Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

In the Boom Boom Room

by David Rabe

From David Rabe, a piercing look at a society dangerously close to our own lives, and a drama that captures both our hearts and our heads.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 112
  • Publication Date October 01, 1986
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5194-0
  • Dimensions 5.38" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9695-8
  • US List Price $13.00

About The Book

Chrissy, a bright and not-quite-innocent woman with visions of a career as a dancer, finds herself in The Boom Boom Room, a disco/bar in Philadelphia meant to be her first step on the road to stardom. Instead, she finds herself fighting to keep her dreams intact amid the anesthetic sex and stimulation that surround her, the psychological residue of her parent” betrayals, and the bizarre pack of suitors who follow her. In a desperate search for love and hope, Chrissy careens from the seductive mistress of ceremonies at The Boom Boom Room to the earnestly friendly gay man next door to a brutally passionate lover. In its compassionate look at Chrissy’s living nightmare, In the Boom Boom Room is a piercing look at a society dangerously close to our own lives, and a drama that captures both our hearts and our heads.

Excerpt

ACT ONE

TIME: A little while ago.

PLACE: Philadelphia. The go-go bars, streets, apartments and neighborhoods of Chrissy’s life.

The set should be a space with areas and levels similar to a Shakespearean stage, but all within a metaphor of bars and go-go dancing. The bar itself should be most evident at the highest levels; the areas farthest upstage, though deepest in the set, will receive their prominence from their elevation. The farthest point downstage should be the lowest, though there might be dancing pedestals on either side. But basically the downstage area should be least specific of the bar so it can easily become “the street,” “the park,” “the garden or backyard of Chrissy’s parents’ home.” Mid-level and midstage should be the area of Chrissy’s apartment. Perhaps doors on either side might serve as “restrooms” in the bar, yet be at other times the door to Chrissy’s apartment on the one hand, and her bathroom door on the other.

Though the backdrop for the entire stage should have some element of the go-go bar in it, the set must be capable of allowing the bar element to be reduced at times, and occasionally even eliminated. Mainly the specific “setting” of each scene should be determined by the characters present, their costumes, dialogue, and the very, very carefully selected hand props that they use (which could perhaps be stylized in some way). Once a setting is established, it should be possible for the actor to prowl a larger area of the stage without any sense of confusion about where the action is taking place. There should be a large number of avenues of exit and entrance around the stage and through the backdrop so that characters, when necessary, can appear or disappear from any direction with ease. A bed rolling on from under the upper area might be useful in creating the specifics of Chrissy’s apartment: a bed covered in satin, a tawdry color, an emblem and aspect of life in the go-go bar. Or an apron, a mini-thrust stage, might be located midway between the upper level and mid-level, so that it could serve as a place of prominence for dancing, yet be easily used as the bed in Chrissy’s apartment. A rug on the floor of her apartment area might be useful, and some drawers built into the front walls of the upper-level elevation might serve as dressers in her apartment scenes. However, there is a danger in too many specifics regarding any one setting in the play. The most essential job of the set is to provide a metaphoric realm in which the specific areas can be made present with great facility, for the transitions from scene to scene must be clear, effortless, and instantaneous if the play is to be most effective. All colors in the set must take their legitimacy from the metaphor of the bar. The lighting must work to provide definition of one area from the other, and time, place and mood, yet always with some relation to the metaphor of the bar.

OVERTURE
In the darkness, “Angel Baby” by “Rosie and the Originals begins to play. Slowly the soft, dreamy lights rise to show us Chrissy, a young, sexy but not glamorous girl in a rather childlike, or high-school-like, dress swaying to the music. Behind her stands a man, older, in a dark suit and a tie, a flower in his lapel. His arms are around her waist; she holds his hands. Together they sway to the music. Suddenly she starts as if she doesn’t know he’s there.

Chrissy
Oh, Christ! Who’s there?

Harold
Me.

Chrissy
Oh.

(She relaxes, smiles, settles back into his arms, as the instrumental section of the music continues. This section can be looped, or perhaps an instrumental version of the song should be made with a saxophone lead instead of the vocal. In any case, the scene now proceeds with instruments only under their dialogue so that, in a sense, it is their dialogue that is the lyric to the music. They sway, embrace; dreaming, playful, facing out.)

Harold
Yeh. Now that you’re here, got a place of your own, I bet you think you’re gonna get it all done. I bet you think you’re gonna do it all. Sing Rock-and-Roll whenever you want. Play it loud as you want whenever you want. Ruin your ears. Inna middle a the night. Gonna cook roast beef, ham, carrots and peas on a side. Make a salad inna middle a the night if you want. Gonna get boys here. I know. Gonna make love to boys. Sure you are. Blond boys, dark-haired ones, Spanish spics—hot bloods—black boys. Gonna get redheads, ain’t you? Feed ’em beef and booze, get ’em in showers—do it on chairs, stools, floors—inna tub. Sure you are. (Pause.) See, I’m tired a hiding things. I’m done with concealment. It’s a wonderful world an’ a wonderful life. I ain’t got no health, though I got a little. Whata I care? Let a smile be my umbrella.

Chrissy
You come here for a reason, or what? (She whirls away, spinning in a dance; still they hold hands.)

Harold
Sure.

Chrissy
Can I get you a sandwich? I’m gonna have one.

Harold
Lemme tell you somethin”, though; there’s not so much goin’ on as you think. Not nearly all that goin’ on that you think.

Chrissy
You . . . use a key to get in here, Pop?

Harold
I’m still around, see.

Chrissy
I’m happy to see you. Honest. I miss you.

