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Blind Study

By John DiFelice

Copyright John DiFelice, 2012

Characters HUNGER STRIKE (Female, 20s) ADAM (Male, 20s) thin, average height. DONNA REED (Female, 50s) TOM (Male, 40s) has a large physical presence.

(The setting is a lavishly decorated room. An offstage door is the only way in or out and is suggested upstage right. An ornate table filled with food, desserts, bottles of wine, and pitchers of water occupies center stage. Four chairs are positioned about the room in plain view. Two small tables covered with magazines are positioned near each of the two sets of chairs. The characters have been in the room for an indeterminate amount of time. There are no timetelling devices anywhere: no wristwatches, no cell phones, no clocks on the wall. At rise, ADAM eats near the downstage left side of the table from a plate loaded with food. His glass of white wine rests on the table within arm's reach. TOM stands to the right of ADAM, devouring the food from his own plate that is even more heavily loaded. DONNA sits downstage right and quietly nibbles on an apple slice sandwiched between a cracker and a piece of cheese. HUNGER STRIKE sits and reads a magazine downstage left. ADAM bites into a blini and smiles.) ADAM Wow. You can say that again. (Beat) Wow. (TOM and ADAM chuckle.) TOM This food is great. (To DONNA) How 'bout it? (DONNA smiles half-heartedly and nods.) ADAM It's exquisite. I can't say I understand, but ours is not to wonder why. Actually, I do wonder why, but I'm not gonna argue with this spread.
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TOM ADAM

TOM Signing up for this is definitely one of the smartest things I've done. I believe that. (Beat) What? What? You believe what? TOM ADAM TOM ADAM

ADAM (Pause, TOM stares at him) Nothing. It was a joke. I'm kidding around. TOM I didn't know we knew each other that well. (ADAM continues to eat. TOM walks to DONNA with his plate of food, busily clearing it.) DONNA (To TOM) You're eating like you're afraid someone's going to take it from you. (Smiles) Who knows when they will? She's allowed to joke? DONNA (To TOM) Who says they will? They said we could eat as much as we want. TOM That's what they all say until you read the fine print. DONNA Maybe they'll let you take some home. TOM That's not a bad idea. I wouldn't mind eating like this for a couple more days. TOM ADAM

Don't eat out much?

DONNA

TOM I eat out all the time. That's the problem. My wife stopped cooking years ago. DONNA You could learn to cook yourself. Wanna give me lessons? TOM

DONNA Why don't you ask your wife to give you lessons? TOM She's not my wife anymore. She couldnt cook to save her ass anyway. They have foie gras. Foie gras! ADAM (ADAM spreads some on a cracker and takes a bite.) ADAM (cont'd) And it's really good. I mean, come on. Who puts out complimentary pt? (Pause) (Pointing) And has anyone tasted the dumplings? Wasabi dumplings? Unbelievable. If I weren't so bowled over by the food I'd start to wonder why were here. (ADAM's attention is caught by HUNGER STRIKE and how she is not eating.) (While chewing) Not hungry? No. ADAM (cont'd) HUNGER STRIKE

ADAM Me neither. Fortunately that has nothing to do with my eating habits, not when the food's free. I would've figured we were in the same boat. What boat? HUNGER STRIKE

You said you're in grad school, right? Yeah?

ADAM

HUNGER STRIKE

ADAM So you must know the value of a free meal. I do...when I'm hungry. HUNGER STRIKE

ADAM (Sarcastic) Well, if you're not hungry... (Confidentially) Unless you know something we don't. Something... HUNGER STRIKE

ADAM You know, something about the whole... HUNGER STRIKE Oh, no. No. I don't know anything...nothing about this, I mean. Other than not being hungry. Right. Other than that. Hmm. What "Hmm"? HUNGER STRIKE ADAM HUNGER STRIKE ADAM

ADAM I don't know. You're the only one not eating. The food's really good. You can trust me on that. I'm sure it is...but I'm not hungry. HUNGER STRIKE

ADAM Right, right. That's cool. (Beat) So what do you think's going on here?
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I have no idea. Not even a theory? Not even an hypothesis. (Impressed) Good word. You seem to have one. No. Just suspicions? Hardly. I've been too busy eating.

HUNGER STRIKE ADAM HUNGER STRIKE ADAM HUNGER STRIKE ADAM HUNGER STRIKE ADAM

HUNGER STRIKE Can't eat and think at the same time? I can't do much of anything when I eat. Can't multi-task? No. That's a myth, by the way. What is? ADAM DONNA ADAM

DONNA

ADAM Human multi-tasking. Some people can switch focus from one thing to another quickly, but it's not the same thing computers can do. DONNA

My son can multi-task. He can listen to me talk about my day while watching a football game. ADAM Uh...I hate to break it to you, but he probably wasn't paying attention to your conversation. I know. I was making a joke. DONNA

ADAM It was drier than this chardonnay (takes a sip) which is saying something. And who serves wine at one of these things? HUNGER STRIKE I dont know. Ive never been to one of these before. Have you? No. ADAM

DONNA I can pray while doing just about anything. Does that count? ADAM I don't know. I was thinking of only productive uses of time. (HUNGER STRIKE is amused.) TOM (Dishing more food onto his plate) What are you going on about? ADAM Multi-tasking and the myths thereof. And that led to the conversational skills of Donna Reed's son. DONNA Donna Reed? Who's that? Me? Tell me it's not. (Chuckles) Thanks, I'll take it. ADAM DONNA ADAM

(Gestures toward HUNGER STRIKE) Before that I asked Hunger Strike why she thinks we're here. Hunger Strike? Why she thinks we're here? Because I'm not eating? HUNGER STRIKE HUNGER STRIKE TOM

