THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE SHANTIES OF BRYNIESHA THE SCORPION QUEEN a tragedy in reverse, so a


Directed by Jess Thomas

Featuring Jessica Risco & Nima Slone

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

SANDY – any gender / any age / any race / a writer and director and creative chief of a sunken cruise liner

SUNNY – female / any age / any race / top ingénue on aforementioned cruise liner

SETTING:

The deserted beach of a remote island

SCENE 12

The sounds of waves crashing on a deserted beach.

Music fades in quickly. Driving, intense, confrontational.

The sounds of a struggle onstage.

The music reaches a climax, as does the onstage attack.

Lights up abruptly.

SANDY stands over the dead body of SUNNY. She holds a bloody club.

SANDY

Yes. YAAAAS. I DID IT! I finally did it!!

(warrior banshee wail)

(drops to knees, over Sunny)

Thank you.

(maniacal laugh)

There! Do you see?! Can you see?!

(long beat)

Hello?

(long beat, look around)

Am I alone, now? Did – uhh -- did everyone leave?

(beat)

Shit.

TRANSITION

SCENE 11

SUNNY remains onstage in the same position, a BLANKET has been placed over her. At rise, she’s alone, trying to sleep as she shivers in the wind.

SANDY crawls on stealthily with the club and a knife in her mouth.

Sandy stands slowly, hesitates for a moment, looks offstage as if she’s being encouraged, then continues her ominous advance toward Sunny.

She makes a sound, and Sunny darts up from her slumber. Sandy hits the deck.

SUNNY

Hello?

Nothing, she cautiously goes back under the blanket.

Sandy coughs. Sunny darts back up.

SUNNY

WHO’S THERE?!

Nothing. Sunny gets up to inspect.

SUNNY

Sandy? Is that you? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to – I mean – I wanted – uhh, Sandy? Are you there?

SANDY

(makes a distant bird sound)

SUNNY

Was that a bird?

Sandy leaps to her feet, brandishing the knife.

SUNNY

Sandy! How long have you been there?

SANDY

Long enough to hear your bullshit apology! (bad mimic) I’m sorry – I mean – it just – EUUUGH!

SUNNY

Put down the knife.

SANDY

Why?

SUNNY

Because it’s me. You don’t wanna do this. Why would you? After everything we’ve been through--?

SANDY

Everything I’ve been through, Sunny! Me! Alone! Betrayed! Destroyed! Reborn.

SUNNY

This has been hard on both of us.

SANDY

Hard is only four fucking letters! We shouldn’t have survived, Sunny! Any of it!

SUNNY

But we did. Together.

SANDY

Why did you do it?! Just turn on me? Turn on us, the play?! You knew how much it meant / to me.

SUNNY

I know, I was trying to help--

SANDY

YOU’RE FUCKING KIDDING ME!

SUNNY

I wanted to make a clean break, so we could work on ourselves, just for a while. Just until we got rescued.

SANDY

What if the world ended? What if that’s what caused the accident? What if we’re the last two?

SUNNY

What’s the difference? To us, right now? What is the difference?

SANDY

(no response)

SUNNY

Put down the knife.

SANDY

We’re gonna die out here.

SUNNY

No, we’re not. Put it down.

SANDY

I can’t live like this. Not anymore. Look. There’s nothing in every direction. No one’s coming. I must rebuild anew.

SUNNY

Don’t talk like that. We -- have each other.

SANDY

No! We don’t! Not anymore!

SUNNY

You’re scaring me.

SANDY

Admit it, you were gonna do it if I didn’t. ADMIT IT, SUNNY!

SUNNY

You sound like Moses.

SANDY

So you can hear him, too?

SUNNY

Sandy…

SANDY

I needed someone to talk to!

SUNNY

Talk to me. Please.

SANDY

You don’t understand.

SUNNY

Sandy, Moses isn’t even—

SANDY

YAAAAAAA!

She tosses the knife clumsily. It is lobbed clear of Sunny.

SANDY

Crap.

