All in the Family
Premiered -- 14 February 2007
What Now? -- Act I
(part 1 of 3)
(part 1 of 3)
The setting is Mark Lansing’s combination home, office, and mountain retreat located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Any lack of further specifications as to its exact location or how one might actually find their way to it, should give you some clue as to the personality of its owner. A generous person might call him pragmatic in his privacy.
The action of the play takes place in the living room of Mark's home. At down stage left is the front door to the home. Slightly up stage of the front door, and set at about a 45 degree angle is an open portal to a hall that runs both ways. The hall connects the living area to the bedroom wing, including the master bedroom down the hall in one direction and two other bedrooms down the hall in the opposite direction.
Across the back of the stage are bookshelves (in an only moderately organized state). Up stage right is a second portal, which leads to a hall connecting the kitchen, maid’s quarters and Mark’s primary office (as well as the rest of the house -- pantry, garage, and so forth). Slightly downstage on the right side of the kitchen hall is Kelly’s desk, which from an organizational point of view, is a good example of chaos. Just downstage from Kelly’s desk is a fireplace, which acts as a focal point for a comfortable couch and easy chair.
The other furnishings are practical, useful and moderately tasteful with the key decorating phrase being "contemporary realism", i.e. a combination of realism and contemporary symbolism. (Mark is, at his very core, a realist; despite the fact he thinks about future scenarios which seem considerably removed from the norm. At the same time, he appreciates symbolism as a language in and of itself.) His home is a well appointed one, but with little evidence of excessive wealth. Mark is apparently very comfortable, does not worry about money and has no need to seek status through the appearance of his primary residence and workspace.
As the curtain rises, it is about two o’clock in the afternoon, on a moderately cold day in mid April (perhaps even, "the Ides of April").
MARK enters from the kitchen hall and goes directly to Kelly’s disorganized desk.
Mark is an attractive 49 year-old male (who could easily, and usually does, pass for 39). He is in excellent health -- mentally and physically -- and while something of a radical, his non-traditional views are often the result of a speculative wisdom based on hard-earned knowledge. He is an extremely intelligent and dynamic individual, and because of his exceptional confidence, tends to command the stage whenever he enters the room. Today he is dressed in casual slacks and shirt.
As he goes through the papers and books scattered about on Kelly’s desk, it’s clear he’s looking for something. Being unsuccessful in his search, and showing just a hint of impatience (the type of impatience displayed by people who are almost always in a hurry to accomplish something), Mark, still continuing his search, calls out for assistance.
MARK: El!? Have you seen the latest bulletin from the Club of Rome? Kelly had it, and I can’t find anything on her desk! (When there is no response, Mark straightens and looks over his shoulder toward the bedroom hall. He calls out again, in a slightly louder voice.) El!?
Ellisene ("EL") enters from the bedroom hall, her attitude rather casual and not at all subservient to Mark. She is dressed in a simple outfit, with a small apron worn to the side on her waist. El is a caustic, very outspoken, funny lady; who acts as Mark’s maid and housekeeper. She is “over 30” and unattached; even if she’s occasionally dating a strange fellow, known only as “Fred”.
EL: You scream for me, massa?
MARK: (Mark looks back at Kelly's desk.) Have you seen the latest bulletin from the Club of Rome? Kelly had it, and now I can’t find it anywhere.
EL: Are you kidding!? I don’t read that stuff! Those Romans are too reactionary! Can you imagine having to live there and do as they do!?
MARK: I think she put it on her desk, but I can’t find it.
EL: I’d be surprised if you could find anything on Kelly’s desk.
MARK: I never can. Makes we wonder sometime.
El: Wonder about what?
MARK: (He stops shuffling papers.) My desk is always neat; hers is always cluttered. And yet we get along so well. Why is that?
EL: Ain’t nothing to do with your desks, honey! It’s her incredible body!
MARK: Yeah. Perhaps you’re right.
EL: Plus which, she’s smarter than you. You need someone smarter. And there ain’t too many women like that hereabouts.
EL: Speaking of which, I’ve got some wonderful news!
