Martha Moffett's PARK BENCH WOMEN found their lives entangled during the years their small children shared a playground and a co-op nursery school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In those years the women were primarily mothers, pushing strollers and wiping runny noses while their husbands enjoyed the excitement and glamour of careers in the big city. In particular this drama is the story of Liddy and Miranda, whose entanglements included Liddy's affair with Miranda's husband Sam. Twenty years later, divorced, re-married, with their children grown, the women are now the artists, photographers and writers they dreamed of becoming as they sat together on the playground benches twenty years before. Their lives have drifted apart, but on the occasion of Miranda's art show opening, they are re-united, and Liddy and Miranda confront their knowledge of what was really going on in those park bench years. Park Bench Women is a wryly humorous yet powerfully moving look at women's lives from the sixties to the nineties, as the women realize that their friendships have outlasted their marriages, and their own lives have come to overshadow the lives of their former husbands.

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Excerpts from PARK BENCH WOMEN

All excerpts copyright©1997 by Martha Moffett

From Act II, Scene One

[ . . .Isobel's apartment in Manhattan. It's an old, high-ceilinged West Side apartment. This is Isobel's dining room, with her framed black and white photographs on the walls. Isobel is talking on the telephone.]

ISOBEL

Of course, I told Liddy she could stay with me. The apartment is empty. The kids are out of the city for the summer and Granville took his mother to Florida. I'll put her in Jamie's room . . . No, Liddy's not moving back to New York. It seems she had a fight with the friend she was traveling with. She's coming back from Paris early to see Miranda's show.

[listens]

But Storey, why did Liddy call me, of all people? I mean, she calls from Paris and says "Hi, Isobel," asks me what I've been doing for the past ten years, and when I start to tell her, she says she can't pay for the call and we'd talk when she gets here.

[listens]

Yes, I'm sure she has been writing, I saw a story in some magazine, I can't remember which one. I was a little miffed she didn't seem to know a thing about my work. I mean, my work's been seen, I've been reviewed. I was in that show of women photographers downtown just last year. And there was the big show, let's see, five years ago. Maybe Liddy had left the city by the time I had that show. Once my kids were in school, I rarely went to the park; I lost sight of the women I knew there. Even though I felt I knew them very well. Remember the Polaroids I took of the kids? In the water spray in the summer, in their snowsuits in the winter. I remember shooting a sequence of Liddy's little girl on the slide. They were wonderful pictures, the face at the top of the slide not at all the face that arrived safely at the bottom. I gave prints to Liddy. I wonder if she has them.

[listens]

Yes, Miranda's opening is on Friday. I'm busy with this project, some arrangements I have to make, but I'll probably be there. If not, I'll catch the show while it's still up. Will you be in town? Coming in to see your young man?

[listens]

Well, you know what I mean. I'm just worried about you. We used to know a woman who had slept with Fidel Castro. When Robert decided he was a socialist I teased him about having an affair with her. I asked him, wouldn't a real socialist want to sleep with a woman who slept with Fidel? And so many young people have a thing about dead rock singers. I know this young man is attracted to you for yourself, but you have to think about obsessed crazies.

[doorbell sounds]

Oh - there's the door. I'll see you Friday. Yes, I'll tell her to call you. Bye.

[Isobel unlocks and unchains door. Liddy is standing there with a suitcase and a backpack. They embrace, kiss cheeks.]

ISOBEL

Come on in. I was just talking to Storey, she says Hello.

[They are busy with baggage, jackets, greetings, embraces. Isobel leads the way back to the dining room.]

ISOBEL

You still like coffee, don't you?

LIDDY

Coffee would be wonderful. Isobel, you haven't changed. The apartment hasn't changed.

ISOBEL

I fought to keep this apartment. It's rent-controlled. I'll never give it up. But it's funny, living in the place where I raised my kids. It's as if - there they are, out in the world, living their adult lives, and their childhoods have stayed here at home with me.

[she is busy with coffee and cups]

LIDDY

Guess who I saw in Paris?

ISOBEL

[turns from coffeepot, questioningly]

LIDDY

Remember Anne Couperin?

ISOBEL

Do I remember her? Look at that!

[Points to a spot on floor]

LIDDY

[looking in vain]

Where?

ISOBEL

Over there, near the rug. That's where the heels of Anne Couperin's Charles Jourdan shoes broke off. She went right into my knotted pine floors. She's divorced, too, by the way, and was into drugs for a while, I heard. I run into her. She's always with a different man. Women who gave ten, fifteen years to a marriage won't give a weekend to a relationship now.

LIDDY

But yours is working out? What's his name again?

ISOBEL

Granville. Isn't that fancy? We call him Granny. He's a sweetie. I don't deserve him.

[As if on second thought]

But neither does anyone else, so I might as well have him. Right now, he's gone home to his mother.

LIDDY

Temporarily?

ISOBEL

Well, I THINK so. He's supposed to be taking her around to look at retirement homes - the way we dragged the kids to schools: did the schools like us, did we like them?

[Liddy walks around the room holding her coffee cup, looking at photos on the wall.]

LIDDY

These are all yours, right?

ISOBEL

Those are from my first show, about five years ago. It's a related series; the photographs went right around the walls of the gallery, like a frieze, at eye level.

LIDDY

[peering]

What is this?

[reading title]

"Loft Bed."

ISOBEL

Rather stark, that one. The camera is pointing at the ceiling, simply showing what one would see lying on one's back in that particular bed. One critic said,

[she makes quote marks with her fingers]

"Her work has the head-on particularity natural to a photograph plus a kind of limpid baggage carried over from an earlier, missing frame when some activity has rumpled the sheets, knocked over the lamp, or spilled the sherry that is turning to sugar on the bureau top."

[laughs]

I remember that sentence. I remember everything about that show. It was my first show, and I was paying attention.

LIDDY

[moving to next photograph]

And this one. . .

ISOBEL

That's shot from the head of a bed, looking over bare feet and that thing like a mountain range is a comforter and the open window is framing a smudgy view of Central Park.

[she repeats quote marks]

"The photographs, in their entirety, track wittily."

LIDDY

What?

ISOBEL

Another review. I memorized them.

LIDDY

[sweeping all the walls with a glance]

Then they're all beds?

ISOBEL

They're all beds.

LIDDY

Then the beds . . . represent people? Men?

ISOBEL

[peers at photos, frowning]

I hardly remember them.

LIDDY

[fumbling for words]

So . . . how did you find . . . your subject?

ISOBEL

I guess it started with the Polaroid camera Robert's parents gave me, the SX-70, to supply them with pictures of the grandchildren. It got me excited about taking pictures. I was carrying it the first day I committed adultery. I had taken Jamie to his riding lesson at Claremont Academy and hung around to take some pictures of him on his horse for the grandparents. And this mathematician I knew lived just around the corner. But I still don't know why I took that first photo, except that I found I preferred the visual image of adultery to the vocabulary. You know, all those words - all those cliches. After I found out about Robert's INFIDELITY I couldn't talk about it. So I went around making these photos. The visual product was better; I knew this from the start, from the day the first . . . ASSIGNATION . . . was kept and recorded.