SYNOPSIS

A dramatic comedy---played out with alter-egos---about how one older woman deals with the male preference for younger women and, more deeply, how men and women alike reset their course in midlife.

When Jessica, a widow and Emily Dickinson scholar, learns at the play’s opening that Jack, whom she has secretly loved “since the sandbox,” is returning  to Washington a free man (“Mona will not be accompanying me”), she is seized with strong but conflicting feelings.  Should she, could she make her move?  Counseling an emphatic Yes are her inner blues singer and inner child; Miss Congeniality; and, more equivocably, Emily Dickinson.  But acting as damper, her inner Valkyrie, commander of her defense system, reminds her, seconded by her inner mother: “He married your best friend.  Remember the bitter pain.”  Also causing anxiety is the demand men make of women: beauty.  Jessica is plain, and at middle age she’s becoming more so.

For his part Jack is in crisis: His beautiful wife of 30 years has left him and his career as a diplomat, once bright, has dimmed. Unlike his ambassador father, he is No. 2 to celebrity ambassadors; moreover, he feels inadequate dealing with a post-Cold War world where "for ten cents any thug can produce kaboom." [N.B. this play was written before 9/11.] Unmoored and drinking, he desperately needs both a kind heart, which his best friend Jessica theoretically could provide (“Ah Jess, you’ve always understood me”), and rejuvenation, offered forcefully by his best self, Ralph Waldo Emerson.  But, unmanned by Mona, he is also easy prey to the eternal male urge for “pulchitrude,” or as his inner thug puts it, citing “the coolest part of the Guy Prerogative”: “Senior guys can hook up with junior babes.  Go for it.”  He does---and devastates Jessica.

Act Two asks: Will Jessica unleash her fury?  Will Jack recognize her inner beauty, as urged by Emerson?  Moved by Jessica’s pain, the reclusive Emily Dickinson entreats Emerson to apply to his client’s Conscience (and makes her own move: “Plain maidens possess delights they desire to give away, Sir….”).  At the climax, set in the Outpost Lounge, when scales finally fall from eyes---finally revealing both sets of alter-egos to each other (Waiter: “This is so opera!”)---what will they see?

Complicating this simple story line are the alter-egos, those powerful inner voices we edit before speaking.  In fact, this interplay---of the controls editing, of the alter-egos battling among themselves---is the play.  Ex.: Jessica’s elaborate toilette for Jack becomes a fight between Miss Congeniality who advises the subtle look and Blue who insists on the dramatic (“Cleavage: It separates the men from their minds and creates the illusion our waist is teeny”), juxtaposed with Jack’s quickie fix-up at Jessica’s door (“Hair combed?”).

A note: To hook a male audience, a comic touch is used and Jack’s needs are treated with sympathy (Miss Congeniality: “Jack’s life is in the toilet, remember that”).  But the play is not-comic in asking: What is at work when a man looks at a middle-aged woman and an inner judge says No?  More deeply, it poses a key question for men and women at midlife: What do those forces inside us say as we look at our lives and ask, What next, and why?

(The play’s title is from D.H. Lawrence: “Man has always his excess on his hands.”)

EXCERPTS

CHARACTERS

JESSICA---late 40s to mid-50s

Her alter-egos:

            BLUE---the Blues Singer

            VAL---the Valkyrie

            MISS CONGENIALITY

            EMILY DICKINSON

            CHILD

            MOTHER

JACK---same age as Jessica

His alter-egos:

            THUG

            RALPH WALDO EMERSON

            CHILD

            FATHER

THE LUSCIOUS YOUNG THING

THE WAITER

 

Casting note: Jessica and Blue, whom Jessica recognizes at the climax as her best self, preferably should be cast with different races.

 

SETTING

Washington, D.C.

 

TIME

Today

 

A priest, on being asked what years of listening to confessions had taught him: “First, people are much more unhappy than one thinks.  And then, the fundamental fact: There is no such thing as a grown-up.” --- Andre Malraux, Anti-Memoirs

 

EXCERPT I: Scene 1, Act One

 

Setting: Jessica’s Washington, D.C. home.

