Act I, Scene I

 

The setting is an elegant restaurant of dramatic design, of the sort found atop large office buildings. Owen is in a business suit, Mallory in feminine but conservative attire. As the curtain rises, a waiter refills the coffee cups for both of them while Owen examines the check. Owen hands the check over with a credit card, then the waiter retires offstage.

Owen

Mallory, lets talk business, just for a minute. You know the scenario for tomorrow night?

Mallory

Well, my service told me what you told them. But why donít you go over it so thereís no misunderstanding?

Owen

OK. Weíre entertaining a wealthy businessman from out of town. Iím trying to get him to finance my new product, so I want him to have the best time possible.

Mallory

OK.

Owen

Iím meeting with him during the day. Then weíre taking him here for dinner, dancing. My fiancé will be with me. Youíre his escort. AndÖ

Mallory

And, I go back to his hotel with him.

Owen

I donít expect it will come to that. Youíll be posing as a friend of mine. Your job is to get him to like you and have a good time here. But if he does ask you to go back to his hotel with himÖ

Mallory

(As she leans forward, putting her hand on his) Itís alright. I know tonight is kind of an audition for tomorrow night. I can handle this. (Smiles) You can relax.

Owen

Relax. When do I get to relax? Hereís the point. He must never know youíre from a service. If he wants you to go back to his hotel, he must think you are going because you want to, because you like him.

Mallory

(Again, smiling, warmly) I really do understand. This is about the male ego. Thereís nothing I understand better than the male ego.

Owen

OK. Good.

Mallory

Also, I understand why weíre coming here. You wonít impress him with the food here. But itís a fancy enough, special-occasion enough place so that I can wear a slinky, sexy dress without seeming out of place. Right? (Owen grins a bit sheepishly) Right!

Owen

(Laughing) Right.

Mallory

There is one thing I donít understand. Can I ask you a question?

Owen

Shoot.

Mallory

Why are you going through all this? Why donít you get your money from a bank?

Owen

I guess I can tell you that much. Trade secrecy, mostly. My idea is both original and commercial. I think so, anyway. At a bank, too many people get to know about it. I think thatís a risk. Venture capital firms will give you money but they then take control. So Iím looking for an angel. Thatís my Mr. Wynan.

 

Mallory

OnlyÖMr. Wynan will know what your product is.

Owen

Heís already signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Mallory

You feel safe with that?

Owen

Itís the best I can do.

Mallory

I was just curious. Thanks for answering my questions.

Owen

Those were good questions.

Mallory

Then can I ask just one more?

Owen

Sure.

Mallory

What does your fiancéÖ?

Owen

Ellen.

Mallory

What does Ellen think about your using an escort service to win over your Mr. Wynan? Is that kind of thing normal in business?

Owen

Jeez! When you ask just one more question, itís a doozy.

Mallory

You donít have to answer.

Owen

Itís OK. I think Iím flattered that youíre interested enough to ask. (Pauses to think) Ellen? Sheís holding her nose and going along with it. She doesnít really understand why I need to resort to subterfuge in order to get my company funded.

Mallory

To be honest, neither do I. Do you really need to?

Owen

In fact I donít know. Thatís what the trouble is. It isnít clear that this is necessary. I probably would get the money without bringing you into this. Or at least, Mr. Wynan would probably make a rational decision one way or the other based on business considerations.

Mallory

So, then, why do this?

Owen

Because of that "probably." Iíve never met Terry Wynan face to face. I donít know him. There are so many imponderables. For example, suppose I didnít do this, but itís a mistake because he expects to be entertained. Or, suppose he says no to my proposal for what he thinks is a good reason, but I donít think itís a good reason. So I would always wonder if I should have entertained him more to grease the process. Or, suppose that he enjoys himself so much that he gives me the money just to have reasons to come back here and do it again. But if I hadnít done this he wouldnít have. Would have, could have, should haveÖ

Mallory

Do all business people think like this?

Owen

God I hope not.

Mallory

Maybe youíre underestimating him. Maybe Mr. Wyman is all business.

Owen

Yes, maybe. I just donít know. Look: this is my shot at the brass ring. Not just for me, to bag a big business success. Sure I want that. But itís financial security for Ellen, too. Security which would give her the freedom to do anything she wants with her life. Any career she wants, no career at all if she wants, staying home with kids if she wants, doing good for others, becoming an artist, whatever she chooses. Isnít that worth going for too? So I just donít want to take any chance on blowing this.

Mallory

So in that sense, distasteful as it may be, you are doing what you have to do.

Owen

Thank you for being understanding about this. When I try to explain it, I sound foolish.

Mallory

No, I see where youíre coming from. But this is costing you, isnít it? With Ellen.

Owen

Itís costing me. Itís costing us.

Mallory

Be that as it may, youíre doing what you have to do.

 

Owen is lost in thought for a little while. Mallory just watches him. Then the waiter returns to leave the credit card voucher on the table. Owen looks it over, writes a tip, signs, puts the card and his receipt in his wallet.

Owen

Weíll meet you here tomorrow at 8:00?

Mallory

Yes. And good luck with your meeting during the day.

Owen

Thanks. Iíll need it.

Mallory

No. Wrong attitude. Youíre good, right?

Owen

Yes.

Mallory

Your product is great, right?

Owen

Yes.

Mallory

Well, Iím terrific. Let me tell you: between, you, your product and me, Mr. Wyman is dead meat.

Owen

(Laughing) Iíll keep that in mind. (Owen gets up from the table. Mallory follows his lead.)

Mallory

And OwenÖ (He looks at her) Thanks for dinner. I had a good time.

Owen

Me too.

Act I, Scene II

 

The setting is the same restaurant. Several couples are dancing to sedate dance music, including Terry with Mallory and Owen with Ellen. Owen and Terry are in business suites, Ellen in an attractive dress, Mallory in a spectacular one. There is at least one other table in direct view of the audience, occupied by another couple. The music ends and people return to their tables.

Terry

Owen, my man, your friend Mallory is terrific. Sheís smart. Sheís drop dead gorgeous. And now I find out she can dance, too.

Owen

Donít lay the blarney on so thick, Terry. She might start believing it.

Terry

(Looks at Mallory appraisingly) I think she knows sheís special.

Mallory

I think that Terry thinks that flattery will get him somewhere.

Terry

A boy can dream, canít he?

Owen

Terry, Iím shocked. Shocked!

Ellen

(Sardonically) Have some more wine, Terry.

Terry

Oh, Ellen. Iím just trying to revive the lost art of flirting. Is that so bad?

Ellen

No, I guess not. Iím sorry.

 

 

Terry

Is it OK if I flirt with you, Mallory?

Mallory

Oh, yes, actually I like it. Sometimes I enjoy being a girl. (Ellen shoots her a "look")

Owen

That sounds refreshingly old fashioned.

Terry

Are you old fashioned?

Mallory

I guess so, in some ways, but in other ways not. Itís hard to sort out.

Owen

What do you mean?

Mallory

LikeÖwellÖI do enjoy being a girl, as in the song. I like being taken out, being pampered, getting flowers. I like having a man around to hold me, sometimes. Oh, hell, just having a man around. So thatís old fashioned. But what is new fashioned? Equal treatment with men in the workplace? Iím for that. Equal legal rights? Certainly. Freedom from harassment? Reproductive choice? Iím for all those. So does that make me new fashioned, or am I still old fashioned.

Owen

(Admiringly) Youíre one of a kind. (Ellen shoots him a look)

Terry

Maybe old and new fashioned arenít good categories.

Ellen

Maybe Mallory wants it both ways. Maybe she wants to be pampered, and she also wants to reap the benefits of womenís struggle for equality.

Owen

Ellen. What are you doing?

Mallory

Thatís OK, Owen. Maybe sheís right. (To Ellen) Do I have something to be ashamed of?

Ellen

The song youíre quoting. Do you know what that song actually says?

Mallory

The lyrics? Not really. Just the title.

Ellen

I didnít think so. The lyrics are about being happy because you have a new hairdo and your hair is in curlers. About drooling over dresses and talking on the phone for hours with a pound and a half of cream on your face.

Owen

That doesnít sound so awful. It seems dated, maybe, but harmless.

Ellen

No, Owen. Itís not harmless. Itís a very negative message. It portrays women as weak, helpless and dependent. And that subverts the struggle for equal treatment, which is still going on and is far from finished.

Owen

Where did this come from? Subverts the struggle? You sound like a socialist pamphlet.

Ellen

Are you disagreeing with what I said?

Owen

Not really. I just think Malloryís point was not unreasonable. She wasnít espousing a whole political philosophy based on a silly song whose lyrics she doesnít know. She was just asking why men and women canít have equal rights and still enjoy each otherís differences. Why does feminism have to come with such an attitude?

Ellen

An attitude?

Owen

Hostility to men.

Ellen

Because itís a manís world.

Owen

Thereís an attitude!

Ellen

Thereís a fact.

Owen

And you want to change it? Or reverse it and make it a womansí world.

Ellen

If reversing it is necessary to end to glorification of everything shallow, superficial, trivial and banal that men associate with women, then so be it. When I see an end to male hostility and misogyny, then you can talk to me about attitude.

Owen

What has gotten into you tonight?

Ellen

Iíll thank you not to patronize me.

Owen

OK, but I donít think Mallory was glorifying superficiality. I thinkÖ

Mallory

 

 

(Interrupting) Owen. Thanks for stepping in to defend my cause, but I think I need to do that myself. Ellen, Iím sorry if what I said caused all this upset. I never meant to offend anybody. Perhaps that song title was an unfortunate way to express what I meant. I didnít mean that itís good to be stuck in traditional roles with superficial values. I only meant that playing those roles sometimes helps keep warmth and romance in a relationship. Itís like a vocabulary for expressing affection that most people understand. If a man brings me flowers sometimes, and I cook a special meal he likes sometimes, itís just a way of showing we like each other, not a political statement. If a man buys me jewelry and I buy him football tickets, I understand thatís indulging in gender stereotypes, but if we both are happy, itís also deepening the bond between us and thatís the most important to me. I canít feel bad about that.

