W-Mart in Baghdad

The Blacklist Committee for Unsafe Theatre presents...


a short play by Matt Jones

as performed in New York City, Sept 3rd, 2005
Alexandra Ivanoff…..……………………………………...Kristal
Scott Kettles………………………………………...Marty Staples
Jason C. McLean…………………………………………Al Head
Matt Jones……………………………...………….The Organizer
Eric Squire……………...………………………...The Announcer

First performed at Mayworks Montreal 2005, with the following cast:
Alexandra Ivanoff…..……………………………………...Kristal
Scott Kettles………………………………………...Marty Staples
George Mougias.…………………………………………Al Head
Matt Jones……………………………...………….The Organizer
Deborah Murray....……...………………………...The Announcer
Farhang Yousefi-Tehrani…...………………………......Explosions

A W-Mart store in downtown Baghdad, c. 2005. There is a table covered with a tablecloth with a single white t-shirt on it. KRISTAL is patiently folding it, despite having one leg shackled by a chain. MARTIN STAPLES is coaching her by standing over her, timing everything she does with a stopwatch and writing notes on a clipboard. As lights go up we see AL HEAD pacing around nervously talking on his cell phone.
AL HEAD: [on phone] Hi, Al Head here from store 9112 Baghdad Green Zone… I wanna know how long it would take to order another menswear department? [looks towards KRISTAL] Yeah, no, we’re gonna need the whole section all over again. Forty-eight hours? Well in the meantime, Kristal found some of the items in a couple of spots downtown. We’re gonna work on buying some of it back, but hey, how ’bout we get some new security around here, huh?
He hangs up. KRISTAL has finished folding the t-shirt.
KRISTAL: [beaming] How’s that?
MARTIN: That’s great, Kristal. But… [he sweeps the shirt onto the floor] …not great enough. Try it again, but this time, strive for excellence.
KRISTAL sighs and tries to pick up the t-shirt with her free foot.
AL: She almost done?
MARTIN: Kristal’s learning how to do a job right the first time.
AL: She better be almost done because I need the inventory done before we open which is in exactly eleven minutes, okay?
MARTIN: Don’t worry, Kristal, if you don’t finish now, you can finish during your lunch break.
KRISTAL reaches the clothes with her foot and goes back to folding.
AL: All right, let’s go do the rounds. I wanna be sure all the other departments are still there.
MARTIN: A place for everything and everything in its place.
MARTIN exits to the right and AL to the left. KRISTAL continues to fold until they are off stage, then looks around to see if she is alone.
KRISTAL: All right, it’s clear.
ORGANIZER appears from under the table and dusts himself off. He has a union jacket, union baseball cap and many pins.
ORGANIZER: [coughs] I don’t wanna tell you how to do your job, but ah… maybe you could do some dusting around here.
KRISTAL: Can you make this quick? They’ll be back any minute.
ORGANIZER: [passing her a card] All right, just sign here. [He pats himself down] Uh, do you have a pen?
KRISTAL: You don’t have a pen? What kind of union organizer goes around with no pen?
ORGANIZER: Hey, I’m working undercover here.
KRISTAL: Well, I don’t think I want to join a union that can’t organize its own stationary.
ORGANIZER: Don’t you have a stationary department you can run to?
KRISTAL motions to the chain around her foot.
ORGANIZER: All right, we’ll just have to find a pen!
MARTIN: [to himself] A place for everything and everything in its place. Everything in its place and a place for everything…
KRISTAL: Get down!
MARTIN re-enters holding a giant pen. KRISTAL pushes ORGANIZER under the table and goes back to folding.
MARTIN: [to KRISTAL] Were you talking to someone, Kristal?
KRISTAL: I was just… practicing my customer service techniques. [miming customer service] Yes. Hello. That is so you…
MARTIN: [impressed] Excellent.
AL: [offstage] Jesus H. Christ!
MARTIN looks away just as ORGANIZER’S head pops up again.
ORGANIZER: The card!
ORGANIZER grabs the Union Card. KRISTAL pushes him down and kicks him back under the table. MARTIN turns back and glares at KRISTAL questioningly.
KRISTAL: [miming customer service] Um. The Gift-card program is great for all of the family.
AL: What the Hell happened to the hunting department?
MARTIN: [calls calmly] Shrinkage, Al.
AL comes back on.
AL: A hundred percent shrinkage?
MARTIN: Just a little armed robbery, Al, don’t let it get you down.
AL: Even the high powered weapons? Didn’t I tell you to lock them in the glass case? Who had the key? Did she have the key?
KRISTAL stops folding and looks up feigning innocence.
MARTIN: [to KRISTAL] Kristal? Did you hear a little voice tell you to stop working?
