One-Act Play

The Dakota

A Play in One Act by William Fowkes

Two worlds collide when a reclusive resident of New York’s most fabled apartment building entertains his first visitor in years. 

 

LENGTH: 30 minutes

CAST: 2M

 


Richard Seff and John Quilty at Ensemble Studio Theatre's Octoberfest 2005
Richard Seff and John Quilty at Ensemble Studio Theatre's Octoberfest 2005

PRODUCTION AND AWARD HISTORY

 

Best Short Play Award - Downtown Urban Theater Festival 2005.  

 

Presented at the Downtown Urban Theater Festival 2005 at the Cherry Lane Theatre, New York

 

Presented at Octoberfest 2005 at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York.

 


The Dakota served as the basis for my full-length play, Scenes from the Dakota.  




SYNOPSIS

Two worlds collide when a 71-year-old resident of New York's most fabled apartment building entertains his first visitor in years.


CHARACTERS:


EARL MUMFORD:  A 71-year-old retired architect who lives at the Dakota on Central Park West in New York City. Distinguished and charming.  Dresses somewhat formally, even in summer.

   

MARK:  An accountant in his forties.  Lives in Stamford, CT and works in midtown Manhattan.  A bit cocky, a bit devious and mistrustful.  Appears in both scenes in a business suit, each time having come from work.   

 

SETTING:

An apartment at The Dakota.  

 

PERIOD:

1999—a summer afternoon and an evening a week later.

 


 


EXCERPT

 

SCENE ONE

 

The Scene:  1999—a summer afternoon.  As the scene begins, Earl Mumford is wandering around his living room at the Dakota, nervously awaiting someone’s arrival.  A radio is playing in the background.  Earl walks over to a framed picture on a table, picks it up and stares at it adoringly for a few moments.  He turns off the radio before speaking.  

 

EARL MUMFORD

(Addressing the picture.) 

I hope you don’t mind what I’ve planned this afternoon. 

(Puts the photo back down.) 

I can’t remember the last time we had a visitor. 

(Checking his watch.) 

I hope he didn’t change his mind.  He should have been here by now.  What do I do with myself?

(Goes to the window—looks straight out at the audience.) 

Do you miss the view?  Remember how we loved to watch the light roll across Central Park in the morning?  And the way the setting sun suddenly plunges the park into night?  Especially this time of year, when the long hot days just seem to collapse from exhaustion.  How poetic!  I’m doing it again—I’m talking to myself. 

(The house phone buzzes.  He flinches.) 

Good God! 

(Answers the house phone.) 

Earl Mumford here. Yes, very good.  Thank you, Derek. 

(Hangs up.) 

OK.  What to do?  What to do? 

(Stares back out into the audience.) 

Just stare at the view, I guess.  I’m still talking to myself, aren’t I?  Well that’s why I need company. 

(The doorbell rings.  He flinches again.) 

Just a minute! 

(Goes to mirror to make sure he’s presentable.  Turns away in disgust.

OK—it’s show time! 

(Goes to open the door and reaches out to shake his visitor’s hand.

You must be Mark.  Welcome to my humble abode, young man.  

 

MARK 

I’m looking for Earl Mumford.   

 

EARL

And you’ve found him!  Come in, come in!

 

MARK 

(Confused.) 

Are you Earl’s father?  

 

EARL

No, I’m Earl Mumford.  I don’t have a son. 

 

MARK

This is the Dakota, right?  Well, of course it is.  I mean, are you the Earl Mumford who lives at the Dakota?  I’m not sure what I mean.

 

EARL

(Chuckling.) 

Oh, I see the problem.  You’re “Hot Connecticut Man,” right?  I mean that’s your screen name.  Well, I’m “Buff Man.” 

 

MARK

(Clearly disappointed.) 

Yes, but you’re not . . . I mean . . . 

 

EARL

OK, my big secret’s out.  I’m not buff.  But I am a man, aren’t I?  One out of two’s not bad.

 

MARK

Is this some kind of joke?

 

EARL

No, no!  I genuinely wanted to meet you.  I’ve enjoyed our conversations on-line, so naturally I thought it would be nice to meet.  I, uh—I tried to warn you.  I told you I hadn’t done any bodybuilding in years.

 

MARK

I thought you were just being modest.  When you said you were buff, I got a certain image in my head—you know? 

 

EARL

But I also told you I was older than I might have led you to believe.

 

MARK

We’re all older than we lead people to believe.  I’m in my forties, but I say I’m 29 on-line.  That’s expected.  So I figured you were older.  But I didn’t think you were . . . 

 

EARL

I’m seventy . . . 

 

MARK

Seventy!

 

EARL

Yes, seventy.  One.

 

MARK

Seventy-one!

 

EARL

All right, I turn seventy-two next week.

 

MARK

So that means you’re really in your eighties!

 

EARL

No, no—just seventy-one.

 

MARK

Just seventy-one!

 

EARL

I told you I’ve lived here over forty years.  

 

MARK

I assumed you meant you grew up here.

 

EARL

No, I was fully grown when we came here.  I’m sorry—this isn’t what you bargained for, is it?  If you’d like to leave, I won’t be offended.

 

MARK

I don’t know.  Maybe I should. 

(They stare at each other for a moment, almost daring each other. Mark looks around.

So, this is the Dakota, huh?  The world famous Dakota.  Boy—a lot of history in these walls.  Leonard Bernstein (pronounced “bern-steen.”) lived here, right?  

 

EARL

Stein. (Pronounced “stine”.) 

 

MARK

Stein?  (Pronounced “stine.”)  He used to throw big parties with people like Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Comden & Green—I’ve read about that.  And of course John Lennon was killed downstairs out in front, right?  I bet the widow Yoko’s still roaming around one of these apartments.  Doesn’t Lauren Bacall still live here, too?

 

EARL

Why yes, dear Betty.

 

MARK

You call her Betty?  All right, I’ll come clean with you.  I’m a bit of a history buff and a big fan of architecture.  I’ve never seen the inside of this place.  Never thought I’d get the chance.  So when you said you lived here, I figured—what the hell?  Even if things didn’t work out, at least I’d get to see the inside of the Dakota.

 

EARL

Ha—so we both fibbed a little!  That makes me feel better.  Well, feel free to look around!  What do you think?

 

MARK

(Looks around a bit.  Perhaps walks around and inspects things.  Finally speaks, looking bewildered.) 

Can I be honest with you?

 

EARL

Mark, after that baptism by fire, I would say that for the rest of our lives, we must always tell each other the truth.

 

MARK

For the rest of our lives?   I just stopped by for—you know.  

 

EARL

You never know where life will take you.

 

MARK

But . . .

 

END OF EXCERPT