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Nothing

 Nothing
by
Evdokimos Tsolakidis
(all rights reserved by the author, for information please contact evdokimos at Αυτή η διεύθυνση ηλεκτρονικού ταχυδρομείου προστατεύεται από τους αυτοματισμούς αποστολέων ανεπιθύμητων μηνυμάτων. Χρειάζεται να ενεργοποιήσετε τη JavaScript για να μπορέσετε να τη δείτε.)
Comedy/ 4 characters, 1 man, 3 Women /
One Act, 45 minutes
Synopsis : Audience members interrupt and involve themselves in the presentation of a "masterpiece." The producer is forced to referee between a spectator and a theatre critic who can't sit-down and shut-up long enough to enjoy the play. Eventually a police officer introduces some real-life drama to the situation, in this smart and funny play about just how surprising an empty stage can be.


 
“Nothing” 
 
A one-act play
 
 
 
The characters:
 
Woman - Spectator (WS)
Woman - Theater Critic (WTC)
Man - Producer (MP)
Woman - Police Officer (WPO)
 
 
The stage is empty. The following recorded message is heard:
“Ladies and gentlemen, the performance will commence in one minute. Please deactivate your cellular telephones.”
Indeed, after one minute, the lights fade.
Darkness.
A warm glow lights the whole stage.
 
Silence.
Long silence.
Very long silence.
Very, very long silence.
Even longer silence.
The silence just keeps getting longer and longer.
It may even stretch for as long as five minutes!
 
The Woman - Spectator (WS), sitting in the front row, begins getting antsy. She looks around nervously. She sighs. She huffs and puffs. She taps her foot impatiently.
The Woman - Theater Critic (WTC), sitting in the third row and watching the action on stage (sic) with rapt attention, becomes annoyed.
 
WTC: Ssssshhhhhhhhh!
 
WS turns and looks at her in wonder.
 
Silence.
Long silence.
Very long silence.
Very, very long silence.
Even longer silence.
The silence just keeps getting longer and longer.
It may even stretch for as long as five minutes!
 
(Whispered dialogue)
 
WS: I can’t believe this.
WTC: Sssssshhhh! Will you please be quiet?
WS: Me… you want me to be quiet?!
WTC: Yes, you. Settle down and let us watch the show.
WS: What show?
WTC: Oooohh! What do you want? What is this, a conversation? Be quiet!
WS: Unbelievable.
 
Silence.
Long silence.
Very long silence.
Very, very long silence.
Even longer silence.
The silence just keeps getting longer and longer.
It may even stretch for as long as five minutes!
 
WS loses her patience and jumps up. She addresses the empty stage.
 
WS: How long do we have to wait for the performance to begin?
WTC: Sit down! Where do you think you are?
WS: (To WTC) Why don’t you just shut up! (Towards the stage) Heeeyyyy! What’s going on?!
How long is this going to take?
WTC: You watch your mouth before I call the police.
WS: (To WTC) Oh go call whoever you want…. (Towards the stage) Hellloooooo! Is anyone there? I want to see the manager!
WTC: I’ll show you. Rude, disgusting woman.
 
As WTC switches on her cellular phone to call the police, WS climbs up on stage.
 
WS: Can anyone hear me? Hellooo! Is anyone there?
WTC: (Into the phone) Yes, hello… I am calling from … Theater. Some crazy woman is causing trouble… She interrupted the performance and now she’s up on the stage… Please send someone… My name is Christina Aspry-Reeve. I’m a theater critic for “Evermore”… yes… thank you… Please come quickly, she looks dangerous, like a maniac. Yes… Thank you.
(To WS) That will show you.
WS: I’m a maniac?! You crazy bitch! I interrupted the show… unbelievable… (Towards the wings) Is anyone here?
 
The Man – Producer (MP) appears from the back of the stage. He motions to the lighting crew to switch on the house lights. The lights go on.
 
