Downstate (NHB Modern Plays)
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Downstate (NHB Modern Plays)

Bruce Norris

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  1. 128 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Downstate (NHB Modern Plays)

Bruce Norris

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About This Book

In downstate Illinois, four men convicted of sex crimes against minors share a group home where they live out their lives in the shadow of the offences they committed. A man shows up to confront his childhood abuser – but does he want closure or retribution?

Bruce Norris's provocative play Downstate zeroes in on the limits of our compassion and what happens when society deems anyone beyond forgiveness. It received its UK premiere at the National Theatre, London, in March 2019, in the same production which had its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, in September 2018.

'An unsentimental act of compassion and a devastating entertainment, a wry polemic and the darkest of dark comedies' - Chicago Reader

'[An] audacious, highly charged play' - Daily Herald

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Information

Year
2019
ISBN
9781788501613

ACT ONE

June. Saturday morning. Warm outside. Windows closed, shades drawn. A window unit hums feebly.
ANDY and EM together on sofa, opposite FRED in his wheelchair. ANDY stares at some printed pages in his lap. EM looks at him expectantly. Long pause. She places a hand on his knee.
EM. Ready?
ANDY nods, clears his throat.
ANDY. For a number of years –
EM. Take your time.
ANDY (calm, measured). For a number of years I told myself my life was good. And to the casual observer, this would appear to be true: I have a loving partner, I have a family, I have a home. And as long as I told myself this story, I believed it, too: Life was good and the past was the past and had no power over me in the present. (Beat.) But after my child was b–
His voice catches. EM touches him.
(Very quietly.) Sorry.
EM (whisper). You’re okay.
ANDY (whisper). I’m fine.
EM (whisper). Proud of you.
Another deep breath. He resumes.
ANDY. But after my child was born I started having panic attacks. And at first I didn’t want to make the association. I kept telling myself that fear and anxiety were normal responses to parenthood, what any adult would naturally feel when faced with the responsibility of caring for an innocent life. But then I started to notice that other parents were not anxious, on the contrary, they seemed happy and fulfilled. And it was only then I began to accept that we can never truly escape the past, and that evil exists in the world, and for me, at this moment, one part of that acceptance, is to look you in the eye today, and tell you to your face that you are a fundamentally evil person.
EM nods, gravely.
FRED (gently). Are you sure you don’t want some coffee?
EM. He’s not finished.
FRED. Sorry.
EM. Let’s let him finish.
FRED. Okay.
ANDY takes a breath, continues reading.
ANDY. I used to fantasize about how I would kill you.
FRED. Okay.
ANDY (calmly). I would park outside your apartment and wait until you pulled in the driveway. And I would bring along my mother’s .38, the one she kept in her bedside table, and when you stepped out of your car I would hold it against your head and duct tape your mouth so I wouldn’t have to listen to any of your toxic bullshit –
FRED. Sure.
ANDY. – and I’d drive you to the edge of the forest preserve, and you’d kneel down in the dirt –
EM’s cell begins to ring. She glances at the screen.
– and I’d rip the tape off your mouth and jam the barrel of the gun down your throat, so that you – so that you might – (Noticing phone, to EM.) you wanna – ?
EM answers her phone.
EM (sotto). What’s up?
ANDY and FRED stare at the floor.
Okay, but what did we say about the whiny voice? Yes, much better. Thank you. (Beat.) I don’t know. Maybe forty-five minutes?
ANDY gestures apologetically to FRED.
Well, where’s the charger? Did you look in the zippy bag? Okay, then have Maria take you to the front desk maybe they have a charger.
ANDY. There’s games on the TV.
EM. Daddy says they have games on the TV.
ANDY. Smash Brothers.
EM. Daddy says they have Smash Brothers.
A bedroom door opens in the hall. GIO briefly appears in sweatpants and a tank top. He inconspicuously enters the bathroom, closing the door behind him. ANDY notices.
Yeah ask Maria to set you up with Smash Brothers and by the time you’re finished we’ll be back. Tell her charge it to the room.
ANDY (to FRED). Sorry.
FRED. No no.
ANDY. Taking him to the water park.
FRED. That sounds like fun.
EM (on phone). Well, what did I just say? Soon as we get back to the hotel, okay? Okay. (She hangs up. To ANDY.) Sorry.
ANDY looks for his place in the letter.
ANDY (to FRED). Um. I don’t remember what I –
FRED. The gun in my –
ANDY. – Right. Right.
ANDY finds where he left off, clears throat.
(Reading.) …and I’d jam the – it’s a fantasy, you know –
FRED. I know that.
ANDY. – it’s a way of communicating some sense of of of the –
EM (overlapping). You don’t have to explain.
ANDY (continuous). – emotional cost of what – I’m not.
EM. Or justify.
ANDY. – I didn’t – it’s just – (To FRED.) sometimes it’s difficult for me to be um, you know, totally direct so this is a way of –
EM (overlapping). But why are you backpedalling?
ANDY (continuous). – unambiguously – (To EM.) I’m not.
EM. This is what you feel, and you have ownership of those feelings –
ANDY. I know that.
EM. – whether it makes him uncomfortable or not. (To FRED.) Right?
FRED. That’s right.
EM. And if it does? So be it.
ANDY. I agree.
EM. So let’s do what we’re here to do, okay?
ANDY. Right. Okay.
ANDY scans the page.
Um. So I’m gonna skip ahead to –
FRED. Okay.
ANDY (to himself, finding his place).…um, the guilt and the shame you forced me to live with… (Aloud.) by exploiting my trust. By enlisting my sympathy. But you will never be deserving of sympathy –
The front door opens. DEE enters from outside: sunglasses, flip-flops. He wheels a creaky metal shopping cart filled with groceries through the room en route to the kitchen. Once he is gone, ANDY continues.
(Reading.) – you will never be deserving of sympathy, or forgiveness. That is not something I can –
DEE now crosses from the kitchen to the bathroom, finds it locked, knocks lightly. No answer. He waits by the door. ANDY hesitates again.
EM (prompting ANDY).…not something you can – ?
ANDY (reading). That is not something I can give you. But I must remember to forgive myself, and remember that I was only a child, and to treat myself with the same respect and lovi...

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