Play in the Drawer: Victor Lodato

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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...

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Act II

Scene 1

(Lights up on the kitchen. Clive and Ross are at the table. Both men are a bit disheveled. They are in the middle of a heated discussion.)

ROSS I didn't recognize anything. You know? I didn't be at my mother's house for like a year. And she done it all over. Same stuff, but she done it all around, the placement— you know what I'm saying? Messed it up.

CLIVE Same thing here. I know. Cause that's the same thing here. Like my bed used to be against the one wall, now it on the other side of the room. And that, that confuses a person.

ROSS It does. That's what I'm saying. I was confused. I was truly confused. You want a chair to be where you remember there a chair. And you don't want a chair where there should be nothing.

CLIVE No, you don't.

ROSS Then you can't hardly walk through the house. All these chairs in my way. Cause there a certain way I used to move through that house. And now she done messed that up. Chair in the hallway. I mean, why she got a chair in the hallway now? Who gonna sit on that? What, she can't walk from one end a the hall to the other without having to sit her ass down? I mean she old, but she ain't that old. And I keep tripping on that chair—you know, get up in the dark, go the bathroom—I, I can't keep it in my mind that it's there.

CLIVE Cause it shouldn't be there. Go against common sense.

ROSS And it go against the way I move. Go against my body. And then the couch, she got it broken now in two parts, like a V (illustrates with his hands), like that, because that couch a sectional, it goes this way or that way, however you wanna do it. And she used to have it in one good long straight line, all the parts, all one way, the way a couch should be. Now she got it in this V. I can't even sit on that. Feel like it's closing in on you. I sit in that house, on that couch, and I get so—I don't know. (Pause) Why can't it just be the way it used to be? Why can't she just leave it that way?

CLIVE I know. Cause they always trying to improve the situation.

ROSS But the thing is: you remember something, you want to stay with that, you don't want to improve upon that. You got the idea of the house down, the idea of the house. That is in you mind from way back—and she gotta go and fuck with that. Doing it around like it someplace else. CLIVE I know. You don't know where you are.

ROSS Like she got no respect for how the house lives in my mind.

CLIVE You just want the house the way you learned it.

ROSS That's all I want. You hit it on the head. The way I learned it. (Pause; he sighs) Shit. Cause coming home should be easy. Light. Smooth. Slip right in.

(Pause)

CLIVE Why you go back to your mama's anyway, why you didn't go back to René?

ROSS Hey, you in the same place—so don't be on me with that.

CLIVE I'm not on you—I'm just saying—

ROSS And I ain't gonna stay there long. She don't even cook the same food. Even the food don't tell me I'm home. I can't even recognize this food she making now. I swear, you look on the plate—and sometimes you can't even tell what that is down there. Cause she always trying new things now. Everything in a sauce—and I don't go for that, because that obscures the food. It's like a mystery every time you sit down at the table. (Pause) And I just long for the old food. You know? That food I remember. What I eat in my mind. (Pause) Sometimes I think I'm in the wrong house.

CLIVE Yeah, so you go back with René.

ROSS No. After I got took down, she say not to come back. (Pause) And that's fine with me. I was done with that one anyway.

CLIVE Nothing wrong with that one.

ROSS Yeah, she look good—but that girl a pig. She never clean.

CLIVE She smell good to me.

ROSS (territorially) And when you be smelling her? CLIVE I'm just saying she—in general, you know—got a nice smell about her.

ROSS Yeah, well, she clean herself, that's not what I'm talking about: but she don't clean her surroundings. And a woman's got to keep her surroundings clean, cause when I had people over, doing a little business, I was embarrassed. (Pause) Least my mother's house is clean.

CLIVE That is true.

ROSS Keeps it up. You know?

CLIVE My mother's always got soap in the bathroom. One for the sink and one for the shower.

ROSS See, now that is a touch that I like. Woman's touch, they call that. René, she didn't have none a that. Lucky there'd be one piece of soap between the sink and the tub. You always having to be leaning outta the shower to get it. And then that soap, you know, down to nothing—it like a toothpick. (imitating René's voice) I ran out, she always say. I ran out. She always running out of something: soap, toilet paper, milk , donuts. CLIVE Necessities.

ROSS Necessities, exactly. Always running outta something. (Pause) But my mother always well stocked. She think ahead. She always got extra. (Pause) How long you been over here at your mama's?

