All in the Family
(part 2 of 3)
Premiered -- 14 February 2007
What Now? -- Act I
(Part 2 of 3)
Scott enters, right on cue, wearing an entirely different set of clothes. The clothes are much more casual, and include no dry-cleaned woolens.
SCOTT: It took me a while, but I finally managed to find one non-wool, non-dry-cleaned outfit.
SHARI: You look wonderful! Doesn’t he look nice, Daddy?
Scott is clearly unsure of Mark’s implication.
SHARI: Now. Father, allow me to present Scott Tarkington. Scott, this is my father, Marcus Lansing.
They shake hands.
MARK: Nice to meet you, Scott. Perhaps, we’ll be seeing a lot of you around here.
SCOTT: I suspect you already have. (to Shari.) Did you say, “Marcus”?
SCOTT: Of course. (aside) Although I think I rather like... Marcus!
As Mark sits down, Scott turns to reaches for Shari, who quickly shies away from his affections. Scott is surprised by Shari’s apparent coolness. Shari simply smiles at him, and takes her seat... one in which Scott is unlikely to be able to sit too close to her.
MARK: Tell me, Scott: What is it you do?
Shari immediately tries to leap out of her seat, albeit subtly, as if to intervene. But Scott, not seeing her, is too quick.
SCOTT: I’m a lawyer.
Mark immediately comes to attention.
MARK: A lawyer?
Throwing her hands in the air, Shari falls back immediately into her chair.
SHARI: I told you not to tell him you were a lawyer!
SCOTT: But I am a lawyer.
MARK: (to Shari) You’ve been associating with a... A lawyer?
SCOTT: Just what’s wrong with being a lawyer?
MARK: “What’s wrong with being a lawyer?”
SHARI: (to Scott) You really had to ask?
MARK turns away, apparently stunned by the question.
MARK: “What’s wrong with being a lawyer?”
He turns back to Scott.
MARK: You want to know what’s wrong with being a lawyer?
SCOTT: No, not really.
Scott sits on the couch, apparently defeated.
MARK: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with being a lawyer! In fact, let me count the ways!
Mark begins to pace and enumerate the ways.
SHARI: (to Scott) Daddy’s had some real bad experiences with lawyers.
During Mark's monologue, El enters, ready to serve herbal tea. She amuses herself, by watching Mark go through his “What’s wrong with lawyers” routine, while Scott becomes more and more dumbfounded and Shari simply shakes her head, sadly accepting imminent disaster.
MARK: Let’s see, now. Lawyers are unethical, base, dishonest, immoral, double-dealing, foul, arrogant, unscrupulous, corrupt, vile, shabby, perfidious, contemptible, untrustworthy, a plague on society, equivalent in all respects to the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, and in general, the lowest form of life ever to have existed on the planet. They lie, cheat, steal, misuse and bastardize the justice system, violate every sense of fiduciary duty possible, regularly screw their clients with total incompetence, outrageous charges, dishonest billings, outright lies, and inevitably give the worst possible advice imaginable.
EL: (to Mark) Did you mention “perfidious”?
MARK: Perfidious... Yes, I think I’ve covered that.
EL: (to the others, as she serves tea to Shari) “Perfidious” has always been one of my favorites.
Scott’s initial stunned reaction slowly begins to evaporate, and in its place, he begins to become defensive, ready to stand up for his alleged profession.
SCOTT: (to Shari) You think you might want to stand up for me at some point?
SHARI: (to Scott) Are you kidding?
MARK: Where was I? Oh, yes. Their conflicts of interest are legion. They quite happily represent both sides of the question, rip off both parties, and take great offense at the mere mention of their totally disreputable, ignominious, abject, and venal practices. They force upon society laws and regulations as obtuse as possible just in order to ensure a multitude of interpretations and thereby increase their opportunities for their extended, pointless, and very expensive litigation. They ignore the interests of their clients, they regularly prey on people with little or no understanding of the law...
