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.

CHAIR: Goodbye.

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. Sorry.

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 finish.

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 was enough.

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.

ANDY: [Dramatically] 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 shut up!

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 be better.

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?

CHAIR: Never.

ANDY: Oh. [Pause] Goodbye, Chair.

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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