The Idiot Box – Michael Elyanow

television

First produced by Naked Eye Theatre Company in Chicago in 2003.

Original Cast:

Fiona                     Kathy Logelin
Connor                 Jim Slonina
Veronica
               Meghan McDonough
Omar                     Ansa Akyea
Chloe                    Beth Lacke
Raymond              Bradley Balof
Billy                       Brad Eric Johnson
Harvey                  Rom Barkhordar
Mark                     Joe Dempsey
Stephanie            Lisa Rothschiller

Characters (All early-to-mid-30s)

The Cast Regulars
Mark:
  The Neurotic New Yorker. He’s a paramedic.
Chloe:  The Spoiled Rich Girl. She’s a curtain designer.
Billy:  The Sex-Crazed Dummy. He’s a model.
Fiona: The New Age Hippie. She’s an acupuncturist.
Stephanie: The Controlling Wife. She’s a romance novelist.

The Guest Spots
Harvey: 
He’s a doctor in the navel reserves.
Raymond:  He’s a drag queen/cabaret singer.
Veronica:  She’s an Australian dog shusherer.
Omar:  He’s a non-Caucasian PhD student.

Director:  Jeremy B. Cohen
Scenic Design:  Brian Sidney Bembridge
Costume Design:  Rachel Healy
Lighting Design:  Jaymi Lee Smith
Sound Design:  Andre Pluess

Publication:  Elyanow, Michael. The Idiot Box. Samuel French, 2008. Drama Library PS3605. L93 I35 2008.

Setting:  New York City, winter, the living room of a split-level penthouse suite.

Language:  Contemporary sitcom

CHLOE

Toast. What A Slice of Toast Might Say. Since when does a hooker ever say “My crust is turning brown?” Never. A hooker never says that.

Genre/Style:  The first act, according to the playwright, should play like a great modern sitcom; the second act should be more gritty, honest, and real.  However, one problem with the play is that the regulars in the first act are, for the most part, annoying and not very likeable and the situations they find themselves in are so farcical that by the time the second act arrives, it’s difficult to make the transition to caring about them as “real people” with “real problems.”  Another problem with the play is the plethora of problems they face, from strange boyfriends with chubby chasing tendencies, emergent homosexual feelings, racism, social consciousness, etc.

Plot:  The play tells the story of six sitcom characters whose lives are changed when reality crashes into their perfect world.

 

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. 27:  Omar tries to explain to Chloe why he felt the need to find her and leave her a letter.

OMAR

…I’m sorry. I’m gonna. Sorry.

He exits. But just as CHLOE is about to close the door:

No, wait. Please. The thing is. I was watching the play and somewhere toward the end of the first act I happened to take my eyes off the stage for a second and…I saw you sitting across from me and you were so completely “in it”, I mean, leaning forward, tears in your eyes, you know, and I was thinking, Yes! [Lines cut] You must be the most extraordinary person. And I must be a complete idiot for talking all this time and not introducing myself. Omar Jackson. Blabbermouth.

p. 36:  Fiona defends herself against Harvey’s charge that she only pretends to be a hippie so that her friends will like her and explains to him just what she’s gotten out of being a hippie.

FIONA

Okay. Stop. I’m gonna stop you right there. You know, just because we went out a few times, don’t presume you know me and don’t presume I don’t know what I’m doing. [Lines cut] I haven’t had to pay for anything—quite literally—since I was TWELVE. That’s what being a so-called flighty, wind-in-her-hair-hippie has gotten me.

p. 61-62:  Stephanie’s on the phone talking to her hero, LaVyrle Spencer about her writer’s block. (A very long monologue, at least 2 minutes.)

STEPHANIE

Hello? HellomMYGODhello!  I’ve been on hold so long I wasn’t sure if I got disconnected but I don’t think I did if this is you, LaVyrle, IS this you, LaVyrle, do you mind if I call you LaVyrle? Um,oh, it’s me, Ms. Spencer: Stephanie Dah. No-no-no-no, don’t hang up! [Lines cut] I write about Love. I need Love. And if [I] give that up, if I give up Love… I have no husband, no marriage, no career, and then what? What am I left with? What the fuck do I have then, LaVyrle?

 

 

Representative Scenes:  

p. 35-37:  Harvey and Fiona argue in a subway car. Starts with

FIONA

You feel sorry for me?

and ends with

FIONA

Oh, Harvey. FUCK OFF.

p. 41-44:  Billy accuses Raymond of trying to seduce him by pretending to be something he’s not:  a woman.  Starts with

BILLY

What did you do to me?

and ends with

RAYMOND

What are you?

p. 62-64:  Chloe and Omar confront each other about the fact that Omar has accepted a job in Berkeley without telling Chloe but Chloe found out and is looking for a job on the West Coast, hoping he’ll take her with him.  Stars with

CHLOE

It’s not what you think.

and ends with

OMAR

I didn’t think you’d say yes. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a little… I’m far from perfect. That’s just me. Sometimes I do, I get scared and I make mistakes. Does that sound like something you could be a part of?

 

Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Houlihan, M. (2003, May 9). “More than just ‘Friends’ – Typical sitcom characters get dose of reality from playwright in ‘The Idiot Box’.” Chicago Sun-Times 9; nc.

Chris Jones, T.,arts reporter. (2003, May 25). `The idiot box’ needs fine-tuning. Chicago Tribune.

Rosell, K. (2011, April 18). The Idiot Box opens at CSUF. Daily Titan, The: California State University – Fullerton (CA) n.pag.

Street, N. (2007, August 3). Bipolar Express: ‘Idiot Box’ takes a trip. Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The (CA) n.pag.

Zeff, D. (2003, June 5). Theater Review – `The Idiot Box’: A misguided event. Beacon News, The (Aurora, IL) E6.

 

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