D.C. Copeland
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MERRILY DOWN THE STREAM

CHARACTERS

John    He is not the most comely of youths, but dresses well. He is smart and uses his intelligence and wit when he feels embarrassed by feeling.

Laura   She has a very young and innocent quality about her disposition. She may have a troubled past and dissociates into fantasy sometimes. She has a real or pretend boyfriend named George.


NOTE: John and Laura do not represent REAL people. They are merely mingled shapes of human characteristics and emotions. Yet they must be played as real people. Both of them believe every word of what they speak...no matter how odd or out of sequence it might be.


SET
The following play takes place in a school called Walden. There is no scenery except for 2 tall, gray, formidable lockers standing three feet apart from one another at the center of the stage. The locker on the right opens to the right and the locker on the left opens to the left. All dialogue will take place in front of these two lockers. The backdrop is black. The atmosphere should feel BLACK.

LIGHTING
The dreariness of the atmosphere must be accomplished by a very low and subdued lighting. It is almost as if the characters are the one light in an expanding chasm of darkness. When the scene begins, the lights must only shine on the characters.

TIME: (1992)
The ding we hear every few minutes or so, is that of the school bell. It should represent a certain passage of time. However, the amount of time which passes between the ringing of the bell, will fluctuate throughout the play. Sometimes, it may seem as if days have gone by, sometimes perhaps only seconds. Yet, all the while we must feel that time is moving forward, while the characters and their conversation, remain at a complete stand still. The characters' must speak honestly and openly with one another. Lurking behind every moment of this play must be the rustle of simple, yet always absurd, truth.



MERRILY DOWN THE STREAM


SCENE 1

JOHN and LAURA stand facing their individual lockers. JOHN'S is the locker stage right and Laura's is the one positioned stage left.

DING!

JOHN
There you are!

LAURA
Here I am.

LAURA turns to open her locker - clockwise counterclockwise then clockwise - it opens. Inside the locker is a mirror and several pictures -- one is of her boyfriend, George - - he is in his football uniform, number 3, holding his helmet. There is a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio clipped out of a teeny bopper magazine, and
the other one is of John, he is holding a bookbag and carrying two textbooks. She checks herself in the mirror.

JOHN
So give me a hug.

LAURA
Why?

JOHN
I feel like I haven't seen you in ages.

LAURA
Oh!

JOHN
Thank you. So what did we do this weekend?

LAURA applies makeup.

LAURA
WE went out with George.

LAURA stops applying the make up and kisses the picture of George on her locker. She then faces JOHN.

JOHN
Oh, with George. George talks with his mouth full.

LAURA
Yes, with George.

JOHN
And what did we do with George?

LAURA
Why George took US out to Peter Luger's and into the beautiful city of New York where we dined on caviar deluxe and Bourdeaux and sparkling champagne.

JOHN
I love Bourdeaux.

LAURA
It reminds me of romance.

JOHN
Really? I wouldn't have guessed that. You're very prudish.

LAURA
Oh?

JOHN
It reminds me of absolutely nothing.

LAURA
Such a sad thing.

JOHN
And why?

LAURA
Imagination John. You lack it.

JOHN
We didn't go home after that did we?

LAURA
No, as a matter of fact we went ice skating at Rockefeller center.

JOHN opens his own locker - clockwise - counterclockwise, clockwise again, which has in it a picture of his dog, a picture of Laura, his family.

It's beautiful this time of year. Really picturesque. You know, with the ice crystals hanging off the evergreen trees and children laughing into the arms of their absolutely adoring parents. Oh and there was this one little girl, must have been only about four or five and she was bundled so tightly...with two hats and blue earmuffs and a big heavy ski jacket. like a little polar bear she did, a little pink polar bear with her Daddy there to protect her from the sharp stinging, icy wind. He was so strong you see so very, very strong and he began taking her around the rink...around and around and around the rink. Then, they started going faster and faster. But after a while you could see that he was going much too fast for the little girl, pushing her much too hard. He was pushing her and pulling her so hard around the rink so horrifically hard and I was so tired so unbelievably tired of going around and around and around that G-d forsaken place. Ooohhh and I began to cry...to cry hysterically because I was so scared and he wouldn't stop, he just wouldn't stop going and pushing! You're hurting me! YOU'RE HURTING ME! I don't want to go! He let me go. I fell.... Poor girl. And then, she was all alone...all alone...hated being alone...so cold, so cold

JOHN turns around from his locker.

