Pulling On a String (part one)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A play about an ex-French Foreign Legionnaire, theatrical producer, posing as a janitor in the theatre where he works. He is frequently visited by famous deceased celebrities, in the form of dreams; most often by John Wayne and/or Marlon Brando, both whom are presently trying to warn him that a great danger lies ahead.

Note to prospective amateur non-profit theatrical producers: Under certain conditions, I am willing to waive all royalties for limited runs of 15 performances (5 weekends) in communities near where I live in Southern California. This is my first full length play and I am eager to see it get off the ground. Lets talk about it. You can email me at Packjim56@gmail.com. Jim Pack

Submitted: October 17, 2015

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Submitted: October 17, 2015

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Pulling on a String

 

A play by

 

Jim Pack

Cast of Characters:

George Thornton, an American, ex-French Foreign Legionnaire, Off Broadway producer masquerading as janitor in a theatre he secretly runs.  His approximate age is 30 to 35 years old.

Berry Nice, a kindly theatre owner and mock producer, who is secretly employed by George to act as his public go between in front of George’s unwitting employees.  His approximate age is 50 to 70 years old.

Amy Adams, an attractive and very talented actress/singer at the theatre.  She is also very opinionated and quite savvy.  She discovers George’s secret through the power of deduction and observation.  She can sometimes be very manipulative, yet surprisingly protective and concerned for people she cares about.  Her approximate age is 25 to 30 years old.

Harry Peterson, a British ex-French Foreign Legionnaire who is quite dangerous and has hired a private investigation firm to track down George’s present whereabouts, so that he might take his revenge on George for ruining his career in the Foreign Legion.His approximate age is 35 to 40 years old.

Joey, the real janitor in the theatre.  For reasons of necessity Joey also knows George’s true identity.  He is completely trustworthy, discreet and a very good employee.  His approximate age is 20 years old.

A. Franklin Smith, a private investigator, hired by Harry to locate George.  He is not aware of Harry’s malicious intents.  No age approximation needed for this character.

John Wayne, the famous deceased actor and frequent visitor of George when he is asleep and dreaming.  Wayne along with Marlon Brando are trying to warn George of the peril he is presently in, through a series of recurrent dreams.

Marlon Brando (see above).

Mary the wardrobe mistress, a very hard working, albeit very judgmental employee, who understandably believes George to be a lazy shirker and a terrible janitor.  She resents him for his apparent sloth, until she finds out (towards the end of the play) that he is actually her employer.  Her attitude towards him then changes 180 degrees in the opposite direction. No age approximation needed for her as well.

Director Jerkins, an arrogant bully that George fires in the first scene in the play; forcing George to temporarily reveal his true identity.  His approximate age is 30 to 35 years old.

Johnny “The Limey Ex-Boyfriend”, a British theatrical producer and former boy friend of Amy Adams.  His approximate age is 30 to 40 years old

The Actress (Unnamed), she is a very kind and generous person.  Also a very good singer in George’s employ, who is secretly helped along in her career when George starts "pulling strings in her general direction”, unbeknownst to her of course.  Her approximate age is 25 to 30 years old. 

Various dinner guests, henchmen and a US Cavalry trooper/bugler. 

Act One, Scene One

 

The Lady or the Tiger?

 

In the beginning of the play we see the main character and sometimes narrator, George Thornton, dressed in workmen’s coveralls, busying himself sweeping the stage of an off Broadway theatre somewhere in the West Village in Manhattan.  George stops what he is doing and addresses the audience directly. It is important to note that none of the other characters in the play should either hear, or react, to any of George’s narrative asides to the audience.

George (to the audience)

Let’s see, whom shall I deal with first; the lady or the tiger?  The lady it is. 

I was sweeping the stage of the theatre one day, before an early morning rehearsal and I was actually helping Joey, that’s the name of the real janitor, with his duties.  No kidding, big shot theatre mogul that I am, I was helping to tidy up.  When one of the singers I hired, (enter unnamed actress) hired unbeknownst to her of course, entered the house and smiled at me and said the following:

Actress (walking up the aisle to the stage)

Are you a singer George?

George (to her)

No miss, I am a lowly janitor, (to the audience) I blatantly lied.  Of course, at this juncture she has no idea she is actually talking to her employer and that is the way I like it.

Actress

Nobody is lowly in this world George,

George (to the audience)

Which, being the insufferable elitist that I am, I find to be complete and utter poppycock, nevertheless it was a very nice sentiment on her part. 

Actress

Anyway the reason I asked, is last night when I was leaving I heard you singing to yourself.

George (to her)

Yes, I tend to do that sometimes. 

Actress

You have a very good baritone voice.  Have you ever had any training?

George (to her)

Yes, Mrs. Mullins, my fourth grade teacher trained me for one semester in the school choir, (to the audience) I said facetiously.  You can’t believe half things I say to people.  I’m usually always lying to them; having said that, I would like to point out that I am an honest liar.  In that my lies are never intended to harm, or to take advantage of anyone. Unless they are someone who needs a good being taken advantaged of.  Most of the time my untruths only purpose is to protect me from inconvenient truths. Much like a politician does; well maybe that is a bad example. Strike that. Anyway, my lies are mostly harmless and are deployed only when absolutely necessary, or when I make stuff up out of thin air, for no apparent reason.  Like this time.

Actress 

Well, she did a very good job.  Would you like another lesson?  I can give you another one free of charge.  Do you know what key you sing in?

