A Marriage of Inconvenience (Free Play)

Please feel free to stage my play, A Marriage of Inconvenience, available below and at the following link A Marriage of Inconvenience (Free).docx at no fee or royalty.  I do ask that you inform me that you will be staging the play and that you give me credit for having written it.  If you would prefer a PDF version, please email me directly at jacobmappel@gmail.com

A MARRIAGE OF INCONVENIENCE

CAST

2 MALE / 3 FEMALE / (1 EITHER)

Agatha Wellington                    A wealthy widow of ninety years. (F/90)

Dr. Molly Drake                        Agatha’s granddaughter, a psychiatrist in her thirties. (F/30s)

Zachariah Carmichael              Agatha’s attorney. (M/40s-50s)

Luther Gibbons                        Heir to a board game fortune. (M/30s)

Samantha                                 An entrepreneurial prostitute. It would help if she had a foreign accent. (F/20s-30s)

An Authoritative Voice              The Voice may be played by one actor.  Alternatively, each of the five actors may take a turn playing the Voice for those scenes in which he or she does not otherwise appear.

SET & PROPS

The set should be as sparse as possible. Every scene in the play can be staged with a door, a small table or desk, a telephone, a chess set, and either three chairs, two chairs, one chair, or no chairs; several scenes in Act Two also require a bed. The only other prop is Bergault’s surrealist painting: The Resurrection of Dismas and Gestas. The audience should never see the painted side of the canvas.

NOTE ON SUBTITLES

The bold headings preceding each scene (eg. “Agatha”; “Zachariah visits his psychiatrist”) should be read aloud by the Voice, preferably over a microphone.

ACT ONE

1. “Agatha”

(Agatha enters. Agatha, to the audience.)

AGATHA

I am ninety years old.
Happy birthday to me.
You are wondering: Am I a young ninety or an old ninety?
Only young people wonder: Are you a young ninety or an old ninety?
You can be a young seventy-five. You can be an old seventy-five.
You cannot be a young ninety.
People ask me: What is your secret?
I tell them. A woman needs three qualities to live to be ninety.
Quality number one. Ignorance.
That gets you through the first thirty years.
Quality number two. Flattery.
That’s another three decades.
Quality number three. Spite.
Years sixty through ninety.
After that, I don’t know yet.

2. “Zachariah”

(Zachariah enters. Zachariah, to the audience.)

ZACHARIAH

I’m having difficulty sleeping.
I’m afraid that I might wake up dead.
That is the great irony of life: A man graduates first in his class at the Yale Law School and he still might wake up dead.
My work offers little comfort.
I am a wills and trusts attorney. I manage the estates of very wealthy people. Even very wealthy people wake up dead.
Last spring, I attended my law school class reunion. Twenty years. I ran into an old friend, a human rights activist named Jack Stone. He slapped me on the back and asked: “Wills and estates? Profiteering off rich, dead people? How do you sleep at night?”
Jack Stone was in the newspaper yesterday. He woke up dead.

3. “Agatha visits her lawyer”

(Zachariah sits down at his desk. Agatha sits opposite him.)

AGATHA

So I wish to rewrite my will. Change the beneficiary.

ZACHARIAH

All right, Mrs. Wellington. We can do that.

AGATHA

How quickly?

ZACHARIAH

Very quickly.

AGATHA

At my age, you understand, every waking moment counts.

ZACHARIAH

I understand….Who would you like to be the new beneficiary?

AGATHA

Me.

ZACHARIAH

You?

AGATHA

Me. I desire to be buried with my property. Like the ancient Egyptians.

ZACHARIAH

I see, Mrs. Wellington. What about your granddaughter?

AGATHA

Why for heaven’s sake would I want to be buried with her?

ZACHARIAH

What I meant, Mrs. Wellington, was that you’re disinheriting your granddaughter.

AGATHA

Exactly. And why shouldn’t I? She’s been going on dates behind my back. With men.

ZACHARIAH

I don’t know that it’s any of my business, but your granddaughter must be what? Thirty years old?

AGATHA

Thirty-two. An old maid.

ZACHARIAH

Don’t you think thirty-two is old enough to go on dates?

AGATHA

To go on dates? Most certainly. But not with men. I did not raise my granddaughter to date men.  It’s nothing personal, you understand. Some of my closest friends are men. Molly’s grandfather was a man. But Molly is going to marry a woman….I’m a grown adult too, Mr. Carmichael, and if my own granddaughter can’t do me this one small favor, she doesn’t see a dime.

ZACHARIAH

All right, Mrs. Wellington. I’ll look into what can be done—but I’m afraid this isn’t the easiest matter….Some things are not possible….

AGATHA

What do you mean: “Some things are not possible”? You’re a lawyer. Make it possible.

(Agatha exits.)

4. Molly

(Molly enters. Molly, to the audience.)

MOLLY

They say a woman over thirty with a doctorate has a higher chance of being struck by lightning than of getting married.
I have two doctoral degrees. One in thanatology. One in medicine.
This was not wise romantic strategy.
I am a psychiatrist. I spend all of my time at the hospital.
This is also not wise romantic strategy.
The only people I speak to all day are doctors and patients. I speak to nurses too—but they are like doctors, only not doctors.
I would not want to marry a doctor.
Psychiatrists are not permitted to marry their patients. The rules are very strict about this. They do not make any exceptions—even if the psychiatrist and the patient are in love.
I think they should make an exception if the psychiatrist and the patient are in love.

5. “Zachariah visits his psychiatrist”

(Molly sits down in a chair. Zachariah enters and sits opposite her.)

ZACHARIAH

I don’t think I’m overreacting, Dr. Drake. I think everyone else is under-reacting.

MOLLY

How so?

ZACHARIAH

Most people don’t think about waking up dead.

MOLLY

And you do.

ZACHARIAH

People are so vulnerable when they’re sleeping. But they don’t realize it. They just lie there counting sheep. I lie there and think about what would happen if the couple in the apartment below mine left their gas range on by mistake….

MOLLY

What would happen?

ZACHARIAH

They say carbon monoxide poisoning is quick and painless. You don’t even know you’re dying—you think you have the flu. I can imagine only one thing worse than dying: Dying without knowing that you’re dying.

MOLLY

Have you considered sleeping with a window open?

ZACHARIAH

I tried that. I lay there all night worrying that a prowler might climb through the window and strangle me.

(Zachariah exits.)

6. “Luther”

(Luther enters. Luther, to the audience.)

LUTHER

My father designs and manufactures board games.
My father is a very powerful board game magnate. I am heir to a board game empire.
Board games are not like real life.
In Monopoly, everyone begins with the same amount of money. In real life, everyone does not begin with the same amount of money. My father does not believe all people should begin life with the same amount of money. That is the one matter on which most people agree. Democrats and Republicans. Jews and Christians. There is a consensus that some people should begin life with more money than others.
I do not manufacture board games. I am an art historian. I study the paintings of the eighteenth century French surrealist Renée Bergault.
I imagine you have never heard of Bergault. His workshop burned during the French Revolution and none of the canvasses survived. All that remains are written descriptions of his paintings.
They are quite beautiful.

7. “Molly”

(Molly, to the audience.)

MOLLY

People do get struck by lightning.
Some people get struck by lightning more than once.
I read about a woman in Georgia who was struck by a lightning sixteen times.
And she didn’t even have a Ph. D….
Scientists now know that some people are lightning magnets. They are far more likely to be struck by lightning than anybody else. If lightning strikes were distributed randomly, the odds of any one person being struck by lightning sixteen times would be one trillion-billion to one. But lightning strikes are not distributed randomly.
Scientists cannot explain why some people attract lightning.
I think about this a lot.
It is the sort of thing you think about when you are not in love.

8. “Molly goes on a date”

(Luther sits down at a table. Molly sits opposite him.)

LUTHER

I’ve been thinking a lot about walking on water.
It seems obvious to you and to me that we can’t walk on water. That’s why Jesus is such a big deal. But if you were a Martian who’d arrived on earth for the first time, you wouldn’t know that you couldn’t walk on water. Just by looking at the water, you can’t tell that you can’t walk on it. You’d probably see all those boats on the river and you’d assume you could walk on water.

MOLLY

This is the strangest date I’ve ever been on.

LUTHER

Strange in a good way or strange in a bad way?

MOLLY

Strange in a strange way….But good, I think….May I ask you a very odd question?

LUTHER

Anything.

MOLLY

Are you ever afraid of waking up dead?

LUTHER

What?

MOLLY

I have this patient, a middle-aged lawyer, who’s afraid he’ll die in his sleep. I assured him his fears are irrational—but I’ve hardly slept for three days since.

LUTHER

Because you’re afraid?

MOLLY

Aren’t you?

LUTHER

That raises an interesting theological question. If true Christians believe that the afterlife is preferable to this one, why don’t they hold murderers in higher esteem?

MOLLY

Excuse me?

LUTHER

I’m sorry. I know one is not supposed to discuss religion on a first date.

MOLLY

Is this only our first date?

LUTHER

I’ve never understood why one isn’t supposed to discussion spiritual matters on a first date. Do you believe in the afterlife? I ask that only because there are people all over this country who’ve been married for years and they don’t know whether their spouses believe in the afterlife.

MOLLY

Is that a proposal?

LUTHER

May I ask you a very odd question?

MOLLY

Anything.

LUTHER

Do you ever wonder if Martians can swim?

(Molly and Luther exit.)

9. “Agatha”

(Agatha enters. Agatha, to the audience.)

AGATHA

If I were a Native American and I wanted my granddaughter to find a husband who shared our heritage, few people would object.  If I were Jewish and I wanted my granddaughter to marry a Jewish person, that would be perfectly acceptable.  Well I’m female, so I’d like my granddaughter to find a nice young woman. Maybe a librarian or a dental hygienist. I don’t understand what the big fuss is.

10. “Zachariah visits his client”

(Agatha opens the door. Zachariah enters.)

ZACHARIAH

It can’t be done, Mrs. Wellington.

AGATHA

What’s that?

ZACHARIAH

You can’t bury yourself with your belongings.

AGATHA

Why in heaven’s name not? They’re my belongings, aren’t they?

ZACHARIAH

You have to be mentally competent to execute a will in this state, Mrs. Wellington. I’ve spoken with three experts on inheritance law and all three agree that expressing a wish to be buried alongside your property would be prima facie evidence that you are not mentally competent.

AGATHA

Then find another expert, Mr. Carmichael. That’s the one thing we’ll never run out of in this country: Experts. Sometimes it amazes me how we can live in a nation with so many experts and so little expertise.

ZACHARIAH

It doesn’t work like that, Mrs. Wellington….I think it might be productive for us to explore other options. If you don’t want to leave your money to your granddaughter, how about to a favorite charity?

