Characters (in order of appearance)
Luke. Male, pre-teen
Myra. Female, 30s
Alex. Female, 20s
Michael. Male, pale-skinned, 30s
Marlon/??. Male, black, 30s
Joe. Male, black, 60s
Craig. Male, 40s
This is a play about Michael Jackson or, more accurately, my interpretation of the man. As a way to truly explore him I have opted to create a sort of alternate reality biography to give readers/viewers the opportunity to experience Jackson (or my interpretation of Jackson) and certain members of his family without his bubble of super celebrity that seems to create a sort of wall of distortion, skewing our opinions of those existing on the other side. Overall, the piece will reflect the anti-celebrity sentiment in that it (lighting, set, and other effects) will remain wholly contained, intimate, and minimalistic.
Setting: New York City, 1991
Scene i – Myra’s apartment. Living room.
The place is filthy and obviously owned by people with very little, despite its size and architectural hints of former extravagance. LUKE, 11, a fair-haired bright eyed boy, sits on the floor, playing with toy soldiers, lined up and ready for battle. He is wearing pajamas.
Luke: (grasping the general of one of the armies in hand) “Alright, gentlemen, this is what we’ve been waiting for. The enemy is right over there and they will not stop until every one of us is dead. Do you understand?” “Sir, yes, sir.” “I said, do you understand?!” “Sir, yes, sir!” “That’s more like it. On the count of three: One, two, three!” (Luke engages in wild battle between the two sides) Bam! Bam! Pow! Kssh! “Oh, no!” “My legs!” Ka-pssh! “Why can’t I feel my legs?!” “Henderson! Henderson, where are you?!” Bambambambam! “They’re coming from above!” Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. “My arm!” “Why…why is everything so black? Why do I feel so…cold?” “I’ve got you!” “Aghhh!!!” “Tell my wife…I love her.” (silence falls upon the battlefield and no pieces are standing. Gently, Luke picks up the general, who takes in the gruesome results of war) “Miles? Rodriguez? Henderson? Report.” (there is no response) “Dammit. Dead. All of them. But at least we took out the enemy. At least we won.” (he grabs onto another fallen soldier, speaking for it with a female voice, he coughs and moans. He switches back to the general – the conversation flips back and forth between these two for the duration of the quotes) “What the…?” “Samuels? Jackson? Clemmens?” “They’re dead.” “You…monster. They were good men.” “Mine, too. The best I ever worked with. But this is war. People die. We know this when we sign up.” “Agh! My darn leg is broken. You gonna finish me off?” “This is war.” “Right. People die. I get it…But why does it have to be this way?” “It’s how it’s always been.” “That’s not an answer. This isn’t some game. Winning shouldn’t have to mean that other people suffer. (more silence) Shoot me then.” “I’m out of bullets.” “There’s a lot of guns around. Find one. (Luke moves the general around. The general reaches and lifts up a gun) There you go. That wasn’t so hard.” “Shut up.” (the general moves to the woman) “I hope this is worth all the lives we’ve ruined.”
MYRA enters, 30, but aged a great deal by a rough life etched with substance and other abuse. She’s wearing a simple elegant dress. She stumbles while inserting an earring and approaches Luke.
Myra: The hell is this?
Luke: I’m playing.
Myra: Go to bed. You have school in the morning.
Luke: It’s only seven-thirty!
Myra: Don’t yell at me! Get in the bath. Go to bed. Mommy has a business meeting tonight. And, Jesus Christ, Luke, clean up this mess.
She kicks the army men at the word “mess”. Lights go down as Luke cleans up his toys.
Scene ii – Michael’s living room.
The room is simple and impeccably clean. You can tell immediately that, while in no way lavish, the apartment and its contents are costly. Certain choices in color and decoration bring to mind the innocence and imagination of childhood. MICHAEL (Michael Jackson,33, a thin pale man simply dressed, always in long pants with long sleeves) hunches over a drafting table painting an illustration of a group of young boys and their dog. Moments pass and then his phone rings.
Michael: Hello?…Oh, hi Greg…Uh huh…Okay…Greg, we talked about this…Greg, listen to me. Listen to me, Greg…Uh huh…Greg, I don’t care about the money. The books are doing fine…Oh, I know…But I don’t want them to enjoy them because of a name attached to them. I want it to be for the art, for the characters, for the magic in those pages…Greg. This is what we agreed on. Either accept my terms or find a new series…(calms) Let’s talk about book five. I think that-
There is a knock at the door. Michael is genuinely surprised by this; even disturbed.
Michael: (to Greg) One second, Greg. Someone’s at the door…No, not at all…Hold on.
Michael places the phone on the table and moves to the door. He looks through the peephole.
Michael: Can I help you?
Alex: (offstage) Hi. My name is Alexis Wales. Alex. I’m looking for Mr. Michael Jackson. Do you know where I can find him? Does he live here? Is this him?
Michael: What do you want?
Alex: I just want to interview him…you…him. I sent a letter a few weeks ago…
Michael roots through a pile of unopened mail. He finds an envelop with her name on it.
Alex: I-I work for Cornerstone Publishing. We’re putting together a biography on Marlon, you know, Jackson, and we were trying to find any friends or family to interview.
Michael: How’d you know I was here?
Alex: Michael? I…well, the publishing houses have sort of a network sometimes and, contrary to popular belief-
Alex: What’s that?
Michael: Nothing. Nothing. Hold on.
Michael goes to his table and picks up the phone.
Michael: You still there?…Yeah…I’m fine.
Michael: (to Greg) I have to go…(coolly) You can bet we’ll talk later.
Alex: Oh. There you are. We honestly didn’t expect to find you. That’s why they’ve been sending me around. I’m just an intern. Well, trainee. Wild goose chases are kind of my thing. But I found you! (beat.) So if you’d be kind enough to let me ask you just a couple questions-
Michael: Now’s not a good time. Sorry.
Phone rings. Michael answers.
Michael: Hello?…Yes, I’m upset, Greg. We had an agreement…That’s not the point!…We’ll talk later. Bye.
Michael hangs up the phone. Beat.
Alex: It will only take fifteen minutes! Tops.
Alex: It’s nothing too intrusive, I promise. It’s a fluff piece, really. Just a PR stunt, to be honest, what with the new album.
Michael: (softly) New album? (to Alex) Please leave. I’m busy. I have work to do.
The phone rings once again. Michael raises the receiver and drops it on the table, off the hook.
Alex: (silence) Okay. Fine. To be honest, I don’t even care about this stupid biography. It’s flat. It’s dumb. It’s just a bunch of old photos strung together by empty text. There’s no art. There’s no challenge. I’m better than this, Mich- Mr. Jackson. I know it. The only reason I even took this job was that maybe- just maybe I could meet you. I remember listening to my sisters’ records growing up. You were the real thing. I just want to meet you, Mr. Jackson. I’ll leave my notebook, my recorder at the door.
