New Play Friday: A DECOHERENCE by Barry Eitel
Friday, May 29, 2015
About the playwright: Barry Eitel is an Oakland-based playwright and journalist. He was the head writer for Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy, leading a team of nine to create a breathing novel that wove together the storylines of over 35 characters, all set in a Prohibition-era speakeasy. He was the Fall 2014 artist-in-residence at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, where he created an interactive play for young audiences, The Explorers: A Shipwrecked Play. His one-act Lemons was produced by San Jose Rep’s Emerging Artist Lab, and was also produced by Washington, DC’s Fabum. His 10-minute play Minutiae has been produced in Chicago and Oakland, and published by Smith & Kraus in its Best Ten-Minute Plays 2013 compilation. His short plays have been produced in cities across the country, from Boston to San Francisco. He is currently the Silicon Valley correspondent for the international version of Anadolu Agency, the official Turkish press outlet. BarryEitel.com.
About the play: In A Decoherence, a man invades the home of a young couple, insisting that he lives in their apartment. While the man knows the couple, they have never met him. Reality melts as the trio attempt to discover exactly where in space-time their lives intersect.
A Decoherence was given a staged reading in the Playwright Cabaret at the 2015 Theatre Bay Area Annual Conference. Original Playwright Cabaret cast: Geo Epsilanty (Hunter), Michelle Navarrete (Abigail) and Phil Watt (Denton).
© 2015 Barry Eitel. The play cannot be performed without obtaining a license from the playwright. Inquiries about performance rights for A Decoherence may be addressed to: Barry Eitel, firstname.lastname@example.org. All rights reserved. Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that performances of A Decoherence are subject to royalty. It is fully protected under copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound taping, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproductions, such as information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved. Particular emphasis is laid upon the question of readings, permission for which must be secured from the author in writing.
Abigail: female, 20s-40s
Denton: male, 20s-40s
Hunter: male, 20s-40s
Present day. The living room of an apartment in Oakland, California, with a front door and a door leading to a bedroom. Early evening.
ABIGAIL enters, followed by DENTON.
Denton: Yes, arson. That’s what they’re saying.
Abigail: How can they charge her with arson?
Denton: Because of the fire.
Abigail: Jesus Christ, for setting a porch on fire? She didn’t burn down the whole house.
Denton: She didn’t even set the porch on fire, this is what I told my mom—she started a fire on the porch.
Abigail: Starting a fire on a porch. And that’s arson.
Denton: I thought it would just be vandalism. At best.
Abigail: It was a crime of passion. Doesn’t arson have to be premeditated?
Denton: I guess that’s for the judge to decide. Or jury. Whatever.
Abigail: How’s she holding up?
Denton: My mom visited her yesterday. She rocks back and forth, so nothing too different than before.
Abigail: Jesus Christ, of course that’s the American justice system in this era—those jackals on Wall Street can swindle billions of dollars from innocent people but your little sister sets one porch on fire—
Denton: Started a fire on a porch—
Abigail: Did the porch even burn down?
Denton: No, it’s still standing.
Abigail: That just my point—those jackals on Wall Street can swindle billions of dollars from innocent people but your little sister starts one fire on an ex-boyfriend’s porch, and it’s “lock her up and swallow the fucking key.”
Denton: He’s denying that he was ever her boyfriend.
Abigail: Jesus Christ! So it was an accident.
Denton: I don’t know—she can get sort of—
Abigail: She is an intense young woman.
Denton: But mom’s a mess. She missed her manicure. She just totally forgot. She had it marked in her appointment book—in bright orange marker, she said—she had it marked and then she was looking at it, she was mentally reminding herself for days about it, and then the time came and she totally forgot. Just spent the day sweeping the kitchen.
Abigail: This is what happens—the system tears families apart. Fascists.
Denton: But maybe the time away from home will be good for her. She’ll get toughened up. Like an overcooked steak.
Abigail: She needs a positive influence in her life, like…a…car.
Denton: But what can I do? She’s like two thousand miles away. I am completely useless.
Abigail: She’ll figure herself out.
Denton: She has plenty of time. How was your day?
Abigail: Frustrating as hell.
Denton: Wallace on your ass?
Abigail: He’s all over it and has no idea how to handle it!
Abigail: He calls me into his office today to talk about the last quarter’s earnings report—
Denton: Why is he even talking about the earnings report? He’s so far down the list—
Abigail: He wants to move up. That’s what he told me. And he thinks the way to do it is locked up in enterprise systems, and building a profit base from data mining. I tell him, look at our ad revenue. Look at our user base. Look at our clients. Look at our growth year-over-year. Look at our valuation. Look at the sharing economy. Look at our monthly active users. Look at our mobile monthly active users.
Denton: It really could be the Uber of real estate.
Abigail: Or the Amazon of local! I’m telling Wallace all of this—I’m yelling at him, yelling at him! And he’s just nodding, nodding like some walrus with ADHD. Why not gameify the whole system? Swipe left, swipe right—whoa, you got swiped right, too—and now you own a house! There’s no living blood in that department, I tell him. He’s so Web 2.0 it’s embarrassing. Where’s the excitement? Where’s the rush? Enterprise? Business to business? This is now, I tell him, this is now—we are right now living in the now, now let’s make some money, some smart money. Forget coding, forget performance metrics, dammit! You’re a dinosaur, I say. You’re a dinosaur. You’re a dinosaur. You’re a fucking dinosaur. You’re a dinosaur.
