Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
This is a short play I wrote for an English assignment. It had to be a 10-15 minute play and could be about anything. I got the idea from one of my daydreams. I had to just do one scene from the daydream since the real thing would have been an entire 3 Act play LOL. I guess it's okay. I'm not the best writer... I got a good grade on it though.
Cast of Characters
In Order of Appearance
Ellis Olson: Ethel Riley’s doctor, caretaker, and head operator of the mental institution in which Ethel resides.
Manson Riley: Ethel’s father, her only family, a recovered alcoholic.
Ethel Riley: An 18 year old girl who resides in a struggling mental institution in the height of the Great Depression. She cherishes her father. She has the mind of an eight year old child.
Young Ethel: Ethel Riley at eight years old; a playful little girl who revolves her whole life around her father.
Young Manson: Manson as a younger man when Ethel was eight; a loving father, but an alcoholic and very violent and irrational when drunk.
[Lights come up on the first scene in the main entrance/office of the institution. An old style, beat up, dirty, grungy looking desk sits stage right. A well used, dirty, wooden chair sits behind it. A second chair resides next to the desk. On the desk sits an old radio and an ashtray. The floor looks as if it has gone un-mopped for a long period of time. Paint is chipping off the walls. The room looks extremely unkempt. There is a door stage left with a sign above it that says Institution for the Mentally Insane. Ellis is seated in the chair behind the desk smoking a cigar. He is wearing a white lab coat and thick framed glasses. Manson enters and knocks on the door. He is wearing an ugly, dirty and worn brown coat, grey slacks and an old flannel shirt. Ellis crosses stage left and answers it.]
Ellis: May I help you?
Manson: Yes, I’m here to see my daughter.
Ellis: I’m sorry, we don’t usually allow visitors. [He starts to close the door. Manson catches it]
Manson: Please. My daughter is Ethel Riley…
Ellis: Ethel Riley?
Manson: Yes. I haven’t seen her in ten years; I was too scared to come before. Someone said she’d be here. Please. I must see her.
Ellis: [hesitates] Come in. [Manson steps in and Ellis closes the door behind them.] I am Ethel’s doctor, and the headmaster of this place, Ellis Olson. It’s certainly good to meet you. [Offers handshake. Manson returns the favor]
Manson: It’s good to meet you too. Thank you so much, Doctor. May I see her?
Ellis: I don’t know if that is such a good idea Mr. Riley…
Manson: Why not?
Ellis: Well, considering her condition I don’t think…
Manson: [cuts him off] Please Dr. Olson. This has haunted me for ten years. Not a day went by that I didn’t see her somewhere; whether it was in the market, on the street, anywhere. Everywhere I went, something reminded me of her. I finally got up enough nerve to come after my Ethel and I insist on seeing her.
Ellis: Very well. Mr. Riley, before you see your daughter, there are a few things you ought to know.
Manson: What things?
Ellis: [pause] Sit down. [They sit. Ellis in the chair behind the desk, Manson in the other; he puts out his cigar] I usually don’t give out patient information, but taking into consideration Ethel’s condition and the fact that you’re her father, I’m going to make an exception. [He takes a moment to collect his thoughts] The day your daughter was brought to us, ten years ago, she was a very disturbed little girl. We don’t normally take patients that young but her case was so severe that we felt it was the best thing for her at the time. When Ethel came to us, she was suffering from what appeared to be a very strange dissociative condition, a split from reality or consciousness, which seemed to have occurred within a short period of time. She appeared to be mentally trapped in one particular event in time, reliving the event over and over again in her mind, just as if it were happening in that moment. Her brain is stuck in whatever age she was when she first came that day; she has the mind of a child. Also, because of her severe mental state, she has no realization of her surroundings. We tried different treatments for her but every attempt we tried failed, and with times being the way they are after the stock market crash, there wasn’t enough funding by the state to continue any further treatments we may have believed to be beneficial. We believe this event she is reliving to be the trigger of her condition. She rarely speaks, but rather sings this one song over and over again.
Manson: You Are My Sunshine?
Ellis: Yes. How did you know?
Manson: That was our song. We always sang it to each other ever since Ethel was a baby.
Ellis: Ah, I see. Well, as I said, she rarely speaks. However, when she does speak, she thinks you’re dead…that she killed you. I was hoping you could possibly provide me with an explanation as to why or how she came to this conclusion.