George (to the audience)

What is her game? I was beginning to wonder.  She can’t actually want to give me a free singing lesson?  As it turned out, she actually really did want to give me a free singing lesson.  Absolutely no strings attached.  Why?  Evidently she was genuinely a nice person and she actually liked my singing voice.  And for some strange reason took an interest in the development of that voice.  Which was very kind on her part, but actually a tremendous waste of her time; since I had no desire to pursue a singing career.  I help launch other people’s singing careers; not the other way around.  It’s a bad producer, in my humble opinion, who uses his own power to cast himself; William Shakespeare and Orsen Wells being two exceptions to that rule.  There are others of course.  Not many.  Still I found it very touching that she wanted to take valuable time, out of her daily schedule, to give me a free singing lesson. (to her) I’d like to take you up on your offer miss, but unlike yourself, my boss (to the audience) actually meaning myself (back to her) doesn’t pay me to sing.  He pays me to clean theatres, (to the audience) or to pretend to clean theatres, to be more precise. 

Actress

Well, let me know if you change your mind.  It’s a darn shame to waste a voice like that. 

Exit Actress

George (to the audience)

That was the last time I had a conversation with her about my singing voice.  She did however, unlike most of the other actors in that cast, greet me warmly every time she entered the lobby.  Always quick with a warm smile, lowly janitor that I was. And always saying “Good bye George” every night when she left the theatre to go home.  So from time to time, unbeknownst to her, I have pulled a few strings in her general direction.

Two years since her kind offer she is now an extremely famous, successful, award winning actress, i.e, Tony, Peoples Choice, Oscar nominee, etc. Some say she got there on talent alone.  And mostly she did.  However, in my humble opinion, it didn’t hurt to be kind and nice to an insignificant, little, lowly janitor, who just happened to be sweeping the stage of an Off Broadway theatre, in the West Village one morning; if you catch my drift.

The Tiger

And now for the Tiger.  In this case a paper one.  But let’s deal with him at length in the next scene.  (Then as George begins to make his exit, he suddenly stops himself) On second thought, this turkey doesn’t deserve his own special segment.  Let’s just go ahead and dispense with him straight off.  He wasn’t actually one of my actors.  He was a director.  But he’ll serve as a good example to make my next point.  I have a kind side to my nature, and a not so kind side to my nature.  I can pull strings in both directions, or choose not to pull any at all.

(Enter director and Mr. Nice.)

The house was empty one afternoon except for me, my broom, my mock producer, that being the theatre owner, Mr. Nice, and the pompous director I unfortunately allowed him to hire.  Against my better judgment I might add.  I should have been clearer to the kindly old gentlemen as to the type of persons I prefer to direct on my stage productions.  Allow me to illustrate:

Director

Hey you, broom boy?  Go across the street and get me a vente latte, double shot, non-fat with extra foam; and get it back here on the double quick, before it starts to get cold.

George (to the director)

Excuse me? (then to the audience) I asked with great incredulity.

Director

You heard me, hop to it Sparky!!

Mr. Nice (politely trying to avert trouble)

Excuse me, Mr. Jerkins. 

George (while still sweeping)

Jerkins, is that really your name?  Do people call you ‘Jerk’ for short?

Director

Okay mate, you just talked yourself onto the unemployment line.  Pick up your things and leave the premises immediately.

Mr. Nice

Excuse me, Mr. Jerkins, but with all due respect you can not fire this man.

Director

Right.  He’s your employee.  I therefore request, with all due respect, that you terminate this cheeky blighter’s employment forthwith.

George (to the audience)

Did I forget to mention that this director was an expat Brit?

Mr. Nice

I also, as well, can not fire him.

Director

Why not?

Mr. Nice (to George)

Excuse me sir?

George (to the audience)

He was now addressing that question to me of course.

Mr. Nice

But due to the unusual situation we have brewing here; may I have your permission to blow your cover?  At present, I see no other alternative.

George (to Mr. Nice, coldly)

Permission granted.

Mr. Nice (now to the Director)

I am not actually the producer of this production.  I am only his humble stand in.  His figurehead, as it were.  The ‘cheeky blighter’ that you see standing before you is the real producer.  And if I were you, I would apologize to him immediately, before he fires you.

George

Too late.

Director (suddenly realizing his peril)

You’re really going to fire me?

George

Yeah, pretty much.

Director

But why? 

George

Because it amuses me to do so.  (to audience) Actually I was anything but amused.  That is just a frequent catch phrase I tend to over use, to explain my various actions in this world; capricious and/or not. 

Enter Joey the real janitor, who now with Mr. Nice, help ex-director Jerkins exit, leaving George alone on stage.

George (continuing)

Young Jerkins was then escorted off the premises by the theatre owner and Joey, the real janitor, but not before he signed various legal papers to hold us harmless and was made to understand that he was not to reveal my true identity to anyone, especially to the press.  That is if he wanted to preserve his overly generous severance pay; which would now be coming to him in monthly installments.  Fortunately, when this incident occurred, there were no other witnesses present to further complicate the matter.  Firing people can be very expensive these days.  That’s why so few ever are.  However, I just couldn’t abide a clown like this.  He needed a good firing.

Unfortunately, he did not go gracefully onto that long line of unemployed directors; bawling like a baby throughout most of the exit process. 

The sounds of Jerkins adlibbing his crying and begging for mercy is heard offstage.

Nevertheless, all the actors connected with the show were much relieved upon the news of the sudden departure of ex-director Jerkins.  Evidently, he was not a very popular task master.  I heard many of them tell outlandish stories about him to each other.  People will speak much more freely and openly in front of a nearly invisible janitor, than they will in front of a very visible employer.  Apparently, Jerkins had been hitting on some of the more attractive female members of the cast.  Like campers telling stories around the bonfire about a local bogeyman, they spoke of him in very hushed and whispered tones.  With lots of giggling (sounds of actresses giggling is heard offstage) and knowing looks to each other; as it greatly seemed to amuse them to do so.

