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]