category: short play
running time: twelve minutes
setting: the lobby of a brothel
period: early 19th century
Urania, a young prostitute
Ned, an adventurer
Eugene, a nervous young man
On a dark and stormy night, three people sit wait the lobby of a brothel: Ned and Eugene playing cards, and Urania standing at a window, watching the rain fall. Eugene is waiting for the arrival of his hired woman for the night, and in the course of his conversation with Ned shares contradicting explanations for his presence in the house of ill repute. Ned is equally ambiguous as to his precise occupation, which is what he claims brings him there. Meanwhile, talking to the window panes, Urania is struggling with the decision to go through with the act of selling her body, or remain at the brothel in the purely clerical position of doorkeeper. Eventually, she decides to embrace her new life, offering herself up to Eugene in place of his missing courtesan; he accepts and they vanish into the brothel. Alone, Ned opens his satchel to reveal that he’s carrying a wooden stake and mallet- the tools of the vampire hunter. Eugene returns covered in blood, a stained carving knife in his hand, a happy serial killer glorifying in his latest victim. Just as the men face off, Urania returns, bleeding from stab wounds but entirely alive, and killing Eugene reveals her own hidden nature as the vampire Ned is pursuing. The storm, building throughout the scene, brings the play to its end.
I wrote this play my first semester at Reed, for my Introduction to Theater class, which I took, interestingly enough, with Jesse Baldwin, who would later figure quite heavily in my San Francisco theater career. Despite its brevity you can see all the hallmarks of my early writing: women at the focus, trapped into a kind of noble victimhood, and a pre-occupation with dark, supernatural dreariness. What sets this piece apart is the unusual graphic nature of the violence- two blood soaked bodies in twelve minutes is not typically a characteristic of my writing- and the cloaked, allegorical style of the speaking- my first real success with creating a specific vernacular for a specific play. Though the morbidity is here in full force it’s tempered by a certain ironic wit running through the play and I rather like Ned as the heroic, Victorian young gun out to bag vampires and save the world. The veiled card game exchanges between Ned and Eugene features some of my coyest writing ever and two actors with a flare for “wink-wink” roles would have a ball with this piece- which as a whole is neat and tidy, very economical, a near-perfect prism as far as plot structure goes, and just mysterious enough to leave people intrigued. Throw in the right gothic designs and a pretty, morose woman in a nightgown and you’ve got an excellent little mood piece, somewhere between German expressionist theater and Edward Gorey with an extra helping of gore.
Quicksilver Productions, Inc., January 15 & 16, 1999, Part of the anthology “I Laughed, I Cried, I Shot the Person Next to Me” at the Cabaret Theater at the Temple of Music and Art in Tucson, Arizona. Directed by Stuart Eugene Bousel; Costumes by Juli Golder; Lighting by Jasmine Koh. Cast: Taren Carter Hines (Urania), Werner James (Ned), Joshua Galyen (Eugene)