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FLIPPER: A Play By Patrick Harding

FREE EXCERPTS FROM FLIPPER

Can  Lou’s six-month marriage be saved?  Lou doesn’t think so and has summoned her father, Guy, to get her out of it.  Meanwhile, oblivious Hank, dressed in Elizabethan gear, is focused on his rather eccentric interpretation of Death of A Salesman as his ticket to a big-time acting career.  Throw in Mort, the best man Hank found on Match.com, Mrs. Brown, the widow next door, who’s been married seven times before, and a very annoyed Golden Retriever, and you have a recipe for hilarity.  (3M,1W)

We are in HANK and LOU’s living room There is a little area containing a massage table and some shelves filled with dietary supplements, homeopathic remedies, etc.. .There is a large poster on the wall for Death of A Salesman There is also a large framed photograph of GUY and LOU embracing.

 

As the scene opens, GUY is examining the poster. Enter HANK. He is dressed in Elizabethan costume.

 

HANK

Oh, there you are. Well, you’ve seen the poster, now behold the man! Here for your interview? Lou said to expect you. Well, look, while you are waiting, why not do me just for practice? I’m just back from rehearsal and I could really use it. Come on, don’t be shy. That you are a man, and an older man at that, doesn’t bother me at all. Now, with Lou, I strip down completely.

GUY

Not necessary.

HANK

These tights are just killing my sperm. Likewise these breeches! And the tunic has to go too. This shirt is so snug at the wrists. There, that’s better. Now for the ruff. Should I keep my hat on? That’s a song. Get it?

Hank hops up onto the massage table, propping his head up, the better to converse. Somewhat relieved, Guy discovers the tools of the trade lying about and commences

HANK

You are going to do my instrument a lot of good, I expect. You should really see my Willy. Just the thought of it makes me nervous in anticipation Actually, I think it’s going to be my best Death ever! You go to the theater?

GUY

All the time.

HANK

The supporting cast isn’t very strong but I think they’ll be OK. That’s good, that’s good. Keep doing that. A little lower. The trouble is that I’m a bit of a jinx. I can’t tell you the number of times my fellow actors have dropped out due to illness. They start off strong in rehearsal but get sicker and sicker as time goes on. You can’t believe the toll rehearsal takes on ones instrument. So we have to use understudies at the last minute. That’s why so many of my shows have been so…….challenging. Like, I’m playing Othello, and right in the middle of the show, the lead actress quits! Appendicitis!

GUY

Desdemona?

HANK

Yeah, that’s right. So what do I do? I play her part as well as mine. I wound up having to strangle myself! But you should have heard the audience cheer! I just killed it that night! But the actress? False alarm. Now, if you were an abdominal surgeon playing the role of Desdemona wouldn’t you realize that? Plus sometimes these understudies deliberately screw up my cue to throw me off!   Can you believe that?

GUY

Perhaps these understudies just forgot-

HANK

You don’t know how insecure most actors are. They think I’ll steal the spotlight or something. And they’re right!   Now our director is a little weak, but I think he’s got potential. I’ve been giving him tips. I’ve done that with all the directors I’ve ever worked with. Problem is these guys are mostly tyrants. They think they know it all! Like, I suggested that I play Willy as gender confused. Like, he’s a cross-dresser or something.

GUY

Willy Loman?

HANK

Just a different spin. Wouldn’t that put his suicide in a different light? See he wears women’s clothes when he’s at home, but has to wear men’s clothes in public. I was willing to do that! Making sacrifices to your ego, your masculinity, it’s part of the deal as an actor. But to directors, we’re just cattle. But I am not cattle! I’m a…….dolphin! So naturally they start to resent the fact that I know just as much about directing as they do! So I say “Let their show suck!” Except for my performance, of course. Maybe they’ll get the message that they should pay some attention to what I’m telling them. Then there’s like, Wardrobe. That’s where you find the dry little spinsters who probably costumed My American Cousin, back in the day. You likely don’t know this, but that’s the play-

GUY

That Lincoln attended when he was assassinated.

HANK

See, that’s about how old these spinsters probably are. What you likely don’t know is that Lincoln’s assassin-

GUY

John Wilkes Booth, was an actor himself.

HANK

Yeah, he really killed that night! Drum roll! You know, you are pretty sharp. And a theater aficionado to boot. I doubt you find someone like me very often in your line of work. Usually Lou does this for me. That’s your future boss you hope! She’ll be home soon. I shall be pleased to give you a good recommendation. You understand it’s just a part-time position? Some one to cover when she’s not here. These days my wife seems to be out all the time. I hardly get to talk to her. First I thought she might be having an affair. Easy! That’s a little too much pressure. But six months into a marriage? Besides, she’s crazy about me. That’s the main thing that attracted me to Lou. And it still is. I’m sure you don’t want to hear about our sex life. TMI, right? But may I reveal that I installed a mirror on our bedroom ceiling? Go easy! Anyway, you see me in Death of a Salesman, you are really going to appreciate my Willy. Lou certainly does! Get it? Ow! You know you do look vaguely familiar to me. Was your picture in the paper recently?

GUY

It’s in that frame over there. I’m Guy.

ROB

Oh! Yes! You’re right! My father-in law! Glad to meet you. Sorry you missed the wedding. You would have really enjoyed my toast to your daughter. Ironic, you working for her. Nothing to be ashamed of. I know what it’s like to be down and out. I do hope your employment here is long term. It’s so seldom I get to have a long discussion with someone who is as cultured. People I meet are so busy! No time to talk. They have to feed their hamster, attend a funeral. Whatever. I’m sure we’ll have time for many, many such chats! Most theater people know nothing about current events, politics. It would shock you. What do they talk about, you ask? Mostly themselves! You can’t get a word in edge-wise. Then there’s their romantic life. Like, focus on the play. The play’s the thing! That’s a line from-

GUY

Hamlet?

