SHORT(ER) PLAYS

Jamuary, 2014

     In Zombie Radio, Meredith Cherry, 17, and Jim Rainey, 18, are sitting on a sofa, facing downstage towards an invisible black and white television set.  The light from the tv is the only illumination.  They are watching an early thirties horror movie.  He complains about her eating a peach and she says she has been getting weird cravings and thinks she is hearing radio broadcasts and has been having disturbing nightmares.  She says that there are a lot of things going on all around her that she doesn’t quite understand, as if she were a radio with poor reception.  She says she believes in ghosts .  Jim thinks ghosts don’t exist and asks if there is any more beer.  Meredith says she is the babysitter and can’t get drunk and says they shouldn’t have screwed on the sofa because the child, Ben, might have seen them.  Meredith says she can almost remember being somebody else before she was born.  Jim says he has to leave because he is going hunting in the morning.  She tells him he would be a good father but he says he would step in front of the nearest locomotive.  She says she would rather die than get rid of a baby before it was born, and she says she has to tell him something.  As he leaves he tells her that she can come back as a zombie and tell him while she is eating the baby.  We hear faint sounds from the movie but Meredith is listening to something else, asking the voice what she should do.  We hear faint screaming from the movie and the tv light fades out.

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     A short play for a man and a woman, Lamp Post is set in an upstairs apartment in a Midwestern college town in the late 1970s.  Ben is awakened by Brittany pounding on his door asking for the Crisis Center.  Ben tells her the Center is in the building next door but Brittany says she is scared because somebody is after her and Ben opens the door.  Ben asks her if he should call the police and Brittany tells him that when she was walking home from the library a street lamp went out as she got close to it and then came back on after she passed.  She says it only happens with her and thinks it means that psychic energy is streaming out of her head and turning the light off.  Ben says she is finding a pattern in random meaningless data.  She asks if he’s a writer because she hates writers and thinks the writer’s workshop is like a black hole that swallows up talent and shits mediocrity.  Ben insists that she is imagining a relationship between two completely unrelated things.  Brittany says she has so much stuff inside her brain that her head is going to explode.  Ben opens the door but she slams it shut.  When he puts his hands on her shoulders she pulls away and says she has a gun—in Pennsylvania.  She sits on the bed, saying that nothing means anything, that it’s all just random.  “This isn’t the Crisis Center, is it?” she says.  “I don’t know,  Ben says.  “Maybe.”  Light fades on them and goes out.

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     There are three characters in Pentecost, Egg Rooks, 29, Jack Pentecost, 33, and Dorry Shay, 19.  We hear the sounds of wind and rain and a creaking old windmill as lights come up on Jack sitting before the flickering light of an invisible downstage fire in a deserted windmill.  Egg comes in with an old brown rucksack saying he doesn’t know where he is.  He knows who Jack is and says he is glad he started a fire.  Egg says he remembers going with an unusual sort of girl to hear Jack preach.  From the upstage shadows, from another time and place, barefoot, in an old wedding dress, Dorry enters, saying that in her dream she was riding a train and reading the Bible when she felt two strong hands reaching around her neck from behind.  She puts her hands on Jack’s shoulders near his neck and he covers her hands with his as Egg talks about being raised in the dump by his aunt and uncle after his father broke his neck.  Egg talks about a “fey” girl with eyes like a blue-eyed snake who worked as a waitress at the bowling alley.  In counterpoint, Dorry speaks of how she came to the town by train and then she pulls her hands away from Jack’s and sits between the two men in front of the fire.  Dorry says her mother went berserk, fell on the railroad track, and was cut into three pieces by a locomotive.  All she left Dorry was her wedding dress.  Egg says he came every night to eat at the bowling alley and then took Dorry to see Jack speak in tongues.  Jack and Dorry speak gibberish to each other and Egg suggests that Jack has known a lot of women and can give Egg some spiritual guidance about the girl.  The three speak of different but related experiences and Egg says he saw Jack violating Dorry against the piano above the bowling alley.  Egg says he told Dorry he would marry her even after he saw her sin but he didn’t say it very well and she told him not to touch her.  But he says he brought his uncle’s hand ax that he used to cut off the heads of the chickens and a voice told him what to do.  He says he is glad he found Jack because he has brought him in his rucksack a real pretty present that he can talk to when he gets lonesome, but it ain’t no bowling ball.  Light fades and goes out as we hear the sounds of wind, rain, and the creaking windmill.

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September, 2013                  

     Mata Hari, for one man and one woman, was first presented as a companion piece for Marina.  In darkness we hear the sounds of insects in a jungle and an Indonesian gamelan playing softly.  Lights come up on Mata Hari, in jail, wearing a dark dress.  She says she was terrified of the rats at first but has become rather fond of them.  She wants to communicate with Vadime, her Russian lover, but the authorities intercept her letters.  We hear the sound of a door creaking open and Macleod, a man in his sixties with a large black satchel, steps into the light.  He says as her husband he has a right to see her even if she is a traitor and a prostitute.  He says she answered the advertisement he had put in the paper looking for a wife.  She says he tried to pimp her out to his friends and gave her syphilis.  She starts naming the people she has slept with until he stops her.  She accuses him of beating her with a buggy whip but he says it was a cat-o-nine-tails and that she lost all rights to her children when she ran off to Paris to become a whore.  She says a servant girl, his mistress, poisoned their son.  She says that in Paris, alone and starving, she reinvented herself as Mata Hari which means sunrise, the edge of the day.  He says a friend put the advertisement for a wife in the paper as a joke.  He says she had the look of a half-caste girl which he was unable to resist and they agree they had some good times together.  She pleads with him to help her get out of jail, saying that she spied for the French, not the Germans, and that the French betrayed her.  She says that he let the military system define him, and he says that she danced in various stages of undress and told a pack of lies about herself.  She explains that she turned her own flesh and blood into a work of art and that people loved her.  She says she took money from some Germans because she had lost her luggage and needed clothes, but she has no idea why the French have put her in prison.  She asks Macleod to ask Vadime to help her, but Macleod says Vadime, blinded in the war, has already betrayed her.  Macleod says he brought her a present and she takes the jeweled bra, her costume, out of the satchel.  He wants her to dance for him and she goes into the upstage darkness to change.  He reads aloud from a paper that she is to be executed.  She appears in costume and we hear gamelon music as she dances, saying that she removes the veils signifying cast-off illusions.  She describes what she is doing as she dances and drops six of the veils.  Maclead says, “Ready . . . Aim . . . Fire” as she is about to drop the last veil and we hear the sound of a firing squad, very loud.  She falls; the music stops; we hear a few faint jungle sounds.  Macleod takes out his revolver and points it down at her head, saying, one final act of love.”  Lights go to black as we hear the sound of the shot.

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June, 2012

     The unit set for Machiavelli (4m, 4w with one actor playing two roles and one actress playing two roles) has two sets of curved steps leading to an upper level.  The time of the action is early in the 1500s.  We hear birds singing and see Machiavelli and Siro, his servant, looking over the audience at an invisible stand of trees.  Machiavelli wants Siro to cut the trees down and then feed the chickens.  Siro thinks the trees are part of a sacred grove, says he is terrified of chickens, and tells Machiavelli that the shirts he gave to the washerwoman are not yet ready.  He says the butcher thinks the washerwoman is a witch and warns Machiavelli not to go into her basement.  The lights fade and come up on Machiavelli and Strega, an old woman, as they come down the steps hidden by shirts hanging on a clothes line that stretches from the SR stairs to the UC arch.  The Strega gathers the shirts and the clothes line into a large ball as she goes down the stairs and under the arch.  When she pulls the last shirt off the line we see Clizia wearing only a man’s shirt.  The Strega goes back up the stairs and Clizia explains that the old woman is her grandmother with whom she came to live after Calfucci started chasing her all over his house.  Learning that she loves chickens, Machiavelli offers to let her live in his cottage.  She disappears through the arch and Machiavelli sits at his desk DR, writing.  His wife Marietta says that he treats her as if she were invisible and threatens to cut Clizia’s throat.  As they leave, Clizia and Siro enter.  He compliments her on her control over the chickens and is surprised when she says that Machiavelli has never touched her.  He tells her that Machiavelli was once a very important man in Florence but was thrown into prison and tortured.  We hear a pounding on the door.  Machiavelli tells Siro to answer it and he returns with Calfucci.  Clizia says she would rather die than go back, and Machiavelli says that Calfucci has no legal claim on the girl.  Calfucci explains that Lucrezia, his second wife, won’t sleep with him.  Machiavelli offers to act as an intermediary and Calfucci invites him to dinner.  After Calfucci leaves, Clizia says that Machiavelli is trying to get Lucrezia naked.  She says Lucrezia is a demoness and warns him.

     On the balcony, Machiavelli learns that Lucrezia would welcome someone climbing up her trellis at midnight.  She says the lover would have to be discreet because Calfucci is dangerous.  Machiavelli moves to the DL table to play chess with himself and Clizia sits with him.  He tells her that his books help him see and understand the patterns of human behavior.  He says he is honest about not being honest and is surprised when Clizia beats him at chess.  On the balcony Lucrezia waits for Machiavelli to climb over the railing.  Calfucci knocks and calls for his wife and she tells Machiavelli to climb part way down the trellis while she runs down the steps, lets in Calfucci, and says she wants to be alone.  She goes back up, Calfucci knocks again, and Machiavelli, descending the trellis again, falls screaming.  Calfucci says he is going to release the dogs and we hear barking and snarling as Machiavelli screams and staggers into his study, helped by Siro and Clizia.  Machiavelli tells Clizia, as she pulls thorns from his butt, that he was paying a visit to Lucrezia but the rose trellis broke and he was then chased by dogs.  She says he deserved it but that it is funny and he should write a play about it.  When Machiavelli goes to take a bath, Clizia tells Marietta that she is her husband’s friend, but Marietta calls Machiavelli a monster of selfishness who will rip out her soul. Marietta leaves as Machiavelli returns and Clizia says she wants to learn how to read and write.  She berates him for wanting to cut down the beautiful, ancient grove of trees and says he is very, very angry most of the time.  He agrees, and, after he leaves, Siro tells Clizia to give Machiavelli a break because he was tortured and still has nightmares.

     We hear screaming as lights come up on Machiavelli and Ligurio being tortured under the UC arch.  The Torturer asks questions and turns the lever on the rack when he doesn’t like the answers.  When Torturer leaves for lunch, Machiavelli and Ligurio talk about their predicament, but Torturer comes back to take Ligurio off the rack, half dragging, half carrying him off stage.  Machiavelli calls on the Muse of Poetry and she appears, saying that he is a common criminal.  He says she is a hallucination caused by hunger and dehydration.  She slaps his face, twice, and, when Ligurio’s head is thrown in, she picks it up and works the mouth like a puppet, speaking in a high squeaky voice.  She suggests that Machiavelli give up politics and start writing plays.  As she leaves, Torturer returns to tell Machavelli that he is being released as part of the Medici’s general amnesty.  Machiavelli walks to his study and Clizia tells him he doesn’t believe in anything and doesn’t trust anybody.  He replies that trust, like faith or love, is for children.  Siro comes in with his head bleeding, claiming that the Bortugno brothers, who were to help him cut down the trees, hit him in the head with a saw.  Clizia cleans his wound, saying that only a heartless monster would cut down the beautiful trees.  Siro says that Calfucci told him that the Medici have been driven out of Florence and the Republic has returned to power.  Machiavelli starts putting books in a satchel, certain that the Republic will need him.  When Clizia asks to go with him, he says she can stay and be the caretaker.  He leaves, followed by a woozy Siro, then Clizia.

     Marietta brings in a crate and puts books into it as Calfucci follows her around until she leaves and Machiavelli enters.  Calfucci says he hopes Machiavelli will invite him and his wife to Florence, but, as Machiavelli learns from a letter brought in by Siro, they will not be returning to Florence.  Machiavelli orders Siro to cut down the trees and throws Calfucci out, saying he is sorry he wasn’t able to impregnate his wife.  When Machiavelli tells Marietta that the Republic doesn’t want him, she says she doesn’t want him touching her, ever.  She tells Clizia that they will never leave and shows her a letter she says Machiavelli wrote.  Clizia asks Machiavelli if the letter calls her an ugly whore he fucked in a basement.  He apologizes and explains that he was just trying to amuse his friends.  He explains why the Republic doesn’t trust him and Clizia says she is crying because he has lost the last thing he was capable of caring about.  Machiavelli tells Siro not to cut down the trees and tells Clizia that he may write a play and is going to teach her to read and write.  He writes and pronounces the letters of the alphabet as she sits beside him and the lights fade to darkness.

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     Sleigh Ride is a short play for two actors, identified as Lady and Gentleman, dressed in “winter Dickensian,” sitting in a Victorian sleigh.  We hear music fading into the sound of sleigh bells as lights come up on them, and we can perhaps glimpse a snowing landscape in the background.  It is late on a dark winter’s day and Lady wonders why it isn’t colder and asks where they are going.  Gentleman tells her they are going over the river and through the woods to their grandmother’s house.  He says that he and Lady are kissing cousins.  She asks what happened yesterday and points out that the horse is not moving.  She says it only snows after an earthquake, that the snow lies on the ground and then suddenly everything shakes and seems to turn upside down and it’s snowing.  She says that they seem to be surrounded by glass.  She has a memory of being a child shaking a glass ball inside of which is a woman who looks very much like her riding in a sleigh.  The woman also has a memory of being a child shaking a glass ball.  Lady says the child outside the glass ball is a memory inside the head of another lady who is in the glass ball of another child.  Gentleman admits that he had seen a glass ball when he was a child but insists that he is sane and is not living inside a glass ball.  He says he is driving a sleigh, that his horse’s name is Dobbin, that they are going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house.  When they get there, he says, she will see that this has all been some sort of hallucination on her part.  He says they will find a glass ball on the table and shake it.  Suddenly, the lights move back and forth and up and down and the actors shake as if in an earthquake.  The shaking stops and Gentleman asks Lady if she is all right.  “Look,” she says, “it’s snowing.”  They look up into the falling snow as the light fades and goes out.  We hear the sound of sleigh bells in the darkness.

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     The set for Captain Rockets versus the Intergalactic Brain-eaters (3m, 1w) is a primitive television studio decorated as the control room of a space ship.  The walls of the rocket are made of very old and floppy theatrical flats; the control panel has knobs that seem to be a combination of old radio dials and jar lids; and the chairs are worn leather desk chairs.  We hear the Overture to Wagner’s Flying Dutchman as lights come up on Captain Rockets working on his lines.  Luna, “his beautiful companion,” tells him that their show has been cancelled by network executives and this will be their last show.  He asks how she can bother him with trivial matters when Brain-eaters from Uranus are taking over the bodies of innocent people.  Luna tells him that Bobby the Space Boy has already left to work on a new western and his part will be played by Irving Kurtzman who used to play the janitor on Mr. Peepers.  When Captain takes a swig of his Venetian Polyp Juice, Luna identifies it as vodka and suggests that she and Captain can do a production of Romeo and Juliet in Hoboken.  Kurtzman enters in a space suit that doesn’t fit, telling Captain and Luna that he is the new Space Boy.  Ed, the stage manager, starts a countdown to begin the show and we hear the Overture again as Ed, in an old-time radio announcer voice, tells the audience that Captain Rockets has gone to Uranus in his rocket ship to defeat the Betelgeusean Squid People before they can eat any more brains.  Luna says they have eaten Dr. Philco and, when Kurtzman enters as Bobby the Space Boy, Captains says he is a brain-slurping squid.  Kurtzman, confused, says he is from New Jersey and assumes that they are not live on national television but rehearsing.  Captain throttles him until he falls unconscious, and Luna tries to cover by asking Ed to tell the viewers at home about Spacies, the breakfast cereal of space cadets.  Ed appears at the edge of the light and announces a brief intermission.  Luna tries to tell Captain that he is an actor playing a part but Captain, thinking Ed is Zordak, the Grand Klapfrick of the Squid People of Betelgeuse, strangles him until he drops to the floor on top of Kurtzman.  Captain tells Luna to trust no one and speaks to the Children of Earth, telling them that the world is not a safe and happy place, that their parents have been taken over by insidious Brain Slurpers, and the children should slit their parents’ throats as they sleep.  Luna says they are off the air.  Captain says the rocket ship is made of cardboard, the set from theatrical flats from the twenties, the control knobs of bottle caps.  He knocks down the flats revealing the back wall of the studio, saying it’s all rubbish, that everything, his life included, is illusion and garbage.  He collapses in tears and Luna kneels, taking his head in her arms.  He says she is his only friend and she strokes his hair and tells him to relax.  She puts her mouth over his ear and we hear “a loud, horrendously surreal slurping sound.”  Captain screams, the sound of the Overture is heard, the lights flicker and then abruptly go out. 

December, 2011

       There are five actors (3m, 2w) in Le Fanu’s Dream (pronounced LEFF-anew) who enter and disappear on a dark set representing a park and rooms in a house on Merrion Square in Dublin from the 1840s to the 1870s.  We hear clocks ticking as lights come up on Susanna, a young woman dressed in white.  She tells us that towards the end of his life Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, “celebrated author of ghost and mystery stories,” suffered from nightmares in which he found himself walking in ruins in Phoenix Park.  Le Fanu walks on as ravens caw and, facing downstage, looks up at something we can’t see.  Susanna says that he hears an ominous creaking noise and sees that the house is going to collapse on him, but he cannot move.  We hear the sound of a wall crashing down as the lights go out and ravens caw in the darkness.

     In moonlight we see Carmilla, in white, sobbing on a park bench in front of a hedge.  Le Fanu asks if he can help, and she says she has been abandoned by a company of actors.  He says she can stay in his house and act as his secretary.  When she asks if his wife will object, he says his wife is dead, and Susanna appears in the empty oval mirror frame, looking at them.  Carmilla introduces herself as Miss Smith and she and Le Fanu walk into the darkness.  Susanna tells us from the oval frame that the young woman proved to be “surprisingly efficient,” but Le Fanu still had bad dreams.  Susanna sits on the park bench, describing a dream in which two hands come through the hedge and slowly pull a young girl through the hedge, an action that happens to Susanna as the lights fade out.

     We hear birds singing and see Carmilla reading theatrical reviews in a newspaper.  She tells Le Fanu she loves the house because, like an old theatre, it is full of ghosts.  She says she thinks our life on earth is a performance watched by ghosts.  Le Fanu tells her of a dream he had about finding a dead girl lying at the foot of a low brick wall and seeing two red eyes staring at him.  Carmilla says that a dead girl was found murdered in Phoenix Park at the foot of a low brick wall and all the blood had been drained from her body.  When Carmilla asks how his wife died, Le Fanu says that her problems began on their wedding night.

     We hear owls and see Susanna sitting on the bed, speaking of “the unspeakable mad violation in hell,” and telling Le Fanu that someone with red eyes is looking at her in the dark.  Carmilla moves into the empty oval frame and speaks to Susanna from it.  Susanna wants Le Fanu to cover the mirrors and sleep in another room.  Carmilla steps out of the frame and Le Fanu remarks on how similar she is to his wife’s sister.  As they sit at the table with Brother and Susanna, Carmilla transforms into the sister, “bright, bubbly, flirtatious, a little reckless, and a bit wicked.”  Sister asks how Susanna and Le Fanu slept on their wedding night and assumes that “a successful hymeneal execution has been accomplished.”  Susanna  is upset to learn that Le Fanu and Sister were writing letters to each other before the marriage, referring to Susanna as Miss Smith Bluebeard.  Susanna tells Le Fanu that his mind is full of puppets, peopled by a grotesque collection of Swedenborgian doppelgangers.  After she storms out, Le Fanu says he can’t find her, and Sister says that she and Susanna grew up in the house and know all its secret places.

