online since 1998
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illustration by Alex Chapa Too Much For Mortals
by Marcus Del Greco

first produced by UNH Playwrights in 1998

NOTES ON STAGING

The set is comprised of two playing areas: the outside reception office of Diane, and the inner office of Leo Suss.  Suss's office is decorated gaudily as a tribute to vineyards.  A television and VCR are located in the outer office.  These will run the commercial pilot that is viewed in the play.  The video for this commercial would be a priority of pre-production.

An alternate title for this play was Price of Pleasure, though I figured it had already been used.  But the theme implied in that title is one I would stress to the director.  Dionysus and Aphrodite are learning to live on Earth, where all pleasure has its price, and the story is of their semi-comic, semi-tragic descent into being mortals.  Their use of alcohol is suggested in the stage directions several times but not enough, as drinking should be a constant part of their business and sometimes an obvious detriment.

Earth is making them jaded, but laughter is universal.

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

APHRODITE, posing as DIANE
DIONYSUS, posing as LEO SUSS, president of Divine Wine
HENRY GLASS, the bottler
MIRANDA, his niece, naive but learning
JOHN, creative advertising guy for Divine Wine


(Lights up on DIANE at her desk.  She is fielding phone calls and they've been coming in a steady stream, but she is completely confident. Her traits are dignity, vanity (deserved), and vice.)

DIANE (answering):  Divine Wine.  I'm sorry, Mr. Suss is in a meeting right now, can you hold for a minute and I'll take your message?  Thanks. (pushes button on phone)  How can I help you? ... Ah, Mr Glass. ... Yes, I have it here that he's expecting you at three o clock. ... Alright, we'll see you soon. (presses button)  Hi, sorry about that. ... Okay. ... Okay.  I'll give him the message. (Hangs up. Crosses to knock on the office door of MR.  LEO SUSS) Leo!

(she enters without waiting for a reply.  Lights reveal the office, which is the focus of the set, and MR.  SUSS with his well-shod feet on the desk.  He appears to be "reading" an issue of Playboy.)

SUSS (startled): Diane, I've told you not to walk in on me like that.  You know I need my time.

DIANE: Oh, your precious time.  Why do you need to look at other women, anyway?  Aren't I the most beautiful beautiful woman in the world?

SUSS:  Yes, you are.  And you make an excellent point.  You are in the world, and in the world men look at all sorts of women.  Besides, I wasn't even reading that magazine.  I was reading Grapes of Wrath.  It's not at all what I expected.  Very disappointing. (Crossing to bar)  You need a drink?

DIANE: Quickly.

SUSS:  You look like you need one. (Tender pause as he pours)  What's the trouble, baby?

DIANE:  Don't call me that.

SUSS: What?  I always call you "baby."

DIANE:  Up there you did, not here.  I don't like it here.  Can you understand that?

SUSS:  Diane, what's got into you?  You know you're my star goddess.  C'mon now, I know something's bothering you, and I want out with it.

DIANE:  I don't know, Leo.  Sometimes I wonder how well I'm... adjusting.

SUSS:  C'mon.

DIANE:  I'm serious.  I've been feeling... weak.

SUSS: Physically?

DIANE:  No, not just.  Mentally.  I've been feeling self-conscious lately and I'm not used to that.  And I don't drink for the same reasons anymore.

SUSS:  I have noticed you're drinking.

DIANE:  Notice your own.  Can't you see what's happening?  It's not like the good old days anymore.  The parties, the rapture, it's all gone!  Now I drink to escape the pressures of this fucking... job!  Tell me it's different for you, because I know it isn't.

SUSS: Calm down already.  Don't forget who you are.  Do I have to remind you?

DIANE: Lower your voice.

SUSS: Why?  Nobody here has any clue.  We're a myth to them, and it's better that way.

DIANE:  Oh, we're a myth are we?  Big myth. (intentionally raising her voice)  I guess you'd be completely comfortable if I shouted aloud that Mr. Leo Suss is really-

SUSS:  Sshh!  Shut up, will you?

DIANE:  Feeling a little self-conscious, Leo?  Feeling a little... mortal?

SUSS: You are way out line.  I have never once felt that way in my entire existence.

DIANE: Well that makes one of us.  If you ask me, we should have never descended.

SUSS:  You're talking nonsense.

DIANE:  Leo, it's affecting me!

SUSS:   Calm down.

DIANE (approaching, desperate): No, I can't stand keeping it in anymore.  Who else can I talk to?  Something's going wrong, Leo!

SUSS:  Look at me, Diane.  Nothing's going wrong.  You've just got... descension lag, I don't know.  We've only been here two months.  But look at what we've accomplished already.  We produce the strongest, highest quality wine on the material plane.  We've got a brand new advertising campaign.  Our market share is rising and our distributors can't get enough!  How can we complain?

DIANE (in sniffles):  I don't know.

