Dramatic Texts >> Nishan Parlakian >> Plagiarized
PLAGIARIZED by Nishan Parlakian
A play in three acts CAST
 
BENJAMIN TASSINOS
WOLF SCHNEIDER
ARAM KALASHIAN
MABEL TASSINOS
ANTHONY ZARARRA
NAZAR BEN NAZAR
VICKI STEVENS
SHERRY VANCE
VANCE BEAUJOLAIS
ADA QUINN
CLIFFORD ADAMS
 
OPENING OUTSIDE OF THE THEATER
An actor is picketing the theater with the following statement on one side of a placard:
Pass them by. I was fired for no good reason.
And the following on the other side of the placard:
(insert here the actor's name playing the character Benny Tassinos) playing the part of Benny Tassinos bribed the director into giving him my part.
The theater has displayed a prominent placard:
Actors Equity and the Producers League concur with the management that this is not a strike.
 
ACT I
 
The living room and kitchen of the Tassinos apartment. The only unusual thing about this apartment is that there are weights and barbells in a bookcase where there might be books. Weightlifting trophies adorn the top of the case. Benjamin Tassinos, five feet three with the build of a Mr. America, is in his pajamas as he talks on the telephone.
 
BENNY
I'm going to play the lead, honey. You're investing in me.—That's right. Open an account.—You're too sensitive.—They'll have the money.—AK and Wolf are the two nicest guys in the world.—That's right. AK'll have his last rewrite up here this afternoon.—I've been up for hours.—Yeah, I've got my pants on.—I'll be down as soon as you ring the bell.—And, honey, don't forget my strength compound, huh?
 
He hangs up. He goes to a mirror, flexes his muscles, stands on his toes, and then begins to exercise, doing a variety of sit ups and push ups. The doorbell rings. He stops exercising and leaps up to open the door. Wolf Schneider, a play director, and Aram Kalashian, a playwright, enter. Both are Benny's age. Wolf wears a scarf with his flashy but worn sports clothes. AK, as Aram is sometimes called, wears a business suit, very dark and also old.
 
BENNY
Hi'ya boys. Come in.
AK
(touching Benny's sweat") You've been rehearsing again.
BENNY
Cut the lecture.
WOLF
He is right. You should read plays out loud instead of exercising. You cannot move on stage if you are muscle bound.
 
Wolf always speaks with smooth movements of his hands as though he were directing.
 
AK
Mold your mind with the great plays of the past.
BENNY
Look Kalashian, put it on paper. Don't give me the greatness routine. I'm great. Worry about yourself. And put it on paper for the guys that come after.
AK
No wonder you don't understand my scripts. You've got no culture. It is written: a radiator without steam is not so hot.
BENNY
Save the Armenian proverbs. I've got culture. Tassinos. Listen to that name. Greek. What is an Armenian compared to a Greek. Did you ever hear of ancient Greece? Well, all of it, all of them old buildings are in my blood.
AK
Did you know the Armenians invented the Gothic arch?
BENNY
What's a Gothic arch?
WOLF
Watch me. Stop all of this. Benny, Aram, look at me. (They look.) Are you looking? Sit. Sit. Not over there. Yes. Now concentrate. Are you concentrating? Good. Now, calmly. What have we come for. Point one. To tell Benny he was great last night on channel seven.
AK
It was a fine job, Ben. The writing was terrible. Yet I can still remember your rendition of: All right, mister, this is it.
WOLF
The lines were all right. But the direction. Look, look at my hand. If your hand, Benny, could have done this. Do you see that . . . just . . . this.
 
Benny imitates.
 
