A Dog’s Life

 

 

 

                                                     A Comedy in Two Acts

 

by

 

                                                              Diane Grant

 

ATHE Finalist 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

Member:

Dramatists Guild, Inc., Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights,

International Center for Women Playwrights, The Playwrights Guild of Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A DOG'S LIFE

 

CHARACTERS:

 

WOMEN

 

Hildy                           the stage manager      

Margo                         the business manager

Pookie                         the musician

Rowena                       the new girl

Mimi                           the angel's daughter

 

MEN

 

George                        the director

Tom                             the playwright

Arnie                           the angel

Brian Boffin                the artist

Billy                            the Method actor

Horak                          the landlord

 

TIME:                         The present

 

SETTING:

 

Inside the Mercer Theater:  home to an impoverished repertory company.

 

The theater is in the basement of a factory that makes paper flowers.  The machines are on the floor above.  We can hear but not see them.

 

There is an upper level platform behind which there is a door to the paper factory.  An open chute in the ceiling, center stage, lets paper flowers fall from time to time.

 

Ropes hang from the flies.  There is a propbox on stage and a hat tree with different hats on it.

 

Stairs stage left lead to the theater office on an upper level. Below, off left, leads to the prop room and the stage manager's cubicle. 

A door, stage right, opens on to inside stairs which lead to the upper level dressing rooms.  They open onto to a balcony.

                                                                                   

A prominent poster says, Coming Soon, A Dog’s Life, by Tom Cameron.  Watch for It!

 

A back door opens on to an alley.

 

MUSIC:

 

The incidental music in A Dog's Life is played by Pookie, the musician, who uses a keyboard and guitar.

 

 

 

                                                              ACT ONE

 

                                                           

                                                             SCENE ONE

 

AT RISE:       HILDY is up a ladder, whistling.

 

 She comes down, still whistling, and looks up at the lights.  She spots a brown lunch bag on the stage, opens it up, takes out a salami sandwich, throws away the lettuce, and eats the rest.

 GEORGE, in plaid bedroom slippers, comes in and blows his whistle.

 

                                                            GEORGE       

Dogs.  Do I have dogs?

 

                        (Hildy throws a switch at the back and the stage goes to  BLACK.)

 

                                                            HILDY

                        (in black)

Rats!

 

                                                            GEORGE

                        (in black)

What happened to the lights?  Hildy?!

 

                                                            HILDY

Keep your shirt on.

 

                        (In black, we barking and howling.  The lights come up. TOM,  BILLY and POOKIE, in dog hats, are grouped together, center stage.) 

 

                                                            GEORGE

Where is Christy?

 

                                                            TOM

She hasn't come in yet.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Punctuality is a Cardinal Rule of the theater.

                        (sighs)

I'll fill in. Pookie!                   

           

                        (Pookie strikes a chord, then Billy, Pookie, Tom and George sing the Kennel Quartet, a barbershop quartet made up of dog sounds. The factory door opens. HORAK, a middle aged Czech,

                          rushes on to the platform, waving a check.)

 

                                                            HORAK

Aaaaah!

 

                                                            GEORGE

Horak, we’re rehearsing here.

 

                                                            HORAK

                        (comes down the stairs)

You bloody guy. 

 

                                                            GEORGE

Nobody interrupts rehearsal.  That's a Cardinal Rule.

 

                                                            HORAK

I don't care your Cardinal's rules.  You be Pope for all it is to me.

                        (waves the check in George's face)

What is this?

 

                                                            GEORGE

I don't care what it is, you Philistine.

 

                                                            HORAK

I am not Philistine.  I am Czech.  Now, you explain to me what is this. 

 

                                                            GEORGE

I don't care what is it.  I'm rehearsing here.

 

                                                            HORAK

I tell you what is it.  Is bum check.

 

                        (He races up the stairs to the office.)

 

                                                          GEORGE

You're the bum Czech, Horak.

 

                                                            HORAK

We see who's bum.

                        (races into the office, re-enters. To George)

You in big trouble, now.

                        (exits)

 

                                                            MARGO

                        (offstage)

 Aaaaah!

 

                        (Margo comes out of the office, waving the paper.)

George!!!

 

                                                            GEORGE

I am trying to rehearse here.

 

                        (Margo comes down the stairs.)

 

                                                            MARGO

If you don't listen to me, you may never rehearse again.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Save your theatrics for the stage, madam.

 

                                                            MARGO

That's it.

 

                        (She starts up the aisle.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Where are you going?

                                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                            MARGO

I'm leaving you, George.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Margo!

                        (She exits.)

Will you be back for lunch?

                        (An offstage door slams.) 

O.K., everybody.  Take a break.

                        (Billy stays in his dog character.  He stands beside George and barks.   He absent-mindedly sniffs at George's armpit.)

 What is it?

 

                                                            BILLY

Can I get you something from Dorothy's Cantina?

 

                                                            GEORGE

A coffee and a blueberry Danish.  Glazed.

                        (Billy waits, doggedly.)

Fetch!

 

(Billy barks, then exits.  Pookie pulls the lettuce out of her lunch bag.)

 

                                                            POOKIE

Who took my salami sandwich?  I was saving that.

                                                                       

                        (Pookie throws the bag down.  Hildy comes in, carrying a prop tree.)

 

                                                            HILDY

Is that paper bag yours?

 

                                                            POOKIE

Yeah.

 

                                                            HILDY

No litter on the stage.

 

            (Pookie picks up the bag and leaves.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Good lights.  Aren't those new Fresnels?

                        (Hildy nods.)

Where did’ya  get them?

    

                                                            HILDY        

I swapped 'em for my car radio.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Your Telefunken?

 

                                                            HILDY

Blaupunkt.  Mein blaupunkt ist kaput.

                        (places the tree on stage.)

Would've been stolen anyway.              

 

                        (Hildy picks up the ladder and leaves.  ROWENA enters through the  back door.  She is wearing high-heeled boots and is carrying a script.

                          She trips and holds on to the tree to steady herself.)

 

                                                            ROWENA

                        (behind tree)

Whoops!

(She peers around the tree.  Margo reenters angrily and Rowena retreats behind it.)

 

 

                                                            MARGO

Next time you're a dead man.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Honey bear.

 

                                                            MARGO

Do you know what this is?

 

                                                            GEORGE

If it's another review by that moron, Melvin Bernheimer, I don't want to see it. For fifteen years, I've been bringing audiences to their feet with dazzling, inventive, breakthrough works and have I ever had anything but a pan from that pompous parasite?  Do you know what he said about Corporate Cowboys? I’ll tell you what he said. “Mercer is so untalented and lacking in theatrical technique, he couldn't even pull off a failsafe crowd pleaser like The Baron's Kiss."  What did he say?

            (grabs the paper)

This is an eviction notice. 

 

                                                            MARGO

We have to pay the rent.

 

                                                            GEORGE

 Didn't we just pay it?

 

                                                            MARGO

We paid it three months ago, George.  Horak is  throwing us out of here.                

 

                                                            GEORGE

He can't do that!  We can't afford to go anywhere else. We'd have to close down!  It would be the death of our company.  Margo, don't let the dream die.

