Vienna Blood

September, 2019

Vienna Blood is a two-act play for 5 men and 4 women with several actors playing more than one role.  The unit set represents various locations in Vienna in 1913 with a few benches and wooden chairs and tables at different levels, steps, an easel, and many ticking clocks. We hear an eerie carnival version of “Vienna Blood” that is overwhelmed by the sound of a moving train as the lights come up on Wittgenstein and Ruffing on the Orient Express at night.  Wittgenstein says he is studying philosophy (“rubbish”) at Cambridge and thinks that what matters is what a philosopher leaves out.  He says his father is dying and will leave him an absurd amount of money which he will probably give away and then kill himself.  Ruffing tells him he is going to Vienna to visit his wife’s family.  Lights black out and we hear birds singing as lights come up on Marcy waiting by the door of a house as Max, a gaunt man of 60, enters. She calls him Papa and asks about her mother.  He says nobody wants her here, that she abandoned her relationship with her parents when she chose to live with an older man and have a child by him.  Marcy says she is now a married woman with a family and a good life.  She says she came back because her mother tried to drown herself.  Max tells her she is not welcome in his house or in his life and slams the door behind him.

Lights come up on Grindl, a frail 16-year-old, sitting in her underwear.  Marcy speaks to her but Grindl says she should take off her clothes because Schiele wants to paint two women today.  Marcy tells Grindl that she was her governess and Grindl says she remembers her because she killed her brother.  Marcy says that happened after she left.   Schiele enters and tells Marcy that he is a horrible person and tells Grindl to take off her underwear.  Marcy objects and Schiele says Grindl can get dressed and go with Marcy if she promises to bring her back the next day to that Schiele can paint them both, fully dressed.

They leave and Elsa, in a sanitorium, asks Ruffing what he is doing with her daughter.  He explains how they found each other, but that one night he came home and found a note that she had gone to Vienna.  Elsa tells him that if he doesn’t get her daughter away from here the Devil will destroy her.  Light fades on them and comes up on Herr K playing chess with himself as Frau K tells him that their daughter is living with the painter Schiele.  Frau K tells him that Marcy, who used to take care of their children, is in Vienna.  Herr K says no one told him and moves his black night as Frau K leaves.  We hear birdsong as lights come up on Max in his garden.  Marcy approaches him from the house.  She tells him his roses are beautiful but he says they are rotting like everything in Vienna.  She says that she always felt safe in his garden.  She introduces Grindl Klippstein to her father, saying that she is going to the store to get some food.  Grindl asks Max why he has so many clocks and he tells her he is a clockmaker.  He kills the snails in his garden because he needs something to do because his wife is locked up in a madhouse.  She says she knows what that is like because she can’t stop thinking of her dead brother.  He tells her to get the watering can and water the roses.  He says his wife loved the ticking clocks and Grindl says her brother liked to sail little boats on the lake and asks what else needs watering.  Max says pretty much everything as the light fades on them.

In the studio Marcy tells Schiele that she didn’t bring Grindl because she didn’t want to wake her; she wonders why Schiele paints his naked reflection in the mirror.  She says her husband is a police inspector still in mourning for his first wife. He tells her that mirrors are very dangerous objects, a portal to other dimensions, like art.  He tells her he has been in prison and that he has to draw constantly or he will go berserk.  She says she has to get back to her parents but he tells her to take off her clothes because he wants to paint the person she sees in the mirror, that deep inside that person is somebody desperately trying to claw her way out.  She looks in the mirror as the light fades on them and we hear birdsong as Max and Grindl talk in the garden about old paintings she found in the tool shed.  He says he didn’t have the courage to be a serious artist.  She says making clocks is an art and she likes that his garden is kind of disorderly, that you can’t learn anything from what you control.  Ruffing introduces himself as Max’s daughter’s husband.    Max saya  he doesn’t know where Marcy is but Grindl says she is probably posing naked for Schiele.  Max tells Ruffing that he will try to have a conversation with Marcy if Ruffing can tell him how his wife almost drowned in the river.  Max goes inside and Grindl offers to take Ruffing to Schiele’s studio.

We see Schiele painting Marcy who is in her underwear.  Schiele asks if she has been to see her mother but she says she doesn’t know what to do.  He asks if she is afraid she inherited her mother’s madness but she thinks her mother is just disoriented.  Ruffing and Grindl enter and Ruffing tells Schiele he needs to speak with his wife.  Schiele and Grindl leave.  Marcy tells Ruffing that she left because her mother needed her.  Ruffing agrees that he may never get over his wife’s death and Marcy asks him to go away for awhile so she can figure out why her mother tried to drown herself.  Ruffing says that Max believes someone tried to kill her.  He says he has been to see her and that she seemed confused.  He suggests they go to see her.  Marcy agrees and goes to get dressed, telling Schiele that she will not leave Grindl with him.  Ruffing admires Schiele’s paintings but Schiele tells him about being accosted by a painter of very dull landscapes who screamed at him in public as a decadent shit.  He warns Ruffing to get his wife out of Vienna while he can.

As Ruffing and Marcy enter the sanitarium, Elsa is talking to herself about dreaming of the dead Emperor Franz Joseph with skeletons dancing around him and Dr. Freud appearing out of a giant sausage to announce that in Sumatra a father must never be left alone with his daughter.  Marcy asks Elsa why she tried to drown herself and Elsa says she went to see the Devil but couldn’t kill him.  She says she was a governess but couldn’t govern herself.  Marcy tells Ruffing that her mother was governess to Herr Klippstein’s younger sisters.  Ruffing says that Marcy never told him that she worked for the same family.  Ruffing asks Elsa if she went to see Herr Klippstein that night and she says the house was haunted and she was looking at the water and something hit her on the back of the head and then she was drowning.  Elsa says it was all because of the baby and Ruffing asks if she means her daughter’s baby.  Elsa talks about cheese and rats going down to the river and hitting you in the back of the head as the lights fade on her and come up on Ruffing and Marcy talking with Herr and Frau Klippstein.

Marcy tells Frau K that her daughter, Grindl, is at her father’s house and Marcy’s daughter is in London.  Ruffing tells Herr K that Elsa said she came to see him the night she nearly drowned.  After stalling, Herr K admits that Elsa did come to visit that night and they had a brief but pleasant chat before she left.  He says she seemed upset but Frau K says she can’t talk with her father because he thinks she’s a slut.  She says she knows everything because she Is the Goddess of Clockworks and that Marcy is lucky to have found a man who thinks he loves her.  She leaves and Herr K says he’d better be with her but says he never knew what to say to Marcy’s mother.  Light fades on them as Elsa appears saying she has a message from the Emperor Franz Joseph.  Lights come up on a full-size skeleton of the Emperor dressed in full military uniform, an old-fashioned spiked helmet, his chest completely covered with medals.  He is operated from behind as a puppet by a person in a Halloween skeleton suit.  The Emperor’s skeleton mouth goes up and down as he speaks and he has a high, squeaky, old man’s voice.  He babbles about blah, blah, blah, goulash, wiener schnitzel, little white sausage, but says he could really go for a nice, juicy peach.  We hear an eerie, carnival sideshow version of “Vienna Blood” as the operator of the Emperor inserts a peach in the Emperor’s mouth.  The Emperor chews mechanically, juice running down his chin as the lights fade, closing in gradually on the Emperor’s mouth chewing the peach.  Blackout ending Act One.

