Michael Brandonisio

- a dark comedy in one-act -

Characters: LEE: mid-30s, fair-haired, of medium height and build
                      ANTON: mid-30s, dark-haired, of medium height and build

Setting: A plain room in an undisclosed location.

Upstage right, a single window facing out toward the audience. The window has a shade drawn across it, letting in a hint of daylight. Near the window, a wardrobe closet. Near the wardrobe closet, a cot with pillow and bedspread.

Halfway downstage right, a mid-sized table with four chairs and a standing lamp with lampshade. The lamp is lit, providing the illusion that it is lighting the entire stage.

A little farther downstage right, an old-style analogue television set, with a rabbit ears antenna, facing out towards the audience.

Downstage left, a door.

Downstage center sits LEE in a rocking chair. A side table to his right is positioned alongside him with objects on it: a thick black hardcover book, two crystal clear drinking glasses – one half-full, the other empty - and near the two drinking glasses, a small plastic Rx pill bottle.

           (LEE sits in rocking chair, rocking gently back and forth. He wears a long sleeve white button down shirt with the top button fastened. Gray pants, black shoes. LEE stares into the space in front of him as he rocks back and forth in the rocking chair.)

           (LEE looks down at the side table next to him. He stops rocking in the chair. LEE looks away from the side table and stares ahead into the space in front of him. He again starts gently rocking in chair and stares ahead into space. He again gazes at the side table. Stops rocking. Picks up the thick black hardcover book from the side table. Turns the pages at random.)

           (There is a knock at the door. Pause.)

           (LEE looks at the door. Pause.)

           (From downstage left, ANTON opens the door and enters the room.)

ANTON: How’ve you been, Lee?

           (ANTON closes door. He’s dressed in a dark blazer, black pants, a long sleeve gray button down shirt with top button fastened, and brown shoes. ANTON takes a few steps towards LEE. LEE puts the black hardcover book back down on the side table.)

LEE: I heard you knock, but did you hear me say come in?

ANTON: I thought I did. May I sit down?

LEE: If you so desire.

ANTON: Yes, I desire. Thank you.

           (ANTON crosses stage from left to right, going to the mid-sized table halfway downstage right, chooses one of four chairs by the table and drags it over next to the right hand side of the side table where LEE has been sitting in rocking chair on the left hand side of it.)

           (ANTON remains standing. He takes off his dark blazer and drapes it over his chair.)

LEE: You know, Anton, desire is a funny thing.

ANTON: How so?

LEE: You know, I said just what you just heard.

ANTON: Of course I did, Lee, of course I did.

           (ANTON chuckles. LEE smiles thinly.)

LEE: Well, there you go. Nothing less, nothing more.

ANTON: How’ve you been, Lee?

LEE: Never felt better. And you?

ANTON: Not so bad and not so good. So, I would say, I’ve been so-so.

LEE: No problem. It all works out in the end. It’s the journey that counts.

           (ANTON looks at the side table next to LEE with the various objects on it.)

ANTON: Have you been reading?

LEE: In a way, I suppose. But I don’t read in the traditional sense. I gave that up.

ANTON: So, what do you do instead?

LEE: I gaze.

ANTON: You mean you gaze at the page without actually reading the words?

LEE: Yes. I gaze and absorb.

ANTON: There must be a reason for you to gaze and absorb while not reading.

LEE: There is.

           (ANTON waits for LEE to say something more, but LEE keeps mum.)

ANTON: Will you tell me why you gaze and absorb while not reading?

LEE: I just might if you stopped asking me such trivial questions all the time. Sit down.

ANTON: I will. I’m sorry if I upset you.

LEE: You don’t upset me. You simply annoy me.

ANTON: I’m sorry, Lee. Do you want me to go?

LEE: No. Stay. I just don’t want to hear anything more about your pitiful sorrow.

           (ANTON. irked, turns away from LEE.)

           (LEE stays tranquil. ANTON turns and faces LEE.)

ANTON: (calm, yet edgy): I’ll tell you this, Lee. My sorrow is my suffering. My sorrow and my suffering, they are not pitiful. My sorrow and my suffering are grandiose. Painful as they are, they are big as the world. That’s how grandiose my sorrow and suffering is. But it doesn’t mean that I, who loves you like a brother, don’t still care about you, Lee. I do, wholeheartedly. I do.

LEE: Yes, no doubt. That’s what it means. Even though we’re not married, winner takes all.

ANTON (bright and cheery): That’s right. I don’t do things indifferently.

LEE: Hmmm, I know. Every cloud has a silver lining. Would you like a glass of water?

ANTON (ANTON points at the glass of water half-full on the side table): That one?

LEE: Yes, that one.

ANTON: I would prefer a fresh glass of water. Thank you.

