• Dana Kinsey

WaterRise, a one-act play: When two highly creative, successful women reveal their darkest secrets,


Characters

Kennedy do not go gentle into that good night

Alina lost as a light is lost in light

Lucas i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)

SCENE ONE.

Lights rise on a bench in New York City's Bryant Park in winter as a young couple enters from stage right.

The set is representational. There are two benches in front of the curtain. One is center stage and the other is up stage right. Some gentle music rises with the emotion of the scene.

ALINA sits sketching on the upstage bench. She is lost in her work until the following scene begins. Then, she watches intently from the shadows. LUCAS suddenly lifts KENNEDY and pretends to throw her, then changes mid-toss and places her gently standing on the center stage bench. He kneels in front of the bench, takes a small velvet box from his pocket, opens it, and lifts it to her with his right hand.

LUCAS

You could place three letters of the alphabet in the right order, look down at the man who adores you, say them to him, and change both of their lives forever.

KENNEDY

Lucas....

LUCAS

Yes? (PAUSE) Just please say yes.

KENNEDY

I can't.

LUCAS

You can. You're a writer. You've combined millions of letters to build myriads of words. I just need ONE.

KENNEDY

You said it yourself. That ONE changes everything. Forever.

LUCAS

That's what I want. It's what I've always wanted. I thought you wanted it too. I'm sorry.

KENNEDY puts her hands into her pockets and looks away from LUCAS.

KENNEDY

Don't.

LUCAS takes the ring box and slips it back into his jacket pocket. He extends his hand to KENNEDY to help her down from the bench. KENNEDY steps down slowly and reaches to embrace him, but he walks downstage. KENNEDY sits on the bench, puts her elbows on her knees and drops her head into her hands.

LUCAS

(gathering himself )

I won't.

KENNEDY sits up straight and regards him with sorrow.

KENNEDY

You deserve better.

LUCAS

I deserve the best.

LUCAS continues to face downstage waiting.

KENNEDY

Please don't give up on me.

A SILENCE.

KENNEDY'S words give LUCAS hope and he moves to join her on the bench. She melts into him and rests her head on his shoulder. He puts his arms around her.

LUCAS

That was never an option.

LUCAS kisses the top of her head and closes his eyes.

Blackout

Scene two

Lights up on: ALINA is downstage right corner and LUCAS is downstage left corner. KENNEDY is center stage. They form a visible triangle. The spots shift as each character speaks leaving the silent ones in the dark.

ALINA

A man like Lucas should not have had to wait an entire month for her answer, but even that didn't discourage him. He could barely concentrate on his residency or think of anything else. It nearly cost him everything. Kennedy humiliated him. He waited and wondered, held that ring in his pocket for weeks in case she made up her mind, and then he could slip it on her finger at a moment's notice. He couldn't bear the thought of not becoming her fiance the instant she was ready. She hypnotized him. She had that power.

KENNEDY

He was the man I waited my entire life to encounter. I couldn't breathe when he brushed my sleeve on our first date. My hesitancy had nothing to do with my love. It was about accepting a lifestyle that terrified me. My books were always the priority, so making sure that I was ready to be a doctor's wife seemed rather imperative. He had this scenario of where we would live, and what we would do, how our lives would mesh. I wanted him from the day we met, but losing my dreams became the issue.

LUCAS

Have you ever connected with someone so completely that the best mirror to really see yourself is in her eyes? I'll openly admit that I read Kennedy's books before I read her face, but no one ever believes me when I say that. Sure, her photo was on the back cover, but I took in every page before turning it over, placing it on my desk, and typing her name across my search bar. As luck would have it, she had a book signing at a store near Mount Sinai. If I could clean myself up after an on-call marathon, maybe there was a chance I could convince her that my name would fit neatly in her search bar too.

ALINA

He wanted her for the lost poetess she was, not some silly girl he could transform. She started to have trouble writing around the time of his proposal and so she blamed it on him.

KENNEDY

Lucas was all that my mind could hold. There was no room for words because he poured in so much love that the words all overflowed and my ideas came spilling out onto the floor. They were dazzling as they quivered there, but they were helpless and cold.

