SCIENTIFIC METHOD

A One-Act Play

By M.P. Solo

Cast of Characters

KATIE, 18-year old female. Very hyper. Talks to herself frequently, and most of her dialogue is spoken very loud and fast due to her nervous nature.

DEE, 19-year old male. Very quiet, calm, and proper. Spends most of the time observing the class and taking notes. Eyes never move independently from head.

REN, 19-year old female. Outspoken and bossy. Prone to catfights, or at the very least gives reason for one to break out.

KENNY, 21-year old male. A big, oafish slacker. Will do anything and everything to produce the desired effect, which is usually something in his advantage (ie. Scoring)

DOOFENHEIMER, 38-year old male. A nerdy, nasal-voiced science professor.

The Setting

A science classroom, mid-morning. There are three rows of fours desks, all facing stage left, and miscellaneous science charts and models set up along the wall upstage. The entrance/exit is a door stage left. The chalkboard can be on the wall upstage.

Act One

Lights come up on the classroom. KATIE sits in the front desk farthest downstage, dressed in outlandish attire and sporting long, messy hair. Her backpack, which looks full but is only holding a pillow, sits behind her chair. She fidgets while awaiting the start of class.

KATIE: Okay, Katie, this is it: the first class of your college career. You've waited eighteen years to get here. Your parents basically told you your future hangs in the balance here, that any hope you have of succeeding in the real world rests on what you do here. Here here here. Only here. Nowhere else. No pressure. (Sighs) Alright, calm down. Compose yourself. Show them you belong here. (Screams as bell rings, then starts laughing nervously and fidgeting again) I need a miiiiiraclllllle...

(KENNY runs into the room, dressed in a football jersy and jeans. He heads straight for the back seats)

KENNY: Wooooooo! (Slams down in backseat of KATIE's row) Bam! Score, baby!

KATIE: (Aside, calming down) Alright, a dumb jock. At least I won't be the worst student in class. That'll help.

(REN walks into the room, dressed in stylish clothing and talking on her cell phone)

REN: (Angrily) Look, I don't care what she said! Jason's my date, and if that bitch thinks she can just walk off with him, she's gonna wish she was never born. (Sits down in middle row, third seat back) Look, we'll talk about it later, ciao.

KATIE: (Aside) Ditz! Two for two! If this keeps up, there'll be plenty of other kids to help me look good! Or at least stay quiet.

(DEE enters the room, dressed in a sweater and khakis. His movements are somewhat stiff, and his eyes never wander, only staring straight ahead. He stops by the second seat in the row farthest upstage, scans the room, then sits down and folds his hands on the desk. KATIE stares at him blankly for a moment, pointing at him as though she's going to make a point)

KATIE: (Aside, snapping out of her "comatose") And he's gotta be mental or something! That's three for three! Hat Trick! Ha ha ha! (Freezes as bell rings again, then looks around frantically) Uh, there's gonna be more than three, right?

(DOOFENHEIMER enters the room, dressed in a lab coat, sweater-vest and khakis, carrying a large stack of books and papers. He moves towards his desk too fast, and the stack tumbles onto the desk, sliding across onto the floor. DOOFENHEIMER stares at the scattered pile for a moment before adjusting his glasses and turning to the students)

DOOFENHEIMER: Alright, everyone, welcome to Quantum Astrochemistry. I'm your professor, Dr. Artemus Doofenheimer. Is everyone here? (Silence as he looks around the room) Alrighty. If you'll all be so kind as to keep to your seats, so I don't lose track during roll call. (Laughs in a cringe-worthy mix of snorts and hyuks). Nya-huh.

KATIE: (Aside) This is it? Four students?

D'HEIMER: Now, when I call your name, please say "present," and a nickname if you prefer. Okay, Renée Barnes?

REN: Here. Ren.

KATIE: (Aside) Oh God, this is gonna be Hell. I'm gonna get called on like every five seconds!

D'HEIMER: Kennedy L. Johnson?

KENNY: Yo! That's Kenny, Professor Doof!

D'HEIMER: (Writes on attendence sheet) Yes, and that's Doofenheimer, Kenny. With an "enheimer."

KENNY: Whatever.

KATIE: (Aside) And I don't even know that much about…(looks at textbook) Quantum Astrowhatsis? What does baseball have to do with science? God, these stupid Gen-Ed perspectives!

D'HEIMER: Donovan X. MacIntire?

DEE: Present. Dee, please.

D'HEIMER: (Writes on attendence sheet) Very good.

