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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

(ACT ONE) LIKE COUNTLESS OTHER WIVES I FOUND A LETTER.

                    
                       THE TEMPESTUOUS TRIANGLE 
                                              by                                                                                     Barbara Beyer Malley
                                           and
                         Dr. Kathleen Malley-Morrison
  
Reminiscing Julie (rising from chair she will occupy stage left throughout the play) 
Welcome, everyone.  I’d like to give you a preview of this play, which takes place in the 90s and involves 4 characters. 
Charles Griffeth is a male chauvinist 56-year-old high liver, unfaithful to his wife for years, sees no reason why he shouldn’t have his cake and eat it too.  He’s the dynamic owner of vacation homes, boats, and planes.
Rob Brennan is a boyish 53-year-old widower whom Julie met at Parents Without Partners.  As a bank teller, he barely makes ends meet for himself and his two daughters.  Conservative, inhibited, finicky, funny, he adores Julie no matter how misguided her thinking.
Julie Griffeth, at 51, is well-preserved  (Charles’s term) and recently separated.  She keeps herself busy taking various courses and volunteers every Saturday at The Samaritans. Unconventional, intensely liberal, Julie adores Rob, despite his flawed views, most of which are the opposite of hers. Then there's me, a decade later, your guide in this tangled web. As Reminiscing Julie, I'll be commentating on what happened in the past, introducing new scenes, and filling in the blanks when the characters can't speak for themselves.

