The Zero Hour

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Rebecca and her chronically unemployed butch girlfriend, O, have created a happy nest in their run-down walk-up in Queens, but things are starting to unravel. The more O pushes Rebecca to stop hiding their relationship, the more Rebecca's work life—writing a textbook for seventh graders about the Holocaust—begins to bleed unsettlingly into her personal life: She starts meeting closeted World War II Nazis on the 7 train, passing as hipster professionals in New York City but hungry to come out to her about who they really are. Back home in Queens, O is also sparring with convincingly real visions: her long estranged—and recently dead?—mother keeps showing up to argue with her about her life choices. This almost-love story explores the knotty relationship between honesty and cruelty: How do you tell the truth about yourself when that truth might devastate the people you love? A tour-de-force for two virtuosic actors playing eight different roles.

Hannah Cabell and Angela Goethals in <em>The Zero Hour</em>, dir. Adam Greenfield.  Photo: Rob Strong.
Angela Goethals in <em>The Zero Hour</em>, dir. Adam Greenfield. Photo: Rob Strong.
Angela Goethals and Hannah Cabell in <em>The Zero Hour</em>, dir. Adam Greenfield.  Photo: Rob Strong.
Angela Goethals and Hannah Cabell in <em>The Zero Hour</em>, dir. Adam Greenfield.  Photo: Rob Strong.
Hannah Cabell in <em>The Zero Hour</em>, dir. Adam Greenfield.  Photo: Rob Strong.

Read Sample

SCENE 16

The SUBWAY noise reaches a pitch and holds.

10:40 p.m. REBECCA on the 7 train home, reading “Martha Stewart Living.” The train slows, stops. REBECCA lurches. Sound of DOORS opening.

THE EAGER NAZI bounds onto the car. He is J.Crew-sporty: logoless baseball cap, V-neck shirt with stripes down each sleeve, aerodynamic running shoes, duffel-style gym bag. Garbled PA announcement: Last stop in Manhattan, next stop Vernon-Jackson Road in Queens.

Ding, ding. Sound of DOORS closing. REBECCA and THE EAGER NAZI sway with the motion of the moving train.

THE EAGER NAZI crosses to REBECCA and peers aggressively into her face.

THE EAGER NAZI
Excuse me!

REBECCA hesitates a beat.

REBECCA
Yes?

THE EAGER NAZI
(square grin; strong German accent)
Hello! Tell me please, does this train go to the Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets of the National Baseball League?

REBECCA perceives his accent, debates with herself a beat.

REBECCA
Yes.

She returns to her magazine.

THE EAGER NAZI
Thank you very much wait a moment please, when will I know that we have arrived in the station for the Shea Stadium?

REBECCA
It’ll say “Shea Stadium” on it. Or actually it'll say "Citi Field," it's not called Shea Stadium anymore.

She returns to her magazine again.

THE EAGER NAZI
Ah, interesting. Thank you very much!

He sits down beside her. Beat. They sway.

THE EAGER NAZI (cont’d)
You are also traveling to the Shea Stadium?

REBECCA doesn’t hear him, because she doesn’t or because she doesn’t care to. THE EAGER NAZI leans towards her.

THE EAGER NAZI (cont’d)
(louder)
You also travel to the Shea Stadium?!

REBECCA sighs, looks up.

REBECCA
No.

THE EAGER NAZI
But you are a supporter of the New York Mets?

REBECCA
No.

THE EAGER NAZI
(confused, pointing to her scarf and a stripe on her bag)
But you are wearing I see both orange and blue.

REBECCA is nonplussed by this.

REBECCA
I don’t really have an opinion about the Mets one way or the other.

THE EAGER NAZI
(wounded)
But you must make a choice: New York Yankees or New York Mets. You are a New Yorker, yes? All those who live in New York must make a choice. Then you show devotion to your chosen organization by displaying the colors on hats or shirts or perhaps pants.
(he gestures, an explanation)
Orange, and blue. I am going now to the Shea Stadium to buy some items to display my devotion to the New York Mets, because I have chosen to support the Mets and not the Yankees.

REBECCA
Um, are you a tourist?

THE EAGER NAZI
(defensive)
No, I am a New Yorker!

REBECCA
Well, you know, it’s kind of late at night. I don’t think they're gonna be open right now. Plus it’s winter. Baseball season doesn’t start until spring.

THE EAGER NAZI
(deflated)
Ah.
(reinvigorated, indignant)
But I see everywhere people walking with displays of devotion to Mets and Yankees.

REBECCA
Well that’s because you can get that stuff anywhere. You can get it in any little sidewalk shop in Manhattan. You didn’t have to come all the way out here on the 7.

