ROOMMATES

When divorced accountant and aspiring novelist Frank Avino gets a call from the police, it can only mean trouble. His divorced friend Tom has just been tossed out of his girlfriend's house and has no where else to stay. It is agreed he can stay with Frank in his tiny suburban New Jersey apartment for a few days until he gets his own place.  A few days quickly turns into a few months and begins to cramp 'ladies man"  Frank's style. Add in Frank's suspicious landlord and his visiting mother from Brooklyn and you have a very funny mix!

"It would be so gratifying, not to mention prophetic and full of hindsight to say that Joe Simonelli is the next Neil Simon..."

Michael Kaabe - Asbury Park Press


 

                                                                                   Excerpt of Roommates


ACT I
Scene I
SETTING: A tiny apartment in the suburbs of New Jersey.
Main entrance is stage left; kitchen is down right.
Typical bachelor apartment. Very utilitarian.
No frills. One picture hangs back center. A
desk with a typewriter is down right. The
dining room table is set for a romantic dinner with
linens, flowers, candlesticks. Practical window on
right wall. One section of backstage right should be
separate area indicated by raised platform or some
other device to reveal a portion of SOPHIE
AVINO’S home in Brooklyn. Separate light should
be dedicated to this area. At minimum, area should
have an old-fashioned wing chair, small end table,
and window which SOPHIE look out. (This area is
only used in Act One and can be removed
at intermission.)
AT RISE: Lights up as we hear singing coming from the
kitchen. FRANK AVINO is singing “Some
Enchanted Evening” as he prepares dinner for
his date. His singing is interrupted by the
ringing of the telephone.
r
FRANK
(Crosses from kitchen still singing melody from same song, but changing the
lyrics to suit his mood. In his hand he is holding a ladle which he uses to stir
pasta.)
(sings) I’m coming now to answer, please do not hang up yet.
(speaks in phone) Hello? Yes, this is Frank Avino. (a beat) Wait, is this a sales call?
That’s okay, you can say it. It is a sales call. (sarcastically) Don’t worry, I love sales
calls. Especially at dinner time. I’m very lonely, it’s nice to have someone to talk to. So
what are you selling? (looking at his watch) You have thirty seconds, make it good.
Inflatable what! Oh, inflatable bed. Includes two pillows if I order now. Look, I’d love to
help you out, but I just spent all my money on an industrial-sized freezer to hold all the
meat I order from Colorado. Besides, I lied to you, I’ve hated salesman ever since my exwife
ran off with the Amway man. That’s right. Well, your thirty seconds are up. Bye.
(Hangs up phone. Two beats and phone rings again.)
Okay, I’ll take one.
SOPHIE
2
(Lights up on SOPHIE AVINO, Frank’s overbearing, neurotic mother in
Brooklyn. She is sitting in her chair, and peering out the window with a pair of
binoculars as she speaks on phone.)
You’ll take one what?
FRANK
Oh, hello ma, I thought you were a salesman.
SOPHIE
Do I sound like a salesman?
FRANK
(Finishes setting table.)
No ma, I was talking to a salesman and… never mind ma.
SOPHIE
So what are you doing?
FRANK
Cooking.
SOPHIE
That’s nice.
FRANK
I’ve got a date tonight.
SOPHIE
Not another one of those floozies you meet on those gigs of yours.
FRANK
Floozies?
SOPHIE
You know what I’m talking about. Loose women.
FRANK
Define loose mom?
SOPHIE
You know loose. They wear too much make-up and layer their hair down to their
derriere. A flaming trollop.
FRANK
Flaming trollop? Sounds like a cocktail to me. Bartender, one flaming trollop please.
3
SOPHIE
Never mind the wisenheimer answers mister. I just wish you’d stay away from the
floozies.
FRANK
Floozies need love too you know mom.
SOPHIE
Another smart answer for your mother. If your father were alive he would not approve.
FRANK
Don’t you worry mom, the woman I’m seeing tonight happens to be very classy.
SOPHIE
Really, what does she do for a living?
FRANK
She happens to be a psychiatrist. I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. Love and
therapy in the same night.
