The Empire One-Act

(A Ten-Minute Play)

CAST

  1. John Frederick Smith, 29, a British tourist in New York City.
  2. August Nelson Smith, 28, his brother and also a British tourist.
  3. Renata Lowery, 26, a tourist and an American blueblood from Massachusetts.
  4. Soozie Jenkins, 27, a California tourist and Trump-hating liberal. 

TIME

The Present.

PLACE

In the basement entry room of the Empire State Building.

STORY

Two American women from both coasts get to know two English brothers in New York City. 

SCENE:  THE BASEMENT ENTRY ROOM OF THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING.  THE OPEN STAGE IS FILLED WITH ROPED LINE DIVIDERS TO MAKE SURE PEOPLE STAY IN A LINE STARTING UPSTAGE RIGHT AND MOVING LATERALLY DOWNSTAGE TOWARDS A SECURITY CHECKPOINT.

AT RISE:  JOHN, AUGUST, RENATA AND SOOZIE—IN THEIR LATE TWENTIES— ARRIVE LAST IN A LONG, VERY SLOWLY MOVING IMAGINARY LINE OF PEOPLE SNAKING THROUGH AN IMMENSE ROOM AT THE BASE OF THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING. 

JOHN

(BRITISH ACCENT)

Oh no!  We’re at the end of the queue!  

AUGUST

(BRITISH ACCENT)

It’ll probably take two hours to get through this thing.

SOOZIE

What did you expect? This is the Empire State Building here. The pride of New York!  What about the Tower of London in the UK?  You’d have to wait at least two hours there as well. 

JOHN

Right, but they’d put security right here, at the beginning, where we came in.  Not at the end.  You’re telling me we have to wait with all these people in this room for one hour before going through security?  What kind of security is that?

(INDICATING CENTRAL AREA OF STAGE)

It’ll probably take a half-hour just to get to the middle there.  Who knows how long it’ll take to get to the top of the Empire State?  

RENATA

What’s the matter with you guys?  Can’t you chill?  You got a train to catch?

SOOZIE

Are English guys always in a rush to go somewhere?

RENATA

I’m surprised.  My mom told me English guys were pretty chill. 

AUGUST

I think that’s unfair, ladies, to say that about us.  We’re the coolest, smartest brothers you’ll ever meet.  You said that last night, didn’t you?

SOOZIE

(IMITATING AUGUST’S ENGLISH ACCENT)

“Un-fehhh!  Sm-ahhh-test!   Leye-dies!”  

(RESUMING HER OWN CALIFORNIA ACCENT)

Last night was last night, boys, what have you done for us lately?

(SOOZIE SNUGGLES UP TO JOHN.  

RENATA SNUGGLES UP TO AUGUST)

JOHN

That’s the thing with these American birds, August, they can never get enough.  Crikey, you wore us out last night, lovelies.

AUGUST

And this morning, John. Rise and shine, Brother!

JOHN

Listen to the wanker! You almost fell asleep on Renata before she got a rise out of you!

SOOZIE

How would you know?  You were in bed with me, John!

RENATA

“Rise and shine.”  Now I know what that really means!

JOHN

Ah zip it, ya cunt! You’re talking ‘bout my brother, my brother August Smith!

RENATA

DON’T CALL ME A ‘CUNT,’ BOZO!   WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU!

SOOZIE

Keep your voice down, Renata, you’ll cause a scene!

(THEY LOOK OUT DEFIANTLY AT 

PEOPLE LOOKING BACK AT THEM.

THE LINE MOVES A LITTLE.  THE FOUR

YOUNG ADULTS MOVE WITH IT TO UP-

STAGE CENTER)

RENATA

I don’t give a damn, Soozie!  He can’t talk to us like that!

AUGUST

(LOWERING HIS VOICE)

You misunderstand him, Renata.   ‘Cunt’ in the UK amongst schoolboys is like ‘nigger’ amongst blacks, or ‘bro’ or ‘dude’ or ‘bitch’ amongst whites here in the US. 

RENATA

Well, I don’t like it, and you’re not schoolboys.

JOHN

Come on, Renata, don’t get your knickers in a twist.  I wasn’t trying to slam you.

(TO AUGUST.  AFFECTS AN AMERICAN ACCENT)

Fucking brother diplomat wanker!  Ya cunt!

