The Madness of King Ubu is a monologue for a large orange person who is surrounded by crash dummies. Ubu tramps into the light and loudly says, “GOLD,” telling us that we thought he was going to say “shit” but gold is better. He wants to build a golden tower with golden furniture and all the people will bow down and worship him. In his kingdom the truth will be whatever he says it is. He indicates the crash dummies as his Secretary of Farting, the Secretary of Masturbation, the Secretary of Gold-Plated Turds, the Secretary of Brain Death, and the Secretary of Horse Buggery. People, he says, are stupid and they will believe anything if you keep screaming it over and over. He picks up a stuffed animal cat, saying he loves nothing more than fondling a nice, soft pussy. He thinks the crash dummies are whispering that he is a fat, stinking toad, and he puts on a hand puppet and does the voice of the puppet arguing with his own voice. The voices call each other puppet until he rips the puppet off his hand and throws it upstage, the puppet voice screaming. In his own voice he shouts he is the monster they see in the mirror that they have secretly wanted all their lives. Out of breath, he staggers, telling us that he dreams that everything he touches turns to gold until he realizes that it’s shit and he is suffocating in it. When he wakes up and realizes it was all a dream, he wonders how he can know what is real. He says he could be the Emperor of nothing, or another crash dummy, or perhaps somebody else’s dummy. He asks who wrote the puppet play he is in, and where will he or the audience be when the play ends. “None of us will be real,” he says as the light fades out.
Mother Hubbard, an old woman, speaks to the audience from her kitchen in a circle of light surrounded by darkness in The Mother Hubbard Enigmas. She says she heard noises in the cupboard that she thought were rats, but there was nothing there when she looked. She says she put a bone for the dog in the cupboard and found that at night the bone had moved at least two feet. When she left the bone on the kitchen floor it was gone in the morning. She thought the dog was dead but then at night she heard it howling for a bone and heard laughing after she put tripe on the kitchen floor. When she looked the tripe was gone but she could smell tobacco that her long-dead father smoked. She put beer in a dish in a corner and heard the sound of lapping in the darkness. When she came home with fruit she heard the sound of a flute but there was no one in the kitchen and what looked like an old wig was crawling across a cupboard shelf. In the morning, she says, it was gone but there was one raisin which she decided not to eat. Now at night she hears goats and a clip-clop sound on the floorboards. She wonders if she could teach the dog to stand on its head and dance and play the flute, and they could run off and join the carnival. She finds old shoes scattered around the house and thirty-year-old newspapers with half-finished crossword puzzles. Everything is a mystery, but the more she thinks about it the more it seems to her that she never had a dog. She hears a voice whispering in her ear that tells her to crawl into the cupboard and close the door behind her and never come out.
In Old Woman on the Subway we see the old woman seated on a moving subway car with flashing lights and hear occasional muted subway rattling. She tells us that “we” have God tied up in the back yard with a long chain. He snarls and growls and slobbers but the chain yanks him back hard. She says if he ever gets loose he will “mess you up good.” She tells us her second husband used to mess her up pretty good and now she can hear the radio stations on Mars on a rainy night. She says the Devil lived in a big clock above the ice cream parlor in her home town and would come out at night and eat up your dog or your children or bite you bad on the leg. The Devil has spikes on his penis that make you howl but then he bites your throat and blood gushes out. She says the preacher back home had a penis like a cheese log but he got run over by a street car and they saved the penis for a door stop. She likes the Martian radio broadcasts but the medicine the doctor gave her to help her think more clearly interfered with the broadcasts so she gave the medicine to the paper boy. Doctors just torture you until all your money is gone and then they kill you, just like her third husband. She wants to be buried in a telephone booth in case she needs to make some phone calls. When she gets home, she says, she has to feed God raw meat. She keeps him chained up to lure the Devil who has been after her all her life. The Devil sits just out of range of God’s chain and torments him. Maybe one day she will let God loose and he’ll bite the Devil in the crotch. Sometimes she dreams about her baby but she has learned from the mice running around in the ceiling that you have to make sacrifices if you’re going to achieve anything in life. When she gets home at night the house is empty and she feels sad. But she looks out at God chewing on a bone and his eyes are gleaming. He’s waiting.
The setting for Henry Miller Explains Women is a table at a bar late at night. Henry is “bald, wears glasses, (and) has a Brooklyn accent.” He begins by asking us what any man ever knows about a woman. He says that any man who talks about women is digging his own grave, because whatever you say, you’re wrong. Desiring a woman is like waking up in a coffin; you’re trapped inside. Writing is something you do to keep from losing your mind while you’re suffering and being humiliated by women. Nobody with a penis has ever been able to figure out women, not even Freud, who didn’t have a clue. He tells us he left his first wife and child for June, who never got tired of sex and who supported him so he could write masterpieces. She said that old men paid her at the dance hall to just sit and talk with her. She denied taking drugs but somehow scraped up the money to send him to live in Paris and write.
In Paris, he met Anais who looked like a lovely, innocent child but who was insatiable for sex, foe everything. She recorded everything in her diary but, he says, she ‘s the only person he’s ever met who is a bigger fucking liar than he is. He thinks her Daddy, “a Fascist perfumed sleaze bag” probably taught her how to lie. He and she are an amalgamation of all the lies they’ve ever told. If they can’t write, they don’t exist. The important thing is to just keep moving, keep writing. He says he was a bad writer until the part of him that gave a fuck what anybody else thought died. He and Anais will never write a masterpiece because they’re both made of fragments and are always in the middle of something.
When he tells Anais that his grown daughter wants to see him, she says his daughter is very angry with him and asks him to promise not to sleep with her. She says there are no limits. He says Shakespeare had the problem of what to do with daughters. He is terrified about going to see his daughter, but there is one true thing he can say about women: nothing else means a god damned thing.
