The Coconuts

It’s an island full of sand, surf and palm trees, an absolute paradise, and Matt Nolasco can’t wait to leave it. He’s been stranded on it for five years following a plane crash that apparently only he survived. What’s left of his clothes are rags, what’s left of his sanity are the conversations he regularly holds with whatever coconut happens to crown the crucifix figure he built out of sticks and stuck in the sand. He admits he will miss the coconuts, but there seems little evidence of that when he starts arguing with the coconut of the moment. In a fury, he takes a rock and smashes the unfortunate hairy shell to smithereens. Far from feeling remorse, he hisses that the nut deserved it. He still has lots on his mind, but no problem…he simply installs a new coconut shell in his place and continues with his monologue-dialogue. When that coconut also begs to differ, it’s warned that it can easily end up in the pile of shattered coconuts as well.

The thing that has kept him going the most those five years is the chance to see his fiancée Jill again. She, naturally, thinks he perished in the plane crash and, well, life has to go on. When Matt’s boss, Roland Garfield, hugged her at his memorial service, one thing led to another and five years later we find her the bored wife of this workaholic. Roland has asked one of his employees to come over that morning to go over some corporate nonsense. Craig Meeting also happens to have been Matt’s best friend, so Roland starts to quiz him about Matt and Jill’s relationship, to see if he can find out why she’s so miserable. Jill comes in to take a phone call and almost immediately collapses. Taking the call himself, Roland discovers that that guy they were just talking about…he’s back.

Craig goes to bring Matt home to a huge celebration. Matt couldn’t care less about all his celebrity, he just wants to know if Jill got married or not. Craig puts off telling him the truth, mostly by going into a state of panic as the plane takes off. Matt tries to comfort him, telling him to imagine he’s on an island somewhere, full of sand, surf and coconuts, a real paradise. Finally Craig regains his composure and tells Matt that she did, which he can accept until he learns that her husband is none other than his former boss. Shock and angered, he starts downing one whiskey after another that the stewardess freely gives him. She takes the opportunity of inviting him to join her and her girlfriends on the beach that night. He wants to make sure he understood her correctly. “You mean sleep on the beach, like I’ve been doing for the past five years?” Sure, she says, it’ll be fun.

Roland spent the whole week scripting the welcome home party and is now furious that the man of the hour has failed to show up…because he’s drunk on the plane. He blames it all on Meeting, who nevertheless comes up with a plan to tell the press that Matt is out of sight because he’s spending time alone with Jill. But, asks Roland, where is Jill? Janice, the human resources lady who affirms everything the boss says with “most definitely”, tells Roland that the wait became too much for Jill and she collapsed. But all this could work to Roland’s advantage because, as he explains to Meeting, he wants to divorce Jill. She wants children and he’s already got enough. He’s sure that Jill will want the same as soon as she sees Matt because they were going to start a family anyway. Plus, it’ll be a public relations boon for the company, good news for all concerned. Craig warns him it might not be that easy. Matt, it seems, didn’t come home from that island alone.

A flashback takes us to Matt and Jill at the airport before his fateful departure. They are exchanging gifts before he leaves. She gives him a St. Christopher’s medal for safe travel and he gives her a ring, saying they should get married when he gets back. Jill equivocates, finally coming out and saying she was married before but that she doesn’t know if the guy, who went to prison, ever went through with the divorce as he promised. At first angered, Matt admits he has his own little secret, namely that he may be a father. She somehow thinks that’s worse and they’re still fighting when the final boarding call is announced. Hurt, Jill storms off. Matt calls after her but then decides to let her stew in her own hypocrisy while he’s gone.

The present finds Craig trying to listen in on Matt and Jill’s reunion as Roland and Janice come sneaking up behind him. When Craig tells Roland that all he hears is them talking about a divorce and child, Roland and Janice think victory, everything is going exactly as planned. But then Matt and Jill emerge from their room and announce they have no intentions of getting back together. That ship has sailed, as the saying goes. Janice steps in to warn Jill that she has information that she’s been engaging in monkey business. Either she plays along with the script or Janice will reveal the name of the other monkey. In fact, she has the name of the wrong monkey because Craig bursts out that he’s the one.

Roland and Matt take turns laying into him before Matt turns on Jill and then the two of them together. When they both assure him that the connection was only for her to have a child and that love was only, well, secondary, Matt again affirms that it’s time to move on and leaves. Jill and Craig also slip out, leaving Roland wondering where the hell everybody is. All Janice can answer is “most definitely”.

Page is the queen of daytime TV and today she has a special guest, Matt Nolasco, who as everyone knows survived five years on a desert island. Matt comes out with his coconut man and quickly starts fidgeting under the barrage of goofy questions. He informs the world that his profession prepared him to survive on the island because his job is firing people, or chopping heads as he puts it. He shows no mercy to anyone or anything and showed none to all the crabs and coconuts he chopped up on the island. He wins back only limited sympathy when he tells the audience that a whale winked at him while he was adrift on the ocean.

Page tries to upstage him by bragging that a whale winked at her too once, to which he replies that hers was trained to wink, whereas his did it naturally. He brings the coconuts into their ensuing spat and when the one identified as the “gentleman” sides with Page against him, he stomps on it to smithereens before bringing out “Mr. Super Aggressive” to deal with her. Fed up with her and everything, he next produces an ax and tells the audience it’s chopping time again. Roland and Jill run in to save Page, telling Matt the company has a new order for chopping 500 heads, on Hawaii no less, meaning Matt can go back to an island and do what he loves best. Moreover, Craig is sterile, so Jill is ready to get back together again with him and start a family. Her only condition is that he gives up the coconuts. After a moment’s reflection, he hands the surviving coconuts and ax to Page and leaves with Roland and Jill, while Page closes the show by saying it was all about a nut, and she doesn’t mean coconut.

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English Theatre Moravia – presenting problem plays in the land of Franz Kafka