Thursday, September 3, 2015

Untitled Play: Scenes 1-5 Together, Heavily Rewritten, and Closer to Final Draft

Scene 1:

(Friday night, the Friday after Thanksgiving, 1995. Seated around a table are a father, a mother, the father’s senile father (called Zaydie), the parents eldest son, an uncle, and an aunt. Except for the oldest son, everyone at the table should be bespectacled. Perhaps they should all be short, squat, loud, and not particularly good looking.The father is 58, very short, somewhat overweight, and extremely loud and emphatic. The mother is 55, similarly short but not quite as overweight and not as loud. The uncle, 65, is perhaps a bit taller and thinner, but still has extra pounds, and has the relaxed reserve of someone who is comfortable in his own skin. The aunt, 51, is short and thin, still slightly pretty in a semitic manner, though perhaps with a pinched look. The father says the Friday night Kiddush, the whole thing. Then begins the action of the play.)

(Cousin 5 immediately gets up and leaves the room, goes to sit in the kitchen.)

Mom: So I wanted to wait on telling you this until after we made Kiddush, but it turns out the oven wasn’t on (general laughter onstage) so it’ll be a little while. There's still a lot of stuff to do.

Aunt: (gets up) Here, let me help you in there.

Son 1: (stands up, makes for door) Can I go upstairs until you’re ready.

Dad: Y’know, you could ask if you could help.

Son 1: (as he walks out) So could you...

(Mom and Aunt leave for the kitchen behind him, pretend to prepare various parts of the meal and talk to each other silently)

Uncle: So your daughter’s not gonna be here at all?

Dad: (throws up hands) I dunno. She’s busy tonight tending to the mishpokheh (family) of "the podiatrist" (say with mocking tone).

Uncle: (shrugs) He's a mensch. (gentleman)

Dad: Would it be too much to ask for a college sophomore to find a mensch who isn’t 35 and divorced?

Uncle: He certainly makes a nice living.

Dad: If only she would spend his gelt (money) rather than mine.

Uncle: She wants to look nice for him.

Dad: She doesn’t need to look nice, she’s 19! No kid should spend as much gelt on clothes as they do on college tuition.  

Uncle: That’s gotta be an exaggeration.  

Dad: You should see her credit card bills.

Uncle: But she’s such a feineh meydl (nice girl).

Dad: A feineh meydl... (throws up hands) A feineh meydl who I had to chase away from every jock in Pikesville.

Uncle: Alright, so she found some glick (luck) she’s dating a greyseh makher (high roller)! Get'em to the khuppeh (get them to the canopy/get them married) and there won’t be any problem.

Dad: No problem? In ten years they’ll be divorced when he finds an even yinger meydl (younger girl) and I’ll have to shill for a good lawyer!

Uncle: (mischievously) Well, at least you have a son.

Dad: I have a son. I have a son! Ochen vey! I have a son!!

Uncle: (laughs) You have three sons.

(Enter Aunt, bringing in salad, goes up to her husband to put some on his plate)

Aunt: Here, so we can at least nash on (eat) some salad. What’s he kvetching (complaining) about?

Uncle: Just the podiatrist.

Aunt: Oh. He’s a mensch! Not very bright though.

Dad: (shrugs) That’s ok, neither is she. (beat, Aunt puts the salad on Dad’s plate) Y’know, I really should have followed my Mom’s advice and been a doctor. Once I was over my parents house. You weren’t there Dad, but Mom was sitting there with Mrs. Rabinovitch and Mrs. Indyk, and they were arguing about whose son gets more nackhes (pride) out of being a doctor. So Mrs. Rabinovitch says, ‘My son’s a podiatrist, I get the most nakhes!’ and Mrs. Indyk says ‘My son’s a dentist, I get the most nakhes!’

Aunt: Then neither of them are real doctors!

Dad: That’s not the point. The point is when they left, my mother says (with Yiddish accent) "Oy, cehn you imehgine dese balebustehs (ball-busting homemakers) khocking (pestering) demselves vile dey eating my blintzes about who gets moe af de naches? Von spends all de day smelling de feet, de ander (other) goes all de day smelling de hehlitosis. No real doctah smells deht dreck (shit). Ya brudder, he’s eh rrreal doctah.’" ...Actually Mom, my brother’s a proctologist.

Uncle: Your brother was just listed as one of the top doctors in Baltimore.

Dad: And don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for that. I’d have been a great doctor and Mom would have loved me for it. But Mom always loved him best. (points to his father) Dad always loved me best, but that just meant he geshrayd (yelled at) me more. Last year, (small beat) just a couple weeks before she went, Mom asked me to help Mrs. Varshavsky with moving some boxes because her son "de cardiologist" (with Yiddish accent) was too busy to help her, so I asked Mom “why do you have to always say ‘her son the cardiologist?’ So I went to help Mrs. Varshavsky, and she kept referring to “Mein zohn (My son) de (the) cardiologist ver machtn zex-hunderd teusend toller a yahr." (who makes six-hundred thousand dollars a year). But I didn’t want to be a doctor so when she asked me "ver you should apply tzu medical school" (say in high pitched voice with exaggerated Yiddish accent) I told her I didn’t take the pre-med credits, and you should have seen how hard I almost killed her. But I never told my kids that they had to be anything at all long as they worked hard... 

(Aunt has finished her salad and leaves the room, Dad waits for her to leave and then whispers in a shout) ...And look at them now!
Uncle: Come on. I’m sure they’ll find something that works for them.

Dad: What works for them?! I have to help one son in New York who's fardraydt (confused) with an apartment he doesn’t work hard enough to afford and another son who’s farkokt (fucked up) and too depressed to live anywhere but upstairs.

Uncle: Hub a bissl rakhmunes (have a little pity). Give him time, he’ll move out and find something he's good at.

Dad: Tzu shpayt (too late)! The months are becoming years. Before he knows it he’ll be fifty. (beat) I’ll have long been dead from this lokhn kop (hole in the head) but he’ll be an alteh cocker (old fart/shitter) living with his Mom.

Uncle: It could be worse.

Dad: (deadpan) There’s worse.

Uncle: Oh?

Dad: Remember that friend of son #2 (always a bit of irony in naming the sons after numbers) who came down over Rosh Hashana?

Uncle: Yeah. I really liked him.

Dad: (completely deadpan) Turns out that for six months, that’s been his boychik (boy - as in boyfriend).

Uncle: (laughs, shocked, but also amused) He’s a faygeleh (literally means bird, also means faggot)?!?

Dad: I guess so. (shakes head) I just heard about this this week.

Uncle: But…... he had all those meydlakh (girls) in high school! Every time you visited him in college he had a different girl.

Dad: I dunno, he certainly seemed like he loved deh maydlakh (the women) when he was with'em. But I’ve stopped thinking I can understand him. Maybe the luftmensch (person with head in the air/clouds) is just doing this to be innn-teresting.

Uncle: (shocked for a few seconds, then recovers with a sigh) Well, (shrugs) Mazel Tov for him. If he’s gay he should feel comfortable letting us know and no matter what he does, he’s still a mensch. You should shep naches (take pride) for him and everything he did.

Dad: What’s he done?

Uncle: (defensive) You don’t ask what a yingel's (kid's) done when he just graduated magna cum laude at an Ivy League school.

Dad: That was more than a year ago, and the luftmensch still doesn’t have a full-time job! Now he just putzes (screws) around in New York, tells us he’s going to be an "experimental filmmaker," and takes these waiting jobs in shmootzik (dirty) places that don't even pay the rent so he can make all this khaynik (nonsense) that only meshugoyim (crazy people) would ever watch. All that money spent on his bildung (education) just so he can run up my credit card bills at every bar in Manhattan. (remembers something…) Y’know, last month when I got his bill, I found that the khutzpenik (disrespectful person) spent 50 dollars at a Chinese restaurant. Fifty Dollars! When he walked through the door of the restaurant, he must have shouted out ‘MOO GOO GAI PAN FOR EVERYBODY!’

Uncle: So he’s taking a little time off. He’s finding himself.

Dad: Not finding yourself at the age of 24 is a shandeh (disgrace)!

Uncle: Oh, and where were you at 24?

Dad: I was in California dodging the Vietnam draft, but it’s different now. Es pas nit (there's no reason), this is 1995, this is Amerikeh (America), we just won the Cold War! There's no end of jobs for any kind of mensch and there never will be.

Uncle: I think you’re being too hard on him. A liberal like you, you can’t possibly be mad that your son is gay.

Dad: (resignedly, getting to the heart of the matter) No, of course I’m not, I’m proud of him for coming out. But there’s something else.

Uncle: Nu... (Well...)?

Dad: Deh boychik (the boyfriend), you remember his name?

Uncle: Yeah, Robert Gold.  

Dad: It turns out that his name is Robert GOULD!

Uncle: (beat, taking in what this means, exaggerated but very sincere horror, almost shouting) He’s a goy?!...... How can he do that to us!? (puts his head in his hands) How can you ever forgive him for that?!?

Dad: It’s my worst nightmare come true.

Uncle: You put all that effort into your kinder (children), you raise them with the right education, the right values, you teach them to Jewish Day School so they learn deh Hebrayisch (the Hebrew), you speak to them sometimes in Yiddish so they don't forget what was, you never raise a hand to them, you be there when they need it and respect them when they don’t want you around, you do everything so that their kishkes (guts) have some Derekh Eretz (way of the land - meaning proper conduct) and make sure they're not filled with vilgutsch (junk). And then they take everything a Yiddisheh kop (Jewish head - meaning a proper Jewish gentleman) should be and shpritz (spit) it back on your alte pawnim! (old face) (beat) If one of my kids did that to me I’m not sure I could go to the Khossen (wedding).

Dad: Well, gays can’t get married. So at least we don’t have to worry about that.

Uncle: He was such a meeskeit (little ugly person)! He was balding! We swapped Seinfeld quotes for half an hour! (beat) I just don’t know how that goy could possibly not be a Jew!

Dad: There’s gotta be a couple boychiks (boy, in this case Jewish boy) I can introduce him to.

Uncle: Well at least your other son doesn't seem to turn his back on deh Yiddishkeit (literally "The Judaism").

Dad: He hasn't turn his front to anything either except food. The khutzpeh (effrontery) of that gonif (thief)... He just sits on his bed all day in that hegdesh (pigpen) of a room. The naar (simpleton) never had a girlfriend, never had a job, never even finished college! The schnorrer's (beggar's) just paced around for five years like a vildeh khayeh (wild animal), getting fat and listening to his music, reading his books and feeling sorry for himself.

Uncle: I guarantee you the naar (simpleton) read five times as much as your luftmensch did in school. You gotta be a little nicer to him. Your schlemazl's (chronically unlucky person) had it rough.

Dad: We all have it rough. What makes him special?

