Phoenix, set in the Arizona city in the summer of 1961, requires five men and four women on a simple unit set

representing all locations, but “all we need to see are a piano and a few tables, chairs and benches.”  There are three couples: Kermit, 48, a piano player who runs an accordion school, and Mona, 38, his second wife; Rutger, 40, a German who owns a bowling alley, and his wife Doris; Ned, who manages the bowling alley, and his wife Lea.  The other characters are Tanya, 19, Kermit’s daughter by his first wife, Mickey, 52, “big and beefy,” who teaches accordion, and Ray, 26, “rather small,” who also teaches accordion.  In darkness we hear the sound of an accordion playing “La Golondrina,” and when the lights come up all the characters except Ned and Tanya are on stage at a picnic area by a lake.  Kermit thinks that he remembers Mickey from Chicago, but Mickey denies ever having been there.  Tanya, giggling and squealing, wearing a two-piece bathing suit, runs in chased by Ned, also in a bathing suit, who catches her and picks her up from behind, but she manages to escape and run off.  Lea, Ned’s wife, leaves, unhappy, and Doris follows her.  Kermit moves to the piano and the action shifts without a break to his living room where he plays an “elegantly sad old whorehouse piano version of ‘When You Were Sweet Sixteen'” as Mona complains about their smoking and drinking.  He stops playing only when Mona calls Tanya a slut.  When Mona goes (after telling Kermit to be afraid), he closes the piano lid and our attention shifts to a short scene with Tanya and Ray.  Tanya says how much she likes to go to the movies, but when Ray asks her to go with him she says she is busy.  The light fades on them and comes up on Ned and Lea in their bedroom.  Ned denies any involvement with Tanya and tries to console Lea as the lights fade on them and come up on Rutger and Doris on their back patio drinking with Kermit, Mona, and Mickey.  Rutger and Kermit are having a discussion about truth possibly being a woman, while Doris keeps asking if anyone wants more avocado or bean dip.  Doris describes how she met Rutger at the dog races and how her first husband died after being kicked in the head by a horse.  She inherited the bowling alley that Rutger saved with his business acumen.  The scene shifts to Tanya and Ray talking in the bowling alley lounge late at night.  Tanya tells Ray that she named her breasts Ladmo and Wallace after her favorite characters on a children’s tv show.  She says her life is like being stuck on a rock from which she cannot descend, that almost everybody in Phoenix is from some other place.  Ray kisses her, twice, and she says she has to leave.  He asks her what she sees in Ned, reminding her several times that Ned is married.  Lea comes in saying that she wants to close the alley, and Tanya leaves.  Ray asks Lea if she is lonely because her husband won’t be home when she gets there and Lea asks him if he wants to join her, leaving the keys on the table for him to lock up.  Our attention shifts to Kermit, Rutger, and Mickey drinking on Rutger’s patio as Kermit explains his theory that Rutger and Mickey are both trying to blend in, pretending that they are just ordinary people, Rutger, well educated, running a bowling alley, and Mickey teaching accordion when it is clear that music has not been central to his life.  After Kermit leaves, Rutger tells Mickey that he has done some research on him and wonders if his old acquaintances in Chicago would like to know where he is.  Rutger suggests that perhaps Mickey could arrange to have the bowling alley burn down for the insurance money.  Mickey says he has to give an accordion lesson and after he leaves Rutger takes out a lighter and lights a cigar.  Then, in Lea’s living room, Mona, Tanya, Doris, and Lea are drinking coffee and talking about the men in their lives. Ned enters to ask Lea to lock up the bowling alley because he has things to do.  He tells her not to wait up for him, kisses her, and leaves.  Mona is impressed by Ned’s kissing, but Lea says that Judas was also a good kisser.  The lights fade on them and we hear “stripper music” and see Mickey and Ray at a table in the Carnival Room, drinking and watching a stripper downstage (we don’t see her).  Ray wants Mickey to give him some tips on how to appear more dangerous to Tanya.  Mickey says he knows nothing about women and suggests a hooker, then a trip to the Virgin Islands.  Before finishing his drink and leaving, Mickey tells Ray that if he wants to love he should get a dog.  In their living room, Doris tries to get Rutger to tell her about himself.  She wonders why, when she mentions the war, he always changes the subject.  He says the memories are too painful and suggests that she be grateful for what she has and enjoy life while she can.  He tells her that she is the dearest thing in the world to him and asks her to make some sausages.  The other characters, drinking on Kermit’s patio, listen to Ned and Lea bicker until she leaves.  Ray and Tanya follow her, and, after Ned says he thinks he could be a tough guy, Mickey leaves and Kermit tells Ned that he knows what he is capable of.  In the last scene of the first act, Rutger and Mickey wonder if they might find starting over in another place a difficult task.   Mickey remarks that a fire in which no one was hurt might be a possibility.  But Rutger has decided that he wants the bowling alley and his wife Doris to disappear.  With the insurance money, after compensating Mickey, he would retire to a banana plantation in the Virgian Islands.  When Mickey says that he just wants to be left alone, Rutger says that he has discovered that Mickey has a daughter in Vermont.  Mickey puts a hand around Rutger’s throat, choking him, as Rutger explains that people die every day and it’s not as if Mickey hasn’t done this kind of work before.  When Mickey lets go, Rutger assumes that they have a deal and that he will be receiving some very bad news in the near future.  Mickey says he can always count on bad news and leaves.  Rutger says he thinks he has an erection and the lights fade, ending the first act.


The second act opens with Doris sitting on a park bench at night.  Mickey comes up behind her and she asks him to sit down, saying that she knows he has been following her.  She says she loves the park although the word lagoon makes her think of the movie about the Creature with gills who lived in a black lagoon and dragged people into the water.  She tells Mickey that she thinks people who don’t talk very much and people who talk all the time are both trying to hide.  She tells him that if he is going to do “it,” then he should go ahead and do it.  Mickey is not sure what she means but she says that if he wants to kiss her, then he should kiss her.  She says she is going to close her eyes and count to three and then he should do “it.”  She counts, Mickey looks at his hands, then at Doris, and the light fades on them and comes up on Tanya and Ray walking at night. Tanya talks about loving the Japanese gardens, about everyone being lost in Phoenix trying to be reborn, about a plague of grasshoppers, and about God being a serial killer.  When Ray says that he wants to kiss her, she tells him that it will never happen, but she allows him to hold her as long as he doesn’t touch her boobs.  The light fades on them and comes up on Rutger in the kitchen drinking coffee and rehearsing the speech he will give to the police, telling them of Doris not coming home the previous night.  He spills coffee on himself when Doris walks in with a bag of groceries, explaining that he had fallen asleep on the sofa and she didn’t want to wake him when she came in late.  She got up early and walked to the store to get waffles and sausages for Rutger’s breakfast.  In the next scene, Mickey is in a coffee shop when Rutger approaches him, asking when Mickey plans to complete the “business” they talked about.  Mickey says it may take a couple of weeks to find the right opportunity, but Rutger gives him three days before he makes phone calls to Chicago.  Then, in the bowling alley lounge, Tanya asks Ned about dangerous people he knows in New Jersey, saying that she’s always been attracted to dangerous people.  But when Ned suggests that they go someplace and do something a little dangerous together, she says she has to leave, that she is the girl who goes away.  Ned calls her a tease and she says that to call a girl a tease is a “terrible, terrible insult.”  She says she is very complex and that Ned has hurt her feelings.  He holds her from behind and kisses her neck as Lea walks in and demands to know what is going on.  She threatens Tanya, accusing her of teasing her husband, but Tanya says that Lea should talk to Ned and that she sees her with Ray all the time.  Ned and Lea argue and Tanya leaves.  When Ned goes to see if she is all right, Ray enters and asks Lea what all the yelling was about.  He says that Tanya is not sleeping with Ned, and Lea says she would leave if she had someplace to go to and someone to go with.  She asks Ray if he would like to go away with her, but Ray says that Ned is his friend, and Lea leaves as the scene shifts to the park bench where Doris tells Mickey that he has scars on his soul.  She says she knows how sensitive he is and, though he looks dangerous, he has the soul of a poet.  She wants him to walk with her by the lagoon and says that she trusts him to protect her from the creature, but Mickey says that he is the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  In the bowling alley lounge Ray asks Ned if Tanya is all right and tells Ned that he has a nice wife in Lea and that Tanya is mixed up and vulnerable and it would be dangerous to all concerned if she were hurt.  When Ned asks Ray if he is threatening him, Ray says that New Jersey “sucks elephant dick,” a disparaging comment on his home state that Ned says he will overlook this time but, if Ray says anything about New Jersey again, Ned will shove an entire accordion orchestra up his ass until it comes out his mouth.  Then Kermit is playing on his piano as Mona, “a bit wobbly and disheveled,” comes in and tells him that she fell into a drainage ditch by an orange grove and couldn’t get out.  She asks Kermit if he would care if he knew that she had been with someone else and then slams down the piano lid.  Kermit tells her that if she ever touches the piano again he will strangle her and throw her corpse in a drainage ditch.  As Mona turns to go she trips and falls to her hands and knees.  Tanya enters, also a bit tipsy; Mona crawls off, and Tanya talks about wanting to kill the men who cut down a big old cottonwood tree next to their house years earlier.  Kermit says he doesn’t know her anymore and Tanya says she dreams that her dead mother is telling her to go away and that Mona is a pig, screwing half the men in Phoenix.  Kermit hits her, knocking her down, and is immediately apologetic.  Tanya leaves, saying he could never hurt her, and sits on a park bench.  Ray enters and she accuses him of following her.  He says he is worried about her because she is vulnerable.  He notices she has a bruise on her face and assumes that Ned has hit her.  She tells Ray that she is never going to want him and that she will call the police if he doesn’t leave her alone.  She leaves and Ray goes to a table in the strip joint where Mickey is nursing a drink.  Ray wants Mickey to help him get rid of Ned.  Mickey tells him that Ned is bigger, used to box, and will tear him to pieces.  When Ray still wants advice, Mickey punches him in the stomach, telling him not to mess with anybody when he doesn’t know what they’re capable of.  In the penultimate scene, Rutger, commenting that he thinks Mickey has run out on their business arrangement, wonders if Ned would be interested in a lucrative “piece of work,” a “grave matter.”  Ned says that he is interested and accepts Rutger’s offer of a cigar, saying that he smells something.  Rutger says he hasn’t been able to smell anything since he was a boy and flicks the lighter.  The lights black out as we hear simultaneously the sound of a huge explosion, “very loud.”  Then we hear bird sounds and the lights come up on the rest of the cast dressed in black at the cemetery.  Tanya asks Ray if she can talk to him later, but Ray says he is helping Lea take care of some things.  After Ray and Lea leave, Mona tells Tanya that they will be “naked, going at it like a couple of dogs” before the last shovelful of dirt hits the coffin.  After Kermit takes Mona home, Tanya tells Doris that she has to get away, gives her a hug, and goes.  Doris tells Mickey that she doesn’t know what to do with all the insurance money, that she didn’t ever like Rutger although she loved him, but she thinks she transferred her love for her first husband to Rutger. Mickey asks her if she has ever been to the Virgin Islands and we hear an accordion playing the last  few bars of “La Golondrina” as the lights fade and go out.

Jules Verne Eats a Rhinoceros

 The unit set for Jules Verne Eats a Rhinoceros represents the offices of the New York World and Journal, a restaurant in Paris, a bar in New York, a bench in the park, German headquarters on the Austrian front, a hotel room in Toledo, a madhouse on Blackwell’s Island, a battlefield in Cuba, and “various other locations, real and imaginary . . . between 1887 and 1922.”  Above the middle of the three upstage doors is the gondola of a balloon with steps leading up to it on either side.  Four women, three playing multiple parts, and six men, three playing multiple parts, make up the cast.  The story concerns the journalistic career of Nellie Bly and the nature of American journalism before and after WWI.

     The show begins with the sounds of Offenbach’s Cancan music from Orpheus in the Underworld as the house lights go down and then the sounds of ocean and gulls as lights come up on Nellie sitting on a wooden chair in a small circle of light center stage.  From out of the darkness we hear the Doctor’s voice, questioning Nellie about what she remembers.  Although she cannot remember her name or birthplace, she does remember Jules Verne eating a rhinoceros.  The Doctor says he is going to send her to an island where there are people who can help her.

     As the light fades on Nellie we are jolted by the “rather overwhelming” Offenbach cancan music and the entire stage is suddenly full of people in a French restaurant, moving to the rhythm of the music.  A waiter sets out plates and silverware at the downstage right table as Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, and McGonigle sit at an upstage desk that doubles as a table while John Rhys (pronounced “rice”) Pendragon and the three Giggle Sisters sit at the down left table.  Jules Verne, in full beard, shakes hands with Pulitzer and Hearst, flirts with the Giggle Sisters, touches Rhys on the shoulder, and moves to the DR table as the music comes to a climax and the waiter brings Nellie from her chair to the same table.  Nellie tells Verne that it is a tremendous honor to be granted an interview with him, and Verne says that creation is lunacy and that farce is the most realistic art form, telling Nellie that theatre is the place where everyone can go happily to the Devil together.  Verne says that he has to keep writing if only to perpetuate the illusion of significance and asks Nellie if she has ever eaten a rhinoceros.  He says there is no food in Paris because the Germans have surrounded the city, but the Waiter enters with a large covered pan on a platter and takes the lid off the pan to reveal the cooked head of a rhinoceros.

     Cancan music plays as the lights dim on the DR table and come up on the table DL to the laughter of the Giggle Sisters.  The other actors have left the stage during the music and McGonigle is moving down to join Rhys and the Sisters.  Rhys, who never tries to be funny, is making them laugh with his deadpan remarks.  He introduces McGonigle to them and McGonigle tells Rhys he has bad news:  Nellie Bly is dead, of pneumonia, and Hearst wants Rhys to write the obituary.

