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B. Walker Sampson

Location: Long Island City, NY
Email: walkbens@hotmail.com
Pushlished In: American Theatre
Other: Works in the publications department at Theatre Communications Group and teach creative writing at Hofstra University; his play "Clear Across" was produced in the 1999 Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival at the Harold Clurman Theatre and his newest, "Evacuating Standstill," will be given a staged reading in New York City at the end of July, 2000


ACTS IN BETWEEN

Characters:

CLYDE: male; spent

PETRY: female; jazz-happy

SAUL: male; aiming to please

MARTA: female; not accomodated

KEITH: male; incurably so

LLAN: female; sputtering

Scene:

Two double beds, each making up a half of the stage. These beds contain a rotating chain of paired people, all in their twenties and all in post-coital discussion.

 

(Light on BED RIGHT: CLYDE and PETRY.)

 

PETRY

Dangerous.

CLYDE

Yes.

PETRY

That was dangerous.

CLYDE

Iím glad.

PETRY

I could write on you. Trace space between your sweat, make some lines, what would you want the lines to say?

CLYDE

Occupied.

PETRY

Please do not disturb, please do not disturb my baby. My baby is mine, mine to bother and yours to walk on by. Keep the door closed, itís all secret in here.

CLYDE

Would you consider it an insult . . .

PETRY

I wouldnít consider it an insult. Iíd check the texture of the words before I was hurt, then Iíd filter through your meaning, find something worthwhile in a put down.

CLYDE

I was just going to put on some on music.

PETRY

No radio in here, baby. Just an alarm clock.

CLYDE

No. I have one in the other room.

PETRY

I knew a woman once: she broke all the strings to her guitar. She cut her hair, made strings out of that. Music grew from her.

CLYDE

God, Petry. She strums so hard her strings break, her hair isnít going to hold up.

PETRY

It was only a lie to make you feel better.

CLYDE

Did I ever tell you I was a dog person? (Beat.) I never had a dog. I always wanted a dog. We had cats in our house. Three of them. Two of them were gray, one, brown. thatís the way I knew their names, so I always called two cats the same whatís the difference, with what they do. Damn things rub your leg and run away. Walk along the thatched roof eaves and never bother falling. The bitch of it was: Iím allergic. Not to cats; to dogs.

(Beat.)

PETRY

Youíre a devil, Clyde. A bitch-devil with a base mouth.

(DARK on BED-RIGHT.

LIGHT on BED-LEFT.)

MARTA

I didnít know you were going to waste my time.

SAUL

I was hoping on a sequence of chances. Youíre a complicated woman, Marta, and itís going to take some time to learn . . . everything about you includes this, you know, what you need and at what velocity.

MARTA

In the other room, on my shelf of books, in what Iíve affectionately dubbed the reference section, there is an encyclopedia of dramatic terms. Thereís something in the Aís that applies to your little promise and plea, and that word is this: audition.

 

 

SAUL

Well, then in time Iíll come to accept that but, you must excuse me, but in the meantime, I plan on dealing with it very badly, sweating over it at work, out drinking, in the midst of job interviews, pounding my fist both figuratively and intellectually at the chance I might have had with your company.

MARTA

In short, you thought about it too much before it started.

SAUL

It was beautiful, what I thought.

(Beat.)

MARTA

I took the day off, Tuesday, you know. As a rule, I go in sick as a hemorrhaging poodle, because I always want to save up my days. Thatís what I fantasize about, those times when Stanleyís in a meeting and the phone stops ringing in those mysterious, mystical pieces of silence in the office. As an assistant, you really do run out of time to help yourself. You donít have a department, you have somebody elseís department. Your meaning is only a subtext of somebodyís elseís meaning, but you have to work your ass off to become a full-fledged definition. These are the things that frustrate me, Saul, but my teeth are well-accustomed to be gritted and going on. But I look forward to the time I have to myself, the time for all this energy to wash out of my body, to get myself ready for the new energy I have to put into it. (Beat.) And the point, as applied to you, here hanging on my every word, is that nothing washed. (Gets out of the bed.)

