White Man Dancing

W H I T E M A N D A N C I N G

ACT I, SCENE 1

(A BROWNSTONE APARTMENT ON NEW YORK’S UPPER WEST SIDE THAT’S SEEN BETTER DAYS. KITCHEN. LIVING ROOM. A BEDROOM OFF RIGHT. A SMALL VESTIBULE TO THE APARTMENT DOOR. THE BATHROOM IS OFF THE VESTIBULE.

AN OFFICE AREA IS CENTER AND BACK; A SMALL BOOKCASE, A DESK, AN EXPENSIVE LOOKING COMPUTER AND PRINTER.

JULY. HOT. NO AIR CONDITIONING. FANS ARE GOING.

SHEETS AND A PILLOW ARE NEATLY STACKED ON THE COUCH. A SMALL, OPEN DUFFEL BAG OF CLOTHES IS ON THE FLOOR NEXT TO THE COUCH.

THERE IS A BROWN PAPER BAG ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER.

DELL,20’s, IS STANDING CENTER LOOKING TERRIBLY DISTRAUGHT. HE WEARS SHORTS AND A T-SHIRT. HE IS LOSING HIS HAIR. STUART. 20’s, IS SITTING ON THE COUCH, CALMLY STARING AT HIM. HE ALSO WEARS SHORTS AND A T-SHIRT.)

DELL

I am going to die someday. I wake at night and feel the shadow pressing down. The incomprehensible foreverness of it. We end the day as we begin the day. Alone.

(a beat)

Stuart, I just don’t know about this as an audition piece.

STUART

You’re doing great.

DELL

I mean, I appreciate you offering to let me work with your stuff. I appreciate it. But I kinda have the feeling that when I walk in for an audition, people think I’m kind of a negative guy to begin with. Don’t ask me why but this is true. And so this piece, while a very worthwhile piece, is not the right piece for me.

STUART

I was just trying to help.

DELL

I mean, the piece moves me, Stuart, it really moves me, it’s just…

STUART

What?

DELL

It moves me to want to slit my wrists, that’s all. Look, Stuart, what’s the story. I mean, I know you, I’ve read all your work. You’re a romantic guy, an optimist. You always think well of things in this naive but enjoyable sort of way. It’s why you’re doing so well writing movies.

STUART

My plays seem to be getting away from happy endings.

DELL

People love happy endings.

STUART

I seem to be getting away from happy endings. This is going to be my most successful play.

DELL

Well, good, I hope so.

STUART

Casting, however, will be of the utmost importance. This play needs actors.

DELL

So few do.

STUART

You could be one of those actors, Dell. Having worked on this scene, you will have the inside track not to mention my favor.

DELL

A production of this play, is it definite?

STUART

It’s… semi-definite.

DELL

There’s interest?

STUART

There’s… apparent interest.

DELL

Will this be in or out of town?

STUART

We don’t know yet.

DELL

I don’t want to miss pilot season.

STUART

It’s a job.

DELL

I have first refusal on several national commercials.

STUART

We are talking a definite equity job.

DELL

The play needs work.

STUART

I have faith in you, Dell, have faith in me.

(a moment)

So are you interested?

DELL

Stuart, no offense but your stuff always gets done twice. The first time I usually do it in a living room for no audience for free. The second time I pay thirty bucks for a ticket so I can sit in the front row and mouth the words with the guy on stage. I’m just trying to protect myself, that’s all.

STUART

I understand.

DELL

If the opportunity presents itself and I’m available, I’ll consider it.

STUART

That’s all I can ask.

DELL

I mean, it’s not a statement I’m trying to make, it’s a living. I’ve got to look for a job tomorrow.

STUART

You mean… a real job?

DELL

Tuesday was my last unemployment check. I’m going to miss unemployment. Every week I get to hang around in a slow moving line with all the other actors in New York.

STUART

Unemployment should have an Equity deputy.

DELL

Being broke is like being impotent, Stuart. You know it’s not entirely your fault but still you don’t feel like a man.

