Two young men sit on opposite sides of the stage. A large
metallic machine is framed between them. Mark is on the left
deep in frustrated thought, obviously bored and angry.
Stephen on the right, is searching through a bucket picking
out cigarette butts and throwing them behind him. Finally he
finds one that is the right size and he sits back and lights
I can't believe you are actually
You just want some of it don't you?
I can contract hepatitis on my own,
thank you very much.
Well forgive me for having my
immunizations up to date, I need a
He continues puffing.
You know Mark. You need to just get
over yourself and light one up.
damn these little things...
He throws the finished cigarette behind him and begins to
search for another. Quickly he finds another one, not as
sizeable, but it will have to do. He puts it to his mouth and
is about to light it.
And now we roll the dice again!
Will you finish with the cigarettes
already? This place isn't exactly
well ventilated you know.
So what? It's our last day here.
And then it's paradise from here on
It fuckin better be. We still
haven't figured out how it works.
I thought that by the end of today
it would just work.
Yea. Like by magic or something...
What if there is a trick to it?
What if we are missing something?
We're not missing something you big
worrier. Hell, I already found the
can with cigarette butts in it. The
machine has already given us so
Why can't you just take this
I've been in here for three days
with you... I'm serious alright?
Forgive me if I want to try and
spice up the boredom a little bit.
Just don't forget why we're here.
You know I've been thinking about
that for a while now. Why the heck
are we here? Oh yea, a homeless guy
told us we should come see the
No, were here because he used to be
a homeless guy.
Yea. I know... What's the first
thing you are going to get?
Oh I don't know yet. Probably I'll
just give a lot of the money to my
mother. She'll have a better idea
of what to do with it.
Yea...for me it all really depends
on how we get the money. If we win
the lottery like the hobo I'll
probably ya know like invest some
of it. Mutual funds probably, I
hear they are a safe bet.
Is that how the hobo got his money?
From mutual funds?
No from the lottery.
I don't know actually, but how else
do you explain the fancy suit and
car all of a sudden?
But yea. So if like the money is a
lump sum, I just figure a good
first bet is to invest some of it.
Otherwise I'd have to see how big
each payment is before I decided
what to buy.
I just want to know how it works
already. I figured we probably
wouldn't learn all of the secrets
right away, but we should at least
know some by now, right?
You think maybe the cigarette butts
were clues? Cause uh... I smoked
some of them.
Past the filter by the sound of it.
You think doing that might have
ruined the clue?
No you idiot. The machine itself is
where the clues would be. Some high
school kids probably left those
Good thing too.
He picks up another one and lights it.
Are you serious right now? Is this
seriously happening? Put that down,
wait until after tonight and then
you can buy all the smokes you
(with a smoke still in his mouth.
Super casual) depending of course
on how big the payments are. If its
a lump sum I just gotta invest it
first... I'll just take the bucket
here with me when we leave. (shakes
the bucket of cigarette butts)
Trust me, you'll be able to have
all the mutual funds and whole
unused-cigarettes you want.
So put that bacteria-fest out
already will you?
(takes a puff) Ok fine (takes
another, almost puts it out and
then takes 2 more quick puffs and
then puts it out)
Mark just stares. Pause.
It was almost done anyhow... I
think I'm going to take a little
Mark still staring
Uh yea. Sounds good.
Stephen lays down and sleeps on the machine. Mark just shakes
his head. Stephen cannot seem to get comfortable. Moving
restlessly from one position to the next. Finally he lays
down on the ground and begins to sigh and grunt in
frustration. Mark appears to have expected this as he watches
Stephen's every move with restrained disdain. Finally Stephen
sits up again.
I can't sleep.
You don't say?
This floor is seriously lacking the
comforts I expect from a napping
It's a cave.
Exactly. What can we do in a cave?
Apparently you can't sleep in here.
Then light-hearted discussion it
is! Choose a topic my friend.
Nothing is relevant anymore. I know
all of your stories and you know
all of mine. I get more
entertainment out of watching your
boredom than I do out of all of
your pointless stories.
Well that feels a little harsh.
Maybe if you were to contribute a
little to conversation. An anecdote
here and there wouldn't kill you.
But making me have to hear one more
of your stupid stories and I might
just have to kill myself... but not
before I kill you. It just wouldn't
be fair having me be dead, knowing
that you are still alive, and
telling your awful tales. If I go,
you go. So if you think about it;
it's in both of our best interests
for you to just shut up.
Well...what's life without a little
bit of risk involved? I'll die of
boredom one way or another and at
least with a story I know you'll be
coming with me. And in the meantime
I'm not bored and you are annoyed
to tears. So please save the
killing for the end and in the
meantime try to contribute...
