HOME | SCREENPLAY
STAGE PLAY SYNOPSES
NOW, DIRECT FROM THE CONDO ACROSS THE STREET | BEWARE
THE MAN EATING CHICKEN|
LAST MEAL |JUMP
| MORDECAI'S MIRACLE | NO WAY OUT
LAST FALCON | WHY
WE ARE IN IRAQ
MANY LEOS | FRESH
BREWED: TALES FROM THE COFFEE BAR | THE
SECRET LIFE OF SEAGULLS | PROCEED
TO CHECKOUT | THE
ACTIVIST | PLAY REVIEWS
AND NOW, DIRECT
FROM THE CONDO ACROSS THE STREET
JOEY GREEN (formerly Greenberg) has been a stand-up comic for nearly
fifty years. Now, at 72, he is working the condo circuit in Florida
struggling with an audience that either cannot hear him or is falling
asleep. To make matters worse, his ex-wife, ARLENE, now deceased five
years, has returned to help him cope with the news that he is dying
of lung cancer.
Joey's life was a series of small clubs and small rewards. Yet, while
he always felt he traveled to better support his wife and kids, they
were always angry that he was never around. So now, life's end in sight,
in an effort to make it right with his kids and with Arlene ever at
his side, Joey returns to New York to visit his son, HOWARD, and daughter,
But, as with most of their lives together, any interaction within the
Greenberg family is confounded by Joey's insistence on going his own
way and is fraught with sarcasm and jokes, the mother tongue of the
Although ultimately, if only in his own mind, Joey does redeem himself,
he remains, in the words of his son Howard, a pain in the ass then,
now and forever.
The production is for a single living room set and a cast of two male
and two female actors.
BACK TO LIST
MAN EATING CHICKEN
BETTY wants to be a good mother to her son WILLIAM, to
nurture and protect him. But as the sole provider and poor, Betty must
come up with a plan to achieve her ideal of motherhood. The plan she
devises rests on good old capitalist know-how: Make It Bigger. Because
bigger is best and since being number one in any endeavor brings with
it automatic fame and fortune, Betty decides to combine the two. She
enters William in the "Fattest Man in the Universe" contest, and she
is determined to win.
By making William the 'Best' and 'Number One,' Betty can satisfy her
maternal instincts and also achieve the financial security she never
had. Recognition of her achievement is only two weeks away at a weigh-in
Las Vegas that will bring in contestants from around the world to determine
the champion. She is in 'count down.'
CAROLE, Betty's younger sister, accuses Betty of lunacy and tries to
undermine the project. Unfortunately, Carole has always been too meek
to have ever stood up to Betty's threats and intimidation and so now
is forced to assist in the endless round of cooking the dozens of chickens
needed each day for William's inexorable assault on hugeness.
Potential trouble arrives when CAPTAIN LEONARD, working undercover for
the Board of Health, comes to check on the 'large carnivore' that apparently
is devouring twenty chickens a day. Citing a regulation that maintaining
a 'large carnivore' requires special security, the Captain initially
proves himself to be merely an annoying, venal bureaucrat, but ultimately
a timely dessert.
With the arrival of ALBERT, it seems that Betty's ship has come in.
Albert claims to own one of the largest chicken farms in the U.S. and
has come to negotiate a deal. In exchange for using William's picture
as a satisfied customer on the logo of his product, and to capitalize
on William's inevitable fame as the fattest person in the universe,
Albert will pay Betty a percentage of the profits on each bird sold,
ancillary rights on tie-ins (they split the profits on sales of the
lunch-pails) and will ship William to Las Vegas in a company semi, his
picture spread across the side of the truck festooned with patriotic
images. The deal is struck.
When DOROTHY, Albert's sister appears claiming that it is she, not Albert,
who is the true owner of the chicken farm, the waters are roiled. For
support, Dorothy brings PATTERSON and PETERSON, a lawyer and an accountant,
both on work release from the local jail, in prison, as Dorothy points
out, for more than fixing a parking ticket. A struggle between the siblings
ensues for control of William and the potential fortune at stake.
