a commedia in two acts
by Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller
created in collaboration with the
ensemble of Theatre X, Milwaukee
The Professor
The Captain
The Enchantress
A Janitor
A Musician
An enchanted island. Now.
© 1973 by Conrad Bishop. All rights reserved.
For production rights, contact WordWorkers, 800-357-6016 or E-mail.
Act One
Houselights to half. Musician enters, finds stool at side. Brushes it off. Sits. Hits cymbal. Short, lively overture to sudden stop.
Musician takes stick, pounds three times on the stage: the traditional signal the play is beginning. At the third, sharp light change.
Arlecchino appears, surprised. He looks about. Surveys audience, then stage, then Musician, then comes forward to audience.
ARLECCHINO: Does anybody here have a peanut butter sandwich? I’m hungry. I’m also Arlecchino, but that’s the same thing.
This is the same old story starting all over. Hunger. Hunger in all its many forms: The command form. The infinitive. The first person . . . imperfect.
He looks about, gives a shrill whistle.
Actors enter, strike tableau according to plot relationships. Freeze.
See, Flori hungers for Ricardo. No wonder: they haven’t seen each other since they were five years old. See, they were kids together, then years later she wrote him a letter and they fell in love. Isn’t that crazy? You’re not going to like this if you’re intelligent.
Ah! But the Professor, her father, disapproves. He hungers for All He’s Missed, so he’s on sabbatical. With his friend the Captain, who hungers for Success, while the Captain’s wife, Ellinda, goes nuts.
So Flori persuaded me to bring her here to meet Ricardo. Understand, I’m not a person, I’m a character, she read me in a book. I have been in many plays better than this one. Call me a guy who knows the ropes.
Those two, I don’t know, they’ve lived here fifteen years, and they hunger for anything that comes along.
So that’s the plot. Happens every day.
Janitor in overalls, cap and dark glasses shuffles across.
Oh, that’s a demon. He works here. When he brings in the tree, we’ll be on someone’s half-assed idea of an island. This is an enchanted island, meaning it’s wherever you don’t want to be.
Chord. All disappear. He is alone.
So what about that sandwich? I can’t start without it. That’s why my accent’s garbled, I salivate in ten languages.
Hunger: you think I run it into the ground, just watch it sprout back up. There’s going to be love and laughter all over the place, and I’ll be straining to fill my gut. It’s not fair, it’s unjust, it’s—
Janitor brings in the tree.
—happened. We’re here.
Music. He leans against tree, croons:
        All alone am I
        No one to talk to have I
        All alone with just. . .
The groaning of my goddamn gut. A touch of the poet! As long as I’m starving, I could be a poet:
        Oh to be at Gino’s
        Now that the pizza’s done!
Scuse me, it’s time for a little wishful thinking.
Music. He looks in front of himself, imagines a banquet.
Lifts covers of dishes: overwhelming delights. He’s about to sample one, then changes his mind, then again. At last dips finger in, licks, it’s horribly bitter. Tries another: hot pepper. Dances and rolls around stage in agony, finally drinks from bottle at length, staggers.
Sticks finger into another pot: something grasps it and won’t let go, nearly drags him in. Pulls free.
Prepares to lift another lid, first picks up large blunt object, ready to strike. As he removes dish-cover, the fantasy dissolves. He finds an ant.
It’s an ant.
Ok, ant, I got news. You’re my emergency rations.
As he is about to eat it, he listens.
“Don’t kill Ant-onio.” Who’s Ant-onio? Oh, you’re Ant-onio. That figures.
Well, Antonio, I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to eat you. I know that’s a fine distinction, but I am a man of fine distinction.
Another demon. I better hide. (to the ant) Into the pocket. Where’s Flori? I’ll pretend I’m a tree.
Takes pose. Weeps broadly. Explains:
A weeping willow. If you thought I’d say something profound, you’ll have to wait till the end of the play.
Poses. Flori enters, picking flowers. She sees Arlecchino.
FLORI: Arlecchino, what’s the matter?
ARLECCHINO: Ah Flori! I told you to stay with me! It’s dangerous here, there’s riots and conflagrations and starving masses and massive retaliations and you could catch cold.
FLORI: It’s so exciting! It was just like Ricardo to pick this island—
ARLECCHINO: “Ricardo”?
FLORI: Well, Richard. But Richard sounds like Ricardo.
ARLECCHINO: His name is Roger.
FLORI: I know, but I call him Richard, because Richard sounds like Ricardo. Here, he’s Ricardo.
It’s like I dreamed it would be. It’s a dream come true.
ARLECCHINO: That’s illegal in the state of Pennsylvania.
FLORI: Arlecchino!
Music. She offers him a flower. He accepts, starts to eat it. She pulls it away, holds it for him to smell.
He inhales deeply, sucks a bee into his sinus cavity. Frantic buzzing. He blows it into his handkerchief.
Flori picks it out, takes it to stream, washes it, dries it, and brings it to Arlecchino for reconciliation. He reluctantly shakes its hand. It stings him, flies off.
ARLECCHINO: No more dreams! Back to business.
Flori, we stand in the midst of Life, and that’s no place for a young girl—
FLORI: Arlecchino—
ARLECCHINO: So I got a plan. We tried this in another play I was in, it didn’t work then either, but now everybody’s outa work so it won’t be noticed, and if it won’t be noticed neither will you, you think you’re something special?
The plan is this: you be a man.
FLORI: I can’t be a man.
ARLECCHINO: Sure you can.
FLORI: But Ricardo—
ARLECCHINO: Ricardo won’t know the difference.
No, Flori, I mean we dress you like a man. You pretend to be a man. Then nobody mess with you.
FLORI: Nobody would think I was a man. That’s silly.
ARLECCHINO: Sure it is, but it’s for your own good.
FLORI: But I don’t have any men’s clothes.
ARLECCHINO: Have faith in the 20th Century.
Janitor passes, carrying laundry. Arlecchino heists it.
FLORI: Ok. But it’s a terrible idea. You go over there.
Arlecchino leans against the tree. Flori changes clothes.
All this because I love Ricardo. I’ve never really loved someone before. Oh, I love my father. But a person, that’s scarey.
Sometimes I get so afraid, I can’t hold onto things. That’s what I wrote him, the first time I wrote. I said, “I’m afraid to write after all these years” — he moved away when we were five. "I’m afraid you think I’m still five. I’m afraid maybe something’s happened to make you grow up mean and cross-eyed and fat.
“I’m afraid you won’t write back.”
But I knew he would. I even knew what kind of poems he’d write:
    I love the feet of Flori, I love the ankles too,
    I love her knees and legs and all, and I love Flori too.
    And I love Flori’s eyes, and I love Flori’s hair,
    And I love her hands and her voice and her neck and chin and nose and I can’t even rhyme any more because I love her so!
His poems are a little gushy.
And my name’s not Flori, it’s . . . Flora. Except to him.
But this island, it’s so strange. We read storybooks together, he must have picked it out of a book.
I look forward to so many things, I’m excited about so many things. But I don’t know what.
ARLECCHINO: You ready?
FLORI: Ready.
She is now dressed in a loose-fitting, baggy man’s suit. Arlecchino whistles, a hat is tossed in from the wings. He places it on her, stands back to admire.
ARLECCHINO: Oh, hey, yeh, well, you look like—
CHARLIE: (off) Shit!
FLORI: Someone’s coming. Monsters! They’ll kill us!
ARLECCHINO: We’ll pretend we’re trees. (posing) Smile. (explaining) Sugar maples.
This bit hasn’t worked for centuries.
Flori and Arlecchino pose.
Charlie scrambles in, dives to catch something. Coreen follows, points.
COREEN: There’s one.
COREEN: You squashed it. There’s another!
COREEN: Is that all you can say?
He starts to speak.
Don’t say it! Quick, there’s another!
He grabs, misses, stops, exhausted.
You’re too slow. You need exercise.
CHARLIE: (panting) Yeh?
COREEN: Then why don’t you do something! You’re turning me into a nag, I’m a nag, alla time I’m a nag, a repulsive, disgusting nag, I don’t wanta be a nag—
CHARLIE: Nag nag nag!
Coreen cries. He tries to comfort her. She pulls away. He backs off. She embraces him, cries. Recovers.
COREEN: So this is my enchanted island.
COREEN: This is it. You told me we’d go off to an enchanted island, leave our cares behind. That’s what you said, fifteen years ago.
COREEN: So we did. Fifteen years of eating toads.
CHARLIE: Frogs. You need glasses.
COREEN: Gimme that one. I’ll do a casserole.
