Another two-character play, Annabel Lee, takes place around midnight in the office of Reynolds, an English professor, late forties, and a student, Annabel, in her early twenties. Lights come up on Reynolds drinking at his desk.. Annabel says she wants to talk with him about her paper on Poe’s poem, ‘Annabel Lee.’ He tells her it’s late and she should go home and write her paper. She says that she was named after the poem and that the poem was an inspiration for Nabokov when he wrote Lolita. She talks more about the poem, but Reynolds says he is very tired and doesn’t care what she writes her paper about. She says she thought the poem might mean a lot to him because his daughter died recently and his wife left him. She says she thinks the narrator of the poem is unreliable because he feels guilty. She says that Reynolds is lonely and mentally undresses her in class. She says Poe died in a drunken stupor raving about looking for somebody named Reynolds, and she thinks Poe was talking to her teacher, telling him that love is stronger than anything. She says she stopped taking her medication and tells him that she knew his daughter in high school, that she wrote beautiful poetry about him. Annabel tells Reynolds to forgive his wife for sleeping with someone else and try to love somebody else. She says he needs what she needs, company, the illusion of contact. He tells her the angels will kill her if she gets too close to him, but she says, “Until then it is a poem,” and rests her head on his shoulder as the light goes out and we hear the sound of the wind.
In the darkness, as Charlie and the Siberian Monkey Goddess (2w) begins, we hear the sound of an old film moving through a projector and a scratchy recording of “The Oceana Roll,” and then, as flickering lights come up, we see Charlie (Chaplin) in the tramp outfit with mustache, cane, and derby nearby. We hear Anastasia’s voice and as the film effect and music fade we see Charlie seated on the floor in front of the couch working on the fork and dancing rolls routine on the coffee table. Anastasia comes into the light asking for his name. She wants him to spell “Chaplin” and questions his identity. He says his mother told him stories were powerful but dangerous. He says she spent time in the madhouse and his father was a drunk. He tells her how he first appeared on stage and does an imitation of the terrified child he remembers dancing and singing, “The Honeysuckle and the Bee.” She asks if he has always been more comfortable pretending to be somebody else, but he says he didn’t pretend; he would just turn into that person for a time. He left the stage because he hated the audience, but he loved the camera right away because you could do as many takes as you wanted and only show the best ones. He says he became the Little Tramp, the character he created out of scraps of discarded clothing. He tells Anastasia that she is playing the role of a person whose job it is to find out who’s playing his role, that they are in a movie, that reality is a movie. She wants him to prove he is Charlie Chaplin and says he knows that Charlie Chaplin is a mask he wears to protect himself. She says she is a doctor and they are in an institution for the mentally deranged. Charlie says he is crazy enough to be a genius but not crazy enough to be happy. He says in making movies he is the dictator. She says he hasn’t proved that he is Charlie Chaplin and she could say she was the Siberian Monkey Goddess, Empress of all created things, because anybody can claim to be anybody. She says if he admits he’s not Charlie Chaplin she will admit she’s not the Siberian Monkey Goddess. She says the only way for her to help him break free from his delusion is to confuse him in a more constructive way. She says he has assumed a false identity because he doesn’t want to be who he is. She says he is not, never has been, and never will be Charlie Chaplin. He says if she is the Siberian Monkey Goddess she should have bananas, and she gets two bananas from the desk. She explains why he has chosen the Tramp character to hide behind and he tells her she is a patient pretending to be a doctor pretending to be a Siberian Monkey Goddess. She says they are both claiming false identities, and when she says she is the Grand Duchess Anastasia, he says she is dead. “So is Charlie Chaplin,” she says. But since they are not dead, she is not the Grand Duchess and he is not Charlie Chaplin. When he tries to get away she grabs his coat and shakes him, then notices that he’s got breasts and is not even a man. Charlie says the only person who gets to decide who he is is “me.” Anastasia says she accepts his argument and that if he says he is Charlie Chaplin he is a man, and if he is a man then he likes women and finds women attractive. She drops her dress and sits on the couch with Charlie and takes off her stockings. She takes off Charlie’s shoes, coat, shirt, and pants. She says he is a frightened little girl who doesn’t want to remember her seducer and has taken on the role of the little Tramp who has complete control of his world. She starts putting on Charlie’s pants, shirt, coat, and shoes. She puts her hair up and covers it with the hat, then rips off Charlie’s mustache and sticks it on her upper lip, saying that she is Charlie Chaplin. She twirls the cane and with a Chaplinesque walk starts offstage, singing the lyrics to “The Honeysuckle and the Bee” as she disappears into the upstage darkness. Charlie huddles on the floor by the sofa, rocking back and forth saying, “I’m nobody,” over and over, then, “This is where I came in.” We hear the harmonium and clarinet playing the song as the lights fade and go out.
