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The Cheater - Short Play  Rate Topic 
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 Posted: Sun Nov 6th, 2011 11:20 pm
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Jamie
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Mana: 
My apologies if the formatting doesn't work properly.

 


The Cheater


 

  

Cast (In order of appearance)

SUICIDE: The physical embodiment of suicide itself, SUICIDE is in his mid-thirties, loud, rude, sarcastic and vulgar. He’s extremely smug and confident throughout.

MAN IN WHITE (MW): The opposite of SUICIDE. Meant to represent an angel or a

saviour. Also in mid-thirties and is dressed in white. He holds himself with a great

amount of dignity and intelligence, as well as a polite professionalism and a genuine

warmth towards those he helps.

EMILY: The middle aged woman who wants to kill herself. She seems very spacey and

distracted, as well as weak, distraught and exhausted at first. However, she still has some

fight left in her, and can quickly become stronger at times. Otherwise, she is generally

meant to be average in every way.

NURSE: In her late fifties. Has been a nurse for a long time and is very experienced, yet

still visibly nervous over the news she must give EMILY.

HANNAH: EMILY’s best friend. Has the same physical description as EMILY. Is, at one point, a seemingly tough, sullen yet vulnerable drug addict, and then transforms into a loud, mean, annoying woman insulting EMILY over her suicide.

Set

The entire play takes place in real time and has only one, unmoving set piece, the object

EMILY sits on. Throughout the play, the large rectangular object is covered by a blanket, so we cannot see the object itself. 

 

(Lights up. SUICIDE is standing alone centre stage. After a brief pause he begins to speak.)





SUICIDE: Pop quiz. Is death bad? Yes. Is murder wrong? Yes. Is life something that’s meant to be cherished and kept? Yes. Therefore, one must stop another from killing them self at all costs. Right?

Wrong.

Huh. Now don’t I just sound gross? No, no need to answer that, you’re already all judging me, what can I say to change your mind? But you have to see it from my point of view. Who am I? Well, that’s a very complicated question. Think of me as the noose. Or the gun. Or the bottle of pills. I’m just that.

I’m suicide. Yep. It’s me. In the flesh. Great to meet you...Hmmm, little quiet, are we? I mean, it’s not like I care about all of you, some people are just DYING to meet me!

...Geez, tough crowd. Don’t blame me, I’m stalling. My partner’s supposed to be here any second, I guess I‘m just a bit early. So where does that leave us? How much longer can we go on like this before getting to the point? Well, I guess we should just move right in. Now give me your hand. (Raises hand towards the audience) Give me your hand. Come on, put it - ummm - ...I’m sorry, put it...uh...wow, lost my train of thought. Put your-

(MAN IN WHTE (MW) enters.)





SUICIDE: Oh! How nice of you to join us! I was getting impatient.

MW: I always arrive eventually. The timing of events is irrelevant as long as they end up affecting us.

SUICIDE: And there you go making no friggin’ sense. You realize no one understands you, right?

MW: No one is supposed to.

SUICIDE: Again! Are you serious?! You know, it’s not that I wouldn’t love to sit here and jabber with you, but we have a thing to do, don’t we?

MW: I understand we do.

SUICIDE: Aw, why so glum? You’re not actually intimidated this time, are you?

MW: That is irrelevant.

SUICIDE: You totally are! You actually think I’m gonna get to tie up her finger!

(SUICIDE waves a short piece of black string in his face; MAN IN WHITE takes out his own white string and examines it for a second, then looks up.)





MW: Take your place.

SUICIDE: And where, pray tell, would that be?

MW: You know exactly where it is.

SUICIDE: Remind me.

MW: I’m not going to force you to do anything.

SUICIDE: Fine.

(Lights up upstage centre. Reveals EMILY in a bathrobe sitting on a large rectangular object completely covered in a blanket, facing the audience. She is staring neutrally ahead.)

MW: Hello.

(She looks at him and gives a forced smile. Beat. MAN IN WHITE looks at SUICIDE.)

SUICIDE: Oh, sorry. How you doin’?

(EMILY gives a slight shrug.)

