Inconspicuous

A short play by Jacob Appel

Characters: JILL – a love-struck young woman (20s)
ADELINE – Jill’s best friend, a medical student (20s)
DR. SUCRAM – a physician (50s-60s)
MRS. SUCRAM – a homemaker (50s-60s)Setting:

Present day. A makeshift theater in a church basement in New York City. At stage center, two pairs of folding chairs stand perpendicular to the audience. The front two seats are reserved for Dr. and Mrs. Sucram. At opening, a paper sign may indicate that these seats are reserved. Jill and Adeline will sit in the second row of seats. The actual performance would occur in one of the wings, well beyond the view of the audience.

(Curtain rises: Adeline enters, Jill follows, carrying programs for the evening’s play. They seat themselves in the second row of chairs and Adeline leafs through her program.)

ADELINE

What did you say his name was?

JILL

I’ll tell you later.

ADELINE

Here he is. Lawrence. Lawrence Sucram.

JILL

Keep your voice down.

ADELINE

What is wrong with you?

JILL

Please, Adeline. I want to be inconspicuous.

ADELINE

Nobody’s listening to us. There’s hardly anybody here. And even if people were listening to us, all I did was say the name of an actor in the play. We’re in a theater—there’s nothing so unusual about that.

JILL

It’s how you said it….Can we talk about something else?

ADELINE

I don’t see why you couldn’t just ask him out for coffee of something. Like a normal human being.

JILL

Because I don’t know him….And besides, he’s an actor.

ADELINE

What’s that supposed to mean?

JILL

I don’t know. You can’t just ask out an actor…

ADELINE

It’s not like the guy is Marlon Brando….

(Adeline looks over her shoulder.)

You do realize there are only fourteen people here. And that lady on the aisle looks drunk. I think she’s carrying a flask in her purse….

JILL

I knew I should have come alone.

ADELINE

This isn’t even a theater….It’s a church basement.

JILL

Can you please keep your voice down?

ADELINE
(Lowering her voice.)

Okay. I just don’t understand what we’re doing here.

JILL

We’re watching a play.

ADELINE

A musical.

JILL

Why do you have to say it like that?

ADELINE

I don’t know what you mean.

JILL

You know exactly what I mean. You’re insinuating that he’s gay.

ADELINE

Well he is starring in a musical.

JILL

He’s straight.

ADELINE

How do you know? You’ve never even met him.

JILL

I’ve practically met him. I’ve seen him on stage.

ADELINE

Two months ago. In a ten minute play at some “Fling” festival.

JILL

Fringe festival.

ADELINE

You see a guy once for ten minutes and then you spend two months researching his life on the Internet. Most people would say that’s more like stalking him than knowing him.

JILL

I was scouting. Stalking sounds creepy. In any case, the bottom line is that his Facebook page says he likes women.

ADELINE

His Facebook page also says he has a pet rabbit and he’s learning to play the ukulele.

JILL

I think that’s so sexy.

ADELINE

Straight men aren’t into musical theatre and bunny rabbits and ukuleles….Jesus, Jill. What planet do you live on?

JILL

Can you stop being so negative? He’s straight, and he’s handsome, and he has the most amazing stage presence I’ve ever seen.

ADELINE

I’d be more than happy to fix you up with one of my friends from medical school.

JILL

No offense, but I’d rather die alone that date a doctor.

ADELINE

What’s wrong with doctors?

JILL

There’s nothing wrong with them. There’s just nothing right with them. They’re perfectly respectable….I want awesome.

ADELINE

As your best friend, I’m telling you that you’ll be much happier with perfectly respectable. Perfectly respectable doesn’t mooch off your parents or sleep with his co-stars….Perfectly respectable can support you in the lifestyle that you’re accustomed to while you illustrate those children’s books of yours….

JILL

I’m going to marry Lawrence. It’s already been decided.

ADELINE

Now you’re marrying the guy?

(Dr. and Mrs. Sucram enter behind Adeline and Jill. Adeline has a revelation.)

Say, how common a name do you think Sucram is…? One of my anatomy professors is named—

(Dr. and Mrs. Sucram walk to their seats. Adeline
recognizes Dr. Sucram. He is too busy fiddling with his
wrist watch to notice her.)

—Dr. Sucram!

(Dr. Sucram does not recognize Adeline.)

Adeline Sanditz. I’m in your advanced human anatomy lab.

DR. SUCRAM

So nice to see you here, Adelaide.

MRS. SUCRAM
(In a voice that could tarnish brass)

Her name’s Adeline, Chester. Not Adelaide. Adelaide is that city we stayed at in Australia….

