'Three's Company,' a Play

I know, you’re probably thinking, that sexist show about a sex-crazed man and two bimbos in short shorts and tight tops, one dumber than the other, sexual content, homophobic jokes, nagging wives, and stupid physical comedy? EXACTLY.

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25 April 2014, 7:27pm

We open on the living room set of Three’s Company. A couch is in the center of the room, facing out toward the audience, with a 70s-era television in front of it. Doors lead off to the non-existent kitchen, bedrooms, and outdoor areas. All action outside of the living room set will take place downstage. JACK, a bachelor in his late 20s, sits on the couch watching TV. A screen hanging at the back of the stage displays what Jack is watching on the TV.  The opening credits for Three’s Company appears on the screen, and the theme song starts, “Come and knock on our door…” The volume is lowered a bit, but the images continue to play. It’s an episode called “Home Movies.” Eventually this will start be intercut with recreations of three episodes.

JACK
[Laughing at the TV]
Oh man, they don’t make television shows like they used to.  [Laughs some more.  Then he notices the audience] Oh, hey. I guess you’re here for a show. [Pause. He looks around] Am I the show? I guess you don’t want to watch me watching television.  But, damn, this was a good show. Three’s Company, you ever watch it? I know, you’re probably thinking, that sexist show about a sex-crazed man and two bimbos in short shorts and tight tops, one dumber than the other, sexual content, homophobic jokes, nagging wives, and stupid physical comedy? EXACTLY. It was the sitcom that defined all sitcoms, because it didn’t shy away from our favorite subject—sex! We want the boys and girls to chase each other around.  From Jane Austen to Entourage, relationships have always been important in entertainment. Television may have eroded our standards by forcing shallow love down our throats, but it’s also done wonders.  “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”— thanks, Oliver Stone. Back in the days of George Eliot you couldn’t get the number of marriage plots you can now, because you only had novels and plays. Now you’ve got hundreds of channels, movies, memes, blogs, videogames—this could go on for a while. Our representations of ourselves have been exhausted. That’s the difference between television and—I don’t know—movies or books or plays; television shows can take a genre and run it into the ground.  Just look at cop films now and how they struggle to become something more than just a special episode of NYPD Blue. You look at how movies have reacted to television over the years and the impulse is to always go bigger, louder, more blood, bigger budgets. Let’s add aliens, say “fuck” or “cunt.” Let’s make those people naked, if it had nothing to do with the plot. But it all runs together on the internet anyway, and soon enough—it’ll just run through our bodies.

JANET
[Walks in. She is dressed in short shorts. She sits on the couch next to Jack.]
Who were you talking to?

JACK
Oh, no one. 
[Winks at audience]
I was just watching Three’s Company.

JANET
What are you talking about?

JACK
Three’s Company?  With John Ritter, Susanne Summers, Don Knox as Ferley and the brunette, um, what’s-her-name. . .

JANET
Joyce DeWitt!

JACK
Oh, that’s right!  Sorry, Janet.

JANET
So, why the heck are you watching Three’s Company, we’re in Three’s Company.

JACK
It’s my favorite show! I think it’s fucking hilarious. That idiot guy that trips all over the place trying to screw those bimbos all the time.

JANET
Jack. That idiot guy is you. And that bimbo is me.

JACK
Janet. You shouldn’t talk about yourself that way. I know you just work in a flower shop, but you are more than just a bimbo.

JANET
I know you blockhead! I don’t think I’m a bimbo, you and the rest of the male species does because of shows like the one you’re watching. I’m not saying that I’m really a bimbo, I’m saying that that’s us on the show.  Don’t you recognize yourself?

[Jack looks closer at the screen.]

JACK
Holy Shit. That is us.

JANET
Doi-hicky. 

JACK
What-the-fuck? I’m so funny.

JANET
You’re not, that’s John Ritter. He plays you. He was the funny one, or pretty funny. Now you’re being played by _____________[First and last names of actor playing Jack]. You’re not so funny.

JACK
Hey, ____________[first name of actress playing Janet] slow down; don’t switch personalities on me. I just found out that I’m watching myself on television.

JANET
I’m clarifying.

JACK
By calling me by my real-real name?

JANET
You do know you’re in a theater, right?  That people are out there watching you?

JACK
[Looks out at the audience as if for the first time]
[Whisper]
Yes, I fucking know that _____________[first name of actress playing Janet], I mean Janet. But I don’t want to think about that. Stop thinking about that. You need to focus, react to me.

JANET
What did they teach you that in acting class?

JACK
Actually, yes. “Work off the other person.” You should only be focused on me, forget the audience.

JANET
Well, I think you’re full of fucking shit, because I heard you talking to someone, and I think you were talking to them.