MW: Alright, now, miss, can you state your name?

EMILY: Yes. Umm, Emily Margret Tiller.





MW: Excellent. How are you doing today Ms. Tiller?

(Beat.)

EMILY: (cold) ...I’ve been...better...

SUICIDE: Of course you have!

MW: (To SUICIDE) Please don’t. (Back to EMILY) Now, can you tell us where you are right now?

EMILY: Well...I’m in my room, like I always am.

SUICIDE: It’s not like you have anywhere else to go...

MW: I need you to be quiet!

SUICIDE: Quiet? Oh please! These formalities are ridiculous!

MW: It’s standard procedure; I don’t have any say in the matter.

SUICIDE: The guys upstairs have plenty of tragedies to worry about; I really don’t think they’ll care about what we do!

MW: You are in no place to speak about any of the problems going on in the world right now, and I think you’re seriously underestimating the consequences of not following rules!

SUICIDE: You’re insane! Do you ever let loose? I don’t understand how you can

possibly manage -

EMILY: Please! (Beat. They both look at her, surprised that she yelled.) This is a tough time for all of us. The last thing we need is fighting. Now I’m tired, I’m confused, and I really don’t have the motivation to drag things out. Can I just go back now?

SUICIDE: Come on, you know better.

MW: Don’t pressure her.

EMILY: What?

MW: Do you understand what’s about to happen?

EMILY: Maybe…I thought I was done.

SUICIDE: Don’t say that -

EMILY: I can’t?

MW: I’m confused now…

SUICIDE: Wait! No, you don’t need to be!

EMILY: What? Can I just get refresher?



MW: (Jumps at the opportunity to talk about rules) Certainly. You’ve decided to kill yourself.

EMILY: Right...that.

MW: But like everyone, you have the opportunity to change your mind. We’re both going to present our cases to you in a clear and logical fashion to help influence your decision, in the hopes that -

SUICIDE: You wanna die, but the rules say you need time to think about it! He’s gonna

get you to try to pick him. He’s gonna act all strong and sentimental, tell you that what you’re doing is some horrible mistake, and that everything can be worked out. But, see, the fun part is, you‘re not gonna fall for that. They never do. You’ve given up on that crap a long time ago and not even a sweet talking angel like him can change your mind. So you’re gonna listen politely, you’re gonna sit there nodding your head and, hell, maybe even consider what he’s saying every once in a while, but it still won’t make a

difference. And when the time finally comes, you’re gonna pretend to think about your "final decision" when you’ve really already made up your mind. Then I’m gonna walk up to you and tie my little black string around your finger. Then you’re gonna take a deep breath, say your last goodbyes and walk with me, hand in hand, to oblivion.

Sound good?

(Beat.)

MW: Everyone has a choice.

SUICIDE: Yeah, but it really isn’t that suspenseful.

MW: You realize that just by saying that you could be breaking a half a dozen rules in the -

EMILY: Okay.

SUICIDE: What?

EMILY: Okay. I understand. I’m ready. Let’s get started.

SUICIDE: Alright then, let the popularity contest begin!

(MAN IN WHITE and SUICIDE say nothing. They move so they are standing next to each other, professionally.)

You wanna start, or should I?

MW: You have to start, those are the rules, I always get the last word.

SUICIDE: Oh, of course, how could I have forgotten...

(Begins stepping forward.)

Well, let‘s see, what do we know for sure in a confusing time like this? You’re depressed, that’s a given. You’re feeling like your life has just stopped moving and there’s nowhere left to go. And every day is just a cruel, sick reminder of what you lost, so there’s really no other alternative.

But hey, who am I kidding? You’ve already heard me talk enough. That’s why I brought along a little help.

(Enter NURSE.)

NURSE: I’m sorry, Ms. Tiller. I never wanted to have to give this news to anyone, trust me, nurses dread saying it almost as much as parents dread hearing it -

SUICIDE: - Come on, cut to the chase -

NURSE: - Your son has passed away.

SUICIDE: And the plot thickens.

