Skip to main content

THE GRAMMARIANS – Three Scenes

THE GRAMMARIANS

A WORD-NERD MUSICAL 

Three Scenes 

Adapted from the novel by Cathleen Schine 

Lyrics by Lorraine Feather 

Music by Nan Schwartz 

Narration One: “Two of Us” 

“CONVE ´RSABLENESS. n. s. [from conversable] The quality of being 

 a pleasing companion; fluency of talk. 

—A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson” 
 

Daphne and Laurel Wolfe are identical twins. Eggs of a feather, so to speak. And do they ever speak! 

They live with their doting mother, Sally, and their doting father, Arthur, in a little house in a little town called Larchmont in a time long ago that was called the 1950s.  

“Laurel” and “Daphne” — two different names for the same minor Greek goddess. Perfect!  

Their Uncle Don, a psychiatrist, does not think they’re perfect. He calls them Romulus and Remus, after the Roman twins suckled by a wolf. Sometimes Uncle Don just calls them the Wolves. They frighten him. He finds them odd.  

But … Babies who speak to each other in their own private language, babies who converse out loud, or in their heads, or sometimes break out in two part harmony … in perfect English. Is that really so very odd? 

A tad “woo woo,” you say? Perhaps, if this expression had been in vogue at the time Daphne and Laurel were infants. But it originated in the time not quite so long ago called the 1980s when Daphne and Laurel had become grown women.  

The Wolfe twins are, in fact, played by grown women throughout our play. In this scene, we see them first as infants in their cribs; about three and a half minutes in, they become eight years old. 

Just go with it. 

TWO OF US  

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: “Twin. A couple. A pair. Two.” 

People find it challenging, 

Telling me from you. 

You and I, you and I, 

Make a matching “we.” 

DAPHNE: It always drives me crazy 

That you came out ahead of me. 

LAUREL: Arghh … Dry up, okay? 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: Where are they? 

LAUREL: They’re late, as usual. Although, if they’re late “as usual,” then that would be their usual time, and you can’t really say they’re late, can you? 

DAPHNE: You’re a pedant. An insufferable pedant. 

LAUREL: This always works. 

(She lets out a shrill scream.) 

ARTHUR runs in. He picks up the two babies, represented by dolls, and holds one in the crook of each arm.) 

DAPHNE, LAUREL, AND ARTHUR: Twins! 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL:  Alike. You. Me. 

DAPHNE: Either of two offspring  

LAUREL: Produced in the same pregnancy. 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL:  Two of us, two of us,  

It was meant to be, 

Abruptly given life 

By Arthur and his wife, 

DAPHNE: Or “Mommy,” as we call her. 

LAUREL: You’re smarter. 

DAPHNE: You’re taller. 

DAPHNE (Resentfully): You came out first! You were alive without me … 

LAUREL: Only for seventeen minutes.  

SALLY (Enters—as if continuing their thought) At Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital! 

ARTHUR (to DAPHNE, tickling her nose):  Affiliated with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine! 

(SALLY shakes a few drops of formula onto her wrist.) 

DAPHNE, LAUREL, SALLY, AND ARTHUR: Twins!  

LAUREL: A couple.  

DAPHNE: A pair.  

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: Two. 

Doo, doo, doodle, doodle, doo. 

ARTHUR: Oh Sally. Our feral little wolf twins. 

SALLY:  They do howl, it’s true. 

(She takes a baby, kissing its head.) 

They want to make sure we hear them. They’re very intelligent. One howls, then the second one howls even louder. It’s as if one doesn’t want to be left behind the other.  

ARTHUR (bouncing the baby he holds): Are you Laurel or are you Daphne? 

LAUREL: I’m Laurel. 

DAPHNE: I’m Daphne. 

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: Get it straight, my God. 

SALLY: LAUREL AND DAPHNE: ARTHUR: 

Aren’t they enchanting, One and one equals two. It’s disconcerting. I can  

We equate, me and you. Never tell the girls apart. 

Make that you and I. They both have crawled their dogged 

Our fierce little wolf twins, Remus and Romulus Way into my heart. 

Never made such a fuss. “I’ll put red polish onto 

Can we ever cry! Daphne’s little toe,” 

Bright as the Dog Star, Thank you for noticing, My wife announces. 

Also for referencing. But SHE can tell. 

Astronomy. Seriously. What the hell. 

Aren’t you, my babykins? Your veracity Well, I suppose that I could 

Isn’t in dispute. Measure them, in a pinch. 

Glad you find us cute. One of them’s taller by a 

Howling in sequence,  We’ve no choice but to vent sixteenth of an inch. 

When we need nourishment, Which one of you is taller? 

It’s imperative. Raise your tiny paw. 

Each outdoes the other.  Food is all. All is food.  (the girls each have a doll raise a hand.) 

Pardon our nasty mood, They understood me! 

But we need to live. They’re making fun of me! 

