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A little taster by Swann - Two Professionals  Rate Topic 
 Posted: Wed Sep 29th, 2010 08:33 pm
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Joined: Wed Jul 26th, 2006
Location: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Posts: 269
Two Professionals
A One Act Play by Rachel Mariner
                                 Mahasin is let in by a Guard.  He is uncuffed.  He sits at a table.  Shortly after,                           Abigail is let in by an unseen guard.
Abigail:             I told you he would not like the idea.  I told you.  . . .
Abigail:             And now you’re stuck with me.  
Mahasin:           It is improper.
Abigail:             Yeah.  I heard you tell the judge about forty-five times.     
Mahasin:           We must appeal. 
Abigail:             Unappealable ruling, dude. 
            Mahasin glares at Abigail   
Mahasin:           We are in a room alone, an unmarried man and an unmarried woman.  It is not in keeping with the way of Islam. What about my freedom of religion?
Abigail:             What about the San Diego zoo?   
Mahasin:           You are my defense attorney. 
Abigail:             Oh, I am your defense attorney.  Five minutes ago you were begging the judge for a different lawyer. 
Mahasin:           But the judge said you were a very good lawyer.
Abigail:             Well, if a white man said it, then it must be true. 
Mahasin:           Are you?
Abigail:             I have my moments.  –
Mahasin:           Despite court appointed counsel, the course of my defense is mine to decide, yes?
Abigail:             Yeah.  Not really. 
Mahasin:           I decide. 
Abigail:             No. 
Mahasin:           Yes.
Abigail:             Oh, god.  Well it is true that you are supposed to be able to decide some things, but that’s not really the way I do things.  You know, for someone bent on destroying the United States, you are very well versed in the rights it gives you.
Mahasin:           How dare you?
Abigail:             I don’t give a shit about you being bent on destroying the United States.  I don’t.  Ive done abortion bombers, I did the separatists out in Montana with the bombs and guns –
Mahasin:           Really?  The Hallites?
Abigail:             Yes.  And you know what – the Hallites fucking did what I told them to do.  This is my game.  I’m the professional here. And  that’s why the Hallites are serving 6-8 in a medium security facility instead of on death row. 
Mahasin:           Ah.  But I am innocent.
Abigail:             That word doesn’t mean anything to me.  And that is the last time I want you to opine on that.
Mahasin:           I will say what I like.
Abigail:             Well, no.  You will not.  Or you can go back to the judge and get another lawyer.  I am sure he would be thrilled to see you again.
Mahasin:           Are you saying that exercising my rights will prejudice me?  That is unfair.
Abigail:             Yep. 
Mahasin:           But I thought your country . . . rights were so important.
Abigail:             Is that why you came here to be a terrorist?  Because it had the best rights?  Some kind of reliance argument?  What, we attract all the really forward thinking terrorists because we have the best defense for them? 
Mahasin:           As a system it has compassion.
Abigail:             I didn’t realize that was valued in Islamic systems.  I thought it was all about justice.  . . . 
Mahasin:           Not mercy . . .
Abigail:             Yes.
Mahasin:           Showing mercy to our enemies is a luxury we cannot afford.
Abigail:             Oh, god.  Spare me the rhetoric. You sound like the Hallites.   You know what?  Do you want some cookies?  And I have water.  Usually they confiscate this stuff. 
Mahasin:           No, thank you. 
Abigail:             Come on, have a little water.  Hydration is the key to good health, they say. 
Mahasin:           No, thank you.
Abigail:             Here are your options:  you can decide to represent yourself.  You know what the judge said about that.  Even if you fire me, the judge is going to keep me around.  Or we can get started preparing for the arraignment.
Mahasin:           Why cant your law firm get a man to be my counsel?
Abigail:             They think youre better off with me.
Mahasin:           But I am unhappy with this situation.
Abigail:             I used to work for Judge Johnston.  I used to be his law clerk.  You know what that is?  And he appointed me pro bono counsel to make sure you get as good a defense as you can get, for free.  So of course my boss isnt going to swap me out after the judge appoints me.  
Abigail:             You shouldnt be unhappy, this is the ideal situation for you. 
          They both smile.
{Abigail:           Considering you are in jail
{Mahasin:         Yes.  In an American jail on terrorism charges. 
Mahasin:           Can the guard sit in here?
Abigail:             No.  Destroys privilege. 
Mahasin:           Privilege?  This is important?
Abigail:             You can tell me things and I can never tell the prosecutor or the judge.  Mostly.   
                     Mahasin:           Mostly?
Abigail:             If you tell me you are planning to commit a crime, I gotta say something.  But I dont like having a lot of heart to hearts with my clients. I dont like their stories.  Criminal defendants tend to say what they think will help them.  I gotta go in there with a story that is backed up by the evidence. 
Mahasin:           So you dont believe what I tell you.
Abigail:             Nothing personal.  Just my professional judgment.
Mahasin:           It is insulting to hear that you do not believe what I say.
Abigail:             Insulting.  Buddy, I just sat through you not wanting me to be your lawyer because I’m a woman.
Mahasin:           It was a religious objection.
Abigail:             Well, I have a professional objection to listening to bullshit.  Its what the evidence says that matters, not what you say.  (pause) But if you are planning to commit suicide I have to tell a shrink.
                     Mahasin:           Fine.
                     Abigail: Islam prohibits suicide though, doesn΄t it?
                     Mahasin:           It encourages martyrdom.
Abigail:             Oh, Christ.  Look, there is only one martyr in this cell today and its not you.     
                                 Mahasin reacts.
                     Mahasin:           How can you say that? 
Abigail:             Are you kidding?  I have an uncooperative client up on treason charges who doesnt want to talk to me, the guard wouldnt let me take my Blackberry in here and your arraignment is in twenty minutes. 
Mahasin:           Yes.  The judge said you had to help me decide to plead.