Stephen ponders for a moment, he stands up. Thinking of a
story to tell. After a few paces he comes up with one.
Do you remember that girl Diana?
You mean that blonde I used to
date? The blonde Diana you only
know because of me? That Diana?
Yes, I know her.
Well... Did you hear what happened
What do you mean "what happened to
her?" We broke up and I've been
happier ever since.
No I mean after you guys broke up.
This happened... uh like three
I didn't hear anything, is she OK?
Depends on your definition of OK,
she seemed a little shaken up by it
when I ran into her.
Well what happened to her? Spit it
Stephen stands and turns away from Mark and all of a sudden
becomes keenly interested in his nails.
Oh so now you want to hear one of
my "pointless" stories. Does this
mean we don't have to die after I
Depends does it actually have a
Doesn't really matter considering
you appear to be the literary,
judge and jury, on the matter. I
guess it all comes down to your
opinion. Which obviously differs
from my own.
Well as you said; what's life
without a little bit of risk...
Stephen Gets a big smile on his face. Walks over to Mark and
sits down, he puts one arm around Mark's shoulder and the
other gesturing out into the distance.
Well it all happened when I was
working down by the docks. She was
coming by looking for ride to
someplace, uh... I forget the name
but she seemed really distraught.
So I asked her what was wrong, and
then she literally broke down and I
thought she was about to start
crying. But then she just locked
eyes with me and she had this look
in her eye of terror and disbelief.
Mark rips away Stephen's arm from his shoulder.
Why? What happened to her?
Let me tell the story Mark. I'm
trying to get through it
chronologically. I figured it might
build a little suspense and maybe
add to your enjoyment of the story.
Instead you just have to keep on
Getting up as if to challenge Stephen
What do you mean enjoy the story?
If you say she got hurt or
something I'm not going to enjoy
Stephen gets up to try and calm Mark.
Yea, but you will be more
interested if I tell it this way.
It all adds gravity to the tale, or
at least it would if you didn't
keep stopping me right in the
Mark getting slightly more aggressive, with every point he
attempts to make he pushes Stephen a little.
Yea, but you are insinuating that I
might somehow get some sick
pleasure or something out of her
pain. Which just isn't the case.
And besides you were asking me to
contribute to conversation. And
now, when I finally do you lambast
me for it.
Stephen backs off and sits down.
Well that's not what I'm saying OK?
And I'm sorry if you took it that
way, that wasn't my intention. Can
I just keep going with the story
OK, well like I said I ran into her
at work and she seemed really
freaked out. I'm not even sure if
she really recognized me at first.
She was just asking for a ride on
one of our boats. I thought she was
just being cold with me but now the
more I think about it. She was just
scared and didn't recognize me. Now
this was a Friday so we we're busy
filling orders before the weekend.
And we couldn't spare a boat to
ferry her across.(At least not at
that exact moment.) So I took my
break, that way we could talk and I
could figure out what was going on
with her. It took me a while to
convince her to get lunch with me.
But when we finally sat down, and
she got her food, she couldn't wait
to tell me what happened to her.
What did she say happened??
Get this, she said she was abducted
Mark gets up and shakes his head in disbelief. A strange
smile on his face.
Really? She always was kind of
Stephen walks slowly towards Mark.
That's what I thought at first but
she seemed really convinced. It was
that look in her eyes that made me
believe her. She said she was
walking home late at night, and
taking a shortcut through the
woods; when they found her. She
went missing for three days, and no
one knew where she was. She said
she didn't really remember
everything at first, but said that
it started coming back to her in
her dreams. Terrible night mares
that were perfectly vivid.
Indistinguishable from real life.
And in her last dream they
mentioned a plan and that they
would be coming back. That's why
she was getting out of town, so
they couldn't find her again.
Mark begins to pace impatiently, his hands fidgeting at his
What a bunch of crap. She was
always making up stuff for
Then why leave on her own? Wouldn't
she want someone around to get
Well she got attention from you
Yea I guess, for about 20
minutes... You know for someone of
such faith you really jump to the
conclusion that other people are
either stupid or lying really
Mark stops for a moment standing perfectly still, says the
following line, and then keeps pacing.
Well they usually are.
Unless of course they agree with
Well then, that must make me bright
Depends on who is acting as judge
Mark approaches Stephen.
What's that supposed to mean?
I'm just saying you can think
something is the truth and it
doesn't matter how much you believe
in it. It's just not true.
Grabbing at Stephen's shirt.
If you are trying to say something,
just come out and say it. Stop
beating around the bush here.
Rips Mark's hands off. And backs away.
Well we have been in here for three
days... Just like how long we we're
told to wait. And still nothing has
happened... The hobo probably just
lied to us.
