don nigro

   american Playwright

     Don Nigro (rhymes with high-grow) lives and writes near his birthplace in the rolling hill country southeast of Canton, Ohio.  He received a B.A. degree in English from the Ohio State University and an M.F.A. in dramatic arts from Iowa University.  His plays are published by Samuel French, Inc.  Listed below are plays completed before January 1, 2002.  An asterisk indicates a play is available in typescript from the publisher.  Following this listing are descriptions of plays completed since Jan. 1, 2002.

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Animal Salvation                                                          Joan of Arc in the Autumn

Balloon Rat*                                                                  Labyrinth*

Border Minstrelsy                                                        Lovecraft*

Broadway Macabre                                                      Madeline Nude in the Rain Perhaps

Caliban*                                                                         Madrigals

Capone                                                                           Medusa*

Captain Cook                                                                Marley's Ghost*

Cassandra Proteus*                                                      Mink Ties

Cauldron of Unholy Loves                                         Narragamsett*

Centipedes*                                                                   Necromancer's Puppet Theatre, The*

Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower Came               Normalcy*

Cincinnati                                                                       Nutcracker*

Darkness Like a Dream                                                Picasso

Diogenes the Dog                                                          Sophie Brancasse*

Discoverie of Witchcraft, A*                                        Squirrels

Drowned Moon, The                                                    Sudden Acceleration

Dutch Interiors*                                                             Sybil*

Frankenstein                                                                  Temptation of Saint Anthony, The*

Garden, The*                                                                  Weird Sisters

Genesis                                                                           Well of the World's End, The*

German China*                                                              Wife to the Headless Horseman*

Golgotha                                                                         Wild Turkeys*

Higgs Field                                                                     Winchelsea Dround

Horse Farce                                                                     Wind Chimes*

Irish Girl Kissed in the Rain, The*                               Within the Ghostly Mansion's Labyrinth

Jack in the Box*                                                               Wolfsbane*


                                                 SHORT(ER) PLAYS:  2 CHARACTERS


Babel of Circular Labyrinths, The (1m, 1w)                 Netherlands* (1m, 1w)

Binnorie (2w)                                                                    Ragnarok (1m, 1w)

Bohemian Seacoast, The* (1m, 1w)                               Red King's Dream, The (2w)

Dead Wife, The (2w)                                                       Ringrose the Pirate (1m, 1w)

Donkey Baseball* (2m)                                                   Something in the Basement (1m, 1w)

Fair Rosamund and Her Murderer (1m, 1w)              Specter (1m, 1w)

Lurker (1m, 1w)                                                               Tale of the Johnson Boys, The* (2m)

Major Weir (1m, 1w)                                                       Wonders of the Invisible World Revealed 

Memoirs* (2m)                                                                      (1m, 1w)

Necropolis (1m, 1w)                                                        Wormwood* (1m, 1w)


                                                 SHORT(ER) PLAYS:  3 CHARACTERS

Attack of the Puppet People* (1m, 2w)                        Lost Girl (3w)

Ballerinas (3w)                                                                  Lucy and the Mystery of the Vine-

Banana Man* (2m, 1w)                                                        encrusted Mansion (2m, 1w)

Barefoot in Nightgown by Candlelight* (3w)              Lust and Shame in the Gingerbread

Bible (1m, 2w)                                                                     House* (1m 2w)

Come in to the Garden, Maud* (1m, 2w)                     Molly Whuppie* (1m, 2w)

Creanery* (1m, 2w)                                                          Moonlight* (1m, 2w)

Crossing the Bar (1m, 2w)                                               Mystical Egyptian Cabinet, The* (1m, 2w)

Deadly Nightshade* (1m, 2w)                                        Revenant, The* (2m, 1w)

Devil The (1m, 2w)                                                           Scarecrow (1m, 2w)

Fog* (1m, 2w)                                                                    Seance (1m, 2w)

Give Us a Kiss and Show Us Your Knickers (1m, 2w)      Sin-eater, The (1m, 2w)

God's Spies (1m, 2w)                                                       Warburton's Cook (1m, 2w)

Gogol (Im, 1w, 1 Nose)


                                                SHORT(ER) PLAYS:  4 CHARACTERS


Briar Rose* (2m, 2w)                                                      Malefactor's Bloody Register, The 

Christabel* (1m, 3w)                                                              (1m, 3w)

Daughters of Edward D. Boit, The (4w)                     Masque* (1m, 3w)

Doctor Faustus* (2m, 2w)                                             Rat Wives* (4w)

Europe After the Rain* (3m, 1w)                                 Swedish Movie* (2m, 2w)

Horrors* (1m, 3w)                                                          Woodman and the Goblins, The (1m, 3w)

MacNaughton's Dowry* (2m, 2w)


                                                SHORT(ER) PLAYS:  4+ CHARACTERS


Border Warfare* (6m, 6w)                                             Great Gromboolian Plain, The (2m, 3w)

Eleanora Duse Dies in Pittsburgh* (3m, 5w)             Gypsy Woman, The (6m, 4w)

Foul Fiend Robert Artisson, The* (3m, 4w)               Heironymus Bosch (3m, 2w)

Giant Rat of Sumatra, The* (4m, 2w)                          Maupassant* (3m, 2w)


                                                        FULL-LENGTH PLAYS


Angler in the Lake of Darkness, An* (4m, 6w)         My Sweetheart's the Man in the Moon*

Ardy Fafirsin (8m, 4w)                                                        (2m, 3w) 

Blood Red Roses* (5m, 5w)                                         Nebuchadnezzar* (1m, 2w)      

Boar's Head* (9m, 4w)                                                  Nightingale* (1m, 3w)

Cinderella Waltz (4m, 5w)                                           Paganini (7m, 5w)   

Curate Shakespeare As You Like It, The (4m, 3w)  Pandemonium* (5m, 3w)

Dark Sonnets of the Lady, The (4m, 4w)                   Paolo and Francesca* (3m, 5w)

Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines, The (5w)        Pelican Daughter* (3m, 1w)

Grotesque Lovesongs (3m, 2w)                                  Pictures at an Exhibition* (1m, 2w)

Henry and Ellen* (1m, 1w)                                          Punch and Judy* (5m, 2w)

Lecture by M. Artaud, A* (5m, 5w)                            Quint and Miss Jessel at Bly* (2m, 1w)

Love's Labours Wonne (9m, 5w)                                Robin Hood (20m, 10w)

Lucia Mad (4m, 2w)                                                      Sphinx* (2m, 5w)

Madonna* (7m, 5w)                                                      Tainted Justice (5m 3w)

Mandelstam* (3m, 1w)                                                 Terre Haute* (5m, 9w)

Mariner (7m, 8w)                                                           Tombstone* (10m, 5w)

 Martian Gothic (2m 3w)                                               Transylvanian Clockworks, The (4m, 3w)

Monkey Soup* (5m, 3w)                                                Zoar Plays, The* (1m, 2w)


                                                                RUFFING PLAYS


Creatures Lurking in the Churchyard* (1m)             Ravenscroft (1m, 5w)

