An Impossible Dollhouse :: Justin Thurman


Scene: Empty natural history museum gallery. Track lighting bathes the parquet floors, the sculptures, the installations, the portraits, the pottery. Everywhere white walls. Echoes. Wax Eskimos. Wife wears the baby in a decorative papoose. Wife, husband, informational stanchion stand in separate spotlights, behind velvet ropes. Couple looks into the audience. When the informational stanchion speaks, the voice booms from off-stage, the couple looks down as if reading.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: You stand before the only existing dollhouse constructed entirely without any connective technologies. No nails, or screws, or glues, or tacks, or dowels, or tongues, or grooves, or other miscellaneous binding agents or techniques contributed to its realization or survival…

WIFE: Extraordinary.

HUSBAND: A hoax.

WIFE: The detail. The presence. Unique. Extraordinary.

HUSBAND: Bullshit.

WIFE: Look! Curtains. A rocking chair. A divan. A little refrigerator.

HUSBAND: Preposterous.

CURATOR (enters a fourth spotlight, shiny bald, English accent, suit, nametag): Questions?

WIFE: How…I mean, who…?

CURATOR: A mystery. A total mystery.

HUSBAND: A mystery? An illusion.

INFANT (stirs, briefly): ahbabaga

CURATOR (referencing papoose): Precious. How old?

HUSBAND: Six months.

CURATOR: A vocal boy.

HUSBAND: Suspicion elicits protest. Second-floor projector, I guess?

CURATOR: Read the history.

They read.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: Portuguese explorer Lidio “La La” Ventile Meninos discovered the “Impossible Dollhouse” (henceforth upon this stanchion dubbed the ID) in 1835 just outside of what is now Modesto, California. Since its discovery, the ID has withstood four earthquakes…

WIFE: Oh, my.

They read.



They read.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: …a gallery fire in San Francisco…

CURATOR: Tragic.

They read.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: …featured appearances at five world’s fairs, innumerable sideshows, parades and carnivals…

WIFE: Amazing.

They read.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: …and an opening slot on Ted Nugent’s Summer Blitz tour.

HUSBAND: Wait. 1835? I see a telephone. I see a television.

CURATOR: A prophetic craftperson, indeed.

HUSBAND: A flatscreen, no less. I say multiple projectors.

WIFE: A pellet stove? An espresso machine? Surround sound?

CURATOR: We use these today, do we not?


WIFE: Exactly.

CURATOR: Exactly. History! Foresight. Ingenuity. I hold the Incas responsible. Possibly the Mayans.

INFANT (stirs again): babagahaaa

CURATOR: Should we see the basement?

Curator’s spotlight goes dark.

WIFE: A basement!

HUASBAND: A basement?

CURATOR: A basement.

WIFE: What else?

CURATOR: Dog doors. Cat doors. Ivory-billed woodpecker doors. A floating kitchen island. Indestructible granite countertops. Attic. Christmas decorations. Master bed. Master bath. Candelabras blaze wildly, heroically.

HUSBAND: Not art. Not artifact. Garbage.

WIFE: Continue.

CURATOR: Whirlpool tub. An old-faithful bidet. A rainforest shower. Wedding gift wok. Hardcarved benches. Marble columns, ceilings. A galactic view. Should we tour?

WIFE: Let’s!

Wife’s spotlight goes dark. Husband and informational stanchion’s spotlights remain.

INFANT (awake, fussy, dirty, wet): Uhhhh. Uhhhh.

HUSBAND: Touring illusions, now? Let’s go. Junior needs changing.

WIFE: You should see the carpet, dear.

HUSBAND: What carpet? Let’s go.

WIFE: Berber. Velvet. Flaxen wheat. Perfect hues. Invisible, visible weaves. Gold, onyx, platinum threads. Solid, spectral.

HUSBAND: What hues? Visible? Invisible? Decide. Make sense.

WIFE: The tilework! Exquisite. Grecian stone. Fountains. Hummingbird condominiums. Hydrangeas. An android mailbox-slash-vacuum cleaner.

