Running on Empty


Jack Heifner

Published by Dramatists Play Service

3 Male 2 Female

As the play begins, Lilly is pondering which of her designer dresses to burn in the fireplace of her chic if sparsely furnished penthouse apartment

The problem is that it is wintertime, the United States has long since used up its fuel reserves, and if Lilly and her husband, Stephen, are to keep warm there is no alternative

Down in the streets below people are fighting birds for berries, cutting down trees in the parks for fuel, and waiting in endless lines for meager government food handouts

Lilly and Stephen are also preparing for a party, albeit one in which both food and drink will be imagined rather than real. The guest of honor is to be their old friend, David, with whom both once had romantic involvement

When David arrives he is accompanied by his latest conquests, Chloe (a flower child) and Jonathan (a committed Catholic), who, like their predecessors, are competing for David's amoral favors

As the pretend party progresses the antic mood of the play grows increasingly more probing and serious, as questions are raised about the barren platonic relationship which Lilly and Stephen have settled for; David's continued failure to commit himself, sexually or otherwise; and Chloe and Jonathan's obsession with the evils of materialism (her) and gnawing personal guilt (him)

In the end human frailty is pitilessly excoriated but, at the same time, hopes are raised that the bitter lessons of the past, and present, will somehow be heeded, and that mankind may yet bring some semblance of order to the chaos and misfortune which his baser instincts have engendered

A chilling yet, at the same time, very funny view of our possible future - when greed, conspicuous consumption and human willfulness have, at last, plundered the planet and reduced the circumstances of human life to a subsistence level

While set in New York City the play text allows for the substitution of local place names to underscore its provocative message that this can happen anywhere - and will - unless we reverse our present course

"Heifner has created a sort of bird's eye view of such complexities as the conservation of natural resources, the politics of humanity, the value (if any) of various sexual roles and the necessity of proper dress during catastropheIt is incredibly enjoyable" ~ TWT (Houston)

" Heifner's view of a world winding down with a whimper rather than a bang is full of ideas, humor and feeling" ~ Houston Chronicle

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