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Rated: E · Script/Play · Comedy · #2150278
Act One of the play.
Time and Place

Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California, 1933.

Setting

The only stage furniture required for the play is a battered wooden chair, sitting more or less at center stage.

The lighting scheme may vary according to the director’s discretion, but the illumination should vary over the stage: with the wooden chair—the center of the action—always resting in a pool of light.

The players are dressed in workday clothing of the period. R.K. Schmeddlapp, for example, arrives wearing a double-breasted suit under his trench coat. He holds a wide-brimmed hat in one hand, and a portfolio in the other.

At Rise

The light intensifies on the stage.


ENTER SCHMEDDLAPP

Schmeddlapp has walked into what is, for him, unfamiliar territory and he is obviously hoping for someone to tell him what to do.

But there’s no one in sight, no sound coming from anywhere, and no bell to ring—so the young man slips out of his trench coat, folds it over his arms, and sits on the edge of the chair, with his hat, his coat, and his portfolio making a package on his lap.

Almost immediately after he is seated, there are the crisp sounds of high-heeled shoes on a hard surface floor.

ENTER PULASKI

Pulaski, hugging a clipboard tight against her bosom, passes behind Schmeddlapp: striding purposefully from one side of the stage to the other.

The young woman doesn’t even glance in Schmeddlapp’s direction, and she’s moving fast, so—by the time Schmeddlapp has raised his hand to attract her attention—she’s gone.

EXIT PULASKI

This gives Schmeddlapp a second or two to survey his surroundings, in a melancholy way before the metronome sound of the high heels starts to come back again.

Schmeddlapp turns toward the sound hopefully.

ENTER PULASKI

Pulaski marches up to the young man with a no-nonsense expression: consulting the clipboard while she walks.

PULASKI. Gravy?

SCHMEDDLAPP. No...what?

The young woman checks her clipboard again, perplexed.

PULASKI. Spud?

SCHMEDDLAPP. What?

PULASKI. Well—I have this whole big list of people. Maybe you could help me out.

She turns the clipboard so he can see it.

PULASKI. And you’re not Mr Lard are you?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Lard? You mean “Laird”? No, I’m not Laird.

He locates his name.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Schmeddlapp. It’s just there.

PULASKI. Oh...that’s the biggest one.

SCHMEDDLAPP. It usually is. The name, I mean....

PULASKI. Well what else would you be talking about?

Pulaski takes back her clipboard.

PULASKI. Schmeddlapp. So that’s “d” twice, and “p” twice?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Right.

PULASKI. And no “z”?

SCHMEDDLAPP. No “z”.

PULASKI. And “RK”?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Right. OK.

PULASKI. OK? Not “RK”.

SCHMEDDLAPP. No. “RK” is correct.

PULASKI. OK. And the Agency sent you? Accidental dialogue?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Additional dialogue. That’s what they said.

Pulaski is careful to note this.

PULASKI. Have you worked with Mr. Marx before?

SCHMEDDLAPP. No. They’re making a movie here. Is that right?

PULASKI. That’s what I hear. But I wouldn’t swear to it.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Is Mr Marx here?

PULASKI. All of them are here. At least that’s what I hear. You know there’s more than one?

SCHMEDDLAPP. I know there’s more than one. Do I look for them? Do I wait?

PULASKI. Oh...they’ll probably find you. Can I take your hat?

He hands it to her without thinking too much about it, and she begins to stride away. Then stops short—and comes back.

PULASKI. And I can take your coat, too, while I’m at it.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Is there anything I need to know?

PULASKI. Well there’s lots of things we all need to know.

Without saying anything more, she strides off with the writer’s personal effects.

EXIT PULASKI

Schmeddlapp sits down, visibly uncomfortable, pulls some papers out of his portfolio and begins looking at them.

ENTER JULIUS MARX AND HERBERT MARX

Julius, in an ordinary suit—without the glasses, cigar, and makeup—is almost unrecognizable as the character he plays. On the other hand, Herbert—who usually just plays himself in films—is very familiar-looking.

The two men appears to be at loose ends: sauntering toward center stage with their hands in their pockets.

Spotting Schmeddlapp on the chair, Herbert dramatically grasps Julius’ arm, and both men stop short. They begin to speak in stage whispers.

HERBERT. Don’t move, Julius.

JULIUS. I’ve moved before—and I’ll move again. Don’t give me these kind of instructions!

Herbert gestures toward Schmeddlapp and they both feign astonishment.

HERBERT. Something’s just landed!

JULIUS. But where could it have come from Captain? We never see anything like this west of Pasadena!

HERBERT. And yet it’s true. A flannel-breasted New York writer.

JULIUS. It sounds impossible.

HERBERT. Of course no one will believe us. I suggest we kill and pickle it—for science.

JULIUS. I’m very much in favor of science. And, come to think of it, I could really use a pickle. (shouts offstage) Pulaski, did you get any more pickles?



PULASKI. (from off-stage) Not yet, Mr Marx!

By this time, they have attracted Schmeddlapp’s attention, and he rises to his feet, facing them.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Hello.

The two brothers approach, and shake hands with Schmeddlapp. But only after ceremoniously shaking hands with each other.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) New in town?

SCHMEDDLAPP. The agency sent me over.

JULIUS. The agency! (to Herbert) There’s an agency?

HERBERT. That makes it serious.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Is there a problem with the agency?

HERBERT. No. We love the agency.

JULIUS. And all the wacky things they take a whack at.

SCHMEDDLAPP. I admired your work on Broadway very much.

JULIUS. Then you’ll admire us twice as much when we have all the brothers. This is only fifty per cent of the Marx brothers. Twenty per cent of the Marx brothers is on the phone: working to put his bookmaker’s kids through school. And the other twenty per cent is asleep somewhere.

SCHMEDDLAPP. I don’t think that adds up to one hundred per cent.

HERBERT. Oh, we’re hardly ever at a hundred per cent.

JULIUS. Even when all four of us are together. But even the best product on the market eliminates only seventy per cent of uncomfortable gas. So we still have an advantage.

HERBERT. And happy to be helping people feel better. There’s a depression, you know.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) We hope depression won’t be a problem with you.

SCHMEDDLAPP. I’m positive most of the time. I was happy enough to take that long train ride out here.

JULIUS. And where do you hail from, brother?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Brooklyn.

He locates a piece of paper and holds it out. Both the brothers ignore it.

JULIUS. “Brooklyn”. It still pulls on my heartstrings to hear the name.

HERBERT. I spit on Brooklyn!

