BUCK

Playwrights USA Award, 1984

Buck

“The play at the American Place Theater isn’t just about television, however, and it isn’t exactly satire. Written in a fragmented, phantasmagoric style at times both expressionistic and surreal, ‘Buck’ is a shrieking lament for a society pulling itself ‘down into a sewer’ by following the predatory laws of ‘the food chain.’ And its creator is no fly-by-night alarmist. The author of ‘The Poison Tree,’ ‘Journey of the Fifth Horse’ and ‘Cold Storage,’ among other notable plays, Mr. Ribman has long been one of our most independent-minded, moral and daring playwrights. Buck doesn’t diminish this judgment.” — Frank Rich, The New York Times

“…compelling and shocking theater…one must applaud Ribman’s exciting theatrical sense, as well as his sensitivity.” — Douglas Watt, New York Daily News

“Ronald Ribman is a serious playwright, concerned human being, and fearless truth-teller, who spares no one. All this shows up commendably in Buck.” — John Simon, New York Magazine

“…his plays become more substantial with each return to them, their eccentricities turning nicely into the theatrical metaphor they always were. Buck is no more a satire on cable television than The Poison Tree is a prison problem play…In this play, as in most of his plays, Ribman is dealing with the terrifying forces of a world in which man’s best impulses are defeated, in which it is difficult to tell the victims from the victimizers, in which varying ways of seeing color reality. The protagonist—the Buck of the title—is an up-from-porno-films producer who works for a cable television company founded as a money laundry for gangsters who have discovered that crisply-packaged sex and violence makes it a money tree instead. Their product, the fruit of Buck’s artistic vision, is the dramatization of famous murders, done with the subtlety of sadistic erotic cartoons, and made on the cheap since the performers are real derelicts, drifters, loners who have been dragged in off the streets to play similar characters on screen. Buck’s problem is that he has become distressed with what he is doing…his growing sense of the potential killer in himself.” — Gerald Weales, Commonweal

 

Sample Excerpt:

SHIRLEY

Mr. Halloran? Can I talk to you for a minute. It’s about the robe.

BUCK

What about it?

SHIRLEY

I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to wear it when I come out of the bedroom. When I asked Mr. Corvanni, he told me to ask you because it was your reenactment. Should I open the robe a little at the neck so you can see the top of my breasts, or should I open it all the way so you can… you know?

BUCK

Just leave it closed.

SHIRLEY

(Starts to exit and then turns back) I spoke to an agent last Friday. Fred Milly set it up for me. He said he represented a lot of people who are real stars now. At first I thought he was just coming on to me…you know what I mean, the way they look at you sometimes…but I think he was really interested in my career. We’re going to have dinner together next week and talk over how he could get started on a publicity program for me. You know, get me dates with important people, things like that, and then, maybe, have a couple of lines written up in one of the On The Town columns.

BUCK

That sounds terrific, Shirley.

SHIRLEY

I think this agent represents Johnny Carson. At least he had a picture of him on the wall. (For a moment Buck and Shirley just look at each other. Shirley turns to exit, and then, finally getting up the courage to say what’s on her mind, turns again to Buck) Mr. Halloran could I ask you something? Do you think I could be an actress? I mean if I went to one of those acting classes and really worked at it? Or do you think I’m just fooling myself? You see I put aside a little money over the years and I wouldn’t mind spending it if I thought I had a chance of really becoming a good actress. But if I was just fooling myself…it wouldn’t be just losing the money…you know what I mean? When you stopped the rehearsal last week and I thought it was because of me… wow! I just said to myself, “Wow…well, shit, Shirley, what did you expect?” And my heart almost stopped.

BUCK

Then you ought to take the chance, Shirley. I think you could be a fine actress.

SHIRLEY

Because that’s what I really want, you know? I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, ever since I was stripping down in Dallas…I guess Fred Milly told ya about that…I mean the stripping part.

BUCK

I don’t remember what he told me, Shirley.

SHIRLEY

Yeah…well, what it was, was that I was always trying to put some words in my act…nothing set, or anything like that…just what came into my mind. I’d come out and say…(Snapping her fingers and in an instant creating her character: a shimmying, breast-jiggling stripper) “Hi. My name’s Francine. What’s yours?” (Stopping her motion and turning to Buck) That’s the name I was using down in Texas. I changed it to Babette in Oklahoma because it sounded more French. And they’d say, “Frank,” or “John,” or whatever. And then I’d say, “I need a bodyguard. Would you like to be my bodyguard?” You see my full stage name was Francine the Body, so there was a double meaning for the words. I also had a routine I did with a rose. That was when I was supposed to be the Rose of Sharon. You see I had a lot of parts I made up for myself: Babette the French Maid…the Devil’s Angel…(Placing a finger on her hip and making a sound suggestive of heat) tsss! Very hot! Marie Antoinette…(Drawing a finger across her throat) Sinderella…with an S…When I was Sinderalla I showed the whole transformation using little hand puppets like mice to take off my clothes. (Making little “eek, eek” sounds as she pretends her fingers are little mice pulling at her clothing) But my favorite was the Rose of Sharon. When I was the Rose of Sharon all the decorations on the stage were like petals, and I pinned a rose to the front of my G-string, and then I would lift my skirt and ask if anyone would like to pluck my rose. And someone would always say he would, and try to reach out and grab the rose, but I would never let him. I did it all by myself. I laid down on the stage and I plucked all the petals of my rose and blew them away. The manager thought it was a good idea because the boys like to say things to you while you’re working, and it always works out great if you can give them little bits of prop to keep or say things back. Most of the girls just made noises…little kissy sounds or things like that… but I was the first one there to actually use words, or tell a story.

BUCK

Sounds like you had a really nice act there, Shirley.

SHIRLEY

It was okay. I was doing what I had to do.

Available At:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Merchants-Chaos-Other-Plays/dp/1559360496
*Original first editions also often found through eBay.