Devereaux Redux

Slide1

At LIGHTS UP, WALTER DEVEREAUX, a man in his 60s, is sitting at a desk, marking papers with occasional but vigorous red pen strokes. He has a natty if tatterdemalion appearance, with a cardigan sweater-vest and horn-rimmed glasses. He is a curmudgeon, though his manner is civil.

MIKE DIXON enters. He is a man in his mid to late 30s, well dressed, soft spoken, consistently respectful, but with a banked energy that is quite evident.

DIXON:

Excuse me. Dr. Devereaux?

 

DEVEREAUX: (without looking up)

What’s it say?

 

DIXON:

I’m sorry?

 

DEVEREAUX: (pointing, not looking)

Can you read? On the door. What’s it say?

 

DIXON:

Your name. “Walter Devereaux, Ph.D.”

 

DEVEREAUX:

So, then: I’m Devereaux. And you are…?

 

DIXON:

My name is Dixon.

 

DEVEREAUX: (glancing in appointments)

You’ve no appointment with me, Mr. Dixon.

 

DIXON:

No, sir.

 

DEVEREAUX: (pitching appointment book)

I don’t see parents without an appointment.

 

DIXON:

I’m not a parent.

 

DEVEREAUX looks up.

 

DEVEREAUX

No?

 

DIXON:

Well, I am, but—

 

DEVEREAUX:

You seem undecided.

 

DIXON:

I’m—

 

DEVEREAUX silences him, an abrupt hand gesture, then sets his work aside, drawn in by the riddle.

 

Perhaps a step-father. Are you here about your step-daughter, by any chance? Slight overbite, obviously overweight? Pretty enough, but that girl really does need to shed a few pounds. And orthodontics for the overbite. I did tell her nicely.

DIXON stands there, not knowing what to say. DEVEROUX folds his hands and rests his chin on them, staring at his visitor, speculating.

 

Not the fat girl’s stepdad, I see.

 

DIXON:

I have sons.

 

DEVEREAUX:

But not my students. Faulty premise. Begging the question. You’re a parent, yes, but it’s irrelevant to why you’re here. Wait: Dixon. Any relation to… Was it Ted Dixon?

 

DIXON:

My father.

 

DEVEREAUX:

He just died.

 

DIXON:

I know.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Big obituary in the paper.

 

DIXON:

I placed that.

 

DEVEREAUX

Retired ‘restraunteur,’ it said.

 

DIXON:

Yeah, he ran a place downtown. The Saville Room.

 

DEVEREAUX:

I’m sorry for your loss, Dixon.

 

DIXON:

That’s remarkably kind of you, Dr. Devereaux.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Remarkable? I see: That Devereaux was kind.

 

DIXON:

Oh no, sir. I only meant—

 

DEVEREAUX:

I must be cruel, if only to be kind.

 

DIXON is taken aback for only a moment.

 

DIXON:

Hamlet. Act IV, Scene iii.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Well done, Dixon!

 

DEVEREAUX scribbles a grade on the paper, sets it aside. This looks to be more interesting.

 

What got your father? Cancer?

 

DIXON:

A heart attack, then a stroke.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Double whammy.

 

DIXON:

Yes ,sir.

 

DEVEREAUX:

The smoking didn’t help that any.

 

DIXON:

No. It didn’t help.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Puts you at risk, then, doesn’t it? Statistically. You’d be at risk then. Double risk.

 

DIXON:

I don’t smoke, but I suppose so.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Of course so. For a lot of things.

 

DEVEREAUX rises.

 

So, you came back for your father’s funeral, did you?

 

DIXON:

Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Whoa-ho!

 

DIXON:

Hamlet I/ii.

 

DEVEREAUX:

First rate, Dixon!

 

There is a shared laugh, then an awkward pause.

 

DIXON:

Actually, I came back for this reunion.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Good god, really? Another reunion? Seems like they have them every year. But no one ever comes back for those things.

 

DIXON:

Well, some people do. Clearly.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Who? Small timers who never did anything in college or after, perhaps, but, good god, no one who ever went out and accomplished anything! I never understand. Why do people want to revisit the past?

 

DIXON:

It’s a difficult time, high school. The formative years.

 

DEVEREAUX:

“Formative.” Two-dollar word!

 

DIXON:

Yes, sir.

 

DEVEREAUX stares at DIXON a long moment.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Michael Dixon.

 

DIXON:

Yes, sir. Mike.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Third row, right side aisle.

 

DIXON

That’s right.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Next to the pretty girls.

 

DIXON:

Yes, and near the door.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Ah, yes. ADD. Antsy. Leg-Jiggler. Hyperactive, I have no doubt. Showed all the signs.

 

DIXON:

Anxious, I’d have said. “Appearances versus Realities.” One of your major themes. “Nature versus Artifice.” “Stasis versus Change.” “Individual versus Society.”

 

DEVEREAUX:

Well, well. Even the devil can cite scripture for his purpose.

 

DIXON:

Merchant of Venice. Act I, scene… something. Three?

 

DEVEREAUX:

Three. You surprise me, Dixon. I don’t recall you being nearly that apt.

 

DIXON:

No sir. I wasn’t… I was not one of your “High Achievers.”

 

DEVEREAUX:

Quarrelsome, Michael, as I recall. Liked to argue with your teachers.

 

DIXON:

My betters, you said. “A Problem with Authority.”

 

DEVEREAUX:

I threw you out.

 

DIXON:

Expelled my last semester.

 

DEVEREAUX:

For a smart mouth.

