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Editor: Harley Hammerman
St. Louis, Missouri

Volume 0


Gene & Aggie

Jo Morello


EUGENE O'NEILL, 29. Tall, thin, very dark eyes, hair and mustache. A dissipated alcoholic with wit, charm and a sardonic sense of humor.

JAMIE O'NEILL, 39. Eugene's idolized older brother. Medium height, somewhat stocky build, dark hair. A Broadway dandy, proud of his excellent theatrical voice and prowess with women. Debauched, wasted alcoholic with a cynical, bitter attitude.
AGNES BOULTON, 24. Attractive, dark, slender. Flirtatious or serious, as necessary. Heartily enjoys a drink.
  SCENEWinter 1917. Greenwich Village, New York, in the Golden Swan, a sleazy, sinister bar known as “The Hell Hole.” In a glass case along the back wall, a moth-eaten, stuffed swan floats, frozen in time and decay, among gilded wooden lily pads.
  A player piano upstage (or off) plays "Grizzly Bear Rag" or another ragtime tune of the era. Agnes sits alone at a table downstage center, a drink before her, a cigarette in her hand. Self-conscious, she moves a little to the rhythm as she glances nervously toward the door.
  Eugene and Jamie enter from upstage right, both inebriated and cold. Each carries a bottle. Topcoat over his arm, Jamie wears a tight necktie and a loud black-and-white print jacket with a red carnation in his lapel. His bowler hat is slightly cockeyed, as is Jamie himself.
  Eugene’s disheveled clothes look as if he’s slept in them, as he probably has. Under his jacket, he wears his dark blue seamen’s sweater that proclaims “American Line” in large white letters. They stop to look around. Eugene freezes.

  JAMIE—(heading for Agnes) WHAT HO! Look who’s here!

  AGNES—(looking around) Who? (Eugene moves beside the piano, watching her warily.)

  JAMIE—Ah, my beauteous damosel, don’t be coy. (standing back, regarding her) You’ve changed. Not so wild-looking anymore. A pretty Irish rose.

  AGNES—(amused) How much have you had to drink?

  JAMIE—Where’s your old man?

  AGNES—Where’s….? He died.

  JAMIE—(clearly inebriated) Ah! The merry widow!

  AGNES—I beg your pardon! (Jamie pulls back, squints at her drunkenly, realizes his error. He bows exaggeratedly.)

  JAMIE—My apologies, Madam. You reminded me of a woman named Louise. Gene's old love. But she’s long gone. (He takes the carnation from his lapel and hands it to Agnes.) Accept this, please, with my apology. (She smiles, takes the flower, and offers her hand.)

  AGNES—Flower and apology accepted. I’m Agnes. Who's Louise? Who's Gene? . . .  Who are you?

  JAMIE—(kissing her hand) I am Jamie, Broadway sport, actor, bar habitué, roué. And why is such a fair maiden all alone?

  AGNES—Should I rent an escort?

  JAMIE—No need. I’m free.

  AGNES—Actually I'm waiting for someone.

  JAMIE—Do I know him?

  AGNES—Her. My friend Christine Ell.

  JAMIE—Ah, you have good taste in friends, Miss Agnes. May I become one? (Eugene quietly walks over, looks at Agnes quizzically.)

  EUGENE—Hello, Christine’s friend. New in town?

  AGNES—It shows that much?

  JAMIE—(to Agnes) This is Gene. My kid brother. Gene, meet Agnes.

  EUGENE—I just meant. . . well, I’m in here every day and I’ve never seen you before.

  AGNES—In here every day?

  EUGENE—Officially the Golden Swan, but everybody calls it the Hell Hole!

  AGNES—They actually call this “the Hell Hole”? (looking around) Satan never had it so bad!

  JAMIE—"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!"

  AGNES—It does look pretty hopeless.

  EUGENE—It's even worse than it looks. That's why Jamie is leaving. Aren't you, Jamie? (Jamie makes a sweeping courtly bow and walks backwards to the door, tipping his hat and speaking as he goes. . .)

  JAMIE—That I am. Good night, lady and gentleman. I’m off to the Great White Way to find a Broadway Baby. (looking out, calling off) Christine! What ho! Christine has arrived!

  AGNES—Finally! (She rises to go. Eugene touches her arm.)

  EUGENE—Please stay. (She looks at him uncertainly, looks toward the door.)

  JAMIE—(calling off) Sorry, Christine. Agnes is busy. Shine your smiles on me! Let’s have a roarin’ good time. (Exiting, he emits the mighty lion’s roars for which he’s famous. Agnes looks up in surprise. Gene has eyes only for Agnes. He extends his hand.)

  EUGENE—Jamie’s hijacked Christine. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me. Gene O’Neill.  Playwright. Poet. Drunk.

  AGNES—(taking his hand) Does everyone in your family recite credentials with his name?

  EUGENE—Only the self-aware.

  AGNES—Agnes Boulton. Writer. Just in from the farm. (As Agnes tries to take back her hand, Eugene holds on.)

  EUGENE—A writer? What brings you to New York, Agnes?

