Judgment Day/VK

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Cast of Characters
(in order of appearance)

Spencer Conklin Grace Conklin Jason Conklin Sarah Conklin Tucker Pressman Bridget O’Byrne

a man in his early 70’s a woman in her 60’s a man about 30 years old a woman about 28 years old a man about 35 years old a middle aged woman Time The Present Location Spencer Conklin’s Den

Judgment Day/VK Act 1 Scene 1 Late afternoon

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Lights come up on an elegantly decorated den. The appointments suggest affluence. Upstage center is a fireplace. To either side are French windows. In front of the fireplace are matching easy chairs, a coffee table, end tables and a bookstand. Stage left is an arched entry leading to a hallway. The upstage wall is replete with diplomas, awards and photographs. On the downstage wall is a gun cabinet. Stage right is a swinging door leading to the kitchen. On the upstage wall is a flat panel TV. Adjacent to the TV is a wet bar. Down stage right is a desk with a lamp. The desk is piled with papers and books. A man in his seventies enters, sits at his desk and works on his papers. He is casually dressed in denim, polo shirt and sandals. A woman enters with a book and quietly sits in an easy chair. GRACE Will my reading disturb you? SPENCER When has it ever? GRACE Are you ever going to talk about it? SPENCER What’s to discuss? GRACE Have you said anything to the children? SPENCER Not yet. GRACE Will you tell them, or should I? SPENCER Are you going to read that book or do you prefer to pester me? GRACE A simple answer will suffice. SPENCER Yes, I’ll do it … when they’re here together. (beat) Frankly, I have no interest in explaining it twice. Spencer moves to the bar Shall I fix you a martini?

Judgment Day/VK GRACE Extra dry. Just one olive. (beat) How do you think they’ll react? SPENCER Who knows? GRACE They’re not as insensitive as you make them out to be. SPENCER Insensitive? Really? For heaven’s sake, Grace, they couldn’t be more unfeeling than if they were dipped in Novocain. GRACE You’re bordering on melodrama. SPENCER I thought I was being perceptive. GRACE You’re being judgmental. (beat) As usual. SPENCER If only they would behave as mature adults, instead of .... GRACE If only you had an ounce of sensitivity. (beat) Children can never embrace mortality. SPENCER Not their own, perhaps, but certainly their doddering old parents. GRACE I’d rather you not list me among the “doddering.” SPENCER Sorry, Grace. GRACE Not yet. Spencer hands Grace a martini. She buries herself in her book. Spencer resumes shuffling his papers.

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Judgment Day/VK SPENCER Grace? GRACE What? SPENCER Are you comfortable? GRACE You mean in your chair? SPENCER You know perfectly well what I mean. GRACE How could anyone be comfortable? SPENCER Would you rather risk another episode? GRACE Knowing something in my head could go “poof” at any moment … No. SPENCER I meant with me. GRACE I’m as comfortable as I would be with anyone rummaging around in my brain. SPENCER Rummaging? Is that the best way you can describe my skill? It’s quite unprofessional, I must say! (beat) Your expression of confidence is rather unique. GRACE Do I really have a choice? SPENCER Of course you do. GRACE Really? If I choose someone else and surgery goes wrong they’ll say I should have had you. And if you operate and it goes wrong they’ll say I should never have had my husband do it. No matter what happens, it’s a lose-lose situation.

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Judgment Day/VK SPENCER Can’t we focus on it going right? (beat) You know I wouldn’t operate if I didn’t feel I was the most qualified.

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GRACE You honestly do believe that, don’t you? You know, there was a time when you could put me at ease with your total command of a situation. Right now, I find your self-confidence … annoying. SPENCER Would you rather have someone else? GRACE Spence, how can you say that? After forty years of marriage you still grovel for my approval. I was your first scrub nurse. Have you forgotten? Of course I want you to fix what’s wrong in my head. SPENCER Lately, you have a curious way of making me feel competent. Spencer sits in an easy chair. Grace approaches and sits on his lap holding her martini glass. She snuggles with Spencer. They embrace as he pets her. GRACE You know you’re the only one I’d ever let tinker with me. SPENCER Even with… GRACE (with a finality that belies her hesitance) Yes. SPENCER Would you be in the mood for a little bit of tinkering … upstairs? GRACE Yes! SPENCER (interrupted by kissing/petting/fondling) Grace, I haven’t always been there for you … I swear … I will not let you down. GRACE You really are a big mush.

