Aaaaand Scene

by | May 13, 2021 | More

a short play in one act

This short play was performed at Load of Fun in Baltimore, MD in April 2009. Roger was performed by Joseph Young, Gretchen by Stephanie Barber, and Joe Cashiola was the Server.

It’s Roger and Gretchen’s first date and they’re meeting at a chain restaurant. Roger, 33 years old and out of shape, is meeting Gretchen, his better. She’s just sat down as the lights came up and it’s apparent that Roger didn’t stand to greet her. No matter: Gretchen is unaccustomed to mannerly men.

GRETCHEN:
It’s nice to meet you finally.

ROGER:
You too.

GRETCHEN:
Ha. Roger that, Roger.

ROGER:
Um.

GRETCHEN:
You know.

ROGER:
Yeah, no, I know. I was trying think of a comeback. Gretchen, right?  Gretchen . . . Gretchen, no. I have nothing.

GRETCHEN:
My name is impenetrable.  

ROGER:
So.

GRETCHEN:
Yep.

ROGER:
They have an okay chicken salad here.

GRETCHEN:
Nice.

ROGER:
But it’s not chicken salad like the sandwich. It’s a salad with chicken on it. It’s fine. It has those crispy things. You can order whatever you want.

GRETCHEN:
Are we getting drinks?

ROGER:
Why not. I pretty much always get a beer or something. You can order whatever, though. I don’t mind. You can get a margarita freeze or something. Get the 24 ouncer.

GRETCHEN:
That might outdo me.

ROGER:
Well, like I said, you can order whatever you want. Oh, hi.

The Server has arrived at their table. He has a balloon tied to his wrist.

SERVER:
Hi people. My name is Roger and I’ll be your server. Who wants what to drink?

ROGER:
My name is Roger, too.

SERVER:
Oh, cool.

ROGER:
I’ll be your customer.

SERVER:
I guess you don’t have a balloon though.

ROGER:
I’m Roger and I’ll be your customer.

SERVER:
I should get you a balloon or something. I’ll be right back. [exits]

GRETCHEN:
Do you think he’s really getting you a balloon?

ROGER:
Too soon to tell either way.

GRETCHEN:
Yep. [pause as they look at the menu]

ROGER:
I guess I’ll have a Bass or something.

GRETCHEN:
I think that’s okay.

ROGER:
A classy beer.

GRETCHEN:
Sure. For me I’m thinking about, like, a rum and coke.

ROGER:
Why not?  Do you know what kind of rum you like?

GRETCHEN:
The Captain.

ROGER:
Oh, that’s the best one. At least for the price or whatever.

GRETCHEN:
Do you think it’s too much?

ROGER:
I mean, no, live a little. What’s to eat?

GRETCHEN:
It’s the lime chicken for me.

ROGER:
Fine. Hey Roger.

The Server has returned without a balloon.

SERVER:
Roger, I couldn’t find another balloon. How about some crayons?

ROGER:
Okay, that’s fine.

SERVER:
Here.

ROGER:
Four crayons.

SERVER:
Sure.

[pause]

GRETCHEN:
Um.

SERVER:
Can I ask you a question?

ROGER:
Who, me?

SERVER:
Do people always say to you, like “Roger, 10-4?”

ROGER:
It happens.

SERVER:
Man, that’s so stupid.

GRETCHEN:
I guess I did it earlier.

SERVER:
But it’s okay.

ROGER:
So.

SERVER:
It’s just, I don’t meet a lot of people with my name.

GRETCHEN:
It’s cool.

SERVER:
Can I ask you another question?

ROGER:
Does it end with her getting a Captain-and-Coke and a Bass for me?

SERVER:
Okay, I’ll be right back with those. [exits]

GRETCHEN:
That was weird.

ROGER:
Me and the Rodge.

GRETCHEN:
You handled it nicely.

ROGER:
Thanks, I was feeling really awkward.

GRETCHEN:
Tell me about it. What’s with the balloon?

ROGER:
Now I feel more at ease than I thought I would.

GRETCHEN:
I feel really good.

ROGER:
That is, I thought I was going to be horribly nervous.

GRETCHEN:
Everyone is at first.

ROGER:
But I feel pretty okay.

GRETCHEN:
That’s good. I’m glad.

ROGER:
Do you?  Feel okay, I mean.

GRETCHEN:
Yes, I guess I could be more nervous.

ROGER:
I think this is going really good.

GRETCHEN:
Yes.

ROGER:
I have a sincere dislike for negative feelings.

GRETCHEN:
You seem like a positive guy.


ROGER:
I’m not.

GRETCHEN:
What?

ROGER:
Hey again.

The Server has returned with a cocktail and a bottle of cheap beer. He gives the rum and coke to Gretchen and the Coors to Roger, who is confused.