     McGonigle recalls the first time he saw Nellie, in the old World offices, and the lights fade on the table and come up on the upstage doors as McGonigle moves upstage towards his old desk and Nellie is shoved out from an inner office.  When she tries to go back in, the door is slammed in her face.  Furious, Nellie tells McGonigle that she has been in New York four months and cannot get a job as a reporter because she is a woman.  McGonigle gives her half of his corned beef sandwich and a bottle of root beer which she devours ravenously.  She tells McGonigle that she is a great reporter and just needs a chance.  She says looking innocent is a big advantage and allows her to write the truth.  McGonigle, smitten, takes out an old trumpet and blows a “very loud, horrendous, brassfart, moose-bellow noise.”  He blows twice more and Pulitzer storms out of the central door.  (He speaks English with a Hungarian/Germanic accent all his own.)  Nellie tells him that she will be a famous reporter if he will just give her a chance, but Pulitzer rejects her arguments and tries to go back in his office.  She blocks his way and tells him to think how sorry he’s going to be if he turns her away and she ends up becoming the most famous reporter in the world.  He admits that she has a bucket load of chutzpa but he doesn’t know what to do with her.  When she suggests that she be sent to France to interview Jules Verne, he tells her that Jules Verne eating a cabbage is not a story, but Jules Verne eating a rhinoceros is a story.  Nellie offers to come back from France in steerage and do a series on what it is like to be an immigrant, like Pulitzer himself.  She offers to get herself admitted to a madhouse to write about life there, but Pulitzer thinks it is too dangerous for a woman.  She pleads that she has loved his paper because he champions the underdog, the oppressed, and that if he sends a man to write about life in a madhouse he would have a cabbage, but if he sends an innocent-looking girl like her, it’s a huge rhinoceros.  Pulitzer agrees to ten days and goes back in his office as the lights go to black.

     We hear “the earsplitting sound” of a woman screaming horribly and a babble of voices, monkey chatter, panther growls, elephants trumpeting, and a rhinoceros snorting, under which an eerie player piano version of the cancan music plays quietly.  As the babble subsides, lights come up on Verne writing at a table and Nellie standing lost and bewildered.  Three Madwomen wander about, Theodore Roosevelt runs across the stage shouting “Charrrrrrrrrrge!” Verne narrates his story, Roosevelt again, than a Barbary ape runs off with 2nd Madwoman over his shoulder as she screams and 1st Madwoman follows them screaming.  Pulitzer comes out of his office to chase after a rhinoceros and the News Hawker shouts headlines and Roosevelt runs back on to snatch up 3rd Madwoman and run off with her.  In a slight pause in this madcap action, Nellie asks Verne why she has run into him in a madhouse.  She thinks it is a remarkable coincidence, but he says it is not a coincidence, it is a play.  The Barbary Ape chases Roosevelt across the stage, both screaming, and Verne insists they are trapped in a play, explaining that he is writing a novel in which Nellie is trapped in a madhouse inside a play.  Shouting “Charrrrrrrrrrge!”, Verne runs out the center door, slamming it behind him and we hear birds singing as Nellie joins Rhys on the park bench.

     Nellie tells him that the men decide who is and who is not crazy, and Rhys says his mother kept piglets in a box under her bed and talked to them as if they were her dead triplets.  He tells her that the woman he loved married his father, set herself on fire, and drowned in a pond.  Nellie says that the whole idea of romantic love escapes her, but Rhys tells her she is just protecting herself.  She says she treats all marriage proposals as jokes.  She and Rhys kiss and she leaves, telling him that she has to feed her monkey and write a story about her adventures impersonating a prostitute.

     As she sits at McGonicle’s desk in the upstage shadows, Verne joins Rhys on the bench and speaks of the rhinoceros, saying that the play is progressing rather well.  When Rhys wonders what play, Verne responds, “Exactly!” and we hear the cancan music “loud and uproarious” as the lights fade on them and come up on the three upstage doors and the stage is suddenly full of people running about, in and out of doors, “a manic French farce,” while the News Hawker shouts out headlines and Roosevelt, Pulitzer, 2nd and 3rd Madwomen, Verne, and Barbary Ape chase Nellie and each other around the stage with lights flickering and the sounds of elephants, horses, cows, monkeys, and jungle birds creating a cacophony.  As the music comes to an end, all the characters except Nellie exit through the doors, slamming them as they go.

     McGonigle sits at his desk and Pulitzer emerges from his office, slamming the door to the last note of the music, and rushes to Nellie, who is close to collapsing.  He tells her to go to the prison to interview Emma Goldman.  He says some “rich son of a pitch named Hearst” is trying to buy a paper with his mother’s money and wipe out competition.  Pulitzer, who is losing his sight, runs into the door as he tries to go into his office.  He exits after telling Nellie that if there is one thing he doesn’t like about anarchy, it’s chaos, and slams the door, signalling a reprise of the cancan as people start running in and out of doors and chasing each other madly across the stage.  Nellie moves downstage and “the final note of the music is simultaneous with the slamming of the left and right doors and a blackout.”

     The lights then come up on a small prison cell where Emma Goldman is sitting on a chair by the DL table.  (The year is 1893.)  Verne is writing in the shadows of the DR table.  Emma is familiar with Nellie’s story about the madhouse and her writing on other subjects.  She says that she has been put in jail for telling the truth about the government, and when Nellie suggests that, although flawed, the government is “rather wonderful,” Emma replies that it is good for white Protestant rich men, but not for the poor, the sick and old, people, of color, immigrants, and women.  A capitalist oligarchy controlled by obscenely rich men and gigantic obscene monopolies, she says, is not a paradise for the poor.  She says that Pulitzer will throw Nellie out like garbage when she gets older and is not so pretty, and she urges her to leave the paper.  Verne says (in a note to himself) that his heroine is carried off by insane puppets, commenting, “Brilliant!” as the lights fade on the jail cell and we hear a calliope version of the cancan music.

       A spotlight shines on the gondola and we see two handpuppets, Mr. Punch and the Ghost of his wife Judy, whom he has murdered.  They speak in high squeaky voices as Nellie moves upstage to join 3rd Madwoman, Hearst, Pulitzer, and Captain Nemo.  Judy’s Ghost tells Punch that, if he doesn’t mend his ways, he will be eaten by the Crocodile.  Punch scoffs at the notion, but the Crocodile puppet appears behind him and swallows him.  The onlookers applaud and the puppets disappear inside the gondola.  Nellie walks downstage with Captain Nemo, “a suave looking older man,” who asks her to suppose that he is a manufacturer of barrel hoops and not the captain of a submarine.  Nellie says her negative image of marriage was created by a Punch and Judy show she saw as a child.  The lights fade on them and a “ghostly light” comes up on Punch and Judy in the gondola.  Punch asks Judy to marry him, saying that the journey through the guts of the crocodile has changed him and he promises never to murder her again.  They kiss, Nellie and Captain Nemo kiss, and the Crocodile tells the audience that puppet love is a good thing because it makes more food for crocodiles.

     The lights fade and we hear sinister music as Nellie crosses to sit with Rhys on the park bench.  (It is 1895; Rhys is 25, Nellie is 28.)  Upstage lurking in the shadows in Hearst.  Nellie tells Rhys that he is a wonderful writer and that she has heard that Hearst is trying to steal him away from Pulitzer.  She says she is getting married to an extremely successful manufacturer of barrel hoops and that she is tired of rushing madly around the world and craves stability.  She says she is the most famous reporter in the world and has had some wonderful times but that she has had enough.  Rhys thinks marriage is a big mistake and says he will not come to the wedding, although he promises to visit her later on.  She hugs him and runs off.  Rhys watches her, then sits and drinks from a flask as Hearst moves toward him. We hear crows and the wind blows an old newspaper across the stage.  Hearst asks Rhys if he is ready to come to work for him, offering to double his salary.  Rhys says he will stick with Pulitzer.  Hearst says Pulitzer’s time is over, that he is nearly blind, and it’s time for a new generation.  He offers to triple Rhys’ salary and let him write whatever he wants.  Rhys says that Hearst manufactures news to sell papers, and Hearst responds that nothing is news until he prints it.

     The light fades on them and we hear calliope music and the strange babblings of the mad and the wild animal noises as the lights come up on Nellie, barefoot, in a madwoman’s white frock and straightjacket, on a chair center stage.  Verne is writing at his table DR while the Doctor observes Nellie closely and the three Madwomen wander, talking to themselves.  Nellie questions Verne about why his heroine would marry an elderly manufacturer of barrel hoops when she loved the young man from Ohio (Rhys).  Verne says if she needs a reason she should make one up, that we are trapped in our heads, not knowing much of anything, in a madhouse farce written by a demented playwright diety.  The Doctor tells Nellie that her case is the most puzzling of his career but he hopes to solve it.  Barbary Ape carries a large tub onto the stage and Nellie tells Doctor that the women have been locked up in the madhouse because they speak Portugese and are not crazy at all.  Barbary Ape picks Nellie up, puts her in the tub, and empties a bucket of water over her head, then another.  Doctor explains that the ice water treatment is to shock her into a more socially acceptable perception of reality.  After another bucket of water, Barbary Ape lifts her from the tub, and Verne narrates that his heroine, trapped in a madhouse, finds herself more and more disoriented.  Doctor and Barbary Ape hold hands and skip offstage together, humming the cancan music.  The Madwomen try to console Nellie, saying that the water treatment is a kind of initiation ceremony, “like losing your virginity to a gorilla.”  Nellie protests that they don’t understand, that she doesn’t belong there, that it is just a story.  They tell her that tomorrow is enema day.  Verne exults, “A stroke of genius!” and says that he needs a big finish for the first act:  “Salacious dancing!”  The cancan music comes up very loudly, the Madwomen do the cancan with Barbary Ape, Pulitzer, Hearst, Doctor, and Verne.  Nellie looks across at Rhys who is standing by the park bench looking at her.  Music and dance end.  Blackout.

      As the intermission ends, we hear cancan music in the darkness and then the sound of a clock ticking slowly as lights come up on Nellie and Rhys in the Wax Museum.  The actors, frozen in place, are arranged around the stage and in the gondola:  Pulitzer, Hearst, Verne, Doctor, Captain Nemo, 1st and 2nd Suffragettes, and Susan B. Anthony.  Rhys tells Nellie that McGonigle has gone to work for Hearst and she tells him that marriage is a nightmare, worse than the madhouse, and that her husband is having her followed.  Rhys suggests she come back to the paper, but Captain Nemo (a wax manikin coming to life) says he has caught her with another man.  Nellie screams, tells him she is going back to work at the newspaper, and goes off.  Rhys advises Captain Nemo to love whoever Nellie is at any given moment, but Nemo says he never should have left his submarine.  He exits, the lights fade on Rhys, and Pulitzer comes to life and rushes down the steps, groping blindly, shouting for “Mickgoonicle.”  Rhys tells him McGonigle has gone to work for Hearst, and Nellie enters saying she has been filing her story on the Elephants’ Burial Ground.  Pulitzer says they have to beat Hearst and wants Nellie to get on top of another elephant.  Nellie says she first wants to cover the Convention for the Rights of Working Women and meet Susan B. Anthony.  Pulitzer objects but concedes when she tells him that Hearst is doing a two-page spread on the Convention.  She leaves after kissing him on the cheek, and Rhys tells Pulitzer that many of his reporters left, not because of money, but because he screamed at and tried to manipulate them.  Pulitzer is outraged, tells Rhys that the truth is what he says it is, and that Rhys is fired.  Pulitzer goes to his office door, runs into the wall, finds the door knob, and slams the door behind him.  As the lights fade on Rhys, the 1st and 2nd Suffragettes come alive and raise signs (FEMALE EMANCIPATION and MAKE YOUR OWN DAMNED FLAPJACKS), then chase Hearst and Verne around the stage and off, beating them over the head with the signs, and lights come up on Nellie and Susan B. Anthony on the park bench.  Susan B. Anthony says she has been in love many times but finds marriage generally horrifying and for the woman a recipe for disaster.  There is a huge explosion and everything goes dark.

     We hear screams of agony and the News Hawker’s voice shouting about the battleship Maine being blown up in Havana Harbor.  The lights come up on Rhys and McGonigle in 1898 at the offices of the Journal.  Hearst bursts through the center door, very excited about the battleship (he calls it the Massachusetts) being blown up because it means there’s going to be a war to liberate the oppressed people of Cuba from enslavement to the Spanish Empire and he is going to sell “one goddamned shitload of papers and destroy that son of a bitch Joe Pulitzer once and for all.”  He tells Rhys to get to Cuba and write some heart-wrenching stories about the poor, oppressed Cuban people.  Rhys worries that Pulitzer may send Nellie, but McGonigle tells him that Nellie has reconciled with her husband.  Rhys goes off downstage and McGonigle goes off upstage, leaving Hearst writing at his desk.  Pulitzer rushes out of his office at the World, wondering what Hearst is doing in his office.  He accuses Hearst of stealing all his reporters, and Hearst replies that he gave them more money and a happy workplace and created a war and is selling newspapers like hotcakes.  Pulitzer says that whatever Hearst does he will do better.  Hearst says he loves a good fight; it will sell more papers.  He leaves, warning Pulitzer not to step in horse shit.  Pulitzer yells after him that he will defeat him, then goes into his office, running into the door, and slamming it behind him.

     Blackout and sounds of gunfire and explosions and the voice of the News Hawker shouting headlines about Cuba, Dewey taking Manila, America annexing Hawaii, and Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill.  Lights come up on Rhys, sitting on the ground, his arm bleeding.  Hearst, in a pith helmet, comes downstage and tells Rhys that he is tired of rewriting his dispatches.  Rhys grabs him by the lapels and tells him that if he changes one word Rhys will put a number 2 pencil through his eyesocket to the back of his skull.  Hearst fires him and, when Rhys asks for a doctor, leaves him.  There is a large explosion, blackout, and the News Hawker’s voice shouting headlines about victory in Cuba, McKinley being assassinated, Emma Goldman being arrested, Teddy Roosevelt becoming President, Rhys Pendragon joining the Times, and Nellie Bly’s husband dying.

