Anatomies

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

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

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

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

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

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

  A Snowfall in Berlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nights at the Stray Dog Café 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lorelei 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Goddess of Murderous Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dostoyevsky 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wasteland

     Seven actors make up the cast of Wasteland—4 men (1 playing two roles) and 3 women (1 playing three roles).  The fragmented unit set represents parts of rooms and streets in London and elsewhere, with bits of stairways, platforms, windows at various levels with assorted tables and chairs.  Manikins are scattered about, some seated at tables.  A DL table doubles as Eliot’s writing desk.  Players may enter or exit from “just about anywhere” as the play flows like “a dream made of interconnecting fragments, like a puzzle made of flowing water.”

     The play begins in darkness as we hear a “scratchy old record playing a stately and rather melancholy ragtime tune.”  Lights come up on Eliot at the table as Vivienne, at the edge of the stage, as if in a small boat, trails her hand in the water.  Other cast members simulate a party by the river and we hear girls laughing as Eliot and Vivienne speak in counterpoint before he leaves his desk and she stands, meeting him for the first time.  When a new, livelier song starts, Eliot dances with her, “beautifully.”  Ezra Pound leads Eliot downstage, talking about art and imagination and God being a palimpsest.  Eliot says he may be going back to Harvard because he has been offered a teaching position.  Pound says he should marry Vivienne, stay in London, and be a poet.  Eliot sits at his desk as Pound urges Vivienne to keep him from going to America.  He gives her a peach and encourages her to go to Eliot.  She asks Eliot if he wants to lie down with her, takes a bite of the peach, and goes.  Pound returns with two drinks and asks Eliot what he is writing.  Vivienne comes back and Pound goes off to talk with Henry James.  She complains that Eliot’s Bloomsbury friends are like “a herd of malicious, cannibalistic clothes dummies.”  She asks him to tell her about his childhood and he says that they love each other but that perhaps they are allergic to each other, mentally and physically.  Honking his bicycle horn, Pound rides in and hands Eliot a large brown parcel to give to James Joyce.

    To the sound of French accordion music on an old, scratchy record, Joyce and Eliot meet in a Paris restaurant.  Joyce opens the package and finds a very large pair of battered old brown boots.  Joyce speaks of Pound and writers as assemblers of “rubbish, constructed from the wreckage of old books and wasted lives.”  When Eliot says he has a wife, Vivienne, at the edge of the stage, talks of daughters lost and found, and we hear Mrs. Porter singing from the shadows.  Vivienne tells us she got the chronology mixed up, that it was after the war that Eliot met Joyce.  She moves to sit at the table with the Sitwell manikins as Eliot packs a suitcase.  He asks her to come to America with him to meet his family.  She declines the offer and he says that Bertie Russell will be happy to keep her company.

     After Eliot leaves, she talks to the manikins and then sits for dinner with Bertie, “that lecherous little gargoyle.”  They speak of Eliot and love and Bertie warns her that he is “a rather dangerous fellow,” and she says that in her dreams he’s the Devil.  Eliot and Pound then enter a restaurant and Pound tells Eliot that Bertie goes out every night with Vivienne.  Pound dozes off as Bertie joins Eliot and Vivienne tells the Sitwells that Bertie is ugly but fun.  She sits with the men, saying that when they have tea, Bertie’s the Mad Hatter, Tom’s the March Hare, and she is Alice.  After some conversation about time, God, and three sisters who lived at the bottom of the well, they all move one seat to the right and Eliot and Bertie try to stuff Pound head first into the teapot.  We hear the sound of explosions and sirens as lights flicker and Bertie walks across the stage to sit in the shadows of prison bars.  Vivienne says the sky is full of Zeppelins and the air on the island is thick with the dead.  Vivienne tells the Sitwells that Bertie has left her for a twenty-year-old actress, and Eliot remarks that Bertie has been jailed for opposing the draft.  Vivienne asks Eliot to hold her and when he does she notices his erection.  They kiss and lights fade to the sound of explosions.

