Fourth Wally’s Ontological Crisis

Fourth Wally’s Ontological Crisis
Characters
FOURTH WALLY
JANE
BEN
MRS. COPELAND
MRS. HARRIS

Act I
A relatively empty stage, a few very community theater-esque props like a cardboard lamp and unremarkable couch to vaguely suggest a living room. BEN and JANE regard this as a living room, WALLY regards it as a set. All three are about eighteen.
WALLY
Downstage, to audience
Hey, I’m Wallace Harris IV. But, for reasons I can’t for the life of me figure out, wherever I go, people shorten it to Fourth Wally.
BEN
Talking above WALLY, to JANE
Who is he talking to? Do you know why he does this?
JANE
Also talking above WALLY
I don’t. It really worries me. I feel like we should talk to someone, but whom?
WALLY
Quietly, while BEN and JANE are talking
It started when I was in the fifth grade or something. I mean, people have been calling me Wally since I can remember, but Fourth Wally, that started in the fifth grade, you know? So, I don’t mind nicknames, but there’s just something strange about a nickname that follows you everywhere you go. Like a duckling who’s imprinted, or whatever it’s called; who thinks you’re it’s mommy.
BEN and JANE are done talking, but continue to mouth conversation in the background.
At normal volume
The point is, it’s followed me, the nickname. Not the duckling.There is no duckling. But anyway, while I have you, I feel I should tell someone that things have been weird lately—weird in that they’ve been so not weird. It’s like, the time right before a story starts, where there’s been a period of normal, a status quo or something, a long enough time before the action that you know is gonna fuck it all up. I mean, I’ve been dating Jane over there—
Gestures towards JANE. JANE looks shocked and mouths more emphatically to BEN
—for seven months now and Ben and I haven’t fought in any major way for two years. I mean, we’ve been friends consistently. Since I met him, when we were maybe eight, we must have broken up the friendship at least six times. But that hasn’t happened for two years! And everything else, that’s all been just peachy, like my grandfather used to say. Peachy. So damn consistent! That’s why I think something big’s about to happen. That’s why I’m calling this Act I.
Exit BEN
JANE
To Wally
I’m worried about you.
WALLY
Why? I’m doin’ just peachy. (turns to audience and winks)
JANE
Who’re you t— nevermind. It’s just, I think you may be under a lot of stress, or maybe it’s something else. For whatever reason, sometimes I feel like you’re not here. Like you’re somewhere else, or with someone else mentally, maybe. Something like that.
WALLY
I never am.
JANE
I don’t think that that’s true.
WALLY
You know I care about you. I’m sorry if I seem distant. I don’t know why I do, but I’m sorry.
JANE
Um, I think we should stop seeing each other.
WALLY
Aside, to audience
There it is.
JANE
That’s what I mean. There what is? Who are you talking to?…Fourth Wally?
WALLY
No one. Please don’t go.
JANE
I’m sorry.
WALLY
Don’t say that. What if we’re not friends anymore? Doesn’t that matter to you? I can’t lose you.
JANE
I really am sorry. Just—well—
WALLY
Steps toward her. Jane steps back. Beat.
What the fuck was that?
JANE
I think…I think I should go.
starts to turn away
WALLY
You’re afraid of me!
JANE
unconvincingly
Of course I’m not afraid of you. I care about you.
WALLY
What is it? My voice? My face? What is it about me that’s got you so damn terrified?
JANE
It’s not—I’m not— goodbye, Wally.
WALLY
Stop. Don’t do that. What am I going to do? What are you going to do? No, I don’t care what you do. Just don’t do this.
JANE
I’m sorry.
Exit JANE.
WALLY
To audience
That was it: the inciting incident. I guess that was Act One. Exit.

Act II
A table with a chair on either end. Enter WALLY and MRS COPELAND.
WALLY
Why am I here?
MRS. COPELAND
We’re worried about you.
WALLY
I’ve heard that before. You know how it feels to hear that?
MRS. COPELAND
Tell me how it feels.
WALLY
Punches himself in the face
Like that.
