Comfy Chair: a 10 min. play

comfy chair blog image

At LIGHTS UP, a large easy chair, upholstered in a worn print that has split here and there, revealing white cotton stuffing. To one side, like an end-table, a grimy metal garbage can with a battered hurricane lamp atop it. To the other side, shelves made of cinderblocks supporting rough-hewn pine planks hold two or three items of flea-market bric-a-brac. Upstage is a rusty shopping cart, with two ten-gallon bottles of water in it. Before the easy chair, a scratched and dingy plastic ice chest with duct-tape repairs on its hinges.

We hear a lock in a door and a door opening off, stage left. DAD enters, dressed for the office in an elegant suit and tie,
and carrying a fine leather briefcase or valise, which he sets on the ice-chest hassock. He treats his surroundings not as the detritus it is, but as the comfortable home it represents.

DAD:
Hon? You home yet?

He tosses his keys on the end-table as he takes his cell-phone from his pocket to check messages, holding the device to his ear. We hear his phone messages in voice-over.

PHONE MESSAGE (V01):
You have [two] messages. [performance date] 3:42pm.

MOM MESSAGE (VO2):
Hi, I guess you turned off your cell for the meeting. Hope it goes well. Or went well, by the time you get this. I’m on my way to pick up Petey. Love you! Bye.

There’s a beep, and a second message sequence.

V01:
[performance date] 4:53pm.

MOM MESSAGE (VO2):
Hi, darling! Hope it went well today. Can’t wait to hear about it. If anyone deserves to make senior deputy in that office, it’s you.

(DAD sighs heavily)

I’ll be a little late. Pete had to stay after soccer. Apparently, there was another “incident.”

(DAD sits in the easy chair)

MOM MESSAGE (VO2): (continued)
No big deal, they said, but the coach wanted to talk to all the boys about it. A dozen parents, backed-up in the parking lot in our S.U.V.’s, waiting. Anyway, we’ll be a little late. I’ll stop at Whole Foods and pick something up for dinner. See you soon.

DAD hangs up, then sets the cell-phone on the end-table, picks up the remote and turns on the TV. A blue glow
comes up on DAD, along with the sound.

TV HOST (VO3):
…to see how long it would take before he caught-on to the prank. Let’s watch as our team—

DAD:
No.

DAD changes the channel.

NEWSCASTER (VO4):
…makes another round of wrenching government lay-offs, this time in Wisconsin and Michigan. Slim majorities in both legislatures—

DAD:
No.

DAD changes the channel.

CARTOON GIRL (VO5a):
…want a pitcher, not a belly-itcher.

DOPEY BARITONE (VO5b):
What’s a belly-itcher?

CARTOON GIRL (VO5a):
Shut up, dumb-ass!

DAD:
No.

DAD changes the channel and, hearing the sound of the door opening and closing, stage left, turns down the volume, but the screen’s blue glow remains.

PETE enters, a boy of about ten, dressed for the soccer game he’s just come from. He tries to make his way to his bedroom, stage right, before his father stops him.

PETE:
Hey, Pops.

DAD:
Hi, Petey. How was practice?

PETE:
Alright.

DAD:
Mom said there was another… thing, at the game.

PETE:
Aw, coach was on our case about someone bullying Duh-duh-duh-Dwayne again.

DAD:
Pete, what did I say about that?

PETE:
Dwayne. Everyone calls him that.

DAD:
We talked about this. Picking on people less fortunate than you. Not cool, in anyone’s book.

PETE:
I didn’t do it.

DAD:
Were you there?

PETE:
What am I supposed to do? Stop two guys twice as big as me from picking on some dweeb who’s too weak to defend himself?

DAD:
My office handles cases like this all the time. Someone thinks they’re just kidding around, and then the next thing you know they’re up on felony charges. People like… like Dwayne need to be protected. That’s why I went into the Law.

PETE:
Yeah, but you don’t have to worry about getting dissed because you’re friends with Dwayne
the Dweeb!

DAD:
Hey. Tone.

PETE:
Sorry.

DAD:
Don’t mumble, son.

PETE:
I said, I’m sorry.

DAD:
Where’s you mother?

PETE:
Talking to Tammy Tabor.