Harold
Don’t you forget it.
(Whenever they move it is rhythmic, to the music. He performs for her, dancing alone. He takes her up; they dance cheek to cheek.)

Chrissy
But maybe things are a little different now is all, see.

Harold
I’m still here. What kinda sandwich?

Chrissy
I’ll just keep after some things I can maybe get is sort of all I’m saying. You know.
Harold: I’m a permanent fixture. Nothin’ll ever take me out. Even when I’m rot an” the rot is dirt, I’ll be there thinkin’, watchin’ everything and talkin’ to myself all about it. Sometimes I can even hear the way I’ll sound to myself. Real kinda funny. Echo-eeeeee . . .

Chrissy
Ham and cheese okay for you, Pop? It’s what I’m gonna have. On rye with a speck a mayonnaise.

Harold
Tomato, too. Thinly sliced. Very thinly sliced. A little pepper.

Chrissy
I’ve just had some very good things happen to me. I’ve had some very good things happen to me. Wow.

Harold
Happens to all of us. We all do. Comes and goes.

Chrissy
I mean, very good things. Very, very good things. Wow!

Harold
I been inna hospital.

Chrissy
I heard.

Harold
Sick.

Chrissy
That’s what I heard.

Harold
Trouble in my prick.

Chrissy
Oh, yeh.

Harold
Yeh. Terrible.

Chrissy
I was sorry to hear.

Harold
“Penis” they call it. Nurse says, “Lemme see your penis.” It’s embarrassin’, woman like that, good-lookin’ woman feelin’ around my penis. She ain’t enjoyin’ it. Nothin’ happenin’. Nothin’. Good-lookin’ woman.

Chrissy
Whatsamatter?

Harold
I’m sad, Chrissy. I’m feelin’ very sad.

Chrissy
No, no.

Harold
It makes you think. You think and think.

Chrissy
No, no. I mean, what’s your sickness?

Harold
Infection.

Chrissy
Oh.

Harold
Onna shell. I never belonged to you, Chrissy. I would throw you up in the air sometimes, you was so tiny, and I would catch you. Up I would throw you, but I never belonged to you, though. You were a joy. I liked you a lot. No bigger than a puppy. “Hello, Hon,” I would say, “you’re fulla balooney.” That’s what I would always used to say. How long ago was that? You should come visit. Your momma misses you.

Chrissy
(Suddenly very angry) Bullshit. BULLSHIT!

Harold
What am I sayin’? I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.

Chrissy
How did you get in here? Did you pick the lock?

Harold
It was little Chrissy’s father they was lookin’ at, I tole them, they hadda let me in.

Chrissy
You picked the lock!

Harold
No.

Chrissy
(Scolding him) Did you break it? You didn’t break it!

Harold
Wanna go to a ball game? Go see a night ball game?

Chrissy
NO!

Harold
Phillies.

Chrissy
What’d you do to it?

Harold
Phillies and Cubs!

Chrissy
I don’t wanna!

(Somewhat separated now, they still move to the music as Harold tries to distract them, to brag and apologize.)

Harold
Me neither! Not really. It’s just a lot of worry. It’s just a lot of bother. You don’t know what’s goin’ on. So the pitcher’s lookin’ at the catcher and he’s hiding the signals. What’s it gonna be? The batter’s guessing. But what’s he guessing? Then the ball’s in the air. Maybe a curve. Will it do what the pitcher wants? Will the bat do what the batter wants? I mean, inanimate objects. Inanimate objects. Who controls these things? Cars run into poles, off roads. What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen? I’m feelin’ . . . so . . . excited . . . I’m feelin’ . . . so excited. (Pause: something is happening to him.) You remember the way I beat you sometimes with my belt? (Pause.) Chrissy? You was little?

Chrissy
Huh?

Harold
You was little. One time you was crawlin’ in the corner, crawlin’ to get away. I run after you. Don’t you remember I run after you?

Chrissy
That was Uncles Billy and Michael, I thought. Uncles Billy and Michael, Pop. Before they went away.

Harold
Oh, don’t you remember, though, the jolly excitin’ way I would sometimes chase you and beat you with a belt? (It seems he might actually hit her now, so desperate is he to have her remember this “intimacy,” these “good times.”)

Chrissy
Yeh. Sure.

(Perhaps he has actually pulled his belt off and pantomimed chasing a child, or perhaps he has pantomimed the belt, pantomimed chasing her.)

Harold
I don’t know why I ever did that.

Chrissy
Me neither.

Harold
I did though, didn’t I? See, the trouble in me is infection onna prostate gland’s like a shrimp, an they can cut out the shrimp, but they gotta leave the shell or they’d have to put this tubin’ in me—plastic and wires in me. So I keep thinkin’ I got this shrimp-shell in me with infection on it, and that’s what’s wrong with me.

Chrissy
(Moving to him; they have made up. If the version of “Angel Baby” with the vocal has been used, perhaps the vocal comes back on now. They embrace, they dance.) You got me all itchy, Pop. You got me all itchy, comin’ here like that.

Harold
I gotta be goin”. I gotta be on my way. (Starting to back away, yet holding her hand.)

Chrissy
You got me all itchy.

Harold
(Having moved to leave, waving from afar): Hello, Hon. You are fulla balooney. You are fulla balooney.

Chrissy
I don’t know.

(They move toward opposite sides of the stage; waving, blowing kisses, moving backwards, almost in slow motion, always to the music.)

Harold
You got a lotta spirit, Chrissy. You got a good heart. Hang in there.

(Blowing kisses, Harold backs out and Chrissy, waving, backs out the opposite side of the stage.)