Purple Heart and The Infidel

Purple Heart and The Infidel

by Bruce Norris

In Purple Heart, Carla, a Vietnam War widow deep in drink and depression, is living with a troubled son and her controlling mother. One day a stranger arrives at the door, a soldier with one hand who is seemingly connected to her late husband and comes to offer condolences to the grieving family. The soldier's mysterious visit is solved in graphic and bloody


In Purple Heart, Carla, a Vietnam War widow deep in drink and depression, is living with a troubled son and her controlling mother. One day a stranger arrives at the door, a soldier with one hand who is seemingly connected to her late husband and comes to offer condolences to the grieving family. The soldier's mysterious visit is solved in graphic and bloody detail at the end of the play. Norris uses these quirky and flawed characters to provide a humorous yet very dark view of war and the human condition.

Loosely based on a true story, The Infidel tells of a charismatic and well-respected state Supreme Court justice who is faced with disciplinary action after his out-of-control affair with a young Latina junior staffer. He confers with his friend and attorney as he examines the consequences of his behavior and tries to judge the most difficult case of his life-his own. With dark irony and sharp, cutting dialogue, Bruce Norris explores sexual obsession and the legislation of human behavior.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] talented scribe with considerable potential." -Variety

"Had Henrik Ibsen been around to chronicle the age of 'The Brady Bunch'-those far-from-halcyon days of the early 1970s, when the Vietnam War raged a vast ocean away, and Nixon reigned in the White House-he might have devised a play that felt and sounded very much like Bruce Norris' Purple Heart." -Chicago Sun-Times

"Norris's [The Infidel] is a masterpiece of understatement. His characters reveal themselves in sparkling, definitive language, . . . ." -Beverly Review

Product Details

Northwestern University Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2005 Bruce Norris
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8101-2214-7

Chapter One


[Six P.M., central daylight time. The room is almost totally dark. THOR enters from the hallway. He turns on a lamp, illuminating CARLA, who is asleep on the sofa. She wears a bathrobe over her clothes. THOR studies her briefly, then makes a circuit around the room, turning on other lights. CARLA remains asleep. THOR goes to the stereo and picks up a record. He places it on the turntable, then leaves the room. An aggressive rock song begins to play loudly. CARLA remains asleep. thor reenters with a stepladder. He places it near a wall and climbs up. He removes a clock from the wall and opens its back. GRACE enters from the front door. She wears a coat and scarf and carries her purse.]

GRACE: Thor?

[THOR does not respond. She patiently repeats herself.]

Thor? Thor? Thor? Thor?

[She takes the needle off the record.]


[THOR still does not respond.]

I'm speaking to you, Thor.

THOR: I know.

GRACE: I'd like you to answer me when I speak to you.

THOR: I'm answering.

GRACE [referring to the clock]: What are you doing with that?

THOR: Changing the time.

GRACE: Did you ask before doing that?


GRACE: Is there something wrong with it?


GRACE: Maybe we should leave it the way it is.

THOR: Spring forward, fall back.

GRACE: Oh, I see.

THOR: I'm doing them all.

GRACE: I see now. Well. Thank you, then. And you know what you're doing?

THOR: It is oh so challenging.

GRACE: It is an expensive clock, Thor.

THOR [innocently]: Did you pay for it?

GRACE: I think we ought to ask your mother before we do something like that.

THOR [to CARLA]: Mom, can I set the clock back?

[CARLA does not stir.]

She doesn't mind.

GRACE: I don't trust that ladder. Is that ladder safe?

THOR: I don't know.

GRACE: Let's avoid having an accident.

[GRACE exits down the hallway. THOR puts the clock back on the wall and climbs off the ladder. He sits next to CARLA.]

THOR: She's back.

[CARLA does not stir. THOR continues patiently.]

Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.

[He takes her arm and removes her wristwatch. He resets the time, then returns it to her wrist.]

Mom. Mom. Mom.

[He pinches her nose. She pulls her head away but does not open her eyes.]

CARLA: Don't.

THOR: She's back.

CARLA: Don't do that to me.

THOR: You said wake you up when she got back.

CARLA: I'm awake.

THOR: Now you are.

CARLA: Don't pinch my nose.

THOR: Get up.

CARLA: I'm up.

THOR: No, you're not.

CARLA: Go away.

THOR: Lazy ass.

CARLA: Go away.

THOR: Lazy ass.

CARLA: Watch it.

THOR: Lazy fucking ass.

CARLA: You're about to get your ass whipped.

THOR: I'm scared.

CARLA: Keep it up.