Judgment Day/VK SPENCER You’re the only one who knows. MAN (O.S.) We’re home. Grace abruptly stands up. WOMAN (O.S.) Where is everybody? Sarah and Jason enter. Jason is carrying a small suitcase. Sarah fidgets with car keys and her purse. JASON Hi, Mom. Jason moves to embrace Grace. SARAH Hi Mom. Hi Daddy. SPENCER Welcome home, Sarah. (to Jason) No Hi for your Dad? JASON (playful) Do you need a hug? (beat) Or, do you prefer a macho handshake? SPENCER A little affection for the old guy wouldn’t hurt. Jason embraces his father and exaggerates the hug. JASON There now, does the big guy feel better? SPENCER Ah, you were always a pain in the ass. (beat) How was your flight? JASON A pain in the ass.

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Judgment Day/VK

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SPENCER Ditto that. My last trip to Amsterdam for the Neurosurgical meeting was a nightmare. And let me tell you, first class is not what it used to be. JASON That, I wouldn’t know. GRACE (to Sarah) How was Cancun? SARAH Until Daddy’s text message, Great! Nothing like being with college kids at Spring break. GRACE Well I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. SPENCER When has she not? SARAH Daddy! SPENCER Aren’t you past your prime for that sort of thing? SARAH College wasn’t that long ago. SPENCER Maybe so, but isn’t it time for you to move on? (teasingly) You know, boyfriends, babies … a few rug rats in this house to make us smile? JASON Come on, Dad, Give her a break! Sarah hasn’t skied all the mountains in Europe yet. SPENCER Well, what about you, buster? You’re not getting any younger. SARAH Don’t bother, Jason. Until we have children, our lives will be meaningless. After all, his immortality is at stake.

Judgment Day/VK GRACE Spence! You’re such a hard ass! Let them settle in before you go off with your lectures. SPENCER (Penitent) As you wish. (Pause) (to Sarah) So! How was your flight? SARAH Horrible. SPENCER Well, by the sound of that I guess I’m in the doghouse. GRACE Come Sarah, you can tell me all the juicy stuff. Men have no interest in the finer details of a vacation. Grace and Sarah exit to the kitchen. Jason moves to the gun cabinet and peers in. JASON I see you’ve added to your arsenal. SPENCER You like it? JASON What is it? SPENCER It’s a Walther PPK. JASON (gesturing) Wasn’t that the pistol Hitler … (beat) Don’t tell me you purchased the original. SPENCER No, no. But I wish I could have. I was assured it was used in a James Bond movie.

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JASON What are you going to do with it? You’ve never so much as spent time at a target range in your life. (beat) God, you have enough here to outfit a militia.

Judgment Day/VK SPENCER Owning rare and beautiful things is its own reward. JASON You mean it’s the ultimate one-up manship. I own it and you don’t. SPENCER You know very well that’s not why I collect fine weaponry. JASON Some day you’ll have to convince me otherwise. SPENCER (wistful) Some day. Indeed. (Pause) So. Have you sold any of your lyrics? JASON You’d be the first to know. SPENCER No. I think that would be reserved for your mother. JASON Is there a new competition between you two that I’m unaware of? SPENCER At this stage of our life, what else is there? JASON So, what’s up Dad? Really SPENCER Can’t we first catch up on things … exchange a little light-hearted family banter? JASON When have we ever done that? Grace and Sarah enter. GRACE Spence, you must see these pictures.