SUNNY

Are you insane?!

SANDY

Probably!

Sunny goes for the knife, lobs it back, harmlessly.

The CLUB is between them. They both dive for it, struggle.

SUNNY

You need me Sandy. I’m the only thing keeping you from—

Sandy breaks away with the Club, stands and raises it over her head, prepared to deliver the killing blow.

Lights out.

We hear the first blow.

TRANSITION

SCENE 10

Sandy sits in the spotlight down stage right.

SANDY

What do you mean, be the “first to strike”? What does that mean?

She wouldn’t do that. I know her, she would never—

How can one truly exist when they’re trapped with the past?

No, I haven’t done everything. There’s still more I can—

Making it easier doesn’t make it right, Moses. I’m not even supposed to be talking to you. If Sunny found out—

No, no, I didn’t mean it like—

No, it’s wrong.

No, there is a law. Natural law.

Survival of the fittest.

Food for one.

Being forced to witness my own heartbreak over and over and over again.

Flourish. Accept the animal.

It was a threat. Not like the other times. It was real. You heard it, right?

I must survive. I must rebuild.

Thanks, Moses.

I love you, too.

(laughs)

Don’t be creepy.

TRANSITION

SCENE 9

SUNNY paces back and forth, mid-performance.

SANDY crouches downstage, observing.

SUNNY

The scorpions came back again last night. More this time. They came to a rest at my toes, as if something was repelling them. They clawed at me, I could hear the little snaps, but they never touched the skin. For I have become one with the tide. My world is theirs. And theirs mine own.

SANDY

No, I don’t like that.

SUNNY

What, now?

SANDY

“And theirs mine own”. I don’t want to come across as pretentious.

SUNNY

To who?!

SANDY

Don’t – please don’t do that. Not now. Not when we’re this close.

SUNNY

I’m sorry, but the whole process has sort of –

SANDY

Sort of what?

SUNNY

Let me finish. Can I / finish?

SANDY

I’m letting you finish! Sort of what? Sort of what, Sunny?! What has the process “sort of” done?!

SUNNY

Lost its appeal. I mean, come on. Give me a single reason why this benefits or enriches or helps anything?

SANDY

We’ve been over this.

SUNNY

I’m sorry, it feels pointless when we have to spend half the day scrounging for food.

SANDY

Moses said we need to / embrace our imagination.

SUNNY

Wait, you’re still talking with Moses?! Didn’t we agree you wouldn’t talk to Moses anymore??

SANDY

It’s been helpful, talking, now that we’re—

SUNNY

No, Sandy. You promised. You can’t betray my trust.

SANDY

You can’t tell me to do that!

You can’t make me feel guilty for discussing my problems with the only other person on this fucking weird island!

SUNNY

Moses is not a person.

SANDY

I know that. You think I don’t know that?! I’m not crazy, I’m fucking lonely! And up to here with the logistics of this performance—

SUNNY

And it’s still all about the play! Not about survival or relationships, but the fake fucking play!

SANDY

The play is all we have.

SUNNY

Maybe for you…

SANDY

Sunny, it’s our legacy.

SUNNY

Listen to yourself.

SANDY

It will be recorded in the trees, the dunes, the shrubberies—

SUNNY

You’re delusional!

SANDY

Am I?! Am I delusional for placing faith in a higher form of nature? While entombed within its benevolent loins?!

SUNNY

Is that a line from the play?

SANDY

Can’t you see it’s all the same, now?! Life is art! We have created perpetual motion!

SUNNY

Can we just breathe for a moment?

They do a coordinated breathing exercise. The tension eases.

SUNNY

It doesn’t feel right, anymore. We’re feeding each other this bogus narrative to stave off heat stroke and starvation, when we should be focusing on getting off this fucking shitpile of shit!

SANDY

(breath)

This may be silly, HAHA YEAH I GET IT, but don’t, please don’t, burn away the last shred of fantasy we have left.

