Strange Case

     The two-level unit set for Strange Case represents the laboratory of Dr. Jekyll, a bedroom, a tavern, the streets of London, and the Stevenson home in Samoa.  There are five actors with the three men playing two and, in one case, three parts.  As lights come up we hear clocks ticking and wind howling and then the voice of Mansfield, an actor, trying different ways to say his lines about a door and a very strange tale.  The UC door opens creakily and Jekyll enters.  He takes a drink and wonders who he is talking to, saying that his life is a tissue of absurd soliloquies.  He feels his face changing and looks in the mirror, actually a long oval frame, and sees Edward Hyde grinning back at him.  Hyde says that Jekyll is now under his control and Jekyll backs onto the bed, covering his face with a pillow.  Lightning and thunder and then the voice of Mansfield (the same actor who plays Hyde) speaking from the darkness like a stage director, asking for a bigger thunderclap and giving an example of a much bigger “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” for Jekyll.

     The actor playing Jekyll now becomes Stevenson being awakened by Fanny, his wife.  She tells him he was having a nightmare and sounded like somebody else.  Stevenson says he is going to write down what happened in his dream.  Jenny, a former lover, standing at the UR window frame on the second level, says that her letters must have gone astray.  Fanny says that bogey tales are cheap and vulgar, but Stevenson says he has to write what the brownies tell him.  When Fanny asks him where he was, Stevenson says he was drinking with Henley, and Henley, looking down from the UL level, quotes the opening lines of “Invictus.”  After Henley staggers into the darkness down the left escape stairs, Stevenson tells Fanny that he will see less of Henley if she lets him write down the dream.  Hyde enters DR and talks about the door that is connected in his mind with a late-night encounter with a little girl who ran into him and whom he trampled, twice, only to be accosted by her shrieking family who demanded money.  He says he wrote a check but had to wait with them until the bank opened.  He leaves, and Fanny, who has been reading the pages of the same story as Stevenson finishes writing them, asks why the girl was running.  She says Stevenson wants her to be trampled, and he is writing an evil book.  Stevenson insists that he must write what the voices tell him.  When Fanny says he has a choice, he throws the manuscript into the fireplace, and, after Fanny leaves, Jenny looks down at the author drinking and says that once she heard “it” weeping.

     Henley enters, asking Stevenson what he is writing.  Stevenson replies that he is working on a horrifying tale about a fellow who’s been harboring a monster inside and finds a potion that lets the monster out to do whatever it wishes.  He says the story brings up disturbing memories of a girl, a maidservant, he became attached to and whose letters he stopped answering.  Jenny says she dreamed of a room full of mirrors and ticking clocks and a girl lying dead on the floor.  Henley tries to warn Stevenson about women, making comments about Fanny, and Stevenson pushes him out the door.  Turning from the door, Stevenson sees Hyde in the mirror but goes back to his desk to write..  Hyde asks what the name of “the little prostitute” was and Jenny pleads with Stevenson not to write the story or tell Hyde her name.  But Stevenson does and Hyde says he should pay Jenny a visit.  We hear footsteps growing louder, then the door creaking open as Fanny comes in saying that she met Henley raging on the stairs.  She regrets her comments about the bogey tale and notices he has begun writing it again.  After she goes out the door Stevenson speaks what he is writing about a crime of singular ferocity involving a maidservant.

     Lights come up on a moonlit street and while Jenny watches and Stevenson writes, Hyde and Sir Danvers Carew (played by the actor who previously played Henley) meet in the street.  Danvers talks about Oscar Wilde’s story of Dorian Gray, but Hyde, losing his temper, beats Danvers with his walking stick and continues beating him as he crawls off.  Jenny screams and runs down the SR escape stairs.  Stevenson is still writing when there is a knock on the door and Jenny comes in, telling him she saw a man murdered by Edward Hyde whom she has seen go in and out of Stevenson’s back door.  When Fanny comes in, Jenny runs off, and Stevenson tries to explain her appearance to his wife.  When she leaves, the actor playing Stevenson follows her out the door, only to return as Jekyll.  Hyde looks out through the mirror, talks to Jekyll, and then steps through the mirror into the room.  Jekyll complains that he has to spend most of his time trying to undo the evil that Hyde has done and tells him that he must go away.  Hyde says that he is the true man and Jekyll only an artificial construction.  Hyde says he is the hero of this particular penny dreadful and is a murderer because all heroes must be proficient in killing and doing monstrous things to women.  Hyde says he is very glad to no longer be confined by the mirror.  Jekyll says that Hyde is not real, that he, Jekyll, is really Robert Louis Stevenson.  Hyde replies that Stevenson is a character in a play he is writing with Henley.  Jekyll drinks the potion, lights swirl, orchestrion music plays like a mad carnival, and lights fade into fog.

     Out of the fog, Stevenson hears Long John Silver (played by the actor who does Henley and Danvers) singing the “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest” pirate song.  Long John thinks Stevenson is Jim Hawkins and speaks lines for the parrot on his shoulder.  When Stevenson thinks he is hallucinating, Long John suggests a vacation in Samoa and offers to help if “Jim” will let him look at the treasure map.  He warns Stevenson about mayonnaise and about going into the cellar.  Fanny knocks on the door to say that Richard Mansfield, the famous actor, wants to talk to Stevenson about making a play out of the bogey tale.  Long John walks off into the fog; Stevenson opens the door and a voluble Mansfield enters, followed by Fanny. Jenny reappears at the SR window as Mansfield tells Stevenson that the Jekyll-Hyde story was made for the theatre, although some changes need to be made.  The actor says he will play both parts, without tricks or makeup.  Fanny thinks they could go to Samora with the money that Mansfield promises and Stevenson reluctantly agrees.

     In the darkness we hear the door creaking open as Jenny enters carrying a lantern.  She goes to Stevenson’s desk and the door creaks shut revealing Hyde.  He wants to show her what is on the other side of the mirror and steps into the frame, pulling her, screaming, after him into the darkness.  Lights come up DC on Stevenson and Fanny in Samoa.  Fanny says she told the movers not to bring the mirror but they sent it anyway.  When Stevenson goes off to bed, Hyde steps into the moonlight, tells Fanny that he is the one who makes her scream in the dark, and kisses her long and erotically.  We hear wind and storm sounds as Fanny pulls away and Stevenson enters.  She tells him that the other man is “here” and that he is death.  Stevenson says she just dozed off and had a nightmare.  Fanny goes in to bed and Hyde steps out from the shadows, telling Stevenson that he can never escape him, that he will always be on the other side of the mirror.  Hyde says he wants everything Stevenson has and tells him he killed Jenny.  Fanny comes back with a shovel and whacks Hyde violently again and again, calling him a monster. She tells Stevenson to bury the body in the jungle and, singing the pirate chanty, helps him carry the body off as the lights fade.

     We hear birds singing and Fanny singing the chanty as lights come up on her making dinner.  At his desk, Stevenson says he feels as if he murdered something inside himself, that some essential part is gone.  Fanny asks him to get a bottle of wine from the cellar and as he goes out the door Jenny appears in the mirror, telling Fanny she shouldn’t have sent him to the cellar.  Fanny puts a blanket over the mirror, threatening to break it into a million pieces and bury them in the back yard.  Stevenson comes through the door saying that someone is in the cellar.  Fanny says no one is in the cellar and asks him to make mayonnaise for their salad.  Saying something is wrong inside his head, he pulls the blanket off the mirror.  “There’s nobody in the mirror,” he says and collapses.  Fanny holds him in her arms, calling for help, and Mansfield comes through the door saying that was not bad for a first rehearsal.  He gives Fanny directions about holding Stevenson so his head lolls back with the mouth open.  He praises her energy, suggests more desperation, and thinks the last bit should be played more downstage.  He wants to include the line, “Be careful what you write.  It will happen to you.”  He tells her to save her tears for the audience.  Fanny sobs that she wants to wake up as Mansfield rehearses his lines about the door and a strange tale that we heard as the play began.

Phantoms

Phantoms, the most recent play about British detective John Ruffing, takes place in 1903 with flashback scenes from earlier years.  The three-level unit set has multiple stairs for entrances and exits, and Nigro notes that the ten actors (6m, 4w) may appear and disappear at any time from anywhere.  In an endnote to the script he writes:  “There are more stage directions in this text than usual, because they seemed necessary to indicate properly the complex labyrinth of movement which is essential here, a kind of objective correlative to what’s going on in Ruffing’s brain.  In most cases the stage direction indicates when a movement should begin.  It doesn’t mean the dialogue of the other characters stops while the movement takes place.  The movement usually continues through the dialogue.  American directors often have trouble with simultaneous action, and it’s true that if you don’t do it right you can draw focus away from essential business.  But done right, what you have is a wonderfully complex organism in which every moving part is intimately connected to every other part.  It can generate astonishing beauty and richness when you trust it.  But you must commit to it.  It will make the moments of stillness and isolation all that much more powerful.”

     The play begins with a cacophony of music and voices as if from the pier at Brighton, and we see Ruffing enter DL to sit at a table with a bottle, glasses, and a deck of cards.  Overlapping with the voices of a barker and an oyster woman, we hear a newsgirl shouting headlines about a poisoning, a beautiful young wife, a possible suicide or murder.  Florence and Charles Reno enter UL across the gallery and come down the CR steps as Jane Nix and Dr. Bull move from UR across the gallery and down the far left steps to the left landing, while Captain Fortune appears from the DR wings with a bottle, singing, and bumps into Derby, a detective, before going out through the center arch.  Derby moves to Ruffing at the table DL as the music and voices fade.  Derby tells Ruffing that he was the first investigator of the Reno case and knows that Florence murdered her husband.  Fortune appears in the gallery above saying that one should never drink the contents of a small green bottle.  Derby offers Ruffing a drink, saying that he heard Ruffing was a bigger souse than he was.  Ruffing tells Derby not to speak of his dead wife and Derby says Florence’s first husband, Fortune, didn’t die of drink but of antimony poisoning.  As Ruffing leaves, Derby tells him not to drink any wine that Florence may offer him.

     On the sofa DR Florence complains to Ruffing about having to answer the same moronic questions again.  She tells Ruffing that she and Charles had been married less than a year and that her first husband died three years ago.  As they speak, other characters move about the stage, occasionally making remarks not connected directly to the dialogue.  Jane, for example, repeats Fortune’s warning about drinking the contents of a small green bottle.  In response to Ruffing’s question, Florence describes her first marriage as “an increasingly grotesque nightmare of drunkenness and brutality,” and Ruffing goes up the steps to the left landing and watches as Fortune moves down to Florence asking what she has done with his sword.  He is drunk, falling down, and sends Rowan, a servant, to get another pair of trousers.  Fortune then charges up the staircase, disappears, and we hear a thud, a crash, and discordant accordion noises.  Dr. Bull tells Florence that her husband has died.

     Florence tells Ruffing that, except at the end, her second marriage was happier than the first.  Charles, calling for Florence, moves upstage of the bed to vomit violently out the window.  Florence explains that Jane, who had come from Jamaica after the death of her husband and was housekeeper to Dr. Bolt, became her live-in companion and had known Charles as a child in Jamaica.  We hear the sounds of Brighton again as Charles, Florence, and Jane talk on the pier.  Jane excuses herself so they can be alone, and Florence tells Ruffing that, when her husband died unexpectedly, she married Charles, following her instincts, choosing a good, solid man over a good-looking, exciting one, but learning quickly to renounce romantic, childish dreams.  The mother of Charles, Old Mrs. Reno, with an ear trumpet, sits at the DL table, playing cards, as Ruffing sits at the top of the UR stairs to watch Charles move to his mother.  As they talk about Florence, Rowan helps Fortune UL and off.  Charles’ mother says he is too good for Florence and wanders off DL calling for cockatoos as Ruffing resumes his questioning of Florence, and Jane repeats the warning about the contents of a small green bottle.

     Florence complains to Charles that someone has been opening her mail, and Charles suggests that Jane should return to her job with Dr. Bull.  As Charles vomits out the window again, Tabby, a servant, tells Florence that he is very sick.  Charles falls on the floor by the bed and Jane sits on him and massages his chest, but he dies.  Florence sends Rowan for Dr. Bull and Jane says that Charles whispered to her that he had taken poison and that she was not to tell Florence.  Ruffing questions Jane, who adds that Charles might have said that he had taken poison because he was jealous of Dr. Bull’s relationship with Florence.  Dr. Bull enters to examine Charles and sends Rowan to collect a sample of the vomit for analysis.  Florence tells Ruffing that she does not know who poisoned her husband, but that Charles had become jealous of Dr. Bull after her second miscarriage.

     As Ruffing watches, Florence moves to the desk where Fortune is drinking and accusing her of an affair with Dr. Bull.  When Fortune leaves and Dr. Bull enters, Florence tells him that she has physical relations with her husband when he is not too drunk.  Fortune, drunk, moves to take Tabby to his bed but Rowan intervenes.  Florence asks Dr. Bull if he ever thinks of Bad Kissingen.  Charles gets up from the bed and Florence says that she will answer any questions he has about her past but that she will not sleep with him.  She says that when Charles saw her talking with Dr. Bull they were discussing the waters of Bad Kissingen.  She says that Charles’ mother doesn’t like her but that she doesn’t care.  Old Mrs. Reno, appearing on the UL gallery, says that Florence is an appealing little slut who won’t sleep with Charles so she won’t infect him with a venereal disease.  She tells her son to be careful and never drink the contents of a small green bottle.  Charles tells Florence that his name was changed from Nix to Reno when his mother remarried.  Charles’ brother married Jane.  Florence tells Charles that he may come to her bed later, for company, and then talks with Jane about her marriage and living in Jamaica.  Jane says that every house she has lived in has been haunted.  Ruffing questions Jane and Florence about separate bedrooms, pointing out that both of Florence’s marriages had the same trajectory—a happy beginning, a miscarriage, indisposition on her part, an increasingly frustrated husband who then died.  He asks if she slept with either husband and, when she says she had two miscarriages, points out that she hasn’t answered his question.  She says she will not be insulted by a drunk police inspector and adds that Jane slept with her when she was ill.

     Ruffing moves up the steps to the right landing as Charles, entering from the left landing, asks Florence why she can sleep with Jane and not with him.  He says he understands why her first husband drank himself to death.  She says he is not the only person who wishes he was dead.  Dr. Bull gets up from the desk and asks Florence how she liked Bad Kissingen.  She replies, as a young girl, that she feels grown up and Dr. Bull says that he would do anything for her, die for her, kill for her.  Lights fade as the first act ends.

     The second act begins with the same eerie lights and cacophonous sounds of the pier at Brighton.  Derby talks with Ruffing about Florence killing Charles, but Ruffing doesn’t think she did it and thinks the servants know more than they’re telling.  Ruffing first questions Rowan, who observed both of Florence’s marriages.  After saying Charles was secretive and suspicious, Rowan moves to speak with Charles at an earlier time as Jane moves to the sofa beside Dr. Bull and Ruffing watches from the inner steps of the right landing.  Charles tells Rowan to join him in a drink and asks if he has ever been in love.  Rowan says his wife died but that he loved her and tried unsuccessfully to hang himself after her death.  Charles asks if Rowan thinks that Florence loves him.  Rowan says he doesn’t know the truth but he thinks we are all in love with phantoms.  Charles says his wife is not sleeping with him, congratulates Rowan on his affair with Tabby, and asks if he ever observed any irregularities between Dr. Bull and Florence.  Rowan says he did not and moves away as Florence speaks with Ruffing, saying that nothing unusual happened the day Charles died.  She says she couldn’t sleep with Charles after her miscarriage and Jane repeats that Charles was not murdered but took poison.  She says that when Charles returned from riding his horse he seemed disheveled and upset.  Charles enters through the center arch at an earlier time complaining that the horse threw him again.  He tells Florence he has always been miserable.  Florence says he has always had a peculiar body odor and goes to prepare his bath.

