Five Short Plays
Portrait of a Lady
The setting is a British drawing room, late 19th century. An indeterminate number of characters populate this scene. Furthermore, an unspecified number of actors play the parts of these characters (if there are any); as few as 1 and as many as 50 is perfectly acceptable. The actors are to rehearse in seclusion. A separate set of actors must be used for every performance.
"I declare I don't pity her."
"Do you wish me to intercede?"
"I shall not keep you in suspense; I only want to collect my mind a little."
"I wouldn't bore you for the world."
"Ah now, that's delightful of you. You believe in me yourself."
"I adore a moat, Good-bye."
"I like you very much."
"They tell me you have someone better in
"Do you want to get rid of them?"
"Yes, but I hate them."
"Ah, that's because they want to be!"
"But it's very probable that even six months hence I shouldn't be able to give you one that you'd think good."
"I presumed that was the case. But it only aggravates my fear”
"I must tell you that what I shall think about is some way of letting you know that what you ask is impossible- letting you know it without making you miserable."
"If you know me little I know you even less.”
"Ah, how little you know me!"
"Has he told you that?"
"Don't think me unkind if I ask you to say no more about this to-day."
"Very likely-if her husband doesn't."
"You mean that, unlike yourself, I may not improve on acquaintance?”
"Don't say that, please."
"Pardon me for interrupting. It's old Venetian. It's rather good."
"At your convenience, yes.”
"Ah, but I can't wear mine."
"To marry a worse one then."
“Ah, of course that's very possible. But think, to speak to you as I do, how determined I
must be to try and give satisfaction! You do like me rather, don't you?"
“He thinks strange things.”
"That's fair to neither of us."
"Why, her father; and-how do you say it in English?-her bellemere."
"A man in love, you know, doesn't ask advice."
"If you're mistaken, let me lose all I possess!"
“Positively start to-morrow.”
"Whom do you call family?"
"I'll write to you."
"So, my lord!"
"I don't need the recommendation of your friends.”
"You'll live to marry."
"Don't hope too much.”
"I thank you more than I can say for your offer. It does me great honour."
“There's no difficulty whatever about that; there are plenty of houses.”
"I thank you for saying that; it shows you don't regard me as a stranger.”
"He appears himself to have found it very pleasant to
“I’m not joking.”
"Don't taunt me with that.”
"I'm afraid I can't make you understand."
“I really believe I've filled all the other relations of life very creditably, and I don't see why I shouldn't fill this one--in which I offer myself to you--seeing that I care so much more about it. Ask the people who know me well; I've friends who'll speak for me."
"Very good; but whatever you write I'll come and see you, you know."
“That I don't know you better makes me unhappy enough already; it's all my loss. But that's what I want, and it seems to me I'm taking the best way. If you'll be my wife, then I shall know you, and when I tell you all the good I think of you you'll not be able to say it's from ignorance."
"Ah, don't say that!"
"I'm willing to risk it.”
“Ah then, you're not disinterested!"
"I love you, but I love without hope."
“It seems to me too touching.”
"I was afraid you'd say something like that. I don't see what you've to do with that sort of thing.”
“Of course it's a great question; I must tell you that I'd rather ask it than have it to answer myself. But the way you've listened--or at least your having listened at all--gives me some hope."
“If I marry him!”
"I'm very sure that, highly as I already think of you, my opinion of you, if I should know you well, would only rise. But I'm by no means sure that you wouldn't be disappointed. And I say that not in the least out of conventional modesty; it's perfectly sincere."
"It's a great question, as you say. It's a very difficult question."
“It's only an American gentleman who calls at ten o'clock in the morning."
"I don't expect you of course to answer it outright. Think it over as long as may be necessary. If I can gain by waiting I'll gladly wait a long time. Only remember that in the end my dearest happiness depends on your answer."
"I should be very sorry to keep you in suspense.”
“Do you call me reasonable now?”
"Oh, don't mind. I'd much rather have a good answer six months hence than a bad one to-day."
"Ah, you must never doubt that.”
"Well then, I don't see what more you ask!"
"It's not what I ask; it's what I can give. I don't think I should suit you; I really don't think I should."
"You needn't worry about that. That's my affair. You needn't be a better royalist than the king."
"It's not only that, but I'm not sure I wish to marry any one."
"Very likely you don't. I've no doubt a great many women begin that way. But they're frequently persuaded."
