Abi A middle-aged American expat in London
Simon Her British Husband
Sarah Their next-door neighbour, another American expat, older than Abi
Jule Their upstairs neighbour, an Albanian expat, older than Sarah, short with red hair
A One-Act Play
Set: It is late summer in the present and drought has ravaged the garden of a slowly-collapsing Georgian mansion in leafy North London. A patio separates the dead lawn from the back doors. Unkempt teak chairs straddle uneven pavement and general clutter. Big, blindingly colourful injection-moulded plastic toys limit the space – including a Bob the Builder tricycle. A digital camera is on a white plastic table.
The stage is in darkness. An outdoor patio light flicks on. ABIGAIL, a 39-yr-old American, appears and lights a cigarette. Her husband, SIMON, 40 and Welsh, follows her out and takes a seat. He has a bottle of cold white wine and a glass. He pours.
Simon: Machiavellian in his genius.
Abi: Utterly magnificent performance. Peerless.
Simon: Dare I ask what time it is?
Abi: I know. It’s unbelievable. 7:00 I started his bath running. Two hours and fifteen minutes. (pause) But it’s the last stand when he really comes into his own. Just when I’m about to switch out the light.
Simon: Wait. (imitation of toddler) “I want to see Max and Sarah! I love Max and Sarah.”
They both glance towards Max and Sarah’s flat next door.
Simon: It doesn’t compare to “I love Muddy Waters”, though, does it?
Abi: (imitation of toddler) “I want to watch Muddy Waters on DVD.” Any two and a half year old with that much taste deserves to stay up. He earned it. Honestly, I’m impressed by all of them. Tonight? 8:15? Let’s call Kebin! –. He’s a fucking genius. What does Mommy love to do? Talk to Uncle Kevin. What does Mommy fear? Losing touch with her family in America. That kind of strategizing borders on psychological warfare.
Simon: Reminds me of my first tour in ‘Nam.
Abi: (laughing) I hate it when you say that. You were never in Vietnam. It’s disrespectful to the people who went.
Simon: (dramatically checking for eavesdroppers) Bob the Builder was in Vietnam?
Abi can’t contain her laughter.
Simon: It explains a lot, actually. (pause) That mutual attraction.
Abi: (still laughing) You are not attracted to Bob the Builder! It’s not funny. This is extremely transgressive. I might have to bring it up with Ruth. Seriously.
Simon: (lascivious) But he can fix it.
They sit in silence.
Simon: I got quite a kicking today.
Abi: I know you did. I am sorry.
Simon: You must have enjoyed it a little.
Abi: Well, it is usually me getting beaten to shit in there, Simon.
Simon picks up the camera.
Simon: Why do you have a camera outside?
Abi: I’m working on my first amateur nature documentary. We discussed this.
Simon: Oh, right.
Simon peruses the pictures.
Abi: I want to get a fox later. Their shit is all over the lawn. I figured I could lure one with some cat food.
Simon: (still looking) I must say, that spider looks terrifying.
Abi: I know! The bugs are scary here. Look at the slugs and the snails. Even the babies are creepy. Abi shows Simon some slugs and snails on the wall.
Abi: Are you sure we can’t eat the snails? Steam ‘em up? Some garlic butter?
Simon: Yes. I’m sure.
Abi: These bugs are so strange.
Simon: (unbelieving) Stranger than your house in DC? The cockroaches?
Abi: Sure. Look. I know where I stand with a cockroach. This is like living on the set of James and the Giant Peach.
Simon: (referring to another picture) What is this?
Abi: I saw a tv show once where the ants killed a human baby in retribution for having their ant hill destroyed. So you know, I’m not going to risk it.
They return to the patio together.
Abi: You did have the Sky Repairman.
Simon: Yes, I was quite relieved. Thank you.
Abi: Yeah, don’t mention it. (pause) Do you like Ruth enough? Do you want to switch therapists?
Simon: I think she’s fair enough. I don’t know. Abi: You don’t really want to go, do you?
Simon: I’m willing to go. As long as you keep threatening to kill the Sky Repairman so I have plenty to talk about.
Abi: Look, Ruth said that dealing with the cable company is enough to drive anyone crazy. I dare any sane person not to do the same in my situation. It’s just. I mean, I shouldn’t have threatened to beat the shit out of him on his voice mail. You were right! It was idiotic to create a record.
Simon: Yes, it was.
Abi: And the cable still isn’t working. (pause) I can’t even get results when I’m abusive.
Abi: What are we going to do about the oven?
Simon: The oven?
Abi: The oven is broken. That’s why I haven’t cooked dinner for the last two months.
Simon: It’s been a blessing.