     Ruffing continues questioning Tabby and Rowan about wine consumption.  Tabby says that Florence seemed sad or haunted and backs away from Charles who is coming up the steps.  She tells Ruffing that Charles was mumbling to himself and then went into Florence’s bedroom.  When he came out he was telling Florence that she drank too much.  Charles moves off and Florence asks Tabby if she is seeing anybody.  She tells Tabby that she loved a man she couldn’t marry, married a man she didn’t love only to discover that she did love him and then lost him, married a man she didn’t love thinking she could learn to love him, couldn’t, but thought it was safer though it was not.

     After Tabby leaves, Ruffing asks Florence about the night Charles died.  He tells her that antimony poisoning suggests malicious intent.  He says he once considered suicide, and Florence says he is still grieving over the loss of his wife.  She asks him questions about his father and his dreams and says that there might have been an intimacy between herself and Dr. Bull whom she met when she was twelve.  Dr. Bull enters and he and Florence, now 18, talk about love being an illusion.  He tells her he married an older woman for her money, without intimacy or love, a woman now in her late nineties.  He tells Florence she needs someone closer to her own age to love and says that he will introduce her to Captain Fortune.  She tells Dr. Bull she wants him and they kiss.

     As Dr. Bull turns away, Ruffing speaks to Florence in the present and she tells him her marriage to Fortune deteriorated after he somehow found out about her relationship with Dr. Bull.  Ruffing tells her that Fortune and Jane had an affair in Jamaica, and Jane says that the affair ended a long time ago and there seemed no point in telling Florence about it.  Fortune comments that his life has been “a series of unfortunate juxtapositions and grotesque incongruities.”  And he and Jane re-enact the scene in England when he tells her that he is engaged to Florence.  Dr. Bull advises Florence not to marry Charles and not to tell Charles about their relationship.  Florence tells Ruffing that Dr. Bull was right, that she shouldn’t have married Charles.  Jane admits to sleeping with Charles once before Florence met him.  Old Mrs. Reno, entering on the UL gallery, looks down at Charles, says that she would  think Charles an idiot child left on the doorstep if she hadn’t given birth to him.  Ruffing observes Tabby and Charles talking by the bed as he asks her to put her hand on top of his hand.  She kneels and does so, but Jane moves to the bed and sends Tabby to the kitchen.  Jane tells Charles not to touch Tabby again because it would hurt Florence.  Charles says he has nightmares about Jamaica and wants Jane to leave his house.  She says the house belongs to Florence and if he hurts her she will see that he never hurts anyone again.  Charles storms out through the center arch and Jane explains to Florence that people were not telling her everything because they loved her.  When Florence leaves, Jane turns on Ruffing and asks him if he sees what he’s done with all his damned stupid questions.

     Ruffing crosses to Derby at the table DL and learns that Derby had Fortune’s body dug up and determined that, like Charles, he had been poisoned with antimony.  Ruffing says that might be proof the same person murdered both men, but it is not who Derby thinks.  Ruffing turns to Dr. Bull, informing him that Fortune was poisoned with antimony.  Fortune enters and replays a scene in which Dr. Bull tells him that he needs to stop drinking.  Fortune asks him how long he has been molesting Florence and leaves to get more wine.  Ruffing tells Dr. Bull that either he or Florence poisoned both husbands, or perhaps they did it together.  Dr. Bull says that when he looks at people he sees nothing but shadows, phantoms.  He staggers and admits to poisoning both men with antimony but says he has poisoned himself with something else.  He goes into the garden to collapse and not make a mess for the servants.  Ruffing tells Florence that Dr. Bull confessed that he killed her husbands because he wanted her for himself.  But, Ruffing says, he lied to protect her because he thought she killed them both.  Florence says she thought Jane had poisoned them.  As Fortune enters to the desk to drink, Jane looks at him and remembers that the night he died Charles came to see him.  Charles and Fortune enact the scene where Charles tells Fortune that he wants to marry Florence.  When Fortune leaves, Charles takes out a small green bottle, pours the contents into the wine, and goes off.  Jane says Fortune was found dead the next morning.  She adds that either Charles poisoned himself out of remorse or it really was Dr. Bull.  Florence says she doesn’t know anything and Jane replies that all she knows for sure is that she loves Florence.  Ruffing says the investigation is closed and goes to the UR gallery as Tabby and Rowan, in a flashback to an earlier time, talk and hug but are surprised by Old Mrs. Reno entering DL.  She asks if the wine bottles are for dinner and sends the two off, takes out a small green bottle, and pours it into the wine that she thinks Florence drinks.  “There,” she says,”that’ll fix the bitch.”  And we know how Charles was poisoned.  Blackout.

Seduction

Seduction, in two acts, is set in Copenhagen in the 19th century. Three men and two women make up the cast with a two-level unit set representing all locations.  In darkness we hear Regine playing Chopin’s Minute Waltz on a piano in the upstage shadows as lights come up on  Kirkegaard reading aloud from a diary at a desk DR.  Johannes appears in the center arch, then Cordelia in the right arch.  She sits on the sofa as Edvard enters through the left arch and sits on the window seat while Johannes moves downstage, asking Kirkegaard what he is reading.  Kirkegaard admits to reading from Johannes’ diary and says he thinks he knows the girl in the diary.   Johannes claims that the diary is a work of fiction, and both men look at Cordelia as she walks to the edge of the stage, looking out.

     We hear footsteps on cobbles, a flapping of wings, and a dog barking as Cordelia and Johannes speak antiphonally, she about a feeling of being followed, he describing her actions.  Regine plays the waltz again as Johannes questions Kirkegaard about his relationship with her.  Johannes tells Kirkegaard that people laugh at him in the street and that if he neglects Regine someone might take her.  Kirkegaard tells Regine that he has been devoted to her since she was fourteen and he was twenty-five. They talk about what their marriage might be like and she says she needs to know if he wants her or not.  She takes roses out of a vase, throws the water in his face, replaces the roses, and leaves.  Kirkegaard follows her and we hear the sound of a calliope playing circus music.  Cordelia looks out her window as Johannes looks up at her and Edvard watches from the right window.  Cordelia says she imagines a shy man who loves her deeply standing in the courtyard below.  Johannes says he found out that Cordelia is the daughter of a dead sea captain, forced to live with a widowed aunt.

     Regine plays the waltz but stops, saying she can’t play it right.  Kirkegaard burst in to tell her that he can’t stop thinking about her, that he wants to marry her.  We hear the sound of thunder and rain as Edvard rushes across the upper level past Johannes, who enters with an unopened umbrella.  He tells us he has followed Cordelia for weeks and one day she found herself on an empty street in a downpour without an umbrella.  He joins Cordelia in the center arch; he opens his umbrella and they run off DL.  Regine approaches Kirkegaard at his desk and tells him that nothing he says makes any sense to her.  He says it would be wrong for him to marry her.  She thinks there must be someone else; he says her name is Cordelia.  Cordelia moves to the edge of the stage, speaking of a man who is following her.  Johannes, behind her, says he must control the pace at which things develop.  He has acquainted himself with her stupid cousins and they have invited him to their home.  Cordelia invites him to join her on the sofa, but he talks with Kirkegaard.

     Regine accuses Kirkegaard of avoiding her and chasing after the mysterious Cordelia, calling him insane.  He goes off DR and she bangs on the piano, startling Edvard who falls into a half-open umbrella which closes over his head.  As he tries to close the umbrella, Cordelia tells Johannes that she has invited Edvard, a childhood friend, to her aunt’s house.  Johannes tells Kirkegaard that Edvard is hopelessly in love with Cordelia and that the conquest of a woman should be a work of art.  Johannes tries to convince Edvard that Cordelia is in love with him, suggesting that he take her to the theatre.  Edvard wants Johannes to come with them to help keep the conversation going, and Johannes agrees to find a date, Regine.  We hear the sounds of a crowd babbling in the lobby of a theatre at intermission.  Regine tells Cordelia that she agreed to go to the theatre with Johannes to drive Kirkegaard mad, but she tells Cordelia that Johannes wants her.  As Regine plays the waltz, Kirkegaard says that he used to wait in a pastry shop to see her when she was a schoolgirl.  He says that to avoid regretting everything one should embrace fiction, not love.  He warns her about Johannes.  Regine says she is teaching Cordelia to play the piano.  Kirkegaard says that Cordelia is entirely fictional, that either he or Johannes made her up.  Perhaps he made Johannes up or perhaps Regine.  We hear an offstage piano playing the waltz as the lights fade, ending the act.

     As the second act begins, Regine is explaining octaves and key signatures to Cordelia, but Cordelia wants to know why Kirkegaard broke up with Regine.  Cordelia says Johannes frightens her and wonders if it is necessary to murder someone to be certain they are real, or you are real.  After Regine and Edvard leave, Cordelia talks with Johannes and leaves when Edvard comes back, to tell Johannes that when Cordelia is near him he can’t think and when she’s gone he can think of nothing else.  He decides he will buy her a dog, hugs Johannes, and goes out the center arch. Kirkegaard asks Johannes if he feels guilty about manipulating Cordelia and Edvard.  Johannes says that stupid people should be eaten, that he wants to grab Cordelia and kiss her violently in front of everybody.  He thinks he can kill Edvard.  When Regine enters, Johannes tells her that she is the only real thing in Kirkegaard’s life, but after he leaves Regine tells Kirkegaard that she has decided to marry Schlegel, her childhood tutor.  She kisses Kirkegaard passionately and pulls away as he says he hopes she’ll be very happy.  After he leaves, Regine says that somebody should kill that demented son of a bitch and leaves.

     In the right arch Johannes says that ambiguity is the seducer’s best friend, that to make one’s self a poem in a girl’s soul is an art, but that to extricate one’s self from the poem is a masterpiece.  Cordelia, sitting up in bed, says she has been having strange dreams.  Johannes tells us he stands outside Cordelia’s house at night in the rain.  He thinks she lusts after the dangerous and degrading and starts climbing the trellis.  Cordelia moves to the window; Johannes ducks under the window; she goes out.  Edvard enters announcing that he is going to ask her tonight.  Johannes jumps from the trellis to tell Kirkegaard that he must get to Cordelia first.  When Johannes tells Edvard he is in love, Edvard assumes he means Regine and tells Cordelia that Johannes is perhaps already engaged.  Regine tells Cordelia to get away while she can.  Johannes tells Cordelia that he is not engaged and wants to marry her, urging her to say yes because it’s in the script he wrote in his head when he imagined this moment.  Cordelia says she must consult with her aunt and when Edvard enters with brownies Johannes tells him that Cordelia has agreed to marry him but that he will stand aside if Cordelia prefers Edvard.  Cordelia asks Edvard if he wants to marry her and, not getting an answer, storms out, followed by Johannes and Edvard with the brownies.

     Kirkegaard tells us that he walks all over the city, his brain on fire, goes to the theatre in the evening, lurking in the crowd, and then goes home to write all night.  Before dawn he sleeps for a few hours but has bad dreams and gets up and does the whole thing over again.  Johannes tells Kirkegaard that he has not congratulated him on his engagement, that the aunt is very excited and Cordelia bewildered.  Kirkegaard asks what she will do when she realizes he has no intention of marrying her.  Johannes replies that it’s one of God’s ironclad rules that if the man does not deceive the woman, the woman must inevitably deceive the man.  He says Kirkegaard led a poor girl on for years and then broke the engagement, while he, Johannes, is at least honest and, unlike Kirkegaard, is actually going to fuck his girl.  Kirkegaard says he is absolutely right.

     Johannes and Cordelia sit on the sofa speaking their thoughts aloud.  He says that the person she believes she is falling in love with is a fictional construction they both have created out of her desire to love someone and the pleasure he takes in helping her delude herself.  She wonders aloud why he doesn’t just jump on her.  Regine tells Cordelia that he is going to kill her, but Cordelia rests her head on his shoulder.  We hear birds singing as Edvard enters, talking to himself about Johannes violating Cordelia’s flesh.  He tells Regine that it is dangerous for her to be alone in the woods at night and that Johannes and Cordelia are to be married.  Regine says that she herself is going to marry a man she does not love.  Edvard says he can’t understand how women think and act.  Regine tells him that in matters of love everyone is completely selfish and utterly ruthless.  Crying, he puts his head in her lap, and she tells him that in matters of love everybody here is imaginary.

     Cordelia and Johannes walk as if on a path by the woods and she rejects his attempt to kiss her, wondering what Edvard is doing with his head in Regine’s lap.  Johannes says they are just animals fumbling about and says he releases her from their engagement.  Johannes tells Kirkegaard that he has given Cordelia the privilege of suffering so that her pleasure will be intensified when she gives herself to him completely.  As Kirkegaard drinks from a bottle, Cordelia moves to the edge of the stage saying that she has been following Johannes all over the city.  She asks Johannes if he will be satisfied if she gives herself to him.  She puts his hands on her breasts and kisses him passionately, starting to take off her clothes.  Johannes tells her that making love is not necessary, that knowing she is willing is enough:  the game is over.  He says he has taught her a lesson, but she says he is not even real, spits in his face, and runs blindly upstage.  Johannes wipes his face with a handkerchief, saying that the absurd and meaningless act of animal copulation is unnecessary, pointless, and vulgar.  But he still physically desires her and wonders if he has been decent and might love her.  Edvard, making the sound of a wounded, enraged animal, grabs Johannes by the neck from behind, strangling him.  Johannes’ neck snaps and Edvard drops him to the ground and leaves.  Kirkegaard climbs the trellis, looking in the window and calling for Regine.  She helps him through the window and as they sit on the bed he says that he has been hearing voices and seeing things.  He suspects that everything in his life is an illusion.  He says Johannes is dead and that he, Kirkegaard, is a whole crowd of men, rattling off a list of the pseudonyms he uses.  Cordelia and Edvard sit on the sofa, not touching.  Kirkegaard tells Regine that he created and then destroyed Johannes.  As Cordelia plays the waltz, Kirkegaard kisses Regine, climbs down the trellis, and goes to his desk to start writing in the diary as the lights fade to darkness.

The Greek Trilogy

The Greek Trilogy consists of three interrelated full-length plays—Iphigenia, Clytemnestra, and Electra—which may be performed independently or as a trilogy done on three successive evenings or on the morning, afternoon, and evening of the same day.  The unit set is the same for all three plays:  a bench with some tombstones DR and a chair far DL; one step above stage level is the porch with a swing R and, center left, a table and chairs; two steps UL is a study with chair, desk, and books; up another step SR is a bed with night stand and lamp; up three more steps UC is a small landing on either side of which are windows leading UL and UR to a section of roof.  Nigro points out that, except for the furniture, the set is not a realistic representation of a house; walls and doors are fragmentary or non-existent.  “The flow of action between . . . locations must be easy and unbroken throughout the play, and characters will often be seen in other parts of the stage during scenes in which they do not appear, so that the transition from one scene to the next is often either a moving actor going from one location to another where another actor is already situated, or a change of light from one location to another in which the actors for the next scene are already present.  Escape stairs make it easy for actors to enter and exit from any location on the set.  There must never be any dead space between scenes or actors scuttling about out of character in the dark.  No furniture is ever moved, and there are no set changes.”