LEE: But there’s nothing wrong with (pointing to the glass half-full) that particular glass of water. I haven’t put it to my lips. It’s not contaminated. I wouldn’t poison you, Anton. You’re my last link to a world gone all coo-coo bird.

ANTON: Yes, it’s true, Lee. I’m the only one left in the world who appreciates you. Did you take your meds today?

LEE: I did, Anton. I did.

ANTON: No lie?

LEE: Lee doesn’t lie. Why don’t you sit down?

ANTON: But the water, as you yourself just said, hasn’t been touched. You couldn’t have possibly taken the meds. No way.

LEE: Don’t be such a fusspot, Anton. I don’t need to drink water to take them.

ANTON: Of course, you do. Otherwise, you’d choke to death.

LEE: No, I wouldn’t. I do it all the time. I’m an expert. I just took a couple before you arrived. Would you like to try some with water?

ANTON: No. I’m fine, Lee. I’m fine.

LEE: Still, we shouldn’t let this water go to waste.

ANTON: You can drink it. I won’t stop you.

LEE: I’m not in the least bit thirsty, but you look like you might be. Sit down.

           (LEE picks up the half-full glass of water and offers it to ANTON. ANTON takes it and looks at it closely. Inspecting it.)

ANTON: Hmmm, it looks clean.

LEE: That’s because it is clean. Good, clean, fresh water. Go ahead, Anton. Down the hatch. People need water to survive. Without water there is no life. Drink up. It’s good for you.

           (ANTON puts the half-full glass of water under his nose. Sniffs it.)

ANTON: It smells clean.

LEE: Yes, it has a nice fresh smell to it.

ANTON: Yes, like beautiful freshly cut flowers. It makes you want to drink it.

           (ANTON brings the half-full glass to his lips.)

LEE (suddenly agitated): No, Anton, don’t! It could be poisoned.

ANTON (quickly moving the half-full glass away from his lips): But we both agreed that the water is not the least bit contaminated. You said so yourself.

           (LEE stands up from the rocking chair.)

LEE: I said poisoned, not contaminated. There’s a difference between poisoned and contaminated. Would you like me to define them for you?

ANTON (frowns, thinking that LEE is playing with him): No, Lee, I’m fine. I’m fine.

LEE: Anyway, we can’t believe everything we hear, so I’ve heard. One never truly knows. That’s what the old town crier used to say to me. (Imitates old town crier’s voice.) “Son, in life, one never truly knows.” (Returns to his normal voice.) He never did. Sit down, Anton. Relax.

           (ANTON goes to the rocking chair, sits, places the half-full glass of water down on the side table, and then looks at LEE.)

LEE: I’ll be right back.

           (LEE picks up the empty drinking glass from the side table, crosses to the door, downstage left, opens it and walks out, closing the door behind him.)

           (ANTON, who has watched LEE exit, looks away from the door, turns face forward, stares into space in front of him and begins rocking gently in the rocking chair. Suddenly he glances at the Rx pill bottle on the side table. He stops rocking. He picks up the Rx bottle. Looks at it closely. Twists off the cap. Looks into it.)

ANTON: Let’s see.

           (ANTON pours out a handful of pills. Thinks a moment. Comes to a decision.)

ANTON: Well, better late than never.

           (Anton pops the pills into his mouth. Chews and swallows them down without drinking any water.)

ANTON: Hmmm. Not bad. Tastes like candy.

           (ANTON pops more pills into his mouth. Chews and swallows them down. Puts the Rx pill bottle back down on the side table. Sits quietly in the rocking chair, staring into space in front of him. He seems to expect something to happen. But nothing happens. He starts rocking in the chair again. Back and forth. Faster and faster.)

           (ANTON gradually slows down his rocking until the rocking chair comes to a full stop. He stays perfectly still for some time, gazing straight ahead. Pause.)

           (ANTON shuts his eyes. After a while, his head slumps to one side. Silence ensues. During the silence, the light on the standing lamp goes out and LIGHTS on stage begin to dim.)

           (The analogue television set, downstage right, with rabbit ears antenna, suddenly powers up by itself. A black and white image of an American flag, blowing in the wind, is being transmitted on the television screen, with LEE’S face superimposed over the flag.)

           (LIGHTS continue to dim.)

LEE (on TV): And so it goes, old friend. And so it goes, and it goes, and it goes. Where it stops, no one knows. No one knows…ever…never…no one…ever…knows…

           (Total darkness now on stage except for a SPOTLIGHT on the glass of water half-full on the side table and LEE’S face on television screen, expressionless, gazing out at the audience.)

           (Hold for some time.)

           (Abruptly the television screen goes completely dark. SPOTLIGHT on the half-full glass of water on the side table.)

           (Hold for some time.)

           (SPOTLIGHT dims on the half-full glass of water until it is no longer visible.)

           (Hold for some time on complete darkness.)


Michael Brandonisio is a creative writer, visual artist and photographer.
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