Housebroken

category: short play
genre: fable
running time: 20 minutes
setting: the “good” neighborhood
period: contemporary

characters:
Marra, an upwardly mobile woman in her late twenties
Kansas, her husband, a bit more down to earth, late twenties
Dionne, a New Age debutante in her mid-twenties
Pierre, a hip, moneyed slacker in his late twenties
Ann, a modest piano wrangler in her early thirties
Randolph, a sage piano dealer in his mid-forties

story:
Marra and Kansas have just purchased a baby grand piano that keeps trying to escape their fashionable apartment in the hip part of town. It destroys their books and art pieces, spouts numerous atonal chords at them, and occasionally attacks Kansas with its cover. At the advice of their friends Pierre and Dionne, they hire a piano wrangler who informs them that it is a case of personality conflicts: the piano doesn’t think they’re worthy of owning it, and therefore is hoping to drive them to the point of abandoning it. Marra returns to the original dealer who informs her that while they don’t take returns, not everyone is worthy of owning a piano- especially people who don’t recognize it as an instrument of music and expression rather than just a status symbol. Realizing he’s talking about her, Marra returns home and, after admitting the truth to the piano, asks it to give her a second chance.

author’s comments:
This play had a long, strange road to its first production. It started as a screenplay and was almost produced as a film twice, during which periods it underwent a number of revisions. The original version, which would have clocked in at about thirty minutes, included the plot point that Randolph was the original owner of the piano, in addition to a second scene with Pierre and Dionne and a monologue for Kansas when he and Pierre were at the bar. If there was one good thing I will say that came out of the two “almost happened” films, it’s that they forced me to really refine and trim this piece into the little gem it is today. Somewhere between the first and second attempts at making the film I also created a stage version that is almost exactly the same (the major difference is the stage version has more inner monologue for Marra), and ultimately this is what finally got produced, as part of the 9th Annual BOA festival, where its cinematic vignettes and constant movement fit well with the Boxcar Theater’s two sided stage layout. Since then it has been published in the BOA anthology, but I still hold out that someone will, some day, make a film version too. Certainly the success of the stage version, which quickly became a festival favorite, makes the case that, as surreal as this piece is, it also touches (for lack of a better word) a chord with many people, and it’s been interesting hearing people tell me what they think the piano “really” is: a baby, a romantic partner, a pet. To me, the piano really is a piano, but the play is ultimately about the social anxiety that comes with any life change, and our inherent tendency to judge others instantly while also still, fundamentally, doing everything in an effort to be recognized and loved for both who we really are and who we try to be.

Productions:

Kirsten Broadbear in the No Nude Men production.
Kirsten Broadbear in the No Nude Men production.

No Nude Men Productions, February 25, 26, 27, 28, March 3, 6, 7, 12 & 13, 2010, part of the Bay One Acts Festival 9, at the Boxcar Theater in San Francisco, California. Directed by Claire Ann Rice; Lighting by James Tinsley & Wil Turner IV; Sound by Tamara Roberts & Sara Staley; Scenery by Maya Linke; Stage Managed by Sara Selig. Cast: Kirsten Broadbear (Marra), Andy Strong (Kansas), Julia Heitner (Dionne/Ann), Ryan Hayes (Pierre/Randolph)

Ryan Hayes and Andy Strong in the No Nude Men Production.
Ryan Hayes and Andy Strong in the No Nude Men Production.

Las Positas College, May 20, 21, 2015, Las Positas College Studio, Las Positas College in Livermore, California. Directed by John Ruzicka. Cast: Kaitlin Bailey (Marra), Tiffany Clark (Dionne), Josh Thompson (Pierre), Logan March (Kansas), Desire (Ann), Will Sorensen (Randolph)

Julia Heitner, Andy Strong, and Kirsten Broadbear in the No Nude Men production.
Julia Heitner, Andy Strong, and Kirstin Broadbear in the No Nude Men production.

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