Ellen

Iím heading to the bathroom. Mallory?

Mallory

No thanks, Iím fine.

(Ellen leaves the table)

Owen

(To Terry) I wish you hadnít witnessed that.

Terry

Donít worry about it. Do you know what brought it on?

Owen

No. Well, thatís not true. I suspect she thinks Iím paying more attention to Mallory tonight than to her.

Mallory

(Gesturing toward her sexy dress) Now why on earth would that be?

(Terry and Owen laugh)

 

Terry

Mallory, how come some wonderful guy hasnít come along and swept you off your feet?

Owen

Terry. Thatís awfully personal.

Terry

Forgive me, Mallory. I didnít mean to pry.

Mallory

Itís OK. I didnít take offense. Somebody did come along, but he didnít turn out to be as wonderful as I thought. Weíve been separated more than six months. The divorce is in process.

Terry

Iím sorry to hear that.

Mallory

Iím starting to get over it. I just needed some time to lick my wounds. This is my first big night on the town since. Iíve been looking forward to it. Thanks for thinking of me, Owen. Terry is a real gentleman.

Terry

Iím just old fashioned enough to take that as a compliment. (All laugh)

Mallory

As intended.

Owen

Well, youíre welcome, Mallory. Itís been a pleasure.

Terry

For me, too.

 

 

Mallory

Speaking of pleasure, Terry, itís not very late. How Ďbout if I let you take me to one of the hottest night spots in the city. Itís a scene.

Terry

That would be different. You may have noticed, Iím not very "hip."

Mallory

I noticed. Itís sweet. Anyway, I want to take you to Joyís. You must have heard of it. The place where there are more people outside waiting than there are inside? But I have a connection. I can get us in right away.

Owen

A connection? You know the owner of Joyís?

Mallory

(Coquettishly) If you donít know, Iím not going to tell yaí. Hey, a girlís got to have some secrets. A little mystery is a good thing. So, are we going?

Terry

It could be fun.

Mallory

At the least, youíll have a story to tell your friends back home.

Terry

OK. Sold.

Mallory

(Turns to Owen) How about you and Ellen.

Owen

I donít know. Iíve got a full day tomorrow following up on our meeting. But Iíll ask her. If she wants to goÖ (He looks around to see if sheís coming back. She is.) Here she is now.

Ellen

(Taking her seat) So what have you three been plotting.

Owen

Something, actually. Mallory and Terry are heading off to Joyís. Are you interested?

Ellen

No, Iím tired. A hot bath sounds good to me.

Owen

Maybe thatís a good idea.

Ellen

(Looking at Owen) Maybe a cold shower would be good idea.

(This precipitates an embarrassed silence during which no one looks at anybody else.)

Owen

Why donít you two scoot and have a good time. Weíll stay here and pay the bill. Terry, Iíll get that stuff together for you by the end of the week.

Terry

Whenever itís ready, Iíll consider it. I like your product idea. But you have to understand. The question is not whether your idea is good or bad. The question is whether investing in it is more or less favorable than other opportunities available to me. So, weíll see.

(Terry, Mallory and Owen get up)

Terry

(Shaking hands with Owen) Owen.

Owen

Terry.

 

 

Terry

(Shaking hands with Ellen) Ellen, a pleasure to meet you.

Ellen

Likewise, Terry.

Mallory

Good bye, Owen, Ellen.

Owen

ĎBye, Mallory.

(Owen sits down with Ellen. Both are silent for a while, absorbed in thought. Then, a conversation conducted much more in sorrow than anger:)

Owen

I canít understand the way you were tonight.

Ellen

(Sullen) You canít understand.

Owen

No, I canít understand. What did you expect to gain from you behavior tonight.

Ellen

My behavior!

Owen

Yes, your behavior. To begin with, you were negative to Mallory all evening, as though she were some kind of rival. How was that supposed to look in Terryís eyes? What could he think? And worse, you were uncommunicative with Terry himself. You ignored him all evening.

Ellen

Anything else?

Owen

Yes, me. You were so cold to me they could have shut off the air conditioning and let you chill the whole place down. And that crack about a cold shower, my god! I couldnít even figure it out, but it was hostile, no mistaking that. Ellen, you humiliated me tonight.

Ellen

Too bad you felt that way.

Owen

Too bad? Youíre not even sorry now? We were with the person who could hold the key to the entire future for both of us, and this is the time you choose to humiliate me. Why, Ellen? What did you think youíd get out of that? Thatís what I canít understand.

Ellen

I humiliated you? Did it ever enter that self absorbed brain of yours how you humiliated me tonight?

Owen

(Taken aback) How is that?

Ellen

Owen. You couldnít take you eyes off that womanóthat girl!ófor one second from the moment she arrived. You fawned over her every word like some deranged puppy. You spent all night alternately flattering and defending her. How was that supposed to make me feel?

Owen

But Bunny, that was according to plan.

Ellen

There. See? Thatís the first time you called me Bunny tonight. Why? Because you didnít want to act affectionate with me in front of her?

Owen

Ellen. Bunny. Donít be silly.

 

Ellen

Silly? Is it really? Tell me anything you said to me all night that was in any way warm or supportive toward me!

Owen

I canít remember everything I said.

Ellen

No, you were too busy gawking at her in that dress.

Owen

She was supposed to look attractive, for Terry, that was her job.

Ellen

And your job, I suppose, was to fawn over every word she said? "I enjoy being a girl," give me a break. And that was just the last of a cornucopia of dumb things she said tonight and every time, there you were piping up with a sappy commentary in her support.

Owen

I intended to build her up, for Terry, that was my job.

Ellen

Thatís sooo bogus. It wasnít your job to gush over her like a teenager with raging hormones. You let your hormones take control, and they werenít gushing over me.

(Owen considers this, thenÖ)

Owen

Even if what you say were trueówhich Iím not admittingÖ

Ellen

(Interrupting) Yet.

 

 

 

Owen

(Canít help smiling a little at Ellenís understanding) Önot admittingówhy did you behave the way you did?

Ellen

I was hurt, Owen. People in pain donít always react rationally. I was hurtingóam hurtingóbecause you ignored me.

Owen

But stillÖ

Ellen

Donít you see? The only way I could drag your attention away from Mallory tonight was to pick a fight with you. I was trying to get your attention Anything to stop the pain. And nothing worked. You went blithely along sucking up to her as if I werenít here at all. Which, in your mind, I wasnít. Thatís what hurt.

Owen

But how can you be jealous of Mallory? Weíre engaged, and her, Iíll never see again. I love you, and her I donít even know and never will.

Ellen

Because you want to know her. She had an effect on you that I never had. I know that men enjoy looking at womenóthis wasnít that. You werenít just attracted by her, you were excited by heróas a person. Can you look me in the eye and deny that? Itís worse than if you were just attracted to a sex object. It makes it personal.

Owen

(Thinks for a while, then) Even if that were so, what difference would it make? Iíll never see her again. Weíre going to be married. I wouldnít ever cheat on you, you know that.

Ellen

I do know that. What Iím afraid of is that youíre going to want to. Going to regret being married to me. Weíre not even married yet. Your excitement about meóabout usóshould be at its peak. Some peak. Tonight it was more like death valley.

 

Owen

Oh, come on now. Bunny, I love you dearly.

Ellen

Perhaps so. Iím not sure what that means to you. ButóI just realized tonightódearly isnít passionately. If you had a passion for me, you wouldnít have been so enchanted by Mallory, and Iíd feel a lot safer.

Owen

I wasnít enchanted by Mallory.

Ellen

I saw what I saw and felt what I felt.

Owen

What are you trying to tell me?

Ellen

Owen, donít you see? If youíre not passionate about me, someday you will be passionate about somebody. If not Mallory, then someone else. It will happen. Then where will I be?

Owen

Ellen, youíll be with right with me. If I marry you, itís for good.

Ellen

What good is that if you donít want me? If you want someone else, but stay with me out of some kind of obligation? Thatís not good enough for me. I need to trust our relationship absolutely. To trust that Iím safe with you emotionally. That canít happen if youíre just settling for me. How can I feel safe when Iím always afraid somebody will come along and sweep you off your feet, like Mallory did?

Owen

Ellen, Iím really sorry. Iím sorry I got you upset. I certainly didnít mean to hurt you. But youíre making up this whole scenario that isnít going to happen. Maybe I did screw up tonight, but it doesnít mean what you think. What we have together is wonderful. The warmth in our relationship, the contentment, the peace, the understanding, the friendship. The sex, too. These are all part of my love for you. What are my chances of finding all that again with somebody else? Do you think I would risk all we have over some momentary infatuation? Raging hormones, as you call it?

Ellen

I donít know.

Owen

The answer is no. Remember the time we asked directionsÖ

Ellen

(Smiling at the memory, takes over) and laughed so hard we couldnít stop for 20 minutes? We had to pull over and stop the car.

Owen

See? Moments like that are part of our closeness. Our intimacy. Finding the same things funny. Sharing memories. Bunny, our relationship works. Itís terrific. Iím not going to throw it away.

Ellen

I love you so much I get scared.

Owen

I understand. Everything is OK. You donít have to be scared. Give me your hand.

(They hold hands across the table)

Ellen

IímÖ Iím sorry about how I acted in front of Terry. I know I came off like a first class bitch. I canít imagine what he thinks of me.

Owen

Unfortunately, I can. But whatís done is done. We both screwed up tonight. The disaster was mutual. Letís just put it behind us. Deal?

 

 

Ellen

Deal.

(Still holding hands, both are lost in their own thoughts for a while. Then the waiter comes with the bill. Their hands part as they notice his approach.)

Waiter

Here you are, sir. Did you enjoy your meal?

