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"When it Ends" A ten-minute play by Cluster B


CHARACTERS


His: M. or N.B. Old enough to be a college instructor. *


Hers: F. or N.B. Younger than His, newly not-young.




SETTING


A bourgeois-boheme` dwelling on the north side of Chicago.


* Depending on the age of the actor playing His, the phrase “generic boomer” may be changed to “generic Gen-Xer,” or “generic Millennial.”


The name Zasal is pronounced to rhyme with jostle.

Contact: catherine.hermes@gmail.com for performance rights.






HIS

Zasal wants to drop her class with Park.


HERS

Zasal is Wide Sargasso Sea.


HIS

No, Rhys is Wide Sargasso Sea. Zasal is the one in the Maldives.


HERS

The Maldives. Is that the place where there’s strife right now?


HIS

Yes, that’s the place where there’s strife right now.


HERS

And Park is still here with us in leafy Arcadian Ravenswood?


HIS

...leafy Arcadian Ravenswood where every prospect pleases and only man is vile.


HERS

Ugh, speaking of vile men. Did you see the thing about how the owners of your beloved Tank Noodle were at the Capitol on Jan 6?


HIS

It’s a great personal loss. Not ready to talk about at this time, but thanks for reaching out. Well, I guess the far-right fuckwit writing was on the wall when they put those COVID incubators outside their place.


HERS

That reminds me, I need a new big Sharpie…


HIS

You need a new hobby. Stay the course. I’m talking about Park and Zasal.

Zasal wants to drop her class with Park.


HERS

I thought Park was still hip with the kids. Doesn’t he have like a Lemonade, White Album, Born In the USA approval rating?


HIS

Yeah, it’s weird. The kids usually love Park.


HERS

So what’s Zasal’s damage?


HIS

Where to begin?


HERS

Uh, move your signature Pile of Crap from the kitchen table?


HIS

Clean the toilets! The particular nature of Zasal’s damage is she doesn’t want to hear Park talk about the two kinds of love. She says it’s a bore.


HERS

The two kinds of love?


HIS

Yeah, in the Phaedrus, right?


HERS

Don’t do that thing where you ask me to agree with you like an aristocrat in a drawing room comedy.


HIS

Oh, but… Don’t you find?


HERS

Why don’t we skip right to the part where you educate me.


HIS

Plato. The Phaedrus. Earthly vs. spiritual love. Desire without an object. Me, I’d pay good money, cash on the barrelhead, to hear Park talk about the two kinds of love.


HERS

Please. I’ve tried you drunk and I’ve tried you sober and you are only interested in the one kind of love.


HIS

What can I say, I’m not a Platonist.


HERS

Yeah, you could never handle desire without an object. But hey, kinda nice being the object of your desire.


HIS

Shucks. Speaking of, dear--


HERS

Ooh, sorry for the 90s sitcom-wife pivot, but it actually would be super chill if you could blitz the toilets after your next couple of appointments. Who’s after Zasal?


HIS

After Zasal, what forgiveness?


HERS

Nah, son. After Zasal, la deluge.


HIS

Raegxn.


HERS

Regan, as in not-Goneril?


HIS

No, as in the 40th President of the United States, currently performing anilingus on former welfare recipients in Hell.


HERS

Sweet talker.


HIS

Except the kid’s altered the spelling, swapping the first a with the e, and replacing the final a with an x. Everything I get about him from the college spells it like the President, but on his Zoom screen he spells it R-A-E-G-X-N.


HERS

Blech, dudes who lead with their daddy issues.


HIS

Yeah, I think his father’s some Master of the Universe hedge-fund type. Family is from Scottsdale, but Raegxn’s Zooming in from St. Kitts, where they’ve gone to escape the plague, Decameron style.


HERS

So wait, poor Zasal’s in the Maldives with all the strife, and this little asshat’s Zooming in from La Isla Bonita?


HIS

Yeah, we all thought the tropical sky behind him was a Zoom background until the server brought him a drink with, no kidding, a tiny umbrella in it. I think it’s giving the other kids existential dread.


HERS

I think it’s catching. What’s little Dutch Jr. got to complain about?


HIS

Dutch Jr.?


HERS

They called 40 “Dutch.”


HIS

It’s all coming back to me now. He’s tied up in knots with anxiety. Like all the rest of them.


HERS

What’s he anxious about? Voter suppression, rising sea levels, fall of empire?


HIS

No, Raegxn wants to join the Beckett Society. They’re doing Krapp’s Last Tape this semester. He’s worried that Zoom will compromise the integrity of his audition piece.


HERS

Virtual Krapp’s Last Tape? I’ll take “what is more deadly than the novel coronavirus? for 400, Alex.”


HIS

After Raegxn is Haven.


HERS

Aw, I like them. They’re the one serving three-quarter profile, the better to showcase their housemade neck tat?


HIS

That’s Haven.


HERS

I bet Haven know’s what’s up. They’re the one who’s anxious about those assholes trying to make America great again.


HIS

Yeah, Haven lives in Walmartville, Missouri, so.


HERS

They must be getting misgendered constantly.


HIS

By anti-vaxxers who refuse to wear masks cuz They Know Their Rights.


HERS

Poor Haven. They must have been so amped to get out of Walmartville and go to the big liberal arts ball.


