Style: Dramatic. Duration : 15min
Actors: 2M, 2F
John Newman - an applicant
Mrs G. - A company watchdog
Mr Legion - Company Director, Environmental Development Enterprises Nationwide
Evelyn Newman - John's wife
(John Newman enters an office for an interview. He is dressed suitably for an interview with a big international company offering a managerial position. He carries a briefcase. Possibly up centre there could be a small desk with a cordless telephone and a black-flower arrangement. There is no one there.)
JOHN: Hello! (Looks around for help) Hello? (He wanders around) They said ten o'clock in the letter. (Looks at watch.) Right on time. Anyone there? Hello! Where's the receptionist? Now, John don't get upset. Maybe this is their way to test you out before the interview. Keep calm. (He breathes deeply)
(Mrs G. enters, sees John and nods in understanding. She is dressed in a red dress or a red raincoat with matching hat, shoes and a red umbrella. She should look quite startling but not silly. She is not what you would expect her to look like.)
MRS G: John Newman? (He reacts) I thought so. Isn't he expecting you this morning?
JOHN: (He is clearly startled by, her knowledge) I have an appointment with Mr Legion at ten. Is this the correct office?
MRS G: (She goes to the desk and reads his name on a list) Mr John Newman, interview at 10. Don't worry, he never sees prospective employees on time. His staff aren’t much help. They’re pretty self-centred – usually forget to remind him. I expect he will be here soon.
JOHN: Excuse me, are you on the staff here?
MRS G : Me? Heaven forbid. No, I don’t work here.
JOHN: If you don’t work here, then what are you doing in this office?
MRS G: Keeping an eye on things… I’m around here a lot these days. No, I’m not staff – but I do have an interest in the company.
JOHN: What sort of interest would you have with Environmental Development Enterprises Nationwide Ltd? (He says the company name as if newly memorised.)
MRS G: E.D.E.N. and I go back a long way. My family started the business and then we passed it on to the shareholders. I’m a sort of watchdog for them.
JOHN: Does Mr Legion know you come into his office?
MRS G: Most likely – but he doesn’t like it. Well, I expect you are after the position? Yes, you look the right sort of person.
JOHN: What do you mean?
MRS G: You fit the job description perfectly. (She reads from the desk.)
JOHN: Look, I don’t think you should be reading papers on Mr Legion’s desk. If you aren’t staff, then you shouldn’t be here.
MRS G: We have never… We have an understanding going back a long way. Anyway, he should be here in a moment – you can ask him yourself.
(There is a pause, almost a freeze as Mr Legion enters. He is urbane and charming and dressed in a dark suit with something flashy in the way of a lapel pin or tie clip that reveals his true character. He takes a brief look at the situation, then speaks, breaking the spell.)
MR L: John Newman, welcome to E.D.E.N.
JOHN: (Flashing a ‘situations vacant’ smile) Very pleased to see you, Mr Legion.
MR L: (Ignoring John) Still around here, Mrs G? I thought you would be involved with more important tasks. I hope you haven’t been talking to our prospective employee. You know the rules; after all, you made them.
MRS G: It’s a funny thing, Mr Newman, those who often quote rules invariably misquote them. Now I’ll leave you with your “prospective employee”. If you ever need the rules explained, give me a call. (Exits.)
MR L: I’m sorry about that. She knows very well not to come in here while I am interviewing. I hope you were not too embarrassed?
JOHN: No, but you weren’t here when I arrived and she came in to see if she could help. (He knows this sounds a lame story.)
MR L: Very sneaky of her. Another case of bending the rules. Mr Newman – may I call you John?
JOHN: Of course… (He waits for a response from Mr L, who has no intention of reciprocating) … Mr Legion.
MR L: John, I think you and I are going to get along very well, very well indeed.
JOHN: Thank you, Mr Legion.
MR L: Great! This will be our only meeting, just a formality so that you and I can get to know each other. Sounds good?
JOHN: Sounds great, Mr Legion.
MR L: Now, about the position with E.D.E.N. I see from the preliminary reports you appear to be the man we are looking for. (After a quizzical pause) John, how did you feel about… total control of the computer section?
JOHN: (This is clearly unexpected) But I thought the position…
Mr L: John, I am going to offer you the top job here. You will have complete control of the computer section, with access to all information about every operation of the entire company. Whatever happens, you will know about it. What do you think?
JOHN: It sounds a wonderful opportunity, Mr Legion.
MR L: Everything, John, that you can see from here on the top floor will be under your control as Chief Computer Executive.
JOHN: I never thought I would reach the top so quickly.
MR L: My company is always on the lookout for people like you, John: ambitious, in control, ready to make a fortune whatever the cost. People, John, who don’t mind who they beat to get what they want.