Part of The Anais Plays, Anais in the House of Mirrors presents Anais, “a beautiful woman in her thirties or forties,” speaking to us from a room that looks out over her back garden. She says everyone carries a private tragedy that she mourns all her life. She says her father abandoned his family when she was eleven, and her mother crossed the ocean with her to live in New York, where she started writing her journal as a love letter to her father to persuade him to come back to them. The house in New York was full of mirrors and she hoped that, in one of them, she would see her father looking over her shoulder and she dreamed that he came out of the mirrors to hold and comfort her. She says she felt closest to him when he was spanking her, but if a parent abandons you nothing can ever make it right again. She says her father locked “us children” in a room and beat her mother and then locked the mother up and beat the children. She says she has a memory of her father doing something to her in the attic but she’s not sure if it’s a real memory, and her father, years later, said she was a liar just like him. She tells us she was proud her father wrote to her as if she was an adult, speaking of all the women he was sleeping with. Her diary was the only way she could make sense of her life. When she turned thirteen, people started falling in love with her, first her cousin Eduardo—who really wanted boys—and then Hugo, whom she married. Hugo’s hero, his old professor from Columbia, declined to sleep with her because he didn’t feel right about cheating on his mistress. In Paris, she met Henry, whose writing overwhelmed her. When Henry’s wife June showed up from New York, she fell madly in love with her. June could make any man do anything she wanted but she thought Henry was a genius and supported him. When she left, Anais says, she and Henry started doing it in every way it was possible to do it. Hugo refuses to believe that she is unfaithful, but then reads her journal about having intercourse with Henry. She says he read the red diary which is fictional; her green diary is the truthful one. She tells us that Hugo came home unexpectedly while she and Henry were in bed, but Henry managed to crawl out a window. After that, Hugo always told her exactly when he would be home, but she kept Henry there until the very last moment. She went to see Eduardo’s French psychoanalyst who, the moment they got naked, started whacking her buttocks with a whip and talking like the villain in a dime novel about the circus. She got the giggles and advises us never to giggle at a Frenchman with a whip. She met one of his patients, Antonin Artaud, who fell hopelessly, miserably, in love with her so she slept with him, feeling she owed it to art. So, now she says, she’s sleeping with four people but still hasn’t found what she’s looking for.
She says she feeds off chaos, sleeping with three or four different men a day, but then she got word from her father that he wanted to see her. She tells him the most horrible thing a person can do is abandon a child. He says the most horrible thing is to betray yourself. She makes love with him and agrees that they have always belonged together. She breaks up with Artaud and the French psychoanalyst and writes in great detail in her journal about how it feels to have intercourse with her father. Her father asks her never to write about their incest in her diary but she says she can never betray her diary. She talks to the psychoanalyst Otto Rank and then sleeps with him (although he looks like a frog), but he helps her understand that deep inside all betrayed children is the profound need for revenge. She abandons her father the way he abandoned her. She still wants to be loved but knows that love makes us miserable. She says that her diary is all she is; the only truth is that she is what she writes. She says that everything she’s told us is the truth, except for the lies, which were for our own good. She has a dream that her father is knocking on her door in a rainstorm, screaming that he loves her and wants her to let him in. She says he is an ugly little man, turns off the light and goes to bed.
Mysteries of Prague is a two-act full-length play with four men (two playing three roles) and eight women (two playing three roles). DR a small table and a large chair, DC a dining table and a sofa, and DL a café table. Upstage a “strange labyrinth of cobbled streets and arched passageways, stairways, the insides of old houses at many different levels.” Actors can appear at any level at any time by going up and down stairs or in and out of windows and doors in fluid, dreamlike action.
In darkness we hear the sound of canaries singing and then a growing cacophony of cabaret/sideshow music, barrel organ, and carousel. As lights come up we see Kafka writing at the small table DL as shadows of carousel horses and revolving carnival lights swirl over him and we hear Lowy as a carnival barker welcoming people, dogs, roaches, stink bugs, dung beetles, and burrowing creatures of all denominations to the Yiddish Theatre of Oklahoma. We hear a loud train whistle as the lights fade on Kafka and a giant Ground Mole crawls across the stage. A pool of light comes up on Kafka who tells us that on Alchemists Street in Prague everything is in a constant state of metamorphosis and is written in code. Another pool of light shows us Max as an old man who tells us that he met Kafka after giving a lecture on Schopenhauer. Dora crosses the stage holding a stack of twenty old notebooks, saying that Kafka is delirious with fever before she goes back into the darkness. Kafka speaks of a man writing a book that sold eleven copies, ten of which the man bought, but he wonders what happened to the eleventh copy. We hear a voice from above making a loud eerie insect sound, then scuttling sounds and what seems like a large ball rolling across the floor and a ticking clock. Max says Kafka left only a piece of paper instructing him to burn everything. Milena appears in a window saying that she is not a child and we hear the sound of a child crying in the darkness. Julie appears and says she wants the woman’s address so she can write to her. She coughs into a handkerchief and we see red where she has coughed. She moves into the darkness as Kafka tells us that the only way to write is in a trance. Felice and Greta walk through a pool of light speaking of love and sex as they move into the darkness. Milena tells Kafka she is only there to translate his writing. We hear the sound of children crying and Ottla says that the train is moving out of the station. We hear the train beginning to move and a whistle as lights go out on all but Kafka at his table.
We hear “horrible banging and rolling sounds” and a person making sounds like a cross between an insect and a pig. Kafka asks if someone is up there and after three loud knocks all the noise stops except for a ticking clock. A door opens and the Landlady enters with a lantern asking what Kafka is yelling about. He says he hears sounds every night and she suggests he has been dreaming or has had too much Schnapps. He tells her he comes to the room to write, although he doesn’t know what he’s writing. But now the noise upstairs disturbs him and he sometimes hears a mouse singing opera. Hearing the sound of a goat bleating, the Landlady leaves, threatening to have Kafka arrested if he complains about noise again. Kafka says that writing is a form of prayer to him but everything comes to him in fragments. As he writes we hear the high-pitched, squeaky voice of the Mouse Singer singing “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.
At the café table, Max asks Dora if Kafka left any of his writing with her. She says he gave her twenty notebooks but told her to burn them. Max calls her a stupid woman and she throws a drink in his face as she leaves. Kafka sits at the table with Max who says he can’t understand how Kafka can destroy his own work. Kafka wants Max to promise to burn everything Kafka has written but Max says he doesn’t believe him. We hear the Mouse Singer sing the final phrases of “O Mio Babbino Caro” as Kafka moves to his writing table and Blumfeld, drinking, joins Max. They speak of Kafka’s death and his writing and Blumfeld says that Kafka had a child. Blumfeld laments his lonely life and says he has to get up early to catch a train to Poland. Ottla repeats her line, “The train is moving out of the station.” Blumfeld leaves and Max says he is sure Kafka would have told him about a child. Kafka says only an unfinished work of art has any integrity. Felice, “looking at Kafka from another time and plaee,” wonders why he smelled her neck. Max says that she must have been the mother.