Hope I can handle Just you wait, just you wait, Awwwwwwwwwwww …. 

(Because I’m only human, Sally Wolfe, till we’re eight Our brainy babies run us ragged. 

And they’re so intense) It may be pure hell. Have you ever known 

Being their mother Or a jolly romp. Such trenchant chatter? 

Only time will tell. They’ve a language of their own.  

Only time will tell. “Jeeber doot. Bee labaInder Only time will tell, Deez bloot bloot.” That’s what 

Time will tell, 

Time will tell. Daphne said this morning. Or

Maybe it was Laurel. 

I wrote it down phonetically. 

I sensed a meaning. 

Whatever could it be? 

What are they talking about? 

I wish I knew, and who is 

Who, and who is who, 

And who is who? Who is who? 

Who is, who is who? Who is who? 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: Twins. A pair. A matched set.  

DAPHNE: They alternate our burping;  

LAUREL: We take turns in the bassinet.  

DAPHNE AND LAUREL:  Two of us, two of us,  

Deedle deedle dee. 

DAPHNE: Our heads are matching flames.  

LAUREL: They muddle up our names. 

DAPHNE (as LAUREL drops her teething ring): Please, daddy, pay attention! (ARTHUR, who has been doing paperwork, drops everything and rushes toward her.) 

LAUREL: Thanks, Daphne. 

DAPHNE: Don’t mention it. 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: 

People find us curious, 

Our presence hypnotic, 

Consider it bizarre  

That we are monozygotic. 

(To their UNCLE DON, who makes his first appearance here, speaking in unison): Meaning, from one egg. 

UNCLE DON: (Annoyed) I knew that.  

DAPHNE: Uncle Don hates you and me, 

Acts as if we’re freaks, 

LAUREL:  Gripes about us virtually 

Every time he speaks. 

DON (to ARTHUR): The way they act is unnatural. 

I think you should have them raised separately. 

ARTHUR: They’re just children, Don. 

DON: Says you. 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: Two of us, two of us, 

Always meant to be. 

La la la la, 

Deedlee deedle dee. 

(They begin swaying and humming.) 

DON (To ARTHUR and SALLY) 

What are they doing now? 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL Sway-ing. 

UNCLE DON: Kee-riste. 

(DAPHNE pulls out a notebook and pencil from her pocket and writes “Kee-riste,” saying it aloud.) 

UNCLE DON: They take notes! What are they, in the CIA? 

DAPHNE: I collect interesting words. 

UNCLE DON (to Arthur): They have their own language. Are you aware of that? 

DAPHNE, TO LAUREL : De jers er dydnee Jeedr ub. We won’t be here long. Look, I drew a horse. 

LAUREL: The legs are kind of short. 

DAPHNE: Drue, drue. 

BRIDGE 2, TWINS AND SALLY 

SALLY:  

True, they’re peculiar, 

                                        LAUREL AND DAPHNE :  DON: 

“Philistine,” “tourmaline,”  Socially, 

 Wondrous words, newly seen, They’re aberrant,   Fill our heads with glee. Quite enough To scare a parent.  

Each is the other– By the way, why does Absolute  

Mean, mean “mean” Symbiosis   

And also “mean?” Isn’t normal.  

It’s a mystery. We doctors know this.  

Good God.  

Sometimes it’s humbling, We can fight, duke it out, Danger lurks  

In their blue eyes. 

(I can’t quite comprehend them,     Like about Though they’re blessed 

High-IQ-wise, 

Who plays who in I’d monitor  

So alien, though sweet) Their behavior.  

Twelfth Night Psychotherapy,  

Long-term, might  

Being their mother.                          DAPHNE: I’M VIOLA! Be their savior. 

             LAUREL:  I’M VIOLA!  

But it fades away 

Ev’ry time we say 

“Peace, love, DNA.” ARTHUR: DON:  

True, they’re peculiar, Once when the twins were Socially, 

“Philistine,” “tourmaline,”  Only three, my brother Don They’re aberrant 

 Wondrous words, newly seen, Was standing over there, Quite enough Fill our heads with glee. Droning on. To scare a parent. And little Laurel said, “Don, don’t be doctrinaire.”  

Each is the other— By the way, why does I swear I hadn’t taken LSD, Absolute But my mind was blown, Symbiosis  

Mean, mean “mean” Permanently.   Isn’t normal. 

And also “mean?” Yes, they’re two peas in a pod,       We doctors know this. Good God. 

It’s a mystery. But each one has its Danger lurks  

Own circumference. In their blue eyes.  

Sometimes it’s humbling, We can fight, duke it out, The way I love them Though they’re  blessed 

High-IQ-wise. 

(I can’t quite comprehend them, Like about Is unbearable—it’s too immense. I’d monitor 

Who plays who in I nurse the hope of being objective, Their behavior.  

