FAITH---wife, in her late 40s
WILL---husband, in his late 40s
GUY---son, in his mid-20s
MOTHER---Faith’s mother, in her late 60s
ABBY---wife of Will’s company vice-president, in her
INEZ---Mexican maid (non-speaking role)
In the living room of the Perdue family,
in the fictional city of Las
Palmas in Southern California.
“There is no such thing as evil, just the gradual removal
of good until none is left.” --- St. Augustine
“The secret of great fortunes with no apparent source is
a forgotten crime, forgotten because it was properly carried out.” --- Balzac,
EXCERPT I : Scene 1, Act One
Setting: The living room of the millionaire Perdue
family. Furnishings are plush and in
soft tones. The art is
contemporary. There are various systems
and gadgets (CD player, entertainment center, computer, telescope). To one side is a section of the kitchen, with
counter and stools. Upstage is a floor-to-ceiling
window, with the ocean surf crashing noiselessly on the rocks outside. Generally to
suggest: Easy living, but hard choices coming up.
At rise: Amid much distraction---a violent scene
plays soundlessly on the TV, music blares from the CD---CARRIE lies on the
sofa, “studying.” In the background INEZ
works quietly, noting Carrie’s studying, but saying nothing.
Enter FAITH. A quintessentially nice woman trying to
combine motherhood and career, her manner is distracted, her ever-present smile
is nervous. Here, struggling with
groceries, she heads for the counter.
INEZ, very fond of Faith, moves to help her.
noise.... Turn it off, please. How many times have I told you, Carrie Ann, I
don’t want you watching that stuff?
Aw, Mom, all the
kids watch. I’ll be underdeveloped if I
“Underdeveloped.” Honey, I care what goes into that sweet head
of yours, and that stuff is----
I know: “idiotic,
perverse, and utterly without socially or morally redeeming value.” And then Dad’ll
say, “Give it a break, Faith, and rub my back.”
They laugh and
That’s Dad all
right, but I don’t sound like that. Do
a little. Like yeah.
Mom, can I tell you my big news?
Yes you can tell me
your big news, but tell me while you put the groceries away and I make Guy’s
cake. He’s coming over at 7.
INEZ motions that
she will make the cake.
No-no, Inez. For the hundredth time, una madre cooks, even it is
a mix. But gracias.
here it is: Mr. Yeager wants my illustrious Dad, your illustrious husband, to
talk to our school assembly about how he got the dioxin out of the stadium and
saved us dear little students from certain death. And he wants to hold the assembly in the stadium. Oh Mom, I’ll be so proud. And he wants me to ask Dad tonight.
Your Dad would love it, but you know, the
disposal’s not done yet. The clean-up
was just a start. It’d be more
interesting to tell the whole story, wouldn’t it?
But Mr. Yeager asked. And he wants Dad to
bring his guys in their moon suits. What
a switch: Even jerky old Yeager calls Dad “the hero of Las Palmas,” like everybody
else. And Regina Langley, the
cheerleader, you know what her dad said?
“Will Perdue saved us from becoming Love Canal II, get it outa here!” Now
maybe Regina will come to my
pool party....(dips her finger in Faith’s cake
Hey, you get outa here. You’ll make it fall.
I wish Guy still lived with us.
I miss him.
Me too. But
young men want to be on their own. You
give them roots and wings....
Yeah, but he’s gotten so serious, working for Dad.
It’s a serious business they’re in.
(Tastes) I’m starved too. I, uh, evacuated my lunch.
You mean you barfed, Mom? Again?
At least this time I barfed after my speech and not before. Grease this pan. Well, aren’t you going to ask me my big news?
Sure, Mom. So: How’d it go with
Ta-da: The McGill-Taylor House is now an
official historic landmark.
---and George McGill was one historic robber baron, ta-da.... Anyway, we have to go before the Budget
Committee to discuss funding, which means another speech----
---which means more barfing.
Mom, I don’t know why you get nervous.
