Here are excerpts from two of my plays for your reading pleasure and possible licensing interest. First, is THE EXCHANGE STUDENT, followed by CAN DINA EVEN SPELL AFGHANISTAN? Thanks for visiting and enjoy! If you’d like more information, send me an e-mail.
The Exchange Student
by Michael Griffo
The Exchange Student is primarily meant to be performed by high schools with the entire cast, including the older characters, to be portrayed by high school students. However, the play can also be performed by colleges and community theatre groups with age-appropriate actors with equal success. There can be as many or as few actors cast as high school students and henchman as desired. With the exception of Alban, who can double as a high school student or a henchman, none of the other roles can really be doubled. The non-speaking actors can portray both high school students and henchmen.
The Diamantes, Alban, Samara, and Tamara are all from Romania. They don’t need to speak with an accent, but if possible they should possess an exotic look. The rest of the cast is from the town where the play the is being produced
Jack Diamante – 17, handsome, the hero of the play
Claudia Diamante – 16, Jack’s younger, evil sister
Gregor Diamante – 37, Jack’s father, a good man
Paloma Diamante – 36, Jack’s mother, worrisome and anxious
Misha Diamante – 30, Gregor’s younger brother, very handsome, reckless, and ruthless
Yvonne Diamante – 28, Misha’s wife, deceitful and self-centered
Kelly Cavanaugh – 17, good-natured innocent
Darcie Cavanaugh – 17, feisty and spunky, very protective of her brother and friends
Melody Randolph – 17, Jack’s love interest, not a pushover, but should have an ethereal quality
Evie Howansky – 16, Darcie’s friend, funny and a bit superficial, but must be well-liked
Gio Andretti – 17, Evie’s boyfriend, loud and obnoxious, but likeable
Parker Lee – 17, Darcie’s boyfriend, sweet and the most mature of the group
Brynn – 16, a bundle of frantic energy
Audrina – 16, grounded and intelligent
Lito – 16, a bit of a nerd and on the awkward side
Ricky – 17, fun-loving guy, doesn’t take life seriously at all
Alban – 17, but could be up to 25, nasty and arrogant, a villain
Samara – 17, but could be up to 25, aristocratic, but with excellent comic timing
Tamara – 17, but could be up to 25, Samara’s twin sister so there needs to be a resemblance, the
voice of reason among the two girls
Principal Duggins – 30s – 40s, protective of his students, but a bit on the bumbling side
Miss Rangeley – 30s – 40s, a true authoritarian figure, loud and forceful
High School students – 14-17
Misha’s henchmen – any age, but should be imposing in stature.
Total cast: 21, +additional high school students and henchmen
When Jack Diamante, a vampire, saves Samara and Tamara, the two-headed witch, from the unwanted advances of Alban, a fire demon, Samara puts a spell on Jack: if he can make someone fall in love with him within three months, he and all his blood relatives will be able to walk in the sun. For the best chance of success, Jack becomes an exchange student and goes to a school in America to find his true love and make Samara’s spell come true.
Unbeknownst to Jack, his sister, Claudia, and his uncle, Misha, plot to thwart his plan because they want to maintain the traditional vampire ways and remain in the shadows. They kidnap Kelly, the American student who flies to Romania to switch places with Jack, and keep him imprisoned in a cage. Claudia goes to America to terrorize Jack’s new friends.
While Jack is embraced by everyone at the school Darcie suspects that something is wrong with him. Her suspicions grow when she can’t get in touch with her brother, Kelly. Just as Melody and Jack are starting to fall in love, Melody is kidnapped by Claudia and Misha and as a result Darcie forces Jack to reveal his secret. Together Jack and Darcie must fight against Claudia and Misha in order to save Melody, Kelly, and the rest of their friends.
In the end, Misha gives Jack a choice: either commit suicide by stepping into the rising sun on the last day of the spell or watch Misha, Yvonne, and their henchmen kill his friends. Jack doesn’t hesitate to walk into the sun, but before he can, Melody kisses him and it’s a kiss of true love. She has made Samara’s spell come true and as the sun shines it destroys the evil vampires.
The last scene, however, shows Jack and Melody together in the sun. They are in love, but they hear something nearby. They can’t see who it is, but the audience sees that it’s Misha.
The set requirements are really quite simple: some furniture pieces to indicate the Diamante’s living room and classrooms as well as two cages to simultaneously house Melody and Kelly.
Technically, a fiery explosion needs to be recreated which can be achieved with lighting, a smoke machine is needed, as well as a sound effect of Alban falling into a river. Other simple lighting tricks need to be employed in order to create two separate locations on the stage.
A staged reading of THE EXCHANGE STUDENT was produced by CAST (Community Arts Scholarship Theatre) at the Arthur F. Couch Performing Arts Center in Secaucus, NJ in November 2013.