SUSS:  Hey, whols still the most attractive woman in the universe?

DIANE:  Cindy Crawford?

SUSS:  Try again.

DIANE: Kate Moss?

SUSS:   Too juvenile.  I think you know.

DIANE (cheered):   Oh, Leo, you're so bad.

SUSS:  That's why I'm so good.  Here, tend your drink.  You'll feel better.  What's on the itinerary this afternoon, anyhow?  Did Mr. Glass confirm?

DIANE:  Yes, he'll be in at three.

SUSS:  Great.  We really need to know if we can bottle what we need by next week.  What about John down in Creativity?  Did he say when that commercial will be finished?

DIANE:  Soon, I think.  The people from the network called, though, and said our spot was ready to be filled anytime.

SUSS:  Of course it is.  We're paying them two hundred dollars per second.  And that's daytime.

DIANE:  But during the soaps.

SUSS:  Now that I don't get.  Are you sure Research is right on this?  How many happy American housewives are going to respond to an advertisement for 30 proof wine?

DIANE: You'd be surprised.

SUSS: What are you, an expert of all of a sudden?

DIANE: Get off my case.

SUSS: You know what?  You're becoming a positively surly drunk.

DIANE: Which is exactly why you should pour me another glass.

SUSS: You're right.  We'd better drink up before the bottler gets here.

(they pour for a toast)

SUSS (tender again):  Hey.  Are we okay?  The company's doing great.  We're doing great.  We're gods, babe.

DIANE:  I know.

SUSS:  Then... to us.  I love you, Diane.

DIANE:  Call me by my real name when you say that.  Please.

SUSS:  I love you... Aphrodite.

DIANE:  I love you, Dionysus.

(they clink glasses and she starts to drink, but SUSS puts his down and lifts her, carrying her offstage as the lights go down, both of them laughing.  Fade out music: -'Tiny Bubbles.' by Don Ho.   A short while passes.)

(lights up on MR.GLASS, the bottler, and his niece MIRANDA about to enter DIANE'S reception area.  They are both dressed well for business, he with a briefcase and she with a notepad.)

GLASS:  Now Miranda, just what I told you.  Keep his secretary company while we go discuss business.  You keep her busy and he'll probably take me down to his cellars (smiles at the idea and hands her keys).  Oh, and you're driving back to the office.  Let's go:  look sharp, kid.  This guy is one of our fastest growing clients.

(they enter reception area, now lighted, to be greeted by DIANE.)

DIANE (rising):  Mr. Glass, good to see you.  And... ?

GLASS:  Miranda, my niece.  She's on as my assistant for a couple of months before she goes back to school.  Getting used to the business world, right Miranda?

MIRANDA:  Right.

DIANE:  Well that's a good idea.  How do you like it so far?

MIRANDA:  I love it.  I mean, I've met a lot of really wonderful and beautiful people and I've found I'm a great networker.

DIANE:  I'll bet you are.  Let me tell Mr. Suss that you're here; I'm sure he's ready to receive you.

GLASS:  See that, Miranda?  A business-like attitude is next to godliness.

DIANE (to intercom):  Leo, get your nose out of that skin book and get ready to see Mr. Glass.

SUSS (voice on intercom):  It's Grapes of Wrath!

DIANE:  Sure it is.  There's someone new to meet, Leo.  We'll be right in. (to GLASS and MIRANDA)  Follow me.

(the three enter SUSS'S office)

GLASS:  Leo, it's good to see you.  We do too many phone conferences and too few lunches, really.  How are ya?

SUSS:  Couldn't be better, especially since I get to host you in my new office.  Do you like the decoration?

GLASS:  Yes, yes.  Very... topical.

MIRANDA:  You mean "tropical," Uncle Hank.

GLASS:  No, no.  I meant "topical."  It's a vineyard!  Am I wrong, Diane?

DIANE:  Not at all.  We've spared no expense.  Leo is very specific about his fetishes.

GLASS:  Is that a fact, you devil?  (jovially) what else haven't you told me about?

SUSS:  I have no secrets. my two loves are wine, and the theatre.  But who is this young heartbreaker you've neglected to introduce me to?  An associate?

MIRANDA (offering hand):  I'm Miranda

GLASS:  Miranda's my niece; she's working for me this summer.  Getting used to the world of business.

SUSS:  Charming!  And how have you found it so far?

MIRANDA:  I love it.  I mean, I've met a lot of really wonderful and beautiful people and I've found I'm a great networker.

SUSS:  Well that's great.  Isn't that great, Diane? (notices the women in an eye-lock, briefly)   I'll tell you what.  Your uncle and I are going to do some catching up and maybe you and Diane can... network for awhile.

DIANE:  That would be lovely,

MIRANDA:  Yes, that's wonderful.

SUSS:  And Hank, I think it's time we revisited my private cellars.  You haven't tried our newest test varities.  (they are exiting)   I think you'll agree they're very promising.