 

                                                            MARGO

George, there's a way.  I want to call Arnie Rabbitt.

                                                                                                           

                                                            GEORGE

Arnie who?

 

                                                            MARGO

Cousin Emily’s uncle.   Arnie Rabbitt.  He’s an investor and he’s hooked on the romance of the theatre.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Never!

 

                                                            MARGO

He’s looking for a company!

 

                                                            GEORGE

An outside investor is a man with money and a man with money has ideas. He wants to tell you his ideas and he wants you to use his ideas and then he gets more ideas and

his ideas stink and before you know it, you are up to your armpits in stinking ideas.              

 

                                                            MARGO

Put this in your armpit!  We have three days to pay or quit.

 

                                                            GEORGE

There you are.  We have three days.  You'll come up with something. 

 

                                                            MARGO

Don't you love me anymore?

 

                                                            GEORGE

I always love you.  Maybe, you mean you don't love me.

 

                                                            MARGO

I do love you.  I just hate my life.

 

                                                            GEORGE

No, no, no.

 

                                                            MARGO

I've been living on the brink too long.  I'm worn out.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You look fresh as a spring flower.

 

                                                            MARGO

I'm no spring chicken, George.  And I don't want to spend the rest of my life trying to make the rent.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Ah, my little duck.

 

                                                            MARGO

Don't you want health insurance, George?

 

                                                            GEORGE

I feel fine.

 

                                                            MARGO

I don’t.  I'm afraid to open the mail.  I'm afraid of the first of the month.  I lose my lunch going into the bank.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Pigeon.

 

                                                            MARGO

Nobody drives a Plymouth anymore.  The only time we went on vacation, the engine fell out.

 

                                                            GEORGE

We had fun, didn't we?

 

                                                            MARGO

Would you just talk to him? 

 

                                                            GEORGE

That's all?  Just talk to him?

 

                                                            MARGO

Could you do this one little thing for me?  Just this once?

 

                                                            GEORGE

If I say, "Yes," will you let me rehearse in peace?

 

            (The tree falls and reveals Rowena.)

 

                                                            ROWENA

Hello.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You're wearing boots!  Nobody wears boots on my stage. That's a Cardinal Rule!

 

                        (Rowena begins to struggle out of her boots.)

 

                                                            MARGO

You don't have to be so rude.  What do you want?

 

                                                            ROWENA

I want to audition.

 

                                                            MARGO

Come back later.

 

 

                                                            GEORGE

Why should she?  I need another actor.  I don't need another actress.

 

                                                            MARGO

Oh, yes, you do.

 

                                                            GEORGE

I've got Christy.

                        (looks at Margo)

I don't have Christy?

 

                                                            MARGO

She got a bit in Fatal Secrets.

 

                                                            GEORGE

That bimbo!  I made her what she is today.

 

                                                            MARGO

Broke.            

           

                                                            GEORGE

This is terrible.  Who's going on tonight in Doctors of Shame?

 

                                                            MARGO

I am.

 

                                                            GEORGE

                        (weakly)

Good.

 

                                                            MARGO

I thought you'd be pleased.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Do you think the costume'll fit, honey bunny?

 

                        (Margo and George exit. Tom and Billy enter.  Rowena is kneeling with her boots in her hand.  Tom falls in love at first sight.)

 

                                                            TOM

Doth an actress bootless kneel?

 

                        (The heel of Rowena's boot comes off in her hand.)

 

                                                            ROWENA       

Hath an actress heel-less boot?

 

                        (Tom gives Rowena a pair of slippers and she puts them on.)

 

                                                            TOM          

What's your name?

 

                                                            ROWENA

Rowena.

 

                                                            TOM

Mine's Tom.  I like your feet.

 

                        (George enters.)

                                               

                                                            GEORGE

                        (to Rowena)

That's better.

                        (Pookie and Billy enter.  Billy has George's coffee and his blueberry Danish in a bag in his mouth.  George takes it and pats Billy's head.)

So, you want to be an actress.

 

                                                            ROWENA

Oh, yes.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Well. We're a revolutionary troupe, here, Rowena, dedicated to new pieces about the exploitation of the little man. 

 

                                                            ROWENA

I've seen Doctors of Shame four times.  I know every word by heart.  I don't care what that Melvin Bernheimer said.  It has guts, it has balls. Oh, excuse me.

 

                                                            GEORGE

That's alright.  What did he say?

 

                                                            ROWENA

Well...

 

                                                            GEORGE

Don't tell me.  I don't want to know.  He's a moron.  Let me tell you about us.  We're caring, we're committed and we work for the minimum wage. How do you feel about that?

 

                                                            ROWENA

I think that's splendid. 

 

                                                            GEORGE

Some of us invest some of our salary in the company and become a living part of the project.  Although, we don’t require that.  It’s entirely voluntary.

 

                                                            ROWENA

Fine.

 

                                                            GEORGE

                        (quickly)

And we work sixty hours a week.

 

                                                            ROWENA

Fine.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Hildy!  Lights!

 

                        (Hildy hits Rowena with a spotlight.)

 

                                                            ROWENA

Oh.  Oh.  Oh. 

                        (rushing it out)

I know you don't do the classics but I brought this because it's my best  piece. Actually, it's my only piece. I shall perform the balcony scene from by Farqhuar and Mellors.

  .

                                                            TOM

                        (taking the script from her hand

Go for it!

           

                                                            LADY TERESA (ROWENA)

It will soon be noon.

The bells will toll

And the gallant, the brave, the bold

The dearest..

                        (almost breaks down)

My dearest

...doomed Delvecchio will die.

Oh, Dio, I faint with fear.

                                                            ROWENA (continued)

 I would rather endure

 The rapacious embrace of

 Brutal soldiers,

 The snarling attack of curs,

 Rather lie babbling in

 The abode of all demons,       

 Rather die banished, cursed and alone

 Than bring my body to this beast.

 My soul recoils at the thought

 Of the Baron’'s kiss.

 

                        (Rowena has played Lady Teresa brilliantly, giving life to Farqhuar and Mellors's tired, old words. Tom, Pookie and Billy applaud.)                                

                                                            GEORGE

What did you say your name was?

 

                                                            ROWENA

Rowena.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Rowena, we don't want you to waste your time.

                        (to the company)

What is the historical drama?

 

                                                            ALL

History!

 

                                                            ROWENA

What does he mean?

 

                                                            BILLY

He means that The Baron's Kiss is old-fashioned, conservative junk.

 

                                                            ROWENA

But it's a classic.

 

                                                            BILLY

Exactly.

 

                        (Margo enters, wearing a nurse's outfit which is very tight.)

 

MARGO

I look pretty good, don’t you think?

 

                        (George looks at her, appalled.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Let's show Rowena what we do here, shall we?

                        (blows his whistle)

A Dog's Life.  Act One, Scene Two. 

 

                                                            BILLY

We can't do that, George.  We need another guy for the Attack Dog scene.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Pookie can double.

 

                                                            POOKIE

Man, I hate playing the human.  I want to be a dog.

 

                                                            BILLY

Why can't we get another actor?