End of Scene One

Act One, Scene Two

Marlon Brando and John Wayne

When the lights come up on stage we see a small round table with an open lap to on it.  The image of Marlon Brando is displayed on the screen of that laptop, facing the audience.  There is also a cot stage right, on which George is lying down.  

George (to the audience)

The recurring dream always starts out the same way; I’m in a room with an open laptop, displaying the image of a dead celebrity.

Brando (speaking through a movable mouth in the image of the laptop)

George, why don’t you ever look at me when I’m talking to you? 

George (speaking to the image but with his eyes shut)

Because Marlon, I’m asleep, remember?

Brando

You’re dreaming.  You can do anything you want to do in a dream.  You can fly around the room if you wanted to.

George remains on the cot with his eyes closed

George (to audience)

Anyway, as I was saying the recurring dream is always the same and always takes place in a room and with an open laptop displaying the image of a dead celebrity.  But here is where the dream changes; the celebrity is not always the same one.  This time it is obviously Marlon Brando, unfortunately.

Brando

What do you mean unfortunately?

George (glancing back at Brando)

I was hoping for John Wayne.

Brando

I was hoping for Gina Lollobrigida, instead I get you.  She is still alive, isn’t she?

George

Last I heard she was.

Brando

Wayne’s playing gin with the two Jimmys right now.  You know how he gets when he’s gets behind in the rummy count. 

John Wayne, himself, dressed in western regalia, then steps out on stage carrying his signature 1891 Winchester Carbine with a belled out lever.  The type he used in so many of his movies, i.e. Stage Coach, Hondo, Rio Bravo, True Grit, etc.

Wayne

No I don’t know.  So tell us Marlon?  Just how do I get, when I’m behind in the rummy count?

Brando

Whoops, I suddenly remember, I forgot to turn off the oven.

At this the laptop turns off.

George

Which two Jimmys were you playing against this time?  Stewart and Dean?

Wayne

Well just for the record, I was only playing against one, Jimmy Dean.

George

Which Dean are we talking about?  That actor or the sausage maker?

Wayne

The little one.

George

James Dean the actor?

Wayne (now inspecting his environment on stage)

That’s the one.  This is a pretty weird dream you’re having today George.  And guess what?  Its about to get weirder.  Something wicked this way is a coming.  And its coming in fast and its coming in hard.  And when it gets here, its not planning on taking any prisoners.  So Georgie Porgy Pudding and Pie, I want you to listen up and listen tight.  Your life may depend upon it.  But before I start, I want Marlon here to go fetch Jimmy Dean for me. 

The laptop blinks on again.

Brando

Which one, the actor or the sausage maker.

Wayne

No reason to be discriminatory, fetch’em both!! (now to George again) Okay buckaroo listen carefully to what I’m trying to tell ya. 

Suddenly there is a black out.  When the lights come up on stage George is still lying on the cot, but the table and the laptop are gone along with Wayne and Brando.

George (to the audience)

Unfortunately, I woke up before Wayne could convey just what the wicked thing that was coming this way was .  Probably nothing.  You know how nonsensical dreams are. 

George then exits after which Wayne reenters the stage, now alone himself.

Wayne

No George, tell us.  Just how nonsensical are they? 

End of Scene Two.

Act One, Scene Three

The Nosy Lazy Janitor

 

The scene opens with George taking a nap on a cot again.  Enter Berry Nice.  He stands there and waits patiently for George to awaken.  George being a light sleeper does so almost immediately when he senses that he is not alone anymore. 

Mr. Nice

Hello sir, my deepest apologies for disturbing your nap, however I have an important matter I wish to speak with you about. 

George

Am I in trouble? 

Mr. Nice

Well, I wouldn’t put it that way sir.  Perhaps a better question would be to ask, “Are we in trouble?

George

Are we in trouble?

Mr. Nice

I’m not sure.  And I’m not sure how to delicately put this matter, so I will just come out and tell you what the potential trouble is.

George

Okay, what is the potential trouble?

Mr. Nice

One of our actors is accusing you of being a bad janitor. 

George

Well, he’s actually right about that; anything else?

Mr. Nice

Well, he insists that you either be disciplined or told to, how did he phrase it? “To hit the road Jack”.  He also went on to say that you spend way too much time in the lobby, trying to look busy, so you can eavesdrop on other people’s private conversations.

George

Very observant fellow.  Anything else?

Mr. Nice

He then went on to say, with all due respect, that it would be a better use of your time to concentrate your efforts on actually cleaning something, like say the restrooms, rather than eavesdropping on everyone's private conversations in the lobby.

George

Well, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.  I enjoy my eavesdropping and I’m afraid of bacteria.  Anyway, that’s why we have Joey.  Isn’t Joey doing a good job with the restrooms?

Mr. Nice

I checked and restrooms are kept in tip top condition.  Joey’s doing a fine job in that area.

George

Please relay my compliments to Joey.  

Mr. Nice

Very good Sir, I shall commend the young lad at the first opportunity.  Nevertheless, getting back to the topic at hand, I think the problem stems from the fact that when this particular actor was in the lobby, while trying to run lines with one of our ingénues, he felt that you were hovering in the general area being “a real nosy parker”.  His words not mine.  He also made a complaint that the reason he and his partner have to run their lines in the lobby, is the result of there not being enough adequate rehearsal space in this facility; forcing them to do so, “in front of nosy janitors”.  Again his words not mine.  And I’m sorry, but I have to ask this, but were you hovering sir?  In the lobby, that is?

