The Private Lives of Eskimos – Ken Urban

Originally produced by the Committee Theatre Company at the Linhart Theater in New York City, September 12, 2007.

 

Original Cast:

Marvin Michael Tisdale
The Woman Carol Monda
Detective/Christine/Eskimo Melissa Miller
Tom/Cop/Eskimo Andrew Breving 


Director
:  Dylan McCullough

Marvin:  a disaffected urban dweller in mourning, 30s
The Woman:  a mysterious older woman, face unseen, 40s
Christine:  Marvin’s girlfriend, 30s
Tom:  Marvin’s coworker, 20s
Cop:  male, who loves/hates donuts
Therapist:  female, who might be in the wrong profession
Detective:  female, who is not, in fact, a detective, but a VBP (Very Bad Person)
The Eskimos:  more like diseased yetis or Teletubbies gone wrong
Elizabeth:  Marvin’s sister, a voice on a cell phone

 

Publication:  Urban, Ken. The Private Lives of Eskimos. New York:  Dramatists Play Service, 2014. Drama Library Stacks PS3621. R34 P75 2014.

 

Setting:  An East Coast city; the present [Fall (September to December)].

Language:  Contemporary

TOM

Jesus, Marv, you’re totally crazy. I love it, I love it. You remind me of this bro of mine at school. He would say the craziest shit, especially if he was toasted and dud, he was always toasted.

Genre/Style:  Drama

Plot:   Marvin’s sister has died in a terrorist attack on a train and he was the last person she spoke to by cell phone.  Unable to function, he turns to his girlfriend, his coworker, and a therapist to no avail.  When he loses his cell phone, he calls and gets a mysterious woman on the other end who refuses to return his phone.  When she ends up calling him back, they begin an odd, somewhat abusive relationship via the telephone.  By the time a so-called Detective shows up claiming to be looking for the woman, Marvin realizes something strange and possibly sinister is going on.  As if that’s not enough, a trio of Eskimos (who bear no resemblance to real indigenous peoples) continually show up without warning spouting spam whenever Marvin’s agitated.  In a play that is already chock full of enough drama, the trio adds nothing substantial to the story and come off more as postmodern stylistic flourishes than as authentic manifestations of Marvin’s inner state.  One of the difficulties of the play is that it seems to be an unholy mix of styles:  realistic drama meets surrealist, absurdist black comedy.  That said, there are some truly effective moments.

 

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.14-15:  Christine is trying to interest Marvin in dinner but Marvin ignores her. She is frustrated with his inability to move on after his sister’s death. Starts with

CHRISTINE

I could throw my jacket on
get you a burrito
‘cause I know you like burritos
get you a burrito from the Mexican place
the one we always go to
where we went on our first date

and ends with

Marvin?

Bangkok. You like that one.
White rice?
No, brown.
Brown rice.
Yes.

p.20-21:  Tom tells Marvin about this cooking show (Bobby Flay’s Throwdown) that he watched on the first day Marvin returns to work after his sister’s death. Basically, Tom is serving Marvin notice that he’s no longer needed. Starts with

TOM

I said, I saw this cooking show last night. But it wasn’t like a stupid gay-ass cooking show, it was like pretty awesome, you know. An awesome cooking show. This guy he finds the person who people say are like the best at something.
like this woman makes the best hamburgers

and ends with

 

And that hamburger lady, she lost it ‘cause it was like her birthday and she was all excited she was getting this documentary made about her. But she got slammed.
Bobby fuckin’ slammed her.
Tom loves that. SLAM.

                                                Tom looks t Marvin. Marvin is visibly shaking.

Hey. You OK, bud?

p.62:  The Detective comes to see Marvin after having found the Woman based on his information. When Marvin questions her about what happened, the Detective tells Marvin she used to write short stories that everyone tried to read more into than was there.  Starts with

DETECTIVE

(No accent.) It all ends now, understand?

Marvin nods vigorously. She lets go. He collapses to the floor.

(Accent returns.) Hey, Marv. Can I tell you something? That OK?