     In the next scene, the sisters are sitting on the park bench, and Susanna says she feels as if something is watching her, something that lives in the mirror. She says Le Fanu talks to imaginary people as he writes, as if his entire life was one great hallucination.  She asks if Sister thinks of their father, and Sister says she stole Papa’s razor from his corpse and Susanna may borrow it if she decides to cut her husband’s throat as he sleeps.  The light fades on them and comes up on Le Fanu writing late at night, saying he is sometimes visited by his dead great-uncle, the playwright Richard Brindsley Sheridan.  Sheridan appears “in all his decayed and cobweb covered late 18th century glory,” telling Le Fanu that he disapproves of his unhappiness over his wife’s death and asserting his conviction that we are put on this earth to engage in as much copulation as is humanly possible.  He says the secret of life is to jump on a willing woman before she changes her mind.  Sheridan thinks he hears someone calling him to rehearse a play in Hell because there’s always something wrong with the second act.  He goes into the darkness as Susanna enters asking Le Fanu why he stays up so late writing and talking to imaginary people. She says that there have been moments when she has not been entirely horrified by his nocturnal violations, but she thinks that he intends to murder her.  Le Fanu says her dark fantasies are brought on by loneliness and fear and are not real.

     Talking with Brother, Le Fanu asks him what he and Susanna talked about when they walked in the garden.  Le Fanu then watches as Susanna tells Brother that when her husband touches her she feels the “rough, filthy digits of the Evil One.”  Sister and Le Fanu appear, congratulating Brother on the upcoming birth of his child.  Susanna says that her three children are goblins and she doesn’t want her husband playing with her teats in bed.  Then, at night, we hear a ticking clock, wind, and owls, and see Le Fanu asleep at his desk.  Susanna appears in the mirror frame, saying that he has been reading Swedenborg on the multitude of intersecting worlds.  Swedenborg, played by the actor who did Sheridan and will later play Papa, crawls out from under the bed and speaks with a Swedish accent about the inner eye that can see oceans of spirits, worlds within worlds.  Le Fanu wakes and when Swedenborg asks him what one thing he wants to know above all others, Le Fanu says he wants to know why his wife sobs uncontrollably when he touches her.  Swedenborg munches on a meatball, says his wife is dead, and crawls back under the bed.

     We hear a creaking sound and the ticking of clocks as Carmilla, in a white nightgown, steps into the light.  She says she keeps hearing voices and wonders if she could be of any assistance to Le Fanu.  They look at each other as Susanna watches from the frame and, after Le Fanu moves into the shadows, goes to the bed.  We hear voices whispering as Carmilla appears in the frame, talks with Susanna, and gets into bed with her.  Le Fanu moves into the light, apparently not seeing Carmilla, and Susanna tells him that a young woman got into bed with her and held her.  Carmilla smiles at Le Fanu as she cuddles with Susanna and when Le Fanu says that the only thing he is certain of if his love for Susanna, she tells him everything he is certain of is a lie.

      Brother tells Le Fanu, walking in the park with thunder and lightning, that he must come in out of the storm.  Le Fanu says that Susanna caught doubt from him and it drove her mad and killed her.  Lights come up on Susanna in bed speaking the letter she is writing to God.  She says she knows God is insane and is really Satan who lives in the mirror and copulates with the vampire girl.  She says there is no love, no salvation, only darkness and fear and something pressing against her in the night.  She says she felt a hand clutching her throat until she could not breathe and her senses left her.  We hear ticking clocks and see Susanna on the bed, then a door creaking open, and Papa going to the bed.  Susanna says she has missed Papa since he died and he says there is room for her to cuddle in his coffin.  He asks why her sister was in bed with her.  She says her sister was comforting her the way Papa comforted her.  He starts climbing onto the bed and she screams “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” as the light goes out on them.

     Le Fanu awakens at his desk from a nightmare and is told by Carmilla that his wife was disgusted and horrified by his touch not because of anything terrible her father did to her.  She asks how his wife died and light fades on her and comes up on Susanna in bed screaming.  Le Fanu is where Papa was and Susanna says some monstrous, pawing creature was on top of her so that she couldn’t breathe.  She says Le Fanu writes about men murdering women and he shakes her, saying he does not want to kill her, but she says sex, death, and writing are all the same thing.  Carmilla says he put his hands over her face and raped and smothered her.  Le Fanu denies it, but Carmilla says she saw it from inside the mirror.  She thinks Le Fanu should cut his throat with a razor.

     Le Fanu wanders in the dark as ravens caw and we hear the voices of Susanna and Carmilla reprising the opening lines of the play about Le Fanu’s nightmares and the collapse of a debilitated mansion.  Le Fanu says there is no house, no wall; he says he is innocent and is not responsible for his wife’s death.  He sits on the bench, saying he has conquered the nightmare and no longer has anything to fear.  Two hands come out of the hedge and wrap around his neck.  He screams and is pulled through the hedge as lights come up on Carmilla and Susanna sitting on the bed.  They say they have the house to themselves and can be alone together, forever.  Carmilla kisses Susanna’s lips, then her neck, then her breasts as the light fades and goes out.

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     In a circle of light surrounded by darkness, Lil, a woman in her thirties, is on a couch, and Doc, a man in his fifties, sits in a chair by the head of the couch in the two-character play Orchard Hill.  Lil says that she is God’s wife, that there has been a lot of sexual intercourse, that they were married on Orchard Hill, although God said the marriage was never legal and so she married his son, Adam, instead.  Eve, she says, was his second wife.  She says God was already married to Ashtaroth who went mad “living with that gigantic control freak” and was put in the attic.  When Doc asks about her childhood, Lil says she remembers walking at night on a deserted road in the rain where God picked her up.  When Doc says he is there to help her, she wonders what sort of deep neurosis would lead anybody to want to pretend they actually derived pleasure from helping anybody.  Lil says when God wanted to get rid of her she went to another son, Lucifer, and persuaded him to seduce Eve on Orchard Hill.  Lil says God threw Eve and Adam out because sooner or later everybody disappoints him and he rejects them.  When Doc asks Lil what would make her happy, she says she wants Orchard Hill.  When Doc says it’s just down the road she says she can’t go back because Orchard Hill is a portal to another dimension, another existence.  When she tells Doc that he desires her he says that her compulsive sexualizing of her experience is evidence of some terrible trauma in her past.  She says the trauma is God who created this nightmare of cannibalism and horror.  Existence is a crime, she says, and God is the criminal.  Doc says he has a folder with information about a Lillian Knight, who is an assistant professor of literature at the University of Massachusetts.  The photograph, he says, looks suspiciously like her.  Lil says she has had to assume false identities and that the Lillian Knight who teaches a course on the Brontes and another on the Book of Genesis is a character, but that she, Lil, is real.  She says that maybe Doc is God in disguise, trying to persuade her that she is not who she is.  She says he cannot kill her because he still desires her.  When Doc says that time is up and they will have to continue this discussion in their next session, she tells him to come and touch her, worship her as he wants to.  God, she says, is love.

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        The setting for The Red Ettin (2m, 2w) is “somewhere or other,” represented by a unit set with a bed, table, chairs, and a hat rack.  “The actors move.  The set doesn’t.  Engrave these words onto your eyeballs.”  We hear ravens as lights come up on Jack and Widow.  Widow tells Jack that his two dead brothers were also named Jack and that he had a sister who was eaten by a big red thing.  Jack starts again to tell the story of a Widow who lived on a small bit of ground which she rented from a farmer.  She interrupts, asking which Jack he is talking about, and then continues the story about her asking Jack to bring her a bucket of water, but the bucket had a hole in it and so she could only make him a small cake to take with him on his adventure.  She says that if he gives her half the cake she will bless him;  if he takes the whole cake she will curse him.  He took the whole cake, she says, and she hasn’t seen him since.  Jack says his brother gave him a knife to keep until he came back.  If the knife became rusty, then something terrible had happened to his brother.  Each morning Jack would unwrap the knife from the red engineer’s kerchief (his father, according to Widow, was cut into three pieces by a locomotive when he was lying on the tracks thinking of her beautiful, naked body).  One morning the knife was brown with rust and Jack knew it was time to find his brother.

      Jack continues his narration of the story as we hear sounds of sheep, and Shepherd appears saying that the sheep belong to The Red Ettin who, according to a song, stole the King of Scotland’s pretty daughter and tied her up naked in his big brass bed.  Shepherd says a young man who looked like Jack, hearing the story, decided to rescue the girl, but he’s dead because The Red Ettin has three heads and eats young fellows like Jack with fried potatoes and ketchup.  Shepherd gives Jack directions to The Red Ettin’s castle, hands him a pig’s eyeball to give to the old woman in the castle, and leaves.  Jack narrates his following of Shepherd’s directions, coming to a field full of two-headed bulls, noting that, “You’ll need to use your imagination for that.  We have a limited budget here.  We only had enough for the sound effects.”  We hear the sound of enraged two-headed bulls charging, the sound of a door slamming, and see firelight come up on Old Woman (played by the actor who played Widow).  After he gives her the eyeball, she tells him the daughter of the King of Scotland is tied up in the tower but that it’s a trap and he must remember three things—a ball bat, roller skates, and meat tenderizer.  When Jack says she looks remarkably like his mother, she says she’s not getting cast as the Princess any more and must leave to put the eyeball in a pickle jar, explaining that the “greater part of dramaturgy is just figuring out how to get people in and out of doors.”  She says if he needs to save money on the corkscrew staircase he can just turn out the lights.  In the blackout we hear the daughter moaning.

     Jack turns up a lamp and we see King of Scotland’s Daughter tied on the bed, a blanket barely covering her.  Jack says he has come to save her and cuts the ropes with his knife.  She wants him to give her his clothes, telling him he can wear the blanket.  She wants him to get pizza for her before The Red Ettin kills him as he has killed all the Jacks before him.  She says if he does kill the three-headed bull he can do whatever he wants with her.  He says he wants a girl who loves him for himself.  She says the story always wins and he is just another character.  She offers him a baseball bat as he leaves for the barn and then finds roller skates under her bed as the light fades on her and comes up on The Red Ettin, a large older man (played by the actor who played Shepherd) drinking at a table.  He tells Jack that his three-headed bull costume is on the hat rack and says that Jack would eat those who came to kill him because we play the role we’re cast in.  “Lines make the man.”  He offers Jack a drink and Jack sits at the table with him.  Red tells Jack that his name is Albert and that he killed The Red Ettin and took over the business.  He says he is Jack’s father and tells him he feels dizzy because of the muscle relaxer he put in the wine that also acts as a meat tenderizer.  When Jack falls to the floor, Red takes an ax and gets ready to cut off Jack’s head.  With a war cry, King of Scotland’s Daughter zooms in on roller skates and hits Red three times in the head with the baseball bat.  She kisses Jack as Widow walks in holding a pair of galoshes and introduces King of Scotland’s Daughter to Jack as Ethel, his sister.  After Widow leaves, King of Scotland’s Daughter asks Jack if he wants to start in on the sexual intercourse.  When he says they can’t because she’s his sister, she replies that she is royalty and “we do that sort of thing all the time.”  She suggests that they cut Albert up in three pieces so he will fit on the grill and tells Jack that he could take over, inheriting the family business, becoming The Red Ettin.  The Jacks will come to save her, he’ll kill them, they’ll barbecue them.  She says that with the barbecue sauce and the wine and the meat tenderizer they could pull in pretty good money, perhaps start franchising fast food barbecue places.  She says that sometimes you’re offered a role you can’t say no to, and, when Jack hesitates, she says she will let him tie her up.

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       In Funhouse (2m, 2w), we hear in darkness the sound of a train whistle and the train coming to a stop as lights come up on “a wilderness of funhouse mirrors,” with tables and chairs as if parts of a rather nice house had been blended with a small restaurant and the ruins of a funhouse.  Julie tells Trista as they sit at a table C that she must have dozed off on a train ride from Long Island into the city and woke up when the train stopped.  People were saying that a girl had fallen between the cars and onto the track.  She walked away from the crowd toward what looked like a derelict carnival with a funhouse.  Standing, looking downstage, seeing the funhouse around her, she says she had an eerie half memory of her father taking her to a labyrinth of funhouse mirrors that smelled of damp old wood, cherry drink, and popcorn.  Roman says a 16th century Kabbalist described the ten Sephiroth reflecting light back and forth like a house of mirrors and Paul moves to stand behind Julie as she describes seeing a girl in the mirror that she could almost remember being in another life.  She realizes that a man is standing just behind her, but cannot see his reflection.  Paul explains that a section of the mirror is missing and that is why he has no reflection.  We hear the train whistle and Julie says she needs to go, but Paul says they will get something to eat and wait for the next train.  Julie says they found a quiet restaurant and she woke up naked in bed in a little motel.

     When Trista reminds her that she is to be married in two weeks, Julie says she knew she had made a mistake and wrote a short note begging the man never to try to contact her.  She walked to the next station and caught the next train home.  She did not tell her fiancée Roman because her mother told her that, with men, the best course of action is to behave as if nothing has happened.  Besides, Roman’s head is full of “quantum philosophical bric-a-brac.”  She and Trista agree that Roman is not “normal,” and Roman speaks of places in a nut garden that might be portals to other dimensions, to inter- penetrating realities.  He says that some people might be able to enter those portals and see a multiplicity of universes which have always been around us.

     Julie says that when she got back to the house she saw Roman and Paul, the man she had slept with, in the library.  Roman introduces Paul as a squash-playing Princeton classmate, and Trista wonders how Julie could leave while the man she slept with was taking a shower, go right home, and find him talking with her fiancée.  Julie says she knows it doesn’t make any sense and asks Trista to unbutton her blouse to attract Roman so that she can talk alone with Paul.  Roman is talking to Paul about the possibility that, in parallel universes, fictional characters are real.  When Trista distracts him, Julie asks Paul to stay away from Roman, saying that what happened between them was an aberration and meant nothing.  Paul asks her what she is talking about and moves away to have a drink with Trista.  Questioning Roman, Julie learns that at Princeton he slept with Paul’s fiancée.  Julie tells Trista to talk with Roman and accuses Paul of sleeping with her to get revenge on Roman for sleeping with his fiancée.  Paul says he doesn’t know what she is talking about and Roman and Trista join them.  Roman says that a funhouse is “an apt metaphorical representation of the multiverse,” finite from the outside but infinite inside, an exact mirror reversal of the infinity of infinities where all possible worlds exist.  He argues that the fictional world and characters of Great Expectations must exist and that, paradoxically, to tell a lie is to make it true, “in some part of the funhouse.”

     Julie tells Roman that she slept with Paul; Roman asks Paul; he denies it.  Roman says that physically she could not have slept with Paul because he was at his house all day and never out of Roman’s sight except to urinate.  Roman says that memory is unreliable and that imagining and remembering are the same thing.  He says that since fictional characters exist, God, in whom he does not believe, exists as much as Hamlet or Krazy Kat.  Tracy says there is a newspaper article about a girl who fell between the cars of a train.  She says the picture of the girl looks exactly like Julie.  Julie says she has to get back to the funhouse and figure this thing out.  Roman says she can’t go back to the funhouse because “this” is the funhouse.  We hear eerie calliope music as the lights fade out.

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August, 2011

     The unit set for Grim Lake (6m, 3w), created by tables and chairs, represents all times and places at the Red Rose Inn in Armitage, Ohio, during the years 1791 to 1805, the action moving back and forth in time without set changes and with actors remaining on stage.  Nigro prefaces the script with the information that, in 1791, Henry and Margaret (Mag) Grim, their son Thomas and his wife Clara Jane, and their daughter Daisy Grim Quiller, all disappeared or were murdered.  “There are several stories about what might have happened to them.”  The play begins in darkness with Jonas Grey Wolf gazing into a fire, speaking of the ubiquitous power of Manitou.  As the fire goes out we see Polly Crow, 42, sitting on a wooden chair, staring into a downstage fire we can’t see.  George Grim, 19, sits near her and his sister, Mary Grim Armitage, 21, is finishing cleaning.  The voice of Robert Armitage is heard from upstairs, telling Mary to come up to bed.  Mary wants Polly and George to go to bed.  George says he sees things and thinks Polly does, too.  Mary says she was seven when the event George dreams about happened and she doesn’t remember anything.  She agrees with Polly that purple berries and bears drive people crazy.  Mary says she doesn’t want to think about it; they’re dead and nothing will bring them back.  Polly says it was the Devil, except he looked more like God.  George says Polly was twenty-eight at the time and saw what happened.  Polly says the Devil had long white hair and a white beard and a black suit; he had huge hands and his face was red and his eyes were blue.  Mary says it was the Indians that killed them, but Polly says she can see Henry, Mag, Thomas, Clara Jane, and Daisy as clearly as if they were still alive.  She says, at the time, she heard whippoorwills.

     Lights dim on them and come up on Henry and Mag (in 1791).  Mag thinks she hears something besides whippoorwills and Henry asks her if she has been eating purple berries again.  When she calls Henry Enrico, he says his name is Henry.  Mag says “he” is close, that he is coming for them.  She wants Polly to put the children in the root cellar.  Mag refers to Henry killing a Jesus and says she liked the way Henry walked the tightrope in his costume.  She wants him to walk on his hands.  When he says he’s too old, she says he was walking on his hands the night he killed Jesus.  He says Enrico killed Jesus; he is Henry.  Mag says that Mephistopheles is here and tells Henry to listen.  We hear the sound of whippoorwills as the light fades on them and comes up on George telling Jonas he has been having dreams about the massacre.  Jonas says the Indians were blamed, that he was blamed because he is half Indian.  George says that white people saved Jonas and raised him like their own.  Jonas says there is something evil in the lake and that it’s always a mistake to love.  We hear whippoorwills and Jonas says he saw George’s father and Polly Crow and heard them talking about Jesus as an old man with white hair and beard appeared.  Jonas says he went into the woods and when he came back they were all gone.  He says something came up out of the water and advises George to leave the situation alone.  We hear whippoorwills again as light fades on Jonas and George and comes up on Thomas Grim and Polly (in 1791).

     Thomas tells her he has been dreaming of a creature living deep in the lake, a creature that came up and started devouring “us.”  He says he hears voices in the woods and discloses that his wife Clara Jane, whom he met on a ship coming to America, never talks to him.  Polly says that Daisy told her that Thomas hasn’t talked to her since she married Pete.  Thomas says that Polly slept with both Old Man Rose and his son and has had a child by each of them.  Polly tells Thomas that his parents are speaking German, not gibberish.  Thomas denies that they can speak German and says that once he saw his father walking on his hands.  Polly warns him about eating the purple berries, but Thomas says he saw Daisy and Clara Jane and his mother and father lying dead by the shore of the lake with blood everywhere.  He says something pulled them into the water.  Polly kisses him on the cheek as the light fades.

