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The Last Meal  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Fri Jun 12th, 2015 05:38 am
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RTurco
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Mana: 
Hey guys,

So, last semester at university, I took an elective playwriting course, which I enjoyed very much. At the end, I turned in my latest draft of a new one-act play, which I am posting here. I will put the first scene here and if you would like to read more, feel free to respond to this post. Take care!

The Last Meal, by Raymond Alexander Turco

Cast of Characters

Giovanni Duchetti - head cook at a prestigious lake-side hotel.

Officer Cagnolini - important military member of the ruling party.

The Health Inspector

Waiter

Two Advisors

Place - the dining room and kitchen of a luxurious hotel.
Time - a wartime past of an indistinct nature.
Set - Minimalistic, mostly chairs and tables.


SCENE 1

(Lights up. One half of the stage is a kitchen, the other is a dining space with tables and chairs. GIOVANNI DUCHETTI instructs his staff in the kitchen. They are unseen, and GIOVANNI speaks to the audience as if they were his staff.)

GIOVANNI
No no no! Not like this, like this. Your vegetables are the sacred components of this dish, not to be chopped wantonly like an Abyssinian explorer hacking vines in the jungle. Cooking is an art. An art to be savored. A process. With steps, very precise steps that can bring to fruition a wonderful soufflé or a mighty dish of pasta. Cooking is an art, but it is also a science. Each step must be followed with unscrupulous adherence to the principles of the craft. Cooking is purity, and purity is good. There can be no blemishes on your cake, and your pasta must always be al dente! Always. To the tooth. If it is not, then you’d better feel my teeth on all of your throats.

(GIOVANNI laughs. He continues preparing a meal. Abruptly the HEALTH INSPECTOR enters.)

HEALTH INSPECTOR
Mister Giovanni Duchetti, hello.

GIOVANNI
Hello sir. And who do I have the honor of servicing today?

HEALTH INSPECTOR
I am Chief Health Inspector of the district, Alcide Falconi, here to assess of quality of your kitchen as was programmed for this very day. I trust you are aware of my coming?

GIOVANNI
Yes of course. Please, have a look around. I expect you will find everything in order.

(The HEALTH INSPECTOR looks around and mimes testing various wares, moving around the stage. He makes his notes on a clipboard.)

GIOVANNI
You see that? A stove of the highest quality. Four burners on just one unit... And a perfect strainer... Note the fridge, massive, up to date. The knives are sharpened daily, with the floors and surfaces scrubbed regularly. There is nothing amiss in my kitchen.

(The WAITER enters.)

WAITER
You rang sir?

GIOVANNI
When the Inspector is done, I want you to do the following. Take it down on paper, it’s Wednesday’s menu.

WAITER
Yes, sir.

(The WAITER produces a piece of paper. He writes down GIOVANNI’s instructions.)

GIOVANNI
Appetizer, mozzarella Capri-style.

WAITER
Yes, sir.

GIOVANNI
First course, risotto Milanese-style.

WAITER
Yes, sir.

GIOVANNI
Main course, polenta with little sparrows.

WAITER
Yes, sir.

GIOVANNI
And for dessert, the Donizetti cake. Got it?

WAITER
Yes, sir... Is that the sweet polenta with little sparrows, or the salted polenta with little sparrows?

GIOVANNI
What do you think?

WAITER
I... Salted.

GIOVANNI
Why would I serve the sweet version as a main course? It has chocolate-marzipan birds for Christ sake!

WAITER
Of course, sir.

GIOVANNI
Get going. I don’t want to take up too much time from the Inspector. But you gave me an idea. I may serve the sweet version next week.

WAITER
Very good, sir.

(The WAITER hurries off. GIOVANNI returns to address the INSPECTOR, who frowns and shakes his head.)

HEALTH INSPECTOR
Oh dear.

GIOVANNI
Is something wrong?

HEALTH INSPECTOR
I’m afraid I must speak with you in private. It is very important.

(Pause. GIOVANNI gestures to his invisible staff that he will not be long. GIOVANNI and the HEALTH INSPECTOR move off to the side to speak in confidence.)

GIOVANNI
What’s the matter?

HEALTH INSPECTOR
I regret to inform you of some unfortunate news.

GIOVANNI
My kitchen is in pristine condition. I see no possibility of error.

HEALTH INSPECTOR
The truth is... I am not Alcide Falconi. Alcide Falconi is dead.

GIOVANNI
I don’t understand.

(The HEALTH INSPECTOR looks around hastily to see if anyone is listening.)