AGATHA

I don’t have a favorite charity. I don’t care for charities. These days, everybody wants to fix something or save something or cure something. Cancer. Hemorrhoids. Well when I was a girl, we hadn’t fixed or cured half of these things. And do you know what? People were happier.

ZACHARIAH

And you have no other relatives? Maybe a close friend?

AGATHA

I’m ninety years old, Mr. Carmichael. Everybody I’ve ever known is dead.

ZACHARIAH

Then I’m not sure what to tell you, Mrs. Wellington. I can’t write you a defective will.

AGATHA

What happens if I leave a will without any beneficiary?

ZACHARIAH

Your next-of-kin inherits. In your case, that would be your granddaughter.

AGATHA

And if I add a clause specifically disinheriting her?

ZACHARIAH

Then the property escheats to the state.

AGATHA

Escheats?

ZACHARIAH

The state takes everything.

AGATHA

That’s mighty convenient for the state, isn’t it?

ZACHARIAH

It rarely comes to that.

AGATHA

Well there won’t be any escheating when I’m gone. I don’t even like the state….Do you like the state, Mr. Carmichael?

ZACHARIAH

I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean this state? Or the concept of “the state”?

AGATHA

Never mind.

ZACHARIAH

I have an idea, Mrs. Wellington. Maybe you could spend all of your money before you die.

AGATHA

Now that is a truly asinine suggestion. You are either overestimating my time or underestimating my wealth. Do you know how much I’m worth, Mr. Carmichael?

ZACHARIAH

Yes, I do.

AGATHA

Well, I don’t. This is what happens when you’re married to a man. He earns a vast fortune and then he dies and then you’re stuck all alone with a vast fortune. I read in the newspaper that I was worth somewhere between six hundred million and eight hundred million dollars. When you read that about a man, you think: Good God! That’s an awful lot of money. When you read that about a woman, you think: Between six hundred million and eight hundred million. How can she not know how much money she has?

ZACHARIAH

I imagine it would be difficult to spend eight hundred million dollars in a short period of time. Or even six hundred million.

AGATHA

And what if I miscalculated and spent too much? I’d die in a debtors prison.

ZACHARIAH

I see your point, Mrs. Wellington—though, for the record, there aren’t debtors prisons anymore.

AGATHA

Not at the moment. But they’ll come back. That’s the one thing you realize when you’ve lived ninety years. Everything comes back….swing music, Richard Nixon, the ivory-billed woodpecker. Also witch hunts, concentration camps, torture chambers. Everything. Only the victims are sometimes different. Do you know what, Mr. Carmichael?

ZACHARIAH

No, Mrs. Wellington. What?

AGATHA

Next time around, I think we should have creditors prisons.

ZACHARIAH

Please, Mrs. Wellington. With regard to the matter at hand—

AGATHA

Any more asinine ideas?

ZACHARIAH

Maybe you could arrange to be sued, Mrs. Wellington. Let someone take you for all you’re worth.

AGATHA

And die poor? No, indeed….If the United States is such a communist country that I cannot be buried with my own property, then nobody may have it. I would prefer it be destroyed upon my death. Set on fire. Like one of those Indian widows.

ZACHARIAH

You want me to write that into your will?

AGATHA

That’s my intention, Mr. Carmichael. Oh, and you may be my executor.

ZACHARIAH

Let me get this straight. You want me to gather all of your property when you die and set it on fire.

AGATHA

Will that be a problem?

ZACHARIAH

Again, there’s the issue of compos mentis. The experts…

AGATHA

A pox on your experts, Mr. Carmichael. They should be horsewhipped.

ZACHARIAH

That may well be. Nevertheless, they are experts….

AGATHA

If you can’t help me, Mr. Carmichael, I’ll have to set the fire myself.

ZACHARIAH

While you’re still alive?

AGATHA

When I’m at death’s door….
There should really be a third condition between life and death for dealing with these touchy matters. Revealing family secrets. Establishing paternity. Distributing assets.
That way we wouldn’t need lawyers.

(Agatha exits.)

11. “Luther”

(Luther enters. Luther, to the audience.)

LUTHER

My father believes it is natural that I should inherit the family board game empire.
There is nothing natural about inheritance.
Why should you be able to inherit some things and not others?
Let’s say my father doesn’t put safety guards on the machine that chops up the Monopoly money, and one of our employees is diced to pieces. If my old man flees to the far corners of the earth, why shouldn’t the police arrest me in his place? After all, I’m the one who’ll inherit the money he saved by skimping.
We don’t allow that in this country. You cannot inherit criminal responsibility.
Inheriting property is no more natural than inheriting a jail sentence.
Sometimes inheriting property is inheriting a jail sentence.

(Luther exits.)

12. “Zachariah”

(Zachariah, to the audience.)

ZACHARIAH

Escheat. Don’t you just love the verb “to escheat”?
From the Latin “cadere.” To fall. This is also the origin of “chance” and “to cheat.”
Escheat: A “chance cheating.”
You would be surprised how many people die without wills.
I do not have a will myself. This is not an oversight.
I am a lawyer. I have no friends or family. To whom would I leave my money?
But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to let the state cheat me. I’m going to spend every last nickel while I’m still alive. Let them bury me in Potter’s field.
The problem is timing: Knowing when to go insolvent. I could wake up dead tomorrow. I could live another fifty years.
Either I’ll cheat the state or the state will cheat me.

(Zachariah exits.)

13. “Molly visits her grandmother”

(Agatha enters and stands at the door.  Molly enters through the door.)

MOLLY

Hi, Grandma. How are you?

AGATHA

Old.

MOLLY

I meant: How are you acutely?

AGATHA

You speak like a doctor.

MOLLY

How are you different now from the last time I saw you?

AGATHA

Older.

MOLLY

You are becoming one impossible old woman. It’s a good thing I love you. I hope you appreciate that.

AGATHA.

Why don’t you ask me how you are?

MOLLY

How I am?

AGATHA

Since the last time you saw me.

MOLLY

How am I?

AGATHA.

Disinherited.

MOLLY

This again?

AGATHA

I spoke to the lawyer this morning.

MOLLY

Let me guess. You told him you wanted to be buried with your money.

AGATHA

I want all of my property set on fire, actually.

MOLLY

I’m sure you do.

AGATHA

Don’t look at me like that.

MOLLY

How am I looking at you?

AGATHA

Like I’m demented. Like I’ve gone soft in the head. Like you’re going to ask me what day of the week it is or who was President during the Spanish-American War or whatever you ask people before you strap them into straightjackets and throw away the keys.

MOLLY

Please, Grandma

AGATHA

You’re going to have me declared mad and keep my property for yourself. Just like in King Lear.

MOLLY

Okay, okay. Get it all out of your system.

AGATHA

I’ll be wandering the heath with only a fool for a companion…stripped of my worldly possessions…my ancient body bare to the elements…sparrows nesting in my long white beard…..Or you’ll have me locked in the attic like Rochester’s wife in Jane Eyre….Guarded twenty-four hours…weighed down by shackles and leg-irons…fed on a meager diet of glass shards and motor oil….

MOLLY

Are you done?

AGATHA

I’m getting there….

MOLLY

Please, Grandma. You know I don’t give a damn about your property. I just want us to have a healthy, loving relationship.

AGATHA

When you agree to have a healthy, loving relationship with another woman, then you can have a healthy, loving relationship with me.

MOLLY

We’ve been through all this before.

AGATHA

And we’ll go through it all again. Do you need me to remind you of all the things I’ve done for you over the years?

MOLLY

This isn’t getting us anywhere.

AGATHA

Do you remember when you were in third grade and you glued your thumb to your index finger? Who helped unglue you?

MOLLY

Thank you. I’m grateful.

AGATHA

And when your bunny-rabbit kite got caught in the linden tree and I knocked it loose with a rock.

MOLLY

All right. Thank you again. I owe you one.

AGATHA

What about the time you were visiting colleges and you laughed so hard at that boy’s joke that you peed in your overalls? Who drove all the way to Vassar with a clean pair of dungarees?

MOLLY

I get the point. What do you want? My first born child?

AGATHA

You know precisely what I want.

MOLLY

That’s not going to happen.

AGATHA

Never say never. Elizabeth Taylor got back together with Richard Burton.

MOLLY

I’m not Elizabeth Taylor.

AGATHA

All the more reason…

MOLLY

It’s not going to happen, Grandma. I like men.

AGATHA

Okay, you like men. Nobody’s arguing with you. But is it always so important to get what you like?
I tell you what: After I’m dead, you get divorced and you marry a man.

MOLLY

Try to be reasonable.

AGATHA

I am being reasonable. It’s not as though I’m ordering you to marry a specific person. If I said to you: Marry the violent, pockmarked hunchback who owns the village mortuary so that I can be buried for free, that would be unreasonable.

MOLLY

What violent hunchback?

AGATHA

I was speaking hypothetically. My point is that I’m not confining your choice to a single person or a small group of people. Half the human beings in the world are women. More than half. That’s four billion women to choose from.

MOLLY

There could be four hundred billion and it wouldn’t make a difference....I am not going to fall in love with a woman.

AGATHA

How can you be so sure? You meet all four billion of them and then you decide.

MOLLY

I love you, Grandma. I really do. But this is not the sort of sacrifice grandchildren make for their grandmothers.

AGATHA

I don’t see what’s such a sacrifice. It’s not as though you have a specific man in mind that preventing you from marrying. This isn’t an English novel. Need I remind you that you have two doctoral degrees, young lady? That doesn’t exactly make you Helen of Troy.

MOLLY

I’ve met someone.

AGATHA

A man?

MOLLY

A man.

AGATHA.

Unbelievable!
What it is that Oedipus says? Count no woman happy until she is dead.

MOLLY

I’d like you to meet him.

AGATHA

What for? I can dislike him just fine without meeting him.

MOLLY

You might like him.

AGATHA

Only if he goes to Sweden and has his you-know-whats snipped off.

MOLLY

I thought I’d bring him over for supper this weekend. He’s an art historian.

AGATHA

You mean he’s a homosexual.

MOLLY

Why do you have to be this way?

AGATHA

Be what way? All art historians are homosexuals. It’s a proven fact. You might as well date a woman.

MOLLY

Well Luther is not a homosexual and he is not a woman, but he is an art historian. A relatively famous one. I’m sure he’d love to see Grandpa’s collection.

AGATHA

Before I set it on fire, you mean.

MOLLY

Give him a chance, Grandma. He’s not like any other man I’ve ever met.

AGATHA

You mean he’s interested in you.

MOLLY

Okay, have your fun. But yes, he’s interested in me. And I want you two to get to know each other. Honestly, Grandma, I cannot imagine spending my entire life with a man who didn’t know you.

