Play in the Drawer: Kate Ryan

My Super-Dainty Kate

We continue our weekly series featuring unproduced plays by the playwrights at 13P. This week’s entry, the one-act Sprinkler, by Kate Ryan.

Kate’s plays include Dot, Mark Smith, The Pool Skimmer, Design Your Kitchen, and most recently a wonderful adaptation of Sophocles's Women of Trachis. Her plays have been produced by the New York theater companies 13P, Clubbed Thumb, The Flea Theater, the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre, and Target Margin, and regionally at Annex Theatre in Seattle and the Williamstown Theatre Festival workshop.

CHARACTERS Helene: a woman in her 60s Jack: a man in his 60s Barb: Jack’s wife, a woman in her 60s Livia: Helene’s daughter, a woman in her 30s Charles: a man in his 30s

SETTING Two small plots of lawn, small house behind each. One plot belongs to HELENE. The other belongs to JACK and BARB.

SCENE ONE. JACK AND HELENE WATERING THEIR LAWNS (JACK is watering his front lawn with a hose that has a new-fangled sprinkler head attachment.)

(HELENE exits her house. She is holding a hose and attaching the same kind of sprinkler head to it.)

JACK You got one too.


JACK You like it?

HELENE I haven't used it yet.


(A little bit of time while HELENE adjusts the attachment and turns on the sprinkler.)

JACK It's much better than the old way. The old way in the ground was killing off my grass. Killing off Barb's flowers, too.

HELENE She's got some nice flowers there.

JACK Yeah, she does.

HELENE What are they?

JACK Perennials.

HELENE Perennials? But what kind?

JACK She doesn't tell me.

HELENE Why doesn’t she tell you?

JACK She does tell me.

(Short pause.)

HELENE Looks like daisies.

JACK Could be daisies, yeah. Daisies, I know. Yeah. Those are daisies. What you got over there?

HELENE No flowers.

JACK No flowers, eh?

HELENE No. I don't... I want to. I mean, I'd like to plant flowers but. No time.

JACK No time.

HELENE I have no time to do that.

JACK What do you do?

HELENE I'm retired.

JACK You told me that.

HELENE I don't think so.

(Pause. They water their lawns.)

HELENE What do you do?

JACK Garbage collector. Ah, Sanitation Worker.


(Short pause.)

Maybe I could just hand over my trash to you.

When my husband was alive we'd have a normal trash, a bin. But I don't need that. I have a little plastic bag I attach to the kitchen cabinet.

I collect, what. One banana peel, an empty box of rice, soup lids. Soup cans. The insides of green peppers. Coffee filters. Used coffee grounds. Pens that don't work. Receipts I don't need to save. Old cheese. Empty pickle jars with a bit of pickle juice in them. Foil. Tin foil. Old, stained rags. I used to collect--I mean, throw away--tampons. Pads. But no more. Sometimes cotton balls. I take off my nail polish with cotton balls.

JACK My wife does that. I think.

HELENE So think I could just hand that over? Instead of putting it down on the street? Letting it collect with my bathroom trash--the box the soap comes in, used tissues, bits of dental floss--when I decide to floss--you know it hurts!--used cotton balls, I mentioned that.


JACK I'm gonna go inside now, Helene. I got things to do.

(JACK turns off his sprinkler.)

HELENE Enjoy your weekend.

(JACK goes inside.)

HELENE Crumbled concrete, bent street signs, ruined furniture. Punched-in lampshades, empty pop bottles, rusted Swiss Army knives. Hair that's been cut off.


I don't know.

(She turns off her sprinkler, goes back inside.)


(JACK is sitting at the kitchen table talking to BARB.)

JACK What flowers you got out there.

BARB What?

JACK Helene asked what flowers you got out there.

BARB Helene who.

JACK Our neighbor.

BARB (Pointing) Our neighbor over there?

JACK Yeah Helene Rostocco.

BARB Oh, Helene Rostocco. Right.

JACK Yeah. Geez. What are the flowers.

BARB Let’s see. There are irises, marigolds, some peonies.


(JACK picks up the paper and reads it.)

