Life in and out of the closet, in and around the Dakota.
A closeted married man from Stamford, Connecticut thinks he’s hit the jackpot online when a man who calls himself “BuffMan” invites him over to his apartment in the city for an afternoon rendezvous. When he finds that his potential sex partner is a 71-year-old recluse, the meeting turns ugly. The Dakota, Manhattan’s fabled apartment building, provides the setting for a fantasy play that considers what life might have been like for these men if events had unfolded differently, discovering in the process the price men pay for living lives in denial and exploring possibilities for inter-generational relationships.
Or see EXCERPT below.
LENGTH: 95 minutes (plus intermission)
CAST: 3M, 2F
In and around The Dakota, the fabled apartment building on Central Park West in Manhattan
Summer 1999 and Summer 2000
Earl Mumford. A retired architect. Distinguished and charming. Early 70s.
Mark Mayfield. An accountant. Cocky and suspicious. Early 40s.
Marjorie. Gracious, but cold and controlling. 60s.
Elizabeth Mumford Allen. Smart and accomplished, but insecure and defensive. 30s.
Gary. Sexy, romantic, and a bit naive. Mid 20s.
Finalist, Brave New Works, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, 2021.
ACT ONE: SCENE 1
Lights up. EARL enters with a vase filled with flowers, not sure what to do with it. Finally sets it down somewhere. Goes to gaze at his collection of framed photos. Picks one up. Stares at it adoringly.
(addressing the picture)
We’ve got company this afternoon, love.
(checking his watch)
He should have been here by now. I hope he didn’t change his mind.
The house phone buzzes. Earl puts the photo back down. Answers the phone.
Earl Mumford here . . . Yes, send him up, Derek.
EARL hangs up. Goes to the window, looking straight out at the audience.
Wish me luck!
Do you miss our view? Remember how we used to watch the light roll across the park in the summer and then suddenly disappear at sunset when the long hot days just seem to collapse from exhaustion?
See? I’m talking to myself again. That’s why I need this!
The doorbell rings.
Just a minute!
EARL opens the door.
You must be Mark! Welcome to my humble abode.
MARK enters hesitantly. (Wears a business suit.)
Uh, yeah. I’m looking for Earl Mumford.
And you’ve found him! Come on in!
Are you Earl’s father?
No, I’m Earl Mumford. I don’t have a son.
This is the Dakota, right? I mean—are you the Earl Mumford who—?
I’m not sure what I mean.
Oh, I see the problem. You’re “HotConnecticutMan29,” right? Well, I’m “BuffMan49.”
Yeah, but you’re not—
Buff? Okay, my big secret’s out. But I am a man. One out of two’s not bad.
Is this some kind of joke?
No, no! I assure you—I’ve enjoyed our conversations online, so I thought it would be nice to meet. I, uh . . . Well, I tried to warn you. I told you I haven’t done any bodybuilding in years.
I thought you were just being modest.
I also said I was older than I may have led you to believe.
We’re all older. I’m not really 29—I’m in my 40s. But I didn’t think you were—
(the truth, finally)
All right, I turn seventy-two next week!
I told you I’ve been living here over forty years.
I thought you meant you grew up here.
No, no, I was fully-grown when we came here. I’m sorry—this isn’t what you bargained for, is it? You can leave. I won’t be offended.
I don’t know. Maybe I should.
Do you have a last name, by the way?
It doesn’t matter.
I assure you I don’t work for the CIA.
“Mark Manning.” See? That wasn’t so hard,
So, this is the world-famous Dakota, huh?
Boy—a lot of history in these walls!
A lot of history in these old bones, too!
I’ve read about the big parties Leonard Bernstein [pronounced Bern-steen] used to throw—
STEIN [pronounced styne]—but you seem too young.
And John Lennon was shot outside in front, right? I bet the widow Yoko’s still roaming around one of these apartments. Doesn’t Lauren Bacall live here, too?
Why yes, dear Betty.
You call her Betty?
(down to business)
Okay, look—I’m a history buff and a big fan of architecture. I’ve always wanted to see the inside of The Dakota, so, when you said you lived here, I figured—what the hell? Even if we didn’t click—you know what I mean—at least I’d get to see the inside of this place.
So, we both fibbed a little! Well, go ahead—look around!
MARK walks round. Peeks offstage.
(pointing at the audience)
Oh—and be sure to check out our view!
So, what do you think?