Michael thinks and then opens the door. ALEX, (25, mousey and bright dressed in the casual style of her youth) steps in and begins to remove her notepad from her backpack.
Michael: No. Keep it. This was bound to happen sooner or later. Would you like some tea?
Alex: Uh sure. That’d be great.
Michael: Follow me into the kitchen…
Michael and Alex exit. Lights down as the phone busy signal erupts then fades as the scene ends.
Scene iii – Backstage
Marlon, 34, dressed in leather extravagance, enters, collapsing on a chair, exhausted and covered in sweat.
Marlon: Ah, shit man! Woo! Jesus.
JOE (63, a fierce confidence in a three-piece suit) enters slowly. There is a dark power in his every move as he nears Marlon, unbeknownst to the other.
Joe: You were off tonight.
Marlon jumps up, startled.
Marlon: Shit, man! Come back later. I ain’t in the mood right now…
Joe: (correcting) I’m not in the mood right now…
Marlon: Whatever, man…
Joe: Don’t “whatever, man” me, boy.
Marlon: You can’t tell me what to do, old man. You got no dominion over me!
Joe: Then why am I here?
Marlon: (deflates) What do you want?
Joe: I want you to be the best.
Marlon: Not this again…
Joe: Yes, Marlon! This again and again and again until you get your act together.
Marlon: I’m fine! Did you hear that applause out there? Did you see that crowd? I’m on my way!
Joe: At thirty-five you should be there already…
Marlon: They’re writing a book about me!
Joe: That don’t mean nothin’!
Marlon: (correcting, spiteful) That doesn’t mean anything…
Joe raises his hand to smack Marlon.
Joe: You ungrateful…
Marlon: I’m not afraid of you.
Joe lowers his hand.
Joe: You should be. You’re all washed up. You had you chance and you blew it.
Marlon: Get out of here.
Joe: You’re this family’s only hope.
Marlon: I said get out!
Joe: You won’t let me!
Marlon: Why me?! Huh?! What about the others? What about Janet?!
Joe: She abandoned us.
Marlon: (dripping with venom) And why do you think that is?
Joe: (hurt, but covering it up) You should be something better than this. Instead you’re on the fast track to being a nobody. Book or no book.
Marlon: (beat) I’ll never be him.
Joe: (beat) Work on the chorus. Your voice gets weak on the third measure. And your moves are getting sloppy in “Baby, I Need You.”
Marlon: (beat) (determined) Thank you, daddy.
Like the living room, Michael’s kitchen is simple, modern, colorful, and pristine. He and Alex sit at the table, sipping tea. Alex is enwrapped by the other’s words.
Michael: Marlon and I used to get into so much trouble when we were on the road. There was this one time in Chicago when we were at the Drake Hotel. Jermaine and I always shared a room, but he was playing cards with Tito so it was just me and Marlon, bored, looking for something to do. We took the ice bag- you know that little empty plastic bag you fill up with ice? We took four or five of them into the bathroom and filled them up with water then tied them up. We thought we were so smart with our little makeshift water balloons. The two of us went out onto the balcony, a couple water bags each, and waited for someone to come by. We waited and waited. Marlon was getting impatient, but I told him it would pay off soon enough. After a while, the most perfect targets came around the corner. There was this tall skinny man in a three piece suit and a top hat with a feather in it. And beside him was this big round woman wearing a huge fur coat. They looked like they walked right out of a cartoon or something.
Alex: (laughing) How old were you guys then?
Michael: Hm. I was ten, I think. And he was eleven.
Michael: Well we didn’t really get out much so mischief-making was kind of the closest thing we got to being kids on those rare nights without rehearsal. So we drop the first couple bags and- Nothing.
Michael: We didn’t really take into consideration how thick the plastic of the bags was. The bags fell and all but they just sort of hit the ground around them. No explosion of water. We didn’t even hit them! And Marlon and I were hiding inside by the time the man and woman looked up to see who was targeting them.
Michael: That’s not even the end of it. Marlon still had one of those bags in his hand, full of water. Annoyed, he tossed the bag to me. As soon as that thing touched my hands it just – BOOM – water all over the place. We were drenched! And then Jermaine and Tito come running in and Jermaine sees that we got his favorite bell bottoms all wet – not to mention most of his bed. There’s a big commotion and then my dad walks in. Everybody goes quiet. It’s like there’s not a sound in the world. He walks up to me and Marlon with that intense look in his eye. I remember being so scared. He’s towering over us and he just raises his arm and…and…
Michael drifts off into his head.
Alex: Mr. Jackson? Michael?
Michael: (snaps out of it) Huh?
Alex: Are you okay?
Michael: Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Would you like some more tea? I have some cookies, too, if you’d like that.
Alex: No thanks. I’m okay.
Alex: When’s the last time you saw them?
Alex: Your family?
Michael: (after a pause) I think about them a lot. I never doubted that our dad loved us but- Sometimes I don’t know if I had the best life or the worst life a child could possibly have. It wasn’t a childhood. That’s something I’ll never have.
Alex: I should probably go. I have to report back to my boss and then some of my friends and I are- Well, that’s not important. I wasn’t planning on this actually working out. Me finding you, I mean. Like I said. It was great. Thank you for letting me in.
Michael begins to rise from his seat.
Alex: Don’t worry. I know my way out.
Alex starts off.
Michael: Drop by again, will you?
Alex: (smiling lightly, sadly) Sure.
Alex exits. Lights fade with Michael, dejected.
Scene v. – Myra’s apartment. The living room.
CRAIG (43, a long-haired burnout in a Hawaiian shirt) and Myra stand on opposite ends of the room like a pair of hungry beasts, ready at any moment to engage. They are both high on something serious, Myra, decidedly less than Craig, who is also wielding a half-downed bottle of liquor. Myra is half-dressed for work, as a cashier at a fast food restaurant. The rest of her outfit is scattered around her.
Craig: (growling) Rrrrrruff! Grrrruff! Woof!
Myra: (clearly loving it) Craig, you leave me alone you animal!
Craig: Woof! Woof!
Myra fumbles to get dressed.
Myra: Stop it! I have work!
Craig: Just one more time, baby. Please, baby baby baby, pleeeeeease?!
Myra: You’re a fucking animal! You’re a horn-dog!
Craig: (whimpers like a puppy)
Myra: Help me find my shoes.
Craig approaches Myra and begins kissing her lips and neck. Myra tries to push him away.
Myra: Get off of me!
Craig takes her hand and forces it on to his crotch.
Craig: Mmmm, dirty whore. (growls)
Craig: Goliath hungers…
Myra: You’re disgusting.