Uncle: What makes him special is that you have him around.

Dad: I have him around and we do nothing but shrek (scream) all day.

Uncle: You resent your son for yelling at you? (as if to imply ‘you of all people’)

Dad: Oy. (sighs very loudly) Even you’re against me.

Uncle: I’m not against you, I just don’t understand how you can hold so much against him when he’s clearly so much like you.

Dad: He’s not like me. (points to himself) I found a wife, I could hold a job, I had a family.

Uncle: He’s twenty-six years old. When you were twenty-six your biggest accomplishment was having broken up with my sister five times.

Dad: (throws up hands) Alright, so I’m a schlemiel (loser) too. At least I want my kids to do better than I did.

Uncle: Geb a kuk (take a look/Look). You were always jealous of my mishpokheh (family) and compared your kinder to mine. But mein eltest (my oldest) has barely been back to Baltimore for fifteen years. She goes to practice medicine in Argentinian pampus, then comes back with a luftmensch from Argentina and goes to Seattle. In a couple years she’s such a makher (mover and shaker) that she has two houses on the Pacific Ocean, so it’s a great year if we see her three times. One day the phone rings and she tells us that she’s getting divorced and marrying another doctor at the hospital. For months, we get no explanation for why or what happened, we just had to accept that es ist vas es ist (it is what it is). Mein tzveyte (My second) announces after a freshman year with straight A's at her Ivy League school that she’s dropping out to enlist in the Israeli army, what can we do to stop her? She could have been a researcher at Hopkins by now, but she instead she still works on a kibbutz milkhing deh coo's (milking the cows, make a milking motion, make it look sexual...) in the Israeli desert. Now she’s been in the Negev for eight years. Can you imagine living to the Negev Desert for eight years?

Dad: I haven't been there since before the State of Israel was founded.

Uncle: My twins, they’re both gute neshawmes (good souls), they work very hard and they’ll do very well, and I hope they’ll decide to move back to Baltimore, but they don't care from anything but sports. If they could, they'd just sit from deh TV all day and watch the O's (Orioles).

Dad: What did they call themselves growing up?

Uncle: Kodak and Magic. But you can’t be Larry Bird and Magic Johnson when you’re five foot five.

Dad: Jews don’t play for basketball teams, they own them. (beat) And with your kids’ kops (heads) for business, they just might.

Uncle: And just look at my nudnikeh (pain in the neck) in there (motioning offstage)? She’s so frum (religious) that this whole time she’s been sitting with a book in your living room rather than eat or talk with us because to her, we’re goyim too. You can’t stand your mispokheh (family), but at least you have one.

Dad: (puts head in hands) Where did we go wrong? At least your kids seemed with the program for a while. My kids were farcockt from the time they knocked over their first lamp.

Uncle: (quietly and pointing to the door) Well one of them’s about to come through the door.

Father: (gets up with extravagant and not entirely sincere display of love) Oh my son, my son! (hugs and kisses him) I love you so much!

Son 1: (half-heartedly hugs him, says a bit begrudgingly) I love you too Dad.

Father: Yeah, but I mean it.

Son 1: No you don’t.

Uncle: (laughs) Be nicer to your father.

Son 1: Did you tell him to be nicer to me?

Father: He did actually.

Son 1: Well, I’m glad somebody pretends to be on my side.

Father: We’re all on your side!

Son 1: Yeah, well a flea is on the side of a dog, and the dog might actually miss the flea when the flea dies, but that doesn’t mean the flea wasn’t a nuisance.

Father: (combination of faux shocked and real shocked) Can you believe this?!

Uncle: Y’know, your father might be nicer to you if…

Son 1: (interrupts) Oh c’mon, you know he’ll never be nicer to me.

Uncle: That’s probably true, but there’s still hope for you.

Son 1: Well, you’re very kind to say that.

Dad: Your uncle believes in you. You should be grateful for him.

Son 1: I am. Do you believe in me?

Dad: Well did you accomplish anything today?

Son 1: Of course not. Did you?

Dad: The market went up.

Son 1: I’m sure you had plenty to do with that.

Dad: Why don’t you nosh on some salad while you’re telling me what a horrible role model I am.

Son 1: I never said that you’re a horrible role model.

Dad: Well, I am a horrible role model. (passes the salad) I sold the business, retired when you were still in high school, and you kids now think it’s OK not to work because you see me putzing around the house.

Son 1: Yes dad, it’s your fault that all your kinder (children) haven't amounted to bupkes (nothing/small shits).

Dad: Well, isn’t that what your therapist tells you?

Son 1: Sometimes. Y’know, therapy might do you a world of good.

Dad: I don’t need therapy, I know I had bad parents.

Son 1: (points to his grandfather) Jesus! Your father’s right there!

Dad: Don’t worry, he can’t hear us.

Scene 2:

(in the kitchen. Mom and Aunt are preparing food, Cousin 5, 16 and dressed in an ultra-orthodox skirt, is reading at the kitchen table, doesn’t look up.):

Aunt: What’s the balagan (commotion) in the dining room?

Mom: (dismissing it) They’re probably just breyging (quarrelling).

Aunt: (rolls eyes) Ma nishtana ha laila hazeh (Why is this night different from all others?)?

Mom: (trepid) Well,... there’s a bit of nayes (news) from the luftmensch.

Aunt: What news? You told me he was gay months ago.

Mom: Yeah but... (pointing to the dining room, stage whisper) he didn’t know.

Aunt: Your husband wouldn’t care if his son were gay.

Mom: Well, that’s not the tzores (troubles).

Aunt: Nu?

Mom: Well,... remember the boychik (boy/boyfriend), Robert Gold?

Aunt: Yeah.

Mom: It turns out he lied about the boy’s name, the name is Robert GOULD!


Mom: Shhhhh. Don’t let your husband hear, he'd have a heart attack.

Aunt: Lama hoo oseh et zeh (why does he do this)?!

Mom: He doesn't care. He's like a four year old, he just does vos er vilt (what he will) and he doesn't care if it hurts anybody! (beat) Remember at the Bar Mitzvah the other week when cousin Tzippy stormed out in a huff? 

Aunt: Yeah, wasn't she supposed to stay another few days?

Mom: She was supposed to be with us all week before she flew back to Israel. But she left because he told her that people like her were personally responsible for killing Rabin.

Aunt: Oh my god! Why is he so insensitive?

Mom: He was always like that! He's like his father!... (thinks, says with a hint of long-suffering...) Or maybe he gets it from my mother, but he was always as bad as they were. Actually, remember when he was four and I was pregnant again? Well... one day, just a few weeks before I had his sister, I couldn’t find him, so I ask his brother where he was. He told me, (sincerely, with a child's inflection but not his tone of voice) ‘he went out to lunch.’ So I went aroys (outside) and still I can't find him. I start looking down the road and still I can't see him. That was when I realized that he was serious, so I run as fast as I can toward Main Street screaming his name at the top of my lungs and when I finally see him, he's riding his tricycle in the middle of Main Street, with stopped cars honking their horns l'eylom vo'ed (forever/to the next world) in either direction. I screamed at him ‘Vos denkst du ton?!’ (What do you think you're doing) And he shouts back: "I’m going to McDonald’s."

Aunt: (laughs) Wow. How did you not have the baby right there?

Mom: I nearly did. But all I know is that was the moment I realized that I would have to watch him with beydeh eygen (both eyes). (sighs, despirited) By the time I realized the other one needed another tzvey eygen (two eyes), it was too late.

Aunt: (resigned) He was always so bright.

Mom: His whole life, I never knew what to do to help. We don’t know from goyisheh illuim (goyish scholars), we know from Jews.

Aunt: Couldn’t one of us help him find some of those khakhamim (smart people)? Knowing there are anashim (people) out there like him might make him happier.

Mom: Maybe we could if we tried, but if we helped him, he’d just become another ersatz (fake) goy like the rest of them. He might be happier but he’d become just like his brother and vermakht (close) his kep (head/mind) on everything we do.

Aunt: You don't know that.

Mom: Look at his brother! 

Aunt: It might just be a phase with him.

Mom: Y’know I almost would be OK with our smarkatiner yinglach (smartass kids) becoming more assimilated if they actually assimilated.

Aunt: Your luftmensch seems to be doing a pretty good job of it.

Mom: But look at the way he assimilated! He's not an American, he's just a self-hating anti-semite like every other yingeh Yid (young Jew) these days that goes to college. He kvetches about all the kronkites awf deh velt (diseases of the world) and ignores that Amereekeh (America) did everything for him! He never cared that Mameh and Tateh (Mom and Dad) had no lives except taking care of him and his syblings! And they all live their lives as though they have two meltzers (waiters) following them everywhere!

Aunt: Well your b'khor (oldest) seems to at least feel guilty about it.

Mom: It's just his way. He's just a black hole of finding ways to feel bad about himself. 

Aunt: Isn't that kind of uncharitable?

Mom: I'm his mother. Nobody can ever be sorrier than I am that he's unhappy, but there are more important things than being happy, and if being dershlogn (depressed) is the price he has to pay for staying a Jew, then he has to pay it. I'll be around for him as long as he needs me, but I'm terrified... what's going to happen to him when I'm gone?

Aunt: Well look at your mother. You might be around forever!

Mom: Zol Gotteh Pitten (God forbid)! But my luftmenschen can’t take care of themselves! It’s my fault for not teaching them, now they're never gonna have any kids of their own and I probably won't have any ayniklakh (grandchildren) while I'm alive.

Aunt: Zeh lo emet (that's not true). And even if it is (walks closer to her daughter) I'll have enough grandchildren for both of us! In two or three years this one's going to start poping 'em out like Tic-Tacs!

Cousin 5: (very firmly) Eema (Mom), I don't like you talking about me that way.

Aunt: Zeh ha'khayim shelakh (It's your life), I'm not interfering. You can peru u'revu (be fruitful and multiply) as many times as you want and we'll be happy to have as many nekheds (grandchildren) as you give us. But who's gonna pay for them?

Cousin 5: Hashem will take care of it.

Aunt: Well I think your father is God, but you never did.

Cousin 5: Leave Abba out of this! You just don't understand because you never tried to understand!

Aunt: Mah aht khoshevet? Sheh'ha'arba shanim sheh'atid kol sheker? (What do you think? That the last four years are all a lie?) Your father and I were so happy when we you told us you wanted to be more religious! We joined an Orthodox shul, we let you to transfer to Bais Yaakov, we stopped eating out, we don't even drive on Shabbos anymore. We even got a second refrigerator! How is this not enough?

Cousin 5: Of course it's not enough!

Aunt: What did you think! We were just going to drop everything about our lives because you decided you wanted to become a fanatic? What are you gonna do one day when one of your children wants to be less frum (religious) or even become an apikores (heretic/non-believer)?

