Chiaroscuro “noir” there are always losers struggling against bad choices.. -but what if
some were destined to test the balance of “good” and – an alternative? Chiaroscuro takes
place in a 1940’s metropolis of slang, seediness, murder, and every twist of badtime souls
can know.. all the while unknowingly playing out an immemorial wrestle with deliberate
This is a play in Two Acts.

Author's Note: 

Chiaroscuro was written in 1996, and is dedicated to Areta Breeze, who first took it into workshop.. It is a work that is my own take on ‘film noir for the stage’, and should be envisioned through all manner of angles, shadows, archetypes, and creativity..




DENT late 30’s 

LOREN / of an indeterminate age


WINK 30 




*The action takes place in a 40’s Metropolis *




Night.  The thunder is closer. There is also the soft spattering sound of rain.

 An office. A giant gilded mirror hangs off a wall, in front of which is a chandelier, dangling a heavy rope, with a noose on the end of it.

Beneath the chandelier is a chair that has been kicked onto its side, but still has a suit jacket on the back of it.

There is a glass of scotch, and an ashtray with a half smoked cigar in it, on the floor.

 REESE is standing inspecting the scene.

LOREN, dressed as a Police Officer, stands watching REESE.


LOREN: Hell of a way to go. Heavy as the victim was, it must have been painful.. tight, trying to belch in that last gasp of ..air ..but ..unable.

REESE: I don’t have imagination. I do have a job. So.. How about a hand?

LOREN: Sure.

[LOREN applauds. Then stops, and goes over to help. He cups his hands to hoist REESE into reach of the rope, but the knot is awkward.]

REESE:’s’s, tied pretty tight..

LOREN: can manage. Imagine your success. Difficult things are well worth an effort..

[The rope comes loose, and REESE falls. WINK enters.]

WINK: Am I interrupting something? I mean, I’m not wrong understanding that we’re here to be doing our jobs, and not from the floor, right?


LOREN: Dropped him. Sorry about that. I’ll go back to my post. Securing the area. [exits]

WINK: Yeah you do that.

REESE: ..sir-

WINK: So who’s the victim?

REESE: Eugene Morgan, sir. President of the bank.

WINK: It's four in the mornin'.

REESE: Yes sir.

WINK: So how many bank Presidents you know work the night shift?

REESE: None sir.

WINK: Right. -..Nothing fancy..


WINK: Passin’ by the body, I noticed he wasn't dressed for nothing special -costume party -dinner with the Mayor. You know -fancy.

REESE: Yes sir.

WINK: Yes sir. -What's your name kid?

REESE: Reese, sir.

WINK: How long you been doin' investigations?

REESE: Two years sir.

WINK: Two years. You got plans for when you grow up?

REESE: I'd like to be a Detective sir.

WINK: Yeah?

REESE: Yes sir, as a matter of fact-

WINK: College kid?

REESE: Yes sir. Dean's list.

WINK: Imagine that. One of them ivy coated places huh?

REESE: Ivy League sir.

WINK: Yeah. Nice talk. Nice look. Real smart.

REESE: Thank you sir.

WINK: I don't like smart.

REESE: ..Sir?

WINK: Matter a’ fact, I like solo Reese. It's safer that way. So don't crowd me. Number two- you don't open your eyes soon, you better change your thoughts of the future. More like night desk. In the deepest office, in the darkest corner. Lickin' postage stamps. You got me?

REESE: Yes sir.

WINK: Sure. -So. -We gotta reason this Morgan guy was here?

REESE: Not yet sir.

 WINK: Here's a second chance kid.

[GABRIEL appears looking wet and bedraggled.

LOREN (still dressed as Police Officer) bars his way.

GABRIEL flashes his wallet and is allowed in. He enters unnoticed by WINK or REESE.

LOREN leaves the scene.]

REESE: ..Sir?

WINK: Rope. Why?

REESE: ..Nothing else strong enough for the job sir?

WINK: Reese, the place is empty.

REESE: Yes sir.

WINK: It's night. Or mornin' for some of us.

REESE: Yes sir.

WINK: So? Why the chord?

REESE: ..Why ..not a gun?

WINK: Sure. Why the duty of fixin' a knot? And where's the note? You find one anywhere?

