There are two characters—Rossi, a police detective, and Lydia, a young woman— seated at a wooden table under an overhead light in Rusalka. Lydia is describing a strange woman to Rossi, a woman who believed there were monsters everywhere and that the Devil was after her. In answer to Rossi’s question, she tells him the woman was seeing a Russian guy but he moved to Texas. She says the last time she saw the woman was in a dream and that dreams are real life that hasn’t happened yet. The woman, she says, could not have gone to see the Russian guy because she could only live in places where it rains. The Russian guy called her Rusalka, a nymph who lives in the water and sometimes in the woods and lures men to their destruction by tangling them in her long red hair and drowning them or sometimes tickling them to death. But, Lydia says, the woman said she was no longer a Rusalka and was dating some other guy. Rossi asks Lydia if she killed the woman because when Lydia came in she was covered in blood. Lydia says it rained Devil’s blood and she and the woman danced naked in the rain. The woman, she says, didn’t go to Texas to be with the Russian guy because she liked this other guy. Lydia says she knows he is not some random police detective but the Devil, the other guy the woman was seeing. Rossi says that Lydia’s punishment is that she will never see the woman again. Lydia says his punishment is that the woman doesn’t love him, but loves her, and she will never tell him where she’s gone, no matter what he does to her. She dares him to do something to her and they look at each other as the lights dim.
The setting for Pinocchio is a table in an Italian restaurant where Gloria and Pinocchio are having their first date. When Pinocchio tells her he is a puppet she confesses that she is nearsighted and didn’t wear her glasses. He says his eyes were carved and then painted and he is a puppet who has come to life. He starts telling the woman about being a piece of wood and being sold to an old character named Geppetto who made puppets. He explains that all inanimate objects are alive and conscious to some degree and that he became more and more conscious as Geppetto carved him. When Pinocchio’s nose kept growing, Geppetto kept cutting the end off, saying that he was going to be a wicked boy and a born liar. He tells her that when Geppetto carved his mouth he laughed at him and stuck out his tongue. With his newly-carved hands he ripped off his wig, and when Geppetto finished his feet he kicked him in the balls. When Geppetto taught him to walk he ran out the door and down the street, chased by Geppetto who was arrested by the police and put in jail. Pinocchio tells her that he got hungry and found an egg, but the egg cracked open and a chicken crawled out and flew away. He says the chicken is an allegory of the soul trapped in the body. Then, Pinocchio says, there was a storm and he pounded on the door of an old woman and asked for shelter but she poured a pot full of piss on him and he ran until he stepped in a pot hole, falling on his face, and a cat ate his feet. He managed to crawl back to Geppetto’s shop and found a talking cricket who spoke to him as if he was telling him the secret of life. But when the cricket started singing, Pinocchio says, he squashed him with a hammer. Geppetto then returned from jail and cleaned Pinocchio up and carved new feet for him and started talking to him as if he were his son. When Pinocchio promised Geppetto he would go school, the old man sold his only winter coat to buy a spelling book. Pinocchio tells the woman that he sold the book to get a ticket to a puppet show so he could socialize with his own kind. When she questions his actions he says that meat people like her don’t understand that everything is alive and conscious. She says she wants to go but he goes on about consciousness perhaps being an illusion and imagination creating love and suffering. She says all she wanted was spaghetti and meatballs and a glass of wine, but when she tries to leave he grabs her arms and tells her that everybody is faking and that a blue-haired fairy once loved him but he ran away and she died of grief. The woman asks him to let go of her arms and bewails the fact that she always ends up with weirdos and losers. Pinocchio apologizes and tells her that he can’t lie or his nose starts to grow. He says people don’t want to hear the truth; they want puppet shows, comforting lies. She leaves and Pinocchio says that puppets have wooden heads and no hearts, just like people. The truth, he says, doesn’t make you free; it just isolates and then kills you. He says he misses that damned cricket.
Three men and three women seated on wooden chairs provide the cast and setting for Rwanda. Each actor has a spotlight that comes up before the actor speaks. The male characters are Captain (middle-aged), Accused, and Brother; the women are Accuser, Witness, and Mother. Captain asks Accuser if she sees “him,” and Accused is identified as the killer of her children. Accused denies the accusation, saying that it is a mistake. Captain orders him taken away and killed but the light comes up on Witness who says Accused didn’t do it, but she doesn’t know who did. Accuser says that Witness is Accused’s whore. Witness then says that she saw her Brother killing the children. The light comes up on Brother and then on Mother. Brother denies killing anyone and Mother says Witness hates him and has been in a mental hospital. Witness agrees that she was in the hospital after she saw what her brother did. Accuser then agrees with Witness that Brother killed her children. Captain says that both Accused and Brother will be shot. The lights go out on them as the Mother pleads with Accuser and Witness to change their stories. We hear the sound of two gunshots. Captain says they have a hundred more accusations to deal with before sunset. If they run out of bullets, they can strangle them. Accuser says the Captain killed her children, that she can see his killer’s eyes. Witness invites Accuser to come with her to the Mountains of the Moon where they will drink the warm blood of their children.
