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Loft Party 

Scenes From a Scene

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Setting: The present. A spacious loft in Wicker Park.

Characters: About 20, more or less equally divided between the sexes, ranging in age from early to late 20s. Most of the women are dressed almost entirely in black and have Annie Lennox crew cuts or Louise Brooks bobs. None are blond (though you get the feeling that many were at one time or another). The men are more varied: not all are in black, but many have the scruffy-jeans-and-combat-boots artist look or the transplanted-surfer image. Ponytails rule, and more than a few of these postadolescent faces are sprouting goatees. There are only two nonwhites, both black men, and they avoid each other at all times. One is in freshly torn jeans and a "London Boy" T-shirt, the other wears an oversized linen suit, Versace maybe, and clutches a bottle of Evian. The one in the suit looks uncomfortable.

Stage notes: Minimal furniture. Mood music at all times (the Smiths, the Cocteau Twins, K.D. Lang). Empty bottles of imported beer strewn casually around for atmosphere.

Scene One--Introductions Are Made

Guy with Red Ponytail (wearily): So I've kinda been working for this studio since I graduated from the Art Institute. Ever since about '90, post-Mapplethorpe.

Woman in Rubber Dress: Excuse me?

Red Ponytail: You know how that Mapplethorpe exhibit was attacked in Cincinnati? (She nods enthusiastically.) That was my artistic awakening--I knew what I had to do.

Rubber Dress: So you're a photographer?

Red Ponytail (nodding, crunching on Cheetos): Exactly, but I'm not like the next Man Ray or something. My studio...well, how can I say this? We mostly take pictures of all these Colombian drug dealers and their families. (Laughing) I feel like I should be working for the D-fucking-E-A. I think we've taken the photo of every dealer in Humboldt Park (drags on cigarette). But they pay cash. And you?

Rubber Dress: I teach foreign students English at Columbia. And I'm working on a short film--

Red Ponytail: I thought you were an actress.

Rubber Dress (very seriously): --writing and directing a short film, but those are just to make ends meet. Poetry. (Long pause) I'm probably the only neo-classical erotic poet in North America under 30.

Black Guy in Linen Suit (between sips of Evian): That's different? Are you published?

Rubber Dress: Of course I'm published. Not here in Chicago, but in New York, naturally. I have a book that may be published soon by Columbia, the Columbia here, not in New York, where I teach English to--

Linen Suit (laughing): Foreign students.

Rubber Dress (offended): That wasn't nice. Let me ask you this though--are you from California? (Linen Suit nods.) I knew it. It was...obvious. Linen suit, Evian water, very la-la-land. You aren't upset, are you? I don't mean to call you lame but your look is so unprogressive. (Laughing) Are you a model?

Linen Suit: Actually, I'm completing my dissertation at Princeton. Philosophy. Analytical philosophy. (With pseudo-indifference) I'm deconstructing Kierkegaard's existential dialectic in Either/Or from an anti-Hegelian perspective.

Very Thin Woman in Cat Suit: Fascinating. You must be very sensitive.

Linen Suit (enjoying attention): Really, it's nothing. Everyone in philosophy is deconstructing nowadays. There's nothing else to do. And you--let me guess, you're a sculptor? You have sculptor's hands.

Cat Suit (blushing): No, I'm not. (Quickly) I didn't go to the Art Institute or Princeton, and I don't write poetry or deconstruct anything. Self-destruct, maybe. I just was released from two months in a psych hospital in Du Page--Lombard? Villa Park?--my second nervous breakdown. (Murmurs of sympathy.) No, don't feel sorry for me. Denial is the first stage, and it's not as bad as it sounds. I was on lithium, which had me flying. I'm officially bipolar depressive, see the problem? But now, a daily 200 milligrams of Prozac--

Red Ponytail: Who makes that stuff? I think that stock is in my trust fund.

Cat Suit (without missing a beat): Eli Lilly, and Goldman Sachs just gave them a "buy"--so I'm doing great. What does my therapist say? (With Yiddish accent) "Just your garden variety, upper-middle-class North Shore girl suffering from too much Jewish guilt and too little love. Manic depressive/schmanic depressive."

Rubber Dress (deadpan): Would you like to be in my next film?

Scene Two--Obligatory Displays of Concern for the Environment

Girl in Plastic Go-Go Boots: New Town? Who'd want to live over there? Or in Lakeview? It's all so trendy, so faux Greenwich Village.