BENNY
This?
WOLF
Not quite. This.
AK
You can't ask him to get it now.
WOLF
You are right. It was just a point to show you that the directing could have corrected the writing, as it so often does.
AK
Never! Cheap theatrics never substitute for good dialogue.
BENNY
I get it. You don't have it. That's what all this routine is about. You guys don't have the money.
WOLF
That was to be point two. Aram, give Benny the latest script. He is a good boy our Benny.
AK
(giving up the script) Study it well, Greek. A lot of rugs were woven to support me through that play.
BENNY
Never mind the history. Have you got the money?
AK, WOLF: Point two!
BENNY
Yeah, point two.
WOLF
Now, Benny, I assure you. We have the money.
BENNY
Okay then. Well now, are we going to take the Village Theater?
WOLF
Correct. It has the name for off-Broadway theater. It has the space I need on stage. It has intangibles also. They are the following: atmosphere, quaintness, gaucheness. It has the lure of a low warm fire. It has. ...
BENNY
Two subway stops, nearby.
WOLF
That helps. That helps.
AK
It'll also have a damn good script.
WOLF
We are thankful. We are thankful for all.
BENNY
(suddenly) Let me see the money. Mabel said to make sure I got the money.
WOLF
(producing a check) Here is mine. Look here. Look at it.
BENNY
I don't want to look at it. Mabel will look at it.
WOLF
Okay, Benny, okay.
BENNY
You're not starting to worry, are you?
WOLF
No, oh no.
BENNY
Well, look cheerful. Mabel is investing because she believes in us.
AK
In you.
BENNY
In us. She loves you guys. She trusts you.
WOLF
But she still insists on being business manager.
BENNY
What's the harm?
AK
She has no experience.
BENNY
Well, she's a bookkeeper.
WOLF
Cannot we explain to her that we need a person with show business experience?
BENNY
You know Mabel. She likes to be around. She likes to see what's happening to her investment.
WOLF
And her husband.
BENNY
So she's a little jealous. But she can do the job of ten men.
AK
It is written: what goes into the pants makes the man.
BENNY
Does the proverb tell you how to start the show without Mabel's money?
 
Benny snaps up Wolfs check. AK hands him one.
 