JOHN
Sad thing about your loss.

LAURA
Loss?

JOHN
Hey, yeah...you know what? I'd like to take you out some time.

LAURA
Hah! You're allergic to Bourdeaux.

JOHN
Oh Bourdeaux schamerdeux...I am enough to satisfy!1

LAURA
Well, where are you going to take me?

JOHN
Why, to a very nice place.

LAURA
In what vicinity would that be?

JOHN
Paradise, my love.

LAURA
I don't believe that there is such a place.

LAURA softly shuts her locker.

JOHN
Paradise?

LAURA
No.

JOHN
Love.

LAURA
Yes.

JOHN
I suppose it is only for those that find themselves compelled to dream.

JOHN slams his locker.

I do.

LAURA
What?

JOHN
Believe in love.

LAURA
How profound.

DING!!!



SCENE 2

(They wait 10 seconds before starting the next beat. There has been a drastic mood change and the audience must feel it. JOHN is upset, irritable. He is very annoyed with LAURA. We should feel as if LAURA has hurt him in some unspeakable manner. LAURA appears quite complacent.)

JOHN
BITCH!

LAURA
What?

JOHN
You heard me. You think you're so special don't you? So high and mighty and above everyone else don't you? So goddam pretty, such a smart little Valedictorian! I loathe you. I cannot stand to see you.

LAURA
Why is that John?

JOHN
I hate you.

LAURA
Mr. T did the funniest thing the other day.

JOHN
I hate you.

LAURA opens her locker - clockwise, counterclockwise, clockwise again. LAURA kisses the picture of George.

LAURA
Hiya handsome. George needs a new shirt.

JOHN
Why?

LAURA
Oh, he got excited telling me about his final touchdown over dinner and he was making such wild gesticulations about it that he spilled the Bourdeaux all over his white shirt. Silly boy!

LAURA shakes her finger at the picture of George as if to admonish him and then begins to apply her lipstick. She is facing her mirror and JOHN is looking the other way.

JOHN
I can't believe Mr. J had the nerve to give me a "C" on my report. "You have not analyzed the theme of The Ballad of the Safe Cafésufficiently. You do not seem to understand the miraculous power of love which is displayed in the relationship between Miss Amelia Evans and Cousin Lymon." Miss Amelia Evans...Cousin Lyman...Who cares about characters WHO NEVER EVEN EXISTED? "...Most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover." Literature's a scam. It makes you feel sorry for IMAGINARY people, makes you sympathize with their plight, and then WHAM BAM BOOM book's over...characters fall in love or they don't, characters live or characters die, characters drown in a rainstorm or they get skin cancer from the ultra-violet radiation penetrating the o-zone layer...but it doesn't really matter whichever way the story goes, because the characters themselves are not REAL people. They're little creations whose lives are predetermined by the mind of some sick, demented writer who can't cope with REALITY, can't live with the INSTABILITY OF THIS WORLD, so he makes up another one, one devoid of that unknown "scary" future which can never, ever be controlled, which has no subtext, no organized dialogue. LIFE IS SPONTANEOUS - IT CAN'T BE MANIPULATED AND THE MORE WE TRY, like the blithering authors who write self-contained novels, THE MORE MISERABLE WE BECOME, and the more we die from failure...SHE CAN'T CONNECT WITH REAL PEOPLE, so she sits home writing about a butch woman and a hunchback dwarf loving each other. How can I identify with that? Bah! What a sham! What a sham!

LAURA whips around to face him.

LAURA
Would you like to buy George the shirt or not? It would be really nice if you did that for him. George is so jealous of you.

JOHN
I'll buy him an extra large shirt.

LAURA
Will it be blue? George always looks so nice in blue.

JOHN opens his locker - clockwise, counterclockwise, clockwise - it opens.

JOHN
Blue like what?

LAURA
Like the color of your veins, John.

JOHN
Oh, you mean blue like my ear muffs Laura? Like my ear muffs?

JOHN throws his blue ear muffs at her.

Blue like my scarf, Laura?

JOHN throws his blue scarf at her.

LAURA
John, what are you doing?

JOHN
What do you think we should do this afternoon, huh, Laura?

LAURA
No, John.

JOHN
I'm not doing anything after school Laura. What are you doing? Wouldn't you like to go ice skating with me? I've got all the necessary equipment! C'mon! Let's go Laura!
Let's go! It's not too cold What's wrong??? I thought you liked to SKATE?