     There are five actors (2m, 3w) in Iphigenia, which takes place in Armitage, Ohio, in 1909-1911.  In darkness we hear crickets as the lights come up on Lexie, 17, sitting on the porch swing.  We can make out Michael, her father, in his study, Carolyn, her mother, in the dining room, Jenna, her older sister, sitting on the bed, and, standing DR in shadow, Nick Demetrius.  Lexie tells Nick she can see him and asks if he has come to ravish her.  Nick offers to catch some fireflies and make a necklace for her.  She thinks he is a tramp and knows he is a stranger.  Nick tells her he wants to see Michael Ryan and asks how many are in her family.  Lexie says she has an older sister and a younger brother who is at military school.  She tells Nick that her father reads ancient Greek plays in the original language.

     Michael comes out on the porch and learns from Nick that he wants to talk about “New York business,” that a Mr. Kalcas sent him.  Michael tells Lexie to go inside and as she goes up the steps she meets Jenna coming down.  Nick tells Michael that when he was a boy he saw something happen in the basement of a New York City pawnshop.  Jenna comes out and invites Nick and her father to come inside.  Nick tells Jenna that her father has offered him a job at his bank.  Jenna suggests the Flowers Boarding Hotel as a place where Nick might stay, and he walks to the chair in the shadows DL.

     Carolyn enters the study and asks Michael why he doesn’t come up to bed.  She thinks their daughters are half in love with Nick but will soon be gone and then she and Michael can make love in the afternoons, since they have stopped doing it altogther at night.  She wonders why he keeps poring over the same bunch of moldy old plays, and he tells her that the stories are inside us and that to know and understand them is all we have.  She wonders what myth they are trapped in and wants him to come to bed.  She goes up the steps to sit on the bed as the light fades on Michael.

     We hear the sound of ticking clocks as Nick looks downstage from the DL chair (the parlor of the Flowers Boarding Hotel) and Michael stands behind him.  Nick says he likes staying at the Hotel and assumes Michael has come to kill him.  He tells Michael that if an attorney in New York doesn’t hear from Nick by a certain day every month, he will send a letter to the police describing what Michael did and where he is.  Nick tells Michael that he wants to marry Jenna.  Michael says that he can come to dinner, and the light fades on the DL area as Nick walks over to the porch to sit on the swing with Jenna and Michael goes to the study.

     Jenna tells Nick that she doesn’t like him very much and asks what he has done to her father.  She goes into the house as Lexie comes out and sits on the porch with Nick.  Nick asks Lexie to help him with her sister.  When he asks her if she will dance with him at the wedding, she says she will dance on his grave and smiles at him as the light fades on them and Jenna moves to the study to talk with her father, telling him that she doesn’t want to see Nick.  She asks Michael why he wants her to marry Nick and asks if something is wrong at the bank and if he is in trouble.  She says she will do anything to make him happy.  Carolyn comes in and tells Jenna that Nick is leaving.  Jenna goes to join Nick and Lexie, and Carolyn talks with Michael about Nick and their daughters.  Carolyn says that Michael never talks about his past.  He kisses her tenderly and holds her as the light fades on them and our attention shifts to Lexie pinning Jenna’s wedding dress, telling her sister that Nick is going to make her miserable.  Jenna thinks that Lexie likes Nick more than she does because they talk together for hours.  Lexie asks Jenna why she feels she has to marry Nick and leaves as Michael comes in and tells Jenna they can still call off the wedding.  Carolyn enters to say that Jenna wants to marry Nick, and tells Michael that she married him even though she didn’t want to.  Lexie comes back to ask if they are coming, and Jenna tells Michael that it’s time to give her away.

     The next scene, the wedding night, takes place in the imagined bedroom of the house next door with Nick sitting on the bed waiting for Jenna to come out of the bathroom.  She finally enters, barefoot, wearing a white nightgown.  He moves toward her and she backs away, saying she doesn’t want to be touched.  He grabs her and she pokes him in the eye, saying that she married him for her father’s sake.  She takes a knife from the drawer of the bedstand, but he takes it from her, tossing it upstage and throwing her onto the bed, ripping off her nightgown.  She gets away and crawls toward the knife.  In the struggle, they knock the lamp over and in the darkness we hear them both scream, ending the act.

     Act Two begins on the night of the wedding with Michael drinking on the porch as Carolyn asks if he has seen their squirrel gun.  Michael says it sounds as if someone is being killed next door but Carolyn tells him he can’t stop it because they are married.  Michael tells Carolyn that his name is not Michael Ryan, that he took the name from an envelope in the hand of a dead man in a freight train box car.  Michael explains that he was running away because he stole some money and Nick knows what he did.  Jenna figured out that Nick was blackmailing him and that’s the reason she married Nick.  Carolyn asks Michael if he is so stupid that he believes a woman ever does anything she doesn’t want to do.  Lexie comes out with a blanket around her shoulders saying that something is seriously wrong next door.  She says that Jenna is on the edge of the roof, and Michael thinks Nick is going to kill her.

     As light fades on them it comes up on Jenna sitting UR on the roof, her nightgown ripped and splattered with blood.  We can see Nick in the “gabled upstage attic window.”  He wants her to come in but she refuses.  Michael, Carolyn, and Lexie appear at the window and try to get Jenna to come in.  She threatens to jump if they come out after her.  Lexie climbs out and the others leave the window.  The sisters talk and Jenna says she left a doll, Sally, on the roof a long time ago.  Jenna says the blood on her nightgown is her husband’s.  She says she bit him and would have made him bleed more if she hadn’t dropped the knife.  She says she also hid the squirrel gun in the closet, planning ahead.  Lexie urges her to come in from the cold and Jenna notices Loopy Rye, the village idiot, looking up at them from the graveyard DR.  The girls sit together with the blanket around them.  Jenna says their mother keeps a lot of anger inside and will explode one day like a dirigible.  Jenna says she wants her husband dead, dying slowly, perhaps eaten alive by rats.  Lexie says that if Jenna will come in off the roof, she will figure out how to murder her husband.  They spit in their hands and then shake hands.   Jenna puts her head on Lexie’s shoulder and they hold each other as the light fades on them and goes out.

     The next scene, six months later, is in the study where Nick and Michael are drinking before dinner.  Nick asks how he is doing at the bank and Michael says that everyone thinks that he is doing well.  When Nick asks about Jenna, Michael tells him that Jenna goes to the attic when Nick is in the house and stays there until he leaves.  Michael says if Nick ever goes near Jenna again he will kill him.  Lexie enters and says it’s time for supper.  Michael leaves and Lexie tells Nick that she promised Jenna she would help murder him.  Lexie says she will tell Jenna that Nick is sorry if Nick tells her what her father did that made him sacrifice his daughter to somebody like Nick.  When Lexie asks why Nick wanted Jenna and not her, Nick says that their father loves Jenna more.  Lexie says that’s a lie, that Nick was terrified of her.  He pulls her towards him and kisses her, twice, then pushes her away.  She puts the palm of her hand on his chest and, as Carolyn enters, Nick takes a step back.  Carolyn sends Nick to the dining room so she can talk with Lexie.  She asks Lexie what she is doing with her sister’s husband.  Lexie says she will stay away from Nick if her mother does.

     Lexie moves to Jenna who is sitting on the steps to the attic.  Carolyn is in the shadows of the study, drinking, and Michael and Nick are in the dining room shadows, also drinking.  Jenna insists that she really wants to kill Nick.  Lexie says that Nick never asks about Jenna and suggests that Jenna let Nick do what he wants to her, wait until he goes to sleep, and then cut his throat.  Jenna says that Lexie wants Nick for herself.  Lexie tells her she can’t trust anyone in the house and needs to take charge of her own life.  Carolyn crosses to them and Lexie goes to the dining room.  Jenna says that Carolyn wants to sleep with Nick, and Carolyn tells her that she has to start living her life again or nobody will care.  Carolyn goes to sit at the dinner table with Michael, Nick, and Lexie as Jenna goes to the study and drinks from the whiskey decanter.  Carolyn urges Michael to eat more potatoes and tells Nick that Thomas likes college very much.  Jenna enters the dining room, tells Michael and Nick not to touch her, and orders Nick to pull out her chair.  She sits and says everybody who loves her is at the table, excluding Grandpa and the village idiot.  She orders those who love her—her back-stabbing sister, her blackmailing rapist husband, her craven father, and her reptilian mother—to sit and eat. When Michael tells her she doesn’t have to be here if she doesn’t want to be, she says she missed her husband who raped her on her wedding night, and her sister who’s been lusting desperately after her husband, and her mother who’s “got the brain of a cockroach and the morals of a goat,” and her father who agreed to sacrifice her body and soul to save himself.  She says she has decided to take charge of this human sacrifice and is moving back with her husband.  She will not hold it against her mother that she’s been lusting after Nick since he got here, or against Lexie who was pretending to be her friend while she was rutting with Nick.  She will not hold it against her father that he sold her to a pig “to save his wretched, drunken skin.”  She is going to play out her role in this drama and they are all going to be very nice to her or she will go to the sheriff and tell him that her husband is blackmailing her father for a crime he committed in New York.  She says she is going to her bedroom and tells Nick to be there in exactly fifteen minutes.  Nick tries to apologize but she tells him he’s not as sorry as he’s going to be.  She says it is a relief to finally take charge of her own mythological nightmare.  She goes out on the porch and then DR.  Carolyn says they have to put Jenna in the mental hospital in Massilon because she’s clearly not in her right mind.  Michael doesn’t want to put her in a place like that, but Lexie thinks they might be able to help her there.  After a silence, Michael, with a bellow of suppressed rage and despair, lunges at Nick, knocking him to the floor, screaming and punching him repeatedly in the face.  Lexie first and then Carolyn manage to pull Michael off, but he jumps back at Nick, strangling him.  Carolyn picks up a silver platter from the table and hits Michael over the head five times, stunning him.  Lexie helps Nick up and Carolyn says that she’ll have the ambulance come to the back door with the siren off.  She thinks that they are becoming a family again, and, while they wait for the ambulance to take Jenna away, they can have dessert—her famous prune upside down cake.

     In darkness we hear the sound of murmuring voices and lights come up on Jenna, in a straight jacket, sitting on the floor down center.  In the shadows, Nick moves to sit on the bed, Lexie goes up the steps to the UL window looking out over the roof, Carolyn drinks and polishes silver in the dining room, and Michael stands on the porch looking downstage at Jenna.  Jenna says she and her sister were always co-conspirators but she is having trouble making sense because of the Greek chorus jabbering in her head and the drugs that cloud her brain.  Michael speaks her name and she describes what the other characters are doing.  She says, “Confess,” and Michael tells of two Greek immigrant boys who work for a pawnbroker.  Jenna says that her favorite Bible story is about Jephthah’s daughter.  Michael continues his story of the old man keeping all his money in a safe in his basement, and Jenna says that Jephthah promises to sacrifice the first creature he sees when he gets home.  Michael says the boys knock the old man over the head with a board but the old man has a gun and one of the boys is shot in the chest.  Jenna tells of Jephthah’s daughter being the first creature he sees; he sacrifices her by cutting her throat.  Michael’s contrapuntal story continues with the other boy pushing the old man against the furnace, cracking his head, and killing him.  Seeing his friend is going to die, the boy takes the money and runs away.  But the friend’s little brother was looking in the window.  Jenna speaks lines about there being many possible endings to any story and about the village idiot howling in the graveyard at night.  Michael says the killer hopped a freight train to Ohio, married the banker’s beautiful daughter, has a son and two daughters that he loves deeply, but shame and guilt make it impossible for him to talk with them.

     As Michael and Jenna have been telling their stories, Lexie has climbed out the window and onto the roof.  She finds a tattered old doll, picks it up, and sits on the edge of the roof. Carolyn polishes the silverware and Nick curls up in a ball on the bed.  Jenna says she has been constructing her own tragedy, conspiring with the gods who are, of course, insane.  Michael asks for her forgiveness.  Jenna says at least the village idiot, howling for her in the graveyard, loves.  Michael asks again for forgiveness and Jenna’s last words are, “Take me, I said to him, on my wedding night, lying naked on the bed.  Do it to me.  Take me.  Take me.”


The five characters of Iphigenia are ten years older in 1919, the year of the action in Clytemnestra, and two additional characters appear—August Ballantye, 72, and Loopy Rye, 82.  As the play begins, Nick and Lexie are drinking on the porch swing at night.  Lexie feels guilty for helping to send her sister Jenna to the mental hospital.  She tells Nick that she knows he and her mother are carrying on “like pigs wallowing is slop.”  Nick says that Carolyn showed up in his bed stark naked one night.  He says that if Lexie sleeps with him he will never touch her mother again.  Carolyn comes out asking why they are always on the porch and we learn that Michael has been in the war in France.  Lexie says the war is over, but Carolyn thinks both her husband and son Thomas are dead.  When Lexie berates her for sleeping with Nick, Carolyn says she loves Michael very deeply.  Nick says she was attracted to the guilt she saw in his eyes, that women like men because they are drawn compulsively to danger, despair, futility, cruelty, and violence.  Lexie says her talks with Loopy Rye, the village idiot, are the most stimulating conversations she has all day. She says he draws crayon pictures of her naked on the backs of old envelopes. Nick tells Carolyn that everyone imagines Lexie naked.  Carolyn says she doesn’t know why Loopy always lurks around their house or why he has begun to howl.  Lexie says he misses Jenna.  As they bicker, Michael appears in the shadows DR.  Carolyn says all men are horrible and that women have to make allowances for them as they do for baboons and other subhuman creatures.  She says if Lexie’s father were here he could explain it to her, but Michael says he couldn’t.  Carolyn and Lexie hug him and ask who else is in the shadows.  Michael says he has brought Jenna home, but, disoriented, she avoids Lexie’s attempt to hug her.  Michael says he spent a lot of time looking for Thomas, but Carolyn is convinced her son is dead.  Jenna says that Thomas is behind enemy lines eating strawberries with two Dutch girls and a cow.  Lexie admits to putting a clock under Jenna’s bed when they were girls and telling her it was a crocodile.  Lexie tells Michael that Grandpa has been calling every day but that Carolyn does not pick up the phone and never goes to see her father.  Before she goes into the house, Jenna says being home is just like the madhouse, “only more violent.”  Lexie kisses Michael on the cheek and goes in to make sure Jenna is all right.  Michael goes in to take a bath and Carolyn tells Nick that whatever has been going on between them has got to stop, that she wants her husband and she doesn’t want Nick sleeping with either of her daughters.  Nick says he hears a sound like wings flapping and we hear that sound as the lights fade on the porch and come up on Jenna sitting on the roof as Lexie approaches from the window.

     We hear the sound of owls and Jenna says she really missed them and the house and everything but the people.  Lexie tells her that she is sorry for not coming to see her and sorry for letting them take her to the madhouse.  Jenna says she has moved from Hell to one of the warmer suburbs of Purgatory.  Lexie swears she never slept with Nick and Jenna puts her head on Lexie’s shoulder and tells her a secret:  all of them are in a play, a Greek tragedy.  Lexie says they’re in Ohio, a low comedy at best.  Jenna says she used to be Iphigenia but now she is Cassandra.  We hear birds singing as lights come up on August Ballantine sitting in the chair at the Flowers Boarding Hotel DR.  He is mumbling as Carolyn tells him he wanted to see her.  He says he is going to die and needs to tell her something.  He says that he’s dead broke, that Carolyn’s mother was pregnant when he married her, and that he is not her father.  He says that Loopy Rye is Carolyn’s father, that her mother was in love with the village idiot.  August says he made a business arrangement with Carolyn’s grandfather:  he agreed to marry Carolyn’s mother and was given an excellent position at the bank.  Augustus says that Lexie was his, as far as he knows.  He says he saw Loopy and Carolyn’s mother going at it on a tombstone in the cemetery like there was no tomorrow.