So alien, though sweet) but can’t,  

Twelfth Night  

When they start jumping rope, Psychotherapy, 

Being their mother! DAPHNE: I’M VIOLA! And they begin to chant, Long-term, might 

             LAUREL:  I’M VIOLA! 

It’s continual, be their savior.  

But it fades away  

Ev’ry time we say “Peace, love DNA,” And what’s with this 

“Peace, love, DNA, “Peace, love DNA,” “Peace, love DNA,” 

“Peace, love, DNA, “Peace, love, DNA.” “Peace, love DNA?” 

 Peace, love, DNA.” 

 (Flipping through her notebook, DAPHNE  finds the word she was looking for.) “SOMEBODY. Noun, singular. [some and body.] One; not nobody; a person indiscriminate and undetermined.—A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson  

LAUREL: Daddy isn’t a big man. He’s taller than Uncle Don, but that’s like saying you’re taller than Tom Thumb. Don was called Don Thumb throughout school. Daddy thinks that’s why Uncle Don is such a touchy son of a bitch, and definitely the reason he became a psychiatrist—they call it “compensating.” 

SALLY (to ARTHUR, besottedly): You should have been the doctor. You’re the intellectual.  

DAPHNE: Why couldn’t you be, Daddy? 

LAUREL: Because he was the oldest. 

DAPHNE: Ooh, Laurel, so YOU have to be an accountant too, because of the seventeen minutes … 

LAUREL: Dry up. 

Our grandpa was a man for whom money and its whereabouts, its taxation and exemption from taxation, was the alpha and the omega, the sun and the moon, the very stuff of life. Never had a man been so happy in his work. He saw himself as a warrior in a constant battle against the IRS. Now he’s old and can’t even count his own pills. He used to say … 

ARTHUR: “I do love a loophole.”  

DAPHNE (writing it in her notebook): What a delicious word. Like a piece of candy. 

OK, so Daddy wishes he could do what Uncle Don does, whatever that is. 

ARTHUR: Listening to dreams. Pontificating about other people’s sex fantasies. Like an oracle in a sulfurous fucking cave. 

SALLY: Arthur, the girls! 

LAUREL: “Obscenity is a notable enhancer of life and is suppressed at grave peril to the arts.” 

ARTHUR: Who said that, sweetheart? 

LAUREL: Brendan Gill. It was in The New Yorker

SALLY: Everyone, dinner! 

DAPHNE: (cont. as they take their seats) Consequently, Daddy forbids the use of numbers at the dinner table. 

SALLY: Darling, as we might have expected, the girls both got 100 on their English exams. 

ARTHUR: We will have no numbers at the table. 

DAPHNE: Why did Laurel get 35 peas when you only gave me 34? 

SALLY: Girls, stop annoying Daddy! I’m giving you 10 seconds. 

10, 9,  

8, 7,  

6, 5, 4, 3… 

DON: 

I’m telling you for the last time, 

You ought to raise them separately. 

I’m writing a piece about them  

For the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 

SALLY:            ARTHUR:                      DON: 

When we have story time,                          “They’re only children,” 

Says you, 

They debate sharply. I’m                  “Innocent children.” 

At a loss, honestly.        Says who? 

Two of them, one of me, They love to drive me crazy (cont.)           

LAUREL: That was not a good ending, Mommy.         

DAPHNE [woefully, snuggling up to Sally] :                

Bears and spiders can’t be friends!   

LAUREL: The bear never finds the honey! 

SALLY, stroking Daphne’s hair: It’s poetic license, Bunny. 

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: LICENSE! ELEVEN MEANINGS! [Dancing in manic excitement, bumping into each other and shoving

LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA  [Eleven la’s]! 

SALLY: There’s only one of me, and  

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: 

TWO OF US! TWO US! TWO OF US! TWO US!  

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: Twin. A couple. A pair. Two. 

DAPHNE: People find it challenging 

LAUREL: Telling me from you. 

You and I  

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: make a matching: we, we, we. 

DAPHNE: You came out ahead of me, 

You came out ahead of me. 

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: Two of us, two of us, 

Doodle doodle doo. 

Two of us, two of us, 

Woo woo, woo, 

ARTHUR (picking one doll up): Whichever the hell one you are …  

I love you.  

Narration Two: “A Living Thing” 

All is quiet throughout the house. Then…the crunch of gravel:  Daddy’s home, Daddy’s home! Daphne and Laurel stand on the front porch, cold bare feet, watching Daddy lift an enormous book from the dark trunk of the car, like a doctor delivering a baby. The biggest book imaginable! 

 The biggest book imaginable is placed on a stand, open, each side swelling like a wave in the ocean, the cliff of compressed pages notched with steps the size of a fingertip, each notch labeled with letters of the alphabet. This is the night the Dictionary arrives.  

Laurel and Daphne are never the same. 

Their mother loves Laurel and Daphne the way you love the birds in the trees: birds singing, fluttering, colors flashing just out of reach. They are beautiful and symmetrical as origami, identical twins with their gigantic Dictionary, as busy as birds. And just as alien. 