DIANE:  So. How is working for your uncle?  He seems like a very nice man.

MIRANDA:  Oh, he is.

DIANE:  Do you think you'll go into bottling?

MIRANDA:  I don't know about that.  To be honest, I've been kind of nervous going around places with my uncle.  I don't know too much yet.

DIANE:  There's no reason to be nervous around us.  Or me, for that matter.  You should have all the confidence in the world.

MIRANDA:  Really?

DIANE:  Sure.  I like you already.  What do you say we have a toast?

MIRANDA:  A toast?  Oh, I'm not old enough

DIANE:  Don't be silly.  Leo would hate to think that a little thing like that would get in the way of an associate trying his wine. (pouring)   He's very proud of his wine.  He gets letters all the time from European youngsters.  It's legal for them.

MIRANDA:  Uncle Hank likes it a lot, I know.

DIANE: Your Uncle Hank has taste. (hands her the glass)

MIRANDA:  Are you sure I should drink this, though?  I do have to drive us back to the office.

DIANE:  One isn't going to hurt that much.  It'll hardly do anything.  Wait!  Smell first. (sniffs her glass) That's the bouquet.  Nice?

MIRANDA:  Mmmm.  I hope it tastes that good.

DIANE:   Better.

(they start to drink)

DIANE:  Oh, no.  We didn't do the toast!  Let's see.  How about... to Experimentation.

MIRANDA:  Sure, that's a good thing. (they drink) You know, I'm a science major.  I do experiments all the time.

DIANE:  Really?  What are you in, chemistry?

MIRANDA:  As a matter of fact, yes.  I don't tell my Uncle Hank this, but someday I want to do research on pheromones.  I believe in them completely.

DIANE:  Fascinating.  So you think that physical attraction is much more than a... visual phenomenon.

MIRANDA: Exactly.  Some scientists think that a relationship is bound to fail if it based on visual attraction cues rather than invisible attraction cues.

DIANE: You certainly seem to have a grasp of your subject matter, For what it's worth, though, if you don't mind my saying, you're a pretty young lady.  Sometimes I wonder if my youth is leaving me.

MIRANDA:  Oh, no!  It isn't

DIANE:  Thank you for saying that.

MIRANDA:  Thank you for the wine.  It really is good.

DIANE:  Refill, then?

MIRANDA: I don't know.

DIANE:  Of course you want more.  You'll be here awhile. (makes drink)  When the boys get talking business you can pretty much forget about them for the afternoon.  They'll work everything out in the cellar and suddenly we'll have a pile of work to do.  Men are pigs.  They eat everything up and then make you beg to sleep in the folds of their fat.  What do you think about men, Miranda?

MIRANDA:  How do you mean?

DIANE:  Well do you like them?

MIRANDA: I can't say as I like them, but nobody does.  It wouldn't make me special to say I didn't like them.  They're just a neccessary evil, I guess.

DIANE:  And women are the lesser of two evils?

MIRANDA:  No, women are just good.  Don't you think?  I mean, women give life, and life is intrinsically good just as death is intrinsically bad.  Men make war, and war is death.

DIANE:  Now you sound more like a philosopher than a chemist.  But I think I agree with you.  Women are good.  Very good. (uncomfortable pause) Do you really think I'm attractive?  That my youth is still here?

MIRANDA:   Very much so, Diane.

DIANE (approaching): And what about pheromones.  Do you think I have those?

MIRANDA:  We all do.

DIANE:  But do you think I have good pheromones?  Beautiful ones, even?

MIRANDA: Oh, that depends on whols reading them.  If your pheromones match someone's pheromone receptors... Bang!  You have chemistry.  That's how they think it works.

DIANE (advancing further): Do you think it's possible... just maybe... that a person could have pheromones capable of matching anyone's receptors?  Pheromones that would make that person irresistable?

MIRANDA:   I'm... not sure that's... human nature.

(they kiss slowly, lovingly)

SUSS (re-entering with GLASS, who is holding several complimentaxy bottles):  It's a case of both nature and nurture with grapes, you see, Glass... you start with good genes and keep it going with... good parenting!  Ladies.  How have we been getting along?

DIANE:  Just fine, Leo.  We've just been discussing chemistry.  We had a wonderful talk.

GLASS: Miranda, dear, you look a little shaken.

MIRANDA:  I guess I'm not used to such excellent conversation.

GLASS: Well you wouldn't accuse wine makers of being poor socializers, would you?

SUSS:  Diane, it looks like we have good news for our distributors.  Mr. Glass is going to pull a few strings and get an extra shipment of raw materials on the front.  He's gonna bottle us all the wine we need, and on time.

DIANE:  That's super news!

SUSS:  It certainly is.  And we do hope to see much more of you, Miranda.  It has been a pleasure.

