Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Presenting: The Cup & The Lip

by JPegg

The Cup & The Lip
a play in two acts

Tucker Finn

“There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.”
~Old Proverb

Act I

The Cup & The Lip opens with the lone female protagonist strolling into the city like Clint Eastwood high on a horse from a scene in a Western, trotting into town with eyes watching. An outlaw stranger. But she does not ride a steed, rather she is a “Desperado on a Bike.” A Cowboy saddled on a ten speed bike, that is. She notices the dilapidations of her surroundings, “dusty treasures no longer treasured,” but she relates and calls herself a fake plastic Elvis with colors “undone” by forgotten years under the sun. What was is no longer. Gold luster tarnished black. The rowdy saloon she enters is now a modern Toronto Restaurant called, Café Diploamtico. She sees a few familiar faces and observes the party goers as she minds her own mind, jotting on napkins. She does not intend to order up a Spaghetti Western, but instead prefers Fettuccini. This is the introduction to Tucker Finn.

The emotional and suspense plots ensue with the inciting incident in “Almost Calling You.” Finn loses her common sense, causing her to nearly dial that final number to call up her last romance, a summer feeling that left her. “Yeah, I’m in the danger zone,” she says. She falls apart and starts losing herself. She is trying to move on, but caught in between. Her common sense is gone, likely out doing what she should be doing, snacking at a movie or enjoying wine at a waterfront café, not dialing that number. Finn turns to a supernatural aid, a Vegas psychic that supports her strength to help, almost. The “almost” stays lingering within her like a bitter taste in her mouth that she can’t spit out.

Tucker Finn’s effort to move on is filled with misfortune and despair, yet she replies, “I’ve Been Doing OK.” Her downward spiral slips further out-of-control. It is not only love she has lost and unable to settle in her heart, but now her luck has turned tragic. She gets fired from stealing at work, gets the flu, gets an asthma attack with dead puffer in hand, no friends to turn to, her Hank Williams records are returned scratched, and the list goes on to the point of a tire on a lock where her ten speed bike used to be. And now her “get up and go it just got up and went.” She admits, “I need a lake full of beer where I can capsize and drown.”

She can’t stand it and loses grasp on reality, completely. Turning to the supernatural of the psychic wasn’t enough, and so now she flees to the safe haven of imagination. To her Neverland. Tucker escapes like a child to a tree house, but she is an adult and instead takes her car on a “Vertical Road Trip.” She tilts her car up like a rocket and rockets to a place far from the pain. The destination is of kindness, good feelings, with no intent on leaving. Little thought of looking back to what was left behind down below. “I almost never check my mirrors,” she says, “and I feel good way up here. I’m not talking calls. Can’t reach me at all. Way up here.” Finn has found her comforting paradise. It's too bad it’s not real. But how long will it last? Too good to be true. What will she do when the gas tank runs dry and she plummets back to reality? The trip and questions to be answered becomes the literal and structural curtain line high point, the cliffhanger, to end Act I.

“The Intermission”

Intermission gives the audience a break back to reality. Away from the story and away from the ride. The audience realizes that they themselves were on a trip to escape as well as they sat in the passenger seat with Tucker Finn at wheel. But like the audience, Tucker Finn will have also returned back to reality. Is this what the playwright is attempting to convey? Or it may be that intermission is just an emotional pause to take “in a glass of Beaujolais or Chablis,” a breath “between what was and what will soon be.”

Act II

An actor steps onto the stage to start the second half. Hidden under the costume is Tucker Finn as she attempts to portray herself as a “Great Work of Fiction.” She has returned in disguise to be somebody other than who she is. She has turned life into a stage and plays the role that isn’t true. “I’m looking for people that I’d rather be,” she says, as she attempts to escape from herself by becoming somebody else. “Cause it isn’t the things you can do, it’s who people think that you are.” She has turned her life into a fictional story, to be noticed, for she is “scratching the dream where it’s itching.” The fame and recognition. There is something not right and she knows it, but thinks that maybe something good will come of it. A temporary relief if anything. But how long can she itch the dream before the act starts to bleed?

The bleed comes in the obligatory scene in “Orphan Routine.” Tucker Finn’s opposing personalities come face-to-face. The good versus bad. It’s the stand-off. The showdown. The plot climax. The final struggle to see which identity will prevail, if any. The conflict with herself has come to a peak. “I’m lost and found and lost again,” she says, “Am I an outline? Fill me in.” A side of her is empty and wants to fill it hope, while the other side wants to sabotage and discard, “I fix the game so I can’t win.” Does she choose a side or return to herself? The resolution is that she seals them away with a letter, which she will likely never give to another. She locks away her emotions. Both are shot down. This turns out to be the anticlimax and false ending, for the story continues.

Now, without her emotions she becomes detached, numb, and “Totally Headed for Nowhere.” Finn falls into limbo, in a sort of void where nothing reaches her nor radiates from her. Depression. Desolation. Alone and lost “in the fuzz between radio stations.” It’s as though she is kicking rocks and watching them tumble along, feeling the same, unpredictable of where they will stop and lay, only to be kicked about again. It’s not the road less traveled, it’s the road nobody wants to get stuck traveling upon. A path without dreams, emotions, desires, wishes, or hopes to keep striving to appreciate life. It’s not even sadness, but worse, eternal nothingness. She has shut off her feelings. A body with life, but without a soul. Wandering listless.

She blames her condition of peril on her “Cold Paper Heart.” A heart held together with “scotch tape and glue” with “a low ceiling for loving and feeling.” The odds were against her from the very beginning. The doctors advise their best conclusion, to remove it to give place for a healthier heart to grow, but it’s her heart and she’s sticking with it. She tucks it hidden in a book like a dry rose pressed between the pages. It is almost forgotten, but then the emotional plot climax, the paper heart starts to blossom like a spring flower sprouting above the melting winter. When all seems lost, Tucker Finn finds love once again. This “Cold Paper Heart” is the letter she seals away with her confound personality of “Orphan Routine,” but now instead of tossing it aside, she plans to mail it to the one that she has found in hopes that it will be treasured. But this is an open ending, for it is not clear whether the love she has found is for another or for simply, herself.


Flash forward to the present. It’s a new day. The sun shines in. Tucker Finn is in bed with her laptop. Weary eyed and finishing the story just told, she closes the computer to put it to “Sleep Mode.” The epilogue is the exhale as she too takes a deep breath and lets it out smooth. But she is alone with only her pillow for comfort as she has the thought, “never mind death, think of my breath.” The struggles continue, though there is an ease to her for the moment as though her confessional memoirs has lifted a heavy burden on her heart. Things are not great, but brighter, and going forward Tucker Finn will in fact be doing OK.