     Light comes up on Michael reading in the study as Carolyn crosses to him.  Michael says that Aeschylus was as real as they are and that books are all that have kept him from losing his mind.  Carolyn is insistent that Michael talk to her and asks what he wants her to do.  Lexie enters and Carolyn storms out.  Lexie tells her father that Carolyn is a dreadful person, that while Michael was away she was fornicating with her daughter’s husband.  Michael says that after what happens to you in a war things like that don’t seem quite so important.  Lexie says she has never understood him and asks him to say anything that isn’t a lie.  When he does not respond, she leaves and the light fades on the study and we hear the sound of crows and see Loopy Rye sitting by a tombstone DR.  Carolyn says she has brought him fresh bread with butter and strawberry jam.  She says her father told her that Loopy and her mother were rather close.  She says she thought it strange that when she comes to visit her mother’s tombstone Loopy is always there.  She asks if he forced her mother and he says she was a lonely person so he tried to make her laugh by drawing pictures for her, imitating birds, standing on his head.  Carolyn says he loved her, but as she is leaving she says she doesn’t believe what her father told her about her mother and Loopy.  She tells Loopy to stay away from her daughters, especially Jenna.  Loopy says Carolyn was always a lost girl, and when she says she knows exactly where she is, he replies, “In the graveyard.”

     Act Two begins in the evening and we hear crickets as lights come up on Michael and Nick in the porch swing, drinking.  Nick says he finds East Ohio a scary place full of unexpected darkness.  He says he had a plan for revenge and getting money, but something “absolutely catastrophic” happened:  he got what he wanted and ever since his life has been “a series of increasingly monstrous and obscene nightmares.” Michael tells him that if he can work something out with Jenna he won’t kill him right away, but there will be no more warnings.  When Jenna enters, Nick says he loves her, and Michael, leaving, tells Jenna to talk to her husband.  Nick tells Jenna that he missed her and will love her even if she doesn’t sleep with him.  He says he really wants to try to make their marriage work.  Jenna says she married a man she hated to save her father.  Lexie comes out and Jenna says they should have killed Nick when they had the chance.  She leaves to give her father a haircut and suggests she could stab Nick with the scissors.  Lexie asks Nick to tell her what he wants so she can be sure not to give it to him.  Nick stands up and grabs her, kissing her with passion as Carolyn appears with a large knife in her hand, threatening Nick.  Carolyn complains that children hate and devour their parents.  She says something is happening in her head, a little storm.  She says she is making sandwiches for Loopy Rye and that Michael only takes baths and reads books since he got home.  When Lexie asks for the knife, Carolyn stabs it violently into the porch rail and goes into the house, up to the bathroom and then down to the study.  Nick suggests that he and Lexie could run away and go to Greece.  She says this place is Greece, “everyplace is Greece . . . . There is no place else.”  She says they are going to die here, that Greece is inside their heads, everywhere and nowhere, forever.  Light fades on them and comes up on Michael in the bath.

     In a monologue, Michael says he can’t sleep because he dreams he’s back in the war.  He speaks of the lunacy and horror of war, created by the love of money and imaginary gods.  As he is speaking, Jenna comes down from the roof with the scissors, saying he needs a haircut.  When she asks him why he let her mother send her to the mental hospital, he says it was despair, and shame, and terror, that people make up reasons why they do things like characters in a play.  He says he thought of her locked up in that place every night.  Jenna tells him that everything will turn out all right in the end and kisses him on the head.  Carolyn enters and asks why Jenna is in the bathroom with her father.  Jenna gives Michael the scissors as she leaves to get towels.  Carolyn tells Michael that he never left because he was never here, and she doesn’t know who she is or what she’s supposed to do with him.  She wants to know why Michael doesn’t want anything from her and asks what happened to him in the war.  She starts taking off her clothes to join him in the bath but he tells her not to.  She asks if there was another woman and he says he met an English girl in France, a nurse, the first woman he could ever talk to.  He tells Carolyn she doesn’t want him, that she has been sleeping with her daughter’s husband.  Michael says he needs to give up everything.  Carolyn talks about Clytemnestra murdering her husband in the bath and says Michael has made his whole family into a Greek tragedy.  She suggests he stick the scissors in his chest, and he takes them in both hands and holds them in front of his chest.  She tries to grab the scissors and they struggle until the scissors end up plunging into his neck.  Jenna enters with the towels and tries to lift Michael out of the water as Lexie and Nick come in.  Carolyn says Jenna has lost her mind again and stabbed her father with the scissors.  Lexie tells Nick to get the doctor and Carolyn calls after him to call the people at the madhouse to come and get Jenna.

     Lights come up on the graveyard DR at night where, in moonlight, Loopy Rye sits by a grave as Carolyn appears.  She tells Loopy that they’ve taken Jenna away for good, that she won’t say anything, and that Nick has resumed drinking himself to death.  She says her headache has gone away but is afraid it will come back with a monstrous flapping of wings and a great dark thing will tear out her throat.  She says her father’s dead body was found at the Flowers Boarding Hotel and asks Loopy if he loved her mother very much.  Loopy says it’s dangerous to love, that someone always dies.  When Carolyn says that in her next life she’s signed up for comedy, Loopy tells her that you take what they give you and try to play it.  He says that Jenna would not have stabbed her father, and Carolyn asks what happens to Clytemnestra.  She says she hasn’t read the next play.  Loopy tells her that Clytemnestra’s son kills her.  He says they give him the library books they’re going to burn and he finds books at the dump.  He says reading random books is better than going to Yale and repeats that Clytemnestra’s son comes home from the war and kills her.  Carolyn says that won’t happen in her case because her son is dead.  She asks Loopy if he will hold her and call her his little girl and tell her he loves her.  She says she doesn’t care if he’s lying.  He can just pretend he’s in a play.  He looks at her but does not move.  We hear flapping sounds and the cawing of crows as the light fades on them and goes out.


     In Electra, the year is 1920 and the cast is composed of Lexie, 28, Carolyn, 47, Jenna, 29, Nick, 40, and Thomas, 27.  We hear crows in the darkness as lights come up on Lexie and Thomas in the cemetery DR.  She tells Thomas that their father is buried under “that little mound of earth,” and Thomas says he hears a whispering like bees in his head.  He doesn’t want to answer Lexie’s questions about the war and Lexie tells him their mother is a homicidal psychopath who killed their father.  She says their mother and Nick were fornicating all over the house while Thomas and their father were off playing soldier.  She tells Thomas that she needs his help to kill Nick and their mother, like the script in the Greek plays.  She just wants him to play his part; he is Orestes and she is Electra.  The whispering he hears in his head is the gods telling him to kill his mother.  We hear crows and a faint whispering sound as the lights fade on them and come up on Carolyn sitting on the porch swing.

     She  speaks about hearing flapping noises and whispering and complains about people not talking to them.  She says she dreamed she gave birth to a snake that drew clotted blood and milk from her breasts.  She notices Thomas standing in the DR shadows and tells him to sit beside her on the swing.  He tells her he doesn’t want to work at the bank, that banks made the war and he would rather work in the fields baling hay.  He says he doesn’t kill any more and the light fades on them and comes up as a shaft of sunlight on Jenna sitting DC.  We hear the sounds of moaning, chanting, singing, and chatter as Lexie and Thomas come near.  Jenna is speaking nonsequiturs and Lexie tries to get her to recognize their brother.  Lexie want Jenna to tell Thomas what really happened to their father, but Jenna says that Thomas should go away from this dangerous place.  Lexie leaves, thinking that Jenna may talk with Thomas if they are alone.  Jenna tells Thomas she was giving her father a haircut and Thomas asks if the scissors slipped, but Jenna doesn’t answer him.  She says if this was really a play she’d be dead by now.  She asks if he brought her a banana and holds his hand as the light fades on them and comes up on Carolyn and Nick in the kitchen.

     Carolyn asks Nick why he doesn’t make love to her any more and says even the village idiot won’t talk to her.  She asks Nick if he would kill the idiot for her.  She says she is thinking of taking over her husband’s duties at the bank.  Because she thinks Thomas might open up to Nick, she orders Nick to go out on the porch.  Nick joins Thomas on the porch and hands him a flask.  Thomas says he doesn’t like to drink and suggests that Nick talk with Jenna.  Nick thinks that Thomas and Lexie should leave, but Thomas believes he has something he has to do.  Our attention then shifts to Lexie sitting at night on the edge of the roof.  Carolyn appears in the upstage window, asks Lexie to come in, and then climbs out on the roof to sit next to her.  She tells Lexie that she knows she was not the best parent, in part because she never got much training from her parents and was never taught how to take care of anything.  Carolyn says the only real thing is death; everthing else is a “grotesque tangle of vanity, misperception, and self-delusion.” She says Thomas will not believe Lexie’s lies and then asks her if she hears a sound like bats and bees at the same time.  When Carolyn tries to crawl back up the roof, Lexie grabs her foot and pulls her back, wanting to see if she can still do “the old swan dive.”  Carolyn gets free, moves up the roof, and warns Lexie that she is going to end up in the psycho ward next to her sister or in the cemetery next to her father.  Lexie says that if anything happens to her, Thomas will get Carolyn because he hates her as much as Lexie does.  The light fades on Lexie as Carolyn climbs through the window and down the steps to ask Nick what he is doing in Michael’s study.

    Nick says that he once thought he was going to be a writer.  Carolyn orders him out of the study and asks if he hears a flapping noise.  She says she thinks something has to be done about the children.  Nick says he doesn’t want anyone else to be hurt.  He says there are limits to what she can get away with without getting caught or losing her mind.  She asks him if he’s been reading “those damned Greek plays” and thinks she should burn them in the back yard.  Nick says that Michael said that you can deny ancient mythologies but you can’t escape from them.  Carolyn says if Nick gives her any trouble he’ll be seeing Michael in Hell.  She leaves as Nick sits drinking.  On the porch swing, Thomas is also drinking, talking to an invisible Loopy Rye he thinks is in the shadows.  Carolyn appears to tell Thomas that he is to start working at the bank.  Thomas says the military school she sent him to was a breeding ground for homicidal sociopaths.  Carolyn agrees, saying all the great men in history have been homicidal sociopaths.  They agree they both hear a buzzing sound and Thomas asks her directly if she killed his father.  She asks him what he wants and he says he wants it all to have been a dream, a play, and if it is a play then he has to kill her.  Carolyn says the dream, the play, would end if a person cut their wrists in a hot bath and bled out into the water.  She says his father’s razor blades are still in the bathroom cabinet.  Thomas says he is going up to take a bath, and she urges him to be careful with the razors.  Lights fade on her as we hear crows in the darkness.

     Then we hear crickets and see Carolyn alone on the porch, speaking images from the earlier parts of the trilogy.  She wishes the village idiot would come and talk with her and sees a figure in the shadows.  Lexie appears, her clothing torn and dirty.  Carolyn asks what happened to her and she says that Nick is gone, that he stopped at the bank to pick up a “basket of other people’s cash,” and that he raped her.  Carolyn says no man has ever done anything to her that she didn’t want him to do.  She says Lexie drove away her only friend on purpose and everything is Lexie’s fault.  Lexie roars in frustration and fury and knocks Carolyn down and starts hitting and then strangling her.  Carolyn gets her hands around Lexie’s throat and they roll back and forth.  Although she gets the advantage, Carolyn stops and sits next to Lexie.  Carolyn says she stopped because Lexie is her daughter, the most like her of any of her children.  She says Lexie won’t kill her because she is terrified of being alone.  Lexie picks up a rock and hits Carolyn in the head, drops the rock, and leaves.  Carolyn gets up and staggers back into the house and up the steps saying that she knows Lexie will be back.

     We hear crickets as light comes up on Carolyn sitting on the edge of the roof, looking at an old hat box full of photographs.  As Carolyn talks about everything being chaos and throws photographs of her father and grandfather off the roof, Jenna, in white, climbs out the window behind her.  Carolyn asks her if she escaped and asks her if she wants to throw photographs off the roof with her.  Jenna sits beside her and Carolyn tells her that Loopy Rye was Carolyn’s father.  Carolyn says she is sorry that she put Jenna away in that place and let people think she killed her father. Carolyn says she is hallucinating and wonders how she can live in this big, empty, haunted house alone.  Jenna suggests that she could jump off the rood.  They think they see Loopy picking up the photographs and call and wave to him.  Jenna empties the box over the edge of the roof.  Carolyn calls down to Loopy to pick up the pictures.  Jenna picks up Sally, the tattered old doll, and Carolyn asks if Jenna wants to see her swan dive.  Carolyn stands on the edge of the roof as Jenna waves the doll’s arm, saying, “Bye bye, Mama.”  She asks Carolyn what she is waiting for.  “Nothing,” Carolyn says.  “I’m waiting for nothing.  Look, Papa.  See how I can jump.”  Light fades on them and goes out.

Anatomies

 Anatomies is a play for 7 men and 4 women set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and London during the 1820s.  The unit set represents all locations; action is uninterrupted in each of the two acts; and players may enter and exit from just about anywhere.  “The actors move, the set doesn’t.”  We hear the sound of a hurdy-gurdy as the lights come up and we hear McGonigle, a ragged old street singer, as the stage fills with people.  (Nigro provides lyrics and music for the five songs that McGonigle sings throughout the play.)  Dr. Knox comes on last and, when the song ends and light focuses on him center stage, he begins his lecture toward the audience on the importance of studying human anatomy by dissecting cadavers.  He whips back the sheet covering the naked corpse of “an extremely old, incredibly hideous man,” and raises a cutting instrument as McGonigle sings another verse of the song and moves into darkness.  Lights fade on Knox and come up on Burke, Hare, Mrs. Hare, and Helen Macdougal drinking at a table in Log’s Lodgings.  They talk about an old man dying in an upstairs room and, after leaving to check on him, Mrs. Hare returns to tell the others that the old man is dead, didn’t pay his rent, and has no money.  She suggests that her husband can take the body to the university where they pay for dead bodies.  Burke agrees to help put the body in a potato sack and carry it to the university.  Lights dim on them as McGonigle wanders across the stage singing another song.

     Lights then come up on Ferguson and Jones, medical students, cleaning up in the lecture room.  Jones teases Ferguson about his girl friend, Mary Patterson, a whore, and Daft Jamie enters with a flower for Ferguson to give to Mary.  Knox enters and, when Jamie tells him the flower is for Ferguson’s secret fiancé, Knox advises Ferguson against marriage.  Burke and Hare come in with the sack; Knox looks inside and sends Jones off to get money.  Praising free enterprise, Knox has Ferguson and Jones pick up the sack and carry it into the upstage darkness after Burke and Hare leave.  Back at Log’s Lodgings, Burke, Hare, and Macdougal are drinking as Hare suggests that they could dig up freshly buried bodies in cemeteries, but Burke says it would be dangerous to compete with the “resurrectionists.”  Mrs. Hare tells them another roomer is in bed with a fever; Hare suggests that out of pure Christian charity and in service to the free enterprise system they could help those who are already dying by saving them from the gutter where their bodies would be eaten by birds and rats.  Hare thinks a pillow held tenderly over the face should do, and Mrs. Hare says they can save money on sacks by using her mother’s tea chest.  Hare points out that they’ll provide the freshest corpses in town and won’t need to buy shovels.

