Monday, August 12, 2013

Monkey Business

Ah!  Hello there! 

Something a little crazy for your Maniacal Monday brings you my attempt at playwriting back in LHU. Got some good feedback from my classmates, but was panned overall because they weren't sure how a monkey was going to be as an actor.

I mean, really?  Part of the fact is that it's a monkey.  It's supposed to act up. That's what makes it art.

I guess I could probably use a smaller stage and puppets, too.


Organ Grinder
Ah!  Hello there, very nice to see you    
again!  What? This old thing that I carry
under my arm day after day, peddling my
craft?  Yes, well, for just fifty cents I
shall play you a tune the likes of which
you have never heard.   But the monkey—
he dances like no other in all the city of
New York.

[music starts, monkey dances, climbs up onto organ grinder’s shoulder]

Organ Grinder
We two are glad you like.  Yes, you may   
feed him a peanut, but please, no candy.

[organ grinder reaching out hand, taking peanut, feeding it to monkey]

Organ Grinder
You remember us from when you were a child?    
That may be, you have grown so much.  My
little friend here loved dancing for the
children at the zoo, teasing the zookeeper by
taking his hat.  What laughter!  Oh, how he
and the children laughed.

He has always been such a good little monkey,
just like the one in the stories I used to read
him.  And we have worked together for such a
long time, oh how he’s grown.  And I have grown
up, too.  Now you there, in your respectable suit
and shoes, that is how the professionals dress! 
Not in these shabby clothes of a gypsy.  My father
always said I had gotten that from my mother’s

[sitting down on park bench]

Yes, I was always shiftless, always traveling. 
Unlike my brothers, the two of them plumbers.  My
father was always partial to them.  He loved the
hard work.  And me?  Like he always said—gypsy
blood.  Now my little monkey friend here?  He’s
always been a hard worker, right from the start.

[feeding another peanut]

Well, mostly, right my friend!  Ha!  I have
raised him from a baby and taught him all that
I know.  Ah, but…well, he also has some of the
gypsy in him! 

[music begins to play again, but different, darker maybe]

He is a monkey, though, we cannot fault him for
that.  I try to read when I can, and find those
scientists might have it right.  I’m not sure
which one it is, nature, nurture, whatever.  But
those stories we read when he was young.  Well,
no wonder he wants to be something more!

It all started a few years ago.  Times were
tough—they always are towards the end of summer—
and the animals at the zoo begin to make their way
in for the winter.  The work was getting to us—the
daily grind you might say—and even I was thinking
of a career change.  Papa always said I would run
away with the circus.  But what can a gypsy organ
grinder do for a living?  Look at this old body!

[organ grinder stands, music starting normal again]

I cannot dance like the monkey!

[music back to creepy]

Working for peanuts isn’t all it’s cracked up to
be.  Even my monkey friend over there, he wanted
to get out.  Feeling caged in, maybe?  Well, that
one day we didn’t make much.  I wanted to go this
way, towards our home, and monkey, he wanted to go
the other.  I didn’t want to turn it into a fight,
but that is what he make it into sometimes.  Just
like a woman.

[organ grinder begins walking, monkey making a scene behind him.  Monkey races us his back, shrieking, knocking the hat from his head.  Monkey shrieks and yells, scampers back down to sidewalk, takes off own hat and vest, jumping on them.  Monkey takes off in direction of home.]

I know not what to think.  The monkey, he never
acted like this before.  But he is my friend, the
least I can do is follow him home.

[organ grinder walks to apartment building, all the while showing monkey jumping around room, throwing clothes, obviously making quite a mess.  As organ grinder walks up the steps, the monkey bursts out of front door, bowling over organ grinder.  He is dressed differently now:  a black beret, black turtleneck, sunglasses and goatee]

I know not what to think!  My friend, this is not
the friend that I know.  And the clothes?  He
looks like one of those sissy poets that sip their
fancy drinks!
And that’s what hurt the most.  Here it was, my
only friend: a sissy!  Yes, well, that and the
fact that I cannot work quite well without the

[monkey exits stage, man and organ dropping to sitting position on steps]
It was some time before I heard from him.  And
even then, nothing from him directly, just a
flyer posted to the door: open microphone night
at some coffeehouse in Greenwich.  I had not seen
him in weeks, and though I was hurt and tired, I
needed to see my friend, make sure that he was
okay.  So I put on my best vest and hat and went
to the place, hoping to see my friend, tell him
that I missed him, that he didn’t need to do this.


[organ grinder makes his way down the street, enters a coffeehouse.  He sits down at a table with a very beautiful woman, her making little eye contact, the organ grinder nervous.  On stage is a microphone, a tall stool.  You hear him before you see him, getting his coffee behind the counter, bounding his way up onto the stage.]

One look and I cannot believe my eyes!  He is very
different from what I remembered.  He looks sick,
and…smoking a cigarette?  I do not understand. 
But I watch, and the people, they love him! But I
am betting they cannot understand a word.

[sound effect of clapping, and Organ Grinder gets up to congratulate friend, when mistress steps in the way, pushing Organ Grinder aside]

          And it happened.  I do not know how, but I look
          just like me, and, well, she looks like that and
          I cannot compete with that.  He is upon her
Shoulders, hopping around and smelling her
cigarette smoke and perfume.  I…I am being
I had to leave.  There was nothing there for me
any longer.  My friend, no longer a friend to

[Organ grinder begins to shamble down the street.  Music is playing, slow, melancholic-like.  He sits down on steps of apartment building, light playing through upstairs window, and shadows playing on the window]

          Ah, but even though I do not approve, I am not
          the one to judge.  I sense he is up to no good. 
          What we call “a little monkey business.”   I
          don’t have to imagine what he’s going through
          up there.  You can take the monkey out of the
          wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the

[seeing shadows on the wall, some now a little more suggestive than before, clothes being taken off and the like.  Monkey jumping around, screeching.]

          But that does not last long. 

[Furious pounding away on typewriter, monkey bouncing up and down on it, screeching.]

There is an advance from a publisher for a
book that Mr. Monkey longs to write, but he
and the woman, they drink it up quick enough. 
And then she gets him hooked on horse! 

[Organ grinder, stands, paces, music slows.]

          Things…they go from bad to worse.  There are
          times when I haven’t heard from my little
          friend.  He…seems to have grown up, maybe a
          little too fast.  I hear there are some angry
          words spoken, shouting, the throwing of
          feces.  He is a monkey.  Can you blame him?

[seeing silhouette of bedroom, bottles and cans lined up on countertop, monkey falling into them, knocking them down, making quite a big noise.  See him coming out onto front stoop, snow falling, passing out with bottle in hand.  Organ Grinder stopping by and lifting him gently, taking him back to room in brownstone.  Can see silhouette of him putting him up in bed, reading to him from Curious George.]


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