SICK by Dahn Hiuni

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent

ACT I

SCENE 1

Outside a Greenwich Village Cinema, Late show.

The marquee reads The Boys in the Band.

RON and BARBARA exit the theater.

RON is visibly annoyed.

HE lights a cigarette.

RON: That was just awful.

BARBARA: Yeah, was pretty bad.

RON: How could he have written something like that? First big gay movie and this is what people have to see?

BARBARA: That’s not what you do at parties, is it?

RON: (chuckling) I mean, there’s always a nelly queen—I really don’t mind all the swishing, and Mary-this and Mary that. It’s the self-loathing thing that’s so fucking maddening. It was the same on Broadway. All that… recreational bitchiness. Just cringe-worthy.

BARBARA: He’s just ‘writing what he knows?’

RON: Why—are all our friends bitter and catty and self-hating? No, they’re not! They’re smart and cool and tuned in.

(slight pause)

It’s just… this is Hollywood. The big time. A freak show like this just reconfirms everything they think of us.

(slight pause)

Maybe it was better off when it was veiled.

BARBARA: Veiled?

RON: All the major American playwrights are gay and they’re all writing in code… substituting women and straights with what are really all gay characters.

BARBARA: Blanche Dubois is really Bruce?

RON: Yup.

BARBARA: So this is a fully-gay Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf without Elizabeth Taylor.

RON: Exactly! We’re all just a bunch of angry, tormented, vengeful queens. And alcoholics. Did you see all that goddamn drinking?

BARBARA: Yeah. It really made me want a drink.

(slight pause)

Though Virginia Woolf had just as much drinking, and self-hating, I might add.

RON: Well, When they do it, it’s dramatic. When we do it, it’s because we’re sick.

BARBARA: Well, you’re in the biz, talk to your people at Variety. Tell ‘em to make something better!

RON: Honey, it’s a newspaper, not a studio.

BARBARA: I mean, talk to some agents and producer folk. And take revenge in your reviews!

RON: It may be time.

BARBARA: What does the title mean anyway? What band?

RON: It’s a line from A Star is Born. James Mason tells Judy Garland that she’s just been singing for herself--and the boys in the band.

BARBARA: Insularity.

RON: And that constant word. Homosexual! They must have said it a thousand times. It’s German, you know. German pseudo-science. Like Mengele.

BARBARA: Well, it’s better than invert, or faggot.

RON: I like ‘gay.’

BARBARA: I like ‘dyke.’

RON: Dyke!

BARBARA: Invert!

RON: Lezbo!

BARBARA: Degenerate… pansy!

RON: There aren’t as many names for lesbians.

BARBARA: No, there aren’t! Fruitcake!

RON and BARBARA laugh

RON: It’s just, this was such a great opportunity. Imagine a young person going to see this film and asking themselves ‘Is this what’s in store for me, this sad and pathetic life?’ I’d be completely mortified.

BARBARA: Well, it was written before the riots. Soon there’ll be young people writing about the movement, about liberation, and pride. Or maybe even just a love story.

RON: That’d be something.

BARBARA: Why don’t you write something!

RON: Maybe I will!

BARBARA: Hey, at least they make movies about you guys. Where’s my lesbian movie? I’ll tell you, I’m getting a little tired of the Children’s Hour. That creepy girl.

RON: What can we do, honey?

BARBARA: People have been boycotting the movie.

RON: I mean more. Something from within. Like, a gay writers’ consciousness group, in Hollywood or something.

BARBARA: That’s a great idea. Why don’t we suggest a group for here too, at our next meeting?

RON: Show who we really are. Without all this pathology.

(slight pause)

You went to the shrink convention in D.C., no? How’d that go?

BARBARA: Well, they’d said, ‘you’re sick.’ We’d say, ‘no, we don’t think we’re sick.’ They’d say, ‘no, that’s your sickness talking…’

RON: Arrogant bastards. What about the San Francisco one?

BARBARA: Better. I did the “Gay Is Good” panel. We had a kissing booth! I had quite the case of chapped lips.

RON: Don’t catch anything! So when’s the next conference?

BARBARA: It’s coming up in Spring.

RON: We need to target the media, but we also need to stay on the shrinks.

BARBARA: Why don’t you come this time?

RON: Maybe. But no more drag queens just barging into APA sessions and shooting glitter bombs! We have to demand more.

BARBARA: Well, if we can take on the NYPD, we can take on the shrinks.

Ron slowly nods. The Judy Garland song rises and fades. Lights fade.

SCENE 2

Gay Activist Alliance Office, The Next Afternoon. RON is seated at a desk, manning the volunteer helpline. Adjacent is a small counseling area, with comfortable armchairs. It is cordoned off for privacy. The phone rings. RON answers.

RON: Gay Activist Alliance, can I help you? Yes. City or state? Hold on, let me get that for you. You ready?

