The Scientific Study of Human Comprehension

a short play

by Jeffrey Wolf

Photo by biology corner via Flickr. Creative Commons: Some rights reserved.
Photo by biologycorner via Flickr. Creative Commons: Some rights reserved.

Cast 

Samantha

Bryan

Francesca

 

Setting: 

A middle school science classroom.

 

(At rise, FRANCESCA, a middle school science teacher, sits behind her desk at the front of her classroom. A microscope sits on her desk and a classroom skeleton is nearby. She is grading papers. SAMANTHA, an art gallery manager, enters with her date, BRYAN. SAMANTHA rushes to the skeleton and examines it closely. FRANCESCA is surprised.)

SAMANTHA: 

Now this is amazing! Don’t you think so, Bryan?

BRYAN: 

(Unenergetically:) 

Yes. Definitely.

SAMANTHA: 

It just feels so – raw and harsh. A true picture of what humanity really is when you strip it all away.

FRANCESCA: 

Um – excuse me –

SAMANTHA: 

Just a tick. Bryan – can you see the artist card? I need the name of this genius.

BRYAN: 

No – I don’t see one.

SAMANTHA: 

Maybe it’s an entire installation. Is it really the whole room?

BRYAN: 

None of the other students –

SAMANTHA: 

(To Francesca:) 

Are you a performance artist? Is this your piece?

FRANCESCA: 

Who? Me?

SAMANTHA: 

I’m Samantha, by the by, with The Gallery on First and Windsor. You know the one.

BRYAN: 

I’m Bryan. With a y.

SAMANTHA: 

You’ll have to forgive him. He didn’t know we were coming here.

BRYAN: 

I just thought it was drinks and maybe –

SAMANTHA: 

I sprang this on him. Who knew when he swiped right it would end up here?

FRANCESCA: 

And why are you here?

SAMANTHA: 

For people like you, of course. I like to visit these student exhibitions to scope out young and burgeoning talent. You never know where you’ll find the next Picasso.

FRANCESCA: 

I’m very confused.

SAMANTHA: 

Is confusion part of the piece? The juxtaposition of not knowing with the world of science? And you’re even inside a school! That’s so meta. I love meta. Not enough people do meta, don’t you think?

FRANCESCA: 

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

SAMANTHA: 

Is the microscope a call to examine those two worlds more closely? Is that why it’s on the desk?

FRANCESCA: 

It’s there because it’s broken.

SAMANTHA: 

How wonderful! Simply brilliant. Tell me the name of the artist! Now! I must know.

FRANCESCA: 

I’m not sure what you mean. My name’s Francesca and this is my classroom. Are you a parent?

SAMANTHA: 

You’re dedication to your role is very admirable.

FRANCESCA: 

You know where you are right?

SAMANTHA: 

The art exposition. I got an invitation.

FRANCESCA: 

Are you a parent?

SAMANTHA: 

Of course not. Children can be such a nuisance.

BRYAN: 

Even if they can be the next Picasso?

SAMANTHA: 

Touché, Bryan, touché.

FRANCESCA: 

This is a middle school.

SAMANTHA: 

That’s what I’m saying – genius starts young.

FRANCESCA: 

The art show is just Mrs. Pinsky’s class –

SAMANTHA: 

Did she mentor you, as well?

FRANCESCA: 

Mentor? I’m not a –

SAMANTHA: 

Because while the stuff in the hallway is dreck, this installation is best of show. Especially because of the skeleton. Such an effect.

FRANCESCA: 

What are you –

BRYAN: 

Samantha, I don’t think she’s part of the art show.

SAMANTHA: 

Nonsense. How much is this piece listed for?

FRANCESCA: 

Piece? This is my classroom.

SAMANTHA: 

Great title. The Classroom. I can see the marquee now. Some artists really overdo the titles. I was afraid it would be something like: The Scientific Study of Human Comprehension. Actually, that’s not bad.

BRYAN: 

Samantha – I really don’t think –

(SAMANTHA’s phone rings.)

SAMANTHA: 

Oh, excuse me. I have to take this. (Answering the phone:) This is Samantha, manager of The Gallery, the place for art. How can I help you? Oh! Hi! Yes.

FRANCESCA: 

Seriously, do I have to call the police?

BRYAN: 

No, please don’t. She just dragged me here. This is the weirdest date ever.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

No, I don’t think that works.

FRANCESCA: 

A date? Here?

BRYAN: 

She insisted.

FRANCESCA: 

I’m so sorry.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

You’re kidding! That’s hysterical.

BRYAN: 

I just wanted to do Netflix and –

FRANCESCA: 

Oh, I wish I had Netflix.

BRYAN: 

Yeah, me too.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

That sounds disgusting.

BRYAN: 

So, what do you teach?

FRANCESCA: 

Sixth grade science.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

No, nothing with a face.

FRANCESCA: 

What do you do?

BRYAN: 

I write ad copy for real estate agencies.

FRANCESCA: 

Thrilling.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

You haven’t lived unless you’ve had edamame dipped in liquefied kale.

BRYAN: 

It gives me time to work on my poetry.

FRANCESCA: 

Oh, I love poetry! William Carlos Williams. Ezra Pound.

BRYAN: 

A scientist who’s into poetry?

FRANCESCA: 

Stranger things –

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

No, Pookie won’t drink tap water.

BRYAN: 

Don’t I know it.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

He’s a very cultured feline.

FRANCESCA: 

I don’t mean to be rude, but you seem like a very odd couple.

