May 13, 2011

THE THERAPIST, who is a little cold to his patients, but ultimately cares about them


THE COMIC, who is depressed

THE BUSINESSMAN, who thinks about the repercussions of his actions

THE POT HEAD, who is worried about the ethics of his addiction

THE EVERYMAN, who was just laid off and is going through mid-life crisis


NOTE: All characters are gender-neutral; with ad-libs in some places and creative staging (and maybe cross-dressing) all could be played ambiguously. All names included in the script can also be easily changed. For ease of reading and writing, all pronouns are male. The number of actors/actresses used can easily be changed; one actor could play up to half of the “patient” roles. Even the amount of characters could easily be changed; due to the stand-alone quality of the scenes, one could easily be cut.

A therapist walks down a street, passing by THE BUM. THE BUM is dirty, nasty, and gross - his face is hidden underneath rags of ambiguous color he has tied around him. He has multiple pieces of luggage, and he is holding an old coffee cup.
THE BUM, raspily: Sir, some money to feed my kids?
THE THERAPIST keeps walking, ignoring THE BUM. He enters a building, passing by a receptionist. She has her feet on the desk, leaning back, doing her nails, on the phone with a friend. She has a thick Jersey accent, and she is clearly not doing her job.

The waiting room should remain as a part of the play throughout, meaning that the office occupies only part of the stage. In this waiting room, there are multiple characters standing around- some may later be called in, others may never be called in. However, THE POT HEAD enters later, so do not include him in this group.
THE THERAPIST: Morning, Darla.
THE RECEPTIONIST, doing her nails, boredly - to THERAPIST: Mornin’. (back to phone) No, honey, not you - it’s my boss. He just walked in. No, we can still talk. (THE THERAPIST stops, annoyed. Starts putting coat on hook, etc.) Oh, honey, you know how men are. They’re just soo inconsiderate. Oh, that’s too bad. You broke up? Oh. Well, there’s a nice man who comes in here- what? No, there’s nothing wrong with him. Okay, maybe. He’s a little depressed. Not a lot- (taps mail on desk- THE THERAPIST picks it up) - just a little. Well, he tried to - you know, kill himself. No, no he’s fine, really -
She keeps talking as THE THERAPIST goes into his office. His office is sparse, with only a desk, a plant, an armchair and a therapist’s couch. There is a trash can in the corner, into which he drops his mail. He puts his suitcase next to his chair, waits a beat, then heads back to the door, sticking his head out into the waiting room.
THERAPIST: Darla? (softly, so not to disturb those in the waiting room) A patient?
She is still on the phone, but points to a man in the waiting room, snaps her fingers, and points inside to the office. It is the COMIC. He is perpetually slumping, with a monotone similar to Eeyore combined with Steven Wright. He is dressed in all black, and clutches his coat as if someone will steal it.
COMIC: Oh, thank you. (He walks inside.)
THERAPIST: Hello, urmmm...(glances through papers for name, gives up)...You. How’ve you been since your last visit?
COMIC: You didn’t remember my name last time either.
THERAPIST, nervously: Haha, haha, haa...please, have a seat. So, how’s it going?
COMIC: Dismally. My girlfriend left me.
THERAPIST: Aah, that would be...Isabelle?
COMIC: Isabelle! Oh! How that name still rings in my ears!
THERAPIST: If I remember correctly, you said last time that you despised her?
COMIC: Oh, the folly of youth! I loved her!
THERAPIST: Why did you break up?
COMIC: She said I wasn’t funny.
THERAPIST: Wasn’t she a goth?
COMIC: Yeah, but I’m a comedian.
THERAPIST: I see. (Takes notes) Speaking of, how’s work going?
COMIC: Again, dismally. They laugh at me.
THERAPIST: Isn’t that the point of being a comic?
COMIC, ignoring THERAPIST: Oh how they laugh! They mock me, deride me, daily - every time I get on stage, they laugh!
THERAPIST: But you’re a comic. They’re supposed to laugh.
COMIC: But I’m not funny. I’m depressed.
THERAPIST: Why are you a comic?
COMIC: It’s a long story. (Doesn’t wait for the therapist to agree to hear it, just continues) Ever since I was a child...(The THERAPIST, behind him, rolls his eyes, blows out air, and rests his head on his hand) Ever since I was a child, I’ve been sad. I never laughed with the other kids, I never played with them. I was always shunned. I was always alone. So, it made sense that, come applications to college, I should apply to the one no one else was applying to. This proved to be difficult. All of the good accounting schools were taken...
THERAPIST: You wanted to be an accountant?
COMIC: Miserable job for miserable people. Anyway, because all the good accounting schools were taken, I had to take a job at the local bar, as a waiter- you know, wait a year or my entire life. It had a small stage, and every so often a local comic would do some stand-up there. Well, one night a guy missed his spot. He was sick with something. So, the owner asked me to fill in, you know. I told him I wasn’t funny, but he insisted I was. So I got up there and said some stuff. It wasn’t funny. But people laughed at me. So I figured, this job makes me enough money to keep me alive until I die. So I’ve been a comic for all these years.
