A One Act Comedy
Two single brothers in their 20’s move into an apartment that the former tenant refuses to move out of.
Time: The Present
Place: An apartment in Boston, Mass.
We are in the Boston apartment of Isabelle Stein. It is an apartment kept in pristine conditions although the conditions are somewhat dated. Some of the furniture is covered in plastic. Faded photographs are framed in elaborate but almost antique frames. There is a coffee table, tv stand etc. The sliding glass door is used as the fourth wall. A hall leading into the room from the off stage bedrooms and bathroom. A kitchenette. It is 9 AM. February of the current year. At rise: We see Isabelle Stein’s apartment. The front door opens and in walks brothers Paul and Dennis Monroe, each in their 20’s, ordinary looking men, Paul is five years older than Dennis. They are each carrying a box. Paul stops, drops his box, and Dennis bangs into him falling on the floor with his box.
Paul: (O.L.): Watch where you’re going.
Dennis: (O.L.): Look out!
Paul: (O.L.): Jesus Christ can’t you do anything right?
Dennis: (O.L.): Me? You’re the one–
Paul: Shut up! (Looking around) What is all this?
Paul: Open your eyes, dog face. Who’s crap is this? I mean this is Apartment C-11, right?
Paul: Hey when I sent you over yesterday to get the keys to the apartment from the landlord you didn’t get the wrong keys, did ya?
Dennis: No I didn’t get the wrong keys.
Paul: You fucked up again, Den.
Dennis: I didn’t fuck up! I went to the landlord and asked him for the keys to apartment C-11 and he gave them to me.
Dennis: And what?
Paul: And now for some reason, bonehead, we are standing in an apartment with that looks like somebody else still lives here.
(Isabelle Stein, 70s, dressed in a bathrobe, fuzzy slippers, hair up in rollers, nightgown underneath, enters with a gun pointed at them.)
Isabelle: That’s because somebody else does live here and if you don’t get out of here in two seconds I’m going to blow your face off which for you (To Paul) would be an improvement.
Paul: (Backing out with his arms up): Okay, lady, just take it easy. We’re going. Come on, Den.
Dennis: (Backing out with his arms up): Yeah, we’re going. Hey, aren’t you, um, Isabelle Stein?
Isabelle: Possibly. Who wants to know?
Dennis: Only your biggest fan.
Isabelle: You couldn’t be my biggest fan. My biggest fan is my cat.
Dennis: I’d like to meet your cat.
Isabelle: It died.
Paul: (Backing out with his arms up): Naturally or did you shoot it?
Dennis: Listen, Ms. Stein–
Isabelle: Don’t give me that Ms. crap. It’s Miss Stein.
Dennis: Miss Stein (putting his arms down but she motions for him to put them up so he does) if we could just talk to you for a minute I’m sure we could clear up all this confusion.
Isabelle: I’m not confused. Maybe you are but I’m not.
Paul: Right. We are totally confused and we are leaving.
Dennis: Please, Miss Stein, give us a minute, a half a minute, two seconds, a second (Isabelle shakes her head no on each suggestion.)
Paul: Would you SHUT UP?
Isabelle: You have a sweet face. All right.
Paul: All right? What do you mean all right?
Isabelle: All right. I’ll give you a second to explain why you broke into my apartment and dropped your stuff all over my nice clean hardwood floors. I wouldn’t complain normally but I polished them yesterday and, boy, have I got the backache to prove it.
Dennis: Thank you, Miss Stein. Just so I get this right you are the great and wonderful Isabelle Stein? A movie star! A legend!
Isabelle: A legend, yes. A movie star, not so much. I worked mostly on Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off Broadway, Newark.
Dennis: I remember seeing you at the Paramus Playhouse in The Glass Menagerie.
Isabelle: That was you?
Paul: Hey! I got a U-Haul outside crammed with our stuff that’s costing me a hundred bucks an hour while you two are taking a fucking trip down memory lane! Listen, Isabelle–
Isabelle: It’s Miss Stein to you.
Paul: Whatever. My brother Den and me signed a lease with the landlord to rent this apartment. I stupidly assumed you would have moved out before we moved in. So we got all our shit outside so you gotta move your shit out today like now!
