Donald Freed
International Playwright
and Master Teacher

1951 - 2006

1951-2006, A Play in Two Acts

                              

  DONALD FREED

© March, 2005. Donald Freed iterary Representation: PATRICIA RAE 

Email: PattyRaeF1@aol.com


“Donald Freed is a writer of blazing imagination, courage, and insight. His work is a unique and fearless marriage of politics and art.”

– Harold Pinter


 

 Time: 1951 to 2006

   Place: An apartment building on East 87th Street , Yorkville,

Manhattan , New York City.

Characters: MARGARET ANN MCNALLY:  Age: 31 to 86

DAVID NATHAN LIGHT:              Age: 28 to 58

                        THE OTHER MAN:             

                    Landlord; 

Tom Guinn;

New Landlord;

Revolutionary; 

FBI   Agent

Mise-en-scene

Time: The time span of the play is 1951 to 2006.

The timeline is spelled out on three basic “clocks”:

1) The date of each scene is projected onto a wall of the set;

 2) certain radio or television news headlines heard from inside the apartment building; 

3) the advancing age of the characters, their clothing, behaviour, and, in DAVID’s case, three wheelchairs over the decades.

 Place:  The single setting is the top landing of a tenement apartment house. On this fourth floor landing, there are two apartment doors, 4A and 4B.

 The audience can see a section of the last flight of stairs that leads up to the fourth floor. There are wall lights on the landing and a skylight.

 The characters enter their apartments but the audience never sees the interiors.

Characters: Three actors play all the roles in this story:

MARGARET ANN MCNALLY is played by one actor, over a span of 55 years.

DAVID NATHAN LIGHT is played by one actor, over thirty years of this same 55 year period. But this actor also plays the New Tenant at the end of the play. (This double casting is mandatory.)

 TOM QUINN: The third actor portrays this character over a forty-nine year span. This performer also delineates the four other male roles.

 


1951-2006

ACT ONE

 SCENE 1. December 1951, 4 P.M.

 

MARGARET ANN MCNALLY (MEG) –31- labors up the fourth and last flight of stairs. She carries two large suitcases. From far away and below a Street Singer is heard for a moment singing “Molly Malone” for coins.

 DAVID NATHAN LIGHT –28- sits in his wooden wheelchair in the doorway of his apartment, 4A. He is plucking, poorly, at a guitar and singing along with a recording of Woody Guthrie, playing inside his apartment – “Do – Re – Me”. A bottle of beer rests in his lap.

DAVID

“...If you ain’t got the do-re-me-boys...”

 (Meg stops on the stairs to catch her breath. DAVID sings to her, then pauses, swigs his beer and stares.

She looks back—dizzy—he reminds her, powerfully, of someone. This is a woman who has lost the love of her life and her unborn child. She shivers in the cold winter light.)  

...Need some help? (pause. shouts.)  Warsawski! Hey, Warsawski! ... I’ll kill him.

(Meg stares at the open door of the empty room-womb-tomb: 4B.)

MEG

...Who’s Warsawski?

DAVID

The draft-dodging Fagin who just counter-signed your lease. (pause) Eighty a month, right? (pause) Then he claims he has an emergency across the street at 324, and leaves you to haul your life’s savings up four flights, knowing—and this is the point—that I’ll have to sit here, helpless, while you, unwillingly, humiliate me-and he’s downstairs laughing up his kaftan… Want a bottle of beer? By the way, I’m Jewish, so don’t think, ah... You’re 4B, from Chicago , correct? Irish, Catholic, 31 years old. What else?

MEG

...Who told you that?

DAVID

Our infamous landlord, our lord of the land – another Chicago boy, “City of the Big Shoulders”, as he must have confided to you when he made his first pass. (pause. shouts.) Warsawski!

MEG

I just have one more small one--downstairs.

DAVID

(To himself.)

Sisyphus.

MEG

Pardon?

DAVID

(pause)

Baggage. We all have a “leetle” baggage.

MEG

(shaking her head. Pause.)

Not at all.

(She climbs to the landing and stares into the dim interior of 4B.)  

DAVID

...What do you do?  My name’s David Light, as in “light”.

MEG

Margaret McNally. Meg. I teach.

DAVID

I thought so. Nursery school?

MEG

I have... All ages. Some writing.

DAVID

Writing? What?

MEG

...Anything. Comedy.

DAVID

Comedy? You?

(They both laugh.)

Me, too.

MEG

You?

(They laugh. The Guthrie record plays to its end.)

