WRETCHED ASYLYM (Drama - 2m, 1 f, character age 40 -50)
A gripping drama involving two middle aged sexual compulsives. Matt is a struggling screenwriter who is hiding from the authorities due to past monetary obligations. When he meets the the thrice divorced Eileen in a bar their commiseration quickly turns to a sexual encounter that draws them into a toxic relationship marked by gratuitous sex and betrayal.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID:
"A riveting drama that hits all the marks of a visceral relationship gone bad. Simonelli displays remarkable insight into the human condition as it pertains to two dysfunctional people trying to cope with life, love, and self preservation. not to be missed!
Grange Playhouse NJ 2009 (premiere)
Manhattan Rep Theatre NYC 2012
Producers Club NYC 2014
Matt Fennel - mid forties
Eileen Ferguson - mid forties
Sherriff’s officer - 30 to 50
SETTING: The apartment of Matt Fennel. Apartment is slightly messy, typical bachelor place.
AT RISE: Dark stage. Two beats. Lights up. Apartment door opens. Matt (mid-forties) enters with Eileen (late-thirties/mid-forties) They enter kissing and embracing, finally winding up on sofa. Eileen is a bi-polar borderline personality given to quick mood swings and angry outbursts. Matt’s issues become apparent as they unfold during the performance. (mostly as pointed out to him by Eileen.)
EILEEN. Wait, slow down… do you have a condom?
MATT. Condom? Yeah, sure. Two seconds. (Scrambles to check wallet and drawers) Shit, I think I’m out.
EILEEN. (Rummaging through purse) Shit, me too. Look, no condom, no sex.
(She peruses apartment)
Ya got a cigarette?
MATT. I don’t smoke.
EILEEN. No condoms, no sex, no cigarettes… sounds like a country western song. I guess a joint is out of the question?
(Matt sits down next to her on the couch)
MATT. Definitely out of the question.
EILEEN. No vices, huh?
MATT. If you don’t count having sex with attractive strangers I only met an hour ago, then no.
EILEEN. But not without a condom. So no, it doesn’t count. I may be a bit buzzed and very horny but I’m not careless. (She picks up a small medal on a chain from end table) I thought boy scouts were always supposed to be prepared?
MATT. Who said anything about boy scouts? Nope, all I had was the nuns and Father Patrick, and the only thing he prepared me for was…
EILEEN. A life of sexual frustration. You sexually repressed Catholic boys are all the same. Probably why you don’t have any condoms in the house. It would mean you actually want to get laid.
MATT. Hey, just knowing that you would have slept with me is a moral victory. Let’s just call it quits now and we’re ahead of the game. We can avoid all of the bullshit. Courtship, a relationship, a nasty breakup.
EILEEN. Nice try but you don’t get off that easy. You bought me a few drinks and now I have to put out. Those are the barfly rules.
MATT. I didn’t know that. I never read the barfly rules.
(Eileen gets up and starts inspecting the apartment, and picks up a stray white sock)
EILEEN. Maid’s day off today?
MATT. I wasn’t exactly planning on company.
EILEEN. Tell me about it.
(She tosses sock behind couch)
MATT. Thanks, that’s exactly where that goes.
EILEEN. So, can a girl get a drink around here, or is alcohol forbidden too?
MATT. No, that I have plenty of. What’s your pleasure?
EILEEN. What have you got?
MATT. Beer or Scotch?
EILEEN. You’re Catholic, shouldn’t you have some wine?
MATT. I don’t do that much entertaining. And when I do they tend to be the shot and beer types.
EILEEN. Doesn’t matter. I don’t really drink wine. I’ll take a Scotch… neat.
(Matt crosses to the bar to prepare two drinks)
EILEEN. Neat… straight up, no ice. Geez, how can you be a Scotch drinker and not know that? What is it that you said you do again?
MATT. Sales. I work in the exciting world of office supplies.
EILEEN. Don’t tell me you work at one of those big chain stores and wear one of those goofy polo shirts with one of those “ask me for help” name tags…the last thing any of you want to do is actually help a customer.
MATT. No, no. I work in the city as a wholesaler. I sell direct to businesses.
EILEEN. I thought you told me you were a writer? Screenplays or something?