“Vienna Blood” is playing as lights come up on Ruffing and Wittgenstein talking in a café.  Wittgenstein says all music after Brahms is just noise and, as a philosopher, he can’t be certain of anything.  Painter enters and tells Wittgenstein that he is shit and must be eliminated so the true Aryan people can take over and fulfill their destiny.  Ruffing tells Painter to leave and Wittgenstein remembers that he went to the same school when they were boys.  He says his name is Adolf Hitler.  Ruffing says he has to meet his wife who has been seeing Dr. Freud.  Light fades on them and we see Freud and Marcy in shadows and hear the carnival version of “Vienna Blood,” the laughter of children, and the quacking of ducks.  In eerie carnival light the shadow of a giant ferris wheel revolves across the stage.  As Marcy relates her dreams and memories, the shadows of the wheel revolve faster and the music speeds up, and characters from her past, Grindl, Herr K, Frau K, and Elsa, tell their versions of the past.  The music shifts into the main theme of “Tales From the Vienna Woods,” then fades as light comes up on Freud and Marcy.  She asks why she is so unhappy and he tells her she has unresolved issues relating to her parents and her experience with Herr Klippstein.  She’s been repressing her anger and transferring it to unacknowledged feelings of hostility toward her husband.  She says that her father hates her but when she was a child he taught her to play chess and she always beat Herr Klippstein, although he won in the game of seduction.  Freud asks her why she stayed after Herr Klippstein, her employer and a married man, took advantage of her.  He suggests it was because she secretly hoped he’s divorce his wife and marry her.  She says her husband’s first wife died and he still loves her.  Freud asks her why she can’t forgive him for still loving his first wife and she says her father hasn’t forgiven her because she chose Herr Klippstein over him, so why should she forgive anyone else.  Freud asks if she can forgive her father and the lights fade on them.

We hear the sound of ticking clocks as light comes up on Elsa, alone, speaking of her nightmares of Emperor Franz Joseph wheeled out like a sewing dummy and skeletons dancing.  She says she is terrified of time and dreams that she is drowning.  She says she misses her husband, Max, but she must never let him know.  We hear birdsong as lights come up on Max and Grindl in the garden.  She says he hates her father because he got his daughter pregnant.  Frau K enters and Max goes inside to check on the cat.  Frau K wants Grindl to come home and says she will give her whatever she wants.  Grindl says she wants to have had parents who actually gave a damn about her when she needed it, but it is too late for that.  She leaves as light fades on Frau K.

In the sanitarium, Max asks Elsa if she wants to come home and she says there is a whore living with him.  He says the girl is a poor lost child that Elsa’s daughter left with him.  She says the girl is the Devil’s child and tells Max he was seen coming out of a house on the street of whores.  He says that his wife slept with him once before they were married but never again.  He asks if he was supposed to die of loneliness and then asks if their daughter has come to see her and Ruffing and Marcy appear upstage.  Max says he is going, but Marcy tells him she wants him to stay.  He goes and Marcy asks Elsa what is wrong with her and Max.  We see and hear her memory of being a governess of Herr K’s little sisters and how he got her pregnant.  He was already engaged and she never told him but she seduced an older man who ran a clock repair shop and then pretended she had just discovered she was pregnant.  They married and a few years later Herr K came into the shop and she introduced him to Max. The men played chess at least one night a week and Marcy says she had a terrible crush on Herr K when she was a child and was excited when, years later, he asked her to be a governess for his children.

In a scene from the past, Elsa and Marcy argue about her taking the job as governess but Max says it is a good opportunity.  In another scene from the past, Marcy tells Elsa that Herr K has been making advances.  Elsa tells her she is never going back to Herr K’s again.  Max asks how exactly Herr K touches her and joins Elsa in forbidding Marcy to return.  She insists that she will go back and Max says he is going to confront Herr K, but Elsa persuades him not to do anything stupid.  Max wonders if Herr K has been planning his daughter’s seduction all along.   The location shifts to the lake where Herr K tells Marcy that he loves her like a daughter and she tells him that sometimes she feels as if he is the only person in the world who cares about her.  He says he is lonely and just wants to hold someone.  He asks her if she ever just wants to hold someone.  She says yes and he kisses her very tenderly.  Elsa saya that he was “so good” at that.  Marcy says she was actually happy, but one day Frau K told her that her services were no longer required and she should leave immediately.  She guessed that Frau K had found out.  She wrote to Herr K but there was never any answer.  Almost immediately after she discovered she was pregnant.  Max wouldn’t let her in the door, but the nuns took her in and she had the baby at the convent.  Mother Superior had a friend in England who needed a governess and Marcy left the baby at the convent and went to England to try to save enough money to bring the baby there but she met her husband.  Elsa tells her that she is the child Elsa had with Herr K.

We hear thunder and rain as Herr K asks Elsa what she is doing at his house.  She asks him how he could have ruined all their lives.  He denies that Marcy is his daughter and says that Elsa has come to blackmail him.  He says that next she will try to convince him that he is the father of her daughter’s bastard.  Elsa tells Ruffing and Marcy that she was standing in the rain looking at the river when something hit her on the back of the head and then she was in the river.  She says she should have stopped Marcy going to work for Herr K, but she was jealous and still loved him.  She tells Marcy that she is the mother of her father’s child and then remembers that she smelled a familiar perfume before she was hit on the back of her head.  Herr K tells Marcy that he will never believe that he is her father.  Frau K asks why they are bothering her husband and Ruffing tells her that it was her perfume that Elsa smelled before she was hit on the head.  Herr K tells Frau K to say she didn’t do it and she says if he wasn’t fucking everything in sight none of this would have happened.  She says she heard Elsa screaming at Herr K and she ran out after her and hit her on the head with a big rock.  When Elsa fell into the water she left her there and went home.  Herr K tells Ruffing and Marcy that if they go to the police, Frau K will deny everything.

We hear bird song as Grindl talks with Ruffing and Marcy in the garden, saying that she wanted to say good-bye because she is going to stay with Schiele.   She says she told Frau K about seeing Marcy and Herr K in the boat house naked and straining together.  She goes into the house and Marcy asks Ruffing why he lied to her about his wife drowning herself.  He says it was too painful to try to explain, but he doesn’t believe she drowned herself, that something else happened.  He says he and Marcy are both haunted by their past but they can work it out together.  She says she has to stay here for now but he should go home and she will come later.  He says the train is leaving the station and gives her one of the two tickets he bought.  Then he kisses her hair and goes.  Max comes from the house and tells her her husband just went out the door.  He starts working in the garden and tells her that her mother prefers to stay where she is but misses the clocks.  Marcy asks if she can water something but Max says no and continues to work.  Marcy beings to water the roses and we hear a sad, eerie version of “Vienna Blood” as skeleton people, two couples and one dancing with the puppet skeleton of the Emperor, waltz around them as light fades and goes out.



May, 2019

Nigro describes the set for Surrealists as “a sort of labyrinth” with many steps and levels and places where people can suddenly appear and disappear and many ways for performers to get on and off the stage “so that there is a relatively constant flow of people and odd creatures doing things here and there, something like a Bosch painting.”  There are many mannequins, some naked, some dressed, some missing heads or arms, which the characters interact with.  Nigro wants the audience to be immersed in “a sort of surreal dream from the moment they enter the theatre” with ushers dressed as penguins and giant rabbits.

Nine men and four women play a variety of parts.  For example, one actor’s roles are listed as “1st Pig/1st Sheep/Giant Beaver/Cyclist/Jean Cocteau/Front End of Horse/1st Monkey/1st Policeman/Jailer/1st Nazi/Kangaroo/1st Mariachi/1st German Soldier/1st Skeletal Passerby/Trotsky/1st Skeletal Mariachi.”   And an actress is given the roles of “Gorilla/4th Sheep/Mama Breton/Squid Lady/Mrs Praying Mantis/Rachilde/MarieAntoinette/5thNazi/MarieBerthe/5thMariachi/Madwoman/ 5th Skeletal Passerby/5th Skeletal Mariachi.”

A prefatory note states:  “Please do not bring living non-human creatures onto the stage.  All lobsters, snails, squid, camels and other odd creatures who may or may not show up from time to time should be costumes, puppets, or theatrical constructions of various sorts.  Also, please do not bring dead creatures (including dead humans) onto the stage.  And absolutely no raw meat, which might overly excite the performers.  An accordion is permissible but if anybody brings a bagpipe I won’t be held responsible for old people trampled in the ensuing stampede to the exit.”