HEALTH INSPECTOR
I am not the Health Inspector. The cleanliness of your kitchen does not interest me. I am part of a partisan command chain, with the People of Freedom, and I am on a mission. Our people have struggled too long against the forces of tyranny and fascism that rule this country. It’s time to hit the Leader where it hurts. We cannot oppose the Leader directly, but we can remove some of his subordinates to buy us more time. We only ask that you make it look like an accident.

GIOVANNI
I will have none of this.

HEALTH INSPECTOR
Think of your country, sir.

GIOVANNI
Plotting and executing the assassination of an official party member is a crime punishable by firing squad.

HEALTH INSPECTOR
That’s right. So make it work quick and give it the impression of a mishap. Your target is the esteemed Officer Cagnolini. You’re a chef. I suggest you try injecting a bit of your cooking skills into this assignment.

GIOVANNI
And what if I refuse?

HEALTH INSPECTOR
We have ways of coercion. But I’ve got a feeling. You won’t disappoint.

GIOVANNI
Why me?

HEALTH INSPECTOR
Sometimes it is those we least expect who carry out the greatest feats for democracy’s sake. It is not every day that an ordinary citizen such as yourself is called upon to affect such great change for such a noble ideal. Good luck, Mister Duchetti. And welcome to the Resistance.

(The HEALTH INSPECTOR exits. GIOVANNI returns to the kitchen space. He continues preparing food. He rubs his head in pain. He stops cooking. He resumes, though only for a little while. Frustrated, he abandons his post and retreats to the dining room.)

GIOVANNI
Who am I? A chef of a three-star hotel with a extraordinary view of the biggest natural lake in the entire country. Does some piss-ant resistance movement think it can pressure me into committing the murder of a decorated official? I don’t give a shit about democracy. Or fascism. Whichever one is willing to saddle me up with a job at the best pay is what I’m voting for. I spit on democracy, the infant in the cradle. How will a fledgling new government expect to pay me more than what I’m already being paid? It’s all bullshit. Fuck Alcide Falcioni. And fuck the People for Freedom!

(WAITER enters.)

GIOVANNI (CONT’D)
What is it?

WAITER
Will you be coming back to the kitchen, sir? We require your assistance.

GIOVANNI
Not today. Tell Piccioni he’s in charge. I have a bit of indigestion, I think I’ll be going home.

WAITER
Yes sir.

(The WAITER exits, and GIOVANNI exits opposite. OFFICER CAGNOLINI enters, with his ADVISORS.)

CAGNOLINI
Do they have the agnolotti?

ADVISOR 1
Yes sir.

ADVISOR 2
Most definitely, sir.

ADVISOR 1
We will make sure it is to your liking.

CAGNOLINI
Good.

ADVISOR 2
We have made your reservation for next Sunday, as requested.

ADVISOR 1
We will be dining in the main hall. We are waiting to hear back from the Leader, directly.

CAGNOLINI
These tidings are portentous, indeed.

ADVISOR 2
And the agnolotti will be hot, and floating in a beef broth.

CAGNOLINI
Yes, yes. But something irks me. Who is Giovanni Duchetti?

ADVISOR 1
He’s head chef of the hotel.

ADVISOR 2
We left a painstaking background check on your desk this morning.

ADVISOR 1
It’s immaculate.

ADVISOR 2
He’s clean and in the clear. Much like the excellent beef broth he serves up so famously.

CAGNOLINI
Well he’s not. I read the background check. He’s an Unmentionable. Have him removed.

ADVISOR 1
Sir?

CAGNOLINI
What, are you deaf? This man is just another obstacle. My own son is a better chef than him-- his agnolotti are far superior. I want Duchetti out. The Unmentionable. Put my son in his place. (Pause) But not before I’ve dined under Duchetti. I will spit in his creations just to show him he’s worth nothing.

ADVISOR 1
We will inform the management.

(Pause.)

CAGNOLINI
I am surrounded by vermin at every turn. We will squash them together and bolster the regime on their skulls to make a very fine pedestal of white glory. This war is not yet lost.

ADVISOR 2
Certainly, sir.

(Pause.)

CAGNOLINI
Vermin... everywhere...

ADVISOR 1
It will be dealt with. I assure you.

CAGNOLINI
Very well then. May the Leader prevail!

(The ADVISORS salute. All three exit. GIOVANNI enters, looking upset. The WAITER enters, with anxious unease.)

WAITER
Mr. Duchetti?

GIOVANNI
What?

WAITER
Your assistance in the kitchen is required... Is the beef to be boiled today, or...?

GIOVANNI
Today.

WAITER
And the mozzarella?

GIOVANNI
That’s quick and easy, it can wait till tomorrow.

