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The Damnation of John Smith  Rate Topic 
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 Posted: Fri Jul 28th, 2006 11:28 am
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Swann1719
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Mana: 
Cast:

 

 ain  Note:  earlier, Edd raised an interesting point that all of the cutural reference points in a play are a little doomed to be obscured by time and/or location of performance.  Hmm.

 

Note;: This was co-written with a fellow lawyer, Augie Matteis and all rights to this piece belong to us.

 

Cast:

 

Lizzie Borden, the axe murderer

Kurt Cobain, the grunge suicide

Frank Sinatra, the legend

John Smith, a guy who just died

                       

            (We are in a Processing Center between Heaven and Hell)               


 

(As the lights go up, Lizzie Borden, Frank Sinatra and Kurt Cobain are all standing center stage looking at a schedule - one copy - on a lone table.  Lizzie is dignified and wears clothes that were fashionable the year she died, 1927.  Frank is dressed impeccably in a shiny double-breasted suit and Kurt has the Seattle Grunge look.  All are holding clipboards with various papers attached.  There are two chairs by the table.)

 

 

Lizzie:             (comparing her clipboard papers to the schedule)  All right - we've got two surfers coming in, that won't be difficult.  You can certainly take care of them, Mr. Cobain.

 

Kurt:               (slowly)  Sure.  Are they in?

                                               

Lizzie:                         Yes, of course they're in.  Then we have a trombonist.  And she was, well, Mr. Sinatra,  why don't you take her?

 

Frank:             A skirt? Blowin' the 'bone?  What the hell are things comin' to down there?  Is the broad in or out? 

 

Lizzie:             She's in.

 

Frank rolls his eyes.

 

Kurt:                           Uh, Lizzie, can I take my next one before the two surfers?  He's scheduled to be here in 10 minutes and, uh, it looks like a tough one.

 

Frank:             A tough one?  Kid, there ain't no tough ones.  Is he in or out?

 

Kurt:                           Well, he's out, but you know he'll appeal. He's a trial lawyer from Washington.  But he's just classic:  Important job, nice house, two kids, minivan with the VCR. . .

 

Frank:             Jeez.

 

John, a confident man temporarily bewildered by his own recent death, walks into the room from stage left.  He is wearing a well-tailored business suit.

                       

John:               (dazed)  Uh, Hello.

                                                           

Lizzie:             (to Kurt)  He's early. But go ahead. (to Frank)  Mr. Sinatra, let's stay for this one.  

 

Kurt:               (checking clipboard as he sits down)  Have a seat, Mr. Smith.  This part sucks, I know.  But, listen man, just try to go with the flow .  . . .  OK, so, you realize that you're like - dead?

                                                           

John:               (Thinking as he takes a seat)  Uh . . .

 

Frank:             You know babe, floatin' around the room, bright lights, dead relatives – botta-bing botta-boom – and then you're here. 

 

John:                           Yeah, yeah.  Pretty much.

 

Kurt:                           OK.  So, according to your chart . . . well, wait, sorry, let me introduce myself.  I'm Kurt Cobain.  This is Frank Sinatra, don't ask him to sing, and this is Lizzie Borden,  Ms. Borden.  She's the supervisor here.   I'm your case worker. 

 

John:               (as he gets up to shake hands all around)  Kurt Cobain . . . from that grunge rock group?  . . . Old Blue Eyes? – Jesus.

 

Frank:             You know it, baby.

 

John:                           And you're Lizzie . . .

 

Lizzie:             Borden.

 

John:                           Borden.  Lizzie Borden?  Wait . . . I know . . . Lizzie Borden took an axe  –

 

Frank:             (hand on John's shoulder)  Buddy, buddy, don't finish it.  Believe me, she doesn't want to hear it again.  

 



Kurt:                           Mr. Smith, let me try to explain what's going on.  (reading from clipboard) You've been judged, and according to your chart, it was decided that you will not be entering what you understand to be heaven.  You failed to meet the entry standards.  However, you have the right to appeal the judgment.  (looks up) As your case worker, it's my job to work with you to figure out if you have any grounds for an appeal . . . if you have any arguments for why you should get into heaven. . . . maybe something - anything - that might have been overlooked.

           

John:                           (slowly looks around)  Um, did YOU meet the entry standards?

