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Playing Through

February 11, 2009 by · 4 comments

Photo: tristanbrand

Playing Through

a play by

John Lawson


Ben, an actor

Bonnie, an actress

Deacon, a big bruiser

Scant, a smaller, dapper fellow


A bare stage.  Noises off:  Sounds of struggle, scuffling.  Ben hurtles onstage, up right, as if thrown; he’s on the ground, rubbing his sore joints.  Bonnie follows, struggling against Deacon’s ruthless grip. 

Deacon:  No, no! No you don’t!  (He throws Bonnie to the floor.)  Go on, get in there, you!  (To Ben) Now, don’t you move!  Don’t neither of you move an inch!


(Scant follows them in.) 

Ben:  What is this place?  Where have you brought us?  (He makes as if to rise, but Deacon warns him back down.)


Scant:  This?  This is your world.  Your stage.  This is where everything gets resolved, finally.  This is where we find out what really happens in the end. 

Bonnie:  It’s big enough.  What is this?  A warehouse?  (She rises, hugging herself.  Deacon warns her, but she stands anyway.  Scant motions Deacon to leave her alone.)  I’m freezing.


Scant:  Don’t worry.  We’ll get you some blankets and such.  Clothing.  Costumes.  Everything you need. 

Ben:  What do you want from us?  How long are you going to keep us here?


Scant:  That depends. 

Bonnie:  Depends?  On what?


Scant:  Oh, on a lot of things.  On how things work out. 

Ben:  Work out?  How do you mean?


Scant:  Between the two of you.  

(Ben and Bonnie exchange glances.)


Bonnie:  Between us? 

Ben:  I don’t understand.


Deacon (to Ben):  Hey, stupid!  Think!  All right?  The two of you—you’re in love, right? 

Ben:  In love?  Us?


Bonnie:  Does he—Do you mean on the show?  Our characters? 

(Deacon shrugs an affirmation as if to indicate that her point is obvious.)


Ben:  Bu- bu- but that, that’s just a show!  That’s not really us!  We’re actors.  Real people with real lives.   

Bonnie:  I’m not Rosalind.  I’m Bonnie Grice.  I’ve got a real husband.  And he’s Ben, Ben Krupa…


Ben:  Krupinski, actually.  Ukrainian….  Krupa for short.


Bonnie: That’s right, Krupa.  Ben Krupa.  He’s not actually young Dr. Slade.  He’s got… Ben’s got…in real life, I mean…  What have you got?  You’re not married, are you?  Girlfriend?


Scant:  That’s enough of that!  I don’t want you talking to each other out of character. 

Ben:  What?


Bonnie:  That’s crazy. 


Scant:  Get this straight.  Until we say otherwise, you are Rosalind, and you are Dr. Slade.  If we hear you say one syllable out of character, ever… (pause; he gestures toward Deacon, who swells menacingly, rolls up his sleeves).  Let’s put it this way.  Things could go hard for you.


Ben:  But, but…


Bonnie:  For starters, what do you expect us to say in character?  We haven’t got any lines!  On the show, we’ve got writers, you know!  We don’t just make up the story as we go!


Scant:  Come on, lady, who do you think you’re talking to?  The last turnip that fell off the cart? 

Bonnie:  A nut, that’s who I think I’m talking to.

Deacon (menacing):  Don’t you do that.  You don’t condescend to us, you got that?

Bonnie:  Okay, okay.  For gosh sakes…

Scant:  What my colleague here means…  We’re your public!  We adore you!  And we have certain expectations.


Ben:  So?  So answer her question! What do you want us to do?  And more important, for how long? 


Scant:  Improv.  Ever hear of improv, my friends?  Look-it here, Deacon!  A couple of professional TV actors who never heard of improv!  Can you believe it?


Bonnie:  You want us to improv our lines?  Make up the story ourselves?


Deacon (sarcastic):  Dat’s right!  Hey, Deacon!  Catch the genius here.  I think he’s actually getting it.


Ben:  You want us to make it up ourselves?  But…


Bonnie (she’s thought of something):  We…We can do that.  Can’t we, Ben?  (Remembers, quickly)  I mean, Dr. Slade?


Ben (getting the idea):  Oh…Yes… Yes… Certainly, my dear Rosalind.  (To Scant and Deacon)  Shall we begin?


Scant:  Sure.  Any time.


(Ben and Bonnie join hands, bow to their “audience” with exaggerated finesse, move across the stage.  Bonnie ends up down left facing the real audience; Ben is center.  Deacon and Scant drift to middle right.)

Ben (holds his left hand up, turns to Deacon and Scant, his stage audience;  indicates left hand):  A door.  (Knocks on his left hand with his right.)  Rosalind!  Oh, Ros-


Deacon (interrupting):  Wait a minute!  Wait a minute!  (Approaches holding out a piece of wood).  Here’s a piece of wood.  Use that. 

Ben:  Oh, thank you.  (Holds up wood, knocks on it).  Rosalind!  Oh Rosalind!


Bonnie:  Yes?  Yes?  Who is it? 

Ben:  It’s I, Rosalind, your own Dr. Slade.


Bonnie:  Doctor… Doctor Slade? 

Ben:  Your own, sweet Rosalind.  Come to bring you magnificent news.


(They face each other.) 

Bonnie:  What news, my love?


Ben (takes her hands in his):  Just this… 

Scant (interrupting):  Oh, for the love of…


Ben:  What? 

Bonnie:  What is it?