     Lights then come up on Bertie talking to the Sitwells about Vivienne and Eliot watching two lesbians who live in the flat across from them, and lights come up on Eliot and Vivienne talking about having sex the previous night.  Eliot suggests that Vivienne and Virginia Woolf might become friends.  Virginia joins Vivienne and they play croquet with flamingo mallets and hedgehogs.  (“Not real creatures, please,” Nigro notes.)  The women talk about Eliot and writing as lights come up on Eliot and Pound walking by the Thames.  Eliot says he has to get away from Vivienne so he can get his head examined and finish the long poem he’s been working on.  Pound takes Vivienne to a restaurant to have dinner with Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas (a manikin).  Lights dim on them and come up on Eliot talking to a manikin (Dr. Vitetel) as we hear, from the shadows, in imagistic counterpoint, the voices of Joyce, Vivienne, Pound, and Miss Stein. Lights fade on the others as Pound reads a manuscript with Eliot watching.  Pound says it is a masterpiece but he needs to take out various parts.  After Pound leaves, Vivienne says that it is very disorienting to be sleeping next to an absolute stranger, her husband, who is a very great poet.  She wonders who she is as they look at each other and the lights fade out on Act One.

     Lights come up on Vivienne alone with the other characters “all around her in the shadows.”  She says Tom is quite famous with his own magazine which she helps edit.  Eliot tells her that the horrible old man in the bowler hat is W. L. Janes who is trying to fix the cuckoo clock Eliot bought for Pound.  Eliot suggests she talk with Janes who tells her he met Eliot in a pub.  Janes works on the clock as Vivienne tells Virginia that she feels as if she’s drowning in quicksand.  We hear the sound of a ticking clock as Eliot sits with Mother Eliot, talking about Vivienne, who enters and says that the cuckoo clock makes noises, burps, grunts, and farts.  Mother assures her that she is not losing her mind and Pound rides in on his bicycle, honking the horn, and handing Mother a bag of walnuts.  Janes enters and Mother hands him the walnuts as they both leave.

     We hear the sound of a thunderstorm as Eliot tells Vivienne that he has taken a vow of celibacy.  Vivienne starts shouting as their dinner guests—Pound, Virginia, and Joyce—enter.  After another thunderclap, Joyce hides under the table and Vivienne says that she is as insane as Tom.  Miss Stein comes on to say that she wants to discuss Vivienne’s sex life, and Joyce says he has lost his spare glass eye.  Vivienne, saying she is mad, runs out.  Eliot says that doctors told Vivienne’s mother that she suffered from moral insanity, which Miss Stein defines as a term used to describe a woman who has sex voluntarily.  Eliot says he doesn’t know what to do, and Miss Stein leaves to comfort Vivienne as the lights fade.

     Miss Stein sits next to Vivienne, telling her that one is lucky to have had the experience of love.  Vivienne says that Tom is “really” driving her insane; Miss Stein replies that that is how we know it is love.  Vivienne joins Janes who is still trying to fix the cuckoo clock and asks him if Eliot ever speaks of her, saying that Janes is her friend, her keeper, like “at a madhouse.  Or a zoo.”  Then she stands, with a book, in front of the desk where Eliot is signing copies.  He signs hers and she asks him if he will come home with her.  Mrs. Porter asks Eliot to sign her book, and we hear the sounds of airplanes and bombs falling as the lights flicker and fade.  Eliot then talks with Joyce and Pound in a Paris café in the early thirties.  Pound goes to find the waiter and Joyce tells Eliot that Pound is getting stranger and stranger and that war and darkness are coming.  Light fades on them and comes up on Vivienne as Janes tells her that she is going to the country for a good, long rest.  We hear birds singing as lights come up on Eliot visiting Pound at St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital in Washington in the late forties.  Pound says that he said terrible things on the radio and thinks it ironic that Eliot and others are promoting the plausible fiction that he is insane to save him from being hung.  He says he has awakened from a dream to find himself old and in disgrace.  Eliot tells him that Vivienne is in a madhouse.  Light fades as we hear the sound of crows.  We see Eliot at night, drinking, as Vivienne appears with flowers.  Eliot tells her that her brother called to say that she had died in her sleep in the asylum.  He says he did a terrible thing, not loving her back and writing a poem instead.  She puts the flowers on the desk and stands behind him with her hands on his shoulders as we hear the scratchy old ragtime record we heard at the beginning.  She says it’s true that we walk in the dark, lost, round and round.  “But then finally we come to a door in the wall.  We put the key in the lock.  Open the door.  And there are girls laughing in the leaves.  This is the garden where all loves end.  All the rest (she pauses), all the rest is merely literature.