     Polly crosses to George, Mary, and her husband Robert Armitage (in 1805) as Mary is berating George for asking questions about dead people.  George says he wants to know what happened to his family and asks how five people can be killed in such a small town without anyone knowing what happened.  Robert, who was eleven at the time, says there was blood everywhere, and Mary says she dreamed that something came out of the water and took them.  George asks Polly about the man she thought was the Devil, and she says the man told her his name was Mephistopheles.  We hear whippoorwills as lights dim on the others and come up on a younger Polly sitting in the woods as Mephistopheles DeFlores comes up behind her.  Polly tells him he looks a little bit like God and Mephistopheles tells her about his twin children, a girl and a boy named Jesus.  When Polly tells Mephistopheles he is very angry with his daughter, he says she married a clown who did somersaults on a tightrope and walked on his hands.  He can’t forgive his daughter because she is responsible for the death of her brother, Jesus.  Mephistopheles says he has been following his daughter and her husband for twenty-nine years.  Polly says he should forgive his daughter and tells him about being taken by Indians when she was a child.  She says that Henry and Mag Grim are over by the stand of maple trees.  Mephistopheles tells Polly to take the children to a cellar because a storm is coming.  He leaves and Polly tells Thomas that Mephistopheles is looking for Thomas’ parents because they killed Jesus at the carnival.  Thomas tells Polly to hide in the root cellar with the children.  Alone, Thomas talks about Revelation as the making known of what has been secret and leaves to find an ax.

     Lights come up on Mag and Henry as Mag tells Henry that she loved him when his name was Enrico but she saw him in the woods with Clara Jane, his son’s wife, comforting her with his penis.  Mephistopheles comes out of the upstage shadows telling them that he has pursued them across an ocean and nearly half a continent for three decades.  He says he is tired and wonders if there’s any point to anything since before long everybody alive will be dead.  Lights come up on Polly telling George about putting him and Mary in the root cellar and about seeing Clara Jane and Daisy kissing.  Polly says she doesn’t know if the old man with white hair and big hands killed them.  She says she remembers somebody saying, “Don’t look in his eyes.”  Light fades on them as Thomas enters with an ax and asks where Mephistopheles is.  Henry says Thomas must have imagined him, but then says that the old man went back into the woods.  Mag says that Henry is fornicating with his son’s wife and Henry says that Clara Jane also slept with Thomas’ sister.  He says Clara Jane can’t help it, it’s just her way of making friends.  Mag says something is coming out of the water to kill them, but Henry thinks it’s just fog.  Thomas believes it is retribution for all their sins.  Light fades on them and comes up on George, Robert, and Jonas sitting at a fire (in 1805).

     George says the past is a puzzle with most of the pieces missing and he doesn’t know what the truth is.  Robert says we make educated guesses that are only illusions that keep us alive long enough to fornicate with a few women.  We come from nothing and go to nothing.  To find truth, read the tombstones.  Jonas says that sometimes the Manitou whispers in a person’s head, but a person doesn’t always understand.  Light fades and we hear the sound of whippoorwills in the darkness.  

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     Midsummer (1m, 4w) is set in a wood near Athens with lush vegetation and shadows.  Puck and four fairy girls—“sweet, pretty, and delicate”—are relaxing.  Peaseblossom says that Puck is “absolutely manic,” and she doesn’t know what to make of this behavior.  But, she says, not all fairies are alike.  Cobweb, for example, is distracted and complex, Moth is always fluttering around, and Mustardseed is always critical.  Mustardseed says everything excites Puck sexually and he’s always bragging.  Puck says he saw the Great God Pan die because nobody believed in him, but his ghost still haunts the woods.  When Puck tells Peaseblossom that pleasure and disgust are closely related, Cobweb mentions Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams which, she says, Hermia left in the woods.  She says Freud isn’t born yet, that all times and places coexist in the forest, including some which are entirely imaginary.  When Mustardseed says Puck is a lost, evil little thing, Puck says they are all evil things, all lost.  Peaseblossom observes that throughout the woods creatures are kissing, copulating, killing, and devouring each other.

     Puck says that long ago they were gods, that the wind moving through the trees is the breath of Pan, and the feeling of panic is the awareness of the presence of an ancient god reminding you that you’re going to die.  Mustardseed says she would rather be a fallen god than a human.  Puck says humans are degenerate monkeys.  Moth thinks she is too young to die and Cobweb says that when the last person who believed in you, or at least remembered you, is gone, you’d be gone, too.  Peaseblossom says they have to do something so people don’t forget them.  Puck says that’s exactly what he’s been doing.  They all sense something, and Cobweb suggests that perhaps Shakespeare is coming with more rewrites, perhaps cutting the scene.  Puck says there isn’t any wind and urges them to listen.  Lights fade out.

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     In Praying Mantis, part of a trilogy of one-act plays, Steve and Laura are sitting on a back porch swing on a late summer night in 1994.  Laura says she likes listening to crickets and watching the fireflies, feeling safe but thinking that something is waiting out there.  She asks Stephen if he thinks she is unstable because her father and mother were unstable and abandoned her.  He says nobody gets over anything.  She says he is talking like he’s trying out rough drafts of his novel.  She asks if the novel is about her mother and if there is a praying mantis in it.  He says he married her mother because he loved her and Laura’s father had left them destitute.  She wonders why Stephen stayed when her mother left and he tells her that her mother once told him that she would cut the hands off anyone who hurt her child.  Laura tells Stephen that she has seen him trying to be good to her and she can’t help suspecting his motives.  He says he will never hurt her, but she says he will hurt her because he loves her.  She says she is cold and is going inside.  She asks if he is coming inside.  He says no but she doesn’t move as the light fades and goes out.

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     The setting for Night, the second play in the trilogy, is a bedroom upstairs in an old house near a university in 2003 with a telephone on a night stand beside the bed.  Laura is showing Stephen where he will sleep and suggests he take his clothes off because he is all wet from standing out in the rain.  She asks if she can get him something to eat or drink, but he doesn’t want anything.  She says she’s not sure if she got his letters and tells him there is a party downstairs.  Stephen says he came to visit her because he was worried by her telephone call.  She says he has been drinking and asks if he has taken drugs.  He says he is not hallucinating and knows she has called him for some time.  She says it must be telemarketers.  He says that when he walks at night he feels somebody is following him and he has been hearing sounds in his house at night.  Laura suggests raccoons.  He says that the last time she called she said she had an idea for his novel.  He says she was talking about their relationship in the suggestive way she did the night before she left for college.  She says she still has dreams about feeling his hands pulling her from the water when she was drowning.  Then she tells him to lie down and rest and imagine that this is a chapter in his novel like the Red King’s Dream.  She almost touches his face, but doesn’t, and leaves.  The phone rings; Stephen answers asking if anyone is there.  Light fades out.

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     In Hologram, the last play in the trilogy, Laura sits in a wooden chair in a circle of light, and Stephen sits in another chair in a circle of light.  They speak as if on the telephone but no telephones are visible.  Laura tells Stephen she’s a little drunk, has started graduate school, and is having a party with friends.  She wonders how his book is coming.  He says he isn’t writing any more and wonders why she doesn’t answer his letters.  She suggests that the woman in Stephen’s book who is obsessed with the praying mantis could have a daughter who is in love with her stepfather.  There is a conspiracy between them that drives the mother out of her mind and makes her leave.  Stephen says his book isn’t about that.  When Laura asks, Stephen says he did touch her mother but also respected her boundaries.  He asks Laura what she wants and if he can help her.  She says she doesn’t need his fucking help.  She says he can call anytime and leave her a message when she doesn’t answer.  She says she wants him to suffer and then die.  Or he could drive up to the university and have “hot, desperate, guilty, screaming sexual intercourse” with her and then she would eat his head.  She says this isn’t real, that it’s just a dream, or his novel, or a hologram.  She decides it’s a hologram and tells him to keep in touch.

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     The unit set for Appledorn (1m playing two parts, 4w, but parts may be doubled), a part of the Pendragon cycle, consists of a few platforms, some steps, furniture, and a round wooden table DR.  The action takes place in Armitage, Ohio, from early to late 19th century.  In darkness we hear French Annie singing “Au clair de la lune” as lights come up on Blossom Appledorn Wolf, 73, in 1883.  Blossom, who becomes younger and then old again in the course of the play, tells us that Appledorn was the name of a “wonderful village” her family came from before they moved to Ohio, but all she can remember is looking down a very steep staircase and her father warning her about falling.  She says that people called her simple-minded because of the fever that took her parents and because she was taken in as a five-year-old by French Annie to live in the Indian Caves out by Grim Lake.  French Annie continues singing softly as Blossom tells us that her stepfather, Jonas Grey Wolf, moved to the caves when he was old enough because he wasn’t comfortable about the half of him that was white.  When a trapper came by with Annie, she decided Jonas was the man she wanted and, after watching the trapper beat her, Jonas slit the trapper’s throat and took Annie to the caves.  Annie keeps singing softly in French as Blossom tells us she got along with their daughters but that the boy, John Paul, who was five years older than she was, wanted her.

     She tells us that when she was sixteen she went to pick blackberries on Ghost Hill and was struck by lightning.  We see a bright flash and then darkness and a huge thunderclap.  She says she had a vision of Appledorn but then realized she was back in the cave.  French Annie says she will not die but will live a long time and do wonderful things.  When Blossom began throwing up in the morning and began showing, Annie told her she was carrying a baby and so she married John Paul on whom she had taken pity once or twice, but she knew the child was not his but had been created by the thunderbolt.  Her narration is punctuated by Crow repeating the line, “Don’t fall down the steps.” She says John Paul didn’t want to marry her and never touched her again.

     She named her son James Jonas Wolf, and when he grew up he married Cally Murphy, and they had a son named John Arthur.  Blossom’s son was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864 and she grieved until she had a dream about the rain barrel.  Crow tells her to look in the rain barrel and when she does she sees her son being shot from behind by a man in a blue coat.  As she says she was visiting her son’s widow, lights come up on Cally.  T. H. Grim (played by the same actor who plays Crow) walks in and Blossom says she knew he was the man who killed her son.  Grim says that Cally’s husband died in his arms, making him swear to take care of her.  Blossom knows it was Grim’s face she saw in the rain barrel and realizes he shot his friend to get his wife.  When Grim leaves, Cally tells Blossom that he asked her to marry him.  Blossom tells Cally that she can’t marry Grim because he killed her husband.  Blossom says that the crow that whispers in her head since she was struck by lightning told her to look in the rain barrel.  Cally, angry, tells Blossom to get out of her house and stay away, telling her she should be locked up in a padded cell.

     Blossom tells us that Cally did not marry Grim and that he married Mary Louise Frost whose father had property that Grim wanted.  When the father threatened to disinherit Mary Louise if she married Grim, the father was found dead in a field with his neck broken.  When Grim started lusting after Mona, a cousin of Arthur’s, Blossom hears the crow whispering to her again to look in the rail barrel.  In the rain barrel, Blossom saw Grim doing things in the woods to Mona.  Blossom tells Mary Louise that her husband killed her father, her husband, probably his own parents, and plans to kill her.  Mary Louise doesn’t believe her and calls her a crazy old woman.  Blossom tells her to follow her husband to Witch Hollow where she will find Mona and Grim under the sumac tree.  Blossom tells us that Mary Louise did so and found them together.  We hear the sound of a ticking clock as Grim enters and Mary Louise appears with a large bowl of mashed potatoes containing her mother’s secret ingredient—love.  She puts gravy on the potatoes and agrees with Grim that she put rat poison in them.  She sits and eats some potatoes and then, as the light fades on them, Grim begins eating.  They remain in shadows as Blossom tells us they were found dead the next morning.  She says the whispering stopped but then started again, and we hear Crow warning her about falling and French Annie singing.  Blossom says she thought she saw Grim following her and she went to the top of the staircase and felt a cold hand push hard on her back and then she was falling.  Crow and French Annie repeat their refrain and Blossom says she was a young girl again in Appledore where everything smelled of apples.  French Annie sings the last quatrain of the song and the lights fade out.

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May, 2011

     Murder in the Red Barn is a longer one-act (2m, 2w) set inside a large old red barn with light shining through the broken slats, old pieces of furniture in the straw, and fragments of other locations.  The place is Suffolk, England, and the time is the late 1820s, “or perhaps a dream of that village in that time, dreamed in a more recent time.”  As the play begins we hear doves cooing and see Maria, 26, sitting in the straw, Will, 30, leaning on a post peeling a hard-boiled egg, Young Stepmother, 29, sitting on a wooden chair, and the Molecatcher, 50, drinking at a table.  Maria says all barns are haunted and that she is going to Ipswich to make a new life.  Young Stepmother relates a dream she has every night about something terrible happening in the barn and then asks Maria if she has been out again with Will, warning her that he cannot be trusted.  Maria says Young Stepmother loves her father’s money because she thinks he has found a bag of Roman coins, but her father is obsessed with moles.  The Molecatcher says that moles are tricky and philosophical and that his daughter is smart and imaginative.  Maria tells Will that she is pregnant and that he is the father.  Will says he took precautions by praying to the Lord before entering her “tabernacle.”  She says he will marry her or her father will kill him.

     Will tells the Molecatcher that Maria has gone to Ipswich, taken a job as a baker’s assistant, and is happy.  Young Stepmother says that she dreamed Maria was murdered  and put in a sack in the barn and buried in the straw.  She wants the Molecatcher to look in the barn.  Will asks Young Stepmother why she married the old man and she replies that he was kind to her.  Will thinks she would be happier in bed with him.  After the lights go to black the Molecatcher appears in the darkness with a lantern and Maria calls to him.  He puts the lantern down, looking at the straw, and asks if what he sees is a hand.

     We hear birds singing as lights come up on Maria telling Will that he was sent away for stealing pigs and the only reason he came back was because his brother Tom drowned.  Will says that being around her makes him happy.  The Molecatcher tells Young Stepmother that nobody except the killer knows how Maria died.  He says he knows that horrible unspeakable things are hidden under the earth.  Will tells us that he opened up a boarding house for young ladies in London where he does all the cooking.  He says that the Molecatcher and two policemen dragged him off to jail for killing Maria.  Will says that he and Maria argued and he remembers finding her in the barn, dead, and burying her.  He says thousands will come to see him hang and cut up his skin in pieces.  He says they are the subject of a penny dreadful, and Maria says her picture is on the cover.  Will picks up two dolls from the straw, identifying one as the Notorious Red Barn Murderer Doll and the other as the beautiful and tragic Maria doll.  Maria speaks of using milk as her beauty secret and dreaming she was drowning, while Will speaks his memories of making love to her.

     The Molecatcher talks to Young Stepmother about her dreaming that Maria was buried in the barn.  The Molecatcher says that Will is not in his right mind and Young Stepmother says that all men are murderers.  In an earlier time Will tells Young Stepmother that he is meeting Maria in the barn so they can run away to Ipswich or London.  Young Stepmother tells Maria that her children are dead and Maria describes how people came to the barn to collect souvenirs, leaving just a skeleton, and made up songs and plays about her.  She says she had three babies, one by Will’s brother Tom, one by the clockmaker who sent money, and one by Will, but all three babies died.  Maria says if you dig down far enough you come to the center of the darkness, that all God is, is darkness, but, she adds, he is famous.

     Set in China, a long time ago, The Gatekeeper (2m) tells the story of Lao Tzu, an old man, knocking on a gate at the edge of the civilized world.  The Gatekeeper says he must pay a fee and when Lao Tzu says he has no money, the Gatekeeper says that nobody has ever wanted to go out the gate into barbarism and chaos.  Lao Tzu identifies himself and the Gatekeeper invites him into his lodge to warm himself by the fire and have something to drink.  The Gatekeeper says he remembers hearing Lao Tzu speak many years earlier.  Lao Tzu says he wants to go out the gate because he wants to die in a place where there is nothing.  The Gatekeeper pours more wine into Lao Tzu’s cup, saying that he had a dream in which he refused to let Lao Tzu through the gate until he wrote down his wisdom.  That, he says, is the fee.  Lao Tzu says his writing will be misconstrued and turned into dogma over which people will kill each other.  The Gatekeeper says his teachings make him happy and his words and images are beautiful, but Lao Tzu insists that there is nothing to be gained from writing, nothing to be gained from anything.  The Gatekeeper gets pen and ink and tells Lao Tzu he can go out the gate if he writes down his wisdom.  Lao Tzu refuses and the Gatekeeper pulls out a trumpet and blows it into Lao Tzu’s ear five times, but Lao Tzu still refuses.  They struggle over the trumpet and the Gatekeeper starts whacking Lao Tzu over the head with it until Lao Tzu collapses, dead.  The Gatekeeper says he will write down what he remembers of what Lao Tzu said and continues to write as the lights fade and we hear the sound of wind in the darkness.

     In Relativity, an elderly Albert Einstein and a middle-aged Kurt Godel sit on a bench in Princeton, New Jersey, in the autumn of 1954 as Kurt wonders why, in the movie, there are seven dwarfs and why he can’t remember their names.  Kurt is convinced that mathematicians are trying to poison him and suggests that the Wicked Queen has given Snow White a radioactive apple that makes the castle glow.  He says there may be an infinite number of parallel variations of the fairy tale.  Albert wants to go to one where they are not having this conversation.  Kurt says there are time loops in Albert’s equations that make it theoretically possible to visit the past.  Kurt thinks it odd that Albert sat down on their walk, and Albert tells him he should find someone else to talk to because he, Albert, can’t live forever.  Kurt says that since time is an illusion, there is no death.  Kurt says he has always been looked at as if he were some sort of insect.  Albert, who has fallen asleep, wakes up and tells Kurt that he needs to make new friends so he will not be utterly alone.  Kurt replies that he happens to like the illusion of Albert’s company.  Albert says he has been trying to work out a grand unified theory but has failed.  He tells Kurt that he cannot start over because he will be dead in two months.  Kurt says that Albert is his friend and he loves him.  That, he says, is not an illusion.  Albert says the name of the last dwarf is Happy.  Kurt says he doesn’t think so and Albert suggests that they walk, but the light fades on them before they get up.

     In Borneo, Harry, a large man of 40 with a deep voice, and Rita, a woman in her 30s with beautiful long red hair, are sitting in bamboo chairs on a verandah at night.  We hear occasional faint jungle bird noises and the sound of a film running through an old projector.  Harry speaks of re-editing a film and Rita mentions that she has been learning about poisons, adding that perhaps “he” could be persuaded to walk on to the rotted wharf and fall through the boards, a nail piercing his carotid artery.  Harry comments that that has been done before and says he is on the edge of an abyss.  She says he sits in the dark watching the same scenes over and over, and she thinks he should cut the nude scenes, telling him that she didn’t want to do them.  He speaks of editing the scene in which a jealous husband murders his wife.  She tells him that all he cares about is the film, that he worships death.  He replies that he is making a movie about a man who lives in Borneo with his beautiful wife but every take seems to have something wrong with it.  He begins to wonder if he actually murdered his wife or if he only imagined it, like a scene in a script that was never shot or was left on the cutting room floor.  Rita says that everything is devoured in Borneo and he says he is keeping in the nude scenes.

