Love’s Fools
a commedia in two acts by
Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller
adapted from Carlo Gozzi’s The Green Bird
(doubling possible—requires at least 15 actors)
Tartaglia—King of Monterotondo
Tortalatta—his mother the Dowager Queen
Ninetta—his Queen, supposed dead
Pantalone—Prime Minister of Monterotondo
Scriven—reporter for the “Times”
Truffaldino—a sausage-maker
Smeraldina—his wife
Renzo—their foster son
Barberina—their foster daughter, Renzo’s twin sister
Brighella—a poetic derelict
Pompea—enchanted princess, a statue
Gozzi—author of the play
Critic—his alter ego
Serpentina—keeper of a sacred grove
Slug & Clobber—Guards of the Royal Court
Three Maidens—who become Demons
Beggars, Servants, Lion
The Green Bird—enchanted King of Barangastan
A Street
Throne Room of the Palace
The Twins’ Castle
A Dungeon
The Forest
Serpentina’s Garden
The Ogre’s Labyrinth
© 2005 Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller. All rights reserved.
For production information, contact WordWorkers, 800-357-6016 or E-mail.
Act One
The Street. Brighella, a derelict, leans against a wall, with other Beggars. They see the audience. Ad lib: “Gimme a quarter.” “Hey, come here.” “Cigarette?” “Bus fare? Two bucks for the bus?”
Triumphal music, distant. Pantalone enters, followed by Scriven (a reporter), Slug & Clobber (helmeted cops).
Pantalone: Scriven!
Scriven: Mr. Prime Minister.
Pantalone: Splendid parade.
Scriven: Very nice.
Pantalone: Triumphant. The troops looked a little pooped. But considering the war lasted eighteen years, they’re pretty cheerful. So. Scriven, you’re one of the few reporters I can trust. You write the news the way we tell you. So this is a background briefing. Call me “a high-ranking source.”
Scriven: Mr. Prime Minister. . . (looking around) Why are we not meeting in the palace briefing room?
Pantalone: Theatre is like life: nothing makes sense. It all depends on the scenery.
Scriven: So would you say we’ve met our military objectives?
Pantalone: We’ll have an official statement. For the record: we have achieved a lasting peace. Off the record: temporarily. For the record: we rejoice in liberating the oppressed peoples of Barangastan. Off the record: they’re mostly dead. For the record: we foresee a new era of prosperity for our sacred kingdom Monterotondo. Off the record: we’re broke.
Brighella: (staggering to his feet) Peace!
Slug: Shut up.
Slug hits Brighella with billy-club.
Pantalone: He’s harmless. He used to be a protestor, now he’s a tourist attraction.
Brighella staggers forward.
Brighella: My lips foretell the future and its strife!
Slug: Shut up.
Pantalone: You whack him, he prophesies.
Slug hits Brighella.
Brighella: Tortalatta Queen Mother of Misery
Tartaglia the Stammering King
Ninetta buried in blackness. . .
Pantalone: Well listen to that. He’s referring to the King’s mother, Tortalatta, that vicious old witch our beloved Dowager Queen—
Cops drag Brighella back to the wall.
Scriven: And King Tartaglia—
Pantalone: Who went off to war and left us all in the clutches of that hateful hag—that’s off the record—for eighteen years.
Scriven: And Queen Ninetta—
Pantalone: Who died in childbirth, or that’s what it said in the idiotic newspapers because that’s what we told them. They should have known better. King Tartaglia trots off to war. Queen Ninetta gives birth to twins.
Scriven: Got it.
Pantalone: But his old mother swapped the twins for a pair of puppies, accused the Queen of witchcraft and had her buried alive in the sewers under the palace to die.
Scriven: Got it.
Pantalone: Then the old lady handed me the twins, told me to cut their throats for the sake of the country. I couldn’t do it. I rolled them up watertight and dropped them into the river. They do that in stories all the time. And then I would imagine they were rescued by some poor but honest folks and raised in poverty even though their nobility shines through. We have to assume that if this is going to be a comedy.
Scriven: Got it.
Pantalone: (realizing) But why am I telling you? This is top secret! This is highly classified!
He rips Scriven’s note pad to shreds.
Scriven: Trust me to keep it secret.
Pantalone: I can trust you?
Scriven: You can trust me.
Pantalone: Trust you?
Scriven: Trust me.
Pantalone: How can I possibly trust you?
Scriven: Cause no one would ever believe it.
Pantalone: True.
Hands Scriven the wad of shreds. Indicating Brighella:
See what he has to say.
Slug & Clobber drag Brighella forward.
Brighella: They live!
Line by line, they hit Brighella.
They shall die by the apples that sing
Be saved by the waters that dance
And the plumes of the feathered king
Awaken us out of our trance. . .
Pantalone: That was poetry. Don’t say we don’t support the arts.
Scriven: What does he mean?
Pantalone: I have no idea. Come on, we’ll continue the briefing. Off the record. Official policy: all truth is off the record.
Gives Brighella a coin.
Thank you, my friend. The arts define the enduring values of a society.
They go off. Slug lifts Brighella by the throat.
Slug: Get lost, you fruit!
They fling him down, then chase the Beggars off. Brighella blearily eyes the coin.
Brighella: Poet, huh? Yeh I remember. Brain gets scrambled in daylight. Hey, that’s a buck. I could get rich. I could invest in blue-chip stocks and in a couple of years I’d have a buck twenty. Better get drunk. I’m already drunk. Hey, no, it’s five bucks. Big-hearted guy. I’ll buy a sausage.
He goes into the sausage shop. Pantalone reappears, addresses us directly:
Pantalone: Oh, and I need to remind you that this is all classified information and would compromise our national security, so you need to forget it immediately. Otherwise you’ll have to be shot. Enjoy the show.
Brighella comes reeling out of the shop with a sausage, rushes off. Truffaldino follows, enraged, then Smeraldina.
Truffaldino: He got away! The crook!
Smeraldina: What’s the matter with you? He paid for it.
Truffaldino: You’re gonna ruin us!
Smeraldina: I sold the guy a sausage!
Truffaldino: The guy had five bucks. You said “Three bucks” and gave him two bucks change.
Smeraldina: The price was three bucks.
Truffaldino: If he’s got five bucks the price is five bucks. That’s business.
Smeraldina: It’s only worth three bucks.
Truffaldino: It’s only worth twenty cents. One part dog’s guts, five parts shredded paper. Secret recipe.
Smeraldina: Some butcher you are. You gobble up the good parts and sell the scraps.
Truffaldino: I’m keeping our customers healthy. Meat’s fulla toxins.
Smeraldina: We’re in debt up to our ears and you try to cheat your way out of it.
Truffaldino: It’s not cheating if they don’t know they’re being cheated.
Smeraldina: You had a great job. Head cook for the King. Why didn’t you follow him off to war?
Truffaldino: I didn’t want to get killed.
Smeraldina: Always thinking of yourself.
Truffaldino: And I didn’t want you to be lonely.
Smeraldina: I’m lonely now. You chase every woman in town.
Truffaldino: Nobody over seventy or under fifteen.
Smeraldina: The lowest, cheapest sluts.
Truffaldino: That’s all I can afford. Smeraldina, sweetheart, it’s not because I don’t love you. It’s just I can’t stand to look at you. Nothing personal.
Smeraldina: You eat all day, then tuck a slab of fried liver under your pillow for a midnight snack. I sleep with fried liver. I can’t stand it.
Truffaldino: Sure you can. Marriage is sacred.
Smeraldina: You spit on it.
Truffaldino: Just to polish it up, give it some sparkle. To be perfectly honest, it’s your fault. You had to go fish those kids out of the river. Worked yourself to the bone. Lost weight—
Smeraldina: I lost weight because you were calling me Fattie.
Truffaldino: Well you were fat. You were grotesquely fat. Obscenely fat. Supernaturally fat.
Smeraldina: Now I’m thin.
Truffaldino: I liked you fat. You have violated the sanctity of marriage by making me sick of you. I have to be perfectly honest.
Smeraldina weeps, Truffaldino mutters, then tries to comfort her. She weeps louder. He embraces her, she shoves him away, then embraces him. He tries to comfort her, she shoves him away, then embraces him, then shoves him away, then embraces him. He retreats. Renzo and Barberina enter behind.
Barberina: Mama and Papa are fighting again.
Renzo: Let’s listen. It’s educational.
Smeraldina: (controlling her tears) At least I have the twins. They love me.
Truffaldino: Little leeches. Eighteen years they’ve eaten us out of house and home.
Smeraldina: They work night and day. They go around in rags.
Truffaldino: It’s gotta stop. It’s disgracing our household to shelter kids who were obviously spawned outside the sanctity of marriage. I have to be perfectly honest.
Smeraldina: But their parents might be a lord and lady. You see how beautiful they are.
Renzo: Us?
Truffaldino: It’s time to kick’em out.
Smeraldina: No!
Renzo & Barberina come forward.
Renzo: Papa, is it true? You’re not our papa?
Barberina: Mama, are you not our dearest mama?
Smeraldina weeps.
Truffaldino: We fished you out of the river. I wanted to throw you back, but she kept nagging, so don’t blame me you’re still alive. I raised you, taught you to read and write and relieve yourselves. That’s all you needed to know. Now the shop’s gone bust, so even if I wanted to I couldn’t keep you, but I don’t. So get lost.
He starts off. Smeraldina wails. He halts.
Although, if you go off to seek your fortune and get rich, like they do in stories, just remember I deserve a percentage for kicking you out.
He goes. Smeraldina dries her eyes.
Barberina: Is it true? We’re orphans?
Smeraldina: Yes. We found you in the river. But you’re still mine, honey. I still love you.
Barberina: Oh no, Mama, or previous-Mama, I don’t think that’s possible.
Renzo: You think you love us, but that’s just self-interest.
Smeraldina: Huh?
