beautiful poison logo_r1

Book & Lyrics by Steven David Horwich
Music by Geoff Levin
adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Rappaccini’s Daughter

Cast Size
: Male: 3    Female: 3    Ensemble: 3-3    Total Cast Size: 12 (However, you can use as many in the ensemble as you wish.)
Orchestra: Flexible, 5-large
Published Script:  Available Upon Request
Production Rights: Restricted. Please contact us.
Recordings: The demo (below)
Other shows by the authors: The Third Wish   Horwich:  And The River Flows, Four Lives In Two Acts, Call To Arms, The Kingdom That Was, The Wheel Turns, Tragedy, All Of The People – All Of The Time, I’ve Died And Gone To Acting School Heaven, Loveplay , The Theaters Of Paradise Alongside Moliere    Collaborative: A Tale Of Two Cities, Eden

Will work for Little Theater groups with large and capable stages, Dinner Theater, Colleges and Universities,  Stock companies, professional companies, Off-Broadway or Broadway.

Be Warned:
This is a small cast original musical with a contemporary pop/rock score. Audiences and theater groups who want to only work with established shows should look elsewhere.


ACT ONE: We see a dangerous inner city apartment building, its denizens consist of drug addicts, prostitutes, and others. Enter the Landlady, in her thirties, clearly selling herself as a cottage industry, showing a young man, Nat, an apartment, as the denizens glare threateningly. (“The Next Person You See”) Alone in his new apartment, Nat, a twenty year-old writer with no ideas, contemplates his vacant life. (“I’ve Got Nothing”)

Hearing noise from his window, he looks down at a nicely-kept, small house with a strangely vibrant garden, below and next door. There, a mature man, James, wears a hazmat suit while tending to flowers…strange enough. Then, his gorgeous daughter, Faith, tells him to go in for lunch. Alone in the garden, and strangely able to approach flowers her father needed protection from, she sings of her longing to “Touch”, and to be touched. Nat is struck with love instantly. But a cat has made its way into the garden, and Faith scream for her dad, who hurries out, dressing in the suit quickly. They watch as the cat sniff at a plant, and dies horribly. And suddenly, Nat has a great story, though he has no idea how it will end. (“Up Yours, Edgar Allen Poe”)

Nat’s got something to live for (“I’ve Got Nothing” reprise) as he waits by Faith’s front door, with some flowers and a lot of hope. He’s allowed in (through a front door with many locks) by James, who firmly grills the boy, as he saw Nat spying on them out his window. He insists that Nat drink a neon-blue potion he pours for the boy, if he ever wants to meet Faith. Nat, who has nothing to lose, complies, and is then told that Faith is unavailable, Nat should return tomorrow.

Watching as Nat, already growing ill, leaves James’ house, in a plump, middle-aged man, Javier, in the apartment below Nat’s. He suggests that for some reason, he is running out of time, and returns to some sort of science experiment in his room. In the mean time, we see Nat in his room, trying to write, but now delusional.

The next day, Nat again shows at James’ door, with cheaper flowers, and ill but alive. James gives him yet another potion, and sends him on his way again, telling Nat to return tomorrow. Again, javier watches as Nat departs, ill. (“Hunger” preprise)

James eats supper with his daughter, separated by a very long table. James explains to Faith what he’s doing to Nat – slowly introducing the same poisons into him he’s been feeding Faith since she was a child, so that she can have someone to be with – if Nat survives. She’s horrified and leaves the room. Alone, he contemplates the “Madness” that led him to do the things he did, a brilliant scientist who lost his wife to a drunk driver, and his determination to take revenge on the world.

Nat is delusional, in his room, writing from his own drugged madness. (“Up Yours, Edgar Allen Poe” reprise.) His Landlady, unaware of anything that has happened, unlocks and steps into Nat’s room to seduce him, and take any money he may have. (“A Helping Hand”) But when the woman discovers that Nat has visited the strange and dangerous people next door, she retreats quickly.

