The Better Man
NATHAN- The Best Man
BRENDAN- The Better Man
CHRISTINE- The Maid of Honor
ELIZABETH- The Honored Maid
Setting: The Entire action of the play takes place within Nathan’s hotel room in the early morning hours before the wedding of Brendan and Elizabeth.
Nathan, a man in his mid-twenties, sits at the foot of his hotel bed. He wears the bare bones of a suit, with tie askew and shirt unbuttoned. He is disheveled and distraught, and there is a deep pain in his eyes, as he remains silent. The room is in chaos; empty liquor bottles lay at his feet mixed with clothes and ripped pieces of paper. He is attempting to write something, but gets frustrated and tears up the piece of paper he is writing on
NATHAN: Words, Words, Words…Hamlet would be disgusted.
Nathan begins to place a few pieces of torn paper in the wastebasket on the upstage side of the bed.
NATHAN: (Nathan screams as he steps on a broken bottle) Damn It!
Nathan slumps back onto the bed and examines his foot, he looks around for something, finds a piece of scrap paper and begins to dab his foot with it. After a moment he looks at the pieces of paper
NATHAN: Great, I actually liked this one…
NATHAN wanders offstage, it is assumed to tend to his wound. BRENDAN enters the room; he is a handsome, but short, man in a suit sans tie. BRENDAN sports a black eye on his right eye and appears to have a busted lip. BRENDAN sits on the bed exactly as NATHAN had moments before; he picks up one of the less obliterated pieces of paper and reads it. BRENDAN begins to sob openly. NATHAN re-enters
NATHAN: Jesus! Brendan, what the hell happened to you?
BRENDAN does not answer, but continues to sob, after a moment NATHAN lifts his arm towards BRENDAN and BRENDAN blows his nose on the sleeve of NATHAN’S shirt.
NATHAN: I was trying to get a better look at your eye, but I guess the gesture could be confused as an offering of sinus support.
BRENDAN smiles for a moment, then goes back to sobbing
NATHAN: Allright, now is the part where you tell me… what the hell is going on?
BRENDAN says nothing, but shakes his head no. A beat. CHRISTINE enters; she is a beautiful young woman. Her eyes sparkle with passion and life, and she is dressed for a night on the town, but is wearing sneakers.
NATHAN: Does this hotel room have locks on their doors?
CHRISTINE: There you are!
NATHAN: Of course I’m here, this is my room!
CHRISTINE: No you dipshit, HIM! (CHRISTINE points at BRENDAN)
NATHAN: Actually the argument could be made that he really isn’t all that ‘here’ right now
CHRISTINE: Shut up
NATHAN: Will do
NATHAN gets up and moves away from BRENDAN who now has lifted his knees and has his head resting upon them, covering his face.
BRENDAN: Is…Is she okay?
NATHAN: Wait a minute, Wait a minute, WAIT…A…MINUTE. Did you and Lizzie get in a fight? Is that why you have-
CHRISTINE: I thought I told you to shut up
BRENDAN: Is she?
CHRISTINE: Of course she is
BRENDAN: Its all…all my fault…I….
BRENDAN begins to get emotional again, CHRISTINE comforts him and he leans against her for support
CHRISTINE: She isn’t angry. You should go talk to her
BRENDAN: I don’t know if I can
CHRISTINE: Go on
BRENDAN waits a moment, then exits. A Beat. CHRISTINE picks up one of the almost empty bottles on the floor and finishes it off. NATHAN goes to the mini-bar and grabs two bottles of beer and hands one to CHRISTINE. CHRISTINE takes out a lighter and opens the bottle
NATHAN: I thought you quit smoking
CHRISTINE: Yeah, well…things change
NATHAN: I always thought they just stayed the same, forever and ever
CHRISTINE: Stop being smart
NATHAN: Well that’s one accusation you never threw at me when we we’re dating
CHRISTINE: (laughing) True
NATHAN: Now can you please tell me what happened?
