Arthur Meiselman

This is not a play about the politics of social issues. It is a portrait of a relationship. Except for the very end, this entire two-character work takes place over the telephone.

"Where we have been brings us to where we are.
If we cannot feel, if we cannot touch, say Hello and then Goodbye!"
–Selena Zachai
(from The City Below)


The time... the 1980's
The place... New York City

Scene 1.

(It's 2am. The lights fade in to reveal the right half of the stage, Danny's studio apartment. Piles of clothes, books, and other items outline the walls of the room. A table and chairs are in the center, and a small couch is at the right. Danny  is standing, frozen, on top of the table. He's about 28 years old, thin, with sharply defined features. His  skin is  ruddy and blemished. He's dressed in a basketball jersey and jogging pants, and he's barefoot. After a moment, he begins to snap his  fingers.)

Danny:   A-one... a-two... a-three and a-four!

(On his  fourth count there is  a burst of heavy-metal rock music. Danny prances around the table playing an imaginary guitar, and singing at the top of his  voice. He struts and boogies and works up a sweat. He plays his  imaginary guitar above his  head, behind his  back, and even between his  legs in a series of graphic gestures that provokes a fit of laughter. Suddenly, he sits down hard on the table, exhausted. Then he lies back, spread-eagled. The music continues. He stretches over the edge of table, reaches under it, pulls out a half-empty bottle of wine, takes a long drink. He rolls over to the other side, bridges his  body to the back of the couch and pulls up a telephone set. He punches in a number. We can barely hear the call on the set's speaker. It rings a number of times while he engineers another drink from the bottle.)

Danny:   Oh... shit!

(He disconnects the call and punches in another one. After a few rings, the call is  connected to an answering machine. The music is  so loud that he can't hear what's happening. He stretches further to try to hear the message, and falls off the table. He tries to stand up, but he's too unsteady to make it. So he crawls along the floor to the cd player and turns the volume down. Just at that point, we hear a loud tone from the speakerphone.)

Danny:   (yelling) FORGET IT! (He crawls back to the phone set and punches in another number. After a few rings, a voice answers.)

Danny:   Is it me or is it memorex?

Voice:   Who is ... Danny? Is  that you?

Danny:   Hi Mark... whatchya doin'?

Voice:   What's the matter?

Danny:   Nothing's the matter... I just wanted to talk to you.

Voice:   Danny... it's 2 o'clock in the morning.

Danny:   So what? We used to do a lot of things at 2 o'clock in the morning.

(There is  an awkward silence.)

Voice:   Danny, you can't keep doing this ... calling people in the middle of the night.

Danny:   Mark... how come you don't call me any more?

Voice:   We just talked this  morning.

Danny:   But I called you.

Voice:   We had a long talk a couple of days ago.

Danny:   And I called you.

Voice:   Danny...  (takes a deep breath) I've got to get up in the morning. I've got a big day...

Danny:   So go in a little tired, you'll look sexy  (He giggles to himself.)  Don't you ever want to call me again, Mark?

Voice:  I don't want to talk about it now. (Danny slams the phone down.)

Danny:   Go fuck yourself!... which you probably do!

(He punches in another call. After a few rings a Voice announces the time. He punches in another call. An answering machine picks up. He disconnects. He struggles to his  feet, slaps his  face in an attempt to shake the grogginess, then takes a series of deep breaths. He reaches for the wine bottle, swigs a drink, punches in another number on the phone. Again, an answering machine pick sup. Suddenly, the message is interrupted by a loud Voice)

Voice:  Who's  calling?

Danny:   Hi... Jeff.

Voice:   Who?

Danny:   No it's  me, Danny.

Voice:   What? Danny? What's the matter, are you all right?

Danny:  I'm fine, great.

Voice:   Then what's the matter?

Danny:  I just thought I’d say hello.

Voice:   You what? Do you know what time it is?

(Another voice is  heard !n the background. There is  a muffled argument and a lot of rustling sounds coming through the speaker at the phone set. Then a woman's Voice comes through.)

Voice:   Danny? Is  that you?

Danny:   Hi Amy,  how's everything?

Voice:   Are you all right?

Danny:  I'm fine... I'm all right, how's everything with you?

Voice:   Danny, it's so late. You woke us up.

Danny:  I just wanted to talk to you... you are my dearest, dearest friends, right?

Voice:   That's right... but it's not a good time to talk. Why don't you call me some time tomorrow and we'll have a good talk. Okay? Goodnight, Danny.

(He scrambles to the couch and grabs the cordless handset from the phone. The speaker is no longer heard.)

Danny:   Wait... Amy, don't hang up. Can't we just talk a little bit now? I mean... yes, I know, but it's not that late, I just want to ask you... no, there's nothing wrong, I mean... can I come over and see you... just for a little while? All right, so... can you come over here. I know, but... wait a minute... Amy?... listen, I wanted ask you something... listen... don't you ever want to see me again, I mean, I know what Jeff says, but are you afraid to see me, I mean to touch me... to... shake my hand, okay, okay. All right good night!  (He's about to hang up.) Amy? Wait! Amy?