SERVER:
You won’t believe this.

ROGER:
What’s the straight dope, Roger?

SERVER:
Well, I forgot if you wanted a Bass beer or the fish special we have going on.

GRETCHEN:
Bass, the fish special or Bass, the beer.

SERVER:
Right, you see the problem.

ROGER:
So you brought me a domestic?

SERVER:
The fish is really nice. I think it’s in a lime sauce.

ROGER:
But I don’t see how the Coors figures.

SERVER:
That was a joke.

ROGER:
What?  Yeah.

SERVER:
I’ll be right back with your drink. [exits]

GRETCHEN:
So weird.

[Beat]

ROGER:
Now, um, how long have you known Stephens?

GRETCHEN:
I know Moriarity.

ROGER:
Oh, right, that’s Stephens’s roommate.

GRETCHEN:
Yeah, I’ve known Moriarity since we were both kids. I was five he was six. We used to baby sit each other somehow.

ROGER:
It was a different era completely.

GRETCHEN:
So he and Stephens met in college. I just met Stephens a few times. How do you know him?

ROGER:
We used to work third shift together at the hotel.

GRETCHEN:
Ah.

ROGER:
If those walls could talk.

GRETCHEN:
What would they say?

ROGER:
After bar time, we used to sell vodka to guys deploying to Iraq. We’d get like $200 a bottle.

GRETCHEN:
What do you do now?

ROGER:
I still work there.

GRETCHEN:
Oh.

ROGER:
Yeah, it’s a crap job but I still move liquor from time to time.

GRETCHEN:
At $200?

ROGER:
Sure, but I have to split the money with the security guard.

GRETCHEN:
Interesting.

ROGER:
Hey, please don’t tell anyone I told you that.

GRETCHEN:
My lips are sealed.

ROGER:
Roger.

The Server has returned with the correct drink.

SERVER:
Can I tell you about our specials tonight?

GRETCHEN:
No, just give me a call tomorrow.

SERVER:
What?

ROGER:
With the specials.

GRETCHEN:
Fax them to my office please.

SERVER:
Where do you work?

ROGER:
We’re just kidding.

GRETCHEN:
Can you believe this is our first date?

ROGER:
Chemistry like this?

SERVER:
We have a lime seared sea bass.

ROGER:
Keep it. She’ll have the lime chicken and I’d like the oriental chicken salad.

GRETCHEN:
Thanks.

SERVER:
Coming right up. [exits]

ROGER:
Anyway.

GRETCHEN:
You were saying?

ROGER:
About how we first met.

GRETCHEN:
You mean just now, tonight.

ROGER:
Yeah, how we got set up by Stephens.

GRETCHEN:
And Moriarity.

ROGER:
And how I have a crappy job at a hotel.

GRETCHEN:
Third shift.

ROGER:
What do you do?

GRETCHEN:
I’m an underwriter for a mortgage lender.

ROGER:
That sounds a little over my head.

GRETCHEN:
I surf the net a lot.

ROGER:
Gotcha.

GRETCHEN:
Can I ask you a question?

ROGER:
All the time. Roger dodger, Roger out, Roger that.

GRETCHEN:
What?

ROGER:
It’s even worse when they hear my last name.

GRETCHEN:
Yeah, what is that by the way?  Kuh-pis-key?

ROGER:
It’s pronounced Kuh-peesh.

GRETCHEN:
Drag!

ROGER:
You said it.

GRETCHEN:
But what I was going to ask—

ROGER:
Oh, sorry.

GRETCHEN:
—is how come you said you’re not a positive guy?

ROGER:
Ugh. I really haven’t felt as good as I feel right now in a long time.

GRETCHEN:
Really?

ROGER:
I think I’d know.

GRETCHEN:
Like, why?

ROGER:
Well, I mean, I’ve felt good occasionally of course. But in a general way this has been a rough patch in my life.

GRETCHEN:
What has been?

ROGER:
Sheesh. I guess, the last three years.

GRETCHEN:
Can I say something?

ROGER:
Okay. I feel okay about that.

GRETCHEN:
I want to say a good thing. Just that I’m impressed that you can talk about it this way. It makes me think your rough patch can’t be that bad.

ROGER:
Why?

GRETCHEN:
You seem pretty well adjusted.

ROGER:
I think I used to be more handsome.

GRETCHEN:
Say what?

ROGER:
Yeah, I think, feeling depressed, I kind of fell apart a bit. I don’t know. It could just be age.

GRETCHEN:
You look normal, Capisce.

ROGER:
I got it.

GRETCHEN:
You look fine. I mean, not “fine” or whatever, but I think you look okay.

ROGER:
This is what I looked like when I was 29. [starts to stand]

GRETCHEN:
You carry a picture of yourself in your wallet?

