"Bradley" A Play In Three Acts

My grandmother said I was born to entertain. But when I took the stage, there was another actor already in place.

Curtain rises... A bare West Texas backyard. A curly haired toddler, Bradley, stands near the back door. He blinks into the sun.

My brother Brad has a strong mind. He can still picture his POV from the crib.  He recalls not understanding the words being spoken to him. Perhaps my parents had thick Southern drawls.

He remembers our father more clearly than I do. What if feels like to be a family. He witnesses two people he loves fall out of love. Understanding their decisions lurches him out of childhood. He is aware of what we have versus what we lose. He'll always miss it.
Brad is six, standing in front of the stove. I'm four, sitting at the kitchen table sporting a confused look that matches my home haircut. I have no idea what causes breakfast. Brad's a dwarf orchestra conductor, reaching his arms up high to organize the scrambled eggs in a skillet he can't see. A tiny boy Antigone in a West Texas tragedy.

A few years later I try to grasp playing the piano. Asking my own hands to oppose each other is contradictory. Brad wants to play. He stages a plan: He'll take the lessons in my place. Casting directors find understudies that look similar -- if for anything, the costumes need to fit. In order for the audience to see the emoting, the preset lights must hit the actor's face.

I hide in the bushes outside the teacher's house. She's old; we need her to be senile. I shove my blond bangs away from my face so I can see her reaction. Brad easily rings the doorbell; he's a foot taller than me. Spots of sunlight shooting through the elm tree light his curly, dark brown hair.

Greeting brown eyes when expecting blue doesn't throw the teacher. She plays the scene like a pro. Soon Brad's hands span an octave. He perfects Rachmaninoff, and without missing a beat, reaches up to snatch a Master's degree in performance piano.

Insert a non-ballet flashback/dream sequence: I'm fourteen. Brad helps me learn my lines for the all-boys school production of Romeo and Juliet. (Juliet is played by the typing teacher, so a rose by any other name at least smells like a woman.) Brad tirelessly runs the dialogue with me. He explains what inauspicious stars means. I need him.



Eventually I take my act to New York City. Brad cares for our grandmother until the Director writes her character out of the show. He packs up her trunks and sighs against the dressing room door, his world now silent.


I'm thirty something. From California I hear the dust blowing in his soul. Taking a cue from Crimes of the Heart with Meg and her shrunken ovaries -- I insist he change his scenery. Brad moves to Santa Monica. He joins my production already in progress. Admittedly, the show is a mess.

I imagine my drunken shenanigans waking up memories of our father for Brad. I revive dreaded behavior; foreshadow fearful patterns. But the show must go on. Brad plays all the parts, emotionally supporting me as I go on hiatus. To rehab.


Brad is kindness. For sixteen years he watches a hummingbird from the terrace in Santa Monica. He names the bird "Pip". He swears it's the same Pip but I bet Pip's been replaced with lookalikes. Brad is hope.

For life's big showstopping production number, every single person in the world couples up and walks onto the Ark in pairs. Our audience ponders, How much time before the flood?

The playwright has a choice. There can be a scene where the lonely lead falls on his sword, Good night, parting is such sweet sorrow...  

Both the audience and critics will pan it. They demand a happy ending.

Plot twist. Kettle drum vibrations rumble up from the orchestra pit. A crash of cymbals cues soft lights. Maybe some jazz-handsing tribal dancers. Brad's leading-man looks and good-guy character land him a co-star!

The Santa Monica run ends. Brad takes his bow. Roses are tossed onstage.

Curtain falls. I rush to hug my fellow actor, my brother. He exits, grabbing a flash from the footlights that he carries in his smile offstage.

Denouement... A lushly planted Texas backyard. Brad faces the sunset, his eyes shielded by someone.

2 comments:

  1. What else are brothers for? Family love and support - another great story Greg <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your loss is our gain. So glad to have Brad close in Texas and a new adventure addressing him.
    Nice story, I know you will miss him.
    XO jc

    ReplyDelete

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