In this sly dark comedy about privilege and race, Dante hustles for business on the Chore Monkey handyman web site but finds it impossible for a black man to get customers who will see past his profile photo and hire him. He turns to Peter, his white pothead buddy from high school, to be the face of the operation. The arrangement grates on both of them— Peter wants more money and recognition, and Dante is constantly confronted by the racism that underlies the whole situation. When Peter’s habit of stealing “souvenirs” from their clients gets noticed and the police are called in, their partnership and friendship crash into pieces.
2019 SETC/Stage Rights Ready to Publish Award Finalist.
Two young men, Dante and Peter, arrive at Abby’s condo to assemble boxes of IKEA furniture. Dante is black, Peter is white. Abby arranged for Peter to work for her, via the online task-matching site, Chore Monkey, but Peter’s arm is in a sling, so he’s brought Dante as a helper.
Peter and Dante are old high school classmates and have completed hundreds of assignments. When Dante finishes the first bookcase (and Abby is out of the room), Peter takes his arm out of his sling. The shoulder injury is just a scam— Dante is the actual handyman, but because he’s black and Chore Monkey requires a photo on his profile, he uses Peter as a front man. Peter’s dissatisfied with the current 60/40 split of the take and suggests that they change it to 50/50. Dante is angrily opposed.
On their next job, Dante and Peter work for two married women, Becky and Cheri, and Becky is suspicious of Peter’s injury. She calls them out on their con game and, in return, Dante explains the racial reasons for the ruse and challenges Becky. She vigorously denies any racist impulses and Cheri tries to diffuse the situation. At the end of the scene, Peter purloins a small bong and silver cigarette lighter, to add to his collection of “souvenirs.”
The next scene opens with Peter on his own at a job— no Dante to be seen. So Peter, who is all thumbs, attempts to build the IKEA furniture for Diane, a young chocolatier. Peter tries to put the moves on Diane, but she finds him laughably pathetic and rejects him firmly and forcefully.
Peter heads to the next job and finds a feisty cancer patient, Elizabeth, who speaks her mind about anything and everything. Dante arrives with his arm is in a sling. His arm was injured by the police, who burst into his home, looking for stolen goods from Becky and Cheri’s house. Elizabeth tries to calm the situation, but Dante reveals that his father read through the Chore Monkey fine print after taking him to the hospital. Dante has a severe learning disability, so Peter has been handling all the paperwork. Peter has skimmed $2,000 from their Chore Monkey checks. Elizabeth demands the two young men settle things, physically if necessary. Peter offers up his arm to Dante, who wracks and twists it out of its socket. After Dante leaves, Peter and Elizabeth use the stolen bong and silver lighter to smoke pot together, to ease their pain.
Now Dante is on his own. His next Chore Monkey client insists on videotaping Dante while he works. He finds the overt lack of trust maddening, and after assembling some chairs for her, he suddenly takes them apart, then starts taking apart her other furniture, and even the camera and tripod.
The play ends in a final scene between Peter and Dante, at Peter’s new apartment. Until recently, Peter lived with his mother, smoking too much pot, watching too much porn. But now, with his father’s help, he’s gotten a job and his own place. He’s hired Dante Chore Monkey to assemble furniture, and to apologize and to pay back the money that he stole from Dante. Despite the apology, their friendship is damaged beyond repair.
Lays bare the microaggressions of everyday people.
–Charleston City Paper
Dante Williams – A black man, 20s. Extremely handy— can put together IKEA furniture in a flash. Wants to be independent and stay independent. Has a learning disability that makes reading difficult. Always hungry. Very much does not want to be arrested.
Peter Mecklenberg – White guy, 20s. An old high school classmate of Dante’s. Extremely bright, witty, and completely unmotivated— lives with his divorced parents, smokes a lot of pot, watches a lot porn, plays a lot of video games. Business partner with Dante.
Abby – White woman, 30s/40s, recent arrival to this town.
Becky – White woman, 40s/50s, butch, married to Cheri. A biologist by trade. Protective of her wife and suspicious of men and the world.
Cheri – White woman, 30s, pretty, someone who finds the good in people. Married to Becky.
Diane – White woman, 30s/40s. (Can double with Abby.) A chocolatier operating out of her home.
Elizabeth – White woman, 40s. (Can double with Becky.) Undergoing chemotherapy, but her prognosis is poor.
Frances – White woman, 30s. (Can double with Cheri). Uncomfortable having strange men in her home, especially strange black men.
Zander – White man, 30s+. Dressed for business, someone who does not connect with the people who work for him. (Non-speaking role.)
Setting: Living rooms of various apartments across a large city.
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The production materials for Chore Monkeys include:
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Director's Script – Single-sided script with space for director’s notes.