JACK
[Feigns shock]
_____________ [Name of actress playing Janet], I mean Janet! Watch your mouth. You can’t swear.

JANET
You swore.

JACK
No, I didn’t.

JANET
___________ [Actor paying Jack), you fucking swore!

JACK
That was before I knew we were on TV. I just don’t want our show to be pulled off the air for vulgarity.

JANET
____________(Actor paying Jack), we’re not on TV, we’re in a fucking theater.  We can swear as much as we want.

JACK
I know where we are. We ALL do. I do, you do, the audience does. You’re not being special or crazy by being all Meta, Joyce? We are all aware, but in this space, we are creating magic by all playing by the rules. That’s how this works—suspended disbelief. Would you like it if the audience stopped playing by the rules, if they threw beer bottles at us or just came on stage and started “acting.”

JANET
You called me Joyce.

JACK
[Looks confused]

JANET
Just a second ago, you said, “You're not being special or crazy by being all Meta, Joyce.”  I’m not Joyce. Joyce DeWitt was on the original show and is still alive.

JACK
What the fuck do you expect? You screwed up all levels of reality, or smooched them together, and now you expect me to figure out what to call you? 

JANET
Whatever, Jack. I’ll play along, but you gotta tell me why you how you’re watching yourself on television.

JACK
It was just on. I guess we just all watch ourselves now that it’s the 2000s.

JANET
Yeah, you’re right. Back in the 80s, I used to think about this set we’re in, a living room with a couch facing a television looking toward an audience that was also in the same set, a living room with a couch facing a television. It was like a fucked-up mirror. Did they just sit around and watch us be stupid, then turn around and do the same thing. Well, except we didn’t have consequences.

JACK
Or pussy.

JANET
Jack!

JACK
Well, we didn’t.  It was so frustrating. You and Chrissy walked around offering the goods on a platter. Larry and I got nothing. Not once.

JANET
Well, that was the appeal of the show.

[CHRISSY walks in wearing a revealing outfit, holding a video camera.  She is beautiful and blonde, acting ditsy. blond and pretty and acts ditsy.]

[Canned applause.]

CHRISSY
What was the appeal of what show?

JACK
You. Your boobs.

CHRISSY
Jack! 

JANET
Jack, don’t be mean.

JACK
I’m only telling the truth

CHRISSY
Why would you say something like that?

JACK
Your boobs and legs are the only thing anyone is looking at right now!

CHRISSY
Oh, duh, I know that. That’s why I wear this.  I’m saying that you’re a liar because I’m not on any show.  Why would you say something like that?

JACK
Chrissy, you are. Look!

CHRISSY
[Looking at the TV]
What the heck is that?

JACK
It’s us, it’s a TV show about us.  It’s called Three's Company.

CHRISSY
No, that outfit I’m wearing. It’s so 80s.

JACK
Yeah, it was the 80s, early 80s.

CHRISSY
What the heck are you talking about Jack?  And who is “Three” and what’s his company make?

JACK
Huh?

CHRISSY
You said it’s called Three’s Company, who is Mr. Three?

JANET
No, Chrissy, the apostrophe-s is not possessive, it’s contraction for “three IS company.” Meaning the three of us.

CHRISSY
Why don’t they just say that then?

JACK
It’s just a play on the saying:  One’s fun, two’s company, three’s a crowd. Three isn’t a bad thing, and maybe we should’ve all been boning. Laying pipe.

CHRISSY
We’re a sex company?

JANET
No, Chrissy. Company, as in companionship. Well, Jack thinks it means menage a trois.

CHRISSY
A massage company?
[They roll their eyes.]

JACK
Yes, a massage company. Now let’s get started.
[He spreads his legs.]

JANET/CHRISSY
Jaaack!

JACK
Actually, I shouldn’t do that.  There was a famous episode where you could see Jack’s balls because his shorts were so short.

JANET
And they aired it?

JACK
They had two versions, one where they kept it and one where they edited it out.  “Sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don’t.”

CHRISSY/JANET
Jack!

JACK
Tell me I’m wrong.

CHRISSY
No, he’s kinda right.

JANET
Yeah, I guess so.

CHRISSY
OK, but I’m still confused.

JACK
That’s a first.
[Janet hits Jack playfully.]

CHRISSY
Tell me what this TV show is about.

JACK
It’s about us. In the first episode, I came over for your old roommate’s birthday party and I fell asleep in the bathtub.

CHRISSY
You were so drunk!

JACK
You needed a new roommate, but back then I guess guys and girls weren’t allowed to rent an apartment together.

JANET
Back in the prude eighties. 

JACK
Exactly. Silly premise, but that’s why I pretended to be gay, because the Ropers wouldn’t let me stay otherwise, and it opened the door for a bunch of homophobic jokes. It was great fun back in the 80s when people still thought it was funny to say “fairy” and “Tinkerbell” and even “faggot,” but I don’t think it really flies today.  Especially now that we’re in a theater and not on the TV. 