George

Yeah, pretty much. 

Mr. Nice

Not to be impertinent or cheeky, but may I ask why?

George

It makes it a lot easier to eaves drop, when I’m hovering. 

Mr. Nice

I see.Is it absolutely necessary for you to continue to hover in the lobby sir?  Perhaps, you could hover somewhere else within the complex.  At least, for a few days to allow this controversy to simmer down.

George

Okay, for the next few days I’ll hover backstage.  I’ll even try to do some real janitorial tasks that need doing.  Until the coast is clear of course.  Then I’ll go back to hovering in the lobby.

Mr. Nice

My thoughts exactly, sir.  You might try hovering around the concession stand, adjacent to the lobby.  That might provide some useful eavesdropping opportunities for the immediate future.

George

Good idea.  I can do that too, especially when we have all those director candidates showing up on Monday to replace Jerkings.

Mr. Nice

Very good, sir.

George

Sorry, I’m not a better janitor.

Mr. Nice

Not a problem at all, sir.  I wasn’t expecting you to be.

George

Oh, one more thing before we end this discussion.

Mr. Nice

Yes sir?

George

I know which actor you are referring to.  He is right.  He has a lot of lines to learn.  Therefore, have him switch parts with one of the other actors in the ensemble.  One that hardly has any lines to learn at all.  That way he won’t need to worry about not having enough adequate rehearsal space, to learn all those pesky lines in the future.

Mr. Nice

Very good sir, anything else?

George

Be sure to reduce his pay accordingly, since he isn’t delivering so many of those pesky lines now; in accordance with Actors' Equity rules, of course.

Mr. Nice

Consider it done.

(Berry Nice exits the stage)

George (to the audience)

Did I previously mention that I can pull strings in two separate directions, simultaneously?  I think I did, didn’t I?  Not sure about that.  I can be so redundant sometimes.

 End of Scene Three

Act One, Scene Four

Hide and Seek

The scene to opens with a spot light on a tall man in the far left corner of the stage.  He is sitting in a chair reading a hard copy of a recent email sent to him online.  When he begins to read the email, another spot light reveals another man who recites to the audience what the first man is reading.  This second man is dressed professionally, except for a jacket, which is hanging on a hook beside his desk that he is presently sitting at.  He is also wearing a pistol strapped to his side in a shoulder holster.  While he recites the content of the email that the first man is reading, he busies himself doing paperwork.  The darkened distance on stage between these two men repents the distance between them geographically, which includes the Atlantic Ocean. 

A. Franklin Smith (reciting the content of his email to the other man)

Copy of email sent to Harry2347@parisian.com (Paris, France)

From Afranklinsmith@Eagletoninvestigations.com (New York City, NY)

Dear Sir:

Please forgive the inexactitude of my salutation, since your identity is unknown to me, due to your specific instructions.  I extrapolate you to be a “Sir” based upon your email address, so I will refer to you in that gender in the future, unless otherwise instructed not to. 

I am in receipt of your retainer for our services to locate person of interest to you “George Thornton”.  On close inspection of local registries, there are at least 12 persons listed under that specific name in the Greater New York/Long Island/Tri-State areas.  We have not yet pinpointed subject from that list.  It is also possible that the person of interest to you is presently operating under some type of alias. 

The information you gave to our office regarding his past enlistment in the French Foreign Legion is very helpful in narrowing down which George Thornton might be our subject.  For instance, having served in the FFL, it tells us that subject must be fluent, or at least operable, in the French language, even though he himself is a native born citizen of the United States. 

However, it would be more helpful if you could supply our office with other bits of information.  Anything might be helpful, i.e. where was subject’s last known address, his place of birth, date of birth, or approximate age if that is unknown, favorite pastimes, hobbies, known occupation(s), favorite color, known relatives, past or present associations, scars, tattoos, or any other marks that might identify him?  Does he enjoy watching sports?  If so, which type of sporting events?  Does he drink or smoke?  If he does drink, is he a social drinker? Does he like to drink coffee, especially in coffee houses, like say Starbucks?  Even knowing who his favorite singer, and/or movie actor might be of use.  Oh, and very important, do you have any other, more recent, photographs of him?

The above requested information and anything else you can supply us about subject Thornton could be very helpful.  Especially if subject is presently operating under an unknown alias. 

Thank you again for your business.  A copy of our invoice, with other itemized expenses and service charges, will be forthcoming.

We will keep you apprised of every aspect of our inquiry.

Sincerely,

A. Franklin Smith

Assigned Private Investigator

Eagleton Investigations

77 West 35th Street

New York, NY 10024

Now the first man, Harry, recites to the audience what his email response is to the second man, A. Franklin Smith, while Smith reads silently, sitting at his desk.

Harry (reciting in his email response in a very distinctive cockney accent)

Response Copy of email sent to Harry2347@parisian.com (Paris, France)

From Afranklinsmith@Eagletoninvestigations.com (New York City, NY)

Sorry Mate.  We served in the legion together, but other than his name, that unit photograph I faxed to you and his approximate age, that being 30 years old, or so, I have nothing much else to impart.  However, I now seem to remember him having a big poster of John Wayne in his hooch.  That bloke loved John Wayne for some reason.  Oh wait, he does have a scar on his right buttock.  It’s from a bullet wound he received in Somalia.  But if you find the blighter, don’t ask him to show it to you; might spoil my surprise.

H.

Harry smiles, almost menacingly, at the very end of his recitation.

Immediate blackout of both spots.

End of Scene Four.

