"It would be so gratifying, not to mention prophetic and full of hindsight to say that Joe Simonelli is the next Neil Simon..."Michael Kaabe - Asbury Park Press ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- PRODUCTION HISTORY First Ave. Playhouse NJ 2001 (premiere) First Ave. Playhouse NJ 2007 Grange Playhouse NJ 2009 Traco Theatre NJ 2011 Cultural Park Theatre FL 2014 Little Victory Theatre NYC 2017 First Avenue Playhouse NJ 2021 SAMPLE DIALOUGE
Frank Avino - mid 40’s, divorced ladies’ man.
Tom Flynn - mid 40’s his friend, a pretentious snob
Sophie Avino - late 60’s to early 70’s – Franks Mother
Kathy Carver – early 40’s, Frank’s current girlfriend
Vito Angellini – mid 60’s to 70’s, Frank’s downstairs neighbor
SETTING: A tiny apartment in the suburbs of New Jersey. Main entrance is stage left; kitchen is down right. Typical bachelor apartment. Very utilitarian. No frills. One picture hangs back center. A desk with a typewriter is down right. The dining room table is set for a romantic dinner with linens, flowers, candlesticks. Practical window on right wall. One section of backstage right should be separate area indicated by raised platform or some other device to reveal a portion of SOPHIE AVINO’S home in Brooklyn. Separate light should be dedicated to this area. At minimum, area should have an old-fashioned wing chair, small end table, and window which SOPHIE look out. (This area is only used in Act One and can be removed at intermission.)
AT RISE: Lights up as we hear singing coming from the kitchen. FRANK AVINO is singing “Some Enchanted Evening” as he prepares dinner for his date. His singing is interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.
FRANK. (Crosses from kitchen still singing melody from same song, but changing the lyrics to suit his mood. In his hand he is holding a ladle which he uses as a mock microphone to sing in) (sings) I’m coming now to answer, please do not hang up yet. (speaks in phone) Hello? Yes, this is Frank Avino. (a beat) Wait, is this a sales call? That’s okay, you can say it. It is a sales call. (sarcastically) Don’t worry, I love sales calls. Especially at dinner time. I’m very lonely, it’s nice to have someone to talk to. So what are you selling? (looking at his watch) You have thirty seconds, make it good…. Inflatable what! Oh, inflatable bed. Includes two pillows if I order now. Look, I’d love to help you out, but I just spent all my money on an industrial-sized freezer to hold all the meat I order from Colorado. Besides, I lied to you, I’ve hated salesman ever since my ex-wife ran off with the Amway man. That’s right. Well, your thirty seconds are up. Bye. (Hangs up phone. Two beats and phone rings again.) Okay, I’ll take one.
(Lights up on SOPHIE AVINO, Frank’s overbearing, neurotic mother in Brooklyn. She is sitting in her chair, and peering out the window with a pair of binoculars as she speaks on phone.)
SOPHIE. You’ll take one what?
FRANK. Oh, hello ma, I thought you were a salesman.
SOPHIE. Do I sound like a salesman?
FRANK. (Finishes setting table.) No ma, I was talking to a salesman and… never mind ma.
SOPHIE. So what are you doing?
SOPHIE. That’s nice.
FRANK. I’ve got a date tonight.
SOPHIE. Not another one of those floozies you meet on those gigs of yours.
SOPHIE. You know what I’m talking about. Loose women.
FRANK. Define loose mom?
SOPHIE. You know, loose. They wear too much make-up and layer their hair down to their derriere. A flaming trollop.
FRANK. Flaming trollop? Sounds like a cocktail to me. Bartender, one flaming trollop please.
SOPHIE. Never mind the wisenheimer answers mister. I just wish you’d stay away from the floozies.
FRANK. Floozies need love too you know mom.
SOPHIE. Another smart answer for your mother. If your father were alive he would not approve.
FRANK. Don’t you worry mom, the woman I’m seeing tonight is very classy.
SOPHIE. Really, what does she do for a living?
FRANK. She happens to be a psychiatrist. I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. Love and therapy in the same night.
SOPHIE. Psychiatrist, ha. They’re all nuts. That’s why they become shrinks in the first place, to figure out their own problems. You better be careful.