 DAVID

No, I’m strictly legit.

MEG

I see. Like what?

DAVID

Oh, the usual: sonnets, haiku, limericks, grand opera. Mainly comedy. I’m a “sit-up” comedian. Didn’t you catch me on the Ed Solomon Show? “And here he is, the star of stage and scream – Big Dave Luftmensch brought to you by your Armed Force Free Radio – direct from Club Rosenberg in picturesque Sing Sing New York.”

(David now goes into a Lenny Bruce-like routine, complete with microphone pops and squawks. Meg responds at once.)

 

“(pop-pop-pop)—Good evening ladies and gentlemen. (pop-pop) Welcome to the back ward of the Long Island General George C. Patton Veterans Hospital . (pop-pop – screech) A night to remember: All the spam you can eat and a floorshow you’ll never forget: The nurses from the psycho ward’ll be kicking up their heels, in their spanking white Eisenhower jackets (costumes and make up by the Red Cross), and featuring – direct from twenty-seven weeks in Adolph Hitler’s bunker, direct from Berlin –

(Meg and David are both caught up with laughter.)

 DAVID (CONT’D)

Ah-hah! Berlin – in her first American exposure – Fraulein Fritzy Ritz! Put your hands together and give her a real old-fashioned red, white, and blue welcome!”

(David breaks into a rendition of “Deutchland Uber Alles.” He sings away until he sees that Meg has stopped laughing.)

 ...OK, what’s the verdict? A thousand dollars and it’s yours.

MEG

(pause)

Can I read some of your material?

DAVID

Get out.

 MEG

Why? I’m serious.

DAVID

The unthinking man’s Lenny Bruce, huh?

MEG

...Forget it then.

DAVID

...I will.

(Pause, then Meg turns back to look into her new apartment.)

 DAVID

...Raskolnikov moved out last week. (No response.) Want a bottle of brew?

(MEG turns to look at him. Pause.

 DAVID wheels himself to the door of the empty apartment, 4B.)

 DAVID

...Mr. Wray, gone away.

(DAVID uses an Irish brogue to cover his raw sensibilities.)

 MEG

When?

DAVID

Labor Day... Billy Wray – man and dog – fourteen years – so they say – Terry – you can still smell him. (He studies her face.) You don’t have the flu, do you?

(Meg coughs and peers deeper into 4B. Below, outside in a courtyard, the street-singer is heard again; his voice, raw and Irish, bounces off the concrete canyon walls.)

STREET SINGER (OFF)

                        “... She died of a feverAnd no one could save her

                                    And that’s how I lost my sweet Molly Malone.

                Now her ghost wheels a wheelbarrow

                                    Through streets wide and narrow.

                                    Calling mussels and cockles

                                    Alive – Alive – O...”

 STREET SINGER (CONT’D)

...God bless you, God bless you – Thank you very much – good luck, God bless... Merry Christmas...

DAVID

...Alive, alive – o... Throw him down some change. (she is rapt)... Next time.

MEG

(focusing)

He said his kids were waiting for him – for Christmas – the landlord.

(David howls out a cry of outrage, then wheels back into his apartment.

 Meg turns, stares up at the cold winter glare from the skylight. The light spill frames her face. She is peering up and away, lost in another time and place.

Inside 4A, David has put on another record: Lead Belly singing “Easy Rider.”

 Meg does not see David reappear in his doorway with a bottle of beer for her. He watches as her lips form some words, but they are covered by the music. Is she praying?

 David starts to sing along with his record. Meg recovers. She moves her suitcase inside 4B. David hands her the beer. He lifts his bottle in a toast.)

 DAVID

“Standin’ in the kitchen in her mornin’ gown...-Hey-hey-hey-hey...” Merry Krishnas and a satirical-rational new year.

(Meg focuses on this “new man.” She shakes her head, No. Never again.)

MEG

Happy Chanukah.

(DAVID stiffens, then, with a cry of outrage, arches back in his wheelchair.)

 DAVID

Warsawski!

(MEG has stung him, but he had invited it, and his face is actually red with a new pleasure.

 Voice of an Odetta recording, under, for next scene.)

 

SCENE 2: January, 1952, 1 A.M.

 DAVID is sitting in his open doorway dozing, with a drink in his lap. The recorded voice of Odetta singing traditional black songs plays softly on the victrola inside his apartment.

 MEG quietly and quickly climbs the stairs. She wears a threadbare but, originally, good ensemble, and carries a portfolio of theatrical material.

