Talkback

By Polly Frost

THE SCENE: Opening night of a new play at the Grand Community Theatre. It’s 8 PM and the audience has assembled in their seats. Judith Mayberry, the Grand’s Executive Director, walks out onto the stage. 

JUDITH: Good evening and welcome to the Grand. We’re honored to present the world premiere of a new work by renowned playwright Logan Alexander. And because this is the very first night, you’re in for a special treat. As director of this theater, I’ve taken note of how much you enjoy our talkbacks at the end of our shows. So we’re going to start tonight’s performance with the discussion!  

The audience applauds loudly and happily. 

JUDITH: Without further ado, here’s Logan Alexander.  

The playwright walks out onto the stage.  

JUDITH: Logan, would you like to kick off the discussion by telling us a little bit about your play?  

LOGAN: Certainly. Well, one of the main things I wanted to express in this play was — 

A woman interrupts Logan before he can finish his sentence.  Her name is Alma Van Bergen.

ALMA: I’d just like to say one thing. I hope your play isn’t a downer. That last play I saw here put me in such a bad mood I had to buy three bags of M & Ms at the refreshment counter during intermission just to perk myself up. 

Another woman, Marie Dockstader, stands up.

MARIE: And you rustled the bags during the whole rest of the play, ruining it for the rest of us. Alma, when are you going to grow up? Life is depressing. 

ALMA: Then why do we need to go to the theater to feel worse? 

MARIE: Because if you see a really depressing play you’re so miserable for two hours that you forget about everything else and just stare at your watch hoping it’ll be over soon. Isn’t that right, Logan? 

LOGAN: Actually — 

Before Logan can finish his sentence, he’s interrupted by a man in the third row, Jack Miller. 

JACK: Don’t listen to Alma, Mr. Alexander. She never likes anything anyway. You go ahead with whatever play you want to give us. Just make sure you know your facts. The last play here my wife dragged me to was ridiculous. The guy who wrote it didn’t stick to history and made a lot of stuff up about Roman times.  

ALMA: Oh, for god’s sake, Jack, that was Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

JACK: I don’t care who the playwright was. And the costumes were absurd. Romans didn’t go around in three piece suits. 

MARIE: That was an attempt to make the play relevant to our times. 

JACK: What does Shakespeare know about our times? He’s been dead for four hundred years.  

ALMA: Marie’s right, Jack. For once.  

MARIE: At least I don’t yack on and on about my divorce the way Alma does in these talkbacks. 

ALMA: It’s called exploring the themes of the play.   

Brent Hall, a young man in the back, speaks up.  

BRENT: You three are monopolizing this talkback. I’d like to ask the playwright my own question. 

LOGAN: Please! 

BRENT: Are you aware you have a very odd stain on your left sleeve? 

JUDITH (interrupting before a bewildered Logan can respond): I just looked at my watch and saw that it’s time for the intermission. We shall resume the talkback in fifteen minutes. 

The audience gives the first act of the talkback a standing ovation. Logan Alexander takes a bow and the curtain comes down to still more clapping. Moments later, Marie, Jack, Brent and Alma congregate at the lobby bar. 

MARIE: What a great evening at the theater! 

JACK: Best production they’ve ever done at the Grand. 

ALMA: Usually I head out the door at intermission and have dinner at a restaurant on theater row rather than sit through the rest of the play. But not tonight. 

BRENT: Logan Alexander is our finest living playwright. 

Polly Frost is a playwright whose humor has appeared in The Atlantic and The New Yorker. She can be found on the web at  http://pollyfrost.com.

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