Full-Length Play

Scenes from the Dakota

A Fantasy Play in Two Acts                         by William Ivor Fowkes

A tale about possibilities at New York’s fabled apartment building.

 

LENGTH: 1 hour 40 minutes (plus intermission)

CAST: 3M, 2F (6 characters)

 

Scenes from the Dakota is an expanded, full-length version of my one-act play, The Dakota, Best Short Play Award winner at the Downtown Urban Theater Festival 2005 at the Cherry Lane Theatre, New York.

 

 


SYNOPSIS

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. 

 

SETTING

Various locations in and around The Dakota, the fabled apartment building on Central Park West in Manhattan

 

TIME

Summer 1999 and Summer 2000

 

CAST BREAKDOWN

Earl Mumford. A retired architect. Lives at the Dakota. Distinguished and charming.  Early 70s.

Mark Mayfield. An accountant. Lives in Stamford, CT and works in midtown Manhattan. Cocky and suspicious. Early ’40s.

Marjorie. Charming, but a bit aloof. Late ’60s.

Elizabeth Mumford Allen. Lives in Seattle, where she runs a mail order vitamin company with her husband. Smart, accomplished, but self-doubting and hesitant. Late’30s.

ACTOR #5:

     Tony. Hot but not particularly bright. Mid ’20s.

     Young Man. Curious but shy. Mid ’20s.

 

PRODUCTION NOTE

This fantasy play explores life in and out of the closet—asking what if things had happened differently. What if Earl Mumford had married Marjorie and stayed in the closet? What if Mark Mayfield had ended his marriage early and come out of the closet? And what if Earl and Mark had met under different circumstances? There are many possibilities, but two scenarios are presented here. I leave it to the director to decide whether to use lighting, scenic, or other devices to clarify and augment the distinction between the two scenarios.    

    

 


EXCERPT

 

Scene Three: What if? 1999—a summer afternoon. The Mumford living room at the Dakota. The same room as in scenes one and two, but now stylishly decorated and impeccably maintained.

 

Elizabeth is straightening things up a bit. Marjorie enters with a vase filled with flowers. She looks around, not sure what to do with them, and finally hands them to Elizabeth.

 

MARJORIE

Here, Elizabeth—please help me figure out what to do with these.

 

Elizabeth takes the vase hesitantly.

 

ELIZABETH

What would Carlotta do?

 

MARJORIE

Forget Carlotta! We’re on our own now. Excuse me a moment, dear.

 

Marjorie suddenly exits. Elizabeth looks for a spot

to set down the vase, moving it a couple of times

before finally settling on a spot. Marjorie returns

with another vase and notices where the first one

has been placed.

 

MARJORIE

Excellent choice! See—you haven’t lost your touch. Thank goodness you’re here, darling!

 

She kisses Elizabeth and then hands her the second

vase.

 

MARJORIE

Now see if you can work your magic again.

 

Elizabeth accepts the vase, and then sets off again,

hesitantly, to find a spot to set it down.

 

ELIZABETH

I wouldn’t miss Daddy’s birthday for the world!

 

Marjorie indicates a spot for the vase.

 

MARJORIE

Maybe over there.

 

Elizabeth immediately puts the vase in the spot

indicated.

 

MARJORIE

Or—or wherever you think.

 

Elizabeth retracts the vase and looks for another

spot.

 

MARJORIE

You’ve missed plenty of your father’s birthdays—not to mention all of mine. What’s so special about this one?

 

ELIZABETH

(gently)

Please!

 

MARJORIE

I’m only talking about birthdays. I didn’t say anything about all the other times you’ve stayed away from us.

 

ELIZABETH

Mother!

 

Elizabeth puts the vase down suddenly—anywhere.

 

MARJORIE

I’m sorry—I’ll be good. I’m just happy you’re here!

 

Elizabeth hugs Marjorie.

