Don't Smoke in Bed

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Jamaican-American Richard and White-American Sheryl are starting a family together. When they agree to a series of 'bedroom interviews', they believe that their interracial relationship is the focus of the article. As both play up to what they believe are the expectations of the interviewer, they embark on a journey that challenges their relationship to the core as the barriers between psychological and social, sexual and political, public and private, melt and dissolve...

Don’t Smoke In Bed is a stunning exploration of social and racial perception in contemporary America.

Read Sample

SCENE ONE: Simple Simon

SETTING: Richard and Sheryl are being interviewed in their new bedroom. The chairs and couch are covered with white sheets and moving boxes are stacked in the corner. They talk to a reporter via webcam. Sheryl holds some notecards with questions written on them.

SHERYL
Something new about us? We both quit smoking.

RICHARD
Yes, we agreed to quit at the same time. I love Black and Mild cigarillos.

SHERYL
And I like Marlboros.

RICHARD
Which I thought was a bit un-lady like when we first met. Women are supposed to elegantly roll their own cigarettes while sipping espresso or use Virginia Slims.

SHERYL
Virginia Slims taste like fruit-flavored Goodyear tires.

RICHARD
But they look so elegant.

SHERYL
Looks can be deceiving. They taste awful. But he insisted so I said that we live in a fair and democratic society so if I can’t kill myself from smoking, he can’t either.

RICHARD
We both quit. At the same time. The sheets smell wonderful now.

SHERYL
We used to smoke in bed which, even I will admit, is a disgusting habit.

RICHARD
And if we want to have a family then we better get used to being nicotine free. So why are we being interviewed here?

SHERYL
It’s a series of articles called “Bedroom Interviews” where the Times interviews dynamic or interesting couples in their bedroom via webcam. We answer questions and they monitor us on the webcam.

RICHARD
“Monitor us?” It sounds like Orwell meets Oprah. They don't expect us to talk about our sex life.

SHERYL
No, this is about our relationship. But being in the bedroom gives it a more personable feel. And if they like us we’re invited back. We could even have a series from that.

RICHARD
A series like the Kardashians or “Jersey Shore?”

SHERYL
No! Well sort of like that except it’s in print. (to interviewer) Maybe even a book, right?

RICHARD
A book? That’s brownstone money.

SHERYL
A brownstone in Cleveland maybe.

RICHARD
So we have to give ‘em the razzle dazzle or they cut our camera.

SHERYL
The story can just start off with something simple like ‘Richard and Sheryl, don’t think their relationship merits any attention. But when they walk down the street…’

RICHARD
No, no. I’ve read that a hundred times. ‘How about Jamaican men aren’t just for reggae any more?’

SHERYL
He’s joking. Please don’t put that in the article.
RICHARD
You know I saw an article in Time Magazine a few years ago that stated “Asian Men are In,” and it had a picture of an white woman riding the back of an Asian man. No kidding. Like he was a human rickshaw. Maybe you should take a picture of Sheryl riding me with a blunt in her mouth and a dreadlock wig.

SHERYL
He’s joking again. Richard likes to stir the pot. (to him) Richard, they’re going to think you’re serious.

RICHARD
I really did see an article about Asian men being ‘in’ for white women. Like they were talking about a Curry sauce or Acai berries.

SHERYL
Not that, the riding part.

RICHARD
You don’t take me seriously, do you? How can anyone take themselves seriously when talking on a webcam.

SHERYL
Don't knock it. We get to keep it. I put some of their questions on note cards. (reads card) They want to know how we met. We met at Columbia and (phone ring in kitchen)…

RICHARD
It’s Pavlovian for her. You could see the salvating glands begin to percolate at the first ring. It’s probably Jasmine. Her prize student.

SHERYL
It’s not Jasmine.

RICHARD
It’s all right, you can go answer it.

SHERYL
No, I wanna tell this story. Our serious love story.

RICHARD
Yes, we’re a serious couple. A serious, intellectual, stern, Germanic couple. We like efficient walks in well-lit parks, punctual tea at proper times, and-
SHERYL
-it feels a little bit like we're asked to be the interracial couple.

RICHARD
(kissing her)
We're SII. That’s seriously intelligent interracials. Irish and Jamaican. It’s a movement. We’re what gays in the 70s were to the village: a fresh, redecoration of America. You could put that in the article, how there’s this rising tide of upwardly mobile, well-educated seriously intelligent interracialists. That makes us seem radically relevant.

SHERYL
I'm not comfortable with saying ‘intelligent interracial.' It implies that we're justifying relationship by contrasting with other interracial relationships that are not intelligent.