TOM (To ADAM) What do you mean "Why she thinks we're here"? ADAM (To TOM) Just a sec. (To HUNGER STRIKE) Don't you like it? (To ADAM) Hey. No I don't. Why not? It has intensity. TOM HUNGER STRIKE ADAM

HUNGER STRIKE It makes me sound like a political prisoner. Yeah. I'm asking a question. ADAM TOM

HUNGER STRIKE Do you make it a habit of nicknaming complete strangers? ADAM We're not complete strangers, are we? And I have to call you something. You're not the only woman, so pronouns won't help. Besides, the best names are the ones that are meaningful and are related to what people do. That's why nicknames are so great. They're the only true type of name, in my opinion, unless we start renaming people based upon they're occupations like they used to do, but we don't do that anymore. How many people named Baker actually bake bread nowadays? Do you
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know any Taylors who mend people's clothes? Not likely. And where are all the Jack Mortgagebrokers and Jill Yogainstructors? Do you ever stop talking? I'm not on a hunger strike. DONNA He's just teasing you. (To ADAM) And what is your name? ADAM That's up to you. Besides, we're not supposed to tell each other-DONNA I know. I just want to know what you'd call yourself. ADAM Today? Well I was the first man to arrive, so I guess that makes me Adam. Adam McAdams. (TOM laughs.) Joey seems to like it. Who's Joey? You. Is that right? ADAM TOM ADAM (cont'd) TOM TOM HUNGER STRIKE

ADAM You look like a Joey. (To the other two) Doesn't he look like a Joey? My name's Tom. TOM

DONNA We're not supposed to give out our names. TOM


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(Shrugs) I get paid either way. HUNGER STRIKE What if someone doesn't like her nickname? ADAM Do we ever get to choose what we're called? All the time. Yeah? TOM ADAM

TOM If someone calls you something you don't like, you smack him in the mouth. He'll stop. Sounds effective. It is. ADAM TOM

ADAM Gotcha...Tom. (exaggerated wink to TOM). (To HUNGER STRIKE) If it really bothers you, I'll call you H.S. for short, OK? Whatever. HUNGER STRIKE

TOM (To ADAM) So what did you mean about asking... her...Hunger, or whatever, why she thinks we're here? ADAM Well, why do you think we're here? We're here to take those tests. What tests? The ones, you know, about memory.
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TOM ADAM TOM

ADAM Where are they? Where are the tests? Where are the people who are supposed to administer the tests? Where's anyone? I dont know. TOM

ADAM We've been here awhile. I'm not complaining--they get major kudos on the food--but it has been a long time, at least an hour. TOM It's hasn't been that long. (TOM checks his watch and realizes it's gone) I forgot...they took my watch. Mine too. DONNA

HUNGER STRIKE They took all our watches, and our cell phones. Has anyone noticed there are also no clocks in here? ADAM No, I hadnt. (To TOM) Didn't you read that paper they made us sign? Which one? The one that explainedIs that filet? I read everything they gave me. How did I not see this? TOM ADAM

TOM ADAM (ADAM dishes himself out a large piece of thinly cut, rare filet.)

TOM Wait, which paper are you talking about? (ADAM bites into the meat.)
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Oh...you gotta try this. It's that good?

ADAM TOM

ADAM It's perfect. If I were a t-bone steak I'd marry it. (DONNA chuckles.) ADAM (cont'd) Sorry, I don't get to eat like this very often...or ever. (TOM eats a piece of filet.) TOM Now that is some good steak. Is there any steak sauce over there? I'm sure they know better. Then pass me the ketchup. ADAM You are not putting ketchup anywhere near that magnificent cut of meat. Give me the ketchup. No. TOM What do you mean, No? ADAM I can't watch you murder that animal twice. Give it to me. I can't.
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ADAM TOM

TOM ADAM

TOM ADAM

Oh, for Christ's sake.

TOM (TOM walks towards the ketchup.)

TOM (cont'd) You put ketchup on steak sandwiches, don't you? Not where I come from. (Pause) (To HUNGER STRIKE) So did you have a big breakfast or something? HUNGER STRIKE What? Is that why you're not eating? TOM ADAM

HUNGER STRIKE (Incredulous) I'm not eating because I'm not hungry. Whats so difficult to understand? ADAM Because it doesnt make sense. (To DONNA) Back me up on this: isn't she missing out? DONNA I dont know about that, but (To HUNGER STRIKE) judging by the way you've been eyeing that food, I'd say you are hungry. Very hungry. I think I heard your stomach growl a couple times. I thought that was Tom. You'd know if it was me. ADAM TOM

ADAM I bet. (To HUNGER STRIKE) If you're hungry, why won't you eat? Especially with food like this. It's practically criminal. Why do you care if I eat or not? HUNGER STRIKE

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I don't. I'm just curious.

