All At Once: A Life in One Act
by Marc Zeedar,
Cast of Characters:
Andy, a man
Chair, a man or woman dressed as a chair
And several extras
[A dimly lit, empty room with one window. At center stage is chair and
on the floor a coiled rope. andy enters. He does not sit.]
ANDY: [Cheerfully at first]
Good morning, Chair! Well, I guess this is it. This is all of Anthony Ryan
Smith. [Suddenly bitter] A small thing, isn't it. You wouldn't think
it'd be so hard. You'd think it'd be fair. You'd think it'd be simple, explainable.
One wonders why it isn't. One wonders why. Well, no matter. I suppose this
is the easy part. Saying goodbye is always harder than leaving.
ANDY: Goodbye? Is that all
you have to say? I come in here, ready, and you just say 'goodbye'?
CHAIR: That's what you said.
ANDY: No, I said much more.
Look, I've written a note explaining everything. It's three pages long.
[Pulls out pages from pocket]
CHAIR: That ought to do it.
ANDY: I've been very analytical.
I've carefully analyzed my thoughts and feelings and put them down on paper.
I've said exactly what I want to say. I've made my summation. It took me
a whole week. Well, actually, I guess I've been thinking it for over a month
now. For years, really. In a sense my whole life. I hope I said enough.
It really is a difficult thing, putting your hole being on paper, you know.
CHAIR: Much more difficult
than living it.
ANDY: [Seriously] Much.
It's really not fair, you know. There are no instructions, no guidelines.
There's no rulebook. There's just a blank page for doing what you will.
Damn it, some of us want instructions. Some of us want restrictions. Some
of us want to care. You! Look at you! Your life is simple. Your life is
clear. Most of all, you've at least got time to think.
CHAIR: At least.
ANDY: But humans aren't supposed
to think. That's all we're good for, and that's the one think we're not
supposed to do! [Pause] Thinking isn't everything though. You've
had plenty of thoughts and what do you know, anyway! [Carefully sets
pages on floor near entrance so someone can't miss them]
CHAIR: I have had plenty of
time to think.
ANDY: About what? It must be
boring, being a chair.
CHAIR: How should I know? I've
never been anything else. Never even had the desire to be anything else.
You see, that's it. I'm satisfied with my station in life. I'm stable. You
humans are always trying to reach beyond yourselves. Hurry, hurry, hurry.
Change, change, change. Do, do, do. One day it's red, the next day burgundy,
the next, scarlet. You never seem to make up your minds.
ANDY: At least we have a mind
to make up.
CHAIR: What was that? I heard
that! You think I'm stupid, don't you? You think that just because I'm an
inanimate object you can walk all over me! You think I'm just a stopping
point on the way to the real destination. Well I'm not. I'm twice the human
being you are, and you know it!
ANDY: [Slowly] I do
know it. That's why I'm here.
CHAIR: [Pause] Oh. Right.
ANDY: [With forced lightness]
It's OK. I'm used to it.
CHAIR: I suppose, as a human,
you must get used to a lot of things. I never really thought about it. It
must be tough. At least I know what I'm good for.
ANDY: Yeah. When you were made,
you were made for just one purpose. Humans are complicated. We can be used
as chairs, footrests, knives, toys, umbrellas, carpets, beds, lots of things.
And we aren't as easy to fix as you. [Crosses to window]
CHAIR: You'd be surprised how
difficult it is to fix a broken chair. Time does not heal a broken chair.
A broken chair does not forget.
ANDY: [Far off] Look,
the sun's coming up. I didn't realize it was so early. It sure is a beautiful
sun. So round, so perfect, so regular.
CHAIR: Too much sun hurts my
ANDY: Yeah, I know what you
mean. [Pause] Well, this was supposed to be over by now. I suppose
I'd better get on with it. Better late than never, right? [Hollow laugh]
CHAIR: Right. Better never
late than ever.
ANDY: Right. Uh, I suppose
you know how to do this? [Picks up rope]
CHAIR: Don't look at me. I've
never tied a knot in my life. [Afterthought] Though I do have a few
underneath where nobody notices.
ANDY: [Attempting to tie
knots in rope] This is hopeless!
CHAIR: You can say that again.
ANDY: [In a completely different
tone] This is hopeless.
CHAIR: On second thought, once
ANDY: Ah, I'm getting it. It's
comin', it's comin'.
CHAIR: Oh joy, success at last.
ANDY: Shut up. You know I've
got no choice.
CHAIR: Uh, you don't mind,
do you, if I don't watch? I can't bear anything nasty.
ANDY: [Slightly offended]
Uh, no. Of course not. Why should you have to watch? I suppose that's why
I chose this way. That way I could it in private. It is a private thing,
is it not?
CHAIR: Aren't all things?
ANDY: I mean, I couldn't do
it if Mom were watching. Or Dad. Or Susie. Or anyone. Even Rusty. Imagine
that! If just a little dog were here I couldn't do it.
CHAIR: I'm here.
ANDY: You're just a chair.
You aren't mobile.
CHAIR: Oh, don't bring that
up! You know I've always wanted to be a wheelchair.
ANDY: That's stupid. You're
just an ordinary chair and that's it! Take what you got and enjoy it.
CHAIR: You should talk.
ANDY: Shut up.
