LIFT

A Play
(9 Pages in Typescript)
 
 
 

Lift was first performed at the New Media Repertory Company in New York City on December 7, 2001. It was directed by Miranda McDermott and designed by Franklin Engel.

He: Greg Horton
She: Roxann Kraemer
 
 
 
LIFT
 
 
Who and Where They Are
 

A couple in their mid-thirties in ski suits, facing forward, suspended on a ski lift. They wear knit hats and have plastic goggles dangling beneath their necks, they're wearing skis and have ski poles in their laps. Beneath the lift and to the side are green clumps: the tops of trees. As the play progresses the light fades from cold lavender twilight to near-darkness. The two stare straight ahead as they talk and do not look at one another until late in the play. In the background, the sound of low moaning wind.

(A long, unpleasant silence, then)



---------------SHE:

Well, at least we have each other.


(pause)


---------------HE:

Yeah, that's something to be thankful for.


(pause)


---------------SHE:

I'd sure hate to be sitting here alone.


(pause)


---------------HE:

Me too.


(pause)


---------------SHE:

So once again, I thank you for coming back with me.


---------------HE:

I told you, you don't have to keep thanking me. It was the least I could do.


(pause)


---------------SHE:

I suppose you're going to tell Jim and Margaret that I dragged you back.


---------------HE:

I don't think I'll tell Jim and Margaret anything. After this I don't think I'll have time for recriminations.


---------------SHE:

Of course, knowing you, you won't tell them that you dragged me up there. You won't bother to tell them that a run from the top of the mountain was beyond my ability.


---------------HE:

But it's not Sheila, it's not! You're a much better skier than you think you are! I merely said it was the last day of our vacation and the last run of the day, so why not end it on a triumphant note? Why not end with a run from the top? I knew you'd feel better if you found out how good you really are. As usual I was merely trying to help you get over your insecurity.


---------------SHE:

My insecurity! You thought you were helping me with my insecurity?


---------------HE:

Sure I was. I do it all the time.


---------------SHE:

Well, Jerry Cauldwell, that really makes me laugh. If I hadn't stood behind you every step of your career, if I hadn't held the ladder for you and let you put your foot on my shoulder every time you needed to, if I hadn't beamed admiration at you at every company dinner and company retreat—in fact, if I hadn't flirted with Jack Wiley—though I'm sure you were too dense to notice it—you'd still be crunching numbers in the accounting office!


---------------HE:

Whaddaya mean, you flirted with Jack Wiley?


---------------SHE:

Why do you think I always wear those low-cut blouses and tight-fitting dresses to your company meetings! (sour silence; finally, in a lower, rueful voice) Anyway, I admit that if I hadn't taken so long to make up my mind, we wouldn't be sitting here. But I panicked, I lost my nerve. I thought I could make a run from the top, then I realized I couldn't. And you kept badgering me. It felt like you were forcing me.


---------------HE:

Forcing you! Badgering you! But I wasn't, Sheila! I was only trying to give you the confidence and encouragement you always seem to need!


---------------SHE:

You were giving me confidence, giving me encouragement! Why, you practically pushed me over the edge! But I knew the run was beyond my skill, and that's why I finally got back on the lift! That's why we're the last people—the only people—on the lift!


(pause)


---------------HE:

Well, I came back with you didn't I? I could have skied down.


---------------SHE:

We've been over that, Jerry. Over and over it. And you may remember that I thanked you. So once again, let me say: Thank you, Jerry Cauldwell, for coming back with me. Let's not discuss it anymore.


---------------HE:

Okay, fine. We won't discuss it. We'll just sit here and wait for time to pass. Anyway, they're doing the best they can, down there. I'm sure they'll have us down soon.


---------------SHE:

(significant pause) That's what you said an hour ago.


---------------HE:

Well, you can see them working on it, can't you?


(Jerry takes a small pair of binoculars out of his ski suit pocket, applies them to his face and adjusts them, directs them far downward)


At least they've stopped waving to us. I'd rather they work on the damn machinery than keep waving to us. (cups hands to mouth, shouts downward) It's just a motor and some cables, after all! I don't understand what the problem is!


