Yesterday I lost a $100 bet to my son.
The details are fuzzy. It’s like a play in three acts, where you basically live for the intermission so that you can either sneak out or get a cocktail to anesthetize yourself against what’s coming.
In Act One, which takes place in NYC in late August, you see Marinka sleeping peacefully, in a way that those who devote themselves to bettering humanity do, when all of a sudden and without any reason, her 12 year old son, appears by her bed. It’s 3 am. “Mom,” he says, and Marinka is jolted awake. The only thing that would make him standing there more terrifying would be if he were holding a bloody meat cleaver in one hand and a classmate’s head in another.
“What?” Marinka sits up.
“I have the worst rash I’ve ever had in my life and everything itches!” he says.
The rest of the Act includes Marinka’s son saying things like “my throat feels funny” and Marinka telling her husband that he has to go to the all night pharmacy to get some Benadryl and her husband saying things like “zzzz” and Marinka having to tap him on the shoulder and asking him to remove his earplugs so that she could tell him that he has to go to an all-night pharmacy to get some Benadryl and Marinka’s husband saying things like “now?” and Marinka saying things like “yes, because he said his throat feels funny and if it’s an allergic reaction and his throat is closing up, that’s a bad sign, although I fully appreciate and respect that as a Christian, you believe in the Resurrection, but I am a Jewish, and I believe in medicine.” All these are things that do not enhance The Marital Relationship, in case you were wondering.
The Act ends with the consumption of Benadryl and peaceful sleep.
Act Two opens the next afternoon, when our young hero is enjoying a fine video game when all of a sudden, the hives reappear. They reappear on his arms, legs, torso and just to drive the point home, underneath his eye. There is a visit to the doctor and a diagnosis of “hives” is confirmed. Benadryl is administered but it does nothing, so there is a cameo by a dose of Zyrtec. At this point in the play some uppity audience members wonder if the arts are now sponsored by pharmaceutical companies while others wonder if calling this dreck “the arts” is a bit much. Various characters appear on stage to wonder about what could be causing the hives? What could the young lad be allergic to, what? There is a musical interlude during which Mama takes the stage for her Grammy-nominated solo of “It Must Be All The Dust That Marinka Doesn’t Clean Either That Or The Hormone-Filled Steak From Costco That She Feeds My Poor Grandchildren.” The audience is moved to tears and/or suicide.
The curtain falls on the Second Act, to thunderous applause, generated mostly because the audience doesn’t realize that there’s a Third Act.
And what a Third Act it is! The curtain opens (after having fallen) to an allergist’s office. Marinka and her son are in the doctor’s office; three weeks later. The hives are long gone, but Marinka is determined to find the cause. Faint cries of “dust!” and “Costco beef!” are heard throughout the scene.
“He doesn’t have any allergies that we know of,” Marinka says. The audience is delighted. It is the first time they’ve seen Angelina Jolie on the stage. Well, except for the first two Acts, obviously, but it’s good to see her again. Everyone understands why Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston for her, and although Jen bounced back ok, people still feel bad that she lost out on the coveted Marinka role to Angelina. But seeing Angelina now as Marinka, there really was no choice. No. Jennifer is Rachel and Angelina is Marinka.
“And yet he developed the hives,” the doctor nods.
“And yet he developed hives,” Marinkangelina confirms.
“They were so bad,” the kid pipes in, “that my brother said that I looked like a red tomato.”
The youngster is now referring to his older half-brother who had lived with the family for several years in New York, before returning to the University in Europe (this was explored in a flashback dream-sequence scene in the Second Act; sorry I forgot to mention it!). He did come back to NYC for a brief visit in the summer and now Marinkangelina is concerned that her young son is confused.
“He was not here during your hives outbreak,” she gently tells her son.
“He was!” he says.
“No,” Marinkangelina says. “He was not.”
The doctor is administering the skin prick allergy test on the kid’s arm while this banter is taking place. He apologizes for not having a “Costco meat” test.
“Wanna bet?” the kid says. And Marinkangelina purses her lips.
“Sure,” she says. “Prepare to lose.”
“I bet you $100,” her son says and Marinkangelina extends her slender arm to shake his hand. The wager is on.
As soon as the shaking stops, Marinkangelina realizes that oh, wait. Her stepson WAS there during the whole hives incident. She rushes to her daily planner, which is projected overhead for the audience’s enjoyment, and confirms the worst. She just lost a $100 bet to her son.
He laughs with glee, even as the doctor pronounces that he has a severe allergy to dust mites.
Marinkangelina pales. $100! How will she be able to pay off this wager and afford more Costco meat? HOW?
The curtain falls again. The audience leaps to its feet, hungry for more. Perhaps this will be one of those trilogy plays, like Angels in America but about hives instead of AIDS. Tony Kushner didn’t say that it would be, of course, but perhaps he’s being coy?