KATIE: (Aside) I'm only in my first semester of college, and I'm already digging my academic grave! My parents are gonna kill me if I don't come home with a 3.75 GPA, and here I am taking classes I'm automatically gonna fail in! (Slams head against desk and groans)

D'HEIMER: Kathleen Mariott?

(KATIE screams as she springs back to an upright position in her chair, drawing stares from the class)

D'HEIMER: (Adjusts glasses) I'll uh, take that as a present?

KATIE: Yes! Present! Katie! Thank you! (Sinks down in her chair)

D'HEIMER: (Writes on attendence sheet) Katie...okay. (Puts sheet down and adjusts glasses) Well, I'm not one for diving right into material without first getting an idea of what you kids know about it already. I'm sure you've all done the reading I asked you to do prior to our first day?

KATIE: (Aside) Gah! Reading? Did he tell us in an e-mail? Gah, my spam filter must've deleted it!

D'HEIMER: Why don't we start off with an example from the book. Uh...(Picks up the attendence sheet and runs his finger along it) Katie, could you give us an outline of the diagram on page three?

KATIE: No!

D'HEIMER: I'm sorry?

KATIE: What?

D'HEIMER: The diagram on page three. Could you give us a summary? Don't be bashful now. (Odd laugh)

KATIE: I...I...(pauses as she thinks of an excuse, then turns back) It's against my religion!

D'HEIMER: (Confused) What now?

KATIE: Yeah! I'm...uh...Psychotarianist! We don't do diagram summaries!

D'HEIMER: Then perhaps you could go into detail?

KATIE: In fact, we don't discuss diagrams at all! They're sadistic.

REN: You're just making that up.

KATIE: Can you prove it?

REN: What? No...

KATIE: Then don't question my beliefs!

KENNY: (Suddenly realizing the opportunity) Hey, woah, I'm a Psychotaur, too. We don't have science class on Mondays.

D'HEIMER: Alright, that's enough of that. Katie, you're excused on this one, but be prepared if I ask you to discuss something else from the reading.

KATIE: I'll make an attempt.

REN: (Muttering) Loser.

KENNY: So, do I get excused or what?

D'HEIMER: No, Kenny. I'm not fooled that easily.

REN: Ha!

KENNY: Whatever.

D'HEIMER: Now, maybe I should address some questions you may have regarding the text before we move on to applications.

KATIE: (Aside) Yes! This'll give me some time to skim the reading so I don't look like a total dink! (Picks up her book and starts flipping through the pages) So, how many pages do I need to read? Two? Can't be more than three...

DEE: I have a question regarding page seventeen of the text.

KATIE: (Aside, looking up) Seventeen pages?

REN: (To DEE) Page seventeen? You want problems, try page thirty-one.

KATIE: (Aside) Thirty-one pages?

KENNY: (To REN) Dude, all four chapters sucked.

KATIE: (Aside) Four?

REN: (To KENNY) You mean five?

KATIE: (Aside) Five?! (Starts shaking her head)

KENNY: No, it was four, see? (Holds up his hand and starts counting off on his fingers) One, two, three...four...(gets to five-count and just stares at his hand) Crap.

(KATIE emits a bizarre, laughing groan and starts swaying in her seat)

D'HEIMER: One at a time. Dee, you said seventeen?

DEE: Yes, Professor.

D'HEIMER: Okay, let's see...

(DOOFENHEIMER flips through his textbook and mumbles to himself while DEE waits patiently. REN does her nails and KENNY flexes his muscles while KATIE continues to sway in her seat, mumbling incoherently and staring off into space. After a few seconds she slams her head against the desk, drawing glances from REN and KENNY)

REN: (Going back to filing her nails) Wow, what a spaz.

KENNY: (Still flexing) Yeah. Total attention whore. (Leans towards REN, holding his arm up to her face) Check out these babies.

D'HEIMER: Katie?

KATIE: (Snaps up) I'm illiterate!

D'HEIMER: Excuse me?

KATIE: Uh, I had some difficulty with the assignment.

REN: That's not your only difficulty...

KATIE: I couldn't read it.

D'HEIMER: (Adjusts glasses) You're...illiterate, Katie?

KATIE: Would you believe selectively?

D'HEIMER: I'm afraid I don't follow.

KATIE: It's…uh…dyspepsia!

DEE: Indigestion does not cause illiteracy.

KATIE: (Turns to DEE) Wha?

D'HEIMER: I think you mean dyslexia, Katie. (Looks at attendance sheet) And considering you're an English Major, I'm finding difficulty in believing your claim.

KENNY: Pffft. Even I know that's a lame excuse.

REN: From experience?

KENNY: Uh...

(KATIE slams her fist down on her desk, drawing everyone's attention to her)

KATIE: This line of questioning and criticism is discriminating!