SCENE THREE. HELENE EATS TOAST (HELENE is sitting alone at her kitchen table. She is eating toast with jam very slowly. She is watching a tiny TV that we don’t see. We faintly hear the sound of the TV.)

SCENE FOUR. JACK AND HELENE WATERING THEIR LAWNS (HELENE is watering her lawn with her hose and the sprinkler attachment. She hums quietly to herself. After a little while, JACK enters.)


HELENE Oh hi Jack.

(They water their lawns.)

JACK Watering again?

HELENE Watering again. Hey, how was your week?

JACK Oh, uh, it was fine.


(They water. JACK stops watering.)

JACK Weird thing happened this week though. A guy I know, guy I work with, he, ah, he found—you might have heard this on the news--he found an infant. Among the--in his bed. Of his truck.

HELENE She was alive?

JACK No, he--it, it was dead.

HELENE Is it a boy or a girl?

JACK Uh, a boy.

(Short pause.)

HELENE That is terrible.

JACK Isn't that awful?

HELENE That is so awful. That is disgusting.

JACK Well, we got a problem in our country. People are having babies young, they don't have anyplace to go.

(Short pause.)

How are you enjoying your attachment?

HELENE Oh, it seems to be working. It seems to be doing something.

(She looks at her grass.)

JACK Your lawn needs some work there. I don't mean to insult your--you inherited it that way. When you bought it.

HELENE We'll see. We'll see if I can change it.

Look at Barb's flowers.

JACK They look nice don't they?

HELENE She's great at that.

JACK She is good at it. She's got books of them at home. How to do this kind of gardening, that kind of gardening

HELENE We don't have any books. I don't have any books. Anymore.


HELENE Old dusty jackets, spines coming out, threads undone--books break. Books break apart. My father was a big reader.

JACK I'm gonna head inside now, Helene.

HELENE All done watering?

JACK This thing works darn fast. Darn fast.

(JACK goes inside. HELENE waters for a little while.)

HELENE Rows and rows of gleaming; hmm.

(She thinks. She thinks of the baby.)


SCENE FIVE. LIVIA COMES TO STAY WITH HELENE (HELENE is in her kitchen, doing something standing up. LIVIA enters with her bags.)

LIVIA Hey Mom.

HELENE Hey! Livia!


(A few beats.)

HELENE What's up honey?

LIVIA Mark did something disgusting with the cat.

HELENE Oh geez

LIVIA So I left.

Is it all right if I stay here for a little while?

HELENE Of course honey you can stay here.

LIVIA It will just be for a little while.

HELENE You can stay here as long as you like.

LIVIA Just until Mark gets better.

HELENE Honey I think it's best that you stay here.

(LIVIA sits. HELENE stands. HELENE pats LIVIA's head.)

SCENE SIX. CHARLES' MESSAGE (Lights up on HELENE's kitchen. No one is there. We hear the click of the answering machine turning on: CHARLES is leaving a message.)

CHARLES' VOICE Hi, ah, I'm sorry I missed you Helene. My name is, ah, Charlie Gorman and, um, if you could call me back that would be great. I, um, I'll tell you what I'm calling about: my father, Frank Rostocco, he's your brother-in-law. You might not have heard of me but he's, my father, we never really knew each other but he's my father. But so I know your husband recently passed, I'm sorry to hear about that by the way, my condolences, and I'm wondering if, see, I'm dying. I'm dying of leukemia. And my mother, she went missing years ago and I'm looking for as I make my plans for my own funeral I'd like to see if perhaps I could be buried in your family's plot, the Rostocco plot.

I'd tried contacting Frank's wife, of course she doesn't want to talk to me. I'm wondering if you could help me. If you could I would greatly appreciate it. My number, it's 808 563 0504. I'm located here in Farnsboro. Just over the bridge. Thank you Helene. Thank you very much.

(HELENE has walked in, in her nightgown, towards the end of the message. She hears the last few lines.)

SCENE SEVEN. HELENE CALLS CHARLES BACK (HELENE's kitchen. HELENE is now dressed in her regular clothes. She is on the phone. CHARLES appears in another area of the stage.)