CHARLIE: Look, it’s investment property. I got a good deal.
COREEN: Nobody wants it—
CHARLIE: That’s why it’s cheap.
COREEN: It’s half under water—
CHARLIE: It’s accruing. It’s property that accrues. Don’t you know what it means to accrue?
CHARLIE: (after a hitch) Well it is!
COREEN: And now you’re slowing down. We’ll starve.
CHARLIE: Eat the fruit.
COREEN: It’s fulla worms.
CHARLIE: Then shut the hell up! Learn to like it! I’m doing my best. There’s no work here, no jobs, taxes going up—
COREEN: Then what are we doing here?
CHARLIE: I got a good deal!
They see the others. Coreen falls to her knees.
It’s a crucifix. Two crucifixes!
O Lord, forgive me, I’m sorry I’m a nag. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa culpa culpa!
CHARLIE: It’s just a couple of nuts. You need glasses.
COREEN: Down on your knees!
CHARLIE: It’s a couple of nuts!
ARLECCHINO: One of the thieves was saved. That’s me.
He starts to run away. Flori catches him.
They retreat to one side, Charlie and Coreen to the other.
CHARLIE: See, it’s a couple of nuts.
COREEN: Talk to’em.
COREEN: I don’t know.
ARLECCHINO: It isn’t monsters. It’s natives.
FLORI: Talk to them.
FLORI: In native language.
Arlecchino and Charlie approach one another cautiously.
ARLECCHINO: Ah. . . (to Charlie) Huh!
COREEN: What’d he say?
CHARLIE: Shaddup.
ARLECCHINO: (to Flori) The negotiations are progressing. (to Charlie) How! Huh! (indicating self) Ar-lee-chino! Shaddup!
CHARLIE: Yeh. Uh. . . How huh shaddup. (indicating self) Ar-lee-Charlio!
COREEN: What does he say?
CHARLIE: Goddammit, shaddup!
ARLECCHINO: (to Flori) I think I got it now. (to Charlie) Arlecchino’s Charlio go how huh shaddup. Who? Goddammit!
CHARLIE: He’s saying something about his shaddup.
COREEN: Oh dear.
Terrified, Charlie approaches, pronounces words emphatically.
CHARLIE: Who . . . are . . . you?
ARLECCHINO: I’m Arlecchino. Who the hell are you?
CHARLIE: I’m Charlie.
ARLECCHINO: Glad to meet you.
General exclamations, hand-shaking all around. Then both pairs retreat.
COREEN: I’m so excited. Visitors!
CHARLIE: Hold on. They’re strangers. Don’t trust’em.
ARLECCHINO: Now we get food.
FLORI: And ask about Ricardo.
Charlie and Arlecchino pair up, Flori and Coreen likewise.
CHARLIE: Where you from? What you want here?
ARLECCHINO: We’re just tourists.
CHARLIE: Nothing to see here.
ARLECCHINO: Then we won’t look.
Focus shifts to others.
FLORI: We thought you were monsters.
COREEN: Oh no, we’re really nice once you get to know us. Course we don’t see people too often.
FLORI: You don’t see anyone?
COREEN: No, just me and my husband, and you know he doesn’t really understand me, I’m somewhat complicated to understand, my religious education jacking up the pressure of my glands, and I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, what’s your name?
FLORI: Flori-o.
COREEN: That’s cute.
Focus shifts.
ARLECCHINO: We just got here, we’re looking for food.
ARLECCHINO: You know any place?
ARLECCHINO: Where we get some food?
ARLECCHINO: With money.
CHARLIE: Oh. Money.
Focus shifts.
COREEN: You know I even had two years of college, and I had a very high standard of morals, I still do, but my husband was so attractive, and then we came to this investment swamp, I don’t even like to talk about it, I—
FLORI: Scuse me, I wonder if you’ve seen anyone like the person we’re looking for.
COREEN: What does he look like?
FLORI: Like . . . a dream.
COREEN: That’s sweet.
Focus shifts.
CHARLIE: Let’s see the money.
Arlecchino gives him money.
CHARLIE: Ok, I’ll see what we got. See, there’s a lotta bums wanting a handout, I gotta look out.
ARLECCHINO: Yeh. You got a lot to lose.
Focus shifts.
COREEN: I have a confession to make.
FLORI: What?
COREEN: I’m nearsighted.
COREEN: So . . . do you mind if I stand closer?
FLORI: Well, we’re not going to be here long. We’re here to meet somebody.
COREEN: I’m happy to meet you too.
Coreen edges closer to Flori.
CHARLIE: (to Arlecchino) Ok, follow me.
ARLECCHINO: (to Flori) Wait here, I’ll be back.
Arlecchino tosses a kiss. Flori returns it. They go off. Coreen, very close, tosses a tiny kiss to Flori.
COREEN: Florio. . . Sometimes something just sorta . . . comes over me . . . you know?
She tosses another kiss, pleadingly. Flori comprehends.
She retreats, flees. Coreen crosses herself, then pursues her.
Exactly at the same moment, Ricardo appears, disguised as a woman. He looks around cautiously, then lets himself go, spinning and laughing.
RICARDO: This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.
He goes to the pond, looks, adjusts his wig. Takes out a picture of Flori.
Te adoro, Flori. Je t’aime, Flori. Flori, I love you!
He laughs, rolls around. Then addresses audience.
Oh. Yes. I’m wearing a dress.
See, I think this is the best disguise, because women don’t have so many problems, people wanta help them and nobody picks a fight. So if I meet anyone, I’ll pretend I’m a local farmer’s daughter or a happy nymph living in harmony with nature.
My legs are drafty. That must be how Flori feels. Fantastic! I’ll see this island through your eyes, Flori, and then I’ll understand you.
A flower! It’s . . . wow! No, Flori would never pick it. She’d say it’s there to be beautiful.
But beauty exists to bring pleasure. The flower asks us to pick it. But if I pick it, it won’t be there for Flori to see. Wait, I’m Flori now. It won’t be there for Ricardo to see. But I’ll give it to him, then he’ll be sure to see it. But then it will die. Die in his hands. How like life!
But we can learn from suffering. But what can the death of this flower teach Ricardo? He has suffered enough. This is very heavy.
Oh, Flori! I wrote you another poem!
        O Flori dear Flori, your eyes your lips your hair,
O Flori sweet Flori, your toes your knees your legs
        O Flori, your arms, O Flori your skin
        Are like peaches!
I’m not always as sappy as this. I’m a realist. And I suppose if I had to desert from a battleship, I’d think twice about it. But I’m just cutting two classes.
Because it’s experience! I want to experience life. Because I feel so deeply, and with wisdom far beyond my years, that even when life’s throwing its punches, its arms are out!
Suddenly looks around, in panic.
Somebody’s coming! I’ll die if they see me like this! This is a terrible disguise! I better do something nobody’s ever thought of before.
I’ll pretend I’m a tree. A mighty oak!
He takes a heroic posture, freezes.
Enter Captain, followed by Professor, who carries a huge notebook.
PROFESSOR: Captain, we’ve arrived. How does it feel to have arrived?
CAPTAIN: My dear Professor, beyond words.
PROFESSOR: We tread where few men have trod. How does it feel?
PROFESSOR: It won’t be long. Consult the notebook. Let me see. . .
Theory of Relativity, Principia Mathematica, Origin of Species, Works of Rudyard Kipling, National Geographic—
CAPTAIN: Wide range of taste.
PROFESSOR: My dear Captain, this isn’t a matter of taste. I have read all the books there are—
PROFESSOR: All. This journal cradles the kernel of every one. It struck me one day that if you took all the books, digest’em, see where they lead—
PROFESSOR: Well, they lead here! To this island. Who would have thought?
CAPTAIN: And the treasure of your labors?
CAPTAIN: Yes, but where?
PROFESSOR: In the swamp of time.
The treasure, buried, of all civilizations, ancient and new. All the civilizations, so to find it you have to know’em all, the philosophies and science, the principal exports, who the kings were, how much money they made.
It’s one thing to get here, kill the natives, you’ve got the knack for that, but it’s another to find where to dig.
CAPTAIN: So let’s get down to business.
PROFESSOR: Very well. I shall read, you execute.
Reads from volume.
“On the crest of the enchanted island, you will find a tree.”
Sees Ricardo.
There! There’s the tree!
As Professor reads, the Captain paces, according to instructions.
“You will find a tree, perchance the Tree of Life, moving as we move in the wind. . .” Nice, huh?
“And from this tree, if you need more treasure than the spreading resplendence of this tree—
Looks. Ricardo tries for more spreading resplendence.