EL: I’m finished making up the beds in the extra bedrooms!
MARK: (sarcastically) You’re right; that’s wonderful news. Shari and her friend will be here any time now, and I’m certain they will appreciate the news even more than I do. (Mark takes one last look at Kelly’s desk and gives up.)
EL: (kiddingly) Her friend, huh? Don’t you mean her beau, her boyfriend, her lover, her main squeeze, her one-and-only, her sex part... ??
MARK: I mean, "her friend”. Who just happens to be male.
EL: Right. Probably some bridge club buddy. Or maybe they trade recipes. (Mark studiously ignores her.) By the way, just for my edification and to appease my sometimes rampant curiosity, why are you having them sleep in separate bedrooms?
MARK: Why not?
EL: Did you check this out with Shari?
MARK: Shari said nothing about sleeping arrangements. I didn’t ask.
EL: You think maybe you should have asked?
MARK: I would assume that because Shari did not mention that they’re married, betrothed, engaged, going steady, or anything of that nature -- that they would be sleeping separately.
EL: Even while Kelly and you are spending most of your time in the same bed... although, not necessarily sleeping...
MARK: That’s different.
EL: Different!? You’re kidding me, right?
MARK: Look, El. Try to understand. This is the first time in our lives that Shari has ever brought home a boyfriend for me to meet. I have to assume that they’re not merely looking for a place to shack up! Nor that she’s bringing a busload of in-laws, or the equivalent. For heaven’s sake, she’s twenty seven years old! As her father, I’ve never once had the opportunity to meet a single one of her dates, boyfriends, or whatever! I’m not going to start out, on the very first one, assuming that they’re sleeping together!
EL: Why not?
MARK: Because, as far as I know, Shari’s not that aggressive. She’s always been very conservative when it came to relationships.
EL: Or at least that’s what she wanted her Daddy to think.
MARK: She never really dated in high school. In fact, in her entire high school career, she never had a boy ever come to pick her up! Consequently, I never had a single opportunity to pass judgement or look over any of her dates. And as a father, I had always wanted to do that!
EL: What in the world for!? Are you some kind of glutton for punishment? Do you have any idea of the losers you might meet?
MARK: I simply wanted the opportunity so that I could be a really neat father and not give the boy a lot of trouble.
EL: Wow! You’re even weirder than I thought!
MARK: I’ve told you before, El, I’m not weird. I have a Ph.D...
EL: Yeah, yeah, I know. And that makes you eccentric. But why in the world would you want to put some poor youngster through hell, just so that you can be magnanimous?
MARK: It’s a father’s privilege. One which I was denied.
EL: Oh, poor baby!
MARK: I don’t think it’s too much for a father to want to meet one of his daughter’s boyfriends, just once, before they get involved!
EL: (laughing) This is too much! Talk about living in the past!
MARK: Maybe so. But Shari always promised me, that one of these days, she’d bring home a boyfriend for me to meet.
EL: Well, of course, she promised you! She’d do anything for you. You intimidate her so much, she’d never deny you anything!
MARK: What are you talking about? I don’t intimidate her! I’m crazy about that kid. Besides, she’s tough as nails!
EL: Oh, I’ll agree she’s a tough little cookie, but she wouldn’t cross you for the world.
MARK: I think you’re exaggerating.
EL: Me? I never exaggerate!
MARK: It’s still a mute point. I’m going to assume separate bedrooms, until Shari tells me differently.
EL: That’s silly!
MARK: Maybe so. But that’s the way it's going to be.
EL: Hey, wait a minute. When you lived in Washington, DC, Shari was living there too. For like six years.
MARK: But she lived alone, or with roommates. The female variety.
EL: And she never brought over one of her boyfriends then?
MARK: Nope! Shari kept her mother posted on all the bozos she dated, but I never met a single one. Of course, Shari’s mother told me everything! Even after I divorced the woman, she still kept me appraised of all of Shari’s dates! I think she was looking to punish me. I certainly never heard anything good about any of Shari's friends. Just one disaster after another... much to her mother's apparent delight.