ADAM

HUNGER STRIKE No, it really bothers you that I'm not eating. ADAM No it doesn't. Why does it bother you? It doesn't. It obviously does. HUNGER STRIKE ADAM HS

ADAM (Sarcastic) Well maybe a little, but I promise I won't lose sleep over it. (HUNGER STRIKE goes back to reading her magazine.) ADAM (cont'd) (Laughs) Why are you getting so serious? I'm just kidding around. I really could care a less if you eat or not. Whatever you don't eat is more that Tom gets to take home. TOM You're the one who hasn't stopped eating for two seconds. DONNA (To ADAM) You are acting like it bothers you...the way you keep asking her about it. ADAM What is this, gang up on McAdams day? Does it bother you? Of course it does. Why?
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DONNA ADAM HS

ADAM (Laughs) I don't know. Gorging myself in front of someone who's not eating makes me feel a little... Guilty? DONNA

ADAM Yeah, it makes me feel a little guilty. What can I say, I'm a nice person. But it's not that I care if she eats or not: I just want to know her reason. TOM And she said it's because she's not hungry. What's so hard to understand? ADAM I just think it's odd, and I think it has something to do with why were here today. HUNGER STRIKE Well maybe this is the point. Maybe this is why were here today. The point of what? What we're doing here today. I'm here to get paid. Now that is brilliant. Maybe this is the real study. What is? The food? Maybe. What's the real study? ADAM HUNGER STRIKE DONNA HUNGER STRIKE TOM DONNA
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TOM HUNGER STRIKE TOM

You're saying the food is part of the experiment? TOM Hey! (Beat) What are you guys talking about? HUNGER STRIKE Tom, do you find anything strange about your day so far? TOM Where do I start? You got this guy over here giving everybody nicknames and going on about the dumplings like he's about to take them to a motel room. Why do you think were here? You mean why were-Yes. We're taking a psychology test. About what? About memory. Aren't we? HUNGER STRIKE And have we taken any memory tests in the hour or so since we got here? It hasn't been that long. No. ADAM TOM HUNGER STRIKE TOM HUNGER STRIKE TOM HUNGER STIKE TOM

HUNGER STRIKE No. Instead we were told to wait here in a room where there's an enormous feast laid out and we're told to eat as much as we want and we're not told anything else and haven't seen or heard from anyone else since we got here. Right? TOM Yeah. So?
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This is a blind study, Tom. You don't know that.

HUNGER STRIKE DONNA

HS (To TOM) It means the subjectsthats usdont know what the researchers are really after. The researchers told us one thing to keep us off our guard so they can have a more candid study of their real area of interest. ADAM You know, blind studies are so nineteen sixty-three. TOM So you're saying were not taking memory tests? It's just a guess. She's not saying that. I am saying that. DONNA HS

ADAM I once tried to perform my own Milgram experiment, but the scientist was flaming. He was like, (flamboyant) "Excuse me, but it is imperative that you complete this...Lord, where'd you get those boots?" TOM (To HUNGER STRIKE) So what? I mean, what difference does it make to me? HUNGER STRIKE Obviously it makes no difference to you. TOM That's right. It should. Why? HS TOM

HUNGER STRIKE You don't care that you're being manipulated?


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TOM Haven't thought about it. But now that I have, I don't care one way or the other. How can you not care? HS

TOM Why should I? It's really none of my business. I mean, they're tricking us for a good reason, right? You said so yourself: they're doing it so they can complete their work. If they told us we're doing memory tests and instead it turns out to be something about food, so what? They wouldn't be tricking us if it wasn't for a good reason, right? HUNGER STRIKE Thats not the point. What Im saying is (Beat, frustrated) Well, you didn't even know what you were doing here today. Sure I did TOM

HUNGER STRIKE You didn't even know what kind of study this could have been. So I'm curious how you could invest so much of your time into something and not care enough about it to research or even question it. DONNA Let's not argue about something we don't know for sure. ADAM Seriously. This is turning into a downer. HS Be quiet, Adam. (To TOM) How, Tom? ADAM Why's Hunger Strike getting so upset? HUNGER STRIKE (To ADAM) Stop calling me Hunger Strike. I'm not talking to you. (To TOM) Tom, don't you get curious about something that will take up an entire one of your days? Don't you wonder what you're doing and why? (Beat) No. TOM

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And that's OK with you?

HUNGER STRIKE

TOM (Beat) You're still in school, right? When you get out, you'll learn that the sooner you get used to being jerked around and having no control over your life, the better. Can I get an Amen?! ADAM

TOM Go out and work for a company for twenty-one years and then get canned by phone, like you meant absolutely nothing to them, not even worth a face-to-face, and then have to come here and do this kind of shit for a little extra cash...at my age. Realize there's not a goddamn thing you can do about it, and see how much something like this bothers you. Manipulated? You don't know what the word means. That's no excuse. Hunger-I'm sorry, that's all I know to call you... HS DONNA

TOM (To HUNGER STRIKE) I don't know where you get off telling me-DONNA Let's not get nasty at each other. You too, Tom. TOM Who's getting nasty? I just don't appreciate being talked to like, like I don't know what's going on. I know what's going on. I just don't care, because I know it's pointless. It's pointless to care. Whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen and that's the end of the story. You make a subtle point. ADAM

TOM And I've had about enough of your mouth too. HUNGER STRIKE Please. Please...I'm sorry. I shouldn't be doing this. It's not fair to the people conducting this study.

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DONNA It isn't. That young doctor we met in the beginning...he may not even be a doctor yet. He may still be in school himself. Who, Doctor X? (Pause) HUNGER STRIKE Now that's a cool nickname. Why couldn't you give me a name like that. ADAM Yours is cool too. You just don't know it yet. (Pause) HS Tom...I'm sorry. Forget what I said. I haven't eaten all day and it's... (goes to check her watch, remembers it's gone) whatever time it is, it's late. I guess I am hungry after all. I could've told you that. You did, Donna. You did tell me that. (To HS) Forget it. Aw, so we all still love each other? HS I shouldn't have said any of it. Don't listen to me. I was a little afraid this would happen, and I'm sorry. (ADAM and DONNA exchange glances.) ADAM A little afraid what would happen? (HUNGER STRIKE shakes her head.) DONNA
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ADAM

