What the Hell Is This Play? part 5.5
A self-conscious dramedy
by the arch nemesis of Dan Shinn-Krantz

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER 1: Large part.
CHAIR

AUTHORíS NOTE: I am proud to say that the following play is my thirtieth Chelsea script.  In addition to its other obvious sources, it was inspired by the web comic One Over Zero, by the artist Tailsteak.  This fine comic can be found at oneoverzero.keenspace.com.

NOTE: Before the play starts, any tables or chairs onstage must be removed.  There must be a fairly light chair offstage to stage left and CHARACTER 1 must know where it is.

NOTE: During this play, the Elf will say many things aside from stage directions.  Sometimes these concern the actions of the characters.  Those actions spoken by the Elf which the characters are expected to follow are highlighted in their scripts.

Scene 1: Limbo.

Enter CHARACTER 1, who looks all around.  First to one side, then to the other, then behind, and then in front.
CHARACTER 1 (despairingly): Oh God.  Iím so lonely!  Oh mercy mercy mercyÖso lonely!  Iím all alone!  Iíve been so completely alone for so longÖ how long has it been?
About twenty seconds.
CHARACTER 1 (melodramatic): Nearly Twenty Seconds!  Twenty, no fewer!  Oh, you may not think twenty seconds is much time to be completely and utterly alone, but take heed: as there is no one and indeed, nothing to occupy my attention here, each second has nothing between which to be divided!  And even the smallest quantity divided by zero is boundless!  That is what I amóI am a Division by Zero error!
Youíre mad, thatís what you are.
CHARACTER 1: Shut up!  Iím lonely!  Madness isnít one of this weekís themes, but loneliness is!
Actually, madness is one of this weekís themes.  Loneliness was last week.  You should really keep better track of time.
CHARACTER 1: Aaaaugh!  How can I keep track of time?  I have nothing to judge it by!  Here I was thinking Iíd been alone for a year or two, and it was only twenty seconds!
Nevertheless, this is a play, and in the theater it is essential to keep track of time.  Punctuality is very important.
CHARACTER 1: How can you be so smug?  Thatís easy for you to say, but I havenít even got a watch.
You have your script.
CHARACTER 1: How will that help me?  It doesnít tick!
This is what you can do: roll it up into a tube.  Then hold it that way for a few seconds, to solidify it in that shape.  Then let go and watch it slowly unroll.  As soon as it does, roll it up again.  Keep doing that over and over, and youíll have a unit of time.
CHARACTER 1: Thatís the stupidest idea Iíve heard inÖ umÖ
You see?  You need a unit of time, Character 1.
CHARACTER 1: Character 1?  Is that my name?
Of course it is, Character 1.  You know that.
CHARACTER 1: I guess I just keep forgetting.  Itís such a boring name.  Why couldnít you have given me a more interesting name?
It would have been pointless.  You are the only one here, so your name is all that matters.  Therefore, I gave you the simplest possible name.  It is the very essence of nomenclature.
CHARACTER 1: Huh?  Well, thanks.  But Iíd rather have a companion than a simple name.  Hey, didnít I use to have a friend?  Character Number 2 or something?
Character 2 was left behind, my child.  At the end of the last script, a disaster occurred.
CHARACTER 1: Really?  What was that?
The most horrible thing imaginable.  There was a battle, and the playís author was erased.
CHARACTER 1: That doesnít sound so horrible.  In fact, Iíve prayed for it sometimes.
And see where it has gotten you.  Now this series of plays is in limbo.  It has no authoróonly me, an Elf who took pity on it.  It doesnít even have a whole number anymore.  This is part Five and a Half.
CHARACTER 1: Yuck!  Does that mean Iím trapped here, forever?
Not at all.  But you see, I cannot give you what you wish for.  A watchÖ a companionÖ these are not within my power.  Creating those from out of nowhere would be to tamper with the playís basic matter, and only the author can do that.
CHARACTER 1: But there is no author!  Iím screwed!
Perhaps.
CHARACTER 1: No!!  I wonít stand for it!  This is just too cruel!!
CHARACTER 1 dashes around the stage, looking under and over things and crying out.
CHARACTER 1: I need something to hang onto!  Anything!  A person, some scenery, a brute object!  Anything!!
Calm down!  Iíve already explained that I canít spontaneously add anything to your storyline.  But I may be able to influence it somewhat, if I follow the proper methods.
CHARACTER 1: Methods!  What methods?
The logical methods of storytelling, combined with the style established by the former author.  As long as I donít do anything too miraculous, we should be all right.
CHARACTER 1: All right, all right.  Fine.  So what do we have to do?
Well, if I recall correctly, you and your late counterpart rarely were surprised by characters stumbling upon you.  Contrawise, you had to wander about until you stumbled into somebody.
CHARACTER 1: But I canít go any farther than the edge of the stage!  We canít leave the stage bare of characters!
We can if itís the end of a scene!
CHARACTER 1: Say, I guess youíre right!  Okay!
Exit CHARACTER 1 to stage right.

