Water Under the Bridge, One Act Play
Water Under the Bridge A One Act Play By C.K. Garabed
Date: Current Time: Late afternoon Place: Kate’s studio apartment Characters: Kate and Johnny
Action: Kate enters apartment, followed by Johnny with an armful of groceries.
Kate: Oh, Johnny; I never expected to see you outside the supermarket today; or any day for that matter. Do you realize how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other? Why, it must be twenty years! (Takes some of Johnny’s burden and places on the table.)
Johnny: Twenty-two, to be exact. (Puts balance of groceries on the table.)
Kate: You’ve got a good memory. How much more do you remember?
Johnny: Well, at the risk of taking liberties, I’ve never forgotten your sensuousness. You still have it, you know.
Kate: Are you on the make? (Putting groceries away.)
Johnny: No, I’m just being frank. Something I had trouble with in my youth.
Kate: Really? I never suspected that.
Johnny: I guess I was a good dissimulator. (Sits in a large overstuffed easy chair.)
Kate: Does that mean I will get the chance to know you all over again?
Johnny: Maybe, maybe not. I’m divorced and you’re a widow. That doesn’t mean we can just pick up where we left off, does it?
Kate: Why not?
Johnny: Well, for one thing, people change, and we’re no exception. For another, the specters of the past can cast a shadow on the present.
Kate: I don’t expect you to be the same. In fact, I would probably be disappointed if you were.
Johnny: Are you looking at our chance meeting as an opportunity to complete some unfinished business?
Kate: Maybe. Have you ever thought of how things would have turned out if I had given in to your, shall we say, carnal desires?
Johnny: That’s a cute way of putting it. I’m glad now that you didn’t.
Kate: That’s rich. I was thinking just the opposite; that I wish I had. How different things might have been.
Johnny: Weren’t you happy with your husband?
Kate: I suppose so. But there wasn’t that spark, that surge of energy that welled up such as when you used to put your arms around me to dance. I didn’t tell you, but I used to tremble.
Johnny: Now’s a fine time to tell me.
Kate: Well, you just don’t come right out and say such things to a boy; not when you’re young, anyway. (Finishes putting things away, and comes and sits on one of the arms of Johnny’s chair.)
Johnny: So, you wouldn’t have that problem now, eh?
Kate: Hardly; so much for the follies of youth. Oh, Johnny, how you would make me laugh with your jokes and limericks! Did you ever capitalize on your flair for writing?
Johnny: In a way; I carved out a career for myself as a copywriter for an advertising agency.
Kate: How wonderful! Tell me about it.
Johnny: Oh, there’s not much to tell.
Kate: Surely, there must be some things that you created that you must feel proud of.
Johnny: Well, yeah. I devised a one-liner for an eyewear outfit. Very simple.
INSIGHT IMPROVES YOUR OUTLOOK.
Johnny: Oh, come now.
Kate: I’m serious. What else?
Johnny: Well, for something out of the ordinary, I composed some limericks for use with the promotion of a Shakespeare festival on themes of Hamlet, Othello, Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet, and even on Shakespeare’s name.
Kate: Come on, give.
Johnny: The one on Othello was rather apt, I thought. It goes: " There was a proud Moor named Othello
Who was lacking in humor, though mellow;
He made the mistake
Of believing the fake
Iago, a treacherous fellow."
Kate: (Rises from the chair, and faces Johnny) Wonderful! How refreshing to pass a little time with someone with some brains.
Johnny: Now you’re buttering me up.
Kate: Oh, no. I mean it. As good-looking a fellow as you were, it was your mind that attracted me from the first.
Johnny: You weren’t going intellectual on me, were you?
Kate: Not strictly. I saw so many sides to you.
Johnny: Hey! That’s enough about me. I’m getting embarrassed. Let’s talk about you.
Kate: I went to business school, became a private secretary to some big shots in TV and Radio. That’s where I met my husband-to-be. We put off having any children for quite a while. We were caught up in the social side of the communications racket. Then it became too late. My husband contracted a chronic ailment that proved fatal. I haven’t really been looking for someone to replace him. I’ve been content to go it alone as a widow. I have my job, still. And I have my interests: music, art, literature. No pets, though. That’s about it.
Johnny: (Rises from the chair and walks around) When you enumerate your interests, it makes me realize that I never gave you credit for much depth of personality or character.
Kate: Well, I can’t blame you. I didn’t have those interests then. They came later. As somebody said: “We live backwards. We should be born old and get progressively younger.”
Johnny: (Motioning to some artwork hanging on the wall.) I going to take a guess that that picture is your own creation.
Kate: Right on, Johnny. It’s what’s called non-representational art. That means works by artists who can’t draw things as they actually are.
Johnny: Come on, now. I think it looks pretty good. Great colors; interesting shapes. What do you call it?
Kate: Pussy Willow Velvet.
Johnny: Ha! That’s good. Aptly titled.
Kate: Actually, the one work that is most meaningful to me is something that I keep hidden away. Would you like to see it?
Kate: (Goes over to a cabinet and pulls out something from behind it.) I’ve written something to go along with it.
Kate: Want to hear it?
Johnny: Of course! Now you’re in my territory.
Kate: (She turns the framed painting around and reads.): When I bring into being a product of the mind that had no previous existence, be it a song, a poem, or a picture, I am given over wholly to my subconscious. I produce a work, and then study it to become acquainted with it, as if it were done by a stranger. And as I become familiar with my own work, various thoughts, feelings and images emerge. In the case of this oil painting, I followed the course described above. And as I studied it, I became aware of its attributes: In the upper left is a young girl dancing before a window with Venetian blinds. In the upper right is a loving father keeping a watchful eye on his son at play. In the lower left is a wise little lamb observing a powerful swimmer saving a drowning man; and in the lower right is a giant flower blooming in the desert. When I brought it all together, the title of the work came quite naturally.
