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LUTHER (20-page sample)

A play by Ethan Lipton 5.27.12

Ethan Lipton 131 Imlay St. 4th Fl Brooklyn, NY 11231 917.449.4908

Character Breakdown

Marjorie Forman, a freelancer -- early 40s Luther Shaw Forman, a veteran of war -- mid 20s Walter Forman, a businessman -- mid 40s Tom, a caterer - early 30s Morris McHenry, a stranger - early 40s Captain James, a policeman - mid 40s Phil and Julie, business people, played by puppets - mid 30s Police Officer, played by a puppet - early 20s Frank Leibowitz, a legal advocate, played by a puppet - mid 50s Note: Tom and Captain James should be played by the same actor. One actor should play all four of the puppet characters.

SCENE 1. A loft that seems to have been built out of a cave. Industrial yet homey, its greatest asset is a window that offers a half-obscured view of a shining, far-away city. On the couch sleeps LUTHER SHAW FORMAN, a scarred, tattooed, terrier of a man, bundled up as small as can be. MARJORIE FORMAN, a freshly showered genius of early middle age, enters in a bathrobe, toting a bottle of lotion. She sits on the couch at Luthers feet and lathers up her legs. MARJORIE Walter? Am I wearing my black dress with the notches in the sleeves, or the green wraparound? WALTER (O.S.) I like both of those dresses. MARJORIE Maybe the green one. WALTER (O.S.) Yeah, wear the green one. Its very approachable, that one. Enter WALTER FORMAN, a charmer with a recent paunch, wrestling his tie. WALTER (CONTD) (the tie) Is this thing too smudgy? MARJORIE I cant see without my glasses. Walter moves in closer. Meh. MARJORIE (CONTD)

WALTER Nobodys going to notice that. MARJORIE And who cares if they do? WALTER Im wearing it. Honey? MARJORIE




MARJORIE I think Luther would like to come with us to the party tonight. WALTER (skipping that) Hey, you asked your brother about watching him when we go out of town, right? MARJORIE Oh, yeah, he cant do it. What? WALTER

MARJORIE His in-laws are going to be here that same week. Oh, god. WALTER

MARJORIE Sucks, huh? WALTER When did you find this out? MARJORIE Yesterday, when I talked to Billy. WALTER You just talked to Billy yesterday? MARJORIE Yeah. Do you still want me to ask Rick and Jessica? WALTER We cant ask Rick and Jessica now. We leave in eight days. So? MARJORIE

WALTER So we barely know them, its rude. If we wanted to ask them, we should have done it weeks ago.


MARJORIE Well, but we didnt. WALTER Because you said youd rather ask your brother first. MARJORIE Which I did. Dreaming on the couch, Luther endures a sort of huffing tremor. Walter takes off his tie, mangles it. MARJORIE (CONTD) Why did you say Rick and Jessica would be a good backup plan if you never intended to use them? WALTER Rick and Jessica would be a good backup plan, assuming we could give them some notice. Its not like one of us got hit by a car. Walter exits to the back. MARJORIE I could not have less of an idea what that means. WALTER (O.S.) Its not an emergency, okay? Youve been talking about taking this vacation for years. We cant call up Rick and Jessica now and say, Hey guys, sorry but we just got attacked by a sudden trip to Cava Lup, can you bail us out? MARJORIE (an old wound) There is nothing morally wrong with wanting to take a vacation. Walter re-enters with a different tie, and begins to tie it. WALTER Thats not what Im saying.


MARJORIE If we lived in a civilized society where 80% of our income didnt go to rent, we might even take one every decadeHoney? I am so me feel with my week of WALTER MARJORIE tired of you trying to make bad for wanting to go away husband for one fucking my life.

WALTER I wasnt trying to make you feel badMARJORIE Oh, that was you making me feel good? WALTER -for wanting to go on vacation! I was trying to make you feel bad for not calling your brother three weeks ago, when you said you were going to do it! And Im sorry. MARJORIE Maybe I shouldnt go tonight. MarjorieWALTER

MARJORIE I mean, I never cared about your stupid work party to begin with, but I really dont care about it now, after you make me feel like crap for not having called my brother in six months in advance? When I have been...? Its a lot, Walter. (re: everything at home) This is a lot. WALTER (sympathetic) I know.