She has news and life to share with David. MEG appears ten years younger than a month ago. She sees DAVID asleep, his cigarette burning in his ashtray. She studies him... smiles... tiptoes up, stubs out the cigarette.

 DAVID mutters and twists in his wheelchair.  The music plays out. Far off, a siren. MEG wants to let him sleep, but she needs his company.

 MEG

...David...

(MEG strokes his hair. He awakens slowly.)

 DAVID

...Where is he?

MEG

Ssh... who?

DAVID

Godot.

MEG

Shh.

DAVID

What do you mean? There’s no one still alive in this dump.

 MEG

Shh. Don’t call this joint a dump.

DAVID

No, I mean where’s your date, your escort, you know, your –

MEG

Oh, I see. Well – actually I was “alone on the aisle.”

DAVID

Alone? Where was Warsawski sitting?

(They seethe with suppressed laughter.)

Waiting for Warsawski! (shaking, silently.) ...No, seriously – did he come this time?

MEG

(silent hilarity)

...Who?

DAVID

Godot!

(They finally recover.)

 DAVID (CONt’d)

Was it great?

MEG

...Great. (they smoke) The text.

DAVID

“I can’t go on...”

MEG

“We will go on...”

 DAVID

Jesus... You have to write the review tonight? Want a drink?

MEG

Sure. I’ll get it.

(She disappears into 4A, David’s apartment. He winces, then destroys the growing closeness between them with a lie.)

 DAVID

(calling)

I talked to him in Paris . Beckett. Je n’en peu plus.

MEG (OFF)

Ssh. What? Are you serious?

(She emerges with drinks.)

 Who cleaned up your place? You met Beckett?

(MEG gives DAVID a chance and a choice to respect her by telling the truth.)

 DAVID

The V.A. sends someone over to clean up every two weeks... A man... Beckett? Hell, yes. (Irish accent) Sure, didn’t we get pissed together?

(He glowers at her, lifts his glass.)

 Cheers...

(MEG defends herself with power enough to turn DAVID’s face crimson with shame.)

 MEG

Was that during your “Irish” period--after your fistfight with Ernest Hemingway--or your Dylan Thomas binge, when the two of you burnt down a, what?, a livery stable –

DAVID

An empty livery stable.

MEG

...Empty. It would be.

DAVID

...You secretly hate Jews, don’t you?

(They smoke and stare. She rises and takes their drink glasses back inside to refill.)

MEG (OFF)

Tell ya what I’m gonna do...

(She reenters with fresh drinks and a provocation of her own.)

 I’m going to interview you about your “relationship” with

Samuel –

DAVID

“Sam.”

 MEG

Oh, of course – “Sam” Beckett – and ask the Voice to pay me double for the play review plus the –

DAVID

How much?

MEG

The Village Voice is not in your, ah –

DAVID

No, I mean, how much do I get – What’s my, you know, “percentage”?

MEG

...So you think I hate all Jews?

(She goes back into 4A.)

 DAVID

Mm... Well, maybe with a couple of exceptions.

MEG

Oh?

DAVID

Yeah, Leopold Bloom...

(MEG emerges with the bottle.)

 MEG

He’s a fictional character.

DAVID

Exactly... Jesus Christ, I guess, but, of course, he’s a “fictional character” too, isn’t he?

 MEG

You are dead wrong, boyo. Myself, I’ve known an army of Jewish intellectuals, and, believe me, it’s made me a true believer in the sacred rite of circumcision.

DAVID

...Watch out, now.

MEG

Why? Circumcision. It’s perfect. You can always tell who’s a real prick! (Irish) Cheers!

(MEG has traded blow for blow with DAVID, and he is beginning to know just who this woman is.)

   

SCENE 3. November, 1952, 10 P.M.

Election night, 1952, eleven months later. MEG and DAVID sit glumly, each in their own doorway. From inside 4B, Meg’s apartment, can be heard television coverage of the event, including the voices of candidates Eisenhower and Stevenson, respectively.

 MEG

...Come in. It’s all over.

David

No thanks.

MEG

I’ll turn it off.

DAVID

You will? The T.V.? The ever staring Cyclopian eye?

MEG

It’s over. He never had a chance... Come in, I still have the stew from –

DAVID

(Brogue) Ah, the old Irish stew, is it?

MEG

(pause)

It was good enough for you last night.

(He wheels into his apartment. MEG pauses, then enters her own and turns off the television. Silence on the empty landing. Then, the sound of Lead Belly, singing “ Bourgeois Town ”.  David joins in with his recording, singing and playing his guitar; he reenters, a pint of whiskey in his lap. From below, someone bangs on a radiator pipe.