     We hear the hurdy-gurdy as the light fades on them and comes up on Ferguson and Mary,”a strikingly beautiful young woman with long, reddish blond hair.”  She and Ferguson talk about the soul and God and Ferguson shouts at her as Knox enters.  Knox remarks, after Mary leaves, that she is “extraordinarily attractive in every respect” and warns Ferguson to stay away from her.  Burke and Hare come in with the wooden tea chest containing the third corpse they have delivered.  Knox says he is tired of elderly types and promises more money for something younger.  Left alone, Burke and Hare talk about attracting younger clientele, perhaps whores.  As they start to unload the body from the tea chest, light fades on them and we see and hear McGonigle singing as he walks down the street into the darkness.  Mary and her friend Janet enter Log’s Lodgings followed by Burke and Hare.  Ann Macdougal, a relative of Helen’s from the country, comes in saying she has had bad dreams and noting that several people have left suddenly in the night.  After Ann leaves, Janet tells Mary that she drinks too much and Macdougal grabs a knife and tells the girls to get out.  Janet leaves, but Burke takes the knife from Macdougal, suggesting that perhaps later she can show Mary the tea chest.  Burke and Macdougal leave and Mary takes off her dress and climbs into bed, telling Hare to hurry before she falls asleep.  Hare strokes her hair then picks up a pillow as light fades on them and we hear McGonigle singing the last verse of the second song as the act ends in darkness.

     The sound of McGonigle singing the third song begins the second act as lights come up on Ferguson and Jones in the anatomy room getting ready for a lecture.  On the table is a woman’s body completely covered by a sheet.  Jones turns down the sheet and sees the face of the corpse and, shocked and horrified, covers the face as Ferguson turns to the table.  Janet enters to ask if they have seen Mary.  Ferguson looks under the sheet and, from his reaction, Janet knows the worst.  Knox enters, is told the corpse is Mary, and assures Janet that he sees no signs that she was murdered.  Janet says he is a smug, evil bastard and includes Ferguson and Jones as the lowest form of human sewage.  When Janet leaves, Ferguson says he will kill the first man who touches Mary.  Knox tells Jones to post a notice that the scheduled lecture/demonstration is cancelled.  Lights fade, McGonigle sings, and lights come up on Knox explaining to the audience why he is unable to cut open “a magnificent specimen of young womanhood” for them.  Light fades on him and we hear the hurdy-gurdy as Ann and Daft Jamie enter Log’s Lodgings.  Ann says she knows nothing about Mary and is planning on returning to the country that night.  Burke offers Daft Jamie a drink, but Ann sends him to the church to look for Mary.  Burke says he thinks something is looking in the window at him.  Ann goes off to pack and Macdougal tells Burke they cannot let Ann leave because she knows too much.  When Ann returns with her bag, Burke grabs her around the waist, holding her mouth and throwing her on the bed, pushing her face into the pillow until she stops struggling.  He pulls the tea chest to the bed and starts removing Ann’s dress when Daft Jamie walks in and asks Burke what he is doing.  He throws Burke across the room and picks Ann up.  Burke jumps on his back and all three fall to the floor as Macdougal enters followed by Mrs. Hare and Hare.  Hare wrestles Daft Jamie away from Ann.  She ends up in Burke’s arms as Mrs. Hare bangs Daft Jamie on the head with a frying pan until he falls on top of Hare.  When Daft Jamie wakens, Mrs. Hare bashes him again and again.  Holding Ann, Burke says no one will ever hurt her again and, as the light fades, we hear McGonigle singing the first verse of the song that began the play.

     In the anatomy room, Knox tells Ferguson and Jones that their friends have brought two more specimens.  When Jones says that one is a young girl and the other Daft Jamie, Knox orders that Daft Jamie’s head and feet be cut off and burned.  Ferguson says that the men who are bringing them the bodies are murderers, but Knox says there is no proof, that civilization is made of murder, and that God is the homicidal maniac who constructed the universe.  He asks Ferguson if he wants to be a rich, successful surgeon or end up in the streets or at the end of a rope.  When Jones asks what they should do, Ferguson replies that they will cut off the head and the feet.  They move into the shadows as McGonigle sings the second verse of the first song and lights come up on Burke and Macdougal as Burke tells her that a family that had been staying with them ran out when they found the dead body of old Mrs. Docherty under a pile of straw.  Macdougal says they have to get rid of the body, but she runs off when the police knock on the door.  Burke finishes his drink and goes to let in the police as lights fade and McGonigle sings the fifth song.

     Janet then rushes into the anatomy room to tell Knox, Ferguson, and Jones that the police have arrested Burke, Hare, and the two women.  She says that Hare has confessed and implicated Knox.  After Jones takes Janet out of the room, Knox tells Ferguson that business will go on as usual because he has powerful friends in the judicial system. After they leave, we see Burke and Hare in isolated circles of light, Hare testifying about their past deeds and Burke describing how he will be hanged but Hare and the two women will go free.  Hare says it was a good business while it lasted and that Knox was a job creator.  Lights fade on them and come up on Ferguson and Jones.  Jones says thing turned out better for them than they might have, that they still have their careers while Knox, now a “great monster” to the public, has run off to London.  After Jones leaves, Ferguson drinks and Mary appears behind him, asking why he has put a scalpel on the table.  He says he may cut his throat but she tells him he can be a doctor and do much good in the world.  She says his science should teach him a bit of humility in the face of the vast incomprehensibility of the universe and he may come to learn that the “little creeping thing you are and everything else is holy.”  She touches his hair as light fades on them and we hear eerie carnival music as Knox, much older and disheveled, introduces himself as part of a travelling circus, lecturing on the question of whether there is an inevitable war between the search for knowledge and basic human decency.  He notices that some of his small audience has already left, and then that more leave.  He holds out what he calls a small square of human flesh, calling it God.  He asks if anyone is out there as the light fades on him and we hear McGonigle singing the song that began the play.

  A Snowfall in Berlin

  A Snowfall in Berlin is a full-length play without intermission for four women and two men who are always present on the unit set.  A table and some chairs, a tub, and a few steps and platforms represent various locations in New York City in the present and Berlin some years earlier.  In darkness we hear a piano playing a Chopin Prelude, then other instruments playing snatches of Beethoven, Bach, and Vivaldi with pianos, violins, cellos, French horns, human voices singing Verdi and Puccini all climaxing with the sound of a piano being chopped up by an ax.  Then, after a silence, we hear the whirring sound of an old film projector as flickering lights come up on Natasha, center.  Emilia is at a table DR playing solitaire and Coates is typing on a laptop, drinking.  Rosa is UR in the tub; Megan is sitting on the steps UL, and Mulligan is standing DL looking at Natasha.  The skittering sound of the film modulates into a distant subway clatter and the lights stop flickering.  Natasha says it was snowing the night “she” died, and we hear the sound of water dripping, then the sound of a subway train passing.  Natasha speaks of patterns and mistakes, and Mulligan says that the dead girl, drowned in the bathtub, had taken some sleeping pills and might have lost consciousness or might have intended to end her life.  The four other characters interject lines as in an imagist poem, thematically but not logically related to the dialogue.  Mulligan supposes that Natasha will be shutting down production on the movie she’s directing, but she intends to keep working on the project.  She tells the detective she found Rosa dead in the tub.  Rosa, like the other characters, speaks lines that help to create a humorous, informative, and poetic vocal montage.  Natasha says that Rosa had trouble sleeping and Megan says that she spoke with Rosa on the phone and, in a flashback, the two women recreate their conversation, interrupted by Coates and then by Natasha calling, “CUT.”

     Mulligan asks Megan who the Valentina was that Rosa was talking about and Emilia asks the detective if he would like some wieners, pointing out the line in the script to Natasha.  She says she didn’t write that line and Coates, who says he is writing the script, denies he wrote that line.  He says that Rosa was having emotional problems and that he was having a relationship with her.  Rosa says she grew up in foster homes and went to New York to be an actress but couldn’t get a part because she had blond hair and a Spanish accent.  When she cried in a restaurant because she couldn’t pay her bill, Natasha saw her and gave her a part in the movie and a place to stay.  Mulligan tells Natasha that his daughter won’t communicate with him and he doesn’t know why.  Megan, as a waitress, tells Mulligan that he has fallen in love with Rosa like the detective in the movie fell in love with Laura.  She says “these people” killed Rosa and he should make them pay but not until they’re done shooting.

     Coates confides in Mulligan that he has started to lose his British accent and that American movies are “the most worthless idiotic excrement on the face of the earth.”  He says he is making a movie because he couldn’t resist Natasha and he warns Mulligan about her.  Mulligan says they are making a film about a girl who dies in a bathtub and that same girl actually died in a bathtub.  Coates says the idea was Natasha’s; she says it was his.  But no one has any idea of how the movie was supposed to turn out.  Emilia says that’s why she drinks and tells Natasha that she picked her up out of the gutter when Natasha was nothing.  Emilia moves to a corner to brood and Mulligan follows her as Natasha sits upstage as if at the base of a wall.  Mulligan points out to Emilia that the actors are all from different countries, and Emilia agrees that they are all exiles, orphans, who have been mothered by Natasha.  She tells Mulligan she found Natasha on a snowy night in Berlin, and she and Natasha recreate what they said to each other.  Emilia says she took Natasha home with her and they’ve been together ever since.  Gradually, she says, Natasha took over directing the film that Emilia had been directing and Emilia has been her assistant ever since.

     Natasha describes how she got lost in Berlin and climbed a dark staircase to the upper floors where there was a music conservatory.  We hear the cacophony of instruments we heard at the beginning of the play as Natasha describes them and then we hear the sound of an ax chopping a piano to pieces, then silence.  Mulligan tells her she rescued Rosa the way that Emilia had rescued her.  Coates describes his version of the German director Fritz Lang escaping from the Nazis and coming to Hollywood where he learns that the only rule is to always take the money.  But, Coates says, the rumor is that before he left Berlin Lang drowned his wife in a bathtub.  Rosa tells Coates that she saw him with Megan, and Megan says she felt sorry for him.  Coates tells Natasha he is playing the villain because that’s the part she wrote for him.  He says he sleeps with Rosa because Natasha won’t sleep with him, but if she did he would betray her.  She says she will kill him if he touches Rosa again.  Coates says she is more likely to kill Rosa.

     Emilia tells Natasha that she is hurting Rosa, that she is really a sadist, that something inside her worships pain, and that she treats people like she was editing a film, throwing out what she can’t use.  Megan tells Rosa that she allows herself to be violated by a pig like Coates because she is looking for a father.  Natasha speaks of being a child with a father who repaired clocks and a mother who was never the same after she gave birth to Natasha.  Emilia says she compulsively works the same material again and again, and Natasha says a work of art is a product of the impulse to shape and the desire to just see what happens.

     Rosa asks Mulligan why he watches her so much and he says he is trying to figure out how she died.  Megan tells Mulligan that Rosa, afraid of a thunderstorm, mistakenly wandered into Natasha’s room.  Natasha was having a nightmare, speaking in Russian, and repeating the name Valentina.  Mulligan asks Rosa who kllled her.  “Valentina,” she replies.  When Mulligan tells Natasha he is looking for the truth, she says he is inventing a story, a hypothetical construction, which is a lie.  She says that they are replacing him, recasting the role of the police detective.  She tells him that she found Rosa, half naked, on a couch with Coates the day before she died.  She says she told Rosa to stay away from him and that they had a difficult time on the set the next day.  Rosa went home to rest and Natasha came back and found her dead.  Mulligan says she is lying and she admits she was there twice.  When she left the first time Rosa was alive.

     Rosa says she wants to leave the film and Natasha massages her shoulders.  Rosa says she is horribly lonely and Natasha tells her that Coates is poison, polluting her soul.  Rosa says that an older girl in one of the foster homes she grew up in would give her massages and kissed her once.  That, she says, is the only time in her life when she was completely happy.  Natasha puts her hand on Rosa’s cheek and tells her no one will hurt her because she will not let that happen, but Rosa needs to come back to the movie.  Rosa puts her hand on Natasha’s cheek and kisses her as Emilia enters, accusing Natasha of molesting Rosa.  Emilia says Natasha is only alive because Emilia rescued her from starving and freezing to death.  She says she has loved Natasha so much, and Natasha says she can’t love Emilia the way she wants her to, that she can’t love anybody because something has died in her.

     Natasha tells Mulligan that she went after Emilia but couldn’t find her and when she came back she found Rosa dead.  Mulligan says she is leaving something out and asks about Valentina.  Natasha says she had a daughter that she named Valentina after her own mother.  Natasha says that after her mother died and her father started drinking she went a bit wild and became a very promiscuous teenager.  She says she didn’t know or care who the father of her child was, only that she had someone to love.  When her father in a drunken rage destroyed the piano with an ax she knew she had to leave with her child.  She tells Mulligan that she left her child sleeping in her cradle while she went to pick up her passport.  Her father found out that she was planning to leave and when Natasha returned she found her child drowned in the tub.  She screamed at her father to call an ambulance but he just told her that now she knew what it feels like to lose everything you love.  She says she picked up an iron and hit him in the head, many times, then gathered her child in a blanket and took her to the hospital, but the child was dead.  Natasha says she doesn’t know if her father is living or dead and doesn’t care.  She got on a plane and went to Berlin but there was no work, no money, no food.  She went to the music conservatory and heard the sounds of the jumbled music and her father chopping up the piano and she sat down with her back against a wall and wanted to die.  She tells Mulligan that Emilia saved her but that when she looked into Rosa’s eyes she saw the face of her child and wanted to save her.  Mulligan suggests that when Rosa wanted to leave Natasha drowned her as her father had drowned her child.  Natasha says she came back and found Rosa dead in the tub, like her child all over again.  She says Emilia found her and comforted her until the ambulance and police arrived.  Mulligan asks who else knew about Natasha’s child, and Natasha says that the night Emilia rescued her and they were cuddled in bed together for warmth she told her and cried.  Natasha looks across the stage and sees Emilia standing behind the tub looking at Rosa.  “Oh, my god,” Natasha says.

     Rosa tells Emilia that Natasha has gone out to look for her and says she is sorry about everything.  Emilia puts her hands on Rosa’s shoulders and tells her to go to sleep.  Gradually, the flickering of lights increases, and we hear the sound of film moving through a projector.  Emilia and Natasha speak disconnected but thematically related lines as we hear the sound of film flying off the end of the reel and flapping.  Emilia tells Rosa that Natasha can never hurt her again the way she hurts everybody.  She says that when Natasha returns she will find a nice surprise and Emilia will comfort her.  She slowly pushes Rosa down into the water as the light fades and goes out.  In darkness we hear the sound of the Chopin Prelude.

Nights at the Stray Dog Café 

     The unit set for Nights at the Stray Dog Café (11m with 6 playing more than one role, 4w) is a cellar with a narrow flight of stairs leading up right, tables and chairs, a small puppet theatre on a table left, and a slightly raised inner stage.  Actors move on from the shadows and remain on until taken out by the Skeleton Clowns.  As the play begins we hear the sounds of sirens and bombs and lights come up on a shadowy cellar with round wooden tables and chairs and mirrors scattered about.  Boris and Anna stagger down the stairs and enter the cellar through a low doorway.  Anna, disoriented, complains about strangers wandering in and out of her flat.  Boris lights a lantern and says that there are birds painted on the walls.  Anna recognizes the place as the Stray Dog Café that has been closed since WW1.  She says the best times of her life were at the Café and, after Boris goes back up the stairs, she says she returns to the former times as she falls asleep.

