Conversation Storm

by Rick Burkhardt

Three friends from three sides of the political spectrum unwillingly argue their way through a "ticking time bomb" scenario, dissecting, revising, and even brutalizing their own positions in the process — but time has either stopped or entered an ugly loop, and as the friends assign and reassign roles, the scenario begins to dissolve the boundaries between real and hypothetical, past and future, day and night.

"Remarkable... hilariously funny and awesomely tragic at the same time."
— Martin Denton,


Godfrey : Scene twelve

Hugh : That you would even think of using

Alec : Now you’re telling me what I can and can’t think, that's

Hugh : No, just, I can’t believe we’re even talking about this! When the Geneva Convention

Alec : Okay so is that what liberals want? To close off all debate on a controversial issue that

Hugh : Torture, Alec, torture, torture... is, is bad, and controversy arises when

Alec : I agree, the word has negative connotations. That’s why it’s an ethical dilemma whether you would use

Hugh : Scene Eleven

Godfrey : Why isn’t the waiter bringing us water?

Alec : Scene Twelve

Hugh : I am not going to play

Godfrey : Scene Eleven

Alec : Because no-one’s playing the waiter.

Hugh: So Godfrey must play the waiter.

Godfrey : And Alec must say

Alec : “Hey can we get some water over here?”

Hugh : Scene Twelve

Alec : So you’re saying you’d let the bomb blow up New York?

Hugh : There’s no bomb in New York Alec!

Alec : You don’t know that.

Hugh : You said I knew it! you said I was one hundred percent certain, no possibility of error! If I don’t know for sure, forget it. bet’s off.

Alec : So you’re saying you would use torture if you did know?

Hugh : Oh God. What do I do?

Godfrey : It’s a trap. If you say you’ll use torture, Manhattan is saved and he wins. If you say you won’t use torture, Manhattan is destroyed and he wins. All you can do by arguing is to bolster his feeling that the hesitant liberals with their ethical qualms are unable to rescue Manhattan.

Hugh : My desire to end torture is not a qualm, it is a moral imperative.

Alec : Saving New York is a moral imperative.

Hugh : There’s no bomb in New York Alec!

Alec : You don’t know that.

Hugh : You said I knew it! You said I was one hundred percent certain, no possibility — oh shit — How can I stop this conversation from happening?

Godfrey : Don’t say anything.

Hugh : You mean I just have to let him —

Godfrey : You don't have to talk.

Hugh : Yeah, but then he'll ta—

Godfrey : Scene Twenty One.  I’m sorry guys, I’ll bring you a pitcher. Just so you know, the kitchen's closing in about five minutes.

Alec : I thought the kitchen closed at midnight.

Godfrey : It’s about five to midnight.

Hugh : That’s amazing.

Alec : Scene Thirteen.


world premiere, August 3-7 2006  Minnesota Fringe Festival

"Best New Play 2007"  San Francisco Fringe Festival
"Audience Choice" and "Best of Fest 2008"  NYC Frigid Fest

(paired with Great Hymn of Thanksgiving)

published in Plays and Playwrights 2009, edited by Martin Denton

click here for a print interview about the play

click here for a trailer of the movie by HP Mendoza