LUCAS

I found a pink crayon in the waiting room and covered the inside of her book with questions. Do you like Max Brenner's? Maybe we can watch Casablanca? Maybe you'll be compelled to call me someday? Making sure my phone number was legible, I headed for the bookstore and waited in line. She never really did sign my book, but that, in and of itself, was a sign. My plans usually work.

ALINA

She worked constantly, obsessively - as if her life depended on flinging those stories and poems from her head in the shapes of castles and cities....

KENNEDY

The stories made me tell them. It was never work. I had a responsibility to the words and no one would acknowledge the pressure I felt...

LUCAS

Every minute I was not at the hospital became a minute in her company, so my days were filled with my two passions - medicine and her. Sometimes I combined the two, like nights before exams or days I needed to sleep. Her ideas came pouring out when we were together, and the stories sprang up around us like a lavish kingdom. Of course, as potential king, the happily-ever-after scheme fell to me. I dropped lots of hints, but of course Kennedy was too proud to even consider the idea without a formal proposal.

ALINA

She gave this guilt to herself like an extravagant gift. She convinced herself that she didn't need to eat or sleep or have a normal relationship when a man like Lucas was waiting for her. I swear she enjoyed seeing him so confused and in turmoil over her. What else would prevent her from just saying what he was longing to hear?

KENNEDY

I was scared to have children, not the physical part exactly. I just wouldn't make a good mother. That requires selflessness and sanity. Loving children would have been so easy, but what could I really have given them? A pile of books and scattered poems wasn't enough. What if they were afraid of the dark or failing algebra or crying after a nightmare. Then what?

LUCAS

If we were to reign in our kingdom, I wanted to do it in the traditional way, the fairytale way. She deserved it. Alina was kind enough to help me find the perfect ring since no one knew her better. The two of them rode the school bus together in the same seat from age four to sixteen. My relationship came with so many bonus gifts. Alina was one of my favorites. After weeks of shopping, she chose this opal with fire inside it, much like her friend. The problem became convincing Kennedy to trust me enough to move it from the velvet box to her finger.

ALINA

The calendar days crossed themselves off in their unrelenting fashion and Kennedy decided that she would tell Lucas her answer. We planned a party on my rooftop terrace. She looked so beautiful in her turquoise dress as the summer wind lifted and twirled it around her legs as she sipped champagne. I kept watching Lucas and wondering when she would tell him.

KENNEDY

I finally decided that there was no fear that could overshadow my love for Lucas. It was breaking my heart to make him wait. I wanted to make my "yes" echo in his mind forever. I remember dropping my hairbrush because my hands were shaking, but later the champagne infused me with courage. Everything was spinning, and I knew it was time to make the announcement. The bass in the music thumped in my pulse and this surge of happiness raced through me.

Spots change to a wash of colored lights indicating a sunset.

KENNEDY runs off stage left.

Sultry jazz music comes in under the story as LUCAS continues to explain what happened.

LUCAS

Have you ever felt a rush of emotion so overpowering that you can't quite name it? Everything about this party glittered in slow motion. Of course, I knew that Kennedy might be ready to fall into my embrace which would explain why she drank so much champagne and wouldn't eat. I was getting dizzy just watching her spin and when a girl like her spins, everyone leaps on the merry-go-round. She kept kissing me and then whirling away again. It seemed impossible to follow her, so I just watched and waited.

ALINA

(tension mounting in her voice)

She waited until it was so late. Everyone laughed and danced. It's funny how an incredible party can feel so lonely when you're the only one who hasn't had any alcohol. She backed up slowly until she was against the ledge. In seconds, she had climbed the stone wall and was balancing herself precariously in her stilettos. She raised her champagne glass in a toast. Just as she opened her mouth to finally say the words Lucas wanted to hear, I saw this terror in his eyes and he lunged for her.

Music screeches to a halt and BLACKOUT

Scene Three

LIGHTS UP ON: There is an oversized bed centerstage. The covers are rumpled and LUCAS sleeps face down on the pillow with his arms folded under his forehead. His torso is bare and his dark hair spills over the pillowcase. ALINA sits at a desk facing the audience downstage right. She piles her long dark hair high on her head as she reads KENNEDY's books and journals. There is a flickering candle and a gentle, classical melody plays as if from a distance. Her fine mind races and dangerous thoughts take over her eyes. She rips red wine and begins to speak.

ALINA

(nervous and tired)

How could you have left me?

