“Deleting Discontent”

I wrote “Deleting Discontent” in 2011 while I was living in China. I stayed there five years but not a semester passed that I wasn’t looking to live somewhere else, usually another foreign country. It will be included in our next project here in Oaxaca, being translated and performed in Spanish.

Synopsis: a man questions his place in the world.

CHARACTERS

BENNY, white male, 45

DEB, black or Hispanic female, 40

TIME: The Present

PLACE: New York City and China

1.

(Lights up on BENNY sitting at a table. He’s handsome and looks at least 10 years younger than his age. On his table is a laptop, a glass of beer [almost empty], peanuts, ashtray and cigarettes. On the floor next to the table are five empty half-liter beer bottles [Chinese Beer].

DEB, a naturally beautiful Black or Hispanic woman sits in a comfy chair or sofa. She is drinking bottled water.

BENNY types and we hear the SOUND of a Skype call)

BENNY: Hello? Can you hear me? Deb? Deb?

DEB: Hey, Benny. I can hear you. Can you hear me?

BENNY: I can. And we have video, too.

DEB: For now.

BENNY: For now. You’re lookin’ good. How do ya feel?

DEB: Tired as hell. I really should slow down.

BENNY: Yes, the life of an actor slash director slash stand up slash blogger slash girl looking for a boyfriend. Did I miss anything?

2.

DEB: No. And I may complain but I’m enjoying every bit of it. Like to find more sleep time, but…

BENNY: I need your advice.

DEB: Why? You never take it?

BENNY: I listen to it.

DEB: Whatever.

BENNY: I have three days to decide if I’m coming back to teach next year.

DEB: Stay. Why wouldn’t you? You love the country, the cuisine, your students—

BENNY: There’s lots of other reasons. Well, maybe only a couple, but conundrums they are.

DEB: What’s your friend, the universe, saying about all this?

BENNY: I’ve put it out to her.

DEB: She’s not returning your calls?

BENNY: Go ahead and laugh but if you’d just open your mind a little…

DEB: I am open-minded.

3.

BENNY: Yeah, well, not about everything.

DEB: You’re right. No threesome with my sister.

BENNY: Now, there’s an open-minded—

DEB: Slut. Listen, if the universe works for you.

BENNY: Let’s talk about my problem, okay? Hey, where’re you going?

DEB: I gotta pee.

BENNY: Take your laptop.

DEB: No.

BENNY: C’mon, for old time’s sake.

DEB: You forgot what it looks like?

BENNY: Hell no. Well, maybe the image is getting a little fuzzy. You know, my memory ain’t what it used to be.

(DEB exits)

DEB: (from off-stage) Use your imagination.

BENNY: (Louder) Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, know what I mean? You used to be more compassionate. You know how long it’s been since—

(The sound of a toilet FLUSHING. DEB enters and sits)

DEB: You lost your viewing rights when we split.

BENNY: Just wanted a little peek.

4.

(DEB unbuttons two buttons of her blouse)

BENNY: That’s all I get? A little cleavage?

DEB: Take it or leave it.

BENNY: I’ll take it, I’ll take it. But, can you hold your computer above your head, looking down, like this? Give me a little better angle?

DEB: No. Pig.

BENNY: So, anyway, do you remember St. Louie Lucy?

DEB: Vaguely, although why you thought I’d be interested in hearing about all your –exes…

BENNY: She’s the one I really, really liked but never pulled the trigger on because I’m an idiot.

DEB: Duly noted.

BENNY: So, I found her on the Net. After twenty years. Can you believe it? We’ve Skyped a ton of times and she’s more beautiful than I remembered and it’s like everything I want it to be.

(BENNY waits for a response.  None arrives)

We’re both available and we agree on all the important things, except one. Unless I move back to the states…

DEB: Why?

5.

BENNY: She’s set in her law career, even though there’s a teacher here that gave up his practice to—it doesn’t matter.  She’s forty and just made partner. My situation is a bit more fluid, although as my students are fond of saying, “Every coin has two sides.” I really like living here, the food is great, the people are friendly, I’ve traveled to five countries in three years and I’m doing three weeks in Europe this summer. Someone told me teaching is my part-time job.