Demonology* (1m, 1w)                                                Rooky Wood, The* (2m, 1w)

Mephisto* (3m, 5w)                                                      Widdershins* (4m, 6w)


                             PENDRAGON-RELATED PLAYS:  MONOLOGUES


Autumn Leaves (1w)                                                    King of the Cats, The (1w)

Boneyard (1m)                                                               Looking Glass (1m)

Dark, The (1m)                                                              Mooncalf (1w) (1w)             

Esmeralda Scorpio (1w)                                               Rhiannon (1m)

Haunted (1w)                                                                 Uncle Clete's Toad (1m)


                                    PENDRAGON-RELATED ONE-ACT PLAYS


Deflores (4m, 3w)                                                          Nocturnes (2m, 4w)

French Gold (1m, 3w)                                                    Palestrina (2w)

Glamorgan (2m, 3w)                                                      Stella Rose (1m, 3w)

Green Man (2m, 3w)                                                      Tales from the Red Rose Inn (1m, 1w)

Lovesong of Barney Goodle, The (1m, 1w)               Things That Go Bump in the Night (1m, 1w)

Mutability Cantos (1m, 1w)


                               PENDRAGON-RELATED FULL-LENGTH PLAYS


Anima Mundi (8m, 5w)                                                 Laestrygonians (3m 3w)

Armitage (6m, 6w)                                                         Maddalena* (4m, 4w)

Beast with Two Backs (3m, 2w)                                   November (3m, 5w)

Chronicles (4m, 4w)                                                       Pendragon (6m, 5w)

Circus Animals' Desertion, The (3m, 4w)                   Reeves Tale, The (4m, 2w)

Dramatis Personae (4m, 7w)                                         Seascape with Sharks and Dancer (1m, 1w)

Fisher King (8m, 4w)                                                      Sorceress (3m 5w)

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (3m, 2w)                    Thane of Cawdor* (5m, 5w)

Horrid Massacre in Boston (4m, 4w)                           Tristan (3m, 3w)



                                NEW PLAYS (January, 2005)


Five plays comprise the most recent collection of scripts:  Pendragon County Ghosts (a long one-act in 12 scenes for 2 men and 4 women), Etudes Without Any Pants On (a monologue for a woman), Rose Alley (a monologue for a man), Witch Hollow (1 man, 1 woman), and The Green Bicycle Mystery (1 man, 1 woman).

On the unit set of Pendragon County Ghosts we see old pianos in various stages of disrepair and stools, chairs, tables as needed.  The six actors remain on stage and, if they are not in the scene being played, either watch and listen or are absorbed in their own thoughts.  The times of the play are from 1922 to 1941, the first scene occurring in 1941 as we hear the sound of Chopin's Etude #3 in E Major, Opus 10, #3, played on a piano in the darkness.  The lights come up on Winny Casey, a girl of 11, seated on a piano bench.  She tells us that the sound of an old piano draws ghosts that only she can see.  She recalls a song that her Uncle Jimmy used to play that was a favorite of hers and of the ghost girl she saw in the mirror.  The lights fade on her and come up on Jimmy Casey, 44, playing the Chopin Etude.  Dolly Casey, 12, waits until he finishes and then tells him that the piece he played was her sister Winny's favorite.  Dolly says that their mother ran away and a judge put Winny in a mental hospital.  Dolly says that she escaped from an orphanage and wants Jimmy to get Winny out of the mental hospital and let her and Dolly live with him.  She offers to cook and clean and get a job and pay back any money Jimmy has to spend on them.  He says it's not about food and rent and she asks him why he won't help them.  As the lights go to black we hear the sound of crickets and when the lights create a night effect Jessie, 20, sits barefoot on the dock at Grim Lake.  The year is 1922 and Jimmy, who has simply turned to look at her, is now 25.  They talk of ghosts and Jimmy tells her how he inherited a barn full of pianos from his Uncle Willy.  Jessie remembers the fun they had at the lake before the war, and how Glynis would play Con and Jason against each other and married Con although she loved Jason.  Jessie tells Jimmy that although she is glad he is back safely from the war she doesn't want him to think that anything romantic is possible between them.  She loves him but not the way he wants her to love him.  She wants to keep him as the close friend he is but she thinks that he should go away and never come back.  The lights fade on the dock and come up on Winny in 1941 on her bench.  She speaks of how she believed her mother protected her and her sister from wolves but that she can see their red eyes glowing in the dark.  In the fifth scene, the year is 1926 and Jimmy, 29, is talking to his sister Nell, 16, later the mother of Dolly and Winny.  She wonders why he wastes his time fixing old pianos and thinks it's because he always liked to rescue things.  Jimmy tells her to stay away from a boy, Jack Wolf, that she has been seeing.  She counters by saying his relationship with Jessie is not making him happy and that something is wrong.  She says that Jessie can not love Jimmy because she is in love with her brother (John Rose).  She warns Jimmy that Jessie will kill him, that he will close up like a fist and shut everybody out and die.  Jimmy leaves and Nell bangs furiously on the keys, making loud discordant sounds as the lights fade.  When they come up we see Jimmy and Jessie at the dock at Grim Lake in 1926.  They have just seen a movie starring John Rose and Jessie wonder if Jimmy could teach her to play her favorite Chopin Etude on the piano.  But then she says that she is going out to Hollywood because her brother is sad and drinking too much.  She says that movies are like memory and actors are ghosts.  He says that she is getting too self-destructive and she tells him that his sister Nell is the one who is drinking and sleeping around.  Jimmy tells Jessie that she is in love with her brother and that he can't be with her any more.  He leaves and the lights fade on Jessie.  Scene 7 takes place in an alley behind a bar in Hollywood in 1928.  John Rose, an actor, 40, sits on a bench, drinking.  Red light blinks from an unseen sign as Jimmy Casey steps into the light.  John asks him where he has been and Jimmy says the car broke down in Amarillo.  Jimmy says that John killed Jessie and John agrees, telling Jimmy that he should grab a pipe and beat him to death.  John says he can't take his own life because he promised Jessie that he would live to be a hundred.  Jimmy says that Jessie would never forgive him.  John says that since Jessie died, he can see her when he closes his eyes and she talks to him.  Jimmy tells John that after she had the baby Jessie wanted to go out dancing even though the doctor told her to stay in bed for a while.  Jimmy says he could never say no to Jessie and drove her to the dance hall where she began to hemorrhage, eventually bleeding to death.  He says that Jessie loved him like a brother and loved John as she should have loved him.  John says they both have to live; it is their punishment for loving her too much  or not enough or in the wrong way.  John offers his flask to Jimmy who takes a drink as the lights fade and we hear coyotes in the distance.  The lights come up on Winny sitting on her bench in the asylum.  She says that Pendragon County is full of ghosts of all sorts and that is why she likes it so much.  She says her Uncle Jimmy's music was always full of ghosts.  In scene 9, Jimmy and Dolly are talking in 1941.  Dolly is eating an enormous sandwich and drinking a soda.  She asks Jimmy how he got to be so good at playing the piano and he tells her that he used to hang out in the bushes behind Mrs. Unkefer's house and listen when she gave music lessons to the MacBeth sisters.  One day when Mrs. Unkefer was at the grocery store, he went into the house and started playing the piano.  He was able to pick out the tune of the Chopin piece he had heard them playing.  Mrs. Unkefer came in while he was playing, asked him how he had learned, and gave him piano lessons every day after.  Dolly urges Jimmy to help her rescue Winny but he still refuses and she backs away as the light fades on her.  We hear the sound of a radio playing and Nell appears in her slip, barefoot, dancing with a drink in her hand.  It is 1936; she is 26, Jimmy is 39.  When Jimmy asks about her children, Nell says that a Polish woman is watching them while she entertains gentlemen callers.  She says Jimmy can have the girls if he wants them.  She says he has no business criticizing her, that all he does is drink too much and sit in his barn fixing pianos and dreaming about Jessie.  But, she says, Jessie is dead and so is he.  He is a ghost.  The penultimate scene, in 1940, is a conversation between Jimmy and Jessie, "looking much as she did when she was alive."  Jessie is worried that Jimmy has cut himself off from people, that he is dying inside.  Jimmy says that from the moment she died nothing has mattered or ever will.  The last scene begins with Winny at her bench in the asylum in 1941.  Dolly tells her that she has come with Uncle Jimmy to take care of her.  Jimmy says he came just to make sure that Winny was being well treated, but Dolly wants Jimmy to take them home to live with him.  Winny says that the piano is one that Jimmy fixed and asks if he can teach her how to play.  Although he says he has to leave, Jimmy hesitates, then sits down and plays the Chopin Etude that opened the play.  At the end of the first twenty-two and a half bars, the lights are out.