KENNEDY is suddenly lit as she walks toward ALINA from upstage left.

KENNEDY

Tis a maxim of the wise: Leave things before they leave you.

ALINA looks up to see Kennedy standing there. It's not the first time she's seen her there, but it's startling nonetheless. The music fades away as the conversation begins.

ALINA

My God, what does that even mean?

KENNEDY

(confidently)

It seems to me that it's rather simplistic. Maybe you just don't want to accept that that's what you do?

ALINA

Why are you here, Kennedy? Why do you keep coming back? I'll never heal.

KENNEDY

(smiling and amused)

It's funny that you dwell on your own healing. Then again, I suppose falling off of a building requires an almost superhero kind of bouncing back. Broken bones would have to fuse and my spine could reassemble like one of those anatomy puzzles, the kind he plays with before exams.

KENNEDY crosses to sit on bed beside LUCAS as he sleeps. She reaches out to touch his back and then thinks better of it and just grazes his hair.

KENNEDY

Don't you love that, Alina? His dedication - I mean.

ALINA

(in disbelief)

We can't have this conversation.

KENNEDY moves quickly from around the bed to meet ALINA at the desk. KENNEDY perches on the edge of the desk.

KENNEDY

Pick a topic, any topic! Maybe an old conversation made fresh with perspective? He and I used to study his anatomy until dawn when nothing remained of the puzzle because every piece fit together seamlessly and it was impossible to tell that there were dividing lines any longer.

ALINA

You recall everything with this poetic haze veiling it.

KENNEDY

Is there a better way?

ALINA

Perhaps reality could bring clarity?

KENNEDY

(laughing)

Which certainly explains your meaningful conversations with a dead woman.

ALINA

It must be nice to be able to laugh. I haven't really laughed since...

KENNEDY

(teasing)

Well, tears are rather useless now.

ALINA

Cold and dispassionate people might agree.

KENNEDY walks towards the bed.

KENNEDY

I suppose his passion's all used up.

ALINA

This visiting is not a good idea. Please go and stop dwelling on what's over. It's too late to change what happened and there's really no reason...

KENNEDY turns sharply with the smack of this idea.

KENNEDY

There's every reason.

ALINA

I just want peace.

KENNEDY moves to the bed and adjusts the covers around Lucas.

KENNEDY

You want peace so that you can slip into my life and my bed. Just pull up the covers and I disappear.

KENNEDY moves to the night stand, inspecting photos and books.

ALINA

That's not fair, Kennedy. The thought of you disappearing is what scares me the most. Don't you see that?

KENNEDY

(softening)

You bring me here. It's your doing, so why can't we have fun remembering? You summon me and then wish I would leave? Maybe you just want me to stay here - out of sight and packed away, like some dusty stuffed animal in an attic.

ALINA

(slightly amused now)

That's a lovely way to say it. Using imagery as a weapon. Who else can do that. Lord, how I've missed you.

KENNEDY sparks with this confession and moves quickly to ALINA before the thread is lost.

KENNEDY

(excited)

That's the spirit! Now, let's talk about the rooftop party. That lavender dress you wore was perfect and you were just feverish enough to be flushed, that kind of blush that makes you look like you just had some back alley affair. Surely you remember?

ALINA grows uncomfortable and suddenly snaps.

ALINA

What good does remembering do anyone? When something is difficult to face, it's best to just rip it from your mind like used paper in a notebook. Only clean pages give hope.

KENNEDY

"Hope is the thing with feathers-that perches in the soul-And sings the tunes without the words-

She waits for ALINA to finish the lines. It's a game they always played, but ALINA will not participate.

KENNEDY

(sadly)

Your turn..."and never stops at all."

ALINA

Don't do this. What do you have left to hope in?

KENNEDY

I thought I had you.

ALINA moves to avoid KENNEDY'S eyes.

ALINA

There's nothing left of me now that you're gone.

KENNEDY moves to ALINA after hearing this and speaks sharply as she tries to make eye contact and get physically closer.

KENNEDY

(growing impatient)

I'm not gone. I am so near to you that you can touch me if you want that, yet you can't look at me. I have all the time in the world to be with you now, and you wish for me to disappear so that it's easier for you. I promise to leave soon, but not until I understand some matters.

