Friday, June 15, 2012

Second Helpings of Cyanide - Part 4

Here's Act II! For this part, I was hoping anyone interested in commenting could not only focus on what's funny and what's not, but on the strength of the characters. Enjoy!


The stage is now the show’s backstage, fleshed out to show how cluttered with junk it truly is. CHUCK is the only one there sitting down… JULES stands, continuing to practice for his sonnet for CHUCK.

JULES : A land begot with confusion appears
To the blind man who rules this kingdom fair,
And woe is he! For if he had but ears
To know the truth, it’d strip his logic bare!
For in the conflict of good and evil,
Who knows the difference without their signs?
None of you can stop this here upheaval
For now you must watch as the stars align.
Pardon me if my rhyme does offend thee
As the pills to fix one’s blight must so do!
But remember, these shadows are like me,
Their existence is possible by you.

During these sentences, the following pantomime occurs. CHUCK enters, looking happy and unlike the self that the audience has seen so far. RONALD enters, approaching by CHUCK and putting his arm on him. As MARION enters, RONALD whispers something to CHUCK. CHUCK refuses at first, and RONALD crosses his arms and looks away, changing his friendly mood to one of hostility. CHUCK finally gives in and starts to pantomime an argument with MARION in his usual manner. RONALD sits back and laughs. MARION, finally fed up with him, leaves.  CHUCK, finally gaining the scope of what he’s done, looks dejected and regretful. RONALD goes up to him, happy and excited, and shakes his hand. CHUCK instantly goes back into an energetic, happy spirit. SLYVESTER enters, glaring at them. CHUCK and RONALD leave, as SLYVESTER begins to approach JULES.

JULES : So join me! Watch them pursue moonlight daises
And then we’ll laugh, knowing that they’re crazy!

SLYVESTER grabs JULES, who cries out in terror. He pins him up against the wall and ties him up with the rope from his pocket.

SLYVESTER: I heard within your feeble voice a bit
of concern for your Bob… this will not do!
With this rope, you shall be here till the end
of that brute masquerading as your lord.

JULES: Okay, can you just quit it? We’re just trying to put on a show and make it through school ok, and then you barge in and throw a play in Cronos’s face and just take over! We were going to do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead until you talked Cronos into this! So come on now… the whole ‘destroy Chuck’ thing is a cover. But what for exactly?

Silence. Then…

SLYVESTER: Well… it’s only fair, after all of this, that I finally come clean. I really am going to destroy Chuck.

JULES : See? I knew that, if you gave… wait, WHAT?

SLYVESTER: (laughs) I had you going, didn’t I? You might as well sit back… I love this plan so much, I’m just dying to tell someone.  You’ve gone through enough to deserve it.

JULES : You’re planning on killing Chuck…

SLYVESTER: But who would know? I’ve been acting so over-the-top all of this time that no one has suspected a thing of me. You all trained yourself to just ignore me, so no one noticed when, today, my sword is sharpened to the point of being lethal! …wait, did you say killing? No no no, I have no need for that. I just want to cut him up a bit.

JULES : So what’s on that blade then?

SLYVESTER: (looks at blade, smiles) You’ve read your Hamlet, Mr. Clifton.

JULES: I was the only one in class that did…

SLYVESTER: But yes, there is a certain type of poison on the blade. Not lethal, but enough to accomplish…

JULES: So why Chuck?

SLYVESTER: Look, can’t you let a villain monologue in peace? Now I’ve lost my train of thought… ah yes. I’ve put on this blade the exact concentration of poison needed to make him suddenly hurl all the lunches he’s ever had on the entire stage. A few Siberia-sized boils later, and he’ll lose any friends he’s ever gained.

JULES : So… you know him well enough to know how his blood reacts to a certain concentration of poison.

SLYVESTER: A mere study. Nothing important.

JULES begins whistling “What is Love?”

SLYVESTER: Stop that! It’s not like that!

JULES : Alright, Sly, why are you doing this?

SLYVESTER: What do you care? He hates you.

