The lights come up on a frieze of the Mojave Desert, a repetition of creosote and Joshua trees. It’s sunrise. Two derelicts (male and female) are asleep on the sand. As the sun climbs, they stir and immediately begin passing a bottle of rum.
The key props are one or two outcroppings of rock, a plateau, and portable phone. Sometimes it rings. Sometimes someone answers it. Under one of the rocks is an area of shade, or perhaps a cave. During this play, people will, in addition to the usual kinds of entrances, emerge from under or on top of a rock or step out of the frieze.
NOTE: The celebrity references herein are intended to function as modern mythology, a point of universal intersection. They can and should change according to which rumors are functioning at this level at any given production time.
WOMAN (rousing): So, did you hear Sandra Bullock and Jesse James are breaking up?
MAN (immediately drawn in): Yeah, isn’t that wild? I heard it the other day. He fucked some stripper. (to passerby, whom we do not see): Hey, man, can you help me out? I’m an Iraq War vet. (Receiving coin). Thanks, brother. God bless. (Contemplating coin, to woman). Well, I heard Sandra’s a bitch so can you blame the guy for stepping out?
WOMAN: How can you say that?
MAN: I heard it, that’s why.
WOMAN: Well, that’s not what I heard…
MAN: Like everything, it’s a fifty-fifty chance…Hey, have you heard that the Kardashians drink blood on a regular basis?
An enthusiastic Real Estate Broker approaches the pair.
BROKER: Hi, there. (Gesturing). Is this for sale?
MAN: Property is theft. What do you got – water on the brain?
BROKER (not hearing this): Well, things’re turning around soon and if you ever buy this (gesturing) and then want to sell it, call me. (Handing him a card). Or, if you’d like to develop a strip mall…It’s always an option. I made nest egg number one on Chicken-on-Fire and Thai-to-Go. I’m planning to cash out and retire by the time I’m 35!
The Real Estate Broker walks off enthusiastically. The man puts the card in his pocket.
MAN: I never owned land…You?
WOMAN: Don’t worry about it. Tiger Woods got a piece of the rock and look what it’s doing for him.
MAN: So the real reason the Kardashians don’t show their age is –
WOMAN: – they’re not vampires…they have implants…they are entirely formed of implants. Get the story straight!
MAN: Don’t worry! I have my sources.
WOMAN: Same here, Mr. Know-It-All. Hey, did you know that the space program was a hoax? It all started with the so-called moon walk…the whole thing was just some gigantic diversion…to distract everybody.
MAN (attempting to one-up her): Hey, here’s a regular, watch this. Excuse me, miss, do you believe in collateral damage? Did you know that over one-third of the Americans who served in Iraq have brain injuries? Well, I’m one of those guys, baby…My brain is fried…(As passerby ignores him). But not as fried as yours! (To woman). Yeah, Kim Kardashian has fangs, that’s what I heard. They took out the guy who knew the whole story is what I am hearing from my sources.
WOMAN: Actually, I heard that he was paid off and relocated. I heard it from my step-brother’s wife’s cousin, who’s the pool man for a lot of people in Hollywood.
MAN (excited, suddenly): My source is a pool man too!
WOMAN: I didn’t get your name.
MAN (the excitement fades on the word “name”): It’s not important.
WOMAN (now morose): I know.
The Man now very deliberately removes a pistol from his pocket.
MAN: Give me a coin.
She gives it to him.
MAN: Call it.
The Man flips the coin.
MAN: You win.
He holds the gun to the side of her head.
MAN: Say good-night to the Kardashians.
WOMAN: Good-night, Khloe.
He shoots her.
MAN (to himself): Good night, Kim.
He turns the gun on himself and pulls the trigger. Their dead bodies remain on the stage throughout the play. People either do not notice them or step over them as if they might as well not be there, or alternatively, the bodies are outlined in chalk and the actors exit.
A very forced, very labored coyote yell is now heard. The man who made the sound enters, on all fours, continuing to make his coyote yell. He is followed by several men and women, each dressed for their day jobs (the usual round of occupations), and each imitating a different animal – a turtle, bear, eagle, lion. A man at the end of the line is not imitating an animal, but follows the parade anyway, awkwardly keeping time with a tom-tom. The groups start to dance as they call out their various sounds, moving around the stage in a circle. (In this case, “dancing” means inhabiting the body of the animal, and doing whatever it does in some sort of rhythmic pattern).
