PLAY #174: WHAT YOU CAN’T KNOW (MAY 31)

London, 1865.

A brothel.

WILL, a rich young businessman enters.

NATASHA, a young prostitute, watches him.

 

Throughout the scene, WILL acts as if interacting with NATASHA – lowering trousers, simulating sex.

NATASHA stays to the edge of the room, watching this scene.

WILL does not hear her.

 

NATASHA

You bring me coal instead of diamonds.

More use in it, you say.

When you say anything, which is rare, even though I’m your favorite.

You’re uncomfortable around words

Carry the North around London with you

Like coal smudged on your finger.

It’s a kindness between us

a gift

this thing that I won’t wear

because who’ll be looking at me in the light of day

this thing that I can keep

treasure to warm myself.

 

NATASHA picks up the lump of coal.

WILL thrusts back and forward at the side of the bed, mechanically.

 

A joke between us

a tenderness

an anchor

nothing weighed more heavily

than a gift.

 

What you don’t know

can’t know

the things inside my head:

the feelings that pulse when I hold this rock

all the layers of history

condensed into this small form

the plants that towered to the clouds

the creatures that shook the ground with their roars

mouths that would gape open

at the thought of you owning them

branches that would shake off

any notion of possession.

 

There is some comfort in this coal

the knowledge that forms shift

that once great things can fall

that nothing can really be owned in the end

no matter how you treat it.

 

WILL finishes, composes himself, puts a lump of coal on the table, an awkward, haphazard gesture, exits.

NATASHA looks at the lump of coal in her hand.

PLAY #173: DISPOSE AND CONTINUE (MAY 30)

London, 1991.

A sleek apartment.

WILL, a young executive, hands NATASHA, a young prostitute, a lump of coal.

NATASHA is dressed in a Margaret Thatcher costume.

 

NATASHA

You want me to eat it?

 

WILL

Don’t talk. You’re ruining it. But yes. I want you to eat it.

 

NATASHA sucks on the lump of coal, an elaborate performance.

 

WILL

Spit it out. Stomp on it. Like you’re crushing the unions. Like you’re in charge of the world.

 

NATASHA does so.

 

NATASHA

Like that?

 

WILL

Yes. Don’t talk.

 

 

NATASHA

I can try her voice if you want. If I practice.

 

WILL

No.

 

NATASHA

Anything you think she’d say to you?

 

WILL

We are on good terms, I don’t need you to pretend for me.

 

NATASHA

Next time, then.

 

WILL

There won’t be a next time.

 

NATASHA

There’s other girls who’ll do this for you?

 

WILL

There’s always other girls when you’ve got enough money. Now stop talking.

 

NATASHA stays still.

WILL watches her, hands another lump of coal.

NATASHA puts it in her mouth and starts to suck.

PLAY #172: LET THE SUN SHINE IN (MAY 29)

USA, 2011.

A factory floor, filled with discarded solar panels.

The effect is startling – as if the sun fell down and shattered into lots of shiny pieces.

 

NATASHA, a young executive, lies on one of the panels.

WILL, a young prostitute, gets dressed beside her.

NATASHA lights a cigarette, examines the empty factory.

 

WILL

Thought you weren’t allowed to smoke in here.

 

NATASHA

You’re not. But given the circumstances…

 

WILL

Fuck it?

 

NATASHA

Yes.

 

WILL takes a cigarette and lights up.

 

NATASHA

Not a bad motto. I should have had it inscribed on the entrance.

 

WILL

Fuck everything!

 

NATASHA

Yes. More than a motto for you, I suppose.

 

WILL

One thing you can count on: the need for a fast fuck.

 

NATASHA

Yes.

(beat.)

I thought the sun was something you could count on too.

 

WILL

You thought there’d be some sort of nice gentle sunset to ease out?

 

NATASHA

Something like that. At least not an eclipse: a business here one day, gone the next.

 

WILL

Sun can be pretty brutal.

 

NATASHA

Maybe I should have invested in sunblock instead.