But it is DOCTOR MARTIN from the Board of Health, coming to give Captain
Leonard unexpected news, who brings the coup de grace to Betty and her
plan for achieving her goals of motherhood. Hearing Doctor Martin's
news regarding Captain Leonard, realizing the project was kaput, Albert,
Dorothy, Patterson and Peterson drop Betty, William and the 'deal' like
hot potatoes. And ultimately it is Carole who is left to clean up the
BACK TO LIST
JAVA JIVE, an evening of six integrated one-act plays
set in a coffee café, asks the question: is coffee the answer?
Interchanging partners through the evening (occasionally teaming up
as a quartet), two male and two female actors explore sex, fear, friendship,
Siamese twins, caffeine, and a prune Danish.
One play, in which the prune Danish plays a critical role, deals with
two frightened people testing each other's tolerance before committing
to a relationship. Another play shows the obsessive length to which
a loser in love will go to confirm his loss. In a third play, it take
a father's death for two of his children to discover they had been Siamese
twins born attached at the head, and for the third child to discover
he had been found in a Burmese rice paddy. Another play explores the
dark side of male bonding and the joys of blackmail. Still another play
demonstrates that a marriage built on a strong foundation of S&M
can work anywhere, even over a cup of coffee. And finally, we discover
what made Ethel Merman sing, "I feel swell, I feel great
REVIEW OF "JAVA JIVE"
BACK TO LIST
JOEY may be scheduled to die tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean he
has to reverse a life of rebellion by adhering to the traditional “last
meal.” Besides, he’s just not hungry. Joey’s refusal
to “go along” has clogged the smooth running wheels of justice
and has angered a lot of folks.
AL, his cellmate on death row, is angry with him for not at least taking
the meal, a nice thick steak, and passing it to him. HARRY, the guard,
is angry with him for disrupting his schedule. SARGE, who is in command
of the death row cellblock, is angry because not being able to control
is prisoners could prevent him from getting a promotion. WARDEN, who
runs the prison, is angry because he doesn’t want to acknowledge
to the Governor he can’t control his prisoners. BETTY, Joey’s
wife, is angry with him because his being in jail prevented them from
fulfilling her dream of a family. MOTHER, Joey’s Mom, is angry
because not eating could affect Joey’s health.
CHAPLAIN is the only character not angry with Joey because belonging
to the Church of Sacred Men, he just loves his work environment.
JOEY’S LAST MEAL is an absurdist look at conventions and rituals
related to capital punishment is for 6M, 2F.
BACK TO LIST
Thomas Rice was a white itinerate actor from New York touring the country
in the 1820s. Around 1830, the probably apocryphal story goes, he witnessed
a black laborer dancing and versifying “Jump Jim Crow.”
What is true is that Rice took this verse and dance back to New York
and rode it to international fame and fortune. Why the interest? Because
there is a strand of American theatrical history that traces Tom Rice
to minstrelsy to Al Jolson to Stepin Fetchit to Sammy Davis to hip-hop.
But here is the irony and the thesis of the play: when Rice started
doing his dance he was actually presenting a socio/political message
to an all white audience that the great divide in the country wasn’t
black-white, but poor-rich. He was, in fact, attempting to present the
black not as a degenerate race, but as the very underpinning of a corrupt
economy. What his work actually produced, however, was a set of stereotypes
that, corrupted for the amusement of the white audiences, came to be
the only view of blacks. This in turn served to reinforce the south’s
claims about the childishness, the laziness, the stupidity, etc. that
came to theater and then film and ultimately was the basis of Jim Crow
laws. Rice’s work was the well-meaning starting point of unintentionally
JUMP JIM CROW uses this background to depict TOM RICE and his black,
life-long friend and collaborator, JACK WASHINGTON. Tom performs what
Jack writes and Jack is perfectly content in his role until he reads
that the Jump Jim Crow dance has led to the hanging of a black boy in
Georgia. Realizing the potential tragic repercussions of his work, Jack
attempts to convince Tom of the harm they both might be doing, but Tom
rejects the connection between his work and the hanging. Tom intends
to continue to spread his “message and with it his rise in popularity
The conflict between the two is heightened by the arrival of STROM THURMOND,
deceased Senator from South Carolina who has traveled back in time to
support and facilitate Tom’s work. Unable to convince Tom, Jack
leaves Tom with his new collaborator, Strom Thurmond.
