Quakes - Excerpts
Act 1, Scene 1A. Seizures are wrecking her life.
A Clear March Day. Time—the present.
Doctor. narrator bespectacled, wearing a tie and long-sleeved shirt, academic jacket, a stethoscope round his neck, a slow deliberate, speaker (Spotlight. Walks to the front of the stage; Lucy and Wendy are on either side of the stage, a distance apart; Wendy paces restlessly and angrily outside her home; Lucy plays her guitar quietly in her home ). This is a story of two very different women, both under my care, both suffering from neurological aberrations. I’m being given the opportunity—and the challenge …and the God-given privilege—to improve their lives. Since each patient is different, sensitivity to that difference is crucial in choosing the right treatment.
Doctor narrator, (steps forward, moves to center stage, spotlight, addresses the audience; second spotlight on Lucy. sitting with her guitar on the right (frozen). This is Lucy, a 35-year-old computer expert, married to Martin, a PhD physicist. Seizures are wrecking her life, …And they have the most bizarre trigger imaginable.
Lucy, in her mid-thirties, bespectacled, flat shoes, hair-up, casually but well-dressed, is sitting at home quietly playing the guitar and singing to herself.
Suddenly, the change occurs in Lucy. Like an observer, she witnesses the symptom progression in her own body. She makes a strange little movement with her right thumb, then her hand forms a pointless grip, and a progressive jolt travels up her right arm. She freezes, unable to move then falls over onto the floor. She isn’t speaking, but a voice-over previously recorded in the actor's own voice says:
Oh, no. Here it goes again. ….
Oh no. Can't you see what's happening to me? Oh, God, my mouth is funny, my head— my tongue, my lips, my chin. ….
I'm having another one of those episodes! It's happening again!
A voice from through the door speeded up six fold so it is unintelligible (unintelligible lines). Decaff doesn't really taste much different. I mean, as long as it's hot. Half the time at the office we end up with half cup of cold coffee, anyway. Nobody ever finishes a cup, especially when it's been sitting in the pot for hours. Hot unleaded.
The voice keeps fading quickly away, and Lucy has fallen over seemingly mouthing silently for the next ten-some seconds, her head turned over to the right side. She blinks, opens her eyes, and looks around, a little perplexed. Lucy. Oh, my God. This is the fourth one today! That means an earthquake…soon.
Lucy writhes a little on the ground, obviously drained of energy. She struggles to reach for the TV remote control, which is lying on the floor; she presses it; and the news comes on.
News Broadcaster (voice-over dialogue). Southern California has just experienced a small earthquake, 5. 0 on the Richter scale.
Lucy (Gesturing languidly but decisively). Just like always-- a thousand miles away…But, … just like always.
Act 1, Scene 1B. The end.
Doctor narrator, (still addressing the audience). Her name is Wendy. She is 28 years old, and married to Richard. She is planning to kill herself.
Wendy, the patient, young, exceedingly attractive, long hair streaming, wearing a flimsy miniskirt and somewhat transparent top. slams the front door, screaming at her husband, and starts pacing restlessly outside her home, The wind is howling but she seems unaware of it. Inside, children are crying.
Husband Richard is inside, not visible, and they’re clearly having a fight .We join in the commotion in process.
Wendy,Don’t you dare come out here. If you do, you’ll regret it.
Richard (through the door from inside). Please, my darling. Please, Wendy!
Wendy, Huh! I’ll kill myself! And maybe take a few others with me.
Richard (trying to act calm but obviously frightened). I just want to help!
Wendy. Bastard! You don’t care. I’m much better off dead for everyone.
Richard (in tears). Please Wendy… I know you can be helped. Give it a chance.
Wendy. No ways!
Wendy (Stands up from the bed. Steps forward, addressing the audience, not completely facing them).
He (pointing to the closed door) wants me to get help. Idiot!
Those doctors are all the same. I can’t stand them. Always promising…this, that, anything.
(Her voice becomes high, sarcastic, mimicking in a nasty way). “Be patient”, they say. This drug takes 40 weeks to achieve maximum effects. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll try another one.”
(Quiet, determined voice). I want to die now (stepping forward, sly look on her face, and leans toward the audience). I've got a plan. …I've been thinking about it for years.
(Angrily). Then it will be the end and it will serve them all right! …Particularly that know-it-all husband of mine! Tomorrow… I willkill myself! (She slams a fist into a tree).
Act 1 Scene 2A The interlude
Mid stage. Lights go down, Two chairs reflecting the waiting room. Doorway number three.