HANK

Exactly! The conversations we are going to have! Anyway, those costume people. Just laughed in my face about the cross-dressing thing. OK, so then I suggested we should consider setting Death Of A Salesman back in the Shakespearean era. I mean they do Shakespeare in modern dress, don’t they? You should have heard the reaction! No vision. No vision at all. And you know, “Where there is no vision-

GUY

“The people perish”

HANK

Did you know that’s from the Bible?

GUY

Proverbs 29 verse 18. King James Version

HANK

So I went to the director and threatened to quit! So we are doing Death of A Salesman as a Shakespearean play! That’s why the pantyhose. I also changed the entire script to Shakespearean English! You know what? It works! But it’s more like something his rival might have written. You know who I’m talking about?

GUY

Christopher Marlow.

HANK

“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Illium?”

GUY

That’s from Dr. Faustus.

HANK

Correct! You know, you should join my team for trivia night down at the pub. I could use another body. We started out to be a team of four, but it’s just me now. It’s every Thursday. How long are you hoping to work here?

GUY

Not long.

HANK

That’s too bad. I’ve heard so much about Lou’s Daddy. And you finally get a chance to meet me! What do you think of me, Pops? Do I pass the test?

(There is a silence.)

GUY

I can honestly say, I’ve never met anyone like you.

HANK

Yeah, I get that a lot. You know what? I’m going to personally see to it that you get the job. Because you pass the test too! Now, you are not as smooth as Lou.. But I figure, it’s like when I go for a haircut. It’s really about the conversation, isn’t it? Have you noticed that stylists don’t spend as much time on us as they used to? I just get a trim. No matter what I want.

GUY

Yes, well, more importantly, does Louise pass the test?

HANK

“Ah, there’s the rub!” Get it? Anyway, for a wife she’s a great masseuse. She’s a great audience. A great listener. But Lou has her quirks, like everyone else. We can all be irritating at times, can’t we? Ouch. That’s a sore spot. Go easy Now I’m quite the homebody, except when I’m at rehearsal. Not her. But If she’s having an affair, she’s got to be the greatest actress in the world. Even if she were, I would never leave her. I love her too much. You know, you get lonely sometimes with nobody to talk to. Often I’ll catch myself lying in our bed, staring up at that mirror, talking to myself. I actually rehearse my lines that way. I’ll call her, but the calls get dropped in the middle of our conversation. And it’s not like she can’t afford a better phone. She never seems to lack for money that’s for sure. She inherited a pile, she tells me. Unfortunately I inherited piles too. From my father. Hemorrhoids can be quite painful actually. Yeah, right there. Careful. Ooh! That exact spot is where I go to recall a sense memory for expressing pain on stage. I literally have to goose myself. Worked really well for me In King Lear. By the way you are-

GUY

-Rubbing you the right way?

HANK

Touche. So my wife is an heiress?

GUY

Yes from my late sister.

HANK

You know Lou worships the ground you walk on. Talks about you all the time, I can hardly shut her up! I’m frankly jealous! But I had no idea you did this. At your age the massage business must be a tough way to make a living.

GUY

Oh, I’m not a massage therapist.

HANK

(Jumps off the table)

You’re not? My instrument requires a pro, to stay in tune for the stage. Lou did say you taught her everything she knows. So I assumed-

GUY

I’m a bit of a writer actually.

HANK

A writer? That’s a tough way to make a living.

GUY

Frankly, I’m not making a living. That’s why I’m here, to be honest. I’m hoping she’ll see fit to advance me a loan, just until my next book comes out, of course.

HANK

I originally wanted to be a writer myself. I came up with a title. A Year’s Worth of Thoughts. Catchy, eh? But every time I sat down in front of my laptop, I had no thoughts.

GUY

Well you have to have an interest in other-

HANK

-I have lots of interests. That’s the problem. I can’t choose between them. So I opted for something a little nobler. Something more active. The reason you are so down and out is that people don’t read anymore. They play video games, or go on Face Book with their imaginary friends, a generation of illiterates who only want to watch cat videos all day. Consequently, the theater is dying, sad to say.

GUY

It must be a tough way to make a living. What does Equity pay you?

HANK

Actors Equity? The union? I’m not a union guy. Equity houses are pricing themselves out of business. Producers are leaving the country! That why Mexico has such a vibrant theater scene. This is amateur theater, buddy. This is no pay! It certainly isn’t about the money. I’d be in the same boat as you, if it weren’t for Lou. Death is my first show in ages! Do you know what I’m reduced to? The last paying gig I had was in Marat/Sade the play that’s set in an eighteenth century insane asylum. Of course I played the Marquis De Sade. Guess where we performed the show? In an actual insane asylum! Of course they don’t call them that nowadays, they are called Forensic Mental Health Care Facilities. It’s a great way of sneaking a prison into town without a lot of fuss from the neighbors. Yet it’s full of guys who decapitated their in-laws with a machete! Can you imagine such a thing?

GUY

Actually, I can.

HANK

The deal was that some of the inmates would play the crazy people in the play. The mob. Like it would be therapy for them, and fifty bucks apiece for us. It’s set in the French Revolution and I guess I was so convincing that these method-acting crazies started coming out of the wings and harassing me! They were talking building a guillotine! That’s how convincing I was. The mob literally chased me off the stage and out of the auditorium, trashing the place along the way, thank God! That allowed me to beat them to my car. In high heels! The cops thought I was a drag queen! They wanted to charge me for inciting a riot! What did all the mayhem cost? Our fifty bucks! You can imagine how popular I was with my peers. But it couldn’t be helped. Whatever role I play I give it my all. I can proudly say that. Anyway, that’s how bad it is out there for us actors. It’s all revivals and musicals. Stratford even! You know what the latest thing is? Musicals about dead country and western performers. You know, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash. A band and a singer. No plot, a little dialogue and one hurting song after another. That’s the formula. You could almost hear the cheering when Waylon Jennings kicked it. Fresh material!   People who should be imprisoned in Dollywood or Branson flock to these things. But like I say, the stage is a vipers nest of narcissism. And a lot of them are Brits. God knows what dreary northern industrial wasteland they hail from. Or Brit wannabes with their fake accents. They say it raises your perceived IQ by fifty points. Not for me it doesn’t. Say, is your accent genuine?