The light fades on the café table as Max leaves and we see Kafka and Felice in their own circles of light, surrounded by darkness. Felice says that she is in Berlin and he is in Prague, and although he writes her a great many very long rather odd letters they almost never see each other. Kafka wants to know specific details about her life, the doorknobs in her bedroom and the number of her teeth. He wants her to send pictures of everything because he is desperate for something to replace reality. The light on her goes out abruptly and fades on him as he starts writing.
At the café table Felice asks Max if Kafka is insane and Julie, “commenting from elsewhere,” says he is a little insane and Milena says Kafka can only approach women like a crab, sideways. As Max tries to explain Kafka, Grete and Dora comment and Lowy, the Yiddish actor, tells Kafka that God is everything and nothing. Kafka, walking with Felice, describes his process of writing as a chaos that helps him keep the connection to the demon whispering in his head. He tells her he wants to marry her, that he is deeply in love with her. She says she doesn’t understand him although she will count her doorknobs and send him pictures of them, but she will never count her teeth for him.
The light fades on them and comes up on Max asking the Landlady if Blumfeld lives there. She says he hanged himself but left a suicide note for someone named Max. Blumfeld appears in a spotlight, speaking the letter, saying that he might as well tell him who the mother of Kafka’s child was. But as he is about to say her name, he starts burbling incoherently and the light on him goes out. The Landlady goes and Ottla says the train is moving out of the station. Max thinks that Ottla, Kafka’s sister, might know the mother’s name. As they talk at the café table, Kafka at his table says that he liked hiding like an insect under the sofa and told his publisher that the insect must not be seen on the cover. Max tells Ottla that he has been told that Kafka fathered a child. Ottla says neither she nor her parents know anything about it and the scene morphs into a family dinner with Papa, Mama, Kafka, and Ottla, canaries singing, Mrs. Tschissik juggling dead canaries, and Lowy standing on his head.
Kafka tells his parents that he is a vegetarian and Papa complains about having actors in the house and wonders why Kafka isn’t married. Ottla supports her brother and leaves and then Mama, shouting about eating meat, also leaves, followed by Papa. Lowy and Mrs. Tschissik join Kafka at the table and begin finishing the meal, “hungry like the Marx Brothers.” They describe the play they are performing, gather up the last of the food, and go. Kafka joins Felice who says that her favorite writer is Strindberg and admits that she doesn’t understand the book Kafka sent her and thinks he is weird. She says she hates her job demonstrating the proper use of dictaphones and thinks that a giant ground mole is lurking in a dark stairwell in the building where she lives, waiting to eat her. Kafka says they were made for each other and goes to his desk to write. Felice joins Max at the café and he asks her about the possibility of there being a child. She says if Kafka didn’t tell him who the mother was he didn’t want Max to know. She says she asked Grete to find out Kafka’s intention but that did not turn out well. Ottla speaks her line about the train moving out of the station; Kafka says he closes his eyes and finds himself on a train in the dark, heading into a tunnel towards an unknown destination. Dora says she did something she’s ashamed of and Julie says she saw him putting flowers on a child’s grave. We hear the sounds of a train picking up speed, a train whistle, and a child crying. Lights fade on Max drinking and Kafka writing and go out, ending the act.
Act Two begins with Kafka writing, complaining about the noise of squirrels bowling above him. Grete tells Felice that Kafka has been writing long, strange letters to her and is genuinely puzzled that Felice accepted his marriage proposal. She suggests that they meet Kafka together. There is a lightning strike and a loud thunderclap then darkness and the sound of rain as Kafka greets Felice, Grete, and Felice’s pregnant sister, Erna. Felice tells him that he doesn’t love her and never will. Erna says that men are monsters and should be killed. She and Felice leave and Grete tells Kafka that Felice has problems and responsibilities that Kafka doesn’t know about. Grete suggests that she, Kafka, and Felice might go on a vacation together.
We hear the sounds of cuckoo clocks and Lowy yodeling as lights come up on Kafka, Felice, Grete, and Fraulein Steinitz, who is a little drunk. She asks why Felice and Kafka are afraid of each other and why Grete is there. As Felice leaves, Fraulein Steinitz says the rest of them are going to have an orgy but then follows her. Grete suggests to Kafka that they could go to her room, but Felice returns and Grete leaves. Felice asks Kafka if he has ever actually had physical relations. He says he goes to brothels and she says they need to have sexual intercourse and asks for the key to his room. She leaves and he starts coughing, putting a handkerchief over his mouth, and sees a large red splotch of blood on it. He says the truth is that God is “an enormous, sadistic, carnivorous dung beetle.” Julie says she saw him putting flowers on a child’s grave.
At the café table Kafka tells Max that he has ended his relationship with Felice. Max suggests he go to a sanitarium to get some rest. We hear thunder and then the sound of a child crying. Ottla says they’re loading children onto the train. At the café, Julie tells Max how she met Kafka at a boarding house. She and Kafka then talk and she tells Max that Kafka made her laugh every day. She says they were going to get married but his parents thought she was a fortune-hunting slut. Papa appears and says she is. Julie says they were happy until the Czech translator came along. Pollak tells Kafka that he told his wife, Milena, that she should translate his work. Milena tells Kafka that translation, done well, is an act of love. She says her husband cheats on her a hundred times a year but now her greatest desire is to spend the rest of her life translating Kafka’s writing. We hear the sound of children playing as Kafka and Ottla talk with Julie sitting in the park and Milena on the other side of the stage as Max watches from the shadows. Kafka tells Ottla that he knows Julie loves him but he desires Milena. Ottla says he has to tell Julie and goes. Julie asks Kafka if he would like to have a child with her. He says he is not sure he is able to be a father or a husband. He says he has met someone else and thinks Julie should go. He tells her the woman’s name is Milena and she is translating his plays into Czech. Julie wants her address so she can write to her. Kafka scribbles in a notebook, tears out a page and gives it to Julie who kisses him and sits at his table to write. Ottla tells Max that Kafka found it terrifying to be loved. Max says Julie told him that she had no child but did say something odd about children. Julie tells Max that she once saw Kafka take flowers to an old burial ground and put them on a child’s grave. The light fades on Julie as Ottla says she can’t imagine whose grave it might have been.