CLIVE I just got here. I been here maybe two weeks.

ROSS You gonna stay?

CLIVE That depends I get me some money or not. (Pause) And, on that, I did want to ask you something?

ROSS I ain't go no money. I just got outta the box. And you think I"d give you money, I had some?

CLIVE Not saying give me money. Just listen on me for a minute.

ROSS Not listening on you. Give you money! CLIVE Did I say give me money? That is not what I said.

(Ross stands)

ROSS What you got to eat around here?

(Ross crosses to refrigerator.)

CLIVE Would you sit down? We are in the middle of a conversation.

(Ross opens the refrigerator, peers in.)

ROSS Nothing in here. There ain't even milk. CLIVE She out shopping now.

ROSS My mother never outta milk.

CLIVE Well, we all outta milk over here—so get your ass back down.

ROSS Though she buy that gray milk now, I don't even think it's real milk.

(Ross looks back into the refrigerator.)

CLIVE Ross, what you looking at? We all outta everything.

ROSS Shit. You know? I mean—shit!

(Ross slams shut the refrigerator.)

ROSS (indicating his chest) The hunger is right here, Clive. I feel it like a, like a—you know—like a wild animal. And he big. You know? Like a moose or something.

CLIVE A moose?! Would you sit your ass down?

ROSS My ass wanna be in the air right now, if that's allright with you. Wanna be moving through space right now.

(Ross starts to walk about the room, moving in a somewhat bizarre manner.)

ROSS Something moving in me, and I gotta move.

CLIVE See now, you gone and stirred yourself up.

ROSS I do that sometimes. I get a thought, and then it go out all over me. CLIVE Well, get a hold on it. Ross. I have things I need to discuss with you. Things I need to ask you. (Pause) Ross.

ROSS Ask me. I'm just stretching. Letting go. See if I can't get it outta me.

(Ross' movements become increasingly spasmodic.)

CLIVE I swear everybody going out of their head. Sometimes I think I am the only one left with a sanitary mind.

ROSS There are times my body just push me around. And then ... (he snaps his fingers, stops moving) it stops. Oh, look at that, it stop. See it don't always stop I ask it to.

(Pause)

CLIVE Are you with me now?

ROSS See how I slide around.

CLIVE Yeah, you sliding allright.

(Ross starts to move around again.)

ROSS I get that moving in me, and I don't know am I happy or am I sad. (all of the following he addresses to himself, attempting to evaluate his state of mind) Happy. Sad. Happy. Sad. Where we going? Where are we going?

CLIVE Ross. (Pause) Ross. Over here.

(Ross stops moving, looks at Clive.)

ROSS What?

CLIVE Would you join me at the table? Because that is the way I would prefer to conduct our business. Like, like normal men—not with you jitting around like that.

ROSS We doing business? What we doing?

CLIVE Sit down, and we can discuss it.

ROSS I'm listening.

CLIVE You gonna sit down?

ROSS I can't accommodate that right now. If I sit down, I know I'm gonna have to stand right back up again. But tell me what you wanna tell me. Don't worry, I'm done moving. I'm done moving now. (Pause) So—what we doing?

CLIVE Well, I was wondering if you might have a particular item—something I might be interested in obtaining from you.

ROSS What you in need of?

CLIVE You remember you old gun—that first one you got?

ROSS Which one?

CLIVE What, you don't remember your first?

ROSS The Wild Dog?

CLIVE No, not the Wild Dog—the little one—the Cupcake.

ROSS Oh, yeah. I loved that little gun. That was a sweet little thing.

CLIVE You still got it?

(Ross sits down at the table.)

ROSS That was my very first. Little baby gun. That was like ten years ago.

CLIVE Do you still got it?

ROSS I suppose it still at my mama's house. If she didn't move that too.

CLIVE Well, you check it out.

ROSS What you want with that little thing? That like a kiddie gun.

CLIVE It do the job, don't it?

ROSS Yeah, I guess so—but that ain't a gun gonna get you no respect.

CLIVE Would you sell it to me, you still got it?

ROSS How much you gonna gimme for it?

CLIVE And you know it ain't worth hardly nothing.

ROSS Course I do have the sentimental attachment.

CLIVE Wouldn't get twenty dollar for a pawn.

ROSS But the sentiment, Clive. The sentiment is the issue.