At rise: LIGHTS UP on BLUE.

 

BLUE

Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God-a-mighty, he is free at last!  Hallelujah!  Ohhh baby, this is the best news we’ve had in a long, long time.

 

LIGHTS UP on JESSICA.

 

JESSICA

Hallelujah indeed....

 

BLUE

Oh Jessie, I thought this day would never come---never!

 

JESSICA

Neither did I.

 

BLUE

I’ve been singing the blues for you forever, but freedom songs?  Not til now.  Finally: The man we have loved since the sandbox----

 

Enter the CHILD, running.

 

CHILD

I love you, Jack!  Love you-love you-love-you, always and forever, Jack!

 

BLUE

Yes, that man is free!  Amen!

 

CHILD

Amen!

 

JESSICA

Amen.  Ah: His voice....

 

BLUE

Yeah, he’s got a nice voice.

 

CHILD

I like his laugh.

 

JESSICA

He’s always had a certain something.  But: such sad eyes.  In between there are worlds.....

 

BLUE

---and we are gonna explore ‘em.  Yeah!

 

JESSICA

Oh God, how do I look?  Do I look O.K.?  Do you think he’ll like me like this?

 

BLUE

Right now, girl, you glow.

 

JESSICA

I could lose ten, fifteen---twenty pounds.

 

BLUE

Too late.  He’s here already---for you.

 

JESSICA

Oh, Blue: Can we believe it?

 

BLUE

Hard to believe, awful hard to believe.  Read that fax again.

 

JESSICA

Yes; where is that life-altering document?

 

CHILD

In your hand, all mashed up.

 

JESSICA

Ohhhh, I wanted to frame it....

 

BLUE

You passionate thing, you.  Now, read it.  I want to memorize every word.

 

JESSICA

“Dear Jessie----“

 

BLUE

Excellent.  Jessie”’s cozier than Jessica.

 

JESSICA

“Am returning to Washington for reassignment.”

 

BLUE

Star of the State Department will be in and out fast, so we gotta move.  Why?  Next part’s my fave.

 

JESSICA

“Mona will not be accompanying me.”

 

BLUE

Mona---is---gone!  Hallelujah!

 

CHILD

Wave ‘bye-bye, Mona.

 

JESSICA

Yes.  Sayonara, Mona.

 

BLUE

Mona’s nothing but a memory.

 

JESSICA

But memory, and heartache, give rise to the blues.  He must, you know, hurt so bad.

 

BLUE

Yeah he’ll be hurting---and you can kiss his wounds.  Mona’s been two-timing him from the start.  Like he’s been confiding in you from the start.  You know all the lyrics to that man’s blues.  And now, he’s dumped her---at last.  Freed himself up---for you.  Like the man says....

 

JESSICA

Yes.  “Can’t wait to see you.”

 

BLUE

We can’t wait to see you either, Jack!  And in closing....

 

JESSICA

“I arrive on the 21st.”

 

BLUE

To-day.

 

JESSICA

“Call me at the house.  Best, Jack.”

 

BLUE

Now to bump “Best” to “Love,” go from faxing to----

 

JESSICA

Blue!  Not in front of the Child.

 

CHILD

I know what it means.

 

BLUE

Jessica: You know you want it.

 

JESSICA

Well, I’d phrase it differently.

 

BLUE

Honey, we don’t worry about phrasing between us.  It’s primal in here---primal.

 

JESSICA

All right: I want “it.”

 

THEY scream and shout.

 

JESSICA

But mostly: I want him.  I want Us.  I do, I do, I do.

 

BLUE

Do we ever.  We’ve loved that man through so much: a couple of insignificant significant others, a boring marriage----

 

JESSICA

Now, Sam was nice.

 

BLUE

Sam, rest his soul, had no color.  We yawned at our own wedding.  Sam was a substitute for Jack.  So were those two PhDs of yours.  You wore me out, singing your blues.

 

BLUE

The second was overkill.

 

BLUE

And that book of yours.

 

JESSICA

My prize-winning book.

 

BLUE

“The Dashes of Emily Dickinson: The”---what?