(DELL IS SILENT. A MOMENT. STUART MOVES TO THE KITCHEN COUNTER. HE GLANCES IN THE PAPER BAG.)

STUART

Hey, you went out and got some stuff, huh?

DELL

What I could. I figured I should.

STUART

No, don’t worry about it.

(STUART BEGINS UNPACKING THE BAG AND PUTTING THINGS AWAY.)

STUART

The Korean-Jewish deli two blocks up Amsterdam is the best. They carry everything and they cash checks. Some of them don’t speak English so you have to be careful though. I once asked for Muenster, they very cheerfully gave me headcheese. Stay away from the bodega on the corner. It’s a madhouse. Toothless old ladies sitting on crates counting green bananas. Snake eyed guys with scars by the register. Dobermans with scars by the door. I’ve been going there for a year they still won’t hand me my change.

(a moment)

Dell?

DELL

Huh?

STUART

You okay?

DELL

Probably not.

(a moment)

I don’t know if Bonnie and I are gonna work this thing out, Stuart. Right now she wants me back. But I don’t know if I want to go back. And by the time that maybe I do want to go back, maybe then – and I can’t blame her for this though I know I’m gonna want to – she might not want me back anymore.

STUART

You still love her?

DELL

Real estate seems much more important than my feelings. I’d like a place to live.

STUART

You’re not imposing. I want you to know that. You stay here as long as you want.

DELL

Till the end of September maybe.

STUART

As long as you want.

DELL

Buddies.

STUART

Unless, of course, Sandy comes back.

DELL

Sandy is thinking of moving back?

STUART

She might be.

DELL

You’ve talked?

STUART

Sort of.

DELL

What does that mean, sort of?

STUART

These days we’re speaking different languages.

DELL

She’s… implied that she might be moving back?

STUART

Not necessarily in so many words. But sooner or later I’m confident she will.

DELL

Why would you ever think this?

STUART

I read between the lines.

DELL

(it ain’t gonna happen)

Stuart…

STUART

Yeah?

DELL

Look, Stuart…

STUART

Huh?

DELL

…correct me if I’m wrong here, but most of the time you and Sandy were living together, you very often gave me the impression you two weren’t getting along.

STUART

Well… yeah.

DELL

So.

STUART

So I guess somewhere in between trying to figure out ways to ask Sandy to leave I must have gotten very use to having her around because when she finally did leave?

DELL

Yeah?

STUART

I begged her not to go. I didn’t know, Dell. I didn’t realize.

DELL

Realize what?

STUART

That loving someone is not necessarily a couple of big feelings but rather a whole lot of small, not so obvious ones.

DELL

That’s good. You ought to write that down.

STUART

I already have. I mean, two people, huh?

DELL

Hey.

STUART

The days go by. Sometimes you find yourself thinking, is this my life? Is this what it is? Is this who it is?

DELL

Hey.

STUART

Lying there at night next to her, sometimes all of it, the routine, the sameness, it all crystallizes in her. Maybe if she were different, you would be different. Things would be different. Better. You wonder. But then she’s gone. And it’s then you realize what you had. It’s then you realize that what you were feeling had nothing to do with her and everything to do with you. But now it’s too late to tell her. She’s gone.

(a beat)

That’s good too. I better write that down.

(Scribbling)

… too late to tell her… she’s gone.

DELL

Moved in with the bartender she’d been screwing on the side all along.

STUART

That I don’t think I need to write down.

(THE PHONE RINGS. THEY BOTH STARE AT IT, STARTLED.

DELL

If that’s for me, I’m not here.

STUART

(answering the phone)

Hello?

(BONNIE, 20’s, ENTERS, HOLDING A CELL PHONE)

BONNIE

It’s me.

STUART

Bonnie, hi! – uh, Bon? Dell’s not here.

DELL

Give me the phone, Stuart.

STUART

Bon? Guess who just walked in?