Cousin 5: I haven't even met my Bashert yet! Who knows if we'll even be able have kids?

Aunt: So what point will there be to your life if you can't? (immediately realizes what she just said and regrets it)

Cousin 5: (Very hurt, almost crying, pause) The point of my life, the point of your life, is to serve Hashem. And if He doesn't want me to have kids, He doesn't want me to, I'll find another way for me to serve him. And if he does, I'll be a better mother than you were!

Aunt: Oy. I'm sorry I said that chamoodi (my dear). I'm so sorry. (Makes a motion for a hug.) Come here. 

Cousin 5: I just want to read my book. 

Aunt: (comes up to her) Taksheev alai (listen to me). Don't be like that, I just don't want to see you tied into a decision you can't take back.

Cousin 5: Please, I didn't even want to be here, I was invited to the Rozenzweigs again to do a real Shabbat, but you wanted me here so here I am! And you and I both know this isn't real. It's just an act you all do to make yourselves feel less guilty about turning your back on Mitzvot (commandments).

Aunt: That's really hurtful. How can you say that?

Cousin 5: Just let me read!

Aunt: Seriously! What did we do to make you treat us with so much Boz (contempt)?

Cousin 5: (pause) If you have to ask that question, you clearly won't understand the answer (looks back at her book).

Aunt: (beat, sigh) Ananchnu osim et hakol bishvilkhem (We do everything for them), and then you fail them in one little way, and they resent everything about you.

Mom: (shrugs) Give her time. One day she'll be a mother and she'll understand everything you've done for her. Anyway, don't worry feininker (my dear), your mother's done very well by you. I'm the one who has to live with that I've failed as a mother.

Aunt: (immediately) That’s the stupidest thing I've ever heard! You’re the best mother in Baltimore!

Mom: No, no I'm not. I have to be around as long as I can because nobody else is gonna take care of them. They didn’t need the world's best mother, they needed a drill sergeant.

Aunt: Well, your husband certainly tried.  

Mother: And I should have let him. But he can be such a goddamn shtik drek (piece of shit).

Aunt: (shrugs) Yeah, no sense in denying that... I don't know how you're so patient with him.

Mother: I'm not, believe me, you don't see us when people aren't around.

Aunt: (acknowledging) I know, clearly somebody's had to keep him in line all these years if nobody's ever kicked the crap out of him. He certainly means well, and when you need him he’s a real tzadik (righteous person).

Mother: Sometimes he is, yeah, but it's also clear to everybody but him that he's a manic depressive. He always tells me that I want him to be miserable because the times when he’s miserable are the only times I’m not.

Aunt: (laughs) Was there ever any doubt about that?

Mother: Of course not. But he's proof that you can be a schmuck and still be a great husband, great son, great father. We spent the last thirty years taking care of parents and children to take care of. And he takes care of them - everything, altz: money, laundry, food, cars, apartments, tuition.

Aunt: (jokingly) And he wants every bit of credit for it.  

Mother: Yeah, he complains about it every second, but can you blame him? All these years when his Mom was sick: stroke after stroke, screaming nightmares from both his parents for their years in the camps. All the fights in his house when he grew up and the breaking furniture.

Aunt: And still he turned out to be a mensch.

Mother: He absolutely is. He just hates every second of it.

Aunt: (thinks of something) Did you ever wonder if his dad hit his mother?

Mother: (immediately) Never. Jews yell so they don’t have to hit each other

Aunt: Nobody in my family ever yelled, my parents just sat in the living room simmering at each other for fifty-eight years.

Mother: Your family was German Jews. Your great-grandparents all got here in the 19th century and moved out to the midwest to run stores. To Yids like us, your mishpokhe (family) might as well have been goyim.

Aunt: That’s not very nice!

Mother: You should be happy! You're a real Amerikaner (American)! The rest of us were just aremanes (poor Jews) in the middle of a neighborhood that went schvartz (black) after the fifties.

Aunt: We had antisemitism too!

Mother: Not the way we did! My family didn’t move out to the suburbs until 19farshtunkineh70 (19stinkin/fuckin70) - in the sixties the schvartzes (blacks) harassed me every day. Dad had to drive me and pick me up from college so I wouldn’t get groped on the way home.

Aunt: Yeah,... I'm sure that must have been hard. We didn’t have anything like that.

Mother: And I had it easy compared to him. Poor putz (prick) never had a childhood! All those years he would have to help out in his parents store, stay up late count the money, get up early to unload the stocks.

Aunt: And still he skipped two grades.   

Mother: Got a PhD back when getting one meant something…

Aunt: Yeah. Why does he always dismiss that so much?

Mother: He always says he did it because of the war. But I think he just did it to get away from his family. He'd have loved to go to Vietnam if it meant getting out of that meshugoyim heuse (insane house/asylum), he might have almost been more scared his draft number wasn't high enough! But it doesn't matter, that's all thirty years ago. (sighs) I got pregnant, four months later we have a wedding with 400 people while I'm showing through my dress. And now we're alteh cockers too, his Dad's lost his mind but physically he's in better health than his son. The heart attack was already five years ago but he never got to the weight he should be.

Aunt: Yeah, that period was pretty scary. But long as you keep svelte (fit), you’ll be there forever.

Mother: There's no way of knowing that.

Aunt: Even so, how old are the banim (sons?) 26 and 24? They're still yeladim (children) they've got plenty of time to figure everything out. (beat) Anyway, I know you’ve known about him being gay for months. But how long have you known about the goyfriend?

Mom: (resignedly) From the beginning. I kept the whole thing a secret from his father until he told me to tell him, which was just this week. He didn’t want his father to know about the meeskeit either because he knew his Dad would esfreyg (interrogate) him about it until he got the truth.

Aunt: Well that’s just stupid. He should have told you everything right away.

Mom: He knew we’d try to break them up.

Aunt: Yeah, well, so what? There are plenty of gay Jews out there.    

Mom: You know him. If we tell him he can only date a Jew, he’ll go through every schkotz in New York.

Aunt: (confused) Y'know, I just don't get it... All those girls from college… Not a single shikse.

Mom: He probably shtupped (pushed/fucked) his way through the whole Hillel house.

Aunt: How did he even find time for studying with all those schnozzy meydlach (girls/comely girls)?

Mom: (laughs and shrugs) I don’t think he did. He was just one of those kids who could do the reading five minutes before class and ace the test.

Aunt: (shakes head) That’s so weird. I never thought of him as the type to cut corners.

Mom: (bitterly joking) Well, apparently he still likes things uncut…

Aunt: Oy... (beat) But he was never the smart one. How did he turn out so well and your other one fuck up so badly?

Mom: (half-heartedly chuckles) Well, the other one always joked that he sold his birthright to his brother for a bowl of soup.

Aunt: I don’t get it… (thinks about it for a second) you mean like Eysav did to Jacob?

Mom: Yeah. He keeps repeating that joke like it’s hilarious, but you know... nobody ever seemed to get most of his jokes but him.

Aunt: (as if to broach a difficult subject) Did you ever test him for some kind of autistic spectrum, like Asperger’s?

Mom: We did,... he has some traits in common, but if he has anything like that it’s mild. Between you and me, I always wondered if he had Borderline Personality Disorder.

Aunt: (aghast) Don’t say that!

Mom: (bitterly and resignedly) You’ve never really seen how bad his temper gets.

Aunt: Well I’ve seen flashes of it, and I’ve certainly heard all about it, but you should have seen the way my sister got when she was younger!

Mom: Yeah,... (knows she's broaching a difficult subject) y’know, about that, I know I'm being a Yenteh (gossip/meddler) by saying this...

Aunt: (interrupting, angrily) Don’t start with that. You have no idea what she put me through. I know everybody gets along your family. But she’s meshuggeh (crazy)!

Mom: (beat, confused look) Have you taken a good look around here?

Aunt: She hasn’t thrown away a single article of paper in thirty years! She doesn’t let anyone come over to visit her so I can't even be in my mother's apartment anymore! She’s never had a job and now that Mom is dead she moved into Mom’s apartment with only her crap for company!

Mom: (pathetically) That sounds incredibly sad.

Aunt: I know it’s sad, but you can’t talk to her without her blowing up. She can’t even be in the presence of mustard!

Mom: (with great pity) It sounds to me like she needs her sister.

Aunt: (flustered beyond words, gives an exasperated huff) She needs much more than I can ever give her!

Mom: But you can give her a head start.

Aunt: How can I give her a head start? She's forty-eight years old and I was lucky I didn't end up just like her. All those drugs in the sixties and the ashrams and the free love communes! And now with all the flashbacks and the conspiracy theories! She'd believe anything she was told long as it was crazy enough!

Mom: Well if your parents had something more to believe in, maybe she wouldn't have gone that way.

Aunt: (bitterly) Please leave my parents out of this. They did everything they knew how to do!

Mom: I'm not saying they didn't.

Aunt: (pointedly) What are you saying?

Mom: I'm saying that if they believed more in being Jews, she might have had a better belief system to latch onto. (points to Cousin 5)

Aunt: (enraged) Don't you dare compare my sister to...

Scene 3

(Interrupted by the entrance of Brother 2 - 24 years old extraverted and charismatic, short but good-looking, wearing ripped jeans and a tight shirt - and Brother 3 - 13 years old, slightly shy and not a little surly - along with Cousin 3 - 28 years old, dressed in a suit.)

Cousin 3: I dunno… this dumpster diving thing sounds dangerous.

Aunt: (overlapping when she sees Cousin 3 and walking over to him) Oh there he is! Let me see you.

Cousin 3: Hang on a sec Ma. I gotta go to the bathroom. (rushes off stage, barely acknowledging)

Mom: (overlapping, running over to him) Oy-oy-oy-oy-oy-oy, what a sight for sore eyes (gives her son multiple kisses) If I’d have known you’d be here so early I’d have had us wait to say Kiddush.

Son 2: That’s ok! We can always say it again!

Cousin 5: (finally giving a subtle glance up from her book) No you can’t, you can only say it once.

Son 2: (enthusiastically) Hey there! How are you?? You never call me anymore! (tries to hug her, she ducks the hug from her chair at the kitchen table)

Aunt: You can’t touch her now, she’s Shomer Negyia, it means no man can touch her until she gets married.

Son 2: (immediately) Yes I know what Shomer Negiya means. And that's horrible!

Cousin: It’s what Hashem wants.

Son 2: Oh really? How’s God doin’?

Cousin 5: He’s great! He doesn’t judge me the way you do.

Son 2: Oh you can’t really believe that, can you?

Cousin 5: Of course I do.

Son 2: You know, you’re basically joining a cult...

Aunt: Yeah, but it’s our cult.

Cousin 5: MOM!

Aunt: Don’t mind her, this is just her teenage rebellion. Now stop avoiding me and say hello to your aunt (kisses him on the cheek). I hear your gay now.