Craigs: Hungers for your pussy…Mmm. Woof! Woof!
Craig pulls her in and they begin to kiss and grope wildly, collapsing on the couch in a fit of passion.
Craig: Oh yeah, baby. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah….
Myra tries to break free.
Myra: Craig. No. No!
Craig: (mocking Myra’s voice) “No, Craig, don’t stop!” “No, Craig, do me harder!”
Myra spots her shoe, a pump, on the floor beside the couch and begins beating Craig with it.
Myra: I! Have! To! Get! Ready! For! Work!
Craig rolls off of her.
Craig: Oh, you slut!
Myra: I can’t be late again this week.
Craig: Call off sick!
Myra: I’m out of sick days, moron.
Myra: Enough of that! Some of us have a job and a kid to feed.
Myra gets dressed.
Craig: Aw, baby, don’t do that… You know I’m trying to get my business off it’s feet.
Myra: Hmph. His asshole daddy had to go and get himself killed. Crackhead moron.
Craig: I just need a little money and all our problems’ll be solved, baby.
Myra: All I got in that deal was this shitty apartment and a needy whiney mouth I have to feed for another six years…
Craig: I’m gonna be better than he was, baby. I just need a little money. (innocently) Do you believe me?
Craig: Do you believe me, Myra? You believe me, baby? Myra? Myyyyyraaaa?
Myra: (endeared) Stop that! Of course I believe you.
Craig: That’s my l’il fuck bear. Grrruff.
Scene vi – a practice space.
Marlon dances while Joe keeps time. Marlon is a skilled dancer, and knows this, but the fact means little because he wants to be the greatest; redefine the art, leaving him frustrated. There is a stool on which Marlon’s backpack sits.
Joe: Again! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. Again! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. Again! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. Again!
A pager beeps and Marlon breaks out of the dance.
Joe: What do you think you’re doing?
Marlon: It might be important.
Marlon pulls the pager from his backpack and examines it. A sudden wave of surprise and disbelief washes over him.
Joe: What? What’s goin’ on? Is it Epic? What did they say?
Marlon hides the pager so Joe can’t see it.
Marlon: It’s nothing.
Joe: That look on your face don’t make it look like nothin’.
Marlon: Well it is!
Marlon hastily puts on his backpack.
Joe: Where’re you going, boy? We ain’t done here-
Marlon: I need to find somewhere to think…away from you.
Joe: Marlon. Marlon!
Scene vii – Michael’s living room. Evening.
Alex is joyously looking through a set of illustrations. Michael watches, warmed by her presence.
Alex: You drew all of these.
Michael: (laughs) Yep. Every single one.
Alex: And you wrote them?
Michael: I did.
Alex: This is so incredible, you have no idea. There was a little boy and girl who I used to babysit back in Buffalo. Hunter and Hadley, but anyway, they LOVED these books. I would have to read one to them every night before they even thought about going to bed. And I loved it, too. The Johnson brothers going on adventures, getting into trouble, saving the day. It was so honest and innocent like a child, but there was always this deep, beautiful message weaved in.
Michael: That’s very nice of you to say.
Alex: I can’t believe you did these. I had no idea you were a gifted artist, too!
Michael: It’s funny, actually. We were a music family so that was mostly what we were exposed to around the house. On the road it was mostly variety acts. But when we were really starting to make it big, my brothers and I moved out to Los Angeles. While our mom and dad got everything together to move from Gary, I stayed with Diana Ross a lot.
Alex: The Diana Ross.
Michael: The Diana Ross. Yes. That’s the one. She was like a second mother to me and also shared her love of art with me. Van Gogh. Picasso. All the greats. She taught me to paint and ever since then drawing has been very important to me.
Alex: Interesting. And I guess the writing part came easy for you. You had been writing a lot of the Jackson 5 songs…
Michael: Well, there’s song writing and then there’s story writing. Songs are stories, but you can get away with being more symbolic and less detailed. Fortunately, while we were on the road we got a tutor named Rose Fine who really instilled a love of literature in me. I’ve been addicted to books ever since.
Alex: I remember one- it was my favorite -where Michel had fallen through the floor at this abandoned house and got stuck in the hole he’d made. He was so sure that no one would find him and that he’d live out the rest of his life cold and stuck and alone. Then Andy comes in with his flashlight and Jerry with his little emergency fanny pack and they get him out and Andy says…
Michael: “You shouldn’t be afraid, Michel. No matter how far you fall, even straight through the floor, your brothers are here to lift you right up out of that hole every time. As long as we stick together, we’ll never be stuck for good.”
Michael deflates at his quote’s end.
Alex: That’s it! (pause, taking in Michael’s sudden melancholy) Michael?
Alex: Are you okay?
Michael: I’m fine. Fine.
Alex: You miss them, huh?
Alex: What happened? Why did you leave?
Michael: (pauses to gather his thoughts) It’s complicated. I- It was the late seventies and a lot of things were changing. I was changing. I had been for a while. I remember my whole childhood looking out at all the kids playing in the streets and having fun and I’d cry, alone so no one would see me. I cried because I knew that that kind of freedom was something I might never have. My father was a stern man. A rough man. Everything was for the music with him. Sure sports were good and good grades were good, but we were performers. I loved music. I love music, but we weren’t free. So I got older. The Jackson 5 became the Jacksons and we were all changing. I had acne. I’m talking bad acne and I felt so self-conscious. Even more separated from people. My brothers were falling in love and getting married. I wanted something else. And I was an adult then. I was eighteen. Berry Gordy and Motown records came to me about a movie called “The Wiz.” They were considering me for The Scarecrow. So I get a call from Berry…that call that every performer wants to get. He said, “Michael, you got it, man. You’re gonna be the Scarecrow. Now all you gotta do is accept the role. Just say “yes” man and you’re a movie star!” I remember being real quiet then. My whole little life flashing in front of me. The late nights of rehearsal, the applause, the tears, my brothers and sisters, Motown, Epic, the crack of my daddy’s hand against my face when I missed a step. I remembered those kids playing outside of the window and, while I loved my life, I truly, truly did, I felt like I was missing a whole other one. And if I said “yes” to that movie I knew, I KNEW that things would just get bigger and bigger and I wouldn’t be able to be something different ever again. So I said “no.” My dad, oh he was furious. My brothers didn’t understand. We fought a lot, then. “No.” I had always been stronger than people gave me credit for and when I finally uttered that word, uttered it against my very self, I rebelled from it completely. I abandoned the music and performance that had enslaved me so wonderfully. I abandoned my family because I knew they’d pull me back in and- (teary-eyed, pulls himself together). Not a day goes by that I don’t miss them…
Alex flips through the illustrations.