Barberina: See, we’re not afraid to go out into the world, because we know how the world works. Papa wouldn’t send us to school, but that was good, because we got all our learning from observation. How Papa was only nice to you when he felt guilty. How you pretended to love him when you needed money. We listened to all your fights, which expanded our vocabulary. And the books! The wonderful books!
Smeraldina: What books? We never had a book in the house.
Barberina: The books Papa ground into the sausage. We picked up loose pages and learned about the world. “Do unto others before they do unto you.”
Renzo: “Love your neighbor or yourself.”
Smeraldina: That’s not what it says.
Renzo: Nobody means what they say. We learned that too.
Barberina: The haves and have-nots. To them that have it will be given. Money talks—
Renzo: So listen.
Barberina: Money is the root of all evil—
Renzo: So plant early.
Barberina: Money can’t buy happiness—
Renzo: But lots of money can. Survival of the selfishest. Science proves it.
Smeraldina: You think I saved you and nursed you and sacrificed for what I could get out of it?
Renzo: Why sure.
Smeraldina: You little beasts. What about love?!
Renzo: I think it’s best understood as part of the service economy. Social services, fast food, the entertainment industry.
Barberina: See, you think you love us, because it makes you feel good to love us, and you think we’ll do you some good some day, which maybe we will if there’s something in it for us. That’s love.
Renzo: Love’s a commodity like everything else. Like potato chips. We’re all consumers.
Smeraldina: I’m going mad. If I knew I was going to raise two ungrateful brats, I’d have let you drown.
Renzo: Of course. That’s natural. But you saw some profit potential and took the risk. Capital investment.
Smeraldina: I took bread out of my mouth, clothes off my body, worried myself sick for eighteen years. All out of selfishness?
Barberina: It’s hard to believe how selfish people can be.
Renzo: You should be proud.
Smeraldina: I don’t know you any more.
Barberina: That’s cause we’re grown up now.
Renzo: We know how the world works.
Barberina: We saw it on TV.
Renzo: Mom, or lady formerly known as Mom, love doesn’t exist. If it did, why would we need so many songs about it?
Smeraldina: I’m gonna tear out my hair. I should tear out their hair. If I ever do another good deed, let me be burnt alive, strangled, mangled, cut up and planted like a turnip. I can’t stand it!
She rushes out, shrieking.
Barberina: She’s upset.
Renzo: Old people have trouble with new ideas.
Barberina: It’s not new. It’s throughout all human history, according to you.
Renzo: But being honest about it is new.
They look around.
Barberina: We’re free, Renzo. We’re really free. We should be grateful to Papa for being honest enough to kick us out.
Renzo: Thank heaven we had a disgusting scumbag for a dad.
Barberina: We’re off to make our fortune.
Renzo: Like they do in stories. We might be a prince and princess.
Barberina: We might be rich and famous. Incredible.
Renzo: Terrific. Barberina, you know, life will be hard, for a couple of weeks anyway.
Barberina: But we’re prepared. No more eating the same old food.
Renzo: Sleeping under the same old roof.
Barberina: Curling up by the same old fireplace. Incredible.
Renzo: Terrific. No more knowing what to expect.
Barberina: No more predictability.
Renzo: No safety.
Barberina: No security.
Renzo: Incredible.
Barberina: Terrific.
Both: We’re free.
A moment of utter terror.
Barberina: But we’ll remain loyal to each other, won’t we, Renzo? We still have each other.
Renzo: Sure, as long as it’s to our advantage. Because there’s no such thing as love.
Barberina: Or commitment.
Renzo: Or generosity.
Barberina: Or kindness.
Renzo: Those are all words. Nothing but words whose only function is to increase the market for durable goods.
Barberina: It’s nonsense.
Renzo: It’s stupid.
Barberina: My heart is so full of . . . myself.
Renzo: And mine of me.
The Green Bird appears.
Barberina: No, you’re right, Renzo. Human beings are just the way they are. Love is only political correctness. It’s all dog eat dog, an eye for an eye, tit for tat. Lying and cheating and stealing are just being honest about it. If I ever remotely imagine that I’m in love—
She sees the Green Bird, stops, transfixed.
Renzo: Barberina?
The Bird disappears.
Barberina: I saw a green bird.
Renzo: Green bird?
Barberina: Sort of. Greenish. Feathers.
Renzo: No time for green birds.
Barberina: True.
Renzo: We’re off to seek our fortune.
Barberina: Before it gets dark.
They depart, terrified.
Brighella appears, nibbling the last of his sausage. Beggars gather around, eyeing the sausage. Brighella licks his fingers, tosses the end of the sausage skin into a Beggar’s cup. Goes off. Beggars disperse.
Cops enter, stride to center, survey the audience suspiciously, leave.
Dungeon. Ninetta sits in the mouth of an underground sewer pipe, hunched over a candle flame. She rocks compulsively.
Ninetta: Eighteen years. Two hundred sixteen months. Six thousand five hundred seventy days. One hundred fifty-seven thousand six hundred eighty hours. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Eighteen years. Six thousand five hundred seventy— No, leap year, six thousand five hundred seventy-four days. One hundred fifty-seven thousand seven hundred seventy-six— Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless, hopeless, hopeless. . . Same stuff runs in the head, every minute for eighteen years, six thousand five hundred seventy-four days— Stop!
With difficulty, she rises.
I was a queen. I had a husband. I gave birth. And then— Eighteen years, six thousand five hundred— Stop! They walled me in to die. Deep under the palace, the sewers under the kitchen. Life is only the stink of itself. A leftover from the feast. If I could starve. But I can’t. Because—
The Green Bird appears.
The Green Bird. The Green Bird flies down the shaft to feed me.
The Green Bird holds a sack of groceries. Through the iron grate he places items before her, then makes his hands into wings, dancing for her.
Stop it. You’re cruel. You make me laugh. There’s no such thing as laughter. No laughter or magic or love, or—
Green Bird: (in a rough parrot’s voice) Hope.
Bird disappears.
Ninetta: He spoke.
The Throne Room, with huge, tattered banner proclaiming “Victory.” Slug and Clobber wheel on King Tartaglia, seated on his throne, followed by Pantalone.
Tartaglia: They celebrate our victory.
Pantalone: Indeed they do. A very great victory.
Tartaglia: Our homecoming.
Pantalone: A triumphant homecoming. We stand on the brink of— On the brink of— Well, an entirely new brink.
Tartaglia: Our glory.
He bursts into tears.
Pantalone: Your Majesty, why are you weeping?
Tartaglia: (furiously) Weeping? I never weep!
Pantalone: No, certainly not. In this time of crisis, our Sovereign shows a steady resolve—
Tartaglia weeps.
Well, it’s allergy season—
Tartaglia weeps louder.
Yes, of course, it’s your heart going out to those many families who have paid the supreme price, and you are simply acknowledging their grief with moist-eyed manliness—
Tartaglia: Fool, can’t you see I’m weeping! Ninetta gone! I come home to an empty bed, a lost love, a hollow life. Condemned for witchcraft! Perhaps she cast her spells for my ret— t— t— t—
Pantalone: Return?
Tartaglia: Retribution! Oh Ninetta!
He dissolves in grief. Scriven appears.
Pantalone: Your Majesty, the press.
Tartaglia and Pantalone pose, shaking hands in a jovial mood, with Slug & Clobber posed behind. Scriven snaps a flash photo, exits. Tartaglia dissolves again.
Ah, but Your Highness, you’ll be pleased to know: Queen Ninetta was innocent.
Tartaglia: How could she be innocent? She’s dead.
Pantalone: Well, I couldn’t tell you before, because of our devotion to the war effort, but in fact—
Tartaglia: Ninetta!
Pantalone: And the babies, twin babies, not actually puppies, they were actually—
Tartaglia: Ninetta Ninetta Ninetta!
Pantalone: I was told to dispose of them, you see, but in fact I—
Tartaglia: My sweet darling dearest loveliest dead Ninetta!
Pantalone: And suddenly now there are amazing prophecies, that the twins are alive and that your Queen Ninetta is in fact—
Tartaglia: Stop saying her name! I can’t stand it! Silence!
Pantalone: (aside) This isn’t the opportune moment for truth. Maybe after dinner.
Pantalone departs. Tartaglia is alone.
Tartaglia: I’m alone. I can let flow my grief. (trying to weep) No tears! They’re all dried up! Oh Ninetta!
He holds his eyes wide open, tries to squeeze out tears. Truffaldino enters.
Truffaldino: Nope. Truffaldino here. How you doin’?
Tartaglia glares at him.
Long time no see. Remember me? Your chief cook, Truffaldino. And kinda your drinking buddy when you wanted to let your royal hair down and loosen up from being king. Great times we had. Lotta laughs.
Tartaglia: (aside) If only I had a friend. Can I trust him? (aloud) How are you, Truffaldino?
Truffaldino: Doing well, doing well, although, well, you know, ups and downs, downs and ups and ups and downs and downs and downs. . .
Tartaglia: And your wife?
Truffaldino: Well . . . to be perfectly honest, for two weeks it was bliss. Then she started to make me sick. She picks up two orphans, brings’em home, starves herself to feed’em. She used to be fat, I hated that, now she’s scrawny, I hate that. So I looked for some consolation, something more attractive, I mean who wouldn’t?
Tartaglia: How is your shop doing?
Truffaldino: To be perfectly honest, business is, well, you know, it’s the economy, consumer confidence, we’re kinda . . . bankrupt. My wife, she doesn’t understand business. She won’t cheat the customers. I try to cut costs, grind up dogs, rats, top-quality newsprint. Nag, nag. I never go to a bar, hardly ever, to be perfectly honest maybe twice a day at most, and sure I sit down for a game of cards, or else we’d go broke, but I always lose cause I’m always thinking about women whenever I try to cheat. To be perfectly honest.
Tartaglia: (aside) He’s a sex fiend, bankrupt, a drunk and a cheat. (aloud) Tell me the truth now, Truffaldino. If your life wasn’t a total disaster, would you come to the palace to be friends again?
Truffaldino: I’d have to think about that.