In the monologue, Etudes Without Any Pants On, we hear Chopin's Etude in C Minor, Opus 10, #12 in the darkness.  Then the lights come up on Hildegarde Unkefer, an old woman in 1933, sitting beside her piano with a pile of letters on the desk beside her.  She says that she got another letter from Rudolph Valentino, who writes to her every day, although her son Evan thinks she writes the letters herself.  She insists that Valentino did not die in 1926 but faked his death to escape from his " monstrous" wife.  Evan also thinks that she should not keep her life's savings in the back of the upright piano.  He is afraid someone will steal it, but Hildegarde says she has a loaded shotgun behind the door.  She thinks Valentino will escape from the government agents who are trying to kill him and ride up to her bedroom window on his camel.  She says that she was beautiful when she was young and could have been a movie star and last night dreamed that Valentino had come for her, dressed like Zorro.  Valentino said the Dutch were after him and he needed some money.  Hildegarde realized that the imposter was not Valentino but the Antichrist so she smashed the lid of the piano on his head and stuffed him into the piano.  When she awoke, it was morning and she knew it had all been a dream, but she smells something peculiar coming from inside the piano.  She says she will wait for Evan to open the lid and have a look.  She is concerned that he is oddly late and hopes there has not been an accident.  While she waits, she will write a letter to Valentino.


Another and longer monologue, Rose Alley, is spoken by Ben Palestrina (of the Pendragon cycle) who describes a trip he took to London.  He mentions  a blond girl with long hair who sat next to him on the plane, then talks of visiting the British Museum (no books in the old domed reading room), thinking that the city is built on the rotted flesh of dead Italians, and wondering if he has come there to die.  He tells of his experience watching Ian McKellen in An Enemy of the People and taking a backstage tour; then, in the evening, being kissed ("a real one") by an actress playing a buxom tart in the pre-show to The London Cuckolds.  He says that breakfast the next morning at the hotel was "a greasy, obscene mess," and then tells us of walking through the rain past Westminster Abbey and the houses of Parliament to the Tate Gallery.  He says that he never cared much for cities, that Munich was rather beautiful but he only went there to be with a woman he loved and wanted to marry.  On his walk he came to Dickens' house and felt inside the presence of some unfathomable malice, of evil.  Then, crossing the river, he watched a rehearsal of Merchant of Venice and after walked down to the Thames and then to Rose Alley where on a brick warehouse wall he saw a tattered poster of Shakespeare, "fish-eyed and enigmatic." After walking to the original site of the Old Globe (now a parking lot), he went to the Olivier Theatre and saw a visually stunning epic play called Flight, about the exile of the White Russians.  Returning to his hotel, he sees a woman walking towards him from the other end of the hallway, but she turns into another hallway and disappears.  Soaking in the bathtub, Ben thinks of Henslowe building the Rose Theatre in 1587 and of Shakespeare wanting to stumble over a precipice in Dover before he loves again.  The next day he walks in Seven Dials, "a part of London clearly designed by a lunatic," stops in a small restaurant for lunch, and remembers getting a postcard, before he left,  from a woman, Rose, he hadn't seen in seven years.  She is divorced now, with a daughter, like the woman in Munich Ben was going to marry.  He then goes to see three Harold Pinter plays in the Donmar Warehouse and that night dreams of Rose Alley in Shakespeare's day.  The next afternoon at the Museum of the Moving Image, after being engulfed by a "herd" of fifty French teenage girls in skimpy t-shirts and short skirts, he enters an old boxcar, lined with wooden seats with a screen at one end on which Eisenstein footage is being played in a loop.  A smallish, cheerful girl approaches him, speaking in a Russian accent about the great films of Comrade Eisenstein that are brought to the Soviet people by boxcars that travel all over Russia.  Talking with her, Ben realizes he hasn't been close to, and spoken significantly to, an attractive young woman since he left Munich "all those long dark months" ago.  He tries to get the actress to drop her Russian accent because he wants to know what her native English sounds like and what she is like when she is not acting a part as a tour guide.  He tells her he is an American from Ohio and got off the plane in London even though he had a ticker to Munich because the ticket was non-refundable and the woman he had hoped to marry had changed her mind.  He realizes the girl has accepted the role of the Russian boxcar girl and will not break character.  Later, at the Littleton Theatre, he sees Othello and the next day, at the Cottesloe, a play called Copenhagen, after which he walks across the Thames, asking us to imagine a man's identity as the sequence of significant women in his life.  Listing seven, leaving out several important ones, he realizes they are all lost to him, that love is a repetition compulsion, that he has reached the end of this series of pointless self-delusions, that he is the author of his own unhappiness, and that the sequence must end.  Seeing a tattered poster of Shakespeare's "great egglike face", he imagines the playwright standing where he is standing, in despair because they're doing his plays abominably, realizing that his capacity to create plays also makes his life a constant torture.  Walking to the original site of the Old Globe, Ben has an experience he finds terrifying, as if he had stepped into the mind of a mad, tormented god.  Ben says he will go back the next day to his own Stratford and play the role of the writer creating worlds for others.  He knows he will go to see the woman, Rose, who sent him the postcard.   As he gazes into the river, the moon reflected in the water reminds him of the face on the tattered poster.