SOPHIE
Psychiatrist, ha. They’re all nuts. That’s why they become shrinks in the first place, to
figure out their own problems. You better be careful.
FRANK
(getting annoyed)
Was there a particular reason you called ma?
SOPHIE
Did you speak to your sister today?
FRANK
No mother.
SOPHIE
Did you call your brother today?
FRANK
No, I didn’t speak to Bobby either.
SOPHIE
Why don’t you speak to your brother and sister?
4
FRANK
Why should I?
SOPHIE
To give them moral support.
FRANK
I’m the one living in an apartment the size of a shoe box. Who’s giving me moral
support?
SOPHIE
I told you not to get divorced.
FRANK
I wish you’d have told me not to get married.
SOPHIE
More wise answers. Big accountant, has to make wise cracks to his mother.
FRANK
I’m a novelist.
SOPHIE
Have you published anything yet?
FRANK
No.
SOPHIE
You’re an accountant. Now, why don’t you call your brother and sister?
FRANK
Look ma, Annie and Bobby have lives and families of their own, and as much as I’d
like to, I don’t have time to sit and commiserate with them.
SOPHIE
Co-what?
FRANK
Commiserate, commiserate. “Co” with “miserate”, from the Latin for misery, which is
what the hell I’m going through now.
SOPHIE
You’re cursing at your mother?
5
FRANK
I am not cursing at you ma.
SOPHIE
Cursing is not good. It’s blasphemy against the church.
(She looks out window with binoculars.)
You know the Pope told me that the church is in cahoots with the CIA.
FRANK
The Pope told you this? Now, you’re speaking directly to the Pope?
SOPHIE
Of course, he doesn’t speak directly to me, I write him letters, and send them to the
Vatican.
FRANK
And he writes you back?
SOPHIE
Of course not, (a beat as she looks around to make sure no one’s listening) he answers
me in code through Father O’Malley's sermons in church every Sunday.
FRANK
(aside) And I’m the one in therapy. (to phone) Hey ma, I’ve got an idea, why don’t you
try emailing the Pope?
SOPHIE
How?
FRANK
I don’t know, try pontiff dot com. Hold on a second ma, I have another call coming in.
(He pushes down receiver on phone.)
Hello?
SOPHIE
Hello?
FRANK
It’s you again?
SOPHIE
No, it’s Martha Stewart calling from prison with a quiche recipe.
FRANK
Very, funny. Hold on a second. (Pushes receiver again) Hello? Tommy boy!
6
Yeah, stop in, I want to talk to you. Okay. See you in a few. (pushes receiver
once more) Hi ma, I’m back.
SOPHIE
Who was that?
FRANK
My friend Tom. You remember Tom, we used to work together?
SOPHIE
The one who has the nice girlfriend?
FRANK
One and the same.
SOPHIE
You see, he found a nice girl, why can’t you?
FRANK
I did. I dated her first.
SOPHIE
You are so foolish sometimes.
FRANK
Look ma, I’ve got to get going. I’ve got sauce on the stove.
SOPHIE
You mean gravy.
FRANK
Sauce ma, not gravy. Gravy goes on turkey or roast beef.
SOPHIE
Oh, so for fifty years I’ve been calling it the wrong thing. You never complained when
you were eating it every Sunday.
FRANK
Anyway, I forgot to buy tomato paste, so I can I substitute flour? You know, to thicken it
up a little?
SOPHIE
Absolutely not.
FRANK
Too late now.
7
SOPHIE
Just let it boil down.
FRANK
Ma, she’ll be here in an hour. I don’t have all day to cook.
SOPHIE
You asked me, I told you.
FRANK
I’ve got to go.
SOPHIE
When am I going to see you?
FRANK
You’re welcome here anytime ma, you know that. Just give me five days notice.
SOPHIE
Your mother has to give you notice? Wait till I tell his Holiness. Goodbye Frankie, I
hope you’re still going to Mass on Sunday.
FRANK
Well ma, I’ve been meaning to tell you...
SOPHIE
Tell me what?
FRANK
Well, I kind of switched religions. I’m not really Catholic anymore.