DAD:
Mrs. Tabor, please.

PETE:
Can I watch Cage Fighters?

DAD:
You’ve got a TV in your room. Take a shower first, though. We’ll call you when dinner’s ready.

PETE:
Is there any Gatorade?

DAD:
Only the diet you won’t drink.

PETE shakes his head and exits, teen-dejected, off right. DAD picks up his cell-phone, dials.

MOM (VO2):
I’m right outside. Didn’t Petey tell you?

DAD:
He said you were talking to Tammy.

MOM (VO2)
Uh-huh. She’s right here.
DAD:
I thought I’d rescue you.

MOM (VO2):
I’ll be right in. (Jim wants to know where his dinner is.) I’ll be right in, hon.

DAD:
Bye.

DAD smiles to himself, and sets the phone down, stares at the TV screen, still pulsing blue light across his face.
He smiles even more broadly at the screen, grabbing the remote and turning up the volume.

BIGGLES (VO7a):
It doesn’t seem to be hurting him, lord.

INQUISITOR (VO7b):
Have you got all the stuffing up one end?

BIGGLES (VO7a):
Yes, lord.

INQUISITOR (VOb):
Ah! He must be made of stronger stuff! Cardinal Fang! Get…THE COMFY CHAIR!

The jarring chord from the sketch.

(ALL VO):
The comfy chair…..the comfy chair….. the comfy chair

ANNOUNCER (VO7c):
While they are all saying Comfy Chair…

DAD chuckles, fond of this classic Monty Python sketch, but turns down the volume at the sound of the door,
off left.

MOM enters, from stage left. She wears a roomy sweater and ample skirt, comfortable elegance that allows for the actress to underdress, as will be seen presently.

She is carrying two cloth bags with the Whole Foods logo.
DAD rises and rushes to help. He takes both bags as
she besses him on the cheek.

MOM:
Hi, darling. How’d it go?

DAD:
They told me they may not even name a new deputy.

MOM:
Cut-backs coming?

DAD:
Almost certainly. But, we’re safe.

MOM takes the bags back from DAD.

MOM:
You relax, I’ll get dinner. You want Tandoori chicken with the lentil soup or the lemon-basil shrimp with the Tom Kha Gai.

DAD:
Tom Kha Gai. How was your day?

MOM:
Typical. They’re changing the name from “Sisters of Mercy” to just “Mercy.” Part of the merger.

DAD:
Really? That’s sad.

MOM kisses him on the lips, briefly but meaningfully.

MOM:
You okay?

DAD:
I need a shower.

MOM:
Shower will help.

DAD:
When Pete’s done.

MOM:
They fixed the water pressure. You can use the upstairs. Go!

DAD goes to exit, but returns to retrieve his briefcase
and turns to her to say:

DAD:
It’ll be alright. We’ll manage.

DAD exits, stage right.

MOM nods to herself, sets down the Whole Foods bags behind the chair, picks up the remote and turns off the TV.
The glow of the blue screen disappears.

MOM hesitates for a moment, then turns on the TV again. The blue glow returns as MOM turns up the sound. We hear the jaunty march music of Monty Python’s closing credits.

MOM changes the channel five times, with no time between for sound, only the pulse of the blue glow. Then we get sound as she sets the remote control down and begins to shift her clothing.

This will require clever under-dressing, to be accomplished with a minimum of effort, almost as if the woman were simply changing clothes at home: the sweater over a ratty overlarge plaid flannel shirt, gray sweatpants from under her skirt, clean socks over filthy, bandaged feet, and a stocking cap pulled down over her lovely coiffed hair. By the end of the broadcast segments, she has transformed herself into the very image of homelessness.

VO7:
…the lay-offs, coming on the heels of those in the West from Colorado and California, send
a disturbing signal about the stability of all fifty state governments at the very time when
the federal government is experiencing dramatic downsizing of everything from the massive
Department of Defense to the failing Postal Service.

The channel changes by itself, with a fitful sound effect.