Abi: Simon, we need to get on this so we at least have an oven for Thanksgiving.
Simon: It’s July.
Abi: I’m not joking, Simon. These things take so long.
Simon: We can get one this weekend.
Abi: We can’t just go buy a stove. We don’t know how to install them. We probably need to petition the council to get the broken one removed.
Abi: Weeks. Months.
Simon: Could we have one evening that doesn’t involve a series of case studies about what a terrible place this is?
Abi: He said “zebra” today at school “Zebra!”. And he ends his ABC’s with zed. Zed, not “Z”, Simon.
Simon: That doesn’t matter.
Abi: I can’t . . . What do I know about this country? Dangerous wildlife and third world living conditions. No cable.
Simon: We can fix all that by moving to Oxford.
Abi: No. (sighs) Maybe we have to move to Switzerland.
Abi: Moving to Switzerland. I think that’s what we have to do.
Simon: You want to move to Switzerland?
Abi: Not really. But you don’t want to go to the States and I don’t want to go to Oxford so maybe the fairest thing to do is . . . you know, settle in a neutral country.
Simon: You’re joking, aren’t you?
Abi: Neither of us would be martyrs in Switzerland. We would both just be immigrants. You wouldn’t have to live in my country and I wouldn’t have to live in yours. Maybe then we could be happy.
Simon: (barely audible) I think that’s completely barking.
Abi: I found out the other day that Barking is really a place here.
Abi: I just don’t think insanity is regional Iike that. (pause)
Simon: You would know.
Abi: I’ll tell you what I think it is. At this point, to me insanity is just a huge time commitment. You have to be conscious of your whole life. It’s so time-consuming.
Simon: Thank God you still drink.
Abi: I can’t be a good mom here. What if he grows up as just some middle class drunk here never aspiring to be better?
Simon: That could happen anywhere.
Abi: No. They have a monarchy here – a fundamental assumption that some people are better than others by accident of birth.
Simon: Who’s your president?
Abi: Oh, God. Well. . . . God. You’re right.
Simon: Once again a little louder.
Abi: You are right.
Simon: I am right. Now, come here and tell me you love me.
Abi: Why won’t you just agree to stay in London?
Simon: No, Abi. We’ve been over this a thousand times. I want a house with a yard.
Abi: But then we have to go someplace like Surrey-
Simon: --And we know what you always say about Surrey.
Abi and Simon: Very green and very white.
Abi: Yes. It’s all white people who don’t talk to their neighbours.
Simon: If they don’t meet you, they can’t shun you like an immigrant freak. .
Abi: He goes to school here, Simon and my only friends are Sarah, American and Jule, Albanian. (incredulous) And Alexa who’s Armenian. Wow. I’m limited to places that begin with A.
Simon: You were the one who said Milo was never going to go to school in London.
Abi: Did I?
Simon: When you went with Sarah to see Max’s play.
Abi: Oh, yeah, that was scary. But maybe it’s good to go to a scary school. The world is scary. (pause) But we think he has to go to a good school. I hope that good schools make up for miserable parents. Are the schools in the suburbs really better? Or are they just less scary? Because they’re so white? (pause) I like it here. I like the crime and poverty.
Simon: We’ve been burgled three times and mugged once.
Abi: I didn’t get mugged, you big pansy.
Simon: He was on a motorcycle.
Simon: Old Fatso has to dodge drunks on his way home from nursery. Those boys from the estate spat on you.
Abi: I know, I know. But I probably deserved it. (pause) The kids in his day care have names like Mohammed and people wear burkhas, shalwar kameez and yarmulkes all on our block. Where else in the world can you get that?
Simon: You have an answer for everything.
Abi: God, I do. And I don’t even convince myself. Every time the subject of moving to Oxford comes up I have a warehouse full of reasons why we can’t go. I don’t even know if they’re any good! I don’t even know if I believe them. Maybe I don’t even know the real reason I don’t want to go. It could be hiding in my subconscious.
Simon: I don’t think you need to make it that complicated. You might like it there.
Abi: In my subconscious? I think I would definitely hate living in my subconscious. All the pollution from the big self-loathing factory. All these sooty Olympic tracks where my mind endlessly races. And the big warehouses storing all the reasons we can’t move to Oxford.
Abi looks around
Simon: I meant Oxford.
Abi: But maybe living in my subconscious would be the same as living in West Hampstead. Dead lawns, cracked foundations and bugs everywhere. Do you think that’s what we do? Do you think that we create our surroundings in the image of the lands in our subconscious?
She looks around, alarmed.
Simon: I don’t think “land” is the generally accepted terminology for your subconscious.
Abi: Sure it is. What are all those neural paths crossing?