Marvin nods yes.

and ends with

As I always say, ambiguity is the refuge of the indecisive. Ambiguity is for pussies. That’s what I think.
Clarity, Marvin, clarity. Got me?

 

Representative Scenes: 

p.16-18: Marvin sees a therapist, not the best therapist in the world. Starts with

MARVIN

Um. Are you gonna ask me something, doctor?

and ends with

THERAPIST

Start the new medicine right away, OK?

p22-24: Marvin calls his lost cell phone from a pay phone and speaks with the woman who has it. He does everything he can to get her to give it back.  Starts with

WOMAN

Hello?

and ends with

MARVIN

Hello?
Hello?
HELLO?

p.55-58: Marvin finds out the truth about the Woman, that she was a con artist, who used him but not as horribly as she could have. Starts with

WOMAN

Marvin, you had me worried sick. I’ve been calling for hours.

and ends with

WOMAN

Marvin?
Marvin?
MARVIN!
Shit.

 

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

Claudia, l. R. (2007, Sep 12). Must check this out! eskimos speak spam! who knew? New York Times, p.E4.

Stasio, M. (2007, Sep 17-23). The Private Lives of Eskimos, Variety, p.53.

 

Lizards – Megan Mostyn-Brown

Originally produced at the University of Minnesota’s Guthrie Theatre on April 11, 2007.

 

Original Cast:

Victor Ricardo Vazquez
Jesse John Skelley
Phoebe Valeri Mudek
Ronnie Amanda Fuller
Sebastian Jake Ford
Mallory Caroline Cooney

 

Director:  Josh Hecht

 

Phoebe:  23, married, Valium addict, lost
Jesse:  23, Phoebe’s husband, passive aggressive, a fixer
Mallory:  26, shy, nervous, making a big change
Sebastian:  25, laid back, pothead, thinks he’s a loser
Ronnie:  25, Punk, sassy, former Jersey girl, in love with Sebastian
Victor:  28, nervous, sweet, making a big change

 

Publication:  Mostyn-Brown, Megan. Lizards. New York:  Samuel French, 2007. Drama Library Stacks PS3613. O788 L59 2007.

 

Setting:  Various locations in New York City and the Bronx

Language:  Contemporary

RONNIE

Yes but I don’t have a fancy pants art history degree. In fact I don’t have a degree at all. And for the record, nobody expected anything more from me than managing the Sunglass Hut at the Short Hills Mall. So really my situation is a big step up for my lack of education and trashy Jersey background.

Genre/Style:  Drama

Plot:   Phoebe was saved from a near-drowning by an acquaintance and has spiraled into a drug-aided depression, turning away from her husband Jesse and towards her rescuer Sebastian.  Victor loses his job as a science teacher and meets Mallory who has been contemplating taking a trip to Rio. Sebastian has broken up with his girlfriend and is unaware that his friend Ronnie suffers from an unrequited love for him. They all teeter on the brink of change, uncertain of the path they must take to find happiness and fulfillment. Will they, like some lizards, adapt to their surroundings? break off a symbolic tail to escape? or regenerate a lost limb in order to survive?

 

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.7-9:  Victor deals with his rowdy class, giving a talk on reptiles.  He discovers at the end of the lesson that the class gecko Jimmy is dead.  Starts with

VICTOR

Okay…okay settle down… I said settle down… yes Shanikwa I know it is hot I opened the windows that’s the best I can do… now everyone take out your notebooks and a pencil… Daytwon put away your makers and take out a pencil… a pencil Daytwon not a pen… thank you… now today we are going to continue our lesson on lizards… Yesterday we learned that lizards are what? Anyone? Anyone?

and ends with

VICTOR

Yes Stasia the Komodo dragon may attack people but there are none of them in the Bronx so you have nothing to worry about…now where was I? I don’t remember and we only have five minutes left so I’ll leave you with this lizards regenerate…

[lines cut]

Uggh…just…just draw in your notebooks until the music teacher arrives or something…Fredrick bring me Jimmy…no Jimmy the gecko…it’s time to feed him…he’s not what? He’s not moving?

p.31-32:  Sebastian visits Phoebe at her job at Whole Foods.  She asks him to tell her the story of how he saved her from drowning.  Starts with

