Oct/Nov 2003 Miscellaneous

A Last Night of Their Life (A Ten-Minute Play)

by Michael Cocchiarale

Photo-Art by Tara Gilbert-Brever



ROB, early 30s

DIANE, a little younger



A fall evening, with rain impending.



An eat-in kitchen.

A wobbly square table abuts a plain white wall. Directly above is a curtainless window that provides a good view of a paned black void. At stage left, directly behind DIANE'S chair, is an old refrigerator.


Throughout the play, ROB and DIANE should periodically place hands or elbows on the table, causing it to rock back and forth. The rocking must be seen and heard, for it is meant to suggest the instability of their relationship.

(As the lights come up, ROB and DIANE sit on opposite ends of the table. DIANE is clearly agitated, tapping a fingernail against the rim of a plate. ROB eagerly twirls spaghetti noodles with a fork)


DIANE: Don't.

ROB: What?

DIANE: It's no good.

ROB (lifting the fork to his mouth): I know. But I'm hungry.

DIANE: So am I... but it's no good. I've poisoned it.

ROB: What?

DIANE: I've poisoned our supper. If you eat it, you will die.

(The fork remains poised at ROB'S lips. DIANE slowly shakes her head)

ROB (looking down at his plate): Are you insane?

(For a few moments, they simply look at each other)

ROB (Cont'd): I don't believe you.

DIANE: You never do.

ROB (Sticking his fork back into his mound of pasta): What's that supposed to mean?

DIANE: Aloysius.

ROB: Oh yes, of course: Your fat, pretentious, homo-sensitive...

DIANE (jabbing at him with a fork): Don't you dare talk about him like that. He was a good... a dear friend.

(They stare at each other for a few tense moments)

ROB: I don't believe you.

DIANE (after a pause): It's the mushrooms.

ROB (lifting a slice of mushroom for inspection): Portabella?

DIANE: Aminita Virosa.

(ROB looks at her quizzically)

DIANE (Cont'd): And a few Jack-O'-Lanterns for color.

ROB: So let me get this straight: if I stick this forkful of pasta in my mouth...

DIANE: You'll be dead in time for the eleven o'clock news.

(ROB lets out a short, nervous laugh)

DIANE (Cont'd): After a few seconds, you'll begin to experience mild stomach contractions. Soon, you'll be bent over double. Finally, you will fall to the floor and flop around like a fish while the poison makes a mad dash for your brain.

(ROB simply looks at her)

DIANE (Cont'd): Oh shit. I don't know what will happen.

ROB (suddenly realizing): This is some kind of projected death wish. This is your way of confessing your guilt over what you did with that fat ass...

DIANE: Aloysius. His name was...

ROB: Tell me: what kind of guy would insist on calling himself Aloysius? [pronounced Alowishus] It's not even a name. It's a goddam adjective.

DIANE: It's a saint's name.

ROB: Gee Diane (holding his fork towards her and grinning crazily), This is fricking Aloysius.

DIANE: Stop it.

ROB: Don't I have a right to be angry?

DIANE: I'm the one who should be upset. After all, you've abandoned me.

ROB: You knew that moving to a new area would be rough on me-on my career. And now that I'm working in development, it is even worse. If I don't devote my full attention to this new project, it will fall through, and I'll be sure to go tumbling along with it.

DIANE: But you just leave me at home... day and night.

ROB: I put in fourteen-hour days. I don't always have the energy for a 45-minute commute.

DIANE: Then why did you choose to live in this stupid development?

ROB: Because the long drive home gives me time to decompress. (pause) And it's far enough so they can't expect me to come in on a moment's notice. (pause) It's quiet, it's safe, and-most importantly-it's spread out enough so that people aren't always in your business. (pause) And don't tell me you hate it here. You've got the mall two blocks away. And there's the park. And... and... that pretty woman, the one you walk with...

DIANE: Lynn.

ROB: You've got a friend too.

DIANE: An occasional stroll to the convenience store is hardly a basis for a friendship.

ROB: This is a fine place.

(Distant thunder sounds)

DIANE: But Rob, look at it from my perspective. You've got ready-made friends at work. You've got happy hours and conferences in Chicago, San Francisco... all over the country. (pause) I've got racks of clothes and pizza in the food court to keep me company. I've got game shows and soap operas.

