THE COURTYARD

 

A short play on the theme: "Neutralize the Threat"

by K. Brian Neel & Paul Shipp

© 2009 all rights reserved

 

14/48 — January 9, 2009

PLAY # 1

 

CHARACTERS: 

Kathleen (wife)

Stu (husband)

Ian (m) or Ellen (f)

Lottie (Charlotte (f) or Pilot (m)) 

 

(NOTE: The director chose to never have the actors ever enter the courtyard. All action took place in the house. We wish we had come up with this idea. If so, the lights up on stage in the beginning should last at least thirty seconds.) 

As the music fades, lights rise on an empty stage—the main character in this play. The sound of a rustling ladder from the house is heard. Kathleen and Stu, carrying it, try to keep as quiet as possible in this covert operation. They set the ladder just off stage. Kathleen nudges Stu to climb. He climbs to the top and slowly peeks over. Kathleen pulls him down and rises 

KATHLEEN: What do you see?

STU: The courtyard.

KATHLEEN: Is there anybody there?

STU: No.

KATHLEEN: Let me see.

She pulls him down and climbs the ladder herself. 

STU: There’s never anybody there. 

Kathleen comes down. 

KATHLEEN: Let’s do it.

STU: There’s the ladder. 

They look at each other expectedly. 

STU: What’s the worst that can happen? 

Stu climbs the ladder again, whisper-singing to himself “Breaking the law” or something.

KATHLEEN: Quiet!

He reaches the top, climbs over and down the other side. 

STU: Wow. It’s bigger than it looks.

KATHLEEN: What do you see?

STU: The courtyard.

KATHLEEN: Is there anybody there?

STU: No! There is nobody here!

He sizes up the place, she climbs the ladder and joins him.

KATHLEEN: I don’t like your tone. 

STU: (Visualizing) The grill… here. Concrete’s in great shape, Kathleen. There’s room for a hammock here. 

A voice joins them from the balcony. 

IAN: Good afternoon.

Kathleen and Stu are startled.

KATHLEEN: Oh shit. (Regaining composure.) Hi. 

STU: Afternoon. 

IAN: Mind if I join you?

He’s already making his way down. 

IAN: I’ve never seen anybody down there before. 

STU: Us either. 

KATHLEEN: We’re the first. 

STU: We live in the beige house with green trim. Never seen you in the neighborhood.

IAN: Well, it’s a big condo. Lots of strangers. Wow. It’s much bigger than it looks. I’m Ian.

STU: I’m Stewart, you can call me Stu. This is my wife, Kathleen.

IAN:  Stu. Kathy.

KATHLEEN:  Kathleen. 

Ian pulls out a tape measure and a notebook, starts measuring. Kathleen and Stu are dumbfounded. 

IAN: Way I figure, this used to be an alley or a small road, and the city must have walled it off, because of crime maybe. The adjoining land must have been eventually sold as property. And this got lost in paperwork. (pounds the concrete with his feet) Or it could have just been a small house. 

KATHLEEN:  We think this is actually part of our property. Probably was a pump house back when there were wells, back in the 30’s. All these houses were on well systems. 

STU: It’s a theory.

IAN: Actually, I work for the city Department of Land Use Planning, and there’s no record of this property at all. Crazy thing. 

For quite some time. Lottie has been watching through a hole in the wall on the other side of the stage, laying flat on the ground.  

LOTTIE: Shouldn’t be in there. It’s private property

They are startled.   

STU: Whoa. Uh. Hello?

LOTTIE: You are all trespassing. It’s private property.

IAN: Technically, ma’am, it lies within the physical boundaries of my condominium. 

LOTTIE: You’re condo’s a piece of shit. 

KATHLEEN:  Wait a minute. (To Ian.) You said there are no records of here… 

IAN: Well, technically speaking… 

KATHLEEN:  Technically speaking, you’re lying to us. 

Lottie inches her way on stage during this tyrade:  

LOTTIE: Damn city. Stole everything. This was all my daddy’s. No condo. None of these houses. Open land that belonged to my Daddy. I’m Charlotte Manwearing. I go by Lottie. Ever heard of the Manwearings? Kink Manwearing, My daddy. Made his money in gas. You can’t be here! Private property! 