AK
It's the last, Greek.
BENNY
Your old man will send more.
AK
No. There's no more. He's getting too old to carry rugs. He wants me home.
BENNY
You'll buy him a derrick with your profits. The critics will be dancing.
AK
If they come.
BENNY
Wolf, haven't you told him?
WOLF
I was holding it for a surprise. Zararra was to meet us here at this time. He will do our publicity. He will bring the critics.
AK
That's great. But...
BENNY
What buts...
AK
I can't stand it!
WOLF
What is it that you cannot stand, Aram?
AK
Critics! Sure they come. But what do they do?
WOLF
A critic can expose your flop to more people in one day than would have come to your hit in one year.
AK
It took me two years to write this play. What does that mean to anybody but me? What about my thinking and my thoughts? Even you, Wolf. One month with me and you're with the next play. You directors are like roosters. It is written: the rooster fertilizes many hens.
WOLF
But it is always the hen that lays the egg.
BENNY
Fellas, let's get the ball rolling before Mabel gets here.
WOLF
Correct. In that way we can tell her what to do instead of being told what to do. Number one. I would like to talk about the designer. I have chosen a man who believes in space. His name is Nazar Ben Nazar. He designs in space. Do you follow me?
BENNY
Don't you think this Naz . . . this space man should be number two?
WOLF
What would you like to consider as number one?
BENNY
Casting.
AK
That's a simple matter, Ben. We're going to advertise in Variety and Show business. We'll get all the cheap help we can handle.
BENNY
Oh.
AK
What's the matter?
WOLF
Yes, Benny what is it?
BENNY
I thought we were going to handle the casting privately.
WOLF
I am sure we can find a girl to play opposite you.
BENNY
I mean there's no point looking over lots of girls.
WOLF
We will find an average size girl, Benny. ...
BENNY
Damn it, Wolf. So I'm less than average height. But we said I'd have the lead, didn't we? Didn't we?
WOLF
Yes, Benny, yes.
BENNY
Then what the hell are you talking about?
AK
He didn't say anything, Ben.
BENNY
Doesn't the part call for a guy like me, AK? Let me play the part in peace. I need this chance, (tearful) Fellas, be on my side. Or I don't care. Mabel's money is out.
WOLF
Benny, why do you put it that way?
BENNY
I don't know, Wolf. I've been screwed so often in this business. Just like the guy in AK's play gets screwed.
AK
Benny, Benny, I wrote this play about a guy like you. Sure, short, pushed under the heap, but coming up again because he's got a heart like yours—pure gold.
WOLF
And you will be great Benny. When I am done with you, you will know you have acted. But let us get on. We will meet Nazar Ben Nazar about the design tomorrow at the automat.
BENNY
Let's meet here. The coffee is as good and it's free.
WOLF
The automat is more central.
AK
Besides you're five flights up.
BENNY
Fellas, Mabel's going to a baby shower tomorrow.
WOLF
You will then feel free to join us.
BENNY
Fellas, Mabel and I won't argue if you all come up here.
AK
You mean she won't let you go out.
WOLF
Benny, you are an artist. You are free.
BENNY
Look, I'm doing a T.V. bit tomorrow. I'll be pooped. I can relax in my own home.
WOLF
Very well. Here then. Be prepared to entertain a few people.
BENNY
What kind of people?
WOLF
Just some friends for a closed casting.
BENNY
Fine, fine. I'm sure Mabel will understand.
WOLF
Is there anything else to discuss, Aram?
AK
Ah Zararra hasn't come.
WOLF
He wanted Benny's credits. We can see him tomorrow.
BENNY
You guys better get out of here before Mabel comes.
WOLF
Goodbye, Benny, (Wolf crosses to the door. AK remains fixed.) Aram!
BENNY
AK. Goodbye.
AK
I know. I know.
WOLF
What is it, Aram?
ARAM
It is written: a story that does not begin cannot end.
BENNY
Get off it, AK. I've got to get my pants on. I've got to start dinner. I've got to do my situps before Mabel gets here.
WOLF
Wait a moment, Benny. Look at me, Aram.
AK
Our story hasn't begun. It has to be in the beginning, in the first act when we tell each other—tell the world—why we are here.
BENNY
AK, this isn't a play.
AK
Suppose it was. There's the audience. They know nothing about us. You aren't my brothers. Why should they believe the three of us could come together. We all wear masks. Let's take them off. Let's tell what the forces were in us that made us seek each other out. Then it will be known
why we will stay together till the end. Begin this story. Show me the line of fate to the end.
WOLF
Yes, Aram. That is why I love you. Fate in a play. Inexorable. To make an audience believe that we must stay together to the conclusion, absolute.
BENNY
Why is everybody so serious?
WOLF
No. He is correct.
BENNY
Wolf, stop humoring him. I got up late. There are things to do.
AK
Don't you understand, Greek?
BENNY
I understand. I've got feelings. I've got intelligence. I've been in a couple of plays. You're asking for the steel mills and coal mines. But like they said in drama school, telling about coming up the hard way is old hat.
WOLF
It may be. The reasons for people's actions in the thirties were more social than psychological. They were hungry. Today the reasons are more psychological than social. They are full.
BENNY
