A Play in Five Acts
Robert S. Robbins © Copyright 1995, by Robert S. Robbins
|Deborah Lanier:||A single mother, AGED 35, Grill Cook|
|Steve Greco:||Black, AGED 42, Grill Cook|
|Mike Ryder:||White, AGED 20, Cashier|
|Sonya Alvarez:||Latino, AGED 17, Cashier|
|Joe Fleischman:||White, AGED 25, Manager|
|Eugene Alexander:||White, AGED 47, Father of Jim|
|Keith McConnell:||White, AGED 59, Owner|
|Stan LeBotz:||White, AGED 37, Organizer|
|Dr. Gregory Brenner:||White, AGED 45, Professor|
|William S. Kirby:||White, AGED 39, District Attorney|
|ACT I:||A fast food restaurant. Four o'clock in the morning.|
|ACT II::||A seedy firehall that evening.|
|ACT III::||The restaurant the next morning at four.|
|ACT IV::||The restaurant that night, around eleven thirty.|
|ACT V::||The restaurant the next morning at four.|
The inciting incident of a teenage suicide by a fast food employee who could not face another day of abuse, begins a chain of events which culminates in the intense conflict of a strike. The suicide prompts the father to confront the manager of the restaurant with a gun in a desperate attempt to force an admission of responsibility. This important new play raises the question of an employer's responsibility for the emotional toll exacted by excessive stress on the job.
The restaurant's owner first admits wrong doing but then tears up the incriminating suicide note and plans to blame the father for his son's emotional problems. An outraged employee soon contacts a union organizer which begins the central drama of the play. Meetings are held by the organizer to discuss grievances and by the management to win over the employees. After many bitter confrontations, the employees fail to show up for work one morning as the community indicates its displeasure with the "sweatshop in our backyard". The owner is forced to sign a union recognition form after the District Attorney learns of the suicide note.
Realistic scenes of on-the-job abuse add to the moral authority of the drama. The five act play, Greasy Spoon Sweatshop, will inspire the audience to take action against the powerful corporations which exploit teenage labor and the lower class. Unlike any other theater event, this play could effect a radical change in our society. It poses the important questions; do we value cheap hamburgers more than our children's dignity and is a greasy spoon sweatshop really a vital or essential part of our communities? This play should also strike a nerve with theater artists familiar with the "imposed insignificance" of a lousy day job.
- A fast food restaurant.
- There is a kitchen Right Stage, a counter Center Stage and a dining room Left Stage.
- The kitchen.
- There are three grills: breakfast grill Up Right, a meat clam grill Right Center, and a hotcake grill Down Right. A cart Right Center contains the condiments and is used for preparing the food. There is a bun cabinet Up Right, microwave ovens Down Right, and several fryers Right Center towards the wing.
- The counter.
- Several cash registers sit along the counter. There should be a holding bin for the sandwiches, a soda fountain, and stacks of paper cups and napkins.
- The dining room.
- A few tables and chairs. The office area. Situated between the kitchen and counter area, Down Stage.
Exit right to sink area. Exit left to store entrance.
- DEBBIE, MIKE, and JOE enter from Stage Left. JOE locks the door behind them. He is dressed in a white shirt with a tie. DEBBIE goes through the counter area to the kitchen. MIKE begins working at the counter. They are wearing Quickie Burger uniforms; striped shirts, work slacks, and caps. JOE enters the office.
- Did you oversleep?
- My alarm clock did not go off.
- OK, I won't write you up this time, but remember, if you are late three times you'll be suspended for ten days without pay.
- DEBBIE (to MIKE)
- The managers never get in trouble for being late.
- Yeah, and if they're late we cannot open the store. We didn't open until 8:00 once because Jeff did not show up.(DEBBIE is a single mother past her prime. Her hair is dirty and her haggard face is not made up but she was clearly beautiful once. MIKE is an arrogant young man, very sure of himself and ambitious. He is often quite cocky. JOE can be unctuous towards authority figures but he is a tyrant to those beneath him. At heart he is a sullen employee who has risen above himself.)
- Debbie, the closers left a note in the log. They didn't have time to empty the grease traps last night. Will you empty them for me?
- Grease traps. Thank you.
- Hah, hah. You have to empty the grease traps. Those night shift teenagers don't do anything. I hate working with high school kids. They're all brats.
- I don't have time to do it now. I've got to set up for breakfast.(DEBBIE hustles about the kitchen, turning equipment on, bringing up meat and eggs from the walk-in fridge, and setting up her equipment. MIKE brews coffee and stocks the counter. JOE counts change into the cash register drawers. The phone rings.)
(JOE picks up the phone.)
(Hangs up phone. Looks through rolodex and finds a number. JOE dials the number.)Hello, Susie? I know it's your day off but Dave called in sick. Can you come in and work six to two?...You got plans, huh? Well thanks anyway, bye.(Enters kitchen and approaches DEBBIE.)Debbie, our six o'clock person called in sick so you'll be alone on grill for the first two hours. Our next grill person comes in at eight.