 

                                                            GEORGE

I'm still fighting Equity on that, Billy. 

 

                                                            BILLY

What?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Randy filed a complaint and we can't hire some one else until it's cleared up.

 

                                                            BILLY

He filed a complaint?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Right after he got out of the hospital.

 

                                                            BILLY

And he calls himself an actor.

 

                        (A THUMP, THUMP from the machinery up above starts. Paper flowers float from the ceiling.  Rowena catches the flowers as they fall.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Horak!

                        (thump, thump, thump)

Horak!

 

                        (Horak enters from the factory.)

 

                                                            HORAK

I can't talk to you now.  Something is wrong with machines.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You promised to put a screen on that vent.

 

                                                            HORAK

I put screen on vent.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Then what are all these?             

 

                                                            HORAK

There's hole in screen.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You can't do this to me.

 

                                                            HORAK

I do anything I want.  Three days I throw you out on ear.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You're hard and unfeeling, Horak. 

 

                                                            HORAK

Business is business, buster.

 

                        (He exits.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Business?!  This is my life's blood!

 

                        (George starts up the stairs.  The thumping continues.)

                                   

                                                            TOM

George, what about Rowena?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Who?

                                                            TOM

Rowena.  Can she stay?

 

                                                            GEORGE

What?

 

                                                            TOM

Can she stay?

 

                        (George and Tom look at Margo.)

 

                                                            MARGO

                        (sings and dances)

We're dressed in white,

We're fly by night,

We're Doctors of Shame.       

                         

                                                            GEORGE

Can she go on tonight in Doctors of Shame?

 

                                                            TOM

Yes.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Fine!

 

                        (Spotlight on Margo dancing.)

 

 

TO BLACK

                                                                                           SCENE TWO

 

 

LIGHTS UP

 

TIME: A few days later.  

 

AT RISE:        Hildy enters from the back door, wearing a quilted jacket and a fox mask, and carrying two swords and a prop rifle.

 

                                                            HILDY

Keep moving, keep moving.  Breathe out!

 

Tom, Pookie, Billy and Rowena enter, carrying an old sofa.  They   put the sofa on stage.  Hildy puts the swords, rifle, and fox mask into  the prop box.  Billy, Tom, Rowena and Pookie change into slippers.  Rowena is wearing a wreath of paper flowers.)

 

                                                            TOM

I like that.  It matches your eyes.

                        (Rowena takes off the wreath, puts on her dog hat.  Tom puts on his.)

She's got beautiful eyes, doesn't she, Pook.

 

                                                            POOKIE

They're OK, I guess.

 

                                                            TOM

And she's talented, too.  I...I...I'm glad you're here, Rowena.

 

                                                            ROWENA

So am I, Tom.

 

                        (They exit.)

                                                            POOKIE

What color are my eyes, Billy?

 

                                                            BILLY

Blue?  Brown?  Hazel?  Green?  Red?

 

                                                            POOKIE

Aaargh!

                        (Pookie picks up a rifle and shoots it in the air.)

Got one.

(Billy howls like a dog.  Pookie hits a key on the keyboard.  Sound  of something falling from the sky.)

Let's go get it, boy.

 

            (In character as hunter and dog, they race off.  Hildy pulls a rope and  lowers a large cardboard moon.  She takes a banana out of Pookie's lunch bag, and exits, peeling it.

             Margo enters through the backdoor  with ARNIE RABBITT, a man of fifty-five or so.  He is dressed in   expensive slacks and a cashmere sweater.)

 

                                                            MARGO

This is it.  The "Stage".

 

                                                            ARNIE

The "Stage".  Very nice, very nice.  Hoo boy, it kinda makes you want to do something dramatic, doesn't it?

 

                                                            MARGO

Go ahead.

 

 

                                                            ARNIE

I couldn't.

 

                                                            MARGO

I bet you could.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Hello, out there.

 

                                                            MARGO

You're a natural, Arnie. 

                        (Margo and Arnie sit on the sofa.)

It's kind of magic, isn't it?  All empty and hushed.

 

            (George enters and blows his whistle.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Dogs.  Do I have dogs?

                        (Tom, Rowena, Pookie, and Billy rush on.  Billy has a rubber chicken  in his mouth.)

A Dog's Life.  Act One, Scene Two. 

 

                                                            POOKIE

Hot Dog!

 

                                                            GEORGE

Hildy!  Lights!

 

(Hildy hits the LIGHTS, and the stage changes into night. The moon is illuminated.   The actors grab dog collars from the prop box. Pookie changes hats and turns into a dog. SFX: sirens and an eerie recorded voice over saying, "Private Property, Private Property,  Trespassers Will Be Eaten.")

 

                                                            MARGO

George!

 

                        (As the announcement begins to die down, Tom howls and the rest follow him vocally.  They bay and howl, lifting their heads to the moon.  Tom pulls at Arnie's pant leg, growling.)

 

                                                            ARNIE

Get away!  Get off!

 

                                                            MARGO

Stop that.  Stop that.

 

                        (Arnie beats Tom off with his loafer.  Tom comes at him and Arnie  leaps up and stands on the sofa, still flailing away.)

 

                                                            ARNIE

Back, back.  Get away from me!

 

(Tom barks.  George pulls a prop marked The Electronic Trainer  from the propbox.  It has a big dial on it.  George turns it up to FULL.  It  BUZZES.  Tom's collar LIGHTS UP. 

He grabs at his throat, whirls and screams, backflips and writhes on the floor.) 

 

                                                            MARGO

                        (to George)

What do you think you're doing?

 

                        (Billy follows her, growling.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

I'm rehearsing the Attack Dog scene.  What do you think you're doing?

   

                        (Billy paws at Margo.  Pookie suddenly leaps at Arnie, who falls over the back of the sofa and disappears.)

 

                                                            MARGO

Oh, oh, oh.

                        (George blows his whistle.  Everything stops.  Pookie and Tom and  Rowena transform back into actors and help Arnie up.)

This man is my guest. 

 

                                                            GEORGE

No visitors at rehearsals.  It's a Cardinal Rule!

 

                                                            POOKIE

You were great, man.  Pretty handy with your shoe.   

 

                                                            ARNIE

Hoo boy, you really had me fooled.  I thought I was a goner, there.  

 

                        (Pookie gives him back his loafer.)

 

                                                            TOM

Terrific.  I hope you're going to join us.

 

                                                            MARGO

Are you alright?

 

                                                            ARNIE

Fine, fine.

 

                                                            MARGO

George lives in the moment.

                        (Billy, still in character, pulls at Margo's pantleg. To Billy)

Get away from me, you sicko.

                        (to everybody)

This is a very shabby way to treat an angel.

                       

                                                            ALL

An angel? 

 

            (Billy howls with delight.  He offers Arnie his paw.)

 

                                                            TOM

Pat his head.

                        (Arnie pats his head.  Billy pants.                              

He's Method.

 

                                                            MARGO

                        (to the company)

Mr. Rabbitt is a developer and he's developing a building complex downtown and he has indicated an interest in installing our company - our company! - as its resident theater.

 

                                                            POOKIE

Dude.

 

                                                            BILLY

Our company?

 

                                                            TOM

Downtown?

