Scene I Neon Sign Flashes: “5 Years Later”. Music in background is the tune to “I Will Survive” in moderate disco tempo.
Curtain Opens to a farmhouse in Iowa. The Mother is putting bowls of steaming food on the table – stew, veg, pile of cornbread, mashed potatoes,
The same flat screen television from Act I is murmurs in the background.
Mother walks over to the television set and switches it off. The TV rises into the rafters.
Mother picks up a tiny ceramic bell and rings it, looking with satisfaction around the table.
Wait 10 seconds.
Mother rings the bell with more force, glancing up at the stairs. Wait 10 seconds.
Mother (bawling loudly): DINNER!
The other characters enter the stage. Father comes from the wings, with an Ipad in his hands. Daughter descends the stairs, shaking her hands as tho’ she’d just washed them. Grandmother hobbles in from the opposite wing. They sit around the table and silently begin to pass the bowls and load up their plates.
FATHER: According to the on-line version of Fox News, there’s been another outbreak of Ebola in Africa – this time in Johannesburg. That probably means another sector will be cordoned off and abandoned, since doctors have given up treating Ebola patients because of the riots. That makes 7 countries now. No telling where it will end.
MOTHER: There’s no chance of Ebola coming here, is there Papa?
FATHER: Of course there’s a chance, Mama, but it’s highly unlikely. We have those UV lights at all the airports and, God willing, they’ll kill those germs from these immigrants fleeing that country and coming here to suck off the tit of kindness this country extends.
GRANDMOTHER: Tit? What tits? (she looks down at her blouse front and her ample bosom) My buttons are all fastened – whose tits are showing?
FATHER (shaking his head) No, mother – everyone’s chest is covered in this household. I’m talking about immigrants from Africa.
GRANDMOTHER: Grunts? I don’t hear any grunting. Did the pigs get out of their pen again?
FATHER (becoming exasperated) IMMIGRANTS, Mother…people from Africa coming here to … never mind.
MOTHER (to the daughter): Do they teach you about Ebola over there at the high school?
DAUGHTER: Yes, mother. And about MERS and MRSA, bird flu, dengue fever, and AIDS. All these are symptoms of the beginning of the Sixth Extinction.
FATHER (raising his voice). I will have no talk about extinction in this household. According to Fox News, any talk about all that extinction is nonsense – just plain nonsense. None of us are going extinct.
GANDMOTHER (sniffing the air) Stink? I don’t smell anything – nothing stinks – just the smell of stew – quite tasty. John, whatever are you talking about?
FATHER: Mother, would you please put your hearing aid in?
GRANDMOTHER (quietly indignant) I can hear everything you say, John. But it would help if you didn’t mumble so.
Family continues eating. Mother gets up to fetch a pitcher and pours lemonade into everyone’s glasses. She sits back down in her seat and continues her meal.
MOTHER (to daughter): So what is this Sixth Extinction they talk about?
Father glares at the mother, who shrinks a bit in her seat.
DAUGHTER: My biology teacher says it began about 12,000 years ago in the Holocene Epoch. But the real problem began at the turn of the 20th century and the advent of the industrial revolution. The release of carbon into the atmosphere has contributed to global warming, and most of the disasters that have occurred around the world in the last 20 years can be traced to that.
FATHER: That’s what they’re teaching you at the high school? Oh my God. What would Reverend Thorne think about all that? The power of man to outwit God? No…I don’t think so.
GRANDMOTHER: Is Reverend Thorne coming to visit? I hope so – he’s hot!
FATHER: Mother, please – Reverend Thorne is not “hot”. He’s a middle aged, divorced Methodist minister with a drinking problem. Haven’t you noticed him sipping the wine between communion seatings at the rail?
GRANDMOTHER: I’d better go put on my best dress if Reverend Thorne is coming to visit. She leaves the table and exits stage right.
MOTHER: Papa, what else is in the news? I simply haven’t had time to look at TV in the last month or so.
FATHER: That buildup at the border between Russian Ukraine and Poland is getting bad. Putin won’t be stopped until he retakes all of Eastern Europe. And ever since President Jeb Bush was impeached and thrown out of office for his role in the conspiracy to kill Michael Moore, nobody’s had the balls to stop the Russians. It’s just enough to make you sick, I’ll tell you.