El: Shari never told you anything herself... directly?
MARK: No. She confided in her mother, but never her father. Which, I guess I can understand. Sex is not one of the most popular topics of discussion between a father and a daughter. Shari and I certainly never spent much time on the subject.
EL: Are you kidding? My Dad and I talked about sex all the time! It was his favorite subject.
MARK: (amazed) Really?
EL: Sure! Of course, he tended to get a little irrational when I’d talk about some guy banging his daughter’s brains out!
MARK: El, if you don’t mind...
EL: When I think of all the quirky and weird things that some guy or another told me just in order to engage in wild and wooly sex... Wow. The only savng grace was to see my old man squirm and sweat. You have to realize that I was with some guys who were really kinky.
MARK: El, I have a wonderful idea: Let’s change the subject!
EL: Of course, living in D.C. is pretty kinky! What with the beltway bandits, government types, free-lance romeos, or just oversexed congressmen... all figuring that free and loose women were just one of the fringe benefits for government servicing... It was a real zoo. Once my old man left the scene, I pretty much lost interest. I no longer needed the material with which I could freak out dad. And as it turned out, I was glad to get out of there. It’s not much fun being just one more product in a great big candy store for men.
MARK: But you did get out! So now, can we change the subject?
EL: With the D.C. male/female ratio so heavily in favor of the males, Shari’s lucky to have even found a legitimate date -- I mean one that she'd be willing to take home to meet Daddy! I don’t remember having all that many legitimate dates, myself.
MARK: You date often enough now!
EL: Sure! But here, what's my competition? Heifers?
MARK: You still dating Fred?
EL: Oh yeah. But that's different. You have to remember: the guy chased me all the way from D.C., gave up a good job just to be with me. I could hardly stiff him after all of that.
MARK: Fred chased you all the way from Washington?
EL: What can I tell you? I’m fantastic in bed!! And Fred is very much into the physical experience.
MARK: Amazing. I’ve actually gotten to meet my maid’s date, but none of my daughter’s.
EL: Until now!
MARK: Until now. Of course, after our little conversation, I am somewhat less than giddy with anticipation.
EL: You’ll get over it.
The doorbell rings, causing Mark and El to look at each other with incredulity, as if the event was very unusual.
EL: Who in the world could that be?
MARK: I don’t know. It’s too early for Shari.
EL: Kelly wouldn’t use the doorbell, would she?
MARK: I don’t think she even knows there is one.
EL: You’re probably right. She hasn’t been here that long. Come to think of it, I haven’t been here all that long either. By the way, where is the doorbell?
MARK: What about Fred? You expecting him?
EL: Not until this evening. We’ve got another heavy date, and he needs his rest until then.
The doorbell rings again.
MARK: It’s not likely anyone else could find this place.
EL: You’re telling me. This place is remote! It's not exactly one of the main stops on your average door-to-door salesman’s standard route.
MARK: Which is one of the main reasons that this place is remote.
EL: I wonder who it could be.
The doorbell rings again, twice.
MARK: You know... you could always answer the door and find out.
EL: (suspiciously) Is that something a maid should be doing?
MARK: I think so.
EL: Not the butler, huh?
MARK: We don’t have a butler,El. There’s no one here but you and me.
EL: And Kelly.
MARK: But she’s in town, remember? Getting your groceries?
EL: Oh, yeah.
There is now loud, persistent knocking on the door.
EL: Well, don’t trouble yourself. I’ll get it.
El goes to the front door and opens it. Shari enters. Shari is a very attractive young lady of 27 and the only daughter of Mark. She has the appearance of a very wholesome gal, the kind any man would be happy to take home to mother (if he could only trust father). She is vivacious and lively, and apparently unassuming of her charms. She has also developed a caustic sense of humor. As she enters, Shari is dressed for traveling, something on the order of a casual, Washington, DC style.
SHARI: Hi, El! (Then she sees her father.) Daddy!
Shari rushes across the stage to her father, where she is greeted with open arms.
MARK: Hello, sweetheart!
