Winner of the Stanley Drama Award!

 

Cold War Comedy

a 1950s comedy in two acts

by Thomas Hischak

 

4 to 7 women, 4 to 7 men; one interior set

 

 

Cold War Comedy is a farcical play about life in America in the late 1950s: as it was portrayed in television shows of the time and how it more likely happened in everyday life. The farcical discrepancy between the two is seen from an outsider’s point of view: a Russian spy, no less. 

 

Production rights for Cold War Comedy remain with the playwright. For a perusal copy of the script and a royalty quote, contact Thomas Hischak directly at:  thischak@flagler.edu or hischakt@cortland.edu

 

 

 

Synopsis

 

Cold War Comedy

 

 

The action of the play takes place in Moscow, Russia, and Dayton, Ohio, in 1959.

 

ACT ONE

 

Scene One    A typical American family is seen going about their daily, and often inane, activities. The situation comedy-like family consists of an understanding father, an efficient and caring mother, an eager teenage daughter and a likable college boy. Then the other son, Larry, enters: an awkward boy of eighteen who mangles cliches and disturbs all the naivete of the household. It is then that the audience realizes that we are not in an American home but in a Moscow warehouse where Russian “sleepers” are being trained in the intricacies of American behavior and language. Nikolai, the young Russian mathematician who tries to enact “Larry,” is not picking up the foreign slang and American attitude very well and all are worried that he will jeopardize the whole project. The supervisor, Col. Kazan, has serious doubts about Nikolai but the attractive and efficient Vera (who has watched over two hundred hours of kinescopes of American television and is thereby the expert) feels Nikolai will improve well enough to pass as a convincing American. When the female General Nazaroff arrives and watches a demonstration of the neo-Americans at work, she is convinced that Nikolai will never pass muster. She informs him that he is to be sent to a family in Dayton, Ohio, as a Norwegian exchange student; his English deficiencies will not be out of place for such a foreigner. Also, the father of the Dayton family works at a defense plant and Nikolai is instructed to try and get valuable information from him. Nikolai, who only longs to stay in Russia and study math, resigns himself to his assignment as the team sings “America the Beautiful.”

 

Scene Two    In the Moscow warehouse late at night, Nikolai tries to convince Vera to make love with him before he has to leave for America. He says he loves her and wishes to have one night of lovemaking to remember her by. Vera is drawn to Nikolai but resists his many arguments and pleas, maintaining that their lives are in the Soviet Union’s hands and they ought not expect a future together.

 

Scene Three    The scene shifts to the Reynolds’ home in Dayton (though the same set is used) where Nikolai has been for one week. The family consists of the father Heywood, the wife Delia, the teenage daughter Ivy and the college son Duane. All four can be played by the same actors who portrayed their Russian imitators in Moscow. The family celebrates Heywood’s 45th birthday and it is clear that, despite his stumbling English, Nikolai (who they know as Lars) is well liked by all of them. Nikolai also meets Heywood’s co-worker Wilkins (played by the Col. Kazan actor) and Ivy’s girlfriend Veronica (played by the Vera actress) who is quite taken with “Lars.” When the family retreats to the rec room to watch Milton Berle on television, the wife Delia expresses a more-than-maternal affection for “Lars,” finding the young foreigner so much more stimulating than her dull husband.

 

Scene Four    Late one night, several weeks later, Nikolai and Veronica come back from their first date together and, to Nikolai’s delight and surprise, Veronica wants to make love on the Reynolds’ living room sofa. (She tells him she’s “safe” but he has no idea what she means.) But the lovemaking is cut short by the insomniac Heywood who comes downstairs unexpectedly. After Veronica makes a quick exit, Heywood confesses to Nikolai that he is failing miserably at his job because his math skills are so poor. Nikolai offers to help him and Heywood even suggests that he show Nikolai some of the reports and charts from the plant to see if he could help Heywood make sense of them. After a satisfied Heywood heads up to bed, Duane comes home from a night of wild lovemaking at the local lovers’ lane. The macho Duane boasts about his sexual conquests and gives Nikolai some tips on American girls. But soon Duane’s facade collapses and in a drunken stream of tears he confesses that he really loves Billy, his drinking and double-dating companion. Duane cries himself to sleep on Nikolai’s understanding shoulder and Nikolai is left more mystified than ever about this unusual country.

 

 

 

ACT TWO

 

 

Scene One    Six months later the family is celebrating Nikolai’s birthday. He and Veronica have become an item, Delia’s advances are getting less subtle, Ivy has a crush on him, Duane confides in him and Heywood has been showing his restricted office work to Nikolai who figures out all the math calculations. But Nikolai panics when Wilkins brings a Norwegian professor to the house so that Nikolai can talk with someone in his native language. The professor turns out to be General Nazaroff in disguise, come to check on Nikolai’s progress. She is pleased with Nikolai’s success in getting information about the defense plant’s activities but she fears that Nikolai is getting seduced by the capitalistic ways of American life. She is further alarmed when she accidentally sees Duane embracing Nikolai and seeking comfort over the latest setback in his love life.

 

Scene Two    A week later the whole household is in a panic and Nikolai is the center of everyone’s desperation. Delia is so sexually frustrated she throws herself at Nikolai then berates him for trying to wreck her dull marriage. Ivy needs Nikolai to help her study for a big math exam at school and Heywood, who has been promoted to lab supervisor on the strength of Nikolai’s calculations, is totally lost in his new job and needs Nikolai’s help more than ever. Veronica keeps trying to set up a place for lovemaking that coincides with her “safe” days and Duane has come to the realization that it is not Billy that he loves but rather the understanding Nikolai. Nikolai no longer enjoys his popularity as all the people around him turn demanding and possessive. The General arrives to tell Nikolai that she is defecting to the U.S. because of IBM computers that have shown her the future. She gives Nikolai her airplane tickets to Oslo and suggests he leave the country immediately. As all the cries of attention and affection from the family surround him, Nikolai willingly agrees to return to Russia.

 

Scene Three    Back in the Moscow warehouse late one night, Nikolai and Vera are reunited. She rebukes him for the rumors of his many amorous conquests in America but Nikolai argues that Vera is the only one he loves. After Nikolai confesses that Americans are blessed with all the riches but are too unhappy to enjoy them, Vera admits her love for Nikolai and they both look forward to a life together being miserable in Russia.