Simon: Tonight I would say about four acres of Barking.
Abi: See, that got another reason out of the warehouse. Everybody I know in London knows I’m crazy and they’re fine with it. They’re urbane. (frightened) In Oxford I would be shunned for the immigrant freak that I am.
Simon: There is no way that the people of Oxford could hate you as much as you hate yourself.
Simon refills their glasses.
Abi: Thank you. (she thinks again) God, we might really have to move to Switzerland.
Simon: We don’t have to move Oxford.
Abi: I think your heart is set on it.
Simon: (changing the subject) The lawn really does look terrible.
Abi: That little prick killed our new lawn with weed killer. What kills me is we paid him fifty pounds. (reacting to Simon) Yes, I paid him fifty pounds. I think I should tell him. He needs to know what he did. He thinks he knows everything. But then, everyone does when they’re sixteen, don’t they?
Simon: I don’t think I ever did. I don’t think at that age I thought I knew everything.
Abi: Then you stand before me a man much transformed from his youth.
Simon pours the remainder of the wine into his glass.
Simon: Shall I get you a drink?
Abi: Thank you.
Simon: Do we have any sparkling cold?
Abi: If you’re going, you can just look for yourself, honey.
Simon: The whole time. You beat up on me the whole time.
Abi: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But you know. I don’t want to be in charge.
Simon: That’s all you want.
Abi: Wasn’t this exactly what Ruth busted you on today? Acting like I have to be in charge is just abdicating responsibility for your own life.
Simon considers this.
Simon: Do we have any arsenic?
Abi lights a cigarette as Simon departs. Sarah, her neighbour, enters through the yard. Sarah is in her fifties and American.
Abi: Sarah! How are you?!
They hug each other tight, no kisses first - American style.
Abi: How is it going? How’s Leo?
Sarah: Listen, I don’t want to stay. I just wanted to stop by to tell you something. I’m supposed to meet Jule upstairs. Talk to her. Talk. Leo is great. I think . . . I think I’m going to marry him.
Abi: You just started seeing him.
Sarah: I know it’s crazy.
Abi: Of course it’s crazy. Slow down.
Sarah: I . . .
Abi: How can you trust him?
Sarah: I do. I just do. It’s Leo.
Abi: What about Max?
Sarah: Max loves Leo.
Abi: Are you sure?
Sarah: I think so. I’m going to go with it.
Abi: Yeah, maybe, but it wouldn’t kill you to spend a month before you go with it.
Sarah: No, that’s not true. You have to make it happen. You can’t wait.
Abi: I’ve been married for four years and I’m still not sure. You’ve been married four times and you are sure. I’m just wondering if there’s an issue here.
Sarah: You and Simon are perfect together. You have a great little family.
Abi: I’ll tell our counsellor.
Sarah: You’re in counselling?
Abi: We can’t agree on anything.
Sarah: But that’s just life.
Abi: No. No. If you marry someone, you’re supposed to agree. You’re supposed to be a team.
Sarah: Team, yes. But all teams do is play games together. They get out and play. Together. They don’t have to agree.
Abi: They have to agree where the game is. (Pause) How can you say we don’t need therapy? You’re from California.
Offstage, a toddler calls out for his mummy.
Abi: That’s old fatso. I’ll be right back.
Abi tiptoes out. Simon returns with a glass of wine for Abi.
Simon: Ah, lovely Sarah.
Simon kisses Sarah’s cheek.
Simon: So good to see you, lovely girl.
Sarah: I want to thank you again for helping Max with that essay for school. That was so nice of you.
Simon fills Abi’s glass and gives it to Sarah.
Simon: Yes, well, I’m a nice person. But tell me all about you. How is Leo?
Sarah: Leo’s great. I’ll let Abi fill you in. But we’re getting married.
Simon: What wonderful news.
Sarah: Yes. It’s strange how life works. I don’t understand it at all. (pause) Abi told me you were seeing a counsellor.
Simon: (shocked) Yes.
Sarah: You guys don’t need it.
Simon is silent.
Sarah: You guys are doing fine.
Sarah’s mobile rings in her pocket.
Sarah signals that she will take the call up in the garden and exits. Subdued sounds of her phone conversation are perhaps heard. Abi returns with a bottle of Champagne and two flutes.
Abi: Thank God we have an excuse to break this out! I’m so glad you’re here.
She notices Sarah isn’t there.
Abi: (to Simon) So we did have some sparkling cold. Where is she?
Simon: She had a call. You told her we were seeing Ruth.
Abi: She told me she was getting married. I felt like I owed her some pertinent information. (pause) That’s all she knows.
Simon: I wish you wouldn’t talk about it with other people. People make judgments.