On the porch of the Pendragon house in east Ohio, Ben, 51, and Miranda, 16, explore, in Witch Hollow, their possibly imaginary relationship.  The young girl has appeared as if from nowhere in the middle of the night and asks Ben if he knows who she is.  Ben says that she looks familiar, and she says she walked through Witch Hollow during a storm to find him and that she has read everything he has written.  She says she couldn't write to him because she had to see him in person.  She tells him that she is his destiny and that he is getting ready to die.  She asks him if she is not his biggest fantasy come true and then kisses him "very tenderly," before telling him that she is his daughter, the result of his affair with Tracy, almost 17 years earlier.  Ben says that can't be true, that he saw Tracy after that and she never said anything about having a child by him.  Miranda says that Ben never loved her mother, but Ben insists their relationship was very complicated, that Tracy, as Miranda must know, was a maniac.  He remembers that Tracy sent him a picture once of a little girl but never identified her.  He says they didn't stay together because Tracy kept leaving.  Miranda tells him that Tracy had all of Ben's plays and when she read them she found a character like her mother cropping up in one disguise or another, and then Tracy told her that her father was the author of those plays.  When Ben says he is not certain that Miranda really is his daughter, she tells him she is pregnant, but she can get rid ot the inconvenience any time she wants to.  She says that Tracy told her that when she got pregnant with Ben's baby years ago on Cape Cod she got rid of it and has felt horrible about it ever since.   When she tries to leave, Ben says she should stay, that he doesn't want her running away like her mother.  Miranda suggest that maybe she is not there at all, that Ben has conjured up an imaginary daughter to keep him company, a daughter who has come to kill him.  She says that perhaps she is being imagined by Ben as the daughter that Ben and Tracy might have had earlier if Tracy hadn't aborted.  Miranda tells Ben that Tracy bought the beach house on Cape Cod where she and Ben met, but when he questions her she says that perhaps it is true and perhaps not.  Perhaps, she says, she is some crazy girl who is not really Ben's daughter and has made up a pack of lies.  They sit together on the porch steps and Ben asks her what her name is.  Miranda asks him what he would name an imaginary daughter that he loved very much.  When he replies, "Miranda," she says that that is her name.


In The Green Bicycle Mystery, the only play in this collection not related to the Pendragon saga, two characters are seated on old-fashioned bicycles set up a few feet apart like exercise bikes facing the audience.  Light, a man in his 20s, is on a green bicycle, Bella, 21, on a black one.  The dialogue is prefaced by a notation that on the evening of July 5, 1919, the body of a young girl, Bella Wright, was discovered on a country lane in Leicestershire, England.  Light was arrested, but the charge of murder was never proven.  Two key pieces of evidence were a dismantled green bicycle found in a nearby canal, and a dead raven, blood-covered, found near the corpse.  As the play opens, we hear the sound of birds and see the lights (early evening) come up on the two actors riding their bikes.  Light gives the facts of the case and Bella speaks lines she might have said that evening.  The two actors speak to the audience, never to each other.  Light says that at first they thought that the girl had taken a bad spill and hit her head but that later a small bullet hole was discovered under her left eye with an exit wound out the back of her head.  There were also bloody bird tracks from the corpse to a white gate on which were bloody claw prints from a large bird,  In the field  they found a large black raven, covered with blood, dead.  Bella speaks as if carrying on a conversation with a Margaret and with a man riding a green bicycle with unusually shaped handlebars.  Light says he never owned a green bicycle but that they traced the serial number on the bicycle to him and that the papers began accusing him of horrible things.    As the actors talk we learn that Bella worked in a rubber factory and was engaged to Archie, a stoker in the Navy, and that Light had suffered shell shock in the Army.  Light says he denied owning the bike because of his mother's heart condition and that the girl had not been assaulted.  But Light cannot remember events clearly, because the shell shock has confused his memory just as the exploding shell damaged his hearing.  But as they speak we learn that Light did ride with Bella, at least to a crossroads, then followed after her, wanting to explain that he was only lonely.  Light says he heard a shot as the girl passed the white gate, perhaps from a stray hunter, some boy or old man shooting at birds, but the bullet struck her in the face and she fell off the bicycle into the road.  Light says he thought he was in the war again and must have blacked out.  When he came to, he saw a large, black bird on the girl's face, trying to pull off strips of flesh.  He says he reached out and strangled the filthy thing.  The actors continue to pedal as the light fades and goes out.               


                                 NEW PLAYS (July 21, 2004)

A Russian Play has seven actors:  Irina, 40, a widow, her three daughters—Natasha, 22, Katya, 20, and Anya, 17; Grigorayev, 32, Natasha’s husband, Radetsky, 33, a doctor, and Nikolay, 31, a writer.  The unit set has a decaying gazebo with a large table up center, a path leading to a hedge- maze stage right, and a path stage left to a part of the house porch.  Five sets of steps lead from the gazebo to various parts of the stage. 

The action, in two acts, begins in the late morning of a summer day in a Russian province and ends the next evening.  We hear birdsong as the lights come up on Irina and her daughters in the gazebo, Irina complaing about the dreadful overgrown condition of the garden.  Katya wishes that they had money so that they could help the peasants, but says that their old servant Fet and their father are dead and everything is disintegrating around them.  We learn that Natasha married because Irina thought Grigorayev was rich, and Irina says that one of her other daughters might marry Nikolay, who is a very successful playwright.  The men enter from the hedge- maze and Grigorayev says that he lives with four beautiful women who all think he’s a moron.  When Natasha leaves to see about lunch preparations, he follows her, as he says, like a puppy.  Katya goes off to give a violin lesson to a peasant boy, and Irina invites Radetsky to walk with her in the hedge- maze.  Anya and Nikolay talk about writing; she is serious, but he makes a joke of everything, telling her that writing is futile, rubbish, and can only lead to misery.  When she cries, he apologizes and kisses her (“a long, very tender kiss”) and Radetsky walks in.  Nikolay says that his entrance is a perfect example of the very worst playwriting.  Anya leaves and we learn that Radetsky invited Nikolay to the estate, not imagining that he would come.  But Nikolay came to see Natasha, with whom Radetsky was once in love, although now he loves Katyak, and perhaps Anya.  Natasha tells them lunch is ready and sends Radetsky into the hedge- maze to locate Irina and Nikolay accuses her of avoiding him, asking her if she remembers when they were together in Yalta.  Grigorayev enters to ask Nikolay if he is coming fishing.  Natasha leaves and Grigorayev explains to Nikolay that he love Nathasha so much, even though he knew she was marrying him for money that he didn’t have, that he would have killed to get her.  But on the honeymoon all his illusions ended and from the disgust in her eyes he knew she could never love him  The wedding night was a disaster, Natasha got sick, and Radetsky prescribed a stay at Yalta for her lungs.  Radetsky and Irina return from the hedge-maze.  She berates him for abandoning her and, hearing an awful violin noise from the house, goes off with Gregorayev to stop it.  Nikolay tells Radetsky that Grigorayev is threatening to murder somebody and Radetsky says Nikolay shouldn’t have made love to Natasha in Yalta.  They go off for lunch and we hear the awful violin sound as the lights fade.