Then on a gray and ominous afternoon, Daphne suddenly turns a[n] funny (and frankly alien shade of pink that is really a shade of green. Then Laurel starts feeling a little green herself …   

In this next scene, the girls are eleven-and-a-half years old (though their speaking voices, oddly, have not changed a whit). Like little Rip Van Winkles, they open their fevered eyes to a new world – Why, the girls have drifted into that wondrous yet horrific time known as the 2000s!  

The scene includes cameos by word nerds of the present day—bloggers, authors, and podcast hosts.  

The music for the song features a guest musician: stride piano phenom Stephanie Trick. 

A LIVING THING 

DAPHNE [reading from her notebook]: 

“CREPUSCULE noun [Latin, a little burst or break of light, or broken light.] Twilight; the light of the morning from the first dawn to sunrise, and of the evening from sunset to darkness. It is occasioned by the refraction of the sun’s rays.”—Webster’s Dictionary, 1828. 

LAUREL: Use it in a sentence. 

DAPHNE: Thelonious Monk wrote the song “Crepuscule with Nellie” for his wife Nellie in 1957. 

LAUREL: That’s a terrible example because it doesn’t show you the meaning of the word. 

DAPHNE: Get bent. 

SALLY: Darling, the girls have measles. 

ARTHUR: Oh brother. Are they all right? 

SALLY: Yes, just spotty and feverish. I’m going to check on them in a minute. 

Have you ever noticed how they go to sleep holding hands in the little space between their beds? They love each other so much.  

People always stare at them when we’re out walking, and it embarrasses them, as if there were something wrong with them. 

ARTHUR: They are math. They are perfection. 

ROD SERLING: Daphne and Laurel Wolfe, two word-obsessed and currently morbillivirus-infected identical twins living in Westchester in the 1960s, lie in their twin beds with the curtains drawn. Even in the dim light, they can see that the red spots do not occur on the same places on their otherwise identical bodies and faces. They conclude, with the sharp intelligence of children, that they are not symmetrical in sickness. It seems profound. And sad. And it is a lesson soon to become even more meaningful to the girls, as a fever dream transports them to a strange realm that dangles like a dangling participle above the Hudson Valley, in a county that can’t be located on any map of New York State—a territorial division of The Crepuscule Zone. 

AUDIENCE Applause 

PETER: Welcome to another edition of A Word In Edgewise. I’m your host, Peter Sokolowski, Editor-at-Large for Merriam-Webster. Here’s our theme song, sung by our in-house vocal quartet, The Characters: 

THE CHARACTERS: Language is a living thing, 

Always on the go. 

Rules you know you know, 

You later find are less than apropos. 

How we speak, what we write, 

Keeps changing day and night 

Hold your AP stylebook high and sing, 

“Language is a living thing!” 

AUDIENCE Applause 

PETER: It’s time to welcome today’s contestants to our podcast … 

DAPHNE: Podcast?! He meant “broadcast,” I guess! 

LAUREL: Hey, maybe it’s a broadcast run by arthropods! 

DAPHNE: Good one, Laurel [they laugh] 

PETER: Of course you folks listening at home can’t see this, but our contestants today, Daphne and Laurel Wolfe, are identical twins. They’re dressed alike, it’s a bit challenging to make them sit still, and they keep switching chairs. So, wardrobe made them sparkly headbands with attached eight-inch-square replicas of Scrabble tiles, one a D and one an L, so we can tell ‘em apart.  

AUDIENCE: Aww! 

Cute, eh? 

PETER: Let’s get started, shall we? 

Daphne, what’s a term for a word with two contradictory meanings? 

DAPHNE: Contranym! [Bell sounds] 

LAUREL: Antagonym! [Bell sounds] 

DAPHNE: Auto-antonym! [Bell sounds] 

LAUREL: Janus word! [Bell sounds]  

It’s called that because 

 Janus was 

THE CHARACTERS join in: — A Roman god with two faces. 

LAUREL: I think that’s my favorite! 

Bell sounds several times. 

PETER: Just a reminder here: You’re competing, so only one twin should answer my question.  

UNCLE DON (from the audience): THEY’RE ABNORMAL! 

PETER: And now, our sponsor gets A Word in Edgewise: 

MIGNON FOGARTY: Hi! This is Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, with another Language Myth: 

“’Irregardless’ is not a word.’” Wrong! ‘Irregardless’ is a bad word, and a word you shouldn’t use, but it is a word. Visit my website, quickanddirtytipscom, for more. 

PETER: And, we’re back. Laurel: What’s the meaning of “Triskaidekaphobia?” 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: Fear of the number thirteen! 

Bell sounds. 

PETER [annoyed] I thought I told you, one at a time … all right, when was the first written reference of this phenomenon? 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: The late 1800s! 

 Bell sounds. 