Now a woman in her mid-forties enters enthusiastically. She is a Workshop Leader on a mission – hair in serious dreadlocks, traditional Native American clothes.
WORKSHOP LEADER (without guile): You’re all doing very well. Just keep dancing your power animal until you actually become it.
The animal calls intensify.
WORKSHOP LEADER (to non-dancing man): Don’t be shy.
MAN (earnestly): Oh, I’m not…When we had the meditation, and we were supposed to visualize being in the primordial swamp, all I saw was the swamp. I didn’t see any animals. (As if warning the audience). All I saw was the swamp.
WORKSHOP LEADER: You will…keep working on it. (The man shrugs). Hey, I know just how you feel, I was so blocked, it took me six trips to Tibet to find mine…When your power animal wants to reveal itself to you, and you are ready to see it, well, that’s when it will happen.
She now whinnies loudly like a horse and gallops offstage, leading the group. The Man follows, pounding his tom-tom, pondering this as the animal cries trail off. We hear the continued pounding for a moment as it fades to silence. Suddenly the beat is picked up with early rap music, ideally something about bitches and hos. The bass is cranked. An overly-toned Exercise Instructor in her twenties and in exercise clothing crawls out through the frieze onto a rock, looks around, and excitedly jumps off to begin her exercise class.
EXERCISE INSTRUCTOR: Okay, it’s Monday. Today is the first day of the rest of your week. Let’s all inhale (she inhales), then plee-ay and exhale (she does this), and do it again for four…one, two, three, four…(Now launching into routine). Okay, step touch, step touch (continuing as she talks)…Has anybody in here not heard that Sandra Bullock and Jesse James are breaking up? (not waiting for an answer, now more loudly). Hut, hut, basketball…(she does this move), right foot, one, two, three, four, now left, one, two, three, four. I mean how do you think Sandra feels? Personally, if I found out that Joey was fucking pole queens (looking offstage), I don’t think I could show my face…Now come on, people, you’re not working, it’s bikini time, or maybe if you’re Vanessa (looking towards someone), we’re talking mono-kini (more loudly), tell us, ‘Nessa, what don’t you have? The handsome hubby, the lap pool, and now this new anniversary rock that you’re wearing, has everyone seen it? Flash it for us would you, girl? Now come on, people, let’s concentrate on that turbo-flair! You know I was on the beach the other day and there was this girl with the best butt I have ever seen in my life better than J Lo’s, although personally I don’t think she’s so sexy, but she’s all Joey talks about…Okay, we’re working the hamstring now, not our mouths, so stop jabbering in the back row! By the way, after class I’m taking a collection for Chilean earthquake victims (loudly and pivoting), hut, hut, let’s pivot, one, two, three, four, and now we’re starting the new combination (demonstrating) which you should have all been practicing at home (laughing at her own joke)…So here we go, five, six, seven, eight, right for two, right again, right again, and right, in a big square (loudly). Use your space, people! Really travel…(tripping over one of the bodies but not missing a beat). By the way, I’ve talked to all of my classes now and I’ve finally tabulated the results from my deodorant survey and will be revealing them tomorrow…Hut, hut, now let’s chassee (does this, off into the void)…Remember to use your space…
The music fades. The phone rings. No one answers it. Two tourists wander in with maps.
TOURIST #1: So, according to this, he should be buried around here somewhere.
TOURIST #2: I told you, he’s not dead.
TOURIST #1: Yes, he is. I saw the item in the paper.
TOURIST #2: Maybe we got on the “Homes of the Stars” bus, not “Graves of the Stars” and we’re wandering around in someone’s yard by mistake.
TOURIST #1: Well, we’d still be on a tour then, wouldn’t we?
TOURIST #2: Yes, but it would be the wrong tour. We would have paid for the wrong tour.
TOURIST #1: According to the brochure, he should be in this section, it even shows where the stone is on this map.
TOURIST #2: He’s not here because he’s not dead.
TOURIST #1: Of course he’s dead. These tour companies are very accurate with their information about who’s buried where, it’s their bread and butter.
TOURIST #2: If you ask me, this whole thing is some kind of scam.
TOURIST #1: You think everything is a scam. To you everything is some kind of scam. Remember when we went to see “Shakespeare-in-the-Round” and you said you couldn’t really enjoy the performance because no one really knows who wrote those plays, maybe it was Sir Walter Raleigh?
