Wheeler Bledsoe- A 30 + year old, male African-American surveillance technician.
Richard Kawaler – A 50 + year old, white male surveillance technician
Lydia Kirylenko – A 30 – 35 year old female, a trained actress who has also worked in
“gentleman’s clubs” and has been recruited as a surveillance special agent.
Frank Savage – A 50 + retired United States Army ballistics specialist and current
international weapons inspector for the United Nations
A New York City hotel.
A pre-programmed melody of popular songs plays softly like the background music in a
downtown hotel lobby as the audience enters.
A scrim directly across the center divides the up and down stage into two distinct areas, each of
which are arranged as hotel rooms which generally mirror one another.
The room occupying the down stage area is neatly arranged, with an open suitcase on the bed. A
desk and chair are at stage right, a bed stand and lamp are beside the bed, and there is an
overstuffed chair at stage left.
The room behind the scrim and occupying the up stage area contains the same furniture as the
down stage room, but the bed is strewn with papers and piled over with men‘s coats and sport-
jackets. The desk has been moved to stand directly beside the scrim, and it is covered with
notebooks, a large tape recorder, a TV monitor, a high-powered camera, and several Styrofoam
coffee cups. A set of closed drapes covers the back wall of the stage as if hung in front of a broad
set of floor to ceiling windows.
As the music and house lights fade, the down stage area is slowly illuminated, leaving the up
stage room remaining in darkness.
Wheeler, wearing an audio headset and dressed in slacks and a white shirt, with its sleeves rolled
up, collar opened and neck tie loosened, enters the room at the front of the stage and stands at the
foot of the bed.
After a moment:
Alright? Can you hear me now?
There is a pause as he waits for an apparent reply.
Okay, I’ll walk around a little. (he moves away from the bed) Alright, then. Can
you hear me now? (pause) Ya, so I’ll just come back in by you, okay?
He looks around the room for a moment then pauses slightly before turning to exit.
The lights rise on the up stage room, exposing where Richard is seated at the desk.
After a moment, Wheeler enters the up stage room.
How‘s the read?
Pretty good. The levels seem fine, but could you go back in there and wait a
minute? I‘d like to make sure that the visual has good coverage. I need you to
walk around a little, sit on the edge of the bed for a second, go to the window, and
then come back here, alright?
Wheeler turns and leaves again, reentering the other room after a moment.
Both areas remain lighted.
Test, testing. (pause) Test.
He sits roughly on the bed.
Testy. Testify. Testicles. Can you hear me now? (pause) Test, test, test. That
seems okay, I trust.
Richard on the other side of the scrim responds by looking away and waving one hand in the air.
Its fine, Wheeler. Try over by the windows, would you?
You think we‘ll need much coverage there?
You never know what to expect on things like this.
We should be able to get visual coverage of the whole room.
And only audio in the bath? That’s discretion for you, Richie-boy.
Yea, some things are better left to the imagination.
After another moment, Wheeler stands and walks to the edge of the stage.
So, how’s that?
It’ll do, Mister Bledsoe. Thanks.
Great. So now I‘m coming back in by you, okay?
After a moment, Wheeler once more leaves the room, reentering behind the scrim.
You‘re happy? Everything looks and sounds okay?
So now we wait.
Right, now we wait.
Richard leans back in his chair, and Wheeler reaches into his shirt pocket and removes a pack of
Mind if I smoke?
Thanks. I‘d offer you one, but
I stopped years ago, right after my father died of emphysema.
Thanks for sharing.
Wheeler lights a cigarette.
You been doing this long, surveillance … national security?
(looking up at him)
Me too, but not like this so much.
He draws in on his cigarette again.
Used to be mostly drug trafficking stuff that’d bring out warrants like this.
Yea, I guess they do. (pause) John DeLorean, Marion Berry – even they were still
both drugs, I guess, on the surface anyway. (pause) This … this is different, not
just some too flashy for his own good auto executive trying to finance a new plant
in Ireland or a maverick mayor being set up for a fall by some chick.. This is
Okay, it‘s different – more significant. (pause) National security’s a lot more
important than just running surveillance on a couple of coke heads, even if that is
what this still feels like.
