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      Major Breakthrough – a short, bizarre play

      To the Cast:

      This play has had three successful productions based on the following notes. Twice it was produced by two different community theaters in NJ (Florham Park Players and Chatham Players). From there it went to an Off-Broadway Theater Festival in New York City, sharing the bill with Daryl Hannah et al.

      The key to playing these characters is not in playing the humor of the situations, but in their absolute belief in what they are saying and why they are saying it.  Both characters have thrived in this relationship for years by BEing just who they are.

      The Patient is insecure, needy, and is accustomed to being treated by the world the way the Doctor treats him.  It somehow reassures him that he is accepted by everyone in the same way.

      The Doctor is self-assured and arrogant.  He needs patients like this to maintain his confidence.  Once he reverses the roles as part of treatment, his confidence is reflected and affected by his relationship with the Patient.  He sees himself the way others see him.

                                                                                 

      Scene One

      Monday

      Lights up on the representation of an office.  Sparse furniture including a sofa, desk, comfortable chair at one end of the sofa, with a small table between the sofa and chair with a phone on it.  Lying on the sofa is a man dressed in a suit and sitting in the chair is a man dressed in a suit.  The man in the chair is the patient and the man on the sofa is the doctor, who always wears glasses.  The patient is sleeping, unbeknownst to the doctor.

      DOCTOR

      . . . and I think that this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion.  What do you think?  (Silence) Dan?  (Silence) Dan?!

      PATIENT snores.

       DOCTOR

      (Noticing the sleeper at last) Jesus!  (Shouting) WAKE . . . UP!

      PATIENT bolts upright.

      PATIENT

      Wh‑a‑a‑a!  Come in!

      He runs to the door and opens it.  He sees no one outside and looks back to the doctor.

      DOCTOR

      The session isn’t up yet.

      PATIENT

      (Embarrassed)  Right.  Just thought I heard a knock.

       DOCTOR

      You did.  It was your brain rattling against your skull as your head tilted backward to gain a new perspective on what remains of the 45 minutes of our session.

      PATIENT

      If I thought you really meant that, I’d find myself a new shrink.

      DOCTOR

      If I thought you really meant that, I’d . . .

      PATIENT

      Don’t say it.

      DOCTOR

      Stop.

      PATIENT

      Why should I stop?  Isn’t this the place I can say anything, do any‑‑?

      DOCTOR

      No, no, no.  Not you stop.  I would stop.  If I thought you meant that, I’d stop.

      PATIENT

      Oh.  Okay.  I just thought that . . .

      DOCTOR

      That’s the trouble.  You think.  You have to learn to start feeling.  With your heart.  Not your head.

      PATIENT

      Yeah, but . . .

      DOCTOR

      No “buts”.  You have too many “buts” in your life.  Here a “but”, there a “but”, everywhere a “but, but”. (Sings) Old MacDonald had a “but” …

      They sing in harmony.

      PATIENT                      DOCTOR

      Eee‑yi, eee‑yi, ooooooh!     Eee‑yi, eee‑yi, ooooooh!

      (They both stop and stare thoughtfully at the floor.  They have performed this ritual many times before.  It breaks the tension.  Then they abruptly resume their positions on the sofa and chair.)

      DOCTOR

      So. you think it’s all out of proportion?

      PATIENT

      Yep.  Every time I bring it up, she goes into a huge tantrum and there’s no telling what the hell really brought it on.  I have never in my life seen anyone get so ticked off about ‑‑ Could I ask you something?

      DOCTOR

      Shoot.

      PATIENT

      Why do you always lie on the couch and I sit in the chair?

      DOCTOR

      Don’t you like the chair?

      PATIENT

      The chair’s fine, it’s fine.  It’s just . . .

      DOCTOR

      I could get another kind of chair if you want.  You don’t need to feel constrained here.  I want you to feel as comfortable as possible.

      PATIENT

      No . . . it’s okay.

      DOCTOR

      You’re sure?

      PATIENT

      I just wondered . . . I mean, I thought the doctor was supposed to sit in the chair and the patient got to lie on the couch.

      DOCTOR

      That’s the ninth time you’ve called the “sofa” a “couch” in the last week.  The second time today.

      PATIENT

      Sorry.  (Long pause) Why do you lie on the sofa, though?

      DOCTOR

      I guess because I’m usually here before you, and I get the choice of the good seat.  In this case, it’s the sofa.

      PATIENT

      Oh.

      DOCTOR

      Now about your wife’s tantrum?

      PATIENT

      Yeah . . . okay.  (Pause) She hates for me to pick my toes in bed.

      DOCTOR

      I beg your pardon?

      PATIENT

      You know, I get into bed and clean the lint from my socks out from between my toes.  She hates it.

      DOCTOR

      So why do you do it?

      PATIENT

      I don’t like to leave all that lint between the sheets.  Don’t you think that’s considerate?

      DOCTOR

      What do you think?

      PATIENT

      I just told you what I think!  Don’t you ever have an opinion?

      DOCTOR

      Do you think I do?

      PATIENT

      I think you enjoy watching other people suffer without having to get involved yourself!  I think it’s easy to say “What do you think?” and never commit yourself to an opinion or take a stand.  What do you think?

      DOCTOR

      I think ‑‑ that cleaning your toes in bed is semi‑disgusting.

      PATIENT

      Aha!  An opinion!  A half‑hearted, semi‑committed opinion, but an opinion all the same!  Congratulations!

      DOCTOR

      And I think your wife has a right to express her resentment …

      PATIENT

      Ohooo!  Now you’re on her side!  I knew it!  That’s why you never have an opinion, you’re on her side!

      DOCTOR

      . . . and if I were really on “her side”, I’d kick your butt out of here for wasting my time with such trivial problems.

      The patient is stunned and hurt to the quick.

      DOCTOR

      But since I’m not on “her side” and your problems aren’t trivial to you, you can stay.

      The patient is relieved and like a joyous puppy at this news.

      DOCTOR

      Good boy.   Happy, are we?  Now you can see why I don’t give my opinion all that often.  You’re not ready to hear the truth.

      PATIENT

      I don’t know, I thought I handled that exchange fairly well, don’t you?

      DOCTOR

      The fact is, that was only a small part of the truth, the part I thought you could handle.  I still don’t think you’re quite ready for all of it.

      PATIENT

      Sure I am.  Go ahead, try me.  Tell me the whole truth.

      DOCTOR

      Later.  Trust me!  You’re not ready!  I’ll know when you’re ready.

      PATIENT

      When?  When do you think I’ll be ready to stand up to the worst of it?

      DOCTOR

      Soon.  Soon.  Now, shall we continue?

      PATIENT

      Can I sit on the cou ‑‑ sofa?

      DOCTOR

      No.  Maybe next time.  You’re not ready.

      PATIENT

      Even for the sofa?

      DOCTOR

      Sorry.

      PATIENT

      Okay.