Act One, Scene Five

The Thief Backstage

George (to the audience, while sweeping with his broom on stage again)

The very next day there was another problem that surfaced.  The following is a snippet from a conversation I had with Mr. Nice, regarding a second controversy I inadvertently stirred up with my confused and unwitting employees.

Mr. Nice (while entering)

Excuse me, sir?

George stops his sweeping for a moment.

George

Yes. 

Mr. Nice

I have mounted that black felt portrait of John Wayne that you wanted hung in the lobby.

George

Yes, I noticed it right off when I entered this morning.  Thank you for doing that.

Mr. Nice

Yes, but there appears to be a bit of a controversy now being stirred up as a result.

George

What’s the controversy?

Mr. Nice

Well, a few of the actors are questioning why I have done so?

George

Why?  Don’t they like John Wayne?

Mr. Nice

It’s not that sir.  They are just curious as to why I should hang his portrait, as apposed to some other actor.

George

I’m not following the train of this complaint.

Mr. Nice

Well, it’s not exactly a complaint.  It’s a puzzlement among our staff as to why Mr. Wayne is being so honored, instead of some other personage, like say Helen Hayes, or John Barrymore.  You understand, some luminary that is known for his, or her, contribution to the American stage.  Mr. Wayne, while he was alive, had never performed on the stage.  They are just wondering sir.  And I do not know what to tell them.

George

I like John Wayne.  That is why you are hanging his portrait.

Mr. Nice

Is that what you want me to say to them?  To the staff that is?  This portrait is being hung because our janitor likes John Wayne?

George

Tell them to mind their own business.

Mr. Nice

Very good, sir. (He begins to leave then stops)  Unfortunately there is one other problem I need to run by you.

George

What?

Mr. Nice

Well, (pauses)

George

Am I hovering too much again?

Mr. Nice

No sir, well at least not in the front part of the complex.

George

What’s the problem now?

Mr. Nice

It appears that you have been unjustly accused of thievery.  You see sir, and I hate to say this, but when something goes missing around here, the first person anyone thinks to blame is always the hired help, i.e. the clean up crew personnel.  In this case sir, that would be you. 

George

What am I being accused of stealing?

Mr. Nice

Mary the wardrobe mistress believes you purloined her wedding band.  She said she removed it to do some ironing and put it on the end of her ironing board.  She then had to leave that task for a few minutes.  When she returned to continue ironing, she noticed that her ring was missing.  She also remembers you ‘hovering about in the area, looking suspicious’, her words, not mine, just prior to her noticing that the ring was missing.

George

Well, yeah.  I was trying not to hover too much in the front.  So it went and hovered in the back.  Mary is married?

Mr. Nice

Yes, apparently so.

George (to the audience)

I found that very hard to believe.  She’s meaner than a snake.  Good seamstress though.  I then started to wonder what her husband must be like.

George (then to Nice)

Please reassure Mary that I did not steal her ring.

Mr. Nice

I believe you sir.  In my humble opinion you are absolutely beyond reproach, but how is merely my saying that you did not steal her ring going to assuage her suspicions?  Without any proof, that is?

George

Well it’s probably not going to, but fortunately I do not have the burden of proof in this matter. 

George continues on with his sweeping.

Mr. Nice

Very good, sir.

Exit Mr. Nice.

George (to the audience while still sweeping)

I hate being accused of things I do not do.  I suppose you have to expect it though.  Given all the things I actually do, do, like pretending to be people I’m not; janitors for instance.

George puts down his broom, pulls out a rag and crosses over to the portion of the stage, depicting the front doors of the lobby.

Later that day I was back in the front lobby polishing brass door fixtures.  I don’t know precisely why it is, but handle polishing appeals to me.  The handles didn’t really need anymore polishing.  I had already polished them three times that week. 

Enter Amy Adams

Amy

You’re going to rub the finish right off those handles if you keep polishing them.

George (to the audience)

It was one of the actresses in the show.  In fact, she was one of the principles in the production.  Her stage name was Amy Adams.  To this day, I am not sure what her real name is.  Maybe that is her real name; sounds awful stagey though.  Wikipedia should know.  Maybe I should check on that tonight.  Now days she’s become extremely well known in show business.  Thank me very much.  Of course she never did.  Thank me.  Well, not in a conventional way.  But I jump ahead too much.

George (now to Amy)

Is there anything I can do for you miss? (then to the audience again)  Boy did that turn out to be understatement. 

Amy

Well, actually yes.  You can let me treat you to a cup of coffee at the Starbucks across the street.

George

Coffee miss?

Amy

Yes.

George

Please don’t take this the wrong way miss, but why would a princess like you want to be seen in public with a frog like me?

Amy

Oh, you’re no frog, anymore than you are a janitor.

George

Excuse me?

Amy

You heard me.  You are no frog anymore than you are a janitor.  And thank your lucky stars that you are not a janitor, for when it comes to janitoralizing, you suck.  It’s Joey who is the real janitor around here.  He’s very good at his job too.  You should give him a raise.  Oh, and one more thing.  You are not the sneak thief that Mary in wardrobe is claiming you to me.

George

Wha wha what? (then to the audience)  I said while trying to recover from my stunned disbelief at the blowing of my cover.

Amy

I know you didn't steal Mary's ring.

George

How is it, that you know this?

Amy

Because, I know who did.

George

Who?

Amy

I did.

George (to the audience)

She admitted quite brazenly. 

End of Scene Five

Act One, Scene Six

Beware of Actresses Bearing Lattes

George (to the audience)

How does this actress in my employ know who I am?  Or more precisely, how does she know who I am not?  I spirited her away to the Starbucks muy pronto, not so much to comply with her request to buy me a coffee, but to get her away from the theatre before she completely blew my cover. 

