masterplayworks

J
UST PLAIN MURDER ®©

a comedy in two acts*

*Wherein a cheesy
Murder Mystery Weekend
goes wrong.
 

 by  

 KENT STETSON

"There are more than 5.7 billion human beings on earth. Using this datum, David Nobes of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand calculates that  '... the number of people currently alive is greater than, or will soon be greater than the total number of previously viable human beings.'  From now on, any people wishing to claim a previous life may have to double up." 
Michael Kesterton, Social Studies, The Globe and Mail.


 ACTORS AND ROLES:

ACTOR #1:   OLIVER REMAKUS: actor, writer, director, star.
  BRUCE AUCOIN: a Nova Scotia fisherman.
  LONG JOHN SILVER: a buccaneer.

ACTOR # 2:  MORANT CHOMEDY: a middle aged traveler.
  SQUIRE TRELAWNEY: a middle aged adventurer.

ACTOR # 3:  JESSICA HORWOOD: an aged actress.
  CONSTANCE CURRAN: Countess of Crime - a gifted amateur sleuth.
  IRMA HATHAWAY: Oliver's wife. Manager of the Oak Island Hotel.
  BEN GUNN: a bent and twisted old maroon.
  YOSEMITE SAM: a cranky cartoon character.

ACTOR # 4:  JIMMY SELTZER: an actor, aspiring writer, full-fledged drunk.
  PETER CORKUM: a handsome, horny young salesman.
  WILBUR SCROD: a high-strung, twitchy little desk clerk.
  H. VON REIFENSTAHL: a German financier. Dead.
  THE VOICE OF KUJO AIDA: a literary critic.
  APOO THE TAXI MAN: a recent immigrant.
  MORGAN, FLINT and various other pirates.

ACTOR # 5:  AMY ANDERSON: a beautiful young actress.
  TANYA DOALER: a woman in men's clothing.
  LOTTA STRUP: a lost soul.
  JIM HAWKINS: a cabin boy.

 
SETTING:
THE OAK ISLAND HOTEL, the ghost of a Victorian mansion converted recklessly to function    as a motel/hotel complex. And...
THE MONEY PIT, a short distance from the hotel.

TIME:
EARLY SPRING. Friday evening through Saturday morning.
 

ACT ONE
SCENE I: A TAXI CAB, EN ROUTE. THUNDER. LIGHTENING. WIND. RAIN.

TAXI MAN: Goodness gracious me. It is a dark and stormy night.

MORANT: Halifax is twenty two miles from the airport. It says so right here, quite clearly, in the Queen's English. Poor Old Thing — all those dreadful children.  Twenty two miles equals twenty two minutes. Tops. Well, fifteen at this rate.
 

 THEY SWERVE TO AVOID A CAR.


MORANT: God pickle me nut man, take it easy.

TAXI MAN: Goodness gracious me.

MORANT: Are you completely porangi?

TAXI MAN: What is 'porangi' please.

MORANT: Porangi. Whacko. Not quite the full quid. If brains were barbed wire, you couldn't fence a dunny. (Pause) I have been looking at the back of your revolting head for one hour and forty five minutes. I'm sorry. Your head is not revolting. It's quite lovely, actually. How much cloth is in one of those things?  (Silence) I demand to know where I'm being taken.

TAXI MAN: Do not fret, kind stranger. All will be revealed.  In time.

MORANT: Time. Time. I'm almost out of time. Look here. A beautiful young woman, whom I will marry if she bears even the slightest resemblance to her photo, awaits me in the bridal suite of the Nova Scotia Hilton in downtown Halifax. I demand you pull over at the next phone box. Do you hear me?

TAXI MAN: Oh yes, mister. A beautiful young woman awaits you.

MORANT: I have sat on one aircraft or another for twenty seven hours. I've had migraines from  endless droning, droning, droning; cramps from preposterous food; nosebleeds from the virus laden, mucous cracking air. I pretended to sleep. I may have slept. Maybe I'm still asleep, who knows?  I am stiff. I am parched. I smell like a billy goat's gunga.  Now I'm beginning to use vulgar expressions from my rural New Zealand up-bringing, crude colloquialisms which have no place in the vaulted halls of academe. Billy goat's gunga. Honest to god. Now I'm hallucinating that I've been shanghaied by some third world cretin in a taxi from hell bound God knows where.  Am I finally in Nova Scotia? Listen to me, you son of a bitch. I want answers!
 

