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Walter Demolished

The spacious living room and kitchen of a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. Walter, an actor and writer in his early thirties, is sitting at the kitchen table writing a play. He comes to a stopping point, sets down his pen, and gets up to put a kettle on for tea. The apartment door opens. Vincent, Walter’s apartment mate, enters. Vincent is an actor in his late thirties.

Vincent: Mail call. Forgot my reading glasses and I’m useless at the shop with out them. (hands several pieces of mail to Walter) All for you. As usual.

Walter: Merci.

Vincent: (gets his reading glasses off the kitchen counter) How’s the writing going?

Walter: Good. (looks through the mail, stops at one of the letters) Oh my God. This looks like a check rather than a bill. From the Waxman Theatre in Milwaukee.

Vincent: (clasps his hands) Let us pray.

Walter: (opening the letter and extracting a check) Eight hundred and seventeen dollars and forty-two cents. My little play that keeps on giving.

Vincent: Congratulations.

Walter: Magic money. (frowns at another letter) What’s this?

Walter opens the envelope, extracts a single-page note, carries the note to the table, and sits down to read.

Vincent: Fan mail from some flounder?

Walter: (stunned) No.

Vincent: What is it?

Walter: (holds out the note to Vincent) Can’t be true.

Vincent reads the note and grimaces.

Vincent: This is just some crackpot who got hold of your address and thought he’d have some fun fucking with you.

Walter: Why would he do that?

Vincent: Who knows? The world is full of these creeps.

Walter: Would you read it to me? My vision blurred when I looked at it.

Vincent: Walter, listen to me. This is just some whacko, jealous of your success. Just let it go.

Walter: Did he sign it?

Vincent: Yes. Thomas. No last name.

Walter: (looks at envelope) No return address.

Vincent: Of course not. He doesn’t want to correspond. He wants to harass you. They’re called trolls, and they’re to be ignored at all costs.

Walter: Please read it to me.

Vincent: (reluctantly reading) Your girlfriend Maureen is unfaithful to you. Thomas. (shakes his head) Nonsense.

Walter: That should be illegal.

Vincent: It is. And if you get another one from him, we’ll go to the police. (sets the note on the table) I have to get back to the shop. You okay?

Walter: A bit rattled. I’ll survive.

Vincent: I wouldn’t even mention this to Maureen if I were you.

Walter: That will be difficult because she’ll be here any minute.

Vincent: Oh God, Walter. This is exactly what these psychos want. To fuck up your life. Just burn the stupid thing.

Walter: I probably will. Thanks. Walk safely.

Vincent: We gonna go out tonight and celebrate the massive residuals?

Walter: Thai food, at least.

Vincent: That’s the spirit. (goes out) Ciao.

Walter picks up the note and reads it again.

Walter: Just what I didn’t need.

Walter goes into the kitchen and restarts the kettle for tea. He’s getting out a couple mugs when the door opens. Maureen, a lovely woman in her thirties, enters with a bag of groceries.

Maureen: Hi Sweetheart.

Walter: Hey.

Maureen: I brought fish tacos for lunch. I’m starving. You?

Walter: Not starving, but definitely esurient.

Maureen sets the bag down and they embrace and kiss.

Maureen: Make love after lunch?

Walter: What a nice idea. Except… I’m a little preoccupied with something that just came in the mail.

Maureen: (concerned) What is it?

Walter: I think it’s just a crank note, but it upset me, so…

Maureen: May I see it?

Walter: (goes to the table to get the note) Came in the same mail with a little check for the Milwaukee production of Funny You Should Mention It.

Maureen: Well that’s good news.

She takes the note from him, reads it, closes her eyes, and sighs in exasperation.

Maureen: I’m so sorry about this, Walter. This is a guy I had a little fling with before you and I got together, and he’s been bothering me ever since. (opens her eyes) I’m so sorry he resorted to this.

Walter: Thomas who?

Maureen: No one you know.

Walter: He’s been bothering you for four years and you never told me about it?