“—Spend three manly strides to the East, feeling the firm earth underfoot, that stability upon which we live, die and engender our instabilities.” That sounds kinda dirty.
“Then fix your gaze to the winter-mothering North, spend a quatrain of paces thereon.
“But lest we forget that all is not bitter and harsh, then turn to the West, whence the sun slips softly to sleep as the shades of sunset surge into our hearts through the turnstile of our eyes, (gasping) and three steps Westward Ho!
“Yet in that turbulence wherein we must ever on, we turn to the soothing South and are wafted three measures by currents warm with a minstrel strain. Then we shall find ourself at the sprout from whence we began.”
Captain winds up where he’s started.
CAPTAIN: Let me see that!
We’ll dig here.
PROFESSOR: I would say here.
PROFESSOR: Dear Captain, I remind you that as financier of this expedition, my decisions are final. Therefore I’ll meet you halfway.
Points where Captain has indicated.
CAPTAIN: Very well.
PROFESSOR: You dig and I’ll consult the book.
Captain digs. Professor soliloquizes.
Ah Captain, the vistas ahead! I stand at the brink of sunrise.
Had we not met, I’d be glued to my books, wasting away. “Out out, brief candle.” Shakespeare. After my wife . . . after . . . Let’s see . . . We got married, Flora was born, I finished my dissertation and then my wife . . . I forget.
Ah, whatever happened, it’s hard raising a daughter alone. Dear Flora. Ah, but now she’ll be rich! I’ll marry her off, to you when you get rid of your wife, and then I’ll be free.
Free! No more peeking out dirty windows at girls in their naked-leg skirts. I’ll have’em all, girls, women, old ladies, whatever I want. See one in the street, you want her, you got her. Things you read about. One of those doctors give me shots so I do it five times a night. Bed in every room, mirrors, novelty items. Do it all. I’ll feel young again, like I did when I was young.
And I’ll have respect. Name in the papers. People will have to love me. I’ll pay a lotta sons of bitches back. Five times a night! Oh there’s so much to do!
CAPTAIN: Then dig for a while.
Professor digs. Captain soliloquizes.
CAPTAIN: Money. What is money? Money is fuel to move.
If you don’t move, advance, progress, ascend, you’re dead. You play the game to win.
The old man has an idea, it sounds crazy, but I had him checked out, he’s smarter than he looks. So we help each other and we each one get what we want. That’s the way people co-exist.
My wife . . . Ellinda . . . Once we were good for each other, we loved each other, we did. But conditions change. Now she’s the shirt your mother bought you before you left home. It isn’t worn out, but you never wear it, it isn’t you.
Yes, that may sound very heartless. But consider the person sitting beside you now. Is that person as nice as you? Don’t you deserve better than that? Ellinda, goodbye!
I just want to stay one step ahead of the pack. I’ve seen too many pathetic old losers like him.
Yes: flatter yourself by looking down on me. You think, “These are the types who gobble the world! I’m supposed to hate him, he’s clearly the villain.” No. Those who hate me are mostly the losers. You can afford the ticket price.
Fanfare. Professor in triumph:
PROFESSOR: I found it! I found it! Oh. It’s a note.
“In hoc signum e non pluribus rerum las muchachas caveat rex. You’re not as smart as you think. Check out the tree.”
The tree. The tree!!!
Professor, ecstatic, dances around Ricardo, dances with Captain, grabs Ricardo, breaks into a tango. Suddenly he realizes.
It’s a. . . oh my. . .
Evaluates Ricardo head to foot.
My first conquest!
Mime: Ricardo retreats, terrified. Professor persuades the Captain to get Ricardo to come to him. After protest, the Captain agrees.
Professor primps and prepares as the Captain tries to seduce Ricardo for the Professor. Ricardo declines, claiming virginity.
Professor becomes very excited at the thought. Captain tries to force Ricardo to Professor. Ricardo indicates he will comply if the Captain departs. Professor waves him away.
Ricardo flirts with Professor, persuades him to close his eyes. Professor puckers, makes kissing sounds, advancing. In this manner, Ricardo leads him offstage, dodges around him and hurries back. Offstage crash.
RICARDO: I lost him. My God, is that how men go after women? Oh, Flori!
Flori! Suppose they meet Flori! She wouldn’t know what to do, she’d be—
I’ve gotta do something. Wait! I always run off in all directions. I’ve gotta think. Quick! My mind’s a blank! If life was a novel I could think for pages and pages.
Ah stop being funny! Flori’s in danger. Why can’t I do anything right? I write awful poetry, I try to be the romantic hero, and I’m stuck in a dress in the middle of a swamp.
Millions of people read the same books I do, feel the same feelings, brush with Crest. I’m completely interchangeable. Ah why does Flori love you? Cause she doesn’t know any better?
Sits down, then lies down.
I’m so tired. I’m always tired when there’s something important to do. Five minutes of experience and I’m exhausted. I’ll be middle-aged before I’m thirty.
I’ll close my eyes while I think. I can think and rest at the same time. To sleep, perchance to dream. And then I’ll rescue Flori.
He falls asleep. Coreen enters, puffing.
COREEN: I lost him.
Dear Lord, why’d you send him here? I was content to be miserable. But now I can’t stand it!
He probably gets all the young girls he wants. I was too pushy. Men don’t like pushy women. That’s not like me. I’m more delicate.
Oh, I feel young again! And it’s awful!
She crosses herself, rushes off as Flori appears.
FLORI: I got away. Is that how women act with men? What would Ricardo do? I wonder if. . .
I’m going in circles. If Ricardo sees me like this. . . I’m afraid to meet anyone and I’m afraid to be alone.
Why am I . . . me?
Flori hurries off. Charlie and Arlecchino appear.
CHARLIE: So what’s the matter you’re not satisfied?
ARLECCHINO: Ten dollars, I get a paper bag?
CHARLIE: So whatta you want?
ARLECCHINO: Food. Munchies. Nutriments. Fodder. Grub!
CHARLIE: Do like we do. Catch your food.
ARLECCHINO: I go kill me a peanut butter sandwich?
CHARLIE: I give you a bargain. Where’s Coreen? I left her here with your friend.
ARLECCHINO: And where is my friend?
CHARLIE: Coreen! Where’d they go? Coreen! Where’d that guy go with my wife?
ARLECCHINO: Time reveals all things.
CHARLIE: (collaring Arlecchino) Look, I ain’t the kinda guy don’t care if his wife’s off behind a bush. I got some pride. Fifteen years, that old bag. . .
Arlecchino examines paper bag.
If she’s doing something funny, I’ll tear her to pieces.
ARLECCHINO: Save me a piece? Dark meat’s ok.
CHARLIE: Coreen!
ARLECCHINO: My friend, you have nothing to—
CHARLIE: Shut up! Coreen!
He rushes out in a rage.
ARLECCHINO: He has food but no love. For me, love is everywhere, but a good banana is hard to find.
Well, I pray to my God who forgives and forgets . . . but mostly he just forgets.
Antonio! You got a new home. Into the bag. Even the price of hope is going up.
Another monster. This time a prickly pear.
He poses as a tree. Enter Ellinda, mad.
ELLINDA: Hello, she said. Here she is. Comes in. Stops. Brushes her face, eyes rolling around, she must be mad.
Mad as a haddock. Cold fish she was, hardly stand the smell.
Slaps herself.
Wake up. Stop playing insane. Play it straight.
What’s her name? Her name is “Ellinda I forget the rest,” and she’s after a husband who left her.
She lost her mind. He couldn’t see it, so she lost it. It fell down in the cracks. Wake up!
Slaps herself.
Now she’s awake. No difference. There are aliens walking among us, like old celebrities who can’t find the way out. And she’s awake, but she still can’t tell, it feels like any Tuesday.
Ellinda, how do you find yourself? All over the floor.
It’s when they walk out without ending it. Without a last word. Instead there’s a little sigh, then the slam.
Oh she never liked him that much. She’d laugh at jokes he never told. She watched herself walk straight out of his eyes. She doesn’t want him, but she follows him, his echo. She tries to wake up—
Slaps herself.
And she wakes. Wednesday. Same thing. We come where we don’t want to be, to touch what we don’t want to touch, look for a face we hope we’ll never see, and that’s freedom.
Shakes herself.
Come on, wake up enough to go to sleep. Find something jagged, everything’s sanded smooth. She wants to die but she can’t, so she must be . . . already damned and gone to hell! Ellinda’s in hell! Mama’s little baby girl has fell into hell, and there’s no lifeguard.
She clutches Arlecchino’s leg. He reacts, she screams.