GUY

I hail from Bournemouth, in the south.

HANK

Oh, that’s where they tried to assassinate Margaret Thatcher!

GUY

Yes, with a bomb.

HANK

Speaking of bombs, when a play I’m in does bomb, I’m usually the only actor that gets a good review. The next thing I know I’m searching for another theater. Anyway, Willy Loman is a role I’ve always coveted. Massive number of lines, I’m telling you. But you’re looking at a line-memorizing machine! But I’ve had tougher roles. And a story for each role I’ve ever played. Now where should I start?

(Enter LOU, who runs right past HANK and embraces her father.)

LOU

Daddy! Thank God you’re here!

GUY

Likewise, I’m sure, Louise.

 

 

ACT ONE SCENE TWO

 

Later that afternoon. GUY and LOU are having a drink.

GUY

He’s horrible!

LOU

He’s not so bad.

GUY

How do you put up with him? Well, I know how. You disappear. Are you having an affair?

LOU

God no!

GUY

Well I would if I were you. You barely exist. You are just a tiny planet orbiting around his sun. You need to change galaxies! He’s a vampire sucking the life out of you. Have you ever seen his reflection in that ceiling mirror he’s so proud of? Why on earth did you marry him?

LOU

I was working the Forensic Psych Unit at the hospital. My clients were so excited because they had roles in this play. So I thought it would be nice to show my support. The curtain goes up, and there he is in all his finery. He looked great! And as things went along, he acted great. Very convincing. And that voice! I melted! But he seemed to be upstaging the other actors. Not just because he was so much better. He was acting like a second director while on stage. He would gesture as to where they should stand, and a couple of times he stopped the show and made clients repeat a line until they got it down to his satisfaction. Anybody would have been angry, but my clients weren’t the most stable. So they rushed him right off the stage and chased him right out of the auditorium. The audience thought it was all part of the play and cheered their heads off. At least I think that’s why they were cheering! When I got out to the parking lot they were rocking his car! I managed to calm them down, and got in the car with him. He had a sprained ankle so we went to Emergency. That took hours because his piles flared up while he was fitted for his walking boot. Then the cops showed! After I posted bail I had to drive him back here because he thought my clients might know where he lived! I offered him a drink and told him how impressed I was with his performance. Five hours and one massage later we were engaged! I knew what I was getting into, but he is so talented! I thought “OK he’s an eccentric genius I can fix him”. But I can’t fix him. And I think if I could fix him he wouldn’t be a genius anymore. So here we are.

GUY

I heard a slightly different version from him, except he omitted the fact that this was how you met. You were never even mentioned!

LOU

Anyway, I’m not going to have an affair. I’m busying myself setting up my spa/restaurant.

GUY

Restaurant? Here? In this house?

LOU

This house is zoned commercial. While I wait on the paperwork, the inspections, I do massages.

GUY

What kind of massages?

LOU

You are aware I’m a Registered Massage Therapist, not some kind of cheap hooker? I’ve got a good clientele. Business is good. So good in fact that I’m hiring a part timer for when I’m busy. He’s supposed to be here already.

 

GUY

Oh! That’s who Flipper mistook me for. Didn’t recognize me, of course.

LOU

He never met you! And I wish you wouldn’t call him that. His name is Hank.

GUY

Hank? Hank? What kind of a name is Hank? Is he working on a dude ranch? He could at least call himself Henry. I call him Flipper because he’s a self-reported dolphin, OK? Flipper didn’t recognize me, but he did recognize a potential audience. So I thought, “Why not try my luck at massage?” Just for fun. Did a pretty good job too. But it wasn’t fun at all.

LOU

It’s easier if you put oil on first. So what did you tell him?

GUY

I’m an author. No money. Hoping for a loan from you. What did you want me to say?

LOU

You might have told him that you are an award-winning drama, critic for a start.

GUY

You never made that mistake. And now I know why. Do I have to go tonight?

LOU

He is counting on you being there. He already bought the ticket. He’s really very good.

And I believe in him!

GUY

Really? Have you seen him in other things?

LOU

He hasn’t worked in the six months we’ve been married, so no.

GUY

It’s not work if you aren’t getting paid!

LOU

It’s work. He works hard. It’s a tough role. He has dedicated himself to it. I run lines with him and he is very talented. Head and shoulders above. I just don’t want to be married to him any longer. You know, he always thinks that someone in the audience will be his millionaire patron and send him to Broadway.

GUY

Oh, so that’s why I’m here!

LOU

You and your alimony payments know better than that, Daddy. You are here because you are going to get me out of this marriage, one way or the other. You’ve done it for yourself three times, after all. Now it’s my turn!

GUY
I know some blokes.

LOU

You can’t kill him, no matter how much you want to.

GUY

If only those crazy asylum lads ran faster. Well, I have bad news for you. As you know there are only two conditions attached to your Aunt Gwendolyn’s bequest. First you are to use the money to improve the planet. That’s general enough. If you hired some wise guy to ice Flipper, that would qualify.

LOU

I told you.

GUY

The second thing is that if you divorce, the monthly stipend disappears. So what I propose is that you two live apart but remain married. Problem solved.

LOU

He won’t do it!

GUY

Have you asked?

LOU

In his own way, he’s very dependent. He relies on me to help him with his lines, to listen to him. He loves me for that. He will never let me live apart.

GUY

Do it anyway!

LOU

He would just divorce me and move on. He has this Catholic morality thing, like Aunt Gwendolyn. He would never cheat on me or live with someone else unless he got a divorce first.

GUY

Then live without Gwendolyn’s money. Get a real job!

LOU

This is a real job! Eventually I will be adding a new age restaurant here. Your hors d’oeuvres will come straight from a farm that is committed to chemical free, poly-cultural, beyond-organic agriculture!

GUY

Well. Those poor sods who are stuck at organic are now in your rear view mirror!

LOU

Don’t tease. My target demographic is people who are into Druidic herbalism, forest gardening, and cosmoculture.

