«The Understudy By Eddie McPherson Copyright © MMV All Rights Reserved Heuer Publishing LLC, Cedar Rapids, Iowa All performances before an audience are ...»
ISABELLA: (pointing to GEOFFREY) I heard him tell Wallace that he wished he were dead.
GEOFFREY: (points to ALICE) But I heard her say she would get even with him some day!
ALICE: (points to HOWARD) Rogers did it! He has the murder weapon hidden in his coat! I saw it!
HOWARD: That’s absurd! (pulls out a large butcher knife from his coat) I was only going to cut up some cucumbers for the shrimp salad.
DOLORES: Everyone calm yourselves; you’re becoming hysterical!
EVAN: (standing in the French doors, legs spread apart; an unlit cigarette hanging from his bottom lip.) That’s good advice, Ms Dubois. Advice I think you should follow yourself. (loud thunder) HOWARD: Excuse me, sir – but you’re trespassing on private property.
EVAN: (showing his badge) The name’s Lieutenant Biddle. Private Investigator.
DOLORES: It seems there has been a murder in my garden, Lieutenant.
EVAN: Murder, huh? So that’s who I stepped over on the patio just now. (turning to BEVERLY, coming out of character.) I hate that line, Beverly – it makes me sound so stupid.
BEVERLY: Shhhhh – keep going.
EVAN: (sighs and turns back, in character) Were these people present at the time of the murder? (referring to the staff) DOLORES: Yes, Lieutenant. I was throwing a little appreciation dinner for my staff. I’m convinced the murder was committed by one of my butlers since the knife had to go through Guinever’s chest through the rib…(out of character) Oh, do excuse me…what I meant was…(back into character) I’m convinced the murder was committed by one of my butlers since the candlestick had to go through…um – I meant knife had to go through his chest – A female couldn’t pull that off.
EVAN: Oh, so you’ve seen the murdered victim’s body?
EVAN: If you hadn’t seen the victim, how do you know where he was stabbed?
DOLORES: Are you questioning me, Lieutenant? Madam Dubois?
EVAN: I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Ms Dubois – but everyone in this room is a suspect until I get to the bottom of this. Until I finish my investigation, I don’t want to hear a peep out of anyone! Now everyone be QUIET!
There’s a thud heard off stage left followed by a bellow from LLOYD.
LLOYD: (offstage) Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!
BEVERLY: (jumps ups from her chair) What was that? (calling to off stage) Janet, are you okay?
JANET: (entering from the French doors) I’m right here. (pointing left) It came from that way.
ALBERT: (enters quickly and takes his place on the sofa) Is it time yet?
BEVERLY: No Albert, did you just yell back stage?
ALBERT: It wasn’t me.
HOWARD: I’ll check it out. Officer Biddle, come with me.
GEOFFREY: Let me go. I was born for adventure!
OSCAR: Come on, Howard. You and I will take care of this. (They exit through the stage left door.) ISABELLA: I wonder who it could be since everyone is on stage.
GEORGIA, on instinct, grabs EVAN’S arm. She realizes what she is doing and quickly lets go. Suddenly HOWARD and OSCAR enter the French doors helping a hobbling LLOYD on. They assist him to the chair left of the sofa as everyone surrounds him. During the following conversation with LLOYD, GUINEVERE appears just inside the French doors again. DOLORES looks back and sees her. GUINEVERE slowly smiles and throws up a wave to DOLORES. DOLORES doesn’t respond. GUINEVERE slowly motions for DOLORES to come to her.
DOLORES shakes her head. GUINEVERE patiently motions her over again. DOLORES looks back at the others who are still paying their full attention to LLOYD. DOLORES eases over toward GUINEVERE who is still standing in the French doors. As DOLORES begins to move toward GUINEVERE, GUINEVERE slowly exits and disappears. DOLORES follows her out.
BEVERLY: Lloyd? You scared us to death. I thought you had left.
LLOYD: Well, I did, Ms Gladstone – but then I began to wonder if I had hidden the… HOWARD loudly clears his throat and begins coughing to stop LLOYD from saying anything else. It works, LLOYD stops in his tracks.
BEVERLY: Was wondering if you had hidden what, Lloyd?
HOWARD: Don’t you mean you came back to get your toolbox you forgot earlier?
LLOYD: Yes sir – that’s what I meant. I forgot my toolbox.
JANET: What was the noise we heard?
LLOYD: (becoming nervous as he looks back toward HOWARD) Well, when I was getting my toolbox from off the shelf in the back, it slipped and fell on my foot. That’s when I screamed.
BEVERLY: You poor thing; are you all right?
LLOYD: Yes ma’am. I’m sorry for interrupting your rehearsal. I meant to slip in and out unnoticed.
