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Mistaken Identity

Sharon E. Cooper (b. 1975)

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Sharon Cooper studied English, Theatre, and Secondary Education at Longwood University (BA), and attended the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University (MA), where she studied playwriting, screenwriting, and arts and public policy. She also attended the Kennedy Center’s Playwriting Intensive program. Cooper has taught English and Creative Writing in public and private schools and is a tutor, writing coach and Teaching Artist. Cooper is a Resident Playwright at The CRY HAVOC Company. Her five full-length plays and dozens of short plays have won numerous awards and have been produced in America, India, England, Hungary, and Germany.

Mistaken Identity

A Ten Minute Play

Sharon E. Cooper (2004, revised 2008)

CHARACTERS

KALI PATEL, 29, F. Single lesbian Hindu, Indian heritage, social worker who works as much as possible; lives in Leicester, England

STEVE DODD, 32, M. Single straight guy, desperate to marry, raised Baptist but only attends church on Christmas and Easter; studying abroad for his final year

SETTING

The Castle, a Pub in Kirby Muxlowe in Leicester, England

TIME

The present Lights up on STEVE and KALI in a busy pub on their first date. They are in the middle of dinner.

STEVE: You must get tired of fish and chips all the time. Why do y’all call them “chips”? When they’re french fries, I mean. And do you ever notice when people swear, they say—”Excuse my French.” Not me. Nope. I have nothing against the French.

KALI: Right, well, I’m not French, Steve, now am I?

STEVE: I just didn’t want you to think I was prejudiced against the French or anyone else. . . . They’re like your neighbors. The French. And your neighbors are like my neighbors. And like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Have you heard that commercial?

KALI: What? No. Steve—

STEVE: It’s for insurance. Y’all must not play it here. [pause] So, I know that you all do the “arranged marriage thing.” Raj and I had a long talk about it. Of course, Raj and I wanted you to approve, too, Kali.

KALI: How twenty-first century of you and my brother. Steve—

KALI / STEVE: I’m gay. / Will you marry me?

KALI / STEVE: Come again? / What?

KALI / STEVE: How could you ask me to— / Well, I can’t believe this.

KALI / STEVE: Bloody hell, stop talking while I’m talking . . . / This is very strange.

KALI: So—what?

STEVE: This new information is, well, new, and changes things, I guess.

KALI: You guess? What the hell is wrong with you? I’m sorry, Steve, you just happened to show up at the end of a very long line of a lot of very bad dates. You know, movies where the bloke negotiates holding your hand while you’re just trying to eat popcorn, running across De Montfort University in the pouring rain, dropping a bowling ball on the bloke’s pizza.

STEVE: You had me until the bowling ball. Kali, this doesn’t make sense. I invite you out on a lovely date. We eat fish and chips—when I would rather be eating a burger or lasagna—

KALI: Steve, I’m sorry—

STEVE: I figured we would have a nice, long traditional wedding with the colorful tents; all of my family would be there—we’re more of the Christmas/Easter Christians, so we’d do your religion and I would wear—

KALI [overlapping]: You don’t know anything about my people. What are you—

STEVE [overlapping]: Ooohhh—yes I do. I rented Monsoon Wedding. And watched the director’s cut! And, I saw Slum Dog Millionaire like three times. Three times. Unbelievable!

KALI: Yes, this makes loads of sense at the end of the day. I am a lesbian who has to date every Hindu bloke in England until her brother gets so desperate that he sets her up with a Cowboy—

STEVE: I take offence to that.

KALI [overlapping]: But I should feel sorry for you because you watched two, count them, two movies about Indian people in your entire life and ordered fish when there are hamburgers on the menu! Forgive me for being so insensitive.

STEVE: I ordered fish because I wanted you to like me. And I’m sure I’ve seen other Asian movies. . . . Like all those fighting movies. You know, the ones where women are jumping through the air—

KALI: Aaahhh! Do you see how all of this is a moot point now?

STEVE: I’m confused. Let’s review.

KALI: Please, no, bloody hell, let’s not review. Let’s get the waiter. Haven’t you had enough?

[She gets up. He follows.]

STEVE [overlapping]: Why is your brother setting up his lesbian sister—

KALI [overlapping]: Will you please keep your voice down?

STEVE [overlapping]: —up on dates for marriage and tricking well-meaning men, specifically, me, into proposing to her? I’m here to finish my business degree, but I wasn’t born yesterday. So I took a few years off and changed careers a few times, was a fireman—

KALI [overlapping]: What does that have to do with anything?

STEVE: And I’m thirty-two years old, but that doesn’t mean—

KALI: Mate, are you going to keep on and on?

STEVE: Why did your brother put me through this? This isn’t one of those new reality shows— “Big Brothers Set up Their Lesbian Sisters.” Is there a camera under the table? [He looks.] Let’s talk about this. [He sits back down.] I’m a good listener. Go ahead. [pause] I’m listening. [pause] You have to say something if you want this to continue as, what we call in America, a conversation.

KALI: Are you done?

STEVE: Go ahead.

[She sits.]

KALI: I guess I was hoping you wouldn’t tell Raj.

STEVE: He doesn’t know?

KALI: You are finishing your bachelor’s degree, is that right?

STEVE: If you’re so “bloody” smart, I’m wondering why you would tell me, a man that is friends with your brother and sits next to him twice a week in eight am classes—why would you tell me you’re a lesbian and not your brother.

KALI: Maybe for the same reason you would ask a woman you’ve never met before to marry you.

STEVE: Your brother made it sound like it would be easy. I’ve been looking for that.

KALI [overlapping]: Look, you seem very nice, you do.

STEVE: I am very nice.

