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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