Building Madness Sample

ACT I

Scene 1

AT RISE:  A Monday morning.  Lights come up on the offices of TF Architects, which is a mess.  Ever surface is covered in unfiled paperwork. TRIXIE FULLER sits at her desk, happily typing badly.  As she picks out the keys, PAUL FIELDING enters the room. He throws his hat and it lands on the hat rack.

PAUL:  Morning, Trixie!

TRIXIE:  And a happy Monday morning to you, Mr. Fielding!

PAUL:  How’s the filing?  Keeping busy?

TRIXIE:  As always!

(Trixie pulls the paper out of her typewriter, wads it up, and throws it into the trashcan.)

PAUL:  You throw away the work of twelve people, Trixie.  I don’t know what we would do without you.

TRIXIE:  Flatterer.

PAUL:  Is Max in yet?

TRIXIE:  No.  (MAX MARSHALL storms into the office.)  Yes.  (He walks directly past them without pausing to say hello, and goes into his office.)  No. (Max comes out with a newspaper in his hand, opens his mouth like he wants to say something.)  Yes.  (He stops himself. Goes back into his office.)  No.  (Max  comes back out, frustrated.)  Maybe?

MAX:  How can you just stand there?

PAUL:  Practice.  It takes some doing, but eventually most people catch on.

MAX:  That’s not what I—!

TRIXIE:  You seem like someone who would have been advanced for his age.

PAUL:  That’s what my mother always said.

MAX:  Did you see this?  (Max shakes the newspaper.)

PAUL:  Before or after you began shaking it at us?

(Max brings it over to Trixie’s desk and spreads it out.)

MAX:  THERE!  Right there!

TRIXIE:  Two for one girdles at Woolworths?

PAUL:  I’ve always thought you cut a rather dashing figure myself.

MAX:  Would you two stop! THERE! Palladino Architects just received the commission for the new city hall.  Why didn’t we even hear about this project?!

TRIXIE:  We did.

MAX:  What?

(Trixie jogs over to the filing cabinet and digs around for the letter.)

TRIXIE:  Sure!  We got a letter about it.  I filed it for you.

MAX:  You what?!

TRIXIE:  You kept telling me I wasn’t keeping up with the filing so I decided to surprise you. SURPRISE! (She holds up the letter triumphantly.  Max is defeated.)

MAX:  TRIXIE!

PAUL:  She was following orders.

MAX:  Do you know how big a commission this would have been?

PAUL:  Now, now.  No use crying over spilled cement.

MAX:  How are we going to keep our doors open?

PAUL:  We’ll figure something out.

MAX:  We’re broke, Paul.

PAUL:  We’re always broke, Max.

MAX:  Well, this time is different.

PAUL:  It is always darkest before the dawn.

MAX:  Or after sunset when we haven’t paid the electric bill.

PAUL:  Did you pay this month’s electric bill?

TRIXIE:  I decided to buy coffee instead.

PAUL:  Excellent choice.

MAX:  How can you two not comprehend the gravity of what I’m saying? Trixie! TRIXIE I can understand. But you, Paul. YOU! We’ve known each other since university! We’re on the brink of ruin and you two are making jokes!

PAUL:  I don’t think we were joking about the coffee.

TRIXIE:  I wasn’t.

MAX:  That is it! That is IT! If you want a cup of free coffee, you are going to put a nickel in this jar! (He empties a jar full of pencils.)

TRIXIE:  A nickel in the jar?

MAX:  Yes!  A nickel in the jar!  Like so!

(He takes a nickel from his pocket and triumphantly puts it in.)

TRIXIE:  Like so?

MAX:  Like so.

TRIXIE:  And then you pour yourself a cup of coffee?

(She pours herself a cup of coffee.)

MAX:  Yes!  You pour yourself a cup of coffee.

TRIXIE:  Like so?

MAX:  Yes, like so.

(She hands the cup of coffee to Paul.)

TRIXIE:  Well, that seems easy enough.  But what if I only had a quarter?

MAX:  It is the same principal!  You put a quarter in the kitty… like so… (He takes a quarter from his pocket and demonstrates)

TRIXIE:  Like so!  Then you pour yourself a cup of coffee!  Like so.  Then take all the change.  Like so!

(In one motion, she pours another cup of coffee, dumps all the money in the coffee kitty into her open purse sitting on her desk, then merrily clinks glasses with Paul before she sits down to drink.)

MAX:  I—!  We owe the bank seven thousand dollars by the end of the week or it’s over!

PAUL:  Max, we’re not doing this.  I warned you.

MAX:  Don’t!

PAUL:  You decided to take that dame down to Rio rather than bid for the Henderson job.

MAX:  Don’t throw that back at me.

PAUL:  I’m not fixing this for you. AGAIN. You said that YOU, and I quote, had it all under control and that I, and I quote, worried too much.

MAX:  Well, how was I supposed to know it’d be the only opportunity since October?!

PAUL:  That’s your job!  You’re the president!

MAX:  You’re my partner!

PAUL:  I’m just supposed to design the buildings!

MAX:  I thought she loved me, Paul. I thought… but she didn’t…and now… OH Paul… If I have to call my father and tell him I ruined his company…

PAUL:  We’ll figure something out. Sure pickings are slim since your pop retired. We’re still new. Business will build.

