Looking for love, marriage, and therapy on Central Park West.
Nick Turner and Diane London make an unlikely married couple. He's a college dropout from Flatbush, Brooklyn with a successful contracting business and an overactive libido. She's a Yale-educated psychotherapist with a keen sense of what's proper. After an opening scene in which we discover them at a point of crisis, the play moves backwards to explore the evolution of their fumbling relationship. Along the way we see what happens when people can’t even discuss what’s wrong, when old friends don’t help matters any, and when achieving sexual intimacy seems to require advanced acting skills. In the final scene, we’re back in the present, wondering if things can possibly work out.
Full script available at the National New Play Network's New Play Exchange (NPX). Click here.
Or see EXCERPT below.
LENGTH: 90 minutes (no intermission)
CAST: 2M, 2F
A therapist’s office and other locations in and around The Century, an apartment building on Central Park West, Manhattan.
Diane London. Female. Ages from 24 to 35. Articulate and reserved. Therapist.
Nick Turner. Male. Ages from 27 to 38. Self-confident and charming. College dropout turned successful contractor.
Ed. Male. Male. 27. Pompous and aristocratic. Lawyer.
Caroline. Female. 27. Funny and easygoing. Diane's best friend.
“Fowkes…is developing as a playwright, and this one contains at least 4 scenes that engage, inform, surprise - scenes that allow his actors to probe, seek and find subtleties in their characters. His dialogue is rich and stageworthy. … It’s always a joy to see talented writers stretch and grow.”
- Richard Seff’s NY Theatre Buzz on DCTheatreScene.com (7/14/08)
2008: PRODUCTION, Downtown Urban Theater Festival, Cherry Lane Theatre, New York. Directed by Wendy Peace & Nic Tyler; starring Wendy Peace*, Jerry Ferris, Janice Mann*, John Blaylock* (*Member of Actors’ Equity Association)
2021: ZOOM PRODUCTION, Second Stage, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)
COUPLE OF THE CENTURY is an expanded, full-length version of the one-act play, THE SESSION by William Ivor Fowkes, which was produced at the Strawberry One-Act Festival 2005 at the Bernie West Theatre, New York; published in The Distillery; and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
FINALIST (by audience vote) - Strawberry One-Act Festival, Cherry Lane Theatre, New York City, 2008.
SEMI-FINALIST - Open Book’s 8th National Readers Playwriting Competition, New York City, 2006.
The time is late afternoon, one day in April 2019. The setting is a therapist’s office on the ground floor of The Century, a large twin-towered, pre-war apartment building on Central Park West in New York City. A sofa, stage right, faces a desk, stage left, with the desk chair pulled out to face the sofa. On the wall, stage left, or on the top of a table or bookcase, several framed diplomas are on display. Nick is dressed in a jacket and tie. Diane wears stylish clothes.
Nick is waiting, increasingly impatiently, for Diane to arrive. He notices a pile of file folders on her desk and resists the urge to peek inside them. Finally giving in to the urge, he opens the top folder and begins to read something.
(looking at the papers)
I never said that!
Nick quickly closes the folder and looks over at the door. Diane enters. He comes to attention.
Oh, you’re not… You don’t have to wait for me. You can sit down—you know that!
You haven’t been looking through my papers, have you?
Of course not!
I’m sorry. It’s just that lately I keep misplacing my files. I thought maybe…
Maybe you need a secretary.
Thanks, but let’s… Is there something wrong?
I was just wondering who that was. What’s so special about him you had to keep me waiting so long?
Oh, did we go over? I’m sorry.
Diane moves over to the desk chair and sits down.
Over? I should say so. I’m not used to being kept waiting like that. I’m a busy man.
I know. I’m sorry.
I could’ve had a manicure in the time I sat out there. Hey, that’s not a bad idea! Put a manicurist out there! Maybe a massage therapist, too.
Extra income. Never a bad thing, you know.
Nick sits on the sofa.
By the way, your magazines are out of date. The Esquire’s from last year. Time for a fresh supply, don’t you think?
(no longer amused)
Thanks, I’ll take care of that.
And the plant? The big one out there in the corner? What is that thing anyway? Well, it needs watering.
Oh, that explains it. It needs dusting, then.
I’ll see to it.
The guy you kept me waiting for. The guy who used up some of my time.
He’s just a patient like you. We can make up the time at your next session.
