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THE GAME OF FOOLS—A romantic comedy (First Few Scenes)
Act 1 Scene 1
(A park. OWEN sits on a park bench next to an OLD MAN. They don’t acknowledge each other at all. Instead…)
OWEN. (speaking to audience) There’s an old phrase that goes, uh, something like this: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about romance nowadays. Or at least my romantic life. Except, I’ve been fooled way more than two times, and I certainly am ashamed, but I can’t quit. Really the problem is that I keep falling in love with all the wrong girls. From my experience, life is full two types of girls: those who are insane-but-pretty and those who are nice-but-ugly. My developing adolescence leads me to typically fall for the insane-but-pretty girls. And, let me let you in on a rather well-known secret: the insane-but-pretty girls are a very dangerous breed of the female species. Like, these girls are the real reason Hitler killed himself in the bunker. It took Eva less than 40 hours to make him put a bullet through his head. They’d put her in the Guinness Book of World Records for that, but it’s been topped. I digress. I’ve been punked way too many times. My self-confidence and testosterone have gone down to drastically low levels.
OLD MAN. Oh boo hoo!
OWEN. Excuse you?
OLD MAN. Look, another teenager hung up on romance.
OWEN. Well, what else am I supposed to care about? The education system certainly hasn’t given me any incentive to care; my novel is never going to be good, so I don’t have to worry about trying to make it good; for some unfathomable reason, my parents still haven’t gotten divorced, so I can’t get close to either of them. Girls are my life.
OLD MAN. You’re playing a very menacing game, kid.
OWEN. What? What game?
OLD MAN. The game of love. Which can also be called the game of betrayal, the game of pain, and the game of eternal unhappiness. Actually, those all paint a better picture.
OWEN. Well, I can’t help it. This “game” is exciting. It’s fun waking up every morning wondering if your crush will finally confess, if you’ll have the courage to confess, if you’ll find someone new.
OLD MAN. Hey kid, what’s your name?
OLD MAN. Let me give you some advice, Owen.
OLD MAN. (taking a deep, deep breath) You’re really messed up.
(The OLD MAN gets up and hobbles off stage)
OWEN. (standing up, speaking again to the audience) How’s that supposed to be advice? What a crazy old man. Eavesdropping on a random teenager’s problems, giving him bad advice, trying to tell him how stupid he is. Who does he think he is? My therapist? Well, he certainly did do a better job than my therapist. At least I didn’t have to overpay him. All I had to do was take a walk in this park like I usually do. Coincidentally, he just happened to be there today. I like taking walks in this park. Helps me calm down. We’ve gotten off topic. If only I could meet a girl who was pretty and nice and smart and--
(BETH walks across the stage carrying papers and scrolling through her phone. She bumps into OWEN and drops all the papers)
BETH. I’m sorry! I didn’t look where I was going.
OWEN. Oh, uh, let me help you.
(They both pick up the scattered papers. OWEN periodically looks at BETH, noticing her beauty. As they get up and he hands his portion of the stack back to her:)
OWEN. You’re, uh, really pretty.
BETH. Thanks, I get that a lot.
OWEN. And funny too.
BETH. Well, not that one so much. I’ve tried writing comedies, but my parents said my tragedies were way funnier.
OWEN. Is that a tragedy or a comedy you’re holding?
BETH. Oh, this? A tragedy. I’m trying to get hired at Comedy Central.
OWEN. How old are you?
OWEN. I’m sixteen too.
BETH. Oh, how fateful.
OWEN. Your use of sarcasm is astounding. Of course, I am a lover of sarcasm as well.
BETH. Well, I wouldn’t say I’m a lover of sarcasm. In fact, I’ve never in my entire life been a lover to anyone, any word, or any mattress.
OWEN. (pauses, a moment of hopeful realization, then:) Really? What’s your name?
BETH. Beth. Yours?
OWEN. Owen. What school do you go to?
BETH. The Acme School for Special Needs Children.
OWEN. Oh…. (becomes disinterested, slowly shifts away)
BETH. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I go to Great Oaks.
OWEN. Johnson High.
BETH. We’re not too far apart then, huh?
OWEN. Guess not. So, you mentioned you’re writing something?
BETH. Yes. I’m building my portfolio. I want to be a writer after all.
OWEN. (Deadpan sarcasm) Oh, a “writer,” huh? How modest of you. (he laughs, but realizes she doesn’t take it as a joke like he intends, and quickly stops laughing) Well, let me tell you: I’m sure my lack of modesty is way more lacking than yours: I’m a novelist.
BETH. Really? How many have you written?