D'HEIMER: I'm sorry?

KENNY: I'm not.

KATIE: (To DOOFENHEIMER) You're grilling me in front of my peers on a learning disability! I could have you sued and thrown out of the school for ridiculing me in front of easily-manipulated minds. (Turns to KENNY) And you're an ass!

KENNY: Hey, if that's all you've got on me, I can handle it.

D'HEIMER: Alright, Katie. (Adjusts glasses as KATIE turns back around) I've been very lenient, but I think it's time you contributed. Since you didn't express any conflict with the material…

KATIE: (Fast, cutting DOOFENHEIMER off) When did I have this option?

D'HEIMER: (Ignoring KATIE) Could you please outline page seventeen on the board?

KATIE: Can I pass?

REN: Must've called that on brains, too.

KATIE: (To REN) Bite me!

REN: Screw you.

KENNY: (Leaning in between KATIE and REN) Screw me?

REN and KATIE: Screw yourself!

KENNY: (Leans back, raising hands defensively) Ladies, please, there's plenty of me to go around. I have a size fifteen shoe, and you know what they say...

KATIE: (Burying her head in her arms) Too much information! (Groans)

REN: Gag me. (Extends her palm towards KENNY's face as he's about to speak) Don't…say it.

D'HEIMER: Class, please. Katie, will you outline page seventeen?

KATIE: (Optimistically) I have a choice?

D'HEIMER: Outline page seventeen, please.

(KATIE stands and walks up to the blackboard. She draws a rectangle, puts down the chalk and steps back. DOOFENHEIMER looks at the drawing and adjusts his glasses)

D'HEIMER: This...is an outline of the page.

KATIE: Yes!

D'HEIMER: (Turns to KATIE) I admire your literalist approach to the matter, Katie, but could you please summarize page seventeen on the board?

KATIE: But I'm Psychotarian!

DEE: You appear unfamiliar with the adjective regarding your own religious beliefs.

KATIE: What?

DEE: Given the inconsistencies in your responses, one might speculate a large percentage of the answers you have given are not accurate.

KATIE: (Angry) Nobody asked you!

KENNY: Yeah, man, cut us some slack. It's a big word.

D'HEIMER: Katie…

KATIE: Psychotarinissssssst!

D'HEIMER: I'm sure you'll be forgiven.

KATIE: This is religious persecution! I am so sick of people taking advantage of me. The Pope will hear about this!

REN: Stuff the religious crap already, you're probably frickin' atheist.

KENNY: She's stoned?

KATIE: Huh?

REN: (To KENNY) How the hell did you get into this class?

KENNY: Hey, it's intro level. And I heard science chicks were hot. Didn't know they were crazy, though...

KATIE: I'm not crazy!

DEE: You understate your mannerisms.

KATIE: What?

DEE: You perceive your actions as less destructive as they are. The consequences of such a perspective can be dire.

KATIE: Who's the professor here? (Points to DEE then DOOFENHEIMER) You or him?

D'HEIMER: Uh, I'm pretty sure it's me. General Psychology isn't until next period...

KENNY: (Puts his feet up on the desk) I just wanna say, for the record, this is the most screwed up class I've ever been in.

KATIE: Do you ever say anything supportive?

KENNY: Well, you don't really give me a reason to…

KATIE: Gaaaah! That's it! You wanna argue? (Picks up her backpack) Here's my rebuttal!

KENNY: (Trying to stand up) Holy…!

(KATIE flings the backpack at KENNY, hitting him square in the chest. He falls out of his chair and sprawls out on the floor. REN stands up to look at him, while DEE sits in his seat, watching curiously.)

KATIE: (Deranged, still staring at KENNY) How's that for feedback?

REN: Oh my God, you killed Kenny, you bastard!

KATIE: (Furious, but trailing off towards the end) Don't call a bastard, you gucci-toting slut...person...

REN: (Confused, muttering) What the...?

KENNY: Uh...(Sits up groggily, drawing stares from KATIE and REN) I'm okay…(Opens up backpack and pulls out a pillow, then turns to KATIE, confused) I don't know much about meds or nothin', but you must be on some serious ones...

KATIE: (Annoyed) What does it take to make you stop?!

KENNY: (Smiles) Hey, I can go all night, if you want...

KATIE: (Frantic) This isn't sex! What the hell?

REN: (To KATIE) Jeez, chill out.

KATIE: (Nervous, toning down) Ehhhh, this is so frustrating!

D'HEIMER: Excuse me, but I'd like to continue class...

