Produced by Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, in New York City, on April 23, 2008.
Steve David Grimm
Ralph Greg Keller
Max Zachary Knower
Brad Michael Busillo
Idi Amin Evan Parke
Steve: Intelligent, defensive, neurotic gay Jewish writer in his 30s
Ralph: Scruffy, unshaven, hyper-intellectual writer in his 30s
Max: Heavyset, long-haired, bearded left-wing teddy bear of a writer in his 30s
Brad: A beautiful young man in his mid 20s
Idi Amin: Apparition of the former President of Uganda
Director: Eleanor Holdridge
Scenic Design: Kris Stone
Costume Design: Jessica Ford
Lighting Design: Les Dickert
Sound Design: Scott Killian
Stage Manager: Emily M. Arnold
Publication: Grimm, David. Steve & Idi. (2009). Dramatists Play Service. Drama Library PS3607. R56 S74 2009
Setting: Steve’s apartment in downtown Brooklyn, New Year’s Eve and after.
Language: Contemporary with contemporary references that will date it quickly; but it has some great one-liners
Dreaming about John McCain is the first sign of madness.
Genre/Style: Comedy; if you find the idea of the ghost of Idi Amin eating Krispy Kreme donuts and discussing torture funny.
Plot: The ghost of Idi Amin, former Ugandan strongman, haunts a New York playwright, demanding that he write a play about him in three days. His boyfriend and his agent have just dumped the playwright, Steve, and he’s suicidal. The play begins with an intriguing idea: a playwright with writer’s block is visited by the ghost of Idi Amin, who demands that he write a play about him in three days, but doesn’t go far enough with it. Idi Amin as a character, as a symbol, as a metaphor, carries substantial weight; he was a tyrant who used violence to cow both his enemies and the citizens of Uganda. To reduce him to a pizza- and donut-eating ghost who lounges about haranguing a playwright misses dramatic opportunities even if, in the end, Amin is just a figment of the writer’s imagination. The play does have scenes where the playwright, seemingly under the influence of Amin, succumbs to darker impulses, but overall, the play barely skims the surface of its setup.
Representative Monologues: (Long monologues contain the first few lines and the last few lines; please consult the published text for the monologue in its entirety.)
p.10: Steve ranting about the futility of playwrighting.
Reading, workshop, reading, workshop—Suck my fucking dick. What are we doing, anyway? Why are we pretending? You can play the politically engaged writer all you like, Ralph, it won’t make you a better artist and it won’t absolve you. [Lines cut] I look in the mirror and my fucking gorge rises till I wanna tear my face off and flush it down the toilet. “Let’s write a play!” Jesus Christ, what an utterly pointless waste of time.
p.31-32: Idi explains hunger and yearning.
When yearning ends, life ends. I am what becomes of yearning that will not die. You think I do not understand?
For eight years, Field Marshal Amin loved his people. For eight years he makes them beautiful and strong and asks for nothing but their love. But always they betray him. Even in Jiddah, in exile. [Lines cut]
What is done cannot be undone. The glorious past is lost forever.
p.41: Idi pushing for a final time for Steve to finish the play.
I want Danny Glover. Danny Glover must play me. The Forest Whitaker was good but everybody loves the Danny Glover. Plus he was a Lethal Weapon. Roger Murtaugh. I also like the Lethal Weapon 2: “The magic is back!” Number Three and Four, not so much, but still… Danny Glover!
Why do you stare? Get me donuts. Get me steak. Get me a bottle of wine and a woman!
p. 42: Steve, upon smelling a t-shirt belonging to his ex.
(In a kind of reverie.) Sandalwood and sweat—Salt and honey. Bitter steel. If only I could bottle this. (He smells it again, tastes it. He speaks very calmly.)
If he were here right now, I would take him in my arms and taste his lips. I would rock him and comfort him and tell him everything’s all right. I would place around his neck a thin gold wire, sharp as razors. And oh so slowly I would draw it: Oh so gently but oh so tight and watch as it pinches his skin and breaks it. [Lines cut] I would taste his blood and pull at his hair and chew skin off his face and swallow it. And I would shout the name of God and know it only has the meaning I give it, because everything is empty. And then I would know what it’s like to be free.
p. 23-24: Steve tries to convince Max that he really is being haunted by the ghost of Idi Amin. Starts with
Okay, so where is it?
and ends with
What better inspiration for a writer than a blank page? I’m sorry, man, but with Daniel there was never any there there. Come on—You saw something beautiful in him—Great. That’s part of your gift, man. But all that stuff, that wasn’t in him. That’s in you.
p. 30-31: Idi is upset because Steve seems obsessed by his ex and isn’t working on the play. Starts with
(Looking at compute.) What is this? Answer me! What is this?
and ends with
I am proud of you for it. Love cannot be trusted. It is better to be feared. Fear lasts longer than love.
Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism: (Note: article title links are to the online versions, mostly UW-only restricted unless designated as open access.)
Feingold, M. (2008, May). Some unenchanted evenings. The Village Voice, pp.54
James, Caryn. (2008, May 7). A lesson before writing, courtesy of idi amin’s ghost. The New York Times, pp.4.
Scheck, Frank. (2008, May 6). Absurd tale with Ugandan dictor is “idi’-otic. The New York Post, pp.42.
Thelman, S. (2008). Steve and Idi. Daily Variety, 299(22), 4-7.