When Life Hands You Lemons


CHARACTERS (in order of appearance)
Bebler Knopf - about 25; quick-witted but almost detached from reality
Christy Cringle - also about 25; old college friend of Bebler and Elbert; smiles a lot
Door - a nice-looking white wooden door
Bob - also about 25, maybe a little older; Bebler's next door neighbor; eager sort
a dog - Bob's dog; I would suggest a Bassett hound
Elbert Ludlum - 25ish; another old college friend
Mr. Shomacher - white-haired (and bearded) aged landlord; imposing schoolmaster type
Rhapsody Yang - 25ish; smart, sort of shy girl
Sonatina Yang - around 16; Rhapsody's younger sister


(Scene I. Bebler is reading Hamlet on couch in average apartment. A tall, noticeable candle burns on his end table. Doorbell rings. He opens door to reveal Christy)

BEBLER: Christy! Come in, come in, come in.
CHRISTY: Is he here?
BEBLER: Not yet. (dramatically) He should be here within the hour. Have a seat, have a seat. Can I get you anything to drink? Perhaps a Pepsi?
CHRISTY: Water is fine, thanks.
BEBLER: You would drink mere water when you could have one of Howard's Grocery Store's finest bottles of carbonated corn syrup?
BEBLER: You have chosen wisely.
CHRISTY: Just go get the water.
BEBLER: I am even now on my way.
(Bebler exits to kitchen. While he is away, Christy picks up Hamlet and looks through it. Bebler returns with a glass of water complete with lemon and straw.)
BEBLER: Here you are.
CHRISTY: (laughs in shock at lemon and straw) What is this?
BEBLER: A glass of water. You requested it yourself.
CHRISTY: I MEAN this! (jiggles lemon and straw)
BEBLER: (shrugs and looks around the room)
CHRISTY: (laughs) So, Elby's getting here when?
BEBLER: (looks at clock) Anytime now.
CHRISTY: Have you thought about a plan?
BEBLER: You're the master, this is completely your territory. Making drinks I can handle, setting people up,-
DOOR: knock! knock! knock!
BEBLER: Ah, that's probably him now.
(he crosses to the door and opens it, revealing the front half of a dog and the hands of its owner holding its leash)
BEBLER: Bob! Please not now!
BOB: He's on his way up the stairs! You have to!
BEBLER: Can't you hide her somewhere?
BOB: There isn't time! Here! (hands leash to Bebler; sound of Bob running back to his room; Bebler shuts door and looks down at dog)
CHRISTY: (shocked) Bebler!
CHRISTY: You're not going to set Elby up with a DOG! (beat) I mean, you've done some pretty-
BEBLER: (suddenly laughs) Noooo, this- this is Bob's dog.
CHRISTY: Your neighbor.
BEBLER: Yes. He just-
CHRISTY: I thought you weren't allowed to-
BEBLER: Right. He lends her to me for the times when Mr. Shomacher comes to inspect his room, so, ideally, old Mr. Sho will never suspect he has a dog.
CHRISTY: Uh-huh. (accent "huh")
DOOR: knock! knock!
BEBLER: Uh oh. If that's him, we're in big trouble. Here, take the dog and go hide him somewhere.
CHRISTY: I can't!
BEBLER: She's a nice dog, dont worry! Here, take her into my ro-
CHRISTY: I'm allergic to dogs.
BEBLER: Great. Ok. (puts hand to head, trying to think)
CHRISTY: I'll just answer the door and say you were, uh...
BEBLER: What, showering?! "Still in the bedroom"?! "Getting dressed"?!
CHRISTY: How about "in the restroom"?
BEBLER: Oh. Yeah (snaps fingers), do that. I'll go hide.
(exit Bebler, dragging dog. Christy rolls her eyes, then casually opens the door)
ELBERT: Whoa, Christy, what are you doing here?
CHRISTY: (loudly; overenunciated for Bebler's benefit) Oh, hel-lo, El-bert. Come on in.
ELBERT: (as he is heading to couch) What's going on? Where's Bebler?
(Bebler enters with dog)
BEBLER: Elby! (looks at Christy; she gives him a smug look)
ELBERT: What's she doing here?
BEBLER: She's here to help.
ELBERT: Aw, Bebler, come on, I don't need every-
BEBLER: She's the best there is, Elby.
ELBERT: (confidentially) So she already knows...?
BEBLER: Well, ..Not everything. Just trust me on this one. If anyone can come up with something guaranteed to succeed, it's Christy Cringle.
ELBERT: Your last name is Kringle? Like Kris Kring-
CHRISTY: (with rolled eyes) Yes, JUST LIKE Kris Kringle. Except with a C.
ELBERT: Isn't Kringle spelled with a C anyway?
BEBLER: No, it's-
CHRISTY: Kris Kringle is Kris -- k-r-i-s -- Kringle -- K-r-i-n-g-l-e.
ELBERT: And yours is with a C.
ELBERT: (geniunely impressed) Wow, that's really cool. Christy Cringle.
BEBLER: Anyways,-
CHRISTY: It was even cooler back when we lived off 34th Street.
BEBLER: Are you serious?
CHRISTY: I sure am.
BEBLER: (briefly laughs at Elbert) I never knew that.
CHRISTY: We moved when I was 12.
BEBLER: Anyways, Doctor Cringle, the patient.
CHRISTY: Right. Okay, Elby, what can I do for ya?
ELBERT: (to Bebler) How much does she know?
(Bebler directs his attention to Christy with a cheesy gesture)
CHRISTY: All I know is, there's this girl, you like her, but she doesn't know you exist, and you wanna do something about it.
ELBERT: I think maybe I do.
BEBLER: Come on, you know you do.
ELBERT: Maybe. She IS really great... probably too great for me.
CHRISTY: Don't be ridiculous, Elby. No one is "too great" for anyone. Look, I can help you out or I can not help you out. It's your decision.
