THESE PLAYS ARE DONE SEPARATELY OR AS AN EVENING OF ONE ACTS
The Closet Corpse
Will the Real Dead Body Please Stand Up?
A one-act retro COMEDY performed in NYC and in San Jose, CA
Cast of Characters in order of appearance:
Gwen Harris - Young, energetic, warm, impulsive. Intuitively bright, but is afraid of living life to the fullest.
George Hoover - Young, logical, sensible, intelligent. Intense man who finds it easier to believe in causes than people.
Officer Fabiani - Young. Considers himself another Baretta and above his current assignment. Does anything he can to make his beat interesting.
Lt. Winedragon - A few months away from retirement. Has seen it all and deals with everything with a sense of humor and detachment. Finds his “charge”, Fabiani, most trying.
Mrs. Gravelle - An older woman. Driven to desperate acts by a set of circumstances totally beyond her control. ”The lovable villain.”
Mr. Gravelle - Older man. Lives in his own little world unaware of others. Totally bewildered by what’s happened.
A TYPICAL LOW RENT, NEW YORK CITY STUDIO APARTMENT, LATE AT NIGHT. THERE IS A MURPHY BED AGAINST THE BACK WALL, IN THE MIDST OF SEVERAL BOOKCASES. A SMALL, OLD FASHIONED KITCHENETTE IS UPSTAGE RIGHT, COMPLETE WITH A CLOTHESLINE FROM WHICH HANGS PLASTIC BAGS OF FOOD. STAGE LEFT IS THE DOOR TO THE HALL. THE ROOM HAS A MUCH PAINTED AND SLIGHTLY USED LOOK. GWEN IS SLEEPING IN THE PULL-OUT BED. THERE IS A LONG AND LOUD WOMAN’S SCREAM FROM UPSTAIRS. GWEN SITS BOLT UPRIGHT TRYING TO ORIENT HERSELF.
Gwen: Oh, my God! Don’t panic, lady, I’ll be right there! THERE IS ANOTHER SCREAM AND STRUGGLING FROM UPSTAIRS. Hang on, I’m coming! STARTS TO GET UP What am I doing? DIALS 911. Hurry, hurry! No answer? Where are they? DIALS “0”. Operator, get me the police! What do you mean, “what precinct”? How would I know? 327 West 49th Street. 18th precinct! Thank you!! Now would you get it? There’s a woman being murdered upstairs! … Police?
THERE IS A POUNDING ON THE FRONT DOOR.
Gwen: INTO PHONE VERY FAST. Help! MAKES THIS PHRASE INTO ONE LONG WORD. This is Gwen Harris. There’s a woman being murdered at 327 West 49th Street on the fourth floor and now he’s after me! SHE HANGS UP THE PHONE.
George: FROM OFF-STAGE. Hey, what’s going on in there?
Gwen: What do you want?
George: I want to come in. I’m your neighbor from downstairs.
Gwen: RELIEVED. Oh, thank God! Wiat a minute! How do I know that? How do I know that you haven’t finished her off and you’re here to start in on me? THERE IS ANOTHER SCREAM AND THE SOUND OF GLASS BEING SMASHED.
George: You heard that scream, didn’t you?
George: I’m down here, aren’t I?
Gwen: Right. Wait a minute. SHE UNLOCKS ALL FIVE LOCKS AND OPENS THE DOOR. THERE IS ANOTHER SCREAM AND TWO LOUD SHOTS FROM A REVOLVER.
George: ENTERS JUST AS THE SHOTS ARE FIRED. HE AND GWEN CLUTCH AT EACH OTHER. Good Lord!
Gwen: Shut the door! Lock all the locks.
George: HE OBEYS. Did you call the police?
Gwen: Yes, did you? THEY HEAR STAGGERING FOOTSTEPS AND THE SOUND OF A BODY FALLING TO THE FLOOR. We’ve got to do something!
George: What? What?
Gwen: PUSHES HIM TOWARD THE DOOR. Go up there. Go help her!
George: Me?! Somebody’s got a gun!
Gwen: But she could be hurt.
George: I’d put money on it.
SOMEONE POUNDS ON THE DOOR.
Gwen: Who is it? Who’s there?
Fabiani: FROM OFF-STAGE. The police. You the lady who called about a murder?
George: That was fast!
Gwen: Yes, yes! It’s the lady right above me.
Fabiani: O.K. Stay where you are. I’ll take care of it.
George: Did you hear what he said? “Stay where we are”! A person could get killed in this neighborhood. Why do you have so many locks on your door?
Gwen: Because a person could get killed in this neighborhood! What are you doing up here? I mean, if you knew it wasn’t me that was in trouble why are you up here?