SOPHIE
What do you mean you’re not Catholic. What did you do, join one of those cults. Sure,
free sex, free love, you’ll burn in hell Frank Avino.
FRANK
You think so? Well, at least I’ll be with the rest of the family.
SOPHIE
What did I do to deserve this? I’m disgraced.
FRANK
It’s no big deal ma, I’m with the Presbyterians now. It’s great. They sing a lot. And get
this, you don’t have to kneel down. Forty years I’ve been kneeling down every Sunday.
Who knew? You should try it ma. Think of the wear and tear it will save on your
8
arthritic knees.
SOPHIE
An hour a week of kneeling is a small price to pay for your salvation Frank Avino.
Goodbye, I’ll pray for you.
FRANK
I’ll pray for you too. By ma.
(He hangs up and collapses on the couch, then rises and exits to kitchen.)
FRANK
(offstage)
A little taste of the sauce-a-roo… needs more flour.
(FRANK enters living room, checks table, fluffs pillows on couch, pulls
out his cell phone places it on dining room table. Picks up apartment phone,
and dials number. He looks at cell phone.)
Come on ring… no good.
(There is a knock at the door.)
FRANK
Come in.
(FRANK picks up the cell phone and places it on the desk as TOM FLYNN enters.
He’s an affable man in his mid-forties. His demeanor indicates an upper class,
slightly pretentious attitude in sharp contrast to Frank’s roguish charm. FRANK
starts dialing his telephone again.)
TOM
Hi Frank.
FRANK
(To cell phone.) Come on ring damnit. (to TOM) Hi Tom.
(TOM gives FRANK strange look and goes into kitchen. FRANK picks up cell phone
from desk and places it on top of picture frame or coat rack. TOM re-enters
holding a beer and a man’s necktie.)
FRANK
(Dialing phone again) So what’s happening?
TOM
I just stopped in to visit some of my clothes. Do you usually keep your ties in the
refrigerator?
(TOM hands FRANK the tie.)
9
FRANK
Hey, I was looking for that.
TOM
It was in the cold-cut drawer. You’re out of roast beef.
FRANK
(to cell phone) Come on. Will you ring already.
TOM
What the hell are you doing?
FRANK
I just bought this cell phone and it’s hard to get reception in this apartment, so I’m
looking for a spot where the phone will ring.
TOM
Have you tried the roof?
FRANK
Hey, not a bad idea. Do me a favor.
(He hands cell phone to TOM)
Hold this out the window while I try the number.
TOM
Are kidding, it’s cold outside?
FRANK
Come on, help me out, will ya. “A friend doesn’t refuse a friend a small favor”.
TOM
Who said that, Shakespeare?
FRANK
No. Francis X. Avino.
TOM
You’re Francis X. Avino.
FRANK
Precisely.
TOM
Alright, if it will make you happy.
10
(TOM opens window and holds phone outside as FRANK dials. It rings
to tune of “Flight of the Valkyries”)
FRANK
It works!
TOM
Great. How long would you like me to stand here? I get ten dollars an hour if I don’t
freeze to death.
FRANK
Never mind, come on in. I’ll figure a way to hang it from the ledge.
(He takes cell phone from TOM and sits at his desk.)
TOM
So what’s new in your life?
FRANK
I’ve got a date tonight. A real nice woman. I’m going to impress her with my specialty.
TOM
Your specialty, huh? So where are the handcuffs?
FRANK
I mean, I’m cooking Italian. (joking) Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have a can of tomato
paste on you, would you?
TOM
(TOM pulls a small can of tomato paste from his pocket and tosses it to FRANK.)
FRANK
(Rising from chair.)
That’s amazing.
TOM
You really should learn to use your phone Frank. You conferenced me in with your
mother by mistake. I heard the whole saucy story. You’re lucky I was in the supermarket
and Susan was in the mood for pasta.
FRANK
(Brings can to kitchen.)
I always liked that Susan. You should marry her.
TOM
11
(Sits on couch.)
Don’t be absurd. Living together is working just fine, thank you.
FRANK
(Takes stage)
I know women, they get to our age, and they’re not as patient as when they’re young.