CHRISTY: Let me put things into perspective for you. Situation A: you do nothing. She continues to not know you exist, and you continue to like her. Situation B: you do something. She discovers you exist, and then you find out whether or not she likes you back.
BEBLER: And Situation C: You move to Holland, marry a charming Dutch girl, have charming children, and spend the rest of your life tiptoeing through the tulips in your wooden shoes.
ELBERT: Um... (thinks a bit) Is there a situation D?
(Bebler is definitely about to say something)
CHRISTY: No. (gives Bebler a dirty look)
ELBERT: Oh, I don't know, guys.
CHRISTY: What would you have to lose?
ELBERT: (thinks a bit) My reputation.
BEBLER: If I had the reputation of a guy who never hits it off with girls, I'd lose it first chance I got.
CHRISTY: (strictly) Bebler, be nice.
ELBERT: I MEAN, there's something sort of honorable about being in control of everything that goes on in my life. Asking a girl out is like placing your future in someone else's hands.
CHRISTY: So you're afraid to lose control.
ELBERT: I guess.
BEBLER: Oh, can I get you anything to drink? Perhaps one of Howard's Grocery Store's /finest
ELBERT: finest bottles of carbonated corn syrup, yeah, sounds fine.
BEBLER: Coming right up.
(Bebler hands the leash to Elbert and leaves)
CHRISTY: So what's her name?
ELBERT: Rhapsody.
CHRISTY: How well do you know her?
ELBERT: We did a few reports together. She's so incredibly smart.
(sound of Bebler singing "Rhapsody in Blue" from kitchen)
CHRISTY: Just ignore him.
CHRISTY: Never mind.
ELBERT: What's he doing?
CHRISTY: Nothing. Ok, when do you see her?
ELBERT: I want to know why you said to ignore him.
CHRISTY: Because he's worth ignoring? I don't know. Now, when do you see Rhapsody?
ELBERT: 24-7. She's even in my dreams.
CHRISTY: (laughs and rolls her eyes) How sweet.
(Bebler steps in)
BEBLER: Pardon the interruption, but would you like a slice of lemon with your drink, sir?
ELBERT: Uh, sure.
BEBLER: One moment.
(he exits)
ELBERT: He's crazy.
CHRISTY: Maybe he is but mad north-northwest.
ELBERT: Huh? (Christy picks up the copy of Hamlet and shows him) Hamlet. We read that in high school.
(Bebler enters with glass of Pepsi, he sees Christy hastily put down Hamlet)
BEBLER: Here you are.
(Bebler trades glass for leash)
ELBERT: Thanks.
CHRISTY: That's Pepsi.
BEBLER: You're quite right, it is.
CHRISTY: I thought y-
BEBLER: Your powers of observation never cease to astound me.
CHRISTY: I thought he asked for carbonated corn syrup.
BEBLER: Ah, but you're a quick one. Indeed-
ELBERT: That's one of his little jokes. Pepsi basically IS carbonated corn syrup.
BEBLER: So! What did I miss?
ELBERT: Nothing.
CHRISTY: Nothing important.
BEBLER: Well, carry on.
CHRISTY: So, when do you see her with your physical eyes?
ELBERT: Just at work every now and then. And she sits with a couple older ladies during lunch.
CHRISTY: Well, there you go. Just go sit with her, and let the friendship blossom from there.
ELBERT: That's so practical. Don't you have anything more romantic?
CHRISTY: All you guys are so ridiculously romantic. Let me just tell you, very few girls are ever swept off their feet these days.
ELBERT: Why not?
BEBLER: Girls these days are heavier. (Elbert laughs) Much more solid.
CHRISTY: Bebler, please. Ok Elby, if you want something more romantic, try this: ask Rhapsody to go with you somewhere for lunch.
ELBERT: How would I ask?
BEBLER: Say "Hi Rhapsody. I'm Elbert. You're pretty. Would you like to come eat lunch with me at Taco Bell?"
(Elbert glares at Bebler)
CHRISTY: Actually he's mostly right. Except skip the "You're pretty" part. And the "Taco Bell" part.
BEBLER: Aww, those were the two best parts.
CHRISTY: They're not Elby.
BEBLER: Neither is anything you would suggest. Only Elby is Elby.
ELBERT: So it's hopeless.
CHRISTY: No it's not.
ELBERT: I'm not funny or smart or anything.
BEBLER: In that case, I would suggest you simply write down your non-funny, non-smart question on a notecard, walk up to her, clear your throat, pull out your card and read it to her. That would be funny.
CHRISTY: Here, I've got an idea. Let's practice. I'll sit on the couch and be Rhapsody. Bebler /will
BEBLER (overlap): Rhapsody Yang.
CHRISTY: sit next to me and be one of the older ladies. Then you walk up and ask me.
BEBLER: She knows what she's doing, man.
(Elbert gets up and stands to the side, Bebler and Christy position themselves on the couch)
BEBLER: What would an older lady talk about? I have no idea how to get in character.
CHRISTY: Shut up. Alright, Elby, whenever you're ready.
BEBLER: (in a high-pitched voice) So, I was embroidering a picture of a cat the other day, when my son-in-law came over and asked if he could mow my lawn for me. So he mowed my lawn, and then he came back in and asked me to pay him! I said "why should I pay you?" and he said "because I just mo-
CHRISTY: (trying not to smile) Okay, please.
ELBERT: They don't really talk much. They're too busy eating.
CHRISTY: Go ahead.
(Elbert walks up to Christy)
ELBERT: Hi Christy. I'm -- oops.
CHRISTY: Christy? I'm not Christy, I'm Rhapsody.