Botticelli Venus

Botticelli Venus is a two-act play for seven men and four women with some actors playing two or three parts.  The unit set—representing a Greenwich Village apartment in the present, Botticelli’s studio in Renaissance Florence, and the world inside Botticelli’s paintings– is composed of a labyrinth of steps and empty windows which are also picture frames.  Lights come up on Simonetta/Natalya describing Botticelli’s painting, Primavera, as various characters speak from the window frames or from the shadows and Lorenzo, pounding on the door, calls to her as Natalya, her present-day identity.  Botticelli sits to one side by an easel, drinking, and Lorenzo tells Natalya that she is needed for the opening of the exhibition.  We hear a fanatical voice screaming and nuns moaning while Simonetta explains that she is the Botticelli Venus as Lorenzo de’ Medici appears (Florence, Italy, 1510), identified by Simonetta, and asks why Botticelli isn’t painting.  We hear the voice of Savonarola in the darkness as Lorenzo de’ Medici blames him for burning Botticelli’s paintings and making him stop creating art.  Botticelli says that everything will be destroyed and says that Lorenzo de’ Medici is a hallucination sent by the Devil.  Lorenzo de’ Medici leaves and Simonetta says that he was trying to help.  Botticelli says that Lorenzo de’ Medici is dead and that he doesn’t understand what Simonetta means when she talks about putting herself through grad school as a stripper.  Lorenzo pounds on the door and tells Natalya she will be fired if she doesn’t come out.  When she says she smells something, Botticelli says they are burning his paintings in the square and we hear Savonarola screaming.                     Giuliano de’ Medici enters (Florence, 1470s) and wants Botticelli to paint a portrait of the married Simonetta Vespucci.  After he leaves, Simonetta poses for the portrait and tells him that she is a number of different people and feels that she can almost remember the future.  Giuliano enters as the light fades on Botticelli and Giuliano tries to kiss Simonetta but his brother Lorenzo comes in and tells her not to trust anybody who has money.  Simonetta says she dreams of being hunted in the woods, perhaps by Lorenzo, but his wife, Clarice, and his sister, Bianca, run in giggling, pulling the Romany Girl who tells fortunes from tarot cards and palms.  Looking at Lorenzo’s hand she tells him he will cry at Easter but someone else will bleed.  The women run off and Lorenzo tells Giuliano to leave Simonetta alone because he is making arrangements for him to marry Jacopo Appiani’s daughter.  Simonetta returns and tells Lorenzo that the Romany Girl told his wife that she’ll never be a widow.  Clarice thought that meant that Lorenzo would live forever, and Simonetta says that it just meant that his wife would die first.  The Romany Girl also told Simonetta that she would die soon but would live forever.  After Lorenzo leaves, Giuliano tells Simonetta that, if she loves him, she will meet him at midnight in the alley behind her house.  She watches him walk away and tells Botticelli that he waited until sunrise.  Botticelli tells her that everyone is in love with her and she says he needs to pay attention to the signals people give him.  Vespucci, her husband enters and, after she leaves, he asks the painter if she says anything about Giuliano.  Botticelli says she hasn’t said anything.  Vespucci says he has never been so miserable in his live because he loves his wife but she won’t let him touch her.  He wants Botticelli to find out who she’s sleeping with and when he leaves Simonetta speaks to the painter from one of the empty frames.  He says he is drawing sketches from a Boccaccio story about a girl being eaten by dogs for all eternity.  But when the real girl sees what happens she agrees to marry the man she had previously rejected.  Simonetta says the story is an example of everything that’s wrong about the way women are treated.  She says she is not sleeping with anybody and wants Botticelli to teach her how to paint.  Botticelli says he spent years studying with Fra Lippo Lippi, now dead, who appears eating a chicken leg in one of the frames.  He comes down to Botticelli as three Nymphs join them, draping themselves on Fra Lippo.  He tells Botticelli he can’t be a great artist unless he learns to enjoy women.  He and the Nymphs leave and Simonetta says she wishes she could have known him.  Botticelli tells her to paint whatever she sees.  He says he is afraid of her and that the only thing an artist can do is keep his head down and do his work.  He kisses her, passionately, and she turns to go but comes back and punches him.  He falls backwards holding his nose.  She leaves but comes back, kisses him, and runs out.  Lights fade out on him, ending Act One.