Isabelle: You talk a big game for a guy who five minutes ago when I held you at gunpoint piddled his pants.
Paul: I did not!
Dennis: I think you did, Paul.
Paul: I didn’t.
Isabelle: Maybe it’s me but I see a little puddle on my floor where somebody piddled.
Paul: I’m getting the landlord. (He charges out.)
Isabelle: I’m getting a mop. (She crosses into the kitchen) So, Dennis, is it?
Isabelle: Do you have a last name?
Dennis: Monroe. I’m Dennis Monroe, Miss Stein.
Isabelle: Dennis, you may call me Isabelle.
Dennis: Thank you, Isabelle. (As she reenters with the mop in a bucket of water.) Here, let me do that.
Isabelle: No I can.
Dennis: Please, let me.
Isabelle: No you sit. Never mind that after mopping the floor today and polishing the floor yesterday I will never be able to walk again. But please sit. Be comfortable.
Dennis: Please, I want to do it.
Isabelle: (Giving him the mop): If you’re sure?
Dennis: I am.
Isabelle: (Sits): Make sure you get all of it now.
Dennis: So, Isabelle, I know it’s February and it’s very cold outside but why does it feel colder in than it does out?
Isabelle: I don’t feel the cold and if I do I put on an extra sweater.
Dennis: How many sweaters can one person have?
Isabelle: If you’re cold put on the heat. I am used to the cold. I like it. It builds up the iron in your blood.
Dennis: Assuming it doesn’t freeze first. (He finishes mopping.) There. All done.
(He puts down the mop and crosses to the thermostat. She rises and picks up the mop and starts to mop.)
Dennis: What are you doing?
Isabelle: You missed a spot. Don’t worry. It’s no trouble. I enjoy looking at everything from a wheelchair. (He crosses back over and takes the mop from her where she points it out. Paul charges back in with the landlord Saul Levine.)
Paul: There she is! There she is!
Saul: I see her already. Who do I look like to you Stevie Wonder? Isabelle, what are you doing here?
Isabelle: And why shouldn’t I be here? I live here. This is my apartment.
Saul: This is not your apartment. This is their apartment. They signed a lease!
Paul: Show her the lease! Show her the lease!
Saul: All right already! (To Dennis) Who are you?
Dennis: I’m his brother.
Saul: My condolences. (Taking out the lease and showing it to Isabelle.) See. Here’s the signed lease.
Isabelle: I have to get my glasses. I can’t see anything without my glasses.
Paul: You saw us good enough to hold a gun on us and order us to leave your apartment or else.
Isabelle: Now he’s making me wish I did the or else. (Gets her glasses and looks at the lease.) Yes. I see where they signed this piece of paper. So?
Paul: What do you mean so? You gotta get out. This is our place now.
Saul: (To Paul): What you got? A hot date? Sit down. Let me talk to her. I know what to say.
Dennis: All right but be gentle. Be kind.
Saul: I will. Believe me. I will be kindest gentlest person you ever seen. (To Isabelle) Isabelle, darling?
Isabelle: No. This is my home and I’m staying.
Saul: You can’t stay. These are renting this place and they will actually pay me rent.
Isabelle: Are you saying I didn’t pay you rent? Oy, did I pay you rent!
Isabelle: Do we want to go into all of that in front of those two innocent children?
Saul: I’m talking money.
Isabelle: You never paid me a dime.
Saul: I’m not talking that kind of money.
Isabelle: Well I am. You know as well I do that I paid my rent in full every first of the month for twenty years.
Saul: There’s no need to get into all of that now–
Isabelle: For twenty years I heard that knock on the door with that whispering voice “Isabelle, are you home?” Then I’d open that door in the red kimono with nothing on underneath and I let you, close the door and pay my rent (beat) in full!
Saul: Isabelle, please–
Isabelle: You think I enjoyed it? You coming in here slobbering all over, breathing hard and then one minute later yelling “Yes, God, I see the light”. Well I didn’t but I put up with it because that’s what we agreed would be my rent when I moved into this dump! Then you find some other little chickadee to take over for me.