JULES : Maybe not. I think, underneath him…

SLYVESTER: ‘He’s a wonderful human being.’ I’ve heard it before, and I’m sick of it. You don’t like him because he has the potential for a wonderful human being! You like him because it’s funny to hear a seventeen-year-old say, ‘poopy.’

JULES : You hate him for that?

SLYVESTER: Oh, believe me, he’s far worse. He’s symbolic of all that is wrong with this world. Everyone loves him! Everyone!

JULES: You mean Ronald? He hardly counts.

SLYVESTER: Oh, it’s the manipulative one especially. He cheers him on and applauds him everywhere he goes.

JULES : Ok, a bit controlling, but it’s not like Chuck’s made a habit of…

SLYVESTER: You really don’t get it, do you? He acts like this no matter what. You saw how even when he does something completely stupid, he gets attention, gets told it’s ok. When I embarrass myself, it’s hysterical. When he embarrasses himself, it’s heartwarming. Why can’t I be a lovable loser? Why? Damn him! If only I were a better loser!

JULES : Too late.

SLYVESTER draws out the sharp sword.

SLYVESTER: You might want to keep your mouth shut until the end of the play. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Once he throws up all over me, I’ll soon overtake him as a point of pity. They’ll all pity me, and eventually love me, just like they do for Chuck Rolfe… Chuck Rolfe, how I hate him. Him and his ‘superiority.’ He has everything I lack… well, except for money, emotional stability, height, looks, and actual acting chops. BUT EVEN SO!

RONALD enters, in costume, SR, but without makeup on.


RONALD begins walking up to SLYVESTER.

SLYVESTER: So! Vicky without her costly makeup
reveals herself ugly man indeed.

RONALD punches SLYVESTER, knocking him out. He then unties JULES.

JULES : You know, if Cronos sees that, you’re in trouble.

RONALD: (smiles) Can’t wait. Besides, it looked like you needed the hand.

JULES : We better get rid of this guy. If you do that, I’ll warn Marion.

RONALD grabs SLYVESTER and drags him offstage as JULES runs into an entering MS. CRONOS.

JULES : Everyone’s ok no unconscious bodies see ya thanks bye!

He runs like wild from a bewildered Ms. Cronos. After a few counts, CHUCK enters.

CHUCK: Hey, Ms. Cronos, can I talk to you?

MS. CRONOS: Sure. What is it?

CHUCK: I’ve… been trying to get others to laugh with me, for fun. But I saw how much I hurt Marion, and I realized what I’ve been doing to everyone else. I’d like to apologize.

MS. CRONOS: (dismissive, oblivious, obviously with something else on her mind) Good to hear, dear. Now get ready… the final performance starts soon. Break a leg!

She exits SR. JULES then sprints in right afterwards.

JULES: Chuck, hide. I’ll explain later.

CHUCK: Where to?

JULES: Try the girl’s dressing room. No one’s using it for this ‘accurate’ satire.

CHUCK leaves, and RONALD emerges from the other side.

JULES : I told Marilyn what’s going on. Is Slyvester put away?

RONALD: Of course! He’s stored up in the girl’s dressing room No one’s using it for this ‘accurate’ satire.

A pause. Then…

JULES: Umm… about that…


JULES: I… umm… I think I have some lighting cues to take care of! Gotta go!

He sprints offstage

RONALD: Why do I get the feeling that no one knows what’s going on?

MS. CRONOS: (offstage SR) Ten minutes until the show starts!

RONALD: Thank you, ten minutes!

MARION enters SL.

MARION: Is Jules still here?

RONALD: Just ran off. Why?

MARION: Oh, nothing. Now, it’s only a matter of time before Sylvester wakes up. So now what?

RONALD: Can Ms. Cronos lock the room?

MARION: What reason would we give her?

RONALD: We could just tell her the truth.

They both stare at each other for a few counts. Unable to hold it in any longer, they crack up, laughing loudly for a good long time.

MARION: Ahhhh… but seriously, she hates me, and she can’t take you seriously when you’re in costume.


MARION: It was your idea.