I don't know what you're talking about, Wolf. But I'm giving nobody the steel mills, coal mines routine just like that. I'm not a writer and this isn't a play.
WOLF
No. Look. I can see it. It will be our compact. We will say what Aram wants as a ceremony. Yes. Over there, Benny. Stand there. Now stand there. We will all do the same. Stand there and tell us about the steel mills in your life.
BENNY
Wolf, it's embarrassing.
AK
For heaven's sake, Ben, do it.
BENNY
All right, I'm here. ,
WOLF
Look at me. That is it. Now give us your steel mills.
BENNY
This is silly.
WOLF
Benny, be serious as we are.
BENNY
But Wolf ...
AK
All right, forget it. Kill it. But I'm not satisfied with this arrangement.
BENNY
All right, all right, AK. I'm here. Look, I'm serious. No, I'm really serious. (The others attend as Benny continues dully.) Fellas, I used to be and still am a body builder. I used to be nothing. Now I'm something.
WOLF
(the director) No, no, Benny. That won't do. Where is your feeling. Your gesturing is not sincere. Give us something. It must be a long speech. How could you hold an audience in that dull way.
BENNY
(angry") All right ... I started as a body builder. I used to be skinny. I felt like nothing. And I wanted to be something. My father was something. He was built like a Greek statue. He was born big. He was a success in the restaurant business. He had friends. It's necessary to have
friends. They used to pack the place and my father would go from table to table. Shake hands . . . pat people on the back. He had that big open way about him. Drew in people, money, everything. Drew in. In this life you've got to draw in. Anyway, he liked me to lift weights. I got strong. Big,
you know. Some friends at the corner bar used to have these weekend shows with a three piece band. They asked me to do some strength numbers to music. I did and told a couple of the old man's Greek jokes ... in English. Pretty soon, I got an agent . . . more clubs, more spots. Then
around a few years ago this small group asked me to do a play with them.
This was real respect. It's necessary to have respect in this life. Anyway, I saw a chance to get big in acting. You've got to get big in the world or what's the use living. So I went to the Wing to study. And for the first time I saw myself with a million other guys fighting to get big.
I was afraid there wouldn't be a chance for a guy like me. And you two guys liked me and I liked you. Like my father, I'm with people I know. You've got to be with people you know.
WOLF
All my life I have been running from death. I started running in Germany as a little boy. My parents had run before me . . . away from other tormentors. Their parents ran too. When there are not many of you, all you can do is run. A runner learns to own nothing so he will carry nothing when he runs. My father was a violinist. Before him was a tailor. Violins, needles, thread, and scissors are easy things to run with. Well, they say I have definitely stopped running. But just in case, I carry my talents in my head and heart. I am, as everyone knows, artistic by nature. Why artistic? Do not ask. What horrors I have seen in my short life. Those horrors were unartistic. Life is forever a bad play. I must set it right. I must re-do life. I must replace, reline, re-emphasize, oh ...re-everything. Do not ask of the sorrows. The audience is wise. It is not
fitting in a speech such as this to bludgeon them. They know who you are. They know of the sorrows. But what is crucial and exceedingly important is that I was a child ... a mere infant. I used to create dreams. Ruins to castles, rats to rabbits, dead to dreamers. I was a child. It was all I could do. I suppose I never lost the habit.
AK
My name is Kalashian. That I –A- N at the end of my name makes me Armenian. And remember also My Name Is Aram. (A bell rings.) Oh, I know what you're thinking. Why . . . you're asking . . . doesn't this guy say he's an American. Maybe he isn't. You're damn right I am! One hundred percent. What bothers me is that the Constitution of the United States says that only people with bent noses are Americans. Should I get my nose bent? I understand by your laughing that you see I've got problems. I have a mind that dwells on injustices. It is unjust that people think I am a man with a country. I am a citizen of the United States, but I am a man without a country. I say before all men that there should be a free Armenia. Armenians have been massacred by the Turks and chained by the Russians. If an Englishman is not an American he has England. If a Jew is not an American he has Israel. If an Armenian is not an American he has a row boat outside anybody's three mile limit. Give me a free Armenia or give me ... a free America! All my life I've felt the squeeze. I have felt I am not. And what am I? A man must be something to be. A man must be something on one side of the ocean or the other. Identity before
existence. No, it wasn't that I hated my father and adored my mother. I never fell out of my carriage. It isn't something I can put my finger on. If it were I'd sue it! But it's there. And it wants to make like I'm not here. But damn it, I am telling it I am here!! I am here and I am staying!
BENNY
The world is full of little people.
WOLF
The world has reached the time of the little people.
 