     In the next scene, it is evening.  We hear the sound of crickets and see Nikolay drinking in the gazebo.  Natasha enters and tells him that although she will treasure the memory of their time together in Yalta, she cannot be what Nikolay wants her to be.  He urges her to leave her husband, and Grigorayev comes back from his evening walk and describes himself as entirely useless, completely superfluous, absurd.  Natasha tells him she want him to leave, and he after he goes, she warns Nikolay that Grigorayev is a very good shot.  Nikolay is about to kiss her when Irina comes on and tells Nikolay that Anya has a “dreadful crush” on him.  After Nikolay leaves, Natasha and Irina argue over which of them is more selfishd until Anya runs in to tell them that Grigoralyev has taken rat poison.

     In the third scene, later that night, Nikolay tells Natasha that Radetsky has caused Grigorayev to vomit most of the poison and that her husband will recover, but since he is clearly unstable Natasha should leave him.  She tells him that he only loves himself and should leave.  She bumps into Radetsky as she exits, and Radetsky tells her that her husband is going to be all right.  He tells Nikolay to leave her alone, drinks from his flask, and watches Nikolay walk off into the hedge-maze just before Anya enters.  She explains her belief in love, and Radetsky kisses her and tells her he loves her and wants to marry her.  She says she doesn’t love him but he says that she kissed him back.  She says she loves Nikolay and begins to cry.  Radetsky tells her that Nikolay loves Natasha and kisses Anya again, “a long kiss,” interrupted by Katya’s entrance.  She orders Anya to her room and tells Radetsky that he is a cockroach, protesting love first for Natasha, then for herself, and now for Anya.  He says she is jealous and calls her a bitch.  She starts hitting him until he collapses and Nikolay pulls her away.  She manages to give him a good whack with her elbow, tells them that men are pigs and should be killed, and “storms off.”  Nikolay blames Radetsky for sending him to Yalta to meet Natasha and then tells the doctor that he is going to shoot himself.  When Radetsky is skeptical, Nikolay takes out a gun he stole from Radetsky”s bag.  The doctor is not impressed and urges Nikolay to shoot himself.  He says he has been drinking vodka since early morning and needs to go into the hedge-maze to take a leak.  Nikolay throws down the gun in disgust and we hear a loud bang followed by Radetsky’s cry of pain.  He crawls back on and tells Nikolay that he shot him in the ass.  At least, Nikolay says,  they know the gun works.

     Act Two opens in early morning with Radetsky lying on his stomach on the gazebo table.  He has a bottle of vodka in his hand and Katya is removing a bullet from his backside.  After she removes the bullet she takes the vodka bottle from him and pour some on the wound.  When he screams she reminds him that he taught her how to sterilize wounds.  Radetsky tells her that he loved Natasha, and he loved her, but that now he loves Anya and wants Katya to get her to talk to him.  After promising that she will talk to Anya, Katya leaves as Nikolay enters.  He helps Radetsky pull on his pants over the bandage, getting up on the table and straddling him to do so.  Grigorayev enters, says he doesn’t want to know anything about it, but does want to challenge Nikolay to a duel.

He says he knows about their affair at Yalta and exits to get his dueling pistols.  Radetsky urges Nikolay to run away to Mongolia.  But Nikolay discovers that he cannot move and tells Radetsky that he and Natasha never had intercourse.  Grigorayev returns with the duelling pistols and the men stand back to back.  As Grigorayev counts to ten, taking a step at each number, Nikolay does not move, and Radetsky, trying to stand, falls off the table but urges Nikolay to run.  Nikolay takes small quick steps to catch up to Grigorayev’s count, turns, fires wildly, and hits Radetsky in the ass.  As Grigorayev is about to kill Nikolay, Irina enters in her dressing gown, followed by Natasha, who takes the gun from Grigorayev and sends her mother to fetch Katya to tend to Radetsky’s second wound.    Following her orders, Nikolay and Grigorayev pick Radetsky up and put him back on the table. 

     Later that morning, Katya is finishing Radetsky’s bandage and telling him that Anya is leaving to take a teaching position in the Ukraine.  Katya says that she and Anya agreed that marrying the drunken local doctor was not her best choice.  Radetsky calls her a horrible person who has destroyed his last chance for happiness.  Radetsky tries to stagger to stop Anya, calling her name, but falls on his backside and begins crawling as Irina comes on and Katya goes off.  Irina helps Radetsky to his kness and he he buries his face in her breasts and sobs as she stokes his head.  She tells him that the solution to his problems is to marry her.  She urges him to give up love forever and get married.  Eventually, Radetsky agrees to marry her, saying that of all the women she is the only one who isn’t too good for him.  He kisses her and Anya enters.  She says she changed her mind and had decided to marry Radetsky but now has found him kissing her mother.  Radetsky walks toward Anya, still on his knees, but she punches him and he falls back as she runs off.  Irina starts after Anya, tells Radetsky to wait for her, and heads into the hedge-maze as we hear horrible violin noises.  He puts his head on a bench by the hedge-maze and Katya comes on.  Radetsky asks if she has a gun, but she says she has sent the violin-playing peasant home to take care of his pigs.  She thinks terrible things are going to happen, that money should be spread around so that everyone has the same amount.  She calls Radetsky an idiot and they argue.  He asks her to marry him but she says she is taking the teaching job in the Ukraine.  She runs into the hedge-maze and he staggers after her, calling her name as the lights fade.

     The last scene occurs in the evening with the sounds of crickets and owls.  Anya tells Irina that she saw Radetsky kissing Katya in the hedge-maze.  Irina tells Anya that a soldier was Natasha’s father, and Count Mishinsky was Katya’s father, and that probably Anya’s father was Fet the gardener.  Distraught, Anya says she is going to run away to St. Peterburg and become a prostitute.  Nikolay enters from the hedge-mazewith a vodka bottle and Irina tells him to teach Anya how to be a prostitute.  Irina leaves, Anya cries, Nikolay gives her the vodka she asks for but she spits a spray into his face, and Nikolay asks her to come with him as his mistress.  Anya runs off to pack and Natasha appears.  She tells him that he can make love to her if he wishes, that she will run away with him, anywhere.  She kisses him and they start pulling at each other’s clothing, disappearing on the floor of the gazebo behind the enclosed railing.  Anya comes on with a satchel, hears their moaning, takes a pistol from the dueling box, and as Nikolay moans his love for Natasha goes into the hedge-maze.  Nikolay gets up, pulling up his pants, and sits on the steps of the gazebo.  Natasha says that for at least a minute she was alive and that they will have the rest of their lives.  But Nikolay has had a realization that he is disgusted and ashamed by the whole thing, that he must erase everything and start over.  He goes into the hedge-maze and Natasha says that it only lasted a minute as Grigorayev comes from the house.  Natasha asks him to kill her and tells him that Nikolay has had what he wanted and has left her.  As she cries, Grigorayev holds her and tells her that they will forget everything.  We hear the sound of a loud gunshot from the hedge-maze and when Natasha asks who could be shooting at this time of night Grigorayev tells her not to worry, that somebody probably shot Radetsky in the ass again.  He strokes her hair as the lights fade and go out.

