drama



by Brett Neveu


Eric LaRue

(excerpted)

Characters: Steve Calhan—male, Presbyterian Minister, late thirties

Janice LaRue—female, late forties

Ron LaRue—male, late forties

Jill Yardly—female, mid-forties

Stephanie Grazer—female, early forties

Eric LaRue—male, seventeen Time: present Place: -Steve Calhan's office at First Presbyterian Church -the living room of the LaRue home -A holding room at a prison SCENE 1

(Lights up. A pastor’s office in a Presbyterian

church. JANICE LARUE sits in a large, older chair

on the opposite side of a heavy brown desk. The

desk has a few books, a picture or two, a reading

lamp and a box of tissues. PASTOR STEVE

CALHAN sits behind the desk in a somewhat

modern, high-backed chair.)

STEVE

Don’t you think it’s a little tight in here? I can’t find places for everything. I had a hard time finding a place for the trash can. I try not to throw things away in here. If I have any garbage, then I walk it downstairs to the bigger trash cans in the kitchen. Then I just end up dumping them later. Not all the time, though. We have a service that does that, a garbage service. I don’t know. It’s cramped, but it’s comfortable. How are you?

JANICE

Not well.

STEVE

I’m sorry.

JANICE

Eric’s been there for over a month.

STEVE

Have you been to see him yet?

JANICE

No.

STEVE

You should go see him.

JANICE

I try, but I can’t.

STEVE

It’ll be a good thing. You should go see him.

JANICE

I will.


STEVE

Good. And he’s doing okay?

JANICE

I’m not sure.

STEVE

You might want to be concerned.

JANICE

I am.

STEVE

I realize that. But maybe you should be more concerned. He’s up there without any family. He’s among strangers and criminals and I’m sure he’s pretty upset. It’s upsetting for him, you, and everyone concerned. You should go see him. He needs that. What would you say to him?

JANICE

In prison.

STEVE

That’s what I mean.

JANICE

I’m not sure.

STEVE

Maybe that’s why you haven’t gone yet. You should think about what you would say to him. Just thinking about that discussion would help you understand what you are thinking.

JANICE

Eric killed those boys.

STEVE

I know the circumstances.

JANICE

He shot them.

STEVE

You should think beyond the situation. (pause) How have you been?

JANICE

It’s hard.


STEVE

It is.

JANICE

It’s hard to be outside.

STEVE

What do you mean?

JANICE

It’s hard to go outside.

STEVE

You should go outside. You shouldn’t punish yourself.

JANICE

I don’t feel like I can be outside.

STEVE

You shouldn’t become a shut-in. You need to be active.

JANICE

I don’t feel like exercise.

STEVE

That’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t mean aerobics or anything. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t sit and dwell on things that happened. All of this is still fresh in your mind and you can’t think of anything else.

JANICE

I do think of other things.

STEVE

I had a man in the congregation a few years ago that wouldn’t leave his house.

JANICE

Why wouldn’t he leave his house?

STEVE

He was scared of plants or clouds and he wouldn’t leave his house.

JANICE

What happened to him?

STEVE

He finally went outside.


JANICE

Why?

STEVE

I’m not sure, but he did.

JANICE

Wasn’t he scared of plants or clouds?

STEVE

I’m not sure what he was scared of, if he was scared of plants or clouds or what it was. I am sure, though, that he finally overcame his fears and left his house.

JANICE

Oh.

STEVE

That’s right.

JANICE

I’m not scared to go outside.

STEVE

Oh.

JANICE

I’m just sad.

STEVE

You’re sad? Are you numb? Some people feel numb when tragic things occur in their lives. They go from month to month, year to year, not feeling anything. They’re numb.

JANICE

I don’t think I’m numb.

STEVE

Time can heal anything.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

It can.

JANICE

I know.


STEVE

It’s why you’re here.

JANICE

What is.

STEVE

To heal yourself. Isn’t that why you’re here?

JANICE

Yes.

STEVE

Why are you here?

JANICE

To heal myself.

STEVE

Is there another reason we’ve been meeting?

JANICE

I don’t know.

STEVE

You seem like you have another reason.

JANICE

I said why.

STEVE

You said what I said. I might be wrong. You can give me a reason. We’re trying to get beyond the shooting and what Eric did.

JANICE

And heal.

(A pause.)


STEVE

Why are you here?

