P.J. by Mark McQuown
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This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author's prior consent
Charles Paulson (P.J.) Late twenties, slim, emotionally unstable,
very well educated and spiritually moved by an unseen power.
Hugh Shearson M.D. Forties, divorced, ex-military doctor now a
psychiatrist in a New York hospital. Kind, vulnerable and is distant
from his work.
Shelly Late twenties, average education, secretary for a large
shoe company in New York. She is sharp yet careful
in the eye of authority. Very real, passionate and looking
for strength in a permanent relationship.
Burt Hospital orderly, ex-Vietnam Marine, gambler, womanizer,
free-wheeling con artist who is always looking for that free
pie-in-the-sky. Close friend to Hugh, ex marine in Hugh's
medical company, frightened about what is not happening
for him in relationships with women.
Scene One: The present, early October, in the office of Dr. Shearson,
Psychiatric Ward, New York hospital.
Scene Two: The same, one week later in the morning.
Scene One: The same, three days later, in the morning.
Epilogue: Three days later, afternoon.
(Note:) This play is very complicated with visuals, sound, music and lighting
effects. These elements should be constructed as realistically as
(In the darkness P.J. sits downstage on a small stool wearing a
Burt is seated behind the desk talking on the telephone quietly.
Before the lights there is a dim, fragmented image of an ambulance driving towards the
audience projected on the back wall of the set. A spot appears on P.J.'s
face as the faint noises of the outside hospital creep into the room.)
I can't. I can't do it anymore. I tried, I'm sorry.
Please forgive me. (Louder) I'm not the right person.
You made a mistake please let me go.
(The sound of tiny bells)
(Hospital sounds grow louder)
Gracious Father, Heavenly Mother please let me go.
(Louder) I can't do it its too hard
(His eyes snap open and he glares at the audience in a drugged
I'm here in the garden of the God's and only coffee ground
Winter's stick to my clothes. I'm so deep in this mire
clutching balls of white afternoons, sleeping on the granite
slabs dancing on the oak wet street listen its coming . .
(PJ begins to squirm inside the straight jacket as some fear
approaches him from the outside.)
Black Summers hail stone Winters and a blood red sun.
I don't want to see it I don't carry change babe!!
Its coming spit fire shale- blue slag sink this tub of
rats in an ocean of lava. I'll just stop breathing.
(The lights come fully up. PJ is very active with his eyes as he
scans the room in front of him. He can't see Burt behind him at the desk. He hears
a session in this office one week ago in his mind.)
What do you want me to call you?
I'll just stop breathing.
Why don't I pick a name and if you don't like it
just shake your head. How's that?
Okay, John Doe?
(PJ shakes his head slowly to indicate yes.)
Yes! Good, then John Doe it is.
(PJ shakes his head slowly to indicate no.)
No, but I thought that was a yes. I see. Come on now
were running out of time for today. Lets just find one
that works. John, Bill, Matt, Paul . . .
(PJ shakes his head to indicate yes.)
All right. That's progress. Is your name Paul?
PJ (blurts out)
(Burt instantly puts the phone down and looks over at PJ.)
You have to go to the potty man?
(Burt's voice kicks PJ into the present in this office. He turns
his head as far as he can so he sees Burt at the desk. He turns back slowly as
he takes in the dirty, water stained, basement office with stacks of books in
random book cases, an open cabinet with recording equipment including
cassettes, tape boxes and cassette decks. The desk is cluttered with files, the
phone, a framed photograph of Hugh's daughter and general paper clutter.)
(Burt whispers something quickly in the phone and puts it down. He
stands up and walks to PJ.)
Whas happening here man? You need something?
(PJ stares at Burt as Burt walks around him and loosens the straight
He pulls out PJ 's hands and arms and then rests the jacket across
PJ 's shoulders. PJ is bandaged from the ends of his fingers up to his
(Burt semi-dances to the cabinet with the recording equipment and
finds a tape in a back corner. He slips the reggae music into a machine and
turns it on. He returns to the phone.)
Okay dude, what is it? You're shitting me?
All right. No way man, I'm keeping all of this
one. I'll find you right after my shift so be
there with my cash dude. Later!!
(Burt pops the phone back on the receiver and gives out a rebel yell.
He stifles himself and then listens to make sure no one heard him. The
music is rocking now and Burt get caught up in the beat.)
Wanna know what's happenen man? Me, that's what!!
I just hit the ponies for enough to pay my pad- buy me some
good times with the ladies and you know . . .
(Burt dances over to PJ and whispers in his ear.)
. . . couple of things I can't mention to you.
(Burt boogies around PJ 's stool to the music.)
I been followen this horse for months followen it
watchen it - stroken it and today oh man bingo
baby . . .
Lady Battalion, first race, Aqueduct.
(Burt is stopped cold. He turns and rushes to the cassette and turns
He quickly returns to PJ and stands behind him.)