HUSBAND: Where? Let’s go. The boy fusses.

WIFE: The bathrooms. The back porch. Lush vegetation clings. Everywhere I see a sunset. We have a ghost! A wonderful, rattling ghost. Come. Barbecue a chicken.

HUSBAND: Where? How does it stand?

CURATOR: Comparison. Contrast. Difference. Magic.

HUSBAND: You huckster!

WIFE: Please come. Mow the lawn. Weed the flowerbeds. Unclog the toilet. Exercise. Exorcise the ghost. That Douglas Fir needs trimming.

HUSBAND: Let’s escape!

WIFE: Yes. Let’s.


INFANT (older): Cat. Dog. Pony. Ivory-billed woodpecker.

HUSBAND: Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

CURATOR: Come see.

HUSBAND: Open your eyes! WIFE: Come see.

INFANT (older still): Come see.

HUSBAND: I will not.

INFANT (older still): Take me driving. Take me filmgoing. Take me working, riding, watching.

WIFE: We need lettuce, peppers, fresh milk. We need carrots, detergents, a new mirror. The cat has fleas. We need an exterminator, a dentist. We need fiberglass foam insulation.

INFANT (matured now): Take me shopping.

CURATOR: Come see.

WIFE: Your father will join us soon.

INFANT: I hope.

WIFE: I pray.

HUSBAND: I doubt…

WIFE: A robber!

INFANT: Masked villain!

WIFE: Violator! Violent, resolute, earnest, knife-wielding, club-wielding, torch-wielding, sex- crazed…


WIFE: We haven’t any valuables. Extinguish your torch.

INFANT: I hate you. I hate you. Stop! Go!

HUSBAND: Stall him! Give him what he wants. Summon the ghost to frighten him!

CURATOR: Come see.

HUSBAND: (To Curator) Tell me how! (To Wife and Infant) Stall him. Accrue witnesses! Push, shove. Crush him.

INFANT: Fire! Smoke! Water!

HUSBAND: Instructions! Give me instructions!

Wife, infant, curator scream. Husband reads.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: The ID’s allure, its genesis, its being and continued structural fortitude puzzle physicists, scientists, phenomenologists, and architects of every stripe…


Husband reads.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: The ID cannot be controlled…


Husband reads.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: The ID has been said to burn and build lifetimes…

HUSBAND: Honey? Son?

CURATOR: Come see.

Husband reads.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: The ID runs on you, feeds off you, burrows into you…

CURATOR: Come see.

INFORMATIONAL STANCHION: The ID collaborates with your fears, presupposes your lust for classes, for species, for genera, for phyla, for objects, for the chemist’s scale. The ID exists abaft the hulking human steamboat, in the canyon, its foundation bleeds through the crevices of the canyon walls, in the lake bed at the bottom of the abyss between black and white, beneath five layers of epidermis and six sheets of earthcrust, against the lightpost across the street, in the glowing radius of the lightpost across the street, smoking, waiting, watching…

CURATOR: Come see. Come see. You must come see.

Husband’s spotlight goes dark. Only the stanchion’s spotlight remains.

HUSBAND (seeing): Oh, dear.

CURATOR: You see.

HUSBAND: I do. Oh, dear.

CURATOR: My apologies. My sentiments.

HUSBAND: Thank you. My, my. Deep breaths.

CURATOR: So now…?

HUSBAND: I grieve. Silently, I will grieve. Then, I will. I rebuild. I will replace. I will repaint.

CURATOR: You must toil.

HUSBAND: I will replant. I will resurface. I will resurrect the ghost.

CURATOR: Redemption requires forfeiture.

HUSBAND: I will have faith.

CURATOR: You must have faith.

HUSBAND. I will.

CURATOR: You will see.

HUSBAND: I will.

INFORMATION STANCHION: As always, the natural history museum thanks you for your support.

INFANT (stirring briefly, young again): Ah!

Production notes: If the appropriate spotlight technology proves elusive, actors may close their eyes.