 

                                                            ROWENA

I adore downtown.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Downtown!!!?

                        (blows his whistle)

Break!

 

                                                            BILLY

                        (to Arnie

Can I get you something, sir?

 

                        (George glares at Billy.  Billy, Tom and Rowena exit.)

 

                                                            POOKIE

                        (looks in his bag

Has anybody seen my banana?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Out!

            (Pookie exits, leaving the backdoor open.)

And close that door!

            (Pookie closes the door.)

I can't stand natural light.

 

                                                            MARGO

He’s an artist.

 

                                                            ARNIE

A genius.  Hoo boy, this is fun!  I was swept away.

 

                                                            MARGO

I'd like you to meet Arnie Rabbitt.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Mr. Rabbitt.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Arnie...

 

                                                            GEORGE

Arnie, I promised my wife we'd talk, so let's talk.

           

                                                            ARNIE

George, here it is in a nutshell - a simple partnership - your talent, my money.

 

                                                            GEORGE

There's always a catch, isn't there, Arnie.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Always.  But I'd never try to put one past you, George. You're too fast.  No, here it is - when my theatre's built, your company moves in, rent free. 

 

 

                                                            GEORGE

Downtown?

 

                                                            ARNIE

Downtown.

                                                                       

                                                            GEORGE

There it is, the catch.  Arnie, our little company is dedicated to alerting John Q. Public to the dangers of the corporate world and downtown is the hub of that world.

 

                                                            MARGO

George.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You see, Arnie, the struggle of the twenty first century is not between capitalism and communism.  It's between corporatism and democracy.

 

                                                            MARGO

George, not now.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Corporations have corrupted and co-opted the democratic system. Duped us with their propaganda. Sold us their guns and their tobacco and their men's cologne.  Destroyed our ideals and divided the country into "us" and "them".   Bought all our politicians and put them in the pockets of their CEO's.  All in the name of money and power!  In this humble place, this basement, if you will, we're poor but pure, unsung but unsullied.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Hoo boy, that was beautiful. 

 

                                                            GEORGE

It was?

 

                                                            ARNIE

You betcha.  I'm no corporation, George.  Just one small businessman with a dream, a dream I'd like to share with you.

                                                                                   

                                                            GEORGE

I'm touched, Arn.  But no can do.

            (Margo bursts into tears.)

Will you excuse us, Arn?

            (George takes Margo aside.)

Honey bear?

 

 

                                                            MARGO

Don't you love me anymore?

 

                                                            GEORGE

I always love you.  Maybe, you mean you don't love me.

 

                                                            MARGO

I do love you.

                        (bursting out)

I just hate my life.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Oh.

           

                                                            MARGO

I'm no spring chicken, George.  And I don't want to spend the rest of my life desperately trying to make  the rent. 

 

                                                            GEORGE

Ah, my little duck.

 

                                                            MARGO

I'm afraid to open the mail.  I'm terrified of the first of the month.  I pee my pants going into the bank. 

               

                                                            GEORGE

Pigeon.

                                                                                               

                                                            MARGO

I hate driving that old Plymouth.  The only time we went on vacation, the engine fell out.

 

                                                            GEORGE

We had fun, didn't we?

 

(George puts his arms around her.  Horak enters through the backdoor,  carrying large chains and a padlock.)

 

                                                            HORAK

I have rent money by five o'clock or... I put chains on doors.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You can't do that.

           

                                                            HORAK

That's what happens to dudbeats.

 

                                                            MARGO

Deadbeats.

 

                                                            GEORGE

How dare you talk to me like that?  I am an artist.

 

                                                            ARNIE

A genius.

 

                        (Horak turns on Arnie.)

 

                                                            HORAK

Who cares for genius?  Does genius pay the rent? 

 

                                                            GEORGE

I'll tell you who pays the rent. 

                        (a sudden inspiration)

My partner, Mr. Arnie Rabbitt, pays the rent.

 

                                                            ARNIE

He does?

 

                                                            GEORGE

This time and this time only.  Doctors of Shame is going to sell out.

 

                                                            HORAK

Is Arnie Rabbitt?   I am looking at Arnie Rabbitt, celebrated tycoon? 

 

                                                            GEORGE

Tycoon?

 

                                                            HORAK

Mr. Rabbitt, you are hero of mine.  Someday I am being a big tycoon, too. My card.

 

                                                            ARNIE

                        (reading)

Bowers of flowers.  Ask us discounts?

 

                                                            HORAK

I am Vaclav Horak, maker of the paper flowers and slum landlord.  What you doing with this dudbeat?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Deadbeat. 

 

                                                            ARNIE

How much do you need, Mr. Horak?

 

                                                            HORAK

$4,500 big ones.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Gosh, partner, just to keep it businesslike, you'd better look at this contract.

 

                        (Arnie takes a legal document from his jacket. George takes it.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Where do I sign?

 

                                                            ARNIE

Shouldn't you read it first?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Screw that. 

                        (signs)

What's the worst that can happen?

 

                                                            HORAK

You like this "theatre"?

 

                                                            ARNIE

Love it.

 

                        (George gives Arnie the signed contract.  Arnie writes a check.)

           

                                                            HORAK

I too, love it.  My whole country loves it.  President of my old country is playwright.  I am Czech.

 

                                                            ARNIE

I thought you had an accent.  Gee, were you a communist?

 

                                                            HORAK

Is old hat, communism.  I am entrepreneur.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Aha.

 

                                                            HORAK

Is saying, "Communism is exploitation of man by man."  Capitalism is just the opposite.

                        (Arnie gives Horak the check.  Horak goes up the stairs.)

Come up and see me sometime!

 

                         (He exits.)

                                                            MARGO

Georgie.  If we move downtown, I’ll have to break the lease.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Do what you have to do, honey bear.  We're out of here.

 

                                                            MARGO

Sweetie banana.

 

                                                            GEORGE

                        (to Arnie)

How do you feel about a coffee and a danish?

 

                                                            ARNIE

It's on me.  I insist.

 

                                                            MARGO

Arnie, you are a prince.

 

                        (Margo exits.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Partner, I owe you one.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Don't even think about it.

                        (Arnie exits, then reenters.)

There is just one small thing.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Oh?

 

                                                            ARNIE

                        (calling off)

Come on in, sweetheart.

                        (MIMI enters, wearing a leather jacket, carrying a blackberry and an  Evian bottle.)

This is my daughter, Mimi.  She's a really talented little gal. 

 

                                                            MIMI

Gosh, this is a terrible neighborhood isn’t it?

 

                                                            GEORGE

What kind of talent do you have, Mimi?

 

                                                            MIMI

I'm an actress.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Isn't that swell?

 

 

TO BLACK.

 

 

                                                                                                                        SCENE THREE

 

AT RISE:        Tom and Pookie are on the stage alone.  Pookie is listening to his earphones.  Tom is reading a book.  They’re wearing their dog costumes. 

The costumes are like Dr. Denton's with tails and  paws, velcroed or zippered up the front.

 

                                                            TOM

What are you listening to?

 

                                                            POOKIE

                                    (taking off his earphones)

I'm working on the last song.   It’s not bad.

