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All That I Am, or Hope to Be, I Owe to my Mother
ACT 1: ALL THAT I AM OR HOPE TO BE I OWE TO MY MOTHER
SCENE 1: REALITY BITES
[Play opens in a tiny Birmingham apartment in 1990 as Max and his mother are finishing dinner. A dog, Loki, is begging for scraps underneath the table.]
MAX: You know I hate broccoli, Mum. I wish you didn’t cook it all the time.
MOTHER: [mildly offended] I know, sweetie. It’s all we can afford right now, though. I’m sorry.
MAX: I didn’t eat it anyway, I fed it all to Loki.
[Loki barks in agreement. Mother begins to wash the dishes.]
MAX: C’mere, Loki!
[Max begins to tug on Loki’s tail. Loki yelps.]
MOTHER: [authoritatively] Max! I told you to stop doing that! Poor dog can’t catch a break! You’re supposed to be careful and loving around animals.
MAX: I’m just playing with him! Look, he likes it!
[Loki wags his tail. Max picks Loki up over his head and Loki squeals. Max drops Loki.]
MOTHER: Max! Look what you did to him! Go to your room, I’m sick of this.
[Max stomps away to his room while secretly luring Loki with him and taking the dinner fork from the table, which Mother forgot. Set change. Open on Max’s bedroom. Max is on his bed grasping his fork tight but his eyes are closed.]
MAX: [whispers] You dumb dog. You’re always getting me in trouble.
[Max lifts his fork above his head and drives it into Loki’s neck. Loki lets out a loud yelp.]
MOTHER: [muffled] Max! What was that?
MAX: [drearily] Nothing, just the tele!
[Max shoves Loki deep into his closet. He hides the body under a pile of dirty clothes. Open in Max’s bedroom. Max is sleepwalking out of bed. He screams as he opens his closet door and falls in.]
MOTHER: [screaming] Max! Are you okay? [pause] Hello?
[She runs up the stairs and into Max’s room and finds a forest. She steps in. Mother cannot see Max and Max cannot see Mother.]
SCENE 2: ALL THAT I AM OR HOPE TO BE I OWE TO MY MOTHER
[Scene opens on Max. Max sees Loki, who has the fork in his neck. They are both in the middle of a muddy trail surrounded by weeds and trees. A small stream of water is flowing past them leading into a bigger body of water far off in the distance. A cave is visible far away in the distance.]
MAX: [aside, quietly] Loki, how did you get here? [pause] How did I get here?
[Wild Things are watching Max from afar. Max steps over Loki and wanders the forest.]
MAX: Hello? Is anybody here? Hello?
[The Wild Things surround Max in a circle.]
MAX: [frightfully] Who are you! Please don’t hurt me!
BEMIS: We’re not going to hurt you, Max.
[The Wild Things pick Max up and carry him to a cave. Max is terrified as he notices mangled bodies and corpses of animals as well as humans.]
MAX: [terrified] What are you going to do to me? I didn’t mean to come here!
[The Wild Things do not respond. They set Max down. Max looks around the cave more. There are various inscriptions on the walls.]
MAX: [confused] “All that I am or hope to be I owe to my mother…”
VALO: We saw what you did at home-
MAX: [interrupting] How did you see me?
VALO: And we were very flattered by your use of power and aggression. We have been in search of a ruler for some time, and thought you would be a great sultan.
[Max sees an empty throne in the corner of the cave with green and gold patterns. Max suddenly becomes fascinated and intrigued.]
MAX: [confidently] Are you talking about what I did with my dog?
VALO: Why, yes, of course.
BEMIS: What do you think about being our new leader? We sure would love to have you.
MAX: It would be nice, to be in control… But what do I have to do?
BEMIS: As our leader you will rule this entire forest. All of the people and animals who fall in here you must decide if they should stay or be killed.
MAX: [with certainty] Okay, sounds simple enough. Anything else?
VALO: Absolutely. [Valo hands Max a list of rules for the forest. Max reads over them and nods.] And lastly, in order to be initiated, you must kill the next being seen in the forest.
MAX: I have a question, though. [They signal him to proceed.] How did I get here? How do other people get here?
BEMIS: Usually, we open a portal in someone or something’s world who we think would make a good addition to this forest, whether that be in power, army, food gathering, hunting, and so on.
MAX: So why do some get killed?
BEMIS: Some accidentally come here and cannot release information to the outside world of this place. Therefore, we have no option.
MAX: I see.
VALO: Are you ready?