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     The Sexton takes place in Armitage, Ohio (Pendragon country), and has a unit set with six areas:  URC the kitchen of the rectory, UC a bed, ULC Father Wiggly’s study, DR a bench and a door (to the sexton’s shed), DC the churchyard with tombstones and a stone bench, DL the porch of the Prikosovits house with a porch swing.  “The porch and upstage kitchen and study are up a step or two, and the bedroom UC is up another step.”  No walls, easy movement of characters, no breaks, no set changes.  The play begins at night with the sound of owls and the five characters on stage:  Annabella Tosca, a young girl, is sitting on her bed; Lilias Walesiak (Wa-LEEZ-ee-ak) is on the bench DR; her sister, Sadie Prikosovits (Prick-Kaw-so-vits) is on the porch swing; Frank Roosevelt, a young man, is on the churchyard bench; and Father Wiggly stands by his desk in the study.  The opening is an imagistic pattern of lines that create a sense of mystery and sorrow as Annabella recites a “Hail, Mary” and Sadie recalls bits of a story she remembers about Father Wiggly being nailed upside down to the door of the shed.  Father Wiggly drinks in his study and looks at a photograph and Sadie talks about the arrival of Frank who, as she describes his actions, begins working among the tombstones.  Father Wigglsy asks him where he is from and what his name is.  Frank says he is from Poland and that his last name is Roosevelt.  Frank says he likes the quiet of the churchyard and the birds.  Father Wiggly says he reminds him of someone and asks Frank if he would like be be the sexton for the church.  Lilias says she saw Frank and Father Wiggly in the study of the rectory at night, talking.  Frank and Father Wiggly continue talking as the pastor tries to get information about Frank’s past.  He says that Doc Wolf said that Frank had come to town looking for Walesiaks.  Sadie Prikosovits had been a Walesiak, but had told Frank that there were no Walesiaks in town.  Frank moves to Sadie on the porch and we see his earlier visit to her on his first day in town.  He asks for Lilias Walesiak, bur Sadie says that Lilias is crazy and dead.  Frank sits in the churchyard and Lilias comes out on the porch.  Sadie tells her to go back to the attic and Lilias says that the Devil is looking for her to take her back to Hell or to Poland.  Sadie threatens her with the anger of her husband Elmo and, as Lilias goes into the house, Annabella brings a basket of sheets to a clothes line by the shed.  Frank offers to help and says that he remembers her as a little girl coming into the churchyard at night to retrieve a ball.  Annabella says that she is going to be the housekeeper at the rectory now that Mrs. Zegel is dead.  As Annabella goes into the kitchen, Sadie says that people thought Annabella was odd because she read poetry.  Father Wiggly tells Annabella that she is a wonderful cook and asks her if she has a boy friend or if she has thought of becoming a nun.  She says no to both questions and says that Frank is made up of strangeness.  Father Wiggly asks her to make a special effort to be kind to Frank.  He leaves for the study and Frank accepts the sandwiches that Annabella brings him at the kitchen table.  Lilias comments that Annabella has hypnotized the two men.  Frank tells Annabella that the nuns at the orphanage names him Roosevelt after Teddy because they thought Franklin was a Communist.  He says he fell down a coal chute when he was four and hit his head, was unconscious for three days, spoke one sentence in a language that a nun thought was Polish, and then didn’t speak for seven years.  When he was nine he was adopted by a woman who wanted a boy who didn’t talk, but one day he began speaking and the woman took him back to the orphanage.  Later, he found his file and learned that his mother was a Walesiak from Armitage, Ohio, so when he was eighteen and had to leve the orphanage, he came to Armitage and got the job as a sexton and saw Annabella who makes him feel like he’s home.  Lilias, sitting by the shed, talks to herself in a strange litany and Sadie tells us how Lilias, as a pretty young girl, was wanted by all the boys, including Elmo.  As she tells us how Lilias, now a crazy woman who lives in an attic, sneaks out a night to peek in people’s windows and watch the trains on the railroad track, Annabella gathers the sheets from the clothes line and is told by Father Wiggly to close the bathroom door tightly so that she will not be seen as she steps naked out of the tub.  After Lilias speaks of having a baby, Father Wiggly lectures Frank about beautiful young women who are Satan’s temptations that must be resisted.  Annabella, reading poetry in the churchyard as Frank works, says that he is good company because he is so quiet.  Frank says that he read a book in the orphanage called Murder in the Red Barn that explained things to him.  He goes up to the study to set at the chess board with Father Wiggly as Lilias remembers her mother giving he a Bible printed in Czechoslovakia and how she used to dream of walking in Prague and seeing God playing chess with the Devil.  Father Wiggly talks about love and lust and how Mussolini was hung upside down for his sins; he wonders what the nails penetrating the flesh felt like, then goes to sleep.  As Sadie talks about the churchyard being haunted since Indian times, Frank joins Annabella among the tombstones to eat tuna fish sandwiches.  He takes out a deck of tarot cards that the woman who adopted him had given to him.  Annabella loves the cards and Frank says that The World card is her.  They seem about to kiss, but Frank hesitates and Annabella says she has to go to make Father Wiggly his dinner.  Frank stays in the churchyard and Father Wiggly goes to the kitchen table.  He tells Annabella that her lips remind him of a picture of Mary Magdalene he saw as a child.  She tells him she is reading Lawrence’s Women in Love, starting a discussion of censorship.  She refuses to give him the book when he demands it and he gives her another book to read.  She takes it and returns to the churchyard and Frank.  She reads him part of what sounds like a sensual love story (The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross) and tells him it is an allegory of the soul’s search for God.  She says that the feeling she has of wanting and needing love is so overpowering that she thinks she will die waiting for love to come.  She and Frank sit holding hands, kissing and whispering, as Lilias crosses through the churchyard and Father Wiggly drinks in his study, speaking of something evil that has been lurking in the churchyard.  On the porch, Sadie learns from Lilias that she sneaks out at night to go to the cemetery.  Sadie says that she understands about Lilias and Elmo and tries to forget as much as possible, but that if Elmo touches Lilias again she will bury the butcher knife in his esophagus.  Annabella has left Frank and gone to the bedroom to take off her clothes and put on a nightgown.  Father Wiggly talks to Frank in the churchyard about sin and confession.  He wonders if Christ found the idea of crucifixion perversely attractive and suggests that Frank should stay away from Annabella because he is endangering her soul.  When Father Wiggly goes up to his study, Lilias tells Frank that years ago she used to live in Annabella’s room, but a great black bird covered her with its wings and she was taken to a terrible place because the bird/angel put something in her that they took from her.  She says Frank looks like the dark angel.  Our attention then shifts to Annabella and Father Wiggly in the study.  He offers her some wine and says that she reminds him of his mad sister, a nun.  Annabella says she is feeling dizzy and goes off to the bedroom.  As Lilias tells Frank how she got pregnant by the dark angel and was sent to a home for unwed mothers run by nuns.  When the baby was born she was never allowed to hold it and she escaped from a mental hospital and came back to her home to live in the attic of her sister’s house.  As she speaks, Father Wiggly goes to the bedroom and kisses her on the lips.  She wakes and runs down to Frank in the churchyard and tells him that she may be going crazy.  She thinks a dark angel whispered to her that Mary was got with child by an angel.  Lilias says that the same thing happened to her when she lived in the rectory.  Father Wiggly pours a drink in the study; Frank leaves Lilias and Annabella in the churchyard and goes to the study.  He tells the priest that Annabella told him what he did to her.  Father Wiggly says that he may have to send Annabella away to a convent or an asylum.  He suggests that it would be better if Frank went away and tells him that he should confess to fornicating with Annabella in the churchyard cemetery.  Frank says his mother has told him what the priest did to her.  Father Wiggly says that everything he has done has been to save souls.  He takes the poker and tells Frank to kill him.  Frank says he doesn’t want that and Father Wiggly strikes Frank on the back of the head with the poker, twice.  He raises the poker again, but then falls to his knees, cradling Frank’s head in his arms.  Annabella calls him a monster and, screaming, strikes him with the poker again and again until she is stopped by Lilias.  Sadie describes how there was blood all over the study and how Father Wiggly was discovered nailed upside down to the door of the sexton’s shed.  The lights come up on the priest lying in the bed.  Lilias stands at the foot of the bed.  Father Wiggly recognizes her and thinks she has come to kill him.  She tells him that Frank and Annabella have not been arrested and Father Wiggly says that he told the sheriff he would not press charges against them, that they had only done what he asked.  He tells Lilias that he loved her, that he had never seen anybody so beautiful.  He says he sees a dark angel coming for him.  Lilias kisses him and the lights fade to darkness.

