Gorgons

An even longer play for two women, Gorgons, uses blackouts, appropriately, to separate the scenes as in a movie.  The simple unit set contains a sofa, a bed, a makeup table with mirrors, a staircase, a few chairs and a table.  Action is continuous and music plays during the very short blackouts.  The characters of the title are Ruth and Mildred, actresses who have been in the movie business for a long time.  Ruth visits Mildred backstage after a stage performance to offer her a script that Ruth thinks would make a good movie, but she needs Mildred to play opposite her.  The women insult each other and agree that they have never been friends, but Mildred says she will read the script that Ruth thinks will put them both “back on top” again.  Ruth says that Mildred will play the sister who is the “washed up, psychotic bitch”  that the sisters live in an old Gothic mansion, were once  a famous tap-dancing act called Enid and Bunny, and that they both loved a handsome, tap-dancing comedian named Bob.  When Ruth thinks she sees a rat, Mildred walks over and steps viciously on it.  We hear the rat’s squeal and, after the blackout, “rather harrowing Hitchcockian thriller music.”  The music ends as the lights come up on Mildred (Bunny) at the top of the Gothic mansion staircase in a fright wig and housecoat.  She wonders where Bob is, and Ruth (Enid) comes on in a wheelchair to tell her that Bob sent her a present, in a box in the shadows at the top of the stairs.  Mildred/Bunny opens the box and discovers Bob’s head which she throws down the stairs.  Ruth/Enid asks Nigel, the director of the movie, if they can shoot the scene again because the head didn’t bounce the way she wanted.  She throws the head back to Mildred/Bunny and she reprises the scene, throwing the head more forcefully.  But Ruth/Enid is not satisfied and throws the head back up to Mildred/Bunny.  Tired, complaining of sore feet, Mildred wants to leave but Ruth/Enid persuades her to stay and have a turkey sandwich that she made.  The women talk of their unsuccessful relationships with men, their absent children, and resume their work on the scene as the lights go to black and we hear “ominous, harrowing music.”  In an eerie moonlight effect in the Gothic mansion, Ruth/Enid wheels on her chair, asking for Bunny.  Mildred/Bunny   enters, dragging an ax, telling Ruth/Enid that if she is afraid she can get up and run away.  Ruth/Enid insists that she cannot walk and screams loudly as Mildred/Bunny gets close to her with the upraised ax.  The scream is too loud for Mildred, who breaks character and asks Nigel if they can take a break.  The women insult each other’s acting ability, appearance, and sexual behavior.  Mildred thinks that Ruth hates her because Mildred slept  with French, one of Ruth’s husbands whom she barely remembers.  Mildred suggests that they do their work like “the old warhorses” they are and be done with it.  She asks that in the baked rat scene Ruth/Enid remember that Mildred has a herniated disc and will need help getting Ruth/Enid out of the bed.  We hear ominous music in the blackout and then see Ruth/Enid in the bed, the wheel chair just out of her reach.  Mildred/Bunny comes on with a dinner tray with a covered dish on it.  Ruth/Enid screams when she lifts the cover and sees a baked rat.  Ruth/Enid says she needs to make a phone call and asks for help getting into her wheelchair.  As Mildred/Bunny tries to move her, Ruth/Enid makes her body a dead weight and Mildred screams and falls to the floor with Ruth on top of her.  Mildred tells Nigel to call an ambulance and we hear the siren in the blackout.  The lights come up on Mildred in bed.  Ruth comes in with a box of chocolates, apologizing, and hoping that they can finish the movie.  They decide that what they both love is the work, although Mildred prefers the theatre to movies.  But then they start trading insults again only to realize that they need each other.  Ruth says that she likes sex, and Mildred says that sex is horrible.  Ruth agrees, but then the insults continue.  Ruth says she was born into a large, poor, immigrant family, unloved.  Mildred shares the information that she inherited a Puritanical streak from her New England family who disowned her when she said she wanted to be an actress.  Ruth helps Mildred out of bed toward the bathroom and, left alone in the light, carries on a conversation with Mildred in the darkness.  Ruth regrets the fact that her children loathe her and Mildred says she can’t talk to her daughter without hearing her own mother’s voice squawking.  Ruth asks Mildred to help her finish the movie and we hear the toilet flushing and then in the blackout the sound of a powerful orchestra.  In a spotlight, dressed up, holding an envelope, Mildred announces that the winner of the Best Actress Academy Award is Ruth St. Ives for Gorgons.  Mildred smiles grotesquely as she gives Ruth the statuette and steps back for Ruth’s acceptance speech.  In a long litany of people she is thankful to, Ruth mentions her cockatoos and her cat, Mr. Poopy, but not Mildred.  The music and applause fade in the blackout and the lights come on Ruth’s house.  We hear crickets and a loud banging on the door.  Ruth, in a robe, lets in Mildred, still in her gown, rather drunk, furious that Ruth didn’t mention her and deliberately humiliated her.  She grabs the Oscar and Ruth tries to get it back.  They struggle and fall over behind the sofa.  We see Mildred’s arm, holding the statue, come up and then down, violently, several times and we hear Ruth’s screams.  After a silence, Mildred stands, spattered with blood, holding the bloody statuette.  She compliments Ruth on her death scene performance.  We hear sirens and Mildred explains that she probably set something off when she climbed over the barbed wire fence.  A bright light shines into the room and Mildred takes it for a spotlight and speaks to the Academy, thanking them for the award.  She concludes by saying that movies are like life, futile and stupid, but “when they’re over, what else have we got?”  Lights out.

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