CHRISTINE: With them?
CHRISTINE gestures towards the direction BRENDAN exited.
CHRISTINE: (After a Beat) Or Us?
NATHAN: (laughs) Either, although the later I believe I’m more familiar with
CHRISTINE: You’d be surprised…
CHRISTINE takes a swig from her beer, it is a long one
NATHAN: What happened?
CHRISTINE: They got in a fight over something stupid. Something about their families not getting along, she went and got a little tipsy at the bar, ended up on some guys arm and he saw her. And then…you left…
NATHAN sits next to CHRISTINE on the bed, and he too takes a long sip of his beer. CHRISTINE lays her head on NATHAN as BRENDAN did to her earlier. NATHAN runs his fingers through her hair.
NATHAN: I’m still waiting for an answer
CHRISTINE: (sitting up) I’m Sorry
NATHAN: For what?
CHRISTINE: For this
CHRISTINE kisses NATHAN, he kisses back and things begin to get heated when ELIZABETH enters. She the beautiful bride to be, dressed as sexy as can be for the night before her wedding. The makeup on her face is running from tears. She stops short when she comes upon CHRISTINE and NATHAN
ELIZABETH: (exiting) Excuse me
CHRISTINE: (chasing after ELIZABETH) Elizabeth, wait!
NATHAN is alone on stage. He waits a moment, goes out into the hall and re-enters looking confused. NATHAN takes a piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and begins to read it
NATHAN: The second I met Brendan I knew he was the man to Marry my sister. Granted we we’re fourteen at the time, but I had height hopes…
NATHAN erases what he wrote and continues; unbeknownst to him CHRISTINE re-enters and watches him for a moment
NATHAN: I had high hopes for the young guy, even if he was lacking in the height department himself…
CHRISTINE: Short jokes, very original
NATHAN: (startled) I didn’t know I was being critiqued
CHRISTINE: (gesturing to all the scraps of paper) Clearly I am not your harshest critic
NATHAN: Yeah…So, about earlier
CHRISTINE: Oh, right.
CHRISTINE paces to the other side of the room
CHRISTINE: Brendan and Elizabeth we’re down at the bar celebrating together, when some asshole made a pass at Liz. Now Brendan had a few drinks in him by this point so he got angry and got in a fight with the guy. Well turns out the particular guy was the son of the hotel owner, and being the nice guy that he is the owner decided to kick Brendan and Elizabeth out of the hotel…
CHRISTINE: I know, and now they need to get a new…
NATHAN: I wasn’t asking about that
CHRISTINE: Well, what are you talk…(realizing) Right, that…Can we just pretend that never happened? A Little Maid of Honor moment of Madness, that’s all
NATHAN puts his arm around CHRISTINE. BRENDAN and ELIZABETH enter together, holding hands
BRENDAN: Hey guys
ELIZABETH: So Nathan, can Brendan room with you tonight?
NATHAN: Of course
BRENDAN: And Chrissy, I was wondering if Elizabeth could share your room tonight
CHRISTINE: Of course, we have to be up in… (Looks at her watch) three hours to start getting ready anyway.
BRENDAN: Great, I’m just gonna go grab our things from the car
BRENDAN exits. There is an awkward silence as all three realize last time they we’re all in the room ELIZABETH broke up a rather passionate moment
CHRISTINE: (exiting) You know, I think I’d better go clean up my room…
NATHAN goes to follow her but ELIZABETH stops him. NATHAN sighs and finishes off his beer
ELIZABETH: How goes your speech?
NATHAN laughs and gestures to the mess of papers on the floor, he continues drinking
ELIZABETH: I figured the speech would be the easy part for you
NATHAN: Easy compared to what?
