Friday, January 17, 2014

VitaminD

The Italian Mafia goes up against the Gay Mafia for control of VitaminD, the hottest new club drug in the 5 boroughs.

Setting: Late 1970s, Manhattan, Studio 54 nightclub

Characters:
Andy Warhol
Truman Capote
Halston
Tony Contralto
Christophuh Contralto

Props:
2 chairs
2 guns
Folded piece of paper containing white powder
__________________________________________________________________

On an empty stage, Warhol is pacing, massaging a migraine. Capote anxiously awaits Warhol’s response. Halston, hip cocked, studies Warhol critically.
Warhol:    As much as I am loathe to admit it, at least this time, I have to agree with Tru. We must do something. We can't just recline on our chaise lounges, drink Cosmopolitans, and allow these New Jersey mooks to sweep us away. All our hard work, our reputations.
Halston:   Your hair is just awful. How bold!
Capote:    (speaking with an effete Southern drawl) Miss Halston, will you please shut your damn corn hole! Our dear Andrew is deathly serious. The Contralto family poses a significant threat to our cozy little “Velvet Mafia” and to our interests in New York. These so-called "mooks" are coming to Studio 54 today, before it opens. With guns, most likely. We need some semblance of a plan.
Halston:   What do you suggest, Truman? Blackmail? Murder? In cold blood perhaps? Why not simply slay them, as we always do, with devastating style, an arched eyebrow, and biting wit?
Tony and Christophuh Contralto enter, unseen by Warhol but seen by the others.
Warhol:   Those thugs are probably not intelligent enough to appreciate wit, Halston.
Capote:   (whispering) Andrew dearest…
Warhol:   And it will take more than a belted, camel-hair trench coat and an eyebrow pencil to get these mobsters off our backs.
Tony:      Mobster is such an unkind word.
Warhol:   Oh my God!
Chris:      We prefer the term “Consultant”.
Warhol:   We were not expecting company so soon. We were just…having a private conversation. Um, good afternoon. My name is Andy Warhol.
Tony:      Right, Warhol. I seen your paintings. Giant soup cans.
Warhol:   Yes, exactly. Soup cans. Very expensive, giant soup cans. And this is the internationally famous writer…
Capote:   I prefer the term “raconteur”.
Warhol:   Truman Capote.
Chris:      In Cold Blood! Right on. That movie was truth, man.
Capote:   Charmed, I’m sure.
Warhol:   And fashion designer, Halston.
Tony:      (to Halston) You, I never heard of.
Halston:   (inspecting Tony’s clothes) I would never have guessed.
Tony:      (to the group) Please excuse the intrusion. I am Tony Contralto. How do you do? This is my associate, Christophuh Contralto.
Chris:      How you doin?
Tony:      Christophuh is the amiable one in the family.
Warhol:   Welcome to Studio 54.
Tony:      Thank you. You understand what I am saying, when I say “family”?
Warhol:   Yes we do.
Capote:   Although to us, “family” means something entirely different. Do they seem like “family” to you?
Warhol:   (indicating Tony) He is definitely not family.
Halston:   (indicating Christophuh) Although he might be.
Tony calms an offended Christophuh with a slight gesture.
Tony:      We come under the flag of parlay, to tawk to youz, have a sit-down, family to uh, “family”.
Capote and Halston carry in two chairs. Tony and Warhol sit, facing each other.
Warhol:   Mister Contralto…
Tony:      Please, Tony is fine.
Capote:    Mister Tony. I am sure that your family and our family can reach a mutually beneficent agreement.
Tony:      I am sure we can. In fact, I know we will.
Warhol:   Mister...um...I mean, Tony, what we currently have in place is a fair deal for everyone concerned. The Contralto family continues to sell the street drugs and all the organics: marijuana, heroin, opium, cocaine…
Capote:   And of course, crack cocaine.
Warhol:   Exactly. But we control the designer drugs. Anything engineered in a laboratory.
Halston:   Anything with a designer label, spelled with initials: LSD, PCP, XTC, X, MDA.
Warhol:   MDMA, GHB.
Capote:   K.
Warhol:   We’ll even let you have crystal meth. Although technically meth is made in a laboratory…
Capote:   But Crystina can be such a bitch.
Halston:  We don’t like how she accessorizes. Crystina often arrives at social events with guns.
Capote:   Uh! And all her meth-labs keep exploding. Oh my, so untidy.
Warhol:   Hard to part with such a reliable cash-earner as crystal-meth, but we’d be willing to let it go…if things can stay the way they’ve been. Your territory. Our territory.
Tony:      (uncomfortably long deliberation) Used to be. But you crossed the line with VitaminD.
Warhol:   Well, VitaminD is our biggest seller in the discotheques.
Halston:   Studio 54 alone accounts for a quarter of the citywide VitaminD demand, in all of New York!
Capote:   It’s the hottest new club drug in the 5 boroughs! Oh my, Miss Liza Minnelli herself cannot get through a single Tea Dance without a double-dosage of VitaminD. And poppers.
Tony:     I know. That is why the Contralto family wants a cut of the action. Half.
Chris:     And thank you for the crystal-meth business. We’ll be taking that too.
Tony:     See? The amiable one.
Chris:     Until you piss me off.
Tony:     Until you piss him off.
Capote:   Oh Dear, let us not piss off Mister Christopher then. Ladies, conference.
The 3 Velvet Mafia gather to discuss in private, away from Christophuh and Tony.
Chris:      You ever been inside a Manhattan discotheque like Studio 54 before?
Tony:      Nah. What for? I seen that movie “Saturday Night Fever”. What do I want to do the Hustle for? Like this buncha finnochios?
Chris:      (singing) Awwww, do the Hustle! Doot doot doot, doo-doo, doo-doo, doot doot…
The 3 Velvet Mafia members re-approach.
Tony:      Christophuh, shut yer damn corn hole.
Capote:    (approves of Tony’s word choice) Ah! Another raconteur.
Warhol sits again. Tony remains standing.
Warhol:   Mister Contralto, um, Tony, after careful deliberation, we, the Velvet Mafia have decided—unanimously—to respectfully decline your request. We cannot share the proceeds of our VitaminD business. VitaminD is our territory.
Chris:      I don’t feel so amiable no more.
Halston:   It has a designer label. Engineered in our laboratories. Sold in our discotheques and night clubs.
Capote:   Enjoyed by our family.
Tony:     (grabbing Warhol’s shirt) You think you can say no to Tony Contralto? No to the entire Contralto family? Who da fuck are youz? Three bippity-boppity-boo fairies from Sleeping Beauty? You will all be sleeping beauties when Christophuh gets tru with youz.
Chris:     Ha! Bippity-boppity-boo.
Capote:  Oh shut your damn corn hole.
Chris:     You shut your damn dick holster, faggot!
The 3 Velvet Mafia members do not like the word “faggot”.
Halston:  Faggot?! We are not merely some department store, ready-to-wear, off-the-hanger faggots. I’ll tell you who we are. We are the Velvet Mafia, the Pink Mafia, the Lavender Mafia, the Gay Mafia. We are the cultural elite, taste makers. We decide whose little black dress your wives will wear to your funerals—a year in advance!
Tony:     He said, shuddup. Before we stuff your dick holsters…with our guns.
The 2 Italian Mafia guys pull out guns.
Capote:   Guns. I knew it. Oh my.
Warhol:   (standing) You came to Studio 54 under the flag of parlay! No weapons. Just talk.