SAUL

Where are you going?

MARTA

To finish up. (She crosses the stage, getting into the other bed with PETRY, as CLYDE sits in the dark downstage of the beds. The LIGHT remains on BED-LEFT, as LLAN gets in bed with SAUL.)

SAUL

Why do you do that?

LLAN

Why what?

 

SAUL

Just sort of bolt afterwards to the kitchen. To set the coffeemaker.

LLAN

Oh, you know I get sleepy afterwards. I want to make sure I get that done.

SAUL

If you want, I could do that. Iím awake and stressed afterwards.

LLAN

Oh, no, thatís fine. You donít drink coffee, itís really really fine.

SAUL

I know, I know, but it makes it feel like it never even happened. You know, like I, like I . . .

LLAN

Oh, but it did, donít worry about that.

SAUL

Yes, but if it meant youíd stay for a while, even fall asleep while you did some sort of absent-minded gesture on my chest, maybe, then I would barter with setting the coffeemaker for the morning.

LLAN

Thatís why I dart, dear. To make-believe I was never gone. (Beat.) Though last night I . . . (Beat.) Oh that was awful.

SAUL

What?

LLAN

I canít believe I said that.

SAUL

What?

LLAN

Work is hard. Isnít it, starting out, itís so hard. You feel like you have to get through so much crap to get to the stuff you like. You feel like you should be a masochist after all that time wasted funneling, oversleeping, and having the sisters shave your pubic hair in college. I know, I know.

 

SAUL

Geez, Llan. I canít keep up with you. Sometimes I wonder if . . . (Beat.) Thereís someplace Iíve been . . .

LLAN

No, youíre overworked, I understand. These are the times when the workplace is our livingspace, and nights are spent at our desk wondering if the keyboard might not be the worst kind of pillow. Itís not, you know, but you know. I had a frog once--it was my pet, and it lived in a glass case. And I used to accuse it of being boring--all it did was puff itís throat and blink, but never when you asked it to. It never blinked on command. It never responded to my love the way I pre-planned for it to. But then I apologized, in tears, because I realized I could never expect that from the frog because I didnít understand the frog--the frog had problems, the frog was complicated. The frog was exhausted, it had no time for me, it was exhausted from the monotony.

SAUL

Llan?

LLAN

Saul! Saul! I donít deserve you, Saul!

SAUL

I know we have misunderstanding . . .

LLAN

We understand each other perfectly. But then it stops.

SAUL

What?

LLAN

It stops.

(Beat.)

SAUL

Last night, I . . .

LLAN

No, itís stopped. I stopped it, I . . .

(KEITH enters, getting into bed next to LLAN; SAUL is edged out of the bed in the shuffle.)

KEITH

Sorry, man. Better lay.

(SAUL retreats to dark downstage with CLYDE. DARK on BED-LEFT,

LIGHT on BED-RIGHT.)

MARTA

I guess I believe that, too.

PETRY

Itís not men and women, itís . . .

MARTA

Pleasure, right.

PETRY

So I understand you like to work with your hands.

MARTA

Uh, I type.

PETRY

Someone told me. Someone told me what you did in your spare time.

MARTA

Somebody may have the wrong idea.

PETRY

Alas. "What does it matter; what you say about a person." Is that how it goes, I havenít been in a movie theater for so long.

MARTA

What do you do?

PETRY

Capture snowflakes on my tongue.

MARTA

No. Where do you work?

PETRY

(Doing a snow-angel in the bed.) Geography?

MARTA

Yes.

PETRY

Washington Heights. But I do work all over. I love the way the globe just spins around, you could make each city a sort of globe. No north, no south, just a sphere of trains, taxis, and pumping pavement. (Beat.) Columbia, doll.

MARTA

Youíre a student.