MATT. (Hands her drink)
I did tell you…Well, since sex appears to be off the table I guess we’ll just skip ahead to pillow talk. I do write. Plays, screenplays, poems, short stories. The truth won’t hurt right? So truth is, I haven’t actually sold anything yet. So if you’re an aspiring actress who only came home with me in the hopes of scoring a role then this is a big letdown for you. But in the interest of trying to salvage my prospects, I can also truthfully say I’m getting some good feedback and interest in a couple of plays.
EILEEN. No kidding? Well maybe I’ll stick this out a little longer… at least until my drink is done.
So, were you an English Major?
MATT. Well I did go to college, but not for English.
EILEEN. Why not, I mean if that’s your passion?
MATT. My father felt it was best if we all had good solid business backgrounds. Sure, he encouraged our creative sides, but he was a bit of a pragmatist. He thought we should focus on financial stability first. You know, have something to fall back on.
EILEEN. Makes sense. So what did your realist father do for a living? Let me guess…banking?
MATT. Close, he was a stand-up comic
EILEEN. Get out of here. (Seeing he is not joking) Really? Stand up comic? Have I ever heard of him?
MATT. No, probably not. He did mostly clubs and private parties. Does some voice over work too.
EILEEN. ( sits on couch)
Okay, come here, son of Seinfeld. (Patting couch) Honestly, you were losing me with the whole business sales thing, no offense. (Mock yawn) So how do you go about writing these future smash hits?
MATT. You know what they say, “You write what you know”.
EILEEN. Oh, so, you write about the exciting world of office supplies?
MATT. No, but that’s funny. Actually I write about…well, it’s hard to explain. People, life, relationships…
EILEEN. Sounds juicy. You know the whole mild-mannered office drone by day and sexy hot writer by night is an incredible turn on. Tell me more.
Look Ei, there’s nothing to tell, really…
EILEEN. Ohhh, you called me Ei. I like that. My brothers used to call me Ei…
MATT. Well that is the affectionate name for Eileen isn’t it? I grew up in an Irish neighborhood. Lot’s of Ei’s and Col’s
EILEEN. And what’s your last name?
EILEEN. Like the vegetable?
MATT. I think it’s an herb actually. Could have been worse, could have been a broccoli or zucchini.
EILEEN. Mathew Fennel. Irish neighborhood you said? But you look more English. I didn’t know there were any English Catholics. Aren’t they usually Anglican?
MATT. Actually I’m Italian. My Father shortened his name from Fennelli. For business purposes.
EILEEN. Yeah, monkey business probably. So tell me about writing. I mean what’s your process? Do you just pick up a blank piece of paper and start typing?
MATT. You really want to know about this? (she nods) Okay… well first I think you need to be passionate about your subject. Then you have to translate that passion to dialogue on paper. For me, I listen to the conversation in my head. You know, when something sounds great in your head but when you say it, it comes out all wrong? Or you think of the perfect come back after the moment has passed? Well, writing gives me a chance to come up with the smartest, wittiest version of a conversation. It’s like…(stopping) Sorry, I get carried away. But you did ask. Now, if this were a play, I’d have you talk! But I don’t know you well enough to know what you’d say!
EILEEN. You know you like me enough to bribe me with alcohol at a dive bar, and bring me back to your messy apartment thinking you’d get lucky! What more do you need to know?
MATT. First, I didn’t bribe you –I was being polite by offering you a drink. Second, I didn’t think it was such a dive. And last, if not for the missing condoms, would I really have been wrong about getting lucky?
EILEEN. Come on, you were slumming and you know it.
MATT. No, I was doing research…for a story!
EILEEN. Yeah, and I was searching for a prom date. Look, we were both attracted to each other,
You don’t have to pretend that there was some higher moral imperative.
MATT. Okay, okay…guilty as charged. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to add that the though of being naked with you outweighed any moral imperative!
EILEEN. Really, now we’re cutting to the chase.
MATT. So what’s your story?
EILEEN. What do you mean?
MATT. Well when you walked into the ‘dive’ and the bartender asked ‘what was your pleasure’ you replied a bag full of hundreds and a hot boyfriend.
EILEEN. You really want to know my story?
MATT. If you want to tell it.
