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Monday, August 6, 2012

Play #6 - Beginning. Middle. End.

I'm terrible with titles. I've written plays with such terrible titles as "Vice Play" (because it was a play about vice!) or "Drama" (because it was a meta-play about drama). And the title is always the LAST thing I come up with, long after I've completed a first draft. 

I think part of it is that I've just always been bad with the "names" of things. I rarely think about what I name my characters, I've gone for years knowing people without knowing their names, and I never pay attention to the names of streets, which makes me a terrible person to ask for directions anywhere. To me, the names of things always seems arbitrary and irrelevant when it comes to discerning the core of what something is, whether that's a person or a place or a play. Of course, with a creative work it is a bit different. The Sound and the Fury would still be a great work without that title, but the illusion that title points to helps to clarify the point of view of the book. 

I bring all this up because this is a play where I came up with the title first and let the play form from there. It's also ironic, because while the title inspired the distinct structure of this play, the play is actually probably the least structured of all the plays I've written this month. (granted it's early.) It's really just three snapshots of a relationship. But I like them. More character study than anything else. Enjoy!

Beginning. Middle. End.

- A short play by Brooks Reeves -

Scene 1 -

(Back of a night club. Jasmine, a twenty-something woman sits watching a band play in the distance. Greg, in his late twenties stands off to the side holding a beer, also enjoying the music.)
(After an establishing moment)
Greg - Is someone sitting here?
Jasmine - Take it.
(He sits down. They continue listening to the music. Then:)
Greg - This your first time here?
Jasmine - How can you tell?
Greg - I haven’t seen you around before.
Jasmine - That would make sense.
Greg - Yeah... You know the bands are usually better than this.
Jasmine - Yeah?
Greg - Yeah. There’s Waco’s round the corner. I was thinking of heading over there. The Frosted Flakes are playing at ten.
Jasmine - And that’s a good band?
Greg - They’re better than these guys.
Jasmine - What’s their name?
Greg - The Frosted Flakes. You haven’t heard of them?
Jasmine - No.
Greg - Then you’ve got to check to them out. They’re Serbian and they have this sort of gypsy/punk-meets-hiphop/spoken word thing going on.
Jasmine - That sounds... different.
Greg - Do you like Vampire Weekend?
Jasmine - I don’t really follow... music.
Greg - What kind of bands do you like?
Jasmine - Um... the Beatles?
Greg - ...Okay. Um... that’s... respectable.
Jasmine - No, it’s not. I’m lame.
Greg - No! The Beatles are a lot of things, but they’re not lame.
Jasmine - You are lying through your teeth, aren’t you?
Greg - (clearly lying) I am not lying.
Jasmine - You must really want to get into my pants.
Greg - Woah. Okay. I think we have a misunderstanding. You are clearly the one hitting on me.
Jasmine - Oh, really? Am I?