ROB: You have your kids.

DIANE: My kids. While you jump-start your career, I spend my afternoons with drooling, shitting, barfing babies. It's all the real human contact I have. (pause) Do you know that sometimes I find myself talking to the vegetables I cut up for supper?

(ROB shrugs)

DIANE (Cont'd): I could have handled this kind of life for a week. Two even. But three months? With no end in sight?

ROB: In case you didn't know, I work in what's called a growth industry. And there will be just about zero growth without my industry.

DIANE: At least I had Aloysius. He saved me for awhile.

ROB: And screwed you.

DIANE: He helped me through rough times.

(ROB folds arms, and sits back amused)

DIANE (Cont'd): He brought me out-allowed me to express absolutely all I was feeling and thinking. He encouraged me to put down in words every desire, every little thing I wanted but did not have the courage ask for or do. (pause) At the end of each email, do you know what he wrote?

(ROB smiles derisively)

DIANE (Cont'd): A simple colon and parenthesis.

(ROB scrunches his face in confusion)

DIANE (Cont'd): You know, that little sideways smile. Those two punctuations marks did more for my self-esteem than...

ROB: You've got to be kidding.

DIANE: When we finally met, he simply sat in the booth across from me...

ROB: You mean he actually fit?

DIANE: He sat across from me and listened without comment, without judgment and (sensing ROB is ready to interrupt) AND-without hidden agenda.

ROB: Is that what budding intellectuals do these days instead of finishing dissertations? Canvas the Internet for despondent wives and...

DIANE: It's what people do, Rob. Good people.

ROB: This whole torrid affair...

DIANE: It was not an affair.

ROB: Okay. It was one of his psychology experiments. I bet he told you he was doing some empirical research. Studying the emotional effects of female body parts to the stimulus of male body parts.

DIANE (looking directly at him): I told you a hundred times: there was nothing sexual between us. (pause) There was something better... deeper... less complicated.

ROB: Don't give me that bullshit. I have eyes, you know.

DIANE: Oh, I know.

ROB: Now what in triple hell does that mean? (realizing) Oh no. Don't you dare turn this around on me.

(DIANE nervously folds her cloth napkin)

ROB (Cont'd): Do you hear me? (twirling a fresh bunch of noodles then suddenly dropping the fork) Look, what happened happened. It was a simple act of nature.

(Thunder sounds)

ROB (Cont'd)(thumbing towards window): Hell, it was like a storm. When nature flexes her muscles... you just have to ride out the inclemency. (beat) But the good thing is that... after the storm the sun comes out and things grow. (he points to his heart) I have grown, for example.

(DIANE sighs)

ROB (Cont'd): And I thought you had grown too. I thought our move had been all about growth. But it seems that this past year you just pretended. Smiling, pressing my hand, saying all the right things to that counselor-biding your time so you could, with cold-hearted calculation, have your revenge with, of all people, some... some fast food-inhaling graduate student.

(DIANE throws her hands up and rises)

ROB (Cont'd): What? What did I say that wasn't the truth?

(DIANE opens the refrigerator)

ROB (Cont'd): What are you looking for? The cheese is in the crisper, on its side.

(watching DIANE rummage and trying to guess what she is after)

ROB (Cont'd): The butter's right here, on the table.

(DIANE takes ketchup out of the refrigerator and sits back down. She begins to whack sharply at the bottom of the bottle)

ROB (Cont'd)(chuckling): This is an interesting development.

(DIANE continues to smack the bottle)

ROB (Cont'd): You don't eat pasta with ketchup.

DIANE: What do you know about me?

ROB: Have you totally lost it?

(At this point, the ketchup suddenly spills over DIANE'S pasta. ROB gestures at her plate, as if he has his answer)

ROB (Cont'd): I had this girl once who wanted everything from me-especially my money. When I broke up with her, she took after me with grapefruits. Then there was this... woman who picked the lock to my apartment and spread manure all over the hardwood floors. Shit for an asshole, she wrote in the note she left.

(DIANE can't help smiling)

ROB (Cont'd): Somehow, the women I've known always find some unique way of asserting their individuality.