THOR: Like to see you try.

CARLA: Keep it up.

THOR: You'd have to get off your ass first.

CARLA: Keep it up.

THOR: Your lazy ass.

CARLA: Toilet mouth.

THOR: Ass face.

CARLA: I'm not going to speak to you.

THOR: What a tragedy.

CARLA: I'm not going to speak to a toilet mouth.

THOR: Oh, no. Not speak. Please. Anything but that.

[Long pause.]

Ahhh. Peace and quiet. Peace at last.

[He grows restless.]

Did I get my package?

[CARLA does nothing. THOR kicks her.]

Answer me. Where is it? Answer me. Cut it out. Answer me.

[CARLA sticks out her tongue.]

God, you're ugly. Old and lazy and ugly. Answer me. Did it come? Stop it.

[CARLA wiggles her tongue.]

God, you're disgusting. You look disgusting when you do that. Stop it. Answer me. I hate you. Lazy whore.

[CARLA opens her eyes and sits up.]


THOR: What?

CARLA: Watch what you say to me, you little piece of shit.

THOR: So try answering me for a change.

CARLA: I did answer you, but you better watch your mouth.

THOR: No you didn't.

CARLA: Don't do things to me while I'm asleep.

THOR: You said to wake you up.


CARLA: How long has she been back?

THOR: Couple of minutes. Where is it?

CARLA: Where is what?

THOR: My package. I asked you ten times.

CARLA: I don't know.

THOR: Why is it taking so long?

CARLA: I don't know.

THOR: Fucking rip-off.

CARLA: It'll come.

THOR: When?

CARLA: I don't know.

THOR: Never.

CARLA: Maybe tomorrow.

THOR: Maybe never.

CARLA: Few more days.

THOR: I better get some money back.

[THOR reaches into his pocket and pulls out a novelty finger guillotine.]

Put your finger in here.


THOR: Do it.

CARLA: I don't want to.

THOR: Do it.


THOR: Do it.


THOR: Yes.

CARLA: I don't want to.

THOR: You have to.

CARLA: I'm not going to do it.

[THOR finds a pencil, inserts it in the guillotine, and chops it in half. Then he pulls a trick knife and a tube of fake blood from his pocket and holds the knife to his throat.]

THOR: Look.


THOR: I'm gonna stab myself.


THOR: Look. You baby.

CARLA: All right, all right.

[He pushes the knife into his throat while squeezing the fake blood on his neck.]

Very funny.

THOR: I'm bleeding.

CARLA: Don't get that on the sofa.

THOR: I'm dying.

CARLA: I don't want that blood on the sofa.

THOR: It washes out.

CARLA: I don't want to wash it out.

[He wipes the blood off his neck.]

THOR: What happened to Chet and Gibby?

CARLA: How should I know?

THOR: They never come over.

CARLA: They have their own things to do.

THOR: Like what?

CARLA: I don't know and frankly I don't care.

THOR: Call them.

CARLA: They go to college, Thor.


CARLA: So the whole world doesn't revolve around you.

THOR: Yes it does.

CARLA: Fine. They're your friends.

THOR: They like you.

CARLA: You call them.

THOR: Where do I get the number?

CARLA: I don't know.

[Pause. THOR takes something out of his pocket.]

THOR: Oh no. I feel sick.

CARLA: Don't do that.

THOR: I'm gonna be sick. I'm gonna puke.

CARLA: I've seen it.

THOR: Oh no. Here it comes. Look. Look. Watch. You're not looking.

CARLA: All right. I'm looking.

THOR: Oh no. Oh no.

[He makes a gagging noise and drops plastic vomit on the coffee table.]

Ahhh. That's better.

CARLA: Very good.

THOR: Looks real.

CARLA: Very real.

[GRACE enters, carrying a laundry basket. At the sound of her voice, THOR picks up the vomit and starts out of the room.]

GRACE: Yoo-hoo? Here I am. So, are you awake then, dear?

CARLA: Yes. Hello.

GRACE: Thor?

THOR [stopping]: What?

GRACE: Where are you going?

THOR: My room.

GRACE: Have you been inside all day?

THOR: Mostly.

GRACE: Maybe you'd like to go outside on the weekends.

THOR: What for?

GRACE: Some fresh air.

THOR: My window is open.

GRACE: Or a little exercise. Where's your football?

THOR: There's no air in it.

GRACE: Why don't you see if you can find the pump?

THOR: Then what?

GRACE: Tomorrow you could play with it.

THOR: By myself?

GRACE: With one of your friends.

