By James Ralston
CHARACTERS: LILLIA KRAMER: An actress
HENRY VERMONT: Lillia’s partner, a writer
YOUNGER HENRY: in Silver City, New Mexico
YOUNGER LILLIA: traveling through Silver City
GABBY: A Silver City bar-tender
ALBIERTO: An off Broadway theatre entrepreneur
LORRAINE: A New York actress
TONY: Lorraine’s partner, an actor.
ACT I: A cluttered, tight and somewhat ratty apartment in a mid-town Manhattan high rise.
With the stage still dark, there is the sound of an exercise machine and some music [Peggy Lee’s “Money” would be a good choice]. As lights slowly come up, LILLIA, wearing a mud-mask, is riding a stationary bike. Her cell phone rings. She lowers the volume on the stereo with a remote. As she talks, there is an om-ing sound from behind the open balcony doors.
LILLIA: Hi Phil…. July in November, huh? The endless summer, I’m not complaining…. Ha…. Don’t I wish. I’m breathing hard because … I’m riding my bike…. That hum you hear is Henry greeting the morning sun. His newest procrastination. He says he’s looking for his original face. His face before he was born…. You tell me what that means, Phil…. (pause, loud ommm from the balcony, Lillia shouts in that direction) Hey, can you hold that down a little…. Hey, out there. Excuse me a minute, Phil (gets off the bike, crosses to close the balcony doors, muttering) It’s so annoying…. (back to Phil) So? Did you talk to Billy? What’s going on?… You didn’t talk to him?… What t’ hell do you mean, “age appropriate”? Billy Turner himself must have thought I was “age appropriate” when he looked me straight in the eyes at Tony’s party Friday and said I’d be perfect for Nina Dressler. (mounts the bicycle again, starts slowly pedaling) I beg your pardon, sir, that’s precisely the word he used. “Perfect.” We weren’t even talking about the play at the time, and out of the blue–— Look, I got a beep, Phil. When you call back I want to know the day, time, and place of my audition. The sooner the better. Yesterday if possible. You work for me, don’t you?…. Okay then…. Hi Lorraine….Ha. I wish. I’m breathing hard because I’m riding my bike…. No. I’m glad you called. I’m so angry at Henry right now….
HENRY Emerges from balcony wearing jeans, tee-shirt, slippers, dark glasses, trying to walk gingerly but using a putter as a cane. In his free hand, he holds a rose.
HENRY: (singing) Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Lillia…. Look. A rose in November. (puts it in her hair) How’s that for global warming, huh?
LILLIA: How thoughtful. A rose off my own bush…. You’re flying low, dear.
HENRY: (Zipping up his pants, he crosses to the hallway door to pick up the morning paper, singing softly.) How old am I now? How old are you now?
LILLIA: (to Lorraine) He’s out there on the balcony half the night playing with his little telescope, and then wakes me up at three o’clock to look at this dead pocked surface of the moon. I mean what’s the point of looking that close up? All it does is take the mystery out of it. Now I’ve got huge dark circles under my eyes, and just watch me get called to audition for “Honey Money” today (pause) Oh, really. Did you now?… Under the stars. I think I’m jealous…. I got a beep, Lorraine. That may be Phil calling back. (Henry lays part of the newspaper on the bicycle handles, and putts a ball towards a coffee mug he’s placed on the floor) You’re coming to Salsa class at five, aren’t you? See you there. (looks at caller I.D.) Oh,… Albierto. (looks furtively at Henry) I don’t want that now.
As Lillia starts peddling again, the land line wall phone rings.
HENRY: Aie. Grand Central Station. (ignoring the phone) Did you remind Miss Lorraine it’s your happy birthday?
LILLA: No. Because it’s not my happy birthday.
HENRY: (looks at the date on the paper, then holds it up to her) The 12th of November. There it is. Black and white.
LILLIA: Don’t believe everything you read in the Times these days, darling…. Come on. Answer that. I’m working out.
HENRY: (crossing on his “cane” to the ringing phone) Okay, I’m coming. Hold your horses…. (tucks the phone into his neck while he starts the coffee) Total Body Work-out Center, may I help you…. It’s me, Bert…. Yeah,… yeah, she’s (an emphatic signal from Lillia that she doesn’t want to talk) … she’s not here right now…. Un-hmm. I read it a couple nights ago. Lillia and I read it out loud together. Hey, I love how you merge the ecological crisis with Opal’s personal meltdown. And great pun there, “Opal Warming.”… Timely, I’d say. I can remember as a kid shoveling snow this time of year…. I think Lillia would make a terrific Opal Warming…. But that’s what acting’s all about, isn’t it? Being somebody else…. I’ll do what I can, I promise…. I know you really want her. I don’t blame you…. I’ll tell her you called.
LILLIA: (stops the bike; looks up at Henry) So. What are you looking at me for?… Want to hear what Lorraine and Tony did last night, under the moon, at their Connecticut place?
LILLIA: They cooked a steak on the grill, shared a bottle of wine and made lap love in a patio chair, reading “Romeo and Juliette” to each other.
HENRY: (now reading the paper at the kitchenette table – which also doubles as his workplace—holding the paper close to his face) Really. What kind of steak was that?
LILLIA: Hmm. I think it is romantic.
HENRY: Nobody likes Shakespeare with their steak more than old Tony and Lori, I’m sure.
LILLIA: Where’s your imagination, Henry?
HENRY: Buried under life’s sordid details, no doubt…. Listen to this. 70 million Americans now on anti-depressants. Up 25 percent in Manhattan, since those terrorists attacks in Paris and San Bernardino….
LILLIA: You used to be so romantic…. Sometimes it’s the little things, you know…. And why do you call her “Lori,” anyway? Tony doesn’t like it.
HENRY: I know he doesn’t…. So what do you want for your special “birthday” breakfast?
LILLIA: Hm. What would be special about turning thirty-nine again…. Anyway I already told you. It’s not my birthday.
HENRY: Well, that simplifies my shopping. (picks up a banana) And why in hell does “Lori” want to talk to you about her sex life all the time. Don’t you find that a little odd? (pretending the banana’s a phone, feigning an Italian accent) Yeah. Peter. Henry Vermont here…. Hey, I’m sorry, but I have to cancel the order for the new Ferrari.
LILLIA: Ha. Ha. Very Funny.
HENRY: It was going to be Lillia’s surprise birthday present, yeah, but it turns out not to be her birthday…. Must have been another wife named Lillia. Previous life, maybe. Sorry for the confusion…. Yeah… Arrivaderci. Peace and love.
LILLIA: (reading paper) Ferrari, my elbow. You wish we had that kind of money.
HENRY: You wish we had.
LILLIA: I wish we had a new sofa, finally…. Look how ratty our couch is looking. A couple of decorator lamps. A television. A television would be a nice present.
HENRY: No television.
LILLIA: For the news. To help pass the time while I’m working out.
HENRY: No boob-tube, Lillia. That’s where I draw the line.
LILLIA: If you don’t want to watch it, don’t watch it.
HENRY: I don’t want to hear it either.
LILLIA: Boob tube…. Who calls it a boob tube anymore?
HENRY: Idiot-box then.
LILLIA: I don’t even get to see my own commercial…. And don’t look so all superior. You still write for that “idiot-box” on occasion.
HENRY: Do you have to remind me?
LILLIA: And where do you think your little Sarah Lawrence groupies are dying to sell these screenplays they’re slaving over?… Put in some ear plugs if you don’t want to hear it. Do you think I like to hear you oooooooom-ing?
HENRY: Breakfast? Breakfast?… How about sooooooooome Belgium waffles?
LILLIA: Nooooooo. And stop tempting me, Henry. Coffee. Black. I’m dieting, okay…. Listen to my horoscope…. “Scorpio. Born on November 12th. Be alert today for new career opportunity…. A pleasant surprise is disguised in what first appears to be a big disappointment…. Hmm. “Romance is on the horizon, but will require a hard choice between the cautious you and the adventurer you. You know which choice to make.” Romance is always good…. Oh. Listen to this. “Money troubles can be resolved with a little creative thinking…. A call from someone you love leads to a startling revelation.” (twists her neck) . . . From someone I love. Who could that be? (dismounts the bike, lights a cigarette, checks herself out in the wall mirror)
HENRY: (bringing Lillia her coffee) When d’you pick up that filthy habit again?
LILLIA: What?… I’m having one cigarette at mealtimes,… to blunt my appetite. If I’m going to play Nina Dressler, I have to lose ten pounds.
HENRY: That glow of youth you’re chasing comes from the inside out, you know.
LILLIA: (putting on stereo headsets) You remembered to give the super the rent check, didn’t you?
HENRY: (putting the ball towards the stereo) You wear yourself out on that bicycle to nowhere, then smoke cigarettes and skip breakfast.
LILLIA: Hello. I can’t hear you.
HENRY: The most important meal of the day…. (takes off her headset) Ever hear the expression that you are what you eat…. and smoke.
LILLIA: So, this morning I’m a black coffee and a Virginia Slim…. Organic. (weighing herself on scales next to bike) And one pound lighter already.
HENRY: All water…. (lights a cigarette)
LILLIA: Henry!… Hypocrite…. And with your bad heart. Is this your death wish, or something?
HENRY: Death wish for me, you mean?… Only when you’re nagging me…. (putts the ball back towards the kitchen area, following it on his “cane”) I’m not the one racing for some lost fountain of youth, Lilliput.
LILLIA: Certainly not racing. You walk like you’re 99 years old, leaning on that cane.
HENRY: It’s not a cane. It’s a putter.
LILLIA: A couple three years ago you and Tony were playing tennis every other day. Now you putter a golf ball around the house.
HENRY: It’s how I think…. If the ball hits the cup, ping, then I know it’s a good idea.
LILLIA: If you’d go ahead and get the hip replacement, like Dr. Wang says you’re going to have to get one day anyway, you’d—-
HENRY: (putting, missing) You see. Now I know…. Don’t think I’m not working while I’m doing this.
LILLIA: (back to reading the paper, now and then twisting her neck, as Henry putts his way back to the kitchenette) Golf. You used to call golf the bourgeois valley of death.
HENRY: What goes on here has nothing to do with golf.
LILLIA: Oh, here’s a cheery little bit. “The ozone holes enlarged another two percent over the North Pole last year and three percent over Antarctica…. In the last 100 years, human beings have aged the planet earth more than in all the previous centuries combined.” … Listen to this one. “Everglades alligators are growing smaller and smaller penises. And some males are being born without penises at all.”… Tony was off his cane two weeks after his surgery.
HENRY: Tony…. Speaking of small penises.
LILLIA: Now he doesn’t even have a limp…. Warmest first week in November in New York ever. A new record…. Thunder showers this afternoon. Maybe severe.
HENRY: Global hot flashes, Bert calls them in his new play. Remember. Mother earth in menopause.
LILLIA: Hmm. Hear this. A black woman in the Bronx had a baby at 58. (turning a page) See. You’re as old as you think you are…. Here’s a story on the eclipse tonight…. You’re going to watch it, I suppose.
HENRY: If the sky’s clear, of course. That’s why I set up my telescope?
LILLIA: The last eclipse you watched, you burned your eyes.
HENRY: That was a solar eclipse, darling…. I doubt I’ll burn my eyes looking at the moon.
LILLIA: Just kidding, Henry. I’m not as stupid as you think I am.
HENRY: I know you’re not.
LILLIA: Oh God. Here’s a review of Billy Turner’s new play?
HENRY: Review?… I thought it was Billy Turner’s new play that you were so hot to try out for?
LILLIA: Not “Honey Money.” His play that previewed last night at the Plymouth. “Diamond in the Rough.”
HENRY: That little twit is casting a new play before the first curtain rises on his last one? Jesus.
LILLIA: (not looking up from the paper) That’s the way you gotta think. In this town.
HENRY: Billy Turner think? There’s an oxymoron.
LILLIA: You strike while the iron’s hot…. Oh, God. Winstrom loved it. Let’s see it, Henry. Listen. “Sir Ronald Routfort comes within a whisker of going to bed with his daughter, whom he thought was dead at sea but who had been saved by pirates, sold into sex slavery, escaped, and now, suffering amnesia, has taken a position as a maid in the servants quarters of the Routfort estate.”
HENRY: We’re not going.
LILLIA: It’ll be lighthearted.
HENRY: Light-headed, you mean…. Baby food.