RONALD: It was funny until it wasn’t…

MARION: Darn it, I hate this show! But it has to go… hang on.


MARION: Those two characters will swordfight in the show.


MARION: We have ten minutes until the show starts.


MARION: (smiling) And if there’s a disaster backstage… I mean, something REALLY big… they’ll announce at the beginning that there won’t be a show.

RONALD: (thinking about it for a moment)… NO. No way.

MARION: C’mon, cut the drama. It’ll get us into trouble…

RONALD: Too much, really.

MARION: It’s better than my plan B. I’d make a big speech about how I’ll refuse to do it. They can’t go on after that; I’m the main character.

RONALD: No you’re not.

MARION: Well, I should be.

RONALD: Still… Plan A’s not much better…

MARION: Awww… wimping out?

RONALD: You wish! I’ll cut the power, you scatter the actors!


RONALD begins to leave SR when he bumps into JULES entering from SR.

JULES: (caught off guard) I still don’t know where Chuck is! Honestly!

RONALD: Keep it that way!

RONALD exits.

JULES: What just happened there?

MARION: Never mind. Talk with me for a bit.

MARION heads offstage SL with JULES. CHUCK and SLYVESTER enter in from the same way a little while afterwards.

CHUCK: So I’m really glad you’ve decided to listen to me about how I feel.

SLYVESTER: Chuck, Chuck, my friend, it’s all right. I’ve gotten a bit carried away by the show as well.

MS. CRONOS: (offstage SR) Eight minutes!

CHUCK and SLYVESTER: Thank you eight minutes!

SLYVESTER: Say, Chuck, our swordfight is still a bit shaky. Do you want to practice it before we go onstage?

CHUCK: (smiling) Sure, just make sure I don’t kill you.

SLYVESTER: (laughs) Very good, Chuck, very good!

CHUCK grabs his sword from a pile of props in the room and gets into a battle stance. SLYVESTER already has his sword with him.

CHUCK: Vicky, stay back! This deary land of woe
remains an unsuitable place for a
gal like you. So, Herbert, we then must face.
Thou art as strong as Ares is peaceful.

MARION enters SL.

MARION: Chuck! Don’t let him fool you! He really is the villain!

SLYVESTER: You cur! Are you completely feckless, sir?

CHUCK: No, I’d consider myself to have feck,
at least more than in terms of some brains.
I’ll make you Sing, Sing… sing… can I skip that line? It’s terrible.


MS. CRONOS: Six Minutes!

EVERYONE ON STAGE: Thank you six minutes!

MARION: He insulted you, Chuck!

CHUCK: I thought you knew me better than that!

SLYVESTER: This can’t be, if you love that brute Vicky.

MARION: (unwillingly) We do… but that’s all you’ll ever be good for.

CHUCK pauses for a bit. He is genuinely speechless for a moment. After a while, he tries to croak out some words.


CHUCK lunges at MARION, swinging his sword. JULES walks in, oblivious to what is going on, and CHUCK runs right into him. CHUCK stands up right away, and tries to continue his charge, but is tripped again by JULES as he tries to get up. SLYVESTER tosses MARION his sword.

SLYVESTER: (smiling) Aim for the knee.

A improv sword fight commences between MARION and CHUCK. CHUCK swings like a maniac, and MARION, uncoordinated with a sword, barely avoids the blows. While this occurs, JULES stumbles around in a daze, knocking into lights, props, and nearly everything else in his path.

CHUCK: You can’t stop this show!

MARION: Chuck, I’m sorry…

CHUCK: I’ve had eno…

From behind him, JULES puts a full-nelson on CHUCK, giving MARION a break. As the two men struggle, SLYVESTER grabs the sword out of MARION’s hands, eying CHUCK with a sense of victory.

MARION: (trying to grab the sword back) Can’t you just quit it?

SLYVESTER: (finally gaining full control over the sword) Oh, it’s far too late for that. If there’s no god for justice, I will make justice myself!

Suddenly, the lights goes out. All the action stops.

