Nancy [email protected]&*ing Reagan: Drama by Daniel Hurewitz

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Nancy [email protected]&*ing Reagan
A Play
by Daniel Hurewitz

Characters
MAGGIE (MARGARET) LESSING TRUWELL: 49, Asian-American, fairly fit, energetic, historian, and Dean of Students at Cardiff College.

RICHARD TRUWELL: Mid-50s, white, tall, easy-going, former TV producer-turned-writer, a bit shaggy, with a slight potbelly. Maggie’s husband, he seems youthful in a stoner sort of way.

DAVID SIMON: 49, white, private high school history teacher, fit. Maggie’s friend since grad school, he is fundamentally sweet, but has a strong mix of dourness and sarcasm.

JASON LOUIS: 50, white, music publicist with generous and somewhat relaxed personality. He and David became friends in high school, and he and Maggie met in college.

KENNY GUZMAN: 31, Latino, movie art designer with a puckish sense of humor and a good body. Jason’s boyfriend.

ALLISON MANNING: 20, black, smart, impulsive, argumentative and athletic college student, attending Cardiff College.

ERICA: 30s-40s, local Palm Springs TV newscaster, still sees herself as youthful, but past her prime for advancing beyond the local network. Reads in an over-dramatic way.

Staging
The play is set largely in the center room of Richard and Maggie’s Palm Springs weekend house. The room flows from a dining area, with a table and six chairs, at stage right, to a living area of sofa, coffee table and two armchairs, at stage left. Along the stage right wall there is also an open counter to the kitchen, which makes the kitchen somewhat visible for the audience. There is a TV in the living area which the audience can hear, but its screen faces upstage. There is also a small, outdoor patio with two chaises on it, that sits downstage of the living area.

Time
The play occurs over the course of a weekend in March 2016, when Maggie and Richard invite David, Jason, and Kenny to their Palm Springs home to celebrate David’s 50th birthday. David, Jason, and Maggie have known each other for some 30 years; Maggie is Richard’s second wife; and Kenny is Jason’s fairly new and much younger boyfriend.

This is a full-length play, but this excerpt occurs well into the dinner party on Friday night (in the middle of the first act). Some heated teasing and sparring has occurred while everyone ate, and they are now sitting around the table chattering.

RICHARD
OK, new topic… I could…talk about my screenplay?

MAGGIE
Yes. Perfect: they’ll love it.

RICHARD
OK, so it’s a—

JASON
(Interrupting) Wait, you’ve really been doing the writing thing? Because when I stop working, I am just going to stop!

RICHARD
But this is way more fun! I’m writing a zombie thriller set out here in the desert.

KENNY
I love zombies! That’s totally my genre! Is it sexy, like True Blood was?

RICHARD
Not yet, but would that be good?

KENNY
That show was crazy hot! The leads were almost always naked.

JASON
And they all had incredible bodies.

DAVID
(Stirring the pot.) You know that all those zombie and vampire shows—especially True Blood—come out of AIDS, out of the epidemic.

RICHARD
Say what?

JASON
David, stop it: play nice.

DAVID
It’s like the way Westerns, John Wayne movies, were super popular during the Cold War. It’s an outlet.

MAGGIE
And what are vampires an outlet for? “I vant to suck your blood!”

DAVID
Well, HIV means that there are people all around us, whose blood is dangerous, but we don’t know who they are. So people are already afraid of that, and zombie shows kind of tap into that anxiety.

KENNY
But don’t some characters want to get the vampire to bite them?

MAGGIE
(To KENNY) “So you vant I should suck your blood?”

RICHARD
(To DAVID) That’s not what I’m trying to do.

MAGGIE
“Or you vant I should suck your who-who?”

KENNY
(Laughing.) Oh my God!

JASON
Did you really say “who-who”? Can’t you say “cock” anymore, Dean Lessing?

KENNY
Jay!

(He swats JASON laughingly.)

DAVID
OK, before the junior-high kids take over, let me just say that these shows demonstrate that we’re in a moment where HIV has turned into a metaphor or a story—

JASON
David, why do you always have to be so teacher-y?

DAVID
I don’t know, Jason: why are you always so afraid of learning something?

RICHARD
But that’s so not what my movie is about.

MAGGIE
Yeah, go easy, David.