KALI: And at the end of the day, I hope you find someone you like.

STEVE: I like how you say “at the end of the day” and I like how you say “bloke” and “mate.” It’s so endearing. And you’re beautiful and small and your hair falls on your back so—

KALI: Steve, being a lesbian is not negotiable. And don’t start with how sexy it would be to be with me or to watch me and another woman—

STEVE [overlapping]: Kali, I didn’t say any of that.

KALI: You didn’t have to. Up until a few minutes ago, you thought I was a quiet, subservient Asian toy for sale from her brother. Steve, go get a doll. She can travel with you to America whenever you want. In the meantime, I’ll continue to be a loud, abrasive [whispering] lesbian, while my brother sets me up with every bloke on the street—and

KALI [cont.]: they don’t even have to be Hindu anymore! Do you have any idea what that’s like? [pause] How would you know?

STEVE: You’re right. I wouldn’t.

KALI: Steve, why did you want to be with me? I mean, before.

STEVE: I figured that we would have visited my family in the winter when it’s so cold here. I would have been willing to stay here when I’m done with school and we would get a nice little place by the—

KALI: Steve, we hadn’t even shared dessert yet.

STEVE: Don’t blame me for all of this. Five minutes ago, we were on a date.

KALI: We’re just two people in a pub.

STEVE: Kali—do you remember the last time someone—man, woman, I don’t care—had their hand down the small of your back or leaned into you like it didn’t matter where you ended and they began?

KALI: Yes, I do remember that. And that was strangely poetic.

STEVE: You don’t have to sound so surprised. Anyway, I remember that feeling. Three years ago, at a fourth of July celebration—you know, that’s the holiday—

KALI: Yes, Steve, I know the holiday.

STEVE: She was the only woman I ever really loved. I knew it was ending. Could taste it. I just held her as the fireworks went off and the dust got in our skin. Figured I would hold on, hoping that would keep me for a while . . . . You know how they say babies will die if they’re left alone too long. Always wondered if it’s true for bigger people, too. Like how

STEVE [cont.]: long would we last? . . . She left with her pilates mat and snoopy slippers a few days later. I bet it hasn’t been three years for you.

KALI: No, it hasn’t. But you wouldn’t want to hear about that.

STEVE: Why not?

KALI: Come on, Steve, I’m not here for your fantasies—

STEVE: This thing where you assume you know what I’m thinking—it’s getting old.

KALI: I’m . . . sorry. I do have a woman in my life, Michele—she’s a teacher for people that are deaf. We’ve been together for nine months. The longest we were away from each other was this one time for three weeks. She was at a retreat where they weren’t allowed to talk, you know, total immersion. So she would call and I would say, “Is it beautiful there, love?” and she would hit a couple of buttons. Sometimes she would leave me messages, “beep, beep, beep beep beep beep.” It didn’t matter that she didn’t say anything. . . But I can’t take her home for Diwali.

STEVE: What’s that?

KALI: It’s a festival of lights where—

STEVE: You mean like Hanukkah.

KALI: No, like Diwali. It’s a New Year’s celebration where we remember ancestors, family and friends. And reflect back and look to the future.

STEVE: It sounds nice. You know, my mother has been asking me for grandchildren since I turned twenty-seven—every year, at Christmas, it’s the same—”I can’t wait to hang another stocking for my grandchildren, if I ever get to have them.”

KALI: Now imagine that same conversation, well, not about Christmas, and what if you could never give that to them—could never bring someone home for any holiday for the rest of your life?

STEVE: Then why don’t you just tell them the truth?

KALI: I can’t say, Mum, Dad, Raj, I’ve chosen women over men—it’s not a hamburger over fish. You just don’t know how they’ll react. I’d run the risk of not being allowed to see my nieces. I’m so exhausted from hiding, I can barely breathe.

STEVE: So stop hiding.

KALI: Have you been listening to what I’ve been saying?

STEVE: Have you?

KALI: Are you going to tell my brother?

STEVE: Do you want me to?

KALI: I don’t know.

STEVE: I’ve never thought about that thing that you said.

KALI: Which thing would that be?

STEVE: The one where maybe you can’t see your nieces ’cause you’re gay. That must suck.

KALI: Yes, well, thanks for trying to make me feel better.

STEVE: Listen. You get to decide what you tell your family and when. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll tell Raj tomorrow that we’re getting married. Or I can tell him you’re a lesbian, and if he doesn’t let you be with his kids anymore, I’ll punch him in the face. That was me kidding.

KALI: You’re funny. [pause] Maybe I told you because somewhere deep down, I do want him to know. But I don’t know if I can take the risk.

STEVE: You don’t have to rush.

KALI: I just wish it could be more simple. Like why can’t what I want be part of the whole picket fence thing? That’s pretty ridiculous, huh?

STEVE: We’re all looking for that. My grandparents met before World War II, dated for seven days in a row and my grandfather asked my grandmother to go with him to Louisiana, where he’d be stationed. She said, “Is that a proposal?” And he said “Of course, it is.” And they’ve been together ever since. And I just want that, too. Huh—asking you to marry me on a first date! You must think I’m pretty desperate, huh?

KALI: Not any more than the rest of us. . . . Oh, hell, do you want to have some dessert?

STEVE: Oh, hell, sure. You know, we’re going to share dessert.

KALI: Hey mate, no one said anything about sharing.

STEVE: I would go home with you for Diwali. I mean, as friends. If you ever wanted one around. You’re a nice girl, Kali. I mean, woman, mate, bloke, I mean—

KALI: Sssshhhh. Let’s just get some dessert.

[Lights fade as they motion for the waiter.]

[Blackout.]

End Play.

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