THERAPIST: Well, that story was...inspirational.
COMIC: No, it wasn’t. Now, I have to go - I have an appointment with my other therapist.
The next patient to be sent in is THE BUSINESSMAN- he is clearly a fat cat on Wall Street. He carries a large briefcase. He should be naturally big-boned; if no such actor is available, do not use a fat suit. He wears a pinstripe suit.
As he is moving into the office, the POT HEAD enters the waiting room. He is dressed badly, though not as badly as THE BUM. He smells, but only to the characters on stage. He may be smoking. The other characters in the waiting room should move away from him, carefully, and indicate that he smells, but gently, as if he was able to see their reactions and they did not want to insult him.
THERAPIST: Hi, excuse me - (shuffling papers) is this your first visit?
THERAPIST: So, tell me what’s the matter.
BUSINESSMAN: Well, I’m a businessman. An executive at a large Wall Street firm, actually. I’m here because of the recession. (The Therapist goes to jump in, acting as if he understands perfectly, but is cut off by THE BUSINESSMAN)
BUSINESSMAN: No, I didn’t get laid off. Neither did my wife, and we kept all our houses. No- it’s not that. I’m not scared that I will be laid off, or that I’ll lose money, or anything like that. Cause see, I’m the guy who fires people- like George Clooney in Up in the Air, but I don’t fly around. They get sent up to my office, I tell them we’re cutting out their division of the company, they leave, and no one ever sees them again. I’m the magician of the company- watch him make hundreds of jobs disappear! (chuckles) You’d think I have it easy. You’d think I have it made. Well, I don’t. Do you know how hard it is to take away people’s jobs, their livelihood, every day? Do you know what it’s like, seeing their eyes suddenly empty, void of anything, then fill again with sadness and distress? You can almost see their families, their homes, in their eyes- do you know? God, it makes me sick. You know, I almost quit the last time my boss told me, “Good job”. God, it makes me sick. I swear to God- Jesus. It makes me sick.
THERAPIST: Yes, yes- sometimes I feel the same way.
BUSINESSMAN, shocked: No, you don’t. You never feel that way. You ever fired someone? You ever take away their livelihood? You ever listen to them say to their sobbing wife, outside your door, “It’s okay honey, we’ll cope”? Ever hear that? No. You don’t fire people. You sit here and listen to the victims of my cruelty- well, it’s not me. I just deliver the news. Shoot the messenger- the messenger, that’s me. God, it makes me sick.
THERAPIST: What would you like to do about it?
BUSINESSMAN, chuckling: I don’t know. You’re the therapist.
THERAPIST: Well, I’d suggest setting up weekly appointments, and putting you on antidepressants, though honestly it just sounds like guilt to me. Nothing I can really do for you. But maybe just talking to someone will help. So, please, continue.
BUSINESSMAN: Well, see, my problem is that I’m the bad guy. All these politicians who are talking about the “Wall Street fat cats”- that’s me. When people talk about big biz and corporations undermining American values- that’s me. I’m the bad guy. And you know what? I kind of agree. I am the bad guy here. I did take huge bonuses. I’m the bad guy.
THERAPIST, with an air of realization: So, self-hate.
BUSINESSMAN: What? No way, definitely not. I don’t hate myself. I’ve got a safe job, a fantastic and beautiful wife, loving kids, a steady home life- I’m positively living the American dream. As a person, I’m not a bad person. I’m just like you. I give money to charity- really, I do! I kiss my wife good-bye in the morning, I eat the same food you do- you may have seen me at the supermarket. But I can’t do this. I can’t take it, being the bad guy. I can’t let my kids read books when they’re in college about big business destroying America in the O’s, and let them know it was their father. I can’t.
THERAPIST: Do you think your children already know that you “are the bad guy”?
BUSINESSMAN: No- no, I don’t think they know that yet. Or at least think of me that way yet. But I can’t let it happen. I just can’t.
Long Pause.
THERAPIST, glancing at watch/clock: Oh, um, it looks like we’ve been here too long- set up a weekly on your way out?
BUSINESSMAN, shaken from reverie: Yes, yes I’ll do that. (awkwardly) Umm...Bye.
The POT HEAD enters. There is an obvious relief in the waiting room, but the THERAPIST is clearly disgusted and surprised at this person’s state- the tension moves between the rooms. He is very careful throughout this scene.
POT HEAD, clearly out of it: Whah-huh? Oh, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah, man, I’ve got an appointment with...umm...(glances around room) Just a question: (pointing towards the plant) what’s with that purple ostrich eating a baby over there? (seeing that THERAPIST is quite puzzled) Oh, s***, I forgot, I took that Andean blend last night. (Quoting “package”) The purest weed, fed on mountain air and hearty soil, so you can have the purest experience possible.
(long pause while POT HEAD stares off into space)