By the second act, ten years have passed. Tom and Thurmond have traveled
to London where they become theatrical stars. Jack, who has become a
conductor in the under-ground railroad, comes to London to try again
to get Tom to stop the damage he is doing to the lives of blacks in
America, but Tom will have none of it. When Thurmond convinces Jack
there is no way of changing history, that Tom’s work has cast
the die of distorted characterization that will forever plague blacks
in America, Jack takes the logical next, but futile step to stop the
immutability of history.
The fictionalized relationship between the three men is augmented by
integrating examples of Jump Jim Crow verse and dance as well as segments
from “Virginia Mummy,” a play written and staring Tom Rice
in black face.
BACK TO LIST
LOWENSTEIN is a story of a man who sought to give a voice
to the politically powerless, to bring into the center of American life
those on the margin, and to create a world based on humanity rather
Allard Lowenstein was in the inner council of Martin Luther King's civil
rights movement in the '60's. He was instrumental in the voter registration
drive in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. He single handedly initiated
and led the 'Dump Johnson' movement in 1967, recruiting Sen. Eugene
McCarthy to run for President, ultimately forcing President Johnson
into retirement. After winning a seat in the House of Representatives,
Lowenstein was one of the first and strongest voices leading the movement
to end the Viet Nam War. His credo was that one man could make a difference.
His life proved that he was often that man.
His story, and the story of the Nation at the time, is told through
Al, his wife, Jennie, and Dennis Sweeny, his protégé and
eventual assassin. Al's father, White Woman and Black Man provide a
chorus of voices reflecting the conflicts and tensions of the times.
At the age of 51, as he was seemingly about to take an active part in
the gay rights movement, Lowenstein was killed by his mentally ill protégé.
Allard Lowenstein remains all but a footnote in history, either forgotten
or never known. It is the intention of this play to make the public
aware of Lowenstein's legacy.
BACK TO LIST
Mordecai, at sixty, is not a happy man. True, he has a loving wife and
daughter, Rachel and Marcia, but Mordecai feels something in his life
is missing. He seeks solace in tenderly caring for his houseplants,
but as Rachel points out, they never sent even one card on his birthday.
Now on the eve of retirement, Mordecai enters a funk, fueled in part
by Rachel's refusing to leave her family behind and retire with him
to Florida, a dream that has sustained him at his unfulfilling job.
So Mordecai begins a twenty-year quest to find a solution to his feelings
of despondency. And so it shouldn't be a total waste of time, he also
looks for the meaning of life. With Rabbi Gershon as his mentor, Mordecai
explores the Kabbalah and Talmud seeking answers. Along the way he also
looks for a quick solution with a woman he meets by chance. While this
doesn't help much, at least Mordecai finds pleasure in helping her grandchildren
with their homework.
And then, one night, the solution to Mordecai's dilemma comes to him
in a dream, a dream that Mordecai, now 82, sees as a Divine manifestation:
like Abraham before him, Mordecai, in his old age, is to be a father
once again. Despite Rachel's initial reluctance, Mordecai perseveres
and achieves his miraculous destiny.
