Full-Length Play

Private Property

A Dark Comic Mystery                                 by William Ivor Fowkes

It’s nobody’s business.

 

LENGTH: 90 minutes (no intermission)

CAST: 3M, 1F 


 

PRODUCTION HISTORY:

 

PRODUCTION: (upcoming) The Players Ring, Portsmouth, NH, 2018 Late Night Summer Series, August 17-26, 2018.

 

READINGS:

- Penobscot Theatre Company’s 6th Annual New Work Festival: Northern Writes, Bangor, ME, June 2012.

- Pulse Ensemble Theatre, New York, NY, April 2015.

- The Players Ring, Portsmouth, NH, July 2017.

 

 

 

 


 

SYNOPSIS

Gregory, a retired interior decorator; his wealthy partner, Samuel; their long-suffering housekeeper, Birdy; and everyone’s special friend, Joe, have been living together in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania, where they have amassed a curious collection of houses, each decorated in a different style. But when an inquisitive reporter comes snooping around, more than just their privacy is threatened.


SETTING

A rustic but well appointed house in the woods near Milford, PA.

 

TIME

2005 and 1975

 

CAST BREAKDOWN

#1. Male: 

Gregory South. Gregarious, impulsive, and excitable. 60s.

Young Gregory. 30s. 

#2. Male: 

Samuel Becker. Articulate, exacting, and controlling. 60s.

Young Samuel. 30s.

#3. Female: 

Birdy Bock. Feisty, energetic, and eccentric. 50s.

Brittany (Young Birdy). 20s.

#4. Male: 

Patrick Sheehan. Solicitous but cunning. Irish. 28.  

Joe Casey. Outgoing, opportunistic, and sexy. Irish. 20s.


 

 


 

AN EXCERPT

 

Scene 1:2005—an August afternoon. Samuel sits in an armchair reading blissfully. Gregory sits on the sofa staring into space.


GREGORY

(announcing—excited)

I’ve got it! I’m going to do it up in Dutch!


SAMUEL

(angrily)

I don’t care how you decorate it! I just hope to God this is the last one!

 

GREGORY

Of course you care! You always have very definite opinions about all my houses.

 

SAMUEL

But, I can’t afford to keep doing this.

 

GREGORY

Nonsense, you have lots of money.

 

SAMUEL

It’s not just the money. A person can only take so much!

 

GREGORY

Burst a fella’s balloon, why don’t you?

 

SAMUEL

Promise me this will be the last one—and I mean it!—and then maybe I’ll be more supportive.

 

GREGORY

(petulantly, like a child)

Okay, I promise this will be the last one.

 

SAMUEL

All right, then. You were saying…you’re going to do it up in Dutch. No surprise there.

 

GREGORY

But I mean EARLY Dutch—you know, like one of the first houses in New York City.

 

SAMUEL

Okay—that’s a nice twist.

(professorially)

But you mean New Amsterdam.

 

GREGORY

Whatever.

 

SAMUEL

Not whatever! That’s what New York was called when it was Dutch.

 

GREGORY

I didn’t know we were playing Jeopardy.

 

SAMUEL

(sharply)

Gregory!

 

GREGORY

Sorry. … So, when are you going to make our offer?

 

SAMUEL

(returning to his book)

Relax. I’m reading.

 

GREGORY

Samuel! You said those new neighbors down the drive have made a bid on it. We have to act fast or we’ll lose it!

 

SAMUEL

(proudly and smugly)

I’m way ahead of you, Gregory. I made a counter offer this morning, and they accepted it. The lawyers are already drawing up the papers.

 

GREGORY

You’re amazing, dear.

 

SAMUEL

No, I’m fed up! Every time, it’s the same story. I buy you a house. I let you fix it up exactly the way you want it—no expense spared. I throw a little celebration party so you can show off, and people can marvel at your talent. Then we seal up the house, and life goes on—until you suddenly need another house. But now I’m done.

