The Latest Small Triumph of Levia Stand, a short play.

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Good Morning:

The play I wrote for the Playwright Center of San Francisco’s 24-hour fundraiser turned out very well, and I feel pleased to present it here. Huge thanks to director Ted Zoldan, and the Actors Merri Golden (Mrs. Jones), Chris Maltby (Mr. Smith), and Lisa Klein as Levia Stand. Incidentally, the solution to the puzzle in my previous post is that “Levia Stand” is an anagram constructed from the words “devil” and “Satan.” As soon as Lisa told me that she had done a lot of work teaching and performing in children’s theater, I knew she would make a terrific little devil.

If you’re not familiar with theater conventions, “Sotto voce” means that one character speaks to one side or directly to the audience, and the other characters cannot hear him/her.

THE LATEST SMALL TRIUMPH OF LEVIA STAND

Characters (in order of appearance)

MRS. JONES, Upper class, wife of Mr. Smith

LEVIA STAND, Kindly and helpful elderly woman

MR. SMITH, Upper class, husband of Mrs. Jones

Time and Setting: The present. An upscale restaurant. One table, two chairs, a wine bottle, menus and two wine glasses will suffice.

(At LIGHTS UP, LEVIA STAND pours wine into the two glasses as MRS. JONES sits in one of the chairs.)

MRS. JONES: I can’t believe that I married such a monster. First he cheats on me with an older, uglier, woman, second, he embezzles from his clients-

LEVIA STAND: -well, he does work for Goldman Sachs-

MRS. JONES: -and now my private eye reports that he wants to murder me and take his old hag and his new money to an island that has no extradition treaty with the United States?!

LEVIA STAND: A clever plan-

MRS. JONES: A clever plan, Ms. Stand?! Such diabolical intentions, and you praise his cleverness?!

LEVIA STAND: Merely an observation, my dear. Still, what you propose in response seems most extreme-

MRS. JONES: Extremism in the defense of virtue is no vice. I think Gandhi said that.

LEVIA STAND: Well, I still object to what you have in mind.

MRS. JONES: Did you bring it?

LEVIA STAND: Well, yes.

MRS. JONES: And if I give you money, will you give it to me?

LEVIA STAND: Well-

MRS. JONES: Very well. Very well indeed.

(LEVIA STAND takes money, MRS. JONES takes a pill in exchange.)

LEVIA STAND: This will induce a massive cerebral hemorrhage. The quickest, most unstoppable of deaths.

MRS. JONES: Thank you for coming to my aid. You’re a good person.

LEVIA STAND: I do feel a little curious; what is your real name?

MRS. JONES: Believe it or not, Levia, Mrs. Jones is my real name.

LEVIA STAND: A choice selection for a pseudonym. He comes. I shall distract him while you perform your chores.

(ENTER MR. SMITH. LEVIA STAND goes to him, and they are out of earshot of MRS. JONES. While these two speak apart, MRS. JONES discreetly drops the poison into MR. SMITH’S wine glass.)

LEVIA STAND: You are just in time, sir.

MR. SMITH: Ms. Stand, did you-?

LEVIA STAND: Levia Stand is an old hand at this brand of nefariousness, sir. Your wife will not live through the night. Unless!

MR. SMITH: Unless what?

LEVIA STAND: You do not need to follow through with this.

MR. SMITH: Did you forget everything I told you?!

LEVIA STAND: No, no, I have not, but surely she should serve years in prison and not suffer this. Have you no faith in the law?

MR. SMITH: Faith in the law?! When my wife is a lawyer?!

LEVIA STAND: Well reasoned, but-

MR. SMITH: Did you forget that she-devil is sleeing with two of my partners and our executive vice president?! Did you forget who has enormous debts and covets my money to pay them off?!

LEVIA STAND: I have not-

MR. SMITH: Did you forget that you took my money? You are in this at least as deep as I am, if not deeper.

LEVIA STAND: Many clients change their minds at the last minute-

MR. SMITH: Look at it this way; you are a hero. You came to my rescue. Tonight you will save the life of an innocent man.

LEVIA STAND: You are too persuasive for me, sir; you shall have all you desire. I do wonder, sir; you have not told me your true name.

MR. SMITH: Believe it or not, Ms. Stand, Mr. Smith is my real name.

LEVIA STAND: A choice selection for a pseudonym. Quick, to the table before she sees us together.

(MR. SMITH joins MRS. JONES.)

MRS. JONES: Darling! Happy Friday!

MR. SMITH: Happy Friday, my love!

(They engage in a remarkably fervent and public display of affection. LEVIA STAND takes a spot behind MR. SMITH.)

MRS. JONES: You will not believe the day I had today!

MR. SMITH: Actually, I might. The only thing that got me through this miserable day was the thought of you tonight.

MRS. JONES: The sort of people I have to work with have no redeeming qualities except to make me appreciate you more!

LEVIA STAND (Sotto voce.): I hate working with first-timers.

MR. SMITH: We should probably sit down.