Alex: Johnson Boys Mysteries. Ha, it all makes sense. Five brothers going on adventures and saving the day. Even your pen name: Benjamin Screws…
Michael: “Ben” for the rat that I identified with so much. My first movie. And “Screws”…
Alex: Your mom’s maiden name…
Michael: Despite everything, I was raised in a house of love. We’ll all tell you the same. (pause) How are they?
Alex: Honestly, I don’t know. They’ve been interviewed by someone else. Like I said, no one expected you to be found. When I told my boss that I’d found you, they made a big deal of it and were going to send in our main writer…but I kind of told them that you made me promise that only I would interview you.
Michael: (smiling slyly) Did you now?
Alex: Yeah. I mean…I couldn’t…that was bad huh?
Michael: I can’t complain.
They share a smile. Alex checks her watch.
Alex: Agh, once again I am totally late and have loads of editing to do so…
Michael: I’ll see you soon.
Alex: Yes. Totally. Bye, Michael.
Michael: Bye, Alex.
Alex exits. Beat. There is a knock at the door. Michael answers, assuming Alex has returned.
Michael: That was-
Luke enters, looking especially frail.
Michael: Oh, hi there. I recognize you. You live across the hall, right?
Michael: What’s wrong?
Luke: My mom isn’t home.
Michael: Oh, okay. Do you know where she is?
Luke: (shakes his head) No. Probably with Craig.
Michael: Oh. (thinks) Would you like to wait in here until she gets home? It’s okay, really. I was just about to make dinner. Are you hungry?
Luke nods, treads deeper into the living room.
Michael: Okay. You make yourself comfortable. The remote for the TV is right there. There’s some colored pencils and paper by the desk. I’ll whip us something up.
Michael exits. Lights down.
scene viii. – Split scene
The scene is split in three. The first is a smaller version of Michael’s kitchen. Luke is at the table, scarfing down pancakes as Michael mills about the kitchen. The second, a slice of Myra’s living room, empty. The third is simply an open space meant to be the hallway between Myra and Michael’s apartments. Empty as well. Lights are only on the kitchen until each of the other scenes become populated.
Michael: How are your pancakes?
Luke: (swallows) Good. I never had chocolate chip pancakes before.
Michael hands him a glass of milk.
Luke: (mouth full) Mmhm (swallows).
Luke takes a gulp of the milk.
Michael: Did you sleep well?
Luke: Yeah. Your pillows were soft. A lot softer than mine.
Michael: (laughs) Glad to hear it. I slept well, too.
Luke: Plus you’re the only grown up I’ve ever met that has so many cartoons on tape.
Michael: I like them. Besides they go great with pizza party sleepovers.
Luke: This is true.
Michael: Eat up. We need to get you ready for school.
Michael sits and joins Luke in eating breakfast. As this happens, Myra and Craig enter Myra’s living room, worse for the wear, drunk, stumbling around the room and fumbling over each other’s bodies.
Craig: It’s fucking dark in here.
Myra: Light’s busted. I’ll fix it. Gotta call the landlord.
Craig: Fat Jew fuck.
Myra: Watch your mouth. There’s children.
Myra checks her watch.
Myra: Fuckin’ shit it’s late.
Craig: Early, you mean, baby. We partied all night long.
Myra: That’s NOT what I mean. You’re goddamned retarded sometimes, Craig. Goddamned retarded.
Craig: That’s not what you said last night…
Myra: Oh, God, Craig! Help me find my shoes. They’re somewhere.
Craig: This is no place for shoes. I’m taking a shit…
Craig exits as Myra searches.
Luke: Yeah, but those are SO good. I could probably eat twenty more.
Michael: Let’s see if your mom’s home so we can get you to school on time.
Luke: (upset) Okay…
Michael: Come on. Let’s go…
Luke picks up his plate.
Michael: Don’t worry about that. I’ll clean it up later.
Michael and Luke exit. Myra finds her shoe and waves it above her head. Lights rise over the final third of the stage as Marlon enters the lobby, hiding his face under a hood, bristling with nervous uncertainty, looking around.
Myra: There you are! Ha. Luke! Luke! Get your little ass out here so you can get to school! Luke!
Marlon exhales deeply. Luke and Michael enter Myra’s living room.
Myra: What in the-? Luke, get over here!
Myra grabs Luke and pulls him away from Michael.
Myra: Who the hell are you?
Michael: I live across the hall.
Luke: When I got home last night I was locked out. Michael let me stay over.
Myra: You stupid idiot, you know better than to talk to strangers.
Michael: He was locked out.
Myra: Get out of my house.
Craig: (offstage) What’s going on out there?
Myra: Nothing. (to Michael) Out!
Michael looks sadly at Luke then starts off.
Luke: Thanks for the pizza and the pancakes and everything, Michael.
Myra: Get out! Get. Out. Now!
Myra: Get a job! (to Luke) Get your shit together and get the hell to school. And stay away from that man, do you understand me? Do you?!
Luke: (head lowered) Yes.
Myra: Good. Now get your backpack. Get dressed.
Michael appears in his kitchen, melancholy. He begins cleaning up as Myra sits on her couch and takes much longer than she should to put on her shoes. Michael grows tired of cleaning and simply sits at his table, head lowered. Joe enters beside Marlon.
Joe: What the hell you runnin’ away from me for?
Marlon: (startled) Dad! Not now.
Joe: Don’t “not now” me! We were finally getting somewhere… Where are we?
Marlon: I told you. There’s something I gotta do.
Joe: Far as I can tell, you’re just standing around like a bozo.
Marlon: I just need to…prepare.
Craig enters Myra’s living room.
Craig: Luke, get your scrawny little ass out here! (to Myra) I’ll be back, baby. I gotta get a fuckin’ plunger. Shit.
Marlon: And I can’t do that with you all up in my face!
The phone rings in Michael’s kitchen.
Myra: Dammit, Luke!
Elevator beep sounds. Michael answers the phone.
Marlon: Fuck! Someone’s coming. Get away!
Joe hurries off. Marlon pulls his hood over his face as Craig enters the lobby.
Michael: I’ll have them for you by today at four.
Craig walks by Marlon, then stops himself to examine the other as if he recognizes him from somewhere.
Michael: I had an unexpected guest.
Luke enters Myra’s living room.
Myra: For the love of- Took you long enough. Let’s go.
Myra grabs Luke’s hand and they both exit.
Michael: Fine. Today at two. I promise. I’ll work on them right now.
Michael exits. Craig, giving up exits as well, followed by Marlon.
Scene ix- Michael’s living room.
Michael is working hastily on his illustrations. There is a knock at the door. He gets up and answers. Upon opening the door he is shocked. Michael , teary-eyed, takes a few steps back, as Marlon enters to meet him.