What did you say man? Hey!
(He moves around in front of PJ.)
Look at me. How did you know that? Did you
hear me say it on the phone? Except I never said
it on the phone.
(Burt rushes over to the desk and picks up the newspaper and a pencil.
returns to PJ.)
BURT (Pushing the newspaper in his bandaged hands.)
Look at those names man. No dude, right here. You
recognize any of them?
(PJ looks at the racing form blankly as Burt slips a pencil in between
PJ hears a race in the distance. A projection of a rocking horse
tied to a Christmas
present shows faintly on the back wall. Without looking down PJ 's
down the page circling horse names as it moves.)
BURT (grabbing newspaper)
Mama will you look at this. Oh dude, my ticket to Paradise
just floated in on the E train. Oh baby, I'm gonna jump off
the landing and head for the bench.
(Burt races back to the machine and turns the music back on. He
rushes to the
phone and makes a phone call which is covered by the reggae beat. He
the phone back down on the receiver and then dirty dances over to PJ.
pulls PJ off the stool and uses him as a dance partner.)
(PJ suddenly and without warning does an incredible disco step right
using Burt as his partner. Its very fast, totally professional and
only lasts a
few seconds. Burt stands looking at PJ in total amazement.)
How do you know how to do that man? That's good.
Come on dude, lets see some more.
(Burt begins to dance in front of him and soon PJ becomes a natural
They are dancing away when the door flies open and Dr. Shearson
a white coat, cup of coffee in one hand and the other filled with
looking in on the unlikely pair.)
(Burt rushes to the machine and expels the tape. He takes the tape
and tosses it
on a cluttered book shelf and then turns to face Hugh.
What is going on here?
(Burt walks quickly to PJ and puts him down on the stool and awkwardly
wraps the straight jacket around his shoulders. He walks and talks.)
Nothen much doc. He just started to move around,
you know, so I just helped him along, kind of . . .
(Hugh walks to his desk and puts down his load of files and coffee.)
How did it happen?
I can't really say doc. I just put in that tape and he
started to move around. Guess he wanted to get up and
(Hugh walks across to PJ and checks his vital signs.)
Did he say anything?
Just those name again.
Huh. And did we get any response from the phone
Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. Someone got through
yesterday night. It was a chick who answered and she
seemed real weird that we called her.
And did she know who he is?
That's private stuff man, I don't mess around in it, you
know that. So I'll go get the note and bring in the thing,
(Burt walks to the office door and closes the door to hard behind
PJ hears a huge explosion of metal and glass breaking on asphalt.
Hugh watches the reaction. He quickly walks to the cassette machine and
puts in a tape and turns it on. He crosses back to the door and opens
What's the matter?
Hurts my ears.
(Hugh closes the door normally and gets no reaction. He walks
casually back to his desk and finds PJ 's file.)
How do your hands feel today?
(PJ looks at his hands and realizes they are bandaged.)
You didn't eat anything this morning.
The Lord fed me.
Well this chart indicates that he's not feeding you enough.
(Suddenly PJ' s hands fly away from him in a self propelled manner.
watches his own hands in amazement. His hands lead him to a dance
exercise done slowly around the stool. Burt comes in pushing a
wheelchair which is 'the thing'. Hugh motions for Burt not to move.
moves gracefully towards Burt and touches the note pad in Burt's
hand. PJ stops immediately looking out into space as he hears the
phone conversation from the night before.)
Hello? Who is this? Who . . .? What do you want?
I can't understand you, how did you get this number?
She. . . lly.
What did he say?
That's the name of the chick man who answered the phone.
He didn't even look at the paper and he knows her name.
(Burt rushes to the desk and pushes the note down on Hugh's desk.)
I see it. I see it. That's very interesting.
(Hugh stands and walks to PJ and leads him back to the stool.)
Who is Shelly PJ? Is she a friend? Relative?
(PJ is inanimate)
Burt, take this note back to the station and start calling it
yourself until we get this person back. I want to talk to her.
Tell her its extremely important, can you do that?
My man, this is the Burty you're talking to. I'll be moving
in before she hangs up, know what I mean?
(Burt walks back to the door and opens it.)
It's just like old times ain't it doc?
Leave it open.
(Burt leaves. Hugh gets down in front of PJ so they see each other
eye to eye.)
Is Shelly a friend?
(PJ hears a woman's voice in his mind say, "go away Charles".)
(He stands up immediately and looks around the room again. He is more
sane, more grounded but still scared.)
Where is this place?
It's a hospital.
(PJ drops to his knees and becomes the personality of a little girl.)
Who are you?
I'm a doctor, this is my office. You've been here before.
Do you remember? You're safe here. No one is going to
(PJ examines his bandages.)
You were burned, somehow. Do you remember that?
[end of extract]
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