JOHN hits her with a HIS RED SKI GLOVES.

LAURA
I hate you.

JOHN picks up his ear muffs, scarf, and gloves and returns them to his locker. He slams his locker shut.

JOHN
I know.

LAURA turns to shut her locker.

DING!



SCENE 3

JOHN and LAURA open their lockers - clockwise, counterclockwise, clockwise. They open.

JOHN
Andrew Widener got into Harvard today.

LAURA
Oh really? Yale did you say?

JOHN
And he thinks he's so goddam smart now. I'll show him how smart he is. Why, someone ought to go over and tell him that the only reason he got in was because his grandfather gave Harvard a zillion dollars to fund its library - ya know the name of the library don't ya? Why, but it's "The Harry Elkins Widener Library" the freaking Widener Library. Yeah, right. I'm going to make that kind of money when I'm older. Maybe I'll change my name. The problem is I have no clue what to change it to. A new name, a new face, I'll be all set. All set. And oh I'm going to make it big. Really big. My name is going to be just as well known as Bill Gates - the greatest entrepreneur ever! Now there's a guy who knew how to take control of his own fate.

LAURA
I don't understand you.

JOHN
There are millions of dollars in computers.

LAURA
You didn't help me cheat on the math test today.

JOHN spots his reflection in LAURA'S mirror.

JOHN
If only I had a beard.

LAURA
And now its over.

JOHN
What is? WHAT'S OVER? Nothing's over!

LAURA
No, it is, John.

JOHN
What is, Laura?

LAURA
The math test.

JOHN looks in LAURA'S mirror again.

JOHN
Oh, I thought you meant us.

LAURA
If you had helped me cheat on the math I might have gone out with you on Saturday night.

JOHN
No, you wouldn't. You'd be ice skating with George.

LAURA
He died on the Titanic.

JOHN
George?

LAURA
No, Harry Elkins Widener.

JOHN
Oh. ****

JOHN grabs LAURA by the shoulders.

JOHN
Your hair looks very pretty today.

LAURA
Thank you John.

JOHN
I've always liked the name, Carson. So southern yet eloquent.

LAURA
Yes but John, I really never got to tell you what Mr. T did today.

JOHN
And then, if my name was Carson, perhaps I could become a writer, but I would one that portrayed life as it really is, without the pretentious coloring. I I would be on the best seller list of course.

JOHN and LAURA begin to turn opposite from one another - both lost in their different worlds and reflections.

LAURA
He jumped on the desk and began to sing to us, "Row Row Row Your Boat" This old man, forty-five, standing on a desk singing, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" all five feet of him belting out this crazy nursery song.

JOHN
And I would write about the complex interaction between goldfish and their natural ecosystem.

(LAURA and JOHN are now talking over one another)

LAURA
"Row row row your boat gently down the stream merrily merrily merrily merrily..."

JOHN
...which is suffering from massive destruction due to an unprecedented amount of pollution in our precious lakes.

LAURA
..."life is but a dream Row row row your boat..."

JOHN
I would name the goldfish Alfred and Mildred and they would spend their lives utterly and truly devoted to one another.

LAURA
"...gently down the stream. MERRILY MERRILY MERRILY MERRILY: LIFE IS BUT A DREAM, A COLD LONELY DREAM, ROW ROW ROW YOUR BOAT GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM..."

JOHN
But their main priority is mating, THE PROGENY - passing
JOHN (continued)
the sperm, fertilizing the egg....they need to mate with one another before they are eaten by the great white tuna fish.

LAURA
"...MERRILY MERRILY MERRILY MERRILY Life is but a dream..."with sharp stinging icicles to keep you in line.

DING!



SCENE 4

LAURA
WHEN WAS THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS?

JOHN
John Locke influenced the writing of the Declaration of Independence.

LAURA
Why was Andrew Johnson not impeached by the Senate?

JOHN
Thomas Jefferson wrote it.

LAURA
When did Hitler die?

JOHN
It stands for the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

LAURA
Why?

JOHN
Because that's what every American desires.

LAURA
Happiness?

JOHN
No.

LAURA
Life?

JOHN
Yes.

LAURA
What schools are you applying to?

JOHN
I don't know.

LAURA
Why not? Tell me. You are keeping them from me. Why?

JOHN
I can give you no answer.

LAURA
You don't know who you are.

JOHN
Yes, I do.

LAURA
Where will you go to school?

JOHN
I've decided that I don't care.

JOHN turns to his locker and opens it - clockwise, counterclockwise and clockwise.