 

Kurt:                           Yeah, yeah I did.

 

John:                           (leaning forward so Lizzie won't hear) Did she?

 

Kurt:                           (nodding) Yeah - she's in.

 

John:                           She killed her freakin' parents.

 

Kurt:                           No doubt, dude - sure as I blew my head off, but –

 

John:                           – Yeah, and . . . and you were addicted to heroin.

 

Kurt:                           That's true, but that's not what matters, listen–

                                               

John:                           – And Frank?  He was in the mob!  (starting to lose it)  Wait a minute.  This is bullshit. You freaks got into heaven and I didn't?  I was a good person my whole life, I --

 

Frank:             – Look bitch, you better shut your pie hole and listen!

 

Kurt:                           Whoa.  Like, serenity now, Frank.  John, Frank's right – you've got to listen . . . really listen.  You see . . . good person, bad person . . . it means nothing.

 

John:                           What do you mean it means nothing?

 

Kurt:                           It's all just noise from below.  A big distraction. You've got to get past the noise.  Listen closer, John.

 

John:                           (Frustrated)  Listen to what?  

 

Kurt:                           Listen past the noise into the silence . . . the stillness . . . the stillness inside you, man.  (growing with intensity) All those labels – good, bad, rich, poor, successful, rock star – all those laws, rules, moral codes -- (quiet intensity) all that shit – it all melts off like wax in this kind of heat. (pause) You don't get in for being a good person, John.

 

John:                           (shaking his head nervously) Wait? Are you saying I'm going to hell because I was a good person?  Then what's the point?

 

Kurt:                           This is it. (pause)  The point of your life on earth was for God to see if you had the strength, or, whatever, the wisdom, creativity - - to give voice to your own soul.  Your job wasn't to obey your mother; it wasn't to be nice to everyone; it wasn't even to be "successful" as you would define the word.  (Holding his fist to his chest)  John, your job down there was to listen to what your own soul told you and to act on it, no matter what the consequences . . . no matter what. 

 

John:                           But that's insane - that's just being selfish.

 

Kurt:                           That's not being selfish, dude, that's being your SELF.  You see, you just did everything you thought you were supposed to do. (refers to clipboard)  Went to law school, studied hard, got a good job, married, had kids, got a minivan, paid for your kid's college education . . . .  Dude, you stayed in that job and in that house for all those years when your soul was screaming to get out.  It was killing you, John.  It did kill you.

 

John:                           But . . . I just did . . . what any good person does.

 

Kurt:                           Buddy, no.  You did what everyone told you to do.  You let them decide what mattered.  But see, dude, the only thing that matters is your own soul - you didn't save your own soul.

 

John:                           I don't think I understand.

 

Kurt:                           Think about it.  Following your inner voice.  Defying convention –

 

Lizzie:             Why don't you give him some examples, Mr. Cobain?

 

Kurt:                           (Lighter) Yeah, OK.  Uh, let's see . . . take . . . Joan of Arc.  She made it to heaven – she's in, but Princess Diana didn't – she's out.

 

John:                           Princess Diana is out?  What about . . . uh . . . Ghandi?

 

Frank:             The Mahatma - - c'mon kid, he was a freakin' sho' in.  The guy was a successful South African lawyer, for God's sake, and he ended up a diaper-wearing vegetarian in the desert.

 

John:               OK, what about Oprah?

                                                             

Kurt:               Dude, she's not dead.    

 

John:                           Right.  Uh . . . Babe Ruth? 

 

Frank:             (to Kurt)  Let him take this one.  (to John) Come on, Harvard boy, Babe Ruth, in or out?

 

John:                           Uh – In?                                                                      

 

Frank:             Damn straight.  The Babe had sack.  God knew he'd be able to cut it up there.

 

John:                           "Cut it" - in heaven?

                       

Frank:             That's right, Jack - I don't know if you could cut it.  See, your so-called "heaven" is actually a hell of a rat race.  And if you ever get there - - boy, run for cover.  It ain't about harps and little fat boys floatin' on clouds.  It's some dangerous shit.  And only people with beach balls for cajones can make it up there.