 Meg reappears in her doorway. She sits and eats from a bowl.)

 DAVID and record

“Me and my wife went all over town.

Everywhere we went the people turned us down

 Lord, it’s a bourgeois town

Got the bourgeois blues

Gonna spread the news

All around...”

 (The record plays out. DAVID drinks.  MEG returns her chair and soup bowl to inside her apartment, then comes back to the doorway. Silence as both smoke.

 DAVID drinks, then holds out the bottle to MEG. She refuses. They glare at each other.)

DAVID

...I’m going on an eight-year drunk.

MEG

Eight years?

DAVID

That’s right. To be followed by eight years of Richard Nixon. Make that a sixteen-year drunk... What’re you going to do, go back to Italy ? (Imitating her) “Shh, Firenze ,” “The David,” the, ah, by the way, “The David” was still circumcised – I mean at the time of your romantic wandering there with, what-was’-name, Ginsberg, Fred?, and you “were so happy, blah-blah-blah.”

MEG

...Jealousy is such a small trait.

(Pause. Then MEG sings a phrase from the losing Democratic Party’s traditional song.)

 MEG (CONT’D)

“Happy days are here again

The skies above are blue again...”

(Silence. DAVID drinks.)

 MEG (CONT’D)

...No. The last time I looked, someone had broken off your namesake David’s young sex.

 DAVID

...Oh. And who would have done that? (Brogue) Pope Julius the Turd or you yourself?

MEG

Hmm... You think I want to castrate you, and every other man from “The David” on down. Oh, my, my. You may have read “every word of Freud” at the University of Chicago , but you don’t have a clue, soldier.

DAVID

(pause)

Of course not. Why would you waste your time? I’ve been more or less “gelded” since 1945. And that was in Italy , too – but I lost my bella figura in Anzio , not in “Oh, so molto, molto Firenze .”

(MEG pales. Puts out the cigarette in her ashtray, and walks to his wheelchair; sinks to her knees, touches his leg under the blanket.)

 MEG

David... forgive me.

(DAVID stretches back in his chair, staring up at the skylight. His face is trapped in the winter spill of light from above.

 MEG’s compassion and character have pushed him over the edge of his lies, into the truth.)

 DAVID

...What I’m actually going to do for the next eight years – is write the “Great American Novel” – about a spoiled brat from the North Shore of the Windy City of Chicago, whose father fixed him up with a desk job at Fort Sheridan so he could commute to the Wrigley Tower and write U.S. Armed Force Radio propaganda – who never heard a shot fired in anger because he was given leave every weekend to go to his family country club – good old Rolling Green (sings) “Where the kikes and Ike Eisenhower play” – golf – so our hero could cheat at poker in the good old circumcised locker room, and lay all the wives of the boys who were over there in Anzio... And broke his spine, diving drunk into the pool one midnight , and left some poor bastards’ equally insane and naked Gold Star wife and princess screaming for help... And was rescued from the wrath of his father’s family and warehoused at the Veterans Hospital downstate... And got out with “life time disability” and wheeled my way here to this grand old Nazi neighborhood of Yorkville, and the kind clutches of the Warsawski ghetto—and the Manhattan V.A. who hauled him bodily up the four final flights, here, to good old 4A...

(At last he looks down on her tears, and his words are torn from him like pieces of flesh.)

And that’s the “Great American Novel”: fear-hate-cowardice-arrogance-cruelty-betrayal-and lies, lies, lies...

(Slowly, she puts her head in his lap.)

 MEG

...Come in, for God’s sake...or will I do it for you here?

SCENE 4: March 1954, 4 P.M.

Two years later.  MEG is 34, DAVID 31. On the fourth floor both doors are closed. Sounds of someone ascending stairs.  MARSHALL WARSAWSKI, the landlord, climbs into view.

 WARSAWSKI is middle aged. He is fit and wears a deep suntan and a well cut top coat, scarf and hat. A college graduate who speaks with formal correctness, the landlord is a famous family man who harbors an immense secret life.

 He listens closely from the landing to the silence, then taps on the door of 4A.

 WARSAWSKI

Dave... Dave... Dave, it’s Marshall .

(No answer. MEG opens her door. She carries out a suitcase. The LANDLORD and MEG stare at each other, until he tips his hat.)

 WARSAWSKI (CONT’D)

Miss McNally.

MEG

Mr. Warsawski.