DONNA HS TOM ADAM

Afraid you would be too smart for them? That you would figure it out and ruin the study? Is that what you were about to say? TOM You know, I'm a big dummy, but that's my guess. HS That's not what I meant. ADAM Yes it is. (Laughs) God, I may have to change your name to Ms. Know-It-All. I'm not...OK, forget I said anything. HS

ADAM "Ms. Know-It-All" is a really bad nickname. HS Don't call me that. I'm obviously not a know-it-all. I dont even know how to apologize. ADAM So...wait a minute. If not eating makes you really smart, then it follows logically that I must be really, really, REALLY dumb. No, it doesn't. HS

ADAM Oh, but you, the really smart person, figured everything out and didn't eat, so that must make me, the guy who hasn't stopped eating since Doctor X left the room--right, Tom, you've been keeping track, I haven't stopped eating, have I? Nope. TOM

ADAM That must make me the dumbest person here. TOM No, I think that's still me. ADAM And it can't make Donna too bright either.

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I...

HS

ADAM Well, I'm not dumb. I'm actually pretty smart. HS I know you are. I can tell. ADAM When I'm not a lab rat in a psychological study or pretending I've been kicked in the nuts as a standardized patient, I teach the fabulously wealthy and musically hopeless how to destroy Bach on a Steinway. I would even go as far as to say that I'm smarter than you, Hunger Strike, because I did something really brilliant: I ate because I was hungry. I'm so stupid that I actually ate because I was hungry. Listen-HS

ADAM Why was I hungry, you ask? OK, I was hungry because I skipped breakfast and didn't have much of a dinner last night because the ATM laughed in my face when I went to take out money. HUNGER STRIKE Well maybe that's why you were chosen for this experiment. They probably needed people who would eat and they knew you'd eat. They knew your occupation and that you're someone who'd have the associated economic pressures. I'm a grad student. Most grad students are broke too. Maybe that's why I'm here. Or Tom: he's unemployed. TOM Yup. The big unemployed dummy definitely has economic pressures. DONNA Well I'm not broke and I'm not doing this for the money. Why are you here if not for the money? I thought it would be fun. You thought this would be fun? ADAM TOM

DONNA

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DONNA I'm interested in psychology. I thought it would be interesting, which is as close to fun as it gets for me. ADAM So are you having fun? Because I can think of plenty of other things I'd rather be doing right now. But I'm here because I have to be. I'm here because they're about to boot my car. I'm not doing this for fun, I'm not doing it because I'm interested in psychology, and I could give a rats ass about why we're really here. I'll do whatever they ask me to do. I'll run inside a gigantic, fucking hamster wheel so long as I get paid at the end of it. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that. I never said there was. TOM ADAM

TOM I'm agreeing with you. Don't get defensive. I'm not getting defensive. ADAM

HUNGER STRIKE Yes you are, and it's my fault. I'm sorry. ADAM You don't have to apologize. I just don't know where you get off pretending you know what's going on in my life. HUNGER STRIKE I never claimed to know anything. I'm sorry. ADAM The way you suggest that you have some superior intellect because you're too damn smart to eat a delicious feast they've given us for free. If that's being smart... (Pause) Great. Now my stomach hurts. (ADAM walks stage right and sits in a chair, holding his stomach.) Is that an ulcer? TOM

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(ADAM shakes his head and holds his stomach.) DONNA Are you OK? ADAM Yeah, I think I ate too much...you know, because I'm so stupid. HUNGER STRIKE (To DONNA) Please, I meant nothing by it. I made a personal choice not to eat. I really wasn't hungry when we started, but the more I thought about it...the more I thought that the food was related to the real study. That's when I decided not to eat anything because I don't like being manipulated. I don't like having things done to me against my will. DONNA Then why did you sign up for this test? HUNGER STRIKE (Beat) Because I need the money. (Pause) I wasn't going to say anything, but Adam kept hounding me about why I wasn't eating. Didn't he? Didn't he hound me about it, asking me why I wasn't eating? Multiple times, he asked me. He wouldn't leave it alone. ADAM (In obvious discomfort) Does anyone have any antacid? TOM Usually I do, but you're out of luck today. ADAM I'm getting some really bad stomach pains. TOM Well you probably ate your weight in dumplings. Enough with the dumplings. ADAM (ADAM is doubled over by a sharp pain.) Jeez. You all right? TOM (ADAM groans in pain.)
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Are you OK? I don't know.

DONNA ADAM

TOM You're really sweating. (Pause, then to DONNA) Look at him. (DONNA walks over to ADAM.) He's white as a sheet. TOM (cont'd) ADAM

I just need to stand here a bit. (Pause) Wow. (Pause) Did someone dim the lights, or it just me? Adam...

DONNA (ADAM puts his hand up to his ear). ADAM

Do you hear that? (Pause) What's that noise? DONNA Adam...lower yourself to the ground. ADAM It's really loud. Adam, get down on the floor. What? DONNA ADAM

DONNA You look like you're about to pass out. Lower yourself to the floor.
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(Panicked) I can't hear.

