Can someone honestly love a person whom they have deceived for thirty years? This is the central question behind Wrecks, Neil LaBute's latest foray into the dark side of human nature. Meet Edward Carr: loving father, successful businessman, grieving widower. In this concise powerhouse of a play, LaBute limns the boundaries of love, exploring the limits of what society will accept versus what the heart will desire. This collection also features rarely staged short plays, including "Liars' Club," "Coax," and the never-before-seen "Falling in Like."
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About the Author
Neil LaBute 's most recent works for the stage include Fat Pig (Faber, 2004), which won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off Broadway Play, and Some Girl(s) (Faber, 2006).
Neil Labute—an acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker—is the author of plays including The Shape of Things, The Mercy Seat, Fat Pig, and the Tony Award-nominated Reasons to Be Pretty. He has written and directed films including In the Company of Men (starring Aaron Eckhart), The Shape of Things (starring Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz), and the 2006 American adaptation of The Wicker Man (starring Nicholas Cage).
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And Other Plays
By Neil LaBute
Faber and Faber, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Neil LaBute
All rights reserved.
For Charles Isherwood — who should've known better
Wrecks had its world premiere on November 23, 2005, at the Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork, Ireland. Artistic Director: Patrick Talbot. Director: Neil LaBute. Scenic and Costume Design: Klara Zieglerova. Lighting: Paul Denby. Sound: Mark Donovan. Production Manager: Mary Michele Miner.
EDWARD CARR Ed Harris
Wrecks had its U.S. premiere on October 10, 2006, at the Public Theater in New York City. Artistic Director: Oskar Eustis. Director: Neil LaBute. Scenic and Costume Design: Klara Zieglerova. Lighting: Christopher Akerlind. Sound: Robert Kaplowitz. Production Managers: Cole Bonenberger and Mary Michele Miner.
EDWARD CARR Ed Harris
EDWARD CARR, nearly sixty, a man of business
A funeral home somewhere outside Chicago
Lights up to reveal a room shrouded in shadows. At the center — a casket, covered in flowers. On a table nearby are several photographs of a woman, framed.
At the back of the room, an archway opens out onto a different area, well lit. The sound of people milling about.
A man nearby — EDWARD CARR — pulls a pack of Camels out of his sensible black jacket. He lights one up as he waves away a puff of smoke. Smiles as he looks about.
EDWARD ... hard to kick, you know? Habits, I mean. This stuff — and I don't care what it is you're into, candy, the drugs, whatever — once you give yourself over to something, it's, well ... it's a devil of a deal to beat it. Believe you me.
Another puff as he listens to the sound of the folks in the next room.
EDWARD I've been doing this, sucking these babies down for ... since I was a kid and, trust me, that was not yesterday! I mean, I'm not ancient, it wasn't before television — or dinosaurs, as my grandson likes to say — but it's been a while. And I know, I know, I see the commercials and read the ads and all that, I do, but I've never been able to give 'em up for more than a day. Well, day and a half one time, but that was it. I think I even snuck one then — during my thirty-six hours on the wagon! Or "cold turkey," actually, that's what they call it in smoker's language — I had myself a drag or two even when I was cold turkey. Just couldn't help it. When you're hooked, you're hooked, not much you can do about it. (Grins.) Hey, I'd quit if they'd stop making 'em taste so damn good! Seriously ...
He looks for a place to flick his ashes — notices some potted plants nearby. Crosses and uses the dirt. He stops and looks around, listening for a moment. He takes a drag. Turns back toward that other room.
EDWARD God, listen to me in there! I sound like a complete ass, don't I? Yeah, it's okay, you don't have to say anything. I can hear myself going on like some sort of ... (Beat.) Who ever uses the word "indeed" unless you're at a funeral or something? Poor guy comes over to say "She was a wonderful woman" and I go with, "Indeed, she was." "Indeed"?! Oh well, I'm sure I meant it when I said it ... ahhh, what're you gonna do, huh? Standing in some funeral parlor with dozens of people around you, trying to cram all her lifetime into a few handshakes ... You throw a couple words like "indeed" in there and hope for the best, that's what you do ... can't be helped. (Laughs to himself.) Just trying to be honest here, get some of my feelings across, and there's not a thing wrong with that. Is there? To be open. Vulnerable. In touch with your emotions and, you know ... all that other crap. I think it's a very good thing ...
