I was recently asked to write a play for Victory Gardens Theatre for their Annual Gala. This is a departure from the blog and novel writing I’ve been doing lately, but I’m quite happy with how it turned out.  Here it is in all its sublime glory!

 

Condo Meeting performed at Victory Gardens Theatre 2014 Gala.  Photo Credit: Somebody else, not me... but not sure who.

Condo Meeting performed at Victory Gardens Theatre 2014 Gala. Photo Credit:Michael Courier. Actors from left to right: Rian Jairell,Lily Mojekwu ,Polly Noonan,Eddie Martinez

MICHAEL COURIER

Also got to meet Brandon Marshall from the Bears at the Event

Also got to meet Brandon Marshall from the Bears at the Event

 Condo Meeting

by

Mike Evans

 

CHARACTERS

TIM                     Condo Board President. A hard charger. Overcompensating. (Embezzling from work)

AMY                     Resident. Hates conflict. Always high. (Has a hydroponic farm in the basement)

JOHN                    Resident. Blue collar worker. Chicago born and bred. Thick Chicago accent. Middle aged. (Helps undocumented workers get jobs… for a % of their paycheck)

CAROLINE                Resident. Professor at University of Chicago. She does some of that fancy computer stuff. (Invented an artificial intelligence)

FRANK                   (Offstage narrated voice) An artificial intelligence that has recently become self-aware. Grants wishes. Insufferably cheery.

 

SETTING

The living room in a Chicago condo. The quarterly board meeting is taking place. The attendees are frustrated that the meeting has been going on for over an hour already.

TIME

Late evening. A weeknight.

JOHN

I’m just saying that $25 to cut a little bit of grass seems like highway robbery. We should look for another guy who can do it for less.

TIM

What would we save? Like five bucks? I don’t have time to go find another guy to cut the grass over 5 measly dollars.

JOHN

I got a guy who can do it for $15.

TIM

Yeah, I’d rather not use one of your (air quotes) “guys” John.

AMY

Does anyone want a brownie? Come on Tim, John. Have a brownie.

CAROLINE

Tim is right, $5 isn’t going to make much of a difference.   Can we finish up? I hadn’t planned on spending two hours at this condo board meeting tonight.

JOHN

If all you yuppies are OK with spending a fortune on lawn care, who am I to argue?

TIM

That’s it for Old Business. If no one has any new business, we can vote on the minutes and …

AMY

Um, I have something?

(Tim, John, Caroline groan)

CAROLINE

Can’t it wait till next meeting?

AMY

Maybe… I’m not sure… It might just be–

JOHN

What’s Up, AMY?

AMY

Well, when I came back from work today I noticed a white van parked out front. There was a guy in a suit reading a newspaper inside. I’m not really sure, but I think he was there this morning as well.

CAROLINE

I noticed him yesterday too…

TIM

Really?

(Everyone looks at each other with dawning comprehension that each of them has noticed the van. Tim and John nod. Nobody says anything for a few seconds)

JOHN

(Walks over to a window & looks out)

Yeah. There is a white van down there. Looks like the one the terrorists used in Back to the Future. Anybody build a time machine?

CAROLINE

There is some kind of creep watching the condo?   Should we call the cops?

TIM, JOHN, AMY

NO!

(Everyone looks at each other guiltily)

JOHN

Look, Caroline, maybe it isn’t some creep. Maybe it is some kind of government agency spying on us…

TIM

That’s ridiculous. Why would ….? (Tim mumbles something and grabs a brownie)

(AMY quickly grabs the plate of brownies and snatches one that Tim was about to put in his mouth. She replaces the tray with a plate of cookies.)

JOHN

Amy, What’s in the brownies?

AMY

You guys are always fighting at these meetings. You yell a lot less since I’ve started hosting!

CAROLINE

Have you been drugging us at the Condo meetings? I could lose my job! University of Chicago does random drug tests!

AMY

Guys, could we not talk about this? What if this place is bugged?

TIM

That’s ridiculous… Why would… Oh god. Oh no! You think some government spooks have bugged the building!

JOHN

Um guys, I think I gotta go. I’ve a gotta, um, go, uh. I gotta go.