MRS. COPELAND
I’m sorry that you feel that way, but it’s only because we love you.
WALLY
You’re the school guidance counselor, Mrs. Copeland. This is your job. We have never spoken before this. If you really do love me, that’s pretty messed up.
MRS. COPELAND
The people around you love you.
WALLY
You mean the people who told you to speak to me?
MRS. COPELAND
Has something happened to you recently, Fourth Wally?
WALLY
Recently-recently or recently-since-you’ve-decided-I-need-help?
MRS. COPELAND
Wally—
WALLY
Please call me Wallace. Actually, call me Mr. Harris
MRS. COPELAND
Have any major changes happened at home?
WALLY
Why? Do you know something I don’t? ’Cos I guess that that could be the next logical step in the plot.
MRS. COPELAND
Plot?
WALLY
Act II. Rising action. In the story of my life falling apart and coming back together in a way that changes me, “changes in the home” could be the next logical step, Mrs. Copeland.
MRS. COPELAND
We’ll return to that, but why do you feel that your life’s falling apart?
WALLY
So that it can come back together in Act V. That’s what I just said.
MRS. COPELAND
Right, Act V… I meant to ask what has happened that makes you feel like your life is falling apart?
WALLY
Nothing more than what needed to happen.
MRS. COPELAND
And what’s that?
WALLY
Jane—you know her, right? I’m sure she’s the one who talked to you, or maybe not—anyway, she dumped me. But please don’t get all analytical about it, though I know you’re going to. Anyway, it’s what needed to happen so I can grow and whatnot.
MRS. COPELAND
How did you feel when she did this?
WALLY
To audience
How did I feel? She literally just said “how did you feel”! This is the kind of Class A guidance my school offers! For all the money these parents pour into this fine educational institution, we get a shrink who asks you, shamelessly, how you feel. In those words. No subtle manipulation, no delicate workings with the strings of my mind. Just a “how did you feel”! It’s a wonder she’s not pioneering Harvard’s research on the mysteries of the human mind.
MRS. COPELAND
Wallace, it hurts people when you talk about them like that.
WALLY
What?
MRS. COPELAND
Who were you talking to?
WALLY
The audience.
Gestures towards the audience
MRS. COPELAND
Wallace, is there something on that wall that upsets you?
WALLY
Wall?
MRS. COPELAND
Writes on a piece of paper, hands it to WALLY
I think you should call this number and set up an appointment. For now, let’s call it a day.
WALLY
I’m not going to call. Adding too many characters, like the doctor or the people at the hospital or whatever the hell you’re referring me to, makes the plot hard to follow. Also, I just don’t want to call.
Exit MRS. COPELAND, table and chair are cleared.

WALLY
To audience
So, what I’m gonna do now is a little bit of exposition. I’m not going to introduce my mom to you. I don’t want to do that. Projecting about the protagonist is the fun part. So, instead, I am going to recount my conversation with my mom to Ben. I think we should be doing something else, too, to make the scene a little more visually interesting.
Enter Ben.
BEN
Yo Fourth Wally! Catch!
Ben throws ball. Wally catches the ball rather clumsily.
WALLY
Catch. I guess that’ll work.
BEN
What?
Wally and Ben continue to throw the ball back and forth.
WALLY
Hey, did you talk to someone at school or something? I mean, of course you’ve talked to someone at school at some point. I meant did you talk to someone at school, someone like a teacher or something—did you tell anyone that you were worried about me?
BEN
That’s a weird question.
WALLY
It’s just, the school called me in to Mrs. Copeland. You know, the lady with the unfortunate nose? Anyway, she gave me a number to call last Thursday. I think it may have been a specialist. Or a hospital. Anyway, I didn’t call it.
BEN
That’s rough. Is this about the break-up?