BACK TO LIST
NO WAY OUT
NO WAY OUT is a set of three comedic plays that explore
our attempts to cope with the inevitability of death. A game of chess,
a 'dooms day box', and a game of 'Pop Goes the Weasel', are used to
depict our reliance on diversion, our quest to understand forces outside
our control, and the randomness of our eventual end. Murray, a silent,
but interested, party, who also happens to move the furniture, actively
BACK TO LIST
Murray had spent a life on the road as a stand-up comic. Although never
a 'big name,' he thrived on the 'rush' of performing and the freedom
to travel. But now, as the play begins, Murray has had a stroke and
must deal not only with his present situation, but also with a past
that makes his present more complicated and problematic.
Life has become complicated for his second wife, Helen, as well. Aware
that Murray was no angel when she married him, she was trading the risk
Murray would bring to any relationship, let alone marriage, for the
excitement of the gamble. Helen was willing and able to adjust to Murray
and his new limits (as Murray puts it, 'for a comic having a stroke
is not a good career move). But the stakes are raised when her sister,
Gladys, just to set the record straight in case Murray should die, tells
Helen that she and Murray had been having an affair.
So now Helen is left on the horns of dilemma: how to be a nurturing
caretaker for a man who has deceived her; how to fulfill her sense of
responsibility and obligation for a man she loves while knowing he is
unworthy of that love.
BACK TO LIST
THE LAST FALCON
THE LAST FALCON is placed in "Casablanca," but the story is
from "The Maltese Falcon." As might be expected from such
a fusion, characters from both films overlap, are joined by characters
unique to each, and all struggle to fight off a rebellious audience.
And so we find Rick, Renault, Ugarti and Ferrari all scrambling to find
a black falcon that is little more than a shaggy dog.
Although Rick, Jr. comes to Casablanca to uncover his past and discover
his father, little did he know he was being set up by Ferrari, Ugarte
and Renault to help them find the last falcon. Little did they know
they all may have been Jr's. father. And little did the audience know
when they bought their ticket they might be boarding the Titanic. All
of this is immersed in mayhem reminiscent of the Marx Bros., Olsen and
Johnson and This Is Your Life.
BACK TO LIST
WHY WE ARE IN
BARBARA and TONY were living the life of a happy, young married couple until
the terror attack of 9/11 and they realize their world has changed. While
TONY focuses on the devastation, BARBARA, an army reservist, focuses on retaliation.
PHIL and his top advisors see the attack as an opportunity to mobilize
the country for war. As the administration moves the machinery
of the presidency to create the war they want, TONY and his friend
ERNIE try to convince BARBARA that she is wrong in her estimation of
the president's integrity and that, despite her being in the reserves,
she should not put her life in jeopardy for a specious war.
The play follows the lives of BARBARA and TONY as the country's calculations
and drumbeats inexorably to lead to war and the separation TONY dreads,
but BARBARA welcomes to fulfill her military commitment. The
play also discloses PHIL'S motivation to fulfill his insight that,
as president, he can, by his words, convince the country that white
is black, up is down and war is peace. Ultimately, BARBARA patriotically
goes off to war while unknowingly giving testimony that PHIL indeed
has the power of the Wizard of Oz.
The play's episodic structure allows the stories of BARBARA and TONY
and PHIL and his advisors to develop along parallel tracks, while also
allowing for short, satiric, seemingly unrelated, scenes to be interspersed
with the story lines. These scenes deal with: using power simply
because we can, the gullibility of the public, the indifference of
the public to public policy, the culpable passivity of the press to
unfolding events and the approval, indeed encouragement, of the religious
right on creating a religious war.
The play is for 3 males and 3 females each playing multiple roles, and
can be staged with several chairs and a table.