In the dark, we hear waltz music, a sound from another time, from the past. Lights up as the strings swell louder and the curtains partially open to reveal a balcony, center stage, outside a ballroom. We are at a ball in Romania, it’s present day, but with an old-world feel to it. SAMARA, a beautiful teenage girl, is leaning against the balcony. The night sky, filled with stars and a full moon, is behind her, and she looks into the audience, which is where the ballroom is located. She is wearing a full-length cape that flows to the ground and has a hood, which she is wearing on her head, though it doesn’t hide her face. Underneath she is wearing a brightly colored ballgown.
After a moment, ALBAN, enters SL. He is dressed in a suit and has a sash across his chest, indicating that he is from a prominent, royal family, and is carrying two flutes of champagne. The lighting should be dim enough so we can see ALBAN and SAMARA, but the atmosphere should be romantic and hazy. It’s important that we don’t see the right side of ALBAN’s face clearly.
ALBAN crosses to SAMARA and stands on her left side staring at her while she stares straight ahead not acknowledging his presence. ALBAN silently offers SAMARA the champagne, but she ignores him. ALBAN smiles and drinks the champagne from the glass he intended to give to SAMARA and when he’s finished, he throws it over the balcony. After a beat we hear a splash – the balcony overlooks water. During this dialogue SAMARA still doesn’t look at ALBAN.
ALBAN: I trust your aversion is to the taste of champagne and not my company.
SAMARA: I have nothing against champagne.
ALBAN: Had too much already?
SAMARA: Not a drop.
ALBAN: Samara, you almost sound as if it is my company that unsettles you. Are you so nervous in my presence that you fear the risk of losing all control?
SAMARA: I’m hardly unsettled. And you should hardly be flattered.
ALBAN: My, my, we’re still such a surly little girl, aren’t we? I thought by now you would have outgrown such a flaw.
SAMARA: I wasn’t raised to believe it’s a flaw to speak my mind. And Alban . . .
SAMARA: I’m no longer little.
ALBAN: I’ve noticed.
SAMARA: Have you also noticed that I’m not in the mood for company?
ALBAN: How can that be? A girl such as yourself, you have no choice but to adore company.
ALBAN reaches out to grab SAMARA’s left hand. Still without looking at him, SAMARA raises her right hand, her palm facing the audience, and twists her hand so her palm faces upstage behind her. When she does this, ALBAN’s body twists to the right and his champagne glass flies out of his hand and over the balcony. Again we don’t see the right side of his face, but after a beat we hear the splash of water. ALBAN isn’t frightened by SAMARA’s display of witchcraft, he knows what she is. Instead he smiles at her.
ALBAN: If you’re not thirsty, you could have just said so.
SAMARA: (FINALLY LOOKING AT ALBAN) And when, Alban, have you ever been known to take a hint from a girl.
ALBAN: You just said you weren’t a girl.
SAMARA: I said I’m not little. You should concentrate on listening to someone’s voice other than your own for once. You really are starting to become an irritating bore.
ALBAN: What did you say?!
SAMARA: I’m sorry.
ALBAN: (CONTROLLING HIS ANGER) As well you should be.
SAMARA: I meant to say you’ve already become a bore. To me, to the village, and to anyone who spends more than twelve seconds in your company. You’re so busy trying to make a move on anything in a skirt . . . or a gown . . . that you haven’t noticed. Why don’t you simply move and spread your boredom throughout the rest of Europe. All of Gheorghani has grown tired of your antics. (GHEORGHANI IS PRONOUNCED GEE-OR-GONE-Y)
ALBAN: How dare you suggest I should leave Gheorghani! My family is one of its founders . . .
SAMARA: Your family has outlived their use. They’ve disgraced themselves and the sensible members of your family have already left. Soooo, why don’t you follow suit? Leave, go somewhere new to contaminate fresh, unsuspecting ground.
ALBAN: You . . . insolvent . . . witch!
SAMARA: (LAUGHING) What?! I think you mean insolent.
ALBAN: No . . . I mean . . . insolvent.
SAMARA: You don’t even know what insolvent means! I may be rude, but I’m hardly poor. (SHE CAN’T STOP FROM LAUGHING) Like some royal families I know!
ALBAN: Don’t you dare laugh at me!
SAMARA: Then don’t say such funny things. (BEAT) Insolvent! Really!
ALBAN: You want me to go? Use your powers and make me.
After a slight pause ALBAN reaches out and grabs SAMARA’s right hand before she can raise it and stop him.
ALBAN: I know which hand contains all your power Samara . . . and remember I have powers of my own.
Suddenly JACK DIAMANTE appears SR. If possible someone should pull back the house curtain to reveal JACK’s presence to make it look as if he appeared out of thin air. JACK is 17, very handsome, and while dressed in a suit, he should not look as regal as ALBAN.
JACK: And so do I.
ALBAN: Well, well, well, if it isn’t Jack Diamante. Talk about disgraced families.
SAMARA: (NERVOUS) Jack, you should leave.
ALBAN: Yes Jackie, we’d like to be alone. Besides, this is an exclusive ball.
JACK: I was invited.
ALBAN: I highly doubt that. This is a ball, not a pagan festival for creatures of the night.
JACK: I am not a creature of the night.
