The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Excerpt from Ah, O'Neillians! a one-act irreverent play by G. Tod Slone


Scene 3: Breakfast at the Hôtel L’Univers

It is morning. The tables in the breakfast room are replete with jabbering O’Neillians. On one side of the room is the food and drink, including orange juice, granola, dried fruits, undried fruits, breads, packs of melba toast, croissants, yoghurts, ham and cheeses. Waitresses dressed in black ties enter and leave sporadically, keeping supplies plentiful.


Henry Cusantre and Joanie Kurtesz have just brought back food to one of the tables where they are now seated.


Henry Cusantre: (filling his pockets with melba toasts and packages of Emmenthal cheese) You know these cargo pants you gave me have been really useful.


Joanie Kurtesz: Just don’t get carried away! Try being a little discreet for once!


Henry Cusantre: Why don’t you get me some more of these little cheeses? They’re really tasty!


Joanie Kurtesz: Why don’t you get me another cup of coffee! The container up front is empty.


Henry Cusantre: (reading the headlines of Le Figaro) You’ll have to tell one of the butlers. Raffarin, c’est le nouveau premier ministre. Ils font la grève.


Joanie Kurtesz: J’aimerais bien savoir pourquoi.


Henry Cusantre: Well, why don’t you read it then?


O’Neillian #1: (to Joanie) That was just awful last night, wasn’t it?


Joanie Kurtesz: Well, it did get a little tedious.


O’Neillian #1: I haven’t attended a more boring presentation in ages!


O’Neillian #2: It was a disgrace to open the conference like that. He had no enthusiasm at all!


Joanie Kurtesz: I think maybe he was a little nervous.


O’Neillian #2: No shit! Nervous isn’t the word. Anybody knows what the Electra complex is. He should have taken that thing one step beyond! Instead, he just rehashed the basics. It was like a freshman college-course lecture.


O’Neillian #3: Why did they ever choose him to do that opening speech? Everyone knows how dreary Richard can be. A public speaker he is not!


O’Neillian #1: Did you see all those people sleeping? My wife kept on hitting me because I kept falling off too.


O’Neillian #3: I think he’s in the wrong field. He should be in the sleeping-pill business. (everyone chuckles)


O’Neillian #4: (to Henry) Can you read the papers? I’ve tried a little but my French just isn’t good enough.


Henry Cusantre: Well, I spent seven years here in France.


O’Neillian #4: Oh, that’s so nice!


Henry Cusantre: Why? The French can be real snots!


O’Neillian #4: Well, maybe, but how nice it must have been.


Henry Cusantre: Yeah, the wine and the menhirs.


O’Neillian #1: I was actually over in Czechoslovakia for two years. Didn’t help me much with the language though.


O’Neillian #5: Wow! What did you do there?


O’Neillian #1: I taught high school.


O’Neillian #5: How did you get by? I mean, if you don’t speak the language well and all.


O’Neillian #1: Well, I did learn a few words. But nothing beats sign language—pointing, waving and nodding can get you pretty far. (they chuckle)


O’Neillian #5: Was it pretty poor over there?


O’Neillian #1: Well, yes, but we did have the minimum.


O’Neillian #2: I’m at a point in my life where I need luxury!


O’Neillian #1: Yes, a certain minimal luxury indeed! (they chuckle)


Henry Cusantre: (whispers to Joanie) Listening to these numbnuts chatter while chomping down cereal is in itself an experience, but I’m getting outta here. Enough’s enough! Are you going to take those melba toasts?


Joanie Kurtesz: No.


Henry Cusantre: Well, then I’ll take them. (grabs the packaged melba toasts and stuffs them into another pocket, while the O’Neillians cast sidelong glances… at him) I’m going to get some more of that granola. When we get back home, I’ll mix it with oats, fill it out a bit. Why eat something delicious when you can stretch it out and make it okay? (Joanie gives him a dirty look. he walks out of the dining room and stands in front of the elevator)


O’Neillian #6 has already pushed the button and is also waiting.


O’Neillian #6: Are you a photographer?


Henry Cusantre: No. Are you a secretary?