(A gallery of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Paintings on the upstage wall including, center, an especially erotic depiction of Leda and the Swan. A low bench downstage. The downstage wall, it is imagined, completes the room.
ELLIE, in the most awkward and least-attractive stage of her tweens, enters. She comes downstage, contemplates a painting on the downstage ‘wall’, takes out her mobile phone and snaps a picture. She looks at the picture, then arranges herself next to the painting and holds out the phone to snap herself with the painting, then sits down on the bench and begins texting.
ZEUS, a boyishly-handsome man in his late-40’s/early 50’s enters, speaking on his own phone)
ZEUS: Yeah, I know, it’s insulting, but Candy—Candy—Candace! Look, I don’t think a beer ad is that big a deal. At least it gets my name out there. (Spots ELLIE) Hey, lemme call you back. Out. (Hangs up. To ELLIE) Whattya doing?
ELLIE: One sec.
ZEUS: Texting? You’re in the greatest museum in modern civilization and you’re texting?
(ELLIE gives him a look)
ZEUS: Who ya talking to?
ELLIE: Clem. She’s having a bad day, so I sent her a picture. (Gestures to the downstage painting)
ZEUS: (ELLIE being nice) Nice. (The painting) Nice. You like that one?
ELLIE: It looks like her.
ZEUS: Better than most.
ELLIE: Most of the time—
(ZEUS’s phone rings. The tune is the Olympic Hymn)
ZEUS: Hang on a sec. (Answers phone) Yeah, Candy?
(ELLIE starts looking at other paintings)
ZEUS: Of course I saw it. That’s what omnipotent means. I was gonna handle that next week. Yes, I’ll get to it! Look, can you just delegate it? I don’t know, send someone to hunt him down, buy some stronger chains and get a new vulture.
(ZEUS listens. ELLIE takes a photo of herself next to a painting on the side “wall”, posing like a supermodel)
ZEUS: I thought they all ate meat. Well maybe someone should have checked that. Get a condor, then, I hear they’re big. Make sure it likes liver before you send it out.
(ZEUS listens. ELLIE makes a face at her photo and takes another picture making a horrible face into the camera)
ZEUS: Isn’t anyone doing sacrifices anymore? I don’t know, buy a damn liver at the market and wave it around. If the bird goes after it, it’s a flesh-eater. And make a note we need more sacrifices. Maybe a viral video campaign? “The Ultimate Gift! Go straight to Elysium, do not pass Cerberus.” Yeah, I’m not a writer. Put someone on that. Look, Candy, I gotta run, I’ll call you later, OK? Out. (Hangs up)
ELLIE: All-seeing is omniscient. Omnipotent is all-powerful.
ELLIE: And you’re not.
ZEUS: I am so.
ELLIE: Omnipotent or omniscient?
ELLIE: Not in this market.
ZEUS: Did you get that from your mother?
ELLIE: Don’t make me play favorites.
ZEUS: Don’t make me smite you for that smart mouth.
(ELLIE starts texting again)
ZEUS: Hey, can we have some time together here?
ELLIE (without looking up): I don’t know, can we?
(ZEUS snaps his fingers. ELLIE punches buttons fruitlessly)
ELLIE: Hey! That was a really long text!
ZEUS: Send it later.
ELLIE: Mom lets me text whenever I want.
ZEUS: Then maybe we shouldn’t have shared custody. Maybe you should just live with your mother all the time.
ELLIE: Maybe I should.
ZEUS: Look, Ellie, I didn’t mean—
(ZEUS’ phone rings. Again with the Olympic Hymn. ZEUS tries to ignore it)
ELLIE: That’s you.
ZEUS: I’ll call back later.
(The phone ring renews, louder)
ELLIE: Dad, just take it.
ZEUS: You sure?
ELLIE: It’s fine.
ZEUS: I’ll keep it short.
ELLIE: Just answer it.
(ZEUS picks up)
ZEUS: Yeah? Yeah, I saw the numbers. Well, let’s go with a different agency next time.
(ELLIE waves her phone to indicate it’s still off. ZEUS snaps his fingers, ELLIE starts texting again on her now-working phone)
ZEUS: Look, Candy, I know we wanna expand into North America, maybe they’re ready and maybe they’re not, but I don’t think smitings are gonna help. People like friendly gods here. They want tambourines and coffee mornings and Mother’s Day Out and Singles Night. It’s a lotta infrastructure, Candy, a lotta buildings and schedules. I hate schedules. I don’t wanna be the God of Schedules. Not even the God of Smartphones. It’s just not the Zeus brand.
(ZEUS listens. ELLIE becomes transfixed by Leda and the Swan)
ZEUS: One second, honey. (Into phone) I just wanna do my weather thing, OK? Thunder, lightning bolts, the occasional windstorm when I can pry it out of my brother’s hands, maybe some earthquakes if we can get together on it. That’s the fun of being a pantheon, right?
ZEUS (into phone): Why don’t we try starting in California? They’ll believe anything there, it’s the wheatgrass. Look, Candy, can we talk Monday? It’s my day with Ellie.
ZEUS (into phone): Out. (To ELLIE) What is it, sweetheart?