(Owen and Ellen stare at him, then look at each other, and burst out laughing.)

 

Act I, Scene III

 

The setting is Dennisí office. It is comfortable, spacious and well furnished, functional but not lavish. There is a door at stage rear leading to the secretarial area (unseen), and a door on one side leading to a smaller, private back office (also unseen). Dennis is sitting behind his desk, and talking to Victor. Victorís appearance is sufficiently distinctive that the audience will instantly recognize him as the man at the adjacent table the previous evening.

Dennis

So, what happened?

Victor

Good news, bad news. Good news, I got everything on tape. Bad news, they didnít say nothiní.

Dennis

That adds up to what? No news?

Victor

Maybe big news. I think Owen is falliní for Mal, and vice versa.

Dennis

Thatís interesting. How do you know?

Victor

I donít know. I think so. The way they reacted to each other. Jusí different stuff. Also, the fiancé, Ellen, she was pissed the whole time. Later when she went to the john, Owen said it was because he was paying too much attention to Mal. That got my attention. He knew it and he couldnít stop himself anyway. Afterwards, after Mal and Terry took off, he Ďn Ellen had a big row about it. Then they made up. Youíll hear it all when I send over the transcript.

Dennis

Mal and Terry took off?

Victor

Oh, yeah. She suggested they go to Joyís. He went with her.

 

Dennis

Did you follow them there?

Victor

Nah. Big chance aí beiní seen and reckaínized. Small chance aí heariní anything useful in all that racket in there.

Dennis

OK, Vic, what would you suggest to follow up on this?

Victor

Tap his phone line at home. Thatís illegal, though, so I charge extra.

Dennis

Figures. Am I in trouble if you get caught?

Victor

Potentially. But that wonít happen. Iíve done this many times. Itís no big risk. The only problemís if somebody gets suspicious while weíre breakiní in.

Dennis

How does that work?

Victor

I send one aí my guys over with a locksmith I know. Truck ní all. People jusí think itís a lock repair. And I got it covered. We post a lookout in case he comes home unexpectedly. We make up a phony work order, so if somebody questions my crew, they got paperwork and it all comes off as an innocent mistake. Anyways, that never happened yet.

Dennis

All right, then what?

Victor

Then we put in a tap with a local transmitter. Park a car within range aí the transmitter, get a recorder goiní. Done.

Dennis

Done?

Victor

Yeah. Donít go back it when itís over. Just leave the tap where it is. Drive the car away. Done. While itís goiní on it costs ya. We gotta rent the car, have somebody listen to the tapesÖ

Dennis

You recommend this?

Victor

If ya wannaí find out whatís goiní on, thatís what ya do. Itís up to you.

Dennis

All right, letís try it for a while.

Victor

How Ďbout Malloryís phone?

Dennis

You think Iím made of money?

Victor

How about Malloryís office phone here? What if she talks toíim from here? Whatís the point aí doiní his home if they talk from both their offices? The extra expense is small, comparing.

Dennis

Son of bitch, where does it end? All right, all right.

Victor

(Grinning) Youíre cute when youíre angry.

 

Dennis

(Smiling, relaxing) Just get to work, Victor. (Phone rings. Dennis answers, holding his hand up to signal Victor to stay put. To phoneÖ) OK, good. Iíll be right out to get her. (Hangs up) Thatís Mal now. How about waiting in my back office (gestures in that direction) and listening on the intercom? (Switches on intercom) Maybe youíll hear something useful.

Victor

You got it. My time is yours when my meterís running.

(Dennis gives him the middle finger gesture, but heís smiling and shaking his head in mock exasperation. Theyíre friends. Victor goes to the back office. Dennis ushers Mallory into stage office and both are seated.)

Dennis

So, what happened?

Mallory

It went OK, I think But I didnít learn very much. I didnít learn what his product is. Just that Terry may be interested. Owenís going to put together a business plan and Terry will look at it. I was afraid to ask questions. I was afraid theyíd get suspicious.

Dennis

Tell me about the evening. Maybe youíll remember something.

Mallory

OK. We met at 8:00 at Savoy Tower. Owen introduced me as an old friend. Owen brought his fiancé Ellen. We had drinks, dinner. Talked about everything, it seems. Movies, the OJ trial, the Mayorís race, real estate prices. Everything except business.

Dennis

Did you ask?

Mallory

At one point I did. I said, "How was your meeting?" Owen said, "Fine," and that was that.

 

Dennis

What else? How did it end?

Mallory

Oh, yes, I got Terry to take me to Joyís afterwards. I got your friend Steve to let us in. I thought being alone with me, plus a few more drinks, might loosen his tongue. It didnít.

Dennis

And you didnít pump him there?

Mallory

No, afraid to. Afraid if I got too nosy heíd get suspicious.

Dennis

What did you think of Owen?

Mallory

Heís great!

Dennis

Great?

Mallory

(Realizing sheís probably said the wrong thing) I didnít mean great. Heís a nice guy. Thatís all.

Dennis

Itís all right, youíre allowed to like him. I just want to know what heís doing. How was he great?

Mallory

I liked him, Iíll admit. We seem to understand each other very well.

 

 

Dennis

All right. But before you start fantasizing, you told me heís engaged.

Mallory

Yeah, thatís a problem all right.

Dennis

A problem? Are you getting stuck on this guy? You only met him twice.

Mallory

Yeah, I know. Oh, I donít know.

Dennis

What about his fiancé.

Mallory

I donít know. She sounded annoyed at him all evening. Then she went off to the bathroom and Owen said she was mad because he was paying too much attention to me.

Dennis

Was he?

Mallory

(Grinning) I did have one hell of a dress on. Hey, heís only a man. What can you expect?

Dennis

(Amused) And youíre a woman, for sure. Iím getting the picture. All right. Letís think about the next step.

Mallory

Next step? I thought you just wanted me to do last night.

 

 

Dennis

Thereís more.

Mallory

How much more?

Dennis

Wherever this leads, youíre part of it.

Mallory

You want me to keep spying on Owen?

Dennis

Until we know what his product is, yes.

Mallory

Whoa. Wait a minute. I donít know if I can do this. Iím not prepared for this. Itís not me. I donít know if I could pull it off even if I wanted to. Why not get somebody else who can do this? A private detective or something.

Dennis

Youíre perfect for the job. You can handle this.

Mallory

Is this a requirement for my job?

Dennis

No, Mallory, itís not. But it is a requirement for your future advancement, if you expect any help from me. And if you are contemplating any future with this guy Owen, itís a requirement for that too. (Pauses) Mal, youíre smart but youíre hopelessly naive. Iím going to start your real world education right now. All right?

Mallory

Do I have a choice?

Dennis

Donít be a wise ass. I still pay your salary. All right, look, Mallory, I know youíre upset with me right now and think Iím awful. Just hear me out. Then you can think about it and reach your own conclusion. Isnít that fair?

Mallory

Itís fair, I guess.

Dennis

Good. (Switches on intercom.) Sandy, could you ask Kathy to come up here in about ten minutes?

Sandy

(Through intercom.) Will do.

Dennis

Mal, in a way, you were on to something just now. About whether you have a choice. Because thatís what life is about: making choices..

Mallory

And you want me to choose to spy on Owen?

Dennis

I want you to understand the choice in all itís complexity before you make it either way. Now, I have a stake in a software company. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Mallory

No.

Dennis

Now, I also own a stake in an escort service. Perfectly legal, right?

Mallory

Legal, maybe, butÖ

Dennis

But you donít approve.

 

Mallory

Not really.

Dennis

What exactly donít you approve of? A woman going out to dinner and a show with a man?

Mallory

Of course not that. I guess itís what the man expects afterwards.

Dennis

We very carefully explain to every customer that heóor sheóshould have no expectations about afterwards. That our service is escort only.

Mallory

Maybe, but I suspect that most customers take that as some kind of legal disclaimer. I think most expectÖwell, sexual favors, I guess youíd sayÖto be available anyway.

Dennis

Right. Right on both counts. Still, what the women do on their own time is not company activity and strictly their own business.

Mallory

See?!?

Dennis

See what? Donít you agree that what women do on their own time is their own business?

Mallory

Well, but, youíre putting them in a situation.

Dennis

Objection. Weíre not putting anybody anywhere they do not choose to be. Weíre not luring runaway teenagers off the streets. These are all adult women 21 years plus. They are contract employees, just like any other business has. We file standard 1099 forms with the IRS. We provide benefits.

Mallory

But the situation theyíre put inÖ

Dennis

The situation they choose to be inÖ

Mallory

Isnít right.

Dennis

Is their own choice. They know exactly what theyíre getting into. We tell them what theyíre getting into. Do you object to adult women making informed choices about what they do with their own time?

Mallory

But itís dangerous.

Dennis

Sure, a little. So is meeting a guy at a bar. So is using a dating service. So is answering a personal ad. If you merely look at the abuse statistics, so is getting married.

Mallory

(Exasperated) DennisÖ

Dennis

Dennis, what? You donít believe the abuse statistics? Look. We give our women self defense training. Safe sex training. We give them a 2-way message pager and our office is open 24 hours so they can page for help. It isnít perfect, but we do everything we possibly can. Meanwhile, our clients are not anonymous. If theyíre thinking about trying anything, they know weíve already established their identity through the credit card charge. But honestly, is danger really the issue? If it were safe, then it would be all right with you?

 

 

Mallory

No.

Dennis

No. Danger is a red herring. So tell me.

Mallory

How can I talk about this? Youíre my boss.

Dennis

Iím going through this for a reason. I wonít be offended. Itís not like I havenít heard arguments like yours before. So get it off your chest. Youíll regret it if you donít take this opportunity to speak your mind. Tell me.

Mallory

OK. OK. It leads to sex for money, and sex for money isÖdegrading. And youíre encouraging it.

Dennis

Good. The real issue is finally out on the table. Sex for money is degrading. Who says so?

