Life Like

by Charles Berman and Daniel Schwartz

copyright 2013

first presented on stage 7 and 8 June 2013 by Darhorse Dramatists at the Tri Cities Opera Center in

Binghamton, New York. Later recorded for radio. 

 

 

 

Cast of Characters

 

Shelton: Male, scientist, may be cast as female

 

Joe Richards: Male, venture capitalist, may be cast as female

 

Steve: Male, robot, appears human in early 30s

 

(SHELTON is in his office, taking notes on paper.  He wears lab coat and tie, self-consciously 50s scientist type.  There is the sound of pounding at the door)

 

RICHARDS:

(off)

SHELTON!

 

(Sound of door, slamming open. RICHARDS enters, well-dressed plutocrat used to getting what he wants, dragging STEVE, who wears casual clothes and appears bewildered)

 

RICHARDS:

Shelton, what the hell are you trying to pull here?

 

SHELTON:

Um...working?  How did the presentation go?

 

RICHARDS:

This isn’t funny, Shelton!  Your ‘robot’ got me laughed out of the meeting.

 

STEVE:

That means it was funny.

 

RICHARDS:

Shut up!  Shelton, I want my money back!

 

SHELTON:

What money?  Mr Richards, I gave you an itemized bill.  My expenses are accounted for.

 

RICHARDS:

There was only one item!

 

STEVE:

I guess that’s me, right?  I’m the item.

 

RICHARDS:

This is just a guy!

 

(beat)

 

SHELTON:

Just a guy?  Mr Richards, if there was a Nobel Prize in Robotics, and I hadn’t signed that stupid contract with you, I would have the Nobel Prize in Robotics.  The apex of scientific achievement.  I might as well have a La-Z-Boy made of laurels.

 

RICHARDS + STEVE:

What?

 

SHELTON:

Laurels.  To rest on.  With pride.  Because I made life.  How are you not impressed by this?

 

RICHARDS:

Because you haven’t delivered on my product.

 

SHELTON:

The hell I didn’t!  You gave me the most daunting task an inventor has ever been swindled into by an unscrupulous investor.  And yet, lo and be-freaking-hold, eighteen months later, I give you...STEVE!

 

STEVE:

Hi.  

(beat)

I can wait outside.  Am I making this awkward?

 

RICHARDS:

You’re not going anywhere.  You’re the product.  I’m returning you in the unfashionable packaging.

 

SHELTON:

You can change his clothes!

 

STEVE:

What’s wrong with my clothes?

 

SHELTON:

Nothing’s wrong with your clothes, Steve.  Mr Richards apparently just wanted me to invent clothes, too.

 

RICHARDS:

Look, I don’t have time to argue.

 

SHELTON:

And yet here we are, for some reason.

 

RICHARDS:

(taking out contract)

It says right here that I would be paying you to create a perfect android replica of a human being.

 

SHELTON:

Show me one way Steve is unlike a human being.

 

RICHARDS:

You have not provided me with value.  This robot won’t work.

 

SHELTON:

What did you want him to do?

 

RICHARDS:

Lift up a television.

 

STEVE:

I could have pulled a muscle.  I have a bad back.

 

RICHARDS:

You don’t have muscles!

 

SHELTON:

Yes he does.  And Steve, there’s nothing wrong with your back, you were built with that limitation as a feature.

 

RICHARDS:

You provided me with no instructions.

 

SHELTON:

Who comes with instructions?

 

RICHARDS:

I barely know how he works.  What’s he run on, plutonium?!

 

SHELTON:

Jesus, no, that’s dangerous!  He’d get cancer!

 

RICHARDS:

He’s a robot, how can he get cancer?

 

SHELTON:

I’m not an oncologist, I can’t explain that to you!

 

RICHARDS:

Then what’s he run on?

 

(beat)

 

SHELTON:

Food.

 

STEVE:

I like bananas!  They have no bones!

 

(beat)

 

RICHARDS:

I’m not paying for this.  It’s worthless.

 

STEVE:

Wow.  Ouch.  How much did you accomplish in the first 36 hours of your life?

 

SHELTON:

Mr Richards, I am completely mystified by this.  You asked me to do something impossible.  I did it.  It cost a lot of money.  It will redefine scientific progress for the next century.  I should be on the cover of TIME, relaxing in Bermuda, drinking mojitos.

 

RICHARDS:

You made a guy!

 

SHELTON:

EXACTLY!  

 

RICHARDS:

He could have just been born!

 

SHELTON:

Yes!

 

STEVE:

What’s a mojito?

 

SHELTON:

It’s a rum cocktail, you can have them when you’re older.

 

RICHARDS:

He can drink?

 

SHELTON:

What part of ‘perfect android replica of a human being’ did you miss?

 

RICHARDS:

The ‘perfect’.  This guy won’t work!

 

STEVE:

Why would I work?

 

RICHARDS:

It’s what you’re for!

 

STEVE:

Wow.  Bleak.

 

RICHARDS:

I bought you, you do what I tell you to!

 

STEVE:

Wait, that’s slavery, right?

 

RICHARDS:

You made a LIBERAL robot?!

 

SHELTON:

Are conservatives pro-slavery?

 

RICHARDS:

What good is a robot that won’t work?

