Theater: The Story of the Sphincter--With Photos!
It’s easier for me to tell the story if I pretend I’m pitching the play to a boardroom full of theater big-shots. So pretend you’re a fly-on-the-wall or the kid who’s delivering the donuts or something, and you’re in this boardroom with all these immortals of the theatre, and I come in, all sweaty, necktie loose around my collar, high on coffee and adrenalin, this ragged draft of the script in my shaking hands, and I start gesticulating wildly and spitting when I talk, I’m so excited. And I start in:
ME: It’s colossal, GBS! It’s stupendous, Tennessee! The yokels have never seen anything like it! It’ll melt their socks off, they’ll shit their pants, Mr. Shakespeare!
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW: Get on with it, ye great ee-jit, ya…
ME: Right, GBS! It’s the story of a man, a real man, a handsome young man—he’s an American, a real American, a dynamic young businessman on his way up in the world—he’s got everything, he’s got money, position, he’s got friends, respect, and the love of a beautiful young girl—but is he happy? NOOO! NOOOO! Like hell he’s happy! And why ain’t he happy?
SHAKESPEARE: Methinks we’ll give thee two more minutes for this tripe, thou base villain.
ME: (looking through script) Right-right-right…Okay, the reason he isn’t happy is—get ready for it—his asshole has mysteriously disappeared!
BRECHT: Lieber Gott. For dis I miss lunch mit Marlene Dietrich.
ME: Hear me out, BB! When the play starts, we see him in a proctologist’s office, the specialists are baffled, how could it happen, assholes don’t just get up and walk away—
PINTER: We might.
ME:--Bob (that’s the character’s name) is humiliated, he’s devastated, he’s ashamed! He doesn’t want anybody to know. He’s got to have surgery in secret, for Chrissakes, just so’s can shit through a new hole the docs cut in his ass! They have to fit him with a cork. Imagine the shame, gentlemen, the shame—
TENNESEE WILLIAMS: Ah’m ashamed just settin’ heah listenin’ to it.
ME: So you can imagine how young Bob feels then, Tennessee! Next scene: his honeymoon, Miami Beach. He’s got a gorgeous new wife, she loves the hell out of him. But is he happy?
ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE ROOM, SARCASTICALLY: NOOOOO!
ME: A-ha! I gotcha! You’re all “hooked” now, eh? That’s right, he ain’t happy, he’s sitting on the wedding bed, bawling away like a baby. But his wife says it’s okay, she still loves him, they’re gonna have a great life together, cork in his ass or no! Then we go to—let’s see—then we go to—
O’NEILL: --to the bar. I need a drink.
ME: No, no, not yet! It’s years later—they gotta baby—the TV comes on, FLASH! Big news story from one of those A-rab type oil sheikdom in the Middle East. And the headline reads: “Talking asshole appointed US ambassador!” We see it, gentlemen! It’s a little out of focus, but we see it—his escaped, talking asshole has indeed been appointed the US ambassador!
AESCHYLUS: A heppy ending. (rising from chair) Vell, den, ve can all go home--
ME: No, wait—there’s more! It’s months later and Bob still hasn’t adjusted! He’s off in the woods, with one of those men’s groups, one of those men’s retreats where middle-class white guys dress up in animal skins, bang on drums and howl at the moon and try to get in touch with their primitive manliness!
ME: Think of the visuals, Mr. Reinhardt! Think of the production values, Mr. Belasco!
BELASCO: Think of the time, Mr. Prendergast.
ME: They try to help him deal with the cork up his behind and his missing asshole, but it’s no good! He’s more ashamed than ever! He goes to bed that night, and here’s the big dream sequence (you’ll love this, Mr. Strindberg) and he’s having nightmares! Nightmares about inadequacy! There’s a babe in a bikini with a gun, she wants to sex him up and down the wall, but he can’t get it up, he’s afraid the cork will come out of his ass!
ME: Then he’s attacked! Vicious little raccoons, sea raccoons with fangs, they fly in and start ripping his throat! Deep psychological stuff, right, Mr. Strindberg? And then, a montage—
AUTHOR OF ‘EVERYMAN’: Oh, Jesus, joy of Man, take pity on us—
ME: Yes, a montage: it’s all over the news, twenty-four/seven—Sphincter gets the Republican nomination, Sphincter running for President, Sphincter ahead in the polls! Sphincter denies cocaine allegations, Sphincter went AWOL during ‘Nam! And finally there it is, big as life—US Supreme Court makes Sphincter President!