Another two-character play (1m, 1w), Fundevogel, is written in the free-verse form Nigro uses to indicate rhythm to the actors. We hear birds singing and see a man, Fundevogel, sitting in a chair stage right looking out a window. Near him is another chair with a large rag doll in it. Lisa enters stage left and asks why Fundevogel is sad and lonely when she is there and will always be there. She talks as if Fundevogel is a bird that her father found in the forest and brought home. She wonders if Fundevogel is afraid that the cook will cut off his head and cook him in boiling water.. She tells him to be happy because she and he will run away and, when chased by the cook’s three servants, will metamorphose into a rose tree. The servants will be beaten by the cook who will tell them that they should have broken the tree in half and brought back the rose and will look for them again. But he will turn into a chapel and she into a chandelier. Then the cook will come looking for them and this time he will become a pond and she will become a duck. When the cook tries to drink the water in the pond, she will grab her by the neck with her duck’s beak and drown her. Lisa grabs the rag doll with her teeth, shaking it, then throwing it down and strangling it. When Fundevogel pulls her away from the doll and holds her tenderly she asks if he is sad because she is insane. He says, “Yes.” She picks up the doll, puts it back on the chair, and sits where Fundevogel had been sitting. We hear birdsong again as Fundevogel starts off left but stops, turns to Lisa, and asks her why she is sad, saying that he will never leave her.
A short play for a man and a woman, Film Noir is set in a director’s office furnished with a desk, a chair, a smaller chair, and a leather couch. The year is 1939. The director, Hatch, remains seated behind his desk throughout and the couch is necessary even though it is not used. Jane, the actress, in response to Hatch’s questions, says that she had a wonderful honeymoon in Cornwall. Hatch says he no longer has sexual relations with his wife because she is afraid, since he is grotesquely fat, that he will crush her. Hatch says that Cornwall, the land of demons, would be a “delightful” place to murder his wife, causing her to fall of a cliff. He says he picked Jane for the role because of her innocence. He says he has a fantasy about living with Jane in a house in Cornwall, joining in a “deep and genuine sensual communion.” Jane wants to leave but he orders her to stop. He tells her that the thought of making love with him disgusts and horrifies her. Jane erupts in a tirade, berating him for abusing his position, calling him a fat, disgusting pig. Hatch replies, “Excellent.” He says he wants her to remember exactly how she felt when she was shrieking at him and to recreate it in the scene they are shooting tomorrow. Jane says she can recreate what she felt but that what he did was horrible. He says it worked and that’s what matters in life and art. She leaves and Hatch bangs his head three times on the desk, calms himself, and says that he must really get a place in Cornwall.
The Last of the Dutch Hotel is a shorter script for a man and a woman, Harry Cust and Lady de Grey, both a bit past their prime. They are seated at a table on the terrace of a Dutch seaside resort motel. It is autumn and we hear the sounds of the ocean and gulls, and “an old scratchy recording of ‘Au fond du temple saint’ from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.” Lady de Grey complains about the sausages they were served for breakfast and notes that some of the guests have disappeared. Harry says that he has tried to talk with the staff but they don’t seem to speak English or even Dutch. Lady de Grey doesn’t like the way the waiter with an eye patch looks at her. Harry doesn’t believe her when she tells him that the summer house where they used to meet has been torn down. Nor does he believe her when she tells him that an entire wing of the hotel has been abandoned. Lady de Grey thinks the handwriting of a note she received resembles Harry’s love notes to her years earlier. The note says: “Where were you on the 19 of October?” Neither is sure if that is today. Lady de Grey says she saw a man that is dead walking by the trees. She complains about the incessant rain and cold and Harry notices that the bathing machines and life lines have been removed. Lady de Grey wonders if they have wasted their lives. She notices something, a seal, a walrus, in the water, but then thinks that two people are copulating. Harry’s vision is failing but he thinks it is a large mass of seaweed moved by the tide. Neither can remember when their affair began and each asks if the other killed Lady de Grey’s first husband. Harry looks through his spyglass at the object in the water and discovers that the couple is a young version of Lady de Grey and himself. Taking the spyglass Lady de Grey sees the couple and also a creature moving rapidly toward them. Harry is preoccupied with the waiter staring at them with something in his hand. Lady de Grey screams that the monster is dragging the couple into the ocean. Harry says that the waiter has a meat cleaver. Lady de Grey says that the monster is devouring the couple and Harry tells her that he thinks he knows what’s on the menu for lunch.