"I'm afraid it's my being an Englishman that makes you hesitate.”
"I know your uncle thinks you ought to marry in your own country."
"I remember his making the remark. He spoke perhaps of Americans generally."
"I'm afraid it's my being an Englishman that makes you hesitate.”
"Well then, if you like it, I'm more and more unable to see your objection to what I propose."
"You ought at least to try. I've a fair intelligence. Are you afraid--afraid of the climate? We can easily live elsewhere, you know. You can pick out your climate, the whole world over."
"I'm afraid it's my being an Englishman that makes you hesitate.”
“It's impossible for me to do better in this wonderful world, I think, than commit myself, very gratefully, to your loyalty."
"Why not, since you really like me?"
"You've given me a great deal to think about, and I promise you to do it justice."
"That's all I ask of you, of course--and that you'll remember how absolutely my happiness is in your hands."
"There's no way to do that. I won't say that if you refuse me you'll kill me; I shall not die of it. But I shall do worse; I shall live to no purpose.”
"If there are better women than you I prefer the bad ones. That's all I can say."
"There's no accounting for tastes."
"I'll speak to you myself--very soon. Perhaps I shall write to you."
"Whatever time you take, it must seem to me long, and I suppose I must make the best of that."
"Do you know I'm very much afraid of it--of that remarkable mind of yours?"
"Ah! be merciful, be merciful."
"I think you had better go.”
"There's one thing more."
"If you think it's damp or anything of that sort--you need never go within fifty miles of it.”
"You've some very good things."
"In everything. They think quite differently.”
“It's not damp, by the way.”
"It's too good for this; you ought to wear it."
"Ah, I thought you liked me for myself!"
"You're very considerate; that's in your prize."
“I've had the house thoroughly examined; it's perfectly safe and right. But if you shouldn't fancy it you needn't dream of living in it. I thought I'd just mention it; some people don't like a moat, you know. Good-bye."
"I don't see why you shouldn't! I've better lace than that to wear."
"I love my things."
"They can't. He can't love any one."
“I'm afraid that I'm not a real collector's piece."
"You've been very kind to me. That's why I came."
"I didn't suppose that. But you've seemed to me intimate with her family, and I thought you might have influence."
"But it's not about them, nor about yours, that I came to talk to you."
"I care more for all the bibelots in
“Why not, if he's in a difficult position?”
"No, it's good to have something to hate: one works it off!"
"If you could say a good word I should be greatly obliged."
"Did you come to tell me that?"
“That's often the case with a man in love. I've been in love before, and I know. But never so much as this time-really never so much. I should like particularly to know what you think of my prospects.”
"I'm always kind to people who have good Louis Quatorze. It's very rare now, and there's no telling what one may get by it."
"I like you very much; but, if you please, we won't analyze. Pardon me if I seem patronizing, but I think you a perfect little gentleman.”
“It would improve.”
"Very likely. I'm affected by everything."
"I said you were on the whole the finest creature I know."
"Does she take the opposite line from him?"
“Don’t you think I’m clever?”
“I see many flowers.”
"She's not so intelligent as her brother then.”
"He appears to have understood."
“I’ll do whatever you wish.”
“Come for my sake. Say something about dinner.”
"Stay with me, dear child, while your father takes the
good ladies to the door."
The setting is a sparsely furnished room. On a table sits a bowl, with a banana and a cup of coffee beside the bowl. On the wall hangs a portrait. On the floor is a rug. In one of the walls is a door, and next to the door is a coat-rack, with one coat hanging on it. Three actors, with cassette players and headphones, stand scattered around the room, at the ready. Each actor receives the same instructions below, recorded on a tape. However, there is a 15 second lag between each tape, such that some actors will receive the same instruction before the others.
1. Pick up the bowl from the table.
2. Open the door and place the bowl on the other side.
3. Close the door.
4. Sit in the chair.
5. Cross your legs.
6. Uncross your legs.
7. Stand up.
8. Go to the coat-rack and put on the coat.
9. Dust off the rug.
10. Go to the table and drink the cup of coffee.
11. Open the door, pick up the bowl, and place it on the rug.
12. Eat the banana on the table.
13. Gaze at the portrait.
14. Walk out the door and close it behind you.
15. Repeat from step 1.
Piece of string
Bill Clinton (as president)
Umballa (Zambian ambassador)
A guys walks into a bar. He approaches the bartender.