DAUGHTER: Daddy, the news isn’t making you sick – it’s the combined effects of global warming and species eradication. My biology teacher says…
FATHER (slamming his fist on the table): Enough about that biology teacher! I want you to bring him to this house so I can punch him in the snoot. No – I have a better idea! Since your grandmother is so eager to see Reverend Thorne, let’s invite both your biology teacher and Reverend Thorne over tomorrow night, and we’ll have a little discussion about all this global warming bull…loney. Then we’ll get this all straight.
GRANDMOTHER (from offstage) I’m gonna get my hair done tomorrow morning – that Reverend Thorne is soooo hot!
Act II, Scene 2
Father and daughter are seated on couch and chair in the farmhouse living room. Mother is arranging a buffet of cake and coffee on the adjoining dining table. The flat screen TV is on, but the sound is muted. Grandmother enters from stage right with her hair elaborately done up and clown-like makeup, dressed in a tight dress but still wearing old lady shoes. Father and daughter gape at grandmother, but say nothing. Grandmother sits on other side of couch from daughter. Mother comes and sits in her chair. There is an empty chair next to the couch. The doorbell rings. Father rises to answer the door.
FATHER: Reverend Thorne – welcome! Come in, please.
REVEREND THORNE: Thank you, John. I appreciate you inviting me over for a visit.
The Reverend and John are shaking hands and the Father is guiding the minister over to the empty chair. He sits and greets the rest of the family. The doorbell rings again. The Father goes to open the door. The Biology Teacher enters.
FATHER: Good evening – I’m John…
BIOLOGY TEACHER (interrupting the Father) Hello – I’m … your daughter’s Biology teacher.
There is an awkward silence, but it’s clear the teacher looks stunned to be in the family’s living room. The daughter jumps up and – with a knowing look at the teacher – guides him to sit next to her on the couch. There is a hubbub where greetings are exchanged all around. Grandmother only has eyes for Rev. Thorne.
MOTHER: I made some snacks if anyone is hungry – just some apple brown betty and coffee.
REVEREND THORNE: I don’t suppose you’d have anything stronger?
MOTHER: I think there’s some instant espresso in the cabinet.
The minister frowns but says nothing. Grandmother squeezes herself over to the end of the couch, and ogles the minister. He glances over and does a double-take, but again says nothing.
FATHER (clearing his throat): Well, it’s nice that we’re all together. Uh…daughter has told us so much about you..uh..teacher.
BIOLOGY TEACHER (Looking terrified) Oh? Um..what exactly has she told you?
FATHER: Oh, she mentioned something about that Sixth Extinction you told her about, and some stuff about this global warming thing. I’m not too aware of these things, here on the farm, and I’d like to be checked out on all that.
Father leans over closer to the Biology teacher and fixes him with a hostile stare. The minister tries to squeeze away to the other side of his chair to avoid the grandmother’s leering.
MOTHER: Papa, why don’t we serve our guests some snacks before we get into all that?
Mother gets up and brings a tray over with the dishes of dessert. Reverend Thorne spies a bottle of wine on the sideboard in the dining room. He gets up and goes over to look at it. He lifts the bottle and blows the dust off.
REVEREND THORNE (to mother): Do you mind if I help myself to some of this fine looking wine?
MOTHER – raising her hand in protest: Oh, I mostly keep that out for..
Minister takes a long pull on the wine from the bottle.
MOTHER (falteringly finishing the sentence) …decoration.
Minister returns to his chair and keeps the bottle in his lap. Daughter is snuggling up next to Biology Teacher. The Biology Teacher looks very uncomfortable. Grandma is moving her shoulders in a provocative manner and eating her dessert like the scene in Tom Jones. Everyone but the minister begins to eat their dessert.
MOTHER: Coffee, anyone?
They all murmur and shake their heads no. They nibble and put down the snacks.
FATHER: Now, as I was saying, about this global warming extinction thing. I’ve asked Reverend Thorne to join us here, so we can get the (emphasizing) OTHER side of the story about this stuff.
BIOLOGY TEACHER (beginning to relax a bit) Sure – I’d be happy to debate the subject with the minister.