Abigail:             Guilty or innocent.
Mahasin:           I think –
Abigail:             Before you say anything, these are not universal judgments about character. Guilty or innocent must be separately examined for every charge and for every element of every charge.  So first lets go over the charges.
Mahasin:           The judge read them to me. 
Abigail:             They bear repeating.  Four counts:  (reading) conspiracy to commit murder in the aid of treason; conspiracy to maliciously damage U.S. government property  -- not as important, I may point out, as treason and murder but still a felony – conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction – there it is, that nasty little cliché back to haunt me  – and  -- here΄s a new one -- teaching or demonstrating the making or use of an explosive with the intent to further a crime of violence.
                     Mahasin:           Yes.  These are –
                                 Abigail requests silence with a raised hand as she leafs through some papers.
                     Abigail: You know, she΄s slapped the same four counts on all six of you. 
                     Mahasin:           What does that mean?
Abigail:             It means she does not know who did what. 
             They are silent.
Abigail:             First arrest.  And this is your first arrest.  Hmm.  Not a lot of people get something as juicy as treason first time out of the gate.   
Mahasin:           What? 
Abigail:             We have to decide how we’re gonna plead on these counts right now. 
              Abi thinks.
 Abigail:            You were just hanging out in the apartment, right?  You didn΄t know they had explosives there.
                     Mahasin:           I did.
Abigail:             Hold up, Mahasin.  You may think you know but come on . . . really?  What kind of explosives were they?  Where were they stored? 
Mahasin:           Under the floorboards, I think.  Or maybe in the hall closet.  I am not sure what kind.
                     Abigail: You don΄t know for sure, though, do you?
                     Mahasin:           Perhaps not exactly.  But Mohamed told me –
Abigail:             No, no, no.  Do not tell me what somebody told you.  You do not know something just because someone said some words.  You can see something, you can hear something, you can taste something, smell something or feel something.  
                     Mahasin:           Strange.
                     Abigail: No, not strange at all.  Those are the ways you know something. 
Mahasin:           That is completely reductionist.  It is not how people actually gain knowledge and learn truth.  People learn from what others say perpetually.  Your presumption is absurd.
Abigail:             This presumption is the foundation of the criminal justice system.  You can’t put someone away for something that someone told someone one time.   You have to know.  It’s good. 
                     Mahasin:           I am not subject to the American justice system.  
                                 Abigail is disgusted.  They eye each other.
Abigail:             You are sitting in a jail in Washington, D.C.   Id say youre pretty subject.
Mahasin:           I do not answer to criminal regimes. 
Abigail:             You do when they put you in jail.  And sure, the American justice system can sometimes function like a criminal regime at the top, but down here in the courts we get our hands dirty looking at real evidence and we respect the rule of law.  No one and no thing is above the law.  Hedge fund managers, anti-abortion activists, corporations, governments, Chuck Norris, and (consults file) Pakistani-born Cin-a-bon employees living in Arlington, Virginia.  None.  
                     Mahasin:           Now I am probably fired from Cinabon.
                     Abigail: Youre better off in jail.     
                     Mahasin:           What? 
                     Abigail: Its like eighty fat grams in one of those cinnamon rolls.
                     Mahasin:           Your own government does not adhere to the rule of law.
                     Abigail: Youre preaching to the choir on this one.
                                 Mahasin is puzzled.
                     Abigail: I agree.  And believe me, if I could think of a way to sue them for it I                                         would.
                     Mahasin:           Can this not be our defense? 
                     Abigail: Umm, no.
                     Mahasin:           But they do not adhere to the rule of law. 
                     Abigail: Thats not a defense.  
                     Mahasin:           It is what makes them criminals.
Abigail:             Judges hate that shit,  Mahasin.  Its like my mom used to say to me.
Mahasin:           What?
Abigail:             No one cares about your feelings.  Is there evidence for the elements of the crimes for which you have been indicted?  Thats it.    
                     Mahasin:           We were all students in Islamabad.
                     Abigail: But just like standard school, right? 
                     Mahasin:           I suppose.
                     Abigail: No specialist training in explosives?  Not, like, a madras?
                     Mahasin:           Well, yes,  --
Abigail:             -- dont say the camps.  Dont say you learned explosives at a camp in Pakistan.  
                     Mahasin:           But –
                     Abigail: Youre gonna get waterboarded.  Shit. 
Mahasin:           No.  Now I have counsel.  I have counsel from Wells & Bishop, the greatest law firm in America. 
Abigail:             I dont know.  You get classified as an enemy combatant and I get fuck all access to you.  They could really do it. Shit.  They keep changing the rules about it.  I don’t know.
Mahasin:           No.  I have been indicted in a civilian court.
Abigail:             I don’t know. You start talking about, shit, learning about explosives in a camp in Pakistan and they will get some counter terrorism Jack Bauer type over from the Pentagon and voila.  You, my good man, are fucked. 
Mahasin:           But I have a right to counsel.
Abigail:             Not if you’re an enemy combatant.
Mahasin:           So the other lawyers at your firm don’t want to represent an enemy combatant?
Abigail:             Give it up, buddy.  You are stuck with me.  And no, the other lawyers don’t want to represent an enemy combatant.    They don’t like the odds.
Mahasin:           Strange breed.
Abigail:             Pussies.  Pussies more interested in protecting their reputation than fighting for the rights of the accused.  (looks at watch)
Abigail: Oh, God.  I am so not getting out of here by 6:30. 

