Cat In A Cell

An Oakland Technical High School English teacher and an Oakland A’s outfielder are stuck together in an elevator in the medical building of both of their doctors

P.J. “CAT” RUSSELL–Oakland A’s Center Fielder, 30ish, especially good looking, Black

MICHAELA MEAGHER–Oakland Tech High School Teacher, early thirties, attractive

An elevator in a medical building at Fortieth and Webster, on Pill Hill in Oakland. The only set or set piece is a utilitarian carpet which represents the floor of the elevator. Everything else is imaginary.

CAT IN A CELL takes about forty minutes to play.



[Michaela Meagher and P.J. “Cat” Russell, wait for an elevator. (all apparatus imaginary) Russell is an exceptionally good-looking man, Black, dressed in expensive “dressy casual” clothing: a silk shirt, expensive slacks, expensive shoes, watch, etc. He walks with a habitual strut, and certainly eyes every woman for her potential, including Michaela.

Michaela, a high school English teacher, White, is coming from school and wears clothing that considers her need to maintain dignity in front of her classes. A bit on the late side and worried about it, she is more or less unaware of her fellow passenger. She is reasonably attractive but not “beautiful”.

The elevator arrives and Michaela gets on first, presses the button for her floor, then stands aside from the panel to let Cat do the same. Of course they both stand facing the door. Nervous on elevators, Cat watches the floors tick off. It goes past his stop.]

CAT: Wait!  Three!  Three!  It went past my floor.
MICHAELA: Maybe you didn’t press it hard enough.
CAT: It was lit up.
MICHAELA: Well we do seem to be stopping at my floor.
CAT: Right, nine, the top floor.  You think we’re gonna go through the roof?
MICHAELA: True.  I guess it has to stop.  Maybe you better get out and walk down.

[She is kidding him as she centers herself by the door, to exit.  But the doors remain closed.]

Try pressing open.

CAT: [He hesitates, but does.] Open, Sesame!

[Instead the elevator goes back down, which registers in their dismayed faces, by sighs, etc.]

Wait a minute!

MICHAELA: Darn!  I was already late.
CAT: Shit.  I don’t know why I got on anyway.  It’s good exercise to walk up.
MICHAELA: [Impatiently]  Press open again!

[He hesitates again at being bossed, but does so.  The elevator starts up again.]

CAT: [Randomly hitting buttons.]  Not down, open!  Open!

[Suddenly they lurch, bumping each other.]

MICHAELA: Oh!  Oh, Sorry.
CAT: Gad.  Jesus.  Sorry.  What was that?
MICHAELA: A sudden stop, I think.
CAT: I’m definitely getting off here, where ever it is.
MICHAELA: Choosing to get off seems to be a rather academic exercise at the moment.
CAT: [Rolling eyes at audience.]  Yeh.  Rah-ther.
MICHAELA: Press the emergency.
CAT: What am I, the Elevator Boy?
MICHAELA: You’re standing next to it, is all.
CAT: You could say please.  Here, you stand by it an’ do whatever you want.

[They switch places.]

Obviously you don’t know who I am, do you?

MICHAELA: I know you’re not an elevator boy, if that’s what you’re suggesting.  By your clothes, you own the building.  I don’t think the emergency button made any noise.  They usually buzz or something.

I had several reasons for writing this play, including a long-standing admiration for teachers who work in public schools and a desire to include the Oakland A’s in my work. The A’s are very well-liked in Oakland! But I think one of my main reasons was to show some of the interactions between successful Black and successful White people which occur every day in our cool city, Oakland, California. I was one of the millions of people who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement “back in the day” and trying to “do my bit” to help the African American population into full citizenship has been one of my goals ever since.

One of the issues that come into all the interactions between races is the question of “success”, and that is where Michaela and Cat land in this play. What is “success,” and who gets to say? I started thinking about how much that question affects everyone’s life when we visited Ireland and read the poem, Pangur Ban, by a monk whose name is lost. So I put the poem in the play.

CAT IN A CELL has been produced at two fringe festivals, one in Marin and one in SF, and got very good reception both times. It would travel very well; all you need is an area rug the size of an elevator floor and a briefcase full of school papers. Let me know if you want to read it.