 

Kurt:                           OK Frank, I really wish you wouldn't oversimplify this notion that the toughest get in.   (To John) It's not like Frank got in because he was a Mafia bad boy.  You see, each person has a spirit, a soul.  It's the desire of that soul to have a voice . . . to speak.  But before you can speak, you have to listen.  This is why artists have a better shot.  Frank didn't get in because of the mob, he got in because he listened – because when he was on that stage, he sang from his soul.

 

Frank:             (To Kurt)  Bingo, blondie!  And unless your soul sounds like a dying bobcat on Prozac - you got in 'cause you blew your pretty little head off.  (Mimicking Nirvana lyrics) 

 

Lizzie:             Enough, boys.

 

John:                           Ms. Borden, am I going to hell?

 

Lizzie:             Actually, that's what Mr. Cobain is trying to assist you with. You can appeal the preliminary decision to go to hell but you're going to have to come up with reasons.  If you appeal, there would be a hearing in front of a three-judge panel.  Who's up this week,  Mr. Cobain?

           

Kurt:               (Consulting folder)  It's Pol Pot, William Shakespeare and Liberace.

 

John:                           Liberace? 

                                               

in quick succession:

 

Lizzie:             Minority sexual orientation.

 

Kurt:               Gay.

 

Frank:             (As if to explain)  You know, a fag.  But that don't get ya' in anymore.  It's too mainstream now.  Liberace got in on homo, but now I think you gotta go with a hard-core fetish or maybe do a little cross-dressing . . . or some kinda really messed up shit. 

 

Kurt  rolls his eyes at "fag" and "homo".

 

John:                           But wait a second.  I went to church. Doesn't that give me an in? I mean, God's in charge here, right?

 

Kurt:                           Yeah. But what do you think God wanted you to do?

 

John:                           Be a good person.  Don't hurt anyone.  Go to church.

 

Frank:             Yeah - I know all about that.  You're Catholic, right? Catholics.  The whole love your neighbor go to church thing.  That was a candy-assed story made up to keep you in line, boy.

 

John:                           But . . . I . . . that . . . (his fear and bewilderment building back up to a red hot pitch) This is NOT FAIR.  How was I supposed to know?  Nobody told me anything.  I would have done it if I knew.  I never failed a test in my life.  This crap wasn't written anywhere!

 

Lizzie:             (Abruptly sitting up in her chair)  I beg to differ, Sir.  You and I read the same scripture . . . and from that scripture - that holy scripture - I learned everything I needed to know.  Didn't the scripture tell you to follow Christ?

 

John:                           (Obediently) Yes.

 

Lizzie:              And what did our "good" Christ do? 

 

John:                           He healed people  . . . I don't know . . . he loved people . . . he sacrificed himself . . . he . . .

 

Lizzie:             Didn't he in fact initiate a rebellion against the government? 

 

John:                           Well, I don't know, I guess . .

 

Lizzie:             And didn't he defy all conventional religious standards of the time?

 

John:                           Well . . .

 

Lizzie:             And didn't he explain that the path to his father's house was narrow and that few would find it?  And didn't he look straight into the eyes of a common criminal before he died and tell him he was on his way to Paradise?  Didn't he explain, very clearly, sir, that he came not to bring peace but dissension, not to unify families but to divide them? Wasn't it all very clear, sir? Honestly, it's all there in black and white.

 

John:                           But I worshiped Christ, I –

 

Lizzie:             – You worshiped him?  Tell me, sir, you were a "religious" man – what would you have done if a dirty, long-haired traveler dressed in rags wandered up to the front door of your comfortable estate, and asked you to promptly leave your farm and family to follow Him and preach His ways?

 

John:                           Uh, well, if I knew it was Christ . . .

 

Lizzie:             (with icy certainty) You pathetic little hypocrite. You would have had him jailed.  Finish this, gentlemen,  I've had enough.

 

Ext. Lizzie, stage right, the victor

 

Frank:             (with more compassion)  Buddy-boy, don't sweat it - she gets like that once in awhile.  Every 30 days or so, if you know what I'm sayin'.  Anyway, we gotta wrap this up.  What are you going to tell the Judges if you appeal, that's what you gotta think about.  You know, when in your life did you do what you were told to do by that voice from deep below?  Not the one in your pants - the one in your soul.  When did you do what you wanted to do instead of what everyone else wanted you to do?  When did you flip off the whole world?