 

WILL

Or sunglasses that serve as solar panels. What the renewable industry needs is more style.

 

NATASHA

Perhaps you’d be available to model.

 

WILL takes out a pair of sunglasses from NATASHA’s bag, puts them on.

 

WILL

You know me, if the price is right…

 

NATASHA

It’s all alright.

(beat.)

That’s what the renewable industry really needs.

 

WILL

More sex appeal?

 

NATASHA

More money.

 

WILL

The fifty hundred million or so wasn’t enough?

 

NATASHA

Not when we’re talking about changing the world.

 

WILL

Not when China can whip up the same panels for a fraction of the cost. Not when trade agreements are crippling the industry.

 

NATASHA

What do you know about that?

 

WILL

I read. Getting to know about economics.

 

NATASHA

You’ve certainly figured out your pricing.

 

WILL

You’re not complaining?

 

NATASHA

No. I’ll miss…

 

WILL

This.

 

NATASHA

Yes.

 

WILL

You’ll be okay. A woman like you, you don’t…

 

NATASHA

Need to pay? I want to. All the fun with none of the fuss. I wish I hadn’t used up all my credit.

 

WILL

You’ll be okay.

 

NATASHA

You’re offering?

 

WILL stubs out cigarette, hands back the sunglasses.

 

WILL

Call me when you’ve bounced back. I’m sure there’s a wind turbine waiting to be turned around by you.

 

NATASHA

Sure.

 

WILL starts to put on his shirt.

 

NATASHA

Wait. There’s something I want you to do.

 

WILL

You know I-

 

NATASHA

It won’t take long. One last thing.

 

WILL

Okay.

 

NATASHA

Stand by the window.

 

WILL moves over to a large window.

 

NATASHA

Right in the light. Yes. There.

 

WILL stands awkwardly in the sunlight, strikes a few poses, stops.

NATASHA looks at him avidly, drinking him up.

 

WILL

This is what you want me to do?

 

NATASHA

Yes.

 

WILL

You don’t want to stand in the sun?

 

NATASHA

I’m getting all my energy from you. All part of the ecosystem: sun to humans to other humans, tiny amounts of solar energy renewing everything.

 

WILL

Have you been drinking?

 

NATASHA

Not enough.

 

Pause.

NATASHA watches WILL in the sun.

WILL starts to feel uncomfortable.

 

WILL

You had your vision? All charged up?

 

NATASHA

Yes.

 

WILL leaves the window, puts on his shirt.

He waits, about to say something.

 

NATASHA

No need. The sun doesn’t believe in sayonaras, why should we?

 

WILL

Every sunset is a sunrise somewhere else.

 

NATASHA

Ha. You should be a writer. That’s where the money is.

 

WILL

Greeting card slogans?

 

NATASHA

Bullshit.

 

WILL

Best renewable resource there is.

 

Pause.

WILL makes a small gesture, something like a goodbye, stops himself, leaves.

 

NATASHA walks over to the window, looks out at the sun.

PLAY #171: THE TERRIBLE LONELINESS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI (MAY 28)

New York, the future.

NATASHA, a young executive, stands on two enormous stilts that are designed to look like high heels.

Water laps at the bottom of them, over a foot deep.

WILL, a young prostitute, clings onto NATASHA’s stilts, licks her toes.

 

WILL

The other?

 

NATASHA

Oh yes.

 

WILL moves to the other stilt, an act of custom.

 

NATASHA

Don’t come too far.

 

WILL

I know.

 

NATASHA

I could have you shot.

 

WILL

Yes.

 

NATASHA

Go on then.

 

WILL licks NATASHA’s toes.

 

WILL

You want…

 

NATASHA

Not yet.

 

WILL

Okay.

 

NATASHA

I could have you skewered with these too, you know?

 

WILL

I heard.

 

NATASHA

They’re the latest stiltettos.

 

WILL

A lot of folks would kill for them.

 

NATASHA

But they wouldn’t have a clue how to wear them. Takes work to wear heels, you know?

