THE MORAL OF A VICTORY - Long Wharf Theatre

Latest News

THE MORAL OF A VICTORY

BY KING KENNEY 

In the midst of the NBA playoffs, Shel and Peter meet with Bob Costas for a return to a sporting competition of the past. After their interview with Costas, they will take their marks in their first ever rematch, 3,000 years after their epic race.

CHARACTERS

(one bunny, one tortoise, and one journalist)

Peter

Shel

Bob Costas

Three chairs.

Bob takes his seat in front of Shel and Peter, who are seated side by side. Shel and Peter are visibly at odds as Bob introduces the segment.

BOB, facing the camera

Our obsession with racing spans millennia. Racing wraps speed, mental and physical stamina, and uncompromising training into nail-biting contests to see who will finish first. Man-O-War’s rout at Belmont Stakes in ’73, Gethin’s thrilling victory in Monza, Jesse Owens outrunning illusions of Aryan supremacy in Berlin, and even the USA’s “landing on the moon” before Russia, are all etched in our minds as some of the most epic races in modern history. Yet, long before these examples took place was a showdown between Shel and Peter: a dawdling but clever tortoise versus a spry though brash hare, whose paths cross for the first time today—3,000 years after their historic showdown.

(turning to face the interviewees) Peter… Shel… Welcome to the show. How’s it feel to see one another after all this time?

PETER, grinning

I’ve seen Shel around town, but we haven’t spoken. I actually don’t know him that well. We were never friends to begin with—so the race didn’t change that.

BOB, surprised

So, there’s no love lost between you two?

PETER

Listen, Bob… It was a fluke. Shel won the race, but it was a fluke. If we’d run the race the next day, or every day thereafter: I’d beat him. I’d beat him by a mile. I made mistakes way back when and haven’t given it much thought since.

BOB

It sounds like you’ve given it plenty of thought.

PETER, irritated

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think about the race or Shel. But being here, sitting next to him years later, and being asked to relive it… it was a fluke. That’s all I’m saying. A fluke.

BOB

I hear you, but it sounds like you want to make things right. Like you’d be up to racing ag—

SHEL, calmly interjecting

Please don’t say it, Bob. There’s no point in revisiting that day, so don’t. And another thing: Peter won.

BOB, flabbergasted

What was that, Shel? I’m not sure I heard you correctly. The world recognizes you as the undisputed victor. You beat Peter who, by most accounts, was a superior opponent. That’s what makes the story so remarkable.

SHEL

By most accounts? By all accounts. That’s the issue.

BOB

Well—

SHEL

Listen, Bob. I won the race… fluke or not, but Peter has it all. He’s the real winner. At life. So… there’s that.

BOB

I’m not sure I know what you mean.

SHEL

Okay. For one, he’s the spokesperson for a national holiday where humans literally eat chocolate versions of him in celebration of something that has nothing to do with his existence. Then, there’s Volkswagen, who named a line of cars after him because of his uncanny speed. Is there a Mercedes Snapper? Or Toyota Terrapin? No. No human wants a “slow” car. But, Peter loses a race to me and gets rich.

BOB

So it’s about money?

SHEL

In a way, but it’s deeper than that. He loses and lands a role as the voice of Trix—a brand of sugary cereal. After that, he starts a marketing firm and wins the contract that created the Energizer bunny. He’s rich and famous and was BFFs with Hugh Hefner. It’s like he got endorsements for losing, and I won only to be sent back to fend for worms.

PETER, whispering

Rest in Peace, Hugh.

SHEL

All I hear is how cute and fluffy he is and that I had to cheat to beat him… because he’s superior to me.

BOB

But, you proved everyone wron—

SHEL

Did I? Because not two minutes ago did you refer to him as superior and introduce me as “dawdling but clever?” I may be clever, but I don’t dawdle. I don’t know how to dawdle. Some of us shelled-folk are fast, and I happen to be among the fastest. But who cares. I spend most days sunbathing and minding my business, yet I still can’t escape hearing about Peter. So, yeah, it doesn’t feel like I won.

