How to Work a Party

A one-act play

ACT 1

(The setting is a large room where a Christmas party is taking place. Carols plays in the background. Nine people are present, five men and four women, milling around. Two of them, a man and women begin talking)

First Man

Hey!

(extends both forefingers in direction of woman)

First Woman

Hey!

(repeats same gesture)

First Man

Hey!

(again extends forefingers)

First Woman

Nay!

(makes sign warding off the devil)

First Man

Cute. I like cute. Great party, huh?

First Woman

You betcha. An all-timer. Woodstock 3 if it keeps up.

First Man

Wanna dance?

First Woman

Well, I’m really tryin’ to cut back. Doctor’s orders.

First Man

C’mon, let’s boogie.

First Woman

Nah, my boogie woogied.

(points to woman across room)

Try her. I think she’s diggin’ you.

First Man

She’s my wife. She should.

First Woman

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

His wife. He makes it sound like he slips a leash on her each morning and off they go for a walk.

(looks over at wife and then back at audience)

But she is plain. One of those women who puts on a new outfit and all her friends, as best they can without betraying their undiscussed but agreed-upon civility, muster a “that color looks good on you.”

(turns back to man)

Your wife has the mien of a suffering woman. One who must incessantly keep you entwined within her worry beads.

First Man

Leave my insignificant other out of this. She isn’t part of the equation.

First Woman

So, was your major scorn, with a minor in humiliation?

First Man

(retreating)

Uhhhhh, I think the baby-sitter is calling.

First Woman

I suppose so.

Second Woman

(approaches and says)

Isn’t that dip marvelous?

First Woman

Oh, this.

(looks at dip on table then points to retreating man)

I thought you meant him.

Second Woman

Surprise! It’s mine!

First Woman

It’s out of this world. And where did you get the idea to shape the veggies into little outer space creatures? They look like little Martians.

Second Woman

Well, that’s my tableau, my oeuvre. I’m really kind of a performance artist.

First Woman

Oh, yes, you must be the one Laurie Anderson speaks of as her
inspiration.

Second Woman

Laurie…

First Woman

(interrupting)

So tell me, you must know all about those alien abductions. I know it usually happens to Goober or Dirtclod but I’m fascinated that every abductee seems to be taken back to the mother ship and anus probed?

Second Woman

(backing away)

Uh, nice to chat.

First Woman

What do you think they could be looking for? And why there of all places?

Second Woman

(voice trailing away)

I’ll find that recipe for you.

First Woman

I’ll warm the oven.

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

Her LIFE is a performance. My guess is at 15 she probably won the talent competition filleting cucumbers at the Junior Miss Pageant. I can see the headline on her obit: Mabel Zit—“Broke Through the Boundaries of Culinary Artistic Expression.”

Second Man

(approaches and says)

Would ya like to see pictures of my kids?

First Woman

Like I’m gonna have a choice?

Second Man

Pardon?

First Woman

I said this is gonna make me rejoice.

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

In fact, on the way over here I was thinking the night wouldn’t be complete unless I see irrefutable proof that actual fucking has occurred involving someone here. And here’s a guy who ought to be wearing a hat inscribed “Ask Me About My Sperm Count”.

Second Man

This is Sue Claire, our oldest, and Nathaniel, our youngest.

First Woman

My, my…my, my. You know, I always find it a bit off-putting when daughters look like their fathers and sons like their mothers. It’s like some genetic crosswiring produced a living, breathing malfunction. In your case, twice.

Second Man

(angry, puts pictures away, stomps off, saying)

Well…

First Woman

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

I spit on his gene pool and from the belly of the beast the best he can summon is a flaccid ‘well’. I detest those who crumble in the face of insult. They know they’ve been wronged but slump spinelessly to the end of the long line of tongue swallowers. His wife will probably have to endure a string of woeful ‘dadgummits’ in the car on the way home tonight.

Third Man

(approaches and says)

You remind me of the very best of my ex-wife.

First Woman

Work hard on that one? You must mean the 2.0 trophy wife release?

Third Man

Huh? Oh, yeah, right, I get it. Yes. Yes.

(emits a short laugh)

No, you really do. You’re so…so appealing. You have “it”.

First Woman

Right. “It” comes with my gender and it’s not anywhere you’re gettin’ close to.

Third Man

No, no, no, you confuse my intentions.

First Woman

The scent of the prowl is drippin’ off you. I hope your shots are current.

Third Man

Hey, I don’t approach and say that to every woman.

First Woman

Discretion or laziness?

Third Man

What?

First Woman

Sorry, I didn’t come here in my swoonmobile tonight.

Third Man

I’m not following.

First Woman

I’m not leading.

Third Man

(retreating)

Uh, lemme get back to you.

First Woman

I’ll set the timer.

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

Another Mary Magdalene acolyte. On the hunt for the devotional whore. Or, transposed, whorish devotion. Act one for him is “eureka, I have found her.” Part two, the nest and hen grow distressingly too familiar. The end comes with a re-casting of the existing Madonna as succubi, in order to re-inflate his personal flotation device.