670-5428. Sure, you’re welcome.

RON hangs up. He is pensive, anxious. He is startled by another call.

RON: GAA, Can I help you? Spiritual? What do you mean, like religious? Let me look here. We have ‘Recovering Gay Catholics,’ on Thursday nights, ‘Yeshiva Day School Gay Alumni…’ probably not for you. There’s gay EST. EST! It’s like a new-age, self-help group. I don’t know, mam. Oh, sir, sorry. Well, it’s a very personal thing, isn’t it? You could do that. Alright. Bye-bye. Nope, I don’t need to be blessed, but thank you…

RON hangs up. He looks around to make sure the coast is clear and then makes a personal call.

RON: Carol, it’s Ron from Variety. Can you put Jerry on the line.

(Slight pause)

Jerry, it’s Ron. Ron Gold! Listen, I saw your little movie last night. Well, you were a part of it. Did I like it? No, I didn’t like it! In fact, I thought it was terrible! It gave me a fucking migraine! Why, Jerry—why would you involve yourself in something like this? You know like what! People believe what you… Am I a sad drunk? Do I hate myself and all my friends? No, I don’t think you do either. So why? That’s... I know it’s a play. I don’t care if it won a fucking Pulitzer!

(Listening…)

You know the movie’s already being boycotted. I, I… am not censoring you, you mindless twit! Don’t you

understand? No. No, now is the time for change! Well, you’re a traitor to your people. Stereo… stereotypes. Why don’t you just make a two-hour movie of Jews counting money!

A CLIENT tentatively steps into the office. RON gestures to him to wait in the counseling area.

RON: No, you’re a schmuck! I’m an angry fag, Jerry--don’t underestimate me! Wait till this comes to TV, I’m gonna give you the worst review ever! Yes, in TV Guide!! People read TV Guide, asshole. You’re gonna run back to Pennsylvania, and you better hide with the Amish, Jerry, cause we’re gonna find you in a big pile of buggy horseshit, and we’re gonna point the finger at YOU!

RON slams the phone down

RON: Fucking theater queen.

RON gets up to greet the client. He extends a hand.

RON: Hi. I’m Ron.

CLIENT tentatively meets RON’s hand

CLIENT: Is this a bad time?

RON: No, no. Please, sit down.

THEY sit facing each other. A silent moment, then

RON: I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name? I mean, you don’t have to tell me your real name.

CLIENT: It’s Dalton.

RON: Well, hi Dalton. That’s a fancy name! Welcome to the Gay Activist Alliance.

(Slight pause)

DALTON: Are you a shrink?

RON: (chuckling) Oh Jesus, no! I’m a writer. I just volunteer here once a week. So, what’s goin’ on, Dalton?

DALTON: (Hesitating) I think I have crabs.

RON: Oh, ok, well, that’s easily taken care of.

DALTON: It’s awful.

RON: I know, but, not the end of the world.

DALTON: It’s not the first time.

(Slight pause)

But this time I kind of made the mistake of going to my family doctor. I asked him not to tell my mom, but he ended up calling her anyway.

RON: Ah…

DALTON: She freaked out. She asked me if I was a prostitute.

RON: Are you? I mean, it’s OK if you are.

DALTON: No. I mean, one time I pretended to be. I asked this one guy for a tenner and he gave it to me. I just bought an ice cream after. But, no, I’m not a hustler.

RON: Well, good.

DALTON: But I… I do go to the park. And the piers.

RON: Oh? You’re a bit young, no?

DALTON: I guess. But… it’s what I want.

RON: OK.

DALTON: Well, that’s where I got the crabs.

(Slight pause)

Anyway, I came home one night late, and my mom was doing the dishes. And I guess she could smell that I’d been somewhere bad. She started to cry. It was awful. The next morning, she told me she was taking me to a psychiatrist. She threatened to take me out of school if I didn’t stop.

RON: And your dad?

DALTON: He’s out of the picture.

RON: Dalton, do you have any brothers or sisters?

DALTON: No, just me. I have cousins. Anyway, I went to the psychiatrist. He was so mean. He said that if I didn’t stop going… with men, that I’d be a drug addict or a drunk, or both, and that I would end up in jail, or living on the streets. He wouldn’t even look at me. And he said that no one would ever love me or want to be with me. He said I was very sick, and that if I didn’t try to cure myself, they’d have to do electric shock.

DALTON burst into tears. RON moves to sit beside him, and holds him.

RON: Hey, hey. No one’s doing any electric shock. Dalton. Dalton. Look at me. No one’s gonna touch you.

RON hands him a tissue.

RON: Kid. You’re perfect the way you are.

DALTON wipes away tears.

DALTON: You’re nice.

(Slight pause)

But that’s not the worst of it. I’m in love with my best friend.

(crying…)

From school. I mean really in love, but… he doesn’t know. He’s straight. And I know he loves me, but not like that. And it’s torture. Just so unfair.

