The Ragged Claws – by Lina Patel
Synopsis: Battery Park City and Bangladesh are under water, the American military works in secret around the globe and Russia controls European use of natural gas. The future is now and the present is as urgent as the past for Alec, his parents, and the people who love them. Mother and son are battling academics. Alec’s famous physician father is recently and tragically crippled. Alec’s advisor enjoys studying people like he studies history. Alec’s friends: a chemist and a Ukrainian artist are lovers with different responses to everything; and Alec’s own ex and current lovers, a Muslim cop and a career marine, each bring him closer to who he is. And at any moment, everything to could end. The Ragged Claws is a story about what is worth preserving as life becomes precious. Ambitious and edgy, the play examines the value of shared history and the passing on of stories in a time of crisis. Weaving together the exalted with the excrement, The Ragged Claws is a brave exploration of the bonds of love and the lasting value of history in the face of possible annihilation.
Setting: Delhi, NY and Manhattan
Time Period: The near future
Cast Size: Eight
Thomas: Fifty-five, American. An oncologist-turned-writer and epigraphist (studies inscriptions carved into stone or metal). Married Rene at 34, they adopted Alec a couple years later. Tom is recently disabled and hating it. He loves Rene and Alec with all his heart.
Rene: Fifty, Tomā s wife, British. Rene is a Professor of Numismatics (studies ancient coins). She is an author of several books about India and worked at the British Museum for awhile before teaching. Rene is a combination of wit and narcissism and compassion.
Alec: Twenty-seven, their adopted son from India. Alec is a visiting professor of history. Has a hard time with commitment. He uses sex as a sedative. He feels alienated from his mother. Friends with Safiya and an ex-lover of Samir’s. The need for approval is in Alec’s DNA, though his way of seeking it is often misguided.
Samantha: Part of an elite Marine unit. Thirty-seven. Sam is sinewy and hard of hearing and her apparent edginess masks deep wounds. The things Sam doesn’t know, many wouldn’t; the things she knows only she could. She is intuitive and can be playful. Always on alert. Tatoo’s cover her arms.
Bob: Forties, from Ukraine, a famous painter/political activist. Bob’s paintings are sublime, abstract and full of unexpected color; when he is working his movements are graceful and meditative but he is also crude and a selfish and unsentimental. Bobā s declarations of love can sound, despite being heartfelt, funny. Completely in love with Safyia, the woman who doesn’t take his shit.
Samir: Twenty-seven, Iraqi, a cop and translator for Homeland Security. One of the good guys. Samir is gay and loves Alec, but won’t put up with his changing moods. Friends with Safiya.
Safyia: Thirties, any ethnicity, a bartender studying chemistry. She loves Bob but is overwhelmed by him. A fierce idealist and lover of life. Exacting of herself and of those around her. Craves beauty and symmetry in everything.
Jacob: Rene’s lover, Alec’s former advisor, any ethnicity. A professor from a wealthy family. Elegant, composed, icy, Jacob’s way of dealing with the world is to remain superbly civilized. His calm manner masks carnal and savage desires. A rich man living for the present moment.
Design Needs: The play takes place in Alec’s tiny apartment, Safiya’s underground bar, Renee and Thomas’ home and Jacob’s love nest. The set can be very simple, with tables, chairs, a bed. Renee and Thomas’ home should have a large, upscale feel and Jacob’s little love nest should have a feel of wealth – maybe an original painting or an expensive lamp, for example. Images are projected on a wall, scrim or sheet.
This Play Is: unpublished
Production History: Developed at Center Theatre Group’s 2008 Writer’s Retreat. Reading at the Taper, Summer 2008.