Denton: What did he say?
Abigail: He had fallen asleep by that point. So I spit on his desk and left.
There is a loud “meow.” ABIGAIL and DENTON glance around for the source, but see none. HUNTER enters, key in hand, rushing past the other two towards his bedroom.
Hunter: Hey, you two! You would not even believe the day—not even believe! I need a drink! Two drinks! God, the whole bottle, right? Right?
HUNTER exits into bedroom. ABIGAIL and DENTON look at each other.
Denton: Do you?
Abigail: No, do you?
Denton: He had a key?
HUNTER comes out of the room.
Hunter: Where did you put my bed? Why is there a desk in my bedroom?
Denton: Can I help you?
Abigail: How did you get in here?
Denton: There’s some mistake—
Hunter: Denton, what did you do—
Denton: How did you get a key to this apartment?
Hunter: What’s going on?
Denton: How did you get in here?
Hunter: Jesus—I am not in the mood for a joke—
Denton: How do you know my name?
Hunter: You know my name!
Abigail: You’re clearly confused, you should go—
Hunter: This is my apartment—are you kicking me out?
Denton: I honestly have no clue what you’re talking about—
Hunter: This is cruel—
Abigail: You don’t live here—
Hunter: Then why do I have a key?
Abigail: Why do you have a key?
Hunter: Christ, this is a nightmare—I’m dreaming, I’m fucking dreaming.
Denton: You aren’t dreaming—
Hunter: No, no, no, first the explosion and now you two—
Abigail: There was no explosion—
Hunter: No, at my building downtown. A gas leak or something.
Abigail: This isn’t a dream, you’re confused.
Hunter: Abigail! I introduced you two—
Denton: I’ve never met you—
Abigail: We met in English 102 at Cal Poly—
Hunter: Yes, ok, you met in class technically but you didn’t hook up until I threw my Outlandish Scarf Party our junior year—
Denton: I don’t own any scarves—
Abigail: We started dating after we both got drunk at Hamiltons the year after graduation—it was a complete coincidence. A beautifully random turn of events—but isn’t that how love works?
Hunter: Stop it!
Abigail: You need to calm down—
Hunter: Calm down? My day ended with my building going up in flames! There I was, standing by the elevator talking to Dan about the cocktails at the restaurant I ate at last night—they serve this Manhattan with a ten-year small-batch rye and artisanal bitters, they also got this highly botanical sloe gin fizz, or a pisco sour using a gum syrup with a chicha morada reduction, and a gimlet that is just amazing. The house chardonnay edges on almost too nutty, but the cabernet sauvignon they served at happy hour was not really quaffable in my opinion—if you’re hungry they have these great buffalo chicken sliders with locally sourced bleu cheese and arugula, I’m talking baby arugula, real tender, or these house-made olives. Maybe small plates aren’t your thing, then you got to try the scallops and butternut squash or the gnocchi with a brown butter sage sauce—perhaps the deviled eggs dusted with organic paprika—wash it all down with an imported pilsner, or a very flavorful IPA—you know—India Pale Ale. And then the explosion happened. Oh they also had a charcuterie plate. For sixteen dollars.
Abigail: What was the restaurant?
Hunter: I can’t remember. On Telegraph. Somewhere.
Denton: The news didn’t say anything about an explosion.
Hunter: It just happened—
Hunter: At my building downtown!
Abigail: What downtown?
Hunter: Downtown San Francisco—
Denton: There was an explosion in downtown San Francisco just a few hours ago and it isn’t all over the news—
Hunter: I don’t know—I don’t know how the news works—
Abigail: This week has been so long.
Denton: There was an explosion in downtown San Francisco.
Denton: There was an explosion—
Denton: In downtown San Francisco.
Abigail: How did you get back though? If you were running away from the explosion, before you got halfway here, you have to run a quarter of the way. Before you get a quarter of the way, you have to run an eighth of the way—you have to complete an infinite ocean of tasks just to run here. It should be impossible.
Hunter: I didn’t run, I took the train.
Denton: An explosion in downtown San Francisco.
DENTON sits on the ground. Another loud “meow.” The trio glances around but sees nothing. HUNTER turns to the audience, and speaks excitedly.
Hunter: There is this double-slit experiment where physicists shoot individual atoms through two parallel slits. You would think they would cluster on the screen behind the slits like bullets shot from a rifle. Instead, when millions of photons have passed through, they don’t build up two groupings. It looks exactly the same as a wave of water sent through the slits, almost as if each particle sped through both slits at the same time. So then, of course, we want to see if the atoms are indeed going through both slits at once, or if each atom chooses a hole, or if the atom splits in half and goes through each, or anything else. Once we try to detect what the atoms are doing, the atoms do act like bullets, clustering in two neat groupings. This happens every time. Every. Fucking. Time. When we watch, the particles go neatly through only one hole, but when we aren’t, they appear to go through both at once. It’s like the particles are or not at the same time—a smear of every possibility. Do you think the universe only exist because we observe it? Do you think every moment is a superposition of truths?
Abigail: Observation begets reality. Observation begets reality. Observation begets reality. Observation begets reality.
Another loud “meow.” Blackout.
End of play.