A Cold Day in Hell
A one-man Tour de Force by Jan Quackenbush
About the Play:
A Cold Day in Hell portrays one man’s effort at resolving his despair at his dilemma of having a hospitalized, comatose wife, apparently with no hope of recovery, and grown children who seem to him to be self-absorbed and detached from his plight.
A tour-de-force single-character play, its actor, Michael Liscio was awarded a 1988 Los Angeles Dramalogue Award in a long-running production by the California Cottage Theatre, 1988-1991. The play was mentioned in an article on the theatre that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 1989. A Cold Day in Hell was performed in the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre Festival, 1988, in a production by its author.
Cast List: Charley – middle-aged.
Time: The present
Place: Charley’s home.
Approximate Running Time: 40-45 minutes
From the Play:
I was just . . . going through my mind . . . how I can. . . sit next to Betty there and talk about the weather or a ballgame or the leak in the roof- - nothing serious, just another goddamn annoyance when I least need it- - but I'm sitting there making small talk, and . . . I didn't use to, you-know. I used to talk about reasons for living, stuff like that. I'd say, like, "Betty, what you are going through is like a hibernation, so do not worry about it 'cause your body knows what it is doing, and what it is doing is fixing itself up from the inside and keeping you asleep . . . (patting his leg hard): . . . so you do not stir things up!"
(He brings his hands up helplessly, and shrugs; then):
I do not talk to her about her brain. I do not talk to her about that 'cause that is the center of her problem as far as I can understand from what the doctors tell me. You'd need a dictionary to understand them half the time. But, anyway, there is this thing about one side of her brain taking over the workload of the other side- - they told me to think of it like changing shifts in a factory - - but what I am saying is if I was talking to her about her brain I don't know what side I'm talking to, and if she is hearing me I don't wanna go and screw things up in there.
(He stares a brief moment- - apologetic, baffled; then):
Hey, maybe you think that's stupid, but there's alot of things that look stupid in this world which, believe me, if you knew more about it they might be smart. And I don't pretend to be a genius like there's alot of phonies that do!
(Squirms, relaxes a little, then):
So . . . what I do not do is I do not talk to her about her brain. And for a while there, I was talking to her about what sounded to me like some pretty good reasons for living. (Pauses; then): Usually, though, I'd end up with me as being the main reason.
Maybe you think that's a joke, but I was trying to give her something to hang her hat on.
About the Playwright:
Jan Quackenbush has had plays produced in the USA and in Europe. His published plays include CALCIUM AND OTHER PLAYS, STILL FIRES, OPFER (VICTIMS, published in Austria), IM KREIS DRAUSSSEN (Inside Out, published in Austria), and INSIDE OUT AND OTHER PLAYS, London. He has had several productions at the La MAMA ETC theatre in New York and has had three plays included in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Additionally, he has published poetry and prose, including "Flash," "Stone Eggs," and "Simeon in Memoriam." In addition to writing new plays, Jan is at work on a documentary film chronicling the military touring shows (soldier-actor shows) that toured Vietnam. Jan coordinated and prepared those shows as part of his active duty in Vietnam. He teaches playwriting at Broome Community College in Binghamton, NY, and in the MA Degree in Creative Writing, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA.