A Death in Brooklyn by Harris W Freedman
This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent
(Spring 1960. Flatbush Brooklyn)
(The lights come up on the living room in a pre-WWII building: Alfred
is pacing. He is overweight and perspiring. Eileen is sitting on a
sofa. She is red-eyed and red-nosed from crying. Evelyn, is sitting
next to Eileen.)
(In the spill of light we can make out the shape of Bernice in the
kitchen sitting at a table reading a magazine.)
EVELYN: Alfred, you're making me nervous. You're making Eileen
nervous. It's bad enough without having you pace.
ALFRED: If I want to pace I'll pace.
EVELYN: Now see what you've done.
ALFRED: What did I do? I didn't do anything.
EVELYN: It's your pacing.
ALFRED: I'm not pacing. I'm thinking.
(Eileen sobs, EVELYN hugs her shoulders.)
EVELYN: (to Alfred) Why don't you think sitting down?
ALFRED: You know I can't think sitting down. It's a terrible thing. Terrible.
(Eileen sobs again. Evelyn hugs Eileen's shoulders.)
EILEEN: Poor David.
ALFRED: He's late.
EVELYN: (to Eileen.) You could use some coffee.
ALFRED: I could use some coffee. We all could use some coffee. Where
the hell is he?
(Evelyn EXITS the sitting room and ENTERS the kitchen. Alfred watches
her go. We can see Evelyn place a kettle on the stove.)
That woman will be the death of me.
(He resumes pacing.)
(LIGHTS FADE to half on the sitting room as LIGHTS comes up full on
the kitchen. Bernice is reading a magazine.)
(Evelyn begins to prepare coffee.)
EVELYN: He's pacing again.
BERNICE: He's a nervous wreck.
EVELYN: Bernie was such a nice man. No one ever had a bad word to say
about him. Such a good sense of humor - you could just die from
BERNICE: After someone dies everyone only remembers the good things.
I'm not saying he wasn't good, but he wasn't perfect. He was my
brother so I should know.
EVELYN: Poor David. He doesn't even know yet.
BERNICE: We shouldn't leave Eileen alone.
EVELYN: Alfred's with her. He's always around when someone's in
trouble. My Alfred's not perfect, but he's good.
BERNICE: If he were dead he'd suddenly be perfect.
EVELYN: Bernice, you've got a big mouth.
(calling out) Coffee Alfred!
BERNICE: If he's coming in here I'll keep Eileen company.
(As Bernice EXITS and Alfred ENTERS, she speaks to him.)
(Bernice goes into the half-lit living room and sits next to
(Alfred sits at the kitchen table, puts three heaping teaspoons of
sugar into his cup, stirs, and takes a noisy slurp of coffee.)
ALFRED: I guess we'll have to take them in.
EVELYN: They can't stay with Bernice.
(As Alfred speaks, he puts two cookies into his mouth one at a time,
taking a sip of coffee between each one. He talks with his mouth full.)
ALFRED: We'll have to take them in.
EVELYN: We can't give them Estelle's room.
ALFRED: She's touchy about her things.
EVELYN: She's not touchy.
ALFRED: She's touchy. I know touchy.
EVELYN: She just doesn't like people touching her things.
ALFRED: So she's touchy.
EVELYN: We should tell her. She should come to the funeral.
ALFRED: Why upset her? You want her to fail her final exams?
EVELYN: People will talk.
ALFRED: So you'll talk back. But they can't have Estelle's room.
EVELYN: We can fix up the basement.
ALFRED: They can't stay with Bernice.
EVELYN: No, they can't stay with her.
(LIGHTS come up full on the living room.)
(Eileen is on the sofa blowing her nose and dabbing her eyes with a
tissue. Bernice is sitting next to her.)
(We can see Evelyn and Alfred sitting at the kitchen table talking,
but we can't hear them.)
EILEEN: Who's going to tell David?