The minister has been taking long pulls from the wine the entire time. He just nods and goes back to nursing the bottle.
Everyone looks expectantly at the Biology Teacher. Daughter is looking at him with adoring eyes.
BIOLOGY TEACHER (going into teacher mode): Well, it all began about 12,000 years ago in the Holocene Period. Many scientists believe we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction event caused by humans. It’s estimated that as many as 30 percent of plant and animal species may become extinct within the next 100 years. Habitat destruction is the leading cause of species extinction today. And the main reason for this habitat destruction is human activity. Farming practices are largely responsible for aquifer depletion and the permanent impacts to soil composition and fertility. According to the best minds…
FATHER (interrupting): So you’re saying farmers like me are going to cause the end of the world?
BIOLOGY TEACHER (realizing his mistake) Uh, well, I was speaking generically – not specifically about you, sir. I’m sure your farming practices are excellent…top of the line!
DAUGHTER: But Dad, you know you’ve had to drill a new well every couple of years – and each one deeper than the last. Isn’t that so?
FATHER (glaring, icily): Thank you for sharing that tidbit of information with us, dear. It’s just a temporary effect that will go away after we have a few good rains. Uh, Reverend Thorne, do you have any thoughts about this?
REVEREND THORNE (looking happily tipsy): Well, John, according to the Bible…(minister adopts his sermon voice – like the guy’s voice in the Allstate commercials)…Following the Flood, God assured Noah that there would be no other worldwide water catastrophe as long as the earth remains -Genesis 8:22. According to this promise…
(Minister looks up as though recalling the exact passage) “seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Peter mentions that in the last days people will say that…
(Minister recites from memory): “all continues just as it was from the beginning” 2 Peter 3:3–7. Christ also mentioned that in the days prior to His second coming all would continue routinely, “just like in the days of Noah” Matthew 24:37–39.
GRANDMOTHER (attempting to grab the minister’s arm – loudly) Isn’t he just wonderful? I could listen to that voice all night long!
The minister returns to drinking the wine, satisfied that he’d won the debate.
FATHER (hostile): Ok, teacher man, what do you say in response to that?
BIOLOGY TEACHER: Um, what do I say in response to what the minister said? I say it’s a bunch of nonsense.
Grandmother makes goo goo eyes at the Reverend, who is clearly getting drunk. He smiles at Grandma and pats her hand.
REVEREND THORNE: Aren’t you sweet? Did you do something with your hair?
FATHER: Nonsense – nonsense? All my sources of information tell me that you bug-and-bunny hugger-types are trying to scare us into believing this stuff about the Sixth Extinction. Nonsense? That’s nonsense! If you were a good, God-fearing teacher instead of a pinko commie enviro weirdo, you’d really understand the damage you’re doing.
BIOLOGY TEACHER (calmly). As I said before, the best minds in the world are saying these things – not me. But every time we try to deal with facts, you global warming deniers resort to arguments based on the Bible. It undermines everything science tries to accomplish. But wait a sec… I have a quote here that really says it all.
The teacher removes a card from his breast pocket. He puts on his reading glasses and focuses on the card.
BIOLOGY TEACHER: “We are all free in a democracy to believe whatever we wish, so why call any opinion such as Creationism a virulent cultural parasite-equivalent? Because it represents a triumph of blind religious faith over carefully tested fact. It is not a conception of reality forged by evidence and logical judgment. Instead, it is part of the price of admission to a religious tribe. Faith is the evidence given of a person’s submission to a particular god, and even then not to the deity directly but to other humans who claim to represent the god.” Edward O. Wilson, wrote that in his book, The Meaning of Human Existence
FATHER: Did you just call me a name – a global warming denier? Is that supposed to be an insult? Hah! ‘Cause you’re right – I deny global warming! I deny that humans are responsible for natural disasters. And I deny that you are qualified to teach my daughter biology. In fact, I’m goin’ with my original plan, buddy – I’m gonna punch you in the snoot.
The father jumps up and threatens the biology teacher, who raises his arms to shield himself. A loud version of the Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” emanates from the flat screen television in the corner. The words “Breaking News” fill the screen. It’s enough of a distraction that the Father hesitates in his effort to punch the Biology Teacher.