THERAPIST: Umm...yes, well, let’s sit you down so we can discuss...whatever it is that you wanted to discuss.
POT HEAD: What? Okay, yeah, sure. (lying on couch) Whoa, dude, the room is like friggin’ spinning, man. (reaching out to the ceiling) Whoa, man.
THERAPIST: The room isn’t spinning.
POT HEAD: What? Oh, s***, I forgot, I took that Chilean blend last night. The purest weed, fed on mountain-
THERAPIST: You just said that.
POT HEAD: Just said what?
THERAPIST: Never mind. Anyway, why are you here?
POT HEAD: Dude, you don’t have to be so confrontational about it. I mean, geez. Okay- I’m here because I have an addiction.
THERAPIST: Oh- that’s easily taken care of, (muttering) I probably should have seen it coming. (back to POT HEAD) Here’s the card of a great addiction therapist who specializes in-
POT HEAD: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Dude, I don’t care that I have an addiction. Dude, I friggin’ love it, man! You never know what’s going to happen next. It’s kind of like a dream, only it’s like, everything’s real, man.
THERAPIST: So...if you don’t care about your addiction, why are you here?
POT HEAD: Okay, so I like heard about all this drug violence down in Mexico, right? There’s like, thousands of people getting murdered over pot.
POT HEAD: No, thanks. But, like, all these gangs- they’re all like, running the place, you know? They, like, own the place. And here I am, thinking, like, where’d my pot come from, you know? Like, my guy says it’s from South America, where they grow it in fields and all, and he says it’s organic, but- and I say this with, like, all due respect- how do I know? I mean, I love my guy, and he’s awesome, but like- (furtively, like an insult) he’s a drug dealer, you know? Like, it’s a tough world. And I, like, totally get it if he had to lie a little to sell some extra pot. So I’m thinking, what if I’m responsible for all that crap going on in Mexico? What if my pot isn’t from Columbia, and it’s, like, from some Jose growing it for the mob? So I’m thinking, I’m like an indirect murderer. And that kind of freaked me out.
THERAPIST: Why don’t you just stop doing pot?
POT HEAD, excited: Oooh, I read about this! It’s like, um, what is it- Mental addiction.
THERAPIST: Wait- you know you’re mentally addicted to pot, but aren’t going to try and break that?
POT HEAD: I know, I’m crazy- but you know, after getting into Harvard, I kinda thought- here’s all these people, right? And they’re all trying to stay healthy, and eat organic, and exercise and crap- but in the end, they’re alive, but they’ve got ALS, they’ve got Lou Gehrig’s, they’ve got Alzheimer’s and cancer and arthritis- so I’m thinking, where’s the pay-off? You all say you’re going to live so much longer than me, but you’re all going to go through hell at the end. So I figured, screw it, man. I’d rather have some fun and die young, rather than have this awful, painful, hellish life and die without knowing what’s going on, you know?
THERAPIST: You got into Harvard?
POT HEAD: Yeah man. Top of my class, scholarship, the works. I wasn’t even into pot until like that summer. So, I figured out which way would be better. I thought a lot about whether I should go through college, go to graduate school, become a famous whatever, and be miserable- or if I should just take drugs every day, live a crazy awesome life, then die young and happy. And I chose the short and morally irresponsible route. Because, you know, a drug overdose is painless, but Alzheimer’s is hellish, man. Oh, and FYI, I think we’re overtime.
THERAPIST: Oh, yeah, thanks for that, yeah-
POT HEAD: Alright, well, see you.
THERAPIST, reflectively: A drug overdose is painless, but Alzheimer’s is hellish...
(The next patient is the EVERYMAN, who is a normal person. He has recently been laid off, but does not feel it is anyone’s fault, per se. He doesn’t really know what it is he wants, but does know that he has certain issues, and so is in therapy. He is a little nervous, a tad neurotic, but the goal is for the audience to see themselves in him.)
THERAPIST, still reeling from interaction with POT HEAD: Hi, yeah, just...sit down over there.
EVERYMAN, concerned about the THERAPIST: okay?
THERAPIST: Yeah, yeah- I just...never mind. So, what do you want to discuss?
EVERYMAN: Well, I’ve just been laid off, so...
THERAPIST, relieved by normalcy of these problems: Oh, yeah, sure, go ahead.
EVERYMAN: And I’ve been feeling pretty bad about it and myself so I decided to go to therapy.
THERAPIST: Okay, alright. So, tell me how you got laid off.
EVERYMAN: Well, I was working a desk job at a large company, and I just got the pink slip. I didn’t even do anything wrong or anything- I was just fired. And that kind of started me thinking.
THERAPIST: Thinking about what?
