Conpersonas: A Recreation in Two Acts

Images from the Show


Requirements: 2M, 2F

Setting: Upper East Side New York apartment.  Thanksgiving weekend.

Plot: A Jesuit priest investigates and relives, with devastating consequences, the relationships that his identical twin brother had had with three people who may or may not have contributed to the twin brother’s suicide.

Theme: What happens when we confide in friends, sharing with them our deepest secrets.  Do we end up expecting a great deal more of these people?  If so, can these unfortunate people ever live up to our expectations?  Are these friendships doomed once the confidences begin?

Notes:  The title “Conpersonas” is a word I made up, suggesting not only the pros and cons of our various personas, but also the people who trick or con us daily in strange and mysterious ways.  As for the sub-head, this is the first of many plays which I describe as “a recreation” because I seem to be drawn to material wherein the central characters are examining the present by re-living or re-creating various moments in the past.  And, obviously, it is also my hope that my plays will entertain and provide, however fleetingly, some moments of recreation.

History:  I wrote this play in a playwriting class taught by Ron Willis at the University of Kansas.  It was produced almost immediately by KU, with David Cook directing. In the cast were Paul Hough, Peter Miner, Nancy Flagg, and Sheri Schlozman.  The production won the 1976 American College Theatre Festival Award for Best New Play and was presented in the Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.  The three adjudicators were playwright Robert E. Lee, critic Henry Hewes of The Saturday Review, and critic Sylvie Drake of The Los Angeles Times.  The play was published by Samuel French, Inc. but, to my knowledge, it has never been performed anywhere else.  The reviewers in Washington, D.C. mostly agreed that the play was “too complex.”

Short scene from the play: Mark, a Jesuit priest, is talking to Shelagh, an older married woman who was the mistress of Mark’s identical twin brother.

SHELAGH:  I bet there are three kinds of people who seek you out in confession.

MARK: And who, pray tell, might these people be?  The first kind.

SHELAGH: (Spitting out the words.)  Fags!  God, how they must drool, kneeling inside those hot and sweaty boxes, knowing you are on the other side of the screen, knowing you will be listening to their heavy breathing, knowing you will have to forgive them their lust!

MARK: (Quietly.) And the second kind?

SHELAGH: (Rapidly, bitterly.)  Fag hags.  Older women.  More experienced women.  Women who are bored with their husbands because their husbands are bored with them. Women who allow other women’s husbands to speculate about them–“Does she, or doesn’t she?”–because they need to be reassured that they are still young, still attractive, still capable of doing wild things in bed!  Women who submit themselves to the ultimate test of their femininity, the seduction of that which is sacrosanct and verboten, the conversion of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Women who make the tragic mistake of falling in love with men who…simply are not interested in women.

MARK: (After a long silence.)  And the third kind?

SHELAGH: (Sadly.)  Teenyboppers.  Oversexed and precocious.  The daughters of fag hags.  Little girls who don’t know better than to…compete with their own mothers. (Short pause, then bitterly.)  When she was small, Rhoda and I used to do things together, tell each other our secrets, share all our likes and dislikes. Why, until very recently, I was even helping her to save up enough money to buy her own car!  A small Pinto, I suggested, but no, she wants a Mustang, just like I have.  (She looks at MARK suddenly, and laughs.)  Oh, we still do most things together, don’t get me wrong.  Still mount the same hobbyhorses, if you will.  But we no longer like each other enough to burden ourselves with one another’s…confidences.  For that we go to…other people.  Your brother, for instance.