Mabel Tassinos enters carrying a large bag of groceries.
 
BENNY
Mabel!
 
Mabel, who has pushed open the door with her foot, falls into the living room. The bag of groceries falls to the floor with her and the provisions tumble out.
 
MABEL
Hunky, you don't have your pants on!
BENNY
(stepping among the provisions') We got to talking . . .
MABEL
Watch out for the eggs!
BENNY
Mabel, you're not sore, are you?
MABEL
My arms.
BENNY
Where, honey? Let me rub them. Where?
MABEL
Here.
BENNY
Better?
MABEL
Some.
AK
Did you ring the bell?
MABEL
Yes, I rang the bell
AK
I'm afraid it's all my fault, Mabel. I was making a big speech.
MABEL
Why don't you keep your speeches in your plays.
WOLF
It was my fault, also, Mabel.
BENNY
We . . . We were talking about the show.
MABEL
Did you get the money?
BENNY
I got the money.
MABEL
Would you boys like a cup of coffee?
 
The doorbell rings. Benny opens it and Anthony Zararra enters. He is near thirty, of Italian
descent, dark and handsome.

 
BENNY
Tony. Come on in.
ZARARRA
Hi'ya, Benny.
BENNY
Tony, this is my wife, Mabel.
ZARARRA
I was sure it was her downstairs. Happy to meet you. (Mabel stares coldly.) How are you, Wolf?
WOLF
Fine. Tony, this is our worried playwright, Aram Kalashian.
ZARARRA
Glad to meet you, Aram. Don't worry. Advertising sells plays.
AK
What about talent?
ZARARRA
I'm only kidding. I liked the script. I've got Holsham reading it.
AK
Art Holsham.
ZARARRA
The Broadway producer.
MABEL
Excuse me! (They turn to her.) How come you recognized me just like that?
ZARARRA
Benny described you once.
BENNY
I showed you a picture.
MABEL
You came up the stairs right behind me and you didn't even offer to carry my package?
ZARARRA
I was looking for the apartment number on the mailboxes.
MABEL
I've got a good mind to kick you down the stairs.
BENNY
Mabel.
MABEL
I'm afraid he's not a gentleman, Hunky.
WOLF
Mabel, why carry this matter so far?
MABEL
He let me carry that thing all the way up.
ZARARRA
It's all right, boys. I'll see you at the automat. I always get in trouble when I follow a pair of beautiful legs.
MABEL
(softening) Well, you could have offered.
ZARARRA
I'm sorry.
MABEL
This ape of a husband of mine was supposed to come down.
BENNY
All right, let's forget about it.
MABEL
You brag so much about lifting weights. I wouldn't go blaming other people if you'd put on your pants.
WOLF
Mabel, my dear, are not preparations necessary for our coffee?
MABEL
I use instant.
AK
Fine. Use it. You've got the money. I mean we're not discussing finances, now, anyway.
MABEL
Save your stage directions for your plays.
 
She enters the kitchen and makes preparations for coffee.
 
BENNY
(to Zararra) Don't try to get too popular with the help.
ZARARRA
Say what is this? You'd think I was nobody the way I'm being treated.
BENNY
This is my house and that was my wife you were talking to.
ZARARRA
I'm not impressed, Benny.
BENNY
You try to be.
ZARARRA
You picked her up like you picked up all of them. The only difference is I wasn't around to tell you not to marry her.
BENNY
Well, I married her.
ZARARRA
All right, I'm happy you married her. She's probably a great cook.
BENNY
I do the cooking.
ZARARRA
What does she do?
BENNY
She keeps my scrap book.
ZARARRA
Fine. That's what I came for.
AK
It's in the kitchen cabinet, second shelf.
ZARARRA
How do you know?
AK
I know.
ZARARRA
Thanks. I'll see if Mabel knows how to make a cup of Russian coffee.
BENNY
I'm sure she knows how to make English tea . . . without balls.
 
Zararra enters the kitchen and chats with Mabel.
 
WOLF
What is it, Aram?
BENNY
What's wrong?
AK
All of this squabbling I thought how human we all are.
BENNY
It figures, AK.
AK
Just a little while ago we poured our hearts into a compact. We could have made an audience believe we were brothers, united. And now the first dissension in the plot. All of my plays have a point such as this. A moment when the villain begins to tear down the forces of good.
BENNY
Tony's no villain. You're not on a stage. There's no one looking at you, AK.
AK
Listen to me. Let's say there was an audience. It sees us, now, as one block, one cause. Let us end our story here.
BENNY
It isn't the end of anything. We've got a show to do, yet.
AK
If we continue from here, this comedy could become a tragedy.
BENNY
So let it. I always wanted to play a tragedy.
AK
You can't play tragedy as a god. We are men. We are not perfect. Supposing something should go wrong. I will not be despised because I am an imperfect man.
WOLF
What . . . What could go wrong?
BENNY
What are you worried about, AK?
AK
I didn't say anything could go wrong. But we have cast ourselves as perfect men. We must correct this impression. Tell me you are men. Tell me that I must not blame you if something should go wrong.
BENNY
Cut it out, AK.
WOLF
I will say it. Oh yes, my friends. I am a man. Please, please do not condemn me if something should go wrong.
BENNY
(in a like way) We're all great and nothing could go wrong. But if it should, we shouldn't blame each other.
AK
Let's go, Wolf. We are better off now ... between the gods and men.
 
Wolf and AK exit. Benny looks after them. He then adjusts the groceries in the bag.
 
MABLE
Does it come in an instant mix?
ZARARRA
You've got to use part coffee and part cocoa.
MABEL
Sounds like plain mocha.
ZARARRA
You gave me an idea. We can mix instant coffee and hot chocolate. Do you have hot chocolate?
MABEL
(looking) I'm sure we haven't. No.
ZARARRA
So forget it. Plain coffee is good enough.
 
Benny has been weight lifting with the grocery bag. He enters the kitchen and presents the bag to Mabel as it rests in his hand, arm extended. Mabel has finished making three cups of coffee.
 