AGATHA

Fine, bring him to supper. I’ll make something with lots of small bones in it.

(Molly exits.)

14. “Agatha”

(Agatha, to the audience.)

AGATHA

Men.
The problem with men is that they make you laugh so hard you pee in your pants and then they sit there grinning as though they’ve turned water into wine. If a man can make a woman lose control of anything—even her bladder—he takes credit for a major accomplishment. There you are, soaking wet and embarrassed, and he’s pleased as punch. Proud of himself. Turned on.
Up until you’re a certain age, that is. I’m past that age.
Nobody’s turned on when I lose control of my bladder.
That’s why I’m through with men.
Is a woman going to leave you when you lose urinary control? Is a woman going to run off with some iron-bladdered floozy? Of course not. She’s going to stick with you through continence and incontinence.  
That’s what I want for my Molly. A thoughtful girl who’ll change her diapers someday.

15. “Samantha”

(Samantha enters. Samantha, to the audience.)

SAMANTHA

Men.
I don’t like the word “prostitute.” I’m partial to “entrepreneur.”
Think about it: A man sells his soul to earn a quick buck and people call him an entrepreneur. But a woman sells her body for the same purpose and she’s a prostitute. Like, what’s that about?
It takes a lot of drive to make it in the sex industry. You can’t just show up on a street corner and flash some thigh. You need to take the initiative, to develop a business plan, establish a niche for yourself.
It doesn’t hurt to have a good slogan.
Do you want to hear mine?
“After sex with Samantha, you’re ready to die.”
Pretty catchy, no? And I thought it up on my own.
Who needs a fancy publicist? It’s all about ingenuity and hard work.
I work harder than your average doctor.
I had my breasts done. I was on the operating table for about three hours.
A few months later, the senior surgeon comes into my place for a screw.
I was on my back for six hours.
It took him half as long do my breasts—and there were two of them.
I should start billing extra for difficult procedures. Like Medicare….
People never ask me: If you weren’t a prostitute, what would you be doing?
I wish they would.
I think if I weren’t a prostitute, I’d be writing picture books for children.

(Samantha exits.)

16. “Molly and Luther visit Agatha”

(Agatha sits at the table and lights matches.  Molly and Luther enter.)

MOLLY

It smells of smoke.

AGATHA

Just practicing.

MOLLY

This is Luther.

(To Luther.)

This is my grandmother, Agatha Wellington.

AGATHA

Like the Duke of Wellington. Only still alive.

LUTHER

From what Molly tells me, you’d have been a match for Napoleon yourself.

AGATHA

I know all about you too. The operative facts, at least.

LUTHER

Then we’re even.

AGATHA

On the subject of operative facts, Mr. Luther, have you ever considered a trip to Scandinavia? Sweden, maybe?

MOLLY

Grandma!

AGATHA

I figured I’d cut to the chase. Better than snipping at him all night.

LUTHER

My first name is Luther, Mrs. Wellington. Luther Gibbons.

AGATHA

I prefer Mr. Luther, Mr. Luther. It reminds me that you’re not Miss Luther.

MOLLY

(To Luther.)

I told you she’s incorrigible. I apologize.

LUTHER

No need. I admire a person who knows what she wants out of life. If your grandmother would like me to be Mr. Luther, I’ll be Mr. Luther.

AGATHA

Milquetoast. A man—and he doesn’t even act like a man.

LUTHER

I kind of like “Mr. Luther.” What do you think Molly? Like Martin Luther. Or Dr. Martin Luther King.

MOLLY

It makes you sound like a stuffed animal.
One of those old stuffed animals with the eyes missing.

AGATHA

A male stuffed animal….
How did you two meet?

LUTHER

In a toy store.

MOLLY

I was watching other people shopping. The young mothers. When I feel desperate or lonely, I like to watch the young mothers with their children….Their numerous, whining, implacable children. It makes me feel less desperate and lonely.

AGATHA

In my day it was the diphtheria wards.

LUTHER

I picket outside toy stores on weekends. We live in a society where everybody’s obsessed with sex and violence. On television. In the schools. Nobody ever talks about the influence of board games. Battleship. Risk. What sort of values are we teaching our children?

MOLLY

I’d never thought about it before. Imagine the psychological damage that takes place if you’re playing Chutes and Ladders and—after so much hard work and effort—you slide all the way down the big chute to the bottom.

AGATHA

How interesting. Do you know how I met my husband, Mr. Luther?

LUTHER

No.

AGATHA

At an auction house, Mr. Luther. I was twenty-four years old. An intern out of Barnard College. Hiram had just bid on an entire lot of Old Masters—the ones he later donated to museums—when I went up on stage to interrupt the auctioneer.
You see: We had heard Orson Wells announce on the radio that Martians had landed in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.
Do you know what Hiram did? He bid on me.

MOLLY

That’s not true, Grandma.

AGATHA

No Martians had landed, of course. It was a hoax. But I was stuck with him for another thirty-two years.

MOLLY

(To Luther.)

She’s making this up.

LUTHER

Where do you think your husband is now, Mrs. Wellington?

AGATHA

I know where he is. Right there on the mantel. Next to the African violet.

LUTHER

I meant his soul, Mrs. Wellington. Do you believe he’s up in heaven looking down upon us…or reincarnated in the form of an animal…?

AGATHA

Hiram didn’t have a soul, Mr. Luther. I can’t speak more generally as to whether or not people have souls. But Molly’s grandfather didn’t.

LUTHER

I see.

AGATHA

On the day they were handing out souls, he was still on the line for brains.

MOLLY

(To Luther)

My grandparents were actually quite happily married. This is just a coping mechanism.

AGATHA

She has two doctoral degrees, so she thinks she knows everything. Did she mention that she has two doctoral degrees?

LUTHER.

She did. So do I.

MOLLY

In art history and in theology.

AGATHA

That’s what I’ve always wanted in a grandson. Practical skills.

LUTHER

Molly tells me your husband collected paintings. May I see them?

AGATHA

Look around. Nobody’s stopping you.

(Luther wanders around the room.)

LUTHER

Jesus Christ! Renoir’s “Self Portrait in White.” This disappeared during the bombing of Rotterdam….

AGATHA

It didn’t disappear at all. It merely relocated.

LUTHER

….John Constable’s “Oxbow at Dawn”…. Pissarro’s “Rue de Village”…. These paintings have been lost for half a century….

AGATHA

My husband was well-connected.

MOLLY

Grandpa was a character.

AGATHA

What she means is: Grandpa did business with Nazis.

LUTHER

….Is that one what I think it is?

AGATHA

Probably.

LUTHER

My God! It’s a Bergault!

AGATHA

If you say so. I never took much of an interest.

LUTHER

The Resurrection of Dismas and Gestas.

MOLLY

Is it important?

LUTHER

It was his masterpiece. I’ve written a book about it. It was supposed to have been destroyed during the Thermidorian Reaction.

AGATHA

Well take a good look. It won’t be around forever.

MOLLY

What’s that supposed to mean?

AGATHA

I mean I’m going to set it on fire. Before I die.

LUTHER

You’re going to what?!

AGATHA

I’m going to set all of these canvases on fire.

LUTHER

You must be mad.

(To Molly)

We have to call the authorities.

AGATHA

If you don’t like it, sue me. By the time you get to court, I’ll be dead.

(Agatha lights a match and watches it burn.)

Or call the police. But if you do, you’d best call the fire department at the same time.

LUTHER

Please, Mrs. Wellington. Let’s talk this over….

AGATHA

Now it’s “Please, Mrs. Wellington.” A moment ago, I was mad. What happened to admiring people who know what they want out of life?

LUTHER

I’m sorry. I was just swept away in the moment….But I admit I’m at a complete loss. Why would you want to destroy something so beautiful?

AGATHA

Don’t be so negative….Why not try to see the beauty in ashes?

LUTHER

I’m begging you, Mrs. Wellington. If you’re afraid of criminal charges—or publicity—we’ll find a way to take care of it. The art world can be exceedingly discreet….

AGATHA

I’m ninety years old. I’m far too old to be discreet.

LUTHER

Then what can I do to change your mind? I’ll do anything.

AGATHA

I’ll trade you. The painting for my granddaughter.

MOLLY

You are joking?!

AGATHA

He wants the painting. I want a granddaughter-in-law. What is there to joke about?

MOLLY

(To Luther)

She’s bluffing, honey. She gets like this.

(Agatha lights another match.)

AGATHA

think I may take up smoking….in bed.

MOLLY

Please, Grandma. This isn’t funny anymore.

AGATHA

I’m dead serious. Go home, Mr. Luther. Think it over.

(Molly and Luther exit.)

17. “Zachariah summons a prostitute”

(Zachariah enters. Zachariah, to the audience.)

ZACHARIAH

The practice of law is about rules and facts.
Changing rules is difficult. Changing facts is easy.
It will take years to convince the legislature that prostitution is a form of female entrepreneurship. It is far easier to convince a judge that your client isn’t a prostitute.
When the law is not on your side, a good attorney knows how to alter the facts.

(Zachariah, into a telephone.)

I’d like to order a prostitute….
I’m sorry. An escort.
No, not by the day….by the month….
That’s all fine. Money is not an issue….
What do you mean: “What kind of escort?” What are my options?
Oh, I see. Definitely a female escort….Caucasian is fine….
I’m not sure what those numbers mean….I really don’t know….
Can’t we just say weight proportional to height?

18. “Luther consults a lawyer”

(Luther enters.)

ZACHARIAH

So what can I do for you, Mr. Gibbons?

LUTHER

You see: I have this problem.

ZACHARIAH

I know.

LUTHER

What do you mean, You know?

ZACHARIAH

You’ve come to see a lawyer. Nobody goes to see a lawyer unless they have a problem.

LUTHER

I never thought of that.

ZACHARIAH

That’s why people don’t like lawyers. They associate them with problems. Now tell me: What sort of problem have you to come to see me about?

LUTHER

It’s more about a painting than about a problem.

ZACHARIAH

You have a painting.

LUTHER

No, I don’t have it. That’s the problem.

ZACHARIAH

What sort of painting is this?

LUTHER

A celebrated painting. The Resurrection of Dismas and Gestas by an artist named Renée Bergault.

ZACHARIAH

Dismas and Gestas?

LUTHER

The thieves who were crucified beside Jesus. But the painting is not “The Crucifixion of Dismas and Gestas.” It is The Resurrection of Dismas and Gestas. I trust you understand the theological implications of such a painting.

ZACHARIAH

I confess I don’t….My parents raised me Unitarian….I don’t understand the theological implications of much of anything….