You’re so pretty.
You think so? Still? What’m I thinking
of? Beauty, young lady, is not the
point. (Beat) I get nervous because, well, I never think I
know enough. It was so much easier when
I was the Society’s receptionist. But: I
need to do this, get out there. I don’t
know how your father does it though: speechmaking.
“Tell ‘em what you’re gonna
tell ‘em, then tell ‘em,
then tell ‘em what you told ‘em. Bueno!” (Dips into batter again)
Honey, please! Scoot, shoo,
vamoose. (Noting carpet) Ohhh, somebody
tracked dirt on the carpet. Carrie Ann?
Not me, I’m wearing socks. Aha:
It was Inez. Inez is the culprit.
INEZ, embarrassed, protests. FAITH hugs her and laughs.
Don’t be embarrassed, Inez, it’s just a joke. And you, prankster, is your homework done?
What’re you studying? (Slides
cake into oven)
(Stops still) That is a very
important subject. It can’t be studied
in one night.
I know. Mom, I don’t understand:
How could the Holocaust happen? So many people dead?
SOUND offstage of a car screeching to a halt,
door slamming shut.
I guess you’d have to say---not enough people spoke up. We’ll talk more about this, later.
Enter WILL, with box.
With him Faith’s manner changes: With Carrie she is firm, but with Will
she is more pliant. INEZ, however, does
not like Will and shows it.
Listen up, everybody, for a couple of muy
importante announcements. First: Guess who just landed the $30
million-dollar Cody City
Oh I don’t know. Hey
Mom, what’s the name of that hot company: Enviro-Fix,
You got it, kiddo. Two
or three more jobs like this---and I can go national. I’ll have achieved the “economies of
scale.” Key concept, Kitten: economies
Oh no: exciting! So,
Faith-honey, what do you think of your husband now?
I think he’s pretty amazing.
We’ve come a long
way from the aroma of Tacoma, haven’t we.
Like a fairy tale.
And it all started,
once upon a time, when the guy from the mud flats won the prettiest girl in the
biggest house on the highest hill....
You guys.... Hey Dad, since you always dump on Tacoma, why don’t you
clean Tacoma up?
idea, Care. You should come work for me too, be my
Director of Development. National.
I couldn’t direct a
thing. I just want to be a singer, I
You know, if I did
do that humungous job, we could get on with our dream house.
This house is dream
enough. I couldn’t go through the
nightmare of construction again.
Oh no. This house is just warm-up. I want to build us our Versailles, a house so
big and drop-dead beautiful, with all those architectural features you talk
about---finials, broken pediments?---that a hundred years from now groups like yours’ll be out campaigning, “Save the Perdue House!”---- Hey what an
idiot, I almost forgot. How’d our speech
Banzai! I’ve created a regular Perry Mason. Come here and collect your prize....
Dad, what’s your other announcement?
Oh yeah. Guess who’s the newest member of the Symphony
Oh Will, how
You’re not the only
one around here with culture. Of course
I had to drop big bucks on them.
What I don’t get is
why a guy who’s stone-deaf wants to be on the Symphony board.
Hey, how about a
little respect for your old man?
How about a
lot? My folks are winners.
Oh honey, that means
that other people are losers----
Winning’s the only
way to go, it’s a tough world and---- Hey, who tracked in dirt? Inez?
Will, please, you’ll
hurt her feelings.
Well, tell her to
clean it up. (To Carrie) Hey, Kitten, got a little something for
you. For your new
Alfa. Open it. You got the car inspected, right?
great: a radar detector! Just like
yours, Dad. Now my car’s “fully
go install it.
Uhhh, before you do....
What is it, Faith?
Oh honey, I just
wish, you know, maybe you’d---discussed this with me....?
“Yeah, Faith, give
it a break.”
Carrie Ann Perdue.
