Dan Duling

Stranglehold

[full length play, no intermission]

[Produced, Glaxa Studios, L.A., Fall ’97, produced SRT, Portland, Oregon 4/94. Workshops: L.A.: Mark Taper Forum, LATC, Stages, Met Theater; also in Seattle, Portland and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland.]

Award-winning dark comedy about a young girl who works in a strip club at night in an effort to keep her loved ones off the street and out of the institutions they once called home. “You’re too good for me, too. But I’m gonna learn to live with that.” [cast 3 w, 2 m]

VERA: The hand...the hand on the inner thigh...moving...moving with such a sense of purpose, of longing. The hand is insistent; it has a mind of its own. It will not be denied. Reaching upward, learning the way with fingertip eyes. Groping in the dark toward something more elusive, toward the...otherness beyond the soft curve of the thigh...far from the sun, far from anything one might call an answer. Nails digging in for a better grip, for a taste -- as only fingers can taste -- of the blood beneath the clear tissue of skin. For a taste of the other...And then the hand is home, has found its way. The thigh is forgotten, the fingers anchor with new solve...They will not be denied...


KARLY: It wasn’t that he said she was insane that hurt her so much...it was that he proved it in a court of law.

EARL: I just love divorce. It’s so much messier than mercy killing...


Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #1:
CLARISSA: Everything around us is invested with potential meaning...intention. It became my life’s work to catalog as many of these as possible into what I call “The Lessons of the Natural World.” Have you ever considered what, for example, is the raison d’ętre of the...giraffe? The giraffe exists as a reminder that “to be tall is not enough.” This is but one of my “Lessons of the Natural World.”
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #2:
CATTLE: A mother’s milk will not be enough if someone needs the meat.
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #3:
SHEEP: Know your flock, but beware of lonely shepherds...
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #4:
DOGS: To be loyal, to fetch and to heel are not enough.
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #5:
BEAVERS: Industriousness is not enough.
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #6:
ELEPHANTS: Size is no panacea, regardless of what one can do with one’s nose...
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #7:
ANTS: Work for its own sake is never enough...
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #8:
MOSQUITOES: Every irritant will have its day.
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #9:
FISH: You can swim, but you can’t hide...
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #10:
THE OPOSSUM: To hang by one’s tail, though admirable, is still not enough!
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #11:
FLIES: If you’re obsessed with dead things, don’t be surprised if your children turn out to be maggots!
Clarissa’s Lessons of the Natural World #12:
MEN: The principal drawback of mixed company!

CLARISSA: You, too, will probably have to face helplessness some day. And if you do, and if you babble and have to be cleaned up after and pushed here and there, I hope you’ll have done something I didn’t do, and gotten it down -- on paper or tape or something -- gotten down whatever your unfinished “it” might be. Because sooner or later, helplessness is what it’s all about. It comes in waves, it comes in lifestyles, it comes in the mail...And it’s coming...it’s coming...


KARLY: I’m not stupid, but I never really learned in high school. And the way I figure it, typing’s the key.


LOU: Vera, life’s been dealin’ off the bottom to both of us for too long. Makin’ a point of remindin’ us on a daily basis just what we’re not. I figure you can understand me wantin’ a little pick-me-up, right? Besides, this was your mom’s bath day...That’s gonna take some gettin’ used to...


EARL: Look at most guys my age. Scrambling after every dollar they can get. Bucks for the big house, the hot tub, the BMW. Money for things they don’t really need, things that sooner or later are going to let them down. I think you know as well as I do, there’s no shortage of irony in the material world. So I’ve made it my business to give the best and the brightest of them an occasional nudge, just to remind them what a dead end all those luxury things are--

LOU: By stealing them.

EARL: Recycling, Lou, recycling! And I don’t mean to make a case for my being any kind of Robin Hood or anything...but I mean there is a small voice that talks to me once in a while -- maybe you’ve heard it, too -- a voice that kind of whispers: “Fuck all those misguided young materialist bastards!” You heard that voice?

LOU: Yeah, I’ve heard it. But I thought it was just gas...


EARL: Face it, Lou. Life is full of drawbacks and not-quite-but-almosts. And then you grow up and it turns into a fucking body count. A body count. Live long enough, you get to watch everybody die...

LOU: Must have been your charm that swept Karly off her feet...


CLARISSA: All I’ve figured out is that we live with so much...in spite of so much. And then there’s a limit...things we CANNOT put up with. And when experience takes us beyond that, we either...explode...or what? I...got better! Can you beat it? A whole new beginning just when I’m getting close to the end of this life...Now, where’s the lesson in that?

Looking ahead in 2012.

All screenplays are registered with the WGA–West and are fully protected property of the author.

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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.