ELBERT: I know, I just forgot.
CHRISTY: Forgot? Forgot what?
ELBERT: That you are pretending to be Rhapsody.
CHRISTY: (sighs) Ok, time to break out of character.
BEBLER: (high-pitched) He's such a nice boy. Why don't you go to lunch with him?
CHRISTY: You too. (to Elbert) I thought you were trying some clever pickup line or something.
ELBERT: No, I just forgot.
BEBLER: Try this: walk by her and pretend you accidentally dropped a nickel. Then, while she's /looking
CHRISTY (overlap): (to Elbert) Try again.
BEBLER: for the nickel, you could drug her with some sort of love potion.
(they ignore him; Elbert approaches them again)
ELBERT: Hi Rhapsody. I'm Elbert.
CHRISTY: Hello, Elbert. Nice to meet you.
ELBERT: I brought you something.
CHRISTY: Really? What?
ELBERT: An all-expenses-paid trip for two to a restaurant of your choice.
CHRISTY: Oh, how nice!
BEBLER: (high-pitched) We'll have to go someplace nice tomorrow, won't we, Rhapsody?
ELBERT: Hey! Knock it off! This doesn't come easily to me.
CHRISTY: Oh, don't mind her. So how do I collect?
ELBERT: Well, there are a few conditions.
CHRISTY: What are they?
ELBERT: One of the people has to be you, and the other person-
DOOR: knock! knock! knock! knock!
BEBLER: (springing to his feet) Hide the dog! (gives leash to Elbert) Here, go hide him in my room.
(exit Elbert with dog; Bebler goes to door, checks to see that Elbert and dog are safely away, then opens door partway)
BEBLER: Mr. Shomacher! What a pleasant surprise!
MR. SHOMACHER: May I have a word with you?
BEBLER: Certainly. (remains standing in door opening) What is it?
MR. SHOMACHER: Are you going to let me in?
BEBLER: Oh, Please! (Mr. Shomacher enters) Make yourself at home. Can I get you anything to drink?
MR. SHOMACHER: That won't be necessary. I am going to briefly inspect your premises.
BEBLER: I assure you, Mr. Shomacher, everything in this superb domicile is in pristine condition.
MR. SHOMACHER: Mr. Knopf. Let me be honest with you. I have been suspecting for some time that you are in unlawful possession of a dog.
CHRISTY: Bebler hates dogs!
BEBLER: I'm a cat man myself. (hastily) Not that I would have a cat!
MR. SHOMACHER: Well, whatever animal it is that you have, I intend to-
BEBLER: I don't have any animals! (the dog growls as he says "animals")
MR. SHOMACHER: What was that?
BEBLER: My stomach.
MR. SHOMACHER: No, it wasn't your stomach. (begins heading towards back room) It came from-
BEBLER: Do you collect stamps, Mr. Shomacher?
MR. SHOMACHER: (stops, startled) Why, yes I do. How did you know?
BEBLER: Oh, just a wild guess. (Mr. Shomacher looks suspiciously at Bebler) You can just tell with some people.
CHRISTY: I do a bit of collecting myself.
CHRISTY: I just began my collection last year, actually. How long have you collected stamps?
MR. SHOMACHER: Why, since I was a young lad.
CHRISTY: What's your favorite stamp?
MR. SHOMACHER: Let me see.. (places hand on chin) I would have to say the 1932 3 cent Ford Model T series.
CHRISTY: Really, I haven't heard of it.
MR. SHOMACHER: It's the first stamp I ever collected.
CHRISTY: Yeah, the first stamp...
BEBLER: I'm sure you two would love to talk shop for hours, but, I'm awfully sorry, we have things to do and not much time to do them in, so, if I could show you to the door...
MR. SHOMACHER: Oh, of course. (turns to leave, then turns back) I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name...
CHRISTY: Christy.
MR. SHOMACHER: Ronald. A pleasure, to be sure.
BEBLER: This way, please.
MR. SHOMACHER: Yes, yes. (heads to door, then turns) Perhaps we could talk more later, Christy?
CHRISTY: Of course.
BEBLER: Goodbye!
(the dog distinctly barks; a second of tension as Mr. Shomacher turns)
MR. SHOMACHER: That was no stomach!
(he barges back toward the back room and exits)
BEBLER: Uh oh.
CHRISTY: At least it's not your dog.
CHRISTY: How did you know he collects stamps?
BEBLER: Bob told me.
BEBLER: I obviously can't just "tell" or I would have pegged you too.
CHRISTY: Oh, I don't collect stamps.
BEBLER: What? You mean you winged it?
(Christy sees Mr. Shomacher returning and motions Bebler to be quiet)
BEBLER: (resignedly) Well?
MR. SHOMACHER: I apologize, Mr Knopf. I appear to have misjudged you.
BEBLER: Quite alright. It was probably just some dog outside or something.
MR. SHOMACHER: I must be going now.
MR. SHOMACHER: (stops at door) I will still feel free to search this apartment for animals whenever I feel it is necessary.
BEBLER: Of course, Mr. Shomacher, of course. Goodnight!
(Mr. Shomacher exits)
(Bebler exits toward back room; Christy takes a drink of her water, laughs to herself, possibly a little wistfully, at the lemon; Bebler returns with Elbert and the dog)
ELBERT: ...just saw this big suitcase laying in there.
BEBLER: Quick thinking, Elby. Christy, this brilliant man has just saved Bob's skin. He heard Mr. Shomacher coming, threw the dog in a big suitcase, and hid the suitcase and himself in my closet. Don't ask me how he did it that fast.
DOOR: knock! knock! knock!
ELBERT: Oh no.
BEBLER: You may have to do it again. You know the procedure. (Elbert reluctantly leaves with dog, Bebler opens door)
