Letters from Quebec to Providence in the Rain

The setting for the four-character (2m, 2w) one-act Letters from Quebec to Providence in the Rain represents two old houses, one in Quebec and one in Providence, with some furniture being part of both.  We hear whippoorwills in the darkness and then see Petrus taking some letters from an old book, Drago’s Occult Notebooks, that he had bought that morning from a girl selling books by the river.  Vanessa questions him about his motives, and Petrus tells her that the letters are written to someone named Vanessa by a Jonathan and were mailed from Quebec to Providence.  Lights come up on Jonathan speaking, not writing, a letter to Vanessa about moving into a house in Quebec.  Vanessa tells Petrus that she had a brother named Jonathan, now dead.  Jonathan speaks of hearing the sounds of a girl talking to herself in the bath and lights come up on Marianne in the tub, speaking in the third person of Vanessa meeting her roommate, Marianne, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.  As Petrus and Vanessa continue their conversation about Vanessa’s brother, Jonathan describes how he went up the stairs to the bath and found the water running and the tub about to overflow, but “nobody was there.”  Marianne speaks to Petrus, calling him a “wicked boy,” and tells him to close the door because he’s letting in goblins.  She then continues her narration of Vanessa bringing her roommate Marianne home to Quebec to meet Vanessa’s brother Jonathan who fell hopelessly in love with her.  Vanessa tells Petrus that she went to Brown University because she was fascinated by the writer H. P. Lovecraft who lived in Providence.  She says she brought her roommate Marianne home with her over Christmas break and corroborates what Marianne said earlier about Jonathan falling in love with her.  Marianne says she used to walk by Lovecraft’s house at night, and Jonathan, still speaking a letter, asks Vanessa if Marianne ever speaks of him.  Marianne asks if Petrus is out there on the staircase.  Vanessa narrates an idea for a story about a man who buys a book from a girl by a river and finds some old letters inside.  Marianne says that Jonathan wrote her hundreds of love letters but she never wrote back.  Petrus says that there is a photograph in the book with “From Marianne, With Love” on the back.  He asks Vanessa if she knows the girl in the photograph and Vanessa says she can’t be certain, that the time she spent in the mental asylum with the drugs and shock treatments have addled her memory.  Marianne tells Vanessa (in an earlier time) that she has met  “a most wonderful young man” named Petrus Van Hoek, an artist who studies the anatomies of young women and is taking photographs of her in the bath.  Vanessa (in a later time) tells Petrus that she was jealous and confronted Marianne while she was in the bathtub.  Jonathan says that he climbed the stairs to the bathroom and found Marianne lying dead in the tub.  Vanessa says that “the murderess” was hiding behind the door and hit the intruder in the head with the bulldog door stop, realizing later that it was her brother who has never been right in the head since.  Vanessa says that “she” began receiving letters from Quebec, written by her brother, and she goes back to confront him but ends up wandering the streets of Quebec thinking it is Providence.  Jonathan says he goes to the house, finds Drago’s book, and sees that the name on the inside front cover is Petrus Van Hoek.  Vanessa tells Petrus that he was Marianne’s lover; she wonders why he came to read to her in the hospital and then took her into his home.  He says she knows why and that it is time for her bath.  The lights fade and we hear whippoorwills in the darkness.  

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