Must have serious problems. Going through a life crisis, maybe? He looked kind of goofy to me.
I’m sorry; I can’t discuss my other patients.
Of course not.
So—how are you?
Me? Oh, right! Wait, are you really asking me how I am—I mean in a psychological sense—or is that just meant as an icebreaker? Has the meter started running?
You’ve been here before. Nothing’s changed. I want to know how you are. Take
the question any way you want to take it.
OK. I’ve got the hang of it.
(after a pause—in a patronizing way)
(pointing at her)
See, I can tell you’re disappointed! You meant something by that question, didn’t you? You didn’t go to graduate school all those years and spend half your adult life building up your practice to hear your patients tell you they’re fine.
Well, of course I’m not fine, or else I wouldn’t be here!
Diane covers her eyes and shakes her head as if to join him in a joke. She finally looks up and smiles at him.
Hey, I understand what you’re up against. Being a therapist is no picnic. Dealing with an endless procession of neurotic people day after day. You know, I have this friend who’s a psychiatrist who always makes a point of saying he’s not just a therapist—he’s a psychiatrist. Because he likes working with people that really need his help. Psychotics, not neurotics, he says. He says neurotics are just people who don’t have any friends to talk to.
Nick sees that Diane’s no longer amused and shifts gears, suddenly all business.
The thing is…sometimes I think it’s not making any difference. Sometimes I think she and I are just doomed. Just absolutely not suited to be together.
Because I feel a responsibility to give the relationship a shot. To make sure I’m not throwing something away that could be…maybe…I don’t know—or maybe once was—something good. Something valuable.
Because I will not be accused of walking away from this relationship without being absolutely certain it’s hopeless!
And is that what you’re thinking? It’s hopeless?
Nick ignores her question. He gets up and walks around, eventually making his way over to examine the display of diplomas. Diane continues to stare at the sofa, refusing to look at him while he walks around the room, as if waiting for him to return to his seat.
Hey, why do therapists do that? Put their diplomas on display? As if we didn’t trust them to have degrees and be properly licensed. As if we didn’t know you could fake these things with the right connections.
Nick reads a diploma—removing it from the wall or bookcase and showing it to Diane.
Now, THAT one’s a bit far-fetched, don’t you think? A National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on semiotics? Now, come on! Degrees are one thing but bragging about attending a two-month course is pathetic. Especially when your practice has nothing to do with semiotics!
Nick drops the diploma onto Diane’s desk.
I mean, why don’t you go frame your god dammed Girl Scout badges while you’re at it?
Could we please?
It’s just that… God…! Jeez! Jesus H…! … We’re at an impasse. I don’t know.
Nick starts to walk back to the sofa.
A block. A big fat block in the road. That’s it—a big fat block! And there’s no way around it. There’s just no hope!
Nick sits down.
THAT’S what I’m thinking.
Tell me about it. Describe the block.
Oh, come on! I’ve described it many times. You know the story.
Tell me again.
Round and around we go.
“Round and round the mulberry bush.”
Hey, is that how that goes?
I don’t know. Maybe that’s the point. Just go round and around. Keep her busy. Keep her occupied. Keep her payments coming. Don’t actually resolve anything. God forbid her waiting room ever cleared out because people started leading satisfying lives.
All right. I get the drill. I’ll be a good boy.
Diane glares at him.
Sorry—retract that. I’m not trying to turn you into my mother. O.K., here we go. She and I—that is, my wife and I—have different physical needs. And she just doesn’t get it.
You’ve said that before. Why do you think such a thing?
Do you think she lacks the intelligence to understand your needs?
I don’t know—maybe that’s it.
No, no, of course that’s not it. She’s a highly intelligent person. She has lots of degrees. I respect all that. But she’s all IQ, no EQ.
You’ve used that term before. I still don’t think I understand what you mean
EQ. Emotional Quotient. Something I read about in a magazine. Newsweek maybe. Or The New Yorker—I don’t know. You know, if you kept your magazines more up to date, maybe you’d have heard about it!
Diane refuses to react.
Sorry. It’s, um…it’s knowing how to get along with people. Being good at figuring out what they need—that sort of thing. It’s like some people are very good at analyzing data—or they can do the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in fifteen minutes, and in pen, no less—but they’re stupid when it comes to figuring out people. That’s what I mean. High IQ, low EQ.
And you think your wife doesn’t know how to get along with people?