Abi: Oh, God. They’ll make terrible judgments. Like – we’re not perfect! There’s something wrong with everybody. Jule says that learning to accept that is the path to enlightenment.
You know, I was thinking in there, Si. Are Old Fatso’s generation going to hate us for not doing anything about the world?
Simon: You mean the environment?
Abi: The governments. The wars. The creeping fascism.
Simon: We vote.
Abi: How often do we get a chance to vote? And what good does that even do considering who we have to choose from? I think about all those men who fought in World War II. People sacrificed everything for the good of their people. Should we now for his sake?
Simon: Tomorrow we are going over your medication. We can’t go fight in a war.
Abi: We can go door to door in New Hampshire or Iowa before the next election.
Simon: You don’t know what you want.
Abi: No, I don’t. But I know what I don’t want.
Simon: You want to make decisions about your life in order to pre-empt possible criticism from your son. That’s as close as we can get.
Sarah returns. Abi hands her a flute of Champagne. Abi looks around for hers.
Abi: Where’s my Champagne?
Simon: Look, it’s right there in front of you.
Abi: I didn’t see it.
Sarah: I do that all the time.
Abi: Me too. Keys. I do it every morning with my keys.
Sarah: The trick is to take your time and really look. Listen, that was Jule. She wants to know if she can come down and join us.
Abi: Actually, Simon and I were in the middle of something.
Abi indicates her veto to Simon.
Simon: Not at all, sweetheart. Please, Sarah, bring her down.
Sarah: OK, I’ll be right back.
Abi and Simon stand to see Sarah out. She leaves. Simon notices a spider’s web.
Simon: You should get a picture of this one. What a fantastic web. (to the spider) Well done.
Abi: Are you mad at me?
Simon: I just don’t think it’s any of her business. And she’s probably up there telling Jule.
Abi: If I want to tell her, I can.
Simon: And damn the consequences. Who cares what I think?
Abi: I care what you think. But I care what I think too. And it helps to talk to someone.
Simon: I understand that. We’re talking to Ruth.
Abi: I can’t just think about my life for one fifty minute session a week. My brain isn’t built that way.
Abi: I want this to work.
Simon: You want it to work on your terms.
Abi:` YOU want it to work on YOUR terms.
Simon: I don’t see where that’s going to get you.
Abi: I don’t see where that’s going to get YOU.
It is now a joke.
Simon: I will let you have anal sex with me right now.
Abi: What are we doing about dinner?
Simon: Pizza. Pizza.
Abi: We had pizza on Sunday.
Simon: But pizza would be fun.
Abi: Too fatty.
Simon: Do you want to give me a blow job?
Abi: No. Jule and Sarah are coming back.
Simon: You’re not much of a wife, are you?
Abi: (pause) Your son told me to go have a cigarette and leave him alone today. I wouldn’t let him watch Jungle Book three times. I only let him watch it twice.
Simon: You’re a mean mummy.
Abi: I’m not, though. I think I’m very reasonable.
Simon: How about a stir fry?
Abi: You don’t think I’m reasonable?
Simon: I just want some dinner.
Abi: Answer the question.
Simon: No. I won’t answer the question. It’s a ridiculous question. I always say you are a great mother.
Abi: You don’t always say that. You always say your son is a magnificent kid.
Simon: He is magnificent.
Abi: Yes, he is magnificent.
Simon: (mimicking the toddler) “Mummy, go away! Go have a cigarette!”
Abi: I’m gonna burn in hell for smoking.
Simon: Speaking of burning in hell, how is your dear brother Roger?
Abi: I don’t know. I spoke to my parents today and they’re not talking to him. They’re still upset. Remember? He told them he was worried about them because they were going to church with gay people.
Simon: Everyone who goes to church goes with gay people.
Abi laughs then inspects the lawn.
Abi: There is fox shit all over the garden, all over it. Fox conventions, ant conventions. Spiders. What are we supposed to do about all this?
Simon: Nothing. We’re moving.
Abi: Yes. To Switzerland.
Simon is suddenly desperately angry.
Simon: This Switzerland bollocks really is the end, isn’t it?
Abi is suddenly angry with Simon.
Abi: Don’t even say that. Goddamn it, Simon. Don’t even say that.
Abi: We fell in love for a reason. We opened each other’s secret subconscious combination lock of extreme sensitivity, self-loathing and depression.
Simon: That’s utter bollocks.
Abi: We made it to each other’s promised land of self-loathing factories and mega corporations of distrust. We have to clean up the landscape for each other. We have to take care of the environment.
Simon: You’re a strange little wife.
Abi: But admit it! It’s true! I’m right!
Simon: No, but you are very cute.