SOOZIE

Now you’re making fun of us!

AUGUST

No, he’s not.  He’s making fun of me, his younger brother, calling me a “diplomat wanker.”

(JOHN SUDDENLY GRABS A HOLD OF SOOZIE AND 

TRIES TO FEEL HER UP.   SHE SLAPS HIS HAND AWAY.

TAKING THE LEAD FROM HIS BROTHER, AUGUST

GRABS RENATA AND TRIES TO FEEL HER UP

AS WELL.  SHE SLAPS HIS FACE.)

SOOZIE

Don’t do that! Don’t you have any respect for women?

RENATA

Hey, hands off the goods! Not in public, what’s the matter with you two!

JOHN

(IMITATING RENATA’S AMERICAN ACCENT)

“Hey, hands off the goods!”  

(RESUMING HIS NORMAL BRITISH ACCENT)

I love it!  Shall we wait out this queue, Brother?  Or shall we find another spot?

AUGUST

What are you playing at, John?

SOOZIE

Who are you guys?  

RENATA

Exactly, we only met them last night, Soozie.  Maybe we should have been more careful.

SOOZIE

 Are you guys really brothers?

JOHN

Yes, we are, darling. The ‘Smith’ Brothers.  Nothing more English than that!  We’re very English.  Only slightly removed from the Windsor’s.

SOOZIE

Who’s that?

RENATA

You know, Soozie?  Queen Elizabeth Windsor, Phillip Windsor, Charles and Camilla Windsor now, William and Kate— 

SOOZIE

Oh!  The Royal Family!

JOHN

Bunch of wankers, that Royal Family.  Sitting on their arses doing nothing while we, the British people, carry them on our backs.  The fascist British regime making a mess in the Middle East.  And now they’re hand in glove with the US and Saudi Arabia.  And all those profits going back to the Royal Wankers.

SOOZIE

What brought that on? I’ve heard that the Royal Family brings hundreds of thousands of pounds into the British Treasury.  Just on their own merit.

JOHN

Right, just like we British workers bring nothing in and pay no taxes to maintain those cunts in power?

AUGUST

What are you talking about, John?  Remain focused.  

JOHN

What are youtalking about, Brother?  Wank-ahhh!

RENATA

I’m not gonna lie. I adoreyour accents!

JOHN

Now that’s better! We were getting off on the wrong foot there.  We ad-owhhhh your accents as well, daahhhl-ings.  Say “Mars Bar” /mahhhz bahh/ for us.

SOOZIE

What!

AUGUST

The two of you! Say “Mars Bar” /mahhhz bahh/ for us.

SOOZIE

“Mars Bar.”  

RENATA

“Mars Bar.” 

JOHN AND AUGUST

(TOGETHER, LAUGHING AND 

IMITATING THEM)

“MAR-RRRZZ BAR-RRR!”  “MAR-RRRZZ BAR-RRR!!”  

RENATA

Okay, guys, knock it off. We know we sound nasal to your British ears.  But then understand that you guys can sound ‘stuck up’ to our ears.  Say, what’s it like, living with your brother in London?

JOHN

Oh Renata, that’s such a boring question.  Didn’t we go through all that last night?  

SOOZIE

But you didn’t give us a straight answer.

AUGUST

I don’t know what it is about you Americans?  I feel I’m in a court of law with you people.  I meet any of you on the street and it’s always, 

(IMITATING AN AMERICAN ACCENTED MONOTONE)

‘Do all English people speak like you, how old are you, how long have you been here, why have you come, what’s your name, how many people are in your family, why did you go there, where are you from?’  

(RESUMES HIS NORMAL VOICE)

Crikey!

RENATA

So?  You got what you wanted.  Let’s have it!  Where areyou from?

(THE LINE MOVES SOMEWHAT

AND THE FOUR OF THEM

ARE NOW UPSTAGE LEFT)

JOHN

Got what wewanted?  You got what youwanted, too.  You want to know where we’re from?  Let’s see, August and I grew up, the lucky and only two sons of two very hardworking Brits in London.

AUGUST

Well, greater London, really.  We went to the Brixton Grammar school in South London.

SOOZIE

Grammar schools?  Is that where you wear those little uniforms with the caps and long socks?