JULIUS. Oh! Me too! We went all the way across the bridge to spit on Brooklyn! We were New Yorkers—

HERBERT. We were from the big part of the big city. We knew what was what—

JULIUS. You could tell because each of us had his own pair of pants.

HERBERT. We still do!

Julius pulls a cigar from his inside coat pocket.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) Cigar?

SCHMEDDLAPP. No—thank you.

JULIUS. No, I mean, do you have a cigar? If you had a cigar, I wouldn’t need to light this one. (to Herbert) Can I borrow a match? He doesn’t have one of those, either.

Herbert does have a box of matches, as it happens.

HERBERT. Remember this at Christmas time.

JULIUS. You’ll get what you always get. A little reminder that we’re Jewish.

Julius lights up.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) So…what brings you to the neighborhood, stranger?

SCHMEDDLAPP. I have a contract—

JULIUS. (interrupting) Contract! That’s a lie! I never signed anything! And she told me she was underage anyway!

SCHMEDDLAPP. —to write additional dialogue for the Marx Brothers. I mean ... you.

JULIUS. Additional dialogue—

HERBERT. And here I thought we were talking too much already.

JULIUS. Let me see that paper, and we’ll see what it really says.

Schmeddlapp reluctantly surrenders a document he’s removed from his portfolio.

JULIUS. We’ll get to the bottom of this....

HERBERT. Julius, is it Herbert Hoover’s face on the front of the ten-dollar bill?

JULIUS. Not yet. Although they’ve started putting it on toilet paper—

HERBERT. The first president to make it that far—

JULIUS. And finally doing something useful for a change. But it’s Hamilton on the front of a ten.

HERBERT. No, I don’t think that’s right.

JULIUS. Well, we have a prosperous visitor right here. (to Schmeddlapp) You got a ten in your wallet?

SCHMEDDLAPP. I think so.

JULIUS. Then extract it for us, if you would be so kind. (to Herbert) I’m the one who knows these things. I’m the only one of you guys who hangs on to any money.

Schmeddlapp extends the greenback to Julius, and Julius snaps it up: extending the bill to Herbert, without even glancing at it.

JULIUS. There you go. Good at any poker table on the West Coast.

HERBERT. Thank you. Very generous.

Julius takes the bill back from Herbert, and casually folds it into his coat pocket. Then, just as casually, he tears off part of Schmeddlapp’s contract—which Julius still holds in his hand—and begins to write on it with the stub of a pencil.

JULIUS. My brother neglected to mention that he owes me ten dollars—

HERBERT. I’m sure it’s a lot more than that!

JULIUS. I’ll get the rest when Paramount finally pays us. (to Schmeddlapp) Here’s my note for it. And, if it’s not repaid in 90 days, of course you can keep the note.

He hands the IOU to Schmeddlapp, but keeps the rest of the contract.

JULIUS. As for this contract: it’s not worth the moose hide it’s written on! What do you take us for? Fools? Stooges? Republicans?

Julius suddenly looks alertly off-stage.

JULIUS. Pardon me. I think I see someone I know.

EXIT JULIUS

SCHMEDDLAPP. Doesn’t he know everyone here?

HERBERT. Not as well as he’d like. Been in Los Angeles long?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Just a couple of days.

HERBERT. Direct from Brooklyn?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Station to station....

There’s a high-pitched feminine squeal from off-stage. Herbert ignores it.

SCHMEDDLAPP. What was that?

HERBERT. My brother has a special cure for hiccups. What were you doing in New York?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Growing up mostly.

HERBERT. A magical place for a young boy.

SCHMEDDLAPP. What magical place?

HERBERT. Brooklyn....

SCHMEDDLAPP. I thought you spit on Brooklyn.

HERBERT. But that was just the one time. What else did you do, aside from get bigger?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Mostly radio.

HERBERT. Listening to it?

SCHMEDDLAPP. I wrote comedy for radio. A long time.

ENTER JULIUS

JULIUS. Radio? Did someone say radio? I’m currently doing a radio show with my older brother. At least that’s who he says he is.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Yes, I’ve heard it.

JULIUS. Really? You heard our show—and you still consented to work with us. That’s very big of you.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Thank you.

JULIUS. And big of me?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Pardon?

JULIUS. If it’s true, you might as well confess! Bigamy is against the law—even in California. But, if you come clean, it’ll go easier with you!

SCHMEDDLAPP. I’m not even married!

JULIUS. Neither was I until I got married! Wait a minute! What was your name again?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Schmeddlapp. R. K.

Julius and Hebert exchange a long look.

JULIUS. And is that Schmeddlapp with two s’s, two m’s, two d’s, and two p’s?

SCHMEDDLAPP. No. That’s too many “two’s”?

JULIUS. Then you’re not the notorious Hollywood bigamist! It appears that we won’t have to get the police involved at all—

SCHMEDDLAPP. Hollywood bigamist?

JULIUS. Six wives, and not a single one would prosecute!

HERBERT. He had a gift for keeping women happy—

JULIUS. And at the same time!

HERBERT. But we still reserve the right to question you at any time—

JULIUS. Or answer you at any time! So…Schmeddlapp. Spelled backward, does that uncover some kind of secret code? This movie we’re putting together is going to be about the horrors of war, you know.

HERBERT. Gruesome.

JULIUS. Hard hitting.

HERBERT. Geopolitical.

JULIUS. And probably some chorus girls, too.

HERBERT. As many as we can afford actually.

JULIUS. Out with it! What kind of a name is Schmeddlapp? Who are you really working for? Is it Warner Brothers? They’ve been after us for years. But we were brothers before they were, and we have proof! Or are you in bed with someone else?

HERBERT. The James brothers?

JULIUS. The Brothers Karamazov? A rotten bunch. A whole book about them!

HERBERT. The Wright brothers?

JULIUS. We’ve already been to court with them once.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Why would you be in court with the Wright brothers?

HERBERT. To see who was right.

JULIUS. Strange that you should need to ask that question. But all this isn’t getting us any closer to a title.

SCHMEDDLAPP. A title for….

HERBERT. Well—you’re standing in a studio where they make movies. Do we need to give you a moment to think about it?

SCHMEDDLAPP. No…but…can’t there be a working title? Do you really need a title at the very beginning?

JULIUS. It’s critical. It’s primal. It’s thermal. It’s the first thing to come up. (to Herbert) Imagine having the title at the end. What sense would that make? On the other hand, if you move the credits to the end, you can be out of the theater before anybody knows who made the picture.

HERBERT. That’s genius! And we’re the first ones to think of it!