Have you been thinking this the
Turning his back to Mark
Not really, just once the
excitement wore off I got to
Mark approaches Stephen. Stops center stage.
Then its your fault it isn't
working. How do you expect the
Machine to work if you don't even
believe in it?
Stephen walks to center stage to challenge Mark.
We don't know how it works. Its
absurd of you to accuse me of that
it is completely unfounded.
Unfounded is it? You haven't been
serious about this the whole time.
You've completely ruined this for
Ruined what? A potentiality? How
could you not have gone into this
without a bit of skepticism?
Cause that wasn't the fucking
point. The point was to come in
here and fucking earn it. To earn
everything we deserved. To give up
three days of our lives and then be
reborn into whatever new life we
wanted. And now because of you, we
Stephen calms down a little and backs away.
You don't even know that yet. It
could be fine. I was just saying
how I was surprised nothing had
happened yet. I thought I was
expressing a worry we both shared.
I guess I was wrong.
You're damn right you were. Now I
might lose everything. You are
always thinking of yourself! You
even knew how much I needed this.
But you couldn't even give me three
days. And who even knows if we can
try it again.
We've been in here for three days.
We've run out of food and water.
We're fucking bored, and I think we
need to get a grip.
Mark walks over to the machine and lays his head against it.
He wraps his arms around it as you would a child.
Damn right you do. You need to get
your priorities straight and focus
on what you want. Like you should
have been doing this whole time.
Hopefully it's not too late.
Look at yourself. You've completely
lost it. I thought maybe worst case
scenario we'd lose three days and
laugh later about how we had
nothing better to do than sit in a
godforsaken cave. But now I see
I've lost three days and a best
friend. I'm out of here.
As Stephen goes to leave Mark jumps after him.
You can't leave! You have to stay.
Or you'll ruin it for both of us.
Ruin what? Nothing has happened.
Nothing is happening. And nothing
is going to happen. That's why I'm
leaving. Stay if you want...
Mark grabs Stephen by the shoulder and holds him in place.
You aren't going...
Stephen, getting frustrated, removes Mark's hand. Takes a
step towards the door.
Yes. I am...seee?? Here I am, I'm
No you aren't.
Mark grabs Stephen by the shoulder and yanks him back.
What the hell is your problem?
You. You always have been.
Grabbing at Stephens collar.
Stop it. Stop!
You always ruin everything!
Mark clinches his hands around Stephen's throat. They
struggle back and forth, Stephen claws at Mark's face. Mark
turns his head away and uses more force until finally Mark
gets Stephen to the ground. The struggling increases in
intensity until finally it stops, Stephen lays dead. Mark
stands up and walks to the side of the machine dragging
Stephen behind him.
You are going to work... Aren't
you... Everything is going to turn
out just fine. Everything will be
fine. It's all going to work out.
Fade to Black
It will work, life will get easier.
Life will be...
The play has an interesting premise. The machine is absurd, no doubt, but I'm not sure how absurd the two characters are, or how absurd you intend them to be. Their reason for being there is absurd, sure, but you can heighten the absurdity by giving a few more details of why they went there/why they had nothing else to do. Maybe. I think of the the plays of Beckett and how his characters, within the first minute, reveal themselves as absurd. In Waiting for Godot, for example, we learn that neither character can remember what he did the day before and it's revealed that one of them rarel takes off his shoes. The guy lighting up old butts--that's good. But how about the other guy?
Towards the end the dialoague of both characters become more distinct. In the beginning they sound similar. There are a few expressions that seemed to be out of character, such as "stop beating around the bush" and other worn expressions. I know that people use these expressions, and I'll have characters use them in my own writing--it's realistic--but in certain parts of this play I felt that it was odd. That's just me. I stumbled on a few such expressions.
That's just a first reading. I wanted to get these things across since I have to leave now, but I plan to write more later. I enjoyed the play, but I have to read it again.
Okay, reading it again I have to mention a few more things. It's fun, the verbal exchange is entertaining and revealing. I felt more tension between the two characters on the second reading, but I wonder if that's only because I already knew what was going to happen.
Since the only thing that really "happens" in the story is that one person kills the other, I think the method of murder should be of significance, if possible. I have no suggestions, of course.
So first off I just want to say that I am the same guy as SnowArmadillo. I forgot my password and password recovery didn't work, for some reason(s) unknown. But I read your post and I really wanted reply so I made a new login and now here we are.
Anyways, thanks a lot for your post. You alleviated many worries and created new and exciting ones. I'm struggling here in my second draft. I know my characters very well (we're golly good friends by now) but I completely see your point on making my characters distinct. Now what I'm having a hard time doing, is how do I give them more definition and a background without too much expository dialogue? My setting is restrictive (why are caves such isolated places?!) so how much can I have them do? What types of devices make expository dialogue more interesting? Is there any plays you know of that do this really well?
