Welcome to the Ball by Dorothy Tan
ACT I - SCENE I
Fade in "The Montague Processional" (Jay Ungar &Molly Mason)
Lights Rise to reveal CHORUS, standing on a soap box in a dramatic pose, dressed in a glamorous sequined gown
She holds a microphone shaped like a torch, into which she speaks
What is freedom
But bitter end
Through once-promised land
And what is life
To love where love
Most becomes me
Promise all joy
Drown sorrow'd tears
If you look no further
Than what's promised here
The torch of hope
For eenie meenie
Fade in "Home on the Range" (Roy Rogers) as Lights Cross-Fade to reveal the living room of the Penryn house
She goes to the radio, turns the dial
Music changes to the news
MARTHA goes to the bay windows, picks up the binoculars, and looks through them out the window
NEWSCASTER'S VOICE: In local news, a body has been found in a junkyard north of I-30. It's the fourth body to be discovered since the FBI began investigating the activities of the so-called "Four Finger Gang," an outfit suspected to have links to terrorist groups.
MARTHA: Interesting . . . .
She puts the binoculars down on the window sill and exits into the kitchen
Enter JEREMY, out of breath but trying to calm himself
NEWSCASTER'S VOICE: The body was found about fifty yards from where the other bodies were discovered. Like the other three before it, was missing a thumb on both hands.
JEREMY: Honey . . . I'm home.
He puts down brief case and takes off his coat
NEWSCASTER'S VOICE: And now, the weather. A winter storm advisory is in effect for all of the upper district -
JEREMY turns off the radio
JEREMY: Honey? Honey! He runs up the stairs, and from room to room, calling "Honey!" in a worried manner
He runs back down the stairs frantically
JEREMY: Where's Fran?
MARTHA: She's not here.
JEREMY: I can see that.
MARTHA: She said something about taking a walk to the store.
JEREMY: In this weather? Why didn't you stop her?
MARTHA: She wouldn't be denied. (with edge) Just like her mother - God rest her soul.
JEREMY: You know she's supposed to get as much rest as possible. She could die!
MARTHA: The woman's got the constitution of a horse. She'll survive. (beat) You really should try meditation some time. She moves to the window
MARTHA: So they've arrived - with a bang. Did you see their truck hit the pole?
After some hesitation, JEREMY joins her at the window
JEREMY: Someone should come out to check that. The last thing we want on a night like this is to have the phone and electricity go down. (beat) That's a huge moving van.
MARTHA: Enough room for about twenty dead bodies. JEREMY looks at his mother with a resigned expression, then moves away from the window, goes to his brief case, puts it on the writing bureau
JEREMY (nervously): Mother. Do you remember Miss Lipman?
JEREMY: Miss Lipman. My first grade teacher.
MARTHA: The one you were in love with?
JEREMY (indignantly): I was never in love with her.
MARTHA: If you say so, dear. Why are you asking?
JEREMY: Nothing. Never mind. It's not important.
Enter FRAN, late into pregnancy, bearing grocery bags
She puts the groceries down
JEREMY: Honey! Thank god.
FRAN: They've arrived.
MARTHA: We know.
FRAN: Their truck ran over our weeds.
JEREMY: I was really worried, Fran.
MARTHA: Did you see the damage to the pole?
FRAN: Oh, yes.
JEREMY: Honey, you should think of Dickie Wickie.
He goes to FRAN and puts his head against her stomach
JEREMY (to stomach): You're going to win the Super Bowl with that foot, aren't you? (to FRAN) Please get the store to deliver next time, honey.
FRAN: We were all out of those Dong Quai Enchanted Rest tea-bags. You know how I wake up screaming in the night without a cup.
MARTHA: Nightmares about your mother again?
FRAN (beat): Yes, actually.
She stares daggers at JEREMY
FRAN: How does your mother know, Jeremy?
JEREMY: Well, Mother noticed you hadn't been sleeping well, and I told her it's nothing to worry about.
FRAN: Oh, really? (beat; reluctantly) The thing is, I keep trying and trying to put the tiara on her but it won't fit. Then I wake up screaming, because I've bought Mommy a fake tiara. (beat) There's also this loud knocking at the door. It wakes me up and then stops. Hasn't anyone else heard it?
MARTHA: Not me. It's probably just the pipes, my dear. Or a mental defect. JEREMY (hurriedly): I haven't either, but that's really concerning.
MARTHA: Of course it is.
FRAN (steely): Anyway, the Enchanted Tea was why I decided to go to the store. They said the storm wasn't due for another hour.
MARTHA: Hah. (pause) She's kissing the other girl with excellent technique.
He goes to window, looks out
FRAN: I think your mother's pulling your leg, darling.
MARTHA: No, I'm not. She has marvelous technique. Want me to show you how I know?
FRAN: That's enough out of you, Martha. Will you grab that sack of potatoes for me?