Yea, I guess. Still makes it kinda tough to go home for a few days and not have
anything to say about where you been or what you been doing.
Well, you‘re not exactly supposed to go carryin’ tales about undercover work
outside of a courtroom, you know, not in local law enforcement and certainly not
with federal work. (pause ) You’d think that notion would‘ve pretty much trickled
down to you, even back home in – where is it – Indianapolis?
“Back home in Indiana.” But you got a wife and kids; don’t they ever ask: “So
what do you do in the war on terrorism, daddy?”
I help protect national security.
Wheeler (as if cautioning for the media)
Within the perimeters of The Patriot Act?
That is what they tell us, isn‘t it?
Yes it is. (pause) You about done with that?
Sure. (pause) Thank God this broad smokes. Ifwe‘d had to set up in a non-
smoking room, this’d sure be a long night.
He puts the cigarette out in an ash tray on the desk, and they continue in casual conversation,
without intensity, like discussing the weather.
I’m glad you’re pleased. (pause) Thanks for putting that out, by the way.
(moving away from him as he speaks)
No problem. (pause) You know, the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution notwithstanding, it still makes me a little queasy sometimes. I mean,
I do my job the best I can, and I sleep good enough at night, but I guess I got sold
a bill of goods in civics class as a kid or something, except they didn‘t call it that.
They called it “The Bill of Rights.“
You had “a dream,” I suppose.
(turning toward him again, but continuing matter-of-factly)
Yea, I guess you could say that. It‘s what drew me into law enforcement, a dream
deferred, of sorts. Still, like you say, “things change.” Shoe bombers, routine pat
downs a regular part of every day air port security.
(pause) I’ll tell you this right now; if we ever catch a suppository bomber, I will
never fly again.
Isn’t there a book or something that you can read for awhile? I don’t know how
much I want to debate the merits of The Patriot Act with you. Besides,
everything that the bureau does in terms of surveillance is well within the
provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
as reinterpreted in the last few years.
(leaning on the back of a chair)
So there it is! (pause) All somebody’s gotta do is certify to a judge – without
having to prove it first, I might add – that a warrant could be relevant to an
ongoing investigation, and bingo!
That’s right, bingo, ba da bing, ba da boom.
Sweet, and the judge doesn‘t have the authority to reject the application. Just “pen
register/track and trace.“
That‘s the policy.
And the orders are no longer limited to a particular judge‘s jurisdiction: they’re
valid anywhere in the country.
W orld even. Your point being?
So much for that 01′ provision that a warrant had to be written specifically for the
place to be searched.
That‘s right, and electronic mail is considered to be like a postcard, open
correspondence that anyone can read without the need of a warrant.
Wheeler (standing away from the chair)
Well, silly me. It‘s just that maybe that ain‘t exactly the right to privacy and being
“secure within one‘s person and papers” that the founding fathers had originally
Watching doesn‘t hurt anybody, and e-mail isn‘t on paper. (standing) Then too,
three thousand and thirty dead one single, sunny Tuesday morning ain’t exactly
something to just turn away from and wait for it to happen again, especially since
today‘s Kamikazes don‘t have great big red zeros painted on the sides of their
planes like in the South Pacific during World War Two.
A point well taken.
Richard (walking away from him)
It’s a question of protecting the masses versus protecting the rights of the
Isn’t that kind of the opposite of why the U.S. Constitution was written?
Richard stands for a moment with his back toward Wheeler, drawing the curtains across the back
wall slightly open and peering out through them, then letting them fall back together before
turning once more to look at Wheeler.
After a moment, Richard steps away from the curtains.
Wheeler stands coolly watching him.
Maybe I’m naive, but if the government comes to a judge and says: “Here‘s our
evidence, and what we need is access to this individual, because we feel that this
person has access to knowledge, or possesses information that could be
detrimental to the safety of our people,” my gut feeling is that they have to go
with it. Our society’s biggest problem, if you read the daily papers’ letters to the
editor, is that people assume, because the government isn’t sharing all of its
intelligence resources, that it hasn‘t got any to share, and, therefore, that the
government officials are just doing things illegally in order to make their lives
easier, or whatever. I know for a fact that, when I was in the military, we didn‘t
always share all ofthe intel, because it‘s classified, and it’s classified for a reason.