GUY:

Cosmoculture? So your wait staff will have to wear push-up bras? That should bring in the lads for an evening of mad passionate herbalism!

LOU

Daddy! This is the future of dining! It’s living up to Aunt Gwendolyn’s wishes, for one thing. It’s the same reason I will not divorce him

GUY

OK, OK. I just don’t know what I can do for you. Where is he, anyway?

LOU

He’ll be back soon.

GUY

So let’s go shopping!

LOU

He’s that bad? I’m supposed to meet my new part timer here. I need a man-

GUY

-Yes you do! He’s obviously not turning up. Let me treat. What can I buy you?

LOU

A vibrator.

As they exit, HANK and MORT enter Hank is dressed in street clothes except for his ruff.

HANK

Mortimer!

MORT

Never call me that! It’s Mort!

HANK

I’ve been a Mortimer. In Arsenic and Old Lace, the romantic lead is a Mortimer. Cary Grant played him in the film version. It’s about these two little old ladies that are poisoning homeless guys and stuffing their bodies temporarily in a window seat. Mortimer, their nephew, is horrified to discover this. So we are rehearsing this play and these two old babes just aren’t into it. So I thought if we added some realistic details it might help. The props guy was an undertaker see, so I arranged for a different fresh body to be inserted each performance. It made the world of difference! Problem was one of the old babes went into shock onstage. She transformed from “ditzy” to “psychotic” before our very eyes. But know what? That plays. The other one seemed to get overly fond of the corpse. I guess she thought the stiffness was in her honor. So she tried to drag him out of the window seat the better to have her way with him! And she tried that every performance even though it was a different guy each time! Yeah. A serial necrophiliac! The show was supposed to run two weeks, but The Department of Health closed it down after we left a stiff in there during a couple of off days. Well, to make a long story short-

MORT

-You never make along story short. You made me late! Coming over to my house and crying your eyes out. She sees her father for the first time in forever, she rushes past you to plant one on him and you are suicidal?

HANK

It was like I wasn’t in the room! It’s not just that. She’s gone all the time! She doesn’t love me anymore!

MORT

How is the sex life?

HANK

Well you know we have-

MORT

The mirrors on the ceiling, yeah.

HANK

So why?

MORT

I’ll tell you why! You have got to start thinking about somebody other than yourself. You need to be a little more sensitive to others. Specifically to your wife!

HANK

How do I do that? You’ve got to help me here. You’re my best friend!

MORT

We only met six months ago

HANK

You were Best Man at my wedding!

MORT

That’s how we met! You picked me on e-Harmony and chose the church as our meeting place.

HANK

Then you have to help!

MORT

Look, remember when you had that accident next door?

HANK

OK, I ran over the widow’s dog. Missed my driveway and the dog was staked out in hers. But I had just got the role of Willy Loman and my mind was elsewhere. It could happen to anyone.

MORT

Then you backed up and ran over it all over again!

HANK

I panicked! Anyway I got out of my car, had a long talk with her about the play, and all I had to go through to get that part. Then I gave her a couple of tickets. I could hardly understand a word she was saying after the crying stopped. And I apologized for a good half hour after that.

MORT

She’s profoundly deaf! From a diving accident! It affects her speech. Hearing aids can’t help her.

HANK

How do you know all this?

MORT

She’s my neighbor. She lives between you and me. We just walked past her house to get here. Ergo, she is also your neighbor! Show some interest in other people!

HANK

Well she really enjoyed our conversation.

MORT

She was pretending. She’s sensitive about her disability.

HANK

No, she read my lips.

MORT

Read my lips! It was pitch dark! See, that’s what I am talking about. You need to be a little more sensitive. Actually, let’s lower the bar. You need to be perceived as being a little more sensitive. That’s why Lou doesn’t love you any more.

HANK

She doesn’t? Oh, God. What do I do?

MORT

You go over next door. The widow got a new dog.

HANK

I know. It barks all the time when I’m running lines and she does nothing! No matter how much I yell over there.

MORT

Yeah, you would think she was deaf. So you go over there and you offer to take her dog for a walk, see?

HANK

Why?

MORT

Well, for one thing, you are making up for transforming her former pet-for-life into road kill. And people, especially women, see a guy with a dog, they assume he is interested in other beings.

HANK

I’m not interested in other women! I love Lou!

MORT

You stop and strike up a conversation. No you don’t! Don’t do that. Let them strike up a conversation. You shut up, and don’t say a word about your stupid play! Got it?

HANK

I can’t say anything?

MORT

Right at the end of the conversation, just drop the fact that you are walking your disabled neighbor’s dog for her. That’s it! Mention that to whoever you happen to meet. Make it short. You want to have as many short conversations as possible to spread the word. But don’t tell Lou! You are too modest to mention it to her.

HANK

I am?

MORT

No you are not. But you are pretending to be. It’s a small town. Let word get back to her by itself, OK?

HANK

OK, I think I can do that. It’s like acting.

MORT

In your case it’s definitely acting.

HANK

But suppose the dog takes a dump?

MORT

You get the widow to give you a dog bag. Then pay attention. The dog will signal you that he’s got one brewing.

HANK

How?

MORT

Just pay attention to him. If the dog takes a crap, you bend down, put your hand in the bag, and turn the bag inside out, OK? Then you scoop and turn the bag back to normal. Be sure to face the wind.

HANK

Then what do I do with it? Put it in my pocket?

MORT

Good idea. If anyone asks, tell them you have a colostomy. Now they are really on your side. You are gonna go down like St Francis of Assisi.

HANK

It’s too complicated. I can hardly bend over! Lou’s father gave me a vigorous massage this morning and I think he put my back out. Wait a minute! I could play Willie as a hunchback. Like Richard the Third!

MORT

I can get you something for that. Get your doctor to call in a prescription.

HANK

Lou doesn’t believe in doctors

MORT

Do you?

HANK

I believe they exist. We just don’t have one.

MORT

So I’ll get you something over the counter

HANK

Is that what you do?

MORT

Yes, Hank, Your best friend is a pharmacist.

HANK

Really? Say, I wonder if you could do me a favor.