Later that evening, Nat is finally sleeping when there’s a knock at his door. He shouts at the Landlady to leave him alone, but it’s not her, it’s Javier, his downstairs neighbor. Expressing concern for Nat, Nat warily allows the man into the apartment. Javier lets Nat know about James and Faith, that Faith is a plague waiting to happen. He seems to know a lot about them, and is in love in his own way with Faith. He warns Nat to stay away from them, but Nat refuses. Javier implies that then, soon, only he (Javier) will be left to watch Faith through binoculars. Alone, Nat starts writing Javier into his story, in an uncomplimentary manner. But Javier, also alone, contemplates the “Hunger” we each feel to succeed, at the expense of all others.

Next morning, Nat knocks on the door, and instead of James, it is Faith who, from a distance, invites Nat in…

ACT TWO: They do not touch, but Nat joins Faith in the garden. (Nat stays on a bench removed from the plants.) They get to know each other. He is the first person other than her father she’s ever been alone with. They determine, each in their own minds, that they are in love. (“I’d Rather Stop Breathing”) But Nat has not fully acclimated, and grows ill in Faith’s presence. He’s helped out by James, who invites him to return tomorrow. Alone, James bemoans the “Madness” of their situation, and when there’s a knock at the door, he shouts to Nat to run away and never return. Only it isn’t Nat at the door, it’s a pizza delivery boy.

That night, Nat in his apartment and Faith in her house, the think of each other. (“I’d Rather Stop Breathing” reprise) Faith confronts her father and asks if she’s cured, because Nat was able to be with her for so long. Miserably, James informs her that it isn’t her – it’s Nat, increasingly infected. She doesn’t want to believe it, and make a plan with Nat via the phone.

Next day, Faith escapes through the garden gate and into Nat’s waiting car. She is “In The World”, for the first time! They drive about, and she sees little but misery…poverty, drug deals, accidents and death…and she starts to wonder if a plague might not be the most merciful thing that could happen. Nat has spent time alone with her in a car, however, and survived it with no real ill effects. He is changing.

Faith’s father confronts her as she re-enters the house. No, she’s not cured, he tells her, though he would do anything to giver her back “The Life I Took Away”.

Nat again buys flowers at a local flower shop. He is thrilled, in love, with a story worth writing, things are good. But when he touches the flower girl, something horrible happens. She suddenly grows violently ill – then her body catches fire, and she dies. (“What I Feel What I See”) Nat now knows he is like Faith, and rages as he returns to his apartment, threatening everyone he sees that he is “Toxic”.

Javier knocks at Nat’s door, though he is unwilling to draw near Nat. They talk through the door, so Nat does not see the gun in Javier’s hand. Javier let’s Nat know that his science creation is done – a universal cure for poisons and toxins. Javier believes that if Nat or Faith drink it, they will be cured. He wants Nat’s help to see James right away, so he can use the cure on Faith. Nat doesn’t believe Javier, but again, he has nothing to lose and follows him over to their house.

James allows Nat in, and is shocked to find Javier behind Nat – and now openly carrying a gun. It is discovered now that Javier was once James’ best student. Javier leads the men to the garden, planning to force Faith to take his cure. James is convinced it will kill Faith. Faith sees what is happening, and refuses to cooperate – so Javier shoots her father. Now Faith approaches Javier, and kisses him. He quickly busts into flames and is gone…only the vial with the cure remaining, and the gun. Faith determines this is a bad world, and invites Nat to take her hand, step from the garden, and end everything in a quick and “gentle” worldwide demise “As Kind As Rain”. But barely alive, James shoots his daughter to prevent her plan, even as he himself expires. Dying, she speaks a final time to Nat (“I’d Rather Stop Breathing”, and bursts into flames, vanishing.

The cops are breaking into the garden house as Nat realizes he has seconds. He drinks Javier’s mysterious potion and waits to see if he’ll be changed, safe…even as the cops are heard approaching, and as Nat dreams of the story he will write. (“Up Yours, Edgar Allen Poe” reprise)


“The Next Person You See”, “I’ve Got Nothing”, “Touch”, “Up Yours, Edgar Allen Poe”, “I’ve Got Nothing” (reprise), “Hunger” (preprise), “Madness”, “Up Yours, Edgar Allen Poe” (reprise), “A Helping Hand”, “Hunger”, “I’d Rather Stop Breathing”, “Madness” (reprise), “I’d Rather Stop Breathing” reprise, “In The World”, “The Life I Took Away”, “What I Feel What I See”, “Toxic”, “The Next Person You See” (reprise), “As Kind As Rain”, “I’d Rather Stop Breathing” (reprise), “Up Yours, Edgar Allen Poe” (reprise)


(Music by Geoff Levin, Lyrics by Steven David Horwich.  Orchestration by Geoff Levin.)











