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The Mirage

produced at the 14/48 festival, 7/13/07. The randomly drawn theme for that night: "Won't Get Fooled Again." My random actor draw: write a play for three women and two men.

MELODY a struggling mother
KATIE Melody's 16-year-old daughter
LAUREL Melody's sister
SAM Melody's ex-boyfriend
THE PRINCE a mirage

A small kitchen table. Melody, Katie and Laurel are gathered to celebrate Katie's birthday. Katie presents a tray with three cupcakes, each with its own lit candle, and sets it down on the table.

MELODY: Happy birthday, sweetheart.

KATIE: There's only three candles.


KATIE: Mom, I'm sixteen, not three.

LAUREL sitting down: Young lady, I slaved away for ten whole minutes in the cupcake store getting these ready for you.

MELODY: Blow out the candles before you hurt your Aunt's last remaining feeling.

KATIE: It's not the same without Sam.

MELODY after a pause: That's true.

KATIE: We used to have so much fun on my birthday when Sam was here. We would go out. Pause. What happened to him?

LAUREL: He had a sudden bout of "I'm a complete jerk" and we had him airlifted into the Bermuda Triangle.

KATIE: I'm sixteen now. I want to know where he went.

SAM drifts onstage behind them, stands near the table looking on.

MELODY: Katie... I don't know where he went. I just know what he told me.

SAM: I know this is going to sound really trite, but... I'm just not ready for this kind of commitment.

LAUREL: He actually said that?

MELODY: He did warn me about the trite part.

SAM: This has all just... it's happened really fast.

KATIE: But you were with him for two years!

SAM: I know, but that's really not that much time to appreciate how... complicated it is to raise a child, or create a home together.

KATIE: So he was scared of being with us?

SAM: I'm not scared, I just think you'll be better off without me. Plus... we just don't like the same TV shows. I'm sorry, Melody. He drifts off stage.

KATIE: That's stupid. I thought he was cooler than that.

LAUREL: We all did.

MELODY: He had a sweet side. He just couldn't hold up his end of the bargain. And he was at least partially right, because he watched those fucking Law & Order shows like 24 hours a day.

Lights drift lower on the kitchen scene as Katie & Laurel exit. In the transition, Melody pulls away from the table a bit, and is left alone with a laptop on her lap, working. The Prince enters on the opposite side of the stage, facing out to the audience and singing as the scene transition occurs. He should sing this slowly, like a sweet ballad, instead of like the original doo-wop version.

THE PRINCE: "Why do birds sing so gay, and lovers await the break of day? Why do they fall in love? Why does the rain fall from up above? Why do fools fall in love? Why do they fall in love?"

MELODY: Who is sending me email at 2:30 in the morning?

THE PRINCE: Dear Madame, I am Prince Alexander Cagliostro, minister and general in the royal army of our great nation, a land clear across the world from your own. A civil war has befallen my people, but my father managed to sequester the entire coffers of our nation's treasury into a secret account in a venerable world bank.

MELODY: I wonder how much money that is.

THE PRINCE: I am talking about quite a bit of money, Madame, but unfortunately, now that our government has collapsed, the bank will not release the funds to my father.

MELODY: That sounds like trouble.

THE PRINCE: To retrieve the funds, the world bank requires a deposit from a citizen of the world in honorable standing as a show of good faith. In exchange a generous commission amounting to a full 30% of the treasury funds will be transferred directly into an account of your choosing.

MELODY: 30% of quite a bit is... quite a bit. What's the deposit?

THE PRINCE: I need you to provide the single most emotionally relevant page out of your personal diary, the one page that happens to catch the most revealing portrait of your character something the bank can use to determine why they should trust you in this manner.

MELODY: Lucky thing I still keep a diary.

THE PRINCE: Please consent to meet me on a private internet chat channel tomorrow at eight o'clock, where I shall ascertain your level of interest.

The Prince exits as full lights return to Melody's side of the stage. Katie and Laurel return to the stage, Laurel taking over the laptop and reading the email; Melody is now browsing pages in her journal.