Honey, relax. It’s another red-letter day and this arrived
from Sharper Image and, besides, it’s only a trinket, it’s not even a big-time
But---it’s not a
trinket, it’s symbolic of----
Master of Fine Arts again. Hon, one more time: It’s protection. Police radars can be wrong and you need
protection. Lighten up.
Dad, be nice.
But, Will, it’s
breaking the law. They’re illegal in California.
Faith, it’s a dumb
law and I’ll bet half the legislature drives around with these things.
STOP! Both of you, just stop! Let’s forget the whole thing. O.K.?
Oh darling, I’m
sorry, we’ve upset you. I’ll stop.
O.K. But seriously,
I’ll bet you half the legislature does drive around with these hummers
and don’t ask me to give up mine.
Maybe they’re O.K.
for you, but Carrie’s just learned to drive and I don’t want my child----
I’m not a child and
I can decide things for myself, you know.
by Faith, catches CARRIE’s attention and mouthes “Later.”
I know, but I wish
you wouldn’t drive around with that thing.
I’m sorry, but it’s what I think.
WILL takes Faith
in a dance hold.
And that, hon, has been your problem since the beginning. You think too much. You know, Kitten, in kindergarten your mother
used to ponder about which rug she was going to nap on.
And how would you
know, since you were out on the playground, extending your recess?
Enter GUY. His mood is grim.
Hey, my bro! (Hugging Guy) Guy, can we go to the movies tonight, like
I don’t know, Care. I’ve got things to do....
Yeesh, you’re super-serious.
I’m baking your
favorite cake, dear. Smell?
Thanks, Mother. Um, hello, Dad....
Hey, buddy! You should be beaming. Our son was key to
landing the Cody City deal---key.
I just did the stats
for the proposal, which ended up in the appendix.
You don’t want to
clutter your main message. But stats
clinch your case. Faith, Guy’s graphs
could hang in a museum, they’re works of art.
Dad, Guy’s in a bad
mood. Can I tell you my news? I have major news.
Sure, Kitten, in a
sec. I want to talk to my partner first.
dinner. Carrie, set the table, please?
So, partner: What’s
really. I, uh, didn’t sleep much last night.
Good for you. Look, I know I’ve been piling the work on
you. You’re beat----
It’s not that.
Hey, if it’s the
export deal.... (Beat) Is it?
Yeah. Dad, I want to talk to you about that----
Look, I took the con
because we need to expedite this one, fast.
But we’re partners, you’re not being excluded.
It’s not that. It’s....
Forget it. I am beat.
Good. Oh, and partners keep their business between
themselves, O.K.? Now see what you can
do to cheer your Mom up. She’s upset
with me, you know how she gets.
Sure. Tell me out in the garage.
(Exiting) We won’t install, we’ll just discuss.
(Exiting) Yeah, Mom. I have to decide for myself.
Where are they
To install a radar
detector in Carrie’s car---which I don’t like one little bit. (Beat)
You don’t like it either, I see.
Ah well, what can one do? Where
there’s Will, there’s his way.
bothering you, dear. Want to talk about
it? Is it---women problems?
Mom, if you’re going
to joke---- Jesus,
this family’s great for the jokes.
Forgive me, dear,
it’s that detector business. Tell me,
maybe I can help.
I don’t know if you can.
You two looked pretty cozy when I came in.
Of course we’re cozy.
On the other hand, you’re not that close, either....
Guy: What are you getting at....? Tell me, please.
I want to, but: I don’t know if I can trust you.
Son, it’s me: Mom.
O.K. But you have to promise not to tell Dad, I
don’t want him to think he can’t trust me.
I don’t know if I
can promise that. Your father and I
don’t keep things from each other. (Beat) Actually, we do. At least your father does....
Dear, I don’t
Then I’ll just go.
Guy, I can’t bear to
see you like this. O.K.: agreed.
por favor. En la otra sala? Si, gracias, gracias.
I don’t know how
you’re going to take this, but....: This afternoon I overheard Dad on the phone---- Mom: Dad’s going
to dump the dioxin in Mexico. I
heard him on the phone----
FAITH is dumbstruck.
