One of my short one act plays that’s now ROYALTY-FREE, via The Joshua James Project.
ALL THE RAGE
(Evening at a dark semi-crowded singles bar.
MARCUS, a slick handsome dude in his thirties, sits by himself at a table. He holds his drink up and gestures to someone across the room. He is signaling a bartender that he wants to buy a drink for someone. After a moment …
LISA, an attractive woman in her twenties with a drink in her hand, joins him.)
LISA: Thank you for the drink.
MARCUS: Hey, it was my pleasure. My name’s Marcus.
MARCUS: Hey Lisa. Lisa, I have a confession to make.
LISA: You do?
MARCUS: Yeah, see I’ve never done anything like this before.
LISA: Like what?
MARCUS: Bought a drink for a woman I didn’t know.
MARCUS: It’s true, all true, this is my first time. I was sitting here thinking to myself, Marcus, it’s time to do something different in your life, do something out of character for a change. Smile to someone you don’t know, order a vodka martini with a twist instead of a Jack and Coke, and buy a pretty lady a drink. Do something new with your life. Do one thing, ONE thing that you’ve never done before, Marcus, and if you get nothing else out of it, at least you get that. You know what I’m saying?
LISA: Um. I think so.
MARCUS: You do?
LISA: I think. Trying something new.
MARCUS: That’s what I’m saying. Take a chance, buy a pretty lady a drink.
LISA: You think I’m pretty?
MARCUS: I think you’re very attractive. You are a very attractive woman.
LISA: Okay. Thank you.
MARCUS: You’re welcome. (Short pause.) So.
MARCUS: So tell me about yourself.
LISA: I’d rather not.
MARCUS: Excuse me?
LISA: I’d really rather not.
MARCUS: Oh. Okay.
(Short pause. LISA takes a sip of her drink.)
MARCUS: So what would you like to talk about?
LISA: Anything you like.
MARCUS: Anything …
LISA: Except me.
MARCUS: Except you. Okay.
LISA: We can talk about you, if you want.
MARCUS: Hey, I can do that—
LISA: Only if you want to—
MARCUS: Talking about myself—
LISA: You don’t have to.
MARCUS: Not a problem, one of my favorite subjects.
MARCUS: Okay. (Short pause.) Well, like I said, my name’s Marcus, and I—
LISA: Are you happy?
MARCUS: I’m sorry?
LISA: Are you happy?
MARCUS: Happy with what?
LISA: Happy with, you know, your life.
MARCUS: Happy with my life?
MARCUS: Pretty much, I think, yeah. I’d say yeah.
LISA: You would.
MARCUS: I would, I mean, there are some things I could have that would make things better, I mean, the promotion I’ve been waiting for, I want a new car, those things. More money is always welcome, but for the most part, I’m pretty satisfied. With my life.
LISA: You are.
MARCUS: Yeah, I’m pretty satisfied, yeah.
LISA: Oh. Okay.
MARCUS: So. Umm, like I was—
LISA: What about people?
MARCUS: I’m sorry?
LISA: How do you feel about people?
MARCUS: How do I feel about people?
MARCUS: Which people, where?
LISA: All people, do you like people? In general.
MARCUS: Am I a people person, is that—
LISA: Yes, that’s it.
MARCUS: I would say yes, I like people. I’m pretty social, I like most people. Not all people, but—
LISA: Who don’t you like?
(Very brief pause.)
MARCUS: I don’t like Barbara Walters, no reason, really, she just annoys me, and this guy in accounting at work because he’s a snide bastard, but for the most part …
LISA: As for most people …
MARCUS: I like them, yeah. I like people.
MARCUS: People like you.
LISA: Oh. Okay.
MARCUS: So …
LISA: I don’t think I like people.
MARCUS: You don’t?
LISA: I don’t. I don’t like people.
MARCUS: Most people?
LISA: Just about all people.
MARCUS: Almost all people, you don’t like?
LISA: Pretty much, yeah. Just about every person out there, I don’t like.
MARCUS: Oh. Well …
LISA: Can I ask you a question?
MARCUS: Sure you can ask me a question.
LISA: It’s kind of personal.
MARCUS: I can take a personal question.
LISA: Okay. (Very brief pause.) Have you ever felt like killing somebody, I mean REALLY felt like actually killing somebody?
MARCUS: Uh …
LISA: It doesn’t have to be anyone you know, it could be just Joe-Schmoe on the street, you know? You ever just see somebody and get the urge to hit them, you know, over the head with something hard and heavy?
MARCUS: Well …
LISA: Or have you ever been standing in line behind somebody at the grocery store, stuck behind a very loud person with nowhere to run and she’s complaining to the check-out person and she’s usually complaining about something completely beyond the power of the clerk to do anything about, say she’s mad because macaroni’s not on sale this week, it was on sale last week why can’t it be on sale this week too and you look at this person standing in line bitching about NOTHING and you just want to rip her arm off and beat her to death with it. Just hammer her over her head with her own arm, screaming over and over “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! IT’S JUST A COUPON SO SHUT UP!” That ever happen to you?
MARCUS: Actually …
LISA: And the way some people get off the bus or train, run into you and not have the common fucking decency to say “excuse me,” and sometimes they won’t even look at you, like they couldn’t be bothered, and it makes you just want to take out your apartment keys, go up to them and stab them right in the eyes!
