Lush Life: Adam Bock's The Drunken City & Excerpt

Rail: You have a song in your play, but only one. Why?

Adam Bock: The play is in four parts and the song is a part. The excerpt is part of the first part, and the song is the third part. I was trying to make a different world in each part, in a way. And since there are no other songs, it sort of makes it stronger in a weird way, just because it’s of itself, alone. I didn’t have to do much work to make it noticed because it was so different.

Rail: Most of the characters in the play are varying stages of drunk. Was that hard to manage in production?

Bock: Drunk people, unless they’re completely trashed, keep talking—they don’t stop. The thing that happens is they care a little more, or they break a boundary that they normally wouldn’t. When I was writing, I was thinking two things—a lot of times when people are drunk, they notice things they haven’t noticed before and, also, they can sometimes be very honest with themselves. They forget to lie. So, that was sort of a character recipe for these guys—some would be more belligerent, some would be sweeter, etc., so I just used it as part of the character recipe. I didn’t really worry about it, actually.

Rail: There’s your play and The Seafarer—which is a bunch of drunks – out there. Is inebriation in vogue?

Bock: It’s always been used. Think about Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, or all the drunks in Shakespeare, or all the drunks everywhere. Our god of theater was the god of wine, so it just makes sense. I did love The Seafarer. I thought they did drunk really, really well. The thing that was great in The Seafarer, is that they could all fall down very easily. You get a lot of good gags out of people falling down.

excerpt from The Drunken City by Adam Bock

LINDA

When Jack asked me to marry him I got so nervous I went into my room and I took my bottle of Windex and I cleaned my sneakers.

MARNIE

You did?

MELISSA

I was upset because Jack asked Linda and then Gary and Marnie, so when I saw Linda’s ring and then I saw Marnie’s ring I was upset.

MARNIE

You were?

LINDA

You were?

MARNIE

Why were you upset?

MELISSA

You’d have been upset too if Linda and me’d come and shown you Look Look

LINDA

Did we sound like that?

MARNIE

We didn’t sound like that

LINDA

We were like Look Look?

MELISSA

You were supposed to be happy You were happy

MARNIE

Were you mad at us?

MELISSA

No. No. No.

MARNIE

So why didn’t you say something?

MELISSA

I didn’t want to say anything because I was happy for you.

MARNIE

I didn’t even know you were upset. Did you know she was upset?

LINDA

No.

MARNIE

Cause I didn’t know she was upset.

MELISSA

I didn’t want to say anything.

LINDA

Did you tell Kelly you were mad?

MELISSA

I wasn’t mad.

LINDA

Did you tell Lori?

MELISSA

You both had rings. I didn’t have a ring.

MARNIE

But that’s

MELISSA

But then Jason he

MARNIE

Ok just a sec Wait wait This is Jason.

Unfolds, shows large xerox photo of Jason.

LINDA

How upset were you?

MARNIE

Yeah?

MELISSA

But then Jason

MARNIE

That makes me I’m sad you

MELISSA

But Jason gave me mine so it was ok.

MARNIE

Yeah but I’m

LINDA

Yeah.

MARNIE

Yeah.

Pause.

MELISSA

What’s weird is We’re all friends and none of us were engaged and then all of sudden all of us suddenly are Now. That’s the point. And what’s different because we’re engaged. Not me being upset.

Pause.

MELISSA

So then because we’d all got engaged and we all got our rings, we wanted to celebrate, so we went into the city. This was two months ago.

MARNIE

Kelly drove.

LINDA

She doesn’t drink.

MARNIE

Right.

MELISSA

She has kids.

LINDA

Do you have a picture of Kelly?

MARNIE

Yeah. Yeah. Just a sec.

MELISSA

So Kelly drove

MARNIE

Here Look

Shows large Xerox photo of Kelly.

And these are her kids.

Shows a small photo of Kelly’s kids.

LINDA

They are so cute

MARNIE

I forgot to copy this one.