We don’t offer opinions of original shows.

MY RATING: We do not rate original shows.



The score is a cross between pop/rock forms and theatrical forms. The music is direct, but intricate in places. The three leads will need strong voices, but they also need to be character-specific. The Musical Director will need to play well, with energy. Not too difficult a score. Get a Musical Director with some experience, however.

Nat – Tenor with youthful voice (early 20s), a decent belt, solid mid-range, some nice high notes, good at harmonizing, a solid actor while singing.

Faith – Mezzo with a decent pop belt, nice high notes, good at harmonizing.

James – Mature baritone, strong voice, large range, strong mid-register.

Javier – Lyric baritone, character-driven voice.

The Landlady – (doubles as denizen) Alto with a good belt, able to sing some Spanish, good comic singer with energy.

Flower Girl – (doubles as denizen) Mezzo, sweet, innocent, lovely voice, could understudy Faith.

Ensemble – All must sing pop/theater styles well, harmonize, do some belting, sing in character.


Though Poison is not a “dance show”, it does offer the chance for some interesting choreographic work. A Choreographer for this show must be comfortable with movement that forward a story rather than movement for movement’s sake. Also, your performers ar4e not likely to be dancers, you’ll need to be good at working with non-dancers.

A Choreographer for this show is likely to be involved in staging “The Next Person You See”, “Up Yours, Edgar Allen Poe”, “Madness”, “A Helping Hand”, “Hunger”, In The World”, “What I Feel What I See”, and “Toxic”.

“The Next Person You See” presents a dirty, grungy, dangerous inner city area, ion front of and around a crappy apartment building. The denizens are human dregs, drug pushers, prostitutes, you name it. Into the midst of this comes our lead, Nat, young, cynical, uncaring but pure in a way. He should present a visual contrast to his surroundings. There should be a claustrophobic sensibility to the movement, a sense that both Nat and the audience are being trapped in a bad place. No dance, but rather simple movement that creates a mood, an atmosphere, and which allows the characters and story to begin to be established.

“Up Yours, Edgar Allen Poe” is a sort of punk rock, upbeat solo, sung by a young man who cared for nothing and had nothing – and now is in love and has a story worth telling. It is exuberant, an explosion of pent-in energy and anger. You can’t do much dance, again, it is a solo and he’s singing. But his rapture should be communicated through some movement.

“Madness” is a story number, and the story aspects of it must be first priority. These can be communicated through simple movement, but not “dance.” And James should remain central to the number at all times, even as we see the tragedy of his past. Use the ensemble to create the pictures needed.

“A Helping Hand” is a tango in the Kurt Weill mode, sung by the Landlady as she attempts to seduce (and rob) the much younger Nat. She should dance with his discarded clothes, with any object available, and though her seduction is silly, it is not implausible. A fun opportunity to get a bit of movement in.

“Hunger” is a statement, direct, harsh, a frontal attack on the audience. It is angry, bitter, and brutal. No dance, just some simple movement to end the act, cornering the audience.

“In The World” is like “Madness”, another number where the ensemble is used to demonstrate the reality of the world – dark, poverty-stricken, grim. Images are created, perhaps almost in tableau. Nat and Faith never leave their car seats.

“What I Feel What I See” is a duet, almost performed stationary, where the two characters describe the death of one of them. Let the words paint the picture. Keep this simple, whatever movement is there should be unobtrusive.

“Toxic” is a solo, but Nat is threatening the denizens, and the number needs to be really staged and perhaps choreographed. This is your 11:00 number, a wake-up call to the audience, and it needs visual content and energy. Nat is a plague and he now knows it. The threat is real.

Your Choreographer should be reasonably experienced, but be good at avoiding “dance” in favor of movement that helps develop the story and characters.

Nat – Early 20s, a bit gawky, somewhat handsome, can look and play dissipated. Strong voice, can continue to act while singing. Not much movement. Calls for a very good actor who can play cold, aloof, angry, willing to play unlikable, an anti-hero. Cast for acting, voice, type, a little movement (but almost none). Must be very strong.