BOB: Hey, how'd it go? I saw him come over here.
BEBLER: Bob! Kindly relieve us of your dog.
BOB: I will! You didn't get caught, did you?
BEBLER: Please, Bob, come in and have a seat.
BOB: Okay.
(Bob enters and has a seat in a chair)
BEBLER: (to back room) It's BOB.
(Elbert and dog enter)
BOB: I'm sorry I couldn't get her back from you before he came over. He went straight from my place to yours.
(Elbert hands leash to Bob)
BOB: Thanks. Sorry to disturb you. I guess I'll be going now.
BEBLER: Bob, I have something I wish to say to you.
BOB: (sits back down) What's that?
BEBLER: I have tried to be patient, I have tried to be understanding, I have even tried putting myself in your shoes. But I cannot handle this any more. This is the last straw. Just minutes ago, we were very nearly found out.
BOB: Did you try the stamp trick?
BEBLER: Yes, in fact it almost succeeded, but then that infernal dog decided to bark.
BOB: She hates Mr. Shomacher.
BEBLER: Bob, this is my decision: I am no longer going to risk my residence by aiding and abetting an illegal dog-keeper. I have no desire to seek housing elsewhere. I like it here.
BOB: You mean you're... not going to help me anymore.
BEBLER: That is precisely what I mean.
CHRISTY: I'm sure it's nothing personal.
BOB: What am I going to do?
BEBLER: The way I see it, these are your options: A) move. B) find the dog a good home.
ELBERT: Or C) find a different neighbor crazy enough to help you.
BOB: No one else lives on this floor!
BOB: Is there a D?
ELBERT: That's what I said.
BOB: Why can't you help a guy out? It's not like you're really risking anything! She's-
BEBLER: My apartment is something!
BOB: But she's my dog!
BEBLER: So you should keep her! Mr. Shomacher doesn't care whose dog it is. He cares whose apartment the dog is in.
BOB: You're deciding to get me kicked out of here, just so you can be safe, when if y-
BEBLER: It's for the good of us both. You can't go through life relying on other people to always have your best interests at heart, because a lot of people won't.
(Mr. Shomacher steps in)
MR. SHOMACHER: Aha! (Bebler and Bob both stand up) My suspicions were correct. Mr Knopf,-
BEBLER: It's not my dog! It's his! All right Bob, fess up.
BOB: What do you mean, fess up?
MR. SHOMACHER: Whose dog is that?
BEBLER: Tell him whose dog it is.
BOB: Oh. (thinks a bit, then points at Bebler) It's his.
BEBLER: What?!
MR. SHOMACHER: I thought as much.
BEBLER: Bob, come on, tell him really.
BOB: What do you want me to do, say it's my dog?
BOB: You can't go through life relying on other people, Mr. Knopf.
MR. SHOMACHER: That's precisely right.
BOB: I'm not going to cover for you.
MR. SHOMACHER: Now, Mr. Knopf-
BEBLER: It's not my dog!!
ELBERT: He's right, Mr. Shomacher. It's (pointing at Bob) his.
BOB: Is not! Whose apartment is this? Mine? Noooo, it's his!
CHRISTY: Bob, this is really low.
BOB: I'll say. (to Bebler) Why can't you just admit to it?
BEBLER: Why can't YOU just admit to it?
MR. SHOMACHER: Mr Knopf, I find your behavior disgraceful.
BEBLER: It's hard to be graceful when you're being framed.
ELBERT: Why don't we just see who the dog is licensed to?
BEBLER: Yeah...
(dog barks at Mr. Shomacher)
MR. SHOMACHER: Aha! That was exactly the noise I heard in here earlier today.
BOB: That's pretty conclusive evidence.
MR. SHOMACHER: Yes it is. Now, Mr. Knopf-
BEBLER: Why DON'T we just see who the dog is licensed to?
BOB: I see no need to do that.
BEBLER: The guilty one is nervous!
BOB: We can already see whose dog it is. It's plain as day.
MR. SHOMACHER: Very well. Someone check the dog's collar.
BOB: I will!
ELBERT: Noo you don't! I will. (checks collar; stands up)
BEBLER: Yes, Elbert?
ELBERT: It says Bebler Knopf.
BOB: Shame, shame, shame.
BEBLER: It's not my dog, I tell you!
ELBERT: He's right.
BOB: It certainly doesn't seem that way.
MR. SHOMACHER: Mr. Knopf, I am giving you two days to either bring me proof that the dog is no longer in your possession or to pack your things and move out. We close at 5. Good day.
(dog barks; Mr. Shomacher exits)
BEBLER: Bob, you little traitor.
CHRISTY: Bob, how could you?
BOB: Look. If I would have been pinned with the dog, I would have had to leave. As it is, he just has to give me back my dog, and we can both stay.
BEBLER: Why the heck is that dog registered to me?
BOB: Just part of the plan. Now I'll go reregister the dog under my name, and you'll have legal proof that the dog has changed hands.
ELBERT: Do dogs have hands?
CHRISTY: Oh, please.
BEBLER: I hope you see why I can't help you out anymore.
BOB: Naturally. Well, I guess I'll be going now.
CHRISTY: Goodnight!
(Bob takes dog and leaves)
BEBLER: (sitting down) If Mr. Shomacher were Solomon, Bob would be outta here.
BEBLER: Solomon would have ordered one of his men to cut the stupid dog in half, then I would say "please not on my carpet" and Bob would break down and say "Yes! Yes! It's all true! The dog is mine!"
CHRISTY: Very wise.
ELBERT: Look, I have to go pretty soon. I need to get some sleep.
CHRISTY: Yeah, let's get to work. Where were we? You were doing something that worked pretty well, I think.
BEBLER: The all-expenses-paid trip.