Lucy sitting, reads a magazine, looks staid.
Wendy stares ahead, doing nothing, still somewhat seductive, dressed in pajamas.
Twenty seconds go by.
Wendy stands up and starts pacing slowly but clearly agitated.
Wendy looks directly at Lucy.
THE NEXT DAY
The lights come up over the scene.
Wendy. I suppose you’re gonna tell me, this is a good doctor.
Lucy. I’ve heard he is good. And he seems so kind. And I’m determined to make the most of this opportunity.
Wendy. Well I hate doctors. They don’t help. And I’m wasting my time (Looking up indignantly). … And my time is precious.
Lucy (embarrassed). I’m sure you will be helped.
Wendy. You too! What’re you? A plant (Walking up to Lucy and almost hitting her, restraining herself just in time). It’s time I ended it all …and I’ve been forced to see this idiot! I don’t know why I agreed……………… (weeping). but I did!
Act 1, Scene 2B. Puzzlement and hope.
Lucy, is sitting on a chair in the Doctor's consulting room. This includes bookshelves, certificates on the wall, a curtained window, a tasteful and calming selection of plants, and a comfortable couch, facing a comfortable chair. The lighting reflects peace, comfort, focusing the patient's attention upon this moment and this place.
Lucy (Spotlight. Stands and addresses the audience. Spotlight off Doctor). We’ve searched around the country for someone like this Doctor, a highly trained brain doctor who specializes in difficult cases. He’s considered a pioneer in new approaches to seizures and mental health through medications, and you can see that he really is deeply concerned about his patients. He is so passionate in his desire to help us. Maybe —just maybe— he can perform a miracle! God knows, I need a miracle.
Doctor (Spotlight, moves forward, addressing the audience). I’ve never heard of anything like this. It is amazing! (Shaking his head). And, I confess, a little exciting. Here’s a highly educated, knowledgeable, intelligent lady, who should have a great future; yet instead, is unable to work because she has been suffering from uncontrollable seizures (Pause). … She’s the only person I’ve ever heard of whose seizures are brought on by earthquakes! Her case is a very unusual.
(Gesturing to the audience as if to evoke a question from them, … then shaking his head).
Audience member (director?) What’s this all about?
Doctor . Well frankly, I’m a beginner. I’m ignorant. And I don’t fully understand. But … some of the patients we meet in a complex neuropsychiatric practice are outside the limits of regular medicine. These patients represent a confluence of many different causes… psychological trauma, organic disease, religious dilemmas and even, the ostensibly paranormal. One may be tempted to treat any of these inappropriately …as madness alone, perhaps…it is not that clear cut. We see the unusual; and it takes effort to understand … to help such torment… such emotional despair.
(Again gesturing to the audience as if to evoke a question from them, … then shaking his head).
Audience member (director?) And where does Lucy fit in?
Doctor . Lucy is, indeed, a real enigma. (Looking directly at the audience in a loud and confident voice). It is a fact—a fact demonstrated by observation of her behavior and by statistical analysis of her predictions—that Lucy can predict earthquakes. She can't tell you where the earthquakes are, and she has grown at times to hate the experience through which she gains the insight. However, almost every time there's an earthquake within a thousand miles with a magnitude over 5 on the Richter scale, Lucy will know about it at least a day in advance.
Doctor moves backward, towards Lucy.
Lucy (Uncertain, soft spoken and polite,). Could it be that I’m displaying a sixth sense like those stories of animals behaving bizarrely before earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But I’m a human and I can’t find anyone else like me.
Doctor. Maybe Lucy. It seems a specific seizure firing almost always seems to happen in your brain before an earthquake. That's a reality: a mathematical reality.
Lucy. But could it be happening just by chance?
Doctor. That would be comforting wouldn’t it? But the evidence strongly indicates this is notby chance.
(Looking again directly at the audience in a loud and confident voice).
Doctor. The search is for why the link occurs, not whether it occurs.
(empathetic, softer, uncertain). Our job is to alleviate Lucy’s suffering, even when we don't fully understand its source. It’s a hard task …but, what a challenge!
Lights go down.
Act 1, Scene 2C. Tomorrow I Kill Myself.
Left stage. Private hospital ward.
A hospital ward. Details include bed, chair, a curtained window, a tasteful and calming selection of plants.
The lighting reflects peace, comfort, focusing the patient's attention upon this moment and this place.