Son 2: Yeah. For now...

Aunt: What? Is it like a shirt that you change every day?

Son 2: That’s what the Rabbis always told us.

Aunt: But your boyfriend, he seemed so Jewish! How could he possibly be a goy?

Son 2: That's why I figured you guys might like him. He might as well be one of us!

Mom: (quietly, as if to broach something difficult) I should probably tell you, your Dad was as disappointed as I was that he isn't.

Son 2: (to Mom) Well you can always try to break us up. God knows you tried that a million times with the boys our sister went out with.

Aunt: So men to you are like women and you can just go through them like water?

Son 2: C’mon, be fair to me. Every one of those girls was at least as dear to me as cattle.

Aunt: And at least they were kosher cattle. 

Son 2: Well, sometimes a man wakes up and realizes he needs a bull instead of a cow.

Son 1: (entering from side) Well, you know that saying? Once you go bull, you never go back. (they hug)

Son 2: You look fantastic!

Son 1: Bullshit. (emphasis on shit)

Son 2: You do! You look like a fat version of me!

Son 1: I look like a version of you without syphilis.

Son 2: Still with the manwhore jokes... I figured now that I'm out you were going to move on to asking me if I have AIDS yet.

Son 1: What's the difference? You sleep with men, you sleep with women, you're still a walking bag of disease.

Son 2: (hugs his brother, says, not entirely sarcastically) I miss you so much!

Son 1: I miss you too!

Aunt: (trying to come into the hug) Well, I just want you to know that we’re all really proud of you for coming out. Even if your gay guy’s a goy.

Son 2: Yes. The goy guy’s a gay.

Son 1: So the gay boy’s a goy.

Son 2: Yes, the goy boy toy.

Aunt: (seeing son and moving over to him) Now let me see my yeled (boy). (grabs him for a hug) Oh my god you’re so handsome.

Cousin 3: I certainly think so.

Aunt: How was your trainride? What time is your wife getting in?

Brother 2: She’s coming in with his brother, they should be here in about twenty minutes.

(enter Dad, Uncle, and Son 1)

Dad: You couldn’t have waited 20 minutes and all take a cab together?

Son 2: You can afford to pay for both…

Cousin 3: We couldn’t all have fit in one cab with the luggage; and I paid for the cab.

Dad: Well anyway, kumm tzu mir mein zohn (come to me my son) (gives his son a big hug and a kiss) Ikh hob lieb dikh (I love you/I have love for you). And I just want you to know that we’re all very proud of you for coming out.

Son 2: (Waiting for it…) But....

Dad: (slaps him upside the head) YES BUT you schvantz (schmuck)!… You’re going to break up with this shkotz tomorrow and I’m gonna find you a nice gay Jewish mixer.

Son 2: (diplomatically sarcastic) That’s very thoughtful of you Da...

Dad: (interrupting) How could you not have thought of your poor Tateh (Dad) and all his tzures (troubles)?! All the nakhes he felt at hearing that his tayerer keend (dear child) had the khutzpeh to come out was korvened (ruined) when you farkuckt (shat) all over the one rule he ever set on you in your entire smarkatiner yingel (little brat) life! However long your Mameh was going to live you took ten years off her li...!

Uncle: (interrupting, stepping between them) Easy there. Anyway, everything he said but without the slap. (hugs and kisses his nephew)

Son 2: I figured.

Dad: And nu? (going up to his nephew) How’s my favorite son? If only my real kinder had half your seykhel (sense) for anything that really matters!

Son 1: (irritatedly sarcastic) Thanks Dad.

Dad: What? All I want is for you all to make money, is that such a crime?

Son 1: But all I want is to spend your money.

Dad: I know you do. That’s why you’re going to put us all in the nebekh heuss (poorhouse) before you move out of this one.

Son 1: Do you promise? That would delight half of Pikesville.

Dad: (turns around to leave room before things get ugly. As he leaves, he exclaims with both hands) Ochen vey! I have a son!

(Exit Dad)

Cousin 3:  Well his kids are great. (puts arm on Son 1’s shoulder) I believe in them, even if they don’t.

Son 1: Oh go lose another million dollars!

Cousin 3: Well that’s the difference between me and my brother. When you’re in finance, you lose a million dollars every day. When you’re in computers like him, you make it.

Mom: Oh he’s not doing that well is he?

Cousin 3: Give him another few years and he’ll invent the robots that kill us all.

Son 1: And of course they’ll start with the Jews.

Mom: (trepid) Why would they do that?

Son 1: I dunno, but of course that invention would beg the question: would killer robots be good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?

Aunt: I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes you wouldn’t make fun of our religion so much.

Son 1: Don’t mind her. (turns to his youngest brother) She’s still mad about my idea to make your Bar Mitzvah party Holocaust themed.

Cousin 3: Oy gevalt.

Son 1: The place cards would all have yellow stars on them and you could be seated at the Bergen-Belsen table or the Treblinka table.

Cousin 3: Well (shrugs), it is very creative.

Son 1: It's an idea you'll never forget...

Cousin 3: I don't know how well it would work in reality.

Son 2: That's OK, it can work somewhere different. I saw this British comedy recently that had a neo-nazi Fast Food restaurant called Arbeit Macht Fries.

(next three lines simultaneously)

Son 1: Ooh that's brilliant.

Mom: That's Horrible.

Aunt: That's disgusting.

Son 1: I really wish everyone in this family would stop acting like they don’t hate Bar Mitzvah parties so much

Uncle: I think it’s nice to see all your family and friends together to celebrate.

Son 1: Well it's not like you got everybody you wanted together to celebrate.

Uncle: Lay off your Mother.

Son 2: (to Mom) What's he talking about?

Uncle: Don't...

Son 1: (too late) Dad wanted to save money so he didn't let Mom invite all the relatives she wanted.

Mom: (angrily) Didn't you notice that all the second and third cousins in your family weren't there?!

Son 2: ...No, I really didn't...

Mom: Now you're never going to have a relationship with them!

Son 2: We don't have a relationship with them anyway.

Mom: Well it's my fault for not inviting them over more often.

Son 1: Well Dad also told you not to invite a lot of his relatives.

Mom: And I didn't think that was right either.

Son 1: Well it's not like they missed much. At my bar-mitzvah all our family and friends got together to watch Dad grab the microphone to make fun of us for forty-five minutes.

Mom: But at least your Bar-Mitzvahs were real family gatherings, two-hundred twenty-five people, and I even cut people from that list! And come on, you had fun, your Bar-Mitzvah wasn't as bad as all that...

Son 1: He put up a slide picture of you in a bikini when you were my age and complained to everybody about how you got fat!

Mom: I was fat!

Son 1: How can you possibly let him get away with that?! I told you to rein him in before his Bar-Mitzvah (points to his youngest brother). Then Rabin (Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel) got shot the day he gets Bar-Mitzvahed and Dad decides to spend another half-hour with the microphone lecturing the entire audience about Israeli history!

Aunt: That history's important! Everybody should know about it!

Son 1: The audience was half the Jews in Pikesville! Everybody knows about it!

Son 2: Well you're right that everybody should know. It's just a shame Dad gave such a skewed view of what happened. 

(Everybody groans and the circle breaks up somewhat everyone says simultaneously) 

Son 1: Don't start.

Uncle: Here we go again.

Cousin 3: Calm down everybody.

Son 3: Oh no.

Mom: Why do you say these things?

Aunt: (slightly raised voice) Don't start with your self-hating Jew stuff. It's pas nit! (inappropriate)

Son 2: (voice raised more) Is it more pas nit than that you build a whole way of life on lies?!

Uncle: I don't want to hear this. (leaves the room)

Son 2: Sorry everybody, I know you don't want to hear that your lives are horrible mistakes, but I'm just the messenger.

Son 1: Dude, enough, you're not going to win this.

Son 2: Somebody has to speak for reality here.

Mom: Look, haven't we had enough of this? After the Bar-Mitzvah you and your uncle nearly got into a fistfight, but you both talked it out and hugged and promised that you would get mad at each other about politics again.

Son 2: I did. But why am I the fucking problem?! It's as much him as me and you're all egging him on!

Son 1: (puts his arm around his brother) Shhhhhh! Calm down boychik (dear boy), I'm not saying they're not crazy, but you're as crazy as they are.  

Son 2: You're gonna be the one to call me crazy?!

Son 1: You schmuck! Gey cockn awfn yawm (go take a shit in the ocean) ya gay cockmuncher. At least my eyes don't widen into saucers the minute your Peace and Social Justice brainwashing kicks in.  

Son 2: What is your problem with all this? You should be the one supporting me!

Son 1: I completely support your going so meshuggeh (crazy). Barukh Hashem (Praise God) you've gotten so delusional, or else everybody would start piling on me again about what a horrible disappointment I am.

Mom: You're not a disappointment to me. Neither of you are, I love you both.

Son 3: HEY!

Mom: (pulls Son 3 in for a one-armed hug) Ikh leeb eer eykh (I love you too)! I just hate what your brothers believe, (comes out of the hug) and pretty soon you're probably gonna spout the same khazerei (trivial nonsense) your brothers do.

Son 1: Don't equate me with him, just because I don't believe in your bullshit doesn't mean I believe in his.

Mom: Don't worry, one day you'll have a mishpokheh and you'll appreciate all the things we taught when your kinderlakh (children) get bar-mitzvahed and have their own families.

Son 2: (resentfully) I suppose you're implying that now I'm never going to have a family?

Son 1: Why are you angry about that? Of course you're not!

Son 2: Whatever. Families are bullshit anyway. I didn't ask to be born here, and I'll do perfectly fine if you don't want me around. 

Mom: Ken-a-horeh (that's a horror/God forbid)! Of course we want you around!! How can you ever say we don't?!

Son 2: Don't get me wrong Mom, I'm glad to see you all, but why should you all care whether or not I'm part of this family?

Mom: Because we love you, and we know that for all your meshigoss (craziness), you love us. 

Son 2: I just don't know why it should be a responsibility. 

Mom: Why do you torture us like this? I'm your Mameh, I love you and you love me. That's the way it is - azay vi Gott hot gehaysen (the way God wills it - point up).

Son 2: You don't really believe that it's just because God wants it that way do you?

Mom: (flustered) Why should it matter what I believe? Whatever you need, we'll always be there for you. Love, money, food, laundry... I just wish you would stop threatening not to be there for us.

Son 2: Well I'm here aren't I?

Mom: And we appreciate that! But why do you always make us feel like this is the last time we're going to see you?

Son 2: Why would it matter? You'd get over not seeing me sooner than you could ever know.

Mom: (really scared now, grabs his hands) Zol Gotteh Peetten (God forbid!)! Promise me you're not going to disappear.

Son 2: What are you talking about?