SUNNY

Oh, well I’m not sure about you, but I can fantasize all I want. I do it all day. I fantasize about all my friends back home. My family. Drugs. Parties. Track lighting. My husband. Everything.

SANDY

But not me.

SUNNY

Oh, I do. I have fantasies about you. About life without you. Some goddamn peace and quiet.

SANDY

If I didn’t know better, that would sound like a threat.

(beat)

Can we take it back to “one with the tide”? Try and get to the truth of the matter?

SUNNY

Yeah, I can do that.

For I am one with the tide. I carry useless, slimy sea junk on my shoulders. Mingling with garbage. Humoring the irrational.

SANDY

No, that doesn’t work for me.

SUNNY

Its devised theater, right? We merge our experiences. I think this is a good new direction. Let’s just say what we really think. Finally.

SANDY

You asked me to be more honest! I’m trying to be more honest! Where is this coming from?

SUNNY

This whole thing is stupid.

SANDY

You are.

SUNNY

Okay, I’m done. Find your own beach. I’m done. The show’s over. I fucking quit.

She storms off.

SANDY

We’re not finished! Sunny?! SUNNY??!!

Sunny doesn’t respond.

Sandy slowly starts a maniacal laugh, borne of destruction and despair.

TRANSITION

SCENE 8

SUNNY sits in the spotlight down right.

SUNNY

Hey. Sorry if it’s a bad time.

I know, but it’s getting worse. I’m starting to think she’s lost it completely.

It’s my fault, I know that.

No, it is.

Of course she doesn’t. How would that make me look if she knew I was talking to you? I’m not the crazy one. I just need – a sounding board every once in a while.

But there needs to be some sort of closure. Or we’re going to tear each other apart.

She will hang on as long as she can. It’s up to someone else.

Maybe if we spent some time apart, a hard cut, radio silence, then maybe…

She won’t do that. She would never--

She has lost herself in the stress. She is no longer responsible for her actions.

What are you saying?

No, no. It’s not that. It’s the play, it seemed like a good idea before. But things were different, then. Now, it’s just sad. She can boast all she wants that we’re performing for Mother Nature, seeking approval of the disenfranchised corners of the globe, but the fact of the matter is, we’re falling apart over a play that no one will ever see.

Yes, even it we get rescued. I mean, who the hell would pay for The Shanties of Bryniesha (pronounced BRY-NEESHA) the Scorpion Fucker or whatever she wants to call it this week? That’s student improv collective shit, right there. I was a cruise performer, we’re in a league of our own.

I just feel my solution is better. Sever all contact for a while, fend for ourselves, re-discover ourselves. A trial separation – no, that implies reconciliation. But I mean, maybe, if we got off this beach—

No. Stop saying that. I’ll just – I’ll have to be the bad guy. But – it’s for the best, especially if we stay here. Yeah.

Agreed.

Thanks Moses. I should get some sleep. I’ll do it tomorrow.

(giggles)

You’re such a perv.

TRANSITION

SCENE 7

SUNNY stretches, does vocal warm-ups.

SANDY enters in a hurry.

SANDY

Sorry, babe, I got turned around in the woods.

They kiss. Sandy goes for the prop box.

SANDY

What did you wanna work today? The confessional? The dinner scene?

SUNNY

Um. Hi.

SANDY

Hi.

SUNNY

Nice to see you.

SANDY

Huh?

SUNNY

You were gone for five hours.

SANDY

Yeah? It’s a big island.

SUNNY

I get nervous when you disappear like that.

SANDY

I was free-associating repressed memories for Bryniesha the MerDame and I got turned around. What’s the problem?

SUNNY

You were never late on the cruise ship. You were the clicky click thing that kept us together. What is that thing?

SANDY

Metronome.

SUNNY

No, not the stadium. The clicky thing.

SANDY

The clicky thing that keeps perfect time for musicians?

SUNNY

Yeah, that thing.

SANDY

It’s called a Ticky Tick.

SUNNY

Ah. Yes. Well, my point is, you’ve been acting -- different.

SANDY

I’m inspired. By creation. By companionship. Something’s happening here. With this. I can taste it, you know. Can you taste it?

