The Shadows

  Another five-character (2m3w) play, set in London 1932, Munich 1923, and Prague 1913 is entitled The Shadows.  Nigro includes a set diagram that could be used for a number of his plays.  Benches are placed down right and down left, desks right and left for Quinn and Rath, a couch center; steps DR, R, C, L, and DL lead to an upstage platform with a bed UR, a bathtub UC, and a table with chairs UL.  As we hear the sound of a ticking clock, the lights come up on Hannah, 19, in London 1932, on the couch.  We can see Rath at the down left bench, Quinn on the down right bench, Maya sitting on the bed and Sophie writing at the table.  Each character voices thoughts that occur in the play like leitmotifs.  We then hear birds singing as Hannah walks to Rath, her father, asking him if he is all right, that he seems troubled.  He asks her where she goes when she is out alone exploring London.  Maya enters their space, asking if Rath, her husband, wants meat for dinner.  She says that Rath used to dream of his father committing suicide by stepping out an attic window.  Hannah leaves to get some lamb for dinner and Rath asks Maya who Hannah is seeing.  Maya tells Rath that he should be grateful that Quinn got him a teaching job in London and asks him if he wants to see Sophie and the scene ends as Quinn and Sophie speak their thoughts.  Maya moves toward Sophie who descends the steps and they talk about when they were friends in Munich.  Maya wants Sophie to come to see Rath.  Their conversation is interspersed with comments on life and love from Quinn and Rath.  Sophie joins Quinn feeding pigeons on the bench and Maya watches them from the couch.  Rath moves to his desk and begins writing.  Sophie tells Quinn that Maya is worried about Rath.  Quinn tells Sophie that she is doing very well, getting published, her work taken seriously.  He says it will kill her to see Rath again.  Sophie describes waiting in the rain in Prague outside Rath’s office, then going inside to knock on his door.  As Hannah speaks in 1932 from the bench DL of her dreams of being a young girl in Prague during the war, Sophie moves to Rath’s office/desk.  It is 1923.  He puts a blanket around her and they sit on the couch.  Hannah speaks in 1932 of the first time she met Sophie, when her father brought her home for dinner, and how she loved her from the moment she saw her.  Maya moves toward the couch (Munich, 1923) and tells Sophie that she is always interested in her husband’s students.  The women talk about children and Sophie says she probably won’t have any.  Hannah crosses to Quinn on the DR bench and they speak of tragedy and their time in Munich.  Maya crosses to the UL table as Hannah asks Quinn if he thinks her father is going mad.  Sophie and Rath eat lunch in his office and Hannah moves to join Maya at the table.  Sophie and Rath talk about writing and Rath tells her a story of David Hume being overwhelmed by the terror of solipsism.  She says she is real, flesh and blood, and she wants him to touch her.  Rath gets up to leave, but returns when Sophie starts crying, and kisses her as the light fades.  As Hannah and Maya start talking (London 1932) at the table, Sophie moves to the DR bench to sit with Quinn and Rath moves to his desk.  Hannah says that she thinks the shadows have gotten into her father’s head.  Maya tells her that she went to see Sophie and asked her to visit.  Quinn has moved to his desk and he and Rath (Munich 1923) talk about their theories of art and love.  Rath admits to betraying his wife with Sophie.  Angry, Quinn leaves to teach a class and Maya and Sophie on the bench DR talk about university politics and how Quinn has been able to protect Rath.  Sophie moves up to Rath on the bed, takes off her dress, and sits in her slip at the foot of the bed.  She tells how her parents died when she was a teenager and how her aunt took her to an orphanage because her uncle wanted to sleep with her, and how the mother superior recognized her intelligence and got her into the university.  Rath tells her that she is better than he is and it seems impossible that she can love him.  He tells her that Maya was his landlady’s daughter when he was a university student and that one night she came to his room.  As he moves to the table, Maya comes to him from the bench DR and they enact a scene from 1913 in the rooming house in Prague.  She tells him she has been reading his manuscript on labyrinths and tragedy and says that she knows he wants her, that she is like his muse.  She begins rubbing his temples and they kiss as the light fades on them and Quinn tells a fairy tale of a fool and a wise man.  Hannah speaks from the bench DL of fog everywhere, Maya moans, and Sophie on the bed speaks of death as the lights fade and the act ends.

