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Happy Birthday George!
Happy Birthday, George!
(A busy, ordinary office breakroom. It’s 8:45 am- people are arriving at the office for work and getting coffee in the breakroom. There is a store-bought birthday cake, as well as a half-hung up banner with the words HAPPY BIRTHDAY written on it. MICHAEL and SARA are quickly trying to hang up the banner fully.)
Enter GEORGE, he seems timid and stressed
MICHAEL, SARA (simultaneously): Happy Birthday, George!
GEORGE jumps a little as they say this and covers his face.
GEORGE (with a half-hearted smile): Thank you guys.
SARA: Don’t forget that the party starts at 8 tonight, so be there as soon as you can. It is your party after all.
MICHAEL: Hope you have an awesome birthday. The big 35 is an exciting one!
Enter MATT, rushing in
MATT: Did I miss it? Where is everyone?
SARA (sarcastically): Matt actually came to work today? It must be someone’s birthday.
GEORGE: Um….I don’t think I want a party this year.
SARA: You have one every year, George. Why is it that you don’t want a party this year?
MICHAEL (panicked): We’ll have to cancel everything. It’s been so long since I’ve been to a party. What am I going to do?
Exit MICHAEL, on the verge of tears
GEORGE: Every year, my birthday is always so terrible. Something always goes awry. I just can’t take it anymore.
SARA: Why is your birthday always like that?
GEORGE: I don’t know. It started when-
MICHAEL cries dramatically offstage
SARA: I’d better go help Michael before the boss starts to complain.
SARA exits, rushing offstage
MATT: What were you saying, George?
MATT: Before Michael started bawling his eyes out, you began to say why your birthdays are so bad.
GEORGE (muttering): I don’t remember.
MATT: George, I’ve known you since we were three. You always mutter when you’re trying to hide something.
GEORGE (offended and almost yelling): I’m not hiding something. Are you hiding something, Matt?
MATT: Why don’t you want a party this year?
GEORGE: I don’t want anything bad to happen.
MATT: Why do you think something bad is going to happen?
GEORGE (sputtering): Because something has every single year! Ever since…..since….I can remember.
MATT: What if I said that I could figure it out?
GEORGE (putting his head in his hands): How?
Lights flash. There is a blackout, then suddenly the lights are steady again. MATT has transformed into a figure in a white robe with birthday candles on it: The Ghost of Birthdays.
GEORGE: Ahhhh!!! Who are you? What are you? Where is Matt?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: George, it’s still me. I’m Matt.
GEORGE: What? How? I don’t believe you!
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: I can prove it.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Test me.
GEORGE: What kind of cake did I have on my 5th birthday?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: You didn’t have a cake. You had peach pie. Susie Goldstein refused to have some because she said you shouldn’t have pie on your birthday.
GEORGE: That’s right…
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: I told you. Anything else?
GEORGE: No, no. I believe you now. Have you always been….like this?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Well, ever since birthdays were celebrated. I’m really old.
GEORGE: And you just decided to pose as my friend for 32 years?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: You were always interesting to me, George. I felt like I needed to be with you on this day for some reason.
GEORGE: Is this why you work from home except when it’s someone’s birthday in the office?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Yes. I like to visit everyone I can on their birthday. Except for today. I always stay here with you.
GEORGE: I just thought that was because you had a guilty pleasure for store-bought birthday cake.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Can we focus on the task at hand please? We need to find out why every birthday you have is terrible.
GEORGE: I guess you’re right. So how are we going to do this?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Well, which birthday should we go to?
GEORGE: What do you mean?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: We need to look back on your past birthdays to find out what happened to make them so terrible.
GEORGE (very sure of himself): Let’s start at my 8th birthday.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS (judgemental): Really? Out of all the birthdays you could have chosen you want to go with that one?
GEORGE: I was picking randomly.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS (sighs): Fine.
They do an over-the-top hand movement as the lights flash. The setting changes to the backyard of George’s childhood home. There is the back door to the house, a tree with a tire swing, and a picnic table. YOUNG GEORGE sits at the table with a party hat on. He is alone. GEORGE’S FATHER enters and puts his hand on his son’s back.
GEORGE’S FATHER: It’s alright, champ. I’m sure everyone is just a little late.
YOUNG GEORGE (disgruntled): It’s been more than an hour. I doubt anyone will show up now. He starts to cry
GEORGE’S FATHER and YOUNG GEORGE freeze.
GEORGE: Ah yes. My 8th birthday was the one where no one showed up. Hey, why weren’t you there?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Well...I..um…..
GEORGE (suspiciously): I thought you said you were always there for me on my birthday.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: I had a playdate with Susie Goldstein that day. She was also supposed to be at your party.
GEORGE: Our whole class was supposed to be at my party!
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Ok, ok. Don’t get so touchy. Is this where it started? No one showed up to your birthday party, and it kicked off this string of rotten birthdays for you?
GEORGE: No. Remember the year before that? The throwing up?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS (shutters): Yeah, that was a dark day.