WALLY
I don’t think so. The break-up’s not a problem. The break-up’s the most logical thing that’s happened to me all month. I’m still trying to parcel out the rest of the story structure; it’s feeling a little forced. Anyway, so, I didn’t call the number so that damned guidance counselor, if you can call her that, called my mother. Told her to call the number. So my mom, she asked me about it. I of course denied the whole thing, ’cos what else was I gonna do, right? For a second, she gets all disappointed in me for lying to her. But then she mostly just gets all worried. And I say I’m fine but “I’m fine” is maybe the least convincing phrase in the lexicon of our epoch. I like the word epoch. But, so, she calls this place and now I have an appointment on Wednesday. I think it’s a hospital. No, I guess it could still be a specialist. Anyway, did you have anything to do with that—the school being all concerned about me?
BEN
No way, man.
WALLY
That’s not a productive answer. Even if your character does have nothing to do with that, I just gave you the perfect transition to air your own grievances with me.
BEN
I don’t know what you’re talking about. Really.
WALLY
Bullshit.
BEN
So you’ve been a little weird. None of my business, right?
WALLY
Alright, now we’re getting somewhere. How’ve I been weird?
BEN
What’re you doing? Do you want me to be mad at you?
WALLY
No, why would I want you to be mad at you?
BEN
For the story!
Catches ball, does not throw it back.
That’s what you’d say, right? Is that what you want? Alright, we’re doing this. You keep talking to people who don’t exist and that’s scary. You act like your life isn’t real. As far as I know, I’m in your life! Am I not real to you?
WALLY
It’s not—
BEN
Those non-people that you talk to—or whatever you think my character would call them—seem to matter a hell of a lot more to you than any of us! I mean, you let Jane get away and she was probably the best thing that will ever happen to you. So, here’s what you’ve been asking for! I don’t think we should hang out for a while.
Exit BEN.
WALLY
Walks down stage, addresses audience.
That may have been the complication. I think Ben likes Jane. If they get together, I’ll never be able to get either of them back. And I’ve never had any other friends. So, I guess this is as good a place to end Act II as any.
BEN
Offstage.
I can hear you!

Act III
In living room, with same props as Act I.
WALLY
To audience
I’ve decided that this story is not one that I’d really want to watch. Which sucks. Because who would want to be the protagonist of a story that no one really wants to watch? So I’m alone. I can’t talk to my mom properly because she’s all worried about me. “Worried about me” really gets old, you know? Jane’s dumped me and Ben’s friend-dumped me, or whatever the fuck you call that. But this is a really small story. Boring. Boring like my-life-before-Act-I-even-started boring. It’s time for something to happen.
Enter JANE, barefoot in flowy robe or equally dream-like garment. Living room props cleared as JANE and WALLY talk.
JANE
Dancing onto the stage
Oh Wally, I’ve missed you so!
WALLY
To audience
A fantasy sequence. That’ll do.
JANE
Oh wow! Have you ever seen a more beautiful audience, Wally dearest? Why it just makes me want to—
WALLY
This is saccharin. Talk normally. Be wonderful, but talk normally.
JANE
I’m sorry I said I was scared of you. You’re amazing, Wally. I care deeply about you.
WALLY
I’m glad to hear it.
JANE
Do you know what’s great about you? You’re just so smart! And handsome! And, wow, I can’t imagine a better main character!
Enter BEN, dancing onto stage.
BEN
Hey, man. I’m not in love with Jane. You’re so awesome, can we go back to being friends?
JANE
He really is so awesome, isn’t he?
BEN
You’re just the best friend a guy could ever have. I mean wow!
JANE
I know I never told you this, Wally, but I love you. I always have loved you! My God, I don’t see how I could not love you!
Kisses Wally. After a moment, Wally pushes her away.
WALLY
This isn’t fun. This is actually kind of boring. (JANE and BEN begin to adopt WALLY’s tone and gait.)
JANE
Me kissing you is “boring”?
BEN
Was it more “fun” for me to hate you?
WALLY
Not that. Just—
JANE and BEN begin closing in on Wally. Scene turns ominous.
JANE
I just told you I love you! Is that fucking boring? Well, that just means the world to me, doesn’t it?
BEN
Really! What isn’t boring to you, Wally? What would it take for you not to be so goddamned bored? Winning the lottery? The holocaust? What would it take, Wally?