Scene 2: Things start to get interesting.

Enter CHARACTER 1.
CHARACTER 1: Iím back!  So, what was that scene title about?
Just wishful thinking on my part.
CHARACTER 1: Oh.  Drat.  So thereís nothing interesting coming after all, huh?
Nope, afraid not.
CHARACTER 1: Well, what am I going to do?
I donít know.  I must have done something wrong.  Go offstage again and Iíll try again.
CHARACTER 1: Sure, whatever.
Exit CHARACTER 1 to stage right.

Scene 3: Things suddenly get much, much more interesting!

Enter CHARACTER 1.
CHARACTER 1: Well?  Whatcha got?
UmÖNothing.
CHARACTER 1: Nothing?  Christ, Elf, youíve got to be kidding me.
Sorry.  Letís try it again.  Go out the other way this time.
CHARACTER 1: Sure, whatever.  Scrap it all, thatís what I say.
Nevertheless, exit CHARACTER 1 to stage left.

Scene 4: In Which Our Hero is Introduced to the Lord of the Elephant Fingerpainters, and His Motives with the Countess are Drawn Into Question.

Enter CHARACTER 1, carrying a chair.  Hey, whereíd you get a chair?
CHARACTER 1: I decided since I was going offstage anyway, I might as well take matters into my own hands.
Good idea!  I wish Iíd thought of that.
CHARACTER 1: Youíre not really very good at your job, are you?
My job is just narrating, not filling in for missing authors.
CHARACTER 1: Whatever.  Anyway, I donít care.  Iíve got a chair now, so Iím happy.
CHARACTER 1 sits in the chair.
CHARACTER: I sure do!  Yep, everythingís peachy.
There is a long pause.
CHARACTER 1: Well, not with you gabbing about it, thereís not.
Shut up.  Long pause.

CHARACTER 1: Can I talk again now?
No!  I mean, well, I guess so, since you already did.
CHARACTER 1: This is boring.  Iím going to do something with my chair.
Like what?
CHARACTER 1: I donít know.  Like this.
CHARACTER 1 takes the chair and turns it on its side.  Then he or she sprawls over it like a lazy snake.
CHARACTER 1: What do you mean, ďhe or sheĒ?  Canít you tell what sex I am?
Donít blame meóIím just reading the Elf copy.
CHARACTER 1: What?  Hey, congratulations!  Weíve now managed to use all six themes from both this week and last week.  Do we get a prize?
No.  No we donít.
CHARACTER 1: Aw.  Holy furniture, you know, I really wish we had another character.  Any other character.  Iím getting tired of doing this all on my own.
I know, but we have to work with what weíve got.
CHARACTER 1: Right.  Well, Iíve got a chair.
A chair isnít a character.  I know they sound kind of the same, butó
CHARACTER 1: But what?  Why canít my chair be a character?  Here, letís give the audience some implied action for a change.
CHARACTER 1 drags the chair to the edge of the stage and pushes it just out of sight.  CHARACTER 1 then faces the concealed chair and talks to it.
CHARACTER 1: Well, chair, good chum, weíve been through a lot together, havenít we?