SEBASTIAN

Okay… ummm… It was cloudy so there was barely anyone at the beach. In fact we were going to go to Atlantic City instead but Ronnie really wanted to swim and it wasn’t training so we drove to Sea Isle. We stopped at that liquor store off the Parkway with that guy who looked like he was in ZZ Top. And when we got to the beach Victor mixed cocktails. [lines cut] Ronnie and Jesse stood up. And then I ran in. Swam and grabbed you from behind pulling you off of Victor. Holding you. The lifeguard was there too by that time. He gave you a paddle board and the four of us swam to shore. I helped you to the blanket while Victor threw up salt water and gin. Ronnie started crying and Jesse held you.

p.44-45:  Jesse confesses his fears about his wife Phoebe and talks about their honeymoon to Loch Ness.  Starts with

JESSE

She’s disappeared…not literally… I mean she’s still at home… a human being sitting there… but she’s gone… the Phoebe I knew is gone… inside I guess… I mean I look at her… into her fuckin’ eyes and there’s nothing there… I mean there’s something there but nothing I recognize… and I keep thinking about our honeymoon… [lines cut] anyway I guess I just keep hoping that happens with Phoebe, cuz she’s lost… and I can’t seem to find her there… in all that denseness beneath her eyes… and I hope whatever it is comes to the surface… I just want her to come to the surface…

p.46-47:  Sebastian calls his ex-girlfriend on the phone. Starts with

SEBASTIAN

Hey Sheryl… it’s me Sebastian… I know… I know you told me not to call you… which is probably why you’re not picking up… or maybe you’re not home… but I’d like to think that you are there sitting on your pink couch listening to this- Dammit.

[lines cut]

Me again… I think you’re answering machine is fucked- anyway what I want you to know is that I saved this this girl at the beach a few months ago… She was drowning and I swam out and I saved her… [lines cut] I’m not just a waste of space… and I just want you to think about that because I don’t think Phil the party promoter or whatever his fucking name is woulda done something like I did… cool… ummm call me back… Bye….

 

Representative Scenes: 

p.15-17: Mallory visits a travel agency to book a trip to Rio. Jesse tries to talk her out of buying a one-way ticket. Starts with

JESSE

Hello Ms. Daniels. I’m Jesse.

and ends with

MALLORY

Yeah.

p.31-35: Phoebe and Sebastian have been meeting to talk. During one of their talks, Phoebe asks Sebastian to tell her the story of how he saved her from drowning. After he tells her the story, Phoebe realizes that her husband didn’t try to save her from drowning but Sebastian did.  In her desperation, she decides to make a play for him. He tries to convince her that she has good things in her life and, in the end, rejects her.  Starts with

PHOEBE

(As if realizing it for the first time.) But he didn’t jump in.

and ends with

SEBASTIAN

Fuck me.

p.57-60: Phoebe and Jesse argue and festering resentments surface. Phoebe reveals her resentment of Jesse because he was always there when she wanted to do things on her own. She tells Jesse that she wants to end things between them. Then, despite that, she seems surprised when he tells her to go. Starts with

PHOEBE

I don’t want this anymore.

and ends with

JESSE

Try swimming. You seem to have luck figuring your life out there.

The Secret Lives of Losers – Megan Mostyn-Brown

 

Originally produced as part of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s “Festival of N.O.W.” on February 10, 2006.

Original Cast:

Neely Anna Safer
Ale TJ Chasteen
Sylvia Angela Cristantello
DJ Patrick Du Laney
Nelson Jason Reynolds


Director
:  Meredith McDonough

 

Neely:  19, works at Amoco, sarcastic, lost
Alex:  19, small time drug dealer, Neely’s best friend
Sylvia:  19, overly friendly, small town girl, Alex’s new interest
DJ:  29, copy from Chicago, overweight
Nelson:  15-17, Neely’s brother, crystal meth addict, sweet but out of control
Sophia:  Alex’s baby, should be a doll in a car seat
Jessica:  Alex’s ex-girlfriend, voiceover

 

Publication:  Mostyn-Brown, Megan. The Secret Lives of Losers. New York:  Samuel French, 2007. Drama Library Stacks PS3613. O788 S4 2007.

