© 2020 James and Jean Anton
CAROL: In her mid 50s; fit and healthy looking.
OLD JOHN: In his mid 70s; has long hair, a thick long beard, and is thin but not frail
SINGER (Could be male or female, any age)
PANTOMIMIST: 17 years old, female
Faneuil Marketplace, Boston
Boston, like every major city in the US, is a ghost town because people have been asked to stay in their homes during the Great Pandemic of 2020. All schools, theaters, bars, and restaurants and most shops have been locked down. People are hoarding, making it impossible to even get important items like hand sanitizer, protective masks and gloves, and even toilet paper. Meat is being rationed at some supermarkets. Police and army are on alert, preparing for expected social disruption.
Acoustic guitar, Bag of peanuts, ladies hand bag, mobile phone, pepper spray, black veil
CAROL is standing, watching a street SINGER in Faneuil Market singing a song by Buffalo Springfield.
Singer (With guitar) There’s a man with a gun over there. Telling me I got to beware. I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound everybody look what’s going down; stop, children, what’s that sound everybody look what’s going down.
Enter Old JOHN
Old John/Singer: (SINGER continues singing. OLD JOHN walks over to SINGER from stage right and begins to sing along but he’s not sure of the words and kind of lags, and is not in tune.) There’s a man with a gun over there (OLD JOHN sings the line but changes ‘there’ to ‘somewhere’). Telling me I got to beware. I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s (OLD JOHN sings the line but changes ‘what’s’ to ‘watch’) that sound everybody look what’s going down; stop, children, what’s (OLD JOHN sings the line but changes ‘what’s’ to ‘watch’) that sound everybody look what’s going down. (SINGER is annoyed, stops singing and moves away from him, and disappears upstage. OLD JOHN Turns to CAROL, touches her shoulder.) This is cool, isn’t it?
Carol: What are you doing? Don’t touch me! What do you mean cool?
Old John: Well, usually this street is so crowded. We have the entire place to ourselves now. So it’s just me and you, Babe. (He pops a peanut in his mouth) Don’t you think it’s cool?
Carol: (Throws her arms up in the air horrified, as if to say, ‘Stay away from me!’) No. There’s nothing cool about this pandemic. Do you think people thought that the Black Plague was cool? We shouldn’t even be here. We should be self quarantining. Get away from me!
Old John: Look, I’m just making conversation. (He puts the index finger of his left hand under his jaw, and takes his pulse.) Go ahead, take one! They’re good for you. (Extending the bag of peanuts towards her with his right hand.) I love them. And they’re cheap. I have a huge sack of peanuts in my apartment. I live on them. Saves me a lot of money on food.
Carol: You’re crazy! Move away!
Old John: You gotta live cheap when you have only social security to live on. I like your spirit, daring to come here just like me. We aren’t afraid to tempt fate. (Finishes his last peanut, then crumples up the bag and tosses it on the ground.) And that’s what we’re both doing here, tempting fate.
CAROL moves away, then looks around as if she were trying to find someone. She looks at her phone, sends a text message then puts the phone back in her bag. OLD JOHN moves close to her again.
Carol: Would you please stand back! We’re supposed to be social distancing; Stay six feet away from me! Unlike you, I haven’t the slightest desire to tempt fate.
Old John: But that’s no way to live is it? Self quarantining!
Carol: Perhaps not. But it’s necessary. So keep your distance!
Old John: Why? I’m not scared.
Carol: Well you should be! Saying you’re not scared doesn’t make it any less dangerous.
Old John: This is fake. (Gestures toward the empty street.) This is all fake.
Carol: Oh for Christ sake! Just keep back! OK?
Old John: Anyway, I’m an old man. Death attempts to visit me on a daily basis, pandemic or no pandemic. I’m used to it.
Carol: You’ll find out soon enough how bad this all is when you keep disregarding the rules and end up dead.
Old John: I don’t believe in death.
Carol: Oh, Jesus! Then what’s the morgue full of? Thousands of people have died all over the world already. Why are they locking down whole cities?
Old John: Information. He who controls information controls the world. It’s all about controlling information.
Carol: Whatever! Will you please stand back! You keep moving too close.
Old John: You don’t have to worry about me, like I told you. I’m super healthy.
Carol: (Pulls her phone out of her bag.) If you don’t stand back I’ll call the police.
Old John: You’ll call the police? (Moves away) I like the police. We are all children of the same gods, you know that? I know what you should do. Try eating only raw foods for a month. (He makes a muscle with his arm.) Feel that!
Carol: I don’t think so.
Old John: At least, you should give up red meat. Eat the colors of the rainbow. You’ll be less angry.
Carol: Yeah, then whenever I got hungry I could just go out on the front lawn and graze.
Old John: (Looking her up and down.) Well considering that you’re a carnivore, you look pretty healthy. How old are you?
Carol: None of your business.