JULIUS. And now we need to be the first ones to forget about it! (to Schmeddlapp) The title of this thing has been haunting us from the start! God knows we’ve been all over the place with titles. Cracked Ice. Firecrackers. Soda Crackers. Animal Crackers—

HERBERT. Already did that one.

JULIUS. And for Paramount, too. So it would be bad form to bill them twice. But then we got soup: Whale Soup, Shark Soup, Chicken Soup. And we got chops: Lamb Chops, Veal Chops, and any other kind of chop you can think of.

Julius pulls Schmeddlapp’s contract back out of his pocket, along with the very small pencil.

JULIUS. And today we got fresh turkey breast on wheat, roast beef on white, and a nice pastrami on marble rye—with, or without, the hot mustard. So what’ll it be, mister? Make up your mind! We don’t have all day!

SCHMEDDLAPP. What?

JULIUS. We can also do a side of hot, or cold, potato salad—or a side of pickles. I prefer the potato salad. The pickles don’t agree with a lot of people.

HERBERT. They come out of the jar ready to cause trouble.

JULIUS. What do you expect? They’ve been cooped up in that jar for months!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Well…roast beef on white if we’re already thinking about lunch.

Julius, infuriated, jams Schmeddlapp’s contract back into his pocket.

JULIUS. You’ll get lunch when you tell us what you’re really doing here! No food during interrogation! What do you take us for? Fools? Stooges? Republicans? (to Herbert) That sounds familiar.

HERBERT. That’s exactly what you said earlier.

JULIUS. All right. (to Schmeddlapp) Take two! What do you take us for, my good man?

HERBERT. Excellent! That’ll get him to talk!

JULIUS. Look here, Schmeddlapp—if that is your real name—what are we supposed to believe? This written contract? Or our own insane delusions?

SCHMEDDLAPP. It’s a perfectly good contract.

JULIUS. Well—I doubt that it’s perfect. But we’ll just have to give you the benefit of the doubt. Just have to trust you. (to Herbert) We’ll just have to trust him.

HERBERT. If you say so. I wish you hadn’t mentioned hot potato salad.

SCHMEDDLAPP. I’ve never had that.

JULIUS. That explains a lot.

HERBERT. Remember: Frenchie would bring it out in that big brown bowl—

JULIUS. And I would have enjoyed it more, except that I had the four of you for brothers, and you all insisted on eating. (to Schmeddlapp) And thanks for bringing up the subject of something we can’t get anymore!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Frenchie? Was Frenchie your family’s cook?

HERBERT. He was.

JULIUS. Also our mother’s husband.

HERBERT. And also our father.

JULIUS. At least according to our mother. Who was generally truthful…most of the time.

HERBERT. Generally truthful…some of the time.

JULIUS. OK—let’s be honest. Partially truthful. Some of the time. But we have the birth certificates, and—if there’s any question—they can be produced, without question. Especially if it’s a question of inheritance, or any kind of royal title.

HERBERT. We know who we are.

JULIUS. Exactly. Let everyone else wonder who we are.

SCHMEDDLAPP. And did Frenchie keep cooking?

JULIUS. Well—he might still be cooking now. But he was a good man, all of his life, and we like to think that—whatever heaven might be like—he ended up there.

HERBERT. Where he’s looking around for a good game of cards. Low stakes.

JULIUS. The lowest he can find. Now that he’s able to play full time.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Is he dead then?

JULIUS. I certainly hope so. We buried him last May. We have a certificate for that, too.

SCHMEDDLAPP. I’m sorry.

JULIUS. Well—these things happen. Mother, dead. Father, dead.

HERBERT. Dog, dead. Cat, dead. Parakeet, dead. Goldfish dead.

JULIUS. Just poor orphans of the storm.

Julius shouts off-stage.

JULIUS. Pulaski! Has that storm moved in yet?

PULASKI. (from off-stage) No, Mr. Marx!

JULIUS. OK. Just poor orphans—at least for now. And really not that poor, since we’ve been making movies.

HERBERT. But poor when we were at Frenchie’s. Good old 93rd. Upper west side.

SCHMEDDLAPP. That’s a nice part of town.

JULIUS. It improved quite a bit when we left. We were rich in spirit—

HERBERT. And rich in noise—

JULIUS. And poor in everything else. At least that’s how most people would think of it.

SCHMEDDLAPP. There are different ways of defining “poor?”

HERBERT. How about not having any money?

JULIUS. All money does is give you peace of mind. And who needs that? When we were kids, we took our entertainment where we could find it. Frenchie liked a nice fast game of pinochle, at about a penny a point. That was his place in life and—in between cooking for the big crowd of our mother’s relatives and cheating at cards—he pretended to be a tailor. (to Schmeddlapp) Herb’s got a routine for that.

HERBERT. Should I do Frenchie in the tailor shop? I haven’t done that in forever!

JULIUS. It’s something that none of us should ever forget. Schmeddlapp—if that is his real name—can be your victim. I mean, customer. (to Schmeddlapp) This is good. We’d like to work it into the movie because Herb keeps bitching he doesn’t have enough to do.

HERBERT. It’s true. I’m just window dressing.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) Stand up, stranger, and take off your jacket. (to Herbert) Window dressing, my ass! Every time we turn around you’ve got somebody in your lap. And you never keep your hands where we can see them!

Schmeddlapp stands up slowly—putting his portfolio on the chair—and slowly hands his coat to Julius.

HERBERT. Every time I turn around, you’re in Dumont’s lap.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) We’ll need the vest, too. (to Herbert) It’s my job to be in her lap, and her job to have a lap to put me in! And you don’t hear her complaining!

HERBERT. That’s because she’s confused most of the time!

JULIUS. It’s her job to be confused!

HERBERT. Then we should probably give her a raise because she’s going to be more confused in this picture than she’s ever been!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Why are you two screaming?

HERBERT. This is how we grew up! If you weren’t screaming, no one could hear you!

Schmeddlapp hands over his vest, and Julius heads off-stage with the garments. The shouting between the brothers also comes to an abrupt end.

JULIUS. Set the scene, Herb. I’ll be right back.

EXIT JULIUS

HERBERT. All right. So—now we need to imagine ourselves in Frenchie’s tailor shop. Which was really just a little room off the kitchen in our apartment on 93rd Street. Shelves are everywhere. Right up to the ceiling. Cloth is everywhere. And needles and thread. And a sign outside that says “Tailor Shop” so—if you didn’t know any better—you might get the idea that you’re actually in a tailor shop.

There’s a high-pitched feminine shriek from off-stage that attracts the attention of both men.

SCHMEDDLAPP. What was that?

HERBERT. Some kind of fire drill. Or else Arthur is awake.