 

Kurt:                           Right, when did you . . . or did you ever - - listen to your soul?

 

John:                           (deep in thought)  Uh, well, one time, when I was really sick of the whole rat race, I felt like something deep inside was telling me to bag it all and open a pizza joint.

 

Frank:             (Becoming impatient)  Brilliant.  A pizza joint.  Your soul told you to open a pizza joint.

 

John:                           Yeah.  A pizza joint.

 

Frank:             Think big, Jack.  (Pointing with thumb to Kurt) This hairbag's soul told him that when playing a gig got like punching a time clock, it was time to off himself.  (Indicates stage right)  That cold bitch did her parents with an axe.  And she still hasn't explained shit to anyone.  No one knows why she did it except her and God.  Christ, she kept chopping those poor bastards into little pieces until they looked like a carton of that . . . that . . . (looking at Kurt and rubbing his fingers together) what's that chink dish with the little cubes of pork?

 

Kurt:                           Is this going somewhere?

 

Frank:             Yeah - anyway, my point is that you gotta do it in a big way to get up there.  Opening a pizza joint won't do it.  And anyhow, you never even opened the damn joint.

 

John:                           Yeah, I know.  It's too bad.  I think I really would have been happy running a pizza joint.  A customer comes in, you chat, they tell you what they want, you make a pie, they pay.  It's simple.  You feed them.  It makes sense.  

 

Frank:             The romance of pepperoni.  You're breaking my heart, kid. (sternly) You didn't do it though, buddy, thinking about it doesn't count.  Now what are you going to tell the judges to make them think you can cut it up there?

 

John:                           (Searching his memory)  I ....   I'm not sure. ...  I ....  I . . .  Well, instead of going to my son's Business School graduation, I told my family that I had a business trip when really, I went to Las Vegas and drank and gambled for 3 days with a buddy of mine.

                                               

Frank:             (Encouraging)  That's good. That's a start.   

 

Kurt:                           Anything else?  

 

John:                           Yeah, maybe. . . uh . . . let's see . . . uh . . . No. I'm not going to win, am I? (silence)  I didn't do it.  I just couldn't have lived with the idea of being seen as someone who failed in his career - or failed in his personal life - as someone who went off the deep end.  I had to be the big "law firm partner."  I just couldn't live with being "the pizza guy". . . . .  I should have done it my way.

 

Frank:             Yeah, yeah.  You never know, buddy.  Look one thing I do know is that Billy Shakespeare loves - LOVES- the idea of Vegas.  You go get 'em tiger.

 

Kurt:               You'll get a notice for the date farther down the hall that way. Later, dude.

 

John walks slowly off stage.                                      

 

Ext. John

 

Frank:             Whoa.  Thank God Lizzie left.  She never would have let us get away with that shit.  We would have been here all freakin' day.

 

Kurt:                           Yeah, and it's almost worse that we let that poor bastard appeal.

 

Frank:             No shit.  But that's OK.  I'm sure he'll get a lot of sympathy from that slanty-eyed nut case on the panel.

 

Kurt:                           Pol Pot.

 

Frank:             Yeah, I can just see him now (Crossing arms sternly and in bad Chinese accent)  HMMMM . . . let's see.  I kill million people to save Cambodia from imperialists pigs,  and you miss business school graduation . . . tough call.

 

Kurt:               (Both laughing).  That's cold, dude.                                          

 

 

 

Lights fade

 

 

Curtain 

 


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 Posted: Fri Jul 28th, 2006 12:27 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 

"Note:  earlier, Edd raised an interesting point that all of the cultural reference points in a play are a little doomed to be obscured by time and/or location of performance.  Hmm."

BAD, BAD GIRL.  I NEVER said anything even closely related to what you attributed to me saying.  What I said was that the popular du jour, the current television show in particular might get lost over time.  (though "...a little doomed to be obscured by time and/or location of performance" is a far more elegant and better written sentence than I wrote.  But,"all the cultural reference points" being doomed to any degree is not at all what I think, said, or meant to say.  Cultural references on a larger scale couldn't be more important.  They ground a play in time.  They represent a time, a feeling, a mood, a mind-set, an historical perspective on the world in which the characters live.  And quotes taken out of context usually suit only the person doing the quoting.  Are you a Republican?  PLEASE, Edd is willing to stand behind every word he says, or he will apologize for making stupid statements of which he has a daily quota to fulfill , but he doesn't like being misquoted before his morning coffee.