Chris:      Tawk time is done. Weapons now.
Tony:      Well fellas, looks like it’s bullets versus high fashion.
The Velvet Mafia share a silent deliberation.
Halston, Warhol, and Capote in unison:         You lose.
The 3 Velvet Mafia members begin a fashion show cat walk from one end of the stage to the other, passing in front of the bewildered Italians. Capote struts first.
Halston:   (stage-whispering to Capote) Chin forward. Squint your eyes like you hate us.
Sitting down again, Warhol pretends to scribble notes for a review.
Halston:   Truman is modelling last season’s look for the short, stout, has-been writer of novellas and true crime fiction. His fedora rakishly angles across tiny, bloodshot, piggy eyes. While his jaunty cape is flung over a shoulder with careless abandon, as if to say, “Who are you, Manhattan, to laugh at me…”
Toward the end of Halston’s babble, Capote and Warhol both attempt to run off stage, in opposite directions. Tony and Christophuh stop them in their tracks, threatening them with guns.
Tony:      Stop this faery crapola now! Get back over there, you three sissies. And let me tawk for a while. It’s my turn to tawk.
Chris:      Yeah! Just shuddup and listen, why don’tcha.
Tony:      What we have here, Christophuh, is a failure of communication. We are all using the same English words, but mean something different. For example, when you and I say “family”, we mean the Italian Mafia. An organized crime syndicate with deep pockets, loads of guns, rifles, oozies, and ammo. And plenty of politicians, cops, and judges on our payroll. But when they say “family”, they mean sissy finnochios who take it up the butt.
Chris:      (to Capote) You probably never even had a whiff of cooz.
Capote:    Oh dear, I am feeling nauseous. Halston, please ask our guests to leave now.
Tony:       Or for example, when I say “give us half the VitaminD business,” they say “No.” But what I hear is “ok Tony, yes. Take half the VitaminD business.” See my confusion?
Chris:       I can, Tony. I can see your confusion.
Warhol:    Yes, you are both very confused.
Tony:       (gun to Warhol’s temple) Damn Gays, always acting like they are better than everybody else. Like their shit don’t stink like shit.
Capote:    I have been told that mine smells of jonquils and orange flower blossoms.
Tony:       I said shuddup! Christophuh.
Responding to his name like a one-word command, Christophuh pushes Capote onto his knees, gun to his head.
Tony:       Our guns say that one Christophuh is better than all 3 of you princesses put together. Now, if all the backtalk and sarcasm are done, let us return to our earlier discussion regarding VitaminD. You 3 Marys will continue to sell VitaminD to your discothèque “family”, to all your queer-boy faggots and their fag hags. “Miss” Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Cher, whoever. You sell. Your territory. We take half the profit. Our territory. Capisce?
Halston:   Why should we agree to this extortion?
Chris:       Cuz my gun says so.
Warhol:    Might makes right?
Tony:       (pressing his gun more firmly against Warhol’s head) Don’t it?
Halston:   Get a load of tough, macho Rock Hudson and James Dean. Only hetero.
Chris:       Rock Hudson ain’t Gay!
The Velvet Mafia share a look.
Capote:    Can I get off my knees, please? I have a condition.
Halston:   Sometimes Truman’s blood alcohol level gets dangerously low.
Capote:    And then I get dizzy, with palpitations.
Christophuh pistol-whips Capote, knocking him unconscious with a blow to the head. Capote crumbles to the floor.
Chris:       Still dizzy?
Tony:       (finally removing the gun from Warhol’s temple, he sits on either of the chairs) One more time. Give us half the profits from the sales of VitaminD.
Capote rouses himself. Stands, wobbly, and reaches out blindly, in delirium.  
Chris:       (to Capote) Whatcha say to that, “raconteur”.
Capote:    I need a doll. I need a goddam doll! Don’t y’all know who I am?! I am Neely O’Hara dammit! Someone bring me a goddam doll!
Warhol:    Please let us give Tru some VitaminD. Otherwise, he’ll never shut up.
Tony and Christophuh silently confer, then agree. Warhol removes a folded paper from a pocket, opens it, and smears the white powder inside all over Capote’s nose and face. Capote perks up.
Capote:    (Performs some impressive dance-like karate, his accent changing from Southern effete to bad mock Asian.) Woo-chah! Hi-yah!
Tony and Chris:          What da fuck?!
Halston:   (imitating Capote’s effete Southern) Oh dear. Where are my manners? Gentlemen, please allow me to introduce…Miss Yakuza...
Capote:    (more karate) Ninja Transvestite Assassin!
Tony:       You have got to be fucking kidding me. Christophuh, you believe this shit?
Chris:       If she’s a real ninja, Tony, then I am gay.
Halston:   I told you.
Capote really feels the VitaminD pumping. Making various karate shouts, he rushes Christophuh, smacking the gun from his hand with a karate chop. Crouching low, he kicks the feet out from under Christophuh, knocking him to the floor.
Capote:    (jumping upright into a karate stance) Who dizzy now, mudda-fuckuh?!
Chris:       You bitches are crazy!
Tony, in a panic, jumps up, pointing his gun at each of the Gays in turn, trying to regain control of the situation.
Capote:    Ayyyyyyye!
Capote does an insane cartwheel, landing behind Tony. Capote karate chops the back of Tony’s knees, causing Tony to buckle to the floor on all fours, the gun flying out of his hand. Halston and Warhol grab the 2 guns that are now on the floor. Capote is about to karate-chop the back of Tony’s neck, but Warhol calmly stops him.
Warhol:   That’s enough for now, Miss Yakuza. Thank you.
Capote restrains himself, slowly pulling both fists toward his torso while exhaling forcefully between pursed lips. He puts his palms together in prayer, inhales slowly, and bows to the audience.
Warhol:   Ah Contraltos, now that our roles are reversed, we can return to our earlier discussion. We, the Velvet Mafia, stand firm in our resolve to retain all 100 percent of our VitaminD profits. And because you have behaved so un-amiably today, we will also take back our crystal-meth business as well.
Tony:      Fuck youz. We’ll just come back here tomorrow with more guns iz’all.
Halston:   Tomorrow is the weekly Tea Dance at Studio 54. Can you imagine 400 sweaty Gay men…
Capote:    (back to his effete Southern drawl) And Miss Liza Minnelli.
Halston:   …all high on VitaminD? All believing that they too are ninja transvestite assassins?
Tony and Christophuh do not like those odds.
Warhol:   Stand up! Hands up!
Tony and Christophuh return to their feet, hands on their heads.
Warhol:   The next time you mooks decide to leave Jersey City, or West Orange, or East Orange, or whatever New Jersey rock you live under, and decide to drive the Holland Tunnel over to Manhattan to threaten the Velvet Mafia, the Pink Mafia, the Lavender Mafia, the Gay Mafia, just remember one thing…
Halston:   Warhol, and Capote in unison:       Fags bash back!
Capote:    Gentlemen, show us your catwalk strut—(imitating their Jersey accents) da fuck outa our nightclub!
Tony and Christophuh cautiously exit backwards.
Halston:   (stage-whispering to them as they exit.) Chins forward. Squint your eyes like you hate us.