LILLIA: That’s why we moved down here closer to things, I thought. To go for the life…. Not everything good has to be deadly serious, you know. You and Bert sometimes…. Never mind, I’ll ask Lorraine…. Why doesn’t Phil call back? God, what I’d give for another chance to work with Billy Turner on a big stage.
HENRY: (pointing to a plaque hanging on the wall, on his way back to the kitchette ) You didn’t win that Theater World award in any Billy Turner bedroom farce. (Lillia glares at him.) I’m just reminding you…. The play’s still the thing, Lillia…. An actor can only be as good as her script…. Anyway, didn’t you hint to Bert that you wanted the Opal Warming role.
LILLIA: I told Bert I’d “consider” Opal if I didn’t get Nina…. I can’t do both. If I could do both, I’d do both…. Opal Warming plays 55, minimum. She’s like an earth mother. I’m half insulted Bert even thought of me for Opal. (points to her neck) Here, Henry. Please. Two minutes.
HENRY: Perhaps he thought of you as an actress.
LILLIA: (twisting her neck) Thirty seconds. My neck is killing me, honey…. I’d make ten times the money at the Plymouth than I would at Bert’s old Hole in the Wall…. Do you think I enjoy doing trash compactor commercials? Just to make ends meet? Huh?
HENRY: And how old does this Nina Dressler play?… 35… 30?
LILLIA: So? A lot of people think I’m in my 30’s… Yeah. Late 30’s. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that. Men and women. (giving up on the neck massage) Forget it. (goes to the bathroom to take off her mud pack; now and then poking her head out during the following exchanges) What perhaps frightens you, Henry, is that I can still play 30-something.
HENRY: (in the kitchenette, making a waffle) Opal Warming is an exquisitely conceived character. Politically aware. Funny….
LILLIA: Old…. Fat….
HENRY: Bert wrote her with you in mind, I’m sure.
LILLIA: Oh, thanks a lot Henry.
HENRY: You know what I mean. You’re a great comedic actress. Opal Warming plays right into your strengths.
LILLIA: Sorry. I want to play someone where I’m inspired to lose weight, not gain…. Does that make something wrong with me? Because I still aspire to play the romantic lead?… (Phone rings.) Well? How would you like it if, all of a sudden, you couldn’t write what you really wanted to, just because you’d reached a certain age?
HENRY: (looks at caller’s name, then answers the phone, feigning an old man’s voice) Sunset Manor. Assisted Living.
LILLIA: Okay, Mr. Vermont. From now on, you can only write plays about retirees playing shovel board in Florida. A writer doesn’t have to face that crisis, does he?
HENRY: I don’t hear so well anymore. Can you speak up?
LILLIA: The trouble with losing weight is now everything wants to sag.
HENRY: No…. No person by that name living here. Sorry.
LILLIA: (coming out of the bathroom to look at her backside with a combination of hand mirror and wall mirror) After you turn 39, it’s your ass or your face.
HENRY: I don’t care who gave you what information. You’re barking up the wrong tree, pal. (hangs up, goes to his worktable, picks up his Li Po book) Vultures!
LILLIA: (looking at her face) I really can’t afford any more wrinkles…. Who was that?
HENRY: Wrong number.
LILLIA: It was a creditor, wasn’t it?… I heard you. You don’t say “vultures” to a wrong number…. You didn’t forget our session this afternoon with Dr. Hoffman, I hope.
HENRY: No, I didn’t forget…. I already canceled.
LILLIA: Henry! After we missed last week, too?… She’s already threatening to drop us.
HENRY: Good…. I don’t quite get it, Lillia. Why we are letting a complete stranger into the intimate details of our lives.
LILLIA: To give us a neutral perspective. An objective perspective.
HENRY: Are we unintelligent or something?
LILLIA: Just because you’re intelligent doesn’t mean you can see yourself.
HENRY: Anyway, I don’t have the time. I told Albierto I’d have a draft of my new play to show him by Friday. Good luck on that, with this leaning tower of sophomoronic screenplays I’m supposed to have read by class tonight.
LILLIA: It’s one hour.
HENRY: And one hour getting there and one hour getting home. And there’s the morning…. Not to mention, flush another 200 dollars down the toilet.
LILLIA: Ah, there it is. You don’t want to pay for it. That’s how much our relationship means to you.
HENRY: Let me define “our” relationship for myself, okay.
LILLIA: For yourself. See what I mean?… You promised you’d give it six months…. She was just starting to get us to the bottom of some stuff.
HENRY: There’s no bottom, Lillia. No stuff. (imitating Dr. Hoffman’s broken English) “Vhat do you vant from Lillia, Henry? Can you tell her vhat you vant?”
LILLIA: (looking in the mirror, drawing her face back with her hands) You know what I’d really like, from you, Henry? For my birthday this year? My dream present. (crosses to kitchen counter where he’s reading and eating; grabs the book out of his hands, sets it aside; draws her face back) Remember me?
HENRY: Vhat are you making faces at me for?
LILLIA: Pretty amazing, huh?… Don’t tell me you can’t see.
Henry starts reading his book again. Lillia sits on the sofa with her hand mirror. General lights slowly lower, a Spanish guitar plays off-stage.
LILLIA: If you wanted to buy me something, since you keep insisting it’s my birthday … what about a couple weeks on the ocean. In Mexico…. What do you think, darling? A real R and R. Mangos for breakfast, fresh seafood for lunch…. Those romantic sunsets….
HENRY: Listen to this Li Po poem, Lillia.
LILLIA: Our little cabana on the beach.
HENRY: “Follow Tao, and nothing’s old or new…. Lose Tao, and the ruins of age appear….
smiling back in the mirror,…”
LILLIA: It’d be like our second honeymoon.
HENRY: (looking admiringly at the book) Great stuff.
LILLIA: (looking in her hand mirror) We need that. We owe that to us.
Lights fade to black. Spanish guitar increases in volume. Lights come up, stage front, on an out West saloon, with Henry and Lillia, frozen in the darkened background. There are a couple flashes of lightning and distant cracks of thunder. YOUNGER LILLIA and YOUNGER HENRY sit at separate tables, Henry writing on a typewriter, Lillia reading, with earphones in her ears. There’s a duffel bag beside her table. Now and then they shyly notice each other. GABBY, the bar-keep, is washing glasses behind the bar.
YOUNGER HENRY: Sounds like a storm coming in, Gabby.
GABBY: TV says it’s gonna be a big one.
YOUNGER LILLIA: (taking out her earphone) Pardon me. Did you say something?
YOUNGER HENRY: Just talking to Gabby, here. This doesn’t bother you, I hope. My typing.
YOUNGER LILLIA: (trying to stretch a kink out of her neck) No.
YOUNGER HENRY: Big weather coming in, Gabby says. These dessert storms can be spooky, if you’ve never experienced one. (a huge crack of thunder) Now that’s a real cowboy thunderbolt. Durn tootin’. (gets up and looks out the balcony doors, which will be imaginary and facing the audience) I don’t believe I’ve seen you in here before.
YOUNGER LILLIA: You haven’t.
YOUNGER HENRY: Just passing through?
YOUNGER LILLIA: More or less…. (sighs, as if to say she’d really rather not talk) I got off the bus to take a side trip to the cliff dwellings, in Gila—-
YOUNGER HENRY: Ah. Checking out the old cliff dwellings.
YOUNGER LILLIA: But then the sky looked so threatening, I asked the cabbie to drive me back to town…. Excuse me. Is that an honest to god typewriter over there?
YOUNGER HENRY: This? Yeah…. (as he sits back down) Tequila, Gabby. And one for the senorita.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Oh, nothing for me, thank you…. You don’t see one of those too often anymore. A typewriter, I mean.
YOUNGER HENRY: Look. Not hooked up to anything. No electricity. No battery…. Never breaks down…. Never freezes up…. What are you reading, may I ask? (Lillia holds the book cover up for him to see. Henry reads the title in Spanish.) “Recibir …el Amor ….Necessites.”
YOUNGER LILLIA: (looks at the title herself, in a bored way) “Getting the Love You Need.”
YOUNGER HENRY: Dear god. They’re translating bourgeois psychology into Mexican now?
YOUNGER LILLIA: Is it yours, perhaps? Someone left it here on the table.
(Gabby brings Henry a glass, a bottle of tequila and a bowl of limes.)
YOUNGER HENRY: Hardly. I read a book of that sort in my last marriage. “How to Love the Same Woman Forever.” Something like that… Didn’t take.
YOUNGER LILLIA: No doubt. (twisting her head around, trying to loosen up her neck)
YOUNGER HENRY: Forever. Why not “How to Love the Same Woman Now and in the Near Future”? (raises his glass to her) Sure you won’t join me?
YOUNGER LILLIA: (looks at her watch) Too early for me, thank you.
YOUNGER HENRY: Too early for me, too. (tosses down a shot, sucks a lime, then leans into his typewriter) “Getting … the … Love … You … Don’t ….Need.” There. Great. I may have happened onto the title for my new play…. Thanks to you. I owe you one.
YOUNGER LILLIA: (looking up, long pause) You’re a playwright?… Come on?
YOUNGER HENRY: (writing some more) Is a playwright supposed to look like something?
YOUNGER LILLIA: No. I guess not. (pause) What’s that supposed to mean anyway? Getting the love you don’t need?…
YOUNGER HENRY: What do you think?
YOUNGER LILLIA: (thinking a few seconds) Getting love that’s bad for you?
YOUNGER HENRY: Umm. Could be that,… But I was thinking more like how you can get the love you need, only when you don’t really need it. You know. When you’re complete within yourself? So to speak.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Oh, there’s a nice thought…. Complete within yourself. I dated a man once who was complete within himself. Or tried to come off that way…. And you?… Are you com—– (deciding to not go there) Are you here to see the “old cliff dwellings”?… Or would that be another one of those bourgeois things?
YOUNGER HENRY: Indeed it would be,… if you took “the official tour” and all that crap, with a hundred other tourists tripping all over each other, taking pictures to bore their friends to death with back home. “How fascinating,” you know, all that crap.
YOUNGER LILLIA: You like that word, I notice. Crap. (Henry ignores this.) Well, the cliff dwellings are fascinating, if you’ll excuse that bourgeois word. To imagine what their world would have been like. Living on cliff ledges. In the sides of cliffs. And it wasn’t all that far back, compared to how long we’ve been on this earth. As human beings…. Like yesterday.
YOUNGER HENRY: True. But the bigger point is, if you want to actually “see” the “old cliff dwellings,” you have to go by moonlight, after they’re closed. Tip the guards…. You can’t just walk through with a million other people…. (Lillia returns to her book.) You see with your imagination more than your eyes…. Wouldn’t you say, Gabby?
GABBY: (watching a soundless TV as he’s doing bartending tasks) Calling for tornadoes now.
YOUNGER HENRY: Where in Mexico are you headed for?
YOUNGER LILLIA: (not looking up) No set destination.
YOUNGER HENRY: Traveling by yourself? (Lillia looks around her as if to say that’s obvious.) An attractive woman like you, traveling solo, by bus, to Mexico. No set destination. You don’t see one of those every day, do you Gabby?
GABBY: Not every day.
YOUNGER LILLIA: I like to travel solo.
YOUNGER HENRY: You aware of how dangerous Mexico is nowadays?
YOUNGER LILLIA: So. Life is dangerous…. No way around it…. And more interesting things happen, traveling solo…. no one watching over you.
YOUNGER HENRY: And no one you’re watching over.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Exactly…. They may as well be the same thing…. You go off to see the world all bound up in a couple. And what do you see? You see each other.
YOUNGER HENRY: Then comes a day you’ve seen each other far too much…. You’ve been down that road, too, it seems like. (pause) You know, I’ll be going out to the cliff-dwellings tonight, after the park closes. If you want to really see them, you could come with me.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Thank you, but my bus leaves in … exactly one hour.
YOUNGER HENRY: This may sound a little like bragging, but I know more about the cliff-dwellings than the cliff-dwellers knew. I’m an expert on the cliff-dwellings.
YOUNGER LILLIA: That does sound a little like bragging.
YOUNGER HENRY: Tell her, Gabby.
GABBY: He’ll sit out there half the night.
YOUNGER HENRY: You see, they’re in my play…. They’re the setting for a good bit of it Act II…. Albierto – he’s my mentor, my dramaturge, as they say – he’s convinced me you’ve got to know the places you’re writing about. Inside and out…. Same bus leaves tomorrow. Same time. Same station….
YOUNGER LILLIA: It’s kind of you to offer, but I want to keep going. I only have two weeks.
