JOHN GUARE wrote of this play,
“…thank you for this remarkably sweet play written at a time before it all got ugly. quite a beauty. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx jg”
RICHARD SMITHES wrote:
“I think INDECENT EXPOSURE is one of your very best! “Refreshing” is the word that leaps to mind. Thanks! R”
A one-act play by
1837 N. Alexandria Ave.
L.A. CA 90027
(The Examination Room of a small neighborhood police precinct station in New York City. KELLY, a detective of about 34, is pouring himself coffee and looking at the nude calendar of Marilyn Monroe on the wall. He stares at it throughout his coffee ritual.)
(Detective VALENTINE enters.)
VALENTINE: Kelly, quit wearin’ your eyes out on the Monroe. Nikolas is bringin’ in a kid they caught walkin’ on the street naked.
VALENTINE: Yeah, bare-assed out on the street in the middle of the day. Go book ‘im in and call Doc Connelly.
KELLY: Is he violent?
VALENTINE: Naw, but he had his draft-card strapped on his arm with a rubber band. Some nut.
KELLY: We get ‘em all.
VALENTINE: Is there any coffee hot?
KELLY: I just took the last of it.
VALENTINE: Why in Hell don’t you make some more?
KELLY: (Exiting) What am I, your wife?
VALENTINE: Come back here.
KELLY: (stopping) What’s the matter?
VALENTINE: What did you just say to me?
KELLY: Skip it.
VALENTINE: I tell you, smart-ass, you wanna make full detective?
VALENTINE: Then cut out the smart talk.
KELLY: I didn’t know makin’ coffee was part of a detective’s job.
VALENTINE: Doin’ what I tell you is part of your job. All of your job.
KELLY: You want me to book this kid or not? Just say so.
VALENTINE: Don’t wise off at me, Kelly. Okay?
KELLY: Look, I can stand here or I can do my job.
VALENTINE: Get out.
(Kelly exits. Valentine turns on the heat under a second carafe of water.)
VALENTINE: Shit. (Goes to wall-phone.) Kelly? You got Connelly? Get ‘im and put me through to ‘im. (Waiting.) Shit. Shit. Shit. Doc, this is Valentine. Houston Precinct. We got a indecent exposure case over here with a draft-card strapped to his arm. …All the way. Bare-assed. Just walkin’ down the street. Nobody saw him do anything. I’d say about eighteen…I don’t know what he looks like, a naked kid. They’re bringin’ him in now. Look, I don’t want any trouble. We got a general order we were supposed to call one of you guys in on these things. I don’t want ‘im. ..Okay, we’ll hold him here. But make it quick if you can. You know how the boys act on these things. I don’t like havin’ nuts in the station. It makes the men nervous….Okay. (Hangs up.)
VALENTINE: Shit. (He makes himself some instant coffee. LOUIS and NIKOLAS enter, Louis in uniform, guiding PETER, who is in Nikolas’ overcoat.) Sit ‘im down. He give you any trouble?
NIKOLAS: He’s pretty smart-assed.
VALENTINE: You got anything on under there, kid?
VALENTINE: Let’s see.
(Peter opens the coat.)
VALENTINE: Okay. (Peter closes the coat.) Why’d you do it, kid?
PETER: You mean come out without any clothes?
VALENTINE: Yeah, what’s wrong? Are you high? Smokin’ pot? LSD?
NIKOLAS: Where do you live, kid?
PETER: I live on Third Street. Between First and Second. Avenues. 445. Apartment 13.
NIKOLAS: (To Louis) Got that? (To Peter) Is your door open?
PETER: No –
VALENTINE: Then where’s your key?
NIKOLAS: You got it shoved up your –
VALENTINE: (To Nikolas) Shut up. (To Peter) Is somebody else there, kid?
PETER: Yes, there’s someone there.
NIKOLAS: (To Louis) Go over there and get some clothes for ‘im.
VALENTINE: Just a minute. Who’s there, kid? – Your roommate?
PETER: A girl.
NIKOLAS: She got her clothes on?
PETER: I imagine.
NIKOLAS: (To Valentine) So why can’t he go over and get some clothes for him?
VALENTINE: You got a phone there?
NIKOLAS: That’s my coat on him.
VALENTINE: Phone your girl and have her bring you some clothes.
PETER: Sure. (Hs goes to phone.)