Abi: (sarcastic) An object lesson in keeping the doors of communication open. Very impressive listening skills.
Simon: Excuse me?
Abi: I swear to God, Simon.
Sarah returns with Jule, an upstairs neighbour, an older American
Jule: I am sorry to come barging in here but Sarah said she’d just been over, and darlings, I wanted to see how you were doing. We haven’t seen you since your birthday, Simon. How are you?
Simon: Lovely Jule. Wonderful to see you. Would you like a drink?
Jule: No. I don’t need anything. (to Abi) I haven’t seen you in ages.
Jule moves Abi to one side for a private conversation. She is aggressive.
Jule: Sarah said you were seeing a therapist with Simon now. I think that’s incredible, darling! How very brave of both of you.
Abi: Umm, are you sure you don’t want a drink?
Jule: Yes. I’m fine.
Jule: So why are you going?
Abi: Because we can’t talk without fighting.
Jule: I can’t talk to Nigel without fighting. That’s normal.
Abi gets weepy.
Jule: Oh, honey, what’s wrong?
Abi: I don’t know. I hate it here. (Bewildered) We were just talking about a separation. I don’t . . . not now.
Sarah and Simon approach them, ready to join the conversation.
Sarah: What are you two whispering about?
Abi: My nature documentary.
Jule: Darling, we need to continue this conversation.
Abi stares at Jule for inspiration.
Abi: Umm. Will you please set up your ipod speakers outside and download my running playlist for us? The nano is still in the dock.
Simon: I’d be delighted.
Simon goes to get his toys.
Abi: You know, whatever works on my toddler pretty much works on him.
Sarah: “The nano is still in the dock.” That didn’t even mean anything five years ago. I remember when we didn’t have faxes. Tapes, even.
Abi refills the drinks. She gives her Champagne flutes to Jule and starts drinking Simon’s wine.
Jule: So what is going on, darling?
Sarah: What is going on? You’re doing a nature documentary?
Abi: Look at these.
Abi hands Sarah the camera and Sarah scrolls through the shots.
Jule: (to Sarah) Well, first, what’s going on with you?
Abi: (to Jule) I met Leo. He’s very cool.
Sarah: (about Leo) I just don’t understand what’s happening. (about a picture) Are wood pigeons really that big? That one looks bigger than your cat.
Abi: (to Jule) Did she tell you her news?
Jule: Yes. I’m very happy for them. (to Sarah) I want you to look after yourself, darling.
This had not occurred to Sarah.
Sarah: Oh, I am.
Jule: (to Abi) What does he like?
Abi: Leo Holland looks like a Vermeer. He looks like he’s from Holland.
Sarah: Is that a compliment?
Abi: Yeah. The tiniest bit pasty, maybe. But he’s great. (pause) He did grab your ass a lot.
Sarah hands Jule the camera and she begins to scroll through the pictures.
Sarah: Yes, he does that.
Abi: Are you ok with the ass grabbing?
Sarah: I’m very ok with it. Very ok.
Jule: Look at that spider. She is so beautiful!
Sarah: You need some pictures of foxes.
Abi: I was hoping to get them.
Jule: They are making such a racket.
Sarah: Those horrible screams.
Jule: You know, those are the females. (to Abi) And what about you? When is your next appointment?
Abi: Next week. We had one today.
She lights a cigarette.
Abi: You know, I started this joke tonight about moving to Switzerland and he got so upset.
Sarah: You guys need to lighten up.
Abi: I know. But we’re both very sensitive, very self-critical people prone to depression.
Sarah: Get to California as fast as you can. Go now. No one is self-critical.
Sarah: It’s good. I mean it.
Abi: (to Jule) We are just having some trouble talking to each other.
Jule: But, honey, you love each other. It’s so obvious.
Jule: You’re crazy to be thinking about moving if this is what you’re going through.
Abi: That’s what the counsellor says.
Jule: She’s smart. You should listen to her.
Abi: But you know Ruth. She’s a little alarmist. She told me – this is confidential -- that she thought it would be at least another six months before we would be able to make a decision together.
Jule: Six months?
Abi: Yeah. That’s crazy. We make decisions together every day. What to have for dinner, for instance.
Sarah: Just let him make the decisions. I love it when someone else makes all the decisions. Leo is great at that.
Abi: You know, Sarah, have you seen our lawn?
Sarah: Yeah. It looks like shit.
Abi: I know. After we paid all that money for the grass carpet.
Jule: It’s not called that name . . . Oh, what do they call it here?
Sarah: I know! I can never think of the name for things here. I don’t know the name of anything.
Abi: You know, the stuff that’s already grown?
Sarah: The stuff that’s rolled up. That stuff is expensive.
