SETTING: Two men (both 30-50) are standing to one side of the stage talking. They are dressed as civilians: STUART in slacks, a turtleneck sweater, and a tweed jacket, and ERIC in pinstripes and wingtips. ERIC has an attaché case labeled: SIGNS. STUART has a professorial manner; ERIC is very businesslike.
(AN OFFICER [FEMALE, 25-40] WEARING A DRESS UNIFORM AND CARRYING A SWORD ENTERS FROM THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE STAGE, STANDS AT ATTENTION, RAISES HER SWORD, AND BRINGS IT DOWN SMARTLY AS SHE SHOUTS.)
OFFICER: I said "FIRE!"
STUART: You should never shout "FIRE" in a crowded theater.
OFFICER: But we aren't in a CROWDED theater.
STUART: All of life is a theater. Crowded with sensations.
ERIC: Is this building burning? Is it really on fire?
OFFICER: I wasn't shouting about THAT kind of fire.
ERIC: What kind of fire did you have in mind?
OFFICER: A firing squad's fire. The sound of rifles firing.
STUART: Do you suppose your firing squad is DEAF?
OFFICER: Apparently so. I'm not getting through to them.
STUART: When you say something a man should HEAR,
be sure to shout in his GOOD ear.
(ERIC OPENS HIS ATTACHE CASE, LOOKS AT SEVERAL SIGNS, SELECTS ONE, AND HANDS IT TO THE OFFICER, WHO EXAMINES IT.)
ERIC: I have an assortment of signs. Here. Try this one. It might work.
OFFICER: Thank you. You've both been very helpful. (WITH HER LEFT HAND THE OFFICER HOLDS UP, FACING THE AUDIENCE, THE SIGN WHICH READS "FIRE." AS SHE AGAIN SWINGS HER SWORD DOWN SMARTLY, SHE SHOUTS.) FIRE!
(THE SOUND OF SIX RIFLES FIRING IS HEARD. STUART AND ERIC CRUMPLE TO THE FLOOR APPARENTLY DEAD, AND THE LIGHTS DIM TO DARK, WHILE THE OFFICER STANDS AT ATTENTION.)
Joe McCabe's plays have won awards and been performed in Washington, DC; San Francisco, CA; Florida; Maryland; New York; and West Virginia. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Playwrights Forum, the Writers Center, and WV Writers, Inc. He resides with his wife, the artist Hilda Eiber, in Falling Waters, WV.
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story copyright by author 2003 all rights reserved