EILEEN. It’s hardly original. My father by-passed the whole pragmatist, stand up comic thing and went straight to raging alcoholic. He used to beat up my mother and on several occasions he tried to sexually molest me. Thanks to his parenting skills I suffer from low self-esteem, low-grade depression and, lucky you, sexual compulsion. I hang around dive bars waiting for men to pick me up so I can have gratuitous sex with them I have a son from my second marriage; who the courts decided should live with his father because I’m such a terrible role model for him. I’ve been in therapy for the last ten years which means I have a lot more insight, a lot less cash, and the same old problems. Can I get another drink?
MATT. (Somewhat at a loss for words)
You know I read somewhere that a borderline personality will tell you their whole life story in the first ten minutes of conversation.
EILEEN. Really? Well that’s not me since I didn’t tell you everything. So you want to know, or you want me to leave?
(She gets up from couch)
MATT. No. I don’t want you to leave. What, you think your story shocks me? Everybody’s got a story Ei. You don’t live forty plus years without one. And everyone’s story has a few bad things in it.
EILEEN. Really, well I left out a really important thing… I happen to be very, very good in bed. So what are your bad things?
MATT. I prefer to keep them private thank you. Or maybe hide them in my stories…Oh shit…I just thought of something!
MATT. I just remembered where they are.
EILEEN. Where what are?
MATT. The condoms.
EILEEN. Ahhh, we’re back to where we started!
MATT. They’re keeping them fresh at the seven eleven. There’s one down the corner. Ten minutes tops!!
EILEEN. Forget it. That will kill the mood…and besides, there’s plenty we can cook up without a rubber. Which way to the kitchen?
MATT. There are fewer sharp objects in the bedroom, so if it’s all the same to you…walk this way please
(He leads her off to the bedroom)
Matt is alone sitting on couch and speaking on the telephone.
MATT. Hey big brother, how are my nephews doing? No kidding? Two touchdowns, that’s great. I don’t know. Thanksgiving is a tough day to travel. No, still no bites on the screenplay although there may be some interest in L.A. Girlfriend, me? No, no one special… the same story, I have too much financial baggage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hermit. As a matter of fact I met someone pretty interesting just last night. Bring her to Thanksgiving? I doubt that would be a good idea. It sure would be an adventure, but don’t count on it. I didn’t even bother to get her phone number… Yeah, okay. I’ll let you know. Love to Sheila and the kids.
(Matt gets up and goes to desk. Turns on computer and starts to write. There is a knock on door. A tense look of concern as he checks his watch. He turns out the light on the desk and slowly slides from his seat and cowers next to desk to be hidden from anyone trying to peak through the window. The knocking persists until…)
Matt, are you in there? It’s Eileen… you know from last night.
(Relieved, he gets up and crosses to door which he opens)
Hey Ei. What’s up?
EILEEN. I think I left my watch here last night. Did you find it?
MATT. No, I didn’t see a watch anywhere. How’d you know I was home?
EILEEN. I took a chance, saw your car parked around the block. Why would you park around the block when there are plenty of spots in front of your apartment?
MATT. I don’t like certain people to know when I’m home.
EILEEN. Why, you got a stalker or something like that?
MATT. Something like that. So no watch. But I’ll keep an eye out for it.
EILEEN. Thanks. But I didn’t really come here just for the watch.
MATT. Then why are you here?
EILEEN. Well, I kind of missed you. (She invites herself in, pushing past Matt) I had a nice time last night, talking and… everything else. Didn’t we have fun last night?
MATT. Yes it was nice, and fun… but that was last night.
EILEEN. I know, I know. There was actually another reason I came over.
MATT. And what’s that?
(She pulls a small manuscript out of her bag)
EILEEN. I wanted your opinion on something. (She hands him the manuscript) I was taking a night class on creative writing at the college.
MATT. (Looking over paper)
“Anarchy and the Codependent Mind.” You wrote this for class Ei?
EILEEN. Yeah. I wanted your opinion… if it’s not too much trouble.
MATT. No. No trouble at all. Hey, why did you ask me all those questions about writing last night when you’re a writer yourself?
EILEEN. Just picking your brain I guess. Besides, I’m not a real writer like you. I’m just taking a class.