YOUNGER HENRY: You’ve got your whole lifetime, if you see it that way.
GABBY: Darn tootin’
YOUNGER HENRY: I don’t believe I caught your name….
YOUNGER LILLIA: I don’t believe I threw it.
YOUNGER HENRY: No. Please. I’d like to put you in the program, with a little thanks. For the title idea. “Getting The Love That You Don’t Need”…. I’m Henry Vermont. My pen name, actually, but—-
YOUNGER LILLIA: Lillia Kramer…. My stage name actually, but I also use it when I travel.
YOUNGER HENRY: Your stage name. You’re an actress…. Really. Lillia’s an actress, Gabby. How about that?
YOUNGER LILLIA: I don’t exactly make my living at it…. I’ve been told I could though.
YOUNGER HENRY: What have you been in?
YOUNGER LILLIA: Well, most recently, Honey in “Virginia Woolf.” (stretching her neck, taking out a bottle of aspirins) Comedy’s my real strength though…. Joanna in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Susan in “Don’t Drink the Water.” … God, my neck is killing me. I slept on it wrong last night on the bus…. You wouldn’t happen to have anything stronger than aspirins, would you?
YOUNGER HENRY: Un mescal, Gabby. (points Gabby to her table) Whereabouts are you doing these classics?
YOUNGER LILLIA: Pocatello…. (shaking her head “no” to Gabby)
YOUNGER HENRY: Pocatello. The Pocatello. Pocatello, Idaho…. (nodding to Gabby to serve Lillia the mescal)
YOUNGER LILLIA: (offended, making moves to leave) It’s a great little theater town, actually…. Do you have to be in New York, or L.A., to be an actress?
YOUNGER HENRY: (walking to the balcony, looking out) No. Not at all. I hope you’ve got an umbrella…. That’s a nasty looking sky out there…. Here. Take mine…. A present. For the title idea.
YOUNGER LILLIA: I think you’re laughing at me.
YOUNGER HENRY: Not one bit…. Come on. Take it. It cost me a whole five dollars.
YOUNGER LILLIA: (twisting her neck, as Gabby sets the mescal down in front of her, then exits) What’s your play about? In a nut shell. (looks at her watch) The three minute version.
YOUNGER HENRY: Okay, three minutes. There a miner’s strike here in Silver City. It’s the 1950’s, and this priest is the lead organizer, preaching Jesus-socialism and in all kinds of trouble with the law. And the Church. That’s one level, and under that, there’s sort of a Cinderella story in that the heroine, Flora, starts out life dirt poor, a miner’s daughter, but by and by she realizes that her looks are a kind of money. So she lets the mine owner’s son seduce her…. But that’s all done in flashback. In the present, she’s now married to this same mine owner’s son,… Am I going too fast?
YOUNGER LILLIA: I’m following.
YOUNGER HENRY: … but now that he possesses her, he doesn’t treat her well. Ignores her. She feels like she’s become like a piece of furniture in his house. And she’s fed up with it, you know, tired of just being looked at, laid on. She wants a real life. A deeper love…. Well, you can see where it’s going?
YOUNGER LILLIA: Sounds interesting…. Well, I guess it’s time. (standing up to go, about to put the book, “Getting the Love You Need” into her bag) Do you want this?
YOUNGER HENRY: Not really.
YOUNGER LILLIA: The guy makes a couple of good points, actually.
YOUNGER HENRY: You take it with you then…. You know, I’m driving down to Mexico myself, after I button it up here, in a day or two…. Perhaps we’ll meet again.
YOUNGER LILLIA: You never know.
YOUNGER HENRY: I’ve got one scene to write from south of the border. At Tepoztlan.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Topoztlan?
YOUNGER HENRY: If you happen to be going somewhere … you know, … near Tepoztlan.
YOUNGER LILLIA: (pause, then incredulously) Do you make your entire living writing plays?
YOUNGER HENRY: Hmm. Not even close. That’s my goal though…. No, I’ve got my day job alright.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Which is?
YOUNGER HENRY: Well, I’m almost ashamed to tell you, but since we’ve promised to be always honest with each other, I’m a writer for a pretty famous soap right now…. More like an idea man. My version of waiting tables…. Anyway, Albierto is going to make it big one day — you watch for that name – and then he can bail me out…. I’ve bailed him out a few times.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Which soap is it?
YOUNGER HENRY: The Old and the Torpid.
YOUNGER LILLIA: (smiles big, then winces, stretching her neck again) I think I know the one you mean…. Well, it that so bad? At least you’re making your living writing.
YOUNGER HENRY: You want a quick little massage on that neck, before you go.
YOUNGER LILLIA: People have to be able to afford themselves.
YOUNGER HENRY: I know a couple pressure points…. I’m good, I’ve been told.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Have you ever read this guy, Theroux?
YOUNGER HENRY: Henry Thoreau. My grandfather’s hero. I was named after him.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Not the Walden Pond guy. Paul Theroux. (spells out the last name) I met him. In Kabul.
YOUNGER HENRY: Kabul, Afghanistan?
YOUNGER LILLIA: He was researching a book. We hung out for a few days, actually. Ate meals together. You know.
YOUNGER HENRY: I’ll be damned. You were in Afghanistan. Doing what?
YOUNGER LILLIA: Who knows. Trying to figure out who I was…. Anyway the reason I bring Theroux up is that he said that a person’s calling is what she makes her living at. (looks at her watch, then sits back down, points to her neck) Okay, if you don’t mind…. Two minutes.
YOUNGER HENRY: Oh, I don’t mind. (moves in behind her, puts his hands on her shoulders) Throw that down first. It’ll help…. Plug your nose if you have to.
YOUNGER LILLIA: I don’t know if I can stand getting on the bus like this. (She tosses back the mescal; he starts to slowly massage.) Yeah. There it is…. Right there. Oh god.
YOUNGER HENRY: Tell me if that’s too hard.
YOUNGER LILLIA: A little bit…. But it feels good, too.
YOUNGER HENRY: Just relax…. Let me do the work.
YOUNGER LILLIA: An actress is a person who makes her living acting. I was impressed by that. It stayed with me. A writer is a person who makes his living writing.
YOUNGER HENRY: Does writing daytime TV count?
YOUNGER LILLIA: That couldn’t be the big thing, no, but that could be the little thing that makes the big thing possible one day…. You can go a little deeper, actually.
YOUNGER HENRY: Albierto says just the opposite. You’ve got to let the little thing entirely go, or you will never get to the big thing. The little thing will rob your very soul.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Down about one inch…. There…. You can go harder now…. Harder…. Yeah.
YOUNGER HENRY: Tell me if I’m hurting you?
YOUNGER LILLIA: Ohhh. Jesus,… no, it’s good …
YOUNGER HENRY: You’ve got a huge knot in there.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Who’s Albierto again?
YOUNGER HENRY: Albierto Alverez, my mentor. He’s the go-for-broke type you’re talking about. Seek ye first the your creative passion, and all things will be added unto you.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Just what Paul was saying. In different words.
YOUNGER HENRY: It’s a universal principle, no?…. What’s amazing is how few people live by it…. Myself included, of course….
YOUNGER LILLIA: Mmmm. Whew.
YOUNGER HENRY: Everything Albierto earns goes straight back into his theatre. His theater first. Then eating. Buying clothes….
YOUNGER LILLIA: Oh!… Ooo.
YOUNGER HENRY: Tell me if I’m hurting you.
YOUNGER LILLIA: No. Don’t stop. You’re really getting in…. there. Sounds like an interesting guy, Albierto…. How did you meet?
YOUNGER HENRY: Picking apples in my grandfather’s orchard, in Vermont, when I was a kid, and he was this fearless, hip half-black, half Hispanic teenager in Montpelier. I was maybe fourteen, he was eighteen, going on twenty-eight. He let me hang out with him. Had a scar from his neck to his collar bone…. No apple orchard was going to tie him down for long. In his imagination he was already in the Big Apple. Or preparing for it. He may have looked like he was picking apples, but what he was really doing was making up plays in his head. Mean plays. Survival plays, you know – from the point of view of somebody who’d never had it easy. But he’d always put a love story in there, too. And as we got to know each other, he’d include little parts for me, maybe the brother of the heroine or something like that. I’d be picking in the next tree, and he’d say, okay, I’m in jail, and you’re the kid brother of my girl, come to tell me how she was doing. What she was up to. That’s just one I remember.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Now this Bert has his own theater.
YOUNGER HENRY: Nobody is going to do it for you. I remember him saying that many times.
YOUNGER LILLIA: (looks at her watch) Well, that better be enough. Wow. Thank you.
YOUNGER HENRY: The pleasure was all mine.
YOUNGER LILLIA: You are good. (turning her neck, as if relieved) Where is this Bert located? In New York?
YOUNGER HENRY: Off Broadway.
YOUNGER LILLIA: (gathering up her stuff again) Off Broadway. Mmmmm.
YOUNGER HENRY: Off off…. A Hole in the Wall.
YOUNGER LILLIA: But still, New York.
YOUNGER HENRY: (Spanish guitar in the distance; it accompanies the rest of this flashback, growing ever so slowly louder) No, sweetheart. That’s the name of his stage. A Hole in the Wall. Off off off would be more like it. But talk about being married to your passion…. married to your vision…. Just one life, huh?
YOUNGER LILLIA: And now he does your plays?
YOUNGER HENRY: Well, not yet. I still got too much fluff, he says…. But he likes this play I’m doing right now. So far. We’ll see….
YOUNGER LILLIA: “Getting the Love You Don’t Need.” (They both laugh.) Yeah, I’ve always thought, New York, if you had to pick one place….
YOUNGER HENRY: Hear that music? (goes to balcony, looks out over the audience)
YOUNGER LILLIA: … you know, where a person could sort of settle down, and yet so big everything would be always new….
YOUNGER HENRY: These mariachi singers. They’ll be standing right under this window in about … thirty seconds.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Acting in New York. It’s always been a dream of mine.
YOUNGER HENRY: Why not live it, then? Like your lion-hearted hero, what’s-his-name says?
Music gets louder; she joins him at the balcony, but stands apart.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Paul…. I wish it was that easy.
YOUNGER HENRY: Nothing to it. You just have to want it enough…. Look. Here they come.
YOUNGER LILLIA: (edging closer to Henry) It’s like our personal serenade.
YOUNGER HENRY: Be careful what you’re thinking right now.
YOUNGER LILLIA: What do you mean?
YOUNGER HENRY: While they’re singing, whatever you’re thinking about, it will come true…. An old Silver City legend…..
YOUNGER LILLIA: Okay. (closes her eyes as lights slowly fade and music in the distance grows louder) I’m thinking of my trip to Mexico. The ocean. Playa Azul. White sand. A little cabana in the palm trees off the beach. Mangos for breakfast. Seafood for lunch….
Lightning. A crack of thunder. Lights out. Music stops. As lights come back up, Younger Henry and Younger Lillia are gone. Henry in the kitchen area, making waffles; Lillia looking into a hand mirror, the same positions they were in before the flashback.
LILLIA: And I could get a face lift while we’re down there…. For my birthday, honey. A little work around the eyes.
HENRY: Ah. Fresh mangos in the morning. A face lift in the afternoon…. You aren’t having any more birthdays, remember?
LILLIA: Exactly. Thus the face lift. That’s the wonder of it. It’s nothing, Henry. It’s like an afternoon at the beauty parlor. Lorraine’s had two already….. At least two.
HENRY: And Lorraine’s got a 30 year old face on a 50 year old body. She doesn’t fit together.
LILLIA: (crestfallen) You think Lorraine’s face looks younger than mine?
HENRY: On a neck that looks twenty years older.
LILLIA: Who cares about the neck? That’s what turtlenecks are for.
HENRY: I mean, what would be next, Lillia? Liposuction? Plastic surgery? This isn’t the road we want to take…. I admire your fight. I do. But you’re gonna lose. At some point, it’s gonna happen.
HENRY: You know what “it” is. And before that “it” arrives, it’d be much to our advantage if we started looking at ourselves … in a new way.
LILLIA: Oh, that’d be nice, darling…. Looking at ourselves in a new way? (picking up the hand mirror, waggling it at him) Unfortunately, the mirror doesn’t lie.
HENRY: Sure it lies. Do you think that’s your real face in there?
LILLIA: Of course it is.
HENRY: For one thing, it’s two dimensional. Two, you’re seeing the reverse image. Three—-
LILLIA: (puts the mirror in front of his face) Boo!… Stop kidding yourself, Henry. It gives us a pretty damned good idea…..