MORT

You would have to have a doctor’s prescription to obtain Viagra.

 

HANK

I don’t want Viagra! How did you know?

 

MORT

Just a wild guess.

HANK

This play. It’s very stressful. Anyway, I have to have something herbal.

MORT

For erectile dysfunction? I don’t believe in any of that herbal supplements crap. Don’t sell them. So you’re out of luck.

HANK

No, no! Lou sells them!

MORT

Here? Where are they?

HANK

That’s just it! I don’t know!

MORT

Well ask her for them!

HANK

I can’t. I just can’t.

MORT

I’m supposed to get them for you? From Lou?

HANK

Yes. I’ll pay you back.

MORT

There are other places you could go.

HANK

She needs the money.

MORT

So I’m supposed to pretend that I have the problem?

HANK

If it’s not too much trouble, best friend. Besides you told me you wanted to meet her.

MORT

I wanted to check out the lay of the land.

HANK

Pardon?

MORT

I wanted to check out your wife’s business. See what my competition is up to. Pretend I was applying for that part time job. Just for fun, break the ice. I figured she’s really smart, she’d see right through it. I’m her neighbor, for heaven’s sake. I wave to her. The only time I was ever in her company was at the wedding. Remember how I had to help her get her garter off? So she would probably recognize me. She probably knows I exist, so she would know that the whole massage interview thing is a farce. Does she ever mention me? She probably would hate me anyway, me being a pharmacist. Big Pharma. Do you think she would hate me?

HANK

I cannot pick up dog shit. I can’t risk my back this close to opening night. I’ll just ask whoever to do it for me. I’ll explain everything first.

MORT

Oh, boy. OK, then. Make it short and do not mention opening night.

 

HANK

I’ll do it! What’s the widow’s name?

MORT

She never told me her first name. Her last name is Brown. And, oh, she’s got a lovely daughter. But stay away from her!

HANK

I told you. It’s Lou I love.

MORT

Don’t get too chummy with Mum, either. She’s been married seven times! And the last one was a Hank.

HANK

Like me.

MORT

That’s probably why she divorced him. That’s where your marriage is headed if you don’t shape up!

HANK

I’ll do it! I’ll go over right now! Can you come with me?

MORT

You’re afraid of dogs?

HANK

No! Dogs love me!

MORT

No. I’m going to wait here for my interview. I’m a little tired. The widow’s dog woke me up at the crack of dawn. Just need to rest my eyes for a few minutes. OK?

HANK

Sure. I’ll be back to tell you all about it.

MORT

Yeah. Make sure it’s the condensed version.

 

 

ACT ONE SCENE THREE

 

(MORT is asleep on his stomach on the massage table. Enter LOU. She approaches so as not to awaken him. After a moment she touches his hair. Then strokes his back. This turns into a light massage)

MORT

Lou.

 

LOU

Freezes 

Yes?

MORT

Lou.

LOU

What?

MORT

Lou.

 

LOU

Louder

What is it?

MORT

Oh. It’s you. I was having a dream. What time is it?

LOU

You were talking in your sleep.

MORT

I never do that.

LOU

How would you know? You were saying “Lou”

MORT

That’s your name!

LOU

Yes. I know. Why were you doing that?

MORT

Why? I told you. I was having a nightmare.

LOU

You said it was a dream.

MORT

No, a nightmare. It was about…… cats! See, I had a male cat named Lou. Horrible animal. Turned on me once. Scratched my retina! Right after using his litter box. I was legally blind for four days!

LOU

The way you were saying “Lou” didn’t sound like a nightmare.

MORT

But it was. See, I was mortally afraid of cats long before Lou scratched my eyes out ! Have been since a child. My parents’ cat almost smothered me in my crib! So I was having this nightmare where all these cats were stalking me. Surrounding me and coming closer and closer. Then they all leaped at me. Their eyes. I’ll never forget their eyes. I should have woken up screaming, but in this case, the cats had all been declawed, so they were padding me to death. Sort of like the Chinese water torture. A lot of them were actually Siamese. And they had me on my stomach, see, and were prancing around on my back, all cat-like and giving me the odd pad just to show me who was boss. And purring. But it was an evil purr! Then they all cried out in unison! But instead of going “mew”, they were going “Lou”

LOU

So Mort is Mortally afraid? That’s funny!

MORT

Not to me.

LOU

It was actually me giving you a light massage.

MORT

Were you purring?

LOU

No!

MORT

I heard purring

LOU

In your dreams.

MORT

Isn’t that what I’ve been saying? Why were you touching me?

LOU

Massaging. A light massage. You looked tired.

MORT

You woke me up!

LOU

Don’t you have your resume with you? Color me surprised that you are giving up a lucrative career as a pharmacist just to work with me.

MORT

You know very well that was B.S.

LOU

I haven’t talked to you since you removed my garter at my wedding.

MORT

I sensed you were offended.

LOU

Why did you volunteer?

MORT

Well, if you’ll remember, your husband was making the toast to the bride, in which he was incorporating some of the funny stories that happened to him during his acting career, starting with the Arsenic and Old Lace story. That old chestnut is actually funny. The first time you hear it. At about the forty-five minute mark, some man in the crowd with a shorter attention span suggested that someone do the remove-the-garter thing and you throw the bouquet.

LOU

That was you!

MORT

There weren’t many candidates. The hall was almost empty at that point. Those present were mostly drunk, including the ring bearer, who caught your bouquet, by the way. I was just trying to hurry things along. And I thought the sight of me removing your garter would convince the groom that it was time to wrap it up.

LOU

Why did you take so long?

MORT

I’m not very good with my hands. Plus you don’t want to hurry such things. Especially when the drunks are hooting and you can’t focus very well for some reason. And there might have been a slight wardrobe malfunction as well. You haven’t talked to me since. So I guess I really came to apologize. Oh, and to ask for some herbal thing for erectile dysfunction.

LOU

You don’t suffer from that!

MORT

How do you know? You only ever met me once. Oh!

LOU

Yeah. Oh!

MORT

It’s for a friend, actually.