George: I just moved in today. I came up to call the police. They haven’t put in my phone yet.
THE SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS CAN BE HEARD OVERHEAD.
Gwen: I wonder what’s going on up there.
George: I wonder if I can sell my lease.
Gwen: How can you think about yourself at a time like this? What about that poor woman up there?
George: I don’t see you beating a path to her door.
Gwen: That’s different.
George: Why is it different? You’ve been liberated. You’ve got just as much right to be a dead hero now as I do.
Gwen: Let’s not argue the point.
George: When a woman says that, she’s usually in the wrong.
Gwen: Are you one of those?
George: “those”? One of “those”? Yes, I am. I am also one of “these”, not to mention one of “them”.
Gwen: REALIZES SHE IS BEING MADE FUN OF AND BECOMES ANGRY. I think you’d better leave now.
THERE IS A KNOCK AT THE DOOR.
George: Who is it?
Fabiani: FROM OFF-STAGE. Officer Fabiani. Open up. HE ENTERS LOOKING DOWN AT A STOP WATCH. HE IS WEARING A MOD, TIE DYED OUTFIT, REMINISCENT OF THE SEVENTIES, COMPLETE WITH LONG HAIR, HEADBAND AND SUN GLASSES.
George : Who – who are you?
Fabiani: I’m the heat.
Gwen: The heat?
Fabiani: The fuzz. GLANCES DOWN AT STOPWATCH. Beat my old record of one minute and forty-seven seconds. Lucky I was in the neighborhood.
George: What neighborhood would let a cop dress like that?
Fabiani: Transferred two days a week from the narc squad to the nuisance squad and I don’t always get a chance to change. Next time I’ll wear a tux. Now, what’s going on down here?
George: What’s going on UP there?
Fabiani: Well, looks like there’s been one hell of a fight up there but that’s all. I can’t find anything, or anybody for that matter.
Gwen: But that’s impossible. We heard her screaming.
George: Like a banshee! Then we heard two shots fired …
Gwen: Then a thud.
George: She was screaming like a banshee.
Gwen: You said that.
George: It bears repeating.
Fabiani: Well, no one else heard anything.
Gwen & George: What?
George: How can that be?
Gwen: I don’t understand.
Fabiani: The neighbors next door aren’t home and the old man to the left claims he didn’t hear a thing.
Gwen: Well, fine.
Fabiani: That’s not to say something didn’t happen. A lot of people don’t want to get involved.
George: But she was murdered.
Fabiani: I can’t find a body and there’s no blood. … What were you two doing in this apartment?
Gwen: Now see here, he happens to live downstairs.
Fabiani: It’s nothing to me, sweet lady.
George: She means that’s where I was when the screaming started.
Fabiani: Well, we’ll look into it. But for right now forget the whole thing and go back to what you were doing before. HE WINKS AT GEORGE, CLEARS HIS THROAT AND EXITS.
Gwen: STUNNED “We’ll look into it”?
George: EQUALLY STUNNED “Forget the whole thing”?
Gwen: So … well … would you like a cup of coffee?
George: If you don’t mind making it.
Gwen: It’s only instant. Besides, I’d rather not be alone just yet.
George: I know what you mean.
Gwen: How do you take it?
George: I don’t. Tension’s very bad for my ulcer.
Gwen: I mean your coffee.
George: With lots of milk. I’m not supposed to have coffee. You know, you really don’t need that many locks. Two would do you just as well. The way the door is built, it would give with a couple of good shoves at the hinges, anyway.
Gwen: You’re kidding. For five years I’ve lived very securely with that door and now, on the night of my very first murder, you have to tell me that. Thank you. What makes you so sure?
George: I’m a carpenter.
Gwen: A carpenter with an ulcer?
George: DEFENSIVELY. Why not?
Gwen: I don’t know. When I think of a carpenter, I think of Christ. In can’t imagine him with an ulcer. Besides, I would think carving out all those pieces of wood would relax you.
George: What are you? In the theatre?
Gwen: No, I’m a waitress and why did you say that?
George: Say what?
Gwen: That I’m in the theatre. Do I have a theatrical manner about me or something?
George: I didn’t mean to insult you. It’s just that you seem the type that would go into show business. You’re very pretty and very emotional.
Gwen: Emotional? I’m emotional? Well, I don’t know why! Nothing out of the ordinary has happened around here. I mean, murder is so old hat to me. Seriously, I just feel as though I haven’t done anything for her. You know?
George: I know.
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A one-act retro COMEDY performed at Playwrights Horizons in NYC and San Jose, CA
Cast of characters in order of appearance:
The Bellboy – One of the world’s oldest bellboy wearing a well-worn bell hop suit. He has seen them all come and go.