OWEN. I’m currently writing my debut.
BETH. How prolific.
OWEN. In hindsight, I should’ve said “aspiring” novelist….
BETH. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. What’s your first bestselling novel about?
OWEN. (overly serious and dramatic, as if for the first time this whole conversation he’s forgotten about how much he wants to kiss BETH) A helpless, ugly, lonely teen who can’t catch a break. His life is falling apart and no matter what he tries, he can’t fix it.
BETH. Ah, an autobiography?
OWEN. (return to his nebbish self) Well, I suppose you could say it’s one that takes creative liberties….
BETH. Such as?
OWEN. In the novel, the main character doesn’t have a rash up his butt all the time.
BETH. Oh…. Anyway, I should really be going. I promised my parents I’d be home 15 minutes ago. Thanks for helping with the papers again.
(She hastily walks away. OWEN tries to reply, but ends up mumbling to himself)
OWEN. You’re welcome…. A rash? How’s that funny!? I didn’t even ask for her number. Or her name. (turns to the audience again) But boy, am I in love with her! Have I discovered the nice-AND-pretty girl? She’s super pretty, but I bet she’s just like me. She likes to write, she’s funny. Were we separated at birth? I hope not because that would be illegal. Now how am I going to run into her again? More importantly… how will I make her fall for me?
Act 1 Scene 2
(OWEN and TOM’s first-period classroom. They’re waiting for school to begin. A few desks lie around the stage.)
TOM. A rash?
OWEN. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
TOM. How about “In the novel, the main character isn’t a clinical sociopath?.... Doesn’t have herpes?.... Isn’t a member of ISIS?” All those are funnier and more blatantly a joke than a rash.
OWEN. It was a comedy emergency; I didn’t have time to think! She’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met--
TOM. You said that about the last five, Owen.
OWEN. Well, they keep getting prettier!
TOM. And you keep getting more desperate.
OWEN. You don’t know what it’s like. You’ve had six girlfriends.
TOM. Well, girls always find comedic men more attractive.
OWEN. Hey, I’m as funny as you.
TOM. I humbly disagree.
TOM. My jokes get way more laughs than yours do.
OWEN. That’s because your delivery’s way better. In terms of the writing, mine are superior.
TOM. Delivery is apart of the joke, too.
OWEN. But in terms of the writing quality, mine are objectively better.
TOM. That’s subjective.
OWEN. Yes, but subjectivity is objective.
TOM. That’s also subjective. In the grand scheme of things, everything is subjective.
OWEN. You can’t just say “It’s all subjective,” and imagine as if the conversation is over. Why do people always do that? Let’s have a conversation!
TOM. Because everything in life is subjective. Especially comedy.
(Both turn slowly to the audience and look scornfully, and then they return to the conversation as if nothing happened)
OWEN. What’re you trying to start? The Comedy Enlightenment?
TOM. If that’s what it takes, I’m ready to start a religion based on comedy.
OWEN. Whatever. We’ve gotten off topic--
TOM. In the beginning, the Comedeity created the heavens and the earth….
OWEN. How do I see her again?
TOM. (clearly sarcastic) I’ll be sure to ask the crowd at the comedy club tonight.
(OWEN groans and puts his head in his arms on his desk. SASHA, who had been talking with her friends nearby, leaves her friends circle and approaches TOM and OWEN)
SASHA. Hey Tom, hey Owen. How goes it?
(TOM and SASHA look at OWEN and sigh)
SASHA. Did he strike out?
TOM. Worse: he’s up to bat again.
SASHA. Where’d he meet her?
TOM. Some park. Said he was walking around thinking about Anne when the “most beautiful girl he’s ever met” bumps into him. And now…
OWEN. Anne’s nothing compared to her!
SASHA. Ay yai yai…. Know anything about her?
OWEN. Not even her name. All I know is that she’s funny and likes to write.
TOM. (sarcastically) And that means she HAS to be the one.
OWEN. Why wouldn’t she be? I’ve never met anyone like her.
SASHA. You said that about the last five, Owen.
TOM. I can guarantee you that there are probably tens of thousands of girls you’d like just as much if not more within a five hundred mile radius.
OWEN. Well, I would love to meet them. That’s the challenge with love: meeting just one of the millions of people you’re compatible with.
SASHA. You know, Al is having a party tonight. A ton of people from all the schools he’s transferred to over the years will be there. Why don’t we all go? Tom can crack some jokes, I can meet some guys, and you, Owen, might run into the girl. Or find someone who’s even better. What do you say?