ADAM (TOM and DONNA help him to the floor.) TOM

Hey, take deep breaths. Breathe. He's shaking like a leaf. What's going on? Is...is he OK? DONNA TOM ADAM HUNGER STRIKE (HUNGER STRIKE joins them.) HUNGER STRIKE (cont'd) Get him around the shoulders. ADAM What's happening? I can't see anything. (ADAM hyperventilates.) TOM Go easy. What do we do? HUNGER STRIKE (ADAM falls against TOM who catches him and lowers his head to the ground.) TOM Jesus, he's out. Someone get that doctor. DONNA

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(TOM exits up right.) TOM (off) The door's locked. Then bang on it. DONNA (TOM bangs on the door.) TOM (off) Hello? Hello? We have a problem in here. Hello? (Bangs on the door) Are you out there? (Bangs on the door) We need some help. Someone's passed out. He's on the floor. HUNGER STRIKE Maybe we should elevate his head. (DONNA props up ADAM's head. TOM enters.) TOM (cont'd) Nothing. Where the hell did they go? Think maybe they went to lunch? Why would they go to lunch? HUNGER STRIKE TOM DONNA What do we do with him? They have to be out there. HUNGER STRIKE (HUNGER STRIKE exits and bangs on the door.) HS (off) Hello? We have a problem in here! A man needs medical attention! (To DONNA) Didn't I just do that? TOM HS (off)
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I don't know. They're not outside.

Hey! DONNA Is he gonna be OK on the floor like that? (HUNGER STRIKE enters.) DONNA (cont'd) Where could they have gone? Would they really leave us unattended? HS They wouldn't. Then where are they? TOM

HS I don't know, but they have to be watching us somehow. TOM If they're watching us, why aren't they coming in here? HS I don't know, but I find it hard to believe they would be so negligent. DONNA I don't. Doctors and scientists make mistakes all the time. Ever watch those exposs? (ADAM wheezes and convulses. The others rush to him.) TOM (To HUNGER STRIKE) Please tell me you're in medical school. HUNGER STRIKE No. TOM Do either of you have any medical training? (DONNA and HUNGER STRIKE shake their heads.) TOM (cont'd) He doesn't sound good. If no one comes...what do we do? I don't know what to do.

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DONNA (To TOM) Didn't you say you worked in a hospital? HUNGER STRIKE No, that was Adam. He said he was a standardized patient. (Long pause) So none of us has medical training. (Pause) DONNA Wasn't that one of the questions on our screening? What? TOM

DONNA On those papers I signed. One of the things they asked was if I had any medical training. I remember that question. HS

TOM There were so many weird questions on that thing, how could you remember that one? HUNGER STRIKE When you devastate your parents by not going to medical school, youd remember a question like that. TOM Well I can't remember if it was or if it wasn't. No, it was. I'm sure of it. DONNA

HUNGER STRIKE (To DONNA) Do you think that question just became important? (HUNGER STRIKE rises.) What are you doing? TOM HUNGER STRIKE
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Get up, Tom. TOM What about him? Get up. HUNGER STRIKE

DONNA (Rising) Wait, we're not sure about this. What are we going to do about him? TOM

HUNGER STRIKE (To DONNA) Where are the doctors? Where are the people running the test? (To both) Do you really think they'd risk the liability of not coming to the aid of someone who passed out in their lab? DONNA But what if we're wrong? (Pause) HUNGER STRIKE (Shouting) Hey! We need some help in here! One of your subjects is sick! He'll probably sue you if you don't come in here and help him right now! I told you, they're probably at lunch. TOM

HUNGER STRIKE They're not at lunch. They've been watching us the whole time. They're watching us right now, I guarantee it, and they don't seem too concerned about Adam's condition. DONNA "How do three strangers deal with a crisis"? Maybe. HUNGER STRIKE TOM DONNA
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Hold on. You're saying he's faking it?

She's saying it's a possibility. TOM Did you see the way the color drained from his face? Did you feel him shake? No way. That guy's passed out and he's passed out for real. HUNGER STRIKE Then why aren't the doctors coming in to help him? TOM You are really dense. I just told you: they're probably at lunch. HUNGER STRIKE You don't go to lunch in the middle of an experiment! You do if you're hungry! Please, let's not shout. TOM DONNA

TOM (To DONNA) I have to shout to get it through her head. All I know is what I saw with my own eyes, and there is no way he could've faked that. The guy's in trouble and needs some help. HUNGER STRIKE Fine. Help him. Oh wait, you can't because you don't have any medical training. None of us do. It might be difficult for people with no medical training to tell the difference between someone's who's really passed out and someone who's faking it. He even told us he was a standardized patient. He fakes illnesses for a living! DONNA Why would he have told us he is a standardized patient? HS He mustve slipped. TOM No way. If he's faking it, that means he can hear us right now. He'd be laughing his ass off! Not if he's trained well! HUNGER STRIKE DONNA
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Let's lower the volume of our voices, please. Either way it seems we're in a bad situation. Let's not make it worse by yelling at each other. TOM She's the one who's yelling. (Pause) And you agree with her? DONNA No. It's just a preference. If she's right, that means Adam is fine and we're in the middle of a very unorthodox experiment. But if you're right, Tom, that means we've been locked in a room and are at the mercy of people who are grossly negligent, don't care if we live or die, or worse. Given those two choices, I hope she's right. I am. HUNGER STRIKE

DONNA Just because I hope you're right doesn't mean I'm convinced you are. You seem so sure of yourself. How can you be so sure? HUNGER STRIKE It's the only logical explanation. Think about it. They told us to eat as much as we want. Then they locked us in with no way to tell the time or call for help. Then they disappeared. Now this. Donna, we both thought the food might be part of the experiment. Why not Adam too? He was the one who was eating the most and trying to get everyone to eat...especially me. TOM I think I ate more than he did. I don't think that's possible. HUNGER STRIKE

