One-Act Play

The Session

A Play In One Act

When love’s no longer beautiful, it may be time for therapy.

 

LENGTH: 20 minutes

CAST: 1M, 1F

 

Maria Volker and Jerry Ferris at the Strawberry One-Act Play Festival, Winter 2005, New York City.


 

PRODUCTION AND AWARD HISTORY

 

Nominated for the Pushcart Prize

 

Produced and FINALIST at The Strawberry One-Act Festival Winter 2005 at the Bernie West Theatre, New York.

 

Published in the literary journal, The Distillery (January 2007).  

  

 

The Session served as the basis for my full-length play, Couple of the Century.  

 

 


SYNOPSIS

A man finally tells his therapist what’s really on his mind.

 

CHARACTERS

PATIENT: A self-confident, charming man in his 40s. Dressed in a suit or coat and tie. Obviously in good shape.  

THERAPIST: An intelligent, articulate, and reserved woman. Also in her 40s. Well dressed. Somewhat overweight.  

 

SETTING

A therapist’s office on the ground floor of a large pre-war apartment building on Central Park West in New York City. 

 

PERIOD

Now—an afternoon.

 


EXCERPT

 

The Scene: As the play begins, the patient is sneaking around the room examining things. He finally peeks at some papers sitting in folders on top of the desk.  

 

PATIENT

(Looking at the papers) I never said that! (He quickly closes the folder and looks over at the door. Diane, the therapist, enters. He comes to attention.) 

 

THERAPIST

(Pointing at the sofa) Oh, you’re not . . .You don’t have to wait for me; you can sit down. You know that. Is there something wrong?

 

PATIENT

(Indicating the door) I was just wondering who that was. What’s so special about him that you had to keep me waiting so long?

 

THERAPIST

Oh, did we go over?  I’m sorry. (She moves over to her desk chair and sits down.)

 

PATIENT

Over? I should say so. I’m not used to being kept waiting like that. I’m a busy man.

 

THERAPIST

I know; I’m sorry.

 

PATIENT

I could have had a manicure in the time I sat out there. Hey, that’s not a bad idea! Put a manicurist out there. Maybe a massage therapist too.  

 

THERAPIST

(Amused) Interesting idea.

 

PATIENT

Extra income. Never a bad thing, you know. By the way, your magazines are out of date. The Esquire’s from last year. Time for a fresh supply, don’t you think?

 

THERAPIST

(No longer amused) Thanks, I’ll take care of that.

 

PATIENT

And the plant? The big one out there in the corner? What is that thing anyway? Well, it needs watering.

 

THERAPIST

It’s artificial.

 

PATIENT

Oh, that explains it. It needs dusting, then.

 

THERAPIST

(Peeved) I’ll see to it.

 

PATIENT

So . . . who was he?

 

THERAPIST

Who?

 

PATIENT

The guy you kept me waiting for. The guy who used up some of my time.

 

THERAPIST

He’s just a patient like you. And we can make up the time at the end of your session.

 

PATIENT

Must have serious problems. Going through a life crisis, maybe? He looked kind of goofy to me.

 

THERAPIST

I’m sorry; I can’t discuss my other patients.

 

PATIENT

Of course not.

 

THERAPIST

(Switching gears. The session has now begun.) So—how are you?

 

PATIENT

Me? Oh, right! . . . Wait, are you really asking me how I am—I mean in a psychological sense—or is that just meant as an icebreaker? Are you trying to put me at ease or is this the official start of the session? Is this it—has the meter started running?

 

THERAPIST

(As if humoring a child) You’ve been here several times before. Nothing’s changed. I want to know how you are. Take the question any way you want to take it.

 

PATIENT

OK. I’ve got the hang of it. (Pause) . . .  (Said in a patronizing way) I’m fine. (Pointing at her) See, I can tell you’re disappointed! You meant something by that question, didn’t you? You didn’t go to graduate school all those years and spend half your adult life building up a profitable practice to hear your patients tell you they’re fine. (Raising his voice, speaking triumphantly) Well, of course I’m not fine, or else I wouldn’t be here! (The therapist covers her eyes and shakes her head as if to join him in a joke. She finally looks up and smiles at him.) Hey, I understand what you’re up against. Being a therapist is no picnic. Dealing with an endless procession of neurotic people day after day. You know, I have this friend who’s a psychiatrist who always makes a point of saying that he’s not just a therapist—he’s a psychiatrist. Because he likes working with people who really need his help. Psychotics, not neurotics, he says. People so fucked up . . . sorry, so messed up . . . that the time they spend with him—not to mention the drugs he prescribes—means the difference between making it through the day and, and . . . killing themselves. Or killing others, while they’re at it. He says neurotic patients are just people who don’t have any friends to talk to. (He sees she’s no longer amused and shifts gears, suddenly all business. Leaning forward) You see, sometimes I think it’s not making any difference. Sometimes I think she and I are just doomed. Just absolutely not suited to be together.

 

THERAPIST

Then why do you keep coming here?

 

PATIENT

Because I feel a responsibility to give the relationship a shot, to make sure I’m not throwing something away that could be . . . maybe . . . I don’t know—or maybe once was—something good. Something valuable. (Angrily) Because I will not be accused of walking away from this relationship without being absolutely certain it’s hopeless!

 

THERAPIST

(Calmly) And is that what you’re thinking? That it’s hopeless?

 

PATIENT

(Ignores her question. Walks over to the desk and studies the diplomas on the wall. She continues to stare at the sofa, refusing to look at him while he walks around the room, as if waiting for him to return to his seat.) Hey, why do therapists do that? (Pointing to a framed diploma) Put their diplomas on display? As if we didn’t trust them to have degrees and be properly licensed. As if we didn’t know you could fake these things with the right connections. This one’s a bit far-fetched. (Reading a diploma. Removes it from the wall or bookcase and shows it to the therapist.) A National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on semiotics? Now, come on! Degrees are one thing, but bragging about attending a two-month course is pathetic, don’t you think? Especially when your practice has nothing to do with semiotics! (Drops the diploma onto the therapist’s desk) I mean, why don’t you go frame your god-dammed Girl Scout badges while you’re at it?

 

THERAPIST

(Still looking at the sofa and pointing in that direction) Could we please . . .?

 

PATIENT

(Refusing to budge) It’s just that . . . God . . . Jeez! Jesus H . . . We’re at an impasse. I don’t know. (He starts to walk back to the sofa.) A block. A big fat block in the road. (Stopping for a Eureka moment) That’s it—a big fat block! And there’s no way around it. There’s just no hope. (He sits down.) That’s what I’m thinking.

 

 

THERAPIST

Tell me about it. Describe the block.

 

PATIENT

(Irritated) Oh, come on! I’ve described it many times. You know the story.

 

THERAPIST

It helps to go over it. Tell me again.

 

                                                                            ...

 

END OF EXCERPT