Kafka tells Milena that he wants her to leave her husband and that he gave her address to the girl he was going to marry. Milena says her husband has a gun and lights come up on Pollak reading a letter. Milena says she loves Kafka and can’t live without him. Pollak tells her he will never let her go. She looks at Kafka, then at Pollak who tells her to come to him. She hesitates as the light fades on Pollak and comes up on Max. Milena wonders if things might have been different if she had the courage to leave her husband. She says she should have been with Kafka when he was ill and dying. Max says Dora took care of him at the end and tells her that Milena told Kafka that her brother, who died as a child, was buried in a Prague cemetery and Kafka probably put flowers on his grave. She asks if Max knows someone named Grete and thinks she might know something. Milena says she hopes he had a child and wishes it was hers.
At the café table, Grete tells Max that she doesn’t have any manuscripts but that she knew about the child. Lowy, from elsewhere, speaks of the Sephiroth and reality being Russian dolls. Grete speaks to Kafka, kissing him twice, as Kafka says that “this” is the fever dream of a dying man. She says she was the mother of Kafka’s child, but the boy died. She says she doesn’t know any lawyer named Blumfeld, and that he was lying. As light fades on them it comes up on Kafka, dying, sitting with Dora. He tells her she could be enjoying her life instead of trapping herself with a dying man. She says he is not going to die and the light fades on Kafka as she talks with Max, a decade later. She says she kept the twenty notebooks that Kafka gave her but the Gestapo took them and she doesn’t know where they might be. Max says that Grete was the mother of Kafka’s child, but Dora tells him the father of Grete’s child was a married man, not Kafka. Lowy speaks about uncovering secrets as Max moves to his DR chair, getting older as he walks, and sits.
We hear the sound of the ocean and Kafka stands behind Max. It is many years later and Max tells Kafka that he talks more to him dead than he did when he was alive. He says he has dreams about Kafka and Kafka says he also dreams. When Max asks about the child’s mother, Kafka says he always asks the wrong questions. Max says he has made Kafka very famous and asks to be forgiven for not burning his life’s work. Kafka goes to his table and begins writing as Max speaks about Ottla, Grete, Julie, and Milena being killed by the Nazis. He drifts off to sleep as the light fades on him and Kafka continues to write. We hear the sound of balls rolling and strange noises. Kafka shouts for quiet and, after a short silence, we hear something heavy lumbering down the steps. There are three loud bangs on the door and Kafka asks who is there as he rises and moves to the door, opens it, and looks into the darkness. We hear squeaking noises as Kafka says that he told them that the insect must never be seen. One insect leg reaches through the door, wrapping around Kafka’s leg and dragging him through the door. Kafka struggles frantically, screaming as he disappears, his cry ending with a horrible gurgling sound. Carnival music and eerie lights from the opening of the play return and Lowy shouts out his welcome to the Yiddish Theatre of Oklahoma where your most secret desires and darkest fears will come true and where nobody ever leaves. As the lights swirl and the stage grows darker, an enormous Dung Beetle moves into the room and we hear the Mouse Singer singing the concluding phrases of ”O Mio Babbino Caro,” ending in darkness.
Humpty Dumpty is performed by a large, round person, shaped rather like an egg, sitting on a wall. He tells us he is celebrating the completion of a thirty-seven-and-a-half-foot wall, part of his plan to make The Other Side of the Looking Glass great again. He says that he has nothing against the honest, hard-working rabbits coming to Wonderland who can contribute significantly to our way of life, but he doesn’t welcome rabbits from shit holes who bring their shit holes with them. He says we have already wasted too much time exterminating the rabbits who were already here when we got here, where of course we have always been and always will be because God gave us this country. He says he is in no danger of falling off the wall because his personal physician has certified that he is the most perfectly balanced egg in the observable universe; and, if he should ever fall, the White King, with all of his horses and all of his men, will put him back together. He says he has a very cordial relationship with the White King because for many years it has been his great honor and privilege to wash his dirty money. He says everything is a game and the point of the game is to win and rules don’t matter. He says he won’t take any questions from that uppity Alice person and asks that the lizards take her out and punch her in the face if she gives them any trouble.
He realizes that nobody’s listening to him and says he feels dizzy and speaks of a dream in which he is falling and feeling intense heat and thinks God is making an omelet. He wonders why God can’t go to the Waffle House like a normal person. He says he is confused and doesn’t know which side of the wall he is on. He says he doesn’t know where he came from and he doesn’t know who he is. Then he says it is just a dream, that he’s just a character in a nursery rhyme. He sees a strange dark shape above him and we hear the sound of a giant bird screeching and see a great shadow across the stage. Humpty says that God in the form of a giant bird has come to give him his just reward and take him to the Waffle House. Losing his balance, he falls over backwards on the upstage side of the wall, screaming. We hear the sound of an enormous splat and the lights black out.
A recent addition to the Pendragon cycle (the other full-length plays have now been published by Samuel French, Inc.), Dreams of a Sinister Castle, requires four men and four women. The setting is a room in the “ancient wreck of a labyrinthine haunted house” in east Ohio. The furniture is covered with cobwebs and sheets and doors lead off in several directions. A stage area also represents a field with a ragged scarecrow outside the house. The time is autumn 1976 and in the darkness we hear an eerie calliope, the roaring of lions, and trumpeting of elephants. As the lights come up, five characters enter, carrying suitcases—Duncan Rose, 45, plays kings, villains, and “rather stiff heroes” and his brother Duff, 43, plays younger Shakespearean leads; Ally, their sister, 41, June Reedy, 33, and her sister Lorry, 32, complete the entourage. They are all tired and hungry, irritable, but Ally says she feels a spiritual connection with the house, their father’s house and of June and Lorry’s mother. Duncan declares that The Pendragon and Rose Theatrical Touring Company has hit rock bottom. The company’s costumes and scenery have been confiscated because their show in Pittsburgh failed to attract an audience and bring in the necessary money. As Duncan and Duff squabble, Ally remarks that she dreamed that they all joined a circus, and June thinks that they can stay in the house until they figure out how to raise the money to get their sets and costumes back. She says that Aunt Liz will make them all the fried chicken and mashed potatoes they can eat. Duncan says they have seventeen bookings left that they cannot get to, that they have no money, and that the other actors have deserted them. Ally takes out a huge, tangled ball of yarn, saying that knitting is the secret to her serenity. June and Lorry help her untangle the yarn and Ally has the feeling that someone is watching them. Lorry and Duff go out to the kitchen, and Duncan and June leave to use the telephone at Aunt Moll’s. Alone, Ally sits on the floor in the lotus position, talking to the spirits of the house, asking for their wisdom. As she speaks, a 20-year-old girl, Molkin, wearing a big false mustache, a tattered old wedding dress and a stovepipe hat, comes in, takes out a walnut from between her breasts, and places in on the top of the yarn. Then she puts the mustache under the walnut and the hat on top of the yarn. She looks at Ally and goes off as the lights fade.
