neighbours - Act One

 

A neighbourhood playground, middle of summer, the day before the annual bike parade. The children are playing a game of freeze when Jill arrives on the scene, her video camera in hand. She has just moved into the neighbourhood and this is her first visit. She encounters Michael, who introduces her to the others. Jill notices how Michael keeps reciting definitions of words they use. She meets Michael’s little sister, Monica, who talks incessantly. Monica tells Jill that Michael has had a hard time with their Dad’s death and that he’s not adjusting well. He defines things because he wants to be sure. She tells Jill they just got a new dog.

Michael tells Jill about Ronald and how he is everybody’s problem. She comments, “We had a Ronald where I come from, only his name was Phillip.” Jill sees Jason down on the ground, studying ants and Monica explains that he is rather reclusive, hiding away much of the time in his workshop. Jason’s current project is his entry for the 22nd Annual Big Bike Parade, which will be held the following day.

Perry is always trying to drum up interest in any and all games and sports. He  gets sidetracked by Ronald, who pulls him into his “gang” and a different sort of game. Instead of playing along in Perry’s games, Ronald thinks of ways to make money. We find out that Perry has already stolen Monica’s purse with 17 cents in it. Ronald schemes with Perry to steal apples, kidnap Monica’s teddy bear, and hold it for ransom.

We meet up with the three playground princesses, Margie, Judith Ann, and Helen Louise. They are usually too snobby to play Perry’s “stupid” games, but they do like Perry. They have their own game, however, with a book in which they record the names of people they don’t like, along with the reasons they don’t like them. Ronald’s name appears in The Book very frequently. When Jill encounters the three girls, they are not very kind or welcoming toward her. When the girls see Jason playing with ants, they threaten to get some ant poison. Jason convinces them to use his secret “poison” recipe, which in the end will be more like ant food. The three girls can’t wait to concoct the recipe.

Jason tells Michael he can’t use his BMX in the bike parade because his dad ran over it. Jason says that his dad came home late and decided to teach him a lesson — not to leave his bike in the driveway. We learn that his dad drinks and is abusive.

Ronald, always the opportunist, sees Michael with some shopping money for dog food, and steals it out of his back pocket. Michael thinks he has lost the money, and has to go home and confess his irresponsibility to his mom. Meanwhile, Ronald sees another opportunity when Monica and her teddy bear are alone in the playground. Ronald steals her bear and plays keep-away with Perry. He threatens Monica not to say a word about it or it’s game over for teddy!

Michael starts spreading the word that his mom is letting him have a sleepover in the playground that night. Jason says his dad wouldn’t let him go. Jason retrieves a package from the post office for his parade entry. He opens it and counts the pieces. The rest of the children think he is counting for hide–and–seek and they run to hide. He is oblivious to them and their game and never does play.

Margie, Judith Ann, and Helen Louise show up with the “poison,” ready to do the deed. Margie enjoys being the leader of this group and puts down others in order to maintain her status. They proceed to poison the ants.

Monica, who is five years old, befriends Jill, who is actually twice her age. Meanwhile Ronald presents his apple-stealing plan to Perry, explaining how it will involve Monica going into the old grouch’s garden to do the actual stealing.

Jason shows off his new Spectronic Galaxy 500 watch that his dad gave him as part of what his mom calls the “honeymoon period,” following his dad “getting mad.” Jason says the watch can do all sorts of things, including forecast the weather. He says it’s going to rain.

Perry has arranged for a game of prisoner’s base and the teams are picked but a storm hits before they can start playing. They run for cover. Ronald and Monica end up in the same place, so Ronald uses the opportunity to pull Monica into his apple scheme. He promises to give back her 17 cents and her teddy bear if she’ll do the job the next morning. Monica mentions the sleepover and Ronald realizes he hasn’t been invited. During the rainstorm, Helen Louise borrows Jason’s umbrella and does a ballet routine.

The three girls decide to play house. Just as they are starting, Michael drops in on Judith Ann to mention the sleepover. Judith Ann double-checks to make sure Perry is going to be there, then calls the others on her imaginary telephone. The girls pretend they have a date with Perry and play dress-up to get ready for their date. Jill shows up and joins in. In fact she shows them up, and now they really have reason not to like the “new girl.”