EL: (to Mark) Care for some tea?
MARK: (taking the cup proffered to him) Hmm, thank you.
SCOTT: I might point out that I’m not practicing law anymore.
MARK: Oh really!? Don’t tell me... You’re now perfect and don’t have to practice any more?
SCOTT: What I meant is that I no longer work with clients. I left private practice several years ago in order to serve my country.
MARK: “Serve your country”? You mean, like: “Ala carte”?
EL: (offering tea, which Scott virtually ignores) Care for some tea?
SCOTT: (proudly) For several years I worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. We’ve saved millions...
EL: You’re a lawyer for the EPA!!??
Mark shows sudden concern for El's outburst, even as Scott answers meekly, clearly very worried now.
SCOTT: Well... Yes.
El swoons, dumps the remaining tea cup and herself into Scott’s lap. Mark rushs for El, picks her up and helps her on to the couch, as Scott just tries to get out of the way. Shari is also up and trying to help El. Scott then looks down at his outfit, with hot tea all over it.
SHARI: What’s wrong with her?
MARK: She’ll be okay. I think she just fainted.
SCOTT: But why!?
Mark makes El comfortable, his voice calm and precise.
MARK: It’s a long story, but basically, El’s allergies are a direct result of her previous employment. When this became evident, she sued the company. The case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, where the EPA, your Environmental Protection Agency, filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the company and against El. She lost the case due in no small part to the EPA’s totally corrupt and indefensible action.
SHARI: Oh, no.
Shari staggers back slightly.
MARK: Oh yes.
SCOTT: (to himself) And I always thought having the EPA on my resume would be considered a real plus.
Mark straightens and turns to Scott, noting his clothes.
MARK: You may want to change your clothes. It appears that you’re all wet. Again.
SCOTT: I suppose you’re right.
El revives, with a slight moan.
EL: Oh my. Did I go whomp again?
SHARI: El, I’m so sorry. We didn’t know about the lawsuit.
SCOTT: (to El) Yes. I’m sorry. It was never my balliwick.
Feeling very uncomfortable, Scott glances around.
SCOTT: Excuse me. I’ve got to change.
Scott exits to the bedroom hall.
EL: Lawsuit? What lawsuit?
SHARI: Your suit against your employer. I’m afraid, Scott worked for the EPA.
EL: He does?
SHARI: He did. He doesn’t work for them any more.
EL: Oh. That’s nice.
Still in a fog, she looks up at Shari.
EL: I’ll be fine. I’ll just sit here for a minute.
Shari rises and turns to her father, who is now much more contrite.
MARK: Sorry. I guess I got carried away a little.
SHARI: That’s okay. It’s been that sort of day. We should have a major hurricane before the day’s out. Or maybe a Tsunami sufficient to reach this altitude.
She tries to bleakly smile.
SHARI: Besides, you get carried away a lot. I should have expected it.
MARK: How did you happen to pick him as a boyfriend?
SHARI: I didn’t know he was a lawyer! At first! I mean, he didn’t act like one. He was real civil, and nice, and considerate.
MARK: Certainly not your average lawyer!
SHARI: And it’s not like I could have avoided him! Everywhere I turned, he was there. It was like fate bringing us together. Or destiny. Or maybe gas; I don’t know.
EL: (staring off into space) Just like my boyfriend. Like a tail you can’t lose.
SHARI: But there was always that sense of having known Scott before, that this was a man with whom I needed to spend some time.
EL: Again. Just like my boyfriend! You dodge in and out of traffic, whip around hairpin curves, roar down one way streets... and then, when you look up, there he is! He might have come from a totally different route; went, for all I know, by way of Sacramento. But he still shows up, just in time to meet you. Comes all the way from D.C., just to casually run into me again. Man, the whole thing’s spooky.
MARK: (to El) What are you talking about?
EL: Me and Fred.
MARK: Maybe you’d better rest.
EL: Good idea.