DEB: And America’s not an option because…

BENNY: You got all day? (Beat) Ok, yes, I could go back and teach English to immigrants, but if I’m going to get Guatemalans to say ‘My name is Pedro,’ I want to do it in Guatemala, not Queens. And how long would anyone be my friend if every time they saw me I bitched about not living overseas?

DEB: Not long. (beat) Think back to when we were together.

BENNY: I never should have left you.

DEB: You had to leave. Or I would’ve. We both thought we could morph into someone we weren’t.

BENNY: I didn’t try and change you.

DEB: Do you really listen to me? Your life is all about change, adventure.

BENNY: You know my track record with relationships. It sucks.

DEB: It’s not about—arrgghh!! Okay, another example. My first time around doing stand-up I was opening for the biggest R&B acts in the biz. I was playing Vegas.

6.

BENNY: Was what? You’re breaking up. Can you hear me?

DEB: Yes. Should I call you back?

BENNY: No, you’re back. So, you were playing with yourself—

DEB: I said I was playing Vegas.

BENNY: Let’s go with playing with yourself, cuz you know it’s been a while since I’ve had a woman.

DEB: You’re a sick man, Benny. I was playing Vegas and making very good money. I was happy as hell, but not content. I kept nagging my manager, where’s my three-picture deal; where’s my sitcom? All that discontent started eroding my happiness. I gave it all up. I was heading for my 19th nervous breakdown.

BENNY: So, it’s all about contentment?

DEB: It’s about maximizing both. (Pause) Oh, oh, you’ve got that deep thinker look.

BENNY: Doing a quick inventory. (short pause) Searching for my discontent.

DEB: Maybe you don’t have any.

(BENNY exits)

Hey!

BENNY: I can hear you.

DEB: Personally, I have very little of it.

7.

(BENNY enters with another beer)

BENNY: Wouldn’t it be great if we could just delete our discontent and anything else we didn’t like about ourselves?  You know, like on a computer?

DEB: Is that another beer?

BENNY: My second.

DEB: How many empties on the floor? You always liked to keep track.

BENNY: None. One. So, the way I see it, nobody is absolutely content. Not even animals. Birds always want a bigger worm. Squirrels want bigger nuts.

(DEB laughs loudly)

To eat, I mean. You know what I’m saying.

DEB: I know. And all I’m saying is that life’s a balancing act. Increase the happiness by decreasing the discontent to find a livable balance.

BENNY: For a creative type, Deb, you’re pretty damn logical.

DEB: We can’t all live on our feelings, Benny.

BENNY: I think things through.

DEB: Name the last time.

(BENNY lights a cigarette)

8.

BENNY: I’m lonely. I need physical contact. Not sex, necessarily, although that would be nice. You know it’s been so long.

DEB: Benny!!

BENNY: Sorry.

DEB: So, find somebody. You never had a problem over here.

BENNY: Maybe, but it’s a little different in this culture.  First, there are my students. Beautiful, sexy, intelligent and fun…Do you think twenty-five years is too big a gap?  Then there are the recent graduates working in the city.  Beautiful, sexy, intelligent and fun. Do you think twenty years is too big a gap? Divorcees. Not as beautiful or sexy because they’re older and have had children, but still attractive. The problem is finding them. They work and go home to the kid. Foreigners are teachers, mostly. My choices are limited as they’re mostly white chicks, but a few are from the Pacific Rim. I’d have to go to the ex-pat bars to find them though and I did that for decades. Look for chicks in bars in the states. No thanks. And many of them are also under thirty. So, you see, I’m not exactly in an enviable position.

DEB: But, you don’t look your age.

BENNY: Babe, it doesn’t matter if I look twenty, the fact is I’m old and most of these women eventually want to get married and have a baby. Do I? I don’t know. There’s this one student. I’m afraid I’m falling in love, silly as it sounds. She’s twenty but only a freshman, so I’d have to stay here another three years. I haven’t even kissed her, but I can’t remember the last time a woman made me feel so content. So, there’s your word. My contentment lies with a twenty year-old.

9.

DEB: How much do you still like Lucy?

BENNY: Maybe a lot.