Celebration of Life.
Johnny: Wow! Let’s see it.
Kate: (Holds it up for him to see.)
Johnny: (Studying it intently for a time.) This..is..a remarkable painting. The composition is perfect, with just the right combination of cubist elements. And just look at the vibrant colors!
Kate: Are you trying to sound like a connoisseur?
Johnny: Hardly. I’m not like that witty critic who said, “I don’t know what I like but I know what’s good.”
Kate (Chuckling) Johnny, you haven’t lost your touch. Do you remember the little ditty you composed for me when you were trying to seduce me?
Johnny: Something about chastity, I think.
Kate: Actually unchastity. I remember it word for word.
Johnny: That’s amazing.
Kate: Let me prove it to you. (Recites.)
Ode to Unchastity
Unchaste girls are not unchased,
But unchased girls are chaste.
The unchased have no time to waste,
For they’ve faced to their distaste:
If they don’t make haste to become unchaste,
They’ll remain unchased and waste.
Johnny: Clever; but rather puerile.
Kate: On the contrary; I think it rather witty…now.
Johnny: But not then?
Kate: No, not then. I was too straight-laced to see the humor in it.
Johnny: Now, wait a minute! In your write-up you mentioned poetry and music. What’s that all about?
Kate: Just that somewhere along the way I seem to have developed a talent for those things.
Johnny: This is getting better and better. Let’s start with the poetry. What have you got?
Kate: It started without your knowledge when we broke up and I may not have shown it, but I took it rather badly. I composed some verses to get that sick feeling out of my system
Johnny: Let’s hear it.
Kate: I’d be baring my soul.
Johnny: I want you to bare it.
Kate: Very well. (Sits on arm of chair) The title is Dirge (Recites from memory.)
I seek the lonely wayside
I stalk the barren shore
My gloom I cannot cast aside
I care for life no more.
I wake each morn from troubled sleep
To find my heart still sore
And yet I know not how to weep
I care for life no more.
A cruel fate is given me
I’ve lost what I adore
Death alone can set me free
I care for life no more.
Johnny: Oh, Kate! I didn’t know. I broke your heart.
Kate: Don’t be so melodramatic. I got over it. Besides, it put me on the track of writing poetry, most of it a lot happier.
Johnny: You’re just trying to make it easy for me. (Pauses.) Anyhow, let’s get back to your interests. There is still the matter of the music you mentioned in that write-up. What gives?
Kate: Here again, I seem to have discovered another talent I didn’t know I possessed.
Johnny: But you wrote of creating. Are you talking about composition?
Johnny: You keep talking about my talents—and you put me to shame.
Kate: We’re talking about amateur stuff.
Johnny: O.K. Let’s hear something.
Kate: I like to write songs, setting poetry to music. Keats and Shelley are two of my favorites. I’ll sing something by Keats that is fittingly titled “Song.”
(She proceeds to sing from memory.)
Johnny: Kate, I’m flabbergasted! You’re so talented. I’m seeing you in a new light, completely.
Kate: (Rises from the chair arm and walks a few paces keeping her back to Johnny.) Why do you think we drifted apart, Johnny?
Johnny: I don’t know. I had some strange notions of my own. I seemed to be seeking something, and until I found it, wasn’t ready to settle down.
Kate: What was it?
Johnny: That’s just it! I can’t tell you because I myself didn’t know. At least Don Quixote, as ridiculous as his quest was, knew what he was looking for. So, by comparison, I’m the more ridiculous one. In the end I concentrated on the exotic love affair found in fairy tales.
Kate: (Turning to face Johnny.) Really?
Johnny: Yes, and I found it, or thought I had. You know, the head-over-heels type of love that one is sure will be permanent. I found out it wasn’t so from my failed marriage. That was the impossible dream. To be lasting, a relationship has to be based on friendship. In other words, your lover must be your best friend. With that kind of foundation, love will flourish. Without it, love will dry up and wither.
Kate: You sound like a philosopher.
Johnny: In the end we all become philosophers; didn’t you know?
Kate: I suppose you’re right. I found consolation in philosophy after my husband died. He was a decent fellow. I shouldn’t complain. But when you talk about fairy tale love affairs, I’m thinking that women are more inclined to that kind of expectation than men. You’re the exception.
Johnny: That’s just a lot of foolish talk. Men are generally more innocent than women. Who was it that said “ Women's virtue is man's greatest invention.”?
Kate: Cornelia Otis Skinner.
Johnny: I should have known you’d know. Well, it’s true; and there’s where you are the exception. You really believed in women’s virtue,
Kate: I got over that delusion. What do you say we start all over again?
Johnny: If we did, I would like to entertain that illusion about women.
Johnny: Yes; I would want to start fresh, you know, completely innocently.
Kate: Just how would that work?
Johnny: Well, for one thing, I would ask for a date, say, to go to the movies. Then, when I bring you home, I wouldn’t even try to kiss you. At least not on the first date. Then we would follow up with another date. Take in a concert or recital, maybe, or visit a museum or art gallery. Again, no kiss. Finally, we’d go out to dinner at a restaurant that features an orchestra. After dancing cheek to cheek, and holding you close, I would be tempted to steal a lone kiss at the end of the evening. You get the idea. Anything more than that would depend on how solid a foundation we have established for a truly deep and lasting friendship.
Kate: You really think that would work?
Johnny: It’s the only way it could work.
Kate: I don’t mind playing the game. When do we start?
Johnny: Tomorrow night, if you accept my invitation.
Kate: Oh, Johnny, with all my heart!
Johnny: Till then. (With that, he kisses her hand and takes his leave.)
Copyright © 2010 C.K. Garabed