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Stephen R. Scheide as Michael, Gina Marie Russell as Maria. Photo by Ian Johnston.
produced at the 14/48 festival, 1/17/09. The randomly drawn theme for that night: "What The World Needs Now." My random actor draw: write a play for two women and one man. Later produced as part of Star Crossed, and other tales from a devious universe. Lights up on MICHAEL, wearing dirty work clothes as though he has been digging. Michael stands center stage, staring out, transfixed by something out of our sight – moving forward, we'll refer to this as It. We're with him for a few moments: now he smiles... now he seems surprised, but not unpleasantly... now he nods as though realizing a truth of great import... he moves a little closer, and that produces a big smile... he takes a slow step back, and laughs. Then, he is serious. He is interacting with It; It is mischievous in ways, immense in others. MARIA enters, also in work clothes. At first, she doesn't see It. MARIA: There you are! I thought we were going to take the same tram back up for dinner- Then she notices It and stops in her tracks, momentarily stunned by It. MARIA: Oh, my. MICHAEL: We're skipping dinner. Linda's on her way down. MARIA slightly overwhelmed: I can hardly stand it. MICHAEL: It takes some getting used to. Squint a little. She does. No, I mean... squint with your brain. Maria tries that advice, and seems to slowly grow more relaxed. MARIA: Is it actually- MICHAEL: Yeah, if you just sort of- MARIA: Oh oh oh, I get it. It's like they're playing a video game for a moment, navigating a tricky course, taking delight in overcoming obstacles. Yeah, we're skipping dinner. She sits down on the floor to get more comfortable looking at It. The two of them literally play with It for a while together, almost like children. MICHAEL: I just don't understand why it's buried so deep. MARIA: How'd you find this chamber anyway? It's not connected to the main complex, there aren't any doors... MICHAEL trying to remember: By accident. Clearing his head as best as he can. Someone pointed one of the big drills at a bad angle and we clipped that corner up there. MARIA: Man, that was lucky. She is slowly sinking into It, almost as though she's feeling an endorphin rush. MICHAEL thoughtful: I guess it was lucky, yeah. LINDA enters – their supervisor, work clothes as well but they aren't as dirty or ragged. LINDA: This better be good, Michael, there isn't another tram for 45 minutes- And she stops in her tracks. What the hell is that? MARIA giggling: What does it look like? MICHAEL: The research team hasn't seen it yet. Linda approaches It carefully. She is very guarded as she experiences It for the first time, but It clearly has an effect – perturbing for her, perhaps, but at the same time, she sees Its potential. LINDA: Who else knows about this? MICHAEL: Just the rest of my drill crew. LINDA: Keep it that way. Linda smoothly inserts herself in front of Michael to look at It. A cascade of emotions plays across her face – she exults in It, feels empowered by It, flirts with a feeling of awe for It but shuts that down. Michael studies her reactions. Then, she recoils slightly, as though she has been lightly slapped. MARIA giggling louder: I don't think it likes you very much. LINDA snapping at Michael: Get your drunk apprentice out of here. And call the drill crew back. I want that passageway widened as much as possible. MICHAEL: The research team is not going to like that. LINDA: The research team reports to me, and so do you. Which means – they're not going to hear about it. And then, she is caught up in looking at It again – her impatience fades rapidly, replaced by a kind of greedy lust. Then, electricity seems to flow through her, and she enjoys it, although she struggles to control it. MARIA getting to her feet, moving to Linda: How are you getting it to do that? She tries emulating the concentration she sees on Linda's face, and is almost overwhelmed. Wow. I had no idea. Ohhhh and if we do it together- And then the effect spirals for both of them; Michael takes a step away from them. Maria and Linda are finding themselves unexpectedly linked. They are astonished – and then Maria snaps out of it, and steps back away from Linda, who cannot tear her eyes off of It. She is reveling – please please, not as a B movie villainess – her ambition is cycling through her in a feedback loop, but she's neither evil nor simple about it. MARIA appalled: You're just going to... keep it? LINDA: Our funders will not want it trapped in academic red tape. They'll want to study it themselves... figure out how to harness it... maybe even replicate it... MICHAEL: You mean... mass produce it? LINDA: Of course not – the masses couldn't handle this. MARIA: I'm the masses, and I'm handling it- MICHAEL: But... it's not something you can own. LINDA: Oh, so now you're the research team? MARIA: Why shouldn't everyone get a chance to... Gets swept up in It. ...to feel this? It's like medicine, it's- LINDA frustrated: Stop talking, and get the drill crew. In the silence, Linda grows slightly more anxious but stays with It. Maria winds up in a very blissful state. Michael seems troubled, can't get his groove with It. As he takes in the sight of Maria's delight, he turns to Linda. MICHAEL: Even if you widen that passageway until there's no wall left, you won't be able to get it out. We don't have any lifters big enough. LINDA scoffs: It's just a- MICHAEL: Its surface area is shifting unpredictably - what if it expands in the main drill shaft and gets- MARIA: It's really wedged deep back in there, too, if you dislodge it you might trigger- LINDA: Do you people want to lose your jobs? Call the drill crew- MICHAEL patiently: I'm just suggesting that we study it a little more before we try to move the entire thing. What would happen if there was an accident and we hadn't told the research team anything? That'd be on you, Linda, right? Linda begrudgingly accepts that this is true. For a moment, she's disappointed – then, a very clever idea strikes her. She turns to Maria. LINDA: It likes you. Get me a sample. As Maria hesitates: You have learned how to excavate by now, haven't you? Their eyes meet – then Maria smiles. Michael starts to offer her a pair of work gloves, but she declines with a smile. Maria displaces Linda center stage, faces It and establishes a conduit to It. She seems to be asking It permission, and her beaming face indicates that she feels confident and welcome. She takes a step toward It and involuntarily lets out a moan – mostly pleasurable. She gains momentum in this fashion until she steps off the edge of the stage, disappearing into darkness in a series of moans that build toward a climax that never occurs – she cuts off unexpectedly, and we don't hear from her again. Linda is horrified. Michael has a better feeling for what has happened, and tries to calm her. MICHAEL: Here's what we need to do. We need to send the drill crew back up to the main level. We need to dynamite the passageway here on our way out. We need to tell the research team there's nothing down here. And you'll need to come up with a story about Maria's sudden transfer, so that no one heads down here to investigate her disappearance. LINDA: We're just supposed to... keep that a secret? MICHAEL gazing at It: There must have been a reason they buried it this deep. Lights fade as they stare in awe for a little longer. END. [ Satori: a Zen Buddhist term for a sudden inexpressible feeling of inner understanding or enlightenment ]
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