EVERYMAN: Well, just thinking at first. I had a lot of time on my hands, so I started going to the local coffee shop to kill time, and I found a favorite spot right near the window. So, every day, I’d get up, go to the coffee shop, and sit in this big, plate-glass window. And every day, I’d look out the window and see all these people, every day, walking down the street with suits and briefcases and all- and I started to realize that every single one of them is a person, you know? I mean, every single one has mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers- and this whole network of people they know just like you. You think you’re so important, but every single one of them thinks the same way about themselves. We’re a huge group of people, but we don’t think of it like that- we’re each like an island on land, or a river in the sea. So then I’m thinking, there are so many people, how many jobs are there for all these people? How can there possibly be enough jobs for all these people? Is it possible that they’ve all gotten their dream jobs, and that they’re all where they want to be in life? No! And then you realize, they’re all just doing these meaningless jobs, sitting at a desk all day selling something or buying something, or just repeating the same thing over and over again, all the time. So, I thought, what makes it livable? The monotony of it, the utter dreariness of repetition- wouldn’t it just kill you? And here you’ve got these hundreds of thousands of millions of people moving from birth to death every day, and they just ignore everything. They ignore their whole lives, they just pass it by- and it’s the only one you have, you know? God. (pause) It’s kind of unfair, once you think about it, that we have to know we will die. Animals don’t have to know. They’re lucky - they don’t know as much as us. But then I thought, what if there’s something else? Another level of seeing, that could either make it worth it for us people, or just ruin it all over again? (pause- he rests his head on his folded arms, silent for a long moment, and then, laughing a little-) Look at me. Here I am, getting so worked up over something we all get through literally all the time. But sometimes- it all just comes down on you, you know? It all just comes down, and then you’re crying, and shouting, and screaming about how small we are, and how meaningless it all is. But you know what? There has to be some meaning in there, too- and I was thinking about this too, you know- there has to be some reason, you know why? Because of us. We are here, and we are the first things in the universe to add two plus two and make four. We are the first to find out that burnt sticks make marks on rocks. We are the first to ride other animals, and the first to make weapons. We are the first to love. That would not be thrown away. Somewhere, somehow, even if there’s no heaven or hell, even if we have no souls, somehow, somewhere, this is being recorded or seen or heard by others. So I think I’ll be okay. Knowing that nothing is pointless- I think I’ll be okay. But I do need to talk to someone about stuff- and that’s why I’m here. To talk about this. This everything.
(long pause)
So I’m going to set up a weekly with your (courteously distasteful) receptionist out there, and...I’ll see you later. That concludes our session?
THERAPIST, shaken from reverie: Yeah, yeah. Set up a weekly with my receptionist.
EVERYMAN: Okay. (concerned again) Uhh...Good-bye.
THERAPIST: Bye, yeah, bye.
(Exit EVERYMAN, hesitantly)
THERAPIST, alone, staring into distance: What is this. What - what - what is this crap! What are we doing, what am I doing, why am I here? Why am I here? (pause) I was always told to pray to God. I always heard these people in movies and other places who had this pure, unshakable faith in God. But I couldn’t bring myself to it. I couldn’t tell myself that there was something bigger, out there, looking out for the scrawny little kid living in a suburb of Philly- I couldn’t believe it. But maybe there is...maybe there is a God. Maybe something out there is looking out for all the people who wear hats with pockets in them and people who slurp their coffee- maybe there is something. Because, in our unremarkable, piecemeal, scrappy way, we have pulled together something new. And something completely, one-hundred-percent original is pretty damn impressive. And here we are, producing something totally new every day. We are not a grandiose people. But every day, around the world, little tragedies and little comedies and small victories and miniature falls from grace happen every day. All the time, there is someone dying, or being born, or crying or laughing or shouting or running- all the time, there is this tremendous wave of feeling that floods across the world. These minor dramas, these miniature triumphs build up and create us. And when it comes down to it, we are just a very small race of people, whose stream of consciousness is just a drop of rain in the flood of the universe. But what is a flood but millions and millions of drops of water? And what is that flood but yet another drop in a greater flood? So- looking for meaning in everything is pointless, just because everything’s meaning is really the same, in the infinite calm of the cosmos. Everything really evens out in the end. And that’s why-(takes papers out, drops them to the floor so audience can see they are blank)- That’s why I can’t help these people. Because there’s nothing we can do but wait for the dust to settle.
The THERAPIST leaves the building, passing by the BUM again. He stops, turns, and puts a coin in the BUM’s cup. Then, he exits.


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