Where Are You?
A darkly comic one-act beep in the night
(A note on casting: the play has a cast of six women and twelve men, but some are offstage voices, and creative double-casting will work as well.
A woman walks down the aisle of the theatre and then speaks directly to the audience. She is the House Manager. The house lights are still up.)
HOUSE MANAGER: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to (the name of the theatre). I’d like to remind you to turn off your cell phones and any other devices that go beep in the night. And, you know, unwrap your candy and lozenges. Thank you, and enjoy Where Are You?
(She smiles and walks back up the aisle. The house light dim to darkness. Right away we hear a cell phone ring somewhere in the audience.)
DANE: (Dane is seated in the audience. Sotto voce but plenty loud enough to be heard by everyone in the audience.) Hello. Hello. Who is this?
(The lights come up on stage, and we see Rachel—thirty-something, Upper East Side, money—walking upstage right to left. She has a cell phone at her ear. She pauses.)
RACHEL: Dane, I can barely hear you. Where are you?
DANE: I’m in a theater. Uh, you know, one of those black box theatres downtown (or wherever we actually are in “reality”).
RACHEL: Well, don’t forget to turn your cell phone off.
DANE: Very funny. I did forget. The play is about to start. Or…uh…I think it’s already started. There’s an actress on the stage.
RACHEL: Well, I’ll call you back later. The audience must be pissed off.
DANE: I don’t think they’ve noticed. I’m whispering.
RACHEL: Well, isn’t that considerate of you. Anyway, I found out about Louis.
DANE: Oh, uh, Louis. The insider trading thing?
RACHEL: No, are you kidding? I knew all about that. It was my idea. Louis isn’t smart enough to think of something like that himself. No. The affair with that bimbo, that so-called actress. I’m sure you knew all about that.
DANE: Well, uh, I, uh. Uh.
RACHEL: Oh, shut up. I called you because I’m about to call him. I need a little support. I’m in front of her building right now. He’s in there with her. That bitch.
DANE: Rachel, now, listen. I wouldn’t if I were you. I mean call her…I mean she might…he might…
RACHEL: Thanks for your support, pal. I was crazy to call you. Go watch your play. I hope it’s boring as hell…and don’t forget to unwrap your fucking candy.
(Rachel snaps her phone shut. She glares at the window ten stories up in the building she’s standing in front of. She dials a number on her phone. Lights come up down left on a man in his plump forties, Louis, in bed with a youngish woman named Flora. They are writhing under a sheet. We hear a cell phone ring, some ridiculous ring tone, maybe the theme from the Sopranos or something. Louis grabs his phone, which is on the floor next to the bed.)
FLORA: What the hell are you doing?
LOUIS: (fumbling with phone) Gotta answer it. Might be important. My broker was going to…
FLORA: (pissed off) You couldn’t have put it on…
LOUIS: Hello, Louis here.
RACHEL: You asshole, you two-timing jerk, you limp-dick, worthless son of a…
LOUIS: Honey! Hi, sweetie. (He sits up in bed, looks at Flora, shrugs, whispers.) It’s my wife.
RACHEL: Yeah, right. Where are you? What are you doing? (sarcastic) You sound a little out of breath.
LOUIS: Gym. Uh. I’m at the gym. Waiting for some jerk to…Hey, buddy, you done with that treadmill yet?
RACHEL: You asshole. You think I believe you? I’m downstairs right now. I can see her window, 10th floor, third window over. I can see the romantic flicker of candles. Smart girl, you look so much better in dim light.
LOUIS: Okay, honey. I’ll pick it up on the way home. Quart of milk, and what else? Oh sure, big package of Oreos. Well, bye for now, sweetie. I won’t be long.
RACHEL: You never are, you…
(But he’s snapped his phone shut and Rachel exits. Louis turns to Flora to try to resume the mood and activity. They get into it a little under the sheet a moment or two…then her cell phone rings. Flora reaches for her cell phone.)
LOUIS: Can’t you let voicemail…
FLORA: It might be my agent.
