Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

THE TENANT: “Thin Pale Man” fragment

In Plays on September 26, 2011 at 2:57 AM

TENANT / thin pale man

By Tommy Smith

Originally produced by Woodshed Collective in their site specific piece THE TENANT.  Directed by Steven Brackett.  Featuring Malcolm Madera and Elaine Smithee.



Home. Doorway.

The brother is just a voice.

(Should be played by actor playing Trelkovsky.)

THIN PALE MAN:  What’s this?

HIS BROTHER:  It’s my will.


HIS BROTHER:  Since mom died I’ve been thinking about my death.

THIN PALE MAN:  But you’re a young man.

HIS BROTHER:  I’m forty.

THIN PALE MAN:  I’m thirty nine.

HIS BROTHER:  We’re going to die, brother.

THIN PALE MAN:  Not for a while Why are you like this today Please come sit Come sit.

HIS BROTHER:  I’m going for a ride.  It’s Sunday.  I bought a car so I could riding on Sundays.

THIN PALE MAN:  You’re not like yourself today Please come inside My wife will make you some dinner.

HIS BROTHER:  I’ve got a date with my car, brother.

THIN PALE MAN:  Don’t you like my wife?

HIS BROTHER:  I like your wife fine.  I was at your wedding wearing a suit, remember?

THIN PALE MAN:  My wife She think you don’t like her.

HIS BROTHER:  Oh I like her fine.

THIN PALE MAN:  Then stay for dinner.

HIS BROTHER:  Would you like to come?  Would you like to come riding with me?

THIN PALE MAN:  I can’t Sunday dinner and all.

HIS BROTHER:  Just a spin.  I just bought it.  It’s a beauty.

THIN PALE MAN:  Oh with what money?

HIS BROTHER:  The money maman left me in her will.

THIN PALE MAN:  She left me no money.

HIS BROTHER:  Because she knew you’d spend it on her.

THIN PALE MAN:  I suppose I could have been a better son.

HIS BROTHER:  Say you’ll come riding with me through the Sunday countryside.

THIN PALE MAN:  I just won’t tell my wife.

HIS BROTHER:  Did you see my shiny new riding gloves?



A Hospital Room.

She is sleeping.

He paces.

She wakes.

She grabs his arm. 

She soothes his hand.

He sits.

He watches her fall asleep.

Her hand falls away.

He gets up.

Starts pacing.

A doctor comes out and hands Thin Pale Man a pair of shiny riding gloves.

The doctor shakes his head.

Thin Pale Man goes to a window and regards the gloves, his face hidden.

Jessica takes a microphone and begins singing GusGus’ “Is Jesus Your Pal?”


Is Jesus your pal?
Do you call out his name,
when your conscience is shivering?

Do you need someone too,
just like those people who
find peace in someone’s promises?
You sure don’t need my promises.

So come and sit on my box,
enjoy the view of this water,
where my lifeboat is sinking.

If you open your eyes,
take a look at this mess,
could you fake your reflection, child?

If you reach out for more,
you’ll find nothing but sorrow.
‘Cause knowledge is hollow.
And pride is hard to swallow.

So come and sit on my box,
take a view of this water,
where my lifeboat is sinking.

(the song is at




French music plays on the phonograph.

She is preparing home-made ice cream.

He stares out the window, holding the riding gloves.

THIN PALE MAN:  It was about this homeless man.  This really stinky homeless man sort of weaving in the street with his mouth open.

JESSICA:  Is he black?

THIN PALE MAN:  Yeah I guess so.

JESSICA:  Okay, what happens?

THIN PALE MAN:  This homeless black guy is stumbling down the street but then I notice that there’s no one around.  I’m the only observer.  And I look up and this huge vulture circle overhead like his wingspan is three football fields.  And it swoops down and tucks its wings behind his back and waddles behind the stumbling drunk black guy.  Playing with him like he knows he can eat him. But then the vulture pecks at him, takes a chunk out of his shoulder and the black guy is screaming (aspirated scream) Oh God my fucking arm! Then the vulture like scoops him up in his massive beak and flies away.

She starts churning ice cream, drowning him out.

He turns back out the window.

She keeps churning.

This should take as long as it needs to.

At some point, he turns away from the window.

He goes to a large portrait picture in the other room. 

He ascends a ladder and places the picture on the wall.

When he’s got the perfect alignment, he descends ladder.

We see now that it’s a picture of a man who looks just like Trelkovsky standing next to a beautiful-looking classic car.