MIRANDA:  The pleasure was all mine.

GLASS (exiting with MIRANDA):  I'll fax you the paperwork tomorrow,  Leo.  And thanks again.  My wife and I will enjoy these.

SUSS:  That's what they're meant for.  Take care.

DIANE:  Goodbye, Miranda

MIRANDA:   Goodbye.

SUSS (after they are gone):  Sweet girl, isn't she?

DIANE: Certainly is.  Knows beauty when she sees it, too.  Or pheromones.

SUSS:  What?

DIANE:  You know, Leo, maybe I'm not slipping.  Everything I said before, I take it back.  I think I might be getting used to living down here.

SUSS:  That's the spirit, baby.  I knew you'd end up liking it.

DIANE:  Don't call me "baby." Please, it's one thing I ask.  Is that so hard?

SUSS:  No, I guess not.  Mortals!  I think their sensitivity is rubbing off on you despite.

DIANE:  Maybe so.  But none of their mediocrity.

SUSS:  Never.  That's the thing with mortals.  You'd think existing on a time-clock as they do, they'd try to wring out every last drop of fun from their lives.  But on the whole, they do such a poor job.

DIANE:  And that's why we're here.

SUSS:  Bingo.  Got a kiss?

DIANE:  Not now, Leo.  I'm feeling a little... tired.

SUSS (sitting):  Me,  too,  me,  too.  Sometimes I wonder.   (desk intercom buzzes)

SUSS:   Suss here.

JOHN  (voice):  Hi, Mr. Suss, it's John down in Creativity.

SUSS:  John, I'm anxious to hear how our commercials coming.

JOHN:  Well the crew was on 'till midnight filming yestersday, and the director tells me they've got most of the footage they need.  We should have a master by tomorrow or the next day.

SUSS:  Good news.  Listen,  John:  you've been putting in a lot of hours lately.  Why don't you come on up to my office and have a drink?  Talk about the commercial.

JOHN:  Uh... sure.  That sounds great, Mr. Suss.  I'll be up in a minute.  Thank you.  (clicks off)

DIANE:  John's a charming young man.

SUSS:  Think so?  He's a worker, that's for sure.

DIANE:  He could work on me.

SUSS:  Stop talking like that.  It doesn't fit you.  You're a goddess, for crying out loud; it's very unattractive to see you lusting after them.

DIANE:  Why do you say "them" like that?  It's not like they're less than us.

SUSS:  From nympho to idealist!  You're a champion rationalizer, Diane.  (pause) This may not be the best time to bear children, Diane.

DIANE:  I'm all set for now, thank you very much, on both mortal and immortal children.  I don't want to ruin my figure.  And besides, I'm in the process of
pursuing my career.

SUSS:  A career in what?  Alcoholism?

DIANE:  Why do you insist on picking on me for the very habit you introduced me to?  Does your sadism know no bounds?

SUSS (sarcastic):  Oh, Dionysus that sadist, gave his loved ones wine..

(light knock)

DIANE: Shhhh.  I think John is here. (opening door)  Hello, John, it is good to see you.  Very good.

JOHN:  Same here, Diane.

SUSS:  Why don't you leave John and I to discuss things awhile, Diane.  Make a call to the network if you would and ask them about our exact times; tell them we're almost ready.  And take a cold shower.

(she scowls at him as she exits)

SUSS:  John, make yourself comfortable.  Forget about working for awhile and bring me up to date.  First, a drink.

JOHN:  Oh, but Mr. Suss, I don't drink.

SUSS:  That's right, you don't, do you?  Oh, and it's "Leo," please.  No need for formality.  Not even one glass?

JOHN:  No, no thank you.  Leo.

SUSS:  You're not a Mormon, are you?

JOHN:  No, sir.

SUSS:  Jehova's?

JOHN:  No, s i r, I I m not, I -

SUSS:  Fringe group, then?  Born Again perhaps?  Scientist?

JOHN:  No, sir.  Actually, I'm an alcoholic.

SUSS:   Oh. Well that's very non-denial of you.  I can appreciate your honesty. (confused)  Listen, John, this might sound like a weird question, especially from a... drinking man like myself.  But, I just don't understand the idea of alcoholism.  For some reason that I can't really explain... right now... I don't feel as though I've felt the detriment myself. what happened with you, John, if you don't mind my asking?  This has nothing to do with your position with us: I'm completely happy and confident in your work.

JOHN:  Thank you, sir.

SUSS:   Leo.

JOHN:   Leo.  Thank you.  Well, I guess it happened to me like everybody.  I started drinking socially and then I hit a bad period and couldn't stop.  I drank until I was cross-eyed and... almost died a couple of times.  I guess I got a taste of my own mortality through drinking and I got scared.  So I quit.

SUSS:  And you can't drink at all now?

JOHN:  No. I'd drink myself into the bathtub in a couple of nights.

