I just finished a mini-workshop of my latest play, Bleeding Hearts, a full-length play about four frustrated liberals who plot to kill a Rush Limbaugh-like demagogue (the reading went well!). I thought folks might be interested in reading the first two scenes.
Warning: it’s a very black comedy! (And yes, I realize we’re all very sick of politics right now…)
A Comedy by Brent Hartinger
CAST OF CHARACTERS
(3M/3F with doubling)
MARK: male, late twenties, a Sensitive New Age Guy, earnest with a tendency toward hothead.
SIOBHAN: female, late twenties, Flower Child 2.0, a little ditsy with a daisy in her hair.
ROSA: female, late twenties, a blunt African American earth-mother-of-sorts with a keen bullshit detector.
GIDEON: male, late twenties, a geeky gay guy, an observer of life, frequently the witty sidekick.
MRS. RYAN: female, forties, no-nonsense salt of the earth type with a permanent scowl and thick boots.
BEN: male, late twenties, cocky and boorish.
BURKE BRADLEY: male, forties, a right-wing radio talk show host, a cross between Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Doubled by the actor who plays Ben.
SETTING: (It is afternoon at a rustic lake-side cabin. Essential set elements include a screen door, a radio, a kitchen area, and a mounted horned animal head on the wall near the front door. That door, upstage, looks out onto a front porch. Other doors lead to the various bedrooms.)
AT RISE: (Mrs. Ryan leads Mark, Siobhan, and Rosa inside, each of them
loaded with backpacks and duffel bagsand groceries in cloth bags, which
they set on the floor and on the kitchen counters. As they assess the cabin, Mrs. Ryan assesses them: she clearly disapproves of what she sees.)
MRS. RYAN: And here you go.
SIOBHAN (exuberant): Ohhh, I love it up here! It’s like you can actually feel the trees growing up all around you! Can’t you just feel it? (to Mrs. Ryan) What’s it like to live here all year round? Does it ever stop being magical?
(Mrs. Ryan just stares.)
MRS. RYAN (to the others): There’s no maid service, but we’ll replace the sheets and towels Friday morning. Just leave the old ones in the bin on the porch.
ROSA: We’ve actually stayed here before. Lots of times.
MRS. RYAN: Is that right? You’d think I’d remember you.
ROSA: Why is that?
MRS. RYAN: Anyway, so you know all this.
(Gideon enters, carrying more bags.)
GIDEON: You know, there’s a real breeze off that lake. (to Mrs. Ryan) You ever consider installing wind turbines? You could power this whole resort, I bet.
(Mrs. Ryan just stares at him too.)
MRS. RYAN (to the others): There’s firewood out back for the fireplaces, and we set wood in the firepits on the beach every afternoon.
MARK:Yes, we remember.
MRS. RYAN: That’s right, you’ve stayed here before.
(Mrs. Ryan turns for the door, but stops.)
MRS. RYAN: So. You’ll be staying the full two weeks?
ROSA: Why wouldn’t we be?
MRS. RYAN: Okay, then. I’ll let you get unpacked.
(But as she exits, Siobhan notices that she’s about to step on a bug.)
SIOBHAN: Careful! Don’t step on the beetle.
(Siobhan gently shoos it outside.)
SIOBHAN: There we go. Careful, little guy.
(Mrs. Ryan stares one more time.)
MRS. RYAN (to the group): There are coffee filters in the cupboard.
(With that, shaking her head, Mrs. Ryan exits.)
MARK (re: Mrs. Ryan): What’s with the attitude?
ROSA: You really have to ask?
SIOBHAN: She wasn’t that bad. I like her boots.
ROSA: She treated us like we’re freaks. But we’re not freaks.
(Siobhan begins digging through her bag. She finds what she’s looking for.)
SIOBHAN: Thank God! I thought I forgot my menstrual sea sponge. And you remembered the hemp dental floss!
MARK: Rosa’s right. She was totally rude to us. Just based on this image of who she thinks we are.
GIDEON: If we’re going to come out here on vacation, we have to deal with the people who actually own this land.
ROSA: “The people who actually own this land”?
GIDEON: Wait. You’re right. The people who own this land now.
ROSA: Because they stole it from the people who were here before.
MARK: Or at least their ancestors did.
ROSA: They’re all still profiting from it.
SIOBHAN (unpacking): Are you saying we shouldn’t have stopped at that fruit stand?