George crosses over to a round outdoor table, representing a sidewalk area just outside the local “Starbucks”.  Amy is already seated with two large lattes atop the table for them to drink.  George sits down next to her.

George (to Amy)

Why did you do that?

Amy

Why did I do what?  Buy you a latte?

George

No, why did you steal Mary’s ring?  (to the audience) What I really wanted to ask her was how did she know I was not a real janitor. 

Amy

Wouldn’t you rather know how I know you’re not a real janitor?

George

Just for kicks, let’s just suppose I’m not a real janitor; hypothetically speaking of course.  Why do you think I’m not?

Amy

As a professional actress, Geogrie, I am quite the student of body language.  I have been watching you from afar.  The dynamics between you and Berry Nice, when you two are having your many out of hear shot personal discussions, speak volumes.  Now you two are both good at keeping your voices down, so I can't ever hear what either of you are saying to each other, but my eyes tell me which one of you is the alpha male in this relationship.

George

Just call me George, without the ‘ie’ on the end. 

Amy

Is that your real name, Georgie?  George?

George (to the audience)

I have always preferred being called “George” not “Georgie”.  All my life I have been amazed by all the people who have been unwilling to cooperate with that wish; makes me wonder if George Washington suffered from the same indignity. 

Amy

Earth to Georgie, excuse me George.  I’m over here!!

George

Go on.  You were telling me something you observed about me and Nice.

Amy

Why would a theatre owner talk so much with a mere janitor?  And why always quietly? And why when you talk to each other, are you always looking at him directly, but he rarely returns your gaze?  He is continually averting his eyes.  What does that tell me Georgie?

George

I’m not his type?

Amy

No, that tells me, of the two of you, you are the alpha male in this relationship.  But how can that be, if you are only a mere janitor in his employ?  You can’t be.  He is your employee, not the other way around.  You’re the alpha male, but you don’t want people to know you’re the alpha male.  For some weird and crazy reason, you want people to think you are just a janitor.  Have you ever considered therapy Geogrie?

George

Again my name is George.

Amy

George.  (long pause) What are you thinking about right now George?

George

Why did you steal Mary’s ring?

Amy

To quote Arthur Conan Doyle, “Once you have ruled out the impossible.  All you have left, no matter how improbable, is the truth”.  And how I have ruled out the impossible?

George

I don’t know?  How have you?

Amy

I stole Mary’s wedding band and framed you for it.

George

And I should not fire you now, because?

Amy

How can you fire me, George, if you are only a janitor (pause) George?

George (to the audience)

She had me there. 

Amy

Don’t worry, I’ve since given the ring back to Mary and gotten you off the hook in the process.  I told her I found it in a pile of costumes that were going to the laundry.  She bought my story.  Now, I imagine, you are wondering why I stole that ring and then temporarily framed you for the theft?

George

That thought is now crossing my mind.

Amy

There are two reasons, number one, I wanted to teach her a lesson in being more circumspect and responsible regarding her personal possessions.  It is stupid to leave a valuable object like that, lying around on your ironing board, just begging for someone, anyone, to filch it.  And number two, I wanted to smoke you out by watching your reaction, when Berry Nice informed you that Mary thought you were the number one suspect.  An idea I planted inside of her pea sized brain. 

George

How I did react?

Amy

According to your body language, you did not react like someone who is frightened that he might lose his job, by being unjustly accused of a crime.

George

What did my reaction then tell you?

 Amy

You reacted like someone who was simply annoyed and mildly irritated at the stupidity of others, namely Mary in this case.  That told me my suspicions about you were correct.  You are the alpha dog here, not Berry Nice.  That suspicion confirmed, I gave Mary her ring back, along with the bogus story about finding it in the laundry; and cautioned her to be more careful in the future and not jump to conclusions, by accusing poor innocent janitors.  She didn’t like being scolded, but she was very grateful to get her ring back.  By the way don’t worry, your secret is safe with me; so far. 

Pause while they both stare at each other.

What are you thinking now George?

George

I’m trying to figure something out.

Amy

What would that be, George?

George

I'm trying to figure out what I’m going to do with you right now.  I can’t decide whether to make some kind of an arrangement with you, or tear up your contract and terminate your employment.

Amy

Decisions, decisions.  I opt for keeping me around.  I have no intentions of ruining your play.  By ‘play’ I’m referring to your pose, not your theatrical production.  I just want you to know that your playacting is not fooling me.  It may be fooling everyone else at the theatre, but not me. 

George

You must enjoy believing yourself to be the smartest person in the room.

Amy

We’re outside right now George, but if we were in a room, I’m not so sure I would be the smartest.  You might be a hair smarter.  By the way, in case you are not the smartest, firing me is not the smart move; to paraphrase LBJ, “It's better to have someone inside the tent peeing out, than outside the tent, peeing in”.  Besides I’m the best actress you have in the cast right now.  I know that sounds self serving and rather pompous of me, but it’s true.  I’m the best singer, the best dancer and the best actor.  And you and I both know it.  Oh dear, did I leave out the best looking?

George (to the audience)

Unfortunately, pompous though she might be, that was a spot on accurate estimation on all counts.  It would be a shame to lose her.  I hate it when people are talented and good looking and they know it and are completely secure in that knowledge.  It’s hard to keep them off balance; especially when they want to renegotiate their contracts.

George (now to Amy)

What is your game lady?

Amy

My game? 

George

What are you pulling here, why all the elaborate machinations?

Amy

Why?  Simply because, it amused me to do so.  I now suppose you suspect I have some devious plot up my sleeve and I’m going to blackmail you, to further advance my career in some form, or fashion, correct? 