---I heard him
talking to---an outlaw trucker---about hauling the dioxin, all 200 barrels, across
the border. He said he didn’t want to
know where it went, “just get it outa here.” He said he’d cook the manifest and labels to
say “residuals and neutrals”: “something innocuous”----
Oh Guy, you’re
wrong. You are very, very wrong.
I wish to God I
was. This is my father we’re talking
Your father couldn’t
do such a thing. You’re still new at the
business, Guy, you’ve---misunderstood.
Your father has made some---technical arrangement you don’t know about.
Mother, I’ve been
with Dad three years, I’m off probation.
I know dumping when I hear it.
Don’t say that
word! He is your father. After all he’s done for you!
For God’s sakes,
Mother, I’m not the villain!
And neither is your
father. Guy, your father wouldn’t do
anything---criminal. This is all a---a
joke. You know how he and Ed joke, about
slipping PCBs into each other’s coffee?
This is no joke,
Mother. I heard him clear as a bell---if
you want to hear.
beat. FAITH finally nods Yes.
Dad sent me to the
lab, with Ed, but when I got there I realized I’d left my clipboard in Dad’s
office, so I went back. Carolyn was
away, I walked in. And there he was, his
back to me----
Then you didn’t hear
right. And where would he find an outlaw
trucker, in the yellow pages?
Later, when I got
back from the lab, Dad announced we were exporting the dioxin ASAP and since
we’d never gone the export route before, he’d take care of the details. But, I checked the details: There’s no EPA
notification on file---I do those---and you have to have a bilateral agreement
and there hasn’t been time for one, and you have to ensure that the
environmental standards of the receiving country are equal to your own
and---- Mom: It’s dumping.
I’ve spent my entire
life with him, Guy. He is my
life. I love that man.
At least he told the
trucker to find someplace isolated.
No-o-o-o! It’s not possible! My husband would not dump!
FAITH and GUY
look at each other.
Why....? Why is he doing it?
He’s trapped. We’ve tried every landfill in this country,
but nobody’s taking. They’re either
filled up, or when the community finds out it’s
dioxin, they’re out in the streets. He’s
down to Plan Z. And the deadline’s
coming fast: You have 90 days after clean-up to dispose and if you miss it, you
take 100% liability. The stress is
unbelievable. Dad chews antacids like
Isn’t there some
other way besides---dumping?
incineration, but it’s way more expensive than a
landfill. I suggested it---twice---but
he said, “No way”---and the second time he drilled it. (Beat)
You know, Mother, the only good news is: I see you didn’t know.
Oh Guy, what are we
going to do? What?
I don’t know if
there’s anything we can do. I never win
with Dad, and neither do you.
Guy, this cannot
happen. We’ve got to talk your father
out of this. People are going to die.
Mother, I told you
up-front: This is between you and me----
But if both of us
went to him----
Then he’d know I
couldn’t keep a business confidence----
What’s that matter
if people die? I---don’t understand you.
That’s not the only
CARRIE enters in
Dad’s going to do
it! He’s really going to do it!
Uhhh, what’s he going to do, sweetheart?
Speak at my school
assembly. And he wants me right
there---beside him! It’ll be the most
perfect day of my whole entire life so far.
(Beat) Something’s wrong
here, I can tell. What is it?
It doesn’t feel like
“nothing” to me.
you’ve got a hyperactive imagination, Kitten.
I’m not a
kitten. I can handle---stuff.
Dear, Guy and I were
discussing a personal problem.
Whose? (To GUY) Yours? Does she have a name, this personal
Yeah she has a
name. It’s Nosey. End of discussion.
O.K., O.K., I’m
going. Oh Mom, Dad says he’ll be in for
dinner later. He’s----
He’s installing the
radar detector, isn’t he?