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     The unit set for Darkpool (3m, 1w) includes an office with table and chairs, a bench in a rooftop garden, and the balcony of an apartment.  Dutch, 47, and Mick, 29, overseas operatives of Darkpool, discuss their responsibility for killing people in a war zone.  Mick thinks they will be punished but Dutch assures him they will be protected.  Max, 53, introduces the men to Justine, 30, a lawyer with a specialty in public relations.  Max tells the men that they will be taken care of because working for Darkpool means they are part of God’s family and have a special dispensation to take whatever measures become necessary.  He says democracy is an illusion, and the military are cannon fodder.  Darkpool is the muscle that multi-national corporations use to get and keep power.  Max says that when Jesus comes again he is going to be “one of us.”  After Max walks off, Justine asks Dutch to leave so she can talk with Mick alone.

     She invites Mick to dinner at her place as the lights fade and come up on Dutch and Max in the rooftop garden at night.  Max says that the Christian community needs to be ready to take back America from the secular liberal conspiracy that’s hijacked it.  This great crusade will promote the sovereignty of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  He says Dutch is in trouble because he didn’t follow his orders to neutralize all the inhabitants of a certain house in a certain village.  He warns Dutch about being too arrogant to follow instructions and the scene shifts to Mick and Justine sitting at night on her balcony.  Mick tells her that when he and Dutch were on their way to some little village, Dutch stopped and turned around and headed back, but they got lost and ended up in the middle of a traffic jam, hearing what sounded like hostile fire.  He and Dutch started shooting, thinking there might be suicide bombers.  Justine says she needs to edit his story to help a potential jury or the public in general understand it in a way that doesn’t shed negative light on him.

     In the fourth scene, Mick enters as Dutch is eating breakfast.  Dutch says that Justine’s job is to make sure that Mick won’t say anything that could hurt the company.  Light fades on them and comes up on Justine and Max drinking coffee.  Justine tells Max that she thinks Mick will be all right and Max warns her to be careful.  The scene shifts back to the rooftop garden where Mick tells Justine that, because of a childhood injury, he sometimes thinks he hears bees.  They talk about watching other people sleep and Justine tells Mick he must play the character of an innocent man.  Justine then talks with Dutch, telling him that she doesn’t like him but her job is to help him.  He asks her how long it has been since somebody really fucked her and she slaps him very hard across the face.  He grabs her by the neck and kisses her as Mick enters.  Justine tells Dutch that if he ever does anything like that again she will shoot him.  Mick says that he and Dutch shot real people, women and children and old people.  Max enters and tells Mick that there are no innocent people, just degrees of guilt, and that they are not murderers but global stabilization facilitators.  After Mick and Justine leave, Max tells Dutch that Mick doesn’t know how to play the game and could have an accident.  He also tells Dutch that Justine is his daughter and that the cleaner everything is, the closer one is to God.  Dutch responds that to worship God is to worship chaos and suggests that God wants zombies come back from the dead.  Max narrates how, in a swamp, he stared into a deep, dark pool of water and learned that God is the Devil.  Then he changes the subject by asking Dutch how his daughter is doing in Princeton, pointing out that she would be in financial difficulty if Dutch got sent to prison.  Max says he loves the rooftop garden, but it is so high up that someone might fall, or jump.  Justine enters to say that she can’t find Mick, and Max sends Dutch up to the roof garden to find him, telling his daughter that everything will be taken care of.

     Lights come up on the rooftop garden as Mick tells Dutch that he hopes that he can take Justine away to a nice, quiet place where they could settle down and have a couple of kids.  Mick says he shot those people because he was scared.  Dutch tells him that they will go to prison if he tells the truth, and when Mick says he has to tell the truth he moves to look over the edge of the garden, saying it is a long way down.  Mick thinks he hears bees and the lights fade and go out.

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     In The Baltic Sea, two old men, Kelso and Mott are huddled in the dim glow of a small fire in a tunnel deep beneath the city.  Kelso talks to Mott about the early tv show, What’s My Line?  Mott rattles off a series of surrealistic images.  Kelso says “they” come up from under the ground like slugs after the rain, using strange passageways under the earth and deep under the Baltic Sea.  Mott says the Baltic Sea is a gigantic hoax, perpetrated by the Lithuanians and inhabited by talking fish.  Kelso says he was forced into the sewers by the CIA and Mott continues his description of bizarre events.  Mott offers Kelso a drink from a bottle of the finest New Jersey wine.  Kelso says that God told him to emit gas, and Mott says he met God under the roller coaster at Coney Island.  Kelso says he knows things that could bring down the government and accuses Mott of being “one of them,” telling him he will kill him with a can opener.  But Kelso then says he doesn’t feel well and asks what could be wrong with him.  Mott says he poisoned him and Kelso falls over dead.

     Pianos, a play in the Pendragon cycle, is set inside a barn in Armitage, Ohio, in 1908.  Myrtle Casey and her husband Willy, both 98, are talking about the barn being full of pianos that Willy has collected over the years.  Myrtle is tired of having cows in the house because there is no room for them in the barn.  She tells Willy they are a laughingstock of Pendragon County, that no one can play broken pianos, and that it’s dangerous to have pianos stacked forty feet high.  Willy says the pianos can be fixed and reminds Myrtle that she nagged him many years ago to get a piano.  She says it is dangerous for 11-year-old Jimmy.  She calls to Jimmy and we hear a sound like something running across a keyboard.  Willy doesn’t hear the sound but Myrtle thinks Jimmy is up on top of the pianos.  We hear another piano sound and Willy calls to Jimmy to come down.  He tells Myrtle that God is in the pianos, that music is God’s revelation, and the pianos are like a mountain one climbs to get to one’s salvation.  He goes off left to save Jimmy.  Myrtle warns him but we hear piano noises as, offstage, Willy climbs up, saying that he has had a vision and the ultimate revelation will come when he has climbed the mountain of pianos.  He shouts his readiness to receive the meaning of existence.  Myrtle looks up in horror, covers her face and screams as we hear a terrible cacophony of falling pianos.  Lights black out and we hear Willy’s voice in the darkness telling Myrtle that he heard God’s voice.  When he begins to describe what the Lord said we hear “an even louder cacophony of many, many falling pianos as Willy screams.”  Then silence and the sound of chickens clucking.

     Another two-character play in the Pendragon cycle, Draw a Face, Win a Pig, takes place in the law office of Jacob Armitage, 49, as Mary Casey, 24, accuses her mother of stealing and eating the pig she won at the county fair for drawing the best picture of George Washington.  She wants to sue her mother and father and everyone who ate some of her pig and says she will pay Jacob by allowing him to take certain liberties with her.  She says she has seen him looking at her with lust in his eyes and knows he visits a house of prostitution.  She says she is a virgin but will allow him to take certain negotiated liberties with her in the name of justice because her pig was like a child to her.  She says her father has a barn full of stacked-up pianos and that Jacob’s father drank himself to death so he knows what it is like to be trapped.  Since Jacob will be disbarred if he accepts sexual favors from a client, she says she will accept his proposal of marriage.  He admits he wants to sleep with her and asks, if he marries her, she will forget about the pig.  She says she will take that as a yes.

June, 2010

       Loopy Rye, part of the Pendragon Cycle, uses a unit set with, DR, a chair in the Flowers Boarding Hotel, Blaine Plum’s desk and chair facing downstage RC, a bench in the cemetery LC, and tombstones under an old tree DL.  Characters are onstage throughout the play which begins in 1925 but goes back to events that occurred in 1872.  We hear the sounds of a ticking clock and an old piano playing Chopin’s 13th Prelude as lights come up on Loopy in the DR chair.  Blaine Plum, Lavinia’s father, is seated at his desk, Augustus Ballantine is on the bench, and Lavinia is sitting with her back against a tombstone.  Loopy as an old man talks about learning to tune pianos, mentioning names of characters in the Pendragon Cycle, and as the lights come up on Lavinia he identifies her as a lost girl.  Blaine (in 1872) tells Lavinia that she has to see Doc McGort because she has been vomiting every morning.  Augustus tries to talk with Lavinia in 1872 while Loopy in 1925 remembers how a family was found dead at Grim Lake.  He talks about how people treated him and how he likes rain, china bowls, sparrows, and the smell of horse manure and hay.  Blaine in 1872 tells Lavinia that Augustus has agreed to marry her, but Lavinia says she doesn’t even like him.  As they talk, Loopy tells us in counterpoint the history of Ghost Hill with herds of buffalo moving through the forest and Delaware Indians who lived in the caves.  Loopy says he likes to talk to the crows and thinks being the village idiot is a big responsibility because dumb people need someone they can feel superior to.  He says he gets uneasy when the Carnival comes to town and he moves to the tombstones to talk to Lavinia in 1872.  He warns her about coming to the cemetery at night, saying there are ghosts and a lot of people fornicating.  She asks him what he sees when he looks into people’s windows at night.  He says he has seen just about everything, including her taking baths.  He admits to leaving drawings of her on the back porch, but she doesn’t think he drew them.  She takes out a piece of paper and asks him to draw her.  As he does so, Blaine tells his daughter that if she doesn’t marry Augustus he will throw her out of his house without a penny.  She says that Augustus is not the father of her child and only says he is so he can marry her and get Blaine’s money.  When she tells him Loopy is the father of her child, Blaine says he is going to have Loopy locked up in a mental institution.  She realizes that her father has already put his plan in motion.  Blaine admits that Augustus told him that he saw Lavinia and Loopy in the cemetery.  Lavinia says that her father is paying Augustus to marry her.  Blaine says they are coming to take Loopy to the institution where he will be castrated and lobotomized.  Lavinia looks at Loopy drawing and tells her father that if he leaves Loopy alone she will marry Augustus and do whatever Blaine wants.  She says if any harm ever comes to Loopy she will take her child and disappear.  Blaine accepts her offer on condition that she never speak to Loopy again, never look at him or acknowledge his presence.  As we hear, faintly, the Chopin Prelude again, she walks to the bench and sits next to Augustus.  Loopy finishes the drawing, puts it on the tombstone, and goes back to his chair, becoming an old man again.  He tells us that Lavinia never said a word to him after that and would pass him on the street as if he wasn’t there.  He says she knew as she played the piano at night that he was outside her window but she wouldn’t look.  He says she died young and he sits by her grave at night.  He saw her through the window looking at his drawings.  He watched over her little girl and then the little girl’s children.  He says the best thing about love is that it doesn’t make any sense.  Like God.  And the crows.

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       In Wraith, set in a pub (a table and two chairs) in London in 1946, John Keir Cross and Stephen T. MacFarlane, both thin, pale, fair men in their mid-thirties, talk about Cross’ wife sleeping with both of them.  Cross says he has dedicated his latest book of stories to Mac, as a joke that no one will get.  He admits to plagiarizing the stories about ghosts, puppets, and wraiths from Mac, and Mac asks if Cross has seen his wraith, a Scotch doppelganger who appears just before one dies.  Cross says that his wife is with Montgomery, and Mac says that she is lonely and that it must be difficult living with someone like Cross.  Cross says that a large rat once attacked his child after he had tried to summon the Devil on his BBC radio program.  Mac says the only way to get rid of one’s wraith is to die.  Cross says he plans to drink himself to death and wonders if anyone would notice if he strangled Mac.  Mac says he will die when Cross dies and leaves for the lavatory.  Audrey, Cross’ wife, enters, saying she has been nowhere for a long time but she is back and has read his book and liked parts of it very much.  She says she is glad that he signed his own name rather than hiding behind the name MacFarlane.  Cross says he can’t leave until his friend returns but Audrey says the bartender told her he has been sitting alone drinking and talking to himself.  After Cross and Audrey leave, Mac returns, says that he has been left to pay the tab, and finishes the drink Cross left for him.

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       In A Fellow of Infinite Jest, Will Kempe enters a London tavern late at night in 1599 as Shakespeare sits writing a play.  Kempe complains about Hamlet’s advice to the players and learns that Falstaff, a part he enjoyed playing, is not in Henry the Fifth, but, like Yorick, dead.  Shakespeare says there will be no more jigs or improvisations; from now on they’re sticking to the script.  Kempe says the script is just a road map, that he is an entertainer, a comedian, who made it possible for Shakespeare to work in theatre.  Shakespeare says he is grateful but cannot allow Kempe to ruin his scripts with his old irrelevant slapstick routines that have nothing to do with the play.  Kempe rages that the theatre is not a building or words but flesh and blood and gonads.  He says he will be remembered in a hundred years and that Shakespeare is nothing.  He storms out but comes back in, and Shakespeare offers to put Falstaff into Henry the Fifth as long as Kempe says the lines as written.  Kempe refuses and Shakespeare says that Falstaff is dead.  Kempe says he will dance a jig on the smoking ruins of the theatre.  He leaves, Shakespeare writes, and the lights go out.

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      Mysterium is set on the deck of an ocean liner at night.  Freud and Jung are returning to Europe after visiting America.  Jung thinks America is “a wonderful place,” “intensely numinous,” charged with the “tremendous mystery of the uncanny other.”  Freud says that America is “a pig hole,” the “most vulgar sewer on earth,” “almost entirely constructed of greed, vulgarity, stupidity, self-congratulation, bigotry, and the worship of violence.”  When Jung suggests that they analyze each other’s dreams, Freud refuses to give up what he considers his authority and thinks that Jung may want to kill him.  They squabble, which Jung thinks is good, and Freud says they have to agree on the fundamental doctrine.  Jung says there is no doctrine and, when Freud accuses him of excapades with women not his wife, Jung replies that everyone knows that Freud has been sleeping with his wife’s sister.  The call each other hysterical and Jung cautions Freud about fainting.  A steward enters and asks them to be quiet because some women in the ballroom heard them talking of penises.  He suggests that they separate until they have calmed down.  Freud says that Jung’s theories are “rubbish.”  He feels the ship may have hit something, an iceberg perhaps.  Jung says that Freud is jealous of him because he is younger and stronger and full of ideas.  Freud gets angry and faints.  When the steward enters again he tells Jung that the ship has hit an iceberg and there are a limited number of lifeboats with room for only one more, Jung himself.  Jung says he can’t leave Freud but, after the steward leaves, rationalizes that, as a doctor, he could be of help in the lifeboat which would be an excellent place to study psychological types.  He leaves; we hear singing, then gunshots; and Freud wakes up.  He sees Jung in the lifeboat waving up at him and then sees “that great white thing . . . looming up out of the darkness.  He thinks he must be dreaming and wonders what it could mean.  We hear singing as the lights fade out.

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      Don Giovanni is a long one-act for four men and three women.  On the upstage side of the upper platform of the unit set is a balcony reached by a trellis, the bottom of which can be seen through a central arch under the platform  Steps left and right lead to the upper platform.  At the top of the SR steps is a door that opens into a bedroom; at the top of the SL steps is a window frame from which Don Giovanni can talk to Leporello in the street below.  The lower level is the street and the inside of a house represented by a table and chairs left and a bench right.  A trapdoor down center goes to the basement of the house and to Hell.  There are escape stairs on the upper platform left and right.

     We hear the opening notes of the overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni as lights come up and Leporello speaks to the audience about working for Don Giovanni who, he says, is going to hell for sleeping with so many women.  Don Giovanni asks him if he has been talking to an invisible friend and says that they have to climb up the trellis to Donna Anna’s bedroom.  He says that his only sin is that he loves too much.  Leporello warns Don Giovanni about Donna Anna’s father, the Commendatore, but Don Giovanni puts on a mask and starts climbing the trellis.  Complaining to the audience, Leporello follows and we hear the first bars of “La chi darem la mano” as the lights come up on Donna Anna’s bedroom.  Don Giovanni and Leporello are hiding as Donna Anna and her maid Zerlina enter.  Donna Anna complains that her father keeps her locked up tighter than an oyster and says that sometimes she prays that a handsome man in a mask would climb up on the balcony, hide behind the curtains, then leap out and make passionate love to her.  Don Giovanni says her prayers have been answered,  but Leporello warns them that Donna Anna’s father has just returned.  The Commendatore climbs the steps to the door and pounds on it because Zerlina has locked it.  The women tell him they are naked; the father threatens to break open the door; Donna Anna kisses Don Giovanni as the father does break through the door, drawing his sword and chasing Don Giovanni around the room.  When the father falls and drops his sword, Don Giovanni grabs it and the Commendatore, lunging toward him, is run through.  He vows to come back from the grave and drag Don Giovanni to Hell.  The lights fade as Don Giovanni and Leporello climb down the trellis, the Commendatore dies, and we hear “Or sai chi lo’onore.”

     On the street level, Don Giovanni tells a distraught Leporello that they have to leave.  After Don Giovanni climbs the steps, telling Leporello to hurry, Leporello tells the audience that he doesn’t understand why women fall into bed with Don Giovanni and not with him.  He concludes that life is a joke and death is the punch line.  Donna Elvira enters and asks him where her husband, Don Giovanni, is.  Leporello tells her that the man she thought was a priest was a horse doctor from Barcelona.  Donna Elvira shakes Leporello like a rag doll, but he insists that Don Giovanni is dead, until Don Giovanni sticks his head out the upstairs window, yelling for him.  Donna Elvira runs up the steps, embracing Don Giovanni until they fall on the bed.  Leporello runs up the steps and we hear the sound of an angry mob approaching as Leporello drags Don Giovanni, with Donna Elvira hanging on, to the balcony.  The mob sounds get louder as the light fades and we hear “Non mi dir.”

     Light with the shadows of bars then come up down center on Don Giovanni, Leporello, and an old man who turns out to be Casanova.  Don Giovanni assures Leporello that something always turns up to get them out of difficulties like prison. Introducing himself, Casanova tells Leporello that men are unsuccessful with women because they do not fully appreciate them.  Donna Elvira, having bribed the jailer, comes in and hits Casanova for propositioning her.  He looks for his teeth as the others leave and we hear “Viva la liberta.”

     The next scene occurs at night, with thunder, lightning, and rain.  A statue of the Commendatore has been set up in the arch of a cemetery tomb under the platform.  Leporello tells Don Giovanni that they are in the Commendatore’s tomb, but Don Giovanni tries to explain to Leporello that he loves all the women he has encountered.  Leporello thinks the statue has moved and Don Giovanni invites the statue to come to dinner with him and his daughter at the next full moon.  But, as Don Giovanni turns away from the statue to drink, the statue speaks:  “As you desire.”  Leporello screams and as he and Don Giovanni leave, the statue slowly lifts an arm with a clenched fist, shouting:  “KILL, KILL, KILL, KILLLLL, KILLLLLLLLLLLLLL.”  The lights fade and we hear “Bisogna aver coraggio.”

     In moonlight, Don Giovanni and Leporello have climbed the trellis to the balcony and are sneaking into Donna Anna’s bedroom when they are met by Zerlina who tells them that Donna Anna has been having dreadful nightmares.  Don Giovanni goes down the steps and finds Donna Anna sitting in a rocking chair, blaming herself for her father’s death.  Don Giovanni says that her father had no right to imprison her, kisses her tenderly, and persuades her to eat some soup.  We hear “A cener teco m’invitasti” as the lights fade.

