Playwriting: “The Atomic Cafe,” an Excerpt


“The Atomic Cafe” is set at a bustling Irish pub across the street from a Catholic church that has just been the site of a funeral mass for 30-year-old Peter Wagner.  Convenience makes this pub the ideal place for an impromptu wake. It’s late in the play, after all the pleasantries have been spoken, the whiskey has made its way into bloodstreams and people are finally getting down to telling the truth.  There is one truth this family has avoided speaking directly of for more than decade. Only it’s one truth that  may be nothing of the kind. But sometimes what we fear most is the thing that’s easiest for us to believe.

FRANK is the dead man’s oldest brother. He is 32. His mother is, MARY. She is married to Dean, who is in the early stages of dementia. ANTHONY is another brother, 28. An interloper named THOMAS is an evidently ill young man whose possible relationship to the decedent is assumed by all but never openly asked about. This pub is filled with other  strangers, distant friends and even more distant family. The mystery woman at the end is just that.
At this point in the play, some family bickering has some uncomfortable IMPLIED PEOPLE heading for the door.


Mary: Francis, people are starting to leave. Say something. Quickly.

Frank: What do you want me to say?

Mary:  You were supposed to deliver the eulogy, weren’t you? … That is, if you had bothered to arrive for the mass on time.

Frank: Well, yes, mother, but as we all know, I didn’t. How many times are you going to make me beg for your forgiveness today?

Mary: Just say it. Now.

Frank: What? Here … at the bar?


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