(more firmly)

I will not do it anymore!

 

GREGORY

But if I have to be stuck out here in the woods, I’ve got to do something to keep myself entertained.

 

SAMUEL

(dryly)

Try stamp collecting.

 

GREGORY

I’m a people person! I should be in the city.

 

SAMUEL

Well, that’s hardly practical now, is it?

 

GREGORY

I know. I know. But no one even comes to visit us anymore.

 

SAMUEL

That’s why I throw those little parties. 

 

GREGORY

Hardly anyone showed up at the last one.

 

SAMUEL

Well, I try.



Birdy charges in through the front door carrying a large shovel. 


 

SAMUEL

(crying out)

House Rule: Don’t bring that shovel through the front door!



Birdy turns around. Throws the shovel outside. Rushes to mudroom. Grabs a BB rifle. Goes to the door again. Fires the rifle out into the woods.

 


BIRDY

Shit! Now I missed!



Birdy closes the door. Puts the rifle away. Starts to head to the kitchen.


 

SAMUEL

Shovel!



Birdy grudgingly goes out front door. Re-enters through back door with the shovel. Puts the shovel away in the mudroom.

 


SAMUEL

Birdy, were you shooting at the new neighbors?

 

BIRDY

(entering the living room)

No, it’s their ugly mutt of a dog! If they fed him properly, he wouldn’t go foraging around in our garden. And he’s probably scaring Mr. Wiggles in the process. Poor Mr. Wiggles. You haven’t seen the Wigster lately, have you?

 

SAMUEL

I stopped caring about the comings and goings of your pussy long ago.

 

BIRDY

(sitting)

They’re from Croatia, you know.

 

SAMUEL

(reading)

No, I don’t know. Or care.

 

BIRDY

(nattering on)

Stanislav is just dreamy! But that wife of his—“Ivona”*! What a vampire! Though I kinda feel sorry for her. I tell you, after what those people went through back in Croatia—what was it again? Some sort of war or something. You know, military conflict can really mess a person up. Did I ever tell you about my crazy Uncle Wilbur? Well, he wasn’t crazy before he went to Korea. He was just sort of… 


[*pronounced ee-VŌ-na]

 

SAMUEL

(cutting her off)

Quiet!

 

BIRDY

(obediently)

Sorry—I forgot.

(beat—more quietly)

Gregory, maybe we should reach out to them. Bring them a fruit basket or something.

 

SAMUEL

Just leave them alone—I don’t want to make friends. That’s why I live in the woods. That’s why I’ve added 40 acres to our holdings over the years and bought Gregory every house within earshot—except for that one at the end of the drive. So, please don’t get chummy with those new people. Just keep everyone away from us!

 

BIRDY

He’s right. Imagine if we’d had neighbors snooping around during the last…you know.

 

SAMUEL

Don’t get me started again! I’m at my wit’s end. This has all got to stop! 

 

GREGORY

It wasn’t my fault!



Gregory starts to heave and shake.

 


GREGORY

Wasn’t my …! My… huh… my…huh…

 

SAMUEL

(matter-of-factly)

Breathe, Gregory. Slowly. In and out.



Gregory takes a few breaths. Calms down.


 

GREGORY

I’m sorry. These panic attacks seem to be getting worse.

 

SAMUEL

Just remember to breathe.

 

BIRDY

Maybe if you were nicer to him.

 

SAMUEL

Stop!

 

BIRDY

I’m sorry, but he’s right—it wasn’t his fault. And I Swiffered and Ajaxed everything all up! Oh, hey, let’s get one of those magic wring mop things from that infomercial. It looks absolutely decadent! Next time, I bet I could clean things up twice as fast with one of those widgets.

 

SAMUEL

There’s not going to be a next time—and we still have to deal with our visitor from Holland.

 

BIRDY

Well, my Lord and Master, that’s YOUR job! I’ve got my hands full taking care of Joe.