An even longer play for two women, Gorgons, uses blackouts, appropriately, to separate the scenes as in a movie. The simple unit set contains a sofa, a bed, a makeup table with mirrors, a staircase, a few chairs and a table. Action is continuous and music plays during the very short blackouts. The characters of the title are Ruth and Mildred, actresses who have been in the movie business for a long time. Ruth visits Mildred backstage after a stage performance to offer her a script that Ruth thinks would make a good movie, but she needs Mildred to play opposite her. The women insult each other and agree that they have never been friends, but Mildred says she will read the script that Ruth thinks will put them both “back on top” again. Ruth says that Mildred will play the sister who is the “washed up, psychotic bitch” that the sisters live in an old Gothic mansion, were once a famous tap-dancing act called Enid and Bunny, and that they both loved a handsome, tap-dancing comedian named Bob. When Ruth thinks she sees a rat, Mildred walks over and steps viciously on it. We hear the rat’s squeal and, after the blackout, “rather harrowing Hitchcockian thriller music.” The music ends as the lights come up on Mildred (Bunny) at the top of the Gothic mansion staircase in a fright wig and housecoat. She wonders where Bob is, and Ruth (Enid) comes on in a wheelchair to tell her that Bob sent her a present, in a box in the shadows at the top of the stairs. Mildred/Bunny opens the box and discovers Bob’s head which she throws down the stairs. Ruth/Enid asks Nigel, the director of the movie, if they can shoot the scene again because the head didn’t bounce the way she wanted. She throws the head back to Mildred/Bunny and she reprises the scene, throwing the head more forcefully. But Ruth/Enid is not satisfied and throws the head back up to Mildred/Bunny. Tired, complaining of sore feet, Mildred wants to leave but Ruth/Enid persuades her to stay and have a turkey sandwich that she made. The women talk of their unsuccessful relationships with men, their absent children, and resume their work on the scene as the lights go to black and we hear “ominous, harrowing music.” In an eerie moonlight effect in the Gothic mansion, Ruth/Enid wheels on her chair, asking for Bunny. Mildred/Bunny enters, dragging an ax, telling Ruth/Enid that if she is afraid she can get up and run away. Ruth/Enid insists that she cannot walk and screams loudly as Mildred/Bunny gets close to her with the upraised ax. The scream is too loud for Mildred, who breaks character and asks Nigel if they can take a break. The women insult each other’s acting ability, appearance, and sexual behavior. Mildred thinks that Ruth hates her because Mildred slept with French, one of Ruth’s husbands whom she barely remembers. Mildred suggests that they do their work like “the old warhorses” they are and be done with it. She asks that in the baked rat scene Ruth/Enid remember that Mildred has a herniated disc and will need help getting Ruth/Enid out of the bed. We hear ominous music in the blackout and then see Ruth/Enid in the bed, the wheel chair just out of her reach. Mildred/Bunny comes on with a dinner tray with a covered dish on it. Ruth/Enid screams when she lifts the cover and sees a baked rat. Ruth/Enid says she needs to make a phone call and asks for help getting into her wheelchair. As Mildred/Bunny tries to move her, Ruth/Enid makes her body a dead weight and Mildred screams and falls to the floor with Ruth on top of her. Mildred tells Nigel to call an ambulance and we hear the siren in the blackout. The lights come up on Mildred in bed. Ruth comes in with a box of chocolates, apologizing, and hoping that they can finish the movie. They decide that what they both love is the work, although Mildred prefers the theatre to movies. But then they start trading insults again only to realize that they need each other. Ruth says that she likes sex, and Mildred says that sex is horrible. Ruth agrees, but then the insults continue. Ruth says she was born into a large, poor, immigrant family, unloved. Mildred shares the information that she inherited a Puritanical streak from her New England family who disowned her when she said she wanted to be an actress. Ruth helps Mildred out of bed toward the bathroom and, left alone in the light, carries on a conversation with Mildred in the darkness. Ruth regrets the fact that her children loathe her and Mildred says she can’t talk to her daughter without hearing her own mother’s voice squawking. Ruth asks Mildred to help her finish the movie and we hear the toilet flushing and then in the blackout the sound of a powerful orchestra. In a spotlight, dressed up, holding an envelope, Mildred announces that the winner of the Best Actress Academy Award is Ruth St. Ives for Gorgons. Mildred smiles grotesquely as she gives Ruth the statuette and steps back for Ruth’s acceptance speech. In a long litany of people she is thankful to, Ruth mentions her cockatoos and her cat, Mr. Poopy, but not Mildred. The music and applause fade in the blackout and the lights come on Ruth’s house. We hear crickets and a loud banging on the door. Ruth, in a robe, lets in Mildred, still in her gown, rather drunk, furious that Ruth didn’t mention her and deliberately humiliated her. She grabs the Oscar and Ruth tries to get it back. They struggle and fall over behind the sofa. We see Mildred’s arm, holding the statue, come up and then down, violently, several times and we hear Ruth’s screams. After a silence, Mildred stands, spattered with blood, holding the bloody statuette. She compliments Ruth on her death scene performance. We hear sirens and Mildred explains that she probably set something off when she climbed over the barbed wire fence. A bright light shines into the room and Mildred takes it for a spotlight and speaks to the Academy, thanking them for the award. She concludes by saying that movies are like life, futile and stupid, but “when they’re over, what else have we got?” Lights out.