The father and daughter greet each other with a big hug and some obviously genuine affection, as if these two people really do care for each other. Scott enters directly behind Shari, carrying a single, large suitcase. Scott is a handsome young man of 35. In many respects, he is much like Mark, only a younger version. He is currently on his way up, career wise, and dresses accordingly. As he enters, he is wearing a nice dress wool shirt, wool slacks and an expensive wool jacket. His main concession to dressing casual is that he is not wearing a necktie (although with the quality of his other clothes, he could wear one). Once inside the door, Scott sets the suitcase down, while El closes the door behind him.
MARK: Gosh! It’s good to see you! It’s been too long!
SHARI: It has been a long time! But I’m here now!! And we’ve got lots to talk about!!
SHARI: Oh, yeah. Lots. (a slight, awkward pause) Oh, look at me: I'm forgetting my manners! (She turns back toward the door.) Daddy, I’d like you to...
During Mark and Shari's short diaologue, El has turned and moved around Scott (passing downstage of him). As Scott sheds his jacket, clearly expecting El to take it from him, El has in fact started to grab the coat. In the process, she had taken one good whiff of it, and promptly collapsed headlong into Scott. Scott has managed to catch her in mid fall. The timing is such that as Shari turns to introduce Scott to her father, El will have just collapsed into Scott’s arms and Scott will have had time to look up at the others, in an obvious state of bewilderment.
As Mark and Shari turn to see El draped in Scott’s arms and Scott looking to them for help, Mark immediately recognizes the problem and rushes over to help El. Shari is stunned and temporarily unable to move.
MARK: (to Scott as he reaches for El) Are you wearing aftershave... or any cologne?
SCOTT: No! Shari told me not to wear any!
Mark bends over El, taking her from Scott. El revives slightly, but in what appears to be a punch drunk manner. Shari moves tentatively toward the others.
SHARI: El, are you okay?
EL: Oh boy... Did I go whomp again!?
MARK: Come on, El. We’ll just get you back to your room.
SHARI: Do you need some help?
Mark shakes his head “no”, and helps El to her feet. Scott starts to help, but Mark shrugs him off.
MARK: Don’t get too close. She might get another whiff of you. (Once El’s on her feet and Mark starts to help her toward the kitchen hall, Scott adds:) Is that a wool jacket?
SCOTT: Yes. Why?
MARK: Dry cleaned?
SCOTT: Well, yes. I guess. Is that a problem?
MARK: That might explain it. Some of the dry cleaning solvents are worse than aftershave.
Mark and El exit, Mark helping El, and El’s knees occasionally wobbling.
SHARI: (calling after Mark) But he wasn’t wearing aftershave! I told him not to. We just didn’t know about the wool!
SCOTT: “Dry cleaning solvents are worse than aftershave”? What in the world does that mean?
Shari quickly reaches out to comfort Scott, by giving him a big hug. The manner in which the two hold each other, suggests that they are accustomed to a fair amount of affection between them.
SHARI: It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s just that El’s allergies are... well... multiple. It’s not your fault.
SCOTT: Well, I hope not. Wow! Nothing like knocking ‘em dead with your first entrance!
SHARI: (sexily) You do tend to have that effect. (She kisses him lightly on the cheek.) Although I must admit: This is not exactly the way I envisioned your first meeting with Daddy. I sure hope El's gonna be okay. Of course, she’s pretty much used to... going whomp.
Scott watches Shari’s subdued attitude for a brief second. Very gently, with his one arm around Shari, he caresses her tummy in a very subtle manner.
SCOTT: Are you okay?
SHARI: Who me? Hey! Major disasters never get me down! Of course, enough of the small ones can be a little devastating!
They exchange subdued smiles. Then Scott steps away, looking at the door where Mark and El had exited.
SCOTT: Boy, her allergies must really be something!
SHARI: They are. When she was living in DC, the city would call her whenever they were getting ready to spray for mosquitoes. She’d have to leave town for several days. It got so that she couldn’t even go to the shopping mall, without the possibility of getting a whiff of someone’s perfume or what-not. When she did, she’d end up collapsing on the floor. It quickly became pretty obvious that she couldn’t stay in DC. That’s why she’s living here, away from all the pollution.