Mom: PLEASE! Just promise me!

Son 2: (exasparated, just to shut her up) Stop being crazy Mom, I promise, I'm not going anywhere.

Mom: (starts to cry, grabs hold to hug him) That's the best thing you've said to me in years. You made me so happy to hear you say that (grabs hold of him, won't let go, and sobs into his shoulder).

Son 1: Here go the waterworks. Why do you always cry at the craziest things?

Mom: (count to three and come up) I'm just so happy that you're all here and that the whole mishpokheh's gonna be together for the rest of the weekend!

Son 2: Mom, you need to stop taking what I say so personally.

Son 1: It's because she's worried she's not going to have grandchildren. You're a faygeleh, I'm unmarriageable, things aren't going so well with the podiatrist. .

Mom: Shakres! (lies) Things are going great with her and the podiatrist!

Son 1: (sarcastically) OK then! You know more than me!

Mom: What have you heard?

Son 1: Nothing! OK?

Mom: One day you're going to be a great father and you'll have the same intuition I have for when it's a done deal for your kids.

Son 1: Mom, you're smarter than that. You shouldn't worry yourself about the podiatrist, but we all know what a terrible father I'd be and no woman's ever going to take this (point to your body) on.

Aunt: Of course they are. All you need is one woman to pick you out of a lineup and say ‘this is the guy for me.’

Son 1: Y'know this whole family makes love sound so romantic.

Cousin 3: That's what your Aunt did. Do you really think my Dad had any success until she glommed onto him?

Son 1: What a great way to build a family! There's so much love between you and your husband that you've inspired your children to follow completely in your footsteps (points subtly to Cousin 5, who notices and leaves the room).

Aunt: Oh don't leave!

Cousin 3: Come back!

Mom: He didn't mean it!

(all three leave the room following Cousin 5. )

Son 2: Come on, man, it's not your fault. You're always single because you're rotting away with all of them in this Pikesville prison. It's too late for them (points to where they ran offstage) but if you ever had the khutzpah to go anywhere else you could be a huge makher (mover and shaker)! You can always join me in New York. Trust me, you wouldn't believe the women up there!

Son 1: I am a huge makher (grab belly), but apparently they're so hot that you decided to leave them alone for the rest of your life.

Son 2: (provokes uncertainty...) Well,... no matter what I do, even people much uglier than you can find a woman in New York. It's a fucking flesh-fest.

Son 1: I think you mean a fleyshik (meat-based) fuck fest. And in order to take part in it I'd probably have to be set up with all your sloppy seconds? Half your New York women had armpit hair and nose rings, I think I’ll pass.

Son 2: How did you know they had armpit hair?

Son 1: Because they always wear tanktops. The tanktop to show off armpit hair is the uniform of hippie girls and fratty douchebags.  

Son 2: Well so what? Women can be hot with armpit hair and body piercings.

Son 1: (sarcastically) Oh you're so progressive! I wish I could be. 

Son 2: They have the right to do whatever they want!

Son 1: I know that! I'm sorry, I'm still too much like Tateh (Dad) to see all that and not see the Decline of Western Civilization.

Son 2: Dude, you have no idea what you're talking about. Women with those things are usually more adventurous.

Son 1: Well I'm not that adventurous.

Son 2: Whatever dude. If you don't like those women, there are millions of women in New York I haven’t slept with.

Son 1: What about men?

Son 2: Gimme two years…

Son 1: (a bit grossed out, beat) ...Y’know, it really is unfair. You got the charisma, the looks, the competence. You wouldn't even need to rent an apartment, all you'd need is to Freddie Mercury your way into somebody's apartment every night and you can stay in New York forever. (in walks Mom to keep working in the kitchen) But all I got was the brains and you were still the one who went Ivy because all that matters with that shit is people skills. And I've got none.

Son 2: You could do everything I've done and more if you wanted to.

Son 1: How could I do any of it with my standout resume?

Son 2: Everybody lies on their resume. It shouldn’t be too hard to fake one.

Son 1: But what's the point of lying your way into accomplishments? You're telling me I’m going to fake a resume to get into Columbia just to find out that the reading is all jargon and the courseload is going to give me a nervous breakdown? Even I've got better things to do.

Son 2: Lying is what we all do to get ahead in life! You think I'd have ever gotten anywhere in life without lying my way into everything? 

Mom: I don't want to hear this.

Son 2: You're going to start getting self-righteous about that now? Mom, you've known I wouldn't have the brains for any success at all if I hadn't I lied and cheated my way into school success.

Mom: You had academic tutors for all those years!

Son 2: And they helped, but so did stealing the teacher's editions and raiding their desks. And you've known about all that for years and looked the other way the whole time.

Mom: (offended) I knew nothing about that at all! I would have grounded you for life if I'd ever known!

Son 2: Everybody at Beth Tfiloh did it! The teachers always looked the other way!

Mom: What are you talking about?

Son 2: The school was practically begging us to cheat!

Mom: How could you have ever believed that?!

Son 2: Why do you think they gave everybody in the school a special award?? Do you really think it was just to boost our self-esteem? It was to inflate our accomplishments for a college resume!

Mom: That's completely different!

(Cousin 3, coming in from offstage) 

Cousin 3: Alright, stop torturing your mother! Your brother will get out of here soon, and when he does, he'll see, he's gonna be a huge success!

Son 1: Can we stop with this bullshit? No matter where I live I'm never going to be a huge success, but it’s gotta be better than living here.

Aunt: (coming in) For him? Everything’s better than here.

Son 1: Oh shut the fuck up. 

Mom: Don't you dare say that, apologize right now!

Son 1: What? She made a joke, I made a joke back!

(oven dings) 

Mom: Well it appears we have a Turkey.

(everybody leaving except Cousin 3 and Brother 1. Brother 1 goes to sit at the kitchen table, Cousin 3 comes over to talk to him.)

Cousin 3: So how you been feeling?

Brother 1: The usual. It’s touch and go every day. Every time I’m happy, Dad notices it and makes sure to find a way to make me miserable again. Though I’m sure he feels the same way about me.

Cousin 3: I know you’ve heard this a zillion times but…

Brother 1: I know. I need to move out, but I gotta be ready for it.

Cousin 3: A lot of things will improve when you do.

Brother 1: If I do…

Cousin 3: You will.

Brother 1: Who knows if he’ll pay for the rent.

Cousin 3: Of course he will.

Brother 1: I don’t know that. And what happens if he doesn’t, or if he stops. I get evicted and Dad might not let Mom take me back in.

Cousin 3: That’s nonsense.

Brother 1: (agitated, slightly raised voice) You don’t know that!

Cousin 3: (calming) I’m just trying to help.

Brother 1: (exhales to collect himself) I appreciate that. Really I do.

Cousin 3: Are you taking your medication?

Brother 1: Of course.

Cousin 3: We should go in. You know I’m here no matter what if things go wrong tonight, and after tonight I’m always a phonecall away.

Brother 1: I do, and thank you for that. I can’t imagine it’s easy.

Cousin 3: Don’t worry about it. I work on Wall Street, I see bigger psychopaths every day.

Scene 4:

(everybody comes into the dining room and sits down at the table, saying various things to be talking to each other during the end of scene 3 but we can't hear what they're saying. The exception to this is Cousin 5, who is still offstage.)

Dad: Where's you're daughter? Her aunt made a Glatt Kosher soup especially for her just the way her niece told her to make it.

Aunt: (sighs) That's too bad.

Dad: Uh-oh.

Aunt: Still she won't eat it unless she's there to watch your wife make it. 

Dad: (chortles, shakes his head) What an idiotkeh (idiot).

Aunt: She brought her own food and she's probably eating her own food in the other room.

Dad: Well, if she's eating in the other room, I wouldn't want to interrupt her.

Aunt: No, she's part of this family, she's going to sit with us (shouting so the next room can hear her) Ms. Frummette, you're a member of this family so you're going to sit with every Apikores (heretic/Epicurean) at this table and you're going to like it!

(Cousin 5 comes in with a downcast look)

Cousin 3: Come on, we're not so bad. 

Cousin 5: I just don't understand why I have to be here.

Cousin 3: Because you're one of us, whether you like it or not.

Brother 1: Of course she doesn't like it.

Cousin 5: And you do?

Brother 1: Believe it or not,there are moments... But I don't know what the big deal is, there's lots of things I don't like about here but I show up because I don't have anywhere better to be. 

Cousin 5: (whiny) But I do!

Brother 1: (chortle) No, you really don't. 

Cousin 5: (seething) If I don't think this is a Jewish gathering, why do I have to be here?!

Brother 1: So much for religious tolerance.

Cousin 5: (shouts at parents) You're the ones who were happy that I wanted to be more Jewish! Now you're stopping me!

Brother 1: If being more Jewish means turning into what you turning into, then I think we're all going to start eating pork. 

Cousin 5: (gasps, inarticulately fuming as adolescent girls do) You're so annoying!

Brother 1: That's the nicest thing you've said to me since you were a little girl. 

(everybody laughs) 

Cousin 5: (giving up) Y'know, I really don't like you. 

Brother 1: I know, but nobody here likes me so why should I care.

Uncle: That's not true. Of course we like you, we love you!

Brother 1: I'm sure you do, you just can't stand anything about me. 

Cousin 5: Why do you always have to be like this!???

Brother 1: Take a good luck around kint (kid). This might come as a shock to you, but I really like you even if you can't stand me. You've got real spirit, you're not just some Jewish American Princess like my sister. 

Mom: Oy, don't start with that...

Brother 1: (ironically) Sorry, I'm just trying to get it out of my system before she gets here.

Mom: Wait. She's actually coming? (Cousin 5 looks down to read at her book again)

Brother 1: (pause, long enough to register the full awkwardness) Oh yeah,... sorry, she told me to tell you she's coming with the Podiatrist and his daughter, I forgot... (thinking he hasn't been forgiven) Sorry...

Dad: (gets up) Of course you did. (to Brothers 2 and 3 who are nearer to the door) Now help me get three more table settings. 

Brother 1: I'll get them.

Dad: It'll go faster if we get them.

(Uncle and Cousin 3 leave the room. Nobody else notices.)

Son 1: Sit down. I'll get them.

Dad: What's the big deal?

Son 1: If you get them it'll just be another guilt trip later.

Dad: We're closer to the door.

Son 1: (slightly raised voice) You always do things you think everybody else should do and then you complain how ungrateful we are because you do everything!

Dad: Why are you getting angry at me?

Son 1: Why do you have to say 'of course you did.'

Dad: I know, I know, I'm a horrible father, one day soon I'll be dead and you can complain to everybody else about how much I made you suffer.  

Son 1: (over this) Oh my god... Do you promise?

(Uncle and Cousin 3 emerge with three chairs)

Uncle: Here, we have them. 