He points toward the picture of a woman on a table.
EDWARDShe taught me how. Mary Josephine. She did, absolutely. I don't know why I'm saying that, using her full name like I just did — I mean, of course I'm gonna in my thing there, my, whatchamacallit that I'm doing tomorrow? The eulogy. That's obvious that I'd do it there, but not in life. Not during our time together, uh-uh. No. She was always just "Mary Jo" to me ... or "Jo." Well, "Jo-Jo" sometimes, when I was being cute, or up in the bedroom — you don't need to know too much more about that, thank you very much! I think I come from a different, you know, generation than most people do on that particular subject, so, no. You can't open the paper today without reading about how so-and-so is doing it with what's-her-name, or how much they love doing such and such. And made themselves a videotape, which is available off the computer there, for just $19.95! Good God, what've we become? Huh? Buncha savages, just sitting around the campfire and trying to keep one another entertained! And for what? I do not give a damn how you like doing it, I really don't, or even if you do, if you like doing it at all. Who cares? Jesus, that's your business, it absolutely is, so, please, keep it to yourselves, you know? (Smiles.) At least not here, anyway. During this. That's not very appropriate ... (Beat.) My wife's dead, have a bit of respect.
Hears the sound of the group again. Listens.
EDWARD I must be doing something right in there! Listen to 'em all, crying and everything. Big laugh now and again. All shook up. Well, that's good, they should be, she was a lovely woman. Absolute heaven come to earth and squeezed into human form — hey, I'm not gifted, don't have a touch of the poet in me, first to admit that, but she was. An absolute angel.
He looks inside the room, studying the others. Smiles.
EDWARD ... yeah, they're all crying now, sure. Why not? They got an audience. Makes sense, it's what most people do. Let it all out in public and everybody gives you a hankie and their best wishes. So be it. Not me, though, no thank you. Not that I didn't cry, mind you, when she went. My JoJo. Oh no, I sounded like ... Heidi, probably. You know, that little girl from the fairy tale? Up in the Alps and whatnot, with the grandfather and all ... doesn't matter. I heard that story when I was a kid and I recall her crying a great deal. Or maybe that was the film ... with Shirley Temple in it. Now, that kid was crying all the time, any movie they put her in. They exploited the shit outta her, forgive my language, but they did; I read somewhere a piece on her, an obituary or something — maybe not, she may not even be dead, I don't really know — an article that described her childhood, all glamorous and whatnot from the outside, to the casual observer, like you or I might be — see, Hollywood has a way of doing that, from everything I've heard — but she was quite the very abused young woman. Not like Judy Garland or anything, not that bad, with the pills and all, but still ... like some orphan kid that gets passed around from family to family, that's how those studios treated her. Like that. And for a child, I mean, some young kid, there isn't anything out there much worse than that ... being all alone and not loved. Unloved. Believe you me. (Beat.) And, hey, I oughta know, right? I mean, that's me all over. An orphan. Oh yeah, I grew up that way, in the foster care system, I sure did. Just outside of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and never knew my parents. That's my life, in a nutshell ... but, hey, this isn't about me. Not today. Well, it is, I mean, a bit, but we're supposed to be honoring the memory of my Mary Jo, so I'll shut up for a minute here, let you say your amens or whatever it is you do ...
The man sits on a small bench, bowing his head for a moment. Snaps up when he hears more noise — shakes his head very disapprovingly as he begins to speak.
