Marina

Marina is a 24-page monologue written in a free verse format about the Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva as she is deciding in August, 1941, whether or not to take her own life.  The play is dedicated to, and was first performed in New York City on June 15, 2013, by the Russian actress Tatyana Kot.  In darkness, we listen to Scriabin’s Etude  #12, Opus 8, and as the music ends the lights come up on Marina, a woman in her forties.  Nigro writes that the set “could be” a room with a red lantern, a wooden table and chair with an old pack of tarot cards, a length of rope on an old trunk, and a blue wooden rocking chair on which is placed a little girl doll.  “But,” he writes, perhaps the stage is bare and Marina is in a circle of light.  Her first lines are disjointed recollections of images from her past and she says she has blank spaces in her head.  She tells us the French police keep asking her about poisoned chocolates.  She says she is the child of her father’s second wife who plays the piano.  We hear the sound of a piano playing, very softly, Scriabin’s Etude #11 in B flat minor, Opus 8, and Marina says she hated practicing on the piano because the exercises were mechanical and stupid and she wanted to feel, when she played, the way she felt when she listened to Tschaikovsky or Scriabin.  She says her mother burned her love poems because she knew that words can kill.  She thinks marriage is a good thing but says that it is a sin to think that you ever really know another person.  She tells us she has seen the Devil, like a Great Dane, sitting on her sister’s bed, and she loves him.  She needs every day to be a madness, a catastrophe, a fatal rhythm of passion and despair, the rhythm of sex and art.  Love is self delusion, truth is a traitor, and we all end up in Hell, with nothing.  She tells us she criticized her daughter’s drawing and would not let her play the piano.  She says she never knew her husband and that writing is something that happens to you, like love.  She says she was unfaithful to her husband before and after a five-year separation during the war and revolution.  She speaks of Mandelstam and Pasternak and Rilke and says that being in love with a new person is much more inspiring than being in love with the same old person.  Still, she never stopped loving her husband; she just loved other people as well.  She says women are better lovers because they know what to do.  She says she has been in love with the dead poet Pushkin since she was a little girl.  She tells us that if we haven’t struggled to feed our children with no money in a cold city in time of war we can’t presume to judge her for reaching out for a little happiness.  When she was two years and ten months old her daughter Irina died of starvation in the orphanage where her friends convinced her to put her so she wouldn’t die of starvation.  After the war and revolution she went into exile in Czechoslovakia and then Paris.  All Russians in exile, she says, are dead souls, but then she tells us that is not true.  She says the French police tell her that her husband is a spy, an assassin who used poisoned chocolates.  Her husband went back to Russia with her daughter and sister and they all beg her to come back but soon after their return they are all arrested.  She survives by translating the work of others but she knows if one writes to please somebody else the soul dies and then the writer dies.  She says she and other writers were shipped to the country but that she doesn’t want to die.  She says if you listen you can hear somebody playing the piano and we hear again Scriabin’s Etude #11.  She tells us she returned to her childhood home but it had been taken apart and used for firewood.  The house was gone but the Devil was sitting in the ruins waiting for her.  She says there are no more words, only a hook and a coil of rope.  In her dream her mother plays the piano in an empty house.  “From this point on, your life begins.”  Light fades and goes out and the music ends in the darkness.

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