(Scene II. Bebler's apartment. Candle still burns. Bebler and Christy are sitting, Elbert is pacing. They are all well dressed.)

ELBERT: She's coming, guys, she's actually coming!
CHRISTY: I'm looking forward to meeting her.
ELBERT: I'm so excited.
BEBLER: I'm looking forward to seeing how well the Brookside Players do Hamlet.
ELBERT: Weren't you reading that not long ago?
ELBERT: What for?
CHRISTY: Face it, Elby. Our friend reads Shakespeare for fun.
ELBERT: I never know whether to be proud or embarrassed with Bebler. (pause) I feel so stupid, having to make you drive.
BEBLER: Don't worry about it. Bad stuff happens.
ELBERT: I'm just glad I made it home after I noticed the oil pressure was gone. The engine started making some really bad noises.
BEBLER: I'm glad to help a friend in need.
CHRISTY: Especially when he needs to go see a production of Hamlet.
DOOR: knock! knock!
BEBLER: You'd better get it, Elby.
(Elbert opens the door to reveal Rhapsody)
ELBERT: Hello Rhapsody.
(Elbert motions her to enter, which she does)
ELBERT: This is Christy. Christy, Rhapsody.
CHRISTY: Nice to meet you.
RHAPSODY: Nice to meet you.
ELBERT: And this is Bebler.
RHAPSODY: (verifying pronunciation) Bebler?
ELBERT: Yes, Bebler Knopf.
BEBLER: Hello.
ELBERT: You look very nice. (she is wearing a blue dress)
RHAPSODY: Thank you.
(Bebler begins "absentmindedly" humming "Rhapsody in Blue")
CHRISTY: (warningly) Bebler...
RHAPSODY: It's all right, I like Gershwin. That song doesn't even faze me anymore.
ELBERT: What, um, song is that?
RHAPSODY: It's called "Rhapsody in Blue."
ELBERT: Oh... (he laughs uncertainly)
DOOR: knock! knock! knock!
(Bebler answers the door)
BOB: He's coming! Could you take her just this once?
BEBLER: We're just leaving.
BOB: She's licensed to me now. You risk nothing!
BEBLER: Sorry. Christy's allergic to dogs.
(he shuts door and faces friends)
BEBLER: But fish not with this melancholy bait; come -- let us depart.
CHRISTY: Is that from Hamlet?
BEBLER: No, Merchant of Venice. The first part, anyway.
ELBERT: Is everyone ready? Let's go!
BEBLER: Hamletward!
(they exit sort of in pairs)