 

ELIZABETH

Don’t mind me! Chalk it up to jet lag. I know 72 isn’t exactly a big round number…

 

MARJORIE

No, 70 was a big round number! Sorry—that just slipped out. Let’s call a truce! I take full responsibility for everything!  Everything I ever did.  I didn’t breast-feed you. I took your pacifier away. I embarrassed you in front of your friends.

(dramatically)

I did it all—I ruined your life!

 

ELIZABETH

Mother!

 

MARJORIE

Sorry, dear. I’m starting to sound like one of those characters on All My Children. Your father loves that show.

 

ELIZABETH

My point is—now that Daddy’s 72—well, that’s getting up there!

 

MARJORIE

72’s not so old! Why, Earl and I are practically kids compared to some of our neighbors.

 

ELIZABETH

But who knows how many more birthdays there’ll be. That’s all I’m saying.

 

MARJORIE

Everyone’s living to be 100 years old these days! Don’t you watch The Today Show?

 

ELIZABETH

People do die at 72, you know. I have lots of friends whose parents are gone

 

MARJORIE

People get hit by buses in their 40s—that doesn’t prove anything.  And, by the way, your father may be 72, but I’m still only in my sixties—well, just barely.

 

ELIZABETH

But I worry!

 

MARJORIE

Your father’s in excellent health!

 

ELIZABETH

I just don’t want to wake up one day and discover it’s too late to come visit!

 

MARJORIE

Why are we fighting?

 

ELIZABETH

We’re not fighting—this is just how we act out our love.

 

MARJORIE

Ouch! That sounds like something from one of your encounter groups or group therapy sessions.

 

ELIZABETH

I don’t attend group therapy sessions!

 

MARJORIE

Why is everybody so sensible and healthy out there in Seattle?  I suppose it’s all that rain—people have to find something to do. Discuss their feelings. Practice yoga. … Take vitamins.

 

ELIZABETH

If you ever came out to visit us, you’d know we have lots of beautiful weather. You can keep your muggy New York summers!

 

MARJORIE

Daughters are supposed to visit their mothers, not the other way around. They’re supposed to bring their children to the loving arms of Grandma.  Why didn’t you bring Charlie?

 

ELIZABETH

I didn’t want to take him out of camp.

 

MARJORIE

And how is my precious boy?

 

ELIZABETH

Forget the terrible twos—no one prepared me for the terrible tens!

 

MARJORIE

And what about big Charles? You should have come with your whole family. That’s what people do, you know.

 

ELIZABETH

Well, the truth is—we couldn’t afford it.

 

MARJORIE

How can that be?

 

ELIZABETH

Business isn’t so good right now.

 

MARJORIE

But your father and I buy all our vitamins from you!

 

ELIZABETH

We’re facing a lot of new competition.

 

MARJORIE

I told you—you should have been a doctor or a lawyer—all those wonderful jobs that weren’t so available to women of my generation.

 

ELIZABETH

Yes, mother. I know what a disappointment I’ve been.

 

MARJORIE

(ignoring her comment)

You know we would have paid to fly you all back here. We always offer to pay.

 

ELIZABETH

And I always refuse. So just be happy I’m here.

 

MARJORIE

Well, I am!

 

ELIZABETH

So tell me about this party.  I assume you’re inviting all the usual Dakota glitterati.

 

MARJORIE

What are you talking about? We’re all just plain folks here.

 

ELIZABETH

Yeah, right.

 

MARJORIE

What do you mean?

 

ELIZABETH

I grew up here.

 

MARJORIE

Then you remember what it was like.

 

ELIZABETH

I remember the loud parties Lenny Bernstein used to throw. And the crowds after Lennon was shot.  And not every apartment building has a Lauren Bacall lurking around.

 

MARJORIE

Oh, yes—dear Betty!

 

ELIZABETH

You call her Betty now?

 

MARJORIE

Well, we’ve gotten to know each other a bit better over the years.