Jule: Everything is expensive here.
Sarah: So it died?
Jule: Can you get your money back?
Abi: No, because it kind of got killed.
Sarah: What do you mean?
Abi: I think it was Max. Actually, I know it was. One day while he was home studying he came over . . . it was before he left for the States. The day before he met Leo. He came over and used too much weedkiller.
Sarah: Oh. That’s terrible. I’m so sorry.
Abi: (lying) Look, I don’t care about the lawn. I’m not mad. It’s just I think Max should learn to, you know, make better decisions.
Sarah tries to understand this comment.
Jule: I don’t want to talk about lawns, dearies. I don’t get to see you very often. We need to talk about the important things. (to Abi) What are you going to do?
Abi: I don’t know. Move to Switzerland.
Jule: Now, why can’t you just stay here in London?
Abi: Umm, because we live in a shithole and our kid has asthma and we’ve been broken into three times. I mean. I would stay.
Sarah: Do you want to go back?
Abi: Don’t you?
Sarah: God, yes. Sometimes. California? Living on the beach in warm weather? Yeah.
Abi: Well . . .
Sarah: After Burke died there was so much shit with his family and my family and I thought we’d just stay. I don’t know what I was thinking. Then, you know, we got the flat and I hated it and I wanted to move and I thought, well at least I should get it fixed up. So we did. And I still hated it. I still hate it. But moving back to Santa Monica, I don’t know. I’m not happy any place I live. So I don’t think it’s the place. I think it’s me. I decided to stop and just learn to like it where I am.
Jule: Well, you can think of it this way my sweeties, I can’t go back. My whole street was destroyed. My house, my parents’ house.
Abi: Don’t you ever miss the person you were there?
Jule: No. I am still that person. I am still from Kosovo. But I am in London now and this is my life and I am happy for what we have.
Abi: You make me wish my house in DC was bombed so that I could have a better attitude. How can you be so settled? How do you know who you are here?
Jule: Americans are no good at being immigrants.
Sarah: I may have to agree with you.
Abi: (to Sarah) You know, you remember when NAFTA was being negotiated with Canada and Mexico? I remember being told that the reason the Canadians didn’t like us was because they all had an inferiority complex.
Sarah: I think I heard that too.
Abi: (To Sarah) I’m beginning to think that wasn’t true.
Sarah: Yeah, it almost seems like we were brainwashed.
Jule: No. Not in the States. You have freedoms.
Abi: (to Jule, apologetically) Less than we had. Fewer?
Jule: I love it here. I have a wonderful place to live on a beautiful street.
Abi: (to Sarah) Can you believe we live in the same building?
Jule: Abi, darling, your problem is you don’t appreciate the life you have. The life you’re living. We have the same life, you and I and you don’t see how good it is. You will miss it when it is gone. You won’t have it forever.
Sarah: And Milo is a great kid. He reminds me of Max.
Abi: (terrified) Really!
Jule: You have the parks and the museums. You have the Heath. You have the theatres.
Jule: Look at that spider’s web. It’s so gorgeous. The bugs are so interesting.
Abi: (bemused, confused) Yes.
Jule: And those baby snails. So precious.
Sarah: I gotta go.
Jule: (looks at her watch) I should go make Nigel his dinner.
Abi: You haven’t been looking for your ipod speakers all the time, have you? Sarah and Jule need to go so we need to say goodbye to them.
Simon: (practically saluting) O.K. (to Jule and Sarah) Well, it was lovely to see you. I’m sorry I was detained with my son. (to Abi) He was yelling. He wanted some milk and a cheeseburger.
Abi: You didn’t make him a cheeseburger.
Simon: We had that cheeseburger shaped candy.
Abi: You gave him three ounces of solid glucose?
Simon: Is that bad?
Abi: Well, he’ll either go into insulin shock or he’ll be up all night singing Disney tunes. Is he still up?
Simon: I think he’s asleep now.
Abi: Well, don’t hold them up anymore. O.K? They need to go. (to Jule) Are you going upstairs? Is it better for you to go out through the front door?
Abi leads Jule back into the house.
Sarah: Bye. (as she leaves) You have a wonderful wife by the way.
Simon: Yes. I know. She reminds me continually.
Abi: Don’t you mean continuously?
Simon: Continuously and continually.
Abi: Your genius, sir, lies in your pedantry.
Simon: Well, thank you very much.
Abi: What do you want for dinner.
Simon: I told you already. Pizza. Pizza.
Abi: Jesus, Simon. Why do I always have to be the grown-up? Why do I have to be the one who says salad? Why do I always have to be the one who buys the salad and makes the salad? Why do I have to be the house manager and maid service and nutritionist and you get to be the errant schoolboy? Why? Why?
