Brookside by Mark Olmsted
CURTAIN UP on a large upper west side Manhattan apartment in 1944
On the left is the doorway in, giving on to a smallish kitchen with a
counter that looks onto a dining room table. Stage Right is the living
room, behind which is a desk. At the far side of the room is a
wheeled cart that serves as a bar.
At the back of the stage is an archway through which one can go left
or right down a hallway to several bedrooms and a bathroom.
The decor is well-appointed but not ritzy. The Fords are upper-middle
class at a time when a large Riverside Avenue apartment would be
affordable to an engineer.
The key turns in the lock, and in comes CASEY FORD and STEPHEN CONWAY
They are dressed in prep-school uniforms, but ties are loose—they've just been on
a long train ride
The boys are both 16, but Casey is tall and athletic and Stephen is shorter and
a little pudgy
Casey is far more confident than Stephen, who struggles to act more maturely than he
They put down their small suitcases. Casey hangs up his overcoat, than takes Steven's
and does the same with it.
From the bedroom we hear Ida Ford's voice
IDA: Casey is that you, dear?
CASEY: Yes, Mom.
IDA: I'm just taking my face off.
She comes out through the archway, her face bearing the markings of
recently removed make-up. IDA, 42, is a former nightclub singer, her
beauty fading but still evident. She's more Barbara Stanwyck than
Myrna Loy, and she likes to drink.
IDA: Oh my! Stephen Conway!
STEPHEN: Hello, Mrs. Ford.
She kisses him on the cheek.
IDA: You used to call me "Aunt Ida."
STEPHEN: Hello, Aunt Ida.
IDA: It's good to see you Stephen. (to Casey) And my handsome son.
She hugs him, but awkwardly.
CASEY: Anything more about Dad?
IDA: No I'm afraid not… (to Steven) You know he's missing in
action in Italy?
STEPHEN: Yes, Casey told me.
IDA: Of course he did… So to what do we owe the pleasure of this
CASEY: Didn't Dean Fellows call you mother?
IDA: Maybe. I was out most of the day. Setting up for the USO
CASEY: Steven, do you have to use the restroom or anything?
Stephen, blessedly, can take a hint.
STEPHEN: Sure, Casey.
Stephen goes under the arch, to the right. We hear a door open and
CASEY: Mother, a USO show? Did you sing too?
IDA: Yes I did. What of it? (justifying) ...It keeps my mind off your
CASEY: What if there'd been news?
IDA: For heaven's sake, I told the doorman where I was, he would
Casey sighs. He won't change his mother, so he changes the subject.
CASEY: Where's Karen?
IDA: Asleep, hopefully… She's been in a terrible state since the
news, so don't think of waking her.
CASEY: No, of course not.
IDA: Now, could you tell me why we have a houseguest?
Stephen has come out of the bathroom and heard this.
STEPHEN: My father was in an accident, Mrs Ford Aunt Ida. My
mother called school to get me on the next train.
He exchanges glances with Casey, as if needs his silence.
IDA: An accident? When?
STEPHEN: Sunday. I don't have any details.
CASEY: It's too late to go to New Jersey. So I invited him here.
IDA: We must call your mother.
STEPHEN: I called from the station. The maid said she's sleeping at
the hospital… She'll call here if there's any change.
IDA: Did the maid say how your father's doing?
STEPHEN: It's serious. That's all we know.
IDA: You know what? I think you boys could probably handle a drink. I
know I could.
She strolls over to a cart against the wall, and swivels. She pours as
IDA: (to Casey) Oh don't disapprove of me dear. We're all worried
sick. This is purely medicinal.
STEPHEN: Thanks Aunt Ida. That's swell of you.
Casey just shrugs. What the hell. He gestures at Stephen to sit, and
takes two of the drinks from his mother. Then he sits, and she joins
them with the third.
IDA:(to Stephen) Whatever you do, don't tell your Mother. I don't
think I've ever even seen her finish a glass of wine.
STEPHEN: She says it makes her dizzy.
IDA: That means she likes to stay in control.
CASEY: What's wrong with that?
IDA: Nothing at dear, nothing at all. It has served her very well in
life. She used to run that ward in Bellevue with an iron fist. Even
the doctors were afraid of her.
STEPHEN: You knew her back then?
IDA: That's when we met. When your father was injured this was
way back in '25 of course Casey's Dad visited him in the
hospital every day. Took me along a few times. Those two were always
thick as thieves, could talk about engineering for hours, so I got
bored and started talking to the nurses. Fact, I'm the one who
pointed out Hazel was taking a special interest in Russell. I don't
think your Dad would ever have noticed otherwise, frankly.
CASEY: You always talk to strangers.
IDA: And what's wrong with that? I think people are interesting.
(to Stephen) Casey thinks all I do is talk, but I listen, really I do.
That's how I found out your parents both lost their fathers when
they were young, had to grow up fast. I think they bonded over that.
Steven swigs his drink. Casey seeks to lighten the mood.
CASEY: How'd you meet Dad again, Mom?
IDA: Oh, you know this story.
STEPHEN: I'd like to hear it.
IDA: Well, all right then. I was singing in a club…a speakeasy, to
tell you the truth, it was Prohibition…and it was round the corner
from Bellevue. Casey's father had just come up with your father, all
the way from Florida, wasn't it?
STEPHEN: They were working on that bridge, in Key West.
IDA: That's right, and a cable snapped or something. Anyway, your
father was in terrible shape. Had broken his ribs, his leg in two
places, needed surgery. Awful. I don't know how Jack arranged it
with the company, but he insisted, the very best doctors for Russell,
even if it meant chartering a whole train car, all the way to New
STEPHEN: Chartered a train? I never heard that.
IDA: You know your father. That New England stoicism. All that
attention embarrassed him.
CASEY: Go on, Mom.
IDA: Anyway, Jack didn't know a soul in New York, so every night
he'd just come and watch me sing, just to have something to do.
After the fourth night or so, I finally sat down next to him after a
show and said-
CASEY: "well buy me drink or ask me to marry you, but do
something for God's sake."
IDA:(to Stephen)I told you he knew the story.
STEPHEN: Well did he buy you a drink or just marry you?
Stephen feels very witty from the alcohol.
IDA: Oh he bought me a drink, all right. And then asked me to dance.
Let me tell you, that's how you win the heart of a girl like me. I
could never marry a man who didn't know how to move around a dance
floor, and that, he knew how to do.
CASEY: Knows how to do.
IDA: Of course. Knows how to do. He'll be back to us.
Casey goes to the cart and fetches the bottle of scotch back.
STEPHEN: Can I ask you something Aunt Ida?
IDA: Of course, dear.
Casey returns to the sofa, tipping a bit of his scotch into
STEPHEN: Did you speak to my father this weekend? After you got the
The buzzer from the intercom interrupts her.
IDA: Who could that be at this hour?
[end of extract]