Fade out.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Gospel According to Lazarus

History’s first zombie, Lazarus of Bethany, debates with the archangels Raphael and Lucifer over whether or not he should create more zombies.
LOCATION
Present, behind the flood-wall of the Mississippi River, under moonlight.

CHARACTERS:
Lazarus, a zombie. Male.
Light zombie effect face-makeup, especially dark shading on the temples and hollow eyes. Contemporary clothes.


Raphael, an archangel. Male or female.
Dressed in jeans and a hoodie.


Lucifer, the Fallen One. Male or female. African-American.
Dressed like a Jazz musician. Fedora, pencil-thin beard, and an awful Hawaiian shirt partially unbuttoned to reveal a wife-beater tank top.


Goth kid, a willing victim. Male. Boyish looks.
Dressed in black shreds with sparkly, white mica powder on his face and heavy black eyeliner like an Egyptian pharaoh.

PROPS:
Small gel pack of blood for Lazarus to bite.


_____________________________________
Under a cone of blue moonlight, the archangel Raphael stands powerless (on an apple box?) above Lazarus and his young victim, unable to prevent a murder.
Raphael:  El Azar, Brother, restrain your hatred! Please!
Lazarus:  Get thee hence, Raphael. Archangels have no power over me. Despite all your exalted titles, “First Clarion of the Order of Seraphim”, all you can do is beg, lecture, and nag. Angels have no corporeal body. You cannot physically interfere in the affairs of humans, like I can. You cannot touch, like I can. (Grabs the boy’s throat.) You can never touch me nor stop what I intend to do!
Raphael:  Do not commit this grievous sin!
Lazarus:  But without a soul, how can I sin? Ever since my “miraculous resurrection”, I retain only the memory of morality. I know that my actions are destructive. But why should I care? Nothing seems horrific to me. I do not die, Raphael. What Hell is there to fear?
Raphael:  Only the Hell of your own making.
Lazarus:  You mean, the Hell of God’s making!
Raphael:  Please! Do not kill this boy!
Lazarus looks down at the pale face cradled in his arms, sparkling in the moonlight with a white mica powder that Goth kids use to imitate the latest Hollywood vampires. Kohl-blackened eyes, like a pharaoh of long-dead Egypt, see only Lazarus, looking up at him with complete trust. 
Lazarus:  But this one is so willing to die. Why should I deny him the blessed (pronounced bless-sed) rest that the Creator intends as his reward for surviving life? Why delay his death? New Orleans overflows with his kind. A run-away, fourteen, maybe fifteen? Homeless, by the stink of him. Easy to discard. Nobody will miss him. (Scrapes his teeth over the boy’s face. The boy pants eagerly.) Should I kiss his cheek or bite it off? Look at him, Archangel. He has given up the struggle. He knows he is about to die. He even welcomes me! What kind of squalid life do you live, Boy, that you choose the damnation of suicide? 
Raphael:  This is no suicide. It is a murder!
Lazarus: I may be the instrument of his destruction. But this boy longs for death. As I do—if only God would allow me to die. (to the boy) Stupid animal. I am not your Redeemer. I will destroy you utterly.
The boy smiles with beatitude.
Raphael:  Not one more victim to your hatred for God!
Lazarus looks up from the boy’s eerily calm, sparkling face to taunt the archangel.
Lazarus:  But Raphael, I am God’s victim. Even the betrayer, Iscariot, died by his own rope and was allowed—by God—to rest. That simple, dreamless sleep enjoyed by all God’s other creations, from the humblest single-celled fungi to these stinking apes that I feed upon.  Judas Iscariot! The apostle who led Christ to his killers, no longer suffers among the living, as I do! But for what crime am I punished to wander eternity with no destination, no end, not even a rope to hang myself? Was I nothing more to God than an object lesson, a demonstration of His infinite power in His son, Christ?
Raphael:  The symphony of ocean waves, the flight of birds, and all natural wonders of His divinely-wrought world declare the glory of the Creator. Amen.
Lazarus: Then is the son so insecure in his divine parentage that he must curse a servant, a loyal friend like me, with undying life? If I am a monster, I was made so by the son of God!
Raphael:  El Azar, you blaspheme!
Lazarus:  My whole existence is blasphemy! (To the boy, who remains non-responsive to the conversation happening around him, as though happily drugged.) You understand what I mean.
Raphael:  Then you both misunderstand the purpose of your existence. Your apparent immortality, El Azar, must be part of a grand design. God does all things according to His own logic, for His own divine ends.
Lazarus:  Archangel, I have yet to see any sign of “Intelligent Design” at work in my life, merely neglect. For all practical purposes, God is dead to the world. For the past two thousand years, God has certainly been dead to me.
Raphael:  Foul blasphemy!
Lazarus:  Give it up, Raphael. I know from experience, lightning never strikes. Say what you want! God is dead! God is dead! (To the boy.) See? The stroke of Grace never falls from on high.
With a shrieking of cats and saxophones, Lucifer enters, dressed as a Jazz musician with fedora, pencil-thin beard, and an awful Hawaiian shirt partially unbuttoned to reveal a wife-beater tank top.
Lucifer:   Well said, Cuz. But don’t just kill that boy. Turn him. Make him eat of your flesh. Turn him into another one, like you, Laz. We all know you are lonely.
Lazarus(to the boy) An angel on one shoulder and the Devil on the other, eh?
The boy only has eyes for Lazarus, his Redeemer, oblivious to the angels.
Lucifer:   Raphael. So nice to see you again. You look well. Maybe a little tired around the eyes.
Raphael:  Fallen One.
Lazarus:  Lonely! I have not felt lonely since my “miraculous resurrection”.  Loneliness is a sickness of the soul. Without a soul, I can never feel lonely. What does the Devil know about loneliness?