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     In the monologue, Lemurian Fragments, a young woman (Meredith Cherry),     isolated in a spotlight, speaks five related accounts of her life.  In the first, The Dream of the Theatre, she says that sometimes she dreams she is onstage in a theatre but that she doesn’t know if her life is a dream or if it is too real.  She says she is happiest when she is watching people in an Italian restaurant her father takes her to.  In the second fragment, In the Box, she says her happiest memories are of looking at a black and white tv in 1954 as she was babysitting Ben Palestrina (she is thus a part of the Pendragon cycle).  In the third fragment, The Black Lagoon, she tells of driving on a dark night and seeing gigantic people, fifty feet high, looking at her.  She realized she was watching a drive-in movie screen on which Creature from the Black Lagoon was playing.  In the fourth fragment, North by Northwest, teo months pregnant, she describes feeling like Cary Grant being chased by a crop duster in the Hitchcock movie.  She says that after watching a movie about a woman who was slowly driven mad she walked into Grim Lake until the water covered her like a shroud.  In the fifth and last fragment, she tells us she woke in another place and now sits on the porch of an asylum reading Frankenstein over and over.  She says they took her little girl away from her and that sometimes they let her out to go to college until she gets crazy again.  She tells us of a crazy old man in her town who had a curiosity shop (with his stuffed wife in the back) who believed that the ancient Lemurians, a great civilization lost under the sea, were trying to contact him through his television set to warn him that flying saucers were going to take over the world.  When she looked into his eyes she knew that something inside him was the same as what was inside her.  She says Lemurians can recognize each other and make up stories to connect the fragments of their memories so that they make sense, even though she knows that that is an illusion.  She says Ben, almost grown up, comes to visit her sometimes and holds her hand as they watch television.  She dreams sometimes of her baby and sometimes that she’s in a theatre and says that someday she will wake up, but not today.

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     In Mauritius we hear sea gulls and waves as the lights come up on Paul and Virginie seated on a park bench.  In rapid, staccato dialogue Paul tries to convince Virginie that they were lovers on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, but Virginie says she does not know Paul and has never been to Mauritius.  She does not remember monkeys or dodos and she says that Paul and Virginie is the title of a book written in 1787 by Bernardine de Saint-Pierre that she remembers reading many years ago.  She says Paul has confused her with a fictional character.  Paul thinks that perhaps she doesn’t remember because she hit her head in the shipwreck at the end of the book.  Paul says that she drowned and he died of grief.  As proof, Paul points to something that he calls a dodo.  Virginie says dodos have been extinct since 1681 and what Paul is pointing too cannot be a dodo.  Paul says that he took a photograph of her and she says she doesn’t remember standing naked in the corner of a brick-lined room.  She begins to cry, saying that all this happened a long time ago to imaginary people who have been dead for a very long time.  She says memory is always a lie, that she does not dream of a drowned girl lying on a table inside an enormous ancient tree.  Paul denies this, saying it’s all a lie, that remembering leads to horror, that he has never been to Mauritius.  He says that he got a letter with a Mauritius stamp; inside the envelope was a picture of a naked girl standing before the corner of an old brick-walled room.  He gives her the photograph, saying it is a present from a madman she met one day in the park.  As he leaves Virginie says she doesn’t want the photograph, that she won’t look at it, that she doesn’t remember “this.”  She looks at the photograph and says, “This is me,” and the lights go to black.

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     Inquest with Owls, another short one-act for a man and a woman, is set in the early 1880s near the northernmost point of what is now Hancock County, in West Virginia’s northern pan-handle, between Ohio and Pennsylvania, near the Ohio River (but then it was Brooke County, Virginia), a location represented on stage by two wooden chairs. We hear the sound of owls in the darkness and then the lights come up on Sarah Maxwell, a young woman in a white dress, and John Edie, a middle-aged man in a black suit, both seated.  John Edie narrates what was decided at a coroner’s inquest into the death by hanging of Sarah Maxwell, whose body lies naked on a table before the twelve men of the jury and John Edie.  As John Edie describes the finding of the body, Sarah interjects comments about having had intercourse with all of the men.  She says the Devil comes to her at night.  As John Edie tells how Sarah hanged herself, Sarah speaks of one of the men, with the face and claws of an owl, who strangled her.