Scant (walking over, holding up the piece of wood in Ben’s hand):  The door!  At least open the door first! 

Bonnie:  Oh.  Oh, yes.


Scant (returning to Deacon’s side; to Deacon, sarcastic):  Real professional improv, I must say. 

Bonnie:  Sorry.  Sorry. (All reset themselves in place; Bonnie elaborately pantomimes opening the door).  What… What news, my love?


Ben:  Just this.  Our fathers have reconciled their differences at last!  They are no longer enemies but dearest friends! 

Bonnie:  Magnificent news indeed, my own, my dear, dear love!


(They join hands ecstatically.) 

Ben:  And now, dear Rosalind… (he falls to one knee)


Bonnie:  Yes? 

Ben:  If you will have me…


Scant:  Wait!  Wait!  Wait! 

Ben & Bonnie:  What is it?  What? 


Scant (advancing):  This is the stupidest thing I ever saw. 

Ben & Bonnie:  Why?  What’s the matter now?


Scant:  Because, because, because… 

Deacon (also advancing):  Because it wouldn’t happen that way, that’s why!


Bonnie:  What do you mean? 

Ben:  It just did happen.  You saw it.


Scant:  Oh, no.  No, you’re not getting away with that. 

Bonnie:  What do you want?


Deacon:  We never saw the whole change.  I mean, your fathers have hated each other for years.  They’re not just going to magically fall into each others’ arms like that and become pals. 

Ben:  Well what are we supposed to do about that?  I mean, it’s just the two of us here.  We’re in love.  So…


Bonnie:  …We’re acting like we’re in love! 

Ben:  We can’t be all the other characters in the show.


Bonnie:  I mean, I guess we could, but… 

Ben:  …But you’d never believe us.  Can you imagine her playing her father? 


Bonnie:  I’d need some props, at least.  A long, gray beard… 

Scant (pacing, deep in thought):  Yeah, yeah, I see.  Yeah, I never thought of that.  (Pause.)  Deacon, you got any ideas?


Deacon:  I guess… 

Scant:  What?


Deacon:  I guess you and I could play their fathers. 

Scant:  You and I?  What kind of sense does that make?


Deacon:  Why not?   

Scant:  You and I?  Then who would be the audience?  Who’d watch the thing play out, for God’s sake?  See what I mean?


Deacon:  Yeah.  I guess… 

Scant:  No.  There’s gotta be another way.


Deacon (yawns and stretches):  Well, we ain’t gonna think of it tonight.  Let’s get some sleep.  Maybe we’ll solve the problem in our dreams. 

Bonnie:  You’re going to keep us…overnight?


Ben:  Now look.  We’ve done our best.  If you guys let us go right now… 

Scant:  Aw, naw.  No, no, no, no.


Ben:  If you guys let us go, we’ll both be willing to forget the whole thing, won’t we, Bonnie?   

Bonnie:  That’s right!  A couple of over-eager fans…


Scant (fierce):  I told you never to do that! 

Bonnie:  What?


Scant:  Never, and I mean never, never speak to each other out of character again! 

Ben:  Oh, come on!


Bonnie:  You can’t be serious! 

Ben:  Listen, if you don’t let us go right now, you guys are going to be in big trouble.


Scant (takes Bonnie by the arm, points to all four corners of the ceiling):  C’mere.  Y’see up there?  Those cameras?  One in each corner of the ceiling.  Y’see ‘em? 

Bonnie (nods):  M-hm.


Scant:  We’re gonna be watching every move you make.  Always.  You ain’t getting out of here tonight.  You ain’t getting out of here tomorrow or any other time.  Not until we say so, got it?  And them cameras, they got mikes on ‘em, too.  We can hear everything.  Not one move out of character.  Not one word.  Ever.


(Scant releases Bonnie, heads toward up right entrance; Deacon joins him.  Scant turns.) 

Scant:  And just to teach you what happens when you break the rules…no blankets tonight.  Either one of you.


(Exit Scant and Deacon, Deacon waving a chastising finger at Ben and Bonnie.  Ben and Bonnie stare around them for a moment.  Bonnie hugs herself, shivering.) 

Ben (low):  Do you believe this?  Completely insane, obviously.


Bonnie:  I just hope these lunatics don’t kill us.


Scant’s voice over a loudspeaker:  I heard that!  Talking out of character!  One more word, and you won’t get any breakfast!


Ben (extending arms):  Rosalind, dear.


Bonnie:  Yes, Dr. Slade?


Ben:  Come to my arms, my love.  Let’s be warm together.


(They clasp each other close, shivering.) 

Ben:  How’s that?  A little better?

Scant’s voice:  I heard that!

Ben (shouts):  I said it in character, god damn it!  What do you want from me?  (To Bonnie) What does he want from me?  Uh, Rosalind?


Bonnie:  Mmm, yes, Dr. Slade.  That does feel better.  A little.  A little better.


Scant’s voice over the loudspeaker:  We’re watching!  Watching…. 

(Ben and Bonnie sit down, trying to cover each other as best they can.)


Ben (loudly, for the benefit of the cameras and microphones):  Comfortable, Rosalind, my love? 


Bonnie (the same):  No, Dr. Slade.  Here.  Put your arm like this…

Ben:  Better?

Bonnie:  Hmmm.    Yes.  Better.  A little better.

Ben:  I just hope…

Bonnie: What?

Ben:  I hope we don’t get used to this.

Scant’s voice:  Listening!

Ben:  Rosalind.  My love.

 (A beat.  Lights down.)





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