THE EAGER NAZI smiles heartily, like he’s received his cue.

THE EAGER NAZI
Ah, but I am not sorry I have come here on the 7, because if I do not come here on the 7 I will not meet you.

REBECCA blushes in spite of herself and smiles briefly, with only the edges of her lips.

REBECCA
(dumbly)
Oh. Well. Thank you.

THE EAGER NAZI shifts towards REBECCA on the bench.

THE EAGER NAZI
(confidentially)
You have put me this question over whether I am a New Yorker or not. I must explain that I work very hard to be blended with the natural New Yorkers, but I am yes from Germany originally.

REBECCA
(polite)
Really.

THE EAGER NAZI
I am from Bautzen, home of the world-famous Bautzen Mustard. We are a very small town but we make the very big mustard.

REBECCA
Huh. But you live in New York now?

THE EAGER NAZI
I have for many years lived in New York. I study now to be a tour guide on the New York tourist bus. I like to work outdoors, where I can feel the wind blowing me.

REBECCA smiles.

REBECCA
That sounds nice.

THE EAGER NAZI
Do you like also to work outdoors?

REBECCA
Um, yeah, I guess. I mean, I’m in publishing, so I don’t really get the chance to--

THE EAGER NAZI
(interrupting, irrepressible)
In my youth group they instructed us the value of sport and fresh air and comradeship. In the forest together we climbed on rocks and slept in dirt, and we understood what does it mean to be strong and to belong to a group. Today we no longer sleep in dirt. Today we go to the Shea or the Yankee Stadium or we go perhaps to the bar and we watch other men make sport. But it is not enough for the heroes only to be strong: Alexander Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
(he pronounces it “Yeeter”)
The group becomes strong only when every boy in it is strong. That was the belief of our youth group.

REBECCA blinks at him.

REBECCA
What youth group is this?

THE EAGER NAZI
Ha Jot. Maybe you have heard of it.

A moment in which REBECCA processes her reaction to this: fear, embarrassment, excitement.

REBECCA
Hitlerjugend. I’ve heard of it, yeah.

THE EAGER NAZI
This was before I came to New York.

REBECCA
(baleful)
It would have to be.

THE EAGER NAZI
We made sporting events, and camping excursions, and bonfires--

REBECCA
(echo)
Bonfires...

THE EAGER NAZI
(wistful)
We made sometimes bonfires at sporting events...

REBECCA puts her copy of “Martha Stewart Living” down on the bench beside her, pivots to face THE EAGER NAZI.

REBECCA
Can I ask you a question?

THE EAGER NAZI
Of course.

REBECCA
You were a youth in the Hitler Youth, the Hitler Youth was disbanded, what, I don’t have the exact date, sometime in--

THE EAGER NAZI
(vehemently)
May 8, 1945.

Beat.

REBECCA
Right. Which makes you...

THE EAGER NAZI
(in his tourist bus voice)
The moment was coming and we knew it was coming although we hoped it would not come, but we did not fear it, and when it came we remained strong. The clock ran down to zero and they ended us, but we were not afraid.
(leaning in to REBECCA)
I smell that you are afraid, all the time.

REBECCA
Me? No. Of what?

He sniffs her aggressively--she shrinks back.

THE EAGER NAZI
But I smell also courage. When it is time it will become, yes, so easy.
(looking her dead in the eye)
When time runs out every decision is justified.

Garbled PA announcement: "Next stop, Vernon-Jackson Road." The train begins to slow into the station.

THE EAGER NAZI (cont’d)
I think I will go rather back to Manhattan, to look for displays in the sidewalk shops you explained me.

He indicates her copy of “Martha Stewart Living."

THE EAGER NAZI (cont’d)
Excuse me, is it finished?

REBECCA
Huh? Sure, go ahead.

THE EAGER NAZI
Thank you, I am interested.

THE EAGER NAZI picks up the magazine, crosses to the subway door. He opens the magazine, peers into it, gasps in delight.

Sound of TRAIN grinding to a halt. REBECCA and THE EAGER NAZI lurch. THE EAGER NAZI holds the magazine open for her to see.

THE EAGER NAZI (cont’d)
(thrilled)
Pillows--made from handkerchiefs!

Sound of DOORS opening. THE EAGER NAZI leaps from the car. Ding, ding. Lights shift. The sound of the SUBWAY TRAIN recedes.

Cast Requirements

2 women
1 man

Production and Development History

Originally produced: 13P, Walkerspace, NY (2010).

Developed: Rude Mechanicals, NY (2005); PlayLabs, Playwrights' Center/Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis (2004); New York Theatre Workshop, NY (2003); O'Neill Playwrights Conference (2002).