The Books: “Italian American Reconciliation” (John Patrick Shanley)

Next in my Daily Book Excerpt:

Next play on the script shelf:

13ByShanley.jpgMore John Patrick Shanley! The next play is Italian American Reconciliation, by John Patrick Shanley.

Very funny play. Great characters.

Here’s the setup: It takes place in Little Italy. Huey Maximilian Bonfigliano was married to Janice – a woman who haunts every scene she’s not in. Everyone talks about her and her shenanigans all the time. The way she is described is horrific. She is not just a bitch, apparently – but she’s evil. She shot Huey’s dog, for example. She tried to shoot Huey. She is apparently off her rocker. Finally, though, we meet Janice – in a long extended scene – and while she is indeed a bitch, we do discover that there is way more to this woman than just that. It’s great that we don’t actually meet her until halfway through the play. Shanley builds her up in our mind like some demon goddess, we’re almost afraid of her … and then when she appears, we come to her with all that expectation. It’s a great set-up. Anyway – Huey and Janice got divorced. Huey is now dating a nice girl named Teresa. Only Huey cannot get Janice out of his mind. He decides that he wants to break up with Teresa and get back together with Janice. Only he’s too scared of Janice to make the first move – so he sends his best friend Aldo to talk to Janice. Huey and Aldo have been best friends since childhood. Actually – all of these characters have known one other since they were little kids. Huey is more vulnerable one than Aldo, who is a tough intense Italian guy. Aldo is very successful with the ladies. He is a babe magnet and he knows it. He’s also a nice guy.

So Aldo goes to Janice’s house, to see if she would be interested in getting back together with Huey. This is the first time we meet the infamous Janice. This is the scene I’ll excerpt. It’s obvious what Shanley is going for – because the way we first see Janice is: she is standing on her balcony, looking out into her backyard. She’s wearing a soft white nightgown, and she’s holding six roses. Quite a different first impression than we were expecting. She has been described as a Dragon Lady, and there she is mooning about on her balcony.

Aldo approaches. They start to talk. Janice is, indeed, very intimidating. For example. Aldo tries to make small talk and says, “Beautiful stars.” Janice’s blunt reply is: “Stars make me think of death.” Janice obviously doesn’t “do” small talk.

13 by Shanley: Thirteen Plays (Applause American Masters Series)

Here’s the excerpt:

EXCERPT FROM Italian American Reconciliation by John Patrick Shanley

ALDO. Janice, Janice, Janice.


ALDO. We’ve seen some stuff, huh?

JANICE. What are you talking about?

ALDO. Member when we were kids? I’d play Julius Caesar and you’d stab me with the rubber knife and yell Die! Die!

JANICE. I remember.

ALDO. You were some nutty little girl.

JANICE. You were a jerk.

ALDO. I was very innocent.

JANICE. You were a jerk.

ALDO. I was a little kid. I was supposed to be a jerk.

JANICE. You did it perfectly.

[A pause]

ALDO. Janice, Janice, Janice.

JANICE. Why do you keep saying that?

ALDO. We’ve been around the block a few times.

JANICE. Aldo. You are still the same hammerheaded clown you always were. Are you trying to be smooth? You come here outta no place. You send flowers. You say Janice, Janice, Janice. Am I supposed to be getting the idea? How ’bout just spitting it out?

ALDO. Huey wants to make it up with you.

JANICE. Why are you saying this? Where’s Huey?

ALDO. He sent me first.

JANICE. Oh, I get it. He always was a coward.

ALDO. Huey is not a coward.

JANICE. Huey always was a coward, and you always were a stooge. If he wasn’t a coward he’d be standing here in his own shoes speaking his own words. If you weren’t a stooge, you wouldn’t be standin in somebody else’s love scene. Ain’t you got no girl of your own?

ALDO. I got girls comin out my ears.

JANICE. What a picture.

ALDO. I didn’t come here to talk about me.

JANICE. That’s cause you’re a stooge.

ALDO. Stop callin me that! You can be a very difficult woman to talk to, Janice.

JANICE. Really?

ALDO. Yes. I mean, if I was here on my own … I mean, if I was the specific guy who was tryin to romance you, I gotta tell you I wouldn’t even know where to begin. You are so … nasty.


ALDO. Yeah, you’re like a fiend. Your eyes look like vampire vulture monster fiend eyes.

JANICE. They do?

ALDO. Yes, they do. And you always smile only for the wrong, the most horriblest reason. Sometimes when you smile I expect to see like fangs fall down over your lower lip. I’ve had the experience when you smile where I wanted to run away down the street cause I was afraid you were gonna bite me.

JANICE. Really?

ALDO. You’re not angry?

JANICE. Why would I be?

ALDO. I thought cause I was telling you the truth that I might be insulting.


ALDO. You know.

JANICE. No, I don’t.

ALDO. You know. Romance. Lies.

JANICE. I like the truth.

ALDO. So do I. You know, sometimes when I catch sight a you unexpected, my balls jump up in a bunch like I dropped ’em inna glass a ice water. [Janice laughs heartily] You think that’s funny?