MARJORIE I called Billy as soon as I got the chance. WALTER I know you did. MARJORIE And did you know I havent left the apartment in two days just trying to finish all these fucking fuckaloo projects? WALTER No, I didnt. But I should have. (going to her) See, this is why I cant come home after work if were going to go out for the night. As soon as I get on that train, all the blood rushes out of my head and I turn into a total moron, and by the time I walk through the door all I want to do is crawl into bed. MARJORIE And that would be so terrible? No. WALTER

Walter takes her hand and rests his forehead against hers. MARJORIE You smell hungry. I am. WALTER

MARJORIE Whatd you have for lunch? WALTER Turkey sandwich. Thats it? MARJORIE

WALTER I thought about getting some pretzels. Just couldnt decide which ones. What about you guys?


MARJORIE Cereal, with yogurt and blueberries. And? WALTER

MARJORIE And, I was just so busy working, and Lu said he wasnt that hungry. WALTER Okay, but honey, you guys have to eat more than cereal and yogurt. I know. MARJORIE

WALTER How was he? MARJORIE Good. Spent most of the morning reading. Did his treadmill and his rope and his meditation. Nice. WALTER

MARJORIE Worked on his puzzle, we did that together. WALTER Hows his skin? MARJORIE Better. Still itchy, but not so inflamed. (after a moment) Why do you want me to go to this party? WALTER Because A) Its at the corporate estate, which is supposed to be super weird. And B) It might be fun. MARJORIE Really? You think of those people as being fun?


WALTER Yeah, theyre fun. of way.

In a worky kind

MARJORIE Maybe we shouldnt be together anymore. WALTER Oh, Jesus fucking Christ, Marjorie. MARJORIE We dont even like the same kinds of people. WALTER We do so like the same kinds of people! Luther groans in his sleep. WALTER (CONTD) Case in point. And just so you know, those work people, who you think are so awful, all happen to like you very much. MARJORIE I didnt say they were awful. I just get bored with always being the one in charge of curiosity. I mean, none of those people ever asks me anything about myself. Not that Id have anything to say, but it might be nice to be asked. WALTER Honey, they dont ask you about yourself because you are smart and beautiful, and they are nervous and insecure. Right. MARJORIE

WALTER Its true. Most people and insecure. Were two favorite people, and we and insecure 30 times a (MORE)

are nervous of our get nervous day.

8. WALTER (CONT'D) But if you know that about people and you try to help them overcome it, and everyone is helping each other out with their nervous insecurity, then theres a chance for something kind and generous and wonderful to happen between people. MARJORIE (after a moment) Maybe Billys in-laws want to stay here with Luther when they come to town. WALTER Maybe thats the most ingenious idea Ive ever heard. You think? MARJORIE

WALTER Yes, Billys in-laws are crazy about Luther. Dont you remember Thanksgiving, Fred and Luther were playing chess all day? They couldnt get enough of each other. And Fred said hed always wanted to adopt a soldier, they just didnt allow it in their building. MARJORIE That is so disgusting to me. WALTER I know, it shouldnt even be legal. MARJORIE Im going to find out the name of their landlord and start crankcalling that son of aWALTER Okay, but can we wait until after they take care of Luther for the week? MARJORIE Ill talk to Billy in the morning. WALTER Excellent! See that? Everythings going to work out perfectly.


MARJORIE Really? Even though we didnt plan it all a year in advance? WALTER I know, technically it shouldnt be possible, but somehow this time it may work out. MARJORIE This time, Walter, or most times? WALTER No, most times I do the planning and nobody has to worry. MARJORIE Oh, you dont worry when you do the planning? WALTER I worry less. MARJORIE And what do you think would happen if you tried not to worry at all? WALTER Sadly, I would burst into flames. MARJORIE Ill go put on some clothes. Marjorie goes off to the bedroom. WALTER Thank you, honey. For calling Billy, and for going with me tonight. I really appreciate it. MARJORIE (O.S.) Youre welcome. And thank you for letting me bring Luther to the party. Luther has another tremor. WALTER Marjorie? Do you really think thats a good idea?


