(A bare stage. The PLANT sits in the midst of the audience. GEORGE, dressed in business casual, enters holding a crisp one-hundred dollar bill. The actor playing GEORGE should treat this play as an audience participation piece and respond appropriately to the audience’s actions or lack of action, using his body and intonation. If an audience member tries to hug him or take the bill, GEORGE should discourage them through use of the text and his movement.)
I have here in my hands a crisp one-hundred-dollar bill. That’s right- good old Ben Franklin himself- the real deal. And someone here in this audience will get to take Gentle Ben home with them tonight for the low, low price of… One hug. That’s right. You heard me. The first person to come up here on this stage and give me a hug gets one hundred big ones.
(Waving the bill and holding it out to taunt the audience.)
But wait! Before you all stampede down here, there’s probably a few questions running through your mind. The first: “Is that a real hundred-dollar-bill?” The answer is simple. “Yes”. The next question and the biggest: “Why?” That answer is a tad bit trickier. Why does this guy need to pay someone one hundred dollars to hug him? Doesn’t he have any friends, loved-ones, family members who will hug him for free? What’s wrong with this guy? He looks normal enough.
(Crossing into the audience and directing his comments to individuals.)
Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m a stalker- a psychopathic killer- a rapist. Maybe when you go to hug me, I plan to pull a knife on you or strangle you or inject you with something deadly. Could be dangerous. But then again, there are so many people here in the audience, so many witnesses, and they’d protect you, right? So you’re safe… for now… But, maybe I’m going to follow you home after the show, demanding my money’s worth.
Or maybe I won’t do anything to you at all. You’ll walk away from this hug perfectly healthy and a hundred dollars richer. But you’ll never know what I was thinking about when you touched me… And the way I’ll recall your warmth, your smell, your flesh, the pressure of your body against mine. Oh, the thoughts I might have about you. The dreams I might have about you. The fantasies I might have about you. Or maybe I’ll never think about you again.
Or maybe something other than my mind is diseased. Maybe I have AIDS. Maybe that’s why. But then why should that matter? Science has proven you can’t catch AIDS from a hug or a toilet seat. And we are way past the irrational fear thing, right? Yep. Everybody knows you can only get AIDS from contact with bodily fluids. And of course, I won’t be excreting any bodily fluids when you thrust your body up against mine…or will I? Who knows…
Who knew a hug could be so dangerous?! But isn’t it worth the risk? One hug equals one hundred dollars. No joke. Easiest money you ever made. Tax free. Who’s going to be the first to take me up on the offer? Going… going…
But wait! Now what if I qualify it? Set up some specifications. What if I say men only? Will you assume I’m a homosexual?
(Invading the personal space of a male audience member.)
Does that make you nervous? Are you secure enough in your masculinity to hug a gay guy? Maybe not under normal circumstances, but for a hundred bucks, suddenly you’re secure enough, right? Or maybe I’m not gay at all. Maybe I just say men only because I don’t want the women to think it’s a sexual thing. Or what if I say women only?
(Invading the personal space of a female audience member.)
Will you assume I’m sleazy or desperate, or perverted or homophobic? Or what if I say children only? Uh oh! Does that make me a pedophile or am I saying children only to prove to you that the hug has no sexual implications whatsoever?
Who knows? You don’t know anything about me. Maybe my kid died in a car accident and I haven’t hugged a child since and now I just want to- You don’t know me. You don’t know what’s going on in my head. Heck, I imagine there’s not a parent here who’d let me touch a hair on their child’s head for a hundred- a thousand- maybe even a million dollars. But you, yourself, a simple hug for a hundred bucks, now that’s a different story.
I bet plenty of you people here- of course you won’t admit it- but I bet there are plenty of people here who’ve asked less questions of their sexual partners before engaging in the act. But then again, they weren’t paying you, were they? Heck, maybe I’d have done better to have left out the hundred dollar thing. Money has a way of making people doubt motives. Money. Everyone wants it, but nobody trusts it.
(Crossing back onto the stage.)
Or… maybe I should’ve said, “Hey. I am going to stand here and say nothing and do nothing until somebody gives me a hug. Yep. We will all sit here bored to death in complete and awkward silence and your evening of entertainment will come to a screeching halt until somebody hugs me.”
(A long awkward silence, as GEORGE scans the audience challenging them to come up.)
People are real afraid of silence, too, maybe more than they are of money.
But enough of all the what-ifs and should’ves. What’s done is done. I’ve made my offer and I am sticking to it. You hug me. I give you this hundred-dollar bill. No questions asked on either end. A simple business transaction. Come on. Think about it. You’ve done it before. The millions of hugs you given away. And some when you didn’t want to. That awkward hug at the end of that awkward blind date that says, “Hey, you paid for my dinner, so I owe you something, but I sure as heck don’t want to kiss you, so I’ll just let you feel my body against yours for just a second. I owe you that much.” Or that hug from that great aunt of yours at the family reunion- you know you swear you’ve never seen her before in your life…She smells like an old person and you don’t want to, but you hug her… For free. So surely, you’ll hug me for a hundred bucks, right?
Don’t be shy. This is America. We’re all capitalists, here. Nothing wrong with earning a buck… or a hundred of ‘em as the case may be. Hmmm… Maybe I’m giving you all way too much credit. Maybe none of these thoughts have even entered into your head at all. Maybe, all you’re thinking is, “I wish this crazy guy would shut up, so I can get down there and get the money, before the poor schmuck sitting next to me gets it first.” Maybe you don’t give a damn who I am or what’s going on in my head or why I’m doing this. Maybe, the money is enough. Maybe you don’t care if I’m just a perfectly normal guy who needs a hug or if… I’m not. Maybe you don’t care.
(GEORGE desperately looks across the audience and waits for a response.)
Yep. That’s what I thought. Well, I don’t care about you either.
(GEORGE begins to exit. The PLANT stands up and crosses onto the stage. GEORGE, surprised, stops his exit and turns to watch solemnly. The PLANT crosses to GEORGE and hugs him, a simple hug- not fast, not lingering. GEORGE politely hands the PLANT the bill.)
(The PLANT nods and returns to his or her seat in the audience. GEORGE exits the stage without looking back. Lights down.)
CONTACT THE AUTHOR STACEY LANE AT STACEYLANEINK@YAHOO.COM OR WWW.STACEYLANEINK.COM FOR PERFORMANCE RIGHTS. FREE PERFORMANCE RIGHTS WILL BE GRANTED FOR AUDITIONS AND EDUCATIONAL USE, BUT PLEASE STILL CONTACT THE PLAYWRIGHT WITH YOUR INTENT TO USE THE PIECE.
The Hundred Dollar Hug, George