(Scene III. Bebler's apartment. It is empty, but candle still burns. Then there are key/lock noises, the door opens and in come Bebler and Christy)

BEBLER: ...no, seriously, that was terrible! They interpreted it entirely wrong! They portrayed Hamlet as being genuinely mad!
CHRISTY: I don't often see YOU this mad.
BEBLER: Hamlet himself said he was "but mad north-northwest."
CHRISTY: It's okay, Bebler.
BEBLER: And he told his mother that he was "not in madness, but mad in craft."
CHRISTY: I don't remember that.
BEBLER: That's because they left out parts of that scene. I would really like to have a nice talk with that director.
(enter Elbert and Rhapsody)
ELBERT: I thought you wouldn't mind if we hung out here a while longer.
BEBLER: Certainly not. What's mine is yours.
ELBERT: Thank you.
(Elbert heads back to the kitchen as Rhapsody is seated)
BEBLER: Think nothing of it. (to Christy) Do you remember that aside: "They fool me to the top of my bent"?
CHRISTY: (mildly sarcastic) I'm sorry, no.
BEBLER: If that doesn't give it away, then I don't know what does.
CHRISTY: Maybe the director did it that way to make some sort of statement.
BEBLER: Like what, "I'm stupid"?
CHRISTY: No, like "Here's a different-than-usual take on Hamlet."
RHAPSODY: Hamlet IS one of the most over-produced plays ever. It might get old doing the same thing over and over.
BEBLER: Except that no one has yet done a perfect production of Hamlet.
RHAPSODY: I sort of liked this version. It made me think.
BEBLER: What did it make you think?
(Elbert steps in)
ELBERT: Where do you keep the lemons?
(beat; then Christy and Rhapsody laugh)
BEBLER: Don't worry about the lemons.
ELBERT: You always use lemons.
BEBLER: I'm me. You're you. Don't worry about the lemons.
ELBERT: Oh, alright. (Elbert goes into kitchen and comes back out with drinks. He distributes them) One for you, one for you, one for you. (he sits down with his own drink and takes a sip) Aaahhhh...
RHAPSODY: What did you think of Hamlet?
ELBERT: It was OK.
ELBERT: I mean, I liked it.
BEBLER: You liked it?!
ELBERT: Sort of.
(Christy elbows Bebler)
RHAPSODY: What was your favorite part?
ELBERT: The end.
BEBLER: That was my favorite part too.
CHRISTY: (to Elbert mock-seriously) Why, because everybody dies?
ELBERT: No, because then we could get on with the evening, into the part that matters.
CHRISTY: You mean this meaningful conversation about Hamlet and lemons.
ELBERT: I guess.
RHAPSODY: My favorite part in Hamlet is usually the "to be" soliloquy, because it's always so touching...
BEBLER: Really.
RHAPSODY: Yes, really. It expresses the struggling human spirit well, I think. Although, their take on Hamlet made it impossible for me to enjoy that part as much. So then I guess my favorite part would be the scene with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
BEBLER: Just because it's funny.
CHRISTY: Tell us about your paper airplanes, Elby.
ELBERT: There's nothing to tell.
CHRISTY: No new models?
RHAPSODY: Paper airplanes?
BEBLER: Elbert here, unbeknownst to us all for many years, is a master paper airplane designer.
RHAPSODY: That's cool.
BEBLER: He designs paper airplanes, and sells his designs to authors of paper airplane books, makers of paper airplanes, and sometimes children.
RHAPSODY: (almost laughing) Children? Really?
ELBERT: Nooo, I don't SELL them to children. I usually just give them the plane and tell them to figure it out.
RHAPSODY: Do you do anything cool, Bebler?
BEBLER: Nope. I just sit here in my apartment.
ELBERT: He reads.
CHRISTY: And that's about all. If he wanted to, he could probably be off changing the world.
BEBLER: (sarcastic) Thank you, Christy...
ELBERT: Well, she's right. You could be raking in the big bucks or at least doing something you love to do, if you really wanted to. You're like Mr. Unrealized Potential.
BEBLER: Hey now.
ELBERT: You have the brains to run a company, Bebler!
BEBLER: I don't want to run a company.
ELBERT: What do you want to do? I bet it's not what you're doing.
BEBLER: I like my job.
ELBERT: Is it what you want to do?
BEBLER: Well, I haven't done everything yet, so I can't really compare-
ELBERT: Oh, be honest for a second, would you? What-
BEBLER: I am being honest.
ELBERT: What do you want to do?
BEBLER: I don't know.
ELBERT: Sure you do. Everybody wants something.
BEBLER: What do YOU want?
ELBERT: You wanna know what I want? I'll tell you what I want. I wanted Rhapsody to think I was great, to think I was smart, funny, caring... a great guy! I wanted that since the first time I met her. And you come in, and without even meaning to, steal her away from me before I could even tell her how much I adore her.
RHAPSODY: Elby, I don-
ELBERT: And you know what else I wanted, Bebler? You know what else? I wanted to be like you. All through college I sat and watched you breeze through your classes while I was sweating and working hard to get WORSE grades than you! I watched you effortlessly talk your way into or out of any situation, while I struggled to introduce myself to people I didn't know. But then do you know what happened? I watched you get a job just as lousy as mine-
BEBLER: My job is not lous-
ELBERT: It IS a lousy job, for a person with your ability! There is nothing in your way, Bebler! You want something, believe me, you can get it! I saw you get that job, and I thought, "Hey, what's going on?"
BEBLER: That's a song.
ELBERT: Will you just quit the jokes for a second? I saw a man who could do anything, but who didn't want to do anything. And that's when I stopped wanting to be like you.
BEBLER: Fine. Ok. That's fine. My friend doesn't want to be like me. I can deal with that.
ELBERT: What do you want?
BEBLER: Maybe I want you to quit asking me what I want.
CHRISTY: (imploringly) Bebler...
BEBLER: If you guys don't stop I'm going to go mad...
ELBERT: You want to be funny? Well, you are. I think you're hilarious. What else do you want?
BEBLER: Nothing! I'm totally fine with where I am! I'm content!
RHAPSODY: Um, perhaps I should be going...
BEBLER: Do you WANT to go?
CHRISTY: Bebler, please... (to Rhapsody) I can take you home if you want to go.
BEBLER: You don't have to go.
RHAPSODY: I think I will, if it's not too much trouble for you.
CHRISTY: Not at all. Excuse us please.
(exit Christy and Rhapsody)
BEBLER: They left.
BEBLER: Aren't you going after them?
ELBERT: Why? They both like you.
BEBLER: No they don't, that's just your innate pessimism speaking.
ELBERT: It's true, though.
BEBLER: Pessimism isn't reality, my friend. Pessimists often influence reality to conform to their viewpoint, but reality never starts out looking like that.
ELBERT: You know I can't understand that.
BEBLER: You know what I think?
ELBERT: I never do. You're a hard one to pin down.
BEBLER: Let me tell you then. I think Rhapsody likes you.
ELBERT: Lay off it, Bebler.
BEBLER: Seriously. She thinks you're a great guy.
ELBERT: What makes you think that?
BEBLER: For one thing, how shocked she was when you started suggesting that I had stolen her from you. She was about to deny it, but you cut her off in the heat of the moment.
ELBERT: Well it's too late now.
BEBLER: It's never too late. (pause) You know what I want?
ELBERT: No one does.
BEBLER: I want you to leave a message on Rhapsody's answering machine right now.
ELBERT: What would I say?
BEBLER: Up to you.
ELBERT: No, I can't think of anything good.
BEBLER: You haven't tried.
ELBERT: You're the brilliant talker. Come up with something.
BEBLER: Here's your chance to be like me! Invent it right now, then call her before she gets home. You have, what, thirteen minutes?
ELBERT: I'm through with trying to be like you, remember?
BEBLER: Then try to be like anyone else who doesn't have his face in a garbage pile.
ELBERT: Are you saying I-
BEBLER: Yes, you have your face in a little pile of garbage. All you can see is garbage.
ELBERT: My life is full of garbage right now, that's why.
BEBLER: All you gotta do is lift your face up out of the garbage. Then you can see the sun. And then you suddenly notice how little that pile of garbage was. It's that easy.
ELBERT: All right. I'll call Rhapsody.
BEBLER: Attaboy!
ELBERT: On one condition.
BEBLER: Uh oh.
ELBERT: You teach me how to do the lemons.
BEBLER: (laughs) You got yourself a deal, pardner! The phone is beside you.