Okay, let’s get started.  Only two years before Charles and I separated, we had a jesting conversation about divorce, inspired by a magazine article titled “Should You Remarry a Man You’ve Divorced?” Dan Chadwick, Charles’s lawyer and best friend, always maintained that once a couple divorces, they don’t want any part of each other.  Charles, intrigued, envisioned a different scenario. I clearly recall our banter over dinner at the Esquire Grill.
(Reminiscing Julie sighs, sits down. Charles and Young Julie enter from stage right.)
Charles (thoughtfully):  What I would do is come to see you a couple of times a week.  No evil intentions, you understand—this would be just a friendly, platonic visit.
Julie:  You’d better call first.  I might be out. 
Charles:  I’d bring you a little present of some kind:  flowers, perfume, candy—”
Julie:  Just say money and I’ll make a point of staying home.
Charles:  I’d probably bring a clean shirt and socks so I could shower and change . . .
Julie:  Not in my bathroom, you don’t.  That sounds entirely too domestic to me.
Charles:  All right, I’d go to my apartment and freshen up there—but you understand we’d lose a lot of time.
Julie:  You should’ve thought of that before the divorce, dum-dum.
Charles:  Okay, so you open the door and there I am.  Let’s see, what do you do?  We’re civilized people, you’d probably lean over and give me a little kiss on the cheek.
Julie:  Not me! 
Charles:  Well, what would you do—shake hands?
Julie:  I’d take the present, and say, “You know I don’t eat candy!”
Charles (undaunted)):  Then we’d sit down and have a friendly little vodka martini . . .
Julie:  I hope you brought your own.  I’ve turned the bar into a Health Nook.
Charles:  I’d ask how the kids were—
Julie:  You should know.  You’ve got `em!
Charles:  --and how your mother was doing.
Julie:  She’s making good money painting.  We certainly can’t get along on your alimony.
Charles (still undaunted):  Then I’d say, `Where would you like to go to dinner—The Red Coach?   Fox and Hounds?  The Cabin?
Julie (sounding bored):  Oh, these decisions!
Charles (hanging in there): All right, I’d sweep you off your feet and order a candlelit table for two at Joanne’s Kitchen—
Julie (softening):  You’re reaching me—
Charles:  Mildred would say,  “Mr. and Mrs. Griffeth, we haven’t seen you in a long time!
Julie:  You’d pull out my chair and help with my coat—
Charles:  I’d play `our song’ on the jukebox—
Julie (dreamily):  “Too Young.”
Charles (perking up and singing the first line):  “They tried to tell us we’re too young.”
Julie (taking Charles’s hand and gazing into his eyes):  And then I’d say, “Let’s go home and pretend we’re married again.”
(Julie and Charles exit briefly stage right.)
Reminiscing Julie: Although I had loved Charles ever since we met when I was seventeen, his heavy weekend drinking was a trial during our 30 years of marriage. I always consoled myself with the thought that at least he wasn’t cheating like so many men in our town.  Then, like countless other wives, I found a letter.  I had been as naïve as any other last-to-know wife.  Stunned by my husband’s betrayal, I was haunted by questions:  Who?  Where? When?  How long?
     I asked for a trial separation, then discovered that being single again wasn’t all bad.  I was free to explore new worlds, including the world evolving inside my head.  I signed up for a seminar for recently divorced men and women and contacted Parents Without Partners.  I learned they excluded people whose children were over eighteen—female people, that is.  Males, with or without children, were welcome as long as they weren’t comatose.  I argued and persisted until finally I was steered toward a branch that accepted me despite the advanced ages of my progeny.  Could I help it if I'd been a child bride?
     The first social event I attended was a cookout at some woman's house.  We strangers milled around in her rumpus room, smiling brightly at each other, having nothing in common except our unhappiness.  After awhile I noticed we’d been joined by a tall man with gray hair and glasses. "Well, here's another one," I thought, glancing at him casually.  
(Rob moves from stage right to stand next to Reminiscing Julie.)
Rob (to audience):  She looked at me.
Reminiscing Julie:  We had hardly exchanged names and a word or two when a debonair individual with dark, slicked‑back hair asked me to dance.  "Let's get away from this crowd," he murmured in my ear, tangoing me out the door. He drew together a couple of patio chairs, and began explaining why I was so fortunate to have met him.  I grew restless immediately. I had the weird but insistent feeling that I was being unfaithful to Rob.  I stood up, told my smooth‑talking companion that I was going back to the party, and left. 
Rob (to audience):  Of course I was worrying. How did I know she’d ever come back?
Reminiscing Julie:  Rob was waiting for me.  He appeared far from prepossessing, but that was because I didn't know him yet.  When you're not in love, you can be quite blind.  As weeks went by and my vision cleared, Rob began to look more and more like Paul Newman.  Paul Newman with a sense of humor was irresistible.  
Rob  (to audience): The night I met her, I talked to myself out loud all the way home.  I had to talk to someone. “She should be with me,” I’m saying.  “Why am I not driving her home?  I was sure I’d be driving her home.”  
(Rob returns to stage right, picks up a portable phone.  Julie enters from stage left, sits down on desk chair near Reminiscing Julie.)
Rob (to audience): The minute I got home, I couldn’t wait to call her, although I wasn’t sure what I would say.  (He lifts phone and dials, says “Ring, ring.”)  
(Julie picks up her phone.)
Younger Julie:  Hello?  (Pause.) Hello?  (Pause.) Hello? Anybody there?
Rob: (tentatively) Hello?
Younger Julie: Is that you, Rob? Why didn't you speak up? I thought—
Rob: I figured you wouldn't be home yet and started to hang up.  Then I decided to wait for one more ring.
Younger Julie: I’m glad you did.  I thought you were a sex maniac."
Rob: I'll do my best.
Reminiscing Julie: Affable, easy-going, Rob was anything but a sex maniac. We did a lot of passionate kissing, but not a word was said about B E D. At last he uttered that beautiful three-letter word, but I didn’t want to seem too easy. I murmured, “We probably should wait until we know each other better.” 
(Looks at audience) What a mistake that was!  Reminiscing Julie sits. Younger Julie stands and moves to stage right, beside Rob.
Rob (to audience):  I thought she’d give me some kind of signal when she decided we knew each other well enough.  Finally, one night I was at the door, kissing her goodnight, and radiating enough heat to melt an igloo, when she said the magic words.  “Have you got five minutes?” It was the easiest question she’d ever asked me.
Julie:  It felt so right for us to be together. I’m not religious, but it really seemed like fate that I managed to get to that particular party at that particular time. Doesn’t it seem like fate to you?
Rob:  Actually, I don't believe in things like predestination.  Of course I could be wrong, and when the time comes, if I find myself in Heaven, I'll just come right out and admit it.  (Looks at audience .)
I'll say, “You sure had me fooled, Your Bigness."
(Rob exits, stage right.  Charles enters from stage right and begins pacing up and down.) 
Charles: Julie, we need to have a serious talk about this trial separation. It isn’t working out.
Julie:  Okay, but not for long.  I’m expecting Rob in half an hour. 
Charles:  That guy you met at Parents Without Partners?  I hear he’s a bank teller.  What are you doing with an effing marshmallow like that?
Julie (Fires up immediately):  The same thing you were doing on your effing business trips!  Your secret double life!   How do you think it made me feel when you’d walk into the house with that smirk on your face, that effing guilty smile of yours?
Charles (sitting down beside Julie, and trying to take her hand):  I’m truly sorry I hurt you, Julie.  I want you back in my life.  Can’t you find it in your heart to forgive and forget like other wives? 
Julie (snatches her hand away, jumps up, and starts pacing)Screw the other wives! I need to know exactly what the hell I’m supposed to be forgiving! You clammed up and never answered a single one of my questions.  Tell me the truth for once in your life!  How long did this affair go on?  Were there others I don't know about?
Charles: Only a few. (Julie stops pacing and gasps loudly with a sharp intake of breath.) None of them meant a damn to me, Julie, honest to God.   The affair . . .was a long time.
Julie (Staring accusingly at Charles while she paces):  How many years is a long time?  How many years was I trying to have a good marriage, while you were getting drunk as a skunk every weekend and being arrogant and hostile and not remembering the next day how the evening ended.  Not remembering whether I’d been kind and patient, which I tried to be because I knew you weren’t yourself.  Always assuming we’d probably had a fight, and being cold to me for hours because you didn’t know how things stood.  Week after week, month after month.  And was your girlfriend seeing any of that?  No.  Did she see you so drunk at 3 a.m. that you fell into bed unconscious, your snoring rattling the rafters and making sleep impossible for me?  NoWhile she was getting the debonair, charming Charles, the wining, dining, romancing and the I-love-yous, I was getting all the SHIT.
Charles:  I swear I’ve always loved you, Julie.  You’re the only one I’ve ever loved or ever will love.
Julie (still pacing, voice rising to a shrewish pitch):  Did you tell her that?  Or did you tell her your wife was a shrew and a nag, she was no good in bed, she was a slob, or she got fat?  What excuses did you invent for justifying your cheating?  Married men always come up with excuses like that!
Charles:  For what it’s worth, I’m finally able to understand what you went through.  I never was able to feel your unhappiness before. 
Julie:  “I felt worse because I didn’t deserve it.  I had no one!. You had your business, your squash, your trips, your golf, your girlfriends, you had all those things, but my whole life was you.
Charles:  You’re right. You got a raw deal.   Somehow I’m going to make it up to you.  We have a lot of good years ahead of us. (Wistfully) Come on, Julie, let’s grow old together.
 (Phone rings.  Julie picks it up, says, “Hi, Rob. Uh huh, me too.” Bursts out laughing at something Rob says, “Okay, see you shortly if not sooner,” and hangs up, smiling at Charles, her anger dissipated.)
Julie: You’d better go now.  (She walks with him to the door.)  Charles, I hope you’ll find someone else to love.  I really do.
Charles:  You might as well ask me to amputate one of my arms. 
(Charles exits stage right)    .
Reminiscing Julie:  So, I had a quandary. I found myself feeling sorry for Charles and wanting him to be happy but not with me as his wife.  I loved Rob and his offbeat sense of humor, but I quickly learned that my notion of fun was his notion of folly. Persuading him to share a bowl of pot-laced pudding was like asking him to eat caterpillarsReminiscing Julie sits.

