Dan Duling

Handful of Lights

[produced, New York Theater Ensemble]

[full length play, two acts]

Character exposition as vaudeville shtick. A failed comedian gives birth to three sons, a writer, a TV star and a rocker, all by different mothers. They’re all coming home for the first time, each with a very personal agenda. Pinter’s “Homecoming” was a walk in the park compared to the darkly comic sparks that fly when these kids come home.

[cast 2 w, 4 m, 1 boy]

BRENDA: Placing your hands on either side of the face, you indicate affection by gently caressing the assailant’s temples. Getting a firm grip under the jawbone of the attacker, you quickly place your thumbs into his sockets and jab the soft, fleshy tissues surrounding the eyeballs until iris, pupil, retina and cornea are torn from their moorings and hang by their optic nerves. Quietly pick up your purse, adjust your clothing and then call for a police officer to--keep an eye on the attacker until he can be suitably punished.

LAWRENCE: No, there is no time. What IS today is beyond comprehension tomorrow and verse-vicea. We collide, adapt and disperse, and carry words with us as reminders...

PHYLLIS: What would you say if I asked you to make love?

LAWRENCE: I’d say, “Again?”

PHYLLIS: Again? We’ve never made love before.


PHYLLIS: Well, so have I. But not with you.

LAWRENCE: Oh! You mean US, TOGETHER! I just thought you meant at the same time.

BRENDA: When I was six years old, my mother sat me down in my bedroom and said to me very clearly: “There are two types of people in this world--strangers, and MEN. You can trust strangers. They won’t invade your privacy. They’ll let you live as you please. But men. Men are your enemies. They’ll do anything in this world to make your life miserable. They are alien and hostile. Never forget! Don’t be fooled by any of their tricks or promised affections. All they want is to subjugate and defile you. Enchain and violate you. I’m telling you this because I love you more than life itself. Do you understand? Because I love you.” Then she kissed me long and hard on the lips so that I knew she meant all those words, even the ones I couldn’t understand. And when she finished kissing me, she slapped me several times as hard as she could so I wouldn’t forget. We cried together. She did this to me every night at the same time for five days. So I would never, never forget. And at the end of those five days, she ran away from me...with the upstairs maid.

PHYLLIS: Oh, you had servants?

Looking ahead in 2012.

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A little extra...

Duling’s plays have been produced throughout the United States. Most recently, “Monstrosity” received staged readings at the Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles as part of the Inkubator reading series by the Katselas Theatre Company. Before that, “Monstrosity” also received a staged reading at Innovation Theatre Works in Bend, Oregon. The search for theatres interested in producing “Monstrosity” continues in earnest in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.