Guy: 75 cents.
Bartender (pointing to a neon sign): This is a Singles Bar.
Guy: A spoonge.
Bartender: It already matches the kitchen appliances.
Guy: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Bartender: Well, you're not out of the ditch yet.
Guy: A blonde doing cartwheels.
Bartender: Her feet!
Guy takes a piece of string from his pocket.
String: Nope, I'm a frayed knot.
Bartender fills a glass of beer and hands it to the guy. Guy places the string on the bar and takes a gulp of his beer.
Guy (opening his wallet): The more I drink, the prettier my wife gets.
Bartender (turning to look at him): Sorry sir, we don't serve food here!
Guy: People were confused about which side to spit on. She assumes the salesman's identity and meets all of his quotas.
A duck waddles into the bar.
Duck: Good! Got any grapes?
Guy: Who else would follow a chicken?
A husband and wife walk into a bar (a different bar).
Husband: Come on, Fanny, he's not going to let us in either.
Wife: My God! Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?
Husband: She hit the wall three times before she got it off!
Wife: Open your mouth and show the dentist which tooth it is, dear.
Guy: You can fit a lot more than two actors in a van.
Bill Clinton walks into the bar.
Bill Clinton: Hi Bill! Hi Bill!
Bartender: And you won't, either, with that attitude.
A priest walks into the bar, followed by a badly-beaten bear and a girl.
Guy: My daddy says you're one of the poorest preachers we've ever had!
Priest: Oh yes, the grass is 2 1/2 inches taller over there.
Girl: I know, I'm gonna get tits too.
Bear: OK, OK! I’m a rabbit!
A doctor runs into the bar, begins to provide medical attention to the bear.
Doctor: Well, I can clearly see your nuts!
Guy: People say he was half-nuts!
Bartender: Well, I'm a lawyer, but you don't see me screwing the guy in front of me, do you?
Guy: Hey, no problem, I can stop any time!
Priest (scornfully): Some dick cut her off.
Guy: She opens her mouth!
A mouse runs into the bar, pursued by a drunk.
Drunk: No use knockin,' pal. There's no paper.
Mouse: I don't have time for this bullshit. I gotta go home and screw the cat.
The mouse runs out of the bar. The string leaps off the bar and pursues the mouse in a slithering motion across the floor. He looks back briefly to catch the eye of the guy.
Guy: Don't cry, it's just me!
An old lady walks into a bar (a different bar).
Bartender: Sorry, but we don't serve Republicans here.
Old lady (thoughtfully): One that will fit a Camel.
Old explorer (from the shadows): No, not then -- just now when I went “ROARRRR!”
Guy: Catching the bubbles with your teeth.
Bartender: Magically, the ocean turns to beer.
A rich man walks into the bar, arguing with Santa Clause..
Rich man: No, you don't understand. The grass at my house is over three feet tall!
Santa Clause: Ok, send me your mother.
Guy: He wanted to see her bust.
Bartender transforms into a grandfather (or maybe he was already a grandfather).
Grandfather: A wedding ring.
Guy: Yes, you are, that was the barbituate.
Old lady: The farmer shot Chuck.
Texan: Well ma'am, normally I would agree with you but after you unzipped my fly three times, I kinda figured we was friends.
Guy: Because they live in schools
Wife: So they can stand closer to the sink.
Grandfather: The blue light on his bike is still flashing!
Guy: He wouldn't eat the mushrooms.
From a mist, Umballa appears.
Umballa (with a toothy smile): One of them is a cannibal.
Guy: Well, I've always wanted to be an 'A' student.
A principal walks into a bar (any bar).
Principal: Put Harry in the fifth-grade, I got the last seven questions wrong!
Guy: Man, I'm glad I quit drinking. These new sobriety tests are hard.
A customer enters a diner and approaches the counter, where the waitress is cleaning glasses.
Customer: I’ll have the usual.
Waittress (shouting to the kitchen): The usual!
The waittress pulls a cord on the wall behind her and the back of the restaurant collapses to reveal a prehistoric landscape. A tribe of prehistoric men approaches, carrying spears and babies. The leader of the prehistoric men addresses the customer.
Prehistoric man: Posthistoric man, always cherish the memories of your meals. For us, who live before the advent of recorded history, we must rely on this kind waitress to remember our breakfast preferences.