She exits into the kitchen
MARTHA, after glancing balefully at the grocery bag, picks it up with surprising ease and follows FRAN into the kitchen
JEREMY, peering through the window, suddenly ducks as though afraid of being seen, then, catching himself, makes himself stand up straight with an attempt at dignity
FRAN and MARTHA re-enter from the kitchen
FRAN joins JEREMY at the window
MARTHA settles herself on the sofa and picks up some knitting
FRAN takes the binoculars from JEREMY
FRAN (looking through binoculars): I hope they do something about their yard.
MARTHA: That's the kind of thing made Jeremy wet his bed when he was young. Nice neat yards are very important to him.
JEREMY: I never wet my bed when I was a boy. And I'm not threatened by our new neighbors, their yard, or what they are.
MARTHA: Did I say you were?
JEREMY: Well, you couldn't be more wrong. (unctuously) I've absolutely nothing against lesbians. In fact, I'm going to write them a note just to say hello.
He strides to the writing bureau, sits, pulls out a small piece of paper and begins writing FRAN puts down the binoculars
FRAN: By the way, darling, did you talk to the old man today?
MARTHA: Yes, tell us how the rest of Eden is doing.
JEREMY: Well, he's impressed with my work so far, so keep your fingers crossed. But he's holding off on giving me a raise until the case is over.
FRAN: A raise? He should be considering you for a partnership.
JEREMY: When I win the case, honey.
MARTHA: Ah, the case of delicious Mr. Teddy, our favorite groundskeeper.
JEREMY: It's Edward. He doesn't like being called Teddy.
MARTHA: Whatever he's called, he's guilty as hell.
JEREMY: Edward's only crime is speaking his mind. Constitution 101, Mother - he's not a criminal until he's proven to be one.
FRAN (hint of sarcasm): Oh darling, I love how your heart bleeds all over your sleeve, wielding that bright shining sword of justice.
MARTHA: Lord have mercy.
FRAN: Well, I'm going to make my cup of tea. Anyone want any?
MARTHA: You can have it all to yourself, my dear. You need it. FRAN exits into the kitchen, a fixed smile on her face
MARTHA: I think she'd feel right at home in an asylum.
MARTHA: So I noticed the last time he was here that he likes his steak rare, Teddy does. Red and raw. A clear indication of his violent lust for blood, if you ask me.
JEREMY: Is that the opinion of your bingo club?
MARTHA: Beatrice's son-in-law works in the D.A.'s office. She says he heard from the clerk to the assistant to the D.A. that someone from the VA hospital is really the head of the Four Finger Gang.
JEREMY: The Four Finger gang, headed by a groundskeeper. Makes the man in the moon sound positively Newtonian.
MARTHA: A hospital's the perfect cover, you see. There'd be no better place to dispose of missing thumbs. And we know why he called you.
JEREMY: He's a decent man who's on the wrong end of slander by a sleazy tabloid. Some people think this current political climate gives them the right to ruin a perfectly innocent man's life.
MARTHA: My dear boy, I'm not judging Teddy at all.
JEREMY: It's Edward.
MARTHA: I think he's the renaissance man of crime. I've heard he's got a large cache of weapons to fight off the FBI when they come to arrest him.
JEREMY: I think you should stop playing bingo at the club.
Sound of cell phone ringing
JEREMY puts note in envelope, licks envelope
JEREMY: There. Ready to go to our new neighbors.
He goes to his coat, takes his cell phone out
JEREMY: Speak of the devil. (into phone) Hello, Edward? . . . Oh no, that's fine. . . Just now? . . . Yes, but we can talk about it tomorrow. Come by the - oh, you can't . . . I see . . . I don't know if that's - . . . Well, if you don't mind making the trip out in this weather, I'd be happy to discuss it . . . That's why I do what I do, Edward - for people just like you.
Enter FRAN from the kitchen
JEREMY (into phone): We'll expect you in an hour then. Goodbye. (disconnects phone) That was Edward. He said it was urgent.
FRAN: Another for the table then?
JEREMY: If it's not too much trouble.
FRAN: Yes, well, I suppose criminals have a right to be fed too.
She exits into the kitchen again
JEREMY: I've got a bad feeling about this.
MARTHA: What don't you have a bad feeling about?
She gets up
MARTHA: When you were a child, fortresses were your absolute favorite things. You used pillows, stuffed toys, anything to hide behind. We had a feeling you'd be a worrier.
She moves up the stairs
MARTHA: What are you worried about now, that Teddy's going to murder us all in our sleep?
JEREMY: That's not my fear, Mother. That's your fantasy.
MARTHA: I know. Isn't it too marvelous?
She exits upstairs
JEREMY proceeds to tidy up the room, glancing up at the window as he does so
JEREMY (seeing something): What the -
He goes to the window, picks up the binoculars, and looks out, then brings the binoculars down nervously
Fade in "We're Staying Home Tonight" (Eddie Cantor)
As the Music Fades, there is a sound of a doorbell ringing
[end of extract]