WAITER
And the polenta with sparrows?

GIOVANNI
What do you think?

WAITER
Tomorrow.

GIOVANNI
Leave me. Go.

WAITER
But there’s a letter for you.

GIOVANNI
A letter?

WAITER
Yes.

GIOVANNI
Is it important?

WAITER
Looks so.

GIOVANNI
Read it to me.

WAITER
Sir?

GIOVANNI
Alfredo... Just read the letter.

WAITER
Okay... “To Giovanni Duchetti, head chef of the Victory Hotel. Please be notified of your termination, effective on Monday the 19th of April for reasons related to improper workplace care and suspicion of insubordination in itself grounds for removal from your post as dictated by the details of your contract. No pension or severance is to be provided. May the Leader Prevail. Signed, the Management.”

(Pause.)

WAITER (CONT’D)
Sir?

GIOVANNI
I don’t believe this.

WAITER
Neither can I. But it’s authentic. On official hotel letterhead.

GIOVANNI
What did I do?

WAITER
It must be a mistake...

GIOVANNI
No. It’s no mistake, Alfredo. They want me out.

WAITER
Sir... Mr. Duchetti... Giovanni. I always found your cooking to be divinely inspired.

GIOVANNI
Thank you, Alfredo. I’m touched.

(Pause.)

WAITER
One last week then.

GIOVANNI
One last week.

WAITER
Let’s make it the best.

GIOVANNI
Of course.

WAITER
Good night, Mr. Duchetti.

GIOVANNI
Please, call me Giovanni.

WAITER
Okay. Giovanni.

(The WAITER makes to exit, and gets a good distance away.)

GIOVANNI
I’ve been called upon to enact a mission.

WAITER
(Stumbling)
Sir-- err, Giovanni?

GIOVANNI
It’s nothing. Go home. Get some sleep. And be prepared to cook something really revolutionary.

(The WAITER exits, confused. Lights fade.)

(END OF SCENE)

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 Posted: Wed Jul 15th, 2015 12:41 am
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Mana: 
Turco,


Been meaning to read this, just had not gotten around to it.

(I tranferred to a Word Doc. to read it, thus page numbers mentioned.)

Here are a few things.

We get the personality of the Chef immediately in the first meeting of him. He is totally “in charge.” He is most confident. But not arrogant. He listens to the waiter about the Salt! There is no fear of the Health Inspector. The inspection is just “all in a day’s work.” Just another day at the office kind of thing.

THEN on page 4 we get an “Uh Oh” moment from the Inspector.

You do not need “and I am on a mission.” That is redundant.

P6 6 we learn Cagnoli is an unmentionable.

Good and true line: “Sometimes it is those we least expect who carry out the greatest feats for democracy’s sake.”

Another twist on page 6:

CAGNOLINI
Well he’s not. I read the background check. He’s an Unmentionable. Have him removed.


Duchetti gets fired on page 8. Cagnolini's son is to be put in place. This is an interesting complication, considering the mission.

There is a special tone to your writing I have noticed over the time you have been on the Forum. There is a heightend sense of formality. it is honest but stylized. But the situations you have your characters in within the plays call for it. It is as if all the characters often have to act as characters, rather than who they really are, as they are always being watched. This does not stem from paranoia, but from an actual element of the social mores. It is for survival. And they know they MUST do this! Sort of like, "Never speak bad of the Emperor." The society in which they live Makes them do it for safety. Everyone is CYA-ing. Makes for an interesting tension.

I hope you pursue it further.

How is Mr Um? Any more sales?


Best,

IMR

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 Posted: Sun Jul 19th, 2015 04:50 am
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RTurco
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Joined: Wed Nov 19th, 2008
Location: New Jersey USA
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Mana: 
Thank you for reading, in media res!

Also, thank you for the comments. Very helpful. I'd be curious to know what you thought of the full piece. I don't know how I feel about this work in general. Not sure the ending works out.

I find your analysis of my style to be intriguing! I've never heard that interpretation made before. It certainly applies to a few of my history plays, precisely for the reason you suggested: the situation requires that sort of CYA-ing. I'm thinking of The Red Crow, about the USSR, for example.

Alas! No more sales for The Vacuous Case. It peaked at 2. Ah well. Nobody once said this was an easy business to break into. :D

I'm currently taking a playwriting course in NYC this weekend, taught by Arlene Hutton with the Barrow Group. Great way to get a jump back into writing.

Best to you!

RTurco

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 Posted: Tue Jul 21st, 2015 07:26 pm
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Mana: 
Sounds terrific.

Have a great time.

IMR

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