ALBAN: Been basking in the sunshine lately, have we? Feeling the warm glow of the sun caress your smooth, pale flesh? (LAUGHING) I’m sorry Jackie, have I conjured up a distant memory? Have I made the little creature of the night feel all sad and depressed? (NOW HE BECOMES THREATENING) Then why don’t you go back inside and leave us alone so we can have some fun?
JACK: It doesn’t look like Samara wants to have fun. At least not with you.
ALBAN: And how would you know what a girl looks like when she wants to have fun? It must be incredibly hard to see a smile in the dead, black of night.
ALBAN yanks SAMARA’s arm and she cries out a little. She tries, but she can’t break free. ALBAN is starting to hurt her and she’s becoming afraid.
JACK: Alban, I’m not going to ask you again, leave Samara alone.
ALBAN: Isn’t it time for you to turn an unsuspecting tourist into a corpse?
JACK: We never!
ALBAN: Spare me the protestations, I know what you are.
JACK: And I know what you are Alban!
ALBAN: Then you should know that I abhor giving the same command twice.
JACK: Do you actually think people are scared of your commands?
ALBAN: (AS ALBAN SPEAKS HIS GRIP ON SAMARA BECOMES TIGHTER) Listen to me Jack, go back inside or crawl back under the earth where you came from, but leave us alone!
JACK looks at SAMARA who is wincing in pain. JACK turns to leave, but at the last second lunges at ALBAN. The surprise attack allows JACK to grab ALBAN’s arm and twist him around so now ALBAN is facing SL and the right side of his face is visible to the audience. We see that the right side of his face is severely burned.
JACK: You fire demons really are a disgusting lot.
ALBAN: Our reflections are beautiful compared to yours. Oh that’s right, vampires are so vile God doesn’t even allow them to have a reflection.
JACK punches ALBAN, causing him to fly into the balcony and almost fall over.
SAMARA: Jack, no!
JACK grabs ALBAN’s shoulder and makes him stand upright so he can punch him again, but this time ALBAN punches JACK in the stomach. They fight and JACK’s back is to the balcony and ALBAN is in front of him, his back facing the audience. Suddenly ALBAN is thrown over the balcony and falls. A few seconds later there is a burst of flames that can either be real flames or just a trick of lighting to make it look like ALBAN’s body has burst into flames. During all of this SAMARA is frightened and if she does move her body to get out of the way of the action, her back remains against the balcony with the front of her body facing the audience.
JACK: Alban! Alban! Samara I didn’t mean to . . .
SAMARA: Don’t worry Jack, you didn’t kill him.
JACK: But he couldn’t possibly survive that fall.
SAMARA: Trust me, he survived.
JACK: How? Did you cast a spell?
SAMARA turns to face JACK so she is standing profile to the audience.
She turns down her hood to reveal that she’s a two-headed witch. Another girl is standing behind SAMARA, back to back. It is her twin sister, TAMARA. Underneath the robe, they are tied together with rope or a belt so they won’t separate and so the two girls look as if they share the same body. The gown and cape flow to the ground so their feet are unseen.
TAMARA: I did.
JACK: Tamara! I’m so sorry I forgot about you.
TAMARA: Yup most everyone does . . . when I’m forced to walk around covered in my sister’s hood.
SAMARA: Stop whining! It’s my night to be alone. (TO JACK) We each get one night a week to be alone. (TO TAMARA) It’s only fair.
TAMARA: Fair?! It’s fair to keep me covered up so you can have fun at the ball?
SAMARA: Fun! I’ve spent most of the night out here on the balcony trying to ward off unwanted advances.
TAMARA: You didn’t try very hard if you ask me.
SAMARA: No one’s asking.
TAMARA: Well if they were I’d tell them that if it weren’t for Jack, who knows what you would’ve let Alban try.
SAMARA: That is sooo not true!
TAMARA: From where I was standing it looked like you were starting to give in to fireball.
SAMARA: From where you were standing you couldn’t see a thing.
TAMARA: No thanks to you!
SAMARA: IT’S MY NIGHT!
TAMARA: And if it weren’t for Jack it would’ve been a night we’d never forget . . . for all the wrong reasons.
SAMARA: Yes, you’re right about that.
TAMARA: I’m always right.
SAMARA: If it weren’t for Jack things could’ve gotten very ugly.
TAMARA: Well . . .
TAMARA: I did play a teeny tiny role in thwarting the ugliness. After Alban spontaneously combusted I broke his fall. He’ll look a little crispier than usual, but he’s alive thanks to me!
SAMARA: It’s not like you had a choice, you’re my sister. Jack acted out of courage and chivalry, not obligation
JACK: I didn’t do anything Samara, not really.
SAMARA: Don’t be modest.
JACK: I just wanted to make sure Alban didn’t do anything, you know, stupid to you.
TAMARA: Only to her?
JACK: And, um, also too . . . to Tamara.
TAMARA: Oh well thank you Jack. That was very convincing. (BEAT) Not!
SAMARA: Regardless of what you think, I want to make sure that you’re rewarded for your bravery.
JACK: Seriously, that isn’t necessary.