TOM. I can’t make it. I have a date. We’re going to--
OWEN. I CAN’T WAIT! I HOPE SHE’S THERE!
SASHA. Great. Well, I wish you the best of luck tonight, Tom. Owen, we’ll meet at Al’s at 7:30, cool?
OWEN. Sounds good. Al, huh? Haven’t talked to him in awhile.
TOM. Me neither. Not since he was expelled a few months ago.
SASHA. He was expelled? I thought he left out of embarrassment.
TOM. That’s what the school wanted us all to think, but it’s pretty obvious they kicked him out. Could you imagine the trouble the school would’ve been in if he had died from what he did?
SASHA. Yeah, I guess that’s true. You gotta do what you gotta do for attention, I guess.
OWEN. But what kind of idiot swallows a fidget spinner for attention?
Act 1 Scene 3
(AL’s house. OWEN is checking his watch. The music is loud. The cliche red cups that are prohibited from not being at any high school party are in everyone’s hands--besides OWEN’s, that is. High school boys and girls parade the stage, dancing, drinking, laughing. Meanwhile…)
OWEN. Where is she? It’s 7:45.
AL. (Wearing his stereotypical jock jacket) Is that Owen Williams?
OWEN. Al McGregor.
AL. How’ve you been, man?
OWEN. Eh, okay. Still single. Glad to see you’ve made it this far.
AL. Nothing’s gonna kill me any time soon.
OWEN. Still swallowing fidget spinners?
AL. No, I almost died last time.
OWEN. Must’ve been a pretty Kafkaesque experience.
OWEN. Nevermind. Just a word I use to describe rapists, serial killers, and corporate lawyers.
AL. I’m just going to assume those are all the same thing. (turns away from OWEN and goes back to the party) PARTY!!!
(SASHA enters the party.)
SASHA. Sorry I’m late.
OWEN. What took you so long?
SASHA. My siblings got lice and my parents forced me to be checked and treated. (OWEN jumps back and shrieks in a high-pitched voice that even SASHA shouldn’t be able to reach) Relax. I didn’t have any.
OWEN. That’s good to hear. You know how much of a germaphobe I am.
SASHA. Why did you become so afraid of germs?
OWEN. Why? Sasha, there are things much worse than death. Try having to give your grandfather’s eulogy with a 105-degree fever and a runny nose, and after trying to help your sickness by eating some soup you never realized was Indian soup. What a perfect way to send my grandfather to the great beyond: continuous breathing, sneezing, and farting.
SASHA. Was the soup good at least?
OWEN. I couldn’t taste it through my clogged nose. And believe me, I know I’m tough to deal with. After the funeral, my grandmother disowned my father so I wouldn’t have to be her grandson anymore.
AL. (Coming back from the party) Sasha Jones, is that you? Hey! (he goes in for the hug)
SASHA. (Awkwardly receiving the hug but not returning it) Hey, Al.... You can let go any time, you know….
AL. Ah! Sorry, I just haven’t seen you in so long.
SASHA. Yeah, but we were never that close or anything.
AL. Yeah, I know. But let me tell you: I always thought you were super sexy. Come on, come meet some of my friends. (He grabs SASHA by the arm and drags her away)
SASHA. (Calling out to OWEN) I’ll meet up with you later! (AL drags her into the crowd)
OWEN. Great…. (he looks around the party, hoping to find a girl to talk to, when….) Is that… Anne? Oh, she looks so beautiful. (talks to the audience) I can’t believe I confessed to her. It’s too awkward to talk to her now. I bet she doesn’t even want to look at me.
ANNE. (notices and walks up to OWEN) Hey, Owen.
(OWEN does his signature shriek)
ANNE. Don’t worry, I don’t have lice anymore.
OWEN. No, it’s just—well, actually that’s pretty good—but it’s just that, I didn’t expect to see you here.
ANNE. I could say the same about you. How’ve you been?
OWEN. Oh, I’m…. okay.
ANNE. Better than when I last saw you? We both know that our last conversation wasn’t exactly the easiest.
OWEN. O-Oh? Sure….
ANNE. So, what’ve you been up to?
OWEN. Well, right now I’m writing a novel.
ANNE. What about?
OWEN. (just like before) A helpless, ugly, lonely teen who--
ANNE. (thinking he’s finished) Ah, an autobiography?
OWEN. Well, it’s one that takes creative liberties.
ANNE. Such as?
OWEN. Uh… in the novel, the boy… isn’t a member of ISIS.
(OWEN laughs to himself, gradually getting quieter and quieter as he realizes that ANNE is dead silent)
OWEN. Anyway, why are you here?