LOUIS: At this hour?
FLORA: We have this…arrangement.
(She flips open her phone and Preston, her agent, appears downstage right. He’s the actor with the cell phone who was in the audience, but of course we don’t recognize him because we never really saw him. Suit and tie, slick, an unlit cigar in his free hand.)
PRESTON: Preston. (tries to sound tough and slick, doesn’t succeed)
FLORA: Preston, baby, are you glad to see me, or is that your cell phone in your… (She puts her hand over the phone and whispers.) Agent. I told you we have an arrangement. (then to Preston) Where are you?
PRESTON: Just left my office, came downstairs to get a cigar. I’m pissed off at you, Flora. You were supposed to come by my office for one of our little ‘career counseling’ sessions.
FLORA: Oh, Preston, I’m so sorry. Oh my God, I completely lost track of…
PRESTON: (suspicious) Where are you?
FLORA: Massage therapist. I’m in the middle of getting…worked on.
PRESTON: Yeah, right. Well, get your cute little ass up to my office. (lascivious) I have something for you.
FLORA: Preston, of course. I’ll be dressed and out of here in…in no time.
PRESTON: I’ll give you twenty minutes. (snaps phone shut, as does Flora. Preston exits.)
FLORA: (to Louis) I’ll give you five minutes.
(Lights out on them, and the bed slides off.
Now we see elsewhere on stage, Dude 1, who wears his baseball cap backwards, with a cell phone. He dials a number. And we see Dude 2, also with a backward cap, seated at a table with Starbucks latte cup in front of him. His cell rings.)
DUDE 2: Yo.
DUDE 1: Yo, dude. Whassup, gangsta? Where are you?
DUDE 2: Starbucks.
DUDE 1: Okay. Uh. Which one?
DUDE 2: Uh. I don’t know.
DUDE 1: Huh?
DUDE 2: Well, shit. There’s another one across the street. I don’t know if I’m in this one or…or…or that one.
(Lights out on Dude 1 and Dude 2.
Lights come up on Flora. She’s now standing on the ledge outside her 10th story window, which is down right. She dials a number on her cell. We hear another disgusting ring tone, and lights up on Hummer, sitting at a table down right. He’s tapping away on a laptop. He snaps open his cell.)
HUMMER: Hummer here, what?
FLORA: Hummer, it’s Flora. I’m on the ledge outside my bedroom window.
HUMMER: Flora, are you crazy? Don’t you know not to call me when I’m…(sound of siren in the distance from off stage) Hey, I hear a siren. Where are you?
FLORA: I’m trying to tell you. I’m on the ledge outside my bedroom window. I’m going to jump.
HUMMER: That’s why you called me? That I’m having all kinds of problems with my act one curtain doesn’t phase you? You don’t care? You are so…
FLORA: I’m going to kill myself, Hummer. I’ve had it. I’m having an affair with a married man who is lousy in bed but gives me, you know, cash gifts. And his wife called tonight while we were…and I’m also fucking my agent who is also lousy in bed, but he promises me all kinds of career shit, but he hasn’t got me a call back in weeks, not even a fucking call back. I’m losing weight in my boobs and it’s shifting down to my ankles, my wrinkles are getting deeper, even my elbows are getting fat, and I think I need glasses. I’m giving up. I’m going to jump.
HUMMER: Is this like when you took all those sleeping pills and called 911 first? And the sleeping pills turned out to be melatonin? Is this like that? Or the time you tried to cut your wrists with a nail file? Or…?
FLORA: Please take me seriously. This isn’t like that. I’m really going to…
HUMMER: Give me your honest opinion on something, Flora. Have you ever known a more vain person than you? Do you have any idea what you’ll look like if you hit the sidewalk after a ten story fall? It won’t be pretty.
FLORA: But I’ll be dead, Hummer. I won’t care how I look. End of consciousness, death, fade to black, ringer off!