TOM No, he ate more often, but I think I had a bigger amount. (Beat, slightly defensive) I'm a bigger guy. HUNGER STRIKE Fine, but he was like the cheerleader. He was raving about the food, going on and on about how delicious it was, trying to get everyone to eat. Wasn't he trying to get me to eat? I don't know. DONNA HUNGER STRIKE
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Oh, please: he was relentless. Tom, you remember. TOM He was a pain in the ass to everyone. HUNGER STRIKE Won't you at least agree that he was inappropriately concerned with whether or not I ate? DONNA But your theory that the food is part of the study...we don't know if it really is or isn't, yet you're using it to try to link Adam's condition to why we're here. That's...not right somehow. HUNGER STRIKE I dont see a problem with it. DONNA You're trying to prove something by using something else that hasn't been proven...and then using that to create assumptions about...It's all wrong. (ADAM's breathing becomes raspy.) TOM You hear that? HUNGER STRIKE Sound effects for our benefit, just as we're putting it all together. Pretty convenient. TOM No. Have you ever heard someone taking their last breaths? I have. I was there with both my parents. It sounds just like that--that real raspy breathing. HUNGER STRIKE (Makes raspy breathing sounds) See? I can do it too. You don't sound like him. DONNA (ADAM's breathing continues to deteriorate until it ceases. The three stare at each other in silence. TOM puts his head to ADAM's chest.) TOM I might not have medical training, but I can tell when someone's not breathing.

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(DONNA puts her hand above ADAM's mouth to check for breath.) HUNGER STRIKE (Nervous) Maybe he's holding his breath. (TOM glares at her in disbelief.) Take his pulse. HUNGER STRIKE (cont'd) (DONNA tries to find a pulse on ADAM. She then rises, puts her hand over her mouth, and shakes her head. TOM exits right and pounds on the door again.) TOM (off) You better get in here! This guys dead! (Bangs on the door) If any of you are listening, you better call an ambulance! You hear me?! Call an ambulance! (TOM enters.) TOM I don't believe this. I don't fucking believe this! Stay calm. Oh sure, Ill just be calm! HUNGER STRIKE TOM

HUNGER STRIKE There has to been an explanation. Things can't be what they seem right now. TOM Not what they seem? Did I just imagine this fuckin' guy dying right in front of me? How are things not what they seem? Is he...what's that guy?...Lazarus? Is he gonna rise from the dead? DONNA (To HS) How can this not be what it seems? TOM It is what it seems! Look at this poor guy! (Beat, toward the ceiling) You hear me! This guy's dead! You better let us outta here!
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(TOM stares at ADAM. DONNA bends down and does the sign of the cross on his forehead.) What are you doing? Giving him his last rights. Is he even a Christian? TOM That doesn't matter. I don't care about your opinion anyway. HUNGER STRIKE We could be doing something constructive instead, like trying to break down that door. TOM You've pounded on it. I'll break my goddamn shoulder before I put a dent in that thing. HUNGER STRIKE But we can't fall to pieces. We can't...regress into childish rituals. DONNA I take offense at that. HUNGER STRIKE I'm sorry, but I hate to see people following lessons mapped out in a Psych 101 class. It's dehumanizing. You read about people acting a certain way during a crisis, and then they act that same way. Youre regressing. Youre falling back on religion during a crisis. DONNA Many people find great comfort in religion. TOM (To HUNGER STRIKE) All right, genius. (Gestures toward ADAM) Tell me how this fits into whatever the hell it is you're talking about. HS I'm not saying I know how it fits in...all I know is that it has to. HUNGER STRIKE DONNA HUNGER STRIKE

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Who would let someone die like this?

DONNA

TOM You want to know what I think? I think those guys are drunk. Those guys in the lab coats? I think they went out and got loaded right after they left us here. They brought us here, went someplace to drink their asses off, and forgot all about us. That's absurd. It's better than your theory. They wouldn't do that. DONNA After what's just happened, how can you say what they would or wouldn't do? You don't even know who they are. HUNGER STRIKE But I know what they are. They're scientists, and there's a code of ethics involved with running experiments. TOM Listen to me. I know it's scary for you ladies to hear, but it looks like we've been locked in a room by a bunch of fuckin' wack-jobs. Must you keep swearing? DONNA HUNGER STRIKE TOM HUNGER STRIKE

TOM Swearing? You're complaining about my fuckin' swearing? A fuckin' guy fuckin' dies right the fuck in front of me and you're complaining about my fuckin swearing? (TOM walks to the table and faces upstage. A heavy stretch of silence.) DONNA I'm sorry. I didn't mean to... (Pause) I'm just...scared. You can swear as much as you want, OK? If that's what you need to do, go right ahead. (Pause) Tom, I'm sorry. Would you please turn around?
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(TOM turns around with a pained expression on his face.) I don't feel so good. TOM (TOM doubles over and moans.) Tom? Oh my god. What? What are you feeling? Oh God (doubles over again). All of a sudden? Just like that? DONNA TOM HUNGER STRIKE TOM HUNGER STRIKE (TOM tries to walk to a chair and stumbles and falls into it, landing on the floor.) DONNA Tom! (DONNA rushes over to TOM.) DONNA (cont'd) Tom, what's wrong? Are you hurt? (Pause) Tom? (TOM moans.) DONNA (cont'd) Do you want a glass of water? (Beat) I'll get you some water. (DONNA rushes to the table, pours a glass of water, and then stops abruptly. She turns toward TOM.) HUNGER STRIKE What?
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(Pause) Donna, what? (DONNA puts the glass of water down.) Tom and Adam ate the most food. DONNA

TOM You saying we got food poisoning? This doesn't feel like food poisoning. Food poisoning would take longer. So what are you saying? (Pause) What are you saying? HUNGER STRIKE (Shakes her head to DONNA) No. DONNA Tom's bigger than Adam, which could explain why Adam got sick first. You're wrong. HUNGER STRIKE DONNA TOM

TOM (Scared) What, are you saying they poisoned us? (Pause) Why would they poison us? HUNGER STRIKE Donna, it's impossible. TOM Why would they do that? Why would they want to poison us? Not all of us. DONNA (DONNA stares at HUNGER STRIKE. TOM does the same.) Why are you looking at me like that? HS

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DONNA You were the one who suggested one of us was in on it. I'm beginning to think you're right, but it clearly wasn't Adam. So you think it's me? HUNGER STRIKE DONNA

You're the only one who didn't eat.