(DEBBIE and MIKE work quietly but quickly for a few minutes.)
(JOE exits to the lobby.)
(JOE returns. Several customers appear in the dining room and approach the counter.)
(JOE comes back into the kitchen and opens the bun cabinet.)There's no hotcakes made. Put some hotcakes down. I have a customer waiting for a hotcakes and sausage.
(DEBBIE grabs the hotcake dispenser and spills some batter on her apron. She hurries to cover the grill with hotcakes.)
(JOE hurries back into the kitchen and begins to assemble the egg muffins.)
(JOE tosses the eggs and returns to counter. DEBBIE hurries to the egg grill and cracks a few eggs into the muffin egg ring.)Where's my hotcakes and sausage?
(DEBBIE works frantically to lay more hotcakes, assemble breakfast sandwiches, and cook eggs.)
(DEBBIE wraps an egg biscuit, microwaves the breakfast sandwich, and passes it up over the counter. Things quiet down as DEBBIE gets the product levels up and customers are served.)Oh, I forgot about the grease traps.
(DEBBIE brings a filthy bucket into the kitchen and empties a grease trap into it. Black rancid grease, thick with globs of gristle, slops out and splatters her shoes.)!Shit, I've got cold grease running into my shoes!
(DEBBIE pours out the other grease trap.)I need a sausage muffin with cheese.
(MIKE walks through the kitchen and exits Right. After a minute he returns with a box of creamers and an empty juice cup.)
(He shows the empty juice cup to JOE.)
(STEVE enters from Left and clocks in. He is a middle-aged black man. His face is ravaged by years of resignation and despair but his eyes blaze as if faith was something he suffered too.)
(JOE goes into the office and finds a form which he hands to STEVE.)Where is your nametag?
(STEVE frowns and becomes sullen as he angrily commences work.)
(DEBBIE exits Right and returns with boxes and bags of stock which she places in the freezers. STEVE cooks eggs.)
(STEVE assembles the egg muffins.)Steve! Did you hear me?
(STEVE microwaves the egg muffins and passes them up.)
(STEVE leaves the kitchen and exits Right. He returns after a few minutes.)Where were you?
(DEBBIE laughs.)So how are things going with you?
(JOE enters the kitchen and checks the egg cabinet.)
(MR. ALEXANDER enters Left. He is a stout, middle-aged man dressed in a rumpled business suit.)
(Screams at MIKE.)
(He waves a bloodstained note.)
(MIKE, DEBBIE, and STEVE are profoundly mortified by the scene Mr. ALEXANDER is making. They pass guilty, hangdog glances at each other and shuffle awkwardly about, not knowing what to do. All the other customers have quietly exited Left.)
(He draws back his fist and strikes JOE across the jaw, sending him flying against the bin. He pulls a gun out of his suit and banishes it in the air.)Quickie Burger guarantees customer satisfaction. Well, I'm damn well going to get some satisfaction today!
(DEBBIE screams. MIKE runs back into the kitchen and STEVE crouches behind a grill.)
(He cocks his gun and aims at JOE's leg.)
(Laughs fiendishly and eases the hammer back.)
(He fishes the bloody note out of his suit pocket and reads in a quavering, emotional voice.)Dear Dad, I'm sorry but I can't take it anymore. I just can't face another day at work. I know you want me to hold a job and accept responsibility but I guess I'm not cut out for Life. I can't even do my work at Quickie Burger without making everyone scream at me. They yell at me for not working fast enough, for keeping the customers waiting, for not following procedures and everything else. They threatened to terminate me and I know I'll never be able to hold down a job. I'll always be a failure. I have no future so I might as well end it all now. Goodbye.
(He flings the note at JOE who flinches.)You see? You killed him with your abuse! You broke his spirit and made him feel useless. All because your stinking greasy hamburgers didn't get up there fast enough.
(He grabs hamburgers from the bin and begins throwing them at JOE.)Here, here, here! Are they coming fast enough for you now?
(He breaks down and sobs brokenly.)
(A police bullhorn is heard from the wings, Left.)
(The telephone rings. ALEXANDER answers the phone, glancing nervously towards the dining room, Left.)
(He hangs up the phone.)The owner is on his way. They've already notified him. Soon this will all be over and nobody will have been hurt.
(KEITH, a television cameraman, a television journalist, and a police officer cautiously enter, Left. KEITH is a distinguished looking old man, hair grey at the temples. He speaks well and with authority but sometimes seems injured by the resentment he feels he doesn't deserve.)
(He hands his gun to the police officer.)
(The police officer handcuffs ALEXANDER and leads him offstage, Left. The cameraman and journalist follow them.)
(Holds up the bloody suicide note.)
(He reads the note and then tears it up.)There, now there's no evidence that Jim killed himself because of his job. If all of you want to keep your jobs you won't mention that note because that kind of scandal could put this restaurant out of business.
(END OF ACT)