VO8:
There are reports tonight, from the Center for Disease Control, of another outbreak of PRV3,
the third in a series of deadly Porcine Retroviruses, responsible for forty-eight deaths in the
four states along the troubled U.S.-Mexico border, where recent events make quarantine
difficult. Tonight, the CDC is reporting that emergency rooms in Nevada, Colorado and Utah
are filling with victims of the virus, in numbers large enough to impact on other emergency
services. No additional deaths, as yet, but now the CDC is calling the spread of the PRV3
“a public health issue of the gravest potential consequences.”

The channel changes by itself, the sound effect grown louder.

VO9:
Cyber attacks of startling efficiency, snarling financial services and other commerce
throughout the entire Pacific Northwest, which anonymous sources in the department
are suggesting are exploratory and prefatory to a more widespread assault on the nation’s electronic and communications infrastructure.

The blue light goes out with a dramatic burst of sound. LIGHTS DIM, and there is only the faint sound of wind.

MOM, her transfiguration complete, stands there a moment, then lifts two ragged Whole Foods bags from behind the chair. They are not nearly so full as the others, but she finds them heavier, and places them atop the bottles in the shopping cart

DAD enters from stage right, in a woolen coat and grungy, tattered blue jeans. One foot has a sneaker on it, the other is bandaged and the pain is evident as he limps to his chair.

DAD:
Hey.

MOM:
Hey. They ran out of cheese. After I waited all morning, in the cold. You just been sitting here?

DAD:
I got water.

MOM:
Good. I’ll have something to boil the meat in. Black Market beef, but it’s probably alright.
It’ll make good soup.

DAD:
What else did you get?

MOM:
They had some canned goods, just a little past their date. Corn, carrots. Pickles. They’ll still
be good. Maybe with sandwiches. I got the day-old bread.

DAD:
Sandwiches? I thought you said they ran out of cheese.

MOM:
I traded for some.
DAD:
What’d you trade? Hey, what did you trade?

MOM ignores the question, puts the cloth bags in the shopping cart, and goes to exit stage right.
She meets PETE, entering from stage right, now wearing scarred leather hiking shoes without sox,
cut-off shorts, and a football jersey –not soccer. PETE is drinking from a can of Mountain Dew.

MOM:
Where’d you get that?

PETE:
What?

MOM:
The drink. Where’d you get money for a can of soda?

PETE:
I found it.

MOM:
Where? I asked you a question.

MOM takes PETE roughly by the arm.

PETE:
A bunch of older kids found a machine in the basement of the County Building. I helped ‘em
get it open. They gave me a couple of the sodas.

MOM:
Where’s the other one?

PETE:
I sold it.

MOM puts out her hand. PETE takes a wad of bills from his pocket and gives them to her.

MOM:
Is this all you got?

PETE:
We couldn’t bust the money box before someone came. I’m going back tomorrow, though.
MOM:
Where’s your crowbar?

PETE:
I lent it to Jiz.

MOM:
You’ll need it tomorrow.

PETE:
But she said she’d…

MOM:
What.

PETE:
Nothing.

MOM:
Go and get it. Go!

PETE exits, stage left.

DAD:
Those kids that hang around the county building…

MOM:
Yeah, I know.

DAD:
They’re the same ones who…

MOM:
I know. Who’s this “Jiz”?

DAD:
I don’t know. We don’t talk anymore.

MOM:
Alright. Does your foot hurt?

DAD:
Like hell.

MOM:
I’ll take a look at it later. You want soup?

DAD:
I want… Yeah, soup would be nice.

MOM:
Alright.

DAD:
I’ll talk to him.

MOM nods her head, then wheels the shopping cart off, stage right.

DAD sits in his chair, staring into space, gently rocking one foot.

We hear an audio overlap of two portions of the familiar sketch,the two-character dialogue mashed with the single monologue, faintly, fading out with the lights, and there’s no blue glow now.

BIGGLES (VO7a)
It doesn’t seem to be hurting him, Lord.

INQUISITOR (VO7b):
Have you got all the stuffing up one end?

BIGGLES (VO7a):
Yes, Lord.

INQUISISTOR (VO7b):
He must be made of stronger stuff.

INQUISITOR (VO7b): (overlapping with above)
Our weapon is surprise. Surprise, and fear. Fear and surprise. Our two weapons are: Fear, surprise, and a ruthless efficiency. Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as—
I’ll come in again.

DAD sits in his chair as the LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.

END OF PLAY.

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