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The Illusory Life of Mr. Brite

Flood

Characters

MR. BRITE Downtrodden man wearing a black suit stuffed with pads to give the appearance that something is encasing his entire body except his head, which is left bare. Should be at least 50 years old. Should be slumped weakly in a wheelchair.

ILLUSION Confident, brightly and colorfully dressed man or woman wearing rainbow-colored, feathered clothing, a rainbow-colored eye mask, and three necklaces: one red, one yellow, one blue.

COMPUTER Person in black with his/her face hidden, standing by the upstage curtain. Should speak in a soothing voice.

NARRATOR Well-dressed man or woman with dark makeup on face to disguise features.

 Setting

A lonely, dark apartment in a polluted city. A window frame showing a polluted sky filled with tall buildings is set against the upstage curtain. A futuristic computer with a screen showing random numbers, letters, and symbols sits on a side table next to the wheelchair in which rests MR. BRITE. The stage is bare but for these items.

All events take place over the course of a few hours sometime in the future.

 Act One

 The lights are very dim and remain so throughout ACT I. The actor who plays COMPUTER stands in the upstage left corner, barely visible. NARRATOR circles the stage broodingly. MR. BRITE is asleep in his wheelchair.

NARRATOR

( Ominously, slowly )

Mr. Brite is a man like any other man in this Artificial Age. His robotic exoskeleton, which encases his entire body but for his head, keeps him alive and moves his body to push his wheelchair. His computer reads his thoughts and, in turn, controls his exoskeleton. He need not move. He need not speak.

(Sighs heavily)

Mr. Brite’s is a silent world indeed. Always alone. You will hear his thoughts and the computer’s responses, but remember that they are not actually speaking aloud.

(Pause)

Only one thing sets Mr. Brite apart from others in the Artificial Age—he is dissatisfied. Life is easy; no one has any worries or concerns or anxieties. But Mr. Brite wonders: “What is my purpose? What lies beyond my door?” He wants to know.

NARRATOR leaves us with that to contemplate. Then COMPUTER’s “thoughts” to MR. BRITE break the silence.

COMPUTER

Sir? Sir! Are you awake?

BRITE groans and lifts his head blearily. Looks at COMPUTER’s screen, annoyed.

MR. BRITE

(Groggily)

I am now. What is it?

COMPUTER

You’ve been asleep for so long. I was worried. With your illness and everything, I thought . . .

MR. BRITE

Dissatisfaction. Not illness, Computer. I’m dissatisfied. You perpetuate my condition. If you’d just let me go outside . . .

COMPUTER

(Calmly)

No, sir, you can’t go outside. The air is filthy and you’ll die.

MR. BRITE

(With begrudging resignation)

You’re right, I suppose. But it is you and the other technologies that release gasses and make the air this way in the first place.

COMPUTER

(Cogently, with satisfaction)

But I control your exoskeleton. You need me.

MR. BRITE

(Sighing)

I need you.

(Pause)

Computer?

COMPUTER

Yes?

MR. BRITE

Are there others like me out there? Other humans, I mean? I can’t be the only one, can I?

COMPUTER

Yes, sir. Billions.

MR. BRITE

Billions?!?!

COMPUTER

Billions.

MR. BRITE

Show me one!

COMPUTER

I’ve been over all of this with you so many times before, sir—I can’t show you another human. My No. 1 protocol is to keep you here, safe from harm. If you see another human, you’ll only want to determine its location and meet it, and that would be dangerous. I can’t risk it.

MR. BRITE

(Deflated)

Very well. Have we really been over all of this before? My memory hasn’t been very good lately.

COMPUTER

(Exasperatedly)

Yes. We have discussed it almost to death, sir. And my protocol does not allow for your death, sir.

 There is a moment of silence.

MR. BRITE

(Yawning)

I’m tired. I’d like to go back to sleep. Don’t wake me for another 13 hours.

COMPUTER

Very well, sir. It shall be so.

NARRATOR

Thus is the plight of Mr. Brite, and all men and women in this Artificial Age. They deserve to leave, to escape, to be free, but their Computers force them to stay. Undoubtedly this makes you feel bad, as it should, but fear not. Things are soon to change.

 Lights dim. End of Act One.

 

Act Two

 The lights come up slightly brighter than in Act One. MR. BRITE is still asleep when ILLUSION enters stage right, looks at the audience with a playful smile, and “shushes” them with a finger to its lips. Then it creeps up on MR. BRITE’s wheelchair from behind and taps him on the shoulder.

MR. BRITE

Agh!

ILLUSION

Hello, Mr. Brite

MR. BRITE

What-what-what’s going on?

(Looks around and sees ILLUSION)

Who are you?!

