(A Sketch Melodrama, inspired by The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams)
Type straight-A. Though an extraordinarily selfish person, there is something understandable about her frustrations. One feels she is the chief victim of her own narrow-minded perfectionism.
Bridgette’s husband. From an affluent southern family. Everything comes naturally to him. Obliging, fairly intelligent and industrious, but not terribly ambitious. Was a chunky football player in college but is now almost unhealthily thin because of the strict vegan diet Bridgett keeps them all on.
Their six-year-old daughter. She likes roller coasters and fairies.
A theme park in New Jersey, shortly before closing time.
With the curtain still down, the lights suddenly go bright and flash in every color, speakers emit deafening sounds of various carnival music, shouting, screams, laughter, machines rumbling and whirling, all expressing the kind of fun that so much resembles hysteria or psychosis. After this first eruption, the flashing lights and chaotic noises begin to dim. The music and shouts become a murmur of whining or gruff voices, suggesting that the great mob of parents and their sweet-sodden children have begun to exit the theme park and head home, a monster emptying its entrails into the hungry maw of another monster.
The curtain rises.
A video of a children’s Roller Coaster is projected onto a screen at the back of the stage. The video shows riders ascending along compact spiraling helix to the top, about 60 feet high. After the first big drop there comes a sharp 90 degree, followed by a series of figure eight-patterns. The video is played on loop for the duration of the performance. On the stage is laid out a circular track, meant to evoke this particular model of roller coaster’s ascending helix. The actors are seated in single file in a bright pink car with The Great Fairy Escape emblazoned on the side. They move slowly around the track, the wheels of their roller coaster car humming slightly, like an old refrigerator. Amy sits in the front, Bridgette in the middle, and Cal in the back. Amy is gripping the bar in front of her and facing intently ahead, as if she were steering the Great Fairy Escape though its dizzying twists and turns–which, in her mind, she is. Bridgette sits in the middle. She adjusts her hair, then reaches over to straighten Amy’s collar. Behind her Cal is eating a funnel-cake.
Bridgette: Might you perhaps chew that disgusting lard and sugar compound more quietly? You’re probably covered in powdered sugar (She holds a make-up mirror and looks behind her). Yep. There it is.
Cal (dusting himself off lackadaisically). I sure am. (He smacks his lips and Mmmms contentedly.)
Bridgette: (Reaching in her purse for a tissue and passing it back to Cal) This whole place is disgusting. I hope no one at work finds out I took an entire Saturday off just to go to…New Jersey.
Cal: Just some good old fashioned family fun.
Bridgette: (winces) What a felicitous turn of phrase, Cal. Well if it is family fun and not just vulgar consumption then I guess we should all be congratulated for out upstanding moral behaviour. After all, what can’t be justified by invoking the sacred institution of the family? The mafia, murder, war, the Disney channel, New Jersey theme parks. Really I don’t think that there is an atrocity in the last 400 years that hasn’t in some way been prompted or justified by the ideology of the family. All for the sake of the family, the family, the family, and its endless repetitions, its claustrophobic little routines. So easy to create a family, any idiot can do it. Perhaps more people should stop and wonder whether something so easily gotten is even worth having at all. (quoting): “this swift business/I must uneasy make lest too light winning/Make the prize light.”
The roller coaster car pauses. Amy looks back at her mother but says nothing.
Cal: (a bit worked up now) That’s no way to talk in front of Amy. Perhaps you’ve been handling too many divorce cases, they’ve turned your head a bit. And I don’t much care what or whom you’re quoting, and heaven me if I will ever understand why every conversation you have comes with footnotes and a goddamn annotated bibliography. (He sneezes, getting powdered sugar on Bridgette’s hair) Sorry. (abashed after his outburst, tries to use the tissue to get some of the sugar out of her hair)
The roller coaster car resumes its ascent. Amy turns her gaze back to straight ahead.
Bridgette: I was quoting Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I was Miranda in it in college; don’t you remember?
Cal: Err, well not really, I mean I remember you being in it, but I don’t remember all those lines. I mean, it was a long time ago and you know I’m not much of a reader. I mean, somehow there’s never enough time to be better, grander, stronger all the time. There is only ever time to get smaller, we keep taking things away but we don’t add any new ones on to them. There is never enough time to do anything, Bridgette, and not just family things. Anything. You know want to read more and learn an instrument and learn languages and do all those nice things that you know how to do, really I do, I just….
Bridgette: You’ve been saying that for years. Honestly, I don’t much care what you do or don’t do with your time anymore Cal, I have other things in mind for my life besides doing the same things and listening to the same excuses from you.
Cal: Well if you’d ever stay home where you belong. He adopts a British accent “Hello, my name’s Bridgette B. Esquire and I like to hobnob with the PAHTNEHS, I shan’t be coming home tonight, or any nights this week, because I am working on a terribly important case for the PAHNTNEHS, it’s Champagne versus Some other Champagne, we are expecting an enormous settlement, and then one of the PAHTNEHS’s slimy little children is having a birthday party in a French Chateau and we have all been invited to go and turn it into a delightful little work retreat and of course that is all far far more important than my own child, whose birthday does not present me with adequate networking opportunities, so don’t expect to see me much the next week, not until we have wrapped up this case and then not after that either, for then there shall be another case and another PAHTNEH and another and another and still more, on and on, forever! Isn’t it jolly!?” Abandons his British imitations. Yes, I should certainly hope you’d have other things in mind for your life besides that.
Bridgette: I’m leaving you, Cal. I’m leaving you for one of the partners.
The roller-coaster car stops again and tilts down slightly to suggest they are on the edge of the first big drop.
Cal: (Silent. Stuffs the funnel cake into his mouth. Swallows it. Nods). You…. you…bitch. (Amy covers her ears)You selfish whore. I think you really do mean that.
Bridgette (her face lights up, either with fury or grim satisfaction, it is difficult to tell) Just as primitive and barbaric as I always suspected. (She turns around for the first time to look at him). Look at you, covered in…in food! All your charm, all your politeness is nothing but a disguise for your vulgarity, your cowardice, your lack of gumption. You’re not just a primitive, you’re an invertebrate. I have no interest in that kind of…diminished little man. I want a powerful man in a powerful suit, a man who wants to run the world. And Brian is going to leave his wife and “slimy child” as you say and we are going to start our own practice, we already have investors ready to provide the start up capital–
Cal : Ah yes, every adultery needs a good team of investors. Even your love affairs are strategic and cunning. There’s no passion in you.
Bridgette’s phone rings.
Bridgette: It’s Brian! (She answers, but says nothing for a few seconds). He isn’t leaving his wife.
Humming sounds grow louder, the roller coaster car lurches forward, Amy screams, and the car dives down and off stage.