No, I’m not ready. Punish me later.
Wait, I’ll make a deal. Here. My wedding ring. Solid gold. The perfect marriage. But what you do is, you get a witch to tempt him, and when he’s all hot to do it, he can’t!
Arlecchino declines, then takes ring.
Not enough! My watch, take my watch, it says, “Darling, forever.”
But then what you do, when he’s standing there naked, all the walls open up and there’s hundreds of Christmas shoppers staring, and he turns bright blue.
Arlecchino declines, then takes watch.
Not enough. No. Hell is flesh. Meat. All right.
Takes Arlecchino’s hand, puts it on her breast. Arlecchino contemplates, declines, but doesn’t remove his hand.
Not enough. All right. I can’t feel it. It’s nothing any more. No. Go ahead.
Lies back, offering self, eyes covered.
ELLINDA: No! I won’t! I can’t! That’s going too far!
ARLECCHINO: You got a sandwich?
She faints dead away.
Lady? Ah lady, here, take the ring, I don’t wanta be caught with that. The watch is stuck to my wrist, I’ll put it in my pocket for safe-keeping.
Lady, you didn’t have to go through all that. We could have been friends.
Music. Enchantress appears. As Janitor passes, Arlecchino approaches him, sells him watch.
Enchantress directs Janitor to carry Ellinda off, as Arlecchino counts money, puts it away. Enchantress disappears.
Turns, sees she’s gone.
Ah lady, you made me forget my gut. But I remember other things.
Mime: He fantasizes his ideal woman. Draws a tall, skinny figure in air, erases her. Draws huge curvatures. Aghast, erases her. Draws one that’s just right.
Flirts with her. She invites him to unbutton her blouse. He does, and her breasts spring out, nearly flooring him. Astonished, he bounces them around, juggles them, at last brings them back to equilibrium.
He backs off, unzips, sees that his member is not erect. He pleads with it, reasons, bargains, threatens. At last he salutes it to attention.
Attempts to get at her, but her breasts protrude so that he can’t get near her. Tries to find his way through, gets lost. Tries to raise them up, they knock him down. Tries to pry them apart, they snap together on his head.
Stops to assess the situation. Gently pats one breast, falls in love.
Fantasy evaporates. He tries to recapture it, can’t. Tries to draw new figure, can’t. At last picks up paper bag, puts it over his unsatisfied longing, wanders off.
New music. Ricardo is still asleep onstage. Charlie enters in a rage.
CHARLIE: Goddammit, goddammit, goddammit! I can’t find her! I’m gonna kill those sonsabitches! I’m gonna go and get drunk and then I’m gonna kill’em!
RICARDO: (in sleep) Flori. . .
He sees Ricardo, approaches. Bends down, wiggles his toe. Ricardo giggles. Touches his hair, then strokes it. Ricardo sighs.
Charlie is overwhelmed with lust. Breathing heavily, he prepares to molest the strange woman.
Suddenly fearful, he decides to move her to a safer place. Picks up Ricardo, takes a deep breath, starts off. Walks straight into Coreen, who has been watching.
COREEN: You bastard.
CHARLIE: Bastard? You run off with a guy and I’m the bastard?
COREEN: What are you doing with her? Put her down.
CHARLIE: Outta my way!
He goes past, she grabs Ricardo’s leg.
Leggo, I gotta do it, I got no choice, I’m beside myself, I’m not responsible for my actions, I gotta do what I gotta do, I gotta be me!
COREEN: Honey, no! I can’t stand it! I’ll go crazy!
They tug to and fro. Ricardo wakes.
CHARLIE: It wasn’t my idea, I been a good husband, I always took care of you, but I’ve got my steam up, I’m not in my right mind, I can’t tell good from evil and you ain’t gonna stop me now!
COREEN: I’ll kill myself! I’ll die!
CHARLIE: You’re not gonna die! I’ll be right back!
He hits Charlie, who drops him.
I’m sorry. I prefer nonviolence. But you’re making a terrible mistake.
He whispers to Charlie that he’s a man. Charlie disbelieves him. He indicates his chest, Charlie feels, still is not convinced. He raises his skirt to reveal the truth. Charlie turns away, horrified.
CHARLIE: Son of a bitch! It’s a man.
I never did nothing like that before, I ain’t like that, something just come over me—
As he reels away, Coreen, in hysterical confusion, approaches Ricardo, kisses him.
COREEN: I’ve waited fifteen years for this. My world is changed with just one kiss. . .
A poem! I made a poem!
RICARDO: I guess you did.
COREEN: Take me away.
RICARDO: This is grotesque.
COREEN: You offer me so much more.
RICARDO: Not really.
Charlie sees them, grabs Coreen and throws her across. A brawl. Ricardo escapes. Charlie and Coreen scream.
CHARLIE: You bitch!
COREEN: You were making it with another woman and I’m the bitch?
CHARLIE: Woman, hell, that was a man. You were after him too.
COREEN: You did it first. I am not a bitch!
CHARLIE: I’m not a bastard! Oh hell!
They seethe, then slowly simmer down.
They take hands.
COREEN: We both found lovers to pursue.
CHARLIE: Didn’t work out, so we’ll have to make do.
They go off, determined but tense.
Music. Enchantress leads Ellinda in, groggy from sleep. Enchantress looks at her, touches her hair. Ellinda startles.
ELLINDA: What happened? Did I do it? What time is it?
ELLINDA: Who are you?
ENCHANTRESS: I can’t quite remember. It seems to change. Call me anything. I’m just an old lady. They call old ladies anything.
ELLINDA: Where am I?
ENCHANTRESS: What a question. You’re here.
ELLINDA: I wasn’t here before.
ENCHANTRESS: No. I saw you were going to do something I thought you might regret, so I cast a spell and brought you here.
ELLINDA: I keep waking up. Things keep looking the same.
ENCHANTRESS: I know. The way it was before I came here.
ELLINDA: Before you came here?
Music. Enchantress mimes her life, mumbled, with precise gestures. Ellinda backs away from her, talking in third-person manner, as if seeing the present at a distance.
ELLINDA: And then she told her life. Long time. She mumbled.
She was married to a man who didn’t love her—
ENCHANTRESS: Or I didn’t love him, I can’t remember—
ELLINDA: She had a baby daughter, and then one day she disappeared.
ENCHANTRESS: I just floated away. Out to sea and washed up on the shore like a log. There I was when I found myself.
ELLINDA: She said the island was enchanted—
ENCHANTRESS: It is. It keeps changing. Everything changing.
ELLINDA: She made friends with spirits, magic, became an enchantress—
ENCHANTRESS: All I do is say my words and look: the tide comes in.
ELLINDA: Sure enough, the tide was coming in.
ENCHANTRESS: All I do is hear the birds singing, and listen: the birds are singing.
ELLINDA: The birds were singing. She said how she watched the others but never let them see her, how all the devils obeyed her commands, brought her what she needed—
ENCHANTRESS: Say I want a bottle of milk. I write magic words in a note, I have pictures of little green men, I put one, with the note, on my doorstep. And next morning what do you think? The note and the little green man are gone, and there’s a bottle of milk.
ELLINDA: Don’t you get lonely here?
ELLINDA: And growing old alone?
ENCHANTRESS: Yes. You shouldn’t ask.
ELLINDA: Then don’t you want to go back?
ENCHANTRESS: No. That’s erased.
Ellinda looks around, terrified.
ELLINDA: Someone’s coming! My husband! I don’t want him to see me now—
ENCHANTRESS: That’s all right. He won’t see you.
ELLINDA: And she put her arms around, and . . . Ellinda started to cry.
ENCHANTRESS: Go ahead, cry. You’re invisible as long as you cry.
They stand together in background. Captain enters, searching, spots Professor. Opposite, Professor enters, eyes still closed, kissing.
He crosses stage, runs into Captain, kisses him, opens his eyes.
CAPTAIN: Where have you been?
PROFESSOR: Oh. Yes. I was reconnoitering.
CAPTAIN: What happened with the girl?
PROFESSOR: What happened? Why, just what you’d expect. That’s the truth.
CAPTAIN: Let’s consult the map.
PROFESSOR: You’ll never know what you missed. That’s the truth too.
CAPTAIN: Where’s the map?
PROFESSOR: Yes. Now don’t leave me again. I need help to control my passions. I’m too young for my own good.
CAPTAIN: Let’s look at the map.
They consult map, gesturing. Enchantress comes forward, taps Captain on shoulder.
To map again. She taps Professor.
CAPTAIN: Nothing.
She slaps the Çaptain on the back.
What is it you want?
