Stand Her Up: A One-Act Play

By Jules Alder

Stand Her Up: A One-Act Play -- (Sorry about the formatting, folks. It is what it is.)

by Jules Alder


Blackout. In a cluttered room, couch potato LACEY BARRY drinks from a bottle. A game of solitaire waits, unfinished, on a card table downstage. A CLOSING door Stage Left cues HUMMING, TAPPING and SCUFFING. As the lights come up, LACEY curls up, faking sleep. Athletic and meticulous, a slippered ANGELA BARRY enters, peeling off damp evening clothes and hanging them wherever she can from the furniture until she's down to a shiny, new slip.

LACEY
Sure is a big production coming home from a movie, even bigger than going out to one. New dress, new earrings, new slip. It's just one big, action-packed show, isn't it?

ANGELA
A never-ending show. Were you sitting in the dark before you decided to act like you were asleep, waiting up for me?

LACEY
Must be something about a movie that makes everything into a big production. You sit for two hours. Everything's easy. You're living it, everything up there on the screen, but it's all done for you with a triumphant denouement that makes you feel sexy and clever; brilliant, if it's really good--

ANGELA
Sounds like you saw a movie tonight too.

LACEY
--but then you go to the bathroom and -- Presto! -- you have to remember to make sure there's toilet paper, remember to wash your hands, how to look at your alien self in the mirror--

ANGELA
Were you sitting in the dark long? Since I left? That was three hours ago.

LACEY
Five hours ago. You go so many places. It must be a big production just being you.

ANGELA
You were drinking, weren't you? And alone. Drinking alone and in the dark. Tell me I'm wrong.

LACEY
Who would I drink with, the mailman? Guess I could do worse. Have you seen the way he goes at our stairs? That ass doesn't quit -- it's leathery as jerky but, you know, upbeat.

ANGELA
Reg is a sweetheart for holding all those collection notices 'til after your birthday.

LACEY
You sent it all to the collection agencies anyway.

ANGELA
Who cares? (LACEY mouths "me.") Would you have saved it? Besides, the phone rings at least twice less a day. (Noticing the bottle) Is that what I think it is? The brandy from the high cupboard? The one we made a pact not to open until we'd made it? Opened a restaurant, bought a house, got married? I've been moving that bottle around, one step ahead of you, for over ten years.

LACEY
Yeah, it's really, really good. (ANGELA gets up, ostensibly to feel the drying clothes.)

ANGELA
Is there any left? (LACEY CLAPS and runs off Stage Right. ANGELA runs off Stage Left and returns with a live spruce tree in a flower pot.)

ANGELA
This, my future. (LACEY returns with a glass.)

LACEY
What? (ANGELA rushes off Stage Right before LACEY can see what's in her hands.) Good Lord, a big production. (Laughing) Angela Barry has ants in her pants.

ANGELA
(Offstage, over RUNNING WATER) What shall we drink to? (Returning, she takes the bottle and glass from LACEY. Crossing to the card table, she puts the glass down and fills it.) Is this the same game of solitaire you were playing when I left? I remember you had trouble with that king. He still has no place to go. Oh, wait. Here we are. You missed a low card. Now there's room.

LACEY
Are you done with the bottle? Unlike solitaire players, we've only got one.

ANGELA
(Giving the bottle back, she lifts her glass.) To what?

LACEY
To the never-ending weather.

ANGELA
No.

LACEY
(Slyly) To the future?

ANGELA
(Philosophically) It's all we have left.

LACEY
You're really terrible at this.

ANGELA
Just tell me what to drink to and stop beating me up.

LACEY
Let's drink to your chronic sinusitis and dry cough.

ANGELA
What's going on, Lacey? What happened?

LACEY
Nothing.

ANGELA
Save the stonewalling for the Jehovah's Witnesses.

LACEY
He didn't show; he didn't call; he didn't... He didn't.

ANGELA
You deserve better.

LACEY
(Drinking) You're right.

ANGELA
You have to stop selling yourself short.

LACEY
(Nodding) I know.

ANGELA
I hate to see you like this, Lace.

LACEY
How much? How much do you hate it?

ANGELA
(Absently) It's going to rain again. Or worse.

LACEY
Living under God's toilet always brings the best shit.

ANGELA
I didn't get a chance to tell you where I was tonight.

LACEY
Every Thursday night you walk by the river, stare into that gray sludge and reminisce about your college days. I know.

ANGELA
Yes, I do that, don't I?

LACEY
And every Thursday night, you come home in the middle of 30 Rock looking as though you've had some great epiphany and that's when I'm glad you haven't lost your shitty factory job because that's the day I'm sure you'll be ready to join a pyramid scheme or the Moonies or work at Sephora, not before. I hate it.

ANGELA
So I see.