BOB

Shel, I’m sorry to hear you feel that way, but—

SHEL

Don’t be sorry. I’m not upset. I’m simply saying that people have twisted what happened that day to make excuses for Peter. So, maybe he was the real winner.

PETER

No one’s making excuses.

SHEL

You literally started your “I don’t care about Shel” rant with “it was a fluke.”

PETER

Because it was. You still beat me; I’m not denying that.

SHEL

Whatever. I won the race straight up.

PETER

Fluke.

BOB

Peter, I imagine hearing Shel’s recollection of the event and your successes thereafter are quite a surprise.

PETER

100 percent, Bob. I had no idea he was jealous of what I’ve achieved.

SHEL

Jealous?

BOB

Let’s not—

SHEL

No, let’s. Isn’t this what the people want, Bob? Aren’t they tuned in to see the dawdling tortoise get excited?

BOB, looking around for his producer

No one has made that claim.

PETER

Excited? Like that’s possible.

SHEL

It is, but you’re not worth it… fluffer.

BOB, gasps

Please, Shel. The name calling isn’t necessary.

PETER

This is what I expect from a walking, talking mobile home.

SHEL

That’s funny; I’m impressed. Especially because every list of dumbest animals is: rabbits… End list.

PETER

Bob, this recluse is clearly obsessed with me and out of touch with reality.

SHEL

I’m simply stating the obvious, Bob. Peter’s smarter than most floppy-eared, fur brains, but he refuses to accept that I only challenged him back then because of his condescending treatment of everyone in the neighborhood.

BOB

Interesting.

PETER

Ahhhh, let’s do that. Yes. After all this time, you want to come out of your hideous shell and claim that I’m some bigoted bully. Really?

SHEL

You were a bigoted bully. Now you’re just a bigot who thinks mammals are superior to reptiles. No one would ever let you bully them after I beat you.

BOB, astonished

This is all so unexpected. I’m not sure how or why you two feel this level of animosity.

PETER

I don’t feel anything for Shel. He’s trying to control the narrative. He thinks he’s smarter than everyone else and I won’t stand for it. Case in point, the “Trix are for kids” gig wasn’t even mine. That was my cousin, Clyde. Shel probably thinks we all look alike.

SHEL

Peter and I share one thing in common: I don’t care one way or another about him. And while I’ve never claimed to be smarter than everyone else, I’m most certainly smarter than he is. More importantly, I don’t think that all bunnies look or sound alike, but you and your cousin are an embarrassment to vertebrates.

BOB

Wow, okay. Do either of you think it’s possible to remedy the bad blood?

SHEL

Bob, my blood is just fine. Peter, on the other hand, has been lauded as the low-IQ champion and I’m supposed to say, “that’s okay.” So yeah, I’m annoyed by how things have transpired since I beat him. But, it’s not really about him: Peter, the daft bunny. It’s about Peter the loser who struck it rich after losing.

BOB

What exactly do you mean?

SHEL

Do I have to spell it out: I’m broke, Bob. Good foliage is hard to find in my hood. It’s like the world has rewarded this imbecile for losing to me. Their excuse: He did imbecilic things? Or, better still, I somehow tricked him? On what planet is that fair?

PETER

It. Was. A. Fluke! And don’t blame me for your failures. I can’t help that I’ve worked harder than you to get this far.

SHEL, sigh

You have to be kidding me, furball. You hop around and nibble at pellets for the enjoyment of baby humans that can’t even feed themselves. You don’t know the first thing about hard work. If you want me to beat you again, let’s do it.

PETER, laughing

Seriously?

SHEL

Absolutely. Meet me outside.

BOB, excited, looks into camera

Oh, wow. Folks, it appears that we’re on the cusp of a long-awaited rematch!

PETER, hops up from chair, mockingly

Okay, Shel. I’m going to head to the parking lot now. When should I expect you? Two hours?

SHEL, moving slowly

Laugh now, cottontail. I want all your Cadbury royalties after I beat you this time around.


King Kenney is a writer, former college athlete, and current Director of Marketing and Communications at Long Wharf Theatre.

This entry was posted in Social Commentary and Tagged , , Bookmark the permalink.