     As the second act opens, we see Rath writing at the UL table (Prague 1913) with Maya behind him. Sophie is on the bed in her slip (Munich 1923), and Quinn and Hannah are on the benches.  Maya tells Rath that she is going to have his child and Sophie speaks from the bed about Rath marrying Maya as he moves to the couch.  He tells Sophie that his father committed suicide after finding his younger brother in bed with his wife.  Rath says he never spoke to his mother again.  Maya enters Rath’s time (1923), crossing to the couch, and suggests that they invite Quinn and Sophie to dinner.  She covers her face with her hands as Rath goes up the steps to lie down with Sophie on the bed.  Hannah speaks from the bench about reading his book on labyrinths in which he says that all art is an exercise in futility, “an elaborate device for becoming hopelessly lost.”

     Quinn moves from the bench to the couch and Maya (Munich 1923), who tells him that Rath is betraying her with Sophie.  She wants Quinn to make love to her; he sits on the couch and she puts her head on his chest.  Hannah speaks of Rath bringing Sophie home as Agamemnon brought home Cassandra.  On the bed (Munich 1923) Rath warns Sophie about becoming friends with Maya.  He tells Sophie that, because of Hannah, he can’t see her any more.  Sophie suggests that they could kill Maya.  She tells Rath that he is not re-enacting the manifestation of an archetype, that he is destroying a person who loves him, giving them both a death sentence because he is afraid.  As Rath moves down the stairs away from her she says he is making the greatest mistake of his life.  She sits at the foot of the bed, her head on her knees.

     At their desks in Munich, 1923, Quinn tells Rath that he saw “that strange little man,”  Hitler in a café.  Rath tells Quinn he has ended the affair with Sophie, saying it was the right thing to do.  He tells Quinn he should see Sophie.  As Quinn moves to the upper level, Sophie moves to the bath, speaking of Seneca’s recipe for suicide—a razor and a bath of hot water.  Quinn sees her with the razor in her hand and turns off the water.  Quinn says he has been offered a job as department head at a London university and suggests that Sophie can come with him as his assistant, finish her thesis which he will help get published.  He puts a robe around her and holds her as the lights dim.  Maya speaks to Rath at his desk (Munich 1923) about fools marching in the streets.  Rath tells her that Quinn is taking Sophie to London with him and Maya says that Hannah will be devastated because she loves both of them.  Hannah ends the scene by saying that inflation in Munich that autumn made their money worthless.  She moves to touch Rath’s back and kiss his hair as he is at his desk, then sits on the steps L.  Sophie enters, dressed, down right, speaking to Quinn on the bench in London 1932.  She is furious that Quinn has given Rath a job in his department.  Quinn says he thought she was over her feelings for Rath and she tells him that she had a crush on him first but decided it was foolish, and then she fell in love with Rath.  She decides that she has to see Rath again and moves toward the couch.  Hannah greets her and Sophie says that Maya asked her to drop by to see Rath.  Hannah says that her father has never been the same since Sophie left, that one day she visited her father’s office and saw him kissing Sophie, a moment that changed her life forever.  She kisses Sophie on the cheek and sits on the couch as Sophie moves to Rath on the DL bench.  We hear birdsong and Sophie tells Rath that Maya asked her to come by to see him.  Rath wonders why Maya would invite Sophie.  He says that he never knew anything, that he taught because he needed the money.  They argue, and Rath says that Maya invited Sophie to push him over the edge.  He says that he sent Sophie away because she had to live her own life.  She says she has a gun but sits on the bench beside him.

     Quinn joins Hannah on the couch (London 1932).  She says she loves London and she loves him.  She asks if he and Sophie are lovers.  When he says no, she stands up and kisses him, unbuttons her blouse, puts his hands on her breasts, and kisses him again.  She pulls him onto the couch on top of her and they are kissing passionately as Maya walks in.  Hannah discovers that Maya and Quinn have been lovers and storms out.  Quinn wants to go after her, but Maya says that Rath is making love to Sophie and she wants Quinn to hold her.  The light fades on them as Rath and Sophie talk about reality and illusion, of living in shadows that devour them.  Sophie calls him a compulsive liar, a monster.  They don’t see Hannah as she moves to the upper level.  Rath says he should have made the wrong choice and done the brave, selfish thing, leaving his wife and daughter for Sophie.  But instead he did the decent, the cowardly thing, and has been a dead man ever since.  He tells her if she has the gun she should use it because he can’t go on living without her, that she is all he has ever wanted.  She says he is horrible but kneels down and puts her head on his knee, facing away from him as he strokes her hair.  Hannah looks at them from above and turns on the water in the bathtub.  She speaks of Seneca and the need for hot water.  She gets a razor, speaks of Iphigenia, and begins undressing as Quinn holds Maya on the sofa and Rath strokes Sophie’s hair.  We hear the sound of running water as the lights fade out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s