The audience is applauding. Performers stand four abreast. They bow. They leave in pairs—stage left, stage right. Applause continues. Ben and Janie reenter right... bow again... depart. Paul and Gillian reenter left; the audience comes to its feet. Cheers break out, bravoes. The pair bows jointly—cheers persistent. Paul takes one step backward—cheers redouble. Gillian shrinks. Her nerve ends frayed, she feels besieged by the over-long ovation. Control, for which she has fought all night, is about to lapse; she shakes. With all her might, she wants to flee this wall of adulation that entraps her like a fortress, that insists she stay... and stay... acknowledge praise she fears is underserved.

Suddenly a hand takes hers; Paul squeezes, lends support, leads her to the wings, where she collapses.

"Coming through!" With Gillian heaped, unconscious, in his arms, Paul lumbers sideways. "Where the hell is David? Somebody get him. Quick. Gang way!"

Ben props opens the dressing room door.

"What happened!?"

"Clear that stuff off."

"She fall, or what?"

"She fainted."

Paul deposits her on a bench. Gillian, save for her eyelids' twitch, lies inert:

voices (disembodied words) resound... lights pulsate (bloodshot)... shadows pass (loom large, diminish)... back on stage (she performs):

MONICA

      "... Except to sick people. Like men. Don't you agree, Laura, that men are sick, sick people?"

She crosses to the fallen sash; once red, it now is white. Her once-white dress is red, in a curious reversal. The set has also shifted from its achromatic scheme to colors natural—realistic, in effect.

    LAURA
(portrayed by a woman resembling Michelle)

      "Monica, it's time you stopped. We've all had quite enough."

Monica whirls around (prepared to issue her rebuttal), but falters. Where is Janie? Who's this stand-in? How, in hell, does she know her lines? Recovering, she continues.

    MONICA

       "You've all had enough?! I beg your pardons. Oh, I do. I definitely beg your put-upon pardons. Jacob... "
Jacob turns (portrayed by Michael; Gillian blanches).
      

    RICHARD
(played by Morgan, likewise turns and takes his cue)

      "Okay, Monica, calm down."

Gillian (looking wild, demented) steals a glance around her, everything in its place (yet wrong), the cast (miscast yet functioning). Even Morgan knows his part; he brackets Monica's shoulders. She (according to the script) must wrestle free—which she attempts, but he holds fast. How come? She tries again, more frantically (cannot shake him).

"Let go, you idiot!"

Gillian thrashes, strikes with both her fists. Ben grabs one arm; Paul grabs the other; Morgan reels from the impact.

Wits restored, the actress scans her dressing room's crammed-in crew: David, Janie, Paul and Ben. The last two maintain custody. Gillian, scowling left to right, demands they turn her loose. Up she rebounds. "Morgan!" Rushing forward, she embraces him, lays her cheek against his chest and hugs without restraint, grateful for his presence, if confused by his reserve. Glancing up, she catches sight of his damaged lip.

"You're bleeding!" At first, she tries to disavow... though nonplussed stares indict her. "Did I do that?... I guess, I must have done. I'm awfully sorry! Will someone get a washcloth, please?"

"I'm fine. Just failed to duck."

Morgan gently guides her to a chair. She sits down guiltily, her recollection foggy, her professional pride impugned; above all else, an actress keeps control.

 

 

Mongo is...

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