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Judgment Day/VK SPENCER Some other time. JASON Well, I know you didn’t call us home just to needle Sarah, or discuss the arts in California, so why are we here? SPENCER Well, that’s going for the jugular. SARAH Your text message was rather strange. What’s going on? GRACE That’s my cue. I’m going to get ready for dinner. (Shaking her glass at Spencer) I’ll have another when I return. SPENCER At your service. Grace exits holding her martini glass aloft. SPENCER Well, frankly, there’s something you both should know. (silence) JASON And ... SPENCER (muffled/unsure) It’s about your mother. JASON Did you say it had to do with mother? SPENCER Yes. JASON What’s the matter now? SPENCER She requires surgery.

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Judgment Day/VK

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SARAH No! You told us she recovered. SPENCER From the bleeding. Not from its cause. SARAH She seems perfectly fine to me. SPENCER Indeed she does but we’ve documented a vascular abnormality in her brain JASON What does that mean? SPENCER She requires surgery. SARAH Oh, God! No! Sarah is overcome. Jason turns away to hide his feelings. SPENCER I’m afraid so. JASON Who’s going to do it? SPENCER Me. JASON (outraged) What? SPENCER Who better? JASON How could you? (beat) Operate on your own wife? SPENCER Because at my worst, I’m the best at what I do!

Judgment Day/VK JASON That’s your opinion. SARAH When? SPENCER Soon. (Pause) (subdued) It will be the last surgery I ever perform. SARAH Why? SPENCER I’m stepping down as Chief of Neurosurgery. SARAH You’re joking! JASON Ah, so the hospital is making the old guy an offer he can’t refuse.. SPENCER For your information, it is my decision. JASON How will you possibly survive without your cherished title? SPENCER I’ll have you know I earned that title … with hard work and dedication. I sacrificed my personal life for it. JASON Your absence has been duly noted. SPENCER We all make sacrifices in life, Jason. I made mine for academic excellence. JASON I know. You wear it like a laurel wreath.

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Judgment Day/VK SPENCER Perhaps I do. But I’m entitled. I’ve done some good in this world. What I do changes people’s lives. I believe my life has meaning. JASON Are you telling me my life is a waste? SPENCER That’s a judgment only you can make. SARAH Dad, what will you possibly do if you step down?

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SPENCER I don’t know. Teach … Perform minor surgery… Maybe assist now and then. (beat) I just won’t be able to run the Department anymore SARAH Why not? SPENCER Why not? Because fate, in her vicious irony, has dealt this neurosurgeon a rather rare neurological disease. (Awkward pause) JASON Which one? SPENCER Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, if you must know. (beat) Before you ask, it’s incurable. SARAH How long have you known? SPENCER For some time. SARAH How … long … SPENCER There’s no timetable. It can be slow. It can be rapid. JASON So, Mom will be your last performance.

Judgment Day/VK SPENCER Do you include sarcasm in your lyrics, or is that reserved just for me?

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JASON No, I get it. You intend to exit the surgical stage with fanfare and flourish. Your students will cheer but there’ll be no encore. SPENCER It seems there’s no limit to your insolence. SARAH Should I cancel my summer vacation? SPENCER Is my disease an inconvenience? Or is it your mother’s surgery? JASON Jesus, Sarah, are you on planet Earth? SARAH Daddy, I … SPENCER What a pity! You won’t be able to sun bathe in Nice or St. Tropez this year. SARAH Daddy, that’s not fair. You know I meant ... SPENCER You needn’t concern yourselves. I expect nothing from either of you. I just thought you should know. SARAH Who’s going to take care of Mom? And you? SPENCER Certainly, neither one of you. SARAH I meant medically. SPENCER I’ve just now asked Dr. Pressman to look after me.

Judgment Day/VK SARAH (shocked) Tucker? How can you possible ask Tucker? SPENCER On a first name basis, are we? SARAH I Meant … SPENCER Why should I not? SARAH (hesitant) He’s, he’s our age for God’s sake. SPENCER Are you in a position to judge his competence? SARAH There must be someone more experienced. SPENCER I’ve asked him because he’s my best friend’s son. I can’t think of another person I trust more. JASON Why don’t you go to someone who’s an authority or a world-renowned clinic like everyone else? SPENCER Because I am Dr. Spencer Conklin and I will not subject myself to having any random fool gawk at me. (beat) You two have no idea how my journey will end. SARAH Daddy, I’m so sorry. SPENCER Thank you Sarah but I forbid you to engage in maudlin sentimentality. JASON What about mother? SPENCER What about her?