 

                                                            TOM

What are you calling it?

 

                                                            POOKIE

A Dog's Life.  What ya reading?

 

                                                            TOM

Thrilling Stories About Dogs.   Huh.  Bassets have been known to hold a permanent grudge.  

 

                                                            POOKIE

Like drummers.

 

                                                            TOM

Oh, Pook, she smells so good.

 

                                                            POOKIE

Bassets smell good?

 

                                                            TOM

Rowena!  Have you ever smelled her, Pookie?

 

                                                            POOKIE

Nope.

 

                                                            TOM

There's no Opium or Charlie about her, nothing false or manufactured, she's just Rowena, pure Rowena. She's so fresh, so clean.  Her hair is as silky as an August night and her eyes as blue as a Bahamian  sky.

Have you listened to her voice?

 

                                                            POOKIE

Nope.

 

                                                            TOM

 It's a Bach cantata sung by an Episcopal choir.  Have you looked at her legs?

 

                                                            POOKIE

Tom, have you ever looked at me?  I'm a girl.

 

                                                            TOM

I know that, Pook.  You look great.

 

                                                            POOKIE

Yeah.

 

                                                            TOM

I want to talk with her and laugh with her.  I want to wake up with her.  I want to hold her hand and walk through the morning fog.

 

                                                            POOKIE

So, tell her.

 

                                                            TOM

I don't know what to say.

 

                                                            POOKIE

Why don't you sing it?

 

                                                            TOM

Yes!   I'll write the lyrics.  You'll write the music.

 

 

                                                            POOKIE

I will?

 

                                                            TOM

Thanks, Pook.  You the man.

 

                        (He hugs Pookie.  George enters and blows his whistle.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Dogs!  Do I have dogs? 

                        (Rowena, and Billy run on, also in costume as dogs.)

Colleagues, I have Great News. Today…

                         (a drum roll from Pookie)

The Mercer theatre is expanding its operation to incorporate the first and only Mercer School of Acting.

 

                                                            ALL

Wow!  Great.  Wonderful.

 

                                                            BILLY

Woof.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Our first student starts today. 

 

(They bark and howl and cheer.  A drum roll.  Mimi enters through  the backdoor.)            

                                                            MIMI                                                 

Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Am I late?          

 

                        (Margo and Arnie enter.  Arnie’s carrying a camera.)                                                                                                

                                                            MARGO

This is Mimi, everybody.  George.

 

                                                            GEORGE

I'd like all of you to welcome Mimi, our first student. She will be simply a member of the team with no special privileges or favors, only the very best instruction and advice we can offer. She understands that we are all equals here.

                        (Arnie takes a picture of George and Mimi.)

As everybody knows, Mimi, I expect nothing short of a lifetime commitment to the work.

                       

                                                            MIMI

I am committed and I feel so humble and so proud to be here.  I even bought the right shoes.

 

                        (She is wearing new slippers in gold lame.  Billy sniffs her. Arnie  takes another picture. George blows the whistle.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Just a word about this play, Mimi.  This is a simple allegory told in an amusing and skillful fashion by our resident playwright, Tom Cameron, about how the rich and powerful few at the top of the heap

silence the protests of the many despairing poor at the bottom with ever more cruel and sophisticated electronic instruments.  It ends, of course, with rioting in the streets. Is that about right, Tom?

 

                                                            TOM

Pretty close.  You could call it, Us and Them, I suppose, because of the ever widening gap between  the...

 

                                                            MIMI

Oh, how deep.

 

                        (George blows his whistle.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Dogs!   Do I have dogs?

 

            (The actors gather around, ready to work.)

 

                                                            ARNIE

                         (whispering to Mimi)

This is much more fun than sitting around at home, isn't it?

 

                        (He takes another picture.)

 

                                                            MIMI

Dadd-ee.

 

                                                            TOM

Daddy?

 

                        (George blows his whistle. Margo and Arnie exit.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

A Dog's Life.  Act One, Scene Three. The Mating Dance.

 

                        (LIGHT change.  MUSIC from Pookie on the keyboard)

 

                                                            MIMI

Goodie.

 

(Rowena leans away from Tom, poised on one foot.  They dance sensually together.  Then, music from Puccini's Tosca suddenly blares from the factory.  Pookie stops playing.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Horak!   Turn that down!

                        (Rowena loses her balance and falls.  Horak opens the factory door.)

What is that!?

 

                                                            HORAK

Is Tosca.

 

                                                            POOKIE

What’s Tosca?

 

                                                            HORAK

You don't know Tosca, Mr. Musician?  It's the most beautiful opera in the world.  By Puccini.

                                                            GEORGE

I'll give you Puccini.

                        (turns to the actors)

Break!

 

(He exits into the factory.  There is some more yelling and some  thumping and then an abrupt silence.)

 

                                                            MIMI

Ooo. I'm having so much fun already.  This is just magical.

                       

                                                            ROWENA

I can't believe I fell down.

 

                                                            MIMI

Do you fall down a lot?

 

                                                            TOM

Everybody falls down at first.

 

                        (Hildy enters.  She looks at Mimi's jacket.)

 

                                                            HILDY

Leather?

 

                                                            MIMI

What else?

 

                                                            HILDY

Feel this.  It's pure down. I got it off a dumpster at Sixth and Georgina.

 

                                                            ROWENA

That's where we got the sofa.

 

                                                            MIMI

You wear trash?

 

                                                            HILDY

Who steals my coat, steals trash; 'Tis something, nothing;

'Twas mine, 'tis his and has been Slave to thousands...

 

                        (A rimshot from Pookie. Hildy exits.)

 

                                                            MIMI

She wears trash?

 

                        (Tom turns into a dog and chases Rowena off.  Pookie plays Old  Dog Blue on his guitar. Mimi sits on the sofa. Billy jumps up beside her.)

 

                                                            BILLY

I'm Billy.  I'm Method. 

 

                                                            MIMI

Ooh, how deep.

           

                                                            BILLY

I can teach it to you.

 

                                                            MIMI

Cool.

 

                                                            BILLY

Would you like me to cry for you?

 

                                                            MIMI

Why?

 

                                                            BILLY

It's Method.

 

                                                            MIMI

Golly, I'd love it.

 

                                                            BILLY

O.K.  I reach back into my memory and I remember something so sad, like when my grandma died.

 

                                                            MIMI

Your grandma died?

 

                                                            BILLY

I feel that sadness all over again and

                        (weeps)

I cry.

 

                        (Mimi weeps with him.)

 

                                                            MIMI

This is even better than therapy. You must be the best actor in the whole company.

 

                                                            BILLY

We're all equally talented. 

                        (look around, lowers his voice)

But I'm the most dedicated.

 

                                                            MIMI

And the best!  You can't fool me.

 

                                                            BILLY

Thanks....Mimsi.

                                                                                                           

                        (He covers his face with his paws.)

                                               

                                                            MIMI

Are you getting something for break....Billsy?

 

                        (Billy rips himself out of his Velcro suit.)

 

                                                            BILLY

Do you want something?

 

                                                            MIMI

I'd love a Rocky Road sundae and a black coffee with Splenda.