Maureen: Not four years. More like two.

Walter: Two? But we’ve been together for four years. I gave you a key to this apartment four years ago when we vowed eternal love? Remember? After splendiferous sex? We had a kind of ersatz wedding ceremony?

Maureen: Of course I remember. We dated for two years, and been exclusive for two.

Walter: (sits down at the kitchen table) Forgive me, but… you’re Maureen, right? Maureen Silverstein. And I’m Walter Iverson. Is that your understanding of things?

Maureen: (comes and sits down near him) Sweetheart, it took me a little longer than you to fully commit. That’s all.

Walter: What are you talking about? We lay in my bed, four years ago, and vowed to be each other’s one and only. And we repeated that ritual hundreds of times. Starting four years ago. Now you’re telling me you slept with other people for the ensuing two years?

Maureen: Two other people. Ever so briefly. A three-day fling with this idiot Thomas while you were in London and… (hesitates) a little something with Francis.

Walter: Francis Hoffman? He who directed the staged reading of Funny You Should Mention It and then directed the Onyx Theatre production? Otherwise known as the world premiere of my play that ran for a hundred and seventy-three glorious nights? That Francis?

Maureen: Yes.

Walter: Was your little something with him before or after he directed my play?

Maureen: Before. Months before.

Walter: Did he read my play because you slept with him?

Maureen: (lying) No.

Walter: How could you not have told me about this?

Maureen: It happened, Walter. A long time ago. It’s not happening now. I’m only sleeping with you now. Francis and Thomas are ancient history. And so what if Francis did read your play because he and I had a little fling? He didn’t love your play because of that. He loved it because it’s a great play. And you’re a great playwright. And you and I love each other. Madly. And everything is fine now, despite this hideous attempt by Thomas to ruin our happiness two years after the fact.

Walter: I’m feeling a bit lightheaded. Maybe we should eat.

Maureen: Good idea. (jumps up and goes to get the tacos) I should have told you, Sweetheart, but they were so not important to me. Or to us. (puts tacos on plates) You want something to drink?

Walter: Not important to us. What does that mean?

Maureen: (brings the food to the table) They were momentary little meaningless flings. (goes to fetch water for them) Little nothings at the tail end of my days as a single person.

Maureen returns with glasses of water, sits down, and begins eating.

Walter: (unable to eat) Little nothings at the tail end of your days as a single person. The two-year tail end?

Maureen: Long ago.

Walter: The difficulty I’m having with your explanation is that I’ve been living with the belief that we were monogamously committed to each other for the last four years, and now you’re telling me that though I was monogamously committed to you, you were not so committed to me until two years ago, and my success, such as it is, is very likely the result of your not being monogamously committed to me. And though I don’t want to over-dramatize things, everything I believed we were to each other seems not to be the case. Seems, in fact, to be a charade.

Maureen: (finishes her mouthful) I understand why you feel that way, Sweetheart. But our relationship is not a charade. It’s a beautiful and very real thing. And I’m deeply committed to you. (gazes at him) This is just a misunderstanding. That’s all.

Walter: What am I misunderstanding?

Maureen: You think I cheated on you, and I didn’t. The misunderstanding is that you thought I was completely committed to you before I actually was. But now I am and have been for two years. So this seemingly new information is really very old news and has nothing to do with us now.

Walter: Then why does it feel like it has everything to do with now? Which is to say, I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to believe you or trust you again. (gazes at her) And I hope you know that my reaction to all this new old information has nothing to do with you having sex with them, and everything to do with you lying to me. You deceived me, Maureen. For two years.

Maureen: I never lied to you. I just didn’t tell you because it happened long before we were a full-blown couple, and because it was part of my process of getting to the point where I was ready to fully commit to you.

Walter: So you’re asking me to re-imagine two years of my life and two years of our relationship, in a way I find highly unpleasant, and then forget all about it? I can tell you right now I’m not capable of that.

