Paradigm Analysis by Shari Goodhartz
Act I first sets up the nighttime abduction of ANDRE (20’s, black) in a suburban setting, then establishes the relationship of 20-something photographer CHRIS and ROSE (he’s black, she’s white). They’re packing to visit her parents’ lake-house for the weekend. Chris presses to discover whether Rose has told them he’s black (her first black boyfriend, at that, and he doesn’t want to get chased away with a shot gun). She hasn’t, but assures him that they’re a sometimes-annoying flavor of clueless liberalism, and definitely not racists. Also set up is Chris’s best friend ROD, who works for the TSA and will be dog-sitting for Chris over the weekend. At the lake-house, Chris meets Rose’s parents DEAN (a neurosurgeon) and MISSY (a psychiatrist), and her brother JEREMY (a med student). He also sees WALTER, the groundskeeper, and his wife GEORGINA, the housekeeper. The servants are a young black couple, who are decidedly awkward around Chris, and unexpectedly catered to by Dean and Missy.
Plot Point I finds Chris in Missy’s psychiatric office in the lake-house. She’d offered to hypnotize him to cure his cigarette addiction. Though Chris turned down this offer earlier, he’s having trouble sleeping. While repeatedly stirring a spoon in a teacup, Missy asks about his mother’s death. He doesn’t want to talk about it, but starts to anyway… and suddenly we’re with YOUNG CHRIS watching television on that tragic, rainy night. Once Chris has surrendered to Missy’s guidance, he’s unable to move and she fantastically sends his mind through the floor into The Sunken Place. He wakes up in bed the next morning, remembering only that he’d been hypnotized.
Act II brings the annual gathering of Rose’s dead grandfather’s friends – mostly old, white couples – who are all thrilled to meet Chris. But they’re also creepily inappropriate about his physicality (handsome, athletic), his relationship with Rose (must be incredibly hot), and black culture (that doesn’t really exist, right?). Rose rolls her eyes a lot and tries to laugh off the casual – and utterly harmless – racism of the older generation with Chris.
At the Midpoint, Chris discovers there’s another young black man present, LOGAN (who we recognize as abducted Andre from the opening scene, and who Chris also recognizes, but can’t remember from where). “Logan” dresses, talks and behaves in ways clearly coded as old and white. He also has an elderly white wife, PHILOMENA. The way these people interact (including the relaxed physical intimacies between “Logan” and Philomena) makes Chris uneasy.
In the second half of Act II, Chris takes a flash picture of “Logan,” which transforms his old-white-guy affect into the young black man he appears. “Logan,” whose nose has started to bleed, grabs Chris, telling him to “Get out!” Jeremy pulls “Logan” off of Chris and hauls him away, screaming. Chris is so shaken he wants to leave, but Rose takes him on a walk to the lake where they can talk. The party quickly morphs into a disturbing silent auction, revealing Chris as the “prize.” That night, Chris texts the “Logan” image to Rod, who immediately recognizes Andre. Rod is sure that Andre’s been hypnotized and now serves the old white folks as a sex slave. Just then, Chris’s phone dies. Chris discovers a tiny closet nearby, its door cracked open. Inside, a red box awaits him, and inside of that are a stack of photos with Rose and other young, black men. Clearly, Chris is not her first boyfriend of color. The last picture is of Rose with a smiling young, black woman – who Chris knows as the increasingly bizarre housekeeper Georgina.
At Plot Point II, Chris convinces Rose that they have to leave immediately, but Rose can’t find her car keys. While Jeremy blocks Chris’s exit through the front door, Dean and Missy (holding her tea cup and spoon) calmly watch Chris start to panic. Rose frantically rummages her purse as Chris screams for her to give the keys to him. Instantly cool, she holds up the keys and replies “You know I can’t give them to you, right babe?” Three sharp spoon taps on the teacup topple Chris, instantly immobilized by Missy’s hypnotic trigger, and he’s in The Sunken Place.
Act III finds Chris in the basement, tied to a chair in front of a vintage television set. A series of videos explain the ruthless, Coagular Brain-Transplantation Conspiracy, in which a sliver of Chris’s brainstem will remain intact, but also subsumed by most of the brain of JIM (a blind old white guy who “won” the auction), which will take over primary consciousness and motor functions of Chris’s body. The process works best if the “host” understands what’s happening to him. Chris cleverly escapes the surgery, killing Dean, Missy and Jeremy as they try to stop him from leaving, but he’s also wounded. Chris drives off in Jeremy’s car (the freaky abductor’s mask from the opening scene is in the front seat), only to hit Georgina, who may or may not be dead. Remembering the night his mother was killed, Chris realizes that despite the existential danger to himself, he can’t just leave. Georgina is alive, but unconscious, as he puts her in the passenger seat. She quickly awakens, and starts to scream at him about ruining her house. Chris loses control of the car and crashes it, killing Georgina. Meanwhile, Rose has realized something is wrong and she exits the house with a shotgun. She sees the crash, “Grandma…” Rose and Walter head towards the car and Chris, who’s limping away, “Get him, Grandpa.” Hale and hearty Walter quickly takes down Chris, and seems to be about to blind him with his thumbs.
At the Climax, Chris pulls a phone from his pocket and camera flashes Walter, hoping to free the body’s host from his Sunken Place. Though Walter lets go of Chris, it doesn’t seem to have worked. Walter takes the gun from Rose, saying he wants to kill Chris himself, but he shoots Rose in the gut instead. Walter then puts the muzzle under his chin and blasts off his own head. However, Rose is still alive and reaches for the gun. Chris and Rose fight and despite his own injuries, Chris gains the upper hand and starts to choke the life out of her. At first she pleads with him not to kill her, but finally she smiles smugly up at him, implying, “See, you’re just like us.” This horrific revelation of her deepest truth provokes Chris to let go.
The story is Resolved when Rod arrives in a TSA police car and drives off with Chris, leaving Rose to bleed out alone on the driveway.