Hot Mess – Ella Hickson


First performed at the Hawke & Hunter Below Stairs Nightclub, Edinburgh, on August 6, 2010, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Original Cast:

Twitch             Gwendolen Chatfield
Polo                 Michael Whitham
Jacks               Kerri Hall
Billy                 Solomon Mousley

Director: Ella Hickson

Twitch: Twenty-five, gamine—Polo’s twin sister
Polo: Twenty-five, cool and caustic—Twitch’s twin brother
Jacks: Twenty-six, well-tanned and big-breasted
Billy: Twenty-four, American, good-looking

Publication: Hickson, Ella. Precious Little Talent & Hot Mess. Nick Hern Books, 1011. Drama Library PR6108.I32 P74 2011.

Setting: Hayling Island, an island in the Solent, the strait that separates England from the Isle of Wright; the present

Language: Contemporary and graphic at times, but rich and poetic ; a few English slang terms but nothing that impedes understanding


Come on then, Jaqueline! Get some bloody crotch-swatches out. It’s not a celebration unless half the island can see your ovaries!

Genre/Style:  Comedy

Plot:  Polo and Twitch are twins who were born with only one heart between them; the physician gave it to Twitch, so she can’t stop falling in love and Polo was left heartless:  a fitting metaphor for the split between excessive romanticism and cynicism.  Over the years Twitch has had a series of unhappy relationships and horrible things keep happening to the boys and men she falls in love with.  The play, which unfolds like a peculiar thriller, does not make clear who is responsible for the horrible things happening:  Twitch or Polo.  Rather than providing any answers about anything:  either the mystery of the deaths or whether it’s better to love openly or to keep your heart to yourself, the playwright seems more interested in just exploring ideas without coming to any conclusions.



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. 111:  Polo tells the story of how the first boy who ever made out with Twitch ended up being electrocuted the night of the school disco.  


Peter Harris, sixteen years old, behind the bike shed of the Island Academy. It was the day before the school disco. I’d spent two weeks looking for the right dress for you, the right shoes, the right hairband.

[Lines cut]

–two hundred and thirty volts, saw our Petey flying through the air—quite the spectacle, turned his hair into the short and curlies that he’d so enjoyed exploring the day before. And try as they might, they just couldn’t make it straight again.

p. 129:  Polo tells the story of Nathan Harvey, a college boy who broke Twitch’s heart and ended up scalding his foot in the bath.  


Nathan Harvey, university. No place for someone with a heart like Twitch’s. There was no fresher fresher; she was a certified first-timer. Nathan, poor schmuck, had no idea what he was unlocking.  [Lines cut]

The sole of his right foot:  scalded, scarred, third-degree. Freak accident, should have tested it with his toe, no one knows how it happened—but Nathan Harvey never walked the same again.

p.136:  Jacks spies on her father who has just gotten a blow-job; the woman who gave it to him has scraped her knee.


There’s a trickle of blood running right the way down the front of her leg. Dad’s licking the corner of a napkin, bends down and wipes her knee. She must have been kneeling on some glass or something.   [Lines cut]

Mum always says you can’t afford to have bare legs after thirty. Mum says he’ll still be hers, whatever happens. Doesn’t matter how long it is or who he’s with—says she’ll always be his wife and he’ll always be her husband. She says there’s honour in it. She’s a mug, my mum.

p.140:  Twitch tells Polo about how she found Billy lying at the edge of the sea, presumably dead; this is after Billy has made it clear to Twitch that he’s not interested in love.


His eyes are still, in the dark all their colour has gone. The moon reflects in a single spot in each one, like someone’s frozen stars into the middle of marbles. I slide my hand into his palm and it’s cold. [Lines cut] It looks like half his body is dancing. I can’t move him, he’s too heavy, it’s like he’s full of sand. I lay my head on his chest and I can hear the stones moving beneath him. I put my ear to his lips but the oly thing moving is the sea.



Representative Scenes:  The play is comprised of short scenes, usually with two characters, so there are a lot of scenes to choose from.

p. 85-87:  Polo and Twitch recount the circumstances of their birth.  Starts with


They didn’t know that they were in for a duo.

and ends with



p. 90-93:  Polo returns to the island after being away for a year.  Starts with



and ends with


(with aggression). Neon cunting whore!

Silence descends for several seconds.

Come on! It’s fucking party time!

p.105-108:  Polo and Twitch’s reunion.  Starts with


Hello, Polo.

and ends with


(jolts his head away, they do not touch). Come on!

p.123-126:  Twitch confesses to Billy that she loves him.  Starts with


I get very—attached. I have trouble— letting go.

and ends with


Twitch, I’m leaving.



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

Gardner, Lyn. (2010, Friday 13). Hot mess. [open access] The Guardian.

Jones, Alice. (2010, August 11). Hot mess, hawke & hunter. [open access] The Independent.

McMillan, J. (2010, Aug 28). Review: Hot mess. The Scotsman.

The Idiot Box – Michael Elyanow


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

Original Cast:

Fiona                     Kathy Logelin
Connor                 Jim Slonina
               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
  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
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


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.


…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.


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.)


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


You feel sorry for me?

and ends with


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


What did you do to me?

and ends with


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


It’s not what you think.

and ends with


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.