HIS

Now here they are with the rest of them; freshman year on Zoom. And you can just feel it in these calls, the anxiety. They’re worried about their accommodations, they’re worried that someone else is having the fun they’re not having, they’re worried about little deadlines, but what they really want to know is the big deadline: when’s it going to end.


HERS

Tell them no spoilers.


HIS

Damn, I’d kill for a spoiler.


HERS

Let’s not go down this route. Hey, did you see Tamale Spaceship is coming to Wilson and Campbell?


HIS

Don’t try to lead me off the scent with tamales.


HERS

I mean it’s always worked before.


HIS

That’s the thing with these kids today --


HERS

“These kids today” is beneath you, darling.


HIS

I guess it’s true of all of us, but it’s especially true of college kids. They haven’t had the chance to outgrow their protagonist syndrome.


HERS

They haven’t even gotten to be protagonists yet. These should be their prime heaux days, and they’re spending them Zooming from their parents’ family room.


HIS

Hey-day, hi-day, heaux-day.


HERS

And Zoom is the worst possible medium for someone who needs to be the star of their own movie. There you are lined up in the little boxes like the Brady Bunch with lighting out of an ISIS beheading video... Do they think you know when it’s going to end?


HIS

No. Well, in some mythic way, maybe yes. Maybe they see me as the face of the college. Maybe they think of The Teacher as the keeper of the endings.


HERS

Maybe they see you as generic Boomer, who’s appropriated all the fun there is to have, and who lives in some Magical Kingdom of Endings.


HIS

I’m not ruling that out. Also, been meaning to say -- the catering is really top-shelf here in the Kingdom of Endings.


HERS

All inclusive! Where’s my umbrella drink? No, but I get it about craving an ending. Or at least a heads-up. The exotic allure of the c.w.


HIS

Chicken and waffles?


HERS

Content warning. Or trigger warning. Like if the nature of the traumatic content is marquee’d, it takes a little of the sting out.


HIS

Unsubscribe. The content warning is a way of getting to the ending without earning the ending. Bypassing all the messy going-through-it business of reading and -- dare I say it? -- life.


HERS

Eh, you sound kinda Republican.


HIS

Oh dear, was I getting a little bootstrappy?


HERS

Your Horatio Alger is showing. Anyway, we’re all in this soup together. There’s no way not to go through it, but you can’t blame your students for wanting a roadmap.


HIS

Sure. This way to the Egress. Ten miles to the Kingdom of Endings.


HERS

Better than no exit. Eternal recurrence.


HIS

But how’s it going to end?


HERS

Bang or whimper.


HIS

Fire or flood.


HERS

Premium or unleaded!


HIS

I suppose for the planet we’re looking at a fairly literal deluge -- fire, flood, pestilence, the whole shot. From which the lucky and the privileged may escape. Temporarily.


HERS

Oof. So much for the collective. What about your charges? Do they get to enter the Kingdom of Endings?


HIS

Maybe I’ll give them a day pass. My charges. What do you think?


HERS

Well, Raegxn books the title role in Krapp’s Last Tape.


HIS

Old Krapp or young Krapp?


HERS

All the same actor. Unfortch, his debut is also his swansong.


HIS

That’s right. Raegxn drops out his sophomore year. In an ayahuasca-inspired revision of his academic priorities.


HERS

He does a little subsidized drifting, maybe surfs the Skeleton Coast.


HIS

In early midlife he starts a foundation. Does a little good. Smokes a lot of weed. He is occasionally visited by the feeling that happiness is just about to arrive.


HERS

The big reconciliation with the hedge-fund father never happens... What about Zasal?


HIS

Zasal returns to the Maldives and sorts out all that strife.


HERS

Using the skills and knowledge she acquired in her four years of liberal arts education!


HIS

Know what I mean? Which only leaves Haven.


HERS

No.


HIS

Haven gets out of Walmartville. They make it to the big liberal arts ball.


HERS

Where they create a large-scale art installation called Big Box Store--


HIS

--whose trenchant commentary on--


HERS

--middle American consumer culture is the talk of the campus.


HIS

For nine days.


HERS

Haven graduates with a major in studio art--


HIS

--and a minor in manifestation practice. Unfortch they never achieve escape velocity from Walmartville, Missouri.


HERS

no…


HIS

The gravitational pull is too strong. Haven burns up on re-entry.


HERS

I truly hate that.


HIS

Kingdom of Endings. Those are the breaks.


HERS

But--


HIS

Sorry, it’s out of my hands. Put some shoes on and mask up.


HERS

You mean?


HIS

That’s right. I’m taking you to Tamale Spaceship. Did you say Wilson and Campbell?


HERS

Wilson and Campbell.


HIS

Baby?


HERS

Mm?


HIS

When it ends, I want to be eating Tamale Spaceship with you.


HERS

Hey, same. (pulls mask on) Alright. I’m ready.



End



Optional Outro Music: "When it Ends," The Wild Party, 2000 Broadway Cast Recording, Eartha Kitt




Cluster B is the writing collective of poet Benjamin Goluboff and actor Cat Hermes. Their scripts have been workshopped or produced at Whiskey Rebellion, Chicago Dramatists, Prop Thtr, and shortlisted for the Heideman Award. They live in Chicago, where they hope to defund the tone police.


























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