In Search of Ira Plato [sic]
A Short, Silly, Three-Act Play (more or less)
Major “Hump” Hessel (NSA officer in charge of nationwide manhunt)
Lieutenant Robert “Rigamarole” Davies (Major Hessel’s aide)
Private Ernest “Earnest” Wilde (earnest young soldier)
Detective Molly Molly (A police detective)
Officer Dan O’Dannon (a man of Irish ancestry)
Barry (a barrista)
Ira (radio host)
Scene: Modern military-style office. No windows. Possibly located deep underground. Maps of the United States and other countries cover the walls. There are many colored pins sticking in the map. Some of them have pieces of colored string connecting them.
In the middle of the room is a long wooden conference table strewn with paper, maps, books, and a large 60s-era transistor radio. There is also a large, old-fashioned dial phone on the table. It’s olive-green. The chairs are in disarray. In the corner is an old, stained coffee pot and several dirty mugs. There is a large standing ashtray off to one side. Unused.
Leaning over the desk is LIEUTENANT ROBERT “RIGAMAROLE” DAVIES. His uniform is a little sloppy and he looks like he has not slept in days. Standing near the door at half-attention is PRIVATE ERNEST “EARNEST” WILDE. She looks like she has not slept much either, but is in better shape and condition than the lieutenant.
(A noise from the door) Wilde stiffens to full attention.
WILDE: Major arriving, sir!
Davies stands to attention, but looks like he might fall over in the process. Enter through door MAJOR “HUMP” HESSELL. He looks a little rumpled, but not nearly as bad as the lieutenant. He chews on an unlit cigar as he stalks in.
HESSELL: At ease! (growling) Report!
Davies un-at-eases and leans heavily against the table, waving one hand tiredly.
DAVIES: We… we have nothing, Major. Every source we’ve checked out has not confirmd any of the Ira Plato leads. It’s like the man simply doesn’t exist in the real world. It’s like… like…
HESSELL: Well, spit it out, man! Like what?
DAVIES: Like he only exists as a voice on the radio.
HESSELL: Harumph! He exists, all right… he exists. And when we find him, he has a lot to answer for.
Davies picks up a map and shows it to the general.
DAVIES: Look, these are all of the public radio stations in the country. All of them broadcast Ira Plato on Friday afternoons, but none of them acknowledge anyone of that name.
HESSELL: Then they are lying.
Davies shakes his head.
DAVIES: No, sir. At least not that we can determine. We’ve had local police in every city and town where there is a public radio station serve up warrants. After an exhaustive search, they’ve not turned up any records or confirmed sightings of an Ira Plato anywhere.
HESSELL: But he’s right there… on the air!
DAVIES: Yes, sir. Last Friday afternoon several detectives confronted station managers while Plato was on the air and, when questioned, all of the station managers just started laughing.
(Phone rings.) Davies and Hessell ignore the ringing until finally Private Wilde leaves her post to answer the phone.
WILDE: Situation room. (pause) Yes. (Pause) I see. Please give me the details…
Wilde grabs some paper and begins writing notes as Hessell and Davies continue talking.
HESSELL: Every week we get calls of Plato transmitting over the airwaves. Public radio is obviously in on it–
DAVIES (interupting): –but their records–
HESSELL: Damn their lies and collusion. This would never have happened in Reagan’s America!
Wilde hangs up phone.
WILDE: Sir! A report has just come in that Ira Plato is on this week’s episode of THE BIG BANG THEORY.
HESSELL: What the hell is Plato thinking? Big bang theory? Is he broadcasting nuclear secrets to the Russkies?
DAVIES: Oh, no, sire…
DAVIES: Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. That is, The Big Bang Theory is a comedy show… a situational comedy show, or “sitcom” as it is known. Plato must be doing a guest appearance.
Hessell snaps his fingers.
HESSELL: We got him! When is it on?
Wilde consults her notes.
WILDE: Sir, it is being broadcast now.
HESSELL: Get a television in here! Now!
Wilde leaves. Hessell starts pacing. Davies begins to pace as well.