CAPTAIN: Then stop it!
To map again. She slaps Professor on the back.
What is it you want?
CAPTAIN: Nothing!
PROFESSOR: Then stop it!
Professor starts to turn away. She steps on his toe.
PROFESSOR: This is beyond the pale!
He steps on Captain’s toe.
He shoves Professor.
PROFESSOR: Treason! You’ll regret it! I’m not the defenseless old fart you think! You want to kill me and have all the treasure yourself, but— Wait, I’ve gotta find the right page—
You’re the one that’s defenseless against these magic spells!
CAPTAIN: Driveler! This is the 21st Century!
PROFESSOR: We’ll see about that. I got Power, and you’re going to see what Power can do!
As the Professor pronounces his spell, he himself transforms, by degrees, into a duck.
Captain watches, dumfounded.
Ex bestia homus, ad bestium hominum. Man born of beast, beast born of man.
Tempus arandi et omnes bella animus contra stimulum. Et non putat Minerva et fortunis omnibus decernit ex rege dominus et spiritus sancti non postulo et alvus wraack. . .
Ut, quo sensum omnem wraaack wraackk. . .
Humanitatis ex animus revocare proto wraack. . .
Spell degenerates.
Infernaack infaack infeaaaack waaack waaack waack. . .
Janitor appears, picks up his necktie as a leash to lead him off. Stops, checks Professor’s notebook, removes centerfold, tosses rest away.
Music. It scatters in a vast rain of pages: all the knowledge of humankind. Professor is led away.
CAPTAIN: I’m amazed.
ELLINDA: I’ll talk to him. I’ll find out the truth.
ENCHANTRESS: Oh dear, the truth. It’s more trouble than it’s worth.
ELLINDA: I can’t go on living with lies.
ENCHANTRESS: You sure? Can’t you try harder? Very well, but don’t expect him to hear what he says. They never do.
ELLINDA: I followed you.
CAPTAIN: I’m amazed.
ELLINDA: Is that all you can say?
CAPTAIN: I’m completely amazed.
ENCHANTRESS: Ah well, let’s have some truth.
She picks up page of the book.
ELLINDA: Why did you go without telling me?
CAPTAIN: I didn’t want you to worry. You know how you worry, and this was just business, I don’t want you to be anxious because—
Enchantress rips the page. His manner changes:
—when you worry you simper on in this sniveling little whine—
Solicitous again.
You understand, don’t you?
ELLINDA: Yes. What kind of business?
CAPTAIN: Just a great chance to make a lot of money so we’ll be very well fixed financially and never have to worry and—
Enchantress rips page. Change:
—so I can afford to divorce this bitch and marry some woman I respect!
Solicitous again:
You know what I mean?
ELLINDA: Yes. I feel you don’t love me. Do you love me still?
CAPTAIN: How can you ask? You’ve asked that a thousand times, I’ve said yes a thousand times and—
Enchantress rips page. Change:
—it’s a lie for the last five years because maybe I loved you once but it’s years and I can’t feel a thing!
Solicitous again:
You believe that?
ELLINDA: I have to believe it. I feel like I want to die.
CAPTAIN: That’s a terrible thing to say. If I ever lost you—
Enchantress rips page. Change:
—I’d be so happy, I’d be the happiest man alive, if you’d only die and I could marry someone who helps me advance instead of clutching on like a crab and dragging me back!
Oh how I wish to God you’d die!
Solicitous, drained:
If I could express what I feel!
ELLINDA: You didn’t have to express it. I knew it from your eyes, the way you looked down at your plate. The way you said “Good morning” or “God I’m tired” or “Good thing we don’t have kids.” I knew it all those times.
But I wasn’t supposed to know it. So I was ashamed to know it. So I kept it tucked down in the bottom drawer, and at night I’d take it out and keep it wedged in my mind so we couldn’t breed. And then mornings I’d put it back.
But now you’ve found it. And we both see it. And we don’t know what to call it.
CAPTAIN: Ellinda!
ELLINDA: So I won’t stop you becoming whatever you want to become. Become whatever you are.
Music. As she watches, terrified, he transforms into an ape. He expostulates. Hears his own chatter, realizes what has happened. Horrified, screams and flees.
Ellinda breaks down. Enchantress hugs her. Janitor comes in, pulls down imaginary window blind, lights dim to tight focus.
ENCHANTRESS: Come in. We’ll have a cup of tea. It’s all a tangle, all that hair in a tangle, trying to brush it out.
From wings, all the characters appear simultaneously, separately, looking this way, that way, the other, never seeing one another. As one, they disappear.
It won’t save the world to have a cup of tea, but it’s a start.
Starts off with her. Turns, sees audience, points to lobby.
You too.
They go off. Janitor settles down to sleep. Chords. Fade.
Act Two
Houselights to half. Musician enters, sits, plays.
Janitor stirs, rises, goes off. Ricardo enters, exhausted, collapses in despair.
RICARDO: This is the last day of my life. It is, absolutely, I feel it, I’m numb all over, I—
Ah, wishful thinking.
Maybe she’s not even here. Maybe somebody called her up and she went to the movies instead. I’m nothing special, I’m somewhere around the middle of the alphabet.
Oh Flori! I . . . want you! I want to touch you! I want to feel . . . your body near mine.
Everyone here wants something they think is love. Maybe it is. I want to stop being so stupid. I want to go back to sleep.
He sits looking into the stream.
Flori enters, exhausted.
FLORI: Flori, Flori, you hear sounds all around, it’s dark, and you try to go see if it’s people, but you run the other way. Run and hide in the closet till your daddy’s friends are gone, then come out to wave goodbye.
How can I find Ricardo? I’m five years old, and Ricardo’s moving away, and I’ve promised to write him but I can’t — cause I don’t know how.
They see each other.
FLORI: I wonder if I ought to say hello.
RICARDO: This is the first young person I’ve met.
FLORI: She might be friendly.
RICARDO: He’s got a friendly face.
FLORI: I’m afraid.
RICARDO: I feel like an idiot.
FLORI: (aloud) Hello.
RICARDO: (aloud) Hello.
FLORI: She said hello.
RICARDO: He’s smiling. I should shake hands.
They start to shake hands, Flori offering her hand, palm down, Ricardo offering to shake. They realize.
BOTH: That’s wrong.
They switch. Unable to mesh. Switch back. Withdraw their hands.
FLORI: I don’t know what to say.
RICARDO: He makes me feel kind of strange.
FLORI: Something feels very strange. (aloud) Who are you?
RICARDO: What name? (aloud) Rickie. . . Is that a woman’s name?
FLORI: What a nice name.
RICARDO: What a stupid name. (aloud) Who are you?
FLORI: (aloud) Florio. . . If I keep smiling, she’ll think I’m smart.
RICARDO: He looks afraid. (aloud) What are you doing here, Florio?
FLORI: She called me by my first name. My mind’s a blank. (aloud) I’m waiting for a friend. How about you?
RICARDO: He’s waiting for a friend. He’s already got a friend. He asked me something, what was it?
FLORI: I keep asking dumb questions.
RICARDO: (aloud) I’m also waiting for a friend.
Silence. They look at one another, then away.
BOTH: Why didn’t I say—
FLORI: It’s so strange. She’s not pretty, she’s got a funny face, but I feel like, I don’t know, I wanta take hold of her hand and laugh, or—
She whistles at the birds.
RICARDO: I feel like picking a fight. I’m acting like a child. I’ll just walk up and say, “Let’s sit down and talk.”
FLORI: Why am I whistling at the birds? We could just sit down and talk.
They approach one another, stand dumbstruck, sit, embarrassed.
Ricardo starts splashing his feet in the water. Flori joins him. They splash one another, laughing. Then they begin a playful encounter between their feet, with a growing attraction.
At last their feet touch. Both slowly lean together, with growing attraction. Sudden halt.
RICARDO: Oh no, wait, my God, that’s a man.
FLORI: That’s a woman. I shouldn’t feel like that.
They rise in panic, put on shoes, retreating.
(aloud) Good luck. I hope you meet your friend.
RICARDO: (aloud) I hope you meet yours. Goodbye.
BOTH: I hope we do!
They hurry out in opposite directions.
Janitor enters, leading Professor at the end of rope, as a duck. Waits for him to lift leg on tree, then lies down at side and goes to sleep.
Opposite, the Captain enters, as ape. They sniff the air, then spot one another. In animal sounds they expostulate, then roar and scream. Professor charges at Captain, who upends him. Suddenly they sense someone approaching, cower.
Arlecchino enters, one finger pointing ahead of him, another finger pointing behind.