There are no bells or whistles. No deep seated emotions building up for years, you were just a single mom. He was all you had, and then he went and died. Isn’t that right?

EMILY: ...Yes.

SUICIDE: And what did you say next?

EMILY: Well, I -

SUICIDE: Don’t tell me, tell her.

NURSE: Your son has passed away.

EMILY: (She is very emotional, said as a whisper.) ...How can that be?

SUICIDE: I can’t hear you!

EMILY: How can that be!?

NURSE: There were complications from his injury.

EMILY: What? What complications!? He fell off his bike! How complicated is that!?

NURSE: There was brain trauma. He had a bleed that we tried our best to stop but

sometimes these things just happen anyways.

EMILY: Yes. They do.

SUICIDE: Oh no, we’re not done yet! Somebody - somebody - tell me, what is the

number one most effective way to stop a brain injury in a biking accident?

(Looks at MAN IN WHITE, but he stays silent, he looks back at EMILY, but she just looks

down. Then he gets an answer.)

NURSE: A helmet.

SUICIDE: I’m sorry, what was that?

NURSE: A helmet. Ms. Tiller, if your son had just been wearing a helmet, there’s a good chance this wouldn’t have happened.

(They all watch NURSE slowly exit. There is a tense pause.)

SUICIDE: What a liar. Wasn’t she just talking about how hard this was for her to say? What happened to compassion?

But, never the less, it’s true, isn’t it? He wasn’t wearing a helmet. He had one, yeah, but it somehow slipped his mind to put it on his head. And you saw him riding off, just in time to notice that he was completely unprotected. And sure, you thought about running out there to stop him but, I mean, he’d already started riding and, come on, what’s the worst that could happen? Right?

(Long pause.)

EMILY: ...Yes.

SUICIDE: I rest my case.

(SUICIDE walks back, and smugly takes his place beside MAN IN WHITE.)

Good luck, buddy.

(Beat. MAN IN WHITE looks at him and steps forward)

MW: Alright, fine. I see the feelings here. You feel empty, and on top of that, you feel guilty. You feel guilty for failing to protect someone you felt you were supposed to prevent from dying. And that can be simply unbearable. So now, you’ve found a way out. It’s a relief. It’s almost like death will be your final, secret hiding spot, where the pain and fear of life can’t find you. A place of eternal rest. A place where you won’t have to be afraid; and it doesn’t even matter who you’re hurting in doing this. You won’t have to worry about their pain because you won’t be around to see it. So there doesn’t seem to be any downside. Is any of that right?

(EMILY doesn’t answer, she just looks at him.)

Well I’m here, as your ally, to tell you that that is wrong. Death is not an eternal rest. Death is more empty than you can imagine. Death is a cold silence that you try to escape with every tense muscle in your body, but can’t. And there’s also the most important part. This decision isn’t only about you.

(Gestures back to SUICIDE.)

I did like your little trick before, you mind if I give it a try?

SUICIDE: Whatever floats your boat.

MW: Thank you.

(He clears his throat, as if he’s calling for someone to come in. Enter HANNAH. EMILY

sees her and recognizes her instantly.)

MW: And who are you?

HANNAH: I’m Hannah Rinsley.

MW: And how well do you know Ms. Tiller?

HANNAH: God, we’re best friends, I know her better than anyone.

MW: Exactly. This is Hannah today. She is two years younger than you yet usually more mature. You first met at work, when she asked you in the elevator where the Human Resources department was. That was a decade ago. You’ve been friends ever since. This is Hannah two years from now.

(HANNAH changes the direction she‘s facing and instantly seems weak and uncomfortable.)

SUICIDE: The years haven’t been good to her.

MW: She’s a drug addict, Emily. Why don’t you tell us?

HANNAH: I’m on crack.

EMILY: What?

SUICIDE: Now this is fun!

MW: You’ve already had your chance; you have to be quiet now.

SUICIDE: You’re just not gonna ever stop talking to me like I’m a baby, are you?

MW: To be honest, when I see someone who doesn’t seem to know what responsibility is, I feel a very strong need to help!

SUICIDE: Are you trying to be tough right -

EMILY: Guys!