HENRY: (slightly shaken, as if having seen something unexpected) Three, all the fairy tales and dreams a person’s looking through. How can anyone see their face through all that crap?
LILLIA: How dare you call my dreams crap…. Lorraine’s had two butt tucks, too,… and don’t say you haven’t noticed, because every time she turns her back, your eyes go straight down there…. Yeah, you look.
HENRY: Because you’re waiting for me to look. So then I look…. You know how that goes.
LILLIA: How am I supposed to compete with all the Lorraines out there when they’re getting make-overs and I’m not. Tony says I’d drop ten years, just like that.
HENRY: Tony! Tell Tony to drop dead. So you’ve got a few sags and wrinkles. They’re who you are now….
LILLIA: They are not who I am. They’re superficial. They can be removed.
HENRY: They’re your life lived…. See them in that light and they’re quite lovely.
LILLIA: (crossing to her yoga mat) There’s nothing lovely about crow’s feet…. In any light! On a man, oh yeah, you get to look distinguished for the same wrinkles that make me look old…. Anyway, what’s the big difference between getting my skin stretched a little bit and … coloring my hair?
HENRY: About fifteen thousand dollars.
LILLIA: So. (throws her legs over her head into the plow position) We borrow.
HENRY: Borrow. From whom? With what collateral?
LILLIA: From Tony…. He’s practically offered.
HENRY: (stunned) You talked to Tony about borrowing money?
LILLIA: Fifteen grand is small change to Tony anymore. With all those great Mafioso roles he’s been getting…. Come on, Henry. Don’t be so damned proud…. Live a little. We’ll call it our second honeymoon.
HENRY: (walking towards the balcony) Nice honeymoon, with your face all black and blue.
LILLIA: (rolling out of the plow) Everybody needs a fresh perspective now and then.
HENRY: They don’t call it a face lift for nothing, you know. They lift the skin right off the flesh.
LILLIA: And then it heals…. When was the last time we had sex, Henry?
HENRY: I saw a documentary on it.
LILLIA: I don’t even remember.
HENRY: (now on the balcony, offstage) They peel your cheeks back like a banana.
LILLIA: That’s pretty pathetic, don’t you think.
HENRY: God, you should see this sky right now, Lillia. These amazing black clouds rolling in.
LILLIA: (in a new yoga position) Earth to sky. Lillia to Henry. Come in. It’s been months now since we made love…. Lillia to Henry. Months. Do you read me?
HENRY: (poking his head in briefly) Yeah, I read you. Seems like Henry’s the one generally reaching for Lillia in that regard.
LILLIA: Maybe if Henry would make his reaching a little more interesting. If we’ve had sex for the last time, at least I’d like to remember it.
HENRY: Ah. Now there’s a conundrum. How would one ever know it was the last time? Think about that. How would you know? Unless one of us died. Then you could know…. (as he moves back onto the balcony) Omitting, of course, the possibility of necrophilia.
LILLIA: You’re morbid. I hate you.
HENRY: This sky, Lillia. You don’t really see the immensity until you’re living right in it. Above the trees. Above that little toy life down on the street.
LILLIA: A little vacation might do you some good, too, you know. Rehearsals for “Honey Money” won’t start for a month. By the time we made our bookings, your semester will be over. Your play, please God, will be written.
HENRY: Little ants driving little ant cars, catching little ant busses? Here we are, living in the mind of God and don’t even know it.
LILLIA: There you fucking go again. You know Henry, if you stared out there at the mind of God a little less and in here at your computer a little more, you might finish your play.
HENRY: (reappearing) The computer…. I wish you’d never bought it for me.
LILLIA: Maybe I thought you were a writer, or something…. Take a hammer to it, then. Smash it. Bring out your old typewriter. If that will help?
HENRY: (walking to his desk) It won’t….
LILLIA: What then?… God, you’re so depressed.
HENRY: (picks up his Li Po book, starts reading) I’m not depressed.
LILLIA: Then where’s your spirit gone? I tell you, it’s Albierto, Henry. He’s got a death grip on you. These social conscience plays he likes are totally old-fashioned now. Dead in the water. Why write about something that nobody cares about? Not even you, if you’re honest about it. It’s no wonder you’re all blocked up…. Where’s the man I fell in love with twenty years ago?
HENRY: I wish you knew.
LILLIA: What will it take to bring him to life again?
HENRY: You can’t push the river, Lillia.
LILLIA: Sure you can. If the river’s plugged up. If the river’s got to be somewhere…. You throw in a stick of dynamite…. It’s not like we couldn’t use the money.
HENRY: And how much money do you think my little play is going to be worth?
LILLIA: (continuing her yoga positions) Not much, when you call it “my little play.” You’re worth as much as you think you are.
HENRY: Then life’s over.
LILLIA: What happened to you, Henry?
HENRY: (to himself) I can’t believe it took me to age 65 to discover Li Po.
LILLIA: And for Christ Sake, there you go, announcing your age again. Not a day goes by that you don’t tell me, or somebody, you’re 65. Every party we go to, “I’m 65 now, and blah blah blah….” or “since I turned 65, this and that….” You could easily still pass for … 49. A dab of Grecian formula on the temples. Contact lenses. A little imagination in your choice of clothes. Shave your beard. There’s ten years right there. There’s energy in these everyday decisions we make. You look younger. People see you as younger. You see yourself younger in their eyes.
HENRY: (having been staring vacantly) It was at Lorraine and Tony’s Connecticut house. Their Halloween party. We got drunk and climbed the big apple tree in the back yard.
LILLIA: What are you talking about?
HENRY: The last time we made love. It was a couple weeks ago. Not months. Halloween. I was dressed as Rainer Rilke. You were Lou Andreas Solome. Tony was Marlon Brando, being a pain in the ass all night, of course: “Stella! Stella!”
LILLIA: Now you’re really scaring me. You’re going to call a kiss in an apple tree making love?
HENRY: We got it going there.
LILLIA: Then we came home and you passed out on the sofa.
HENRY: Yeah. And in the morning—-
LILLIA: Sorry, buddy. Mornings don’t count. (Lillia’s cell phone rings. She lets it ring a few times, while they stare at each other, then answers, while Henry goes back to his Li Po.) Phil. What?…… This afternoon. You mean this afternoon, today?… Of course I can be ready. That’s great, Phil…. Yes, yes, I realize I don’t have the part yet, but I have a very good feeling…. 12:30 at the Plymouth then…. What do you think I should I wear? I’ve got nothing to wear. Nothing fits…. Never mind, I’ll figure it out…. Good-bye, Phil, I love you. (hangs up) Men. My dream role, and Phil says it doesn’t matter what I wear…. Well, you see?
HENRY: See what?
LILLIA: I got my audition for “Honey Money.”
HENRY: Oh, well. Break a hip.
LILLIA: What to wear. If I knew which scene I was reading,… because it could be tight jeans, it could be a costume ball, … black leather.
HENRY: Go in your birthday suit. That would impress him.
LILLIA: That’s a good idea…. What a good idea, Henry. There’s a darling skirt and blouse in the window at Saks….. I’ve still got time…. I can change at the store…. For my birthday, honey? Come on. Give me your credit card.
HENRY: My big mouth. How much?
LILLIA: Two hundred.
LILLIA: And fifty.
LILLIA: For the blouse.
HENRY: Okay. One condition. It’s for your fiftieth birthday present. Say it.
LILLIA: Thirty-ninth. (She grabs for his credit card; he pulls it back.)
LILLIA: Fortieth. My last offer. (snatches the card) And even that is between you and me…. We’ll go to dinner tonight. Someplace romantic, and I’ll wear it for you. I’m not ready to give youth up, Henry…. Oh, this isn’t probably the right time, but look what Lorraine gave me. (takes a pill out of her purse, holds it between her fingers)
HENRY: What’s this?
LILLIA: You know. A little blue pill…. Tony already takes them, and he’s younger than you.
HENRY: A little blue pill for what?
LILLIA: You know what.
HENRY: My “you know what” works perfectly alright … when it gets a decent invitation.
LILLIA: Of course it works alright. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t work better. .
HENRY: Jesus Christ, Lillia. What do you and Lori talk about behind my back?… Hm. So old Romeo has to use these, does he?
LILLIA: He doesn’t have to…. It’s like an enhancement, Henry. Be adventurous.
HENRY: Adventurous. Oh. We’re calling taking viagra being adventurous now? Are we turning into a TV commercial or something.
LILLIA: We don’t even have a TV…. And stop shouting, will you.
HENRY: Who’s shouting.
LILLIA: Remember what Dr. Hoffman said about shouting. I can’t hear what you’re saying when you’re shouting at me.
HENRY: (in an exaggerated, forced whisper) I’m expressing my feelings…. (walking away from her) God, it’s come to this kind of talk between us!… Stupid bitch.
A low rumbling thunder in the distance, with flashes of lightning.
LILLIA: Did I just hear what I thought I heard?
HENRY: I was referring to Dr. Hoffman.
LILLIA: Sure you were. Thanks, Henry. I’m on my way to maybe the most important audition of my life, and you–— You see your negativity towards me. If I don’t get this part, I’ll owe it all to your loving support.
HENRY: Well, that conveniently gives you someone to blame it on. You’re 50, Lillia. Nina Dressler’s not the right role for you now. It’s time to face yourself.
LILLIA: Oh, now you’ve said the wrong thing, haven’t you, asshole. I hope you have a heart attack and die. So I’m free of you.
Lights begin to fade, and the exchanges begin to compete with a rising “Besa Me Mucho.”
HENRY: Don’t forget your raincoat…. There’s some real weather coming, you know.
LILLIA: Thanks for nothing. And give the super the damn rent check, before you get us evicted.
HENRY: Pick me up a pack of cigarettes on your way home.
LILLIA: Maybe I’m not coming home.
HENRY: (now at his computer, as she slams the door behind her) Don’t come home then…. (shouting) Marlboro Reds. Not lights.
Lights out. Serenade, “Beso Me Mucho,” lightning and thunder continue a little after lights out.
ACT II, Scene i. Back in Silver City.
Voices begin before the lights come up on Younger Lillia and Younger Henry, dimly lighted where they were standing at the end of the previous flashback scene. The storm has passed over, distant lightning flashes now and then. Guitar, as before, plays “Beso Me Mucho” in the background.
YOUNGER LILLIA: It’s your turn. Tell me what you’re thinking?
YOUNGER HENRY: I’m thinking of Mexico, too. Tepoztlan. (distant thunder)
YOUNGER LILLIA: What about Tepoztlan?
YOUNGER HENRY: There’s a mountain overlooking the town. I’m using it as the setting for the last Act in my play. It’s supposed to be the birthplace of Quetzalcoatal.
YOUNGER LILLIA: The Feathered-Serpent God.
YOUNGER HENRY: You know about Tepoztlan?
YOUNGER LILLIA: Only what I’ve read…. I haven’t been there.
YOUNGER HENRY: Well, me either. Albierto has. His father grew up in Tepoztlan. From that mountaintop, he says you can see forever.
YOUNGER LILLIA: I thought you didn’t care for that word. Forever?
YOUNGER HENRY: Touche, Lillia…. Apparently you can see for a long ways up there. Especially when you hit age 52…. . Which ain’t all that far off for me.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Come on. No way.
YOUNGER HENRY: Not that far off.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Really? You could pass for in your 30’s. Late 30’s. The way you dress. The way you carry yourself.
YOUNGER HENRY: You’re kind…. Anyway, in Aztec mythology, Mayan too, the universe is destroyed and re-created every 52 years…. You know, this conversation has got me thinking. When I get back to New York, I should make a concerted effort to get rid of my day job altogether. To go for the life I really want. Like your friend, Theroux…. Like Albierto. Reduce my needs. Bert’s got this kind of storage/catch-all room in his apartment. He’s already told me I could clean it up and move in there. I’d be big enough for a bed and a desk.
YOUNGER LILLIA: What do we really need anyway?
YOUNGER HENRY: What I really need is to be a serious writer. One hundred percent. No compromises.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Paul said the ones that make their living out of their calling, they’ll be the happy ones finally.
YOUNGER HENRY: I guess you missed your bus.
YOUNGER LILLIA: There’ll be another bus tomorrow…. Tell me some more about your play.
YOUNGER HENRY: Sure…. I’d love to…. Well, here’s the basic back-story. All her life Flora’s had the men running after her, this or that Prince Charming wanting to rescue her good looks from her poverty— God, I was just seeing something. You and Albierto would look perfect across from each other as Flora and the priest….