 

DIXON:

That’s right.

 

DEVEREAUX:

You didn’t give me much choice.

 

DIXON:

No sir. I didn’t.

 

DEVEREAUX:

So… What? Now you’ve come back to rub your ancient nemesis’s nose in your present success, is that it?

 

DIXON:

Not at all. I came back to express my gratitude. Without you, my life would have taken very different course.

 

DEVEREAUX:

If you’re trying for irony, Dixon, you’re not catching the proper tone.

 

DIXON:

No, sir.

 

DIXON stands there, no hint of irony.

 

DEVEREAUX:

You’re pleased with the way things turned out, then, are you, Dixon?

 

DIXON:

Well. You once said that any man’s life, deprived of its error and folly, would be missing half the joy as well. My boys. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

 

DEVEREAUX:

And their mother?

 

DIXON:

Out of the picture.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Children don’t do well without a mother, Dixon. You ought to know that.

 

DIXON:

Yes sir, I do. After my mother passed, I decided to get out of town. Start fresh. Omaha, at first. Topeka. All over, really. St. Louis. Chicago. Without a diploma, I washed dishes, scrubbed floors. Swung a hammer for a while. Got some training. Got on somewhere, and worked my way up. Got married. Got divorced. Raised my kids. Got on, anyway.

 

DEVEREAUX:

And you somehow ascribe all this achievement to my tutelage, do you, Dixon?

 

DIXON:

Oh, no sir. You made my life immeasurably more difficult. Crushing. Crippling, if I’d let it. I was angered by it for a long time. I cursed you. I did. You’d made it hard for me to be satisfied with less. You also gave me the tools to get over it. Or “get on with it,” as you used to say. You did that for me. Not my mom. She was so sick. Not my Dad, drinking himself to death at the Saville Room. You.

 

DEVEREAUX is struck silent for a moment.

 

DEVEREAUX:

It’s a pity, Dixon. You had a fine mind. You could have gone to a fine university.

 

DIXON:

That’s true, Dr. Devereaux. And you could have taught at a fine university, yes? We each took a different route.

 

DEVEREAUX:

If you quote “The Road Less Travelled,” I shall be very disappointed in you.

 

DIXON:

No. It’s not so much about the path you chose.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Hallmark sentiment. Perhaps the path chooses you.

 

DIXON:

Either way, it’s just hard to retrace your steps. Understand why.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Then perhaps one shouldn’t try. Not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment.

 

DIXON:

“Emotion versus Sentiment.”

 

DEVEREAUX:

Appreciate the thought, rather. “Intellect versus Emotion”

 

DIXON laughs.

 

What.

 

DIXON:

“Irony versus Sarcasm.”

 

DIXON:

Ah. I’d have thought that lecture came later in the term. After you left school.

 

DIXON:

No sir. I was expelled in May, not long before graduation, so I caught your Sarcasm lectures. And I have a fairly developed sense of irony. I owe that to you, as well. Perhaps that’s one of the things people find in reunions. A keen sense of irony.

 

DEVEREAUX:

I find it ironic that you’ve expressed a certain obligation or indebtedness, that you learned something from me, yet you seem to expect something from me in exchange. What did you come here for? Apology?

 

DIXON:

“Apology: Acknowledgement of injury. Explanation of past bad behavior. Assurances to correct future behavior.” No sir.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Sympathy?

 

DIXON:

“Apology versus Sympathy.” That would have been a great theme.

 

DEVEREAUX:

It’s “Empathy versus Sympathy,” actually. I feel a great deal of empathy for all the misfortunes that befell you.

 

DIXON:

That’s kind of you. Remarkable.

 

DEVEREAUX:

You want acknowledgement? That I had a hand in any of that? Alright. You had no mother to care for you, no father to speak for you. I could have gone easier on you.

 

DIXON:

You could have helped me.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Ah, there it is. Alright. I could have helped you. But you’re here to grant Absolution. You turned out alright. You got on with it.

 

DIXON:

Yeah. We survive. We move on. We’re human. But it wasn’t until I got married, had my boys that I understood.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Understood what.

 

DIXON:

That I understood you. Something hit you like that, once. Some unfairness. Perhaps why a man with an Ivy League Ph.D teaches in a Kansas high school.

 

DEVEREAUX:

That’s why you came back. To figure me out.

 

DIXON:

You’re right.

 

DEVEREAUX:

You haven’t.

 

DIXON:

No sir.

 

DEVEREAUX:

What did you expect?

 

DIXON:

I don’t know, Dr. Devereaux. Nobody really knows why people go for reunions.

 

DEVEREAUX:

I suppose the people who go to them don’t understand the people who don’t.

 

DIXON:

I’m sure that’s true.

 

DEVEREAUX:

“Truth versus Reality.”

 

DIXON:

You said it was “Reality versus Truth.” You could never understand why I preferred Truth to Reality.

 

DEVEREAUX:

I don’t understand it now. But: “Even a blind pig finds an acorn.”

 

DIXON:

So you always said.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Anything else, Dixon? If not, your visit has been interesting, but if you’ll excuse me. I’ve papers to grade. Enjoy your reunion.

 

DIXON:

Thank you, sir.

 

DEVEREAUX:

Door on your way out, Dixon. Thank you.

 

DEVEREAUX goes back to his papers. DIXON smiles, walks out, slowly. They have nothing more to say to each other, so it lays that way as he exits. DEVEREAUX sits there a moment, taking it in. Then he returns to grading papers, marking them as LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.

END OF PLAY.

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