HUMMER: Hey, wait a minute! You gave me an idea. How’s this? Maggie attempts suicide. How’s that for an act one curtain? She’s been heavy-duty depressed since she caught Ben in bed with that Home Depot delivery guy. She’s popped a bunch of pills, real ones, Flora, not melatonin, and Ben walks in as her face turns purple and…and…he glances over at the phone. The audience wonders will he call 911? Or just let her die? Slow fade to black, and the audience wonders all through intermission if poor Maggie is dead or alive. How’s that?
FLORA: That’s ridiculous. She’s one of the main characters. If she dies, there won’t even be an Act Two.
HUMMER: Oh. Well, uh, maybe she’s not really dead, but she goes into this coma, you know, one of those comas where you don’t lose your looks, or it’s her twin sister Olga who’s really committed suicide, and Maggie’s just hiding out, and she’ll reappear at the end. When I was writing for the soaps we did that kind of shit all the time. And then she could…
(She snaps her phone shut, and lights out on Hummer. His table and chair slide off. Flora looks down at that ten story fall, tries to summon up the courage to jump. Lights up on Cindy, a cute young woman, who mimes putting a quarter in a payphone and dialing. Ring sounds across the stage. Lights up on Rascal, a cool looking young thug, strolling.)
RASCAL: Why, hello there.
CINDY: Where are you?
RASCAL: Depends. Who’re you?
CINDY: Well, I think you must have found my cell phone, and I’d like to arrange to…
CINDY: What? No, what?
RASCAL: I didn’t find your cell phone, I stole it. This is so cool. Hey. I’ve never had one of them actually call me before.
CINDY: Them? One of…What are you talking about?
RASCAL: Someone I stole a cell phone from. None of them has ever called me before.
CINDY: You’ve done this before?
RASCAL: Lots. It’s sort of how I make my living. This and some other stuff.
CINDY: Look, I want my phone back.
RASCAL: Sure you do. Who wouldn’t? It’s a cool phone. Takes pictures, text messages, games, ring tones.
CINDY: I want you to give me my phone back!
RASCAL: Well, aren’t you spunky. No, I don’t think so. You wanna buy it? I’ll make you a good price. Cheaper than, you know, replacing it new.
CINDY: You gotta be kidding.
RASCAL: You got me pegged. I’m a kidder, that’s why they call me Rascal. Except you know what? I never kid about cell phones. Does Trump kid about real estate?
CINDY: You make your living doing this?
RASCAL: This and a couple other things.
CINDY: Drugs? Do you sell drugs?
RASCAL: Selling drugs is immoral. And illegal.
CINDY: But you have no problem stealing cell phones.
RASCAL: I think of it as a victimless crime.
CINDY: What about me?
RASCAL: What about you? Tell me about yourself. I got a fairly good look at you when I lifted your phone. (a little switch in his voice) You’re really very attractive, great body, lovely eyes. And I heard you speaking to your girlfriend. You have a sexy voice.
CINDY: You think I’m…attractive? I have a sexy…?
RASCAL: Believe it. Go with it. What did you say your name is?
CINDY: I didn’t. It’s Cindy.
RASCAL: Cindy. Perfect. So, Cindy, you work in an office, right? Receptionist, right?
CINDY: How did you know that?
RASCAL: Well, Cindy, most people work in offices. The receptionist thing was just a good guess. I’m very intuitive. How much money do you take home?
CINDY: What the hell kind of business is that of…
RASCAL: Now, come on, I’m really interested in you. I have a reason for asking. I feel like I know you. Tiny studio apartment in a downscale ‘hood’? Oh my God, you don’t live in Queens, do you? No, wait, you share with somebody and your bedroom is half the size of your bed? Hate your roommate, hate your boss, paycheck to paycheck, and you’ve maxed out your credit cards, and you don’t have the foggiest notion how you’ll ever pay them down? Cindy, my sweet, I know you. Don’t I?
CINDY: Okay, I take home about $XXX, and, yes, I owe a few bucks. Doesn’t everybody? And, yeah, I hate my boss. He’s a total jerk. And I sleep on a futon in the living room. My out-of-her-mind roommate has the bedroom.