Marlon: Hey, Michael…
Beat. The brothers embrace fiercely then awkwardly come apart. Marlon examines his brother’s face, then the rest of him.
Marlon: What happened to you?
Michael: (side-stepping the comment) You’ve hardly changed at all.
Marlon: Ten years…
Michael: More. (pause) You seem to be doing well for yourself.
Marlon: I’m doing alright, sure. (beat) You abandoned us.
Michael: I- I had to find my own way…
Marlon: We needed you, Michael.
Michael: I needed you, too, but… Time slips away. I never intended…to…
Marlon: You were the soul of this family.
Michael: I- No. I was the black sheep. I think I’ve proved that enough. You were always the heart.
Marlon: What’s the heart without a soul, Michael? What’s a song without a soul? We fell apart without you. I-I’m doing better than most, but…(beat) I missed you.
Michael: Would you like some water?
Michael: I’d like some. I’ll be right back. I promise.
Michael exits. Joe marches in.
Marlon: (startled) Dad! Shit, man! What did I tell you about doing that?
Joe: Watch your mouth. (notices Marlon’s expression) Where are we?
Joe: What’s going on with you?
Marlon: Nothing. Go.
Joe: You look like you’ve seen a ghost.
Marlon: I said “go”.
Joe: (compassionate) Marlon, tell me-
Marlon takes Joe by the arm and leads him toward the door.
Marlon: Go. Go. Go. Go. Go…
Michael enters with a tray of water and a bowl of grapes, perplexed by what he’s seeing. He is wholly unaware of Joe.
Marlon freezes in his tracks. Joe lays eyes on Michael and can barely stand, he’s so surprised.
Michael: Are you alright?
Marlon: I’m fine! Fine.
Joe drifts toward Michael.
Joe: (warding off disbelief) Michael…?
Michael: I brought some water for you anyway. And grapes. I know how much you loved them growing up.
Joe is practically touching Michael.
Marlon: (to Joe) Stay away from him!
Joe stops, but continues to gaze.
Marlon: Grapes, ha, yeah. I couldn’t put those things down. Sure, I’ll have a couple.
Marlon joins Michael and they sit.
Michael: How is everyone?
Marlon: Good and married, most of them. Some more than once. Ha. But good.
Marlon: It’s strange seeing her age, you know? But good. Real good. We all take care of her pretty well.
Michael: And dad?
Marlon glances at Joe.
Marlon: Dad is…driven as ever.
Michael: And you? Following his dream, I see?
Marlon: (sharply) My dream. Our dream. Someone had to. I don’t know what he’d do if no one did. After you ran Janet was right after you. And the music just kind of fell out of the rest…except Jermaine, but…it didn’t work out for him.
Michael: How’s Carol?
Marlon: (it takes a moment for him to remember) Oh. She and I didn’t work out. She just didn’t understand the dream, you know? Couldn’t handle it.
Michael: That’s a shame. I thought the two of you were in it for the long run.
Marlon: The same could be said about a lot of people. (pause. With a laugh) You know, there are times that I think about Brandon, silly as that seems. My poor little twin. I’ll be alone and I’ll think, “Maybe, just maybe, if he would have survived, maybe if there were two of us, if I were double, then I’d be able to be the performer you were. And other times I think, “Hey, maybe Brandon was the lucky one. He didn’t have to deal with any of this shit.”
Michael: That’s not fair.
Marlon: I know. I know. I have a new album coming out next year.
Michael: I know. With a biography release.
Marlon: I think it’s a big deal. Dad, on the other hand…
Michael: It brought us together…
Marlon: (pause) Look. I have a bunch of songs I’m trying to get just right. If I… Could I..? I’d love to drop by and run them by you.
Michael: I… Okay.
Marlon stands up and backs away to the door.
Marlon: (to Joe) Come on.
Joe looks longingly at Michael and eventually comes to Marlon’s side.
Marlon: (irritated) See you soon.
Scene x: Michael’s living room.
Michael and Alex are sitting next to each other on the couch. There are a number of toys scattered around and paintings on illustration board that were definitely not done by an adult.
Alex: Redecorating, are we?
Michael: (laughs) They’re Luke’s.
Michael: He’s a little boy who lives across the hall. He stays here from time to time until his mother gets home.
Alex: The things you miss when you go away for two weeks. Sorry about that, by the way. They had me editing this top secret crap autobiography on a politician, let’s call him Shmonald Schmeagan, that no one will care about. Trust me. And speaking of things that I missed…
Michael: You publishing people have no concept of confidentiality.
Alex: Hey, man, all is fair in media and literature. Knowledge is in high demand and always on sale. Plus, it’s not our fault you didn’t read the contract closely enough. So…how was it? An emotional embrace? A climactic battle. What happened?
Michael: Ha, nothing like that. It was good. Really good.
Alex: You missed him, huh?
Michael: (pause) I did.
Alex: Will you see him again?
Michael: Actually, yes. And I have. He’s been stopping by for the past two weeks. I’ve been helping him with his dance moves and some song writing.
Alex: No way.
Michael: (laughs) Yeah.
Alex: Well, I’m glad it all worked out.
Michael: It did.
Alex: It did.
The two of them stare awkwardly at each other and other points in the room.
Alex: So now that we’ve gone through all that I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room.
Michael: You’re leaving.
Alex: Yeah. I mean, we’re just about finished the biography on your brother. So…
Michael: A new project.
Alex: In a new place, yeah. It’s a social piece on youth and gentrification. It’s called “Youthinized” which is pretty terrible but I’ll be doing research in Boston. You know, the Harvard effect on the townies and whatnot. Definitely more up my alley.
Michael: It’ll be a great experience.
Alex: (pause) Michael, I-
Michael: I’m going to miss you, Alex. I’ve been locked in this apartment alone for so long with my books and then you knock on my door and…and then Marlon and Luke… My life…It’s like opening that door and letting you in opened the door to possibility and God delivered. So, thank you for that. I, um…to show my thanks…I made you this.
Michael reaches and pulls out an illustration of the Johnson brothers and Alex with them.
Alex: Oh my God. Is this…?
Michael: You and the Johnson brothers.
Alex: This is amazing. Thank you.
Alex sits the illustration down and faces Michael. A deep seriousness takes her as she gently takes his hand in her own. Alex thinks to herself, then grabs the bottom of Michael’s sleeve as if preparing to pull it up. Sensing her intention, Michael jerks away.
Alex: These past weeks visiting you have been amazing. The fact that my job has consisted of getting to know the man who inspired me through his music and moved me with his art and writing has been more than I could ask for. You are a loving, gentle, passionate person and the world would benefit from knowing more of you. Like I do. People like you shouldn’t be hidden from the rest of the world. They shouldn’t hide.