LAURA
Don't care? DON'T CARE? There is no future for you.

JOHN slams open the locker with gusto and takes hold of his Bill Gates book.

JOHN
Aah Bill! "The Road Ahead"!

LAURA
There is no life if you don't go to school. Why have you worked your whole life away? What was the purpose? Without your future school, life is meaningless. You don't advance, you stay here. You stay the same, learning nothing at all. You become BECOME NOTHING!!! You don't marry a handsome doctor, you don't move to a little town right off the bay where there are boats and an ice skating rink, yachts and shrimp cocktails. You won't have babies John. No gorgeous little babies to play with and ogle and love and care for. They won't exist. LIFE WON'T EXIST WITHOUT COLLEGE. YOU HAVE TO GO TO COLLEGE, JOHN. YOU JUST HAVE TO.

JOHN turns to her.

JOHN
Aah, Laura, my love! What was that you said? About the Battle of Hastings?

DING!!!



SCENE 5

(The next beat must be played almost as if it is occurring in slow motion. Both of them appear weary, tired, and with bored expressions on their faces. Their overall dialogue is slow, with unnecessary pauses. Every sentence must be spoken with direct honesty.)

LAURA
The day is endless, John.

JOHN
Give me a hug.

LAURA
Why?

JOHN
You look very pretty today.

LAURA gives him a shallow hug and fixes her hair.

LAURA
You always think I look pretty

JOHN
Do I really?

LAURA
Yes, John. You do.

JOHN
I'm afraid of graduating.

LAURA
Seems like it will never happen.

JOHN
Graduating?

LAURA
No.

JOHN
Then what are you talking about?

LAURA
Life.

JOHN
Odd. I thought that had already happened.

LAURA
Not really. Only superficially. Real life is still an abstract notion, yet to come.

JOHN and LAURA turn away from one another.

JOHN
Oh. I met a ravishing girl a while back.

LAURA
Really----George is not like other guys. He's going to be successful. He's always talking about his plans for the future, and I think they're simply marvelous. Only, I'm
careful not to let him know how much I care about him. That's my little secret, you see? My safe secret which I store deep down inside of me. It's important that he never know what I'm thinking, or how much he means to me. Why, if he knew that then he's sure to laugh! The ignorant fool! I must keep him in the dark.

JOHN
I mean, oh, no one's perfect. But she really seems to understand who I am inside. She really listens to me. Really sits and listens to me and looks at me and asks me questions about the goals in my life. No one really seems to do that anymore.

LAURA
IMPOSSIBLE!-- I know people tell me it's impossible that I could be so much in love at my age. But I've always felt that I was more mature than most of my peers. At least, that's what George He talks about studying little fishes, and he goes on endless tirades about protecting the environment. What a funny little horse he is.

JOHN
It's strange. I know I'm in love with her. In love with a girl, who I'll never get. But she really sees me for who I am. She thinks I'm important and that I'm going to be successful. She tells me I could be a politician, kissing babies with my halitosis. I tell her, "only if I could copulate with secretaries at the same time." be a doctor. I'm smart enough Laura?

LAURA
Yes?

JOHN
Do you love me?

LAURA
Yes.

JOHN grabs LAURA in a true embrace.

JOHN
I thought you did!

LAURA
Yes!

JOHN
I DON'T WANT TO GRADUATE LAURA!

LAURA
Yet it is inevitable, darling.

JOHN
I'm cold, Laura.

LAURA
Like ice. Don't slip. It hurts when you fall.

JOHN and LAURA turn slowly to face in opposite directions.

JOHN
I am going to become a playwright. The best playwright that ever was of course.

LAURA
I wish I had a yellow boat...

JOHN
And my plays would depict the tragedy of sterile fruit flies when they are ruthlessly placed in a clear glass bell jar and mercilessly crucified by the hands of science.

LAURA
...a great big white yacht...

JOHN
The fruit flies would begin to fornicate with one another. So much sex under that tiny little glass.

LAURA
...and I would sail away out to the very middle of the ocean...where no one could touch me....

JOHN
But then a riot would take place. The fruit flies would cause such a terrible uproar that the glass would break.

LAURA
...surrounded by nothing except an endless vacuum of icy blue.

JOHN
And all the lovers would be free.

LAURA
"Life...is ...but...a...dream."

JOHN and LAURA open their lockers - clockwise, counterclockwise, clockwise.

DING!

BLACKOUT

THE END.