(Beat.)

MW: Yes, we all need to hear this. Go ahead.

HANNAH: You know, we used to joke about people probably thinking we were high on

the subway because we’d always be laughing so hard. It’s kind of embarrassingly weird how ridiculously unfunny that is now. I don’t wanna sound dumb or sappy, but it sucked not having you around. I was already pretty torn up about your boy, but when you were gone too, I just couldn’t take it. So I went to a party, some people brought some stuff, I gave it a shot. Maybe I couldn’t believe what I doing - maybe I just didn’t care anymore - I don’t know. But…they hooked me up.

EMILY: I don’t understand, this isn’t happening...

MW: It will.

SUICIDE: No it won’t! You have absolutely no way of knowing what’s going to happen! You’re making this up!

MW: Trust me, if you kill yourself, it will affect them greatly.

SUICIDE: Oh, but you admit you have no way of knowing how.

MW: The evidence is there.

SUICIDE: No, no, no, let me show you what I think’s going to happen.

(HANNAH shifts her position so she is now facing the other direction.)

HANNAH: What? She killed herself? God, why was she so messed up? She had to be

that much of a drama queen with it, didn’t she? She couldn’t have just dealt with her problems like a healthy person, no, she had to TOTALLY over react!

SUICIDE: That’s more like it.

MW: What are you doing!?

SUICIDE: Well, I thought you were all about life being full of different choices. I like

this one better.

MW: You’ve already had your chance!

SUICIDE: Well, what do you know; I’m not following the rules, big surprise!

MW: No!

(HANNAH shifts positions again, and is now embodying the drug addict.)

HANNAH: It was worth it, at first. It made everything feel good, and you know what? I

needed that. You were important to me. When you were gone, I just didn’t know what to feel. I was scared of how sad it was. I needed a way out, a way to make things seem better.

SUICIDE: Blah, blah, blah, like anyone’s taking this seriously.

MW: Stop!

SUICIDE: Why don't you!?

MW: Don't tell me to -

HANNAH: - I threw my life away because of you! You made me throw everything away. I never even thought that was possible, but you leaving made it happen. Maybe if you’d stayed, maybe if you were still here, then I wouldn’t have screwed up so badly. Maybe if you could just comeback, then we could make things better. Just come back!

(EMILY tries to stand up but can’t, she reaches out her arm, trying to grab HANNAH’s.)

SUICIDE: Ugh, really?

(SUICIDE reaches and grabs EMILY’s arm to hold her back. She is struggling.)

HANNAH: You know what; I think we’re all better off without her! I’M GLAD SHE’S

DEAD!

(EMILY and SUICIDE stop struggling. There’s a silent pause as EMILY slowly moves

back down.)

MW: Emily, listen to me, that’s not real, that will never happen.

EMILY: ...I know...

MW: Listen to her one more time.

EMILY: I don’t…know about that….

MW: Just try.

HANNAH: It was completely awful, but also totally amazing. It’s like, you try it at first,

casually, but then it just gets bigger and bigger. People around you think you can stop, and you tell yourself that too, but it’s not true. Because when you get hooked, it’s the only thing on your mind. It’s what your life becomes about, plain and simple. And you get trapped, you get trapped up in all this stuff you can’t control, and you can’t stop. You have to keep going ‘till the end, and a lot of times that means there’s no going back. You may have a choice, you may want as hard as you can to choose the better option, but the bad one always finds you in the end. Don’t let that happen. Please.

MW: Is that all?

HANNAH: Yeah.

MW: Thank you.

(HANNAH nods and exits. There is an awkward pause.)

SUICIDE: Well that sure went well. She’s just jumping up and down with joy now!

MW: Don’t.

SUICIDE: Oh, what’s the matter? Did I hurt your feelings?

MW: You need to learn your place! That was extremely inappropriate.

SUICIDE: Shut up! Just shut up! You go on and on like you’re trying to sound deep or

smart or whatever and it just drives everyone crazy! You drag this whole process on so much longer than you need to! This would be so easy if you could just let me finish what I started!