WARSAWSKI

Where’s your “friend”?  I didn’t see him go out.

MEG

(pause)

Out?... He doesn’t go out. You know that. He can’t go out. He has never gone out – except on Fridays – when they carry him to the Veterans Hospital .

WARSAWSKI

(pause)

That is correct. And he never will... And how are you Miss McNally? What are you studying these days?

 MEG

(pause)

I teach. Part time. You know that, too.

WARSAWSKI

That is correct. “Part time.” (Knocking harder on 4A). Dave. Dave – I have a letter from you father... Dave – a personal letter from your father – Judge Light – Personal! (looks at Meg’s suitcase) Are you leaving, Miss McNally?

MEG

(pause)

Ten days. I left you a note.

WARSAWSKI

Easter vacation?... Back to Chicago ? Good Friday at St. Timothy’s on West Van Buren? Isn’t it funny how we’re all from Chicago ?

(DAVID yanks his door open and wheels out at WARSAWSKI, bellowing the ditty “ Chicago ”.)

 DAVID

“...I saw a man he danced with his wife in Chicago, Chicago – that’s my home town!”

(The LANDLORD leaps away to save his Florsheims from David’s oncoming wheels.)

 WARSAWSKI

Whoa! Ha-ha! Watch the Florsheims. Whoa, whoa, whoa... How’s the boy, Dave?

(A deadly silence. No one moves.)

 DAVID

Do you know what time it is?

WARSAWSKI

Exactly 4 P.M.

DAVID

By your “ Elgin Executive”... It’s the middle of the day. Are you trying to wake the dead?

 WARSAWSKI

What? Oh, sorry, sorry. What are you writing now? –“Genius at work”, Miss McNally, “Do not disturb.” Ha-ha... No, I just trotted up to see if you needed any service, you know, because of Miss McNally’s going back home for Easter Sunday, etcetera...

(All stare. WARSAWSKI tips his hat again and starts down the stairs. Stops:)

 Wait a minute. Your father. Judge Light. Special Delivery.

(He turns back to hand DAVID the letter. DAVID does not take it. Long pause.)

 DAVID

“Return to Sender.”

(At length, the landlord turns, bows to MEG, and dances down the stairs, singing:)

 WARSAWSKI

“You’ll have the time, the time of your life/I saw a man he danced with his wife/In Chicago...that toddlin’ town, that toddlin’ town...”

(Silence. MEG goes in, comes out with a small box, her coat and purse; locks her door, looks at DAVID.)

 DAVID

...Go ahead.

Meg

Here’s the Lenny Bruce tape. Enjoy it... I’ll be back on the –

 DAVID

Fuck Lenny Bruce! I’m bigger than “Leonard Bruce”. Laugh, you Catholic bitch, listen to this:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, everybody knows that all communists are Jews, but did you know that all Jews are not communists? I kid you not. Some of them are socialists!”

(She laughs.)

 MEG

That is terrible.

DAVID

Philistine.

MEG

But you can write.

DAVID

(German accent)

So, you love me for my mind?

MEG

(pause)

That, too.

(He turns red and looks away.)

 DAVID

Go.

MEG

Will the V.A. send someone to –

DAVID

Disappear. “The House of Spirits – We Deliver.”

MEG

(pause)

What?

DAVID

The House of Spirits.

MEG

Uh – you mean the –

DAVID

Right. The liquor store... “They deliver.” The House of Spirits. You know: the father, and the son, and the holy smoke.

(She contains herself and starts to leave with her suitcase. He sings after her: )

 “Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town, that toddlin’ town, Chicago, Chicago, I’ll see you around...”

 

SCENE 5: April 1954, 1 P.M. – two weeks later

 In the darkness, the voice of counsel JOSEPH WELSH as he eviscerates the demagogue, Senator Joseph McCarthy: “Have you, Senator, at long last, no shame...”

 Lights up on DAVID picking out an original melody on his guitar, his technique much more sophisticated than three years before.

A sound of someone coming up; DAVID stops and waits; MEG mounts into view, stops; they look at each other.

 DAVID

Who are you?

MEG

(pause)

Did you get my four-page letter?

