A Romantic Comedy
Cast in order of appearance:
Martin Lakefield – (42) Martin is a quiet, intelligent, mild-mannered, eccentric, but personable, gentle man. Somewhat overweight.
Elaine Appleton – (35) A caring, kind, sweet, energetic, Rubenesque but rather plain woman.
Al Ganz – An eighteen year old street punk; lean, mean and streetwise.
Officer Jamison – A no-nonsense, uniformed police officer. Written as female, but can be male.
Miss Fenwick – A bureaucrat; officious, obnoxiously polite, and somewhat intimidating, intentionally. Well-dressed and carrying a briefcase. Can easily be male.
Note: Jamison and Fenwick can be either sex, and the roles can easily be doubled, reducing the company to four actors.
Martin Lakefield, an eccentric recluse, owns a used bookstore in the Pioneer Square district of Seattle, and he lives in the back of his shop. Elaine Appleton runs the store for him. One night Al Ganz breaks in, running from the police. When Officer Jamison barges in looking for the kid, Martin (in a moment of what he later calls temporary insanity) hides Al. Once Officer Jamison exits, Martin can’t get Al to leave.
The next morning, when Elaine arrives, she immediately feels sorry for Al and wants to help him get his life back on track. Martin, by this point, wants only to expel the punk from his little world, but he is not forceful enough to make it happen, especially not when Elaine is on Al’s side.
It takes a week for the pressure cooker of this situation to explode. When Martin discovers that Al has been stealing books from his private rare book collection and pawning them for extra pocket change, he brings home a pistol, determined to drive the invader out. At the showdown, Martin turns out not to have the guts to use the gun, and it is Elaine who has to save the day.
In the end, Al is expelled and Martin has begun to learn that there is something more to life than his little world of books. His platonic employer/employee relationship with Elaine has been totally knocked out of kilter by Al’s intrusion and the future is looking up for a couple of nice people.
Contemporary. Contemporary. Act I takes place over a Wednesday evening and a Thursday. Act II takes place on Thursday, one week later.
The basement back room of a used bookstore in a run-down section of Seattle’s Pioneer Square area. The room is below street level and outside access is off an alley. A door in the stage right end of the upstage wall opens to an exterior stairwell that goes up five or six feet to alley level. One or two small windows set high in the back wall open onto the alley at ground level, so that the audience can see people in the alley, but only from about the knees down. Near the back door is a coat rack. Stage left, a short flight of steps go up to a door which opens to more stairs leading up to the bookstore. Further upstage left, a door leads off to a bathroom. The space is old and not very nice; however it is Martin’s home.
Stage left is Martin’s work area. A cluttered desk, a chair, a lamp, a telephone, a file cabinet, an old and noisy electric typewriter, and some shelves of books if there is room.
Centerstage is the living area. A Goodwill vintage sofa bed, an over-stuffed recliner, a reading lamp on a table beside the chair, a coffee table in front of the sofa bed. Behind this grouping, on the upstage wall, is a chest of drawers and possibly an old trunk. Prominently placed upstage center is a locking bookcase with glass doors which holds Martin’s special private book collection.
Stage right is a small makeshift kitchen and eating area. A dinette with three chairs, a small full-sized refrigerator, a cabinet beside it with shelves on the wall above for glasses, utensils, plates, mugs, and food staples. A coffee percolator is among the things on the cabinet. Perhaps Martin has a small stove; perhaps only a double hot plate.
In the corners and out-of-the-way spaces on the set, boxes of books are piled high. Each box is labeled with large magic marker writing listing its contents. Major authors, literary classifications, catch-all types. (e.g. Shakespeare, Victorian novels, Augustans, Modern drama, westerns, gothics, horror, Hemingway, minor English poets, National Geographics.)
The place is a rat’s nest, but it is the nest of a very neat rat. Although his living conditions are marginal, Martin does everything he can to make the place comfortable. Other than the clutter on his desk, the place is as tidy as it could possibly be. There are a couple of framed prints on the walls and somewhere a vase of flowers. Things on the chest of drawers and in the kitchen area are in perfect order.
Note: The set picture for The Bookworm is from a production at Everett Community College, on the stage of the Everett Performing Arts Center, Everett, Washington. The stage had a 40-foot proscenium opening; the play can be done on a much smaller, and much simpler set. The alley entrance (not visible in the photo), is Up Center, behind the sofa in a side wall that was upstage of the concrete column. The steps behind the desk go up to the bookstore, and the door in the side wall behind the recliner goes off to the bathroom.
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“The Bookworm” photographs on the website are from the production by the Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. Click the photo for a full-size version.