THE SORT OF HAPPY ENDING TO THE SAD TALE OF
MR. ALI ALI,
OR: THE LIGHTER SIDE OF OUTSOURCING TORTURE
___________________________________________

A One-Act Play

by

Craig Abernethy

Copyright © 2005

Cast of Characters


NOTE:        A “company” of five to eight performs the play. Two must be women and the
parts of the Ringmaster, Ali, George, and Maryam should be played by the same actors
throughout. The remaining roles are divided among the company with frequent doubling.

Ringmaster:  A tallish man with a booming voice: wears a top hat and red fox hunting-style
riding coat.

Ali:         A slight man of Pakistani origin: first seen in a business suit.

George:      Middle aged and sized: business suit.

Maryam:      A young Iraqi woman: wears a conservative dress and head “covering” (that does
not conceal her face).

SETTING:     Various locations needed to tell Ali’s story: a street corner, the inside of a
jet plane, a government office, a television studio. The stage is bare and the few props
used should be practical. Whenever possible appropriate noises and music are helpful.
(Though all songs should be sung a capella with little or no accompaniment).

AT RISE:     A bare stage in Blackout; then a spotlight; calliope music and the Ringmaster
Enters.


SCENE ONE – Welcome

RINGMASTER
Laydeez and Gennamuns! Mesdames et Messieurs! Mein Herrs und Mein Herrings! Oh-yea! Oh-yea!
Gather ‘round and lend an ear! It’s time to cowboy-up(!) with your favorite fun loving
pranksters: Le Cirque des Pauvres Re`veurs(!)…

(The acting company runs On Stage forming a semi-circle
Up Stage of the Ringmaster)

RINGMASTER (cont)
as we present: “The Sort of Happy Ending to the Sad Tale of Mr. Ali Ali, Or: The Lighter
Side of Outsourcing Torture!”

(The following can be delivered by the Ringmaster or
divided among the acting company)

For the record: we are repulsed by the murders and maiming committed by terrorists.
Terrorism cannot be justified or condoned. We honor the efforts of those who risk their
lives daily that we may live freely, and as secure as possible in a world gone mad with
envy, hate, and murder. However, a few bad apples
can spoil the barrel. And now: on with
the show!

END ONE


SCENE TWO – Ali on the Street

ALI
(Center Stage and miming walking)
Okay: so I’m walking down the street one day, over two years ago, when two men in suits
walk up and…

MYSTERIOUS MAN ONE
(Wears suit and sunglasses)
Mr Ali?

ALI
Yes?

MYSTERIOUS MAN TWO
Mr “Ali Ali?”

ALI
Yes.

MYSTERIOUS MAN ONE
Of Pakistan?

ALI
I was born there, but…what…?

MYSTERIOUS MAN ONE
(Holds up photograph of Ali)
This “Mr Ali Ali?”

ALI
So I say “yes” because the picture
is of me… and they pick me up…

(The two men lift Ali by his armpits and begin to escort him Off Stage repeating “Hut-hut-
hut-hut” sotto voce while Ali speaks)

ALI (cont)
… and take me to a car waiting a few feet away. And they put something over my face as they
pushed me in the car and I fell asleep.

END TWO


SCENE THREE – George Campaigning

(Some cast members sing the following)

“On the campaign trail: you won’t find a single frown!
‘Cause on the campaign trail, all the guests were patted down!
We are just so proud that we will get to see
The Lone Star himself: George W. Emdee!”

GEORGE
(Enters, wears suit, one hand waving, and the other behind his back)
We will out do the evildoers! In that we will win? We will not lose. We will win! Do you
know where I stand? I stand for the law. They don’t obey the law. We will obey the law. We
will. They use car bombs. That’s what makes them evildoers. We don’t use car bombs. They do
suicide bombs. We don’t. We value life. They torture. We don’t torture. Torture is not
acceptable. Never. And we don’t hand people over to other people to torture people either!
(Turns to Exit and hand behind back has fingers crossed)

END THREE


SCENE FOUR – Maryam at Home

MARYAM
I was frantic! He did not come home and so I began to call his family and friends and at
work – but they had all gone home, and… eventually… after a few days of calling everyone…
the police, the government, his soccer club… Nothing. No one… I stayed home and cried until
my body just stopped and I sat on the chair and looked at a wall. A few days later I got a
call from somebody in Human Resources from where Ali worked and they said that somebody who
worked with Ali saw him get put in a car by two men in suits wearing sun glasses but I
could not talk with that person because they wanted to stay anonymous and Human Resources
had to honor their wishes.

END FOUR


SCENE FIVE – A Meeting

RINGMASTER
And now for a meeting of “The Clean-Cut, Upstanding, Sort of Dull, But Amazingly Smug and
Evil Guys in Charge!”