SUSS:  So, let me get this straight.  You've never even tried our wine, have you?

JOHN:  No, I haven't.  I hope that doesn't mean anything.

SUSS:  No, not to worry.  Now, listen, John.  What I'm about about to tell you is just between you and me, okay?

JOHN:   Sure.

SUSS:  I want your... dying word on this now,  John.  Under no circumstances are you to think me any different from any other guy for what I'm about to tell you.  I am as normal and average as they get, right?

JOHN:  Well I don't know about average, Mr. Suss-

SUSS:   Leo.

JOHN:  Right.  You may not be abnormal, but you're not average.

SUSS:  Be that as it may. my concern is a... health issue, you might say.  Do you know anything about medecine, John?

JOHN:  I'm no doctor.

SUSS:  But you're a man of above-average intelligence, if my instincts in choosing employees are correct.  There, we're both out of the averages.  Aren't we special?  You probably know something about taking care of oneself, though, don't you?

JOHN:  I brush, if that counts

SUSS:  Well my concern is not dental.  John, I'm afraid.  Tell me, does getting tired mean I'm getting sick?  I've been sleeping 4 or 5 hours every cycle of 24.  Is that normal?

JOHN: Four or five?  Sounds like you need more sleep.

SUSS: But, I've been needing more and more... lately.  Does that mean I'm aging?

JOHN: Aging?  Of course you're aging.  Kids need more sleep than adults, if you'd like to think of it that way.  But really, you should get more rest.

SUSS:  I must sound ignorant to you.  I knew that sleep was needed... I guess I just never knew how much.  You don't think I'm weird, do you?

JOHN:  No, besides being remarkably energetic.

SUSS:  Nothing odd about me besides that?

JOHN:  No.  No, sir, definitely not.

SUSS:  Good.  Let's keep it that way. (Shaking his hand and showing him the door)  John, I want you to know that I think you're doing excellent work down in Creativity.  And employee loyalty means everything to me.  I hold you in confidence, John, and consider you a part of the reason this company is successful.  Take this home to your family-

JOHN:   I'm not married, sir.

SUSS (forcing envelope on him):  Well just take it home, then.  Consider it an... off-season bonus.  Keep up the good work.

JOHN:  Another one?   I don't know what to say, I-

SUSS (interrupting importantly):  Nothing.  Remember: when in doubt, say nothing.  Oh, and one more thing.  Did you ever get more tired after you'd been drinking, back when you were drinking?

JOHN:  Well, sure.  Alcoholis a downer.  I passed out all the time

SUSS:   Hmm.  Interesting.  Thank you, John, I'll see you soon.

(JOHN exits.  SUSS returns to his desk and sits, pensive.  DIANE enters.)

DIANE:  You're really something else.  Dionysus, most paranoid of the gods.

SUSS:  You underestimate them.

DIANE:  Stop.  An hour ago you were saying "oh, baby, they don't have a clue.  We're myths to them."  What happened to that?  You still pay off your mortal employees as if they know all about us and you're bribing them to keep the secret!  You're delusional, Leo!  We're gonna go broke if you give out any more "bonuses."

SUSS:  Just humor me.  Maybe I am delusional.  I just feel better making sure. (pause)  I told him about my fatigue.

DIANE:  What!?  After all your paranoia?

SUSS:  I didn't tell him anything else.  Just asked his opinion.  He doesn't think I'm sick.  He thinks it's normal.

DIANE:  Oh, really normal, Leo.   Getting so tired you pass right out of consciousness for hours?  Descending here has affected us and I think it's finally time we admit it.  Sleep is only recreational for us, you know that.  It shouldn't be necessary.

SUSS:  For gods, you mean.

DIANE:   Or goddesses.

(the lights dim and a special makes the wetbar glow blue.  The two are in tableau for a second before blackout. music. when the special on the wetbar comes back up, it is apparent that much has been drunk.  The two have assumed positions of greater fatigue as time has passed.)

SUSS:  This is ridiculous.

DIANE:   I know.

(a pause.  They are exhausted.  And drunk.)

SUSS:   I ... I... am the god of wine.  I'm supposed to be the happiest drunk in the cosmos.  But right now, all I want to do is go to bed.

DIANE:  We don't have beds.  I have a headache.

SUSS:   Me, too.

DIANE  (producing pills):  Here.

SUSS:  What are those?

DIANE:  Aspirin. (takes some with drink)  They help the aches and pains.

SUSS (visibly upset):    How long have you been taking these?

DIANE:  A couple of weeks.  They're perfectly fine for you, you know.

SUSS:  Well that's not the point, is it?  Point is, you're bad enough to need medication.

DIANE:  I wouldn't say "bad enough."  I'm fine.  It's over-the-counter stuff.

SUSS:  It's still medication.  Do you ever remember once needing medication before you descended?