Lucifer:   Hey man, I am lonely for God. You are lonely for God too. For true.
Lazarus:  Don’t be perverse, Lucifer. I hate God! (Out of spite, starts to bite the boy’s skull, but stops himself. Anticipating his imminent death, the boy is disappointed.) I was at peace. Four days I had been dead. Mary and Martha, my sisters, sent word to Jesus the Nazarene that “El Azar, whom you love, is ill.” But instead of rushing to Bethany, Jesus—who supposedly loved me—remained where he was for two full days before he even began the journey. By that time, the entire village assumed my soul had departed from my body and surely could never return. But then, He arrived, Son of the Almighty. And in history’s most shameless public relations stunt, Jesus Christ commanded me to come out of my tomb. “El Azar, come forth!” Jesus was my friend!  He was my Messiah! I did as the Christ commanded. I came forth. I walked out of my tomb, walked out of death, tangled in my grave-clothes. And the entire village of Bethany beheld the awesome miracle and wondered! But afterwards, when my public usefulness was complete, my role in his passion play was over, Jesus the Nazarene and the writers of the Gospels simply forgot all about me. Jesus Christ used me to aggrandize himself; but Old Lazarus is the one shunted from history, an embarrassment in afterthought!
Toward the end of the preceding speech, Lazarus chokes the boy’s throat with two hands. The boy’s face tenses, but he is delighted. The boy’s lips gasp, “Yah…!” His eyes search for love in the eyes of Lazarus. But Lazarus will allow no air. With leaden gaze, Lazarus bores into the boy’s bulging eyes.
Raphael(distraught over the murder) There is no shame in longing after God!
Lucifer:   On this, Archangel, we agree. (Adjusts his fedora, smoothing the brim, unmoved by the choking happening right in front of him.) I may be guilty of over-reaching pride, but I am not too proud to admit that I am lonely for God. Cousin, can you imagine what it was like for me? I began my existence in God’s glorious presence, basking in His divine light. But then abruptly, I was cast aside, thrown down from Heaven, forbidden even to glimpse the magnificence of His hem. What the theologians write is true, Laz. Hell is the absence of God. No lie. An unquenchable thirst, a longing that goes eternally unanswered. The kind of loneliness that turns easily into hatred.
Lazarus(Releases his choke-hold.)Well I am not like you, Satan.
Raphael(relieved) The Fallen One knows the true meaning of Hell.
The boy wants death. He tries to wrap Lazarus’ hands around his throat again. Lazarus is too caught up in his argument with the angels to notice.
Lazarus:  The true meaning of Hell! For two thousand years, I have wandered the Earth, undead, forsaken, in this world but not of it. And never a word from God! Cursed by his absence! So I curse Him back. I curse all of God’s creation and seek only to destroy what He loves!
Enraged by two thousand years of rejection, Lazarus bites into the boy’s skull. The boy whimpers, screams a little, but does not fight. Sometimes victims actually want to die. Entirely compliant, the boy shudders and moans sexually as his blood spurts hot into the zombie’s mouth.
Lazarus:  Ah-ah-ahhhh… (Breaks a gel-pack of blood inside his mouth.) Holy Manna!
Lucifer:   (cold laughter during the murder) Turn him, Lazarus! Before he dies completely, make the boy eat a tiny morsel of your flesh!
Lazarus feeds, ignoring his surroundings, hypnotized by the ambrosia of gore. But he manages to wrench his bloody mouth away just in time to catch the fading light in the boy’s eyes—the look Lazarus lives for. The boy is smiling in quiet gratitude.
Lazarus:  See how the light fades. The miracle of death! These are the moments when I see myself best, in the mirror of newly dead eyes, the inescapable reflection of my monstrousness. My own eyes are cold metal. They reflect no light. My hair and nails continue to grow, dead cells in a perpetual state of dying. (Wipes blood from his lips onto the boy’s white forehead.) And when the Angel of Death passed over Egypt, Moses commanded that all the Israelites should wipe the blood of lambs over their doorways, as a sign that Death should pass over. This is the true meaning of blessed (pronounced bless-sed). To be marked by blood.
In a huff of thunder, the archangel leaves, disgusted once again. Definitely not for the last time.
Lazarus:  He’ll be back to pester me soon enough, when the hunger seizes me again. But I don’t care. I have done what I have done. I have destroyed another of God’s favorites.  No power can stop me. Not even myself.
The limp corpse of the teenage Goth boy slips from his grip, thumping onto the stage floor. Lazarus starts, worried someone might have overheard.
Lucifer:   Relax, Cuz. No one but the “First Clarion of the Order of Seraphim” and myself are witnesses to this murder. You’ve managed to elude detection for two thousand years. You always choose your kill locations with care, this time hidden from public view behind the flood wall of the River. Good thinking.
Lazarus picks up the body again, and step-by-step turns and drags the corpse upstage, out of the cone of moonlight, toward “the industrial pier.”
Lucifer:   Be careful to avoid the searchlights of the Harbor Patrol. They won’t find this one for several days, far, far downriver. The churnin’ currents of the Mighty Mississip’ are awaiting his splash. If you are real lucky, an oil tanker will grind and dismember the evidence.
Lazarus(looking back, over his shoulder) He’s dead, Lucifer. Why are you still here?
Lucifer:   Most excellent work. I enjoy a senseless slaughter now and then. But such a waste, Lazarus! Why didn’t you turn him?