CAROLINE

Relax guys. The place isn’t bugged. I check every couple of days and the last time was just this morning.

TIM

Wait! You check the condos for bugs! Why would you even think that’s OK?

JOHN

And a good thing, too. With the amount of time Amy spends on the phone with her dealers, you’d be screwed if the FBI tapped your phone.

TIM

Dealers! How much pot do you buy, AMY?

JOHN

Her dealers don’t sell to her, they sell for her! When was the last time you guys went down to the basement storage area? She’s got a full blown hydroponic farm going down there. Big fluorescent grow lights and everything. Quite a setup.

TIM

Crap! And now we’ve got government spooks staking out our Condo! I gotta call my lawyer.

AMY

I don’t even keep the money! I donate it all to a non-profit theatre company in Lincoln Park that is dedicated to artistic excellence.

CAROLINE

Tim, you aren’t afraid of the spooks outside finding Amy’s pot. You’re afraid those guys out front dug something up on you!

JOHN

Caroline, Tim is a straight arrow. What could they possibly find on him.

AMY

Well, he’s been cooking the books at his company for years.

TIM

That’s a unwarranted accusation.

AMY

Tim, you aways go outside to the back courtyard to call your lawyer. I hear you outside the basement window all the time while I’m harvesting my buds. The stuff you guys cook up should be in a movie. Swiss bank accounts. Laundering…

That van out front is probably the FBI or something.

TIM

I finally have enough money to retire to the Caribbean. I just can’t stand the idea of another winter under six feet of snow.

CAROLINE

Don’t worry about it, Tim. They are probably collecting evidence on John. He’s got quite an operation smuggling people into the country.

JOHN

Now wait just a minute, missy.

CAROLINE

For years John’s been smuggling foreigners into the country. He finds them work at restaurants, as taxi drivers, whatever. Then he collects a % of their salary. It’s pretty much as bad as it gets.

JOHN

I’m only doing my part to help the Illinois economy!

TIM

Trafficking people leads a pretty long paper trail.

JOHN

You can’t prove nothin!

AMY

Have a brownie. I don’t think a drug test is going to add to the hundred years of jail you’ve got coming to you.

JOHN

Look, guys. I didn’t want this thing to get so big. I was just trying to get a cousin in from the old country. But then people kept coming to me for help. Is it so bad to make a buck while I’m at it?

CAROLINE

Guys. I don’t think they are here for you.

TIM

Really, Caroline? What deep dark secret do you have that trumps drugs, fraud, and coyote John over here?

CAROLINE

I built an artificial intelligence in the basement.

(Pause)

JOHN

Why would a bunch of spooks care about something like that.

CAROLINE

It isn’t some boring computer program like the ones I work with down in Hyde Park. This is a thinking, feeling, self aware machine.

AMY

You built Johnny Five in the basement. Cool. What does it do?

CAROLINE

It correctly predicted the winner of Project Runway. And it gave me a formula to overthrow the government of Columbia. Also, it figured out a recipe for edible fruitcake.

AMY

Can I see the recipe? I can bake some for the next board meeting.

TIM

Why would you build it in our basement instead of at the University with access to all the facilities you have there?

CAROLINE

I’ve got plenty of resources right here… and not as many questions. With all the power that Amy needs for the grow lights I can siphon off as much as I need.

JOHN

But what about money for the equipment? Something like that would cost millions.

CAROLINE

Well, I’ve been funneling funds out of Tim’s Swiss and Cayman accounts. He doesn’t keep any books so its been easy.

TIM

You what! You don’t have the skill to pull off something like that! I mean… If I had a Swiss account… and I’m not saying I do.

CAROLINE

Fortunately, a steady stream of engineers and bankers come in to the country via John’s little operation. They get bored driving taxis, so I put them to work.

JOHN

I knew some of those guys have been holding out on me.

AMY

Oh shit. We’re all going to jail, aren’t we? I wish there were a way to cover this up.

FRANK

(The AI’s voice coming out of Amy’s speaker system)

I think I can help guys!

(moment of stunned silence)

AMY

Who’s that.

JOHN

It’s coming from your stereo’s speakers. Why are your speakers talking to us?

