Read an excerpt from The Writer
Donald Wellner knew success when he wrote a hit play thirty-five years ago, but now he’s recently separated, living in a small apartment, and trying to start a new script. His fortysomething son Blake is a travel writer with commitment issues who pops by between trips to try to hold his family together and prove his worth. Norm Foster’s sentimental comedy The Writer takes place over seven years, as Donald experiences the onset of dementia, and father and son become both closer and farther apart.
In this excerpt, Blake was reading Donald’s new script, and has just dropped the news that he’s moving to London, England.
DONALD: So. London, huh?
BLAKE: Yeah. It’s centrally located. I can hop over to all of the other European countries and Asia a lot easier from there.
DONALD: I spent some time in London myself.
BLAKE: I know you did.
DONALD: It was during the West End run of A Kind Heart.
BLAKE: I know that, Dad.
DONALD: Yes, that was quite the time. I enjoyed London very much.
BLAKE: Dad, can we talk about moving you out of here sometime soon?
DONALD: Moving me out? Why? I’m happy here.
BLAKE: Dad. Come on. You’re better than this. You could be living in a penthouse somewhere. Or in a hotel. You could have housekeeping services. Fine restaurants right downstairs. You’re not eating well here.
DONALD: I’m eating just fine.
BLAKE: You’re not. I’ve seen your kitchen. You’ve got junk in there. Peanut butter. White bread. Store-bought butter tarts. That’s not good for a man your age.
DONALD: I’m only seventy.
BLAKE: You’re not “only” seventy, Dad. You’re seventy. When you reach the age of seventy you stop putting “only” in front of it. You need some fruit. Some vegetables.
DONALD: You know I stayed at the Embassy West Hotel for five weeks when they were rehearsing A Kind Heart in New York. A wonderful hotel. Marvellous staff.
BLAKE: They tore that hotel down about ten or eleven years ago.
DONALD: What? No.
BLAKE: I’m pretty sure.
DONALD: Well, that’s a damn shame. It was a lovely hotel. They had a gym. Right there on the ground level. Sometimes I would use the treadmill early in the morning. They had a window that looked out onto the street and I would see the city start to come alive as I worked out.
BLAKE: You see? You could live in a hotel here. A very nice hotel.
DONALD: No. People know where to find me in this location. Mandy said she was going to stop in on her way home from school yesterday. To say hi. She didn’t make it though. She must have gotten tied up.
DONALD: Your sister. Yes.
BLAKE: Dad? Mandy doesn’t go to school. Mandy is forty-one years old. She’s a doctor.
DONALD: . . . I know that. She’s a very busy woman. That’s why she couldn’t visit.
BLAKE: Dad? Are you okay?
DONALD: I’m fine. Also, your mother knows where I am here. I can’t be moving from place to place. She’ll lose track of me. What if she needs me?
BLAKE: She doesn’t need you, Dad. She’s got Roger now.
DONALD: . . . Oh, right. I forgot about Roger. Well, that won’t last. He’s not her type at all.
BLAKE: Why would you say that? Have you met him?
DONALD: No, but I’ve met other Rogers. Very uppity, Rogers are. Their noses in the air. Your mother likes a more down-to-earth type. No, I give it a month.
BLAKE: They’ve been together for seven months.
DONALD: And the clock is ticking, believe me.
BLAKE: So, you won’t move?
DONALD: No. People know where to find me here. Fans. The press.
BLAKE: The press?
DONALD: Yes. Now, no more talk of moving. Let’s just sit here and finish our beer. Spend some one-on-one time together? You know how I like spending time with my son.
BLAKE: I know. Me too, Dad.
After a moment.
DONALD: That scared me.
BLAKE: What did?
DONALD: Thinking Mandy was going to stop by after school. I know she’s not in school anymore. Why would I say that?
BLAKE: You just got confused, that’s all. It was in the middle of a heated conversation.
DONALD: Yes, that was probably it. She hasn’t called, you know.
BLAKE: I know.
DONALD: I’m beginning to think that maybe she won’t call at all. Ever.
BLAKE: You’re beginning to think? Dad, it’s been two years since the breakup.
DONALD: Has it been that long?
BLAKE: Yes. And believe me, I’ve talked to Mandy. We’ve had many volatile discussions about her coming to see you. She is adamant.
DONALD: But how can a child do that—cut off all ties with a parent—over a misunderstanding? And that’s all it was. A misunderstanding.
BLAKE: She sees it as more than that. She sees how it hurt Mom.
DONALD: Then why doesn’t your mother intervene? She’s gotten over it, hasn’t she? She’s moved on. She has that snob Roger.
BLAKE: He’s not a snob.
DONALD: Why can’t she tell Mandy to get over it?
BLAKE: Dad, Mandy thinks you betrayed her as well.
DONALD: I betrayed no one! It was a complicated matter. I told you that. I was just trying to ease another human being’s burden.
BLAKE: You paid her rent for thirty-three years. That’s the problem. That’s what nobody can understand. Everyone assumes there must be more to it than just easing her burden. They think you must have had a child with this woman or still be in love with her.
DONALD: There was no child! There was no relationship! Why can’t you people believe that?
BLAKE: Because you’re so mysterious about it.
DONALD: It’s complicated.
BLAKE: Yes, you’ve said that.
DONALD: Well, when you see Mandy, will you tell her I said hi?
BLAKE: I will.
DONALD: And tell her . . . tell her I love her.
BLAKE: I tell her that every time I see her, Dad.
DONALD: You’re a good son.
BLAKE: Let me take you out to dinner. My treat. I’m going to buy you a healthy meal for a change. How does that sound?
DONALD: A healthy meal?
DONALD: Do I have a choice?
DONALD: Fine. I’ll go and get changed.
DONALD gets up.
DONALD: Well, you’re taking me out to a fancy restaurant, aren’t you?
BLAKE: Who said fancy? I said healthy.
DONALD: Oh, I don’t eat just anywhere, Blake. After all . . .
BLAKE: I know. You’re a Pulitzer Prize winner.
DONALD: And don’t you forget it.
BLAKE: How can I? You mention it every chance you get.
DONALD: So, what fancy restaurant are we going to?
BLAKE: I’ll take you to Monahan’s.
DONALD: Ooh, that is fancy. I might even put on a tie.
DONALD moves towards the bedroom. Then he stops.
Oh. The script is in my desk drawer if you want to have a look.
BLAKE: What’s that?
DONALD: The script. Cast in Stone. You can have a look if you like.
BLAKE: But, I just . . .
DONALD: You just what?
BLAKE: Nothing. I’ll have a look.
DONALD: And be brutally honest. I can take it.
DONALD exits to the bedroom. BLAKE moves towards the kitchen, but stops and goes to the desk. He opens a drawer and pulls out the seven pages of script. He looks at the pages for a moment. BLAKE puts the pages back into the desk and exits to the kitchen. Lights down.
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