JOHN: (Startled at this suggestion) I never thought the position would be so competitive.
MR L: You know, John, it doesn’t matter how many hands you tread on climbing the ladder to success if you have no intention of coming back down again.
JOHN: (Laughing at this idea) I think I am… No! I am ready for this job, Mr Legion. Just one thing?
MR L: (Sharply) Yes?
JOHN: I need to talk this over with Evelyn, my wife.
MR L: Evelyn! Come now, John, this is your decision. I am sure she will approve.
JOHN: I am sure she will, too. As a matter of fact, she is here now, in the reception lounge. Shall I ask her to come on up?
MR L: (Not at all pleased with this turn of events) John, we have a few more things to do before we need to see Evelyn – Mrs Newman. Would you like one of my assistants to drive her home? I wouldn’t want her kept waiting while we re-negotiate your salary package. Of course, there will also be the profit-sharing deal, company shares, partnerships – so many financial inducements to consider.
JOHN: (Eyes glazed with heady visions as Mrs G enters with Evelyn) Of course, Mr Legion.
MRS G: After you, Mrs Newman. Well, Mr Newman, how are you getting along? (To Mr L) I thought you would be wanting to see Mrs Newman by now, so I brought her in.
MR L: (Through clenched teeth) Mrs G, you really are too kind. As it happens, I am not ready yet, but as you seem to have forestalled me, I shall have to change my plans. John, now that your wife is here, why don’t you tell her our good news? Mrs G and I will have a little chat about “interference”. After you, Mrs G. (They exit)
JOHN: Evelyn, I have just had the most fantastic offer…
EVELYN: (Not listening to him) I know that man.
JOHN: Mr Legion? He has offered me the job of a lifetime. This land development company is going to have a new computer controller. Every detail of the entire operation and every person connected with it will be under my control.
EVELYN: John, listen to me. I know that man. I used to work for him before we were married.
JOHN: I knew you would approve. (His mind is on the new job.)
EVELYN: Approve! Do you know who that man is?
JOHN: Mr Legion, of E.D.E.N. My future boss – if all goes well. (He crosses fingers of both hands.)
EVELYN: I don’t want you working for that man.
JOHN: But Evelyn, why not? The pay will be fantastic. It’s the job of a lifetime. What’s the problem – Mr Legion?
EVELYN: I used to work for him when he had that orchard I picked for in the holidays.
JOHN: So? What went wrong? Don’t tell me you were one of his pickings? Did he turn you down? (His attitude hardens.) Did you have an A grade fancy for him?
EVELYN: That man did more than pick on me! Why do you think I was so pleased when you turned up that summer and proposed to me?
JOHN: I hope it wasn’t a case of marriage on the rebound.
EVELYN: John! What has got into you? It isn’t like you to talk this way. Of course I want you to have a successful career – but not with this man or his company.
JOHN: His company, as you put it, is the biggest development organisation in the world. The current project will cover every industry, every government, every resource ever conceived. You are asking me to turn all this down?
EVELYN: I am asking you to reconsider the…
JOHN: By the time this project is completed and I cash in my share bonuses, I’ll be a millionaire. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?
EVELYN: And what sort of industry does this company plan to engage in? I can imagine the laws that will be bent. John, have you looked into this thoroughly?
JOHN: I trust Mr Legion. If he says the factories will be safe, the towns well planned and everything environmentally sound, then I believe him.
EVELYN: Have you been told exactly what is going to be developed? I know it sounds silly, but have you?
JOHN: Of course I have!
EVELYN: (After a moment’s pause) What are you thinking about?
JOHN: Money! Evelyn, think of the freedom money can bring. Whatever we want can be ours. Who cares about a few noisy factories? What does a polluted river or two mean to us? The nuclear waste problem will be solved eventually – and anyway, Mr Legion says nature returns to normal in time. It’s all downhill from here.
EVELYN: All downhill. Your Mr Legion – and that’s not his real name as I recall – has really sold you on this.
EVELYN: He has anticipated every question I was going to ask. He has you very neatly right where he wants you. That’s his style – I know.
JOHN: And what would you know about big business? This company is going to reshape the landscape. It’s going to maximise profitability in the workforce so that environmentalists won’t know what’s hit them.
EVELYN: John, please listen to…
JOHN: Let’s get this straight. E.D.E.N. is going places in this world and I aim to be right up front.
EVELYN: With me by your side?
JOHN: That’s up to you, Evelyn. Right now, I want everything that’s been promised me. (He starts to waver as we hear Mrs G and Mr L arguing outside the room. Mrs G is winning.) I want to be on top. The whole project hinges on me and my ability to…
MRS G: (She and Mr Legion are arguing offstage and can be clearly heard) No, Mr Legion!