AUDIENCE applauds and cheers. 

THE CHARACTERS: Language is a dancing fool, 

Whirling ‘round the floor. 

It ricochets from rule to rule. 

Who keeps track anymore? 

Words become unhip, then boom, 

They’re fashionable again. 

It’s dizzying as a tire swing. 

Language is a living thing. 

PETER: Some folks grow awful miffed 

Fighting the tide of semantic drift. 

  Get their panties in a bunch 

When the wife says “dinner” 

Instead of “lunch.” 

THE CHARACTERS: It’s crazy! 

Crazy  

Crazy … 

PETER: Daphne and Laurel will be competing for a marvelous prize today: The 11th Edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 

DAPHNE : Oh … wow … what a cool prize. 

LAUREL: What are you talking about? Webster’s only has three editions.  

[Becoming shaky] Webster’s Third, commonly known as “W3,” was released in September 1961.  

THE CHARACTERS:  

Cray 

Cray …] 

LAUREL: It’s got brand-new words in it:  

THE CHARACTERS join her:  

A-Bomb, 

Beatnik, and 

Satellite. 

PETER: Time for another sponsor: 

KAREN YIN: Hello, I’m Karen Yin. Here’s a sweeping generalization we let slide past without commentary: “All grandmothers are  amazing cooks.” The phenomenon is essentially a threefold stereotype involving gender, age, and (for bonus credibility) ethnicity. 

Read more about this topic on my blog, The Conscious Style Guide

PETER’s cell phone rings. 

PETER: Oh! It’s my co-host, Emily Brewster. She’s vacationing in Maui, but I know she’s been listening on her phone. 

EMILY [slack-key guitar in the background] Hi, Peter. 

PETER: Hi, Emily. You’re on speaker. Want to ask the next question? 

EMILY: Sure. Laurel:  In the sentence “He was like, ‘My mom didn’t start dating until she was like 25,’” what part of speech is the word “like” in both uses? 

LAUREL: That sounds funny. I don’t know. 

Buzzer sounds. 

 Crowd walla of disappointment 

EMILY: Daphne? 

DAPHNE: It’s called a discourse particle. 

Bell 

EMILY: And what song caused its popularity to take off? 

DAPHNE: [casually] “Valley Girl” by Frank Zappa. Featuring Moon Unit Zappa. 

Bell 

LAUREL: How come you know that song and I don’t? 

THE CHARACTERS: Music is a living thing 

From “Mack the Knife” to “Take Five.”    

It’s alive!  

PETER: My goodness, Daphne, you seem a bit more au courant than your sister. 

DAPHNE (playing to the audience) Well, I am younger—by seventeen minutes. 

Audience laughter 

LAUREL: I thought you didn’t like being younger.  

I’m really confused. 

SALLY [from the audience] YOU’RE IN THE FUTURE, BUNNY. 

LAUREL: Daphne, how come you’re not confused and I am? 

DAPHNE: Well, Laurel, this is my fever dream, and I know all the answers because in the future I know everything. 

PETER: Daphne: Give an example of “circular logic.” 
 
DAPHNE:  [Giggles] I just did. 

Bell 

LAUREL: Your … fever dream? 
 
DAPHNE: “An intense or confusing dream brought on by a fever”—Wikipedia. 

Bell 

LAUREL: Wiki what? 

You mean I’m only in your head? 

DAPHNE and CHARACTERS: You’re always in my head. 

It’s like I’m seeing through your eyes. 

And sometimes I just want … 

DAPHNE: I want the prize. 

I want my own dictionary. 

LAUREL [hurt]: Okay. 

I don’t feel so good.  

DAPHNE: [suddenly worried] You look awful. How many measles do I have? 

LAUREL: [counting] Thirty-six. 

DAPHNE: You have forty-seven. 

My mistake, forty-nine. 

I missed three below your ear. 

Wait, I see another two  … no, four … 

ARTHUR: STOP SAYING NUMBERS IN THERE. I’M TRYING TO SLEEP.  

PETER: Girls, please pay attention. Laurel: What’s another word for a compound crystal composed of two adjoining crystals or parts of crystals of the same kind, that share a common plane of atoms?” 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: Twin. 

[Bell] 

A couple. 

A pair. 

Two. 

DAPHNE: I’m sorry for showing off. I love you, Laurel.  

AUDIENCE: Awww. 

PETER: I’m afraid that does it, Daphne and Laurel. You’re disqualified, but we have a consolation prize for you, after one last commercial break: 

BENJAMIN: Hi, I’m Benjamin Dreyer. 

If you can append “by zombies” to the end of a sentence, you’ve indeed written a sentence in the passive voice. “The floors had been swept, the beds made, the rooms aired out … by zombies!” Remember this neat trick, and remember to buy my book, Dreyer’s English! 

PETER: Girls, here’s a commemorative, inscribed pencil for each of you, souvenirs from the ACES convention. 

