Scott MacLeod
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     Tuesday, April 04, 2006

This play was developed as part of Margaret's & my contribution to Southern Exposure's "Urban Renewal Laboratory" project in 1998. I don't think it's ever been produced. This was one of four plays in an online chapbook "Twentieth-Century Plays" published as "108:94" in 3rdness Press' series. They're out of Hermance GA.

by Margaret Crane and Scott MacLeod

Dramatis Personae:
Robert Benchley as Daniel Burnham - Creator of the San Francisco City Plan of 1901
Gary Cooper as Robert Moses - Creator of the New York City Freeway and Park System
Drew Barrymore as Myrna Loy - screen legend and straight-talking gal
James Mason as Gore Vidal- writer and suave man-about-town
Johnny Depp as the Zodiac Killer - part-time sociopath, full-time heart-throb
and featuring Dusty Springfield as herself - an emotionally-fragile pop icon

A small group of very relaxed, very important people are drinking cocktails in Daniel Burnham's very modern, very spacious and very sophisticated penthouse atop Twin Peaks on a mild April evening. To the east, a rose-hued neo-classical sunset blooms over the city. The mellow sounds of the Dave Brubeck Quintet playing “Take Five” waft through the open sliding-glass doors from the living room. The time is the near future.

Daniel Burnham, Robert Moses and Myrna Loy lounge against the onyx balustrade of the penthouse’s very large balcony. They look out over the massive marble stairway that curves down Twin Peaks toward Market Street. The Great City which Burnham has built unfolds its broad avenues like gilded fleurs-de-lys below him, but Burnham is in a troubled and pensive mood.

Daniel Burnham: I'm feeling a bit out of order, all shards and powder.

Robert Moses: (gesturing expansively over the skyline) Life is so much grander now that we've made the sun set in the east.

Daniel Burnham: I'm puttering among the giftware, confused and hesitant. The avalanche of marvelous new stuff that suddenly begins pouring over the transom into a previously parochial, hidebound, closed-in American subcontinent. The flaws of the past translated into the present.

Myrna Loy: (flicking a cigarette butt over the edge of the railing) A marked increase in Western penetration?

Robert Moses: (pointedly ignoring Myrna's wisecrack) This colossal centralization, this heaping together of 50 million bodies, has raised San Francisco to the summit of the commercial world.

Myrna Loy: (indignantly) There is no getting used to pain and suffering. You only become hard-boiled. You lose any capacity to be impressed by feelings.

Robert Moses: I am simply drawing the map of a city great and large enough to give some space to an extra 50 million human beings eager to work and to find happiness on earth.

Myrna Loy: I spit into your face. I spit at you and your whole damned breed. Swallow that! You won't hear me whine again. I am ready now for battle.

She turns and stalks back inside the penthouse, nearly bumping into Dusty Springfield and Gore Vidal as they stroll arm in arm onto the balcony. We suddenly notice a handsome young man crouching on the balustrade. Neither we nor the players are sure how longs he's been there. For centuries, perhaps. The young man looks mournfully across the city. A single tear runs down his cheek. His long slender shadow undulates across the floor like Nijinsky's silhouette. Moving independently of the young man’s body, the shadow lewdly swivels its hips at Robert Moses.

Robert Moses: (loudly to Myrna as she disappears into the shadows of the penthouse) What a pity that the times of piracy are all over and gone forever....

Daniel Burnham: I am conscious of distorting probability, yet am goaded by an overwhelming desire to make something definite out of what is now equivocal.

Dusty Springfield: (walking up to Burnham and laying a gentle finger on his lips) Darling - please. (She struggles mildly to free herself from the evening air, which now seems bitterly cold.) Soon it will be raining too hard to leave the windows open.

(The young man’s shadow rubs up against Dusty's feet like a cat who needs to get scratched. Some fluffy pink clouds break off from the sunset and bounce onto the balcony. Gore Vidal pats one into the shape of a chaise lounge, sits in it)

Robert Moses: (grandly to Daniel Burnham) I am merely suggesting that the structures of modern convergences -those fixed chains of command and rational rules and regulations - may themselves contribute to produce a sado-masochistic orientation.

Gore Vidal: (gesturing with his cocktail as he reclines on his cloud four feet above the balcony) The sadist may, however, grow more and more incensed at the inability to sustain pleasure indefinitely. N’est ce pas, Robert?

(The young man, whom we now understand to be the Zodiac Killer, nods in agreement from his perch on the balustrade. The sound track kicks into a throbbing tropical beat - all percussion, bird calls and forbidden love-chants. A second tear streaks down Zodiac’s perfect cheek.)

Zodiac: (trying to get Dusty’s attention) Man, I hate the media - they’re so fucked up. They distort the slow accumulation of Ground Zero - which must always remain an imaginary terrain.

Dusty Springfield: (happy to be noticed by anyone) I myself spend most of my time lying in my wide bed, in my spacious room. From my fortress of pillows I can watch all the activities of the non-possessing class, their small figures moving about the broad avenue. Reducing the figures’ size increases their overall clarity, brings them into focus. (She leans closer to Zodiac Killer, whispering conspiratorially) The energy needed to oppose an assault like this is phenomenal... I'm anorexic...I'm doing drugs.

Zodiac: (pointing a finger at Robert Moses) The landlord's son has taken revenge on them all!