You’ll get it, soon enough.
TOM
Get what?
FRANK
The question you don’t want to answer.
TOM
What question?
FRANK
(Impersonating female voice as he takes linen napkin from table and places it on his
head like a kerchief.)
Tom, we’ve been together for fourteen months, ten days, eight hours and six minutes,
And I think it’s time we took the next step, don’t you?
TOM
I’d love to know what you’re talking about?
FRANK
(Pointing to Tom’s watch.)
The time limit Tommy boy, the time limit.
TOM
Come again?
FRANK
(Sits at desk.)
The committed relationship time-limit Tom, that’s what I’m talking about. All women
have committed relationship time limits.
TOM
We’ve been living together for eight months, don’t you think I’m committed enough?
FRANK
You just don’t get it, do you Tom? Would you like me to explain it to you?
TOM
Not really.
12
FRANK
(Ignoring him) It’s like this. You date a woman for a month or two, and the first time
limit is up.
(Impersonating female voice again, he sits next to TOM on couch. TOM immediately
rises to escape him.)
Tom, you know I have a great time with you, but the dating service keeps sending me
referrals and I have to know what to tell them.
(Normal voice)
Translation: Are we going to be exclusive, or am I wasting my time?
TOM
(Enters kitchen and comes out with two beers. He hands one to FRANK.)
Sounds plausible.
FRANK
So, now you’re exclusive. And what was once a fun and exhilarating experience in a few
months starts getting a little… how should I put this? Routine.
TOM
(Pulls up dining room chair and sits.)
What do you mean routine? Still plenty of sex. Still plenty of fun. Besides, what makes
you such an expert on relationships?
FRANK
Come on Tommy, who dates more than me?
TOM
You have a point, but I still say things are fun.
FRANK
Yeah, but now you’re in a (uses fingers to indicate quotes) “relationship.” And you
know what that means? Now, you have to start asking permission to do things you just
normally used to do.
TOM
Not me. I do what I want, when I want. You lay down the ground rules before you
commit, that’s the secret.
FRANK
Really? Then tell me something. How come before Susan came along, we used to go to
Atlantic City once a month, and now it’s more like twice a year.
TOM
Well, in every relationship you do have to make certain compromises...
13
FRANK
(Jumping up from couch.)
There it is! There’s that word! Compromise! Did you ever look at that word Tom?
Ever study it carefully?
(He goes desk, picks up legal pad, and in large block letters prints:
COM_ PROMISE. He shows pad to TOM and audience.)
See Tom, two words: “Com” and “Promise”. Add an “E’ to the end of the first word
(adds block “E” after COM_ on pad) and you get the real meaning: “come promise”.
You get that Tom, “come promise”. Promise what? What the hell are we promising Tom?
I’ll tell you what we’re promising--we’re promising to give up! That’s what we’re
promising.
TOM
Give up what?
FRANK
Everything. Our freedom. Our independence. (like Patrick Henry) Our God-given right to
go to Atlantic City any time we like!
TOM
You are seriously disturbed. You should see a therapist.
FRANK
I am. She’ll be here in a half hour.
TOM
She doesn’t stand a chance.
FRANK
Which, brings us to our third and final time limit--the big one--the coup-de-gras of time
limits…
(He places pad on desk.)
TOM
I can’t wait to hear this one. What’s it called, death by hanging?
FRANK
Go ahead, make jokes. You don’t want to hear what it is.
TOM
(Sits in chair at desk.)
14
That’s right, I don’t.
FRANK
Precisely why, I must tell you! The last time limit is called “the ultimatum”. Which, is
the one my friend, that you are about to get.
(Impersonating female again)
Tom, we’ve been living together for eight months and I think it’s time we considered
making it official.
(Normal voice)
You see buddy, your life is all laid out for you from here on in. She’ll let you think
you’re making decisions, but make no mistake, she’s calling the shots.
TOM
(Picks up manuscript from desk and pages through it.)
It’s called companionship. I love her.
FRANK
(Sits on couch.)
That’s great Tom, I’m glad. And you know what, for guys like you, it’s the best thing.
TOM
(Indignantly, as he lowers manuscript.)
