by Elizabeth Meriwether
Published by Vintage Books in Plays For Two, 2014
One Act Play, 15 pages
"I'm just saying - It's not going to be fun for you, because I'm amazing." - Elliot
While 90 Days has two characters, Elliot and Abby, we never see Abby. She's on speaker phone. We're left to construct her for ourselves, based on her words and, in a production, her voice. We'd probably also be able to extrapolate based on Elliot's appearance but, as no ages or physical descriptions were given in the text, there were no parameters to limit my imagination. If I had to guess, I'd put the characters in their mid to late 20s because of a reveal on the 12th page of the play but, prior to that, I thought they were perhaps undergrad students. I found the slow reveals in the text interesting, especially because they shifted my perspective.
Right away I understood that Abby and Elliot aren't fully honest with each other thanks to this amusing exchange:
Elliot: I'm just about to eat some Tater Tots.
Abby: Is that a joke?
Elliot: Yes. It's a joke.
Abby: I thought you were serious!
Elliot: No. It was a joke.
Abby: Okay. Those are so bad for you.
(A slight pause. ELLIOT puts one in his mouth and chews silently.)
The lies escalate from there. Elliot says he's naked, then that he's masturbating, and later that he's put together a shelf that Abby sent him. It's likely an expensive piece, as it's from Crate and Barrel.
As this is all going on, there are hints that more is happening than meets the eye. The first is when Abby starts talking about life at home. Elliot interrupts her to say they're not supposed to talk about this stuff, and she apologizes as she doesn't want him to break the rules. This segues into her asking if he's celebrating his ninety days. Apparently he's in some type of rehab center.
The theme of lies and half-truths continues throughout the piece, but it's not until page 12 that I am able to fully grasp Abby and Elliot's relationship. In the longest speech of the piece, Abby speaks about re-booking the room, the hotel, the caterer, and the band and that they don't even need alcohol. Obviously something happened at or right before their wedding, as she needs a new dress. Suddenly things got a lot darker.
I enjoyed this reveal as it provided the motivation for the lies, half-truths, and surface conversation throughout the piece. However it was topped by the final twist of the piece when Abby confessed that she's been sleeping with someone else, and I was left wondering if she and Elliot could ever again have any type of relationship.
Meriwether covered a lot of ground in 15 pages, presenting ample subtext, imperfect characters, and plenty of plot. I look forward to reading her pilot of New Girl next week to see how she deals with a longer piece.