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  • lxskozak

You Know How I Feel About the Theatre (with apologies to Noel Coward)

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

SYNOPSIS:

When Elyot insists Amanda take him out on the town for their anniversary,

each discovers what the other feels about the truly important things in life:

balcony plays and the New York Knicks.

Can one surprise one’s spouse after twenty-five years?


CHARACTERS

ELYOT male, early 50’s. A little Henry Higgins, or something out of The Importance of Being Earnest. Maybe a touch of a British accent, or maybe a very heavy bad one. Maybe Hank Azaria’s The Blue Raja from Mystery Men.

AMANDA female, early 50’s. Maybe a little bit of a gruff voice. Perhaps a touch of the masculine. Maybe if Harvey Feirstein’s voice had a love child with your high school gym teacher.


TIME AND PLACE

The present. The terrace of an apartment in New York City.


SETTING: (The scene is the terrace of an apartment in New York City. Elyot wears a well-put-together evening suit for a night on the town.)

ELYOT

(Calling.)

Mandy, Mandy, dear, are you ready?

AMANDA

(Inside.)

Just a minute!...Where are ya?

ELYOT

On the terrace.

(Amanda enters wearing a NY Knicks sleeveless basketball jersey over a t-shirt and a matching Knicks cap.)

Please tell me what that is that you are wearing.

AMANDA

I’m meeting Victoria, Louise, and Sibyl at the Garden in thirty minutes.

ELYOT

But it is our anniversary, Amanda.

AMANDA

Again?

ELYOT

Every year.

AMANDA

But, the Knicks.

ELYOT

Darling, if you want to spend another evening watching that abysmal group of grown men running back and forth in blue and orange, that is your affair. But on one’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, one stops what one is doing and takes one’s husband out on the town. It is expected.

AMANDA

Why do you dislike the Knicks so much?

ELYOT

They offend my color palate.

AMANDA

What about the Mets?

ELYOT

I don’t like the Mets either.

AMANDA

Because of the colors?

ELYOT

Because they stink. Is one allowed to say that in New York?

AMANDA

I don’t think so.

ELYOT

Well then, we shall have to move.

AMANDA

Why?

ELYOT

Because they do stink. And I will not keep myself from saying it.

AMANDA

I thought you liked the Mets.

ELYOT

A lifetime together, and you don’t know a thing about me, you brute.

AMANDA

Aw, come on, hon. I know everything about you. Every little thing. You haven’t surprised me in years.

ELYOT

After twenty-five years, there should be no surprises, dear. That’s the main purpose of marriage. To rid one of any questions, doubts, surprises, or excitement one might have about one’s partner. Now, phone those poor lost souls you call friends and tell them that they will be bereft of your company this evening.

AMANDA

But, Elliiiiiii…

ELYOT

Now!

AMANDA

(Making the phone call.)

…Hey…I can’t come…Yeah, the old ball and chain…Alright, have fun…

(Hangs up.)

There.

ELYOT

Now go change into something less garish.

AMANDA

Can I at least know where I am taking you?

ELYOT

To the theatre.

AMANDA

“The theatre”?! Notthe theatre! Ugh! Oh well, I hope the songs are catchy.

ELYOT

It’s a play.

AMANDA

A play?! No! Not a play!

ELYOT

A new play.

AMANDA

“A new play”? Oh, no! No, no, no!

ELYOT

A very important new play by an up-and-coming young writer.

AMANDA

Ugh! I hate important new plays by up-and-coming young writers. That’s one of the worst things about living in New York: all these wonderful young writers no one’s ever heard of.

How are the reviews?

ELYOT

Terrible. That’s how one knows it will be good.

AMANDA

Oh, no, no, no!

ELYOT

I hate plays with good reviews. You know that, Amanda.

AMANDA

Where is the damn thing set?

ELYOT

France, I believe.

AMANDA

“France”? What ever happened to “Write What You Know”?

ELYOT

Oh, darling. No self-respecting young writer ever writes about their own time or place. It just isn’t done.

AMANDA

Where in France? Paris? Bordeaux? The Riviera?

ELYOT

A balcony, I believe.

AMANDA

A balcony play?! Not a balcony play! Plays are bad enough! But balcony plays are the worst!

ELYOT

A balcony is the epitome of dramatic perfection. Two human beings, forced into close quarters, no room to move. Just six square feet of space, and nothing else in the world!

AMANDA

What about lights, set, costume, sound?

ELYOT

There is no technical theatre in the human soul.

AMANDA

You can keep the human soul.

ELYOT

It must be hard for you, Amanda, to be so charming all the time.

AMANDA

Why don’t we stay in?

ELYOT

New Yorkers do not stay in. Especially on anniversaries.

AMANDA

But you’re not a New Yorker. You’re from New Jersey.

ELYOT

Amanda, you beast!

AMANDA

Hoboken, no less.

ELYOT

At least I’m not from Connecticut.

AMANDA

Connecticut is New York, tootse.

ELYOT

Is there a word for people from Connecticut?

AMANDA

Watch it, Elli.

ELYOT

Oh yes,

(Pronounced “Connecti-kitten.”)

Connecticutian, is it?

AMANDA

Says the boy from

(With a heavy NJ accent.)

New Joisey.

ELYOT

Are we having a fight, Amanda? On our anniversary?

AMANDA

You want a fight?, I’ll give you a fight!

ELYOT

Paula Abdul!

AMANDA

What?

ELYOT

“Paula Abdul,” I said.

AMANDA

“Paula Abdul”? Why you little…

ELYOT

That’s right.

AMANDA

You can’t just—

ELYOT

I can, and I did!