Yeah, but I sort of
decided it was a good idea. It is
But you don’t need
protection if you’re going the speed limit.
precautions. He’s hiding the sensor in
the grill and the receiver in the glove compartment----
anything? Honey: It is wrong.
Then why is it O.K.
for Dad? I don’t understand.
Sorry? (Exiting) I gotta go help
What a weak, dumb
woman I’ve been----
Well, one very big
symbol---Will’s radar detector---of a not-so-small problem has been sitting in
front of me all these years---me, in the go-along-and-make-nice passenger
seat---and I have failed to do anything other than wrinkle my nose and whimper.
Mother, you’re not
Aren’t I? I buzz around so “interested” in things, and
so blind. And yet, not
so blind..... This propensity of
your father’s to cut corners is not a surprise.
Mother, Dad’s going
to be back here soon.
What words did he
use, Guy? How did he say it? Did he actually say “dump”?
No. Is this important?
I’m trying to see
the man I’m married to. Do you know---if
your father has---dumped before?
I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Five, six years ago
there was that settlement. Diablo Flats.
That was before I
got there. All I know is, the office is jammed with EPA stuff: notifications,
approvals, inspections. Dad bitches
about the EPA “clowns” and their paperwork, but we file it.
this time. (Beat) Son: “Business confidence” is
no excuse for us not to----
Mother: The only way
to stop Dad now is to blow the whistle and throw him in jail---and I’m not
sending Dad to prison! You can’t ask me
to do that, Mother. I love him. He is my father. And....: There’s something else to
consider. The business will be mine
someday, mine to run. Dad’s been
teaching me the ropes. It’s one tough
world, and Dad knows how to deal with it.
We pulled in $150
million last year. Business is booming
and it’ll keep on booming, but with more competitors every day and the media
making a circus of everything, blowing the whistle would mean blowing
everything to smithereens.
So would dumping.
Not if nobody says.
Good God, people are
going to die!
of WILL and CARRIE returning.
Why did you tell me
Share the misery, I
Let’s eat! We are famished.
EXCERPT II :
from Scene 2, Act One
[Preceding action: Scene
1 ends with Will forcefully establishing with Faith his “territory”---she is to
stay out of his business---after which he leads her off to “their” territory,
the bedroom. Also established is Faith’s
dramatic objective: finding allies.
Scene 2 opens with Mother assuring Faith that Will
must have his reasons to export. Enter
Abby, wife of Will’s v.p., whom
Faith has invited over because she knows more about company “ops” than Faith and
Will says she’s “sharp.” Faith gets
right to the point: Guy has told her Will plans to dump. Abby defends Will, that
he would not dump.]
But why am I
defending your husband? You should be
doing that. Where’s your loyalty?
Speaking of loyalty,
Mother.... So, Abby: It’s dumping, isn’t
Maybe Guy’s hearing
is off. Has he had it tested lately?
O.K., you’re right,
Guy’s right! It sounds like dumping, it sounds
like dumping. Are you happy?
No. But thank you for the confirmation.
just said it sounds like dumping. Will has an explanation.
Mother: Would you
like to go freshen up?
No I’m fine as I am.
I need a drink. Did somebody mention a drink? Where’s your maid?
I gave her the day
off, considering. Inez is Mexican.
thought she was Philippino.
I’ll do it. What would you like, Abby?
margarita. Real salty and real fast.
Ah yes, wonderful Mexican
import, the margarita. For which we’re
going to pay back with one pip of an export.
Well, Mexico sends us drugs.
something to drink?
Nothing. I’m getting a stomach-ache.
I’ll fix you a Bromo. I always
carry some in my suitcase.
Faith: If you
understood business realities better, you’d know there are winners and losers.
But must there be
victims? It could by your Joshua and
ABBY is silent.
And besides hurting
innocent people, it could hurt the company too---if it got out.
Jesus, Faith, you’re
not thinking of---leaking?
There wouldn’t be
any need to, if..... Abby: Would you go
with me to talk Will out of it?