Michael: I’m not-
Alex: You are. But from what I honestly can’t comprehend. Remember when you told me about how you got so self-conscious about your acne that you’d hide away from other people? And then when you told me about…your condition?
Alex: Well, we all have things about ourselves that’s the worst, but we can’t use those as excuses to not be more; do more. I mean, you’re in an apartment alone and you still-! (pause) Show me. Let me see.
Michael hesitates. Alex gazes into his eyes, unblinking. Michael nods. Alex takes his sleeve and rolls it up, revealing spots of brown going with the length of his forearm and beyond. Michael can’t get himself to look at it.
Michael: I-t’s called vitiligo. It targets melanin and…takes away your… I hate it.
Alex: Thank you.
Alex hugs Michael tightly, slowly letting go. She grabs her illustration and rises.
Alex: You are a beautiful person, Michael. And you can’t hide forever. Keep in touch. Goodbye.
Alex exits and lights go down.
scene xi -Michael’s bedroom.
Michael and Luke are leaping around, flapping their arms as if they were giant wings.
Luke: Where are you?!
Michael: I’m flying high in the sky over Africa and I’m using God’s power to cure the sick and feed the poor. Luke!
Luke: Yeah, Michael?!
Michael: Where are you?!
Luke: I’m in South America. There’s rebel fighters terrorizing a village and I’m burning them to ashes with Hellfire. Woosh! Woosh! Woosh!
Michael: I don’t know if an angel would do that.
Luke: Have you met an angel?
Michael: Well, not personally, but I’ve read about a lot. They are peaceful loving things…
Luke: What about the angel of death?
Michael: (pause) I guess all things have their purpose…
Luke: Exactly. Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
Michael: (laughs) Come here, you!
Michael scoops Luke into his arms and spins around and around and around.
Luke: Whoa! Hey! Not fair! Let go! You don’t see me trying to stop you from feeding the poor!
Michael spins until sufficiently dizzy and they both fall onto the bed together, lying down short of breath.
Luke: Are you still sad that you’re friend’s gone?
Michael: I feel a lot better now. Thanks.
Luke: You’re my best friend.
Michael:(breathing in Luke’s words) Mmm.
Michael puts his arm around Luke as they lay in silence. Shortly after Myra enters the room, inebriated. She sees her son in bed with Michael and flips.
Myra: Ohhh, fuck no!
Myra crawls over Michael, smacking him as she does, and retrieves her boy.
Myra: You sick fuckin’ son of a fuck! My God! Luke, get over here!
Michael: Myra, please-!
By the time Myra climbs off Craig has entered the room, having heard her exclamation. He can hardly keep himself upright he’s so high. Michael climbs off the bed and to his feet.
Craig: What’s going on in here?
Myra: I’ll tell you what’s going on here! This sick, sick monster fuckin’ sick fuck was sleeping with my baby!
Luke: Mom! Let go!
Michael: It’s not like that. Let me explain-
Myra: Ohh you aren’t gonna get away with this you…you pervert! (coddling Luke) Oh you poor, poor thing…
Michael: I just-
Myra: Shut up! Shut up!
Michael steps toward them. Craig, in a sudden burst of masculinity, places himself firmly between Michael and the others.
Craig: Stay back, man. (suddenly lucid, sly) The man in the hallway the other day. I knew I recognized him from somewhere. The pictures on your living room wall. I know who you are. And we’re gonna rob you for every penny that you have for the horrible, horrible things you did to this boy. Shame.
Craig takes Myra by the shoulder and leads the three out.
Luke: Michael! Michael…
Michael: Please, wait! Please…
Myra: I said shut up!
Myra, Luke, and Craig exit.
Michael: Let me explain…
Michael collapses onto his bed, distraught.
scene xii ” Luke’s room.
The set is mostly darkness with the option of a few hints to make the place actually look like a room. Luke, furious, is playing on the floor with his army men. As before the toys are split into two rival armies, facing one another.
Luke: This is war. Only one can win. And to the other, you can only hope that the winners are merciful. If they’re not you better pray to God that you die. (pause) Three. Two. One.
Luke pushes all the soldiers together into a crashing battle.
Luke: Blam! Blam! Blam! Pow! Krshh! “Aiieee!” “We have to win!” “No. We do!” Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. “Somebody! I need back up!” “I’ll be right th-AHH!!”
There is a knock at the door in another room.
Luke: “We need more tanks!” Pow! Pow! “Head for cover!”
Craig: (offstage) I got it!
Luke: “The bastards are coming from the air now!” RrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrBOOM!
Craig: (offstage) Oh, hey officers.
Luke: “We can’t beat this.”
Craig: (offstage)Yeah. I called.
Luke: “We lost.”
Craig: (offstage) That’s right. The fucker is right over there. My girlfriend caught him in the act herself.
Myra: (offstage) It’s true. I did.
Luke: “It’s over.”
Craig: (offstage) Her boy’s right in there.
Myra: (offstage) Hold on.
Myra enters Luke’s room.
Myra: (sweetly) Luke, baby, the officers are going to want to ask you a few questions,okay? Now I know you’re in shock, but I need you to tell them everything you can. Michael is a bad man, remember? Just like we said. Just talk to the officers like we said and you’ll have whatever you want. A puppy. That new video game machine…the Super Nintendo, right?
Myra: And all the games you want. A new house. Everything we’ve always wanted (pause). I know I haven’t been the best for you and I have a lot of demons…big, angry, powerful demons that you get the full force of…and I hate it. It kills me the way I treat you sometimes. Because I love you, baby. And I’m sorry. And I plan on getting help and making sure that you and I have everything we’ve ever dreamed of. All you have to do is talk to those officers like we talked about.
Myra puts her finger to his mouth, silencing him.
Myra: Do it, baby. For us. I’m so tired of being angry all the time.
Scene xiii ” Emptiness.
Michael sits on a chair, head lowered, in handcuffs. A single light shines dimly on him as the rest of the stage is darkness. Silence is broken Michael’s light whimpers can be heard from time to time then fade away. When the silence becomes too much, Joe emerges from the darkness. This Joe is different than the one before in appearance and demeanor. He is dressed in a white tank top, blue jeans, and work boots, grease- and sweat- stained from head to toe. Joe circles Michael, who begins to whimper once again. Standing directly in front of Michael, Joe stands perfectly straight and smacks Michael hard against the face, snapping the other out of his gloomy trance.
Joe: That’s right, Michael. You couldn’t run away from me forever. You know that. It was only a matter of time before this little fantasy came crashing down around you and you’d come crawling back.
Michael: I’m not crawling back-
Joe: Of course you ain’t. You’re too proud for that. A little more like me than you’d like to admit, you always were. It’s why I pushed you so hard. Because I knew you had the stuff of greatness. The real thing.