VALENTINE: (On phone) Kelly. Let, this kid call out. (Hands Peter the phone)
NIKOLAS: I’ll have to have it cleaned now, anyway. How would you like your coat rubbin’ around on some nut?
VALENTINE: Why don’t you make some coffee? I mean some real coffee.
PETER: (On phone) What do I do: give you the number? 777-O909. Thank you.
VALENTINE: She know you did this?
PETER: (To Valentine) Mm. Yes.
NIKOLAS: You better send somebody over there. They’re addicts.
VALENTINE: He got needle marks on his arm?
NIKOLAS: I don’t know. But to do a thing like that!
VALENTINE: He still got his draft card on him?
NIKOLAS: Strapped around his arm.
PETER: (On phone) Morna? Peter. Yeah. No, it’s, not so bad. They went you to bring me some clothes. No, not at all, they’re being very polite. The station we pass on the way to the subway. Okay.
NIKOLAS: (To Valentine) Let me send the car around for her..
NIKOLAS: (To Peter) Tell ‘er a patrol car will come for her..
PETER: (On phone) Just a minute, Morna. (To Valentine) That will look very bad for the neighbors.
NIKOLAS: (Makes a sputtering sound of surprise)
VALENTINE: You should have thought of that earlier, kid. (He takes the phone) Lady, we’re sending a car to bring you here. No, your friend’s all right. Just wait in front of your house…Detective Valentine. (Hangs up) What did she want to know my name for?
PETER: (With some slight amusement) It is suspicious.
NIKOLAS: Sit down.
PETER: (Sits, laughs)
NIKOLAS: What are you Iaughing at?
PETER: I’m sorry. I was thinking how all this would look in a movie.
NIKOLAS: You an actor?
NIKOLAS: A painter?
PETER: No, I’m not – anything like that.
NIKOLAS: Then what are you livin’ in that kind of neighborhood for?
PETER: (Long pause)
NIKOLAS: They’re addicts.
VALSNTINE: Answer the question, kid.
PETER: (To Valentine) Look, may I say something to you?
VALENTINE: Sure, kid. Would you like a cup of coffee?
VALENTINE: (To Louis) Make him a cup of coffee, will you?
NIKOLAS: Make me one, too.
LOUIS: Yessir. (Does so)
VALENTINE: What do you want to say to me, kid?
PETER: (Suppressing a smile) I have a tendency in extreme situations like this to make jokes. It’s not that I’m not taking the situation seriously, I am. It’s just – I make jokes.
NIKOLAS: Look., kid, you’re in serious trouble.
PETER: (after a long pause. To Nikloas) My name is Peter.
NIKOLAS: ‘Zat why you were showin’ it?
VALENTINE: He’s right, Peter. You are in trouble. That’s pretty serious what you did. You know that?
PETER: I can’t answer you. I’m too far from you.
VALENTINE: Do you take drugs, Peter?
VALENTINE: Let me see your arms.
PETER: Certainly. (He shoves up his sleeve)
NIKOLAS: Hey, careful of the coat.
PETER: I’m sorry. (He shoves up the other sleeve. The draft card is strapped around his arm,)
VALENTINE: Is this your draft card?
VALENTINE: Can I see it?
PETER: Of course. (Hands it to Valentine)
VALENTINE: Why’d you strap this on your arm, Peter? Your friends call you Peter?
NIKOLAS: Big peter or little peter?
LOUIS: Here’s his coffee, sir.
VALENTINE: Take it, Peter.
PETER: (Takes it)Thank you.
VALENTINE: Take the car around to that address. Bring the grl back.
LOUIS: Yessir. (Exits)
VALENTINE: Why did you have this strapped to your arm, Peter?
PETER: Because I don’t like to carry things in my hands. No, I’m sorry, that was a joke. I knew it was against the law to be out without your draft card. That was the only way I could think of to carry it. (Laughs) I’m waiting for your next line.
VALENTINE: What’s that?
PETER: Your line is, .”Why didn’t you just stay in?”
NIKOLAS: (Reaches out and shoves the sleeve of the coat down) He’s nuts.
(The phone rings.)
VALENTINE: (On the phone) Yeah? Okay, send him in. (Hangs up) Doc Connelly’s here.
NIKOLAS: He’s nuts.
PETER: A psychiatrist?