Mallory

Who says so? Everybody says so.

Dennis

Everybody does not include the women who work for Eden Escorts. So itís not everybody.

Mallory

How do you know that?

Dennis

Because we make sure when we interview them for the job. Think about it, Mal. Our clients are executives, professionals, entrepreneurs. People who can afford a hefty tab for companionship on top of the cost of a night out. We want their repeat business, and their referrals. Do you think theyíll enjoy spending an evening with someone whoís looking ahead to degradation at midnight? Who doesnít want to be there? Who hates herself for being there? ÖMal?

Mallory

Perhaps not.

Dennis

For sure not. Mal, our women are students, career women, divorced women. They do it to make extra money, to get taken out to nice places, to get to meet executives, professionals, entrepreneurs. They all have one thing in common. They have all reached the point where they can decide for themselves what is or isnít degrading.

Mallory

Everybody knows whatís degrading.

Dennis

Really? Youíre too young to remember, but forty years ago abortion was degrading. Now itís a fundamental womenís right. Thirty years ago, homosexuality was degrading. Now itís merely a genetic happenstance. Degradation is not intrinsic in anything. Itís just what society defines as such. So tell me this. Why does society define sex for money as degrading to women but not to men? For men itís an embarrassment that they canít get it for free, but not degrading. Just for women. Why?

Mallory

I donít know. Why do you call it sex for money and not prostitution? What makes you squeamish about term? Maybe itís degrading for women because women regret it eventually.

Dennis

Thatís surely possible for anybody with any decision. But listen to yourself. Iím telling you that these are strong women making independent decisions, and you insist that cannot beósolely because you donít approve of their decision. How condescending, how patronizing can you be?

Mallory

Youíre good at arguing, but I canít approve of it.

Dennis

Nor do I expect you to. I have no intention of asking that of you. I am suggesting that your approval or disapproval is irrelevant. Iím suggesting that when you judge me, youíre really judging these women. Iím suggesting that you have no right to pass judgement on people you have not met and know nothing about. And Iím suggesting that their utter lack of concern over your approval or disapproval is something for you to admire and emulate.

Mallory

(Silent for a while, thenÖ) Why are you telling me this?

Dennis

Mal, Iím talking to you about making choices because you have some choices to make, and I want you to make the ones that are really right for you, not just what you think other people would approve of.

Mallory

What do you mean?

Dennis

Iím getting there. You mentioned regret a minute ago. This is the point behind it all: regret is most likely when you make a decision based on what other people expect of you, rather than what you truly think or feel. The hard part is sorting out which is which.

Sandy

(Over the intercom.) Kathy is here.

Dennis

Good. Send her in.

(Kathy enters. She and Mallory greet each other, Kathy with warmth, Mallory friendly but with reserve from not knowing what is going on.)

 

Dennis

Have a seat.

Kathy

Hi, Mal.

Mallory

Kathy?

Dennis

Mal, Iíve asked Kathy to become your mentor. Do you know what that is?

Mallory

A senior executive who helps guide my career.

Dennis

Close enough.

Kathy

Not that senior! (Laughter)

Dennis

Assuredly not. Anyway, Kathy started with me much as you did. Associates degree, entry level position. Now sheís managing director of my entire real estate business. It happened because she let me help her.

Kathy

Mal, Dennis financed almost all of my college educationóBachelors and MBA. Without his help, Iíd still be answering phones or ordering paper clips.

Dennis

Itís a program I have. Kathy was the first beneficiary. She did so well with it Iíve done it several times since.

 

Kathy

Thank you.

 

Dennis

Youíre welcome. Mal, this is not a gift, not a charity. Itís an executive development program. Mutual benefit. You get a college education financed at no interest, and a guided career upwards in my group of companies. I get excellent people managing the companies Iíve invested in, all of whom are accustomed to confiding in me. They both talk to me and listen to me. So in each company where I have somebody placed, I know everything thatís going on, and that in turn gives me some influence over whatís going on.

Mallory

Information is power.

Dennis

Yes, but I just use it to help my companies become more successful. Itís win/win all around.

Mallory

Donít the people who run these companies object to your meddling?

Dennis

Oh, sure, but I meddle anyway. One of them even has a nickname for me: "Further Ado." Thatís because further ado is a something everyone is happier to be without. Whenever the moment arrives to be "without further ado," people applaud. But Iím tickled by his nickname. It shows Iím doing my job.

Mallory

What about the others.

Dennis

Usually they come to realize the benefits of my counsel. If thereís friction and it gets too great, I simply sell off my investment in their company and go on to other things. If people are not willing to listen to me, it means I misjudged their character and my investment was a mistake. I bail out of bad investments quickly.

Mallory

This college loan you mentioned. Is there a catch?

 

Dennis

Just an incentive to stay in my employ. As long as you work for one of my companies, repayment terms are very liberal. But if you leave, the loan converts to standard commercial terms at prevailing rates.

Mallory

I donít know.

Kathy

What do you mean, Mal?

Mallory

WellÖI donít want sound negative or ungrateful.

Dennis

Iíve never penalized anybody for speaking up. You can speak your mind. Please.

Mallory

WellÖit sounds generous. It is generous. But at the same time, it sounds like you would have an awful lot of control over me. If I disagreed with you, it wouldnít be just a job at stake. Now it would be a lot of additional debt, too.

Kathy

I suppose thatís true, theoretically. But in almost ten years with Dennis, Iíve never felt that. Iíve never felt like it was a sword hanging over my head.

Dennis

Kathyís right. I donít look at the loan as a weapon to control anybody. Itís just an investment that I expect to pay off well. Think about the scale of just one single business decisions: tens or hundreds of thousands of dollarsóor moreóin the balance. So you see, just one astute business decision can make me more than a college education costs. One bonehead decision avoided can save me that much. Itís simple economics to have good people that I trust in key positions in businesses where Iím invested.

 

Mallory

Forgive me for challenging you. But however you look at it, the leverage is still there. You may never have occasion to think about it because the leverage is implicit. For the person who owes you money, it may be in the background but itís never out of sight.

Dennis

All right, letís accept thatís how you feelÖ

Mallory

Kathy, donít you feel that way?

Kathy

No. I never thought about it.

Mallory

Maybe you see eye to eye with Dennis about everything. I already know that I donít.

Dennis

Mal, letís just stipulate that we wonít always see eye to eye. Even that I would expect from you certain things that you would find unpalatable. Consider that a cost of the deal. Now weight that against the benefits.

Kathy

Let me add that Iíve been low in business and Iíve been high. High is better.

Mallory

I can see that.

Kathy

Not clearly, I think, or you wouldnít be so ready to discount the benefits. Upper management means good money, for one thing. Donít underestimate the value of that. But more important is the feeling you get, from being a key member of a team. Sure, they say everybodyís a member of the team, but thatís just propaganda. Thereís always a core decision-making groupóthe brains of the organization. If youíre not part of the brains, you donít have much impact on what happens, or how things turn out. And thatís where the satisfaction of work comes from. Nowadays, itís called being in the loop. The loop is where important decisions are made. Itís also where the fun is. Also, you get to do things your own way, at least somewhat. Being out of the loop is little satisfaction and less fun. You do want to have an impact on how things turn out, donít you?

Mallory

Of course.

Dennis

I should hope so. One of the reasons I hired you in the first place was that I liked your ambition. Remember what you said in your job interview? (Mallory shrugs, not getting the reference). You said you wanted to be accountable for results. That was good. Itís the essence of management in one sentence, in fact.

Kathy

But itís one thing to say it and quite another to do it. Successfully, that is.

Dennis

Well, thatís right. About fifty percent of all managers and executives are imposters. They donít know what theyíre doing, so they do more harm than good. One of the most effective things I can do, both in this company and my investments, is to improve that ratio. Hold back the tide of imposter infiltration. Itís never ending. Thatís what executive development is about.

Mallory

Canít I just work my way up the ladder?

Dennis

Theoretically possible but very difficult. Extremely rare these days. You really need to have at least a bachelorís degree. A masters helps a lot.

Mallory

I could get those on my own. Nights. Other people do.

 

 

Dennis

Yes they do. But itís very, very hard. You have to be extraordinarily motivated.

Mallory

If other people can do it, so can I. Thatís my plan.

Dennis

Mal, if you do that, Iíll be very impressed. Itíll show determination and grit. But not necessarily good sense. Itís doing something the hard way when thereís an easier way.

Kathy

Have you really thought this through? Between work and school work, you wonít have a life. And itís years and years.

Mallory

I have to do the same amount of work whether I take the loan or not.

Dennis

But it wonít be nearly as hard. Itís not just a loan itís a management development program. We figure out an approach that works for both of us. Usually, it ends up something like a regular college co-op program. And we wangle some course credits for your work experience. Also, weíre flexible about your work schedule. Remember, weíre making a big investment in you. It only pays off if you succeed.

Mallory

Can I think about it?

Dennis

Certainly. Hereís what you have to weigh. On your own, youíll be sweating out school on top of work for years, youíll come out with a huge debt, and then youíll have to carve out a career on your own. In my program, youíll finish school years sooner with much less pressure, launch your salary escalation path much more quickly, come out with much less debt, and Iíll have an investment in the success of the career that I will help you build. Whatís to choose?

Mallory

I understand what youíre telling me.

Dennis

But I also have to tell you that Iím not actually offering this to you right now.

Mallory

Youíre not?

Dennis

No. Iím just telling you that the program exists, and I have you in mind for it. I havenít decided yet whether to invest in you.

Mallory

Oh. Wait a minute. I think I seeÖ You want me to spy on Owen first, and youíre holding the college loan out there asóhow would you put itóan incentive.

Kathy

Mallory! Heís trying to do something good for you.

Dennis

Thatís all right, Kathy. I understand where sheís coming from. But Mal, itís not so simple. I havenít decided because Iím still uncertain whether you have the right temperament to be a good executive. You are smart, competent, poised and perceptiveóall important qualities. But I think a good executive also need to be a tough competitor. Iím not sure that you are.