HUNGER STRIKE I told you why I didn't eat. How many times do I have to say it? You bitch! TOM (DONNA backs away from HUNGER STRIKE) HUNGER STRIKE I didn't do anything! (Pause) Don't look at me like that. Donna...Listen to me. My name is Joy Murphy. I'm a student. I go to Davenport College. I'm in the Math Department, you can call and check. (TOM convulses.) DONNA Tom! (TOM becomes unresponsive. DONNA rises.) HS (In shock) I swear. I swear it's true. I'm just a student. (HUNGER STRIKE moves toward DONNA who backs away from her.) Please don't do this. Please... Prove it. What?
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HS (cont'd) DONNA HS

Prove who you are and what you do.

DONNA

HUNGER STRIKE OK. (Searches her pockets) I can't. Everything's in my purse....and they took it. They took everything. (Pause) I'm not part of this! I'm here the same as you. (Pause) (Pathetically) I didn't do anything. I came here to make a little extra money. My friend made me a bridesmaid and I couldn't afford the trip home. Why didn't you eat? DONNA

HS Because I wasn't hungry! I wasn't hungry! It doesn't mean I did this. (Pause) Donna, please. No one killed anyone here. My name's not Donna. DONNA

HS Then tell me what it is. (Pause) Fine don't tell me...just listen to me. If they poisoned our food, that would mean that the test is being run by psychotics. And if that's true, how could they have been hired by a psychology department at a university? How could they advertise on a bulletin board in my student lounge? DONNA This test isn't run through a university. It's run by a private institution. (Pause) Didn't you read the paperwork? HS I did... (uncertain) I read all of it... (Pause) It doesn't matter. No scientific institution would kill people as part of a study, especially in such a blatant way. That's not how it's done. It's not how they conduct research. DONNA
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Ever read about a group of Germans who liked to perform experiments on people in the nineteen forties? HS People know we're here. They'd never get away with it. DONNA No one knows I'm here. HS What about your family? (DONNA shakes her head) But...what about your son? DONNA Charlies gone. He died. (Pause) If I had to guess, I'd say that no one knows you're here either. HS (Shakes her head) I just moved here...for school. I haven't had a chance to make any friends. Pretty coincidental. (Pause) HS But you're forgetting something very important. What's that? DONNA DONNA

HS This is a blind psychological study. They're messing with our heads. DONNA How much proof do you need? How many bodies do you need to see on the floor? It's not the way-HS

DONNA Do you need to see me down there? The only thing blind around here is you. HS Please...I don't know what your background is...other than being religious, which puts you at a disadvantage-42

Really?

DONNA

HS Don't take it the wrong way. What I mean is that it's completely different from the way I view the world. Maybe that's why you can't see things the way I can, but give me a chance to explain. Let me teach you how it works. (Put off) You're going to teach me? DONNA

HS I study mathematics, but before that it was chemistry. I know the scientific method really well. I'm trained to analyze and interpret experimental data, but-I don't want to hear this-DONNA

HS But more than that, I know how to construct experiments. I understand the scientific mind, the type of mind that would create an experiment like this. Everything is controlled. Nothing is left to chance. Whoever designed this test was very meticulous and careful. He needed to get funding. No, hear me out. Think about how much it must've cost to stage this experiment. Look at this beautiful room. Look at all the food. Look at the care someone took. Does this look like it was created by a depraved mind? Does this beautiful feast look like the work of a psychotic, or even of someone who's negligent, or doesnt care? Do the way things appear make any sense at all? Does it make sense that some intelligent mind went through all of this painstaking work to put us here and feed us, all so he could just kill us like...like rats? Are you telling me he created all this just to watch us die? No. It doesn't make any sense, and I can see that you agree with me. You can see it. He'd want to publish these results, wouldn't he? What would be the point of doing it if he couldn't share his results with the rest of the world? That alone proves this can't be what it seems, because they'd never be able to publish these results after conducting the study this way. We're not in Nazi Germany, Donna. DONNA Well I don't have a scientific background, but if this isn't really happening, then how do you explain Adam and Tom? (gesturing toward the bodies) Explain the two dead bodies that were once alive a short... (goes to check her wristwatch that isn't there)...a short time ago. If what you're saying is true... Do you see what I'm getting at? HUNGER STRIKE
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You're asking how my interpretation explains the fact that Adam and Tom appear to be dead. Yes. DONNA

HUNGER STRIKE Then based upon my argument...it follows logically...that they can't be dead. They're not dead? DONNA

HUNGER STRIKE They can't be. Unless they died from unrelated causes at the same time, which would be too much of a coincidence. DONNA Yeah, I think it would be. (Pause) (Incredulous) So then, Tom and Adam aren't dead? (Pause) No. HUNGER STRIKE

DONNA (Exasperated) Then why aren't they breathing?! Why does neither one have a pulse?! HUNGER STRIKE You mustve missed it, or maybe it's just really low. DONNA I think I've heard enough-HUNGER STRIKE (Quick) There are drugs that can bring about the appearance of death. Maybe that's what they put in the food. I can't believe you're saying this-DONNA

HUNGER STRIKE Or maybe those two had the drugs on them and took them when we weren't looking. DONNA Or maybe I'm in cahoots with them and took the drugs myself.
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(Beat) Maybe.