DEE: One moment, Professor, if I may. (Turns to KATIE, staring directly at her as he stands) Your reactions to confrontations from peers are unsettling. Is this how you plan to conduct yourself outside of the academic setting?

KATIE: What?

DEE: (Starts approaching KATIE) You can barely control your emotions. The very thought of confrontation drives you to extremes of rage and frustration.

KATIE: (Nervous, backing away) Oh...kay...

DEE: (Stops approaching KATIE) I am trying to help you see what you are doing. Do you understand?

KATIE: Uh, you're not helping much...

DEE: You must accept help. (Starts approaching KATIE again) You have to be willing to better yourself, to discipline your emotions and accept fate.

KATIE: (Backing away, staring to shake) Uh...uh...

DEE: (Still advancing, Voice growing stronger) The ability to improve is achievable. You must be willing to accept what you are and seek beyond it. The consequence of failure is more than you can imagine. Do you really wish to tempt it?

(KATIE stops backing up. She is shaking uncontrollably, unable to respond)

DEE: How do you expect to succeed as a contributor to society if you cannot learn to act in stride with the situation?

(KATIE continues to shake as she stares at DEE. She starts glancing around, looking at REN, KENNY and DOOFENHEIMER before turning back to DEE. A few seconds later, she screams and starts speaking frantically)

KATIE: You're all insane! All of you! I came here to get an education and get on with life...and you're pelting me with psychobabble! (Pointing at DEE) You wanna judge what I can contribute to society? This isn't society! It's a madhouse! I don't need your help! Who needs help when the whole world's full of psychos who make you look like the sane one? I'm perfectly fine! Super dandy great! (Points to everyone in the room except herself and DEE) They're the ones that need help! They're the ones who need to start making sense! You're all acting like a bunch of rejects from a bad movie!

KENNY: Dude, you need to-

KATIE: (Cutting KENNY off) Shut the hell up!

KENNY: (Sinking back) Uh, okay...

KATIE: (Gestures around the room) This...(Picks up her book and shakes it) This makes more sense than this! It's like my life is one big circus, or TV show...or science experiment! (All but KATIE tense up) Not just a joke, but a test to see just how messed up I really am! (Starts gesturing wildy, especially when dialogue is emphasized) What would Katie do in this situation? Or this? All to see just what she'd do if she really had to put her mind to it! Would she succeed? Can she succed? Can anyone? Oh yeah, they'd like that, wouldn't they? (Laughs awkwardly, as if losing her mind) Wouldn't they...

(Silence hangs in the air as KATIE stands at the center of the group, still laughing quietly as paranoia eats away at her sanity. REN and KENNY exchanges glances, while DEE continues to stare at KATIE. After a few seconds, DOOFENHEIMER adjusts his glasses and breaks the silence)

D'HEIMER: Uh...can I continue class, please?

(KATIE spins around, hurling her book across the stage. She glares at DOOFENHEIMER, smiling sinisterly)

KATIE: Class...is dismissed. HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAA!

(KATIE runs from the room, laughing maniacally. We hear her trip, scream and slam into something in the hallway, then start laughing again and run off. DEE crosses to the door, looks out, then turns back around)

DEE: She is gone.

(REN, KENNY and DOOFENHEIMER relax)

REN: Oh thank God. I thought she was going to figure us out.

KENNY: (Dignified tone) I find it quite difficult to put myself in the mindset of these simpleminded organisms. It seems their mentality lacks the stability required to reach the height of their potential, and I have complications in maintaining such low standards.

DEE: It required several months of research to establish characters for this observation. (Holds up some Pauly Shore DVDs) The material is staggeringly accurate.

D'HEIMER: (In deep voice) You got lucky, Dee, being the observer. These roles are difficult to perform.

DEE: I fear I may have spoken too much.

D'HEIMER: Still, it didn't require you to tap into unrefined skills.

REN: You think you got it bad? This is what I get for not hiring a female crew member. (Points at her breasts) These things are totally killing my back.

KENNY: Well, I would say the experiment has reached its conclusion, regardless of our qualms. (Turns to DEE) Dee? What have your observations determined?

DEE: (Takes a deep breath) Judging by the response of our subject, I would have to say that humanity consists of beings possessing hyperactive and delusional tendencies, and are prone to violence and paranoia when targeted for intellectual stimulation.

D'HEIMER: So, they won't be joining our alliance?

DEE: No. Earth will most likely self-destruct from the incompetence of its dominant species. It is best to let it to do alone.

KENNY: That seems legitimate.

REN: Agreed...now, let's get out of here already. I want to be in orbit over Mars by this afternoon.

DEE: Very well.

(All cross to the door and exit. Lights fade.)