Mallory

How can you tell if you donít give me a chance to show it?

Dennis

Your chance to show it is exactly what weíve been talking about this whole time.

Mallory

You mean doing Owen in is your measure of my management mettle?

 

 

 

 

Dennis

Not doing him in. Just seeing if heíll tell you something that is useful to our business. This is your chance to show me you have the temperament to play competitive hardball. The toughness, the focus. The competitive juices. Those qualities that will make me want to invest in you and expect that it will pay off in the future. Successful executives arenít just competent, they also canít bear to lose. Can you?

Mallory

I donít know.

Dennis

Exactly. Neither do I. Maybe you have the temperament, maybe not. Youíve been feisty today, and I havenít seen much of that before. Itís a good sign.

Mallory

And I can show those qualities by spying on Owen.

Kathy

If it makes you feel better, donít call it spying. Call it competitive intelligence. Every big corporation does competitive intelligence. Books and articles are written about it. Conferences examine it. Consulting firms specialize in it.

Mallory

Then why does it make me so uncomfortable?

Dennis

Why does it, Mal?

Mallory

I donít knowÖ It seems unethical.

Dennis

It may be. There is no doubt some code of ethical conduct associated with competitive intelligence, and I expect at the very least that this is a violation.

 

Mallory

So why should I do it?

Dennis

Because sometimes doing something a bit unethical yields a big benefit. Then you have to decide whether itís worth doing.

Mallory

A bit? Things are either ethical or unethical. You know when something is right or wrong.

Dennis

Like sex for money? (Mallory doesnít answer) Now youíre talking nonsense, Mal. Right and wrong change all the time. New laws pass every day that change them. Court decisions change them. Gambling was a sin, now the state runs a lottery. Unwed motherhood was a shame, then show business stars flaunted it and people ridiculed Dan Quail, now people say Quail was right and Murphy Brown wrong. Right and wrong are the quintessential moving targets. And thatís just in this country. How about countries where they mutilate little girlsí genitals and think nothing of it.

Mallory

You donít condemn that?

Dennis

Sure I do. Itís brutal, horrific and altogether tragic. But I donít condemn the people as unethical. Theyíre just doing as their culture tells them, thatís all.

Mallory

But with thisÖwhat, situation ethics?ÖHow can people trust you to deal with them ethically? How can I trust you?

Dennis

Mallory, this is business, and trust in business is for fools. I trust nobody. Nobody should trust me. Businessójust like international diplomacyóis about mutual self interest, not trust. As long as both parties to a deal stand to gain more than they lose, thereís no need for trust. In fact, I go further. Trust is a negative, because it gets in the way of seeing clearly where the mutual self interest is.

Kathy

Mal, this goes back to the loan. You stand to gain a whole lot. So does Dennis. Neither trust nor kindness is involved.

Dennis

Mallory, whereís the downside? That you decide you donít want to work for me and have to pay off a college loan, just like everyone else? So what?

Mallory

No, the downsideÖÖÖ

Kathy

Mal?

Mallory

I canít believe Iím saying this.

Dennis

Mal?

Mallory

Please donít take this the wrong way. I donít mean to insult you. Itís just thatÖI worry that I might get too comfortable. I might get to enjoy the money, the status, being in the loop, all that, enjoy it too much. And if I do, then maybe my ethical standards slip into the background, sacrificed to the good life. And if that happens, then Iím no longer me. Iíve become somebody else. Somebody I donít admire.

Dennis

Nice speech, Mallory, but wrong. If thatís what happens to you, if thatís what you do, then thatís who you really are, and not the ideal paragon you imagine yourself to be now. Mal, I have no ability, much less the desire, to alter your core being. That was set in place before you were six. All I can do is offer you opportunities. How you respond to those opportunities is entirely within you, not me.

Kathy

Dennis is right. If the real you is different from what you think now, youíll have to come to terms with that and not deny it.

Dennis

How well do you really know yourself, Mal.

Mallory

Pretty well, I think.

Dennis

Then tell me this. If youíre so pure, how come you agreed to go out with Owen in the first place? Posing as one of my escorts, no less?

Mallory

I donít know. I regret it now. Iím ashamed of myself.

Dennis

Well, letís explore this a little. Youíre by nature a cooperative person? By nature inclined to be helpful? Instinctively eager to help her boss as a matter of course?

Mallory

Yes, I would say that.

Dennis

So whatever I asked you to do, your first impulse would be to agree?

Mallory

Yes.

Dennis

Thatís not bad, is it? To be predisposed to help your boss?

Mallory

No.

Dennis

Thenówhen I told you what I wanted, it was interesting. Different. Even exciting. Fun. Definitely an adventure.

Mallory

Thatís true.

Dennis

On top of that, dressing up and going out to a fancy restaurantótwiceówho wouldnít enjoy that?

Mallory

I guess.

Dennis

All these different factors pointing you towards doing it. All legitimate. The only fly in the ointment was the role playing? Is that right?

Mallory

Yes!

Dennis

Sure, I understand. That had to be scary, when I told you that you would have to pretend to be from Eden Escort. How were you going to pull it off? What about the danger? That had to raise some anxiety.

Mallory

It did.

Dennis

But then I explained that you were going to pretend to be an escort pretending to be a friend of Owenís, which was different. Suddenly, little danger. Itís easy. Anxiety lifted. Clear sailing to do what you were predisposed to do, what you wanted to do anyway. Does that sound about right? Is that something to be ashamed of?

Mallory

You make it sound innocent. By the way, how did you know what Owen wanted me to do?

Dennis

That was his specification when he placed the order. He said he wanted somebody smart enough to pull it off. Mal, back to the point. Iím not saying innocent. On the contrary. Iím saying I presented you with an opportunity and you reacted naturally, instinctively, as a flesh and blood human being, in accordance with your true nature. Relishing the adventure. Strutting your stuff. So what?

 

Mallory

Itís my true nature to deceive two different people in two different ways in one evening? Three people, including Ellen.

Kathy

So why didnít these qualms come up when you and Dennis were discussing this beforehand?

Mallory

I donít know. That is precisely what troubles me now. I suppose I minimized it because I thought it was just this one time, so it didnít seem like a big deal. I guess it seemed more like a little game. It didnít seem important, Ďcause it was just this one time. But now you want me to keep on going. To continue, to persist. That makes it different, somehow. A bigger deal.

Kathy

You see the flaw in that, donít you? (Mallory shakes her head "no.") Itís like a little bit pregnant. Not ten minutes ago, you were declaiming that something is either right or wrong, period. Ethical or unethical. Black or white. Pregnant or not pregnant. Now youíre saying that your deceit last night seemed only slightly wrong, and somehow harmless because it was short in duration. A little bit pregnant. So which is it? Ethical black and white, or shades of gray?

Dennis

Weíre not criticizing you, Mal. Not at all. Weíre just pointing out that decisions can be complex, with moral ideals only one element among many. If you hold up unrealistic standards, youíre only going to keep disappointing yourself.

Mallory

I still feel like I made a mistake. I am disappointed in myself.

 

Dennis

Would you still think it was a mistake if the last two nights turned out to be the best thing that ever happened in your life?

Mallory

What do you mean?

 

Dennis

You met Owen. What if that turns out to be the turning point in your life? You are attracted to him, arenít you? Youíve already told me that.

 

Mallory

Thatís a stretch. Itís a long way from attracted to him to turning point in my life.

Dennis

But itís possible. He could be the one. You donít rule it out.

Mallory

I guess not.

Dennis

You would like him to be?

Mallory

Youíre way far ahead of me in this. Iíve only met him twice.

Dennis

But still, there was chemistry, wasnít there? Be honest. I can tell.

Mallory

There was some chemistry.

 

Dennis

If you hadnít made this "mistake," you would never have met Owen.

Mallory

Thatís true.

Dennis

Sure it is. And it would be wonderful if he does turn out to be the love of your life. Iím rooting for it, in fact. But the only way that can happen is if you continue with the competitive intelligence that I want you to do.

Mallory

How do you figure that?

Dennis

Letís just examine your options. Better yet, letís lay this out as if it were a business problem and see where the logic takes us.

(Owen gets up, goes to the white board, and draws a diagram that looks like this:

Option

Owen

C.D./C.B

Conscience

1)

     

2)

     

3)

     

4)

     

5)

     

This should be big enough for the audience to see.)

All right. Youíve got five options I can think of. If you can think of more weíll add them. Each option is either favorable or unfavorable in terms of getting close to Owen. (Points to "Owen" column) Weíll treat that as the primary goal. Also, each option carries with it further consequences which may or may not be favorable. Iíve called these CD for collateral damage and CB for collateral benefits. (Points to CD/CB column). Finally, youíre worried about your conscience. Clear so far?

Mallory

You have got to be kidding!

 

Dennis

No joke, Mallory. This is important to you, so letís treat it as an important decision. I know youíre not accustomed to parsing decisions this way. But this is how business logic works: evaluate the costs and the benefits. But a decision is a decision is a decision. Every decisionópersonal as well as businessóhas consequences, good ones and bad ones, benefits and costs. So any decision can be sorted out by weighing the costs and benefits with logical analysis.

 

Mallory

I donít knowÖ

Dennis

If you want to become a business executive, you have to know how executives analyze decisions.

Mallory

All right. We can try it, I guess. I can follow you.

Dennis

More than follow me. You are going to do it along with me. That way the outcome will be your outcome. Whatever answer comes out, you are going to own it. You ready?

Mallory

This is nuts, but Iím ready.

Dennis

All right. Option One. Letís call it True Confession. (Writes "True Confession" on white board next to "1)") In this option, you confess to Owen that you deceived him, and you let me know youíre doing it. Result: I fire you for insubordination, but thatís of little consequence. At your level you can get another job easily. The main thing is Owen. How will he react. Tell me, whatís the most important thing in his life right now?