SUNNY

You’ve been wandering off. Into the woods.

SANDY

I like walking. It helps the creative process. Who dubbed you interrogator Sondheim?

SUNNY

You know why.

SANDY

(beat)

Yeah. But you don’t need to worry.

SUNNY

Promise?

SANDY

Promise.

They kiss. It’s uncomfortable.

SUNNY

I’m wanna work on the fight scene. I’ve been stretching.

SANDY

Okay. Great. Fight scene. Okay, okay, so -- Bryniesha the MerDame has just been confronted with the ghosts of her torrid past.

SUNNY

Are we still calling her Bryniesha the MerDame? I thought we were gonna change it.

SANDY

This is news to me.

SUNNY

We were tossing around that story about the scorpions. Maybe include that? It seems appropriate since the anecdote has such power.

SANDY

Yes, it does have immense power. Bryniesha the Scorpion Dame.

SUNNY

Scorpion-ess.

SANDY

Scorpion Queen.

SUNNY

Ooooh, Queen. That’s good.

SANDY

Nice. It’s settled, then. So, we pick up as she’s overtaken…

They start to rehearse.

Sunny ad-libs a silly fight scene with herself. Deliberately horrible. It involves a serpent hand bit.

SANDY

Huh.

SUNNY

No good?

SANDY

No, it’s just – it’s nothing. You look great.

SUNNY

There’s a problem.

SANDY

Naw.

SUNNY

You never held anything back before. What’s the deal?

SANDY

Sunny, before we weren’t as – you know, entwined as we are now. I care about your feelings.

SUNNY

But you didn’t on the cruise ship?

SANDY

Not really, no. You were the bitch in Cabin 3A who demanded fizzy water and fifteen M&Ms before she went on every night.

SUNNY

It kind of sounds silly, now.

SANDY

Yeah.

SUNNY

You cringed when I did that last bit. The serpent hand thing.

SANDY

No…

SUNNY

Yeah, you did.

SANDY

Hmm?

SUNNY

Jesus, will you use words?

SANDY

I’m sorry. I’m in my head. I just – I really want this to work out.

SUNNY

You mean not dying on a deserted island?

SANDY

No. Well, yes, that too. But this. Us. The play.

SUNNY

Yeah.

SANDY

Yeah.

SUNNY

But really – we’re just passing time, right?

SANDY

What?

SUNNY

With the play? You know, dealing with the crushing isolation that has come to define our lives?

SANDY

How can you say that? We agreed—

SUNNY

I guess I didn’t realize how important this was to you.

SANDY

You know why we’re still alive? Because we’re artists. We have the gift of manufacturing hope.

SUNNY

But you shot the flare gun into the trees because you saw a twinkle!

SANDY

It could have been a large, carnivorous cat, let’s not get hung up on / details.

SUNNY

It was the sun reflecting off a leaf! What are you talking about? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

SANDY

Calm down!

SUNNY

Are you fucking losing it? Am I losing it? Holy shit Sandy, are we both finally losing it?!

SANDY

Breathe. C’mon, breathe with me.

They do their breathing exercise.

SANDY

I’m just saying, we stay alive by keeping active. Here. Look at it this way. What made you happier than anything else, back home?

SUNNY

Cocaine.

SANDY

Okay…. so, say you were trapped on a deserted island. As an actress, an ingénue, you can easily pretend to do shit, right? So, you convince yourself that somewhere nearby, there is a huge brick of coke, just like buried a little, like under a tree. What would you do?

SUNNY

There’s coke?

SANDY

Yes. Hypothetically.

SUNNY

I’d probably tear the island a new asshole digging for coke.

SANDY

Exactly, therefore remaining active and motivated, and surviving another shitty day.

SUNNY

But I’d have to believe it. Like, really believe it.

SANDY

Yeah.

SUNNY

(deep breath)

I understand why you’re doing this. I get it. And I’m willing to go along, if that’s what you want. If that’s what I need to do.