YOUNGER LILLIA: Albierto acts, too.
YOUNGER HENRY: Acts. Directs. Produces. He does it all… Look. Why don’t you come to New York and audition?
YOUNGER LILLIA: Are you serious?
YOUNGER HENRY: Are you interested?
YOUNGER LILLIA: I don’t know…. New York? Yeah, I’m interested. I’m a lot interested.
YOUNGER HENRY: Then I’m a lot serious. Listen, I can tell you right now you’d have a shot at it. I’ll have a say in the casting. Bert already refers to me his junior partner. No money in that yet, but—-
YOUNGER LILLIA: You really think Albierto’s going to put this one up on the boards.
YOUNGER HENRY: He’s very positive about it so far.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Say a little more about Flora.
YOUNGER HENRY: Okay. In the present, at the time of the miner’s strike, you’re a fading summer flower, say, … early-forties,…
YOUNGER LILLIA: Early forties! You said she was young, like in her twenties.
YOUNGER HENRY: In the flashback, yes. But in the present, you’re in your early 40’s, and your loyalties are with the workers, of course, because that’s the real you, but you have to hide it from your husband. And to complicate matters even more, you’re starting to fall in love with the renegade priest.
YOUNGER LILLIA: Fading summer flower.
YOUNGER HENRY: Barely the first sign…. One spotted petal. The first turned leaf…. For you I’ll make her … let me see,… 39. (touches the corners of her eyes) A line or two of hard earned wisdom around the eyes. It’s a good thing really, because you now want a man who sees your deeper beauty…. Then, of course, it happens. The priest begins to fall in love with you, too…. Hell, maybe I could play the priest myself.
GABBY: (entering from a back room) Hey you two. Better take cover. The weather channel says a tornado’s been spotted. Headed this way.
Gabby hightails it out of there. Younger Henry and Younger Lillia, looking into each other’s eyes, don’t move. Henry plants a light kiss on her cheek. Several seconds of high wind, lightning, thunder, then lights out. When they come back on, dimly, Henry is at his desk in his older persona, lighting a couple candles.
HENRY: (back at his computer, striking keys) What’s this!… Oh God. Dios mio. (a loud knock at the door) Go away. We don’t want anything.
ALBIERTO: (from the hallway) Let me in, Henry. It’s me.
HENRY: Jesus! What next…. (walking to the door, cautiously opening it) Albierto. Am I dreaming? You never come here.
ALBIERTO: (with tough-guy accent, walking in, looking around.) Where’s Lillia, Henry? She never called me back.
HENRY: Hold on, Bert. (returning to his computer) Something just happened.
ALBIERTO: Is she taking the Opal Warming role or not? I gotta know today, god-dammit.
HENRY: We just took a big hit of lightning over here. I could feel the voltage coming right through the keyboard. (hits a couple keys, slumps back in his chair) Gone. Nothing.
HENRY: (breathing hard) This computer is toast, Bert. I just lost my play.
ALBIERTO: The electric’s out. Maybe your battery’s just dead.
HENRY: It was fully charged.
ALBIERTO: You backed the play up, didn’t you? You saved it on a thumb drive or something?
HENRY: (having trouble catching his breath) No, Bert. Didn’t back it up….
HENRY: (taking a pill out of the vial he carries on a chain around his neck, putting it under his tongue) Jesus, all these things to save and back up, huh. I should have backed up my heart a good ten years ago, when it was healthy. Saved my first kisses with Lillia, back in the beginning, cloned a spare hip when I could still walk. Can you save your soul on a thumb drive? Did I have a soul once, Bert?
ALBIERTO: You’re babbling. Cut it out. What’s wrong with you?
HENRY: (takes a deep breath) Jesus. These heart pills. They’re one hell of a rush….
ALBIERTO: You okay, kid?
HENRY: (starts to wander, dreamlike) Far from okay (picks up his racquet leaning against the stove), but remember that Swedish tennis champ in the late 70’s, early 80’s. We liked him, what’s his name, retired young, then tried for a comeback with a wooden racquet. We saw him play once at Forest Hills. Had top-spins that kicked so high they drove the opponent off the court.
ALBIERTO: Yeah, yeah. Bjorn Borg. What’s your point?… I don’t got all day here.
HENRY: In a world of metal racquets, he never won again…. I’m a wooden racquet, Bert, that’s my point…. I’m a typewriter in a computer world.
ALBIERTO: Oh. You’re gonna blame the stupid computer because you can’t bother to learn how to back your work up. A simple task. Welcome to the 21st century, Henry.
HENRY: I’m not blaming anything. I’m making an analogy. That play wasn’t going anywhere. You would’ve puked all over it. Pretentious crap. Thor, Zeus, whoever’s throwing lightning bolts up there these days, just did me,… just did your theatre a big favor. (sits on couch) Whew. I’m crashing, Bert…. I’m coming down a little too fast.
ALBIERTO: You’re as white as death, kid. (opens his cell-phone) I’m calling a doctor.
HENRY: (as if that wakes him up) Don’t! No doctors, Bert. No damn doctors. Just talk to me…. Isn’t this my life trying to tell me something here? I can’t write anymore…. Every day I’ve got less to say. How does this happen?
ALBIERTO: Are you asking your life or are you asking me?
HENRY: Speak to me, Albierto.
ALBIERTO: You already know my answer to that question, little brother. (sitting beside him on the couch) Look. You’re still good. You’re better than you think you are. But look at those plays you wrote when you were really good. Twenty years ago. Your Flora plays I’m talking about. Back in the 102nd Street days, Lillia brand new in town, you guys sharing a room, hell, not much bigger than a walk-in closet…. You were dancing on the edge of the precipice, kid, and damn you were writing with the best of them there for a while.
HENRY: And I’m not dancing on the precipice now? Lillia and I can’t make the god-damned rent between us, Bert. She has no idea how close we are to going down…. They aren’t renewing my contract at Sarah Lawrence. For the screen-writing course.
ALBIERTO: Oh. (yawns) That must be the pretentious thing you was alluding to?
HENRY: Pretentious or not, it was a piece of our income.
ALBIERTO: (standing back up) Well, I’ll tell you, puppy, this don’t exactly look like the edge of the abyss to me – living in a high rise a five minute cab ride of the Manhattan theater district.
HENRY: They said I wasn’t considered up and coming anymore. They’re giving the course to Billy Turner.
ALBIERTO: Billy Turner. Well, there you have it…. Fuck Sarah Lawrence, Henry, and be done with her. I congratulate you for this good fortune. I guess you want me to feel sorry for you or something…. Tell you what. Do you need a place to stay? Is that it? Mi casa es su casa. I can’t remember if I told you this yet, but the 102nd flat is going to be available in a couple weeks.
HENRY: Available? What do you mean, available?
ALBIERTO: I’m moving out. I’m in the process of moving out right now.
HENRY: Why?… Where are you going?
ALBIERO: Moving into the “Hole in the Wall” — making myself a little efficiency off from the dressing room. Cutting some corners, financially speaking, you know,… everything getting so damn expensive in this town… But actually I like the idea of living in my theatre. I’ll sublet the 102nd Street flat. Wouldn’t make sense to let that go, since it’s under rent control and all, but naturally I gotta sublet it to somebody I know, so I can still appear to be living there. You get the picture. I’ll charge you a tenth of what you’re paying here. It’s no favor, friend. I owe you this.
HENRY: Lillia would never go for it. She’d call moving up to 102nd Street going backwards.
ALBIERTO: …. I wasn’t actually referring to Lillia.
HENRY: … You’re saying go by myself.
ALBIERTO: Why don’tcha give you and Lillia a break, Henry. It’s called dying and being reborn. You gotta do it every now and then. It’s what you wrote about, during that period of time when you were hot. Back when you were handing me one goddamn great play after another. Those Flora plays you wrote, for Lillia really, inspired by Lillia, are what got “Hole in the Wall” on the map. There’s the favor I owe you. We’ll just call this the first installment.
HENRY: What if I’m just over the hill, Bert.
ALBIERTO: Bullshit! What am I hearing now?
HENRY: You talk about dying and being reborn. I get the dying part. But after a certain age,… come on, let’s face it.
ALBIERTO: Face “it”? “After a certain age.” Fuck that noise. Look. You and Lillia have drifted into something that ain’t good any more. For either one of you. It’s obvious. Even to outsiders. Why isn’t “it” obvious to you?. That’s the “it” you need to look at, kid. Oh, I’ve been watching this coming on for a good long time now.
HENRY: Lillia’s not the problem here, Bert.
ALBIERTO: I didn’t say she was. Lillia’s fine. I love Lillia. Always will. It’s you and Lillia I’m referring to here. You and Lillia together. You’ve lost your freshness, you know what I’m saying. You’re all backed up. You’ve become like a bad habit. How are you going to write anything of consequence if your main relationship is out of whack?… Hell, I know that breaking out of a habit can feel like chewing off a leg. In the beginning. But in three days, I promise you’ll be writing again.
HENRY: But without one leg.
ALBIERTO: (starting to go) Straight bible. If your left eye offend thee, pluck it out. If your left leg is caught in a trap, chew it off. One legged freedom is still the better choice…. You don’t write with your leg, do you?… You and Lillia are living a lie, Henry. It’s only when things get bad enough, people start to see the truth. (at the door) I take it as a good sign that that day has arrived…. And you owe me a play, pendejo. I mean a good play!
Albierto exits. Henry starts pacing, stops in front of framed picture of Lillia winning her Theatre World award.
HENRY: Don’t listen to him, babe. Bert doesn’t know everything. We’re in this together. We can make ends meet. Even if you don’t get Nina Dressler. Who needs Nina Dressler. Anyway, it’s time to play your age. Play Albierto’s Opal. Bring Opal to life like only you can do it. Make Opal Warming sexy. Christ, Bert Alverez may be the next Tennessee Williams. You’ve got a chance to be a part of something great. (looks at himself in the mirror from several angles, takes off his dark glasses, pulls his skin tight over his face, straightens his posture, does a dapper move with the putter, winces. There’s a decorative goat’s skull on a table beside the mirror. He picks it up and puts it next to his face. Ommmmmmmm Yooooorrick, I knew him well, Horatiooooo…. Lucky Hamlet. To die a prince…. To die Yooooooooung. (knock at the door) Jesus. What now! (puts his dark glasses back on) The door’s open!
LORRAINE: Hi Henry. Is your power off?
HENRY: (walking towards her on his “cane”) Oh. Lori. It’s you. What’s up?
LORRAINE: Our power is off…. I was just wondering —- God, Henry, your limp’s getting pretty pronounced there. Are you aware of that?
HENRY: Damn hip wants to give out on me sometimes…. Come in. Come in. I thought you were at your Connecticut house.
LORRAINE: I had to come to town. I’m looking for Lillia.
HENRY: Lillia’s not home?
LORRAINE: She’s not answering her phone either…. She always answers her phone. Is something going on?
HENRY: Oh yeah. Something’s going alright.
LORRAINE: When do you expect her?
HENRY: (strongly) Maybe never.
LORRAINE: (pause) That sounds serious. What’s wrong, Hank?
HENRY: I just called her a bad name.
LORRAINE: What bad name?
HENRY: Fifty. I called her fifty.
LORRAINE: Oh. That bad name…. Well, she’ll get over it, I’m sure.
HENRY: Maybe she will…. Lori. I don’t know anymore….
LORRAINE: What?… What don’t you know.
HENRY: I don’t know anything. I don’t even know what I don’t know. Lillia says I’m depressed.
LORRAINE: Who’s not depressed in this town? You think Lillia’s not depressed? (aside) If she’s not, she’s about to be.
HENRY: What’d you say?
LORRAINE: I was a little depressed myself last Friday, you know, when you just up and left like that. The party just warming up, about to do a November skinny-dip in the pool, just to say we did it, and suddenly you’re closing the door behind you, without even saying good-bye…. Was it because Billy Turner was there? Was that it?
HENRY: Because I wasn’t there would be more like it.
LORRAINE: You’re not afraid of Billy Turner, I hope.
HENRY: That pipsqueak. I really don’t think so.
LORRAINE: (looks at Henry a few seconds) Yeah, you’re going through something, I can see it…. Jesus, aren’t we all…. (long pause) I miss you, dammit. You’ve become distant to me. And it doesn’t help that Tony’s being a real prick lately.