As the house lights come down, the mariachi music that has been playing is drowned out by the sounds of battle:  airplanes, machine guns, bombs, screaming horses.  In flares of red light, Andre Breton, organizing a lecture, keeps dropping papers on the floor as Tzara eats some of the pages and a Banana pinches him in the ass.  Nigro tells us that characters are often present onstage before we know who they are and in scenes where they may not seem to belong.  A “fluid sense of movement in and out of time and reality is essential.”  As Breton defines Surrealism, Ernst contributes his definitions, Leonora invites us to the Dream Ball,  Breton says that Gala will be wearing the Lindbergh baby in her hair, Gala tells us to put money in the jar before inserting our penis, and Banana blows a loud note on a trumpet.  Breton tells Banana to leave and resumes his lecture but Banana blows another note and Breton takes out a gun and shoots Banana who falls dead.  (“The sound of the gunshot is made by a person dressed like an Ostrich banging on an upturned trash can lid with a hammer.”)  Two persons dressed as Pigs run in with a stretcher, put Banana on it, and carry him off.  Breton resumes his talk but King Ubu stomps out to the center of the stage to a drum roll by Ostrich and announces “SHIT!”  Breton speaks again, interrupted by King Ubu as a Gorilla comes on with a cello, sits, and plays Swan Lake as Ballerina welcomes “you fat, ugly, stupid, foul smelling chicken fuckers” to the fun house.  Breton identifies her as Nadja and Ostrich joins her dancing.  There is the sound of an enormous explosion and King Ubu runs for cover, knocking Ballerina on her butt.  She yells at him and chases him off, followed by Gorilla and Ostrich.  Leonora tells the audience not to be alarmed, that none of this is of any significance.  Lights come up on Tzara riding and then dismounting a large white rocking horse.  He explains to Gala that Dada doesn’t make any sense and takes out a roll of toilet paper from which he reads a list of demands.  There is another explosion and Tzara catches a head as it flies through the air.  A  Headless Soldier staggers onstage and Tzara hands him the head for which the Head thanks him.  The Soldier staggers off with the Head.  Tzara says that thousands of French soldiers marched through Paris making baaaaaing sounds to indicate they were sheep being led to the slaughter.  Sheep Soldiers make sheep sounds from the shadows.  Eluard and Dali enter in deep conversation and shake hands three times.  Nadja, Gala, and Leonora each speak a line describing themselves and lights come up on Freud sitting by a couch on which his patient, a Giant Beaver, reclines, gnawing on a child’s wooden alphabet block.   He speaks to the Giant Beaver about the uncanny and Breton thanks Freud for his contributions to Surrealism, saying that his technique of free association has greatly influenced the practice of automatic writing.  Freud says Breton doesn’t know what he is talking about and hobbles off with Beaver hanging onto his leg.  Tzara breaks into spontaneous song and dance, Beaver rushes back in to play the piano and joins Nadja, Dalia, and Cow as they sing in chorus.

As Breton continues  his lecture,  an old man with a long white beard rides a bicycle across the stage, honking twice, and Mama and Papa Breton appear as Siamese twins, joined at the hip, Papa holding a ragged umbrella.  Mama berates her son for staging disgraceful public exhibitions, including playing a piano sonata for three hands and farting.  Tzara, with a third hand attached to his head, bangs on the piano then lifts his downstage butt cheek and farts very loudly, the sound created by Cow, leaning like a torch singer on the piano.  Mama says she will no longer support her son unless he goes back to medical school and she and Papa leave.  Breton tells Tzara that most of the time he is being completely incoherent and Tzara thanks him because he thought he was starting to mean something.

Eluard tells us how he and Gala fell in love and how he and Breton met during the intermission of a play by Apollinaire who had just died.  Picasso, Cocteau, Breton and Cow (with ear trumpet) mingle with the mannequins as if at intermission.  Thinking Breton was an old friend who had died in the war, Eluard clambers over people and mannequins to get to him, knocking Cow and Picasso down and crawling over Cocteau.  Eluard realizes that he is mistaken but says that he and Breton became friends the next day.  Breton tells Eluard that Gala is pure evil and will destroy him.  Eluard follows Ernst and Gala as Breton tells Nadja that he left her because of the owls.

Eluard tells us that when he first came to Paris, Ernst lived with him and Gala.  Breton tells Ernst that his work is very good but he should not stick things in.  Gala remarks hat Ernst is “so good” at sticking things in.  She says love that is jealous and selfish is not really love.  Eluard persuades himself that it is foolish to grieve over infidelity.

Tzara asks Squid Lady to remove the squid from her head.  She does so and runs screaming in circles as Cyclist, the old man with a long white beard, rides on making chicken noises.  Tzara says the Dadaists want the audience to get so angry they rip off their own heads and throw them at the performers.  He says Dada is against love, hope, and the future, that everything is shit.  Waiter tells Tzara that he is not a swine and says he spits in the gravy, not the soup, stormng off angrily.  Tzara says he attacks Breton because he wants to be in charge of everything.  Breton argues that he wants to investigate the subconscious, a deeper reality.  Tzara says that he believes nothing and proposes a toast to a dead Romanian, Samuel Rosenstock, his former identity.

Breton and Nadja talk about love, writing, and the theatre.  As they walk, the old Cyclist, the Cow, the Squid Lady, and a giant Sausage pass by. Breton says that Nadja would be a very easy person to love and she kisses him and goes.  Breton tells us he devised a questionnaire about love which he asked his friends to fill out.  As the questioning proceeds, Dali attempts to milk a resisting Cow and two giant praying mantises flirt and then copulate, after which Mrs Praying Mantis chews off the head of Mr Praying Mantis.  Ernst, Tzara, Gala, and later Eluard answer the questions.

Eluard writes a note as he speaks in the third person about going to Angkor Wat to escape the sounds of his wife Gala having intercourse with his friend Ernst.  He gives the note to a pantomime horse and leaves.  The horse brings the note held in his mouth to Gala and then goes off.  Ernst tells Gala he is going to Dusseldorf to sell some paintings to raise money so they can go to join Elruard.  Eluard tells us he wrote and begged them to keep him company, and Breton tells us they sailed to join him.

We hear jungle sounds, see monkeys “everywhere,” as a “weird jungle” is projected onto the stage.   Eluard tells Gala she must choose between him and Ernst and she says she chooses both of them.  Eluard says he will punch Ernst in the face but Ernst punches him.  Gala thinks it will be best if she goes back to Paris with Eluard.  Ernst says he will stay in the jungle and Gala and Eluard leave.

Breton, putting on a Sausage suit, tells us that Surrealism attracted some very talented people, including Antonin Artaud, who couldn’t be invited to dinner because he would urinate on the carpet.  (A stream of liquid squirts from a manikin resembling Artaud and is caught in a bucket by Cow.)  Breton says they decided to intervene in one of Tzara’s lectures.  Tzara, dressed as a sausage, says that Surrealism is a fraud as Nadja, Leonora, Gala, and Rachilde eat popcorn.  Eluard, dressed as a sausage, runs in saying that Tzara is not a sausage.  Eluard and Breton shout that they are sausages as another Sausage comes on holding up a sign that says I AM A SAUSAGE.  The three men, screaming as they chase each other across the stage while Sausage bangs on an overturned bucket with a hammer, speak simultaneously, their speeches all ending with “Sausages.  Sausages.  Sausages.”  Eluard falls into the orchestra pit, saying he broke his arm and that he thinks Anatole France is still alive.  The Ghost of Anatole France appears, dragging chains and covered in seaweed.  He tells them they will burn in Hell for their sins against the soul of France.  Rachilde, asks what kind of stupid play this is, saying that she is a great Symbolist playwright.  Tzara tells her that they make sausage out of great writers and Sausage puts Rachilde over his shoulder and runs in circles with her.  She says she turns into a werewolf when the moon is full, snarls, and bites Sausage.  He drops her and runs off as she chases him on all fours, barking.  Tzara pulls a telephone from the hind end of Cow to call the police.  We hear police sirens and three policemen run on like Keystone Kops as we hear “old time silent movie music.”  Breton, Eluard, and Tzara are dragged off as the music and lights fade.

Then lights come up on Tzara, Breton, Eluard, Marie Antoinette, Ghost of Anatole France, and Sausage in jail.  Marie Antoinette has never heard of Anatole France (or cars) and Tzara wants to join the Surrealists.  Eluard says he is taking Gala to Spain to meet Salvador Dali.  Jailer enters with Cow who has posted bail for Sausage.  As they go off, the scene shifts to Dali and Gala.  Dali says he and Gala are destined to be chained together forever and Gala tells Eluard that she wants to stay in Spain with Dali, who is the man of her dreams with whom she is deeply in love.  Dali speaks of his secret mission to destroy the Surrealists from within and we hear men humming “Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles” as five Nazis march onto the stage.  Dali comes to the end of his speech about making insanity great again, the Nazis stop humming and marching with a loud stomp on the floor, give a Nazi salute to the audience and shout “JUMPING BUTTERBALLS!”  Lights out; end of Act One.