Maureen: So what are you saying? I was supposed to be celibate before we got together?

Walter: Please don’t resort to that. Of course I knew you were sexually active up to the minute we became sexually active together, and you knew the same about me. And I was happy to know you were a sex loving person. Sex is good. But after we started banging, if I may use that quaint expression, you made innumerable declarations, as did I, of only wanting to sleep with each other and nobody else. Did I mistake your hyperbole for truth because my hyperbole was the truth? Or were your declarations, if you’ll pardon my French, balderdash? I mean… how can I ever again believe anything you tell me?

Maureen: I don’t know.

Walter: Just imagine if out of the blue you learned that I deceived you for the first two years of our relationship. Could you ever trust me again? And was it just the first two years? Why would Thomas write now? Is it maybe because you’ve had a few more little nothings more recently than two years ago? Have you?

Maureen: (long pause) Yes.

Maureen gets up, gets her purse, extracts her keys, removes Walter’s apartment key from the chain, and puts the key on the kitchen counter.

Maureen: (goes to the door) Regardless of what you think of me now, I love you and admire you. And I always will.

Maureen goes out the door and closes it gently. Walter sits without moving for a long time. Now, in a state of shock, he eats a fish taco.

fin

Broke My Heart piano solo

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Walter Meets Maureen

A party at Jeremy’s apartment in Manhattan.

Maureen, an actress dancer in her thirties, is standing near the table laden with food, talking to Terry, an actress in her twenties, the party going on around them.

Terry: If only we were gay men, this party would be heaven.

Maureen: I come for the food. Jeremy always has the best food. A party at Jeremy’s is a night when I don’t have to cook or do the dishes or spend money going out, and he’ll insist I take lots home, so I won’t have to worry about dinner tomorrow night either. Anything else good happens here will be frosting on the cake.

Terry: (sees Jeremy going by carrying two drinks) Jeremy?

Jeremy: (stops) Yes dahling?

Terry: Any straights coming tonight?

Jeremy: (does a quick scan of the room) Vincent said he might bring one.

Maureen: Fabulous food, Jeremy. As always.

Jeremy: Take a bunch home. Please. I did my usual child of Depression-era-parents thing and made enough to feed greater Manhattan.

Maureen: If you insist.

Jeremy moves on.

Terry: (to Maureen) I’m gonna go. Long week. Running on fumes. You want to make doggy bags and share a cab?

Maureen: I think I’m gonna stay a little longer. (gives Terry a hug) I’ll call you tomorrow. I’ll bring home enough for two and you can come over for supper.

Terry: I might be too tired. Call me.

Maureen: Love you.

Terry: (going) Love you.

Maureen moves to the food table and has a shrimp skewered on a long toothpick, her eyelids fluttering with pleasure as she devours the tasty morsel.

Maureen: (taking another shrimp) You’re a genius, Jeremy. These shrimp are to die for.

Jeremy: (from across the room) Thank you, darling. Be forewarned, they’re something of an aphrodisiac.

Maureen: Please give me your recipe to add to my seduction arsenal.

Enter Vincent, an actor in his thirties, with Walter, an actor in his twenties. Jeremy greets Vincent with a big hug.

Jeremy: I thought you’d never get here. Don’t tell me you got the part.

Vincent: (triumphant) We both did. You’re looking at the two new substitute chorus members of Fiddler on the Roof.

Jeremy: Congratulations to both of you. (to Walter) Whoever you are.

Vincent: Oh sorry. Jeremy, this is my new apartment mate Walter Iverson. Walter, the inestimable Jeremy.

Walter: (shaking Jeremy’s hand) I’ve heard so much about you. All good.

Jeremy: (to Vincent) He’s darling. (to Walter) What have you heard? Spare no details.

Walter: The food at your parties is worthy of a Michelin star.

Jeremy: Just one?

Walter: You have a fabulous sense of humor.

Jeremy: Is this some kind of a joke?

Walter: You do impeccable imitations of all the great actors as if they were gay.

