Michael Newman's play Cocktails In Paris is a witty, engaging satire on the cafe life as lived by six twenty year old foreign students on Paris's left bank. The play takes place during a single afternoon at an outdoor cafe table. As the erudite but pompous, Oxford-educated Simon and the bright, earnest American David spend the afternoon drinking and engaging in a prolonged verbal joust, they are watched by the sweet German girl Katya, who barely says a word. After a while they are joined by the sophisticated Jewish-American Princess sisters Tricia and Julia, whose jaded, worldly comments provide a satiric counterpoint to the boys' semi-pointless argumentation. As the afternoon falls into evening Magnus, a Swedish friend, joins them for the drunken finale.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Excerpts from COCKTAILS IN PARIS

All excerpts copyright©2004 by Michael W. Newman

From ACT I

DAVID

[pauses, takes off his glasses and places them on the table, and then wipes his eyes]

How 'bout timeless, daydreamin' artistes? As you can very well understand, I - like you yearn to be defined. I spend much time defining myself - and my peers.

SIMON

I dare say, David, that is certainly a fine definition. I can bite on that, mate! Mind you, I'm not sure I quite agree with the daydreaming part. Makes us sound a bit, well, flaccid and unredeemable, wouldn't you agree? How does scholared humanists play with you?

DAVID

Sy, you haven't been listening to me. Pay attention to the words. I'm saying it's a tenuous life, at best. Can we finally move on to something else?

KATYA

[looks confused]

I don't think so I understand what you have said, David. I understand artistes, but what does it mean timeless?

SIMON

Yes, friend. Do explain what you mean in full detail. Do you mean to say that typical for young ex-patriots in Paris, we should look at life as a naturally, divinely inspired experience, complete with an artist's expectation of the requisite grandeur?

DAVID

[waves a hand curtly]

Something like that. Timeless means without time. Like life is so magnificent and rewarding that we have no need to remark on the passing days, and that the beautiful passing days such as today have no need to remark on us.

KATYA

'Oh. Okay, now I am understanding. I think.

DAVID

Good. I can go on if you need.

KATYA

This is not necessary.

DAVID

Are you sure? I'm willing to go on if you wish.

SIMON

Don't trouble the girl, friend. She says she understands. Leave it at that.

DAVID

[sighs]

SIMON

Katya you have so little to say, and it's you who persuaded us to miss classes in favor of a philosophical roundtable here at the Cafe de Flore. Do you know what our little fraulein from Berlin said to me, David, to spark my interest?

DAVID

I honestly don't know where you're leading this conversation.

SIMON

She said let's bag class, showing-off her knowledge of English vernacular.

KATYA

Please don't you criticize my English.

SIMON

I wasn't criticizing, my dear. I'm saying you're cute when you speak English vernacular.

DAVID

Oh, enough of the sweet talk. I'd rather focus on our good luck. We waited through the cool autumn and long winter to fancy the sidewalk tables of this venerable cafe. Can you both see what I see? It's a true blessing for us.

SIMON

The sun will set soon.

DAVID

Yes, but for now we have the pleasant afternoon.

SIMON

And the pleasant afternoon - long awaited - is to be enjoyed by we three students who are lounging in front of a cafe gracefully, if unaffected, feigning the appearance of ennui.

DAVID

[points to some writing on his pad]

Or, more simply, the morning fog has lifted sprightly and the florid afternoon is spread eagerly before us.

SIMON

You know, when Paris weather, usually uncharitable and relentless, is at last so refreshing, this habitually leads to joyous idleness for those determined in life. And springtime in Paris exudes eloquent transcendence experienced and honored by those irresponsible. I choose to take full advantage of a truly exceptional, Paris day - and I choose to take advantage without guilt.

KATYA

Yes. This is why we are here. I am enjoying it.

DAVID

[looks at Katya softly]

Me, too. I'm enjoying, too. This is why I came to Paris. For times like this.

KATYA

[raises her foot places it innocently across David's lap]

SIMON

Really? I thought you were here in Paris to study classical art and write your life's experiences.

DAVID

Not just classical art. My career advisor is pressing me to study mechanical drawing. It's somewhat more practical, he said.

SIMON

For earning a living?

DAVID

When I am finished at Beaux Arts, yes. But I'm living on my own nickel now already, for your information.

SIMON

How, might I ask?

DAVID

My writing is s'pposed to support me and my studies.

SIMON

And what do you write?

