Play in the Drawer: Victor Lodato
Welcome to another installment of Play in the Drawer, featuring the New Dramatists. This week we continue Victor Lodato's Motherhouse, described as: "Clive arrives at the house of his mother and sister. He says that he’s fleeing from the police—but perhaps it’s just another one of his delusions. Unbeknownst to him, he has shown up on a tragic anniversary; three years prior, his sister’s child was killed in a brutal shooting."
Victor’s work has been produced at The Magic Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Theatre Na Zabradli/Prague, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, SPF/NYC, Quartieri dell’Arte Festival, and Mill Mountain Theatre. He has received commissions from South Coast Repertory and the Magic Theatre. Victor is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rutgers University, and a member of The Dramatists Guild of America.
After the jump, Motherhouse...
(A spot slowly up on Evelyn, seated. She is wearing her white dress. When she speaks, she is not overly emotional: rather, it is as if she is pondering a philosophical complexity.)
EVELYN See now they never found it. That always gets to me. How they never found that bullet. Pass right through him, right through his head. How can that be? One side to the other. How can a thing be moving that fast? And so small, you know, big as—no bigger than a—just so small. One side to the other. (Pause) And he didn't make no sound. Only his arm flew up, hand hit me flat on the breast. Like that. Flat on my breast. (Pause) On my breast. (Pause) And then he went down. On the sidewalk. And you think, something like that happen, you think you in a dream. You do. You know, you can't take it as real. Everything stop for a minute. It seem everything stop. And it got so quiet after the shot, and it seem a long time. And I look down at him, and I think: what he doing? You know? What he doing down there? Even though I heard the shot, I didn't put it together. You hear that sound everyday. You know what it is. But you can't put that sound to your own child. You—you can't do it. And the blood: what is that? You know? What is that? And why his head look like that? For a time, seem like a long time, you try to make up some kinda story in your mind. Why his head look like that. Like there another meaning—how he look down there. That about something else. Not what it is. Like maybe he playing some kinda trick on me—somebody playing a trick on me. And you going through this in your mind. And it all seem like a long time, but then later on people tell you: no, you started screaming right after. But I know there was something in between. This in-between time. Before the knowledge. Before the truth. (Pause) You know how they say time don't stop for no man. But sometime it do, I think. Or it slow down. Because I look down at him, and it was as if time got broken, the line of it got broken, and I had to take a long step to get across from one second to the next. (she is progressively becoming more upset) And I get mad at myself sometimes, thinking: why I take that step? You know? Maybe I coulda walked over into some other idea. Walked over into some other story. You know, he trip, and that, that blood, it just, you know, his soda or something—cause he always carrying his little can. You know, why didn't I go there? Why didn't they let us go there? But, see, then you look up at everybody around you, and they all step back, and their hands up in the air, and their mouths open, and some other mother screaming—and it like they all telling you: go on, cross over, get to what it is. And then you look down again, and you see it. You see how the story go.
(Lights slowly up to reveal the kitchen. We can now see Mae, standing close behind Evelyn.)
EVELYN And I went down to him. Down to the ground. And I put my hands on both sides of his head, and I never felt such a strength, I felt I could push the life right back into him. I felt so strong. I put all my body onto him. (Pause) But he wouldn't take it. He wouldn't take what I was giving him.
MAE Was nothing you could do. Baby, listen to me. Was nothing you could do.
EVELYN Had to be something I could do. I had all this strong, this, this—something moving inside me—like some kinda spirit in me.
MAE You just feeling him moving through you. I feel your father go through me like that when he die.
EVELYN I kneel down at the same spot today. I put my hand where his head was—and that hand, it get so hot. Why it get so hot?
(Mae attempts to put a cool rag on Evelyn's neck.)
MAE Here, let me put this on you.
EVELYN Don't. I don't want that.
MAE Cool you down.
EVELYN I said no.
(Evelyn stands, begins to walk about the room.)
EVELYN I'm just talking. I just got to talk through this. Think it all through. (Pause) Feel my hand. Feel it. It still burning.
MAE Let me put this on you. Sit down.
EVELYN I looked for the bullet again. MAE Now you gonna make me mad. Sit down.
EVELYN Don't make no sense how it just disappeared.
MAE And you think you gonna find it after all this time?
EVELYN It just don't make no sense. Like maybe it still going.
MAE What still going? (Pause) What?
(Evelyn sits down at the table.)
EVELYN Put that on me, Mama.
(Mae puts the wet rag on the back of Evelyn's neck. Pause.)
EVELYN I think sometimes that maybe the bullet is still going.
MAE Enough on the bullet.
