Can You Hear Me Now?

by Dennis Trainor, Jr ♦ acronym 2010

The following is the opening scene from the play I Coulda Been A Kennedy, by Dennis Trainor, Jr.  For more about the play, see the bottom of this post.

The play takes place on one plot of land, shifting back and forth between 1970, 1987, and 2004. The O’Reilly’s owned the land in 1970 and 1987; the Greco’s in 2004.

The Greco home (2004) should be inspired by the design of Adam Kalkin (imagine something from DWELL magazine), while the O’Reilly home should be inspired by the Leisurama homes built in Montauk during the 1960’s (imagine something from SALT WATER TAFFY QUARTERLY). It is important that the design accommodate quick changes from one scene to the next, from one era to the next.


The buzzing of the cicadas fills the theatre. As house lights go to black, the buzzing gets louder. In darkness, the following projections play out as the buzzing gets louder still.


JUNE 20, 2004


The buzzing, now unbearably loud, cuts out abruptly just as the lights bump up on FRANCIS, MARY (both in their early 60s) with their daughter HOLLY (33) in the middle of an animated conversation.

HOLLY: But what if we did kill President Bush?

MARY: Holly please with that. Did you see the wisteria that we planted by the oak out back?

FRANCIS: Article in the paper said don’t plant anything. Cicadas coming.

MARY: We’ll spray. The party.

FRANCIS: Right. The party the party. We’ll spray.

HOLLY: I’m not sayin’ we form a militia or anything like that. But what if he were killed?

MARY: Oh, Frank honey, remind me to call the Williams about the-

FRANCIS: Why don’t you volunteer for the campaign? You don’t want to work,  you seem to have plenty of time on your hands- you want to get Bush out of office-

HOLLY: I work Dad-

MARY: We don’t need to get into that again. Tonight.

FRANCIS: I know some people, some young people I read they are going to Ohio, Florida, working for Kerry-

MARY: Just because your boyfriend wants to kill the president-

HOLLY: Do you like him? Devin? He’s very interesting, isn’t he?

MARY: Is he okay, anyway? He’s been in the bathroom for-

FRANCIS: Holly, Holly. This is a boyfriend? This is his title already?

HOLLY: It was just a hypothetical… A topic of conversation… He likes to debate. He’s a thinker you know. He doesn’t want to kill anybody. He’s not pierced. No tattoos.

FRANCIS: He’s not a very good golfer-

HOLLY: Do you like him?

DEVIN O’REILLY (34) emerges from the bathroom.

DEVIN: This is a beautiful home you have.

FRANCIS: Building.

MARY: Home.

FRANCIS: Building, we call it a- Thank you, Devin. Nice of you to keep saying so.

DEVIN: There is a painting, a print I guess, in your bathroom-

MARY: Oh my God Frank- I told you we should just toss that thing in the garbage. Oh Devin just ignore that monstrosity in there. Oh Frank, we have had the building for- what?


MARY: Seventeen years this fall and well-

FRANCIS: Used the place as a summer rental thing. Paid for Holly’s college.

MARY: The previous owners left a lot of stuff behind- we never cared- a summer rental you see- Place rented itself. Anyway. It was Frank’s idea-

FRANCIS: Every room in this building kept one design element from the last house-

MARY: Right. We knocked down the last house-

FRANCIS: Cheap little saltbox of a ranch house- moldy.

MARY: Frank is a stickler for the germs-

FRANCIS: I’m a stickler for the germs.

HOLLY: Jesus you two. Do you remember the question?

DEVIN: The bathroom. I was just struck by the painting-

MARY: Yes. Yes. Yes. The Artful Dodger. Looks like the kind of print one would have bought in Macy’s or something-

FRANCIS: Buy this love seat, get painting free-

MARY: Yes. Yes. Yes. That’s definitely what it must have been-

FRANCIS: So long story short. The bathroom kept the Artful Dodger.

MARY: No matter how odious-

FRANCIS: Well you kept the Irish blessing thing. Irish poetry on a serving dish- talk about-

MARY: Oh- I like that. May the road rise to meet you-

FRANCIS: Yea. Well. You see, Devin, the design of a new home-

MARY: Building, we call it a-

FRANCIS: – Building. – just like marriage, is a constant process of negotiation.

MARY: Capitulation.

FRANCIS: Mary Mary sweet Mary Mary. Negotiation.

DEVIN: Yeah. I actually like the painting. Print. Whatever.

HOLLY: Dad thinks I should volunteer for the campaign. Kerry.

FRANCIS: It’s not as dramatic as killing the president, but it is still working for change.

Tension. Pause. More tension.

MARY: Frank remind me to call the exterminator in the morning-

HOLLY: The cicadas are harmless, Mom. You don’t need to-  When do they emerge, anyway?