As Act Two begins, Giuliano tells Botticelli he wants him to paint another portrait of Simonetta.  Lorenzo enters and tells them that Simonetta is dead.  He and his brother leave and we hear the sounds of present-day Lorenzo pounding on the door, telling Natalya that the exhibition is going to open in an hour.  Simonetta explains to Botticelli that Natalya “who I used to be in the future but not any more here in the past” works at a museum in New York City that is exhibiting Botticelli’s paintings.  Poliziano appears in one of the frames with the three Nymphs and speaks of lust and love.  Lorenzo pounds on the door and tells Natalya a taxi is waiting.  Botticelli wants them to get out of his head, saying that none of them is real.  Simonetta says that Natalya, the Russian girl, felt that she was the girl in Botticelli’s painting, the Botticelli Venus.  The light fades and comes up on Botticelli brooding and Simonetta watching him.  Her husband, drinking from a bottle, enters and says he poisoned his wife, slowly, and then suffocated her.  He says that she was pregnant although he had never had intercourse with her. Vespucci tells the painter that Giuliano and his brother Lorenzo will be stabbed to death when the priest rings the little bell at the raising of the host during the Easter mass in the cathedral.  Botticelli runs out and lights fade on Vespucci and come up on Pazzi and Bandini taking a sleepy Giuliano to church as Simonetta watches from the shadows.  Giuliano moves upstage with the Romany Girl to look at her flowers.  The bell rings and Pazzi stabs Giuliano again and again.  Bandini and Pazzi run off and Botticelli rests Giuliano’s head in his lap.  In darkness we hear the voice of Savonarola preaching and then light comes up on him in one of the frames with the three Nymphs listening.  Simonetta tells Botticelli that Savonarola is a grotesque lunatic but Botticelli says that he has chosen God since art brings only suffering and pain.  He tells her that after she died he painted her over and over but the emptiness inside him grew and grew.  Simonetta says that to make art is as close to God as we can get because God is an artist.  We hear the sound of loud knocking and two demons enter to take Savonarola into the square to be burnt as a public nuisance.  The Nymphs follow.  Botticelli tells Simonetta that Lorenzo de’ Medici has never been the same since his brother was killed in the cathedral.  She tells him about a girl named Natalya who lived in Siberia and got a scholarship to study art in America, but who was raped and had a child.  The boy left her when he was nineteen and Natalya gradually became, in her head, Simonetta Vespucci, the Botticelli Venus.  Simonetta says the Russian girl is insane and Botticelli says it is his fault that Simonetta died.  We hear more pounding on the door and a modern Lorenzo in a suit enters as Botticelli watches from the shadows.   When Lorenzo tells Simonetta that the Botticelli exhibition opens in one hour, she says she is not Natalya and that her nineteen-year-old son has been stabbed to death in an orange grove in Phoenix.  She tells Lorenzo to go away.  She then tells Botticelli that she is not the Russian woman any more, perhaps never was her.  She says she is the nymph Simonetta and only wants Botticelli.  He says Botticelli is dead and her name is Natalya and she is an artist.  She goes to the easel, looks at him, and begins to paint as the light fades on them and goes out.