DAVID

I turn out pages upon pages of commentary, dialogue, and loosely linked philosophy and religious ideology. Some of my works are edited and proffered; the greater part of the pages are shredded.

SIMON

I'll wager that like most young writers you are your own most exacting critic, because you speak so little about your writing - even when questioned - and when you do permit yourself to speak about it you usually are not in good humor.

DAVID

That could be.

SIMON

I'm only telling you what I believe.

DAVID

[scratches the back of his shoulder]

Anything else you're curious about?

SIMON

Do you sell well?

DAVID

[looks down at his pad of paper]

Of course I sell well. Usually my clothes and books and other worldly possessions to my fellow students or pawn shops, almost never my writing. To sell anything on the streets of Paris is easy, provided that during negotiations the seller discounts the value of his possessions accordingly. Being a foreigner with a fractured knowledge of the native language, my discounts recall the mendicant beliefs of St. Francis of Assisi. My high school class ring brought me 30 euro from a pawnbroker, versus the 150 dollars I paid for it. Out of necessity I have to be very tight with my little earnings, and yet I strive to be entirely free of dependence on material possessions.

[turns and presses his nose against the cafe's glass to catch a glimpse at the voluptuous barmaid as she bends over to pick up loose boxes of bottled beer]

French women have such a way with sensuality. I'd love to learn what she knows. She can teach me anytime.

SIMON

Bollocks! She's much too experienced for you, my good man. That bird would wring the life out of you and use your empty pulp for a dishtowel. Mind yourself with the little baguettes you meet at the open art-studio sessions after school.

DAVID

You approve of those women?

SIMON

They remind me of the girls I knew at Oxford.

DAVID

Ah, yes, Oxford. Never a day goes by that I am not reminded of your alma mater.

SIMON

And what is the name of your university? Someplace in Wisconsin, I recall.

DAVID

It's not a university; it's a college, and it's not gonna be important enough for you. But for your information I'll tell you: it's Beloit College. A small, liberal arts college in Wisconsin.

SIMON

I've never heard of it. And I'm sure to forget it again.

DAVID

Well it's never heard of you either. I enjoyed my studies and experiences there. You would have enjoyed the liberal atmosphere. Did you enjoy Oxford?

SIMON

But of course I enjoyed Oxford! A grand place where a strapping young man's predilection consists of beer, rugby, and wooing young, vulnerable ladies. I was schooled in economics and political science as father had insisted, but in secret I confessed to mother and my colleagues my preference for studying Renaissance literature and art, especially painting. Indeed, the humanistic genres from that time period expressing man's inner conflicts appeal to me. Redacting the oft-repeated questioning of the meaning of life leaves me cold, but I openly welcome impromptu deliberation of the meaning in life with anyone who is well educated and would care to join me.

DAVID

And the consequences of this for me?

SIMON

Consequently, there is nothing to you. But I have become a very calculated and frustrated man at too young an age. Such is my pre-ordained lot in life, as I avow to myself frequently.

DAVID

[shakes his head and writes something on his pad]

Katya, do you have anything to say?

KATYA

Nein.

SIMON

Look at our fair Katya. Holding a fixed smile, presently passive, but genuinely inquisitive.

DAVID

She certainly is a polite girl.

SIMON

She usually is so during the day, but she regularly personifies mischief and moxie after hours.

DAVID

Mischief and moxie?

SIMON

Yes, mate. Do you know what I heard her say at Nicco's party last Saturday? She said - I quote -[in girls voice] Oh why, oh why do I enjoy so much this drink, Champagne? It does nothing but to get a good girl into much trouble!

DAVID

Mischief and moxie.

KATYA

I don't know these words, but I did say that to Nicco. Whenever I am bad, I blame the alcohol.

[giggles]

DAVID

[turns his head toward the window, then down to his pad]

I'm wondering if the bargirl personifies mischief and moxie after hours.

SIMON

If you should desire David, I will bait your nana at the bar first myself with some light-hearted jabber and then entreat upon her your own designs, however purposely unrestrained and evident they may be. I am quite good at playing out this sort of game of romance. One must be as sharp as a tack to play. It's not for the feebleminded, mind you.

DAVID

[keeps his head down, writing]

Thanks, but no. I can handle it. Should I let you speak of me? I can only imagine your magical words.

SIMON

But listen! I am a master at the game of romance, and I have much practice. So let me tell you a story, if it would please you to listen.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>