DAVID
(Dialing it back slightly.) Well maybe not intentionally, but all these shows make clear that the epidemic is already being forgotten.

KENNY
You can’t mean that. People think about HIV all the time.

DAVID
Did you read about when they revived The Normal Heart off-Broadway a couple of years ago?

JASON
Kenny, didn’t you do posters for that at HBO?

KENNY
No.

DAVID
Well they interviewed 25-year-olds outside the theater, just like you.

KENNY
As if! I’m 31.

DAVID
And they all said things like, “This play is so moving!—

KENNY
It is.

DAVID
—I had no idea what people had to go through back then.”

MAGGIE
Back then…

DAVID
Precisely. As if “back then” were 200 years ago.

JASON
Well, maybe that’s how it looks to them.

KENNY
And maybe that’s why the studios got so excited about Normal Heart and Angels, and wanted to put them on TV.

JASON
Oh, wait, was it Angels that you did art for?

KENNY
No. Do you pay any attention when I talk about my career?

RICHARD
You know, I worked a bit on Part Two of Angels.

DAVID
Guys, no offense, but Angels in America is the biggest work of fiction! I mean, set aside the fact that Ethel Rosenberg appears as a ghost to haunt Roy Cohn—whatever that was about.

MAGGIE
I loved that part.

DAVID
I’m sure! But the real reason you know it’s fiction, is that the one good gay guy who gets sick in that play, the hero, HE DOESN’T DIE!

KENNY
Well, if he had died, I mean, who would have wanted to watch that? And that was that Tom Hanks movie, anyways.

MAGGIE
Tom Hanks is so not attractive.

RICHARD
Really? People used to tell me I look like Tom Hanks.

DAVID
Right, exactly! Who wants to watch a movie where good gay men are dying? That’s too much like real life—

JASON
Was that Philadelphia?

DAVID
—Because in reality, we died by the thousands and nobody watched or even gave a fuck, thank you, Nancy Reagan!

MAGGIE
What? Whoa, whoa, whoa: that’s too much!

DAVID
No, it isn’t. I mean can you imagine somebody in Hollywood retelling the Holocaust with a zombie metaphor?

RICHARD
My zombies are not metaphors! Or if they are, they’re not AIDS metaphors—

MAGGIE
Look, I don’t give a shit about Hollywood B.S.., but a lot of people cared during the epidemic. A lot of us were right there when it was happening.

DAVID
Maggie, that’s not what I mean. You know that. It’s just…

MAGGIE
Just what?

JASON
Yeah, what is happening? This feels distinctly like birthday crankiness.

DAVID
No, but why is it that children, like Muscle Boy here, are so happy being ignorant?

KENNY
What??

DAVID
I mean, he says he’s gay, but he doesn’t even know who Nancy Reagan is, let alone that she’s his mortal enemy.

JASON
Come on! Who gives a fuck any more about Nancy Reagan?! She and Ronny did what they did, and that took up enough space and energy in our lives.

DAVID
Are you kidding me?

JASON
No, I’m not. I’m not spending any more of my life worrying about them and their bullshit attitudes. Just, thank God, that the country moved on, made progress.

DAVID
Well that kind of—denial—is a cheap luxury, my friend. That woman took our youth away. That’s your history; that’s my history. In fact, whether Pretty Boy knows it or not, that’s his history too! (Beat.) How long have you two been together?

JASON
Maybe three months.

KENNY
Try four and a half.

JASON
Why? What are you fishing for?

DAVID
(To JASON.) Does he know your HIV status?

MAGGIE
David!

RICHARD
Yeah, suddenly this feels a little heavy for a Friday night kick-off-the-weekend dinner party.

DAVID
Why? Is this part of the past supposed to be a secret?

KENNY
He’s told me. I know his status.

DAVID
And you know how he got it, from whom?

MAGGIE
David, please.

JASON
I got it, I’m pretty sure, from a boyfriend, Alex.

KENNY
Okay…

JASON
Is that what you needed to hear?

DAVID
(Beat.) You know what, I’m gonna go outside for a little bit. You can forge on without me.

(DAVID goes to front patio to calm down. He paces, then sits, staring out at the night sky.)

MAGGIE
Aw, shit!

(MAGGIE and JASON nurse their drinks.)

KENNY
Am I supposed to know who Alex is?

