The Stranger Things Kids Turn 30 and Go See “The Phantom Menace” on Opening Night: A One-Act Play

MAY 19, 1999. 

The curtain rises on a bar that could charitably be described as “humble.” Paint peels along the walls. The counter-tops are sticky with beers of yesteryear. Stuffing leaks from six bar-stools, and six occupants in their early thirties slouch on them: MIKE, DUSTIN, LUCAS, MAX, WILL, and ELEVEN, called EL. They are all nursing alcoholic beverages in various stages of completion, save LUCAS, our designated driver, drinking from a clearly marked bottle of Coke. All are silent for a long moment. They don’t look at each other. They don’t speak to each other.

EL: So that girl… the queen… she was actually two girls?

LUCAS: I mean, I think so? I couldn’t follow that at all.

MAX: Yeah, yeah. Two girls. Two different actresses. And the one girl was a decoy for the queen, right, so the real queen was one of the maids, so if someone went and like, killed the fake queen, the real queen would…

EL: So the girl on the sand planet… was that the real queen, or…

Abruptly, DUSTIN begins to cry.

MAX: Oh, fuck’s sake, Dustin, it wasn’t that bad.

DUSTIN makes an effort to reply, but he’s incoherent through his tears. After a few seconds, LUCAS squeezes DUSTIN’s shoulder and grimaces. 

LUCAS: Maybe we should call it a night.

MIKE: Call it a night? Seriously? We just got here.

MAX: Don’t worry, Lucas. The sitter’s got Kyle and Rosie for another hour. We can stay out and par-tay.

WILL: Yeah, well, I don’t think anyone’s really in the mood to, um…

WILL nods at Dustin, still weeping into his drink.

MIKE: But this was supposed to be… we’re supposed to be celebrating. The first new Star Wars since we were fourteen, the beginning of a new era…

DUSTIN (slurred): Nobody wants to party, Mike! Movie doesn’t deserve a party!

DUSTIN brings a fist down on the bar; WILL leaps a little on his stool, startled.

MAX: Maybe a funeral, though.

Snickers from EL and LUCAS; stone faces from WILL and MIKE. DUSTIN is still blubbering.

LUCAS: Yeah. Funeral for our childhoods.

EL: Not my childhood. I didn’t get to see Star Wars ’til… wait, how old was I, Mike? That Thanksgiving. You came up for the weekend. Brought all those tapes. We got sick to our stomachs on microwaved popcorn.

A little wisp of a smile floats over MIKE’s face. He turns his eyes to EL, tender, and squeezes her arm. 

MIKE: Sixteen.

WILL: Oh, right, and you kicked me out of the room after Han got frozen in carbonite so you could make out like teenagers on that old shag rug in front of the —

MIKE (crosstalk): What do you mean, “make out like” — we were teenagers, Will, I —

DUSTIN: What the fuck was that fucking frog alien, fuck

MAX: Jar-Jar Binks? I thought he was funny. Maybe even the best part of that whole trainwreck.

LUCAS laughs, drains the rest of his Coke bottle, and sets it down on the bar with a flourish.

LUCAS: Well, I’d better get going, guys. Gotta get up bright and early tomorrow morning to file for divorce.

MAX: Hey, wait —

LUCAS: Good thing my lawyer’s in town.

WILL: Oh, I’m actually not barred in, um, Indiana, and I’m, uh —

MAX : Are you fucking kidding me, Lucas?

LUCAS: Max. Max, honey, it was a joke. I didn’t —

WILL: I’m actually a public defender, so I don’t do cases like —

MIKE lays a hand on WILL’s arm, shaking his head. As WILL goes silent, MAX and LUCAS’s argument escalates.

MAX (a low hiss): You know that’s the one thing we don’t joke about.

LUCAS: Max, come on, it was just the heat of the moment.

MAX: Heat of the moment? All I said was I thought Jar-Jar Binks was funny! How is that —

LUCAS: You said he was the best part of the movie! That racist-ass, like, minstrel show…

MAX: Oh. My. God. You cannot be serious.