Lazarus:  Because you won’t be content with just one! Sure, he might eat of my flesh and become like me, cursed to roam the Earth, undead and undying. But then you will want more of us, and then more, until we become an army of the undead, outnumbering the living. You just want my help to accelerate the End of Days and bring on Armageddon, the final showdown between evil and good.
 Lucifer:  Laz…Cuz…we both want the same thing. To crush God’s favorites! To bring upon God the same kind of sorrow that He brought upon us. For true! So why not accelerate the End of Days with companions like yourself? Why not ease your loneliness while you’re at it? Start out with one, and double your kill rate.
Lazarus:  No!
Lucifer:   You front like you hate God and all humanity. Shit!
Lazarus(turns with the corpse back downstage, facing the audience.) Christ was long dead, resurrected, and ascended into Heaven. His apostles and their apostles were spreading his fame over the entire known world, as far as Rome, then Britannia, then this continent, and eventually the entire planet. But after 200 years, still there had been no other communication from God, no revelation or illumination that would explain His silence or my persistent existence.  I was bitter, Lucifer! In the streets of Cairo, followers of Christ tore each other limb-from-limb…over the doctrine of the Trinity! In the Coliseum of Rome, martyrs threw away their lives with gleeful abandon over splintered, conflicting perversions of His original message.  I saw the universal church became a tool of political corruption wielded by bishops and Caesars. In only 200 years, I had witnessed abuses, murders, and even war in the name of Christ. I was disgusted. Food became loathsome. I lost all appetite for human food. Instead, I craved the lives of humans. I craved their souls. I began to eat brains, where the soul resides. The miracle of death is wasted on these savages! They deserve utter annihilation! So I ate my first human brain, a bricklayer from Corinth. Then I became a plague upon Europe, a red death.
Lucifer:   So curse humanity to the same walking death as you. Rob them of their souls, yes; but also rob them of the peace in death which God in his inscrutably wise, grand plan denies you. The final days of prophecy are here. Conditions are ripe for Armageddon.
Lazarus:  I don’t want any part of your genocide plan, Satan. I will not build your army of killers just because you and your demon minions cannot touch humans. Stick to what you’re good at, whispers. Topple an economy here. Corrupt a general there.  If you need Armageddon so bad, bring it on yourself.
Lucifer:   But you and I, Lazarus, we should join forces, combine our talents. It’s wrong not to use the gifts that God has granted us.
Lazarus:  I refuse to be told what to do by anyone who claims moral authority over me. Angel or devil.
Lucifer:   But together, we can hasten the end. End our subjugation under the foot of an uncaring God. The start of our own dominion over Creation.
Lazarus(shouting to Heaven) Are you even listening?! (to Lucifer) I don’t want that. I don’t want dominion.
Lucifer:   Then what do you want? I could offer you death, Lazarus. True death. Finally. For true.
Lazarus:  Crawl back into the Godless Hell of your own making that you slithered out of, Prince of Lies! You don’t have that kind of power. Only God can give or take life. Humans believe they murder a life or create a new life through sex. But it is God who lights the candle and God who blows it out. Even the lives that I steal from Him, God allows it.
Lucifer:   Then what do you hunger for, “El Azar”? “God is my help!” Ha! What do you really want?
Lazarus:  Get thee hence, Satan.
His dignity offended, the Devil buttons his shirt front.
Lucifer:   The Devil travels where he wills. I will leave now—because I will it, not because you command. Think over what I have said, Lazarus. The End of Days is nigh. In the meantime, I will continue to savor the nightlife of the French Quarter. Bask in its rituals of debauchery.
And with a shrieking of cats and saxophones, Ol’ Scratch splits.
Lazarus talks to the corpse he is dragging down-stage center.
Lazarus:  Now that the Fallen One and the First Clarion of the Order of Seraphim have finally gone, I can admit, at least to you, Friend, that I am lonely. I am the only one of my kind, the man who rose from the grave but cannot die, the original, true substance of horror stories. I do long for companionship.
Directly under his spot of moonlight, Lazarus lays down the corpse.
Lazarus:  But I dread Satan’s idea. It’s unthinkable! Would my flesh even re-animate another corpse? Eat of my flesh! Ha! But I will never try it. No matter how hard I discriminated from among the elite of the freshly dead, the children of my children would create more undead children of their own. They will become sloppy. Eventually, corpses in all manner of advanced decay could roam the earth, suffering for all eternity the pain of rotten organs, their brains eaten by worms. These revenants would lack not only a soul, like me, but a mind. They would endure blind, perpetual torment. Their weird shrieks and growls would inspire a whole new breed of nightmare. But they would never truly be like me, not another man damned by God, but something more horrific. A greater abomination than I am.
Cradles the dead boy like Mary cradles the dead Christ in Michaelangelo’s Pieta.
Lazarus:  I cannot deny that I am hungry. Not for flesh, not really. Even if I stop eating altogether, I will hunger, but never die. The danger is denial, in pretending you are not really hungry at all, that you don’t long for Holy Manna. But I certainly do not, as the Fallen One so wrongly asserts, hunger for God. (shouting to the sky) God is dead! (Nothing happens. Asking the corpse) Is it true death I hunger for? Peace? Silence? The stroke of Grace that never falls from on high?
Lazarus eats more of the dead boy’s brain, grunting and smacking, as the moonlight fades to blackness.