TAMARA: Listen to the vampire Samara, you know what happens when you get involved.
SAMARA: Good things happen when I get involved! The world becomes showered in happy endings.
TAMARA: Or a fire demon bursts into flames.
SAMARA: Did Alban die?
SAMARA: Well I’d call that a happy ending. Which is exactly what I’m going to give Jack.
SAMARA raises her right hand and waves it in front of JACK. Suddenly JACK is drenched in golden sunlight. If the light can’t be fixed just on JACK, the entire stage should erupt as if it’s underneath a blazing sun. Instinctively, JACK covers his eyes and cowers to protect himself from what he believes are the harmful rays of the sun on his vampire body.
SAMARA: Don’t be afraid Jack.
JACK: Stop it! You’ll kill me.
TAMARA: Oh knock it off drama queen will ya?! It’s just an illusion.
JACK: (REALIZING THS SUN ISN’T REAL.) Wha . . . what’s going on?
SAMARA: I’m offering you the opportunity of a lifetime.
TAMARA: You shouldn’t.
SAMARA: Don’t interrupt.
JACK: What opportunity?
SAMARA: I am giving you a year to walk in the sunlight.
TAMARA and JACK: What?!
SAMARA: And if during that time you can make someone fall in love with you, you and all your blood relatives will be able to walk in the sun for all eternity.
TAMARA and JACK: What?!
SAMARA: It’s your reward for coming to my aid. Not many come to the aid of a two-headed witch. Honestly, I don’t know if they think we have double the power or something and don’t need the help or if it’s because they’re afraid of Tamara, she can be a little standoffish at times.
TAMARA: I can hear you.
SAMARA: But Jack, you weren’t afraid, you were brave, and so you shall be rewarded.
JACK: Are you being serious?
SAMARA: Absolutemoi. That’s French for absolutely.
TAMARA: No, that’s French for “I’m an idiot.”
SAMARA: Ignore the witch facing the wrong direction. You have one year to make someone fall in love with you.
TAMARA: Oh c’mon! A year?! Don’t you think that’s a bit excessive for rescuing you from a guy with roving hands.
SAMARA: Roving hands . . . of fire!
TAMARA: Shorten the time.
SAMARA: (PAUSE) Six months?
TAMARA: Now cut it in half.
SAMARA: Three months?
TAMARA: That’s long enough.
SAMARA: (VERY GRAND AND CEREMONIAL) Jack, I am giving you three months to walk in the sunlight and if during that time.
TAMARA: He gets the rest, fall in love . . .
SAMARA: No! He has to make someone fall in love with him. You’re just like Alban, you never listen to anyone but yourself.
TAMARA: I am not like that freak!
SAMARA: Tam, really, we’ve been over this a hundred times, we are in no position to call someone a freak.
TAMARA: Why does everybody make such a big deal out of two heads?!
JACK: I don’t think either one of you are freaks. And Samara, I . . . I can’t believe you’d do this for me.
SAMARA: What’s so hard to believe? Underneath the whole draining people of blood thing you’re really a good guy.
JACK: We do not drain people of all their blood! We just take, you know, only as much as we need, that’s all.
SAMARA: Now if that isn’t the definition of good, I do not know what is.
JACK: But will this really work?
SAMARA: You’ll have to make some girl fall in love with you for who you really are to find out.
TAMARA: And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a girl, if you know what I mean.
JACK: (SMILING) I know what you mean, but in my case, it’ll be a girl.
TAMARA: And no vampire trickery either! You can’t glare into some unsuspecting human’s eyes and put her under a trance so she falls in love with you.
SAMARA: Tamara’s right, you most certainly cannot do that. You might fool her into thinking that she’s fallen in love with you, but you cannot fool the spell.
JACK: I wouldn’t do that.
SAMARA: I know you wouldn’t. (WHISPERING) Tamara’s the cynical one.
TAMARA: Why are you whispering? I can read your mind!
SAMARA: Just remember that it has to be real love, not puppy love, or lust, but a real true love. If not, the spell won’t work.
JACK: I’ll remember. (HE STARTS TO RUN OFF, THEN TURNS BACK AROUND) And thank you.
SAMARA: Good luck Jack!
JACK runs off SR.
TAMARA: He is definitely going to need it.
The balcony is pushed offstage and the curtain opens fully to reveal JACK’s living room. The room should be dark and have a gothic feel to it. JACK’s father, GREGOR, is sitting on a small couch SR, while JACK’s mother, PALOMA, is standing SR behind him. JACK’s sister, CLAUDIA, is sitting in a chair SL. JACK is pacing the room. Next to CLAUDIA there is one window through which we can see outside. JACK has taken his jacket and tie off and the rest are wearing clothes that are of this time period, but with a classic feel to them, not trendy.
JACK: (TRYING TO CONTAIN HIS EXCITEMENT) I can’t believe this is really happening.
GREGOR: I’ve known Samara’s family for centuries, they’re honorable people.
JACK: So there’s no doubt about it then, her spell is real?
GREGOR: I believe it is son. Don’t you Paloma?