SMUG GUY ONE
Maybe we could get better intelligence faster if we turned up the heat some.

SMUG GUY TWO
You’re thinking maybe…?

SMUG GUY ONE
Intentional stress inducement upgrade?

SMUG GUY TWO
Aggressive persuasion modality?

SMUG GUY THREE
“Torture.”

SMUG GUY ONE
I wouldn’t put it in those terms.

SMUG GUY TWO
Not in those terms.

SMUG GUY THREE
“Line drive” and “two-putt” are “terms.” Torture is a “word” and it doesn’t work.

SMUG GUY ONE
We won’t know if we don’t try!

SMUG GUY THREE
It’s been tried – it never works. And, by the way: it’s against the law.

SMUG GUY TWO
That’s sort of our department isn’t it?

SMUG GUY ONE
Yeah. I thought we sort of made the laws.

SMUG GUY THREE
Not precisely, no. We write a lot of laws but we don’t enact anything.

SMUG GUY TWO
We do have interpretive powers.

SMUG GUY THREE
Torture’s like porn.

SMUG GUY TWO
You like it when you see it?

SMUG GUY THREE
“Know” it. You “know” it when you see it.

SMUG GUY ONE
Besides… we don’t have to actually do the actual torturing do we?

SMUG GUY TWO
Actually we could… the Egyptians, they…

SMUG GUY ONE
I mean we could never do that!

SMUG GUY TWO
Not us! “Illegal.” But the Egyptians…

SMUG GUY ONE
Really know their stuff.

SMUG GUY TWO
The Saudis? Morocco? We got us a few friendlies there.

SMUG GUY ONE
Egypt is where it’s at: “outsourcing.”

SMUG GUY THREE
People?

SMUG GUY TWO
We have a mandate!

SMUG GUY ONE
“Dead or alive!”

SMUG GUY TWO
The Saudis! Jordan. Egypt. Our partners in peace!

SMUG GUY ONE
(To Smug Guy Two)
Write it up: we’re at war! War with an enemy that is unlike any other – they don’t
represent a state – have no sovereignty – no right to maintain  a therefore illegal
military force – do not observe the rules of war – consequently protections of law do not
apply and we can pretty much do what we want because nobody really like these foul-smelling
medieval rag-heads anyway.

SMUG GUY TWO
(Reads)
“At war… no state… pretty much do what we want.”


SMUG GUY ONE
(Begins rapping)

Because we live in such dangerous times…

(Smug Guys Two and Three join in the rapping)

We gots to use a new “paradigm.”
And so’s we can sound all contemporary,
We dig real deep in the dictionary,
And come up with a brand new model
With none of that civil liberties twaddle!
Car bombers don’t sport no uniforms,
And their bosses don’t fit the statehood norms,
As they did not sign the Geneva Convention
Then habeas corpus gets a needed suspension.
And if you don’t think we’re bein’ very nice
You just might want to hear this advice:
We are the boys from Harvard and Yale;
You piss us off, we’ll put yo’ ass in jail!
Remember: because we lives in dangerous times,
We gots to get a new paradigm.
Enemy combatants is doin’ bad crimes,
So we gots to get a new paradigm.
Simply put: we are dealing with slime,
So we gots to get a new paradigm!
A new paradigm, a new paradigm!
Yo! Because we live in such dangerous times:
We gots to get a new paradigm!

(After rap Smug Guys One and Two start to walk Off Stage
then stop and turn to Smug Guy Three)

SMUG GUY ONE
You with us?

SMUG GUY THREE
You know the free speech, artsy-fartsy, civil liberties crowd will go coo-coo for cocoa
puffs when they find out.

SMUG GUY TWO
How are they going to find out?

SMUG GUY THREE
Somebody will talk.

SMUG GUY ONE
Somebody always talks.

SMUG GUY THREE
(Takes a breath)
Yeah, I’m in.

SMUG GUY ONE
Well, that’s it then!

END FIVE

(Transition to...)

SCENE TEN – Ali in Prison

(Ali is Down Center while Up Stage company members act
out what he describes)

At first you are depressed: the smell… like a sewer, it’s so dark, it… cold, so cold. I was
very afraid. And lonely. And angry; but mostly afraid. I was alone a day or so… not much
longer. Then the beatings began. Always three of them. It was Egypt, I think. I knew some
Egyptians at McGill and the men at the prison had accents like those guys. At McGill. There
were beatings. Sometimes with questions – sometimes not. They used electricity – like a
stick with electrodes. I would stand on a box and my hands were tied so they were straight
out and they had a hood on me – like in the photos in the paper(?) – and they would walk
around and stick me. All over. Everyplace. I don’t know if they put me on drugs. How would
I know? Mostly it was beatings. There was water too. Sometimes they would…

END OF TEN

(End of sample)

Complete scripts can  be obtained by e-mailing
Craig here