The Meaning of Dada
A One-Act Play by Charles William Boyes
black and white laden apartment. On the walls, hand painted artwork of all
different styles, all seemingly conflicting with the other. JOANNE is
perched on the couch [CS] with her legs resting on an ottoman. Directly in
front of her is an antiquish coffee table and to the sides of the coffee
table two single chairs. There is one door located against the back wall
SR, which leads to the hallway and another with only a frame against the
SL wall leading down the hall to the kitchen and bedrooms. There is a bar
BSL and other various amenities that coincide with a posh city apartment.
Joanne’s fiancée, TIMOTHY approaches her.)
her forehead) That’s just the sort of problem you solve by taking a
Xanax, turning out the light and going to sleep.
I suppose you’re right.
away from Joanne and towards a mirror SL) Of course I am. <Pause>
What time are they supposed to arrive?
you mean Tad and Casey or Roger?
is examining himself in the mirror. Throughout the subsequent dialogue he
adjusts the bow tie he is wearing, arranges his hair and uses his hands to
dust off his tuxedo.)
Tad and Casey originally said seven, but then I told them that the play
started at eight and that they must come by for drinks…
so they said they’d be here by six.
now, he couldn’t make it for drinks. Which is a shame and I even told
him it was a shame because really it is. I did want to have a good talk
with him about his new book. I mean it’s just like all the others, none
of which I understood to begin with, making this one much harder to
his spot in front of the mirror and making his way to the mini-bar to
finish off a glass of champagne he had left.) But I thought you said you
hadn’t ever read one of Roger’s books.
I haven’t. I meant to, at least I had the intent to mean to, but The New
York Times Book Review said I mustn’t and so I didn’t. But I did buy
one as an act of charity because when I was in the bookstore I saw his
book…which one was it? The first one?
haven’t the faintest idea. The Los Angeles Times said it wasn’t even
worth remembering the title and I didn’t. Which did make my
conversations with him that much more difficult.
moves over to the bookshelf, BSL and commences rummaging through the six
rows of books.)
I saw it on its own display shelf nonetheless, just sitting there with not
one copy gone. Well I just felt horrible for Roger and bought one. And the
answer is seven.
if seven is the answer, what is the question?
time will Roger arrive?
that make us late?
be silly…they can’t possible start the play until we arrive. I mean,
how would it look if the play were to start and the five seats down in
front, front row centre, were not filled? That would look abominable. They
would probably stop the run altogether. And could you imagine what the
Chicago Sun-Times would have to say? (Turns to Timothy) What are you
searching) I thought it would be a nice gesture if we had a copy of
Roger’s book on the coffee table. You know, show him how much we support
him and how much we enjoyed the book. Because there is no better review
for a book than a place on the coffee table. You could take the reviews
from the Detroit Free Press, the Miami Herald and L.A. Weekly and none of
them would matter, so long as the book was on a reputable coffee table.
the Washington Post?
thinks before answering) Perhaps not the Washington Post. But definitely
don’t you think it’s far better for a book to be placed on a reputable
night table than a reputable coffee table?
stops all together and goes back to the mirror, for one final inspection)
why would that be far better?
her seat and approaching Timothy. She aids him in his struggle to
straighten his tie.) Well I don’t know exactly, we both know that you
are the more logical of the two of us, but wouldn’t it make the author
feel better to know that you are in the process of reading the book than
actually finished the book? Would it not make him or her feel rather
absurd if you were actually done the book? What else is there you can do
with the book once you finish reading it besides put it on a coffee table?
Yes, I believe I am right the best place for a book is on the night table.
back to the bookshelf) And certainly not on the bookshelf or in the
examining herself in the mirror) You are absolutely right. The bookshelf
implies utter indifference towards the book, and the bathroom…well, that
is certainly no place for a novel, a collection of essays or short stories
maybe, but never a novel.
you remember where you put it?
couldn’t tell you, honestly. In fact, I may not have purchased it at
all. Or I may just be trying to block the entire incident out of my mind.
It would be rather traumatic buying a book, which critics labeled,
“flat”, “uneventful” and “plot-less.” Just find another novel,
something modern preferably with some nice cover art. Something that will
draw attention, yet not draw attention away from the table. (Is silent for
a moment as she realizes something. Before she begins she moves for the
phone.) Which reminds me, I must call Rosanna and leave a message for her
saying we’ll be able attend on the 32nd. When she told me
about it I insisted that there was no 32nd of this month, or
any month for that matter. But she said that I just had to come, so how
could I refuse?
dials the number)
wouldn’t be proper.
couldn’t be more right. Yes hello Rosanna, this is
Joanne…hello?…hello…Oh you, uh, picked up Rosanna. This is you
isn’t it? <Pause> Of course it is, how silly of me. I was just
calling about your party. <Pause> Yes the one on the 32nd.