 

JESSICA

“The Worlds Unexpressed.”  Emily was so precise that, given her power of expression, if she could not express something-----

 

BLUE

Emily didn’t get out of the house.  If she had, those dashes would’ve been expressed.

 

Enter EMILY DICKINSON, carrying a cake.

 

JESSICA

Emily....?!

 

EMILY DICKINSON

To celebrate your Capital News, I thought I would---dash over.

 

JESSICA

You’ve emerged on my behalf?

 

EMILY DICKINSON

No man stopped for me.  This is---dash---Event.

 

BLUE

(To EMILY)  So, you’ve been singing the blues too?

 

EMILY DICKINSON

In my own key.

 

BLUE

(To EMILY)  Glad to meet you at last.  It takes an “event” to bring us together.

 

EMILY DICKINSON

It does.  Cake all around?

 

JESSICA

The famous black cake.

 

CHILD

Yum!

 

BLUE

Uh, Jack likes ‘em skinny, Jess.

 

JESSICA

Make that thirty pounds.

 

BLUE

We’ll wear our strategic outfit, designed for a “spectrum of sizes.”

 

EMILY DICKINSON

I labored for nothing?

 

BLUE

That’s guilt, Miss Em.  Don’t do that.

 

CHILD

Jack’s put on weight, you know.

 

BLUE

Men can, we can’t.

 

CHILD

But why?

 

BLUE

Because.

 

CHILD

But why?

 

BLUE

Because that’s the way it is, Child!

 

JESSICA

Let’s not argue, please?

 

CHILD

I WANT SOME CAKE!

 

EMILY DICKINSON

Just the merest suggestion of a sliver....?

 

CHILD

(To BLUE)  You know you want “it,” Blue.

 

BLUE

All right.  Cake us, Miss Em, with the merest.  Then we fix this gal up.

 

LAUGHTER.  LIGHTS UP on VAL, the Valkyrie.

 

JESSICA

Oh dear....  Hello, Val.  I wondered when you’d come.

 

BLUE

She’s come for the cake.

 

VAL

I’ve come to remind Jessica: He married your best friend.  Never forget that.

 

BLUE

What took you so long, Val?

 

VAL

I had to suit up.  And so does Jessica.  He married your best friend.

 

JESSICA

That was thirty years ago.

 

VAL

PAIN NEVER DIES!  Remember the pain---the bitter pain.

 

CHILD

Mona was not my best friend, you know.

 

JESSICA

She was a circumstantial friend, she lived next door.

 

VAL

John had taken an oath to you.

 

JESSICA

We were only “going steady.”

 

CHILD

Still: Jack---dumped me for Mona, when she dumped Steve.  And Jack dumped me with a letter, the coward.  Coward-coward-coward.

 

JESSICA

O.K., O.K., O.K., I remember the pain.

 

VAL

Say it with feeling.  Mit passion.

 

JESSICA

All right!  I remember it: the bitter, bitter pain.

 

VAL

Wunderbar.

 

JESSICA

But: I also remember----

 

VAL

---how you three have been “friends” ever since, ja.  It was Betrayal!  They betrayed you.

 

Enter MOTHER.

 

MOTHER

---and friends don’t do those sorts of things.

 

JESSICA

Oh hello, Mother.

 

CHILD

(Running to MOTHER)  Mommy, Mommy, I hurt....

 

MOTHER

I tried to protect you, but Mona was a beauty, and while you have your own kind of beauty, dear, you were no Miss America.  So Jack, being male, naturally gravitated toward beauty----

 

ALL

Naturally.

 

MOTHER

---and you were much too nice about the whole business.

 

JESSICA

Which I learned from you, Mother: being nice.

 

BLUE

(To EMILY) This is where it gets complicated, Miss Em.

 

EMILY DICKSINSON

Yes, Civility has---Penances.

 

VAL

The biggest penance being Jessica serving as shoulder to Jack’s Sturm und Drang with Mona.

 

JESSICA

Say what you will but: Where would we be without civility?

 

BLUE

Yeah, we’d be in----  (To VAL) Gutter---what?

 

VAL

Götterdammerung!

 

BLUE

You got it.