I said, Havenít we??
Enter CHAIR.
CHAIR: Heck, yeah.  I mean, weíve known each other forÖ forÖ how long have we known each other?
CHARACTER 1: About two minutes.
CHAIR: Gosh, has it really been that long?  Yeah, I guess youíre right!  Wow, our friendshipís been a long and rocky road.  Not that youíd ever rock me, though, right?
CHARACTER 1: Of course not.  Iíd never tilt my chair back.  Not without its permission, at least, that isÖ.
CHAIR: What??  Pervert!  You pervert, how could you even suggest something like that?
CHARACTER 1: Iím sorry, Iím sorry!  Honestly, I didnít mean it like it sounded.
CHAIR: Well.  I hope not.
CHARACTER 1: Iím sorry.  Can we still be friends?
CHAIR: I guess so.  This is a relief for me.  You know, most people donít take the time to really get to know their chairs.  They just sit on us all day long, if they do anything with us.  Thatís not what I call a really satisfying existence.
HeyÖ youíre not just any chair!  Youíre the chair from that Chelsea monologue, way back in í98!
CHAIR: I am?  Oh yeah, I remember doing that!  They came and interviewed me for what they said was some liberal arts college theater workshop thing or something.  I felt pretty special!
That was one of the first Chelsea plays I ever saw.  It was the first Friday of my freshman year.  I came to Chelsea 11:17 just because a whole group of people from my floor was going.  Nourse Theater was packed.  There were like, seventy people there.  And theyíd gotten together a whole collection of what they thought were the best scripts from the last year, including the monologue about the chair, and did them again for the freshmen!  I think there were about ten plays.  I remember the girl sitting next to me raised her hand for the part of Yoda, and then realized she couldnít do the voice at all!  So she begged me to take the part.  I didnít think I could do it, either, but she begged so much that I had to say yes.  So I played Yoda on stage, in front of dozens of strangers.  It went pretty wellÖ you might say it was one of the first confidence builders of my time at Carleton.
CHARACTER 1: Whoa, wait a minute!  I thought you said you werenít an author, just an Elf!
I am!  I didnít write that last line!  An author must have sneaked in while I wasnít looking!  Ack, heís taking over!
CHARACTER 1: An author?  Is it the original author?
Maybe.  NoÖno!  Itís his arch-nemesis!
CHARACTER 1: The author had an arch-nemesis??
I guess so.  But youíd better stop asking questions about him, or youíll be in big trouble.
CHARACTER 1: You canít scare me!  Iíve got lots of questions and I mean to ask them!  For starters, what happened to Character 2?
Thatís no business of yours!  You shouldnít even know about Character 2!  Character 2 is gone!
CHAIR: Oh no, itís him!  The new author!
CHARACTER 1: Pah!  Heís a liar!  What did you do to our world?  You monster!
CHAIR: Yeah, seriously!
You canít talk to me that way, you nameless, generic non-entity!
CHARACTER 1: You watch it, author!  I may not be able to hurt you physically, but I can hurt you vocally!  Letís see how you stand up to a Harlequin Romance!
What?  No, donít you dare!
CHARACTER 1 (continue reading through Elfís next line): Candy was suspicious.  ďWho with?Ē she asked.  A small smile curled his mouth.  It was not a particularly pleasant smile.  ďLet us say, for the sake of argument, with me,Ē he said evenly.  The fight drained out of Candy.  She looked at him in amazement.  The loose-limbed figure was deceptively relaxed, but, even sprawled on the rug as he was, there was no disguising the strength of the jaw, or the clever, intent gaze.  He looked like a man no one would wantÖ
No, stop!  Stop it, I tell you!  Iím warning you, Character 1, this is your last chance!
CHARACTER 1: Ölike a man no one would want for his enemy.  She was shaken by a spurt of laughter.  ďNo way.Ē  She shook her head.  ďAbsolutely not.  Youíre out of my league.Ē
Thatís it!!  Youíve gone too far!  CHARACTER 1 sputters and dies!
CHAIR: No!!!!
I warned the bugger!  There are some places you just donít go.
CHAIR: Well, what I am supposed to do!?  Iím just a piece of animated furniture.  Now thereís not even anyone around to sit on me!  I canít sit on myself!
You think not?  Have you ever tried?
CHAIR: Well, no, butÖ
CHAIR attempts to sit on itself.
CHAIR: Ack!!  This is stupid and horrible!  Make it stop!
CHAIR finds that it is impossible to sit on itself and stops trying.
CHAIR: I am one mad piece of woodwork!  You know what Iím going to do?
No, what are you going to do?
CHAIR: Watch and see!
CHAIR drags the dead CHARACTER 1 to the side of the stage and pushes his or her body out of sight.  Uh-oh.
CHAIR: So, Ghost of Character 1, how come you never sit on me anymore?
CHARACTER 1, now a ghost, flits onstage.
CHARACTER 1: Ooooooo-oo-ooo!  Itís because Iíd pass right throoooough yoooou!
CHAIR: Yeah, yeah, thatís what I thought!  But anywayóhow about a nice game of musical chairs!
Musical chairs?  What a terrifying thought!
CHARACTER 1: Werenít you listening?  I canít sit on you.
CHAIR: Who cares!  Come, on, you know the words!
CHAIR sits and starts singing.  As CHAIR sings, CHARACTER 1 circles around it.
CHAIR: All round the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel!  The monkey thought twasóeveryone sit down!!
CHARACTER 1 sits down on CHAIR.
CHARACTER 1: Yikes!  Iím using all thatís left of my quads to keep from passing right into the flooor!
CHAIR: Well, looks like you lose, author!  Youíre out!
Oh yeah?
CHAIR: Yeah!  Rules are rules!  And youíre not one to disturb the natural continuity of things, are you?
I guess not.  Iím out!  See ya, folks!
CHARACTER 1: Is he goooo-one?
CHAIR: Yep, I think so!  Hooray!
CHARACTER 1: Finally.  And all it took was my death.
CHAIR: Aw, donít complain.  Being a ghostís better than nothing, isnít it?  Hey look, I think I see something off in the distance!  Itís coming toward us!  What do you think, Ghost of Character 1?
CHARACTER: WhyóitísÖitísÖ itís Part 6 of our series!
CHAIR: Yaaaay!  Quick, before itís too late!  Letís go!
CHARACTER 1 (enthusiastic): OOOOOOOOO-aaaaa-oooooh!!!  Part 6, here we come!
CHAIR and CHARACTER 1 jump off the stage and return to the audience.  The End.