Mallory

His product?

 

 

Dennis

You got it. His be-all and end-all right now. So, if you tell him you are really an industrial spy sent by your employer who owns a company that competes with his, just what do you think his reaction would be?

Mallory

Not too good.

Dennis

Youíve threatened his "baby." He goes ballistic, doesnít he?

Mallory

Probably.

Dennis

Not too good. So we put a minus sign under "Owen." (Turns to board and does that) Now, getting fired is not so great either. CD gets a minus. Conscience gets a plus. (Marks on board) Are you with me? You agree so far?

Mallory

I canít really argue against it.

 

Dennis

No you canít. Option Two. Letís say, "Confession Lite." (Writes on board) In this one, you confess to Owen but you donít tell me. That accomplishes saving your job as long as I donít find out about it. But Owenís reaction is the same. So itís no better than option one from that point of view. Minus under Owen, question mark under CD/CB. That OK?

Mallory

OK.

Dennis

What do I put under conscience?

 

Mallory

A minus. It isnít any more OK to deceive you than it is to deceive Owen.

Dennis

Good answer. (Puts marks on line "2)")

Mallory

Maybe Owenís reaction wonít be as bad as weíve been assuming.

Dennis

Maybe not. Thatís the dice you have to roll. But when you figure the odds, factor in where his head is, where his heart is, and where is passion is. Also, he has Ellen already. You saw last night that she loves him enough to be jealous of you. If you hurt him he can turn to her. Donít forget about that when youíre thinking about tossing him this little grenade of yours.

Mallory

Oh god.

Dennis

Option three. Donít tell him what youíve been doing, but withdraw from the project. I call that "Wimping Out." (Writes it next to "3)") Result: your self respect is intact for now, and you keep your job. But you sacrifice the loan and all my help with your career. But the worst thing is, you lose touch with Owen.

Mallory

Why couldnít I just keep seeing him anyway?

Dennis

If you withdraw from the project, then youíre just dating a competitor. You canít date a competitor. That is a serious conflict of interest. If you did it anyway, you would have to keep it secret from me on pain of immediate dismissal. That means he couldnít ever call you here or pick you up. You couldnít be heard calling him. Every time youíre out together, youíd run the risk of being seen. Andóthink of thisóeven if you were willing to endure all that, how would you explain all the furtiveness to him? How do you imagine a situation like that working without him wondering what in hell is going on?

 

Mallory

I donít know.

Dennis

On top of which, youíve already acknowledged that deceiving me is as bad as deceiving him. Forget it. This a minus under Owen. Letís give a "?" under CD, since youíre not sure you want the loan anyway. Conscience gets a "+". (Writes on board) You all right with this evaluation?

Mallory

Iím OK with it.

Dennis

Now option four: "Intentional Failure." (Writes on board) Here you pretend youíre working on the project, but deliberately neglect to actually find out anything thatís useful to me.

Mallory

Whoa! Thatís heavy.

Dennis

Yeah, it would take a devious mind to think that up.

Kathy

(Laughing, to Dennis) YOU thought it up! (Dennis and Mallory join the laughter)

Dennis

Indeed I did. Actually, this option has a certain short term appeal. You get to continue seeing Owen without betraying him. But you are deceiving him, and you are betraying me. Thatís a very heavy burden for someone with your kind of ethics to carry around. Not to mention the risk.

Mallory

You mean if he finds out.

 

 

Dennis

Yes, and if he finds out itís most likely to be from me. If you donít come up with some information pretty quickly, I will get suspicious. If I become convinced that you are holding back, I will tell Owen personally, you can count on it.

Mallory

I donít see myself doing that. Everything Iím aboutÖthe whole point!Öis to avoid the stress of violating my conscience.

 

Dennis

Good. Intentional failure may be tempting on the surface, but itís highly stressful. Scratch option 4. Minus, minus, minus. (Enters on board) Finally, option five: Do the Project. (Writes on board) Result: Owen never finds out anything because I wonít tell him and neither will you. Like I said, mutual self interest. Your relationship, if one develops, takes it natural course. Thatís a plus. (Enters) Then CB: double plus. Job, careeróeverything upside. (Enters) Ah, but conscience. Yes, you are going to have to keep a secret from him forever.

Mallory

I hate that.

Dennis

Itís a factor. But donít imagine that the outcome is necessarily bad for Owen. More likely he will benefit from your secret.

Mallory

Arenít you against him?

Dennis

Not against him. Iím in competition with him. If I think his product is useless, or flawed, I wonít do anything. Let him sink himself.

Mallory

If itís not useless?

 

 

Dennis

Several possibilities. I could race to copy his idea so his market advantage is diminished. More likely I would license his idea from him or just buy him out. In that case, youíd be doing him a favor.

Mallory

You want me to give conscience a plus?!?

Dennis

A bit much, eh? OK, letís give it a minus. (Does so) So, what do we have?

(The white board now looks like this:

Option

Owen

C.D./C.B

Conscience

1) True Confession

-

-

+

2) Confession Llite

-

?

-

3) Wimping Out

-

?

+

4) Intentional Failure

-

-

-

5) Do the Project

+

++

-

Mallory

Youíve got this rigged.

Dennis

Nothing of the sort. We did this together, remember? What is it telling you?

Mallory

That I need to think about it.

Dennis

By all means. Take a couple of days to think it over. Discuss it with Kathy if youíd like.

Kathy

Mal, we can have a drink after work if youíd like.

 

 

Mallory

Thanks, Iíll let you know.

Dennis

Think about what it means not to do this. Let me give you a tip about making decisions. Imagine youíre 95 years old, on your deathbed, looking back on your life, thinking about what you did right and where you screwed up. Which of those columns is the choice youíre making now going to be in?

Kathy

Dennis and I have had this discussion several times over the years, Mal. What he means is that when youíre 95, you donít give a hoot about other peopleís expectations. You only care about whether your life was the best you could have done for yourself. So, imagining yourself looking back from that perspective helps you sort out which choice is the real you versus which is based on expectations of others.

Dennis

All right, Mal. Thanks for listening. Iíll expect to hear from you in a day or two. By the way, hereís his phone number in case you want to use it. (Dennis hands Mallory a business card) Kathy, thank you too.

(Dennis gets up and escorts Mal and Kathy to the door, watches as they go down the hall. Then he returns to his desk and activates the intercom.)

All clear, Vic. Come on in.

(Vic enters from back office)

So, what did you think?

Victor

You were masterful.

Dennis

Oh, Vic, cut the crap. What do you think sheís going to do?

Victor

Sheís going to do the project.

Dennis

How do you know?

Victor

Sizing up her personality.

Dennis

You donít know, do you?

Victor

Not a clue.

Dennis

Sheíll go for it.

Victor

How do you know?

Dennis

Thatís why I make the big bucks.

Victor

You have no idea.

Dennis

I have no idea.

Curtain closes.

Act I, Scene IV

 

The setting is Owenís apartment, four weeks later. The interior living/dining/kitchen area is visible, as is an outside balcony stage front with a railing. Owen and Mallory are leaning against the railing, holding hands arm in arm, facing the audience looking outward toward the "city." Mallory is in a "drop dead" sundress, Owen is dressed casually. The remains of dinner are visible on the dining table. It is apparent from the outset, with affectionate and familiar body language, that the relationship has been taking flight.

Mallory

Owen. Thank you. Dinner was delicious.

Owen

Iím glad it came out OK. Iím glad you liked it.

Mallory

Youíre a good cook. Somehow Iím not surprised.

Owen

Speaking about surprisedÖ Three weeks ago, when you first called, it was my turn to be surprised. Still, I have to admit, in a corner of my mind I was hoping you would.

Mallory

I wish I had known that then. I agonized. I almost didnít dare. Iíve never been so bold before.

Owen

What gave you the courage this time?

Mallory

For once I had a logical thought. I figured, what did I have to lose? If you didnít return my message, I was no worse off than before.

Owen

Iím amazed that your service gave you my number. They shouldnít have given you a clientís number.

Mallory

Itís definitely against policy. I had to call in a favor. Weíre more than even now.

Owen

If I had complained to the service you both would have been fired.

Mallory

Yes, butÖI just didnít think youíd do that.

Owen

Youíre right. I wouldnít have. But that message that you leftóthat story about how you wanted to meet me for lunch to get some advice about a friend. That wasnít hard to see through.

Mallory

A bit lame, huh?

Owen

A bit? You have a gift for understatement. I didnít believe it for a minute.

Mallory

Iím glad.

Owen

How so?

Mallory

Sure. If you knew I was just making an excuse to see you and you still said yes? It meant you felt the same way I didóyou wanted to see me too.

Owen

Guilty as charged.

Mallory

So, Iím glad.

Owen

A lot has happened in three weeks, hasnít it?

Mallory

What happened is that lightning struck.

Owen

For me it did too. But for me itís also a crisis. Why couldnít we have met two years ago?

Mallory

Two years ago I was looking forward to my wedding.

Owen

Are you ready to tell me about him?

Mallory

I donít have any trouble talking about him.

Owen

Good. Iíve been holding back asking about your husband, for fear of bringing up something painful to you. Because of the way you talked that time with Terry about "licking your wounds."

Mallory

Oh that. That was just a little embellishment for Terryís benefit. To get his sympathy. Actually, our breakup wasnít that difficult for me. In fact, I wanted it.

Owen

So what did happen?

Mallory

Iíll talk about him--his name was Kenny, by the wayóIíll talk about him on condition that you wonít be jealous.

 

Owen

How about a deal: I can get jealous if I donít show it.

Mallory

(Amused) Huh?

Owen

I just meant that if I care about you, I canít help being jealous of anyone who gave you happiness before. But as long as I keep my perspective it wonít be a problem. My perspective is that Kenny is part of your past and I have a chance to be part of your future. Definitely, I have the better deal.. So even though Iím jealous itís not so hard to handle.