DAVID

Are you looking for a Miss Margaret Ann McNally? Well, it’s a long story: she went back home to Chicago before Easter but she never came back. No, and it’s a damn shame, too, but I’ll tell you the whole tale because you see I’m a writer and I’m putting it all in my novel –

MEG

David –

DAVID

Well, you guessed it: she was really a simple Irish-American colleen who got in over her head, you know, writing material for Lenny Bruce, making up “Arts Reviews” for the Village Voice after they fired all the Communists – Anyway – she had a torrid affair with a notorious womanizer named M.A. Warsawski and, of course, she got knocked up and had to get an abortion somewhere, so Warsawski, who was not a Catholic, not at all, gave her a grand to go to Puerto Rico to have –

MEG

My mother had a stroke on Easter Sunday... She died on the Wednesday... The funeral was Saturday... the, ah...

(She bows her head, rooted to the top stair. DAVID covers his face, then reaches out for her.)

 DAVID

I never got your letter – Warsawski! So you know, I... I want you to lure Warsawski up here so I can cut his throat.

(Meg looks up at him, and, finally, crosses to his chair and sinks down into his embrace. She talks as he holds her on his lap.)

 MEG

Why are we living here on the fourth floor of a –

DAVID

I know, I know – you want a drink?

MEG

No... My head’s splitting, the wake was a... Oh, God... I want you to write about her – five feet, built like a fullback, we called her the “Playmate of the Year”...

(She laughs and cries. He rocks her.)

 DAVID

I will. I’ll write about Annie McNally and the Chicago Irish – I will – “We can’t go on, we will go on.” (picks up his guitar). C’mon, sing her song?, how’s it go, c’mon, I’m a veteran, that’s an order!

(She has to laugh. He plays, and they sing the old Harry Lauder song, complete, finally, with music hall Scots accents: )

 DAVID and MEG

“Just a wee deoch-an-Doris/Just a wee drop that’s all/Just a wee deoch-an- Doris/Before we gang a-wa-...”

(DAVID goes on.)

 DAVID

“There’s a wee wifie waitin’/ in a wee but an ben/If you can say, ‘It’s a braw bricht moonlight nicht/ye a’richt ye ken.”

 MEG

...Twenty-seven years in the Linen Room of Holy Name Hospital, and him out of work and his lungs ruined from the mines in Pennsylvania –

(All overlapping: )

 DAVID

I’m going to write it all –

MEG

Up in the dark, winter and summer, four kids and him coughing in the chair, sitting up all night trying not to cough so we

could –

DAVID

I got so drunk while you were gone, they had to send a team over from the V.A. –

MEG

She thought I should – she thought I lost my way here - She –

DAVID

She thought you should get –

Meg

“You’re going’ on thirty-five years old, Meg, and it’s time, it’s time – “

DAVID

I want you to marry me...I know what your mother would’ve –

(They both shake with laughter.)

MEG

Wait...wait... My brother’s a policeman, he calls Joe McCarthy “Another Lincoln”!

(They laugh and laugh.)

 DAVID

I’ll go on the wagon. No, I will, I’m going to write it, I’m going to tell the story of you and your family, and Chicago, and me and my family, and you can do the typing and save on rent

and –

(One last upsurge of crying laughter, then silence.)

 DAVID (CONT’D)

...This is not liquor talking… the V.A. wants to send a therapist over here. A psychotherapist. Because the – my, uh, sex, uh impotenza, as we say in –

MEG

Let’s go inside.

 DAVID

It could be mental...

MEG

...What a character.

DAVID

You want to take off your g’damn girdle and try again.

MEG

David...

DAVID

C’mon, Lady Chatterly. Follow me into 4B. We’ll put on your Edward R. Murrow propaganda record and that’ll make you so hot you’ll have to tear off the girdle, (imitation of Murrow) – “Good night and good luck” - and then I – I will – I will – do something – for you...

MEG

You already have.

DAVID

No, no, but I will, I will, I –

MEG

You’ve loved me. You’ve missed me, and you’ve pitied me, and –

DAVID

I never pitied, I –

MEG

Shh, there is nothing wrong with a bit of pity.

DAVID

That’s your g’damn church talking now, no wonder Lenny Bruce kicked your ass out –

MEG

Shh – and you’ve loved me...

(He sinks back, exhausted, as is she.)

DAVID

...Meg...Meg...can we just – can we just...

(They rest, then sleep. In the dark, that voice of cultivated doom, Edward R. Murrow, quietly excoriates Senator McCarthy: “The Junior Senator from Wisconsin ...”)

 SCENE 6: July 1957, 11 A.M.

MEG is 37, DAVID 34, in 1957, three years later. The doors to 4A and 4B are closed. Footsteps coming up: THOMAS QUINN appears.

