"Ole' Man and Playwright"
By James Comtois
(An upscale New York restaurant. OLE' MAN, in his 50s, and PLAYWRIGHT, in his late-20s, early-30s, enter and sit down at a table.)
PLAYWRIGHT. Wow, this is a nice place.
OLE' MAN. Yes, well, Heather brought me here last time I was in town.
OM. I'm assuming you can't afford to eat at a place like this?
PLAYWRIGHT. Not too often, no.
OM. Well, don't worry, it's on me.
PLAYWRIGHT. Thank you.
OM. You'll be pleased to know that they do have hamburgers here.
PLAYWRIGHT. Well, I think I'll be going for the steak, but thanks.
OM. All right. (Pause.) So your director couldn't make it?
PLAYWRIGHT. No, he has to go see a show downtown.
OM. What show?
PLAYWRIGHT. I have no idea.
OM. I see. Your play was very good.
PLAYWRIGHT. Thank you.
OM. Very commercial.
OM. Yes. You two tapped into some universal themes that a lot of people could relate to.
PLAYWRIGHT. You think?
OM. Loneliness is something people understand.
PLAYWRIGHT. Yeah, I guess so.
OM. So what are you working on next?
PLAYWRIGHT. A comedy.
OM. Is it as commercial as your next play?
PLAYWRIGHT. How the hell would I know?
OM. How many characters?
PLAYWRIGHT. Well, the director and I have broken it down to a cast of seven.
OM. How many scenes?
PLAYWRIGHT. A bunch.
OM. That's because you're writing movies.
OM. How many female parts?
OM. (Incredulous.) Two? What's wrong with you?
PLAYWRIGHT. There are only two roles for actresses.
OM. No, no, no...look at it again, and see where you can change the roles to be suitable for women.
PLAYWRIGHT. (Having no intention of doing so, it reflecting in his voice.) All right.
OM. You do this too often. You only write in the masculine voice, you need to write more roles for women.
OM. I've noticed this with your work.
PLAYWRIGHT. You have.
OM. Now, I know this is none of my business, but I've noticed that much of your work seems to suggest a bitter resentment about your failures to make a meaningful connection with others, particularly in the area of romance.
OM. Yes. There are two things that shine through your writings that give me pause for concern. First, is that going out and getting drunk seems like a complete activity rather than something you do while doing something more productive or diverting.
PLAYWRIGHT. Oh, well, uh...
OM. I guess self-loathing is a reasonable theme for drama but I worry that it is something that you might carry into your personal life.
PLAYWRIGHT. I mean, sure, a little bit, but I don't think it's something you have to worry about-
OM. -Second, there is an underlying misogyny in the dialogue of a lot of your plays. Even women that are meant to be sympathetic are thought of as "chicks," "skanks" and women just looking for some sucker to buy them their drinks for free or to tease but not to "put out" seems to be a running theme.
OM. Now...how is your love life?
PLAYWRIGHT. Uh...heh. Heh...uh...there isn't one.
OM. Do you think that's why you have such a tough time writing roles for women?
PLAYWRIGHT. You don't like my roles for women?
OM. You write from a very male point of view.
PLAYWRIGHT. I'm male.
OM. But even the women in your shows are perceived from a masculine viewpoint. Is this because of your failings in real-world romance?
OM. I think this may stem from your inability to understand what women want.
PLAYWRIGHT. I don't think so.
OM. (Unconvinced.) Oh, no?
PLAYWRIGHT. No. I have been in relationships, and long-term ones. I'm pretty convinced that I'm just not cut out for them.
OM. (Baiting.) Because you're a misogynist.
PLAYWRIGHT. (Not taking the bait.) The whole thing just seemed like an unnecessary...ordeal. I was making the person I was with unhappy and changing for the worse, and being with her was making me not like who I was becoming. It just seemed that, in a relationship, two people who are reasonably intelligent, nice and interesting, once together, become this one unit that can't function. (Pause.) And, added to that, I really don't mind being alone. It doesn't frighten me the way it frightens others.
OM. I hate being alone. I can't stand it.
PLAYWRIGHT. See, I actually prefer it. (Silence.)
OM. Have you ever thought about writing about your childhood?
PLAYWRIGHT. Not too much. There've been a couple plays that go into what I was like when I was six or seven, but I don't think-
OM. -When my father died, I decided to write about a section in my life when I was very young and my family moved around a lot. I couldn't remember huge chunks of that period, but I did remember moving from one place to the next and having to take our father to various hospitals for his various health problems. As I was writing this, huge pieces came back in place, and I was remembering years of my life that I had blocked out for decades. It was a very good way for me to revisit my childhood and remember my early relationship with my father and mother.
OM. It was very therapeutic.
OM. You should try it sometime.
PLAYWRIGHT. I should. I mean, I sort of have, in some ways. I did a play a couple years ago that had a six-year-old in it...
OM. Never cast children.
PLAYWRIGHT. Well, I probably won't for a little while. I mean, the kid we cast was fine, but...anyway, although it wasn't about my childhood or anything, the kid's dialogue was mainly based on how I talked when I was that age.
PLAYWRIGHT. So, I've done a little bit with it, but not much.
OM. You write about "The Lonely Boy" very well.
OM. I'm just very curious to see how this lonely boy snaps out of it, or moves on.
OM. I mean, it does make for good drama, but you can only write about the same subject for so long.
OM. You should write about someone entering a relationship, and it doesn't have to be sappy. You can have the relationship fail in the end, but you should write about a character at least trying to maintain a meaningful relationship with someone from the opposite sex.
PLAYWRIGHT. I'll see what I can do.
OM. Of course, this means you may have to interact with women and not be so misogynistic.
PLAYWRIGHT. I'm not a misogynist.
OM. (Not buying it.) No?
PLAYWRIGHT. No. A misogynist is someone who hates and fears women. I don't hate or fear them.
OM. (Still not quite buying it, but conceding the point.) But you're not very patient with them.
OM. You're actually not very patient with anyone else's shortcomings, I've noticed. That may be the key to getting in and maintaining a relationship.
PLAYWRIGHT. Perhaps. But then again, I don't mind being by myself.
OM. (Acknowledging the dig.) All right. But you should try to write about someone entering a relationship, and be sympathetic to the woman's point of view.
PLAYWRIGHT. I should.
OM. And you should also at some point write about an old man in his fifties or sixties who still sees himself as a wise old sage to a professional adult who was once a student of his. (Smiles.)
PLAYWRIGHT. Heh. Well, yes. I'll keep that in mind.
PLAYWRIGHT. Thanks for taking me out here, Ole' Man.
OM. My pleasure. Your play was very good.
PLAYWRIGHT. Oh, thank you.
OM. Our waiter's coming. You getting a hamburger?
PLAYWRIGHT. I'm getting a steak.
© 2006 James Comtois