CLIVE Get off that bullshit. You didn't forget you had it, you woulda already sold it.

ROSS Maybe now—but maybe not.

CLIVE How much you would ask for that?

ROSS I don't even know I still got it. Stupid bitch coulda thrown it out—cause she do things like that. CLIVE If you still got it—how much?

ROSS How much you offering?

CLIVE Don't play with me: how much?

ROSS I don't know. I'd take maybe—oh, I don't know—I'd take a ten ten.

CLIVE For that?! No where could you get a hundred for that.

ROSS No—cause there kids out there, you know, they inexperienced—they wanna start with something like that—they might go for it. Some dumb ass kid.

CLIVE I give you half a that.

ROSS Fifty dollar?

CLIVE And that's more than it's worth.

ROSS You got the money now?

CLIVE You get me the gun, I get you the money. I got to have the gun first. (Pause) So—fifty dollar—you agree on that?

ROSS Yeah, allright. I'll do that.

CLIVE So we go check it out—see if you still got it.

ROSS I used to keep it in a Chivas Regal bag—you know the blue velvet?—little gold ropes. I was just so cute, keeping it in my little bag. And that in my drawer under my underwear. You know, real Hollywood like.

CLIVE Well, let's hope it still there.

ROSS And bring that money.

CLIVE I'm not gonna have the money. I have to have the gun for a day first.

ROSS And why is that?

CLIVE Cause there another party involved. It's not for me. What you think I want with a piece a shit like that? I am selling it to somebody else.

ROSS Who you hustling?

CLIVE Don't you worry about it.

ROSS Come on, tell me.

CLIVE Somebody I know need it—and they gonna give me—get this—they gonna give me five hundred dollar for it.

ROSS (standing) What? Five hundred?

CLIVE (laughing) Yeah. That what I said.

ROSS (stammering) Five five—what? Who is gonna—five hundred?!

CLIVE Sit down.

ROSS I should sell it to them myself.

CLIVE It's my deal—and you know a sucker like this come along once in a lifetime. So you be happy with your fifty dollar.

ROSS Who this idiot gonna give you five hundred dollars for that little gun?

CLIVE You think I'm gonna tell you?

(Ross starts to walk about the room again.)

ROSS Five hundred dollars.

CLIVE And that gonna be enough to get me outta town, get me set up somewhere else, cause I am done with this town.

(Ross opens the refrigerator, peers in again.)

ROSS Where you gonna go?

CLIVE I don't know. I just can't be living with these two—you know, because they just don't stop with their shit—whining or crying or what you doing in there. You know I'm saying—just get out, get myself out—and I'm saying like away. (Pause) Maybe I go to California.

(Ross is still looking into refrigerator.)

ROSS I'd like to go there. That is a place I'd like to go.

CLIVE Not on fifty dollar.

ROSS Shut the fuck up. I could get me enough to go, I wanted to.

(Pause. Ross still in refrigerator.)

CLIVE Ain't nothing in there.

ROSS I can see that.

(Clive stands.)

CLIVE Listen, I'm gonna use the room—then we go find us something to eat.

(Clive goes into the bathroom; Ross is still looking into the empty refrigerator as he speaks—occasionally shouting out to Clive, occasionally to himself.)

ROSS Cause I could get me enough, I wanted to. (Pause) Maybe I will. Maybe I go with you. Cause I wouldn't mind that. California. That like the sunshine state, right? Ain't that what they call it? Cause I do like the sunshine. (Pause) Oranges. Avocados. (Pause) What else they got there? Get you some good seafood there. Cause that right by the water, California, ain't it? Right by the ocean. (Pause) You ever swim in the ocean, Clive? I ain't never done that. (Pause) Would you be scared to swim in the ocean? You see that movie Piranha, with all those little fish eating on people's flesh? They find the bodies floating to shore, almost down to the bone. I think that took place in California. I think it did. But they, they took care a the problem. I don't remember how they did it exactly, but I remember the fish like exploding at the end. (Pause) I think I would like to swim in the ocean. I could enjoy that. I bet they do that salt water taffy there. (Pause) And then a course you got Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom, they call that. I bet we could sell a lotta shit in The Magic Kingdom, Clive. Make a lotta money. Selling our stuff there. (Pause) The sunshine state.

(Mae enters, carrying bags of groceries; she stands at the door, listening to Ross. Ross does not notice her.)