MATT. How would you know? You've never read any of my stuff. Sit, sit down. You want a drink or something?
EILEEN. It’s a little early.
MATT. How about a soft drink? Coffee? I just made some.
EILEEN. I’d love some. I’ll get it, you read.
(She exits to kitchen as Matt reads manuscript)
(Offstage) Milk and sugar?
MATT. (Absorbed in essay)
How do you take your coffee? Milk? Sugar?
MATT. A little milk. No sugar.
What do you think?
(Matt’s conversation is while reading essay until indicated)
MATT. Eileen, so far I am very impressed. You said you never went to college?
EILEEN. I never said that. I went for three semesters after high school then dropped out.
EILEEN. I got pregnant, got married and had a kid.
MATT. I guess it happens. Wait, you had a kid from your first marriage too? How many children do you have?
EILEEN. One from each.
MATT. So two?
MATT. You were married three times?!
EILEEN. Are you judging me Matt?
MATT. No, not at all.
EILEEN. Because I don’t see what gives you the right to judge me.
MATT. Nothing does. I’m not judging you, just trying to get the facts straight. Don’t be so damned defensive.
EILEEN. I’m a bi-polar manic-depressive. I get defensive. And paranoid.
(Matt looks up from manuscript)
MATT. Really? At the same time? Thanks for the warning, but you’re not scaring me Eileen.
EILEEN. I didn’t realize I was trying to.
MATT. Oh, I think you are. Or I think you’re trying to see if I will scare. You’re laying out your bullshit baggage a page at a time to test my threshold, to see at what point you’re going to get rejected so you can minimize the hurt. Well guess what? I don’t operate that way.
EILEEN. Thanks for the analysis, Dr. fucking Freud. But I already have a shrink.
MATT. Take it easy. All I’m saying is, from where I sit, I see a very funny, sexy, talented woman. I mean this takes talent doesn’t it? (Indicating manuscript)
EILEEN. But I’m not ‘educated’ like you; I don’t have a college degree.
MATT. So what? Lose the low self esteem already. I just told you few people could write something like this. This is good enough to be published.
EILEEN. You really mean that? You’re not bullshitting me Matt? Don’t you dare bullshit me.
MATT. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. You’re a talented writer. Just accept it.
Did you hand this in yet?
EILEEN. Yeah, a couple of weeks ago.
MATT. What did your professor say about it?
EILEEN. He said it was good.
MATT. Well, there you go.
EILEEN. Right, whatever.
(Her cell phone rings, she picks it up)
Excuse me, I have to take this.
(Matt resumes reading)
Hi mommy! (Matt glances at her) Yeah…how are my kids? No place… just visiting a friend. No I’m not, he’s just a friend. Okay mommy, see you later. (To Matt) That was my mom.
Yeah I heard. Aren’t you a little old to be calling her mommy?
EILEEN. It’s a term of endearment… it makes her feel better.
MATT. It makes her feel better. (Looks at her skeptically) In this essay, you talk about an “adult child.” What’s that all about?
EILEEN. The adult child carries with them the issues that were never resolved in childhood.
MATT. Such as?
EILEEN. Alcoholism, physical or mental abuse, molestation. Actually, it’s just a nice psychological term for having a totally fucked up childhood.
MATT. Write what you know… hey, how long have you been divorced from your third husband?
EILEEN. I’m not. We’re separated.
MATT. Separated? You know I usually don’t date women who aren't divorced. I mean I like you and all, but, okay just how far along in your divorce are you?
EILEEN. I retained a lawyer.
MATT. How long are you separated?
EILEEN. Physically or emotionally?
MATT. Take your pick.
EILEEN. Physically a year. Emotionally forever. Besides silly boy, we’re not dating. We’re just
MATT. Yeah, that’s right. I guess when you put it that way…
EILEEN. What you said before... about me being sexy. Did you mean that too?
MATT. Of course I did. I find you very sexy.
EILEEN. I find you kind of sexy too. So you wanna play some more?
MATT. You mean right now?
EILEEN. Yeah, right now.
MATT. I would love nothing more, but I have a gig. I’m sitting in tonight with a friend’s band. Hey, you want to come?
EILEEN. That’s the general idea!
MATT. I mean to the gig.