SCOTT: Incredible. It sounds like she’s allergic to the environment.
SHARI: The man-made environment, anyway. Civilization by any other name. But I thought she was supposed to be getting a lot better. Since she’d been living up here, Daddy said that she had been building up her immunity. At least, that’s what he said the last time I heard from him.
SCOTT: She’s just here temporarily?
SHARI: Well, at least until she can handle it back in civilization. Of course, she might just stay on. It’s pretty nice up here.
SCOTT: Is she why your father moved out here?
SHARI: What do you mean?
SCOTT: I mean, well you know... Is she and your father linked romantically?
SHARI: No! Of course not! El is just Daddy’s maid! They may think a lot of each other, but it’s just that Daddy needed someone to keep this house up. He knew about El, and they came up with a mutually beneficial arrangement.
SCOTT: But why did your father leave D.C.? Didn’t you say he was very influential while he was there?
SHARI: He was. A lot of people looked to him for some very creative thinking and planning.
SCOTT: So why did he leave? Why would he give up a nice gig like that? Was it the divorce?
SHARI: I don’t think so. But I’m not real sure. Of course, Daddy has always complained of the duplicity and corruption, the lack of ethics in D.C., and all that stuff. And he wasn’t too crazy about the traffic and congestion. I guess I always assumed that Washington was no longer the place he wanted to be.
SCOTT: But your Mom is still there!
SHARI: Oh yeah. Mom would never leave the Washington party circle. Mom loved her parties, even if Daddy didn’t. I sometimes wonder if that was part of why they got divorced.
SCOTT: Why don’t you just ask your father?
SHARI: I don’t think I want to know that bad. I would like to know what causes two wonderful people to walk away from each other...
For a moment, Shari glances at Scott, as he smiles back.
SHARI: But I don’t think I want to ask Daddy. Maybe I’ll ask Mom.
SCOTT: She might give you an entirely different answer.
SHARI: Oh, I’m sure she would.
SCOTT: Maybe it’s just one of those things.
SHARI: But Daddy and El are not romantically involved! That I’m sure of! As far as I know, Daddy has no romantic involvement at all! At least, I kind of hope he doesn’t.
SCOTT: Why not? He doesn’t exactly look the type to become a monk. Why should you care if your father’s dating?
SHARI: Why don’t we change the subject? I’d really rather talk about something other than my father’s sex life. Or whether or not he even has one.
SCOTT: Well, if it makes you uncomfortable...
SHARI: Why don’t we try to remember the purpose of our visit.
SCOTT: Oh... That...
SHARI: It’s really very simple. As soon as you get to know Daddy a little bit, we’ll find a nice leisurely moment, when everyone is feeling good... And then we’ll tell him.
SHARI: Well... I was thinking... perhaps you could ask him... for my hand... in marriage.
SCOTT: What!? You want me to...
SHARI: No, no! Of course not! It’s just that I’m trying to think of someway to avoid my having to tell him.
SCOTT: What if he was to say no? Wouldn't we be in a bit of trouble?
SHARI: It's not as if I would be bound by his decision! I just thought it might be a nice... gesture. Something to help you get started off on the right foot with my father.
SCOTT: I don't know, Shari...
Shari suddenly brightens as she hugs Scott affectionately, looking up into his eyes, and beginning to work her way with him—a combination of which he apparently finds very hard to resist.
SHARI: Sweetheart! It’s very, very important to me that the two men in my life, the two men I love more than anything in the world... it’s very important that the two of you get along together. I really want you to be the best of friends.
SCOTT: Sweetheart... I understand your concern. But don’t you think my asking for your hand in marriage is somewhat superfluous? What happens when he finds out that we’re already married!?
SHARI: Well... I’ll worry about that one later.
SCOTT: We seem to be worrying about a lot of things later!
Abruptly, she breaks away from Scott, who is visibly surprised at her sudden coolness.
SHARI: Shhhh! I think he’s coming.
