The Oak Table
(a two act east village pageant)

Writing Sample:   (from act one)
(click here for hard copy .pdf version download)

Copy of entire play is available with consent of author and explicit arrangement.
Contact
michelerittenhouse@yahoo.com

(Lights fade to half as LAWRENCE kisses ELAINE and pulls her into the bedroom..  Slow sensuous drums. “Half motion” dreamlike movements from the characters)

(Shadows appear behind POET'S squat.  In low conversational tones, CARL, CLAIRE, meet AL and CAVE BEAR (LEO).  They introduce in slow motion mime, bum a cigarette, AL and CAVE BEAR (LEO) share it and the four talk in hushed tones)

(POET lets out a maniacal scream from inside her shelter.  HOMELESS MAN jumps out in real time, pulls up his pants and runs off screaming “Crazy!  Crazy!  Crazy bitch!”)

                                                   POET

                     (Pops out of the shelter in a panic shooting her poem at the world)

They are all here! 

                     (PARK continues in slow "time" under POETS song as she watches all the people around her.  They huddle together and come up with a plan by looking up toward ELAINE'S window)

Lining the streets up and down with attitude!

Spices of perfumed street smells greeting them before their eyes touch

And their lips taste the smoke of the night!

Watching, knowing it is the beginning of a decade of voices

That scream in our ears in the darkness of the night.

Till the cold light of the day,

In corners and in lies!!

That settles into truthful wonder.

                     (AL grabs the new wave couple as they cross, points toward ELAINE'S window.  COUPLE pull out money, hand it to CLAIRE.  LAWRENCE and  ELAINE'S embracing shadow is seen in the bedroom)

They all line the streets, and the hallways, and the rooms

And their places of living and touching

And meandering like snakes on the hunt.

Twined bodies slip past colors, flashing voices,

Laughter scares the atmosphere in an unnatural taunt that sings cold and real. 

                     (AL stops second basketball player, points, takes money)

                     (As POET speaks, PARK in slow “time” move through building entrance.  DRUMMER goes with the crowd using “street” items as percussion)

An undulating animal moving to the senses, more possessive than desire,

More animated by the music of their voices and their sucks

And their blows of their mouths that cater to the trivial.

Moving to the beat of the heat of the night that creeps in and takes over and moves their body into brown and green halls, back out of the streets that are lined in black and white and black and black and silver and points and peaks and lips that sing red, red, red.

                     (In normal “time” POET follows crowd into building as LAWRENCE quickly renters the kitchen, goes to his bag, slips out a small manuscript and puts it into ELAINE'S shelved manuscript folder.  Simultaneously ELAINE is taking down her hair and removing her dress in shadow)

Eyes clothe and unclothe the heated movements that slip past wanting,

Barely touching, being aloof, not conforming, being apart, not being affected, the lie.

                     (CLAIRE directs PARK and DRUMMER onto roof in slow “time”.  They establish a party

                    (The party on the roof, supplies sounds, and slow motion sensuous movements.  The new wave couple, basketball player, and others all strike attitude poses, mime conversation, dance, staring out over the park, smoking “whatever,” etc.   POET is the only animated movement on the roof.  She goes from person to person and takes potato chips and other food that has been carried in.  She collects these things in a large bag, occasionally eating some)

                     (CLAIRE leads the way through the hallway door into the kitchen.  She puts the ice cream in the table and goes to get her cognac.  AL enters and goes right to the refrigerator.   CARL crosses to the oak table to pour.  Enters CAVE BEAR (LEO) with toolbox.  He crosses into the kitchen, stands and stares as if in a trance, then sits on his toolbox)

                                            CLAIRE

              (Loud, to the bedroom)

Ice cream!

                                             AL

Got anything to eat in the fridge?

                     (CAVE BEAR (LEO) glances at her in interest, looks toward the bedroom, pulls out a cigarette and lighter, holds them, then resumes trancelike state)

                                             CARL

Looks like we’re too late to cool things down.

                                             AL

               (Going through fridge contents)

Not if we leave this open.  Be surprised how little time it takes to cool my apartment down when I keep the fridge door open.

                                             CLAIRE

               (Gently closing it)

It’s a wonder nobody ever thought of that, Al.  But, let’s see if the ice cream does the same job first.

               (Gets out small cups and spoons)

                                             CARL

               (To AL and somewhat to CAVE BEAR (LEO))

Could I interest you in some cognac?

                                             AL

Hell, yes.  That’d be great!