                        (pats her pockets)

Golly, I don't have any cash.

(Rowena and Tom enter, still in costume.  Rowena, carrying her purse.)

Can you lend me a couple of bucks?

 

                                                            ROWENA

                        (taking her money out of her purse)

I’ve got only five dollars to my name.

 

                                                            MIMI

Terrific.  Thanks.

 

                        (Mimi takes the five dollars.)

 

                                                            TOM

Hey!

                        (Billy and Mimi exit.)

 

                                                            ROWENA

Tom?

 

                                                            TOM

Yes?

 

                                                            ROWENA

I'm not sure what my dog feels about your dog.  It is a class thing?  Are they fighting because she's the thoroughbred and he's the mutt?

 

                                                            TOM

A dog doesn't even know about ethnic or racial or class differences.  Things that people worry about don't bother dogs at all.  They're just dogs. 

 

                                                            ROWENA

You can't just be a dog, Tom.  You can be a Lab or a Pit Bull or a Pomeranian.  They're all different.

 

                                                            TOM

I never thought of that.

 

                                                            ROWENA

I had all three.  And a bunny named Lucky.

 

                                                            TOM

He was a lucky bunny.

                       

                                                            ROWENA

The dogs always knew what I was feeling.  When I was happy, they'd jump up and kiss me.   When I was sad, they'd peer into my face with big, round eyes.

 

                                    (She peers into Tom's face.  Tom peers back.)

 

                                                            TOM

                                    (breathless)

Like this?

 

                                    (Rowena, laughing, breaks away.)

 

                                                            ROWENA

Uh huh.

 

                                                            TOM

I wanted a dog more than anything else in the world. 

 

                                                            ROWENA

You never had a dog?

 

                                                            TOM

My mom was crazy about her off-white velour sleeper sofa.

 

                                                            ROWENA

That's awful.

 

                                                            TOM

I had an imaginary dog named Benny.  He loved me but he was afraid to come inside.

 

                                                            ROWENA

You've suffered.

 

                                                            TOM

I know.

 

                                                            ROWENA

That's why you're a great artist.

 

                                                            TOM

I wouldn't say great.

 

                                                            ROWENA

I would.  You're a wonderful writer.

 

                                    (Tom pulls two apples from his pocket.)                                

 

                                                            TOM

Like one?

 

                                                            ROWENA

Thanks.

 

                                    (Rowena and Tom takes bites from their apples.  Look at each other with longing.)

 

                                                            TOM

Rowena?

 

                                                            ROWENA

Tom?

 

                                                            TOM

I...I…I can't find the words.

 

                                                            ROWENA

That's alright.  Dogs don't talk.

 

                        (They kiss.  Pookie looks in h er brown bag.)

 

                                                            POOKIE

Has anybody seen my banana?

 

TO BLACK

                   

                                                                                                                            SCENE FOUR

 

AT RISE:        Rowena, Tom, and Billy, and Pookie are in costume as in Scene Three.  George picks up a hoop and Tom somersaults through it.

                                               

                                                            GEORGE

Good boy.  Good boy.

                        (George throws Tom a biscuit.) 

Let's move on. Rowena, keep that silky feel. We want more wiggle in that pup, Billy, and more sauce to the mutt, Tom. 

 

(Mimi enters in her English sheepdog costume, wearing a large paper lampshade collar around her neck.)

 

                                                            MIMI

Why do I have to wear this horrible thing?

 

                                                            BILLY

So you won’t bite your infected paw.

 

                                                            MIMI

I feel so stupid. 

 

                                                            BILLY

You’ll be alright.  Just reach back into your past, way back.  Remember your favorite doggie.

 

                                                            MIMI

I didn't have a doggie.  I had a grandma.

 

                                                            GEORGE

May we begin, please!

                        (to Mimi) 

Watch what the others do and follow their lead.

 

                                                            MIMI

I can’t see.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Sit!

 

(Billy, Tom and Rowena get down on all fours.  Tom pulls Mimi down with them.)

 

                                                            MIMI

You hurts my knees!

(Billy growls at him.)

This floor is so filthy!

 

                        (George blows his whistle.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

We're all going to the Doggie Hospital.  Won't that be fun?

 

                        (Tom, Pookie, and Rowena scatter and hide in various places on the stage, where they remain whimpering.  Billy goes behind the tree.  Mimi sits center stage, frozen.)

           

                                                            MIMI

Hello? Hello?

 

                        (Billy looks around the tree and whispers to her.)

 

                                                            BILLY

Mimi, I'm over here behind the tree.  Come on.

 

                                                            MIMI

                        (wails)

I'm not going to do it!

 

                                                            GEORGE

Get moving, Missy.

 

                                                            MIMI

No!  I hate this doggie thing!

 

                        (George blows his whistle.)

                       

                                                            GEORGE

Break!

                       

                                                            MIMI

Oh, goodie.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Everybody out. 

 

                        (Tom, Pookie, Billy and Rowena exit.)

 

                                                            MIMI

                        (to George)

Mr. Mercer, I'm supposed to be in a real play and have a real part, not a dog or anything animal like that.  

 

                                                            GEORGE

You're in the company and you'll play the part you're given.

 

                                                            MIMI

I'm going to tell Daddy.  He'll find me another company that's not hazardous to my health.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Your Daddy doesn't scare me.  I'm Top Dog here.

 

                                                            MIMI

What do you know about anything?  You work in a basement.

 

                        (She exit, banging into things as she goes.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Margo!

 

BLACKOUT

 

                                                                                                                                 SCENE FIVE

 

LIGHTS UP

 

TIME:             The next day. 

 

AT RISE:        Billy, in costume, is alone onstage.  He spots George's slippers, grabs one in his mouth and plays with it. He flings it with his mouth and it goes under the sofa.  He sniffs under the sofa, then reaches under and pulls.  He hears a RIP, brings the slipper out.  The upper is ripped away from the lower.  He jumps up on the sofa and buries the slipper under a pillow.  He exits.  Arnie and Margo enter and change into slippers. 

 

                                                            ARNIE

The prime rib at the La Mirada Dinner Theatre is first rate. Have you tried it?

 

                                                            MARGO

No.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Mimi and I saw The Baron’s Kiss there.  Gosh, I hope this works.

 

MARGO

If you do your part and I do mine, I think it will.

 

                         ARNIE

Is Brian ready?

 

                                                          MARGO

He’s waiting at the payphone.

 

                                                            ARNIE

I wouldn't have asked if it wasn't really important.  I mean, she loves this acting stuff.  You could get addicted to it, couldn't you, and work at it twenty-four hours a day?

 

                                                            MARGO

I'm addicted.

 

                                                            ARNIE

I hope she will be, too.  It would be so good for both of us. I've tried everything.  She's very very creative and she's studied interior decorating and silversmithing and fluorescent glass sculpture but, I don't know, nothing seems to take.

The only thing she ever really liked was just staying home.  I mean it isn't that she isn't busy. She's redecorated five times and the glass sculptures are terrific, except for the ones that bubble. It isn't that I don't enjoy her company.

She's a swell gal.