She turns around with two bowls of ice cream.

The picture gives her a little imperceptible fright.


JESSICA:  Your brother.


JESSICA:  He looks like the man who moved in downstairs.

He takes a bowl of ice cream from her hand and goes to the window, staring out, not eating anything.

She slowly eats the entire bowl, then washes the entire kitchen, scrubbing it clean.




There’s a really loud noise going on somewhere else in the building.

He is standing over his wife.

A light flashes on and off on him in the otherwise dark room.

He just watches her as she sleeps.

She doesn’t wake up.

At some point, he goes to the picture of Trelkovsky and says things to it that we can’t hear.

More like a normal conversation, nothing spooky about it.

The noise grows louder over the course of a minute or two.

He gets in a full suit.

Dress pants.

A nice tie, everything.

Iggy Pop’s “Sister Midnight” starts playing in the background.

A microphone appears.

As he dresses, he sings:

Calling Sister Midnight
You’ve got me reaching for the moon
Calling Sister Midnight
You’ve got me playing the fool
Calling Sister Midnight

Calling Sister Midnight
Can you hear me call
Can you hear me well
Can you hear me at all
Calling Sister Midnight
I’m an Idiot for you
Calling Sister Midnight
I’m a breakage inside
Calling Sister Midnight
Calling Sister Midnight
You know I had a dream last night
Mother was in my bed
And I made love to her
Father he gunned for me
Hunted me with his six gun
Calling Sister Midnight
What can I do about my dreams

Listen to me Sister Midnight
You put a beggar in my heart
Calling Sister Midnight
You’ve got me walking in rags
Hey where are you Sister Midnight
Can you hear me call
Can you hear me well
Can you hear me at all

(the song is at

Totally dressed, he then goes downstairs and knocks on the door.

He is shocked to see:



Trelkovsky’s apartment.  Doorway.


Thin Pale Man gasps.

Trelkovsky looks just like his brother.

THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  You’re –


THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  My wife was right about you.

TRELKOVSKY:  I’m sorry can I help you?

THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  Don’t you have things to do tomorrow that would require sleep tonight?

TRELKOVSKY:  Oh you’re referring to the little party we’re having?

THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  You are making an awful lot of noise.

TRELKOVSKY:  Yes I know it’s not my fault.

THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  You are MAKING a lot of NOISE.

TRELKOVSKY:  Yes we’ll stop soon.

THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  Who are you anyway?


THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  Who is it that you think you are?

TRELKOVSKY:  I just moved in.

THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  I’ve never seen you.

TRELKOVSKY:  Yes I just moved in.

THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  I’ve never seen you my wife has never seen you my brother has never seen you –

TRELKOVSKY:  Please apologize to them for me please.

THIN PALE MAN:  (in French)  My brother’s already really upset.

TRELKOVSKY:  Well if he wants to talk to me –

THIN PALE MAN: (in French)  You are DISTURBING my brother’s sleep and my wife.  All of you all of you all of you.  (to audience)  Don’t you just fucking sit there Get OUT get OUT you swine get your motherfucking asses out onto the street What do you think this is funny?!  DO YOU THINK I AM BEING FUNNY!  You faggots you fucking Arab fags get your fucking filthy Arab cunts on the street OUT OUT of this place before I come in with a gun, I’ve got a gun in my apartment and I’ll get my wife and my brother and everyone else to come in here and kill your fucking faggot asses! Niggers fucks! YOU NIGGERS!  NIGGERS!

The actor playing Thin Pale Man can continue to adlib incredibly racist French language until everyone is gone from the room and Trelkovsky is alone.

He returns to his home.





Jessica is baking something French.

A neighbor sits with her back to us, listening to Jessica.

(There’s a lot of noise coming from somewhere, or another scene is happening over this, to obscure most of what Jessica says, so that the audience only catches half of it.)


When I was younger I did all sorts of things.

I was into the artist’s lifestyle.

I know, me.

It seems hard to imagine I mean look at me.

Look at me now.

Could you imagine me sauntering the streets of Paris looking like this?

This was in the old days.

In the old days I wore things that were way too short for me.

Sometimes I wore bras without nipples.

It gave men easier access.

Now look at me speaking like this, speaking like I don’t have a husband.


I don’t know there’s just something about you.

It’s okay that I say these things, I feel okay saying things to you.

There were these boots I used to wear.

Cowboy boots.

Not a woman or rather a young girl at that time?