We hear French accordion music as lights come up on a Paris café with Waiter who has a paper bag over his head and a stuffed dog attached to his leg.  Hitler is necking “ferociously” with a mannequin, Cow is dancing with a Kangaroo, and Dali is painting Gala who wears a lobster as a hat.  Eluard broods alone, Tzara plays chess with a mannequin Lenin, and Nadja is having a serious discussion with a squirrel hand puppet.  Breton welcomes the audience back to the Museum of Surrealism and tells us that Dali has made the Surrealists quite famous and that Ernst, at a London exhibition, met “the beautiful and mysterious young Leonora Carrington” who liked to slather mustard on her feet.  She talks with Ernst about the random nature of his collages and Ernst says he thinks he loves her.  He says if she wants to understand Surrealism she should study the life of Arthur Craven who, he tells her, challenged heavyweight champion Jack Johnson to an exhibition bout.  Johnson knocked him out with one punch and, when he woke up, Craven decided to row a dinghy from Mexico to Argentina and was never seen again.  Ernst explains that a Surrealist is a person who refuses to believe in the reality of what will eventually destroy him.  He says that hallucinations are the beginning of art.  He kisses Leonora and Marie-Berthe appears, calling Leonora names and throwing cups and plates at her.  Breton says that Marie-Berthe is Ernst’s wife.  Leonora throws crockery back at Marie-Berthe and she and Ernst run off to Cornwall, followed by Marie-Berthe.

Gala joins Eluard and tells Breton that women leave him because he is a pompous ass.  Tzara says he has become a Communist.  Gala kisses Eluard (“a very erotic kiss”) and leaves, followed by Dali.  Eluard says he still loves Gala and Ernst admits to loving Leonora.  Speaking through her hand puppet Nadja says that lovers are no more real than shadow puppets.  She joins Breton at a restaurant table where  Waiter, now wearing a rabbit mask, keeps dropping things and falling into customers.  At another table Rachilde is eating with Picasso and Cocteau as Breton and Nadja talk.  Waiter trips and falls into Rachilde’s lap, spilling soup on Picasso.  Nadja tells Breton that she is an optical illusion and that God and the Devil play hide and seek in underground tunnels under the city, but they can’t remember which one of them is dead.

Ernst and Leonora are cuddling as Gala comes in.  Ernst leaves, saying he has to work, and the two women talk about men and power.  Leonora says she just wants to paint and write and spend her life creating.  She thinks Gala must be lonely but Gala says that friendship is a lie, like love, that there is nothing but pleasure.  When Gala leaves, Leonora says she sometimes feels as if she woke up in a madhouse.  Nadja says that comes later and a mariachi band appears playing “a cheerfully melancholy Mexican tune” and then goes off as lights fade on Leonora.

Lights come up suddenly to bright sunshine and we see Breton wearing a pith helmet, dark green glasses, and  windbreaker, sitting in an outdoor café with Eluard, Gala, Dali, Ernst, and Leonora.  Gala says that Breton’s secret is that he has no talent and Breton says an artist does not need talent, just the release of the power of his unconscious.  Ernst agrees as Dali starts putting on an ancient diving suit with a huge helmet.  He says he is God’s representative on earth and Hitler is the man of the future.  Hitler dances by in a tutu to Swan Lake and puts a fish in his mouth.  Dali puts on the diving helmet, Gala plays a twenties dance record as she, Dali, and Hitler dance an erotic parody of the Charleston.  Dali can’t breathe and Gala tries to get the helmet off as Hitler dances off and the music ends.  Breton tells Eluard that Dali must be expelled from the Surrealists because of his support of Hitler.  Gala finally gets the helmet off Dali.  Breton tells Dali that he is being expelled from the Surrealists for being a Fascist idiot.  Dali says all art is a con game to get money from the rich and stomps out followed by Gala.  Breton banishes Eluard from the Surrealists and Ernst tells Breton that he and Leonora are moving to a little cottage in the sourh of France.  They leave and Breton says that everything is falling apart.  Nadja holds him from behind and tells him not to be sad because imaginary friends live forever and the light fades on them.

We hear bird sounds as Leonora tells us that she and Ernst spent two years in a small house in the French countryside, the happiest days of her life.  Ernst jumps  out at her, growling and wearing a wolf mask as he ponnces on her, ferociously biting/kissing her as she shrieks with delight.  She takes off his mask and they kiss, telling each other that they are happy and have nothing to fear.  There are sudden explosions and the sounds of gunfire as three French Soldiers run in.  The Soldiers accuse Ernst of being a German agent and plan to take him to an internment camp.  Leonora says she followed Ernst to the camp and managed to get him released.  Ernst is kicked back onto the stage and they hold each other.  We hear more explosions as three German soldiers enter and drag Ernst off.  Breton tells us that Max was put in a concentration camp and Leonora was left alone.  Nadja comes to sit with Leonora as the stage darkens into a “weird forest” projected onto the stage that is slowly populated by “eerie, skeletal Mexican Day of the Dead figures.”  Leonora says it’s all a dream but Nadja tells her to save herself.  We hear the sound of a loud flapping noise above as two of the Skeleton people hold Leonora down and a third injects a large needle into her arm.  She screams and the lights black out as we hear airplanes, bombs, machine guns, people screaming, marching, air raid sirens “building to a horrible din.”  Sudden silence.

Lights come up on Leonora walking on a crowded street.  Ernst, in the crowd, sees Leonora and goes to her as the crowd moves off, leaving them alone.  She tells him she has been actually insane and he says he escaped from a concentration camp.  She says she married a Mexican bullfighter so she could get a visa to get out of Europe and he says that he is with Peggy Guggenheim, an American patron of the arts.  They agree that the war made a terrible mess of their beautiful life together.  She hugs him and goes.

We hear taxi horns honking and a slide of 1940s New York City at night is projected.  Breton tells us that those who escaped to America found themselves “constantly” in each other’s company.  Ernst refuses to shake hands with Dali but tells him that he and Breton are visiting junk shops to find things to make art out of.  Breton says that Eluard and Tzara are working for the Resistance in France.  Gala enters, pulling Leonora with her.  Gala says she and Dali have adjusted remarkably well to American society, but Dali insists that he must have a giraffe for his next project.  Ernst and Leonora slip away and Dali, insisting there will be turds, puts a chamber pot upside down on his head and marches out.

We hear “nostalgic accordion music” and the action shifts to a café in Paris as Trotsky staggers out, with an ax buried in his head, to sit with the mannequins.  Breton and Tzara argue over politics.  Breton says Eluard’s patriotic poetry is propaganda.  Ernst says that Stalin had Breton’s friend Trotsky murdered and Trotsky staggers off.  Eluard says that Stalin (a homicidal maniac according to Ernst) knows what is best.  Breton tells Eluard that he cannot respect someone who makes up excuses for someone who murders artists and writers and anyone who disagrees with him.  Eluard says there is nothing more to say and leaves.  Saying they are all sad donkeys, Tzara hugs Breton and Ernst and leaves.

Dali and Gala are looking downstage at the sunset.  Dali has his arm around the mannequin with the lobster hat and Gala is a few feet away.  We see projections of old fashioned slides of Paris, Spain, the sea shore, and various surreal paintings.  Dali describes a “great film” that he wants to make and tells Gala that his sole occupation has been the invention of monsters.  The slides are now of old Russia, increasingly blurred and played backwards and sideways.  She tells Dali he is a revolting egomaniacal imbecile, a fake, a joke.  He hands her a lobster and tells her to put it on her head but she throws it violently offstage.  He knocks down the mannequin with the lobster on her head and starts kicking it in the stomach as Gala screams in agony as if she is being kicked.  The slide show becomes faster and faster with more disturbing images  as she screams.  Exhausted, Dali stops kicking the mannequin; the slide show stops and light goes out on Gala.  We hear a very old and scratchy recording of Tristan and Isolde and the Skeleton People come back to look at Dali.  He denies knocking Gala down the stairs and kicking her.  He says she will never die but will fuck Popeye on top of his corpse.  The Skeleton People stare at Dali as the light fades on him.