ARLECCHINO: What a day what a day. . .
Oh, this is to know where I’m going. And this is to find my way back.
Talk fast, Arlecchino, forget you’re starving. Ok. After I lost Flori I went out but I fell in and came right on through but I didn’t squeal so the judge, well and all I’d asked for was a peanut butter sandwich just like the freeway but it was really flying pigs sent the price of meat sky-high but I opened the door and you can imagine I did what any of you would have done so I wound up in one of those, you know, one of those places but I don’t go for that I like the real thing so I went right in and said Mister Mayor but it was a huge sandwich-like creature with a baloney-sausage tongue and it stepped up to the microphone and—
You can read the rest in the paper tomorrow.
Fingers, front and center. Off to find Flori and food!
Sees Professor and Captain.
Animals! They’re old and stringy, but as the saying goes: Necessity is a mother.
Animals, come here, I’m going to eat you!
I have to be more subtle.
Hey, you wanta see some dirty playing cards? The American Elk in fifty-two provocative poses. . .
No. The paper bag. Antonio, wake up. Into the pocket. Ok, animals, the jig is up. Into the bag.
He lures Captain toward the bag, pointing alluringly into it, then tries to beat him to death with it. Captain bites him in the leg, escapes.
He tries to lure Professor, who recognizes Arlecchino, tries to tell him who he is.
Arlecchino tries to understand quacking, checks phrasebook, gives up, tries to suffocate Professor with bag over mouth.
Professor begins to expire.
Suddenly Arlecchino jumps in pain. Professor escapes. Arlecchino pulls out the ant, who has bitten him.
Antonio! Ok, ant, that’s all she wrote!
Music: death march. Arlecchino takes rope which Professor left, fashions noose to hang the ant.
Tosses rope over tree limb, tries to lynch ant, keeps losing it.
Decides to fry it. Lights match. Burns finger.
Decides to stab it. Takes fork from pocket, positions ant, jabs with fork directly into his own leg. Cries.
Antonio! I have not eaten in three days! What? You haven’t eaten in two weeks?
Yeh, but. . . No, I. . . Ok.
Bares his arm, lets ant take a bite. Winces. Puts it back in the bag.
New worlds. Old fools.
He goes off. Janitor remains sleeping. Enter Coreen, terrified.
COREEN: Dear Lord, help me. My husband’s coming, and he’s like I never seen him before, I don’t know. We had a big fight, and then we went home and we had the nicest time, begging Our Lady’s pardon—
But this morning he had this funny look in his eye. He’d found this book, page of a book, he never reads but he starts reading this stuff, and I don’t know, it warped his mind—
Here he is!
Enter Charlie, mad with jealousy.
CHARLIE: I can’t stand it. I dreamt she run off with some guy. Ok. She’s chased her last pair of pants. I’m gonna get her pregnant. I get her pregnant, then nobody looks at her twice.
Suddenly sweet.
Hey honey. I got a surprise.
Look, I found these pages, and you know what? It’s a book of magic! No shit! Really good stuff.
COREEN: What’s the matter with you?
CHARLIE: Listen: “Has the magic gone out of your marriage?” Well, has it?
CHARLIE: Ok. “Then follow this proven formula.” See, it gives the formula.
CHARLIE: Why didn’t I do this before? Let’s see. . . “It’s important to choose the right time.” What time is it?
COREEN: A quarter after.
CHARLIE: Right. “Get her in the mood.” You look nice today.
CHARLIE: You know. Your boobs.
CHARLIE: “Caress her.”
Goes to her, slaps her ass.
Yeh. “At this point she wants to be dominated. Play the caveman.”
Grabs her by the hair, she screams.
“Incinerate yourself up to her and excite her by whispering the most intimate things.” (after a moment) Uh . . . I got a lot of gas. I been farting all day.
“When she is nearly beside herself, take a deep breath and follow through with—” With what? Where’s the next page?
As Coreen stands rigid with terror, Charlie gropes around on the ground for the pages.
The Janitor has awakened. His face appears between Coreen’s legs. Charlie sees him.
I did it! I did it!
COREEN: My God, I’m a mother!
BOTH: We did it! We did it!
They embrace, congratulate one another joyously. Coreen kneels in thanksgiving as Charlie tickles Janitor.
COREEN: O dear God, it’s such a joy, thanks for this dear little baby boy! I made another poem!
Janitor bites Charlie.
CHARLIE: He bit me!
COREEN: Isn’t he sweet?
Janitor kicks Charlie.
CHARLIE: He kicked me!
COREEN: He’s just learning to kick.
Charlie hits Janitor.
You hit my baby! You animal!
CHARLIE: You little son of a—
Janitor jumps into Coreen’s arms for protection.
COREEN: Life is nice, life is sweet! Look at my cute little baby’s feet!
CHARLIE: What have I done to deserve this wife? What have I done to screw up my life?
COREEN: Life is a joy, life is a gas! Look at my cute little baby’s rear end!
CHARLIE: Life is mean, life is cruel! Life has made me a goddamned fool!
Coreen goes off, carrying baby. Charlie follows.
Captain enters, as ape, exhausted. He tries to speak to audience, fails. Sobs, collapses.
Enchantress appears behind.
ENCHANTRESS: In the cities you wouldn’t notice him. You see’em on every block. Something gets inside, some kind of rust, and he finds his doorway to squat in.
Captain makes sounds.
He says, “Help me.” Where haven’t you heard it? He says, “My eyes are memory, mirror-glass, crack it! I didn’t mean whatever I meant.” That’s nice.
“I’m the man in the joker-show that’s telling the story, forgets the end, and stands there.”
Captain collapses.
So he regrets things. The sink full of regrets from all the meals. Oh get out!
Old memories nuzzle up and gnaw. The girl, I caught a flash in the mirror, hair like mine, like it was.
Finish it out. Ellinda.
Ellinda appears.
You drank salt in your tea, that makes it a magic tea. Now you can be whatever you want. The little bird, the serpent, the cat: all the little ladies in your heart.
I have to leave you. I’m starting to think straight. I almost remembered my name, and then there’d be no magic, no magic, no magic no more.
Good luck. He’s starting to twist again.
Enchantress disappears. Ellinda watches as Captain gradually regains human form.
CAPTAIN: So. Live and learn. Wait for your chance, the light turns green, you step into the street—
No excuse. I was caught off guard. Life is either promotion or humiliation. Sweat or spit.
So. I’ll find my wife, I’ll take her home, and then we’ll see. Maybe this will have an effect, shake her up, send a message. She is after all my wife, and one loves one’s wife.
Finally, disregard whatever you think you saw. You’re not qualified to judge. It might go on my record. They keep everything on file.
That’s all.
He sees her.
Smiles, holds out hand. She refuses.
He holds out hand, commandingly. She comes to him.
He embraces her in stiff forgiveness. Her hands begin the fluttering movement of a bird. She transforms. Breaks embrace, flies away. He is astonished.
He pursues her off, groping as she eludes him.
Flori enters, terrified, struggling to put on her own clothes.
FLORI: O Ricardo, where are you? I’m so afraid. I was changing out of those horrible clothes — I’ll never find Ricardo if he can’t recognize me—
I was changing clothes and I heard a sound and there’s a huge ugly man staring at me. I think he . . . wanted me.
And then I ran, faster than I ever ran in my life, and I got away.
O Ricardo, this couldn’t be the island in the storybook. They must have changed the address.
Charlie appears behind, panting and snarling.
I’m so tired. I know Ricardo is here. He is, he’ll find me, and he’ll know what to do. He’ll put his arms around me, and I’ll be safe.
Charlie embraces her from behind. She realizes, pulls away, leaving him with her blouse. Both terrified.
He stammers, grunts, alternately tries to calm her and terrorize her. He sallies forth, grabs her arm, she shrieks, he retreats.
At last, overcome by rage, he shuts eyes tightly and charges. Grabs her. She stomps on his foot, slips, falls. As she pulls to escape, he grabs her ankle, holds, not knowing what to do with it.
Please don’t! I’ve come to meet someone, we’re going to be married. Please, I’m sorry! Please don’t, I’m afraid to be hurt! Please don’t!
Do it to somebody else!
RICARDO: (off) Flori!
Charlie hears him, scrambles to hide behind tree. Flori escapes.
Ricardo enters. He has changed into his own clothes.
Flori! No. She’s nowhere on the island. She never came.
Sees her blouse, picks it up.
A woman’s blouse. Soft and sweet. Sticky. Some woman without her blouse was running in the woods.
