close
Dreamland: A Short Play by Evan Guilford-Blake

Dreamland: A Short Play by Evan Guilford-Blake

Drama, Vol. 7.3, Sept. 2013

Dedicated to the memory of Johnny McCulley
For Roxanna

Characters:
GANDY – About 75 but full of piss and vinegar. He is as Irish as he chooses to be at any given moment, but there is always a lilt of the auld sod in his voice and manner. A consummate showman. Either his cynicism or his romanticism is a facade: “y’pays yer money an y’makes yer choice.”

RICHARD LaBROCCA – About 20, between years at college. Attractive, hopeful, inexperienced, and down to earth.

Setting:
The grounds of Dreamland, a decaying amusement park somewhere in America.

Time:
Labor Day, last year.

AT RISE: The stage is dimly lit. Tinny-sounding, obviously recorded
CALLIOPE MUSIC is heard. Barely visible in the dim is a game booth
with prizes hanging along its back wall; perhaps there is a backdrop
suggesting amusement park ambience. Over a speaker, GANDY’S VOICE
is heard.

GANDY’S VOICE:
Step right up, ladies and gents, step right up. Try yer luck, try yer luck. For only fifty cents, just one half of one dollar, ye’ve got three chances t’be a winner. Everyone wants t’be a winner, and everyone’s a winner here. You only need one and it’s easy as can be, just watch me and—there! Nothin’ to it. For only fifty cents, you c’n win once, twice, three times! That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, three chances for only fifty cents. Who’s next? You, ma’am? Or you, sir? How’s about it? You can win that lovely kewpie doll for the little lady of your heart…

(MUSIC swells, then is replaced by dim CROWD NOISE. LIGHTS RISE.
GANDY is at the booth arranging prizes, all plastic-wrapped, save one giant stuffed animal mounted far from public access.)

GANDY:
(Trying to make one doll stay in place)
Damn ye! Stay there. Och! Ye’d fall off the Pearly Gates if St. Peter himself invited ye t’sit on ‘em. Now…how’s about it? Eh? Ahh. There.
(GANDY takes a flask from his pocket, drinks, and straightens as RICHARD enters.)

RICHARD:
You Mister Gandy?

GANDY:
’Tis just Gandy.

RICHARD:
Gandy.

GANDY:
I’m him.

RICHARD:
(Offering his hand)
Hi.
(GANDY doesn’t respond)
I’m Richard LaBrocca. Boss sent me over.
(No response)
How you doin’?

GANDY:
How’m I doin’? Hmm. (Waxing eloquent) Sure ‘n’ I can’t say jist yet. Too ’arly, y’know? But, it looks like a foine day; and it sounds like a foine one as well.

RICHARD:
Yeah, oughta be busy for once. If it doesn’t rain.

GANDY:
Sure ‘n’ it can’train today; nah, ’tis too important a day to too many people for that t’be happenin’.

RICHARD:
(Pointing to the sky)
Tell Him that. Anyway, they’re linin’ up.

GANDY:
’Tis their last chance.

RICHARD:
Yeah.

GANDY:
Well, sure ‘n’’tis a foine day for a wake, though, isn’t it. A splendid day t’bid g’bye. A splendid day f’r the soul t’leave the body b’hind, for all those dreams t’pass.

RICHARD:
Yeah. I guess.

GANDY:
(Pause. HE looks at, and over, RICHARD)
You ain’t another one of the press, come to write another “kindly” word on the body’s passin’?

RICHARD:
Uh, no.

GANDY:
Then piss on it—it’s gonna rain. Who ’re ya, what’re y’doin’ here?

RICHARD:
Mr. —Boss sent me over. He said I’d be helpin’ you out.

GANDY:
Helpin’ me out? My assistant’s Timmy Kelly.

RICHARD:
Tim, he’s gonna be late. So Boss sent me. To fill in.

GANDY:
I see.
(A short, snorted laugh)
Well… Yer name’s…?

