The Mad Men of Gotham

 ” This is the most egregious bit of flummery I’ve ever stood for.”
                       — Chester

The Play:


The good townspeople of Gotham, England, try to trick King John and his emissaries into believing they are crazy.


Forty characters (this is not a joke): 16 written for men, 7 for women, and one dog.  The rest can shift for themselves.


 Approxomately 2 hr. run time. 


Writer’s Notes:

Hot off the heels of my Greek tragedy came this… thing.  I got so horribly tired of writing “epic poesy” that I tried folk comedy.  It is convoluted, messy and tonally inconsistent, but I had a ton of fun writing it. 

This play is based on the once-canonical childrens’ stories coincidentally called The Mad Men of Gotham.  In each little story, the citizens of Gotham (pronounced Goat-ham) do something so bizarre, so inane and foolish, that children learn not to be idiots.  Or something. 

In my favorite story, the fish in a pond near Gotham have disappeared.  Eventually, a fisherman reels in an eel.  The town puts the eel on trial for trying to starve the town and condemns it to death by drowning.   The death squad proceeds to “drown” the eel in the pond, then try to mark the eel’s grave on the top of the water.  In another, four Gothamites sit silently staring at a flame.  The flame goes out and one says “What do we do now?’  Another says “I don’t know!” The third says “Ha! You’re not supposed to talk!” The last one says “All three of you have lost!”

Not the height of literary genius.

When I decided to weave it all together into one narrative, I went to work researching the history of the Mad Men stories.  One myth has it that King John was on his way north from London and everywhere his entourage went was automatically designated a King’s Highway.  This meant that the local towns would have to pay for the upkeep of this new road in perpetuity.  The residents of Gotham decide this is a load of tripe and pretend to be crazy so King John will avoid it.   I like this myth.  It’s simple, it’s active. 

So what do I do?

I create the most complicated machinery around that simple premise that I possibly can.  There’s the entire town of Gotham, essentially an independent democracy threatened by the tyrannical hand of the king, trying desperately to hold on to their political future, arguing back and forth the finer points of Robert’s Rule of Order.  There’s Robert and Beatrice, our lovers: one, an educated outsider, the other a writer who is also a conscientious objector.  There’s three foppish and deadly emissaries of the King, two Monty Python-esque guards who oscillate between overly-literate banter and gruesome sword-play… oh, and King John himself who I can only describe as a cross between Jack Lemmon’s king in The Great Race and Mad King Aerys from George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.  The effect is rather disturbing. 

In fact, I think that sums up the entire play: the effect is rather disturbing.




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