** End **

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The 13th Step

Characters:
Ron:     25-35 Gay male, “Leading Man” type.
Eliot:     25-35 Gay male, “Best Friend” type.
Other characters imagined by the actors.

Location:
Present day. Shopping mall, outside the Sharper Image store, across from JC Penneys.

Set:
Imagined by the actors.

Props:
Imagined by the actors.



(Walking in the mall together, Eliot abruptly stops them both)

Eliot:   I spy with my little eye…

Ron:    Is it a guy?

Eliot:   Yes.

Ron:    Is it a hot guy?

Eliot:   Yes.

Ron:    Where?

Eliot:   Behind us, over your left shoulder. Jeans.

Ron:    (looks) Eliot, you sure like ‘em tall and lean.

Eliot:   (inspecting Ron, who is also tall and lean) Well I do have my type. Damn! I can’t believe I’m at a shopping mall. It’s been, like, since Junior High? I didn’t even know they still had Sharper Image. I thought they all went the way of Blockbuster Video and Orange Julius. (Flirting with a passing shopper) Hi, I like your sunglasses… (ignored) Guess he can’t see me…sunglasses.

Ron:    I’m considering the purchase of some high-tech surveillance equipment.

Eliot:   (freezes) Uh. Muh. Gawd! Ronald Lewis Livingston,  what are you up to?  You know I will call your mother!

Ron:    I just want to check out some cutting-edge spy gadgetry. See if Sharper Image has those video cameras, the tiny ones they hide inside the TV set to catch baby-slapping nannies. And bugs. Just what are bugs, anyway? Are bugs for real? They must sell wireless bugs by now. Come on, let’s go inside.

Eliot:   Hold on a sec. Are you serious with this Spy versus Spy stuff?

Ron:    Yeah kinda. (goes inside, greeted by a sales boy) Thank you, yes I do need assistance. Let's say I was interested in wearing a wire, like under my clothes, to record conversations, does Sharper Image sell that sort of thing?

Eliot:   (To sales boy, who is rather cute, as it happens) Hi! Eliot. Excuse us, please. We’ll be right back. Bye-bye. (pulls Ron aside) Ok start talking. What in the Hail No is going on?

Ron:    I’m researching a part for a play.

Eliot:   Ron, we’ve spoken about this. What did I tell you about committing emotionally to your performances? That was totally unconvincing. Really! What are you really up to?

Ron:    (long beat) I think James is cheating on me.

Eliot:   Shut up your mouth.

Ron:    Really. With his Narcotics Anonymous sponsor.

Eliot:   Ut oh. The old 13th Step.

Ron:    The what?

Eliot:   You know. In the 12 Step Program, there’s an un-official 13th Step. It’s when you sleep with your sponsor.

Ron:    ‘Zactly. James is 13 steppin-out on me. I’m sure of it.

Eliot:   What?! Ron, you just said you think. Now you know for sure?

Ron:    No, ok. I don’t know for sure. But I think he’s cheating on me. I suspect it. That’s why I’m wanting to shop for surveillance equipment. (to the sales boy) Uh, excuse me. Hi again. Sorry for the interruption. So what I was asking, about wearing a wire? Oh you don’t sell that. Too bad. Ok, mind if we just browse for a bit? Which aisle has high-tech spy gear? Thanks.

Eliot:   (to the sales boy) If we need any more of your generous assistance, I’ll be sure to flag you down personally. Eliot. Bye-bye. (catching up to Ron in the spy gear aisle) What makes you think James is 13th steppin?

Ron:    (browsing the gadgetry) For example, after his NA meeting, James always has to “have coffee” with his Sponsor. Used to be, for just an hour or so. Now “coffee” lasts up to six hours!  Please tell me, Eliot, what in the Hail No do a couple recovering coke heads talk about for six hours!

Eliot:   Maybe they talk about you. Oh look! A tiny spy camera hidden inside a rhinestone tiara. Nobody ever suspects a tiara. (Touches the glass of the display case) Oh I can think of so many times that would be useful. *gasp* Imagine the porn!

Ron:    For SIX HOURS! James and I don’t even talk that much.

Eliot:   Well, that’s saying something right there. (beat) Look, a sponsor is supposed to be someone you can talk to, open up to, share your darkest secrets with. So is a boyfriend. But if James is not getting that kind of intimacy at home, I can see why he might be tempted reach out to someone else.

Ron:    (too loudly) Right, they’re fucking!

Eliot:   Shut up your mouth! I never said that. I meant, reach out for intimacy. Not for sex.

Ron:    And what’s the diff?

Eliot:   Oh my dear, dear Ron. Where do I even begin?

Ron:    And so later, when James finally does come over my place, after his meeting, after his 6-hour tete-ta-tete with his sponsor, it’s late at night but James says he’s too amp’d up to come to bed, from all that emotional talk he says. He just paces around my living room, talking a mile a minute, then splits. On his way out he apologizes, saying he’s too amp’d up emotionally for sex. With me! I am an all-you-can-eat, 24-hour, sex buffet.