PETER: One of ours?
NIKOLAS: What do you mean?
(Doc Connelly enters. He is fiery, irritable. A careerist.)
DOC: Is this the young man?
VALENTINE: Right here.
DOC: I see. What’s your name?
PETER: Peter Riven.
DOC: How old are you?
PETER: I’m twenty-five. (Reaction from Valentine and Nikolas)
DOC: You Iook considerably younger. Do you live in this neighborhood?
PETER: Yes. I live on Third Street..
DOC: (Interrupting) Are you an artist?
PETER: No, I’m a night clerk.
DOC: Have you ever done this before?
PETER: Gone out naked? No.
DOC: You had– (snatches draft card from Valentine) –this on you?
DOC: (Reading from card) 1-A. Are you trying to get out of your service, Peter?
DOC: You know they won’t take you now.
PETER: Yes, I guess…
DOC: Was that why you did this?
DOC: Why did you do it, Peter?
PETER: (Slowly) It was…
DOC: What made you do it, Peter. Were you naked?’ Did you simply get up and walk out of .your apartment? Do you live alone? Did someone dare you to do it? Did you have to take off your clothes? Who do you
PETER: (Methodically) I live with a girl. She was there. I talked it over with her and then I took off my clothes and came out.
DOC: Do you always wear your draft card strapped to your arm?
PETER: No, I had to take it out of my wallet. I laid my wallet on my desk. I took a rubber band from the desk. I strapped the rubber band around my upper right arm. I slid the draft card under it. Then I left the apartment.
PETER: To see how far I could go .
DOC: (After pause) What is that, Peter?
PETER: Coffee…I got it here.
DOC: Why aren’t you drinking it?
PETER: I like it with sugar and milk.
DOC: Why don’t you get some?
PETER: I wasn’t sure what was permitted.
DOC: You think someone would give you coffee if they were not also willing to give you milk and sugar? The milk and sugar are right there, Peter. Why didn’t you ask for them?
PETER: That is a very good question. (Phone rings)
DOC: (To Valentine) Get that, will you?
VALENTINE: (Answers phone) Yeah, what?
DOC: Peter, you know you are going to be sent to Bellevue, don’t you?
DOC: Is that what you want?
PETER: No, I…
DOC: What do you want, Peter, do you want attention?. Do you sleep with that girl? (Long silence)
VALENTINE: (To phone) Just a minute. (To Doc) His girl is here with his clothes.
DOC: Well, bring them in.
VALENTINE: (To phone) Bring them in, Kell (To Doc) You want to talk-to the girl?
DOC: Have her wait.
VALENTINE: (To phone) Have her wait, Kelly. (Hangs up)
DOC: De you know the difference between right and wrong, Peter?
PETER: I can’t answer any of that.
KELLY: (Enters with bundle) Here they are,
VALENTINE: (Takes clothes, holds them out to Doc) Here.
DOC: Well, give them to him. Have him put them on. (Valentine hands clothes to Peter) Do you object to putting on your clothes, Peter?
VALENTINE: You can go in there, Peter. (Points to an exit)
DOC: (to Peter) Stay in there until Detective…?
DOC: …Valentine calls you, Peter.
PETER: (Exits with clothes)
NlKOLAS: Careful of that coat!
VALENTINE: What do you think, Doc?
DOC: Call the girl in hire.
DOC: What is she like, Mr. Kelly?
KELLY: (Nods: “Some punkin,” exits)
VALENTINE: (To Doc) What do you think?
DOC: I’m only interested: in determining whether this us a criminal offense to be dealt with by you people or whether the man must be committed f»r psychiatric care. I haven’t determined that yet.
NIKOLAS: He’s a draft-dodger.
DOC: There is no way in the world to determine that.
(Kelly re-enters with MORNA. She is pretty, but Kelly’s reaction was based mostly on her clothes – tight slacks and a pullover)
DOC: How do you do? I am Dr. Connelly, Miss…
MORNA: My name is Morna Black.
DOC: How do you do. These gentleman are detectives from this precinct, Miss Black.
MORNA: Is Peter here?
VALENTINE : He’s –
DOC: Mister Riven is in the next room dressing, Miss Black. He will be here in a moment. I would very much like to ask you same questions. Would you be willing?
MORNA: I’m only concerned about Peter. What sort of Doctor are you?