That acronym means, of course, 

THE CHARACTERS: The American Copy Editors Society. 

LAUREL [looking at hers] What’s my pencil say? Oh … “I think, therefore I edit.”  

AUDIENCE laughs. 

PETER: Tune in next week, when our panelists will be Simon Heffer, author of Simply English—and Mary Norris, The Comma Queen! 

AUDIENCE cheers. 

The girls are back in their room. 

LAUREL: It’s morning! I feel better. 

DAPHNE: Me too. Wow, look out the window. The sky is so blue. 

Laurel? 

What if the blue I see is different than the blue you see? 

LAUREL: The blue is the same, and our eyes are the same. So no way. 

Hey, what’s an auto-antonym? 

DAPHNE: It’s … (pretending) I forget. Let’s go look it up together. 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: Yay! 

ARTHUR: Girls, I have a sick-day present for you. 

They gasp in awe

DAPHNE: What’s that? 

LAUREL: Oh, it looks magical! 

ARTHUR: It’s called a lava lamp! It’s on a list in the Times, of words coined this year, and I just had to get you one. 

DAPHNE: Ooh!  

LAUREL: What are some of the other words?  

ARTHUR: Well, let’s see. Videodisc … streaking …. and ZIP CODE! 

Their enthusiastic chatter cross-fades with the theme song. The family joins in. 

EVERYONE: 

Language is a living thing. 

Can’t keep it in a vise, 

And though you might be erudite, 

You’d best be thinking twice,  

If you start acting like a pill 

About your verbal skill. 

Come on, Let linguistic freedom ring! 

Language is a living thing! 

ROD SERLING: 

 “FAMILY noun 

 Those who live in the same house; household.”—A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson. 

A simple word with deep implications and considerable fluidity—a living thing, if you will. Six letters. Three syllables. Often pronounced as two syllables. A word Daphne and Laurel Wolfe briefly forgot but quickly rediscovered the meaning of, during  a mere eight minutes and 52 seconds in … The Crepuscule Zone. 

It’s crazy!   

      Crazy …. 

DAPHNE: I sure do love my AP stylebook. 

LAUREL: I’m more of a Chicago Manual of Style girl myself. 

DAPHNE:  Ah, go jump in the lake. 

LAUREL: You first, zygote. 

EVERYONE: Language is a living thing, 

Always on the go. 

Rules you know you know, 

You later find are less than apropos. 

How we speak, what we write, 

Keeps changing day and night. 

It’s perpetually on the wing! 
It’s incessantly transmogrifying! 

Hold your AP stylebook high and sing: 

“Language is a living, 

Language is  a living, 

Language is a living thing!” 

Narration Three: “Too Much” 

Our story skips ahead 17 years. Laurel and Daphne are in their late twenties. Laurel is married to Larry and Daphne is married to Michael.  

Hackneyed phrases, said the great grammarian Henry Watson Fowler, author of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, have become hackneyed because they are useful. This sentiment was, of all things, what Laurel thought of when she found out she was pregnant. Right after she thought, Pregnant pause. She left the doctor’s office, went to a phone booth, and called Daphne. “I’m coming to see you right now.” There was a pause. A pregnant pause! Laurel thought. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing at all. Just some news.” Another pregnant pause. “You’re pregnant!” “This phone booth smells so much. I’ll be right over.” 

Laurel’s next surprise was that she had decided to give up her job of teaching kindergarten and be a full-time mother, which horrified Daphne. “Babies don’t even talk.” “We did.” Daphne wondered how long Laurel had sensed that she might be pregnant. Laurel had begun holding things back from her sister. She could sometimes feel herself clutching at the details of her life, keeping them for herself as long as possible. 

Daphne is thriving at her job copyediting for the paper Downtown. She considers it fair and just and ethical to organize countless words staggering around, into a social order, a government—replacing a careless reporter’s “masterful” with “masterly,” or “kneeled’ with “knelt.” She also has a column about English, which runs irregularly (like bowels, Daphne says); it is modishly vulgar in its attack on its attack on the vulgar tongue. Daphne enjoys the alternative journalist’s privilege of tossing out “fuck”s like shiny coins to the poor.  Observations, corrections, and objections that might otherwise have struck her readers as prim strike them instead as edgy. 

Laurel and Larry have moved to the Upper West Side, to Daphne’s horror. She considers the entire neighborhood a cultural wasteland. Daphne and Laurel seem to be disagreeing about almost everything lately. 

TOO MUCH 

LAUREL: 

BLOW OFF: 

transitive verb 

1a: to refuse to take notice of, honor, or deal with  

1b: to end a relationship with 

2: to outperform in a contest 

3: to fail to attend or show up for 

First Known Use of blow off 

1631, in the meaning defined at sense 1b 

—Merriam-Webster 

ARTHUR:  

They banter regularly. 

Till it escalates into a quarrel. 