BACK TO LIST
TOO MANY LEOS
LEO BLOOM, white, male and seventy, has spent
the last forty years writing his book about the Jewish Diaspora. Unfortunately, so
far he has only managed to write one hundred pages. Knowing time
is running out, he decides to hire someone to take on the day-to-day
tasks of being him, hoping this will free up time to write. He
decides to hire a beard. The classified pages seem to provide
just the right person, someone from the “Beard Agency.” But
when SHANA BEARD shows up, she is black and in her twenties. Eventually,
after much squabbling and testing, SHANA convinces LEO she can do the
job, become him, and he takes a chance. But then JANICE BEARD
shows up, claiming she’s SHANA’S mother and claiming the
job. SHANA insists she never met JANICE, let alone be JANICE’S
daughter. JANICE threatens to tell SHANA’S father of her
escapade. SHANA insists her father is dead. Unable to tell
truth from fiction and to resolve the issue, LEO hires them both to
be him. Now there are three LEO BLOOMS. While SHANA and JANICE
are off running his errands, being LEO, LEO’S friend JACK shows
up but denies LEO is really LEO. JACK says he just had lunch
with LEO and she’s a twenty-year-old black woman. SHANA
and JANICE return from their errands as LEO. They greet JACK
as an old friend, and, because they are now LEO, also deny LEO is who
he says he is. A POLICEMAN is called, but he shows up dressed
as a fireman holding an ax. Roles change, dialects
change, ancestries change, and it may or may not be raining. Eventually,
having resolved nothing, all leave LEO’S apartment, and he returns
to his writing, a day older, but certainly no wiser.
page, one set farce about the fluidity and multiplicity of identities, is for
3 white males and 2 black females.
BACK TO LIST
BREWED: TALES FROM THE COFFEE BAR
Fresh Brewed is a collection of eleven plays, all of which
take place in a coffee bar, all of which use the same set of two small
tables and four chairs, and all of which can be performed by two male
and two female actors in various combinations from a monologue to two
No Prune - 1m, 1f
Can two needy people find
happiness over a cherry Danish?
Morning Coffee - 2m, 1f
A man needs to be left alone to read his newspaper and drink his morning
Hierarchy - 2m
What is the relative hierarchy between friends when one guy is dating
the other’s wife?
Him - 2f
Two women rehearse their break-up,
but only one knows it.
Betty - 1f
A caffeine junky, needing
a fix, tells a strange tale.
This Has Been Some Day - 2m, 2f
A coffee house may not be
the perfect place to hold a wake.
Class - 1m, 1f
Having class depends on how
far a person has to go to get it.
Hopeful Alice - 1m, 1f
Maybe it’s the caffeine, but not all relationships are meant
George And Martha - 1m, 1f
Grass maybe cooler than caffeine, but kinky sex is the best.
Happy Birthday - 2m
Once a week coffee can even
strain a twenty-year friendship.
I Feel Swell - 2m, 2f
Learn what might have fueled Ethel Merman’s boundless energy.
TO LIST | REVIEW
SECRET LIFE OF SEAGULLS
ANNE and DON, married ten years, are on vacation in Florida. As the
play begins, ANNE is inanely chattering on about beaches, seagulls
and garbage dumps. DON, fed up with ANNE’s incessant chatter,
walks away leaving ANNE, much to her surprise, sitting on the beach
alone. DON has gone to visit his friend JIM, a man of little
insight but great obsession about golf, to tell him that he has left
ANNE. JIM, in turn, has just returned from a golfing vacation
to discover his wife, SANDY, has apparently left him. GEORGE,
a seagull who lives a contented life with his wife, ETHEL, on the Staten
Island landfill, has just arrived on the Florida beach and meets FRED,
a seagull without ties but with a dark past.
THE SECRET LIFE OF SEAGULLS follows these four humans and FRED as they
attempt to define themselves, their lives, relationships and values.
GEORGE, the Staten Island seagull, however, is quite content being
who he is.
THE SECRET LIFE OF SEAGULLS can, with doubling, be performed by 2M,
2F and a few feathers.
BACK TO LIST
10 Death Affirming Plays, Sketches and Monologues
DOG YEARS (2,
gender neutral) Do dogs actually out-live Man?
COMRADES (2m) What
are comrades for if not to try to cheer each other up in a time of
distress? Dostoevsky would appreciate the irony.
