Character List and Exegesis for "Counting To Zero," a short play by Lee Bob Black 

(Read the short play "Counting To Zero.")

Character List


  • ALYX is American.
  • She is a Jewish American Princess (JAP).
  • ALYX is QUENTIN’s girlfriend.
  • ALYX doesn’t like DERRICK. Her hostility comes out passive-aggressively; e.g., she tells him to be a man (which is perhaps a slur against DERRICK’s homosexuality).


  • Gay male.
  • DERRICK always says that it “depends.” He is unable or unwilling to be decisive. He prefers to sit on the fence and not directly answer questions.
  • DERRICK embodies contradictions and double standards. For example, while he has slept with tons of men, he feels unloved (“less special”) when he learns that a former lover of his (Bret) slept with a lot of men without telling him.
  • Maybe DERRICK has also slept with many men from Doma, but he’s just not being truthful about the actual number.


  • ISABEL is Italian. Her nationality is actually not that important; but it is crucial that she is not American.
  • ISABEL is a bit of a floozy, a loose woman.


  • QUENTIN is the questioner. He asks most of the questions and commences most of the topics of discussion.
  • QUENTIN is ALYX’s boyfriend.


  • SKYE is the scribe.
  • She lives her life in the clouds (the sky), she lives in fantasy.
  • She is single and holding out for her soulmate.
  • She’s a spinster.
  • SKYE is ‘the simple(r) / dumb(er) one.’
Comparisons of ‘types’ within the group:
  • ISABEL and DERRICK are more sexually aggressive, they’ve slept with a hell of a lot of partners in their lifetimes (many from Doma). They don’t care about ‘the number’ (theirs or anyone else’s).
  • QUENTIN and SKYE are more sexually repressive, more prudish. They’ve had fewer sexual partners. They worry about ‘the number’ (theirs and their partner’s). They are uncomfortable with sex. For example, QUENTIN suffers pre-ejaculation, and fears ‘sexually carnivorous’ women.


A few words on the sexual tension between QUENTIN and DERRICK. I have intentionally understated the strain and shared sexual history between these characters. A large portion of what these men talk about, are actually cryptic comments and criticisms of their own fling. Examples include:
  • They speak ostensibly about ‘other’ relationships that ‘other’ couples are having, but they’re really secretly talking about their own.
  • DERRICK’s comments about his former lover named Bret could all be interpreted as applying to QUENTIN.
  • When QUENTIN asks DERRICK, “What’s the attraction for gay men to have sex with straight men?”, QUENTIN is actually asking something more like: “What was your attraction, as a gay man, to have sex with me, a straight man?”
A few words on ALYX’s unconfirmed and unexpressed fears that her boyfriend QUENTIN might be unfaithful to her:
  • Regarding the bit where ALYX talks about how she dislikes there being Doma regulars who she has not met--this is a (veiled) metaphor that foreshadows that there are other relationships (i.e. QUENTIN and DERRICK’s affair) going on without her knowledge. Note that she says, “[other Doma regulars] come [to Doma] when we’re not here, and, who knows, maybe they come here more than we do?”
  • Note also that ALYX says, “I can compete with another woman, but I can’t compete with a man.” Maybe everyone in the group (except ALYX) and the audience knows by the time that this is said, that she’s been deceived by her boyfriend and friends.
  • ALYX is talking generally in the above extracts. When she says these lines, she has no idea that her boyfriend QUENTIN has cheated on her with DERRICK.