General Script posted November 1, 2021 Chapters: 1 -1- 1... 


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A Stage Play

A chapter in the book The Challenge

The Challenge, Act I, Scene 1

by Jay Squires



THANK YOU for taking a chance with this play. It is different from "Genius In Love". But I hope you will find the characters just as relatable and the plot as believable. The time frame is the same as "Genius In Love"—the early 50s. The mores were different back then, and so the language that expresses them is different as well. Please enjoy.

CHARACTERS:
(added as they appear, or when they make a strong presence in other characters’ dialogue):


Phillip Dellaney: Age 26, a behemoth of a man, at a height of 6' 7", and pushing 300 pounds, having thick, muscular shoulders and hips, and with thighs like heavy coiled springs, not just capable of carrying such a load through life, but at a lively pace. A recent seminary graduate, he will be an odd duck as a priest. Of late, he has been rather dark and moody.

Margaret Dellaney: Three years a widow, this brittle twig of a woman is the unlikely bearer of a physical anomaly like Phillip. The mother of two additional children, one who kindly stopped growing at 6' 4", and the other a sweet soul of a child who would never leave her wheelchair. Margaret’s life, of late, has made many existential withdrawals but few deposits. 

James Dellaney: Phillip’s junior by one year. Immediately likable, by design and through practice, he has his sights on the most distant and brightest political star. Vastly ambitious, he is Brutus to Rome’s Julius Caesar. His name is on the ballot for the Worcester City Council. The brothers have always been close, but Phillip’s recent disclosure burns in James’s gut like a drop of acid.



Setting: Phillip Dellaney’s upstairs bedroom. Entrance to room, upstage, right. Furniture is sparse: a very long bed, centerstage, right; several inexpensive chairs, downstage, center; a dresser against the wall, upstage, center, the top drawer of which is forced open by the pages of a magazine, half hanging out. On the wall, above the dresser, a two-foot-tall, highly-polished, dark, mahogany cross, upon which a very tortured Jesus leans out, precariously, presenting the illusion that he would be face-first on the dresser top if his hands were not held fast by the spikes driven through his palms and into the crossbeam, and another spike securing his feet, one atop the other. Polished blood has oozed from the crown of thorns pressed into his forehead, and it trails rivulets to his eyes. His sockets are dark and deep. His mouth is open and one can imagine he has just finished uttering those most profound words, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” On a hanger, hung on a hook on the closet door beside the dresser, a suit coat and pants await.

Time: 1953

At Rise: PHILLIP DELLANEY, wearing jeans and a tee-shirt, leans forward on the edge of his chair, his forearms angled across his open thighs, his fingers dangling toward the floor. In contrast to his diminutive mother, MARGARET, who sits in the chair opposite him, PHILLIP resembles a giant. Her eyes are on the wall, beyond PHILLIP. She is smiling up at the crucifix.

MARGARET:
Ah, but your father loved that. We paid a pretty penny for it, I’ll tell ya.

(Shaking her head)
David, I says, there’s no way under high heaven we can afford that. 
(inclining her shoulders to the right, as though she is speaking in the ear of an imaginary someone beside her, she adds, confidentially)
The price tag was over 400 dollars!
(Then addressing Phillip, as though he couldn’t hear what was spoken in the other’s ear)
Mama, your father says—God, I miss hearing your father call me that—Mama, he says, It’s not every day we got a boy graduating from Notre Dame. We’ll cut back on something.

PHILLIP:
(Turning, casting a glance behind him at the crucifix, then back to his mother)
You and Dad spent a fortune on getting me through.

MARGARET:
No, no … You pulled your load, too. Your scholarships and grants, and you working in the school library. The important thing …

(Beat)
… he got to see you cross that stage. I’ll swear, that night—that night, at home, he must’ve run his fingers across your diploma a hundred times, like it was braille or something. Him looking off into space. Grinning.

PHILLIP:
I know. I know it meant a lot to him. But … but it all just doesn’t seem right. Not in the balance. You know?


MARGARET:
No, I don’t know, dear. What balance?


PHILLIP:
Well, there’s Susan, for one. The medicines. The surgeries. The caregivers.


MARGARET:
Life goes on, dear. God provides.


PHILLIP:
Sometimes he makes it hard for us to see that, Mama.


MARGARET:
Phillip! 


PHILLIP:
I mean it, Mama. Sometimes God’s providence comes only after we’ve exhausted all our resources and right at the point when we’re about to abandon him. At that moment, God looks into our hearts. He doesn’t make our problems disappear, no. But he steers us in ways to accept our suffering and grow stronger. That’s the God I know, Mama. Consider Job.


MARGARET:
You’ll make such a fine priest, Son. You know, maybe God whispered in your father’s ear every time he considered canceling his life insurance policy. He bought it late in life, so the premiums were costly. But whenever the choice came to spend that month’s premium so he could put steak on the table instead of chicken—


PHILLIP:
I know, Mother. And Dad’s insurance proceeds have kept everything going.