DIANE:  Leo, please don't make a big deal.  I have other things on my mind that are more important.

SUSS:  Like what?

DIANE:  Like... oh, Leo, don't get mad.

SUSS:  I'm not mad, now, let's hear it.

DIANE:  It's just... I'm finding myself attracted to other people.

SUSS:  Tell me something I don't know.  When you're dating Aphrodite, it doesn't do to get jealous.  Plus, I don't want to completely narrow my own options.

DIANE: What?

SUSS:  Do I look monogamous to you?  Besides, do you think I'm really jealous when you flirt with other people?

DIANE:  Like John, for instance?

SUSS:  Yeah, like John,

DIANE:  John isn't exactly what I'm worried about. (pause) Leo, what I really wanted to tell you was, I think I'm attracted to a woman.

SUSS:  You're joking with me, of course.

DIANE:  No, I'm not.

SUSS:  You're Aphrodite.  You have an image to uphold.

DIANE:  No I don't.  Nobody knows who I am.

SUSS:  Down here.  But what if they find out up there?

DIANE:  If they find out, they find out.

SUSS:  Why don't you take a few more aspirin; I'm starting to believe you are sick.

DIANE: You know what, Leo?  You're a real... prejudiced man.  A bigot!  I thought you of all people would be understanding about this.  I thought you loved me!

SUSS:  I do love you, when you're acting yourself .

DIANE:  So it's conditional.

SUSS: Oh, I've got conditions, you've got conditions, we've both got a condition.  A condition called living on this miserable planet Earth!  Danmit all, I'm getting downright pissed off, now.

DIANE:  You're just overtired.  We both are.

SUSS (smashes glass against wall.  There is a short silence after his loss of temper.  He finally resigns himself to the inevitable and grabs a tapestry off the wall as a blanket.):   I'm going to bed.

(the lights blackout on DIANE, holding her glass and putting her head down to sleep. music as the night passes.  Lights up on MIRANDA looking at herself in a pocket mirror outside of the office, fixing her makeup. She is nervous for her second meeting with DIANE, whom she is fond of.  She knocks.)

DIANE (opening door):  Miranda.   Is your uncle with you?

MIRANDA:    No

DIANE (slightly flustered):  Well this is quite a surprise.  I'm glad you came.  We can't let Leo know you're here.  Come in, quick.

(MIRANDA enters outer office)

MIRANDA:  I didn't call you first because I didn't know what to say.  I just wanted to see you.  I hope I'm not out of place.

DIANE:  Don't even think it.  I can't tell you how happy I am that you're here.  This is new to me.

MIRANDA:  Me, too.  You are... so beautiful.  And nice.  I've been thinking about you a lot.

DIANE: Listen: we gotta get out of here.  Leols not in a very good mood, lately.  Want to do lunch?

MIRANDA:   I'd be honored.

DIANE (pressing intercom button):  Leo, I'm going out to lunch.  Do you want me to pick you up anything?

SUSS (voice only) :  No, thanks, Diane.  Wait.  How about a cappucino?

DIANE:  One cappucino, Sleepy Bones.  See you in a bit. (smirks to herself)  Okay.  Let's go.

(the women exit and the lights crossfade to SUSS's office where he is finishing up a phone call, visibly tired and on his way to drunkeness.)

SUSS:  Alright, John.  Good.  Good.  Then I'll see you up here in a couple of hours?  Wonderful.

(he hangs up and puts head on desk.  After awhile he rises and pours himself another drink.  He sits, sipping, but then puts his drink down and dozes off.  The sound of a clock ticking rises to indicate the passage of time.  Timed with this as the clock fades out is a rising knock at the door, until SUSS awakes.)

SUSS:  What?  Whols there?  Who is it?

GLASS (voice behind door):  It's Henry Glass.  Are you busy right now?

SUSS:  No, c'mon in, c'mon in.

(GLASS enters)

GLASS:  How are you, Leo?  You look beat.

SUSS:  Just a little

GLASS:  Get some rest, why don'tcha?

SUSS:  I was.

GLASS:  Listen, Leo, did Miranda come by earlier?

SUSS:   Who?

GLASS:  My niece.  The one you met the other day.

SUSS:  Oh. No, I don't think so. why would she come here?

GLASS:  She said she forgot something and came to pick it up.  But she should have been back an hour ago.

SUSS:  Why didn't you call first?

GLASS:  I did; there was no answer,

SUSS:  That's right, Diane went to lunch.  Hope she hurries back with my cappucino.

GLASS:  Leo, I'm worried.  It's not like Miranda to skip out on me like this.

SUSS:  She'll turn up.  She probably went out for some lunch herself.  What time is it, anyhow?

GLASS:  Little after two.

SUSS:  Wow, I did sleep.  Where the hell is Diane?  Our creativity guy's coming with the pilot for our new ad campaign in awhile.