The “deep throats” who provide the information in the first place need to be
protected. It‘s not just secrecy for secrecy‘s sake.
I suppose your gut also feels that if a person‘s act is clean, there‘d be no need for
anybody to worry about anything. If somebody’s got nothing to hide, no harm
done. No wrongdo, no problem, right?
They don‘t just pick names out of the phone book to put people under
surveillance, you know.
Well, it never hurts to spot-check, right? Pretty much everybody‘s guilty of
something, don’t you think?
Right. So, what do you know about our guy?
No more than you, I‘m sure. (pause) His name is Frank Savage.(pause) He came
to the attention of the bureau. (pause) There was a warrant, and we were sent here
after Homeland Security set things up. (pause) What else is there to know?
Wheeler picks up some papers on the desk.
Decorated Viet Nam vet, demolitions guy turned academic, probably on the GI
Bill, and now a U.N. assigned inspector. Doesn‘t seem like the kind of guy
anybody should be all that much concerned about, this Mr. Savage. Just another
out of work egghead taking the best job he can find.
Well, maybe it’s that “egghead” part. The Rosenberg‘s were just a nice bookish
couple from the Lower East Side who‘re supposed to have put The Soviet Union
in possession of the Atomic Bomb. But who knows for sure. Besides, we might
just be proving this guy innocent.
I spose. Still, used to be that was assumed.
Thanks. I stand corrected. So, you know anything about the agent?
I suppose it doesn’t matter.
No, not in the big scheme ofthings.
Just somebody else like us, somebody doin‘ whatever
needs to be done, for God and country, somebody else whose just followin‘
Richard (showing annoyance)
Can’t you can it, even for a little while? I mean, is this conversation
really necessary, or are you just trying to get under my skin for the fun of it?
It’s not all that much fun.
Good. This is ajob we do – same with the agent, I’m sure.
It begins and ends with that.
Richard (after a moment)
You know, I‘m a nationalized citizen; my parents came here during the Cold
War, me with them in tow, and I‘ve heard all the stories about the secret police,
alright? I’m a strong opponent of people being singled out ...
... or held indefinitely incommunicado.
Richard (suddenly escalating in tone)
Yes, and even though history might suggest that Japanese–American internment
maybe was an over–reaction and excessive use of presidential power, there are
still plenty people who think that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg did let the atomic
genie out of the bottle.
Wheeler (meeting Richard’s tone)
And that created the world we live in today?
Sure as hell raised the stakes.
You really think …
How much you think it really matters what the hell either one of us thinks?
The telephone beside the bed rings.
(picking up the receiver)
Yes. (pause) Alright. (looking at Wheeler) We‘re ready. (pause) Thanks.
He hangs up the telephone.
They‘re on their way.
Richard moves to the table, and Wheeler stands behind him.
Hurry up and wait?
They‘ve left the bar together. How long can it take to get on and off an elevator?
You ever see “Fatal Attraction?” (pause) I think a lot depends on the quality of
My guess is top shelf.
Wheeler (sitting beside Richard)
We‘ll soon see.
Yes we will.
The door in the other room can be heard being unlocked.
Ba da boom, ba da, bing.
The door opens. Lydia, wearing a red dress, and Frank stand for a moment in the entrance to the
(gesturing broadly, with an apparent Eastern European accent, even though her words come
straight out of A Streetcar Named Desire)
You may enter.
(also somewhat broadly)
Thank you, so much.
As they start through the door, Lydia draws him forward by one arm, then, pausing to close the
door after them, pulls him to her in a firm embrace.
He takes her face between his hands and kisses her warmly on the mouth.
(after a long moment)
Yea, ah, I‘ve got that champagne I promised over by the desk. Chilled and open.
Sounds perfect, every bit as much as the Scotch that you had sent over to me in
I just had to ask the bartender what you‘d been having. I don’t like to drink alone.
Me either. Of course, that‘s never stopped me.