LAUREL: That's ridiculous. He's just some guy in a net cafe somewhere in the third world.

KATIE: What if he is a prince?

LAUREL: This is not how princes operate. They do not sweep in via email and magically deliver 30% of a large amount of cash directly into your purse for you to spend on gold-plated mansions on the moon.

KATIE: We wouldn't need a mansion.

MELODY: Oh, this is a good page. I'm reminiscing about how much the first time with Sam was like... Catching Katie's eye. How the first time Sam and I had dinner was very delightful. Apparently we had sushi. She rips the page out.

KATIE: You're not even going to photocopy that page?

MELODY: Some memories you don't forget. She turns to Laurel. It's 8:00.

Reluctantly, Laurel slides the laptop over to her. As Melody begins the chat, Laurel and Katie get up and stand behind her, reading over her shoulder. The Prince appears on the opposite side of the stage.

THE PRINCE: Have you found an appropriate deposit?

MELODY: Where should I send it?

THE PRINCE: It's not safe to send it. I would like to collect it in person.

MELODY: I don't usually choose to meet strange princes I've only known on the internet.

THE PRINCE: I'm not like the other princes.

MELODY: It's true. For starters, your spelling is impeccable.

THE PRINCE: I also have impeccable manners and a courtly demeanor, and I am well versed in the art of conversation.

LAUREL: Oh please. He sounds like some kind of artificial prince-bot.

KATIE: Mom, you're not really going to meet him, are you?

MELODY: Katie, let's be clear this kind of behavior is only acceptable for adults and crazy people, understand? Back to the computer. When can you come get the deposit?

THE PRINCE: As you know, I have no funds to travel.

MELODY: I could arrange a plane ticket.

LAUREL: You do understand the definition of "scam," don't you? Has The Sting taught you nothing?

THE PRINCE: I cannot wait to meet you. You will be beloved by my people... and no doubt by me as well.

LAUREL: You're just... you're trying to replace Sam with this guy, but it's just a mirage. There's nobody there.

MELODY: I'm not going to spend any money. I'll use frequent flier miles.

Lights dim once more, as Laurel and Katie exit, and The Prince exits as well. Melody comes out from behind the table and waits patiently. Finally, we hear the doorbell ring.

MELODY: Come in.

After a beat, Sam enters.

SAM: Hi Melody.

MELODY: I didn't think you'd have the guts to show up.

SAM: I don't suppose you have your deposit handy.

She hands him the page. Sam reads quietly for a moment.

SAM: I'm really sorry, Melody. I know that's hardly worth the air in my lungs to say it, but it's true. Sometimes you never know how precious something is to you until it slips through your fingers.

MELODY: You know, I must have read that same Hallmark card. So now you're back. So what.

SAM: So... I wondered if you might still be out there somewhere. In a land clear across the world from my own. I know I don't have a right to expect anything from you, Melody, but... maybe I was scared, and maybe I was just lying to myself. I don't know. I just missed you too much when you weren't right next to me.

MELODY: I know the feeling.

SAM: You knew right away I was The Prince, didn't you.

MELODY: You always were a sweet talker.

SAM: So even though you knew... you invited me here. Does that mean anything?

MELODY: Yeah. It means you disappeared without saying goodbye to my daughter. Katie!

Katie enters slowly. She sees Sam, and immediately rushes to him, embracing him. He is caught off guard and seems genuinely happy to see her.

KATIE: Where have you been? You just left!

SAM: I must have been crazy or something.

KATIE: You missed my birthday.

Sam pulls out a small wrapped present and hands it to her. She is clearly entranced.

KATIE: Are you going to stay with us?

SAM: I don't know. Eyes Melody. Am I?

MELODY: I don't know. Pause. Do you still watch those fucking Law & Order shows?

SAM: I switched to CSI.

MELODY: Well, that helps I guess.

Lights fade slowly on this scene, as lights come up on The Prince on the opposite side of the stage.

THE PRINCE singing: "Why does my heart skip a crazy beat? For I know it will reach defeat. Tell me why-ahhhhh-ahhhhy, tell me why, why do fools fall in love?"

Fade to black.

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