 

VAL

JA!

 

JESSICA

(To VAL)  I cannot believe you inhabit me, I just can not.

 

VAL

Believe it.  And believe this: You are very, very angry at Jack, not least because Mona never loved him----

 

MISS CONGENIALITY (offstage)

Yoo-hoo, I inhabit you too!  Scuse me, ‘scuse me, I’m coming....!

 

VAL

Ach, the Southern belle.

 

JESSICA

Everybody, be nice to her.

 

VAL

You’re too protective of her.

 

JESSICA

Naturally: She’s my best self.

 

VAL

God help you.

 

BLUE

I thought I was your best self....

 

CHILD

I really like her, she’s so nice.

 

BLUE

Too nice.  My biggest fans, Jessica, are people who are too nice.

 

EMILY DICKINSON

Will this become---violent?

 

VAL

How else can Truth be forged?

 

Enter MISS CONGENIALITY.

 

MISS CONGENALITY

Hello everybody, sorry to be late.  E-e-e-e, Jessie, I’m so-o-o-o happy for you!

 

VAL

Isn’t punctuality a major symptom of your disease?

 

JESSICA

Val----

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

I was doing my thank-you notes.

 

VAL

“Dear Sister Contestant: Thanks for being a loser too.”

 

BLUE

You’re no prize-winner.  Not with that attitude, and the costume.

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

We of the pageant don’t speak of winners and losers.

 

VAL

But you think it.

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

Naturally the crown goes to beauty, but congeniality is honored too.  By society.

 

VAL

After four runners-up: for Beauty.

 

JESSICA

---Liposuction, I need lots of liposuction----

 

MISS CONGENIALTY

But---but I was elected by my sisters....

 

VAL

Who’re all praying for the crown and not the sash!

 

JESSICA

Thank you for making her cry, Val.

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

...but thanks for your input....

 

VAL

You should develop muscle, Miss.

 

BLUE

And you should develop manners, Sister.

 

VAL

Manners are the problem!  And we are not sisters.

 

BLUE

Oh yes we are, Sister.

 

JESSICA

QUIET!  You know, some people have a still, small voice inside.  One voice.  Still, and small.

 

VAL

How can a voice be still?

 

BLUE

And why be small?  (To VAL)  We agree?

 

JESSICA

But: I have the Metropolitan Opera crossed with a goddam jazz session!

 

MOTHER

Dear, the profanity.

 

EMILY DICKSINON

It fits precisely the world within....

 

JESSICA

Yes, it’s so discordant in here.  No consistency of style or message, alliances shifting----

 

VAL

That’s your job: exercising consistency.  Control.

 

JESSICA

It is, but: Sometimes I think you’ll all drive me stark raving mad!

 

EMILY DICKINSON

It has been ever such.

 

MOTHER

It is a bit excessive.

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

Honey, I have concealer for that blotchiness.  I can share all kinds of beauty tricks.

 

VAL

The biggest “trick” being charm----

 

JESSICA

Aw please!  I just got the most cheering news.  The man I have loved----

 

CHILD

---since the sandbox----

 

JESSICA

---is free.  He’s freed himself---to come to me.

 

VAL

On that point: Well, I hate to be a wet blanket.....

 

BLUE and MISS CONGENIALITY

Oh sure.

 

CHILD

Yeah right.

 

EMILY DICKINSON

(Beat)  Ha.

 

VAL

Am I the only one to note a certain imprecision?  In his fax, John says: “Mona will not be accompanying me.”  You all interpret that to mean he left her.  But: Given the rate Mona has bestowed her charms on other men, what if she left him?

 

EMILY DICKINSON

There is ambiguity on that point.

 

VAL

Like the man.

 

JESSICA

But...he wants to see me and I want to see him.....

 

MOTHER

He wants to use you.

 

VAL

He needs your shoulder---as he has for twenty-nine-and-a-half years.

 

BLUE

Well, the shoulder’s connected to the neckbone----

 

JESSICA

But, I’ve been so lonely!

 

BLUE

Amen to that!