FATHER: Mother, go turn that television off so we can finish this.
Father continues to threaten and wrangle with the biology teacher. Mother goes over to the television, stares at the screen for a few seconds, and then turns up the volume. Same announcer as in Act I appears on the screen.
ANNOUNCER: This just in. The Russian Ukrainian Army has just invaded Poland from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. They have also launched an invasion through the Russian-occupied territories in the Balkans to occupy Austria and east Germany. President Putin has been on Russian television all day, telling the Russian people that the Poles were the aggressors, with NATO troops involved as well.
(Clip from Russian television with Putin speaking Russian in the background but English translation)
VLADIMIR PUTIN TRANSLATOR: …I had no choice but to launch this attack to protect Mother Russia from Western aggression. We will not stop until we have destroyed the NATO pact and created a full buffer zone and insulate ourselves from this naked aggression. If necessary, we will use nuclear weapons to prevent the occupation of our country by forces trained and supported by the United States and the puppet German Republic.
ANNOUNCER: The response from NATO has been weak and ineffectual. Despite multiple warnings to former President Bush, who was hamstrung by lack of funding from Congress, the US never bolstered defenses in Eastern Europe. The whole of eastern Europe is now in the hands of the Russians, who will continue to threaten the defenseless Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic with Iskander nuclear missiles, capable of being launched from Kaliningrad. In addition, according to President Putin..
(Another clip from Russian television with translation)
VLADIMIR PUTIN: “Now that we have safely occupied this buffer zone and destroyed the NATO pact, it will be necessary for the west to remove the illegal economic sanctions they employed in a futile attempt to destroy Mother Russia. We have cut off supplies of oil and natural gas to these occupied countries, and will not reinstate them until these sanctions are fully removed, and reparations totally one trillion rubles are paid by these occupied countries. They will learn not to offend the Russia bear for the rest of eternity.”
ANNOUNCER: Meetings are currently underway at the United Nations to address Russia’s actions. But with Russia having veto power in the Security Council, it’s clear that nothing can be done but to accede to Putin’s demands and pay the reparations. In other news, the baseball strike is now in its fifth year, with no sign of agreement between players and owners. The next negotiating session is set for Thursday. Now this. (Commercial for ADT Security Services).
Mother turns off television and turns to the assembled group.
All in unison except Grandmother and Rev. Thorne: YES!
The mother brings the coffee tray over and sets it on the table. Everyone drinks a cup.
FATHER: Now where were we? Oh yes, I was about to punch this guy’s lights out.
BIOLOGY TEACHER (stunned)..Uh, sir..uh..did you not hear what was said on the television? All of Europe is now at war. I think we should…
FATHER: What happens in Europe is of no concern to me. Never thought we should get involved with all that in the first place. I know our Congressman King never supported sending money to those Polacks…they’d have just spent it on vodka. Speaking of alcohol, shouldn’t you slow down a little bit there, Reverend Thorne?
REVEREND THORNE (clearly agitated and very drunk with a loud, vengeful God voice) “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” Matthew 24, verse 29. This is it. Armagedden has begun. We must prepare the way of the lord! Prepare the way! Prepare the way!
Reverend Thorne falls on the stage and passes out.
DAUGHTER: Dad … Mom … now that we’re all together and my teacher … Jim … is here, I have something to tell you.
MOTHER (distractedly, after seeing the minister on the floor): Yes, dear?
FATHER: Not now, daughter. Mama, help me get this drunken fool back in his chair.
Father rises to attempt to lift the minister.
DAUGHTER: Mom…Dad…I’m pregnant and Jim here is the father of my unborn child.
Father stares with wide eyes. Biology Teacher looks cornered. Mother is smiling and murmuring about babies. Reverend Thorne is passed out and Grandma is attempting to spoon with him. Father jumps up from trying to lift Reverend Thorne and attacks the Biology Teacher, who begins to loudly yell.
The curtain falls.
ACT II, Scene 3
9 months later. Living room of the farmhouse in Iowa. The family is sitting together in the living room, discussing the impending birth of the child.
DAUGHTER: If it’s a boy, I’m going to name him Jim – after his father. If it’s a girl, I’m going to name her Destiny. It was my destiny that I would conceive a child with the love of my life.