  AGNES—I got tired milking cows.

  EUGENE—(silly) That’s udder nonsense!

  AGNES—You’re udderly ridiculous! I’ve been writing romance stories and pulp fiction since I was 17. Doing well, but it doesn’t cover the mortgage. So while my parents run the farm, I hope to make more by writing in New York. (They giggle. Through this scene, he will continue to drink from his bottle and refill her glass. She drinks slowly and becomes slightly tipsy but he gets increasingly inebriated.)

  EUGENE—Do you like poetry?

  AGNES—Yours?. . . Would I have seen it somewhere?

  EUGENE—Maybe. (grandiosely) I’ve been published in some of the better publications. . . but I meant Francis Thompson's. Do you know The Hound of Heaven? It’s 183 lines. I know every one. May I?

  AGNES—(laughing) Maybe next time.

  EUGENE—It’s about a man trying to escape from his God. Maybe because of a guilty conscience.

  AGNES—Over Louise?

  EUGENE—Who told you…? Never mind. Forget her. She's passé. . . .  Let me say my poem, Agnes. Just a few lines?

  AGNES—All right, but I don't have all night.

  EUGENE—(quite somber but nonetheless tipsy)

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him,”—

(She takes his hand again. He moves around the table, never releasing her hand, and sits beside her. He is so grateful for the attention that he practically melts into her.)

  AGNES—I’d like to hear some of your own poetry.

  EUGENE—I have nothing to do you justice. But I’ll write a poem, Agnes, just for you. And you can see my plays. In the Zone is touring the country on the Orpheum Circuit. (sneering) Vaudeville. And another play is—

  AGNES—On Broadway?

  EUGENE—In time. I grew up in the theatre. My old man is the Count of Monte Cristo.

  AGNES—You’re the son of the great actor James O’Neill? Really? (He reaches into his pocket and removes several newspaper clippings, then selects one and hands it to her.)

  AGNES—(reading) “The Boston Sunday Post, August 13. Many people will remember James O’Neil, who played Monte Cristo. His son—Eugene O’Neil--” . . . You really are his son.

  EUGENE—Someday he’ll be remembered as my father.

  AGNES—(reading again) “. . .Eugene O’Neill, who knocked about the world in tramp steamers and saw life ‘in the raw.’” How raw?

  EUGENE—Raw. Keep reading.

  AGNES—“. . . has written some little plays which have made a very deep impression.”  What do you write about?

  EUGENE—What I know. Life. People. The sea. Man’s relationship to God.

  AGNES—In that order?

  EUGENE—Sometimes all at once. (shyly handing her more clippings) Reviews. From my first official production.

  AGNES—(selecting one and reading) The Sunday Boston-Post. From September. "Provincetown Players have put on two plays by Eugene O’Neil, a young dramatist . . . who is going to be heard from. . . .”  Well, you’re a playwright, maybe a poet. . .possibly—and I hope I’m wrong—a drunk. But I can tell you’re more than that. (He jumps up jauntily and pulls back his jacket in a “ta-da!” motion to reveal his sweater.)

  EUGENE—I am officially an able-bodied seaman! My proudest accomplishment!

  AGNES—Anything else?

  EUGENE—(indicating the reviews she is holding) Genius. It’s says so right there in black and white. (Agnes returns the articles, still smiling. He sits beside her.)

  EUGENE—I just got $75 each for three one-acts—

  AGNES—You don’t have to impress me with what you’ve done. I’m more interested in who you are.

  EUGENE—What do they pay for those stories you write?

  AGNES—Not so much. Is money what’s important to you?

  EUGENE—How much?

  AGNES—Is this a contest? . . .It varies. . .  according to length. . . and things. And remember, I’ve been at it a long time.

  EUGENE—How much?

  AGNES—Oh, fifty. . . a hundred. For a novelette, maybe one fifty.

  EUGENE—That’s pretty good, especially for a woman. . . 

  AGNES—For a wom—!

  EUGENE—You make more than I do.

  AGNES—And that upsets you.

  EUGENE—Not at all. I think we should get married. I’ve always wanted to be a kept man.

  AGNES—You look pretty UN-kempt to me.

  EUGENE—Did I mention that I got a $200 advance, plus $50 every week in royalties for In the Zone?

  AGNES—It must be a wonderful play.

  EUGENE—Can’t possibly be. Too many people like it!

  AGNES—You’re an odd man, Gene O’Neill.

  EUGENE—You’ve only seen the tip of my. . .(hesitating)—



  AGNES—I’ve also seen your Irish charm. Are you this charming sober? (They lean towards one another, inebriated and mutually enchanted with one another. Then he pops to attention.)

  EUGENE—You told Jamie your “old man” is dead. But isn’t your father running the farm?

  AGNES—My husband is dead. My father—and mother—care for my two-year-old, Barbara. I’m the breadwinner.

  EUGENE—As a writer? A woman writer?

  AGNES—Will you stop that!

  EUGENE—All right. I can accept writer. But you’re a farmer?

  AGNES—You’re a sailor.