JASON
(Annoyed to be explaining.) No. We only dated for a little while. Really he was David’s great love.

MAGGIE
They had the same obsessions: Madonna and Dynasty. But they were always fighting.

JASON
No surprise. And during one of their break-ups, David kind of set me up with Alex. We were “together” for a couple months, but really he kept sleeping around.

RICHARD
Hmmm.

JASON
He expected to end up back with David.

MAGGIE
David too. He’s always said that Alex was his soul mate.

KENNY
But?

MAGGIE
Alex died.

(Not seen by others, DAVID begins to cry quietly.)

JASON
(Restrained, but emotional.) He got sick, pretty much right after we broke up, and, um, horribly sick. He went very fast.

MAGGIE
It was right in the middle of grad school. David took me with him once to see Alex. The smell in that apartment, uh, it was—well, it was hard for me to be there.

JASON
Yes. Me too.

MAGGIE
But David was in there like there was no better place in the world to be. And the two of them carried on like high school kids, teasing, joking.

JASON
They loved each other.

MAGGIE
I don’t think I’d seen that kind of love, up close, in a friend before. He has an incredible heart, our Davey.

JASON
Yeah, well, he put it away after all that. And I don’t think he’s ever gonna take it out again.

RICHARD
I wish he would.

JASON
Those were … hard days.

(MAGGIE takes JASON’s hand.)

MAGGIE
For both of you.

JASON
Yeah… Scary times.

(A quiet moment.)

MAGGIE
Our lives, huh? (Beat.) Oof! I better go check on the birthday boy.

RICHARD
I’ll start dessert.

(MAGGIE and RICHARD stand. She kisses JASON, then walks to the patio. RICHARD takes plates to the kitchen. KENNY leans in to stroke the back of JASON’s head.)

KENNY
That’s some story.

JASON
Well, when you know people long enough, you collect a lot of history together.

(Lights dim on the dinner table. JASON and KENNY stay seated, but RICHARD clears plates and exits. Lights brighten out on patio. MAGGIE wraps her arms around DAVID from the back. He wipes his eyes. They both look out at the view, beyond the audience.)

MAGGIE
(Gently teasing.) How you doing, Drama Queen?

DAVID
I don’t know what that was about in there! I really didn’t mean to be such an asshole.

MAGGIE
Mhmh.

DAVID
You don’t believe me?

MAGGIE
No, I do. It’s just that—

DAVID
What, you think I’m drunk already? I don’t feel that drunk.

MAGGIE
No. I mean, maybe, but—I was just thinking that this is a big birthday and…

DAVID
And what?

MAGGIE
It’s stressful. And it must just be intense to make it to 50, when…

DAVID
Yeah. (Chokes up. Beat.) These milestones. They make you … introspective. (Beat.) Sometimes I just wonder what if Alex hadn’t died. What if I’d gotten the happily-ever-after ticket.

MAGGIE
Davey.

(She gently rubs his back.)

DAVID
I don’t want to feel like I’ve wasted the time.

MAGGIE
Sweetheart.

(After a long moment, he tries to rein in his emotions.)

DAVID
I’m not a nun, you know. I even put that Grindr hook-up app on my phone. Apparently, I live near a lot of hot guys who are ready when I am.

MAGGIE
Well, that’s good, right?

DAVID
I guess. I don’t know. (Beat.) I’ve just spent so much of my life alone.

MAGGIE
Not so alone. (Beat.) Hey, Richard baked a pie—his first—and he really wants you to like it. So let’s go have something sweet, and maybe after we’ll take a walk, yeah?

DAVID
Okay.

(They hug and enter the house. MAGGIE goes to the kitchen. JASON approaches DAVID as they enter, with KENNY following.)


Daniel Hurewitz is a playwright and historian. His plays include In My Father’s Cabin, Reclamation, Registered, and The Way to Oz. Reclamation was honored by the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation in 2016, the Culver City Public Theater produced The Way to Oz in 2017, and Registered was produced by the Sydney Short+Sweet Theatre Festival in 2018. He has also written a book of walking tours about the LGBT history of New York, called Stepping Out, and one about L.A., entitled Bohemian Los Angeles. Currently, he teaches history at Hunter College in New York, where he lives with his family.

Winner of the Chris Hewitt Award, Drama, 2018