Goldfish – John Kolvenbach


World pre­miere at South Coast Reper­tory in Costa Mesa, Cal­i­for­nia in March, 2009.

Orig­i­nal Cast:

Albert (19-years old)                     Tasso Feld­man
Leo (Albert’s father)                       Conor O’Farrell
Lucy                                               Kate Rylie
Mar­garet (Lucy’s mother)            Joan McMurtrey

Direc­tor:  Loretta Greco
Set Design:  Myung Hee Cho
Light­ing Design:  Lon­nie Rafael Alcaraz
Sound Design:  Michael Hooker
Cos­tume Design:  Alex Jaeger
Dra­maturg:  John Glore
Stage Man­ager:  Julie Haber

Pub­li­ca­tion:  Kol­ven­bach, John. Gold­fish. Drama­tists Play Ser­vice, 2010. Drama Library PS3611.O583 G65 2010.

Set­ting:  North­east­ern United States; the present.

Lan­guage:  Contemporary


Go away. I will make do. I’ll drink quickly to min­i­mize my suf­fer­ing. (She sips.) Look at you. I am flab­ber­gasted by how beau­ti­ful I used to be. You are the pic­ture of Youth and Ripeness; I could kill you.

Genre/Style:  Serio-Comedic

Plot:   Albert, a 19-year-old boy, grows up tak­ing care of his father, Leo, who has a gam­bling prob­lem.  Trou­ble ensues when Albert leaves home to attend a lib­eral arts col­lege and Leo has to man­age on his own.  A poor, intel­li­gent out­sider in a col­lege full of wealthy kids, Albert meets Lucy, who has prob­lems of her own deal­ing with her drunken mother, Mar­garet.  Through these two, the play explores the dynam­ics of fam­ily and falling in love.  While some of the early scenes between Lucy and Albert feel a lit­tle too cute, the scenes at home with Albert and Leo seem heart­break­ingly real; even when the plot veers into poten­tially melo­dra­matic ter­ri­tory, and despite a too pat end­ing, the authen­tic­ity of that par­tic­u­lar father-son rela­tion­ship keeps the play on track.



Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mono­logues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p.34:  Albert tells his father about the Dean call­ing him into his office after Leo called him to explain that Albert wouldn’t be return­ing to school.  The Dean thinks there’s been some calamity in the fam­ily; in real­ity, Leon gam­bled the money away.


She lets me into his office. I sit down. He’s sort of a wal­rus. He asks me if I watch base­ball. I tell him it’s win­ter. There’s silence for a while. He says, “Your pugna­cious father called this morn­ing.” OK. So you’re alive. [Lines cut] I told him no, things were fine. He said you “con­curred.” Then he asked me how I would define “fine” and I said that if I had a base­ball bat I would bash his fuck­ing head in for him.

p.35:  Albert explains to Leo what it was like being in col­lege, being the poor, smart kid in the mid­dle of all the rich, not-so-smart kids.


I thought I’d be obvi­ous. You know? I thought I’d have a big arrow over my head, point­ing me    out. This is the kid. A big orange arrow. It wasn’t like that. They don’t care. They don’t notice you.  You sit in the back and keep a low pro­file, the teacher doesn’t know you exist. [Lines cut] The fuzzy old bas­tard hands you the exam and gives you a look. A look like, it’s you and me, Albert Ledger. You and me and a bunch of stone morons.

p.51:  Albert tells Leo about he rides the train pre­tend­ing to have a job when, in real­ity, he was fired a month ago.


I ride the train. I don’t have a job. I pre­tend I do. I put this on. (Beat.) I went in that first morn­ing. A month ago. I made it ’til lunch. The guy looks at me like I’m another ass­hole he has to deal with, like I’m the kid who gets his cof­fee and screws up the pur­chase orders. [Lines cut] Lucy thinks I’m Albert Ledger. I con­vinced her. I insisted. That I’m unbound. That I’m just about to be. (Beat.) I don’t wanna talk to her. I don’t want to talk to her anymore.



Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scenes: 

p. 15–17:  Albert and Lucy meet for the first time in the library on a Fri­day night.   Starts with


(Pause.) Can I ask you a question?

and ends with


I know your name.

p.29–32:  Albert and Lucy are in bed in his dorm room when he gets a call about his father. Starts with


(Into her pil­low.) Oh my God what are you doing you sociopath what time is it, if you’re study­ing I’m going to kick you in the head, why do you let me smoke so much my mouth is a dead ani­mal, whose shirt is this, what time is it? Who drank my water, the fucker.

and ends with


(Into the phone.) Answer the ques­tion. Is he alright?

p.45–47:  Lucy tries to con­vince Albert to marry her.  Starts with


Is he alright?

and ends with


For how long?




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

Boehm, M. (2009, Mar 20). THEATER; the mid­dle class rises once again; john kol­ven­bach plots it all out in ‘gold­fish,’ his play at south coast reper­tory about a dream of tri­umph. Los Ange­les Times, p.D16.

D’Souza, K. (2009, Oct 15). Review: ‘gold­fish’ fam­ily drama at magic the­atre in san fran­cisco. San Jose Mer­cury News.

Far­rell, J. (2009, Mar 27). ‘Gold­fish’ swims through blos­som­ing romance. Press – Telegram.

Hod­gins, P. (2009, Mar 20). Review // new play ‘gold­fish’ is not so odd. Orange County Reg­is­ter.

Hod­gins, P. (2009, Mar 24). Review // ‘gold­fish’ makes waves. Orange County Reg­is­ter.

Hur­witt, R. (2009, Oct 16). The­ater review:  Tragi­comic ‘gold­fish’. [open access]

Ng, D. (2009, Mar 24). Review:  ‘gold­fish’ at south coast reper­tory. [open access]

Verini, B. (2009, Mar 23). Review:  “gold­fish”. [open access]

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