El’s head drops abruptly back against the back of the couch. Shari, meanwhile, has been barely aware of El's discourse.
SHARI: Scott was... different.
MARK: From your other boyfriends?
SHARI: Very much.
MARK: I would hope so. From the horror tales your Mother so thoughtfully provided me, Attila the Hun would have been an improvement. At least he had steady employment.
SHARI: What exactly did Mother tell you?
MARK: Whatever she thought would distress me the most.
SHARI: Why didn’t you just ask me?
MARK: Why didn’t you just tell me, without my having to ask?
SHARI: Well... I didn’t want to talk about it.
MARK: Which is probably why I didn't ask. I had to rely on your mother entirely.
SHARI: Well naturally. It’s okay to tell your Mother about your dates. Fathers don’t understand.
MARK: You don’t think that’s being a little female chauvinistic?
SHARI: Daddy... Women are different from men. I can talk to Mother, or any other older woman, any mother-equivalent... with no problem. But you’re a man. And even more importantly, my father. I couldn’t tell you about my dates!
MARK: Which leaves your Mother to keep me informed. Which she seemed to delight in... all the problems and traumas. Did you ever date anyone who was not mentally defective, on drugs, or part of a weekend terrorist squad?
SHARI: (laughing) It wasn’t that bad!
MARK: Your mother’s version was.
SHARI: I’ll admit that there were a few guys who were not... major winners. And maybe I was not real good at picking boyfriends at first. But I’ve learned a lot, and now I’m really quite good at it. Scott’s a good example.
MARK: A lawyer, bureaucrat, attacker of allergic ladies... I shudder to think what else.
EL: (perking up in a bewildered sort of way) Actually, I rather like Scott. He’s my kind of guy. Bright, good looking... especially in his shorts..
SHARI: Scott has a great future! Things are just going to get better and better for him.
MARK: I'm glad you're feeling good about that part.
EL: My boyfriend has virtually no future. Talk about someone living entirely in the Now.
MARK: (turning to El) Would you like to go lie down or something?
EL: I’m OK. I don’t mind staying.
MARK: Yes, but Shari and I need to be alone.
EL: What for?
MARK: I don’t know yet.
EL: Oh. Sure. That makes sense.
El starts to get up, and staggers a bit.
EL: But, first, you’d better help me to the kitchen.
As El starts toward the kitchen, with Mark helping her, her knees do a noticeable wobble.)
EL: And then maybe to my room.
SHARI: I hope you feel better, El.
EL: Me, too. (To Mark) Did I go whomp again?
MARK: Sort of. (To Shari) I’ll be right back.
SHARI: No hurry.
Mark assists El offstage, leaving Shari alone.
Suddenly, Shari's bright demeanor changes to sad reverie, as she looks up for heavenly guidance.
SHARI: Is this a test? Is there some sort of lesson here I’m supposed to be learning?
When there’s no immediate answer, she begins to wander about the room, thinking out loud.
SHARI: All I really wanted, was for the two most important men in my life, the ones I love more than anything else, to really like each other. Or maybe just get along with each other. Or not hate each other. So what happens? Scott introduces himself by dropping his pants. Then he attacks my father’s maid with woolen dry-cleaning solvent. After which, he offends everyone with his job. Naturally, Daddy lashs back like an angry mother bear, which he’s prone to do. And practically every word out of either of their mouths is prelude to an argument. It’s absolutely amazing all the things they could find to argue about! Naturally, they hate each other!!
Shari sighs heavily.
SHARI: Absolutely nothing seems to be working the way I had envisioned it. It was all so simple. Things were going to run so smoothly. But now! Everything possible has gone wrong. At least, I think everything possible has already gone wrong.
She looks up again.
SHARI: There’s not more, is there?
On cue, Kelly uses her keys to open the front door. Shari turns at the sound, her facial expression making it clear that she already knows that her last question has just been answered in the affirmative. Kelly enters the front door, without knocking, her front door keys jangling, her arms carrying a bag of groceries. It’s clear that Kelly is very much at home at Mark’s place.