AESCHYLUS: Hokay, den, heppy ending. Put me down for five drachma, I go home now—
ME: Naw, it’s just the intermission! Then the audience comes back—
IBSEN: Like hell day do!
ME: --and they see his wife is cracking up, too! She’s going to a psychiatrist, a shrink! This marriage is in trouble, that’s how we get the women in the audience, see? The female perspective, see? And then: September 11th! Planes are hitting the World Trade Center! It’s chaos! Thousands dead! President Sphincter comes on T.V., he calls for courage, and then he announces that he’s going to defeat terrorism by invading Uruguay! Only he can’t pronounce Uruguay! The Sphincter bursts into flames, live on T.V. Now he’s “a flaming asshole,” see?
CHEKHOV: Ah. The work is autobiographical.
ME: Heh, heh, good one, AC. Anyway—Now Bob is pretty sure President Sphincter is really HIS Sphincter. He goes to see his attorney, his attorney says they can negotiate a big money settlement for his lost asshole, and, to show Bob why he’s the perfect attorney to represent him, to show him he can trust him to be “discrete”--this attorney sucks himself off!
ARISTOPHENES: (does spit-take with wine)
ME: Right on stage! It’s never been done before, it’ll be sensational!
WILDE: Wait, gentlemen. The boy begins to interest me. Pray continue.
ME: Thanks, OW. But the whole deal falls apart when the Sphincter’s PR man, a “Karl Rove” type, lets on that he’s got pictures of the attorney sucking himself off. They’ve got Bob over a barrel, he’s got nothing, and then: the worm turns! Bob threatens to go public with everything, expose the whole Sphincter scam and turn the country upside down! He’s got them shaking in their cowboy boots! So they pay him off—millions to keep quiet! So Bob’s made it at last! He and his wife are on the beach at Maui, filthy rich all of the sudden, sucking up the sun! Bob is riding high on the shakedown money, he’s on top of the world! But does it last? NOOOOO!
SHAKESPEARE: If thou dost not wrap this up in ten seconds, by my troth I shall call Security and have thee ejected, thou bull’s pizzle.
ME: Home stretch, Mr. Shakespeare; the falling action. The Sphincter gets re-elected, it’s unprecedented! But here’s the killer part: all of the sudden, out of the blue—IT COMES BACK TO BOB’S ASS! One morning Bob wakes up and it’s back where it always was, right between the cheeks of his ass, no more talking, no nothing! And, at the same time, we learn that the President has disappeared from the White House! A national crisis, the public is panicky! Bob’s wife is panicky, there’s mysterious men-in-black following them around, tapping the phone, spying on the house! They want Bob’s sphincter back in the Oval Office and they’ll do whatever it takes to get it! Blackout! Then, another montage—
MOLIERE: Sacre Dieu. C’est un infame.
ME: You’re damn right it is! ‘Cause now Bob’s disappeared! His shrink has sold him out to the government! His business partner’s accusing him of absconding! The government says they never heard of him! The leader of his men’s group is stranded in the middle of the Katrina flood and is shot to death by an escaped killer dolphin assassin!
ME: Bob’s wife has given up on him and become an off-key dyke folksinger! And—the final image in the play, gentlemen—the Sphincter is back in the White House, reassuring the nation on T.V. A pulsating pink asshole, once again President of the United States! CURTAIN!
(I slam the ragged script down on the conference table. I wipe my brow, take a breath, grinning.)
ME: Well, gentlemen? Is that a story or is that a story? I tell you, they went crazy for it in New Orleans. Gentlemen? Hey, where did everybody go? (I go out into the hall.) HEY! We can do it for less than thirty grand! We’ll use smaller raccoons! Okay then, how about two hundred bucks to fix the air conditioning in the theater? What do you say?
(Some coins are thrown in my direction. I stoop and pick them up.)
ME: (putting coins in my pocket) Hmm. Three drachma. Well, it’s better than I expected. But I guess we’ll have to cut that big “All-Star Salute to Michael Jackson” number in the third act.