 HE GRABS THE DRIVER BY THE THROAT.  THE TAXI CAREENS OUT OF CONTROL.
MORANT: Name of God, man. Watch the road.

TAXI MAN: (turns, smiles) Dark and stormy night, oh my yes mister. You like Snoopy wallah, mister? I am greatly amused by his canine antics.

 

 BLACKOUT


(Note:   It is pretty much impossible to summarize the madness that leads the characters to the desperate measures that unfold in the following scene, which closes act one. Remember a couple of things, and it should fall into place)

1) Oliver Remakus is the country's most loathed Artistic Director. He is naturally cruel... the kind of director who targets a defenseless actor early in rehearsal and makes their life a public and private hell. He creates crisis that only he can resolve. He stars in everything he directs. He plays fast and loose with text. Currently, he wears a bandage over his nose. Recent septal replacement surgery went wrong. He had that fleshy bit of  cartilage that supports the nostrils replaced. He lost his to a nasty, protracted cocaine habit. The same habit reduced his once promising career to this; the only directing gigs Oliver can get now are cheesy Murder Mystery Weekends. Like this one, at The Oak Island Hotel. Oliver is a pig, a toady and a creep.

2) Just Plain Murder takes place in fictional time/space "Where Old Stereotypes come to die." So that which seems politically incorrect in the following excerpt absolutely is!  All are redeemed, however, by the end of the play, and those upon whom Oliver works his nasty powers get revenge. The stereotypes triumph and evolve!

3) Unfortunate middle aged Professor of English Morant Chomedy — on sabbatical from New Zealand's Christ Church U — and in year two of his mid-life crisis, has been dumped by Apoo the Taxi Driver in the parking lot of The Oak Island Hotel, hours and miles from his Halifax destination. It is a dark and stormy night. There is raucous hubbub in the hotel, which is completely booked. Morant begs for a room. He wakes in the middle of the night to find odd, aggressive people (amateur 'sleuths' led by tweedy British matron Constance Curran) going through his personal belongings. They have his passport. They have his cash. They have his personal letters from Lotta Strup, the grade 'B' movie actress he's come to North America to marry. Poor Morant has landed in the middle of one of Oliver's cheesy murder mystery weekends, and because of Morant's odd accent, foreign passport and the peculiar manner in which he has arrived, the scavanger/sleuths naturally assume that he is 'it'. Later, the scene continues...
 

MORANT SITS IN THE HALLWAY, DOZES OFF.  IN THE JANITOR'S CLOSET, IRMA HATHAWAY REMOVES HER COAT REVEALING LEATHER DOMINATRIX GEAR.  OLIVER COWERS IN A CORNER. IRMA - OLIVER'S  WIFE AND BOSS  -  BRANDISHES A WHIP.

IRMA: On your knees, pig.

OLIVER: Yes mommy.

IRMA: Now snort like the pig you are.

OLIVER: Yes mommy.

 HE SNORTS. IT HURTS.
OLIVER: Ow! Maybe I could whine like a beaten dog?

IRMA: Later. I found the young stud Corkum going through Reifenstahl's pockets. Pig! Did I tell you to rise?
Then he unbuckled the watch.

OLIVER: That fabulous Rolex?

 IRMA DANGLES IT.
OLIVER: Please, mommy dearest, please please please.

IRMA: Lick my boot.

OLIVER: Yes mommy.

 HE DOES.
OLIVER Oh mommy dearest. Nummer nummers. Olli Bear is berry berry happy. Slurp. Slurp.

IRMA: Luckily, they thought it was a clever beginning to the weekend.  Get up, pig.

OLIVER: Thank you dear. That was lovely.

 SHE GIVES HIM THE WATCH. HE STRAPS IT ON.
IRMA: You're welcome. What's tonight's bone chilling drama?

OLIVER: The money pit scene from Kidnapped. Here's the new twist. We'll hang the ‘for real' corpse — 
the German, right? Get this —  also dressed as Long John Silver! Am I brilliant? Or just a genius? You pick.

