The Nature of Mutation

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When a private foundation offers a large grant to a financially troubled prep school, it gives the ailing school a chance at survival. The catch is that the school must alter its science curriculum to teach Intelligent Design along side evolution. The offer ignites a 150-year-old grudge match that reawakens the spirit of Thomas Henry Huxley—the Victorian scientist known as “Darwin’s Bulldog”—and polarizes the community as it forces individuals to take sides. From the first public debate over evolution in 1869 to the current debate over how it is taught in our schools, The Nature of Mutation whimsically explores what happens when opposing viewpoints collide, and traces the inner leaps of trust and faith one needs to make to find common ground.

HUXLEY: Chill out? No lad, we must reach a boiling pitch! Every moment counts. If you let them capitalize the debate we're sunk.
CLAUDE: Huxley, what are you doing down there—Huxley?...It’s amazing how quickly you’re moving...What is all that? Chalk?
Chalkboard Cha-Cha
SALLY: I’m relating evolution to Buddhism and how its central belief is that every moment presents the possibility of change.
CLAUDE: Call it a cosmic accident or a divine spark, or a big bang occurred and two molecules collided--a universe was born.

Read Sample

HUXLEY: TAKE THIS BLEEDING MUZZLE OFF!

(CLANCY takes off HUXLEY’s muzzle. HUXLEY takes an unfathomably deep breath. Pants. HUXLEY tips his hat to Clancy, letting his dog ears flop down.

HUXLEY: I have much, much, much to thank you for lad. You can’t fancy what a wild ride I’ve had; every time I think it’s over, it isn’t. Every time I begin to drift to the other side of nowhere, a new alarm clangs, rousing me from my bleak hole. WHY WON’T THEY LET ME REST IN PEACE!

CLANCY: Come on Mr. D., you can do better than that. Are those supposed to be your dog ears?

HUXLEY: Yes, and remarkable what one can hear. Even though I’m a full furlong away, I’ve heard every word uttered at that “pizza party,” and if I hear one more, I assuredly will go clean daft—

CLANCY: Give me those.

(CLANCY yanks HUXLEY’s ears; HUXLEY yelps, snarls, snaps.)

HUXLEY: Are you completely satisfied now?!

CLANCY: NO! If you’re not Mr. D—then who are you?

HUXLEY: Thomas Henry Huxley, man of—

CLANCY: But he’s dead!

HUXLEY: You have a sharp scalpel, my boy, I see your incision well. How can a man of science—a man who devoted his life to driving a stake in the heart of all sentimental, supernatural, and spurious stories—become a go-oooo--go...getter? A go...gooo-figure. A go-go-go—

CLANCY: Ghost.

HUXLEY: Precisely! Once again, much obliged.

CLANCY: So what are you? Ancient, dead science-dog-man?

HUXLEY: You’re adapting to this splendidly, but you can call me Huxley for short.

CLANCY: Huxley. Is this some sort of guerilla counseling deal?

HUXLEY: Gorilla counseling . . . oh, that’s rich.

CLANCY: Did my parents hire you?

HUXLEY: Your parents, I assure you, know nothing of me.

CLANCY: Then who sent you?

HUXLEY: My dear boy, I wasn’t sent; I was called.

CLANCY: Yeah, but who called you?

HUXLEY: You, of course.

CLANCY: I didn’t call you— Mr. D. called you. He’s the guy looking for you! He actually knows something about you, this. He’s your guy.

HUXLEY: He is unequivocally: not my guy. I need someone with fire and fight, not some sickly academic. It was the same with Darwin: strong mind, weak constitution.

(CLANCY exits, calling; HUXLEY roots through CLANCY’s backpack.)

CLANCY (off): Mr. D.! MR. D., where are you?! Mr. D.! I found your dog. Huxley’s over here! (CLANCY returns, grabs backpack. HUXLEY munches on something.) What the hell, man?

HUXLEY: I’m ravenous, worked up quite an appetite—

CLANCY: Shit. The dog ate my homework...

HUXLEY: It isn’t very good. Exceedingly lean on substance, what in the world is it?

CLANCY: Some bogus paper Ms. Henslow gave about belief. Or what I’ve been “conditioned” to believe, which is stupid because I don’t believe in shit.

HUXLEY: Perhaps it’s your non-belief that’s being tested.

# # #

Cast Requirements

4 women
4 men

Set Description

A series of chalkboards to indicate locations in and around the Carlye school.

Honors

• Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Commission with MTC

Press

“An enjoyable ride of nonstop laughter combined with deep introspection…the writing is superb.”
Las Cruces Bulletin

Press

Production and Development History

Commission
•Manhattan Theatre Club, NYC.

Workshop Production
University of Wisconsin, Peck School of the Arts, Milwaukee, WI
• New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

Development
• Urban Stages, NYC.
• Theatre @ Boston Court, Los Angels, CA
• Shenandoah Playwright’s Retreat
• Playwrights Theatre of NJ, Madison, NJ.