Jeremy: (doing a gay John Wayne) Watch your step, pilgrim.

Walter: And when all else fails, call Jeremy.

Jeremy: (to Vincent) We have been through the wars together, haven’t we, love? (hugs Vincent) Come have some food. I made enough to feed all of greater Manhattan.

Vincent: How unlike you.

Jeremy leads them to the food table where Walter and Maureen lock eyes.

Maureen: (to Walter) The skewered shrimp is mythic. Picante in the best of ways.

Walter: I love mythic picante skewered shrimp. (continues to look at her) I’m Walter. You are…?

Maureen: Maureen. Congratulations on getting the Fiddler gig.

Walter: Thank you. I’m amazed. First thing I auditioned for since I got to New York three weeks ago.

Jeremy: Wait. You’ve been here three weeks and you landed half of the best apartment on the upper west side and you got a gig in Fiddler? May I touch you?

Walter: Please. (holds out his arm for Jeremy to touch) I’m astounded. I auditioned two hundred and seventeen times during my two years in LA and got four callbacks and zero gigs. And here? Bingo. I owe the Fiddler gig to Vincent. He got me in the door.

Vincent: Yes, but you did the singing. (to Jeremy) His voice, not to mention his gloriously chiseled cheeks, remind one of the young Frank Sinatra. The casting director was close to orgasm while he was singing.

Maureen: What did you audition with?

Walter: Someone To Watch Over Me.

Jeremy: How retro. Yet refreshingly melodic.

Vincent: He could sing the phone book and you’d cream, Jeremy.

Jeremy: That’s it. I’m getting a piano. I’ll put it where the sofa is and move the sofa over here.

Walter: I’m no Frank Sinatra. Well… maybe the older Frank, but not the younger one. I think it was my dancing that sold them.

Jeremy: Stop. You dance, too?

Vincent: He’s kidding. We didn’t dance. Thank God or I’d never have gotten the gig.

Jeremy: What are we drinking?

Walter: Love a beer. (to Maureen) What are you drinking?

Maureen: I’m currently focused on the shrimp. But eventually I’ll have wine.

Jeremy: (to Vincent) Come help me get their drinks and say hello to your legions of admirers.

Vincent follows Jeremy away, leaving Walter alone with Maureen.

Walter: I thought they’d never leave.

Maureen: (pleased) So… you moved here from LA? I lived in LA for three years. I found it… psychotic.

Walter: More psychotic than Manhattan?

Maureen: I guess not more. Just… other.

Walter: How would you compare the two psychoses?

Maureen: (smitten) You’re straight, aren’t you?

Walter: I am. You?

Maureen: I am now.

Walter: What changed you?

Maureen: The way you said psychoses. (fans herself) Be still my heart. Tell me you don’t have a girlfriend.

Walter: I don’t have a girlfriend.

Maureen: I don’t either. Or a boyfriend. (thinks for a moment) Not really. I’m sort of dating a couple people, but we’ve all given each other the right to…

Walter: Fall in love with others?

Maureen: Yeah. (eats a shrimp) These are so good. You should have several.

Walter: Okay. (he eats a shrimp) Wow. They are good. Spicy skewered mythic shrimp. What could be better?

Maureen: I can think of a few things. So what do you do besides act and sing and possibly dance?

Walter: Well, I’ll probably be getting a job as a waiter somewhere swank unless the substitute chorus gig turns into something a little more lucrative. And I’m writing a play. That’s my larger aim in life. To be a playwright. You? An actor, and judging by your glorious gams I’ll guess dancer, too.

Maureen: Did you just say glorious gams?

Walter: I did.

Maureen: I thought so. Jesus. Who knew language could be so erotic?

Walter: William Carlos Williams. Among others. So… you act and dance and… what else?

Maureen: I’m actually not doing much acting these days. Lots of classes, of course, but I haven’t had a part, including summer stock, in over three years. I do still take way too many dance classes for someone not looking for work, and for my day job I’m a play evaluator for New Hope Theatre Company.