     In moonlight we see Donna Elvira climbing up the trellis with a knife and hiding behind the curtains as Leporello enters telling Zerlina that he believes Don Giovanni is a changed man because he is taking care of Donna Anna without having sex with her.  Rejecting Leporello’s offer of marriage, Zerlina warns him that Donna Anna may remember that Don Giovanni killed her father.  Noticing the full moon, Leporello tells Zerlina that the statue of the Commendatore is coming to dinner and will drag Don Giovanni down to Hell.  Entering below, Don Giovanni refuses to leave because for the first time in his life he is truly in love.  Donna Anna enters with a box of wooden puppets she has carved.  Donna Elvira looks down on them from the balcony, noticing how tender Don Giovanni is with Donna Anna but still resolved to kill him.  She descends the steps, telling Donna Anna that she is Don Giovanni’s wife, twice ruined and abandoned by him.  We hear the sound of three loud knocks and Zerlina says that someone is at the back door.  Three louder knocks prompt Leporello to urge Don Giovanni to run away.  Don Giovanni admits to Donna Anna that he killed her father by accident.  He says he is sorry and loves her.  Knocking continues as Zerlina goes through the upstage arch and Leporello gets down on the floor trying to locate the trap door.  Zerlina screams and runs in saying that the statue is walking.  The statue appears as Leporello opens the trap door.  Don Giovanni asks forgiveness of the statue and they shake hands, but the statue continues holding Don Giovanni’s hand as they descend the steps of the trap where a red glow is shining up.  Don Giovanni grabs Leporello and pulls him down the steps as we hear groans of pain and horror mixed with distorted music from the last scene of Mozart’s opera.  Zerlina slams the trap door shut and drags Donna Elvira away from it.  Donna Anna opens the trap saying that there’s nothing left but ashes and a little pile of bones.  All three women look into the trap.  When Donna Elvira asks what they are going to do, Donna Anna says that they can have a puppet show with the naked puppets singing opera.  Lights fade on them and we hear the last measures of the opera.

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     New Year’s Eve at the Flowers Boarding Hotel, part of the Pendragon Cycle, is a one-act for four men and two women, set in Armitage, Ohio, on New Year’s Eve in 1899,  The unit set represents a comfortable parlor of the hotel.  Loopy Rye, the village idiot, is picking out a tune on the piano as James Rose on the sofa looks at his brother Hugh whose wife is having a baby in the doctor’s office in the next room.  Doc Braine comes in to tell Hugh that his wife is fine and the baby will come when it wants to.  He takes out a flask and drinks, telling Hugh that it’s New Year’s Eve and his hand is steadier with a few drinks.  Doc says that Vonnie (his housekeeper and receptionist) is driving him crazy.  The men talk about Vonnie being acquitted of killing her father and giving her baby to Odin Grim’s wife.  Doc wonders when the fireworks will begin and questions the capabilities of the Proctor brothers who run the fireworks factory.  Zinnia, the 50-year-old woman who runs the hotel, says Hugh’s wife is all right but that the baby doesn’t want to come out.  Doc goes to check and Zinnia says that Vonnie, who can turn a grown man into a bowl of cranberry sauce, is making the men crazy.  Vonnie tells Zinnia that Doc wants her.  Loopy tells Vonnie that James thinks the end of the world is coming at midnight.  After Vonnie leaves, James tells Hugh that he had a vision of the world disappearing and that he has a big sin to confess.  He says he fathered Vonnie’s baby, and that her father went crazy when he found out, and Vonnie killed him.  Hugh says a burglar killed the father and that James is having a mental breakdown.  As director of the local theatre group, James says that when he heard Vonnie do Juliet’s speech “take him and cut him out in little stars,” he fell hopelessly in love with her.  When Doc comes in Hugh asks him if Vonnie ever identified her baby’s father.  Doc says no and Loopy comes in to say that the baby is coming.  Doc goes back in; James insists that the world is going to end; Hugh says maybe someday but not now.  Vonnie says the baby is a girl, born in the first minute of the new year.  Hugh goes in to see the baby and we hear the sound of an explosion as the fireworks start.  James apologizes to Vonnie for taking advantage of her.  She says she needed somebody to hold her and love her and he was there.  She is not sorry and he should not be apologizing.  Loopy brings in a bowl of popcorn which he gives to Vonnie before he sits down to play the piano and sing “Hello, My Baby” as the lights fade out.

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     Mind the Gap, requiring a man in his late 50a and a woman in her 20s, is set on a wooden bench in an old European train station.  (A note says that the writer W. G. Sebald drove into an oncoming lorry and was killed on December 14, 2001.  He probably suffered a heart attack driving his daughter home.)  As lights come up on the characters sitting on the bench, we hear footsteps and voices echoing in the distance.  Max notices that Anna is reading a book by Sebald, a writer Max finds unusual and rather difficult.  They speak of memories, happy and unhappy, and ambiguity in Sebald’s work.  Max says that he sometimes feels that he has written Sebald’s work himself, that the numinous symbols of the writer are significant to him as well.  He says he was drawn to Anna when he saw her sleeping and knew, although he cannot explain what it was he knew.  Anna says that when she was a child her father told her that when a person dies they go to a big room like the one they are in where people wait for trains to take them to unknown destinations.  Max says, “Mind the gap,” explaining that the sign by the tracks warns of the danger of stepping into the abyss between life and death, two inexplicable realities.  Max speaks of one of Sebald’s narrators who returns to his village but nobody recognizes him, and he observes life as a spectator, noting coincidences that seem to give meaning to existence.  Max begins to remember driving with his daughter and feeling a sudden pressure in his chest and seeing something very large coming directly at them.  Anna thinks she remembers driving with her father, and Max tells her that the train that has arrived is for him, not her.  Max says she must go through a door back to where she was before she got to where she is.  Max takes out a small camera and takes her picture.  Anna, leaving, stops and says, “Papa? . . . Mind the gap.”  He says he will, she goes, and the light fades out.

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     In Exposition, two characters from the Victorian period, Haggard and Leaf, (whom we have met in earlier Nigro plays) begin conversing as if they were starting a play, but each character knows what the other is going to say, repeating the phrase, “As you well know.”  They have been providing the exposition for plays since the beginning of time.  But when Leaf asks to be reminded of the matter of the dead sheep, Haggard asks, “What sheep?”  Leaf asks if they are lost and should start over.  The phone on the desk rings and Leaf eventually picks it up, handing it to Haggard, saying it is for him.  Haggard is dubious, but Leaf says it is in the script.  Haggard talks into the phone and hangs up saying it was a wrong number.  Leaf says that Haggard was having a conversation on the phone and asks if the caller was not General Beauregard telling them about the destruction of his plantation by boll weevils and the imminent arrival of his beautiful and mad daughter Ermengarde who may or may not have murdered her lover, the Satrap of Bangalore.  Haggard says it was not General Beauregard but each time the phone rings Leaf insists it is.  Haggard tells Leaf that a decision has been made to cut the entire exposition scene, starting the play in the middle.  Leaf thinks that is insane, but Haggard tells him that the scene is over and he is leaving.  Shaking Leaf’s hand, he walks off.  Leaf says he can’t be left alone, that starting with a monologue is absolute poison.  But he tries anyway, talking to a Haggard who is not there, imagining that the phone is ringing, answering it and telling General Beauregard that a decision has been made to cut the exposition.  Leaf thinks the phone has been cut off and is perplexed as the stage lights start to dim.  He speaks into the phone, saying that he will have to call back, that the play is apparently starting.  “As you well know.”  Darkness.

July, 2009

     A train at night and a Mexican cantina are represented by a unit set in Ghostland, a play for four actors.  In the darkness we hear “Cielito Lindo” played rather eerily by a mariachi band until the music is overcome by the rhythmic clattering of a train, then the scream of the train whistle as lights come up on Ambrose Bierce, 71, sitting in a SR train seat opposite Dr. Hern.  (The actor who plays Hern also plays Mark Twain and William Randolph Hearst; another actor plays H. L. Mencken and Jack London; and a fourth actor plays Pancho Villa.)  Hern asks Bierce if he is familiar with non-Euclidean geometry or of a space in which it would be possible to turn a rubber ball inside out “without a solution of its continuity.”  Bierce responds humorously to Hern’s description of wormholes and insists that the train is heading south.  Hern opens the window and leans out to show Bierce the position of the stars and moon as evidence for the northerly direction of the train.  Bierce puts his foot on Hern’s butt and pushes him, screaming, out the window.  Mencken appears with a large black satchel which, he says, contains the cremated remains of the critic, Pollard.  Bierce pulls a long bone out of the bag, then a ball of string, and then a skull.  Mencken recognizes Bierce and tells him he admires his writing.  Bierce describes two short scenarios in which people inexplicably disappear into Ghostland, the faery realm of Celtic mythology that is parallel to our own.  Mencken says it sounds like malarkey to him and Bierce invites him to take a look out the window.  Mencken opens the window, leans out, and, like Hern, is kicked screaming from the train.  Bierce picks up the satchel as we hear a loud train whistle and the train jolts, throwing Bierce backward with the satchel as the lights go out.  We hear brakes screeching, gunshots, horses and women shrieking, and then the mariachi band playing.

     When the lights come up we see Bierce face down under a table in the cantina, his arms around the satchel.  Villa sits at the table, drinking, telling Bierce that the train was liberated by the glorious forces of the revolution.  Gunfire rips through the cantina and Villa takes out his gun and goes off.  Jack London dives under the table with Bierce.  They recognize each other and Bierce tells London that his writing stinks and that nothing written in America is worth a bucket of slop.  He says Stephen Crane is a “shameless hack,” Theodore Dreiser “boring and incompetent,” and Henry James “an incomprehensible old woman.”  London says that Bierce told a woman, Gertrude, that he had a suitcase full of documents that would put Hearst in jail for a hundred years.  London says he has been sent by Hearst to retrieve the suitcase and doesn’t believe Bierce when he says the satchel is full of bones.  We hear wind blowing and the beating of a heart that increases in volume as the stage darkens and pulses with red light, then the piercing scream of a train whistle as the lights go to black and the heartbeat resolves into the clattering of the train.

     Lights come up on Bierce in the train sitting opposite Mark Twain.  Bierce, saying it is 1913 and Twain died in 1910, rips off Twain’s mustache and wig to reveal Hearst.  When Hearst tries to grab the bag, Bierce pulls the emergency cord and tries to climb out the window, saying they have arrived at Owl Creek Bridge.  Hearst yanks the bag away and Bierce falls screaming.  We hear a loud splash and Hearst pulls a ball of string, a rubber ball, and a skull from the bag.  As he sticks his head out the window to yell at Bierce, the train lurches forward, and Hearst falls screaming out the window.  We hear a loud splash, the sound of the train moving, the mariachi band, and as the lights fade the sound of the train moving farther away, a distant train whistle, and then the hooting of an owl in the darkness.

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     Three men and one woman comprise the cast of Grand Cayman, a one-act in which the beach is represented by three deck chairs and a hotel room by two doors and, probably, a bed and at least one chair.  We hear the sound of the ocean as lights come up on Murphy and Antonelli on the deck chairs wearing business suits.  They chat about the sun and rain and Ireland and money and lizards and pirates and about the man they have been sent to deal with.  Mary, in a bikini, sits in the middle chair, telling them that they have some very serious, potentially dangerous, business on their minds.  She says she knows they have been watching the man she is with.  Murphy, over Antonelli’s objections, explains his theory that God is Popeye the Sailor.  She asks them if they have been paid to kill somebody.  She wonders if one of them would kill the other if he were offered an obscene amount of money.  Antonelli puts a hand around Mary’s neck and asks what she wants.  Mary says that when she was in the mental hospital she met a girl named Mary who told her everything about her life, including two friends of hers who were tough guys.  Mary in the bathing suit says she knew about a man who had stolen large sums of money and put them in a private account in the Caribbean, and so she sent a check to hire the two tough guys to help her get her hands on the money.  She says the man they have been following wants to see them.  She says they are to make him tell where the money is and how to get it and then kill him and the three of them will split the money.  She takes the room key from her bikini bottom, gives it to Antonelli, and leaves.  The men are sure she is not in her right mind but agree that she looks like a Mary they used to know.

     As light fades on them we hear the sound of waves then a key turning in a lock.  An upstage door opens as dim light streams into the hotel room.  Leo tells the men, thinking they are room service bringing him clams, to come in and close the door.  Another door opens and Mary comes out in a bathrobe with her hair in a towel.  She turns on a lamp and we see Leo, half patrician, half gangster.  He tells Murphy and Antonelli that they are nothing, dog shit under his mucklucks.  Mary says that Leo is a very great writer and producer who writes under thirty-seven different pseudonyms and has suffered a stroke.  Leo asks the men if they came to kill him and says all they want is the seven billion dollars he has in the bank.  The three men drink and Leo offers Mary two million dollars to get naked.  She goes into the bathroom, slamming the door.  Leo offers Murphy and Antonelli seventy-eight thousand dollars to go in the bathroom and kill Mary.  Leo talks of Jack Kennedy and the effect of high-fructose corn syrup on the intelligence of children.  He says he has seven billion dollars in a tax-free account, but when he says he boinked Martha Washington in the rotunda, Antonelli wants to leave.  Leo tells them the story of a movie with two guys who come to a tropical island looking for an obscene amount of money without realizing they are in a trap.  Antonelli says that this is about Mary and Murphy, feeling dizzy, wonders what she put in their drinks.  Antonelli staggers into the door and asks Leo who he is, to which Leo responds, like Popeye, “I YAM WHAT I YAM,  and orders the lights to be cut.  Blackout.

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     The set for Babylon is a room “in an old white house” with a big desk, some chairs, and several doors.  The five actors wear dark suits and are named Abe, Rummy, Karl, Georgy, and Dick.  Rummy is sitting at the desk, rubber-stamping pieces of paper, as Abe enters saying he needs to see Georgy.  Rummy offers to help but Abe says he has some concerns about the way things are going, that innocent women and children are being killed.  Rummy says they never should have gone after Georgy’s Dad and calls Sam a fucking psychopath.  He tells Abe not to shit on the carpet and resumes stamping as Karl enters to say that Georgy is coming.  Georgy shakes hands with Abe; Rummy tells Georgy that he is doing a terrific job, and Karl takes Georgy out of the room.  Abe repeats his desire to talk in private with Georgy and Rummy uses the intercom to ask for Dick.  Karl returns with a golf ball for Abe (a gift from Georgy) and Georgy comes back looking for a bathroom, saying that he hasn’t seen Abe for a long time.  Karl goes with Georgy so he won’t get lost on the way to the bathroom.  Dick enters wearing dark glasses and holding a cane.  He sits where there isn’t a chair and falls on his ass.  Rummy moves a chair toward Dick as Dick tells Abe that he really isn’t one of their group.  Georgy comes in, lost again, but Karl takes him out for a meeting.  Dick tells Abe that if he really wants to talk with Georgy he should sit next to him that evening at the theatre.  Dick orders Rummy to give Abe his tickets.  After Abe leaves, Dick tells Rummy that he is going to use Georgy’s tickets and take care of the situation with Abe.  Georgy returns, is told the meeting is over, and says he has been having nightmares.  Dick tells him he should not go to the theatre.  Georgy gives him his tickets and Karl comes in to take Georgy home.  When Rummy tells Dick to enjoy the show, Dick responds, “Rummy, I am the show.”

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     Barbary Fox (3m, 3w), the most recent addition to the Pendragon cycle, takes place during the last decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th in Armitage, Pendragon County, Ohio.  The unit set represents two houses and the yard between them created by a framework of a ruined gazebo and fragments of old houses with DR an old upright piano and bench, DRC a bed, and DL a round wooden table with chairs.  There are two window frames UL and UR, a door frame L, an old sofa C with a broken grandfather clock behind it, and old cabinet with liquor LC, and an old lion-footed bathtub on a platform URC.  The action moves back and forth in time and space continuously, and the actors enter and exit or remain in character on stage when not involved in a scene.  In darkness we hear the sound of whippoorwills and then, as lights come up, Magenta, wife of Silas Quiller, playing Faure’s Sicilienne on a slightly out-of-tune piano.  Barbary Fox is on the bed DR; Bert Astor, her husband, stands looking downstage from the UR window frame; Gretchen, Barbary’s daughter, is sitting on the sofa C; Silas stands by the liquor cabinet; and Rem Astor, Barbary’s uncle, is drinking at the DL table.  As Rem, drunk, talks to Barbary at a time when she was a child, Barbary tells Gretchen about her life as a child in the house when her uncle would lock her in the fruit cellar to prevent her from going to the carnival.  She says she sat on an old cot in the fruit cellar and read from a trunk full of old books.  Gretchen speaks of Barbary and Rem speaks to Barbary as a child, creating a counterpoint of past and present.  Gretchen tells us that she married Clyde Quiller, her next door neighbor, although his younger brother Con was so handsome that he gave her bad dreams.  Margaret, the sister of Clyde and Con, was Gretchen’s best friend and their father Silas was the best friend of Gretchen’s father, Bert.  When Silas asks Magenta why she keeps playing the piano, she asks him if he has been next door again.  She wonders why Bert, their next-door neighbor, married “that wretched girl from the dump.”  As Magenta boasts of her heritage, Rem speaks again to Barbary as a child.

     Gretchen tells us that her mother Barbary was haunted by the sound of whippoorwills and memories of being raised by her uncle Rem.  Barbary and Rem speak of their reactions to birds and then speak to each other about why he locks her in the fruit cellar.  He tells her not to let people know how smart she is.  We heat the sound of a grandfather clock ticking loudly, and Magenta, who has moved to the sofa, tells us that when she was a little girl she would lie in bed and listen to the owls and the clock.  Barbary says that when she was fourteen she hated men for the way they looked at her and talked about her behind her back.  She hoped that one day somebody would take her to see the ocean where she would wash away her sins.  Gretchen, in a sudden shift to a much later time, asks Magenta why she married Silas.  Magenta tells her that she can’t remember, that no sane person wants to be touched by any other person.  Barbary tells us that she made “an arrangement” with Rem’s two sons, Lemuel and Dobbs, to let her out of the cellar at night.  Gretchen confesses that she takes small objects from stores and from people’s houses and hides them in a box in her closet.

     We hear crickets as the lights create a night effect and Rem asks Barbary if she wants to hear a bedtime story.  She doesn’t but Rem tells her about a girl who sneaked out of her house at night and got eaten by pigs.  When Barbary tells Rem to leave her alone, Bert, at a later time, tells her that he can’t leave her alone.  He says he wants to marry her so that no one else will ever touch her.  When Barbary refers to herself as the town slut, Bert says he doesn’t “give a rat’s ass.”  The scene ends as Rem, from another time and place, tells Barbary she doesn’t know anything about love, and Magenta talks of “two damned fools” who tried to put up a lightning rod on the roof during a thunderstorm and got hit and killed by lightning.

     Gretchen, sitting at the table and illustrating the family history with glasses, tells us about two houses, side by side, with eight people living in them.  She married a Clyde who was not her brother, and her friend Margaret married the Clyde who was not her brother, and the women moved into each other’s house.  Gretchen says she is trapped in the house with her late husband’s insane piano-playing mother and that her life is desperately stupid because she killed her own mother.  Barbary, in a scene from the past, tells Gretchen that men can’t be trusted.  When Bert calls to Gretchen to come to him, she says she is taking a bath.

     Bert and Silas, drinking, talk about Silas’ desire for Barbary.  Bert says Silas hasn’t slept with her because of friendship; he tells Silas that he has permission to sleep with Barbary as long as Bert can sleep with Magenta.  Magenta tells Silas that she knows he wants Barbary.  When Silas says that Bert has a crush on Magenta, she asks him why he built a house next door for Bert and gave him a job managing the cheese factory.  She thinks Silas must have done something awful that Bert knows about.  Rem then talks about repairing a broken old doll and Barbary tells us about going back to the deserted house where she grew up and going down into the fruit cellar.  She names some of the books she read there and tells Gretchen that her sister Eva ran off with a knife thrower from the carnival and their cousins Lemuel and Dobbs went after her and were never seen again.