HELENE Mr. Gorman?


HELENE This is Helene Rostocco.

CHARLES Helene! It's so good to hear from you.

HELENE I wanted to call you back. I'm sorry I couldn't call you back yesterday.

CHARLES That's all right. That's fine. Well how are you?

HELENE I'm all right. It was quite a surprise to get your phone call.

CHARLES Well I can imagine. Did you--did you know about me?

HELENE No, I didn't.

CHARLES Right. I didn't think Frank told many people.

HELENE He didn't. I mean, I don't know if he did. I didn't know.


CHARLES I'm sorry to hear about your husband passing, by the way. My uncle.

HELENE Well thank you. And I am very sorry to hear that you're sick.

CHARLES I am. I'm very sick.

(Short pause.)

HELENE I hope you can beat this thing.

CHARLES That doesn't seem very likely.

But, so, as you know, I am preparing for my own passing. My own death. It's-a-coming, Helene.


CHARLES And I know that, I thought that you would have some sympathy for me. Seeing that, as I said, Frank's wife, she won't answer my attempts to contact her.

HELENE I do feel for you. I do feel for you Charles.

CHARLES The thought of being cremated, my ashes spread, alone, that frightens me. And I'm already frightened enough.

HELENE You're alone?

CHARLES I'm alone.

HELENE No wife? No kids?

CHARLES No wife, no kids.

HELENE Were you ever married?

CHARLES I’ve had some girlfriends here and there.

(Short pause.)

HELENE I wish I could help you Charles. But I don't have much pull in that family.

I'm sorry.

CHARLES You're saying that this is a wasted phone call? That my efforts are wasted?

HELENE I'm--no.

CHARLES You're saying that after growing up the way I did, with cancer now, cancer that I had nothing to do with, that you're not even going to help me plan my own funeral.

HELENE I'd love to help you. I'd love to help you, Charles.

CHARLES You're a bitch. You know that? You're a fucking bitch.

(CHARLES hangs up the phone. HELENE stands there holding the phone. Then she hangs up. She pauses and tries to collect herself. She walks to another part of the room to go begin to do something.)

(LIVIA comes downstairs. She is carrying her bags.)

LIVIA I talked to Mark last night.

HELENE Oh really?

LIVIA We were on the phone for a couple of hours. I'm going to go over there today and we're going to see if we can work things out.


(Short pause.)

LIVIA He said he's sorry about the cat. He said he doesn't know what got into him.

HELENE How is the cat?

LIVIA She's okay.

HELENE Are you guys going to get the cat back, or leave it with the neighbors.

LIVIA Probably leave it with the neighbors. For now.

HELENE I hope the cat is okay.

LIVIA She's fine. She's fine, Mom. Her ear is a little scratched but she's fine.

(A few beats.)

Well, I'm off.


LIVIA I'm going to call you soon.

HELENE We should have dinner together. We should have dinner together soon, Livia.

LIVIA Sure! Let me get things worked out with Mark and then we'll have dinner together.


(HELENE embraces LIVIA and gives her a kiss on the cheek.)

HELENE You know I love you.

LIVIA I know you do. I love you too, Mom.

HELENE Oh that's nice.

LIVIA I do! Bye.


(LIVIA exits.)

(After a few moments, HELENE picks up the sprinkler head attachment, which has been lying somewhere in her kitchen. She looks at it.)

SCENE EIGHT. BARB AT HER KITCHEN TABLE (BARB, JACK’s wife, is sitting alone at her kitchen table. It is sunny. She holds a mug of coffee in her hands. She sings, softly.)

BARB Sunshine on the mornings makes me happy Sunshine almost always makes me high Sunlight on my shoulder makes me happy Sunlight almost always gets me high

SCENE NINE. HELENE AND JACK WATERING (JACK is watering his front lawn with the hose and attachment. HELENE enters with her hose. She turns it on and begins to water her grass.)

JACK Where’s your attachment?

HELENE I got rid of it.

JACK You got rid of it? Why?