MARJORIE (O.S.) Yes. The poor guy is dying to go out. And hes been so good lately, he really has been a perfect gentleman. Marjorie returns, wearing the black dress with notches. MARJORIE (CONTD) And I think he deserves it. Dont you? WALTER I mean, honey, I would give him the world if we could. Im just not sure its about deserving. MARJORIE Well, I am. Besides, he loves parties. WALTER I dont think he loves parties. MARJORIE He loves our parties. WALTER Here, with people he knows, small gatherings. MARJORIE We never let him do anything, Walter. WALTER Because we discovered that hes psychotically oversensitive, Marjorie. Thats why we came up with that policy. MARJORIE No, we came up with that policy because he was psychotically oversensitive. We have no idea what hed be like if we took him out because its been so long since weve tried. I mean, its almost like we punish him now for having been unpredictable then; like we decided hed stay that way forever, when the truth is he has changed, in so many ways. When we brought him home he wouldnt even eat with us. He never slept when we were here. (MORE)

11. MARJORIE (CONT'D) He wouldnt look you in the eye for the first six months, now hes madly in love with you. I just wonder if maybe he needs our encouragement, in addition to our...concern. WALTER And, so, what? How would that work, Id watch him? MARJORIE Or I will, I dont mind. WALTER But youre the one who never gets to socialize. MARJORIE Ill be socializing with Luther, well do it together. And if he doesnt want to go, he doesnt have to go. Only if he wants to go. WALTER It would be nice if we could go out now and then as a family. MARJORIE Wouldnt it? Luther? Wait. WALTER Hey, buddy? MARJORIE

Marjorie squirts lotion onto her hands, and, sneaking her hands up the leg of Luthers pants, rubs some into his calves. WALTER Dont scare him. MARJORIE Shhh, he loves it. Luther twitches, then begins to enjoy it. Walter gets some lotion and joins Marjorie, each one lathering up a leg. LUTHER Fuh-fuh-fuh-fuh... So pleased is the still sleeping Luther that he turns over and begins rubbing their hands with his head.


MARJORIE Luther? Luther? LUTHER (opening his eyes) Mm-hm? MARJORIE Would you like to go with us to the party tonight? Yeah. LUTHER Thatd be nice.


SCENE 2. The corporate estate: a hi-tech combination of Sheboygan and Boca Raton. A good time threatens to break out at any moment. Marjorie and Luther take in the scene, Luther now looking sharp in a suit. He chews gum. Both drink cocktails. MARJORIE Can you believe this place? LUTHER It reminds me of a palace. MARJORIE Or a doll-house. Have you ever seen anything so tacky? LUTHER Oh, MARJORIE And look at these people. Where do they come from? Where? LUTHER

MARJORIE No, I mean, how did they get here? In life? Is this what they were hoping for? Is this what they wanted it all to add up to? Yes. LUTHER

MARJORIE It is, isnt it? LUTHER This is just what they wanted. MARJORIE (toasting) To them, and their domination of our world. They clink glasses and drink. LUTHER Whered you put your gum?


Marjorie holds out her hand. straight from his mouth.

Luther drops his gum in it,

MARJORIE What kind of palace? You said it reminded you of a palace. LUTHER One I stayed in during the war. MARJORIE So this was a real palace. Yeah. LUTHER

MARJORIE I thought it might be a made-up palace. LUTHER No, it was a real palace. MARJORIE And what was it like, this palace? LUTHER Old, and big. Maybe twice as big as this place. Every room had a canopy over the bed and a view of the river. It was built right next to a river, and every room had a view. At night the stars would shine so bright, you could see their reflections in the water. MARJORIE It sounds lovely. It was. LUTHER

MARJORIE I didnt know they let soldiers stay in palaces. LUTHER We sort of insisted. Luther finishes his drink in a gulp.