[THOR stares at her for a moment, then walks out of the room.]

[To THOR as he leaves] I hope you're going to put this ladder away.

[To CARLA] That ladder is a crisis in the making.

[CARLA does not respond.]

I don't suppose you had a chance to go to the market.

CARLA: I wasn't feeling very well.


CARLA: Sorry.

GRACE: But you're feeling better now.

CARLA: A little better.

GRACE: You needed the rest. It's your stomach again?

CARLA: Mm-hmm.

GRACE: Did you find the milk of magnesia?


GRACE: Did you look next to my bed?

CARLA: Not really.

GRACE: Why don't I get it for you?

CARLA: I'm better now.

GRACE: I'm happy to do it.

CARLA: I'm fine.

GRACE: All right, then. I'm glad you're feeling better.

CARLA: Thanks.


GRACE: Unfortunately, we are still out of milk.

CARLA: Oh. You didn't stop, then?

GRACE: Well, you had suggested that you would.

CARLA: I can still go.

GRACE: If I had known that you weren't going I would have been happy to go. But I was under the impression that you had gone. The pastor drove me right past the market.

CARLA: Okay.

GRACE: Right past without even slowing down. And there's very little butter.

CARLA: I'll put on some clothes and go.

GRACE: The butter isn't important. I can cook with the Crisco oil.

CARLA: Just give me a couple of minutes.

GRACE: But I do prefer milk for my coffee. [Laughs.] If it's between that and Crisco oil.

CARLA: No, I know.

GRACE: And I suppose we don't really need a green salad.

CARLA: There's lettuce.


CARLA: Look in the crisper.

GRACE: I did.

CARLA: There's a whole head of lettuce in there.

GRACE: Well, it seems to have rather wilted.


CARLA: Give me three minutes and I'll go.

GRACE: Well, the market's closed, dear.

CARLA [looking at her watch]: They close at six.

GRACE: It's six-thirty.

CARLA: It's five-thirty.


CARLA: Look at the clock.

GRACE: No, Thor changed the clock.


GRACE: And I suppose he must have changed your wristwatch as well.

CARLA: It's five-thirty.

GRACE: Tomorrow at this time it will be five-thirty, standard time. Right now it is actually six-thirty daylight time.


GRACE: He did us a little favor before we go to sleep.


GRACE: So I think we'd best abandon our plans concerning the market.

CARLA: Well. In that case.

GRACE: Doesn't matter to me. I'm happy to have a ham sandwich. There's still a good amount of that ham left. I love a nice ham sandwich and a glass of ... [Realizing] Well, I don't suppose it has to be a glass of milk.

CARLA: I'll go first thing tomorrow.

GRACE: Would you care for a ham sandwich?

CARLA: I'm not hungry.

GRACE: Well, I believe I will. That ham that Mrs. Lacy brought over is very tasty, I have to say. Certainly no more difficult to make two. But I won't press. Thor, however, would probably prefer some sort of hot dish. We had the noodle casserole from the Osterbergs, but I believe that's gone bad.

CARLA: I'm sorry I didn't go, Grace. I had every intention of going. I'm sorry.

GRACE: No apology necessary. Oh, yes. Let's see. The pastor wanted to know if tomorrow at two would be a good time.

CARLA: Tomorrow?

GRACE: Or did you have plans?

CARLA: Not exactly.

GRACE: What are your plans?

CARLA: I don't have plans.

GRACE: Don't change them if you have them.

CARLA: I don't have them.

GRACE: So two is all right, then.

CARLA: What does he want to talk about?

GRACE: He's interested in how you are doing.

CARLA: But I spoke to him on the phone.

GRACE: Briefly.

CARLA: I told him I was doing fine.

GRACE: Wouldn't a visit be that much more pleasant?

CARLA: What time tomorrow?

GRACE: Two. After the second service.

CARLA: I ... I ... I don't ...

GRACE: That way you'll be able to speak freely.

CARLA: Did he say I wasn't speaking freely on the phone?


CARLA: What am I supposed to speak freely about?

GRACE: I don't know.

CARLA: Freely. How freely does he want me to speak?

GRACE: I don't know.

CARLA: I'll be happy to speak freely. In fact, don't just bring the pastor. There has to be one or two people in the neighborhood who haven't stopped by. Bring 'em along. We'll do it in shifts. Bring the congregation.

GRACE: It is traditional. For the clergy to participate.

CARLA: In my life?

GRACE: In the grieving process.

CARLA: Let me see how I feel.

GRACE: Well, he is planning to come at two.

CARLA: So asking me was just a formality.