SALLY: 

I don’t remember this degree of enmity 

When they were kids. 

ARTHUR: 

Our Daphne was a tiny acolyte, 

[BOTH]:  

Forever following Laurel, her twin, 

Till they caved in. 

SALLY: 

From time to time, 

They seem in sync again, 

BOTH: 

But then they’re back on the skids. 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL: 

My sister and me: 
Peas in a pod. 

God, it can be 

Too much. 

Too intertwined, 

Too matchy-matchy, 

Soon we started to mind. 

It was all too much.  

LAUREL: 

Every day is the same now.  

Lolling in a nauseated torpor on Larry’s and my living room couch.  

Fading from the world into a physical and mental lassitude I would not have believed possible without the aid of Quaaludes.  

 Big as Alaska, 

Hungry as a hummingbird, 

Dry as a camel, [DAPHNE: Holy Hitchcock, those overalls!] 

With every millisecond, 

I grow more orbicular then before [DAPHNE: Please don’t tell me you wear those  outside.] 

I’m like a vegetable, 

Incubating a mammal. It’s weird!  

Worse than we feared! 

[DAPHNE: You look so grotesque.] 

I can’t get up, or keep a bagel down. 

I’m ornery to the core. 

DAPHNE: Ornery you, ornery you, ornery you. 

You seem to have lost your ambition. 

LAUREL: You’re joking, right? You can be too much. 

There’s a creature in me, 

Not eensy-weensy as I thought it would be, 

And It’s all too much. 

Daphne calls Laurel. 

DAPHNE: Laurel! Guess what? 

LAUREL: What? 

DAPHNE: Vogue

LAUREL: Vogue? You mean, the magazine? 

DAPHNE: Yes! 

LAUREL: A spread with you in your biker jacket 

Over your poofy dress? 

DAPHNE: No! 

They want a piece, a thousand words. They pay a buck a word. 

Is that the stupidest thing you ever heard? I mean, 

[SALLY, ARTHUR and LAUREL join her in 4-part harm]  

WOW. 

I’ll be a thousandaire!  

I’m doing our Beatlemania dance! You too, right? 

LAUREL: Daphne, I can’t dance. I’m enervated.  

I like that word because it means  

[SALLY and ARTHUR join them in four-part harmony] :The opposite of what you think it means. 

LAUREL: Okay, Daphne, forget how important you are for a second and listen to me, I need you. 

 Sister, dear, 3-part harmony (background Oohs) 

Be sweet, be nice. 

Go grab the train. 

Oh, please! ARTHUR: 

I’m starving here.  I’m sure it’s just a phase. 

Bring shrimp fried rice, They can’t go separate ways. 

And house lo mein. Our darling girls are one. 

I’m on my knees! Their bond won’t be undone. 

Figuratively. Obviously. Seeing as I can’t fucking move. You’ve got your key, right? 

DAPHNE: I’m on deadline. 

LAUREL: You can listen to the common folk speak their new dialect on the subway. It would be research. 

DAPHNE: Next week! 

ARTHUR 

They started off as indivisible. 

Aren’t they still?  

SALLY One’s the H2 —one is the O! 

ARTHUR Their little fracases                         
                            Way back when 

Used to be risible. 

SALLY: Tom and Jerry with flaming red hair 

ARTHUR: Now, when they fight, it’s a joke on the order of  

Long Day’s Journey  

Into Night. [4-part harm.] 

DAPHNE: Outa my head, stat! 

I’ll be me, and you go on being you. 

Copy that? 

Outa my head, hear what I said? Outa my head. 

LAUREL: [sarcastically] Out of my head, hear what I said, out of my head. 

[Spoken] Bitch.  

.  

LAUREL: So, Daphne’s column: The People’s Pedant. Seems everyone loves to be scolded about grammar!  

She burns with the vivid fires of industry. 

Shot through with self-abnegation, 

[Feed me, feed me, feed me, feed me – 4-part harm.) 

Raw excitement, gratification. 

Success breeds emptiness, 

[Demanding to be filled with more success. – 4-part harm.]. 

It’s like some careerist 

 [nymphomania!: 4-part harm.] 

DAPHNE: It’s a stupid fashion magazine. I mean it’s true they print things by serious writers like Alfred Kazin and Elizabeth Hardwick, but is that the kind of prestige I want?  

It’s supposed to be about fashionable words. Can you think of any?  

LAUREL has fallen asleep and is snoring. 

Why are you ignoring me? Fashionable words. 

LAUREL [wakes up abruptly]: Well, let’s see. People are saying “asshole” a lot more than they used to, and “douchebag” is quite à la mode.. 

DAPHNE [unenthusiastically]: Uh-huh. 

LAUREL: Are you going to hyphenate “asshole?” 

DAPHNE: You need to help me in person. You’ve got to! 

DAPHNE: 

Sister mine: [3-part harmony, oohs 

 Be sisterly, 

   I’ll grab the train 

Oh, please! 