CHRISSY
What do you mean?  Gay people don’t watch TV.

JACK
But straight people don’t go to the theater.

CHRISSY
Wait a minute. You’re not gay?

JACK
NO! I was just pretending.

CHRISSY
But there is a little bit of truth in every joke, Jack, even I know that.

JACK
But I wasn’t joking! I was pretending, so that I could stay here and try to screw the both of you. Maybe we should just move on.

JANET
So, what do you think we’re supposed to do now? We can’t just keep talking about the meta aspects and post-modern aspects of our situation. I mean we’re in a theater, with an audience, watching us, waiting for us to entertain them.

CHRISSY
Wait! We’re in a theater? Like an old-fashioned theater, where the actors act on a stage and there are real people out in the audience?

JANET
Yes.

CHRISSY
Like in elementary school, when I played Eeyore?

JANET
You played Eeyore?

CHRISSY
Yeah, my tail kept falling off and those boys all wanted to keep pinning it back on.  They were so helpful.

JACK
I guess Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, TIgger, and Christopher Robbins decided not to be gay after all.

JANET
Wait, what?

JACK
All those characters. They were gay as hell.

JANET
Why do you say that?

JACK
Just look at them, they all look super feminine and cuddly, rolling around in the grass together, fucking, and bouncing, and playing with butterflies.

JANET
Because you look like a girl doesn’t mean your gay. And those boys were attracted to Chrissy dressed as a boy, so what does that say? They wanted Chrissy to use a strap on?

JACK
Whoa, whoa, whoa. What are we going to talk about ball gags next?

JANET
You’re the one who called imaginary talking animals gay.

JACK
Yeah, but Eeyore with a strap-on?

CHRISSY
And how the heck did you know they had to get me an extra strap for that costume?

JANET
No, not an extra strap, a strap . . .

CHRISSY
My costume kept falling off because the boys were putting that tail on so hard, my costume kept ripping off.

JACK
Fine. And my point is that if all actors are gay, so are all cartoon characters, and children’s book characters. And I’ll tell you another thing,
[His voice gets louder]
I hate fucking screenwriters, playwrights, and directors of all sorts, film, television, theater, or otherwise.

[The girls take a step back.]

JANET
Ummm...

JACK
[He composes himself.]
I’m just saying. You want to talk about what’s primary in entertainment, it’s the fucking performers. We are the life! Writers that get all hung up about their words or directors that get all hung up on their blocking, fuck ‘em. An actor can convey a world of emotion in a five seconds that would take a novelist pages to describe. And TV writers are even worse, they underline words and italicize them, and if the actor doesn’t emphasize that word they cut the take. What the fuck is that? Why don’t they just work in animation?

CHRISSY
There are words italicized in this script.

JACK
Shut up. Did I stop you when you fucked up those lines back there?

CHRISSY
Which lines?!

JACK
We were supposed to be talking about the audience by now. Back when you started talking about Eeyore and strap-ons.

CHRISSY
Sorry! It was the only play I’d ever done, I thought it was important. Especially because it was the first disguise I wore when my mom and I started robbing banks.

[Silence.]

[Jack and Janet look at each other.]

JANET
You and Mrs. Snow robbed banks?

CHRISSY
Oh yeah, it was so fun. I’d go in first dressed as Eeyore, or Snoopy, or sometimes Scooby Doo and I’d walk in all innocent and everyone would think it was a big joke and then I’d walk right up to the guard and shoot him right in the balls. It was like a game.

[Silence.]

JACK
Right. Well, maybe we should get back on script. [Pulls a script out from between the pillows of the couch]. It says right here [Jack reads from the script] Chrissy moves to the foot of the stage and looks out at the audience.  She peers into the darkness. Chrissy says, “Hello?” The audience titters. Chrissy peers more. Then she sees them. She gasps, “Oh my God.”

CHRISSY
OK, OK, OK! I remember. Sorrr-eeeeeee.
[Chrissy moves to the foot of the stage and looks out at the audience.  She peers into the darkness.]
Hello?

[The audience titters. Chrissy looks back at Jack.]

CHRISSY
Isn’t the audience supposed to titter?

JACK
Don’t worry about that part. It’s interactive. It’s also a way to let them know we’re thinking about them. Whether they titter or not doesn't matter. We’re just letting them know that they are playing roles too.

JANET
I thought you forgot about the audience when you acted.

JACK
Yeah, but not when I’m the playwright.

JANET
You wrote this?!

JACK
Shhhhhhhh. You’re interrupting Chrissy.  [To Chrissy] Go on, Chrissy, sorry we interrupted.