STU: (Covertly to Kathleen) She’s the lady with all the dead Subarus.

LOTTIE: It’s a fine car. Runs forever. I sell out the parts.

IAN: That’s illegal. This area is not zoned commercially. Plus there’s a beautification ordinance. 

LOTTIE: What are you a lawyer?

IAN: I work for the city Department of Land Use Planning. 

LOTTIE: An asshole who stole my property. 

STU: (Diffusing the situation) Miss. Manwearing, Lottie, excuse me. If this is your property, how come you don’t use it? It’s vacant.

LOTTIE: (Mysteriously) Isn’t it something? Pristine concrete. No vines or ivy. Few cracks, but perfectly poured. It’s not inviting people. 

IAN: This is strange. 

They all give him attention.

IAN: I measured this courtyard using triangulation methods and a surveyors meter from my balcony and these measurements are ten feet wider and twenty feet longer. Doesn’t make sense. 

KATHLEEN:  You were spying? 

IAN: On an empty courtyard. 

KATHLEEN:  Yea? What else do you spy on?

IAN: Yea? What were you two doing coming here in the first place?

KATHLEEN: (Simultaneously) Nothing.

STU: (Simultaneously) Barbeque. 

KATHLEEN:  Shut up.

IAN:  I’m sorry, a barbeque? 

STU:  (Coming clean) We were thinking of building a path up to our house. Barbeque grill here. Perfect place on a summer night. That’s all we were thinking. We’d invite you. (To Lottie) You too.

Kathleen, Stu and Ian ponder the wrongness of lottie at a neighborhood barbeque. 

LOTTIE: We never came here. When I was a little girl we never played here. Daddy didn’t tell us we couldn’t. We just didn’t. (Like eating of forbidden fruit) I can’t believe it. I’m here. (Pause) I shouldn’t be here. 

Ian gets back on track: 

IAN:  Look, I appreciate your desire to create your perfect man-den. Your beer commercial. But this is a public space. It should be open to the people. Get out of thinking of yourself. This should be a neighborhood park. 

KATHLEEN:  Neighborhood park? You mean property of your Condo association. 

IAN: It does belong to my condo. 

KATHLEEN:  You said it wasn’t in the records. (Pointing to Lottie) She’s got access to this courtyard. We’ve got access.

IAN:  Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. 

KATHLEEN:  The quintessential city worker. You’ll say anything to manipulate the courtyard.

IAN:  You want it for you. 

STU:  He lied about the records. 

KATHLEEN:  That’s right. How do we know you even have records.

IAN:  They’re in my desk right now. 

KATHLEEN:  Yea? 

IAN:  Yea! You want me to go get them? 

KATHLEEN:  Maybe you should. 

IAN:  You got yourself quite a catch here, Stu.

STU:  Don’t you talk to my wife like that. 

IAN:  Or what?

KATHLEEN:  My husband is more of a man you’ll ever be.

STU:  I can defend myself, Kathleen. 

KATHLEEN:  Can you, Stu?

LOTTIE: Get off my land. I’m a Manwearing! That commands respect. We were the richest name in the county. You want something that isn’t yours. I know better. Get off of my land. 

STU:  It’s not your land, lady. 

IAN:  This is my land. 

KATHLEEN:  This is my land.

STU:  This is my land. 

Kathleen pushes Ian. He pushes back. Stu goes after Ian. Kathleen pushes Stu away, ready to protect herself. A knock-down fray ensues. Lottie circles like a vulture.  

LOTTIE: No one should be here! It’s evil! This concrete is evil! These walls are evil! Daddy you were right! This is insane!

They stop fighting. 

After a beat, they pull themselves together, standing apart. 

After another beat, they cordially retreat to their yards: Kathleen and Stu allow Ian to use the ladder, if necessary. Lottie crawls back through the hole. Kathleen and Stu climb the ladder.

They all begin to walk away, but stop. 

They sneakily return to their positions, looking onto the courtyard with want and covet. 

Fade to black. 



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