 

Setting:  Small town Illinois, the present

Language:  Contemporary

NEELY

And Jessica’s cousin, the lesbo, she fucked Alex Scarandado, the guy with the cleft chin who was on the wrestling team, in the parking lot at 31 Flavors on Saturday and now she’s questioning her sexuality once again.

Genre/Style:  Drama

Plot:   Neely is a 19-year-old high school graduate who works at an Amoco gas station and takes care of her younger brother Nelson–a crystal meth addict who loves “Wheel of Fortune”–now that their mother has left to find herself in exotic lands.  Neely’s best friend is Alex, a small town drug addict taking care of a baby he does not want while waiting for the baby’s mama to return from college; he can’t admit to himself that she has abandoned her baby and him. Into Neely’s dead-end world comes DJ, a cop from Chicago, escaping heartbreak in his past, to challenge her to do something about her future.  The characters in the play are, as the title suggests, losers, people left behind while everyone else goes to college or joins the military or does something to get out of their particular nowheresville.  If you’re looking for an uplifting, satisfying ending, this play doesn’t provide it.  Sometimes people are so damaged they can only make incremental changes, and those changes aren’t necessarily positive.

 

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.70-71:  Neely confesses to DJ why she began stealing things.  You can cut DJ’s lines to create the monologue.  Starts with

NEELY

Okay so ummm… Right after my mom left Mrs. Finklestein baked us a ziti… She’s one of the neighborhood ladies without husbands or children who does that, bakes for us because we have a bad situation and I thank her fer the ziti and she smiles at me like I know she’s gonna go to her Stitch n’ Bitch meeting the next day and talk about how sad we are and she turns her back and I took it.

and ends with

NEELY

No, You know, I always felt like- Naw I- I always hoped that when I died they’d open my closet and everyone’d find all their lost shit and this flood of great memories will wash over them as they remember how special these things were to them and in the midst of it they’d umm… think of me and what they have and not what I don’t have.

 

Representative Scenes: 

p.12-15: Neely confronts Nelson about taking off from school and gets him to promise not to cut back on the crystal meth and stay the entire day in school. He’s watching “Wheel of Fortune”. Starts with

NELSON

(To the television.) Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit you are such a fuckin’ dumbass Dave from Utah you shoulda guessed fuckin’ “P”…

and ends with

NELSON

Yeah, yeah promise with a big “P”. No trouble. Later. Later skater.

p.31-33: DJ and Neely go to the park after having dinner on their first date. DJ gives her a crayfish in a terrarium as a gift because he says it reminded him of her. Starts with

NEELY

Thanks fer the meal.

and ends with

DJ

Thanks.

p.66-68: Neely has lost her job at the gas station for stealing. Nelson has gotten the closet open where she hid all the things she’s stolen from neighbors. She goes up on Alex’s roof to think. She and Alex talk and she confesses that she had always thought they’d end up together. Alex shuts her down using his baby and Jessica, the baby’s mama, as an excuse and Neely strikes back. At the end of the scene Alex hears Jessica on the answering machine and goes into the house. Neely takes Sophie and leaves. Starts with

NEELY

Do you even love Sophie?

and ends with

ALEX

She apologized Neely. I told you. She said she’s comin’ tomorrow if she doesn’t have to work on a project- but I feel like tomorrow’s gonna be the day- (Realizes he is alone.) Neely!

 

The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow: An Instant Message with Excitable Music – Rolin Jones

Premiered at South Coast Repertory Theater in April, 2003; subsequent New York production opened in September, 2005 at the Atlantic Theater Company.