(Scene IV. Rhapsody's house. Christy has come inside with her. They walk in the door)

CHRISTY: Wow, nice place.
RHAPSODY: Thanks. It's my parents'.
CHRISTY: You still live at home?
RHAPSODY: Yeah. (confidentially) It's the cheapest.
CHRISTY: I understand.
RHAPSODY: So what should I do about Elby?
CHRISTY: What do you want to do about Elby?
RHAPSODY: What is this?
CHRISTY: Sorry. But seriously, what do you want to do? Do you like him?
RHAPSODY: He's very nice.
CHRISTY: But do you like him? Does he have that "something" that you /can't quite explain?
(Rhapsody checks her answering machine)
RHAPSODY: (to self) Hmmm... no new messages. (to Christy) I don't know.
CHRISTY: What about Bebler, then?
RHAPSODY: No, nothing there. I don't know how Elby could have thought that.
CHRISTY: You did talk to Bebler a lot.
RHAPSODY: He's a good talker.
CHRISTY: That he is.
RHAPSODY: What do YOU think of Bebler?
CHRISTY: Let's keep me out of this. I'm here to help you.
RHAPSODY: No, I was honestly just talking to Bebler because he was fun to talk to. There wasn't anything there, I mean, he didn't have the "something."
CHRISTY: Ok, that's what I thought.
RHAPSODY: (looks sideways at Christy, half-smiling) You don't think he has the something either?
CHRISTY: That's not what I meant-- Look.
RHAPSODY: (laughs)
CHRISTY: So what are you going to do next time you see him at work?
RHAPSODY: I don't know. I could ignore him or let him make the next move, but it seems like he's pretty much convinced I hate him. I could tell him I think he's a great guy- would that be too forward?
CHRISTY: Better than backward.
RHAPSODY: You sound like Bebler.
CHRISTY: Rhapsody Yang, I'm warning you...
SONATINA: (from offstage) Rhaps!
RHAPSODY: We're down here!
SONATINA: Dad says check the machine!
RHAPSODY: Ok! Oooh, I got a message.
CHRISTY: Who was that?
RHAPSODY: My sister Sonatina.
CHRISTY: That's a pretty name.
RHAPSODY: It's another musical form.
(Rhapsody begins checking messages; first the machine says "Peter, this is-" she skips to "Hi, uh, I'm calling for Peter.-" she skips to a message in Korean, listens to a little, and skips to "Hi Rhapsody, this is, uh, Elby. {the girls look at each other} I hope you're not mad about tonight. And I'm sorry if I jumped to conclusions. {a faint noise is heard in the background} What? Bebler says the Phantom Tollbooth is a great book. Ok! Anyway, I was just calling to let you know that {enter Sonatina} you are the grand prize winner in the First Weekly Elbert Ludlum Free Dinner Contest. Congratulations! For information on collecting your prize, call me back. {Click.}" A brief pause.)
CHRISTY: Now you sound like Elby.
(Rhapsody smiles to herself; a pause)
CHRISTY: They must have made up. I wonder if Bebler figured out what he wanted.
SONATINA: That must be the weird guy.
SONATINA: Dad said some weird guy called just to leave a message on the machine for you. He answered the phone and the guy was like, "Uh, can I call back and leave a message on your answering machine?" and Dad was like "Sure!"
CHRISTY: That's cool.
SONATINA: Yeah. Rhaps, if you don't wanna claim that free dinner, can I pretend to be you?
RHAPSODY: I don't think so.
SONATINA: You always get all the fun stuff! (she exits)
RHAPSODY: First weekly.... wow...
CHRISTY: So are you gonna call him back?
RHAPSODY: (playfully) I don't know... should I let him... Nah! (picks up phone)


(Scene V. Bebler's apartment. Candle as always. Bebler is laying on his couch reading The Phantom Tollbooth. He suddenly closes the book and sits up, leaning with his elbows on his knees.)

BEBLER: What am I doing? (looks at book) Reading The Phantom Tollbooth. Why am I reading? (Looks at book again) Because it's a good book, ya doofus. But why do I read books in general? (in affected voice) Because they're generally good books. No, shut up, self. That was a good question. (pause) Christy was right; I could be changing the world. Question: what would I want to change? Uh oh, that was a "want" question. What do I want? Darn it, Elby. Now look what you've done. I have to start thinking about what I want, I can't just keep on living in my little everyday monotony. I'm like Milo getting out of the Doldrums. And Elby is like Tock. And Christy is like Rhyme or Reason. Ah, what the heck, she's both.

What are you doing now, self? Sitting here comparing your life to a book? Mind! Stop that! "What should I do then?" my mind asks. Figure out what you want! Or am I actually content? Is it possible? Maybe Elby's wrong; not everyone wants something. But if I were content, I wouldn't be sitting here wondering whether or not I was content. Darn it, Elby. Now look what you've done. I'm in a conundrum.

"Figure out what you want, then," my mind says. "No," I say, "you figure it out; you're my mind." "Okay," says my mind. Conundrum. That's a good word. "You like words," points out my helpful Random Thought Generator. "Maybe you could write." There's a thought. I could write! What would I write about? Something in the world that needs changing? Mmmmmmaybe. What would I want to change? Maybe people don't laugh enough. Elbert said I was funny, but he laughs at his own jokes. I don't know. Maybe I'm funny. Darn it, Elby. Now look what you've done.

I've never had to want anything before. There are so many different things I could want! How can I possibly choose?


(Scene VI. This silent scene could take place simultaneously with Scene V. Rhapsody is sitting on a couch. Elbert comes out carrying two drinks, complete with lemons and straws. He hands one to her, they pantomime-laugh and smile and appear to converse. Rhapsody is apparently impressed by the lemon slices. Elbert sits down and puts his arm around her. She leans her head on his shoulder, then looks up at him.)