 

Anarchy

Anarchy is a two-act play for five men and three women about the trial and execution of Sacco and Venzetti   The simple unit set has a Judge’s bench UC a couple of steps up with a witness stand beside it.  Other locations—jail cells, exercise yard, offices, interrogation rooms, a courtroom, a theatre, a hotel room—are created with a few chairs and tables.  There are no breaks between scenes and no set changes.  As the play begins, Sacco and Vanzetti are on chairs left and right in circles of light and we hear a fusion of interrogations with the voice of the unseen Inquisitor asking them about riding in a car with a gun.  They deny knowing the people they are asked about and insist they have done nothing wrong.  John Rhys Pendragon, a journalist, sits in a chair next to Sacco, saying that he wants to write about him for newspapers.  The light on Vanzetti goes out as Sacco tells Rhys that he writes lies.  Rhys says he has been fired several times for writing the truth and he just wants to tell their side of the story.  Sacco explains why he lied to the police and tells Rhys about his friend Salcedo who was thrown by the police from a seven-story window for being Italian in the wrong neighborhood.  He says they needed a car to dump their Anarchist literature but the car wasn’t ready and then he and Vanzetti got arrested going home on the streetcar.  He asks Rhys how his wife and children will be fed if he is in jail and tells him to write about his “rights.”

Sacco leaves and lights come up on Mrs. Johnson in the witness chair.  She answers the Inquisitor’s questions, saying that the Italians who came for the car seemed nervous and that she feared for her life.  She wonders when she will get her reward.  The light fades on her and comes up on Rhys arriving in his hotel room where his daughter Anne is waiting for him. She wants her father to get her in to see Sacco and Vanzetti so she can write about them.  She says she will never see him again if he doesn’t help her.  Lights fade on them and come up on Angelo Guidobone in the witness chair.  The Inquisitor’s voice asks about Guidobone buying a fish from Vanzetti on Thursday, April 15th.  The light fades on the courtroom and comes up on the prison with Sacco and Vanzetti talking with Rhys and Anne.  Sacco talks about doing plays about truth to raise money for the strikers and teach people about the oppression of the workers.  We hear the sounds of a concertina and a drum as Rosa, Sacco’s wife, enters carrying a baby doll and a man’s hat.  She puts the hat on the ground, saying that she and her husband have written this play to help striking workers.  Sacco puts on a false mustache and hat and picks up a cane.  Rosa asks for help for her starving child and Sacco tells her that her husband should go back to work if he wants their child to eat.  He says that Italians were born to be slaves but she says that the workers will conquer all oppressors of the people.  There is scattered applause as she finishes and as Rosa and Sacco bow a Poor Woman puts a coin in the hat and the lights fade on them and come up on Vanzetti explaining to Anne how Judge Thayer ignored contradictory evidence and bragged about it at a football game.  We hear football music as lights come up on Judge Thayer in the stands, cheering for Dartmouth and speaking to an unseen person beside him, describing “those anarchist bastards” as “murdering opera singing ceiling painting cheese grating ararchistic greasy dago wop sons of bitches” that he wants to hang.  The light switches our attention to Sacco in the witness chair explaining to the unseen Inquisitor that he was in Boston at the time of the shooting.  Then Anne asks Rhys about her mother and says they have to find a way to save Sacco and Vanzetti.  The two men are seen playing bocce in the prison yard as Vanzetti tells Sacco about the Puritans and the Pioneers, both of whom hated art because was an investigation into truth and they were sure they already knew the truth and just wanted to make money and kill people.  He says they want to kill them because they’re Italians and ask questions.  Sacco says he tries to remember his wife but his memories are mixed up with grief.  He says he hasn’t slept with her for seven years; Vanzetti says that he has nobody.  Sacco says he will kill the judge when he gets out and refuses to sign the appeal that Vanzetti has worked on.  Vanzetti leaves and Sacco is left alone as we see Rhys reading a typescript that Anne has written.  He tells her it’s very good but that she needs to put the most important thing up front.  She calls him old=fashioned and storms out.  He smiles as the light fades on him and comes up on Rosa berating Sacco because he won’t sign the paper.  He says they are going to kill him no matter what he does.  Lights fade on them ending Act One.