RICHARD
There is an opposite to intelligent interracial marriages. It's called 'fetishized interracialist.' Those who are more attracted to skin tones, body parts, and being contrarians and pissing off their Irish racist fathers who think all Jamaican men beat their wives and cheat. You can either be Sii or Fi.

SHERYL
My Dad does not think that. (to interviewer) Richard likes to play devil's advocate. Oh my God, Dad would drop dead of a heart attack if he read that in a paper.

RICHARD
You’re giving me incentives.

SHERYL
I think that's why we get along so well.

RICHARD
What, cause we both want your father to drop dead?

SHERYL
No, we enjoy having strong conversations. Debate.

RICHARD
That goes without saying for seriously intelligent interracials, which makes us TDC: 'technically desirable couple.'
SHERYL
We're both professors who have a love of obscure versified english like…“Simple Simon met a Pieman going to the fair.”

RICHARD AND SHERYL
Said Simple Simon to the Pieman "Let me taste your ware."
Said the Pieman to Simple Simon "Show first ya penny."
Said Simple Simon to the Pieman "Sir, I have not any!'

They laugh. Sheryl sighs.

SHERYL
God, we’re weird, uh… (to reporter) don’t write that.

RICHARD
You won’t let the poor man write anything. Maybe that’s it. You can begin the article with one of our nursery rhyme games. That way each article can begin with a different rhyme that underlies the meaning.

SHERYL
You’re getting ahead of yourself. We just have this one.

RICHARD
You’ll want more once we tell you how we first met.

SHERYL
Oh, yes. That’s very journalistic-y. You’ll like that.

Sheryl stands up and fixes some of the furniture.

RICHARD
Cu ya! Love, what are you doing?
SHERYL
I’m getting ready to tell the story.

RICHARD
Okay, why are you moving stuff around?

SHERYL
I’m trying to recreate the setting.

RICHARD
Ya see what I put up with….(smiles to journalist) I always wanted to say that. Sounds so adult like the things my Dad used
RICHARD (cont’d)
to say. ‘I had it up to hear with ya Alice,’ or ‘No badda bawl im soon come back.’

SHERYL
What does that mean?

RICHARD
Don’t bother crying, he’ll soon be back.

SHERYL
Sounds so poetic in your tongue.

RICHARD
It’s not my tongue.

SHERYL
I wish you talked more patois around me. You can write that in the article “Sheryl wishes Richard spoke more patois around her.”

RICHARD
Don’t know much. My father raised me proper. Didn’t want me talking like no ragamuffin Maga Dog.

SHERYL
But you’re father and mother sounded like that and they’re not ragamuffins.

RICHARD
They rose above their patois. (to reporter) Got rich buying and flipping cottages to British bed and breakfast’ers. Poor Jamaican village idiots didn’t know what hit them when they
met my Dad. He’s a shark. So when he got rich, he didn’t want
his son to remind him of where he came from, but where they were going: the promise land of Royal English Enunciation, Elocution, and Edification.

SHERYL
You ever wonder if they see me as a status symbol of their ascent?

RICHARD
(laughs)
No.

SHERYL
No, what?

RICHARD
(still laughing)
They do not see you as a Virginal White trophy.

SHERYL
Well you don’t have to take that ‘you’re ridiculous for thinking that’ tone with me.

RICHARD
I do. Because….

SHERYL
Because what? I’m not good enough to be that.

RICHARD stands up and kisses her. They take a moment.

RICHARD
You don’t fit a mold. Not even a trophy one.

SHERYL
Now if you could only say that with a little Island flava…

RICHARD
(switching back to interviewer)
Anyway, we met at a Columbia social.

SHERYL
Academic party.

RICHARD
An oxymoron if there ever was one.

FLASHBACK TO ACADEMIC COCKTAIL PARTY. SHERYL, 30 year-old White female stands against the wall checking her messages on the phone. RICHARD, a 30 year-old handsome Jamaican in a finely cut suit.

RICHARD
Pocket full of rye.

SHERYL
Excuse me?

RICHARD
I said a ‘pocket full of rye.’ Now you have to guess.

SHERYL
I don’t understand.

RICHARD
It’s an old Irish Parlour game. I name a rhyme and…figured I’d have to say something to getya off dat phone.

SHERYL
(on phone)
Irish? My family is Irish.

RICHARD
I’m Jamaican. Two Island peoples come together on the island of Manhattan.

SHERYL
(goes back to texting)
Uh-huh. I'm in the grad writing department for poetry but Victorian and Irish lit is one of my secret joys.

RICHARD
Both are my focus.

SHERYL
Fascinating.