MRS. JONES: Yes, we’re making these other diners feel bad about their lousy loveless marriages.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, let’s not make them feel too envious.

(And yet they engage in one more embrace. LEVIA STAND rolls her eyes.)

LEVIA STAND (Sotto voce.): Fortunately, I rarely work with second-timers.

MRS. JONES: So sit, sit! I already ordered our favorite Chardonnay.

MR. SMITH: Ah, thank you, thank you. My day has already gotten better.

(They sit.)

MR. SMITH: You simply won’t believe what they asked me to do today.

MRS. JONES: Of course I will, you work for Goldman Sachs.

MR. SMITH: This one might draw the attention of the SEC, whether the SEC likes it or not-

MRS. JONES: -darling, are those the Hendersons?

(MR. SMITH turns his back on her.)

MR. SMITH: Where?

MRS. JONES: In the corner?

MR. SMITH: Indeed! Let’s just wave, they’re already eating.

(They wave, and MR. SMITH turns his back to MRS. JONES.)

LEVIA STAND (Sotto voce.): A delightful opportunity presents itself.

(LEVIA STAND speaks to MR. SMITH in such a fashion that only he can hear her.)

LEVIA STAND: You were right, sir! She is evil! So evil that she has put poison in your glass.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Ms. Stand. (To MRS. JONES.) Speaking of friends we don’t really like, I believe those are the Wongs.

MRS. JONES: Yes, they are.

(MRS. JONES turns away from the table to fake-smile and wave at the Wongs. MR. SMITH switches glasses. MRS. JONES turns back to her husband. LEVIA STAND moves to her side of the stage.)

MRS. JONES: Shall we avoid their next Sunday barbeque?

MR. SMITH: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I was afraid you’d never ask.

MRS. JONES: I want nothing but for you to be happy.

(LEVIA STAND speaks to MRS. JONES in such a fashion that only she can hear her.)

LEVIA STAND: The poison must not have dissolved in time, for he has switched the glasses.

MRS. JONES: Do you have your work with you? Show me and I can see if there’s anything risky.

MR. SMITH: Good idea.

(As MR. SMITH reaches beneath the table, MRS. JONES switches glasses again. LEVIA STAND moves to his side of the stage.)

MR. SMITH: Take a look and see what you think.

(LEVIA STAND speaks to MR. SMITH in such a fashion that only he can hear her.)

LEVIA STAND: And take a look at what you might drink.

MR. SMITH: Darling, is the master sommelier on duty tonight?

MRS. JONES: Yes, I just saw him–where did I see him?–as I suspected, the Wongs are monopolizing him yet again.

(MRS. JONES turns away from the table to look at the Wongs. MR. SMITH switches glasses. MRS. JONES turns back to her husband. LEVIA STAND moves to her side of the stage.)

MRS. JONES: We’ll have to wait an eternity until they finish with him.

(LEVIA STAND speaks to MRS. JONES in such a fashion that only she can hear her.)

LEVIA STAND: By which time he shall have finished you with his cunning. He has only pretended to switch the glasses again.

MRS. JONES: Honey, this is too much to examine right now, and talking about our jobs will only ruin our lovely dinner. Please put this away and we’ll drink a toast to our perfect love.

MR. SMITH: Good idea.

(As MR. SMITH reaches beneath the table, MRS. JONES pretends to switch glasses again.)

MR. SMITH: This night should be special. A night for us-

MRS. JONES: -a night for love-

MR. SMITH: And isn’t that the same thing?

MRS. JONES: A toast to us-

MR. SMITH: -to love-

MRS. JONES: -to one and the same thing.

(They toast each other and drink. They hold hands, smiling. Simultaneously, they cease smiling. MRS. JONES and MR. SMITH suddenly die. LEVIA STAND steps down stage center and addresses the audience.)

LEVIA STAND: My latest small triumph. I had coated the inside of the other wine glass with the same tincture, and each murderer consumed his or her own poison.

Efficiency and wit have ever gone together.

To update the tally, we now have 666 for Him (Points at the ceiling.), a number I find delightfully ironic, 51 whom we both want, 1,530 whom neither of us wants, and as always, Niccolo Machiavelli. Dear Nicky–always in a class by himself.

Oh, I almost forgot: 4,375,164,898 for me.

Not much of a contest.

And they never do figure it out, no matter how obvious I make the clues. Certainly, all of you have figured out by now that “Levia Stand” is an anagram of two of my more common names.

They never do, yet they never hesitate to name me and blame me for their motivations, their thoughts, their deeds. Always my fault, as if they had nothing to do with it, none of this was their idea, none of this was their fault at all.

They will not hesitate to tell Him that they were good souls.

They will say that I made them do it.

I find it rather droll. Hmmm. Look at all this money I earned today. I shall have dinner here. Look at these wealthy people.

And I, too, would like to say that the Devil makes me do it-

(LEVIA STAND dons a devil’s mask.)

LEVIA STAND: -but that would be a lie.

(BLACKOUT.)

FINIS.

Vonn Scott Bair

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