Faith – Late teens-early 20s. A beautiful girl of either Black or mixed race. Filled with yearning, afraid of what she can do, naïve about life and the world. Utterly toxic, a plague transmitted by touch and by close proximity that means instant death. Cast for voice, type, acting. Must be very strong. The sort of ingenue men fall in love with at first sight.

James – Late 40s-50s. Faith’s father, Black. A brilliant scientist, sophisticated, worldly, but riddled with doubt and guilt and anger, and isolated. A complicated and intense man who loves his daughter, but whose hate blinded him to this fact until it was far too late. Cast for acting, type, voice. Must be very strong.

Javier – Late 20s-30s. Latino, overweight, slightly effeminate, brilliant, driven as James is and was driven. Immoral (or amoral), unscrupulous, dryly comic. Cast for acting, voice, type,. Some movement.

The Landlady – (doubles as denizen) Any race, in her 30s-40s. Landlady in a slum by day, prostitute and thief and who knows what by night. A hot mama, you can see why some men go for her. Cast for acting, voice, type, dance. Must be strong at everything.

Flower Girl – (doubles as denizen) 20s, sweet, pretty, a loving nature, the sort of girl that men would fall for if they were smart. Cast for type, acting, voice.

Ensemble – The “denizens.” Various scum – drug pushers and buyers, thieves, murderers. Must be very strong actors, types. (One should be able to understudy Nat, another should cover James.) About 3-3.


One unit set, plus one insert. But the one set is complex, will need to be built, and requires a reasonably large stage and a quite capable, experienced Set Designer.

The one base set consists of a two stories of an apartment building in the wrong part of town, to one side (probably stage right). We see the lobby and a part of Javier’s small apartment on the bottom floor, Nat’s small apartment above Javier’s, all of it open to the audience. Center – the garden, a gate suggested around it. To the opposite side, the garden house, a main door (heavily locked), barred windows, a sitting/dining room with some chairs, a long table, and two doors, one leading to the garden, another to the back of the house.

The garden needs to glow, be surreal in the degree to which they are alive. The flowers are beyond healthy, they’re frightening. There should be a bench isolated from the living garden in the yard.

There needs to be trap doors wherever a body will be vanishing.

In front of the garden, upstage, is a “street”. The “car” will be there later in Act II. Yes, this single set in complex, but no more so than many others. A small hole in “dirt” should be able to appear where the cat is buried.

One insert set (which might be played in one) is the flower shop, a hint of a display window, perhaps a front door, and a counter. A trap door.

The set design is critical to the staging and must be worked out in advance of staging.


It’s all modern dress. The denizens are street scum, and their clothes might be distressed. Nat, Faith, James and to a lesser degree, Javier are better dressed, more aware of their appearance. All of it can be gotten off the rack or from thrift stores.

Faith should be beautiful, her dress spring-like, accenting her youth and loveliness.

Hazmat suits can be purchased as cheaply as under $20…so why build it? This show is a simple job for a relatively inexperienced costumer.


Well, a cat puppet must die. A shovel. Pizza boxes. Plates and food for the table. The lab paraphernalia for Javier’s place. The all important vial with the cure. A glass of red liquid, another of blue. (Perhaps the glass can be colored and nothing in it.) A hand gun. Flowers at the flower shop, that can turn black. (A magic trick, get some help with it.) A job for a Prop Master with some expertise.


The show requires highly atmospheric lighting. Moods change, we go from day to night to day. Special effects vanishing bodies will require specialty lighting. A show for an experienced and creative Lighting Designer.


Changes in Nat should be somewhat visible, as his health changes. But you may find there’s no time to show these through make-up. The denizens should be grimy, grim, dangerous, even occasionally bloody. A job for a somewhat experienced Make-Up Designer.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Set Designer, Prop Master, Lighting Designer, Nat, Faith, James, Javier

A good show for a theater with a reasonably deep, wide and well-equipped stage. The resources called for by the cast size, orchestra size, costuming and props are pretty limited. The set could be a real expense, but there’s essentially just the one. Generally an inexpensive show to do.

The show is a dark comedy, commenting on the generation coming up now, that often seems to have given up on everything, as well as the destructive qualities of the previous generation. It does make its subtle point, but is mostly grim fun.