(To Adeline)

You’ll have to forgive my husband. He doesn’t hear too well…

DR. SUCRAM

I hear fine. People just need to speak clearly….

MRS. SUCRAM
(To her husband)

And stop chewing on your watch.

DR. SUCRAM

I’m not chewing on my watch. I’m trying to fix the band.

(To Adeline and Jill)

My watchband broke.

MRS. SUCRAM

Well, stop before you choke to death.

(To Adeline and Jill)

I had an uncle who choked to death at this own wedding. On a chicken bone….So how did you two hear about “Clones on Lithium”?

(A long, awkward pause.)

ADELINE

We have a friend—

JILL
(Interrupting)

—Who saw it and recommended it.

MRS. SUCRAM

Our son is the star.

JILL

Is he really?

MRS. SUCRAM

It’s only his second play ever—and already he’s the star. He’s so gifted. Chester wanted him to go straight to medical school from Yale, but I said: What’s the rush? Let him see if he has talent. And it appears that he does.

DR. SUCRAM

He’s been going to tryouts for three straight years.

MRS. SUCRAM

Auditions, dear. Athletes try out. Actors audition.

(To Adeline and Jill)

Our Lawrence has an amazing stage presence.

DR. SUCRAM
(Still using his teeth to repair his watchband)

They don’t want to hear about Lawrence.

JILL

We don’t mind…honestly…

DR. SUCRAM

What Lawrence needs is a profession. If he wants to act on the side, that’s fine by me. But a young man his age ought to be thinking about settling down.

(To Jill and Adeline)

Who would you young ladies rather marry? A physician? Or an actor who appears in a musical production about a bipolar clone?

MRS. SUCRAM

Do you have to say “musical production” like it’s some kind of disease?

DR. SUCRAM

I’m just calling it what it is….

MRS. SUCRAM
(To Jill and Adeline)

Chester’s secretly afraid that our Lawrence is gay.

JILL

But he’s not, is he?

MRS. SUCRAM

We don’t think so….Of course, you can never know for sure. There’s a woman in my bridge club—she’s nearly seventy, two kids, six grandchildren, happily married for forty-four years—or she thought she was happily married—and one day her husband came home and announced he wanted to have a sex change operation. He was going to be Georgina from now on….But he wanted them to stay married. Imagine finding out at sixty-eight that your husband is a lesbian.

DR. SUCRAM

Please, Carol. They don’t care….You’re embarrassing us.

MRS. SUCRAM

So our son is learning the ukulele. Plenty of straight guys play the ukulele, and wear kilts, and star in musicals….

ADELINE

And I wouldn’t worry about the bunny rabbit either. My sister’s college boyfriend kept rabbits and he was straight as an arrow.

MRS. SUCRAM

How did you know about Lawrence’s rabbits?

(Jill flashes Adeline a deadly look. Suddenly, the lights go
down and, if possible, music announces the beginning of “Clones on Lithium.”)

DR. SUCRAM

Shhh….It’s starting.

(Mrs. Sucram turns to face the play. Jill and Adeline
briefly pantomime an argument with their faces and
possibly their hands. Dr. Sucram continues fixing his
watch with his teeth. Suddenly, he clutches his throat and
emits a sound of muffled desperation.)

MRS. SUCRAM

Chester? Chester! Oh my God! He’s choking….!

(Adeline jumps from her seat, clutches Dr. Sucram around
the waist, and performs the Heimlich maneuver
successfully This causes a scene; the music stops—the
performance has been disrupted.)

ADELINE

Are you okay?

DR. SUCRAM
(He nods and catches his breath. Mrs. Sulcram kneels
beside him on the floor and tends to him.)

I will be….

JILL
(To Adeline, on the verge of tears)

I hate you.

ADELINE

What was I supposed to do? Let him choke to death?

JILL
(Unnerved and desperate)

All you had to do was be inconspicuous. Was that really so much to ask for?

MRS. SUCRAM
(To her husband)

I told you not to chew on that. How many times did I tell you…? How many times…?

ADELINE

A kilt? You really want to marry a guy who wears a kilt?

JILL
(Shouting)

Goddamit. What part of inconspicuous don’t you understand?!

End of Play


 

Inconspicuous_Appel_Photo_lgeJacob M. Appel has published over two hundred short stories in literary journals, most recently in New Orleans Review, Subtropics, and Gettysburg Review. His collection of stories, Scouting for the Reaper, won the 2012 Hudson Prize and will be published by Black Lawrence Press next year. Jacob teaches creative writing at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop and practices medicine in New York City.
Find out more at: www.jacobmappel.com.

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