Mark enters from the kitchen wing, carrying a large trash bag. He notices Shari’s abrupt movement as she quickly detaches herself from Scott, but says nothing. As he approaches Scott, he holds the bag toward him.
MARK: You’ll have to put your jacket in this bag.
SCOTT: Are you kidding? This is an expensive jacket; it needs to be hung up properly.
MARK: Fine. Hang it up outside. Properly.
SHARI: El okay?
MARK: (to Shari) She’s fine.
Mark turns to Scott, who has taken the trash bag, and has only now begun to contemplate putting his precious jacket into it.
MARK: El’s condition is a serious one. She is extremely allergic to a wide variety of man’s civilization. Can’t say I blame her, considering the state of the world.
SCOTT: (trying to make light of it) It’s just that I wouldn’t want my jacket thrown out with the garbage.
MARK: Feel free to carry the bag around with you at all times. Just keep it sealed, so that the rest of us don’t have to breathe it.
SHARI: Here, let me help.
She carefully takes the jacket and begins folding it up very carefully.
SCOTT: This is really incredible... her being allergic to the environment!
MARK: She’s not allergic to the environment. She’s allergic to all of man’s insults to it. El’s just a good example of the very bad state of the planet.
SCOTT: You don't think that’s overdoing it a bit? One person’s very unusual and extraordinary health problem is hardly a accurate indicator of the “state of the planet”!
MARK: Why? Because it hasn’t made the cover of Time yet? Because there are not enough people suffering from it yet? Because it's not at the level of a pandemic?
SCOTT: We’re talking here about a very special case!
MARK: I tend to think that everyone is a special case!
SCOTT: And I don’t?
During the initial skirmish between Mark and Scott, Shari has been carefully putting the coat in the trash bag. Then as she looks up to see the two men in her life already at odds, she quickly steps forward, using the filled trash bag as a buffer, which she pushs against Scott. She steps in between the two men to defuse the disagreement. Scott is pushed back, now holding the trashbag and his jacket. Shari addresses her comment to Mark.
SHARI: I thought El was getting better.
MARK: She has been. Three months ago, she’d still be out cold. (to Scott) Is that a wool shirt?
SCOTT: Well... yes. It’s cold outside. We’re in the mountains, you know!
MARK: I know we’re in the mountains! Do you dry clean your shirts as well?
SCOTT: (grimacing) Well... yes.
MARK: Then that will have to go too!
Mark smiles slightly, Scott looks shocked, while Shari again tries to intervene again. She grabs Mark’s arm, and turns him away from Scott. While Shari and Mark move away from Scott, with their back to him, Scott mentally throws up his hands and begins to take his shirt off -- after which he pretty much stuffs it into the plastic bag containing his jacket.
SHARI: Is El still taking her medicine?
MARK: Yes, but she’s been able to cut back to about one fourth the dosage. The doctors seem to think... to the extent that any medical doctor can think... that she might get off the stuff altogether by mid-summer.
SHARI: Now that’s encouraging!
MARK: The basic plan is working. Just keeping her away from all the pollutants, improving her diet... all of it's working wonders. She’s really doing quite well.
SHARI: I’m so glad. After all she’s been through, she’s deserves a break.
MARK: She really does.
For a moment, Mark and Shari embrace again, sharing a common concern.
SHARI: Oh! I almost forgot! I still haven’t introduced you properly! (turning back to Scott.) Daddy, I want you to meet someone...
While Mark and Shari had been talking, Scott had realized his pants were wool as well. Without a word, he had shrugged his shoulders again and droped his pants to around his shoes. He is about to reach down and take off his pants as well (and then put them in the bag), when Shari and Mark turn back to him. The timing is such that they catch him with his pants down around his ankles, and looking up in response to their turn toward him. Shari is sufficiently stunned by the sight that utters the next three words very slowly.
SHARI: ...very... special.
MARK: I see!
SCOTT: (gesturing helplessly) Wool pants.
SHARI: He looked really nice when we first got here.
MARK: Well, he looks pretty nice right now.