Francesca Glasscock – Mid forties, self-assured, imposing, aristocratic with a touch of crudeness, the “self-made woman.”
Maggie Foster – Mid twenties, first-born child of a domineering mother, has decided to fly from the nest … with the help of a good man.
Michael Grant – Late twenties, a dedicated doctor with a mind of his own, can’t be swayed by anyone not even Francesca.
Edward Foster – Early twenties, Maggie’s kid brother, has found Maggie and his mother too much and has decided to go out on his own.
Rocco – Late forties, hard as nails with a soft touch for Eddie, has rescued a lot of people, but Francesca is the “broad” he’d like to throw back into a burning building.
THE BELLBOY AND FRANCESCA ENTER INTO A 30’S STYLE HOTEL ROOM WHERE EVERYTHING -- RUG, WALLS, BED, FURNITURE, DRAPES, ETC -- IS IN THE COLOR BEIGE. IT IS EARLY EVENING.
Bellboy: Well, here we are, ma’m.
Francesca: GAWKING. This can’t be the only hotel room in Baltimore. After driving around this stupid town for hours don’t tell me I’m going to be stranded in a room that looks like the inside of a canvas laundry bag?
Bellboy: Yes ma’m. This is the “Crème de la Crème” room.
Francesca: Why, it looks like someone took a bucket of paint, a twenty foot roller, and went berserk! This place is appalling! Call the manager at once and tell him this vile room is not fit for human consumption.
Bellboy: Yes, ma’m. I’m calling him now, ma’m. DIALS THE PHONE
Francesca: IGNORING HIM, SHE BEGINS TO PACE BACK AND FORTH, RANTING LOUDLY. Driving around some stupid highway for eight stupid hours without the benefit of one stupid road sign. I cancel my flight. I rent a car. New York is only four and a half hours away from Washington. It’s a lovely drive. Turnpikes all the way. I read that in the The New York Times Travel Section. The Times, however, neglected to mention Baltimore looming like some bird of prey in between.
Bellboy: Mr. Johnson? There seems to be a problem here regarding the “Crème de la Crème” room.
Francesca: I was warned about Baltimore. Oh, it was done very carefully. Veiled warnings. A raised eyebrow. A quivering lower lip. I thought it was my low cut dress. It was Baltimore. Friends said to me, “Why don’t you use the Beltway? The one that goes around Baltimore. That way you’ll avoid the mid-town tunnel traffic.” Hah! So I listen to my friends and I took the Beltway, better known as 695 to its victims, and what was my reward?
Bellboy: PUTS ONE FINGER IN THE EAR NOT COVERED BY THE PHONE. What’s that, sir? You’ll have to speak up.
Francesca: They did it to me on a cloverleaf turn. Such an innocent name. Would someone tell me why they have to name that soul-destroying fiend after some sweet little plant? It should be called what it is, a malevolent maze of pavement deliberately concocted to complicate, confuse, and screw up man and machine.
Bellboy: Yes sir. I’m with her now. I’d say she’s upset.
Francesca: I mean, if you want to go that way SHE POINTS. why on earth do they have you go up this stupid thing turning and twisting THAT way POINTS IN OPPOSITE DIRECTION so that all you know is you’re going away from where you‘re supposed to be going in the first place? Then they force you down this narrow little ramp – tires squealing, front end swerving, hugging a thin metal railing that separates you from a hundred foot drop on one side while you’re being sideswiped by a beer truck on the other. Then … then … at the bottom of this funnel into hell they have the guts to ask you to yield to the right of way!
Bellboy: Something about her rights, sir.
Francesca: Well, I’ll bet the boys from the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce have a good laugh as they sit in a helicopter with an aerial view of a highway built in a perfect figure-eight like a Lionel train set. Those dirty …
Bellboy: She may not take this well, sir.
Francesca: At first I thought it was me. I thought I was going crazy. I started out from Washington, D.C., for New York City and after driving in what I thought was a straight line I wound up right where I started from. I figured that somewhere in that labyrinth of roadwork I missed a sign or made a wrong turn or something.
BELLBOY HANGS UP PHONE BUT IS TRANSFIXED BY HER
Francesca: I got out my road map, reaffirmed the fact that Washington was South, New York was North, and the connection was 695. So I got back on 695, fool that I am, and started out again. Only this time I read everything. “Crocker Road – exit two miles”; “Esso Service Station – We fix flats”; “Burger King – two blocks left on Wyler Road, Home of the Big Whopper!” ; “Wrig …”
Bellboy: Are those Stuckey Pecan Crunch signs still up? You know, those big red and yellow signs.
Francesca: They’re red and white.