Eliot:   Yes, I remember that about you. But I also remember that you’re not big on talking about emotion, sharing feelings, listening. I mean, sure, on the stage “somewhat,” but not in the living room.

Ron:    The curse of the actor. A brash and bold exterior, hiding a sensitive, tender, hungry soul within. You wouldn't understand. You’re not an actor.

Eliot:   I guess. But you’re sure not big with the touchy-feely. So before you get all amp'd up on jealousy and suspicion, before you run off, concocting this elaborate, hair brain scheme to spy on your own boyfriend—which, by the way, is a bad, bad idea—check your own self. Are you sure James has no reason to look for intimacy elsewhere?
Ron:    Intimacy, intimacy! Fully commit! God, like you know what it’s like in my relationship!

Eliot:   I do remember what it was like in our relationship.

Ron:    (beat) Ok! I won’t spy on my boyfriend. Anymore.

Eliot:   Ronald Lewis Livingston! What did you do? Did you hack his emails? Check his browser history? Read his text messages? Incoming and outgoing call record? I swear I will call your mother.

Ron:    No! I did not. Although, those are all very good ideas. I checked out his Facebook friends, to investigate who his sponsor is.

Eliot:   Sponsor identity is supposed to be anonymous. And for the record, that is called Facebook stalking.

Ron:    All from the comfort of my own laptop! Turns out, James only has about 40 Facebook friends, so it was easy to narrow it down to one suspect. I’m pretty sure the sponsor’s a Gay guy, because James goes to the LGBT NA meetings. A couple times, he’s mentioned his sponsor’s name, like when they’re talking on the phone.

Eliot:   Were you eavesdropping?

Ron:    But only his first name. Chass. Not Chaz, like a proper coke head. No. Chasssss. James had two Facebook friends named Charles. I looked them both up. On the Profile page for the second Charles, he had “liked” the Narcotics Anonymous page and Marriage Equality. He “liked” Broadway actress Megan Mullaly and the original cast recording of “Rent”. Gay guy, screaming ‘mo, right? And the books in his Good Reads include “The Power of Now,” “Codependent No More,” and a bunch of titles by that white lady who’s also a Buddhist nun, Pema something unpronounceable.

Eliot:   Wow. Have you considered reading those books yourself?

Ron:    That’s got to be the guy! In his Profile picture, he looks older than us. Like 40, but not a troll. Handsome, in that weathered, tired-around-the-eyes kind of handsome.

Eliot:   Honey, if James was 13th steppin-out on you, I am sure it would not be for a handsome face. It would be, more like, emotional intimacy he was after.

Ron:    Yeah, but a handsome face helps.

Eliot:   Yes. Yes, it does. And let the record show, your face is off-the-charts handsome. Shut up your mouth! I am just saying, I doubt James would be turned around by just another handsome face. He’d be searching for something he doesn’t already get at home.

Ron:    Either way, it doesn’t matter! I don’t want some other guy being emotionally intimate with my boyfriend. That’s worse than fucking. No, it’s not. But still. (Flagging down the sales boy) Excuse me again. Hi. Does Sharper Image sell, like, a wireless, hidden microphone? Something small? ‘Zactly! A wireless bug! Awesome. (Follows the sales boy)

Eliot:   (Touches the display case containing the tiara) I will possess you. (Rushes to catch up to Ron) This guy Chass, or Chaz or whatever, is James’ NA sponsor. They are supposed to have an intimate relationship, by definition.

Ron:    But this is more than NA intimate. This is SIX HOURS intimate. This is 13th Step kind of intimate.

Eliot:   Well, what about us two? Aren’t we 13th Steppin?

Ron:    What?! (to the sales boy) Thank you for your assistance. We’ll let you know if we need more help. (to Eliot) What the Hail No are you talking about?

Eliot:   (to the sales boy) Bye-bye. (To Ron) Intimacy. All this time, I’ve been talking about this kind of intimacy, between you and me. We’ve known each other so long, shared all our darkest secrets, our fears, our escapades. I know everything about your sex life, in lurid, graphic detail—thank you very much. I know all about your anxious childhood and your rage-aholic dad. But James might ask, are you cheating on him with me?

Ron:    Well that’s just ridiculous! You’re not my…I mean, we were once…when we were…

Eliot:   Don’t strain yourself, Honey. I’m not threatening to rekindle our sputtering old flame. But you have to admit, we are pretty intimate. We’re old friends, good friends, best friends, sisters, but more. It’s like sometimes I’m your parent. And I’m your partner in crime. And I’m your go-to guy when you’re disappointed, or upset, or FREAKING OUT. Is that what you fear is happening between James and his sponsor?

Ron:    Yes.

Eliot:   Then be the go-to guy for James. Fully commit, emotionally. Talk to him. When he says he’s too amped up for sex, then ask him how he feels. You don’t have to eavesdrop. Just listen.

Ron:    It’s funny, getting relationship advice from an ex-boyfriend! (Offended, exits the store)

Eliot:   Well, who would know better?

(Simultaneously:)

Ron:    (Attempting to leave the mall in a huff, but keeps bumping into other shoppers.) Pardon me, Ma’am. Oh, I am so sorry. No Sir, my bad, really... (and so on, until he spots James in the mall, in the JC Penneys across the hallway. Clumsily attempting to hide, a few times, Ron rushes back into Sharper Image.)

Eliot:   (Decides to stay in Sharper Image. Taps the sales boy’s shoulder) So hey there. Hi again. I didn’t get your name? Tucker! Hi, Tucker. Eliot. Thanks for all your help, Tucker. Yeah….Tucker.  Uh..so any chance you’re into Downton Abbey? I know right!? Uh Muh Gawd!

Ron:    (to sales boy) I’m sorry, what’s your name?

Eliot:   Tucker!

Ron:    Please excuse us. I just need to borrow my friend a moment, won’t be a tick, hold that thought. (drags Eliot aside) I just saw James! Here, in the mall. James! Shopping across the hallway in the JC Penneys.