     We hear birdsong and the lights come up on Nellie and Rhys walking in the park (perhaps 1907). Pulitzer is on the bench, his hands on a cane before him.  Rhys tells Nellie that he will not get into an automobile that she is driving.  She says she took over her husband’s business and has expanded it, putting management into the hands of “a wonderful man.”  Rhys warns her that business is inherently corrupt and that if money is appearing and disappearing in the accounts then the man is a crook.  She thinks Rhys needs a wife and learns that he is still in love with the woman in Ohio.  Nellie says Rhys needs someone very like her, but not so restless, to be his anchor when he is adrift at sea.  As the lights fade on them we hear the ocean and gulls.

     Two dim pools of light on the stage–one on Pulitzer and Rhys (on Pulitzer’s yacht in 1911), the other on Nellie and Captain Nemo (another ship in 1914)–set the scene for the alternating dialogue of the two duos.  We learn that Rhys has married and has a baby girl, and when Nemo tells Nellie that Rhys and Pulitzer loved her she says that Rhys is married and that Pulitzer has been dead for three years.  Nellie says she is going to Vienna and doesn’t think there will be a war in Europe.  Pulitzer tells Rhys that he finally figured out that McGonigle was blowing the trumpet.  As the two spotlights fade out we hear the sound of explosions and the lights come up on Nellie in a chair center stage being interrogated by Bismark, who is convinced she is a spy.  Doctor enters to treat Bismark’s bleeding buttock wound and recognizes Nellie as the now-famous reporter he treated in the insane asylum many years earlier.  Bismark wants someone to shoot Nellie, but there is a loud explosion and the three fall to the ground in the blackout.  The News Hawker shouts headlines about the Germans surrendering, Plank winning the Nobel Prize for quantum theory, Prohibition beginning next year, and Jack Dempsey going to fight Jess Willard in Toledo.

     The lights come up on a hotel room in Toledo, Ohio (1919), that has been turned into a press room.  Nellie tells Rhys that it took the senseless horror of war to let her discover who she is.  One of the upstage doors bursts open and Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon, and Grantland Rice rush in, having had a bit to drink.  They talk about the war, Hearst and Pulitzer, bemoan the lack of a ready liquor supply, and are joined by the Giggle Sisters who have booze and invite them to a party in their room.  After they leave, Nellie tells Rhys she was sorry to hear that his wife had died in the influenza pandemic.  She says she remembers the first time she met Rhys, and McGonigle appears, corned beef sandwich in hand, and moves to his desk as we hear a “slow, sad, eerie version of the Offenbach played on an old piano.”  Nellie asks Rhys if he remembers how exciting it all was then and as they look at each other the light fades and we hear a jauntier version of the Offenbach.

     The lights come up on the offices of the World in autumn, 1888.  Nellie asks McGonigle about the mail and Rhys enters with a burlap sack full of letters and one letter in his hand which he hands to McGonigle.  The sack of letters and three others downstairs are for Nellie.  Rhys says he wants to be a reporter and Nellie says he has to meet Pulitzer.  Nellie pleads with McGonigle to blow his trumpet again.  He blows two loud blasts and Pulitzer storms out of his office.  Nellie introduces Rhys to Pulitzer and asks that Rhys be hired as her assistant.  Nellie wants to travel around the world in 80 days and send back reports and interview Jules Verne when she is in France.  Pulitzer finally agrees and hires Rhys as a reporter.  Nellie congratulates Rhys and tells him they are going to have great adventures.  The scene ends as McGonigle blows the trumpet very loudly, the lights go to black, and the orchestral version of the Offenbach plays quietly.

     In the last scene, the lights come up on Nellie talking to Rhys in Toledo, but Rhys is not there and she wonders where she is.  Verne appears out of the darkness behind her and tells her that the hot air balloon is ready to depart.  They are going to see the elephant.  He leads her up the stairs to the gondola as the cancan music swells and characters gather from all parts of the stage to see them off.  Verne and Nellie throw cabbages out of the gondola to lighten the ballast.  As the balloon begins to rise, Nellie calls and waves goodbye to her friends.  The music thunders to a conclusion while the people wave goodbye to the disappearing gondola and the lights fade to darkness as the music comes to “a rousing, magnificent finish.”

City of Dreadful Night

 In City of Dreadful Night, four characters–Gus, in his thirties; his brother, Tony, in his thirties, Philly, in his twenties; and Anna, in her late twenties–enact the discovery of an unsuspected murder.  The scene is New York City in the late 1940s and a unit set represents all locations simultaneously:  a park bench DR, a coffee shop with curved counter and stools DL, a bedroom with bed and chair on a platform UC, and the street played across the downstage area.  We hear the sound of pigeons in the dark and lights come up on Gus and Tony on the park bench as Anna, in the upstage shadows, sits before her mirror, and Philly leans on the counter of the coffee shop reading a newspaper.  From the laconic conversation of Gus and Tony we learn that Gus wants Tony to spy on Anna.  Gus thinks Anna is seeing someone and he wants Tony to find out who the man is.  Tony suggests that perhaps Gus should forget about Anna but agrees to follow her.  As Tony moves downstage, Anna asks him if he is following her.  Anna thinks she recognizes him and suggests that he would like a piece of warm cherry pie.  Tony says he might have liked one before the war but he isn’t sure now.  Anna says that perhaps he can have some when he gets done following her.  As Anna sits on the bench with Gus, Tony sits on a stool in the coffee shop.  He asks Philly if he recognizes the picture of Anna that Gus gave him.  Philly warns Tony to watch out for her, that she is trouble.  He tells Tony that he has seen her with a man he thinks is a killer.  Tony writes a phone number on a napkin and tells Philly to call him if the girl comes in again.  Tony goes to Anna who is sitting on the bench feeding the pigeons.  She tells him she saw him looking up at her window the previous night and says that Gus is paying him to follow her.  Tony denies being paid anything, and, as Gus moves into Anna’s room and sits before the mirror, she remembers seeing a photograph of Gus and Tony and a pretty girl taken at Coney Island before the war.  Tony says that when he sees her moving from window to window in her red slip she reminds him of a girl he used to know.  Anna asks Tony who got the girl in the photograph but he says he can’t remember.  Anna asks him to come up to her room, and when Tony says he’s busy she says she’ll leave her door unlocked if he wants to come up later.  She goes to her room where Gus has been waiting.  He asks her where she has been and gets upset with her evasive answers.  She asks him where he goes at night and tells him that if what he does is none of her business then what she does is none of his.  Gus leaves and joins Tony on the bench, asking him if he has found out if Anna is seeing somebody.  Tony tells him that sometimes Anna walks to see the monkeys in the zoo and sometimes goes to Coney Island.  We hear the sound of seagulls and lapping water as Tony joins Anna looking out at the water on Coney Island.  Anna says there’s somebody else inside Tony, someone a lot more complicated.  She thinks Tony wants her and wonders what Gus would do if he caught them naked in bed together.  She says the gulls and the smell of the water remind her of Cape Cod and doing everything with her sister until the war came and her father left and her mother went insane and her sister went away.  She walks into the upstage shadows and Tony moves to the coffee shop.  Philly says the woman Tony was asking about came into the coffee shop with some guy, a guy that looked like Tony, a few nights earlier.  Tony gives Philly a dime so that he can call him the next time the woman comes in.  Tony leaves the coffee shop and paces back and forth across from Anna’s place, talking disjointedly to himself, seeming to be almost remembering something.  As he looks up at Anna’s window, the light fades on him, ending the first act.

     Act Two begins as the lights come up on the bedroom with Anna just opening the door for Tony.  Philly is behind the counter in the coffee shop and Gus sits on a stool drinking coffee.  Tony tells Anna he needs to talk to her and she asks him to come in.  She is trying to remember a nightmare about her mother and sister, but Tony says that Gus will kill her if she is cheating on him.  She taunts Tony until he slaps her and she falls backwards across the bed.  She asks Tony if he wants her and wonders if he hit the girl in the picture at Coney Island.  When Tony says he is trying to save her, Anna asks what Gus has on him.  Tony says that his head got hurt in the war and that Gus looks out for him by helping him remember things.  Anna says that Gus doesn’t want him to remember and asks about the girl in the picture.  When Tony says that he thinks she died, Anna asks if he killed her, if Gus helped him get rid of the body.  Tony says that she loved Gus and when Anna says that Tony killed her, he grabs her around the throat and says loudly that he didn’t kill her.  When he lets her go, he sits on the bed, and Anna asks him who she looks like.  He says she looks like Ida Lupino and like the girl in the picture.  In a long speech, Anna explains that the girl in the photograph was her sister who ran off to live in the city, leaving Anna to take care of their sick, drunk, half-crazy mother.  The sister wrote letters every week but then the letters stopped.  The mother fell down the stairs and died and Anna came to the city to look for her sister who had disappeared.  From the photographs her sister had sent, Anna was able to locate the coffee shop and, one day, Gus.  Then Tony started following her and now she wants to know which one of them killed her sister.  The lights come up on the coffee shop where Philly is telling Gus about Tony following Anna.  Gus says he told Tony to follow her but is surprised when Philly tells him that Tony has been in Anna’s room.  Gus leaves the coffee shop and the lights come up on Tony and Anna in her room.  She wants to know who took the pictures of Gus, Tony, and her sister.  Tony seems about to remember when Gus comes in, asking what’s going on.  Anna tells Gus that he knew her sister and shows him the Coney Island photo.  Gus thinks she has taken it from his room but she insists her sister gave her a copy of the picture.  Tony remembers that the name of the girl in the picture is Faith.  Gus notices the mark on Anna’s face where Tony hit her and says he will kill him if he touches her again.  He accuses Anna of being with him just to find out what happened to her sister.  Gus says he hasn’t seen the girl since before the war and when Anna asks about the picture in his room Gus says it is a picture of his brother, Tony.  He is bothered that Anna pretended to like him even though she thought he might have killed her sister.  When Anna tries to leave, Gus throws her on the bed, saying she is not going anywhere, that he needs to think.  Tony asks Gus who took the pictures of the three of them and the lights fade on the bedroom and come up on the coffee shop where Philly is reading the paper.  Tony enters from out of the darkness.  Philly serves him black coffee and asks if he wants a piece of cherry pie.  When Anna enters, Philly gives her coffee with extra sugar and lots and lots of cream.  Gus comes in and says he has a job to do.  He asks Philly where his camera is but Philly says he doesn’t have a camera any more and that he spent the war in prison because he did some stupid things because of mental problems.  Tony remembers that Philly was the kid that used to follow them around before the war, and Gus wants to know what happened to the girl.  Under pressure from Gus, Philly admits that he took the girl to Coney Island and thinks that she may have gone to see her sister.  Philly says that Anna can’t be the girl’s sister because the girl told him her sister had dangerous mental problems and might have killed their mother and that was why she was going back home to Cape Cod to talk to her.  Tony says he remembers getting a letter from the girl just before he went overseas, verifying what Philly says.  Gus asks Anna what she has been doing since the war started and Anna admits that she had a nervous breakdown after her mother died and that she was put in a place where they gave her drugs and shock treatments.  She tells the men of a bad dream she keeps having about walking on the beach with her sister and being angry with her for suggesting that she pushed their mother down the stairs.  Anna says that in the dream she picks up a rock and hits her sister in the head and her sister falls face down in the water.  Anna runs away but when she comes back her sister is not there.  Anna says the dream keeps playing in her head over and over but that it’s just a movie.  She asks Philly for some pie and Gus wants to leave.  Tony says he’ll stay for a bit and tells Philly to give Anna some pie.  Anna eats a piece of pie and says it’s very good.  The lights fade and go out.


   Traitors is a full-length script for four actors (Hiss, Chambers, Nixon, and Hoover) on a unit set with a table and chair DR, the steering wheel and front seat of a 1929 Ford roadster UR, an old love seat on a dark oriental rug RC with the empty frame of a Queen Anne mirror further upstage, a desk with a 1920s Woodstock typewriter and chair UC, a dumb waiter large enough for a man to crawl inside UL, a child’s rocking chair sturdy enough for a fat man to sit on CL, and a bench with pumpkins scattered around DL.  No set changes and no breaks except for intermission.  The play opens with the sound of birds singing as the reddish light of a sunset comes up on Hiss in the chair DR and Chambers sitting on the bench DL; Nixon at the desk UC is in darkness.  “They are all witnesses,” Nigro writes,”testifying to us.”  Hiss quotes from the Bible about gaining the world and losing one’s soul, and Chambers says that there are ghosts in his pumpkin patch and that sinister forces are at work everywhere, confusing his memory of events.  “Like someone turning on a switch,” the lights (a Committee light effect) come up on Nixon as he tells us how proud he is of his work on the Hiss case.  Chambers says that he wants to see the President about members of the Communist Party holding influential positions in the government.  Nixon remarks that while some people pity Hiss, he has only contempt for him, and Chambers tells us that once we have heard his story we’ll never trust anybody again.  As Nixon stands to speak to Hiss, the lights on Hiss change to the “harsh Committee light,” and Hiss speaks a brief summation of his career, denying that he has ever been a member of the Communist Party.  When Nixon turns to Chambers, the light on the pumpkin patch changes to the Committee light and Chambers says that Hiss knew him in the Party by his code name, Carl.  He says that Hiss and he were close friends, that their wives were friendly, and that he and Hiss went birdwatching together.  Nixon then questions Hiss about birdwatching and asks if he recognizes a photograph of Chambers.  Hiss stands, turning toward Chambers, and asks to see his teeth, remarking that the man he knew had black and yellow, broken, rotting teeth.  He says that Chambers bears a strong resemblance to a man he knew in the mid-thirties, a George Crosley.  When Chambers denies being Crosley and asserts that he and Hiss were Communists together, Hiss invites him to make that assertion in public.  He calls Chambers a liar.  Chambers says that Hiss donated his car to him, to the Communist Party.  Nixon asks why Hiss did that, and the light changes to evening and we hear birds singing.