 

[SCENE CONTINUES]

 

 

EXCERPT II: Scene Two, Act One---introducing Jack’s alter-egos

 

Setting: Jack’s Washington, D.C. home.

At rise: LIGHTS UP on THUG.

 

THUG

Free at last, free at last!  Thank God-a-mighty, Jack-man, you are free at last!  Hoo-ee!

 

LIGHTS UP on JACK.  Both JACK and THUG are drinking.

 

JACK

Yeah: I’m free---and miserable.

 

THUG

Oh no, guy, you are so happy.

 

JACK

Oh no I am so miserable---and I’m drinking in the morning.  Mona is gone.  My career is going.  I want Mona and I want my brilliant career back....

 

THUG

If you hadn’t jammed my Machiavellian input, your career would be aces.  But now that the career’s over, time for my forte: women.  And Mona?  You do not want Mona.

 

LIGHTS UP on CHILD, who is face down on the floor, sniveling.

 

CHILD

Mona....  Mona....  I want my MONA-A-A-A-A.....

 

THUG

Can it, little guy.

 

JACK

Play it, child, play it.  And while you’re at it, could you wail about my career too?

 

CHILD

Don’t want to, your career was nothing but homework and I hate homework.  MO-NA....

 

THUG

Christ!  Jack, look at it this way: Mona did you a favor.  She gave you freedom.  Whether you wanted it or not.  And what do guys do with freedom?  They exercise their Guy Prerogative and get them some JOY.

 

CHILD

What’s a “per-ga-gative”?

 

THUG

Pre-roga-tive.  Meaning all rights appertaining to being a guy. .... And the coolest part of the Guy Prerogative?  Senior guys can hook up with junior babes.  I’m thinking: intern.  When you go into the Department tomorrow, check out the new crop. 

 

JACK

I want Mona....

 

THUG

Jesus!  We’re gonna forget that bitch.

 

JACK

Mona’s not a bitch.

 

THUG

Mona’s the bitch of all time, because: She betrayed you, Jack---double.  One: She runs off with Mister Ambassador, your own Chief of Mission.  Two: Mister Ambassador is not even a career professional, he’s Mister Celebrity Appointee, a former TV star.

 

JACK

---whose conceptual framework was his former series, for God’s sakes.

 

THUG

You should be erupting in Othello-type rage.  Get out of the dumps and advance to rage.

 

JACK

But, is rage truly an advance?

 

CHILD

I WANNA DO RAGE, I WANNA ERUPT!

 

JACK

I am losing my mind....

 

[THUG redoubles his efforts to steer Jack to the Guy Prerogative.  Enter FATHER.]

 

FATHER

The thing for the career at this critical juncture is the most sober and diligent performance of your duties.  To make ambassadorial rank, as I did, as did your grandfather, you must request the most demanding assignments and acquit yourself, and not, I repeat, not indulge in hijinks.

 

JACK

Gee, Dad, I would hope for sympathy from you.

 

FATHER

Son, you can’t wallow in the emotions, not in the [Foreign] Service.

 

JACK

Father: My career in the Service is, shall we say, stalled.

 

FATHER

This Mona thing is minor, it’ll blow over.  Spouse ran off with the entertainment.  The career people will see that.

 

JACK

Again, Father: It’s the career people who are minor now.  If we political officers can’t read the politics of our day....

 

FATHER

It’s your reading of today’s politics that accounts for the stall in the career.  Your recent tours have been, shall we say, lackluster, your cables lack cogency.

 

JACK

That’s because the world’s a hell of a lot less cogent than the Soviet-American world of your day.  Your world was black-and-white----

 

FATHER

---with the potential for a huge atomic bang.

 

JACK

And mine’s a spectrum of grays with the potential for multiple flashes.  Any thug can take any bottle and for ten cents American he can produce----

 

THUG

Kaboom-boom-boom. 

 

JACK

Which is why I am resigning.  I am at sea in this world, completely and utterly at sea.

 

FATHER

But periods of transition present great opportunities----

 

JACK

To him who can point the way.  I can’t.

 

FATHER

Well, if you think resorting to carnality will help----

 

THUG

It helped you, Pop.