SCOTT: Maybe there’s somewhere I could change...
Mark takes charge, moving to pick up the suitcase.
MARK: Your bedroom might be appropriate. (As he picks up the suitcase, he glances at Shari.) Just one suitcase?
SHARI: Just... one. You know how you've always taught me to travel light.
Mark raises his eyebrows slightly, then heads for the bedroom wing, while Scott picks up his pants and continues to hold them up with one hand, until after he leaves the stage.
MARK: (to Scott) I’ll put your luggage in... What’s your name, anyway?
SCOTT: Scott. Scott Tarkington.
MARK: I’m Mark Lansing. (He turns to Shari.) I’ll put the suitcase in Scott’s room. You can get your stuff later.
MARK: (as Scott starts to follow Mark off) I’ve put you in the north bedroom. Shari will be in the south one. (Mark turns and smiles.) I’ll be in the master bedroom, close by.
Mark turns back toward the hall and exits with the suitcase.
SCOTT: (He turns to Shari, incredulous.) Separate bedrooms?
SHARI: Shhh! We’ll work it out it later!
Scott shrugs, and exits through the bedroom wing. He meets Mark in the door, and tries vainly to return Mark’s broad smile. Mark then comes back into the room, smiling mischievously.
MARK: Interesting fellow there. Certainly not the shy, retiring type.
SHARI: I really should have introduced you properly.
MARK: No problem. There’s plenty of time.
SHARI: He’s really a very nice person.
MARK: Naturally. He’d have to be.
Mark gives her a big hug. When Shari only smiles, he changes the subject.
MARK: So... What’s the occasion for this singularly eventful visit? The second one, I believe, since I moved out here two years ago.
SHARI: Just a visit. (When it’s obvious that the line didn’t fly:) And a chance for you to meet Scott. Sort of get to know him.
MARK: Oh, we’re certainly... getting acquainted.
SHARI: I’m sure you’ll like him once you get to know him.
MARK: Of course I will.
SHARI: Oh! I almost forgot. Mother sends her best.
SHARI: Mother. Your ex-wife. You know... that woman in all those photos in our family album.
MARK: Oh... Her.
SHARI: You remember! The really nice looking one. I seem to recall that you really like nice looking women.
MARK: I do. But there are other qualities one looks for as well.
SHARI: I always thought Mother had other nice qualities.
MARK: She did. Does. But we grew in different directions. It’s rather common in our day and age.
SHARI: Sometimes I wonder if that sort of thing happens to all couples. Growing in different directions, I mean.
MARK: Divorce is quite common now, but that’s due in large part to when those same couples originally got married. Too often they married when they were quite young and inexperienced. Now, of course, people are getting married later. Nowadays people generally know much more about life when they finally do marry, and, consequently, their marriages are far more likely to succeed.
SHARI: I hope you’re right.
MARK: Does she know you're out here?
SHARI: No. I don't like to tell her things first. She can never wait to tell you before I have the chance.
For a moment, Mark looks expectantly, while Shari suddenly looks aghast. Mark smiles.
MARK: So, how’s the new job?
SHARI: Oh, it’s wonderful! I’m getting to meet all sorts of very interesting people, and the research is really stimulating!
MARK: Working for National Geographic is quite a feather in your cap.
SHARI: And so exciting! I was really lucky to get the job.
MARK: Luck had nothing to do with it. You’re very talented. I’m extremely proud of you.
SHARI: Thanks. It’s really great to have a good job, and to be able to work in a city as exciting as Washington, D.C. To me, it’s the best thing imaginable! Which is why I’ve never understood why you left. You had a really good job.
MARK: Washington is great when you’re ambitious and on the way up. Competence is so rare there that the sky’s the limit. All you have to do is put up with the politics.
SHARI: Well, I like it! I think the people are great!
MARK: A small minority are. Perhaps a dozen or so. But the rest are crooks, incompetents or lobbyists. I’m not sure which type is worse.
SHARI: It’s not that bad.