 

WILL

I don’t, actually.

 

NATASHA

You know who invented heels?

 

WILL

Who?

 

NATASHA

Catherine de Medici.

 

WILL

Who?

 

NATASHA

She was a French Queen in the 16th Century. Brilliant, but short. She invented heels so she could tower over everybody else. So people would respect her.

 

WILL

Didn’t think queens needed to be tall.

 

NATASHA

Then you’ve never been a short queen.

 

WILL

I guess there’s no end to the things rich people will worry about.

 

NATASHA

I think she’s a hero. She was the most powerful person in 16th century Europe. Knew all sorts of things about poisons.

 

WILL

Did she kill people with her heels too?

 

NATASHA

Probably. No. Too obvious. She was too classy for that, no knives hidden in heels for her. She was terribly misunderstood, you know, a woman with that kind of power. She did what she had to do to survive.

 

WILL

Story of the world.

 

Pause.

 

NATASHA

There’s something I want you to do.

 

WILL

Okay.

 

WILL starts to climb up the stilt, towards NATASHA’s crotch.

 

NATASHA

No. Not yet. Not now at least.

 

WILL

Your money.

 

NATASHA

Exactly. I want you to go into the water.

 

WILL

Okay.

 

WILL climbs down to the water: it is almost up to his waist.

 

NATASHA

What’s it like?

 

WILL shrugs.

 

NATASHA

Cold?

 

WILL

Sure.

 

NATASHA

I want you to tell the truth. Not what I want to hear.

 

WILL

Do you want it to be cold?

 

NATASHA

Is it?

 

WILL

Sure.

 

NATASHA

Dirty. It’s dirty, isn’t it?

 

WILL

I guess.

 

NATASHA

Not supposed to be in it.

 

WILL

Not much choice for most.

 

NATASHA

Scary?

 

WILL

It’s water. How it’s been since-

 

NATASHA

Right. I want you to sit down.

 

WILL

My-

 

NATASHA

Don’t worry about your clothes. There’ll be extra credit for this.

 

WILL sits down.

 

NATASHA

Put your head under.

 

WILL hesitates.

 

NATASHA

You can swim, can’t you?

 

WILL

Course.

 

NATASHA

Then…

 

WILL puts his head under, comes back up.

 

NATASHA

I want you to pretend to drown.

 

WILL splashes about a bit.

 

NATASHA

Like you really mean it. Use your imagination. Or your history. Haven’t you ever felt the terror of the sea crashing through your door? Haven’t you stood on a table and waited as water rose higher and higher until it’s cupping your chin?

 

WILL thrashes about harder, puts his head under, comes up.

 

NATASHA

Good. Now cling to my stilts. Beg and weep. Promise to sell your own mother for a job at my factory. Tell me how desperate you are. Tell me what it’s like outside of here: fights outside the walls, sun burning your skin, shit piled upon shit. Tell me how much you need me. Tell me what you’d give up to work for me.

 

WILL stands still, thinks for too long.

 

NATASHA

It’s okay. I’m not in the mood now. Just go.

 

WILL

I can-

 

NATASHA

Go.

 

WILL

I can come back up if you like. Do the toes again. My tongue’s all dirty now-

 

NATASHA

Leave!

 

WILL shrugs, wades off.

NATASHA is alone on her stilts, water lapping around her.

 

 

 

PLAY #170: SPILT (MAY 27)

Pithole, USA.

1859, the moment after all the oil has dried up.

 

WILL, a young oil executive, sits in a deserted bar.

NATASHA, a young prostitute, sits beside them.

Tables and chairs on the floor, the general appearance of disarray.

 

WILL goes behind the bar, checks for alcohol: nothing.

 

WILL

Gone.

 

NATASHA

Just like that.

 

WILL

Didn’t think it possible.

 

NATASHA

Believe it.

 

WILL

So much there and then…

 

NATASHA

No point crying over it.

 

WILL

No.

 

NATASHA

It’s the way of fluids. They’re not made for staying put. And best not to hold onto them either: gives a bad taste.