Oh, uh, very nice. But your apartment—Can I be honest? I pictured magnificent rooms, like a palace in Europe. This place is kinda shabby.
Oh, that’s my fault. I don’t clean house.
Why don’t you get a housecleaner?
We used to have someone, but I didn’t want anyone around after Arthur died. Here—help me clean off the table.
MARK hesitates. Then moves a stack of magazines off the table. EARL just watches.
Arthur was my lover!
EARL shows MARK the photo.
See? What you’d call “my partner” these days, I guess. We just told people we were roommates. We lived together in this very apartment for 35 years!
I bet this place was stunning when you moved in!
Actually, it was just a big old dump!
EARL points to a chair. MARK sits.
The elevators were always breaking down. There were mice in the walls! It was no big deal to get an apartment here back then.
But I thought—
Well, of course it was very grand when it first opened.
It was! I’ve got a book with old photos.
But it was already an old crumbling building when we moved in. It was the ’50s—people wanted new things. High-rises, like Mayfair Towers next door—what a highfalutin’ name for such a monstrosity. But all things move in cycles, so now I gather we’re back in vogue.
Are you kidding? I bet these apartments sell for millions.
I wouldn’t know. And I have no intention of selling—where would I go?
Anywhere you want! That’s how much you’d make. And with the new tax rules, you’d get a tax exemption on part of the profit from the sale.
I couldn’t leave—too many memories. Hey, you say you’re a fan of architecture—well, I was at a firm in midtown for years. The New Yorker did a profile on me once. Would you like to see it?
No, that’s OK.
Arthur was an entertainment lawyer.
So, that’s how you could afford all this.
Our parties were legendary! We brought people together from down the hall and around the world. Artists. Politicians. Entertainers. A real mix, gay and straight. Boy, the stories I could tell!
Oh? Do you still throw parties?
(with a sigh)
No—not since Arthur died.
Well, I’ve stopped seeing people altogether, actually. Just haven’t felt up to it. I hardly ever even leave the apartment.
That’s not healthy.
I’ve finally come to understand that. That’s why I bought that computer. Thanks to AOL and those chat rooms, I’ve suddenly got lots of new friends. They’re invisible, of course, but—hey, it’s a start! And now here you are—my first new friend in the flesh! So, tell me something about yourself. Pretend it’s a first date!
(seeing Mark’s shocked reaction)
Oh . . . uh . . . well, I don’t really like talking about myself. I mean I have to keep certain things private.
So, maybe you work for the CIA.
Well, if I did, I couldn’t tell you, could I?
Or if I told you, I’d have to kill you.
MARK shoots EARL a menacing glance. EARL looks distressed, then laughs.
Oh, you had me worried there for a moment.
Why shouldn’t you be worried? You invite a man over to your apartment for sex—a man you don’t know anything about.
I know you, Mark. You’re from Connecticut, and you’re a father.
“Hot Connecticut Daddy” is just a screen name. A killer’s not gonna call himself “Sadistic Murderer.”
And you just told me you never see people—so if I hacked you up into pieces, nobody would even notice you were missing until the smell of your rotting corpse made its way out into the hall.
See—a killer wouldn’t let me in on his secrets.
(the joke is over)
Okay, you’re right, Earl—but you’re lucky.
I think I know people. I can tell you’re not a killer. But you’re troubled, aren’t you? Something’s eating at you.
No, I’ve just got a sick sense of humor, that’s all.
That’s for sure.
I’m just saying you should be more careful.
If I’d been more careful, we never would have met. So, who are you exactly?
That’s my cue. I should get back to work.
Oh, so soon?
Yep—gotta keep the money coming in.
EARL follows MARK to the door.
Well, thanks for humoring an old man.
You’re not so old. Seventy-one’s not—well, okay, I guess it’s getting up there.
They hesitate awkwardly.
I guess I’ll just go back to work then—
Well, yes, that’s what you said—
MARK and EARL stare at each other. MARK finally gives EARL a big friendly hug. It turns into something more when MARK makes a sudden sexual advance. EARL pushes MARK away.
Please—that’s not necessary!
Then why’d you invite me over?
I’m not sure.
Then stay away from those chat rooms till you figure that out!
Look, I’m sorry if I misled you. Why don’t you come back some time, and we’ll make a fresh start? We’ll have a nice chat—just a chat. Or I could make us a meal.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Well, if you ever change your mind—
See you around, BuffMan.
MARK exits abruptly.
END OF SCENE
END OF EXCERPT