 

                                                            MARGO

Swell.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Dr. Frankel thinks she's very special.  It’s just that I've been a parent for twenty-seven years.  I'd like to try something else.

 

                                                            MARGO

                        (calling)

Are you ready up there, Mr. Horak?

 

                        (Horak enters.)

 

                                                            HORAK

I am ready.

 

                                                            MARGO

Good.

 

                                                            HORAK

Wait, wait, wait.  I show you big look of surprise.

 

                        (He looks surprised.)

 

                                                            MARGO

Very nice.

                        (George enters from the backdoor and Horak exits.  George takes off  his shoes and puts the one slipper on.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

What's he still doing here?

 

                                                            MARGO

He's hoping you've reconsidered.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Hope away.  I will never do The Baron’s Kiss.

 

                                                            MARGO

It's a small change in the program, that's all.

 

                                                            GEORGE

"Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

 

                                                            MARGO

Nobody's being assassinated here, George.

 

                                                            GEORGE

What about the death of artistic integrity and creative freedom?

 

                                                            ARNIE

Hoo boy, "death".

 

                                                            MARGO

It’s just for opening, Georgie.  We’ll do A Dog’s Life later in the season.

 

                        (Horak enters, carrying a basket of red, white and blue paper flowers.)

 

                                                            HORAK

Mr. Rabbitt!

 

                                                            GEORGE

What now?  Where’s my other slipper?

                                                                       

                        (Horak races down stairs and gives the basket to Arnie.)

 

                                                            HORAK

Compliments of Horak.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Gee.  Red, white and blue.  That’s so patriotic.

 

                                                            HORAK

Mr. Rabbitt, I am reading in News of US Business that you are having the ear of the Mayor.

 

                                                            ARNIE

You betcha.

 

                                                            HORAK

He is big sturgeon.  You know his balls?

 

                                                            GEORGE

What balls?

 

                                                            ARNIE

The Fourth of July balls? 

 

                                                            HORAK

Yes.  I decorate so beautiful.  You could put in word for me?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Horak, how dare you conduct your business on my stage.

 

                                                            HORAK

You leave.  It’s my stage.

 

                                                            MARGO

Mr. Horak.  We’re not moving downtown.  We’re staying here.

 

                                                            HORAK

Good.  I raise the rent.

           

                                                            GEORGE

What?  I’m not paying one more penny for this rathole.

 

                                                            HORAK

Then I throw you out.  Everybody in world of stage knows I have this rathole. Already the Vagabonds telephone.   The Orphans call, the Wanderers, the Crazy Fools.  I ask twice what you pay.                                          

 

                                                            GEORGE

You’d extort money from paupers? 

 

                                                            HORAK

You stay, you pay big time.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You are beyond contempt.

 

                                                            HORAK

You are so low you are on the floor.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You unprincipled pissant!

 

                                                            HORAK

I spit on that.

 

(George rushes at Horak, with a menacing shoe.  Arnie holds him back. Horak rushes at George.  Margo holds him back. )   

 

                                                            GEORGE

You can take your stage and shove it.

 

                                                            ARNIE

You don’t want to stay?

 

                                                            GEORGE

You’d have to kill me to keep me here.

 

                                                            ARNIE

Does that mean you'll do The Baron’s Kiss?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Anything! 

 

                                                            ARNIE

Do I have your word on that?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Yes!

 

                                                            ARNIE

Could I have one minute?

 

                                                            HORAK

One.  Then I kill him.

 

                        (Arnie lets go of Horak.)

                                                                                   

                                                            GEORGE

One.  Then let him try.

 

(Margo lets George go.)

 

                                                            ARNIE

Mr. Horak, you were wrong to raise the rent.  I want you to apologize.  Can you do that for me?

 

                                                            HORAK

What you do for me?

 

                                                            ARNIE

I’ll speak to the Mayor.  

                       

                                                            HORAK

I can do it.

                        (He hugs Arnie. To George)

You bloody guy.  You are not so low. 

                        (gives basket to him)

Keep flowers.

                        (to Arnie)

Come up.  I show you factory.  And give you bigger basket.

 

                        (He exits.)

 

                                                            ARNIE

Hoo boy, isn’t this great?

                        (Arnie follows Horak out.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

What have I done?

 

            MARGO        

You’ve made the right decision.  I’m so proud of you.

 

                                                            GEORGE

We can't do The Baron's Kiss.  None of my guys has the technique to play the Baron.

 

                                                            MARGO

Georgie, I have it. A wonderful English actor named Brian Boffin came into the office last week.  He's from the Royal Theatre, London.

 

                                                            GEORGE

                        (wincing)

You mean he's classically trained?

 

                                                            MARGO

He's played the Baron a dozen times.  Shall I call him?

 

                                                            GEORGE

What can I tell the kid? 

 

                                                            MARGO

Why don't you tell him the truth?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Tell him I'm throwing out his play because the daughter of the angel doesn't want to do it?

 

                                                            MARGO

You can't tell him that.

 

                                                            GEORGE

He'd kill himself.

                                                               

                        (Tom enters from the dressing room, in his dog costume.) 

 

                                                            MARGO

I'll call Brian.  He's waiting at the payphone at Dorothy's Cantina.

                       

                        (She exits.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

He's an actor and he doesn’t have a cellphone?  Tom!

 

                                                            TOM

Is something wrong? 

 

                                                            GEORGE

I'd like to talk about the play a bit.

 

                                                            TOM

Great.  Shoot.

 

                                                            GEORGE

It's not ready.

 

                                                            TOM

You said it was a beautiful piece.

 

                                                            GEORGE

And it is.  But...

 

                                                            TOM

But...?

 

                                                            GEORGE

I can’t quite put my finger on it...there's something...it's the dialogue.

                                                                                                                       

                                                            TOM

It doesn't have dialogue.

 

                                                            GEORGE

That's it. 

 

                                                            TOM

Dogs don't talk.  That's the point.

 

                                                            GEORGE

That's the problem!

 

                                                            TOM

But I thought, I thought you thought, I thought we thought, I mean, we've been working on this for months and you've smiled and laughed and encouraged me and now, you rip the arm off my baby

and drive this dagger through my heart.  I’ll kill myself.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Tom, listen to me, it's passe.

 

                                                            TOM

It was your idea!

 

                                                            GEORGE

It was?

 

                                                            TOM

                        (suddenly seeing)                                 

I get it.  You're throwing it out because of her!

 

                                                            GEORGE

Her?  What her?  Why would I do a thing like that?

 

                                                            TOM

You know why.

 

                                                            GEORGE

Why?

 

                                                            TOM

Because she's no good as a dog!

 

                                                            GEORGE

That's it!

 

                                                            TOM

She’s awful.

                                   

                                                            GEORGE

She stinks.

 

                                                            TOM

She'd ruin it. 

 

                                                            GEORGE

I won't let her do that!

 

                                                            TOM

Thank you!

 

                                                            GEORGE

We'll break her in with something less demanding and special.  Then, she'll be ready for the dogs.

 

                                                            TOM

Right.  Right.  Thank you.

 

                        (George sits on the sofa pillow, jumps up, reaches under it and finds the slipper.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Aaaaah!