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Judgment Day/VK JASON Is she agreeable having you … as her surgeon? With your …. SPENCER I was hoping the two of you are capable of … I meant … I hope the two of you can do your best to reassure her. JASON Is she agreeable?

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SPENCER Jason, we’ve been married so long we can almost complete each other’s sentences… No, she hasn’t said anything specifically, but my sixth sense tells me she’s frightened. (beat) It’s understandable … but doing nothing is not an option. Surgery is her only hope and I need not remind you it’s not like removing an appendix. JASON What are her odds? SPENCER Odds are for racetracks and casinos. They serve no purpose here. (beat) Tucker will be arriving any minute. I need to get dressed. Spencer walks to the archway and turns around Stifle your glee. I’m not dead yet. Spencer exits. Jason slumps in a chair. Sarah approaches him. SARAH What are you thinking? JASON His illness changes nothing. SARAH He told me Mom only had a mild stroke. Now brain surgery. JASON Yeah and I’m sure his illness is worse than he’s letting on. SARAH You’d think he’d be conflicted, emotional … indecisive … something.

Judgment Day/VK JASON Bull shit! You know him; he has all the answers. (beat) It’s, it’s all macho bravado. SARAH Why do you think he asked us to reassure Mom? JASON Who knows? Judging by the way he’s tried to run my life, I’m sure he’s got a plan. (absently) Right down to writing his eulogy. SARAH Don’t be vile. JASON And don’t you be naïve. Operating on Mom is unforgivable. SARAH Because he’s married to her? JASON Because he’s physically compromised. SARAH How do you know that?

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JASON Are you dense? He just told you! He wants us to be cheerleaders. It’s all about his ego --and his stupid self-righteous decision. SARAH Daddy has never asked us for anything in his life. Why now? JASON He wants us to share the guilt … if he screws up. SARAH That’s stupid! Everyone knows Daddy’s reputation. JASON Maybe so. But what happens to objectivity when you operate like this? SARAH Don’t you trust your own father?

Judgment Day/VK JASON O.K. He’s a world-class surgeon. Great! But operating on your own wife? Under these circumstances? No way. SARAH I’m sure he believes he’s doing the right thing. JASON I’ll try to remember that if Mom winds up …. SARAH Don’t you even begin to think… JASON This sucks! I’m out of here. Jason exits. Spencer enters. He is more formally dressed. SPENCER Where’s your brother? SARAH He went for a walk. SPENCER You mean he hasn’t the stones to confront me. SARAH Daddy, you can’t go on thinking Jason is a failure just because he didn’t chose to be a doctor like you. SPENCER No one can be like me! SARAH You’re impossible, Daddy! Your standards are beyond anyone’s reach. SPENCER I don’t expect much, Sarah. But, It would be nice if he stood up and assumed some responsibility … became productive … chose something meaningful … instead of wasting his education on trivia. SARAH Creativity is not trivial, Daddy.

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Judgment Day/VK SPENCER You are loyal. I’ll give you that. I hope your aspirations are loftier than … pop music. You need to get focused. A career perhaps. SARAH I chose one. Remember? SPENCER It wasn’t suitable. SARAH For whom? SPENCER Who else? SARAH Was photojournalism so unsuitable or was it a Conklin by-line that embarrassed you? SPENCER You know damn well that’s not why I objected. (Pause) Have you ever thought about marriage?

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SARAH That would be a consideration if you weren’t so equally judgmental about the boyfriends I choose. SPENCER Well, working for peanuts in a boutique and dancing ‘til dawn on the Riviera are not exactly noble pursuits. SARAH I truly don’t understand you. You trivialize everything Jason does and whatever I do or aspire to, you judge irrelevant. Well, don’t you waste another second worrying about me. I’ll find my career… on my own terms …in my own time. SPENCER Calm down, Sarah. SARAH Now I see what Jason is up against! SPENCER Sarah, listen … I only meant …