Dead City

While bringing her sexy hubby his mail one morning, Samantha Blossom notices an envelope addressed to him from his lover. This spins her out into her day raw and entirely untethered… until she begins following a punk-rock genius poet girl half her age. This culminates in a frenzied chaos parade in a sex club located in the meat-packing district of New York City. Based on James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Read Sample

A stroke (/) marks the point of interruption in overlapping dialogue. When the stroke is not immediately followed by text, the next line should occur on the last syllable of the word before the slash— not a full overlap but a concise and intentioned interruption. Also, the VOICE should be miked the entire show.

Dates, times, and settings will be projected above the stage, or on a screen, or on the proscenium wings, or on the floor, or wherever is most effective for viewing.

PROJECTED: June 17, 2004—The day after.

0. Samantha dreams of Jewel walking along the pedestrian path near the West Side Highway, towards Tribeca. 5:45am, sunrise.

SAMANTHA appears, dreaming of JEWEL. JEWEL clutches a bag from McDonalds. She is slightly jaunty… she has been walking all night.

got my Patti Smith walk my Patti Smith knees

She smells her bag of food desperately. She continues.

the Hudson choking up its morning rot
Momma stopped smoking but her lungs did not

She smells her bag of food desperately once again. Sound of traffic… she has reached the West Side Highway.

…the west side highway is now laid across my lap and the crossing is all that lies between myself and this day's most absurd parade and if I could levitate I would choose this very moment but I cannot so I wait for the sign to stop blinking and I wrap my mind around a single image that continues to open into itself in an infinite stumble through space don't walk and it is forever changing shape in my mouth the brittle bones the paper hand don't walk the ashen breath rosary beads don't walk and the hunger in the pit of my core that all the sausage-egg-and-cheeses in the five boroughs might be able to quench and she's…

JEWEL tears into the McDonalds bag and jams an entire sausage egg and cheese into her mouth. She eats ravenously. She screams though a mouthful of food.


PROJECTED: June 16, 2004—The day before.

1. A spacious, tidy apartment on the Upper East Side. The day before. 8:00am.

SAMANTHA is preparing breakfast happily in her kitchen. She wears an expensive and tasteful black business suit. Pale orange light streams through the window. Behind her in the bedroom, GABRIEL sleeps soundly on a luxurious satin-sheeted bed. We hear a VOICE from the radio.

You’re listening to NYPR, New York Public Radio. It’s 8AM and we have a sunny June morning outside, and the smell wafting off the East River is delightful. However, expect clouds and murkiness with patches of barometric gloom, right… about… now.

The light through the window turns grey.

In today’s news, Samantha Blossom is preparing a breakfast tray for her lovely sleepy husband. He was out so late last night….

SAMANTHA butters toast.

Not too much I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter, you know how he is about his figure. Will he take tea or coffee? Tea for his vocal chords, coffee for his mood….

SAMANTHA pours coffee into a mug.

Ahhh. Fresh ground organic blend from the bulk coffee aisle…

She lifts the tray and begins to head toward the bedroom.

Oh, don’t forget the mail. Baby likes to read his mail while he eats his gluten-free toast.

SAMANTHA places the tray back down and exits. She returns with two envelopes. She examines the first.

Elizabeth… nineteen next month … must email her…

SAMANTHA moves onto the next letter. The envelope is much different…

Mr. Gabriel Blossom. Embossed parchment. Long flourish on the G. Return address, A.A.M…

She smells the envelope.


SAMANTHA freezes a moment, in a panic. GABRIEL calls from the bedroom sleepily.


Shake it off, woman … deep breath. Deliver that letter. Coffee, toast, tray, hands, feet, breathe. You’re listening to NYPR, New York Public Radio. Support for NYPR comes from Hawk Pharmaceuticals, making chemical dependency a vital part of YOUR life/

SAMANTHA turns off the radio and enters the bedroom with the tray. GABRIEL raises his head. He wears a satin lavender beauty mask and silk pajamas. He pulls a pair of earplugs from his ears.

Good morning sleepy…

Mm… time is it?

A little after eight…

SAMANTHA places the tray on the bed.




GABRIEL begins eating.

How was the show?

A drag. First the rain, couldn’t get a cab to 44th to save our lives, subway was a mess, the F was running on the C track, got there forty-five minutes late and couldn’t do sound check so the levels were completely off for the first number, had to stop and re-do levels in the middle of the set.

Oh dear...

But it was a good crowd. Sober, engaged.... They listen harder at the expensive places…

GABRIEL begins to look through the letters.

GABRIEL (cont.)
Elizabeth. Nineteen next month, hm? Should write her a letter...

Why not shoot her off an email? You so rarely email her…

Those tiny letters make me go cross-eyed…

You can change the font size, you know. In your browser preferences.

The what?

In the drop down menu at the top of the screen, under appearance…

I prefer ink and paper. It’s more, it’s more, like…


Cast Requirements

3 men
4 women


Time Out New York Critic’s Pick


“Wonderful... Sheila Callaghan’s pleasingly witty and theatrical new drama that is a love letter to New York masquerading as hate mail…[Callaghan] writes with a world-weary tone and has a poet’s gift for economical description. The entire dead city comes alive.”
—New York Times

See More


“[Dead City] dissects the line between brilliance and just plain ol’ crazy, blurring it even further... impressive.”
—Village Voice

“Sheila Callaghan’s riff on James Joyce’s Ulysses is stylish, lyrical, fascinating…and eminently worthwhile...the kind of work that is thoroughly invigorating.”

“Sheila Callaghan surprises with an understandably sprawling but always interesting narrative…. It’s an adventurous riff on [Ulysses] with an especially well-rounded and human character at play’s once realistic and fanciful.”

Production and Development History

Produced: New Georges (2006).

Developed: Public Theater (2005).

Workshopped: The Lark (2003).

Commissioned: Playwrights Horizons (2000).