JOHN: I am the right man for the job, he said I was…
MR L: there’ll be no doubt about it!
JOHN: He promised me…
MRS G: Definitely not!
JOHN: (By this time he has caved in.) He needs me.
MRS G: Under no circumstances.
JOHN: I have to talk with him again.
MR L: (They both enter, still arguing) It’s not simply a case of “will I?” because – and I have no doubts about this – I will in the end.
MRS G: Have you forgotten already?
MR L: I never forget.
MRS G: I see you have. Very convenient. Does the past not remind you of your terms?
MR L: That’s your trouble. You live in the past and dream about the future. I am concerned with today.
MRS G: Your forgetfulness does not change events into a non-occurrence.
MR L: You always were good at semantics.
MRS G: A compliment, no doubt? Now, we mustn’t keep these good people while we continue our chat. Mr Newman, would you and Mrs Newman care to have one of my friends show you around the property?
MR L: Not so fast. One of my assistants will be happy to do that. I’ll put through a call now.
MRS G: I don’t think any of your assistants are available at the moment. You know, your staff seem very preoccupied with their own problems these days. Company loyalty is not what it used to be.
MR L: You should talk! I haven’t seen any of your friends hovering around lately.
MRS G: The point is, our two friends need to think about your offer, so why don’t we…
MR L: Why don’t we let them look around on their own? (He is forced to give in.) OK with you two?
JOHN: Evelyn and I would love to take a look around.
EVELYN: John needs time to think about your offer and I just need time to think. (She goes without waiting for John).
JOHN: Evelyn! Wait. Please excuse us, Mr Legion. My wife is a little… over-awed at your offer. We won’t be long. (He exits)
MR L: Well, Mrs G?
MRS G: Indeed, well. What have you been up to now?
MR L: This time I am on to a winner. You can’t fault me on this one.
MRS G: I never try to find fault with you. You have a free will and any fault will be found quite easily by yourself.
MR L: Don’t get all pious with me, and don’t forget I am in charge of this whole, perfect operation: E.D.E.N. Rather neat, I thought.
MRS G: Why the sudden change from genocide to herbicide? Returning to your roots?
MR L: Oh, Mrs G, not such a sudden change. This will still be death and destruction in the long run – but not so noisy. Pollution is such a poetic means of destroying the Earth. Really, it’s what they deserve.
MRS G: Not very original, is it? But then, you never were creative. All you have ever done is imitate when it comes to bending people to your will. Far better to fail by being unique than to succeed by copying.
MR L: This time I am assured of success. Their greed will see to that. And it’s about time this place was made to work for me. I am supposed to be the owner!
MRS G: Is that what you told him?
MR L: What I told him is no concern of yours.
MRS G: Ownership is in the hands of the shareholders, according to the arrangement.
MR L: My dear Mrs G, the majority of the shareholders don’t even know they have shares! They couldn’t care less what I do.
MRS G: They can be encouraged.
MR L: By whom? Let’s face it, I have more control over the shareholders than you. Your record has been less than credible, especially over the last few decades.
MRS G: Every now and then a Mr and Mrs Newman appear and the whole company structure changes. I think that time has come. Shall I call them back, or will you?
MR L: Just a minute, I haven’t finished yet. There are a few more things I want to say to you. Nothing is going to stop me now. Not even you can.
MRS G: Now. The time is now. You made the appointment, and it is for now.
(There is a stillness as they face each other, awaiting the outcome. It is Evelyn who enters, and Mr L gives in and exits.)
EVELYN: I can’t let him go through with it.
MRS G: You have the strength to see this through.
EVELYN: I don’t know who is worse – both of them are scheming and plotting out there. The whole thing will end in disaster. Oh, John, you see only a little way into the future. You’re not stupid or immoral, but why can’t you predict what the future must be?
MRS G: His future employer has the same difficulty. His vision does not take into account the appearance of people like you. You come from his past and he doesn’t like being reminded of failure.
EVELYN: I wouldn’t call what happened to me a success! He cost me more than my job and if it hadn’t been for John, I don’t know what would have happened to me.
MRS G: What happened was not what he planned, I assure you. I know all about the orchard incident, Evelyn, and believe me, it wasn’t the end of the road.
EVELYN: You seem to know a lot about my past – at least the bad bits.
MRS G: And the good bits, too.
EVELYN: It’s too late, isn’t it? I can’t stop John taking the job he’s always wanted.
MRS G: The way to stop him is to stop the job.
EVELYN: Look, I know Legion. He won’t back down. Anyway, I can’t face another showdown with him – not after last time.