EILEEN. I didn’t know you were also a musician.
MATT. There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me. I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve, despite my day job.
EILEEN. Good to know. My husband is the biggest snore going. Comes home from work and falls asleep in front of the couch. (beat) At least that’s what he always did. (beat) And from what the kid’s tell me, nothing has changed.
MATT. So what do you say? You up for this gig?
EILEEN. Definitely. But first…
(She goes in her bag, takes out a string of condoms and drapes them around his neck)
MATT. I guess I have a little time.
EILEEN. Okay, that’s more like it.
(She starts to remove his shirt and leads him towards bedroom)
MATT. Wait, you know I don’t have a lot of money, right?
EILEEN. So what…you have a big dick.
MATT. Works for me.
(moving towards bedroom)
EILEEN. No, works for me!
(They exit to bedroom)
The next morning.
Matt and Eileen are cuddled on the couch.
EILEEN. You are a very sexy man, do you know that? When I saw you playing that guitar last night I got wet.
MATT. Really? (They kiss) That’s the kind of music we play, the "get your girl wet blues".
EILEEN. Very funny, Mr. Screenplay writer. I read your script.
MATT. What? When did you do that?
EILEEN. This morning. I got up early It was right on your desk. I didn’t think you'd mind. Besides, I loved it. I can see it now, you walking the red carpet, me on your arm waving to the crowd.
MATT. Thanks. I hope. I could use the money. I’m thinking of moving to L.A. to be closer to the right people.
EILEEN. (Slightly upset but trying to hide it)
Why would you do that?
MATT. Well, Hollywood is where they make the movies, isn’t it. An agent out there is pretty hot on my first draft, thinks he can get me a movie deal.
EILEEN. They make movies in New York too, ya know.
MATT. A few, I suppose.
EILEEN. (She kisses him again)
Well, anyway. You’re not going just yet, are you?
MATT. No, not to California, just to the bathroom. Are you going to hang around ’til I get back sexy?
EILEEN. If you’re a good boy.
MATT. (He rises)
I thought you didn’t like good boys. I’ll be right back.
(He exits to bathroom as Eileen Rises walks stage right to desk, takes out her cell phone and dials)
EILEEN. Hi, this is Eileen Ferguson, is Mr. Abromowitz in? Well, I’d like to retain him for a divorce. I was referred by Janet Logan. Sure. I can come in Friday. What time? Great, It’s Eileen Ferguson. I’ll see you then.
(She quickly puts her phone away and returns to couch as Matt re-enters)
MATT. (He sits next to her)
I was a good boy.
EILEEN. Well good boys get rewarded. (He goes to kiss her and she stops him)
But first I want to know something. Mr. Sexy Writer.
MATT. What’s that?
EILEEN. Who, or what, are you hiding from?
MATT. Who says I’m hiding?
EILEEN. Well … this place… a cottage on the back of someone’s property. You don’t answer your door to find out who’s knocking. You park your car around the block so no one knows you’re home. What’s the big secret?
MATT. (Rises from the couch)
It’s nothing. You’re being paranoid.
EILEEN. (She goes after him)
No I’m not. What is it? Tell me.
MATT. (He gently caresses her)
Not now. When I know you a little longer. Okay.
EILEEN. (A little upset)
Oh, I see. You can know about all my psychotic shit, but you feel you need to keep secrets. It doesn’t matter that we just fucked six ways to Sunday. Look Matt, I’m not going to run screaming into the night at anything that you tell me. What, are you some kind of CIA agent or something? (beat) Hey, that could be hot!
MATT. (Also a little upset)
I have a lot of financial baggage okay. I told you I don’t have a lot of money.
EILEEN. Yeah, I know, you told me…and I told you I don’t care. Frankly, you really didn’t need to tell me. I mean this place isn’t exactly the Taj Majal. So who’s after you Matt? You owe money to a loan shark or something? Are you some kind of compulsive gambler or something? God, my first husband was, that prick.
MATT. No, no, it’s nothing like that (He paces) Alright, alright. I owe back alimony and child support. I cut a real shitty deal when I got divorced five years ago and I’ve been trying to fix it ever since.
EILEEN. What are you talking about? You’ve got a job. Don’t they garnish your salary?