RON: Dalton, listen to me. You’re a smart guy, I can tell. You’re gonna be OK. I know it doesn’t help much now, but most of us have been through this. And it’s incredibly painful. But you will work through the pain, and one day someone’s gonna love you, very very much.

DALTON cries.

RON: I promise you. And all this pain will just be a memory. I know you don’t believe me now, but it will.

RON attempts to hide his emotion from the client.

RON: What’s his name?

DALTON: Jack.

RON: Jack. He sounds like a fox.

DALTON: (crying and laughing) He is.

DALTON wipes his tears and blows his nose.

DALTON: I think I’d like to be a writer too.

RON nods in approval. As the two sit together, we see a new resolve forming on RON’s face. Music. Lights fade.

SCENE 3

A ‘GayPA’ Dinner Party, Home of Larry Schwartz. That Evening. LARRY is cooking off to the side while his guests are seated in the living room.

JOHN: It’s a low turn-out tonight.

LARRY: Well, it’s their loss… because I’m making fondue!

LYLE: (To John) I don’t like to constantly dip for my dinner.

JOHN: I think it’s just the appetizer.

LYLE: Just put a piece of meat on my plate.

LARRY: Lynda, you’re gonna love it. It’s got a lot of white wine in the sauce. OK. Now we wait.

LYLE gets up to snoop around Larry’s apartment. LARRY dries his hands and removes his apron. HE reaches for a large stack of oversized cards on a side table and picks one up.

LARRY: I just got my new Rorschachs in the mail today!

JOHN: Larry, I didn’t know you were into psychology.

LARRY turns to show it to his colleagues.

LARRY: Oh, yeah, it’s fascinating! Lyle, what do you see?

LYLE: (disinterestedly) A cock.

(Pause.)

JOHN: No, it’s more of… a melancholy butterfly.

LYLE: A melancholy butterfly? What’s wrong with you?

LARRY: I think it’s open to interpretation, Lyle!

(Strange pause. THEY look at the inkblot and at each other.)

LARRY: Anyway. No official agenda tonight. We’ll keep it brief, but we have to start planning for Dallas.

LYLE: (Dire) Like Jackie?

LARRY: I do wish there were more people here. There’s a lot to delegate.

JOHN: Well, we can start with us. Tell us what’s on the list, Larry?

LARRY: Well, first of all, we have to make handouts of the relevant panels at the conference, and our questioning strategies. We have to make a list of straight allies so we can identify them on panels and support them. Any takers?

JOHN: I can photocopy in my office. I mean, after hours of course.

LYLE: Good call.

LARRY: Also, we need a map with all the locations.

JOHN: God, I don’t enjoy Texas.

LARRY: We need a local bar, somewhere near the hotel, for the annual GayPA cocktail party.

LYLE: I’ll find the bar.

LARRY: Great.

JOHN: You know there’s gonna be gay activists there, just like the last two years.

LARRY: Yes, and that’s great. They’ll do things their way, and we’ll do things our way.

LYLE: Well, Kameny always show up in a respectable suit.

JOHN: I’m more concerned about the militants, and the hippies. In San Francisco, we had six feathered activists storm into the aversion therapy session. They danced and shot confetti at everyone.

LYLE: Oh, that was festive! And they called Bieber a Motherfucker.

JOHN: He deserved it.

LARRY: Well, boys, I’m afraid all that was my fault.

JOHN: What do you mean?

LARRY:

I… may have passed along some information.

LYLE: You little spy!

LARRY: I kinda wanted something to happen, so, I snuck some press passes out to the activists.

JOHN: Larry!

LYLE: You’re a double-fucking-agent!

JOHN: That’s so sneaky, Lawrence.

(Slight pause)

I like one of them a lot though. Barbara Gittings. She’ll be there.

LYLE: Which one is she again?

JOHN: The lesbian-librarian. With the short hair.

LYLE: Oh, that narrows it down.

JOHN: She’s a doll. Last year she organized a panel called “Lifestyles of Non-patient Homosexuals.”

LYLE: You mean Impatient Homosexuals.

LARRY: There’s a gay rights movement happening out there and we kinda need to join it.

JOHN: Things will happen… organically.

LARRY: John, I think it may be going a little faster than we realize. There’re activists out there on the streets, with a lot fewer resources. And they’re expecting something of us.

LYLE: Eh…

LARRY: The GayPA can’t just be a secret social club.

LYLE: Honey, you’re not gonna get anything done without change on the inside.

LARRY: I know that—that’s what I mean. We have to mobilize. We have some wonderful young straight allies who’ve gotten on board.

LYLE: Lar, I think you need to lower your expectations.

(Slight pause)

There’s 18,000 shrinks in this country. Even if only five percent of them are gay, that’s still… 900 gay shrinks! Why are there only 3 people here?

[End of Extract]

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