Act Two opens in the prison visiting room with Medeiros, a prisoner, telling Rhys that he was in the car during the Braintree robbery and Sacco and Vanzetti were not there.  Medeiros says that two Italian guys did the shooting and Polish guy was driving the car.  He wants Rhys to tell somebody.  We hear birdsong and see Judge Thayer with pruning shears singing as he works in his garden.  Rosa enters and shows Judge Thayer a picture of her son and daughter, asking how he can be so evil.  He says he preserves order by destroying the natural world and tells her to go back with her children to whatever filthy sewer she crawled out of.  He leaves her standing as lights come up on Rhys in a cell with Joe Morelli.  Rhys tells Morelli that a witness described Joe’s gang as the ones who committed the Braintree murders.  Morelli says Sacco and Vanzetti will be executed no matter that he says, and Rhys is just trying to get a story to sell more newspapers.     Rosa tries to persuade Sacco to eat something and he finally agrees to have some soup that she pours out for him.                                                                                                                         Anne thinks that Sacco and Vanzetti are completely innocent but Rhys tells her not to get so emotionally caught up in the story that she only pays attention to the evidence that supports her version.  He says she has to be open to both sides of any question.  He says he thinks Vanzetti is probably innocent but he isn’t sure about Sacco. But he must write only what he knows, not what he believes.  He leaves, saying he has an appointment with the governor to try to persuade him not to murder Anne’s friends.  She runs after him.  We see Governor in his office calling out to someone offstage about not letting “that son of a bitch John Rhys Pendragon” in to see him.  He turns and Rhys is already there, asking that Governor at least commute their sentence, but Governor tells him to get out of his office.  Rhys leaves and Governor looks over at Vanzetti, sitting, asking why Governor has come to see him.  Governor says he wants to know the truth and Vanzetti tells him they got convicted because of who they are not for what they did.  Lights come up on a jail cell in Boston with Anne and Dorothy Parker.  Parker tells Anne that her father is the best and loves his daughter more than life itself.  Rhys enters and tells Anne to leave because he has bailed her out.  Parker tells Rhys that Anne is going to be just like him.  Lights fade as they both leave and we hear birdsong as lights come up on Sacco and Vanzetti in the prison yard.  Rhys and Anne enter and Sacco says he and his friends are soldiers, not murderers.  Anne gives Vanzetti a copy of King Lear and Vanzetti says Americans want to kill life every place they find it.  Lights fade on them and come up on Judge Thayer at night staring into the flames that are burning down his house.  Sacco and Vanzetti appear next to him and Judge Thayer realizes he is having a dream.  But Sacco and Vanzetti strap him into the judge’s chair and put a metal helmet on his head.  We see “Horrible Frankensteinian flashes of electricity and buzzing” as lights flicker on and off.  Judge Thayer shakes back and forth and screams in agony as the lights black out.

Rhys, drinking, tells Anne that he put her in a very expensive school so she would not be taken from him when her mother died.  She says she hates him but he folds her in his arms as she cries and the light fades on them.  The plays ends as Rosa, in a small circle of light, speaks to her unseen son, telling him to always remember his father and how brave he was and what his life meant.  “They can’t kill you forever as long as somebody remembers.” The light fades out.

Onegin and Tatyana in Odessa

Onegin and Tatyana in Odessa is a two-act play for four women and three men with two women and two men playing several roles.  The unit set represents a spa in Odessa in the early 1840s, a Russian countryside estate in the 1820s, and a St Petersburg residence in the mid-1820s.  Curved steps lead down from UL and UR balconies which are connected by a curved footbridge.  Bookshelves are under the balcony and left staircase with a sofa and some chairs LC.  Under the footbridge a window with a window seat and DR the garden with trellised rose bower and wooden seat.  DL a writing table with chairs.