MP: What is going on here? Who gave you the right to interrupt the performance and climb up onto the stage?
WS: What performance?! You must be kidding?
MP: The performance that began just a few minutes ago.
WS: Are you all trying to drive me nuts? Look... just give me back my money so I can get out of here.
WTC: She’s not going anywhere! The police will be here any minute to arrest her. That’ll teach her!
MP: What police? What’s going on here? And who are you ma’am?
WTC: (She climbs onto the stage too) Christina Aspry-Reeve, theater critic for “Evermore.” I’m afraid I was compelled to call the police. We can’t have every nut in the country insulting the greatness of this masterpiece in this manner!
MP: Thank you ma’am, I’m honored, but don’t you think calling the police may have been excessive? The lady here just seems to have had some difficulty in grasping the subtle complexity of this “masterpiece,” as you call it. I am sure that if she had exercised just a little bit of patience, she would have been thrilled by the end of the performance. (To WS) Be patient… wait. Sit back in your seat, relax and let yourself go to the magic that is theater. I’m sure that by the end of the performance, you will be thrilled.
WS: Will you give me back my money if I am not?
MP: Of course, of course. Please take your seat now. Please. Ma'am… ma’am…
 
The two women take their seats again.
 
MP: (To the crew) Let’s pick it up where we left off.
 
He leaves from the wings.
The lights dim again.
 
Silence.
Long silence.
Very long silence.
Very, very long silence.
Even longer silence.
The silence just keeps getting longer and longer.
It may even stretch for as long as five minutes!
 
WTC is crying quietly, moved by what she sees on stage. WS stares at her, agog. She snaps again. She climbs back on stage, obviously in the mood for an argument.
 
WS: I want my money back now! NOW I said!!!
 
MP appears from the back of the stage. He motions to the crew to switch the lights back on. The lights go on.
 
WS: Give me back my money right now.
MP: What’s wrong?
WS: Don’t argue with me. I want my money and I want it now!
MP: Please, calm down.
WTC: This is impossible. Where is the police?
WS: The police should arrest all of you thugs for cheating people out of their money with this crap! My money!
MP: My heart.
WS: I said, give me my money.
WTC: (She climbs on stage) So, you really are that dumb?! Can’t you see the man is ill?
WS: Well I’m not falling for his tricks. My mother didn’t raise a fool.
MP: What tricks?
WS: I didn’t pay the full price for a ticket to watch nothing.
MP: What is the title of the performance you have come to watch?
WS: ………………
MP: You see then. No one has tried to trick you.
WTC: I don’t see why you’re making the effort to explain it to her. Can’t you see she’s a moron?
WS: Well, if you are such a god damn intellectual, why don’t you explain what the hell is going on here? What is so great that it would actually make you cry?
WTC: That’s all I need… to give you a lesson in the appreciation of art. I hardly think that I am responsible for your aesthetic ignorance.
WS: I’ll show you incapacity when I come over there and kick your ass!
WTC: Just try it missy! (She takes a karate pose or something of the sort)
MP: Ladies, please, calm down. (To WS) Ma’am, this performance expresses, if I may say, in a most outstanding manner, the impasse at which modern man finds himself. The absence of ideals. The absence of goals. The absence of real relationships and values. The spiritual and emotional void we are all experiencing in this day and age. Look around you. Look within yourself. Look in the mirror. Zero. Zero. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
WS: My money.
MP: My heart!
WTC: Why are you wasting your breath? Can’t you see she’s ignorant, uneducated, a moron?
WS: If you don’t give me my money right now… I’m going to mess this place up.
MP: My heart.
WTC: Where is the police already?
WS: Why don’t you just shut up before I kick your butt too?!
WTC: You better watch you mouth or I’m really going to let you have it! (She takes a karate pose or something like it, again)
 
WS grabs her by the hair and they fight under the terrified gaze of MP who is trying in vain to break them up. The police siren wails in the background. They freeze.
 
MP: (To WS) I told you to be patient didn’t I? Here you go then. Here’s the show you wanted.
WS: What are you talking about?
MP: Please take you seats. The performance will begin again.
WS: Do you think I’m stupid?
MP: Not at all. If you’re not happy with this part of the show, I assure you, I will return your money.
WS: ………
MP: Please sit down. Sit.
 