RASCAL: Oh, Cindy, a sad life, a hopeless life. I sympathize, yes I do. And I bet you work 8—9 hours a day.
CINDY: Sometimes more.
RASCAL: That’s what I’m saying. But you’re really the creative type, right? Loads of talent, but the breaks have been against you? You don’t know the right people, right? Cuz you’re from out of town, and New York’s a big, scary city. You work too hard, and you don’t make enough money. And you pay taxes. And you don’t have a cool guy to cruise around with.
CINDY: Well, yeah. How’d you know all that stuff about me?
RASCAL: Told you. I’m intuitive. So, how’d you like to partner up with me? Make some real money.
CINDY: You’ve got to be… (pause, thinking, thinking) Doing what, exactly?
RASCAL: Ah, the lady is ripe for adventure, ready to improve her lifestyle. Doing what exactly…that is the question. Let’s take a meeting, talk it over. You go with me, you make a lot more money, tell your boss and your nutso roommate to go fuck themselves, move out of that sleazy dump, and enjoy the benefits of my company. You gotta admit talking to me has you seeing life from a whole new angle. Time for you paradigm shift, Cindy.
CINDY: Wait, wait, I have to put another quarter in the phone.
RASCAL: You’re calling from a payphone?
CINDY: Yes, something happened to my cell phone, remember? (puts a quarter in phone, thinks) I can’t believe I’m…I’ll think it over.
RASCAL: No, you won’t think it over. You’ll decide right now, or I hang up. I’ll count to three. One…two…
CINDY: Let’s meet.
RASCAL: Starbucks. Sixth Avenue and 24th Street. Be there in 11 minutes.
CINDY: But I’m all the way over on…
RASCAL: Whatever. Take a cab.
CINDY: How will I know you?
RASCAL: You won’t. I’ll know you because, as you know, I’ve seen you before. If I still like your looks, and there are no cops around, we’ll talk.
CINDY: I can’t believe I’m doing this.
RASCAL: Believe it. Probably the most exciting thing you’ve done in awhile, isn’t it? See you, Cindy.
(Rascal snaps the phone shut as he smiles an ambiguous sort of smile, and Cindy stands staring forward thinking. Lights out on both.
Lights up on Flora, still on her ledge. She snaps her phone open and dials, and we hear an off-stage ring tone.)
MYRA: (from off stage with an over-the-phone sound) Well, howdy-doody, Space Cadets. You’ve reached Myra, Queen of the Universe. No, just kidding. Who’d want to be Queen of this universe, but this is Myra. I’m out doing something wildly exciting and only mildly immoral with another consenting adult that you would itch to do yourself if only you had the balls. But seriously, folks, leave a message, and you know I’ll…
(Flora snaps her phone shut, contemplates the 10 story drop, opens her phone, and dials another number. We hear the ring tone off stage.)
REX: Rex here. I’m out, or maybe just screening my phone to avoid ex boy-toys with whom I had ghastly breakups, bill collectors, crank calls, telemarketers, death threats, and other bores. But take your chances, you just might be someone I want to talk to. Just say who you are and, you know, where are you? You know, phone number wise.
(Beep. Flora snaps her phone shut, looks at the 10 story drop, opens her phone, and dials another number. We hear another ring tone.)
FLORA’S MOM: Hello. (a bit of an accent…southern? Midwest?) You’ve reached the automatic electrical telephone answering machine of Thelma Wilson. W-I-L-S-O-N. Now, I’m not in right now, but if you’ll be so kind as to leave your name and telephone number after that little beep, I’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as I can. If this is Sue Ann calling about the pineapple upside down cake, don’t worry, Sue Ann, you silly goose, it’ll be ready for the bake sale Sunday. (Beep.)