All the cast members are still as the Skeleton People watch from the shadows.  Breton is sitting in a chair with Nadja standing behind him.  Breton says he is old and as he speaks Leonora brings out paints, sets up an easel, and puts a canvas on it.  Nadja puts her hands on Breton’s shoulders and, as Leonora paints, the Skeleton People begin to play mariachi music and two of the skeletons waltz around Breton and Nadja as the light fades and the music ends in darkness.












Mysteries of Prague

Mysteries of Prague is a two-act full-length play with four men (two playing three roles) and eight women (two playing three roles).  DR a small table and a large chair, DC a dining table and a sofa, and DL a café table.  Upstage a “strange labyrinth of cobbled streets and arched passageways, stairways, the insides of old houses at many different levels.”  Actors can appear at any level at any time by going up and down stairs or in and out of windows and doors in fluid, dreamlike action.

In darkness we hear the sound of canaries singing and then a growing cacophony of cabaret/sideshow music, barrel organ, and carousel.  As lights come up we see Kafka writing at the small table DL as shadows of carousel horses and revolving carnival lights swirl over him and we hear Lowy as a carnival barker welcoming people, dogs, roaches, stink  bugs, dung beetles, and burrowing creatures of all denominations to the Yiddish Theatre of Oklahoma.  We hear a loud train whistle as the lights fade on Kafka and a giant Ground Mole crawls across the stage.  A pool of light comes up on Kafka who tells us that on Alchemists Street in Prague everything is in a constant state of metamorphosis and is written in code.  Another pool of light shows us Max as an old man who tells us that he met Kafka after giving a lecture on Schopenhauer.  Dora crosses the stage holding a stack of twenty old notebooks, saying that Kafka is delirious with fever before she goes back into the darkness.  Kafka speaks of a man writing a book that sold eleven copies, ten of which the man bought, but he wonders what happened to the eleventh copy.  We hear a voice from above making a loud eerie insect sound, then scuttling sounds and what seems like a large ball rolling across the floor and a ticking clock.  Max says Kafka left only a piece of paper instructing him to burn everything.  Milena appears in a window saying that she is not a child and we hear the sound of a child crying in the darkness.  Julie appears and says she wants the woman’s address so she can write to her.  She coughs into a handkerchief and we see red where she has coughed.  She moves into the darkness as Kafka tells us that the only way to write is in a trance.  Felice and Greta walk through a pool of light speaking of love and sex as they move into the darkness.  Milena tells Kafka she is only there to translate his writing.  We hear the sound of children crying and Ottla says that the train is moving out of the station.  We hear the train beginning to move and a whistle as lights go out on all but Kafka at his table.

We hear “horrible banging and rolling sounds” and a person making sounds like a cross between an insect and a pig.  Kafka asks if someone is up there and after three loud knocks all the noise stops except for a ticking clock.  A door opens and the Landlady enters with a lantern asking what Kafka is yelling about.  He says he hears sounds every night and she suggests he has been dreaming or has had too much Schnapps.  He tells her he comes to the room to write, although he doesn’t know what he’s writing.  But now the noise upstairs disturbs him and he sometimes hears a mouse singing opera.  Hearing the sound of a goat bleating, the Landlady leaves, threatening to have Kafka arrested if he complains about noise again.  Kafka says that writing is a form of prayer to him but everything comes to him in fragments.  As he writes we hear the high-pitched, squeaky voice of the Mouse Singer singing “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.

At the café table, Max asks Dora if Kafka left any of his writing with her.  She says he gave her twenty notebooks but told her to burn them.  Max calls her a stupid woman and she throws a drink in his face as she leaves.  Kafka sits at the table with Max who says he can’t understand how Kafka can destroy his own work.  Kafka wants Max to promise to burn everything Kafka has written but Max says he doesn’t believe him.  We hear the Mouse Singer sing the final phrases of “O Mio Babbino Caro” as Kafka moves to his writing table and Blumfeld, drinking, joins Max.  They speak of Kafka’s death and his writing and Blumfeld says that Kafka had a child.  Blumfeld laments his lonely life and says he has to get up early to catch a train to Poland.  Ottla repeats her line, “The train is moving out of the station.”  Blumfeld leaves and Max says he is sure Kafka would have told him about a child.  Kafka says only an unfinished work of art has any integrity.  Felice, “looking at Kafka from another time and plaee,” wonders why he smelled her neck.  Max says that she must have been the mother.

The light fades on the café table as Max leaves and we see Kafka and Felice in their own circles of light, surrounded by darkness.  Felice says that she is in Berlin and he is in Prague, and although he writes her a great many very long rather odd letters they almost never see each other.  Kafka wants to know specific details about her life, the doorknobs in her bedroom and the number of her teeth.  He wants her to send pictures of everything because he is desperate for something to replace reality.  The light on her goes out abruptly and fades on him as he starts writing.

At the café table Felice asks Max if Kafka is insane and Julie, “commenting from elsewhere,” says he is a little insane and Milena says Kafka can only approach women like a crab, sideways.  As Max tries to explain Kafka, Grete and Dora comment and Lowy, the Yiddish actor, tells Kafka that God is everything and nothing.  Kafka, walking with Felice, describes his process of writing as a chaos that helps him keep the connection to the demon whispering in his head.  He tells her he wants to marry her, that he is deeply in love with her.  She says she doesn’t understand him although she will count her doorknobs and send him pictures of them, but she will never count her teeth for him.

The light fades on them and comes up on Max asking the Landlady if Blumfeld lives there.  She says he hanged himself but left a suicide note for someone named Max.  Blumfeld appears in a spotlight, speaking the letter, saying that he might as well tell him who the mother of Kafka’s child was.  But as he is about to say her name, he starts burbling incoherently and the light on him goes out.  The Landlady goes and Ottla says the train is moving out of the station.  Max thinks that Ottla, Kafka’s sister, might know the mother’s name.  As they talk at the café table, Kafka at his table says that he liked hiding like an insect under the sofa and told his publisher that the insect must not be seen on the cover.  Max tells Ottla that he has been told that Kafka fathered a child.  Ottla says neither she nor her parents know anything about it and the scene morphs into a family dinner with Papa, Mama, Kafka, and Ottla, canaries singing, Mrs. Tschissik juggling dead canaries, and Lowy standing on his head.

Kafka tells his parents that he is a vegetarian and Papa complains about having actors in the house and wonders why Kafka isn’t married.  Ottla supports her brother and leaves and then Mama, shouting about eating meat, also leaves, followed by Papa.  Lowy and Mrs. Tschissik join Kafka at the table and begin finishing the meal, “hungry like the Marx Brothers.”  They describe the play they are performing, gather up the last of the food, and go.  Kafka joins Felice who says that her favorite writer is Strindberg and admits that she doesn’t understand the book Kafka sent her and thinks he is weird.  She says she hates her job demonstrating the proper use of dictaphones and thinks that a giant ground mole is lurking in a dark stairwell in the building where she lives, waiting to eat her.  Kafka says they were made for each other and goes to his desk to write.  Felice joins Max at the café and he asks her about the possibility of there being a child.  She says if Kafka didn’t tell him who the mother was he didn’t want Max to know.  She says she asked Grete to find out Kafka’s intention but that did not turn out well.  Ottla speaks her line about the train moving out of the station; Kafka says he closes his eyes and finds himself on a train in the dark, heading into a tunnel towards an unknown destination.  Dora says she did something she’s ashamed of and Julie says she saw him putting flowers on a child’s grave.  We hear the sounds of a train picking up speed, a train whistle, and a child crying.  Lights fade on Max drinking and Kafka writing and go out, ending the act.

Act Two begins with Kafka writing, complaining about the noise of squirrels bowling above him.  Grete tells Felice that Kafka has been writing long, strange letters to her and is genuinely puzzled that Felice accepted his marriage proposal.  She suggests that they meet Kafka together.  There is a lightning strike and a loud thunderclap then darkness and the sound of rain as Kafka greets Felice, Grete, and Felice’s pregnant sister, Erna.  Felice tells him that he doesn’t love her and never will.  Erna says that men are monsters and should be killed.  She and Felice leave and Grete tells Kafka that Felice has problems and responsibilities that Kafka doesn’t know about.  Grete suggests that she, Kafka, and Felice might go on a vacation together.