 

SAMUEL

(mocking)

Yes, good ole Joe.



The cuckoo clock chimes.

 


BIRDY

(calling out)

Tea time! Who’s in for tea?

 

SAMUEL

Not I!

 

BIRDY

Joe requested black raspberry today.

 

GREGORY

I’d love some, too, Birdy!



Birdy gets up.


 

BIRDY

(to Gregory—concerned)

How’s the leg?

 

GREGORY

Behaving itself, thanks for asking.

 

BIRDY

Oh, before I forget! Watch this—I’ve been practicing something for our next party.



Birdy starts to do a little dance.

 


BIRDY

(singing)

“I’m a little windmill—short and stout… These are my blades—watch them twirl about!” Cute, huh?



Birdy laughs and continues dancing and twirling as she exits through the back door.

 


SAMUEL

(resuming his reading)

That woman gets stranger every year.

 

GREGORY

I think she’s delightful and entertaining.

 

SAMUEL

But she’s so flighty and unpredictable.

 

GREGORY

(just realizing)

You’re right—she’s supposed to be getting my tea! And Joe’s!

 

SAMUEL

I’m sure Joe won’t miss it. By the way, those new people flagged me down this morning to complain about that mangy cat of Birdy’s. Apparently it keeps wandering onto their property.

 

GREGORY

Why didn’t you tell her?

 

SAMUEL

I didn’t want to start another Croatian war! Things were so peaceful before she entered our lives. Don’t you remember?   

 

GREGORY

Peace and quiet have never been my top priorities. 

 

SAMUEL

But you agreed to settle here. You chose the house.

 

GREGORY

That’s because I saw how happy it made you. I wanted you to be happy. I loved you.

 

SAMUEL

Past tense?

 

GREGORY

Past, present, and future, sweetheart.

 

SAMUEL

It hasn’t been so bad, has it? How many other men would stand by and let their partner make special friends the way I do? And I’ve never complained. Going all the way back to the first one.

 

GREGORY

Well, he was your friend as much as mine.

 

SAMUEL

(a happy memory)

I’ll say he was!

 

BIRDY

(from outside)

Oh, my God! Oh, my God!



Birdy storms in through the front door, leaving it open behind her.


 

BIRDY

(crying)

Those monsters!

 

SAMUEL

House Rule: Close the door behind you! We don’t live in a barn!

 

BIRDY

I’M not the animal around here! Come outside and see what those Croatians have done!

 

SAMUEL

I’m reading.



Birdy goes over to Samuel. Grabs the book out of his hands. Tosses the book outside.


 

BIRDY

And now you’re not!

 

SAMUEL

(standing)

Upstairs. Now!

 

BIRDY

(pleading)

You can punish me later. Please—just come look!



Samuel goes to front door. Looks outside.


 

BIRDY

(crying)

Look what they’ve done to Mr. Wiggles! They’ve slashed his poor little pussy throat!

 

SAMUEL

Well, don’t just leave him there. Clean up this mess!

 

GREGORY

(horrified)

Samuel!

(to Birdy, kindly)

I’ll take care of it, Birdy.

 

BIRDY

I loved that cat!

 

GREGORY

I know you did.

 

BIRDY

How could anyone do such an awful thing?

(hopefully)

Hey, will he get his own house, too?

 

GREGORY

I’ll see what I can do.

 

END OF SCENE

 


 



PHOTOS 


From an earlier version of PRIVATE PROPERTY presented in a series of readings at the Penobscot Theatre Company’s 6th Annual New Work Festival: Northern Writes, Bangor, ME, June 2012.

 

DIRECTOR: Jon Ferreira

GREGORY: Steve Robbins

SAMUEL: Ron Lisnet

BIRDY: Stephanie Erb

PATRICK/JOE: Brad LaBree

YOUNG GREGORY: Adam Cousions

YOUNG SAMUEL: Gavin Pickering

BRITTANY: Christie Robinson