 TOM QUINN is 40, a counselor with the Veterans Administration. A slight limp is the sign of his war wound in the South Pacific. He is a recovering alcoholic (8 years), in charge of the Manhattan V.A. Alcoholics Anonymous program.  He wears a hot weather shirt, speaks with a strong New England accent.

TOM reaches the landing. Silence, except for sounds below from the life of the building. TOM listens at 4A, then goes to 4B and taps lightly in code. Meg opens the door.

MEG

Ah, Tom – I didn’t want to bother you on a Sunday.

TOM

It’s better if I don’t go near the church at all, these days.

MEG

Ah, Tom...

(They touch each other, almost shyly, then step apart. Music from below – Sinatra – up and then out.)

 TOM

...Is he alive or dead?

MEG

After he broke up the furniture – not a sound.

TOM

Your landlord called me on Friday.

MEG

Warsawski?

 TOM

He wants him out. “Take him away to the V.A. Hospital ” or he’s going into court to get a “John Doe”/”Richard Rae” eviction order. (She turns away.) You can’t, you’re –

 MEG

I’m “part of the problem” now. Is that how you say it! “Co-dependent.”

TOM

Yeah.

MEG

Even though I don’t smoke or drink at all, anymore.

TOM

Even though he’s still alive—thanks to you only.

(He lights a cigarette, then puts it out on the sole of his shoe and pockets it.)

   MEG

Not any more. I’m killing him now.

TOM

You’re wrong.

MEG

I can’t, I’m not – what he needs – I can’t – a – love him the way he –

TOM

Listen to me: you’re full of guilt because –

MEG

If I get out –

TOM

But you’re wrong. He’s killing himself.

 MEG

(pause)

If I could move –

TOM

And you’re killing yourself. Only not with alcohol.

(She puts her arms around Tom. He holds back a return of her embrace, but the effort costs him.)

 

TOM (CONT’D)

...You’re in love with a married man – that’s what’s killing you... And that’s what’s killing me. (He embraces her) Murdering me. You’re not his “co-dependent,” whatever the hell that means, you’re mine.

MEG

He’s –

TOM

He’s just an innocent bystander...and he knows.

MEG

No, I’ve –

TOM

He knows. He’s as quick as they come. He’s a writer, he may never finish anything but he’s a writer and you can’t fool him.

MEG

...No.

 TOM

He’s a drunk – and a writer – and whatever guilt there is it’s mine – wait – it’s mine, it’s me – wait – and it’s me that’s going to leave –

MEG

Tom –

TOM

I’m off his case, as of today, a man named Bob Buzzecki’ll be in here tomorrow with a team. They’ll break the door down and take him out to de-tox.

(They stand apart, eye to eye. He relights his cigarette, puffs, then puts it out again.)

 And I’ll go to church with my wife and kids. (She is shaking) And then I’ll go to confession, and take communion, and then...

MEG

(a whisper)

What?

Tom

Nothing... I’ll just remember you for the rest of my life... “One day at a time.” – You know the words.

MEG

I know. “One day at a time.”... And the other one: “Do the next right thing.”

(They are fighting for control.)

 TOM

That’s it. That’s A.A. That’s the chapter and the verse.

MEG

(finally)

Goodbye, Tom... God bless.

TOM

(backing away)

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

(They laugh softly, then stumble into a holding dance step, trying to sing: )

 MEG and TOM

“...It’s still the same old story/a fight for love and glory/a case of do or die...”

(And TOM is gone. The echo of his steps recede, leaving only the sounds from the building and the street.

 MEG moves to follow TOM down the steps. Holds herself back, literally; prays to herself; hits herself...

 When MEG recovers she goes to David’s door and knocks once firmly. She exerts a furious, dry-eyed self-control, her words are fast and hard.)

 MEG

David-- If you’re alive – it’s Sunday—David--It’s Sunday and I’m going to make my “confession” to you: I’m not going anywhere – I’m staying here – As long as you stay, I stay. One day at a time... Tom’s gone... and I’m here. Tom’s off your case--because he cares so much.

 (Silence, forcing her to make a wild effort.)

 MEG (CONT’D)

...Oh, hello, Mr. Bruce – oh, yes of course, I’ll tell him you’re here – David, listen, there’s a Mr. Bruce here to see you. (imitating Lenny Bruce: ) “Hello, 4A, how you doing, daddy? Listen, 4A, we need the room, man, we got a honeymoon couple here from Miami , Florida , who want to kill themselves, so we need the room.”...

(MEG’s last effort is spent. Her voice is failing, she slides down the door almost to the floor. Far below a baby cries and MEG, too, sobs silently, along with the child. Then, again, and exhausted, almost numb self control: these words are forever.)