AMANDA

Now hold on a—!

ELYOT

Tat, tat. Two minutes.

AMANDA

But…

ELYOT

Two minutes. You know the rules: we can talk about other things, but we can’t talk about the thing or things that are making us fight.

AMANDA

You haven’t said Paula Abdul in years.

ELYOT

Haven’t needed to.

AMANDA

But—

ELYOT

Tut, tut. Ninety seconds to go.

AMANDA

So we are supposed to just sit here in silence for…ninety more seconds?

ELYOT

Seventy-five, to be exact.

AMANDA

Damned Paula Abdul!

ELYOT

“Two steps forward. I take two steps back. We come together, because,” well, you know. It takes a special person to capture the human condition so succinctly. Now, as you know, we can talk about something else, change the subject completely, something that won’t lead to a disagreement. But we can’t fight. Those are the rules, culled from Paula’s own marriage, as per that obscure nineteen ninety-two article in Woman’s Day.

AMANDA

A husband and wife having an argument. See?, this is exactly something one of those snot-nosed young play writers would love, isn’t it?

ELYOT

Oh, Mandy!

AMANDA

I hate the way playwrights take things from life—little intimacies—private moments—private lives—and tell us it’s “art.” Not a care in the world for privacy or decency. Who wants to go watch two people pretending to have a private conversation. It’s like watching somebody pee with the door open. It’s a private conversation! That’s the point. And to pretend that it’s not?, well… And the fourth wall?, talk about a crumby invention. And damned convenient, too, if you ask me. The actor says, “I’ll sit here and pretend that I’m not being watched, and you—the audience—well, you just sit there, and pretend you are not watching me.” All so perfect and—and vulgar, if you ask me. Some two-bit scenario cobbled together to throw two totally unlikeable characters who are supposed to pass are real human beings into the kind of situation that there’s no way one would find oneself in in any reality except the theatre.

ELYOT

I’d rather watch two players on these boards than, how many is it?, ten?, on those.

AMANDA

But basketball is so much purer. We—the spectators—are here. They—the players—are there. They play a game, we watch them play that game. They make no bones about it, we make no bones about it. There is no “pretending.” There’s no singing or talking. It’s less witty. And, I can follow what’s going on. It’s on a giant scoreboard up there.

ELYOT

(Swinging his head back and forth, like watching a tennis match. Mocking the game.)

This team scored a basket. Oh, I wonder what is going to happen next. Aha! Now that team scored a basket. I wonder what’s going to happen next.” You know how I feel about basketball.

AMANDA

And you know how I feel about the theatre.

ELYOT

There are some things one must do, whether one likes them or not, in order to appear civilized. Attending the theatre is one of them.

AMANDA

To hell with appearing civilized.

ELYOT

Amanda, marriage is an institution predicated on the appearance of civility.

AMANDA

This is what I say to marriage and civility.

(Amanda makes a fart noise, what may have, in a slightly more refined time, been called a raspberry, with her mouth.)

ELYOT

Why did you marry me?

AMANDA

Oh, are we done Paula Abdul-ing?

ELYOT

We were done hours ago. Now answer the question. Why did you marry me?

AMANDA

Because ya kept hanging around. It seemed the only way to get rid of ya.

ELYOT

Oh, darling!

AMANDA

Why did ya marry me?

ELYOT

I thought you were dreadfully attractive.

AMANDA

So you noticed!

ELYOT

I didn’t have my glasses on.

AMANDA

Your glasses?

ELYOT

I wasn’t able to find them for weeks. Months, actually. And by the time I had found them, well, we were in New York, and much older, and in that time of life where looks don’t matter as much as friendship and a full belly.

AMANDA

Aw, shucks, Elli!

ELYOT

Also, I don’t have any backbone, darling. I am a pushover. Which is to say that you saved me, really. Like all good husbands, I locked most of my childhood trauma in a sturdy chest and left it in my parents’ basement the moment you took me by the bootstraps and lifted me up out of that stinking hell hole.

AMANDA

Things were a lot simpler then.

(They smile lovingly at each other. Then, suggestively…)

Whaddya say we stay home?

ELYOT

We can’t possibly stay home. It is our anniversary. And we are both somewhat dressed.

AMANDA

(Seductively.)

We could undress.

ELYOT

Fool me once, but after twenty-five years of marriage, I know that “undress,” said in that tone of voice and with raised eyebrow, means watching basketball in bed. There will be no undressing tonight. Weare going out on the town, if you have to drag me kicking and screaming. And if you know nothing elseabout me, you must know that.

AMANDA

(The beginning of a smile.)

Elli, hon, I gotta tell ya something.

(Amanda rips off her Knicks jersey, and underneath is a lovely dress and jewelry.)

I got tickets for tonight to that two-person balcony play you keep talking about.

ELYOT

(Tears of shock, surprise, joy?)

Oh, Mandy! No!

AMANDA

What?! What’s wrong?!

ELYOT

Nothing’s wrong.

AMANDA

Why are you crying?!

ELYOT

Because I’m so insanely happy!

(Playfully, sing-songy…)

Buuuuut…

(Elyot rips off his suit to reveal an awkwardly worn Knicks jersey.)

AMANDA

What is this? What’s going on?

ELYOT

I am taking you to witness that abhorrent contest with the orange ball this evening.

AMANDA

Just when I thought I knew everything about ya!

ELYOT

Surprise!

AMANDA

Oh, Elli! Happy anniversary!

ELYOT

Happy anniversary, Mandy!

AMANDA

Let’s give those damned dramatists something to write about!

(They jump on each other’s bones. Or, at least make out a lot.)

END PLAY

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