Despite all she’s accomplished in her career, you think she’s not good at figuring people out?
Nick looks at her and backs down.
No point upsetting the woman!
Obviously she’s good with people. I’m just saying maybe some people are good at being helpful to people in a general sort of way but not so good at dealing with the person they share their bed with. I mean, I don’t think I’m a beast or anything. I just like sex. Is that a crime? I’m a very sensual person. I’ve got Mediterranean blood in me, you know.
You’re referring to your maternal great-grandmother, I believe?
That’s right. She was from Calabria—the toe of Italy. Very sensual people, the Calabrese. Now, I’m not saying it has to be every night and twice on Sunday, but my wife doles it out like an old maiden aunt with a limited supply of bonbons.
That’s rather harsh, don’t you think?
Are you allowed to make judgments about the things I say? I thought I was supposed to be able to speak my mind here.
I’m sorry. Go on.
It’s all right. I know this is hard for you. I’m sure your other patients are a piece of cake by comparison.
I already told you I’m not allowed to comment on my other patients.
Like the guy before me? He’s your favorite, right? I bet you see him whenever he needs you. Any time—day or night—no appointment necessary! Just squeeze him in.
So, you’re feeling jealous? Is that what this is all about?
It’s not about me. It’s about my wife! The old maiden aunt. You said that was harsh. I said you couldn’t make judgments. You apologized. And here we are.
Yes, here we are.
(after a pause)
Okay, back to my wife.
Yes, back to my wife.
No, back to MY wife. You don’t have a wife.
What I mean is—my wife doesn’t like to have sex with me very often. Once every couple of weeks, maybe. MAYBE! That’s not normal. And then she acts like it took all her energy to accommodate me. Like she’s done me this huge favor. Like New Year’s Eve. The biggest night of the year, right? So,we pack the kids off to Grandma’s. It was a perfect opportunity. Between the holidays and my flu and her colds, we hadn’t made love for weeks, so I was really pent up. We went to an expensive restaurant and had a wonderful time.
I’m sure she appreciated it
Fine, so what happens? We get home at two thirty and she falls right asleep. Now, I can understand that. The drinking. The late hour. O.K., I get all that! But come morning, don’t you think it’s payback time?
You make it sound like a business transaction. Dinner for sex. Did you ever think she might not appreciate being thought of in that way?
I didn’t say any of this at the time. I was just looking forward to some good New Year’s sex. Is that so wrong? And what happens? She can’t even be bothered to brush her teeth the next morning, so we make love without any kissing. And I shouldn’t even call it love. I mean, there wasn’t any intercourse or anything—she said she wasn’t in the mood—so instead she gives me a hand job. Thank you very much! Happy New Year to you, too!
I can certainly understand your disappointment. But just keep in mind that none of this is unusual. I see many couples, and it’s perfectly normal to have dry spells like this. Especially when a couple has young children.
But the kids weren’t even there! That’s my whole point! And what do I get? Nothing! Nada!
You can’t always schedule these things.
Fine, fine. But it’s more than that. Even when she’s in the mood, she’s very limited in what she’ll do. I like to try new things. She likes the same old routine
People are different.
Nick pounds the arm of the sofa.
Well, that’s my point, damn it! She doesn’t try to understand my difference! She doesn’t reach out! For instance, I like to start things standing up. I like to take it nice and slow. Explore a woman’s body before jumping into bed. You know what I mean? But she insists on getting under the sheets right away. Says she gets cold, but that’s not it. She’s not cold. Well, she IS, but… Anyway. One night I turned the heat up real high so no one could pretend they weren’t comfortable and then made her stand up with me.
Nick stands up.
We began to kiss, and I could already feel her tugging at me, trying to drag me back down to the bed, so I started to dance with her.
Nick dances around the room until he comes to a stop just beyond Diane, hovering over her.
I waltzed her all around the room until I got her as far away from the bed as possible. Then I kissed her gently and massaged her shoulders, like it was our first time together. Like we were teenagers in love. And it was great! I got excited and hard as a rock. Who needs Viagra? This was the real thing! Then she says, “Oh, let’s get back into bed, dear,” but I hold on tight and try to persuade her to stay put.
Nick looks directly at Diane, who stares up at him transfixed.
“Baby, I’ll do anything you want. Just tell me! Anything at all.” And what does she do? She starts screaming her head off, pleading, saying she wants to get back into bed. So… I let her go—I didn’t want to wake the kids. … And that was it.