Manson: [at a loss for better words, ashamed.] I…I was irresponsible, young and stupid. My wife was gone and we had no other family. That’s when I started drinking. I came home one night very drunk with no control of myself. I saw Ethel sitting in the kitchen floor. I got mad at her, for what, I can’t recall, and my anger got out of control. I saw my rifle leaning against the counter…and… [Starts crying] Something happened and I blacked out. Again, I can’t remember what. When I came to I saw her lying on the floor. She looked dead. I got scared so I ran and never came back for fear I’d be found out. I figured, if she was alive, that she’d be better off without an irresponsible, drunkard of a father like me. So I stayed away. When I found out my baby girl was, in fact, alive, I finally saw that I had something to live for besides the drink. So I gave up alcohol for good. I was just too scared and ashamed of myself to come find her. [Pause] Oh, God. This is all my fault [Manson leans over and puts his head in his hands, ashamed of himself].
Ellis: [a long pause] I’m really sorry for what happened, Mr. Riley. For both of you.
Manson: Thank you.
Ellis: [stands] So, are you sure about this? Are you ready?
Manson: Yes, absolutely. I must see my daughter. [stands]
Ellis: Follow me.
[Both exit stage left. Blackout]
[The stage is split into two halves. Stage right being Ethel’s hospital room, stage right being the kitchen in the Riley’s old house, where the incident took place that caused Ethel’s condition. Lights come up full on stage right, Ethel’s room. There is a rickety, old, dirty, plain bed stage left. The room has no color and there is a door upstage right center. The walls are an ugly, drab grey and the sheets on the bed are white. Ethel is seated on the floor stage right center, barefoot, in a curled position, rocking herself, holding a ratty old rag doll, the light shining directly on her. She has unusually pale skin. Ethel is wearing a plain white floor length nightgown. Ellis and Manson enter. They watch intently. Ethel starts to tell the story aloud to herself. Lights on stage right are dimly lit, focused on Young Ethel who greatly resembles Ethel and is dressed similarly, seated in the middle of the kitchen floor, rag doll by her side and playing with a ceramic cup from one of the cabinets. There is a cabinet on the back wall with the door open revealing several more identical cups. It is a very basic, plain looking kitchen: one sink, a counter with a rifle leaning against it, stove, oven, a single, plain brown table with three matching chairs and a couple matching wood cabinets. The floor looks un-mopped. Dishes are still piled in the sink and on counter, not yet washed. There is a door located upstage left.]
Ethel and Young Ethel: [singing slowly in tune] You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.
Manson: [pleading] I’m sorry, sweetie. I never ever meant to hurt you. I didn’t do it on purpose please, please forgive me.
Ellis: She can’t hear you Mr. Riley.
[Ethel continues singing quietly. Lights stage right on Ethel’s room dim but scene is still visible. Lights on stage left come up brighter to reveal Young Ethel and kitchen.]
Young Ethel: [still playing with ceramic cup, singing] You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.
[There is a door slam offstage followed by a loud bang. Ethel’s singing is no longer heard but her lips can still be seen mouthing the same words. She reacts to actions done stage left.]
Young Manson: [offstage yelling] Son of a-… OUCH! Good God!
[We hear loud footsteps getting gradually louder and closer until Young Manson enters upstage left, clearly intoxicated, holding large, empty bottle. Upon entering, Young Manson kicks doorframe and drops bottle making a loud noise, startling Young Ethel causing her to drop the cup she’s playing with and break it.]
Young Manson: [stops and sees broken cup on the floor] What did you do?!
Young Ethel: [quickly tries to get rid of the broken pieces] I’m sorry, Daddy. I didn’t mean to. I promise!
Young Manson: What have you done?! How many times have I told you to be careful and not to make a mess in this house?! God only knows what would happen if your stupid head weren’t screwed on!
Young Ethel: I’m sorry, daddy. I said I didn’t mean to.
Young Manson: Stop lying to me!!
Young Ethel: I’m not lying, Daddy!! It was an accident! I’ll clean it up!
[Young Manson, in his drunken rage, stumbles toward the counter with the rifle against it. He knocks the rifle over with his foot, bends down and picks it up.]
Young Ethel: Daddy, what are you doing?! Daddy, no! Stop, please! Don’t!