IRMA: I don't get it.

OLIVER: We'll pull a switcheroo at the last minute, find some dumb ass guest to shoot him, then blame it all on him.

IRMA: Who?

OLIVER: Reifenstahl!

IRMA: I mean who's going to shoot him?

 MORANT SNORES.
OLIVER: Bingo!

IRMA: If this weekend is canceled because of the actual murder, Oliver, we'll be ruined.

OLIVER: Not while Oliver Remakus lives. Brilliance to the rescue.

IRMA: There's something else.

OLIVER: What?

IRMA: Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas are here.  As guests.

OLIVER: What? Constance and Tanya? By the time I'm finished they won't know if their various collective holes were bored or punched.

 AS SHE EXITS, IRMA STUMBLES OVER MORANT.
IRMA: Didn't you hear me? I said no sleeping in the halls.
 MORANT SITS UP. IRMA EXITS.
MORANT: Excuse me.  I have a question. Where am I?

OLIVER: Are you one of our sleuths?

MORANT: No. I'm afraid I was shanghaied and dumped here by accident.

OLIVER: Then you weren't shanghaied.

MORANT: What?

OLIVER: If you were dumped here by accident, you weren't shanghaied.

MORANT: No. I suppose you're right, actually. Do you believe in fate, Mr..?

OLIVER: Oliver Remakus. I run this shindig.

MORANT: Ah. Then maybe you can help me. Some people came into my room and rifled my belongings. Then this rather domineering female insisted I join her 'team'. Have you any idea what this could mean?

OLIVER: Was she a boosomy British lesbian named Constance Curran Countess of Crime by any chance?

MORANT: Why, yes, actually. I was sent as a spy among you.

OLIVER: Thank you for sharing. Have you ever acted Mr..?

MORANT: Chomedy. Morant Chomedy. Some amateur dramatics in high school. I was quite the old smoothie boots,
or so I'm told. I've always wanted to be an actor, actually.

OLIVER: What would you say if I offered you a small role?

MORANT: Very enticing. What if I'm no good?

OLIVER: Handsome man like you?  Clever?  Articulate...

MORANT: I'm useless as a gum diggers dog. I need sleep.

OLIVER: You'll be fabulous.

MORANT: Do you think?

OLIVER: I know. Do you have any living relatives in North America?  Anyone who'd miss you?

MORANT: Not that I can —  Wait a minute. There's something whacko here. This Curran woman accused you
and your wife of murder.

OLIVER: All part of the game.

MORANT: Ah yes. The murder mystery weekend.

OLIVER: We do it twice a month. Have for the last year and a half. Make a fortune. ACHOOO!

MORANT: Bless you. Why the tricorn and the peg leg?

OLIVER: We're doing the money pit scene from Kidnaped.

top
MORANT: Surely you mean Treasure Island.

OLIVER: Do I? I could never get them straight. That and Crusoe.

MORANT: You confuse Daniel Defoe with Robert Louis Stevenson? There's two hundred years between them, actually.

OLIVER: My my. Isn't that interesting. We desperately need a Squire Trelawney to shoot Long John Silver. Interested?

MORANT: Shoot Silver?

OLIVER: Yeah. With a prop gun, shooting blanks, of course.

MORANT: Silver wasn't shot.

OLIVER: Then how come he wasn't on the ship on the way back, mister know-it-all smarty pants?

MORANT: He was. He talked his way back to civilization —

OLIVER: Isn't that amazing. We take certain liberties with text, all in the spirit of good fun.
Now shut your highbrow cake hole and wear this.

 HE TOSSES MORANT A GARMENT BAG. MORANT DRESSES. OLIVER CLUMPS  DOWN THE STAIRS. CONSTANCE ENTERS.
C'STANCE: What have you done with Helmut?

OLIVER: You mean the Kraut you and Alice B. Toklas murdered?

C'STANCE:  Have you no common decency?

OLIVER: Me?  No, Ms. Holier than thou. You're the one who sucked the old Kraut dry.

C'STANCE: Helmut was my close, personal friend.

OLIVER: Swinging both ways now, are you?  Had your fill of fuzz burgers?