What?? Wives don’t do that kind of thing. You promised you wouldn’t ask me to do
anything. That’s---that’s entrapment,
Then what does a
wife do when she knows her husband is about to dump?
Your husband, not mine. Ed’s
not involved in this, so why should I get involved?
would listen to you. He always says you’re “so sharp.”
He does....? I’d have to think about it and decide.
But you can’t
“decide” dumping is wrong. It just is.
Don’t go dictating
morality to me.
You like to “keep
busy.” Let’s get busy about something really
important: life and death.
Thanks for judging
the way I run my life. Look we---- You still
don’t know for sure it’s dumping.
There’s got to be an explanation not even Guy knows. Hey: Why don’t you get Guy to go with you, to
discussion your “impressions,” huh? Huh?
(Beat) I can’t reach him.
eavesdropper has disappeared?
He’s having a hard
time believing his father could dump.
He should be having
a harder time about snitching. Snitching
and disloyalty, that is the worst.
than killing? What a peculiar set of priorities.
I’m outa here. I’m not
going to sit here and be insulted.
Wait. One more thing.
I’ve already had
more fun than I can stand, Faith.
Faith, your guest
wants to leave.
It’s about the
WHOA! What’s that got to do with this?
I need to know if
this---if dumping has happened before.
Christ, Faith, what
do you think our husbands are---a couple of crooks?
Then why didn’t they
fight the charge? Why did they settle
Diablo Flats rather than fight?
of the expense and the headache of a protracted trial. Faith,
the settlement is settled.
Actually, I was sorry we didn’t go to court. I’d gotten a terrific wardrobe for the TV---TV
colors---and then all your friends get together and throw you a support dinner.
strange American custom.
There you go getting
moral again. What makes you so holy?
dumping, some moralizing is necessary.
Abby: Will and Ed didn’t fight the charge because they dumped, didn’t
they. (Beat) We can find out by calling Darrell.
competitor. Faith Perdue, what kind of destructive burr
is under your saddle?
became a competitor, he was Will’s lab director. And he left around the time of the
settlement. I remember, because Will was
angrier about Darrell than anything else, kept calling him a Judas.
leave, Faith. Will fired him.
Why would Will fire
a man he was so thrilled to land in the first place, with all his degrees?
They had to move
fast and Darrell was one big delay. They
called him Speed-bump.
I have a feeling
Speed-bump has the information we need.
We just have to decide how much we want to know. How much do we want to know, Abby?
don’t have to call Darrell. Faith, don’t
get crazy, but: Something did happen. It
was an accident---an accident. The guys
did not know what they were disposing.
The chemical company that contracted them---Silva Chemical---Silva lied
to them about what was in the barrels.
Lucky for everybody, the guys disposed out at Diablo Flats and not
around a population center. Faith: They
did not know what they were disposing.
Do you really
Of course! I’m not in the habit of doubting my husband.
Good for you.
Mother! Abby: How---if they had a laboratory and
they had Speed-bump for a lab director---how could they not know what
they were disposing?
Maybe they thought
Darrell was wrong.
Let’s find out,
Abby. (Moves to phone)
Darrell, while Abby and Mother protest vehemently.]
(Hanging up) I knew it: Will knew. And so did Ed. Ask and ye shall perceive.
Ask a competitor and
ye shall hear lies.
Do you want to hear,
No I don’t want to
hear, Benedict Arnold.
Abby, our husbands
Christ, you sound like the Holy Bible---- Whoa!
Just now, when you hung up, you said, “I knew it....” Mrs. Forsyth, didn’t she say that?
I believe you did,
What did you mean,
Well, I thought
perhaps it was a little fishy that Will settled----
And when did you
have this knowledge? Just since Guy
unloaded last night---or at the time of the settlement?
(Beat) At the time of the
settlement. Look, I’ve already
castigated myself about that----
Oh honey, let me
[SCENE CONTINUES, to
end of Act One]