[Young Manson, without thinking, takes the rifle, aims it at the broken cup and starts shooting but misses. We hear loud gunshots]
Young Ethel: DADDY, NO!
[Young Manson begins to shoot randomly at anything within sight. Young Ethel crawls quickly and tries to hide under the table, hands covering her ears.]
Young Ethel: [crying, desperate] Please stop, Daddy!! PLEASE!!
[Gunshots continue. After a few moments, Young Ethel, desperate with fear, gets up from under the table, quickly but cautiously goes over to Young Manson, reaches up and pulls on the butt of the rifle trying to make him stop. Young Manson looses grip of the gun and it falls to the floor.]
Young Manson: You little brat! Who do you think you are?!
Young Ethel: “Daddy, you’re scaring me! Please stop!
[Young Manson starts to slap Young Ethel. She screams, falls to the floor and tries to get away. Young Manson hits her again but she rises to her feet and begins to run but eventually trips over the rifle. She picks up the rifle and stands as Young Manson begins to stumble toward her. In desperation, she shuts her eyes tightly, tears still streaming down her face, takes the rifle and swings it as hard as she can in self defense. It hits Young Manson in the head and he falls to the floor, unconscious.]
Young Ethel: [drops rifle, kneels over Young Manson] Daddy? …daddy, wake up. Wake up daddy! I’m sorry daddy. I didn’t mean to, I just wanted you to stop. Please, please wake up! Wake up. Please, don’t be dead. [Cradles Young Manson and sobs]
Manson: [yelling] No honey! No, I’m not dead! I’m right here!
Ethel and Young Ethel: I’m sorry, Daddy. I love you. Please, don’t leave me. [Singing softly through tears] You are my sunshine my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away. [Ethel stays stage right center crying softly to herself clutching the rag doll to her chest.]
[Lights fade to black stage left, kitchen. Lights come up stage right, Ethel’s room.]
Manson: Oh my God. What have I done? [In tears, to Ethel] I’m so sorry, baby girl. You don’t deserve this. You don’t deserve me.
Ellis: Mr. Riley, if there is anything I can do…
Manson: [interrupts] No. No there isn’t. It’s too late. I’ve destroyed my life and I’ve destroyed my daughter, the love of my life. She doesn’t deserve me and I don’t deserve her. I have nothing else to live for.
Ellis: There is still life to be lived, Mr. Riley. Yours isn’t over and neither is hers. It may seem like it now but trust me, it isn’t. There is still hope. [A long pause] I’ll give you a moment alone. [Ellis exits]
Manson: [Manson stares at Ethel. He slowly approaches her on her left. Ethel is still seated in the floor crying quieter now. Manson kneels down beside her and strokes her hair.] My baby, my Ethel, my sunshine, I hate myself for the things I have put you through and I only hope you can forgive me. You were the only thing that made it worth getting up in the morning, the only thing that made this wretched life worth living. I thought about you every day and no amount of apologies can make up for my unspeakable actions. I shouldn’t have done it. But it’s too late, I’ve ruined your life and I’ve ruined mine. I pray to God that someday you will find peace. I have nothing more to live for now. I love you, my sunshine. Je t’aime. Adieu. [Manson stands, and takes a last look at his daughter, bends down and kisses her softly on the cheek. He reaches inside his coat and pulls out a hand gun. He steps away slightly, puts the barrel of the gun inside his mouth and pulls the trigger. We hear one single gunshot and Manson falls to the ground near Ethel. Ethel cries out.]
Ethel: What was that?! Is he still shooting at me? Daddy! Daddy, stop! Daddy… [She looks to her left and sees Manson lying on the ground, dead. She hurries to his side and cradling his body in her arms.] Daddy? [Whimpering she looks around the room confused.] Daddy, where are we? Where am I? [Looking down at Manson] Oh, God…daddy? Daddy! Daddy, wake up! [A long pause. She feels his wound, lifts her hand and sees the blood.] No. No, no, no! [Screaming] NO! [Sobbing] Daddy, no. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you. Please, please, please don’t leave me! I love you. [Singing slowly through tears, cradling and rocking him in her arms] You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.
[Lights slowly fade to black.]
Honestly, this is going to make me cry. It was very well written. I completely felt the emotion. Great job.
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