Old John: I’m gonna guess you’re in your early forties.
Carol Do you often flatter the women you meet here?
Old John: Oh, no. I don’t flatter. At my age, I can say whatever I think, and do.
Carol: (Checking her phone for messages.) Come on, Elissa, where are you?
Old John: Who’s Elissa? Is she supposed to be here? . . . Maybe I’ve seen her. I’ve been here all afternoon. Lots of people come here to get a breath of fresh air. . . . What does your daughter look like? . . . Like I said, maybe I’ve seen her.
Carol: (Throws phone in her handbag.) OK. (Reluctantly) . . . She’s five-foot-seven, thin, a brunette, with dark eyes–almost black with long eyelashes. She’s seventeen years old. (Beat.) Well, have you seen someone like that here?
Old John: Maybe. But a lot of girls fit that description. I guess you got no idea what she was wearing. Do you have a photo of her?
Carol: (Gets phone and frantically runs through photos.) Here, look! (She holds the phone up for him to examine.)
Old John: Well there you go. Can you stand a bit closer? My eyes are not what they used to be.
Carol; (Moves closer.) This photo is more than two years old. She was 15 years old when it was taken.
Old John: (Reaching to grab the phone, touching it.) Can I see?
Carol: (Pulling phone away.) If you insist on touching, this conversation is over! Stand back! (OLD JOHN moves back a little. CAROL wipes the phone on her jacket.)
Old John: Sorry. But you’ll have to move closer. (CAROL moves a little closer and holds up the phone to show him.) Wow! (Takes a second look.) Yes, I think . . .
Carol: (Her phone rings.) Thank God, it must be her! . . . Hello! Oh, It’s you, Peter! . . . No, of course I’m not disappointed you called. I’m thrilled. . . . I’m in the Faneuil Marketplace. . . . Where are you? . . . Oh. (Disappointed.) . . . I walked here from my apartment . . . No actually there’s nothing to worry about, there’s no one on the street. It’s a ghost town. . . . My daughter, Elissa, texted me and said to meet her here. . . . That’s what’s odd, she didn’t say where exactly to meet her. . . . She’s more than half an hour late. I feel so alone, Peter. I’ve been in solitary confinement. I wish . . .
Old John: You’re not in solitary anything. I’m here.
Carol: It’s nobody. . . . Not to worry. He’s harmless . . .
Old John: Let me talk to him!
Carol: (Ignoring OLD JOHN’S request.) Don’t worry, darling. I’ll be careful. . . . I love you . . . See you soon, I hope. . . . Bye.
Old John: Peter? Who’s Peter?
Carol: Were you saying you think you saw my daughter?
Old John: I’m not sure. Let me see the phone again.
CAROL shows OLD JOHN the picture of her daughter on her phone.
Old John: Is Peter going to meet you here?
Carol: What difference does it make? Did you see my daughter?
Old John: I think it’s possible. Don’t you think Peter should be here for you?
Carol: Yes . . . No. He’s stuck in the house. What about my daughter?
Old John: Yeah, it’s house arrest for the entire world. But he does have a choice. Shouldn’t he be here with you?
Carol: House arrest? What are you talking about?
Old John: Mischief. First they put the entire world under house arrest, then they do their mischief. (Shakes his head back and forth.) Truth be told, I’ve lived a long time and never would have imagined it would turn out this bad.
Carol: That’s not what I’m talking about. My boyfriend’s married and his wife’s keeping him under lock and key. Please tell me if you saw my daughter.
Old John: Ahhh, forbidden love; I’ve tasted it. Goes sour almost every time.
Carol: It won’t be forbidden for long. He’ll leave her for me.
Old John: How do you know?
Carol: I can tell.
Old John: Did he promise to leave her?
Carol: Yes . . . No. We haven’t really discussed it, but we will. What about my daughter? Where is she?
Old John: Ummm. What about his kids?
Carol: How do you know he has kids?
Old John: In my experience, there’s always kids.
Carol: He has five kids. Three boys and two girls.
Old John: Ah, five kids. And your ex?
Carol: Oh God! Why are you torturing me? (Beat.) My ex? He abandoned us. Then my daughter, at the age of 15, ran off and disappeared.
Old John: Ah! Fifteen. A tender age. I’m sorry for her and for you. (Takes a step in her direction.) Let’s dance? (He puts his arm around her waist.)
Carol: (Pushes him away) Get the fuck away from me!
Old John: (Once again he reaches for her hand.) Come on, let’s dance.
Carol: (Moving away from him.) I’m warning you. (Looks in her bag. Pulls out pepper spray and points it at his face.) Keep away!
Old John: (Throwing his hands up in the air.) No problem. No problem. If you don’t want to touch. That doesn’t have to stop us from dancing, does it? (He begins to gently dance by himself.) We can still dance . . . You wouldn’t be unfaithful to Peter or your ex-husband or your daughter or anyone by dancing with an old man. You can become Isadora Duncan, the ultimate free spirit. And me, Baryshnikov.