Unfortunately Timothy and I won’t be able to attend. <Pause> Why
not? Well we’re in the middle of this novel by a friend of ours' Roger
do you know him? <Pause> An excellent author, you should consider
looking into reading or at least buying his book. Anyway our schedules are
so tight this month that we won’t be able to finish the book until the
32nd and we couldn’t miss that. <Pause> Yes I’m sorry
as well. <Pause> All right then; by the way is your answering
machine not working? <Pause> It is? Alright then, goodbye. (She
thought you said we had agreed to go to Rosanna’s.
paces back and forth across the apartment floor.) Can you believe she
picked up the phone? And on top of that, she told me there was nothing
wrong with her answering machine. How dare she. What a contemptible nerve
that woman has. It’s not that I don’t like her, because I do, she
throws the most wonderful Bastille Day parties, but why on earth would I
want to talk to her? Sometimes, the most sensible people make no sense.
that mean that sometimes people make perfect sense?
stops pacing and helps Timothy in his search for the book.) No, of course
not. It’s just that sometimes they make no sense whatsoever. But, no,
nobody ever makes perfect sense. That’s simply irrational.
did you suggest that she read Roger’s book? Didn’t you read what
Modern Review said about suggesting it to a friend?
know full well what Modern Review said about suggesting the book. But it
made perfect sense for me to tell her to read that “incomprehensible”
book after what she did to me. It was all very nerve-racking.
don’t doubt that, not for a moment. I can’t name a single person who
actually wants to talk to another. It just doesn’t happen anymore. But
tell me, how did it make perfect sense for you to tell her to read
Roger’s novel when you said, and I quote, “nobody ever makes perfect
away from the shelf and Timothy. She sits in the chair to the right of the
coffee table.) You’re paying far too much attention to what I’m saying
- the content of it all I mean, but I suppose that’s why you are the
more logical of the two of us. However, you must promise to try to pay
more attention to how I say things, rather than what it is I’m saying.
Otherwise, how do you expect us to ever get along? And how on earth could
I ever consider getting married if all you want to do is listen to what
one another has to say?
a pile of books he comes and stands behind her.) You couldn’t be more
right. (He kisses the back of her neck.) From now on I assure you I will
completely disregard what you say and focus all my attention on how you
returns to the shelf.)
should have no problems, then. Once a couple stops listening to one
another, all communication trouble that could arise is averted. That’s
what’s wrong with the Western culture, and all of society really. If
everyone just stopped listening to one another all the aliments of the
world would be solved. And just think of all the problems that could have
been avoided if people weren’t listening: World War I, Watergate and the
fall of communism in Russia, not to mention the IRA attack at the summer
Olympics. All situations brought about by mankind’s inability to love
and ignore thy neighbor.
lights a cigarette. Timothy joins her empty handed. He takes a seat on the
eloquently put, darling. I managed to dutifully note the way you expressed
each word. (He leans in, as if what he is about to say may embarrass her.)
But I must point out; World War I was a fictitious war. It never really
took place except, of course, in a novel. The title escapes me now, but I
distinctly recall the critic at the New York Post describing it as,
“compelling” and “eerily prolific.” (He leans back against the
confused and curious.) But if World War I never took place in reality, how
did World War II come about?
save you from a drawn out and predictable history lesson let me just say
it happened because of the world’s natural order. Part one transpired in
fiction and was quickly followed up by a sequel in reality because of the
success of the novel. It went through all the necessary and proper stages
of becoming real life from art: novel, critic, reality. Now can you
imagine what would happen to the world as we know it if one of those
stages were to be removed? No art would mean no critics. With no critics
there could be no reality and with no reality…well, um, the circle just
sort of stops there doesn’t it? I’ll have to rethink that. (He stamps
out his cigarette.)
hers out.) I will not have you thinking tonight. What sort of significant
other would that make me look like if you had to resort to thinking to
occupy your time? Besides circles can’t stop, that’s why they’re
door chime, playing ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’ sounds.)
that’ll be Tad and Casey.
jump into action, racing to the mirror and straightening themselves out.
They do some quick tiding of the bookshelf as well.)
it’s only 5:30. I thought you said they wouldn’t be here until six.
wouldn’t they be half an hour early? People are tired of that whole
being on time and fashionably late idea. (Joanne goes back to the mirror.
Timothy remains at the bookshelf until he finds a book, looks over it
carefully and walks towards the coffee table.) They always felt they were
missing something, which may or may not be important, so they started
showing up early to make sure they got it all. When you think about it, it
makes you wonder why it hasn’t been like that all along. I mean people
like to know things; they like to be knowledgeable. It’s just so
perplexing. Did you find a suitable book for the coffee table?