RICHARD:
Richard LaBrocca.

GANDY:
Umm. A dago.

RICHARD:
Uh—yeah.

GANDY:
College boy?

RICHARD:
Yeah. I go back this weekend. This is my, I guess, only chance. To do—this. With this place closin’ down. But I thought it’d be kinda fun.

GANDY:
Fun. Ah, Sweet Mother a God, I got a wet-behind-the-ears college boy thinkin’ ’tis goin’ t’be fun. Ah, well, t’won’t be enough marks about’t make a dif’rence. You ever worked a game before, Richie?

RICHARD:
I been runnin’ rides all summer. But I’ve walked around a lot, on my breaks. I watched you guys workin’ ‘em.

GANDY:
I see. Have you worked one?

RICHARD:
Well, at like frat parties and Las Vegas nights at church, things like that.

GANDY:
Frat parties.

RICHARD:
Yeah. And Vegas nights.

GANDY:
And Vegas nights.

RICHARD:
Course, I know this’s different. A lot different.

GANDY:
Mm. Here, help me with these. (The prizes)

RICHARD:
Boss said you’d had this game for twenty years.

GANDY:
Twenty? No wonder the place is sufferin’; man can’t keep track a toime any better’n he c’n track the money. Here, for twenty-one, t’be exact.

RICHARD:
Long time.

GANDY:
Seems like it, I suppose. T’you.

RICHARD:
Yeah, it does. God, this all seems so…familiar. I mean, we used to come, all the time. When I was in high school, I used to bring dates here; it was a great excuse to, y’know…on the roller coaster ‘cause it was scary, or on the lagoon when it got dark…

GANDY:
A lot of people used to come here.

RICHARD:
It sure was a great place.

GANDY:
It still is a great place, in its fashion. At least, ’twill be till midnight t’night. Till the silence takes it over.

RICHARD:
Man, I can’t believe they’re tearin’ it down. Why d’you think they’re doin’ that?

GANDY:
Why? Because a lot of people used to come here.

RICHARD:
I guess it got to be old hat, huh?

GANDY:
More like it got to be old underwear—Ratty lookin’ and a little saggy in the supports. (Re: The prizes) That’s fine, now.

RICHARD:
Dreamland. Huh.

GANDY:
Dreamland… ’Tis a foine name, ’tisn’t it; a true name… “Where everyone can dream and all dreams can come true…” No one ever left here disappointed; you got your roly-coaster thrills and yer rides through the tunnel o’ love, people ate and laughed and cheered and sometimes they cried, they won their prizes and then went home smilin’ about t’morra…

RICHARD:
Yeah.

GANDY:
(Beat)
Yeah.

RICHARD:
I played this; I played all the games, up and down the midway. When I was a kid I’d come here with a pocketful of dimes and quarters and go home broke but with a bunch of these (Canes) or goldfish bowls or little stuffed animals. Yeah, I always left smiling. And, and—you’re right. I’d come in hopin’, and leave hoping tomorrow would be just as good. And it was.

GANDY:
…Yeah.

RICHARD:
…So you’ve been running this game for twenty-one years.

GANDY:
What? Oh, Sweet Mother Mary, no. Only here, for the last twenty-one. But I’ve been runnin’ it goin’ on sixty years. Since I was your age. Before. All over.

RICHARD:
All over?

GANDY:
Fr’m sea t’shinin’ sea, as they say.

RICHARD:
God—my Dad’s worked at the same plant for nearly thirty. I thought that was forever; to be doin’ the same thing, I mean.

GANDY:
Oh, it’s nivver the same, Richie. Every day is different, every mark. Only thing they have in common is wantin’ to win.

RICHARD:
I bet you’ve given away a million of these things. (Canes)

GANDY:
I haven’t given away one of them. People’ve won a few though.

RICHARD:
And probably a couple thousand kewpies.

GANDY:
Probably.

RICHARD:
What’s the secret? Of makin’ ’em (The game mechanisms) go in?