HELENE I don’t need it. It was frivolous.

JACK What do you mean frivolous? Special fertilizers in there.

HELENE My grass looks fine.

(Pause. They water their lawns.)

JACK The funeral's Thursday.

HELENE For what.

JACK The infant.


JACK The guys put it together. I get off work at 5 and it's at 4:30 so I’m just gonna show up a little bit late.

HELENE I bet it will still be going on by then.

JACK That’s what I’m hoping.


(HELENE turns off her hose and starts to go inside.)

JACK Why you going inside?

HELENE That’s all I need to do.

JACK You barely did anything.

HELENE My grass is all right.

JACK It’s dying.

(HELENE inspects her grass.)

HELENE I guess it is.

JACK That new sprinkler is gonna make all the difference I tell you. My grass is stronger, brighter, also, we haven’t been walking on it. I asked Barb to make a point to walk around it so we’ve been doing that and it’s really improved.

HELENE Are you having a party or something?


HELENE I can understand wanting your grass to look nice if you’re having a party or something but for everyday, I just, I’m kind of an old woman and the hose suits me just fine.

JACK What’d you do with the sprinkler head?

HELENE I threw it out.

JACK Threw it out?

HELENE It hurt my hand.

JACK Hurt your hand?

HELENE Where you hold it.


HELENE I’m gonna go inside now Jack.

JACK All done watering?


(HELENE goes in her house.)

SCENE TEN. LIVIA CALLS HELENE FROM THE HOSPITAL (HELENE is sitting alone at her kitchen table. She is eating toast with jam very slowly. She is watching a tiny TV that we don’t see. We faintly hear the sound of the TV. The phone rings. HELENE gets up and answers it. LIVIA appears in another area of the stage.)


LIVIA Hey Mom? This is Livia.

HELENE Livia. Honey. How are you?

LIVIA Not good. Not good. I need you to come to the hospital.

HELENE Come to the hospital. Why.

LIVIA Mark's hurt himself.

(Short pause.)

HELENE You’re there with him?

LIVIA Yes. Mom, I really need you. I know this is fucked up but

(A few beats.)

HELENE Of course I’ll be there honey.

LIVIA Okay he’s at Port Green Heights in the emergency wing.

HELENE (HELENE writes this down) Port Green Heights. Now that’s a big hospital is the emergency easy to find?

LIVIA It’s easy to find. It’s the big main entrance with the circular driveway.

HELENE (As she writes this down) Big main entrance with the circular driveway.

LIVIA I’ll see you soon Mom.

HELENE See you soon.

(HELENE hangs up the phone.)

SCENE ELEVEN. BARB OUTSIDE TENDING TO HER FLOWERS (BARB is tending to her flowers. HELENE exits her house. HELENE takes her time. She is wearing her jacket and holding a purse.)

HELENE Oh hi Barb.

BARB Hi. Helene.

HELENE Working on your flowers?


HELENE They’re very nice flowers.

BARB Thank you.

HELENE If I could plant flowers and grow them I would but I can’t.

BARB Why can’t you?

HELENE I have no green thumb. But it doesn’t matter.

BARB It doesn’t matter.

(BARB goes back to tending her flowers. She works for a while. HELENE watches her.)

HELENE It’s all right. People are good at all kinds of different things. Some people are good at some things, some people are good at other things.

BARB That’s true.

HELENE You’re good at that.

BARB I’m okay at this.

HELENE You can do it. You can find the time to do it.

(Short pause.)

I gotta go to the hospital. My daughter's husband's tried to hurt himself.

BARB Oh no.

HELENE I don't know what he did but I'm sure it's crazy.

(She laughs.)

BARB Well I hope he’s all right.

HELENE I hope he’s all right too. He's a loser.

BARB My ex-husband was a loser.

HELENE They're all around.

BARB All around.

(Short pause.)

HELENE Well, I'll be seeing you Barb.

BARB I'll be seeing you too.

HELENE Buh-bye Barb.

BARB Bye Helene.

(HELENE walks to her car. BARB goes back to her flowers. We watch her work for a while. Lights fade.)


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