Eliot:   Oh I hope he’s not buying a gift for you. Just saying. JC Penneys…

Ron:    You can see him right through the open doorway. No don’t stare! Lean and look. (in unison, they affect a casual lean and look) Lean and look…

Eliot:   I don’t see him.

Ron:    Fine. Just don’t face the Penneys head on. I don’t want us to be recognized. Let’s uhhh…let’s look at the neck massagers.

(They move downstage, to the neck massagers aisle, out of sight of the open doorway)

Eliot:   Righhhhht…they’re for massaging…your neck! Well, was James with anyone? Chass? Someone else?

Ron:    I don’t know. Looked like he was alone. But the other guy could’ve been in the john, snorting a line of blow off of some strange guy’s rock hard cock.

Eliot:   Gentle now…

Ron:    What the Hail No is James doing at the mall? At JC Penneys? He’s supposed to be “having 6 hour coffee” with his Sponsor. That’s why I wanted to come shopping now, cuz I knew he’d be “having 6 hour coffee” with his…

Eliot:   We get it already. So quit stalling. Go over and talk to him. Ask him why he’s here. Especially if he’s alone.

Ron:    Don’t be perverse! How am I supposed to explain us being in the mall too?

Eliot:   Maybe with the truth, for starters.

Ron:    Ok. I’m shopping Sharper Image for surveillance gadgetry so I can high-tech spy on my possibly 13th Steppin’ boyfriend?

Eliot:   Ok, maybe not. You are buying him a surprise gift, a happy sobriety gift, but you can’t tell him what it is.

Ron:    Oh that is good. You’re devious good.

Eliot:   Wonder why we’re such good friends? (kisses Ron on cheek) Go get him, Tigger.

(Simultaneously:

Ron crosses stage to talk to James. Eliot taps Tucker’s shoulder.)

Ron:    Hey, James! Well what in the world are you… (They hug. Then it’s awkward.) Thought you were at your NA meeting tonight. Why not? For how long? Does Chass know? Yeah, Chass, your Sponsor. Oh really?! (Grabs James’ arm and drags him upstage to a more private part of the store. His back to the audience, we can still overhear Ron.) For how long? (Listens to a sorry explanation from James.) What about your kid? What about your job? And what about us? Yeah, you and me! Us! (More bewildering explanation.) Then why all the sneaking around and secrecy? I thought we agreed to build our relationship on trust. Well, you’re damn right I don’t approve. I don’t want any part of that in my life. You have to choose. (James storms off, downstage, Ron in pursuit.) James! James wait! James! (Watches James retreat.)

Eliot:   Tucker, hey! So, my friend changed his mind about the surveillance gadgetry. He’s just gonna ..uh… Why did he want surveillance stuff? Oh, well actually… Ha! That is exactly right, Tucker! Jealousy and suspicion. You get a lot of that at the Sharper Image? Oh really? Jealousy and suspicion keep Sharper Image in business! Well, go-go-go jealous lovers! Cuz if you decide to start hanging out with me, Mister Tucker, you are gonna need that steady income. (Leads sales boy to downstage corner, opposite to where Ron and James are moving.) Let’s talk over by the..uh..neck massagers. You know, Missy Eliot likes a man who can afford to treat me right. A man who would lay a crown on my brow, say, a rhinestone tiara. Oh yes! Missy Eliot deserves to be maintained in the high lifestyle to which I someday hope to become accustomed. (Through the open doorway, hears Ron shouting after James) Cuz love may not cost you nothin’, but it sure ain’t free. Sorry. (Leaves Tucker to attend to his best friend)

Ron:    He’s using! James is fucking using again. He’s not 13th steppin’ me. He’s not any steppin’ anybody. He’s using fucking drugs, right now, all amp’d out of his gourd on coke and I don’t know what all, crystal meth.

Eliot:   What?!

Ron:    James has not been going to NA meetings for the past month, not since he started using again. He’s not meeting his Sponsor for 6 hour coffee. They’re never meeting at all anymore. James ignores his phone calls.

Eliot:   That’s crazy! So what was James doing at the Mall?

Ron:    I’m too ashamed to say. I think James was here…to shoplift. To support his fucking addiction. At fucking JC fucking Penneys! I’m not sure which makes me more ashamed. That he’s using, lying, shoplifting!

Eliot:   Or where he’s shoplifting from! I mean, no, definitely the other stuff. And let the record show, there is nothing at all for you to be ashamed about. James is the one who’s using, lying, shoplifting, not you. You are the trusting boyfriend, bewildered about the state of your relationship, and trying to fix things. Your methods might be a tad CRAY-CRAY, but James is the one literally blowing it all away.

Ron:    Go ahead, Eliot. Tell me you told me so.

Eliot:   Well I would gladly, if I had. When have I ever told you so?

(They share a tense beat)

Ron:    Just seems like the sort of thing that gets said right about now, in these situations. The sort of thing a best friend says.

Eliot:   I don’t think so. Right about now, in these situations, a best friend says, Fuck That Guy! Coke head! Totally don’t deserve you. You can do way better. I Hate Herrrrr! Ass maroon!

Ron:    Ass maroon? What the fuck is ass maroon? Is that even a thing?

Eliot:   I don’t know. But now I see this image of a movie poster, James and the Giant Coke Snorting Ass Maroon.

(Ron laughs. Ron cries. They hug through end of play.)

Ron:    Hey, that Sharper Image sales boy…

Eliot:   Tucker?

Ron:    Seriously, Tucker? Ohhhhhh-kay. Well, Tucker is spying on us.

Eliot:   Of course he is.

Ron:    He’s standing over by the spy gadgetry aisle. His back is toward us, but he’s holding up that rhinestone tiara like he’s inspecting it for damage. The rhinestones are sparkling right in our direction.

Eliot:   Oh the bitter irony!

Ron:    Tucker is totally spying on us hugging. He probably thinks we’re lovers.

Eliot:   *sigh* So what else is new?


* END *