               (Hits CAVE BEAR (LEO) on shoulder)

Cave bear here is a taxi-driving poet. 

                   (CAVE BEAR (LEO) drops cigarette and lighter, notices how they fall, picks them up, resumes trancelike stare)

He’s as deep as they come.

                                             CARL

               (CARL pours AL a snifter)

Where’d you... find him?

                                             AL

He’s also my super! 

             (Takes snifter from CARL)

Don’t see this stuff everyday!

             (Sees coke bottle. Pours a hefty amount in snifter)

Yo!  Coke!!  You guys sure know how to live it up!

             (Drinks it down in one take.  Burps)

Ah!  Now that’s class!

                                             CARL

Coming from you, Al, I consider that a compliment.

                                             AL

             (Goes to dirty dishes and picks at leftovers)

Yo!  Elaine’s famous pasta!  Got anymore of this stuff?

                                             CLAIRE

Uh, well, I think you should wait and ask Elaine? 

                                             AL

Where is she?  She here?  You said she was here with your friend.

                                             CLAIRE

Maybe she stepped out.

                                             CARL 

               (Points to bedroom door)

Maybe she’s in there.

                                             AL

               (Goes to bedroom door)

Elaine, you in there? !  You think she’s in there with that guy?  Elaine!!

               (ELAINE hastily gets dressed.  LAWRENCE is unable to move just yet)

                                             CLAIRE

She probably couldn’t wait for the ice cream and stepped out.  She’s probably not in there, Al.  You’re wasting your voice.

                                             CARL

If I were a betting man, and I am...

                                             AL

Elaine!  Elaine!

                                             CLAIRE

Really, Al, I thought you were a little more discreet than that.

                                             AL

She’s getting laid, isn’t she!!!

                                             CARL

I think that’s as discreet as he gets, Claire.

                                             AL

Hey, Elaine, hurry up!  You’ve got guests! 

               (To others)

I could get real bent outta shape about this, you know.

                                             CLAIRE

Hard to imagine... why.  She never was your... girlfriend, Al.

                                             AL

I got dibs on her.  We live across the park from each other and I got dibs on her first.

               (At door)

Elaine!

               (ELAINE abruptly opens the door, enters, and slams it behind her)

                                             ELAINE

             (Calmly)

Why Al, I didn’t know you were invited to this party? 

                                             AL

Not just me.  There’s a whole bunch others on the roof.  Claire said you were having a rent party.

                                            ELAINE

             (Glares at her)

Rent party?

                                             CLAIRE

              (Cowed.   Hands her money)

Everybody on the street wanted to help out. 

                                             ELAINE

Everybody?

                                             CLAIRE

Well, most everybody.  This should cover…

                                             ELAINE

The court costs when my landlord finds out.

                                             CLAIRE

…. At least part of one month.

                                             ELAINE

I’ve got people stomping all over his new roofing.

                                             CLAIRE

It was really Al’s...

                                             AL

My idea!  Great, huh?!  I have rent parties all the time.  Only way I make ends meet.  I don’t think I’ve paid rent in two years.

                                             ELAINE

How are you, Al?

                                             AL

Okay, I guess.  Who you got in there?

                                             ELAINE

The Pope. 

                                             AL

Look, uh, I know a woman without a man gets urges, especially when you’re used to having a guy around, so, look, I figured when Scotty left...

                                             ELAINE

Was asked to leave...

                                             AL

Yeah, whatever, that you and me...

                                             ELAINE

Carl, is my glass over there?

                                             AL

You remember what you said, right?

                                             CARL

Certainly.  Needs a little topper.

                                             AL

You remember, Claire, a few years back..

                                             CLAIRE

A few years back when?

                                             ELAINE

That would be so nice.

                                             AL

Elaine told me...

                                             CLAIRE

Try to be more specific, Al.  When?

                                             ELAINE

          (Sees CAVE BEAR in trance)

Who is that?

                                             AL

It was here, a few years back...

                                             CLAIRE

Right….?

                                             CARL

Al’s super, Cave bear.

                                             AL

One night me and Scotty was having supper

 CLAIRE

So I WASN'T there.

                   CARL

He hasn’t said word one since he’s arrived.

                                              ELAINE

I like that in some men.  .

                                             AL

That's right.

                                             CLAIRE

Oh.

                                             AL

We was eating supper and I said…

                                             CLAIRE

               (Going to bathroom)

Excuse me.