Doctor narrator, (addressing the audience and pointing to Wendy). Wendy. It’s been a battle, Thank God. she’s agreed to see me, She’s certainly suicidal —and we’ve hospitalized her. I know I must act—today; because tomorrow may be too late. She is, reluctantly, giving her doctors one last chance to help her. It’s now or never. I’ve got to make it work. I want to help.
(Quietly to the audience) I wish I could tell you I was confident.
Wendy, the patient, young, exceedingly attractive, long hair streaming, is sitting on the bed, wearing a flimsy nightgown. She makes no attempt to cover herself. She is weeping, and her eyes dart frantically from the door to the window to the other items in the room. She is squeezing the fingers of one hand with the other, and then switches hands nervously. The scene begins with the lights down, and a spotlight on the Doctor.
Flash second spotlight on right stage onto Wendy, sitting in bed
Wendy freezes. Doctor (spotlight; moved to right stage; still addressing the audience …and at times referring to notes). Ah, Wendy, suffering, furious Wendy; seven suicide attempts, the first at age 14; once involuntarily committed. Twice divorced, two kids—the first at seventeen; married initially at eighteen; currently unhappily married four years to Richard, an assistant welder, who has tried to deal with her mood swings, anger and misery (emphasizing the point). She has, at times, uncontrolled aggression… and major variations in mood. Her first depression began in childhood when her mother committed suicide, and Wendy identifies strongly with her. She has a very sporadic work history—as a barmaid, waitress and, at one point,…as a stripper where she was exposed to …abuse and extensive use of drugs.
She has had a limited formal education; but she is bright and despite all her denials, I suspect she is still motivated: These are important positives and I want to use them for her treatment. Could it be that, after all these years, and all those other doctors, perhaps I can make Wendy better? I’m most certainly going to try. She’s in the hospital, and she’s safe for the moment, I must make sure that she doesn’t harm herself—or her family.
The lights come up joining the scene of a medical consultation in process. Doctor (sitting next to Wendy. near the bed). Wendy, I’m so very sorry that you are suffering. . I want to help you.
Wendy (looking down and not at Doctor throughout). Yeah, Sure! Want to see how many times I’ve suffered…. Take a look (Shows scars from previous wrist slashes going up the left arm). But all those doctors tried to make me believe they were really cries for help, that I really wanted to live.
Doctor. And do you want to live?
Wendy. No! My husband's had it with me …and my kids are miserable, …and I'm tired of living. This time I want out of it permanently. I don't want my kids remembering me like this. ………. and…and…
(whisper, looking down). I'm scared I'm going to kill them.
(looking up a little and for a moment). Do you know what it’s like to lose control? To put one’s hand through the walls, throw the phone, hit my husband with a clock! I even beat up little Cody; I slapped my baby daughter; I’ve kicked the dog.… I can't keep seeing doctors. They all tell me there's nothing wrong with me, …it’s all in my head; or they tell me there is something wrong with me, that they can't do anything about… it’s all in my terrible personality.
Doctor (empathically). They’re right about one thing, Wendy: You’re crying out for help; you’re looking for hope.
Wendy (looking up at Doctor throughout). Don’t give me that talk, Doctor. I’ve heard it all before. You can’t get me better. So don't try to keep me in the hospital longer than today because I'm not going to stay, and if you try to get me committed, I'll just swear again that there's nothing wrong with me!
Doctor. Wendy, you're going to have to remain here — in the hospital—until you truly promise not to do anything to yourself.
Wendy. Promise? Don’t you understand? I can’t control it. Why should I try to convince you otherwise? It's stupid to even talk about it (crying).… I've hoped for so long, I've had to live with this rage and pain—and it's never changed. It's like my own body is attacking me. Like I got stuck with a lemon! How can I live when I don't even have my own body on my side? It's just impossible… impossible.
Doctor (stretching his hand to comfort Wendy). It isn't impossible, Wendy. Bodies can be healed, and we can help you. But, you have to live to give us the chance. There is hope; but you have to survive to realize it.
Wendy. I don't know how. Not after what I've done. Not after what I've been through.
Doctor (Leaning towards Wendy.) Wendy, your family loves you. Please let me help you to feel that. Just let me help. Give me a chance. Just one chance (pause; looking directly into her eyes). …please?
Wendy (After a long tense hesitation). Okay. Okay, I agree to give you a chance. Just one!
Doctor. That’s all I ask. Thank you!
Wendy. You better make it count, Doctor. You haven’t much time.
Lights go down.
History of Quakes