ALINA

What matters? What can I say or tell you that would make a difference now?

KENNEDY

(distraught now)

Tell me everything that matters. Please, Alina?

ALINA

(acquiescing)

Knowing everything may not be in your best interest. But I guess I'll begin with your family. Your mother comes by my agency frequently because she hopes that I will mention your name in conversation.

KENNEDY

Interesting and sad - I thought that she would blame me for what happened.

ALINA

(troubled)

No, why would she blame you?

KENNEDY

What about Nick?

ALINA

Your brother drinks every day after work. He asks me to join him some days, but I can't anymore. His job is in jeopardy, he looks awful, and he's not exactly stable. Besides, I'm too busy and tired. I'm so tired of all of this.

KENNEDY

He needs to stop that. Tell him to stop. Peter?

ALINA begins to pick up the journals and books on the table and page through them rapidly and painfully as she speaks.

ALINA

Ah, Peter. Like a typical publisher, he keeps rummaging through your files looking for some wisdom, some brilliance that allows him to imprint your words on the literary public. He thinks I know of some hidden panel in the wall or manuscript that I'm holding back for the ten-year anniversary of your death so I can be on Good Morning America.

KENNEDY is now in a playful mood and finds this information intriguing.

KENNEDY

So, is there anything?

ALINA slams down the journal in response.

ALINA

(perturbed and hurting)

Unbelievable - You are somehow enjoying this? Well, there's nothing left that's new or remotely good that you left behind. You told me that you couldn't write just before the....

KENNEDY

No, I told you that I was too distracted because of him, because of what he wanted from me.

KENNEDY moves slowly back to LUCAS sleeping in the bed and looks down at him. ALINA moves to the other side of the bed and looks across at KENNEDY.

KENNEDY

I obviously wasn't nominated for Girlfriend of the Year, but was I at least a good friend?

ALINA

We understood each other and shared a common interest as artists.

ALINA walks away from the bed to get some distance.

KENNEDY

You never did answer my questions - any of them. You distracted me and then you twirled me away from the answers until I forgot what I had asked or why I needed to know.

ALINA

That's not true. I didn't think you ever really needed MY answers. You had so many fill-in-the-blank options. Your answers were more important to everyone anyway.

KENNEDY

To whom?

ALINA motions to LUCAS who is still sleeping.

ALINA

To him.

KENNEDY

He obviously has been placing less emphasis on them as of late. He's not the one pouring through my journals in the wee hours, now is he?

ALINA

He won't allow me to read them when he's awake. He thinks I'm losing my mind and just wants to help me because - well, because I belonged to you. He's making sure that your memory is not tarnished by my silly grief. That's why he's here you know, the only reason why he's here. He's in my bed because of you. We are not, we never...

KENNEDY moves away from the bed.

KENNEDY

I know that.

ALINA looks up sharply at Kennedy.

ALINA

You know that? Why? - because he couldn't possibly want me the way he wanted you? Enough to leave me a secret message in a book, or buy me a rose, or play his guitar in the middle of the night when I can't sleep? I couldn't ever deserve those treats because I'm not his princess, his poet, or his muse? Or even a suitable potential girlfriend for that matter...

KENNEDY

Would you like to be?

ALINA

A suitable girlfriend?

KENNEDY

Lucas' suitable girlfriend?

ALINA

Some nights.

KENNEDY

But no days?

ALINA

When there is light, he can only see you.

KENNEDY

What does the darkness hold for him then?

ALINA

Nighttime brings reality.

KENNEDY

Code for compromise?

ALINA

Code for companion. He requires a sympathetic friend. That's all I am to him.

KENNEDY

So I'm gathering that you spend a good deal of time together?

ALINA

There are times when a man needs a woman who can peer inside him, just know what he needs, and give him comfort.

KENNEDY

You didn't answer - again.

ALINA

Time I spend is time he talks of you, so it doesn't count. You can't call it time he and I spend together, so no, I do not spend a good deal of time with him. There's your answer.

KENNEDY

No, that's your answer. Allow me to interpret my own.

ALINA

So you ask the questions and answer them too? Is that some ghostly superpower? You don't really need me at all then. What is there left for me to say?

ALINA moves quickly away from KENNEDY.