We hear the sounds of crickets and owls and moonlight through an open window reveals Ally on the sofa, mumbling in her sleep. A dark figure crawls through the window and approaches her. When he (Romeo DeFlores) touches her arm, she screams and sits up. When Duff calls from offstage, Romeo leaves. Ally tells Duff that she has been talking with the Devil. Lorry comes on wondering what all the yelling is about and tells Duncan and June when they enter that Ally has seen the Devil. Ally insists that the Devil went out through the door, and when Duncan opens the door to disprove her, Romeo is standing there, saying he never actually left because he walked into the broom closet. June tells Ally that Romeo is her father, and Lorry’s. The girls want to know what Romeo wants. He tells them that he has had a dream that has brought him to the sinister castle (the house). He tells them his son and his wife are dead and he has come in search of his daughters. Reaching out the window he hauls in a large satchel which, he says, contains the insurance money from the fire that destroyed the house of mirrors and his son. He wants them to take the money. He feels guilty because in the past he had talked of burning the hall of mirrors for the insurance money, but he insists that he did not set the fire, although he feels that perhaps his thoughts did. He says he has what is left of the carnival—some old animals and a handful of freaks—on the other side of the hill. Duff looks in the bag and Duncan says they could use the money, but Lorry slams the bag into Romeo’s chest and pushes him into the hallway and out the door. Duncan tries to convince Lorry that they can use the money to get their theatre company back in business. Ally says that Romeo is standing in the middle of the yard and it is starting to rain. We hear Romeo howling like a wolf, then barking like a dog. Duncan says they should take the money that Romeo wants to give his daughters and then commit him to a mental asylum. Lorry says that Romeo is conning them and goes off to bed. The lights fade as Romeo howls, Duff drinks, and June and Ally look out the window.
We then see Romeo outside the house, howling at the moon beside a scarecrow. He talks to the scarecrow and says that elephants answer his howling. We hear an elephant trumpeting in the distance. June appears, with Ally, Duncan, and Duff behind her. June wants her father to come inside. When asked about the bag with money, Romeo says that he buried it. We hear thunder and Romeo tells Duncan that the ghost girl knows where he buried the money. He says she went to tell her father and Duncan is certain he will never see the money again. After June and Ally lead Romeo off, Duff and Duncan sit under the scarecrow and bemoan the loss of their acting company. Duncan wants to try to find the money before the rains come, but Duff has had enough to drink and wants to sleep. Duncan drags him off and Molkin, still in the wedding dress, comes on with the muddy satchel. She opens the bag and tells the scarecrow that the bag is full of grief. We see lightning and hear thunder as the light fades on her and the act ends.
Act Two begins with the sound of crickets as the lights come up on Ally sleeping on the sofa. Molkin comes in with a large “very ugly looking” ax, raises it to strike Ally, and falls over backwards. Ally identifies Molkin as the ghost girl Romeo talked of and asks her what she is doing with the ax. Molkin says she was going to cut her head off because Ally is going to take her daddy away. John Rose, 88, enters behind her and tells her to put the ax down. Ally recognizes her father, and he introduces her to Molkin as Lorry, Duncan, June, and Duff come on. Ally tells John that their sets and costumes are locked up in Pittsburgh and John asks why they need “all that moth-eaten crap.” He tells Duncan that he gave him the company because he wanted it. Molkin, thinking that Duncan has insulted her, offers to cut off his head but John takes the ax from her and sits on the sofa with her and Ally. Molkin tells Ally that John is her real father because he saved her life when she was starving and hearing voices. John says he left the company to come back to the Pendragon house, found Molkin, and stayed. When Ally wants him to rejoin the company, John asks her if the company is sets and costumes. When she says no, he points out that if the company is the actors they have what they need. He tells them that the essence of theatre is to use what you have, that no one can prevent them from practicing their craft. When Romeo enters, Duncanidentifies Molkin as the ghost girl he mentioned and asks her where the money is buried. She says she burned it. Romeo says he saw them in a play in Pittsburgh and complains that he didn’t see an actor exit pursued by a bear the way Shakespeare wrote it. Romeo says that he has a bear where his carnival is camped. Duncan, fed up with Duff’s comments, knocks him down and starts strangling him. Ally, June, and Lorry try to pull him off, but he persists until John, in his old actor’s voice, orders him to stop. When John asks what else he has in his carnival, Romeo lists a variety of sideshow artists and animals. Ally says they could call themselves the Pendragon and Rose Shakespearean Theatrical Carnival and use the animals in the forest of Arden and all kinds of places and use the carny people as extras. Lorry says she doesn’t have a problem with the idea, but she doesn’t think they can trust Romeo, but he says he has betrayed everything but never his carnival. The actors vote, four to one (Duncan resisting) to try. Duncan then agrees as long as John is not involved. Molkin wants to go with the actors. John admits that he loved the life of an actor and has missed it. Duncan says he has just learned that his wife has left him and Duff apologizes for sabotaging Duncan’s efforts and assures him that the company needs him and that his wife will come back to him. John tells Duncan to go back to England to straighten things out with his wife. While he is gone, he, John, will take over and help June restage the shows. With the sun coming up, Romeo leads them off to meet the animals.
