A Synopsis written by Cat Ortiz-White & Mark Conlan
The central character of Tribute is Scottie Templeton (John Lawlor), described as "fifty-one but looks ten years younger, an elegant, charming, pixieish man. He has long since clowned his way out of jobs as a screenwriter and producer in Hollywood, and now works in public relations in New York for Lou Daniels (Harvey Sokoloff)." As the play opens, Lou is introducing Scottie at a testimonial tribute for him held in a New York theatre. After Lou and Scottie's doctor, Gladys Petrelli (Judith LeBane), reminisce about him, the play proper opens with a flashback to a scene in Scottie's apartment three months before, a morning scene in which Scottie is saying goodbye to Sally Haines (Susan Portnoy). Sally is a young woman he picked up in a hospital where she was having her appendix removed and he was in for Tests, "When you're an older person they have to check you every now and then for dry rot, termites, general signs of deterioration." (Though she spent the night in his apartment, they did not sleep together.
Just after Sally leaves, Scottie's first ex-wife, Maggie (Wenna Shaw) and their son Jud (David Cassidy) arrive to visit. Maggie has since remarried, to a college professor, and Jud, now 24, has become a shy, serious young man who also wants to become a teacher and can't identify with his wise-racking, devil-may-care father. With Jud out of the room, Scottie tells Maggie the truth about the hospital visit: He has a terminal case of leukemia and will die in a few months. Genuinely worried about his son - "He seems to lack any - I don't know - zest for life - any joy." Scottie wants to get Jud to re-do the old vaudeville routines they used to do when Jud was a boy. "Hey, whatever happened to that girlfriend you had in Pennsylvania?" "Erie?" "Well, I always thought she was a little weird" and also offers to take him out in the town and to fix him up with a woman. When Jud insists on going out alone to catch a museum exhibit, Scottie calls Sally and gets her to pick up Jud there.
Sally and Jud meet, hit it off, and go back to Scottie's apartment for a 'picnic' on his floor. Scottie walks in on them, but Sally makes a slip that shows Jud she's been there before, and he guesses that Scottie set up the whole thing. "My father's made a living from being a court jester and a glorified pimp" declares Jud. "Well, I don't like him pimping for me, okay?" "If he's a pimp, what does that make me?" asks Sally, and she leaves. Scottie tries to break Jud's hostility by entering in a chicken costume, a routine Jud used to love as a boy and gets him to laugh. He leaves shortly after Dr. Petrelli enters. She's come to see why Scottie is not in the hospital, taking the treatments that could prolong his life for months or even years. She leaves, and Maggie enters. They talk about the past, Jud, and Scottie's impending death ? "When a friend dies, you - well, you lose a friend. But when you die, you lose all your friends" Scottie cracks - and finally they go to bed together. Jud comes back and discovers them, and is furious: "I have a-a totally amoral - irresponsible, selfish child for a father who doesn't c-c-care who he hurts as long as he gets his own way!" Jud wants to walk out, but Maggie tries to persuade him to say, blurting out that Scottie is dying. Finally Jud agrees to stay. "I owe it to myself, I'm going to stick around to see if there's anything about the son-of-a-bitch I can admire!
Act Two opens with a scene between Scottie and Maggie, in which he jokes about having considered suicide. They talk about Jud, who enters after Maggie leaves and offers to remain the rest of the summer. Sally also arrives, followed by Dr. Petrelli, who's come to take Scottie to the hospital for treatments. With Scottie and Sally out of the room, Dr. Petrelli tells Jud about Scottie's illness and tries to get him to help her persuade Scottie to enter the hospital, but Jud refuses. "He's a grown man. He obviously has his reasons. Anyway, there's nothing I could say that would change his mind!" "And you don't think it's your responsibility to even try?" asks an incredulous Dr. Petrelli.
Sally returns as the doctor leaves, and Jud finally breaks down and tells her how he felt abandoned by his father. "After the divorce, my father put in some token appearances, and made a few phone calls and then put us on 'hold' for a few years. If you think I don't communicate now you should have seen me ten years ago. I was not easy to love." He goes on to tell how his stepfather gradually drew him out of his shell. "After my mother married him I finally believed it was going to be permanent. It was the one thing in my life I could count on. Last night my father took care of that too."; Sally defends Scottie by saying "Sometimes human impulses screw us up.", and she calls Jud "too old for me" and once again walks out.
Lou, Scottie's boss, comes in and defends Scottie as a man who's made people happy. Scottie and Jud then confront each other. Jud tells Scottie he knows about his fatal illness and pleads with him to go to the hospital. "Why the hell should I?" asks Scottie. "Because I need you" says Jude. "When I needed you before you weren't there.; Well, dammit, I need you now! Where the hell were you when I needed you?" asks Scottie. "Has it ever occurred to you that you're not the son I always wanted? Have you ever done one crazy, funny, spontaneous thing in your entire life? Have you ever even tried?" "Why don't you go fuck yourself!" Jud declares as he walks out. "That's spontaneous - not funny but it's spontaneous" Scottie comments wryly.
The remainder of the play takes place three months later, on the day of the testimonial tribute to Scottie. He has just come out of the hospital, and it's his birthday; the tribute has been planned as a surprise present for him. Sottie walks in on Jud and Sally as they are planning the tribute program. Jud tells Scottie about "just one of the reasons I was teed off at your for a few years" When he was eight he'd seen Scottie and a woman having sex - "I mean, at the time I wasn't even sure that's what your were doing - and six months later you and Mom split up and somehow in my addled little mind I tied the whole incident with why you had to go away." Jud leaves and Lou enters; a shaken Scottie tells Lou he doesn't remember anything about what Jud has just told him.
Promotional Photo of David Cassidy & John Lawlor
Lou leaves, and a lonely Scottie calls the operator to find out why he hasn't received any phone calls that day. He's interrupted by the doorbell. A woman enters and introduces herself as a nurse hired by Dr. Petrelli to look after him. Insisting that he doesn't need a nurse, Scottie tells her, "I'm in a rotten mood today. It's just that it's my birthday and I seem to be the only one who's remembered." Scottie is shocked when the doggedly unattractive nurse offers to go to bed with him to comfort him, and is even more surprised when she undresses and he recognizes her as Hilary (Darcy Dunlop), a former prostitute whom Scottie helped set up a travel-agency business. She and Jud have arrived to take Scottie to the tribute, and she calls him "a rare creature - a man with absolutely no order of priorities." Asked if he agrees, Jud says, "I guess I always wanted to be a priority." Admitting that I wasn't the son you wanted. Jud insists that "I could never be like you." "That's where you're wrong," answers Scottie; "You're exactly like me. You never made an emotional commitment in your life either." At the tribute itself, as he is onstage speaking, Scottie breaks down and begins talking directly to Jud: "A few months ago I had this crazy idea that I'd like to leave you with something. Well, tonight as I listened I realized what it was I should try to pass on to you." (He pauses) "If I could wish one thing for you, Jud, it's a passion - for anything - anybody - that will go the distance." For once in his life, Scotie admits he doesn't have a punch line. Jud, stuttering slightly, stand up in the audience and begins firing joke lines at Scottie, and the ice is finally broken. Scottie calls his son on stage, and they embrace. As a final joke, Scottie drops his pants as he and Jud walk offstage.