We hear the sounds of cuckoo clocks and Lowy yodeling as lights come up on Kafka, Felice, Grete, and Fraulein Steinitz, who is a little drunk.  She asks why Felice and Kafka are afraid of each other and why Grete is there.  As Felice leaves, Fraulein Steinitz says the rest of them are going to have an orgy but then follows her.  Grete suggests to Kafka that they could go to her room, but Felice returns and Grete leaves.  Felice asks Kafka if he has ever actually had physical relations.  He says he goes to brothels and she says they need to have sexual intercourse and asks for the key to his room.  She leaves and he starts coughing, putting a handkerchief over his mouth, and sees a large red splotch of blood on it.  He says the truth is that God is “an enormous, sadistic, carnivorous dung beetle.” Julie says she saw him putting flowers on a child’s grave.

At the café table Kafka tells Max that he has ended his relationship with Felice.  Max suggests he go to a sanitarium to get some rest.  We hear thunder and then the sound of a child crying.  Ottla says they’re loading children onto the train.  At the café, Julie tells Max how she met Kafka at a boarding house.  She and Kafka then talk and she tells Max that Kafka made her laugh every day.  She says they were going to get married but his parents thought she was a fortune-hunting slut.  Papa appears and says she is.  Julie says they were happy until the Czech translator came along.  Pollak tells Kafka that he told his wife, Milena, that she should translate his work.  Milena tells Kafka that translation, done well, is an act of love.  She says her husband cheats on her a hundred times a year but now her greatest desire is to spend the rest of her life translating Kafka’s writing.  We hear the sound of children playing as Kafka and Ottla talk with Julie sitting in the park and Milena on the other side of the stage as Max watches from the shadows.  Kafka tells Ottla that he knows Julie loves him but he desires Milena.  Ottla says he has to tell Julie and goes.  Julie asks Kafka if he would like to have a child with her.  He says he is not sure he is able to be a father or a husband.  He says he has met someone else and thinks Julie should go.  He tells her the woman’s name is Milena and she is translating his plays into Czech.  Julie wants her address so she can write to her.  Kafka scribbles in a notebook, tears out a page and gives it to Julie who kisses him and sits at his table to write.  Ottla tells Max that Kafka found it terrifying to be loved.  Max says Julie told him that she had no child but did say something odd about children.  Julie tells Max that she once saw Kafka take flowers to an old burial ground and put them on a child’s grave.  The light fades on Julie as Ottla says she can’t imagine whose grave it might have been.

Kafka tells Milena that he wants her to leave her husband and that he gave her address to the girl he was going to marry.  Milena says her husband has a gun and lights come up on Pollak reading a letter.  Milena says she loves Kafka and can’t live without him.  Pollak tells her he will never let her go.  She looks at Kafka, then at Pollak who tells her to come to him.  She hesitates as the light fades on Pollak and comes up on Max.  Milena wonders if things might have been different if she had the courage to leave her husband.  She says she should have been with Kafka when he was ill and dying.  Max says Dora took care of him at the end and tells her that Milena told Kafka that her brother, who died as a child, was buried in a Prague cemetery and Kafka probably put flowers on his grave.  She asks if Max knows someone named Grete and thinks she might know something.  Milena says she hopes he had a child and wishes it was hers.

At the café table, Grete tells Max that she doesn’t have any manuscripts but that she knew about the child.  Lowy, from elsewhere, speaks of the Sephiroth and reality being Russian dolls.  Grete speaks to Kafka, kissing him twice, as Kafka says that “this” is the fever dream of a dying man.  She says she was the mother of Kafka’s child, but the boy died.  She says she doesn’t know any lawyer named Blumfeld, and that he was lying.  As light fades on them it comes up on Kafka, dying, sitting with Dora.  He tells her she could be enjoying her life instead of trapping herself with a dying man.  She says he is not going to die and the light fades on Kafka as she talks with Max, a decade later.  She says she kept the twenty notebooks that Kafka gave her but the Gestapo took them and she doesn’t know where they might be.  Max says that Grete was the mother of Kafka’s child, but Dora tells him the father of Grete’s child was a married man, not Kafka.  Lowy speaks about uncovering secrets as Max moves to his DR chair, getting older as he walks, and sits.

We hear the sound of the ocean and Kafka stands behind Max.  It is many years later and Max tells Kafka that he talks more to him dead than he did when he was alive.  He says he has dreams about Kafka and Kafka says he also dreams.  When Max asks about the child’s mother, Kafka says he always asks the wrong questions.  Max says he has made Kafka very famous and asks to be forgiven for not burning his life’s work.  Kafka goes to his table and begins writing as Max speaks about Ottla, Grete, Julie, and Milena being killed by the Nazis.  He drifts off to sleep as the light fades on him and Kafka continues to write.  We hear the sound of balls rolling and strange noises.  Kafka shouts for quiet and, after a short silence, we hear something heavy lumbering down the steps.  There are three loud bangs on the door and Kafka asks who is there as he rises and moves to the door, opens it, and looks into the darkness.  We hear squeaking noises as Kafka says that he told them that the insect must never be seen.  One insect leg reaches through the door, wrapping around Kafka’s leg and dragging him through the door.  Kafka struggles frantically, screaming as he disappears, his cry ending with a horrible gurgling sound.  Carnival music and eerie lights from the opening of the play return and Lowy shouts out his welcome to the Yiddish Theatre of Oklahoma where your most secret desires and darkest fears will come true and where nobody ever leaves.  As the lights swirl and the stage grows darker, an enormous Dung Beetle moves into the room and we hear the Mouse Singer singing the concluding phrases of ”O Mio Babbino Caro,” ending in darkness.






Dreams of a Sinister Castle

     A recent addition to the Pendragon cycle (the other full-length plays have now been published by Samuel French, Inc.), Dreams of a Sinister Castle, requires four men and four women.  The setting is a room in the “ancient wreck of a labyrinthine haunted house” in east Ohio.  The furniture is covered with cobwebs and sheets and doors lead off in several directions.  A stage area also represents a field with a ragged scarecrow outside the house.  The time is autumn 1976 and in the darkness we hear an eerie calliope, the roaring of lions, and trumpeting of elephants.  As the lights come up, five characters enter, carrying suitcases—Duncan Rose, 45, plays kings, villains, and “rather stiff heroes” and his brother Duff, 43, plays younger Shakespearean leads;  Ally, their sister, 41, June Reedy, 33, and her sister Lorry, 32, complete the entourage.  They are all tired and hungry, irritable, but Ally says she feels a spiritual connection with the house, their father’s house and of June and Lorry’s mother.  Duncan declares that The Pendragon and Rose Theatrical Touring Company has hit rock bottom.  The company’s costumes and scenery have been confiscated because their show in Pittsburgh failed to attract an audience and bring in the necessary money.  As Duncan and Duff squabble, Ally remarks that she dreamed that they all joined a circus, and June thinks that they can stay in the house until they figure out how to raise the money to get their sets and costumes back.  She says that Aunt Liz will make them all the fried chicken and mashed potatoes they can eat.  Duncan says they have seventeen bookings left that they cannot get to, that they have no money, and that the other actors have deserted them.  Ally takes out a huge, tangled ball of yarn, saying that knitting is the secret to her serenity.  June and Lorry help her untangle the yarn and Ally has the feeling that someone is watching them.  Lorry and Duff go out to the kitchen, and Duncan and June leave to use the telephone at Aunt Moll’s.  Alone, Ally sits on the floor in the lotus position, talking to the spirits of the house, asking for their wisdom.  As she speaks, a 20-year-old girl, Molkin, wearing a big false mustache, a tattered old wedding dress and a stovepipe hat, comes in, takes out a walnut from between her breasts, and places in on the top of the yarn.  Then she puts the mustache under the walnut and the hat on top of the yarn.  She looks at Ally and goes off as the lights fade.