Michael: I know-
Joe: I know you know, Michael. But knowing ain’t nothing unless doing follows. You really messed up not accepting that Scarecrow part. This. This right here. This is just the fruits of your mistake, twenty years later.
Michael: I didn’t do anything.
Joe: Don’t matter. Either way, you’re bringing shame to our family name. Marlon’s trying so hard…
Michael: What do I do?
Joe smiles a little.
Joe: You stick with me, boy. We got ourselves a brand new decade and a whole Hell of a lot of people hungry for something a whole lot better than that 80’s jive shit.
Michael: I’m not that-
Joe smacks him again then composes himself immediately.
Joe: You don’t know what you are, Michael. I made you. I…love you. I know. And I will not stop until you fully comprehend that. Understand?
Michael holds his father’s gaze then let’s his head drop, exasperated. Lights down.
The second act is a departure from the world of the first. Most notably, the use of defined scenes and locales will be replaced with a more fluid emptiness; the sort that the first act left us with. Characters and items will float in and out of the emptiness as needed. At times escaping from reality, at others, escaping to, in Act II we have entered a deeper circle of the mind of our protagonist.
Michael is dressed in black pants and a long sleeved white button-down shirt. Marlon is dancing and Michael is considering his moves. They have been at this for a while. The chair that Michael was seated in at the end of Act I remains on stage. Marlon comes down from his dance-high and takes a swig from his water bottle.
Marlon: How was that?
Michael: Good. That was much better.
Michael: But don’t forget to keep your arms sharp.
Marlon: Damn arms…
Michael: (laughs) Yeah, but from the waist down you’re killing it.
Marlon: Thanks, Michael. This is a huge help.
Michael: It’s no big deal. It’s the least I owe you. And it feels good to be involved in this world again…
Marlon: I bet it does. I’ve got a thing I gotta be at in an hour. Come on, let me take you out on the town… It’ll be like old times.
Michael: No. No, I’ve got work to do.
Marlon: That kiddie stuff can wait, Michael.
There is a moment of awkward silence between them. One of sadness and understanding. Michael smiles and produces a piece of paper from his pocket.
Michael: This is a little something I was working on in the old days. I tweaked it a little recently. I think you should consider it for your album. It’s pretty heady.
Marlon takes the paper, examines it. He bops his head to the written lyrics and notes.
Marlon: “Not My Son”.
Michael: Working title.
Marlon: Nice, man. Thanks. Same time next week?
Michael: I’ll be here.
Marlon: Cool. Bye, Michael.
Marlon exits. Michael takes a seat and his demeanor shifts to one of deep sadness. Marlon reenters, also transformed. He is doused in a cloud of shame and regret.
Marlon: This is some shit, man. (pause) This is bad. Real bad. (pause) You’re my brother and I’m gonna help you get outta this. If you need money for a lawyer or whatever, you know, just let me know. (pause) The thing is, I’m trying to build a career here. My new album is, it’s right around the corner. This is it. I can feel it. And, you know, yeah, we’ve been apart for a while but I couldn’t have done it without you these…couple… Until this blows over, I’m going to have to keep my distance. I can’t drop by like I used to. They’ll…
Michael: I’m getting evicted.
Marlon: (shouts) Damn it, Michael, how the hell did you get all mixed up in – ?! (calms) Let me know if you need anything.
Marlon starts for the exit, then turns back to his brother.
Marlon: Did you….?
Marlon thinks better of it and exits. Michael produces a bottle of pills and gazes at it like a strange quirk of nature. A phone rings. Michael puts the pills away, reaches behind himself, and pulls a receiver out of nowhere.
Michael: Hello? Oh, hi Greg…I’m…okay. Yeah, I called you earlier about the deadline for my next book. I didn’t hear back from you so…Uh uh. Right. Well, I think that might be a little drastic seeing as I don’t even use my real name…Then figure out another arrangement. Another name. I-I can put together a new series…with a whole new style…What do you mean they’ll know?…(irritated) Then figure something out!…Greg, I have given you quality work for years. You can’t just let one bad tabloid ruin our relationship. I am so close to finishing this last album…Book. That’s what I said…Don’t abandon me, Greg. Don’t you dare abandon me. (pause) Greg? Greg?
Michael puts the receiver away. Once again he produces a bottle of pills, this time opening it and taking a few, swallowing it with a swig from Marlon’s water bottle. Alex enters, dressed for the Summer, am expression of concern on her face.
Michael notices her, rising from his seat.
Alex runs to the other, taking his hands in hers.
Alex: Oh, Michael, how are you?
Michael: Fine. How did you find me?
Alex: I looked. Nice place you have here. Cozy.
Michael: I had to move-
Alex: I figured. (pause) I came down as soon as I heard. Sorry it wasn’t sooner. How are you holding up?
Michael: How’s Boston?
Alex: Not the speed I’m used to, but it’s been great. I’m learning so much. (instantly excited and bubbly) Oh my God, can I have your autograph?!
Alex: (back to normal) I asked if you’ve been writing much lately?
Michael: Oh. No. A little. I’ve been painting mostly. It’s been therapeutic.
Alex: (excited and bubbly) I love you, Michael!
Alex: (normal) I’d love to see some. If that’s alright.
Michael: Y-yeah. Sure.
Alex: (bubbly) Have my babies!
Alex: (normal) What?!
Alex: Are you alright?
Michael: I think I-
Alex lets out an excited shriek, which Michael reacts to. Heartbeat.
Alex: Should I call someone…?
Michael: No. No I’m fine.
Starting as a small whisper, the sound of a cheering crowd gradually grows louder and louder as it shifts into hundreds shouting “Micheal! Michael! Michael!” etc… in unison. Only Michael can hear this. The sound becomes nearly unbearably deafening and then stops completely. Michael is barely holding himself together and Alex isn’t sure whether to help him or run.
Michael: (exasperated) Thank you for coming, girls, but I have to go.
Alex: It’s Alex. I’m Alex, Michael.
Michael: Alex. I’m sorry you have to go. Keep in touch.
Alex kisses Michael on the forehead, gives Michael one final saddened look, then exits. Michael, alone, returns to his chair. It is obvious that the effects of the pills are becoming greater. Craig and Myra enter, excessively and outlandishly dressed as wealthy socialites. They enter with a table and chairs, seating themselves at either end. Michael is invisible to them.
Craig: (in a bad British accent) Pass the Grey Poupon, love?
Myra: (with a similar accent) Oh certainly, my dearest.
Craig: Do you recall mustard, dear?
Myra: I don’t think I do.
Craig: Dreadful stuff, really. Now, Grey Poupon…that’s the rich man’s condiment.
Myra: And you are a rich man.
