A musical play written (Copyright 1993) by Fran Arnesen and Kent VanCleave, which was pres

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

A musical play written (Copyright 1993) by Fran Arnesen and Kent VanCleave, which was presented 11/28/93 at the Phoenix Phiesta 15 Mensa Regional Gathering in Phoenix, Arizona. Downloadable/ FReqable as file RGPLAY93.TXT from the BBS of Greater Phoenix Mensa, (602) 840 4865, 1:114/72 \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ "Is Love IBM Compatible?" ACT ONE SCENE ONE Setting: A typical bachelor's home computer room. It should be starkly utilitarian with a few imaginative touches, symbolizing as succinctly as possible the personality of our male protagonist, Bob Forebrain. We see a desk with a keyboard and a monitor, a modem, a box of disks, perhaps a computer game, and a Dilbert cartoon and an IBM sticker on the side of the computer. There is a Boris calendar on the wall. Paperback books form a precarious stack three feet high to the left of the chair. BOB ENTERS THE ROOM. "Marvin, I'm home!" COMPUTER: "Good to see you, Bob. How was your day?" BOB drops his briefcase on the floor and slides gratefully into the chair in front of his computer. "Terrible! If there's one thing I hate about my job at InfoTron, it's having to get out of my cube and do a presentation on my work! Why can't they just accept the fact that my idea is brilliant? Why do I have to explain it to all those people?" He shudders at the memory. COMPUTER (PLAINTIVELY): "Well, I didn't have such a great day myself. It's no picnic being cooped up in here all day with nobody to talk to. You never take me anywhere." BOB: "You're a desktop, not a laptop. You don't have to go out to have fun. You can link up with anyone else on the planet, right here. Sometimes I wish I ... well, never mind. Let's sign on to the Mensa BBS. I feel the need for a little social interaction." COMPUTER: "What am I, a Nintendo?" BOB: "You're gonna be spare parts for my pen if you don't snap out of it." COMPUTER: exaggerated flashing lights and noises of signing on. BOB (smiling): "Gee, I hope we get some live ones tonight. The last time I signed on there was nobody on but flakes and flamers." Pauses in typing. "Hmm ... what's this?" There is a knock, and FRANK enters. "I thought I'd find you here. Don't you know what night it is?" [Bob doesn't reply for a moment, typing madly.] BOB: Jeez. These computer handles get more ridiculous all the time. Imagine naming yourself Minerva, after the goddess of wisdom! She's probably a checker at Safeway. FRANK: [waving his hand in front of the computer screen] Spock! Do you read me? Acknowledge, please! BOB: Not now, Frank! I'm signed on to the Mensa BBS. FRANK: Man, you are really something! Didn't you join Mensa because you wanted to do something about your pathetic social life? The object was to meet girls, wasn't it? You know ... like, in person? BOB: [staring at monitor] This is so stupid! She believes in ESP because it told her that her cat was about to be hit by a bus?! [laughs and scrolls down a couple more screens] Oh, look! Mike Steiner's really toasting her terminal! [pause] Oh, this is really great! [pause] But I think she needs another dose.... FRANK: Ah, yes ... I remember being like that -- always assuming that an opinion that differs from mine must be due to the other person's stupidity or malice. I always used to think it was my job to straighten them out. It took years before I realized that even when people are wrong, they usually have a pretty good reason for believing the way they do. And in fact, with a little politeness, you can usually get them to listen to what you have to say. Instead of showing how good you are at demolishing people, you might try a mutually profitable dialogue...." [his voice trails off as he realizes that Bob isn't listening; turns to audience in exasperation, hands on hips] Let's see ... if I remember my computer science correctly, when no input is getting through you have an unrecoverable application error. Guess it's time to boot the system! [makes as though ready to kick Bob in the butt, when Bob suddenly pushes back from the computer, hands in the air] BOB: There! That ought to crisp her excuse for a cortex! [realizes Frank has been talking] Oh! What were you saying, Frank? FRANK: Well, the Cliff Notes version is "People will see your point sooner if you don't poke them in the eye with it." [Bob looks quizzically at him as Frank seizes him by the arm] Look, Bob -- tonight's the Mensa Salon. It's your big chance! This is the reason we joined Mensa -- to party with a whole bunch of brilliant people! So don't screw it up! [Aside, but Bob overhears:] My apologies to the women of Mensa! BOB: Are you implying that I'm socially inept? I'll have you know, I'm considered quite a catch. FRANK: [picks up a program box and sticks it in Bob's face] Virtual Valerie doesn't count. And Bob, I hate to say it, but your standards are a little unrealistic.... BOB: Unrealistic!? Not at all! Sure, not many women can fill all the particulars, but I'm not about to give up