Dad: What about the plates? (looks at Son 1. Uncle and Cousin 3 look at each other with amusement)

Son 1: Alright, you go get the plates and utensils since serving your children gives you so much pleasure. 

(Dad leaves the room, noticeable pause)

Aunt: Well, I was waiting for a lull in the conversation to tell you all about our special guest tonight.

Brother 1: Oh shit...

Aunt: Helga Bernheimer is coming to eat with us tonight.

Brother 2: Oh fuck. Not that old Kraut. (Brother 3 laughs) 

Aunt: What are you talking about?

Brother 2: She used to come in at Schechter and Beth Tfiloh once a year to talk about the Holocaust. Every year it was the same thing. 

Brother 1: (says in mock German accent, increasingly screaming as it goes on and banging on the table) "In Auschwitz I vas sent to ze gess chembahs feefteen times everrry day! And feefteen times a day ve zaw how prrrechious life eez. Now you vill give deine money to ze Shtaet of Isrrrael und marry anderer Juden und macht schnell mit ze Jewvish babies...!!" (Brother 2 goes into fit of hysterial laughter)

Uncle: (slightly raised voice) I don't think that's funny.

Brother 2: We know you don't. 

Uncle: The Holocaust isn't a joke. 

Brother 2: Yes, if we make fun of Hitler, Hitler wins. 

Uncle: You wouldn't be here to make fun of him if he did win.

Mom: Don't do this guys. 

Brother 2: Well then Thank God he lost and that people like you are here to protect us from Yassir Arafat annexing the Sudetenland. 

Brother 1: (to Brother 3 who's sitting on his other side) Well there goes the next five hours... (Brother 3 chortles) 

Mom: You both promised!

Uncle: Why are you making this personal? All I said was that I don't think this is funny. 

Brother 2: You were the one who started yelling.

Uncle: I wasn't yelling. 

(Dad comes in with the plates and silverware goes over to set them) 

Brother 2: This is what you do every time. You get offended when somebody challenges your precious Judaism and then you accuse everybody else of overreacting!

Uncle: It's your Judaism too!

Brother 2: It's my choice whether or not it's my Judaism and I'm not a horrible person if I decide it isn't. 

Uncle: It's not your choice in the slightest.

Brother 2: I guess it's not my choice to associate with fascists like you either.

Uncle: How is it that every political discussion we have gets to you calling me a fascist in fifteen seconds?

Brother 2: This is what you call a discussion? No wonder you're such a fascist!

Uncle: Why do you take these things so personally?

Brother 2: Because you mean them personally.

Uncle: All I said was that I don't think it's funny.

Brother 2: You've never gone a day in your life without making Schvartzeh jokes and this is the joke you don't think is funny?

Uncle: No I don't think it's funny. Nothing blacks endured is as bad the Holocaust.

Brother 2: Sure, and while you're at it why don't you yell more about the horrors of being Jewish from the porch of your four story house?

Uncle: Every time I say anything at all you might disagree with, you interpret it in the worst way.

Mom: ENOUGH! (bangs on the table) Everybody stops.

Brother 1: (to uncle) Well he is right, you do froth at the mouth about liberals like it's your job and then get angry when people take offense to what you say. It's a very Nixonian tactic. 

Dad: I've told him and his father that for decades. 

Brother 1: (to Dad) Shut up Tricky Dick. 

Aunt: (Yells) May-I-Continue-Please?!

Brother 2: By all means you Bernheimer collaborator!

Aunt: Stop it! Mrs. Bernheimer is a very poor woman with no family! Her husband dropped dead forty years ago and since then she's made her living for three months every year in Ocean City selling donuts. 

Dad: I remember her donuts from when we were kids. She only had one flavor donut.

Mom: What flavor was it?

Dad: Glazed. It was the greatest treat I ever had because Mom wouldn't let me eat a donut made by anybody who wasn't a Holocaust Survivor. 

Aunt: Do you mind?

Dad: Sorry, I know Mrs. Bernheimer doesn't deserve the life she had.... Even if my Mameh always thought she was a cunt...

Mom: Will you just let her talk!

Dad: Who's stopping her??

Aunt: (one second pause) Well, I don't know if you've ever heard her speak, but we had her at a school assembly for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) last year, and she was just amazing. All the teachers were crying, all the girls were crying too. 

Dad: Well what about the boys?

Aunt: Well of course they didn't care. 

Dad: Glad to hear you were so respectful my son. 

Mom: He wasn't there this year! Remember?

Dad: Oh, that's right. I took you down to Washington for the 50th anniversary. I never asked you, what did you think?

Brother 3: It was OK...

Dad: Just OK?...

Brother 3: It was OK.

Dad: Were you even paying attention?

Brother 3: ...I dunno...

Dad: (throws up hands) This is the Jewish Day School education I pay for...

Mom: I dunno, it seemed like you were interested when you went. You were telling me one day all these details about the camps. 

Brother 1: He probably got those from me. I remember when I was a little kid, I read as much as I could about the camps. 

Uncle: (complimenting) Well you were always interested in Jewish History.

Brother 1: (with mischief) And I remember that I would fantasize about how I would have fought the war differently if I were Hitler. 

Cousin 3: Relax Dad. It's just a joke. 

Brother 1: No, I really thought about it.

Scene 5:

(In Walk Cousins 1 and 2 to the Dining Room, older daughters of Uncle and Aunt. Cousin 1, a west-coast doctor and wears as much maturity as possible as a pose. She is 30 and rail thin, but her dark hair is beginning to have grey highlights that she lets show. Cousin 2, 28, is a bit thicker-set, but quite physically fit and tan from nearly ten years living in Israel. Aunt sees her daughters and literally breaks down weeping. Everybody else laughs. They come up to their mother and hug her from either side.)

Aunt: (through sobs to everybody) Why didn't you tell me they were coming into town?

Uncle: Your son wanted to keep this a secret.

Aunt: You all knew?

(Everybody awkwardly nods their heads)

Aunt: (suddenly angry at them all) How could you keep this a secret from me???

Uncle: What? Are you not happy your children are here?

Aunt: (offended they weren't there for Thanksgiving) Where were they for Thanksgiving?

Cousin 1: We were in Seattle.

Aunt: And where have you been for the three weeks since his bar-mitzvah? (points to Son 3)

Cousin 2: I was going through the National Parks with some friends from Israel.

Aunt: (ready to explode) You've been here for three extra weeks and you don't see your family?!

Son 1: Can you blame her?

Cousin 2: It was a chance to learn things for the Kibbutz.

Aunt: Yes, I'm sure your desert kibbutz needs to know everything there is to know about how to cope with 40 degree rainy seasons.

Cousin 3: Mom, you can't get mad at her. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity she got on a grant from the Israeli government.

Aunt: If I knew you were coming into town I'd have gotten ready for you!

Uncle: What do you need to do to get ready? Just make their beds and we'll make them lunch tomorrow!

Aunt: (frustrated) Their rooms are a mess from the last time they were in town!

Cousin 2: Relax Mom, we've been able to clean our rooms for a quarter-century.

Aunt: (exasperated) We redid the entire house last year and I've been dreaming the whole time about us all staying in a clean house together. Now it's a mess!

Cousin 1: I'm sure it's gorgeous.

Aunt: (rising anger) I'd have invited everybody over for brunch !

Uncle: This doesn't need to be a big production. Everybody just saw each other at the Bar Mitzvah.

Aunt: (furious) All we have in the fridge is leftover chicken!

Cousin 3: I'm sorry Mom, I told them to make it a surprise because I thought you were going to be happy to see them again.

Cousin 1: We can buy something tomorrow morning Mom.

Cousin 5 (entering): No you won't. It's Shabbos.

Cousin 2: (looks over to Cousin 5) Abba (Dad) warned us about you.

Cousin 5: What did he say?

Cousin 2: Nothing, just that you were 'exploring your Judaism.'

Cousin 5: You should explore it too!

Cousin 2: What do you think I'm doing in Israel?

Son 1: According to your emails you sound like you kill a Palestinian every day and then go out for Ice Cream to celebrate.

Mom: What's email?

Son 1: I explained this to you Mom. It's just like regular mail, but on a computer.

Mom: Oh that's right!

Son 1: If you like I can also show you how the Cotton Gin works.

Uncle: Be nicer to your mother.

Son 1: This is 1995! You have to know what computers are if you want to do anything today.

Dad: Well he's right that everything is computers these days but it's all gonna be over in a few years.

Son 1: Here comes the expert...

Dad: It has to or else we're all farcockt! One day soon we're all going to store every tchotchkeh (triviality/trinket) in the world on a computer. One little glitch happens and it'll all disappear.

Son 1: Here it is, The Charge of The Luddite Brigade!

Dad: How can anybody get anything done on a computer? I didn't think a person could get any more addicted to anything than you were to television. Then you discovered the internet!

Cousin 1 (to Cousin 2): Here we go.

Dad: You stay in your room for hours at a time looking at that screen. What the hell is so interesting?

Cousin 2: Oh I think we know...

Son 1: Alright, fuck every last one of you. Fuck you particularly for coming here just so you can insult me.

Mom: Sha!

Son 1: (indignant) I'm happy you all can find people to spend your lives with. You all think it's so easy! But not everybody finds it easy to jump through all those hoops, and even if we did, why should we have to?

Dad: Wait,... what?

Son 1: (building self-righteous momentum, voice choked with tears) You all go through life as though there's nothing to life but a Heuse mit Zvay point Zvay Kinder (house with two point two children) und (and) a Veiss (white) Picket Fence! You all have spouses, some of you have more than one spouse (points to Cousin 1). Some of you seem to have a different spouse every night (points to Cousin 2 and Son 2).  But it's harder for some of us to find anybody at all and we all have the right to some happiness in the way we need and I'm sick of people judging about it!

Dad: I really don't know what you're talking about?

(son 2 whispers in his ear)

Dad: (horrified, amused, and excited about the possibility at the same time) Is that really what people do on the internet?

Son 1: (gets up) Oh god, I'm leaving.

Dad: (gets up to stop him) Haltn mein sohn (stop my son). Let me red (tell) you a little nishtik (trivial something) you didn't know. You may not realize this but your Zaydie had a thing for pornography too.

Son 1: I don't have a thing for pornography! (emphasis on 'thing')

Dad: Well your Zaydie certainly did!

Son 1: Stop talking about him like that! He's right here!

Dad: Neyn neyn (no no), your other Zaydie.

(long pause) 

Son 2: You gotta be kidding me.

Dad: Yes, while he was dying of cancer he would sit on the sofa in your Bubbie's living room, and there would be all these alte (old) Playboys right underneath the sofa. And no matter who was over, he never moved them.

Uncle: This can't possibly be true! I was living there to help take care of him and I never saw them.

Dad: I swear they were there every time we were there!