JANICE. Yeah. Don’t you?

ALDO. Yeah, but I thought you’d be like the last person in the world to get the joke.

JANICE. You don’t know me, Aldo.

ALDO. I guess not.

JANICE. You always amazed me. Why’d you let me stab you and bury you and treat you like a dog?

ALDO. I don’t know.

JANICE. You oughta think about these things.

ALDO. I have thought about ’em, and I still don’t know.

JANICE. I did all that stuff to you to see how much you’d take. I thought, Maybe if I kick him one more time, he’ll stand up and take my shoes away.

ALDO. Take your shoes? Why would I take your shoes?

JANICE. To take charge of me like a man.

ALDO. What are you saying?

JANICE. You still don’t get it, do you? I was flirting with you.

ALDO. That was flirting?


ALDO. No, that wasn’t flirting. You may have felt like flirting, but you weren’t doing flirting. You were treating me like I was the snake in the apple tree.

JANICE. You just didn’t get it.

ALDO. I woulda gotten it if you did it right.

JANICE. YOu would have gotten it if you weren’t so supid.

ALDO. Alright. Anyway, thanks.

JANICE. For what?

ALDO. I don’t know. For feeling like flirting with me, even if I didn’t get it. Listen, I wanna apologize for what I said before. I don’t think you’re nasty.

JANICE. I am, though.

ALDO. No. It’s like this what we were just talking about. I’ve just misunderstood you, so I was afraid of you.

JANICE. You understood me well enough. I’ve never asked to be understood any better.

ALDO. But you’re not this monster I made you out. You don’t have evil eyes. You don’t have big teeth and you’re not gonna bite me.

JANICE. I might.

ALDO. Listen, Janice, I think you’re okay. You’ve had your problems just like the rest of us and who am I to pass judgement on you? No matter what I said, you an I go back to the beginning and under everything I’m always gonna have a warm sport for you. The final ultimate drift is I know you’re a nice person and I’m gonna make a real effort to remember that from now on.

JANICE. Don’t bother on my account.

ALDO. I am, though. I’ll tell you something. I’m very titillated that you was flirting with me, even in those ancient days. Have you ever … felt like that … since?

JANICE. Never.

ALDO. You must have your romantic fantasies here, livin by yourself. Like you’re that princess trapped in that castle surrounded by thorny bushes. Waiting for Prince Valiant to happen by. You must have thoughts like that. On occasion.

JANICE. Never.

ALDO. The thought of you has crossed my mind from time to time. In an unterrifying way. I have a fantasy life, you know.

JANICE. Do you?

ALDO. Oh yes. I have a very full and real fantasy life, and from time to time, you appear there.

JANICE. Aldo, are you hitting on me?

ALDO. Maybe I am.

JANICE. This is too delicious.

ALDO. What d’you mean?

JANICE. You’re supposed to be here for Huey.

ALDO. So. Maybe I’m not the stooge you thought. Maybe I got my own agenda of feelings. Janice, I’m gonna be out there for you. I’ve been thinking about you. The thought of your face and your figure has been eating me up lately. How ’bout it?

JANICE. How ’bout what?

ALDO. How ’bout I come up stairs and we rip up the bed a little bit?

JANICE. Just like that.

ALDO. That’s right. Impulsive.

JANICE. Alright. What the hell.

ALDO. Really?

JANICE. I’ll come down an open the door.

[Janice goes in]

ALDO. [to the audience] That was easy.

[Janice comes back on the terrace with a zip gun. Aldo has his back to her.]


[Aldo turns around and sees the gun]

ALDO. Holy Moly!

[Janice fires. The gun, defective, blows up. It burns her fingers. She drops it. Aldo, meanwhile, dives under the table]

JANICE. You dunce! You oaf! You slimey sewer rat. Damn it. Look at that. I burned my finger. What do you take me for, you comical boob? Am I not supposed to see through you? You’re like cellophane! Let’s rip up the bed a little bit. God!

ALDO. Don’t shoot me!

JANICE. I can’t. My gun broke.

ALDO. [comes out from under the table] You shot a gun at me.

JANICE. Don’t be obvious.

ALDO. You tried to kill me!

JANICE. I burned my finger. That’s what I get for usin zip guns. Next time it’s Smith and Wesson.

ALDO. Janice. Do you understand what you did? You committed attempted murder on me.

JANICE. I was aiming at your kneecaps.

ALDO. I should come up there an give you a spankin!

JANICE. Oh yeah? Try it. I’ll cut your heart out.

[I’ll stop there. But the scene goes on and on and on after that … and they actually come to some deep deep level of understanding … it’s a great scene.]

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1 Response to The Books: “Italian American Reconciliation” (John Patrick Shanley)

  1. Valentina Ferrante says:

    I’m auditioning for The Actor’s Studio in NY and decided on this play as my audition. I’m Janice…why is she such a tough neighborhood girl? Not sure if I’m using this scene or the upcoming scene with Huey.

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