GLASS (still distracted by worry):  Do you mind if I use the phone?

SUSS:  Not at all.

(GLASS picks up and dials)

GLASS:  Hi, Hank here.  She back yet?  Okay.  Page me if you hear anything, alright?  Bye. (he hangs up)

SUSS:  Nothing?

GLASS:  No. But it's not going to help anything if I go searching the city for her.  You mind if I stay awhile until I get the word?  I won't get anything done back at the office like this.

SUSS:  Sounds like you need a drink.  You really love that girl, don't you?

GLASS:  I guess you could say so.  I don't have any daughters.  Two sons.

SUSS:  Here.  Sit down and make yourself comfortable.  I'm sure we'll get the call soon.

(a knock at the door)

GLASS (standing again) :  Maybe it is her.

SUSS (opening door) :  John.  You're early.

JOHN:  Well not really.  I've had the tape for hours now, and I can't wait to show it to you.  I think you're really going to like this new campaign, Mr. Suss.

SUSS:   Leo.

JOHN: Leo.  So... (looks for place to play tape)

SUSS:  We'll have to move to the outer office.  No VCR in here.  Hank, a bit of a preview, perhaps, of our new television campaign?  After all you are the official bottler of  Divine Wines.

GLASS:  Sure; maybe it'll take my mind from things.

(the three move through the door to the outer office, and JOHN sets up the television)

SUSS:  I'll get the lights.

JOHN:  Prepare to be very happy, Leo.  (he presses "play")

(television: music and the sound of wine being poured.)

VOICEOVER (from tv):  Grapes.  Grown to ripeness on the vine and fermented in the Greek tradition...

SUSS:  Shots of Cyprus?

JOHN:  Just watch.

VOICEOVER: ... Genetically engineered to produce the sweetest, most potent red and white wines on the market.  Some say the gods have been good to us.  Some say too good.  Divine Wine.  It could be too much for mortals.

JOHN (turning light back on):  So that's it.  Thirty seconds, neat and tidy.  A little bit of humour, but no knee-slapping because wine is a serious business, right?  And scholarly appeal.  The shots of Greek ruins are gonna have the college professors drooling on their curriculum vitae.  We're definitely going for the upper-crust here.  This isn't Miller Time, this is Divine wine.  Beverage of the Gods.

SUSS:  Well, John-

JOHN:  And get a load of next month's follow up.  Aphrodite.  Most beautiful woman in the universe.  And what does she drink?  Divine wine.  You drink it too and she could be yours.  We do a male follow up the next month and we get both sexual markets.

SUSS:  John, I think we'd better back up a little here.  I'm not sure I like it.

JOHN:  You don't?  Wait, you're right.  We start with the sexy stuff from the word "go."  Of course!

SUSS:  No, not that.  I don't think I like the Greek angle.

JOHN:  What's wrong with Greece?

SUSS:  Modern Athens.

JOHN:  Not to Americans.  How many Americans have been to Athens?  It probably looks a lot like New York now anyways.

SUSS (disgusted):  I'm sorry, John, but this isn't working.  We need a new campaign.

JOHN:  What about Aphrodite?  What's wrong with Aphrodite?  An imaginary figure in ancient myth: everyone's perfect beauty.  She could be the new Miss America for us; the modern American ideal based on the classical!

(enter DIANE and MIRANDA hand in hand, talking excitedly and obviously having a very good time together)

GLASS:   Miranda, where have you been?

MIRANDA (uncomfortable):  Uncle Hank!  Um... Diane and I just went out for some lunch, that's all.

DIANE: That's right, we had lunch.

SUSS:  Well you could have told someone that Miranda was with you.  Mr. Glass was worried sick.

DIANE:  I guess it was just... spontaneous.

GLASS:  Miranda, don't ever do that to me again.  A call is all it takes; just tell me if you're going to take a long lunch.  Did you find what you came for?

MIRANDA:  Oh yes, I mean, yes, I did.

SUSS:  what had you left with us?

MIRANDA:  Oh, um... just a little something.  My... purse,

GLASS:  Well you had your purse this morning, Miranda; I remember because you gave me a tissue from it.

DIANE:  It was her other purse, right Miranda?  You know us women: one bag is never enough.

(only DIANE and MIRANDA laugh, nervously)

JOHN:  maybe we should get Diane's opinion on the new ad campaign.

SUSS: I think she should get a look.  Ladies ... (he offers them their seats)

(JOHN starts video again and gets the light. video plays again.)

VOICEOVER:  Grapes.  Grown to ripeness on the vine and fermented in the Greek tradition...

DIANE:  Shots of Cyprus?

SUSS:  Just watch.

VOICEOVER: ... Genetically engineered to produce the sweetest, most potent red and white wines on the market.  Some say the gods have been good to us.  Some say too good.  Divine Wine.  It could be too much for mortals.

JOHN (turning light on)    There.  What do you think?