LACEY
You're not listening. (Getting up) Fine. Fuck you.

ANGELA
Where are you going?

LACEY
(Walking off Stage Right) I'm not going anywhere.

ANGELA
(Pouring another glass) Look, I'm sorry you had a bad night. I didn't mean to be a brat about it.

LACEY
(Offstage) You mean that I'm being a brat about it.

ANGELA
(To herself) Fuck. (Louder) I met somebody. (Softer) Oh, fuck me. (Gulping down her glass, she pours another.) We spent the evening at Phipps, drinking in the smell of the flow-- (Affecting) --the botanicals. Got pretty drunk. (To her glass) I shouldn't. (LACEY returns sobbing. ANGELA bounces up and hugs her. LACEY's a bundle of nerves; staying angry with her is hard.)

LACEY
Make a pact with me.

ANGELA
I spent my first fifteen years trying to be just like you, and the last fifteen trying to figure out how I'd screwed up.

LACEY
Promising never to leave should be a snap. (ANGELA lets go of LACEY.)

ANGELA
I'd never leave on a whim. After all we've been through, you can't not know that. Tell me you know it.

LACEY
Say you'll never move out.

ANGELA
(Looking around) Of this place?

LACEY
Any place, it doesn't matter.

ANGELA
That brandy goes straight to the head, doesn't it?

LACEY
Tell me. Just once and I'll stop. (SILENCE) Well.

ANGELA
It's the most unfair, unreasonable -- I've been grinding it out for six years at that moldy warehouse, sucking down disease one breath at a time. I have to go to the free clinic every other month just to be able to wheeze more quietly. If I don't show up, twenty kids are already queued up, too dumb to know what for.

LACEY
So what?

ANGELA
I can't do it anymore, Lacey. I want out. I need out.

LACEY
(Shrugging) You can always get another job.

ANGELA
In this broken town? It would just be another job. We'd slum for a lifetime. It's no good, starting over at the bottom of a different dung hill. You're the one who needs to move on. (LACEY CHORTLES.) You're the one holding you back from becoming a chef. You should meet Lane. He owns his own greenhouse and--

LACEY
Lane? Greenhouse Lane? He'll treat you like dirt.

ANGELA
He treats me like light and air. I didn't cough for five whole hours.

LACEY
Light and air! We get by without any help from a man. You've forgotten. He'll just hurt you. Do I need to remind you--

ANGELA
No, thanks. (KNOCKING Stage Left makes them turn. ANGELA smiles, crosses to the door, and opens it.) You're early.

LACEY
Come in, come in! (LANE enters as though having been invited by a large predator. ANGELA squeezes his shoulder.) Ahoy!

ANGELA You're soaked to the gills.

LANE
It was either early and moist or late and soggy.

LACEY
I'm afraid we only have card table seating right now, but who knows, something better might turn up later this evening. (ANGELA takes LANE's coat and hangs it up.)

LANE
This is a very nice place.

LACEY
No, it's not. (To ANGELA) Light and air now. Dirt later.

LANE
It's homey, you know?

LACEY
Well, it's no Phipps Conservatory, but somehow we manage to keep breathing. Drink? No? You didn't drive, looking like that. Get the man a glass. (ANGELA exits, Stage Right) Did you walk?

LANE
Bus. The shelters overflowed with the huddled masses.

LACEY
Bastards, always taking comfort at another's expense. (ANGELA returns and puts a glass in front of Lane. He takes her hand and smiles as she pours lightly.)

LANE
Thank you. (Lacey mouths "thank you." Neither notices.)

ANGELA
Have you eaten?

LANE
Not since the coffee.

ANGELA
Could you eat something?

LACEY
He's got a mouth, hasn't he? (Offstage PHONE. ANGELA reluctantly exits Stage Right.)

LANE
Angela tells me you studied to be a chef.

LACEY
She must be a professor. That's ancient history.

LANE
But you work as a cook, Angela said--

LACEY
A line cook. Yeah. So?

LANE
You must be working your way up?

LACEY
(Snorting) At my age? Have you see these hands? (LACEY thrusts out her hands for him to inspect.)

LANE
What's wrong with them?

LACEY
They're not chef's hands. They've got too much wear. Too rough around the edges. You'd never see these make truffle mousse. (ANGELA returns.)

ANGELA
That was Phil. Would you like to talk to him?

LACEY
Too late. Tell him to buzz off. (ANGELA walks back off, Stage Right.)

LANE
We're not all bad. Occasionally one of us gets beaten senselessly nice. (ANGELA returns. LACEY gets up, hiding her face as she exits, Stage Right.) Did I do something wrong?

ANGELA
I think you should--

LANE
Right. Sorry.

ANGELA
Don't be sorry.

LANE
Right. (Grabbing his coat) I could call you later.

ANGELA
Wait. (Grabbing him and kissing him) Okay.