HENRY: Lori. I know things aren’t all so great between you and Tony right now, but —-
LORRAIN: Don’t shut me out, okay…. I’m always your friend, remember that…. Promise. Don’t close the door on me.
HENRY: I won’t…. What I’m going through has nothing to do with you.
LORRAINE: That’s kind of what hurts.
HENRY: Don’t take it that way. It has a lot to do with you, actually. Because I can talk to you, and as nice as that can be, it’s also a painful reminder that Lillia and I can’t talk anymore…. Oh, yeah, the everyday stuff, but if it goes deeper than that, we only hear what we disagree with. We never talk about, say, great literature, for example. And my back and hip are fucking killing me.
LORRAINE: I could give you a little massage.
HENRY: No Better not.
LORRAINE: It doesn’t have to be here. We could down to my apartment.
HENRY: Thanks, but … better not.
LORRAINE: I was reading this Rilke poem the other day. And I thought of you. I know how much you love Rilke. Can I read it? (She grabs a candle for more light; Lillia appears in the already open doorway.) Here it is, Hank. It’s called “Loneliness.”… Ready?… “Being apart and lonely is like rain/ It climbs toward evening from the ocean plains/ It climbs to heaven, its old abode./ And leaving heaven drops upon the city./ It rains down on us in those twittering/ hours when the streets turn their face to the dawn,/ and when two bodies who have found nothing,/ disappointed and depressed, roll over—-
Lillia walks in and slams the door.
HENRY: Lillia! You scared the living be-Jesus out of me….
LORRAINE: Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you.
LILLIA: Looking for me?
HENRY: God. You’re drenched.
LILLIA: My day to get pissed on, Hank.
HENRY: The audition didn’t go so well, I guess…. (helps her out of her raincoat)
LILLIA: (not looking at all at Lorraine) Turner didn’t even show up…. He sent an assistant. Can you believe it! Some protégé, still wet behind the ears.
HENRY: But you auditioned? Anyway?
LILLIA: They caught me off guard, treating me like… like I was some rank amateur. I couldn’t concentrate. I should have just walked off the stage. Fuck Billy Turner.
LORRAINE: Well, right. He doesn’t deserve you.
LILLIA: (ignoring Lorraine except for one fleeting murderous glare) I’ve played Ibsen’s Nora. I’ve played Lady MacBeth, to rave reviews, you remember. I won a Theater World for “Cathedral.” I deserve at least to be taken seriously.
HENRY: Albierto takes you seriously…. I take you seriously.
LORRAINE: Look. I’ll come back another time.
HENRY: Yes. Of course. Come back another time, Lorraine. (He sheepishly escorts her to the door, closes it behind her, stands with his back to Lillia for a few seconds.)
LILLIA: You’re always undermining me, aren’t you?… Suggesting that I’m over the hill.
HENRY: (turning) Look. I’m just saying you don’t have to play raw youth anymore…. That’s a good hill to be over. It doesn’t mean there are no more hills to climb. Better hills. Higher hills…. (walking to her) Come here. I missed you. (embracing her from behind) You’re damp. Your raincoat must have a hole in it. You know we never mean what we say in anger.
LILLIA: That’s likely when we say exactly what we do mean…. Do you still love me, Henry?
HENRY: Yes, I do.
LILLIA: Then why would you send me off to my audition … with such discouraging remarks.
HENRY: Nina is one role. One deal. Shuffle the deck. Draw a new hand.
LILLIA: What if the new cards are always some version of earth mother now?
HENRY: Take a breath, Lilliput. You’ve got your health. You’ve got your big talent…. You’ve got me. Can’t you see how blessed we are to have each other for this leg of the journey.
LILLIA: … What might you be referring to, Henry? “This leg of the journey?”… You scare me with that kind of talk.
HENRY: I’m just saying, baby, that we’ve got a lot of—-
LILLIA: And don’t call me “baby.” I’m 50, goddamn it!
HENRY: And as luck would have it, the world doesn’t need more babies presently. It doesn’t even need more youth. It needs a few real grown-ups, though…. So you’re 50, Lillia. Celebrate.
LILLIA: Stop saying 50 all the time!… And what’s a “real” grown-up anyway? You speak of “real” as if you had some inside track to it…. Real is nine-tenths what we choose it to be…. I see you haven’t combed your hair today. That’s real. It’s five o’clock and you aren’t fully dressed.
HENRY: (having wandered to the open door of the balcony) I haven’t gone out yet.
LILLIA: But you’re here with me, aren’t you. And you like me looking nice. Looking young. You “really” like this about me, don’t you?…. Henry? (throws a pack of cigarettes at him) Where are you, Henry?… You’re meditating, aren’t you. You’ve gone somewhere inside of yourself, and you’re oom-ing…. That’s the way you zone me out now …. (turning away) Jesus, we live in the same apartment, sleep in the same bed, but … I don’t know … (walks to a wall mirror) It’s not that I have to play glamorous, you know. I’ve played librarians. I’ve played women nine months pregnant. I’ve played prostitutes…. I’m just not ready to play earth mothers. I’m not ready to turn that corner yet. Because once I turn that corner, I know I can never … un-turn it…. You’ve haven’t ever cheated on me, have you, “Hank”? (Cell phone rings.) If you have, you’d tell me, wouldn’t you?
HENRY: While your phone’s ringing?
LILLIA: … You have, haven’t you?… Tell me the truth.
HENRY: No. (picks up binoculars, exits onto the balcony)
LILLIA: (loudly) Hi Tony…. (then softly) It went rotten, actually…. I hate Billy Turner. Anyway, Albierto has offered me Opal in “Global Warming.” Henry assures me it’s the superior role…. Well, you’ve read “Honey Money.” It has no depth…. Look. I’m in the middle of something. I’ll call you back. (lights a cigarette) Well, Lorraine and Tony know, so that means the world knows…. Did you give the super the rent check?
HENRY: (from the balcony) No.
LILLIA: No?… Once again, no? Is this your little plan to move us back to 102nd Street.
HENRY: What? (stepping back into the flat, surprised that she’d mention 102nd Street, right after Albierto’s offer) How could you kn—-(catches himself)
LILLIA: I’m not going backwards, Henry. So don’t get any ideas.
HENRY: Backwards? Why would you call living on 102nd backwards? When it’s where we both did our best work.
LILLIA: I did my best work on the stage. Where I lived at the time had nothing to do with it…. I have something to say to you, Henry.
(Lights flicker, and come back on.)
LILLIA: Ah. Let there be light…. Do you think we’ve become co-dependent, in a very bad way?
HENRY: Co-dependent! Please, Lillia. No psycho-babble. You know I can’t handle it.
LILLIA: Listen to me once. Lorraine lent me this book on it. (takes it out of her bag) Relationships have to break out of co-dependence in order to grow into … complementary inter-dependence, some term like that. Actually, it reminded me of how we used to talk about ourselves. Back in the beginning.
HENRY: Not in that language, we didn’t talk about ourselves. (lights a cigarette) I mean, if you’re a couple, of course you’re “co-dependent.” You want it that way. You depend on each other.
LILLIA: That isn’t the way you used to think.
HENRY: You mean, before we were a couple…. There are two worlds, darling. Before couple and after couple. And never the twain shall meet.
LILLIA: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
HENRY: Of course you do…. Anyway, I have something to say to you, too, Lillia. I took a long look in the mirror, while you were out…. and maybe we should go ahead and—-, okay, it’s like this. I’ll see Dr. Wanger about the goddamn hip replacement. Spruce myself up a little bit, buy myself a couple new shirts, stuff like that…. And you give yourself … whatever you think you need. We’ll empty the old rainy-day fund this one time,… yes, even borrow from Tony if we have to, and then … well, here’s the rub, … then we begin to confront “it.” We don’t make fools of ourselves, face lift after face lift, hip replacement, knee replacement, heart replacement, ad nauseam. We make our final bows with just who we are.
LILLIA: Final bows! Speak for yourself in terms of final bows…. And what brings about this sudden change of heart?… (suspiciously) How did the writing go today, Henry?… You were meditating, weren’t you?
HENRY: Meditating. Ruminating…. Making your birthday cake.
LILLIA: I’d actually rather you had finished your play for me.
HENRY: The play is finished.
LILLIA: It is? (hopefully) Really?
HENRY: Poof…. Finished…. Suddenly there was this loud sucking wind, like a freight train in a tunnel. Then ka-boom. Well, you were out there. You must have heard it…. I lost the play, Lillia…. We took a big power surge. The computer is toast.
LILLIA: You had the play backed up, didn’t you?
HENRY: It seems I didn’t.
LILLIA: Idiot. Call Tony. Right now…. (starts to call on her cell) If anybody can retrieve something out of a fried computer, Tony can. (Henry grabs her phone, turns it off.) … Henry!
HENRY: I really don’t want Tony in on this.
LILLIA: He can help. He’s like a computer Einstein.
Lillia starts to dial again; they wrestle for the phone.
HENRY: Can you hear me. I don’t want to bring the damned play back!
LILLIA: Are you crazy?
HENRY: I’m glad I lost it. It wasn’t any good.
LILLIA: You always say your plays are no good.
HENRY: It is not worth resuscitating, I’m telling you…. I already told Albierto to scratch me off his summer line-up.
LILLIA: No…. You didn’t! (collapses into a chair) Holy hell, what are we going to do now. I can’t get an authentic audition for anything that would make a dime. You’ve got the worst writer’s block I’ve ever seen…. Do you want to write for the soaps for the rest of your life?
HENRY: I’m all done with the soaps, too, Lillia…. I haven’t told you this yet. They laid me off. A couple weeks ago…. No big deal. I was going to quit anyway.
LILLIA: You’re alarming me, Henry. This is too much all at once…. God, you’re so depressed.
HENRY: Not really.
LILLIA: You’re so depressed you can’t even see yourself. And I can’t take it anymore. What do you think we’re going to live on? Love?
HENRY: We lived on love in the beginning.
LILLIA: There are pills for what ails you, you know.
HENRY: Pills again, huh. I’m not depressed, I tell you…. I’m just standing on some … leaping point where I’m scared … to just do it.
LILLIA: Just do what?
LILLIA: Leap? What? Leap off the balcony! Leap to where?… Henry?… Henry!
HENRY: (snapping back, having gone inside himself) We never went to Tepoztlan. Back then.
LILLIA: What are you talking about now?
HENRY: When we went down to Mexico, in the beginning, we said we were going to go to Tepoztlan…. Why didn’t we? We should have.
LILLIA: Jesus, Henry. We were too busy making whoopee on the beach. What’s your point?…
HENRY: I don’t know. Do I have to have a point…. I was just thinking that might be a play I could write. About two people – you know, new found lovers – on their way some shrine, the birthplace of a god … and never getting there. Always getting thwarted, misdirected.
LILLIA: Why don’t you finish the play you’re already writing, for Christ’s sake…. Please. For me. For us. Let Tony retrieve it. I know he can.
HENRY: No. That play was trash.
LILLIA: Let somebody else weigh in on that, why not. And even if it was trash, sometimes you have to finish things that are trash before you can get started on things that aren’t. You’ve got to clear the deck…. Look, darling. You’re tired. You stay up till four in the morning night after night, looking out there at nothing, what do you expect?
HENRY: Unless words come as leaves to trees, they’d better not come at all. John Keats.
LILLIA: Well, time to grow some new leaves then. Lillia Kramer.
HENRY: You may as well say grow some new hair.
LILLIA: Whatever it takes. Grow some new hair, too. Buy some Rogaine. You’ve still got some new hair in you. John Keats didn’t have to pay New York rent. (gets up, starts to walk away, stops,) Jesus Christ. We live in the theater capital of the world. You have a theater owner as a life-long friend, who’s slowly becoming a name in town (aside) God knows why…. A theatre you helped get off the ground twenty years ago, with some great plays. Do you know how many writers would die for the connections you have?
HENRY: Don’t walk away while we’re talking.
LILLIA: What I’m saying, Henry, is finish the damned play, or else.
HENRY: Or else? … Or else what?… Where are you going?
LILLIA: I’m getting out of this stupid outfit.
HENRY: I just paid $350 for that “stupid” outfit.
LILLIA: $450. But don’t worry. I’m taking it back…. It doesn’t go with my wrinkles.
HENRY: It’s your birthday present, and you’re not taking it back. We’re going out to celebrate your birthday tonight, and you’re wearing it.
LILLIA: I’m not in the mood. It’s too much work anymore…. with you. I want a man with a little elan vital. I need that! (slams the bedroom door)
HENRY: (pause) Where are you going to find this man? …. (louder) Who are you going to find … with this elan vital? …. Tony?