ANNE. (Fake laughing as if she’s realized something is very, very wrong with OWEN) My boyfriend is friends with Al. He dragged me here.
OWEN. Everett is friends with Al? How?
ANNE. They go to the same ballet class.
OWEN. Al McGregor goes to a ballet class?
ANNE. It was a shock to me too. Anyway, I better go find Everett. Glad to see you’re doing alright.
(ANNE hastily walks away)
OWEN. (to the audience) Good grief! I almost slipped into cardiac arrest: Al McGregor taking a ballet class? Is the world okay? Are the dogs still chasing the cats? Is the Pope still Catholic? Whatever. Time to go socialize. I’ll just have to stay away from the alcohol: too many germs.
(OWEN walks around the stage, eventually trying to zone in on a group of a few boys and girls who are all dancing in their own little circle. He tries to get a word in--)
OWEN. Hey, pretty cool party, huh?.... I love Al’s house…. Very fascinating. The stench, the leaking toilet… the bloodstain on the kitchen wall.
(--but no one pays attention to him. The group starts congregating and shoves him to and through the back of their group)
OWEN. (sighing) Good grief.
Act 1 Scene 4
(A diner. TOM sits alone in the booth checking his watch.)
TOM. Where is she? It’s 7:45.
(A WAITER/WAITRESS walks to the booth. For simplicity’s sake, the character’s lines will be labeled as “WAITER,” but they can be either gender. Obviously, whenever “waiter” and “he” are said in the following dialogue, replace them with “waitress” and “she” if WAITRESS is indeed a waitress.)
WAITER. Can I get you something to drink?
TOM. An Arnold Palmer.
WAITER. Great. Also, are you a vegetarian?
WAITER. Are you a vegetarian?
TOM. (turns to audience, then back) Not in the strictest definition.
WAITER. Well, tonight we have some vegetarian specials. Would you like to hear them?
TOM. Vegetarian specials? At a diner? There are two issues I have with that concept: First, this is America. We didn’t kick the British back over to England just to eat lettuce. Second, if they’re so special, why aren’t they offered all the time? Surely, you could make a lot of money if you sold these “specials” every day.
WAITER. If you would like to issue a formal complaint, please get in contact with the manager.
TOM. Don’t you feel any pride for the establishment at which you work?
WAITER. Sir, I’m just an underpaid restaurant employee. Do you want to order something?
TOM. Just to spite your manager, I want the meatiest, greasiest, most fattening dish you offer.
WAITER. Coming right up (he/she heads O.S.)
TOM. (calling out to them) Tell them “thank you” for incentivizing me to cut my lifespan by twenty years! (collects himself, then:) Where is she?
PHILLIP. Hey Tom. What’s up?
TOM. Oh, nothing much. Waiting for a date.
PHILLIP. The first date?
PHILLIP. How’d you two meet?
TOM. We have a mutual friend that hooked us up. What’re you doing here?
PHILLIP. I had a ton of chores to do after school. I needed a break, so I decided to drive over.
TOM. Okay. Hey, let me ask you something: when telling a joke, wouldn’t you agree that the delivery is just as important as the writing?
PHILLIP. The delivery? I would say it’s slightly more important.
TOM. See? I’m sure most people agree with us. My one idiot of a friend doesn’t feel the same though.
PHILLIP. Owen sure can be weird sometimes.
TOM. (deadpan sarcasm) That’s the word….
KAITLYN. Sorry I’m late.
TOM. I don’t mind. Here, I’ll introduce you. Phillip, this is…. Beth, right?
KAITLYN. Nice to meet you, Phillip.
PHILLIP. Nice to be met.
TOM. Sorry, I already ordered because the waiter put me in a bad mood.
KAITLYN. How so?
TOM. He was pushing the vegetarians’ agenda.
PHILLIP. Vegetarianism? In a diner?
KAITLYN. What’s happening to this country?
TOM. Whatever it is, it sure is a tragedy.
PHILLIP. Well, I don’t want to disturb you any more than I have to. Have fun.
TOM. See you around, man.
KAITLYN. Nice meeting you.
KAITLYN. So, how did you meet Courtney?
TOM. We used to intern at the law firm down the road. Of course, she still interns, but I quit. How do you know her?
KAITLYN. (clearly joking) We go to the same alcoholics’ anonymous meetings.
KAITLYN. Just kidding. We were friends in middle school. So, why’d you leave your internship at the law firm?
TOM. I wanted to pursue my dream careers: music and comedy.
KAITLYN. What instruments do you play?
TOM. Guitar mainly, but I know a bit about the piano.
(End of Article)
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