RICHARD
Yes. I'm also a Herbologist and Cosmologist.

SHERYL
Okay, I'd love to read your dissertation.

RICHARD
And then on the weekends I'm a ninja. Actually on Saturday I'm a ninja and on Sunday I'm a lion tamer.

SHERYL
Really I'd…(looking up) wait a minute, what? Did you say you
SHERYL (cont’d)
were a ninja?

RICHARD
A ninja? Cu ya, why would I ever say such a ridiculous thing?

SHERYL
I must've misheard.

RICHARD
Yes, your misconstrued ears. Well miss, Miss Construe are you that unavailable?

SHERYL
Unavailable for what?

RICHARD
For a conversation.

SHERYL
Are you a grad student here?

RICHARD
Visiting professor. I lecture on Irish and English poetry which makes me as relevant as a stained glass repairman. I feel so out of place among all these important blowhards.

SHERYL looks up and smiles. She shakes hands.

SHERYL
I always feel that way here. I’m Sheryl.

RICHARD
Richard Simon. So what's bothering you so much that you have your face stuck to your phone?

SHERYL
It's a student crisis. One of my proteges is having some trouble with…issues.

RICHARD
What issues?

SHERYL
I'd prefer not to say. No offense, it's just private.

RICHARD
We all need our privacy Mrs. Sheryl.

SHERYL
It’s Miss.

RICHARD
Interesting.

SHERYL
Yes, so now you know that I’m not owned by anyone. And even if I was it would still be Miss.

RICHARD
Miss Construe, you mistake me once again. I wasn’t trying to procure your marital status. I just assumed someone as handsome as you would be taken.

SHERYL
Guys are handsome. Women are supposed to be pretty, petite. Dazzling and vivacious.

RICHARD
You don’t fit any ‘supposed to be’ Miss Construe. And plenty of women are called handsome. My mother was handsome. My grandmother was handsome. I come from a long line of handsome women.

SHERYL
And what about the men?

RICHARD
The men were vivaciously gorgeous. My Dad was pretty and petite. His Dad was dazzling and gorgeous. So you can see that I come from a very confused family, Miss Construe.

SHERYL
(laughs)
You’re very…strange.

RICHARD
I was going for petite and vivacious.

SHERYL
I’m sorry. I don’t see that.

Cast Requirements

1M, 1W

RICHARD – 30s, Jamaican-American professor and husband

SHERYL – 30s, Irish-American-born professor and wife.

Set Description

New York City. The bedroom.

Honors

★★★★ The Reviews Hub
★★★★ The Upcoming
★★★★ Theatre and Performance Guide and Guru

“Thrillingly incisive…Mightily thought-provoking.” Ian Foster, There Ought To Be Clowns

“Well worth a look for anyone interested in contemporary race and gender politics.” John Demmery Green, London Pub Theatre

“Don’t Smoke In Bed makes important points about how uncomfortable we still are with openly discussing race, gender and domestic violence.” Breman Rajkumar, A Younger Theatre

“An honest and raw exploration of the expectations and pressures imposed by society on interracial couples…Each scene is more passionate than the last. Eye-opening and troubling, Don’t Smoke in Bed will force audiences to re-evaluate their understanding of modern society.” Michelle Keepence, The Upcoming

“Complex and powerful exploration of racial tension in the USA today.” Annabel Mellor, Theatre and Performance Guide and Guru

“Squire absolutely nails the quandary of white liberal guilt.” Ian Foster, There Ought To Be Clowns

“True moments of heartbreak and catharsis.” Ginger Wig & Strolling Man

“Squire’s rich, insightful script celebrates the power of language. The intelligent, self-aware dialogue has a natural ring and yet manages to convey impressive depths of meaning.” Annabel Mellor, Theatre and Performance Guide and Guru

“Aurin Squire writes an insightful analysis of a modern day couple with age-old problems.” Daniel Perks, The Reviews Hub

“The play is rich in themes of historic, racial, gendered, and cultural conflict.” John Demmery Green, London Pub Theatre

“Squire and his team certainly deserve praise and it is easy to see why the play was chosen for programming now. Now is the time when society’s underlying attitudes towards these issues demand to be brought out in the open and thoroughly examined.” Breman Rajkumar, A Younger Theatre

“The masterly writing and the bold, impassioned performances form the core of this play, and they alone are more than enough to make Don’t Smoke In Bed a vitally important hard hitter.” Annabel Mellor, Theatre and Performance Guide and Guru

Publisher

Oberon Books

Press

Finborough Theatre

Press

Production and Development History

Finborough Theatre (London) - 2016