LOU

That’s a cliché.

MORT

It’s for Hank, OK? For some reason he doesn’t want Viagra. No doctor prescription allowed he says. And he’s too embarrassed to ask you for something. My guess is you have been giving him something all along, and it’s just not working.

LOU

I have not been giving him anything!

MORT

What? You’ve been relying on prayer? Just as effective as an herb, I’m sure.

LOU

I wasn’t aware he has a problem.

MORT

It’s not that hard to tell it’s not hard.

LOU

I know it’s not hard.

MORT

So do something about it!

LOU

It’s hard!

MORT

Make up your mind!

LOU

It’s hard to know it’s not hard when you aren’t making love.

MORT

That’s right. He told me the play was stressing him out.

LOU

I’ll start him on some Yohimbe.

MORT

You are going to give him bark from some African tree?

LOU

Clinical trials show it can help.

MORT

Yeah if the guy is depressed. But who sponsored those trials? The African Bark People, that’s who! And what about the side effects?

LOU

Irregular heart beat and anxiety? That’s nothing compared to the side effects of Viagra. You want an erection that lasts for hours?

MORT

I could live with that.

LOU

Maybe Ginkgo Biloba.

MORT

It doesn’t work! Look, lots of pharmacists sell dietary supplements, but I don’t. The FDA treats them as foods not drugs. They aren’t subject to the same scrutiny, they can be dangerous, life –threatening.

LOU

What about the thousands of people who have died from pharmaceuticals?

MORT

They were sick! Not looking to be trendy!

LOU

Trendy?

MORT

Why don’t you just give the guy a massage? It worked for me!

LOU

I think you better leave.

MORT

You’re shooting the messenger here.

LOU

Just get out!

MORT

Does this mean I don’t get the job?

LOU

Go!

MORT

Maybe it’s you.

LOU

What?

MORT

Maybe you don’t have what it takes. You haven’t been making love for ages and you just now decide you are going to do something about it? You scared of passion? Hey, stay away.

LOU

What? You’re afraid Lou is going to slowly sneak up on you, surround you and pad you to death? Is that it, scaredy-cat? Maybe it’s you that doesn’t have what it takes.

They embrace

MORT

We both have what it takes. Now what?

ENTER HANK. He is limping and covered in bandages

HANK

I’m back!

(CURTAIN)

 

 

ACT TWO SCENE ONE

It is a minute later Mort and Hank are alone

MORT

What happened to you?HANK

OK, I go see the neighbor. She’s a widow.

 

MORT

Really.

HANK

Brown is her last name. Been married seven times before. The last one was a Hank.

MORT

Do tell.

HANK

In fact, they were all Hanks! No William Shakespeare. No Samuel Johnson. No literary types at all. She introduced me to her daughter. She’s lovely.

MORT

Didn’t I tell you to stay away from her?

HANK

She brought the dog out for me. I’m not interested in her.

MORT

So you walked the dog around town, told everyone you met the favor you were doing for a poor old widow-woman in as concise a way as possible, and moved on to the next. Then you were set upon by a mugger.

HANK

No! Not at all.

MORT

Then you were set upon by a thief who wanted to steal the dog and you managed heroically to beat him off.

HANK

No!

MORT

Then you were set upon by your psychotic old actress from Arsenic and Old Lace who immediately recognized and attacked you, scratching and biting you.

HANK

No. See, I never took the dog for a walk.

MORT

Why not?

HANK

I was going to but we got talking.

MORT

You and the widow.

HANK

That’s how I found out all those things about her. I was doing what you asked! Being more sensitive!

MORT

You’ve been gone for two hours.

HANK

Well, I did tell her a little about myself. A conversation isn’t supposed to be a monologue, is it?

MORT

You filled her ear for two hours?

HANK

How could I? She’s deaf! Anyway, as time went on, I noticed the dog was getting a little restless. You, know, whining, and growling.

MORT

Growling?

HANK

So the widow motioned I should let him off the leash. That’s when he attacked me! Jumped up, knocked me down, grabbed me by the trouser leg, and pulled me across the driveway to her lawn. I guess that’s where he does his business, because he dragged me through a bunch of dog shit, put his paw on my chest to hold me down and commenced to pee all over me!

MORT

I get it. You were so wrapped up about yourself with the widow, you never noticed that her puppy needed to take a leak? Didn’t I tell you to pay attention to it? Poetic justice Fido gets pissed off you get pissed on. But dogs love you, right? What kind of dog was it? A Rottweiler? Pit Bull?

HANK

I don’t know from dogs! It was big. Big teeth. Big floppy ears. Big fluffy coat. Kind of a golden color.

MORT

You pissed off a Golden Retriever, the most vicious of them all.

HANK

So the widow invites me in to get cleaned up. I’m in shock, OK? So the next thing I know, we are in the shower together!

MORT

You and the widow?

HANK

No! Me, the widow, and her daughter.

MORT

I told you to stay away from her!

HANK

She was just there to translate! Nothing happened. Oh, by the way, you can cancel that favor I asked you for. Anyway they just cleaned me up, got out the iodine and the bandages. I think they were afraid I was going to have the dog put down. Or sue them or something.

MORT

A neighbor’s dog bites you, their home insurance pays you five grand, no questions asked.

HANK

But how could I do that to my neighbors? They were so grateful. I think the widow took a shine to me. At least if the daughter’s translation was accurate. I must admit I was tempted. It was so refreshing to have someone pay such attention to me. Her eyes hardly ever left my face for a minute. But I would never cheat on Lou. I’m a married man.

MORT

You could always get a divorce I suppose.

HANK

I don’t believe in divorce. I’m married to Lou as long as she lives.

MORT

For life.

HANK

That’s what I meant. Divorce would break her heart. I couldn’t do that to her even if I wanted to.

MORT

Of course. I suppose they will have to understudy you tonight.

HANK

Miss the premiere? No way. These are literally just scratches.

MORT

You are limping.

HANK

From my fall, yes. But that’s perfect. Willy should limp! He’s worn out. He has these suitcases he has to haul around. It serendipity!