C'STANCE: If anyone wanted him dead, you immoral swine, it is you and your turncoat wife.
Where is the body? I wish to examine it.

OLIVER: Left something incriminating on poor dear Helmut did you?  (Surreptitiously works sleeve to hide watch)
Or maybe you'd like to plant a little something.

C'STANCE: I want the proper authorities to have all the facts. The facts, Remakus. Not your cheap showman's two-a-penny illusions.

OLIVER: Your pal pulled his own plug, Connie. Suicide, plain and simple.

C'STANCE: Suicide! There was a pick ax protruding from his back.

OLIVER: I know about you and Tanya and Helmut. Three Oaks Incorporated. Hah! Thought you'd gotten the jump on us,
didn't you? Then when you found Oliver Remakus World Class Productions had beaten you to it, you turned on each other
like the weasels you are.  The next thing he knew the Kraut was doing the Three Oaks two-step at the end of one long rope.

C'STANCE: There's something pitiful in you, Remakus.  Some nasty little on-board saboteur that feeds
on your own self-loathing. All I have to do is wait.

OLIVER: You are desperate to get your paws on this property again. Now we know why. Money money money money—
 

 CONSTANCE WINCES IN PAIN.

OLIVER: Your ulcerated old guts are rumbling.

C'STANCE: You'd make the toughest stomach turn.

OLIVER: Look at you. A complete degenerate. And you question my credibility?

C'STANCE:  A minor figure in Canadian theatre brought low by cheap alcohol and illicit drugs.

OLIVER: And what brought you to our fair shores, besides a foul wind, self-generated by the sound of things. That stunning success as a two-bit pulp fiction writer?

C'STANCE: Failure infested you like starving vermin an empty granary. You met our Irma and —  click! The fatal switch was flipped. Vermin began to feed on vermin. Your penchant for soul deadening narcotics provided the coup de gras.

OLIVER: Don't talk to me about failure you flatulent old bag of... (Pause)  Pheee-ew! What in the name of god do you people eat?

C'STANCE:  Swine! What have you done with the body of Helmut Reifenstahl?

OLIVER: He's in the kitchen fridge. Locked in the kitchen fridge. And I have the key.

C'STANCE: I warn you. If so much as one hair is out of place on poor dear Helmut's dead head, I will call the wrath of all that is holy, unholy, natural, supernatural and otherwise down upon your miserable, unrepentant head.

 CONSTANCE EXITS.
OLIVER: Ooooh!  Look at me!  I'm terrified!  You sorry old fart factory!  
 THE LIGHTS SHIFT. THE CAST SINGS:
CAST:  Fifteen men on a dead man's chest/ yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum
  Drink and the devil had done for the rest/ yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.
 
LONG JOHN SILVER [OLIVER], LEADS AMY [JIM HAWKINS] BOUND BY A ROPE AT THE WAIST. THE VERY BE-DRAGGLED PIRATE MORGAN [JIMMY SELTZER] FOLLOWS. HE IS BURDENED WITH PICKS AND SHOVELS.
 OLIVER: Jim ‘Awkins, lad. I saved your life and you saved mine; and I'll not forget it. We'll save our necks in spite of fame and fortune.

AMY:  Please Captain, I swear as how I never told them nothing.

OLIVER: Arr, and doubloons is made of ginger root and guineas is carved outa manioc I suppose?

SELTZER: Captain, what good's a treasure without a ship to 'aul her? Arr-harr.

OLIVER: (Takes Jimmy aside) Keep your arr-harrs to yourself, you two bit souse. Only Long John gets to go arr-harr. [as LONG JOHN]Arr-harr. Avast ye lily livered swab. Once we has the treasure, we'll have to jump about lively like and find her —  the good ship Hispaniola, I means. I have a notion Jim 'Awkins, our young 'ostage 'ere, knows a thing or two. And then, maties, us as has the boats, I reckon, has the upper hand.

 A SINGLE VOICE, VERY GHOSTLY, AMPLIFIED.
VOICE: (Sings) Fifteen men on a dead man's chest.

SELTZER: [as MORGAN] It's Cap'n Flint, what stored this 'ere treasure then died a grisly death at the 'and of a one-legged mate name o' Long John Silv —

 OLIVER WIELDS HIS CUTLASS.
OLIVER: Stow your lubber's gab or I'll slip you the black spot.

MORANT: Excuse me. It's 'tip' you the black spot and you're using it out of context. It wasn't a threat, actually, more of a warning. You see, there was a code among pirates, even the most cut throat —

OLIVER: Avast you mealy mouthed varmint.

MORANT: Varmint?

SELTZER: (Aside, to Amy) Hah! Now he thinks he's Yosemite Sam.

 JESSICA ENTERS.
JESSICA: Yosemite Sam: I thought I was to be Ben Gunn. Am I to be Yosemite Sam? [YOSEMITE SAM]  I paid my five dollars, now dive, rabbit, dive!  [JESSICA] Was that right? Sorry.

OLIVER: Arrr... if there's anything I hates more'n a varmint it's a land lubber. Shiver me timbers! Them as dies are the lucky ones.

MORANT: Them that dies will be the lucky ones.

VOICE: (Sings) Rum and the devil had done with the rest,Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum.

SELTZER: Lord have mercy. Flint again.

OLIVER: Flint who's dead this many a year? Come, Jim lad. This won't do. Stand by to come about.

AMY:  [JIM HAWKINS] You dastardly villain.

MORANT: Ah, excuse me. Why does Hawkins call Silver a villain here. Shouldn't that have been earlier? Regarding the boat and all? You see, Stevenson was a great story teller, actually, because of an exact use of language, and —

OLIVER: Shiver me timbers.  Avast ye swab, don't ye know a rum tale when ye hears one. (Cheery smile) We're on stage, asshole.

MORANT: Gawd pickle me daisies. This is bloody ridiculous.

VOICE:  Darby M'Graw. Fetch aft the rum, Darby.

 SILVER TWISTS JIM HAWKIN'S ARM. IT HURTS.
OLIVER: I was never afeared of Flint in his life, and, by the powers, I'll face him dead.

AMY:  Cap'n Silver. Please. I bees afeared o' sperrits.

SELTZER: Cap'n sir. The men are twitchin', sir, with fear for their immortal sperrits.

OLIVER: There's seven hundred thousand pound not more'n a league from here. When did a gentleman of fortune ever show his stern to that much dollars, for a boozy old seaman with a blue mug name of Flint —  and him dead too —  whose treasure this were them fifteen years gone by.

SELTZER: (Quietly, out of character to Morant) Twenty one years, wasn't it?

MORANT: Actually, he's right. It was fifteen years.

SELTZER: Ah. Yes.

OLIVER: Haul your stern back to your place, you mealy-mouthed lily-livered spineless son of a sea dog. Miss Purity. Where's Miss Purity?

MORANT: Miss Purity? There was no Miss Purity. She was a television invention.

OLIVER: This 'ere be's my story and I'll tell it the way I pleases.


MORANT: (very angry) This is an outrage and a travesty. When do I get to shoot the bastard?

SELTZER: Oops. You've got my gun.

 SELTZER SWITCHES THE GUNS.
JESSICA: "I have given suck, and know
  How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me.
  I would, while it was smiling in my face,
  Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
  And dashed the brains out..."

SELTZER: (Sotto voce) Jessica —

JESSICA: (Sotto voce) Sorry. Was that wrong?

MORANT: You confuse Treasure Island with MacB —

 SELTZER CLAPS A HAND OVER MORANT'S MOUTH. AMY, OLIVER AND JESSICA GASP. THUNDER. LIGHTENING. WIND RAGES. A PACK OF WOLVES HOWL.
MORANT: (Breaks free) Will you stop doing that.

SELTZER: We don't say that word in the theatre.

MORANT: This is a hotel, not a theatre.

 THEY ALL LOOK AT HIM.
MORANT: Or perhaps a special effects warehouse in Christchurch.

VOICE: Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum.

OLIVER: By the powers. Ben Gunn!

JESSICA: I'm Ben Gunn, I am. Ben the maroon, what ye dumped ashore and left for dead lo' these fifteen or twenty or whatever years gone past, mind ye? And how do, Mr. Silver? Pretty well, I thank ye, says you.
 

