Back in the Fall of 2008, The Pitkin Review (of which I was Editor-in-Chief) published the opening scene from playwright Craig Thornton’s newest: The High Cost of Heating. Although it was the team of Drama Editors that chose what was published in that genre and it was all done by blind-judging and number of votes, I had to read all the submissions from all the genres, so I’d have a better feel for what was selected in the end.
I remember the scene from The High Cost of Heating being one of my favorites. The play’s premise: a couple, presumably with issues, comes home on a freezing New Year’s Day to find their monthly heating bill has not only skyrocketed, but is physically growing. I was absolutely charmed. I found it a fresh, unique idea that appealed to the nine-year-old Creature from the Black Lagoon addict in me.
But it made me think about the life of a heating bill. Seriously. Here’s an ordinary heating bill, right? It goes up a few cents per month, and you pay it. It goes up a few more cents per month, and you pay it. A few years go by and you might suddenly examine it and realize that it’s way out of control. Your bill that was originally $100 a month is now $300 a month. And there’s no way to get it all the way back down again—mostly because all the rates have gone up so high that to cut your bill by $200 would mean living without your TV, your microwave, and every other gadget in your life that is now so integral to your daily routine you wouldn’t know what to do. So you make a half-hearted attempt to cut back, maybe switch to some lower-watt energy efficient light bulbs, and keep paying the bill as it goes up, and up, and up. Eventually you give up completely on cutting back and you start putting big-ticket items in your house like big-screen TVs and giant stereos, which then become, also, things that you can’t live without. And it feeds on itself. Until you die and your kids are stuck paying the last electric bill out of your estate.
Now think of that as one big extended metaphor for what goes on in some relationships. Only the heating bill is that problem or issue between two people that’s never really addressed. You ignore it, then you put up with it. Then you make compromises for it and excuses for it. Then one day it’s become this giant thing with teeth that’s threatening to rip you both to pieces, but when you look around at the life you’ve built together you realize it’s become too intertwined to really untangle easily, so you ignore the problem some more and put up with it a little longer. And the problem continues to grow until one of you dies—and the survivor is left feeling horribly guilty about never having any of those issues resolved.
Okay, so who wants to move to the tropics?
The revised, completed version of The High Cost of Heating is making its debut as a staged reading today at 2 p.m. at Trinity Auditorium in Watertown, NY. Craig was recently interviewed about The High Cost of Heating by Todd Moe of North Country Public Radio and so, to celebrate the play’s success—and because I don’t know how many of you live anywhere near Watertown so you can attend the event—I’m posting it here for you all to enjoy. You can either click on the link to go to NCPR’s archives and listen to it on their page, or, you can click on the audio and listen to it right here on mine.