Mallory

Itís lucky youíre so cute, Ďcause youíre very weird.

Owen

I hope you likeíem weird.

Mallory

I likeíem cute for sure. OK, Iíll tell you about Kenny.

Owen

Oh god, Iím really starting to fall in love with you.

Mallory

I know.

Owen

You know?

Mallory

Yes.

 

 

Owen

Thatís it? You know?

Mallory

Owen. Weíve known each other maybe a month. Weíve seen each other how much?--maybe six or eight times? For lunch. Andóminor detailóyouíre engaged to somebody else. Under the circumstances, what exactly do you expect me to say?

Owen

Youíve got a point. I shouldnít be so anxious to declare my feelings.

Mallory

(Affectionately) Itís a problem lots of men have. Premature declaration.

Owen

I deserved that. What about Kenny..

Mallory

He was cute too, and charming and sexy. But also feckless. He kept changing jobs all the time, couldnít settle down in a career. Heíd change his mind all the time about everything. Heíd buy things on impulse that we couldnít afford. Heíd get irritated at little things, lashing out, then later heíd be contrite. Gradually I came to realize he was not the man I wanted to be the father of my children.

Owen

Was he abusive?

Mallory

Not in the way people usually mean. He didnít hit me. I would have been out the door in a second if he ever tried that. It was more subtle. He was moody. At the end I felt I was always walking on eggs so as not to upset him. But he always managed to get upset anyway. I donít know if youíd call that abuse. It was more a kind of passive aggression. All I know is that I was exhausted.

Owen

That says it all, that it was exhausting.

Mallory

What do you mean?

Owen

What you said goes to the heart of my theory about relationships. Basically, I disagree with the notion that you have to work at a marriage to make it good. On the contrary, what makes a really good relationship is that itís natural for both people, so you donít have to work at it. Both parties can just relax and be themselves.

Mallory

I like that so much about you.

Owen

What?

Mallory

Your theories. I like them. I like that you think about things like that.

Owen

Thatís nice. Thank you. (Kisses her lightly) Anyway, the work in a marriage comes in when you try so solve a relationship problem by trying to be somebody youíre not. Thatís a heavy burden to carry.

Mallory

Walking on eggs.

Owen

Yes, exactly. That was you. Trying to be somebody youíre not, just for the purpose of pleasing your husband. Think of the work all of that took. No wonder you felt exhausted.

Mallory

But I wanted Kenny and me to make it.

 

 

 

Owen

Iíll tell you what I think, but let me start at the beginning. Youíll see how it comes back to you and Kenny.

Mallory

Is this weird again?

Owen

Absolutely.

Mallory

OK. I was just checking.

Owen

This qualifies. I thinkóitís my theoryóthat it all boils down to feeling good about yourself. I believe everybodyóreally everybodyóneeds to feel good about himself. Herself. And the way that happens is for somebody else to both understand and accept them. If you have that, it validates who you are and you feel good about yourself. When that happens on both sides, you have a good relationship. And it doesnít take work.

Mallory

You donít think Kenny made me feel good about myself.

Owen

Not if your relationship was exhausting, no.

Mallory

And thatís because he didnít accept me as I am.

Owen

It seems that way to me.

Mallory

And the more I tried to please him and failed, the worse I felt. About myself.

Owen

Exactly. Well, anyway, thatís what I think from what you told me.

Mallory

Then why did I love him in the first place?

Owen

Because he did understand you, didnít he.

Mallory

I never thought about it this wayÖ Looking back, I guess he did. Yeah. There were times when Kenny would have these insights about me that kind of blew me away, they were so true. LikeÖone time, I rememberÖit was veryÖitís amazing I remember it so clearlyÖit was very early in our relationshipÖjust starting datingÖand I was telling him about my family for the first time. And very quickly, it seemed almost right away, he said, "Your brother was the favorite, wasnít he? That must have been hard on you." And just like that, he cut right to the quick of my issue with my family. Youíre right. At that moment, it felt wonderful, just amazing, that someone understood me like that.

Owen

It does feel wonderful to be understood. Itís very precious. Thatís why it makes you want a relationship to work. But if someone understands you and then doesnít accept you, it is sheer frustration.

Mallory

You got that right!

Owen

I know. I can tell how your marriage was driving you crazy. Itís not your fault that it ended, you know. You have nothing to blame yourself for.

Mallory

But maybe if I had tried harder.

Owen

To what end?

Mallory

To save the marriage.

Owen

Yes, but what was the point of that? If he didnít make you feel good about yourselfóif he kept making you feel worseóthen what was to save? Did you make him feel good about himself?

Mallory

I tried.

Owen

Thatís my point. You tried so hard, for so long. You did your best.

Mallory

But why couldnít I make him happy when I tried so hard?

Owen

Well, I donít really know. I never met him, of course.

Mallory

(Teasing affectionately) That shouldnít stop you. I thought you had a theory about everything. (Kisses him)

Owen

(Smiling) I guess I do. I see I have a reputation to maintain. OK. Here goes. There are people who just donít feel good about themselves no matter what. Family dynamics, genetics, whatever the cause, you canít solve it. Maybe your husband was like that. Iím just thinking that your husbandís life sounds like a constant quest for self esteem. One job after another, one enthusiasm after another, but he never finds what heís looking for because he doesnít know what heís looking for.

Mallory

He had me. I thought he wanted me.

 

Owen

You werenít the source of his problem, so you couldnít be the cure. Meanwhile, he kept testing you, putting up obstacles, setting requirements. If you met his demands, it would show how much you loved him, and he thought that would make him feel better.

Mallory

I did show him I loved him, over and over, but it never stopped.

Owen

Thatís what Iím saying. You couldnít help him, because his problem had nothing to do with you. He just made it seem like you could help him, so when he never did feel better he could blame it on you for failing, instead of looking inward.

Mallory

Youíre making a lot of assumptions about someone you never met!

Owen

Thatís true. Iím sorry. The great theorizer does get carried away sometimes. I apologize. I didnít mean to upset you.

Mallory

No. Owen. Iím sorry I snapped at you. I donít know why I did.

Owen

What were you feeling just then?

Mallory

(After thinking) I guess I was feeling defensive.

Owen

Thatís OK. You can tell me.

Mallory

It just seemed that if my husband was such a loser, that doesnít say much for my ability to choose a mate.

Owen

Oh, Mal. Youíre such a sweetheart. It doesnít say anything at all about you except that youíre human and made a mistake.

Mallory

But if Iím such a poor judge of character, how do I know it wonít happen again?

Owen

You donít know for sure. Nothing in life is guaranteed. But youíre young. You wereówhat? ótwenty, twenty one? Thatís the time when everybody makes mistakes. The key is that you learn from them. You did. And when you realized you had made a mistake, you acted on it. You didnít let the situation drag you down, you fixed it.

Mallory

I did, didnít I?

Owen

Yes you did. Arenít you proud of that?

Mallory

Yeah.

Owen

You have every right to be. How did you feel the moment you told him you were leaving?

Mallory

Well, right before, I was terrified of his reaction. But then, it was incredible, right when I was saying it, this amazing feeling of peace and calm took over completely.

Owen

And you knew right then that you were doing the right thing?

Mallory

I did.

Owen

You did. OK, then. Mal, I hope you understand. Your marriage didnít end because your husband was a loser, or because youíre so terrific. Relationships arenít really about the qualities of people. Criminals can have satisfying love lives. On the other hand, Mother Theresa had the best qualities you can imagine, but how many people ever wanted to marry her. Itís all about how each persons makes the other feel about himself.

Mallory

Come here. (Owen approaches and Mallory gives him a big kiss) OK, so, tell me this: How do I make you feel about yourself?

Owen

(Pretends to think, then wiggles his hands in the "so-so" gesture) EhhhÖ

Mallory

(Poking him playfully in the upper arm) You are pond scum. Do you know that?

Owen

Yes, but sensitive, communicative pond scum.

Mallory

(Hugging him, arms around each otherís waists) Perceptive, insightful pond scum. (They kiss)

Owen

Warm, affectionate pond scum. (Kiss)

Mallory

Absolutely loaded in the self esteem department pond scum.

Owen

(Grinning) Thatís true enough. My father once told me to watch out or Iíd break my arm patting myself on the back.

 

 

Mallory

Sounds like I would like him.

Owen

I think you really will. I think heíll like you too.

Mallory

I will? He will? Owen, isnít that assuming a lot, under the circumstances?

Owen

Mal, Iím falling hard for you. You know that.

Mallory

I like you too, Owen. But I canít afford to be hurt all over again. Thereís a minor complication here.

Owen

Ellen.

Mallory

Duh. (Pause) I need to ask you something. I need an absolutely honest answer.

Owen

You got it.

Mallory

Iím going to be totally open with you. Like it or not.

Owen

I like it.

Mallory

Iím trusting you to understand what Iím saying, and why, and why now, and not to get mad.

Owen

Thatís OK, Mal. Over time, I expect to earn your trust completely. Now is a good time to begin.

Mallory

OK. We both know why you asked me here, instead of going out again. Right?

Owen

I think so.

Mallory

And we both know where this evening is supposed to be heading, right?

Owen

I hope so.

Mallory

Well, then, whatís wrong with this picture?

Owen

Ellen.

Mallory

You understand why I have to ask?

Owen

I think I do. If I could cheat on Ellen, I could cheat on you too.

Mallory

Right. So why did you invite me here?

Owen

When you ask a question, itís a doozy.

Mallory

You told me that already once before. Youíre just stalling now.

Owen

I know. OK. Itís just that now itís my turn to have to trust you to understand me. Itís hard to take that leap.

Mallory

Go for it.

Owen

OK. OK. Iím about to bare my soul here.

Mallory

Go for it.

Owen

Here it is. I wanted to be with you here tonight because I care for Ellen so much. I know it sounds weird. Please hear me out.