Another five-character (2m3w) play, set in London 1932, Munich 1923, and Prague 1913 is entitled The Shadows. Nigro includes a set diagram that could be used for a number of his plays. Benches are placed down right and down left, desks right and left for Quinn and Rath, a couch center; steps DR, R, C, L, and DL lead to an upstage platform with a bed UR, a bathtub UC, and a table with chairs UL. As we hear the sound of a ticking clock, the lights come up on Hannah, 19, in London 1932, on the couch. We can see Rath at the down left bench, Quinn on the down right bench, Maya sitting on the bed and Sophie writing at the table. Each character voices thoughts that occur in the play like leitmotifs. We then hear birds singing as Hannah walks to Rath, her father, asking him if he is all right, that he seems troubled. He asks her where she goes when she is out alone exploring London. Maya enters their space, asking if Rath, her husband, wants meat for dinner. She says that Rath used to dream of his father committing suicide by stepping out an attic window. Hannah leaves to get some lamb for dinner and Rath asks Maya who Hannah is seeing. Maya tells Rath that he should be grateful that Quinn got him a teaching job in London and asks him if he wants to see Sophie and the scene ends as Quinn and Sophie speak their thoughts. Maya moves toward Sophie who descends the steps and they talk about when they were friends in Munich. Maya wants Sophie to come to see Rath. Their conversation is interspersed with comments on life and love from Quinn and Rath. Sophie joins Quinn feeding pigeons on the bench and Maya watches them from the couch. Rath moves to his desk and begins writing. Sophie tells Quinn that Maya is worried about Rath. Quinn tells Sophie that she is doing very well, getting published, her work taken seriously. He says it will kill her to see Rath again. Sophie describes waiting in the rain in Prague outside Rath’s office, then going inside to knock on his door. As Hannah speaks in 1932 from the bench DL of her dreams of being a young girl in Prague during the war, Sophie moves to Rath’s office/desk. It is 1923. He puts a blanket around her and they sit on the couch. Hannah speaks in 1932 of the first time she met Sophie, when her father brought her home for dinner, and how she loved her from the moment she saw her. Maya moves toward the couch (Munich, 1923) and tells Sophie that she is always interested in her husband’s students. The women talk about children and Sophie says she probably won’t have any. Hannah crosses to Quinn on the DR bench and they speak of tragedy and their time in Munich. Maya crosses to the UL table as Hannah asks Quinn if he thinks her father is going mad. Sophie and Rath eat lunch in his office and Hannah moves to join Maya at the table. Sophie and Rath talk about writing and Rath tells her a story of David Hume being overwhelmed by the terror of solipsism. She says she is real, flesh and blood, and she wants him to touch her. Rath gets up to leave, but returns when Sophie starts crying, and kisses her as the light fades. As Hannah and Maya start talking (London 1932) at the table, Sophie moves to the DR bench to sit with Quinn and Rath moves to his desk. Hannah says that she thinks the shadows have gotten into her father’s head. Maya tells her that she went to see Sophie and asked her to visit. Quinn has moved to his desk and he and Rath (Munich 1923) talk about their theories of art and love. Rath admits to betraying his wife with Sophie. Angry, Quinn leaves to teach a class and Maya and Sophie on the bench DR talk about university politics and how Quinn has been able to protect Rath. Sophie moves up to Rath on the bed, takes off her dress, and sits in her slip at the foot of the bed. She tells how her parents died when she was a teenager and how her aunt took her to an orphanage because her uncle wanted to sleep with her, and how the mother superior recognized her intelligence and got her into the university. Rath tells her that she is better than he is and it seems impossible that she can love him. He tells her that Maya was his landlady’s daughter when he was a university student and that one night she came to his room. As he moves to the table, Maya comes to him from the bench DR and they enact a scene from 1913 in the rooming house in Prague. She tells him she has been reading his manuscript on labyrinths and tragedy and says that she knows he wants her, that she is like his muse. She begins rubbing his temples and they kiss as the light fades on them and Quinn tells a fairy tale of a fool and a wise man. Hannah speaks from the bench DL of fog everywhere, Maya moans, and Sophie on the bed speaks of death as the lights fade and the act ends.
As the second act opens, we see Rath writing at the UL table (Prague 1913) with Maya behind him. Sophie is on the bed in her slip (Munich 1923), and Quinn and Hannah are on the benches. Maya tells Rath that she is going to have his child and Sophie speaks from the bed about Rath marrying Maya as he moves to the couch. He tells Sophie that his father committed suicide after finding his younger brother in bed with his wife. Rath says he never spoke to his mother again. Maya enters Rath’s time (1923), crossing to the couch, and suggests that they invite Quinn and Sophie to dinner. She covers her face with her hands as Rath goes up the steps to lie down with Sophie on the bed. Hannah speaks from the bench about reading his book on labyrinths in which he says that all art is an exercise in futility, “an elaborate device for becoming hopelessly lost.”
Quinn moves from the bench to the couch and Maya (Munich 1923), who tells him that Rath is betraying her with Sophie. She wants Quinn to make love to her; he sits on the couch and she puts her head on his chest. Hannah speaks of Rath bringing Sophie home as Agamemnon brought home Cassandra. On the bed (Munich 1923) Rath warns Sophie about becoming friends with Maya. He tells Sophie that, because of Hannah, he can’t see her any more. Sophie suggests that they could kill Maya. She tells Rath that he is not re-enacting the manifestation of an archetype, that he is destroying a person who loves him, giving them both a death sentence because he is afraid. As Rath moves down the stairs away from her she says he is making the greatest mistake of his life. She sits at the foot of the bed, her head on her knees.
At their desks in Munich, 1923, Quinn tells Rath that he saw “that strange little man,” Hitler in a café. Rath tells Quinn he has ended the affair with Sophie, saying it was the right thing to do. He tells Quinn he should see Sophie. As Quinn moves to the upper level, Sophie moves to the bath, speaking of Seneca’s recipe for suicide—a razor and a bath of hot water. Quinn sees her with the razor in her hand and turns off the water. Quinn says he has been offered a job as department head at a London university and suggests that Sophie can come with him as his assistant, finish her thesis which he will help get published. He puts a robe around her and holds her as the lights dim. Maya speaks to Rath at his desk (Munich 1923) about fools marching in the streets. Rath tells her that Quinn is taking Sophie to London with him and Maya says that Hannah will be devastated because she loves both of them. Hannah ends the scene by saying that inflation in Munich that autumn made their money worthless. She moves to touch Rath’s back and kiss his hair as he is at his desk, then sits on the steps L. Sophie enters, dressed, down right, speaking to Quinn on the bench in London 1932. She is furious that Quinn has given Rath a job in his department. Quinn says he thought she was over her feelings for Rath and she tells him that she had a crush on him first but decided it was foolish, and then she fell in love with Rath. She decides that she has to see Rath again and moves toward the couch. Hannah greets her and Sophie says that Maya asked her to drop by to see Rath. Hannah says that her father has never been the same since Sophie left, that one day she visited her father’s office and saw him kissing Sophie, a moment that changed her life forever. She kisses Sophie on the cheek and sits on the couch as Sophie moves to Rath on the DL bench. We hear birdsong and Sophie tells Rath that Maya asked her to come by to see him. Rath wonders why Maya would invite Sophie. He says that he never knew anything, that he taught because he needed the money. They argue, and Rath says that Maya invited Sophie to push him over the edge. He says that he sent Sophie away because she had to live her own life. She says she has a gun but sits on the bench beside him.