PALOMA: (PAUSE) Yes, but . . .
JACK: But what Mom?
PALOMA: Why must you go so far away? And why must you go by yourself?
JACK: Everybody here knows me. The best chance for me to get someone to fall in love with me is to leave and go somewhere else.
PALOMA: But America?
GREGOR: Darling, it’s just over the ocean. (SMILING) We often travel further than that in one evening.
PALOMA: But he’ll be on his own for the first time.
JACK: I can handle myself Mom. Tell her Dad.
GREGOR: Jack, I’m not going to lie to you, I’m just as nervous as your mother.
GREGOR: But I also agree with you. This program they have in the United States, you being . . . what is it called?
JACK: An exchange student.
GREGOR: Yes, an exchange student, it’s the perfect way for you to be away from everyone you know, friends . . . enemies . . . and meet new people and hopefully . . .
GREGOR: (SMILING) Definitely find some wonderful girl to fall in love with you.
PALOMA: And change our lives forever.
JACK: Oh c’mon Mom, don’t say it like it’s a bad thing! I’m going to change our lives for the better.
PALOMA: I hope so Jack.
JACK: (BEAT) Don’t you think I can do it?
PALOMA: (HOPEFUL) If anyone can lead this family into the light of day, you can. It’s just that . . .
PALOMA: It’s just that I never imagined that I would ever see the sun again, it’s all rather sudden. I don’t dare think of it in case . . .
GREGOR: (RISING TO STAND NEXT TO PALOMA) I know. The sun is such a distant memory. It would be wonderful . . . but Jack listen, if you can’t make this happen, we still have a glorious eternity ahead of us.
JACK: Filled with nothing but darkness.
CLAUDIA: Is that all you can see for our future?
JACK: I’d like our future to be lit by more than the moon, is that wrong?
CLAUDIA: Some traditions were never meant to be broken brother.
GREGOR: If we don’t try, Claudia we’ll never know.
CLAUDIA: Well, I for one am falling in line with mother. I refuse to believe you will usher in a new dawn, so to speak, for the Diamante family until I actually stand underneath the sun without feeling its rays melt the flesh from my bones.
JACK: You don’t think I can do this?
CLAUDIA: Has anyone fallen in love with you yet?
JACK: (BEAT) No.
CLAUDIA: I rest my case.
JACK: That’s why I’m going away you idiot! To meet new people, where no one knows what I am.
CLAUDIA: To try and pass yourself off as human.
JACK: I can pass!
PALOMA: But can we?
JACK: What do you mean?
PALOMA: We have to host another young man, a human from America. How are we going to keep him from finding out the truth about us?
GREGOR: It’s only for three months.
PALOMA: Three months of never seeing us in the sunlight? Samara’s spell only allows you to walk freely during the day, not us.
GREGOR: We can distract him . . .
PALOMA: You mean hypnotize.
GREGOR: Paloma, darling, we’re vampires, we have ways of controlling the human mind and making them believe what we want them to believe. We’ll just have to be on our guard and watch for any sign that this new boy, what’s his name?
JACK: Kelly, Kelly Cavanaugh.
GREGOR: We’ll have to make sure this Kelly remains under our control while he’s here. Which means we’ll have to work together as a family to make sure that happens.
PALOMA: That means the whole family.
GREGOR: (LOOKING AT CLAUDIA) All of us.
CLAUDIA: Oh don’t worry about me. I’ll do whatever I need to do in order to make this charade work.
JACK: This will happen, I promise. (BEAT) Well, I better go and feed, I have to get up early tomorrow to catch my flight.
CLAUDIA: You still have to feed? Didn’t Samara change those rules too?
JACK: No, the only change is that now I can walk in the sun, everything else is the same. At least that’s what she told me.
PALOMA: Why must you take a plane? You could transport yourself there in seconds.
JACK: Mom! It would kind of defeat the purpose of me trying to fit in and be human and mortal if I plop into town and materialize out of thin air.
PALOMA: I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. (SHE CROSSES TO THE WINDOW AND LOOKS OUT) I just can’t shake this feeling that something bad will come of this.
GREGOR: You’re nervous, that’s all.
PALOMA: Don’t patronize me, Gregor!
JACK: Mom, seriously, there’s nothing to worry about. I can handle myself in a sea of humans. Nothing will go wrong and if this works, so much will go right.
PALOMA: Be safe. (SHE HUGS JACK.)
JACK: I will.
GREGOR: Good luck son. (HE HUGS JACK.)
JACK: Thanks Dad. Claudia, make sure you hold down the fort while I’m gone.
CLAUDIA: Already adopting clichéd American slang. Those humans will never suspect there’s an imposter in their midst.
JACK: (SARCASTICALLY) Don’t miss me too much sis.
JACK exits SR.
GREGOR: Remember, Claudia, your brother is doing this for all of us.
PALOMA and GREGOR exit SR leaving CLAUDIA alone. When they leave, the lights dim and become darker, more ominous.
CLAUDIA: And so am I.