DOC: I am a psychiatrist hired by the City, Miss Black. I, too am concerned about Peter. Do you know what he did?
MORNA: Yes. He went out of the apartment without any clothes on.
DOC: He not only went out of the apartment, Miss Black, he went out on the street. What I want to know is, can you tell em why? Can you gove me any reason for his doing this?
MORNA: What did he tell you?
DOC: He only told me that he did it to see how far he could go. Your help would be very much appreciated, Miss Black…. You might be able to help him.
MORNA: May I sit?
DOC: Certainly, certainly. Would you like some coffee?
MORNA: yes, I think so. (Doc vaguely gestures for someone to get Morna coffee. Valentine snaps his fingers at Nikolas. Nikolas gets Morna coffee, then stands fascinated by the ensuing, holding the coffee until he is later asked for it by Morna. Morna speaks without a break.) What do you want to know?
NIKOLAS: Do you two take drugs?
DOC: (sharply, to Nikolas) Please! (To Morna)
NIKOLAS: IS he a draft dodger?
MORNA: Of course.
DOC: (firmly) I want to know anything you can tell me about Mister Riven.
MORNA: Okay. Do you want to take this down?
DOC: Have you some confession to make?
VALENTINE: I can call Kelly in —-
DOC: It’s not necessary for anything to be “taken down,” Miss Black. Unless you wish it to go on record.
MORNA: Peter says that the truth is only useful once, because it may-reach the first people that hear it, but then it’s either evidence,
or symptoms, or testimony, or else it’s criticized as art. So I’d like
as many people as possible to hear this the first time.
DOC: Call the man in.
VALENTINE (Yells) Kelly, came in!
(Kelly enters. Doc stands looking at Morna)
(Valentine gestures to him to write. Kelly takes notebook and pen from pocket and transcribes what ensures.)
VALENTINE: Just listen.
DOC: Now, Miss Black….
MORNA: I met Peter 5 years ago. I was living here, studying dancing. Sometimes I danced in recitals. I wanted to dance because I thought the world was a mess and needed beauty.
DOC: Can you tell us about Mister Riven? I am extremely busy, Miss Black.
MORNA: Okay. Peter said the truth is hard to tell, not because you can’t say it, but because people can’t hear it.
DOC: Does Peter believe he knows “the truth?”
MORNA: He believes everybody knows the truth. He just says that no one is sure that others know it, so they all try to forget it. He says everyone wants to communicate with others more than anything else in the world, so they all try to forget anything they can’t tell other people. (To Kelly) have you got that?
DOC: (signaling Kelly to stay quiet) Yes, quite clear. Please go on. About today.
MORNA: I can’t tell you just about today. I have to tell you what he thinks that made him do it. It took me a year to learn, it may take me fifteen minutes to tell. (Silence. Valentine hushes Kelly.) First you have to know Peter’s view of the world. He sees the world as made up of males – men – fighting each other for power. The strongest ones keep the weakest ones ignorant so that they can get more and more power over them. At the very top, they squabble for power openly, while they make a lot of moral pretenses to the ones on bottom to keep them from trying for power. He says- that the desire – for power -is the only desire, and that all the other appetites are subordinated to it. In men. He says women are different, but that the world is dominated by men –
MORNA: – so that women are just one more power playground
DOC: One more what?
MORNA: Power-playground. He says – where was I?
DOC: The world is a struggle for power.
MORNA: (Nods) He says this is usually good, because it’s what organized society in the first place. But, he says, society is organized now and the power people have to step doing the same old things. He says that even the parts of civilization that weren’t originally a struggle far power are now – where’s that coffee?
NIKOLAS: Oh, here, (She takes a swig)
DOC & NIKOLAS: DO you want cream or sugar?
MORNA: No. He says the arts are no longrr any good, because people just go see them as a release from all the holds the power people have over them, that they only talk about the artist, not about the work, and about form instead of content, because there’s so much people are afraid to say that they can’t get messages any more, only form – and that even if someone does get a message across, it’s useless except to the first people who hear it, because then it’s locked off into the world of “art” and “ideas” and people discuss it like it was a meal – just for its colro and shape and mod – like it was all music.