Uncle: Those must have been my Playboys.

Dad: Stop covering for him. It was your father's and you know it! We would sit there every Shabbos afternoon, you, me, your Tateh, and Rabbi Seidman, the playboys would be right underneath the sofa and Rabbi Seidman had to pretend he didn't see anything!

Cousin 2: That's amazing!

Cousin 1: (to Cousin 2) Aren't you glad you're here!

Dad: (to Cousins 1 and 2) And it was the 70's, so all the women were totally unshaved. Is the unshaven look back in style with your friends and peers?

Mom: What the hell are you doing?

Dad: What? I asked about their friends, not them!

Cousin 1: See Mom, we wouldn't have missed this for the world.

Dad: (To Son 1) Don't you feel better now?

Son 1: Honestly?... Yeah I guess I do a little bit.

Dad: You think I wouldn't have kept Playboys under my bed if I'd known how to get them?

Mom: You still don't know how to get them.

Dad: That's absolutely true. I would be scared to death to show them to the cashier.

Son 1: (coming out of despondence) Come on, everybody knows the reason you wouldn't buy them is because you're too cheap.

Dad: (To Mom) See?! The minute I'm supportive he goes back to hating me!

Son 1: I wouldn't have it any other way.

Cousin 2: (only partially sarcastic) It's amazing to think I could had three more weeks of this...

Aunt: (deliberately interpreting her seriously) You see? You should have been here. Now both of you come here and hug me!

(Aunt hugs Cousin 1 first, long, firm embrace between them) 

Aunt: (coming out of the hug) You have a rip in your jeans. That's not like you!

Son 2: It's all the rage now in Seattle. (Cousin 1 affectionately rolls her eyes) 

Aunt: What do you mean?

Cousin 3: Everybody tries to be like Kurt Cobain over there.

Aunt: Who's Kurt Cobain.

Son 1: He's a famous rock singer from Seattle who killed himself last year when he realized how bad his music was.

Son 2: I think his music is great!

Son 1: Another great example of a Columbia education at work.

Cousin 2: (to Cousin 5) Oh my god! Look at you!

(Cousin 5 gets up and goes over to hug Cousin 2) 

Cousin 2: I love your skirt!

Cousin 5: Thanks!

Cousin 2: The Charedi girls in Israel don't look nearly this beautiful.

Cousin 5: (disappointed) Oh... (unconsciously puts her hands over herself to cover herself up) 

Cousin 1: Don't worry, you still look plenty tzniyustic (modest).

Cousin 5: Aw... thanks! (hugs Cousin 1. Within a second of when they go in for a hug, Cousin 1 pulls back, suddenly quite nauseous.) Excuse me, I have to head to the bathroom... (runs out of room)

Dad (jokingly): Oh don't tell me she's pregnant!?....

(long awkward pause) 

Son 1: Well shit...

Cousin 3: None of you were supposed to know until Sunday so when she announces it, act surprised.

Son 1: Who's the father?

Cousin 3: (immediately, so that no speculation starts) The new guy.

Son 2: Who's the new guy?

Uncle: (with a slight hint of pride) Another doctor at the hospital.

Son 1: (chuckling with barely contained relish) He's divorced with grown up kids.

Dad: Her fiancee has grayer hair than any of us. When she brought him here over Labor Day I figured it was to set him up with her grandmother.

Son 1: Well, speaking of the fact that he's old,... not that that I care but is he...

Uncle: (interrupting) He's converting.

Son 1: No, I know that, I mean, is he... (makes a motion as though it's obvious)

Uncle: I don't understand.

(this time Son 1 makes a scissor motion, Uncle buries head in hands)

Aunt: You know, I never asked... Do you know? (turns to Cousin 2)

Cousin 2: She never mentioned one way or the other.

Dad: Well this is probably something we're going to need to know.

Mom: (irritated at Dad) You don't need to know anything.

Son 1: But don't you want to find out?

Son 2: I know I do.

Mom: Don't ask her. Please.

Cousin 1: (enters) What do you want to ask me? Whether I'm pregnant?

(nervous laughter all around except for Son 1)
Son 1: No, actually we figured that out about a minute ago. What we want to know is whether your new boy is...

Cousin 1: Jewish? No, he told me he was interested in converting before we even started dating.

Son 1: No, not Jewish. Is he...

Cousin 1: Black? Yes, you know that, so what?

Son 1: No not that either. Is he?...

Cousin 1: Is he?...

Son 1: Is he?...

(Cousin 1 looks at him as though to say 'I don't understand, say it out loud...) 

Son 1: (exasperated so just saying it loudly) Has he had his dick cut?!

Cousin 1: Oh! No, he actually hasn't.

Son 2: Ew. You're not going to make him go through with that are you?

Cousin 1: Brisses are different for adults.

Son 2: Do we castrate the adults?

Cousin 1: No, they just take a needle and prick it like a blood test so a few drops of blood come out like a blood test.

(collective gasps and exclamations) 

Son 2: (loud enough to be over the din) That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard!

Cousin 1: He's a surgeon. He does worse all the time!

Son 2: How can you all be OK with a religion that sees newborn boys and feels the urge to mutilate their penises?

(more collective gasps and exclamations) 

Dad: (loud enough to be over the din) Why are you so hostile to everything we do?

Son 2: Why are you so hostile to the idea that maybe we shouldn't sever the genitals of defenseless babies?

Mom: You promised!!

Aunt: (Motions to daughters) Let's leave this balagan before it gets really interesting.

(all three daughters leave the room with their mother) 

Uncle: (as though he's been waiting the whole time for the chance to strike back) And how can you be OK with supporting a religion that severs the genitals of girls when they're already teenagers?

Son 2: It's not the whole religion, it's just a small part of it.

Uncle: It's not that small.

Son 2: You can't paint all of Islam like that.

Uncle: Why not? They do it to us!

Son 2: So you should just be as bad as they are?

Uncle: There's no way we could ever be as bad as they are!

Son 2: Well what do we do? We stick a million of them in a piece of land smaller than Manhattan. How is that not like the ghettos?

(Mom's and Uncle's lines at the same time)

Uncle: Don't you dare use that word to compare us to that.  

Mom: How can you be so hateful to your own people?

Son 2: (To Mom) Because it's my people doing these things!

Uncle: Oh, so we're only your people when you get to criticize us?

Son 2: You criticize me all the time, and I'm your people!

Uncle: That's because you want your own people to die!

Son 2: Ah, you see?! There it is! Just because I want peace I'm no different than people who want to butcher women and commit genocide!

Dad: (sarcastically) Oh, so you admit that they want to commit genocide?

Son 2: Well after what we've done to them, who can blame them?

(exclamations of exasperation all around from Mom, Dad, Uncle) 

Son 1: Alright, this whole fight is bullshit. I'm going to the other room.

Mom: You don't have to because they're going to stop right now!

Son 1: I still want to go into the other room.

Mom: Can you call your cousins back in here when you go?

Son 1: I'm going in there to talk to them!

Mom: They still haven't said hello to their father.

Son 1: Why's that my responsibility? He's foaming at the mouth right now about his nephew riding a Hezbollah rocket into Tel Aviv.

Uncle: (suddenly realizing how badly he lost it) No,... no, I'm done. I'm sorry everybody and especially to (Son 2) you feininker (fine one) Ikh leb eer zeyer fill (I love you very much). (to Son 1) When you leave can you call them in?

Son 1: I don't think I need to...

(enter all three daughters...)

Daughter 1: Is everything alright in here?

Uncle: (Looking around, tears in his eyes) Yeh, yeh, alz is recht (Yes, yes, everything's right). (grabs his two older daughters) Ikh bin zo tsufriddn Ikh ken fallen tot (I'm so happy I could drop dead). Mein gantzen mishpokheh, ale tzuzamen. (My whole family, all together) 

(As Uncle and Cousin 2 pull out of hug, Uncle notices the outline of a tattoo on his daughter's arm. He lifts up her sleeve to see a tattoo on her arm in Hebrew letters reading 'Zion' or 'Tzeeyon' as it would be pronounced in Hebrew.)

Uncle: (shocked but taking it in stride) Well,... if you have to get a tattoo I'm glad it's that.

Aunt: What?!?

Mom: A tattoo?!??

Son 2: (getting up to look) Ooh! Let me see!

Son 1: (staying put) This I gotta see.

Uncle: Well, the lettering is very nice.

(Son 2 has gone over to Cousin 2 and lifts her sleeve up to see 'Zion' tattooed in Hebrew letters on her arm.)

Son 2: How about that? The first member of our family with enough balls to get a tattoo, and what the fuck does she get? A tattoo that says 'Zion' on it.

Mom: Oh that's not that bad!

Son 1: You might as well have gotten one that says "I still think I'm at Jewish Summer Camp!"

Cousin 2: You wish you had a tattoo this nice.

Son 2: I wish I had a tattoo at all. But if I got one Lord Dybbuk (Demon) over there (point to Dad) would disinherit me.

Aunt: (with anxiety) Can you blame him? Now your cousin won't be able to be buried in a Jewish cemetery!

Cousin 2: It won't be a problem. I'm living in Israel. Nobody's Jewish there.

Aunt: What does that even mean?

Son 1: Come on, you lived in Israel. In Tel Aviv, Yom Kippur (pronounce it 'Yome KeepPOOR') is just another beach day.

Aunt: But it should matter to you!

Cousin 2: It does! That's why I got the tattoo!

Dad: (to Cousin 2) Well I know this is none of my business but I'm really disappointed in you.

Son 2: (with volatility) What's there to be disappointed about? It's her body!

Dad: (responding in kind) Because tattoos are vile, cancerous things!

Son 1: They don't give you cancer.

Dad: You can't ever get a job with a tattoo!

Cousin 2: I have a job!

Cousin 1: She just got a grant from the Israeli government!

Dad: It's what criminals wear!

Son 2: So what?!

Dad: They wear it because it's a 'fuck you' to society.

Cousin 2: (offended) How is that a fuck you to society? - Son 2: (agitated) Who cares what society thinks? - Son 1: (amused) Hello nineteen-fifty-four!

Dad: It's a sign that you don't care that you're not low-class!

Son 2: What's wrong with being low class?

Aunt: Nothing except that we worked so hard to make sure you weren't!

Son 1: You worked so hard? You're an elementary school teacher! You're a glorified babysitter!

Aunt: And you're the twenty-six year old who lives with his parents and stays in his room for four days at a time! You've never had children, do you have any idea how hard it is to make fifteen eight year olds learn anything at all?

Son 1: No, I just know that your friends at that school made my life miserable as a kid and you didn't lift a finger to stop them!

Aunt: You were a kid! How was I supposed to know how miserable you were?

Son 1: These are the people we're leaving in charge of our children?......