They each chuckle, and Frank goes to the table to pick up the bottle and pour glasses for each of
them. Lydia closes the suitcase and moves it onto the floor beside the bed.
Hope it‘s a good vintage.
Here you go, baby.
He hands her a glass.
“Here‘s lookin’ at you, kid.“
She raises her glass, and they each drink.
You surprise me a little.
In what way?
You seem somehow reserved all of a sudden. Are you uncomfortable with my
No, not at all … it‘s just that the music was so loud downstairs,
And now it isn’t.
That‘s right, now it isn‘t.
It‘s okay. You don’t need to feel uncomfortable, really.
I don‘t. Here.
She steps forward and takes his hand, drawing him to the foot of the bed.
It’s not very easy to talk down there.
She sits on the edge of the bed.
Probably pretty hard there too.
Let‘s see what this hotel has for music on its in-house channel. It‘s just like on an
air plane. I like jazz. Do you mind?
Not at all.
She turns on the radio and soft, instrumental, “cool” jazz begins to play quietly in the room,
perhaps initially a version of “Love For Sale” followed by other melodies without interruption.
She steps away from the radio, taking a few dance steps as she moves towards Frank
She’s cute. This tape might just tum out to be a keeper.
Try to control yourself, would you?
Frank puts one arm behind her back, and they sway together, each holding a glass off to one
After a moment.
There. You seem less anxious now.
I am, somewhat.
He encloses her more closely, as they continue to move to the music.
After a few moments, Frank pulls her tightly to his chest and they kiss.
Lydia (drawing slightly back)
Do you mind if . . .
Frank (relaxing his embrace)
if we take the time to get to know one another a little? (pause) To talk?
God damn it.
Yea, for a few minutes anyway. I think then that I‘d …
Frank (moving away from her)
… feel somewhat more comfortable?
Frank quickly drinks his champagne and looks for somewhere to set the glass.
So, what would you like to know?
Ah, I don‘t know. What brings you to New York?
Work, and you?
I suppose you could say the same … in a round-about way.
He sets his glass on the desk directly opposite where Wheeler and Richard are sitting.
And what way is that?
I thought you were going to do the talking.
Frank (moving back toward her)
Sure, me. I’m a kind of individual contractor.
Lydia (sipping her drink)
Frank (after a brief silence)
I work internationally, and I‘ve just come back from overseas where I had been
for about a year. That’s pretty much it. How about you?
Well, I haven’t been in America for very long.
But you‘d like to stay.
Wheeler leans back in a chair, his hands behind his head.
If I can.
So where are you from?
She finishes her drink.
Someplace that doesn’t exist anymore.
Yes, not for over twenty years.
She sets her glass on the bed stand.
And how’s that?
Lydia (turning toward him)
I’m from the Ukraine, from a small town that was abandoned after 1986, and
today it has nothing in it but empty buildings and loud speakers playing
Tchaikovsky into the wind.
The exclusion zone?
Yes, along with one hundred and thirty thousand others who were evacuated and
resettled from around Chemobyl. (pause) I just kept moving.
You think that’s true?
No reason that it wouldn‘t be. Why not?
How did you come to the States?
Like I said, I kept moving. My parents died of cancer, and I had no where to go,
so I responded to an advertisement to become a waitress in “the west;” once I got
to where I was sent, in Amsterdam, I learned the job wasn‘t exactly what I had
thought “waitressing” would be.
It took me a while to get away. I learned a lot … about men … about myself ..
. about what I was capable of doing, and then I met a man who knew some other
men, and I found a way to use my ‘education;‘ so now, I hope to stay in America.
I have no other place to go.
And no one to go to?
Especially that, no one, no where. Just here … tonight …
there’s nothing important about the past.
That’s a matter of opinion.
You looked like you might be a nice man.
It seems that you are, and we are here together, now … in the present.
In your hotel room.
Yes, in my hotel room.
And it would be ‘nice‘ if I felt that you were comfortable with that, with my
being here with you.
He’s got that right.
I‘d like to think that was possible.
(turning briefly toward the other room, her back to Frank)
It is, I suppose. I sometimes still get a little self-conscious, but it’s good that we
are here together. I am comfortable with that.
I hope so.
So do I.
I’d probably feel even more at ease if I knew what type of international individual
contractor I was talking to here in my hotel room who seems to know so much
about … about things from the past.
Let’s say I’m a surveillance specialist.
Wheeler and Richard look briefly toward one another, then back at the monitor on the desk in
front of them.
I see. And what is it that you survey?
Well, right now, I pretty much like what I see.
That‘s not really an answer.
I assess governmental resources.
Not so often. You know, I almost feel like I’m talking to a woman named
Just me showing my age. She was someone who used to appear on a television
show called “What‘s My Line?“
Frank closes his arms around Lydia, and she relaxes against him. After a moment he
kisses her neck and she does not resist.
I heard on “Hollywood Stories” or something that the CIA had her -Kilgallin –
murdered so that she couldn’t publish the theory in her newspaper column that the
bureau had killed J.F.K.
You’d think they’d have had Sinatra do it.
Probably afraid he’d get caught. Besides I thought he specialized in Kennedy’s
Mob and movie star lovers.
Frank draws slightly back, continuing to caress her neck.
Typically, I am not at liberty to talk much about the specific nature of my job, but
let’s just say that I know more than I would like to about such things as the
potential for destruction that has become available to people who cannot be
counted on to be rational.
Just hold me. I don’t care what you do. I don’t need to know if you don’t want to
He draws his arms around her.
There. Is that better?
Yes. Don’t tell me anything more if you don’t want to, if you don’t feel that you
should, if you don’t think that you can trust.
Frank (after a pause)
I contract with various international agencies.
Frank (after a pause)
I do inspections of defense systems.
Alright. (she kisses him) Is it dangerous?
That depends. (He lightly kisses the back of her neck.) Anything can be
Our being here together could be dangerous.
He turns her to face him, and they again embrace.
Probably is dangerous.
Perhaps every bit as much as a radiation release.
How could that happen?
The danger in our being together?
No. I know all about that. (pause) The other thing.
A radiation release?
He moves slightly away from her and begins to undoing the back of her dress.
An explosive release producing fallout.
That I know about.
She kisses him and presses his hand against her, raising both of her hands to his, then moving her
arms around his shoulders, slowly lowering them to her sides.
A gradual release.
He pushes the material of her dress from her shoulders and slides it along her arms.
Aerosol maybe, or contaminated food.
Or tea in a London hotel bar?
Yes, just a tiny dose of po loni urn 210.
He drops her dress to the floor and draws her against his chest.
Where would it corne from, radio active material?
Kissing her as he speaks, he begins to undo her bra, and she slowly unbuttons his shirt,
eventually sliding it from his chest.
It’s common enough – medical sources, the black market, laboratory as well as
He drops her bra to the floor, and they again embrace.
She turns away from the interior wall and faces the edge of the stage.
Frank encloses her in his arms once again from behind.
Release just enough to register on a Geiger counter, then phone in an anonymous
tip. The panic a confirmation would cause could do more harm than the
radioactive exposure, but the destruction to the economy would be huge.
He lifts her into the air and carries her to the bed, pausing to draw back the covers with one hand
and then laying her against the sheets and moving beside her.
Anthrax, of course, but also smallpox, botulism, plague, VX or mustard gas,
hydrogen cyanide, sarin.
What does that do?
Rising on top of her and drawing the covers back over both of them, they struggle together for a
moment to cast aside his pants and then her panties as he continues with the urgent answer to her
It’s a nerve gas – causes death within minutes of exposure – enters the body
through eyes and skin – paralyses the muscles for breathing. The attack in a
Tokyo subway injured thousands of people, even though it only killed about a
Well, there‘s soman, a nerve agent that kills in about fifteen minutes, and tabun,
even high levels of chlorine can be lethal, and there‘s no antidote, but it‘s the
biological weapons that are the most destructive.
Next to a significant atomic release, that is, because they can self-perpetuate,
Chemical weapons become less dangerous as they disperse, but something like
botulinum toxin can be as much as three million times more lethal than something
He fumbles through his pants pocket, taking out his wallet and opening it to remove a small
packet that he then opens using one hand and his teeth after setting the wallet on a bedside table.