JANICE

I guess I want to understand how I’m feeling now. I want to understand what I’m supposed to be feeling.


STEVE

I’m not going to tell you what you should be feeling.

JANICE

I don’t mean that.

STEVE

You’re trying to look inside yourself and see what steps you need to take in order to feel less upset.

JANICE

Maybe that’s what’s happening.

STEVE

“Maybe” doesn’t get you past anything. You should be making some concrete decisions about things. You know what I want to do, and maybe we should talk about that.

JANICE

I’m not sure.

STEVE

I still want to set up a meeting.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

I’m very serious about this step. I’ve talked to the principal and to a few counselors and I think we should do this soon. Especially if you feel sad.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

What do you think?

JANICE

I don’t think I can.

STEVE

You’ve had some time to think about it.

JANICE

I know.


STEVE

We shouldn’t let these wounds get infected. We need to treat them quickly so they can heal.

JANICE

I’m not ready.

STEVE

I understand, but it would be good for everyone.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

I don’t know if you do. I’m saying you should go see Eric, you should be there in the meeting, you should do all of it.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

What did Ron have to say about it?

JANICE

We haven’t talked about it much.

STEVE

I know that he hasn’t been attending services here for a few months now, but I don’t want to lose touch with him or his feelings about what has happened.

JANICE

Okay.

STEVE

I know John Berman over there and he’s nice. Please tell Ron he can come to both services if he wants, he can go to Redeemer Lutheran and he can come here, too. I don’t have a problem with him splitting time between the two churches. He can come back anytime. I don’t want him to feel that I don’t think what he thinks isn’t important just because he’s over at Redeemer.

JANICE

I’ll talk to Ron again about what he thinks about the meeting.


STEVE

You should get his opinion.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

I’m harping. I’m sorry. It should be up to you when and if you talk to him. It should be up to you what course these things take. The only problem is that there’s more than just you involved here. We’ve got three other families to think about. Three other mothers, two of which are members of this church, just like you. It’s been hard. It’s been hard for everyone, the community, of all involved. I’m just trying to reach out to you. I’m trying help you, I’m just trying to help.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

Then we can all understand. We can understand what we’re all thinking.

JANICE

Okay.

STEVE

If you want to ask me questions about anything I’m saying, it’s fine.

JANICE

I’m sorry.

STEVE

I want you to figure this out by yourself.

JANICE

I don’t mean to sound so confused.

STEVE

You don’t sound that confused.

JANICE

I’m just not sure if I’m making any sense.

STEVE

You just said the same thing twice. You said that you “don’t mean to sound so confused” and that you’re “not sure if you’re making any sense."


JANICE

I’m sorry.

STEVE

No! It’s okay to feel that way. Us talking is a great way to figure these things out. And this meeting I’m talking about is also a great place to do the same thing. (long pause) How are you?

JANICE

I thought I said how I was.

STEVE

I’m sorry. You’re right. You’re sad.

JANICE

I’ve been back to work.

STEVE

See? You can go outside.

JANICE

I guess.

STEVE

How is work going?

JANICE

It’s okay.

STEVE

It keeps you distracted, I suppose.

JANICE

I don’t want to be distracted.

STEVE

I meant occupied.

JANICE

I can’t stop thinking about things.

STEVE

Work keeps you occupied so that you can think about other things.

JANICE

I don’t think about other things.


STEVE

Do you need some help?

JANICE

Help with what?

STEVE

Things at home. Preparing food, cleaning.

JANICE

No.

STEVE

Those sorts of home things can make you distracted, too.

JANICE

I don’t need help at home.

STEVE

I’m here to help however I can.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

That’s why we’re talking, right?

JANICE

Yes.

STEVE

I’m here to help.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

Have you ever played Ungame?

JANICE

Played what?

STEVE

The Ungame game?


JANICE

No.

STEVE

It’s a game where you can learn a lot about yourself. It’s a card game.

JANICE

I don’t want to play cards.

STEVE

It’s a learning game.

(STEVE opens a drawer in his desk and pulls out a

deck of playing cards.)