What do you mean for guys like me.
FRANK
Men who need approval, stroking… What’s the word I’m looking for…? Validation!
TOM
What!
FRANK
You need a woman to tell you how great you are. Most men do. Where I, on the other
hand, like woman because they’re soft, and they smell nice.
TOM
(Rises and crosses behind couch to table.)
You mean you like to sleep with them.
FRANK
What’s wrong with a little sex between consenting adults. It’s nice, it’s fun, it’s over.
Like the blind date I had with that attorney last week.
TOM
(sarcastically)
I wonder how that turned out?
15
FRANK
Put it this way. It’s the first time I ever screwed a lawyer.
TOM
So you know my type, huh? Well, let me enlighten you. I’ve seen your type too. Big
Romeos. And you know what happens to them? When they least expect it. Bam!
(claps hands for emphasis)
They’re hooked. A committed relationship. Oh, it’s pathetic. Then, giving up Atlantic
City is nothing. She’ll have you cleaning the house, raking the leaves, shopping. When
guys like you fall buddy, it’s hard and fast. Like a drug you can’t do without.
An addiction. An addiction to love. A truly committed relationship.
FRANK
Not me, Tom. I’m not falling into that trap. Sure, I’m not exactly rolling in the chips now,
but just wait.
(He goes to desk and picks up manuscript.)
You see this Tom, this is my ticket out.
TOM
Here it comes again.
FRANK
It’s almost done Tommy. I’ve started sending sample chapters to agents and publishers.
TOM
Listen Frank, I’ve been hearing about this novel ever since your divorce four years ago.
Michelangelo finished the Sistine Chapel in less time.
(TOM imitates FRANK as he grabs manuscript and starts paging through it.)
It’s got everything Tommy. Sex, mobsters, metaphysical elements…
FRANK
That’s right buster. And it’s gonna make me rich. Picture it Tommy, in a year I’ll be
sipping Mai Tais in my hot tub, a bevy of beauties catering to my every whim.
TOM
The only hot tub you’ll ever have, is the Raritan river on a warm day.
FRANK
It can happen wise guy.
TOM
You realize you’re delusional don’t you? This woman tonight, you say she’s a shrink?
FRANK
Yeah.
16
TOM
(sings) Some enchanted evening…
FRANK
Knock it off.
TOM
Tell me Hemingway, has anybody read this yet?
FRANK
Antoinette loved it. She gave it three stars.
TOM
Who’s Antoinette?
FRANK
My sister, Annie. And she has a master’s degree.
TOM
In journalism?
FRANK
No, horticulture.
TOM
I rest my case. Why don’t you rest yours.
(He indicates for Frank to sit on couch.)
By the way, how many packages of these sample chapters have you sent out?
FRANK
About twenty.
TOM
And how many rejections have you gotten?
FRANK
About twenty.
TOM
You do know pages thirty-four and thirty-five are missing, don’t you?
FRANK
What! Let me see that.
(He flips through pages.)
How do you like that. Damn copy machine.
17
TOM
Sure, blame the copy machine Mr. I-Never-Proofread. Very sloppy Frank. I don’t think
prospective publishers like that.
(TOM starts to gather his clothes from the bedroom.)
FRANK
Doesn’t matter, most publishers don’t read past page ten anyway.
(FRANK sits at desk.)
TOM
Well, I’ve got to get going.
FRANK
No, wait Tom. Before you leave, I want to read you a poem I wrote.
TOM
Don’t bother, you’re not my type.
FRANK
The poem’s not for you.
TOM
Then for who?
FRANK
A woman.
TOM
What woman?
FRANK
(Thinks a moment)
Doesn’t matter, any woman.
(FRANK takes poem from typewriter and hands it to TOM.)
TOM
You know, I don’t get you. You just finish a diatribe on why you hate relationships, yet
you continue to date women at a rate faster then (beat) a high-speed internet connection.
FRANK
Nice analogy.
TOM
18
I try. And you even write them poems!
FRANK
I can’t help it, I’m romantic.
TOM
What you are is a cad and a bounder.
FRANK
What’s a bounder?
TOM
Look it up.