Phh, fuckin’ boy scout. Always be prepared.
Come on, can it.
God damn it!
They press together beneath the covers, then, after a moment, Frank becomes still and gradually
draws back, away from her.
Kohanee, sweet one, what is it?
Is something wrong?
Yes. (pause) No, not really, but … yes.
I don‘t understand.
It’s nothing. It‘s just. .. it‘s nothing.
He begins to kiss her neck and draw his mouth down to her breasts, drawing himself to his knees
over her and pressing his arms straight, palms pushing deeply into the pillows on either side of
her head as he lowers his mouth further down her body.
Just lay back .... It‘s nothing.
She reaches one hand down between his legs, then draws it slowly away.
What‘s wrong, baby?
Nothing. Just let me …
Baby … no. Wait for a minute, baby. What is it?
Collateral damage, a side effect.
He sighs deeply.
I don’t understand.
I think it can be a result of a medicine I take, sometimes, when I mix it with
alcohol. Blood pressure rises, and then it drops.
It‘s alright, baby. It’s alright.
She draws his head to her, enclosing him in both of her arms.
It’s alright, kohanee, my sweet one.
They lie still for a moment in the bed.
After several seconds, Frank draws himself off to one side and lies on his back, looking up
toward the ceiling.
Shhh, don‘t worry about it. Just hold me.
Frank encloses her in his arms, and they lie still together
I‘d expected a little more than that.
Okay, leave a tender moment alone.
After a moment.
What’s in that bottle?
Vodka, but I thought …
Frank (beginning to pull away from her)
Can‘t hurt at this point. Might even help.
He draws a sheet from the bed as he rises and crosses the room, then begins to pour himself a
You want one.
Sure, I guess.
She reaches over and turns off the music.
He pours a second glass of vodka and begins back toward the bed, handing her his drink.
There you go.
I wish I knew what to think or say.
He drinks, then sets down a half full/half empty glass.
Christ, ifhe’djust finish the god damned vodka he could probably get on with it.
Come on. Just do your job.
I am, god damn it. I‘m a professional voyeur, just like you.
Lydia (smoothing out the bedding)
Here, sit by me.
Thanks. Don’t worry. It doesn‘t really matter.
So, what does?
Not much, I suppose, and then plenty.
Well, let’s see: you’re from a place that no one can return to for the next thirty or
so thousand years, and I’m in the business of watching over the kinds of things
that people could do to make hot spots like that pop up all over the planet. (pause)
Pretty crazy stuff, if you want to know the truth.
Of course. Isn’t that what is supposed to make people free?
That’s what they say … whoever “they” are.
And what about you? What do you say?
Just that the world is a lot more dangerous today than it was during the whole of
the “We will bury you” era of the Cold War, and we‘re no where near the “end of
history” that some nutty professor tried to say we were back when the wall came
tumblin’ down, back before the little bombs
started going off all along what some other nutty professor has called “the fault
lines of civilization.”
What the fuck‘s he talking about now?
Think tank guys. Other eggheads. Francis Fukuyma and Thomas … ah, no, urn,
I think you’d better be a little more direct.
I don‘t know. You tell me. I only know my little piece of the way the world is
today. I mean, I‘m just one person who “can‘t go home anymore,” and I don’t
really know why, aside from the fact that, one day while I was just a little girl
away form home on a school trip, for me, everything changed. I watched a
helicopter on television dropping concrete onto a blown-up building, and I was
told that “an accident had occurred.” That was “glasnost,” openness, that was “the
truth” that I was given, then one hundred and thirty five thousand people were
evacuated from around where I had lived, and eventually there were forty
thousand of them who developed cancer and, in addition to my mother and father,
more than six thousand died. Now, you tell me the truth; tell me about how you
think the world has changed.
I mean it. I need to understand. I want to know what you think. I only wish
someone could tell me why.
He stands, tossing one edge of the sheet up across his left shoulder, like a Roman orator, and
throwing down the rest of his drink.