 BENT AND TWISTED BEN GUN DUCKS AWAY.
SELTZER: And so it were. Ben Gun it were.

OLIVER: Maties. There's two o' them. One's Ben Gun the crippled old maroon that blundered us down to this, and the other's that gena'man I means to 'ave the heart out of. Squire Trelawney.  (Pause) And the other's that gena'man I means to 'ave the heart out of Squire Trelawney.

MORANT: Oh. That's me. (Reads badly) Stand ho, villain, or sink me ye shall have the best of it.  Actually.

OLIVER: Arr-harr, Sir Snot! What ho, Sir Puke! (Sneeze) Slip me the black spot, will ye? Arr, them as dies will be the lucky ones.

HE FLOURISHES HIS CUTLASS AND CHARGES. THE LIGHTS FLICKER. BLACKOUT. SHOTS. A SCREAM. LIGHTS UP. MORANT HOLDS A SMOKING GUN. OLIVER STAGGERS TOWARD THE STAIRS. THUNDER. BLACKOUT. A SECOND SHOT. SCRAMBLING IN THE DARKNESS; A JUMBLED CHORUS OF ‘YO-HO-HO'. LIGHTS. LONG JOHN IS MANHANDLED UP THE STAIRS.
OLIVER: Oouh. I love being handled.
MORANT CHECKS HIS WEAPON.

BLACKOUT.

FLASH OF LIGHT IN THE WEIGH YOUR ANCHOR GIFT SHOP. HELMUT REIF- ENSTAHL'S GROTESQUE CORPSE HANGS BY THE NECK. THE CORPSE REVOLVES. THE PICK AX PROTRUDES FROM HIS BACK.  BLACKOUT.
 

JESSICA: Oliver you stupid shit, stand up, will you?

OLIVER: I love it when you talk mean... Augh.  

LIGHT.  JESSICA  AND SELTZER FUMBLE AS THEY ATTEMPT  TO RIG OLIVER,  WITH THE  STEEL WIRE AND HANG HARNESS. BLACKOUT.
SELTZER: God you're heavy. You might give a guy a hand.

OLIVER: Oouh. Ahh. Ohh.

SELTZER: For Christ's sake, Remakus. Get your hand outa my pants.

JESSICA: (Screams) Swine. Filthy swine. 

  IN A FLASH OF LIGHT, WE SEE AMY WITH HER HAND UP OLIVER'S SHIRT.

OLIVER: Amy-kins. You little minx.
IN HER OTHER HAND IS A KNIFE. BLACKOUT AS SHE PLANTS IT.

LIGHTENING. LIGHTS UP IN THE GIFT SHOP. HELMUT'S CORPSE REVOLVES. IT RAISES A GRISLY DEAD ARM. MANIACAL LAUGHTER. IT TAKES AIM AT OLIVER. IT SHOOTS. THE GIFT SHOP WINDOW SHATTERS. BLACKOUT.

 THUNDER. LIGHTS UP. OLIVER'S HEAD DROOPS. HIS BODY SLUMPS. AMY SUPPORTS HIS WEIGHT. BLACKOUT.

CHORUS:  Fifteen men on a dead man's chest.
 LIGHTS UP.  A ROPE HAS BEEN SECURED TO THE BRIDAL SUITE BALCONY. AT THE OTHER END A TWITCHING BODY SLOWLY REVOLVES. OLIVER REMAKUS DANCES HIS LAST DANCE. THE PEG LEG FALLS WITH A CLUNK TO THE STAGE.

IRMA ENTERS, SCREAMS, WEEPS. SHE THROWS HER ARMS AROUND OLIVER'S TWITCHING TORSO. SHE SLIDES DOWN HIS BODY, DEFTLY REMOVING AND POCKETING THE ROLEX AS SHE GOES.

<>AMY FAINTS. SELTZER STAGGERS OUT OF THE GIFT SHOP, TAKES A SLUG FROM A FLASK. MORANT SLIDES TO THE FLOOR. A BALL OF SHOT FALLS FROM HIS PISTOL AND ROLLS ACROSS THE STAGE. MORANT PEERS INTO THE BARREL.

BLACKOUT.
A GUN SHOT.

      CURTAIN, ACT ONE.
 

End Excerpt


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