STEVE (cont'd)

I don’t have the actual Ungame, but I remember how it goes. I have it all written down. I just use regular cards and it’s the same thing. (pause) I just want you to see how opening up to others can help you get past tragedy in life. I just want you to understand that all human experience is the same, all sadness can be quieted. I’m here to listen and to help, and sometimes I might seem silly. I know a card game is silly but it really does help. When I have counseling sessions for married couples, I always play Ungame with them during their second session. You would not believe how much two people can learn about each other by simple questions and varying answers. It’s like a trick, but a trick that teaches. Through learning your responses, you can learn about problems or things you may need to correct. This simple card game can give you tools for finding out how to make your life less complicated. It can bring answers to frustrating questions. I’ve seen it happen during my marriage counseling sessions. I’m no liar.

JANICE

I don’t think you’re lying.

STEVE

I didn’t mean that you thought I was lying. I’m just trying to show you how strongly I believe in interaction and communication as ways to overcome the greatest of misfortunes. So when I say, “I’m no liar,” I mean to tell you that you should believe that my motives are about using tools in order to understand our progress through life. I don’t know if it’s about trust or honesty. Maybe “I’m no liar” isn’t the right statement. Maybe I should say, “I’m not going to lie to you.” I want to tell you things as I see them and I want you to do the same.


(STEVE shows the deck of cards to JANICE.)


STEVE (cont'd)

It’s not silly. It’s just a game. Let me see here.


(STEVE removes a sheet of paper with notes on it

from a desk drawer. He then takes the cards from

their box and shuffles them. He then deals out five

cards, face down, to JANICE.)

(JANICE reaches for the cards.)

STEVE (cont'd)

Don’t look at them.

JANICE

Okay.

STEVE

Okay. Now let me see here.

(STEVE looks at his notes.)

STEVE (cont'd)

There are usually two people here to play the game, not counting me.

JANICE

Okay.

STEVE

I guess we’ll have to modify the rules. Go ahead and reveal your first card and we’ll see what to do from there.

(JANICE turns over one of the cards.)


JANICE

It’s the five of diamonds.

STEVE

The five of diamonds. (looks at his notes) Okay. The five of diamonds. Okay. “Describe how you put on your shoes and socks in the morning.”

JANICE

I should answer that?

STEVE

Yes. “Describe how you put on your shoes and socks in the morning.”

JANICE

I put on socks and then I put on shoes.


STEVE

Anything else?

JANICE

No.

STEVE

Do you sit down?

JANICE

Yes.

STEVE

Where?

JANICE

On a chair.

STEVE

Is it always the same chair?

JANICE

I sometimes sit on the bed.

STEVE

And is it right then left or the other way around?

JANICE

I’m not sure.

STEVE

Think about it.

JANICE

I guess right first.

STEVE

Not always right?

JANICE

Maybe not.

STEVE

Okay. Then what do you do?


JANICE

I stand up.

STEVE

Is it always the same shoes?

JANICE

No.

(A long pause. STEVE pokes at one of JANICE’s

remaining cards. JANICE turns over the next card.)


STEVE

The ten of clubs.

(STEVE looks at his papers.)


STEVE (cont'd)

“Describe your mate’s hair color in detail.”

JANICE

What?

STEVE

I guess this is more of a couple card.

(STEVE turns over JANICE’s next card.)


STEVE (cont'd)

The ten of hearts. “Tell the group about your favorite vacation.” There’s no group, so you can just tell me instead, okay?

JANICE

A vacation?

STEVE

Your favorite vacation.

(A pause.)


JANICE

When Eric was seven we went up to Leech Lake in Minnesota.

STEVE

That was your favorite vacation?


JANICE

Yes.

STEVE

Leech Lake was the name of the lake?

JANICE

Yes.

STEVE

That's funny! (laughs)

JANICE

Yeah. (laughs slightly)

STEVE

What was there to do at Leech Lake?

JANICE

We had a tent and we went fishing.

STEVE

How long was the vacation?

JANICE

A week.

STEVE

Why was it your favorite?

JANICE

It was fun.

STEVE

What was fun?

JANICE

The whole thing.

STEVE

The camping? The fishing? What parts?

JANICE

We went walking around in the woods.


STEVE

That must have been nice.

JANICE

We came across a giant mushroom. It looked like a little chair.

STEVE

It was as big as a chair?

JANICE

We took a picture of it. It was yellow and orange and was cupped so it had a little puddle of water in it. There was a smaller different shaped mushroom next to it that's also in the picture.

STEVE

I bet you didn't go swimming, though.

JANICE

We did go swimming.

STEVE

Were there leeches in the lake? (smiles)

JANICE

Tiny ones. You could get them off with salt.