I’ll set it there now. (He sets down the book.) I decided upon The
Informers by Bret Easton Ellis. You have read that haven’t you? Because
if you haven’t I should put it there, it would make Tad and Casey’s
questions of the book harder to answer if you haven’t read it.
reluctantly, moves away from the mirror and goes to stand next to Timothy,
who is examining and basking in his placement of the book.)
almost certain that I read it, but it would have been a while ago and the
plot seems to be melding together with one of the Bronte sisters’
novel’s plots, but I do remember that the San Francisco Chronicle highly
praised it and so that should be enough to get us through any questions
they may have about it, as long as they haven’t read it or any
conflicting reviews for that matter.
no. Tad and Casey are much more into the thrillers of the 1950’s than
the Glam-Brat Pack novels of the 80’s, as one of the Canadian
publication labeled it.
seems concerned with the placement and moves in for a closer inspection.)
positive we’ll be fine even if they have read it. Once they start
talking about it, it will jog my memory.
do hope so. It makes it so hard to fit in when you are clueless as to what
your friends are discussing, even if they are guests in your apartment.
door chimes sounds again.)
you going to get that?
I’d like to, but I can’t decide if you placed the book the right way
on the table. Not that I’m taking away from the way you arranged it; it
isn’t without it’s own quintessential charm. But it’s off-centred
and simply looks as though it was tossed there nonchalantly. (She arranges
the book to her liking.) I do think it would look better straightforward.
now the entire scene looks far too manipulated. It looks as tough you
placed the book there as a conversation starter, an intellectual
centrepiece instead of what it should be, a read in progress. And you did
say that one should, for all intents and purpose, never finish a novel.
moves for the door. Timothy returns the book to its original position
before following.) Have it your own way, but I just hope they don’t
think we’re the type of people that…you know…read for pleasure
rather than social status. (She opens the door. Tad and Casey enter. They
are both dressed as elegantly as Timothy and Joanne. Tad in a tuxedo and
Casey in a gown.) Tad. Casey. How are you?
Joanne’s cheek.) Hello Joanne. How are you?
kissing both cheeks.) Joanne, it’s wonderful to see you again.
Tad’s hand.) Tad, how’s everything. (Kissing Casey.) Casey, you look
you, Timothy. Here we brought this for you. (They produce an odd looking
piece of modern art. Evidently a piece that could be interpreted many
the piece.) Oh, how marvelous. Isn’t it marvelous, Timothy?
could it be anything but marvelous? Let’s put it over here.
hurries the piece over and places it next to the bookshelf. All stand and
admire the statue, with the occasional sigh of satisfaction.)
don’t think I would be exaggerating if I were to say that that is the
most breathtaking gift we have ever received.
certainly would be among the best. We tend to be weary of modern pieces of
suprematism, because of the varying views of the art critics it’s just
so hard to pinpoint the meaning and purpose of it. But this one doesn’t
leave itself open for much interpretation; it’s rather clear what the
artist’s motivation was.
couldn’t agree more…I mean, it’s obvious that, and I believe I am
unanimous in this, the artists motivation was…
awkward silence as each realizes that their opinion differs from that of
the others. All move away. Tad towards the couch, Timothy to the bar and
Casey and Joanne to the chairs.)
route to the bar.) Can I get you guys something to drink? That is why
you’re here isn’t it?
course, what other reason could we have? I’ll have a vodka martini.
for me thanks. I’m on a liquid/carbo free diet.
mixes the drinks.)
heard about those, but doesn’t it make, well, everything rather
little. Slightly. But one must make sacrifices in the pursuit of
greatness. Just like Albert Einstein who gave up bathing in order to think
more clearly. Don’t ask me what the two have in common, but I assume
that it had something to do with chemical compounds, which is not within
my grasp of understanding.
a drink to Tad and holding one for himself. He sits on the arm of the
couch.) Here you are. I’ve never heard of that.
yes, it was in a television program we saw an advertisement for on one of
those educational channels, but since we always have the mute function on,
we didn’t get a chance to hear what it said. However, we were able to
piece it together from the ad and a review the next day in The London
Times which I skimmed over.
I tell you who else would be joining us tonight? Roger…
yes, the author. Wonderful person, a pleasure to talk to, although I do
wish I could find another author to introduce as an acquaintance. From
what I’ve heard he has trouble defining his purpose.
you have met him?