WALLY
Jane, Ben, you’re not talking like you. You’re talking like me. You’re scaring me.
JANE
I’m sorry! Does talking like you scare you?
BEN
Is there anything at all unsettling about the way you talk, Wally? That wasn’t a rhetorical question! God knows we’ve used rhetorical questions enough in this story!
WALLY
Stop. Please stop!
Pulls out a gun
Where the hell did I get a gun?
JANE
I’m not scared any more. You can’t hurt me. This is a fantasy, right? A fantasy: a useful and rather contrived device to get to know a character better and break the normal logic of the story. To move the plot forward! That’s what you want, right? To move the plot forward? But none of this is actually happening. I can do anything, and none of this is actually happening!
Jane Kisses Ben.
WALLY
Just stop. Just stop!
WALLY pulls trigger, shoots JANE. JANE’s body is dragged offstage.
BEN
What the fuck was that? Who are you? What kind of messed up fantasy is this? Wally, real Wally, come back! Just come back!
WALLY
You sound like you again.
WALLY pulls trigger, shoots BEN, BEN’s body is dragged offstage. WALLY drops to his knees.
That wasn’t boring. That wasn’t boring at all. (Beat.) Fuck. That felt good. That was interesting. That was something that I would want to watch. I don’t want to want to hurt people. Do I want to hurt people? I think that this may be a pivotal moment in the story; I think I have to confront my reality, or something. ’Cos hurting people—that was interesting. When I hurt people, am I hurting people?
Sinks further, to his hands and knees, afraid.
This is getting uncomfortably real, or unreal. Whatever it is. What can and can’t I do? What wouldn’t I do? How far can I go on the stage of my life? That sounds like pretentious theatrical bullshit. But still. Shit, this is bad.
Living room props brought back. Knock from offstage.
WALLY
Stands up abruptly.
Who is it?
JANE
It’s me.
WALLY walks almost offstage and unlocks door.
Enter real JANE in simple dress and flats, or equally easy-to-change-into costume, carrying a cardboard box.
JANE
Hey. I’m just dropping off some of your things
WALLY
Turns to audience and takes one step downstage
Do you guys think that that kind of line still works with high school kids?
JANE visibly recoils. WALLY turns back to JANE.
Stay. Just for a little bit.
JANE
I just— I can’t.
WALLY
Please.
JANE
Actually I—well—
WALLY
Jane…
JANE
I have somewhere to be.
WALLY
You never have somewhere to be.
JANE
That’s not true.
WALLY
To audience
This dialogue is getting tiresome, so I’m not going to fight her on that point. But she’s wrong. We never would’ve worked if she’d ever had “somewhere to be”. After all, I happen to know that I was a very needy boyfr—
JANE
Waves hand in WALLY’s face, frustrated
I really do have somewhere to be.
WALLY
to JANE
Would you hang on for just a second while I’m doing my aside? Just freeze or something!
to audience
—boyfriend. I was a very needy boyfriend. So she’s lying to me. The only people she—
JANE
I’m leaving.
Exit JANE.
WALLY
—ever hung out with were Ben and me. So like hell if she has “somewhere to be”! (Beat.) Ben. I bet that little bitch is going to hang out with Ben. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, really.
Pacing back and forth across stage
I don’t know what the hell kind of delusion I’m living in that I imagined they would just stop hanging out just ‘cos I wasn’t there. I’m not paranoid, right? Sure, I think Ben’s gonna make a move.
Walks all the way downstage
Sure, I’m only basing that on one little thing that he said, that she was the “best thing that ever happened to me”, but every scholarly analysis of any character ever comes from one little thing the character he says. If it’s quite alright, I’d like to just begin Act IV now, because I’d like to get to Act V as soon as possible. This is getting annoying.

Act IV
On stage are a sparse bed and a piece of cardboard painted to look like a chest of drawers. On the walls are a few vaguely girly posters, enough to suggest that this is JANE’s room but nothing more. JANE and BEN are sitting on the edge of the bed, facing out (not facing each other). To the right of them, there is a cardboard wall with a window cut out. There is a small tree Upstage Right, to signify that it is outside.