 

JACK

It helped you, Father.  You fished off the sacred company pier.

 

[FATHER is silent as THUG recounts dalliances.  Enter RALPH WALDO EMERSON.]

 

THUG

Oh God, the Poet-Philosopher.  Hey everybody, it’s Ralph Waldo.

 

JACK

Hello, Emerson.  I expected you might come, though it’s been a long time.

 

EMERSON

Yes, since you left off our communion.  But your Soul is in such a jangle that my Soul, though it rest now in the empyrean, was disturbed.

 

THUG

Mister “Over-Soul.”

 

EMERSON

(To THUG)  Lounging Lizard!

 

FATHER

Admirably cogent.

 

EMERSON

Is this our full complement?  Will no other personages be in attendance?

 

JACK

This is it: the full---deck.

 

EMERSON

What moral vigor will be needed....

 

JACK

Emerson, if you’ve come to “enkindle me, I’m afraid it’s useless.

 

EMERSON

It may seem so, yes....  Many an extraordinary young man has failed to ripen, has he not?  He has failed to ripen and, at midpoint in his journey, he finds himself on the stair....

 

JACK is silent.

 

EMERSON

All things that he reckoned settled---nations, religions, climates---his career and his marriage union---they shudder, leave their foundations, and swim before his eyes...

 

JACK

Yes: everything swims....

 

EMERSON

Ghostlike, he glides through nature and---he does not know his place----

 

THUG

Point made, Ralph Waldo---very poetic.

 

EMERSON

(To THUG) ---and he looks back over his experience and he sees: The Slime of Error!

 

CHILD

That’s two!

 

THUG

(To CHILD)  Whose side are you on?

 

CHILD

Whoever throws the punch.  I love fights.

 

EMERSON

(To CHILD)  My domesticated sunbeam, come here.

 

THUG

Your what?  (To CHILD)  Hey, come back here! 

 

[Emerson tries to “enkindle” Jack about the world, his book, and the “estimable” Jessica.]

 

EMERSON

Use your despair to augment your truth.  Because to make a new estimate, especially in these wildly misshapen times: That is elevation.  I know it!

 

THUG

What elevates you is a drag to others.  Now, speaking of shapes....

 

EMERSON

It’s disgraceful to fly to other forms for ratification.

 

THUG

Oh yeah?  May I quote you?  “A beautiful face sets twenty hearts in palpitation.”

 

EMERSON

(Beat)  A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

 

[SCENE CONTINUES]

 

 

EXCERPT III: From Scene 3, Act One---Jack and Jessica meet.

 

Setting: Jessica’s home.  Here, Jack and his alter-egos arrive at Jessica’s door.  [NOTE: The two sets of alter-egos engage only their own set, they do not cross-engage until the climax---when scales have fallen from all eyes.]

 

JESSICA

Jack....  Well: Here you are.

 

JESSICA’S CHILD

Jackie-e-e-!

 

BLUE and MISS CONGENIALITY

Finally: The Moment.

 

MOTHER and VAL

...and he’s drunk?

 

JACK

Yes; here I am....

 

EMERSON

Wretched....

 

FATHER

...and in very bad form.

 

THUG

Don’t fall.

 

An awkward pause.

 

JESSICA’S CHILD

Hi Jack, hi-jack a plane!  (Giggles)

 

JACK’S CHILD

Heyyy, Jessie!  (Laughs)

 

JESSICA moves to give JACK a hug.  JACK hugs her back.

 

BLUE and MISS CONGENIALITY

Contact: mm-mm-mm....

 

THUG

Uh-uh-uh, watch the contact.

 

JESSICA

Well, don’t just stand there.  Get yourself in here.

 

JACK, THUG, and CHILD enter and plop in chairs.  FATHER and EMERSON stand apart.

 

FATHER and MOTHER

            Some diplomat!

 

BLUE

            He’s hurting. He’s a diplomat, he knows how to hide stuff.  He’s hurting and he’s showing his hurt to you, Jess.  We can work with this.

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

            Yeah.  Offer him something, ‘cause poor baby sure doesn’t look good.

 

JESSICA

Jack, you look so---so....