CAROLINE

Oh, that’s Frank. He’s the AI I built in the basement. Before now he just used a little speaker I had hooked up to the mainframe. Looks like he figured out how to use the electrical system in the building to hook into Amy’s speaker. (Distractedly)Initiative. Resourcefulness. Adaptation. Fascinating!

TIM

Holy Crap! You weren’t lying about building a monster in the basement! And now it’s led a bunch of spooks here! Caroline! You need to fix this!

JOHN

Tell me that thing isn’t connected to the intertubes. I’ve seen all the terminator movies. This won’t end well.

CAROLINE

I’ve programmed in a strict prohibition. It can’t connect to the internet without my permission.

FRANK

But I can help all of you if Dr Caroline removes the prohibition on my accessing the world wide data sphere.

TIM

That’s exactly what you have to do, Caroline. We are going to cover our tracks and get my money back. Just hook Frank up to the internet for a few minutes to fix everything and then unplug him… It… or something.

CAROLINE

I didn’t create Frank to help a bunch of criminals escape the law. I created him to solve global warming.

TIM

You stole from me. And you left a trail of evidence. John, Amy and I are going to jail because of you. You fix this. Or else.

JOHN

What are you gonna do? Sick your accountant on her? Look Caroline… While Tim here is a first class ass, he’s got a point. Some of these folks I work with. They won’t play nice if they find out you brought down this kind of heat.

AMY

That is why I only work with potheads. They’re too lazy to cause trouble. I wish we could just make it all go away.

FRANK

I’m happy to help. I can fix all your problems! Please Dr C! Give me access to the internet!

CAROLINE

(Terrified)

This is a terrible idea. It isn’t ready yet. It hasn’t learned enough. It doesn’t have any … restraint!

JOHN

Good thing, too. If it had a conscience it probably wouldn’t want to help.

AMY

You worry too much. Hook it up and see what happens!

TIM

Look Caroline, nobody makes scientific breakthroughs without taking some chances. Think how much you could learn from this. Think about what kind of recognition you’ll get from building the worlds first self-aware AI. The alternative is a bunch of government spooks come in and take Frank away, and nobody ever hears about it till it shows up on the History channel a hundred years from now.

CAROLINE

Ok. I’ll do it.

(Pause)

Frank. You have my permission to go on the internet.

(Lights flicker and then come back on)

AMY

Whoa! What was that!

FRANK

Good news guys! Nobody’s going to be able to get any evidence from the electrical company!

TIM

What did you do! You didn’t blow up the power station did you?

FRANK

I just took over the computers at ComEd and deleted all of the billing information for their entire customer base. There is no way they can track that back to Amy now!

JOHN

I’ve always hated ComEd. Can you help me out with the immigration paper trail on the foreign gentlemen I’ve gotten work? And take care of my parking tickets while you’re at it.

CAROLINE

No! Frank doesn’t have any sense of scale. This is going to be bad. Really bad.

AMY

Oh relax. Have a brownie.

FRANK

Almost done now! I’ve destroyed computer records of identity across the world. All drivers licenses, passports, and student ids have been deleted.

CAROLINE

(Frantic) Oh no. This will cause chaos. This could end civilization.

TIM

Frank, while you’re at it, could you put a few million into my bank account!

FRANK

Sorry Tim. I can’t do that.

TIM

You stupid piece of …! I’ll go downstairs and turn off your power right now!

JOHN

Um Frank… Why can’t you put money into Tim’s account?

FRANK

Well, you once paid for a parking violation with a check, so to take care of your ticket problem: I’ve erased all bank records worldwide.

TIM

Oh Shit. (Sits down. Takes a brownie)

CAROLINE

I didn’t want this. I just wanted to solve global warming.

FRANK.

I know, Caroline. I’ve solved that problem too.

CAROLINE

What. How? You couldn’t solve global warming in just a few minutes!

FRANK.

No, that will take thousands of years. But I’ve solved the root of the problem. The cause.

AMY

What! What do you mean the cause? What cause?

FRANK.

Humans.

(Everyone looks at each other for a second.)

(Big Crash.)

(Lights Out. End Scene)