A seedy hotel lobby. Times Square, 1928. Middle of the night. 2am. Empty. A desk. A clock. A lamp. A rug and chair. And only the sounds of the night to get me through a long and dreary existence.
My name’s Charlie.
Clocks. Trash cans. Firemen. Ace of spades and royal flushes. Erie. Arnold Rothstein. Gambling. Broadway dames and rats and chiselers.
I’ve been a Night Clerk in New York all my life, almost. Gotta get out of this dump. Gotta make it through the night. Gotta be forced to listen to Erie’s story, and try to live through it all.
Why am I here? Why do I have to listen to every guest’s smutty jokes, and be duty-bound to laugh at them, no matter how often I’ve heard them? Why do I gotta be called a sucker. Yeah, right, there’s one born every minute. But I know how to hear without bothering to listen. I’ve perfected the technique of not listening to the guest’s Story of His Life.
My feet hurt all the time. Those shoes I saw in the window of that store on 5th Ave. – the ones with the better arch support – they were classy. But I couldn’t afford them. Not now anyway. $8. Maybe when I get to heaven. So I stand here, fixing my mind on my aching feet, telling my mind to ignore the pain. Lean on the desk when I can. Don’t want to be seen by the manager or the customer as a dope.
This Erie character is different, though. He thinks I looked like the last Clerk before me. He keeps talking about broads and bangtails and gambling. What does he want from me? He’s missing something – maybe he had confidence, or something. Maybe he thinks I’ll have a sympathetic ear. Like I said, I’ll listen, but my mind is somewhere else. Not on him. Only the night, because I’ve got to make it through this night alive.
What’s gonna save me? What will give me hope? Maybe he can.
“Hughie” by Eugene O’Neill performs at the Waterfront Playhouse & Conservatory with a free preview on 9/23 at 7:30p; and 9/25 – 27 at 7:30p. Directed by Rose Haag and featuring Tom Cokenias and Scott Ragle. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased at the door or online: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/840422