DEB: Then?

BENNY: She smokes.

DEB: Oh, please.

BENNY: Yeah, but I’m a once a week social smoker. She’s a perennial all-star hall-of-famer. She’s the bloody Michael Jordan of smokers.

DEB: So, wait. The universe will provide, right?

BENNY: It always has.

DEB: Listen, I gotta run. I have an audition this morning.  Off-Broadway with a decent contract.

BENNY: Good luck. And thanks for listening. Love you.

DEB: Love you, too.

BENNY: Come visit me.

DEB: You got the money?

BENNY: Wanna hear my new theme song?

DEB: I really gotta go, Benny.

BENNY: It’s short.

10.

DEB: Let’s hear it.

(BENNY PLAYS “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” as he drinks his beer. Lights fade to black)

THE END

You can request the Spanish translation by emailing me at mjinoaxaca@gmail.com.

 

“The Prank”

Play #6 in “La noche de las obras cortas” (The Night of Short Plays) produced in June 2018 in  Oaxaca, Mexico.

Synopsis: A patient pranks their doctor.

CHARACTERS

A

B

TIME: The Present

PLACE: Some place

1.

A: You said you’d help me.

B: And I will.

A: You won’t back out?

B: No.

A: Everyone else has.

B: I’m not them.

A: That’s encouraging.

B: I always keep my word.

A: This could test that.

B: We’ll see.

A: You don’t know the task.

B: It doesn’t matter.

A: It’s extreme.

B: Extreme doesn’t scare me.

A: I’ve had a good life.

2.

B: Better than good.

A: Almost perfect.

B: I wouldn’t go that far.

A: As lives go.

B: Better than most.

A: Better than most.

B: Successful business.

A: I’m rich.

B: Quite rich!

A: But, not happy.

B: Really?

A: I’m not into things.

B: What then?

A: Experiences.

B: Such as.

3.

A: Saving that woman.

B: From her burning car.

A: Right place, right time.

B: You’re a hero.

A: No, but it was fulfilling.

B: You were on CNN.

A: I didn’t want that.

B: What else?

A: Winning the spelling bee.

B: When?

A: Fifth grade.

B: Good experience?

A: Good? Great! The best!

B: Why?

A: I beat Frank Collins.

4.

B: Who was that?

A: Smartest kid in the class.

B: Good for you.

A: My greatest moment growing up.

B: You’ve had a full life.

A: Yes.

B: Many achievements and memories.

A: Yes. There’s another. Happened yesterday.

B: Let me guess.

A: Go ahead.

B: I know you well.

A: Then it should be easy.

B: You won the lottery?

A: You don’t know me.

B: Why not?

5.

A: I don’t play the lottery.

B: One time we played.

A: Yeah, jackpot was a billion.

B: Never again?

A: Never. Next guess.

B: You’re dating your personal trainer.

A: That’s so shallow.

B: You’re shallow.

A: I am not.

B: You used to be.

A: Not anymore.

B: Prove it.

A: How?

B: See that guy over there?

A: The one with five chins?

6.

B: Yes. I know him.

A: Would I date him?

B: Great singer. Wicked SOH.

A: SOH?

B: Sense of humor. Fabulous cook.

A: Probably taken.

B: He’s not.

A: Not?

B: Not.

A: Wow. I don’t know. Tempting.

B: I’ll call him over.

A: I’ll kill you.

B: Still shallow.

A: I have standards.

B: So, no personal trainer?

7.

A: No. Last guess.

B: (thinking) I give up.

A: You wanna hint?

B: Ok.

A: What’s my favorite sport?

B: Golf. Oh my god!

A: What?!

B: You didn’t. No, you did!

A: Did what?

B: You made a hole-in-one! Congratulations!

A: Thanks. What a thrill!

B: So hard to do.

A: Perfection.

B: Exactly.

A: It’s also the end.

8.

B: End of playing golf?

A: End of living.

B: That’s funny.

A: I’m serious.

B: You can’t be.

A: Why not?

B: It’s crazy!

A: People commit suicide every day.

B: Every hour, maybe, but still…

A: So, you think I’m crazy.

B: Not in a clinical sense.