  EUGENE—Seaman. . . . But you’re a widow!

  AGNES—And you’re a virgin!

  EUGENE—Well, no. But you’re a mother! With a child!

  AGNES—Yes. Mothers usually have children.

  EUGENE—I don’t like children, Agnes.

  AGNES—Too much competition?

  EUGENE—I don’t understand them. That’s all. . . .  Agnes—


  EUGENE—. . . Aggie, I want you all to myself.

  AGNES—You don’t even know me. . . . Let’s discuss this another time, when we’re both sober.

  EUGENE—Leave your kid with your folks. I’ll be your child!

  AGNES—Why do you need a mother? Did she abandon you?

  EUGENE—You might say so.

  AGNES—I’m so sorry. Do you know where she is?

  EUGENE—Sure. A few blocks away, with my dad. We visit often. But her style of mothering—(snuggling against her childishly, drunkenly) C’mon, Aggie. Lemme be your kid.

  AGNES—I can’t care for the child I’ve got!

  EUGENE—Your parents can do it. They did a great job with you.

  AGNES—You’re really asking me to leave my child behind!

  EUGENE—No I’m not. You’ve already done it.

  AGNES—You can’t possibly know what it’s like to be a parent!

  EUGENE—And I never want to find out. . . . C'mon, Aggie. I’m not like having a two-year-old. No diapers, feedings, schooling. All I need is your love—but I need all of it! No holding back.

  AGNES—I have other responsibilities—

  EUGENE—I don’t…only myself. So I’ll concentrate on you. I’ll give you more love than you ever dreamed possible. I will adore you during every waking moment. More. Even in my dreams.


  EUGENE—Children grow up and leave. I would never leave you. I promise. Marry me, Agnes. . . . Aggie. Be my own, my own little wife. I’ll cherish you forever. (She stands, ready to leave. He rises and stands beside her.)

  AGNES—I need time to sober up. This is all too fast for me.

  EUGENE—All you’ll have to do is take care of me.

  AGNES—That would seem to be a very large order.

  EUGENE—What else would you have to do?

  AGNES—My writing, for one thing. To pay the mortgage on the farm.

  EUGENE—Wonderful. We’ll write together. Two desks. Two pencils. (He digs in his pockets, extracts a pencil, and solemnly, drunkenly presents it to her.) With all my worldly goods I thee endow. It’s your engagement pencil, Aggie. (She laughs, takes it, then returns it.)

  AGNES—Gene, a mother does not abandon her child!

  EUGENE—Of course not. You’ll visit her…but at the farm. Never where I’m working. When we’re married, it has to be just the two of us. Nobody else. You will belong to me, and I will be yours.

  AGNES—Good night, Mr. O’Neill. Meeting you has been very. . . interesting. (Agnes heads for the door and Eugene follows.)

  EUGENE—You can’t escape me. I’m the hound of heaven.

  AGNES—You don’t want a wife. You want a mother.

  EUGENE—You could be both.

  AGNES—You’re drunk and insane. Your proposition. . . proposal. . . whatever. . . is ludicrous.

  EUGENE—No. It's serious. Too serious for nicknames, Aggie. I will ask you formally. Miss Agnes. . . er…

  AGNES—Boulton! Agnes Boulton! You don't even know my last name!

  EUGENE—Doesn't matter. You'll change it to O'Neill.

  AGNES—You're pretty sure of yourself!

  EUGENE—No. But I'm sure about you. You're the most wonderful woman. . . I want you. I need you. I love you, Aggie.

  AGNES—Gene. Stop!. . . Please.

  EUGENE—Can't. Too much to lose if I quit. I’m begging you, Miss Agnes Boulton. Please. Marry me!

  AGNES—Impossible! I've only known you for a few minutes. What if I met someone else--? Or you did?

  EUGENE—We’re adults. If you find somebody you love more, I'll step aside. And you'll do the same for me.

  AGNES—Well,. . .of course.. . . I mean. . . if you didn’t want to be with me,. . .  I wouldn’t want you there. (He holds her arms and looks into her eyes.)

  EUGENE—But there could never be anyone else. Agnes, I want to spend every night of my life from now on with you. I mean this. Every night of my life.

  AGNES—And we'll live happily ever after, on love and fresh air.

  EUGENE—Have faith in me, Aggie. I'm going to be America's greatest playwright, and you'll be my wife.

  AGNES—Gene O'Neill, who plans to be America's greatest playwright . . . let's sleep on it! (She takes his arm as they exit on the . . .)



CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that Gene & Aggie is subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all the countries covered by the international copyright unions. All rights are strictly reserved. Particular emphasis is laid upon the question of readings, whether for charity or gain, and permission for readings—as for any other use—must be secured from the playwright in writing. In its present form, the play is posted for the reading public only. Inquiries regarding rights should be addressed to Dramatists Guild or directly to Jo Morello.

Gene & Aggie is excerpted from the full-length play EGO: A Haunted Life, with incidental music by Dick Hyman. The play is being developed in part through an Individual Artist's Fellowship from the Florida's Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs. Copyright 2002 by Jo Morello.



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