The two women take their seats again.
 
MP: (To the crew) Lights!
 
The lights dim again.
The Woman - Police Officer (WPO) appears.
She climbs on stage.
 
WPO: Hello. Who is in charge of this theater?
MP: What can I do for you officer?
WPO: We received a call few minutes ago about…
MP: Your face is very familiar… help me out… You work right next door at central, is that right?
WPO: Please sir…
MP: Excuse the tone, but I never forget a face and I’m sure I saw you last week in your captain’s office… You came in to ask him for a day off or something … Come on, you can’t fool me. Such a charming face, such seductive eyes…
WPO: Sir, please. I came here because…
MP: I know, I know… How is Mark anyway? Did he give up smoking yet?
WPO: You must be making some mistake; Captain Embry never tried to stop smoking.
MP: He has thought about it though. You must admit that. You can’t tell me it never crossed his mind to give up the damn things?
WPO: That’s enough. We received a call about a disturbance and…
MP: A disturbance? What disturbance? Do you see any disturbance?
WPO: There must be some mistake then… (She makes to leave)
WS: (Jumping up) There has been no mistake. (Pointing to WTC) She called the police to have this thief (pointing to MP) arrested… (She climbs on stage)
MP: She keeps doing that… interrupting the performance! Why are you interrupting? Just a few minutes ago you had a problem with the fact that nothing was happening on stage. Now you have a problem that something is happening. What is it that you want exactly?
WTC: (To WS) I called the police to have you arrested.
WPO: What is going on? Who is this woman?
MP: (Whispering to WPO) A spectator. She wants the performance to continue.
WPO: (To WTC) Come up to the stage please.
MP: There really is no need for that. (Pointing to WS) Anyway, the lady is an actress and has to get ready for the performance.
WTC: Really? Are you an actress? And here I was, all this time, thinking… That was fantastic. Your performance is so vivid. You are getting a rave review from me. And I am very sorry about before. I didn’t know. But what am I doing up here. I should be down there, in my seat. (She makes to go to her seat)
WPO: Hold on a minute, I need an explanation.
WTC: Oh, I see… This is one of those interactive performances. I really am stupid, I should have guessed. But you see, I am not just a simple spectator; choose someone else because I have to be down there, watching…
WS: Very funny, but don’t you think this is getting just a little bit stale. (To MP) Give me my money so I can get out of here.
MP: My heart.
WTC: Fantastic, fantastic!
WS: Oh shut up bitch!
WTC: Yes, insult me. I have seen performances such as this one in Berlin. Brutal theater. Oh, I love brutal theater. Antonin Artaud says that…
WS: Just shut up before I…
WPO: What is going on here? (To WS) Are you an actress ma’am, or not?
WS: Of course not.
MP: But of course she is an actress. I’m surprised you don’t know her.
WTC: Well, there are so many new ones each year, it’s impossible to tell them apart.
WS: I AM NOT AN ACTRESS AND THAT’S ALL!!
MP: Her role requires her to deny she is an actress. This happens to many actors. They identify with the role they are playing so deeply that you can’t get it out of their heads. (To WS) Relax dear. We’re not playing now. Answer the lady’s question, which she asked so nicely. Are you an actress or aren’t you?
WS: NNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MP: You see? It’s stuck in her head. But don’t worry, even though you are on duty and normally this sort of thing is not allowed, I will ask my good pal Mark to allow you to…
WS: (In a lightning-fast move, she grabs the gun from WPO’s holster and turns it on MP) Tell her that I am not an actress. TELL HER THAT I AM NOT AN ACTRESS.
MP: My heart.
WTC: What am I supposed to do now?
WS: Shut up for a start you idiot!
WPO: Calm down and slowly hand over the weapon. You can be arrested for this.
WS: I don’t give a shit!
WPO: If you give me back my weapon right now, I will forget this ever happened and you can go home, nice and easy.
WS: I don’t want to go home. I am never going home again.
WTC: Am I in the right spot here? Should I move…?
WS: How can you be so dumb?
WTC: Aren’t you going a bit too far? Sir… what’s your name… I am going to write the worst review ever about your show. It was very interesting at the beginning but I am not at all happy about where it is going now.
MP: The performance has been stopped for quite some time now.
WTC: Ah! You are not an actor.
WS: Wow! How did you ever guess?
WTC: Your style cannot be traced to any school. Of course naturalism is very passé; nevertheless, I could say that… So have you really been holding a gun all this time and threatening us? I think I’m going to faint…
WS: Don’t worry, I won’t hold you much longer. I just want my money back and nothing else. I swore that no one would ever trick me again and this time I’m keeping my promise.
MP: But ma’am, I think you are suffering from some type of persecution complex. Who is trying to trick you?
WS: My husband.
MP: Your husband?
WS: Yes, my husband. And you don’t have to look at each other that way because I haven’t lost it yet.
WTC: What have we got to do with your husband?
WS: You, personally, nothing. But I do, or at least I did until about an hour ago when I caught him in bed with that hoe. In our bed. God, I’m going nuts… (She looks like she’s about to collapse. The others approach her, concerned) Freeze! My mind went blank. If I had had a gun I would have shot them both, just like that. I ran out into the street and kept running. I thought he would run after me. I hated him more than anything I have ever hated in my life, but I still wanted to hear him say “honey, let me explain” or something like that anyway, but he didn’t do anything. I ran like someone was after me. I don’t know for how long, until my mind went blank. I wasn’t thinking of anything anymore, nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing… And then I found myself outside the theater. NOTHING. In big letters. I thought it was a sign from God, or someone. I bought a ticket and came in. I needed to see a story, to identify with someone, with something, to somehow let out this knot I had in my stomach. I have never been to a play before you know… This is my first time and it looks like it will be my last.
 