 

ELIZABETH

I rest my case. I grew up thinking you couldn’t just invite a few friends around. No, a party had to have well-known authors and political hot shots and entertainers. And someone always had to make a big scene—something people would talk about for days.

 

MARJORIE

Where’s the harm in that?

 

ELIZABETH

I’m just saying it’s not normal. … Do you have any idea what it was like having to give command performances—or stand there while you and Daddy recited a list of our most recent accomplishments?

 

MARJORIE

You make it sound awful.

 

ELIZABETH

Charles and I live a much simpler life. Our idea of a good time is a quiet evening with a small group of friends—no one anyone’s ever heard of.

 

MARJORIE

(snapping)

You didn’t have to come back, you know! And you can stay in your room and read a book, if you prefer!

 

ELIZABETH

No, this is for Daddy. The birthday boy gets to do what he wants on his birthday.

(changing the subject)

I’m here to help. Let me help. Tell me what I can do.

 

MARJORIE

Yes, perhaps we better focus.  Let’s see if we’ve got everything. Flowers. Food.  Everything’s been cleaned. … We’ll let the bartender set up in the dining room when he gets here. What else? ... Your brother refused to come—no surprise.

 

ELIZABETH

He’s very busy.

 

MARJORIE

He never comes!

 

ELIZABETH

Do you ever visit HIM?

 

MARJORIE

I don’t drive—I’d be considered a freak in L.A. He just doesn’t want anything to do with us.

 

ELIZABETH

(sympathetically and half-joking)

Do you think we ran away from you on purpose?

 

MARJORIE

YOU didn’t. You didn’t know you’d meet someone from Seattle. But David?  He CHOSE to go to UCLA. And then to STAY out there!  I could understand it if he wanted to be a film actor—but people come to NEW YORK to work in public relations. And with Earl’s connections—he could have gotten a terrific job back here.

 

ELIZABETH

Lots of people love LA.

 

MARJORIE

And don’t tell me it’s for the weather. He’s always been the indoor type.

 

ELIZABETH

I quit trying to figure out David years ago.

 

MARJORIE

All right—let’s focus. What do we need to do?

 

Marjorie suddenly looks worried and distracted and perhaps starts to fuss.

 

ELIZABETH

Don’t worry! The bartender will be here any minute. I’m here. Everything’s going to be O.K.

 

MARJORIE

Yes, I know.  It’s just… I’m worried about your father.

 

ELIZABETH

I saw him earlier. He was in great spirits. He told me some of his old jokes. I laughed and pretended I’d never heard them before.

 

MARJORIE

He should have been back by now.

 

Marjorie calls downstairs on the house phone.

 

MARJORIE

Derek, this is Marjorie Mumford. Have you seen my husband? … Yes, that’s right. … I see. … No, that’s okay. … Thank you, Derek.

 

She hangs up.

 

MARJORIE

That’s so like your father! Just when you need him—just when there’s work to be done—he disappears.  Do you have that problem?

 

ELIZABETH

No, CHARLES is the reliable one in our relationship.

 

MARJORIE

Maybe I should have found myself a crunchy granola type, too.

 

ELIZABETH

But you DO love him, right?

 

MARJORIE

Your father? Of course I do.

 

ELIZABETH

(cautiously)

Sometimes I wonder.

 

MARJORIE

For heaven’s sake, why?

 

ELIZABETH

You’re always on his case!

 

MARJORIE

(exasperated)

Oh, your father and I are just…

(softening suddenly)

…well, we’re practically inseparable.  Have been ever since…

 

ELIZABETH

(cutting her off)

Yes, I know, Mother.

 

MARJORIE

How do you know what I was going to say?

 

ELIZABETH

Because you tell me how you and daddy met every chance you get.

 

MARJORIE

(joking)

That’s not what I was going to say, smarty pants!

 

ELIZABETH

Oh?

 

MARJORIE

My point is just that we were a couple from the very start. It almost seemed preordained.  He was DIFFERENT from the others.  I guess I couldn’t help myself. He was—adorable.