Never wore such a thing.

People could hear me clomping for miles, I was like that cat with the bell.

I was into film.

At first it was a lark just I got this camera from a man I was seeing.

He left it.

He had left it when he took all his things he forgot to take his camera.

So I took his camera and got it fixed and started filming my own movies.

I asked my male friends, you know just the males around me in my life not necessarily my friends but guys, you know, who were attracted to me?

I asked them to do my art projects.

I remember one.

I think I must have come up with it on heroin?

I took heroin sometimes.

It was casual not like it is now, not like everyone now regarding it a disease.

You just took it every now and then.

I was with my boyfriend at the time a large Moroccan man whose name escapes me like Moses?

Moses had injected my arm and he was also naked.

You hallucinate first thing, when the drug enters your bloodstream, there’s a rush of hallucinations that flood your vision?

I saw the penis of Moses become erect in slow motion.

And I started laughing and Moses said, What are you laughing about?

And I said, Moses, I’m laughing because your penis just became erect in slow motion.

And he said, Well, my penis is erect.

And I gave him a blowjob.

But then I got this idea?

These males around me in my life not necessarily my friends but guys, you know, who were attracted to me?

I could probably ask them to be in my movies?

And I would film them slowly becoming erect.

Them just standing there, or sitting on their couch, completely naked, with their heads cut off from the frame, and they get this erection while their bodies are completely motionless.

And I shot a lot of these movies.

Guys would say yes even in bars.

I liked the older guys.

It was easier for them to get erect contrary to what people may have told you about the virility of your average over forty Parisian male.

I would help them sometimes.

I would ask them, What would you like me to do?

And they would say, Could you please take off your shirt?

Or they would say, Could you pull your pants around your ankles and bend over that counter?

Mind you, I was off-camera.

Lie down on the ground and stick your ass in the air.

Or, Stick your finger in your mouth and suck on it.

That got them going.

I wouldn’t do anything until they asked.

Sometimes they would close their eyes to consult their imagination of past loves.

They weren’t allowed to touch themselves, you see.

And I had all this footage of men’s penises becoming erect independent of any touch.

I didn’t end up doing anything with it.

What can you do with that?

Eventually there’s a point in your life when art, any art, seems stupid and boring.

You just want to look out at the Ocean.

You just want to drive down the coast and have someone not yammer on about the recent exhibit they just saw.

I mean who gives a fuck, am I right?

Do you think this is enough?

Should I make more?

I don’t know if this is enough for everyone but maybe if I make another batch everyone will eat more.

I read about this one woman in the I don’t know lower parts of the city who poisoned some people by baking with this toxic substance.

I don’t know where she got it.

I haven’t seen the paper today has it come?

It doesn’t come every day or does it come?

Does the paper come every day at your house what’s it like in your house?

Could I come inside one of these days, do you think I could come into you house I could bring my camera and you and I could take a couple movies of you inside your house?

Is it cozy?

I imagine you’ve got a roaring fire.

Your house is probably pimping, am I saying that right?

You are an American no you’re a Canadian no don’t tell me!

You told me earlier and it is my responsibility to remember.

You see that painting?

That painting on the wall?

That’s my husband’s brother and he died in a car crash the day the man downstairs moved into that apartment?

I see you’re done with your coffee would you like another?




Jessica starts a big pot of water.

It begins to boil through the following:

Jessica goes to the closet.

She takes out a large case.

Opens it.

Pulls out a projector.

Sets the projector up.

Plugs it in.

It shines white on a large white wall.

Jessica goes to closet.

Pulls out another large case.

Opens it.

Pulls out a film reel.

Attaches the reel to the projector.

She presses play.

It is footage of the Thin Pale Man.

A POV shot of him from behind.

All we see is the back of his head.

One long unbroken shot:

He is walking through a park.

Then in marshes.

Then by the waterfront.

He pulls from the waterfront a live wriggling crab.

A foot kicking the front door.

The film footage changes to POV shots of driving.

THIN PALE MAN:  (outside)  Can you open the door?

JESSICA:  Just a moment.

THIN PALE MAN:  (outside) My hands are full.

JESSICA:  Yes just a minute.

She opens the door.

He’s got a bag of groceries in one arm.

He gives this to her and holds up his other arm:

He’s holding a net with a live wriggling crab.

JESSICA:   A little small.

THIN PALE MAN:  It’s all they had.

JESSICA:  I guess so.

THIN PALE MAN:  (referring to projection surface)  What’s this?