STEVE

They bit you?

JANICE

Eric had them between his toes. He came out of the water and he had them stuck there. He cried.

STEVE

He was bleeding?

JANICE

The leeches were attached to him. He bled just a little bit.

STEVE

Oh.

JANICE

What?


STEVE

Anything else?

JANICE

Are you asking about Eric?

STEVE

No.

JANICE

Why were you asking if Eric was bleeding?

STEVE

I’m just trying to help you imagine your vacation more clearly.

JANICE

What does that have to do with Eric?

STEVE

I’m sorry if I made you angry.

JANICE

I’m not angry.

STEVE

I’m sorry. I know you’re not.

JANICE

I’m not.

STEVE

I told you that the Ungame would help you to learn about what is bothering you and that by playing it you would learn how to communicate what is going through your head.

JANICE

It's difficult.

STEVE

What's difficult?

JANICE

Thinking about things.


STEVE

Thinking about the past?

JANICE

Thinking about most things.

STEVE

It’s good that we’re talking.

(STEVE turns over the fourth card, then looks at his

notes.)

STEVE (cont'd)

I'm sorry. This question isn't relevant.

(STEVE turns over the fifth card, then looks at his

notes.)


STEVE (cont'd)

"Talk about a book you read that you liked."

JANICE

This game isn’t helping.

STEVE

They’re simple questions.

JANICE

I don't think that any of these questions are helping.

STEVE

They're really not supposed to do anything but help you think.

JANICE

I want a break from my thoughts.

STEVE

You've said that you "don't want to be distracted" and now "you want a break from your thoughts". Which do you want?

JANICE

I want to understand what I'm feeling.

STEVE

Thinking leads to understanding. Isn’t that what we’re trying to do here?

JANICE

No. It’s the opposite. You're making me think about things that aren't helping.

STEVE

It's not the same sort of thinking.

JANICE

It is.

STEVE

Your thoughts aren't the same thoughts you'd be thinking if we weren't playing this game.

JANICE

It all comes back to the same things.

STEVE

Maybe that's what we need to talk about.

JANICE

What?

STEVE

Maybe we need to talk about the same things.

JANICE

I've talked a lot already.

STEVE

Not in a different way.

JANICE

What different way?

STEVE

Let's say you'd talk about the past like you were just doing. Those images reflect positive moments. That is what the card game can be all about. Positive moments.

JANICE

I'm not comfortable with the card game.

(STEVE puts the cards and his notes away. A

pause.)

STEVE

I am attempting to show you that there can be peace.


JANICE

I believe you.

STEVE

Like I said, I'm no liar. I’m not going to lie to you.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

It’s not about understanding these problems on your own.

JANICE

That’s why I’m here.

STEVE

What happened has affected a lot of people.

JANICE

I understand that.

STEVE

I know you do.

JANICE

I do.

STEVE

It might bring some peace if you meet with the other mothers.

JANICE

I thought I’d told you my decision.

STEVE

I would set the whole thing up. We could do it right in here. It's tight in here, like I said, but I think we could fit. I could move some chairs around, or we could meet in fellowship hall. Wherever we'd all be comfortable, that is where we’d all meet.

JANICE

What would we talk about?

STEVE

How we all are doing. How things are going.

JANICE

I don't know.


STEVE

Don't be frightened.

JANICE

I'm not.

STEVE

Do you think they hate you?

JANICE

No. STEVE

Do you think they hate Eric? They don't hate anybody, I’m sure. (beat) I really believe that we could do a great deal of healing if we just open up a discussion.

(A pause.)


STEVE (cont'd)

“Talk about a book you read that you liked.”


(A pause.)


STEVE (cont'd)

Talking with Stephanie Grazer and Jill Yardly, I know that they are upset. Like you are. I haven't been able to get a hold of the Gates family, but I have left a few messages. Have you spoken to any of the mothers on your own?

JANICE

No.

STEVE

Maybe you should.

JANICE

I don't think so.

STEVE

If you’re not willing to make my meeting, I am planning on meeting with the other mothers on my own in any event.

JANICE

Are you going to tell them things I've told you?


STEVE

No.

JANICE

Are you going to talk about Eric?

STEVE

We can't avoid talking about Eric.

JANICE

I thought it was going to be a positive meeting.

STEVE

I’m not sure what kind of meeting it will be. We’ll just be playing it by ear and whatever comes out comes out. That’s how you begin healing.

JANICE

I don't know if I'm ready to talk to them.

STEVE

When would you be ready?

JANICE

I’m not sure.

STEVE

There would be no “ready”, really. How could you be "ready"?

JANICE

I don't know.

STEVE

Being "ready" implies that you've prepared yourself for things that you could predict. There's no big plan for this meeting, except that I know that we all need to talk and start healing.

JANICE

I'm sorry.

STEVE

Why?

JANICE

I don't think I'm ready for that kind of meeting.


STEVE

It'll just be the mothers. No husbands or other children. You can talk to Ron again and see what he says.

JANICE

I will.

STEVE

He can help you make your decision.

JANICE

Okay.

STEVE

I know that a little group discussion can make all the difference. It's not easy to face things in life that are tough. I've had tragedy in my life, my father was sick. Things like that happen. But life does go on, and people need to mend.

JANICE

I know.

STEVE

You don't need to decide now. How does this Sunday afternoon around two o'clock sound? I don’t want to interfere with anyone’s work schedule, so I thought Sunday would be good. Plus I’ll be down here anyway. You wouldn’t need to bring anything. Just come down. I’ll figure out where we’ll be and we’ll go from there.

JANICE

I'll let you know.

STEVE

Did you have anything else on your mind?

JANICE

I don't think so.

STEVE

There won’t be any yelling or anything, if that’s what you’re concerned about.

JANICE

Okay.

STEVE

Things should be good.


JANICE

Good.

STEVE

Do you feel better?

JANICE

I can’t tell.

STEVE

Do you feel better? Is your outlook better?

JANICE

I don’t know.

STEVE

You’ve made some steps towards something.

JANICE

I suppose.

STEVE

You said before that you weren't sure if you were numb. What do you think?

JANICE

I don't think I'm numb.

STEVE

Good.

JANICE

I'm not sure. STEVE

It’s probably just feeling better feels strange.

JANICE

I don't know.

STEVE

I strongly believe that as long as someone remains a good person, they'll be fine. (pause) Well, anyway. Let me know your decision.


JANICE

Okay.


STEVE

And don't be scared.


JANICE

Maybe I am numb.


STEVE

Don’t be scared or numb.


(Lights fade to black.)





©MMIX by BRETT NEVEU

Printed in the United States of America

All Rights Reserved (ERIC LARUE)

All inquiries regarding performance rights should be addressed to

Dramatic Publishing, 311 Washington St., Woodstock, IL 60098. Phone: (815) 338-7170.

 

Brett Neveu's film/TV productions include Eric LaRue (dir. Michael Shannon) with Big Indie Pictures, Brace Cove Productions and CaliWood Pictures, Night’s End (dir. Jennifer Reeder) with Shudder/AMC, the short Convo with Breakwall Pictures, and the feature The Earl with Intermission Productions. Recent theatre productions include The Malignant Ampersands with A Red Orchid Theatre, Verböten with House Theatre (Joseph Jefferson Nomination, New Work), Traitor with A Red Orchid Theatre (Joseph Jefferson Award, New Adaptation), and To Catch a Fish with Timeline Theatre. Past work includes productions with 59e59 Theatre in New York; The Royal Court Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company in London; The Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, Greenhouse Theatre, The Inconvenience, A Red Orchid Theatre, and American Theatre Company in Chicago. A Sundance Institute Ucross Fellow, Brett is also a recipient of a Steinberg/ATCA New Play Citation (Verböten), The Marquee Award from Chicago Dramatists, The Ofner Prize for New Work, the Emerging Artist Award from The League of Chicago Theatres, an After Dark Award for Outstanding Musical (Old Town) and has developed plays with companies including The Atlantic Theatre Company and The New Group in New York and The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago. He is a resident-alum of Chicago Dramatists, a proud ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre, a founding member of the playwright collective MC-10, an alumni member of TimeLine Theatre Company’s Writers Collective, and Center Theatre Group’s Playwrights’ Workshop in Los Angeles. Brett has been commissioned by The Royal Court Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, A Red Orchid Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, House Theatre, TimeLine Theatre Company, Writers Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and has several of his plays published through Broadway Play Publishing, Dramatic Publishing, and Nick Hern Publishing. Brett has taught writing at DePaul University, Second City Training Center, and currently teaches writing for the screen, and stage at Northwestern University.