The Watchers is a longer one-act play set in a room on the upper floor of an old building in a city. There is a table littered with pizzas and meatball sandwiches. On the table is an old phone; there are two wooden chairs facing the audience. The two men, Johnny Murphy and Joe Antonelli, have binoculars and as the action begins Antonelli, the taller of the two, is looking through his binoculars at the auditorium darkness while Murphy is finishing a piece of pizza. Murphy tells Antonelli that he is lucky because women like him and says that the “guy” they are looking for will never show up. Antonelli says that he sees the girl. Looking at her with his binoculars, Murphy says she is a sweet girl and wonders if it is her place. The men talk about a girl named Mary, skunks, crows, David Hume and billiard balls, nicknames, the possibility of someone watching them as they watch others, . The girl apparently disrobes to take a shower and Murphy is convinced that she knows she is being watched. Antonelli suggests that Murphy’s idea of an infinite regress of people watching other people could be a circle, a universe that is finite but unbounded. Murphy wonders if what they are doing is all they have ever done, that what they think is their past is an illusion, that they are in a room in hell. Antonelli says that even if they are being watched, if they are not aware of it, it doesn’t matter. Murphy wonders why they are watching, or what the people did, or the person they should report to, or when they last got paid. When he asks Antonelli what he wants, Antonelli replies that he wants Murphy to shut up. Antonelli says that he wants to touch the girl they are watching, or at least be in the same room with her. He says that when Murphy goes to the bathroom, he called her on the phone but hung up when she answered. He thinks though that the call had meaning for her. He says he remembered the girl’s phone number, but he doesn’t know how, and he thinks he used to know her. He thinks he might try to bump into her on the street and ask directions, but Murphy says he knows he can’t do that because it would be fraternization which is against the rules. Murphy says that maybe he can’t keep quiet because he wants Antonelli to kill him The telephone begins ringing, again and again, until Antonelli picks it up. No one is there. Looking through his binoculars, Antonelli says that he thinks he sees a man in the shadows. Murphy thinks that he and Antonelli have been set up by unknown persons for unknown reasons. He says that he saw Antonelli crying as the man and the woman across the street were “doing the act of darkness.” Antonelli denies it but Murphy believes the phone call was to make sure they were still in the room and that someone is coming for them. Antonelli loses his temper and tells Murphy he doesn’t want to look any more, that he wants to be blind. There are five loud knocks on the door, a pause, five more, a pause as the men look at each other, then three very loud knocks and blackout.
