S*M*A*S*H-up

smash(FADE IN on the grungy 4077th S*M*A*S*H camp, a ratty assemblage of olive-drab tents and battered jeeps set in a dusty, scrubby valley.  A crooked post in the compound has nailed-up arrows indicating the direction and mileage to various destinations:  Chicago, Grover's Corners, Osage County, Avenue Q.  The P.A. crackles to life.)P.A.: Attention all personnel.  Due to lack of interest, this year's Broadway season will be canceled.  Also, Off-Broadway will now be Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway will be Off-Broadway, and Hoboken will be lower Manhattan.  That is all.(JULIA and TOM, exhausted in their stylish scrubs, partake of martinis at their makeshift still in their tent.)JULIA:  Fourteen hours of meatball workshopping.  Even my exhaustion is exhausted.  I can't feel my feet.TOM:  I can't feel your feet either.   I propose a toast: to this place.  To our life.JULIA:  Be it ever so humble, there's no place like development hell.(They down their drinks.  JULIA makes a face.)JULIA:  This tastes terrible.  I mean more terrible than usual.ELLIS:  I put ground-up peanuts in your martini!JULIA:  Ellis, damn it!  I'm not allergic to peanuts.  Stop doing that to everyone!TOM:  Little ferret-face.ELLIS:  Gotcha!  Heh heh heh heh heh.(RADAR enters the tent with a clipboard in hand.)RADAR:  Morning, sirs...TOM:  Radar, we just got out of workshopping.  If you try to send us back to that rehearsal hall I'll tie your boots to your nose hairs.RADAR:  Gosh, that's not friendly.  Nobody ever talks that way in Iowa.TOM:  What is this "Iowa...?"JULIA:  Flyover country.TOM:  They have theater there?JULIA:  Yes but they serve... food... at it.TOM:  Ugh.RADAR:  Captains, I'm just here to remind you that you're scheduled to give the leading ladies superfluous physical examinations at oh nine hundred hours.TOM:  ...But I'm gay.JULIA:  And I'm a heterosexual woman, and I only sleep with men with whom I have exactly zero chemistry.(With a weary groan, DEREK rises from a nearby bunk.)DEREK:  Oh bloody hell, do I have to do it all around here?  Tom, Julia, shall I just take everything off your plate?  I'll fix the musical, I'll woo the producers, I'll defile the leading ladies and while I'm at it I'll be the only one around here with even a modicum of personality?  Would that work for you?  Would that be helpful?(Beat.)TOM:  — Yeah, could you?JULIA:  That'd be great, thanks.RADAR:  Hold on.  —Choppers.JULIA:  I don't hear any—RADAR:  Wait for it.(Sound of incoming choppers.  Julia, Tom and Derek wearily stumble to their feet and scramble out the door.)P.A.:  Attention all personnel.  Incoming pages.  All available personnel to the rehearsal room.  Don't worry folks, you can sleep when you're dead or after "Phantom" closes, whichever comes first.(Cut to the rehearsal room, where everyone's in scrubs and masks, each at an operating table working feverishly on a script draft.)TOM: (to NURSE:) Highlighter.  White-out.  Could I get some suction here, this character arc is a disaster.  I'm going to have to resect the whole second act.(DEREK peers over JULIA's shoulder, watching her work.)DEREK:  Switching everything over to a male POV, eh?  Interesting technique.JULIA:  It always works.  It never doesn't work.  Could I get some more wrylies over here please?P.A.: Attention all personnel.  Due to conditions beyond our control we regret to report that a new play by Neil LaBute opens tonight.(RADAR enters.)TOM:  Radar!  Put a mask on!RADAR:  I have a message.JULIA:  If it's about my royalties, give it to me straight.  I can take it.RADAR:  Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake's plane... was shot down... over the Sea of Japan.JULIA:  Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Is he dead?RADAR:  Worse.  He's in regional theater.DEREK:  That poor bastard.RADAR:  There weren't no survivors.TOM:  Keep working, guys.  These scripts are just going to keep coming and they're not going to revise themselves.DEREK:  Julia, that is really really great work you're doing there.  You've taken that mess of a wounded draft and turned it into one of the most brilliant scripts I've ever seen.  Pure genius.TOM:  Well, let's hear it out loud!JULIA:  Oh, okay, if you insist.  "Act One.  Lights up—."(CUT TO: the mess tent, some hours later.  Everyone sitting wearily around a table, drinking coffee.)TOM:  That was the most brilliant play I've ever heard, Julia.EILEEN:  It really was remarkable, Captain.JULIA:  Too bad no one will ever hear it aloud again.DEREK:  Why is that?JULIA:  Not sure.  But oh well.EILEEN:  Ugh.  Why is my coffee so gritty?ELLIS:  Heh heh heh heh.EILEEN:  Ellis!  Enough with the peanuts!ELLIS:  Gotcha.(EILEEN throws her drink in DEREK's face.)DEREK:  Blimey!  Why'd you do that?EILEEN:  It's my character trait.  Seriously, it's my only character trait.  Now I don't have a beverage in my hand any more and I feel myself slipping away.P.A.:  Attention all personnel.  Will Jessica and Bobby please report to the compound for this week's random distribution of background dialogue.  And it is requested that you kindly stop being more compelling than the main characters.  That is all.EILEEN:  This damn place.  How much more can we take?  We've lost so many loved ones already.  Frank, Leo, Dev... Julia's scarves... Theresa Rebeck... poor sweet Karen...KAREN:  I'm still here, I'm just right here.EILEEN:  All gone, all taken away in their prime and we may never see them again.KAREN:  I'm right here.  I'm literally in like every other scene.EILEEN:  Those poor kids.(KAREN gives up, slips into a Bollywood-tinged fugue state.)JULIA:  Well, it could be worse.  We could all have—gag—dramaturgs.TOM:  Ugh, dramaturgs.DEREK:  Horrid creatures.RADAR:  Yeah, I saw something about them when I was previewing our training films about communicable diseases.  Gross.JULIA:  Hey, you.  Yeah, you.  Iowa.  Who are you, anyway?  You're not a stage manager, you're not a dancer, you're not a designer.  You could be an actor except I didn't notice any listings on the call sheet for "Creepy diminutive wide-eyed manchild."  Who are you, and why are you here?RADAR:  I'm just someone who pays attention to what you do, and knows everything that's going to happen to you before you do.JULIA:  ...A critic?RADAR:  Nope.  The audience.TOM:  Well, that explains why he keeps getting smaller.RADAR:  —Hang on.  You hear that?JULIA:  Hear what?RADAR:  —Cancellation.JULIA:  I don't hear any—RADAR:  Wait for it.(Freeze-frame.  IVY belts "Suicide is Painless.")