LILLIA: (from behind the closed door) Tony’s sexy. Too bad he’s married to Lorraine.
HENRY: Well. Don’t let that stop you…. It won’t stop him…. It wouldn’t stop her. (goes to the bedroom door, tries the handle but it’s locked) How about Billy Turner? He’s got elan vital.
LILLIA: Yes he does. He’s pushing 70 and he’s younger than you.
HENRY: Open the door.
LILLIA: I want to be alone.
HENRY: Open the door, I said…. Open the goddamn door, Lillia, or I’ll break it down.
LILLIA: You don’t have the strength. (He heaves his shoulder against the door) Henry! (He heaves against it again.) Stop it, Henry….
HENRY: I won’t accept my bedroom door locked against me. Open up.
LILLIA: Stand back then…. Stand away…. I’m going to open it, okay. (She opens, cautiously.)
HENRY: Don’t lock doors against me, Lill. (breathing heavily, as he walks away) Don’t do that again.
LILLIA: God, why are you acting like this? (Henry takes another pill out of his vial) Henry! Are you okay?… Say something…. (Henry walks toward his desk, breathing deeply) How can you just give up on your life like this? You had a vision when we met. You said we could make a difference in the world. Look. (grabs her purse) This is the letter you sent to me a few weeks after our time Mexico. I’ve never told you this, but I’ve carried this letter in my purse for twenty years now. From the day it arrived in the mail, in Pocatello. And when I get really down, feel my heart scraping rock bottom, like I felt after my audition today, I take it out and read it…. So here, Henry. Twenty years later. Listen to yourself. “My darling, Lillia. It has been a huge hole in my heart, your absence. I miss you so much.”…. I’ll skip a little bit. “Do you know, if you fold a piece of paper over thirty-five times, if you could do it, you would have the distance between the earth and the moon. If you folded over this letter, it would be twice as thick, but you’d barely see it. Fold it again. Now it’s four times. Another fold makes eight — still very little, but, now you can see the difference. Instead of couple, I say let’s double. And double. And double. Darling, imagine in the course of our lifetime, doubling 35 times – two people reaching for the sky together, doing theatre that cries and laughs and bleeds like real life. The possibility of being one of those persons and you the other inspires me beyond belief. The official auditions for my play, “Getting the Love You Don’t Need,” will be November 12th, your 30th birthday. (Okay, 29th) 102nd and Amsterdam. Albierto’s address, and as of November 1st, my address, too. When I hear the buzzer pressed, with your finger, I’ll know your answer is yes…. Love, Henry.” …. Do you remember writing that? … God, you were the Prince Charming. I still want that moon, Henry…. I’m still reaching for that moon.
Lillia’s phone rings; she answers. The wall phone rings; Henry answers. They both turn away from each other for a little privacy.
LILLIA: Oh. Hi…. I’m okay I guess….
HENRY: Prince Charming.…
LILLIA: What for?…
HENRY: Yeah, yeah, it’s me, Creighton, you caught me….
LILLIA: (moving further from Henry) Where do you want to go?…
HENRY: Yeah, I know I’m a couple weeks late—- Okay, a couple months late then. Sorry….
LILLIA: I guess so. But I should warn you, I’m not in a great mood….
HENRY: Things are a bit tight here right now…. I realize my being “sorry” doesn’t pay your bills, but, Jesus, I mean, Lillia’s operation…. No. Nothing life threatening, thanks for asking, but (as he talks Henry wrestles his typewriter out of a storage area, puts it on his desk) Listen, I’ve just got to move a couple things around in the credit union, and … Trust me.
LILLIA: I’ll be right down. (stuffs the letter back into her purse, starts for the door)
HENRY: Thank you…. The check’s in the mail, practically….
LILLIA: I’m going out, Henry.
HENRY: (to Lillia) What about dinner?
LILLIA: I’ll grab a sandwich…. Gotta run. I’m being picked up.
HENRY: Oh, yeah, yeah. Your salsa lesson. Come home right after, okay. And wear your new outfit…. Don’t take it back….. And bring home a bottle of champagne. okay? Something expensive. (She exits; he yells after her.) Medium expensive … Look, Creighton. Gotta go. I’ve got some thinking to do. Lights down, as he disappears onto the balcony.
ACT II, Scene ii. Later that evening. Lights come up on an empty apartment. Lillia comes in, a little tipsy, carrying a bottle of champagne in a paper sack. She sees a birthday cake with 39 candles on it, quickly counts them and smiles. She punches in a number on her cell-phone.
LILLIA: All clear. (closes phone, cuts herself a sliver of cake) I’m starved. (starts to cut another piece) No. Better not.
She sees Henry’s old typewriter sitting next to his computer, pulls out the paper in it, is reading it when Tony knocks at the door and pokes his head in.
LILLIA: Hey. Come in.
TONY: Something smells good.
LILLIA: Henry baked me a birthday cake.
TONY: (looking around) You’re sure he’s not here.
LILLIA: (impatiently) I told you. It’s his teaching night. (pointing to the computer) Here it is.
Tony sits at Henry’s desk, starts fussing with it, while Lillia reads some more of the page she rolled out of Henry’s typewriter.
TONY: There’s something I have to tell you, Lillia.
LILLIA: (absently) What?… Listen to this, Tony.
TONY: (absently) This hard drive looks totally shot…. Anyway, Lillia —- (sees her lost in concentration) What are you reading?
LILLIA: Ideas for Henry’s new play, it would seem…. (reading) In Act I they discover they can’t remember the last time they made love, and since they started out so big, so passionately, they find this sad.
TONY: Hmm…. What you were talking about. In the park.
LILLIA: In Act II, they get up the courage to admit that it’s over, but before the act’s over, they decide to make love for the last time, rather than walk away, all closed off. To die with an open heart. Aware…. Besides, he has sensed for years now that, even though she loves him, he’s no longer the most important man in her life. (lays the paper down on a stand next to the balcony)
TONY: Lillia. I really don’t think I should be here right now. (makes moves towards leaving)
LILLIA: Jesus. I just thought of something….
LILLIA: When we walked to your car,…. Henry may have been watching from the balcony.
She hurriedly walks out onto the balcony.
TONY: Watching us? Come on.
LILLIA: (from the balcony, off stage) It’s one of his amusements, street watching, from above.
TONY: Don’t be paranoid. What could he see from up here on the umpteenth floor. (She returns, holding up the binoculars.) Oh…. Anyway, Jesus, Lillia, we didn’t do anything to see.
LILLIA: Didn’t we? That’s a pretty fine line between something and nothing then.
TONY: That’s the way it has always been with us. You think that’s something new to Henry?… Look. I should be going. (looking at his watch) Lorraine’s wondering where I am, for sure. I’ll take this down to our flat and see if I can do a miracle. But honestly (starts for the door, computer under arm), this thing looks totally cooked.
LILLIA: I’m feeling very…. Don’t leave right now, Tony…. I don’t know what I’m feeling.
TONY: I’ll call you tomorrow.
LILLIA: Please. (Tony looks at her and shrugs) Really. An hour ago you say you’re a friend who, and I quote, will always be there for me, and—-
TONY: There’s something I’ve got to tell you, Lillia. And I’ve been putting it off all night.
TONY: … Oh, well, just out with it…. Billy approached Lorraine at the party Friday, after you and Henry left. Said she ought to try-out for the Nina Dressler role.
TONY: Hell, I thought he was just coming on to her, you know Billy, but then damned if he didn’t give her the part…. Well, I’m not going to stand here and pretend I can make you feel okay about this.
LILLIA: … No. Don’t pretend.
TONY: I tried to talk her out of it, but—-
LILLIA: Please…. Don’t pretend. Just go.
TONY: I’ll call you tomorrow.
As he closes the door behind him, Lillia collapses against it. Henry appears at his bedroom door.
HENRY: Did I just hear Tony’s voice out here?
LILLIA: Henry!… You scared me half to death. How long have you been standing there?
HENRY: I was taking a nap. Were you just talking to Tony?
LILLIA: (hurriedly composing herself) What’s going on? Why aren’t you teaching your class?
HENRY: I wasn’t feeling well. I called in sick.
LILLIA: (almost crying, trying to hold herself together) I asked Tony if he’d take a look at your computer…. I hope you don’t mind.
HENRY: (as if he hadn’t heard her) I made you a birthday cake though.
LILLIA: I saw.
HENRY: Hmm. Seems like the mice got into it.
LILLIA: I couldn’t wait. I was starved…. It’s very good.
HENRY: (exiting onto balcony) We can still light candles, if you want. All thirty-nine of them.
LILLIA: Yes. I counted….. Thank you..
HENRY: (from the balcony) Nope. Not going to clear up. So much for seeing the big eclipse.
LILLIA: Maybe it’s already over.
HENRY: (coming back in, checking the time) Actually it’s just about to start…. I mean, it’s going to happen, whether I see it or not, right?… How was salsa?
HENRY: How was dancing class?
LILLIA: Didn’t go.
HENRY: No?… Where have you been all this time?
LILLIA: Is that the twentieth question yet?… Sorry. I just don’t feel like small talk right now.
HENRY: Look. (walking to his desk, sitting down) I’ve been writing down ideas for a new play. (looking around) Hmm. Where are they? I’m pretty excited about it, actually.
LILLIA: Lorraine got the Nina Dressler role.
HENRY: Good stuff, I think. The dam finally broke. Where did those notes disappear to?
LILLIA: I’m telling you something, Henry…. Hey you, over there. Remember me?
HENRY: “Remember Me” – that just might be the title I was searching for. How do you do that every time, Lillia. I swear. You could make a living just thinking up great titles. (writes title down, as Lillia puts her hands in her face) Lorraine got what, did you say?
LILLIA: Lorraine got the Nina Dressler role. Jesus. It was painful enough to say it the first time.
HENRY: You mean … our Lorraine?
LILLIA: Our Lorraine. Your Lorraine, my Lorraine. What other Lorraine is there? I think she already had it when I tried-out this morning.
HENRY: Lori told you that?
LILLIA: “Lori” didn’t tell me anything. “Lori” couldn’t face me. She sent Tony to tell me. To comfort me, I suppose.
HENRY: (pause) I see. To comfort you. One would think that would have been Henry’s place.
LILLIA: She wasn’t even interested in the goddamn role. Not until I told her how much I wanted it. Nice friend, huh?
HENRY: Well, this isn’t the first time you two have competed for a part.
LILLIA: Yeah, but never ever behind each other’s back.
HENRY: Come on. You and Lori have been best enemies for as long as you’ve known each other.
LILLIA: Why would Turner want Lorraine instead of me? That’s what really hurts.
HENRY: You’ve still got Opal Warming, remember. Better grab it up though, before Bert gives it to somebody else.
LILLIA: No thank you!
HENRY: Didn’t you just this morning say you’d take Opal Warming if you didn’t get Nina Dressler?
LILLIA: I don’t care what I said this morning. This morning was another life ago. I’m not playing Opal Warming.
HENRY: Once again this moronic Hollywood/Broadway thinking that youth is the only season in life that counts,… as if there are no other interesting parts to play.
LILLIA: Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of other parts than youth. Juicy, sexy parts, too. But I’ll tell you something, Henry. This “end is near” theme you and Bert are stuck on is pure poison. The end is as far away as you see it.
HENRY: And right around the next corner.
LILLIA: Well, there’s the cement block chained to your leg. No, there’s the whole damned cement truck chained to your leg. And now I’m sinking too, linked to you.
HENRY: (pause) “Linked to me.” Maybe you’d like to explain that a little more fully.
LILLIA: Okay, I will. Tony said Billy approached Lorraine at the party Friday, after we left. I knew it. I saw him sizing me up when I was standing at the door. It wasn’t the expression I was hoping to see on his face.
HENRY: You mean when he saw you standing at the door … next to me?
LILLIA: Yes. That’s what I mean.
HENRY: Meaning “linked to me” makes you look less attractive.
LILLIA: Christ, Henry. Isn’t it obvious!
HENRY: Maybe it’s time to … un-link yourself then.
LILLIA: (looks at Henry for a few seconds, walks back to the kitchen area, cuts herself a piece of cake) We probably don’t want to open that door, Henry, unless we’re talking very seriously about walking through it.
HENRY: Oh, I believe that door’s already been opened.
LILLIA: Okay, it’s open. If a change is coming down the road, we can be mature about it, I hope.
HENRY: Down the road? If a change is coming, there’s nothing like the present.