SANDY

Great.

SUNNY

But – us? Sandy, I don’t know if I can keep doing – us anymore.

SANDY

What do you mean?

SUNNY

I found Moses.

SANDY

Huh?

SUNNY

You said you threw him out to sea.

SANDY

He probably washed back ashore.

SUNNY

On top of a decorated stump in the middle of the woods?

SANDY

The tide is unpredictable.

SUNNY

You know what? That’s okay. We can keep doing the play. I wanna keep doing the play. But I would like to spend some more time by myself. We both should. You – you deserve better than me.

SANDY

But -- we’re here together. There’s nobody else.

SUNNY

That’s what makes this so hard.

SANDY

But we love each other. You just said you love me.

SUNNY

I do.

SANDY

Great!

SUNNY

But I don’t think I’m in love, anymore. People change.

SANDY

WHAT?

SUNNY

The heart wants what the heart wants.

SANDY

Sunny, what else could your heart possibly want that can be found on this desolate fucking rock?

SUNNY

Freedom?

(beat)

It’s just not working.

SANDY

I’ll be more honest. I’ll spend more time doing whatever the fuck. The play is important. Bryniesha the Scorpion Queen’s dilemna reflects so much natural history, but, remember, we embarked upon this metaphysical journey together, seeking the ultimate modality of expression. As a couple.

SUNNY

I know when you use big words and weird hand gestures you’re in director mode.

SANDY

Make me believe you.

Sorry. Look, I promise I haven’t been talking to Moses. I didn’t throw him away, I admit that. But I stopped talking to him. I mean, maybe I said hi to him in passing a couple times, but that doesn’t count—does that count? That shouldn’t count!

SUNNY

Why would you lie?

SANDY

What’s the big deal? It is what it is. It’s not like he talks back to me.

SUNNY

You told me he does.

SANDY

That was a joke.

SUNNY

No, it wasn’t.

SANDY

Can we just – start the day over?

SUNNY

I already split the rations. I’m sorry.

SANDY

Oh.

SUNNY

Yeah.

Sandy’s demeanor completely changes, as if she’s in shock from imploding.

SANDY

Okay.

(looooooooong beat)

So, should we--?

SUNNY

Keep working?

SANDY

Sure.

SUNNY

I’m sure we can still be friends. I mean, we kind of have to.

SANDY

Sure, yeah. Okay. Let’s – uhh -- do that last scene again.

SUNNY

Did I make it weird?

SANDY

Well, I mean –

SUNNY

This is so much easier in real theaters.

SANDY

I – I think I need a walk.

SUNNY

Where are you going?

SANDY

For a walk. Can we start again later?

She holds Sandy at arms length, tries to make eye contact. Sandy half-resists.

SUNNY

Hey. It’s gonna be okay. We will be fine.

SANDY

Yeah. You’re right. I just need to process this. It’s – a big change. I’ll be ready later.

SUNNY

You sure?

SANDY

Do I have a choice?

SUNNY

Yes? Maybe? I’m sorry.

SANDY

Stop saying that. I’m an adult.

SUNNY

I know.

SANDY

Why don’t you go work on the opening monologue? We can – play with it later.

SUNNY

Not the fight scene?

SANDY

Didn’t we just do that?

SUNNY

Ha.

Sandy stands silently for a long moment, then exits.

TRANSITION

SCENE 6

Spotlight down right. We hear SUNNY before she wanders into the light.

SUNNY

Baaaaby? Where’s that sneaky Booboo? We need to stawt weheawsal soon. I saw woo wunning into the fowwwest.

(giggles to herself)

That giggle does not bode well for my sanity.

Hewwo? Hewwwoooooo?

She stops in the spotlight, notices something strange.

SUNNY

What’s that? Is that --?

MOSES!

What are you doing here? I told you to stop contacting me!

I don’t wanna hear it! You’re not even supposed to be here!

Because I don’t want you meddling. We finally have something good. I can finally fucking tolerate her for once!

I’m happy. Just – be happy for me.