Tartaglia: Straight answer.
Truffaldino: Let’s see now. To be perfectly honest, if I had plenty to eat and a sexy wife and money in my pocket, would I want a friend? Course not.
Tartaglia: Out!
Truffaldino: I’m just trying to be perfectly—
Tartaglia: Out! Out! Out!
Guards grab Truffaldino.
Truffaldino: There’s no place in the world for an honest man.
They cart him off.
Tartaglia: Nothing. I return to nothing. A life my own madness has ravaged.
Tortalatta, the Dowager Queen, enters.
Tortalatta: My dear son!
Tartaglia: Mother.
Tortalatta: Sweetheart, sweetie, sweet baby, sweetie pie, why are you avoiding me? You’ve been gone for eighteen years, and now, as soon as I have you back to kiss and hug and bounce on my knee, you turn away. You jump right into ruling the country and all that nonsense, instead of rushing into my arms with a royal hug for your mommy.
Tartaglia: My dear mother, do me a royal favor. Retire to your royal chambers and leave me to my royal despair.
Tortalatta: I know what it is. That nasty little girl Ninetta. It’s not my fault. What else could I do with a witch who gave birth to puppies? You were fighting your silly war, you wrote me to do what I must. So now, for preserving your honor, you punish me.
Tartaglia: Darling mother, you monstrosity. I know you hated my poor Ninetta. If I’d only— Just please, dear mother, for the sake of the sacred love between mother and son, g— g— g—
Tortalatta: Give you a kiss?
Tartaglia: Get out!
Tortalatta: So this is my reward for nursing you from my very bosom?
Tartaglia: I’ll repay you for that. Twenty gallons of sour milk. Will you please just d— d— d—
Tortalatta: Divert you from all this silly distraction?
Tartaglia: Disappear!
Tortalatta: Now you see, you always do that when you get upset, you need to take a deep breath and—
Tartaglia: I want my wife. You buried her alive. Now I have nothing. Nothing! Nothing!
He storms out. She calls after him:
Tortalatta: Poor baby, I forgive you. We’ll cheer you up, angel. Mommy will find you a delicious new queen. Or why not some other pet? Cats are so cuddly.
Slug & Clobber drag in Brighella.
What’s this? Can’t you see I’m involved in serious affairs of state?
Slug: Sorry, O revered Queen Mother. We arrested this guy outside the palace. Just taking a shortcut through here to the hangman.
Tortalatta: Hangman? What’s he done?
Slug: Capital crime. He doesn’t have any money.
Clobber: Not a cent.
Brighella: I demand a trial!
Slug: No point wasting a judge’s time with people that’s probably guilty.
Clobber: Death’s cheap.
Tortalatta: Well get this filthy thing out of my presence.
Brighella: My head’s fulla bats. Swat’em for me, willya?
Guards bop Brighella on the head. He flips into prophetic mode:
The statue melts
The twins rejoice
The old crow cries
The withered turtle scuttles—
Tortalatta: Old crow! Withered turtle! He’s talking about me! It’s a plot. Hangman? No, take him to the torture chambers!
Brighella: Says Tutu.
She is dumbstruck.
Little Tutu’s always teasing me.
Tortalatta: Not . . . Briggy?!
Brighella: Is that me? Must be. Sounds familiar.
Tortalatta: So many years!
Brighella: More all the time. They just keep coming.
Tortalatta: You remember me? Remember Tutu?
Brighella: Well my brain’s kinda fried from various substances over the course of time.
Tortalatta: Your little playmate. Your mother was hairdresser to my mother the Queen. We played in the garden. We kissed one innocent kiss.
Brighella: Yeh? Wow.
Tortalatta: And then we were parted. My mummy went bald.
Brighella: Yeh. Well, then I grew up, I guess, I was a poet, then a plumber, sold used cars, sold drugs, now I panhandle and do a little prophecy on the side. Life’s funny.
Tortalatta: But you don’t remember? You don’t remember Tutu?
Brighella: (to Slug) Do me a favor, buddy.
Points to his head. Slug bops him.
Tutu! My little Tutu!
She swoons, then fixes him with her eyes.
Tortalatta: Come into my chambers, Briggy. We’ll relive our memories, and (rapturously) kiss an innocent kiss.
Harshly, to the Guards:
Fools! Take each other to the hangman!
She goes out with Brighella. They look at each other, stupefied, then take each other by the collar, drag themselves off to be hanged.
The Street. Beggars recline against a wall. Renzo & Barberina enter, cold and tired.
Barberina: Renzo, it’s nearly dark. The cold is freezing my tears.
Renzo: Aren’t you hungry? Concentrate on being hungry and you won’t feel cold.
Barberina: I never thought of that.
Beggar: Got a quarter, buddy? Spare change?
Renzo: Isn’t that disgusting? (to Beggar) What are you doing out here?
Beggar: Starving. How bout you?
Renzo: Well, we’ve been here only a day. And I know better than to ask someone for a quarter. People only give to make themselves feel important. Ask for five dollars.
Beggar: You give me five bucks?
Renzo: Of course not. You couldn’t be sure I wasn’t taking advantage of you. There’s always a catch.
Barberina: Renzo, are you saying that if someone came along and offered us a good meal and a blazing fire, someplace to sleep the night, you’d turn them down?
Renzo: No, but I’d sleep with my eyes wide open.
Barberina: But doesn’t there have to be some sort of compassion in the world? Otherwise how do we get through the night?
Renzo: Well look at these pathetic creatures. They rely on human generosity. But they’re hypocritical. They themselves exist out of pure self-interest. If they had any compassion for the rest of us, they’d realize they were worthless and disappear.
From the audience, an intense wild-haired man charges onto the stage.
Gozzi: You fool! You stupid fool! You’re ruining the play!
Renzo: What? Who? What?
Gozzi: I am the author of this play. Where did you get those ideas? I didn’t put them there.
Barberina: Play? I’ve never seen a play. Can we see it?
Gozzi: You are the play. This is a comedy of love and laughter. You’re supposed to be sweet young orphans, not repulsive brats. Your audience needs hope. I want to give them a story of hope.
Renzo: Hope? Well, go ahead. Make us rich.
Gozzi: But if I reach you the hand of compassion, it would only be self-interest?
Renzo: Of course. People like happy endings. They’ll give you lots of money for telling them fairy tales.
Gozzi: Better I should leave you in the street to freeze and starve and rot?
Renzo: (after a moment) That’s not the point.
Barberina: Renzo, dear brother, the hunger and cold are beginning to overwhelm me and make me think that, well, you’re just a wee bit of a . . . maniac. We’re stuffed full of wisdom, but I’d rather have a doughnut.
Renzo: All right, for your sake I’ll accept some help. But strictly against my will. I’ll have a burger and fries.
Gozzi: Once I saw life through eyes like yours. I thought I could unmask humanity and show it for what it was. I wrote of violence and folly, yes, I showed a world riddled with fakery, falsity, flimflam, fibbery, forgery, fabrication and fraud. I succeeded too well. “Truth doesn’t exist?” they said, “Or love? Fine, that saves us a lot of trouble.” I’m stuck in my own bad smell. Well, I made you up, so I’ll pay child support.
He grabs the Beggar’s cup.
Take these coins. Toss them into the air. You’ll be rich. If you need me, call me. Gozzi.
A hunched figure emerges from the audience: the Critic. He mumbles in Gozzi’s ear, madly gesticulating.
No! I will! It’s not!
Barberina: Who’s that?
Gozzi: My twin. My critic. Inside my head. Follows me everywhere. Day and night.
Puts his hand on Critic’s head, forces him slowly downward.
It is not an absurd plot device! It’s the way people think. What do they base their hope on? Hard work, just desserts, no! They play the Lottery. They gamble. They watch idiots on television strike it rich. They’ll believe anything except common sense. And you two, just remember: all it takes is one stage direction and—
Gesture of cutting a throat. Gozzi and Critic exit in lock step. Beggar gazes after his lost paper cup, goes out.
Barberina: What do we do now? Get rich?
Renzo: Why not? I’m hungry.
Barberina: But what if— Sometimes it changes people.
Renzo: Only if they don’t deserve being rich. We deserve it.
Barberina: Why?
Renzo: I don’t know why, but when we’re rich we can hire people to tell us why.
Barberina: Maybe it won’t satisfy us. Maybe we’ll just want more.
Renzo: Just do it.
Barberina: Maybe we’ll forget how to love.
Renzo: There’s no such thing as love. Do it.
Barberina: Not even for each other?
Renzo: No! Yes! I don’t know! Just do it!
She tosses the coins (glittering confetti) into the air. Music. A castle appears. Servants swoop in and dress them in sumptuous garb.
Barberina, look at this! Amazing!
Barberina: Don’t let’s be fooled. There’s always a catch.
They freeze in tableau. Tortalatta charges onto the stage, berating the audience:
Tortalatta: What are you staring at? Watching the poor darlings get rich! “We’ll have a happy ending!” I know your type. Well take it from me, dearies, I’ve been here a long time, you just popped in: the world doesn’t work the way it used to. Cause and Effect aren’t on speaking terms. You’re thinking, “Who’s that old bag? She must be the villain, because she’s ugly.” Judgments. That’s what theatre is: judgments on human beings by people who don’t know any better.
Calling to the rear of the house:
Turn out these lights till there’s something worth seeing.
The Twins’ Castle. Smeraldina mops the floor.
Smeraldina: I’m sick of this. Mop up the mess. My whole life. Clean it up, they’ll track right over it. The shop, we’re about to lose it, so my idiot husband burns it down to get the insurance money. But he never paid the premium. So he disappears, and I set out to find my kids. And suddenly here’s my daughter, who’s rich.
Addressing the mop as Barberina:
“Barberina! Sweetie!” She’s so beautiful.
And she says, “Insolent woman, begone!” I’m stunned.
I try to talk nice. “You little snot-nose! Is that how you talk to your mother? I put food in your mouth, I spanked you a thousand times and this is how you repay me?”