     We hear a piano offstage softly playing Couperin’s “Les Barricades Mysterieuses” as Tamara, a prima ballerina, enters from the upstage shadows and dances on the stage unseen by Anna.  Mandelstam comes on and sits at the table with Anna as others—Mayakovsky, Olga, Brik, his wife Lily, Blok and wife Lyubov, Bely, Knyazev, and Khlebnikov with an accordion, enter and set up the chairs and tables.  Mayakovsky sings a song as Khlebnikov accompanies on the accordion, with everyone except Anna joining in on the final chorus.  Mayakovsky steps up on the little stage and says he is going to direct the “orgy” since Meyerhold and Stanislavsky are not there.  The cast, except for Anna, sing the verse and chorus of the song again and the stage direction states that we are in the Stray Dog as it might have been in 1913 with Anna naming six of the onstage characters.

     Olga tells Anna that Gumilyov has been flirting with her and Mayakovsky tells the audience that he is the self-appointed master of ceremonies, introducing several poets, particularly the “ravishingly beautiful and mysterious” Anna Akhmatova who will be acting out a scene with Gumilyov.  She tells Gumilyov she cannot marry him because she is not a virgin.  Gumilyov says he forgives her but she says she doesn’t love him.  Brik interrupts, saying that he doesn’t believe the scene and Olga says it needs puppets and perhaps Raspsutin’s penis.  Gumilyov drinks poison, vomits into a bucket that Khlebnikov provides and says the year is 1910.  Knyazev says it’s 1913, Brik says it’s 1930, and Khlebnikov says it’s 1922 and he’ll be dead soon.  Mandelstam tells us that in the Stray Dog Café all times and places coexist.

     Lyubov, Blok’s wife, auditions for Meyerhold and Bely tells Blok that he is in love with his wife.  Bely tries to get Lyubov to run away with him but she leaves him.  Mayakovsky and Mandelstam talk about poetry, tradition, and the future.  Mayakovsky supports the Revolution that will change everything.  Lily, Brik’s wife, tells Mayakovsky that she thought he was a hooligan but when he recited his poems both she and her husband fell in love with him and she and Brik re-enact the scene in which she comes home and tells her husband that she has been with Mayakovsky, “fucking him most of the night.”  Brik thinks that having Mayakovsky live with them is an excellent idea since he plans to publish Mayakovsky’s poems.  Lily explains her behavior to Tamara and Olga.  Khlebnikov plays “Dark Eyes” on the accordion and the actors sing and dance.

     Knyazev tells Olga, who is putting clothes on a puppet, that he loves her.  She says she doesn’t care and asks Blok if he is having trouble with his wife.  Olga kisses him and leads him off into the shadows as the others sing.

     Mayakovsky asks Lily to tell him about her wedding night but then tells her to stop.  She kisses him and goes as Meyerhold tells Mayakovsky that the mask is the face.

     Anna and Gumilyov talk about his infidelities which he says are his duty to her because the more women he sleeps with the more poems he writes.  He leaves and she tells Knyazev that Blok is sleeping with Olga, that the person we think we love is never the person they seem to be.  It’s all lies and he must play the game or die.

     Doing a drum roll as he speaks, Mayakovsky introduces Stanislavsky.  Mayakovsky and Anna tell him that Chekhov’s plays are garbage, and Meyerhold says he can’t stand working with him, that theatre should be a kind of “beautifully controlled chaos.  Like the music hall and the circus.”  Stanislavsky says he’ll be at the theatre, “dong real plays,” but a large Bear runs up behind him and growls ferociously before chasing him all over the stage and off.  Meyerhold shouts after him that the only way to get to the truth is to admit we’re telling lies.

     We hear a gunshot as Anna and Blok are talking and Mandelstam says they have begun shooting the poets and a storm is coming.  Olga enters telling the others that Knyazev shot himself in the head outside her door but although it made a terrible mess it has inspired her to create a puppet show.  With a boy puppet on one hand and a girl puppet on the other, Olga announces the show called “The Love Suicide of Nevsky Prospect.”  She does the voice of the boy puppet saying he loves the girl puppet and giving her a flower.  The voice of the girl puppet says she is going to fornicate with an old poet as she grabs a skeleton puppet “and has violent sex with it.”  The boy puppet gets a toy gun and shoots himself in the head as Mayakovsky bangs on the drum to simulate the shot and the gun squirts cranberry juice on the puppet stage wallpaper.  The girl puppet’s voice says that men are so silly to think they can own a person.  She puts the flower on the boy puppet and dances and sings.  When Anna rebukes her Olga says she played the game and he died.  Mayakovsky bangs on his drum and we hear the sound of shooting as the Bear runs in and removes his head.  It is Khlebnikov who announces that the Revolution has begun.  Mayakovsky sings “The Internationale” and is joined by Brik, Lily, and Meyerhold, and then the rest of the cast except Anna and Mandelstam.  As the song concludes, the lights go to black and we hear three drum beats in the darkness, ending the act.

     Lights come up as Khlebnikov appears playing the accordion version of “Kalinka” as the others enter.  Mayakovsky sings about killing the Tsar’s children and is joined by everyone except Anna and Mandelstam.  Mayakovsky says it’s a glorious time in Mother Russia as everything old must be destroyed.  Meyerhold says that we don’t need authors, that concept is all.  Anna asks Lily if she isn’t bothered by Brik spending so much time with the Secret Police.  Lily says good people have nothing to fear from them and Mandelstam warns Mayakovsky that eventually they will come for him and Meyerhold.  The First Skeleton Clown enters with a skeleton mask and a towel on his shoulder like a waiter, bringing Mayakovsky a bowl of soup.  Lily, Tamara, Olga, and Lybov stretch and warm up to dance as all but Anna and Mandelstam sing a verse of “Kalinka.”

     We hear the Couperin again as the four women dance.  Blok says that the world is not made of symbols, that if you take away the stage sets all you have is an empty theatre.  There is nothing behind what we see.  Mandelstam points out that what we see is the dance and it is very beautiful.  Lyubov tells Blok that he is in love with somebody he made up in his head and she is somebody else.  If she is nobody, she says, she belongs in the theatre where people who are nobody go to generate the illusion that they’re somebody.  Blok and Bely argue and Blok says the Stray Dog Café is the whole world reflected in fragments of dark, broken mirrors where they will all die waiting for the end of the world.  He staggers and goes out, helped by the First Skeleton Clown.

     Lily comes over to Mayakovsky who is pounding on his drum and tells him that she wants to be as free from rules as he is.  Mandelstam, Anna, and Bely join the conversation and, when Mayakovsky says that everyone is a Romanian orchestra, Anna says she wants to believe that God is looking after everybody.  Mandelstam offers to shake hands with Mayakovsky but he says he is afraid of germs.  Mandelstam and Brik warn Gumilyov about making sarcastic comments concerning the authorities.  Lyubov enters in tears saying that Blok is dead.  Bely says that now she can marry him but she tells him to go away.

     We hear the sound of a bell tolling and Olga says that the dead always return to the Stray Dog Café.  Anna says that all men are insane but that she creates her own unhappiness.  Gumilyov says she will outlive “all these dumb Soviet bastards,” and as he and Anna talk the First and Second Skeleton Clowns appear on opposite sides to the stage looking at him.  They put their hands on his shoulders and whisper to him.  He says he is late for an appointment with the Secret Police but will be back soon.  He goes out with the two Skeleton Clowns and, after a pause, we hear the loud sound of a gunshot.

     As Mandelstam speaks about hope and Pandora’s box, Olga puts her puppets away and the First and Second Skeleton Clowns push out a coffin, put Khlebnikov in it, and close the lid.  Anna tells Olga that she had tried to feel nothing but has failed.  Anna asks her why she sleeps with everybody and Olga says she doesn’t know and ask Anna if she has thought of suicide.  Anna says she has and thinks that they are like chess pieces being played by someone on a chessboard that is a labyrinth that leads to a ditch full of blood.  Olga says she is going to Paris and asks Anna to go with her but Anna says she has to stay.

     Brik and Lily talk about their open marriage.  Brik says what he loves most is working with the Secret Police as they torture people.  When she asks him what he wants he has her swear never to leave him.

     Bely, Mayakovsky, Mandelstam, and Anna speak of suicide and Anna warns Mayakovsky about the Briks and the Secret Police.  Lily joins them but Tamara pulls Anna away on the pretext of dancing with her and warns her about saying anything in front of Lily.  Lily tells Mayakovsky that he is selfish, vain, and dishonest, and he says he only sleeps with other people because she won’t leave her husband for him.  Lily says she is going to Berlin with Brik and moves into the shadows.  Mayakovsky drinks as Mandelstam tells him he is no longer useful to the party.  Brik enters and Mandelstam goes off.  Brik and Mayakovsky talk about friendship and duty to the party.  Brik tells him he has made some serious errors in judgement that will have consequences.  The First and Second Skeleton Clowns appear and look downstage at Mayakovsky.  They sing a lyric to the tune of “The Internationale” as they take him off into the shadows.  Brik says that his dearest friend, Mayakovsky, shot himself in the head.  We hear the sound of a loud gunshot and the Third Skeleton Clown gives Brik a folded piece of paper and leaves.  Brik reads from the paper that Stalin has designated Mayakovsky “the great poet of the revolution and of the Soviet state.”  Brik says Mayakovsky would have been very pleased.

     Bely asks Lyubov why she keeps acting and warns her that Meyerhold is under investigation.  He asks her why she avoids him and she tells him she never loved him and never will because he loves her.  She leaves as Mandelstam tells Anna that Bely had a stroke trying to tear out the introduction to his memoirs that the authorities had inserted describing his writing as worthless hackwork.  Bely says that the secret behind everything is that nothing means anything, puts on his hat, and moves upstage to where the Second Skeleton Clown is waiting for him.  They move into the shadows.

     Mandelstam talks to Anna about living in a system that selects for stupidity and mediocrity, weeding out the truth tellers, driving them mad, and killing them.  As he speaks, the First, Second, and Third Skeleton Clowns begin to converge on him.  Anna says that we are taken away and killed for nothing.  The Skeleton Clowns take Mandelstam upstage into the shadows but he pauses to tell a joke about God cleaning up after the elephants at a circus because he doesn’t want to give up show business.

     Stanislavsky wants Meyerhold, whose theatre has been taken from him, to help run Stanislavsky’s theatre.  As Stanislavsky walks upstage he is escorted into the upstage shadows by the Fourth and Fifth Skeleton Clowns as the First and Second Skeleton Clowns pull Meyerhold to a table that is turned over by the Third Skeleton Clown, and the Fourth and Fifth Skeleton Clowns beat Meyerhold with canes.  As he screams, Brik sits at a table down right in a little circle of light and speaks of torture and almost seeing the face of God when he takes off his mask.  He describes how Meyerhold was beaten and had boiling water poured over him as the Second and Third Skeleton Clowns drag Meyerhold to a center stage chair placed by the First Skeleton Clown.  He is in a circle of light surrounded by darkness.  Brik asks questions and the Third Skeleton Clown uses his cane like a cattle prod on Meyerhold’s neck.  Brik tells Meyerhold his wife has been murdered and as Brik continues to ask questions the Skeleton Clowns touch Meyerhold’s body with their prods and we hear an electric buzzing sound as he screams.  Brik tells the Clowns to take him out and kill him, and they drag him screaming into the upstage darkness, after which we hear the sound of a loud gunshot.

     The First and Fifth Skeleton Clowns put Anna in the chair center stage.  Brik questions Anna about her loves and sexual partners.  Anna says she knows who he is and that she has betrayed all those she loved by writing about them.  She will keep doing it until she dies so he might as well shoot her like everybody else.  Brik says she will not be killed today, but perhaps tomorrow.  As he talks about his recurrent nightmare, we hear the sound of wind and he walks upstage to the five waiting Clowns.  They carry him off face down into the darkness.  Anna says that she is left alone to tell the tale.  “Remember the one who loved you,” she says.  “There is nothing else.”  We hear the sound of the Couperin again and Tamara asks Anna to dance, taking her by the hand, and together they dance until Tamara fades into the shadows and disappears, leaving Anna to dance alone.  We hear the sound of a door opening as the music fades and Boris asks if she is all right, saying that he was accosted by a gang of hooligans and spend most of the night convincing them who he was.  He asks if she has been alone and she says somebody was here but they’re all gone now.  He says it is dawn and he will take her home.  “I am home,” she says.  He helps her up the stairs and as the lights fade we hear the others singing the song they sang at the beginning.

The Lorelei 

The Lorelei (7m, 6w with most actors playing multiple roles) has a simple unit set with steps on both sides of the stage leading to an upper level.  DR a bench, chairs, and an armchair; R a table; L a desk with chair; LC a sofa; UL a piano, a potted plant, a window, a door, and a large empty oval wooden frame (a painting and a mirror through which players look downstage at the action).  “All locations are present simultaneously and different parts of the stage represent many different places as necessary.  Players not directly involved in scenes are often looking on from the window, the mirror, the upper platform, peeking in the door, or from behind the piano.  Players can enter and exit easily from just about anywhere onstage, and also have escape stairs upstage to facilitate movement on to the platform.  There are no set changes and no breaks between scenes.  The action must flow continuously, with as many ways to get from one part of the set to another as possible.  The scenes blend into one another like one continuous dream.”

     The stage is dark as we listen to an orchestral version of “Liebestod” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde; then lights come up on Lou Salome and Freud (perhaps 1913) and Nietzsche sitting in his chair (perhaps 1888).  Lou tells Freud she hates Wagner and can’t hear his music without thinking of Nietzsche.  Nietzsche talks about getting on the wrong train and says he is the chief jester at an existential clown funeral.  Lou says she met Nietzsche through Paul Ree, who comes in and walks with her (in Rome, 1882) while Freud sits at his desk and Nietzsche in his chair.  Lou says that she wants to meet Nietzsche and we hear the “Kyrie” from Palestrina’s Missa Brevis as light streams down as if from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  A Nun tries to chaperone three excited Schoolgirls as Nietzsche joins Lou who suggests that God may be the Devil, horrifying the Nun who hurries away with the Schoolgirls.  Nietzsche tells Lou he is hopelessly in love with her, and Freud suggest that Nietzsche might be dangerous.  Nietzsche and Ree both want to marry Lou and Nietzsche describes how he proposed unsuccessfully to Mathilde Trampedach.  Lou says she doesn’t want to marry either Nietzsche or Ree and suggests that they live together as friends.  Freud questions her and we hear the sound of birds as Nietzsche and Lou walk on Mount Sacro while the three Schoolgirls, giggling, arrange a picnic downstage.  Lou says that after her father died she spent time with a young clergyman name Gillot.  Freud and Nietzsche have moved to the shadows and Gillot is at the desk.  Gillot tells Lou she must tell him a story every day, and Freud says she fell in love with her teacher.  The three Schoolgirls, now dressed as Rhine Maidens, hum Liszt’s Lorelei as they sit at the edge of the platform combing each other’s hair.  Gillot says he would divorce his wife and marry Lou if she wanted that, but she says she is going to see the world and meet brilliant people who can teach her things.  The Rhine Maidens look at Gillot sadly and leave.  Freud asks Lou why she ran away from Gillot when he said he desired her.  Lou says she learned not to worship men and that Nietzsche understood that because he worshipped Wagner.