When the lights come up a man can be seen through the window next to CLAUDIA standing outside. There is another thunderclap and a quick blackout and when the lights turn back up the man is now standing in front of the window inside the house. He is a dangerous looking man and should appear to be a bit older than CLAUDIA.
CLAUDIA: Are you sure you can fix this?
MISHA: Of course I can. You just leave everything to your Uncle Misha.
BLACKOUT as the curtain closes.
And now for something completely different!
CAN DINA EVEN SPELL AFGHANISTAN?
by Michael Griffo
Catherine DuMornay, mid-50s
Claire DuMornay, her sister, early 50s
Daisy DuMornay Bernstein, their cousin, late 40s
Iva O’Mealia, their childhood friend, mid-50s
Place: A town in northern New Jersey
Lights Up. It’s approaching dusk and sunlight is coming through the windows. We’re in the living room of CATHERINE Du MORNAY’s Victorian style home. There is a staircase UC leading off SL, in the center of the room there is a large round rug with many unmatched chairs, there is a fireplace underneath the stairs and next to it is a flat-screen TV with the screen mostly facing away from the audience, SL is an archway to another room, SR is the front door. The front door is open, but the screen door is closed. CATHERINE is running on the treadmill SR, the treadmill is completely out of place with the rest of the décor, it’s as if it was going to be put in another room, but never made it. She is a trim and toned woman in her mid-50s, wearing a tank top and matching track pants. While she’s running on the treadmill, she’s talking on a cordless phone, every once in a while patting her brow with a towel.
(ON THE PHONE) Are you sure that’s what the reporter said? Because they lie. Of course they do, don’t be so naïve. Well no . . . no, I would hope not. I would sincerely hope that he wouldn’t lie about something as significant as that, but a leopard cannot change his spots. No. (FIRM) No . . . leopards have spots, tigers have stripes. Yes, I have . . . at the zoo. It’s a phrase Jamison! It means a person cannot change his true nature. Yes, yes, or her, or her true nature. Exactly Jamison! That’s exactly right, you cannot believe her true nature would change so drastically to cause her to do something like this, like what they say she did. No, I do not. I do not believe a word of it. Because as I said, they lie. (BEAT) Jamison, don’t you think you should go and see if she needs you? What do you mean they won’t let you see her? You’re the brother. That’s terrible! Just down and out terrible. You see what I’m talking about? It’s all about bullying, the police bully, reporters lie, the government tortures, and all to make us feel inferior, insecure . . . to make us vulnerable, that’s why they do it . . . and they think we’ll just take it quietly, silently, like a pack of mute dogs, well you listen to me Jamison, (SHE STOPS RUNNING AND STARTS WALKING VERY QUICKLY.) You listen to me . . . you cannot allow them to win. Do you understand me? Because if you do the results would be devastating for us, the outcome will be unfathomable for us if you let that happen. (BEAT) Yes, yes of course, for her especially, but ultimately, finally, for all of us. Yourself included Jamison. Oh yes, yourself included . . . do not think that you can exclude yourself. None of us can. So go fight them, Jamison. Go fight their lies . . . yes, yes of course I’m here for you, we both are. Whatever you need us to do. (BEAT) We’ve already started that. Yes, yes, it’s taken care of. No, no need to thank me. (SHE STOPS THE TREADMILL) You are my family, Jamison, you are in need, I am here to help.
CATHERINE presses the off button on the phone, throws the towel on the handle of the treadmill, and hops off.
CATHERINE puts the phone back into its cradle and starts rearranging the chairs so there is a large opening on the rug. Her movements are sure, without hesitation, and final.
Come down here.
I’m doing my nails.
This is important!
(PAUSE) I’m almost done.
I said it is important. We are needed!
To do what? (OS)
Claire, please! This is not the time for vanity, just come down here.
CLAIRE Du MORNAY comes down the stairs blowing her nails. She’s in her early 50s and still quite beautiful. She’s wearing a long, thin floral bathrobe and slippers, nothing like lingerie, but very feminine. Her hair is wrapped in a towel as she just took a shower.
(COMING DOWNSTAIRS, BLOWING HER NAILS) I’m coming.
I’m here! What is so goddamned important that you have to scream my name – twice?
We have to pray. I cleared our space.
Without objection, CLAIRE kneels, still blowing her nails.
Okay, but what are we praying for this time?
Not what, who. (SHE KNEELS OPPOSITE CLAIRE.)
Okay, so who are we praying for?
When CLAIRE puts her hands in the prayer position, she makes sure not to damager her nail polish so the palms of her hands face other, but her hands don’t touch.
Why does Dina need our prayers? What’s wrong?
She’s in trouble.
Well, yeah, obviously she’s in trouble if she needs our prayers. What’s wrong with her?
Nothing is wrong with her.
Now Cathy, there has to be something wrong with her.
You don’t pray when all is well. There’s no prayer for the copacetic, that’s a waste of time. So what’s wrong with her?
I told you there’s nothing wrong with her, Dina just needs our prayers.
Catherine . . .
Claire . . .