In Hagridden, another Pendragon-related short play, two members of the DeFlores traveling carnival show in the 1920s–Broglio, a strongman in his forties, and Carmelita, his wife, in her thirties–are talking at night. In the darkness we have heard a scratchy recording of Chaliapin singing Mephistopheles from Gounod’s Faust, and as the lights come up we see Broglio, wearing only his trousers, drinking at a table while Carmelita, in her slip, sits on the bed reading a novel by the light of an old lantern. Broglio says he dreams of an enormous moth fluttering behind him and complains of Carmelita reading penny dreadful novels about ridiculous people who do monstrous things to one another. He complains that she is always picking at him, but she says he should read more and then reads aloud a passage from the novel. She thinks the passage is beautiful and says she escapes into fantasy because her life in the carnival is a mind-numbing pandemonium. Speaking his thoughts aloud, Broglio says that in the worst of her books a shirtless man with bulging muscles and wild eyes strangles a woman wearing only a slip. He speaks again of the moth leaving its horrible, choking powder all over him. Carmelita describes the book in which the crazed husband strangles his wife and puts her body in a trunk which he dumps in a pond. When he returns to his bedroom the woman is there reading a book to him about a man who strangles his wife and puts her in a trunk. She says the story has a kind of circularity, an ambiguity, but Broglio says that that’s not right, that stories should have endings with certain meanings. Carmelita says the interesting thing is whether the woman is really dead or not. Perhaps she escaped from the trunk or perhaps she comes back as a ghost, a figment of his tortured imagination come back to haunt him because he is torn by guilt and because he still desires her. Or, she says, perhaps it’s a game in which the wife picks at, teases, the husband to pull him back into the world. She speaks of a strong man being afraid of a moth and teases Broglio about a former lover. Broglio tells her to stop and begins waving his arms around as if tormented by moths. Carmelita says that he strangled his wife Carmelita not for sleeping with Ulysses DeFlores but for never letting him forget that she allowed Jack Basileus to deflower her in a hammock when she was a girl. She puts the book down as Broglio moves toward her and puts his hands around her neck. Strangling her, he pulls her up and kisses her lips as the light fades and goes out.
In Lightning Rods, the two fathers that Margaret mentioned in Gazebo, Silas Quiller, her father, and Bert Astor, Gretchen’s father, both 55, are on a downsloping rooftop in 1919. Silas is putting up lightning rods and Bert is sitting, watching him. We hear the sound of thunder in the distance. Bert says that a storm is coming and that he came up on the roof because he wanted to see a man dumb enough to put up lightning rods in a thunderstorm. He asks if Silas is bothered by people talking about their relationship, of Silas building a house next door for Bert and his wife. When Silas asks Bert to get him a lightning rod, Bert refuses, and Silas gets it himself as Bert warns him to be careful. Bert talks about his dead wife, Barbary, who had “tits for the ages,” who lived in the poorest area in town, and who had a reputation for being the “biggest slut in Pendragon County.” Silas, he says, married the petite Potdorf girl from a land poor but respectable old farm family, and he says that if Silas is bothered by his wife’s family then he and Silas could just kill them. He wonders, since the storm is getting closer, if Silas would like to go inside and take turns screwing his wife, or his daughter. Silas tells him to shut up and after a pause Bert remarks that he misses his wife who got into a tub and cut her throat. He says that Silas actually seemed to like his wife while Bert could never stand her (although he does enjoy fucking her). Silas asks Bert if he loves his children, and Bert replies that Clyde and Gretchen could be anybody’s children. He asks Silas if he loves his children and when Silas says he does Bert wonders which of Silas’ children are his. He says Maggie looks like her mother, Con looks like Bert’s dead brother, and Clyde looks like a moose. He says neither his son Clyde nor Silas’ son Clyde have as much brain as ear wax and asks why Silas named his first-born Clyde. Silas says it was after his mother’s father who died in the Battle of the Wilderness. Silas again asks Bert if he loves his children and Bert says that that is an awfully funny question coming from a man who is putting up lightning rods with big ass bolts of lightning coming towards them. Silas says that Bert’s son is engaged to Silas’ daughter and his son is engaged to Bert’s daughter. Silas tells Bert that he walked in on his daughter while she was taking a bath and told her to lock the door in the future. Silas says that Bert’s daughter is troubled and asks what Bert did to her. Bert says that Silas is feeling remorse for the stealing and raping and killing they did out west and tells Silas he has to turn off that part of his brain that feels bad about it. He says that’s the secret of success in America. Silas says the sight of his naked daughter’s body in the bath brought it all back to him. Bert wants to get off the roof before they’re both fried like a couple of pork chops. He says he’s on the roof because Silas is the only friend he has. Silas asks Bert if he came to where Silas was living to blackmail him about the past. Bert says that Silas is his only friend and that they have things, memories, between them. Silas asks if Bert loves his daughter and when Bert says every chance he gets Silas tells him to come over to help put up the lightning rod. He asks Bert if he loved his wife and if he wants his daughter to end up the same way. He orders Bert to help him. As we hear the sound of the storm approaching, Bert says his wife was lonesome and lost when he met her and he told her to sleep with Silas, even though she didn’t want to, because he was sleeping with Silas’ wife, even though he didn’t like her. He says his daughter used to trust him but some things you got to put out of your head. Lightning flashes and thunder is very close as Bert moves shakily to Silas, slips, and clutches both hands around the lightning rod as he falls on the wet roof. Silas stands holding the lightning rod and tells Bert when he asks that he is Bert’s friend. There is an “enormous lightning bolt and thunderclap” as the lights go to black.