Weaving a Web

"What a tangled web we weave
when first we practise to deceive"

By John McNeil

Summary

A women in an unsatisfactory marriage looks for love on the Internet.

 

Characters

Warren (an accountant)
Stacey (his wife, a public relations consultant)
Karen (a friend of Stacey)

 

Script

(Scene: The lounge of a suburban house, with the inevitable couch. Also among the furniture is a computer and attached modem, obviously well used. Warren is seated at the computer, when Stacey enters carrying some reports from work.)

Warren:
(looks up) I thought you were going out tonight?

Stacey:
The meeting fell through. The client pulled the plug on the campaign.

Warren:
So what's with the paperwork?

Stacey:
Thought I'd try and see where we went wrong.

Warren:
Can I help?

Stacey:
What can an accountant tell a public relations consultant about human nature? This is a people-oriented business.

Warren:
I used to be a people.

Stacey:
Don't let's go down that track again, Warren. When it comes to our professions, your way of looking at things and mine just don't compute. When you're dealing with people, you simply cannot rule everything by the bottom line.

Warren:
I know that. But if your client can't afford the grandiose ideas you try to saddle him with, you won't get his business at all. Dreams have to be affordable.

Stacey:
Is that why you've never made a dream come true? You've never been able to let go of the penny? Has there ever been a time in your life when you were prepared to fling caution to the wind for the sake of a wonderful whim? To experience the exhilaration of risking everything for a mad idea and not worrying about the cost?

Warren:
(Sadly) How long is it since you really cared what I dream, Stacey? But I do know where my personal fantasies stop and the realities of my client's pocket begin.

Stacey:
You see. I told you there was no point us getting into this discussion. I've changed my mind. I will go out, after all.

Warren:
No, don't bother. I planned to go back to the office anyway. There are times when money does talk, and it would seem I understand its conversation better than yours. (Exits)

Stacey:
(slumps on couch) Money talks! Isn't that typical. Since when did a dollar have a soul!? Oh, that does it! (she goes to the computer, and logs on to the Internet. ) Good grief, what a slow connection tonight. Everybody must be surfing the Internet.

(She keeps on typing while talking) Ah, there's the forum. I wonder if Ryan's on this early. We don't normally get to talk until after 11, when Warren's in bed and I can use this machine without being watched. Oh, his code. (Exhilarated) You've been waiting for me, Ryan.

SFX:
(Doorbell rings)

Stacey:
(Panics) What!? Warren back again? Must have forgotten something, and his key. Quick. I must log off. He mustn't know about Ryan. (Doorbell rings again) Oh blast, the computer's locked up. I'll have to reboot. I won't have time to wipe the history file. (Doorbell rings again). Okay, I'm coming!

(Stacey goes to the door, returns with Karen.)

Karen:
If it's a bad time for you and Warren, I won't stay, Stacey.

Stacey:
Yes ... I mean, no ... I mean (looks from Karen to the computer and back again in desperation). I don't know what I mean. (Suddenly breaks down and cries.)

Karen:
(Puts her arms around Stacey, leads her to the couch) There, there. Tell Aunty Karen all about it.

Stacey:
I don't know what to do, Karen. It all seems such a mess.

Karen:
Well, we've been in and out of a few messes together over the years. What's one more between friends.

Stacey:
But this is different.

Karen:
It's between you and Warren, isn't it.

Stacey:
Yes ... I mean, no ... I mean... I don't know what I mean.

Karen:
This is getting a bit repetitious, not to say confusing.

Stacey:
I am confused.

Karen:
So start at the beginning. You and Warren are having a spot of difficulty, right?

Stacey:
Yes, but it's more than that. There's a whole communication thing. We seem to live in totally separate worlds these days. His world is dominated by money and figures ... I live in a world of ideas, images. We hardly talk, and when we do we just seem to wind up at loggerheads. This house has become a fighting factory, a munitions dump. The weird thing is, we somehow each make the ammunition for the other to fire.

Karen:
You didn't use to be like that. I never knew two people so much in love, so lost in a world of their own.

Stacey:
So lost, I didn't know it. Didn't realise I should have been asking directions. Once upon a time he could indulge my flights of fancy without attaching a balance sheet to my words. He even used to read poetry to me. But lately he's become so dull. So stick-in-the mud. All the imagination has gone out of our relationship. He spends more time on the computer than he does with me.

Karen:
You once told me that you loved Warren because he provided an anchor in reality when you got too high-flying.

Stacey:
But now I feel tied to earth all the time. He won't fly at all, whereas Ryan shares my way of thinking and.....

Karen:
Ryan?

Stacey:
Whoops.

Karen:
Stacey, have you been meeting another man?

Stacey:
Yes... I mean, no....well, not in the flesh. Yet.

Karen:
Now, I am confused.

Stacey:
Only on the Internet. You know, you can talk to people all over the world in these chat forums. About anything under the sun. It's very addictive. And the beauty is, you can be totally anonymous. No-one knows who you are, or even your gender, if you don't want them to. In fact, you can even pretend to be the opposite sex. I've done that sometimes for fun. But generally I use my middle name.

Karen:
So? Ryan!?

Stacey:
I was in a forum discussing ethics in advertising, and someone called Ryan made some really wise comments. Something I said must have jelled with him too, because we wound up going into a private chat room to talk further. Things just developed from there. We started just chatting together two or three times a week, and then it became every day. Now it's at the point where I couldn't face a day without sharing something with Ryan. In fact, I was about to connect with him when you came round.

Karen:
And you've just talked?

Stacey:
Just talk! You don't understand. Ryan doesn't just read poetry, he has the soul of a poet. He's wise and witty, the complete opposite of Warren ...being with him is to feel my spirit in flight.

Karen:
Being with him?

Stacey:
That's one of the great things about the Internet. You can have intimate conversations with complete strangers... tell them things you'd never share with a husband. You can do everything short of actual physical intimacy. But that's the dilemma. Ryan now wants to meet me.

Karen:
If he lives halfway round the world, how can he do that?

Stacey:
That's the amazing thing. He lives here in this city.

Karen:
Well how do you know he's really a he? What if he turns out to be another woman? Come to that, you don't anything at all about "him" except what he's led you to believe. Do you really want to meet him? Is that wise? What about Warren?

Stacey:
I don't know. One part of me recognises the risk. The other cries out to touch what has become so real in my mind. Oh Karen, I just don't know what to do!

(Enter Warren. Stacey is startled.)

Karen:
(Tries to recover for them both) Oh, hello, Warren. Stacey told me you'd gone to the office.

Stacey:
I didn't expect you back so soon.

Warren:
(Distracted) I got finished earlier than I expected. The computer went down, so there was no point in staying on. (He dumps a pile of papers down.) No, don't leave on my account, Karen. I'm going to have a shower and then off to bed.

Stacey:
(Out of guilt) Would you like a drink?

Warren:
If you wish.

Stacey:
I'll put the kettle on. (Exits)

(While she is temporarily out, Karen spots a small book among the papers Warren has dumped. She picks it up and idly flicks through it.)

Stacey:
(Enters, agitated) I'll make us both a coffee when it boils. Karen, you mustn't say anything!

Karen:
Stacey, what is Warren's middle name?

Stacey:
Uh, Ryan, why?

Karen:
Perhaps you ought to have a look at this book of poetry I spotted among his papers.

 

© John McNeil 1998
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at soulcommunication@paradise.net.nz
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 2, New Zealand.