FLORA: Mom, mom, why aren’t you home? Where are you? This isn’t bingo night. There’s no church service tonight. It’s too late to go shopping, and there’s that show you like on TV. Maybe you’re in the bathroom? Maybe you’re out watering the philodendrons in the backyard? But, Mom, anyway, listen…I’m…I’m…I need to talk to somebody, and all of my friends are…I don’t know where they are. But as soon as you get this message, please call me. I promise you, I’ll be here, unless… (She stops talking, snaps her phone shut. Lights out on her.)
(Lights up on the other side of the stage, on Cindy. She snaps a cell phone open and dials a number. A voice off stage answers.)
MR. FLAHERTY: (grumpy) Goldstein, Silverstein, and Flaherty.
CINDY: Mr. Flaherty, it’s Cindy. I…
MR. FLAHERTY: Where the hell are you? You’re an hour late. I have to answer the damn phone myself.
CINDY: Mr. Flaherty, I’m not coming in. I quit. I hope to never see your fat ass again. And you can go fuck yourself!
(She dials another number…ring tone…lights up across the stage on Rascal who snaps his phone open…)
CINDY: Rascal, I did it! I’m calling you from it. My first cell phone. It was easy, so easy, like you said. And I quit my job, and I told my roommate to go fuck herself!
RASCAL: (bored) Yeah, yeah. Whatever.
CINDY: Let’s celebrate. Let’s hook up. Where are you?
RASCAL: Ah, Cindy, that is the question. An existential question, really, and I’m sure it will become clear to you where I am, and where you are, and where I’m coming from in the fullness of time. But it’s where I will be that’s important. And I’ll be at the Starbucks five-ish. Bring me the phone you’ve got…and four more.
CINDY: Rascal, I…
(But she is cut off. Lights out on both of them and up on Flora, still on the ledge, and on Flora’s mom in an easy chair down left. She has a land-line phone in her hand. She is gray haired, dressed in a house dress. Flora’s cell rings, and she snaps it open.)
FLORA’S MOM: Now, Flora, I got your message on my answering machine. Are you in some kind of trouble? Have you been doing something you shouldn’t be doing?
FLORA: Mom, listen, I’m desperate. All my friends are…I don’t know where they are. Their voicemails or machines pick up. I don’t know where they are.
FLORA’S MOM: Well, where are you? I never know where you’re calling from since you got that fancy cellular telephone. I told you not to move to New York City. My goodness gracious, you never know what could happen to you there. And acting. Didn’t I warn you about…
FLORA: Mom, please, listen to me. I’m on the ledge outside my apartment. I’m going to jump.
FLORA’S MOM: Don’t be silly. That would be a mortal sin. You know that. You learned all about that in Catechism Class. You’d burn in hell, and I don’t want any daughter of mine burning in hell. What would the neighbors say? And who told you to live on the tenth floor? Nobody needs to live that high up. Why, even the Franklins over on Elm Street only have a three story house. You remember the Franklins. Their daughter became a bank teller right here in town, and now they’ve promoted her to…
FLORA: Mom, I’m desperate…
FLORA’S MOM: And it’s December already. You’ll catch your death out there on that…
FLORA: Mom, I’m desperate.
FLORA’S MOM: Well, honey, I can send you $20 the first of next week. I don’t see how I could…
FLORA: Mom, listen, it’s not the money. The married man I have sex with twice a week gives me money, plenty of money, and I throw up on the food I buy with it.
FLORA’S MOM: Flora, if you talk that way, I’m just going to hang up. I know you don’t mean what you’re saying. We didn’t raise you to do such things, and especially not talk about them to your mother, for goodness gracious. Now, if I’ve told you once, pray, have faith. Talk to a priest. There must be at least one priest in New York City who isn’t wicked. Stop doing whatever it is you’re doing that’s making you so blue. I know you didn’t mean what you said about…that man…and let’s have no more talk about doing harm to yourself. It’s a mortal sin, and you know it. Your sister would never do something like that…going to New York City to live…and taking money for…Oh, God, I can’t even say it. You should just…
(Flora drops the hand holding her phone to her side. We still see mom talking and hear a faint bit of her voice but not the words. Flora snaps her phone shut, and lights out on mom. Flora snaps her phone open again but can’t think of anyone to call. She snaps it shut. Lights out on Flora.