REESE: Note sir?

WINK: Apparent suicide. Suicides leave a note. You find one?

REESE: No sir.

WINK: Right. Witnesses?

GABRIEL: Sure! The murderer.

WINK: What are you doin’ here?

GABRIEL: Givin’ ya a hand.

WINK: Yeah? I'll pay for it when I need one. Who let this cockroach in here?

[GABRIEL quickly flashes ID at REESE.]

REESE: He has ID sir.

WINK: Wallet.

GABRIEL: But officer, I'm the law.

WINK: Wallet. [waits for wallet; taking a plastic shield out of it] Woolworth's finest, huh?

GABRIEL: (snatching it back)..Aw come on buddy..

WINK: You're off the force Gabe. Remember? Canned! No more privileges. No more waltzin' into crime scenes. No more “I'm the law.” You got that? You're through. Busted. History. Beat it!

GABRIEL: Don’t worry. We love each other like brothers. [crosses his fingers] We're like this. Ain't we Wink?

WINK: Scram.

GABRIEL: Jesus. I jus' can't believe my partner would talk ta me-

WINK: Ex partner. Get him outta here Reese!

REESE: This way sir.

GABRIEL: Get offa me!

WINK: You got to three. One. Two.

GABRIEL: Private Dum-Dum here couldn't help you pull a cantaloupe outta a shoppin' bag!

WINK: Three. [grabs GABRIEL]

GABRIEL: Glass a scotch! Half a stoggi. No note. So calm he coulda been talkin’ to himself. Or someone else. -Am I wrong?

WINK: -I don’t got time for this.

GABRIEL: Yeah. But I do. You need a hound. I’ll tell ya what. I get you answers -we talk -I scram. Don't want nothing more. Honest.

WINK: You don't know how to spell it.

GABRIEL: Then for old times, huh?

WINK: Old times?

GABRIEL: An afta- I go quiet. Won't see me no more. Promise.


[MOURETTE laughs.]

GABRIEL: Ok. You don’t gotta talk to me. I was jus’ tryin’ to save you a ride.

MOURETTE: To the station?


MOURETTE: Wouldn’t that be embarrassing for you? You're not allowed in anymore. -I've been eavesdropping.

GABRIEL: My. What big ears you got.

MOURETTE: Is that all?

GABRIEL: Drop the act sister. Who you workin’ for? What's the deal?

MOURETTE: My questions now.


MOURETTE: I don't understand why you want to be back on the force.

GABRIEL: That ain’t a question.

MOURETTE: They ruined your life. Left you abandoned.

GABRIEL: It ain't non’a ya business.

MOURETTE: Oh. Bitterness. Not just the force. Someone ..-special. -She was a cold hearted bitch to-

GABRIEL: Carol ain’t non’a ya business either.

MOURETTE: Carol. An appropriately spineless name.

GABRIEL: What am I doin’ here- wastin’ my time with a two bit hooka who thinks she knows somethin' she don't.

MOURETTE: Don’t I? [grabbing him] They've all taken from you. Wasted you. Not bothered to appreciate-

GABRIEL: Get offa me!

MOURETTE: Forcing you to nose around [holding his wallet open] -naked.

GABRIEL: How'd you- Gimme that.

MOURETTE: You're just an apparition going through the motions.

GABRIEL: ..get away from me.

MOURETTE: Look at yourself. You don't belong anymore. Except here. Who would think twice passing someone like you, looking like some common bum.

GABRIEL: I ain't no bum. I'm a cop.

MOURETTE: You're a joke.

GABRIEL: Shaddup.

MOURETTE: Who else would be honest now? Whoever she was -she's gone.

GABRIEL: Shaddup!

MOURETTE: Of course. But..Gabriel, why waste time on little wounds?

GABRIEL: Whadda you know?

MOURETTE: I know I can offer you so much more than disappointment.


MOURETTE: [laughs] I like you. I like you very much.

GABRIEL: Sure ya do.

MOURETTE: And you like me. -Gabriel Trent. I'm in a position to bring you pleasures few have dreamed.

GABRIEL: And whadda I gotta do for this honor?

MOURETTE: Be faithful.