     Rem tells Barbary that her parents, Rem’s brother and his wife Tootsie, died in a bizarre accident when the wagon Rem’s brother was driving turned over in a rainstorm and crashed into a ravine.  Gretchen tells Silas that she has seen him coming out of her house when her father Bert is not there.  Silas tells her that his son Clyde has a crush on her.  The action shifts to Rem telling Barbary that people look down on them because they live on Shite Creek by the dump and the fireworks factory and the chicken plucking plant.  He says that the fruit cellar is the center of God’s brain.  Rem then tells Bert that he cannot marry Barbary, that she is not for sale.  He threatens Bert with a gun and tells Barbary that she doesn’t know what love is.

     When Magenta asks what happened to Silas, Bert says that he could forget about killing people but that Silas couldn’t.  Gretchen, from another time and place, says that she and Margaret look out their windows at each other, Margaret looking at the house where Gretchen is trapped with Margaret’s mother, and Gretchen looking at the house where she killed her own mother.  Bert tells Barbary a story about giving Lemuel and Dobbs money to kill their father, Rem, and, from the past, Rem gives Barbary a jewelry box he says belonged to the mother.  Barbary asks Silas what happened with Bert when the two of them were riding the rails and living in hobo jungles, and Silas tells her to take her daughter Gretchen and run away.  He says she knows what Bert is capable of.  Barbary tells Gretchen she knows what her father is doing to her and tells Bert that if he touches Gretchen again she will kill him.

     Gretchen tells us she should have run away, but now she is trapped forever.  Rem tells us he found Barbary holding her sister Eva after the wagon crashed and killed their parents.  Gretchen says she found Barbary in the bathtub with her throat cut and the razor in her hand.  Magenta wonders why two grown men (Silas and Bert) were putting up lightning rods during a thunderstorm.  She says they were both fried like bacon.  Barbary tells Magenta that she is not sleeping with Silas, and Magenta tells us that she went into the bathroom while Barbary was taking a bath and pushed her, causing her to fall and hit her head.  Magenta then took the razor and cut Barbary’s throat.  Magenta plays “Sicilienne” again as the lights fade and go out.  Playing stops.  Whippoorwills in darkness.

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     The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter is about Charles Lamb and his sister Mary.  The time of the action is the late 1790s and early 1800s and for the set Nigro writes that, in addition to a punishment stocks with holes for wrists and ankles, “a few old chairs, one a rocker, and a sofa will do, and a cabinet with silverware.”  We hear the sound of a ticking clock as lights come up on Charles and Mary sitting by a fire.  In the upstage shadows we can see Mother, Father, Aunt Hetty, and Jane, all sitting.  Charles says that Coleridge told him that his wife is trying to kill him.  Mary tells Charles that she knows she is a terrible burden to him but she is very grateful that he did not put her in Bedlam.  She tells him that there is a witch in the parlor with them but Charles says they and the cat are the only ones in the parlor.  He leaves and lights come up on the others.  Father speaks of being a butler for old Mr. Salt, Mother wants the cat, Aunt Hetty has difficulty remembering a parrot’s name, Jane talks about ducks, and the conversation becomes a hodge-podge of humorous misunderstandings.  But we learn that Coleridge’s wife has given birth, although Mother insists that Coleridge cannot be the father because he couldn’t stop talking long enough to put it in her.  Frustrated, Mary throws a spoon at Jane and then more silverware at the other characters.  She grabs a carving knife and stabs Mother in the heart, twice, threatening Jane who runs out, bumping into the re-entering Lamb.  He takes the knife from Mary, and as the lights go to black we hear the sounds of moans and shrieks, a madhouse cacophony. 

     The lights come up on Lamb visiting Mary who is in a straight jacket.  She asks if they are going to hang her, but Lamb tells her the verdict was lunacy and that she will stay in the madhouse until she is better and can be brought home.  Mary says she is sorry for hitting Father in the head with a fork but that putting a knife in Mother’s heart was the only joy she has felt.  Lamb says he remembers his own temporary insanity fondly and swears he will never leave Mary. As he goes off, lights go to black, madhouse cacophony again, then lights up on Lamb, slightly drunk, in the stocks speaking to Mary in the straight jacket.  He enacts a story about having dinner with Wordsworth, Keats, Haydon, and “old deaf Landseer,” to whom he shouts parts of their conversation.  Lamb talks of a “red blubbery fellow,” possibly “old Ritchie,” who, according to Lamb, describes himself as a controller of stamps.  Lamb concludes his story by telling Mary that they are a pair that the world has never seen, she in a straight jacket for madness and he in the stocks for public drunkenness.  The light fades, allowing Lamb and Mary to go off stage where she gets quickly out of her straight jacket and runs back onstage carrying a package of books of Tales from Shakespeare, the book she and her brother wrote together.  They see that her name has been left off the title page.  Charles is angry and wants to punch Godwin, but Mary urges him to let it go and take a copy to Hazlitt, stopping to have a drink with Coleridge.

     Lamb asks Coleridge to stop wailing and Mary comes in asking if a crowd has died in the parlor.  Coleridge says that Wordsworth has broken with him and wishes he had married a woman like Mary.  She suggests he write to Wordsworth and to his wife.  Coleridge complains of the man from Porlock who knocked on the door as Coleridge was writing down his masterpiece about Kubla Khan.  When Mary says he must face his demons like everyone else, Coleridge leaves.  Lights fade and come up on Mary and the upstage group.  Mary says she is haunted by the fear that she will be ill again.  Mother wants the cat and asks Mary if she also murdered Aunt Hetty.  Aunt Hetty says she is right there, and Mary tells Mother that she had a nightmare that Mother had come back from the dead to ask her questions, like an oral examination at a university.  Mother then fires a series of questions that Mary answers, after which Mother tells Father that she had carnal relations with Old Salt every Friday for seventeen years.  Lamb, from the darkness, asks Mary whom she is speaking to, and the light changes so that the others are in the shadows.  But the voices upstage keep talking to Mary and she tells Lamb that she has to go back to the madhouse, that they will walk along the street on Christmas Day and pretend that they are sane.  The ghost people watch them go and Mother, after wishing them Merry Christmas, calls for the cat as the lights fade out.

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     Plum Pudding takes place in France in the 19th century and requires a table with some chairs and an empty arch doorway up center.  Lights come up on Emile and Julie in her apartment.  A large covered pan is on the table and Julie tells Emile that it is indeed plum pudding that he smells.  Emile says that he has a mystical feeling about plum pudding and wishes his friend, Monsieur Fortgibu were present.  Entering through the arch from an earlier time comes Fortgibu as the lights dim a bit on Julie, and Emile recalls a time when he was a boy in 1805 and was invited to dinner at Fortgibu’s home.  Fortgibu says that he has just returned from England where he ate “the most wonderful dish,” one that he believes has never before been served in France.  This “almost supernaturally delicious” dish is called Plum Pudding.  Fortgibus tells Emile what he knows of the origin and history of plum pudding before wandering off into the stage right darkness looking for his big spoon.  Julie tells Emile that Fortgibu sounds a bit off his rocker, but Emile says that she has to hear what happened ten years later, when he passed by an out-of-the-way restaurant and smelled something “mysteriously evocative,  plum pudding.  Emile says he walked into the restaurant and was told by the waiter, who has come through the arch, that the last plum pudding has been ordered by another gentleman.  The gentleman turns out to be Fortgibu, who comes through the arch, gray at the temples, but still vigorous.  Julie says that it was just a coincidence, but Emile says that he shared the plum pudding again with Fortgibu, who thinks that their chance meeting after ten years means something and that life is very much like plum pudding.  He complains of feeling dizzy and again goes off into the shadows.  Emile tells Julie that it has been 27 years since his first encounter with Fortgibu and 17 since the second and both involved plum pudding.  Julie says she doesn’t know anyone named Fortgibu and suggests that Emile has made up the story.  A maid enters to announce the arrival of Monsieur Fortgibu and a very old and confused Fortgibu appears in the archway, asking for Roxanne who apparently lived before her death in the apartment above Julie’s.  Emile tells Fortgibu that he has met him three times in his life and at all three times plum pudding was present.  Fortgibu thinks that it might mean something, but it’s more likely the illusion of coherence.  He says that plum pudding is part of “a jumble of random fluctuations in an ocean of meaningless cosmic gibberish,” part of a “rich hotch-potch of abstruse symbology.”  At Julie’s invitation, he sits to join them for the plum pudding.

January, 2009

    There are three characters in Emotion Memory--Chekhov, Stanislavsky, and Lyka.  The simple unit set has a few pieces of furniture and represents four places:  Chekhov's estate at Melikovo, a room in Moscow, the Paradise Theatre in Moscow, and Chekhov's home in Yalta.  The time of the action is from 1892 to 1904.  We hear Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" being played on an old piano as the lights come up on Chekhov and Lyka.  It is evening; we see fireflies and hear crickets as the music ends.  Lyka tells Chekhov that he is good company but that he is lonely and unhappy.  Chekhov tells her of an experience he had with a young peasant girl when he was a young man in Moscow.  Lyka thinks the story is sad, but Chekhov insists it is funny.  She says that she never knows where she is with him and asks what he means when he says he loves her.  She tells him that she has been spending time with Potapenko, a married man, and wants to give herself to someone who wants her.  Chekhov thinks that she should have what she wants and, as she leaves, remarks that the fireflies flash their lights in a complex mating ritual.  "I hope they're better at it than you are," Lyka says, leaving as the lights fade.

     The second scene takes place in a room in Moscow early in the morning after the first (and disastrous) performance of The SeagullLyka is sitting in a chair as Chekhov comes in after walking for hours in the snow.  He says the theatre is "a monstrous obscenity," the actors "totally incompetent," the audience "moronic," and the critics "cannibalistic orangutans."  He wants her to shoot him if he is ever stupid enough to write another play.  She tells him that at least the terrible production has brought out his true feelings, deep emotions that he always tries to hide.  She says Potapenko's desertion and the death of her child and her suicide attempt were connected to deep emotions, that she at least is honest about what she feels.  Chekhov says he is sorry for her suffering, and Potapenko is a swine, but he is not going to wear his heart on his sleeve to be destroyed over and over.  She says the play is beautiful and that it is about her, the girl who loves the cynical writer who abandons her.  She tells him that the play was an act of love and that she is proud of his "amazing gift."

      Three years later, at the Paradise Theatre in Moscow, Chekhov and Stanislavsky discuss the latter's production of The Seagull, an artistic triumph to everyone but the author.  Stanislavsky tries to convince Chekhov that he wants to spend the rest of his life living inside his plays, that it's "the most important thing I could posssibly be doing."  Chekhov says that even when the play is done right it is still a betrayal of  "a poor, lost girl who was my friend and who loved me."  "Well," Stanislavsky says, "life is made of betrayal.  Art holds up the mirror.  Love makes us do it.  It's completely insane.  Let's do it again."

     The last scene takes place at night, with fireflies, at Chekhov's home in Yalta in 1904.  Lyka has been drinking and Chekhov tells her that his wife, Olga, makes him very happy.  Lyka tells him that he was just using her, the way all writers use people, that his words have infected her brain, that all she wants to to is drink until she can sleep.  She says that everybody is dying and that we go to the theatre while we wait.  She asks Chekhov if fireflies love and when he says he doesn't know anything about love she suggests they sit and watch the fireflies "for a little while longer."  They watch as the lights fade and go out.            

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     Ravished, a longer three-character (2m,1w) one-act, takes place in the present "or not far from there," on a simple unit set:  DR a small wooden table with a vase full of red roses, R a bed, DL a wooden table with chairs, DC a glow like the embers of a fire, UCL some sense of a garden.  Lights come up on Lucrece, sitting on the bed, with Tarquin drinking at the DL table and Coll standing RC looking at Lucrece who is looking at TarquinLucrece speaks in phrases of a man making love to her and Coll asks her what happened to her.  She asks if the friend he sent to her, John Tarquin, has talked about her.  Coll denies sending Tarquin to their home, but Tarquin speaks to Lucrece, saying that he promised Coll that he would come to see her.  He says Coll spoke of her, of missing her.  Lucrece wonders why Coll never wrote to her, and Tarquin says that personal communications are forbidden, that he and Coll work for a private company that does things for the government.  He asks Lucrece the color of her eyes, and as they look at each other Coll says he doesn't understand what Tarquin was doing with her.  He says there was an explosion and that he was unconscious for a while and that there are memories he can't retrieve, but he does not understand why he would have made Tarquin swear to come and see her.  He says that whatever Tarquin told her was a lie.  Lucrece then turns to Tarquin and asks him to tell her exactly what Coll said about her.  Tarquin says that Coll showed him a photograph of her standing in a hallway by some roses and that he and Coll would sit by the embers of a fire at night, waiting, and Coll would talk about her.  Coll has moved downstage and sits by the fire, telling Tarquin about Lucrece, and Tarquin tells her that Coll was terrified that he would forget her and described her over and over so he would not forget.  Coll describes how he made love to Lucrece and Tarquin tells her that they were in a dangerous and unnatural situation and that Coll needed to talk.  She asks him why he came to see her and then asks Coll the same question.  Coll denies sending Tarquin but admits that he might have said things he doesn't remember.  Tarquin asks Coll what he thinks Lucrece does when Coll is not there and says he envies Coll's certainty about her.  Lucrece asks Tarquin if he liked Coll and Tarquin says that Coll had some weaknesses, that people who talk too much and who don't pay attention and who want things they can't have are weak.  He tells her that she wants him to touch her because she spends her nights alone but that it's all a game, violence and lechery, and nothing satisfies.  Coll tells Lucrece that he dreamed she was naked in bed with Tarquin and woke up wanting to kill somebody. He repeats that he never sent Tarquin to her.  Lucrece tells Tarquin that she doesn't believe anything he has told her, that he is some random maniac.  Tarquin shows her a photograph of herself and Coll tells Tarquin that she is sometimes too trusting, leaving doors and windows unlocked and walking around naked with the blinds up.  Coll tries to talk with her but feels she is waiting for some lover who will be more exciting.  Lucrece tells Tarquin that something is wrong with him and asks if the place where he has been has changed him.  She asks him if he thinks he has some kind of power over her and says that men love war because it gives them the power of life and death over women.  Coll then asks Lucrece what has happened to her and she tells him that he has come home to somebody else:  "This is the other side of the looking glass," she says.  "You've cast yourself in this role, so pay attention.  Learn your lines.  All the dead people in the audience are watching."  Coll thinks Tarquin did something to her, but she says that nothing happened, that Tarquin stayed in the guest room.  When Coll asks Tarquin why he went to see Lucrece Tarquin replies that Coll asked him to go.  He says that he and Lucrece talked in the garden until it began to rain.  Time perspective switches back to Lucrece asking Tarquin about the lack of rain in the place where he was and he says he is a kind of messenger.  Tarquin tells Coll that Lucrece may not be sane and Coll then tells her that he has seen Tarquin.  She says Coll is stupid for believing Tarquin when he said nothing happened when he visited her.  Coll asks if Tarquin raped her; she asks Coll if "a man like that" would just stop in to say hello and wonders if Coll is excited by the idea of Tarquin forcing her.  Coll takes a gun from his bag and turns to Tarquin, telling him he's going to kill him.  Tarquin says he should go back to Lucrece and ask her what happened, and whatever she says will be the truth.  Coll begs Lucrece to tell him the truth and she repeats that nothing happened.  Coll leaves and we hear a loud gunshot, then birdsong.  Tarquin asks Lucrece if she is all right.  She wonders if he wants to come home with her after the funeral so she can kill him.  "Well," he says, "you can try."

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     As William Roach at Valley Forge begins we hear wind blowing in the darkness and the light comes up on two soldiers, William Roach and his friend Cobby, huddled before a fire as snow falls.  William tells Cobby that he was sent to America to bring back a cousin, Mary Clark, who ran off rather than marry a man she had been promised to.  Cobby says he has heard the story many times and doesn't want to hear it again.  He complains about being cold and hungry and miserable and wonders why they are marching back and forth on snow and frozen mud until their feet bleed.  William says they are fighting for freedom and that the war began over taxes.  He tells Cobby to avoid being negative, drinks from a flask, and, after some discussion, passes the flask to Cobby.  We learn that William married Mary Clark and Cobby thinks she must be insane to think that the Duke of York is her uncle.  The men talk about watching a performance of Addison's Cato, and William tells Cobby that they will win the war by outlasting the English and then everybody will be free.  He says he doesn't understand why Mary agreed to marry him but tells Cobby that he can meet her when the revolution is over.  He starts to give a cheer for the revolution, expecting Cobby to join him, but Cobby sits frozen, eyes open, as the snow falls on them and the lights go to black.

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     Part of the Pendragon cycle, Andromeda Chained Naked to Her Rock is a dialogue between Ben Palestrina, 17, and Meredith Cherry, 31, his former babysitter.  They are at Grim Lake in Armitage, Ohio, on a summer night in 1967.  Meredith suggest that they go swimming, saying that she has seen him naked lots of times.  She says she saw a painting in one of her father's books earlier in the day, a painting of Andromeda chained naked to a rock in the fog, remembering making love in the ferns on a hillside.  When Ben asks her how she can know what a mythological girl in a painting was thinking, Meredith says that in addition to being insane she is also telepathic.  She says that she is Andromeda, waiting as a sacrifice to a sea monster that she pictures as the Creature from the Black Lagoon and reminds Ben that he asked her to marry him when he was five years old and that she said she would if he still wanted to when he was eighteen.  Ben is leaving for college the next day and she thanks him for visiting her in the hospital, saying that she would have died without him.  He says she is beautiful and that he will always love her.  She asks him if he is a virgin and then if he wants to make love with her.  It will be her going away present to him.  He says she is incredibly attractive but he doesn't want to take advantage of her.  She says he either desires her or he doesn't, and when he says he does want her, she tells him to give her "this," then go away and not look back.  They kiss, "a long and tender kiss," then look at each other as the light fades and goes out.                                                                                                

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November, 2008

     Rainy Night at Lindy's is a long one-act for seven men and two women set in "a mythological delicatessen in New York City."  There is a counter with a phone "and perhaps an old-fashioned cash register" and tables and chairs surrounded by darkness, creating the feeling of "a busy and somewhat iconic film noir city on a rainy night" in November, 1928.  In the darkness, we hear the sound of rain and wind and a tapping telegraph key as Walter Winchell, seated at a table with a round microphone, speaks to "Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea," announcing that Arnold Rothstein, a notorious gambler reputed to be the mastermind behind the fixing of the 1919 World Series, is in a hospital fighting for his life.  The phone rings and is answered by Abe, the cashier.  Leo and Clara, the owners of the deli, speak of Rothstein, a regular customer that Clara doesn't like, comparing him to a spider and telling Abe and Leo that they are to take no more phone messages for him.  Leo asks Clara to be quiet before she gets them in trouble, and Moe, "a big, beefy gangster," asks if the lobster on his plate is male or female, since he only eats female lobsters.  Leo assures him the lobster is female.  Rothstein enters and asks if there are any messages for him. He asks where Damon Runyon is.  The phone rings and Clara tells Abe to answer it.  He does, listens, and says it is a wrong number.  Rothstein tells Abe that he is expecting an important call but as Leo escorts Rothstein to a table, Clara tells Abe, "No messages."