BERNICE: Alfred wouldn't know what to say. I'll have to do it.
EILEEN: What's going to happen to us aunt Bernice?
BERNICE: Of course you could stay with me. I don't have very much
room. I don't make much money. But you could stay with me.
(She nods her head in the direction of the kitchen.)
They have plenty of money. But you know how they are.
(Eileen and Bernice sit in silence as)
(In the kitchen, Evelyn refills Alfred's cup.)
EVELYN: Who's going to tell him?
ALFRED: I'll tell him.
EVELYN: Be gentle.
ALFRED: I'll be gentle. I'm always gentle.
(He lifts his cup and as he distractedly brings it to his mouth he
spills coffee onto his lap. He jumps up.)
(Evelyn tries to wipe the coffee off Alfred's trousers.)
EVELYN: When David comes home, be kind. Remember, he's just a boy.
ALFRED: I'll remember. What do you think I am? Where the hell is he?
(LIGHTS FADE to BLACK OUT on both the kitchen and sitting room.)
(End of Scene 1)
(Prospect Park, Brooklyn. There is a park bench and a large tree with
a low hanging branch.)
(DAVID and MR. G. are hiding behind the tree and peeking out at the
(Mr. G. speaks with a Hungarian accent. David is carrying his backpack
with his school books.)
MR. G: Do you think they'll get us?
DAVID: Don't know.
(David peeks around the tree at the audience, then pulls back
MR. G: Is it safe?
DAVID: Don't know.
MR. G: Do you think we should warn them?
(Mr. G. indicates the audience.)
MR. G: Them.
DAVID: Oh, them.
MR. G: Yes.
(David and Mr. G inch toward the audience, then they stop.)
MR. G: (To audience) Psssssssst. Pssssssssssst. Pssssssssssssssst.
Turn around and go home.
DAVID: (To audience) Go home.
MR. G: (To David) Did they ask why?
DAVID: Can't say.
MR. G: (To audience) You can't say we didn't warn you.
(David peeks around the other side of the tree.)
DAVID: (To audience) Nope, you can't say we didn't warn you.
MR. G: (To David) They won't listen to reason.
(David peeks around so that he and Mr. G are practically
DAVID: (To Mr. G.) Well, they can't say we didn't warn them.
MR. G: Some people will never learn.
DAVID: That's what I always say.
(Mr. G. looks around.)
MR. G: I think it's safe.
(Mr. G sits on the bench.)
DAVID: Do you really live in a big old house?
MR. G: Yes, but my apartment is small, and it's full of ghosts.
DAVID: There are no such things as ghosts.
MR. G: We're surrounded by ghosts.
DAVID: I don't see any.
(Mr. G taps his head with his finger.)
MR. G: Memories.
DAVID: Do you call memories ghosts because you're afraid of them?
MR. G: No, I call them ghosts because they're always there to haunt
DAVID: Do you have bad memories?
MR. G: Some good and some bad, and when you live alone memories tend
to have a life of their own.
DAVID: Don't you have a wife? Don't you have any children?
MR. G: My wife died a long time ago, may she rest in peace. As for my
children - I hope they're alive and well, but I don't know where they
DAVID: Did they run away?
MR. G: No, David, they didn't run away, they were saved.
DAVID: From what?
MR. G: From some evil people.
DAVID: Who? When?
MR. G: Twenty years ago.
DAVID: Where do you think they are?
MR. G: I believe they are here in America. That's why I came here
after the war.
DAVID: I'll bet they miss you.
MR. G: They may not remember me. My son was five years old and my
little girl was three - enough about me, you must be expected home by
DAVID: Will you meet me after school tomorrow?
MR. G: For your own safety you shouldn't talk to strangers.
DAVID: I know, but you're different. Promise to meet me tomorrow.
MR. G: I promise.
DAVID: Let's meet here.
MR. G: Okay, we'll meet here.
DAVID: You won't forget?