SLYVESTER: Sorry about that, God! You can put the lights back on now.

RONALD: I found the light switch!

CHUCK: Great timing, bimbo.

JULES: Bimbo?

SLYVESTER: Wait, who turned out the lights again?

MARION: It’s okay, everyone! We turned out the lights so that we can explain a few things. Long story short, Slyvester’s trying to kill Chuck.

SLYVESTER: Wait, kill? And besides, you were the one holding the sword.

MARION: So? You have it now.

SLYVESTER: Of course I don’t.

JULES: I did pretty well back there, huh Marion?

CHUCK: I knew it, Herbert! No amount of devilry could disguise your devilry!

RONALD: I don’t think you saw this coming.

MARION: I know you’re lying, Sly Locked.

JULES: What do you say, Marion?

SLYVESTER: Did I lie to you about my plan? I don’t have the sword.

RONALD: Oh, that’s right! Chuck, watch out for Slyvester’s sword. It’s lethal!

MARION: Yeah, great timing Ronald.

JULES: Oh yeah… I forgot! Locked has a lethal sword!

MS. CRONOS: (offstage SR) Three minutes!

CHUCK: Shut up, three minutes!

MARION: Chuck, do you have the sword now?

CHUCK: For now, until I shove it up Herbert’s…

A crack is heard.

MARION: Hey, that’s my skull!

CHUCK: Oh great, he got the stage manager too!

JULES: Darn it!


JULES: Oh nothing.

A slight pause.

MARION: Jules…

JULES: Oh, all right. I lost him.


JULES: The bad guy.

CHUCK: That doesn’t narrow it down…

JULES: Hang on, he said he didn’t have the sword. Who does?


RONALD: (with absolute sincerity) You know, I think I’m starting to enjoy myself now.

MARILYN: Good for you. So, if… wait, do you guys hear that? Sounds like someone’s coming in.

CHUCK: Whoever’s lurking around can leave! If you don’t, I will crucify you upside-down after pulling out all of your fingernails with the stinger of a bee…

The lights go back on. Each of the actors have scattered from their previous position, and SLYVESTER is nowhere in sight. CHUCK holds one sword, and the other one is held by JULES. The last one is held by MS. CRONOS, who’s standing by a light switch on SR.

CHUCK: ...until… until I say a very polite hello to Ms. Cronos!

MS. CRONOS: Hello, dears.

MARION: We are so a duck.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. There are some issues that came up in this part that may actually have more to do with the first act. In the first act, I assumed the show-within-the show was a college production, but the start of Act II has references to people's ages and classes that make it seem more like a high school production. Clarifying the setting in the first act would be helpful. I also assumed that Chuck was an older guy in the vein of "college professor who can't really act but teaches acting" or "local community member who fancies himself an actor but is unaware he is mediocre at best", so the pantomime part where he appears to be a genuinely nice person who just pretends to be a jerk was confusing and jarring to me. In a similar vein, Sylvester starts out like a method actor gone too far, but then he is revealed to be a jealous guy who knows what his real personality is yet has actually hatched a supervillain-ish plot, and this revelation makes his character suddenly seem too over-the-top and unbelievable.
    In the first act, all the characters seemed to be caricatures of the kinds of people one actually finds in the theatre (self-important guy who thinks he's the best actor, overworked person who somehow ends up having to do everything, guy who takes method acting too far, etc) and the show came off like a satire that is grounded in the real-life low-budget theatre experience. But then starting the second act this way shifts the tone significantly and makes your play seem more like a satire of sitcom-style high school hijinks complete with implausible plot twists and contrived dialogue (ex. "everyone's fine, no unconscious bodies, thanks, bye!")
    To put it another way, Act I feels like "Waiting For Guffman" while the start of Act II feels more like "Saved By The Bell: Theatre Camp". I'm not saying that either style is bad on its own merits; straight deadpan humor and over-the-top exaggeration can both create good satire. I just don't think they work together in this case because of the sudden difference in tone. I do like the farcical nature of your play, and I hope my comments will be helpful to you in some way.