      In a scene from the past, Hiss and Chambers talk about the 1929 Ford and Chambers asks if Hiss wants to get rid of it because it will draw rats that can swarm out of the darkness and devour him.  Chambers stays seated in the car as Nixon questions Hiss about giving his car to George Crosley.  Hiss says he may have included the car with the rent for the apartment Crosley was subletting and that instead of money Crosley gave him a large red rug.  Chambers says the rug was a gift from the Communist Party and that he doesn’t remember subletting anything, although he spent a great deal of time in the Hiss home because Hiss and he were Communists.  Hiss tells Nixon that he befriended Crosley/Chambers out of basic human decency but he now sees him as a very disturbed individual who once stole hundreds of library books by stuffing them in his pants.  After telling Nixon that he may once have driven Chambers somewhere, Hiss gets into the car next to Chambers while Nixon stands behind the upstage mirror frame watching them.  As they pretend to drive, Hiss and Chambers talk about prostitutes as capitalists and Hiss points out a farm that he once thought of buying.  Chambers says he has always wanted a pumpkin patch because pumpkins, and dumbwaiters, are good places to hide valuables.  He says one should always be prepared because people cannot be trusted.  Chambers thinks a car is following them and Hiss says that his father committed suicide by cutting his throat.  Chambers says that he ran away from home when he was eighteen and bummed around the country changing his name.  He thinks Hiss understands him and speaks of his brother killing himself by breathing in gas from the oven.  Hiss says that his brother died young, too.

     The Committee light comes on again and Nixon continues his questioning of Hiss, accusing him of being a spy for the Russians.  Hiss denies the charge as does Chambers, saying that he and Hiss were members of the Communist Party, not spies.  Hiss again wants Chambers to make his accusations public so he can sue him.  As Chambers moves into the shadows of the pumpkin patch, Nixon paces angrily back and forth, furious at Chambers’ refusal to admit to espionage and frantic that Truman may abolish the Committee.  J. Edgar Hoover enters from upstage to the desk and asks Nixon how the Hiss business is going.  When Nixon says that Chambers won’t admit to spying, Hoover tells “Dick” that this is their chance to squash Hiss like a cabbage worm and expose the “festering, maggoty underbelly of all this sissy New Deal doodleysquat,” and that Dick is the man for the job.  He urges Nixon to drive to Chambers’ farm in Maryland and persuade him to cooperate.  Nixon promises not to let Hoover down and crosses to Chambers in the pumpkin patch as Hoover watches from the upstage shadows.

     Chambers tells Nixon that Hiss is suing him and that he could lose everything.  Nixon says that although they cannot prosecute Hiss for spying, they can get him for perjury if the espionage can be proven.  He wants a confession from Chambers that he and Hiss were spies.  After a pause, Chambers says that he and Hiss were spies, that Hiss stole documents that Chambers photographed and gave to his Soviet contacts.  Nixon demands hard evidence and Chambers says he may have some, then crawls into the dumb waiter.

     Committee light again as Nixon center stage questions Chambers, who sticks his head out of the dumb waiter to shout his answers.  Hiss denies being a traitor and asks for proof.  Chambers falls out on the floor holding “a small sheaf of about seventy pages,” claiming they are documents that Hiss stole from the State Department and retyped before giving them to Chambers.  Hiss says he never learned to type, and Chambers says the papers were typed by his wife, who did everything for Hiss.  He adds that he has film of secret documents concealed in a pumpkin in his pumpkin patch, and, taking the lid off a pumpkin, he pulls out five spools of film.  Seeing the typewriter on the desk, Hiss says that they can compare Chambers’ documents to something typed on his old typewriter.  When asked by Nixon if he still has the typewriter, Hiss says he thinks they gave it away but they can find it and prove Chambers is lying.  Hiss goes out as Chambers shouts after him that the truth will make him free, and the lights go to black.

     The second act opens with the sound of a loud swish and thwack in the darkness and the lights come up on Hoover swatting flies on his desk.  Nixon is worried about the problem of the typewriter, but Hoover tells him not to worry, that a typewriter has been found that experts will testify is the typewriter the stolen documents were typed on.  Nixon understands that the typewriter evidence is bogus but agrees that the important thing, the American way, is to win, no matter how.  He then suggests that perhaps Hiss and Chambers are queers, and Hoover, after giving him a look “that would make birds fall dead from the sky,” tells him that there’s nothing he hates more than queers.  He tells Nixon to stay still and smacks him on the forehead with the fly swatter, saying he got the fly.  He then tells NIxon that he has a file on him as thick as Kate Smith and that Nixon is going to get the grand jury to indict Hiss for the survival of the nation as well as his own.  After Nixon exits, Hoover, on the intercom, asks Clyde to pick up his ball gown at the cleaners because he is in the mood for a tango tonight.  The scene ends with the lights fading on Hoover as he exits “humming a tango and trying a couple of steps with the fly swatter in his teeth like a rose.”

     In the next scene, Nixon and Chambers move a table stage center as Nixon preps Chambers for the grand jury, piling huge stacks of paper on the table.  Nixon tells Chambers to get out of his light as a bright light shines down, flashbulbs go off, and Nixon examines a bit of film with a magnifying glass.  He turns to the invisible throng of reporters downstage and speaks “gravely and earnestly” of the evidence of top-secret documents stolen by the traitor Alger Hiss and retrieved by the repentant Whittaker Chambers.  He makes the Nixon raised arms V-fingers sign and smiles mechanically as more flashbulbs go off.  Hiss emerges from the shadows and confronts Nixon about the “evidence” as Hoover watches from the upstage frame.  Nixon says he has testimony from FBI experts that it is “absolutely, unequivocally impossible” to fabricate the “conclusive” typewriter evidence.  Hiss realizes that Chambers has made a deal and says, “This is not my country,” as he sits in despair on the love seat.

     We hear the sounds of a bleating lamb and birds singing as Nixon and Chambers talk in the pumpkin patch about the relationship between Chambers and Hiss, and Nixon urges Chambers to hang in there for the future of America.  As Nixon hurries off, Hiss rises from the love seat and tells Chambers about his relationship with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a man Hiss says he worshipped.  Hiss wonders if Chamber is going to pay back the money he owes, and Chambers, tears in his eyes, says that he knows when he’s not wanted but that Hiss should beware of reprisals.  Very upset, Chambers goes to his pumpkin patch  at night and rocks in the child’s rocker, speaking confusedly about never wanting to hurt Hiss.  He scatters the stacks of papers, tearing some, throwing others, speaking of the voices in his head.  He takes a bottle marked XXX out of a pumpkin, drinks the rat poison, and then runs over to a pumpkin, falling on his hands and knees, vomiting loudly as Nixon runs on with a newspaper, gleefully announcing the guilty verdict against Hiss.

     We hear a “decadently upbeat” version of “Saint James Infirmary” and the sounds of a wild party offstage as deep red light suffuses the pumpkin patch and Hiss, “like the sophisticated villain in an old thirties movie,” smokes a cigarette and asks Chambers what he is doing.  Chambers says that he is a martyr, destroying himself for the good of the country.  He insists that he is a patriot, that his pumpkin patch will become a National Monument.  Hiss says that Nixon and the others are using them to discredit the New Deal, the United Nations, everything they hate and fear.  He says that people are decent and rational, but Chambers responds that people are “insane, feeble-minded, cowardly, homicidal monkeys” who will believe anything.  He tells Hiss that his reward for behaving decently is a five-year prison sentence and he, Chambers, has won.  Suddenly, “The Stars and Stripes Forever” blares loudly and we hear cheers from unseen crowds as Nixon appears, giving victory signs and shaking hands with Chambers.  Hoover comes on in a ball gown and tiara, kisses Chambers on both cheeks, and hands Nixon a rubber chicken.  After dancing a polka with Hoover, Nixon holds the chicken up and speaks a Jabberwocky-like mish-mash of images from American history.  The music gets more grotesque and distorted as the light on Nixon fades to darkness.

     We hear bird song and see Hiss seated as he was at the start of the play with shadows of bars across him; Chambers is in the pumpkin patch and Nixon is at the desk in the darkness.  Hoover, just out of the light, is standing stiffly in the frame.  Hiss tells us that he made some lasting friendships in prison and that what kept him alive was the thought of his wife.  The lights come up on Nixon telling us that he regarded the Hiss case as a defining moment in his career and that, as a traitor, Hiss deserved everything he got.  Hiss says he lost his wife because she wanted him to change their names and find a quiet life, but he had to prove his innocence.  Eventually, Hiss says, he got a job selling office supplies.  Chambers says his autobiography made him a quarter of a million dollars, and Nixon says that what he learned from the Hiss case was to use the newspapers to destroy your enemies.  As the lights begin to fade on them all, Hiss says he is at peace, that he knows who he is, but he sometimes feels that the other self who was created to live in “this incredible cathedral of lies,” may be more real.  Nixon says that faith has sustained him because he knows in his heart that God is on “our” side.  Hiss repeats the Bible quote about a man gaining the whole world and losing his soul, and Nixon ends the show with the comment:  “And if it should happen to turn out, in the end, that in fact God is actually not on our side, well then–fuck him.”


 Nigro describes the “default setting” for Pushkin as an “ongoing surreal ball” created by lights and music with actors moving in and out of focus and no breaks in the action.  Otherwise, a small desk and chair DR, DRC a large potted plant, RC an empty oval picture frame, UC an empty doorway, L a small sofa, DL a round wooden table with chairs, and enough room C for couples to dance.  The play requires 5 men (two playing two parts, one playing three) and three women (two playing two parts).  All eight actors are onstage as the Chopin piano music ends; we hear wind blowing as lights come up on the stage and Gogol, in the UC doorway, looks at Pushkin at the DR desk and describes Pushkin waiting to duel with the man he believes is his wife’s lover.  We hear crows cawing and Pushkin’s wife, Natalya, standing with her sisters Katya and Alexandra upstage of the sofa, says that none of this is real, that it happened quite differently and could not have been so foolish.  Pushkin tells her that she has no guilt in the matter, and Gogol repeats the sentence.  As Pushkin and Natalya look at each other, we hear a gun shot “very loud” and crows cawing and flapping their wings.  Pushkin turns to his desk and begins writing as we hear Chopin’s 19th Etude, Opus 25, Number 7, in C sharp minor.  D’Anthes and Van Heeckeren join the three women in quiet conversation and Gogol watches the scene and gradually moves to sit at the DL table.  Benchendorf, who has been standing inside the oval frame, tells Pushkin that everything he writes must be adjudicated by the Secret Police.  Snatching the manuscript, Benckendorf says that just as Pushkin gets pleasure from writing, so he gets pleasure from spying on people.  He leaves and our focus shifts to D’Anthes, who has just told a funny story to Natalya and Katya, who are laughing.  Alexandra talks to Pushkin, who says that Natalya is the most beautiful woman in Petersburg.  Van Heeckeren (whom Alexandra calls “the old gargoyle”) leads D’Anthes off left, telling him it’s bed time.  Alexandra urges Pushkin to talk with Natalya and pulls Katya off after D’Anthes and Van Heeckeren.  Natalya says that dancing is the only really satisfying form of intimacy.  Pushkin says that he has a bad knee and Natalya says that she is fickle and has no dowry.  She hurries off to avoid dancing with Benckendorf, who tells Pushkin that the Tsar wants him to turn his play into a novel.  Pushkin says he can’t change what he has written and Benckendorf tells him that from now on he is to submit everything he writes directly to him before publication can be permitted.  The sounds of the dance are overtaken by “eerie gypsy carnival music.”

     Gogol and Pushkin walk in the gypsy camp at Carnival as Death (a man in a black cloak with a skeleton mask), Leopard Girl (scantily clad in a leopard mask and long tail), a Maniac, and Gorilla run on and off.  At the DL table a gypsy who looks like the Queen of Spades tells Pushkin that he will marry a beautiful woman and live in exile in a cold and remote place.  Love will be the cause of his death.  She tells Gogol that he will die insane with leeches on his nose, burning his life’s work.  Immediately, from another time and place, Natalya speaks to Pushkin who turns to her as Gogol and the gypsy fade into the shadows.  Natalya tells Pushkin that she can’t marry him and goes to the sofa to talk to her sisters.  Benckendorf tells Pushkin he’s better off without her as the light fades on them and comes up on Van Heeckeren telling D’Anthes to watch out for Benckendorf and to come home soon so he won’t be thrown in the brig for missing roll call again.  As music plays, Alexandra tells Katya that the handsome Baron D’Anthes is looking at her, but Katya says that he is looking at Natalya.  Gogol asks Natalya to dance; she refuses, but accepts immediately when D’Anthes asks her.

     Lights come back up on Pushkin and Benckendorf, who has some suggestions for improving Eugene Onegin and wonders why women are so attracted to Pushkin despite the fact that his great-grandfather came from Africa.  Pushkin suggests that the Tsar could use him on a diplomatic mission outside of Russia, but Benckendorf says that Pushkin isn’t going anywhere.  Pushkin says he just wants to be left alone and goes as we hear the sound of a violin playing Paganini’s 24th Caprice and see Goncharov, the girls’ father, who stops playing as Natalya asks him what he wanted to see her about since all he wants to do is torture the violin and play chess with the dog.  Goncharov tells her that he can’t afford to feed his daughters any more and she should marry Pushkin.  Natalya walks to Pushkin and tells him that she has been instructed by her father to accept the marriage proposal, warning Pushkin that his happiness will end after his first ejaculation.  As she goes to tell her family they are engaged Pushkin wonders why getting what one has desperately wanted feels as if one has begun to die.  Benckendorf appears to congratulate Pushkin and Pushkin says that he needs a letter for his mother-in-law stating that he is not suspected of any criminal activity.  Benckendorf sits at the desk, writes the letter, and the lights fade on them.