MARCUS: As a matter of fact …
LISA: And especially people with cell phones, I am to the point now where anytime I see someone with a cell phone I want to take it away from them and make them EAT IT whole, it’s like you can’t go anywhere without having someone else’s boring fucking private conversation forced down your throat! I was standing in line at the movie theater and I was forced to listen to some asshole discuss the results of his proctology exam with his doctor! I wanted to take the phone away from him and shove it straight up his ass! I was even on a date last week, we were out at dinner and he took a call right in the middle of the appetizer that lasted halfway through our main course! And it wasn’t even anything important, he was setting up a squash match with one of his buddies! And I had to sit there and listen to him josh around with his pal, like I had nothing better to do! You know what I did, you wanna know what I did?
LISA: I waited until we were finished eating, because it was a wonderful filet mignon and I didn’t want to waste it, excused myself, went to the ladies room, called him from there on his cell phone and screamed “HEY ASSHOLE! DON’T EVER CALL ME AGAIN YOU SELF-IMPORTANT CONDESCENDING PRICK WITH TOO MUCH MONEY AND NOT ENOUGH HAIR! ASSHOLE ASSHOLE ASSHOLE! And then I left.
(MARCUS reaches into his pocket with no small amount of stealth, takes out his cell phone and turns it off. Tucks it back in his pocket.)
LISA: I wanted to do more, I did, I wanted to really hurt him. But I had to settle for just screaming at him. People, people just drive me crazy sometimes, sometimes I want to crush them all, they’re so stupid.
MARCUS: Well. Wow.
LISA: I think I’m kind of angry. Do you think I’m kind of angry?
MARCUS: I think you might be a little angry.
LISA: You do?
MARCUS: Just a little bit, a little bit angry.
LISA: Don’t you ever get angry?
MARCUS: Sure I do.
LISA: When was the last time you got really angry?
MARCUS: Well. I’m not sure. Ah, I know. At work, every time I get on the elevator to go home, this guy, this guy from accounting I don’t like, he gets on usually right after me, from the floor below. And I’ve already pressed the button for the first floor, the button is lit up so you know it’s been pressed and we’re already going to the first floor but it never fails, it never fails, when he gets on the elevator, he presses the button for the first floor as well, even though it’s already lit, it’s like he doesn’t trust me, a guy from marketing, to push the right elevator button, and he always has to push it again himself, always. And I always, I always feel a little … peeved … when he does that.
(Very short pause.)
LISA: Haven’t you ever thought about just grabbing him by his tie, twisting it around his neck until he turned purple, then banging his head against the elevator doors, again and again and again until he learned his lesson, you ever thought about doing that?
MARCUS: I have thought about that, yes. Once or twice.
LISA: Don’t you just want to kill him? Don’t you just want to kill him and everybody like him? Just find all the assholes of the world and just kill kill kill?
MARCUS: Well Lisa, I’m going to be utterly honest with you. Much as I think that getting rid of the genius that invented car alarms, long-distance telephone commercial pitchmen and members of the Republican National party would be a step in the direction toward greater good, much as I believe that there are people, annoying people like Pat Robertson, Bill O’Reilly and Jenny McCarthy who well and truly deserve a fate such as the one you describe, no, I do not want to kill people. Not them or anyone. Not that I haven’t thought about it, not that I don’t get homicidal urges whenever someone calls me on my home phone and tries to sell me something I don’t need, I do. But I don’t act on it. I don’t and I won’t.
LISA: Why not?
MARCUS: Well, I guess it’s because … you know, I could sit here and bitch about the gym teacher I had in junior high, I could hunt down the sadistic prick and really make him pay for being such a mean, scheming asshole all throughout my puberty, I could do that, but ultimately … ultimately I think it’s better to forgive and let it go. Almost sounds kind of like some retro-sixties bullshit, I know, but it’s what I believe. Forgive them. Forgive all the petty assholes of the world, forgive the bullies, the plastic people, the fruitcakes, the pre-packaged teen boy bands, the telemarketers, the born-again Christians and the Scientologists. Forgive the bullies that have beaten you up. Forgive the psychotic ex-girlfriend who’s still obsessing and stalking you despite the fact it’s been five years and there’s a restraining order. Forgive the relatives that keep forgetting what it is you do for a living. Forgive the woman that refuses to wear a bra and yet gives you shit about looking at her chest. Forgive the men in charge everywhere that feel free to look you right in your face and lie their ass off. Forgive the slick guy in the suit who’s pretending he’s never bought a woman a drink before just so he can get into her pants. Forgive all the bullshit and let it go. Let all the anger and rage go. You have to do that in order to get to the good stuff. That’s what I believe, I believe … ultimately I believe in love. Not love in the Jesus-freak kind of way, but love in the sense of all the great things that can sometimes happen between people. I believe in love. And what I think is that you can either kill all the people in the world that deserve it, or you can love all the people that deserve it. But you can’t do both. You can only do one. And I choose love. That’s what I believe.
(Short pause. LISA finishes her drink. Looks away.)
LISA: Huh. Well.
MARCUS: Yeah. Yeah.
(LISA stands, prepares to leave.)
LISA: Thanks for the drink and for … everything.
MARCUS: No. Thank you.
LISA: Okay. Good-bye.
(LISA walks away.)
MARCUS: Take care of yourself, all right?
(She looks at him a full moment.)
LISA: I’ll try.
MARCUS: Okay. Good.
(LISA exits. MARCUS finishes his drink.)
Originally produced by THE DEFIANT ONES at Manhattan Theatre Source, featuring Ato Essandoh and Carrie Keranen, directed by the author, as part of the evening CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Produced numerous times since, but that was the first.
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