     Nietzsche says that the day he was to meet Wagner for the first time he had to get a new pair of pants.  The Tailor says Nietzsche has to pay what he owes and each grabs one leg of the trousers, pulling until each ends up holding one leg.  Ree enters and, at Nietzsche’s request, takes off his pants so that Nietzsche may wear them to meet Wagner.  We hear the overture to “The Flying Dutchman” as Wagner sits at the desk.  The Rhine Maidens are now three lovely well-dressed guests chatting with Liszt and von Bulow as Wagner’s wife, Cosima, talks with Nietzsche.  She tells him to talk with Wagner and Wagner speaks of creation, of other men’s wives and daughters, and Liszt remarks that having Wagner for a son-in-law is like handing your daughter to the trolls.  The Wagnerites drift away, leaving Nietzsche and Lou back at Mount Sacro.  Lou says she has no morals and doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse although she has thought about it.  She says Ree hates himself and Nietzsche.  Nietzsche mentions that he once played a piano in a brothel and we hear thunder and rain as the lights dim to red and we hear an old piano playing a music-hall version of Liszt’s Lorelei.  The Rhine Maidens are now the girls in the brothel.  Nietzsche says he felt very confused, drifting in and out of consciousness as he played the piano, and the girls pull him away from the piano and engulf him.  We hear the sound of a rooster and the music fades as the girls disappear into the shadows, leaving Nietzsche on the floor in some disorder.  When he says no one wants to touch him, Lou cradles his head against her breast and strokes his hair.

     Freud asks her what happened then and Ree asks Lou if Nietzsche kissed her.  She says they talked and that women are not the Devil but flesh and blood creatures.  Ree tells Nietzsche that he is embarrassing Lou, that she pities him.  He says that Lou will destroy him and Nietzsche says it might as well be her.  We hear birds singing and Nietzsche tells us that he is waiting for her in a park in Lucerne, that all is suffering, but humiliation will have meaning if she loves him and will marry him.  Lou says a woman has two choices:  freedom or sex and she has chosen freedom.  She just wants to be his friend.  Nietzsche says he is relieved and suggests they have a photograph taken in which Lou has a whip and Nietzsche and Ree are donkeys.  We hear the sound of “The Flying Dutchman” overture and Wagner, Cosima, Liszt, von Bulow, and the Rhine Maidens as guests enter.  Lou introduces herself as a friend of Nietzsche and Wagner invites her to a séance.  She shows him the photograph, but after Wagner and the others leave Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth tells Lou to stay away from her brother.

     As Lou and Freud watch from the shadows, Elisabeth tells Nietzsche how Lou made fun of him in from of Wagner, but Lou steps forward and tells her that Bernhard Forster is in the parlor and Elisabeth leaves.  Nietzsche says he has read Lou’s manuscript and feels there is a kind of holy communion between their souls.  Lou says they would drive each other mad and Elisabeth storms in, accusing Lou of torturing her brother.  Lou leaves and Elisabeth tells Nietzsche he should lie down.  She says she will give him a bath.  We hear the sound of a ticking clock as Ree and Lou talk about Nietzsche and their relationship.  When Ree tries to kiss her she pulls away from him and he leaves.  We hear wind, rain, and the ticking clock as Elisabeth works at the desk and Nietzsche talks about not hearing from Lou.  Elisabeth reads her revisions to the letter Nietzsche wrote to Lou, telling Lou that she has “a cruelly displaced sensuality” and is “lacking character and incapable of loving.”  Nietzsche tells her to add a row of hugs and kisses at the bottom.  Elisabeth goes out and the Rhine Maidens appear, humming Lorelei softly as the old piano plays and Ree enters dragging a cart.  Lou tells the men to get in the harness and she raises the whip as they pose for the photograph.  There is a click and a flash and the lights go out on Act One.

     We hear the sound of Lorelei as lights come up on Lou and Freud with Papa in the mirror/picture frame.  Freud asks Lou why she let Nietzsche drift out of her life.  Lou says she didn’t want to be trapped, by anybody, and Freud wants her to explore her relationship with her father.  She says she adored him and her older brothers and that her father spanked her when she lied, not realizing that her lies were like a series of interlocking novels she was writing in her head.  She says her marriage was a sensible arrangement between two rational people and Andreas, “stout, swarthy, with curly, greasy hair,” enters, telling her that she is the woman he is going to marry.  He says he speaks nineteen languages and, taking out a knife, stabs himself in the chest.  She says she will not marry him, and he stabs himself again.  She says she will marry him on condition that they have no sex.  He agrees and staggers off as Ree enters.  She tells him she is going to marry Andreas but that it won’t change anything between them.  Ree says he is done with her and leaves.  Lou tells Freud she asked Gillot to perform the wedding ceremony.  Gillot tells her he doesn’t want to do it but she threatens to tell his wife he once tried to molest her.  She hands him an envelope with the wedding invitation and he leaves.  Freud asks her why she blackmailed Gillot and she says her father was dead and she wanted Gillot to give her away.

     As Lou and Freud watch, Elisabeth tells Nietzsche she has decided to marry Bernhard Forster and move to Paraguay to create a pure Aryan society unpolluted by mongrel elements.  She tells her brother that Lou is getting married and goes off as Nietzsche watches Freud talk with Lou about her travelling all over Europe with a variety of men.  Wedekind appears and tells Lou that he wants to go to bed with her.  He says she derives erotic pleasure from being desired and thinks that she won’t be desired if she gives herself completely.  Freud asks her why she would put herself in a compromising position with someone like Wedekind, taking greater and greater risks of real physical intimacy.  And then, Freud says, his colleague Zemek took her to a madhouse.

     We hear groans, cries, and the babbling of the mad as Zemek tells Lou she can wait outside but she finds it stimulating to plunge into the abyss of the irrational.  One of the mad, The Sybil, tells Lou they have been waiting for her, and another inmate, The Flying Dutchman, pulls Lou away and the three Rhine Maidens close in on her until Zemek cracks a horse whip at them.  Zemek kisses Lou and the inmates close in and cover them, babbling and chattering until Lou breaks away.  She tells Freud that the night in the madhouse released something in her.  Freud says that shortly after she began her relationship with Rilke.  The young poet comes in and sits at the table, writing.  Freud asks Lou if he was her first actual sexual experience and she wonders why man are so obsessed with that subject.  Rilke tells Lou that when she told him he could make love to her if he wanted he was amazed.  When he asks her how many others there have been she says he is to only one.  She tells him her husband is coming and Andreas sits at the table and starts peeling an apple.  Freud tells Lou that she is an obsessive constructor of triangles, unconsciously recreating the same situation over and over again, always abandoning those who love her.  She says she and Rilke and Andreas went to Russia to visit Tolstoy, and he appears trying to fix a cuckoo clock.  Lou tells him that they are in awe of his writing, but he says all novels are garbage and the theatre is a whore house filled with clowns and sewage.  Hi wife screams at him from offstage about the visitors and he shouts back that they are just some Germans.  She shouts that the Germans have stolen her soup tureen and Tolstoy excuses himself to try to find it.

     We hear the sound of thunder and an eerie version of Tristan und Isolde as Nietzsche wanders and the three Rhine Maidens, now Nymphs, watch from the platform.  Nietzsche says he has been wandering in thunderstorms, eating grass like Nebuchadnezzar and Lear.  He asks that the music stop, and it does.  He says he is the god Dionysus and dares any deity who has the bad taste to believe he exists to strike him down.  We hear a great clap of thunder as Nietzsche is struck by lightning.  Elisabeth says she has returned from Paraguay because her husband cut his throat.  The Nymphs start to tap bones together, “two beats and a pause, like a heartbeat, gradually louder.”  Elisabeth says that Nietzsche has turned into one of his own books.  Nietzsche raves about Eternal Recurrence, stupidity, and malice and Elisabeth wants him to sign some papers.  The Nymphs warn him not so sign, but he does.  Elisabeth says she now has power of attorney and can scratch out parts of his manuscripts that she doesn’t like.  We hear the beating of a drum as the Nymphs dance around Nietzsche, gradually removing his clothing.  He raves about women, God as the father of evil, and being the Clown of God as he dances wildly in a loincloth until the Nymphs, growling like dogs, drag him behind the sofa and start tearing him to pieces.  One holds up a severed arm, another a leg, and the third his head.  We hear an eerie, screeching train whistle and, after the lights black out, the sound of train wheels on tracks.

     Lights come up on Lou and Rilke sitting in two chairs next to each other as if on a train.  Freud watches from his desk in the shadows as Rilke reads a newspaper.  He tells Lou that Nietzsche is dead.  Papa appears in the picture frame and Lou tells Rilke that she will no longer have sex with him, but everything else will stay the same.  After he leaves, Lou talks with Freud about how, according to Freud, Lou is drawn to men because of the power of their minds, transforms her admiration into erotic desire, but, to become like the men, she has to kill them by withdrawing her love.  Lou says that after Rilke she returned to her husband, and we see Marie the maid crying on the sofa.  Marie runs out as Andreas enters and tells Lou that Marie is going to have a baby and that he is the father.  After Andreas leaves, Freud asks Lou what happened to the maid.  Lou says she had the baby and that as the child grew she and Lou became good friends.  She tells Freud that children destroy a woman’s freedom and childbirth terrifies her.  She speaks of Rilke and he comes on to tell her he is getting married because he needs to be with somebody he can know and that Lou moves through her life like an actor moves from one play to the next, even rewriting her diaries.  She says a complete break with him is necessary.

     When Rilke leaves Lou tells Freud that Rilke’s marriage was unhappy and that Freud believes in the acceptance of unhappiness.  He says the real question is why she can’t bring herself to accept and express enduring human love.  She says that love is a ridiculous, pathetic, and ultimately tragic attempt to hold on to a delusion based on a complete misunderstanding of human nature.  She says he is betraying his wife with her sister.  He asks her why, if she is so happy, she asked a friend to get her some poison.  She says his whole work is a gigantic fictional construction and he says that doesn’t alter the fact that she persistently seeks out father-figures so she can seduce and destroy them.  He says the answer is not to deny that love is real but to learn to love without hope.  He leaves Lou alone and we hear the wind of a storm brewing as the lights dim.  A flash of lightning reveals Nietzsche who says God’s funeral is about to start.  We hear Wagner’s Siegfried Funeral March as Ree, Gillot, Andreas, and Rilke carry out a coffin, followed by Cosima, Elisabeth, and the three Rhine Maidens, all in mourning.  The coffin is placed downstage of the sofa.  Nietzsche knocks on the coffin five times and the lid opens as God sits up, asking for cheese.  He recognizes Lou as a girl who used to pray to him when she was a child.  He says he’s sorry that he never got back to her, but the sound of praying made a hideous buzzing in his ears  and drove him insane.  Even dead he can hear the damned voices.  Nietzsche asks if he loved “us,” and God, recognizing Lou as his daughter, crawls out of the coffin, pulling her upstage and bending her over the sofa.  He says she is a liar and must be punished.  He takes off his belt and beats her seven times.  She cries; he says he is sorry, and crawls back into the coffin.  The mourners drift away and Ree comes back, dragging the cart.  Lou says she has a feeling this has happened before and Nietzsche says everything has happened before and will happen again.  Ree and Nietzsche pose where the donkeys would be and Lou raises the whip.  There is a click and a flash as in the taking of a photo, and the lights go out.  We hear Lorelei in the darkness.

The Goddess of Murderous Rain

  The Goddess of Murderous Rain (5m, 3w with 2m and 1w playing several roles) is a two-act play that takes place mostly in Greenwich Village with a unit set and minimal furniture—a porch swing DR, a door and a window R, a small sofa CR, table and chairs DL, a staircase C with a landing and window outside of which is a fire escape, a bed L, a full length oval mirror near the bed.  As usual with Nigro plays, actors can enter and leave from “just about anywhere,” and there are no set changes, action moving fluidly without breaks.  As the play begins (in 1950) Edmund Wilson, in a circle of light on the landing, tells us that Edna St. Vincent Millay is dead.  He says he met her in the ‘20s, and we hear the faint sound of old music at a party as a variety of people come on stage, among them a young man called Bunny who will grow up to be Wilson.  He is fascinated by a small red-haired, green-eyed girl who is curled up on the couch.  The other actors leave the stage as we look at Bunny and Millay, Wilson on the landing describing how he had met her after the war thirty years ago when she was starring at the Provincetown Playhouse.  Bunny tells her that she was quite good in the play he saw.  He tells her how he came to be called Bunny; she asks if he is a virgin and invites him to sit on the couch with her.  Edmund speaks of how he loved her, calling her the Goddess of Murderous Rain as the lights fade and come up on the office of the magazine Vanity Fair.  Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley are training Bunny to replace them and he has brought Millay with him.  Parker says she was fired and Bob (Benchley) resigned in protest but they have stayed on to train Bunny because they need the money.  Parker points out a large pile of manuscripts and tells Bunny that after he logs the title, author, and date received in the record book he should throw the manuscripts out the window.  Frank (the editor Crowninshield) shouts “CHARRRRRRRRRRRRGE!” as he runs across the stage carrying his screaming secretary, Miss Magillacuddy, over his shoulder.  Parker explains that every day at 4pm they re-enact the ravishing of the Sabine women.  She says that the only really interesting poetry she has read in years is a couple of things by Millay.  Bunny says that Millay is here but Parker says she is too pretty to be that good and all the men will want to sleep with her.  Frank and Magillacuddy run across the stage again, and Parker invites Millay (“Call me Vincent.”) to join her and Bob for drinks.

     As Bunny sits on the swing DR, Edmund tells us that he saw Millay naked and got a lot of her work published in the magazine.  He says she invited him to her mother’s house on Cape Cod, and we hear the sounds of gulls, ocean, and rain as Bunny talks to Millay in the house.  They sit on the swing together and Millay says that a girl who loved her at Vassar called her the Goddess of Murderous Rain.  He proposes marriage to her but she tells him a capacity for infidelity is the defining human characteristic and that she is an equal opportunity trollop, sleeping with everybody.  They go in the house and Edmund says that he and Johnny (John Peale Bishop) partied with her the night before she sailed to France.

     As Edmund watches, Millay, Bunny, and Johnny stumble through the door and eventually into bed.  Millay manages to pull her dress off and Bunny gets his shirt stuck over his head.  With the men offstage in the bathroom, Millay sees herself in the mirror frame, tries to take off her stockings, and careens into the bathroom shouting, “CHARRRRRRRRRRRRGE!”  Edmund on the steps tells us that he scraped up money for a ticker to Paris but didn’t accept her invitation to join her on the Riviera.  Months later, at night on MacDougal Street, they meet Gene O’Neill and the actress Mary Blair.  Gene rails against critics, producers, and directors and staggers off followed by Blair.

     Bunny and Millay talk about their lives and loves, Bunny saying that he is the best critic in the world but wants to be the creative artist he can never be.  Millay speaks of her many lovers and an abortion and Blair runs back telling Bunny that he has to get Gene down from the tree where he is shouting lines from The Emperor Jones.  Millay climbs the steps to the fire escape.  Edmund says that at that point in her life when she was physically not well and emotionally vulnerable, she met the Dutchman, who appears at the window.  He says he has been waiting for her to use up all the other men and suggests she come home with him.  Lights fade on the first act.

     Edmund is sitting on the porch swing, drinking, as the lights come up and Parker and Millay sit at the DR table (now Mother Gaboni’s restaurant in Boston, 1927).  Edmund says Millay married the Dutchman because she needed to rest and be taken care of.  She had won the Pulitzer Prize and then started getting involved in protest movements.  She and other writers would meet at Gaboni’s for spaghetti and wine. Millay and  Parker talk about being thrown in jail, the futility of political protest, and the stupidity of men. Parker says they would be happier as lesbians.  Millay says she tried it but it didn’t work.  Parker goes off to find food and Edmund tells us that Millay started travelling on reading tours while her husband stayed home.  At one of her readings she met the poet George Dillon.  We hear the sound of a ticking clock as Millay watches the Dutchman clean his gun.  She tells him that she slept with George, is in love with him, and has invited him to stay in their house.  The Dutchman says that he will stay and asks what George likes to eat, offering to prepare lamb.  Edmund tells us the Dutchman greeted George like a long-lost brother.