ENTER JULIUS

Julius hurries back, no longer carrying the writer’s clothes.

HERBERT. What was that sound?

JULIUS. Someone found a hand up her dress. But that’s all the details I have. Are we in the shop?

HERBERT. What? Don’t you recognize it?

JULIUS. We called it a shop, but anyone else would think it was just a little room off the kitchen.

HERBERT. I already told him that.

JULIUS. Then what we have here is quite realistic. He had just about this much furniture. (to Schmeddlapp) All right, Schmeddlapp—if that is your real name—you’ll be the sucker. I mean, the customer. And Herbert will play the part of Frenchie, playing the part of someone who’s playing the part of a tailor.

Herbert shifts into a heavy German accent.

HERBERT. Welcome—welcome—welcome to my most humble shop. And what is it you are needing this fine day?

Schmeddlapp looks to Julius for some help, but Julius is more interested in commentary.

JULIUS. It could be twenty below outside, and snow up to your balls, and it would still be “this fine day”.

After some hesitation, Schmeddlapp stammers into his part.

SCHMEDDLAPP. I’m thinking about a new suit.

HERBERT. A new suit! A new suit is good for such a fine figure of a man—

JULIUS. (interrupting) Don’t get a swelled head. He’d say that, no matter what you looked like.

Herbert approaches Schmeddlapp, and begins touching various parts of the writer’s body—as the writer stands uncomfortably still.

HERBERT. And so we have ze broad shoulders—and ze good long legs—maybe 44 or 46 in ze jacket—with ze good long arms—and ze inseam of 36 or so....

Very courteously Herbert grabs Schmeddlapp’s crotch: causing the writer to jump back a little.

HERBERT. And we dangle to ze left. Many of my patrons I see dangle to ze right. But, you know, it is just a question of where you are liking to dangle.

SCHMEDDLAPP. You’ve got to be kidding.

JULIUS. He’s not kidding. He was a very touching kind of guy.

Herbert drops back into his unaccented voice.

HERBERT. He cupped everybody.

JULIUS. We never had any reason to doubt him, of course. He had a wife and five kids. He obviously enjoyed what he enjoyed, the way most people enjoy it, but here he is—feeling up guys in this little room off the kitchen.

HERBERT. What we were supposed to think? Naturally, most of the orders for new suits ended right there. We’d hear the outside door slam—

JULIUS. Then we’d look at each other and say—

HERBERT/JULIUS. (together) Cup!

HERBERT. But human nature is a strange thing.

JULIUS. It certainly is. But I have no idea why we’d want to talk about that. What kept us from starving was that Frenchie had friends, and—if he cupped you once—it didn’t feel so strange the next time. By the way, did you happen to notice how quickly you were measured?

SCHMEDDLAPP. I never saw the tape.

JULIUS. Neither did anyone else.

Herbert drops back into the German accent.

HERBERT. So we have ze long leg—and ze nice round tushie—and so we are thinking ze single breast or ze double?

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) Take your pick. He doesn’t know how to sew either one of them.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Single.

HERBERT. And so—we are thinking ze wool—or…sumzing else?

SCHMEDDLAPP. I tend to get warm. I think I should go for the…the…cotton?

JULIUS. Wrong!

HERBERT. Ze wool, to be sure, will breathe with you—

JULIUS. Or for you—if you want to take a break from breathing—

HERBERT. —in ze heat. And many days can turn frosty, and—in ze frosty—you will be asking yourself: when I had ze chance, why didn’t I ask for ze wool?

JULIUS. Or, you could be asking yourself: why did I pay for a suit from that crazy tailor who grabbed my balls?

HERBERT. So it is a suit of wool you will be needing, and here I have many kinds of wool—

JULIUS. Many was the time we came home, expecting food on the table, only to find mutton.

SCHMEDDLAPP. But I can’t order a suit until you’ve measured my…my parts.

Herbert drops out of his German accent.

HERBERT. But that’s the beauty of it!

Herbert touches the writer, using the same sequence of gestures he used before. When he goes for Schmeddlapp’s groin, however, the writer knocks Herbert’s hand away.

HERBERT. What did you think that was? All that?

SCHMEDDLAPP. What was I supposed to think it was?

HERBERT. That was the measuring. Arms. Legs. Hips. Shoulders.

SCHMEDDLAPP. That’s not any kind of measuring I’ve ever seen.

JULIUS. Frenchie was original that way. If the tailor knows all your numbers, how can ordering a suit be exciting? Might as well be a loaf of bread—

HERBERT. A set of tires—

JULIUS. A jar of pickles. (shouts off-stage) Pulaski! What happened to that jar of pickles?

PULASKI. (from off-stage) All gone, Mr. Marx!

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) I did eat them! I have no one to blame but myself! Or I could blame you! That would be easier!

Julius pulls Schmeddlapp’s contract out of his pocket and makes a note on it with his very small pencil.

JULIUS. Where were we?

HERBERT. Frenchie didn’t need measurements. He was a keen observer, and he had his own special method of putting a suit together.

SCHMEDDLAPP. What was that called?

JULIUS. Doing the work over and over again until somebody would pay for it.

HERBERT. He’d take the deposit—

JULIUS. And we’d spend it right away. No sense in trying to remember where you put it—

HERBERT. And then work on the piece for a few days, until it was far enough along to get the rest of the money—

JULIUS. And then he’d work on it for a few days, because we couldn’t give the deposit back, because we’d already spent it—

HERBERT. And then again and again. Déjà vu all over again—until his customer finally gave in.

SCHMEDDLAPP. And you got to keep the money?

HERBERT. We couldn’t give it back. We were using it to keep the wolf from the door.

JULIUS. The Wolves of Manhattan. It was never as popular as some of our other stuff. But two important things we learned from Frenchie.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Two things?

JULIUS. Probably better not to touch a stranger’s balls, if you don’t have to. And nothing in life is perfect. That’s why we’re here now, working nonstop on this hard-hitting script about modern warfare, modern problems, modern sex, modern times, etc. The production code made us drop the parts about modern sex, but we still have the rest. And we have Frenchie. We want you to think of a way to get Frenchie in there somehow. Should be easy. You already know everything about him there is to know.

SCHMEDDLAPP. But I don’t know how I’d work a tailor shop into a movie about a war.

JULIUS. We also need a cross-dressing scene.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Would the production code allow that?

JULIUS. Well—you can’t have a woman dressed as a man. Or a man dressed as a woman. But, let’s see, you can have a man dressed as a man, and a woman dressed as a woman.

HERBERT. Plenty of possibilities with that!