LUTHER

Let me explain. Bergault was questioning why an all merciful and generous God would resurrect only his own son. That’s rather selfish, isn’t it? Some would call it flat-out nepotism. Not what you’d expect from a true Christian deity. But to resurrect two convicted thieves—to share your only son’s power with a pair of felons—now that’s the genuine Christian spirit. The paining is also the first modern example of surrealism—more than a century before Dali. It’s a breakthrough in both art and theology. I’ve dedicated my life to studying it.

ZACHARIAH

I imagine someone had to.

LUTHER

People haven’t always seen it that way, of course. The Archbishop of Munich kidnapped Bergault at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and cut his tongue out.

ZACHARIAH

How unfortunate….But I’m not sure how I can be of assistance to you? I’m afraid there’s a statute-of-limitations—even on de-tonguing.

LUTHER

For many years, the painting was believed destroyed in a fire. Some said the peasants had burned Bergault’s work out of superstition. Others claimed his wife had set the blaze because she thought he’d modeled one of the thieves after her….

ZACHARIAH

A case of arson.

LUTHER

No. Not yet. It turns out the painting wasn’t destroyed at all….
I’ve stumbled upon it right here in New York.

ZACHARIAH

Lucky for you.

LUTHER

Not so lucky. The woman who owns it plans to set it on fire.

ZACHARIAH

I see. That is a problem.

LUTHER

So can you help me?

ZACHARIAH

I wish I could. But you say this woman is the rightful owner….

LUTHER

She’s in possession of it, at least. But even if she does own it, that doesn’t give her the right to destroy it.

ZACHARIAH

I’m afraid it does. The case law is rather clear on this point.

LUTHER

You mean to tell me that I could go around buying up famous paintings and using them as firewood.

ZACHARIAH

If you could afford to…..

LUTHER

But what about the common good? Property rights aren’t absolute.

ZACHARIAH

In this case, I’m afraid they are.
Here we have an example of what in law school we called the Charles Dickens principle.

LUTHER

The Charles Dickens principle?

ZACHARIAH

As Dickens said, the law is an ass.

LUTHER

That’s it? That’s all the wisdom you have to offer. “The law is an ass.” We’re talking here about a priceless treasure….

ZACHARIAH

My advice to you is to buy the painting yourself.

LUTHER

It’s not for sale.

ZACHARIAH

Everything is for sale, Mr. Gibbons.
Priceless is a peculiar word. It tends to be used by art critics, scholars, intellectuals—the sort of people who can’t actually afford to buy things.
You can put a price on anything, Mr. Gibbons. Trust me.
Go out and do some fundraising.

LUTHER

If it were only so easy. The problem is the owner. I don’t imagine she’d sell under any circumstances. You have to understand: We’re not dealing with a sane woman here.

ZACHARIAH

Why didn’t you say she was crazy? That changes everything.

LUTHER

How?

ZACHARIAH

We can have her declared mentally incompetent. Non compos mentis. If she’s not sane, she shouldn’t be out on the streets. We’ll bind her in a straightjacket and throw away the key.

LUTHER

Doesn’t that seem rather drastic?

ZACHARIAH

Any other lawyer worth his salt would tell you the same….So does she foam at the mouth?

LUTHER

Not that I know of….

ZACHARIAH

Is she plotting to assassinate the President?

LUTHER

It’s never come up.

ZACHARIAH

Does she often attempt to kill herself? Perhaps in a ritualized way like disembowelment?

LUTHER

Last night she threatened to set herself on fire….

ZACHARIAH

Perfect! Were there other witnesses present?

LUTHER

My girlfriend was there.

ZACHARIAH

Consider it a done deal. I’ll phone the magistrate this afternoon. We’ll have the old coot in a padded cell by nightfall.

LUTHER

Hold on a second. This is all a bit fast…

ZACHARIAH

Zealous advocacy. That’s what I’m here for.

LUTHER

Can we hold off on this for a few days?

ZACHARIAH

Hold off?

LUTHER

I want to discuss it with my girlfriend.

ZACHARIAH

I see….
Why don’t we have this crazy woman locked up and then you can discuss the matter with your girlfriend. If you later reconsider, you can always petition to have the woman released….

LUTHER

I need some time. I’m sorry.

ZACHARIAH

Suit yourself. It’s not my painting.

(Luther stands up to leave.)

LUTHER

What about doctors?

ZACHARIAH

What about doctors?

LUTHER

People go to doctors when they have problems too. But very few people dislike doctors.

ZACHARIAH

That’s where you’re mistaken. People go to doctors when they think they have problems.
How many times have you shared your symptoms with your doctor—maybe showed her a minor rash or a discolored mole—and she’s said: “That’s nothing.”
It made you feel pretty grateful, didn’t it?
Even though she hadn’t done a darn thing.
I’ve been practicing law for twenty years. I’ve never heard a lawyer say: That’s nothing.

(Luther exits.)

19. “Zachariah”

(Zachariah, to the audience.)

ZACHARIAH

My father died in his sleep.
His father also died in his sleep. A picture frame fell on him during an earthquake.
You’d be shocked to learn what percentage of people die in their sleep.
Alexander the Great. General Douglas MacArthur. John Wayne.
It’s practically pandemic. Even Napoleon died in his sleep!
Chew on that for a few minutes. The little corporal, the hero of Austerlitz. He survived all of those Prussian cannon barrages. He visited the plague hospitals of Egypt and kissed the lepers.
And how did he die? With his boots off!

(Zachariah exits.)

20. “Molly”

(Molly enters. Molly, to the audience.)

MOLLY

To get into medical school, they ask you lots of questions.
Questions like: What would you do if you didn’t become a physician?
I told them I’d want to illustrate children’s books. They liked that answer a lot.
I’m not sure why. Once I was in medical school, nobody ever asked me to illustrate any children’s books…..
In medical school, they teach you about boundaries.
It is important to empathize with your patients. But don’t empathize too much with your patients. If a patient dies, it is good to want to go to her funeral. Not wanting to go means you’re a callous, stone-hearted bitch….But it’s unprofessional to actually go to the funeral.
That’s the take-away message from medical school: Doctors are supposed to spend all of their time wanting to go to patients’ funerals.

21. “Molly goes on another date.”

(Molly sits at a table. Luther enters and sits beside her.)

MOLLY

I’ve been thinking a lot about us sleeping together.

(Luther displays enthusiasm.)

I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about sleeping.

(Luther displays disappointment.)

I’m not sure I know you well enough to sleep with you.
How can I be confident you won’t sleepwalk? I’m afraid that you might sleepwalk over to the oven and turn the gas on by accident.

LUTHER

Where did this come from?

MOLLY

I saw that patient again. The one who’s afraid of waking up dead.

LUTHER

The lawyer?

MOLLY

Right. I can’t help thinking that he has a point.
People are so vulnerable when they’re sleeping.
Do you think we could take turns sleeping. Like sentries?

LUTHER

We can do anything you want, darling.
But how are we going to handle your grandmother?

MOLLY

What do you mean?

LUTHER

We can’t let her burn those paintings.

MOLLY

I’ll steal the Bergault when she’s not looking.

LUTHER

And the others?

MOLLY

I don’t know, Luther. I just don’t know.

LUTHER

Does your grandmother ever foam at the mouth, darling?

MOLLY

No. Why?

LUTHER

Is she plotting to assassinate the President?

MOLLY

Lord, no. She’s so batty these days, she actually likes the President. She finds it reassuring to have a President she could outwit if she needed to. Say, what’s this all about?

LUTHER

I spoke to a lawyer, darling. About your grandmother’s mental status. I think we should have her committed.

MOLLY

Excuse me?

LUTHER

She’s clearly lost her moorings. We have to do something. Before she self-immolates.

MOLLY

Since when are we looking after Grandma? She’s my grandmother. Not yours. We are not doing anything.

LUTHER

I was just saying—

MOLLY

Well, don’t.

LUTHER

I’m sorry.

MOLLY

You should be.

LUTHER

Well, I am.

MOLLY

It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just that I can’t imagine loving anyone who didn’t love Grandma….Can I ask you something? Please don’t be offended.

LUTHER

Anything.

MOLLY

After we make love, can we sleep in separate bedrooms?

(Molly and Luther exit.)

22. “Samantha at work”

(Zachariah enters and sits at his desk. Samantha enters.)

SAMANTHA

You ordered an escort?

ZACHARIAH

A Caucasian female, weight proportional to height.

SAMANTHA

That’s me.

ZACHARIAH

(Dumbstruck)

Very proportional.

SAMANTHA

So where do you want to start?

ZACHARIAH

What do you mean?

SAMANTHA

You have a full month. We can cover a lot of ground in a month.

ZACHARIAH

Oh, no. This isn’t for me. It’s for a client.

SAMANTHA

Sure, whatever. But only one at a time.

ZACHARIAH

It’s not like that at all.

SAMANTHA

(Making advances toward Zachariah)

It’s any way you want it. So where is this client of yours?

ZACHARIAH

My client is a ninety year old woman.

SAMANTHA

(Taken aback)

What the fuck?

(Pause. Samantha looks around the office.)

Am I on Candid Camera?

ZACHARIAH

Please, lady. What I need you to do is to seduce this woman’s granddaughter. To make her fall in love with you.

SAMANTHA

Love….And a woman….That’s going to cost a lot extra.

ZACHARIAH

Money is no consideration.
I’m trying to spend as much as I can before I die.

SAMANTHA

You for real?

ZACHARIAH

As real as a lawyer can be.

SAMANTHA

Okay, let’s get to it.

ZACHARIAH
Her name is Dr. Molly Drake. Here’s her info.

(He hands Samantha a sheet of stationery.)

SAMANTHA

One month of female love and seduction coming right up.
Is that all?

ZACHARIAH

Well…While I have you here, I was thinking….I uhm….

SAMANTHA

You want to sample the merchandise?

ZACHARIAH

I’ve been having trouble sleeping….

(Samantha kisses Zachariah—first on the forehead and then directly on the lips.)

SAMANTHA

Trust me. After this, you’ll be ready to die.

(Samantha jumps on top of Zachariah.)

ACT ONE ENDS

ACT TWO

1. “Zachariah visits his psychiatrist again”

(Molly is seated in a chair. Zachariah sits opposite her.)

ZACHARIAH

I’m ready to die.

MOLLY

What do you mean?

ZACHARIAH

Do you remember how I was afraid of waking up dead? Well, I still think I might wake up dead—but I’m not afraid anymore. You have to help me, Dr. Drake. Please.

MOLLY

I’m not sure I understand this. You slept with a prostitute and now you’re no longer afraid of dying?

ZACHARIAH

Exactly. It’s as though I’ve already experienced everything I need to experience in life. If I wake up dead—well, I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

MOLLY

And you find this upsetting….

ZACHARIAH

I find myself taking unnecessary risks. Yesterday, I ran into a burning apartment building and rescued a caged ferret.

MOLLY

Some people might consider that heroic.