     We hear the sounds of owls and a ticking clock as Pushkin asks Natalya if she is a virgin.  She thinks the question is cretinous and tells Pushkin that if she falls asleep he is not to wake her but to go ahead on his own.  She walks into the darkness and Pushkin follows her.  We hear Natalya moaning in pleasure as the lights come up on Katya knitting and Alexandra reading on the sofa.  They wonder what Pushkin is doing to make Natalya utter such sounds.  The sounds stop but then begin again and the girls walk off to go to bed.  We hear music and are back again at the ball as Pushkin and Natalya come in, speaking about losing the child that Natalya was carrying.  She says she is not going to let him touch her any more, that he taught her to feel sexual pleasure and the result of that mad animal ecstasy has been the death of a child.  She sends Pushkin for punch and asks “pretty boy” D’Anthes what he’s looking at and sends him away.  Katya tells her sister she is very attracted to D’Anthes and Pushkin tells Natalya that all the men in St. Petersburg, including the Tsar, are lusting after her.  Gogol asks to kiss Natalya’s hand but she refuses and goes off to dance with D’Anthes.  Benckendorf tells Pushkin that the Tsar has offered him the position of Imperial Archivist so he can write and Natalya can attend the Imperial balls.  Beckendorf implies that the beauty of Pushkin’s wife may have saved his life and suggests that Pushkin have the mole on his right buttock removed.  As Natalya giggles with her sisters, D’Anthes tells Van Heeckeren that he is madly in love with her, an emotion the older man finds juvenile and absurd.  D’Anthes watches Natalya move from her sisters toward Pushkin and Benckendorf.  Natalya tells Pushkin not to be jealous because men look at her and “storms over” to D’Anthes and Van Heeckeren as Benckendorf offers to spy on her.  He and Pushkin stand behind the oval frame as Natalya tells D’Anthes that her husband is insanely jealous although she has done nothing wrong and could never betray him.  They dance as Pushkin tells Benckendorf that he wants to kill D’Anthes, and the lights begin changing to the cold blue of the show’s beginning and we hear wind.  Gogol describes the “etiquette” of the duel, the cold, dark afternoon with knee-deep snow, and Pushkin rushing forward to get as close as he can before he shoots.  We hear the sounds of a gunshot and crows scattering as the lights go to black.

     As the second act begins, all the characters except Natalya are on stage “like mourners in the shadows.”  Gogol begins recapitulating the duel but says he can’t get it right, that creation, like love, is suicide.  We hear crows flapping and cawing as Natalya enters, late from the ball, to find Pushkin at his desk.  She says she thinks D’Anthes is in love with her but wants Pushkin to leave her alone.  Lights fade on them and come up on D’Anthes moaning and pulling his hair over his desire for Natalya.  Van Heeckeren thinks they should take a vacation in Venice but accedes to D’Anthes’ request that he talk with Natalya, saying that he hopes that once D’Anthes has fornicated with her the two men can be close again, as they used to be.  As Van Heeckeren talks with Natalya, we learn from her that other people, even her children, seem pointless.  Van Heeckeren tells her that he has taken steps to adopt D’Anthes so that he will inherit a fortune, and he asks her to give D’Anthes “just a bit of tenderness.”  He says that there will be terrible consequences if she does not see D’Anthes.  Natalya crosses to the Baron and tells him that she can’t run away with him.  He pulls out a pistol and threatens to kill himself, but she says she will consider letting him “take certain liberties.”

     Our attention shifts to Pushkin and Alexandra who tells him he should have married her but he was blinded by Natalya’s beauty.  She asks him if he would like to have sexual intercourse with her and when he says that women are exactly like men she says that if they were they’d all be morons.  Katya brings D’Anthes a message from Natalya that she will meet him in the arbor by the stream but she cannot remember the time.  Katya begins to cry and D’Anthes sits beside her and puts his arm around her to comfort her.  Then as Pushkin, Alexandra, and Gogol are walking at the Goncharov’s, D’Anthes leaves Katya and feigns interest in the potted plant.  Gogol says that Benckendorf wants him to submit his work to the censor, like Pushkin, who, Gogol adds, always goes too far.  Alexandra greets D’Anthes, who says he is very fond of Katya.  Alexandra calls Katya over to tell her this good news and pulls Pushkin and Gogol away from “the lovebirds.”  Katya tells D’Anthes that she loves him and that he should pretend to love her so that Pushkin will not shoot him for chasing Natalya.  Benckendorf tells Pushkin that he has some suggestions for improving his story about the Queen of Spades, states that he and the author are very much alike, and reads a letter addressed to Pushkin that asserts that Pushkin is a cuckold and that Natalya has been fucking D’Anthes in the gazebo.  When Pushkin wants to know who wrote the letter, Benckendorf tells him that it is anonymous, “although the handwriting does look familiar.”  He says that copies have been sent to everyone Pushkin knows.  Natalya asks why Alexandra’s gold cross was found in the sofa in Pushkin’s bedroom.  When told of the letter, she calls her relationship with D’Anthes a “harmless flirtation” and accuses Pushkin of “wallowing in filth” with her sister.  Both deny the alleged involvements but Pushkin says he is going to resolve the situation once and for all.

     Van Heeckeren tells Pushkin that he intercepted Pushkin’s letter challenging D’Anthes to a duel and asks Pushkin to forgive, urging him to wait two weeks.  Pushkin agrees and leaves as D’Anthes asks what business Van Heeckeren has with Pushkin.  Van Heeckeren says that Pushkin has challenged D’Anthes to a duel and, although the older man urges him to settle things amicably, D’Anthes says he will give Pushkin two weeks to “back down” and then he is going to shoot him in the stomach and watch him die.  Katya tells Alexandra and Pushkin that she is pregnant and, when D’Anthes enters, Alexandra manipulates him into agreeing to marry Katya.  They tell Natalya the good news and Katya drags D’Anthes off to plan for the wedding.  As Pushkin sits drinking, Van Heeckeren brings in papers stating that Pushkin withdraws his challenge, and that D’Anthes will marry Katya.  Natalya wonders if D’Anthes is marrying Katya to protect Natalya’s good name, and she tells Pushkin that no one knows or loves her, that she is nothing.  She then tells Katya that she is happy for her and leaves as D’Anthes enters.  Katya tells him that she will do anything to make him happy, that love is “total enslavement . . . death.”  She says she’ll be waiting in bed for D’Anthes, but he sits and drinks, mirrored by Pushkin at his desk, also drinking.  Gogol wonders aloud why D’Anthes married Katya and Benckendorf tells Pushkin he admires a man who trusts his wife.  Natalya asks Pushkin why he is drinking so much, and Pushkin is disturbed that she has been talking with D’Anthes and then tries to insult the Baron, but D’Anthes refuses to be offended.  When Van Heeckeren enters, Pushkin tells him that he is “a ridiculous old woman, a loathsome, grotesque, walking piece of excrement,” and accuses him of writing the letters proclaiming Pushkin a cuckold.  He knocks the older man down and kicks him in the buttocks and Van Heeckeren “scuttles away.”

     D’Anthes, seeing Van Heeckeren’s clothes are dirty and his nose is bleeding, learns that Pushkin is responsible but says he thinks Van Heeckeren did write the letters,  Nonetheless, although Van Heeckeren pleads with him, D’Anthes is determined to kill Pushkin.  Van Heeckeren urges Natalya to stop the duel, but she says she is powerless, that the world would be a better place if all the men killed each other.  After the older man leaves, Alexandra tells Natalya that she always thought a woman had written the letters.  “Eerie blue light” comes up on Pushkin DR and D’Anthes UL and we hear the sound of wind as the characters take the positions they had at the beginning of the play.  Van Heeckeren has provided the men with pistols and D’Anthes tells Pushkin that even God wants to sleep with Natalya.  Pushkin says that he’ll just have to kill God and that to love any mortal creature is always fatal.  They stand, motionless, as Gogol moves DL describing Pushkin rushing toward D’Anthes, who shoots, hitting Pushkin in the stomach.  Pushkin fires from the ground and D’Anthes falls.  But the bullet was deflected by a button and D’Anthes lives “a long and full life.”  Pushkin suffers “unspeakably” and dies the next day.  Gogol says he cannot write about this, that all writing is absolute futility.  The actors are frozen as Benckendorf strolls to the center doorway and says that Pushkin’s death, “over a few stupid letters,” is a horrible tragedy for all of Russia.  Benckendorf says that perhaps now he can screw Pushkin’s wife.

The Ogre 

The unit set for The Ogre (6m, 2w), “some old furniture scattered about,” represents Brede Place, a damp, haunted mansion in the south of England, 1899-1900, “and occasionally elsewhere.”  We hear the sound of wind as lights come up on a young woman (Marthe) talking to herself of crows, owls, witches, and a prohibition against touching as Ford (Ford Maddox Hueffer), sitting in a chair, speaks, years later, to an invisible friend about “an extraordinary collection of remarkable writers”—Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, H. G. Wells, and Stephen Crane—all living close together in Sussex in 1899.  Marthe speaks of her fear of “a creature” that follows her and, from the darkness, we hear a voice (Sir Goddard Oxenbridge) speaking to her.  Stephen and Cora (Taylor) enter, exploring the mansion but noticing neither Marthe nor Ford.  Although Stephen thinks the house is damp, Cora plans to rent it.  Marthe says that the man and woman who have come into the house will be destroyed.  We hear wind and crows as Marthe moves into darkness, Ford remains in his chair, and Stephen and Cora walk into the downstage light.  They talk about renting the huge, damp, haunted place, and although Stephen has misgivings Cora has plans of inviting artists, intellectuals, and orphans.  Stephen says the house reminds him of a recurrent nightmare and Cora takes that as a sign that the house full of ghosts is their destiny.  She tells Stephen that Moreton, the landlord, said that a girl was hanged in the garden and that years ago they dug up the skeleton of a priest in the chapel.  Hearing a flapping noise, Cora thinks there are bats in the house and, hearing a shuffling noise, goes off to the kitchen, leaving Stephen staring into the darkness above as the lights fade and we hear crows and wind.

     The lights come up on Ford in his chair, with Conrad and Wells talking about Ford helping Conrad with English.  They speak of writing, of Stephen, and of Cora taking in the children of a friend’s mistress and a pack of dogs.  Frustrated with English, Conrad thinks that perhaps he should write in German.  The lights fade and we hear the sound of a thunderstorm and a girl crying as Stephen enters with a lamp.  Seeing Marthe, he asks if he can help.  She wonders if he is a ghost and tells him that she is a servant to The Ogre and that Stephen should leave.  She says that she was hanged from an oak tree in the back yard during the reign of Henry the Eighth.  As she runs into the shadows we hear thunder and wind and Stephen’s lamp goes out.  In the darkness we hear birds singing, children laughing, and dogs barking; then lights come up on Stephen in a downstage chair, writing in a black notebook, as Cora walks toward him, wearing a gardening hat and gloves, carrying a muddy wood and metal box.  Stephen shakes the box and suggests it’s full of bones.  Cora thinks their place is lovely; Stephen says it is a madhouse.  She tells him the Conrads have accepted her invitation to join them for the weekend even though Stephen spent the last evening they were there jabbering with their baby.  Stephen says he wouldn’t mind if he and Cora had a baby or two, but Cora doesn’t want to have children.  She kisses him before she leaves and Stephen shakes the box as the light on him fades.  In the darkness we hear crickets and see moonlight as Stephen approaches Marthe sitting on a bench.  He tells her he has been thinking about her in his waking life.  She says something unspeakably evil is close and tells Stephen, when he asks if the evil thing is after him, that he will find out soon enough.

     The lights fade; we hear wind, then birds, as the lights come up on Conrad and Ford walking, as Ford tells Conrad that Cora was one of the first female war correspondents and that she once ran a brothel in Jacksonville, Florida, the Hotel de Dream, where she and Stephen first met.  As we hear the sounds of screaming children, barking dogs, and clattering cans, Ford rushes off and Wells, riding a bicycle, almost runs into Conrad and disappears offstage to a loud squawk and a crash.  Stephen and James join Conrad as Cora crosses the stage, reprimanding the offstage children.  James wonders how Stephen can get any writing done in such chaos and, after the writers discuss ambiguity, truth, art, and futility, Wells crosses the stage again on his bicycle, followed by Cora who tells Stephen that he must write a play for the party they are going to have over the Christmas holidays.  We hear the bicycle horn, a cow mooing, dogs barking, children screaming, and cans clattering as the lights fade.  We then hear birds as the lights come up on Stephen writing in his notebook.  Cora brings him a plate of toast and picks up the pen he has dropped.  She wonders why he leaves her alone in bed at night and why he talks in his sleep.  He says he was dreaming of the Black Forest and of a red fog.  They speak of Ford and Conrad collaborating and the light fades on them and comes up on Ford, “on a previous afternoon,” talking with Stephen about Kipling’s notion of a daemon who tells him what to write.  Stephen thinks this daemon a “kind of personal Ogre,” but Ford insists that writing is putting down what the mad voices inside say.  Ford thinks that the damp house is affecting Stephen’s health (tuberculosis).  Stephen crosses to Cora as the light fades on Ford.  Stephen tells Cora of a local legend about an Ogre who ate the children of families who came to live in the house until the children got the Ogre drunk and sawed him in half.  Cora says she has a better story about a beautiful, naked sorceress ravished by her slave.  She kisses him erotically and beckons to him as she moves into the darkness.  We hear Marthe screaming and Stephen lights a lamp as she runs to hide behind him, followed by Oxenbridge “a large formidable man in rather faded sixteenth century garments,” who demands to know why she is afraid of him.  He apologizes for disturbing Stephen’s sleep and says that the girl who accuses him of being a monster was hanged for murder.  She blames him for allowing the hanging to be carried out and wants Stephen to kill Oxenbridge, but Oxenbridge says his soul is eternally divided until she forgives him.  He asks Stephen if he is playing his part well tonight and thinks Stephen is a person who has loved deeply.  He tells Stephen to save himself by fleeing the house.  The light fades on them as we hear crows in the darkness, ending the first act.