DEVIN: I’m not advocating…Are we still on this topic? Of course if it were my child, or perhaps should I say it’s hard to justify the continued- And okay I’m glad I’m not charged with coming up with all of the answers- Sixty four degrees. When the ground is sixty four degrees, they come out. Cicadas. Kind of a strange passion of mine. Cicadas. The next emergence in seventeen years. But Bush, Bush is advocating preemptive attacks to secure a peaceful future. What are we to say to Russia when they- or more to the point- if you were about to bring a child into this world- could it not be argued, I mean if Bush were eliminated, I mean- Seventeen years from now, what will they be asking? Seventeen years ago, what were they thinking? What were you thinking?

MARY: Who wants coffee?

DEVIN: I’m sorry. How is… Mr. Greco, how is work?

FRANCIS: I’m retired Devin.

DEVIN: Right. Umm… What line of work were you in then?

MARY: I picked up a chocolate chip cheesecake from the-

MARY goes to retrieve dessert.

FRANCIS: Finance. I worked for Cantor- Fitzgerald for some twenty five years. Made a few lucky moves in the market. I was able to get out a little early-

MARY: (off) And we have the brownies from last night leftover.

DEVIN: So you were- Cantor Fitzgerald? So you were… Were you there when-?

FRANCIS: Yes. Yes. Next topic.

MARY: (off) Oh I know! I have a new recipe that you should try-

HOLLY: Dad went back to work for a while and then-

FRANCIS: Holly. Enough.

MARY: (returning with a plate of chocolate covered something) We just downsized down to the basics. Probably been coming for a long time- hard to put a finger on the impulse…After that whole thing… It just brought us together, you know. We cut back, but we’re comfortable. We’re new money Devin.

HOLLY: Reagan rich, right Dad? Trickle down democrats.

MARY: If you kill Bush-

FRANCIS: He becomes a martyr, more popular in death, and we get Cheney as president.

HOLLY: Like Kennedy? We benefit because Kennedy was killed? A liberal agenda moves forward? I don’t think so.

DEVIN: He wins a few popularity contests in death-

FRANCIS: You want Dick Cheney to be the president?

HOLLY: We could blow up an election booth or two on election day-

DEVIN: I mean lets just say that Bush isn’t the enemy. Something bigger- the system or something-

FRANCIS: Shipping containers. This house is made entirely from five large shipping containers, a steel beams. We put a solar panel up there. We’re living simple. Pairing down.

HOLLY: And no, we decided nothing, you, you decided to table it.

DEVIN: I mean no disrespect- but even a trickle down democrat cannot deny that the pageantry paid Ronnie Reagan-

FRANCIS: We’re talking about Reagan now?

HOLLY: You voted for Reagan. Right Dad?

MARY: Oh stop it-

HOLLY: The pageantry paid to Reagan is fitting for a man whose economic policies served as the first domino of your cascading good fortune which, good and decent people as we are, do not deserve.

FRANCIS: That trickle down paid for the college education that comes out of your mouth in these deliciously packaged sound bites every time you have a few drinks.

MARY: We don’t deserve this? Francis honey give the house back. You didn’t earn your money.

DEVIN: Well, apologies for the armchair socioeconomic bibble babble, but that is how the system works-

HOLLY: I haven’t been drinking-

MARY: We are hardly rich.

DEVIN: New money, Mary. You said it yourself.

FRANCIS: Easy pal-o-mine pal pal-

HOLLY: OK Daddy-, easy. We are just having a discussion here-

DEVIN: No. It’s OK. I apologize. Right is right.

FRANCIS: This coming from the actor whose claim to fame is that he was almost the “can you hear me now” guy.

DEVIN: I stressed the “hear.” In the callback. Can you hear me now? I thought the ad campaign was trying to tap into some kind of generational angst. Can you hear me now? Too edgy. And I’m not a beer salesman. Commercials free me up to do some real work.

HOLLY: I love how you say that with a straight face.

FRANCIS: Shipping containers. Five in all, a few steel beams. Whala. A home. Solar panels up there, completely wireless and internet ready and yet progressively off the grid. Three bedroom, two baths of feng shui genius.

HOLLY: You’re hosting a fund-raising dinner for John Kerry July 4th. That’s kind of on the grid.

DEVIN: That was one hell of an approach shot on seventeen, Mr. Greco. Holly, you should have seen the shot your father hit into the seventeenth green.

FRANCIS: I had laid up on my second shot, played it a little safe, so I had a good look at getting my third close to the pin.

DEVIN bites into chocolate. HOLLY is now eating them as well.

DEVIN: But a very, I mean, no, really very difficult pin placement. Pear shaped green, water on the two front sides-

MARY: You’re eating chocolate covered cicadas.

FRANCIS: She could not wait to try this recipe!!! Brilliant Mary Mary, there is no way they would have eaten that if you told them what it was-

DEVIN: The bug? The The The insect? Chocolate?

FRANCIS: It is all part of the new order. Our new order. Back to nature. Big risks. Eating exotic foods.

HOLLY: Cicadas? Really mom. Cicadas. Were they cooked?

MARY: Injected them with sugar water and then dipped them in hot fudge. Ghiradelli. My garden club refused to try them. So whatcha think, can I serve them at the party?