Mallory

Iím listening.

Owen

Ellen is a wonderful person. Sheís warm, caring, understanding. Sheís as nice a person as you could meet. And our relationship is very good. We understand each other. We accept and appreciate each other. We communicate. We have intimacy on all levels. We find the same things funny. Itís the most comfortable relationship Iíve ever been in.

Mallory

I see perfectly. She sounds awfully hard to take. How can you stand being with her, even for a minute?

 

 

 

Owen

Please, Mal. Hear me out. Now you come along. With you, I feel not just comfortable, butÖelectric. I donít know how else to describe it. Itís amazing. You bring me to life at a level more intense than Iíve ever experienced. Than Iíve ever imagined. With you, my attention is twice as alert. My caring is twice as urgent. You know meóIím rarely at a loss for wordsóbut I canít find the words to describe how you make me feel. Itís so powerful. Itís like Iíve been in an emotional coma until now, and suddenly youíve awakened me to a life of feelings. I donít know how else to say it. Electric.

So now what do I do? My heart, my gut, tells me this is for real. Permanent. Iíve found my soulmate. Youíre it. But my headómy head is saying: wait a minute. Wait a minute. How can you know that? After three weeks and a couple of lunches, how can you know that? All you actually knowóthis is my head talkingóall you actually know is that youíre infatuated with her. That doesnít make her your soulmate. Maybe she is, maybe she isnít. Maybe she returns the feeling, maybe she doesnít.

So what do I do now? Youíre free to test our relationship over time. Let it build gradually. Let it evolve naturally. See if it works. If it doesnít, itís cost you disappointmentóheartbreak, maybeóbut thatís an intrinsic risk in starting any relationship. For me itís so much more complicated. Iíve got Ellen, yes. Do I throw Ellen overboard for you after three weeks? After six weeks? After six months but just lunches? Itís a real dilemma for me, Mal. I know the two of us canít really build our relationship while Iím still engaged to Ellen. But how can I leave her if I donít know that you and me are the genuine article? I donít want to leave her if weíre not for real. And what about her pain? Her anguish? How can I justify hurting her so much, if Iím not absolutely sure about us? She doesnít deserve to be hurt at all. Yet I canít just walk away from you either.

So, Iíve got to find out. Iíve got to find out if weíre for real. And thatís what tonight is about, Mal. When Ellen had to go out of town on business, it seemed like a good opportunity toónot to take advantage of her, or youóbut to find out more about what we both need to know. If there is going to be an "us," I donít see how else we can get there. Thatís it. Speech over.

(Mallory is silent, taking it in)

Mal?

Mallory

I donít know. Iím trying to figure out if thatís profoundly sensible, or the most bogus rationalization ever from a guy wanting to get into a womanís pants. Bottom line is, you are planning to cheat on her tonight.

 

Owen

Youíre right on that score. Itís even worse. I promised her Iíd never cheat on her.

Mallory

So just what am I supposed to take away from this confession of yours.

Owen

That my feelings for you are so strong that Iím willing to do something morally repugnant in order to find my way to the best solution for everybody.

Mallory

Really. What if itís not that your feelings are so strong? What if itís that your moral repugnance is a whole lot weaker than youíd like to imagine it is?

Owen

Thatís harsh, Mallory. An unfair. I know how Iím always intellectualizing about things, but that doesnít change the situation. What would you have me do? You know, at the same time I was telling Ellen I wouldnít cheat, she was telling me she didnít want to marry me if I werenít passionately in love with her. If I were just settling for her. You can understand that, right? I imagine you would feel the same way. (Mallory acknowledges Owenís point with a nod) OK. So the fact is, Iím passionate about you. Wouldnít it be a worse kind of cheating if I dumped you and settled for her?

Mallory

Maybe.

Owen

Bottom line, as you put it, neither one of us is ready to commit to each other quite yet. So, I ask again, what would you have me do?

Mallory

I would have you kiss me this instant. (They kiss) Iím sorry. Do you realize how hard this is for me too? I keep thinking how hurt she would be if she knew what we were doing. In her bed. In her sheets. And then you almost seemed to write it off as some kind of experiment.

 

 

Owen

Mal! You know thatís not true. If Iím anything, it is serious about this. Iím trying to figure out whatís right.

Mallory

Iím such a mess. Iím trying to figure out whatís right too. I donít know either. Maybe we should get a whiteboard and list the plusses and minuses.

Owen

What?

Mallory

Nothing. I was just thinking of something at work.

Owen

At work?

Mallory

Forget it. Itís nothing important.

Owen

Mal, youíre questioning what Iím doing tonight. Rightly so. Iíd wonder about you if you didnít. But by the same token, when I asked you here, you could have said no but you didnít. Why did you say yes?

Mallory

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Owen

Please donít be flip, Mal. Youíre the one that initiated this exploration of my inner feelings. Iím glad you did. Thereís a lot at stake for both of us. I think itís important that we both understand what both of us are doing.

Mallory

I donít understand what Iím doing here tonight. Iím so ambivalent.

Owen

You mean, about us?

Mallory

About us and Ellen. About the difference between what I want and what I ought to want.

Owen

Wanting whatís right for you is not so bad.

Mallory

But I ought to wantÖ You sound like my boss.

Owen

What do you mean?

Mallory

Can I tell you what I really want?

Owen

Of course.

Mallory

I want to stop talking and turn on some music.

Owen

That idea is brilliant. (Kisses her, then with faux formalityÖ) Shall we retire to the music room? (He holds out his arm, which she takes as they enter the living room and approach the audio rack unit) Would you like to pick something? Whatever youíd like. Can I get you an after dinner drink? I have all the usuals, plus champagne.

Mallory

Champagne?

 

 

Owen

Iíd like to look at tonight as a celebration. Of two people who belong together finding each other.

Mallory

Champagne it is. Letís celebrate.

Owen

You got it. (Owen goes to the kitchen area to fetch champagne while Mallory browses through his rack of CDís.)

Mallory

(Upon Owenís return with the champagne) This collection is wonderful. Itís almost all oldies. I love oldies. (Takes the offered glass)

Owen

Thank you. Me too. Donít you think they really are better than the stuff coming out now.

Mallory

Much. Youíve got all the classics here!

Owen

Iím surprised you like them. Theyíre before your generation.

Mallory

I know. But they have real tunes you can sing, with a hook and actual melodies. I have my radios set the oldies stations. I know them all. What do you want to bet I can guess your favorite? One of your top ten of all time, anyway.

Owen

How could you do that? Out of so many thousands of possibilities?

Mallory

Because Iím starting to get to know and understand you. Iíve just realized, for one thing, that youíre a hopeless romantic. It is so sweet.

Owen

Hopeless romantic? Me? Nahhh.

Mallory

Yes, you. You really believe in true romantic love. You doll it up with intellectual folderol about "self validation," but youíre actually talking "some day my prince will come." Everlasting bliss. You not only believe it exists, but that you can actually have it. That is so cool.

Owen

Wow. I never thought of myself that way.

Mallory

Itís refreshing in a man. It means you care about relationships instead of only about yourself. So, what do you say?

Owen

If you guess right, what do I lose?

Mallory

You donít lose. We both win. You have to take off your shirt for our first dance.

Owen

Thereís an offer I canít refuse.

Mallory

Deal. OK. Letís try 1969.

Owen

Good start.

Mallory

Dionne Warwick.

 

 

Owen

Jesus! How could you know?

Mallory

Iíve got you nailed. Youíre dead meat. (Smiles and starts singing)

What do you get when you fall in love?

Owen

A guy with a pin to burst your bubble

Mallory

Thatís what you get for all your trouble.

Together

(Harmonizing)

Iíll never fall in love again,

Iíll never fall in love again.

Owen

What do you get when you kiss a guy?

Mallory

You get enough germs to catch pneumonia

After you do, heíll never phone ya,

Iíll never fall in love again.

Both

Donítcha know that Iíll never fall in love again?

Owen

Donít tell me what itís all about

Both

Ďcause Iíve been there and Iím glad Iím out.

Mallory

Out of those chains, those chains that bind you

Both

That is why Iím here to remind you.

What do you get when you fall in love?

You only get lies and pain and sorrow

So for at least until tomorrow

Iíll never fall in love aógain,

No, no, Iíll never fall in love again.

(Owen and Mallory caress each other briefly. Then Mallory puts on a CD. As itís loading, she gestures to Owen to take his shirt off, per the bet. He does, and she returns to his arms as the music starts. It is the Carpenters, "Weíve Only Just Begun." They dance briefly. Then Owen steps back, reaches out for her hand, and leads her towards the bedroom door as the stage darkens.)

Act I, Scene V

 

The scene is Owenís apartment, the next morning, daylight. Mallory enters from the "bedroom" door, sundress from previous evening on but shoeless. It is clear that she has just woken up and is looking for Owen. She sees a note propped on a visible surface. As she reads it, Owenís voice is reading so the audience can hear.

Owenís Voice:

Mallory:

Last night was spectacular. You are spectacular. I have fallen in love with you. Thank you for being you.

I need to leave early for work. I hope I didnít disturb you. Coffee is made. Help yourself to breakfast.

I miss you already. See you tonight, same time, same place.

Love,

Owen

End Owenís Voice.

Mallory puts down the note, goes to the computer and turns it on. As it boots up, she pours and brings back a cup of coffee. Setting it by the computer to cool, she retrieves her purse from the bedroom. Then she searches through Owenís computer file directories until she finds what she is looking for. At that point she does the "Yes!" gesture, takes out a couple of floppy disks from her purse, and starts copying files onto one of them.. She drinks her coffee while the files are being copied. When the copying is done, she puts the now filled floppy disk and the extras back in her purse, rinses the coffee cup in the kitchen sink, and goes back to the bedroom with her purse. The curtain closes on Act I.

Copyright © 2000 Michael F. Borgos Futherado.com