---------------SHE:

Maybe it's a snag on the line. Maybe one of the pulleys, or whatever they call them, seized up.


---------------HE:

Well, they have harnesses to get us down—if it comes to that. I'm sure they've dealt with this kind of problem before. (pause) Anyway, just think how good some hot chocolate, or good hot coffee, is gonna taste.


---------------SHE:

(icily)


I'm sure the snack bar closed hours ago. I'm sure everybody but the. . .geniuses working on the equipment has gone home. Hell of a way to spend an aprés-ski


---------------HE:

Always looking on the bright side, Sheila. Always looking on the bright side.


---------------SHE:

Of course, lucky you: You'll have dear sweet Margaret to tell you how worried she was. You'll have sweet, delicious little Margaret Jansen to run her fingers through your hair and tell you what a hero you've been. She'll probably welcome you back like an astronaut from the moon. A hero from outer space.


---------------HE:

So Maggie and I are pals. We understand one another. What's the big deal?


---------------SHE:

Pals who understand one another! Ha! Don't make me laugh! I'm surprised the two of you haven't been creeping down the halls late at night! Tiptoeing down the back stairs of our quaint little inn!


---------------HE:

Sheila, what are you talking about? Jim and Margaret Jansen have a great marriage. They're happy together! What's all this about me and Margaret?


---------------SHE:

Oh Jerry, sometimes you can be so obtuse. Tell me. . .now that we have this pleasant little time to spend together. . .do you really think I don't know what's going on? Why, even the kids know! Don't you think it's time we went off to a quiet secluded place, and had a little talk?


---------------HE:

Now don't get started, Sheila, don't start up again. I'm asking you.


---------------SHE:

Well, I do, Jerry! I think it's time we went to a quiet, out-of-the-way place and had a little talk. Can you think of someplace we could go where there's nobody around, nobody listening, where we could actually talk? Someplace where you can't change the subject when it suits you, and tune me out?


---------------HE:

Sheila, it's cold enough up here. Please, I'm asking you. Don't get started.


---------------SHE:

Is that a warning, Jerry Cauldwell? Are you warning me? Ha! You drag me up a mountain for a run I'm not equipped to make, you practically push me over the edge, just hoping I'd hit a mogul or something, and break my neck, and you're warning me? No wonder you didn't want to come back on the lift! You realized you'd never again have such a golden opportunity to see me hit a tree or mogul, and sail off into oblivion!


---------------HE:

Sheila, are you out of your mind?


---------------SHE:

No Jerry, I'm not! In fact—knowing you—1 wouldn't be surprised if you'd taken out an insurance policy on me! You probably upped the numbers on me, thinking that even if I did nothing more than bang myself up, you'd have only Jim Jansen to worry about in your delicious little dealings with Margaret! On the other hand, if you got really lucky and I did a real number on myself—


---------------HE:

Oh, cut it out, Sheila! Cut out the nonsense! The cold has gotten to you! You don't even know what you're saying, anymore! Could you do us both a favor, and be quiet for a while? Just leave it alone?


---------------SHE:

Sure I could. I could do that, Jerry. I could do that if, for once, you'd level with me.


(pause)


---------------HE:

Level with you about what.


---------------SHE:

About Margaret Jansen.


(pause)


---------------HE:

Sure, and you can tell me about Jack Wiley, Junior.


---------------SHE:

(shaken; looking aside)


Jack. . .Wiley, Junior?


---------------HE:

Yeah, you heard me! Little Jack Wiley! Oh, I'm glad to know you've done everything you could for my career, all these years, I'm glad to know you've allowed me to stand on your shoulders, that you've single-handedly made me what I am. But don't even you, Sheila, think that fucking the president of the company's son is a bit much?


(pause)


---------------SHE:

Now it's you who's talking nonsense.


---------------HE:

I mean, don't you think having an affair with my boss's son was going. . .just a wee bit overboard?


---------------SHE:

That's nonsense, Jerry! Where do you get your information!