ROSS I think that a good idea, Clive. Cause this here is empty. This here a wasted land. You the only one a my boys left, Clive. (Pause) This here is hollow. (he yells into the refrigerator) Hollow. And it cold, too. And I was not built for the cold. No, I wasn't.

(Mae puts her groceries down on the table with a thud; Ross turns.)

MAE And what were you built for, Shorty?

ROSS Mae. Miss Mae. Miss Magic Mae. Where you come from?

MAE What you doing in my ice box?

ROSS I was just gonna shut that.

MAE Might as well leave it open, got things to put away.

(Mae starts to unpack groceries.)

ROSS Been a long time, Miss Mae.

MAE Yes, it has.

(Ross begins to look through bags on table.)

MAE Shorty Ross. Look at you.

ROSS They don't call me that no more.

MAE Why not? It still sum you up.

ROSS You mind if I ate some of these chips.

MAE Help yourself.

(Ross sits down at the table, opens bag, eats.)

ROSS You got some milk?

MAE Should be some in one of those bags.

(Ross looks, finds a carton.)

ROSS (disappointed, whining) This ain't the real stuff. This that gray stuff. How come you buy that, too? Shit.

(Mae takes the carton away from him.)

MAE Didn't buy it for you.

(Ross looks through other food on the table.)

ROSS This ain't the right food. This just like hers. Lady food.

(Mae grabs another item from Ross' grip.)

MAE Where Clive at?

ROSS Bathroom.

(Pause. Mae continues to put away groceries; Ross still eating chips.)

MAE I had heard you were in a bit of trouble, Shorty.

ROSS Ross. Ross is how I go now.

MAE Yeah, well, I had heard you had some trouble.

ROSS No big deal. Got outta that.

MAE I had heard it was a big deal.

ROSS No.

MAE Clive made it out that it was some real trouble.

ROSS Oh, he just gets that loop in his head. You know how he gets.

MAE Yeah, I do know. That's what I thought. (Pause) So, there's no trouble then?

ROSS Not today.

MAE Well, you just keep it that way. (Pause) How's your mother?

(Ross makes a vague gesture, mumbles something incomprehensible as he eats.)

MAE She good?

ROSS I don't know how she is. She just is. Yeah, she fine, I guess.

MAE She still got that dog, that little dog, what was her name?

ROSS I don't know.

MAE You know. What was her name? Peaches?

ROSS Prissy.

MAE She still got her?

ROSS No. Died.

MAE Sorry to hear that.

ROSS Died last year. And she still don't stop talking about it. (Pause) It had a disease a the brain.

MAE Did it, now? That musta been hard on your mama. I know she was close to that animal.

ROSS Yeah. And she love to tell you how it died. You get with her, and that be the first thing she be telling you.

MAE I used to see your mama all the time. I never see her no more.

ROSS She don't go out too much. She say she get nervous walking around. What's there to be nervous about?

MAE Don't act like that. You know there's things a woman gonna be nervous about. Anybody gonna be nervous about.

(Pause; Ross still eating.)

ROSS So you wanna hear how that dog died?

MAE Died of the brain, you said.

ROSS Yeah, that the cause—but I'm saying the story of how it died, what she always telling everybody. See that dog always sleep with her. Down at the bottom of her bed. And one night, it crawl up to her face, and she say, get back down there, you know, she move it back down by her feet. And then in a little bit, up it come again. Up to her face. Crawl right up on her chest. And she put it back down again. You know, cause its place is down at the bottom. And then this time it don't even wait—right after she put it down, you know what it do?

MAE Come up again.

ROSS Come up again. Exactly. Third time. Crawl up to her face. And then when she telling the story, she say: (mocking his mother) Oh, I knew she be needing something from me, but I didn't know what Prissy needed, so I just give her a hug. And so she hug that ugly thing, and it die right up there by her face. (mocking mother again) That what that dog wanted, she say, that dog wanted to die in my arms.

MAE Ain't that something?

ROSS You know what I said to her: I said maybe you didn't give that dog a hug, it might still be alive today.

MAE Terrible to say that.

(Ross laughs; Mae takes the bag of chips away from him.)

MAE How is it you can make fun on that?

ROSS I wasn't done with those.

MAE You had your fill.

(Clive enters from bathroom, recharged. Ross and Mae turn to him. Clive puts up his hands, as one does to quiet a room, to quell applause. He prepares to speak.)