The waitress reaches below the counter and distributes dishes of a strange-looking meat (possibly mastodon) to the tribesmen. She then prepares buttered toast and coffee for the customer. The tribesemen and the customer gaze at each other thoughtfully as they eat their breakfast.
A Hopeless Situation
Faith, mother and wife.
Mel, father and husband
Bud, rebellious son.
Ernesto, suave Spanish seducer of women
Sandra, spectre of the cleaning lady
Faith, Mel and Bud sit around their living room, with stricken looks on their faces. Mel is mopping the sweat off his brow with a handkerchief and gesticulating wildly.
Mel: This is just not acceptable, Bud. Not acceptable! First you fail out of school, then you impregnate the cleaning lady, then you shoot a police officer, and now here you are asking me for five thousand dollars to do God knows what.
Faith (in a gentle voice): Bud, what’s happened, honey? We’re your parents. You can talk to us. We understand you’re going through a hard time. It’s all part of human development. We’re here to help. Please talk to us.
Mel: Listen, Bud, if you don’t talk to us there’s no question of me giving you five thousand dollars. No question.
Bud: I’m gong to move to
Faith: Sandra! Family!
Bud: The law’s coming after me, because of the police officer. He was in love with Sandra, you know.
Faith: Good lord… my son…
Mel: Let’s be logical about this. You need to face the law, you need to explain your actions.
Faith: And you need to think about your relationship with Sandra. Just because you’re the father of her unborn child doesn’t mean that you have to throw away your life and live in desparate squalor with her. The child shouldn’t grow up in that environment.
Mel: In fact, I think she should get an abortion.
Bud: What Sandra does is none of your business!
Mel: It’s entirely our business, since clearly you can’t think for yourself!
Bud: I hate you! I hate you both! I
Faith (aside, to Mel): Mel, maybe it’s best to just give him the money and let him go. He clearly won’t listen to us. He’s hellbent on doing only what he wants.
Mel: Are you crazy? I’m not sending my child off to ruin his life.
Faith: What is the alternative? We can’t keep him here against his will.
Mel: I’m not financing his descent into self-destruction… Besides, I… I don’t have the money.
Faith: You don’t have the money? What about the money we saved up for Bud’s college?
Mel: It’s gone. I spent it.
Faith: Spent it? On what?
Mel: I had a bad streak at the tables.
Faith: Mel, you’ve been gambling again? Oh no.
Mel: Don’t give me that crap, Faith. I’m a grown man.
Faith: How can you lecture your child about his future when you throw away your own at the card tables?
Mel: Don’t nag me, okay? I’ve got it under control.
Faith: Mel, don’t go to Watkins again. Remember what happened last time?
Mel: I’ve got it under control, goddamit!
Faith: Watkins is not your friend.
Mel: Faith, you’d better stop it right now. You’re in no position to lecture your son either, after all the shit you’ve done.
Faith: That has nothing to do with—
Mel: It has everything to do with everything! God knows how many times you had to have an abortion after fooling around. How many times I took you back in, after you had your little jaunt around town, throwing yourself upon everything that moves.
Faith: How can you talk that way?
Mel: Oh, I know all about it. What doesn’t get spent at the card tables gets spent on your goddamn abortions.
Faith: I didn’t want to talk about this now, in front of our son, but I’m leaving you, Mel.
Mel: Leaving me! With whom?
Faith: No one. I’m just leaving you.
Mel: With whom?
Faith: His name is Ernesto.
Mel: Ernesto… the bastard, I’ll kill him!
Bud: Dad, I don’t have time for this. Either give me the five thousand now or leave me alone. I don’t want to sit here listening to this.
Mel: Shut up!
Faith: Don’t talk that way to you son!
Mel: Shut up, all of you!
The doorbell rings. All three turn abruptly to look at the door as it opens. Ernesto walks in, sweeping his long dark hair out of his deep, dark eyes.
Ernesto: Good evening, my friends. I have come to take Faith away with me.
Mel: Ah Ernesto, so good to see you. Come a little closer so I can slit your throat.
Ernesto: Mel, this is not a time for violence. We must accept what destiny has chosen for us.
Bud shoves past them towards the door. Ernesto grabs his arm and looks deeply into his face.
Ernesto: So you’re Bud, right? I’ve heard a lot about you.
Bud (shaking him off) : Leave me alone.