TOURIST #2: Francis Bacon, but even that’s not a given. (Pointing at the bodies on the stage, horrified). Oh my God, I think I found him.
The two rush to the area.
TOURIST #1 (handing Tourist #2 her camera): Here. (Double-checking map, disappointed). Oh, no, no, no…It says here he’s in a crypt with a plaque…He won the People’s Choice Awards three times consecutively…Whenever they put him on the cover of US Magazine, it would sell out, every time…I was in the audience once when he was on Tyra Banks and he was such an entertaining conversationalist that they had to bump all the other guests…He was a noted humanitarian…I’m sure he has a lovely burial vault…
The tourists wander offstage, still searching.
Lights up on a plateau overlooking the stage. A Ford Taurus is parked there. A teenage girl, Janey, is on the phone under the car. A young boy, Joey, puts several slices of bread on a stick, then moves to a crude campfire to make toast.
JANEY (under car): …No living here isn’t so bad. I don’t have to make my bed because I don’t have one, there’s a cute, roving band of inner-city youths that prey on everyone, and –
An overly perky Mom enters.
MOM (checking her watch and looking under car): Young lady, get off the phone this instant –
JANEY: Call you later. Bye.
Janey hangs up, crawls out from under the car, and hands Mom the phone. Mom takes it as if it’s a large, precious gem, examines it, gives it a light dusting, then places it atop a pedestal – the hood of the car.
MOM: I’ve told you time and time again to stay off the phone when we’re expecting our call from the National Focus Group Survey. Do you have potatoes in your ears?
JANEY: Sorry, Mom.
MOM: Now go help your brother make toast. Your father’s been away all night and I’m sure he’ll be ready for a good, hot breakfast when he gets back.
JOEY: And appreciate of how thoughtful we are.
Janey moves to help Joey.
JANEY: It’s not like I was being negative, or anything.
MOM: I know you weren’t, Janey. You’re a perfect daughter and Joey’s a perfect son…
(She moves to inspect the toast). And this toast looks almost…perfect.
She becomes even more cheerful at the thought of her own little word jokes.
JOEY: Medium-brown, just like Dad likes it.
JANEY (nostalgically): Number four on the toaster.
The three of them ponder this for a moment.
MOM: Now that’s enough wallowing in the past! Let’s count our blessings…
Mom looks around, sees no blessings, looks again – this time at the desert, and immediately perks.
MOM: We live in…
JANEY/JOEY: …a scenic overlook.
MOM (cheerfully continuing the chant): Our lives are…
JANEY/JOEY: Suitable for framing.
MOM: And we’ve never gone a day without toast.
JOEY: That’s because you’re the best mom in the whole world, Mom.
MOM (looking to ground and shuffling): Aw, thanks, sweetie, but let’s be fair. I owe it all to those calls from the National Focus Group Survey. (An afterthought). And your father, of course.
JANEY (concerned): I wonder where he is. It’s not like him to be late for an appointment with a pollster.
MOM: Young lady, turn that frown upside down. I’m sure your father’s fine. Although you’re right. It’s not like him to be late for an appointment with a pollster.
JOEY: I’m sure he’s fine. (Trying to be encouraging). Maybe he stopped off to sell some blood, like last time!
They are buoyed by this thought. The phone rings. Joey leaps to answer it. As he does, the lights on the plateau fade, and come up on the rest of the stage. The tourists now wander back on. Tourist #1 spots the grave.
TOURIST #1 (pointing): See, here it is. I told you we would find his grave. He was a wonderful human being, they say. (She grabs Tourist #2 and arranges a graveside pose for the camera, holding the camera in front of them and setting the timer). Did you know that he built a hospital for children with asthma? It has two wings so the parents can stay upstairs.
The phone rings. They don’t hear it.
TOURIST #1: Say land of the free.
TOURIST #1 and #2: Land of the free.
The photo is taken. The shutter doesn’t snap.
TOURIST #1: Wait. Let me try it again.
TOURIST #2 (checking watch): Well, let’s get a move on. It’s almost time for Indian bingo. Remember how last time I won with G3? Maybe it wasn’t rewound from the last time. Sometimes it sticks. Let me see. (Testing camera). Yes, it was. Look. I think there’s something wrong with it.
TOURIST #1 (grabbing camera and ripping it open): Oh, for God’s sake! The whole thing’s corroded.
She throws it across the stage. There is a thud. A Girl cries offstage in pain, and now enters, holding her head…
Check back for Part II Wednesday August 25th.