We hear Chopin’s Mazurka in A minor, Opus 68, #2, as lights come up on Tatyana on the UL  balcony and Onegin appears at a little distance from her.  Lensky enters DR and looks at Olga sitting on the LC sofa.  Zaretsky and Mama appear on the UR balcony and come down the stairs chatting quietly to join Nurse and The Prince.  The four make their way off as the scene progresses and the music fades.  Onegin tells Tatyana that she hasn’t changed but she doesn’t recognize him and says he is probably thinking about the person he murdered.  He descends the left staircase to talk with Lensky as the action moves back in time twenty years or more.  Onegin says he inherited the country estate from his uncle.  Lensky says he visits because Onegin has so many wonderful books and quotes a Byron poem, adding that he is permanently in love.  Onegin talks about his friend Pushkin having a thing about women’s feet and asks Lensky what goddess he is worshiping.  We hear Mama’s voice calling Olga as Lensky shows Onegin a picture of her, telling him they played together as children and inviting him to visit the family with him.

Time and place shift as Onegin and Tatyana talk of their first meeting and Lensky reads a book.  Nurse enters, telling a story about a rusalka, and then Mama tells Tatyana about being forced to marry and Olga says that perhaps Lensky’s friend will find Tatyana attractive.  Lensky puts down his book and he and Onegin arrive at the Larin house.  Lensky resumes reading as Onegin and Tatyana talk about their first meeting.  Tatyana says that she loved the horrifying stories her Nurse told her.  Nurse enters telling a story about the rusalka, a drowned girl who drowns young men in her hair and then laughs and laughs.  Tatyana says her mother didn’t want her to read and told her that she married the man she was told to and when she had the two girls she was too busy to think about love.  Onegin says he likes Lensky’s innocence and feels protective of him, then moves to one of the two wooden chairs DL to join Lensky as they return home at midnight in a carriage.  Lensky says that he loves and respects Olga but Onegin says he is attracted to Tatyana.

Lights fade on them and come up on the sisters.  Tatyana says she is attracted to Onegin and Olga suggests she write a letter to him.  Nurse tells the girls it is time for bed and Olga goes off.  Tatyana asks the Nurse to tell her a story because she isn’t sick but in love.  As they talk, Lensky leaves and Tatyana asks the Nurse for pen and paper so she can write a letter to Onegin.  She makes the Nurse promise that she will have her grandson deliver the letter.  As Tatyana writes, Lensky enters and gives the letter to Onegin who is reading in his study.  He opens the letter and Tatyana speaks aloud what she has written to him.  She says that she belongs to him and, after Lensky leaves, Onegin speaks of Tatyana and love as she sits writing in the moonlight.  He folds the letter, puts it in his pocket, and goes.

In the garden (DR) Tatyana speaks of waiting to hear from Onegin until Olga rushes in saying that Lensky has arrived, saying that Onegin has been detained. Olga runs off, giggling, and Lensky chases after her.  Tatyana thinks she hears a horse and sees Onegin from the window.  He enters and she has difficulty speaking coherently.  Onegin says he will try to be honest with her and that usually he plays games with women.  But if he had any desire to marry and have children, it would be with her, although he is not worthy of her and would make her miserable.  She leaves and Lensky appears and invites Onegin to come with him to Tatyana’s name-day party.  Tatyana appears in the UL balcony (Odessa) and tells Onegin her dream about a bear carrying her into a hut where she sees monsters sitting around a table.  As she speaks we hear the sounds she describes—dog barking, rooster crowing, goat neighing, bones rattling, pig squealing, bird squawking, goose honking, and a stringed instrument playing the folk song ‘Kalinka.’  Onegin is in charge of the monsters and, in her dream, moves to her when she opens the door.  The monsters scream MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE, but when Onegin shouts MINE there is instant silence.  Tatyana says the monsters vanish and she and Onegin are alone when Olga and Lensky run in.  They kiss and. angry, still in the dream, Onegin stabs Lensky and Olga screams.  Tatyana says she woke from the dream shaking in terror.  Onegin asks who she saw in her dream and she says she saw nobody as the lights fade and go out, ending the first act.