FRANK. (getting annoyed) Was there a particular reason you called ma?
SOPHIE. Did you speak to your sister today?
FRANK. No mother.
SOPHIE. Did you call your brother today?
FRANK. No, I didn’t speak to Bobby either.
SOPHIE. Why don’t you speak to your brother and sister?
FRANK. Why should I?
SOPHIE. To give them moral support.
FRANK. I’m the one living in an apartment the size of a shoe box. Who’s giving me moral support?
SOPHIE. I told you not to get divorced.
FRANK. I wish you’d have told me not to get married.
SOPHIE. More wise answers. Big accountant, has to make wise cracks to his mother.
FRANK. I’m a novelist.
SOPHIE. Have you published anything yet?
SOPHIE. You’re an accountant. Now, why don’t you call your brother and sister?
FRANK. Look ma, Annie and Bobby have lives and families of their own, and as much as I’d like to, I don’t have time to sit and commiserate with them.
FRANK. Commiserate, commiserate. “Co” with “miserate”, from the Latin for misery, which is what the hell I’m going through now.
SOPHIE. You’re cursing at your mother?
FRANK. I am not cursing at you ma.
SOPHIE. Cursing is not good. It’s blasphemy against the church. (She looks out window with binoculars.) You know the Pope told me that the church is in cahoots with the CIA.
FRANK. The Pope told you this? Now, you’re speaking directly to the Pope?
SOPHIE. No, he doesn’t speak directly to me, I write him letters and send them to the Vatican.
FRANK. And he writes you back?
SOPHIE. Of course not, (a beat as she looks around to make sure no one’s listening) he answers me in code through Father O’Malley's sermons in church every Sunday.
FRANK. (aside to himself) And I’m the one in therapy. (to phone) Hey ma, I’ve got an idea, why don’t you try emailing the Pope?
FRANK. I don’t know, try pontiff dot com…. Hold on a second ma, I have another call coming in. I just bought this phone and I’m not quite sure how to work all the features. (He pushes down receiver on phone.) Hello?
FRANK. It’s you again?
SOPHIE. No, it’s Martha Stewart calling with a quiche recipe.
FRANK. Very, funny. Hold on a second. (Pushes receiver again) Hello? Tommy boy! You in the neighborhood? Well stop by and we’ll chat for a little while. See you in a few. (pushes receiver once more) Hi ma, I’m back.
SOPHIE. And who was that?
FRANK. My friend Tom. You remember Tom, we used to work together?
SOPHIE. The one who has the nice girlfriend?
FRANK. One and the same.
SOPHIE. You see, he found a nice girl, why can’t you?
FRANK. I did. I dated her first.
SOPHIE. You are so foolish sometimes.
FRANK. Look ma, I’ve got to get going. I’ve got sauce on the stove.
SOPHIE. You mean gravy.
FRANK. Sauce ma, not gravy. Gravy goes on turkey or roast beef.
SOPHIE. Oh, so for fifty years I’ve been calling it the wrong thing. You never complained when you were eating it every Sunday.
FRANK. Anyway, I forgot to buy tomato paste, so I can I substitute flour? You know, to thicken it up a little?
SOPHIE. Absolutely not.
FRANK. Too late now.
SOPHIE. Just let it boil down.
FRANK. Ma, she’ll be here in an hour. I don’t have all day to cook.
SOPHIE. You asked me, I told you.
FRANK. I’ve got to go.
SOPHIE. When am I going to see you?
FRANK. You’re welcome here anytime ma, you know that. Just give me five days notice.
SOPHIE. Your mother has to give you notice? Wait till I tell his Holiness. By the way Frankie, I hope you’re still going to Mass on Sunday.
FRANK. Well ma, I’ve been meaning to tell you...
SOPHIE. Tell me what?
FRANK. Well, I kind of switched religions. I’m not really Catholic anymore.
SOPHIE. (She stands and blesses herself) What do you mean you’re not Catholic? What did you do, join one of those cults? Sure, free sex, free love, you’ll burn in hell Frank Avino.
FRANK. You think so? Well, at least I’ll be with the rest of the family.