MARGARET:
Like a monthly gift from beyond the grave. God’s providence.


PHILLIP:
His ways are beyond understanding, but please don’t think I’m blind to the fact that the seminary would not have happened without Dad’s memory coming through every month to help pay the way? And at what cost to you, Mother? At what cost to Susan?


MARGARET:
You were worth it, Phillip—every penny of it. You know it was what your Dad would have done if he was alive. So no more about it. 

(Beat)
Besides, That was only for the first year. Another example of God’s providence. See? The way Worcester Diocese granted your full tuition. God’s work, Son, God’s work.

PHILLIP:
(Lowering his chin to his chest for a moment and closing his eyes before looking up)
Mama, that’s because the Diocese expects me to accept a position in one of their parishes.

MARGARET:
That’s a good thing, Son—isn’t that a good thing?

(Suddenly distracted by something she sees behind him, she moves her head to the side to get a better look. She stands, still talking)
You won’t have to go looking for a parish on your own.

PHILLIP:
(Watching her pass by him)
Mother, what in the world are you—

MARGARET:
You never was my neatest boy. Your brother, James, took that, hands down.


PHILLIP:
(Rising, turning)
Mother!

MARGARET:
What? I’m just gonna close the drawer proper.

(She removes the magazine and closes the drawer, then glances down at the cover, turns to PHILLIP)
Oh … Oh … Confidential Magazine?*
(Laughing, then wagging her head side to side with each sing-song word)
Is this … the kind … of … thing … they … let … you … read … at … Seminary.

PHILLIP:
Mama, that’s kind of personal. It’s private, you know. I am twenty-six. Besides, it’s not—not like it’s a dirty magazine. And this is my room.


MARGARET:
(Visibly jarred)
You’re right, of course, Sweetheart. I really wasn’t trying to—
(Lays the magazine on the dresser and returns to the chair. She is trying to blink back rising tears)
I’m sorry. I’ll just—I should go down and check on Susan.

PHILLIP:
Give me a hug, Mama.

(He holds open his arms, and as she leans into him, he bends to embrace her small frame)
I am a bit of a slob. You’re right about that. I could learn something from James.

MARGARET:
(Sniffing, and pulling away, but still standing)
There are some things he could learn from you. He—he’s drinking again, you know. 

PHILLIP:
Oh, dear God!


MARGARET:
Yes. He came in last night three sheets to the wind. Later I heard him heaving in the bathroom. Today, he was all gussied up as usual, but I could smell alcohol on his breath.


PHILLIP:
It might've been mouthwash. Is he—going tonight?


MARGARET:
He loves his big brother. Of course, he’ll be there. And I know the difference between mouthwash and liquor.

(Beat)
I was wondering … I was kinda hoping you could have a talk with him. You know … not priest to brother, but more brother to brother.

PHILLIP:
Is he here?


MARGARET:
He’s around here somewhere. Probably in his room. Shall I send him up?


PHILLIP:
Probably not a good idea. Not today. But I will talk with him. We just have to have faith that he’ll be all right tonight.

(Beat)
In the meantime, I need to shower and get dressed. Two girls I haven’t seen since high school were invited for tonight, but can’t make it. They wanted to stop by here and wish me well.

MARGARET:
That’s nice, Dear. I hope you have time to schedule everyone in.  Dr. Fitzimonds is gonna stop by—he said to cover some last-minute details with you. And … and … oh dear! I’m so scatterbrained sometimes. One of the things I was coming up here for earlier was to tell you that one of the guests you invited, also wanted to come by here first. His name—what was it?—Arthur, De—De something-or-other—


PHILLIP:
Arthur DelaTurie? When did you tell him?—

MARGARET:
To come by? I told him your last visitor would be arriving at four. I figured that would take an hour, so I told him five o’clock.


PHILLIP:
(Looking troubled)
Darn! O … kay, that should work.

MARGARET:
I’m sorry to drop it on you like that, Son. I have his phone number. Do you want me to call him and—


PHILLIP:
No, no. We’ll—we’ll make it work. I’d best get showered and ready for guests.


[MARGARET gives him a weak, apologetic smile and crosses to the door, stage right. She exits. PHILLIP stands for a moment by his chair, looking at the floor, then up and to the left, his lips moving. After a moment he blinks away whatever thoughts might have accompanied the movement of his lips, and crosses to the dresser. Picking up the magazine, he glances at the cover, rifles through a few pages, then places it neatly in the drawer, closing it. He stares up at Jesus on the cross, nods, then clasps his hands under his chin, bows his head, and closes his eyes. Finished, he makes the sign of the cross, removes the hanger from the hook on the closet door, and makes his way, ponderously, to the exit.]

 
END OF SCENE 1.

 
*Note: Confidential Magazine was a gossip-type Mag, popular in the 50s. Sued often. Even the lawsuits became fodder for future issues, and its popularity spiraled.


 



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November
2021


Huge thanks for the photo by Mahdi Rezaei on Unsplash
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