LANE
Right.

ANGELA
But, you know -- still go. (He hurries out the door, Stage Left. Angela crosses to his empty seat, picks up his glass, and drinks it in one. Then she sits, head in her hands. Lacey returns with the spruce.)

LACEY
Where's Lane?

ANGELA
He left. (She takes the spruce and puts it on the card table.)

LACEY
They always do. Are you angry with him?

ANGELA
Why would I be angry?

LACEY
Would you like another drink? (ANGELA shakes her head. LACEY drinks.)

ANGELA
I want you to promise me something. Promise me that when I am gone, you will do your best to find your drive and gather your motivation, Lacey, because I can't do it for you.

LACEY
You sound a lot like this crazy woman who used to chase us around in an apron, brandishing a slotted wooden spoon--

ANGELA
Look me in the eye. Show me reason to think you'll try.

LACEY
If I become a chef, will that make you happy?

ANGELA
It wouldn't make me miserable. Why did you tell me that you'd been stood up tonight when you were the one who didn't show?

LACEY
He told you.

ANGELA
Yes, of course he told me. He's a real person with real feelings and real worries and you made him feel uncomfortable and miserable and worried that you were hurt or angry with him.

LACEY
I am hurt. I'll never be able to have a normal life now.

ANGELA
Why can't you just say that we want different things?

LACEY
We want different things.

ANGELA
There you go.

LACEY
I want you to move out.

ANGELA
Oh, I see. It's a game. Okay, I'll move out. How about some toast and jam? (Walking Stage Right as a fake-out) You'll tell me you want dark and then complain that it isn't light?

LACEY
A week should be enough time. Think you'll need more?

ANGELA
But we've made plans--

LACEY
Stay 'til you find a place that suits. I'm no monster.

ANGELA
Maybe we should talk about this when you're sober.

LACEY
(Taking another drink) When's that going to be?

ANGELA
You've never been a marathon drunk.

LACEY
You've seen me at the starting line but you've never stayed for the race.

ANGELA
Why didn't you tell me Phil owns a restaurant?

LACEY
Phil owns a restaurant. Two, actually. But only one is hip. He talks that one up. He keeps his mother shackled in the other one's basement with the charred remnants of former wives.

ANGELA
That seems like an inverse promotional plan.

LACEY
He's an inverse kind of guy. When he bought me drinks the night we met, he got drunk. The bartender got drunk just looking at Phil, and then tossed me the keys to his own car and whispered something fantastic about leaving no man behind.

ANGELA
Sounds like you really like him.

LACEY
I wouldn't stand him up if I didn't really like him.

ANGELA
I knew it.

LACEY
You and he were really chatting it up, weren't you? Or just cornering me into playing host to that charmer. That's it.

ANGELA
Lane is charming. He's going to be a regular here.

LACEY
You're still moving out. Don't forget about that.

ANGELA
I disagree. I think that the bitch inside you has become lazy, a little soft. I think I'm going to win this one hands down.

LACEY
You do, do you?

ANGELA
(Picking things up) It's about that time. This fucking job. Fuck this fucking job. We can talk more tomorrow night, if you still feel like it. Up to you. You should enjoy your day off.

LACEY
Don't get coy. You're not turning the tables on this one with some smooth 'good night,' so don't get your hopes up. -- Ang?

ANGELA
Yes?

LACEY
Could you hit the lights on your way out?

LACEY
(Blackout. ANGELA exits, Stage Left) Good night. (LACEY HUMS the tune ANGELA was humming earlier. KNOCKING.) Phil, is that you? (She gets up, BANGING her knee in the dark.) Ow! (Limping) She talked to you, didn't she? (Turning the lights up halfway and rubbing her knee) I knew she would. She always does. She's better at explaining these things than I am. I don't know why I do the things I do sometimes. The best thing to say to me right now is nothing. Just nothing at all, okay? Don't make me regret opening the door with a bunch of meaningless words. (LACEY opens the door. LANE enters and squeezes her shoulder. She points him to where ANGELA disappeared, Stage Left.)

LANE
I couldn't just go like that. Is it alright with you if I...? (She nods. He walks Stage Left.) Angela? Guess who. (He exits. LACEY exhales a sob and crosses the room to the card table. She sits opposite the spruce tree, eyeing it up, and puts her fingers in the pot. She pulls them back out and looks at them, rubbing dirt between them.)

LACEY
This, my future.
(Blackout/Curtain.)

**If you've read this far, and you happen to be an actress or actor (or you know one or a million), feel free to give reading and recording a part/all parts for this a try. I've taken it nearly as far as it can go without a reading. And obviously, it would need to be tweaked for a radio script, which I'll probably get around to sooner than later.

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Stand Her Up: A One-Act Play

Created: Mar 25, 2010

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