The Good Bet
Mark, a respected moral philosopher, is convinced that people are fundamentally good. Ben, who investigates intellectual property theft, is equally convinced that every seeming act of kindness is simply a more indirect route toward self-gratification. They have maintained an unlikely friendship since childhood; however, the effort Mark has always put into helping Ben has been matched by Ben’s resentment toward him for the lack of respect these efforts imply. When Ben decides to stop fighting white collar crimes and achieves immediate success by seducing disgruntled employees into committing them instead, he becomes convinced that unrestrained self-interest is the truth of human nature. He believes he is liberating people from the doomed quest to lead more morally exemplary lives espoused by Mark. When Mark derides this “realization,” Ben proposes a bet to prove it by tempting an unarguably ethical, socially conscious scientist into betraying the people who desperately depend on him. As it soon becomes clear, Ben is really out to prove that he can get Mark himself to do anything–however unconscionable–simply by making the cost of maintaining his humanity too high.
I’m a huge fan of unanswerable questions, particularly the chicken and egg kind. One of my favorites is whether altruism is fundamental to human nature. Some people see altruism as a pure, uncomplicated reaction to the distress of others, as instinctual and powerful as our more self-serving reactions. Other people maintain that altruism is simply a strategy, crafted over the course of human evolution, to hide one’s actual, self-serving agenda. I’ve often wondered why so many people appear to be absolutely convinced that their view of human nature, whether it’s the affirming, hopeful one or its darker, cynical alternative, is the only correct one, despite the lack of any clear evidence that favors either. I was particularly interested in those people who are so emotionally invested in one of these viewpoints that it becomes too psychologically costly for them to entertain any doubts.
As my interest began to take dramatic shape, I imagined two friends, a moral philosopher and an investigator of intellectual property theft, whose tense, unlikely friendship has survived since childhood. Not only would they hold entrenched, diametrically opposed beliefs regarding human nature, but each one’s beliefs would be central to his personal and professional identity, along with whatever success he had achieved. Then I wondered: what would happen if one friend’s desire to prove he was right became so intense that he convinced the other to put their opposing beliefs to a test? And what would happen if the test got out of control?
|Stage directions||Kaitlin J Henderson|
Bob Clyman’s plays have been produced Off-Broadway and at regional theaters, including the Alley Theatre, Laguna Playhouse, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, San Jose Repertory Theatre, George Street Theatre, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Colony Studio Theatre in Los Angeles, Writers Theatre of New Jersey, and L.A. Theatre Works, in addition to touring Scotland. His play Secret Order was produced by Ensemble Studio Theatre under the auspices of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and received an Outer Circle Critics Award nomination for Best Script after its production at 59E59 Theatre. His plays Tranced and The Exceptionals were both supported by Edgerton Foundation New American Play Awards. The Exceptionals was nominated for both Best Play and Best New Play of 2012 by The Independent Reviewers of New England and was chosen for Ashland New Plays Festival (2010). His play The Good Bet won the Stanley Drama Award (2015) and was chosen for Ashland New Plays Festival (2014). He has been awarded a number of national prizes, including a Eugene O’Neill Conference Playwrights Fellowship, a Geraldine Dodge Fellowship, Playwrights First Award, New Jersey State Arts Council Award, Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship, Berilla-Kerr Foundation Award, Djerassi Foundation Fellowship and Shenandoah Valley Playwrights Fellowship.
The Good Bet won the Stanley Drama Award and was one of four plays chosen for the 2014 Ashland New Plays Festival. It has also had developmental readings at Writers Theatre of New Jersey and The Aglet Theatre in Massachusetts.