A short play by Bernard Weiner (copyright 2011 by the author)
Presented as a staged reading by The Playwrights' Lab, Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley, CA.
(A quiet corner in a nicely-appointed coffee shop. CURT, a good-looking guy in his early-40s, approaches the table where DANA, a good-looking woman in her mid- to late-30s, is sitting, drinking her latte. HE is carrying a book; SHE has a white rose in front of her. The actors could be of any ethnicity or mix.)
CURT: Hi there, you must be Dana.
DANA: If I absolutely "must be" Dana, you "must be" Curt.
CURT: (non-plussed) Uh, I get it. That's good. Dana, you are so attractive, I wasn't concentrating on my words.
DANA: (gives him a good look) Want to sit down?
CURT: You bet. (beat) The signal worked. I mean, your white rose.
DANA: And your book. The Bible.
CURT: I've got a confession. I had to go out and buy one. I'm not really a religious kind of guy.
DANA: Well, that's honest. Not too many guys would meet a woman for the first time and admit that the Bible doesn't mean all that much to him.
CURT: We're in San Francisco, Dana.
DANA: Right. (beat) But I could have brought my copy. It's well-worn.
CURT: Ouch. (beat) I appreciate your honesty.
DANA: So we've got a man and a woman here who aren't connecting on the value of religion, but seem to appreciate each other anyway.
CURT: And find each other attractive.
DANA: Good chemistry. Honesty. Those two will certainly do for starters.
DANA: Ever been married, Curt?
CURT: No. I made a decision to concentrate on my career first, then... What about you?
DANA: I was engaged for a few years, but finally broke it off. Irreconcilable differences. Turns out that my career came first, too.
CURT: Another point of contact. I'm keeping score: That's three.
DANA: Do you like children?
CURT: You bet. I'm an uncle and I love playing with my sister's kids.
DANA: Four. (beat) I'm curious what your passions are -- other than your job. What really turns you on, interests you?
CURT: You mean, beside the obvious things that turn men on? (beat) Tennis and dancing. I can't get enough.
DANA: What kind of dancing? Salsa? Ballroom? Swing?
CURT: I belong to a contact improvisation group. You meet your partner's body and spontaneously invent your moves together.
DANA: Sounds like good sex to me.
CURT: (his hand goes up in the air) Five!
DANA: You're funny, Curt.
CURT: Glad you think so. But you haven't told me what turns you on -- "besides the obvious."
DANA: Rock-climbing and ikebana -- you know, artistic flower-arranging. I take a class in Japantown. It helps calm me down when I'm stressed.
CURT: Do you feel comfortable with our conversation so far? It feels like we're batting away flies with ping-pong paddles rather than just talking, getting to know each other.
DANA: Yeah, I feel it, too. (beat) But, even so, I'm not sorry we agreed to meet. Maybe we just take it this far today and move on at future meetings.
CURT: There's an assumption there. Not that I'd mind seeing you again...after today.
DANA: Me, too. There's something's happening here.
CURT: "What it is ain't exactly clear."
DANA: Now we're quoting song-lyrics. I don't know the tune -- it's from some old '60s song -- but I remember the words.
CURT: Buffalo Springfield. That was the name of the band. "For What It's Worth."
DANA: What do you mean, "for what it's worth"? No need to apologize for knowing the name of an old band.
CURT: No, no... "For What It's Worth" is the title of the song.
DANA: Oh, sorry.
CURT: No big deal. But there is something happening here.
DANA: "What it is ain't exactly clear."
CURT: Definitely not clear, but definitely...
CURT: Have you used online dating services before? I'm curious, since this is the first time I've ever done this kind of thing.
DANA: So you're an ODV -- Online Dating Virgin.
CURT: (laughing) That's good! Yep, that's me. A 40-year-old virgin.
DANA: So to speak.
CURT: So to speak.
DANA: I've had a number of meetings via the internet. Most were duds, some were outright creeps -- really frightened me -- and a few led to dates.
CURT: Which, I'm guessing, didn't lead anywhere serious.
DANA: Yeah. No matter how enticing someone sounds online, eventually you have to actually meet and talk, and that usually is problematic.
CURT: Is this "problematic"?
DANA: "What it is ain't exactly clear." (beat) But getting clearer.
CURT: I hear you.
DANA: (beat) I'm curious. In your email profile, you said you did "contracting" work. What does that mean?
CURT: I'm a professional serial-killer. (SHE startles, HE laughs.) Actually, I do consulting work for various federal departments. In computers, IT, that sort of thing. What about you? You wrote that you're in "administration." That's a little vague.
DANA: I didn't want to frighten anybody off. I'm the founder and CEO of a nanotechology company. Labor force of around 200 now, should be about 1000 in another couple of years. We do a lot of contracting for the Defense Department.
CURT: Wow! I'm impressed. Men get frightened off by your status?
DANA: A good share of guys run the opposite way as fast as their little brains can carry them. A powerful woman? -- no thanks.