MARK: Actually, it is. The corruption in that city is absolutely phenomenal. It’s just that most of it goes unreported. I’ll admit there are some bright spots. My daughter, for example. D.C. is a great place to rise above the garbage, and you are certainly doing that very well indeed.
SHARI: You’re prejudiced.
MARK: Don’t be absurd! I’m totally objective! You’re great!
SHARI: Ah, shucks.
MARK: Don’t ever let anyone tell you different.
SHARI: You're sweet. But you still haven’t told me why you gave up your work to come out here.
MARK: I didn’t give up my work. I’m still very much in touch with all the people I need to work with. Even here in the mountains, I’m continuing to do my consulting. The difference is that now I do it via e-mail and tele-conferencing. Just no longer face to face in the same room.
SHARI: Sometimes, face to face is very nice.
MARK: Sometimes. And I still make trips. But at the same time, I avoid the traffic, the congestion, the commuting, the crime, the crowds, etceteras, etceteras.
SHARI: And now you have the “Best of all possible worlds”.
MARK: Is that your Candide opinion?
MARK: I’m always cute. It's one of my most notable failings.
SHARI: You’re being funny now. No, wait! You’re trying to be funny now, and failing miserably.
MARK: (gesturing around him) Look. My only commute now is from my bedroom, across the living room... which, incidentally, has minimal traffic -- today being a rare exception. I simply walk down the hall and into my office. It really is the “Best of all possible worlds”.
SHARI: Was Mother the reason for your leaving D.C.?
MARK: Heavens, no! Do you really think that?
SHARI: No. I guess not.
MARK: Shari, the work I do, dealing with and concocting future scenarios, applies to the entire globe, not just the U. S. It’s not necessary to be in Washington, D.C. in order to keep up with what’s going on. In fact, the focus there is typically so narrow that reality is often over looked. More times than not it’s necessary to back away just in order to have an objective view. Plus which, I really like it out here.
SHARI: I guess I always had the idea that you and Mother might get back together someday.
MARK: No, sweetheart. That’s very definitely not in the cards.
When Shari only smiles gamely, Mark continues.
MARK: Tell me about your friend, Scott.
MARK: How old is he?
SHARI: Thirty five.
MARK: Eight years older than you?
SHARI: Well... yes. I like older men. They’re more mature, more experienced. Besides, age differences don’t mean as much once you’re in your late twenties.
MARK: You’re only twenty seven. That’s only marginally in your late twenties.
SHARI: It’s enough. Eight years difference at our ages is, well... hardly worth mentioning.
MARK: Really? I take it then that you see nothing wrong... in general... with a woman dating a man who is... oh say... eight to twelve years older? That is, once she’s twenty seven or so.
SHARI: No. Of course not.
MARK: That’s very progressive of you. And I must admit that I agree with you.
SHARI: You do?
MARK: Of course. There’s simply nothing wrong with a younger woman being with an older man. You’re absolutely right!
SHARI: (growing suspicious) I’m right?
MARK: Of course! In any case, I shouldn’t complain. This is the first male friend that you’ve ever brought home to meet your father.
SHARI: That was because I could never trust mother.
MARK: I see that, in addition to men, you’re also into older jokes.
SHARI: You can’t fool me: I saw you smile.
SHARI: But if you think that one’s old, how about this one: Do you know why Cleopatra always said “No.”?
MARK: No. Why?
SHARI: She was de Queen of Denial.
SHARI: If you don’t like my jokes, I won’t bring home any more of my boyfriends.
MARK: Scott's a “boyfriend”?
SHARI: Let’s just say, he’s... special.
MARK: Special, huh?
SHARI: Something like that.
She then tries to divert the conversation, as she turns away, hopefully casually.
SHARI: Gee, I wonder what’s keeping Scott?
She turns back to Mark.
SHARI: I do hope that you and he get along together.
MARK: Is that important to you?
SHARI: Well, yes.
SHARI: Well, we wouldn’t want to set a bad precedence... I mean with the first man I bring home for you to meet.
MARK: But why wouldn’t we get along?
SHARI: Oh... I don’t know...
Act I -- Part 2 of 3
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