MR. G: This will be one of my good memories. No I won't forget.
(David begins to walk, but Mr. G remains sitting.)
DAVID: Aren't you coming?
MR. G: I live in the other direction.
DAVID: Come home with me.
MR. G: I don't think I should. You don't really know me.
DAVID: I feel like I know you a long time. Come. You can have dinner
with us. You'll like my father and my sister.
MR. G: What about your mother?
DAVID: She died six months ago.
MR. G: I'm very sorry.
DAVID: I miss her.
(David steps onto the bench and climbs onto the low hanging branch
of the tree. He grabs hold, manages to gets his legs over and hang
upside down. Mr. G gets up to stand next to him, worrying that David
You're wrong side up.
MR. G: Be careful.
DAVID: How old are you?
MR. G: 80.
DAVID: 80! That's very old. How does it feel?
MR. G: Inside I feel very young, just like I did when I was a boy.
But my body is old. I feel like a bird in a cage.
DAVID: Come home with me.
MR. G: Not today, David.
DAVID: Then let me show you where I live, in case you change your
mind. I'm coming down. Watch out beeeeelllooooowwww.
(David tries to grab the branch with his hands. Mr. G is standing
under him. David struggles, drops his feet and then lets go of the
branch. He falls and Mr. G tries to help him. They both land on the
ground and laugh. David helps Mr. G to his feet. Mr. G tries to hide
that he hurt himself.)
MR. G: Are you okay?
DAVID: Are you okay?
MR. G: I'm okay.
DAVID: What are their names?
MR. G: Whose names?
DAVID: Your children.
MR. G: Isaac and Sarah.
DAVID: Come on, I'll show you where I live.
(Mr. G follows David to EXIT.)
(LIGHTS to BLACK OUT.)
(End of Scene 2)
(LIGHTS come up on the living room of David's apartment.)
(Bernice and Eileen are sitting on the sofa. Evelyn is standing over
Eileen holding out a plate of honey cakes. Alfred is pacing.)
EVELYN: Have some cake.
EILEEN: No thank you.
BERNICE: You have to eat.
EVELYN: Honey cake. Homemade. The best.
(Alfred takes a piece and eats as he paces.)
So, Alfred? Good?
(Evelyn pushes the plate under Eileen's nose.)
BERNICE Eileen, eat. You have to eat.
EILEEN: I'm not hungry.
BERNICE: You don't want to get sick.
EVELYN: It's the best Eileen, the best.
(She puts a piece in her mouth.)
Alfred, isn't this the best?
(She holds the cake under Eileen's nose.)
(Alfred takes another slice and stuffs it into his mouth.)
ALFRED: The best.
EVELYN: You never tasted such a cake in your life. My Estelle,
whenever she comes home the first thing she wants is her mama's
BERNICE: Take. Your father wouldn't want you to get sick from not
(Eileen sobs. Bernice takes a piece from the plate, and begins to
(Evelyn puts the plate on the small table in front of Eileen.)
EVELYN: I'll leave it here so you can reach.
(She sits next to Eileen.)
It's a terrible thing.
EVELYN: He was only 42 - a young man. A real tragedy. Where's
BERNICE: When he comes, I'll tell him.
BERNICE: Who else?
ALFRED: Me, that's who else.
EVELYN: Alfred should tell him.
ALFRED: I should tell him.
BERNICE: You're the last one to tell him.
ALFRED: I'm his uncle!
BERNICE: I'm his aunt!
EVELYN: Alfred should tell him.
BERNICE: You keep out of this!
EVELYN: Don't raise your voice to me.
EILEEN: Stop arguing!
BERNICE: Poor Bernie. One minute he's walking down the street going
to work, and the next minute he just falls down and scratches his face
on the sidewalk.
ALFRED: The one day I don't go to work and look what happens. It was
EVELYN: It's a terrible thing.
ALFRED: It only bothers me when it rains. It's not really chronic.
