Excerpts from Love's Fools (The Green Bird)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.