TRIXIE:  It’s like your father always said, “You’ve always been a little slow.”

MAX:  When we took over this firm, Paul, I swore… I swore I would show him I could be a success…

TRIXIE:  Mr. Marshall did run an excellent firm.

MAX:  I know.

TRIXIE:  We were busy all the time with him at the helm.

MAX:  I Know.

TRIXIE:  It’s funny how people don’t even seem to know we exist since you took over.

MAX:  I KNOW!

PAUL:  Max, take a deep breath.

MAX:  I’m drowning.

PAUL:  We’re not underwater yet.

MAX:  The walls are closing in!

PAUL:  Max, we’re architects.  If the walls close in, it’s going to be very bad for business.

MAX:  I’M A FAILURE! PAUL! I can’t let it end like this! We have GOT to land something! We’ll just… we’ll economize.  No more coffee! No more buying supplies! We’ll stop paying our bills.

TRIXIE:  We already did.

MAX:  What?  (Trixie drops a tall stack of bills in front of Max.)  Why didn’t you give these to me earlier?

TRIXIE:  I didn’t want to ruin your day.

(Max walks over to the window and looks down.)

MAX:  How high up are we?

PAUL:  3rd floor. You’d just break your legs. Trixie? Right. Where are those job requests you so efficiently put away for us?

TRIXIE:  Over there!  (She points at the filing cabinets.  Paul jogs over.)  I filed them under “G”.

PAUL:  “G”?

TRIXIE:  “Give these to Max”.

PAUL:  Makes perfect sense.

MAX:  I can’t breathe.

PAUL:  Here they are!  A whole pile of design requests.

TRIXIE:  And you said I wasn’t organized.

MAX:  We wouldn’t happen to have any rat poison lying about, would we?

TRIXIE:  Sure!  Next to the soap powder.

(Max gets up and goes into the other room.)

PAUL:  Well, a couple of these are out of date.  (Paul dumps a huge pile in the wastebasket.) MAX!  I think we might have found something!

(Max comes in with a coffee cup in one hand and the box of rat poison in the other.)

MAX:  What?

PAUL:  Put that down.  You’re not killing yourself today.

MAX:  I wasn’t planning on it.

TRIXIE:  You found my cup!

PAUL:  And you’re not killing Trixie, either.  Come on, Max!  I found the solution to our problems. Look! A private retirement home is being built for the hard working veterans of this proud city’s police force!

MAX:  A retirement home?

PAUL:  Right there in black and white for our boys in blue.

MAX:  I had no idea!

TRIXIE:  Well, you would if you looked at the mail I file for you.

MAX:  Oh, Trixie!  I could kiss you!

TRIXIE:  Okay!

MAX:  Right here! We have the request right here! It has our name all over it! This job was meant for us!  Paul, you work up the initial design and I’ll let them know we’re definitely in.

PAUL:  Already on it!

(Paul leaps over to the drafting table and gets a blank piece of paper.)

MAX:  We’ll have to keep costs low, but I’m sure with some smart contracting… If only we knew someone on the building commission…

TRIXIE:  You mean, like, someone who is intimately involved with this project?

MAX:  Yes.

TRIXIE:  Like someone with deep pockets who might be able to influence the decision making process?

MAX:  Yes!

TRIXIE:  Like someone who might be a close personal friend to someone who works right here at TF Architects?

MAX:  YES!  Do you know someone?

TRIXIE:  No.

MAX:  Right.

TRIXIE:  But maybe someone does at the Ladies’ Auxiliary Retirement Home Afternoon Fundraiser Tea.

(Trixie holds up an invitation. Max rips it out of her hand, devouring the words. He looks at Trixie in delight.)

MAX:  GWEN!

TRIXIE:  (pointing to herself)  Trixie.

MAX:  No, GWEN!

TRIXIE:  I’m pretty sure it’s Trixie, but I’ve been wrong before.

MAX:  Not you.  Gwen Gladwell!

PAUL:  Who’s Gwen Gladwell?

MAX:  Old friend… of a friend. But now she is the chair of this fundraiser. It is all coming together! If somehow I can convince her I’m the man for her job, this might just be the connection we need. What a perfect opportunity to rekindle our acquaintance!

PAUL:  Maaax…Is your pitch going to be focused on the “job” or the “rekindle” integer of this equation?

MAX:  Whatever it takes to keep this company afloat.

PAUL:  Max…?

MAX:  We were just friends.

PAUL:  MAX….

MAX:  Okay, a little more.

PAUL:  The last time you let love guide TF Architecture, you made the Titanic look like a leaky rowboat.

MAX:  This time will be different…

PAUL:  It is ALWAYS “different”.

MAX:  Gwen is different.

PAUL:  You say that every time.

MAX:  I’m just going to remind her we were once… friends… and see if we can’t leverage that to help us get the job.

PAUL:  Maaaax…

MAX:  She meant nothing to me, Paul, and visa versa. We just had some good times. It is very old water under a very old bridge.

PAUL:  Max!

MAX:  She’ll be delighted. Trust me! It is all under control. Things are looking brighter already!

(The electricity goes out.)

TRIXIE:  Anybody want coffee?

(END OF SCENE)

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