At that exact moment, WTC grabs the gun from her hand and points it at her.
 
WTC: Don’t move or I’ll shoot! Do you think that we have nothing better to do than to stand around here listening to your bullshit? Who do you think you are? You interrupt an entire show, you raise hell, force the police to come, just to tell us that you caught your husband with another woman?! Do you really think I give a shit about your problems? Half the women out there have caught their husbands with another woman. Huh! They don’t make a big deal. They don’t run into theaters, upsetting the show. Did you ask me how many times I’ve caught my husband with another woman? Did you ask me how long it’s been since I’ve even been with a man? HOW LONG, DID YOU ASK? ANSWER ME. HOW LONG!
WS:……………………
WTC: HOW LONG, ANSWER ME!
WS: How am I supposed to know?
WTC: ANSWER ME!
WPO: Ma’am, calm down …
WTC: I will not calm down.
WPO: Give me my gun …
WTC: I will not! (To WS) Now, you go sit down, quietly, and watch the rest of the show. Of course it is way over your head, but it will teach you not to be so rude. Anyway, it will also be a good opportunity for our officer here to have a first-hand idea of the lawsuits she’ll have deal with. Did you think you were going to get away with this just like that? You wreck a show and then demand to get your money back? Now I’ll show you just who I am. Get back to your seat, now! And not another peep out of you! Go! (To WPO) You, go stand in the corner over there, by the front row. (To MP) Do you think we should watch the performance where it left off, or go back to the top?
MP: I think the performance was interrupted in the middle of a particularly tense scene. It would be very difficult to pick up where we left off. We’d better take it from the top.
WTC: As you wish.
 
With the gun pointed constantly at WS, who has already taken her seat, WTC returns to her seat too, while WPO has taken her position at the start of the front row and MP, motioning to the crew, has gone off stage from the wings. A warm glow lights up the stage.
 
Silence.
Long silence.
Very long silence.
Very, very long silence.
Even longer silence.
The silence just keeps getting longer and longer.
It may even stretch for as long as five minutes!
 