MRS G: Of course not. Not on your own. You need backing and support. I’ll give you support.
EVELYN: And the backing?
MRS G: Will come from the shareholders. Call a shareholders’ meeting. Put the proposed company plans before them and tell them about the pollution and the nuclear waste. Let them know all about the forest destruction. Tell them the whole story.
EVELYN: Why would they listen to me?
MRS G: Because you will tell them the truth. Don’t hide anything. Secrecy is his weapon.
EVELYN: It’s not that easy. I can’t stand against a company this big. He would destroy me. I’d lose John and I couldn’t bear that.
MRS G: You’ve lost John already. This is the only way to get him back.
EVELYN: The only way to get him back? I’m not convinced about anything.
MRS G: You’ve seen enough of what goes on around here to convince the shareholders, haven’t you?
EVELYN: I’m convinced of that all right. I don’t think I have what it will take to convince John.
MRS G: (Quietly) Strength.
EVELYN: Please, don’t call a meeting yet. Let me think about it for a while. I’m still confused. No! That’s not true: I’m scared.
MRS G: (Quietly) Courage.
(Mr L and John enter)
MR L: Now, John, I can find you the perfect secretary, someone very understanding and reliable. One of my assistants will do admirably.
JOHN: That’s very kind of you, Mr Legion. You know, I’m going to need a companion, too, for all those social functions. Evelyn will be no good for that. Besides, there will be the children to look after – or do you think we should put them into some sort of care centre? I want the best for them, of course.
EVELYN: (Softly) John?
Mr L: Everything will be taken care of. You don’t have to worry about a thing.
EVELYN: John, please.
JOHN: Great! I can’t wait to make a start. I feel terrific about this job. I want it to be the whole of my future life.
Mr L: John Newman, your future is about to begin.
EVELYN: (Faintly) Call the meeting.
MR L: Let the past go, John. It has no part of your life now.
EVELYN: (louder) Call the meeting!
JOHN: Goodbye past, what did you ever do for me?
EVELYN: (Shouting) Call the meeting!
MR L: Did you say something?
MRS G: A meeting of the shareholders.
MR L: I wasn’t talking to you. Now, Mrs Newman. I don’t think we need a shareholders’ vote on your husband’s decision to join my company.
JOHN: Stay out of this, Evelyn. I don’t want you interfering in my career.
MR L: That’s settled. There’ll be no meeting.
EVELYN: I want a shareholders’ meeting called before it is too late. They have to be told what’s happening here at E.D.E.N. Someone has to tell… I have to tell them the truth.
MRS G: I’ll get on to it right away. (She produces a ‘black book’.) The word will go to everyone.
MR L: How hopelessly out of date! Don’t you realise I could cancel your orders at the push of a button? My communications office here (to John) will carry out the operation as his first assignment.
JOHN: Anything you say, Mr Legion. Ready when you are.
MR L: Activate code APPLE. Contact all personnel on site. Use quit system A and delete all modes at source. Make sure all RAM systems are DEAD!
JOHN: Right away. (Looking rather lost.) Where is the control console again?
MR L: One floor down. Hurry!
JOHN: (Moving to the door) I can’t find my way out!
MRS G: Too late, Mr Newman. The word has gone out to the shareholders already. They’re reading their manuals now. The process has been set in motion. (To Mr L) The rules you quoted? Evelyn has activated them and they must be seen through to the end. Are you ready, Evelyn?
EVELYN: I need John with me. I need him to tell them what is happening. John, come with me, please?
JOHN: Whatever happens now will be your…
MRS G: Whatever happens now will be your responsibility. Look around you E.D.E.N. How will you answer to the shareholders for the policies and mistakes you will make? It won’t always be this green and productive unless you take the responsibility to be truthful to future shareholders. John, go with Evelyn. Listen to what your eyes tell you and see with your mind what the future for E.D.E.N. really is. (John and Evelyn exit.) No, it is not ‘Game, Set and Match’. It never is with you. No matter how your plans for disaster are prevented, you always seem to manage to leave wreckage for others to clean up.
MR L: How frustrating it must be for you to be in demand only in times of danger. You’re like a brilliant tap dancer waiting for tap dancing to come back into fashion so you can clatter your way on stage and save an eternally grateful world. (Mrs G. moves to exit.) Where are you going now?
MRS G: To the cleaning closet. There’s much to be done.
(She exits. Mr L looks ruefully around, gathers up his papers, shuffles them, sees another ‘prospect’ and jauntily follows the others.)
© Bruce H. Weston, all rights reserved. The script may not be reproduced, translated or copied in any medium, including books, CDs and on the Internet, without written permission of the author.