JULIUS. However, we have other, bigger brains working on that one. What we’re looking for from you, Schmeddlapp—if that is your real name—is a working title for this epic that will really work. Sit down—sit down where we can see you.

Schmeddlapp takes up his portfolio and sits back in the chair.

JULIUS. Now then—why are you here again? Refresh my memory.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Additional dialogue for Mr. Marx.

JULIUS. But there are two Mr. Marx’s here. One Mr. Marx not present. And one Marx unaccounted for. And one not even in show business. (to Herbert) How many marks is that?

HERBERT. Five.

JULIUS. Correct! (to Schmeddlapp) Herbert here is quick enough to make you think he’s part of the family.

HERBERT. But still just window dressing—

JULIUS. (to Herbert) You sing…we talk…and you get laid a lot more than we do. So your case is dismissed! (to Schmeddlapp) Now then: which Marx brother are you giving this additional dialogue to?

SCHMEDDLAPP. I was hoping you could tell me.

JULIUS. The problem is: we’ve got a lot of dialogue already.

HERBERT. We’ve got a script with a lot of words in it. I’ve seen it.

JULIUS. A lot of words. Every page has them.

HERBERT. And we’ve got lots of working titles. But not one that really works.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Well I’m…well, I’m…what’s the movie about again?

JULIUS. We’ve told you just about everything. If you’re here spying for any other set of brothers, then we would be crazy to tell you the whole story!

SCHMEDDLAPP. But it’s about a war?

JULIUS. A desperate struggle.

SCHMEDDLAPP. And it’s supposed to be funny?

JULIUS. We don’t know if it’s going to be funny, or not. What do you take us for?

HERBERT. None of its been tested!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Well, your movies have made money so far—

JULIUS. That doesn’t mean we know anything!

HERBERT. That’s right!

JULIUS. Stop agreeing with me! You’re making me nervous!

HERBERT. (to Schmeddlapp) Absolutely! He’s full of shit!

JULIUS. (to Herbert) That’s better! (to Schmeddlapp) We have pieces of paper. There are words there that look funny. Kalmar and Ruby pat you on the head and say “This’ll kill ‘em…it’s so funny we can’t stand it!”. But how the hell do we know? Until we say it in front of strangers—we don’t know nothin’. We were touring in a sketch in vaudeville— (to Herbert) Don’t look like you know what I’m talking about. You weren’t there.

HERBERT. I wanted to go. Mom told me to stay home.

JULIUS. Some life you had. Messing around up on 93rd.

Herbert dismisses him with a gesture.

HERBERT. I had to deliver suits for Frenchie. That was thankless work. I always had to apologize.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) And we had an apology for a vaudeville act out on tour. There were a lot of boys, eating Frenchie out of house and home when he couldn’t feed us, really, by making clothes nobody wanted. So we went on stage.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Telling jokes?

JULIUS. No, my good man! Singing!

Julius launches into the first verse of “Beautiful Dreamer”.

HERBERT. Had a little something been removed at the right time, he’d still have that voice.

JULIUS. Yes. Good thing for me, I had to give up one thing to keep another.

SCHMEDDLAPP. But then the brothers started being funny—

JULIUS. A matter of opinion, in some circles. But, to return to the story I’m trying to tell, when we were doing a simple sketch in vaudeville—and we did it different almost every night, so you could see it twice and still get your money’s worth—the word “nauseated” came up in one of the lines. It was in every show—

HERBERT. And most of the newspaper reviews—

JULIUS. (to Herbert) Right. While you were home, delivering suits. Or doing whatever you were doing. (to Schmeddlapp) Then, one night, I get an inspiration and I say “absolutely nauseated”. And suddenly, the little giggle I used to get with the line is a wave of laughs up through the seats. Right up to the ceiling. Out of nowhere: I’m killing them. So, I think, what’s good in one place is good every place else: so I start throwing “absolutely” in everywhere. “Absolutely” this. “Absolutely” that. I figure: it worked once. It should work again….

SCHMEDDLAPP. Right. And?

JULIUS. It absolutely failed everywhere in the act except that one place. “Absolutely nauseated”. That was funny, according to the experts.

SCHMEDDLAPP. The experts?

JULIUS. The people who you want to be laughing. They’re the experts. We have writers. But they don’t know. They just guess.

HERBERT. And they do guess—

SCHMEDDLAPP. Right. It’s my job to guess—

JULIUS. But you don’t know!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Well—no one really knows.

JULIUS. I see. And how long has it been that you haven’t known?

SCHMEDDLAPP. How long have I known that I don’t know?

HERBERT. And don’t tell us that you don’t know!

JULIUS. (to Herbert) I think we’ve hit our pun quota for the next few minutes. (to Schmeddlapp) The point being—

HERBERT. The point being!

JULIUS. Only the audience knows what’s funny. You put material out there to find out. And sometimes you’re right—

HERBERT. And sometimes you’re back living next to the tailor shop with Frenchie. Who did you work for back in New York anyway?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Burns and Allen, mostly.

JULIUS. Burns and Allen. They’re a funny pair. With only the two of them. (to Herbert) You’ve heard their stuff?

HERBERT. I’ve heard them.

JULIUS. And did you think they were funny?

HERBERT. I didn’t turn the radio off.

JULIUS. What about our show? The one Leo and I are doing?

HERBERT. That Shyster, Whatever, and Shyster?

JULIUS. Flywheel, Whatever, and Flywheel.

HERBERT. I definitely did turn that off.

JULIUS. Your loyalty is really touching from someone we’ve known for such a long time.

HERBERT. That show’s just the same characters you were doing when I joined the act.

JULIUS. Are you implying that we do the same stuff, over and over? (to Schmeddlapp) Is he implying that we do the same stuff, over and over? (to Herbert) Are you still implying that we do the same stuff, over and over?

HERBERT. Settle down. You sound like you’re confused.

JULIUS. What other characters are we supposed to do?

HERBERT. (gesturing toward Schmeddlapp) Ask him!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Don’t ask me! I’m just additional!

JULIUS. And we have no idea who this man really is! I think the essential thing now is to check out this man’s story from top to bottom. Let’s start with the top.

HERBERT. Right. We’ll need to see the Burns and Allen tattoo.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Tattoo?

JULIUS. Take off your shirt, my good man, and let’s have a look at it.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Shirt?

HERBERT. Burns and Allen put tattoos on all their regular writers, so they can find them again when they try to blend in with the public. So, off with your shirt, and we’ll just check out your story.

SCHMEDDLAPP. I’ve never heard that story. And I have a signed letter from Mrs. Allen.