LUCAS: Oh, so you didn’t hear that accent? That Mee-sa, you-sa…

MAX stands up so forcefully that her barstool topples over. She takes a long, shaky breath.

MAX: Need some air.

LUCAS: Max!

As MAX turns, speed-walking offstage right, EL grabs LUCAS’s arm. She shakes her head at him.

EL: Count to ten.

LUCAS: Oh my God, El, I’m not an infant.

EL’s grip tightens.

EL: One. Two. Three.

LUCAS jerks his arm away from EL. He props his elbows on the bar, almost prayerful… and then he sighs.

LUCAS: Four. Five.

EL: That’s right.

LUCAS: Six. Seven. Eight.

DUSTIN: Fuckin’ alien frog…

LUCAS: Nine. Ten.

He exhales, then lowers his arms.

LUCAS: I’m gonna go talk to her.

MIKE: Do you want me to come with —

LUCAS: No, no. I’d better go alone.

LUCAS slumps off his stool and walks slowly, deliberately, offstage right. WILL watches him go, gripping his beer, apprehensive.

MIKE: Jar-Jar Binks: tearing families apart since May, uh, what day is —

DUSTIN: 19. It’s May 19. We’ve been counting down to this premiere for a year. Come on, Mike.

MIKE: Right, right. Jar-Jar Binks: homewrecking since May 19, 1999.

EL (giggling): Mike, stop.

WILL: Do you guys ever fight like that?

A pause. MIKE points to himself, and then to EL.

MIKE: Who, me and –

WILL: Yeah. Sorry, I know it’s personal, I just…

EL: We fight. Not too much. Hard not to, sometimes.

WILL: Really? But you seem so… so…

MIKE: Everybody fights. Hell, part of being in a couple is learning how to fight, because you’re gonna disagree about stuff, you’re gonna get mad, you’re gonna have off days, and you need to learn how to handle that without… without… hurting someone you love.

EL: And then, after the fight, once you work it all out…

She shoots MIKE a conspiratorial glance. He catches her eye, laughs, a little embarrassed. WILL looks on, confused.

WILL: What? What happens after the fight?

DUSTIN: SEX!

EL (laughing): Dustin!

DUSTIN: They make love! Sweet, passionate looooooooooove.

MIKE: Okay! And on that note, I think it’s time to get this one into a cab.

MIKE leaps off his stool and hauls a protesting DUSTIN up by his armpits. As they exit, offstage right: 

DUSTIN: But Mike, I only had, like… eight of those things!

MIKE: You had eight beers? Dustin! You know I’m gonna have to tell Shirley about —

DUSTIN: Please don’t tell her —

They slip out the door, their voices growing foggier and further away. EL and WILL are now alone at the bar, separated by an empty stool. EL gestures to it.

EL: Can I —

WILL: Yeah. Of course.

EL scoots onto the stool nearest WILL and clinks the neck of her beer against his.

EL: Are you okay?

WILL: Yeah. I’m just… sad, I guess.

EL: Sad? Why?

A pause.

WILL: I was hoping to feel… better than this. After Star Wars. I waited a long time.

EL: I know you did.

WILL: We all did.

Another pause.

WILL: We used to make up our own stories, you know, when we were kids, waiting for the next movie to come out. Dressed up and ran around between the trees, you know, behind the Wheelers’ old place, making lightsabers out of sticks. And everything, everything we came up with, twelve years old and high out of our minds on Halloween candy, everything, all of it, was better than…

EL: Jar-Jar Binks.

WILL (laughing): Yeah. Millions and millions of dollars on all those special effects and they still couldn’t beat a pack of kids running through the woods.

EL: Good memories. I’m glad you have those, still.

WILL: Right. Right. Because sometimes, I think about those days, and it’s just like… it’s all just murky, just green and black and…

EL: I know.