Bellboy: I don’t believe so, ma’m. But, I haven’t seen one in years but I....
Francesca: Take it from me, they’re red and white. Who just left the battlefield here? Francesca Glasscock!
Bellboy: Then what’s yellow on it?
Francesca: I don’t know. Can I get on with my story?
Bellboy: Sorry, ma’m.
Francesca: I’m in the middle of this breath-taking story and I have to hear about a Stuckey sign. … It’s the word “Stuckey”. It’s written in yellow.
Bellboy: Son of a gun! You’re right!
Francesca: Of course, I’m right! I may not be able to get out of Baltimore but I’m not color blind. So there I am for the second time driving north on 695. Terrified I’m going to miss something and wind up at the Washington Monument again!
Bellboy: Do they still have those Bull Durham Chewing Tobacco signs? I remember those.
Francesca: I wouldn’t know. I was on a trip to New York, not down Memory Lane. Stop interrupting me. Now where was I?
Bellboy: “Terrified I’m going to miss something and wind up at the Washington Monument again.”
Francesca: Instant playback. O.K. Then it starts again. The familiar ramp. The turning. The twisting. The confusion. Gaslight re-visited. BELLBOY TAKES A SHARP BREATH AS HE LISTENS. BOTH ARE ENJOYING THEMSELVES. But here’s where the Boys from Baltimore loused it up. Let’s face it. You can mess with man but you can’t fool Mother Nature.
Bellboy: So true, so true.
Francesca: You see, the sun, which was as a yellow wafer in the sky, had been on the left of me only moments before. Now it was on the right! I was heading south again!
Bellboy: SPELLBOUND. No!
Francesca: Yes! But how? What? Why? Where? When? No time to ask myself these questions because my car coasts to a stop at the bottom of this diabolical descending devil. And why?
Francesca: I’m out of gas!
Bellboy: Son of a gun!
Francesca: Exactly! I have nothing to do now except curse because it begins to rain. So I sit in my car contemplating life and watch these sweet, innocent little cars being driven up this ramp, forced to go through all this nonsense, GESTURES TURNING AND TWISTING and descend heading right back to where they came from. Finally, a highway patrolman, who should be out arresting the road commissioner, came by and rescued me.
Bellboy: Praise God!
Francesca: He patted me on the head, gave me a gallon of gas, told me to put my headlights on …
Bellboy: Ah, it was dark now …
Francesca: … and suggested I follow him. And at that point I would have followed a hungry cannibal to a sit-down dinner if he knew how to get off 695. Did I know he was taking me into the heart of downtown Baltimore? Did I know there was a convention in town? Probably the alumni of 695, now that I think of it. Did I know that after eight and a half hours of driving I would be standing thirty-seven miles away from where I started in the “Crème de la Crème” roof of the Baltimore Armpit …
Bellboy: Baltimore Excelsior.
Francesca: I call ‘em as I see ‘em.
Bellboy: Yes, ma’m.
Francesca: I am a spent force.
Bellboy: You’d never know it.
Bellboy: Oh, ah, Mr. Johnson, the manager, said to tell you that with the convention in town the only reason why you have this room is because there was a last-minute no-show.
Francesca: Tell him to scout 695. I’m sure that’s where they are.
Bellboy: Yes, ma’m. Will there be anything else, ma’m?
Francesca: Yes, whiskey and soda. Large glass. Hold the soda. Can you believe that a college graduate could get so balled up on a highway?
Bellboy: Oh, yet ma’m. It can happen to anybody. It happened to me. In fact, you might say such an incident changed by whole life. Yes sirree, do I have my tale to tell.
Francesca: And you’re going to tell it.
Bellboy: DOESN’T HEAR HER. It’s a very funny story. Whenever we’re at parties my wife insists I tell everybody about it if there’s ever a lull in the conversation or a dull spot.
Francesca: Thanks a lot.
Bellboy: It all happened a long time ago. You see, I was on my way from Philly to Washington, D.C., for the ’37 march on the White House by Cox’s army …
Francesca: The who, the what, the where?
Bellboy: We doughboys were up in arms because of the bonus we’d been promised but we never got. So in the late spring of 1937 we marched on the White House demanding our money and our rights! Sorry, ma’m, I didn’t mean to be so forceful.
Francesca: Are you putting me on?
Bellboy: Well, anyway, I was passing through here on my way to Washington, in the sweetest little Model T you’ve ever seen. Of course, they didn’t have no 695 then, but it still wasn’t as easy as you’d think.
Francesca: When … where … what … what was that date again?
Bellboy: June fifth. No, no, I’m a liar. It was the evening of June sixth.
Bellboy: That was the day. June sixth, 1937.
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