EDWARD ... see, I cried when I should've. In the moment. When it happened, rather than now when the world is staring at me and expecting it. I mean, that's hypocritical, I guess, 'cause listen to me there, I've got that sound going, I definitely do ... a catch in my voice ... listen ... (Waits.) Hear it? Right there as I'm talking to her niece. Just ... now. "The day we met ..." (Smiles.) It's expected, what can I tell you? And I do feel it, I absolutely do, but it's still manufactured. You know? After the fact. Not like on the day, right as I lost her. There's nothing like that, not a thing in your life that's anything like that moment. I mean it. Nothing that you do while you're living can prepare you for a time like that one — when you stop. Being, I mean. Existing. Because, you know, you only do it once, and even if you're just seeing it, like, over somebody's shoulder ... well, there ain't anything like it. (Beat.) And that wasn't me, some passerby. No, this was my wife, the lady in my life for over thirty years I'm talking about here. My right arm, my, umm ... better half. Apple a my eye and, and any other ... clichÃ(c) you care to name. Jo-Jo. Oh yeah, I cried when it happened, believe you me ... bawled like a goddamn second grader and I'm not ashamed of it. I did indeed. (Laughs.) Ahhh, there's that word again! "Indeed." Well, it just goes to show you ...
The man wipes at his eyes — a tear or two forming there.
EDWARD ... what're you gonna do? I'm an emotional guy. I mean, now. I am now, thanks to Mary Jo. But always in an understated way, not blubbering in the grocery store so everybody can pat me on the back and make me feel better, no. I do it in my own time, within the privacy of my own home. Or thoughts. Like this here ... (Beat.) And that's fine with me. Just so I do it, as long as I don't bottle it all up, like I used to, that's what Jo-Jo taught me. Taught me how to get it out, in a, ummmmm ... an "appropriate" fashion. She loved that word, "appropriate." Heard this Oprah Winfrey — you know, that black lady on the TV — she said it one time and Jo ran with it like she was a fullback heading for the end zone! Good God ... how she loved all that psychology stuff! Buying those self-help books and listening in on the chat shows, all of that junk, even the ones with men doing the talking. Not Phil Donahue since he retired, but lots of those other fellas, you know, ummmm ... well, I don't know their names, but some of those guys. The bald one and that other man. Mary Jo absolutely adored those things. Oh yes, indeed she did ... (Grins.) Shit, there I go again, listen to me! I guess I use it more than I thought I did. A word like that one ... indeed I do.
The man smiles as he pulls another cigarette out of his jacket pocket.
EDWARD ... you okay? I won't smoke if you're — I don't know what you're supposed to do in that situation, because who's gonna say something to a widower, right? Not anybody in their right mind. (Lights it.) I could probably go down to a car lot and drive outta there with a new model today, for free! (Beat.) Well, I'd have to go to the right one, of course, one familiar with my situation, but still ... I bet I'd get a hell of a deal, a day like this. Not that that's what's in my head, mind you, as I'm standing in there — it's not, I promise it's not — I'm just pointing out a fact about people and how they react to grief. We tend to give folks shit, you know, offer 'em up presents and food and whatever ... thinking it'll make 'em feel better. Or to make ourselves feel better, yeah, that's probably it. Instead of an honest look or spending that extra hour with 'em, we bring along a nice casserole and think that'll do the trick. God, we are a funny bunch, aren't we? Us folks. Yep ... we sure are.
He stops and thinks for a long moment. Nodding. Pats his jacket pocket.
EDWARD ... eulogy oughta go off without a hitch, thank Christ! I think I got everything in there. I'm gonna mention the — all her clubs and stuff — that Mary Jo was a part of, because people like hearing about that. What you did with yourself while you were here. Like, it's not enough to just get along with it and feed yourself and find somebody to love and have children and all that — no, apparently it's necessary to have done something with your life, too. What they consider is worthwhile. Seriously, I was talking to this woman earlier, don't remember her name, it's Cheryl something, she's the one with the hat on and the red dress. Right there. Red ... go figure. (Shouts.) It's a viewing, sweetheart, not the Spring Fling down at the American Legion! Even a dark brown would've been appreciated!! (Smiles.) Ahhhh, whatever, she's here, I guess, ol' Cheryl is, and so that's something. Anyhow, she and I were talking out front before we got started and she's pumping me for information, drilling me about all of Jo-Jo's many accomplishments and this and that, and always with the, "Yes, but what did she do with her life? What did she do?" Like four kids, a husband, and about seventeen branches of our business across five states isn't enough! No, she keeps staring up at me with that two-dollar lipstick of hers and saying, very loudly, "Yes, dear, but what did she do?" Well, I'll tell you what she did, you wanna know so damn bad; Jo-Jo spent more of her free time regretting her life — first half of it, anyway, before she met me — wishing it'd turned out differently, had all worked out some other way, that's what she did ... but it's nobody's goddamn business, and certainly not ol' Cheryl's. (Beat.) So I penciled in a few of her memberships and ribbons she won at different things, the Rotary Club and crap, and that'll be that ... that's why I'll drone on for so long tomorrow. When I'm talking up there. Not that people care, mind you, God no, Mary Jo was loved by this community! I mean, if there's a word that suggests more than that, bigger than "loved," well ... that's what she was. "Beloved," I guess that would be more like it. Be-loved, and even that might come up a bit short. Mary Josephine Carr (maiden name Delaney) was a, umm ... ohh, what's that one term? It's ... (Thinks.) A pillar of society. I'm not kidding you. I mean, you might not be able to tell by looking at her there ... (Indicates a photo.) ... but Mary Jo was ... well, she was something. Honestly. She was.