SOPHIE. What did I do to deserve this? I’m disgraced. FRANK. It’s no big deal ma, I’m with the Presbyterians now. It’s great. They sing a lot. And get this, you don’t have to kneel down. Forty years I’ve been kneeling down every Sunday. Who knew? You should try it ma. Think of the wear and tear it will save on your arthritic knees.
SOPHIE. An hour a week of kneeling is a small price to pay for your salvation Francis Xavier Avino. Now I'm too upset to talk. Goodbye, I’ll pray for you.
FRANK. I’ll pray for you too. By ma. (He exits to kitchen.) (offstage) A little taste of the sauce-a-roo… needs more flour.
(FRANK enters living room, checks table, fluffs pillows on couch, pulls out his cell phone places it on dining room table. Picks up apartment phone, and dials number. He looks at cell phone.)
Come on ring… no good.
(There is a knock at the door)
FRANK. Come in.
(FRANK picks up the cell phone and places it on the desk as TOM FLYNN enters. He’s an affable man in his mid-forties. His demeanor indicates an upper class, slightly pretentious attitude in sharp contrast to Frank’s roguish charm. FRANK starts dialing his telephone again.)
TOM. Hi Frank.
FRANK. (To cell phone.) Come on ring dammit. (to TOM) Hi Tom. (TOM goes into kitchen. FRANK picks up cell phone from desk and places it on top of picture frame or coat rack. TOM re-enters holding a beer and a man’s necktie.)
FRANK. (Dialing phone again) So what’s happening?
TOM. I just stopped in to visit some of my clothes. Do you usually keep your ties in the refrigerator?
(TOM hands FRANK the tie)
FRANK. Hey, I was looking for that.
TOM. It was in the cold-cut drawer. You’re out of roast beef.
FRANK. (to cell phone) Come on. Will you ring already?
TOM. What the hell are you doing?
FRANK. I just bought this cell phone and it’s hard to get reception in this apartment, so I’m looking for a spot where the phone will ring.
TOM. Have you tried the roof?
FRANK. Hey, not a bad idea. Do me a favor. (He hands cell phone to TOM) Hold this out the window while I try the number.
TOM. Are you kidding? It’s cold outside!
FRANK. Never mind, I’ll climb out on the ledge later and try it myself.
TOM. So what’s new in your life?
FRANK. I’ve got a date tonight. A real nice woman. I’m going to impress her with my specialty.
TOM. Your specialty, huh? So where are the handcuffs?
FRANK. I mean, I’m cooking Italian. (jokingly) Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have a can of tomato paste on you, would you?
(TOM pulls a small can of tomato paste from his pocket and tosses it to FRANK.)
FRANK. That’s amazing.
TOM. You really should learn to use your phone Frank. You conferenced me in with your mother by mistake. I heard the whole saucy story. You’re lucky I was in the supermarket and Susan was in the mood for pasta.
FRANK. (Brings can to kitchen.) I always liked that Susan. You should marry her.
TOM. (Sits on couch) Don’t be absurd. Living together is working just fine, thank you.
FRANK. (Takes stage) I know women, they get to our age, and they’re not as patient as when they’re young. You’ll get it, soon enough.
TOM. Get what?
FRANK. The question you don’t want to answer.
TOM. What question?
FRANK. (Impersonating female voice as he takes linen napkin from table and places it on his head like a kerchief.) Tom, we’ve been together for fourteen months, ten days, eight hours and six minutes, And I think it’s time we took the next step, don’t you?
TOM. I’d love to know what you’re talking about.
FRANK. The time limit Tommy boy, the time limit.
TOM. What time limit?
FRANK. The committed relationship time-limit Tom, that’s what I’m talking about. All women have committed relationship time limits.
TOM. We’ve been living together for eight months, don’t you think I’m committed enough?
FRANK. You just don’t get it, do you Tom? Would you like me to explain it to you?
TOM. Not really.
FRANK. (Ignoring him) It’s like this. You date a woman for a month or two, and the first time limit is up.
(Impersonating female voice again, he sits next to TOM on couch. TOM immediately rises to escape him.)
Tom, you know I have a great time with you, but the dating service keeps sending me referrals and I have to know what to tell them.
Translation: Are we going to be exclusive, or am I wasting my time?
TOM. Sounds plausible.