Greg - Yeah. Looking at me that way. Undressing me with those eyes. You’re making me feel violated... in a good way.
Jasmine - That was a good line up until the end.
Greg - What can I say? I’m improvising.
Jasmine - I can tell.
Greg - But seriously, these guys are awful. You should come with me to Waco’s. The Frosted Flakes will blow your mind. I promise you.
Jasmine - ...I can’t.
Greg - Oh, come on. I’ll buy you a drink.
Jasmine - I don’t drink.
Greg - Then I’ll buy you a soda.
Jasmine - I can’t. I’d love to, but I have to stay.
Greg - Why? Give me one good reason.
Jasmine - My boyfriend’s in the band.
Greg - That band?
Jasmine - Uh huh.
Greg - The one that’s playing right now?
Jasmine - Uh huh.
Greg - … Crap. I guess that makes me double screwed. Or not, actually. Look, I’m sorry.
Jasmine - Don’t apologize. You’re right. They’re a shitty band.
Greg - If I was out of line--
Jasmine - Don’t worry about it. You’re not the one who has to listen to them every weekend.
Greg - I’m sorry.
Jasmine - I said don’t apologize!
Greg - I wasn’t apologizing. I’m sorry you have to listen to them every weekend.
(Jasmine smiles at him.)
Jasmine - You’re funny.
Greg - ...I’ll take it. … So which one’s the boyfriend?
Jasmine - The bassist.
Greg - Oh. You mean the guy with the... (gestures at his hair)
Jasmine - Uh huh.
Greg - And the … (gestures vaguely at his face.)
Jasmine - Yup.
Greg - Wow.
Jasmine - Yeah. My parents love him.
Greg - I bet. How long have you two been...
Jasmine - Six months...ish. Sort of hard to calculate. We just fell into it, sort of. What about you?
Greg - Actually, it’s crazy. I just started seeing someone.
Jasmine - (surprised) Really? I hope it’s not that serious.
Greg - Hard to say. We just met really.
Jasmine - What’s she like?
Greg - Well she’s beautiful. Deep black hair. Smooth olive skin. A set of legs you could follow off a cliff. But the situation’s complicated.
Jasmine - How’s that?
Greg - Well, she’s got a boyfriend, she’s got limited tastes in music, and, while I can’t be sure, I don’t think she even knows we’re dating.
Jasmine - Let me guess. She likes the Beatles.
Greg - That’s freaky. Do you know her?
Jasmine - That depends. What’s her name?
Greg - … That is... a... very good question.
Jasmine - Then I’ll ask you a different one: What’s yours?
Greg - (holding out his hand.) Greg.
Jasmine - (shaking it) Jasmine.
Greg - Her name’s Jasmine. Like the flower.
(they are close now)
Jasmine - You’re good.
Greg - I try.
Jasmine - So this girl you’re seeing. Have you even been on a date with her yet?
Greg - Not yet, but I’m going to ask her next chance I get.
Jasmine - Where would you go?
Greg - Not sure. But there’s a great band playing two blocks down.
Jasmine - The Frosted Flakes. My friends tell me they’re pretty good.
Greg - Sounds like you’ve got pretty smart friends.
Jasmine - We’ll see won’t we.
Greg - There’s only one way to find out. (Jasmine clances at the band) Nobody will miss you. I’ll get you back before the end of the set.
Jasmine - I bet you will.
Greg - Unless you want to get ice cream afterwards.
Jasmine - You’re cute.
Greg - ...I’ll take it. You wanna bounce?
(Beat. Jasmine considers)
Jasmine - Okay. You’re on.
(She grabs her purse and they exit holding hands.)