ROSA: Well, no. That was better than a corporate-owned supermarket.
MARK: Besides, the people who live here now are victims too. They’re just trying to make a living.
ROSA: But at what point does it become their fault? How much squawking about native rights and environmental regulation do these yokels have to do before they shoulder some of the responsibility?
MARK: Right. It’s patronizing to say that the oppressed can’t also be oppressors.
ROSA: Keeping in mind that it’s all ultimately about power, and when power’s not apportioned equally –
MARK: — then blame can’t be distributed equally either. Exactly.
GIDEON: Can I just say? Being a liberal is exhausting.
MARK: To hell with all of ‘em! For the next two weeks, it’s just us. The rest of the world doesn’t even exist. No Fox News, no mainstream media that’s almost as bad.
SIOBHAN: Except for Rachel Maddow!
MARK: For the next two weeks, I don’t want to hear about a single Tweet from Sarah fucking Palin.
(From the window, Rosa spots something outside.)
ROSA: Speak of the Devil.
MARK: Sarah Palin?
ROSA: Worse. It’s Ben.
GIDEON: Wait. What?
MARK: Who invited him? I thought we all agreed we didn’t want him coming up here with us ever again.
ROSA: We did!
GIDEON: Someone must’ve cc-ed him by mistake.
MARK: How did the four of us ever end up being friends with him anyway?
ROSA: It was college. You do things you regret.
(Ben enters, carrying his luggage.)
BEN: Hey, guys! What’s up?
MARK (unenthusiastically): Ben.
GIDEON (unenthusiastically): Ben.
ROSA (unenthusiastically): Ben.
SIOBHAN (enthusiastically, as if to compensate for the others): Ben!
BEN (to Mark): So how’s life, man?
MARK: Good. Life is good.
BEN (re: Mark and Siobhan): I keep expecting to hear that you guys are getting married!
MARKL Uh … well …
BEN (with a smirk): Oh, that’s right. You’re not getting married until everyone can get married.
GIDEON: What’s so crazy about that?
GIDEON: What’s so crazy about Mark and Siobhan not getting married until everyone can get married?
BEN: Nothing at all! Hey, Gideon, if you wanted to marry a goat, who am I to judge?
(Everyone falls silent. Ben looks out the window.)
BEN: Who’s driving the go-cart?
MARK: It’s an electric car. Siobhan and me.
BEN: Seriously? I’ve never seen one up close.
MARK: Well, now you have.
BEN: Gotta do your part on that whole global warming thing, right?
MARK: Climate change. Yeah.
BEN: You guys still believe, huh? Even after all the new evidence?
MARK: There hasn’t been any new evidence, at least not for your side.
SIOBHAN (brightly): Hey, we should make lunch! I brought some broccoli that’s so organic they don’t even let the farmers who grow it wear cologne.
BEN(to Mark): I know, I know. There’s a “scientific consensus.” That’s what you guys think, right?
MARK: It’s not what we “think.” It’s what there is.
BEN: Right. Just like there was a scientific consensus back in the 70s that we’re about to enter another Ice Age?
MARK: There was never a scientific consensus that we were entering another Ice Age! That’s a complete lie!
SIOBHAN: And I have a dozen eggs taken only from hens who’ve decided they’re not quite ready to become mothers.
BEN (ignoring Siobhan): If you guys are so sure of yourselves, why are you so scared of the debate? Let’s have it out!
MARK: Because there isn’t a debate! The only “debate” that exists is in the minds of people who have no idea what they’re talking about!
SIOBHAN: Seriously. How about some lunch?
BEN: Teach the controversy — that’s what I always say. What is it with you liberals — everything always has to be so black-and-white!
(END OF SCENE 1)
SETTING: (It’s the cabin by the lake, later that night after dinner.)
AT RISE: (The five friends have gathered on the front porch. Through an open window, we hear the murmur of voices, but every now and then, Ben’s voice comes through loud and clear.)
BEN (O.S.) (from the porch): This country absolutely hates rich people. I just don’t understand why we have to punish people for being successful!
(Mark bursts into the cabin, totally exasperated. Outside, the voices fall back to a murmur.)
MARK: Kill me now!
(He paces around the room a bit, breathing deeply, trying to calm himself down. Just when he might finally be ready to face Ben again, Mark hears his voice again.)
BEN (O.S.) (from the porch): Racism is mostly dead in America. The real racists these days are black people.