The man finishes up his cig and stubs it out. Stretches.
EDWARD ... I'm sure you know — I mean, are probably whispering to yourselves — the age difference. Right? Believe me, I'm over it, so say what you're gonna. I've heard it all, trust me! Yes, she was a bit older than me — fifteen years, most months, although it was fourteen from January to March — but I never really felt it when we were together, I didn't. And especially not during the beginning, which is a whole ... well, not that many people know how we got started, Jo-Jo and me. See, we became a regular town fixture, most of our lives, but back in the day we were quite the item. Of gossip, I'm saying. Oh, yes indeed. (Smiles.) Probably could've landed ourselves a spot on one of those talk shows, way back when! You see, whether any of you believe in it or not, and I'm not saying I do either, but ... on that one occasion, in this particular instance, it was love at first sight, it really was. On my part, at least. Well, with a fair bit of lust in there, too! She was ... my God, if you could've seen this woman, I mean, when she was forty? Forget about it. Knock the socks off any girl on any street corner — and I'm saying all up along Michigan Avenue — on any day of the year. Any. And this is a forty-year-old woman I'm speaking of here! Jo-Jo was a, well, simply put ... she was a pearl that fell to this planet like some tear outta the eye of almighty Christ himself, up there on the cross — and I don't think it's sacrilegious in any way to say that, I really don't. I may not be so great with the words, I've already told you that — I mean, God, please ... (pointing) ... just listen to me babbling along in there! — but I can at least say what I'm feeling, what I mean to say, and that's the truth right there. This goddess fell into my life in my twenty-fifth year and I never looked back. Not even once ...
The man moves over and arranges the flowers a bit.
EDWARD ... she was a married woman, when we met. And not like some newlywed, either, oh no. Uh-uh. Mary Josephine Carr — married name was Andersen — was a much-wedded lady of nineteen years and a mother of two grown boys. Indeed she was. Indeed, in-deed. (Beat.) Yeah, I always felt a little bad about that, me breaking up this marriage she was in. Not that she loved the guy, bastard she was with for that long — he was this Swedish businessman, first-generation American and selfmade, he loved to tell you, name of Ulrich or some such — but this was a few years ago, more than a few now, and you lived with the messes you made back then. Mary Jo told me one time — and she didn't love to talk about the past, no, she did not, she was always looking forward, that woman was, toward the future — she said that she called her mother one night, right after her honeymoon, I mean, phoned her from the bridal suite at the Drake and said she'd made a mistake. That she wanted to come home, and this old bitch — excuse my directness here, but she was — Jo-Jo's mother tells her that she's made her bed now, she's gonna have to lie in it. I mean, that's her mom talking, so, you know — I heard that and I never felt very bad again that I grew up without any parents around! I mean, can you imagine saying that to your own kid? Huh? (Beat.) So, anyhow, that's what she did, Mary Jo. She slept in that bed of hers for the next however many years ... right up until we met. Yep.
Excerpted from Wrecks by Neil LaBute. Copyright © 2007 Neil LaBute. Excerpted by permission of Faber and Faber, Inc..
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Table of Contents
Preface: Stage Orphans,
Love at Twenty,
Land of the Dead,
Falling in Like,
Praise for the plays of Neil LaBute,