GEORGE: Could we see something that happened after it? Just for reference?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Fine. Where should we go?
GEORGE: My 16th birthday.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: And why are we jumping 8 years in the future?
GEORGE: Maybe there’s a clue somewhere. I don’t know.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Alright, sweet 16 here we come!
They do the same dramatic hand movement as before. The lights flash to change the setting again. Suddenly GEORGE and THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS are in a living room. There is music coming from the basement door. TEENAGE GEORGE is sitting on the sofa with SUSIE GOLDSTEIN. His head is in his hands.
GEORGE: That’s right! This is the birthday where Susie Goldstein pulled me upstairs to talk.
SUSIE kisses TEENAGE GEORGE on the cheek.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Were you dating Susie Goldstein? You never told me about that. They begin to look around the room.
GEORGE: We were secretly dating. Until this day.
SUSIE: Listen, George. You’re a very nice guy, but I can’t go out with you anymore.
She stands up to leave.
TEENAGE GEORGE: Susie, come on. You won’t even tell me why?
SUSIE (smiling sympathetically): Happy Birthday, George. She exits
TEENAGE GEORGE sits silently, trying to hold his sadness in until he can’t anymore. GEORGE stands over him and tries to put his hand on his shoulder but can’t. TEENAGE GEORGE stands and exits through the basement door.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: Hey, why do all these pictures have a big piece missing? It looks like a person was cut out of it.
GEORGE (full of energy): That’s it! I know where it all started! Go to my 6th birthday party!
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS (matching his energy): Really? Alright!
They do the dramatic hand movement as the lights flash. They are back in the backyard of George’s childhood home, but you can see the interior of the house too. GEORGE’S FATHER and GEORGE’S MOTHER are inside the house having an argument. GEORGE’S MOTHER holds a suitcase. YOUNG GEORGE excitedly sits at the picnic table outside opening presents while his party guests sit around him.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: This seems like a good birthday. Why was this the reason?
GEORGE walks toward the interior of the house as if in a trance. THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS walks behind him, confused.
GEORGE’S FATHER: Irene, you can’t do this to me!
GEORGE’S MOTHER: I have to leave, Fred. I can’t stay here.
GEORGE’S FATHER: It’s George’s birthday. You can’t leave our son on his birthday!
GEORGE’S MOTHER (sighs sadly and looks toward YOUNGER GEORGE): Tell George happy birthday for me. She exits
GEORGE stands there, stunned. GEORGE’S FATHER walks to YOUNG GEORGE and whispers something to him. YOUNG GEORGE looks up at him sadly and promptly hangs his head down.
GEORGE: My father always told me that Mom went to a psychiatric hospital, and she hadn’t gotten out yet.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: That’s what you told me. George, I had no idea. I should have known.
GEORGE: It’s ok. I didn’t know either.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: I’m supposed to know everything that happens at someone’s birthday. That’s my job! Why didn’t I know this?
GEORGE: Don’t beat yourself up over this.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: You must feel-
GEORGE: I feel how I feel every single year on this day! I’m just surprised that she did this. My father was trying to protect me, but I think part of me knew what had really happened. I had just been suppressing it all of these years. I thought my mother was a good person. My father always said she was a restless spirit. As a kid, I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know that meant she would leave us. I didn’t know she would leave me on my birthday. Why did she leave me on my birthday? Why couldn’t she tell me happy birthday herself?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: George, you couldn’t have known. She just needed to be anywhere but there.
GEORGE: And that makes it ok?
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: No, but she did what she needed to do for her. She needed to get out of there. We don’t know why and maybe we never will, but this is what happened.
GEORGE: This is why my birthdays are always so terrible. I was always missing my mom. She was the person who always made my birthdays fun before she left. Maybe if she had been around I wouldn’t always have had a horrible birthday.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: But she’s not here anymore, George. She’s probably never coming back. You have to be the person that makes your birthday fun. You can’t count on someone to always be there to make it fun. Make it fun for yourself.
GEORGE: You’re right. Take us back to the present.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS does the hand movement and the lights flash as they are taken back to the office in the present.
GEORGE: I’m going to get Sara and Michael and tell them not to cancel the party. You...uh……
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS: You want me to change back into Matt?
GEORGE: That would be good. It would keep people from freaking out.
THE GHOST OF BIRTHDAYS (chuckles): That’s very true.
Both exit as there is a blackout. The lights come back up on a party in George’s apartment. GEORGE is sitting down at a dining table with a party hat on. His co-workers and friends are standing around him when SARA brings in the cake. Everyone begins to sing happy birthday and then GEORGE blows out his candles when the song is done.
SARA, MICHAEL, MATT (simultaneously): Happy Birthday, George!
MICHAEL: Hope you had a great birthday today.
GEORGE (looks at Matt): Well….it was certainly an eventful day.
Suddenly, there is a knock on the door. GEORGE gets up to get it. As soon as he opens the door, he stands frozen.
END OF PLAY