George

Have you?

Amy

I’m not sure.  I’m basically shooting from the hip at this point.  I haven’t thought it all out yet.  Hmm.  Good question.  Here’s another.  Why are you pretending to be a janitor, so you can mingle among your subjects, to head off a palace revolt?

George

I find it to be a good useful way to spot manipulative, overly ambitious actresses, who might want me to expose my position as a producer, to further their own personal agendas.

Amy

How’s that working out for you?

George

Not sure yet.  Still waiting for your other shoe to drop.

Amy

You’re right.  I am one of those actresses.  However, if I want something from you, I won’t beat around the bush.  I will come right out and say what it is that I want, when it occurs to me.

George

What is occurring to you right now?

Amy

I want you to take me to a dinner party, after the rehearsal on Saturday Night.  It’s semiformal.  You can wear a green janitor’s outfit, with your first name pinned onto it.  In fact, it is very important that you do so.  It’s part of my plan.  Everyone at the party will think you are my janitor boyfriend.  So you might as well dress the part.    

George

I don’t have a green janitor’s outfit.

Amy

You do now.  I have taken the liberty of buying one for you. I even had a plastic name plate printed for you.

Amy hands George the name plate.  George looks down at the plate.

George (reading the name plate out loud and annoyed by what he is reading)

“Hi.  I’m Georgie the Janitor!!!”.

End of Scene Six

Act One Scene Seven.

Just What is Her Game?

When the scene begins we see George standing in a spot lit portion of the stage (right), now donning the prerequisite green janitor’s uniform, provided by Amy, standing alone on stage to address the audience.  He is not wearing the name tag however.

George

The next Saturday before Amy picked me up in a hired yellow cab to take me to the appointed dinner party, she called me on her cell phone to set a few ground rules.

George’s cell phone rings and he answers it.  When he does so another sport light reveals Amy talking on her phone stage left, presumably while sitting in a cab on her way to pick up George.

George

Hello?

Amy

Before we get to the party, I want to set a few ground rules.

George

I am very unaccustomed to my employees setting ground rules for me to follow.

Amy

Well, then this should be a whole new and interesting experience for you.  Rule number one, when we arrive at the party be extremely vigilant to follow my lead at all times.  I will be continually giving you cues and hints, very obvious ones, but not too obvious, for you to follow. 

George

What kind of cues and hints?

Amy

I won’t know until we get there.  It depends on what we encounter at the party.  Remember your job is a pose.  You are pretending to be my janitor boy friend.

George

Why a janitor boyfriend?  Why not a lawyer boyfriend?

Amy

Enough of the questions Georgie, until I finish with the ground rules.

George (to the audience)

There she goes calling me “Georgie” again.

Amy

What did you say?

George

Never mind.  Continue on with the ground rules.

Amy

Rule number two, don’t interrupt me when I’m laying down the grounds rules.  Remember you are pretending to be my janitor boy friend.  You should be able enough to handle the job of pretending to be someone else, rather than who you really are, right Georgie?

George

How long am I supposed to maintain this subterfuge?

Amy

You are already violating rule number two Georgie.  After the party is over, we can stage a break up.  This pretence is only for tonight.  So don’t go getting any ideas.

George

Is that rule number three?

Amy

Yes, rule number three is “don’t go getting any ideas”.  And rule number four is stop violating rule number two.

Now is a long pause between them until Amy breaks the silence.

Amy

Are you still there?

George

I’m waiting for rule number five.

Amy

There isn’t one yet, however I’m sure I’ll come up with one sooner, rather than later.

George

Can I now ask a question?

Amy

Shoot.

George

Why am I posing as your janitor boyfriend again?

Amy

I could ask you for more clarification as to why you are posing as a janitor period, but I’m not going to do that, because that would be rude.  Nevertheless, are you familiar with Homer’s ‘The Odyssey?

George

Somewhat.

Amy

Well, if you remember the story correctly, Odysseus’ wife was continually being hit on by several unwanted suitors in his absence.  When we get to the party so will I, i.e. getting hit on by several unwanted suitors.  I unfortunately do not have an Odysseus on his way to secure my rescue.  That’s where you come in.  You are my temporary Odysseus.  You’re there to provide cover and keep all those clowns at the party off my six.  And there is another ulterior reason.  You’re also posing as my janitor boyfriend to make my former boyfriend jealous.

George (to the audience)

Oh now I get her game.  It’s all starting to become very clear.

Amy

I think we may a have a bad connection.  What did you just say?

George

Never mind.  How is your dating a menial is going to make your former boyfriend jealous?  Not exactly a part of the Odyssian legend, is it?

Amy

A slight detour.  It wouldn’t matter who I’m dating, a high powered attorney or a menial, except for the fact that my former boyfriend is a real upper crust English snob and is very class oriented.  The fact, that I’m dating a mere janitor, is really going to drive his pretentious, upper class English sensibilities crazy.  So don’t try to impress anyone. Okay?  The more beneath my station you appear to be, the better, but at the same time don’t go out of your way to do anything embarrassing.  Avoid being vulgar.  Pretend you are Joey.  He’s a good role model for you.  A very polite young man, Joey. 

George

The name tag you bought me says, “Georgie”.

Amy

Excuse me, pretend you are Joey like.  Don’t go around calling yourself Joey.  In other words, be a good little janitor.  Be ordinary.  Don’t be so flippant.

George

In other words, I’m your Larry Fortensky.

Amy

Who?

George

Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth husband; he was a plumber.