ROGER:
No, I was going to suck in my gut and pull back on my face skin.

GRETCHEN:
I’m at a loss for words.

ROGER:
Just say the first thing that comes to your head.

GRETCHEN:
Women have body issues.

ROGER:
Do you?

GRETCHEN:
Sure.

ROGER:
You look really good. I mean, you look “fine.”

GRETCHEN:
Shut up.

ROGER:
I understand that women deal with this crap all the time. I get the media saturation thing, the tendency to compare yourself. I think that would be really difficult.

GRETCHEN:
Crap?

ROGER:
Pardon my French. Sometimes I use real cusses too.

GRETCHEN:
No, it’s fine. I’m the same way.

ROGER:
But you know what I’m saying.

GRETCHEN:
You’re saying that men can feel the same pressure as women to look good all the time.

ROGER:
No, I’m not making a comparison. There’s no way it’s the same thing, regardless of how good that Wolverine actor looks.

GRETCHEN:
Jackman. Okay.

ROGER:
I’m just saying it’s possible for men to feel ugly too. No, not for men. I can’t say about that. For me specifically to feel ugly. When I first got a bit of flab on my belly, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I thought about it all the time. I’d never had it before. It was barely anything, just an inch.

GRETCHEN:
Okay.

ROGER:
Feelings of ugliness are not gender specific.

GRETCHEN:
Neither are the things that inspire those feelings. That cause them.

ROGER:
I started to hate the way my neck looks. I need to buy new razors. My facial hair doesn’t come in smoothly. It’s too patchy. It doesn’t look good.

GRETCHEN:
You’re starting to freak me out.

ROGER:
I’m just saying is all.

GRETCHEN:
That you have a complex about the way you look.

ROGER:
What does that mean, a complex?  I don’t think it’s very complex.

GRETCHEN:
I understand.

ROGER:
It’s simply bad.

GRETCHEN:
You’re going on and on.

ROGER:
I’m not trying to push you away.

GRETCHEN:
We haven’t even had our dinners yet.

ROGER:
I’m surprised at how open I’m being with you. This is ridiculous.

[Beat]

ROGER:
Here we go.

The Server is back (still with balloon).

SERVER:
Now who had the fish?

GRETCHEN:
No one, I think.

SERVER:
Ha, gotcha.

ROGER:
The salad is mine.

SERVER:
Ah, cutting back?

GRETCHEN:
Hey man, enough with the casual attitude.

ROGER:
I just happen to really like the salad.

SERVER:
Pardon me.

ROGER:
What are the crispy things called?

SERVER:
Croutons?

ROGER:
No, that’s not right.

SERVER:
Oh, they’re dried noodles.

ROGER:
Yeah, what are those called.

SERVER:
Bok choi or something.

ROGER:
I’ll accept that for an answer.

SERVER:
Very good, sir. Madam. Is there anything else I can retrieve for you at such a time as this?

GRETCHEN:
No thank you, Roger.

SERVER:
Very well.

ROGER:
Thanks.

SERVER:
I’ll, uh, take my leave.

GRETCHEN:
Thank you.

SERVER:
Very well. [exits]

GRETCHEN:
He became dramatically more formal, didn’t he?

ROGER:
You cramped up his style.

GRETCHEN:
It’s equally uncomfortable.

ROGER:
So how’ve you been doing?

GRETCHEN:
How do you mean?

ROGER:
These last few years.

GRETCHEN:
I guess over the last few years I’ve been okay.

ROGER:
How come you’re single?

GRETCHEN:
I had a boyfriend up until January. He was cool. It didn’t work out.

ROGER:
Oh?

GRETCHEN:
He wanted to have children.

ROGER:
It was serious then.

GRETCHEN:
With his wife.

ROGER:
So you went your separate ways.

GRETCHEN:
It came as a shock.

ROGER:
Still, you feel you’ve been doing pretty well these past few years.

GRETCHEN:
Sure. I’m doing what I want to do. Work is okay. Friends are okay. I’ve got a nice place to call home.

ROGER:
Cats?

GRETCHEN:
I’ve got a dog.

ROGER:
No!

GRETCHEN:
Yes, a dog.

ROGER:
Oh, nice.

GRETCHEN:
You?

ROGER:
I don’t have anything like that. I feel like I’ve really let the animal kingdom go, right along with myself.

GRETCHEN:
You’re a wreck.

ROGER:
I know, I’m talking about it too much. What kind of dog?

GRETCHEN:
A poodle. He’s named Husky.

ROGER:
Okay, neat.

GRETCHEN:
I’d, um, love for you to meet him.

ROGER:
In spite of my overwhelming malevolence?

GRETCHEN:
You could come by.

ROGER:
Wow, thanks, seriously. How’s—hey, how’s the chicken?

GRETCHEN:
It’s nice. How’re the bok choi noodles?

