One of the reasons I like this exercise so much is that it provides endless variety. After the heavy subject matter of the last two scripts, I decided to go the opposite direction for this one by making not only a comedy, but making a scene almost aggressively absurd.
More of a "skit" than any kind of formal play (though that never stopped David Ives or Christopher Durang), this is also my first (though I suspect far from my last) Big Idea play. Not that it trades in philosophical grandstanding, but it's a play that can be easily summed up in a single sentence. Unlike the first two plays, I didn't start with an initial image or situation and see where it goes from there. The premise of this skit almost describes the thing from beginning, middle, to end.
Not that the premise is necessarily good. Though I do think there are a few exchanges here that made me laugh and laugh as I wrote them. This is sort of Gary Larson kind of play. A Far Side cartoon come to life.
(Jeffrey and Mollare are an affluent couple in their early thirties. They wave goodbye to an unseen person out their door. All smiles.)
Jeffrey - Thanks!
Molly - Thank you for coming!
Jeffrey - We’ll call you and let you know.
Molly - Thanks again!
(they finish waving until the unseen person has left. They close the door. They instantly slump into exhaustion.)
Jeffrey - Well she was awful.
Molly - Terrible!
Jeffrey - What is that, the twelfth?
Molly - This is hopeless. We’re never going to find one. I’m going to have to quit work and look after them myself.
Jeffrey - Now, Molly. That’s crazy talk. Absolute crazy talk.
Molly - Is it, Jeffrey? Who thought it would be this hard? I feel like Sisyphus, but instead of a giant boulder I’ve got a stock of unimpressive resumes each attached to an unqualified Mary Poppins wanna-be I wouldn’t trust to raise a turnip, let alone a human child.
Jeffrey - That’s a bit harsh.
Molly - The last one listed her parole officer as a reference.
Jeffrey - Point taken. (sits down with a sigh)
Molly - I really don’t know how much more of this I can take, Jeffrey. I swear if that doorbell rings one more time and we have to interview one more neighborhood wacko, I’m putting the kids up for adoption.
(The doorbell rings. Molly groans.)
Jeffrey - Oh, come on! I thought that was the last one we scheduled today.
Molly - I don’t know. I’ve lost rack. Just let whoever it is in.
Jeffrey - Alright. Stand up. Game face on. Who knows? Maybe this time it’ll be the one.
Molly - And maybe one day I’ll be up to having children again.
Jeffrey - You’re funny. (door bell rings again. He calls after it.) Coming! (to Molly) You ready for this?
Molly - What’s another log on the fire?
Jeffrey - One one, two, three and...
(he opens the door and both instantly transform into the happy smiling couple we met at the start of the scene. Standing in the doorway is a round old woman with indescribably creepy wide eyes wearing a black wrap seemingly made out of funereal rags. Her name is Helga)
Molly/Jeffrey - Hello!
(pause. A disconcertingly long pause as the old woman surveys the room. She finally releases an ugly toothy smile.)
Helga - ...Hello...
Jeffrey - Come in. Come in. You must be...?
Helga - I am known by many names. The Woodsmother. Shadow Hag. Kin of the Weir and Boiler of Babes. The winter crows know my name, as does the midnight wind...
Jeffrey - I’m sorry. I don’t recall seeing that on our list of applicants...
Helga - It’s Helga. Helga Rumbleschmidt.
Molly - Oh, Rumbleschmidt. That’s right. We’ve got you right here.
Jeffrey - Would you like me to take your bag?
Helga - Begone. No son of man may touch my Sack of Agonies!
Jeffrey - That’s fine. I’m a little protective of my possessions too. Now if you’ll just have a seat...
Helga - (sniffing the air) I smell... I smell... children.
Jeffrey - Good nose! Yes. We’ve got two. Boy and girl.
Helga - Boy and girl? That’s good... good... that’s variety.
Jeffrey - (laughing good naturedly) Yes, I suppose it is. They’re twins. Just about to turn four. They can be quite a handful.
Helga - I’m sure. Are they here? Now??
Jeffrey - No. We took them to Molly’s sister for the afternoon. Oh, how stupid of me. We haven’t introduced ourselves. I’m Jeffrey and this is my wife, Molly.
Molly - (putting out her hand) How do you do?
Helga - (grasping Molly’s hand) Oh, yes... yes... very interesting.
Jeffrey - Oh wow. You read palms, huh?
Helga - Your life line is etched deep with torment. I sense untold mistery and sorrow. You are a cursed woman. Deeply cursed.