FRANK. So, now you’re exclusive. And what was once a fun and exhilarating experience in a few months starts
TOM. What do you mean routine? Still plenty of sex. Still plenty of fun. Besides, what makes you such an expert on relationships?
FRANK. Come on Tommy, who dates more than me?
TOM. You have a point, but I still say things are fun.
FRANK. Yeah, but now you’re in a (uses fingers to indicate quotes) “relationship.” And you know what that means? Now, you have to start asking permission to do things you just normally used to do.
TOM. Not me. I do what I want, when I want. You lay down the ground rules before you commit, that’s the secret.
FRANK. Really? Then tell me something. How come before Susan came along, we used to go to Atlantic City once a month, and now it’s more like twice a year.
TOM. Well, in every relationship there must be certain amount of compromise...
FRANK. (Jumping up from couch.) There it is! There’s that word! Compromise! Did you ever look at that word Tom? Ever study it carefully?
(He goes desk, picks up legal pad, and in large block letters prints: COM - PROMISE. He shows pad to TOM and audience.)
See Tom, two words: “Com” and “Promise”. Add an “E’ to the end of the first word (adds block “E” after COM_ on pad) and you get the real meaning: “come promise”. You get that Tom, “come promise”. Promise what? What the hell are we promising Tom? I’ll tell you what we’re promising--we’re promising to give up! That’s what we’re promising.
TOM. Give up what?
FRANK. Everything. Our freedom. Our independence. (like Patrick Henry) Our God-given right to go to Atlantic City any time we like!
TOM. You are seriously disturbed. You should see a therapist.
FRANK. I am. She’ll be here in a half hour.
TOM. She doesn’t stand a chance.
FRANK. Which, brings us to our third and final time limit--the big one--the coup-de-gras of time limits… (He places pad on desk.)
TOM. I can’t wait to hear this one.
FRANK. Go ahead, make jokes. You don’t want to hear what it is.
TOM. That’s right, I don’t.
FRANK. Precisely why, I must tell you! The last time limit is called “the ultimatum”. Which, is the one my friend, that you are about to get. (Impersonating female again) Tom, we’ve been living together for eight months and I think it’s time we considered making it official. (Normal voice) You see buddy, your life is all laid out for you from here on in. She’ll let you think you’re making decisions, but make no mistake, she’s calling the shots.
TOM. It’s called companionship. I love her.
FRANK. That’s great Tom, I’m glad. And you know what, for guys like you, it’s the best thing.
TOM. What do you mean for guys like me?
FRANK. Men who need approval, stroking… What’s the word I’m looking for…? Validation!
FRANK. You need a woman to tell you how great you are. Most men do. Where I, on the other hand, like women because they’re soft, and they smell nice.
TOM. You mean you like to sleep with them.
FRANK. What’s wrong with a little sex between consenting adults. It’s nice,it’s fun, it’s over. Like the blind date I had with that attorney last week.
TOM. (sarcastically) I wonder how that turned out?
FRANK. Put it this way. It’s the first time I ever screwed a lawyer.
TOM. So you know my type, huh? Well, let me enlighten you. I’ve seen your type too. Big Romeos. And you know what happens to them? When they least expect it. Bam!
(claps hands for emphasis)
They’re hooked. A committed relationship. Oh, it’s pathetic. Then, giving up Atlantic City is nothing. She’ll have you cleaning the house, raking the leaves, shopping. When guys like you fall buddy, it’s hard and fast. Like a drug you can’t do without. An addiction. An addiction to love. A truly committed relationship.
FRANK. Not me, Tom. I’m not falling into that trap. Sure, I’m not exactly rolling in the chips now, but just wait. (He goes to desk and picks up manuscript.) You see this Tom, this is my ticket out.
TOM. Here it comes again.
FRANK. It’s almost done Tommy. I’ve started sending sample chapters to agents and publishers.
TOM. Listen Frank, I’ve been hearing about this novel ever since your divorce four years ago. Michelangelo finished the Sistine Chapel in less time.
(TOM imitates FRANK as he grabs manuscript and starts paging through it.)