ELIZABETH: Seeing Christine again
NATHAN: Well, you we’re right
ELIZABETH: I really appreciate you being Brendan’s best man, it means a lot to both of us. He really looks up to you
NATHAN: Figuratively and Literally
ELIZABETH: (smiling) Stop
NATHAN: Sorry. That’s all I seem to be able to come up with so far…short jokes
ELIZABETH: Heavy on jokes, short on substance
NATHAN: Sounds like my relationship with Christine
ELIZABETH: You know that’s not true
NATHAN: It’s easy to convince myself that’s all it was. Just an amusment for a short while, passing time between important moments in our live’s. That’s easier than excepting the truth
ELIZABETH: And what is that?
BRENDAN walks upstage towards the window, as he begins his speech CHRISTINE re-enters unseen to BRENDAN.
NATHAN: I had tasted the very wine of heaven. I had laid my head next to an angel and dreamed nothing but selfish dreams. I let perfect happiness fall into my lap and then pushed it away…
NATHAN turns around and sees CHRISTINE has been listening. NATHAN moves towards her but CHRISTINE quickly turns and exits. ELIZABETH stands and puts her arm around her brother. BRENDAN re-enters
BRENDAN: So, ready for bed roomie?
NATHAN exits quickly
BRENDAN: Was it something I said?
ELIZABETH: No. We’re not the only one’s having relationship issues tonight
BRENDAN: Oh….but our issues are over…aren’t they?
ELIZABETH is silent for a moment
ELIZABETH: Yes, for tonight
BRENDAN: What do you mean?
ELIZABETH: Brendan, there are always going to be other men who say things about me that you won’t like. But you can’t fight all of them
BRENDAN: I know…
ELIZABETH: Brendan, I know you’re nervous that I’m going to leave you
ELIZABETH: And to tell you the truth, for a moment tonight I thought I might
ELIZABETH: Only for a moment
BRENDAN: This is not what I want to be hearing on the night before my wedding
ELIZABETH: (Taking BRENDANS hand) OUR wedding. It was only a moment because I realized you weren’t one of those sleezeballs who hits on me at bars. You are a better man than any of those men, and I can’t wait to marry you
ELIZABETH kisses BRENDAN gently
BRENDAN: You really mean it?
ELIZABETH: I do
BRENDAN: Then why wait?
ELIZABETH: What do you mean?
BRENDAN: We can’t have the ceremony here anymore, and Vegas is only a few hours away. We make the drive and we’ll be back in time for the reception.
ELIZABETH: Okay, lets go.
BRENDAN starts to leave with ELIZABETH, thinks for a moment and stops. BRENDAN picks up a piece of paper and scribbles on a piece of paper and places it on the bed. ELIZABETH and BRENDAN exit. A Beat. NATHAN enters, he sits on the bed and reads BRENDAN’s note. NATHAN smiles. CHRISTINE enters, now dressed more casually, her outfit matching the sneakers on her feet. NATHAN looks up at her
NATHAN: Now I recognize you
CHRISTINE: You couldn’t before?
NATHAN: I pretended not too, the only memory I have of you really dressed up is the night we…you know
CHRISTINE: Ah, that’s right. We really weren’t the fancy party types
NATHAN: Not really
CHRISTINE: That was fine with me though
NATHAN: Was it?
CHRISTINE: Yeah, I mean sure a girl likes to get dressed up every once and a while, but that’s what friends weddings are for!
CHRISTINE sits on the bed; there is a great space between her and NATHAN waiting to be filled. NATHAN hands CHRISTINE the note from BRENDAN as he says his next line
NATHAN: Unfortunately, looks like we won’t need our costumes for tomorrow.
CHRISTINE reads the note, puts it down and looks puzzled
CHRISTINE: I don’t get it,” Gone out for Ovaltine”?