Nick retakes his seat.
The end of a great experiment!
Nick stares at her. She stares back in a challenging way. She looks away from him to check her notes.
So… If I can summarize. You don’t see much hope for your marriage because you claim your wife doesn’t like to have sex as often as you do and because she refuses to have intercourse standing up.
Oh, c’mon! When you put it like that, it makes me sound ridiculous! Like I have screwed-up priorities. I’m not saying I think marriage is all about sex. I realize it isn’t the most important part. But it’s an indispensable part, don’t you think? Without it, you might just as well be business partners.
But what you describe doesn’t sound like an insurmountable problem. You just have issues about timing and personal preferences. With a little work, I’m sure you and your wife can work it all out.
I’m glad you’re so confident, doctor.
Nick stares at Diane for a moment.
(suddenly sweetly and softly)
Nick looks down.
(noticing Diane’s shoes)
Nice shoes. Designer shoes, right?
Must have cost someone a lot.
You really want to talk about my shoes?
No, not really. Well, actually, there’s something else.
Take your time.
(after a pause)
I’m not sure my wife and I can ever work things out. You see, I’ve got a bigger problem.
(after a pause)
All right, the truth is… I’m losing interest in her. I’m not attracted to her the way I used to be.
Oh, I see.
Diane looks down at her notes.
And why is that?
Well, it’s not easy to talk about this.
I understand, but that’s what we’re here for.
There’s no way to say this without sounding like a cad.
You’re not a cad.
There’s nothing you CAN’T say here. Give it a try.
All right, doctor. Here I go.
The fact is, she’s put on weight lately and I’m… I’m… I’m sorry but I’m just not attracted to fat women.
Nick looks at Diane.
I know it’s an awful thing to say, but haven’t you taught me that feelings simply are what they are and…and that we have to acknowledge them if we’re to make any progress?
Yes, I suppose I’ve said things like that.
Well, there you have it! I can’t control what I feel. I see all these beautiful women around me all the time—like at the gym. Slender, muscular. I’m not saying they’re all in perfect shape. But they’re in SOME sort of shape, while my wife…my wife… She’s just completely let herself go! Now how am I supposed to work on our relationship when I look at all her flesh lying there like…like some strange rubbery sculpture? How am I supposed to get those feelings started again?
(after a pause)
I certainly admire your honesty. I suppose that’s something.
But have you ever thought about why she might be out of shape?
Diane carries the diploma back to its original spot and straightens out all the diplomas.
Do you realize what happens to a woman’s body after she gives birth?
Well, sure. I…
(cutting him off)
And your wife’s had two children, right? Not just one. Two! Do you have any idea how hard it is for a woman to shed the pounds she gains during pregnancy?
Yes, of course, but most women…
Diane walks back toward Nick.
And while you’re at the gym every day—because you have such a cushy job there’s apparently never a problem finding time for a workout—have you ever thought that maybe your WIFE’S job prevents her from getting to the health club? That her SECOND job, taking care of YOUR children—for God forbid you should ever pitch in when it comes to taking care of the kids—makes it even less likely she’d ever be able to find the time to fit in a workout? No, of course not. While you’re fantasizing about standing up and making love to one of your gym bunnies, have you ever stopped to think about how, with a little effort, you might be able to help turn your loving wife into the kind of woman who could get your motor running again so you wouldn’t have to keep threatening to rip your marriage apart and leave damaged kids behind to deal with a broken home?
No, I don’t imagine you’ve ever taken the time to think about these things. You’re a busy man! You said so yourself!
Too busy to give a FUCK…!
(pausing to calm down)
I mean, too busy to CARE about your wife’s feelings!
After a pause, Diane looks at her watch.
(all business again)
Well, I’m sorry, but we’re out of time today. We’re going to have to end now.
Nick gets up.
(after a pause)
Look, I know this is difficult, but I think we’re making progress.
Nick heads towards the door.
I suppose so.
Nick reaches the door.
Oh, and Honey, before I forget—could you do me a favor and order some take-out from Ollie’s? I’m not going to have time to cook dinner tonight. And, Nick—don’t let the kids watch too much TV! I’ll be upstairs after the next patient
And you really didn’t take any of my files, right?
Nick exits while Diane turns to check some papers on her desk.
END OF SCENE
END OF EXCERPT