We hear the Chopin Mazurka as lights come up on Tatyana and Olga with Onegin in shadows.  Nurse comes in and tells Tatyana she needs to stop dreaming and start eating.  She says Olga has found a nice young man and it’s time Tatyana got married.  Nurse leaves and Olga tells Tatyana that Lensky said that Onegin will be coming to Tatyana’s name-day party.  Onegin and Lensky enter.  Onegin asks Olga to dance and they move into the shadows and then back into the light  Olga says she wants to do it again and she and Onegin whirl off into the shadows.  Tatyana says, “No,” when Lensky asks her if she wants to dance.  Olga and Onegin return and then dance off again.  Tatyana says she will dance with Lensky but he says he doesn’t feel well and leaves.  Tatyana and then Olga follow him.

We hear morning birdsong and pounding on a door as Onegin lets Zaretsky in.  He hands Onegin a note in which Lensky challenges him to a duel.  Lensky feels that Onegin insulted his honor by dancing with Olga.  Onegin says he was trying to teach Lensky a lesson about women and asks Zaretsky if he can persuade Lensky to forget this nonsense.  Zaretsky says he tried but Lensky wants to meet Onegin tomorrow morning by the mill.  Zaretsky and Onegin drink from a flask as Lensky and Olga talk about her dancing.  They go off DR as Tatyana watches from the balcony and asks Onegin why he danced with her sister all night.  He says he was teaching Tatyana not to trust men.  We hear birdsong as Onegin joins Zaretsky and Lensky at the mill.  Zaretsky says he will be a second for both men and opens a box with two guns.  Onegin picks his, then Lensky, and Zaretsky has them stand back to back and counts to thirty-two as the men walk off DR and DL.  In the silence we hear a loud gun shot and the sounds of crows cawing and flapping away.  Zaretsky looks DL and DR and walks off DR.  Onegin comes back from DL and Zaretsky returns to say that Lensky is dead, shot through the heart.  He takes the gun from Onegin and goes off DR.  Tatyana, from the balcony, asks Onegin who fired first.  Onegin says he did and remarks that his “ugly little friend Pushkin,” who joked about writing a poem about Onegin, also died in a duel over a woman. Tatyana says that Olga married an officer not long after Lensky’s death.  Tatyana says she used to visit Onegin’s library after Onegin ran off, and then her mother took her to Moscow to find her a husband.  Onegin says he went back to St. Petersburg and attended a ball where he saw a woman who looked very much like Tatyana.  We hear the sound of the Chopin Mazurka as guests at The Prince’s ball move back and forth on the stage.  The Prince tells Onegin that Tatyana is his wife.  The Prince leaves and Onegin tells Tatyana that her husband used to bully him at school  The Prince returns, suggests that Onegin see a doctor, and goes off to see to his guests.  Onegin asks Tatyana why she married such a blockhead.  She says she has learned to play a part and pulls away from Onegin when he tries to touch her, asking him what he wants.  He says he doesn’t know and she moves into the shadows, her back to Onegin.  He speaks to her about falling in love with her and writing her a passionate letter.  She goes to the table, picks up the letter, sits on the sofa and begins to read as Onegin speaks the letter.  He says he lost everything that mattered to him.  When the first letter got no response, he wrote her a second, and a third, dreaming about her looking at the moon.  He decided he had to see her and went to her house.  She asks what he wants and he says he doesn’t feel well and falls to his knees.  He cries, saying he is sorry, but she tells him to get up and stop blubbering.  She says that when they met in the garden he gave her a lecture about how good it was of him to not take advantage of her.  She says she would give up all her money and power to be back in the garden.  She says she loves him but she will never betray her husband.  She leaves and Onegin tells The Prince that he is going on a journey “somewhere else.”

Tatyana appears on the UL balcony and tells Onegin that it was all a long time ago.  He says that she humiliated him out of revenge and, since they are even, they can start over.  He tries to explain why he shot Lensky, and says she is the only person he has ever loved.  Tatyana says she will give him another chance but Onegin says he has to go.  Tatyana says that he just needed to win the game, to get her to admit she still wanted him so he could humiliate her the way she humiliated him.  She says she really pities him and goes.  Onegin wonders why he rejected her and says that he will never know.  He says he thought of publishing some of Lensky’s poems as an act of penance, but the poems are “just terrible.”