     To the sounds of birds singing, the lights come up on Stephen and James playing chess.  James asks about seeing a “large, morose looking man in moth eaten clothing and a rather pretty, pale young girl,” and, after asking James if he believes in ghosts, Stephen says that he is going to write a play about the house.  James shares his negative experiences in theatre and as the men talk about writing a woman in gypsy attire, her face partly veiled in scarves, enters asking if they would like to have her read their fortune.  Calling herself Madame Zipango, she pours champagne into James’ hat and puts it on his head.  James stomps off and Cora takes off her scarves and black wig, giggling.  She tells Stephen that when she looked out their bedroom window the previous night she saw him sitting on the terrace and she thought she saw somebody or something in the shadows behind him.  She asks him what it was.  When he replies that it was probably a crow, she says that he has been talking to some woman in his sleep about an oak tree.  They talk about writing and she kisses him passionately as the lights fade.  We hear crickets and see Marthe in the moonlight as Stephen asks her why she has been avoiding him.  She tells him that she and the monster are very angry that he has been writing a play about them, betraying her trust.  Oxenbridge offers to help with some amusing anecdotes and Marthe runs off sobbing.  Stephen takes a drink from Oxenbridge’s flask and Oxenbridge tells him the “old story” of a young housemaid giving birth alone in the garden and burying the new-born infant in a box under an apple tree.  Father John, the local priest, insisted that she be hanged for murder and refused to bury the body in consecrated ground, so Oxenbridge buried it again.  Cora calls to Stephen and enters as Oxenbridge moves into the darkness.  Stephen tells her that they cannot do the play because it offends the ghosts.  Cora tells him there are no ghosts and asks if he still loves her.  Stephen agrees to do the play and goes off to bed as Cora turns downstage, asking if anyone is there, telling them that she will not let them take Stephen away from her, that he is hers forever.

     We hear music, children’s laughter, and guests jabbering as the lights come up on the party in late December, 1899.  While Wells and, later, Ford gallop on broomsticks upstage, Stephen, Cora, and James downstage talk of the writing of Wells and Conrad.  Cora insists that James doesn’t like her, but James suggests that what she may be sensing is his envy of someone who has lived her life when he has not lived his.  Wells offers to introduce James to some pretty women and Stephen tells Cora that James is a genuine artist while he is “a moderately interesting but temporary irrelevance.”  When Cora asks who they are Stephen says that they are “the inevitable result of an enigmatic congruence of absurd causes.”  Cora thinks fate brought them together and suggest the performance should begin.  As the lights dim we hear upbeat music introducing the play and the lights then come up on Wells in a pith helmet playing Dr. Moreau and Conrad playing Kurtz.  They speak of investigating supernatural manifestations at Brede Place and step back as Stephen and Cora enter, playing Quint and Miss Jessel.  Stephen/Quint tells Cora/Miss Jessel that there are much darker spirits lurking and we hear Oxenbridge howling offstage, then entering, mouth dripping with blood, bemoaning the hunger he cannot quench with the blood of a thousand innocents.  When he says he must devour Miss Jessel, Wells/Moreau invites her to his island, where humans and beasts live in harmony, but Conrad/Kurtz invites her to the depths of the jungle.  Oxenbridge says the true monster is the woman and the lights go out on them to the sound of applause.  When the lights come back up, Wells, Conrad, Stephen, and Cora acknowledge the applause and Ford raves about the performance of James as the Ogre.  Cora tells Stephen that he is the best living writer in the English language, but when she leaves Ford tells Stephen that she is a killer and that he should get away from her before it’s too late.  Stephen says that if he ever speaks of Cora that way again he will beat the living shit out of him.  Ford drinks from his flask and wobbles off to urinate.  Cora comes back and tells Stephen that he is her life.  When he offers to show Cora the truth, a “great burst of bright red blood” pours out of his mouth.  Cora calls for help as the lights fade on them.

     In the next scene, Ford tells Conrad that Cora is taking Stephen to the Black Forest for his health and we then hear gulls and a ship’s horn as lights come up on Wells seeing Stephen and Cora off.  Cora again insists that Stephen is a better writer than anyone, and Wells says that “the great thing is to do your work and everything else be damned.”  The lights fade and come back up on Cora speaking a letter she is writing to James describing Stephen’s health.  Stephen, shivering in a blanket, speaks as in a delirium, asking Cora where she got the money for their trip to Germany.  He wonders how kind she was to their landlord, Moreton, in persuading him to give the money.  She says she is not going to let Stephen die, that she will do absolutely anything.  She sobs, he comforts her, and says, “What a terrible thing it is to be loved.”

     Wells, James, Conrad, and Ford sit, having had supper, talking again about art and life.  Ford, who has been reading the paper, tells them that Stephen is dead.  The light fades on them and it is night with the sound of owls.  Stephen and Oxenbridge talk and Marthe joins them, recognizing Stephen as one of the dead.  Cora, in mourning, followed by Ford, walks on, not seeing the others.  She rails against James for refusing to see her and tells Ford that she loved Stephen and he loved her.  Stephen tells Oxenbridge that Cora didn’t kill him, and Cora leaves with Ford, saying she will never come back to this evil place.  Stephen asks Marthe to forgive him, but she says there is no forgiveness and no touching in this place.  They are sitting on the bench and Oxenbridge watches as Stephen lifts his hand and lets it hover just above Marthe’s.  They look at each other and we hear crows as the lights fade and go out.

Animal Tales

Animal Tales is a collection of eleven short plays that may be done as a full-length show, in small groups, or individually.  Nigro writes that he very strongly discourages the use of animal costumes, actors getting down on all fours, and expressions of overt animal physicality.  In Three Turkeys Waiting for Corncobs, two men and a woman portray three wild turkeys, Bob, George, and Penny, who are waiting in someone’s back yard for corncobs to be thrown out.  Penny asks the two males if they think there is more to life than corncobs and bugs.  She says that she has always wanted to play the saxophone and that someday, even though she doesn’t have fingers or lips, she will be a world-famous saxophone player.  She says she is going to search for a saxophone tree.  George tells her that if she leaves them she will become flockless and have nobody to gobble with.  She will walk alone forever and go mad.  But she leaves and the males wonder if they should have been more supportive.  Bob asks George what a saxophone is and George says that the corncobs are coming as he looks back to where Penny has gone and Bob looks towards the corncobs as the light fades out.

     In Dialogue with Lemmings, two lemmings “in a bleak landscape” walk slowly at first and then with increasing speed.  Their names are Lem and Em and they speak tersely as Em tries to find out what is bothering Lem, who feels an itching in his head.  Em thinks that he, too, may be experiencing the same feeling.  Lem says he has to go, but Em thinks there is a cliff “over there.”  Lem doesn’t know why but he says he has to go.  Em tells him that if they don’t stop they are going to go over the cliff.  He summarizes their situation:  they don’t know where they are going, nor why, but millions of them are going to fall off the cliff onto the sharp ocean rocks below.  Lem says it’s something in the head, and Em repeats the phrase as they walk now rapidly.  “Here we go,” Lem says, and the lights black out.

     One character on a bare stage in Platypus is trying to discover who and what he is, trapped in a strange party costume he can’t take off.  He thinks his grandpa was a duck and his grandma a beaver, but he doesn’t know and wonders what he is supposed to be.  He says he doesn’t fit in anywhere and that being odd is a terrible curse.  He hates his claws and wishes he had fingers.  He fears that one day he will be extinct, be nothing.  He wishes he could find somebody like him and thinks he was cobbled together from leftover pieces of somebody else.  He asks the audience if he can sit with them just for company but, realizing the futility of his request, apologizes as the lights go out.

     Another lone actor, a mouse in The Trap, explains to the audience that he ought to know better but he finds the cheese in what he knows is a mouse trap compelling.  He says that he has seen many others crushed horribly by the great metal prong snapping down, crushing their heads and spines, and he wonders what kind of hideously depraved creature could have created such a monstrous thing.  But the cheese smells are so wonderful that he thinks, perhaps, if he is quick enough, he can get the cheese before the trap springs.  He argues that nobody ever accomplished anything new if they presumed that the failures of the past would happen to them, too.  He says he doesn’t need the cheese, that he can live off the crumbs from the kitchen table or inside the stove.  He says he can run rings around the cat and is a very careful mouse.  He knows the trap is a trick devised to kill him, but he dreams about the cheese, wondering who is more evil, the person who invented the trap, or the one who invented cheese, because without cheese the trap wouldn’t work.  He thinks he might be able to just sniff the cheese, saying that desire is a trap, yet desire is all there is.  He resolves to walk away, but then he reaches out his “little” arm.  Blackout and the sound of a giant trap snapping shut.

     A lone actor In the Great Chipmunk Labyrinth speaks to us “from inside his labyrinth of tunnels.”  He tells us that chipmunks, thought cheerful, are really torn by constant doubts and regrets.  He wonders why the great Chipmunk God, who created snakes to kill inferior creatures like mice, allows the snakes to swallow the chipmunk babies.  He loves the labyrinth of tunnels he and his forbears have created to confuse the snakes, tunnels given them, the chosen of God, by the Great Chipmunk to celebrate his mysterious handiwork.  He says he can’t stop thinking about the hawk that swooped down and took his mother, pregnant with brothers and sisters, to a nest in the trees to be torn apart.  He urges himself not to think of the hawk and wonders if the tunnels he digs are perhaps the inside of the brain of the Chipmunk God, who is the hollow space inside the labyrinth inside his brain inside the labyrinth.  He wants to think only of digging tunnels, his “lonely work in the dark.”  Lights fade out.

     In Groundhog at the Window, the actor tells us that something in his head makes him slow but thoughtful.  He says he will eat anything but he tries to stay away from humans although he keeps returning to the basement windows of a house near his den.  One window-well in particular attracts him, not just because it is a good place to hunt toads after it rains but because he sees another groundhog looking back at him through the glass of the window.  This groundhog imitates everything he does and he wonders what the other groundhog’s life is like.  Sometimes the human hears him scratching at the glass to let the other groundhog out and comes out to chase him away.  He is troubled that the groundhog behind the glass imitates everything he does.  He has a sense that something is following him across the grass, but all he can see is his shadow and he wonders if that shadow is the dark disguise of the groundhog in the window.  He screams at the creature in the window well and it screams back at him.  He says there is an itching in his head that makes him dizzy and thirsty.  There is froth at his mouth and he thinks the dark thing that follows him across the grass has gotten into his head and is eating his soul.

     In Parrots, two actors move back and forth sideways as if on their perch in a cage created by shadows of bars.  Pickles repeats everything Pecky says and Pecky tells us that the question is not why “this jackass” keeps repeating everything he says but why he himself feels compelled to keep saying stupid things like, “Polly want a cracker?”  since neither of the birds is named Polly and Pecky would rather have a cheeseburger with fries and a chocolate shake.  Pecky thinks he is going mad, that there is another person inside him who keeps saying inane phrases that he must then repeat.  And he is trapped in a cage with a moron who keeps repeating what he says.  Pecky asks Pickles to say, just once, something that Pecky hasn’t said first.  “I love you,” Pickles says.  Pecky replies that Pickles is a tape recorder with feathers and cannot say anything intelligent.  “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” Pickles responds and continues to utter random sentences from physics, police car radios, and aliens, and then starts singing songs.  Pecky shouts at him to shut up, saying that he hates him and wishes he were ground up into cat food.  Pecky expresses his satisfaction with peace and quiet, but then asks Pickles, who is silent, if he is pouting.  Pecky repeats some of the phrases he said at the beginning of the play, but gets no response.  He asks if Pickles is dead and tells him that he loves him.  But he gets no response to “Polly want a cracker?” and the lights fade out.

     Two cats, Maggie and Tabby, on a rug in front of a fireplace in String Theory, talk about the meaning of life.  Maggie says that life is dark and she sometimes thinks she is going crazy.  Tabby suggests that if they run away all the stuff that seems to matter will just vanish.  But Maggie wonders what it all means although she doesn’t want it to be over.  She has no faith that there is anything on the other side of the fence.  Tabby says there was another yard there yesterday and Maggie asks if she knows it is still there today and whether it is the same yard and what is over the fence of that yard.  Tabby says she guesses it is all yards forever, like a big house where you can go through more and more rooms.  Maggie says she is sick of her life and wants something else.  When Tabby asks what, Maggie tells her that when she was chasing a string she wondered why she was doing it.  Tabby says that they are cats and cats chase things.  Maggie says they chase mice and birds so they can eat them but why do they chase string?  She says that when she saw the hand of the child that was moving the string, she stopped chasing the string because she didn’t want to be manipulated.  Tabby tells her that they are cats and she can play or not, that it’s her choice.  Maggie says life is meaningless and that what gives them pleasure is either an illusion or an obscenity.  She says that they are victims of a process they don’t understand, controlled by other victims who don’t understand.  Tabby asks her if she enjoys chasing the string, and when she says she does, Tabby tells her to “chase the damned string.”