I’ll buy bad wine, ARTHUR: A little compromise  

A wheel of brie Is almost always wise.  

And pick your brain. Willful as they both are, 

I’m on my knees! It never goes too far. 

Literally, in my case! I dropped my pen. Kee-riste, this floor needs a good mopping. 

LAUREL: I can’t drink, y’know. 

DAPHNE enters. 

DAPHNE: No one says anything on the subway, so that was no help. 

Again: Do you go out in those overalls? You look like a school bus. 

LAUREL: Yeah. 

DAPHNE:  Wow. 

LAUREL: I just go to Fairway to buy avocados. That’s all I can eat. You know, if you’re really looking for fashionable words, that’s where you should go. Food is all anyone talks about. All our friends. It’s nauseating. Couscous. Kiwi fruit… 

DAPHNE: My god, Laurel! 

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! My sister is a genius! 

LAUREL: Radicchio … 

DAPHNE: Laurel! You have saved my life! 

LAUREL: Fraises du bois, fucking frisée, beurre fucking blanc. Is there nothing else to talk about?  

DAPHNE [admiringly]: No! There is nothing else to talk about! The piece is writing itself. 

You are such a good sister. You’re a genius! And I have the same genes! I am so lucky. Yes, of course, it’s all food. Fashion is food. Food is fashion. I have to go write my piece now! Why didn’t I think of this? Because I didn’t have to because you are a genius. 

LAUREL: Because you are not sick to your stomach every time someone extolls the virtues of raspberry vinegar. 

DAPHNE: Mwah! Can I get you a cracker before I take off? 

LAUREL: Seafood sausage. Now, that’s a disgusting concept. They’re white and pallid. And fishy.  

And blueberry mayonnaise … Oh god … Excuse me. Hold my hair while I puke? 

DAPHNE: I’ll let myself out! 

She leaves. 

ARTHUR AND SALLY: 

Bright little birds, 

Sharing their wonderland of curious words. 

It was all too much. 

DAPHNE AND LAUREL

My sister and me: 
Peas in a pod. 

Now we do nothing but brawl. 

It was all too much. 

SALLY [on the phone to Laurel]: A family brunch, like the old days! You won’t have to move. We will all come to you, and we’ll bring everything with us.   

LAUREL: You don’t have to import bagels and lox. This is the epicenter of the bagel and lox trade.  

SALLY: Let me spoil you, honey. 

ARTHUR gets on the phoneLet your mother spoil you.  

We switch to another phone call with Laurel and Daphne. 

DAPHNE:  

“Spoil you” with wretched suburban bagels—please! 

It’ll be so time-consuming. So un-fun. [LAUREL: Like that’s a word] 

I’m not the pregnant one—all right, I feel you fuming! 

LAUREL: It’s not like you don’t live in the city! It’s against the rules of nature, 

you pretentious workaholic. It’s mutinous. It’s shitty. 

How COULD you blow me off? 

DAPHNE: I’m on deadline.[coughs]. 

LAUREL: Hey, you think I didn’t hear that cough? 

You’ve done that your whole life, whenever you made up an excuse. 

DAPHNE (trying to placate her): I just can’t take a family gathering right now.  

I’ll get restive. Hey, that’s another word that means  

the opposite of what you… [harmony

LAUREL: Oh, fine. 

Hangs up. 

VERSE 4: 

LAUREL: It isn’t fine. It isn’t fine. You’d think you didn’t live in the city. 

DAPHNE:  Fraises du bois and radicchio!  

LAUREL: You petty climber, to abandon me. It’s unbelievably shitty. 

ARTHUR AND SALLY:  One’s the H2, the other the O. 

LAUREL: My only baby brunch! Tell me, how could she bail? 

DAPHNE: Jesus, Laurel, that outfit’s too ugly for words. 

LAUREL: I’m twice as hungry as a wolverine. I’m growing wide as a whale.  

ARTHUR AND SALLY:  Bright little birds, bright little birds, bright little birds! 

LAUREL: There’s a creature in me 

Doin’ the hokey-pokey. 

Doesn’t anyone see 

[DAPHNE joins her] This is all too much? 

ARTHUR AND SALLY:   

Too intertwined, 

Too matchy-matchy, 

And they started to find 

It was all too much. 

ENDING VAMP: 

ARTHUR:  

Da da da da, da da da da 

Da da da da 

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: Feed me! Feed me! 

ARTHUR:  

Da da da da, da da da da 

Da da da da 

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: Feed me! Feed me! 

REPEAT  & FADE 

ARTHUR: SALLY & TWINS (2 part   

Da da da da, da da da da harmony)It was all too much! 

Da da da da 

LAUREL AND DAPHNE: Feed me! Feed me! 

Sung and Spoken by Randy Crenshaw, Lorraine Feather, Allie Feder, Baraka May, Suzanne Waters and Greg Whipple