     We hear the sounds of crickets and owls and moonlight through an open window reveals Ally on the sofa, mumbling in her sleep.  A dark figure crawls through the window and approaches her.  When he (Romeo DeFlores) touches her arm, she screams and sits up.  When Duff calls from offstage, Romeo leaves.  Ally tells Duff that she has been talking with the Devil.  Lorry comes on wondering what all the yelling is about and tells Duncan and June when they enter that Ally has seen the Devil.  Ally insists that the Devil went out through the door, and when Duncan opens the door to disprove her, Romeo is standing there, saying he never actually left because he walked into the broom closet.  June tells Ally that Romeo is her father, and Lorry’s.  The girls want to know what Romeo wants.  He tells them that he has had a dream that has brought him to the sinister castle (the house).  He tells them his son and his wife are dead and he has come in search of his daughters.  Reaching out the window he hauls in a large satchel which, he says, contains the insurance money from the fire that destroyed the house of mirrors and his son.  He wants them to take the money.  He feels guilty because in the past he had talked of burning the hall of mirrors for the insurance money, but he insists that he did not set the fire, although he feels that perhaps his thoughts did.  He says he has what is left of the carnival—some old animals and a handful of freaks—on the other side of the hill.  Duff looks in the bag and Duncan says they could use the money, but Lorry slams the bag into Romeo’s chest and pushes him into the hallway and out the door.  Duncan tries to convince Lorry that they can use the money to get their theatre company back in business.  Ally says that Romeo is standing in the middle of the yard and it is starting to rain.  We hear Romeo howling like a wolf, then barking like a dog.  Duncan says they should take the money that Romeo wants to give his daughters and then commit him to a mental asylum.  Lorry says that Romeo is conning them and goes off to bed.  The lights fade as Romeo howls, Duff drinks, and June and Ally look out the window.

     We then see Romeo outside the house, howling at the moon beside a scarecrow.  He talks to the scarecrow and says that elephants answer his howling.  We hear an elephant trumpeting in the distance.  June appears, with Ally, Duncan, and Duff behind her.  June wants her father to come inside.  When asked about the bag with money, Romeo says that he buried it.  We hear thunder and Romeo tells Duncan that the ghost girl knows where he buried the money.  He says she went to tell her father and Duncan is certain he will never see the money again.  After June and Ally lead Romeo off, Duff and Duncan sit under the scarecrow and bemoan the loss of their acting company.  Duncan wants to try to find the money before the rains come, but Duff has had enough to drink and wants to sleep.  Duncan drags him off and Molkin, still in the wedding dress, comes on with the muddy satchel.  She opens the bag and tells the scarecrow that the bag is full of grief.  We see lightning and hear thunder as the light fades on her and the act ends.

     Act Two begins with the sound of crickets as the lights come up on Ally sleeping on the sofa.  Molkin comes in with a large “very ugly looking” ax, raises it to strike Ally, and falls over backwards.  Ally identifies Molkin as the ghost girl Romeo talked of and asks her what she is doing with the ax.  Molkin says she was going to cut her head off because Ally is going to take her daddy away.  John Rose, 88, enters behind her and tells her to put the ax down.  Ally recognizes her father, and he introduces her to Molkin as Lorry, Duncan, June, and Duff come on.  Ally tells John that their sets and costumes are locked up in Pittsburgh and John asks why they need “all that moth-eaten crap.”  He tells Duncan that he gave him the company because he wanted it.  Molkin, thinking that Duncan has insulted her, offers to cut off his head but John takes the ax from her and sits on the sofa with her and Ally.  Molkin tells Ally that John is her real father because he saved her life when she was starving and hearing voices.  John says he left the company to come back to the Pendragon house, found Molkin, and stayed.  When Ally wants him to rejoin the company, John asks her if the company is sets and costumes.  When she says no, he points out that if the company is the actors they have what they need.  He tells them that the essence of theatre is to use what you have, that no one can prevent them from practicing their craft.  When Romeo enters, Duncanidentifies Molkin as the ghost girl he mentioned and asks her where the money is buried.  She says she burned it.  Romeo says he saw them in a play in Pittsburgh and complains that he didn’t see an actor exit pursued by a bear the way Shakespeare wrote it.  Romeo says that he has a bear where his carnival is camped.  Duncan, fed up with Duff’s comments, knocks him down and starts strangling him.  Ally, June, and Lorry try to pull him off, but he persists until John, in his old actor’s voice, orders him to stop.  When John asks what else he has in his carnival, Romeo lists a variety of sideshow artists and animals.  Ally says they could call themselves the Pendragon and Rose Shakespearean Theatrical Carnival and use the animals in the forest of Arden and all kinds of places and use the carny people as extras.  Lorry says she doesn’t have a problem with the idea, but she doesn’t think they can trust Romeo, but he says he has betrayed everything but never his carnival.  The actors vote, four to one (Duncan resisting) to try.  Duncan then agrees as long as John is not involved.  Molkin wants to go with the actors.  John admits that he loved the life of an actor and has missed it.  Duncan says he has just learned that his wife has left him and Duff apologizes for sabotaging Duncan’s efforts and assures him that the company needs him and that his wife will come back to him.  John tells Duncan to go back to England to straighten things out with his wife.  While he is gone, he, John, will take over and help June restage the shows.  With the sun coming up, Romeo leads them off to meet the animals.

The Shadows

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

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

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

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

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

The Winkleigh Murders

     The five characters in The Winkleigh Murders are Willy (the gardener’s bastard son), Imogen  (the orphaned ward of Bronwyn’s late parents), Bronwyn (the young heiress of Winkleigh), Charles (a school friend of Bronwyn’s late brother Edward), and Cedric (also a friend of the late Edward).  The set is “like a psychological collage of the Winkleigh estate” in Devon, overlooking Dartmoor.  We can see part of a house with a parlor down right; farther up right and  towards center a garden with a gazebo; cemter a tall hedgerow broken by a wooden gate and up left a ruined windmill with a wooden bench or two; further down left a stone bench and a broken sundial.  Downstage of the hedgerow is a “rather primitive” automobile.  When Charles and Cedric are out hunting they use the center and down center part of the stage, “in dappled greenwood shadows to give . . . the feeling of deep and ancient forest.”  The time is early in the twentieth century.  The five characters are on stage as the lights come up, Charles trying to take a photograph of Imogen and Cedric in the automobile, Willy sitting on the gate of the hedgerow, and Bronwyn observing from a bench in the gazebo.   Willy speaks his thoughts which, he says, would get him bludgeoned to death if the other characters could hear him since he is expressing his lust for Imogen’s body and his wish that Cedric’s pickle be incinerated.  Cedric express his thoughts about Imogen’s desire for him.  Imogen, speaking her thoughts, says she misses Edward dreadfully and thinks Cedric lucky to be so stupid.  Then Bronwyn and Charles speak their thoughts (mostly of sexual desire) in counterpoint with the others until Charles takes the picture.  In the blackout we hear the sound of birds and the lights come up on Imogen and Bronwyn in the gazebo.

     Imogen tells Bronwyn that she knows the boy (Willy) is watching her and that Charles is “desperately infatuated” with Bronwyn.  Bronwyn decides to go and torment Charles and we hear the sound of crows as the lights fade on the gazebo while she strolls over to Charles reading on the bench by the sundial.  She advises Charles against fancying her, saying that Imogen fancies him.  Then she kisses him on the cheek and leaves as Cedric, carrying a hunting rifle, approaches Charles who prefers taking photographs to shooting things.  Cedric thinks that a fellow is defined by what he is willing to kill.  Seeing anger in Charles’ eyes, Cedric pats him on the back and leaves, saying that he knew Charles had it in him.

     Willy is polishing boots on the steps of the gazebo and is puzzled when Bronwyn wants to talk with him.  Bronwyn thinks he is mocking her and tells him that she knows he is in love with Imogen.  Bronwyn wonders why he isn’t in love with her, since everyone else is.  He says he sees something behind Imogen’s eyes and advises Bronwyn to get inside because a storm is coming.  Lights fade on the gazebo and the sky darkens with the approaching storm.  We hear thunder as the lights come up on the parlor and all five characters.  Willy is trying to fix a cuckoo clock and Bronwyn wants Imogen to hypnotize him.  Imogen swings Charles’ pocket watch in front of Willy, telling him to relax and fall into a deep sleep.  Cedric pretends to be the one hypnotized, but Bronwyn says she once was somebody else and speaks of Zeppelins in the sky pouring down “terrible, corrosive rain,” and that she heard hunting horns and felt dogs devouring her and then her brother Edward took her in his arms to tell her something horrible.  Charles insists that Imogen wake her up; Imogen snaps her fingers, we hear thunder, and the lights go to black.