Carol: (Puts spray away. Checks her phone again.) You know you’re nuts, don't’ you? (Looks around for her daughter.)
Old John: (Stops dancing. Talk/sings David Byrne’s song.) This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around. No time for dancing or lovey dovey, no CBGB . . . I forget the rest of the lyrics.
Carol: (Interrupting him.) Why are you singing? I hope it’s not for my benefit. I’m certainly not impressed. Singing at this time, when I’m going out of my mind with worry, is sadistic.
Old John: Sorry. Let me see the photo again. . . . (She holds up phone.) Yeah, I’m sure I saw her.
Carol: Where? Where did you see her?
Old John: What did you do before . . . before the pandemic?
Carol: Where is she?
Old John: I can take you to her. But I need to know a little more about the situation before I can take you to her.
Old John: There’s your daughter to consider. I want to be sure I’m doing the right thing.
Carol: (Heavy sigh.) I went back to school. I decided to try to get a degree in counseling. Can you imagine, I was nearly 50 years old! Me, the most fucked-up person I know, wanted to tell fucked-up people how to get better. Did you say you saw my daughter?
Old John: Yes.
Carol: Here today?
Old John: Yes. Definitely.
Carol: Take me to her!
Old John: First I have to know why she ran away.
Carol OK. OK. But if you are lying about seeing my daughter, I’ll pummel you! Do you understand? I’ll go ballistic!
Old John: Ah, it’s the red meat.
Carol: (Takes a deep breath.) When my husband divorced me, I left her with my mother-in-law, a miserable excuse for a woman. All she cares about is money. When Elissa vanished all she could say was ‘serves you right’. (Beat.) I was just getting used to the idea of never seeing her again when she texted to say she wanted to meet me here. . . . Are you sure she’s here?
Old John: Yeah. She’s here.
Carol: Would you please take me to her?
Old John: You need to tell me one more thing: What happened to your ex?
Carol: Why are you doing this to me? How can that help? It’s none of your business! Why can’t you just take me to her?
Old John: Sorry. (Gestures with his hands in such a way as to say, this is what I need to know, and I’m not explaining.)
Carol: He didn’t remarry and from what I hear he never will. He hates women now. He says they’re all like me. I haven’t seen him in a more than two years. He never got over his anger.
Old John: I bet he eats a lot of red meat too.
Carol: Bullshit! Anyway, I paid your price. Take me to my daughter!
Old John: Follow me! (They walk across the stage. A PANTOMIMIST enters from stage left. A black veil covers her face. She is wearing a black leotard with no shoes. She begins to dance.)
Carol: That’s her! Elissa! She’s pretending to dance with somebody.
Old John: Are you sure?
Carol: Yes. She’s wearing white makeup. She’s pantomiming a ghost. She’s pretending that she is dancing with . . . death.
Old John: Well? That’s what we all should do, shouldn’t we? Dance with death, not fear it.
Carol: It’s like she’s in a Bergman movie, the Seventh Seal.
Old John: She moves beautifully.
CAROL approaches the PANTOMIMIST. She strains to see the face behind the black veil. The PANTOMIMIST indicates that she should step back. She does.
OLD JOHN walks straight up to the PANTOMIMIST and gently puts his hands on her shoulders.
Old John: Let me see your face. (The PANTOMIMIST bows her head and he lifts the veil from her face.)
Carol: Elissa! Elissa! You’re so thin. (The PANTOMIMIST shushes her.) What are you doing here? Come on. Let me take you home; I’ll make you something to eat. We can get to know each other again. (The PANTOMIMIST does not move. CAROL looks around. No one else is on the street and it’s getting dark.) Street performers are not supposed to be performing during the lockdown . . . You’ll be arrested if they catch you.
Old John: (He takes the PANTOMIMIST by the hand. She looks at him lovingly.) Shall we dance? (The PANTOMIMIST and OLD JOHN begin to dance free-style together, ignoring CAROL.) You are Margot Fonteyn, I am Rudolf Nureyev. We are the wind that speaks. We are the sound of the light.
The PANTOMIMIST removes her veil and allows it to float to the ground, then turns to CAROL, waving goodbye. She and OLD JOHN continue dancing.
Carol: Wait a minute! You’re not Elissa! Who are you? (Stage and house go completely dark. We hear the PANTOMIMIST and OLD JOHN coughing violently.) What’s going on? (PANTOMIMIST and OLD JOHN disappear.) This is a dream! (Lights go back on.) This is a dream! (We hear recording of Hey Children Watch that Sound.) Thank goodness this is only a dream. (Stage and house go completely dark again. Music stops. Carol speaks from the dark.) When I wake up, the nightmare will be over. (Stage and house lights go on.)