Amy

Exactly, except the pretense doesn’t include us getting married, or even engaged for that matter.  And also, just so you know, from time to time, when the party really gets started, I’m going to be very clingy and demonstrative, but only when necessary.  Again, don’t get any ideas.  It’s just for show.

George (muttering)

Yes honey. 

Amy

Don’t call me honey, until we get there.  I’m outside your building waiting in a yellow cab now.  Come downstairs and hop in and be quick about it.  I only want to be fashionably late to the party, not get there sometime after Christmas.

George disengages the call on his cell phone.

George (deliberately, slowly and sarcastically to the audience)

Oh, dear.  I so must hurry.  She Who Must be Obeyed, beckons. 

He then slowly, very slowly, almost painfully slowly makes his exits from the stage.

End of Scene Seven

Act One Scene Eight

The Limey Ex-Boyfriend

The scene opens in the living room of a posh house warming/dinner party somewhere in Manhattan.  With George, Amy and lots of upper crust dinner guest in attendance.

George (to the audience)

So there I was at the party in my new, neatly pressed, green janitor’s uniform; “Georgie” badge and all.  Which I was later forced to put on when she who must be obeyed, noticed that I was not wearing it in the cab. 

Why was I playing along with her deception?  I’m still not sure.  Other than it was almost amusing for me to do so.  Of course there was the incentive of me not wanting her to blow my cover back at the theatre in retaliation, should I choose not cooperate with her. 

She was right about the place being full wolves.  More like sharks, they were circling her, waiting for the right moment to pounce.  However, every time one came close, she would clamp down hard on my right arm, then say,

Amy does just that, clamps down hard on George’s arm.

Amy

Hi Fred!

George (to the audience)

Or,

Amy

Bill!

George (to the audience)

Or,

Amy

John!

George (to the audience)

 Or whatever that particular sod’s first name was.

Amy

Let me introduce you to my boyfriend.  His name is George.  I call him ‘Georgie’.  Although, he hates being called ‘Georgie’; I gave him that name plate as a joke.  Best not to call him that, just call him George.

The Limey Ex-Boyfriend

Interesting party attire you have there, George,

George (to the audience)

Opined Fred, or was it Bill, John maybe?  He had an English accent.  I suspected this was the one she wanted to make jealous.  It was working.  He looked like he was trying to be nonchalant.  Trying to, but not succeeding.

George (to the Limey Ex-Boyfriend)

Sorry, I didn’t have chance to change after I got off work.

The Limey Ex-Boyfriend

What is it that you do for a living, if you don’t mind my asking?

George (to the audience)

I pointed to the word “Janitor” on my name plate.

Amy

He’s a maintenance engineer.

The Limey Ex-Boyfriend

You’re a janitor?

George

I prefer to term maintenance engineer, (then to the audience) I answered, accepting my promotion from Amy.

The Limey Ex-Boyfriend (with a hint of distain in his voice)

Yes of course.  How old fashion of me to use the arcane “janitorial” terminology.  So tell me, George, how long have you been in the toilet cleaning game?

George

Not long. 

Amy

Well, I hate to interrupt, but I just noticed someone, over near the pastry table, that I want you to meet Georgie.

George (to the audience)

After she got me over to the edge of the room and out of the limey’s earshot, but definitely not out of his eye shot, she stopped me and kissed me hard.  Not exactly subtle, but effective; during the kiss I managed to glance back at her intended target of jealously.  Bull’s eye!  His eyes were almost borings holes into us. 

Amy does everything, just as described by George’s narrative.

Amy (quietly to George)

Okay, Georgie, look at your watch and pretend you have a janitorial emergency and tell me we have to leave.

George

Sorry Amy, I have a janitorial emergency.  We have to leave.

Amy

Oh so soon? But we just got here.  (lip synching to George) Speak louder!!

George (Louder this time)

I’m sorry honey.  I have a janitorial emergency.  Duty calls!!

Amy

Sorry folks.  We both have to leave.  I’m Geogrie’s ride back to the theatre.

The Limey Ex-Boyfriend

 Nonsense, I’ll take the bloke to his destination.

Amy starts shaking her head “NO” to George.

George

No that won’t be necessary, honey, you both stay here and enjoy the party.  I can call a cab and get back there under my own power. 

Amy (clamping down hard on George’s arm again)

Nonsense HONEY!  I came with you and I intend to leave with YOU!

George

Well, if you insist dear.  Sorry folks, duty calls.  There was an unfortunate incident of explosive diarrhea back at my work place, in the ladies restroom.  And unfortunately Joey, the other janitor, is unavailable.  That’s the janitor biz for you.  One should never be afraid of getting one’s hands dirty.

At this George extends his hand to shake the hand of Amy’s former boyfriend.  The Englishman does not return the favor; now looking at George’s hand as if it were radioactive.

End of Scene Eight

Act One, Scene Nine

The Awkward Ride Home

Amy and George are riding in the back of another cab

George (to the audience)

Back in another cab ride, Amy asked the following question: 

Amy

Why did you have to make up the part about the explosive diarrhea in the ladies room?  That’s volunteering way too much information.

George

Well, since we’re going into the, Why did you have to? zone, did you have to grab me and kiss me in front of everyone in the parlor room?

Amy

I’m sorry that you found me so loathsome and repugnant?  I assure you it was only for show.

George (to the audience)

Amy and I then rode in awkward silence all the way back to my loft, where the cab dropped me off.  I would not see, or talk with her again until Monday morning, next.

End of Scene Nine

Author's note:  To read "Pulling on a String" (Part Two) go to http://www.booksie.com/Jim_Pack and click on the link. Unfortunately, Booksie does not allow enough space for my play to be uploaded, in it's entirety, on a single post.  jp


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