(He leans against the couch and slams the phone on to the base. His face screws up tight as he bites his  lower lip hard. Then he shakes his head from side to side as if answering a question that keeps repeating in his  head. Finally, he grabs the cordless phone again and punches in a number.)

Danny:   (His  voice is  quiet and hesitant.) Hi. Yeah... I'm sorry, I know... did you get my card?... my note, my card... oh, yeah, I forgot, I thought I sent another one... no, I don’t!... because I can't get you in the daytime...  (anger begins to rise in his face) so what difference does that make, you're my brother... so what?... how come whenever I call you... no, I don't want anything... look, I didn't call to... DON’T HANG UP!

(He takes the phone off his  ear and looks at it.)

Danny:   Please.

(He sets the phone down on the base, walks over to the cd player, and turns the music up slightly. He seems to have cleared his head but his energy has dropped. He begins to turn slowly in dance-like circles. It's obvious that he's trying not to let himself go into tears. He moves to the phone and punches in a number. After a few rings, a voice announces the weather. He stops turning, cancels the call, and punches in a another number.)

Voice:   Crisis hotline...

Danny:   Hello...

Voice:   Hi... How are you doing, tonight?

Danny:   The same as last night... and tomorrow night.

Voice:   How are you feeling?

Danny:   How are you feeling?

Voice:   Oh I feel good.... we finally got some good weather today... Listen, I take it you're there alone. Do you need any help? Is there some one I can call for you?

(Danny bursts out laughing and disconnects the call. He punches in another call, a voice announces the time. He grabs the wine bottle and takes a long drink, punches in another call.)

Voice:   Hello... what is it?

Danny:   Hi Steve... it's Danny.

(There Is silence on the other end. Then the voice disconnects. He hovers over the phone, urgently punching in numbers.)

Voice:   Hello?

Danny:   Hello...

Voice:   Hello? Who is  this ?

Danny:  It's me.

Voice:   Danny? Is that you?

Danny:  It's me!

Voice:   Oh I'm glad you called, I couldn't sleep,

Danny:  I'm drunk!

Voice:   You shouldn't drink, you're not supposed to drink with all that medication. Such a rotten day  today, I had to stay in bed. And then you know what, I saw on the news that they're going to test that new drug... they're going to start the trials in a couple of weeks. And I applied for it, so maybe I'll get selected, maybe... isn't that great?

(Danny disconnects the call. He takes another long drink, then quickly punches in a number. A voice announces the time. He starts prancing to the music in an effort to energize himself. He punches in another number)

Voice:   911 - Police!

Danny:   Hi, would you tell me something. Do you have to be a citizen to make a citizen’s arrest?

Voice:   What? Hey, listen buddy...

Danny:  I'm sorry, I'm sorry... no offense... yet!  (Giggles to himself, cancels the call, punches in another number.)

Voice:   This is information, what city please?

Danny:   What'ya got available?  (Giggles louder, cancels the call, punches in another)

Voice:  Crisis  hotline!

Danny:   Hi... it's me again!

Voice:   I was hoping you'd call back

Danny:   Can I ask you something?

Voice:   Sure.

Danny:   Do you have AIDS?

Voice:   No... but there are people on the staff who...

Danny:   I do!

Voice:   Oh... and what do you think...

Danny:   You know what?

Voice:   What?

Danny:   It's okay!

(He laughs to himself and disconnects the call. He grabs the cordless handset and punches in a number.)

Danny:   Hi... Mark.

(There is  a long silence with no answer on the other end. Danny cancels the call and puts the handset back on the base. He finishes the last of the wine. Suddenly, his  phone rings. He's startled! After a few rings, he taps the answer button.)

Voice:   Danny?... Why did you hang up on me? That was very rude. Are you listening to me? Danny?

(Danny pauses for a moment, then disconnects the call. He quickly punches in some numbers. A voice announces the time. He punches in another call.)

Voice:   Good evening, I'm sorry, good morning, this is your AT&T international operator. How may I help you?

Danny:   (dances around the room) Operator... I’d like to talk to New Delhi information.

Voice:   Excuse me sir?

Danny:   I’d like you to connect me to information in New Delhi India.

Voice:   Well if you're trying to find a specific number, sir, I can get that for you.

Danny:   (moves closer to the phone) No, I’d like to talk to New Delhi myself.

Voice:   I'm sorry sir but we have to handle it for you.

Danny:   How come?

Voice:   That's the way we're set up.

Danny:   I just wanted to ask them a question.

Voice:   I can do that for you sir.

Danny:   You mean with all this  modern technology and I can't talk to India all by my itzy bitzy self?

Voice:   (laughing) I'm afraid we're not quite there yet.

Danny:   Okay... then I'll ask you! Seen any good movies lately?

Voice:   Excuse me?

Danny:   Who do you think is  going to win the Oscar this  year?

Voice:   I'm sorry sir... If you want to place a call or look for a number, I’d be glad to...

Danny:   It's okay. I just wanted to talk to... It's okay. 

(He cancels the call)

It's okay.

(His  body begins to shake, his  face tightens, and for the first time, tears flow. He locks his  hands on top of his  head.)

It's okay, it's okay! It's okay!

(He sinks to the floor as the lights fade.) 

Complete Play Available at Aviarpress




Volume 17 Issue 4

September 2016

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