CLIVE There are certain days a person feel good. A person feel lucky. You know, cause I was in there thinking—hello there, Mama—I was in there thinking—cause Ross had pointed out earlier the importance of the cleanlihood of a house. How it important a house be clean. Because from this a man can work, he can build himself up, he can feel a sense of respect. And the deep meaning of this had not struck me until just now I was in there. Cause the sink, the mirror, they were just, they were shining—shining like a whole army—a whole army a clean. This, this inspires a man. Because what is there to stop me? What is there to, to keep me down? You know what I'm saying? When things are shining like that. And the other thing was—as I saw this, I saw a piece a hair in the sink. A piece a hair that had invaded the scene. And this was my hair—cause you know your own hair when you see it. And then the thought I had was: I do not want to be a piece a hair in a clean sink. I want to rise above that. Cause that black hair in the white sink just ruined the whole picture. And that was very—it was—it set off a number a thoughts—but mainly the thought that I do not want to be a hair in a sink. Cause the sink is clean, and to that a man should rise. To the cleanlihood of his house. A man should rise.

(Pause. Mae and Ross stare at Clive.)

ROSS That what I was trying to say to you before.

MAE (to Ross) You know what he's talking about?

ROSS He is talking about moving out of the emptiness.

CLIVE (concurring) Moving out of the emptiness.

ROSS The Magic Kingdom.

CLIVE The Magic Kingdom!

MAE (to Ross) Stop eggin' him on. Get him all excited.

ROSS I ain't doing it. He excited all by himself.

CLIVE Everything is moving forward, Mama. Everything on track.

MAE Come sit down, Clive. I'm gonna make us something to eat.

CLIVE No, no, Ross and I going out. We gonna get something out there.

MAE No, now, I got everything.

CLIVE Don't bother with that.

MAE (to Ross) You wanna join us, Shorty?

CLIVE No, he don't—he got things to do.

MAE (to Ross) Cause Evelyn gonna be home soon. You ain't seen her in a while.

ROSS No, Miss Mae, I don't think so.

MAE Gonna have a nice family dinner.

CLIVE Mama, we got things to take care of. (to Ross) You ready?

MAE Clive, I planned this all out—this dinner. Evelyn gonna be home in a little while. Be nice for us all to sit down together.

CLIVE Don't get on me, cause I am feeling good right now. I wanna keep with that. (to Ross) C'mon. (Ross stands.)

MAE I don't understand you. You just saying how nice the house is. How it clean, how it make you feel good. So, you sit down, Evelyn come home, we all have a nice supper.

ROSS (to Mae, trying to help) The food, though, it not gonna satisfy him—see now I understand that. Cause I saw the food that you bought. It not gonna do the job.

MAE Shorty, just, just let off. This our business.

CLIVE Mama, listen, you save me something. I eat it later. You save me something.

MAE Cause I notice you and Evelyn getting along a little better. And she apologize to me. And she seem better, don't she? And you in your old room. And I thought, the three of us—

CLIVE How 'bout we do it tomorrow? We do it tomorrow.

MAE I bought a bottle a wine for us.

CLIVE We gonna drink it tomorrow. Allright? Cause I am making my way now. Tomorrow we celebrate.

ROSS Five hundred dollars to celebrate.

CLIVE Shut up.

MAE (to Ross) What five hundred dollars?

CLIVE There are just things. Possibilities. Let me make my way. Allright? Let me make my way. Let me, let me see it through. Cause I have all my feelings in the right place. See what I'm saying? And tomorrow, we gonna have a nice dinner.

MAE Tomorrow Sunday.

CLIVE And when Evie get back from the cemetery, we have our dinner. Allright? We do it up.

ROSS (impatient) So, let's go. I'ma fall down I'm so hungry.

MAE (to Ross) I thought you'd want to see Evelyn—you ain't seen her in a long time.

CLIVE What he want to see her for?—he don't want to see her. (Pause) Just wait on till tomorrow, Mama.

MAE You promising me that, Clive?

CLIVE I am. You save that food for tomorrow.

ROSS (at the door) Nice seeing you, Miss Mae.

CLIVE (to Mae) Tomorrow. That is marked on me.

(Clive and Ross exit.)

(Pause)

(Mae sits down at the table.)

MAE Better be marked on you.

(Lights down)

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