JOHN

Yes, it is.  But now we’re big schoolboys, aren’t we, lovelies? 

RENATA

And what do you do now?

AUGUST

John’s an electrician and I’m a welder.

SOOZIE

Did you go to a trade tech school to learn those jobs?

JOHN

What are you implying? 

SOOZIE

Well, those are trade tech jobs, aren’t they?  Plus, you apprentice with someone, right?

JOHN

What you really want to say is that you two birds went to university.  You’re comparing us?

SOOZIE

Don’t put words in my mouth.  However, I did go to Stanford and studied Art History; Renata went to Harvard and majored in Math.

JOHN

Well, whoopee do! We have two cultured birds here, August. They think they’re better than us! 

We went to the Kingston Polytechnic afterwards to learn our trades.  Do you know how to build an electric circuit with your art history and mathematics knowledge?

(THE LINE MOVES AGAIN

AND NOW THE FOUR OF THEM

ARE DOWN A ROW, UPSTAGE CENTER)

JOHN

No?  I didn’t think so.  

AUGUST

Keep your voice down, mate! What’s got into you?

JOHN

 (IGNORING AUGUST)

What it is, ladies, see, I’m not too fond of aggressive women, ‘specially American women, ordering people around, barking orders and takin’ the piss and all—

AUGUST

John?  Be careful and keep your voice down.  Security is out there looking at us, and we stand out like campers with these backpacks we’re wearing. 

(THEY REMOVE THEIR BAGS;

SHOVE THEM AT RENATA AND SOOZIE)

JOHN

 (TO RENATA AND SOOZIE)

Here, take these!

SOOZIE

I can’t believe you two guys!  Carry them yourselves!

(THEY SHOVE THE BAGS BACK AT

JOHN AND AUGUST)

JOHN

I can’t take these American women anymore, August.  Do something about them before I do something I regret. 

RENATA

Hey!  This is our country here!  

SOOZIE

For God’s sake, Renata, you sound like one of those Trump floozies flocking around our stupid president!

AUGUST

Will you keep your voices down, ladies!

(JOHN IS MOTIONING TO SECURITY)

JOHN

I think it’s too late, August, they’re about to leave their spot up there with the scanner machine and check our bags.  It looks like time’s up, mate.  Remember our orders.

(GESTURING TO THE FRONT OF 

THE IMAGINARY LINE NOW)

JOHN

Those two there.  They keep looking at us and they’re moving through the queue to get us.  We’ll have to move fast.  

RENATA

What are you talking about, John!  What orders are you following?  The two of you?

AUGUST

What are we doing, John? Why did we agree to do this?  I’m in a state of tension.  I can’t take it.  

JOHN

Are you crazy, little brother?  We’ll have thousands of these birds where we’re going! 

SOOZIE

What are you guys talking about!!

JOHN

(TO RENATA AND SOOZIE)

You think you Americans are nice the way you go around the world, bombing here, sanctioning there, making sure nobody gets any nuclear weapons when your country’s been the only one in 

history to ever use them? Is that “nice?”  What do you think of all those carved up bodies in Yemen, Syria and Palestine?

 (TO AUGUST)

You ready, brother August?  We’re in the middle of the queue.  It’s time! 

(THEY PUSH IN FRONT 

OF RENATA AND SOOZIE, SMASHING

THE LADIES’ HEADS WITH THEIR BACKPACKS.

THE NOISE LEVEL OF THE CROWD 

IN THE LARGE ROOM HAS GONE UP 

SEVERAL DECIBELS.  JOHN AND 

AUGUST EACH PULL OUT THEIR CELLPHONES 

AND WAVE THEM IN THE AIR)

JOHN AND AUGUST 

(YELLING TOGETHER IN UNISON)

ALLAHU ACKBAR! ALLAHU ACKBAR!

(THEY TRIGGER THEIR CELLPHONES.  A 

GREAT BANG FOLLOWED BY A THUD

FROM THE LOUD SPEAKER

AS THE BACKPACKS EXPLODE.  

FLASHES OF RED AND WHITE.  THE 

BLAST OF A TRUCK HORN AND THE

REPETITIVE BLASTS OF AN ALARM

SIREN)

(THE LIGHT FLICKERS AND BLACKS OUT)

END OF PLAY