Craig: Quite right. And you, milady, a rich woman.
Myra: Oh, stop!
Craig: It’s true. Accept it.
Craig lifts his glass.
Craig: And now a toast to our benevolent benefactor.
Myra lifts her glass.
Myra: A toast!
Craig and Myra: To Michael!
They toast and drink. After swallowing both burst into laughter. Craig then pulls out a newspaper.
Myra: Craig, it’s rude to read your newspaper at the table during dinner!
Craig: Not when you’re rich!
They both laugh. Craig pages through the newspaper.
Craig: “Younger Jackson Brother Charged with Sexual Abuse”, “Jackson Settles Outside of Court”, “Jackson Exhibits Strange Behavior”, “Michael: The Man Who Won’t Grow Up”, “Wacko Jacko on the Loose!”
Michael: That’s not me!
Myra and Craig go silent for a second as if uncertain as to whether they heard something or not.
Craig: I thought you’d never ask.
Myra: (singing) Oh, butler! Butler-boy!
Luke enters, dressed in black.
Luke: (to Myra and Craig) Yes, ma’am? Sir?
Myra: We’d like some dessert.
Luke: What kind?
Myra: (annoyed) What kind…
Luke: Ma’am! What kind, ma’am?
Myra: That’s better. I’m in the mood for some ice cream, I think.
Myra: What’s that?
Craig: Rich people don’t eat ice cream, love. It’s called gelato.
Myra: Oh. Right. We’ll be having the gelato then.
Luke: What flavor…ma’am?
Craig: Chocolate for me, boy.
Luke: Sure. Okay.
Luke starts off but stops just short of exiting. When he stops, Myra and Craig freeze. Luke turns to Michael, the two fully aware of each other. Regret permeates Luke.
Luke: Hey, Michael.
Luke approaches the Michael.
Luke: I’m so sorry…
Michael: It’s not your fault.
Luke: They told me what to say…
Michael: I know…
Luke: I knew it was wrong, but she…
Michael: You don’t have to explain. She’s your mother.
Luke: They needed the money. She told me what to say! I knew it was wrong!
Michael takes Luke in his arms.
Michael: It’s fine, Luke. It wasn’t your fault.
Luke: I miss you, daddy.
Michael pulls away, startled. Shaking.
Michael: What did you call me?
Luke: You seem cold, daddy? Can I get you something? A blanket?
Luke: A blanket! Blanket!
Michael: Who…are you?
Luke: We miss you, daddy…
Michael: Who are you?!
Luke: (composed) I have to get gelato for the master and missus.
Luke exits, Myra, Craig, table and chairs with him. Michael is suddenly hot. He unbuttons his shirt. He’s wearing a white tank top underneath. Michael pops a couple more pills.
Michael: What is this?! What’s happening to me?! Why, no matter what I do, does nothing feel right?! What more can I do?! What more can I do…
Joe enters, dressed as a larger-than-life businessman in a purple suit, wearing also a black fedora.
Joe: You know what. (pause) Have you talked to your mother? (pause) Writer forget how to speak?
Michael: You did this…
Joe: I did nothing but love you…
Michael charges at his father and the two engage, one struggling against the other until they are both on the ground, grunting, sweating, straining, giving it their all. Joe loses his hat in all the action. Eventually, Joe slips from the struggle, watching, pained, as Michael remains on the floor, continuing to fight alone. Joe looks up to heaven then back to his son with determination. Joe exits. Michael calms, breathing heavily. He looks around realizing that he is alone. He pulls himself into his chair. He produces the pills, stares at them intently, then throws them offstage. Then enters [Marlon], looking and seeming at peace to the point of utter enlightenment. He is dressed from head to toe in a white suit, including a white flat cap and gloves. He is holding the pill bottle in his hand.
[Marlon]: Yo, bro. What’s happenin’?
[Marlon] shakes his head.
Marlon: Nope. It’s me.
[Marlon]: It’s Brandon.
Brandon: It’s good to finally meet you, bro.
Brandon gives Michael a quick hug then pulls away.
Michael: That’s impossible…
Brandon: You of all people should know that nothing is impossible.
Michael: Brandon. You’re…d-
Brandon: Dead. Yes. I tend to think of it as existing happily on a higher plane.
Michael: Does…does that mean I’m…
Brandon: Almost. Not quite. But almost.
Brandon raises the empty bottle of pills, gesturing to them as well.
Brandon: Life, bro. Sometimes I’m glad I only got to live it for a day. Ha.
Michael: If I’m dead than what happens. Marlon…
Brandon: Oh, my twin is fine. He and Carol are happily married with three kids. Four grandkids…But you know this…
Michael: No. But…he’s pursuing a music career. He never married…
Brandon: Think hard, Michael. That wasn’t Marlon. You pursued the music career. You became the star. Maybe the greatest there ever was.
Brandon: (laughs) Bro, come on now. You know how they say that right before folks die they see their lives flash before their eyes? Well, there are other times where people see the lives they could have had…or wish they had. There was a lot of pressure on you, Mike. From your family, from the world, and most of all from yourself. It’s no wonder your final thoughts are of the alternative. Living the quiet life as a writer, nobody knocking on the door, judging you. But the truth always comes crashing in. You can’t hide forever. The price of the spotlight is hefty, Mike, and you paid it in full, in advance, and…ultimately. They loved you. You loved them. They hated you…and you hated you too, sometimes. This was a pretty little fantasy you created for yourself, but this simply isn’t you. It’s not who you were meant to be. Who you are. Because for every person accusing you of being crazy or some sort of sexual monster there were literally millions who saw your beauty, your innocence, your drive to heal. Heal everything. There was your family. Your friends. Diana. Berry. Quincy. Liz. There were your children, Michael.
Michael: (remembering) My children… I remember. I remember everything…
Brandon: A world that had never known you, Michael…well, thank God we’ll never have to know how that sentence ends. Now, what say we let go of this fantasy and you show me what you got. Come on. I’ll join you.
Marlon steps up. Michael joins him. A light washes over the both of them and Michael is completely taken by it. Michael reaches down and puts on Joe’s fedora. Marlon then removes his right glove and hands it to Michael with a smirk. Michael nods and puts it on.
Michael: One, two, three, four…
The two dance in perfect sync, better than anything Marlon had achieved earlier in the play. After some time Brandon backs away, watching his Michael with awe, further and further until he exits. Michael’s moves become faster, more complicated as the cheering once again surges into “Michael! Michael!” etc… He does the moonwalk and the beep of a heart monitor rises as the cheers subside. The dance grows more intense, sprawling fluid gestures with sharp edges, faster, faster, faster as the beeping becomes more and more frequent. At once, Michael stops dead center, the monitor/beeping flat-lines, and lights go out.