“Servants! Give her a dollar and show her the door!”
“Barberina, all dressed up, you’re so pretty. Don’t you feel something for your mama?”
Kneeling to the mop.
“I love you, honey, let me stay. I’ll be your maid. I’ll eat leftovers. I’ll work like a dog. It’ll be just like old times.”
She gives in. Gives me a job. She’s changed.
Starts mopping again. Barberina enters.
Barberina: This floor is wet.
Smeraldina: I’m mopping it.
Barberina: “Madam.”
Smeraldina: I’m mopping the floor, Madam.
Barberina: Well dry it. It can’t be left wet. Someone will slip and sue me and I won’t have a roof over my head. I want something. What do I want? Tell me!
Smeraldina: Nice cuppa tea?
Barberina: It’ll melt my lip gloss.
Smeraldina: A snack?
Barberina: There’s too much to choose from. I can’t decide. I’ll starve.
Smeraldina: Your musicians could play.
Barberina: Then I’d have to listen. It’s so hard to be entertained all the time. I’m bored.
Smeraldina: You always wanted a cat. How bout a nice little kitty—
Barberina: Who pretends to love me but all she wants is her can of tuna fish.
Smeraldina: Maybe with all your money now you could go out in the world and help the poor people—
Barberina: But how can I tell which ones really deserve to stay alive?
Smeraldina: Well since you’re so unhappy, just burn all your money.
Barberina: People would think I’m crazy. Why are you wasting time? There’s a whole castle to mop.
Smeraldina, with a sigh, goes out.
This is not working out.
Servants appear. In frozen postures, they hold bowls of snacks for Barberina. She nibbles. Renzo appears.
Renzo: Barbarina—
Barberina: Renzo—
Renzo: I’m miserable.
Barberina: So am I. The worst is, I have no reason to be.
Renzo: The worst is, I do. I’m in love.
Barberina: You can’t be in love. There’s no such thing.
Renzo: There is now. Look.
Lights reveal a veiled statue: Pompea.
Barberina: It’s a statue.
Renzo: She was in the garden.
Barberina: Why?
Renzo: Rich people have statues in their gardens.
Barberina: Renzo, I hope you won’t take offence at this, and I don’t mean to sound critical, but you’re nuts. For you to be in love with a statue is as insane as for me to love . . . a Green Bird.
Music. As Renzo stares at the statue, the Green Bird dances before Barberina. She is mesmerized.
Green Bird: (parrot voice) Love. . .
It disappears. She recovers.
Renzo: I can’t help it. I’m obsessed with her. I talk to her, she won’t even look at me. She’s cold stone.
Barberina: Love does not exist.
Renzo: How do you know?
Barberina: You said so. Once you have an opinion you have to keep it. That’s what education is.
Renzo: But don’t we love each other as brother and sister? Don’t we trust each other? Care for each other? Want each other to be happy? Isn’t that love?
Barberina: You’ve changed.
She sobs and rushes out. Lights reveal Gozzi and Critic, who mumbles into his ear.
Gozzi: No no no! The statue is a metaphor! Haven’t you ever heard of a metaphor? And rich people do have statues in their gardens.
They disappear. Renzo is alone.
Renzo: So beautiful. How can I fall in love with a woman carved out of stone? How can I fall in love?
He looks again at Pompea. Beneath the veil, she has turned to look at him. He is staggered.
Truffaldino: (offstage) Anybody home? I’m yelling my guts out. Hello!?
Truffaldino appears.
Renzo! Son!
Renzo: Truffaldino?
Truffaldino: There you are! Great to see you again! Come to Papa! When do we eat?
Renzo: What do you want?
Truffaldino: Oh, how bout pork chops, pint of beer?
Renzo: Do you not recall our departure?
Truffaldino: Course I do, it was yesterday.
Renzo: Why did you throw us out?
Truffaldino: Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s obvious. You were orphans, you were broke, you were totally worthless.
Renzo: And how do you dare approach me now?
Truffaldino: Easy. You got rich, so I figured you could support me. Let bygones be bygones. I don’t hold grudges.
Renzo: Why shouldn’t I have you horse-whipped?
Truffaldino: Ah, let me think. (aside) I made the same mistake with the King. Sincerity doesn’t pay. (to Renzo) To be perfectly honest—
Renzo: What what what?!
Truffaldino: My lord, I pray you be magnanimous to extend your absolution for having expelled your beloved self and your sister’s self from my miserable presence. But I didn’t know any better. I’m uneducated. It was mistaken identity. Plus, I was drunk. I have to drink to console myself for not having enough to drink. I fall at your feet and beg to serve you until I be reduced to a cluster of worms. Is that better?
Renzo: You’re a fool.
Truffaldino: Well a rich guy needs fools around him, and I need a job.
Renzo: (aside) I can’t trust myself, I can’t trust trust, so I trust only the most untrustworthy. (aloud) You’re hired.
Truffaldino starts to embrace Renzo, is stopped by a gesture.
Truffaldino, did you see the statue in my garden?
Truffaldino: The sexy one? Sure.
Renzo: Did you ever see any woman so alluring?
Truffaldino: Well, to be perfectly honest, I prefer a lady that’s reasonably alive.
Renzo: I love her.
Truffaldino: Well yeh, that’s the best kind of love. You don’t make any promises and she doesn’t say a word.
Renzo: But then, as I was entreating her to come to life, I saw a Green Bird.
Truffaldino: What Green Bird?
Renzo: The one I saw.
Truffaldino: Aha!
Renzo: What?
Truffaldino: Yes!
Renzo: Yes?
Truffaldino: I dunno. But look, you’re rich. You want her alive, fine, hire a doctor, a preacher, an auto mechanic, whatever. Money talks. There’s one big buncha hope in a fat bank account. Just lemme tell you a few things about life. . .
They go off, Truffaldino chattering.
The Throne Room. Tartaglia sits on the throne in extreme depression, banging his forehead with his fist. Pantalone enters, followed by Scriven taking notes.
Pantalone: For the record, you can say that the King is confident we are regaining control of inflation, deflation, stagflation and the general situation. Off the record . . . we’re not.
They observe Tartaglia.
Scriven: He seems preoccupied.
Tartaglia: Who are you?
Scriven: Scriven, Your Highness, reporter for the Times.
Tartaglia: Yes. Tell your readers the war was a hideous mistake. We gained nothing. We lost our very souls.
Pantalone: (to Scriven) That’s off the record.
Tartaglia: I killed everything I loved. The only future is d— d— d—
Pantalone: Decision. Devotion. Determination.
Tartaglia: Despair, despair, despair!
Pantalone: Your Majesty, we should accentuate the positive. Such as . . . the housing industry. New construction is up 100". The castle that sprang up right next door.
Tartaglia: Fantasy. Illusion.
Pantalone: No, it’s real. Last night I was hurrying back here and walked right into it. Almost cracked my skull. Luckily, my belly got in the way.
Ushering Scriven out:
That’s enough. Accentuate the positive.
Back to Tartaglia:
And wait till you see! There’s a girl, like a pink rose with a dab of whipped cream. You see her, you’ll fall in love again, you’ll be in heaven.
Tartaglia: Never. My poor Ninetta. . .
Barberina appears, servants grooming her. She gazes disconsolately into a mirror.
Pantalone: There she is! One look, Your Majesty, and you’ll stop thinking of—
Tartaglia: (seeing her) Ninetta!!!
He staggers back. Barberina goes off.
Pantalone: Your Majesty, no, it’s a young lady who does happen to look very much like your queen, but—
Tartaglia: Her living image. I can’t stand it. The guilt. It’s too much. I’ll have myself flogged. Like that!
He beats Pantalone with his own file folders.
And tortured. Like that!
He twists Pantalone’s fingers.
Pantalone: Your Majesty, have mercy on yourself!
Tartaglia: And hung by the neck! Like that!
He grabs Pantalone’s necktie, hoists him up. Realizes, lets him go and hoists himself by his own necktie.
Pantalone: No, Your Highness, you can’t do that. Your own edict demands the death penalty for anyone who commits suicide.
Tartaglia collapses, sobbing.
Your Majesty, I know you long for your Queen Ninetta, but think, if she were alive today she might be horribly fat, she might be toothless, bald, huge warts on her nose, bloodshot eyes, drooling lips— She might resemble your mother.
Tortalatta appears.
Tortalatta: My son!
Tartaglia sees her, tries to curse, to scream, but can’t utter a sound. He staggers off.
What is this?
Pantalone: Nothing serious, Your Queenliness. Your son was overcome by the sight of the young lady yonder, who resembles his lamented wife. Excuse me. . .
Pantalone exits. Tortalatta beckons. Brighella enters.
Tortalatta: What can I do? My son is tormented by the sight of that hideous young lady. I know. We’ll eliminate her and then he’ll be fine. I never like to harm the poor dears. I only do it out of love.
Brighella: Love. You’re the master of love, the maestro, the swami, the genius, the whiz-bang wizard of love.
Tortalatta: I live only for love.
Brighella: And I for the hairs on your chinny-chin-chin.
He plucks a hair. They embrace.
Tortalatta: But we cannot fully satisfy our passions until I have restored my beloved son’s happiness by neutralizing that nasty little girl.
Brighella: Kill her?
Tortalatta: No no. Just make her not . . . exist.
Brighella: Simple.
Tortalatta: How?
Brighella: The Apples That Sing and the Waters That Dance.
Tortalatta: What?
Brighella: Poetry, the unbridled flood of metaphor, is the deadliest human invention. Millions die for a flag, a word, an expostulation—one image that drives us to madness. And so, in the land of the dark of the moon lie the Apples That Sing, the Waters That Dance. In the garden of Serpentina, deadly to mortals.
He whispers his plan to Tortalatta. She responds ecstatically.
Tortalatta: Yes yes! Here she comes!
Barberina enters, followed by Smeraldina holding a parasol for her. Brighella speaks, intending to be overheard.
Brighella: There she is, Your Most Delectable Majesty. Is she not a beauty?