MW: No, you need to learn respect and -

(MAN IN WHITE realizes that EMILY is crying. Pause as he thinks about what to do

next.)

I want you to go, just for a moment.

SUICIDE: Are you sure? That’s not in the rules.

MW: (Under his breath)…Whatever you say.

(MAN IN WHITE makes his way over to EMILY and begins comforting her. SUICIDE looks around for a second, but doesn’t want to leave. There is an uncomfortable pause.)

EMILY: …You can go.

(This seems to relax SUICIDE, he gives in, and makes his way far upstage looking away.)

MW: A lot of things have happened out of order today, and I -

EMILY: Stop! I agree with your little buddy over there, just STOP! You said this was

going to be helpful, that this would give me a chance to make a choice, but how can I do that when you guys can’t stop fighting with each other!? You don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t understand! You don’t understand that this isn’t about you, this is about me! This is already the hardest choice of my life and you guys aren’t making it easier by bickering like I don’t even matter!

MW: Don’t say that.

EMILY: Why the hell shouldn’t I? It’s not like you give a crap!

(Beat.)

MW: That’s not true. I know you’re not going to believe me when I say it, but that isn’t true. I care about all the people I help. I look at you and I don’t just see the problems that have unfortunately plagued your life, I also see your potential. I think you’ve hit this rough patch and that it seems like there’s nowhere left to go, but I know that if you just work through this, then there’s an entire life left to live.

(Beat.)

EMILY: (Appeasing)...Like what?

MW: Well, practically everything. You might get promoted, or win the lottery. You might move to into that condo, or finally take that trip to Scotland. You might get married to the man of your dreams...or at least find a great singles bar.

(EMILY smiles.)

I remember a little while ago, our friend made a gross assumption about what was "gonna happen", but I don’t think you’ve heard my side of the story. I truly believe that you’ve heard a lot more than you were supposed to, and that you’ve been doing a lot of thinking yourself. But I also believe that this is a horrible mistake. So I think, when the time comes, you’re going to carefully consider everything you’ve seen, deciphering the lies from the likely truth, you’re going to remember all those second thoughts you’ve been having probably mean you shouldn’t do this. Then you’re going to make the right choice, I’m going to gently tie my little white string on your finger, and we’re going to walk, hand in hand, to a second chance. Sound good?

(There is a long pause as EMILY considers everything that’s been said. After much

internal deliberation, she looks up at him and nods. MAN IN WHITE smiles, then clears

his throat again to call SUICIDE back in. Enter SUICIDE.)

SUICIDE: Well.

MW: Yes.

SUICIDE: It’s been fun.

MW: For some.

SUICIDE: But I believe we have a decision to make.

MW: This is true.

SUICIDE: Well, Mr. Rules, would you like to walk us through the process?

(MAN IN WHITE glares, but proceeds.)

MW: Emily Margret Tiller.

EMILY: Yes.

MW: You have seen the evidence, you’ve heard our cases, and your time is almost up. It’s now or never. Your decision.

(Pause. EMILY says nothing)

MW: Ms. Tiller?

(Beat.)

Emily?

EMILY: ...I thought this would be easy. Which is...so stupid...

I thought that I could just quickly get this over with, and that, like you said, (Looks at MAN IN WHITE) it would be a silent little hiding spot where everything would just go away. And this, this has just taken so much longer than I thought it would. When you guys appeared I didn’t even know what was happening, I just went along with it.

And look where that’s gotten us. Now we’re here.

(Beat.)

I’m crazy. I’m totally crazy. I think, what Hannah said, was actually kind of right. I am being such a drama queen. I mean, look at me, I’m sitting here talking to you guys when I was supposed to slit my wrists 20 minutes ago. I don’t know how to make it any easier. I don’t know how to make it go any faster. I’m trapped. I can’t turn around, I can’t take a nap and get over it, I’m trapped.

(Beat.)

And things won’t get better tomorrow. But...but that doesn’t mean I can’t...That doesn’t mean there’s any reason not to...give it one more try.

(EMILY looks at MAN IN WHITE. He smiles back at her reassuringly. SUICIDE notices

this.)