JESSICA:  Just looking at movies.

THIN PALE MAN:  When was this?

JESSICA:   From one of our trips.

THIN PALE MAN:  I’ve never been here.

JESSICA:   Did you get wine?


JESSICA:  Can you go back out?

THIN PALE MAN:   I guess.

JESSICA:  Then we could pretend.

THIN PALE MAN:   Excuse me what?

JESSICA:  We could pretend we’re driving.


JESSICA:  When you come back with some wine we’ll talk about it okay?

THIN PALE MAN:  All right dear.

He goes out.

She’s been holding the crab in her hand the whole time as it wriggles.

The pot is now boiling.

She tosses it in the water and shuts the lid.



A small square room.

Loud electronic music.

It is Underworld’s “Cowgirl”

It echoes through the whole building.

Flashing lights.

Smoke machine.


It should feel like a rave in an empty room.

For the duration of the song, Thin Pale Man rides an exercise bicycle.

A fan blows in his face.

On the walls, projections of images of Paris Streets race past.

Trelkovsky’s face flashes on the walls.

Thin Pale Man rides faster and faster.

At the end of the song, he collapses off the bike.

Jessica catches him as he falls.

He swabs his brow with a towel.




She is sleeping.

He paces.

She wakes.

She grabs his arm. 

She soothes his hand.

He sits.

He watches her fall asleep.

Her hand falls away.

He gets up.

Starts pacing.


I eat a lot of nuts.

Not a lot but sometimes I eat them if they’re in the house I’ll eat them.

I like to buy lettuce but it always goes bad.

Why do I even buy it?

Yogurt sometimes.

I stay away from meat but if my wife is having meat I generally have meat.

A steak or something.

I can’t have peppers they give me gas.

I can’t eat spicy foods because I’m French.

I eat spicy foods sometimes because I like the taste but oh does it give me gas.

Make my wife sleep on the couch.

Cheese I eat cheese sometimes.

Little white tablets.

It’s a monster and you quiet it down with something white and round.

The sky opens up.

The snow feels softer.

Your optimism increases while your ability to speak wanes.

Why wouldn’t I say hi to everyone?

But there’s that monster again.

He’s not here yet but look in the distance and you can see him running fast sprinting toward you ‘gainst a setting sun.

He’ll be here soon.

Where are my pills?

At some point you must realize quietly to yourself that the sight of you causes your lover to involuntarily fill with blood.

This like driving is a skill.

Some people like a dick placed inside them or if you’ve got a dick you most likely like the sensation of your penis softly held in the crotch of another.

Either way you’re one of the two.

Don’t sit there and deny it.

Im so in love with you baby.

I can’t wait to get my grubby hands of some more of those little white tablets.

God I’m so inlove with you.

Remember when we first met?

Remember when you held my hand when we were walking down the street?

I don’t even remember where we were going baby please gawd I wish you were here right now.

I would take you into a nice room and make love to you God I love you you’re my wife.

You’re my wife.

You’re my fucking wife I mean when did that even happen?

We gotmarried?

I don’t even remember when we got married oh yes now I remember we were by that sea dock and there were our friends and it was the seventies.

We were on a beach baby you remember?

You looked so pretty that day.

God you’re so pretty.

God I want to make love to your pretty body it’s still pretty I’ll always find you so pretty.

I keep taking xanax.

It knocks me out and I wake up in strange places.

Car to airtrain.

Airtrain to airport.

Conveyor belt to terminal and the terminal subway gets you to the airplane.

Then suddenly you’re on the Tube in London on the way to St. Pancras and you change trains in St. Pancras then you change trains in Brussels (you can pay cash) and take that same train from Brussels to where you’re going.

In the apartment I shave myself.

Once isn’t enough so I shave myself twice.

My skin has these red raw marks but only if you look close.

No one will be looking close.

You go to the place in the wall where you enter a card and enter a number sequence and you get money from a hole that opens up and spits out money.

There’s a transaction but no one sees it.

You’re on a street by yourself and there’s no one around you who speaks your language.

But it feels nice.

Instead of bad.

A shock of neon red lights up a lone canal where the water waves like a black sickness.

You smile at a moon that doesn’t quite lie the same way in the night sky.

Not the way you’re used to.

Everything seems okay for a moment.

Shave, shower, put on cologne.

Eat a nice meal.

Find two, one looks like your daughter.

80 for two?

Yes he says and they lead him down corridor by hand

The other one who looks like the daughter follows behind.