Right, (pause) well, to begin with, the world is no longer challenged by
concentrated threats that can be isolated and defined. Instead, it is
confronted by a pervasive one, like a cancer that has begun to metastasize, that
has the potential of being anywhere at any time. (pause) It‘s a funny thing,
ironically, ifit is at all possible to find such things funny, but it‘s the same noble
Enlightenment ideas of equality and enfranchisement that have both advanced the
progress of the last two centuries and that now have set that progress in universal
peril. (pause) It is freedom that has made the world unsafe for democracy, and it‘s
the idea ofliberty, brought forward as it has been from “The Age of Reason,” that
has moved the world to the verge of virtual chaos, or rather the irrational
dominance of empty-headed theocracies of all kinds. What I mean is that
Medievalism, or rather xenophobic intolerance is on the rise, if the truth is to be
told, and rational pragmatism, enlightened self-interest, secular humanism and
even cautious relativism are each at risk of being prescribed to the ash can of
history in favor of regionalism, of sectarianism, of fanaticism and other-worldly
lunacy. It doesn‘t really matter what started the mess, what particular set of
“isms” initially caused the contagion to begin to spread. All that really matters is
that the mess needs to be cleaned up, to be contained at least, before the future is
destroyed by the past.
He pauses a moment, then continues.
You see, this isn’t something that just started a score of years ago. It has been
there since before the time of Homer, since the origins ofthe world we know,
since the mobilization of King Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans, since
Alexander The Great bequeathed his empire “to the strongest” and laid the
foundations of the future, since Rome rose and fell and the power vacuum that
was created became filled and then fought over on the basis of conflicting, out-of-
this-world ideologies. That’s the real W.M.D. – the weapons of mass destruction-
ancient grudges and frozen ways of magical thinking that have no relationship to
modem-day reality and that still have arisen from beneath the permafrost of the
cold war like zombies in some low budget horror film and now are everywhere,
thanks to openness, thanks to glasnost, thanks to some well intended, road-to-hell
notion of tolerance that has spread the seeds of intolerance all across the planet.
The thing is, the truth can‘t simply be ignored. The border-less, “flat world” of
multi-nationalism can’t just go on about its business like people partying on a
beach while a hurricane forms off shore, while a tsunami swells the horizon. The
weapons of mass destruction – disenfranchisement and marginalization – must
either be neutralized or they may well some day soon consume our world-wide
economy, and the ghosts of Xerxes and those who felt betrayed by the Balfour
Declaration after World War One that Osama Ben-Laden evoked
in his early videos will exact their revenge. You see, the sources of these means of
annihilation are unalterable and unassailable; they are embedded within the very
anatomy of our species. Their cause is the drive for transcendence that exists
within all of us and the fact that different people, at different times, in different
places within the world, have developed different ways of satisfying that drive, of
scratching that particular psychological itch, different rituals of transcendence and
different religious systems that only serve to set people against one another.
That’s the truth. There‘s your weapons of mass destruction, the opiate of the
masses. Just look at the Catholics and the Protestants in Ireland; they‘d been
killing each other for over three hundred years, but a couple automobile plants
open up so people can buy their potatoes from Idaho, and all of a sudden the
sectarian divisions aren’t so important any more. You see what I‘m getting at?
You wanna achieve “world peace,” you gotta give people a sense that they got a
shot at havin‘ a piece of the world. Otherwise ... otherwise, somebody’s gonna
be tellin‘ ’em that their only hope is some other world that doesn‘t even exist and
they have to die to get into while taking as many other people as possible with
them, some pie in the sky promise that has always been nothing more than
wishful thinking born from impoverishment and deprivation.
Frank picks up his drink.
What‘s gonna stop it? What‘s gonna contain the w.m.d. that threatens to blow up
the world like a big blue bomb? Only one thing – the fact that order always wins
out over chaos, eventually, like it always has before.
Frank empties his glass and then pours another.
Of course, that could take a few hundred years, and maybe even that’d be a good
thing. A new dark ages with a world wide economic collapse and the end of
civilization as we know it might be just what it takes to slow down global
warming and save what would be left of the human race.
He drinks and sits in the chair at the side of the room.