Third Woman

(approaches and says)

I can’t help but notice you’re alone.

First Woman

Yeah, I and myself are taking a break. It’s just me.

Third Woman

No, no, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. Alone can be good. Many great people were loners. I can name…

First Woman

(interrupting)

Let me guess. You’re a social worker.

Third Woman

Hey, you’re pretty perceptive yourself. That is something you should celebrate, give yourself a ‘shout out’ for possessing such a talent.

First Woman

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

Have I somehow been laid out on a couch? This one has a compulsion to befriend who she perceives as the ordinary, the different, the alone. Her mission is to end their torment and better their lives. In her voluminous condescension, comes the assumption that proximity to her will result in human gentrification.

(turns back to Third Woman)

I think I hear Tiny Tim calling.

Third Woman

Oh yes, I must get back. Think about what I said.

First Woman

I’ll call Dial-A-Therapist tonight.

Fourth Man

(approaches and says)

Don’t I know you? Didn’t you used to make money for me?

First Woman

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

Now, I’m a mutual fund? He’s the purchaser of a foldout page in Burke’s Peerage and sniffs like I’m a character in “The Grapes Of Wrath.”

(back to Fourth Man)

Saddle me up bossman.

Fourth Man

Pardon?

First Woman

I asked, ever paddle the Amazon?

Fourth Man

I have interests there.

First Woman

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

The best you and I can manage is a soiled timeshare somewhere. HE has INTERESTS. Would you care to venture it’s not a string of orphanages. The price earnings ratio just wouldn’t do.

(back to Fourth Man)

In what capacity do you remember me from?

Fourth Man

I don’t remember. I have people for that.

First Woman

Aren’t you slumming a bit being here tonight?

Fourth Man

Family obligation. I promised my third cousin Bernice that I would make an appearance. And for this I’m missing the opening of the Japanese market. I must hurry before the European exchange opens. But the service debt incurred tonight by my presence will be honored. I’ll see to that.

First Woman

(cups left hand to mouth, speaks to audience)

Jesus, talk about flushed with excess.

Fourth Man

I didn’t catch that.

First Woman

I asked what’s the key to your success?

Fourth Man

Simple. It all goes back to my business philosophy, which is, ‘my time is the most important’. My expectation, no, make that demand, for those in my employ is, you are at my beck and call. If I call a meeting, you drop whatever you are doing, and you damn well better be doing something, and get there.

First Woman

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

I bet this financial dominatrix orgasms as he grinds a spiked heel into the backside of any unfortunate hoi polloi who stumble across his imperious path.

(back to Fourth Man)
So, any layoffs within the empire of late?

Fourth Man

Nothing consequential. Bits of flotsam here and there.

First Woman

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

Can you picture how he handles a downsizing? The unfortunate are escorted to the executioner’s chamber and go from table to table, like stations of the cross, gathering last-minute crumbs while simultaneously expected to endure a quick pat down to make sure no company property is being purloined.

(back to Fourth Man)

I’m curious, wouldn’t you say philosophy, in and of itself, is the love of wisdom and the never-ending search for it?

Fourth Man

That’s why my holdings are worldwide. To draw from the best.

First Woman

(cups left hand to mouth, speaks to audience)

His Descartian dictum: “I’m rich, therefore I am.” And his corollary is probably, “You’re not, therefore fuck off.” You do the Latin.

Fourth Man

(looking puzzled)

Just who are you talking to?

First Woman

I don’t talk to and I don’t talk at. I talk with. But you wouldn’t know anything about that. You’re too busy menage a tois-ing with The Donald and Sir Rupert.

Fourth Man

What did I hear you say?

First Woman

So, is it true you give performance reviews to your girlfriends and chart your sex life under Mergers and Acquisitions?

Fourth Man

Enough of you.

(waves arm dismissing her)

Security will escort you out.

First Woman

One last thing. With Don and Rupe, are you a top or a bottom?

Fourth Man

You audacious bitch! Nobody addresses me like this. Nobody. Not you. Not anyone. Ever.

(walks away)

First Woman

(turns toward audience, spotlight on her)

Well, my, my. The size of his funeral will depend on who’s catering. Speaking of size, I’ll let you in on one of this pequeno pecker’s secrets. I bet when he uses a public urinal, rather than on the porcelain, he concertedly pees directly in the water. Why you ask? Because the louder sound this produces must, of course, mean to anyone within earshot that he is of a generous endowment. And the first and only commandment for these all-time ego strokers is everything in their portfolio, and I mean everything, must be the unchallenged biggest and the best.

Fifth Man

(approaches and says, with back to audience)

Ever seen a bigger one?

First Woman

No, never. That hole of an ass takes the cake.

Fifth Man

I handed him some paper towels in the john. He thought I was the help.
Tried to tip me…a quarter.

(laughs)

I nailed the bastard. Told him to unwrap his firehose elsewhere or I would call security. Man, he stormed outa there.

First Woman

So…water or porcelain?

Fifth Man

Oh, he was water. Definitely water.

THE END