DELL

(taking the phone)

Hi, Bon.

BONNIE

Hi. How you doing?

DELL

I’m okay…

BONNIE

How was your night?

DELL

It was okay…

BONNIE

Mine was a bitch and I blame you for it.

DELL

…okay.

BONNIE

I want us to see the counsellor.

DELL

Aw, Bonnie…

BONNIE

We need to.

DELL

No…

BONNIE

Why not?

DELL

I don’t want to.

BONNIE

Why?

DELL

Because I don’t.

BONNIE

I already made the appointment.

DELL

Unmake the appointment. Look, I gotta go.

BONNIE

Why?

DELL

Because I’m busy. I’ll call you.

BONNIE

Dell –

DELL

— I’ll call you!

BONNIE

– get a cell phone!

(HE HANGS UP. BONNIE EXITS. SILENCE.)

DELL

That was… Bonnie.

STUART

Yeah.

DELL

She wants us to see a marriage counselor.

STUART

You gonna?

DELL

We already tried it once.

STUART

It didn’t help?

DELL

No. Bonnie talked me into it. I mean, this guy, he shares his waiting room with about twelve other shrinks, right? So it’s like a Greyhound station filled with morose guys, distraught women and schizoid kids. Is there something to read? No. Smithsonian, Scientific American, crap like that, as if these guys want us all to know how smart they are and we’re not. So we go in. The counselor, he wears comfortable shoes, smokes a pipe and smiles a lot and I don’t trust him. I mean, I’m looking at the walls to see if he got his degree at the University of Central Casting. Bonnie, of course, loves him. She thinks he’s sensitive. Bonnie thinks anyone who agrees with her is sensitive. She loves it. She complains for 45 minutes, cries for 15 and then pays the guy a hundred bucks and tells him it’s been the most positive experience of her entire life.

STUART

A hundred bucks?

DELL

Bonnie’s old man took care of it.

STUART

You didn’t talk at all?

DELL

The guy, he asks me to come back alone next time. So I do. I sit there. He asks me if I want water.

STUART

For a hundred bucks it should at least be a coke.

DELL

The counselor, he says to me, he says, what’s wrong, Dell. It’s like he thinks we’re buddies and I’m going to like, confide in him. What the fuck, I tell him, I don’t know, I’m unhappy. He nods as if he knows what I’m talking about. Let’s try to fix that, he says. Fine with me, I say, give me the money Bonnie’s Dad is paying you and I’ll be a little happier by tomorrow.

(a moment)

He says I obviously have a lot of anger in me. A lot of bottled up hostility. No shit, I mean, who doesn’t? The guy is one for one. And then, I kid you not, it’s just what you expect, he asks me about my parents. Do I like’m, do they like me, do they get along? Like it’s his business.

(STUART MOVES TO HIS DESK, OPENS A DRAWER AND TAKES OUT HIS CHECKBOOK.)

STUART

You like your parents, Dell?

DELL

Not particularly. I love’m. Lately I just don’t like’m. They don’t understand why I have a hard time talking to’m on the phone.

STUART

Why do you?

DELL

…they lied to me. All the time. Always pretending everything was so great between’m. Never talking about it when it wasn’t. My mom running to the bedroom, crying. My Dad so pissed off he can’t even see straight. And then everybody acting like it didn’t happen. My parents gave me everything but honesty.

(STUART SCRIBBLES A CHECK, TEARS IT OUT, CROSSES AND HANDS IT TO DELL.)

DELL

What’s this.

STUART

Three thousand. You pay me back when you can.

DELL

(a moment)

I’ll pay you back when I can.

(a moment)

Stuart. Thank you.

STUART

You’re going to do this play, Dell. I promise.

DELL

(happily)

I am going to die someday. I wake at night and there’s a shadow sitting on my face. The day is done as the day is done. Ending. The aloneness is… alonable beyond… beyondness.

STUART

Buddies.

(THEY SLAP HANDS. LIGHTS TO BLACK.)