[Chrissy peers more. Then she sees them.]

CHRISSY
[Gasps]
Oh, my God!
[She points out at the audience and looks back at Jack.]

CHRISSY
[Whispers]
They’re out there.

JACK
[Whispers]
I know!

CHRISSY
[Whispers]
Well, what are we supposed to do?

JACK
[Whispers]
They want to be entertained. They want to laugh. They want to think.

JANET
Don’t get carried away.

JACK
[Whispers]
OK, they want to laugh; they want you to entertain them.
 

[Chrissy turns back to the audience. She tentatively waves.]

CHRISSY
Hi.

[The audience waves back.]

CHRISSY
[To Jack]
Aren’t they supposed to wave back?

JACK
I told you, don’t worry about that.

CHRISSY
OK, but I’m just trying to entertain them.

JANET
I’m sorry, but Chrissy just waving at the audience isn’t entertaining.

CHRISSY
It might be. All they want is a little attention. That’s all that Marina Abromavic did when she sat across from everyone in the MoMA; she gave them a little attention, and everyone treated her like a goddess.  

JANET
You’re saying you’re like Marina Abromavic?

CHRISSY
Yeah. Performance art.

[Chrissy keeps waving.]

CHRISSY
Except that I’m bringing the sexy edge to performance art.
[She cocks sexy poses and waves. This continues for a while.]

JACK
Chrissy, that’s enough. They're ready for some ENTERTAINMENT.

CHRISSY
Well, I’m not stripping if that’s what they’re expecting.

JACK
That’s a good idea, but I’ll do the stripping. If a girl strips it’s pornographic, if a guy strips it’s artistic.

JANET
Um, I guess.
[Jack stands and pulls his shirt off.]

JANET
Jack! Cut it out.

JACK
Why?

JANET
Because. We need to get serious, we have a whole theater full of people here. We have to DO SOMETHING.

JACK
What do you think I’m doing?

JANET
Acting like an ass.

CHRISSY
I thought he was stripping.

[Jack and Janet look at each other. Chrissy walks over to the couch and sits.]

CHRISSY
Well, what do you want to do?

JACK
Let’s think.

[Jack and Janet join Chrissy on the couch, all of them thinking.]

JANET
Well, at least this is new. No one has ever thought on stage for such a long time.

CHRISSY
I have an idea.

JACK
Uh oh.

JANET
Shut up, Jack.

CHRISSY
Yeah, shut up Jack. I’m not dumb. When my first boyfriend called me dumb I stabbed him in his sleep, cut off his cock, and left it in his mouth.

[Silence.]

JACK
That’s great Chrissy. I don’t think you should really be talking about all that stuff.

CHRISSY
I thought you said you wanted drama.

JACK
Yes, but that’s just creepy backstory, we need something to happen now.

CHRISSY
Well, I have this video camera.

JANET
Where did that come from?

CHRISSY
I walked in with it. I sorta thought it could be like the Checkov thing with the gun, like don’t introduce it unless you are going to use it. Like in The Seagull.

JACK
Now that’s a brilliant fucking idea. Fuck, YES. Let’s make a video and then we can show it to the people. They’ll love it! That’s all anybody wants to watch nowadays, videos!

CHRISSY
Ooh, ooh, ooh, let’s do a musical number! Let’s do a musical number.

JACK
This isn’t a musical.

JANET
Who cares, Jack? You said it yourself, these people want to be entertained. Let’s entertain them. They all pretend to be into high culture and into the theater but they just want a bunch of song and dance and celebrities. Let’s do a play about the making of a video.

JACK
That’s it? That’s all you want to do?

CHRISSY
Yeah, I’m a good singer and a good dancer.

JANET
Me, too! Me, too!

[Jack picks up the camera.]

JACK
You’re sure?

JANET/CHRISSY
Yes!!!!!

JACK
OK! I have the best fucking song!

[He turns on the stereo. SELENA GOMEZ & THE SCENE’S “LOVE YOU LIKE A LOVE SONG” comes on. The GANG SINGS ALONG and DANCES. As they do so Jack moves about them and video tapes them. The video stream plays on the screen.]

GANG
[To the music sings and dances “Love You Like a Love Song.”]

JACK
That was FUCKING GREAT!

CHRISSY/JANET
Yeah!

JACK
Let’s do it again, and turn up the heat!

[More screens descend and more dancers come out on stage. JUSTIN BIEBER’S “BABY” plays and the gang sings along. Now there are multiple cameras and a fancy light show that are projected on the screens. The new dancers do a choreographed dance.]

GANG
[Sings “Baby.”]

[After the song is over, there is a big orgy on the stage behind the couch.  It can’t be seen from the audience but parts of it are displayed on the screens.]

THE END

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