Lights up on Cindy, who dials a number. A man enters from across the stage. The phone in his hand rings, and he flips it open.)
CINDY: Hey, Rascal, it’s Cindy. You’re going to be so proud of me. I already have four phones, and it’s only…
MAN: (interrupts) Who is this?
CINDY: (pause) Who is this?
MAN: Look, lady, who’re you trying to call?
CINDY: Rascal, my friend Rascal.
MAN: I don’t know any Rascal. Maybe you want the guy I bought this phone from, but he said his name was Jack. Said he was going to get a new phone, wanted to get rid of this old one, said nobody important had this number.
CINDY: But I need to talk to Rascal. This is his number. This is the only number I have for him. He wouldn’t sell his phone without giving me his…
MAN: Look, you gotta work this out with your pal Rascal. He said he was tired of this phone, had his eye on an i-phone.CINDY: Well, where are you? I mean, where are you now? I mean, where were you when…
MAN: You want some free advice, lady? Go by his place and see this Rascal, or Jack, or whoever. Get his new number.
CINDY: But I don’t know where he…I mean, he moves around a lot, and he…
MAN: Hey, this is getting into the life-is-too-short-for-this-bullshit-department. Conversation over. (He snaps his phone shut as he exits.)
(Cindy stares at her phone, then looks around her, at people entering now, at a busy street in the city. They’re all talking on cell phones. She tries to exit but is blocked, tries another way, and is blocked again. All these cell phone talkers move toward her, close in on her. We hear one, then another, then another, like circling sharks. They move closer to her erratically, closing her in. She becomes more and more distressed as these people enter talking on their cell phones, overlapping, volume levels up and down, with everyone talking at once as the scene builds to a climax.
All these cell-phone talkers are played by actors we’ve seen before, but they wear shades, or caps, or wigs, or different costumes. They are not who they were before.)
ACTOR WHO PLAYS LOUIS: No, no. I mean yes, or oh shit, I don’t know…Maybe. Maybe. Yeah, I’m on the corner of Astor and Third. Hey, I can see you. You’re wearing that stupid yellow cap. I’m waving. What are you, blind? Oh, wait, that’s not you. Well, where are you? (continues talking, improvising)
ACTOR WHO PLAYS RACHEL: Don’t hand me that shit! What the hell business is it of yours where I am? Where the fuck are you? (continues talking, improvising)
ACTOR WHO PLAYS RASCAL: Hey, don’t blame me. I thought you’d like her. She is cute, though, isn’t she? Whatta rack on that babe, yeah? Yeah, yeah, a little nuts, but you like them nuts, yeah? Hey, let’s get together. You can give me juices. I’ll buy you a latte. Where are you? (continues talking, improvising)
ACTOR WHO PLAYS DUDE: So I say to him, I say, like, wait a minute, don’t, I mean he was, I don’t know, I mean he was, like…Whoa, dude, I say to him, like he was nosy as a fucking hound dog, he keeps asking me (mimics a wimpy voice) Where are you? Where are you? I mean, like, none of his fucking business. (continues talking, improvising)
ACTOR WHO PLAYS HUMMER: A million five…No, no, how can I go lower? No, you fucking asshole, no way. You treat me like shit, and you expect me to…Shut up…No, you shut up…I’m going to rip you a new face…I’m coming after you, you fucker. Where are you? (continues talking, improvising)
(The scene plays to a crescendo, everybody but Cindy talking at once, improvising, and Cindy is defeated, in the middle of it all, and then blackout.
Lights up on Flora, still on ledge. She snaps her phone open, stares at it for a moment, snaps it shut, pauses, and then she jumps.
Then she is lying on the ground, ten stories down, her arms and legs askew, a thin trickle of blood coming from her mouth. Her cell phone lies a couple of inches from her hand. It has flipped open in the fall. From her phone, we hear a tiny voice: “Where are you? Where are you?” and then silence.
Black. Ringer Off.)