GANDY:
(With a smile)
Practice, Richie. Lots of practice.

RICHARD:
(HE tries a few times, without success.)
I couldn’t do it then, I can’t do it now.
(HE tries again. GANDY sips from his flask.)
So, what do I do when we open?

GANDY:
Mostly ye stay out of the way. But you can work the sides, draw the marks in—you work one side, I do the other. You’ll do all right, ‘specially with the girls. And you c’n give out the prizes. These’re for one win—the canes, the whistles, the hats, whichever they want; the ducks and the rubber balls and so on ’re fer two; three; four; and…

RICHARD:
Twelve for a kewpie doll?

GANDY:
Um-hm.

RICHARD:
How many does it take to win one of those? (The big stuffed animal)

GANDY:
More than you got.

RICHARD:
Huh?

GANDY:
That’s what you tell ’em when they ask: “How many wins to get one of those?” More than you got, so keep on tryin’.

RICHARD:
But how many?

GANDY:
…Two hundred.

RICHARD:
Two hundred!

GANDY:
Uh-huh.

RICHARD:
But, nobody’ll ever get to two—

GANDY:
’Tisn’t a charity I’m runnin’, Richie.

RICHARD:
Yeah, but if nobody can win it—

GANDY:
Oh, they c’n win it. Everyone c’n win it. If they want it bad enough. But no one ever does. Because, y’see, it’s not the prize that’s important. ‘Tisn’t the animal they’re after, not really. It’s the illusion, Richie, the illusion of winnin’—somethin’, anythin’ll do. They all want t’be winners, m’boy—that’s what they’re after. It’s the pursuit—it’s the challenge. It’s the hope. That’s what Dreamland’s always been about: dreamin’, chasin’ rainbows. That’s the game they’re playin’.

RICHARD:
But—

GANDY:
Come on now. What did you do with all those canes you won when you were a boy? You still have any of ‘em?

RICHARD:
…No.

GANDY:
They got stuffed in yer closet till y’threw ‘em out, or they broke, and the goldfish died an’ ye flushed ‘em down the toilet, right?

RICHARD:
I gave some of ’em to my mother. The stuffed animals.

GANDY:
And they got stuffed in her closets and in a month ’r two she threw ‘em out.

RICHARD:
I guess.

GANDY:
But y’always came back to win some more, didn’t ye?
(RICHARD nods)
Sure y’did. ‘Cause it made y’feel good, the winnin’ did. Not the prize—the
winnin’. That’s the secret, Richie. Knowin’ the secret’s the secret. ’Tisn’t the pot o’ gold people want; it’s findin’ the end of the rainbow.

RICHARD:
I think a lot of people’d be happy with just the pot of gold.

GANDY:
Nah, they’d stick it in a corner and go out lookin’ for another. You watch ’em here. They always want t’ try for one more prize, one just a little better. If they win the first one, after that… ’Tis like ye said: the body lives on
hopin’ tomorrow’ll come.

RICHARD:
What about you?

GANDY:
Me?

RICHARD:
You want to be a winner?

GANDY:
(With a chuckle) The house is always the winner, Richie.

RICHARD:
I don’t mean that.

GANDY:
No, I’m sure you don’t. Here, polish up the wood. Might as well have it lookin’ loike it’ll be here forever.

RICHARD:
…Okay.

(An ALARM SOUNDS. CROWD NOISE rises; CARNIVAL SOUNDS join in.)

RICHARD (cont.):
First alarm.

GANDY:
Aye.

RICHARD:
Listen to that: it’s like they can’t wait.

GANDY:
Now, who ever was willin’ t’wait on a dream? That’s what they’re for, Richie—for makin’ the moment seem the grandest it c’n ever be.

RICHARD:
(Reflectively) Dreams. Yeah…
(HE shakes his head, as if trying to dismiss a specific thought)
Uh…what time’s break?