CHRISTINE: Clearly I’m missing something here
As NATHAN begins this speech he moves center, away from the bed. The lights on CHRISTINE dim and a single spot comes up on NATHAN. NATHAN adjusts his outfit during the speech as well, and during the end he looks clean and polished. It should be clear that by the end of the speech that NATHAN is giving his wedding toast at the reception. Applause should follow his speech
NATHAN: The second I met Brendan, I knew he was the man to marry my sister. Granted, he was only fourteen at the time, but I had high hopes. Even if he was lacking in the Height department himself. He was waiting for Lizzie to come out of her room to go to the homecoming game with him and I was downstairs playing video games and drinking ovaltine. To my surprise Brendan actually came over and asked what I was drinking. He told me he had never tried Ovaltine, so naturally I gave him some, and ever since then he was hooked. Every time he would come over he’d ask to have some, as if it was filling some need within him. We’ll I know for a fact that Ovaltine is good for you, and I also know that Brendan has been so good for my little Lizzie. He may not be the tallest man in the world…or the best looking
Laughter, NATHAN smiles offstage towards the invisible BRENDAN
NATHAN: Brendan is something different, he is the kind of guy…the kind of man, who helped Elizabeth deal with our father’s passing. He did one better than that, he helped me get through it too. And when our mother was killed in a car accident, Brendan spent the night wiping the tears from our eyes. Our titles should be switched today, because I only wish I could be groomed to be more like Brendan, the Best Man I have ever known.
Applause, NATHAN raises a glass he has picked up at some point during the speech. He takes a drink and moves back towards the bed. The lights come up on the bed, it is empty. CHRISTINE is gone, and the room has no more clutter. All the pieces of paper are in a single wastebasket that is overflowing. NATHAN sits for a moment on the bed, the lies down for a moment. There is a knock at the door
NATHAN: It’s open
BRENDAN: Hey Nate
NATHAN: Hey little brother
BRENDAN: That’s right, we’re brothers now…scary
NATHAN: Only by law, and whoever paid attention to the law anyways
BRENDAN laughs. A Beat
BRENDAN: I really appreciated all the things you said today
NATHAN: It was nothing
BRENDAN: I know it wasn’t, Lizbeth told me how hard a time you we’re having because of…we’ll because of Christine
BRENDAN: What happened with you two last night anyways?
NATHAN: It wasn’t about me
BRENDAN: What wasn’t?
NATHAN: The Speech, wasn’t about me, it was about you.
BRENDAN: That’s not all. I’ve gone to so many wedding receptions where the Best Man just makes a half-cocked rambling speech about nothing, even though it’s for their best friend or brother. Why did you care about this so much?
NATHAN: I didn’t
NATHAN: I don’t mean I didn’t care about the speech, but I wasn’t stressing over it
BRENDAN: I saw the pieces of paper everywhere last night, all scribbled with speeches
NATHAN removes a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and hands it to BRENDAN
NATHAN: I date all my writing, old habit of mine
BRENDAN: This is your toast, but if this is right then… you wrote it over a month ago
BRENDAN: Then what…
Before BRENDAN can finish NATHAN has reached into the wastebasket and pulled out a piece of paper, he hands it to BRENDAN, who reads it.
BRENDAN: What did she say?
NATHAN shakes his head no
BRENDAN: I’m sorry
NATHAN: Don’t be, this is your big day
BRENDAN: I could have Lizbeth talk to her, maybe she’ll…
NATHAN: No, that’s allright
BRENDAN begins to exit
BRENDAN: Well, I guess I really don’t know what to say. I’m not as good with words as you are…so…
NATHAN: Goodbye Brendan
NATHAN stands up and extends his hand towards BRENDAN. BRENDAN pushes aside the hand and instead hugs his new big brother
NATHAN: Don’t get emotional now, I had enough of that last night
BRENDAN: No, no more tears…not for a long time I hope
BRENDAN exits. NATHAN sits on the stage a moment, then removes from his pocket a ring case. He opens it just so the audience can tell it is some kind of engagement ring. He closes it. He opens it again. CHRISTINE enters, NATHAN looks up at her.