 

ELIZABETH

That’s the word—he IS adorable.  So what changed?

 

MARJORIE

Nothing changed.  People still think he’s adorable.

 

ELIZABETH

But YOU don’t?

 

MARJORIE

Oh… Old married couples just get on each other’s nerves sometimes.

 

ELIZABETH

As long as I’ve known you, you’ve gotten on each other’s nerves.  You’ve always been so critical, Mother!

 

MARJORIE

Do I feel another one of our fights coming on?

 

ELIZABETH

Seriously—you’ve never been very affectionate. Not with ANY of us.

 

MARJORIE

I’m sure you’re trying to be insulting, but I’m not offended. I’m just not the touchy-feely type.

 

ELIZABETH

But DADDY is.

 

MARJORIE

Well, he is with YOU. Always has been.

 

ELIZABETH

So why isn’t he like that with you?  Did something happen? Did you push him away?

 

MARJORIE

I told you—your father wasn’t like the others.  And I was never that interested in—well…THAT part of marriage. I know you people in Seattle love nothing more than talking about these things for hours on end in those encounter groups, but I’m more private. So enjoy this moment—it won’t be repeated.

 

ELIZABETH

What are you trying to tell me?

 

MARJORIE

Marriage requires compromise.  Your father never pushed a physical relationship on me like some of the others.  He was more interested in companionship. And he WAS adorable—so charming and entertaining. I could see he was ambitious and had a promising future, so I thought I could have a great life with this man. And that’s what we’ve had! And then on top of it all—two wonderful children. I couldn’t ask for more.

 

ELIZABETH

And you’ve been happy with this—compromise?

 

MARJORIE

I’m happy; your father’s happy.  Everything is fine, I assure you.

 

ELIZABETH

(dryly)

If you say so.

 

MARJORIE

I do!  Surely you and David have had to make compromises.

 

ELIZABETH

Not about our basic needs! We’re not just companions—we’re lovers! Deeply—physically—committed lovers. I can’t stand to be away from him. I need to hold him every day. … The way he touches me…

 

MARJORIE

(cutting her off)

O.K.—I think we’ve exhausted this topic.  I’m glad you have a perfect marriage.

 

ELIZABETH

I didn’t say it was perfect.

 

MARJORIE

Now if we could just get David settled into something. Is he seeing anyone?

 

ELIZABETH

He never tells me anything.

 

MARJORIE

Oh? I thought it was just your father and me he kept in the dark.

 

ELIZABETH

David is strange.

 

MARJORIE

We just want him to be happy.

 

ELIZABETH

I don’t think he’s EVER been involved with anyone—male OR female.

 

MARJORIE

… Oh, I hadn’t considered…

 

ELIZABETH

I’m not saying… I just don’t think he’s interested in relationships. It’s all about his career.  Daddy set the bar awfully high, you know.

 

MARJORIE

I don’t understand why we don’t click with David. He was such a charming boy—both of you were charming—but we lost him once he became a teenager.  Especially your father. David can’t stand to be in the same room with him.

 

ELIZABETH

David’s an odd duck. He’s got weird ideas about the world. Weird ideas about you and Daddy.

 

MARJORIE

What ideas?

 

ELIZABETH

He thinks Daddy…

 

MARJORIE

What?

 

ELIZABETH

He thinks Daddy doesn’t treat you right.

 

MARJORIE

Well, I suppose I should be relieved not to be seen as the villain for a change—but what do you mean?

 

ELIZABETH

Forget it!

 

MARJORIE

No—you brought it up!

 

ELIZABETH

He has wild notions about what’s going on in this household. It’s too pathetic to discuss. We’re not even speaking at the moment.

 

MARJORIE

Oh, darling—I’m so sorry. But what’s this all about?

 

As a diversion, Elizabeth looks at her watch.

 

ELIZABETH

Shouldn’t we get back to preparing for the party?