BRYAN: 

We’re not a couple.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

Just out with someone I met today. First dates can be so electrifying.

FRANCESCA: 

You went to a middle school art show on a first date?

BRYAN: 

Believe it or not, it’s not my worst.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

He’s great. You know I love artists.

FRANCESCA: 

Ouch.

BRYAN: 

You have no idea.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

Good Lord, not a painter.

FRANCESCA: 

I don’t date much.

BRYAN: 

That’s a shame.

FRANCESCA: 

As you can tell since I’m here grading –

BRYAN: 

On a Friday night.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

All they want to do are nudes and once you’ve done that a dozen times –

BRYAN: 

Maybe you just haven’t met the right person.

FRANCESCA: 

Maybe.

SAMANTHA: 

(To Bryan and Francesca:) 

I’m so sorry, I’ll be just a bit longer. (Into the phone:) Just being polite.

FRANCESCA: 

How did you match with her anyway?

BRYAN: 

I thought an art gallery manager and a poet –

SAMANTHA: 

Anyway, I’m not opposed to nudity, it’s just such a chore to wax.

FRANCESCA: 

Guess you needed to look a little deeper.

BRYAN: 

Like how she looks into your art installation?

FRANCESCA: 

She missed the chewing gum under the chairs.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

I just do a shot or two before starting.

BRYAN: 

You really have to be grading so late?

FRANCESCA: 

It gives me something to do. At least an excuse to give my mother.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

Oh, do you really?

BRYAN: 

You like teaching?

FRANCESCA: 

Most days. I like the kids.

BRYAN: 

Who doesn’t?

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

Oh, I hate that.

FRANCESCA: 

You like her?

BRYAN: 

What do you think?

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

That’s obvious, isn’t it?

FRANCESCA: 

Then why are you still –

BRYAN: 

My mom raised me to be polite. I’m not just going to ditch her.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

But eating meat out of a teddy bear is such a tired motif.

FRANCESCA: 

Very admirable.

BRYAN: 

Karma, right? Good things come around.

FRANCESCA: 

At least you can hope.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

Really? No! Oh dear!

FRANCESCA: 

Your mom would be proud.

BRYAN: 

Don’t tell her that, I’ll never hear the end of it.

SAMANTHA: 

(Into the phone:) 

That’s – I’ll – no – it can’t stay that way. I’ll have to – yes. OK. See you soon. (She hangs up.) Bryan, I’m terribly sorry, but I have to go. The Gallery needs me.

BRYAN: 

Oh. Sad.

SAMANTHA: 

Yes, listen – Francesca, was it? I definitely want to talk more about this piece. Here’s my card. We have to find a way to make it travel.

FRANCESCA: 

My classroom?

SAMANTHA: 

It has really great potential. Possibly some real cash. Whatever you’re listing it for, think upwards. I’ll be in touch with your agent?

FRANCESCA: 

I don’t –

SAMANTHA: 

Just have him call me. All the agents know who I am. Bryan, it’s been fun. Thank you so much.

BRYAN: 

Do you want me to drive?

SAMANTHA: 

No, no, no. I’ll just Uber it. Shall I ring you later? Maybe you can tell me more of the Netflix poem you’re working on.

BRYAN: 

I – guess – sure.

SAMANTHA: 

Ta-ta then. Lovely time all. Cheers. (Stops at skeleton.) Just brilliant.

(SAMANTHA exits. BRYAN takes out his phone.)

FRANCESCA: 

Do you have to go too? I mean –

BRYAN: 

No. Just making sure my phone’s on silent.

FRANCESCA: 

Oh.

BRYAN: 

There are some calls you just want to make sure go to voicemail.

FRANCESCA: 

What are you going to do now?

BRYAN: 

I’m not sure. I suddenly have a free evening. What about you? More grading?

FRANCESCA: 

Actually, I think I’m done.

BRYAN: 

Maybe you can –

FRANCESCA: 

Show you the gum under the chairs? You need a deeper look at my art installation?

BRYAN: 

I think we can do something more fun.

FRANCESCA: 

An art gallery?

BRYAN: 

Please, no. How about a drink?

FRANCESCA: 

That sounds nice. Then maybe some Netflix.

BRYAN: 

Really, I don’t have –

FRANCESCA: 

I know. Neither do I.

(Lights fade to black.)

 

 

Jeffrey Wolf (Playwright): In addition to authoring the short play, The Scientific Study of Human Comprehension; he recently received a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Curse by One Night Stand Theatre at The Vintage Theatre in March 2016. Shakespeare’s Curse also enjoyed a workshop with playwright Matthew Lopez at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Colorado New Play Summit in February 2015. Jeffrey is also the writer of the children’s play, The Worst Play in the History of Ever, being produced by the Center for the Arts in Homer, New York, part of the Chameleon Theatre Circle’s 14th Annual New Play Festival in Minnesota in 2013 and the 2013 Ronald M. Ruble New Play Festival at Caryl Crane Youth Theatre in Ohio; Memories of Lost Time, (winner of 2012 Firehouse Theatre Project’s annual new play festival and part of The Edge Theatre’s “On Your Feet” series); the award-winning Slipping into Anarchy (performed in Colorado, New York, England, Los Angeles, Ohio, Rhode Island, and chosen for production in Romania); Starters (Denver Repertory Theatre Company 2005 production); and No Ideas Today (2012 North Park Playwright Festival in San Diego). (jeffreywolfplays.com)

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