 
WS jumps out of her seat, livid with rage. She climbs on stage.
 
WS: (To WTC) Shoot me, OK? Just shoot me.
WTC: Sit down you moron.
WS: Shoot me! I can’t take any more of this!
 
WTC climbs onto the stage aiming at her with the gun , the moment that MP appears from the wings.
 
WTC: I said, sit down...
 
At that moment, WPO sneaks up on her and in a lightning move, disarms her.
 
WPO: Freeze, both of you. I‘ve put up with you two long enough.
MP: Finally, let’s have some order here. There’ve been enough interruptions for one night.
WPO: Open your mouth one more time and I’ll shoot!
MP: But… I haven’t done anything.
WPO: It’s all your fault. We would have never come to this if it weren’t for you and your scams.
WS: Oh my god! I thought I was going mad,
MP: Hey, please, you’re insulting me. Me, a thief? Are you questioning my honor and reputation? I am really offended! And I don’t like your tone either!
WPO: You honor! Right! Let’s go back a bit and remember a thing or two. You have a good memory right? A bit selective, but good. You didn’t meet me in my captain’s office, but here. A few years ago. I am an actress, or, at least tried to be. I graduated from acting school with an A plus and everyone thought I’d be a star. I was very good. At least that’s what people said. You were holding auditions for a musical at the time. I tried out…
MP: I remember something…
WPO: Don’t worry, I remember everything. I was well coached. I gave my best performance ever. I sang, I danced, I played comedy, drama, I improvised. Everyone seemed happy with my performance. A few days later, I learned that rehearsals had begun. You never called…
MP: I insisted that we should take you, but the director didn’t want you…
WPO: (As if she never heard him) I went to a ton of auditions. Everyone was always happy, but they ended up taking someone else. Time passed, all my friends from school were getting job after job and me… the most talented … I read two lines on a crappy soap and ran from producer to producer, and director to director. They all said I was talented, but did they give me a job? Nothing. A friend pulled some strings, I went to the police academy, and here I am, a cop. My grandmother’s dream come true. When they told me they had a call from here, I thought about not coming. I had sworn to myself that I would never set foot in a theater again. I did come after all. Maybe because I wanted an answer to a question that has been plaguing me all this time. Why? Why didn’t I get a chance at a career? Why didn’t I ever get to act?
 