It’s got everything Tommy. Sex, mobsters, metaphysical elements…
FRANK. That’s right buster. And it’s gonna make me rich. Picture it Tommy, in a year I’ll be sipping Mai Tai’s in my hot tub, a bevy of beauties catering to my every whim.
TOM. The only hot tub you’ll ever have, is the Raritan River on a warm day.
FRANK. It can happen wise guy.
TOM. You realize you’re delusional don’t you? This woman tonight, you say she’s a shrink?
TOM. (sings) Some enchanted evening…
FRANK. Knock it off.
TOM. Tell me Hemingway, has anybody read this yet?
FRANK. Antoinette loved it. She gave it three stars.
TOM. Who’s Antoinette?
FRANK. My sister Annie., You met her at my birthday party last year
TOM. (suddenly his interest is peaked) Ah yes, your single sister with the home in Connecticut.
FRANK. That’s the one, she loved the novel. And she has a master’s degree.
TOM. Really, In Literature?
FRANK. No, Horticulture.
TOM. I rest my case. By the way, how many packages of these sample chapters have you sent out?
FRANK. About twenty.
TOM. And how many rejections have you gotten?
FRANK. About twenty.
TOM. You do know pages thirty-four and thirty-five are missing, don’t you?
FRANK. What! Let me see that. (He flips through pages.) How do you like that? Damn copy machine.
TOM. Sure, blame the copy machine Mr. I-Never-Proofread. Very sloppy Frank. I don’t think prospective publishers like that. (TOM starts to gather his clothes from the bedroom.)
FRANK. Doesn’t matter, most publishers don’t read past page ten anyway. (FRANK sits at desk.)
TOM. Well, I’ve got to get going.
FRANK. No, wait Tom. Before you leave, I want to read you a poem I wrote.
TOM. Don’t bother, you’re not my type.
FRANK. The poem’s not for you.
TOM. Then for whom?
FRANK. A woman.
TOM. What woman?
FRANK. (Thinks a moment) Doesn’t matter, any woman.
(FRANK takes poem from typewriter and hands it to TOM.)
TOM. You know, I don’t get you. You just finish a diatribe on why you hate relationships, yet you continue to date women at a rate faster then (beat) a high-speed internet connection.
FRANK. Nice analogy.
TOM. I try. And you even write them poems!
FRANK. I can’t help it, I’m romantic.
TOM. What you are is a cad and a bounder.
FRANK. What’s a bounder?
TOM. Look it up.
FRANK. (Sits on couch.) Just read the poem.
TOM. (Starts to read) For Love’s Sake, by Francis X. Avino. Why Breathe? If drawing one more breath brings me no closer to the one I love. Why toil? If toiling day and night by some uncertain chance hastens the departure of sweet daliance from the one I love. (To FRANK) I think you spelled dalliance wrong. Try two l’s. (continues reading) Why dream? When dreaming only stifles the rapture felt from stolen moments with the one I love.
FRANK. Isn’t it terrific stuff? I don’t even know what rapture means, but it sounds great!
TOM. Why exist? If existence betrays the very essence of my core, if I can’t be with the one I love. (big finish) For though we breathe the same air, toil on the same earth, dream of being together and exist in the same universe, without the one I love, my life is sullen and irrelevant. (a beat)
FRANK. So, what do you think?
TOM. I’m very impressed, but what’s the point? You do admit you hate women, don’t you?
FRANK. I love women. I hate relationships.
TOM. But why?
FRANK. Don’t like to be controlled. You’re in a relationship with a woman, you’re asking to be controlled. Show me the woman who won’t try to control me, and I’ll marry her.
TOM. Not such a tall order, I’ll show you a whole list of woman who won’t try to control you.
TOM. It’s called the obituary column in the New York Times.
TOM. You know, I just can’t figure it out. Here you are, living in an apartment the size of my bathroom, you’ve got no discernable assets, you drink and gamble, yet you have more sex than a perverted matinee idol.
FRANK. It must be my boyish charm.
TOM. Can you ever be serious? Why don’t you clean up your act? I can’t figure out why these women even put up with you. You have absolutely nothing to offer them. And don’t give me that aspiring novelist crap.
FRANK. Is that so, Tom? I have nothing to offer them? Well, let me tell you buster, I have plenty to offer them.
TOM. For instance?