Tortalatta: Oh my goodness yes, the fairest of the fair. Yet how much more lovely she would be if she possessed the Apples That Sing.
Barberina: Smeraldina, did you hear? There are Apples That Sing.
Smeraldina: No kidding.
Barberina: Do I have no apples that sing?
Smeraldina: Not that I know.
Brighella: Imagine, so rich and beautiful, and yet to lack the Apples That Sing.
Tortalatta: A shame.
Brighella: A disgrace.
Tortalatta: And already her beauty begins to fade for want of the Waters That Dance.
Smeraldina: I see where this is going.
Barberina: Waters That Dance. Smeraldina, I must have Waters That Dance.
Brighella: She is much to be pitied. Her beauty seems pathetic—
Tortalatta: Ridiculous.
Brighella: Grotesque when she lacks—
Tortalatta: The Apples That Sing and the Waters That Dance.
They retreat, suppressing laughter. Barberina is possessed.
Barberina: Smeraldina, I feel— It’s like a poison, seeping through my veins. I must have the Apples That Sing and the Waters That Dance.
Smeraldina: And chickens playing the banjo.
Barberina: It’s humiliating. I’ll die of shame. The whole world is laughing at me.
Smeraldina: I wonder why.
Barberina goes out in despair. Smeraldina sighs, follows.
Tortalatta: How sad to see such a sweet young creature consumed by greed.
Brighella: Sad indeed. Tragic.
Tortalatta: It’s working.
Tortalatta giggles, departs with Brighella.
The Twins’ Castle. Renzo kneels, staring at the veiled statue of Pompea.
Renzo: I love you. Don’t say a word. You can’t. Unless you come alive to speak one word: Love. I look at you, my heart goes into spasms. One look I melt. No. Yes. Yes. No. Yes. No.
He starts to lift the veil, hesitates. Gozzi appears.
Gozzi: Do it and be done. If you’re going to melt, then melt. “No, yes, no.” You think you’re Hamlet? Get on with the play!
Renzo: Rescue me. Make her come alive.
Gozzi: She stands as the love that is frozen in your heart. The love of a heart turned to stone.
Renzo: Make her speak.
Gozzi: Very well. If she speaks you will feel even greater pain, and so I grant her speech. But I warn you. No flights of insipid poetry, or I cut all your lines.
Renzo: I want to know everything she feels. How she longs for my love.
Gozzi: What a pathetic excuse for a hero. Blind like all the others, babbling out his passion like a sputtering faucet.
Critic appears behind Gozzi, mumbling vehemently.
I’m doing my best! If you see one human being out there who is less idiotic, knows more about love, never makes a fool of himself every day of his waking life, then bring him up here and he’ll be our leading man.
Critic looks at the audience. Shrugs, departs.
Talk to her. Short and simple.
He removes the veil, goes out. Renzo and Pompea stare at one another.
Renzo: I could stand here forever—
Pompea: Hello.
Renzo: Pleading for you to speak—
Pompea: I speak.
Renzo: Only one word—
Pompea: Whatever you like.
Renzo: From the depths of your heart—
Pompea: You hear me?
Renzo: No. Yes! You’re speaking!
Pompea: Yes.
Renzo: Yes! Tell me your name.
Pompea: Pompea.
Renzo: Pompea the angel.
Pompea: Pompea the fool.
Renzo: Let me gaze in your eyes.
Pompea: Stone eyes, weeping marble tears.
Renzo: Come alive.
Pompea: Life comes slowly to hearts that have died.
Renzo: You were alive?
Pompea: I was born of a noble family. I became proud and cold, ensnared by the praise of fools. I felt a numbness in my heart. No pain in the freezing, only a chill creeping outwards. So safe, so good to feel free from the fear of feeling. Then I was stone.
Renzo: We’ll shed our tears together.
Pompea: Yes. Stand, stare, and slowly you feel the chill. And some other fool will take us into his garden. Two statues who mimic love.
Renzo: I could bring you alive—
Pompea: By the touch of one who has never loved? Love isn’t a sudden twitch. Love is daily practice, slowly fed. Free for the having, and yet it costs more than even kings can pay.
Renzo: But if you were human again, could you love me?
Pompea: If I could love, I could be human again. Now you’ve cursed me with hope. When that dies, I’ll freeze in the diamond ice of death.
Renzo: No hope?
Pompea: No hope. Except—
Renzo: Yes?
Pompea: I have dreams of a bird. A Green Bird. At the far ends of the Earth, yet close as breath. As if the beat of its wings brought a pulse to my heart.
The Green Bird appears.
Renzo: I will find this bird.
The Green Bird flutters around him.
No matter how far. To the ends of the Earth. It must possess some secret, hidden in ancient caves. It can’t escape me.
Pompea: The Green Bird is here.
Renzo: My love will give me sight to see it, no matter where it hides.
Pompea: Renzo!
Renzo: I will climb the highest heights, descend the darkest depths—
Pompea: Use your eyes!
Renzo: My eyes? Yes, my eyes!
Suddenly, Renzo sees it.
It’s here! My servants will capture it. Truffaldino!
Truffaldino and Servants rush on to capture the Green Bird. Suddenly they are caught in slow motion. It flits about, eluding them, then comes within inches of Renzo.
Green Bird: Fool!
It disappears. Servants and Truffaldino collide, fall, then rush off. Barberina enters, supported by Smeraldina.
Barberina: Must have it. . . Must have it. . . Must have it. . .
Truffaldino: What’s wrong with her?
Smeraldina: Insanity.
Barberina: Renzo, help! Everyone mocks me. I’m a joke.
Renzo: What?
Barberina: I’m so miserable.
Renzo: No, I am.
Barberina: What?
Renzo: Miserable.
Barberina: I’m miserable.
Renzo: Barberina, I’m serious about this. I’m not lying. I’m really miserable.
Barberina: How can you stand there and tell me you’re miserable when I’m telling you that I’m miserable?
Renzo: You just want to be miserable because I’m miserable.
Barberina: Well I thought of it first!
Renzo: That doesn’t mean it’s all yours!
Smeraldina: Don’t fight over the misery. There’s enough to go around.
Barberina bursts into tears.
Renzo: It’s no fair crying. You’ve had more practice.
Barberina: I need them!
Renzo: What?
Barberina: (weeping) The Apples That Sing! The Waters That Dance!
Renzo: The what that what and the what that which?
Truffaldino: I can help you out on that. That’s a fairy tale my mom used to tell me to scare me to death. It’s located way back to the backside of Yesterday on the other end of Tomorrow—wherever that means—in the Garden of Serpentina. Who as you might guess is a snake.
Renzo: That’s only a story.
Truffaldino: That’s not the worst of it. Going into the Garden is certain death by torture more horrible than hell.
Renzo: It’s a story!
Truffaldino: That’s why it’s dangerous. You can’t defend yourself in any logical way.
Terrible cry from Barberina.
Smeraldina: She won’t take no for an answer.
Renzo: Barberina, listen. I would willingly risk my life to help you. But these apples and waters are not to be had.
Barberina: I must have them or life’s not worth living. My heart’s beating so fast. No, it’s stopping! Convulsions! A mist clouds my eyes. . .
She staggers, then goes into wild convulsions. Smeraldina beats Truffaldino, who is laughing helplessly.
Smeraldina: Shut up! She’s dying! (to Barberina) Stop it! They’re laughing! (beating Truffaldino) Shut up! (to Barberina) Stop it!
Renzo: My sister in agony!
Truffaldino: (as if directing traffic) Stand away! Let her breathe! Get a stretcher! Call the doctor! Start the funeral!
Renzo: (grabbing her) Barberina, I promise. I will win you these treasures. I can’t bring my love to life if I’ve never loved or paid the price of love. I must face these dangers, and—
Barberina: Brother, please don’t die. You’re more important to me than anything in the world. Just bring me those little things.
Truffaldino: But, hey kid, you were going after the Green Bird.
Renzo: Yes, the Green Bird! To bring my beloved Pompea to life!
He sees Pompea, frozen again.
She’s speechless.
Truffaldino: Congratulations. Green Bird. That’s another story my mom told me. But it’s a well-known fact that the Green Bird lives at the north-northwest of the south-southeast, whereas the Garden of Serpentina is at the south-southeast of the north-northwest. Other words, you can’t get there from here.
Renzo: You’ll guide me.
Truffaldino: Normally I’d be gung ho. But to be perfectly honest, I just forgot something very, very important.
Renzo: What?
Truffaldino: To get out of here.
Starts to go. Renzo holds him back.
Renzo: Truffaldino, if you help me on my quest, I will— I will forgive your miserable failings as a father. I will shower you with gold, my servants will cater to your every whim, and my surgeons will sew you together when the demons have ripped you to pieces.
Truffaldino: What have I got to lose?
He shakes hands with Renzo. They go off, Renzo turning to wave to Barberina, then to Pompea.
Barberina: Smeraldina, I’m so happy. My wish will be granted.
She goes off, weeping bitterly.
Smeraldina: So she’ll let her brother die and my husband get ripped to pieces, and for what? For fruit. So much for love. (to the frozen Pompea) You got the right idea. Just stand there.
Smeraldina off.
The Dungeon. Ninetta standing, Gozzi behind her, prompting with a script. The Green Bird stands at a distance.
Ninetta: I know what you want to say. “Ninetta, fight off your weariness. Eat your food. Nourish hope. You’ll be free.” Is that it?
The Green Bird nods.
Gozzi: “And you’re a king under a spell—
Ninetta: And you’re a king under a spell.
Gozzi: “And the children I bore—
Ninetta: And the children I bore, they’re not dead, they were rescued.
Gozzi: “Their names—”
Ninetta: Their names are Renzo and Barberina, and if they escape the dangers ahead, then you will be restored and I will be freed from this living death. Is that it?
The Green Bird nods.
Gozzi: “And yet—”
Ninetta: And yet even as your spirit stands here, your body is chained in a distant labyrinth, where all who come to free you must die. Is that what you tell me?
The Green Bird nods. Ninetta grabs the script, throws it.
A likely story!
Ninetta weeps. Gozzi shrugs, disappears. The Green Bird flutters.
Green Bird: Believe.
The Green Bird disappears. Truffaldino appears, carrying a heavy duffel. To us:
Truffaldino: This is too complicated. But I’m in no hurry. The crazier it gets the longer it takes me to get to Serpentina’s Garden. Where we all die a hideous death. I better practice.
Dies several versions of a hideous death.
I’ll see how they do it in the movie. But I gotta make up for being such a horrible daddy and telling my kids the truth. So take a break. Have a snack, go to the can, figure out the plot. Take plenty of time. Gives me at least ten minutes longer to stay in one piece.
Fade to black.
Act Two
The forest. Moveable trees with direction signs: Going, Here/There, How/When/Who, Us/Them, High Road/Low Road, East/West (both pointing the same direction), Gone. The Green Bird appears.
Green Bird: It’s time.
He flies away. Trees move to a new configuration as Renzo and Truffaldino enter, Renzo with a sword, Truffaldino laden with heavy luggage. Renzo stops, studies a map, unfolding it wider and wider. As he searches, Truffaldino speaks to us:
Truffaldino: We’re in the forest. Lost in one of those forests you get lost in. Heading for the Garden of Serpentina, where you can expect us to get killed in a very entertaining way. Just hold your applause till you know I’m dead. I don’t want to get distracted and forget my dying words.
Renzo: Onward.
They continue, Truffaldino following Renzo on winding paths, through a swamp, and across a narrow log over a raging torrent. The forest moves about them.
They stop. Truffaldino instantly falls asleep standing up. Renzo wakes him.
Three Maidens appear, producing three apples with faces carved into the skin. They sing.
Maidens: Welcome fair mortals
We are the apples that sing
Come nip and nibble and
Relish savor devour delight
Come taste our joy...
Truffaldino: Chow down!
He lunges at them. Renzo restrains him.
Renzo: Wait.
The apples disappear. The Maidens produce veils. The veils dance.
Truffaldino: I get it. That was the Apples That Sing and this is the Waters That Dance. They could do this better in the movies though.
He mimes an extravagant fountain effect. Renzo restrains him.
Renzo: (to the Maidens) We have come for the Apples That Sing and the Waters That Dance. Yield them to us.
Maidens: Gather us into your hands.
Renzo: (to Truffaldino) Pick the apples.
Truffaldino: Girl apples, yeh. I get the soprano.
He starts forward. Suddenly, Serpentina appears.
Serpentina: Spirits who guard my garden
Keep my treasures safe from the greed of mortals.
Truffaldino: (to Renzo) Lemme talk. (to Serpentina) Ok, Snakely One, listen here. See, his sister is an idiot, but she needs this stuff. Idiots have rights too. It’s no good out here just entertaining the squirrels.
Serpentina: My treasure is for all the living
For the creatures of Earth and sky
The song is for all to hear
The dance the dance of life—
Truffaldino: These are commodities. These are natural resources. There’s big bucks here. What if we give you an advance guarantee against five percent of the net receipts, plus a split of the movie rights?
Brandishing Renzo’s sword:
Otherwise let’s negotiate.
Serpentina: Let Earth rise up and scrub her parasites!
The Maidens shift, revealing an enormous Lion. Renzo retreats. Truffaldino trembles, drops the sword.
Renzo: What are you doing? You’re cowardly.
Truffaldino: No I’m not! I’m spineless!
Renzo: Craven! Pusillanimous!
Truffaldino: No, I’m weak-kneed! Lily-livered! Gutless!
Renzo: Feeble!
Truffaldino: Pathetic! Well there’s your sword! Use it!
Renzo: I don’t like violence. What can I do? I promised my sister. She’ll die if I fail her.
Truffaldino: Die of what?
Renzo: Stupidity. Get the apples or else you’re fired.
Truffaldino: First I’ll get in shape.
In a flurry, he does calisthenics, kneels in prayer, takes a nip from a bottle, rehearses karate, prays again, then bounds up to face the Lion. Lion roars. Truffaldino faints dead away.
Renzo: He’s dead. It’s all over. We’re lost.
Gozzi charges onstage furiously.
Gozzi: No no no! We can’t finish with everybody dead. Life is not hopeless. Love will triumph.
Renzo: I had a miserable childhood, I’m a miserable adult, I’ll be a miserable corpse.
Gozzi: Read the script.
He throws a script at Renzo. Renzo reads.
Renzo: “Miserable childhood . . . miserable adult. . .” How does it end? (flipping the pages) “Time to dance.” It’s not believable.
Gozzi: All right then. Die.
Renzo: I’m just offering constructive criticism.
Gozzi: Your servant isn’t dead. He’s meditating.
Renzo fans Truffaldino, reviving him. The Lion roars. He faints again.
He can’t concentrate. Feed him.
Renzo revives Truffaldino, gives him a sandwich. He starts to eat ravenously. Lion roars. Truffaldino keeps on eating.
Truffaldino: Pastrami. Oh yeh.
The Lion roars, then slowly wilts.
Gozzi: Your servant feeds on pastrami, the wild beast feeds on fear. Stop feeding the beast, he starves. Now capture your prizes.
Renzo seizes the apples and veils. Smeraldina disappears, the Maidens rush off. The Lion has come apart into pieces. Truffaldino starts after the Maidens, grasping the Lion’s head. He sees it in his hands and faints again.
Renzo: Success!
Gozzi: Fool. Your sister’s vanity has no limits, nor your ignorance. See what power riches have? She sends her brother to his death, while he falls in love with a woman of stone. He, for whom love does not exist. You have nothing.
Renzo stands stupefied.
Say something.
Renzo: What are my lines?
Gozzi points to the script. Renzo reads.
The Green Bird. Yes. Find the Green Bird. The only hope for my beloved Pompea.
Truffaldino revives, chomps the last bit of his sandwich.
Gozzi: One favor. You have me to thank that your character is filthy rich. My costume. I hate my costume. Get me a better one.
Renzo: Where’s your twin?
Gozzi: Locked in a box.
Renzo: Ok. Yes. (to Truffaldino) Get up. We have to go.
Truffaldino: Show some respect. I’m your father.
Renzo: Idiot!
Truffaldino: That’s better.
Renzo goes off.
Gratitude, it doesn’t exist. I killed a lion for him. With pastrami and rye.
He follows Renzo. Gozzi exits shaking his head. Blackout.
Trees in a new arrangement. Renzo and Truffaldino continue their journey, in place. They run, then cycle, then ski, then fly. Pantalone appears at a distance, flapping his arms to catch up, calling to them.
Pantalone: Hello there! (heavy puffing) Would you land, please? Terrible news.
They and Pantalone all land. Scriven appears. Breathlessly:
Well . . . Scriven has . . . been following . . . this story. Would you quote . . . the official . . . spokesman?
Scriven: (reading from notepad) “Highly placed officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, report that King Tartaglia is incapacitated by grief. The Queen Mother, Tortalatta, has brought charges of witchcraft against the Comtessa Barberina, who is charged with bewitching the King.”
Renzo: My sister.
Pantalone: (puffing) The trial . . . presented . . . strong evidence.
Behind scrim, the trial: Barberina is held by Guards. Tortalatta vehemently mimes the accusation. Tartaglia, despondent, turns, sees Barberina, collapses. All point to Barberina in attitudes of condemnation. The scene dissolves.
Renzo: That’s horrible. What can we do to save her?
Truffaldino: Pay for a first-class funeral.
Pantalone: The only hope . . . is to catch . . . the Green Bird. . .
Renzo: The Green Bird?
Truffaldino sighs. Behind scrim, Tortalatta and Brighella huddle in conference. Brighella mimes a dire warning. Renzo, watching, is confused. Truffaldino mimes turning up the volume. Light brighter: we can hear.
Brighella: Your Age-ripened Majesty, my prophetic powers reveal to me the ghastly threat of the Green Bird.
Tortalatta: The Green Bird?
Brighella: “The Green Bird?” Yes, the Green Bird! The Green Bird is fated to bring your evil deeds to an end.
Tortalatta: Evil? What I do I do for the sake of love.
Brighella: I don’t mean “evil” in the sense of “evil.” I mean evil in the best sense of the word.
Tortalatta: I want goodness to triumph.
Brighella: Yes—
Tortalatta: I want love to rule.
Brighella: Oh yes—
Tortalatta: So find the Green Bird and wring its scrawny little neck!
The scene dissolves.
Pantalone: The Queen Mother proclaims that Barberina will be spared only if the Green Bird is captured and brought to her. To protect it. As an endangered species. Our agents report you’re on the track.
Renzo and Truffaldino confer.
Renzo: We’ve just overcome our obstacles and learned our lesson. Why do we have to keep facing these crises?
Truffaldino: Well, Your Respected Richness, personally it’s my opinion that God didn’t make the world to teach us lessons. He made us strictly for the purpose of entertainment. He’s got a weird sense of humor. I’m hungry.
Renzo: But I’ve learned the power of love, so we should have a happy ending.
Truffaldino: Well, you go to school they teach you the same stuff over and over. You vote, you always elect the same guy. History repeats itself. I’m hungry.
Renzo: But if I seek the Green Bird to bring my beloved to life, how can I give it away to save my sister?
Truffaldino: That is a problem.
Ravenous, Truffaldino cleans out his pockets to find crumbs to eat.
Renzo: There must be some truth we can rely on, some path to guide our lives. If love is the answer, why don’t the questions make sense? What are you doing?
Truffaldino: I’m hungry.
Renzo: Listen to me!
Truffaldino: Hold on.
Truffaldino catches a fly. Renzo watches as he picks it apart, eats each piece with gusto, wipes his lips and belches.
Now I’m all ears.
Renzo beats him with his hat. Then, to the audience:
Renzo: I’m really much nicer than I appear to be. I just want that understood.