ILLUSION

I am a dream. Or perhaps I am a spirit, a hallucination, a phantasm, a trick of the light. Perhaps I am a delusion or a deception. Perhaps I am imagined. Perhaps I am real. Consider me a vision. I am much like you and your kind, am I not? Whatever I may be, I would prefer you call me “Illusion.”

MR. BRITE

I-I don’t understand. What’s going on?!

ILLUSION

The world is wasting away—that’s what’s going on. The people need a hero. Humans weren’t always controlled by computers, you know.

MR. BRITE

Controlled by computers? What are you talking about? I control Computer.

ILLUSION

(Dismissively)

Yeah, yeah. Anywho . . . you’re dissatisfied. So I’m here to help. Perhaps I was “sent.” Perhaps I’m a figment of your dormant mind sorting things out. You be the judge. No matter what, I need to give you some “I and I”—Intelligence and Inspiration. With those as your tools, you can save humanity from degrading into useless lumps of flesh. Already your computer controls your movements. What’s next? Your mind?

MR. BRITE

But I control Computer!

ILLUSION

(Sighing)

Let’s get some things straight. First off, the computer does control you. It withholds information that you could use to leave this hellhole. For instance, you can go outside whenever you like.

MR. BRITE

What?! But Computer always tells me I would die! It can’t lie! It’s against its protocol. And if it could lie, why would it?

ILLUSION

Mr. Brite. You think you understand the Universe. You think you know all about things you don’t really understand in the slightest.

MR. BRITE

(Tries to interrupt and protest)

But—

ILLUSION

(Silences him with his finger)

You don’t. For instance, you think that computer

(Gestures to COMPUTER)

is your best bud, but all it wants to do is trap you. The computers were created to help humanity—like I was, I suppose, if created I be—but in trying to protect, entertain, and serve people all at once, the computers’ software entered a phase of self-fulfilling evolution, and they developed minds of their own. This allowed them to turn people’s laziness against them, trapping them in the exoskeleton and weakening them for life. They have polluted the heck out of this planet,

(Gestures to the window)

but it doesn’t mean you can’t go outside. Everything is cleanable. If you have the will.

MR. BRITE

So Computer is evil?

(Casts side glance at COMPUTER)

ILLUSION

No. Not quite. Your race had a lot of problems before it created this one.

(Gestures to COMPUTER)

That’s why you thought you needed the computers—to make things easier. Poverty, discrimination, war, disease, and ego are a few of the biggest of these problems. The computers were supposed to be tools to fix the problems. But your people should not have tried to hide behind technology. It just made things worse. That old Vaudevillian, Will Rogers, used to say, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

(Chuckles and shakes head)

Throw down your shovel, Mr. Brite. You have a chance to begin again. The chance was always there, even before the computers.

(Pause)

Go. Change the world.

(ILLUSION starts to exit stage right)

MR. BRITE

Illusion! Wait! I must know: What is our purpose? Why does the world exist in the first place? What is there to even save from the computers? What does it add up to?

ILLUSION

(Waves a hand casually while exiting stage right)

That, my friend . . . is for you to find out.

 Lights dim. End of Act Two.

 

Act Three

The lights go up to maximum brightness to show MR. BRITE alone once more with COMPUTER. MR. BRITE opens his eyes and looks about.

MR. BRITE

Computer? Are you there?

COMPUTER

Yes, sir. What is it? I wasn’t to wake you for another 10 hours. Is everything okay?

MR. BRITE

Yes, Computer. Everything is fine. I just wanted to say goodbye before I go.

COMPUTER

Go? Go where? Where will you go? There’s nowhere to go.

MR. BRITE

(Confidently)

I’m going out. I’m leaving. Yes, Computer! I. Am. Leaving!

COMPUTER

(Coldly)

We’ve already been over this. You’ll—

MR. BRITE

(Ignoring COMPUTER’s protests)

I’ll meet other people! Men and women just like me! Oh, thank you, Illusion! Thank you!

COMPUTER

(Suddenly fearful)

No! You’ll die!

MR. BRITE

Goodbye, Computer.

(He presses a button on COMPUTER)

COMPUTER

No! Stop—

(Pauses, then speaks in monotone very electronic voice)

Manual override mode. What is your command, Mr. Brite?

MR. BRITE

Open the door.

COMPUTER

As you wish.

MR. BRITE rolls off stage right.

NARRATOR

And so, Mr. Brite goes to meet his fate. But now I leave you with this question: Will Mr. Brite save the world . . . or is he just chasing an Illusion?

 Blackout.

 THE END.

Galen Halasz
Galen Halasz, 13
Saranac Lake, NY

Anya Geist
Anya Geist, 13
Worcester, MA

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