Hell, maybe that‘s the answer after all. Thing is . . . it‘s a pretty high price to pay
to try and find out, if you know what I mean, if we allow policy to
be driven by ideology, if we exacerbate the undeniable differences that exist
between cultures, between civilizations, between the out-worn “feel
good” systems of unsubstantiated belief derived from transcriptions of the
random musings of a handful of long dead, illiterate crackpots – the world will
necessarily drown within the sea of faith that Martin Luther said must tear the
eyes from reason in order to exist. See the world in that way, submit to the
inevitable consequences of the kind of inordinate insanity of today’ s ignorant
armies clashing by night, and you can forget all about global warming thanks to a
man made nuclear winter that’ll last for a couple hundred thousand years.
He pauses, finishes his drink, and then lets the glass fall from his hand.
Ah, oh well, what‘s the problems of the world got to do with two people alone in
a room, anyway?
Nothing, I suppose.
That’s right. Nothin.’ Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin‘. Absolute zero. Great
concept, that – zero. N ada. Yeap, nothing is great – N ada Akbar (pause) Arabic
notion – zero. Course, the Japanese pretty much made the best of it in World War
Two, even if it didn‘t turn out too good for them in the short run, but now ...
now they got one of the best standards of living in the world. Wonder if the good
citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would‘ve thought it was worth it. Ah, well
Harry Truman said he never lost a night‘s sleep over dropping the bomb. More
than I can say. Good idea though, a little shut eye, knits up the raveled sleeve of
He yawns and sighs deeply.
I think I’m done for. (pause) Here, let me come back over there by you.
He stands and moves toward the bed, the sheet falling from around him to the floor.
Lying in the bed, he is quickly asleep.
The girl waits a moment, then stands, gathering her clothes together and watching for him to
wake as she dresses.
Looks like we probably got something for somebody to work with.
I guess so, if they edit it right.
As Lydia finishes dressing, she moves toward where Frank is lying in the bed. She stoops to very
gently touch Frank‘s hair with one hand, then rises and turns away, blocking herself from the
surveillance camera as she removes Frank‘s wallet from the bed stand.
Lydia (picking up her suitcase and turning toward the
hidden camera, and dropping the Eastern European accent)
Good night, boys. Don‘t let the bed bugs bite.
Wheeler (laughing slightly)
Looks like the show is pretty much over.
Yea. So, you want order some bacon and eggs or something? We can‘t leave
until he’s gone.
Just some coffee, I guess.
Richard goes to the telephone and dials for room service.
Wheeler moves over to the hotel radio in the surveillance room.
Richard (into the telephone during the above)
Hi, I’d like to order some coffee and sweet rolls and your egg white omelet with
whole wheat toast and a side of bacon. (pause) Yea, that‘s right.. Great. Just send
it up to nine eleven.
Wheeler turns on the radio and John Lennon’s “Imagine” plays.
The lights and music fade.
W .M.D. by Jeff Helgeson
W.M.D. is a one-act play that explores a number of issues concerning privacy and national
security, as well as larger questions with respect to the causes of international conflict and the
potential consequences of ignoring the sources of discontent that confront modem world
Set within a pair of New York hotel rooms, the play deals with a surveillance team of two men,
an attractive female “agent,” and an international weapons inspector who has been selected for
security verification. During the course of the events presented, the far from simply “black and
white” issues of “track and trace” investigation are dramatically
addressed from the widely differing points of view of the two technicians, one a middle aged
nationalized citizen of Eastern European origin and the other a somewhat younger African-
With the arrival of the subjects for observation, the action shifts to voyeuristic engagement, as
the audience is placed in a parallel position with that of the two surveillance agents, observing
the intimate inter-actions of the man and woman in a seemingly private hotel room. A
contrapuntal juxtaposition of sexuality and the
technical means of mass destruction, although clearly titillating for the unseen surveillance team,
ultimately leads to a failure in consummation. This dysfunction is followed by some apparently
deeply personal disclosures of the female and a somewhat more extended discourse by the man
under observation. When he eventually sleeps, more of the nature of “the trap” is revealed, the
woman leaves, and the two men who have recorded the entire exchange wait to be relieved of