Truffaldino: Let’s go.
Renzo: I face a life crisis. My second in twenty minutes. If I succeed, then I face a horrible choice—
Truffaldino: Let’s go.
Renzo: My sister, or my beloved—
Pantalone: Time is limited.
Truffaldino: Let’s go.
Renzo: Or else I die, and we’re all united in death.
Truffaldino: Chop the bird in half, they both get a drumstick.
Renzo: I bear a heavy burden.
Renzo goes off. Truffaldino picks up their baggage.
Truffaldino: There’s nothing like being a daddy.
Pantalone: Stern are the cares of statecraft.
Off. Barberina and Smeraldina enter, pursued.
Smeraldina: Come on, honey, let’s move it. They’re after us. I sweet-talked the guard to get you outta there, but I can’t take on the whole army.
Barberina: (in despair) I’m so ashamed. How could I be so thoughtless, so selfish, so cruel?
Smeraldina: Practice makes perfect.
Barberina: Eighteen years you mothered me. I don’t deserve to live.
Smeraldina: But since you’re alive, you might as well stay that way. Come on.
Barberina: I kneel for forgiveness.
Smeraldina: No problem. Hurry.
Barberina: I kiss your feet.
Smeraldina: Well I mighta stepped in something. Sweetie, once we’re safe you can wallow in guilt to your heart’s content.
They start off, then freeze as trees. Cops rush in.
Slug: Keep your eyes open. Two ladies. They can’t be far off.
Clobber: Gotcha.
Cops rush past.
Smeraldina: This way. Your brother’s with my husband, and he went this direction.
Barberina: How do you know?
Smeraldina: When you’re married this long, you just have an instinct. I can smell his breath ten miles away.
Smeraldina and Barberina off. Tortalatta and Brighella enter. Renzo and Truffaldino trudge across upstage.
Brighella: More slowly, my precious antique. My spirit gallops along, but my flesh is weak.
Tortalatta: Your flesh is my passion, oh my poet. But we must find that little ninny and put her to death. She’s committed treason.
Brighella: Treason?
Tortalatta: To refuse to be killed is a capital offense.
Brighella: Calm yourself, my syrupy sweetness. Think of our love.
Tortalatta: But the future— The frightful future you predict!
Brighella: Oh my wart-spangled loverness, the future is ours.
Tortalatta: Has she no consideration? Doesn’t she realize that no one can get a good night’s sleep until she’s dead? How would the kingdom survive without me? I must rule. I owe it to the people, whom I love with a mother’s love, the wretched things. Young people think it’s all about them. “Me, me, me.”
Brighella: Shameful, oh my grisly sweetie-pie.
Tortalatta: It’s not really so bad to be killed, is it? For a good cause?
Brighella: Onward.
Exit. Smeraldina on with Barberina.
Barberina: Stop. I can’t go on.
Smeraldina: No choice, honey. It’s not just you. You’ve sent your brother off to certain death. We have to save you, and we have to save him, and we have to save my husbandly imbecile.
Barberina: I don’t know how.
Smeraldina: You are an idiotic little brat, and that doesn’t come easy. You have to be really smart to act so stupid. So put your brain to better use.
Smeraldina drags her off. Renzo and Truffaldino trudge across upstage. Tartaglia appears, mad, followed by Cops.
Tartaglia: Stop, in the name of the King! What king? I’m not a king, I’m a quivering wad of despair. Find the Queen! My dearest Queen Ninetta! You can’t. She’s dead. They’re all going to a party. I’m not invited. (to Cops) What are you looking at? K— K— K—
Slug: Catch the prisoner?
Tartaglia: Kill somebody!
He rushes off. Cops scatter in different directions. Tortalatta and Brighella enter.
Tortalatta: Why am I doing this horrible thing? Because I love my son. But I’m old, I’m ugly, I’m vile, I’m ridiculous—
Brighella is nodding his head.
Contradict me!
Brighella: But my sugary honey-pucker, I feel such sympathetic vibrations—
Tortalatta: I’m a vicious monster!
Brighella: You are.
Tortalatta: I am not!
Brighella: Of course not.
Tortalatta: I pollute the ground I walk on!
Brighella: Yes!
Tortalatta: No!
Brighella: Never!
Tortalatta: You’re too agreeable!
Serpentina and Maidens appear.
Serpentina: Mortals.
Brighella: Out of our way, ladies. In the name of the Queen Mother.
Serpentina: Eat them.
The Maidens become Demons. Brighella and Tortalatta flee.
Earth gives what Earth receives. Love for love, carnage for carnage. We meet at the Ogre’s Labyrinth.
They swoop off. A flurry of pursuit, characters nearly missing one another. Renzo and Truffaldino trudge across upstage. Smeraldina and Barberina, in flight, meet Pantalone and Scriven.
Pantalone: Well. Yes. Nice day for a walk. (seeing their fear) Don’t worry, I’m a friend. This will be a wonderful story. Can we make the six o’clock news? (to Barberina) My dear, I recognized you immediately. You haven’t changed. Well, yes, you’ve changed a bit. You were a newborn babe, you and your brother, and I saved you from certain death. I threw you into the river. You and your brother, children of the King.
Smeraldina: My sweet babies!
Barberina: Me? Us?
Pantalone: Quickly now, because things are a bit unsettled. What a heart-warming story. The King will be so proud that you’re not puppies.
Barberina faints. Smeraldina catches her.
Smeraldina: Puppies woulda been less trouble.
They go off, supporting Barberina. Another flurry of pursuit. Gozzi and the Critic roll on the statue of Pompea, posed on a skateboard.
Gozzi: I know I know I know: it’s heavy. But she’s a major character, we have to get her into the final scene or it’ll be an unhappy ending and people will hate us. She can’t walk. She’s a statue. So we have to move her. And then you get back in your box.
Critic mumbles, gesticulates.
Well I wrote her that way. I didn’t think ahead, all right? I admit it’s clumsy plotting, but I am not the first human being who’s tried to shape reality into a pretzel. People pray, they take dope, they start a war. Don’t blame me for poetic license. Everyone’s license is expired, but they go right on driving.
They roll Pompea off. Serpentina appears with her Demons, speaks to us.
Serpentina: Know me, mortals. I am the snake, the spirit of life ever-changing. I give you the earth my body, water my blood, the breath of air, the blazing fire. You have it all, and you would have more. You would have possession. You would own my song and my dance, my waters, my apples, my heart.
She approaches us.
Your species is the universal parasite.
Demons: Listen.
Serpentina: Your cities are vast cancers in my flesh.
Demons: Listen.
Serpentina: Your effluent chokes me, your breath is death.
Demons: Listen.
Serpentina: We near the end. If my fruit is not restored, the Apples That Sing, the Waters That Dance, then my tremors shake apart this flimsy frame you squat in, and my mouth gapes to swallow all. You have fifteen minutes left alive.
Demons: Enjoy.
The Ogre’s Labyrinth. The floor reveals a labyrinthine design. Behind, a vast spider web, with the Green Bird entrapped in the center.
On one side, the statue of Pompea, holding a scroll. On the other, a Beggar sitting against a post, with a paper cup.
Down center, Gozzi sits on a stool, facing the action, struggling to revise his script. Renzo and Truffaldino appear.
Truffaldino: We’re here. Wherever we are. There’s the bird.
Renzo: The Green Bird.
Truffaldino: Quick. Let’s grab it. This is creepy.
Renzo: But then what? I’m trapped this horrible dilemma.
Truffaldino: Well be trapped in it someplace else. Where we can get some dinner. Can’t solve life’s big questions on an empty stomach.
Renzo: There’s no time.
Truffaldino: Look at it this way. Time heals all things. Say your statue falls over, breaks her head off. Or your sister gets burned at the stake. Either way your problem is solved.
Renzo: Idiot!
Truffaldino: Idiot? Always “Idiot!” Haven’t you ever heard about “Honor thy father?”
Renzo beats him with his hat.
Guess not.
Renzo: No matter. I came here to do it, I’ll do it. Follow me.
They thread their way through the Labyrinth.
Truffaldino: There’s a shortcut.
They go straight toward the foot of the web.
Now grab it!
Renzo: It’s mine!
Renzo grabs the Green Bird by the ankle, recoils. Spasms shake him.
Ahhh! The pain! Spreading through me! Unbearable! I die!
Renzo freezes. Truffaldino starts to escape, then reconsiders.
Truffaldino: Look at that. But he owes me wages. Pay up or I’ll break off your nose. But hey, the bird’s worth a bundle, I bet. Or at least a big batch of sausage. Gotcha!
He grabs the Green Bird, then recoils with wild spasms.
Ahhh! The pain! Spreading through me! Unbearable! To be perfectly honest, I’m dead.
Truffaldino freezes. The Green Bird flutters its wings. Tortalatta and Brighella rush in.
Tortalatta: They’ve eluded us. What’s this? A Green Bird?
Brighella: My prophetic vision!
Tortalatta: The Green Bird! It’s the Green Bird!
Brighella: The agent of your doom.
Tortalatta: What a tragedy. Imagine the grief. Who could survive the calamity of my demise?
Brighella: Definitely not you.
Tortalatta: And our love bereft of fruition? No, let’s chop its head off and then we shall fully taste our joy—
Brighella: Oh my fetid blossom-dearie, what bliss awaits!
They move through the Labyrinth, then lunge at the Green Bird.
Tortalatta: Death!
They grab it, then recoil, in spasms.
Both: Ahhh! The pain! Spreading! Unbearable! (pointing to each other) Fool!
They freeze. Pantalone, Scriven, Tartaglia and Cops enter, bedraggled.
Pantalone: Where are we? How did we get here?
Tartaglia: In the black chambers of our hearts. In our own putrid dreams. In hell.
Pantalone: That’s very depressing.
Scriven: We might say it’s the darkness before the dawn. Or it gets worse before it gets better, so we seem to be making progress.
Tartaglia: No hope.
Green Bird: Hope.