Catherine Frances Theresa DuMornay, what kind of trouble is Dina in? Is it serious?
(BEAT) It’s all lies, flagrant lies, but nonetheless, despite all of that she does need our prayers.
What are you talking about, lies?
They’re not important. Let’s start with a Hail Mary.
Of course we’ll start with a Hail Mary, we always start with a Hail Mary, but first tell me what the hell these lies are about.
I do not want to give them credence by repeating them. Hail Mary full of grace . . .
How can I properly pray if I don’t know why I’m praying?
You’re praying for your cousin’s well being, for the end of her troubles. Now put your hands together correctly Claire, what kind of a prayer stance is that?
(SHE’S HOLDING HER HANDS THE SAME AS BEFORE, IN PRAYER MODE, BUT A FEW INCHES APART.) My fingernails are still wet. I don’t want to smudge them.
(JUDGMENTAL AND DISAPPROVING) Oh Claire.
(BEAT) Oh shut up! You know how I love my manicures. It’s not like I’m refusing to pray.
Just edifying, modifying how you say your prayers.
We have been through this countless times before Catherine, you do not have the final say on how I pray.
We have certain agreements.
Yes . . . regarding certain aspects of the prayer. We will try . . . to the best of our ability . . . to create a prayer circle. We will . . . in the absence of any physical disability . . . kneel while praying. And we will begin, always begin, with a Hail Mary. What was not agreed upon was the individual style of praying.
Clasped hands is the accepted way.
Yes it is Catherine, I will give you that.
But it is not the only way.
So what? Are you going to pray with your hands on your hips? Or perhaps palms up, yes palms up facing the heavens with your eyes rolling back into your head like some zealot?
No! I will not act the zealot Catherine! (PAUSE) I will clasp my hands when my nails are dry! Until then this is how I’m going to pray. (SHE PUTS HER HANDS PARALLEL TO ONE ANOTHER, BUT A FEW INCHES APART.) Now tell me why the hell are we praying for Cousin Dina in the first place?
You just can’t pray for prayer’s sake?
She’s my family and clearly in trouble, I want to know what kind of trouble.
Don’t hmmm me. And don’t say you didn’t hmmm me because I heard you hmmm. I raced down here when you called me.
After you finished your manicure. Your indulgences come before your prayer. I understand. (WEARILY, CATHERINE STANDS UP.)
You don’t understand anything. If I were being indulgent I would be with that Asian boy . . . what’s his name? (CLAIRE RISES.) At the nail salon.
CATHERINE crosses to the treadmill and folds the towel she left hanging there. CLAIRE follows her, she takes the towel off her head to reveal her very close-cropped hair. She begins to dry her hair with the towel, not out of necessity, but habit.
No, Keeno’s the one who works at the vegetable market. The boy who does the nails at the salon . . . his mother owns the place . . . what’s his name?
He’s not a boy, he’s a young man.
He’s barely twenty, to me he’s a boy . . . to you too.
T.J. who delivers our paper, he’s a boy, Lu Chang . . . that’s his name . . . Lu Chang.
Yes, Lu Chang.
Lu Chang is a young man.
No, Lu Chang is a boy and if I were being indulgent I would be sitting across from Lu Chang right now getting a manicure trying to figure out what he’s saying behind that face mask thing that he always wears. But I’m not, I’m here trying to pray for my cousin but you won’t tell me why she needs my prayers. (BEAT, THEN FEAR.) She’s ill. That’s it isn’t it, she’s ill and she’s dying and you don’t want to tell me. I can handle illness Catherine. Don’t hide that from me.
She isn’t ill. Well, not that I know of.
I’m warning you, if I find out that she’s ill and you didn’t tell me.
I wouldn’t do that to you! She’s not ill. Though I wish she were.
What?! How could you wish such a thing?
Because that would explain everything. She wouldn’t be in control of her faculties then. But even if she were, even if she were . . . very ill, the reporters would have ignored that fact. And the police, they wouldn’t even care.
The police! Cousin Dina’s in trouble with the police?!
Ah!!! Damn you Claire Du Mornay! Damn you!
Oh stop trying . . . (SHE TOSSES THE TOWEL ONTO A CHAIR.) just tell me what the hell is going on with Dina and the police.
She’s been arrested.
Arrested?! For what?
Yes for what? What did she do?
What did she do!? You actually believe she’s capable of committing a crime?
No . . . I . . .
You believe she could do something worthy of police intervention.
You just said she was arrested. I’m merely asking for what . . . she had to have done something. They don’t just arrest people willy nilly.
(IMITATING A POLICE OFFICER) Oh hi ma’am, nice weather we’re having today. Oh by the way you have the right to remain silent because you’re under arrest!
You’re just like them.
Oh stop it! What did she do that got her arrested?
Again! (SHE PICKS UP THE TOWEL AND FOLDS IT.) You did it again, you actually think Cousin Dina is capable of doing something so terrible the police would handcuff her and bring her down to the police station and formally arrest her. I cannot believe you would think that of your own flesh and blood.
Catherine, you said she was arrested. The common response to a statement like that is . . . for what?