HUNGER STRIKE

DONNA You're grasping at straws. I don't think you believe any of what you just told me. I think you're scared and are creating this outlandish theory because it fits your belief system-It's not a belief system. All in an attempt-It's science. HUNGER STRIKE DONNA HUNGER STRIKE

DONNA All in an attempt to ignore what's staring you in the face, and what's staring you in the face is that we're doomed! Do you hear me? No-Yes, Joy! We're gonna die! No! There's a reason behind this. HUNGER STRIKE DONNA HUNGER STRIKE

DONNA I don't think you really believe that. Just...stop. Please. (Some time passes in silence. DONNA takes out rosary beads and prays silently.) What are you doing? HUNGER STRIKE

DONNA What does it look like I'm doing? I'm praying to God for help. And if he chooses not to help me, then I'm preparing to meet him. (Pause) You can join me if you like. HUNGER STRIKE I can't.
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You can't pray with me? I forget how.

DONNA HUNGER STRIKE

You chose to forget.

DONNA

HUNGER STRIKE I did. I did because it's such a waste of time. It's something that's beaten into our heads as children, so we regress back to it during times of trouble. You're only doing it because you're scared. I am scared. DONNA

HUNGER STRIKE So instead of helping me figure out a way out of this-DONNA There is no way out of this. Not for me. (DONNA puts her head down and silently cries. HUNGER STRIKE goes to her.) HUNGER STRIKE Donna...everything's going to be OK. These men who are running things: they know what they're doing and we have to trust them. (Pause) Donna? DONNA I used to love to read. You know? I loved going to used book stores...I loved the smell of them. (Slightly confused) Yeah? I did. I really did. HUNGER STRIKE DONNA

HUNGER STRIKE (Comforting her) That's great. That's great. I love to read too.
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DONNA But after Charlie died, I couldn't go to them anymore. I started thinking about my own death, and I realized that even if I read a book a week for the rest of my life it was less than a thousand books, out of millions. That was a really sad day. (Pause) We're going to be fine. HUNGER STRIKE

DONNA These prayers are the only things I have memorized. HUNGER STRIKE There's no need to pray because we're going to be fine. Maybe you will. You didn't eat. DONNA (DONNA prays silently for a bit. Then HUNGER STRIKE walks to the table and binges.) DONNA (cont'd) Joy! Don't! (DONNA runs to HUNGER STRIKE and tries to stop her. HUNGER STRIKE struggles with her, stuffing food into her mouth as she does.) DONNA (cont'd) Stop! Stop it! Joy, you have nothing to prove to me. Don't do this! (DONNA gives up.) DONNA (cont'd) Why did you do that? Why, Joy? Are you so blind that you're willing to die to prove...what? To prove that you can't admit you're wrong? Because you can't admit that nothing supports your view of whats happening to us? HUNGER STRIKE I'm not wrong. Just go back to what you're doing. Go on and pray your heart out to a vacuum, to...nothing. There's no one listening, Donna--no one on the other end. (Long pause) I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that. (chuckles) This food is delicious.
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(HUNGER STRIKE eats a little more and then sits down next to DONNA.) DONNA You've just killed yourself. You know that, dont you? HUNGER STRIKE I didn't kill myself. There's nothing to worry about here. Would you trust me? (Pause) (Confidentially) They're watching us. They're out there right now, probably having a great laugh at our expense, about how much we're worrying. You have to believe me, Donna. When this is over, Adam and Tom are gonna get up off of that floor. They're gonna rise up and we're all gonna have a big laugh about this. Then the doctors will come out and explain...they'll explain it all to us and it'll make such perfect sense-(Pause) Donna? (DONNA doubles over and cries out. A pause and another acute pain hits her.) HUNGER STRIKE (cont'd) (Softly) Donna...not you too. Please don't tell me that you're in on this too. How could I be the only one? What could they possibly learn? What could they learn from just me? (HUNGER STRIKE takes DONNA's hand.) HUNGER STRIKE (cont'd) Donna? Why? Why me? Why am I the only one left? What's the purpose of this? Tell me. I have to know. What can they learn from doing this? (DONNA collapses and loses consciousness.) Donna? (Pause) Donna? HUNGER STRIKE (cont'd) (After a bit, HUNGER STRIKE rises.) HUNGER STRIKE (cont'd) (To the ceiling) Hello? Is anybody there? (Pause) Your study must be over. It must be over and I'm ready to go home. Id really like to go home.

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(Looking down at ADAM, TOM, and DONNA) You guys can get up. (Pause) Please get up. (Screaming at the ceiling) WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?! WHO ARE YOU?! WHO GAVE YOU THE RIGHT TO DO THIS?! (HUNGER STRIKE kneels on the floor.) HUNGER STRIKE (cont'd) (Calm) There has to be a reason. I have...faith in what you're trying to accomplish, as one scientist to another. I won't accept that there isn't a reason for your methods, and...if you tell me what it is, I'm sure I'll understand. (Pause) OK, listen: I'll make a deal with you. If you help me...(folds her hands) if you help me get out of here...if you save me... (Desperate) Please, I don't want to die. Please don't let me die... I won't tell. If you help me, I won't say a word to anyone as long as I live. I swear to you. I promise I won't tell. Please, please, I promise... (Pause) So do we have a deal? Can you just...give me a sign? Can you let me know you're out there and can hear me? (Beat) Flash the lights if you can hear me. (Long pause. Nothing happens.) HUNGER STRIKE (cont'd) All right. If I don't see anything, I'll assume the answer's yes. OK? So I'll wait. I'll just wait right here. (Fade to black.) END OF PLAY

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