(He blows his whistle.  Billy and Pookie enter.  Pookie’s carrying a  score.

 

                                    BILLY

(to Pookie)

What are you reading?

 

                                                            POOKIE

Puccini.

 

(Billy gives him the thumbs up, then sees the slipper in George's   hand and covers his face with his paws in shame.  George raises the slipper as if to hit him. Billy peeks.)

 

                                    GEORGE

Shame! 

                        (Billy crouches on the floor in shame.  He whimpers. George takes off  the other slipper and is in stocking feet.)

Bad boy.

                        (Billy puts a paw on his knee.)

Alright, I forgive you.

                        (Billy yelps with pleasure and grabs the other slipper.)

Give me that. 

            (Billy runs away with the slipper.)

I'm not acting, now.  I mean it.  Give me that. 

                        (Billy crouches over the slipper, growling.)

Will you give me that?!

                        (He tries to take the slipper from Billy, who hangs on to it.

The upper  comes away from the lower. Billy howls.)

Sit!

                        (Billy sits.)

Where is Rowena?

 

                                                            TOM

Hildy sent her out for props.

 

                                                            GEORGE

And Mimi?

                        (Tom shrugs.)

What does she do every morning?  We won't wait.  I have some Good News and some Bad News. First the Bad.  Tom and I have talked it over and we've decided that

A Dog's Life won't be ready to open the new Mercer Theater.

 

            (Billy whines in pain.  Tom pats his head.)

 

                                                            POOKIE

What are we going to do?

 

                        (George takes a sword out of the propbox and throws it to Tom.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

How's your Italian dialect? 

 

                                                            TOM

Itsa good.

 

                        (George throws Billy a sword.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

How's the footwork?  Is it good enough to play the swift and flamboyant Giorgio?

 

                        (Tom and Billy square off.  Touch swords.)

                                                                 

                                                            TOM

Guido Sarducci!

 

 

                                                            BILLY

Emilio Pucci!!

 

                        (They fight, not an easy thing to do in dogsuits. Pookie follows them, refereeing.  Tom touches Billy on the chest with his sword. Billy shows his throat.)

 

                                                            POOKIE

 Touche.  Tom wins.

 

                                                            GEORGE

  Tom!  Giorgio!

 

                                                            BILLY

 What about me?

 

                                                            GEORGE

 You'll get something.

 

                                                            POOKIE

 In what?  What are we going to do?

 

                                                            GEORGE

I almost forgot the Good News.  I've found that extra actor you've been looking for.

 

                                                            BILLY

At last!  Someone for the Attack Dog scene.

 

                                                            TOM

What's his name?

 

                                                            GEORGE

Mr. Brian Boffin of The Royal Theater, London, England.

    

                                                            BILLY

An English actor?  That's the bad news.  English actors have no heart, no inner fire. And they think they’re so smart.

 

                                                            GEORGE

He's a quick study and he'll be ready for the opening.

 

                                                            BILLY

I can be ready.  No problem.

                                                                                                           

                                                            GEORGE

It isn't easy for you to slide from one character to another.  You know that.

 

                                                            BILLY

Never!  What show?  When?

    

                                                            POOKIE

Boffin.  I know that guy.  I met him at the Lone Star Saloon a while back.    He could talk real good, even after two triple vodkas.

 

                        (BRIAN BOFFIN enters through the backdoor, walking in a stiff upright manner, wearing a suit that’s good but old. He’s about fifty, with an impressive manner and a command of the stage.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Mr. Boffin.  Right on time.  George Mercer.

 

                                                            BRIAN

Charmed.

 

                                                            POOKIE

Boff!  How goes it?

 

                                                            BRIAN

Have we met?

 

                                                            POOKIE

At  the Lone Star Saloon, man.  Remember?

 

                                                BRIAN

Surely, you jest.

                        (Pookie hands Brian a pair of slippers.  Brian holds them from his nose.)

How many feet have preceded mine?

 

                        (He puts the slippers on.)

 

                                                            BILLY

But he's so old.  He must be forty!

 

                                                            BRIAN

What, you insolent puppy, is forty?  It is a soupcon of character, an acquired reputation, rooms in the gentlemen's club of one's choice and a shot at tea with the Queen.

 

                                                            BILLY

 But...

 

                                                            BRIAN

 And what is twenty?  It's an unfortunate, jejune, callow, pimply-faced, bumptious, boring, though thank God, brief state of being.     

 

                                                            BILLY

All I meant was, well, we're on the cutting edge of hip here, and forty is part of the past.

 

                                                            BRIAN

The cutting edge of hip"?  How mysterious, dear boy.  What is that?  Is the cutting edge like the slice of Sheffield steel?  Is "hip" what the cutting edge cuts into?   Painful, I should think.

And when it cuts away with its hip, or indeed, cuts away at this "hip", what does it have when it’s finished?  Something present?

 

I present it to you.  Am I not present?  You call, "Boffin, Boffin", and do I   not reply, "Present?"  Is this flesh I pinch not present flesh?  Is this air I breathe not present air?  Fetid, without doubt, but present?

Doesn't anybody in this wretched place smoke?

 

                        (George blows his whistle.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

The Grand Tour for Mr. Boffin.

 

 

                                                            BRIAN

Too kind.

                        (Brian, Pookie, Billy and Tom start offstage.)

Who plays the leads in this company?

 

                                                            BILLY

There are no leads.  We're all equal, here.

 

                                                            BRIAN

How devastatingly American of you.

 

                        (They exit.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Margo!

                        (Margo enters.)

What kind of actor is that? 

 

                                                            MARGO

He's here?

 

 

                                                            GEORGE

He’s as stiff as a board.

 

                                                            MARGO

He's wearing a back brace.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You want me to hire an actor who's incapacitated?

 

                                                            MARGO

It’s temporary.  He was playing Cyrano and he tripped over his sword.

 

                                                            GEORGE

You want me to hire an incapacitated actor who’s accident prone!

 

                                                            MARGO

His diction is terrific.  Authentic British diction.

 

                        (Tom enters.)

           

                                                            TOM

How can this guy do the Attack Dog scene?  He’s as stiff as a board.

 

                                                            MARGO

He's wearing a back brace.

 

                                                            TOM

Can we try him out?

 

                        (George smiles at him.)

 

                                                            MARGO

George!

                                                                

                        (Brian, Pookie and Billy enter.)

 

                                                            POOKIE

You sure you've never been to the Lone Star?

 

                        (George blows his whistle.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Sniff the wind.  What do you smell?

 

                                                            TOM

Feline?

 

                                                            ROWENA

Ferret?

 

                                                            BILLY

Pheasant?

                                                           

                                                            GEORGE

Fox!

 

                                                            MARGO

No!

 

                                                            TOM

Alright!

 

                        (The actors, as dogs, advance on Brian, growling.)

 

                                                            BRIAN

No, no, no.

 

(Brian hides behind Margo, then races to the backdoor. He can't get it open.  The dogs chase him into corner, where he huddles, panting and terrified.)

 

                                                            GEORGE

Good start, Mr. Boffin.    Break!

 

 

LIGHTS DOWN

 

END OF ACT ONE