     We hear rain and thunder as a red light comes up on Charles in his developing room, far down right corner of the parlor area.  His recollections of the dead Edward and the beauty of Bronwyn are interrupted by the sound of a door creaking open and a long rectangle of light falling on him.  He asks if anyone is there and the lights go to black.  After a last rumble of thunder we hear the sound of birds and the lights come up on Cedric, at the automobile, cleaning his gun as Bronwyn watches.  Bronwyn says that she knows her dead brother Edward would have wanted his two best friends to come together and suggests that Cedric take Charles out hunting.  She moves to Charles who is reading by the sundial down left and suggests that he stop reading and go hunting with Cedric.  He agrees on condition that she let him photograph her. Bronwyn intimates that she might pose nude for him, and the scene shifts to Cedric and Charles in the woods with guns.  Cedric says that he will gut Charles like a fish if he finds out that he has been intimate with Imogen.  As Cedric raises his gun to shoot, Charles notices that the rabbit is pregnant and lunges towards him.  We hear a loud bang, simultaneous with a blackout.

     A cuckoo clock strikes four as the lights come up on Bronwyn and Imogen in the parlor.  When Bronwyn refers to Edward’s death as an accident, Imogen reminds her that Edward put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.  Cedric stomps in, covered in mud, followed by Charles (not covered in mud).  Cedric says he could kill Charles for pushing him down a ravine to save a rabbit, but Bronwyn tells Cedric to get cleaned up and Charles to apologize.  After she leaves, Imogen asks Charles if he is hopelessly in love with Bronwyn, since everyone else is.  Then she asks Charles if he would like to kiss her and, as their lips are about to meet, Bronwyn enters abruptly.  Bronwyn wonders what happened to the book that Edward had been writing, and Charles admits that Edward did leave a letter, asking that the book be destroyed.  After saying that their lives are a terrible waste, Imogen runs out and Bronwyn asks Charles if he will tell her what was in Edward’s letter if she lets him make love to her.  She says she was inexplicably jealous when she saw that Charles and Imogen were about to kiss and thinks that violence is “in the end much more satisfying than love.”  She calls Charles a fool and kisses him on the lips.  Charles watches her leave as the lights fade.

     We hear the sound of owls and the lights come up on Imogen crying at the windmill.  Willy steps out of the shadows to tell her that she shouldn’t be out so late.  She accuses him of following her about but he says he worries about her and tells her that Cedric is not only stupid but dangerous.  Imogen tells him to stay away from her and runs off.  Willy sits with his head in his hands as Bronwyn comes on, saying that he looks like her brother.  She says that he loves Imogen who loves Charles who loves Bronwyn.  She kisses him, rather erotically, and offers to show him her breasts.  She orders him to put his hands on her breasts and when he does she tells him to kiss her.  Willy pulls away, but Bronwyn says she wants him to make love to her.  When he kisses her she tells him to stop.  Then she kisses him and he pushes her onto her back.  He takes out a razor, saying that he had come out to the windmill to kill himself.  She insists that he make love to her, but he slaps her face, telling her to stop, that she is playing with him like a cat with a mouse.  Willy says that he is the bastard son of Bronwyn’s father, Edward’s half-brother, and Bronwyn’s half-brother.  He lifts Bronwyn’s dress as Imogen enters, tells him to stop, then hits him on the head with a shovel.  Realizing that Willy is dead, Bronwyn starts screaming as Cedric enters, pulls Willy off  Bronwyn who is helped up by Imogen and the three look down at Willy as we hear the owls and see the light fade out to end the act.

     Act Two begins with the sounds of rain and a ticking clock.  As the lights come up on the parlor, Charles is quoting Tennyson whom Bronwyn, according to Imogen, “cannot abide.”  When Charles wonders where Willy is, Cedric suggests that he ran off.  When Bronwyn starts speaking of Wooster sausages, Imogen says that it must be a recurrence of her malaria and takes her off stage.  But Bronwyn rushes back, followed by Imogen who accuses her of pushing her into a closet.  Bronwyn takes Charles out for a walk in the rain and, when Imogen says that Bronwyn is losing her mind, Cedric insists that they will be safer if nothing is said about Willy’s fate.  He will say nothing if Imogen lets him copulate with her whenever he wants.  She is also to persuade Bronwyn to marry him.  The scene switches to Charles and Bronwyn, wet from the rain, in the gazebo.  Bronwyn kisses him and they start removing each other’s clothing.  Imogen enters, Bronwyn runs off, and Charles asks Imogen why Bronwyn is losing her mind.  Imogen says that Bronwyn is going to marry Cedric and takes Charles to find her.  At the windmill, Bronwyn babbles of her mother hanging herself there and Willy, dead, comes up behind her.  Imogen enters but cannot see or hear Willy.  Bronwyn accuses her of fornicating with Bronwyn’s father and Imogen admits it.  Charles enters, also unable to see or hear Willy.  Imogen says that she told Edward about his father and Charles says the Bronwyn could marry him rather than Cedric.  Imogen explains that Cedric is blackmailing Bronwyn into marriage and forcing Imogen to be his mistress.  If they do not agree Cedric will tell the authorities that Imogen killed Willy.  Charles leaves to talk with Cedric, Imogen cries, and Bronwyn and Willy look at her as the lights fade.

     We hear the sound of birds and see Cedric and Charles in the woods, with guns, talking of Edward at college.  Cedric says that Edward loved teen-aged whores, got one of them pregnant, and might have killed his own father.  Charles tells him he can’t marry Bronwyn because she is not in her right mind.  Then Charles raises his gun and tells Cedric to say “cheese.”  We hear the sound of a gunshot simultaneous with a blackout.

     We hear birdsong and the lights come up on Imogen, Bronwyn, and Charles in the parlor, talking of Cedric’s accidental death.  Bronwyn thinks she hears children laughing and says she has been dreaming of unspeakable things.  After she leaves, Charles says that he thinks Bronwyn should marry him.  He asks Imogen to return the watch he gave her when she was hypnotizing Bronwyn.  She takes it from her bosom and stomps on it.  Bronwyn returns and says she hears a whirring noise.  She points to the sky and says she sees a Zeppelin.  Imogen says something is falling, and the light goes out as we hear an air raid siren, a bomb falling, and a huge explosion, then more, accompanied by troops marching, garbled speeches, machine guns, airplanes crashing, people screaming, animals shrieking, all building to a cacophony of “patriotic butchery and frenzied madness.”  We hear owls and the lights come up on a shadowy set.  Bronwyn, bedraggled, says that she has escaped from Bedlam and Cedric, groaning, enters, a bloodstained flour sack over his head.  Unable to see, he walks like the Frankenstein monster.  After he runs into the rusted automobile and falls to the ground, Willy appears from behind the gazebo and turns Cedric offstage.  Willy says he can smell someone coming and Bronwyn hides behind the gazebo as Imogen, in black, leads on Charles in a military uniform and dark glasses.  One arm is gone and he walks with a cane.  Imogen says the estate is in ruins, that she lives in the potting shed.  She tells Charles that his sight and hearing may improve over time and that she will take care of him.  Willy says that Imogen is the beautiful one and loves Charles, but he is in love with the lunatic.  Charles tells Imogen that Edward’s suicide note said to burn everything, including his book.  Charles says that Edward took him to a whorehouse where an old whore recognized Edward as the squire’s son and said she was the mother of Imogen.  After they exit, Bronwyn tells Willy that she shot her father in the crotch and threw a dead fox on him so the dogs would eat him alive.  She climbs into the car and starts singing “Rule, Brittania” as Cedric stumbles on, moaning, and running into the gazebo.  He falls, and Bronwyn says that “you” may now take her photograph.  We hear a click and see a blink of lights.  Then the lights go out and we hear owls in the darkness.


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

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


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

Jules Verne Eats a Rhinoceros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City of Dreadful Night

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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