(Scene VII. Bebler's apartment, looking bare, although the tall candle still burns. A big suitcase is lying on the couch, half-filled with a hastily-thrown-together pile of random possessions. Bebler is humming "Rhapsody in Blue" as he walks around the room, looking for and occasionally finding items to toss in the suitcase. The doorbell rings. He opens the door to reveal Elbert.)

BEBLER: Elby! Come in, come in, come in!
ELBERT: Thanks. (Elbert enters) I was in your neighborhood, so I just thought I would swing...by... (looking around in confusion)
BEBLER: Can I get you any-
ELBERT: Nothing to drink, thanks.
(Bebler resumes his hunt-and-peck style packing)
BEBLER: How have the lemons been going?
ELBERT: Well in all possible senses.
ELBERT: I mean the actual lemons and the, uh... lemons of life.
BEBLER: You mean you can look these lemons of life in the eye, were they to have eyes, and make sweet lemonade out of them.
BEBLER: Great!
(Bebler hums more "Rhapsody in Blue" as he packs)
ELBERT: Hey now.
BEBLER: Yes? Oh, sorry. Didn't mean to hum your song.
ELBERT: That's fine. So,-
BEBLER: What's all this about? I'm moving. Leaving. Breaking this joint.
ELBERT: Splitting.
BEBLER: Yes, splitting, very good.
ELBERT: Why the rush?
BEBLER: I have much to do.
ELBERT: Are you running away or running toward?
BEBLER: (stops moving around and looks straight at Elbert) Elbert?
BEBLER: I have decided that I want something. (resumes moving around and packing)
ELBERT: What is it?
BEBLER: I don't know for sure, can't quite pin it down, but it isn't here.
ELBERT: Where is it?
BEBLER: I don't know that either, exactly.
ELBERT: You're really just up and leaving?
BEBLER: I'm really just up and leaving.
ELBERT: You want something?!
BEBLER: I want something.
ELBERT: (Elbert does a victory jump) WOOHOO!! Does Mr. Shomacher know?
BEBLER: I left him a note. (he is now visibly running over a mental checklist)
ELBERT: Does Christy know?
BEBLER: I mailed her a note.
ELBERT: Come on, you should at least tell her goodbye.
BEBLER: (zipping up his suitcase) Give her a glass of water with a lemon slice for me.
BEBLER: Do you realize this suitcase once held a dog?
ELBERT: Weird.
BEBLER: Yeah. And now, my trusted colleague, go and fare thee well awhile. I am off!
ELBERT: Hamlet?
BEBLER: No, Merchant of Venice. The second half of the "melancholy bait" line. (on his way out the door)
ELBERT: Bebler.
ELBERT: Thanks.
BEBLER: Thank you.
(Elbert looks like he wants to hug Bebler, but Bebler just curtly nods)
BEBLER: So long. (he exits)
ELBERT: Darn it, Elbert. Now look what you've done.

(Scene VIII. Mr. Schomacher approaches a door and sees a piece of paper taped to it. He takes the paper, and looks at it)

BEBLER (V.O.): Mr. Shomacher, hello, this is Bebler Knopf. I am just letting you know that I am gone. Please discontinue my rent bills. Any items you find in the apartment you may keep. Also, Bob has a dog. (Mr. Shomacher looks up and glares ominously off into the distance)


(Scene IX. Bebler's former apartment. The formerly tall candle is now a dark stub. Christy bursts into it, out of breath, carrying a piece of paper. She looks around slowly and painfully, then sits down on the couch. She looks at the paper. She puts her head in her hands. She slowly begins to cry. The telephone rings. It rings again. Christy reaches to answer it but stops her hand and pulls it back, because she realizes it would only be someone calling for Bebler. She is crying. The phone keeps ringing. It rings. Finally, fed up with the ringing, Christy lifts the phone off the hook and drops it to the floor. She turns and cries into a couch pillow.)

TELEPHONE (BEBLER V.O.): Christy? Christy? (pause; Christy abruptly stops crying) Christy! CHRISTY, PLEASE! (she lifts her head and looks doubtfully at the phone.) CHRISTY, IF YOU'RE THERE ANSWER ME! (Christy finally decides to answer and cautiously picks up the reciever.)
CHRISTY: (cautiously) (sniff) Hello? (she wipes her eyes)
BEBLER (V.O.): (rapidly) Christy! Thank God, I'm at your place, and you weren't here, so I hoped I could reach you there. Listen, I went off looking for what I want, and I finally figured out that the biggest part of what I want is you, I don't care what kind of job I have, if I don't have you, it's worthless to me, I don't care what I'm changing in the world, if you're not there to watch me change it, then my life is chock-full of lemons, so basically what I'm saying is, if you come over here right now and pack your stuff, we could get married this evening and drive to Chicago, because I have a job interview up there, but it's not important compared to this. I was actually halfway there when I turned around and came back. So what do you say?
(pause; Christy is briefly emotionally overwrought; she suddenly starts laughing): Christy, don't do this to me! Christy?
CHRISTY: Bebler, -
CHRISTY: That was so horribly romantic! (awkward pause from Bebler; he doesn't know what to say) It swept me off my feet. I'll be right there. (Christy puts the phone down on the table and runs out of the room.)
BEBLER: You will? You will?! You will!!! Christy? Christy Cringle, you're wonderful!! Christy Cringle. How does Christy Knopf sound? (begin slowly fading lights) Weeelll, better not think about that just yet. Christy, I'm so excited! (begin fading voice) Shut up, self. No! I don't want to shut up! (lights are now completely dark) Would you mind if I yelled? I'm going to yell. (voice is now totally silent) The Compendium

© 1998-2024 Zach Bardon
Last modified 7.19.2019
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