     Ring Lardner enters, exchanges pleasantries with Abe, and lets Rothstein know that he detests him for fixing the World Series.  Rothstein says it was nine years ago and that Ring's problem is that he wants to believe in things and gets angry when things don't turn out the way he hopes.  Leo tries to get Ring to a table away from Rothstein and Moe.  Rothstein says that he hears a scratching sound, like rats, but that it can't be rats because he hears the sound in other places.  Runyon comes in, exchanges insults with Ring, and is told by Rothstein that he (Rothstein) lost three hundred and twenty-two thousand dollars in a crooked poker game.  The phone rings, Abe answers, announces a wrong number, and hangs up.  Rothstein says that Abe has a tell that lets him know when Abe is lying.  Abe says he is not supposed to take any more messages for Rothstein, but when Rothstein asks him what the message was, Abe says that Humpty said for Rothstein to meet him at the Park Central Hotel, Room 349, in half an hour.

     Inez, a chorus girl, enters and tells Rothstein that she has been waiting backstage for him for forty-five minutes.  He says he has a meeting but that he'll be right back.  She says that he's never going to divorce his wife and marry her.  Rothstein replies that divorces are expensive and he has to pay Humpty three hundred and twenty-two thousand dollars.  The phone rings and Abe says he is pretending not to tell Rothstein that there isn't another call for him.  Rothstein takes the phone and then says that he has to be going to his appointment.  Runyon advises him to pay the money, but Rothstein says it is a matter of principle.  Ring accuses him of giving Jack Dempsey bad olive oil before the Tunney fight and asks if Rothstein got a thrill out of ruining baseball.  Inez wants Rothstein to discuss his wife before he leaves for his appointment, and Rothstein says his wife is divorcing him because he doesn't sleep with her.  Rothstein offers Moe his gun, but Moe thinks he should keep it, and Runyon thinks Rothstein should take Moe with him.  Rothstein insists that Moe take the gun and go to their office and pick up some money in case "the conversation" doesn't go well.  Rothstein leaves and Inez wants Moe to follow him, but Moe says he has to do what he's told and that he is "actually a relatively civilized individual."  Inez ways that she will give Moe "anything" if he goes to the hotel and makes sure Rothstein is all right.  Ring tells Moe that his lobster plate has balls on it.  Leo says the lobster does not have balls and then accuses Abe of buying male lobsters.  Clara syas that lobsters don't have balls, pops one in her mouth, and says that it is tapioca.  Inez wants Moe to get to the hotel but he leaves to get money from Eugene.  She berates the writers, blames Ring for distracting Moe, and runs out.  Ring says he knows everything is a game but that he wants the game to be fair, not fized.  Runyon tells him he's in the wrong country.

     The phone rings, Abe answers, wrong number.  Lights down on deli area and up on Winchell banging on his telegraph key and announcing that Rothstein, found shot in the stomach at the Park Central Hotel, died of his injuries.  He was last seen at Lindy's Delicatessen, "home of giant corned beef sandwiches, delicious apple pancakes, and the greatest cheesecake in the world."

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     "The action flows like a dream," in The Mulberry Tree Variations (2m, 2w), a long one-act done on a unit set representing an old house in London and a prison cell on a South Sea island in the first decade of the 20th century.  The set has no walls, with a bed, table, and lamp stage right, a wooden table with chairs down left, and a practical door up center.  In darkness we hear the sound of an old film projector and gradually see a strobe, flickering a very primitive silent film effect on the door as we hear Bach's 13th Goldberg Variation played on an old piano.  We hear Jack's voice describing a memory of a girl moving through the door into the room as Madchen, in a white dress, moves toward the audience and then off into the down left darkness.  The silent film effect ends as the music fades out and Jack and Petra appear in the doorway and move into the room talking about the similarity between the girl in a "cinematograph" Jack has gone to see night after night and a girl he used to know as "the jailer's daughter."  In answer to Petra's questions, Jack says that he was in jail, that he murdered someone, and that the room looks uncannily familiar to him.  He says he was a sailor on a merchant ship in the South Seas, and as he speaks of that time Madchen appears DL as a waitress putting a tray of food on the round wooden table.  She speaks to Jack as he moves into her space, the jail, but Jack keeps explaining to Petra (in a different time) how he accidentally killed another sailor in a bar fight.  Madchen speaks to Jack of love and mortality and he speaks alternately to her and Petra.  Madchen asks about London and says she wishes she were there, voicing a question that appears in several Nigro scripts:  "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"  She tells Jack that if she dies before she gets to London she will haunt him there.  Petra comments on Madchen's mental state as Madchen tells Jack and us about her parents and her love for books.  Madchen speaks of her grandfather who taught her never to put mulberries in her pocket.  She tells Jack that now would be an excellent time to kiss her, and he does, telling her that if she helps him escape from the jail he will take her to London with him.  Petra intrudes on this past event by telling Jack that he is a horrible person.  Madchen wants Jack to make love to her under the mulberry tree, and Petra asks him why he is telling her this.  He says she asked and thinks that he has to get out of the house that Petra has brought him to.  Jack tells Madchen they have to leave or the ship will sail without them, but she exits to get her diary.  Jack tells Petra that he had to jump in the water and swim to the ship and didn't see Madchen again until he recognized her on the film.  Jack says he keeps a watch that Madchen gave him under the mulberry tree.  It was her grandfather's and only runs backwards.  Jack can't explain how Madchen could have been on the film but he thinks he recognizes the house and the door.  When Jack says something is on fire in his head, Petra thinks that Madchen is a lie that Jack made up.  Jack remembers his father as a horrible man, a scientist who invented a sort of motion picture camera to make a record of his experiments.  He asks Petra why she brought him to this place and she tells him how a man, some sort of doctor, came backstage after every show and talked with her.  Evans, "a distinguished and rather intimidating looking older man," enters and sits in a chair.  Jack witnesses this scene as Petra witnessed the scene with Jack and Madchen.  When Petra tells Evans she is pregnant by an actor who has gone away, he invites her to stay in his house and have the child there.  He says his wife is dead and his son is gone.  Having no other options, Petra stayed in the house but dreamed that the dead man's wife warned her to get away before the child was born.  But Petra gave birth and was told that the baby she thought was healthy had died during the night. She says she ran away but the man found her and paid her to find his son, Jack, and bring him to this house.  Evans tells Petra that Jack had suffered an injury to his head that made him forget things, and that as a child he was prone to violent fits of rage that made it necessary to lock him without food in a small, dark room.  Jack remembers his father finding him with a maid, Jenny.  Jack woke up on a merchant steamer and thinks the girl on the island reminded him of the maid.  Jack realizes that his father is going to kill both him and Petra because he thinks Jack knows about the older man's experiments in the basement. Madchen enters, speaking a letter she is composing to the mulberry tree, describing her arriving in London and finding the house by the river Thames.  Evans, the father, asks her what she is doing in his house and she tells him she is engaged to Jack Evans and is carrying his child.  Evans says she can stay and help him with his research in cinematography and vivisection.  He leads her off DL and Jack tells Petra that the basement contains large bottles with heads of animals and corpses of infants floating in alcohol.  They hear a door slam and footsteps as Evans enters.  Jack accuses him of killing his mother, the maid, and Petra's baby, but Evans tells them that he put something in the wine they drank that will make them relax and soon nothing will ever trouble them again.  Petra rushes at Evans and he puts the syringe on the table to grab her arms.  Jack says he cannot move or see properly and we hear again the sound of Bach's 13th Goldberg Variation and see the flickering movie effect as Evans sits Petra on the bed next to Jack and rolls up Jack's sleeve.  Madchen comes in the door as in the beginning and moves downstage to the table, picking up the syringe and plunging it into Evans' neck.  He screams and falls on the floor.  Madchen tells Jack that he'll be all right when the drug wears off, that the poison was in the syringe.  She says Evans let her live because she was carrying Jack's baby and that she brought some mulberry tree seeds to plant in the back garden and raise a mulberry grove for their child to play in.  Petra says that Evans is dead and Madchen says that he will fit "quite nicely" into a large bottle in the basement.

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     Patty, a 19-year-old blonde, and Sharon, a 19-year-old brunette, are wearing swim suits as they sit in lawn chairs at night in 1968 in the back yard of an apartment near the Arizona State University campus in Under the Pomegranate Trees, a shorter one-act play.  They talk about playing near a long row of pomegranate trees near the athletic fields where a girl named Cindy liked to tease the boys by pulling up her skirt.  Sharon reminds Patty that she swam naked with some boys and Patty says that she was pretending to be Marilyn (Monroe).  They speak of a Mrs. Cain who, Sharon says, tried to run her over with her car because she was jealous of her relationship with Ben.  Patty says that Ben loved her and not Sharon.  Patty tells Sharon that one evening she touched Ben "there" as they were sitting under the pomegranate trees and that she knows he will never forget.  Sharon begins to cry and we hear the sound of an ice cream truck playing "The Band Played On." Patty talks about the excitement of having power over someone and asks Sharon if she would like her to touch her so that she would always remember being under the pomegranate trees.    

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     As the lights come up on Marilyn Gets Ice Cream, a short one-act, Knees, a short, pudgy janitor in his thirties is sitting on a white wooden bench in a Tastee-Freeze in Phoenix, Arizona, on an evening in March, 1956, while Jake, in his twenties, is sweeping up.  We hear a buzzing sound which Knees attributes to beetles that can't stay way from the lights.  He tells Jake that the pretty second-grade teacher he liked got fired for inappropriate behavior.  Knees tells Jake to call him Arthur and asks if Marilyn Monroe has been back.  Knees says that a black limo pulled up to the store and huge chauffeur got out and ordered two ice-cream cones, saying that Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Gleason were in the back seat.  Knees couldn't see through the dark glass of the back window and tells Jake that they're making a movie called Bus Stop.  But Knees says he will never be absolutely certain he was that close to Marilyn, and that he felt he was possibly close to establishing a relationship with Lou Ann, the teacher.  Jake says she would never have anything to do with the janitor at the grade school.  Knees says that she might be capable of deep human compassion and tells Jake she was seen screwing some guy in the coat room after school, apparently her fiance from Nebraska.  Knees complains that he can never get close to women, that they either leave like the teacher or are behind dark glass like Marilyn.  He goes on to tell of the time when he met a really nice girl in a bar, but when he went to buy her a drink, the bartender looked down at his short stature and asked if he was standing on his knees.  Everybody in the bar laughed and now he is "a fucking walking joke."  He says he walked into the coat room and saw "the nicest girl you ever met, being fucked like a dog by some shit-kicker from Nebraska."  He tells Jake he is going to the rodeo tomorrow and hopes that he will see Marilyn there.  He asks Jake if he is going to the rodeo and Jake replies, "I don't think so, Arthur."

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     In Goat, a short one-act for a man and a woman, we hear in the darkness the sounds of subway trains passing above and see a flickering fire in front of a man sitting, warming his hands.  Lil, with a flashlight, asks the man if his name is Goat.  He tells her to go away, but she says she needs him to do something for her.  He says there are snakes everywhere, that he kills and eats them and makes boots out of their skins.  He asks her why she has come to this lost place and tells her that he is here because he was cast out.  Lil says that Goat knows her husband and his brother and their father because the father is also Goat's father.  She says things were fine until the second son came along and Goat was replaced in his father's affections and pushed out.  The third son was Adam, her husband, the moron.  Goat says he dreams of falling into the abyss, and Lil says she dreams about the garden and wants Goat to help her get back at the father by tricking Adam's new wife into breaking the rules and begin a "relentless chain reaction."  She says Goat is the only one who can make the father pay for casting them out.  He can wear his snakeskin boots, she says, and we hear the sound of "something violent and terrible going by" as the light fades out.

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     Potter, a man, sits in a large chair and Jasmine, a woman, is at a small desk as we hear the sound of rain falling in So This Is The Elephants' Burial Ground.  Potter comments on the heat and suggests that Jasmine could take off her clothing since they are "way out here in the bush" with no one around.  Potter asks her a series of questions and is not pleased with her noncommital answers.  Jasmine says she went to the store to get bread and was told by the baker that his oven was hot.  When Potter asks her who the letter she isn't writing is for, she says it's for whoever opens the door.  She tells Potter that she saw a man waiting in the garden again and Potter says that she'll probably find his bones picked clean by predators.  Potter says he was a war hero, decorated for shooting his Captain.  He says he was well liked everywhere and that he won a prize for singing.  He tells Jasmine that she adores him and asks her to bring him a book.  When she asks what color the book is he says he is color blind.  He says he wrote a book about silkworms many years ago when he was recovering from malaria and in love with a beautiful girl who played the violin.  He says the girl died by stepping in quicksand; he then accuses Jasmine of being careless and leaving three pennies on the carpet by the bed.  Jasmine says they must have fallen from the torn pocket of her coat.  Potter asks her if she tore the coat at the baker's when he was showing her his oven and Jasmine says she is going out to the elephants' burial ground to sing and dance naked in the moonlight.  Potter tells her she's not going anywhere, that the baker was found burned to death in his own oven.  Jasmine says she thinks she will stay in and the light fades out as we hear the sound of rain.  

July 2008

     What Shall I Do for Pretty Girls? is a long one-act play in 15 scenes for four characters--William Butler Yeats, Maud Gonne,  Iseult (her daughter), and Georgie, Yeats' wife.  A simple unit set represents different locations in France and London from 1917 to 1938.  We hear the ocean and the sounds of many birds as the lights come up on Maud (late 40s) and Yeats (early 50s) in 1917 on the Normandy coast.  The noise of her birds makes it difficult for them to hear what the other is saying until Yeats closes the door.  Maud wonders if Yeats has come to ask her again to marry him, since her husband has recently died.  She says she is worried about her daughter and thinks that Yeats should propose to her.  Yeats says that Iseult asked him to visit, but Maud wants him to convince Iseult to come to Ireland with her to escape the war.  Maud is terrified that her daughter will be killed before she has had a chance to live. 

     The lights fade and come up on Yeats and Iseult walking on the beach.  She has overheard at least part of his conversation with her mother and asks if Yeats would like to kiss her and ask her to marry him.  He does; she refuses.  Yeats says he doesn't want to be alone anymore and wants children.  The lights fade on them and come up on Iseult and Maud in the house as Maud asks her if she had a nice walk with Yeats.  She tells her daughter that he deserves a bit of happiness before he's too old to enjoy it.  Iseult tells her mother that she is moving to London, and the scene shifts to a tea shop in London as Iseult tells Yeats that she can't marry him.  He says that he has found someone named Georgie Hyde-Lees that he may ask to marry him.

     In darkness we hear the sounds of a violent thunderstorm as lights come up on Georgie and Yeats on their honeymoon.  Yeats is upset because he feels he has betrayed Maud, Iseult, and her.  Georgie sits at a desk with pencil and paper and says that the pencil is automatically writing, that she has no control over it.  Fascinated, Yeats reads what has been written and puts other pieces of paper under her hand, an event he describes to Maud in the next scene, telling her that every night they receive "page after page of complex messages from a bewildering variety of entities in the spirit world."  He says that when Georgie's hand cramps the spirit voices talk in her sleep, giving him precise and detailed instructions about how to give his wife pleasure in bed.

     In the next scene, Georgie is lying in bed in a trance, speaking to Yeats in "a strange, unearthly but somewhat dignified voice" about letting Iseult work out her own destiny.  He follows the spirit voice's instructions to get his wife some tea and then rub her feet.  When he leaves, Georgie sits up in bed and says, "Shit and onions!"  Then, in the eighth scene, Iseult and Georgie are having lunch in the tea shop and Georgie tells her that the spirits are concerned about Yeats spending so much time tormenting himself about Iseult.  Georgie offers to introduce Iseult to one or two eligible young men.  Iseult says that Georgie's spirits are a "great load of ballocks" and calls her a charlatan.  Georgie says that she and Yeats are moving to Ireland and that she is pregnant.

     The scene changes to Maud's house in Ireland where Maud and Iseult have come in out of the rain, Maud having escaped from an English prison.  Yeats tells Maud that she can't stay in her own house because Georgie is six months pregnant and is sick with pneumonia.  He pleads with her to go, saying that he is terrified his wife will lose the baby.  Maud stomps out into the rain and Iseult kisses Yeats, saying she wishes the child were hers.  The scene ends as Georgie shouts at Yeats to close the door.

     Yeats, now a father, is walking in a park in London with Iseult, cautioning her about her friendship with Ezra Pound.  She says she has had sexual intercourse with Pound but that it should have been Yeats.  She asks him to let her find her own happiness, or unhappiness.  He says he reserves the right to worry.  The lights fade on them and come up on Maud visiting Yeats and Georgie, complaining that Iseult has married a young man who gets drunk and beats her, is unfaithful to her, and abuses and humiliates her in public.  Maud wants Yeats to convince Iseult to leave her husband.  Georgie agrees and Yeats leaves.  In the next scene Iseult tells him that she is pregnant and he insists that she leave with him.

     Lights come up on Maud in prison, an effect created by the shadows of bars on the floor.  We hear a cell door slamming shut as Yeats walks into the light and tells her that he is angry that the loveliest woman he ever knew "has turned herself into a bitter old crone for the sake of politics."  She refuses to let him get her out of jail, but asks that he take Iseult (who lost her baby) and her son.  Iseult appears, "looking haggard," and Maud orders her to go with Yeats.  After the light fades on them we hear the sound of a ticking clock and Yeats tells Georgie that he has been getting Iseult out of prison.  Georgie chides him for spending time with a "damned farting swami" and says that he never loved her.  He says that they have their two children and she says that he has his "damned stupid metaphors for poetry."

     The last scene takes place in a farmhouse (created by the sound of chickens) in the late 1930s.  Iseult tells Yeats that he married exactly the right woman but that she would run off with him to France if he wanted.  Maud comes on to ask Yeats if he is going to propose to her one last time.  Iseult tells Yeats that "only the poets win."  She and her mother sit on a bench on either side of Yeats, each taking one of his hands.  Iseult wonders if they have gotten everything wrong, and Yeats says that they could have done nothing else, that, if one is lucky, one loves, and "that's all there is to be said about it."

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     The Passion of Merlin and Vivien in the Forest of Broceliande is a short one-act for a man and a woman.  Merlin is not "incredibly ancient" but he is considerably older than Vivien.  We hear the sound of birds and thunder and see leaf shadows as the lights come up on a moss-covered tree stump.  Merlin sits on the stump and takes a drink from a small flask that Vivien offers.  He says he has taught her everything he knows.  She replies that he has made her laugh a thousand times and never took advantage of her.  She says she wants to give him something and Merlin notices that his hands feel like claws and his heels seem rooted to the ground.  She says the potion is beginning to work and he is turning into a tree.  Merlin feels betrayed, but she says that he taught her that trees were holy things and that she needs to be by herself.  Merlin's arms begin twisting upwards, "palms up, fingers spread like twigs."  She kisses him and puts the locket he gave her for protection on his upturned claw-like hand.  She leaves and we hear the birds and the rain in the darkness after Merlin says how proud of her he is.