on finding the right one. [Walks to front of stage, forgetting Frank, and sighs] I know you're out there somewhere. [sings parody of "I Believe in You" from "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"] You have the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth; Yet, with those out-thrust breasts and that shape of perpetual youth. Oh, I believe in you, I believe in you. I hear the sound of good, solid judgment whenever you talk; Yet, there's that complex harmonic motion whenever you walk. Oh, I believe in you, I believe in you. And when my faith in the fairer sex all but falls apart; I've but to dream of your fertile mind, and I take heart, I take heart... To see the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth; Yet, with the slam, bam, glamour you'd find in a centerfold proof, Oh, I believe in you, Oh, I believe in you. FRANK: [shaking his head in disbelief] Women like that have got to be pretty rare. I don't know about your odds of finding one, but if you do it'll probably be someplace like Mensa. So say goodbye to Marvin and Valerie, and HELLO to real life! [drags him offstage, as Bob protests:] BOB: But I really can't go! I have too much ... reading to do! COMPUTER: [plaintively, after audience reaction] Bob! Come back, Bob! I'm afraid, Bob! [Stage dark; props on computer desk are swapped. Lights up. Minerva is dramatically made up and in flowing garments (basically, colorful and romantic), seated at her computer. She picks up a sheet of paper from her printer.] SCENE TWO MINERVA: Hmm. After 47 tries, this is finally beginning to look like something I can put my signature on. If InfoTron doesn't like these graphics, they can just get themselves another artist. [There is a knock, and Terry comes in.] TERRY: Hi, Min! Working late as usual, I see. Have you forgotten what night this is? MINERVA: [looks pensively off into the distance] If I've forgotten something, Terry, then I forget what it is. TERRY: [frowning] Tonight's the Mensa salon! Remember the reason we joined Mensa in the first place? MINERVA: Um ... something about playing chess, wasn't it? TERRY: [smiling] Yeah, right. I've been practicing my queen sacrifice all week. LET'S PARTY! [makes little dancing movements] Minerva: I'm ... really not feeling well. Why don't you go without me? TERRY: [stops dancing] Go without you? Are you nuts? MINERVA: It's sweet of you to be concerned, Terry, but I'll be fine ... really. I'll just fix myself a nice bowl of hot chocolate, get out my old copy of Wuthering Heights.... TERRY: Wuthering Heights!? A bowl of hot chocolate!? Listen, Min, don't try to kid me. You don't need Heathcliff, you need a real man. One with a brain bigger than his neck. MINERVA: I don't think I want to meet any Mensan males ... they're crude, cold, calculating ... and totally insensitive! TERRY: Have you been reading Time magazine again? MINERVA: Well, if you must know, I signed on to the Mensa BBS. TERRY: Isn't it a little difficult trying to hug a cursor? [aside] Or is it "curse a hugger"? MINERVA: I don't know what it is, Terry ... I think I must be a magnet for creeps. I sat and read messages for an hour; there was a lot of good discussion, and when I tried to join in with one little message, I got the most obnoxious reply from some know-it-all in California! A computer would have had more warmth. Maybe in a past life I did something awful, and this is my punishment.... TERRY: You're reading too much into it, Min. Some guys get out of the wrong side of bed in the morning, and some are just psychotic. [pause for audience reaction] It's nothing personal. MINERVA: [turning away] Maybe I'll just go out to some Scottsdale bar and listen to jazz all night long. There'll be some handsome blond musician playing the saxophone or trombone ... or maybe a singer.... TERRY: Ohhhh, no! Not again! You know what your problem is, Min? You give the wrong guys your phone number. I hate to say it -- after all, I am your best friend -- but your standards stink. MINERVA: My standards do not stink! The problem is ... well, the problem is that I just haven't met the right guy yet. [wandering to front of stage, dreamily] I know you're out there somewhere! [sings reprise of "I Believe in You"] You have the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth; Yet, with that rare New Age sensibility, caring and couth. Oh, I believe in you, I believe in you. I hear the sound of good, honest feeling whenever you talk; Yet, there's that bold, brave spring of the tiger that quickens your walk. Oh, I believe in you, I believe in you. You make my concept of worthless men all but fall apart; If I could feel your soul blend with mine, then I'd take heart, I'd take heart... To see the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth; Yet, with the slam, bam, dramatic flair that is warm, not aloof, Oh, I believe in you, Oh, I believe in you. TERRY: [grabbing Min by the arm and hauling her offstage] That's it, Min! We're getting you to the Critical Care Unit at the salon before this gets any worse! [Stage dark; computer area transformed with salon props. Lights