KENNEDY

I loved him and you knew it. So how can you want him now? When will it feel right? In three years, 10 years, ever? He belonged to me. Belongs. Present tense. Not past. Of all the men you have to charm, why must it be him?

ALINA

I don't charm men. I seduce them, but they never know the difference. They figure it out later after the witty text messages, after they introduce me to their mothers, and long after they're convinced they can't live without me on their pillows. There's always that day when it pours into their bedroom windows with the morning sun. That's when they change their cell numbers and suddenly get conveniently busy.

KENNEDY

You've always been too strong for the men you choose. Plenty of men have fallen for you, but the devastation they fear as you lose interest is too much to face. They leave you before you can leave them.

ALINA

Kennedy Reese - Defense Attorney for all Loser Boyfriends and Would-Be White Knights.

KENNEDY

(teasing)

You met an old boyfriend at the rooftop party. Remember?

ALINA

It's funny you remember anything from that night after all the champagne you consumed.

KENNEDY

There you go again - that was a question, a fairly easy one. You didn't have any champagne that night because you were sick. I remember that clearly now. You handed each glass the waiter gave you directly to me. Looking back, I think that's how my trouble started.

KENNEDY twirls and stretches her arms in remembrance of her last gesture at the party.

KENNEDY

That and my sudden whim to leap up on that concrete wall, lean on the railing, and announce my engagement to all of Manhattan.

KENNEDY pauses and looks intently at ALINA as she lowers her arms.

ALINA

It was quite a performance.

KENNEDY

I loved surprising you with words.

ALINA digs through the journals and begins to read something that KENNEDY has written for her.

ALINA

You are a WaterRise [because nothing around you dare fall]

The hummingbird [who knows the words to my favorite song]

KENNEDY

...the shadow [that pulls me along]

KENNEDY slowly moves toward ALINA.

KENNEDY

...and the way fire works when it works

ALINA

It's been so long since we've shared words.

KENNEDY

Perhaps you'll embrace them on your own now?

ALINA

(upset)

...but I'm not a writer.

KENNEDY

I'm not asking you to find words, only to share some.

ALINA

(reluctantly)

"I shall [not] be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence...

KENNEDY

(sentimental)

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

ALINA

(serious)

I'm not sure I'm equipped to follow your road, my friend. No one really is.

KENNEDY touches her hair softly and smiles at ALINA to break the tension.

KENNEDY

(jokingly)

I would hope not. There's a rather steep drop off near the end.

They laugh at the dark joke because their friendship allows it. LUCAS begins to stir and stretch.

KENNEDY

One last question. Did you want me to fall?

LUCAS rolls over and begins to stir as lights come up on the bed.

ALINA notices that Lucas has awoken and begins to move toward him. KENNEDY disappears in light. She returns her attention to KENNEDY, but she is gone. ALINA looks stage left into the wings and then shakes her head in disbelief and sadness.

LUCAS

How long have you been awake? Give me a minute - we can go and get some coffee.

LUCAS gets out of bed, pulls on some sweatpants and a t-shirt, grabs his wallet from the night stand, and starts to exit stage right. He turns and notices that ALINA is distracted and frozen near the bed. He returns to her side. He extends his hand to her and leads her off right. ALINA turns to take one last glance stage left. Then, she allows LUCAS to lead her off stage right.

BLACKOUT.

SCENE FOUR

LIGHTS up on stage as the house lights come to half. The same distant classical music, from when KENNEDY first appears in ALINA's room, is echoing now.

From the back of the theater, the laughter of two little girls is heard as they chase each other through the aisles in a game of hide-and-seek. One of the girls is a dark-haired young ALINA. The other is a light-haired KENNEDY. YOUNG ALINA gets to the stage first and stands down center. She puts her hand to her forehead to block the light so she can look out into the house to find YOUNG KENNEDY. Nervously, she begins to pace and panic that she's lost her. Suddenly YOUNG KENNEDY comes running onto the stage to meet YOUNG ALINA. YOUNG KENNEDY taps her from behind. YOUNG ALINA jumps at being startled. They laugh together and play a quick clapping game.

YOUNG KENNEDY takes a small journal out of her pocket and opens it. She holds it so that YOUNG ALINA can read what she's written. YOUNG ALINA reads it, looks up at YOUNG KENNEDY, smiles and clasps the book to her heart.

BLACKOUT.


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