 

MARJORIE

(flustered)

Oh…uh… No, I need to understand…

 

ELIZABETH

Look at the time!

 

MARJORIE

Oh…uh… I suppose you’re right.  Maybe later… Why don’t you start setting up the bar out in the dining room—now the bartender’s late, too! And I’m expecting a delivery from the wine store any minute.

 

Elizabeth starts to exit.

 

MARJORIE

Oh, my!  And would you mind checking the floor in there. See if it needs another sweeping.

 

Elizabeth exits. Marjorie looks around the room and

then moves the second vase to a different spot

before exiting. Earl enters, sneaking in. He’s all

dirty and looks roughed up. Before he can head off

to the master bedroom, Marjorie comes back in. He

freezes.

 

MARJORIE

Oh, thank goodness! The birthday boy returns! I was about to send out a posse…

 

She finally notices his condition.

 

MARJORIE

What happened to you? You’re a mess!

 

EARL

I had a little mishap in the park.  I slipped and fell.

 

MARJORIE

What were you doing in the park?

 

She examines him more closely.

 

MARJORIE

Wait a minute! You’re bleeding!

 

EARL

It’s nothing! Just a little scrape. Some Neosporin and I’ll be fine.

 

MARJORIE

Shall I call Dr. Fried?

 

EARL

No! I’m fine!

 

MARJORIE

You’re going to need a good cleaning before people start showing up—or maybe you should go to bed. Should we cancel the party?

 

EARL

I’m O.K.!

 

Elizabeth enters.

 

ELIZABETH

Mother, the deliveryman from the wine store’s here. He needs a credit card.

 

MARJORIE

Earl, give Elizabeth your Visa card!

 

Earl fumbles with his pockets.

 

EARL

I don’t seem to have my wallet.

 

ELIZABETH

(seeing Earl’s state)

What happened? Daddy, are you okay?

 

EARL

I’m fine, Princess.

(trying to distract everyone from his condition)

Have I told you how lovely you look today?

 

MARJORIE

(cutting him off)

You left with your wallet! I specifically asked you about it before you went out. Never mind—I’ll get my Visa!

 

Marjorie exits.

 

ELIZABETH

Are you sure you’re O.K.?

 

EARL

I took a little spill in the park, that’s all. Some of those pathways can get a little slippery. I guess I wasn’t watching my step.

 

ELIZABETH

You’ve got to be careful! If anything ever happened to you, I don’t know what I’d do…!

 

EARL

You’d go on living your happy life far away from here.

 

ELIZABETH

You know I’d live right next door to you if I could.

 

Marjorie returns and hands a credit card to Elizabeth.

 

MARJORIE

Here, Elizabeth. I’ll take care of his highness.

 

Elizabeth exits.

 

MARJORIE

Now tell me exactly what happened.

 

EARL

I told you—and you said I had to go get cleaned up.

 

MARJORIE

You don’t get all bloody and lose your wallet from a little spill.

 

EARL

I didn’t want to upset you.  Maybe it was more than a little spill. … O.K., it was a great big spill! Everyone started rubber-necking—you’d think it was a six-car pile-up on the West Side Highway! … I wouldn’t be surprised if I made it onto the evening news.

 

MARJORIE

You knew we had company coming! And Elizabeth is here!

 

EARL

I guess I just lost track of the time.  You know how I can’t resist the park.

 

MARJORIE

I don’t know what’s so wonderful about the park.

 

Earl tries to distract her by pointing out the window.

 

EARL

Like our view—I can stare out at it all day.   That’s why we live here, isn’t it?

 

MARJORIE

(suspiciously)

Where did you go exactly? Where did this happen?

 

EARL

What does it matter?

 

MARJORIE

(after a pause)

Did you go to the Ramble?

 

EARL

No, of course not!

 

MARJORIE

Was there a young man involved?

 

EARL

(changing gears)

Marjorie—look, that happened once—and it wasn’t exactly what you thought anyway!

 

...

 

END OF EXCERPT