MAX: Definitely. [Max leaves the cave with the Wild Things, in search of his next victim.]
SCENE 3: MORAL DECAY
[Scene opens on Mother.]
MOTHER: Max?! Where are yo-[she sees Loki dead in her tracks. She throws up. She begins to roam around. She steps over Loki and continues down the path. She tramples through patches of weeds. Finally she sees something that catches her eye.] “All that I am or hope to be I owe to my mother”…that sounds nice… [She sees a throne. Thinking that people have been there, she remains. Open on Max and Wild Things in the forest.]
MAX: How long does this usually take?
VALO: Usually someone comes about every hour. You were the last person.
MAX: How long have we been looking?
BEMIS: Around two, I would say.
VALO: Looks like a dry day today, let’s go looking early in the morning.
MAX: Alright. [Max and the Wild Things travel back from the forest and into the cave. Mother and Max are both onstage, but cannot see each other yet.] Does it usually take long?
BEMIS: No, this is unusual. [They enter the cave and see Mother inside. Max is shocked.]
MAX: Mum! How did you get here!?
MOTHER: I came to check on you because you screamed! As soon as I entered your room, I found this forest. [to a Wild Thing] We better leave, son. How do we get out of here?
VALO: You don’t.
MOTHER: [confused] What?
MAX: Oh, God, Mum. I never thought this day would happen. I should have known…
MOTHER: What are you talking about, sweetie?
BEMIS: Max, you know what you must do. [Blackout.]
SCENE 4: MASTER OF REALITY
[Scene opens as Max is thrusting a sharp rock into his mother’s heart. Max is weeping uncontrollably but feels satisfaction in knowing he will finally be accepted.]
MAX: [howling] I’m sorry! [sniffles] I’m so sorry, Mum! I had to do this!
[Max puts the finishing blow into his mother’s chest and falls to the ground weeping. Max’s cries are heard in the distance as a flock of birds chirp in unison.]
VALO: [celebratory] Congratulations Max! You’ve done it! You are the King of the Wild Things!
[The Wild Things begin to clap, hoot, and holler as Max picks himself up and drags himself onto his throne.]
MAX: [still crying] I don’t deserve this. I’m a monster. I’ve killed the only things I have ever loved. My poor Loki, my god-forsaken mother, they’re gone! [weeps harder] I’m left with nothing! Nothing at all! All I have left are you ugly things! [sniffles] [loudly] Why did you let me do that?
BEMIS: [not offended] Max, don’t you understand? You own us now. We are yours. You have completed the task at which many fail. Truly you are king material.
MAX: Don’t you understand? [crying] It’s not worth it!
VALO: Oh, Max, you are so special. You deserve this—fame, power, and rule.
BEMIS: What would we troubled creatures be without a mighty king?
MAX: Why do you care so much anyway? You would be just fine without a ruler.
VALO: No we wouldn’t, Max. We are only creatures; we need guidance.
MAX: Well I am only a human! I will never be perfect.
BEMIS: True. But you know more than we will ever know.
[Max, flustered, runs out of the cave. While sprinting through the forest, he dodges trees and weeds. The Wild Things go chasing after him but cannot keep up. He passes where Loki’s once dead body was, wondering where it has been taken to. Max trips over a log mid-run and hits his head. He blacks out and the Wild Things are unable to wake him. Scene change to Max’s bedroom.]
MOTHER: [offstage] Max, breakfast is ready! [Max wakes up and sees the inside of his closet. Confused, he steps out and looks around his room.] Max! Are you hungry? Go get Max, Loki! Go wake him up! [Loki rushes into Max’s room sporting four small gashes in a row on his neck.]
MAX: [to Loki, quietly] What happened to you, buddy?
[Max picks up Loki carefully and rushes downstairs. He sees Mother, and embraces her tightly.]
MOTHER: Well, it’s nice to see you, too!
MAX: I missed you so much! I’m sorry about how I acted last night.
MOTHER: It’s okay, sweetie.
MAX: What happened to Loki?
MOTHER: Well, when I let him outside last night he ran off and got into a fight with the neighbor’s cat. [jokingly] It’s pretty nasty, isn’t it? Looks like a monster got him!
MAX: [uncomfortably] Yeah… [pause] What’s for breakfast?
MOTHER: Leftovers—I hope that’s okay.
MAX: Yeah, that’s fine!
[They both sit down at the table and begin eating. Loki is begging for a piece of broccoli but this time Max eats it all. Blackout.]