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 

:  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


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


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


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

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


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


(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


Um. Are you gonna ask me something, doctor?

and ends with


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



and ends with



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


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

and ends with




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.


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