ROGER:
You know, I don’t think that’s what they’re called.

GRETCHEN:
What’s your problem overall?

ROGER:
You’re asking me?

GRETCHEN:
I guess. Why not? I like you already, I think.

ROGER:
No!

GRETCHEN:
I start everyone off with an “A.”

ROGER:
Hey, all right.

[Beat]

GRETCHEN:
So, what gives?

ROGER:
I feel sort of guilty for something. Not sort of. I feel really guilty because four years ago I was going to get married and I didn’t.

GRETCHEN:
Oh. What happened?

ROGER:
I didn’t show up at the wedding.

GRETCHEN:
Shit.

ROGER:
I didn’t even tell my friends. I didn’t tell my fiancé or whatever. I didn’t tell my groomsmen. I chickened out.

GRETCHEN:
That’s awful.

ROGER:
I know. My fiancé or whatever, she was pregnant.

GRETCHEN:
Holy shit.

ROGER:
So I spent a lot of time by myself after that. My friends abandoned me. I don’t blame them. They were shared friends. I guess they were mostly her friends. I don’t hold it against them at all.

GRETCHEN:
So what happened to your fiancé?

The Server returns without the balloon.

SERVER:
How are your meals?  Fine? Good. Drinks? No? Okay. [exits]

ROGER:
She didn’t have the baby.

GRETCHEN:
Okay.

ROGER:
I went and got blind drunk. A week later, I called her on the phone. I emailed her and stuff. I went by her house.

GRETCHEN:
What did you expect?

ROGER:
I wanted to get back together.

GRETCHEN:
Poor humanity.

ROGER:
Ditto.

GRETCHEN:
What happened?

ROGER:
I never talked to her. The closest I got was a black eye from her brother. And a chipped tooth and a broken collar bone. I haven’t talked to her since the day before the day the wedding would have been.

GRETCHEN:
Yikes.

ROGER:
Mmm. The only person who liked me after that was Stevens, at work. Somehow we’ve never talked about it even once.

GRETCHEN:
I’m kind of pissed Moriarity didn’t say anything to me about this.

ROGER:
I understand that you’d want a warning for this sort of thing.

GRETCHEN:
You’re damaged goods.

ROGER:
Trust me, I know that too.

GRETCHEN:
What was the matter?  Why didn’t you want to get married?

ROGER:
I don’t know.

GRETCHEN:
Come on.

ROGER:
Yeah, seriously, I don’t know. I’d tell you if I did. I want to know. I feel like I killed something that was, um, about something.

GRETCHEN:
So.

ROGER:
I tried to win her back. I kept at it for a year.

GRETCHEN:
God.

ROGER:
Then I gave up, and then I realized I didn’t want to win her back. Of course I didn’t. Duh. Then I gave up on the rest of my life.

GRETCHEN:
It’s been a rough few years for you.

ROGER:
I realized I didn’t want the rest of my life, either. Third shift is perfect. No one knows when I sleep, but I sleep so much. I’m pale. I have shrunken eyes. My skin is splotchy.

GRETCHEN:
I take it you haven’t been on many dates in the last few years.

ROGER:
This is it.

GRETCHEN:
Such as it is.

ROGER:
I’ve watched a lot of DVDs.

GRETCHEN:
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that, “Such as it is.”

ROGER:
It’s okay.

GRETCHEN:
I mean, I’ve enjoyed talking to you.

ROGER:
We thrive on the drama of others.

GRETCHEN:
That’s true. I’m doing that a little.

ROGER:
I don’t suppose we’ll go out again.

GRETCHEN:
I don’t know. Maybe. Sure.

ROGER:
Really?

GRETCHEN:
We can take it slow.

ROGER:
Oh, sure.

GRETCHEN:
I think you have some interesting although dispassionate opinions on the stuff we talked about tonight. I mean, like representations of women in the mainstream media.

ROGER:
I’m just a regular guy, I hope.

GRETCHEN:
At my age, women have to lower their standards if they want to date anyone at all.

ROGER:
I feel like I killed that baby.

GRETCHEN:
Women have to date baby killers, too. I’m not being flip. Everyone is partly normal.

ROGER:
Society is doomed.

GRETCHEN:
Chow mein noodles.

ROGER:
I’m sorry?

GRETCHEN:
Not bok choi.

ROGER:
Oh, okay, right. Chow mein noodles.

GRETCHEN:
Everything matters all the time.

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Welcome to The Art of Everyone

In writing my book Everything Else, I realised everybody has their own “everything else”—the thoughts and stories, the experiences, the skills, the imagination, the dreams.

Left unexplored or unshared, they can leave a void, depriving our spirit of something beautiful and nourishing. Having learned that, I created the space here to manifest my own "everything else," and to help others share theirs.

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