BENNY
It's not so heavy, honey.
MABLE
Put it down, Hunky.
BENNY
I was just exercising with it.
MABEL
I'll give you a chance to exercise. Put on your pants.
BENNY
There's no use creasing the pants.
MABEL
I want you to go down and get some hot chocolate.
ZARARRA
Forget it, Mabel.
BENNY
Who wants hot chocolate in this weather.
MABEL
Hunky, put on your pants and go down. Tony is going to show me how to make . . .
MABEL, BENNY
Russian coffee.
BENNY
Mabel, this guy is full of it. You be smart and leave me alone.
ZARARRA
What's wrong with you, Benny? In the street you're real nice to me. You chatter like a monkey about nothing. Then you ask me all of a sudden if I'll come in with you, Wolf and Aram. So I come in and now you keep biting my head off.
BENNY
You come to a guy's house. You know things are not the same. You don't take things for granted. I mean not everything. In the street it's one thing...in the house it's another thing. You forget I'm married.
ZARARRA
What's that got to do with us being old buddies? I've got your number. You're selfish.
BENNY
What selfish?
ZARARRA
You've been avoiding me for two years. And when I bump into you in the street all you do is give me chatter. You're just trying to keep me from knowing about your "new life." I've heard all about it. I see my folks once a week. You used to do the same. You don't anymore. But I go and my old man tells me everything your old man says about your "new life." And you know I know. That's why you avoid me. You're afraid I'm going to say something about you.
BENNY
You blow things up.
ZARARRA
Then what's the reason?
MABEL
He's jealous.
ZARARRA
Well, it could be. He used to be that way when we dated girls.
MABEL
Hunky never mentions the girls in his life.
ZARARRA
He was never satisfied!
BENNY
Go ahead, pile it on.
ZARARRA
Why would you want to be jealous? Don't I deserve a nicer girl than you? I'm better looking.
 
Mabel compares the men.
 
MABEL
Hunky's got more muscles.
BENNY
Cut it out. (pause) Do you want the chocolate?
MABEL
Yes, I want the hot chocolate.
BENNY
All right.
Benny stalks out of the kitchen. He puts on a shirt.
ZARARRA
Let's forget about it.
MABEL
Let him go down. Serves him right. After I carried that big thing all the way up.
 
Zararra looks out of the kitchen.
 
ZARARRA
I'll be looking at the scrap book, Benny.
BENNY
Enjoy yourself. (He heads for the door)
ZARARRA
Better put on your pants. (Benny stops and puts on his trousers over his pajama bottoms and exits.) He's mad.
MABEL
Let him be.
ZARARRA
Let's take a look at the scrap book.
 
Mabel takes it down from a shelf as Zararra gives her the once over.
 
MABEL
This is where I began to keep it. (They sit on the sofa)
ZARARRA
I lost track of Benny after he tried out for a road show. I forget the name.
MABEL
Remember the Heavens.
ZARARRA
That's it. Remember the Heavens. I went down to try out with him. He made it and I didn't. That's when I decided to give up acting.
MABEL
(pointing) Well, this is the play here. It played in my home town. Here's the playbill.
ZARARRA
You come from that town.
MABEL
Really on the outskirts of it.
ZARARRA
That's a pretty small town to have an out skirts.
MABEL
Big enough for road shows.
ZARARRA
I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything. It was just big city talk.
MABEL
The big city is full of big talk from small people.
ZARARRA
Say, that's smart from a small town girl.
MABEL
My father used to say it.
ZARARRA
How did you and Benny meet?
MABEL
Oh. Like that.
ZARARRA
Like what?
MABEL
It was right along with that play. I always went to the plays that came through town. Well, after this one I thought I'd go back to see the celebrities. I used to do that often. Well, anyway, I waited at the stage door. All the actors went right by me. And then Benny came out. He only had a small part, but I recognized him. He just kind of stood there. The lights to the theater suddenly went out and the town went dark. There was a lamp post shining here and there. There was the one big night club with the red mill neon . . . Moulin Rouge. All the actors went there. Anyway, Benny looked at me and then he asked me to go for coffee. And we went to the diner across the street from the red mill. We got married in San Francisco. And then we came here to live.
ZARARRA
How do you find the big city?
MABEL
The city is a bunch of Bennys.
ZARARRA
So sour from a sweet face.
MABEL
Really? Do I have a sweet face?
ZARARRA
I think you do. Now, I'm not saying that to keep your money in the show. But if Wolf or Aram should say it—watch out. (Mable laughs.) You know when I think of it—if I had gotten a job with that company I might have walked out of that theater with Benny that night. Oh, I would have given him a hard time. Who knows, I might have married you.
MABEL
A lot of actors walked by. I'm not so sure you'd have seen me.
ZARARRA
Everybody doesn't share my taste.
MABEL
You see that's what I mean, Tony. A girl in a small town doesn't see, she dreams. And everything fits into her dreams. They used to say all my sisters—four of them—were prettier than me. So I just fit into that idea and I dreamed. And then there comes a time when you wake up to your own true . . . true worth. And it's late.
 