MARJORIE (suddenly scared of him, for him, maybe both) Should you want to go home? Why? LUTHER

MARJORIE So you dont have to deal with all these people. LUTHER Whats wrong with them? MARJORIE Well, theyre crazy, for one. LUTHER What makes you say that? MARJORIE Because Ive talked to them. LUTHER Not since we got here. MARJORIE Before, at other events, okay? And believe me, theres always a price to pay. Such as? Boredom. LUTHER MARJORIE Condescension.


LUTHER People cant make you nauseous, Marjorie. MARJORIE Take a whiff. Go on, take a whiff, tell me what you smell. Luther inhales. LUTHER Is that pork?


MARJORIE Yes it is. And do you know where its coming from? LUTHER The appetizers? MARJORIE The people. Come on. LUTHER

MARJORIE Thats what these people are wearing these days. LUTHER Thats crazy. MARJORIE Thats what Im saying, okay? We dont want to be here, do we? LUTHER Would you like to go home, Marjorie? MARJORIE Its too much, right? The smell? I like it. LUTHER

MARJORIE Its like somebody put a pair of dirty panties in the trunk of an Oldsmobile and left them to stew for the summer. LUTHER I dont know. It makes everyone seem more human to me. MARJORIE Its pork, Luther. Theyre pig people. LUTHER Lets go home, okay? MARJORIE Are you sure?


LUTHER Yeah. I was just as worried about talking to these crazy people as you were. MARJORIE Worried? Wait, worried? I wasnt worried. I was disinterested maybe, and nauseous. Were you worried? Why were you worried? LUTHER I mean, I havent been around this many strangers in years. How would I even know what to say? MARJORIE Well, look, all you do...all you do is ask them how theyre doing. Or what theyre doing, even better, they all love to talk about what they do. And then if you start to get nervous, you just remind yourself that theyre just as nervous and insecure as you are. And you try to help them, okay? You be your kind, wonderful, loving self, and you be there for them. You do it. LUTHER

MARJORIE I have done it, many times. LUTHER But you cant do it anymore? MARJORIE No, of course I can. So do it. You do it. Can I? LUTHER MARJORIE LUTHER

MARJORIE Can you what?


LUTHER Go up and talk to somebody. MARJORIE By yourself? LUTHER Yeah. And you do it too, but with somebody else, and then we meet up later to debrief. MARJORIE (mustering the courage) Okay. Pick somebody. Luther and Marjorie survey the party-goers. Suddenly, Luther starts to walk off, until Marjorie grabs hold of him. MARJORIE (CONTD) But dont just walk off without saying goodbye, for Gods sake. Now, where are you going? LUTHER Mmm...over there. Where? MARJORIE

LUTHER By the fountain. Okay. Okay. MARJORIE Ill to the food. LUTHER Ill be by the fountain.

Marjorie pushes him away, and Luther exits, smiling back at her. She watches him go then exits in the other direction. Walter enters, chatting with a pair of puppets: co-workers PHIL & JULIE. PHIL Walter, youre absolutely right. JULIE Im going to try it in my department too.


PHIL Why didnt I think of it sooner? JULIE Because you were too busy banging your head against the wall. WALTER Well, listen, Phil, there arent too many guarantees in this worldPHIL Thats so true! WALTER But the way I see itI know! Know what? PHIL WALTER

PHIL Sorry, I cut you off.

Go on?

WALTER Oh, well, all was going to say is, the way I see it, you dont have much to lose. Yes. Poetry. PHIL JULIE

PHIL That does it, Im sending out an email on Monday. JULIE Walter, when are you going to get promoted already? PHIL Screw the promotion, they ought to name a holiday after this guy. Walter scans the room, looking a little bored. JULIE Who needs another drink?


WALTER Oh, I guess. PHIL Now, tell me about this thing youre doing with spreadsheets. Walter exits with Phil and Julie. Loitering by the kitchen, Luther takes a glass of wine from a tray held by TOM, a caterer, who is also loitering. LUTHER Do you mind? TOM Thats what theyre here for. LUTHER So... (clears his throat) ...what do you do? TOM Im a doctor. Really? Yeah. LUTHER TOM

LUTHER What kind of medicine do you practice? TOM Caterology. LUTHER Im not familiar with that. TOM Its the practice of catering. LUTHER Sounds like a pretty specialized field.

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