     One character in Bat hangs upside down in dim, gloomy light, telling us that the piece will be short because of the blood rushing to his head.  He tells us of a war between the birds and the beasts and when the birds wanted the bat to join them he said he was a beast, but when the beasts wanted him to join them he said he could fly like the birds.  When a ttreaty was made neither the birds nor the beasts wanted the bat.  Hanging upside down in a cave he heard a rustling and realized that there were millions and millions of others just like him, but each one was alone.  He doesn’t know what it means.  Even if he slept right side up the world would still seem upside down to him.  “Not bird.  Not beast.  Not anything.”  He asks us what kind of animal we are and closes with, “Suck you later.  Maybe we can hang out together.”

     Ed, a baboon, in The Baboon God, speaks to us about the absurd, insulting, and blasphemous attempt to teach evolutionary thought in their baboon schools.  He says it is obvious that they are made in the image of the blue ass and floppy red nose of the Great Baboon God and he urges immediate execution of those secular baboons “who would fill our children’s heads/ with monstrous fairy tales/about the humans being/some form of cousin to us.”  He says such ignorance is insulting and appalling and urges those listening “to exterminate the vermin/who spread these unholy lies,” in the name of “the Most Holy/Lord and Creator,/the Great Blue-Assed/Baboon God./Amen.”

     In Waiting, three cows, Bessie, Opal, and Eloise, are standing in line, wondering why they are there and what is going on.  Opal says she has no idea what “they” do or why “they” do it, but Eloise is sure that everything will be fine, that “they” feed them and take good care of them.  But, Bessie says, “they” have never loaded them in trucks and taken them to another place before.  She says the place doesn’t smell like a barn, that the hundreds of other cows, especially those at the head of the line, look worried.  Eloise thinks that most unhappiness in cows is caused by worrying. She says the trick is to relax and be thankful for what they have.  Bessie says they don’t know if they’re ever going home again, that they don’t know where they’re going or why they are here.  Eloise tells her to be calm, put herself in the hands of Providence, and have faith that everything will be all right.  Bessie says she smells fear and thinks something terrible is going on.  Eloise says she believes that they were put on earth for a purpose, even though they may not know what that purpose is.  They need to trust the powers that have always looked after them and everything will be all right.  Opal says the line is moving again and as the light fades Bessie repeats, uneasily, Eloise’s assurance, “The line is moving and everything is fine.”


Armitage, a small town in eastern Ohio and the home of the Pendragon clan, is the nominal geographic location of Runes, a play for 4 men and 3 women.  The unit set is created with “a few wooden chairs and benches, a bed, a small desk, . . . wooden tables . . . a counter . . . with an old dark mirror behind it,” and steps leading to an upstage level.  We hear the sound of wind blowing as the lights come up on Vonnie Wolf, 16, sitting in jail C and casting small, flat stones onto the table in front of her.  In the shadows upstage is Matt Armitage, 48, the town lawyer.  Arthur Wolf, 39, sits behind the counter of Love’s General Store DR, with Evangeline Love Wolf, 36, at the desk in the storeroom UR, and Nancy Wolf, 18, on the bed UL.  Jonas Wolf, 17, and Harry MacBeth, 47, sit at a table in the Flowers Boarding Hotel DL.  Vonnie talks about the casting of runes and Matt tells her that the Sheriff is going to charge her with the murder of her father, Arthur.  Then, at an earlier time, Arthur asks Vonnie what is wrong with her, saying that she has been worse since she performed in Romeo and Juliet.  Matt, at the jail, asks Vonnie if the baby she is carrying had anything to do with what happened to her father.  The action then shifts to Jonas telling Harry how Doc McGort took him on house calls.  Harry tells Jonas to go away to medical school and Matt steps into their light telling Jonas that he needs his help to save his sister, Vonnie.  Jonas insists that Vonnie didn’t kill anyone.  Harry tells Matt that Jonas has been seeing Margery Frost every night for months.  Matt asks if they know who the father of Vonnie’s baby could be.  Arthur comes out of the shadows of the store to order his son to stay away from the Frost girl.  He tells Jonas he doesn’t need to go to college to run the store.  He warns him about women, saying that he can’t get Jonas’ mother out of his head.  The mother, Evangeline, then moves into the light, reprising an old quarrel, as Jonas moves into the shadows.  She tells Arthur that he only married her to get her father’s store.  He agrees, saying that she was pregnant with someone else’s child, Nancy, who is a simpleton.  Vonnie enters their space, agreeing that everybody hates Arthur.  As she moves upstage her parents continue quarreling, Evangeline pleading with Arthur to make some sort of contact with their children before it’s too late.

     The light fades on Evangeline and we see Nancy folding laundry in the bedroom above as Matt, Jonas, and Harry continue talking about the murder.  Jonas says that Nancy heard the shot, discovered the body, and ran to get the doctor.  Vonnie asks Nancy why she does everything Arthur wants since he treats her like a slave.  Nancy says that Arthur misses their mother badly and talks to her at night as he drinks in the store.  She says that Arthur just needs to be loved and Vonnie tells her that if he hurts her she will kill him.  Matt, Jonas, and Harry talk about Arthur prowling the store at night with a lantern and a shotgun, and Vonnie talks with Arthur who says he keeps hearing something moving around in the store at night.  He tells her he doesn’t understand her and that we love people who make us suffer the most.  Harry goes up the stairs to the bedroom where Nancy is lying on the bed as Jonas tells Matt that Harry wants to own the store.  Matt asks Jonas if he knows why his mother left after so many years.

     In the storeroom Vonnie asks Evangeline why she is afraid to be alone in the storeroom at night.  Evangeline says that years ago she heard the bell ringing above the door of the store and heard footsteps as an intruder came towards her in the dark.  He pushed her down on the bolts of cloth and raped her, a memory that does not go away.  Vonnie thinks that Nancy should be told that her father was not a handsome Bible salesman who loved her mother.  But Evangeline says that people need lies to believe or they go crazy.  She wants Vonnie to promise to protect Nancy.  We hear the bell ringing above the store door and the lights fade out, ending the first act.

    Act Two begins with the sound of wind and a ticking clock as we see Harry standing by the bed where Nancy is lying.  Matt and Jonas are DL in shadows.  Vonnie sits C in the jail, Arthur is at the counter, and Evangeline upstage in the storeroom.  Harry tells Nancy that Matt needs to talk with her about Vonnie.  Nancy tells Matt that she was having a bad dream when she was awakened by a gunshot.  She went downstairs and found Vonnie covered in blood holding Arthur in her arms, crying and telling her to run to get the doctor.  Nancy says she doesn’t know anyone that Vonnie could be protecting.  The scene shifts to Vonnie and Arthur talking about her playing Juliet.  He doesn’t understand why she enjoys pretending to be other people.  Nancy comes down the stairs asking them to stop arguing.  When Jonas enters, the four of them, under Arthur’s prodding, talk about their belief and non-belief in God and life after death.

     Our attention shifts to Matt coming down the stairs to the Hotel area where Harry is drinking.  Matt says he doesn’t think Vonnie killed anyone and Harry says he better get her off before the Sheriff charges her.  Matt moves into the light of the jail area with Vonnie and Jonas.  Vonnie tells Matt that he is trying to make sense out of the irrational, that she likes runes because they show her how desperate people are to make sense out of meaningless events because that’s how their brains work.  Matt asks if Arthur was ever violent with them and why their mother ran off.  Harry enters their space to tell Matt that Loopy Rye, the village idiot, has something important to say to him about the mother, Evangeline.

     At night in the store, Arthur wanders, drinking.  The shotgun is on the counter.  Nancy comes down the steps saying she thought she heard someone crying and realizes it was Arthur.  He tells her to go back to bed but she says he was crying for Evangeline.  She tries to comfort him, holding his head to her breasts as if he were a child.  The bell above the store door rings and Jonas enters, asking Arthur what he is doing.  Nancy goes up the steps to lie down on the bed.  Arthur warns Jonas about being trapped into marriage by the Frost girl and Jonas tells him to stay away from Nancy.  Vonnie moves into their light, telling Jonas to leave, and asks Arthur why he stays up every night drinking; she asks him if he killed Evangeline.  He says that she ran off, that she had run off before when the children were younger and that he brought her back so the children would have at least one parent to love.  He tells her he never knew what was going on in Evangeline’s head.  Vonnie gets dizzy and he helps her sit.  She says she is pregnant but Arthur doesn’t believe her at first.  She refuses to tell him who the father is and says she is not going to marry anyone.  Arthur tells her that he tried to be a good father, particularly to Nancy, but her mother’s rape always got in the way.  He says that he always loved Evangeline, but she only settled for him after she was pregnant and desperate.

     Lights come up on the DL area, now a farmhouse kitchen where Evangeline sits sewing a quilt.  Matt tells her that Loopy Rye told him she was at the Nairn farm.  Matt asks her if she was at the store the previous night.  She says she still has a key and likes to walk around the store at night, except in that room in the back where something terrible happened.  She tells him to ask Harry, that Harry knows about the bell above the door.  In the jail Matt tells Harry that he has just had an enlightening conversation with Evangeline and that Harry is going to put Jonas through college and medical school, set up a trust fund for Vonnie and Nancy, and bribe the Sheriff to declare Arthur’s death an accident.  If not, Matt says, he will tell Harry’s wife, Evangeline’s sister, that Harry raped Evangeline.  Harry will also see to it that Evangeline is taken to a place where she can be helped.  Vonnie comes in and learns that she is going to be released.  Matt tells her he had a conversation with her mother and knows what Vonnie saw and why she lied.  She tells Matt that his son, David, is not the father of her baby.

     In the last scene, Evangeline is at the table in the Nairn farmhouse DR and Arthur is across the stage at the store counter.  Evangeline says that although she loved her children, sometimes she had to get away, but she couldn’t bear the thought of having left them with Arthur.  He says, “I know.”  She says he was a monster for loving her after what she had done, after what had happened to her.  To love her after that was unforgivable.  She says she came home, found the shotgun on the counter, with Arthur asleep at the table.  Waking, he looked at her with tears running down his face because he was so glad to see her.  She raised the gun, she says, and pulled the trigger.

Lost Generation

     In Lost Generation, three characters–Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, and Zelda, his wife–perform on a unit set with a table and some chairs, a sofa, arm chair, bed, a Victrola and some ‘78’ records, a practical window with a weight-supporting ledge, and a closet door.  Time and space are fluid with no blackouts or set changes.  After we have listened to assorted sound effects, the lights come up on Ernest writing at the table.  Scott enters from the upstage shadows, drink in hand, apologizing for his drunken behavior.  They talk about writing and Ernest tells him that Zelda drives Scott crazy so that he can’t write.  Scott tells him that Zelda says his penis is too small and offers to show it to Ernest.  Ernest asks Scott if it doesn’t bother him that his wife is a little bit insane and is jealous of Scott’s talent.  Ernest opens the door and tells Scott to go in so that Ernest can look at his penis.  But instead of following Scott through the doorway, Ernest slams it shut behind him.

     Zelda comes in, asking for Scott, and telling Ernest that he uses people, then throws them away and writes mean things about them.  Ernest says that that’s what writers do and says it’s a shame she isn’t stupid, because, being so beautiful, she would be happier if she were.  She says that he likes to kill things and is the world’s greatest authority on “pseudo-masculine sadomasochistic bullshit.”  She says that none of his fictional women are real and that A Farewell to Arms is “just a parlor trick.”  She puts on a record of “Swan Lake” and begins dancing.  Suddenly, we hear the sound of an airplane, close and very loud.  She explains that it is her French lover buzzing the house to express his devotion to her.

     Scott emerges from the closet with a shotgun and watches Zelda, now dizzy, fall face first on the sofa.  We hear the airplane again and Ernest takes the record, inserts a nail through the hole, and nails it to the wall.  Scott asks Zelda if she has taken the pills again and tries to get her to stand, but she pulls away and crawls across the floor, eventually curling up to sleep.  Scott gets her to her feet, telling her she has to keep walking because that’s what they do in the movies.  He tells her she is his muse and that Ernest is his artistic conscience.  Ernest says that a writer has to be a bastard, and Zelda says that Scott wanted her to kill her children.  Scott wants to show somebody his penis and Ernest says that anger is necessary for creation.  Zelda tells him that his work is that of a terrified man and she doesn’t like it, although she thought his book about Popeye (To Have and Have Not) was very funny.  Ernest gathers his papers and pen and goes into the closet, closing the door.

     Scott tells Zelda that he writes to make money so that she can buy things.  He says that when she is with him he can’t work, and when she’s not with him he misses her and wonders what man she is with.  She accuses him of stealing her diaries and letters and putting them in his novels.  She says she doesn’t enjoy sex with him and wants to go out drinking.  He says he has to finish writing something so that they are not poor and if he goes drinking with her he will get drunk and won’t write anything.  She doesn’t understand why Scott makes such a fuss over other writers and she climbs onto the window ledge as she imitates Scott worshipping Joyce and offering to throw himself out the window unless Mrs. Joyce declares that she is desperately and hopelessly in love with him.  Scott pulls her down and sits on the couch with her.  She says that Gertrude Stein is the “Empress Dowager of Bullshit” who makes “incomprehensible, incredibly tedious, self-indulgent literary cow flop.”  As they talk we hear the airplane again, very loud, than a huge crash.  Zelda goes out, hoping that the Frenchman had a parachute.

     Scott, pouring a drink as Ernest comes out of the closet, asks if Ernest thinks he is a hack.  Ernest says that Scott writes a great story and then eliminates the ambiguity and gives it a happy ending so he can sell it to the Saturday Evening Post.  He defiles his work for money, and that is the definition of a hack.  Scott says he can’t afford to create masterpieces right now.  Ernest suggests that Scott learn to tell what happened and then take most of it out.  Ernest thinks he hears a gun shot and Scott asks him why he wants to kill things.  Ernest says that Scott and Zelda have to stop banging on his door at four in the morning, drunk and screaming.