JULIUS. Aha! I thought as much! It couldn’t be from Mrs. Allen. Mrs. Allen is, in fact, Mrs. Burns. And so it was you on the back fire escape! And it was you at the window in the conservatory! And it was you in the jellyfish costume! Confess everything, and we’ll go easy.

SCHMEDDLAPP. I meant Mrs. Burns. I have a letter from her. And a couple of the scripts I worked on.

JULIUS. It’s not that we don’t believe you. We just want you to lose the shirt. Herbert here’s a bodybuilder. He wants to check your muscle mass.

Schmeddlapp, taking down his suspenders, looks suspiciously at Herbert.

HERBERT. Come on! I’ve already checked everything else!

Schmeddlapp takes off his shirt: revealing an old-fashioned scoop-neck undershirt.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Will I have to do this kind of thing on every scriptwriting job?

JULIUS. I don’t know. But I’d like to think so.

Julius snatches the shirt out of Schmeddlapp’s hand.

JULIUS. I’ll be right back.

EXIT JULIUS

SCHMEDDLAPP. (to Herbert) I’d rather you didn’t feel my muscle mass.

HERBERT. I’m just looking for the tattoos. It’ll be Burns and Allen and the copyright notice.

ENTER JULIUS

JULIUS. Something occurred to me while I was walking over there.

HERBERT. Like what?

JULIUS. It’s Benny that does the tattoos.

HERBERT. You’re right! He gives them tattoos instead of money!

JULIUS. And pictures of lunch, instead of lunch!

HERBERT. Well—that puts my mind at rest. I’ll admit that I was worried.

JULIUS. So was I. It’s good to know that someone’s paying writers less than we are. (to Schmeddlapp) And it’s a relief to know that you haven’t been marked for life by people who don’t respect you. Like us.

SCHMEDDLAPP. What about my shirt? It’s kind of cold in here.

JULIUS. Refreshing, isn’t it? That breeze from the Arctic?

Julius shouts off-stage.

JULIUS. What about that shirt, Pulaski?

PULASKI. (off-stage) I don’t know anything about a shirt! Try wardrobe!

JULIUS. We’ll try Wardrobe when we have the time. But, right now, we have bigger fish to fry.

HERBERT. And bigger pans to fry them in.

JULIUS. Enough for an army. Which brings us back to this film: a hard-hitting unflinching look at modern power politics. We begin with a ruthless dictator. A man on the model of Pissolini.

SCHMEDDLAPP. You mean Mussolini.

JULIUS. Right. Or Shitler.

SCHMEDDLAPP. You mean Hitler.

JULIUS. Stop correcting me, or it’ll be a hard labor camp for you! Naturally, we’re talking about someone totally ruthless—

HERBERT. Someone totally without ruth—

JULIUS. (interrupting) And, from time to time, I’d like to be totally without Ruth. Being my wife, she keeps getting underfoot. If only she could stay with her mother for a month...or longer. In any case, in the role of the heartless, ruthless, shiftless, scheming, psychopathic dictator—

HERBERT. (to Schmeddlapp) Would be him.

JULIUS. Would be me. Ruthless. Scheming. Conniving. Heartless. Shameless. Witless, too. And I was also thinking of a new cutaway coat in a lighter fabric. And a nice silk tie.

HERBERT. That sounds lovely. What about your hair?

JULIUS. Well—it’s always been a problem. But I think I’ve found someone who can do something with it. We’re thinking of going with a more playful spring style.

HERBERT. Something to frame your face?

JULIUS. Yes. A playful arrangement that would look just as good under a trench helmet as behind a machine gun.

ENTER ARTHUR MARX

Without his wig, his hat, and his various props, Arthur is the least recognizable of the brothers. Also: he’s talking.

ARTHUR. You’re with a machine gun. Why are you with a machine gun?

HERBERT. You wouldn’t want to be in front of it.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) So here’s Sleepy now. (to Arthur) How are the other dwarves—Dopey, Happy, Sneezy—holding up?

ARTHUR. They seem fine. But I counted less than seven.

JULIUS. Showing Snow White a good time?

ARTHUR. Looking kind of bored, last I saw of her. They just have little ones. (to Schmeddlapp) Why have you got your shirt off, my good man? Are you some kind of body-builder?

JULIUS. R.K. Schmeddlapp.

ARTHUR. (to Schmeddlapp) I’m sorry. I don’t tolerate that kind of language from anybody.

HERBERT. Here to write additional dialogue for us.

ARTHUR. But you guys talk too much as it is.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) Arthur won’t be needing any dialogue at all. He hasn’t said a word on stage for twenty years.

SCHMEDDLAPP. You’re the silent one.

ARTHUR. Not right now.

JULIUS. (to Arthur) So what brings you out here? I know there are parts of the studio you’ve never seen. Like anything to do with work.

ARTHUR. I was sleeping, and then I was hungry, and then I was standing up.

JULIUS. With a contract for five pictures.

ARTHUR. Everybody has to make a living somehow. Are we ever going to start shooting? Where’s Leo?

JULIUS. Memorizing the racing form someplace.

ARTHUR. It’s a wet day out. He’ll be looking for a good mudder.

HERBERT. Don’t start with the “mudder” routine. That was old during the Middle Ages.

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) Did you hear that? Write that down! No additional dialogue about “mudders”!

SCHMEDDLAPP. What about fodders?

JULIUS. Now, there’s a taste of Brooklyn for you!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Hard to forget the things you heard growing up.

JULIUS. (to Arthur) Speaking of growing up without a pot to piss in, you missed Herbert, here, doing Frenchie in the tailor shop.

ARTHUR. That’s too bad. (to Schmeddlapp, in a stage whisper) You’re not going to put that shit in the movie are you?

SCHMEDDLAPP. I don’t know.

ARTHUR. (stage whispering) I mean—we should save it for some other time.

JULIUS. Like maybe another lifetime.

ARTHUR. (to Schmeddlapp) So you’re here to write comedy...so you must know a few jokes. So give us some material. We’re an easy crowd. Julius never stops laughing.

JULIUS. Since you guys never stop asking for money!

Schmeddlapp pulls a few papers out of his portfolio while the brothers watch with interest.

JULIUS. Look at that: they’re all written down. That’s a very well-organized way to do it!

HERBERT. He’s a writer—

ARTHUR. And he’s additional!

Having located the page he’s interested in, and turning it right side up, Schmeddlapp begins to read.

SCHMEDDLAPP. A duck walks into a bar—

JULIUS. (interrupting) Heard that one!

SCHMEDDLAPP. But that’s just the beginning....

