category: short play
running time: fifteen minutes
setting: an unnamed, film noire metropolis
period: age-unspecific with comic book/film noire overtones
Jake Ion, a homicidal maniac
Delores, a bitchy go-go dancer
Opal Lafeau, a damsel in distress
Xerxes, her very sweet boyfriend
Karl Parolles, a hard-boiled detective
Scarlet, his fast-talking secretary
The Jazz Girls, a Greek chorus in berets
Narrated by Jake and his chorus of cool girls in berets, the story begins when Jake picks up Delores, a dancer, who leaves him after their night of passion, breaking his heart and sending him on a quest to find true love. Randomly deciding that his true match is Opal, Jake becomes enraged to learn she has a boyfriend, Xerxes, and tries, repeatedly, to kill him. Desperate to save her boyfriend’s life, Opal hires Detective Karl Parolles and his secretary Scarlet to hunt Jake down and stop him. Finally confronted in an empty warehouse on the waterfront, Jake is killed and taken to heaven by Delores, cursing Karl with loneliness as he goes, but foiled again when Scarlet admits her unrequited love for him. Opal and Xerxes end up happily ever after.
Chris McCaleb really deserves a story credit on this little piece, which I wrote based on a video he and I and a couple of other students made back in our sophomore year of high school. The whole piece was improvised, and boy can you tell, but it’s kind of fun to watch and when I wrote this piece with “I Laughed, I Cried, I Shot the Person Next To Me,” in mind, I lifted the premise of the video and wrote Jake as a surefire role for Chris McCaleb. Ironically, this show was cut from “I Laughed…” and didn’t make it to the stage until spring of 1999, when I staged it as my directing final, starring Caleb Orion Jacobs-Smith in the leading role. Thankfully, somewhere in that time, the script purged off any part of it that wanted to be taken seriously and became just out and out parody. It’s continued to have a strange life since then, appearing again at Reed a year later, this time as part of Midnight Theater and more or less as my swan song, and then getting nominated for the Heideman Award, of all things, and actually being a finalist for the 2003 HUMANA festival. To this day I have no idea why. I mean, it’s funny, but it’s not exactly art, and the characters are totally ridiculous, but I wouldn’t exactly say charming (except for Scarlet, who I adore). The plotline is entirely implausible and without motivation, almost incoherent. But the piece has style and that seems to go a long way, particularly since film noire has finally achieved its rightful place in the artistic cannon. I think a very slick, well staged production of this script could be quite the little show and of all my short pieces I think this one has the most potential to be a film, especially in the hands of someone who was willing to take the absurdist elements all the way. The trick is making it make sense that nothing in the story makes sense, and walking the fine line between that being cool and fun, as opposed to dumb and annoying. And it really is a fine line.
Reed College, April 30, 1999, Reed College Theater in Portland, Oregon. Directed and Designed by Stuart Eugene Bousel; Costumes & Props by Cara Carr; Lighting by Alyssa Santos; Stage Managed by Jane Bulnes-Fowles. Cast: Caleb Orion Jacobs-Smith (Jake), Jessica Knowles (Opal), Francisc “Butch” Malec (Karl), Amy Faucon (Delores), Kristine Sawicki (Scarlet/Waitress), Brett Rogers (Xerxes), Leah Halvorson (Jazz Girl), Ashleigh Yorra (Jazz Girl), Sarah Champ (Jazz Girl)
Midnight Theater, April 22, 2000, Reed College Chapel, Reed College, in Portland, Oregon. Directed by Stuart Eugene Bousel. Cast: Caleb Orion Jacobs-Smith (Jake), Sarah Dennis (Opal), Francis “Butch” Malec (Karl), Anne Michelson (Delores), Kristine Sawicki (Scarlet), Johnathan Gilbert (Xerxes), Lindsey Cook (Waitress), Ayelot Arbuckle (Jazz Girl), April Holm (Jazz Girl), Jennifer Graham (Jazz Girl)