Scene 2 -

(Kitchen of a small Boston apartment. Jasmine and Greg enter. They both seem quietly upset. Jasmine walks over and puts her bad down on the couch. The spicks through it and takes her phone. Greg lingers by the door, moody. Jasmine plugs her phone into a waiting charger and then goes over to the kitchenette area. She opens the fridge, looks around unsatisfied, closes it. She takes a glass from the cabinet and fills it with water. She surveys the room, not looking at Greg, and then says to no one in particular:)
Jasmine - I’m going to bed.
(she turns to leave.)
Greg - Wait.
Jasmine - Not now, Greg. I’m tired.
Greg - No. We’re going to talk this out.
Jasmine - Greg, I’m really not in any mood to have any conversation with you right now, so if you could just drop it--
Greg - No. I don’t want to leave it like this. I don’t like going to be angry.
Jasmine - I’m not angry. I’m--
Greg - I wasn’t talking about you.
Jasmine - Oh? You’re the one who’s angry?
Greg - I’m angry, because you’re angry.
Jasmine - Hm.. Well, if you had just been listening to me, you would have heard me just say I wasn’t angry, and so since I’m not angry then you can’t be angry because I’m angry. See, I just saved us an hour of yelling at each other.
Greg - You’re yelling at me now!
Jasmine - (yelling) I’m not yelling!...  Okay, maybe I’m yelling a little bit.
Greg - You haven’t said five words to me since we left the party.
Jasmine - (counting off the number of words she uses on her fingers) Obviously. That. Isn’t. True. Greg.
Greg - I’m talking about the car ride. I haven’t felt chills like that since I met your mother.
Jasmine - Another crack about my mother. That’s original.
Greg - I’m serious. What’s going on with you?
Jasmine - I’m... Nothing. I’m tired. And I’m cranky. I get cranky when I’m tired. I want to go to bed.
Greg - You weren’t tired before. You didn’t want to leave the party.
Jasmine - Huh... You know what, Greg? You’re right! I didn’t want want to leave the party. Huh...
Greg - I told you you could stay.
Jasmine - And take a cab home? From Newton??
Greg - Well what did you want me to do? We’d been there for five hours!
Jasmine - So? I haven’t seen Wendy in two years. What’s your point?
Greg - I don’t think it was out of the question to call it a night.
Jasmine - Clearly.
Greg - Hey. Listen, I thought I was a good sport.
Jasmine - Oh sure. I agree, Greg. If by “good sport” you mean spending the whole time skulking around the edge of the party and moping. These are friends of mine I haven’t seen since college and now they all think my boyfriend is some socially challenged pissy creep.
Greg - Oh, of course. I’m sorry. I’ve embarrassed you in public. Yet again!
Jasmine - If you didn’t want to go, you didn’t have to go. I would have been very happy all by myself.
Greg - Oh come on! You made a big deal about this thing. You made tamales. That’s the first time I’ve seen you make something other than cornflakes in six months.
Jasmine - Yeah, Greg. This party was a big deal. I wish I was still there. I wish I didn’t have to come home early because apparently I’m dating my grandfather.
Greg - You could have stayed!
Jasmine - You didn’t have to go!
Greg - I was trying to support you!
Jasmine - You’ve got a funny way of showing it.
Greg - Hey, at least I’m trying. When was the last time you came to anything of mine?
Jasmine - Are you serious? When was the last time you had anything to go to Greg? Huh? I would be happy to go to anywhere and support you doing anything, if you ever went anywhere or did anything.
Greg - I signed up for that marathon charity thing...
Jasmine - Yeah. But you didn’t go. There’s a difference.
Greg - I didn’t go, because you wanted to go to New Haven for the weekend. It’s not that I don’t go anywhere, Jasmine. I’m outta the house all the fucking time. I’m just always with you.
Jasmine - Yeah. You go. You grumble. And then we go home early.
Greg - Fine then. I won’t go with you anymore. I’ll just sit here and play my Xbox. Be like those other boyfriends...
Jasmine - I’m not saying that, but... we don't have to do everything together, you know?
Greg - I just... I like being you, you know?
Jasmine - (cupping his face) You’re a jackass sometimes. You know that? But you’re a sweet jackass.
Greg - Does this mean you forgive me?
Jasmine - Maybe... Okay, yes.
Greg - Dammit. I was hoping for angry sex.
Jasmine - We can still have angry sex.
Greg - Oh, yeah? How’s that?
Jasmine - Just keep talking and I’m sure you’ll say something dumb enough to set me off.
(he sweeps her off her feet.)
Greg - Have I ever told you I’m the luckiest guy in Boston.
Jasmine - Just Boston?
Greg - I don’t want to get cocky.
Jasmine - I think that ship has sailed.
(they kiss)
(he starts to carry her to the bedroom. She stops him.)
Jasmine - Wait.
Greg - What is it?
Jasmine - I want to check my eBay first.
Greg - Are you serious.
Jasmine - (getting down) I’ll just be a second.
Greg - You were going to bed, just a minute ago.
Jasmine - I’ll be in there in a minute. I have a bit on some prints I want to check.
Greg - Okay, fine. But don’t take too long.
Jasmine - I’ll be right there.
(She goes to the computer and turns it on. He looks at her for a moment.)
Greg - I love you.
Jasmine - Uh huh.
(he continues standing there for a beat and then goes back to the bedroom. The lights turn off, leaving her alone, her face illuminated by the computer screen.)