Should that be exciting? Should I feel . . . aroused? Am I a man or— I’m nineteen years old and I don’t know . . . what it’s like. I don’t even know if I’d like it.
Well I’m going to find out. Dammit, I’m gonna do it with the very next woman who comes along. I am. I mean it. I don’t care, the very next. I will.
Come on, somebody! I dare you! Come on!
Coreen enters, Janitor in tow.
COREEN: Oh sweet honey baby, I don’t know, you shouldn’t have chased your daddy away, you made him awful mad. You should love your daddy. Now why don’t you just—
Sees Ricardo.
—go over there and go to sleep. Fast.
He does.
Damn kid.
She falls to her knees.
Dear God, I don’t know what I’m doing or what comes over me or what’s right or wrong so don’t pay attention, amen!
She faces Ricardo.
RICARDO: I’m going to take you.
RICARDO: I’m going to take you! (tentative) All right?
COREEN: Take me where?
RICARDO: Right here.
COREEN: (praying again) I always loved my husband, I always tried to be true. But now I see any kind of man, there’s something I want him to do. Amen.
RICARDO: I’m going to do it.
COREEN: I’m going to do it too.
Both, frantic with nervous eagerness, approach. They kiss, miss. Ricardo fumbles to get his pants off as Coreen revels in fantasy.
Oh, you’ll be my handsome prince and you’ll take me in your arms and carry me away. You’ll kiss my eyelids, you’ll be so sweet and gentle, you’ll whisper my name and you’ll swear to be forever true. You’ll love me for what I am, and say I’m the most beautiful girl, and the moments we spend together will be the sweetest of our lives.
My darling . . . sweep me away!
He is completely entangled in his pants. Tries to lift her, falls to ground. Charlie emerges.
CHARLIE: What the hell is going on? Get the hell out from under my wife!
Coreen screams. Charlie advances.
Making love to my wife, I’m gonna kill you, you sonofabitch! Can’t you see she’s a mother?
COREEN: Leave him alone! Don’t you touch him! Leave him alone!
Charlie grabs leg of Ricardo’s pants. He sheds pants, escapes. Coreen and Charlie face off.
You bastard! You son of a bitch! You son-of-a-bitching bastard!
CHARLIE: You bitch! You ugly slobbering piece of ass!
BOTH: You’ve ruined my whole life!
They begin fighting. The Janitor wakes and starts roaring. They stop and look at him.
COREEN: Be quiet, dear, I’m fighting with your father.
CHARLIE: Shut that kid up.
COREEN: You shut him up, he’s yours too.
Janitor roars louder, rubs belly.
CHARLIE: It’s not time to eat. Dinner ain’t till six.
Janitor pulls out wallet, waves it.
No, you ain’t getting any more money, I work hard for a living—
Janitor beats Charlie with wallet.
COREEN: Honey, it’s not right to hit your father like that—
Janitor starts strangling her. Charlie intervenes, is kicked. Strangling continues.
Charlie intervenes again, is kicked again. Strangling continues.
Charlie and Janitor struggle, reverse positions: Charlie now strangling Coreen. Janitor intervenes, Charlie kicks him. They escape, pursued by Janitor hobbling after them.
Ricardo enters, without pants, wretched.
RICARDO: O world, O life, O time,
When will return the glory of your prime?
No more, O never more!
Flori enters, without blouse.
She sees Ricardo, checks snapshot.
FLORI: Ricardo. . .
Ricardo turns and sees her. He checks his snapshot of her. They cover themselves in shame. Pick up each other’s clothes and hand them to one another. Both begin to cry, rush off in opposite directions.
New music. Ellinda enters as bird, Captain in pursuit, dizzily trying to reach her. She alights. He falls to ground.
CAPTAIN: Ellinda. . .
No response. He rises, starts to go.
All right. Goodbye then.
He stops, smiles in triumph. She comes to him, he takes her in his arms as she sobs weakly.
Her hand twists into new shape. She transforms into a wildcat, rakes him with claws. He retreats, then flees, Ellinda in pursuit.
Professor enters as duck, laments. Sees pages scattered about, goes from one to another trying to find one that will help.
Reads with duck-like difficulty:
PROFESSOR: “If you are a beast, try this, it may help. Close your eyes and repeat, ‘I can do it, I know I can.’ See what happens.”
He starts to chant, then remembers to close eyes. Begins again. Gradually he becomes human.
I can do it, I know I can. I can do it, I know I can. I can do it, I know I can. I can . . . not see a goddamned thing.
He tries to open eyes, fails.
I’m blind! The page! It’ll tell me what to do, where is it? Here it is! I can’t see it.
O what have I done! Mirrors, naked women, what good would they do me now? My first treasure hunt. My first!
Well, that’s it. Nothing to be done.
        An old age serene and bright,
        And lovely as a Lapland night,
        Shall lead thee to thy grave.
Early Wordsworth. An old man would never have written that.
My father was old and weak and he wanted to die and I hoped he would. He lay there, said to me, “You’ve got your whole life ahead, and I’m in the way.” And I agreed. I don’t want Flori to feel like that. I’ll just die and be done.
Lies down, sits up again.
This is no joke, I am really going to die.
Lies down, sits up again.
How? I’ve never died before. I could hang myself. (checking shoelaces) No. Poison? Tastes icky. Blow out my brains? That’s dangerous.
Wait. I’ll stop up my nose and mouth so no air can escape, and then I’ll die.
Tries it. Farts.
The air comes out below.
Listen, if one of you people would please die first, just to show me how?
Ah, you spend your whole life looking in the rear-view mirror to see if death’s after you for speeding, and then when you need him, where the hell is he?
Wait! The formula. I’ll think myself to death.
I can do it, I know I can. I can do it, I know I can. I can do it. . .
I have to!
He lies rigid, trying to die. Arlecchino enters.
ECHO: Flori!
ECHO: Flori!
ARLECCHINO: Stop that!
ECHO: Stop that!
ARLECCHINO: Screw you!
ECHO: You too.
ARLECCHINO: That joke is ancient.
ECHO: Har har.
ARLECCHINO: I never have got along with nature.
Sees Professor. Investigates.
Dead? Dying? Just a little moldy?
It’s my boss, the Professor. Wait. Don’t celebrate, he’s not dead. There’s a spark of life. The mind wishes to die, but the heart does not.
I’ll make sure. Kootchie-koo. One beat for yes, two for no. You want to live? No? How about the belly, you want to live? The liver, how bout you? (to groin) You I won’t even ask.
Doesn’t anybody here want to live?
Left leg twitches.
Begins singing to leg, it twitches in rhythm, then other parts.
Everybody’s getting into the act. All together now, one two three!
Arlecchino conducts. Professor jerks, sits upright.
ARLECCHINO: Hi boss, it’s me.
PROFESSOR: Go away, I’m trying to die.
ARLECCHINO: You can’t die yet. I’d be out of a job.
PROFESSOR: I must die.
ARLECCHINO: Don’t die. It’s better to live. Smile. Prevent cavities.
PROFESSOR: Have a little respect for a dying man!
ARLECCHINO: You’ve been dead all your life. Why bother dying?
PROFESSOR: I want to die.
ARLECCHINO: All right, you’re the boss.
Starts to strangle him. Professor struggles.
Satisfaction guaranteed.
Noises off. Arlecchino drags Professor out of the way.
It’s wild animals! Look out! You’ll be killed before you die!
Flori and Ricardo enter from opposite sides, as if they’ve run miles. They fly into each other’s arms, laughing, crying.
BOTH: I love you so. . . Don’t ever leave me. . . I’ve waited so long. . .
PROFESSOR: That’s my daughter! My daughter Flori!
FLORI: Oh Ricardo!
PROFESSOR: It’s that boy. She’s with that boy. She’s out of her mind, she’s on drugs. I’ve got to save her.
Flori, I’ll save you! It’s your daddy! Come to daddy!
Ricardo starts to run away, Flori trips, lands in Professor’s arms.
Arlecchino grabs Professor’s other hand. They twist and turn until positions are reversed.
PROFESSOR: Get away!
He releases Flori, who rushes to Ricardo. They escape. Professor is left holding Arlecchino’s hand.
ARLECCHINO: (imitating Flori) Oh Papa, save me from that nasty boy, Papa. He tried to kiss my ruby lips, and I say “No no, you nasty boy. . .”
Professor leads him off. Captain enters, pursued by Ellinda as a wildcat.
CAPTAIN: Ellinda!
She halts pursuit, breaks down, becomes human.
ELLINDA: Hello. . .
CAPTAIN: Stop it! Stop changing! Stop changing! Stop!
He grabs a page of the magic book, rips it. She freezes.