Mom: Stop insulting your Aunt. I'm sorry you were so miserable at that age but it's not her fault. Blame me if you need to, I was your mother and I should have known better, but don't blame your aunt for things that she had nothing to do with.

Son 1: Of course Mom, as usual you're stepping on the grenade, because it's better my mother tries to make me hate her than I blame this got farlozn (godforsaken) perfect community we live in!

Cousin 1: Well I had fun here as a kid....

Cousin 2: So did I....

Son 1: Really? Well why don't the Stepford Sisters tell us more about how this community is so perfect?

Dad: Don't insult your cousins. What did they do to you to make you so bitter to them?

Son 1: (Almost screaming) Nothing, that's the whole point!

Cousin 1: I'm sorry you feel that way. Really I am.

Son 1: How many Shabbos dinners would I be sitting right over there, sulking in a corner while both of you and your beautiful friends would be giggling at I don't even know what while I had to sit around with no friends at all! For all I knew, you were laughing at me.

Cousin 1: (Finally understands, perhaps the only person in the family who does) I'm sorry, I really had no idea. If we had known.

Son 1: There was no way you would ever know! You were just stupid perfect teenagers who got perfect grades and had perfect lives.

Cousin 2: My life wasn't perfect.

Son 1: It was a hell of a lot better than mine.

Cousin 2: You don't know what I went through!

Son 1: Don't fucking insult me. We all know about what you went through. I'm sorry you didn't like food for a while.

Cousin 2: (offended to the point of tears) Well comments like that are why I never helped you. And just so you know, my friends were laughing at you!

Son 1: (not screaming but very angry and raised voice) You think I didn't know that? You got away with everything else, why did you think you didn't get away with making me miserable too! Everybody in this family thought you were an angel. But only I knew the truth, that back then you were a schtik fleysh mit eygen (a piece of meat with eyes) who made guys into alcoholics and caused worse eating disorders in girls than you ever had yourself!

(Cousin 2 runs out of the room crying) 

Mom: That's enough! - Dad: How did things get this way? - Uncle: You have no right to talk to each other like that! - Cousin 3: This is a disaster. - Aunt: Why do they speak to each other like that?

Cousin 1: Alright. You two need to stop this and make up right away. You both had it rough back then, I'm sorry you didn't know more about what she was going through, maybe you could have helped each other.

Son 1: Well maybe you could have helped me! Or maybe you were too busy with your fifty thousand extra-curriculars to care what else was happening in your family.

Dad: Oh so now you have to insult the cousin who's being nice to you?!

Cousin 1: No, I deserved that. I did ignore them both. I was scared of what would happen if I got involved. For whatever it's worth, you're right, you did have it worse, but it was still rough for her.

Son 1: So I'm supposed to feel sorry for someone who made my life miserable?

Cousin 1: No, but you should understand why she might have done what she did. And just so you know, my friends and I, we never, ever made fun of you. My friends thought you were adorable, and if they'd ever known what was happening to you later they'd have been heartbroken.

Son 1: They wouldn't have cared! They were too busy at Harvard and Yale and MIT to care how their child prodigy friend was foundering.

Cousin 1: Don't you remember how when you were a kid, you and Natalia Zimmer would pretend you were married?

Uncle: Oh she was beautiful!

Son 1: How could I forget? Isn't she a lesbian now?

Cousin 1: Yeah... Well I had lunch with her once when she was doing her Phd work at MIT, and when she heard that you were in and out of the hospital, she cried.

(Son 1 is stunned... Ten second silence...) 

Son 2: So there's something wrong with being low class?

Mom: Oh will you stop it?

Uncle: (affectionately, as though giving in) There's nothing wrong with being low class unless you want to be something more.

Son 2: I don't want to be anything more. I just want to live my life the way I want to live it.

Aunt: Oy vavoy (Oy vey in Hebrew).

Dad: And you think it'll be easier or harder to live your life the way you want if you're low-class.

Son 2: I don't want to be any class at all. I just want to be free to do what I want.

Dad: Then you need money!

Son 2: Why does that need money?

Mom: I give up. (leaves room)

Dad: Because money gives you the ability to be free.

Son 2: Well then somebody has to work hard to make the money, and then we can't be free anymore.

Dad: Well you wouldn't know anything about working hard would you?

Son 2: And you've known so much about working hard the last ten years?

Dad: For the first fifty years of my life I did more work in a year than either of you will do in your first thirty.

Son 2: Well who asked you to do that?

Dad: It was what was required of me so I did it!

Son 2: Who required it of you?

Dad: You all did!

Son 2: What are you talking about? We never asked you to work that hard!

Dad: How do you think we afforded all that schooling for you? How do you think I was able to take care of both all you kids and my sick parents all at the same time?!

Son 2: You didn't have to put us in schools that expensive and you could have put Bubbie and Zaydie (Grandma and Grandpa) in a home! Who would have objected!

Dad: (getting frustrated, almost despairing) Why did I work that hard if I knew you would be so awndank (ungrateful) for it?

Son 2: I don't know. Why did you?

Dad: Because I wanted you all to be makhers in society, and I knew you could be! But there are rules about living in a society! It doesn't matter what they are, I don't give a shtik drek (piece of shit) whether or not your cousin has a tattoo, but society does, so if you're grateful for living in society, you'll follow their rules.

Son 2: Why should I ever be grateful for living in this society?

Dad: That's the problem right there. This society gave you everything!

Son 2: It could just as easily have given me as little as it gives to 99% of the world!

Uncle: But it didn't.

Son 1: Well, what about me? What did this society give me that I should be grateful for?

Dad: Even if it didn't give you as much, it gave you plenty!

Son 1: So why should I be satisfied that it gives me less than him?

Dad: This society enabled you to be born into a family where hard work pays off?

Son 1: So we have to be grateful for something that's pure luck?

Uncle: It's not pure luck. It was hard work!

Son 1: (not believing) So everybody who works as hard as you will be successful?

Uncle: I don't see why not...

Son 2: Because you don't see how hard everybody else works!

Dad: You don't have the right to question what society asks! That's what being in a society means! Once you start picking at one thread the whole thing comes undone!

Son 2: This is insane! I don't understand this constant shmegegging (blowing hot air) about questioning authority!

Dad: And you never would! You don't care what it took for the rest of us to get a job! You never had to make a good impression on anybody in your whole life!

Son 1: And you've never made a good impression on anybody in your whole life.

Uncle: That's as far from the truth as it gets.

Dad: (deliberately petty-sounding) Oh no, let them insult their father. Let me just ask, when's the last time either of you have made a good impression on anyone?

Son 2: (pointedly) And from where were we going to learn how?

Dad: Well if you don't think you could learn from me, then learn from your Zaydie. Look at him! He barely escaped the Nazis with me and my sister in his arms for enough time to take us to be hidden in a convent and hearing the machine gun fire that killed his mother and mine!

Son 1: We know the story!

Uncle: (shouting) Sha! (banging the table) (both sons are so stunned by their Uncle's outburst that they keep silent) 

(everybody else comes in shortly afterward, thinking that something terrible has happened) 

Dad: And then captured in the next town over and taken to Auschwitz where he could have been shot or gassed at any moment and a tattoo burned into his arm - every day hearing the screams of Jews as they're being killed and watching the agony of the ones dying from sickness! This man, this incredibly overworked, stressed out, cruel man, managed to get out of Poland just before Stalin came back, barely a hundred pounds with a dead wife and daughter that died of typhus only a few days after we were reunited and he was the only person anyone knew who had both children survive, and then had a living twelve year old son who thought he was Catholic to Bar Mitzvah that he hadn't seen in six years and who barely remembered how to be Jewish and still managed to find himself a new wife and have a baby who was the first Jewish baby ever born in Krakow after the war, and not only did his little heishkeh (shack) of a Hampden supermarket put his sons through college and graduate school and medical school, but he ensured that even if I turned out to be a gut far gornisht (good for nothing) like the two of you are turning into, the two of you would still have enough money to do all the things he never could! (pause, tears in eyes, stand up) And look at him now. He barely remembers how to talk anymore. Did you hear what happened over last summer while you were too busy drinking your father's money in New York and we were visiting you in the hospital after you nearly killed yourself again? Your Bubbie had just had her third stroke and was aphasic. She kept calling us: "You gotta come over here! You gotta come over here!" "What's wrong?" "Somebody stole the Challahs." (sabbath bread) We figured this could wait but she kept calling and calling and calling. So I went over and sure enough the challahs were in the cabinet over the stove. And then I ask, 'Where's Dad?' and she said 'oh, he went to visit his mother.' We searched for him all night long. We only found him the next morning when the police called and said they heard about a little man wandering around the drug corners in Lower Park Heights who spoke nothing but Yiddish.

(five second pause...)

Son 2: Yes Tateh, and as we're arguing about this Mel Gibson's getting ready to break down your door in a motorcycle pogrom with his band of tattooed nightriders.

Uncle: (almost shouting) How can you have turned into an adult who shows contempt for everything we ever taught you?

Son 2: (preemptively taking offense, exploding, and getting up to walk to the door) Because you all don't respect anything I value, so why the fuck should I respect anything you do? I'm leaving!

Son 1: (almost laughing) With what car?

Son 2: I'll call somebody to pick me up.

Mom: You're staying here.

Son 2: You don't get to tell me what to do.

Mom: We paid for all your school and pay half your rent and ask for nothing except that you spend holidays with us. You weren't here for Thanksgiving but now you're here for Thanksgiving Shabbos and you're going to stay. (said with finality)

Son 2: Can I at least go to my room for a little?

Mom:  (barely contained fury) No. Sit down.

(Son 2 sits back down... another five second pause) 

Cousin 1: But Mel Gibson seems like such a nice guy!

Son 1: There's no way.

Mom: No she's right. He's always talked about as a great guy who doesn't buy into the Hollywood culture.

Son 1: Give him ten years, they're always the biggest creeps of all!

Cousin 2: But he's so beautiful! What makes you think you know him so well?

Son 1: Because he's in Hollywood! Everybody there's a creep.

Cousin 1: Not everybody in Hollywood's a creep, I've got friends who act down in California. They say that some stars are very nice.

Son 1: Oh really? Well have you met Mel?

Cousin 1: Yes actually. He came to Harvard for class day and signed my yearbook.

Son 1: (annoyed by the mention of her privilege) Lovely. Did he make a pass at you?

Cousin 1: No, he actually gave a very moving speech about the values his father taught him.

Son 1: Such as?...

Cousin 1: The importance of family, the importance of God, the importance of community, the importance of everything he ever learned from his father.

(As this happens, Uncle is clearly on the verge of breaking down in tears, he gets up and leaves the room.)

Son 2: Oh, so he gets to leave the room.

Aunt: (covering for him) His contacts don't fit right, we have an appointment with the eye doctor next week.

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