ZACHARIAH

Sheer madness. And this morning, during that thunderstorm, I couldn’t resist flying a kite with a key attached. Do you know what sort of looks you get when you stand on the Brooklyn Promenade flying a kite in a thunderstorm?

MOLLY

What sort of looks do you get, Mr. Carmichael?

ZACHARIAH

I’m a wills and trusts lawyer, Dr. Drake. I’m not cut out for taking risks.

MOLLY

So let’s be clear about this. You want me to help you recover your fear of death.

ZACHARIAH

Please, doctor. The only thing I can think of worse than waking up dead is waking up dead and not caring about it.

MOLLY

I imagine that would be unpleasant….What I’d like to do now is to clarify a few details, Mr. Carmichael. Do you often sleep with prostitutes?

ZACHARIAH
Never. It was a special occasion.

MOLLY

A birthday?

ZACHARIAH

No.

MOLLY

An anniversary?

ZACHARIAH

No.

MOLLY

A religious observance?

ZACHARIAH

Nothing like that. It was for a client. Strictly business.

MOLLY

I see. And was there anything remarkable about the…sex act?

ZACHARIAH

Other than that I’m no longer afraid of dying? Nothing. It was stunningly mediocre.

(Zachariah exaggerates the following line as though he is describing great sex—even though it was “mediocre” sex.)  The most mediocre sex you could imagine.

MOLLY

And after you had sex, what did you do?

ZACHARIAH

I went to sleep. I slept like a baby.

MOLLY

Because you weren’t afraid of dying.

ZACHARIAH

The poor girl had to pour a bucket of ice water on me to wake me up….
And do you know what the first thing I said was?
I asked her: “Am I dead?” Just out of curiosity.
And then I bought a newspaper at the store on the corner and checked the obituaries.

MOLLY

Very thorough of you.

ZACHARIAH

I may be fearless, but I’m still a lawyer.  So can you help me, doctor?

MOLLY

I can try….But I can’t make any promises.
Even with the advances of modern medical science, some things still aren’t possible.

ZACHARIAH

That’s very wise of you, Dr. Drake. From a legal standpoint, that is. Keep my expectations low, so I don’t sue you if things don’t go my way.
And if you do cure me—well then I’ll think you’re way ahead of the average physician.
That’s what I admire about you doctors. You think like lawyers.

(Molly dozes off in her chair.)

Dr. Drake? Are you all right, Dr. Drake?

(Zachariah shakes her awake.)

MOLLY

I’m so sorry. I haven’t been sleeping well….I’ve been so terrified…. Terrified….

ZACHARIAH

(Comforting her.)

It’s all right, Dr. Drake. There’s nothing to be afraid of….Absolutely nothing.
(Molly and Zachariah exit.)

2. “Samantha”

(Samantha enters. Samantha, to the audience.)

SAMANTHA

As a sex worker, it’s very important to set boundaries.
Not only with the client—but with yourself.
What would happen if I fell in love with each john I slept with? If I got upset that he wouldn’t stay the night…or started worrying that he might leave me for another escort….
Or God forbid I got jealous of a guy’s wife.
That’s no way to run a small business.
You face enough thorny ethical issues in sex work without having to worry about love.
For instance, what do you do if a regular customer has a heart attack in the act?
Do you accompany him to the hospital? In the ambulance? Or in your own car?
And how do you interact with the spouse? Is your relationship with the dying client’s wife a social relationship or a business relationship?
Not to mention the matter of funerals. Should you go? Should you stand at the graveside? Or farther back? But if you stand too far back, you risk drawing attention to yourself….Other mourners might mistake you for a mistress, rather than a paid escort.
I usually avoid client’s funerals.
But that’s not as obvious a choice as it sounds.
I discovered this the hard way.
Last year, one of my regular customers—a state senator—died in the sack.
He was already dead when the emergency workers arrived, so I didn’t bother to ride with him to the hospital. He was a big-name politician. I didn’t need the media attention. I honestly thought I was doing the family a favor.
Two days later, the guy’s wife calls me. Irate.
Do you know what she says?
“You goddamn whore. You fuck my husband all these years—you fuck him to death, goddammit—and you don’t have the decency to come to his funeral.”
She had a point.
There ought to be a code of ethics for sex workers.
If there can be a code of ethics for lawyers, there can be a code of ethics for sex workers.

(Samantha exits.)

3. “The third date”

(Molly enters and lies down in the bed. Luther knocks on her door .)

MOLLY

Come in!

LUTHER

It’s locked.

MOLLY

Sorry. Coming.

(Molly unlocks the door and returns to bed. Luther enters.)

LUTHER

You look ravishing.

MOLLY

That’s because I’ve been ravished. Last night was spectacular.

LUTHER

I did my best.

MOLLY

Sorry about the door….

LUTHER

It’s okay. We all have our hang-ups.

MOLLY

Was the sofa okay? I know the springs are a bit sharp.

LUTHER

No sharper than serpents’ teeth. They kept me awake for a while, but I’m grateful for it. It gave me time to think.

MOLLY

Think about what?

LUTHER

The usual things. Love. Death. The relationship between fertility and the democratic process.

MOLLY

You didn’t sleep much, did you?

LUTHER

Consider this for a moment. We all accept the principle of one person, one vote, without much questioning. Democracy—the received wisdom. But is that really equitable? The problem with democracy is that it favors hyper-fertile people.

MOLLY

It favors who?

LUTHER

Hyper-fertile people. Mormons. Orthodox Jews. People without the common sense to use birth control. Or maybe with the common sense not to use birth control. The way to gain political power in this country isn’t to raise money, it’s to raise children.
Why not one family, one vote?

MOLLY

I love you.

LUTHER

There’s also the question of why only human beings should be able to vote. Maybe certain animals should be enfranchised. Chimpanzees. Orangutans. You might appoint human intermediaries to represent the interests of higher-order mammals.

MOLLY

I said: I love you.

LUTHER

I imagine there would be nay-sayers at first. But it’s not as though women or African-Americans or even working class white men didn’t have to struggle to get the vote. So why not dolphins and parrots…? Parrots pose a special problem, of course, because they can be easily manipulated….

MOLLY

Luther. You are not listening to me.

LUTHER

I am listening to you. Now what was I saying….?
The real problem arises when you combine the animal rights approach with the principle of one creature, one vote.
By my estimate, in twenty years we’ll all be ruled by a dictatorship of rabbits.
Like George Orwell’s 1984 meets Watership Down.

MOLLY

Luther, do you love me?

LUTHER

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to defend us from these rabbits.

MOLLY

LUTHER!!! Goddammit! I asked you if you loved me?

LUTHER

Do I love you? Of course, I love you. What kind of question is that to ask a man whose trying to rescue you from a regime of totalitarian rabbits?

MOLLY

You need to tell me that you love me, honey.

LUTHER

I’m telling you.

MOLLY

You need to tell me all the time.

LUTHER

Couldn’t I just write it down for you and that way you wouldn’t forget?

MOLLY

Who would ever have imagined I’d fall in love with such a strange man?

LUTHER

You could carry the note around your neck. Like a locket. Or a cowbell.
That way other people could see it too and they’d know how much I love you.
It would be a lot cheaper than an engagement ring—and much more direct.

MOLLY

I think I’m ready to sleep with you. In the same bed.

LUTHER

(Luther displays enthusiasm.)

Right now?

MOLLY

Yes. Right now.

(They climb into the bed.)

Let’s take a nap.

(Luther displays disappointment.)

Can I ask you another odd question?

LUTHER

Anything.

MOLLY

How would you feel if I hired a prostitute to help me conquer my fear of dying in my sleep?

LUTHER

I’m glad you asked that.

MOLLY

You are?

LUTHER

I think it’s very important a couple know each other’s attitudes and social values before they get married. How can I honestly say I love you if I don’t know how you feel about prostitution? Or hydroelectric power? Or the Rockefeller drug laws?

MOLLY

So you’d be okay with it if I hired a prostitute?

LUTHER

Not in ten million years.

(Luther exits.)

4. “Agatha”

(Agatha enters. Agatha, to the audience.)

AGATHA

Ninety years old.
When I was a girl, nobody lived to be ninety years old.
If you did live to be ninety years old, they gave you a proclamation from the president.
Harding or Coolidge or whomever.
Then they blindfolded you and led you into the wilderness.
Sometimes, if they were generous, they left you with a bowl of soup.
If you were fortunate enough to find your way back, they gave you another proclamation.
Sometimes they even gave you a second bowl of soup.
Very few people found their way back.
These days, it seems everybody lives to be ninety.
I read somewhere that ninety is the new eighty.
Personally, I preferred my old eighty to my new ninety.
The most remarkable thing about being ninety is that you lose your sense of urgency.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? At fifty, I was glad to compromise in order to get things done.
Time was of the essence.
But now that I have very little time left, I’m stubborn as a brick….
When I turned eighty-five, I was fool enough to agree to an interview.
With a newspaper reporter. A woman newspaper reporter.
I was so pleased they sent a woman. Like Nellie Bly.
What better match for my Molly than a hard-hitting investigative journalist?
But this woman asked the stupidest questions:
She wanted to know: “Did I think about death a lot?”
I was eighty-five years old. Of course, I thought about death a lot.
She wanted to know: “What did I think about death?”
So I told her: Profound, original thoughts.
Paradigm-shifting insights—the sort for which you get tenured at a major university.
Who would have imagined it?
All those poets and philosophers contemplating death for all of those centuries and it falls to me, the daughter of an obscure dilettante descended from a long line of obscure dilettantes, to decipher the meaning of death.
“What did I think about death?”
What sort of stupid question was that?
What the woman should have asked was: “What does death think about me?”
Now that’s a question I’d be curious to have answered.

5. “Molly visits her grandmother”

(Agatha begins reading a book. Molly passes through the door.)

AGATHA

(Reading)

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”

MOLLY

Grandma!

AGATHA

I’m re-reading King Lear. As a cautionary tale.

MOLLY

Look, Grandma. We need to talk.

AGATHA

Talk! If I get tired of listening, I’ll turn my hearing aide off.

MOLLY

You don’t wear a hearing aide.

AGATHA

It’s a pity. Ninety years old and none of the perks.
It’s a shame people didn’t evolve so they could shut their ears.

MOLLY

What happened between you and Luther last night was unacceptable.

AGATHA

Nobody told you that you had to bring him here.
Whatever happened to that nice girl you used to go with?

MOLLY

What girl?

AGATHA

You know who I mean. The pretty black girl with the cornrow braids.

MOLLY

Lorraine Charles? That was twenty years ago.

AGATHA

Such a nice girl. So respectful. And ambitious.

MOLLY

We were twelve years old.

AGATHA

Well, I bet she made something of herself.

She’s probably a United States Senator by now.