MORT

They had suitcases in Shakespeare’s time?

HANK

Damn it, Mort, you’re a Pharmacist, not a Drama Critic. Leave the symbolism to the experts, OK? I still have my walking boot from the last time, so that will work.

 

Enter LOU and GUY

LOU

Here’s your walking boot. I can’t find the first aid kit anywhere!

MORT

It’s OK He’s gonna be all right.

GUY

Surely you are not taking the stage tonight.

 

HANK

Putting the boot on.

Call me anything, just don’t call me Shirley. Get it?

GUY

You heard it Louise. Flipper just said I can call him anything.

HANK

I have to get ready! Look at the time!

LOU

We haven’t run our lines yet!

HANK

That’s alright I ran them with the widow next door while my clothes were drying.

LOU

Oh.

HANK

She thinks I’m going to be great! It’s like she’s my number one fan. At least that’s what I think the daughter told me. It’s really hard to hear in the shower. You know, with all that water pouring down on her, I couldn’t help but think of that scene in the film version of The Miracle Worker. Anne Bancroft, playing Patty Duke’s tutor, wrestles her under a pump and water comes splashing down on her hand, see? Patty plays the young Helen Keller of course, and the force of the water from the pump cues her to say “wawa”, her first understandable word! Of course the difference is that Patty had all her clothes on. The play’s much better than the film, by the way.

MORT

Wawa?

HANK

That’s sort of like how Peaches says “water”. The acoustics were much better in the bedroom, thank God.

LOU

Peaches?

HANK

That’s Widow Browns real name. Peaches. What? Did you think it was “Widow”?

LOU

Must be a nickname.

HANK

Nope. It’s on her birth certificate. Would you believe she’s forty-five? She won that bet! Put her next to you, and you couldn’t tell who was the younger! Did you know that Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke both won Oscars for that film? I’ll bet you don’t know the name of the character Bancroft played.

GUY

Annie Sullivan.

HANK

You’re good. I tried that one out on Trixie and she didn’t have a clue.

LOU

Trixie?

HANK

That’s Peaches daughter. I don’t know whether that’s her real name or just her tattoo name. She was a big help in the bedroom. That’s where we ran the lines.

LOU

Because of the acoustics.

HANK

She had the script when I got stuck. We were quite the threesome. I have to get dressed now!

HANK exits

LOU

“My number one fan”. How many times has she been married?

MORT

Seven. Seven times before. She’s quite charming, actually.

GUY

So have you heard enough, Louise? Your husband has a threesome in the shower with two women named Peaches and Trixie. Did I tell you I know a bloke?

LOU

Relax Daddy.

MORT

Lou’s right. Hank told me he’s not attracted to, uh, Trixie in the least. He told me that he would never cheat on your daughter or divorce her as long as she lived.

GUY

But he’s attracted to that deaf tramp, Trixie!

LOU

Daddy!

MORT

Actually it is Trixie who translates for Peaches, the deaf woman who listens to him. OK? That’s the attraction. Trixie is there. Home all the time. She‘s his number one fan. That’s it.

LOU

I’m surprised, you sticking up for my husband.

MORT

He’s my best friend. It’s the least I could do for him after everything that’s happened recently. Besides, he’s too in love with himself to be much of a lover, whether we’re talking Peaches, Trixie, or Helen Keller. I wouldn’t be worried about him cheating if I were you. You would have to be dead or divorced.

GUY

Do you think…..?

LOU

Hank would never hurt me.

MORT

He wouldn’t hurt a fly.

 

ENTER Hank dressed in Elizabethan garb with bandages and walking boot. He has a dagger in his hand and a pair of pantyhose over his face.

MORT

Did they have 7-11s in Elizabethan times? Because you look like you’re about to knock off one.

LOU

Are you nervous, Honey?

HANK

No. Are you?

LOU

What do I have to be nervous about?

HANK

Well, I wonder if you could help me through this one speech before we go. For those of you unfamiliar with Death of A Salesman, we learn that Willie in the past had a tryst with a women in a motel in exchange for a pair of nylon stockings. She is the secretary of one of his buyers. The stockings may have been intended for his wife, Linda. This affair haunts his present consciousness and his conscience. He realizes it’s his own fault. It’s literally all on his head. Hence the updated pantyhose. In my version Willy confronts the woman. So Lou could you play the secretary?. I grab you and confront you.

GUY

With the dagger?

LOU

It’s alright, Daddy. I’d be happy to.

HANK

That’s why she’s my second biggest fan!

GUY

Louise!

LOU

It’s fine.

GUY

I can’t watch this! I’ll see you all at the theater.

GUY exits

HANK

I’ll need your feedback. So try to be an attentive audience. Here goes:

“My poor body, madam, requires it; I am driven on by the flesh, and must needs go where the devil drives. In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love over the nasty sty, I served the lust of my mistress’ heart, and did the act of darkness with her. Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back! Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind your wives, your daughters, your matrons and your maids could not fill up the cistern of my lust. I have no words! Is this a dagger I see before me?!

HANK raises the dagger and plunges it into LOU. She screams. MORT tackles HANK and falls on top of the two of them.

HANK

What did you do that for?

HANK extricates himself from the pile and plunges the dagger into himself. It telescopes. It is a prop.

HANK

So what did you think? Does it work?

HANK Checks his watch

Never mind. I’m going to be late! See you there. Try to get a seat in the front row.

EXIT HANK

 

ACT TWO SCENE TWO

 

MORT and LOU are cuddling together.

LOU

My hero!

MORT

I’m sorry. I thought it was real. Are you sure you are OK?

LOU

You weigh a ton!

MORT

I’m trying to diet.

LOU

You actually thought….

MORT

I was trying to save your life!

LOU

I told you, he would never hurt me. Aren’t you the one who said he wouldn’t hurt a fly! You just saw an opportunity to jump on me!

MORT

I love you.

LOU

I’m married.

MORT

Didn’t stop him. You want to have a shower? We could invite Peaches to translate.

LOU

He would never be unfaithful to me. As long as we are married. And he doesn’t believe in divorce. So there’s no chance.