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 Posted: Sat Oct 2nd, 2010 03:24 pm
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2nd Post
in media res

Joined: Sun Jul 2nd, 2006
Posts: 1944

Loved this. From the get go. You have a time limit, which is good, you have two interesting characters in a tense situation which is exponentially greater than the two people themselves. Obviously it is a most timely subject. The obviously experienced attorney knows what the heck she is talking about - therefore we get and education - you have a cultural/religious/sexual clash and they are locked in a room together. What is beyond the room - or may/may not be beyond the room - plays a big unseen role. What the hell else can one ask for? And the dry, deadpan humor is terrificly and truly positioned. And from here, it can go in many different directions. I want more. I do not have time to say more now as I am dashing out.

Great, great stuff. Welcome back! A most welcome return.


in media res

Last edited on Sat Oct 2nd, 2010 03:40 pm by in media res

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 Posted: Mon Oct 18th, 2010 05:57 pm
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Joined: Sat Oct 9th, 2010
Posts: 3
Yes, your characters are coming through loud and clear via the dialogue, as is the plotline.  I generally don't like this genre, but I found it very interesting from the outset. 

There was one line that confused me, though.  I wasn't quite sure what the character was trying to say.
Abigail:             I dont know.  You get classified as an enemy combatant and I get fuck all access to you.  They could really do it. Shit.  They keep changing the rules about it.  I don’t know.

You might want to look at rephrasing.  I don't get what's being referred to. 

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 Posted: Wed Oct 20th, 2010 08:07 pm
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Joined: Sat Aug 11th, 2007
Location: Centennial, Colorado USA
Posts: 215
Hello, Swann!

I love conflict, and this has it in spades and keeps it going. Very entertaining, and I'd love to see what happens next. Plus the underlying thesis is certainly worth examining.

I do have a few items for the "nit parade" -- so minor as to almost be not worth mentioning, but it's what I do!

The first time Abigail begins her line with "Oh, god" works fine, but the second time doesn't, for me. I think the second time would be stronger just starting out with "Spare me the rhetoric."

And when Mahasin says, "Really? The Hallites?" after Abigail recites her credentials, it sounds a little "gee whiz" or hero-worshipy and out of character for him.

It's Cinnabon, not Cinabon (trust me, I know).

Finally, when they're discussing what to plead at arraignment, you mention guilty or innocent a couple times. In a previous life I covered courts as a newspaper reporter and can't recall anyone ever pleading "innocent" or any lawyer using the word.  As Abigail earlier said, the word "innocence" doesn't mean anything to her. The legal description is not guilty. It's never a question of innocence, just guilty or not guilty.

Otherwise, A+!  So glad to "see you'" again,


Last edited on Wed Oct 20th, 2010 08:08 pm by kris

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 Posted: Thu Nov 17th, 2011 04:19 pm
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Joined: Mon Oct 17th, 2011
Location: Winthrop, Maine USA
Posts: 11
I agree with the others, this is a wonderful little piece of dialogue. Re-phrasing of the one line would help. I would also look at adding a peek at he watch just before they get to the end and are re-hashing the other lawyers in her firm bit. To me this would give the idea of urgency and heighten the last line.
I think it would be an interesting to see/know the beginning and end of his life. does the beginning lead to this moment? Does the end come from this moment? Just thoughts in my head and really just ramblings about what I fixate on. I truly enjoyed reading your work.

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