MOLLY

I saw her at my class reunion, Grandma.  She’s a librarian. She has a husband and three adorable children.

AGATHA

Maybe she’s ready for a change.

MOLLY

I can’t believe we’re even discussing this.  Wait! We’re not discussing this.  We’re discussing you and Luther.  You need to apologize.

AGATHA

For what? For looking out for your best interests?

MOLLY

How am I supposed to benefit from having my boyfriend scared off and my inheritance set on fire?

AGATHA

It’s a good test for that Mr. Luther of yours.
You don’t want to marry a man who’d give you up for a painting.

MOLLY

Luther’s not giving me up.

AGATHA

Don’t be so sure about that….
But if he doesn’t, so much the better for you.

MOLLY

Why are you doing this?

AGATHA
What are you going to do if you’re on a sinking ship and Mr. Luther has to decide between you and the Bergault? You don’t want to be with a man who’d throw you into the icy waters of the North Atlantic to save an obscure oil painting.

MOLLY

It’s not obscure.

AGATHA

I’m not going to have my granddaughter drown over a work of art. I don’t care if it’s the Venus de Milo.

MOLLY

Nobody’s drowning.

AGATHA

I’m sure they said the same thing aboard the Lusitania.

MOLLY

Luther is a wonderful man, Grandma. He’s loving. He plans ahead. I’ve never met anyone who thinks as….as differently as he does. If the world were taken over by fascist rabbits, he’d sacrifice himself for me. Not that the world will ever be taken over by fascist rabbits—but it’s the thought that counts. And the fact that Luther can imagine a world of cottontails with swastikas. What more could I ask for?

AGATHA

Of course he’d sacrifice himself for you. He obviously has no self-esteem. But would he sacrifice the painting for you?

MOLLY

I can’t talk to you when you’re this way.

AGATHA

Trust me, Molly. A man who throws you overboard to save a painting is never going to stick around to change your diapers.

(Agatha exits. Molly passes back through the door.)

6. “Molly visits a toy store”

(Molly, to the audience.)

MOLLY

I hate toy stores.
Megalithic abusers of children—that’s what they are.
I used to think I loved toy stores until I met Luther.
Then I realized that I’d really hated them all of my life.
I just didn’t know that about myself.
Isn’t it amazing how you can fall in love and suddenly recognize that for all of your adult life you’ve despised something so basic as toy stores—and you’ve never realized it before?
Ah, love….
I used to think how romantic it would be to meet my future husband in a toy store.
Now, frankly, it’s embarrassing.
Instead, I tell people we met in an internet chat room.
It makes us sound very hip and modern.

7. “Samantha visits a toy store”

(Samantha enters. Samantha, to the audience.)

SAMANTHA

I love toy stores.
There’s nothing more wholesome and all-American than a toy store.
Red wagons, baseball gloves, Barbie.
I don’t get the problem people have with Barbie.
It seems to me she teaches children all the right lessons in life.
If you want to be a successful woman, be good-looking.
I didn’t make the world that way—but that’s the way the world is.
Why tell funny-looking fat girls that all of their dreams can come true, only to set them up for disappointment? If I were a funny-looking fat girl, I’d want to be told the truth:
“Go on a diet and save up your money for plastic surgery.”
Sure, I’m all for feminism.
But I’m not for mounting the revolution on the backs of ugly little children.
I say you tell them how it is. Brutal honesty.
If you really want to help them, pay for them to become pretty girls.
We talk about a progressive income tax. I think there ought to be a tax on beautiful people so that ugly people can get their faces re-sculpted….
You didn’t think I knew about progressive taxation.
Doesn’t it just amaze you when a working-class person makes a reference to something intellectual like the graduated income tax?
It makes you feel insecure, doesn’t it?

8. “Samantha seduces Molly”

(Samantha intentionally bumps into Molly.)

SAMANTHA

I’m so sorry.

MOLLY

Oh, no. It was my fault. Really.

SAMANTHA

I guess all of the children distracted me.
I love children and all—but there are so many of them.
Children weren’t meant to travel in packs.

MOLLY

Can I tell you a secret?

SAMANTHA

Anything.

MOLLY

I hate children.
I tell people I love them, but I can’t stand them.

SAMANTHA

Can I tell you a secret?

MOLLY

Fire away!

SAMANTHA

I lied a second ago. I hate them too.

MOLLY

Really?

SAMANTHA
I can think of few things in the world I detest as much as I detest children.
Except possibly parents. In their defense, children can’t help being children.
But parents….

MOLLY

My boyfriend has a theory about that.
About how fertile people are plotting to take over the world.

SAMANTHA

You have a boyfriend….?

MOLLY

You sound surprised.
Why wouldn’t I have a boyfriend?

SAMANTHA

I guess I thought you were…

MOLLY

A lesbian. Good God, I should be so lucky!
That would solve everything.
Some people in the world have all the luck.

SAMANTHA

If you don’t have luck, you can make luck.

(Samantha cups her artificial breasts to emphasize her point.)

So if you hate children, what were you doing in a toy store?

MOLLY

Reminding myself—so I don’t lose sight of how much I loathe them.
People do foolish things when they’re in love.
They forget that their own children will turn out like everybody else’s.
Maybe worse—you could end up with particularly ugly, selfish, stupid children.
It’s hard to imagine that I once considered specializing in pediatrics.

SAMANTHA

You’re a doctor?

MOLLY

I’m a headshrinker.

SAMANTHA

(If Samantha is played with a foreign accent, she may mispronounce the words “psychiatrist” and “psychiatry.”)

Wow! A psychiatrist. I think psychiatry is so sexy…

MOLLY

You’re making fun of me.

SAMANTHA

Not at all….Say, if you weren’t a psychiatrist, what would you be?

MOLLY

That’s easy. I’d illustrate children’s books.

SAMANTHA

You’ve got to be kidding. If I weren’t in the sex industry, I’d be a children’s book author.

MOLLY

Excuse me?

SAMANTHA

What I meant to say was: I write children’s books.

MOLLY

Oh. That’s great. Maybe I could do some illustrating for you....

SAMANTHA

(Seductively.)

I think I might like that….

(Looking up at the sky.)

It looks like the heavens are going to open up. Do you want to duck inside someplace and grab a cup of coffee…?

MOLLY

I’d love to…but I can’t...really….

SAMANTHA

Are you sure?

MOLLY

Unfortunately.

SAMANTHA

(Alarmed)

Jesus! Watch out!!

(A bolt of lightning strikes Molly. She falls to the ground.)

Are you all right?

MOLLY

I think so. Was that really a lightning bolt?

SAMANTHA

Sure looked like it. Are you positive you’re okay?

MOLLY

I feel a bit funny.

SAMANTHA

Funny, how?

MOLLY

You know. Dizzy. Short of breath….Gay.

SAMANTHA

Excuse me?

MOLLY

I feel like I’m falling in love with you.

9. “Zachariah”

(Zachariah enters. Zachariah, to the audience.)

ZACHARIAH

To the uninitiated outsider, the law may appear irrational.
But what is it that Hamlet says?
“It’s madness, but there’s method to it.”
In fact, the fields of psychiatry and jurisprudence are closely related.
The law often insists upon assurances of sanity.
Take, for example, the matter of inheritance.
You cannot write a valid will if you are crazy. But how crazy is crazy?
I’m not afraid of dying. Is that crazy?
Or is it merely peculiar? Eccentric?
Running into a burning building to save a caged house pet is considered heroic.
For the life of me, I cannot imagine why. To me, that’s crazy.
If I ever leave the law, I think I’d like to become a psychiatrist.

(Zachariah exits.)

10. “Molly and Samantha in love – part one”

(Samantha and Molly pass back through the door.  They sit at a table, writing and illustrating.)

MOLLY

Are you sure about this? It seems a bit racy for kids?

SAMANTHA

They said that about “Heather Has Two Mommies.”

MOLLY

There’s a big difference between “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Jackie’s Dad Visits a Bordello.”

SAMANTHA

Do you think “bordello” is too difficult? How about “cat house”?

MOLLY

I’m not sure how to illustrate the scene on the waterbed….

SAMANTHA

I have complete faith in you, my love.
But have you considered drawing the escorts without white coats…?

MOLLY

You don’t like them like that?
I thought it made them look more hygienic.

SAMANTHA

Whatever makes you happy, my love.

MOLLY

When you think about it, there’s absolutely no reason sex workers shouldn’t wear white coats. They’re professionals, in a way.

SAMANTHA

You have to approach the question as a businesswoman.
What guy wants to get it on with a hooker dressed like a pork butcher?

MOLLY

You know an awful lot about prostitution.

SAMANTHA

It’s something of a hobby.

MOLLY

Would you mind telling me something personal?

SAMANTHA

My life is an open book.

MOLLY

Are you ever afraid of waking up dead?

SAMANTHA

Almost every night.
That’s why I drink lot’s of coffee—no risk of falling asleep on the job. It’s good to keep a switchblade in your purse, just in case.
And I never turn a trick at my own place.

MOLLY

I don’t understand.

SAMANTHA

I was joking….
A prostitution joke.

MOLLY

I’m terrified of dying in my sleep. This patient put this idea into my head….and now I’m decompensating….

(Samantha steps forward and kisses Molly.)

SAMANTHA

I promise I can take care of that.
After tonight, you’ll be more than ready to die.

(Samantha exits.)

11. “Molly tells Luther of her love for Samantha”

(Luther enters and sits down opposite Molly.)

MOLLY

I’m in love with Samantha.

LUTHER

I’m speechless…. Who’s Samantha?

MOLLY

She was the woman who was with me when I was struck by lightning.
At first, I thought it was a fluke. A passing craving.
Like olives or chocolate.
But then I had sex with her—and I’m no longer afraid to die.

LUTHER

Let me get this straight.
You’re leaving me because you had great sex?

MOLLY

(Molly exaggerates the following line as though he is describing great sex—even though it was “mediocre” sex.)

Oh, no. The sex was mediocre. The most mediocre sex you could imagine.
But now I feel so liberated.

LUTHER

Because you’re not a afraid of dying?

MOLLY

I slept fourteen hours last night.
And then I climbed out on the ledge to say hello to the pigeons.
It was a very narrow ledge and a fourteen story drop—but I didn’t care.
Isn’t that wonderful?

LUTHER

Wonderful.

MOLLY

Why do you have to be so selfish? Why can’t you be happy for me?

LUTHER

I am happy. I’m just jealous.
I’m jealous I haven’t also lost my fear of the death, because then I could lie down in front of a freight train.

MOLLY

I’m sorry, Luther. It just happened. Like lightning.

LUTHER

That batty grandmother of yours had something to do with this.

MOLLY

Nothing. I swear.