(Rob enters from stage right. He and younger Julie pull up their chairs to the table, which is set up with a couple of small dishes and spoons. They sit on either side of the table but still primarily facing the audience.)
Julie:  Rob, why aren’t you eating your pudding?
Rob:  Because it doesn’t look edible. What's this little wormy thing?  (Rob squeamishly picks something out of the pudding and holds it up. 
Julie:  It's probably something good, Rob. 
Rob:  Eugh!  What’s in here? 
Julie:  Just pudding, peanuts, and pot.  (She eats some of her pudding.) By quarter of ten we should be in outer space.
(Rob hums a few bars of "It's quarter to ten.")
Julie:  Do you want some cream on your pudding?
Rob:  I don't even want the pudding.  How much pot is in here? 
Julie:  About a cigarette and a half.
Rob:  How much did this stuff cost? 
Julie:  Twenty dollars an ounce, forty altogether.
Rob:  (Aghast.)  You paid forty dollars for these twigs?  Holy shit!
Julie:  So don’t waste your pudding, it's valuable. Where’s your sense of adventure?
Rob:  I try to leave it at home when I come here. (beat)  Is this a recipe for pot or for pudding?  Why are the nuts in there?
Julie:  This was supposed to be Butterscotch Banana Delight, but I didn't have any bananas, so I put in the peanuts.  Then you're supposed to fold in whipped cream, but I didn't have any whipped cream. (Rob stands up and walks toward stage right. Julie raises voice several decibels.) ROB, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Rob:  What are you hollerin' for!  I wasn't going far.  There's a movie I want to see on TV.
Julie:  Eat your pudding and then you can see it.
Rob:  Gee.  Fifty‑three years old and I gotta eat my pudding before I can watch television.   (Cautiously samples a tiny bit of pudding.)  I'm glad I’ve never been able to throw up.  This is something I wouldn't want to taste a second time.
(To be continued)

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