SUICIDE: Wait? Emily, you haven’t forgotten about our little secret, have you?

(Beat. Emily says nothing, but we can see she knows what he’s talking about.)

MW: Emily?

(Beat.)

MW: What is he talking about?

(Beat.)

SUICIDE: He doesn’t know? Aw shucks, this is gonna kill him. (Chuckles at the pun)

You know, it’s funny that you seem to think you’re so high and mighty.

MW: What are you talking about?

SUICIDE: You don’t question things enough, that’s your problem. You get so caught up in rules, that you don’t even notice the little details. You don’t see when someone’s so far gone it’s useless trying to save them. You don’t read any subtext or ever see anything that’s just under your nose.

MW: What -

SUICIDE: - And you somehow manage to get through an entire session, without even

questioning what our client was sitting on.

(MAN IN WHITE looks at the blanket covering what EMILY is sitting on, which, to this

point, we had just assumed was simply some kind of bench.)

SUICIDE: Go ahead.

(MAN IN WHITE slowly walks up to EMILY, she looks away from him. He takes the

corner of the blanket, and pulls it up. He reveals a bed, showing that EMILY has

actually been in a gurney this whole time. Tied to the legs are

dozens of long, black strings. MAN IN WHITE looks at them in shock, touches them, runs

his fingers through them, and then looks back at SUICIDE.

Beat.)

MW: ...You cheated.

(SUICIDE says nothing.)

MW: You cheated!

SUICIDE: Oh, I had her all along; there wasn’t any need to cheat. But, yeah, it really did help. I almost lost her there for a second.

MW: ...How...How could you?

SUICIDE: God, you know, you are the real drama queen here.

MW: ...Everyone has a choice...

SUICIDE: Yeah, and, like I said, it isn’t all that suspenseful. Especially when I’ve had her tied around my finger the whole time.

(MAN IN WHITE tries to retaliate. He looks at EMILY, unable to find the words. She looks back at him, clearly feeling incredibly guilty, then slowly lies down and closes her eyes. SUICIDE steps closer to him.)

SUICIDE: Better luck next time, buddy.

(SUICIDE takes MAN IN WHITE‘s string in his hand, pauses for a second, then breaks it in half. As soon as he does this, the lighting changes and MAN IN WHITE freezes. SUICIDE moves downstage, where he started.)

SUICIDE: Pop quiz. Is death bad? Yes. Is it a huge jerk who’s totally unfair? Yes. But

one other thing you should know about it, it’s completely, absolutely, unavoidable.

Hey, don’t blame me. I’m just a part of her. Our suicide addict over there was doomed from the start. And maybe we do all have a choice, but it isn’t always that easy to see your options when I’ve got you totally tied up.(Fade to black.)

 

_

_

There it is!  Do any of you older, life experience posessing playwrights have anything to say?

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 Posted: Mon Nov 7th, 2011 10:44 pm
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2nd Post
JustGoWithIt
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Mana: 
I'm a high school playwright too (still editing my first full-length) but here are my thoughts.

- For one, the premise hooked me and kept me reading. That's a good sign.

- I felt like the themes/messages about death were a TINY bit too didactic, but only that much so. It may be better to have Suicide stray from being the sole authoritarial spokesperson and have the two troubled women figure all the stuff out for themselves.

- Speaking of the two women, develop them more and the audience will really buy into their story. You have the flaws down, now give them some redeeming qualities.

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 Posted: Thu Dec 8th, 2011 12:00 pm
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RTurco
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Mana: 
What a coincidence! I'm a high school playwright too.

I pretty much agree with JustGoWithIt on the matter of the didactic language as I feel like the dialogue can be a  little too stiff at times.

And maybe putting the two entities Suicide and Life more in the background and enhancing the roles of the human characters would help with that.

On a technical note, it might be better to keep the character descriptions short. I've found it's best to leave all their desires, wants, motives, etc. implicit in the dialogue.

Its got a strong premise though. Kept me hooked.

 

Best,

RTurco


 

Last edited on Thu Dec 8th, 2011 12:04 pm by RTurco

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