BAD GIRL. :>)

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 Posted: Fri Jul 28th, 2006 02:19 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
Really liked this.

It feels all light and very funny, but there is a very scary undercurrent here.  The logic makes a very strange sense...and so, amid the laughs, and the cleverness, I find it a bit unnerving...which is a wonderful wonderful thing!

The characters cannot be dated when they are classics.

The only thing that struck me was Frank saying bitch.  It's so out of his time, and I did consider he might have learned it from Kurt, but...by then, I'd realized I'd spent too much time thinking about it, and had I been watching your play, instead of reading it, I would have missed a small chunk considering those things.

Very well done!

Paddy

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 Posted: Fri Jul 28th, 2006 02:31 pm
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Swann1719
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Mana: 
Edd wrote:

"Note:  earlier, Edd raised an interesting point that all of the cultural reference points in a play are a little doomed to be obscured by time and/or location of performance.  Hmm."

BAD, BAD GIRL.  I NEVER said anything even closely related to what you attributed to me saying.  What I said was that the popular du jour, the current television show in particular might get lost over time.  (though "...a little doomed to be obscured by time and/or location of performance" is a far more elegant and better written sentence than I wrote.  But,"all the cultural reference points" being doomed to any degree is not at all what I think, said, or meant to say.  Cultural references on a larger scale couldn't be more important.  They ground a play in time.  They represent a time, a feeling, a mood, a mind-set, an historical perspective on the world in which the characters live.  And quotes taken out of context usually suit only the person doing the quoting.  Are you a Republican?  PLEASE, Edd is willing to stand behind every word he says, or he will apologize for making stupid statements of which he has a daily quota to fulfill , but he doesn't like being misquoted before his morning coffee.

BAD GIRL. :>)



I really am sorry for misquoting you, Edd.  I thought the point you made was valid and interesting and just wondered how it related here.  I really didn't mean to take your quote out of context.  I promise you it was done in good faith.  

It really, really hurt to even be asked if I was a Republican.  Ow! 

But I see your point and again, I'm sorry.

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 Posted: Fri Jul 28th, 2006 02:38 pm
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Swann1719
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Mana: 
I do think that Billy Shakespeare would dig Vegas.

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 Posted: Fri Jul 28th, 2006 03:08 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 
LOL.  Sorry about the Republican thing.  That was rather nasty considering . . . 

Anyway, I knew you were really not misquoting on purpose.  I was mostly playing with you.  Sometimes I appear to play too rough in print because you don't have the benefit of seeing my fat jolly self giving you a wink and a smile.

About your play.  I liked it very much as it moved nicely along.  Self knowledge is, I often think, the single most important bit of knowledge that can make a person happy and at peace with the world--that and being true to the Self.   Remember the story of the scorpion and the frog? 

Thank you.


Last edited on Fri Jul 28th, 2006 05:59 pm by Edd

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 Posted: Sat Jul 29th, 2006 04:09 am
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leon
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Mana: 
liked a lot of this.  especially the twisted logic, that makes sense somehow.

 

didn't understand why kurt and frank were talking to this guy.  what were they looking to accomplish?  a defense?  if they knew the guy's life, what possible defense could they muster? 

 

then they let the guy appeal, and kurt says they shouldn't have.  maybe this could be explained a little.  also, why is the pizza parlor idea not "big" enough to get him into heaven?  and i liked frank's explanation of heaven.  would have liked to see how the whole thing fit together, why heaven is such a tough place?

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 Posted: Sat Jul 29th, 2006 09:58 am
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Swann1719
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Mana: 
Dear Leon,

Thanks for your comments.  Kurt and Frank are caseworkers supervised by Lizzie.  Their job is to find a reason for appeal or tell the deceased that they shouldn't bother.  So what they are looking for is anything overlooked in the case file about John's life.

They didn't want to deal with John Smith's protestations so they let him appeal after Lizzie leaves even though he doesn't have a good enough reason.  Lizze wouldn't have let them do it if she was there.

Frank says why opening a pizza joint  isn't  a good enough reason:  he never opened the pizza joint, he just thought about it.

