a melting pot comedy in one act
by Jean H. Klein
About the Play:
Set in the Berkley neighborhood of Norfolk, Virginia, Nightside looks at the desperate attempts of an older Jewish man to save his home from condemnation by the city. A bag lady who has also borne the brunt of a hard life intrudes on his struggle and affects his destiny.
Harry Rosen, a Jewish man in his seventies
Ruth, his daughter, early forties
Joe: A police detective, a childhood friend of Ruth’s.
Nettie: A homeless African American woman in her sixties.
The Scene: The living room of a house on Stafford Street in Berkley, Virginia. We can see the living room and a portion of the front porch. The stained glass window in the doorway is shabby but still beautiful. On one table there is a Menorah. On another, a tray with wine bottles, one bottle of Bourbon, and several glasses. The furniture is good but slightly shabby. Several packing boxes sit in the corner, as if a move were in progress. The sound of an approaching storm can be heard.
The Time: The early 1980’s.
From the Play:
Here, kitty, kitty, kitty. (He puts the dish down.) Don't play games with me. I know you're here. In the morning, this dish is always empty.
(There is a sharp crack of thunder and the lights dim, momentarily.)
Harry: (calling to Ruth in the kitchen) Ruthie, did you hear that? I'll bet the lights are going to go off again. I don't like the dark.
Ruth: (calling from the kitchen) The dark can't hurt you, Dad.
Harry: Hah! That's what you think.
Ruth: Then go round up the candles and the flashlights.
(Harry hurries around gathering up two flashlights. He puts one on an end table and a second on a table near the couch. There is thunder, a little closer this time.)
Harry: I didn't get that leak in the kitchen fixed yet. Buckets. I need to get buckets. Ruthie? Do you see some buckets in the kitchen?
(Harry exits to the kitchen. Off-stage, we can hear the sound of buckets and muffled voices. Nettie French, an African-American woman in her sixties, enters from the basement. She is dressed in layers of cast-off clothes. She looks toward the kitchen cautiously, then crosses to the cat's dish. She picks up the water dish and drinks, then looks at the food and pours it into the bag she is carrying. She crosses to the table with the liquor on it, picks up a bottle, and starts to put it into her bag. She reconsiders, takes a swallow, and puts it back, coughing.)
Harry: (returning to the living room but still off-stage) Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.....
(His voice sends Nettie scurrying back to the basement. Harry enters. Ruth is behind him, carrying a watering can. She waters the plant.)
Ruth: Why do you think you have a cat? You've never seen it.
Harry: I don't have to see it. I can hear it.
Ruth: I've never heard it.
(During this scene, Ruth moves around, dusting and picking up papers from the floor. Harry, irritated, follows and puts the papers back on the floor.)
Harry: (pointing to the empty dish) That's because you have no imagination. Cats don't associate with practical people. Look! Those dishes were full five minutes ago and now they're empty.
Ruth: Dad, this house is so old, it creaks worse than your knees. You don't know what's been eating from that dish.
Harry: Yes, I do! A cat! My cat!
Ruth: (shaking her head) I worry about you here. I can't sleep at night. Frank thinks you ought to take what the city offered for the house and move.