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     The unusual presentation of The Mary Celeste requires six actors—Sophia Matilda, a young woman, Sarah, her mother, and Captain, her father, and three actors who whisper the lines of each of the characters although the voice actors are hidden in the darkness outside the light on a table and a few chairs.   One girl voice whispers the lines of Sophia Matilda, a woman whispers Sarah’s lines, and a man whispers Captain’s lines.  The voices speak their lines continuously together, beginning again when they reach the end of their monologues composed of the lines the actors are performing as commentary (Sarah Matilda) and conversation (Sarah and Captain).  In darkness we hear the sounds of ocean, wind, gulls, the creaking of a ship.  Sophia Matilda, in 1900, narrates how the ship sailed from Genoa in November (of 1872), and was found a month later drifing off the coast of Portugal with no one on board.  Sarah and Captain speak as if on the ship in November, 1872.  Sarah doesn’t like the ship and says the cook thinks it is unlucky.  When Captain asks what a young cook would know about the ship, Sarah says that older sailors told him the history of the ship was one of repeated disasters and that the name of the ship had been changed, an indication of terrible luck.  Sophia Matilda mentions that brown stains were found on the deck that might have been blood and that the same color stains were found on a sword found under the Captain’s bunk.  As Sarah and Captain talk, Sophia says that a Court of Enquiry couldn’t decide what had happened, so they had the cargo delivered, and the ship was sold again and then run aground for the insurance money.  But one captain died, another went mad, and another hanged himself.  Sarah tells Captain that she has been having strange dreams, that two crew members said they saw something creeping up the steps, and that Sophia Matilda has been hearing voices at night.  (The voices, of course, have been whispering on stage since the lights went up.)  As Captain and Sarah argue over what Sarah has been doing with the cook, Sophia Matilda wonders how we can know what happened in the past if we were not there, or if our memories are not to be trusted.  She says many people will try to explain what happened on the ship but all explanations are lies.  Sarah and Captain argue, and Captain thinks the voices he hears are the groaning sounds of the casks in the hold.  Fearful that the ship will explode, he orders Sarah to get Sophia Matilda because they have to get off the ship.  Sophia Matilda says she remembers being put in a boat with her mother, of watching the ship disappear, of being found and reared by a couple who could not have children.  Later, a raft with seven dead men washed up on shore, perhaps the crew, but no one knew what happened to her mother and father.  She says she has been hearing the voices more and more, that what the ocean spares it takes again, in time.  The whispering voices grow louder and louder as the light fades on Sophia Matilda.  When the stage is dark, the voices fade and we hear a ticking clock, and ocean and gull sounds.  Then the clock stops.

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                                 NEW PLAYS (August 1, 2002)


    PHOENIX, set in the Arizona city in the summer of 1961, requires five men and four women on a simple unit set representing all locations, but "all we need to see are a piano and a few tables, chairs and benches."  There are three couples: Kermit, 48, a piano player who runs an accordion school, and Mona, 38, his second wife; Rutger, 40, a German who owns a bowling alley, and his wife Lea, 27, who helps with the bowling alley.  The other characters are Tanya, 19, Kermit's daughter by his first wife, Mickey, 52, "big and beefy," who teaches accordion, and Ray, 26, "rather small," who also teaches accordion.  In darkness we hear the sound of an accordion playing "La Golondrina," and when the lights come up all the characters except Ned and Tanya are on stage at a picnic area by a lake.  Kermit thinks that he remembers Mickey from Chicago, but Mickey denies ever having been there.  Tanya, giggling and squealing, wearing a two-piece bathing suit, runs in chased by Ned, also in a bathing suit, who catches her and picks her up from behind, but she manages to escape and run off.  Lea, Ned's wife, leaves, unhappy, and Doris follows her.  Kermit moves to the piano and the action shifts without a break to his living room where he plays an "elegantly sad old whorehouse piano version of 'When You Were Sweet Sixteen'" as Mona complains about their smoking and drinking.  He stops playing only when Mona calls Tanya a slut.  When Mona goes (after telling Kermit to be afraid), he closes the piano lid and our attention shifts to a short scene with Tanya and Ray.  Tanya says how much she likes to go to the movies, but when Ray asks her to go with him she says she is busy.  The light fades on them and comes up on Ned and Lea in their bedroom.  Ned denies any involvement with Tanya and tries to console Lea as the lights fade on them and come up on Rutger and Doris on their back patio drinking with Kermit, Mona, and Mickey.  Rutger and Kermit are having a discussion about truth possibly being a woman, while Doris keeps asking if anyone wants more avocado or bean dip.  Doris describes how she met Rutger at the dog races and how her first husband died after being kicked in the head by a horse.  She inherited the bowling alley that Rutger saved with his business acumen.  The scene shifts to Tanya and Ray talking in the bowling alley lounge late at night.  Tanya tells Ray that she named her breasts Ladmo and Wallace after her favorite characters on a children's tv show.  She says her life is like being stuck on a rock from which she cannot descend, that almost everybody in Phoenix is from some other place.  Ray kisses her, twice, and she says she has to leave.  He asks her what she sees in Ned, reminding her several times that Ned is married.  Lea comes in saying that she wants to close the alley, and Tanya leaves.  Ray asks Lea if she is lonely because her husband won't be home when she gets there and Lea asks him if he wants to join her, leaving the keys on the table for him to lock up.  Our attention shifts to Kermit, Rutger, and Mickey drinking on Rutger's patio as Kermit explains his theory that Rutger and Mickey are both trying to blend in, pretending that they are just ordinary people, Rutger, well educated, running a bowling alley, and Mickey teaching accordion when it is clear that music has not been central to his life.  After Kermit leaves, Rutger tells Mickey that he has done some research on him and wonders if his old acquaintances in Chicago would like to know where he is.  Rutger suggests that perhaps Mickey could arrange to have the bowling alley burn down for the insurance money.  Mickey says he has to give an accordion lesson and after he leaves Rutger takes out a lighter and lights a cigar.  Then, in Lea's living room, Mona, Tanya, Doris, and Lea are drinking coffee and talking about the men in their lives. Ned enters to ask Lea to look up the bowling alley because he has things to do.  He tells her not to wait up for him, kisses her, and leaves.  Mona is impressed by Ned's kissing, but Lea says that Judas was also a good kisser.  The lights fade on them and we hear "stripper music" and see Mickey and Ray at a table in the Carnival Room, drinking and watching a stripper downstage (we don't see her).  Ray wants Mickey to give him some tips on how to appear more dangerous to Tanya.  Mickey says he knows nothing about women and suggests a hooker, then a trip to the Virgin Islands.  Before finishing his drink and leaving, Mickey tells Ray that if he wants to love he should get a dog.  In their living room, Doris tries to get Rutger to tell her about himself.  She wonders why, when she mentions the war, he always changes the subject.  He says the memories are too painful and suggests that she be grateful for what she has and enjoy life while she can.  He tells her that she is the dearest thing in the world to him and asks her to make some sausages.  The other characters, drinking on Kermit's patio, listen to Ned and Lea bicker until she leaves.  Ray and Tanya follow her, and, after Ned says he thinks he could be a tough guy, Mickey leaves and Kermit tells Ned that he knows what he is capable of.  In the last scene of the first act, Rutger and Mickey might find starting over in another place a difficult task, Mickey remarks that a fire in which no one was hurt might be a possibility.  But Rutger has decided that he wants the bowling alley and his wife Doris to disappear.  With the insurance money, after compensating Mickey, he would retire to a banana plantation in the Virgian Islands.  When Mickey says that he just wants to be left alone, Rutger says that he has discovered that Mickey has a daughter in Vermont.  Mickey puts a hand around Rutger's throat, choking him, as Rutger explains that people die every day and it's not as if Mickey hasn't done this kind of work before.  When Mickey lets go, Rutger assumes that they have a deal and that he will be receiving some very bad news in the near future.  Mickey says he can always count on bad news and leaves.  Rutger says he thinks he has an erection and the lights fade, ending the first act.

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