KELLY: But why did he –
MORNA: So today we decided that the only thing that could start people thinking was a gesture. We talked about it and decided that it had to be an individual, rand It had to be startling, and it had to seem td be irrelevant – and the naked man with the draft card would do it – (Earnestly) because it can’t be done with words anymore – even if it made the newspapers – they’ve became just entertainment – not because they wanted to but because everything has became just entertainment. And you couldn’t start a movement because then it would be just another power idea. Only an image that was unexpected and not art could do it. So he did it.
NIKOLAS: …I don’t get it.
DOC: I see. You know, Miss Black, that Mister Riven will be taken to, Bellvue for observation?
MORNA: Yes. He said that. He said you’d commit him and probably give him shock treatment.
DOC: And knowing that, he still did this?
DOC: Do you understand why?
MORNA: Yes. He wanted to do whatever he could to make a few people close to him think. That;s why eh didn’t do it where there would be reporters and photographers. He had to do something new and he had to reach people directly.
DOC: But – why?
MORNA: He says – it’s an attempt to do something new with the power urge .
DOC: I see. Well, thank you –
MORNA: He predicted you.
DOC: I beg your pardon?
MORNA: He told me to watch the psychiatrist they got, and I’d see the power urge unrecognized: he said psychiatrists are doing everything they can to keep things just as they are – without really knowing why they do it…
DOC: That’s all I need from you, Miss Black. (Valentine motions for Kelly to stop transcribing) Do you want to see Mister Riven before he is taken to Bellevue?
VALENTINE: Kelly, call a squad car to take the kid to Bellevue. (Kelly exits)
MORNA: Yes, I’d like to see him. He said I might have another chance.
NIKOLAS: (Taking Morna’s coffee cup) What a crazy story.
DOC: Incidentally, it is not that new, Miss Black. A man called Jesus Christ attempted to do the same thing, some time ago.
MORNA: No , that’s not true. Christ was showing off the suffering. Only a few people saw Peter get into the squad car. And before that he had gone – how far?
VALENTINE: Nikolas, where did you pick him up?
NIKOLAS: Fifth Street, between Second and Third.
MORNA: Three blocks. He got at least three blocks. That’s at least three blocks where the people saw him and will think about him, and never know and have to think about him and every idea they have until they understand. (She shakes her head.)
DOC: Call Mister Rlven.
VALENTINE: Peter, you can come out now.
PETER: (Emerges, dressed, holding Nikolas’ folded coat.) Here’s your coat, Mister —
NIKOLAS: – Detective. (Takes coat gingerly)
MORNA: (to Peter) Goodbye.
PETER: Goodbye again. (They shake hands) (The cop enters)
DOC: Please take him away. I have my own car
(Peter exits with the cap. Morna keeps her back turned, Peter doe»es not back)
DOG: You may go now, Miss Black.
MORNA: I’d like to wait a minute if I may. I don’t want to see him in that car.
NIKOLAS: Miss Black, why didn’t he have you do this?
MORNA: People think differently about a naked woman than about a naked man, he said.
NIKOLAS: You ought to be ashamed of yourself (He vigorously clears and cleans the coffee things.). MORNA: (To Valentine) Will they take him right away?
VALENTINE : Yeah, he’ll be – gone by the time you get &ut on the street -if yu walk slow.
(Morna starts to exit, slowly.)
DOC: Miss Black.
MORNA (Stops, turns) Yes?
DOC: You never told us – why today?
MORNA: Oh, that. He found himself trying to dominate me. (She turns and again starts to exit slowly)
DOC: (Calls after her) You know this man is dangerous, Miss Black!
MORNA: (Not turning around) He is not. (Exits)
NIKOLAS: He’s nuts.
VALENTINE : Is he, Doc?
DOC: He is very ordinary paranoic. It is called the Messiah Complex..Such people wish to save the world because they imagine themselves superior to it and threatened by it. An act of this sort is symbolic suicide. Nothing more and nothing less…
NIKOLAS: Like those nuts that burn themselves in front of places?
VALENTNE: Riven. Is that Jewish? Is that why he thinks he’s Jesus?
NIKOLAS: He ain’t Jewish, didn’t you look?
DOC: The entire Village should be cleaned out. This entire city should be cleaned out.
VALENTINE: I don’t know. How can you tell if someone is going to do something like-this?
DOC: I don’t know. Something has to be done. (Exiting) This is the twelfth case like this in two months.