 Meg (CONT’D)

...David... Wait for me. Tom’s gone. We’re here – and we have to do the next right thing: That’s it. That’s all. “The next right thing, one day at a time.” (a whisper) David!

(The baby’s crying is hushed. Silence. Then, as the lights dim, the actual voice of Lenny Bruce covers the darkness : )

 voice of lenny bruce

“...So, man – Jackie Kennedy – she was hauling ass over the back of the limo and the Secret Service... “

 SCENE 7: December 1964, 1 P.M.

1964, MEG is 44; DAVID 41: seven years later. The two sit outside of their apartments with T.V. tables in front of them. On the trays are the remains of their lunch and writing materials. DAVID has grown a small beard and has a few gray hairs.

 As they write, the sound of a Christmas carol drifts up. Then footsteps. Both pause, look, and wait.

 TOM QUINN appears. He is now 46, but looks older, his limp is worse. He is muffled up against the cold. The three look at each other, until TOM removes his old fur hat and MEG and DAVID recognize him.

TOM holds up a shopping bag containing presents. They stare, then TOM takes out three wrapped gifts and lays them on the landing.  

Not a word yet spoken; MEG stands and DAVID wheels closer. Finally, MEG tries to start time again with an old refrain, murmured with her head on one side, like an ancient Irish woman.

 MEG

...Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

(DAVID reaches out slowly, to grip TOM’S hand.)

 TOM

That’s us. (holding onto DAVID’s hand) Meg, how did your niece say it?

MEG

“Matthew Mark look at John...”

(And they all start to laugh, softly.)

 TOM

“Dominick, go frisk him.”

(Now the three are partly embraced and “laughing”.)

MEG

Take off your coat, Tom, and we’ll give you a soft drink.

TOM

Is that all?

DAVID

7-Up or Pepsi. Period.

TOM

“Sure, it’s a good man’s failin’” As my dear old drunk dad always said.

(Laughter. TOM opens his coat.)

 7-Up. Hold the bourbon.

(Still no one moves.)

 “A good man’s failing.” What garbage... Now, they think it’s genetic – for Ireland .

DAVID

Absolutely! And Chicago , too! What a crock.

(laughter.)

 7-Up, coming up.

(DAVID wheels into 4A. MEG and TOM look at each other.

 TOM digs for a cigarette, then decides against it.

 MEG pulls her old sweater tight around her.)

 MEG

I’m getting fat...

(TOM breathes a half chuckle, and they continue their long lost gaze.

 DAVID wheels in with the soft drink glass and ice; stops and takes in the two others. Slowly, TOM and MEG turn their heads to look at DAVID. All three share the same sad smile.)

 DAVID

(wheeling)

L’chaim.

(TOM drains the glass, studies DAVID.)

 TOM

I like your beard... And your column in the Village Voice. As my old man would’ve said, “You’ve done very well in this country.”

MEG

Mine, too.

DAVID

Thank you, Thomas.

MEG

Don’t get him started on –

TOM

You and Norman Mailer – you guys believe it was a conspiracy?

MEG

(pause)

They do.

TOM

(pauses)

Yeah, well... me too... you guys starting up, uh –

MEG

They are.

DAVID

“Committee for the Truth about who killed JFK.” (pause) Want to sign up, Thomas?

MEG

No.

TOM

(pause)

Sure...

(Soft laughter, again. TOM rebuttons his coat, looks at the presents.)

 TOM (CONT’D)

Books... (puts on his gloves, then to MEG) Teaching?

(MEG nods slowly. DAVID sees her deep feelings and intervenes in a fake Irish brogue.)

 DAVID

Worrrld Literature. Chekhov, y’know, all them little fellas.

TOM

Chekhov. (shakes his head) Nothing ever happens.

(All smile. TOM turns on the landing as if to leave, putting on his hat.)

 Matt’s waiting for me at Radio City .

MEG

(pause)

Fourteen years old?

(TOM pauses, with his back to them, ready to descend.)

 TOM

(nods)

...Sheila – my wife – passed away in ’61... So, now, I’m ...

MEG

(pause)

Free?

TOM

(pause)

Yeah.

(Silence. They are frozen in a parting tableau. At length, DAVID releases them all.)

 DAVID

Mm... that makes three of us.

(TOM turns back and he and MEG stare at DAVID.

 Recorded singing of Harry Lauder up and over into the interval.)

 --END OF ACT ONE--



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