ELLIE: O-M-G, O-M-G, O-M-G, O-M-G! Gross gross gross gross gross!
ZEUS: (Experiencing a stinging feeling with each “O-M-G”) Ow! Ow! What? What?
(ELLIE points at painting)
ELLIE: Ugh! I can’t believe you brought me here! Ew! O-M-G!
ZEUS: Stop taking my name in vain, it stings!
ELLIE: Porn! Porn! Disgusting porn! Parent porn! O-M-G! (ZEUS stings)
ZEUS: What…Oh, God. (Stings) Ow. Dammit! (Stings) Ow! Shit! (He’s fine)
ELLIE: No-one should have to see their parents having sex! Ever!
(ELLIE covers her face and sits on the bench with her back to the painting. ZEUS, flustered, tries to comfort her and hide the painting from view at the same time)
ZEUS: It’s OK, sweetheart, I’ll take care of it! I’ll fix it!
(ZEUS snaps his fingers, and the painting changes to two naked Athenian youths – this can be done with a sliding panel or a projection, or if technical resources aren’t available, a security guard walks in, says, “Excuse me, folks, taking this one down for cleaning” and switches the pictures)
ZEUS: All better.
(ELLIE looks back at the new painting)
ELLIE: Penis, Dad, not an improvement!
ZEUS: What’s wrong with the human form?
ELLIE: Dad, that’s Cass and Poll! (Pronounced “Paul”)
ELLIE: I DO NOT WANT TO SEE MY BROTHERS NAKED.
ZEUS: I am not ‘cool’ with this modern upbringing! We hung out naked all the time at Olympus!
ELLIE: Just change it!
(ZEUS snaps his fingers, the painting changes as before, to a serene landscape with cows)
ELLIE: Do you find any of the cows attractive?
ZEUS: Cheap shot, Ellie.
ELLIE: It’s a legitimate question.
ZEUS: Tell your mother not to be so bitter. No, wait, forget I said that. Look, there’s a certain kind of life I live that goes with the job.
ELLIE: So quit. Do something else.
ZEUS: Weather is all I know. Weather and siring demigods.
ELLIE: You could be a meteorologist.
ZEUS: Ellie—honey—this is what I was born to do. I love it more than anything in the world.
ELLIE: More than me?
ZEUS: Honey, I love you—I love all my children. But I have to love my work first. It’s who I am.
(ZEUS’ phone rings. He clicks it off without looking at it)
ZEUS: I know it’s tough. My dad didn’t have a lot of time for us, either.
ELLIE: No-one is ever going to have time for me.
ZEUS: Now, honey, that’s not true.
ELLIE: I’m not special and I’m not pretty.
ZEUS: Sweetheart, you are beautiful.
ELLIE: No, Dad. I’m not. I have glasses and I’m not shaped like anything and nobody talks to me because the boys think I’m ugly and the girls think I’m stuck up and nobody likes that I use big words. Nobody is going to visit me disguised as a shower of gold or a swan. Nobody is going to run after me until I have to turn into a tree.
(They sit for a moment)
ELLIE: Poll called me a cesspool.
ZEUS: What’s a cesspool?
(ELLIE whispers in his ear)
ZEUS: Gross! O-M-G! (Stings, jumps up) Ow!
ZEUS: Honey, I really like our days together. I always learn something from you.
ZEUS: Now I know I’m omniscient and omnipotent. In some markets.
ELLIE: You could work on omnipresent. (ZEUS doesn’t know what this means, either) All over the place, all the time. Like Jehovah is around here.
ZEUS: Ugh. I have a meeting with him Tuesday. Not a friendly competitor, that one.
ELLIE: You should stay out of this market. It’s more fun to go somewhere when nobody recognizes you. Back home we spend the whole time smiting and controlling cloud formations.
ZEUS: You got a point there.
ELLIE: Dad…do I grow up and do anything cool?
ZEUS: It doesn’t work that way, honey.
ELLIE: You could give me a hint.
ZEUS: (Sits with her again) Everybody’s gotta go through their own life. Even Jehovah couldn’t keep his kid out of hot water, and he’s got huge market share.
ZEUS: Ellie—Helen—you are going to be beautiful and special. The world is going to know your name. And I’m not just saying that because I’m your dad, OK?
ZEUS: But right now, I just want to be your dad, and I just want to spend Sunday at the Met with my little girl.
ELLIE: There’s a whole wing that’s just furniture. No naked people.
ZEUS: That sounds great.
(ELLIE pulls out her phone and opens it, leans into ZEUS and takes a picture of the two of them together. She hands her phone to ZEUS)
ELLIE: Hold this for me?
(ZEUS takes her phone, pulls out his phone and turns it off)
ZEUS: Hold mine?
(ELLIE takes his phone. They take hands and leave the gallery. ELLIE skips ahead. ZEUS leans back in and snaps his fingers. The landscape with cows changes to the just-taken photo of ZEUS and ELLIE.
Lights fade, leaving spot on painting.
Light on painting fades out.)
END OF PLAY
whipchick and karmasoup debated writing about theatre, sex work, and the renaissance festival before settling on museums. I hope you'll also enjoy karmasoup's intersecting piece: The New Guy