 

WILL

You’d know.

 

NATASHA

Truth.

 

Pause.

 

WILL

What’ll you do now?

 

NATASHA

Find the next town to tap into. You know what they say: where there’s oil…

 

WILL

There’s a lot of lonely men looking for some loving.

 

NATASHA

Where there’s oil there’s money.

 

WILL

Until it’s gone.

 

NATASHA

Truth.

 

Pause.

 

WILL

What kept you here?

 

NATASHA

You want me to say ‘you’?

 

WILL

If it’s the truth.

 

NATASHA

Depends on how much you got.

 

WILL

Ha. I’m tapped out, baby.

 

NATASHA

Then I’m out, baby.

 

WILL

Figures.

 

WILL looks down at his empty drink.

 

WILL

Funny how it works out. Thought this town would be the life of me. The place to throw ball to a young one. Nice house. Seat on some important committees.

 

NATASHA

Maybe a statue in a few years?

 

WILL

Something simple. Nothing too ostentatious.

 

NATASHA

Plaque on a bench or two. School named after you.

 

WILL

Preach, baby, preach.

 

Pause.

WILL looks at his drink.

 

WILL

Funny. To imagine this place a month ago. This time.

 

NATASHA

Packed.

 

WILL

The smell of the oil.

 

NATASHA

Smell of the men.

 

WILL

Money, liqour, laughs…a flow to it all…

 

Pause.

 

NATASHA

You want some advice?

 

WILL

Depends on what you’re charging.

 

NATASHA

Free.

 

WILL

Sounds like the kind I can’t avoid anyway.

 

NATASHA

Dreams are the worst kind of fuel. They’ll take you far, power you halfway across this fine country, but then they evaporate when you least expect it. You can’t be relying on them.

 

WILL

Think I preferred it when we didn’t talk.

 

NATASHA

Wish’ll come true soon.

 

WILL

Truth.

 

Pause.

 

NATASHA

I’ll be off so.

 

WILL

So.

 

NATASHA doesn’t leave though, stays sitting at the bar with WILL, the sun setting behind them.

PLAY #169: NEAT (MAY 26)

NYC, October 2012: night of Superstorm Sandy.

A sleek downtown apartment.

The power is out: a lone candle flickers.

 

NATASHA, a young prostitute, stands looking out the window.

WILL, a young executive, enters with two drinks, agitated.

Different people from plays 168 +167, but perhaps the same actors.

 

WILL

The ice is gone.

 

NATASHA

I like it neat.

 

WILL

Three trays and not a single ice-cube now.

 

NATASHA

Don’t you have a reserve? Or something fancier than an ice-tray?

 

WILL

I should have filled the bath.

 

NATASHA

You don’t have a bath.

 

WILL

Or bought a bath. Or a bucket. Or paid Gloria to stay over.

 

NATASHA

Regretting your choice?

 

WILL

No. Gloria smells. I’d hate to be stuck here with her.

 

NATASHA

At least she’d know where more candles are.

 

WILL

It’s part of the ambiance.

 

NATASHA laughs, not entirely kind.

 

NATASHA lights a cigarette from the candle and flops onto a chair.

WILL looks perturbed about the smoke.

NATASHA ignores this.

 

NATASHA

Prices skyrocket during natural disasters, you know.

 

WILL

You don’t have to worry about that.

 

NATASHA

I’m not.

 

Pause.

NATASHA smokes.

WILL looks out the window at the storm.

 

WILL

I’ll have a car come in the morning. Once everythings…

 

NATASHA

What?

 

WILL

I don’t know…safe.

 

NATASHA

You’re scared?

 

WILL

No.

 

NATASHA

Worried?

 

WILL

No. But you see her: Sandy’s not Irene. She’s not playing around.

 

NATASHA

Not taking any prisoners.

 

WILL

No.

 

NATASHA

Then you’ll let me go.

 

WILL

Of course, yes, I mean, you can go now if you-

 

NATASHA

Relax. I’m just playing with you, I’m not going anywhere in this.