 

SHELTON:

What good was universal gravitation, magnetism, atomic theory?

 

RICHARDS:

Stop trying to distract me!  Give me my money or I’ll go straight to my lawyer and sue you for breach of contract.

 

SHELTON:

...at which point the judge sees the greatest invention since the light bulb and laughs you out of court.

 

STEVE:

Is that funny?

 

SHELTON:

Sometimes people laugh when things aren’t funny, Steve.

 

RICHARDS:

You didn’t invent anything!  This is a guy!

 

SHELTON:

An android indistinguishable in any particular from a guy, so yes.  You’re welcome.

 

RICHARDS:

The world is full of unskilled people already!  Your so-called invention would save me eight bucks an hour, if he even worked!

 

STEVE:

I guess that’s not a lot?

 

RICHARDS:

No, no it’s not!

 

STEVE:

Why would I work for not much money?

 

RICHARDS:

You wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t pay you, because you’re my property, BECAUSE YOU’RE A ROBOT!

 

STEVE:

So you wouldn’t pay me?  That’s even worse.  

(to SHELTON)

Why were you selling me to this guy?

 

SHELTON:

(tries to formulate an answer before giving up)

That’s a complicated question, Steve.

 

STEVE:

It’s a pretty simple question.

 

RICHARDS:

He sold you to me because I paid to have you built.  You wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for me!

 

STEVE:

That’s kind of fucked up.  You’re kind of fucked up.

 

SHELTON:

Watch your mouth!

 

RICHARDS:

You can’t talk to me that way!

 

STEVE:

I just did.  Who do you think you are, running around and yelling at everybody?  I’m just trying to get by here.  

 

RICHARDS:

And that’s all you’re good for, ‘getting by’ forever?  If you WERE a real person, you’d be a loser!

 

SHELTON:

Excuse me, Mr Richards, but insults aside, what do you mean, ‘forever’?

 

RICHARDS:

He’s a robot!  Who’s gonna stop him?

 

SHELTON:

He’s supposed to be exactly like a human.  I made him in his mid-30s, so he’s got the best years of his life ahead of him, but...

 

(beat)

 

STEVE:

But what?

 

SHELTON:

Well...Steven...you will cease to function.

 

STEVE:

That sounds like you mean something else.

 

RICHARDS:

Shelton, are you really telling me that you built a lazy, shiftless, commie robot that is ALSO GOING TO DIE?!

 

(beat)

 

SHELTON:

Get out of my office.

 

RICHARDS:

I’ll be back with my lawyer.  You’re finished, Shelton, you and everyone you know.

 

SHELTON:

Eat a dick.

 

STEVE:

Nobody’s going anywhere ‘til we get this dying thing figured out. You’re going to fix this!

 

SHELTON:

Fix what?

 

STEVE:

Me dying.  That’s not happening.

 

SHELTON:

(under his breath, drawn out)

Crap.

 

RICHARDS:

Good luck with that, tin man.  If Dr. Shelton’s as bad with fixing robots as he is with making them, you’ll be pushing up daisies by Thursday.

 

STEVE:

Look, Joe, I don’t care what sort of stupid reason you had to have me made, but you’re stuck with me now.  

 

RICHARDS:

No.  I’m getting my money back.

 

STEVE:

I don’t care about your money, I care about staying alive.  That’s what’s happening right now.

 

SHELTON:

Listen, Steve, I can’t stop you from dying.  

(pause)

Then I would be in breach of my contract.

 

RICHARDS:

Wait, what?

 

SHELTON:

I built you to be human in every way. That’s what the contract said.  If you can’t die, I don’t get paid.

 

STEVE:

So that’s how this happens?  I die so you can make money?

 

SHELTON:

That’s a very negative perspective to have about all this.  I prefer to think you were made so I could make money.

 

STEVE:

That’s even more fucked up!

 

SHELTON:

Stop swearing!

 

STEVE:

Fuck you!

 

RICHARDS:

Now hold the phone a minute, Shelton, are you saying you could STOP him from dying?

 

SHELTON:

Oh no, Richards, nice try.  But I know the instant I reach into him and turn off his mortality you’ll hit me with lawsuits from here to Saturday.  Nobody’s entrapping ME, thank you very much.

 

RICHARDS:

Focus, Shelton, how do you stop him from dying?

 

SHELTON:

What do you care?

 

RICHARDS:

Wait a minute.  If you can stop him from dying, and he’s exactly the same as a normal human being, doesn’t that mean you can stop anybody from dying?

 

(beat)

 

SHELTON:

That’s proprietary intellectual property.

 

RICHARDS:

It’s immortality!  Can you imagine the profit margin on that?

 

SHELTON:

That’s not my job.  Steve was my job.  I did my job.  You tried to sue me.

 

RICHARDS:

Jesus, fine, look.

(pulls out contract)

That’s done, okay?  

(tears up contract)

I don’t give a shit about that.  That’s small potatoes.  I’m gonna go make some calls, but when I get back we’re signing a new contract that’ll make us all rich.

 

SHELTON:

When you come back, bring some lawyers.

 

RICHARDS:

How many you want? No, never mind, fine, I’ll be back in an hour.

 

(RICHARDS exits)

 

(beat)

 

STEVE:

Can you fix my back, too?

 

(CURTAIN)