 

Original Cast:

 

Jennifer Marcus Melody Butiu
Mr. Marcus/Mr. Zhang William Francis McGuire
Preston/Terrence/Col. Hubbard/Dr. Yakunin/Voice of Computer Translator J.D. Cullum
Adele Hartwick/Ms. Zhang Linda Gehringer
Todd/A Boy Daniel Blinkoff
Jenny Chow April Hong

 

Director:  David Chambers

 

Jennifer Marcus:  22, Asian-American
Mr. Marcus/Mr. Zhang:  early 50s
Preston/Terrence/Col.Hubbard/Dr. Yakunin/Voice of Computer Translator:  late 20s, early 30s
Adele Hartwick/Ms. Zhang:  late 40s, early 50s
Todd/A Boy:  early 20s
Jenny Chow:  early 20s, Asian-American

 

Publication:  Jones, Rolin. The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow:  An Instant Message with Excitable Music. Dramatists Play Service, 2006. Drama Library PS3610.O62777 I68 2006.

 

Setting:  A second-story bedroom, Calabasas, California; now, right now

Language:  Contemporary

TODD

I know your mom’s a raging pain and all, but it’s not all bad, ya know. I mean, c’mon, you got Tivo.

Genre/Style:  Dramatic comedy

Plot:   Jennifer is a 22-year-old engineering genius who was adopted by an American couple as a baby in China.  Jennifer’s agoraphobia causes her to clash with her over-achieving adoptive mother and spurs her to search for her birth mother.  In order to do so, she spends her time re-programming obsolete missiles for the Department of Defense in exchange for robotic parts she then uses to build an android replicant of herself that she dubs Jenny Chow.  Once Jenny Chow is complete, Jennifer sends her on a mission to make contact with her real mother in China.

 

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.11-12:  Jennifer Marcus is on her computer, emailing someone.  It’s the opening scene.    

JENNIFER

(To the audience). Dr. Yakunin says I can trust you. But just because you have a reference like that doesn’t mean we’re going to work together or that I don’t have other options, okay? Let’s just say, I’ve done some research and I know your competition. Ramirez? Bloomstedt? Okay? So I’m not going to take a lot of clandestine bullshit, alright? [lines cut] That was stupid, ‘cause hey, you know, I’ve had dreams of sleeping with my dad, who hasn’t? But they’re never sexy and it’s fucking gross, you know? Okay, weird. I’m a weirdo. Soooo we got off track for a sec, and now we’re gonna get back on it. (She sprays the computer with disinfectant. To the audience.) I see you’ve made some creative investments in the last year. Money in Chilean bonds, a racehorse named “El Jefe.” In your line of work I guess you just don’t have time to master the basics of money management. Laughing out loud!

p.13-14: Jennifer is working at her computer again. She’s communicating with an unknown person.     

JENNIFER

(To the audience.) Okay, so this firewall is serious. Have you installed it yet? (Pause.) Yes, go ahead, check. (A “hacker alert” noise from the computer. To the audience. Pause.) Oh, that’s cute. (She types in something and the “alert noise stops. She sprays the computer screen with disinfectant. We hear a “blip” noise from the computer. To the audience, annoyed.) Yeah, I’m here. Installed? Goooood. You never know which one of the big boys might be listening in, right? CIA? NSA? We have to be careful, oh, and uh, yeah, we need to stick to what we’re good at, okay? [lines cut] Oh yeah, and I’m rich. Not super rich. Just regular rich. I feel it’s important that you know a little about me, and trust me, okay, you’ll need it for the job. This isn’t your average runaway case, okay? (We hear a “boink” noise from the computer. To the audienceI.) Christ. Can you hold on for a second? (The music cuts out again. Jennifer types into the computer.) Hello Preston.

 

Representative Scenes: 

p.65-68: Jennifer confronts Jenny after she returns from China and blames her for things going wrong with her birth mother. In a fit of anger and disappointment, she sends Jenny away.  Long scene.  Starts with

JENNY CHOW

Jennifer.

and ends with

JENNY CHOW

I am very beautiful.

 

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

Hodgins, P. (2003, May 05). `Intelligent design’ hits its marks // the relationship between genius and madness is probed by a fine new theatrical voice. Orange County Register.

Shirley, D. (2003, May 05). THEATER REVIEW; ‘jenny’s’ instant message; dazzling stagecraft illuminates the world of a computer-obsessed, ingenious recluse in ‘jenny chow.’. Los Angeles Times, p.E1.