DEVIN: Unreal.

FRANCIS: Martha is out of the picture Mary, the whole party planning super Matriarch position is open.

MARY: I always said I would have a second career.

FRANCIS: Full of surprises, my Mary Mary sweet Mary Mary.

DEVIN: Okay right sorry in advance but here it is: What if we, again, not we and I would like to discuss this cicada thing momentarily beautiful creatures but please indulge me for only a moment for reasons that may soon become clear I’m a Libra run on sentences are part of my make up astrologically predetermined but again to the point what if not we personally but some cultural slash political force or some group of men trained in seventeen different types of kung fu and languages and a broader global agenda- a peaceful global agenda- what if they, okay not we they, what if they- without our permission or consent- what if they killed Bush?  A preemptive strike?

HOLLY: Preemption would have been a diaphragm shoved up Barbara’s bush a long time-

MARY: Holly. Really. My god.

HOLLY: Thank you. You’re a great crowd. I am here all week.

DEVIN: Again, not us personally. In the same way that I could not slaughter a lamb but slap it down in front of me medium rare, a little rosemary sprig and a decent Pinot Noir- the South Africans are doing nice things with Pinot nowadays- I’m eating that lamb. Wouldn’t we be better off? Now? In a generation? ‘Cause Bush Ashcroft Cheney Powell- I mean what if your generation did not fail- not you individually, but your wealth built on the backs of the poor and karma the boomerang-but to be articulate even if just for a moment not beat around the bush as it were, no pun: you personally did not fail. Sake of argument and politeness: you personally are not culpable for the mess we are in. You say BEAT BUSH! But that is so short term. A quick fix. A stolen election. Patriot Act. Freedom Fries.

HOLLY: Our children.

DEVIN: Our children’s children.

FRANCIS: Whose children?

HOLLY: Another generation. Things have gotten so far out of balance… Something drastic has to happen. Kerry is-

DEVIN: The point is: What if the Hippie movement slash progressive movement, whatever you call it, wasn’t co-opted and beheaded?

MARY: I wasn’t a hippie. Francis wasn’t a-

FRANCIS: Couldn’t grow a beard. Never really connected on the side. Didn’t really look right.

DEVIN: What if Kennedy, King, Malcolm, and Kennedy again were not assassinated under a cloud of almost certain conspiracy. Even if it was not an agenda being pursued, even if the CIA or elements therein didn’t act like an independent terrorist sleeper cell acting for a greater good- what is the difference? The results are the same. So with that in mind-

FRANCIS: I’m not sure who you think you are. But this was a simple get to know you dinner that went a little too far.

HOLLY: Wouldn’t you consider the possibility that some greater chain of events than electing John Kerry needs to be set off? That he is not the first domino for our future?

MARY: Every building should have a pussy or intra oracular organ. All stunned. Embarrassed. Silent.

FRANCIS: I love it when you talk dirty my Mary Mary sweet Mary Mary.

HOLLY: Mom. Really. My God.

FRANCIS: It is a main architectural principal of the designer. The extra oracular thing.

DEVIN : I know-and you know that the next generation of us, of our family, will be much better off if Bush were gone.

FRANCIS: Come again. The future of my family?

MARY: Oh, go ahead and kill Bush- just don’t come back to my home for sanctuary.

HOLLY: Your pussy you mean. As an abstract design concept.

MARY: God-damn it Holly, whenever you get your drink on you become so disrespectfully belligerent.

HOLLY: When I get my drink on? (pause) I told you before. I have not had a single drink all night.

HOLLY and MARY exchange a look.
HOLLY looks at DEVIN.
MARY understands.

MARY: Oh. My. Holly Holly sweet Holly Holly. How far along?

FRANCIS looks at HOLLY, then at DEVIN.
DEVIN gets down on one knee in front of HOLLY, revealing a ring box.

DEVIN: Can you hear me now?


ABOUT THE PLAY: I Coulda Been A Kennedy was developed in workshops with the New York based Rude Mechanical Theatre Company under the guidance of director Danny Goldstein and with the help of TONY Award winner Blair Brown, TONY nominee Omar Metwally among many others.. The Rude Mechanicals mounted a full production of the play off-off Broadway in the summer of 2006.

TIME OUT NEW YORK called the production:“…An ambitious yawp of a play, surreal and boisterous and full of political choler…. In a time when political plays typically devolve into name-calling, Trainor actually manages to discover an apposite metaphor for governance”. While THE VILLAGE VOICE said:  “smart, suspenseful tale explores the dark side of the American dream” and NYCONSTAGE.Org said: “The triumph of the evening belongs to author Trainor, Jr. however. The thrust of the piece is exhilarating with just enough period details to keep one on their toes (Vietnam, Iran-Contra, the Bush/Kerry race). The dialogue has a clever, edgy quality….I Coulda… could become a major contender.”

Producers, publishers and other interested parties who wish to peruse the full script should contact DennisTrainorjr {at} gmail {dot} com

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