Thanks a lot Celsun for reading my play not just once, but twice. I appreciate that you found it capable of being read more than a single time. Oh and about those sayings like "beat around the bush" I'm ashamed to have used them, I've put big stars around all of them and hope to find more interesting things to say that have the same meaning. Thanks again.
Perhaps you should forget all about the cave for a bit just so you can explain the characters to me. How would you describe each of them? I understand you don't want a lot of exposition in your play (and I agree it shouldn't be in there) but go ahead and describe them to me. I'm sure I can make a few suggestions on how to flesh them out a bit, and even if you don't agree with me, at least you'll have something to work your ideas against.
Hmm... Both characters are young men down on their luck. Stephen is easy-going with a bit of a silly streak through him. Mark is usually similar, but his situation is desperate and its eroded his sanity; favoring instead a weird optimism based on blind faith. More so than Mark, Stephen tries to find the good in everything. Mark's desperate situation causes him to obsess and stress and life's beauty is lost amongst his pain.
I want to have the character's idiosyncrasies to be prominent yet I want to delineate the stress they are enduring (being stuck in a cave for three days takes its toll). I know its complicated for a 15 page play, but I thought it better to give more detail as opposed to less.
I read your play with interest – you certainly created an atmosphere and kept me interested enough to keep reading to the end (something of an achievement as I have an attention span akin to your average goldfish). The similarities to Godot have already been noted – but I was also reminded of Pinter’s ‘Dumb Waiter’ – another closed two-character play culminating in an act of extreme violence. One thing that Pinter manages to do, that I don’t really see in your play is a sense of impending and escalating menace – you are not sure what is going to happen, but you know something will happen. For most of the duration of your play I don’t get any sense that they couldn’t just walk away and go back to their ‘normal’ lives with nothing lost or gained. Perhaps if the stakes were loaded a little more so that they had given up something for this opportunity to be with the machine.
Just thought of another example of two characters apparently passing time ‘aimlessly’ but in a way that tells the audience a lot about them and their relationship – the opening of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’.
I agree with the other commentator who said that the means of death should be more pertinent. Could it involve the machine in some way? Maybe he could bang Stephen’s head against it? Just a thought.
A technical note: not sure what it’s like where you are from, but here in the UK smoking on stage is a big issue. In Scotland for instance it is completely banned. In a recent play about Churchill the actor was forbidden from lighting up Winnie’s trademark cigar. I only mention this because the act of actually smoking the cigarette butts seems central to your character.
Anyway, congratulations, it’s always an achievement to get something of this length onto the page. I think that if you can build up the stakes a bit and escalate the tension, you have an interesting little play.
I hope these random comments are of some help. PS - I had the same problems as you with the whole member/guest status thing.
Right in the beginning of the play you could have Stephen find the good in their situation (which is clearly bad) as Mark shows his desperation. It could be something as having Stephen’s first line read: “It’s not so bad.” Then you show Mark desperate, fidgeting. When he responds in a serious way, and Stephen shows some silliness. You’ll have instant tension and their differing characteristics are in evidence.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to continue writing, all in one sitting, the rest of the play, as if you haven’t written it yet. You can then compare both and see what you want to keep.
I completely agree about escalating the tension and I'm working on adding that in my second draft. I really want Mark's desperation to darken everything onstage. I was considering making Mark have gambling debts to pay, so he absolutely needs the machine to work or the loan sharks will get him. My issue with that idea is that it seems so cliche. So I'm trying to write scenarios to the same ends that haven't been seen as often. But of course that's always a struggle.
As for the death I was just hoping that the immense violence would stick with people. The tableau of choking someone to death just seems haunting. But I want to make it more significant. How is death used in other plays to portray a central message? In romeo and juliet, their suicide shows their devotion to eachother and how they couldn't stand living in a world without the other. I'd love to get a message across like that but I'm no Billy Shakespeare. Is their other plays that have powerful death scenes like this? I'll look into 'Dumb Waiter' it sounds like a play I should add to my summer reading list.
With smoking onstage, I wasn't too worried about it for now. I'm hoping to put the play on here at campus. They've used smoking onstage before so I'm sure its ok. Alternatively, I thought I'd just put baby powder into cigarette butts and have Stephen blow out intead of inhale. I figure that might mimic smoke fairly well. What do you think?
Thanks, I'm trying to make their differences more apparent as I escalate the stakes. The different ways they reacte to the same situation will hopefully help them have their own identities. I'm just writing a whole bunch of different situations for them with varying stakes. Various scenes that as of right now don't exactly fit but I'm hoping that as I continue writing eventually it will all come together.
Thanks a lot guys. All your help is making my play so much better.