Molly - (taking back her hand) That’s amazing! Do you do parties?
Helga - ...parties...?
Molly - You know, kids parties, birthdays. You are a scream!
Helga - I can make people scream, yes...
Jeffrey - And modest! Well let’s get down to business. Did you bring a resume?
Helga - I have the document of which you requested in the... news...paper... ad...vertisement.
Jeffrey - Great. Molly, you want to look this over? (he hands her the piece of parchment)
Molly - Ooh! Colorful! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one printed with red ink!
Helga - I wrote it by hand in human blood.
Molly - And by hand too! I was going to ask you what font you used. I love your calligraphy!
Jeffrey - That’s a great way to make a statement. Personalize it. Did you read that in a marketing book?
Helga - The tomes I read are written in a long dead script unknown to the eyes of mortal men.
Molly - So you study languages! That’s very useful. We want Peter and Sydney to be raised in a bilingual household. Do you speak anything else?
Helga - I sing the songs of the damned. I know the whispers of shadows and the cries of the banshee. I speak the tongue used by cats long dead.
Jeffrey - Impressive. Impressive.
Molly - Though, if we do offer you this job, we’d want you to keep it down to just two secondary languages. We don’t want to verbally confuse them. Okay... looking down the list. Wow. You have a lot of experience it seems. The Dovers. Marsha and Wendy Starks. The Booths.
Jeffrey - The Booths... Didn’t I read something about them in the paper not too long ago?
Molly - Oh yes. Their son went missing. The mother went mad with grief and plowed her car into a gas station. Did you know them well? You took care of their son?
Helga - Oh, yes. I took care of him. I took care of him alright.
Molly - What a tragedy.
Helga - (with a great smile) Yes. It was very very... tragic.
Molly - What about availability? What are your preferred work hours?
Helga - From the dawn of the flaming sun to the dusk of the blood moon, there is no sleep for we unredeemable apostates of Light.
Molly - So then you’re free on weekends and evenings?
Helga - Yes. Except for Wednesdays. I take a spin class... of EVIL.
Jeffrey - You know, I have a work colleague who swears by that stuff.
Molly - And it says here that you have a culinary streak! Though I think there’s a typo. (she hands Helga the document) You left out the word “for”.
Helga - Hmm? Let me see... Oh, oh yes. That’s right. I specialize in cooking “for” children.
Molly - Well, I don’t know about you, Jeffrey, but I think I’ve seen all I need to see.
Jeffrey - No. I agree.
Molly - Are there any questions you have for us?
Helga - How large is your oven?
Jeffrey - Industrial sized. I sometimes make pizzas and I like to get a little fancy.
Helga - Excellent... that will do very nicely.
Molly - Helga, do you mind if I have a quick talk with my husband?
Helga - Do not bother with hushed tones, child. I have ears in the walls with the spider and mites and eyes in the air as the raven flies south.
Jeffrey - Thanks. We’ll just be a moment.
(Jeffrey and Molly huddle close together in the corner of the room.)
Jeffrey - Well? What do you think?
Molly - I can’t believe it. After all we’ve been through.
Jeffrey - I was thinking the same thing...
Molly/Jeffrey - She’s perfect!
(they come back to Helga.)
Jeffrey - Helga. We could go through our other candidates, but why bother? We’re offering the job on the spot. If you want it, it’s yours.
Helga - (genuinely surprised) Really?
Jeffrey - You can start work immediately, if you like.
Helga - I’ll have to go home to grab some Hemlock.
Jeffrey - Tomorrow then.
Molly - Helga, we cannot tell you how happy we are that you’re going to be part of our family. We’re simply thrilled.
Helga - And tomorrow... I get to “meet” the children?
Jeffrey - Absolutely. Here’s a key to the house, just so you can get in anytime you want to, day or night.
Helga - Perhaps I shall swoop in at the witching hour and scratch on their bedroom doors.
Molly - That would be lovely. They have a hard time falling to sleep without someone looking over them.
Helga - Yes. I must go. I must make preparations.
Jeffrey - You’re so industrious! I wish my employees had your get-up-and-go attitude!
Helga - I shall return, mortal-kin. I shall return with soil and bilge and fist fulls of hair. I shall bring sorrow to this house and terrible fear. I shall leave you both hollow husks of the man and woman you are now. You shall rue the day you ever signed my W-4 form!
(she cackles and exits.)
Jeffrey - Well. Finally.
Molly - She’s got a way with words, doesn’t she?
Jeffrey - I think the kids are going to love her.
Molly - You know what? I think so too.
* CURTAIN *