CURT: I'm not running anywhere.
(DON, a flashily-attired guy, not especially attractive, enters and heads by their table, but out of the corner of his eye, he spots DANA. HE retraces his steps.)
DON: Hey, Carla, I thought that was you.
DANA: (trying to contain the situation) I'm sorry, I think you've mistaken me for someone else.
DON: Carla, it's me, Don. Remember? From Vegas? The convention?
CURT: Hey, bub, the lady said she didn't know you. You're interrupting our conversation.
DON: I just wanted to say hello to someone I enjoyed spending some time with in Vegas. (While HE's talking, DANA motions with her eyes to DON to leave it alone.) I guess I...I'm sorry, I guess I made a mistake.
DANA: It's OK. We all think we know someone who turns out to be someone else. I've done it myself.
DON: I'll leave then. (HE exits.)
DANA: That was unnerving. Now the poor guy is all embarrassed because of his mistake. Did you see? His face was all red.
CURT: I'm puzzled. That guy said he knew you by another name. Who exactly am I talking to here?
DANA: Hey, wait a minute, Curt. You're assuming that what the guy said is true. You believe some guy who just walked off the street rather than me? Jesus, I feel disrespected.
CURT: You're very beautiful, you're very smart, you're very vivacious and interesting -- but you'll never make it as a liar, Dana. In my line of work, I have to assess people quickly, read their tells, their body language, their eyes, the subtext to their words. You're just not that good yet. Care to tell me what's really going on?
DANA: (trying to deflect) What do you mean "in your line of work"? You said you work in computers, IT kind of stuff. Are you a shrink? That's it, isn't it?
CURT: What if I am? That still doesn't explain why you lied to me. Or about your multiple identities. I'm trying to figure out what's going on here.
DANA: (beat) I wasn't playing you. Everything I said was on the up and up. At least until that creep showed up and blew it for me. I, I --
CURT: For Christ's sake, just spill it out!
DANA: A long time ago, before I went back into science studies, got my Ph.D, and established my company, I helped on a few assignments for the DEA, where my brother worked. For this job, an informant told us that this guy named Don, staying at my hotel, was a courier who knew when the big bosses were going to show up to close a big heroin deal. So I hung around with Don to learn what I could. Turns out the tip was totally bogus. Don owned a used-car dealership in Stockton, knew nothing, was just a lonely guy looking for some action for the weekend. He knew me as "Carla." That's it.
CURT: Never saw that one coming. But why couldn't you just say that? Why the out-and-out lying? I've got nothing against law enforcement; you thought I wouldn't like you if I found out?
DANA: Maybe subconsciously, yes. But it was recommended that very few people be privy to what we did. Even years later. It's for our own security.
CURT: Well, your secret is safe with me. And, besides, I find it...sexy.
DANA: You know, that's the oldest line in the book. Carries a gun: must be hot in bed. You've seen too many TV cop shows, my friend. Cool it down.
CURT: Now where were we before that unfortunate interruption?
DANA: We were trying to do a little flirting, a little reconnoitering around each other.
CURT: I think we can hop over that step now, don't you?
DANA: I agree.
CURT: How about we get out of here and go have a drink together at a more romantic spot? I know a bar on top of a skyscraper where the view of the city will knock you out.
DANA: Sounds good. Let me--
(YOLANDA, a gorgeous woman, enters and as she passes the table, she stops.)
YOLANDA: Henry? Wow, I haven't seen you in, what?, three years. How you been doing? Little Hank is doing great, by the way. You know where we are. Forget the court order, just come on by and say hello. He'd love it. Excuse me for interrupting. (SHE exits.)
CURT: Before you start in, Dana, I don't have the foggiest idea what that was all about. Never saw the woman before in my life, my name's not Henry, there's no "little Hank," no court order, no nothing. Someone's playing us and if I had to bet money, I'd guess it's your friend Don, who paid some floozy or local actress a benjamin to come by this table and drop her little bomb.
DANA: This whole things doesn't smell right. I'm guessing that you're no shrink. You haven't been straight with me this whole time. And this little scene was the capper. What's really going on?
CURT: (pause) Look, you told me that everything you said up until Don showed up was on the level. I believe you. Everything I said was on the level, except for the fact that, like you, I used to be on the job. Can't tell you for what agency, but it involves big-time computer fraud. Police-work jobs are usually a turn-off to women here in the Bay Area, so I just go with the Silicon Valley resume -- much safer.
DANA: (her hand in the air) Six! (THEY laugh. SHE gets up; HE gets up.)
CURT: I'll show you mine if you show me yours. (HE takes out his wallet and shows her his I.D., she takes out her I.D. THEY begin laughing.)
(THEY turn to walk upstage; DANA puts her arm in CURT's arm. (THEY walk upstage smiling, mostly with their backs to us, a la "Casablanca."
DANA: Well, well, well. "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." #
(Lights fade. END OF PLAY. )