Ernesto: Sandra speaks very highly of you.
Bud (stopping in the doorway): How do you know Sandra?
Ernesto: Oh, we’ve known each other for quite a while.
Ernesto: She lived with me in
Bud: I thought she’s lived her whole life in
Ernesto: Ah, women! They are full of deceit like a bottle of wine!
Bud: I don’t believe you.
Faith: Ernesto, please let him go.
Ernesto: No, no. Truth is the most precious substance in the world, more precious than gold or silver. He must know the truth.
Bud: What? What truth?
Faith: Only that we are running away together.
Ernesto: No, not just that. You must know that you are not the father of Sandra’s child.
Ernesto: That’s right. She has been living with me,
secretly, for the past two years. She
Mel: You see what you’re buying into, Faith?
Faith: Stop talking like that, Ernesto.
Bud: You’re a liar! Sandra loves me.
Ernesto: That may be true, but the child is still mine.
Faith: How could you, Ernesto. I thought you loved me.
Ernesto: Oh, I do, very much. But Sandra and I have a very special and complicated relationship. It’s not just the child… it’s the past. The long, tortuous past…
Mel: You’re a sick man, Ernesto.
Ernesto: Listen, Mel. I hear you are having money troubles. Allow me to help. I’ve taken the liberty of clearing your debts at the club. In addition, I will give your son the five thousand dollars he needs, but only on one condition: that he leave Sandra behind, with me.
Mel: If you think I’ll take a nickel from you—
Faith: But what about me?
Ernesto: The three of us will live together, in the perfect harmony that comes with boundless sexual fulfillment.
Bud: Screw your five thousand dollars. I’m taking Sandra with me.
Ernesto: I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.
Ernest removes a pistol from his coat pocket and points it at Bud. He tosses him a wad of cash.
Ernesto: Here, take it and run along.
Mel: You son of a bitch!
Mel leaps at Ernesto and tries to wrest the pistol from his hand.
Faith: Oh God, what are we going to do?
From offstage, an arrow flies into Ernesto’s heart. The pistol falls from his hand. He begins bleeding furiously.
Faith: Ernesto, no!
Faith runs to Ernesto’s side and presses a sheet against his chest to stop the bleeding.
Bud (looking around): What was that?
Mel: I don’t know. It seems like an arrow flew out of nowhere.
Money starts falling from the sky.
Mel: What’s going on?
Bud (picking up some bills): They’re hundred dollar bills!
Ernesto, regaining his composure, reaches slowly for his pistol.
Faith: Ernesto, stop moving. You’re badly hurt.
Ernesto: No, no. I’m fine. I’m feeling better.
He grabs the pistol and leaps up, taking advantage of Mel’s distraction to place the barrel against his head.
Another arrow flies from offstage, piercing Ernesto’s neck. He falls to the floor. Faith rushes to his side.
Faith (shouting to the skies): Violence won’t solve anything!
Bud quickly scoops up all the money and runs to the door.
Mel: Not so fast,
Bud: Fuck off, dad. I’m going to
A sudden earthquake knocks Bud off his feet, scattering the money. Mel greedily starts to shove it into his pockets. Bud jumps on him and they begin to wrestle.
Faith: Mel! Bud! Stop it!
Ernesto (weakly): Let them be. There’s no point fighting destiny.
Faith: You and your destiny. This is my family and I need to hold it together!
Faith tries to separate Mel and Bud. Suddenly all three of them are lifted into the air by an unseen force.
Ernesto: Dios mio…
Mel (to the sky): Stop interfering! This is our business!
Bud: We don’t need your help!
They are dropped on the floor.
Faith: I think Ernesto is going to die from blood loss.
Mel: Everything is pointless.
Faith: We need to keep our family together.
Bud: I’ve had enough of this. Sandra is waiting for me.
A spectre of Sandra appears. She is no longer pregnant.
Bud: Sandra! What happened to the child?
Sandra: I don’t know. I woke up this morning and I wasn’t pregnant any more.
Ernesto: My child! Why would you do something like that?
Sandra: I didn’t do anything.
Ernesto: I’m not talking to you.
Faith (standing up): This has to stop right now. We can take care of our own problems.
Sandra becomes pregnant again. Her spectre vanishes.
Faith: That’s better. Now, go away.
A blinding light from
the heavens envelopes all the characters. All around the living room, the
plants burst into