CHAIR: Seriously. With doubletalk
like that you could be a writer or a preacher.
I've written my greatest work and it lies yonder, waiting to be read. [Waves
towards pages] My sermon is about to begin. [Lifts rope]
CHAIR: That's your greatest
work? And I thought my life had meaning!
ANDY: What is wrong with you?
You used to be supportive.
CHAIR: I used to be a simple
chair. Now I'm a murder weapon.
ANDY: That's nonsense. The
rope is guilty if anyone is.
CHAIR: The rope? You're going
to blame this on a poor, defenseless rope?
ANDY: I'm not blaming anyone.
It's not anyone's fault. It's just the way things are. It's Fate. [Finally
gets rope tied into a noose] Ah, finally. I knew I could do it if I
put my mind to it. [Looking out window] Man, it's getting early.
People are starting to wake up. [Slowly] I'd better hurry.
CHAIR: Right. Hurry.
ANDY: Uh, do you mind? [Starts
to step on chair to attach rope to ceiling]
CHAIR: No, that's what I'm
for, stepping on. People step on me all the time. Do I complain? No. Do
I scream in pain? No. [Screams as andy places weight on chair] Do
I run into a corner to hide? No. Do I give up? No. I sit here and take it.
It's what I was designed for. It's why I'm here. My whole purpose of being
is to be your stepping stool.
ANDY: [Having trouble attaching
rope] You know, for a chair, you sure talk a lot.
CHAIR: I've been seated and
silent for far too long. Look out world, here I come! If I could just move
around . . .
ANDY: Well you can't! So just
CHAIR: Couldn't you give me
a push? Maybe once I got moving . . .
ANDY: I'm planning on kicking
you in a moment.
CHAIR: Oh. Right. I'd almost
forgot why we are here.
ANDY: [Securing rope and
settling noose around his neck] There. Now we are all set. I hope I
haven't forgotten anything.
CHAIR: It's a bit late now,
you moron. I can just see God saying that on the seventh--
ANDY: Shut up! [Long pause]
Well. I guess this is it. The party's starting. Now we'll get the grand
explanation. The answer to all questions. It's the party to end all parties.
And nobody's here. A pity. This, this is the surface of all depth. This
is absurdity at its most public. This is what humanity makes of man. This
is the papier-mache face of reality. This, this is Anthony Ryan Smith. This
is me. Me. And who am I? I haven't a clue. I suppose I'm random chance.
An accident. An accident waiting to-- a waiting accident. I suppose I'm
a three rolled instead of a six. I suppose I'm an apple instead of an orange.
I suppose . . . [Very long pause] You know, Chair, I think I really
do like pickles after all.
CHAIR: [Pause] Right,
right. Would you hurry it up?
ANDY: [Dull, not angry]
Hurry? You want me to rush the most important thing in my life? You want
me to screw up this too?
CHAIR: It couldn't hurt.
ANDY: Oooh. That's a good question.
Will it hurt much, you think?
CHAIR: How should I know?
ANDY: I don't like pain. Maybe
this isn't the correct way. I'm afraid of heights, but maybe jumping would
CHAIR: And draw all that attention
to yourself? Are you sure you want that kind of spectacle?
ANDY: No, no, you're right.
This is the best way. This is the only way. [Pause] I think I'm ready.
CHAIR: Good timing.
ANDY: What was that?
CHAIR: I said to hurry it up.
ANDY: Oh. I thought you said
something else. [Long dead pause, followed by shuffling sound offstage]
Oh! What was that? Did you hear that? It sounded like the landlady. She
must be coming up here! What will I do?
CHAIR: Go hang yourself, man.
ANDY: [Tense, brief silent
pause, like held breath] Oh, I guess it wasn't her. I guess this is
it. Here goes nothing.
CHAIR: You can say that again.
ANDY: What was that? Did you
say something important?
ANDY: Oh. [Pause] Goodbye,
CHAIR: Goodbye, Andy.
ANDY: [Suddenly, bitterly]
A man works his hole life just to prove he's a human being. Just to prove
he's worth something. We'll I'm not like that I tell you. It's not worth
it to me. Why should I have to prove anything? In God's eyes we're all the
same. Why must we be burdened with the need to prove ourselves? I rebel.
I fight against it all. I claim the rights of a human being without having
to live as one. Let me go. Let me live as I want to! Isn't that what freedom
is? Don't force your humanity upon me! I reject it! I throw it back in your
face. I have seen what humanity does to man and I want no part. Better to
die an alien than to live as a human! [With contempt] I have nothing
but scorn for you ordinary creatures that call yourselves humans! It's such
hypocrisy! How dare you! How -- by what possible means can you even begin
to conceive that that void you call life is being human? Only the truly
human reject that label! I release myself from that label. I release myself
from all you who attempt to confine me! I release myself! I am free! I am
[In his anxiety, andy slips off chair and hangs himself.
Or perhaps the chair moved? Lights go almost out. There is a long silence
as andy drops and instantly is still. There is no struggle.]
CHAIR: Such a pity. I would
have made such a good wheelchair.
[Suddenly the door is thrown open and party enters carrying
lighted cake, shouting "Surprise," and singing "Happy Birthday
to Andy." Fade out.]
Story Copyright ©1995 by Marc Zeedar
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