DIANE: You think you know me. Every single day when you are at work, do you even stop to consider what might be going on back here? And I'm not talking about whether I've washed the clothes or mailed off the bills. (points to her head) I'm talking about here.

ROB: What?

DIANE: Up here there's something uncomfortable, something purple and bulging. Something pressing against the back of my eyes. At times, the pressure is almost blinding. (pause) I think it's hate... hate for you.

ROB: What did I ever do...

DIANE: You brought another woman into our house—our first home, Rob—and you took off her clothes, laid her down in that bed—the bed my parents gave us—and... you spread her legs. You entered another woman's body and then continued to live and sleep with me as if nothing ever happened.

(Thunder sounds)

ROB: Another city, another life. That's what we said. That was what we agreed upon.

DIANE: The affair was bad enough, but afterward, you made no real effort to repair things. Sure, you went to all of those counseling sessions. Sure you suggested moving far away from the pain. But when we got here, you potted me like a plant in this wretched hole and simply went off to work. You call that healing? You call that growth?

ROB: What do you want me to say? That counselor gave us a clean bill of health. (pause) Look, I specifically remember you sitting there in the office at that last session, nodding and smiling like the sun had just come out. What's the point of bringing all this up now, after...

DIANE: Because it's still here (points to her chest). At first, I thought we were okay. But then, slowly, almost imperceptibly, I began to fell something growing inside me. Little tiny shoots, they felt like, reaching out to tickle at my rib cage. And then, slowly, again, very slowly, it seemed like a fungus covering up my heart. Now, it gets so bad that, sometimes, I have to rush to the bathroom and stick my head in the toilet. (pause) I'm sorry, but there's nothing here... (pointing to chest) or here... (pointing to head) that doesn't make me ill.

(There are several moments of silence)

ROB: You simply need to get over it.

DIANE (passionately): You need to stop doing it. You need to stop going off with other women. You're killing me.

ROB: Other women?

(Thunder sounds, a little louder than before.)

DIANE: It's part of your great big development plan. I know. I've seen.

ROB: What the hell are...

DIANE: Did you think I was going to stay in this little cul de sac forever, blithely accepting the fact that you are so busy that you can only come home a few times a week? Did you think that I wouldn't begin to get a little bit suspicious?

ROB: I'm not even going to dignify this with a response.

DIANE: And I won't undignify this with pictures... which I have.

(ROB is shaken)

DIANE (Cont'd): Aloysius was not my lover.

ROB (realizing): He was your spy.

DIANE: That's right. I hired a six-foot, three-hundred and fifty pound detective to snap pictures of you through a pinhole in the ceiling of your office.

(They both almost smile)

DIANE (Cont'd): Why the hell did you marry me?

ROB: What? Why... how about for your feminine wile?

DIANE: I mean it.

ROB: Because I thought you weren't pretty enough to be unfaithful.

DIANE (slamming the table): I said why? Why? Why? Why?

ROB: Because... I don't know... We were happy. The sun was shining on us. Everyone else I knew was taking the plunge. It's all so incredibly arbitrary. (pause) Really, you could have been anyone.

DIANE (sarcastically): Well... I do appreciate your honesty. You may have your divorce.

(Thunder sounds, louder than before)

ROB (letting out a long sigh): Look, I have had one really really extremely long day. Can I just eat already-in peace?

DIANE (sarcastically): Please do.

ROB: And without the fear of awful wretching and death?

DIANE: Why the hell do I need poisonous mushrooms? What will they do that hasn't already been done.

(At wits end, ROB angrily lifts fork to his lips, but hesitates at the last second)

DIANE (Cont'd)(waving at him with a hand): Go ahead. Don't you trust me? (pause) Perhaps we haven't grown as much as you think.

(ROB gives her a long look. He sniffs the pasta, and then-while thunder sounds in the background-touches the food tentatively with tongue. In a panic, he takes a napkin and begins wiping at his mouth. While Rob is doing this, DIANE slowly picks up a forkful of food and puts it into her mouth. As she takes another bite, ROB looks on in horror. During the silence, raindrops begin to plink against the dark window. The sound should be audible.)

ROB: You're not dead.


(DIANE looks towards the window-at the rain. Then she slowly turns towards the audience. She looks extremely ill)

DIANE (cont'd): Not yet.



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