FRANK
(Sits on couch.)
Just read the poem.
TOM
(Starts to read)
For Love’s Sake, by Francis X. Avino.
Why Breathe? If drawing one more breath brings me no closer to the one I love. Why
toil? If toiling day and night by some uncertain chance hastens the departure of sweet
daliance from the one I love.
(To FRANK)
I think you spelled dalliance wrong. Try two l’s.
(continues reading)
Why dream? When dreaming only stifles the rapture felt from stolen moments with the
one I love.
FRANK
Isn’t it terrific stuff? I don’t even know what rapture means, but it sounds great!
TOM
Why exist? If existence betrays the very essence of my core, if I can’t be with the one I
love.
(big finish)
For though we breathe the same air, toil on the same earth, dream of being together and
exist in the same universe, without the one I love, my life is sullen and irrelevant.
(a beat)
FRANK
So, what do you think?
19
TOM
I’m very impressed, but what’s the point? You do admit you hate women, don’t you?
FRANK
I love women. I hate relationships.
TOM
But why?
FRANK
Don’t like to be controlled. You’re in a relationship with a woman, you’re asking to be
controlled. Show me the woman who won’t try to control me, and I’ll marry her.
TOM
Not such a tall order, I’ll show you a whole list of woman who won’t try to control you.
FRANK
Where?
TOM
It’s called the obituary column in the New York Times.
FRANK
Touché
TOM
You know, I just can’t figure it out. Here you are, living in an apartment the size of my
bathroom, you’ve got no discernable assets, you drink and gamble, yet you have more
sex than a perverted matinee idol.
FRANK
It must be my boyish charm.
TOM
Can you ever be serious? Why don’t you clean up your act? I can’t figure out why these
women even put up with you. You have absolutely nothing to offer them. And don’t give
me that aspiring novelist crap.
(TOM goes into bedroom for more clothes.)
FRANK
(Rises from couch and takes stage.)
Is that so, Tom? I have nothing to offer them? Well, let me tell you buster, I have plenty
to offer them.
20
TOM
(Comes out of bedroom carrying jacket and ties. During FRANK’S diatribe TOM
removes tie FRANK is wearing, and adds it to his collection.)
For instance?
FRANK
Two things come to mind right away, fun and excitement.
TOM
What about money?
FRANK
That, they get from their ex-husbands. It’s a vicious cycle. I pay my ex money, you pay
yours, then we all date each other’s ex’s. Keeps the money in circulation and everybody’s
happy.
TOM
You could win a Nobel prize in economics with that thesis, but I still don’t get why
woman date you?
FRANK
I’ll explain. You see, most of the guys they date are dull. I’ve got passion Tommy. I
make them laugh. I tell them jokes. Cook for them. Take them out dancing.
TOM
Don’t forget the poems.
FRANK
That’s right. And I write them poems. Tell me something Tom, when’s the last time you
wrote a poem for Susan?
TOM
Hallmark writes my poems.
FRANK
Well, I wonder what she sees in you?
TOM
I’m stable and not psychotic.
FRANK
They like me psychotic, it’s part of my charm.
TOM
Don’t you realize, you’re engaging in a series of meaningless relationships?
21
FRANK
I have to, I’m bitter and angry.
TOM
At who?
FRANK
You know who, I’m not going to mention her name.
TOM
You mean Nancy?
FRANK
You had to say it.
TOM
Here it comes again, she broke my heart, she two-timed me…
FRANK
Actually, I think she eight-timed me. Let’s see, there was that tile installer, that
landscaper, that plumber…
TOM
All she needed was a carpenter, and she could of opened her own construction company.
FRANK
Sure, make light of my pain and anguish.
TOM
Frank, you are your own worst enemy.
FRANK
What the hell does that mean? I love when people use that phrase. She’s the one screwing
around, wouldn’t that make her my worst enemy?
TOM
You’ve got to let go Frank. Stop living in the past.
FRANK
That’s easy for you to say. You didn’t love her.
TOM
Don’t you see what you’re doing? You’re angry at Nancy, so now you date all these other
women just to try and hide your own pain.
FRANK
And that’s