PETRY

No, I have a grant. (Beat.) Thereís a whole field that takes the way we funny people behave and takes it down to sea and land, when weíre growing and when weíre grown up. I look at people without sand stuck to their feet, but who dream of dipping back in, one toe at a time. (Beat.) Thereís a man I made love to, had something like a seizure when he came, a gesture he didnít mean, quick to the left. I spent a lot of time with this man, as a friend--he was the most masculine of men, always wanted to be a man, never wanted to not have the composure of a man. But when this man came, it was beautiful and violent all at once, and his head snapped quick and quick and his eyes filled up with tears of joy.

(Beat.)

MARTA

There is something I do in my spare time. You know what it is?

PETRY

(Taking MARTAís head into her hands and massaging her lobes.) Old big laundry bag you have, old stuff that got all wet and you didnít leave out to dry. Old towel left on the tile after the bath, bunched up and crusted.

(LIGHT on CLYDE and SAUL, the latterís head on the formerís knees; LIGHT on BED-RIGHT remains.)

MARTA

Thatís not my head youíre talking about.

PETRY

Old swollen head, let me help.

MARTA

That hurts.

CLYDE

Thatís an interesting fantasy youíve got going there.

SAUL

Iím under the bed, while this Cro-Magnon man breaks the springs, plunging his hunting spear repeatedly into my late companion.

CLYDE

What ever soars your skies.

SAUL

It takes me back to level.

CLYDE

Brings you out here. (Beat.) I was with someone . . .she was with a lot of people, but we were --home base, you know.

SAUL

Home base?

(Beat.)

CLYDE

Of course, off on my own . . .

SAUL

(Standing up.) Listen, I . . . Iím going to grad school in the fall. Which means I have taken things lightly as of late. Everything is set--Iím not relocating, I donít think, so I donít have to move. Iím going to be clearing in on Sterne and Joyce, so Iím even reading some Louis LíAmour this summer to clear the palate. And she smiles like a straw-man, a scarecrow, a sort of zig-zag line that frustrates me to no end. And I think about other places to go, and I wonder if she knows what Iím thinking. If she knows where Iíve been, and how much Iíve failed . . . (Beat.) I think it bothers her, and it bothers me that I construct her unsettling . . .because she doesnít flaunt it. (Beat.) Except with the Cro-Magnon Man. (Beat. He moves into the dark, behind BED-LEFT.) And she works so hard.

CLYDE

Even when Iím not on my own . . .

(DARK on DOWNSTAGE; SAUL disappears beneath BED-LEFT, which is now in LIGHT.

KEITH kisses LLAN, facing away, on the shoulder. She doesnít react.)

PETRY

The hurt is nice. It leads in.

KEITH

Was it great? (Again kisses LLAN on the shoulder.)

LLAN

Good. Very good.

KEITH

For some people, this is something to do when youíre in love, youíre on a date. Something quick, and then on with the rest of things.

MARTA

Thatís a flat pain, and you didnít let me tell you what I like to do in my spare time.

KEITH

(Knocking on her head.) Whatís going on in there? (Beat.) Let me tell you though, whose hands you have been in. Iím schooled. This is the kind of thing I know. I have a major, and an expertise. (Beat.) Hello? When are you going to come out?

LLAN

(Dreamy.) I already came out. Went back in.

MARTA

I like to make lists. It fills the gaps, between when things need to be done, I think about what I can do, for myself.

LLAN

Iím thinking about reading.

KEITH

Youíre not listening. (Kisses at her ear.) Listen.

LLAN

Too tired. I think all the words would slur together, even if I wasnít saying them. Sort of like . . .

MARTA

I thought I told you to stop. Will you please?

PETRY

Would you want me to stop, please? (Beat.) What was the next thing on your list?

MARTA

They never get done. Itís a list just for me. It sounds nice, but it never gets done.

PETRY

Someone else had your list. They showed it to me in a bar. They were making fun of you. I took the list from them and put it in their throat.

MARTA

You waste your time with that mystic crap. (Sits up.) I should really . . .

LLAN

There are all these books. Sometimes I buy them, and put them in order. When Iím going to read them, holidays, three day weekends. (Beat.) Thereís something else I could be getting done, but now youíve worn me out. (Sits up, suddenly.) Is this the second night youíve been here?

PETRY

These are the moods I get in. You should have seen the last one.

MARTA

Iím sure Iíll see it sometime. (Getting out of the bed.) The next time I forget to leave the bar, alone. (Exits.)

LLAN

We havenít moved from this bed. We havenít moved from this bed. I have to do the dishes, I have two more volumes of Proust, I have to set the crock-pot, I have no time for a bed-in.

KEITH

Consider it a protest.

SAUL

(From under the bed.) A protest of what?

KEITH

I want you to tell me it wasnít the best.

LLAN

It was the best.

SAUL

Ha!

KEITH

Stroke for stroke?

SAUL

Pucker for pecker.

LLAN

I would think, it just . . . (Beat.) It seemed like something Iíd want to do once. And we did it. Twice.

SAUL

You might have been asleep for the rest.

LLAN

I never fall asleep in the middle.

SAUL

(Getting out from under the bed.) Youíve fallen asleep just before it starts.

LLAN

The week wears me out.

SAUL

What about that vacation, the motor inn? What else do you do in a motor inn?

LLAN

You catch up on things. I told you thatís what I wanted a vacation for.

SAUL

You exhaust yourself, trying to stay on top. And you never do. Youíre a failure, and I love you.

LLAN

Thatís an awful thing to say. I love you, too.

SAUL

That will do. Can I go to bed, now? I very nearly died under that bed, old Biff bearing the mattress down near the floor. (To KEITH.) Youíre still here. Listen, we could be men and fight about this, but Iím going to warn you. Iím only going to get hurt. And thatís fine. Just, if you give me a concussion, lay me out on the pillow and put some Advil by the bed.

(KEITH exits, forlorn, and drops himself on to the RIGHT-BED. LIGHT comes back up there..)

Now heíll cry like a real man.

(DARK on BED-LEFT.)

PETRY

You come in like itís home for you. Youíve lost your jazz. Your feet pad like broken piano keys.

KEITH

Musicís played out. Donít talk shit. Just do that thing where I donít move.

PETRY

Are you speaking on familiar terms?

KEITH

Do that thing I showed you. I donít want to move. I donít want to feel. I want to be numb.

PETRY

Iíll start with your hands, move them with mine like youíre moving yourself. Start them on you head, where you press down and release, take everything inside of it. Then Iíll make your body ice. Ice that melts out your eyes.

(DARK on both BEDS. Light on ground downstage, where MARTA sits with CLYDE.)

MARTA

I feel like tomorrowís the weekend.

CLYDE

One dayís not the weekend. Certainly not Wednesday.

MARTA

Is that what tomorrow is?

CLYDE

Wednesday all over. Hump-day: guy in college said I was the only one who didnít get laid on hump-day. Then I stole his girl.

MARTA

Maybe itís a day to remain celibate.

CLYDE

Itís a day. (Checks watch.) What are you doing tomorrow?

MARTA

Nothing.

CLYDE

Day off?

MARTA

No. I got fired. (Beat.) I suppose, maybe by the weekend, Iíll be upset.

CLYDE

Well, what I was going to ask you . . .

MARTA

I know, but I donít think I want to make any plans.

CLYDE

I could get sick tomorrow. You never know. (Beat.) Maybe another time.

MARTA

Maybeís good. It will be a surprise. If you feel lucky. "Do you feel lucky . . ."

Is that the line?

CLYDE

Not, really. Too menacing. (Beat.) You ever . . .

MARTA

Ever?

CLYDE

I was going to say something disgusting.

MARTA

Was it about animals?

CLYDE

God, no. (Beat.) You ever . . . The night . . . The dark . . . Sort of dangerous, but sort of . . . (Beat.) You ever?

MARTA

Never.

(Beat.)

CLYDE

What would you like to do?

(Beat.)

MARTA

Shhh . . .

(BLACKOUT.)