WTC: (To MP) Let me answer. I don’t know how talented you are, or were at least, but let me explain what I have seen of your performance so far. Hammy, sweetie. Very hammy. You’re a ham. How else can I put it? Ha.a.a.mmm! What were you ever thinking?! Sooo baad! Times have changed babe. And you’re still stuck in your grandma’s time. I think being a cop is more than enough.
WS: How can you be so cruel? This woman just bared her soul to us and you…
WPO: She’s right. The truth is always hard to hear, but she’s right. I have nothing. (She turns the gun to herself, holding it against her temple). Coming here was the right thing to do. I had to meet my destiny. On stage. Who’d have thought? (She closes her eyes, and as she’s about to pull the trigger, MP grabs the gun from her hand)
MP: That’s enough! Go home to blow your brains out if you want. An actress... Every moron, ugly, crappy… they all go to that place… what’s its name? With the saint? What’s that saint everyone goes to?
WTC: The Healer, I think.
MP: Anyway… That’s not the point. You were good, you say. An A plus. Do you know how many A-plus students I see who don’t even know how to walk on a stage? Let’s see just how good you are then. This woman here wants a show that will help with the knot in her stomach. Come on then, play something.
WPO: Please don’t make me do this.
MP: Come on, play.
WPO: Shoot me. I would rather die than be embarrassed this way.
MP: Lesson number One. Anyone who would rather die than make an asshole of themselves does not have the stuff to act.
WS: Don’t do this to her, it’s inhuman.
MP: (He turns the gun on WS) Play, or I’ll shoot her.
WPO: I can’t remember anything, it’s been so long.
MP: Play!
WPO: (From Chekhov’s “Seagull,” Nina’s last monologue)
Why do you say that you have kissed the ground I walked on? You should kill me rather. I am so tired. If I could only rest… rest. I am a seagull – no, no - I am an actress. He is there too. No matter…
MP: Put some feeling into it.
WPO: He does not believe in the theatre; he used to laugh at my dreams, so that little by little I became down-hearted and ceased to believe in it too… I soon grew trivial and spiritless, and played my parts without meaning…
MP: Passion! More passion!
WPO: I never knew what to do with my hands, and I could not walk properly or control my voice…
WS: Can’t you see she’s suffering?
WPO: You cannot imagine the state of mind of one who knows as he goes through a play how terribly badly he is acting...
MP: Go on.
WPO: I am a seagull…
WTC: You’re a ham.
WPO: No, no, that’s not what I meant to say….
WTC: Poor woman!
WPO: I have changed now. Now I am a real actress. I act with joy, with exaltation; I am intoxicated by it, and feel that I am superb…
MP: You’re  nothing. If you can’t give her comfort, you’re worth nothing. I’ll give her comfort then… (He turns the gun on WS)
WPO: I know now, I understand at last… it is not the honor and glory of which I have dreamt that is important, it is the strength to endure. One must know how to bear one's cross, and one must have faith. I believe, and so do not suffer so much, and when I think of my calling I do not fear life.
MP: (To WS) Come on, cry. Isn’t that what you wanted?
WS: I can’t.
WPO: Have you forgotten… how pleasant the old times were? What a gay, bright, gentle, pure life we led?
MP: (To WS) CRY!
WPO: “All men and beasts, lions, eagles, and quails, horned stags, geese, spiders, silent fish that inhabit the waves, starfish from the sea, and creatures invisible to the eye...
MP: COME ON, CRY!!WPO: …life, completing the dreary round set before it, has died out at last…
MP: ARE YOU GOING TO CRY, OR AM I GOING TO HAVE TO SHOOT YOU!!!
WS: I can’t….
WPO: A thousand years have passed since the earth last bore a living creature on its breast, and the unhappy moon now lights her lamp in vain. No longer are the cries of storks heard in the meadows, or the drone of beetles in the groves of limes…”
MP: (He suddenly shoots WPO. To WS) NOW, CAN YOU?
WS: Noooooooooo…
WPO: Hush! I must go. Good-bye. When I have become a famous actress you must come and see me… But now, it is late...
 
 (She drops to the floor, dead. WS looks at her, unable to speak. WTC is apathetic)
 
MP: Not even now?
 
(WS, in a state of shock, approaches the dead woman)
 
MP: Cry. What more do you want? CRY!!!!
 
(WS tries to stutter something, in vain. MP loses his patience and shoots. WS drops to the ground, dead)
 
WTC: Finally. I was beginning to think that you had lost all control of the situation.
MP: Why did you think that?
WTC: I don’t know! I have seen a thing or two in my time.
MP: Do you want to give me a hand here?
 
(They carry the bodies off the stage)
 
WTC: (Pointing to the gun) What about this?
MP: We should leave it here. We’ll need it for the final act.
 
(He places the gun at the center of the stage)
 
Ma’am…
 
(WTC takes her seat again)
 
MP: (To the crew) Let’s pick up where we left off.
 
As MP disappears into the wings, the lights dim. A warm glow lights the stage from end to end.
 
Silence.
Long silence.
Very long silence.
Very, very long silence.
Even longer silence.
The silence just keeps getting longer and longer.
It may even stretch for as long as five minutes or as long as it takes for Schubert’s Trio in E Flat, which is already playing in the background, to end.
 
Darkness.

(all rights reserved by the author, for information please contact evdokimos at Αυτή η διεύθυνση ηλεκτρονικού ταχυδρομείου προστατεύεται από τους αυτοματισμούς αποστολέων ανεπιθύμητων μηνυμάτων. Χρειάζεται να ενεργοποιήσετε τη JavaScript για να μπορέσετε να τη δείτε.)