LUTHER

She thinks that just because I’m an art historian, and I let her call me Mr. Luther, and I leave pink roses at Judy Garland’s grave every April, I’m the sort of guy she can push around. Well she is sadly mistaken.

MOLLY

You’re not going to do something crazy, are you?

LUTHER

It depends what you mean by crazy. I’m going to consult my attorney.

(Luther exits.)

12. “Molly tells Agatha of her love for Samantha”

(Agatha enters and sits down opposite Molly.)

MOLLY

I’m in love with Samantha.

AGATHA

It’s about time….Who’s Samantha?

MOLLY

The woman I was with when I was struck by lightning.

AGATHA

She’s a real woman, isn’t she?

MOLLY

What?

AGATHA

Not merely a cross-dresser? Or one of those in-betweens?

MOLLY

You are truly impossible. Why do you always have to be so suspicious?

AGATHA

With age comes wisdom. When you’re ninety, you’ll also be suspicious.

MOLLY

Anything else you want to know? Should we check to see if she has a criminal record?

AGATHA

How does she earn her keep?

MOLLY

She writes children’s books.

AGATHA

How did you meet her?

MOLLY

Outside a toy store.

AGATHA

This is getting to be a theme…. Hanging around outside toy stores, picking up men and women…. Hold on a moment, young lady. What sort of toys do they sell in this “toy store” of yours? These aren’t adult toys, are they?

MOLLY

Please, Grandma. They’re children’s toys.
Blocks and dolls and goddam right-wing board games?
Can’t you be happy for me just this once?

AGATHA

Of course, I can, dear.
When do I get to meet the lucky girl?

MOLLY

How about supper this weekend?

AGATHA

Wonderful. I’ll fillet something.
Unless your girlfriend would like to do the cooking, that is.
Is she that kind of girl?

MOLLY

No, Grandma. She doesn’t cook or sew or curtsey or count her change out on her palm.

AGATHA

But she’s definitely a woman?

MOLLY

Definitely.

AGATHA

So that’s a start. We’ve got the material to work with, at least.

(Molly exits. Luther enters with a chessboard.)

13. “Agatha gives Luther a gift”

(Agatha enters with a canvas. She passes through the door.)

AGATHA

Your front door is unlocked.

LUTHER

What do you want? Haven’t you caused enough trouble?

AGATHA

I actually came to bring you a gift.

LUTHER

I don’t want it.

(Agatha sits down opposite Luther.)

AGATHA

Do you play chess?

(Luther responds by moving a piece.  They play chess while they talk.)

LUTHER

It takes some nerve to show up here after you’ve ruined my life.

AGATHA

I’ve done nothing of the sort.
Do you know what you’re trouble is, young man?
You’re fighting against the script.
A good-looking young art historian like you should have no trouble finding a nice young man to visit toy stores with. Trust me.

LUTHER

I don’t want a nice young man. I want Molly.

AGATHA

You only think you want Molly.

LUTHER

No, Mrs. Wellington. I want Molly.

AGATHA

You keep believing that, darling.
In another sixty years, you’ll hardly remember her.

LUTHER

What if I don’t live another sixty years? Have you ever thought of that?
I’m so upset, you have me playing board games.

AGATHA

I enjoy board games, Mr. Luther.

LUTHER

Checkmate.

AGATHA

But the problem with board games is that they’re nothing like real life.
In board games, people like you have a chance of winning. But not in real life.
In real life, young man, people like me always win.
People like me manufacture board games to trick people like you into thinking you have a chance of winning in real life. Bread and circus, Mr. Luther.

LUTHER

You’re going to hear from my lawyer. Mrs. Agatha.

AGATHA

You have your lawyer call my lawyer.

LUTHER

I’ll do that.

AGATHA

But just to show you there are no hard feelings on my part, I’m going to leave that hideous painting right here for you.

LUTHER

I don’t want it.

AGATHA

In that case, I’ll also leave a pack of matches.

(Agatha exits. Luther retrieves the canvas.  Zachariah sits down at the table.)

14. “Luther consults his lawyer again”

(Luther passes through the door with the canvas.)

ZACHARIAH

You’re back, Mr. Gibbons.

I was beginning to fear you’d gotten cold feet….

LUTHER

You’ve got to help me. I’m ready for drastic action.

ZACHARIAH

I figured you’d see it my way. The painting will be yours in no time.

LUTHER

I already have the painting.

ZACHARIAH

You have the painting?

LUTHER

The old witch gave it to me.

(Luther shows Zachariah the painting.)

I’ve been carrying it with me everywhere I go.
I keep thinking that if two Roman thieves and a Jewish carpenter can get themselves resurrected, I might have a chance of winning back Molly.
It’s enough to keep a man from lying down in front of a freight train.

ZACHARIAH

It looks like two bottles of wine and a slice of cheese.

LUTHER

It’s surrealism. The wine bottles are Dismas and Gestas. The cheese is Jesus.
If you look closely, the wine bottle on the left looks somewhat like Madame Bergault.

ZACHARIAH

And what does that say? At the bottom?

LUTHER

“Ceci n’est pas une résurrection.”
“This is not a resurrection.”

ZACHARIAH

But I thought it was a resurrection.

LUTHER

Exactly. Isn’t it brilliant?

ZACHARIAH

I imagine so….In any case, if you have the painting, Mr. Gibbons, I don’t see what can I do for you.

LUTHER

She gave me the painting. But she stole my girlfriend.

ZACHARIAH

Stole? You mean kidnapped?

LUTHER

Not exactly. More like brain-washed.

ZACHARIAH

I see. That’s a bit trickier.

LUTHER

Aren’t there laws against interfering in another couple’s romance?
Maybe some left over statutes from Victorian England?

ZACHARIAH

I’m afraid not.

LUTHER

Tell me, Mr. Carmichael. How many laws are there out there?

ZACHARIAH

Laws? Hundreds of thousands.

LUTHER

Hundreds of thousands.

ZACHARIAH

And that’s just at the state level….
Then there are federal codes, tax codes, bankruptcy codes…
Treaty obligations, international laws…

LUTHER

Close to one million?

ZACHARIAH

Close to one million.

LUTHER

Amazing! You mean to tell me there are nearly a million laws out there and you don’t have one measly law that can help me?

ZACHARIAH

That’s a rather harsh way to put it. But yes, I fear that’s the case.

LUTHER

For a lawyer, you know, you’re not very helpful.

ZACHARIHAH:

There still is the issue of this woman’s sanity.
We could have her institutionalized.

LUTHER

Molly would never forgive me.

ZACHARIAH

Molly?

LUTHER

Molly Drake. My girlfriend.

ZACHARIAH

Your girlfriend?
That means the woman you want to have committed is….Agatha Wellington.

LUTHER

You know her?

ZACHARIAH

(Pause while Zachariah thinks.)

By reputation only.

LUTHER

Then you know how wealthy and powerful she is.
Do you think you can help me? Please.

ZACHARIAH

I’ll do the best I can under the circumstances, Mr. Gibbons.
Zealous advocacy. That’s the best any attorney can offer.

(Luther and Zachariah exit.)

15. “Molly and Samantha in love – part two”

(Samantha and Molly enter. They sit at a table, writing and illustrating.)

MOLLY

This seems so unfair.
You cure me of my fear of death—and how am I repaying you?
By taking you to meet the Wicked Witch of the West.

SAMANTHA

I’m sure she’s not as difficult as you’re making her out to be.

MOLLY

She’s worse. I love her, but she’s worse.

SAMANTHA

I’ll adore her anyway.

MOLLY

I hope so.
It will have to go better than it did with Luther.

SAMANTHA

She didn’t like Luther?

MOLLY

She didn’t want me to marry a man….It’s a hang-up of hers. Ever since my mother ran off with my father.   But that’s a long, complicated story.

SAMANTHA

I’m all ears.

MOLLY

My father was a man.

SAMANTHA

And….?

MOLLY

No, that’s more or less it.
My father was a man and my grandmother hated him.
He was also very handsome. And very poor. He sold ink door to door.
From a little pushcart with a giant squid painted on it.
My mother collected fountain pens….
One thing led to another.
It was just one of those things.

SAMANTHA

I admire people who marry up.
He must have been a very enterprising man.

MOLLY

I don’t know. He died before I was born.
And my mother died when she had me.
So Grandma’s all I have left.

SAMANTHA

Then I’ll love her twice as much.

MOLLY

Do you know what the ironic part it?
Grandma thinks she hated my father because he was a man.
But the truth is that she hated him because he was poor.
She just isn’t self-aware enough to see that.

SAMANTHA

Have you told her that?

MOLLY

Of course not.
It’s important for people to figure these things out for themselves.

SAMANTHA

And what if they never do?

MOLLY

That’s what’s so wonderful about long-term analysis.
If it doesn’t work, the patient never knows.

16. “Zachariah”

(Zachariah enters. Zachariah, to the audience.)

ZACHARIAH
Conflict of interest. All the work lawyers do involves a conflict of interest.
Let’s say I have two clients. One is an accused axe-murderer.
I know he committed the crimes charged, but I defend him none-the-less.
My other client is an elderly widow for whom I’m writing a will.
If I succeed in freeing my axe-murderer, I place the life of my widow in jeopardy.
Maybe not in a lot of jeopardy—my axe murderer has numerous prospective victims to choose from. But it’s a conflict of interest, none-the-less.
The only sure way to avoid conflict of interest entirely is to serve only one client—and that’s obviously not a realistic possibility.
I am reminded of the famous English case of Shacklesford vs. Shacklesford. Queen’s Bench. 1958. Mr. Shacklesford, a paranoid schizophrenic, sued himself in order to recover a portion of his own inheritance. He hired a lawyer to prosecute his case. He hired another lawyer to defend himself and to counter-sue. Each lawyer took thirty-three percent. One third may seem like a significant cut at first—but it misses the larger point. Mr. Shacklesford won his case. You do see what I’m driving at, don’t you?
Some lawyers would have refused to take Shacklesford’s case—and then he would have won absolutely nothing.
So I try not to worry myself too much about conflicts of interest….I compartmentalize.
One hour, I work for Mrs. Wellington. The next hour, I work for Mr. Gibbons.
What conflict?

(Zachariah picks up the telephone on his desk and speaks into the receiver.)

Is this the police? Yes?
I’d like to report a mad woman on the loose.

(Agatha enters. She begins to cook dinner.  Zachariah exits.)

17. “Molly introduces Samantha to Agatha”

(Molly and Samantha pass through the door.)

MOLLY

That smells wonderful.

AGATHA

Fresh fish. I knew you’d like it.

SAMANTHA

Hello, Mrs. Wellington. I’m Samantha.

AGATHA

(To Molly)

She certainly looks female enough.

SAMANTHA

I do what I can.

AGATHA

(To Samantha)

So tell me all about yourself, dear.