DIANE:  Well, I ... (looking at SUSS)

JOHN:  Don't say it.  Something sexier, right?

SUSS:  Maybe you should tell her about the Aphrodite campaign.

DIANE (horrified):  What?

JOHN:  That's right.  Aphrodite: she's beautiful.  She more than your average woman.  And she's nearly naked on our commercial, selling our wine.  Divine Wine!  Get it?  And the following month, for the ladies, we do... I don't know... Dionysus!

SUSS:  Now, John-

JOHN:  That's it!  Dionysus, god of wine.  Our Dionysus will be a young stud, to counter Aphrodite, you see.  A shirtless hunk, oiled up like a wrestler, lounging in a vineyard!  Oh, me!

SUSS:  Oh, you!  Well, why don't you just take this tape back downstairs and let me think about this for awhile.  Good ideas, good ideas.

JOHN:  So what do I tell the director?

SUSS:  Tell him we're on standby for now, but that we'll be in close touch.  Talk to you soon, John.  Great work, really.

(JOHN exit:s.  SUSS sighs and collapses in chair.)

GLASS:  What was wrong with the commmerical, Leo?  I kind of enjoyed it, myself.  An intellectual flavor.

DIANE:  It leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

MIRANDA:  I don't know.  It's like... a challenge to the audience, you know?

GLASS:  "It could be too much for mortals."

MIRANDA:  And I like the Aphrodite idea, too.

DIANE:  Well that's about enough boring talk about commercials.  Why don't we have some drinks?

GLASS:  we should really get back.

SUSS:  Yes, work is important.

DIANE:  well, can't Miranda stay?

MIRANDA:  Uncle Hank?

SUSS (to DIANE):  You forget we have that ... thing to do.

DIANE:  Leo...

SUSS:  Say goodbye, Diane.

DIANE:  I'll call you, Miranda.

MIRANDA:   Goodbye.

(they move close, but inhibited by the presence of the men, they only shake hands)

GLASS:  Leo, we'll be in touch.  You'll be getting a bit of paperwork from our office in the next couple of days.

SUSS (sarcastic):  Oh, boy.   (they laugh)

DIANE:   Bye.

(GLASS and MIRANDA exit)

SUSS (after a pause):   So. You mind telling me?

DIANE:  I don't think I want to talk about this with you.

SUSS:  Glass's niece!  I can hardly believe it.

DIANE:  I want you to know this has nothing to do with our relationship.  I'm just trying it out; it's not a permanent thing.

(he's giving her the silent treatment)

DIANE:  Leo, Miranda's a beautiful woman.  You know the value of a beautiful woman.  And she makes me feel beautiful because she's attracted to me.  But I love you.  I really do.  I care about Miranda in a different way.

SUSS:  Why does Aphrodite need anyone to make her feel beautiful?

DIANE:  You know the answer to that.  It's not the same down here people don't see me the same.  Or I don't see myself the same.

SUSS:  What about me?  I've got some serious concerns here trying to keep this company afloat.  Not only that, but my creativity guy seems to have ESP concerning our goddamn identities!

DIANE:  I can't believe that commerical.  Do you think he's on to us?

SUSS:  I don't know. (indignant:) Dionysus oiled up like a wrestler...

DIANE:  what if he did know, Leo?  Would anyone believe him?

SUSS:  That's not the point.  You know what Zeus would do to us if he thought we were being careless.

DIANE:  Poof.

SUSS:  Poof. (pause)  I need a drink.

DIANE:  Me, too.

SUSS:  I'm tired.

DIANE:   Me, too.

(SUSS loosens tie and they settle to the floor)

SUSS:  Diane?

DIANE:   Yeah?

SUSS:  There isn't another... man... is there?

DIANE:  No. You're it.  For now.

(they kiss)

SUSS:  I guess this living-on-Earth thing isn't going to be the vacation I thought it would.

DIANE:  Hey, it was a good idea.  You always have the good ideas.  We'll make the best.

(the lights are dimming slowly; they are snuggling)

SUSS:  We will.  Oh, Aphrodite.  Being a god can be such a chore.  Always having to adapt to new standards of living as we zoom around the universe, visiting different worlds ...

DIANE:  Mmmm...

SUSS: ...taking whatever comes in stride, doing what we think is right at the time, spreading a little divinity wherever we can...

DIANE:  And tasting mortal life in the process

(pause)

SUSS:   Say, do you think Miranda would go in for a threesome?

DIANE (giggling):  Well...   she's only human.

(lights fade to black as they kiss to the tune of "Tiny Bubbles")

END


Marcus Del Greco has been writing for the page, stage, and record since 1992. He founded mindmined.com in 1998 and continues as editor and developer of this domain and a small network of other creative websites. He lives in Alton, New Hampshire.

Email: marcus@mindmined.com
Website: http://www.mindmined.com/marcus


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