up: Small groups of people are standing around, talking and laughing. Minerva and Terry are standing across the room from Bob and Frank. All hold drinks.] ACT TWO UNIDENTIFIED MAN: [dashing across stage in shorts and a towel, announcing enthusiastically] Guess what -- they finally decontaminated the hot tub! MINERVA: [looking disenchanted, arms folded] I don't know how I let you talk me into this. So far I've met one man who wants to sell me real estate, one man with some very strange ideas about something called SEXYG, and a psychiatrist who wanted to know if I have any black leather outfits at home. Not one of them is a candidate for soul mate. TERRY: There's no telling who you'll meet at a Mensa Salon. Nothing would surprise me. ENERGIZER BUNNY in full rabbit costume, walks across stage, beating drum. TERRY: We've only been here five minutes! Don't you think those two over in the corner look kinda cute? FRANK: This is your big chance! Now, go over there and say something to her! BOB: You mean ... talk to a girl? In real time? What'll I say? FRANK: No, in unreal time! Look, Bob, you dope -- don't you realize that once you walked through this door you caught the Mensa disease? BOB: [looks worried, crosses legs and covers crotch area with hands] The Mensa disease?! FRANK: Logorrhea. You're gonna talk your head off, pal! BOB: Whew! For a minute there I was afraid I'd have nothing to say.... BOB: [smiling, he approaches Minerva] Hi! MINERVA: Hi. [with Bob's "Hi," the musical crescendo to the love theme from Romeo & Juliet swells in the background, fading after a few bars] FRANK & TERRY: [with the popular toilet-chain pull] Yes! BOB: I don't usually come up and introduce myself to people at parties. In fact, I don't usually go to parties ... but .... TERRY: [grinning behind her hand] He's the shy type! BOB: [smiling shyly] ... I'm new here, and ... well, you're very attractive. MINERVA: [takes a few seconds to register both the straightforward compliment and the fact that he is a definite possible] Thank you. BOB: I hope you don't mind comments on your appearance. I don't.... MINERVA: No, I don't mind ... as long as you're not trying to sell me any real estate ... BOB: Real estate? MINERVA: Oh, you wouldn't believe some of the opening remarks here tonight. So tell me.... BOB holds out his hand assertively: Bob. Bob Forebrain. MINERVA (smiling): Bob ... what else is there besides real estate? What do you like? BOB (sings parody of "My Favorite Things" from "Sound of Music")): Cutting-edge science, new concepts for grokking Unified theories by ... oh, Steven Hawking A.I. as smart as a Turing machine These are some things that I think are real keen.... (speaking): And you? MINERVA (sings): Incense and candles to raise kundalini New Age emporia and great fettucini Natural fibers that match how I feel Things of the spirit all have great appeal.... BOB (sings): New science fiction -- say, Niven or Bova Carl Sagan's Cosmos and programs on Nova Old Star Trek reruns with my hero Spock Make me the happiest guy on the block.... BOTH: Who can figure ... how it happens ... others disagree But people in Mensa are smart as can be They're bound to agree ... with me! MINERVA: "Tales of the City," by Armistead Maupin Organic produce from co-ops I shop in Stylish old houses with multiple cats Great flowing capes and mysterious hats.... BOB: Z-modem protocols and PKZip archives Fax modem, voice mail and Bernoulli disk drives Jolt cola, Twinkies.... MINERVA: .... a fresh summer peach Romantic dinners and walks on the beach.... BOB: People who think in a logical fashion.... MINERVA: People who radiate love and compassion.... BOB: Virtual Valerie.... MINERVA: Shelley and Keats.... BOTH:These are a few of my favorite treats.... Who can figure ... how it happens ... others disagree But people in Mensa are smart as can be They're bound to agree ... with me! BOB (holding hands with her): Gee, we have so much in common! MINERVA (glowing): Do you believe in synchronicity? FRANK: Man, talk about your strange attractors. BOB (puts his arm around her): Gosh ... I don't know. The ancient Greeks had six different words for "synchronicity" ... it's funny, I don't even know your name. MINERVA: Oh, silly me. It's Minerva. Minerva Truelove. My mother was passionate about Roman mythology. Actually, she was passionate about Romans, period. BOB (looking thunderstruck): Minerva ... the goddess of wisdom? TERRY: In the flesh. MINERVA (sighs): Don't let it fool you. Sometimes I think the reason I wear sandals all the time is because I don't have enough sense to tie my own shoes. I've always got my head in the clouds.... FRANK: Sounds a lot like Bob. But with him the clouds have bifurcated. BOB (anxiously): I ... do you ever talk on the Mensa BBS? MINERVA (frowning): Why do you ask? BOB: I ... I work in the communications industry. I often ... take informal surveys. MINERVA: The BBS is so impersonal. People don't understand that words don't communicate. People communicate. I never really understood that before. Without real names and faces and body language and context ... what do we have? Ships passing in the night ... firing salvoes at one another! BOB (turning pale): Uh ... would you excuse me for a few minutes? There's something I have to do ... right away. I'll be back ... I promise. (He hurries out the door.) MINERVA (sighing): Parting is such sweet sorrow. FRANK (smiling at Terry): I know I haven't seen you here before. This is going to sound like an odd question ... but do you play chess? TERRY (taking his hand): As a matter of fact, yes! ACT THREE BOB: [rushing into his office] Marvin! Wake up, Marvin! I've got to sign on to the Mensa BBS immediately! COMPUTER: I'm not your slave, you know. Business hours are from.... BOB: [sitting down] Marvin, look ... I know you think I'm insensitive. Actually, I am insensitive, and a little self-absorbed -- but that's changing. It's very important that I get online right away. I have to wipe a message that could ruin my life! It'll only take a second. Please? COMPUTER: Say, 'pretty please with little red hearts on it.' BOB: [through clenched teeth] Pretty please with little red hearts on it. [Marvin makes dialing and log-on noises, while Bob fidgets] COMPUTER: The system reports no messages since you last logged on, but there are a significant number of parity errors that have been recently introduced into the message base.... BOB: That's not my problem -- let that stupid sysop deal with it! I've got to get to that message! [types madly, then throws up his hands and stands up, pacing back and forth] I'm so nervous I can't even type! Marvin, would you find the last message I wrote? COMPUTER: Here it is. I see you were waxing poetic. BOB: Yeah, something about that story about ESP and her cat really got my creative juices flowing -- so I wrote, "Fatuous faith in fantastic foreboding fully confirms Feline Foolishness First-Class." When she finds out it was me who posted that.... COMPUTER: That isn't what your message says. BOB: Huh? COMPUTER: Your message says, "Credulous conjuring confirms catastrophe." BOB: [sitting down] That can't be right ... I remember it distinctly. [typing] Let's go into edit mode.... VOICE of PUNVIRUS: Nyah-ah-aaah! You didn't say the magic word! BOB: Quit kidding around, Marvin, this is serious! COMPUTER: That wasn't me, Bob. The system is providing output to my sound card. Let me interrogate.... PUNVIRUS: I am the Punvirus. I warp words wittily, wounding would-be wordsmiths. I twist text terribly, teasing telecommunicators. I pick apart people's pitiful prose, playing parodist par excellence. Dare you duel digitally?! BOB: Wait a minute! A pun virus? What was it my message said? COMPUTER: "Credulous conjuring confirms catastrophe." BOB: Whoah! "Feline Foolishness First-Class" becomes "Cat Ass Trophy"? That's some software! COMPUTER: It appears to be operating as a virtual PC on the host 486. If you can think of a really difficult pun to keep it busy, I can drop the host to DOS and scramble the virus code. BOB: Great idea, Marvin! [typing] OK, Punvirus ... set phrasers on pun! PUNVIRUS: Star Trekking? I'll start wrecking. BOB: This might not be too easy. Hmm... What do punsters need? Material! Let's send him a blank line, Marvin! [types] PUNVIRUS: Doing nothing? Nothing doing! Consider this a blank-it condemnation. BOB: Oh, help! Wait ... I got it! A single letter .... there: K. PUNVIRUS: Oh, "K." Okay. BOB: This isn't going to cut it. Maybe the opposite approach ... something long and senseless.... Hey, Marvin! Send him the text of the Clinton Health Plan we downloaded from CompuServe! COMPUTER: Sending.... [transmission sounds] BOB: OK, Pun Virus, Puns for a Thousand! [Theme from Jeopardy] COMPUTER: He's receiving it ... working ... I'm into DOS ... ah, there he is! Gotcha. PUNVIRUS: Hey! What's going on? Ooooh, nooooo! I've gone Microsoft! BOB: Way to go, Marvin! Looks like everything's OK with the BBS ... but what about me? That message is still there. COMPUTER: But it's not quite the same now, Bob. Look. BOB: Hmmm. [reading on screen] Hey! It sounds like I agree with her! I'm saved! [There's a knock at the door, and Frank, Terry and Minerva enter.] MINERVA: We hated to see you leave the party, so we talked Frank into bringing the party to you! I hope you don't mind.... BOB: Mind? Hell, no! I couldn't be happier. We can all read messages on the Mensa BBS or something.... FRANK: OK, but for a while there I thought the BBS was going to torpedo your love life altogether. BOB: [with a knowing grin to audience] Me too. But I think love is IBM compatible. (ALL sing parody, "L.O.V.E.") L is lurking on the BBS O -- opining, either "no" or "yes" V is very large scale..... integration when two E-lectronic mavens (male and female) link by e-mail. Love is IBM compatible Love's too strong to be combatable Bul-letin boards make it Fun to get a life (or fake it) Love was made for me and you! --- FINIS--- [Videotapes of the 11/28/93 performance are available. Inquire by voice to (602) 274-3538 or leave message addressed to Kent VanCleave on Greater Phoenix Mensa BBS (602) 840 4865]


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank