* “Ray’s Star Tap” is a ten minute Christmas play that has been produced over thirty times. Feel free to stage a reading with the family. Rated PG. Producing theaters must receive permission from Ewing Eugene Baldwin.
GEORGE, an unhappy gentleman
CLARENCE, an angel
BERNICE, George’s unfaithful wife
STAN, Bernice’s insurance salesman
TIM, an orphan
JOSEPH, a poor carpenter
MARY, Joseph’s pregnant wife
The entire action of the play takes place on a bridge over the Sangamon River, near Springfield, Illinois, Christmas Eve.
SCENE: A bridge over a river. GEORGE balances on the rail, holds a support with one hand, strips to his boxer shorts, prepares to jump. A portable radio plays, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Enter CLARENCE, dressed as an angel. He turns off the radio.
CLARENCE. Hey up there! If you’re going to kill yourself, at least play less sappy music. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” My god, the maudlin sentiment of it. How many people jump, or shoot themselves with that rag as accompaniment.
GEORGE. Are you my angel?
CLARENCE. Your what?
GEORGE (jumping down, embracing CLARENCE). Are you my guardian angel?
CLARENCE (indicating costume). Oh—this? No, I wore this to the office Christmas party. Sorry, I’m a mortal. My boss holds originality in high regard. I thought I’d impress him by being the staff wit. Unfortunately, I discovered the punch bowl, and after seven glasses I “flew” from an overhead lighting fixture. Landed plop in his mistress’s lap. (as GEORGE climbs back up) She has a very nice lap—. There you go again. I’m glad I’m not your insurance agent. What a mess of claim forms you’re about to produce!
GEORGE. He was in bed with my wife.
CLARENCE. Oh-oh. Time to change insurance companies.
GEORGE. He was also my best friend.
CLARENCE. The old, “Insurance agent/best friend nails my wife” routine?
GEORGE. I came home from work late last night, and there they were. Johnny Mathis was singing “The Twelfth of Never” on the stereo. That’s Bernice’s and my song. Well, SangamonRiver, here I come.
CLARENCE. You won’t drown, you know.
GEORGE. I won’t?
CLARENCE. After three straight years of drought? Man, that’s two feet of water, maximum, down there. You’ll drop twenty feet in your skivvies and land in mud up to your knees. At worst, you’ll get knee strain.
GEORGE. Are you trying to talk me out of it?
CLARENCE. There’d be a fine newspaper story—if you died. “Whole town shocked at death of leading citiz—“ Are you a leading citizen?
GEORGE. I work in state government.
CLARENCE. Not a leading citizen, not even an exemplary citizen. Not good for the sympathy vote. You’ll die, all right—from embarrassment. Think of it: no splendid obituary, physical therapy twice a week, enduring the snickers of young nurses. What’s your name, by the way?
CLARENCE. Glad to know you. I’m Clarence.
GEORGE. Nice to meet you, Clarence.
CLARENCE. Tell me, will your wife be distraught over this?
GEORGE. She’ll dance on my grave.
CLARENCE. Then, this is not right. What would pull her string?
GEORGE. Oh . . . losing the car, the house.
CLARENCE. Perfect! We’ll bomb the car and burn down the house—preferably with the insurance agent in it. And we’ll blow your wife’s head off.
GEORGE. Do you mean it?
CLARENCE. No. My wife says I watch too much violence on television. I also have sex fantasies, from watching women in bikinis on beer commercials.
GEORGE. Nothing’s real anymore, Clarence, not even Christmas.
CLARENCE. Blame Charles Dickens for that, George. He was the culprit who made Christmas into a cloying celebration where you couldn’t help but end up hating your relatives. Him with his figgy pudding and that wretch, Tiny Tim. I saw the movie on TV? With. That dimple-cheeked child star, waving a crutch in the air, shouting, “And God bless us, everyone!” I’d like to take his crutch and—. You see? Television violence.
GEORGE. But if I don’t die, I’ll have to face her.
CLARENCE. What you need, George, is to have your own affair. What about the insurance man’s wife?
GEORGE. She weighs two-fifty, and crushes beer cans on her forehead.
CLARENCE (wincing). Nix the affair. Aren’t you freezing?
GEORGE. It’s a balmy forty-seven degrees. We don’t get cold weather anymore.
CLARENCE. Greenhouse effect, I know. The world is going to hell, George.
GEORGE. I used to skate on the SangamonRiver, when I was a kid. Built bonfires, roasted marshmallows, had hay rides—and snuggled.
CLARENCE. Ah, yes. Snuggling with a girl could fuel an ardent boy’s fire for a week. Do kids do that anymore?
GEORGE. Mine doesn’t. She’s sixteen, she has a child of her own. The wife and I—until last night, anyway—we were raising our grandson while Mary Pat Elizabeth Margaret Carolyn Maureen finished high school. Were you fired? tonight, when you sat on the boss’s mistress’s lap?
CLARENCE. He didn’t dare. He probably feared I’d run to his wife and tell her the dirt. I wish I had been fired; I’d be a free man.
GEORGE. What would you do with your freedom?
CLARENCE. Hang out on a nude beach in California.
GEORGE. I wouldn’t have the nerve.
CLARENCE. Actually, I understand it’s mostly old, wrinkled Germans who swim nude.
GEORGE. My mother-in-law is an old, wrinkled German. She floats like a whale on LakeSpringfield.
CLARENCE. There’s more mystery in clothing, anyway.
GEORGE. They have those scantily-clad beaches. Let’s do it! Let’s go for the gusto!
CLARENCE. Do what?
GEORGE. Head down the road together. Tell me you’ll go with me to California, and I’ll climb down from this railing.
CLARENCE. That’s not fair, George. I’m not responsible for your death or life.
GEORGE. You’re right. I apologize. So I climb down . . . (as he climbs) of my own free will.
CLARENCE. Welcome back.
GEORGE. Nice to be back. Merry Christmas, Clarence. In the non-Tiny Tim sense, I mean.
CLARENCE. So long as you qualify it like that, Merry Christmas to you too, George.
(GEORGE turns on the radio. “Silent Night” plays; he changes stations. We hear “California Girls.” They lip-synch to the music until it fades, then sing to the tune of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”)
GEORGE AND CLARENCE (singing). “Have yourself an existential Christmas,/ With no guilt, just delight;/ Troubles plague us til the dying of the light . . . So have yourself an existential Christ . . . mas . . . re . . . spite!”
CLARENCE. I have a Christmas present for you, George.
GEORGE (excitedly). I love presents! But how could you . . .
CLARENCE. I mean, I know what I want to get you, and the store is still open!
GEORGE. At eleven ’o clock at night?
CLARENCE. Ray’s Star Tap—a splendid oasis of exotic liquids—is open for at least another two hours!
GEORGE. You want to buy me a drink? Excellent!
CLARENCE. Big Ray serves no hot buttered rum—Dickens, you know. But as for a proper whiskey . . .
(Enter BERNICE, GEORGE’s wife, and STAN, an insurance agent.)
BERNICE. George, it is you. Mrs. Benson drove by here fifteen minutes ago. She said she swore she saw my husband on a bridge in his underwear. I called the police when you didn’t come home last night.
GEORGE. I was home—for one unforgettable minute. I know about you and Stan. Hello, Stan.
STAN. Hello, George.
GEORGE. (introducing). Clarence—my wife Bernice. Bernice—Clarence. Clarence—Stan. Stan—Clarence.
STAN. How are you?
BERNICE. Pleased to meet you.
CLARENCE. Said the lascivious couple. I always wanted to use “lascivious” in a sentence.
GEORGE. And I am George, the cuckold.
STAN. George, we really didn’t mean to upset you like this.
BERNICE. No, we didn’t. Mary Pat Elizabeth Margaret Carolyn Maureen took our grandchild for ice cream, and Stan started pouring out his heart to me, right in the middle of his full-term life presentation.
STAN. And Bernice was pouring dry sherry–you know how it is, George.
GEORGE. No, I don’t, actually. Bernice, I was always faithful to you.
BERNICE. The thing is, Stan and I didn’t really do anything, George.
STAN. Oh god, no, not a thing.
BERNICE. Stan can’t.
STAN. I can too! It’s . . . a temporary condition. You know Gladys’ weight problem, George. The other night, she was on top, and well, she kinda bent my—. Anyway, I’m out of commission.
CLARENCE. I should think so. And no more commissions from George!
BERNICE. You have it all wrong, honey. You saw two middle-aged people making fools of themselves.
STAN. Well, thanks a lot, Bernie!
GEORGE. You let him call you “Bernie?”
BERNICE. I was only your cheri because of sherry, Stan.
CLARENCE. Seduced and abandoned, George. They do that in Dickens, too.
BERNICE. Will you forgive me?
GEORGE. It doesn’t matter. Clarence and I are moving to a scantily-clad beach in California.
STAN. Can I come?
(Enter TIM, a homeless waif.)
TIM. Excuse me.
CLARENCE. Young man, what are you doing out here all alone at night?
TIM (tearfully). I–I–I ran away from the orphanage, sir. The—the sisters were so cruel to me. They had us make paper snowflakes, and hang plastic wreathes, and listen to stories about their miserable childhoods, when their fathers drank the Christmas tree money away. They even made us eat homemade Christmas cookies—the doughy kind you slip to the dog when no one’s looking? Only orphans—orphans don’t have dogs.
CLARENCE. You see, George? Even nuns.
TIM. And they stood under fake plastic mistletoe and made us kiss them. They were getting meaner and meaner as the holidays approached. I’m afraid to go back.
STAN. How old are you, son?
TIM. Eleven, sir.
STAN. You seem like a good lad to me.
TIM. I haven’t stolen a car in three years.
STAN. Three years. Did you all hear that? My wife and I are childless. Would you like to live with us and Mother Teresa?
TIM. No nuns!
STAN. Mother Teresa is our Pomeranian.
TIM. You have a dog? Are you rich?
STAN. I never really thought so, until I saw George, here, looking so pathetic in his B.V.D.s. I guess I am rich, yes.
TIM. In that case, I will be your boy.
STAN. We’ll start adoption proceedings, and I’ll arrange for you to stay with us until then.
TIM. But I—I don’t have any presents for you and your lovely wife, sir.
STAN. Don’t you worry, my lad, you’re our present.
(Enter JOSEPH and a very pregnant MARY.)
JOSEPH. Pardon me.
CLARENCE. This bridge is getting awfully crowded.
JOSEPH. I’m Joseph Barns, and this is my wife, Mary. We come from over Greenview way.
CLARENCE. Is that your wagon and horse up the road there?
MARY. It’s an ass.
CLARENCE. My mistake.
MARY. Easy to confuse the two in the dark. Our car broke down, so we rode our old wagon for hours to get to Springfield.
JOSEPH. We thought the baby was coming.
MARY. It was a false alarm, so the hospital said come back tomorrow because they were full.
JOSEPH. And we went around to all the cheap motels, but they’re booked up from the holidays. Could you folks suggest something?
BERNICE. Did you try Best Inn?
JOSEPH. There was no room in the Inn.
CLARENCE. In that case, you’re coming home with me.
MARY. We couldn’t possibly impose.
CLARENCE. Of course you could.
MARY. You’re an angel.
GEORGE. He certainly is.
CLARENCE. Don’t get maudlin on me, George, we were just becoming friends.
JOSEPH. We’ll accept under one condition: you let me work off our debt.
MARY. Joe is a whiz at carpentry.
CLARENCE. I could use a walk-in humidor–or a wine rack.
JOSEPH. I’ll make you both!
BERNICE. Don’t you see it, silly? It’s Christmas Eve, Stan has a little boy, Joseph and Mary have Clarence. That leaves you and me.
GEORGE. I don’t know, Bernice. A while ago, I was enjoying the thrill of being dead, and all my problems gone.
BERNICE. There’s no problem so bad that we can’t work it out together, dear.
GEORGE. What about Mary Pat Elizabeth Margaret Carolyn Maureen, our drug-addicted, alcoholic, sex maniac of a daughter?
BERNICE. She entered a rehab clinic yesterday. The doctors say she’ll be home by Easter.
CLARENCE. Another holiday, George. I can’t prove it, but I suspect Charles Dickens invented the Easter Bunny.
BERNICE. Come home, honey. I have your stocking hung by the fireplace, and I baked a nice Christmas cake.
STAN. It’s got sherry in it.
GEORGE. I have a date with Clarence.
CLARENCE. Which we’ll keep, George. Let’s all of us repair to Ray’s Star Tap. There’s soft drinks for the boy, and Stan, you call your wife, and I’ll call mine to join us. We’ll have a stupendous Christmas Eve.
GEORGE. The world will still blow up.
CLARENCE. I have no doubt of it—but there’s always hope. Perhaps Tim, here, or Joseph and Mary’s infant will change it.
JOSEPH. I know what we’ll name the baby, don’t you, Mar? Clarence.
CLARENCE. The Baby Clarence. I like the ring of that. But what if it’s a girl?
JOSEPH. Jesus! I hadn’t thought of that. How about Clarencia?
BERNICE. My sweet Georgie Porgie.
GEORGE. I’ve loved you since kindergarten, sugar cakes.
(TIM climbs onto the railing, points off into the distance.)
TIM. Look, everybody. The lights on the capitol dome! Just like Christmas lights. This will be the best Christmas ever!
STAN. It just occurred to me: son, what’s your name?
TIM. Tim . . . Dad.
STAN. He called me “dad.”
TIM. We all came to this bridge because we were lonely, and in need. And now, our faith in mankind is renewed. And we’re leaving as a family, headed for Springfield, to Ray’s Star Tap. What a name! A name full of promise. Ray’s Star Tap. (to CLARENCE) How will we know it, sir?
CLARENCE. It has a big, blue, neon star on the roof. You can see it for blocks.
TIM. A big, blue, neon star! Golly! This is the happiest night of my life! (as they sing Jingle Bells”) Yes, sing! Sing! (raising both arms) And God bless us, every— ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
(TIM falls off the bridge; we hear a splat noise.
STAN. Oh my god, is he—?
CLARENCE. No. He’s up to his tiny armpits in mud, but he’s waving to us. Poetic justice, George: most satisfying.
JOSEPH. I’ve got a rope in the wagon. I’ll tie it to old “Ned”, and we’ll lower it to the boy and haul him up. (calling to his ass) Old “Ned” will do the job, won’t you, boy?
BERNICE (to MARY, as JOSEPH goes off). Your husband loves that animal, doesn’t he.
MARY. Yes, he has a great ass.
CLARENCE (to GEORGE). Speaking of which—sorry we didn’t go to California, George?
GEORGE. (tapping head, indicating imagination) We did go Clarence. And we’ll return again and again. If never in the flesh, then in fables spun by good companions at Ray’s Star Tap, on long winter evenings. The scantily-clad beach of the mind: now there’s a wondrous place.
(TIM, from below, sings “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” all join in.)