SAMANTHA

I’m not sure what there is to tell.
I write children’s books. And I hate children. That’s about it.

AGATHA

Do you have any hobbies?

SAMANTHA

Hobbies?

AGATHA

What do you do in your spare time?

SAMANTHA

The usual things.
Hunting, watching football, betting on the horse races.

AGATHA

Anything else, dear. Maybe knitting? Macramé?

SAMANTHA

Oh, definitely not. How tedious.
No—if I have the free time, I’d much rather get under the hood of my mustang.
And I’m not averse to a belching contest now and then…or opening a few beer cans with my eye sockets….
But the truth is that I don’t have much time for hobbies, Mrs. Wellington.
I spend most of my time working.

AGATHA

That’s a relief.

MOLLY
Samantha’s very ambitious. She’s practically a workaholic.

SAMANTHA

You have to be when you start off as poor as I did.
Our family was so poor when I was a kid, my sister and I had to share one pair of shoes.
We took turns going to school on alternate days.

AGATHA

(Disgusted.)

I see. How quaint.

SAMANTHA

But the way I see it is:
If I can make it, anybody can make it.
All it takes is hard work and a good slogan.

AGATHA

I’m sure.

MOLLY

Shall we sit down to eat?

(They sit down at the dinner table.)

AGATHA

(To Samantha)

How do you feel about diapers, dear?

SAMANTHA

Diapers?

AGATHA

You know: Urinary incontinence.

MOLLY

Please, Grandma. You promised.

AGATHA

What are you getting worked up about?
I’m asking a perfectly legitimate question.
I’m just curious to know what your friend would do under certain circumstances.
If she lost bladder control….Or if her partner had to wear diapers….

SAMANTHA

I’ve never really thought about it before.
Honestly, it’s one of those things I prefer not to think about until it happens.
Like wrinkles…or getting screwed up the ass by a donkey.

AGATHA

I see. I’ve never thought of wrinkles quite that way myself.

MOLLY

Can’t we talk about something else, Grandma? Please.

AGATHA

As soon as we’ve finished discussing incontinence.

(To Samantha)

You would stick by your partner if she lost control, wouldn’t you?

SAMANTHA

I’m not so sure, Mrs. Wellington. Truthfully, probably not.
You have to look out for yourself in life.
I know some girls who are into that, of course….but it’s never been my thing.

AGATHA

“It’s never been your thing.”
Now all is clear.
Like incontinence was ever my thing.
Life isn’t a children’s book, young lady.
There’s something to be said for loyalty.

MOLLY

Please, Grandma.

AGATHA

Don’t you “Please, Grandma” me.
When I said a decent young woman, this is not what I had in mind.
You might as well have hired a prostitute. A male prostitute.
Better to have Mr. Luther support you on an academic’s salary than this she-man abandoning you in a pool of your own urine.

MOLLY

In the first place, nobody’s abandoning me.
And in the second place, Luther is heir to a board game fortune.
You weren’t satisfied with a rich man—so I found myself a poor woman.

SAMANTHA

Middleclass.

MOLLY

Middleclass.

AGATHA

Heir to a board game fortune? Him?

MOLLY

He doesn’t flaunt it.

AGATHA

I guess he flaunts other things….
Well I liked him better than I realized….
I’ve thought it over, dear.
If you want to marry that homosexual, it’s fine with me.

MOLLY

Enough, Grandma. I’m in love with Samantha.

AGATHA

Love! What do you know about love?
When you’ve been widowed thirty-five years, young lady, then talk to me about love.
I think I’ve had enough socializing for one evening.
I’m going to sleep—and I’m taking my matchbook with me.

(Agatha climbs into bed and dozes off.)

SAMANTHA

Was it something I said?

MOLLY

She’ll come around.
When she sees how much I love you, she’ll love you too.

(Molly and Samantha exit.)

18. “Agatha”

(Agatha, sitting up in bed, to the audience.)

AGATHA

So I was wrong.
What do you want from me?
Anybody can be wrong once in ninety years.
That’s still less often than an orbit of Halley’s comet.
I did the best I could—I even gave that nice young man a painting.
You know, the one with the wine and the cheese….
Can you please stop looking at me like that?
You know how! Accusingly!
As though I’m trying to manage my granddaughter’s life.
I made a mistake. I admit it. Let’s move on.
What are you going to do? Have me arrested?
Lock me up in a psychiatric facility like in the Soviet Union?
Go ahead, I dare you.

19. “Agatha faces a psychiatric evaluation”

(Agatha passes through the door. She paces nervously.)

AGATHA

This is outrageous!
Barging into a woman’s mansion, carrying her off against her will.
I’m going to sue the white coats off you.
I demand to speak to my attorney.

VOICE

What day of the week is it?

AGATHA

I will not answer your questions. I have fifth amendment rights. Privileges. Immunities. Something like that. In any case, I’m rich.

VOICE

What day of the week is it?

AGATHA

Tuesday.

VOICE

What day of the week is it?

AGATHA

Thursday.

VOICE

What day of the week is it?

AGATHA

Sunday?

VOICE

Correct.

AGATHA

My attorney will not stand for this.

VOICE

Who was president during the Spanish-American War?

AGATHA

President of the United States or President of Spain?

VOICE

Spain.

AGATHA

That’s a trick question. Práxedes Mateo Sagasta resigned halfway through the fighting and was replaced by Francisco Silvela Le Vielleuze.

VOICE

Correct.

AGATHA

I demand to speak to my attorney.
I’m worth six hundred to eight hundred million dollars.
You can’t do this to me.

VOICE

Note down that she doesn’t know how much money she has.

AGATHA

You’re going to regret this. Whoever you are.
I’ll cut your goddam vocal chords.
I don’t care if it means I have to live another ninety years….

VOICE

We are psychiatrists. We cannot be threatened.

(Agatha exits.)

20. “Zachariah visits Luther”

(Luther and Zachariah enter.)

LUTHER

You’re looking good these days. Very well-rested.

ZACHARIAH

I sleep a lot.

LUTHER

Any word on the old woman?

ZACHARIAH

I regret to say that she’s sharper than a serpent’s tooth.

LUTHER

(Rubbing his back.)

Sharper than a bedspring?

ZACHARIAH

Sharp.

They wouldn’t keep her.

LUTHER

Maybe we could bribe them.

ZACHARIAH

She already bribed them. Preemptively.

LUTHER

So what’s our next step?

ZACHARIAH

Why don’t you offer Molly some money?

LUTHER

What is that supposed to mean?

ZACHARIAH

Everything has its price, Mr. Gibbons. Everything.

LUTHER

I’m not going to stand for this. If the law can’t help me, I’ll—

ZACHARIAH

You’ll what, Mr. Gibbons?

LUTHER

I’ll pray.

21. “ Lightning strikes sixteen times”

(Agatha enters and falls asleep in the bed.  Samantha and Molly enter and sit down at the table.
Luther and Zachariah pass through the door.  Luther gets down on his knees and prays.)

MOLLY

Mr. Carmichael! Just the man we needed.

ZACHARIAH

What can I do for you?

MOLLY

They committed my grandmother to the asylum this morning.
Against her wishes. It took me all afternoon to get her out.

ZACHARIAH

How dare they! Is Mrs. Wellington all right?

MOLLY

Physically, yes. But shaken….She’s resting….

SAMANTHA

What’s he doing?

LUTHER

I’m praying. I’m praying Molly comes to her senses.

MOLLY

(To Samantha)

That’s my ex. Luther.

ZACHARIAH

We’ll have to sue the hospital.  I’m going to make your grandmother a very wealthy woman.

MOLLY

My grandmother already is a very wealthy woman.

ZACHARIAH

Wealthier, then.
She’ll own a hospital.
At her age, that could be convenient.

LUTHER

(Praying)

Please, dear God.
You who were generous enough to resurrect two unrepentant thieves, to share the inheritance of your only son with a pair of ignorant ne’er-do-wells, please grant me this one small wish. All I need is a sign. Something to give me hope.

MOLLY

Please stop, Luther. I’m in love with Samantha.

I’m not coming back to you.

LUTHER

(To Molly)

I’m not speaking to you. I’m speaking to God.

MOLLY

It won’t help.

SAMANTHA

(Alarmed)

Watch out!

(A bolt of lightning strikes Molly. She falls to the ground.  Luther and Samantha rush to her side. Zachariah hides under Agatha’s bed.)

LUTHER

Darling?

SAMANTHA

Are you okay?

MOLLY

I’m fine. Just a little bit woozy….

And madly in love with you.
SAMANTHA

With me?

(Molly looks from Luther to Samantha to Luther.)

MOLLY

No. I’m madly in love with Luther.

(Another bolt of lightning strikes Molly.)

Or Samantha. I’m pretty sure I’m in love with Samantha.

(Another bolt of lightning strikes Molly.)

No, Luther.

(Another bolt of lightning strikes Molly.)

Samantha.

(Eleven more lightning bolts hit Molly.)

LUTHER

Luther?

SAMANTHA

Samantha?

(Molly stands up. She looks back and forth between them.)

MOLLY

Luther. Definitely Luther.

22. “Agatha wakes up dead”

(Zachariah climbs out from under Agatha’s bed.)

ZACHARIAH

Is it safe to come out?

MOLLY

I think so.

ZACHARIAH

Good God—lightning indoors. I’ve never been so terrified in my life.

(With realization)

I’ve never been so terrified in my life!!!
I’m afraid to die. I’m afraid to die! Isn’t this wonderful?
I’ve never been so happy to be alive.

LUTHER

Congratulations.

ZACHARIAH

Thank you.

SAMANTHA

(To Zachariah)

When the thrill wears off, you let me know.

(Molly approaches Agatha’s bed.)

MOLLY

Grandma? Grandma!

LUTHER

She doesn’t look like she’s breathing.

MOLLY

She’s dead! Grandma’s dead!

ZACHARIAH

It sure does seem that way.  She didn’t even have a chance to burn her house down.

MOLLY

Please dear God. Don’t let her be dead.
Let her just be sleeping very heavily. Please.
I swear I’ll never fight with her again.
I’ll date men. Women. Violent hunchbacks. Whoever she wants….

(Agatha sits up and grins.)

AGATHA

I had you fooled there for a second, didn’t I?

(Agatha stand up and walks forward. Agatha, to the audience.)

AGATHA

That’s the problem with ninety.
Nobody appreciates it when you play a good practical joke.
Everybody’s so worried you might die that it takes all the fun out of living.
Maybe that’s what it takes to live past ninety: Fun.
And a good sense of humor.
But what the hell do I know?
I’m only ninety—and a young ninety at that.
You’ll have to check back in another thirty years.
Until then, sleep well—and don’t think too much.

ACT TWO ENDS