Well I did just that looking for Mr. Barrymore’s bourbon.

JAMES
Mind your potatoes Mr. Bradford Collingwood. If you nicked any of my stash you’re in big trouble.

(James hurriedly exits to the lounge. The door opens and we here Boggie.)

BOGIE
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun!

(A cheer comes from the lounge as the door closes. Then Harold sings, Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out.)

Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7_UtATeCvg

(The door to the lounge opens again as Clarisa stands in the open door and speaks to her audience in the lounge.)

CLARISA
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.


MAN
You’re smelling pretty sweet to me doll face.

(A cheer is heard from the all the drunks in the lounge as the door closes and Clarisa enters the hall.)

HAROLD
So Juliet is a sister. Now that is passing in a big way.

CLARISA
How did you know?

HAROLD
White folks don’t know about Chattahoochee beetle juice, and the color may be high yella, but that body moves like Josephine Baker.

(The door to the lounge opens again and as James enters we hear a chorus of voices.)

CHORUS FROM THE LOUNGE
Juliet, Juliet, where for art though Juliet?

(The door closes.)

JAMES
Everything in the cellar seems copacetic.

HAROLD
I wouldn’t steal another man’s property, especially yours Mr. Thompson. You’re on the square. You got me this job when you saw me sitting on that rubbish can on the corner of Irving Place.

JAMES
I was over thirty years old and broke, sitting on that same can when I came back from the war in eighteen.

HAROLD
But what you didn’t know is that I’m a playwright.

JAMES
I can accept that Harold, but please do not say Mum’s the word.

HAROLD
I’m grateful for your help, but it’s not enough.

(Harold produces a script from under his coat.)

I’ve got a story that needs to be told and, The Players is the perfect place for that to happen.

JAMES
Well Mr. Aldrick is here tonight so why don’t we start by placing your script on the back seat of the Bentley. Clarence can make sure he notices it.

(Clarisa takes the script.)

CLARISA
Helping my fellow man just comes naturally to me. I hope you feel the same Harold.

(Clarisa exits to the lounge. As the door opens a cheer is heard within.)

JAMES
Seeing you sitting on the rubbish can made me remember what hard lonely times are really like.

(James and Harold sing, Sitting On A Rubbish Can.)

Sitting On A Rubbish Can
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VACxqEziG_g

(The door to the lounge opens and Clarisa enters. There are cheers from the lounge as the doors close.)

CLARISA
Miracles do happen, Tony.

HAROLD
Tony?

JAMES
Like I said, mind your beeswax.

CLARISA
Mr. Robinson liked what did so much he offered me a part in a movie.

JAMES
Hold off on that offer till the hooch wears off.

CLARISA
Standing on that bar, I really did feel like Juliet.

JAMES
Everyone who walks through that door gets the same affliction. The Players turns the ordinary into a Shakespearean drama, especially tonight.

( Clarisa speaks Shakespeare’s lines with over the top drama.)

CLARISA
All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players.

Harold
Preach sister!

CLARISA
They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts.

HAROLD
The truth will set you free.

JAMES
Will it ever! If Mr. Shakespeare was around today he’d be playing all kinds of parts.

(Fannie and Wilber enter down the stairs from the second floor.)

FANNIE
Wilber has officially made me his sweetie pie. Ain’t that right Wilber?

WILBER
Ab-so-lute-ly.

FANNIE
We’re going do vaudeville together. Wilber is gonna recite romantic poetry and I am gonna do an elegant dance number to his beautiful words.

CLARISA
That is so romantic.

JAMES
Without dreams there’s nothing.

FANNIE
You tell em Tony!

(The door to the lounge opens and an entourage enters led by Detective O’Fresco, followed by Edward G., Gerimia Aldrick, Boggie, and then the pool players. They sing, Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries, as they come up the stairs to the lounge. Everyone joins in with an elaborate finale song and dance.)

Make Yourself A Happiness Pie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1hxvdF0BEM


End of Play

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