(Suddenly, Rosa emerges from out of the porch, similarly furious.)
ROSA: Kill me now!
MARK: I know!
ROSA: I’ve so had it with him! We’ve been listening to his right-wing bullshit ever since college.
MARK: The whole point of this vacation was to get away from assholes like him!
ROSA: Why is he even here? He knows we all disagree with him! I think he just says all those things to piss us off.
BEN (O.S.) (from the porch): In Europe they throw Christians into prison just for talking about gay people in church.
(Gideon bursts into the cabin, horrified.)
GIDEON: Kill me now!
MARK: I know!
ROSA: He didn’t used to be this bad. I can deal with people who have different opinions. But how do you deal with someone who has a completely different set of facts?
MARK: It’s the whole Republican Party. They’ve gone completely Lord of the Flies.
ROSA: Even the last election didn’t stop them. Every time it seems like they’re finally dead and gone, they always pop back up, as strong as ever, like –
ROSA: I was going to say herpes, but yeah.
GIDEON: But what do we do about Ben?
ROSA: What do liberals always do? We sit here and take it. Or we’ll calmly and patiently work out some grand compromise, and our side will live up to our part of the bargain — and he’ll be the exact same asshole he always is!
MARK: It’s true. Republicans always win because they’re willing to blow everything up if they don’t get their way.
ROSA: And we liberals always put up with it. We never fight back. We have to be “adult” about everything, the mature ones. We never fight fire with fire.
BEN (O.S.): Sarah Palin proved once and for all that all feminists are complete hypocrites.
(Siobhan enters the cabin, appalled. But before she can anything, the others respond:)
MARK, ROSA, AND SIOBHAN: We know!
GIDEON: He’s an absolute idiot! How can any one person be so completely wrong about everything?
ROSA: What are you talking about? Didn’t you hear him say earlier that he’s willing to let you marry a goat?
MARK: Hold on. If we’re all in here, who’s out there with Ben?
(The door opens again. Ben steps inside.)
BEN: Hey, what’s everyone doing in here?
SIOBHAN: I was going to wash the dishes.
MARK, GIDEON, AND ROSA (simultaneously): I’ll dry!
(They start to leave, but Ben stops them.)
BEN: Look, I’m just trying to cut through all the bullshit. Sometimes things just aren’t that complicated.
(No one responds.)
BEN: What did I say?
ROSA: You sound exactly like that talk radio asshole, Burke Bradley.
BEN: Burke Bradley’s not an asshole. I listen to him sometimes. He’s not what you think. Sometimes he says what needs to be said.
ROSA: That women who use birth control are sluts?
SIOBHAN (changing the subject): Oh, we forgot dessert! I made muffins. I’m using a new brand of honey that’s given voluntarily by the bees.
BEN (to Rosa): Burke Bradley’s just saying what a lot of people are thinking. Wouldn’t you rather he say it on the radio where people like you can respond to it?
ROSA: That health care is death panels? That Obama sympathizes with terrorists? No, I actually think those are opinions this country can live without.
BEN: See, it’s exactly that kind of attitude that makes people like Burke Bradley so popular.
ROSA: Yes, it’s my fault that racist, sexist, homophobic idiots like Burke Bradley exist.
SIOBHAN (helplessly): I also have cruelty-free caramel corn. Most people have no idea how much cruelty there is in caramel corn.
(In the sullen silence that follows, Ben crosses to his bag, takes out a gun, sits, and starts to clean it.)
ROSA: Now what are you doing?
BEN: What does it look like? I’m cleaning my gun.
ROSA: Well, would you mind doing that later?
ROSA: It makes me nervous. Especially since I now know you think it’s important to give voice to all those poor, oppressed Neo-Nazis.
(Ben laughs derisively.)
BEN: You guys just always claim to be so tolerant, but you know what? You’re not. Gideon, you’re gay. I accept that — I don’t judge you. Well, I like my gun. But you guys can’t accept that. You have to judge me. And I just think that’s kinda ironic, because I’m not the one going around making this big huge deal about how important it is to be tolerant. Did you ever think about that? That maybe you guys are being pretty hypocrit–
(As he’s cleaning it, Ben’s gun suddenly goes off, hitting him in the head. He slumps over, dead. They all sit in stunned silence. Finally:)
MARK: Okay, what just happened is bad, but at least it finally shut him the fuck up!
(END OF SCENE 2)
Want to read the whole script? Email me for a complete copy.