Kelly Mars is Mark’s lover, 37 years old (12 years younger than Mark), and a very attractive lady. Kelly and Shari have never met (in fact, Shari’s never even heard that her father was seriously dating). Kelly is noticeably prettier than Shari (or at least more confident, thus making Shari feel as if Kelly is prettier, even if she isn’t -- Beauty, after all, being in the eyes of the beholder.) Kelly is very much in love with Mark, is very dynamic herself, and is one of the few women who can keep up with him.
Shari is at first stunned as she takes in the fact that a very attractive lady is entering the house with groceries and her own set of keys.
SHARI: Can I help you?
Kelly turns back from shutting the door, to see Shari for the first time. Kelly is well aware of Shari -- Mark having told her all about his daughter -- and had been expecting Shari’s visit. Kelly recognizes Shari, and immediately brightens. She moves toward Shari, confidently.
KELLY: Oh, you must be Shari! Hi! I’m Kelly, a friend of your father’s.
SHARI: With a house key?
Suddenly recognizing Shari’s shocked expression, Kelly stops in her tracks.
KELLY: Your father hasn’t told you anything about me?
SHARI: No. Or for that matter... that you exist.
KELLY: Oh. Well then... I may have to talk to him about that.
SHARI: Me, too.
Kelly sets the groceries down, and again approaches Shari.
KELLY: But he’s told me all about you. Your new job and everything. He’s very proud of you. I hope you realize that.
SHARI: He’s a little prejudiced.
KELLY: When it comes to you, he’s very prejudiced! He thinks the absolute world of you. You’re also a great deal prettier than I had expected. Your photos, the ones he’s showed me at least, don’t do you justice at all.
SHARI: Thank you. Of course, not having seen any photos of you, I can’t very well return the compliment.
KELLY: I’m afraid your father sometimes forgets the most obvious things.
SHARI: Apparently. But how could he forget you? You’re gorgeous!
KELLY: Oh! Well... Thank you.
Kelly blushes, before recovering with renewed enthusiasm.
KELLY: I understand you’ve brought someone home with you?
SHARI: Yes. My... friend... Scott.
KELLY: I’m afraid your Dad didn’t mention his name. I don’t think he even knew it. In fact, he didn’t seem to know anything about your... boyfriend?
SHARI: I suppose I didn’t go into a lot of detail.
KELLY: Well, I’m very anxious to meet him. I’m sure if you like him, we’ll all get along wonderfully.
SHARI: You might be surprised.
Mark enters from the kitchen hall.
MARK: El should be okay after...
Suddenly he sees Kelly for the first time.
MARK: Sweetheart! I didn’t know you were back!
KELLY: Just got here.
Mark and Kelly greet very affectionately, including a nice kiss. Shari is stunned slightly, and momentarily turns her eyes to look again heavenward, for guidance. Mark then pulls reluctantly away from the embrace, and gestures toward Shari.
MARK: Have you two met?
SHARI: In a manner of speaking.
KELLY: I just barged in and introduced myself. It seems as if Shari didn’t know who I was. Maybe you forgot to mention me in your last correspondence.
SHARI: I’m sure I would have remembered.
MARK: Well... I guess I slipped up there.
KELLY: I suspect so.
Kelly smiles broadly, as she senses it’s time for her to leave Mark and Shari alone.
KELLY: You two will have to excuse me. I really need to get the groceries into the fridge, and get a few other things done. I’ll just leave you two to talk for a bit. I’m sure you’ve both got a lot of catching up to do.
Kelly picks up the bag of groceries, and exits to the kitchen hall.
MARK: (to Kelly) Good idea.
Shari merely looks at her father, a hint of the scolding schoolteacher in her smile.
MARK: (to Shari) Wouldn’t want the groceries to spoil.
With Kelly out of the room, Shari is very precise and clear with her next question.
SHARI: Who is she?