JANET: We’re just glad you’re okay, Lloyd. If anything happened to you, we’d all be in a fix.
BEVERLY: Now, if you are all right, then we really need to get back to our rehearsal.
HOWARD: Can you stand, Lloyd?
LLOYD: I think so. Don’t mind me – I’ll just get my things and get out of here.
LLOYD and HOWARD stand off to the side and whisper during the following conversation. It looks by their body language that HOWARD is somewhat reprimanding LLOYD.
BEVERLY: (looking through her script) We will take it back a few pages.
Dolores, if you would…(looks around, showing frustration) Where did Dolores go?
DOLORES: (entering through the stage left door) I’m right here.
BEVERLY: Dolores, you look as though you’ve seen a ghost.
DOLORES: Do I? Do you believe in them?
BEVERLY: Do I believe in what?
DOLORES: Ghosts, specters, spirits that return from the chest…I mean grave!
GEORGIA: Here we go again. Really, Beverly – I don’t see how we can possibly get anything done with all these distractions… EVAN (crossing to the other side of the stage) I think everyone needs to get a hold of themselves…(He stumbles over a toolbox.) OLIVIA: Officer Biddle, are you all right?
EVAN: Lloyd, you really need to keep your toolbox off the floor – a person could hurt himself.
LLOYD: (crossing over to the toolbox and picking it up) Sorry about that, Officer Biddle.
JANET: Lloyd, I thought you said you dropped your toolbox backstage.
LLOYD: Oh…Um…Well… HOWARD: (coming to his rescue) That was his other toolbox. Right Lloyd?
LLOYD: (following HOWARD’S lead) That was my other toolbox.
EVAN: Something strange is going on here.
GEORGIA: (looking at EVAN) Oh, good heavens. There he goes with that detective look in his eyes. There is nothing going on here that you should concern yourself over.
DOLORES: (off to herself, in a fog) Of course there aren’t any such thing as ghosts. I’ve never believed in them. Never!
BEVERLY: I think this murder mystery is getting to everyone. Perhaps next time we should put on a romantic comedy.
GEORGIA: Why yes, perhaps we could write our own. (crossing and looking at ISABELLA.) About a man who has a fling with every woman in town and his poor, naïve wife has no idea what is going on.
OLIVIA: (putting an arm around ISABELLA) Mrs. Styles, you have gone too far.
ISABELLA: (starts to cry) She’s right, Olivia. I was a fool. Everyone but I knew what he was doing behind my back! Blah, blah, blah, blah!
(She runs out.) OLIVIA: Mrs. Oldacre! (turns sharply to GEORGIA) Now look what you have done!
GEORGIA: It isn’t my fault that she can’t handle the truth.
OLIVIA: Speaking of the truth, everyone knows about you and Officer Biddle going out on your secret dates. (She runs out.) GEORGIA: Well, I never!
EVAN: (out of nowhere) I never too! That whole rumor of Mrs. Styles liking younger men and asking me out after her rich husband died is simply not true! (All stare blankly at EVAN.) BEVERLY: Would everyone please calm down?
GEORGIA: Officer Biddle – you sit down this instant! I don’t remember anyone talking to you.
HOWARD: Come on, Lloyd – I’ll help you get your tools to the car.
BEVERLY: Wait, we need to rehearse!
GEORGIA: I’m afraid I’m now too distraught to rehearse, Beverly.
(GEORGIA runs off.) EVAN: (jumping up and going after her) Georgia! (stops and looks back at everyone) I mean, Mrs. Styles! (He runs out.) BEVERLY: Would everyone help me get my cast back on stage so we can finish and go home, please? (as she exits) Everyone!
Everyone! (All but DOLORES run out.) DOLORES: (stands and speaks to the chest) But I felt your pulse and there wasn’t any. I checked your breathing and you were dead!
DEAD! This is all a game to them. They’re trying to break me.
(takes a few steps back and looks at the chest. Without hesitation, she crosses behind the chest, pushes the items off and flings open the lid. Her hand goes directly to her lips as she breathes in a gasp.
She shuts the lid quickly and looks around the stage.) Who took her!? Which one of you dirty thieves stole my Guinevere!? (She begins rubbing her temples. Pause. She calmly replaces the items to the top of the chest. She sits zombie-like on the sofa and slowly rocks back and forth with that crazy look in her eye again. She sings sadly. As she gets halfway through her song, we hear arguing off stage and BEVERLY trying to calm everyone.) Hush thee, my baby, Lie still.
Thy mommy has gone to the mill, To grind thee some wheat To make thee some meat, Oh, my dear baby, lie still.
As she finishes the last line to her song the arguing off stage continues, thunder is heard and the lights fade slowly to a …