Saul: That’s a lie!
Isabelle: Please! I was in the laundry room watching my clothes go around in the spin cycle–and believe me, boys, you better watch your clothes in that laundry room because if you leave them for a minute they are stolen by the pervert in B-5. He wears anything and everything. The other day I saw him wearing my pink panties. There he was parading up and down the hallway in nothing but my pink panties and a plastic top hat that said Happy New Year 1962.
Saul: He doesn’t parade up and down the hallway!
Isabelle: So anyway where was I? Oh, yeah. So I was in the laundry room six months ago watching my clothes when in walks the chickadee from A-10. She had this big grin on her face and looked at me like she couldn’t wait to tell me something but I would have ask first. So I asked and what do you think she told me?
Isabelle: She told me that you, Saul Levine, were shtuping her instead of her having to pay the rent! Of course I didn’t let on that you had been shtuping the same way for the last twenty years because when something inconsequential happens who wants to talk about it?
Saul: Apparently you do.
Isabelle: Well it became consequential when I began receiving eviction notices just around the same time you began shtuping A-10! Can you believe it? After all that time together now he’s tired of me and wants me out of the building.
Paul: He’s not the only one.
Isabelle: So tell me, Dennis, where am I supposed to go? What I supposed to do?
Paul: Frankly, my dear, I don’t–
Dennis: Paul! We won’t throw you out, Isabelle.
Paul: What? Are you fucking kidding me? This is our place. She has to go and now or forget the whole thing!
Isabelle: All right. I’ll go. I hate to be a bother.
Dennis: But where will go?
Isabelle: Don’t worry, Dennis. I’ll find a nice comfortable place somewhere next to a trash can. I hear the food is good at the homeless shelter.
Paul: I want my deposit back.
Saul: Of course. In thirty days once it clears the bank.
Paul: The bank!
Saul: You don’t think I keep money lying around?
Paul: Great. Now what are we supposed to do?
Dennis: We can stay here. Whatever we have we can put in storage, can’t we, Mister Levine?
Saul: What does it got to do with me?
Dennis: If you don’t let us store our things in your storage bins for free I will personally contact the local tv stations and tell them Isabelle’s story about her creepy landlord who coerced her into having sex in exchange for rent for the last twenty years.
Saul: What did he say? I stopped listening after he said the word free. (He looks at Dennis, who gives him a hard look.) All right. You can put your things in storage.
Dennis: For free?
Saul: For free. Oy, I think I just had a stroke.
Isabelle: From your mouth to God’s ears.
Saul: But the first of the month I am collecting rent from all three of you.
Dennis: But the lease only has myself and my brother on it.
Saul: Three people live here I collect three rents or else you’re all out on the street! Got it? (He exits.)
All: (They nod): We got it.
Isabelle: Thank you, Dennis. Thank you so much. And really, boys, I will not be in the way. I want you to live your lives and do whatever you want.
Paul: That’s big of you since we are paying the rent! By the way I get the big bedroom.
Isabelle: Of course. Not a problem. I’ll sleep on the couch. Of course it will kill my back but I always wanted to be a paraplegic.
Dennis: Hey, Paul, can’t we just–
Isabelle: No! Your brother is right. The big bedroom is his as long as he doesn’t mind laying in bed at night and looking up to see his reflection from the ceiling.
Paul: You have mirrors on the ceiling?
Isabelle: You don’t think Saul Levine was the only man in my life for the last twenty years?
Paul: Cool! You might not be so bad after all, Miss Stein.
Paul: Isabelle. Come on, Den, we gotta get our things out of the U-Haul. (He exits.)
Dennis: I’ll be right there. You can have my bedroom, Isabelle. I don’t mind sleeping on the couch.
Isabelle: No I wouldn’t think of it.
Dennis: I insist.
Isabelle: Well if you’re sure?
Dennis: I am.
Isabelle: You are good boy, Dennis. I think I’m going to enjoy having you here in my apartment.
As Dennis and Isabelle look happily at each other.
Slow fade to black
End of Scene One
Six months later.