---------------HE:

Where do I get my information? The old man! My boss, Jack Wiley himself! Where else? Why do you think I dragged you out of the city for this ski trip? Do you really think the week before annual meeting is a good time for me to be away from the office? Get real, Sheila! I dragged you out of the city to get you away from little Jack Wiley! And hell, I had to! The old man said if I didn't stop what was going on—if I didn't put a stop to what he considers a very compromising situation—I was out of a job! Canned, Sheila! On the beach! Can you understand that!


---------------SHE:

(quietly)


So. . .why didn't you—


---------------HE:

Because I couldn't find a way to say it. I couldn't find the right words. I was going to ask Margaret, as a favor, to put it to you—you know, girl talk, and as though I didn't know— but then I was afraid she would tell Jim. And who knew what that would lead to?


---------------SHE:

(looking aside)


God. What a mess.


---------------HE:

What a mess, is right.


(pause)


---------------SHE:

(subdued) Okay, so I'll level with you, Jerry. I lied to you. It's not true that the children know about your affair with Margaret. I said that because I was angry. I should never have brought them into it. That was dirty pool.


---------------HE:

It sure was. Of all the things you've said since we've been sitting here, that's what hurt the most.


---------------SHE:

And Jerry—


---------------HE:

Look, maybe this isn't the time to discuss it. Maybe we shouldn't say any more right now. Maybe you shouldn't and maybe I shouldn't.


(pause)


Oh hell. I'll level with you, Sheila. I really don't know how to say this, but I know the evening you spent with Jack Wiley Junior was a one-time thing. And to tell the truth. . .


(Jerry buries his face in his hands to hide his tears)


. . .this is really hard to say, Sheila. At first I didn't feel too upset about it. At first Mr. Wiley acted apologetic, like it was his fault, or some kind of company problem. For a while it sort of bound me to him, it was as though we were partners in a conspiracy. To be honest, at first I thought it had increased his loyalty to me. I thought I was finally on the inside of the company workings, that your little .. .indiscretion, far from compromising me, had advanced me to the inner circle. It was weird. At one point the old man even went so far as to suggest I take over some of Jack Junior's duties.


---------------SHE:

(unconsciously wagging her feet with excitement)


Oh Jerry! That's wonderful!


---------------HE:

(pause)


But it didn't work out that way. Mr. Wiley must have thought about it some more and decided family loyalty came first, that I was the fly in the ointment. Because a week ago he—


---------------SHE:

He what, Jerry! Bought you off?


---------------HE:

(pause) Fired me. Just like that. Called me into his office and said I had two days to be out of there.


---------------SHE:

(stunned silence, then for the first time looking at him)


Jerry!


---------------HE:

(looking at her) Maybe if I'd kept my mouth shut, I'd've been all right, gotten through it. But when Mr. Wiley began talking about you, your character, your behavior—when he began saying terrible things about you— I went through the roof. I let him have it. That's when he. . . .


---------------SHE:

Jerry!


---------------HE:

(cowed)


I haven't had the nerve to go back to the office to clear out my things. I decided that if we took a trip together, and got out of the city, maybe we could. . .patch things up.


---------------SHE:

Jerry!


---------------HE:

But when we get off this lift (thumps arm rail of the lift with his hand)—I mean if we ever get off this thing—I still have to face Margaret. Margaret who's probably been sitting there in the car with Jim, for two hours, in stony silence. Hell, Sheila, those two hate one another! They aren't like us! They don't have what we have! Besides, Margaret's not going to find me very attractive, now that I'm just a guy who stands in an unemployment line. I know she won't let herself appear to be the reason for the break-up of our marriage.


---------------SHE:

(abruptly turning to him; desperately)


Break-up of our marriage! Jerry, you're my husband! I love you! And think of the kids! What about the kids?


---------------HE:

The kids, yeah. The kids.


---------------SHE:

And we have each other!


(she wraps her arms around herself, shivers)


---------------HE:

(thoughtfully)


Right. We have each other.


(Jerry takes the binoculars he has been holding in his lap and lifts them to his face and trains them far downward, then places them thoughtfully on his chest, finally returns them to his pocket. As his right hand and Sheila's left slowly extend toward one another, and clasp, the two stare straight ahead)


You're right. At least we have. . .each other.








(the sound of moaning wind comes up a notch; the light fades until)





BLACKOUT


 
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