GANDY:
For the love a God, the boy’s not yet started warkin’ and he’s askin’ about his break. Y’ got t’pee?

RICHARD:
Uh—no. Just, I was gonna meet my—this, my…girlfriend. For lunch.

GANDY:
Peein’s the only break y’ take from this. Y’can get a frank when ye’re hungry. But y’eat it here.

RICHARD:
Yeah, okay. I guess I’ll see her tonight.

GANDY:
Och. Girlfriend.

RICHARD:
Uh, sort of. We’re, like, engaged to be engaged.

GANDY:
Kinda young.

RICHARD:
We, we’re not supposed to get married till we’re both out of school. She’s a
sophomore. And… I, I guess… I don’t know. It—I feel like I’m… Sometimes
it seems…hard. To imagine. I mean, I want it—ev’rything—to happen; I
think. I don’t know. It’s kind of like a dream. It doesn’t feel…real, y’know? I mean, there’re all these—things that haven’t happened yet and…
Are you married?

GANDY:
Is the Pope Jewish?

RICHARD:
I guess not.

GANDY:
Thought about it. Once. When I was your age.

(An ALARM SOUNDS.)

GANDY (cont.):
Two minutes.

RICHARD:
Hmh.

GANDY:
What.

RICHARD:
Just, I’m still havin’ trouble…conceiving that tomorrow?, This—none of it—will be here.

GANDY:
Ah, but ye’re wrong, Richie. I‘twill.

RICHARD:
I thought—

GANDY:
You’ll not be able t’see it, but it’ll be here. Place is made a dreams, Richie; dreams don’t disappear.

“Dreams! in their vivid coloring of life,
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality, which brings
To the delirious eye, more lovely things.”

RICHARD:
…Wow.

GANDY:
Oh, ’tisn’t me; it’s Poe. But someday, someday y’ll walk by—might be next month, might be fifty years from now—and, whatever seems t’be here at that minute, you’ll look at it but what you’ll see ‘n’ hear’ll be all this, the whirl and the calliope, the laughter and the flags wavin’ in the wind. And y’ll think you’re rememberin’ it, or imaginin’; but y’re not.

GANDY (cont.)
World without end; when you and I’re long passed from mem’ry, there’ll be ghosts and shadows ridin’ its ghosts and shadows. Makin’ wishes, tossin’ balls and achin’ for a kewpie doll.

RICHARD:
God.

GANDY:
Exactly, m’ boy.

RICHARD:
Exactly—God…

GANDY:
Ya seem t’be a good boy, Richie.

RICHARD:
Thanks.

GANDY:
Ye’ve got a lot of hope. Hold on to it. You’ll need it someday. When all your bamboo canes and kewpies are disappearin’ right b’fore your very eyes.

(The ALARM SOUNDS.)

GANDY (cont.):
Thirty seconds. Well, good luck to you.

RICHARD:
You too.

GANDY:
Aye. The luck of the Irish.

RICHARD:
You gonna go back there? After…this is over?

GANDY:
Back there?

RICHARD:
Yeah. Ireland.

GANDY:
Richie, I’ve nivver set foot on the place.

RICHARD:
But—

GANDY:
John Gandowski’s my name. Born in Warsaw; raised in California. Sure ‘n’ enough. Sure ‘n’ enough.

RICHARD:
But—

GANDY:
Part of the illusion, Richie, all part of the spell.

(ALARM SOUNDS.)

GANDY (cont.):
Now, nivver mind. They’re comin’. Now: Say it like y’mean it, like ’tis the most wonderful chance in the world.
(As the LIGHTS begin to fade) Hi there, ladies ‘n’ gents. Welcome t’Dreamland and step right up. Three chances t’win—not one, not two, but three for fifty cents, just one half of one dollar t’take home a mem’ry, t’hold on’t a piece a Dreamland, t’win y’r dream…

The Territory Ahead by Forrest Anderson

A Conversation with Benjamin Lowenkron, Author of Bone River

Leave a Response