A: I’m perfectly sane.

B: Ok, then explain your decision.

A: I’ve achieved perfection.

B: That’s your reason.

9.

A: Nothing more to live for.

B: You can find perfection again.

A: How?

B: Bowling.

A: I’d rather be dead.

B: There must be something else.

A: Stop it. I’ve decided.

B: I want a better reason.

A: Go out on top.

B: That’s bullshit.

A: It’s not.

B: You must have other goals.

A: None I can’t live without.

B: Or die. What about Africa?

A: What about it?

10.

B: You’ve always wanted to go.

A: Haven’t been lotsa places.

B: Well, there you go.

A: Perfection in travel is difficult.

B: There’s travel perfection?

A: Sure. Visit every country.

B: Yeah, go for that!

A: I’m rich, not Gates rich.

B: True.

A: It’s a hassle. Tickets. Hotels.

B: Your mind’s made up.

A: Yes.

B: Suicide it is.

A: Suicide it is.

B: What’s your plan?

11.

A: You mean the method?

B: Yes.

A: I’m not sure. Look.

(A opens the backpack and takes out some rope, a bottle of pills and a knife)

B: No imagination.

A: What about the subway?

B: Also trite.

A: Any creative ideas?

B: A pit of poisonous snakes.

A: Sounds painful.

B: Very poisonous snakes. Quick death.

A: Where would I find them?

B: I know someone. A herpetologist.

A: A herpe-what?

B: Herpetologist. Person who studies snakes.

12.

A: Really?

B: Works at a university.

A: You’re going to help me?

B: Of course.

A: But, you’re my doctor.

B: And your friend.

A: You’re supposed to dissuade me.

B: It’s your wish. When? Tomorrow?

A: No.

B: The sooner the better.

A: No, I’m only joking.

B: Joking?

A: (laughs) Yeah. A prank.

B: A prank.

A: With a new twist.

13.

B: What’s that?

A: Patient gives doctor bad news.

B: Unique.

A: Are you mad?

B: Am I mad?

A: Yeah, mad, angry, pissed.

B: Nah, but here’s a suggestion.

A: Go see a psychiatrist?

B: No. Follow through with it.

A: I told you. A joke.

B: It’ll be quicker.

A: What are you talking about?

B: I saw your bloodwork results.

A: Ah, my cholesterol kinda high?

B: You have a rare disease.

14.

A: You’re kidding, right?

B: A blood disease.

A: This is a revenge prank.

B: There’s a treatment.

A: I’m sorry I pranked you.

B: Chance of survival is 30%.

A: You’re serious aren’t you?

B: What’s your decision? Treatment? Suicide?

A: Shit.

(Lights down)

THE END

“A Plan”

“A Plan” is the second of the eight plays that made up “A Night of Short Plays.” All of the plays are loosely connected by a common theme: the random nature of life.

How the production of these plays came to be. In April of 2018 I followed up on an introduction made to me in the fall of 2017 at a co-working business with a small outdoor performance space. We agreed on terms and dates and the ball was rolling. The plays would be performed in Spanish using local actors. I found my translator that day; how fortunate that she worked part-time at the business. At the auditions I met a local producer/director who volunteered to recruit directors and actors for me. She has since become one of my best friends and we have planned a couple more events.

On two nights in late June we filled the space (about 50 people each night); I realized then that I could get anything I wrote produced in Oaxaca and it would be accepted and appreciated, given that the work was of good quality. Such a great feeling!!!

Here is the poster for the event.

poster

Synopsis for “A Plan”: two people discuss the merits of having a life plan.

CHARACTERS

A

B

TIME: The Present

PLACE: Anywhere

*Author strongly recommends casting actors other than two white men.

A: And another thing.

B: The doctor is in.

A: I’m already bored.

B: It’s only been a month.

A: Feels like a millennium.

B: Whatya been doin’?

A: Not much. Coming here.

B: Join any clubs or anything?

A: Nah, all snobs and bores.

B: Staying active? Bowling? Golf?

A: With my sciatica?

B: Tell me your day.

A: Eat, watch TV, come here.

B: That’s it?

A: Pretty much.

