“The Importance of Being Jack”

 

                                                                        By Richard Nathan

 

Lights come up on a street in Whitechapel in 1888.  JACK WORTHING, also known as “Jack the Ripper” is wandering through the streets.  He is barking mad.  His friend, ALGERNON MONCRIEFF enters and spots Jack.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    Earnest!  Earnest Worthing!  I heard
                                    you’d been seen here in Whitechapel! 
                                    What have you been doing with yourself? 
                                    Or should I say, what have you been
                                    paying the whores to do to yourself?

 

                                                            JACK
                                    I ate whores!

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    You hate whores?  How very intolerant
                                    of you.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    I didn’t say I hate whores.  I said I ate
                                    whores.  I ate a whore’s kidney.  I fried
                                    it and ate it and it was very nice.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    You don’t say!  Doesn’t sound like my
                                    sort of thing.  I prefer a nice cucumber
                                    sandwich.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    I prefer whores’ kidneys.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    So you said.  Does it taste like chicken?

 

                                                            JACK
                                    No!  It doesn’t take like chicken!  It tastes
                                    like whore!  If it tasted like chicken, I’d
                                    eat a ruddy chicken, wouldn’t I?

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    I’ve been meaning to ask you, did you
                                    leave a leather handbag in my rooms in
                                    Half Moon Street?

 

                                                            JACK
                                    You have my bag?  Give it to me!

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    Was that your bag?  It was engraved
                                    with the initials “J.W.”

 

                                                            JACK
                                    That’s me!  Jack Worthing!

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    But your name is Earnest.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    It’s Earnest in the nice parts of London. 
                                    But it’s Jack here in Whitechapel!  Saucy
                                    Jack!

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    Saucy?  I assume the sauce is to complement 
                                    the flavor of the whores’ kidneys.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    Where is the bag?  Give me my bag!

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    I fear that may prove difficult.  I pawned it.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    You pawned it?  Why?

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    For the money.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    Why did you pawn my bag?  Why didn’t you
                                    pawn your own things?

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    Because they are my things.  Really, Earnest,
                                    you seem very obtuse this evening.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    There is something in that bag I need.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    And what would that be?  A collection of
                                    whores’ kidney sauces?

 

                                                            JACK
                                    Never you mind!  Something I need for my
                                    funny little games.  Just get me my bag and 
                                    its contents, or you’ll be sorry!

 

Algernon notices someone off stage.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    My word!  Can that be your ward Cecily
                                    and my cousin Gewndolen?  What can they
                                    be doing in Whitechapel?

 

Enter CECILY and GWENDOLEN.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    Cecily!  Gewndolen!  What are you
                                    doing here!

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    We have come to learn the business,
                                    Cousin.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    What business?  You’re not thinking
                                    of becoming whores, are you?

 

                                                            JACK
                                    Whores!!!  Did you say whores?  Where 
                                    is my handbag?

 

                                                            CECILY
                                    Heavens no!

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    How could you think such a thing!

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    I’m glad to hear you still maintain
                                    some pretenses of morality.

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    Morality has nothing to do with it. 
                                    It is a matter of privilege.

 

                                                            CECILY
                                    Whoring involves strenuous physical
                                    activity.  We never engage in strenuous
                                    physical activity in exchange for payment. 
                                    That is what the lower orders are for.

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    Exactly.  We did not come to Whitechapel
                                    to learn to be whores, but to learn to be
                                    bawds.

 

                                                            CECILY
                                    Madams.

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    Procurers of the flesh.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    What about kidneys?

 

                                                            CECILY
                                    Our only physical activity is counting
                                    the money.

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    And spending it.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    But Cecily, dearest, you have led me to
                                    believe that if I gave you sufficient costly
                                    tokens of my affection, someday you
                                    would….

 

                                                            CECILY
                                    Yes?

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    You would reciprocate by engaging in a
                                    certain strenuous physical activity with me.

 

                                                            CECILY
                                    Yes.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    Well, doesn’t that contradict your
                                    avowal that you would never engage
                                    in strenuous activity for payment?

 

                                                            CECILY
                                    Of course not!  Leading you to believe I
                                    might do something does not require any
                                    strenuous activity at all!

 

                                                            JACK
                                    How many whores do you have working
                                    for you?

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    We had seven in our employ, but I regret
                                    to say that six of them have been murdered.

 

                                                            CECILY
                                    In a manner utterly lacking in civility and
                                    decorum.

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    And now our only remaining employee is
                                    Miss Prism.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    Miss Prism!  Isn’t she a sixty year old woman?

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    Yes, but she whores with the spirit of two sixty
                                    year old women! 

                                                            CECILY
                                    I do wish we could pay her a bonus to
                                    show our appreciation. 

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    But then there would be less money for us!

 

                                                            ALGERNON

                                    Who is teaching you to be madams?  Is it
                                    a whore?

 

                                                            CECILY
                                    Certainly not!

 

                                                            GWENDOLEN
                                    It is my mother, Lady Bracknell!  And here
                                    she is now!

 

Enter LADY BRACKNELL, wearing a cloak.  Jack is cowed in her presence.  He seems almost sane.

 

                                                            LADY BRACKNELL
                                    Mr. Worthing!  I have a few questions to
                                    put to you!

 

                                                            JACK
                                    Yes, Lady Bracknell?

 

                                                            LADY BRACKNELL
                                    Tell me what you are doing in the
                                    dregs of Whitechapel.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    I seem… I seem to have lost my way… and
                                    maybe my sanity.

 

                                                            LADY BRACKNELL
                                    To lose one’s way may  be regarded as a
                                    misfortune.  To lose one’s sanity seems
                                    like carelessness.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    Yes, Lady Bracknell.

 

                                                            LADY BRACKNELL
                                    Mr. Worthing, did you or did you not
                                    leave a certain handbag at my nephew’s
                                    lodgings, a handbag which he proceeded
                                    to pawn?

 

                                                            JACK
                                    Do you have it?  Do you have my
                                    handbag?

 

                                                            LADY BRACKNELL
                                    Not only do I have your handbag.  I
                                    have its contents.

 

                                                            JACK
                                    Then please give it to me! 

 

                                                            LADY BRACKNELL
                                    Mr. Worthing, I fear you have been
                                    behaving quite unlike a gentleman. 

 

                                                            JACK
                                    Let me have it!  Let me have it now!!!

 

Lady Bracknell takes a long knife out of her cloak and plunges it into Jack.  He dies.

 

                                                            LADY BRACKNELL
                                    I am sorry Mr. Worthing, but I cannot
                                    allow you to continue to your “little games”
                                    as you have called them.  It is most
                                    disadvantageous to my business.

 

                                                            ALGERNON
                                    Aunt Agatha!  Why did you stab him?

 

                                                            LADY BRACKNELL
                                    Because,  Algernon, I have realized the
                                    vital importance of killing Jack the Ripper.

 

 

Blackout!
                                   

 THE END

                              
                                     

© 2008 by Richard Nathan.  All rights reserved

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