HESSELL: This is the break we’ve been looking for. We study everything in the background. We pinpoint his location through subtle clues. Get information on the actors of this… this sitcom, and find out where they are.
Davies continues to pace.
HESSELL: (snaps) NOW!
Davies snaps out of his reverie and paces right out the door. Hessell pushes a pile of papers off a chair and sits down. Takes the cigar out of his mouth and fiddles with it.
HESSELL: Yep. We got him now. That bastard, Plato. We got him now!
Scene: Munden’s Bar. A typical cop watering hole. It’s a slow night. No bartender in sight. DETECTIVE MOLLY MOLLY is sitting at the bar quietly nursing a scotch. A few steps down is OFFICER DAN O’DANNON. He nurses a beer.
O’DANNON: (looking up at TV) Say, Molly… wasn’t there a BOLO in the station about someone named Ira Plato?
MOLLY: (taking a sip of her drink) Yeah. The military or NSA or somesuch is looking for him. They seem to be chasing a ghost voice on the radio. Plato is probably an alias. Why?
O’Dannon gestures at the TV.
O’DANNON: The guy on the TV–not the stars–the other guy–I think someone just called him Ira Plato.
MOLLY: You sure?
O’DANNON: Wait, here come the credits. Let’s see..
Silently, they watch the credits roll by. Then it finishes.
O’DANNON: Yeah. How about that?
MOLLY: I should probably call it in.
O’DANNON: Better you than me.
Detective Molly sighs, taking out her cell phone.
MOLLY: Yeah, yeah. This is why I get paid the big bucks. Good catch though, O’Dannon.
O’DANNON: Next round is on you, what with your big bucks and all.
Scene: Situation room. Wilde, Davis, and Hessell are all trying to get a television to work… to no avail. All they get is static.
HESSELL: Damn cutbacks!
(The phone rings) Wilde goes and picks it up. Starts writing more notes. Hangs up.
DAVIES: (fussing with TV knobs) not now, private.
Hessell smacks the top of the TV several times.
WILDE: Sir, I have–
HESSELL: Dammit, private, we may already be too late. Don’t–
Wilde gives up. Begins sorting through papers on the desk. As Davies and Hessell beat up the TV, she eventually finds a piece of paper. We can see her sounding out the words “Plato” and “Flatow”.
Both officers look at her and respond simultaneously.
DAVIES and HESSELL: What!
Wilde circles a name on the sheet of paper.
WILDE: We’ve… we’ve been looking for the wrong person… look…
She holds the paper out to the officers who lean in for a look.
fade to black
Scene: A Manhattan Starbucks.* A barrista working behind the counter and a lone man sitting near the milks and sugars.
BARRY: Latte, no foam, for Ira Plato!
Man approaches counter.
IRA: It’s pronounced Flatow, not Plato.
BARRY: Ooops. Sorry about that, sir.
Ira smiles and takes his latte.
IRA: No problem. Happens all the time.
Sips his latte, then looks up.
IRA: Say, do you hear sirens?
*Yes, this is the same Starbucks in which Amy Sedaris saved the world. Details here.
Okay, two things to address:
First, the above story is based on the embarrassing fact that, for the longest time, I always thought his name was Ira Plato… not Flatow. I mean, c’mon. On the radio, it’s always sounded like Plato to me. And it made sense. An NPR science nerd? Plato made much more sense than Flatow. What kind of name is Flatow, anyway? Sounds like something someone at Ellis Island came up with while dealing with a hangover. I listened to Science Friday for years and never got ‘Flatow’. I don’t think I’m alone. It took seeing the credits on The Big Bang Theory to set me straight. Yeesh. Hence this silly little play.
Second, yes… I’ve fallen behind in my Jay Lake challenge. I’ve no real excuse other than to say that I tend to work best at a set schedule, and summer has a tendency to play havoc with my set schedule. I also freely admit that I had a bit of writer’s block for a bit as well. I will try to catch up on the missing weeks, but I’ll also not try to beat myself up o’ermuch and will just keep moving forward.
So… forward it is, then.