EVELYN I get this picture—and I know, I know it couldn't be, but just listen to me—I get this picture like it still moving. After it went through his head, it just kept going. Like it going all around the world. Killing other babies. Every time another child shot, it the same bullet.
MAE (exasperated) How it gonna be the same bullet?
EVELYN No, I'm not saying it is the same. Only in my mind it seem that way. And then I think, if it still going, it gonna come back, and it gonna find me.
MAE Stop on that. It's not gonna find you. Don't be scared on that nonsense. EVELYN I'm not scared. (Pause) I want it to come back. I want it to find me.
MAE That's enough now.
EVELYN It's just a thought, Mama.
MAE It's a stupid thought.
EVELYN When I walk by that corner, I kneel down on the ground, and I think maybe what went through him will come all the way back around, take me down at the same place.
EVELYN On the same day.
MAE Stop it!
EVELYN Don't look at me like that. I know it's not real. It's just what I think.
MAE Thinking gonna make it real. Cause there plenty a bullets out here. They out there like weather— got more a that than rain. And you gonna draw one to you, thinking like that.
EVELYN Well, then, I better keep on thinking.
(Pause; Mae shakes her head.)
MAE Why you gotta be mean on me?
EVELYN How is that mean on you? I said that bullet on me, not on you. On me.
MAE I know what you said.
EVELYN Cause I do think about that.
MAE You as selfish as the other one.
MAE Your brother. Who you think? (Pause) The two of you! (Pause) Should be that I could depend on my children now. After all I done for the two of you! But, no, my children, they living in some fantasy world.
EVELYN Don't you dare compare me to him.
MAE Why not? I don't know where the two of you come from—where it is your minds come from. Cause we didn't think like this, my generation, we lived here on the ground—not up there in the clouds. I swear, I don't know who's worse, you or him.
EVELYN How can you even say that? After what he done on me.
MAE And don't keep saying that. He didn't do it.
EVELYN His people.
MAE Weren't even his people. Some kid shooting at another kid, and Jame James just get in the way. Clive had nothing to do with it.
EVELYN All the same. I don't care. They all got their guns. They all shooting at everybody.
MAE But you can't blame your brother for that. Every man out there got a gun—is that his fault? You can't blame Clive for that.
EVELYN Who am I gonna blame?
MAE How long we gonna have to go around on this? Cause if you don't stop, I will get a doctor in on you. You hear me? Cause you headed for a hospital.
EVELYN I can blame whoever I want. I can blame you.
MAE Me?! How you gonna blame me?
EVELYN I don't know. I could figure out something.
MAE You want me to slap you?
EVELYN Maybe how like you didn't come with us that day. You weren't there when it happened.
MAE I couldn't have done nothing.
EVELYN It was just me standing next to him.
MAE What could I have done?
EVELYN I don't know. Sometimes it seems—I don't know.
MAE I would not want to have seen that. To tell you the truth, I am thankful—I thank the Lord I wasn't there. (Pause) I am sorry you had to see that, Evelyn—cause that's just pressed into your mind now, I know.
EVELYN Cause I think sometimes ...
MAE Enough with the thinking.
EVELYN If you had been there.
MAE I couldn't have saved him.
EVELYN (becoming distraught) Like how we used to walk together.
(Mae tries to approach Evelyn, but she moves away.)
MAE Sit down.
EVELYN Remember how the three of us used to walk together? Like when we went to the store or something?
MAE Evelyn. Don't get all upset, now. Sit down.
EVELYN Remember you used to hold his one hand, and I had the other?
MAE Don't do this.
EVELYN I always held his hand with my left hand—we always did it like that—I was always on his right side, and you always walked on the other.
MAE Stop. Baby. Stop.
EVELYN He liked to walk in between us.
MAE Why you doing this? You wanna make us cry?
EVELYN Remember how he like to walk in between us?
MAE I remember.
EVELYN That's how it should have been.
MAE We all loved him, baby.
(Mae attempts to embrace Evelyn, but once again Evelyn moves away.)
EVELYN You don't understand what I'm saying.
MAE Come on, sit down.
EVELYN No! Listen to me. (Pause) You woulda been standing on his left side, you had come with us that day, this is what I'm saying: you woulda been standing there—and that bullet woulda hit you. It woulda hit you.
(Pause; Mae freezes.)
EVELYN And I be wishing sometimes that what happened, that that bullet went into you, and not into him. (Pause; Mae stares at Evelyn.)
EVELYN I can't help it, it goes through my head. Because you always stood on his left. And that's where he got hit from.
MAE What are you saying to me?
EVELYN (talking very fast) But maybe it wouldn't even have killed you. You know? Went into his head, but—now, if you think where he come up to on you, he come up to about your chest. You know, maybe it woulda just went into your arm. Maybe just into your arm.
MAE Or maybe my stomach. Or my neck. Or, no—how 'bout let it go into my heart? How 'bout that?
EVELYN I'm only saying—cause I could picture it that way. I mean, I woulda let it come into my own heart—but you the one always stood on that side. That was your place. That's where you should have been.
EVELYN (crying) That was your place.
MAE (shouting) You hear what she saying to me? (Pause) You hear?
(Evelyn sits down at the table.)
EVELYN (lost in her reverie) I can see you fall and everything.
MAE (shouting) You hear that?
EVELYN Why you yelling? Stop it.
(Clive appears in the hallway entrance. Obviously stoned, he seems to be half-asleep; his eyes flutter. Mae sees him; Evelyn does not.)
MAE (to Clive) You hear her? This a sickness. A sickness.
EVELYN (her back to Clive, still not seeing him) Mama. Look at me.
MAE (to Clive) You see how she talk? You see how she treat me?
CLIVE (as if it is difficult for him to speak) I'm gonna have to go out for a little while.
(Evelyn turns her head, suddenly alert, stands. She faces Clive. Pause.)
EVELYN What are you doing here? (to Mae) What the hell is he doing here?
CLIVE Mama, could you give me twenty dollars? I could, I could use twenty dollars.
EVELYN You knew he was back there?
MAE Because somebody got to know, Evelyn. The way you going on. This a sickness. (turns to Clive) You see how she is? (Pause; then louder as if to wake him) Clive, you see how she is?
EVELYN What?—you gonna get his opinion on my state of mind? Look at him. MAE You just don't stop, Evelyn. You never stop going around. And I cannot be alone on this with you anymore.
CLIVE (confused) I'm allright. I just need to get out and, and—I, I just need to get out for a little while. You two don't got to worry about me.
MAE (to Clive) Not talking to you! I'm talking to her. What is wrong with you? (turning back to Evelyn) I can't do this with you no more, Evelyn. Going over and over and over the same thing—and ain't nothing gonna change.
EVELYN How could you do this, Mama? Look at him—he don't got no place here.
CLIVE I'm allright. I was moving too fast, but now I got it slowed down.
MAE (to Evelyn) Sometimes, you scare me—and I don't know what to do.
EVELYN And so you invite this one into our business? Behind my back you invite this one? So, now—what—you gonna start lying to me?
(Evelyn moves toward Mae; Mae moves away.)
CLIVE I'll pay it back to you. Just ten, twenty dollars.
EVELYN Cause I won't have you lying to me.
MAE Clive, you got to help us!
EVELYN Shut up!
(Evelyn slaps Mae. Pause. Then she goes to the table, rummages through her pocketbook.)
MAE (softly, to Clive) You got to help us.
CLIVE Everything gonna be allright, Mama. I got it all worked out in my mind.
(Evelyn has taken a twenty from her purse. She hands it to Clive.)
EVELYN Here's your money, Clive.
MAE Don't give him that. You know what he wants that for.
CLIVE I'll pay you back.
EVELYN You go do your thing.
MAE No, he gonna stay with us. Clive. Clive! What's wrong with you?
CLIVE I know what day it is, Mama.
MAE (pleading) Just stay with us.
CLIVE (to Evelyn) I was telling Mama how I remember that time Jame James burn his hand on the stove. And he crying and crying. And how I put that cream on it, on his hand, and how he quiet down after that. After I put that cream on.
EVELYN Just go, Clive.
CLIVE He got real quiet after that.
MAE (moving toward Clive) We got to all three of us sit down.
CLIVE (a bit harsh) No. What I say? I got to go out for a little while.
MAE You can't go. Leave me with this one. Clive. Come on, I make you some coffee, I make you some of that good coffee.
CLIVE Get off me. I gotta go.
MAE (shouting through door) And where you think you gonna go? You know you ain't got nowhere to go. (to Evelyn, quietly) He ain't got nowhere to go.
(Pause. Evelyn moves toward Mae.)
EVELYN What you trying to do?
MAE What? Just trying to bring it all together. Evelyn, listen to me. What are we doing— what are we doing in all of this?
EVELYN Two of you gonna gang up on me? Huh? That what you thinking?
(Mae backs away from Evelyn)
MAE Get away from me. You stay away from me. EVELYN He don't got no place in this.
(Pause. A standoff.)
MAE You just stay away from me. (Pause) I'm done with you. I am done with you. (Lights down.)
END ACT I
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