MORT

He can’t stop you from divorcing him. You separate and after a year you can get a divorce. You are free!

LOU

To marry you? It would never work!

MORT

Would you want it to?

LOU

I’d like to get to know you first!

MORT

What’s to know? Can’t you tell? You kissed me!

LOU

No, you kissed me! Look, I can’t leave him and I won’t cheat on him. Anymore than I already have. OK? I divorce him and I lose my Aunt Gwendolyn’s inheritance.

MORT

I’m a pharmacist! I’m loaded! Look, I’ll even start selling herbal supplements to the unwary, OK? They are a license to print money! It will totally offset anything you lose by divorcing him. I’d do that for you, even though it goes against my principals

LOU

So you would buy me off? I would prefer you keep your principals. It’s one of the things I love about you, for Pete’s sake! Even though you are completely misguided about herbal supplements. See, we are completely incompatible!

MORT

You just said you loved me.

LOU

I said I admired your principals. That does not mean it’s shower time!

MORT

You’re lying there and your husband takes off! And you love the guy?

LOU

I do not love Hank. I invited my father here to find a way out. But there is no way out for me. And I will not be dependent on any man’s money Got that? Look, you saw his soliloquy. Do you think the play is going to be a big hit? This thing he has worked so hard on is going to be a laughing stock! He will be crushed! Hank is going to need me more than ever! You should go. They will be back soon and you are not going to want to witness the aftermath. Oh God, they’re back already!

ENTER GUY

LOU

Well?

GUY

I’ve never seen anything like it!

MORT

That bad, huh?

GUY

It was tremendous! A tour de force! The audience was enthralled!

MORT

No!

GUY

Yes, yes, yes!

LOU

Really? I’m so happy for him!

MORT

But what does he know?

LOU

Daddy? He’s the drama critic for The Times of London!

GUY

It’s bizarre, it’s outrageous, it’s provocative, and it works! That’s the first line of my review. Pack your bags, Lou, we are taking the red-eye to Edinburgh!

LOU

Edinburgh?

GUY

I just got off the phone with a friend in Edinburgh. We’ve got a spot in the Fringe Festival!

LOU

That’s wonderful!

GUY

The rest of the cast aren’t going anywhere, trust me. But when we fill in with some Fringe regulars that thing will really take off. Mark my words, it will be premiering in the West End by autumn! He’s going to be a very rich man, your husband. I just hope it’s enough to buy him a personality transplant.

LOU

You know he’ll never change, Daddy.

MORT

All hail the conquering hero.

ENTER HANK, dressed as before.

HANK

It’s a hit! They couldn’t have done it without me! I knocked them dead! Had them in the palm of my hand! You could have heard a pin drop during the suicide scene! I got five standing ovations! They were spell bound! I knew it. I just knew it would work. And I was right! Did your father tell you? I’m going to the Fringe! I’m leaving tonight with him. Did you know he’s some kind of critic? So he’s got all kinds of connections.

LOU

Tonight? That’s impossible!

GUY

The Fringe opens in two days.

HANK

Just me. The rest of the cast didn’t make the cut, right, Pops? We’re going to have real actors in Scotland. What a relief that is!

LOU

I can’t be ready to leave tonight!

HANK

Not to worry. You are not going! I’m divorcing you!

LOU

But you are opposed to divorce!

HANK

But not to Catholic divorce! That’s called Annulment!

LOU

But don’t you need grounds for that?

HANK

Silly! Like I told Peaches on the way back here, you and I have never made love! She said that in the eyes of the Church the marriage was never consummated!

GUY

Peaches is a theologian?

HANK

So there never was a marriage! That way I will never feel guilty about anything I may or may not have done next door! Lucky me! Now Pops, I’m only going based on one stipulation. Peaches and Trixie have to accompany us! My number one and number two fans were there tonight and they deserve to support me in Scotland as well. Actually, I was thinking that Peaches might be able to take on the role of Linda, Willy’s wife. She’s older, after all, and I thought it would be really poignant if Linda had a hearing disability. And I also thought that Trixie would be a natural for the secretary Willy bedded at the motel.

GUY

Of course they can come! I’ll make the arrangements right away on line. Why don’t we discuss your unique casting ideas on the plane?

HANK

They will be thrilled! Now. We were wondering about Edinburgh. Is it like Vegas?   Can one go through like a drive–in chapel and get hitched that way? I’m only asking for Peaches. She wants me to change my name to Henry! That’s more of an actor’s name, isn’t it? Hank Fonda? I don’t think so. I’ll be her eighth husband! Henry the Eighth, get it? And Trixie wants to know if they have slot machines. I don’t think they do, any of that. It must be so Presbyterian there, but I thought I should ask for them. And Lou, there’s something important I want to say to you.

LOU

You are welcome. I’ll never forget the time we spent together. Break a leg, Hank.

HANK

Actually, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind looking after the Brown’s dog while we are gone.

MORT

The Golden Retriever?

HANK

Fido. Yes. But be careful. He’s quite vicious. Actually, I would really appreciate it if you could make it permanent. That dog takes way too much of their attention. And they can still visit him when we get back next month. After all, we will all be just next door! So I’ll be able to come over for the odd massage when the old back starts acting up.

LOU

I’ll look forward to that. Would you like me to pack your bags for you?

HANK

Wonderful. Just drop them off next door. But hurry, our plane leaves at midnight. Au revoir!

 

EXIT HANK

LOU

You found a way, Daddy.

 

LOU embraces him.

GUY

Don’t know what you are talking about. Now I’ve got to pack. He insists on flying in Elizabethan costume, so you won’t have to pack that.

LOU

It will be my pleasure.

EXIT GUY

MORT

My head is spinning! You think your Dad is serious? The play was great?

LOU

The important thing is that Hank thinks so. And I’m happy that he does. Now I’m going to pack his bag. You go over there and retrieve Fido. They’ll be gone soon.

MORT

Then what? Can we sort this all out?

LOU

I’m sure we can. After we take our shower!

 

CURTAIN

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