Robert Moses: (defensively) For the first time, citizens are willing to sacrifice the best qualities of their human nature in order to achieve all the marvels of civilization which crowd their city! You could throw open the door and be at the beach! Or the Jacuzzi! Or the pool!

Zodiac: Tokyo must be destroyed!

Dusty Springfield: (trying to be helpful) I have three cars.

Daniel Burnham: (slugging back his martini) I’ve begun to wonder where the trains are arriving from, and where they are really going. You know, I remember when Cary Grant used to walk down Mason Street - the city was on fire with excitement. Nowadays it wouldn't mean a thing.

In a corner of the balcony, Zodiac Killer's shadow savages Myrna's pet terrier. On the balustrade, Zodiac broods. Far below, the sparkling avenues of Burnham’s city fan out out behind his perfect profile. Tiny people with jobs are going home. As the evening fades, lights in the office towers snap on. Their reflections gleam in Zodiac’s eyes.

Zodiac: (voice full of wonder) It all looks so clean from up here.

Daniel Burnham: It wasn’t the airplanes, it was Beauty left it in ruins.

Robert Moses: Beauty can be an effective social control device. Emotions once channelled towards the supernatural can be redirected towards the civic ideal. This is the idea within which I make myself real. This is the cultivated indifference which defends me against all the significance of this city and its inhabitants.

Gore Vidal: Oh, Robert, Robert, I've been brought down to your level. The Twentieth Century lasted much too long, like a film suddenly beginning to play backwards, and there is no defence against your free market of ideas. (Exploratory wisps of smoke from his slim black cigarillo swirl around Zodiac’s hips) Looking for a taste of glamour and fun in a city where both are in short supply, I mingle with the groundlings in the station's waiting room, between the Space Invaders game and the cafeteria. Night’s children are not mere abstractions. This is about as close to Heidegger as we’re going to be able to get.

Robert Moses: The struggle for urbanity is necessary for the attainment of a balanced, developed, and articulated rationality - in which the technical, moral and expressive elements will be co-ordinated yet remain autonomous. Senseless anguish and vulgar pastimes are comfortable safety valves for human uneasiness.

Daniel Burnham: (working over another martini) Aiming at ambiguity, my streets lay strewn like broken arrows on the ground. I'm afraid to stay and afraid to leave. Afraid of all the full tables at Trader Vic's - of wanting to fight them all.

Myrna Loy: (Walking back out onto the balcony wearing a white terrycloth bathrobe and a white towel wrapped turban-like around her head. She leans close to Burnham.) Your right hand’s trembling so much you can’t raise your martini to your lips. Try using your left.

Daniel Burnham: I’m just trying to keep the White City - the tiny stage - in focus while I drink.

Myrna Loy: I’ve just been standing in the rusted bathtub letting the hot shower run over me for a full ten minutes. I am brimming with something too enormous to be contained much longer.

Daniel Burnham: Little plans have no magic.

Gore Vidal: Sometimes at night, unexpectedly, I come upon scenes of crushed intimacy along the dark and twisting alleys. The eerie mottled light of a distant lamp. The danger of detection in the last moments of exile. The crux of these fears is that if we do not conform, we do not survive. My old isolation is increasingly difficult.

Dusty Springfield: (plopping down on Vidal’s cloud) I hang around City Hall with itchy fingers. I’ve got a living to make - and I don’t make it bucking the police department. Later I’ll eat again - Greek - eat and go to some strange hotel, register under a false name.

Zodiac: (gesturing over the toy-like landscape) Water drips into the kitchen from a hole that’s never fixed. There’s still no heat after twenty years. The landlord thinks I’m someone else.

Daniel Burnham: I do NOT want my car seen in the parking lot. I do NOT want myself to be seen entering the exposed front door.

Dusty Springfield: We all prefer the magical explanation. (Gore and Myrna shoot each other knowing looks while everyone else sighs in agreement with Dusty. The Zodiac Killer’s shadow helps itself to a pitcher of martinis.)

Zodiac: (struggling out of his shirt) The flaws of the past translate into the present! Vague insecurities over the promotion or demotion of co-workers fester unabated. (Tears are now streaming down his cheeks) A panoply of emotions - from little pleasures to rage - stirred when bossing or being bossed, affect our daily existence.

(Everyone sighs and rolls their eyes at Myrna, who for the next few lines is played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.)

Myrna Loy: Maybe I told him who I was because he ordered Early Times. Maybe I looked into his eyes and saw the fog off the Farallones. Some remnant of my predator/prey days. Maybe my disintegratory social process is nourished by many sources.

Zodiac: (stripping off his pants and shoes) If you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel you’ve got to strike a match in the dark!

Myrna is suddenly transfixed by Zodiac. An over-sized golden arrow slithers out of the clouds like a bolt of lightning. The arrow pierces the center of her heart - its sharp tip jutting out between her shoulder-blades while the feathered end quivers between her breasts.

Zodiac climbs naked over the edge of the balcony and glides down through the surrounding shrubbery. As he descends the colossal marble stairway towards the White City, he is on fire with excitement.

The music stops. Silence thunders. Myrna races to the edge of the balcony, the arrow still lodged in her heart. Below her, the avenues are becoming luminous ruins, stretching brokenly towards the horizon like bones in the moonlight.

Myrna Loy: Of the buildings we once knew...and the places we used to go - we will find nothing - for they exist no longer. Everything solid melts in air...everything gets lost.

Dusty Springfield: Sometimes, when the telephone rings, in the middle of the night...I wake and hear the front door close.

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