No Claire, that is not the common response. The common response to such a statement made about your cousin is not affirmation of the terrible deed, but shock! Shock that such a thing could befall our cousin. Now for crise sakes kneel down and pray with me. (SHE KNEELS)
I am shocked! That’s why I raised my voice when I said ‘for what.’ If I wasn’t in shock, if I had suspected for quite some time that this day would come, eventually, that my manicure would be interrupted so I could kneel and pray for my Cousin Dina’s malevolent nature, (SHE KNEELS OPPOSITE CATHERINE) I would have dropped my voice and added a hint of sarcasm . . . ‘for what?’ But I didn’t . . . I raised my voice. I didn’t add a hint of sarcasm Catherine, my comment was high pitched and filled with shock. (SHE WALKS ON HER KNEES TOWARDS CATHERINE.) And if you don’t tell me exactly why Dina was arrested your face is going to be filled with my fists because my nails are now dry!
DAISY Du MORNAY BERNSTEIN rushes into the house screaming, the screen door slams behind her. DAISY is one of those women who wants to be a breeze, but is a thunderstorm. She is in her late 40s, impeccably dressed, but in an outfit and accessories that she would have bought at Target.
Have you heard?
It’s all an incredible though grave misunderstanding.
(WALKING ON HER KNEES TOWARDS DAISY.) Daisy do you know what’s going on?
Don’t say a word Daisy.
About Cousin Dina?
CLAIRE and CATHERINE
But . . .
But . . .
(GRABBING DAISEY BY THE HAND.) Tell me.
But . . .
CATHERINE races on her knees to get to DAISY’s other side and grabs her other hand.
(WARNING) Daisy. (PLEADING) Daisy.
I can’t keep it in any more!
I’m warning you!
Oh Claire it’s horrible!
Daisy spill it!
(SHE TRIES TO PHYSICALLY STAY SILENT, BUT CAN’T.) Cousin Dina’s a terrorist!?
(STANDING UP) You just had to, you just had to say it out loud.
I’m sorry Cath, but this is huge!
A terrorist!? (STANDING UP.)
(LOUD, BUT CALM.) We don’t know that.
It’s all over the news.
(SITTING DOWN) A terrorist!?
Reporters lie Daisy, you know they lie.
But it’s on the Internet too.
Well then of course it must be true.
Stop saying that.
Do you hear how my voice is rising up at the end Catherine? Do you hear the shock? (HER VOICES RISES ON THE LAST SYLLABLE OF ‘TERRORIST’.) Terrorist? Why the hell didn’t you tell that we have a terrorist in the family?
Because it isn’t true.
I think it is.
CATHERINE & CLAIRE
Do you have any water? I’m parched. I ran all the way from my house.
DAISY sits in a comfy chair SR.
You live next door.
I was in the basement. Claire could you please get me some water? (CLAIRE RUNS OFF SL THROUGH THE ARCHWAY.) Or some of your lemonade if you have it . . . that would be so nice. Your lemonade always quenches.
How can you harbor such . . . vile thoughts about poor Cousin Dina?
Because poor Cousin Dina has played us all. Played us all she has.
Let me know if you have any questions, comments, thoughts – and keep checking back as there will be more to come!
Writers like to write. And most writers like to write in different genres. I’m no exception. Before I began writing novels, I wrote plays. I was acting at the time so it was a natural creative extension of my artistic life, but the joy I found writing plays quickly eclipsed the joy I found while performing on stage. I think it’s because as an actor you have to speak someone else’s words and you only inhabit the skin of one character – at least most of the time anyway. As a playwright I get to create the words for the entire cast. It’s challenging and liberating at the same time.
I specifically remember the day – or I should say the night – that I was inspired to write my first play. I went to see a revival of Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance’ on Broadway and was so moved by the dialogue, the theme, and just the theatricality of the piece that I went home that night and started writing the first scene of what would become my first play – NO MORE SUNDAYS. I even remember the line – An outsider is the only one who can speak the truth. Your mother’s too close to the source, she’s been contaminated. The play is about two generations of Italian women who bring their matriarch home to die. Since I grew up in a large Italian family populated with a lot of outspoken women, I decided to follow the old adage and write about what I knew. It worked and NO MORE SUNDAYS won the New Jersey Perry award for Outstanding Play.
Some of my other plays include PEN PALS, which is an epistolary play. And if you’ve never heard of that word, don’t worry, it’s just a fancy way to say that it’s a play where the dialogue consists of the characters reading letters instead of talking to one another. PEN PALS is very special to me because it was inspired by my mothers real-life relationship with her own British pen pal, Sheila – a relationship that lasted for over 60 years!
Then there’s 9TH STREET WATER, TWO, PIECES and two short plays – CLOUDY and 5G/10B – that were published in an anthology and won many competitions throughout the country.
From time to time I’ll post excerpts from my plays here to give you a taste of me as a different kind of writer.
Oh, I almost forgot, I’m almost done writing a vampire play for high school audiences entitled THE EXCHANGE STUDENT. More on that to come!