Zararra touches her.
 
ZARARRA
You were inexperienced.
MABEL
I'm not complaining. When I met Benny I knew his life was like mine. Dull and proper.
 
She pulls away from him.
 
ZARARRA
Dull and proper. Benny and me, we never had a dull time. And I don't think you would have ever called us proper.
MABEL
You mean you knew a lot of girls.
ZARARRA
Knew them, exchanged them, borrowed them. Really, Mabel, it's embarrassing talking to you. I mean today, living is living. You've got to learn to relax.
ZARARRA
Come here.
 
They cross to each other. Zararra extends an arm. Mabel resists faintly.
 
ZARARRA
No thorns.
MABEL
(stroking the sleeve) None.
ZARARRA
Then what. Benny? Benny is relaxed, believe me. You don't get along in show business without a hug and a squeeze here and there.
MABEL
I know how Benny acts at rehearsals.
ZARARRA
Oh, so you go to rehearsals.
MABEL
Some.
ZARARRA
That's right. You can't go to all of them.
MABEL
Benny isn't the kind to chase around. (She looks forlornly at Zararra. He puts his arm around her waist.) That's Benny on the steps. (She pulls away.)
ZARARRA
I'm going to prove something about show business as soon as he steps in. (The door opens and Benny enters with a box of hot chocolate in his hand.) Benny.
BENNY
What?
ZARARRA
Benny, tell me the truth. Would you mind if I put my arm around Mabel's waist?
MABEL
He's kidding, Hunky.
BENNY
How did all this come up?
ZARARRA
Never mind how it came up. Now come on, tell me. We're old friends. All I want to know is can I put my arm around Mabel's waist?
BENNY
What kind of a question is that?
ZARARRA
It's a simple question about a small thing.
BENNY
I don't know.What's Mabel think?
ZARARRA
No, no, no, no! This has nothing to do with her. It's got to do with your attitude. Keeping me away for two years and all that. It's got to do with things inside you.
BENNY
So all right, go ahead. You always have to play the thing show people like . . . real chummy . . . darling . . . and all the cheap feels. Go ahead, big shot. Here's the chocolate.
ZARARRA
And this is the same guy that used to kiss my sister in front of me.
BENNY
Go ahead. And here's the chocolate.
MABEL
Put it on the table.
 
Zararra puts an arm around Benny's shoulder and an arm around Mabel's waist.
 
ZARARRA
You married an obedient, honest man, honey. My boy Benny. And Benny, you married a cute kid. I approve.
 
Benny, half disgusted, turns away, crosses into the kitchen and slaps the chocolate on the table. Zararra turns Mabel suddenly into his kiss. Mabel is affected. Zararra moves away wiping his mouth with his handkerchief. Benny reenters the living room.
 
BENNY
You can make your Russian coffee.
ZARARRA
I've got to go, Benny. Some other time.
MABEL
You don't have all the information on Hunky.
ZARARRA
I'll take the book along. (Zararra picks up the scrap book.)
MABEL
Don't lose it. I haven't got doubles.
ZARARRA
Benny's got his doubles in his ego. (Zararra pinches Benny on the cheek. He then goes to Mabel, bends over as though to kiss her, but stops and asks Benny with a sidewise gesture of head and eyes if he may do so.)
BENNY
Go ahead if she doesn't mind!
 
Zararra laughs and kisses Mabel on the cheek.
 