SHARI: The woman who does your grocery shopping, the one with your house keys, the one you just kissed.
MARK: Yes, well... Kelly is a very special person in my life. I’m hoping that you and she will really get along.
SHARI: You mean, like sisters?
SHARI: How old is Kelly? She looks about my age.
MARK: Oh, no! She’s a good ten years older than you.
SHARI: Which makes her, what? Thirteen years younger than you?
MARK: As a matter of fact, more like twelve. But, as we were discussing earlier, age differences don’t mean much... At least, once you’re over twenty seven.
Shari smiles, realizing she's been sandbagged. Again.
MARK: Plus which, twelve years is particularly important in our case.
SHARI: Now what are you talking about?
MARK: Kelly was born in the Year of the Dragon.
MARK: According to Chinese Astrology, this makes her a very potent woman. And for her to be compatible with a man, she needs someone she can respect and look up to. In other words, she needs another dragon. Inasmuch as I was born in the Year of the Dragon, twelve years earlier, I’m a perfect match for her.
SHARI: You’re kidding!
MARK: No. I was born in the Year of the Metal Dragon, and she was born in the Year of the Water Dragon.
SHARI: What in the world does that mean?
MARK: A Metal Dragon is tremendously intense, willing to stake his life on his convictions and regularly rushs in where angels fear to tread. Kelly is a less imperious Dragon, more conciliatory, and tends to live by the to-thine-own-self-be-true philosophy.
SHARI: No, no. I mean... You’re basing your relationship on astrology!?
MARK: Better than the typically haphazard manner of most traditional methods. Besides, it’s pretty well established from psychology that many women... it turns out to be those born in the Year of the Dragon... prefer older men. On top of which, I’m only thirty nine.
SHARI: You’re forty nine!
MARK: Don’t you remember? I stopped having birthdays when I was thirty six. Then after ten years of marking time, I started up again. Now, I’m thirty nine.
SHARI: You never told me: Why did you stop at thirty six?
MARK: Because I was then old enough to be President, to be beyond the draft... in case they started it up again. And I was in the best age category for auto insurance.
SHARI: I always knew my daddy was so weird.
MARK: I’m not weird, I’m...
SHARI: Yes, I know: You’re eccentric.
SHARI: But why didn’t you tell me about Kelly?
MARK: I suppose it slipped my mind. Although, it's probably something else. You know how it’s hard for a father to tell his daughter about the women in his life. Particularly some of them! Besides, you never told me about any of your beaus!
SHARI: I didn’t have to! You had a spy: Mom. Didn’t she tell you everything?
MARK: Only what she thought would drive me up the wall.
SHARI: At least you had something! I had no hint!
MARK: Well, you could have always hired El as your spy. You know as well as I do that she’s always looking for more income. Of course, if it’s gossip, she might have been willing to do it for free.
SHARI: That’s not really the point. It’s just that Kelly is a bit of a shock. What about Mom?
MARK: What about her?
SHARI: How does she fit in?
MARK: She’s your mother. She’ll always be your mother. But in my life she doesn’t fit. We share a beautiful and talented daughter, but that’s about it.
SHARI: But what about her future? What’s she going to do?
MARK: Shari, I may be in the business of predicting futures, but only on a large scale basis. I can’t predict what’s going to happen to any one individual.
Scott enters from the bedroom hall, but initially says nothing. Instead, he listens to the conversation, considering that they may be talking about him.
MARK: There’s just no way to tell about any one person. They may be in the process of going through a major transformation in their lives. Or they may be burying their head in the sand, hoping that all the changes occurring around them won’t have any affect on them. Everyone has free will, and they’re going to make their individual choices. Everyone has a future. Some will be glorious, some will be terrifying, and some will have a future somewhere in between.
SHARI: But when it’s someone you love very much...
MARK: Then you gently invite them to grow, to make that major transformation that will eventually provide for a loving, joyous future.
All in the Family
(Part 1 of 3)
Act I -- Part 3 of 3