Simon: Sushi, then.
Abi pauses then laughs.
Abi: That’s pretty funny. Yes to the sushi by the way. (with a cautious glance toward Sarah’s apartment) Do Leo Holland.
Simon: You do it better than me.
Abi: (in thick, bouncy Dutch accent) Hello, my name is Leo Holland. And. Before you make the joke – yes! I am from Holland.
They both crack up.
Abi: I can’t believe he said that. It was too good. Too good.
Simon: Sarah seems as mad as ever.
Abi: I thought she seemed o.k. I told her about Max and the lawn.
Simon: What did she say?
Abi: You know Sarah. She just lets the world kinda wash over her.
Simon: Mad as a balloon.
Abi: You know, Simon, your problem is you think everyone you meet is crazy. When actually, the only thing that all the people you meet have in common is you.
Simon: You’re crazy. (Dutch) Hello! My name is Abi Davies! And before you make the joke- yes! I am officially barking.
Abi: (Dutch) Hello! My name is Simon Davies! And before you make the joke – no! I am not in contact with my own emotions and needs!
Simon: Oh, shut up.
Abi: I’m sorry.
Simon: Just shut up. You take everything too far.
Abi: I’m really sorry, Simon. I was just being funny.
Simon was kidding. They love each other.
Simon: Well, you’ll have to make it up to me with a blowjob.
Abi: O.K. I guess once every six months isn’t too slutty.
Abi hears some rustling in the bushes, grabs the camera and darts to take a picture. She shows Simon.
Abi: Look. I got a fox.
Simon: Very good.
Abi: Very cunning. Life expectancy of five years.
Simon: That’s what you say about the collagen injections in your lips.
They sit for a moment.
Simon: So, Sarah is going to marry Leo. Remarkable.
Abi: Aren’t you going to say it will never last?
Simon: No. I know what it’s like to fall hopelessly in love.
Abi: Do it again. Please?
Simon: Hello. My name is Leo Holland. And before you make the joke – yes! I am from Holland!
They giggle gently into silence.
I don’t really know how much a play this is, as far as my criteria are concerned (don’t take that to heart, I am the first to admit I always may be wrong! Maybe be cause there was not enough gravitas for me. But there was a lot of light-hearted "gravitas" and that is legit enough) but I sure enjoyed it!
I have listed some of your great lines below my commentary that can either stand "quotably" alone or arise perfectly from the situation from whence they came. They kept it moving along for me. I had some terrific chuckles. And you have a certain class of characters down extremely well. I believed everyone of them and how they would talk. It kind of is a “Short Day’s - or Evensong's - Journey Into Night” for this couple.
I feel the same thing will happen tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, with a variation on the theme. “Groundhog Day” kind of thing. But they enjoy it! And if it ends with a "slutty bl*wj*b"…not bad for a days’s work!
I hate to say it, but with the type of humor since you say you have moved from America to England (or humour or as the French say “l’humor anglais (spelling?”) you could do well in Tinseltown! Great timing with the saving line to end a beat…and then it leads into another one.
For me, I wanted more of a heightened dramatic crisis, however. They had a problem, yes, but what was the conflict they faced that came to resolution? Or, maybe that is the point, they do not want a resolution. Is that the point? They enjoy the game? Maybe this is their nightly flirtation? (a'la "private Lives" from Noel Coward. they can't live/live without each other?) Then that is enough. That is the best compliment. You paint the setting pretty good with the words the characters say, giving the actors a lot to do to “create their environment,” so you don’t need much of a set. I would cut back on the upfront description on the specifics of the set, but give a general tone. On a short play, you will never get much of a set, anyway. Costs too much. Limit the need for one upfront as much as you can. (THIS ADDED AFTER SOME SCOTCH AFTER THINKING ABOUT IT - see below at the end of the commentary part: No it is perfect. Just remember you will not have much of a set in a short play.)
One technical problem, but must be dealt with, especially in smaller theatres, smoking in a theatre often causes fire law problems in the States. Insurance goes up like crazy. And fire-laws prohibit it. Maybe make her keep wanting to smoke with one in her hand or mouth all the time and she is trying to quit.
But I give you the utmost compliment: It would be fun to see it performed. Which is the only point!
Now with all that talk of drinking, I am going to go have me some Scotch! Thanks for putting me in the mood.
My advice to the couple: get rid of Ruth and enjoy each other!
in media res
P. S. My advice to the couple: get rid of Ruth! Save their money and probably their minds!
Once i saw your writing i took note of the great lines. Here are the great lines:
At this point, to me insanity is just a huge time commitment. You have to be conscious of your whole life. (I would cut the follow-up "It’s so time-consuming. " as it is repetitive)
I hope that good schools make up for miserable parents.