Scene 3 -

(Greg’s bedroom. Greg lays in the bed in his underwear. Jasmine sits on the edge, affixing her bra.)
Jasmine - We can never do this again.
Greg - ...o...kay.
Jasmine - I mean it, Greg. This has to be the last time.
Greg - I know.
Jasmine - I really like Amir. I really like him.
Greg - I won’t say anything.
Jasmine - Not even to Buck.
Greg - I just said I won’t say anything! I promise.
Jasmine - Okay. I believe you. (she leans down and kisses his forehead.) You’ve always been sweet.
Greg - I’ve got to be good at something.
Jasmine - You’re good at a lot of things. You just need to work on--
Greg - My work ethic?
Jasmine - Your ambition. You’re a little too happy.
Greg - Don’t worry. I’m working on that with my therapist.
Jasmine - I mean that you’re a little too easily contented.
Greg - I’m not as happy without you. (he reaches out and touches her leg.)
Jasmine - Greg, don’t. (she gets up and begins putting on her jeans. She looks out the window.) Looks like it might snow.
Greg - God. I hate November.
Jasmine - I know. I lived with you last winter. You spent the entire season whining like a puppy. Why you live in New England is beyond me. Why don’t you move somewhere down south or somewhere?
Greg - Because in order to live in the south you have to put up with the people who live there.
Jasmine - Nope. It doesn’t work anymore. I’m sorry.
Greg - God, I must be losing my knack. I used to know what buttons to push.
Jasmine - I know your tricks. I’m not in the mood.
Greg - I miss our fights.
Jasmine - I’m glad someone does.
Greg - You were always very firey.
Jasmine - I like not having to be.
Greg - There were two things we were very good at: fighting and...
Jasmine - and...?
Greg - There must be some reason you keep coming back for seconds.
Jasmine - (leaning closer) You may be lazy but you have many... talents. (she gives him a short passionate kiss) I don’t think you’re going to have problems finding someone else.
Greg - You’re giving me mixed signals.
Jasmine - It’s because I still like you.
Greg - That’s a coincidence. I still--
Jasmine - But I love Amir. I don’t love you, and I don’t think you love me either.
Greg - Who are you to say what I feel?
Jasmine - If you loved me, Greg, you would have tried harder.
(Greg opens up his mouth to argue, but pauses. He leans back.)
Greg - Yeah, I guess you’re right.
Jasmine - I think I see a flake.
Greg - God. I’m just going to spend all day in bed.
Jasmine - Same old Greg.
Greg - Are you sure you want to go? You could stay with me. Keep me cozy.
Jasmine - Like I said, same old Greg.
Greg - I could show you some more of my “talents”. I hear they’ve gotten good reviews.
Jasmine - It’s a nice offer, but I’ve really got to go.
Greg - I feel like this time it’s different.
Jasmine - It is Greg. I’m not coming back. Ever again.
Greg - I will say you’ve had a hard time breaking up with me.
Jasmine - That’s true. I think it’s because you’re easy. And comfortable. And annoying. And sometimes I just want that back again.
Greg - I’m easy?
Jasmine - But no more. You’re too tricky. I can’t trust myself around you.
Greg - I’ll take that as a compliment.
Jasmine - No. Don’t try and start anything.
Greg - I’m not doing anything. I’m just talking.
Jasmine - Stop. Stay there. I need some distance.
Greg - You know, you’re the one who came to me. You’re the one who drops in like some mysterious sex fairy. I mean, it’s been three months but I still don’t know what to think, Jasmine. You go on about this new guy but you still seem to like my dick enough to want it every other week. You wonder why I haven’t found another girlfriend? Maybe because it seems like my old one is... I don’t know... still my girlfriend.
Jasmine - You’re right. We should have made a clean break.
Greg - Why? There’s obviously something that keeps pulling us together.
Jasmine - It’s called “convenience”, but I need more than that.
Greg - You’re making me sad.
Jasmine - I’m sorry.
(she puts on her shirt)
Greg - So this is it?
Jasmine - This is the last. I think it’d be best for both. No more midnight sleepovers.
Greg - But I like having sex with you...
Jasmine - Yeah, well find someone else.
Greg - No sympathy. You’re cruel, you know.
Jasmine - I think I might be.
Greg - Well, look. If this really is the last time, I just want you to know that... I... You were good to me. I will miss you like a fish misses the water.
Jasmine - I’m going to miss you too.
(they don’t hug. They just both stand awkwardly.)
Jasmine - Okay, I’m going to let myself out.
Greg - Okay.
Jasmine - Bye, Jeff. Good luck with everything.
Greg - You too.
(she is about to say something else, but thinks better of it, and exits.)
(Greg slumps in his bed.)
Greg - Damn.


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