     George and the Dutchman appear at the top of the stairs.  George says the house is beautiful and the trees are beautiful, and the Dutchman says his wife is beautiful.  He asks George is he has a gun as Millay appears.  The Dutchman says he will show George his big gun later and leaves.  George is puzzled that the Dutchman doesn’t seem to mind his wife’s infidelity.  Millay says if he doesn’t want to be there he should leave.  She kisses him passionately as the Dutchman comes in with a tray of sandwiches and invites George to join him in hunting rabbits.  After the Dutchman leaves, Millay explains to George that her husband is completely devoted to her and she to him.  Then she says she is going to get completely naked and let George do whatever he wants to her, and if he is upset he should get some psychological counseling.  She leaves and, after hesitating, George follows her.

     As Edmund tells us that Millay had always played men against each other but that this time the stakes were much higher, the Dutchman and George sit on either side of Millay on the sofa.  Millay tells how the Dutchman, in full evening dress, jumped into the Seine to rescue a drowning girl and revive her.  She thinks he only prolonged the girl’s suffering.  When Millay asks the Dutchman why he stays with her, he says it satisfies a deep need and that life has no reason or purpose beyond its own absurd continuation.  When Millay says that George is taking her to Paris, the Dutchman says that Paris is lovely at this time of the year and leaves to lock the doors.  George says he is not going to share Millay with her husband and she tells him that nothing lasts forever and she can always see the end of the affair from the beginning.  George leaves and Edmund tells us that eventually they saw each other again and went to Paris with the Dutchman.  Edmund says he married the actress Mary Blair but slept with other women.  He says he wrote a novel featuring a character like Millay and sent it to her.

     Millay joins Bunny and tells him that she thought his novel was good but that she hadn’t realized he was still angry with her.  She says she needs something but doesn’t know what it is.  She tells him to make love to her and then go away and not come back until he has written a novel that has nothing to do with her.  When he says that could be a very long time, she says that time, like love, is an illusion.  The light fades on them and Edmund says it was nineteen years before he saw her again.  He says he married his first wife because she was pregnant and his second because he was lonely.  As McCarthy appears and sits on the sofa with a book, he says he married her, a marriage made in Hell, and the man who was Bunny disappeared and turned into “the paunchy, bald, thin-skinned, brilliant, respected and feared critic, Edmund Wilson.”

     He and McCarthy argue and she accuses him of still being in love with Millay, threatens to take him to court, and storms out.  He tells us that Millay stayed married but drank more, injured her spine, and became addicted to morphine.  We hear the sound of the ticking clock as Millay and the Dutchman talk in 1949.  Millay says she is not a great poet and worries that people will write lies about her.  Her husband suggests they invite Bunny to their place and goes out.  Edmund says he was surprised to get the invitation and his fourth wife said they had to go.  He says the Dutchman offered to take his wife on a tour so that he and Millay could be alone.  We hear the ticking clock as Millay tells him that people are forgetting about her and she worries that her work isn’t really that good.  She says that when she was young she could make anyone fall in love with her.  She says she keeps dreaming about his second wife who fell down the steps and died.  She tries to make Bunny promise not to write about her if she dies first.  She touches his face and moves slowly up the stairs as he tells us that was the last time he saw her.  Her husband died not long after and Millay spent the last months of her life alone.  She was found dead at the foot of the staircase.

     Millay at the top of the staircase speaks of poetry as a confusion of truth and riddles while Edmund at the table DL says that in his dream he sees her standing at the top of the staircase just before her fall.  He says if he had been there he would have caught her, but that all we can do is love when we can and write until we die.  He takes out a notebook and starts writing.  Millay says there’s something lurking at the foot of the staircase.  She looks toward the table where Edmund is scribbling and says, “The son of a bitch is writing my obituary.”  The light on them fades and goes out.

Dostoyevsky 

 Dostoyevsky needs 5 men (4 playing multiple roles) and 5 women (1 playing 3 roles).  The unit set represents various locations in Russia and elsewhere.  From an UC platform steps curve down on either side to landings from which steps descend to the stage.  Under the platform central arch there is a passageway which doubles as a prison cell.  DR a desk with chair; URC a bed; ULC a round wooden table with chairs; DL a bench; L an empty mirror frame; elsewhere broken and cracked old mirrors and fragments of walls onto which Russian prose is projected.  Players may enter and leave unobtrusively from just about anywhere, including escape steps behind both landings and the upstage platform.  Scenes flow from one to the next with no empty spaces in between.

     In darkness we hear wind blowing and a murmur of voices, and as lights come up we see the shadow of a huge roulette wheel spinning and hear it whirring, the sound of the little ball clattering in the grooves along with an orchestrion version of “Ach, Du Lieber Augustin.”  Marya is lying on the bed and Dostoyevsky sits at his desk writing as Old Karamazov looks out through the oval mirror and Anna and Polina sit on the steps left and right.  Dostoyevsky describes his moments of inspiration before an epileptic fit strikes and we see shadows from unseen flames flickering across the stage illuminating words in Russian script on the walls.  The roulette wheel spins faster as the orchestrion music gets louder and we see shadows of carousel horses whirling across the stage and hear an organ grinder playing the same song but out of sync with the orchestrion.  As Dostoyevsky describes what happens in his mind, a bright searchlight moves across the stage, focusing on Pushkin and Gogol in prison under the arch.  A third version of the song, played on an old and out-of-tune piano, joins the other two.  As Dostoyevsky speaks, Marya, Polina, and Old Karamazov add lines in counterpoint until we hear the clatter and whistle of a train approaching, and then the sound of the cancan from “Orpheus in the Underworld,” as Turgenev, Fedosya, and Grushenka dance the cancan, arm in arm, across the stage.  The searchlight gets brighter, shining directly on Dostoyevsky, as the sounds increase in volume.  We hear the sound of horrible laughter and screaming as the light turns red and the carousel horses swirl demonically.  Old Karamazov screams about soup spoons and a murderer as Dostoyevsky throws himself on the ground in a violent epileptic seizure and the sounds diminish until there is only the wind.

     Under the central arch, in prison, Gogol, Pushkin, and Dostoyevsky talk about being shot.  Dostoyevsky says the others are both dead but he is alive.  Marya, Polina, and Anna throw flower petals from the top of the platform on Dostoyevsky who says that the momemts before being killed are what trouble him.  Fedosya and Grushenka make “sad morning bird sounds” and Gogol says it’s dawn and they are going to die.  We hear the sound of an invisible UC door opening and light shines on the three prisoners as First and Second Demons enter.  Dostoyevsky hurries to his desk as Gogol is dragged off by the Demons and Pushkin tells Dostoyevsky that he is next.

     Anna wakes Dostoyevsky who has fallen asleep on the floor by his desk, telling him her name is Anna.  He screams for Fedosya, a servant girl, who runs in and then off to get tea as Anna tries to explain why Dostoyevsky has nightmares.  The Double (a man with a potato sack over his head), Grushenka, Old Karamizov, Polina, and the Devil (walking by with a moon like a very large cookie) jabber and shout, then make bird sounds as Dostoyevsky describes being taken out of his cell and put in front of a firing squad.  He says he was reprieved and sent to Siberia and that thinking of writing was all that kept him alive.

     The action shifts to Siberia with Dostoyevsky eating soup with Fet, a ragged prisoner, and a less ragged Polish nobleman.  They both want to kill Dostoyevsky but hand their bowls to Fedosya who leaves with them.  Dostoyevsky resumes talking with Anna and then with Marya, whose drunken husband, Isayev, wants to hire Dostoyevsky to tutor his son.  Marya kisses Dostoyevsky, “a long, sad kiss,” and walks away.  As she and Polina watch “from other times and places,” Anna tells Dostoyevsky that he is not as bad or mysterious as he thinks he is.  Old Karamazov (as Dostoyevsky’s father) drags out a suitcase full of spoons and counts them as Dostoyevsky’s mother, dead and covered with cobwebs, enters followed by The Village Idiot who speaks nonsense and is suspected by Karamazov to be Dostoyevsky’s real father.  Mother says Vladimir is “just a good friend.”  The Village Idiot shouts “Flapjacks” three times as they leave.

     Dostoyevsky tells Anna that the serfs murdered his father and that he may put him in a novel under a different name.  Marya tells Dostoyevsky that her husband has gotten a job in Kuznetsk and she will be leaving with him.  She tells Dostoyevsky that he can molest his student, Grushenka, who enters and then runs off giggling, asking Dostoyevsky to catch her so they can have a biology lesson.  Isayev enters to say they are leaving in the morning.  As Dostoyevsky tells Anna that other writers are laughing at him, we hear Turgenev, Gogol, and Pushkin laughing as they sit at the upstage wooden table with Polina and Grushenka.  Dostoyevsky accuses Turgenev of mocking him; Turgenev tells him to lighten up and enjoy his life because it will vanish in a moment.  To cancan music, Turgenev and the girls dance off followed by Pushkin, Gogol, and Fedosya.

     Isayev, drunk, tells Dostoyevsky that he pities him because he has to live.  Marya enters laughing about getting a proposal from a 97-year-old man.  She says the secret is that if you love a woman too much you can never have her.  She suggests Dostoyevsky take a bath because he smells like a horse barn. Her young lover, Verganov, looks on as she wonders why she can’t have more than one husband, since she loves Verganov but may want to marry Dostoyevsky.  She asks Dostoyevsky to write a letter of recommendation for Verganov so he can get a better job and they can afford to marry.

     Dostoyevsky tells Anna that he has to finish his novel and he paces, muttering, as we hear “Ach, Du Lieber Augustin” and orchestrion music, see the shadow of the roulette wheel turning, and watch Old Karamazov counting spoons as Fedosya dusts him. The Double with potato sack appears in the mirror, the Devil walks by finishing the cookie moon, Gogol waltzes with Grushenka, and Marya and Polina waltz together.  Lights fade out on Act One.

     Act Two begins in darkness as we hear the orchestrion version of “Ach, du Lieber Augustin” and see the whirling shadows of the carousel/roulette wheel.  We hear the sound of a train whistle and a train rushing by as lights come up on Tolstoy sitting on a bench on a railway platform.  Dostoyevsky asks him why he is there and Tolstoy says he is waiting for Anna Karenina.  Dostoyevsky tells him he is the historian of a dead era and that they must write about individual suffering.  Old Karamazov enters with his suitcase full of soup spoons, blaming God for stealing them.  Karenina comes on and says she has an overwhelming impulse to throw herself under an oncoming train.  We hear a whistle and a train approaching as Karenina runs toward the approaching train followed by Tolstoy and Old Karamazov.  We hear the sound of a train going by as the lights go out.

     Anna turns on a light in Dostoyevsky’s study and tells him he has been screaming in his sleep again.  She gives him her grandmother’s recipe to drink and asks what happened to Dostoyevsky’s wife, Marya (who enters and lies on the bed upstage), and her young lover.  The scene shifts to the “fatal” wedding night as Marya urges Dostoyevsky to get into bed and Old Karamazov sticks his head out shouting for his soup spoons.  Dostoyevsky experiences an epileptic fit and we hear carousel music, an owl, wings flapping and see the shadow of the running roulette wheel/carousel. Contorting himself on the floor, Dostoyevsky says the firing squad is coming for him and the potato-sack-headed Double appears in the mirror.  Dostoyevsky asks Fedosya for his clown shoes and she brings him a large pair.  He asks for and gets her round fake red nose, but Gogol runs on, takes the nose, and puts it on before running off.  Marya runs out to get help and Dostoyevsky and The Double talk about writing as betrayal and truth being made of lies.  The Double says that he and Dostoyevsky are the same creature and cancel each other out.  When The Double takes a soup spoon from his pocket, Old Karmazov starts to strangle him and Third Demon drags Dostoyevsky away, hurling him violently upstage as we hear the sound of a cell door slamming in the darkness.

     Anna and Dostoyevsky talk about how Marya reacted to his epileptic fit on their wedding night and Polina and Dostoyevsky re-enact their first meeting as Anna and Marya watch.  Dostoyevsky then tells Anna that he was very lonely as he and Polina re-enact their meeting in Paris, Dostoyevsky explaining that he was late because he stopped in Wiesbaden to play roulette.  She says he has come too late, that she is seeing a Spaniard, although she thinks he may be seeing someone else.  Dostoyevsky suggests they travel to Italy as brother and sister and Polina takes off her dress and lies on the bed to take a nap.

     Dostoyevsky explains to Anna why gambling on the roulette wheel is so addictive, that in a universe of chance we live in a perpetual state of uncertainty with gambling, women, and writing.  She wishes him good luck with writing because he really stinks at the other two.  Lights fade to night and we hear a ticking clock as Dostoyevsky learns from Polina that he is, to her, like a cockroach.  The Double enters, potato sack on his head, and gives Dostoyevsky a letter.  Dostoyevsky says his wife is dying and leaves, followed by The Double, as Marya takes Polina’s place on the bed.  Marya thinks she sees something up above and we hear a flapping sound and see shadows moving overhead.  She says that the Devil has eaten the moon.

     Anna and Dostoyevsky talk about love and he says the artist is like the spider whose web is destroyed at night by a bat.  He says he was humiliated by having to ask Turgenev for money after his wife died, and the scene shifts to the two men at a table in a tavern, Dostoyevsky “eating ravenously.”  Fedosya brings the bill and Turgenev puts a wad of money on the table, telling Dostoyevsky to pay the bill and keep the rest.  Dostoyevsky tells Polina that she is a good writer and he wants to sleep with her.  She says he is like a vampire and she needs to get away from him.  As she leaves, he says he doesn’t need anybody.  Suddenly, we see a flash of lightning and hear thunder.  Lights flicker and dim.  Old Karamazov points at Dostoyevsky as Third and Fourth Demons appear upstage.  Dostoyevsky denies stealing soup spoons but starts emptying his pockets as more and more soup spoons fall out.  We see another massive lightning bolt and hear a deep clap of thunder as the Demons throw Dostoyevsky into the cell.  After the sound of an iron door clanging shut, darkness.

     A shaft of moonlight falls on Dostoyevsky in the cell and we hear the sounds of rats and dripping water and, faintly, the orchestrion sounds of “Ach, Du Lieber Augustin.”  Four of the women sit with Dostoevsky and we hear the cell door creaking open.  Dostoyevsky asks The Double who he is and tells him he has to choose, that life is a gamble and the game is rigged.  In roulette he says he puts everything on black, then changes his mind to red, then back to black.  We hear the sound of the roulette wheel being turned, the little ball hopping around and falling into a slot.  The Double says, “Red.  We have red.”  Old Karamazov says, “READY.  AIM.  FIRE.”  We hear the sound of a firing squad shooting, and the lights black out.

     Lights come up on Dostoyevsky curled up on the floor and Anna asks why he has been screaming like a maniac.  He says she is to write down what he says and copy out what he writes.  He says he sees three possible roads—playing the roulette wheel, getting married, and going to Constantinople.  He asks Anna to marry him and she says that first they will finish the book and then spin the wheel and see what happens.  He starts dictating as she writes but the music and roulette wheel sounds return as the other characters appear like figures in his head and the lights dim and go out.