KRISTAL: Sorry. No.
MARTIN: Because I know I didn’t.
AL: [to KRISTAL] I want a description of everyone who asked you to open that door.
KRISTAL: They didn’t ask, they just blew it up.
AL: They blew it up?!
MARTIN: Why didn’t you stop them, Kristal?
AL: Jesus, a hunting section in Iraq, I should have known it. It’s like installing a tit department at a hungry baby convention. All right, let’s get the morning meeting over with.
KRISTAL and MARTIN drop what they are doing and walk over to where AL is standing. KRISTAL stands at attention. AL and MARTIN stand awkwardly close to her face, especially when they talk to her.
Is everyone here?
KRISTAL and MARTIN look at each other and nod.
Well, what happened to everyone else? This is a 98 000 square foot store!
MARTIN: It’s a new strategy, Al. We’re keeping the overhead down.
AL: You’re telling me there’s only one associate?
MARTIN: Lowers the probability of unionization, Al.
AL: How can I run a store with only one associate, Marty?
MARTIN: Think of the figures Al. Head Office will be amazed.
AL: But you could have hired twenty Iraqis for the price of one North American!
MARTIN: I don’t think they’re really our kind of people, Al. Can we move on?
AL: [menacingly] Well, they’ll just have to learn to be our kind of people. Maybe not as associates, but they’ll soon learn that once W-Mart is here you can’t live without it.
MARTIN: That’s right, if they can’t appreciate us, how can we appreciate them the way we appreciate young Kristal here.
AL: [extremely close, spoken like a threat] Kristal, I want you to know we appreciate you.
MARTIN: We “appreciate” everything our associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free and worth a fortune.
AL and MARTIN stare at KRISTAL from a close distance waiting for a response.
KRISTAL: Thank you, Mr. Staples.
MARTIN: [winks] Call me Marty.
AL: Yes, well, let’s just do the meeting, huh, Marty?
MARTIN paces back and forth in front of KRISTAL like a drill sergeant and playing very conspicuously with the giant pen. AL pays only slight attention, preoccupying himself by playing with his cell-phone.
MARTIN: [clapping his hands] All right Team, gather ’round. Can you hear me in the back (back)? Now I know that yesterday things were a little difficult around here, what with the street-fighting in the Menswear and the rest of the Team quitting so maybe you didn’t notice that the Gift-card sales hit rock bottom.
MARTIN slams the giant pen down on the table. KRISTAL looks over at it. As MARTIN paces back and forth, KRISTAL tries to sneak over to the pen without being noticed. At the end of the speech, she reaches the pen and knocks it on the floor, where the ORGANIZER appears, grabs it and quickly conceals himself. KRISTAL goes back to her position just in time for MARTIN to turn around.
So I just want to take this moment to remind you of something Vince Lombardi once said to his team: “Running a football team is no different than running an army. The principles are the same. The object is to win — to beat the other guy.” To humiliate him! To completely shatter his sense of self-worth! Now I know you may not be a bunch of large-pectoraled, greased-up specimens of American testosterone, but you’re not quitters either. And if you want to win at this business you’ve gotta play with your whole body: your heart, your head, your hands… maybe your feet, so let’s get out there and show these terrorists what makes W-Mart the best goddamn country in the world! Now tell me: who’s the best?
KRISTAL: [waving her hands] W-Mart!
MARTIN: Louder!
MARTIN: Just the ladies!
MARTIN: Now, who can remind me of Sam W’s three rules of success?
KRISTAL: Respect…
MARTIN: Respect for the individual, give service to our customers and strive for excellence. Strive for what?
KRISTAL: Excellence.
MARTIN: That’s right. [overexcited] Whooh! Over to you Al. Al’s going to lead us in a W-Mart cheer.
AL: All right, everyone, you know how this goes. GIMME A “W”!
MARTIN inspects KRISTAL as she mimes each letter while shouting it.
AL: Gimme a “squiggly”!
KRISTAL shakes her bottom.
AL: Gimme a “M”!
AL: Gimme an “A”!
AL: Gimme a “R”!
AL: Gimme a “T”!
AL: Whadayaget?
A loud EXPLOSION is heard. AL and KRISTAL look around.
MARTIN: I can’t hear you!
KRISTAL: [meekly] W-Mart?
The INTERCOM comes on: a soothing female voice.
INTERCOM: Good morning Americans, and welcome to W-Mart Baghdad-Downtown, the one-stop location for all your colonial shopping needs. For your own personal safety, we ask that you stay clear of the following departments: Electronics, Gifts and Flowers, Indoor and Outdoor Games, and the Nursery. Thank you for shopping with W-Mart.