As the sun sets Michael and Jason are first to the sleepover. Jason is just helping Michael with all his camping gear, but cannot stay. Perry arrives and shows off his flashlight. The three girls arrive, still peeved about Jill, and threaten to write her in The Book. Monica and Jill arrive. Monica has a jar of fireflies that Michael caught for her. The three girls pretend to be nice to Jill. Perry scares Margie with a snake. He tries to scare Jill too, but she doesn’t scare.

Jason talks to the others about light and darkness, about being afraid, about the stars, and how people can look at the same thing but see it so differently. Everyone settles in for the night.

neighbours - Act Two

A few moments later, in the darkness, Jason’s alarm on his watch signals it’s time for him to get home before his dad does. Monica has to go pee and decides to call it a night. Michael escorts her to their home. Meanwhile, the three girls decide they need their beauty sleep before the bike parade, so they head off home. Perry sees there isn’t going to be any fun at the sleepover, and announces, “No games, no Perry!” and he leaves. Jill realizes she is the only one left, and packs up and goes home. Michael returns to discover he’s now alone. He thinks if he had brought his new dog he would have had some company. He thinks about his dad and how he would love to show him his dog, and how he would have loved to spend more time with him. Everyone settles in for the night.

In the darkness Jason comes back and explains that everything is worse than before. His dad came home. This time he hit Jason. Jason’s mom has sent him to the sleepover just to get him out of the house. Michael shares his tent with Jason, who sets his alarm because he needs to be home the next morning before his dad wakes up. He carefully puts his watch on his pillow. As they fall asleep we see the silhouette of Ronald, as he skulks in, picks up Jason’s watch, quietly snickers, and leaves.

The playground the next day. Michael and Jason are still asleep in the tent. Margie, Judith Ann, and Helen Louise are working on decorations for their parade bikes. Jill has her video camera. Monica is already dressed in her parade outfit, riding her tricycle, and pulling her wagon containing a box of apples and everything she will need for her lemonade stand. Ronald congratulates her on a job well done and gives her the 17 cents and her teddy bear. Perry, dressed as a pirate for the parade, says how much fun he had playing plunder the apple tree, and that he was a great lookout.

Ronald shakes the tent and wakes up the boys. Jason scrambles from the tent, sees that it’s morning and he is late. “I’m gonna get killed!” he exclaims.

Perry and Monica imagine what they’ll be when they grow up. Others join in. They are oblivious to Jason’s situation. Monica and Jill set up a lemonade stand.

Michael is disappointed with the way the sleepover turned out, with everyone leaving. He is very upset that his friend Jason is in such trouble, and he, Michael, can’t do anything about it. He pours his heart out to Jill about how irresponsible he feels for not living up to his dad’s expectations. Jill suggests he needs to stop living in the past, and start living each moment.

Michael finds Monica counting her money – her 17 cents, her lemonade money, and her apple money. Michael questions her about her apple money, and finds out she got it from Ronald. A playground version of a trial begins. Michael assumes the role of the prosecuting attorney, Jill is the judge, and the three girls are the jury. Perry is the bailiff, a play-by-play sports announcer, and himself. Monica is a witness. Ronald testifies. The court learns about the thefts of money and apples, and the bear kidnapping and ransom. Ronald is pronounced guilty, and is taken off to “jail,” which is part of the playground. From jail Ronald shows he’s feeling very alone and isolated from the others.

Monica takes over from Perry as announcer for the parade. She interviews some of the riders. Jason appears to say a quick goodbye. His dad has left for work, and his mom is taking him and leaving home. He gives Michael the remote start to his parade invention.

Margie has prepared a picnic lunch for the other girls consisting of fancy sandwiches and sparkling grape juice with a cork that really pops. She prides herself in a new–found recipe for the sandwiches consisting of cheese whiz, peanut butter, honey and jam. The picnic is overrun with ants. Jason scores a double victory, not only with the ants, but also with his parade entry. His Thundering Titan is obviously going to win the best bike competition. The three princesses, who have always won in other years, are dethroned.

Jill loads a new videotape for the parade. Michael asks her a rhetorical question – what’s the title of the tape? Michael answers – “Neighbours! - defined as...people thrown together mostly by chance, living their lives, relating to each other, and being a community. We live side by side, touching each other’s lives like the pieces of a puzzle.”

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