BERNICE: What's not chronic?
ALFRED: My back. It comes with the rain.
EVELYN I know it's going to rain as soon as my knee aches.
EILEEN: What will happen to us?
BERNICE: You can come and live with me.
EVELYN: No, you'll come to live with us. We have a house, and Alfred
makes a good living.
ALFRED: It's not such a good living.
BERNICE: (To Eileen.) Your uncle Alfred only complains so God forbid
anyone should ask him for money.
EVELYN: (To Bernice) Alfred is very generous.
BERNICE: Accountants are not generous. My next-door neighbor is an
accountant. He has a very sweet wife, but her mother I can do
EVELYN: Then it's settled.
You'll stay with us.
BERNICE: Bernie's face may he rest in peace was so scratched…
EILEEN: (Sobbing) Oh, Papa…
EVELYN: (To Eileen.) Don't worry. They do wonderful work these days.
They're almost plastic surgeons. My uncle Moshe, may he rest in
peace, he fell down in the shower, banged his head, and cut his face.
He had only one kidney. They said it was his heart. But you couldn't
tell that he cut himself. You could look at him there in his coffin
and you couldn't tell. They know their business.
(Alfred begins to exit. Bernice gets up and follows him.)
BERNICE: Where are you going?
ALFRED: To look for David.
BERNICE: I'm coming.
EVELYN: When it rains it pours.
(LIGHTS FADE to HALF.)
(End of Scene 3)
(LIGHTS come up on the street in front of David's apartment building
as Alfred and Bernice ENTER.)
ALFRED: I'll tell him.
BERNICE: I'll tell him. You won't be gentle enough.
ALFRED: You're as gentle as a Mack truck. I'll do it.
BERNICE: You don't even know what gentle means. Since you became rich
and moved to Long Island you're too good for anyone. Now all of a
sudden you're an uncle again.
ALFRED: Man to man is what he needs.
BERNICE: He needs a woman's touch. If you open your big fat mouth,
I'll never talk to you again.
(David and Mr. G enter from the opposite side of the stage. David
stops when sees Alfred and Bernice arguing. They don't see him.)
DAVID: That's my aunt and uncle. I wonder what they're doing here.
He hardly ever comes to visit.
MR. G: I'd better leave you here.
DAVID: Please come to supper.
MR. G: I'll meet you tomorrow after school. Go on.
(David turns and takes a step. He turns back.)
Go on. Don't keep them waiting.
DAVID: See ya.
MR. G: See ya.
(Mr. G watches David for a moment and then turns and EXITS.)
(Bernice sees David coming. She grabs Alfred's arm.)
BERNICE: You tell him…Be gentle…be gentle.
(David comes up to them and looks up at them.)
ALFRED: Where have you been?
DAVID: Why are you in the street? Aunt Bernice, what's the matter?
ALFRED: We have something to tell you.
DAVID: What's wrong? Something's wrong.
(Bernice kneels in front of David to hug him.)
ALFRED: I don't know how to tell you.
(David pulls away before Bernice can hug him.)
DAVID: It's something very bad isn't it?
ALFRED: It's your father…
BERNICE: It's your Papa…
DAVID: What happened to my Papa?
(David runs, Bernice and Alfred try to stop him.)
Papa! Papa! Let me go! Let me go! Papa!
ALFRED: He's dead, David. He died this morning…
DAVID: He's not dead. He can't be dead! Papa!
(He breaks away from them and runs into the living room of the
apartment. They chase after him.)
Papa! Papa! Papa!
(Bernice, Alfred and Evelyn try to catch him to console him, but he
won't let anyone touch him.)
(Eileen catches him and embraces him.)
EILEEN: Papa's not here David.
DAVID: He has to be here. He has to! Papa!
EILEEN: Papa's dead.
DAVID: He's not dead! He's not! Papa!
(LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK OUT)
[end of extract]