Everybody I know in London knows I’m crazy and they’re fine with it.
Do we have any arsenic?
(Great exchange in the next two lines)
Sarah: I think so. I’m going to go with it.
Abi: Yeah, maybe, but it wouldn’t kill you to spend a month before you go with it.
I’ve been married for four years and I’m still not sure. You’ve been married four times and you are sure. I’m just wondering if there’s an issue here.
I’ll tell our counsellor. (This sums up contemporary modern life of a certain class of people!)
How can you say we don’t need therapy? You’re from California. (I've lived in LA...very good.)
Sarah said you were seeing a therapist with Simon now. I think that’s incredible, darling! How very brave of both of you.
I can’t talk to Nigel without fighting. That’s normal.
You know, whatever works on my toddler pretty much works on him.
Get to California as fast as you can. Go now. No one is self-critical.
Americans are no good at being immigrants.
Can you believe we live in the same building? (perception is all!)
Well, he’ll either go into insulin shock or he’ll be up all night singing Disney tunes.
As a one-act I think it is complete. The brilliantly written characters carry it. I'd like to see it as a full-length, however--filled with twists and complications. These are some of the best written characters I've seen (especially of late).
I cannot begin to tell you how wonderfully I enjoyed reading your dialogue and being in the company of a certain class and intelligence. I more often than not read your lines twice. Once for the sense and once so I could act them out with silent lips moving. Very delicious and sharp.
I can't tell you how encouraging that review was, Edd. Thanks. I approach the 30 day challenge with more confidence now. . .
I have been crazy busy at work and of course also just crazy. My husband summitted Kiliminjaro this week while I was in Geneva for business In Geneva our new CEO had us drum and sing West African songs to each other for three hours and then go to the oldest church in Switzerland (Roman, 450 a.d.) to hear an a capella choir. You couldn't make that up.
My parents, who recently moved to Florida, flew over to look after the kid while I was in Geneva. I essentially could be living Act II.
I haven't been able to write on most days lately and I have found it a little frustrating. I find a useful substitute is to just think about the characters and let my imagination speak to me. Useful, but hard work.
Last edited on Sun Oct 8th, 2006 12:26 pm by Swann1719
agree with Edd: want more. Sharply distinguished characters, and real flow to the dialogue. The playing with each other that both masks and reveals real faultlines is particularly well done--this could be expanded and explored at greater length, the manueverings that a couple has to do to keep a partnership afloat. And I want to meet Leo.
Swann, well done. The compelling and sprightly dialogue fascinated me from the first moment and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The emotional range of the piece is very extensive, and to me that is the real power supplying the forward motion. Stage action is negligible, obviously, just pouring drinks and looking at a camera and so forth. The play moves because of the complex relationship and immediate situation of Abi and Simon. I think of The Chalk Garden, for instance, as a play in the same vein. However, the splendidly charged atmosphere that exists when Abi and Simon are onstage does not develop (for me) when focus shifts to the other characters. I never really became very interested in Sarah or whether she will marry Leo or not. Jule, also, didn't generate anywhere near the emotional intensity of the married couple. In fact, they were more of a force for de-emotionalizing the primary thread, cooling things down. Abi and Simon are so immediately real and vibrant together that Jule and Sarah suffer by comparison. But I don't know that this is a huge problem. Dare I suggest that you ratchet up the emotional aspects of Sarah's and Jule's interaction with the couple? Would that make the whole play unbearably tense? Perhaps it would. Currently the episodes with them give us breathers in between the pleasant and purposeful bouts the couple engage in, and this easing off might be necessary in performance. I mention this only as a vague suggestion, then. The other caution I offer comes from several tidbits of background that hinted at something I needed to know more about. I didn't know if "we need to look at your medication" is a joke or if Abi is really taking something. If so, I want to know what it is. Is it a joke when Simon lies about his "first tour" in Vietnam? Or is this real? On the page it's not as clear as it would be in performance, but if he's lying regularly, that says something very important about his character and I'd like to make sure about it. Later we get an echo of that in Abi's "first nature documentary," which made me wonder if she was lying too. Small points, but the delicacy of these characters and how well they are drawn makes the slightest lack of clarity stand out. Also, descending to the very picky, I can't imagine an American saying, "Simon and my only friends." That's thoroughly British. Some wonderful things: the imitating of a child's voice and of the Dutch fellow, the regular wit (neural paths "crossing" the land of the subconscious), consistent characterizations, the fact that the characters are constantly thinking and we can see their minds working. I congratulate you on a wonderful little play that was delightful to read. Tom