ZARARRA
I'll be back for more, tomorrow night. (He laughs and exits. There is silence.)
MABEL
What's tomorrow night?
BENNY
We're having a get together here.
MABEL
I told you I was going to the baby shower.
BENNY
Now, wait a minute, Mabel. Don't get sore. The worst is it's going to be a kind of a party, too. And there'll be girls, too. You see, Mabel, we'll be able to cast in private. You know what that means to me. Please don't get sore.
MABEL
I'm not sore, Hunky. I'll break away early and come back for some fun.
BENNY
IS the girl business okay?
MABEL
It's okay, Hunky. Relax.
BENNY
Sure, sure, Mabel. Say did, did Tony show you how to make the coffee?
MABEL
You mix the coffee and the chocolate. He didn't say how much of each.
BENNY
Ah, he's a crazy guy.
MABEL
He's nice though.
BENNY
I suppose he's all right. I mean he used to be my best friend.
MABEL
Why didn't you ever bring him around, Hunky?
BENNY
I don't know.
MABEL
Were you ashamed he'd say something about us?
BENNY
No. I don't know. It seems to me like I always shared my girls with Tony. All my life I mean. Maybe I figured being married was different. He worries me sometimes. It's like he picks on me. Like a bully that takes things from small kids. Oh, don't get me wrong. I could mash him. But it's better to stay away. You know what I mean. Don't get mixed up with him for a while I thought.
MABEL
He's interesting though. He says you've been fooling me all along.
BENNY
What's that supposed to mean?
MABEL
Nothing. Only I thought you were like me, when I married you. I thought you didn't date much and things.
BENNY
Not that much. Look, Mabel, I never told you I wasn't normal.
MABEL
I guess I'm the one that wasn't normal.
BENNY
It's different with women.
MABEL
Even the ones in show business?
BENNY
They play around to get ahead.
MABEL
Do you play around to get ahead?
BENNY
Never.
MABEL
Never?
BENNY
You come to rehearsals.
MABEL
Not all of them, Hunky.
BENNY
Mabel everybody plays the game a little. You shouldn't mind.
MABEL
How would it be if I play the game a little?
BENNY
You're not the type.
MABEL
What's the type?
BENNY
You're not in ... in the business.
MABEL
I'm two thousand dollars in the business, Hunky.
BENNY
So all right, Mabel. So I guess you can play the game. It's started already with Tony. Go ahead, flirt if it gives you kicks. I don't mind.
MABEL
What makes you think I'd care if you did?
BENNY
Let's cut this kind of talk out. It doesn't get us anywhere.
MABEL
It's funny, Hunky. I asked you to marry me. You were the only man in my world.
BENNY
And now there are two.
MABEL
That's not it. But my world's gotten bigger in two years.
BENNY
Shrink it, Mabel. I'm asking you, please.
MABEL
There's a bit of Columbus in all of us, Hunky.
BENNY
Honey, what's this all about? We're talking crazy. I married you, Mabel, because you were the girl for me. Didn't I come half way to you? My father had a Greek cousin all lined up for me. I dumped my father for you.
MABEL
You never dumped him, Hunky. He haunts your dreams and I've heard you make the speech a hundred times.
BENNY
Don't tell me things like that. I don't want to know anything deep about myself. I'm not a complicated guy. I tell you I'm not. All this stuff is coming up because of Tony. Is it something Tony said?
MABEL
Maybe. Maybe it's the two thousand dollars. Maybe it's working and seeing nothing but you trying to make it and not making it. Maybe it's everything.
BENNY
All this kind of stuff comes from not doing things. Too much thinking. That's why I always like action. Come on, Honey, let's move around . . . and live, live, live. Look, I haven't done my sit ups yet. You hold my legs down.
 
Benny lies down on the floor. Mabel sits on his legs. Benny does his sit ups speaking when he can, stopping when he must.
 
MABEL
What would happen, Hunky, if you stopped exercising?
BENNY
Everything I worked for would be lost. I'd get flabby. I wouldn't be solid . . . big. (Benny works a little in silence) Mabel, I was thinking about this name Hunky you call me.
MABEL
What about it?
BENNY
Can't you call me anything else?
MABEL
Don't you like Hunky?
BENNY
I don't know. It's funny...It sounds almost mean when you say it.
MABEL
It makes me think of...hunk of man. What's wrong with that?
BENNY
Hunk, yes. But Hunky. The Y makes it small again.
MABEL
Well, that sort of fits you.
 
Benny leaps up, angered.
 
BENNY
That's mean, Mabel. Mean! (softer) Ah, Mabel. What's the matter. You know I love you. Don't I show it? (Benny kisses a half receptive Mabel) I'm not small in bed.
MABEL
Who is?
 
CURTAIN

 


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