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A donkey walks into a bar and talks to Mark Roberts


Isn’t it awesome that in life, just as in film and television, we are able to re-shoot regrettable scenes. We can re-dress the set, pat on fresh powder, move everyone back to Position One.

Quiet on the set. Roll it. Rolling. Speed. Scene One, Take Two. And action!

We can re-live the moments that didn’t quite work the first time around in order to get things right the second. We can remarry, rehabilitate, re-give birth, re-die and even re-converse with an admired mentor that we’ve errantly offended, in order to fix all that went wrong.

We have the capacity to engage in do-overs and retakes as much as we re-need. I love that aspect of living!

Last Saturday night, at the premiere of Rantoul and Die, which is a play by executive producer and writer of the hit sit-com Two and a Half Men, I had the privilege of speaking with the playwright and making somewhat of a burro of myself.

Luckily, because of our ability to revisit unfortunate moments, I am able to re-have that conversation.

This is how it went down the first time around. Take One:



A dark saloon with a long narrow bar, about twelve stools, most of them taken.

Our protagonist MARK ROBERTS, handsome, mid 40’s, on a stool, is mid-conversation with a STRIKING INGENUE, early twenties, also on a stool. In between them is yet another stool.

Their conversation appears intense, professional.

An ASS gallops in, looks around, snorts.

All heads turn.

The ass trots toward the two, hunkers down between them, orders a Jagermeister, then brays.

Mark shifts to face the comforting presence of the BARTENDER who just at that moment moves to get the Jagermeister.

The ass begins to talk:

ASS: Holy mackerel! You’re Mark Roberts. The playwright. It is so nice to meet you. I thoroughly enjoyed the show tonight. In fact, I laughed my ass off.

The donkey chuckles at her own joke.

Mark nods, offers the perfunctory smile of a reluctant host.

ASS: I loved the rhythm and the poetry. The main guy, what was his name?

MARK: (Humors her) Gary.

ASS: Yes, Gary. He spoke so eloquently and with so much figurative language. All those metaphors were so (pause) interesting. Neigghh! And the guy...

MARK: Gary.

ASS: Yes, Gary He was so ironically wise. The whole thing was very clever. You’re very clever.

The ass smiles sweetly, baring her large yellowish donkey teeth.

Mark starts to warm.

MARK: Thank you.

ASS: Do you mind if I ass you a question?

She winks.

MARK: No, of horse not.

Mark roars.

The ass just stares.

Then angrily brays.

Mark sips his Coca cola.

MARK: Please, go ahead.

ASS: Well, I noticed that two of the main characters speak a lot alike. They both use similes and metaphors, and they each have a super sophisticated vocabulary. Yet they are minimum-wage earners living in a trailer-like house. I mean, I can buy that the main guy...

MARK: (Becoming wary) Gary.

ASS: Yes, Gary, speaks that way, that he is decidedly self-educated. A man who maybe reads a lot and travels and obviously learns from experience, but both of the main characters? I mean, the woman...

Mark: Deb.

ASS: Yes, Deb.

The bartender delivers the Jagermeister.

Mark starts to fidget.

ASS: Deb! What a cute name. I once had a trainer named Deb. Boy, could she ride!

The ass laughs big, stomps her available hoof and downs the shot of Jager.

Mark glares, but for some inexplicable reason, continues to listen.

ASS: This gal, um, um…

She looks at Mark, hoping he’ll again fill in the blank.

He doesn’t.

ASS: This Deb, uses words like “tomfoolery” and “encumbered” but has worked at a fast food place her whole adult life. This is obviously a stylistic choice. I mean, indeed, you can get away with that kind of ornate dialogue in a play much more so than on television. But why did you make that choice? To have both Gary and Deb speak in this way – in such a literary fashion?

Mark: I wanted to challenge the stereotype that working class people don’t ever pick up a book.

ASS: I see.

The ass brays louder than before.

Then she motions to the bartender for another shot of J, scratches her ass with her hoof, burrows her hind quarter deeper into her stool.

Mark takes a gulp from his Coke, wishing it were whiskey.

The Jagermeister arrives. The ass grabs hold of it and launches into an extended explication of her dim donkey thoughts.


The ass talks and talks and gesticulates and snorts and brays. Whenever she brays, her breath is visibly pungent.

Mark becomes increasingly irritated, looks for a way out.

Finally, as punctuation for one of her pontifications, the ass lets loose an accidental crap.

ASS: Oops!

The forgotten starlet on the neighboring stool enters the fray:

STARLET: Holy crap!

Mark’s face moves from irritated to disgusted to stunned.

He stands, nods farewell, takes the hand of his wife, who, as luck would have it, is passing by.

They exit.

The donkey, now in her stool, looks around at the quickly-clearing room, nervously chortles, sheepishly eyes the bartender, who nonchalantly (been there, done that) tosses her a towel.


This is how I would like it to go the second time. Take Two:



A hip saloon with a long narrow bar, about twelve stools, most of them taken.

Our protagonist MARK ROBERTS, handsome, mid 40’s, perched on a stool, is mid-conversation with a STRIKING INGENUE, early twenties, on another stool. There is an empty barstool between them.

RANDOM GUEST, ANDREA, early 40’s, moves to take the available spot.

Mark and the ingénue oblige, each turning to face the bartender.

Andrea glances at Mark.

ANDREA: Aren’t you Mark Roberts, the playwright? Mister Roberts, just let me say right off the bat that I laughed so hard. Your script is uncommonly funny. Brilliant, really. I truly loved it. It was such a terrific balance of uproarious and dark. There were so many deep, guttural laughs emanating from the audience – more, in fact, than I think I have ever heard at a play. If you don’t mind, though, I do have one question. I am curious. I am sort of a writer, myself, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to ask a successful writer like yourself a question about his work. Why do Gary and Deb both speak so poetically? And why does each use a kind of vernacular that is not necessarily common for people of their economic status?

MARK: I wanted to challenge the stereotype that working class people don’t ever pick up a book.

Thoughtful silence as Andrea sips her Merlot.

ANDREA: That makes sense. The play is rather existential and far-reaching. It is logical that there would be a certain amount of poetry and that neither of the two main characters would speak like the lowest denominator of their “type” – that they would transcend type, which is, in and of itself, symbolic, given the themes of the play. (Pause.) But why does Deb obtain a private lawyer? On a minimum-wage salary? Wouldn't she instead go to one of those more affordable We the People places? Just a thought. (Pause.) Nonetheless, despite these simple questions of character and social class, I really found the play to be quite provocative and just really f$cking funny. The rhythm of the laughter even caught me.

MARK: Yes. The rhythm is crucial. Not just the words, but the rhythm.

ANDREA: Yes! Yes! Yes! (Long pause.) The whole thing is quite mythic. Reminiscent of Sam Shepard. David Mamet. But different. Modern. Genius in many ways.

Thoughtful silence as Andrea sips her Merlot.

ANDREA: Are you going to eat the rest of that pecan tartlet?


Mark and Andrea continue to chat gaily. They invite the starlet to come over and join them. Then Mark’s wife joins them. They all nod and laugh and smile. Andrea stands to make a polite exit, not wanting to further impose herself upon people who deserve to fully enjoy the evening with friends.

She exits.


This is what could have transpired had I not been the lowest denominator of equine.

Go see Rantoul and Die. It is hilarious, dark, mythic and wise. And, if you have the privilege of speaking to the scribe, don’t contract hoof-in-mouth disease.


  • Christine Murphy 5 years ago

    Hi Andrea,
    Great meeting you last night. I thoroughly enjoyed this article. GREAT STUFF! Let's get together soon.