HERBERT. We’re not paying for old stuff. We’re paying for new stuff.

ARTHUR. New stuff that’s additional!

JULIUS. I happen to know who first told that joke: the “duck walks into a bar” routine.

ARTHUR. Who?

JULIUS. That was Noah.

ARTHUR. Noah shit!

JULIUS. Right there in Deuteronomy.

HERBERT. Not in Deuteronomy.

JULIUS. It might not be a Deuteronomy to you but it’s a Deuteronomy to me. Right there—in black and white—Noah gave them that joke as they were loading the old boat.

HERBERT. It was a new boat. I mean: they didn’t buy it from someone else.

ARTHUR. I wouldn’t have wanted to be Noah. Think of the responsibility. Suppose he’d loaded them up, one by one, instead of two by two. Then the rain stops—everything dries—he finds a parking place—then he looks around after all the animals are out and says to himself: “OK—well I really fucked up that one!”

HERBERT. A much shorter Bible if he’d had gotten it wrong.

JULIUS. More like a pamphlet. (to Arthur) Speaking of reading, have you read the script yet?

ARTHUR. That ruins it for me. Is there anything I should know? But don’t tell me too much.

JULIUS. It’s hard-hitting power politics.

ARTHUR. What’s it called?

JULIUS. Hard-hitting power politics. Just what I said.

ARTHUR. What’s the title?

JULIUS. We’re not sure. That’s what we’re hoping Schmeddlapp here—if that is his real name!—can help us with. But all he seems to want to do is strip for action.

ARTHUR. Hard-hitting power politics. Who’s running the country? Is there a country?

HERBERT. Julius plays the head of state. Rufus Firestone. Or Firefly. Or Fireplace. Or Fireproof. Or something. It’ll be something with fire in it.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Firewater?

JULIUS. That must be the additional dialogue we’ve been hearing so much about. Speaking of fire....

Julius relights his cigar.

ARTHUR. What am I doing?

JULIUS. You’re not doing anything right now. Just standing around. But, in the movie, you’re doing the usual thing: acting like someone who should be locked up. You also get to be a spy for the other side.

ARTHUR. (to Schmeddlapp) I would be perfect for a spy! I know all about disguises! See if you can recognize me!

With this, Arthur goes into a “gookie”: an expression where he crosses his eyes, puffs out his cheeks, and shows his teeth.

Although Julius implies that the expression is changing, and Arthur is looking like different people, Arthur’s expression doesn’t change at all.

JULIUS. His transformations are amazing. Now he looks like Joan Crawford! Now John Gilbert! And now Spencer Tracy! And now Jean Harlow!

Arthur’s face returns to its normal shape.

ARTHUR. (to Schmeddlapp) Master of disguise, right? Have we met?

Arthur holds out his hand. Schmeddlapp takes it tentatively, and they shake hands.

ARTHUR. Kind of a weak grip, for a bodybuilder. Arthur Marx, at your service—sort of—

SCHMEDDLAPP. (hesitating) R.K. Schmeddlapp.

ARTHUR. Schmeddlapp?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Right.

ARTHUR. We could have used you in vaudeville.

SCHMEDDLAPP. Really?

ARTHUR. We were always looking for someone to help with the luggage. We carried an unbelievable amount of crap.

JULIUS. We have an incredible amount of baggage, even now. But think of the possibilities if we put you on stage! R.K. Schmeddlapp. Master of Illusion!

HERBERT. Schmeddlapp’s Nine Flying Knives of Death!

JULIUS. Nine? Why nine flying knives of death? He can do the job more cheaply with seven—

HERBERT. You’re going to lose some knives. Maybe you can’t find a couple. And people like them. They think: “I have this apple, and no knife. He has a few knives. He can probably spare one....”

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) So, what about it my good man? Are you ready to hit the vaudeville circuit? It’s a hard life—

HERBERT. It’s a hard life—

ARTHUR. It’s a very hard life—

JULIUS. We won’t pretend that it isn’t. But the rewards are small. The rewards aren’t worth anything, come to think of it. But it does give you the chance to stay in vermin-infested hotels and sleep with women no one else will touch! Why not give it some thought?

SCHMEDDLAPP. Vaudeville?

JULIUS. That’s what we said. Endless travel. Endless indigestion. Endless indignation. Endless confusion: starting with wondering how we talked you into it! We’ll put you on the train ourselves!

SCHMEDDLAPP. But—but—vaudeville is dead.

Instantly, all three brothers recoil from Schmeddlapp. Arthur pulls a large, polka-dot handkerchief out of his pocket, and rushes into Julius’ arms.

ARTHUR. Mommy, cover my ears!

JULIUS. Vaudeville? Dead? Dead? Vaudeville? (to Arthur) Captain Cornflakes you’ve only recently come here from the outside world, what do you say to all this rumor and crescendo? Could vaudeville be dead?

ARTHUR. And buried?

JULIUS. And dead?

ARTHUR. And buried?

HERBERT. Well—we’re the only ones talking about it.

JULIUS. Dead! This is inconceivable!

ARTHUR. Unbelievable!

JULIUS. Uninterruptible! No more endless tours of miserable people with one pathetic talent to give them a miserable living! What kind of miserable place is the modern world becoming?

Arthur suddenly breaks away from Julius, crams his handkerchief back into his pocket, and takes on a calmer expression.

ARTHUR. Well—I sure as hell won’t miss it. I’d rather go to a movie.

HERBERT. Most of the old vaudeville houses show movies now.

JULIUS. Movies?

HERBERT. People sing—dance—tell jokes. Only they’re not really there.

JULIUS. Sounds more like a séance. Would we be able to talk to Frenchie?

HERBERT. Not dead people—

JULIUS. Then explain yourself!

HERBERT. It’s all on film. Everyone understands….

JULIUS. But isn’t a movie what we’re thinking about doing right now?

ARTHUR. I think it is!

JULIUS. And isn’t it something we’ve done before?

HERBERT. Yes! We have!

JULIUS. Then we’re saved!

Julius and Arthur embrace joyfully.

JULIUS. But we can never forget vaudeville.

HERBERT. Why not? It was never that good to begin with.

JULIUS. You’re hardly an expert. We saw those acts every day. And you never saw them at all.

ARTHUR. Some of them strange and unusual.

JULIUS. They strained credibility, since—at some point—they had strained someone’s ingenuity.

ARTHUR. Like the seal act.

JULIUS. Exactly! P.U. Schmeddlapp and His Amazing Seals!

ARTHUR. (to Schmeddlapp) Another Schmeddlapp. Any relation, you suppose?