FATHER: Love of your life, eh? And where is he now? Lost his job and taken off for God knows where. It’s enough to make you sick, I’ll tell ya.
MOTHER: Now Papa, let’s focus on the positive – we’re going to be grandparents! And your mother is going to be a Great grandmother. That’s something to be pleased about, isn’t it?
FATHER: Speaking of my mother – where is she? I haven’t seen her since breakfast. Daughter, please go check and see what your grandmother is up to now.
Daughter exits stage left and returns a moment later, stunned.
DAUGHTER: Mama – Dad – I think Grandma’s gone.
FATHER: Gone? Gone where? Don’t tell me she’s chasing after that drunk Reverend Thorne again?!
DAUGHTER: No – I mean she’s gone – I think she’s dead!
FATHER jumps up and exits stage left. He returns momentarily.
FATHER: Mama, call the folks at Ames mortuary – Mother has passed on.
Father sits down and begins to sob. Daughter goes over and pats him on the shoulder. Mother gets up and dials the telephone.
DAUGHTER: Dad, she lived a good long life- and it looks like she went peacefully. Isn’t that all we can ask for? Ooh!
(Daughter clutches her huge belly): Wow – ow! That one hurt. You don’t suppose it’s time, do you?
Mother returns to the living room.
MOTHER: It could be – your due date is two weeks’ away, and it’s not unusual for the first baby to be early. I guess I need to call Dr. Samuels too?
FATHER: Mama, do what you have to do. I’m just not myself at the moment.
Mother returns to the telephone and dials again. She returns to the living room.
MOTHER: Dr. Samuels says to take you over to the hospital. Let’s get your suitcase, and run over there. It’s probably a false alarm, but you can’t be too sure.
Daughter and mother exit stage right. Father is left in the living room. He looks bereft. As if to distract himself, he switches on the flat screen TV.
ANNOUNCER: This just in – a bulletin of significant proportion. There has been an attempted coup against the life of President Cory Booker. The coup d’etat was led by Army Chief of Staff Billy Sol Weston, a known, vocal advocate of the teachings of the Indian guru Suringar Singh.
(Image labeled “Suringar Singh” flashes on the screen. It’s the Oracle.)
ANNOUNCER: The raid on the White House began before dawn this morning, with tanks surrounding the building and a cadre of young officers storming the building, apparently intent on killing the President. However, President Booker and his family were able to escape down the back stairs, and flee in the President’s Press Secretary’s automobile. The whereabouts of the president and his family are unknown at this moment, but he sent a message saying he had no intention of returning to the office, fearing for his life and the life of his family. The Vice President, former actor George Clooney, has taken the oath of office and is currently in the White House under armed guard. Army Chief of Stuff Weston released this video message to the media at 10:30 am this morning.
CHIEF OF STAFF WESTON: Good morning, my fellow Americans. This morning I ordered the attack against the President and Vice President, for the good of the country. Our esteemed leader, Suringar Singh, let us know that President Booker and Vice President Clooney were planning to declare the constitution null and void, and to institute martial law. We could not let that happen to our glorious nation. I am temporarily taking over the government, but my orders come from the great and wonderful Baghwan Suringar Singh – knower of all things and master of the universe. The Baghwan, Suringar Singh, has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow morning, so that you will know why our actions in this matter were necessary. Stay calm, don’t be afraid, and all will be well. Thank you, and pray to Baghwan Suringar Singh to bless the United States of America.
ANNOUNCER: In other news, members of the teams in the N.F.L. East have joined the baseball players, in sympathy for their strike action against the owners. It is expected that other N.F.L. divisions will soon join the strike as well. Football season will be postponed indefinitely. No word yet from the N.B.A. Now this.
Commercial for Latuda -“If you are suffering from bipolar depression, there is help available for you. Latuda can help control your symptoms.” Scene ends with Oracle sitting on the end of the stage singing the lyrics from “I Will Survive”. Father is on stage in the background
No, not I, I will survive
Long as I know how to love
I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got my life to live
And all my love to give and I’ll survive
I, I, I will survive..
Music fades and Oracle moves off the stage. Father is in a halo of light. He puts his head back and roars “What’s Happening to me?” Curtain Falls.
END OF Act II