Biker Chick: You don't need to tell me. That's why I wanted to move here. This is the scene. Do you know how many coffeehouses and bookstores have opened in this neighborhood, this south of Fullerton part? Take a guess? No--you couldn't. Eight. In the last two years. That I counted.

Go-Go Boots: Eight coffee shops? Or bookstores?

Biker Chick: Both. In total.

Go-Go Boots: Yeah, but the yuppies have taken over. I live two blocks from here and can never find parking.

Biker Chick: You have a car? That's so wasteful--I mean, there's that Earth Summit in Rio next week, and I read that the average auto owner in North America drives enough to release enough pollution to kill one tree in Brazil a year. Or every two years.

Go-Go Boots (sighing, checking her makeup): Yeah, I heard that too. But I only drive on the weekends, and I never ever eat McDonald's. So, I figure with all the hamburgers I'm not eating, McDonald's kills less cows and they don't have to destroy so many trees for grazing...I've got it all worked out.

Biker Chick (impressed): I guess I don't have to ask you "Paper or plastic?"

Scene Three--Obligatory Displays of Anti-Americanism

Black Guy in Freshly Torn Jeans: The most incredible thing about traveling is that you can be whoever you want. You don't have to be an American, that's what's so cool.

Thin, Older Man: In Italy--where I lived for half my life--there was never anything sillier than an American tourist. Correction: maybe two American tourists. (He chuckles.)

Torn Jeans: Exactomundo. That time I went to France, junior year, I was in this bar in Paris. Which one I'm not sure, but definitely on the left bank--

Thin Man: Of course, of course. Only tourists would go elsewhere.

Torn Jeans: --and this guy, French, comes up to me and asks me am I Nigerian? And I'm like, yeah, why not? This was around the time we were fighting the mother of all battles. I told him yes--he liked that erotic, exoticness in me. They all did. So I was Nigerian whenever I went out.

Thin Man (after a moment): You don't really look Nigerian. The Yoruba have such long faces and sharp features. Your look is more toned, more...Ashanti.

Torn Jeans (beaming): Ashanti. I like that. Whose side were they on?

Scene Four--Private Obsessions

Very Thin Woman in Cat Suit (standing in kitchen doorway, swooning to the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now"): The first time I heard Morrissey I was 14 or 15. I think that day I had my first--actually, my only--orgasm.

A Girl in Black: Oh, come off it.

Cat Suit: I'm not lying. He was singing this, and this rush came over me, like a hot flash--

Girl in Black: Were you masturbating?

Cat Suit (very serious): No, no I wasn't. But if he were up close...

Black Guy in Linen Suit: I've seen Morrissey. He stood next to me for a few minutes.

Cat Suit: No way! Where? What did he smell like?

Linen Suit (sipping Evian): In a club four, five years ago. In Ibiza.

Cat Suit (too quickly): Morrissey? In a club? I don't believe it. Someone had to have drug him there. He doesn't go to clubs.

Linen Suit: Well he was there. He and this blond transvestite stood next to me for at least five minutes.

Cat Suit: You stood next to Morrissey and didn't speak?

Linen Suit (smiling): I can't speak to everyone I see in a club.

Cat Suit (slowly): Did he at least look like he was having a good time?

Scene Five--Just Say Maybe

(Several people are sitting in a semicircle in the kitchen area.)

Short, Young Man in Leather (slight stutter): So can can can I switch this tape before we start?

Androgynous Redhead: Do what you want. It's a free country, man.

Leather Man (standing, going to tape deck): Great. I I I can't trip and hear Nitzer Ebb. It fucks with my mind. I get schizoid. (Sympathetic nods; he rejoins group after turning on some Gregorian chants.) I'm ready. (He pulls out a small white envelope and a very small piece of blue paper.) I got got got it from these Jamaicans outside Neo's.

Guy With Blond Ponytail: Ugh! More like Neo-conservative! (Everyone nods, laughs. Small talk on how yuppies have taken over the club scene.)

A Girl in Black: I'm ready, man. Who's going to roll?

Androgynous Redhead: You don't roll acid (nods of agreement). You like, lick it.

Second Girl in Black: Lick what?

Leather Man: That that! (Pointing at little piece of paper) Lick that!

First Girl in Black: You mean we all have to lick that bit of paper? Won't the stuff be gone by like the second or third lick? The paper might fall apart, even.

Leather Man: I'm I'm I'm not sure. I think the paper's pretty strong.

Androgynous Redhead: I'm not exchanging fluids with a lot of strangers. What sort of a party is this?

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