JULIUS. It was differently spelt.

ARTHUR. And boy did they smelt. Fish smell everywhere.

JULIUS. That was the smell from the smelt. The trainer kept them in his pants—

ARTHUR. I didn’t envy those pants!

JULIUS. But, then, sometimes, he would run low on smelt—

ARTHUR. Which was always a mistake! As we will now attempt to demonstrate….

JULIUS. (to Schmeddlapp) Stand up, my good man!

Schmeddlapp responds to Julius’ command, while Arthur falls to the floor and begins making seal-barking noises while clapping his forearms together.

JULIUS. And now we have vaudeville, here in all its glory! With P.U. Schmeddlapp and His Marvelous Seals!

SCHMEDDLAPP. I thought they were amazing seals.

JULIUS. I’m amazed that we’re even doing what we’re doing! But—now that we’ve gotten started—I’m sure you’ll find that this seal deserves some kind of seal of approval—

Julius takes advantage of the empty chair, and jumps on it with both feet: perching on it in a compact crouch.

JULIUS. OK, Schmeddlapp! You’ve hit a snag in the act! Five thousand people out there! Waiting to be amazed! And you’re out of fish!

Arthur continues with the seal sounds, moving toward Schmeddlapp while the young writer starts to edge away.

SCHMEDDLAPP. I’m out of fish?

JULIUS. Well I don’t have any!

SCHMEDDLAPP. What happens if I’m out of fish?

JULIUS. It doesn’t look good! (to Herbert) Any fish over there?

HERBERT. I think I would have noticed.

The seal cries get louder and Arthur manages to maneuver his body so he can get his teeth into the fabric of Schmeddlapp’s pants.

JULIUS. Now that’s an amazing seal! He’s caught you, and he doesn’t even have any legs!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Help!

JULIUS. Help!

HERBERT. Help!

PULASKI. (from off-stage) Help!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Aren’t you going to do anything?

JULIUS. Time for desperate measures! Schmeddlapp, you should have brought more fish!

SCHMEDDLAPP. Help!

JULIUS. Take off your pants, kid! It’s the only way!

SCHMEDDLAPP. My pants?

JULIUS. Right! Just slip them off! You’ve got to move fast! That kind of seal can send you to the hospital!

SCHMEDDLAPP. I don’t want to take off my pants!

JULIUS. Don’t be selfish!

Schmeddlapp shrugs off his suspenders, and begins unbuttoning. When it becomes clear that he’s having trouble with the buttons, Arthur releases his grip and leaps to his feet to help out. Working together, the two men remove Schmeddlapp’s trousers very quickly and Arthur hands them over to Julius—while Schmeddlapp looks puzzled.

SCHMEDDLAPP. What happened to the seal?

JULIUS. It was an amazing seal, wasn’t it? I’ll be right back.

EXIT JULIUS

ARTHUR. (to Schmeddlapp) Arthur Marx. Pleased to meet you. These are my brothers.

Arthur extends his hand, and Schmeddlapp reflexively extends his. But Arthur, using his classic move from the movies, guides Schmeddlapp’s hand down to his own leg, so—instead of shaking hands—Schmeddlapp ends up holding Arthur’s thigh.

HERBERT. (to Schmeddlapp) That is one amazing seal.

Arthur responds with a couple of seal barks, and Schmeddlapp drops Arthur’s leg and backs away.

A split second later a high-pitched feminine squeal comes from off-stage.

ARTHUR. What was that? The make-up girl?

HERBERT. The wardrobe girl?

ENTER JULIUS

JULIUS. Too womanly for either of them. It was the assistant director. Just an unfortunate accident, however.

Julius looks at Schmeddlapp as though seeing him for the first time.

JULIUS. So—is this the underwear model we’ll be using in the film?

HERBERT. The Production Code says we can’t do that.

Julius shouts off-stage.

JULIUS. Pulaski!

PULASKI. (from off-stage) Yes, Mr. Marx!

JULIUS. What does the Production Code say about underwear?

PULASKI. (from off-stage) That you should wear it?

JULIUS. (to the others) And when does the commissary open?

PULASKI. (from off-stage) Eleven o’clock, Mr. Marx!

JULIUS. And what time is it now?

The click of high heels on the hard surface floor anticipates Pulaski, with her clipboard, and her no-nonsense expression.

ENTER PULASKI

PULASKI. It’s about ten after eleven, Mr. Marx.

Arthur gestures toward Schmeddlapp.

ARTHUR. (to Pulaski) Doesn’t he look cold?

PULASKI. They almost always look cold after you finish taking all their clothes.

JULIUS. But this is an outrage! How do you expect us to work under these conditions?

PULASKI. I’d hardly call what you’re doing “work”.

JULIUS. Well see that you don’t!

Julius gestures toward Schmeddlapp.

JULIUS. Who is this half-naked man filling up our studio? And what happened to my pickles?

PULASKI. We don’t know what happened to the pickles. And I’ve checked with everyone.

Julius snatches away her clipboard.

JULIUS. All right. I’m forced to handle the pickle situation myself!

PULASKI. They’re bound to turn up eventually.

JULIUS. I don’t want turnips—

Both Herbert and Arthur move to stop him.

HERBERT. (to Julius) That’s not even a joke anymore—

ARTHUR. (to Julius) It’s a cry for help.

JULIUS. I keep looking for help. But I never seem to get any. Look at this intruder! What’s his business here?

PULASKI. He’s here to write additional dialogue—

JULIUS. (interrupting) Additional dialogue! Why would we need that?

PULASKI. Beats me. You fellas talk too much anyway.

ARTHUR. If the commissary’s open, I think we check out the pot roast. Or maybe some halibut.

Arthur claps his forearms together and does some seal barks for Schmeddlapp’s benefit.

JULIUS. I’d kill for a cup of coffee.

HERBERT. I’d like some cake. But no violence please.

JULIUS. I see. Well—our work is done here.

Without another word to Schmeddlapp, the brothers leave in a group.

EXIT ARTHUR, HERBERT, AND JULIUS

ARTHUR. (off-stage) Who’s got the fake vomit?

PULASKI. So—which one did they do? Did I hear him doing the seal?

SCHMEDDLAPP. P.U. Schmeddlapp and His Amazing Seals.

PULASKI. You got a break. Sometimes they all act like seals. I think I’ll be able to find your coat. Would that be all right?

Schmeddlapp nods, without saying anything more, and the brisk clicking of high heels ends Act One.

EXIT PULASKI AND SCHMEDDLAPP

LIGHTS GO DOWN.

END OF ACT ONE
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