Walter: Oh. So you read plays and write encouraging rejection letters?

Maureen: Something like that. Although last year I discovered Jane Zester’s Short People Don’t Have So Far Too Fall and pushed hard to get a staged reading, and it ended up having a decent run in Trenton and may eventually work its way into the small theatre repertoire. These things do happen.

Walter: That’s thrilling.

Maureen: Are you being facetious?

Walter: No. It is thrilling. I got chills. It’s my fondest dream. To write a play that works its way into the small theater repertoire. Small theatres are the best things that ever happened to most towns in the world.

Maureen: (eats another shrimp) Um…would you like to go out with me? I think that’s how you say it? Meet for coffee? Go to a movie? Have a date? See what happens?

Walter: Yes.

Maureen: You’re not just saying that because I might one day read your play and set you on the road to international stardom, are you?

Walter: No. I’m saying that because I think you’re lovely and… yeah. You could be an accountant and I’d want to go out with you.

Maureen: My father is an accountant. Why would you have chosen that occupation, of all things?

Walter: I don’t know. There was just something about you. A subtle air of accountancy perhaps.

Maureen: Maybe it’s the way I’m silently keeping track of how many shrimp I’ve eaten. (picks up another shrimp) This will be seven. But let’s speak of other things. Let’s pretend we’re two people at a party who just met.

Walter: Okay. You go first.

Maureen: Have you seen any good movies lately?

Walter: No. Have you?

Maureen: No.

Walter: What’s your favorite color?        

Maureen: The color of your eyes. Kind of green brown. What’s yours?

Walter: The color of the blush in your cheeks. Rose?

Maureen: Good old party talk. Don’t you just love it?

Walter: I never did until tonight.

Vincent arrives with a beer for Walter and a glass of red wine for Maureen.

Vincent: (as he hands them their drinks) Do my senses deceive me or are we falling in love here?

Walter: You are not deceived.

Maureen: Speak for yourself, Walter.

Walter: You are not deceived regarding moi.

Maureen: You speak French?

Walter: Oui.

Maureen: Okay then, yes, you may speak for me.

Vincent raises his glass to make a toast.

Vincent: Here’s to my brilliant prescience in choosing Walter as my roommate.

Walter: Everything else has therefrom evolved.

Maureen: (fans herself) There you go again. Nothing like the timely use of therefrom to get a girl going.

Vincent: I knew this was gonna be a good party. We would have been here much sooner, but we had to schmooze with the Fiddler people. Such wonderful people, the Jews. And I say that as one of them.

Maureen: Are you Jewish, Walter?

Walter: On my mother’s side. So, yes. You?

Maureen: On both sides. (gazes lovingly at him) And I’m glad you didn’t get here any sooner or my gorgeous girlfriend Terry would have still been here and you wouldn’t have given me a second look.

Walter: (to Maureen) More gorgeous than you? Impossible.

Vincent: This is where you make a date to meet again in a couple days, right? Or maybe lunch tomorrow?

Walter: I hope so.

Maureen: I’d like that. So much.

Vincent: Whereas if I met a guy here and had the frisson you two have going on, we’d be going home together any minute now. Or down the hall here to the bedroom. Or maybe just here, by the hors d’oeuvres

Maureen: I used to be that way. And I always regretted it.

Walter: In my rather limited heterosexual experience, I think it’s wiser to wait for the initial endorphin rush to subside to better see who the other person actually is. You know what I mean?

Maureen: I do know what you mean, Walter. Though if you asked me to come home with you right now, it would be hard for me to say No.

Walter: I’m flattered.

Vincent: And to think I was present at the inception of this romance. Promise me if you have a boy child you’ll name him Vincent.

Walter: Lets not rush things.

Maureen: (gives Walter a look) Oh lets.

Walter: (opens his arms) Talked me into it.

Maureen and Walter embrace as Vincent looks on approvingly.

fin

One Fell Swoop piano solo