WILL: I know you do. I know.

WILL’s hand trembles on the bar; EL takes it, squeezes his fingers. WILL hesitates, considering her touch for a moment, then pulls his hand away.

WILL: It’s fine. Sorry. I’m being a baby.

EL: We were babies. We were little.

WILL: Yeah, but it’s been, what, fifteen years? I should be — I shouldn’t have to talk about it anymore.

EL: Maybe there’s a part of you that’s still little. Still needs to talk.

WILL: Yeah, but it’s not like I have anyone to talk to.

EL: What do you mean?

WILL: You know what I mean. You have Mike, Lucas and Max have… have each other, and even Dustin, even he has —

EL: You have us.

WILL: But I don’t… I don’t have somebody. I don’t have, like, “Will and…”

 He stops, abruptly, and covers his eyes with one hand. As he struggles to breathe steadily, MIKE re-enters, with LUCAS and MAX close behind. LUCAS’ arm loops overs MAX’s shoulder; MAX’s arm is slung low around LUCAS’ waist. The three of them see WILL and pause.

MIKE: …Will?

WILL (quietly): Fuck.

WILL sucks in a long, shaky breath and drops his hand, blinking away the beginnings of tears.

LUCAS: Dude, are you okay?

WILL: Yeah. Yeah. Just… sad. And nostalgic.

MAX: Sad-stalgic.

WILL (weakly laughing): Yeah. I want my money back.

MAX and LUCAS, reassured that all is well, take their places at the bar once more. MIKE exchanges a dubious glance with EL before dropping onto the free stool left of WILL. 

LUCAS: Don’t we all, buddy.

LUCAS takes out his wallet and lays a couple of bills on the counter. 

LUCAS: We actually just came in to say goodbye. Gotta get home and pay the sitter.

MAX: Yeah, this has been an expensive-ass night out. George Lucas owes us big-time.

LUCAS: Also wanted to let you guys know that we’re fine and we will not be getting a divorce over Jar-Jar Binks.

A round of conciliatory laughter at this. MAX gives LUCAS a peck on the cheek before they turn their attention back to their friends.

LUCAS: Still up for breakfast tomorrow morning, though? Before you drive back to Chicago?

WILL realizes a beat too late that LUCAS is talking to him.

WILL: Oh. Yes. Yeah. Definitely. Wouldn’t miss it.

MAX, getting up, squeezes EL’s arm.

MAX: Waffles!

EL: Yes! Mike, Mike, remember, you need to go down to the freezer in the basement tonight and get out…

MIKE: The good maple syrup, the stuff from Quebec, because the diner…

EL (glowering): Aunt Jemima.

MIKE, delighted, profoundly in love, kisses his wife on her forehead. 

MIKE: Nothing but the best.

WILL looks away, lower lip trembling.

LUCAS: Looking forward to it! See you guys!

Waves and goodbyes are exchanged. LUCAS and MAX exit, in good spirits, leaving the remaining three, WILL, EL, and MIKE in silence. After a moment, EL hops down from her seat and strides offstage left, purposeful.

MIKE: Sweetheart?

EL: Peeing.

MIKE: Oh. Got it.

She departs, and MIKE turns to WILL, nodding meaningfully.

MIKE: So there’s something you wanted to talk about?

WILL: What? No.

MIKE: El clearly thinks you have something to tell me, or she wouldn’t have chosen this moment to vacate the premises and “pee.”

WILL: Really? You’re sure she’s not just… peeing?

MIKE: No. No. We know each other better than that.

WILL (laughing): You’re lucky.

MIKE: Lucky?

WILL: That you know your… person so well. And she knows you. So well.

MIKE: Right. Yeah. I am lucky.

WILL: I don’t think that’s ever gonna happen for me.