 

WILL

No.

 

They look out the window.

WILL looks at his glass.

 

WILL

I wish there was ice.

 

NATASHA

It’ll come back.

 

WILL

What if it doesn’t?

 

NATASHA

Nothing can break this city.

 

WILL

What if it’s melting in sympathy?

 

NATASHA

Or at least this part of the city.

 

WILL

Disappearing in solidarity with its Antarctic cousins. What if there’s no more ice again?

 

NATASHA

I think you did too much earlier.

 

WILL

I don’t think I did enough.

 

NATASHA

You have all of tomorrow to sleep it off.

 

WILL

The market won’t stop, even if the subway does. You can sleep in though. If you want.

 

NATASHA

No. Nothing turns people on like near-disaster. It’ll be a busy day.

 

WILL looks down at his drink.

 

WILL

There isn’t even water. That would make sense, with the power out. There should be the remnants of ice somewhere. But it just disappeared. Don’t you think that’s strange?

 

NATASHA

You think too much. And you talk too much. I’m not sure which is worse.

 

WILL

Aren’t you supposed to be nice to me?

 

NATASHA

That you can’t afford.

 

WILL laughs, not entirely kind.

WILL sits down.

 

WILL

You’re not scared at all. I admire that.

 

NATASHA

What are you scared about? That the city won’t be able to continue? This place is invincible.

 

WILL

Yes.

(beat.)

That’s what I’m scared of. That a storm can rip through the city. And still things will continue on.

(beat.)

You know?

 

NATASHA is about to say that she doesn’t, but she swallows her words.

Pause.

 

NATASHA

Yes. I do.

 

WILL stands.

 

WILL

Another?

 

NATASHA

Just bring the bottle.

 

WILL exits.

NATASHA watches the storm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLAY #168: THE LAST ROAR (MAY 25)

New York: later in the 21st century.

A rich executive, WILL, and a high-end prostitute, NATASHA.

WILL lounges on a leather chair.

NATASHA is on all fours, growling.

WILL is bored.

 

WILL

Tiger.

 

NATASHA stays on all fours, changes to become a tiger.

She moves over to WILL, places a paw on his leg.

 

WILL

What are you going to do, eat me?

 

NATASHA laughs/roars, moves a hand onto either leg, moves her head toward WILL’s crotch, starts to undo his belt.

WILL stands, bored.

NATASHA reacts as a tiger.

 

WILL

Stop. Show me a deer. A deer who’s just seen my gun, right before I’m about to shoot it.

(NATASHA readjusts herself)

No, more scared. Like you know what’s about to happen. My Dad used to take me hunting, back when there were things to hunt, you know?

(NATASHA readjusts herself. WILL holds out his hands as a gun.)

Terrified. Like you know what’s going to happen. Not just your imminent death, but everything else, the fact that your forest is about to die, that your children will be homeless, that soon you won’t even be a memory, this knowledge, this premonition flashes between us.

 

WILL steps away, unsatisfied, moves towards his jacket and pulls out a real gun.

WILL points the gun at NATASHA.

NATASHA is momentarily startled as a deer, stands.

 

NATASHA

What are you doing?

 

WILL

Get back down.

 

NATASHA

I’m leaving.

 

WILL

Get back down. You had it. That was perfect.

 

NATASHA

You’re a fucking psycho.

 

WILL

No, that was it. I’ll pay you double.

 

NATASHA

You’re pathetic.

 

WILL

Triple.

 

NATASHA empties WILL’s wallet.

 

NATASHA

Damn fucking right you will.

 

WILL

Come on, it’s not even loaded. I just wanted it to be real.

 

NATASHA

You want to see real?

 

NATASHA jumps on top of WILL as a tiger, shoving him to the ground, pawing and scratching and kicking.

She stands, takes the money, moves towards the door.

WILL sits up, dazed, bloody.

 

WILL

Wait, how much would it cost for you to do that again?

 

NATASHA exits.