All startle, seeing the Green Bird.
Tartaglia: No! Kill it!
Pantalone: No! Save it!
All converge on the Green Bird, grab it, recoil in an orgy of contortions.
All: (in unison) Ahhh! The pain! Unbearable! Urkk!
All freeze. The Green Bird flutters its wings. Barberina and Smeraldina enter, exhausted, supporting each other.
Barberina: It’s the Green Bird. He’s trapped. Why is he trapped? Oh Smeraldina, I’m afraid for Renzo.
Smeraldina: Let’s not panic.
Barberina: Why did I ask him to go? Pure greed. He’s dead. I killed him.
She collapses. Smeraldina drags her up.
Smeraldina: You already collapsed once. It’s not funny twice. Oh my poor girl. My poor boy. My poor husband. My poor me.
Barberina: Smeraldina, leave me here. I deserve your hatred. You saved me from drowning, you raised me, you tried to teach me love. And I ridiculed you. Now it’s too late. I loathe myself.
Smeraldina: Don’t be so self-centered. There’s lots of stuff in this world to loathe besides yourself.
Barberina: Our old life seems so precious now. Rags, cold rooms, bare table, but warm in the arms of our loving family.
Smeraldina: Well I don’t remember it quite like that.
Barberina sees Renzo, cries out.
Barberina: He’s there.
Smeraldina: Oh dear. Poor baby. Listen, sweetie, you weren’t the cause of his death. His own pride, and all the stupid things my husband did, that pathetic excuse for a daddy, if I had him here right now—
She grabs the frozen Truffaldino, then realizes.
Ahhh! He’s a stiff!
Smeraldina and Barberina fall into each other’s arms, weeping.
Green Bird: Hope.
Smeraldina: Huh?
Barberina: He said hope. What hope? I’d risk anything to bring Renzo back to life.
Smeraldina: Me too. If only my husband could resurrect. Somewhat improved.
Barberina: (seeing the others) It’s the King, and his court. Our whole country frozen in stone. What hope is there left?
Green Bird: Truth.
Barberina: What truth? There’s only the wind.
Sees Pompea holding scroll.
And this scroll.
With trepidation Barberina takes the scroll and reads.
“Hope is in fetters, love imprisoned, truth in chains. To touch the Green Bird brings death or life. Embrace him.”
She looks toward the Green Bird. Smeraldina reads from the scroll:
Smeraldina: Wait! There’s instructions. “Ancient formula: Approach, backward in circles, to within 3.26 meters divided by the square root of pi to the fourteenth decimal, cubed. Recite the state capitals in alphabetical order while not thinking of a polar bear with polka dots. Belch in waltz time. Inhale while shouting. Then before the Green Bird can speak, take the words right out of its mouth.” Who writes this stuff? “Otherwise, death.”
Barberina: It’s impossible.
Smeraldina: Well hon, everything’s impossible in this screwed-up world—life, love, motherhood—but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Ok, if you can’t, then here goes. (consulting the scroll) Let’s see.
She makes an earnest, bizarre attempt to follow the directions: waltzing backward, spinning, measuring, singing, mumbling.
I think I’m catching on.
At last she touches the Green Bird, recoils.
Ahhh! Oh the pain! Ouch! You’re right, hon, it’s impossible.
She freezes. The Green Bird slowly flutters its wings.
Barberina: What are you? Why do you look at me?
Green Bird: Love.
Barberina: She loved. She loved my brother and me, even if we didn’t deserve it. I love her. I love my brother. I love . . . the Green Bird. I have to try.
She picks up the scroll, tries to comprehend it, then throws it down.
No, no formula, no instructions, no recipe. Only love brings this world alive. Love has to be unafraid. Taking the path it takes. Flowing like water.
She covers her eyes, walks blindly to the Green Bird. They embrace, his wings enfolding her. At last he speaks in a human voice.
Green Bird: You free me, and all are free. Take a feather. Touch them.
She plucks a feather, touches the others: first Renzo, then Smeraldina, then Truffaldino. They wake.
Renzo: My sister. You bring me to life.
Smeraldina: You did it. Oh sweetie, you did it.
Truffaldino: I’m awake. It’s a blur. No hangover.
Renzo: Did we dream it? Revived by a feather?
Barberina: Of love.
Renzo: Love.
Smeraldina: Love.
Truffaldino: Yeh. You look a lot better to me after being dead a while.
Barberina: Another.
She touches Pompea, who comes to life. Renzo rushes into her arms. Barberina touches the others, who animate.
Pantalone: No, that’s off the record, no comment on that. . .
Brighella: Dark journeys to forbidden shores. . .
Tortalatta: I need to see my chiropractor.
Tartaglia sees Renzo and Pompea embracing, cries out:
Tartaglia: Ahhh! Sweetness and joy, while I suffer the torments of hell. I wake again to my t— t— t— t—
Pantalone: Torment?
Tartaglia: Misery!
Tortalatta: Oh my darling boy, we’ll go home now and make you some nice hot soup, and you’ll feel a lot better as soon as we kill that horrible little girl who makes you so sad.
Pantalone: Oh Your Highness, I must tell you now—
Brighella: Avaunt! I see devils spring out from his mouth!
Tortalatta: He sees devils!
Pantalone: But this girl is in fact your—
Brighella: More devils!
Tortalatta: Stifle the devils!
Cops put a bag over Pantalone’s head.
We must restore order to the kingdom. No seductive young hussies. No Green Birds. Now my dear, prepare to die like a lady.
Brighella: May divine retribution fall upon—
Green Bird: Upon those with evil hearts.
A sweep of his wings flattens everyone.
True love frees me from my spell. Now truth will be told.
He gestures for the Cops to remove the bag from Pantalone’s head. They do so.
Pantalone: —your daughter. And this boy is your son! They are not puppies, as you can see. They are your children as I have been trying to tell you but people today have a very short attention span.
Tortalatta: Bag him!
They do.
Tartaglia: Free him!
They do.
Green Bird: Foolish king. These are your twins, and the girl grieves your heart because she resembles her mother, Ninetta, whose death you approved. Did you love her?
Tartaglia: It seems so far away. My mind was on nothing but war.
Green Bird: And now?
Tartaglia: I love her.
Green Bird: Then she lives.
Ninetta appears, in a daze.
Ninetta: Who saved me? Who freed me from that loathsome pit and brought me out to see the stars again?
Green Bird: Your husband’s love.
Tartaglia: You’re alive? You’re not dead? You two? You’re my children? You’re not puppies? I’m dizzy. It’s all a blur.
They approach one another slowly, at last touching hands. Thunder. Serpentina appears, wrathful.
Serpentina: You have robbed me. And so I bring you gifts. I bring you cold—
All shiver with cold.
And wind—
All are blown about in a whirlwind.
And tremors—
All shake with a violent earthquake.
And fire—
Green Bird: Stop.
All stop.
She has been wronged by human greed. She asks only her Apples That Sing, her Waters That Dance. Who can restore them?
All look at Truffaldino.
Truffaldino: Oh. Yeh. I just picked up this stuff, I thought it might get lost, or maybe some jerk might steal it cause you could probably get a pretty good price for it, in fact maybe I wouldn’t mind a little reward for myself, in fact, but glad to oblige, those are great watery waters, very artistic, nice apples. . .
He gives the items to Serpentina, then creeps back to Smeraldina and faints dead away. Serpentina disappears.
Green Bird: Tartaglia, do you know me now? I am King of Barangastan. Eighteen years ago I disappeared. I was in love, I lost my love, trapped in my own heart’s catacombs, the Ogre’s Labyrinth. You made war to conquer my kingdom, destroyed it, and with it, yourself. I flew free on the wings of hope, then back to my chains.
Turning to Barberina:
Until you touched me. Now my flight is done. I’m free. Will you be my queen?
Barberina takes his hand. Tartaglia comes to the Green Bird, kneels.
Tartaglia: Take this crown.
Green Bird: I take your hand. And the hand of your daughter.
Tortalatta: (enraged, to Tartaglia) You disgusting ninny. You’re worse now than when you were miserable. Giving your kingdom to this . . . pigeon! You’ll be happy when I say so and not before!
Brighella: My sugary scarecrow, better if we quietly faded into the background and let things take their—
Tortalatta: Never! This is the Ogre’s Labyrinth. Well then, let’s call the Ogre. Oh horrific Ogre, whoever you are, unleash your wrath upon these pathetic fools of love!
All: (ad lib, rushing about) The Ogre. . . The Ogre is coming. . . The Ogre. . .
Sudden flash. The Ogre stands up: it’s Gozzi. All freeze in terror. He turns to us.
Gozzi: Writing is a miserable life. Well yes, it’s me of course. I cast the spells and I plotted the plots. I stuck her in a dungeon and floated the kids down the river. I turned him into a bird—hope is a thing with feathers, some poet said. I put together this agony to entertain the masses. So it all works out. Let’s celebrate— No, I forgot. We have to punish evil. Poetic justice, since there’s not much left of the real thing in this world. You—
Turning to Tortalatta:
You’re evil. Amusing, but evil.
Tortalatta weeps.
And your lover boy, as a character, is inadequately developed.
Brighella weeps.
So I’m turning you into monkeys.
Jots a line in his notebook. They become monkeys.
Too easy. Turtles!
Crosses it out, jots another line. They become turtles.
Finding the right ending is never easy—
Tartaglia: I ask mercy. Poetic justice, poetic mercy.
Gozzi: Well then. Let them become. . . I have it. Small children. In hopes they’ll grow up better.
Tortalatta and Brighella become small children. They see each other.
Tortalatta: My name’s Tutu.
Brighella: Brig.
Tortalatta: You wanna play?
Brighella: Sure.
Tortalatta: You be the daddy. I’ll be the mommy. We’ll have puppies.
Gozzi: Time to dance.
Music. All dance. Beggar circulates with his paper cup. Tortalatta and Brighella play with puppy dolls. The whole cast freezes, looking at them. The dolls kiss.