Quinn joins Hannah on the couch (London 1932). She says she loves London and she loves him. She asks if he and Sophie are lovers. When he says no, she stands up and kisses him, unbuttons her blouse, puts his hands on her breasts, and kisses him again. She pulls him onto the couch on top of her and they are kissing passionately as Maya walks in. Hannah discovers that Maya and Quinn have been lovers and storms out. Quinn wants to go after her, but Maya says that Rath is making love to Sophie and she wants Quinn to hold her. The light fades on them as Rath and Sophie talk about reality and illusion, of living in shadows that devour them. Sophie calls him a compulsive liar, a monster. They don’t see Hannah as she moves to the upper level. Rath says he should have made the wrong choice and done the brave, selfish thing, leaving his wife and daughter for Sophie. But instead he did the decent, the cowardly thing, and has been a dead man ever since. He tells her if she has the gun she should use it because he can’t go on living without her, that she is all he has ever wanted. She says he is horrible but kneels down and puts her head on his knee, facing away from him as he strokes her hair. Hannah looks at them from above and turns on the water in the bathtub. She speaks of Seneca and the need for hot water. She gets a razor, speaks of Iphigenia, and begins undressing as Quinn holds Maya on the sofa and Rath strokes Sophie’s hair. We hear the sound of running water as the lights fade out.
The five characters in The Winkleigh Murders are Willy (the gardener’s bastard son), Imogen (the orphaned ward of Bronwyn’s late parents), Bronwyn (the young heiress of Winkleigh), Charles (a school friend of Bronwyn’s late brother Edward), and Cedric (also a friend of the late Edward). The set is “like a psychological collage of the Winkleigh estate” in Devon, overlooking Dartmoor. We can see part of a house with a parlor down right; farther up right and towards center a garden with a gazebo; cemter a tall hedgerow broken by a wooden gate and up left a ruined windmill with a wooden bench or two; further down left a stone bench and a broken sundial. Downstage of the hedgerow is a “rather primitive” automobile. When Charles and Cedric are out hunting they use the center and down center part of the stage, “in dappled greenwood shadows to give . . . the feeling of deep and ancient forest.” The time is early in the twentieth century. The five characters are on stage as the lights come up, Charles trying to take a photograph of Imogen and Cedric in the automobile, Willy sitting on the gate of the hedgerow, and Bronwyn observing from a bench in the gazebo. Willy speaks his thoughts which, he says, would get him bludgeoned to death if the other characters could hear him since he is expressing his lust for Imogen’s body and his wish that Cedric’s pickle be incinerated. Cedric express his thoughts about Imogen’s desire for him. Imogen, speaking her thoughts, says she misses Edward dreadfully and thinks Cedric lucky to be so stupid. Then Bronwyn and Charles speak their thoughts (mostly of sexual desire) in counterpoint with the others until Charles takes the picture. In the blackout we hear the sound of birds and the lights come up on Imogen and Bronwyn in the gazebo.
Imogen tells Bronwyn that she knows the boy (Willy) is watching her and that Charles is “desperately infatuated” with Bronwyn. Bronwyn decides to go and torment Charles and we hear the sound of crows as the lights fade on the gazebo while she strolls over to Charles reading on the bench by the sundial. She advises Charles against fancying her, saying that Imogen fancies him. Then she kisses him on the cheek and leaves as Cedric, carrying a hunting rifle, approaches Charles who prefers taking photographs to shooting things. Cedric thinks that a fellow is defined by what he is willing to kill. Seeing anger in Charles’ eyes, Cedric pats him on the back and leaves, saying that he knew Charles had it in him.
Willy is polishing boots on the steps of the gazebo and is puzzled when Bronwyn wants to talk with him. Bronwyn thinks he is mocking her and tells him that she knows he is in love with Imogen. Bronwyn wonders why he isn’t in love with her, since everyone else is. He says he sees something behind Imogen’s eyes and advises Bronwyn to get inside because a storm is coming. Lights fade on the gazebo and the sky darkens with the approaching storm. We hear thunder as the lights come up on the parlor and all five characters. Willy is trying to fix a cuckoo clock and Bronwyn wants Imogen to hypnotize him. Imogen swings Charles’ pocket watch in front of Willy, telling him to relax and fall into a deep sleep. Cedric pretends to be the one hypnotized, but Bronwyn says she once was somebody else and speaks of Zeppelins in the sky pouring down “terrible, corrosive rain,” and that she heard hunting horns and felt dogs devouring her and then her brother Edward took her in his arms to tell her something horrible. Charles insists that Imogen wake her up; Imogen snaps her fingers, we hear thunder, and the lights go to black.
We hear rain and thunder as a red light comes up on Charles in his developing room, far down right corner of the parlor area. His recollections of the dead Edward and the beauty of Bronwyn are interrupted by the sound of a door creaking open and a long rectangle of light falling on him. He asks if anyone is there and the lights go to black. After a last rumble of thunder we hear the sound of birds and the lights come up on Cedric, at the automobile, cleaning his gun as Bronwyn watches. Bronwyn says that she knows her dead brother Edward would have wanted his two best friends to come together and suggests that Cedric take Charles out hunting. She moves to Charles who is reading by the sundial down left and suggests that he stop reading and go hunting with Cedric. He agrees on condition that she let him photograph her. Bronwyn intimates that she might pose nude for him, and the scene shifts to Cedric and Charles in the woods with guns. Cedric says that he will gut Charles like a fish if he finds out that he has been intimate with Imogen. As Cedric raises his gun to shoot, Charles notices that the rabbit is pregnant and lunges towards him. We hear a loud bang, simultaneous with a blackout.