I don’t believe so. Why would you assume that?
is rather disappointing as a writer I agree.
forward and picking up the book that was placed on the table.) Well now
here’s an interesting novel. The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis
how careless of you to leave a book lying around. I must apologize. We
aren’t usually so absentminded as to leave hints about our
sophistication lying around.
his glass down on the coffee table.) Terribly sorry. I don’t know what
came over me. Have either of you read it?
haven’t, but Tad has told me a good deal about it.
is silent for a moment and shoots a glance towards Timothy before
read it Tad? What did you think of it?
is a knock at the door followed by the chimes.)
a hurried voice.) I’ll get it. (She rushes for the door.) Hello Roger,
how are you? Won’t you come in? Everyone…Roger is here.
acknowledge the man at the door. He is wearing a blue uniform and carrying
a package. He looks very confused at the attention he is receiving.)
a little early aren’t you? But welcome nonetheless. (She turns away from
the Delivery Man.)
Excuse me? Um…I, uh, have a package…it’s for your neighbors. They
aren’t home and I was hoping you could sign for it.
raises the packages to Joanne who had made it halfway across the room
before stopping and turning back to the door.)
not sure I understand what you mean Roger (She laughs, inappropriately
loud to try and get the attention of the others who are immersed in their
own conversation and do not notice.) I get it…oh Roger, you are as
confusing in life as in literature; I will give you that.
name isn’t Roger. It’s Curtis. I’m with Bellows Parcel Delivery. I
was looking for someone to sign for this package, that’s all.
You’re not Roger?
ma’am. As I said my name is…
interrupting Curtis) If you are not Roger why would you think your name is
of any importance to me? Unless of course you belong to the some sort of
cultured circle that Roger does. Well do you?
deliver packages. That’s my job. Can you sign for this?
aggravated) You must go now. I cannot have artless package delivers
cluttering my doorway when I am expecting an artist friend at any moment.
You understand I’m sure?
begins to protest, but is halted when Joanne shuts the door and goes back
to the others to resume her seat.)
happened to Roger?
that was not Roger.
wasn’t? Are you sure?
not but he seemed to be. Well if that wasn’t Roger he did bare a
striking resemblance to Roger. At least I think he did. His face escapes
me for the moment. Do any of you ever have that problem?
wouldn’t believe how often that happens to me. I’m constantly saying,
‘Isn’t that…’ or ‘That looks just like…’ It’s a real
problem, but I swear it really isn’t my fault. Everyone just looks so
similar these days it’s hard to tell anyone apart.
see dear…it’s nothing to fret about. She gets so worked up about the
up the book) Tad, what were you going to say about the book?
yes. The Informers. It was truly remarkable. The interconnectedness of all
the stories within it, really kept me interested. What did you guys think?
me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that what Seattle Weekly said about the
work? Not that I’m insinuating that you're incapable of free thought.
It’s just don’t you think it’s a little…pretentious to pass off
reviews done by professional critics as your own?
It wasn’t from Seattle Weekly. It was from the San Francisco Chronicle.
perhaps you should put the book back on the shelf.
takes the book from Casey and returns it to the shelf. The others remain
silent until he returns.)
time is Roger supposed to arrive?
he said seven. No…he didn’t actually say “seven”, but that was the
implication I got when he did not return my invite for six. I could only
assume that that meant he could not make six, but would be here by seven.
Do you think I was wrong to take that for granted?
no! Why would you doubt his attendance? He has no reason to miss this
invite for drinks and the theatre.
his seat and going to stand behind Joanne) You have no reason to worry
darling. He said…or at least implied his presence, and we should trust
Roger. He may be an inept writer, but he is a good-natured human being.
right. You must be right. He’ll be here. How silly of me. So what have
you heard about the play tonight, Casey?
Village Voice said that it was the prototypical play of the year.
Apparently, and this is just a retelling of the critic’s P-O-V, the play
stars not one person. It consists of lights fading on and off for two and
a half hours and the most peculiar part is there is no intermission. How
can a play expect to survive if they don’t have an intermission? When
are the patrons expected to mingle and banter?
not sure I understand dear. No stars? Where does the money from ticket
what I’ve heard all proceeds from “Look Closer” go to support the
Save the Studios Foundation. It’s raising money so that film companies
can afforded to maintain the twenty million dollar a flick actor’s
long as it’s a worthy cause. What rating did it receive?
Gore Vidal’s out of five naturally.
just thought of something. What if Roger assumes that we were meeting him
at the theatre? I mean he is just that sort of person, not wanting to
inconvenience anyone. Perhaps he thought that because he was going to be
late we’d meet him there.
both possible and probable.
in that case we should be off.
all stand to leave.)
wouldn’t want to leave him waiting, would we? We can be down there in
half an hour. That gives us plenty of time.
head for the door. Tad and Casey exit. Joanne is in the doorway looking
around blocking Timothy.)
is it, Joanne?
just never realized how empty this place is. We should really look into
getting something to fill the empty space with.
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