FRANK. Two things come to mind right away, fun and excitement.
TOM. What about money?
FRANK. That, they get from their ex-husbands. It’s a vicious cycle. I pay my ex money, you pay yours, then we all date each other’s ex’s. Keeps the money in circulation and everybody’s happy.
TOM. You could win a Nobel Prize in economics with that theory, but I still don’t get why woman date you?
FRANK. I’ll explain. You see, most of the guys they date are dull. I’ve got passion Tommy. I make them laugh. I tell them jokes. Cook for them. Take them out dancing.
TOM. Don’t forget the poems.
FRANK. That’s right. And I write them poems. Tell me something Tom, when’s the last time you wrote a poem for Susan?
TOM. Hallmark writes my poems.
FRANK. Well, I wonder what she sees in you.
TOM. I’m stable and not psychotic.
FRANK. They like me psychotic. It’s part of my charm.
TOM. Don’t you realize, you’re engaging in a series of meaningless relationships?
FRANK. I have to, I’m bitter and angry.
TOM. At who?
FRANK. You know who, I’m not going to mention her name.
TOM. You mean Nancy?
FRANK. You had to say it.
TOM. Here it comes again, she broke my heart, she two-timed me…
FRANK. Actually, I think she eight-timed me. Let’s see, there was that tile installer, that landscaper, that plumber…
TOM. All she needed was a carpenter, and she could have opened her own construction company.
FRANK. Sure, make light of my pain and anguish.
TOM. Frank, you are your own worst enemy.
FRANK. What the hell does that mean? I love when people use that phrase. She’s the one screwing around, wouldn’t that make her my worst enemy?
TOM. You’ve got to let go Frank. Stop living in the past.
FRANK. That’s easy for you to say. You didn’t love her.
TOM. Don’t you see what you’re doing? You’re angry at Nancy, so now you date all these other women just to try and hide your own pain.
FRANK. And that’s a bad thing?
TOM. Yes, it’s called a rebound… and to make matters worse, you constantly obsess about your last relationship. You push women away and then get angry when they leave.
FRANK. That’s not true. Well, maybe a little.
TOM. Why don’t you go with married women? This way you get the sex, without the commitment.
FRANK. Are you kidding? I’m Italian, I can’t do that. Don’t you know there’s an unwritten code between Italian men?
TOM. What is it?
FRANK. You don’t sleep with my wife, I don’t break your kneecaps.
TOM. Good code.
FRANK. Seems to work.
TOM. Then why don’t you try using an escort service? At least with a hooker, you could stay emotionally detached.
FRANK. I tried that once, it didn’t work.
TOM. Why not?
FRANK. After the third date, I accused her of sleeping with other men… the bitch.
TOM. (Rooting around couch.) Where is it?
FRANK. Where’s what?
TOM. That legal pad you had. I must explain the concept of the time line to you.
(FRANK nods towards desk. TOM crosses to desk and tears off three sheets of legal pad. He lays the first sheet down right on floor or table)
This sheet represents the past. That’s where you are Frank, with Nancy and your ex-wife, stuck in the past. (He lays the second sheet down center.) This is the present. Here’s where the rest of the world is Frank. (Lays down third sheet.) This is the future. (He picks up first sheet, crumples it and throws it at Frank.) Now, the past is irrelevant. (Picks up last sheet and repeats.) The future is irrelevant. (He steps on third sheet.) Come join us all in the present Frank. It’s fun here. We don’t dwell on our problems here.
FRANK. I am in the present Tom, but in my present, I choose to be angry and bitter. It is my present you know, if you don’t like it go get your own.
TOM. I already have one. (He bends down to get third sheet and grimaces in pain.)
FRANK. Tommy, what’s the matter?
TOM. It’s just a twinge. I’m still recovering from that hernia operation I had last week.
FRANK. Gee, I’m sorry.
TOM. Fortunately for me, in my present I have the lovely Susan to nurse me back to health. So, if you don’t mind…
FRANK. Oh, sure Tom, thanks for dropping by, and thanks for the tomato paste.
TOM. Oh, and a word of advice, this woman tonight is an intelligent professional. Try not to be yourself.
(He takes a last look around)
You might want to try hanging a few pictures around here.