A cuckoo clock strikes four as the lights come up on Bronwyn and Imogen in the parlor. When Bronwyn refers to Edward’s death as an accident, Imogen reminds her that Edward put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Cedric stomps in, covered in mud, followed by Charles (not covered in mud). Cedric says he could kill Charles for pushing him down a ravine to save a rabbit, but Bronwyn tells Cedric to get cleaned up and Charles to apologize. After she leaves, Imogen asks Charles if he is hopelessly in love with Bronwyn, since everyone else is. Then she asks Charles if he would like to kiss her and, as their lips are about to meet, Bronwyn enters abruptly. Bronwyn wonders what happened to the book that Edward had been writing, and Charles admits that Edward did leave a letter, asking that the book be destroyed. After saying that their lives are a terrible waste, Imogen runs out and Bronwyn asks Charles if he will tell her what was in Edward’s letter if she lets him make love to her. She says she was inexplicably jealous when she saw that Charles and Imogen were about to kiss and thinks that violence is “in the end much more satisfying than love.” She calls Charles a fool and kisses him on the lips. Charles watches her leave as the lights fade.
We hear the sound of owls and the lights come up on Imogen crying at the windmill. Willy steps out of the shadows to tell her that she shouldn’t be out so late. She accuses him of following her about but he says he worries about her and tells her that Cedric is not only stupid but dangerous. Imogen tells him to stay away from her and runs off. Willy sits with his head in his hands as Bronwyn comes on, saying that he looks like her brother. She says that he loves Imogen who loves Charles who loves Bronwyn. She kisses him, rather erotically, and offers to show him her breasts. She orders him to put his hands on her breasts and when he does she tells him to kiss her. Willy pulls away, but Bronwyn says she wants him to make love to her. When he kisses her she tells him to stop. Then she kisses him and he pushes her onto her back. He takes out a razor, saying that he had come out to the windmill to kill himself. She insists that he make love to her, but he slaps her face, telling her to stop, that she is playing with him like a cat with a mouse. Willy says that he is the bastard son of Bronwyn’s father, Edward’s half-brother, and Bronwyn’s half-brother. He lifts Bronwyn’s dress as Imogen enters, tells him to stop, then hits him on the head with a shovel. Realizing that Willy is dead, Bronwyn starts screaming as Cedric enters, pulls Willy off Bronwyn who is helped up by Imogen and the three look down at Willy as we hear the owls and see the light fade out to end the act.
Act Two begins with the sounds of rain and a ticking clock. As the lights come up on the parlor, Charles is quoting Tennyson whom Bronwyn, according to Imogen, “cannot abide.” When Charles wonders where Willy is, Cedric suggests that he ran off. When Bronwyn starts speaking of Wooster sausages, Imogen says that it must be a recurrence of her malaria and takes her off stage. But Bronwyn rushes back, followed by Imogen who accuses her of pushing her into a closet. Bronwyn takes Charles out for a walk in the rain and, when Imogen says that Bronwyn is losing her mind, Cedric insists that they will be safer if nothing is said about Willy’s fate. He will say nothing if Imogen lets him copulate with her whenever he wants. She is also to persuade Bronwyn to marry him. The scene switches to Charles and Bronwyn, wet from the rain, in the gazebo. Bronwyn kisses him and they start removing each other’s clothing. Imogen enters, Bronwyn runs off, and Charles asks Imogen why Bronwyn is losing her mind. Imogen says that Bronwyn is going to marry Cedric and takes Charles to find her. At the windmill, Bronwyn babbles of her mother hanging herself there and Willy, dead, comes up behind her. Imogen enters but cannot see or hear Willy. Bronwyn accuses her of fornicating with Bronwyn’s father and Imogen admits it. Charles enters, also unable to see or hear Willy. Imogen says that she told Edward about his father and Charles says the Bronwyn could marry him rather than Cedric. Imogen explains that Cedric is blackmailing Bronwyn into marriage and forcing Imogen to be his mistress. If they do not agree Cedric will tell the authorities that Imogen killed Willy. Charles leaves to talk with Cedric, Imogen cries, and Bronwyn and Willy look at her as the lights fade.
We hear the sound of birds and see Cedric and Charles in the woods, with guns, talking of Edward at college. Cedric says that Edward loved teen-aged whores, got one of them pregnant, and might have killed his own father. Charles tells him he can’t marry Bronwyn because she is not in her right mind. Then Charles raises his gun and tells Cedric to say “cheese.” We hear the sound of a gunshot simultaneous with a blackout.
We hear birdsong and the lights come up on Imogen, Bronwyn, and Charles in the parlor, talking of Cedric’s accidental death. Bronwyn thinks she hears children laughing and says she has been dreaming of unspeakable things. After she leaves, Charles says that he thinks Bronwyn should marry him. He asks Imogen to return the watch he gave her when she was hypnotizing Bronwyn. She takes it from her bosom and stomps on it. Bronwyn returns and says she hears a whirring noise. She points to the sky and says she sees a Zeppelin. Imogen says something is falling, and the light goes out as we hear an air raid siren, a bomb falling, and a huge explosion, then more, accompanied by troops marching, garbled speeches, machine guns, airplanes crashing, people screaming, animals shrieking, all building to a cacophony of “patriotic butchery and frenzied madness.” We hear owls and the lights come up on a shadowy set. Bronwyn, bedraggled, says that she has escaped from Bedlam and Cedric, groaning, enters, a bloodstained flour sack over his head. Unable to see, he walks like the Frankenstein monster. After he runs into the rusted automobile and falls to the ground, Willy appears from behind the gazebo and turns Cedric offstage. Willy says he can smell someone coming and Bronwyn hides behind the gazebo as Imogen, in black, leads on Charles in a military uniform and dark glasses. One arm is gone and he walks with a cane. Imogen says the estate is in ruins, that she lives in the potting shed. She tells Charles that his sight and hearing may improve over time and that she will take care of him. Willy says that Imogen is the beautiful one and loves Charles, but he is in love with the lunatic. Charles tells Imogen that Edward’s suicide note said to burn everything, including his book. Charles says that Edward took him to a whorehouse where an old whore recognized Edward as the squire’s son and said she was the mother of Imogen. After they exit, Bronwyn tells Willy that she shot her father in the crotch and threw a dead fox on him so the dogs would eat him alive. She climbs into the car and starts singing “Rule, Brittania” as Cedric stumbles on, moaning, and running into the gazebo. He falls, and Bronwyn says that “you” may now take her photograph. We hear a click and see a blink of lights. Then the lights go out and we hear owls in the darkness.