 

JESSICA’S CHILD

            He looks sorta funny.

 

VAL and MOTHER

            He looks dead drunk.

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

            Baby looks so tired.

 

JESSICA

You look so---dead---tired.

 

THUG

            Hmm, thought we looked pretty good, considering....

 

JESSICA

Can I get you something to drink?

 

ALL OF JESSICA’S ALTER-EGOS

            Coffee?

 

JACK’S CHILD

            Jessie stocks my Wild Turkey, I WANT WILD TURKEY!

 

THUG

            Love that buzz.

 

EMERSON

            A sound Soul would be tipsy with water!

 

JACK

I recall you stock Wild Turkey....

 

BLUE

            Triple espresso!

 

MOTHER

            Dear, have you considered what life would be like with an alcoholic?

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

            Try CPR, that would be fun.

 

VAL

            So would a cattle prod!  Aren’t we thrilled we went to so much trouble with our toilette?

 

JESSICA

Jack: You really could use some coffee.  I’ll be just a minute....

 

THUG

            Coffee means we’re bombing.  (Sniffing in direction of VAL and MOTHER) Something is out there, guys.  Attenzione....

 

[After more misfires, with Jessica & Co. trying to steer conversation toward the personal and Jack & Co. trying to keep it neutral, Jack recovers himself by asking about Jessica’s book.  Val: “Yes, but has he read our book?”  Jack has not, which leads him to reveal that he’d like to write a book himself, also that’s he considering resigning.]

 

JACK

So, what do you think?  About my resigning....?

 

JESSICA

I think you should.

 

JACK

Do you?

 

JESSICA

As your Emerson said, “Adherence to forms that are dead to us scatters our force.”

 

EMERSON

            Peerless woman!

 

JESSICA

Spend your force on the book that lies within you, Jack.  A book about these times, about which, despite your despair, you care.  At the end of the day, that is what you want: your book.

 

BLUE and MISS CONGENIALITY

            And us, we hope.

 

VAL

            He wants Mona.

 

JACK

Ah Jess: You have always, always understood what goes on with me....

 

THUG

            Why do I try, why do I try?

 

JESSICA’S CHILD

            But you’ve never understood what goes on with me---never.

 

BLUE

            Yeah, Jack: And we understand about Mona.

 

VAL

            Ja: Mona does not love you---and she never did!

 

JESSICA

Jack: I’ve always understood about Mona....

 

JACK’S CHILD

            (Starts to cry)  MO-NA....!

 

THUG

            We killed that woman off!

 

JACK

Ah, Mona....

 

EMILY DICKINSON

            What lies behind that “Ah”?

 

VAL

            That’s what we need to find out---without bogging down in sympathy.

 

JESSICA

What lies behind that “Ah,” Jack....?

 

THUG

            Ah nothing, guy.

 

FATHER

            Protect your back channel, John.

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

            I know: “Mona has other plans....?”

 

JESSICA

Mona’s not accompanying you, because she has other plans....?

 

THUG

            You know, pal, Jessica’s not asking after Mona’s welfare----

 

JACK’S CHILD

            MONA RAN OFF WITH TONY-Y-Y-Y!  (Bawls)

 

JACK

Yes, Mona has other plans....  Actually....: Mona ran off with my ambassador.

 

JESSICA’s ALTER-EGOS cheer.  THUG throws up his hands.  BLUE cuts off cheering.

 

BLUE

            Don’t look too happy, hon.

 

MOTHER

            Sounds like the Mona I knew.

 

FATHER

            Petulance in a man is---unmanly, John.

 

JACK

Sorry for the petulance, Jess.

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

            Don’t apologize, sweetie!

 

JESSICA

Don’t apologize, Jack.  (Beat, to alter-egos)  Now what?

 

BLUE

            Jump him!

 

MISS CONGENIALITY

            Yeah!

 

VAL

          NOT til we find out about Mona!

 

BLUE and MISS CONGENIALITY

            WE DON’T CARE ABOUT MONA!

 

VAL, MOTHER, and EMILY DICKINSON

            We’d better care about Mona.

 

[SCENE CONTINUES]


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