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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ogre 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Animal Tales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost Generation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Count of Monte Cristo in the Chateau D’If 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Greek Trilogy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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