MELISSA

Kelly drove

MARNIE

Five of us went. Me, Melissa, Lori, Linda and Kelly. Kelly’s already married and Linda well Melinda well

LINDA

Do you have a picture of Lori?

MARNIE

Yeah.

Unfolds, shows large Xerox photo of Lori.

This is the only picture I have of her.

LINDA

Lori probably won’t get married

MARNIE

Yeah

MELISSA

I dunno

LINDA

No

MARNIE

Yeah

LINDA

Yeah Lori probably won’t get married

MARNIE

She doesn’t want to.

MELISSA

She might.

To audience.

We do everything together. The five of us.

MARNIE

But maybe.

MELISSA

She’ll get married.

MARNIE

So Kelly drove

MELISSA

So we went into the city

LINDA

Just for the night To have fun

MARNIE

To celebrate

LINDA

Remember the

MARNIE

Yeah remember the

MELISSA

Yeah

ALL

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

MELISSA

So we went into the city

LINDA

In spotlight. To the audience.

The city’s like a monster Like a sleeping dragon or some dark creature in the night that cracks open an eye, it just stares at you and dares you to come closer to it, to look down its dark streets, says “Come here” and whispers dark dangerous dark ideas into your ear It’s fun It’s fun it’s I go into the city and I forget who I am, I forget to be afraid of anything, which, I don’t know, I don’t know how smart that is, but I know that when I’m in the city and I with my friends I just It’s

MELISSA

We got drunk.

LINDA

Yeah.

MARNIE

Remember?

LINDA

Yeah.

They all laugh.

MELISSA

We were racing around like crazy. We went dancing and we were shouting and people were shouting at us and laughing and and Linda and Linda

LINDA

In a spotlight. To the audience.

I’ve been reading about Hinduism at school. The Hindus They think They think the whole world is alive That everything That every flower every bit of wood and rock and the floating clouds And even the water that a small golden fish swims through Everything is living and feeling and

And that night I believed them I could see the world that they

I could see the city slowly opening its lazy dangerous eyes

They The Hindus They use their breath to slow down the tumbling hurdy gurdy of the world Slow it down so they can see the trees breathe, so they can fall in love with the wind, so they can

That night I could hear it I could hear the cement under my feet muttering, I could hear the streetlights arguing with me, I could hear a devil and an angel struggling grabbing at each other, young and old and dead And I knew no one liked me and I knew

and then

I was dizzy and

MELISSA

Linda had too much to drink.

MARNIE

Smiles, nervous.

LINDA

Maybe

MELISSA

You had way too much. And she fainted. And Lori tried to catch her.

Pause.

And Lori broke her foot.

MARNIE

Yeah.

LINDA

I was fine.

MARNIE

Yeah but Lori

MELISSA

And I knew I knew that night

Cause there were cops and Melinda was trying not to cry and that guy who ran the store And remember how your cell it didn’t

I knew

What this ring means

Points at her wedding ring.

Is that there’s a beautiful new path that we’re all going to walk down. It’s beautiful It’s so

And it also means There’s some places That’s it We won’t be going there any more. That’s what’s different now.

MARNIE

What?

MELISSA

What

MARNIE

You think that’s true?

MELISSA

I’m sure it is. We’re getting married.

MARNIE

Huh. Huh.

MELISSA

To audience.

All I’m saying is: When you get engaged, don’t go into the city. Don’t go into the city.

MARNIE

Huh.

LINDA

I’m fine.

MELISSA

Show’m one more time.

They all show their rings.

Ok. That’s it Let’s go.

MARNIE and LINDA exit, MELISSA turns just before exiting.

MELISSA

Don’t go into the city.

She exits.

The Drunken City runs through April 20 at Playwrights Horizons. Please visit playwrightshorizons.org for more information.

Contributor

Adam Bock

Block is a Canadian playwright and an artistic associate of the theater group the Shotgun Players.

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