He approaches slowly, touches her. Realizes that she has become a statue. Sinks to her feet in despair. Immobile, she speaks:
ELLINDA: I wanted to say, “You see what we’ve come to?”
I wanted to say, “I loved you, love you still.”
I wanted to say, “Now you see me, we’re naked at last.”
But the time was done, the lips were stone, the words were gone.
Chord. The couple remains. Enter Ricardo and Flori.
FLORI: Ricardo, I’m afraid.
RICARDO: Me too. I almost lost you. Without saying a word.
FLORI: What if we got separated again?
RICARDO: We’d find each other. If we wanted to.
FLORI: Would we want to?
RICARDO: I think we would.
FLORI: Would we?
RICARDO: I think we would.
FLORI: I don’t want to think any more. I want to be in love.
RICARDO: Then let’s do.
FLORI: Ricardo, I never told you. . . When I was looking for you, I met this . . . person, very nice, not beautiful, but nice. . . And I was very attracted, and—
RICARDO: I was going to tell you. . . When I was looking for you, I met a . . . person, and I was very attracted, but . . . that was all. I was very confused.
FLORI: Was your person like me?
RICARDO: No. Very different from you.
FLORI: Mine was very different from you.
RICARDO: Then there’s nothing to be afraid of. They were just passing fancies.
FLORI: But what if we got lost again? If we separated?
RICARDO: Things will work out.
FLORI: But how?
RICARDO: Somehow.
Flori takes out a page of the book.
FLORI: I found this.
RICARDO: What? (reading) Flori, this is it! It’s a love spell.
“For you whose love is sweet yet troubled—” That’s us. “And you who want never to part—”
FLORI: That’s us.
RICARDO: “Find two gold rings and place them on each other’s fingers. Pronounce ‘Forever,’ kiss, and you will never part.”
FLORI: I have a ring.
They exchange rings, take hands.
BOTH: Forever!
They kiss, find themselves unable to separate lips.
FLORI: Ricardo, stop.
RICARDO: I’m trying.
FLORI: We’re stuck.
RICARDO: Like taffy.
FLORI: Sweet taffy. How can I go to classes like this?
RICARDO: How can I go to the bathroom?
FLORI: How can I?
They cry, struggle. Chord. They freeze as statues. Arlecchino enters.
ARLECCHINO: Enchanted island! Enchanted island, my poop. Two scrawny animals and a half-starved ant.
Takes out a page of the book.
And paper. Books. I know all about books. They all say the same thing: “The best things in life are free, except this book.”
“The Hungry Magician.” It’s a magic book. “The starvation-budget spell for pork roast.” Pork roast! Antonio, we’re gonna turn you into one big helluva pork roast. Here goes.
A.F.L. G.O.P. I.R.S. A.T. & T. C.I.A. D.D.T. PORKROAST!”
His hand becomes a pork roast.
It’s a pork roast. What a handful! It’s . . . my hand. Where’s my hand? In the roast. Wait a minute here.
“To get the roast, you have to put the bite on somebody, and on the starvation budget you can only put the bite on yourself.”
Well, here goes.
Bites his hand, howls in pain.
Arlecchino, be brave, think of your blessings!
Bites, howls.
Freedom of speech!
Bites, howls.
Manifest Destiny!
Bites, howls.
Smile, Arlecchino, work on that smile!
Chord. He freezes into the tableau.
Professor enters, blind.
PROFESSOR: Flori! Arlecchino, you son of a bitch, you brought me back to life, I’ll have you crucified. Flori, I’ll cut off your allowance. I call down my curses on—
Chord. He freezes. Enter Coreen and Charlie.
COREEN: Have we lost him?
CHARLIE: You tell me.
COREEN: It was your idea. You wanta run out on me.
CHARLIE: I ought to.
COREEN: You do and I’ll teach him to hate your guts.
CHARLIE: Well I’ll teach him to hate your guts. He’ll hate every gut there is.
COREEN: Here he comes!
Janitor rushes in, hits Charlie, then strangles Coreen. Charlie strangles Janitor. Coreen strangles Charlie. Chord. They freeze into tableau.
Each character speaks without moving.
CAPTAIN: This can’t happen to me.
FLORI: I only want to be happy.
COREEN: Spent my whole life on my back.
PROFESSOR: Blind all my life.
CHARLIE: I’m too nice a guy.
RICARDO: I don’t know who I am.
ARLECCHINO: There is no free lunch.
Slight movement from Ellinda, as if to speak, then silence. Enchantress appears.
ENCHANTRESS: Isn’t that sweet? All together. Must be the end of the play. They look so natural. Oh they’re kissing, that’s cute.
Look, he’s so old and ugly, it’s a blessed thing he’s blind.
She stares at Professor.
Who’s looking after the cat?
PROFESSOR: The cat’s dead.
ENCHANTRESS: It’s you, isn’t it?
PROFESSOR: And it must be you.
PROFESSOR: I know it’s me. Don’t keep saying it’s me. Help me.
ENCHANTRESS: Oh . . . Well, I’ll change you back. . . I’ll cast a spell and. . .
The magic’s gone. . . I’ll squint harder. . . It’s gone. The magic’s gone.
Spell breaks. All come to life, move out of the tableau, slowly, tentatively, emerging from dream.
PROFESSOR: It worked. The magic’s gone. I’m not blind any more.
ELLINDA: I’m not frozen.
RICARDO: We’re apart.
ARLECCHINO: I’m together.
COREEN: The magic’s gone.
CHARLIE: Yeh, the magic’s gone. Get off my wife and scram.
Janitor shrugs, picks up tree, carries it off.
COREEN: Congratulations, you’re not a father any more.
CHARLIE: Congratulations on losing a son.
COREEN: But we got each other.
COREEN: Look, I didn’t really do anything bad.
CHARLIE: I missed a good chance too.
They go out.
CAPTAIN: I didn’t know you loved me so.
ELLINDA: I didn’t know you hated me so.
CAPTAIN: Not so much now.
ELLINDA: Not so much now.
CAPTAIN: Maybe. . .
ELLINDA: Maybe so.
CAPTAIN: Maybe so.
They go out.
FLORI: Too many surprises.
FLORI: You love me still?
RICARDO: I’m learning how.
FLORI: Are you afraid?
RICARDO: I’m afraid, but I’m not afraid.
FLORI: So am I.
They go out.
PROFESSOR: Ah let’em go. . . Why did you leave me?
ENCHANTRESS: I can’t remember. Maybe that’s why.
PROFESSOR: Well, I suppose you’re coming back home. The magic’s all gone.
PROFESSOR: All my notes! My calculations!
ENCHANTRESS: All my dreams.
PROFESSOR: Old people’s dreams are brittle. You miss one stair step and “Snap!”
ENCHANTRESS: Was that my daughter?
PROFESSOR: That’s her.
PROFESSOR: I used to cry sometimes. Did you?
ENCHANTRESS: Oh yes. It made the trees so green.
PROFESSOR: I’m old and alone.
PROFESSOR: You’re sure it’s you?
PROFESSOR: Neither am I. We could pretend it’s not.
PROFESSOR: Not you. Not me neither.
PROFESSOR: Because maybe it’s not.
ENCHANTRESS: Oh we could! Did you know if you squint you can make the sun shine?
PROFESSOR: Did you know the universe is expanding every second but we’re not getting farther away?
ENCHANTRESS: My my. I’m so glad we’re not us.
PROFESSOR: Me neither.
They go out. Arlecchino alone.
ARLECCHINO: Well, Antonio, it looks like the end of the lines.
You know, you’ve become really a part of me. And you will remain forever a part of me.
He swallows the ant.
Enjoy, Antonio, you got the whole place to yourself.
Starts to go, singing.
        Wherever we go, whatever we do
        We’re going to go—
Stops suddenly. Realizes. Reaches into seat of pants, extracts the ant.
Antonio, you little bugger. I wouldn’t eat you now if you paid me. Yeh, I know you got a family to think of.
I was supposed to say something profound, but I forget.
I feel empty. So now what? Where to go, what to be?
I could visit Africa as a one-man famine. I could check the want ads for jobs as a glutton. I could commit terrorist acts to establish a homeland for the Peanut Butter Sandwich.
I could guzzle, gorge, engorge, gormandize, gobble, gulp, cram, stuff, wolf and devour the Gross National Product.
Or I could find another play in which to be ravenously amazed.
        Wherever I go, whatever I do
        I’m gonna get through it together.
        Wherever I go, I go, I go. . .
        Whatever I do, I do, I do. . .
He goes. Music. Fade.