MIKE: Aww, Will. Of course it’s gonna happen. (A pause.) Might take a while, though. You know that, right? Most people don’t meet the love of their life in middle school. Me and El, we’re special cases. You just have to wait and —

WILL: I don’t think waiting… Waiting isn’t… I’ve just always known, I think? That it’s not in the plan for me? And it doesn’t mean I can’t… be happy, have a good job, good life. I don’t need someone to…

MIKE: But do you want someone to?

WILL: I don’t —

MIKE: You do. You do want someone to.

WILL: Can’t get everything you want.

MIKE: You deserve everything you want.

A pause. WILL, silent, fingers tracing carvings on the surface of the bar.

WILL: I dreamed about you.

MIKE: …Sorry?

WILL: Like, every night. For… for months. I don’t know when it started. After I… after I came back, for sure. So, like, thirteen. Fourteen. We would be in the woods, playing in the woods, and I was Han Solo…

MIKE: What? was Han Solo. I was always Han Solo.

WILL breathes in deep, slouching over the bar, his cheek against the neck of his beer. He steels himself to go forward, too far gone to back out now. 

WILL: In my dreams, I mean. In my dreams, I was Han Solo, and you were… you were Leia, and you… you would… you said, “I love you” to me. And I was… I was in the rock. Every time. I couldn’t move, or breathe, talk…

MIKE: Will…

WILL straightens up, lets out a shaky laugh. 

WILL: And I still can’t talk. Not just… not just talk to you. Can’t talk to anyone. And I’m awake. I’m an adult. And I still can’t… I can’t tell you…

MIKE: Will. Will, you don’t… you don’t have to.

WILL: But I need to…

MIKE: Will. I know.

WILL lifts his head, turns to MIKE, eyes wide.

WILL: I’m sorry.

MIKE: For what?

WILL: I don’t know. Everything.

MIKE: You don’t have to be sorry. You don’t. And you don’t have to live like…

He gestures up and down; the entirety of WILL.

WILL: Live like what?

MIKE: Like… this. Alone. Sad. There are other people who… lots of other people who are like… like you.

WILL: I am not like them, Mike. I don’t… I don’t march in parades. I don’t sneak out at night, go to the parks, look for… for…

MIKE: Oh my God, no. Of course not. That’s not what I’m saying.

WILL: Then what are you saying?

MIKE: I’m saying there are nice men who practice law and wear sweater vests and, like, make matzo ball soup for seder at their mom’s and adopt tragic three-legged cats…

WILL: Do not bring Shelley into this.

MIKE: And you need to find one of those nice men and go to town.

WILL: Mike!

MIKE: Go! To! Town!

WILL (laughing): Oh my God, stop.

The two of them dissolve into laughter just as Eleven emerges stage left, shaking her hands to dry them.

EL (loudly): I’m done peeing!

MIKE (even louder): Yes! That’s! My! Girl!

MIKE careens off of his barstool and throws his arms around EL, sweeping her back and forth in a giddy hug. WILL watches them over his shoulder, his expression now loose, relaxed; happy, even.

MIKE: Will! You ready to roll?

WILL: Yeah. Yeah! Let’s go.

WILL hops down from his barstool. The three of them make their way offstage right. WILL exits first, pushing open the door; MIKE hangs back for a moment, arms around EL, still.

MIKE: Hey, El, if I were — if I were in Star Wars…

EL: You are very drunk.

MIKE: Who would I be? Han, right? Han Solo?

EL laughs out loud, plants a kiss on his chin.

EL: Never.

MIKE: Never?

EL: Never, ever, ever. That’s me.

MIKE: You’re Han Solo?

EL: Damn right, princess.

MIKE beams. Kisses her. They pull apart, and remain there for a long moment, holding each other in the dim light of the bar, until the lightbulb above flickers out.

7 thoughts on “The Stranger Things Kids Turn 30 and Go See “The Phantom Menace” on Opening Night: A One-Act Play

  1. fanaticdomainexpert says:

    Hey uhhhhh what the fuck how dare you???? This is so good???? I’m mad that this isn’t a real play how do I fund this

    Like

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