GRACE: I'll call him now if you'd rather reschedule.


GRACE: But that is his plan.

[Silence for a few moments.]

CARLA: Two is fine.

GRACE: I'll see what we have to make a hot dish.

CARLA: What time is it?

GRACE: It's six-thirty.

CARLA: That clock is crooked.

[No one moves.]

GRACE: Did the doctor say anything?

CARLA: Well. You know. I'm run down. The hospital didn't catch the anemia, so that's worse. And on top of that the upset stomach. Probably some kind of virus, he said, some kind of, I don't know, some kind of twenty-four-hour kind of thing. That sort of thing. You know. That kind of thing. He wasn't very specific.

GRACE: He didn't say anything else?

CARLA: Like what?

GRACE: I don't know.

CARLA: What kind of thing do you mean?

GRACE: That's what I'm asking you.

CARLA: What else would he say?

GRACE: Something more specific.

CARLA: I just told you what he said.

GRACE: All right.

CARLA: I don't understand what you're asking.

GRACE: He didn't give you anything?

CARLA: What would he give me?

GRACE: He didn't prescribe anything.


GRACE: All right. I will offer the milk of magnesia once again.

CARLA: No thanks.

GRACE: Well. The offer stands.


CARLA: I was just resting, Grace. I just needed to rest.

GRACE: I know.

CARLA: It's not ... I mean, it's not ... I haven't been feeling well and ...

GRACE [overlapping]: I understand that.

CARLA: ... if I happen to need to rest from time to time I don't see anything particularly sinister in that ...

GRACE [overlapping]: I don't say that there is.

CARLA: ... I just need to rest and even though I know you say that, still there are these ... these ... these ... these silences and you know being sick is not ... especially given the ... circumstances ...

GRACE [overlapping]: I fully understand.

CARLA: ... what I'm saying is being sick is not a crime, it's not an indication of some terrible failure or ... or ... I mean Jesus Christ people get sick and I'm terribly sorry that I happen to be one of those people. You've never gotten sick a day in your life of course you would never do that but God forbid you ever do I mean God forbid because what would that say about you? I'd hate to think. [Pause.]

GRACE: No need to swear, dear.

CARLA: Sorry.

GRACE: So many other ways to express oneself.

CARLA: Right.

GRACE: Your mind is too original for that.


Well, let's see. My day was rather interesting. Esther and I had lunch at the Pantry with Esther's friend Joanne Nierengarten. It turns out that Joanne's husband had esophageal cancer. Seems they had to remove a substantial amount of his esophagus and refashion the rest out of the existing stomach tissue, which to me just sounds like a hideous procedure. There's one thing to be grateful for.We have our health. Never overlook the blessing of good health. Did you know that the Pantry has taken the Neptune salad off of the lunch menu? I told the girl I had ordered that salad for the last twenty-five years and it simply baffled me that they would make such an arbitrary decision. She said we can make it for you special but I said that was hardly the point the point was if a business has succeeded by offering a satisfying product then oughtn't it behoove the business to continue to offer that product as long as the customer shows enthusiasm for it? Doesn't seem like good business. Doesn't make sense to me but then maybe I have become irrelevant. Maybe that is the lesson I'm to learn. The lesson of my own irrelevance. Perhaps that's it. My obsolescence.


But they made the salad for me and it was tasty. As it always has been. And we have our health.


Then when I got back to the office there was quite a controversy as two men from the contractor's had arrived to install the new commode next to the vestry. Now, the pastor had been absolutely clear that the model he had requested was a silent flush model but these two gentlemen were in adamant disagreement. So I produced the paperwork and said gentlemen you have been confronted with the evidence of your mistake and I will not allow you to compound it by proceeding. And with the help of the custodian I blocked their way. The vulgarity of the language. As he drove me home the pastor said thank you, Grace, another crisis narrowly averted.


But I do hope they put that salad back on the menu.


Well, perhaps I'll see about making that sandwich.

[She does not move.]


Excerpted from PURPLE HEART and THE INFIDEL by BRUCE NORRIS Copyright © 2005 by Bruce Norris. Excerpted by permission of NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Bruce Norris is an actor and playwright. His plays Purple Heart, The Infidel, and We All Went Down to Amsterdam, winner of a Jeff Award for Best New Work,have been produced by Steppenwolf Theatre. His play The Vanishing Twin and his adaptation of Joe Orton's Up Against It have been produced at Lookingglass Theatre. As an actor, Norris can be seen in the films A Civil Action, The Sixth Sense, and School of Rock, among others. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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