MARTIN: [sniffing] Someone’s here, Al. I can smell them.
MARTIN follows his nose towards the table. AL comes with him.
AL: Maybe it’s a terrorist.
MARTIN: Maybe it’s a golden opportunity, Al. Do you have any Gift-cards?
AL passes MARTIN some cards. They approach the table and look at each other. KRISTAL looks afraid. As they bend down to look under the table, the ORGANIZER jumps up onto the table holding with a pen in his mouth and a card in his hand. KRISTAL takes them, looking confused. As AL and MARTIN come back up, the ORGANIZER jumps back down to hide.
MARTIN: Funny Al, my nose is usually spot on.
AL: Let me try Marty, I’ve never missed a customer in twelve years.
They bend down again and the ORGANIZER jumps back up on the table. He points frantically at the card and mouths the words, “Sign it!” As AL and MARTIN reappear the ORGANIZER jumps back down.
AL: Nothing. You sure you smelled one?
MARTIN: Course I did, Al. Unless…
AL and MARTIN bend down a third time and the ORGANIZER jumps on the table. This time AL and MARTIN creep under the table and emerge on the other side. KRISTAL signs the card. The ORGANIZER meanwhile jumps over the table, grabs the card and sneaks down the other side just as AL and MARTIN appear from the back.
MARTIN: Strange, Al. Maybe they’re under the floorboards.
KRISTAL has finished folding the t-shirt.
KRISTAL: How’s this?
MARTIN: Better. But not excellent.
MARTIN sweeps the shirt onto the floor again. Another EXPLOSION is heard. AL looks toward the source of the sound.
INTERCOM: Good morning Americans, and welcome to W-Mart Baghdad-Downtown. For your own personal safety, we ask that you stay clear of the following departments: Electronics, Gifts and Flowers, Indoor and Outdoor Games, Women’s Fashion, Inflatables, Assyrian and Sumerian Artifacts, Clothes for Baby, Car Seats for Baby, Designer Shoes for Baby and the Nursery. Thank you for shopping with W-Mart.
MARTIN: Kristal, where will those t-shirts be when the first customer arrives?
KRISTAL: Folded nicely on this table?
MARTIN: [nodding] Excellent.
AL: [sniffing, very afraid] Someone is here.
MARTIN: Did you hear that, Kristal? There’s somebody here.
KRISTAL rushes to finish folding the clothes.
AL: I don’t where they are.
MARTIN: Do you know where they are, Kristal?
KRISTAL: Almost done…
AL: The explosion, it must have been…
MARTIN: Done! Ready to do inventory.
AL: …a terrorist in the store… right now.
MARTIN: Kristal? Are we ready to count the menswear department?
KRISTAL looks around.
KRISTAL: You mean this shirt?
MARTIN: Do you see any other menswear?
KRISTAL: Is this all that survived the looting?
She holds up a sweater with “USA=#1” on it.
MARTIN: Let’s see if we can count it right the first time, shall we?
Another EXPLOSION is heard.
AL: That’s it! They’re in the store! We need to take cover! Quick, under the table!
KRISTAL: You can’t go under the table!
AL: It’s my store, I’ll go anywhere I want!
MARTIN: [grabbing AL by the belt and pulling him back] She’s right, Al. It’s a low traffic area. You’re not going to sell many gift-cards under the table!
AL: [resisting MARTIN’S grip] We’re not going to sell much of anything if we get blown up, Marty!
AL tries to go under the table again. MARTIN holds him back by one arm: he hangs at a 45º angle.
MARTIN: Why would anyone want to blow us up, Al?
AL: Maybe they don’t like us occupying their land!
Al dives for cover. MARTIN holds him back by one leg.
MARTIN: We’re not occupying their land, Al, we’re reconstructing it!
AL: Well maybe they don’t like the way we’re reconstructing it!
AL dives again; MARTIN holds him back by both legs.
MARTIN: What? They love W-Mart! They ran off with half the store yesterday!
Another, louder, EXPLOSION is heard.
INTERCOM: Good morning Americans, and welcome to W-Mart Baghdad-Downtown. The following is a list of departments that have been declared safe: [agonizingly long pause] Menswear. Thank you for shopping with W-Mart.
AL: Sweet merciful Christ we’re going to die!
KRISTAL: No, wait!
AL rushes under the table. KRISTAL tries to get in his way but he pushes past her. She looks terrified.
MARTIN: Relax, it’s just the morning strafing. In this part of the world, there are good explosions and bad explosions, you just have to listen carefully to know which ones are which.
An EXPLOSION is heard.
That’s just a bridge being hit with a Smart-bomb.
And that’s just a mosque or a school going up in flames.