     Zelda enters, in tears, announcing that the French aviator has flown into the side of a mountain because he couldn’t have her.  Ernest says he did have her and dumped her and then flew into a mountain.  Scott asks Ernest if he has ever thought of suicide.  Ernest says he’s thinking of it right now.  After Scott brings drinks for Ernest and Zelda, the two men toast the dead pilot.  When Zelda tells Ernest that he really wants Scott dead, Ernest says that everything is war.  Scott thinks writers should help each other and then he tries to stand on his head.  His third unsuccessful attempt lands him flat on his back, saying that writing is like dying.  Ernest says that writing is what you do while you’re dying and that nothing else matters.  Announcing that he has to urinate, Scott leaves.

     As they drink, Zelda asks Ernest if he really wishes he were dead, telling him that he is a sentimental liar pretending to be a tough guy.  She says that when he runs out of friends to kill he will find himself alone in a room with a gun.  When she asks him why he doesn’t like her, he tells her she is going to bleed Scott dry and eventually murder him.  She says that Ernest is terrified of women and worships violence, again calling him a liar.  He says it is easy to write the truth if you are a great liar, that every story is a lie and all writing is betrayal.  He grabs her and kisses her violently, knocking her backwards onto the bed.  He says he hears something stalking them.  Scott enters and we hear “an ominous roaring in the distance” as the lights fade out ending Act One.

     Act Two begins as Act One ended with Scott asking Zelda what she said to John Dos Passos on the ferris wheel.  She replies that she likes to watch men squirm.  But she thinks they are in Delaware because crows have been following her everywhere.  Scott is worried about her trying to strangle herself and throw herself under a train.  She says she was just playing and asks him if he is going to hit her or cry.  Scott asks Ernest if he wants to fight, but Zelda punches Ernest in the nose, knocking him backward over a chair.  She says she is tired of playing a character called Zelda and exits, looking for a plot.

     Ernest tells Scott that she is insane and should be committed before she destroys him.  When Scott says he loves her, Ernest tells him that the illusion of love is fine unless it hurts his work.  He says that he and Scott are writers and the world is trying to kill them.  He tells Scott to write the best he can, every day, and never compromise, never give in.  Anyone who gets in the way, wife or not, is expendable.

     Zelda returns with a telegram for Ernest.  He says that his father has died and Scott offers him moncy to go home for the funeral.  Ernest takes the money and, leaving, tells them that his father shot himself in the head.

     Zelda, humming “Swan Lake,” dances and speaks a rambling monologue about ballerinas and rain and mirrors and imaginary hypotheses.  Scott tells her to stop dancing and says that  she needs to go to a nice, quiet place where people can help her.  He says he will write a great book and try not to drink himself to death.  She says she does want him to write a great book and admits that it is exhausting trying to be charming and funny and beautiful all the time.

     After Scott leaves, Zelda speaks another rambling monologue about burning and mirrors and Alice Through the Looking Glass and flowers and writing a book.  Scott returns with a fat manuscript and asks Zelda (now in the madhouse) what it is.  He asks her why she would write a novel about their lives when she knew he was doing the same thing.  She suggests that perhaps she could be the writer and Scott could be the ballerina.  She tells him she married him because she took pity on him.  When he says he just wants her to get better, she says that beauty and love are temporary, but madness is not.  She tells him to go to Hollywood and write movies, then leaves.  Scott tells himself that he can write, he can.

     Ernest enters and tosses a book at Scott.  Scott asks him if he read it and what he thought of it.  Ernest says he liked parts of it, but not other parts.  Scott says that Ernest’s book is full of sneers, made up “almost entirely of resentments,” of hate.  Scott thinks that great art comes, ultimately, from love.  Ernest disagrees and says that criticism and critics are “shit.”  When Scott defends Virginia Woolf, Ernest asks how Zelda is doing in the nut house and tells Scott that he hates him for being a better writer and a better man.  When Ernest tells Scott that he is done as a writer, Scott says that Ernest is next.  Ernest agrees and says that he fucked Scott’s wife.

     Zelda comes in with a telegram for Scott, who doesn’t want to open it.  Ernest, sitting by the shotgun, wonders how fools can write great books like Gatsby and The Good Soldier.  He says that there is a hyena out there in the dark that has been following him for years.  Scott says that Ernest was right to choose writing over love.  Ernest says that he can’t sleep at night without a light in the room, and Scott thinks that he can still do good work, that the book he’s working on may be the best he’s ever done.  Ernest takes out two shotgun shells from a box and Zelda opens the telegram, reading that Scott Fitzgerald died sitting in a chair in Hollywood.  Scott says he just needs another twenty-five years and he’ll do incredible things but the light blacks out on him.  Ernest opens the shotgun and puts in the shells and Zelda announces, “on a lighter note,” that Ernest Hemingway died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Idaho.  Ernest says he left things out until he’d left out everything.  He snaps the gun shut and the light blacks out on him.  Zelda closes the play by saying that Zelda Fitzgerald died in her bed in the attic of an asylum during a fire.  She says she used to know a girl with that name who swam naked for boys and lived in the mirror.  She says they’ve asked her to dance at the funeral.

The Count of Monte Cristo in the Chateau D’If 

The set for the 4-character (3m, 1w) The Count of Monte Cristo in the Chateau D’If  is a two-level unit with a background of fog and crags.  Two sets of curving stone steps lead up to a platform with Alexandre Dumas’ desk and chair SR.  Under the platform UC between the steps is a cave mouth.  There is a door SR opening upstage and between it and the SR steps is a window.  DR a table and chairs.  A garden bench is downstage of the SL steps and further downstage, perpendicular to the edge of the stage, is a “stone” wall that characters must dig through.  A small prop table is on the landing halfway up the SL stairs.  Escape stairs lead off from halfway up both sets of stairs and from either side of the top of the platform.  This unit set represents a dungeon cell in the Chateau d’If, a dark prison on an island in the Atlantic, the study of Dumas, an inn near the sea, the jagged island of Monte Cristo, and a garden.  The action is fluid, without set changes or intermission.

      A Chopin Etude and the conclusion of Rossini’s William Tell Overture are heard as the house lights fade to darkness.  A circle of light comes up on Edmund Dantes, sitting center stage on the floor of his cell.  Dumas is barely visible at his desk, starting to ask ludicrous questions.  Dantes responds with his own thoughts, concluding the scene by saying that his purpose is the conquest of time.  As the lights go to black we hear the sound of a cell door creaking shut, then the sound of gulls and ocean and the voices of Mercedes and Dumas.  Birdsong signals the light coming up on Mercedes on the bench in her garden.  Auguste Maquet, a literary drudge, tells her that he loves her, and she says that she loves only Edmund Dantes.  When Dumas says, “Oh, cries the rejected lover, running along like one demented and tearing his hair,” Maquet looks up at him and asks if he thinks that’s too much.  Dumas repeats the line and Maquet follows directions, tearing his hair and running like one demented to the table DR.  Dumas suggests to Maquet that perhaps something unfortunate should happen to Dantes.  Maquet says that he cannot control Fate, but Dumas says the he (as author) can.  He tell Maquet to denounce Dantes to the authorities as a traitor.  Maquet will get not only money but Mercedes.  Dumas tells the hesitant Maquet that he must decide if he wants to be a major or a minor character.  We hear the cawing of ravens and Dumas says, “Good. The ravens are good.  Let’s keep that.”

     We hear the sound of a ticking clock as the lights come up on Mercedes.  She complains about waiting (and burping) but then sees her lover Dantes, home from the sea.  She rushes to greet him just as he opens the door, clunk, smashing her in the face.  Dantes thinks she has been hiding and looks at the audience, thanking them for coming on this auspicious occasion.  Maquet thrusts the door open, hitting Mercedes in the face again, and, prompted by Dumas, arrests Dantes for treason, taking him off to the dungeon of the Chateau d’If.  In the darkness we hear footsteps, an iron door creaking open, Dantes screaming as he is thrown toward the cave mouth, and the sound of the door clanging shut.  Dantes describes sounds that the audience also hears and as the lights come up Maquet pushes a bowl of gruel into the cave.  Dantes says he is being tortured and when Dumas asks questions Dantes says that he has imaginary conversations with God or someone like him who smokes cigars and smells of sweat, liquor, and ink.  We see Dumas’ face as he lights his cigar on the platform above.  He asks Dantes for the supreme word in human philosophy and when the prisoner gives up he tells him it is the word “if.”  Dumas tells Dantes that he is in prison to further the plot.

     Lights come up on Maquet writing as Dumas dictates.  Mercedes pleads for mercy for Dantes.  Dumas orders Maquet to write that Mercedes’ nose has been healed and rips off her bandage, saying, “On to the next chapter.  Darkness.”  Maquet repeats, “Darkness,” and the lights go out.  Then a dim light comes up on Dantes in prison, talking with Dumas and speaking as the author dictates.  Mercedes appears and asks Dantes to help her, saying they are both prisoners in a novel by Alexandre Dumas.  Following Dumas’ narration, Dantes decides to starve himself to death by throwing his breakfast bowl of gruel out the window.  Maquet makes the sound of a rooster crowing and slides a bowl into the circle of light, saying, “Breakfast.”  Dantes throws the bowl out the window.  Lights black out and come up again as Maquet repeats the rooster crow and the bowl action.  Again, Dantes throws it out.  This sequence is repeated four more times until Dantes collapses and Dumas, speaking from the darkness, tells us that Dantes is hallucinating a mysterious and relentless scraping noise.  We hear the scraping noise get louder and louder until Dantes asks if anyone is there and hears the voice of Dumas say that he is number one thirty seven.  Dantes wants to talk and claws at the wall which suddenly gives way and a man tumbles out of the hole.  It is Dumas in a long white beard, fake nose, and bald wig.  Dumas as prisoner says that he has been trying to escape for years but had decided it is impossible.  All he can do is write a story about a young man who is falsely accused of treason and thrown into a dungeon.  He shows Dantes a drawing he has made on his stomach and describes how the two of them can escape by digging a tunnel.  He also shows Dantes a map giving the location of a treasure buried on the island of Monte Cristo.  Prisoner Dumas gags, goes into convulsions, and dies.  Dantes pushes him back through the hole, replaces the stones, and moves off as the light fades.

     We hear birdsong as the lights come up on Mercedes in her garden as Dumas, from the darkness, says that she remains loyal to her beloved.  Mercedes, while insisting on her loyalty, says that she owes it to herself to consider letting some rich fat guy with a creepy mustache defile her tender young flesh repeatedly.  We hear ravens cawing as the light fades on her and comes up on Dantes in prison.  Dantes tells us he plans to take the dead old man’s place and be buried in the Cemetery of the Chateau d’If.  He crawls under the shroud as Maquet and Dumas come in, carry him up the stairs, and tie a cannon ball to his feet before throwing him off the upstage side of the platform.  Maquet expresses gratitude that the sea is the cemetery.

     Following Dumas’ narration, Dantes, rescued by smugglers, arrives at the Isle of Monte Cristo hoping to find the old man’s treasure.  Finding it, but exhausted, he falls asleep on the treasure chest and dreams he is back in the dungeon.  When Maquet asks Dumas for co-author credit, Dumas calls him “a piddling little inky-fingered troglodyte,” and decides to have Dantes meet Mercedes in the garden where they vowed undying love.  After Dumas tells us that she married a bitter enemy of Dantes, she tells Dantes, whom she apparently does not recognize, that she married because she thought her love was dead.  She calls him Edmund but he says he is the Count of Monte Cristo and that she is dead to him.  She speaks of how she prayed and wept for him for ten years, and Dumas remarks that “this is good stuff.  I really am a tremendously great writer.”  When Maquet says that he wrote that speech, Dumas says that he is hallucinating.  They argue over the use of the word “whence” and Dantes tells Mercedes that he has no desire to live after he has been publicly insulted before a theatre full of people

     After Mercedes leaves and Dantes sits holding his head in despair, Dumas and Maquet talk about making cuts because the scene is too long.  As they walk off squabbling, Dantes speaks of a voice in his head telling him that nothing that has happened in hundreds of pages is real; it has all been a dream.  Maquet makes the rooster noise and slides a bowl of gruel into the light.  Dantes throws it out the window and Mercedes asks him if what happened in the garden felt good to him.  They remember kissing each other and she says they need to get away from “all this damned plot.”  She remembers the name Alexandre Dumas, and Dantes says he is leaving to find him.

     We hear a foghorn and lights come up on a smoky bar where Dumas and Maquet are drinking.  Dumas introduces himself to Dantes as James O’Neill (the actor who played the part of the Count of Monte Cristo for decades).  Dumas/O’Neill warns Dantes to stay away from Alexandre Dumas and leaves.  Maquet tells Dantes that Dumas is the cause of all his sufferings and is completely insane.  Dantes and Maquet resolve to destroy Dumas, and we hear the Chopin Etude we heard at the beginning of the play as the lights dim on the inn and come up on Dumas at his desk.  We hear wind and rain and a part of the William Tell Overture as Dumas writes frenetically.  He shouts out to cut the music and the music stops suddenly so that we hear only the sound of a ticking clock.  Dumas says that he’s lost everything he earned over the years.  Dantes appears behind him and says he wants to be in a better novel and that he has come to get revenge on the author.  Dumas says Dantes needs to be more angry and that he himself gets revenge by writing novels.  He tells Dantes that he can do whatever he wants to him and offers him a glass of lemonade.  The lemonade is drugged and Dantes collapses as the lights go to black.

     We hear footsteps and the sound of an iron door creaking open, then Dantes screaming as he is hurled into the downstage darkness.  Maquet does the rooster noise, announcing breakfast as he slides the bowl of gruel into the light.  Reprising the opening scene, Dumas fires questions at Dantes, who says that the mind is a theatre in which memory dances and that his purpose is the conquest of time. The lights fade out as we hear the last measures of the Rossini.