In Muse, Jasmine speaks to a lover, telling him that if she stayed he would always want more than she could give, that he would get tired of her. She knows he wants her to leave where she is and come to live with him. She asks, if she is his muse, where is hers? She says he told her that she was the whole encyclopedia and everything in it, that she is the girl in his head, the Anima Mundi, the last tarot card, the naked girl who is the World. She says that perhaps there is some reason why he should be worried about her, but that his job is to write while he can because even when she’s gone she is still in his head. She says she will stay for a little while but will not unpack her clothes. Perhaps, she says, she could be his muse and he could be hers. She says she is going to kiss him, or would, but he is not “here.”
In Just Out the Corner of her Eye, Jasmine tells us that she runs away a lot. She doesn’t want to, but she feels something closing in on her and, just before it’s about to get her, she runs. She says she has always seen patterns, signs, but doesn’t know what they mean. She thinks that God perhaps constructed the universe as a kind of puzzle for humans to solve, but he also may use demons to spy on those who have a special gift for seeing patterns in the fabric of things, and when people get close to the truth the demons come to get them. She says that when she’s about to find love, or happiness, or peace, convincing herself that no one is spying on her, she always catches a glimpse of the demons, just out of the corner of her eye, and she has to run away. She thinks that perhaps we all carry force fields around with us, and when these fields touch, interpenetrate, it’s like a lightning storm. Whenever she begins to feel happy, she hears the demons whispering and sees evidence of their presence everywhere. She says she is leaving to find a place to hide although she thinks they will always find her. She says that, for all she knows, “you” could be one of them. If not, “if you just look quick enough, you can catch a glimpse of them. Just out the corner of your eye.”
In his latest collection of nine monologues, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Other Plays, Nigro dedicates three—the title one, the fifth, and the ninth—to Anna Contessa, and the performer in all three is named Jasmine, a woman of 28. In the first monologue, the woman says she likes being looked at but also finds it horrible. She says she has been looked at and desired so much that she no longer knows who to trust. When things get too much for her she remembers a woods near where she lived when she was a little girl. She would go there to find peace and, in the early dark of a winter evening, she could hear the snow falling and she would think of her favorite poem and feel “this unspeakable, unearthly joy.” But lately, she says, she can’t find that memory and is trying to find the door in her head that will open on to that memory and everything will be so still that you can hear the snow falling.
Jade, in The Wood Where Things Have No Names, is described as a young woman in a garden in winter and she begins her monologue as if she had been speaking earlier: “So she goes through the mirror to the room on the other side where everything is reversed and time behaves strangely.” She speaks of how everything is jumbled up and things are not what they seem, that you forget what you want to remember and remember what you want to forget so that all the good things disappear and only the bad things stay. Something is always wrong on the other side of the looking-glass. She says the test of whether anything is real or not is if it makes you happy. If it does, then it isn’t real. Being in love, she says, is like writing a play in which everyone is miscast, but you don’t realize it until half way through the second act. She says it is beginning to snow and in the wood where things have no names, there is no future and no past, only a perfect whiteness. You look in the mirror and nobody is there.