JANE
I saw Fourth Wally today.
BEN
How’s he doing?
JANE
Not so well.
BEN
Oh.
JANE
Do you miss him?
BEN
I miss Wally, but I don’t miss this Wally, you know?
JANE
Yeah.
A long pause in which each alternately looks at the other, looks at the ground, or looks into the distance. BEN leans in to kiss JANE. She moves away, and stands up, angrily.
JANE
What are you doing?
BEN
I’m sorry.
JANE
No, seriously! I mean—well—what the hell?
BEN
I should go.
JANE
Well, don’t go. Just don’t do that again! I mean—
BEN
I’m sorry.
JANE
You said that. Just don’t go. You’re all I have left, you know? So don’t do that again!
JANE sniffles, but does not quite cry.
BEN
Yeah. Sorry.
JANE and BEN hug. Enter WALLY, outside, stage right, holding box.
WALLY
Looks into window.
What the fuck is this? What the fuck is this! Who the hell do these motherfuckers think they are? I mean, here I was, just coming to return Jane’s stuff, ignoring how implausible that is. And, what the fuck!
WALLY paces up- and downstage, jittery and agitated. Then he stops for a moment, then punches through the window. Sound of shattering glass.
Oh come on! That wasn’t even a glass window—it was cut out of cardboard!
JANE and BEN
Terrified.
Wally?
JANE
What are you— Why are you— Wally?
WALLY
Under his breath, after an awkwardly long pause.
At least I didn’t have a gun.
WALLY runs off stage.
Act V
WALLY’s living room
WALLY
To audience.
Thank God. Act V. Finally. Can we just wrap up this goddam storyline now, nice and quick? I get it. I’ve hit bottom. I have no friends at all. I haven’t been able to concentrate on school. Even my mom’s afraid of me. So if we can just fix all this right about now, that’d be fantastic. I’ve done all the prep work. I’ve drowned Jane in gifts and letters and chocolate. I saved up to pay for her window. I’ve even forgiven her for what I saw. After all, I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding. I’m sure. I mean, it must have been, right? God damn it. Anyway, I’ve also texted Ben written Ben, like, seventy times. My point is, I’ve done all that I can ahead of time. We should be able to speed through this scene. I’m ready for us all to reunite, after I’ve learned not to take my life for granted. Any second now.
WALLY sits on couch silently for two minutes, presumably to the audience’s discomfort. There is a knock on the door.
WALLY
Here we go.
WALLY gets up, opens the door. Enter MRS. HARRIS, WALLY’s mother. WALLY looks shocked.
MRS. HARRIS
I’m sorry, honey. I forgot my keys this morning.
WALLY
You are not supposed to be a character in this story. I have made that very clear. Why are you here? Seeing a character’s mother totally changes the way that the audience understands the protagonist!
There is a noticeable distance between WALLY and MRS. HARRIS.
MRS. HARRIS
It won’t happen again. By the way, Mrs. Madison—
WALLY
To audience
Jane’s mom.
MRS. HARRIS
—told me to ask you to stop sending things to that poor girl.
Exit MRS. HARRIS, presumably to another room.
WALLY
Now did she really need to enter just for that? I hate this play. (Beat.) I am so tired of things having to go wrong for the plot to be interesting. It’s not even working. Everything is seeming pretty fucking redundant. I am so tired of feeling like I’m living in a world apart from everyone else. As this story has gone on I am looking more and more like some sort of insane, deranged person. I’m not. It’s just that I keep seeing things differently than everyone else. I am so tired of Act V so not following the goddam format! Nothing has gone right yet. This isn’t how this is supposed to happen. I really just don’t want to be here.
WALLY walks slowly, deliberately offstage, into the audience. After a long pause, he turns around to face the stage.
WALLY
My god, I’m free.
Blackout.

Clara Olshansky, Age 17 Grade 11, Bard High School Early College Honorable Mention

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