They discuss rates.

She gets another twenty from him because for another twenty you get touch boobs everything.

They ask him to get undressed.

He does but he’s nervous.

No one has seen his naked body in a decade.

The one who is not the daughter is forceful in her manner.

She keeps asking for more money.

The daughter looks sad.

She crouches up on her knees and holds herself.

He asks her what’s wrong but he’s passing out.

The forceful one starts to put on the condom as he passes out.

He rolls a joint and smokes the whole thing.




They’ve made a fake car.

Behind the fake car, the projector projects POV images of roadways throughout:

He clutches the wheel.

She’s curled into the passenger seat.

JESSICA:   There’s mountain out there.


JESSICA:   There’s roads on those mountains.

THIN PALE MAN:   I know.

JESSICA:   Don’t you want to drive on those roads?


JESSICA:   I do.  I want to drive on them.


JESSICA:   Let’s take her out.


JESSICA:   We’re already in the car.

THIN PALE MAN:   I don’t think we should go.

JESSICA:   You don’t want to see the other villages?

THIN PALE MAN:   We can ride our bikes there.

JESSICA:   I am talking about the villages twenty to forty miles from here.  We can’t bike twenty to forty miles.  That’s ludicrous.  We’re in our late thirties.  Things are more dignified for us now.

THIN PALE MAN:   Let’s go back inside.

JESSICA:   Let’s just sit here.


They sit there.

JESSICA:   Can I turn on the radio?


JESSICA:   You have to turn the key.

THIN PALE MAN:   Like this?

JESSICA:   Like that.

Radio blares on.

It is Iggy Pop’s “Sister Midnight”.

THIN PALE MAN:   Remember this guy?

JESSICA:   Yeah I remember this guy.

THIN PALE MAN:   Remember we went to see him.

JESSICA:   Yeah I remember when we saw him.

THIN PALE MAN:   That was good.

JESSICA:   Yeah.

THIN PALE MAN:   God what five?



JESSICA:   Ten …


JESSICA:   Yeah.

THIN PALE MAN:   Not old but –

JESSICA:   Older.




JESSICA:   It’s like I haven’t seen you.

THIN PALE MAN:   Yeah I know.

JESSICA:   It feels like it’s been a really long time.

THIN PALE MAN:   Yeah for me too.

JESSICA:   You didn’t have to go away.

THIN PALE MAN:   I know.

JESSICA:   But you’re here now.

THIN PALE MAN:   Yeah I was always here.

JESSICA:   Yeah.


JESSICA:   Do you want to start the car?


JESSICA:   Good.




They are in the fake car.

Trelkovsky in back, out cold.

Thin Pale Man drives fast.

Projected images behind them blur by.

Trelkovsky stirs and says:

TRELKOVSKY:   Where am I?

THIN PALE MAN:   Just lay back.

TRELKOVSKY:   I was on the street and then –

THIN PALE MAN:   I hit you.

TRELKOVSKY:   You hit me?

THIN PALE MAN:   Yes I hit you with this car.

TRELKOVSKY:   The car I’m sitting in.


TRELKOVSKY:   Explain again.

THIN PALE MAN:   You were out cold.


THIN PALE MAN:   You needed to be driven to the hospital.  I volunteered.  Sit back.

TRELKOVSKY:   I can just get out here –

THIN PALE MAN:   I’m taking you to the hospital.

TRELKOVSKY:   No slow down –

THIN PALE MAN:   I’m sorry, no.


THIN PALE MAN:   I’m sorry, I must insist.  I must drive you to the hospital.

TRELKOVSKY:   You’re my – You’re the guy who –


TRELKOVSKY:   You’re upstairs.

THIN PALE MAN:   Yes I’m upstairs.

TRELKOVSKY:   You heard, didn’t you?

THIN PALE MAN:   Heard what?

TRELKOVSKY:   You heard me talking.


TRELKOVSKY:   But you came down, you came down because you heard –

THIN PALE MAN:   I just heard a party.  Nothing distinct.

TRELKOVSKY:   The place is quiet like a mouse and that mouse can hear everything.

THIN PALE MAN:   Please you might be bruised lie back –

TRELKOVSKY:   Let me out of this fucking car right fucking now.

THIN PALE MAN:   Please you’re scaring my wife –

TRELKOVSKY:   What wife?  Let me out let me out –

THIN PALE MAN:   Get your hands off the wheel!

TRELKOVSKY:   Pull over now!


Screeching, heavy swerving, then: