The Oak Table

(A two-act East Village Pageant)

(writing sample)  (return to plays)

Production History: 

Rutgers University-NJIT Workshop production, Spring '98.


          It's the late seventies in New York City and Elaine is frustrated and unable to write because she is strapped for rent money and in danger of losing her apartment.  She and her girlfriend, Claire decide to spend the evening charming an old friend to lend it to her.  But what started as an innocent dinner party, turns into an intriguing mystery as she discovers a rare diary written by a fifteenth century nun hidden by one of her dinner guests to steal from his patron.   The search for this rare manuscript turns into a wild and crazy East Village frenzy that moves from Tompkins Square Park and back into the apartment and onto the building roof in the form of a rent party gone awry.   All of these quirky intrigues are observed by the park's Homeless Poet as she weaves her poems to the beat of the park drums.  Elaine is finally pushed out into the park, losing her home to her seven "deadly" friends and bonds with the Homeless Poet, finally understanding the true meaning of being an artist. 

Character Breakdown:

          Apartment transients:

Elaine Lakewood:  In her late twenties.   

Claire:   Her best friend, mid twenties, from Long Island.

Carl:   Mediterranean, mid to late forties.

Lawrence:  Eastern European, early thirties.

Al:   Early thirties, from NYC. 

Cave Bear (Leo):  Early thirties.

Silva:   Late twenties, Portuguese decent.

Park transients: 

Poet:   Street woman, indeterminate age, sketches with charcoal and pad all that she sees, and hangs her sketches on her shelter. 

Policewoman, doesn’t want the beat, has half a heart for it.

Elderly woman in Elaine’s building, everyone has seen her around.

Basketball player (young man). Passion for playing.

New wave boyfriend, club musician (guitar) (plays basketball).

New wave girlfriend, plays basketball, but not unless last resort.

Homeless Man, can throw a few hoops, but out of shape.

Park drummer, expresses himself by what he sees.  He and the Poet are a call and response for one another. 


          The set is split into three areas, the inside of Elaine’s brownstone apartment, the outside of a corner of Tompkins Square Park, and the roof of Elaine’s building.   In the kitchen is an oak table surrounded by four oak chairs and a bookcase piled with books.  The kitchen walls and appliances are implied frames that open out toward the park.  There are solid counter spaces to put objects.  Inside the kitchen is a solid door leading to the bathroom:  a front door leading to the apartment hallway, one to the back bedroom.  The bedroom is the only “other room” that could be seen through the framing.  A kitchen window “frame” looks out to the Poet's park bench.  

          The stylized set allows the outside shadows to invade the inside kitchen and vise versa at certain times in the play.  The park transients at times cast shadows throughout the park environment (from street lights)   The image tone should be almost film noir, a rather black and white environment except for the warmth that is found inside the kitchen and in the Poet’s park bench area. 


          All recorded music, pre-show, scene changes, roof party, etc. should be underground East village bands from the period.  (Most of which went on to make CD’s and names for themselves.The Park Drummer is live.  He reflects the mood of the park and of the apartment throughout the play.  The Park Drummer has simple bongos, maybe a stashed conga, but also uses street “garbage” percussion devices.  Some of the other park people may join in his percussion from time to time;   such as the basketball player with the ball, the punk musician, his girlfriend, the policewoman and her stick…etc….

Act Breakdown:

Time:                  Friday night of the first weekend in June, 1980.  Play takes place from early evening to dawn under a “blue moon.”

Act One:

Scene One

Brownstone kitchen and Tompkins Square park, sunset.

Scene Two

Same, around midnight

Scene Three

Same with roof, around 1 am.

Act Two

Scene One

Same, around 3:30 am.

Scene Two

     Same, around 4:30 am until sunrise