THE SUITCASE (2m, 2f) Bereavement maybe
painful, but be sure to have your credit
THE STRUGGLE (1m) The sound of the beeeeeep means
diner is off.
LUCKY MAN (2m,
1f) Mr. Smith might have been cured had he survived the autopsy.
1f) A long rehearsal for a one shot performance.
PUMPS (1, gender neutral) There are many kinds
of pumps, but only one really matters.
THE FINE PRINT (2m, 1f) Everything is on loan
and you have to pay up when you go.
SILENCE (2m, 1f) Could there be something worse than surviving
POP GOES THE WEASEL (4, gender neutral) Life may be
a game, but be sure to hold on
to your chair.
BACK TO LIST
Back in the tumultuous ‘60’s GENE was front and center as an activist
and organizer in the Black Voter Registration drive in Alabama. Now it
is 1982 and Gene has assumed a quieter life of writing and lecturing with an
occasional foray helping old friends in their political campaigns. But
Gene’s quiet life is powerfully disrupted by ED, an old ‘60’s
colleague, who brings his friend JIMMY to meet Gene. Their purpose is
to get Gene back in the game, this time to become active and a leader in the
Gay Rights Movement. To do so, however, Gene would finally have to openly,
publicly, come out of the “closet,” something he has avoided his
Now confronted with the potential threat to his hidden life, Gene’s guilt
regarding his relationship with ANDY, his lover killed in Alabama, begins to
bubble to the surface. Gene begins to question if he had “come
out” might he have used his considerable influence to push not only Black
rights, but Gay rights as well, and might this have saved Andy’s life.
THE ACTIVIST follows Gene’s journey as he struggles to understand his
true place and identity in the changing political landscape of the early ‘80’s.
Cast: 6M, 1F. Set: Minimal. Time: 1964 and 1982.
BACK TO LIST
In addition to the above full length plays,
my work includes twenty One-Acts, with casts ranging from two to six.
FRESH BREWED: TALES FROM THE COFFEE BAR:
FROM STU HAMSTA’S CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE 10/6/08:
Cabaret is not simply a lady in a black sparkly dress standing in
front of a piano singing into a microphone. The term is far more inclusive
than that. And this fact is proved by a cabaret experience I had on
Friday night, October 3rd at DON'T TELL MAMA, 343 WEST 46TH STREET,
It was of the most unique cabaret experiences I have had all year.
I am talking about Tanya Moberly's "FRESH BREWED - TALES FROM
THE COFFEE BAR." The show consists of 8 short comedies by Henry
Meyerson with songs by Ani Di Franco, and features William Demeritt,
Stephanie Johnson, Tanya Moberly and Daniel Ruth, with Scott Ethier
at the piano. It was an incredible 55-minute show that held my interest
every minute. These eight short vignettes, with four actors playing
various roles, were real "slice of life" and so fascinating,
you had the impression that maybe 15 or so actors were taking part.
Each segment was introduced by a song or a verse from a song by Ani
DiFranko hauntingly sung by Ms. Moberly - only three songs were actually
used. Now, most of the characters in the stories were quirky and strange,
but no stranger than the characters we run into every day on the bus,
on the subway, or at Starbucks (or even in a cabaret room or piano
bar). The real and the surreal were interspersed throughout. I love
good writing as much as I love good songwriting, so it was double my
pleasure this time out. Ms. Moberly directed the show resulting in
a crisp and insightful production.
This is not quite a "family show" so parents be advised.
But it is a comic evening with a twist - there are truly thoughtful
insights interspersed with the clever, humorous dialog.
Truly, not to be missed!
POP GOES THE WEASEL:
BACK TO LIST
HOME | SCREENPLAY
All material copyright 2001-2002 by Henry Meyerson.
Web design and interface
copyright 2001-2002 by TBE
Design, New York City.
Web Site courtesy of Paul Meyerson, West Orange, NJ