James Dean and the Devil


"The Highway of Death", Cholame. CA. Sundown, chilly. A shoulder along the road. September 30, 1955. We are in the mind of James Dean during his last moments on earth. Visuals and sounds or the lack thereof saturate the stage like a stark dream.

At Rise:

JAMES DEAN bursts in, comet like, from an unsuspected place. HE is terribly battered, his red jacket torn, his jeans ripped. HE looks 34, not 24. He hallucinates, talks to himself and to imaginary images he sees.

(Thrum of exhaust of passing cars)

(Horrified, to self) It's got to be here. One minute I'm hugging the wheel--. Next I'm-- . . .. How can you lose a Porsche?

(Cries) Where am I? (Jokes, looks about) On the corner of Pain and Pain and Stab Me and Run?--Did someone take my car? . . .Who was I with? . . . Where are my glasses?

(Flash of headlights. HE rushes about)

Stop!!!!!!(Panicky) Didn't that guy see me? (Shouting after cars) Stop! Stop! (Blinking) Oh my eyes are so sharp. I see clearly without glasses. . .

(Gasping) I'm short of breath,(Jokes) Stick an I.V. in me and shoot in caffeine.

(HE trips on broken glass.)

(Screams) Oooh. What's that? Ooooh. A piece of windshield? (Peers in shocked) I look so old and sick.I see everything, wrinkles, imperfections

I'll do an acting exercise. (Pause) Do an overall sensation-like being in the shower-something that makes me feel good.

. . . .Where am I?

(Eerie music like Vivaldi, Nisi Dominus.)

(A giant Red Book is projected on the scrim with words which he reads:)

(Reads, fearfully)"You've one hour to pass seven tests and be saved."

Saved from what? (Defiant) I don't believe--Says who?

(Reads another sign) "Tibetan Book of Dying. If you pass the tests you will be healed in this life or the next."

(Keels over laughing) Is this some weird death spiral--Signs can't just come in and out like that. I think someone drugged me and stole my car.

(Breathing heavily) Stella--Errano--Sans toi--terre aride-

(Scared) Who's that? Look I'm a big star, a public commodity. People are trying to consume me

(Defiant) I can't die. I'm greedy for life. I sleep an hour a night.

(On the scrim, the huge Red Book reappears. HE reads it.)

(Reads) "First test: Get your Mother's forgiveness for choosing fame over family."

--(Annoyed) Idiot! My ma's' dead

(Cries in strange languages) Au bout d'une--Un tiengo Y Dulce Chau-

(Screams) Speak English got to find my car 'fore it's hurt.

(Vision of the Red Book. He reads)

(Reads another page) "Your mom will visit from the other side." Wha the--Says who? (Terrified) Am I sick or crazy?

(Figures drift over the shadowy road)

What's that behind the highway?

(Whisper nastily) Cross over.

(Peering out) Something's moving? (Listens, scared) Is that the state patrol?

(Sound of clanking chains. Ghosts drift in the distance. They are the Souls in Torment, hellish figures who prod JIMMY to his death. HE fumbles in his pocket)

Where's my combat scotch? My switchblade? (Slipping out a knife, Suspicious) Come closer--

You move but I can't read you?

(Sudden thumps overhead, bumps below)

(Viciously) Cross over

I'm not afraid of visitors from outer space, talking animals, flowers.

(Raps sharp enough to jar objects.)

(Contemptuous) Are you a human being? Make one sound. (Silence) Are you a spirit? Make 2 sounds.

(Two loud knocks)

Are you my mother? Make three sounds

(Three rapping sounds rush in)

(Horrified) Oh no.--My Ma . . .would . . . never--

(Vision of the Red Book. JIMMY reads)

(Reads, fearful) "Note from Mom: Ghosts can't say much because we frighten people. That's why we whisper. We just get a few words per visit. We make sounds thru the trees, water, wind--"

(Sound of horrid wind)

(Excited) Fine! If you're my Mom,show me . . .my age when you died.

(Ghost knocks 9 times)

Nine years.

(Distraught) Right. What was the last thing I gave you?

(Lights up on a rose strangely blooming by the road.)

(Looks aside) Oh, no, a... a rose. (To self) A rose bloomed on the home asteroid of the--

(To ghost) What was my favorite book?

(Lights up on The Little Prince)

Oh! The Little Prince. My book must have spun from my car--

(Nostalgic music like Saint-Saens, The Swan)

(HE picks up the book and opens it.)

(Reads) "The rose was unique and special, because she was the one he loved."

(Breaks down crying) Oh Ma . . . It is . . . you.

(Rustle of wind. Ghost appears veiled in distance.)

Oh God (Breath quickens) It's like you're there and not there. (Thrilled) Luminous and see through. How I've missed you

MA (V.O.)
(Speaking breathy with great difficulty) Read from that book . . .when you feel sleepy. It'll . . .prompt you (fading) to keep focus . . .hold on to earth.

(JIMMY sits lost, opens book, reads)

"I lived my life alone, without anyone that I could really talk to, until I had an accident with my plane in the Desert. Something was broken in my engine. I set myself to attempt the difficult repairs all alone."

Oh no. (Calls) Ma! Don't go! It's true. Like the pilot in The Little Prince, I'm marooned in the desert in a damaged vehicle. (Hollers) Ma! Help me find my car!

MA (V.O.)
(Painful breathing) Ah . . .ah . . .uh--

(Squints) Oh God, there you are. Your lips move, but I can't hear--(Looks up) What? Are you suffering?

(Vision of the Red Book. HE reads)

(Reads)"I'll be doomed--If you die unpurified."

Help . .o . . .ou . . .stop--

(Vision of the Red Book. HE reads)

(Reads) "Son, I represent all the hurting ones.

Because I left you, Jimmy boy."