B: You’re doin’ it all wrong.

A: Says the know-it-all.

B: I know enough.

A: Really?

2.

B: Really.

A: Whadya know?

B: You had no plan.

A: I had, have a plan.

B: I’m all ears.

A: It’s basic. (pause) Simple.

B: They’re always the best.

A: You won’t like it.

B: Why?

A: Because I know you.

B: Try me.

A: Ok. Living life my way.

B: Hmmm. Well…you know…

A: You don’t like it?

B: That’s not a plan.

A: Knew you wouldn’t like it.

B: Sounds like a marketing slogan.

A: For what?

B: Someone without a plan.

A: You have a plan?

B: I’m a planner.

A: You never plan.

B: I plan. Silently.

A: Tell me the last one.

B: My trip to—

A: Bali. Thirty years ago.

3.

B: It was Rio.

A: Either way, you never went.

B: But, I planned it.

A: You got a plan now?

B: You should hear it.

A: A good one?

B: Better than good. Stupendous!

A: Tell me.

B: Can’t. (pause) Not finished.

A: I see. Classified. Top Secret.

B: Ok, I’ll tell you.

A: This oughta be good.

B: When it’s finished.

A: You got no plan.

B: Let’s talk about your plan.

A: I’ve decided, no plan.

B: Got any hobbies?

A: You bet. Poker.

B: Bad choice.

A: Why?

B: You suck at it.

A: I’m improving.

B: Not according to Billy.

A: Big mouth.

B: You always talk about Europe.

A: Yeah, especially Italy.

4.

B: So, go.

A: Takes money.

B: You’re loaded.

A: Not like you think.

B: Oh. Bad investments?

A: I’m paying for aSssisted living.

B: Not you!

A: My parents.

B: They in a good place?

A: The best.

B: Using your money?

A: Mostly.

B: They still healthy?

A: Too healthy to die.

B: That could change. Life’s fragile.

5.

A: We’ll live forever!

B: Here today, gone tomorrow.

A: Not me.

B: So, Europe’s out. See the USA.

A: In my Chevrolet.

B: Go for it!

A: I need a companion.

B: Try eHarmony. It’s the best.

A: You tried it?

B: Lots of times.

A: But, you’re alone.

B: I’m picky.

A: Or they are.

B: You’ve never been picky.

A: And I’m still alone.

B: What a pair we are.

A: You really have a plan?

B: Of course…not.

A: Didn’t think so.

B: Plans are overrated.

A: Absolutely. Only losers plan.

6.

B: We fly…

A AND B: By the seat of our pants.

(A and B clink beer bottles and drink)

B: You’ll think of something.

A: If I want to.

B: You’re smart.

A: Einstein smart.

B: Well…

A: Don’t need to be Einstein.

B: A plan will appear.

A: When it’s time.

B: That’s how it works.

A: You can’t force these things.

B: No, you can’t.

A: That’s not how life works.

B: Amen.

7.

A: I gotta go.

(A stands)

B: Go where?

A: I’m not sure.

B: Then stay. Have another.

A: I could.

B: Of course. You’re retired.

A: I am.

(A sits. B exits and returns with 2 drinks)

B: That’s the beauty of it.

A: Do what I want.

B: When you want.

A: Eat when I’m hungry.

B: Drink when you’re thirsty.

A: Hardly need a clock.

B: The sun is your clock.

A: I’m gonna eat.

B: You love the burgers here.

A: Chinese, maybe.

B: Ok, Chinese it is.

A: Maybe I’ll just walk around.

B: Oh, I envy your life.

A: You’ll be there soon.

B: Yes, I will.

A: With or without a plan.

B: With or without. Can’t wait.

A: Italian sounds good.

B: Sure. Thinking about Italy, right?

8.

A: Pizza or pasta.

B: Your decision of the day.

(A stands and tries to give B some money, but B waves it away)

A: See you tomorrow?

B: That’s the plan.

A: Maybe I’ll check out eHarmony.

B: I knew you would.

A: To plans.

B: Or not.

(THEY clink bottles and drink. A exits. Five to ten seconds after he leaves, car tires SCREECH and a THUD. B reacts. Lights down)

THE END