LILLIA: There’s no reason why we can’t still be friends.
HENRY: Down the road, you must mean. Here. Let’s take some of these candles off this cake. 39 is far too many. How old are we now, Lillia? 19? This is what adolescents say when they break up. “We can still be friends.”
LILLIA: It’s what we are already. If we’re honest.
HENRY: You’re kidding.
LILLIA: You don’t feel we’re friends then.
HENRY: Do you think friendship is automatically some sort of safe landing place for a failed marriage? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
LILLIA: How does it work?
HENRY: Friends communicate. Friends like each other’s company. They’re forthright with each other. Shall I go on?… It’s not that easy to be a friend.
LILLIA: I’d like your company well enough, if I weren’t so hidebound to it…. Does it have to be all or nothing?…. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t miss me if it were nothing.
HENRY: Like sin.
LILLIA: And I would miss you. If we became nothing to each other. A real friendship might be, you know, an alternative…. Oh, I can’t think straight when I’m this hungry…. (starts eating her cake) Open the champagne, Henry…. Can we just say some nice things to each other for a few minutes…. Look. I think it’s great you broke through your writer’s block … finally.
HENRY: Ah, yes. “Remember Me.”
LILLIA: Who do you imagine playing the female lead?
HENRY: Well, while I was writing, I was imagining you, of course. But for the stage,… (uncorking the bottle until it pops) I don’t know, Lori, maybe. She’d be a good you.
LILLIA: (glowers a few seconds, then jumps up, brandishing her fork) You son-of-a-bitch! I say a nice thing to you and look what I get in return. You just love to stick it to me, don’t you? When I’m already hurt.
HENRY: Okay, okay. You can play her. You’re the better actress anyway…. It’s you playing yourself that’s always a problem.
LILLIA: Surely there’d be room for some interpretation.
HENRY: Within limits, of course…. You’d have to play your age, for example. (cautiously takes the fork out of her hand and lays it on the table) Fifty.
LILLIA: Oh, then Lorraine would be far too young anyway, wouldn’t she?…. (walks to the wall, looks at her Theater World award) Who would play across from me?
HENRY: Anybody you’d like?… Except Tony.
LILLIA: (having anticipated that response) Why not? You know the great roles he gets now. It’d be a real coup to cast Tony. If you could even get him. He doesn’t come cheap.
HENRY: Old Tony. Mr. Deep Pockets.
LILLIA: Everyone knows how good we can be together…. It’s so stupid that you and Albierto never offer him anything anymore…. You guys were the like the three musketeers back there a few years.
HENRY: I don’t envision Tony in this play at all.
LILLIA: Why do you despise him so. Just because he made it big…. He likes you.
HENRY: Why shouldn’t he like me? He has his wife for his daily bread, and my wife for desert.
LILLIA: What are you insinuating, Henry?
HENRY: I’m insinuating nothing. Ever since you guys did “Cathedrals” – what?… ten, twelve years ago, Tony has looked at you as if, in some unspoken way, you’re his woman…. Because you are…. It’s who you’re thinking about that you’re really with. (Lillia turns her back to Henry.) I’m not blaming anybody here, you understand. Show biz, you know. The show goes on.
LILLIA: I find all this is quite astounding. Really. This outburst of jealousy at precisely the moment we’re talking about maybe calling it quits.
HENRY: Oh, I thought we were building a friendship.
LILLIA: What did you want out of Tony and me, … for “your” play, by the way? We brought your words to life. You know as well as I do, if it’s all acting, it’s not going to have any real fire in it…. You promised me, right in the beginning, that you’d never be jealous of my leading men.
HENRY: Broken promises, huh…. Anyway, what’s the point of these post-mortims? If we’re un-linking.
LILLIA: No point at all, unless here’s our chance to go for some real honesty.
HENRY: Clean out the old shit house, huh…. Looks like a big dirty job, Lillia. We’ve let the old shit build up pretty far.
LILLIA: We should get working then.
HENRY: (pause) Okay. Here’s a little scoop, for openers. I’d rather see you dead than play across Tony again.
LILLIA: Oh. That’s a big scoop, I’d say. You didn’t hurt your back lifting it, did you?… How many other times have you wished me dead?
HENRY: Your turn with the shovel.
LILLIA: I’ve never wished you dead.
HENRY: If memory serves, you wished me dead this afternoon on your way to your audition.
LILLIA: You know I didn’t mean that.
HENRY: Hm. Just as I suspected. You want me to clean out the shit house by myself.
LILLIA: (pause) Henry. Have you ever been untrue to me?
HENRY: That again?… All these years you’ve never ask me this, and now twice in one day.
LILLIA: It’s what you said, this morning, about Tony and Lorraine’s apple tree…. Lorraine told me, not that long ago, that she and Tony had sex in that tree…. And she told me about it in such, let’s say, creative detail, that by the climax, I was doubting the man in the story was the guy, you know, brushing his teeth next to her every morning, even if he is a famous actor now…. Did you ever climb that tree … with Lorraine?… Well did you? (pause) Silence…. So you did then?
HENRY: This is total honesty we’re now talking about here.
LILLIA: (pause) I have my answer, thanks…. How could you, Henry?
HENRY: (pouring the champagne) You and Tony were nowhere to be seen, to save us from ourselves, so to speak.
LILLIA: That’s enough. I don’t need the gory details…. How many times?
HENRY: Once…. Okay, maybe twice.
LILLIA: “Maybe” twice. Shall we go for thrice?
LILLIA: Oh, why not?
HENRY: It wasn’t all that good, actually.
LILLIA: Yeah? Why twice then?
HENRY: (smiling) It wasn’t all that good the second time.
LILLIA: You bastard…. Never in our bed, I hope.
HENRY: What does where matter? I was with Lorraine. You were with Tony.
LILLIA: Don’t you dare suggest they were the same thing.
HENRY: Why not?
LILLIA: Because you wanted to hurt me.
HENRY: (handing her the glass of champagne) Tell you what? Forgive me what I wasn’t feeling for Lori, and I’ll forgive you what you were feeling for Tony…. Shall we drink to that?
LILLIA: So what if you were feeling anything or not. All the worse. With Lorraine, of all people. (throws champagne into his face and starts flailing on him; he grabs her wrists and bends her to the floor) Let go…. You’re hurting me.
HENRY: (lets go, walks towards the balcony, turns back) Look, … Forgive me for that.
LILLIA: Never…. Never!
HENRY: I didn’t mean to do that.
LILLIA: (crying) To do what? Squeeze my wrists, or cheat on me with my best friend?
HENRY: Squeeze your wrists.
LILLIA: Best friend, my ass. Takes my Nina role. Seduces my man. Tells me about it as if it had been Tony…. Well, I got a little one for her too, we’ll see how she likes it…. (goes to the wall phone, dials) Lorraine. I hate to leave this juicy little tidbit on your voice mail, but Tony and I just —- (Henry clicks off the phone) How does it feel? How do you like it. (to Henry) Because I could maybe forgive you the second time. But not the first…. Look at these red mark you gave me…. It’s the lying that hurts the most. How will I believe anything you say again?… How do I even know you’re not just making all this up, just to make me feel terrible.
HENRY: You don’t.
LILLIA: (pause) So much for honesty then.
HENRY: So much for friendship.
LILLIA: From the marriage to the shit-house. You like my titles so much. There’s a title for your next play…. (long pause, then coldly) So where do we go from here, Henry? Any ideas?
HENRY: (pouring them new glasses of champagne) I don’t know…. Albierto’s renting out the flat on 102nd.
LILLIA: (pause) I see. You and Albierto have been talking already, leaving me to wade in the dung by myself…. You know I can’t possibly afford this apartment alone.
HENRY: I was thinking you’re the one who should talk to Bert about it. You or me. It wouldn’t matter to him, I don’t think. As long as it’s not you and me.
LILLIA: Oh no you don’t. I’m not moving back there. With Bert no less…. Impossible.
HENRY: He won’t be there…. He’s moving into the “Hole in the Wall.” Making a little efficiency for himself off from the dressing room.
LILLIA: Who told you this?
HENRY: He did…. He offered the 102nd Street place to me. For almost free…. I’m sure the same offer would stand for you? He almost said as much.
LILLIA: Screw you, Henry. Why should you stay here and I go there?
HENRY: I’m not staying here.
LILLIA: (pause) Where are you going, then?
HENRY: I think I have to disappear for awhile. Get entirely out of Dodge.
LILLIA: You make it sound like you’re in trouble with the law.
HENRY: Some law or another.
LILLIA: Disappear where?
HENRY: I can’t say yet. Someplace south. Somewhere I can drift a few months, without a lot of money. Without freezing…. Mexico. Tepoztlan. Who knows. From there, catch a passage to India, maybe. A slow boat to China.
LILLIA: You’ve already been doing some thinking about it, obviously.
HENRY: (picking up a fistful of screen plays) I won’t be sorry to be done with these.
LILLIA: (walking away) So you’re going to drift now. How nice for you…. Dear God, I’m tired. I’ve lived a whole life today…. Happy birthday to me! … Jesus, Henry. We sleep in the same bed all these years, share a big life dream,… and then maybe you get sick … or die and I don’t even know because you’re wandering around on the other side of the world, or living on a mountaintop in Mexico. What if I were dying or something? Wouldn’t you want to know? How would I find you?
HENRY: (putting on his coat) Seems like we’re destined to look for ourselves for a while.
LILLIA: Destined? Don’t we have some say in our fates here?… At least we could name a day to meet somewhere … some agreed upon time and place?
HENRY: But then I wouldn’t be exactly drifting, would I?
LILLIA: Who can think right now? (goes to the balcony, looks out) Don’t make it nothing, Henry. Don’t talk that way…. (come back in with an idea) We could meet in Tepoztlan. Two years from today. On my 52nd birthday…. On that mountain top you’re always talking about…. (Henry shrugs.) Okay, forget it…. Go ahead. Leave. Forget I said it. I won’t be there.
HENRY: (crossing to hall door) You’ve got till the end of the month, Lillia, before,… you know.
LILLIA: Before what?
HENRY: Before they can legally evict you…. Remember, you can go to Bert’s…. You’ve got that option…. I’ll come back and pack up my stuff when you’re not here. It’ll be easier that way.
LILLIA: You don’t have to leave tonight…. It’s wicked out there. Just sleep on the couch…. You’ll finish your semester at Sarah Lawrence, I suppose.
HENRY: I don’t think so.
LILLIA: You’ll be staying at Bert’s until you decide, I guess.
HENRY: I don’t know.
LILLIA: We’d overlap. If I came.
HENRY: I’d be long gone by then.
LILLIA: But if you weren’t,…
HENRY: I would be…. .
LILLIA: (as Henry makes a further move towards the door) Promise me one thing, Henry. If Bert does do your new play, don’t let him give my part to Lorraine. Promise me you’ll tell him that.
HENRY: Okay…. And I promise you another thing, Lillia. You do have some more romantic leads in you. You’re smart to go for them.
LILLIA: That’s not a promise. A promise is something you keep. Or don’t keep….
HENRY: It’s also something you have. Or don’t have.
LILLIA: And you have bad eyes.
HENRY: But they’re improving lately I notice. (takes off his dark glasses) We may’ve caught ourselves, Lillia, before—- well, you know. Don’t you? Who knows. (emotionally) Maybe we’re making that next fold to the moon…. Maybe one of those 35 folds to the moon is what we’re doing now. What we have to go through.
(off-stage serenaders softly start singing “beso me mucho.”)
LILLIA: Maybe…. Drift well, Henry. I would feel pretty terrible if … you were really dead…. (walks towards the balcony, looks out, picks up the notes for his new play, lying on a stand next to the balcony) Don’t forget your umbrella. It’s still spitting out there. (Henry pulls an umbrella off of the rack. They look at each other; she reaches her out arms to him, in one hand holding the notes) I read your notes. For your new play. I could play her. Making love for the last time. You said it was the script that mattered. Come here … Come to me.
HENRY: No, Lillia.
LILLIA: Yes, Henry. Give me that…. You said I could still play the romantic lead. Show me you believe that.
HENRY: This isn’t the way people leave each other. Don’t you know how hard this is for me?
LILLIA: Think of me as trying out for your new play.
HENRY: But this is real life now, Lillia.
LILLIA: Real life? What’s real life worth? (She takes a couples steps towards him. He responds in kind. Lights slowly fade and music intensifies.) I just want you, Henry.
LILLIA: I just want you.
©James L. Ralston