                                             AL

               (Follows CLAIRE and yells at the bathroom door)

Scotty, you are one lucky son-of-a-bitch to have a woman that works, brings home the food, cooks, cleans up and don’t say nothing about you not getting a job. 

                                             ELAINE

There’s something quite elegant about how he stares off like that.

                                             AL

And Elaine picked up that frying pan over there…

                                             CARL

Rather sage-like, yes.           

               (CAVE BEAR (LEO) drops cigarette and lighter)

                                             AL

And she swung that thing right at my head.

                                             CARL

Reminds me of the trancelike state certain shaman have after being bitten by a cobra.

                                             AL

She still has that thing.

 ELAINE

They have to die before they are reborn as a shaman. 

                                             AL

If I hadn't of ducked…

                                             ELAINE

Rebirth into a new life. 

                                             AL

I’d be dead right now.

                                             CARL 

It happens to us all at turning points in our lives. 

                                             AL

And Elaine chased us out the door.  Hey, Elaine, you remember what you said?  Elaine?!

                                             ELAINE

I said, don’t come back into my house until you’ve lost fifty pounds and learned some manners.

                                             AL

That’s right. 

                                             CARL

You’re at those cross roads right now.  And Lawrence is not the best road sign.

                                             AL

And I did.  And I’m here. 

                                             CARL

So why didn’t you trust me to help you out, instead of... all this?

                                             AL

So who’s that guy in there? 

                                             ELAINE

Who says it’s a guy?

                                             CLAIRE

               (Entering from bathroom, wiping mouth with tissue)

That makes three throwups today.

                                             AL

What?!

                                             ELAINE

Where’s the ice cream?

                                             CAVE BEAR (LEO)

That Newton guy was one smart dude.

                                             CARL

Pray tell?

                                             CAVE BEAR (LEO)

               (Has been holding a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other)

You take this cigarette and this lighter and drop ‘em at the same time and...                                  (Does so)

They land at the same time.

                                             AL

Elaine, I got to use your bathroom.

                                             CARL

               (Hands him a small piece of paper)

Try this instead of the lighter.

                                             ELAINE

Why not.

               (AL exits to bathroom.  (CAVE BEAR (LEO) does, is stumped.  Continues to work on the problem)

                                             CARL

               (Referring to the bedroom)

Is he alive?

                                             ELAINE

               (Serves herself some ice cream)

Oh, yes.

                                             CARL

And?

                                             ELAINE

Coffee ice cream!  My favorite.

                                             CARL

I know.

                                             ELAINE

               (Kissing his cheek)

Thank you.

                                             CARL

A little to the left, please.

               (She kisses him on the lips, lightly)

I just wanted to taste if it was good enough for you.  And it’s not.

                                             CLAIRE

Anybody mind if I have some more cognac?

               (Bathroom shower comes on)

                                             ELAINE

What’s he doing in there?

                                             CLAIRE

Bathing?

                                             ELAINE

He lives across the park?  Can’t he wait until he gets home?

                                             CARL

Not a man like Al.

               (AL enters with towel around waist.  CLAIRE is struck)

                                             AL

Elaine?  Where’s that scented stuff?

                                             ELAINE

Excuse me?

                                             AL

The scented soap.  The stuff you girls use.  All I see here is Ivory.  Anybody can use Ivory.

                                             ELAINE

I don’t have any.

                                             AL

              (Referring to the bedroom)

You saving it for him?  ... Or her?

                                             ELAINE

Why are you taking a shower in my house at one in the morning?

                                             AL

Got to.  Cave bear here can’t get the water turned on in my building.

                                             CARL

Wonder of wonders.

                                             AL

We was on the way to the all night hardware store when we run into you guys. Hell, I hadn’t been able to take a shit in my place for a week.

                                             CARL

I’m surprised you let a little thing like water get in your way.

                                             AL

Well....

                                             ELAINE

I don’t want to know anymore.  Just use what’s there, Al, then put your clothes on and leave.  Please.  And take the roof with you!

                                             CAVE BEAR (LEO)

             (Paper in hand)

Oh.  I get it!

             (AL exits into bathroom)

                                             CLAIRE

Al!

                                             AL

              (Sticks head back out door)

Yo!

                                             CLAIRE

Can I crash at your place tonight?

                                             AL

Yo!

(Goes back into bathroom, then sticks his head out, questioning look)

                                             CLAIRE

No, just crash.

                                             AL

                        (Exiting back in)

Yo.