Heaven is a difficult place filled with its own challenges.  this part of the background theology of the piece was heavily argued by me and my co-writer.  The idea is that sitting around on clouds would be boring.  So earth is just to see who is brave enough to make it in this even more challenging world.  The key to "making it" is to be true to yourself.   I actually think that Frank was exaggerating the tough guy aspects of heaven, as Kurt points out.

thanks again for reading it.

 

Swann

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 Posted: Sat Jul 29th, 2006 03:43 pm
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playfull
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Mana: 
Swann,

Firstly, new to this critique stuff so feel free to treat my comments lightly.

Secondly, I really liked this, which i am really happy about as I'm afraid i did not engage very well with the 'whole of the moon'.

I liked the mix of characters and the apparent mundaneness of the situation for the 'dead' characters and i just loved the underlying concept that the true path to heaven is in fact almost opposite to the common conception!

Did you think of using the 'It's easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than a rich man into heaven' during Lizzie's 'it's all in the bible' speech?

I would have liked to hear what Hell might be like - maybe in a twist at the end where Kurt and Frank say the poor sucker thinks we have done him a favour allowing his appeal, when in fact hell is just like the suburban life he has come from.

I also think this piece has the potential to be made into something longer but the bottom line is i loved it just the way it is!

regards

playfull

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 Posted: Sun Jul 30th, 2006 11:15 am
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Boz2
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Mana: 
Swann,
Thank you for this.
I hope you won’t mind, I downloaded it so that I could read it at leisure.
I know I should have given you a critique of “The Whole of The Moon”- but this I liked a lot!
I enjoyed this, bold, witty and like all good “fiction” raised literally hundreds of questions.
 
Heaven for the imaginative and non-conformists- Hell for those who never question, but simply accept the dogma.
[Never mind the after-life, dude,  the consequences in this world of people going with the flow- are sadly only too apparent on this morning’s TV news.]
 
Who knows if there is even an after-life; okay, there’s lots of speculation- but we’re kind of short on eye-witness accounts.
 
I like your reference to one of the contradictions in the Bible- I think it’s only in St Luke?
He’s called the “penitent thief”- tho’ it’s not clear if he truly repents- but only asks Jesus to remember him “when He comes into his Kingdom”. Jesus grants him salvation and internal life- no ifs or buts. So, the first guy into the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t an apostle or a Pope or a Saint- but someone who’s done pretty much as he pleased [and put himself beyond the forgiveness and mercy of men!]
So, what about leading a good life- repentance- forgiveness?
What about venal and cardinal sins?
What about Limbo-purgatory?
No wonder- even today- the Catholic Church isn’t keen on mere laypersons reading the Bible and bugging priests with questions.

All this is beside the point. 
I like the wit and fast paced dialogue.
I've already mentioned the boldness of the idea- no harm in mentioning it again!

While I recognized the dead celebrities, I don’t know enough about their lives to say if they add to the play- or are they just a representative sample of the non-conformist saved?

Btw,
Again not perhaps relevant-
But have you seen the OTT painting by John Martin in “Tate Britain”- the old gallery?
“The Last Judgement “- Heaven is full of the most miserable old men. God is the old testament one- of suffering.
On God’s right, dressed in sober clothes rise the blessed- looking very smug.
On God’s left, the damned; animated, dressed for a party- clutching their jewels, having one last sexual encounter, as they plunge into Hell.
Heaven doesn’t look like a lot of fun!
 
Again, thank you
Boz2

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 Posted: Sun Jul 30th, 2006 11:17 am
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Boz2
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Woops- I did preview it but missed
"internal" it should read eternal

Boz2

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 Posted: Sun Jul 30th, 2006 01:13 pm
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Swann1719
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Dear Playfull and Boz2 -

Thank you very much for the interesting comments and insights but most importantly for reading it.  My friend Augie and I did turn this into a full-length play where John convinces Kurt and Frank to let him come back to earth to try to get it right.  He tries a life coach and smoking pot to no avail, tries a seance to get illumination from his father (the seance is crashed by Kurt and Frank) and finally has to leave his family.  It worked, but never worked well enough for me.  Maybe we'll go back to it someday.

I'll check out the painting - I've been meaning to go to the old Tate for a while.

Thanks again,

Your old internet pal

Swann

 

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