And… nice! That sounded the K-Mart next door getting caught in friendly fire!
AL appears from behind the table.
AL: You won’t believe what I found under here, Marty.
He pulls up the ORGANIZER, looking terrified. KRISTAL looks nervous.
That’ll be twenty-five dollars, sir. You see, Marty, I did sell a Gift-card under the table.
The ORGANIZER hands over the cash.
ORGANIZER: Um… is that it?
MARTIN: Would you like a t-shirt with that?
ORGANIZER: Okay. How much is that?
AL: Twenty-four ninety-five.
He hands him the cash and takes a step to leave. MARTIN cuts him off.
MARTIN: Perhaps we can interest you in a low-interest rate credit card.
ORGANIZER: No thanks.
ORGANIZER takes a step the other way. AL cuts him off. This pattern continues until AL and MARTIN bat the ORGANIZER out of the store.
AL: Or membership in Sam’s Club.
MARTIN: You could be the lucky winner in our contest.
AL: Have you had a chance to peruse the Impulse Buying section?
ORGANIZER: [backing off slowly] I’ll…uh… just take this, thanks.
MARTIN: Perhaps you’d like a bag?
AL: [producing a plastic lobster] Plastic lobster?
ORGANIZER: [breaking into a run] No bag thanks!
AL: Thanks for coming!
MARTIN: Come again soon!
AL: What a nice guy. [pointing at everyone] Nice work, Team. Nice.
AL and MARTIN give a high-five. AL’S phone RINGS.
Al Head, W-Mart 9112.
Long pause. The smile drops from AL’S face. He hangs up the phone.
MARTIN: What’s the good word, Al?
AL cannot speak. His mouth moves and he points the phone. KRISTAL slowly removes her chains.
MARTIN: Is that Head Office? Did we hit the target?
AL: …Union.
MARTIN: Can’t hear you, Al.
AL: …Union.
MARTIN: Onions, Al?
AL: Union… there’s a union… here!
Pause. KRISTAL looks nervous.
MARTIN: [speaking in slow motion] Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
AL: It’s not decided yet, Marty, we can flush it out, we can refuse to bargain, we can fire all its members!
MARTIN: [still in slow motion] It’s over, Al. OVER!
MARTIN starts crisscrossing the floor like a malfunctioning robot.
AL: Wait, we only have one employee, this is going to be easy, all we have to do is constantly harass her. Kristal, did you start this union?
KRISTAL: I…I don’t have to tell you that, Al.
AL: Agh! She’s speaking legalese! She’s become a zombie!
MARTIN: Self-destruct! Self-destruct! For the good of the company.
MARTIN starts throwing the t-shirt around. KRISTAL has now escaped from her chains.
AL: Wait, Marty, calm down. We’ll just have to kill her!
MARTIN: Kill… for… profit. Kill… to… survive.
KRISTAL: [backing away] Oh shit.
MARTIN the robot starts to follow KRISTAL like a zombie. She runs offstage. MARTIN follows her, KRISTAL screams. They do this twice. The third time KRISTAL runs past chasing MARTIN. MARTIN looks feminine while KRISTAL looks like a robotic zombie. Half-way through they realize their error, look at the audience, shrug and return to their regular roles with MARTIN chasing KRISTAL off the stage.
AL: Do whatever it takes, Marty! It’s a war and we’re an army! And just like an army we can’t be afraid of creating a little suffering here and there for the greater good. Kristal, you might not appreciate this now, but some day your friends and family will be saving hundreds of dollars thanks this sacrifice!
KRISTAL and MARTIN run past again, this time darting in front of AL. MARTIN turns when he sees AL.
MARTIN: [in robot voice] In case of union self-destruct.
MARTIN grabs AL and attempts to push out his eyeballs with his thumbs…
AL: [sinking to the floor trying to defend himself] No, Marty, no! If we lose Baghdad, we could lose Fallujah and then we could lose our hold on the whole country. And if we lose Iraq, how will we get into Iran… and Syria… and what will their people do without the freedom to buy discount merchandise?
MARTIN: Unionization equals termination!
AL’S eyes are pulled out of their sockets like putty. He collapses to the floor.
AL: My vision! My beautiful vision!
AL DIES. MARTIN begins to self-destruct. He spins around making electronic noises until he bangs into the back wall. If there is a W-MART logo he can tear it down.
MARTIN: [sings in slow-motion as he sinks to the floor] Daisy, daisy… give… me… your… answer…
MARTIN DIES. KRISTAL surveys the landscape for a moment.
KRISTAL: Does this mean I’m fired or not? Because I’ll appeal it.
Lights out.
© 2005 Matt Jones


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