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     A man, Rupert, and a woman, Senta, sitting on wooden chairs inside a room lit by moonlight, speaking of themselves and of each other in the third person, recall, in A Legacy for the Mad, their on-again off-again affair, a recollection that grows increasingly bizarre.  Rupert says that her apartment smelled sometimes of cigars and that he could smell her perfume in his room months after she had gone.  He speaks of making love with her against a wall of the zoo, the "greatest experience of his life," but says that she then refused to return his phone calls for months.  Senta shifts to the first person, saying, "I was in Spain. . . ."  When he says that as a boy he gathered mushrooms his mother would cook and serve with lamb and green jello, Senta says that her husband loved mushrooms.  Rupert says that "after some years" he felt that she trusted him enough to share her memories, although he was never certain whether she was inventing them.  One night she took his hand and told him how her husband had died when a wagon turned over and he struck his head on a stone.  She says that he left all his money to an insane asylum, with nothing for her or the children.  When Rupert, now speaking directly to her, asks about children, she says she doesn't have any, and Rupert says he doesn't believe anything she's said.  Senta says her husband was a Swedish ventriloquist who once made love to her at the zoo, "the greatest experience" of her life.  Rupert says he loves her.  She says that the owls have come to devour them, and Rupert, reverting to the third person, hopes that the zookeepers will be bringing green jello for lunch.

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     The setting for the four-character (2m, 2w) one-act Letters from Quebec to Providence in the Rain represents two old houses, one in Quebec and one in Providence, with some furniture being part of both.  We hear whippoorwills in the darkness and then see Petrus taking some letters from an old book, Drago's Occult Notebooks, that he had bought that morning from a girl selling books by the river.  Vanessa questions him about his motives, and Petrus tells her that the letters are written to someone named Vanessa by a Jonathan and were mailed from Quebec to Providence.  Lights come up on Jonathan speaking, not writing, a letter to Vanessa about moving into a house in Quebec.  Vanessa tells Petrus that she had a brother named Jonathan, now dead.  Jonathan speaks of hearing the sounds of a girl talking to herself in the bath and lights come up on Marianne in the tub, speaking in the third person of Vanessa meeting her roommate, Marianne, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.  As Petrus and Vanessa continue their conversation about Vanessa's brother, Jonathan describes how he went up the stairs to the bath and found the water running and the tub about to overflow, but "nobody was there."  Marianne speaks to Petrus, calling him a "wicked boy," and tells him to close the door because he's letting in goblins.  She then continues her narration of Vanessa bringing her roommate Marianne home to Quebec to meet Vanessa's brother Jonathan who fell hopelessly in love with her.  Vanessa tells Petrus that she went to Brown University because she was fascinated by the writer H. P. Lovecraft who lived in Providence.  She says she brought her roommate Marianne home with her over Christmas break and corroborates what Marianne said earlier about Jonathan falling in love with her.  Marianne says she used to walk by Lovecraft's house at night, and Jonathan, still speaking a letter, asks Vanessa if Marianne ever speaks of him.  Marianne asks if Petrus is out there on the staircase.  Vanessa narrates an idea for a story about a man who buys a book from a girl by a river and finds some old letters inside.  Marianne says that Jonathan wrote her hundreds of love letters but she never wrote back.  Petrus says that there is a photograph in the book with "From Marianne, With Love" on the back.  He asks Vanessa if she knows the girl in the photograph and Vanessa says she can't be certain, that the time she spent in the mental asylum with the drugs and shock treatments have addled her memory.  Marianne tells Vanessa (in an earlier time) that she has met  "a most wonderful young man" named Petrus Van Hoek, an artist who studies the anatomies of young women and is taking photographs of her in the bath.  Vanessa (in a later time) tells Petrus that she was jealous and confronted Marianne while she was in the bathtub.  Jonathan says that he climbed the stairs to the bathroom and found Marianne lying dead in the tub.  Vanessa says that "the murderess" was hiding behind the door and hit the intruder in the head with the bulldog door stop, realizing later that it was her brother who has never been right in the head since.  Vanessa says that "she" began receiving letters from Quebec, written by her brother, and she goes back to confront him but ends up wandering the streets of Quebec thinking it is Providence.  Jonathan says he goes to the house, finds Drago's book, and sees that the name on the inside front cover is Petrus Van Hoek.  Vanessa tells Petrus that he was Marianne's lover; she wonders why he came to read to her in the hospital and then took her into his home.  He says she knows why and that it is time for her bath.  The lights fade and we hear whippoorwills in the darkness.  

 
October 2007

     Further Adventures of Tom and Huck is set in the living room of Tom's brownstone townhouse in New York City in 1876.  Tom, very well-dressed, tells a shabbily-dressed Huck how glad he is to see him.  Tom and Becky are married, have a cook, a nanny, a maid, and "a English coachman manservant flunky," and Becky drinks a lot.  Huck asks for a drink and Tom gives him some Scotch.  Huck tries to drink it down but chokes and spits, saying that the liquor tastes like embalming fluid.  Tom says he made a lot of money during the war.  Huck was shot in the head, held as a prisoner, and has bad dreams.  Tom tries to get Huck to remember a balloon ride they took years earlier to Europe but Huck denies that there ever was a balloon.  Becky enters in a bathrobe and thinks that Huck is a bum.  Tom says he has to go to the sausage factory to check on his "simple-minded half-brother Sid."  When Huck says he came to New York to kill Tom, Becky offers to pay him.  She says Tom is a monster, a liar, and a cheat, obsessed with money.  As Huck vacillates, Becky offer herself, twice, if Huck kills Tom slowly.  She tries to get Huck's pants off and they fall onto the sofa as Tom enters.  Huck admits that he came to New York to kill Tom because Tom talked him into enlisting in the Confederate Army and then deserted the first time they heard enemy fire, leaving Huck to be wounded and put in a prison camp while Tom went north and got rich.  Tom says that war is a great place to do business and that it's the American way.  Huck says that his best friend Jim is dead and, after Becky passes out on the sofa, tells Tom that Jim was killed by a gun that exploded in his face, a gun probably supplied by Tom.  Tom says it was just "good old American business," but Huck sits on the sofa and cries.  Tom asks him if he remembers when they buried a marble in the hope of digging it up again to recover anything they had lost.  He says that the spell didn't work, but that he learned that superstition and religion were bullshit, although he still has the notion that somewhere, perhaps in an attic, is everything he has ever lost.  He says that what he misses most is going fishing with Huck.  He wishes his kids were more like Huck and says they are more like Sid.  Becky lifts her head to say they are Sid's kids, not Tom's.  Furious, Tom shakes her and starts strangling her but Huck pulls him off and he and Tom fall onto the floor.  Tom says that the country is all about money and that his life isn't worth "a mouthful of ashes."  Becky comes back with a large carving knife and chases Tom around the sofa, slashing at him.  Huck tries to intervene; Becky trips, and plunges the knife into Huck's chest, killing him.  Tom assures Becky that no one is going to know what happened, that Huck is a stranger, a nobody, and they're going to roll him up in a rug and run him through the sausage machine.  The lights fade as Becky sits beside Tom, who has Huck's head in his lap, crying as he says that he and Huck had some exciting adventures in that balloon, some good times.        

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     In Creatrix, two teen-age girls, Tiffany and Kimberly, in pajamas with their backs against the end of a bed, stare downstage into the eerie light of a tv set.  We hear the tape they have been watching rewind as Tiffany says they have watched the movie one hundred and thirty-seven times.  Kimberly says the movie makes her happier than anything in the world.  Tiffany says that after you watch the movie so many times you feel as if you made it yourself.  She says no one understands them and that the movie gives them the power to do unspeakable things to the people who order them around.  The girls decide to become the girls in the movie and talk about fantasy lives, deciding that life would be simpler if their mothers were dead.  They say they could put a brick in a stocking and beat Kimberly's mother over the head with it.  Kimberly thinks this a beautiful story, but Tiffany wants to do it "for real," to make their own movie.  Kimberly thinks a person would need to believe "very much" to make such a movie.  Tiffany puts Kimberly's hand on her heart and puts her hand on Kimberly's heart, asking her if she can feel the "great creatrix of the universe throbbing and seething and writhing beneath our flesh?"  Kimberly wonders where they can get a brick as the light fades and goes out.

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      Drury Lane concerns two characters from the Pendragon cycle, James Rumpley, 40, and Jane Armitage, early 20s, on the stage of Garrick's Drury Lane Theatre in the mid-eighteenth century, surrounded by darkness.  Jane says she is tired of rehearsing and James says they must get it right or Garrick will dismiss them.  He says that Garrick likes Jane and that she asked for his help.  He wonders what she gave him in return, and when Jane says, "Nothing," James, in a fury, grabs her arms and shouts, "WHAT DID YOU GIVE HIM IN RETURN?"  After a slight pause, he lets her go and asks if "that" was too much.  She says it's always been too much because James has always been a victim of passions beyond his control.  She says that Garrick might have saved him, that their child needed his help but that James preferred to turn thief because of pride, drink, and low company.  She shouts that he has sacrificed his wife and child to his stupid, self-destructive pride.  He agrees that what she says might be the truth but that it sounds too much like a play.  When Jane says that the son is in America, James says that he doesn't like the scene and wants to do something else.  She says they cannot rewrite the scene but only play it.  James wants to do the seduction scene and warns Jane of the dangers of a life in the theatre.  He kisses her and says that they must not do the scene of his deflowering her.  Jane says they have begun and might as well finish it.  She wants James to deflower her again.  He remembers that she said that she wanted to haunt the theatre when she died.  He says all theatres are haunted and that "this is a play."  He says he was a carnival boy who became an actor and she was an innocent country girl and they made love on "this" stage one night.  She got pregnant and he drank what money they had.  When she asked Garrick for help he hated her for it and became a thief.  He was caught and hanged as she watched with their son.  Then she died and the boy went to America and they keep rehearsing the play of their lives again and again, forever.  Jane says that she wanted to haunt the theatre when she died and he tells her that she is.  She thinks it is a beautiful story and that they might make a play of it.  James says, "We might.  We have.  We will."  She thinks their son will be an actor and that she will perhaps forgive James. 

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November 2005

     Rasputin is a long one-act play for two characters, a girl, Anastasia, and Rasputin, "a tall, gaunt man with piercing eyes, long black hair and a black beard."  The unit set "surrounded by darkness" has a bed, a table, and some wooden chairs.  Anastasia begins with a "once upon a time" story of a girl who is lost in a forest in the winter.  A leaf tells her to go to the Czar, who looks very much like her father, and who orders the world to come alive.  The girl wakes up and realizes she has been dreaming and is nearly covered with snow in the dark forest.  From the darkness, the voice of Rasputin tells her that she must tell him her name, date of birth, place of residence, and names of family members.  Anastasia keeps saying that she does not know, that she cannot remember.  He tells her to close her eyes and asks her what she sees.  She remembers riding through the woods on a wagon in the night with snow falling.  She says she has sisters and a brother and that she comes from a palace where she was a Grand Duchess.  Rasputin lights a lamp so that Anastasia can see him.  He asks her if she is from Ekaterinburg, a name she refuses to say, but he tells her that if she will not speak her name she is reducing those who created her to nothing.  She finally says her name and then the names of her sisters--Tatiana, Marie, and Olga--and her brother Aleksy.  Rasputin says she remembers someone else, but Anastasia says she doesn't want to remember him because he smells like death and is a horrible person.  Rasputin says she lived in a brothel and her father was a pig-fancying moron.  She says her father was Emperor of Russia and Rasputin asks her what she is doing in this shithole.  He pours some vodka into a tin cup, drinks some, and offers the cup to her.  She takes it and throws the vodka in his face.  He wonders whether it would be kinder of him to help her remember or help her to forget.  He says he can have intercourse with her whenever he wants but he prefers the challenge of seducing her.  He says if she has just one drink of vodka he'll tell her where her parents and siblings are.  But when she takes the drink he says she must tell him where her family is or else kiss him.  She finally says, "Ekaterinburg," and he asks her if she remembers sitting in his lap as he told her stories.  He repeats the "once upon a time" story which Anastasia said at the beginning of the play, with the variation that the leaf tells the girl to go to God.  Rasputin says that her father was a very stupid man who sent thousands of soldiers out to be butchered and he is now in Ekaterinburg with the rest of his family, dead, covered with dirt and being eaten by worms.  Anastasia describes how they were taken to a cellar and shot.  She was hit and stabbed until she lost consciousness and thinks she must have died and is in hell.  When Rasputin mentions the wagon she remembers a man telling her that he found her still alive as he was burying the corpses and took pity on her.  She wonders why she didn't die with the rest and Rasputin suggests that perhaps, as she was dying in the cellar, she imagined the woods, and the wagon, and the cottage, and him; that perhaps this is a vision she has just before her death.  She asks which version is true--is this a vision or did she really escape?  He says she must choose the role she will play--a madwoman who thinks she is the Grand Duchess Anastasia, a conniving Polish whore impersonating Anastasia, the Grand Duchess herself miraculously saved but driven mad by what happened, or the girl dying in the basement.  When she says she is cold he puts his coat over her shoulders and she tells again the story of the girl lost in the dark forest with the variation that the leaf sends her to Death.  She pauses, then says that her name means resurrection.  Rasputin kisses her tenderly on the lips and as the light fades and goes out we hear the sound of the wind.

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     In The Wind Among the Reeds, two characters from the Pendragon cycle, Molly Rainey, 63, and her husband Cletis, 67, are having breakfast in the kitchen.  It is summer and Cletis is talking to a parakeet in a bird cage, explaining to Molly that he is trying to teach the bird to talk.  He asks if there is any meat loaf left and is told by Molly that what he ate was dog food, not meat loaf.  Molly is bored and is worried about their son, Billy, who lives in a trailer, plays the tuba, and talks to his weiner dogs.  Cletis defends Billy, suggesting that he may be a misunderstood genius, but Molly says Billy is a moron, that her life is a failure, and she wants a divorce.  She starts taking clothes out of the dresser to put in a suitcase, saying that she needs some culture in her life and that Cletis has never taken her anywhere.  Cletis reminds her that he took her to a vaudeville show at the Palace Theatre in Canton, and he goes on to describe a French performer who did a whole program of fart impressions, concluding by putting a tube up his ass, sticking on ocarina on the end of the tube and playing the 1812 Overture.  When Molly says that she always wanted to be an opera singer, Cletis tells her that she sounds like a moose with his balls caught in a wood chopper.  Molly closes the suitcase, leaves, then comes back, asking Cletis what he is going to do without her since he can't see, drive, or cook.  Cletis says he'll be fine and wants to know what happened to set her off.  She says that Lewis, her sister Lizzy's husband, is going to die and then she asks Cletis if he tried to kiss her sister Jessie in the barn almost fifty years earlier.  Cletis protests that they were all teenagers back then and wonders why Molly didn't marry somebody else.  She says that Lizzy and Lewis really love each other and that she is running away because she doesn't want to watch Cletis get old and die.  Cletis tells her that you can love something and stick with until one of you dies or you can run off and die alone.  Molly starts unpacking her clothes and tells Cletis that maybe she'll make meat loaf for lunch.  Cletis starts talking to the bird again and the lights fade and  go out.

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     In another Pendragon-related play, Gazebo, two friends, Margaret and Gretchen, with Margaret's younger brother, Con, carry on conversations that took place between 1912 when the women were seventeen and 1938 when they are forty-three, but much of the play occurs in 1928 when the women were thirty-three and Con was twenty-seven.  Nigro specifies that the actor playing Con should be no older than that and the women should be in their early thirties.  In the darkness we hear a cello version of Faure's "Sicilienne," rain falling, and a distant storm.  As in other Nigro scripts, characters sometimes talk to themselves, remembering images of past events, sometimes to each other, and sometimes to the audience.  Gretchen begins the dialogue by speaking of storms, of being unable to sleep, of voices whispering in the gazebo, of something leering at her through rotten trelliswork, of "his hands."  Margaret matter-of-factly tells the audience that Gretchen has always been her best friend, that they have lived next to each other all their lives and married each other's brothers.  Gretchen speaks of headlights coming toward her in the rain, and Margaret says that Gretchen saved her from drowning at Grim Lake.  Con speaks of driving in the rain with Violet and May and seeing someone by the side of the road.  Margaret says that three people died in the crash.  Gretchen tells us that Margaret had two brothers, Con, and the one she married.  Margaret says that three witnesses swore there was a fourth person in the car before it crashed.  Con and Gretchen begin talking about the voices Con hears whispering and which Gretchen can't hear because, according to Con, she closes up and never listens.  Margaret says that all the girls always loved Con.  Gretchen tells Con to stop looking at her, that she doesn't like it, and as they talk Margaret interjects reminiscences of giving Con baths when he was small and of how he like to fix clocks.  She and Con then talk of clocks and time until Gretchen speaks again of the headlights.  Gretchen tells Con that she has seen him at the lake with Glynis and Jason.  Margaret then asks about her mother who lives with Gretchen and suggests that she and Gretchen could simply change houses, a suggestion that Gretchen rejects.  Con wonders who his father might have been and tells Gretchen that their fathers knew each other out west, that his Dad came back with money and married the Potdorf girl.  Then Gretchen's Dad showed up, dirt poor, and was given a job as foreman of the cheese factory, and lived in the house next door that Con's father built for  him.  Con says their parents had secrets and offers to share a secret with Gretchen, but she says she doesn't have any secrets.  He asks her why she married his brother, tells her that she is beautiful, and asks what she saw at the lake when she spied on them.  She says she saw three naked people and adds that she hates the water.  Margaret speaks of her husband Clyde who disappeared with Gretchen's husband on a trip to Great Slave Lake.  She says Gretchen's brother Clyde and Jason Cornish and Jimmy Casey went to war but Con didn't go because he had a bad heart.  Gretchen says that Harry MacBeth arranged to have Con marry his daughter Glynis who loved Jason.  She tells Con that he compulsively betrays people and Con says that she won't let her husband touch her.  As Margaret remembers practicing on the cello, Con reminds Gretchen that she used to babysit him.  Margaret remarks that something we believe we hate turns out, after a time, to be something we absolutely cannot do without.  Gretchen mentions the headlights again and Con, now the driver of the car, tells her to get in.  Gretchen remembers blood on her dress, between her legs, something crawling out of her in the rain.  Con, sitting next to Gretchen on the gazebo steps, says that she taught him more than Chinese Checkers.  Margaret remembers the two fathers going up on the roof in a thunderstorm and being struck by lightning as they held on to a lightning rod they were installing.  Gretchen speaks of finding her mother in red water in the bath and remembers seeing her brother kiss Margaret in the gazebo and being filled with fury and later pushing Margaret into the lake where she hit her head on a rock.  Gretchen dove in and pulled Margaret out and revived her.  She says Margaret didn't remember what had happened but was never the same after her head injury, although her cello playing improved remarkably.  Con and Gretchen then speak lines from the time of the car accident when Con pulled over to pick up Gretchen (apparently pregnant with his child).  Gretchen was furious with Con and clawed his hands off the wheel of the car.  Margaret speaks of a dream she has of driving late at night in a rainstorm and swerving to avoid two red eyes in the dark and then to avoid the oncoming car which spun round and crashed.  She sees the two girls, Violet and May Pelly, and her brother Con, dead.  She says when she can't sleep she goes out to the ruined gazebo and plays the cello.  Con kisses Gretchen "very tenderly" and Margaret begins to play Faure's " Sicilienne" as the lights fade and go out.

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     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.

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     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 notPerhaps 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 mothsCarmelita 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.

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       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.

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      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.

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      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.

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     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.

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     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.

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     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.