Blesok no. 27, July-August, 2002
A dream-play with a Shooting at the Alphabet in 15 Scenes
MAKSIM BRODSKI, a son and an actor in the People's Theatre, and a prisoner of his own language
AVRAM, a father and a ghost, a teacher and an enemy of people, shot right before the letter R
ARNA, a mother
KATERINA, Brodski's wife, an archaeologist
AVRAM THE SON, the son's son
JANA, the son's daughter
NAUM, a martyr of Christ, Brodski's brother
SERAFIM PRODANSKI, a professional revolutionary, retired
SLOBODANKA PRODANSKA, his wife
MARGARITA VETEROVA, an actress, Brodski's lover
DIRECTOR OF THE PEOPLE'S THEATRE
MARIA MALON, the hostess of the “Actor of Europe” festival
Guests in the play:
ALEXANDER PETRAZHITSKY, an actor in the MHAT, Moscow
ATTILA REMENYK, an actor in the HNT, Budapest
HAROLD MILTON, an actor in the Old Vic Theatre, London
PATRICK LAURIE, an actor in the TNP, Paris
BOGDAN KAMIENSKI, an actor in the Teatr Dramatyczny, Warsaw
STEFAN MüLLER, an actor in Schaübuhne am Halleschen üfer, West Berlin
I. Midnight. The People's Theatre. Empty stage.
MAKSIM BRODSKI (Alone, with a plastic white rope, Robespierre's wig, a black garbage bag, a bottle of red wine, and bread wrapped in paper. Rehearses.):
”What is happening here, citizens!? Blood should be flowing everywhere!!! We were waiting only for the cry of discontent to ring out from all sides before we speak. (He puts the wig on, unwraps the bread.) We may well ask: have the people been robbed?” (Exasperated with his interpretation of the text, he goes back. He eats.) This won't do, you idiot. It has to come from inside!!! (He begins again.) …“when we see the people's lawmakers display all the vices and luxuries of former courtiers, when we see these marquises and barons of the Revolution marrying rich wives, giving sumptuous banquets, gambling, keeping servants and wearing expensive clothes…” (He drinks.) Stop it!!! Nothing!!!
(The night shift fireman of the People's Theatre enters in a spotlessly clean uniform.)
THE FIREMAN: Brodski, put out that cigarette right this moment…
MAKSIM BRODSKI: Get out of my sight! I'll kill you! Right now! Get going, fast!!!
THE FIREMAN (exits): That's fine. You just wait.
MAKSIM BRODSKI: No, I can't. And I won't go. (He gathers up the props.) I'm not going! And besides what kind of language is this I'm speaking!? “What's happening here, citizens!?” Nothing. They'll kill me over there with their languages. It's one thing to be able to say: “Was passirt hier, Burger!? Citoyens, qu'est-ce qu'il se passe ici? Chto zdes praiskhodit, grazhdane… And what do you say? “What is happening here?” (He imitates himself.) What a shithead!… Nothing! Not a damn thing is happening here. I can't go on. (He picks up the play. Dejected and hopelessly serious, he begins to rehearse again.) “What is happening here, citizens!? Blood should be flowing everywhere!!!” (He opens the book.) What is…
(Behind him appear six men dressed like Robespierre. They imitate his movements and pronounce with him the same sentence in their own languages.)
Hey, wait a minute, I'm not… How did you get here? Wait a minute.
Hugo, Hamlet, wait. Bencio, wait. Creon, Stavrogin, Vladimir… wait… (He smokes.)
THE FIREMAN (comes in again): Maksim Brodski, if you don't put out that cigarette…?!!
MAKSIM BRODSKI (He picks up the bottle and acts as if he is going to throw it.): Get out of here!!!
(The Fireman exits.)
MAKSIM BRODSKI: This can't go on like this. There's no way. So die here. Rot. You're not going anywhere!!! Rot here, you scumbag!!! (He gathers up the props and starts to walk off stage.)
(The ghost of Avram comes to meet him.)
MAKSIM BRODSKI: Who are you?
MAKSIM BRODSKI: Who the hell are you?
MAKSIM BRODSKI: Why don't you say something? What's going on here? Why am I being followed? Who is trying to control me? What are you doing here? Who sent you? And they say there's freedom in this country? Can't you see I'm alone and I'm not doing anything, I'm practising my Robespierre… What are you staring at? There's nothing here to see… And who are you anyway? Who are you working for?
MAKSIM BRODSKI: Who's letting these strangers into my rehearsal? Come on out now, Comrade Fireman, our member of the working class. Come on out and tell me…
(The ghost of Avram disappears.)
THE FIREMAN: You'll see who you're dealing with! You'll never step on this stage again in your…
MAKSIM BRODSKI: Who told you to let him in?
THE FIREMAN: Let who in?
MAKSIM BRODSKI: This one here…! (He points with his finger.)
(The ghost is not there.)
THE FIREMAN: Enough of your stories! You should be ashamed! You'll burn our theatre down and then I'll have to answer for that!
MAKSIM BRODSKI: Shut up!!! Get out!!! Don't you see I'm rehearsing?! … I'm sorry… (He approaches him.) I can't do it. See, I can't… I'm alone and I'm not alone… Come here for a second… give me your finger (Brodski takes his right hand index finger. He puts the cigarette out.) Take a good look! Am I many people at the same time or am I alone? Just look.
(He picks up the book. The six Robespierres imitate his movements.)
”What is happening here, citizens? Blood should be flowing everywhere…”
THE FIREMAN (with his finger under his eye): There are many behind you, just like you… (The Fireman removes his finger from under his eye.)
(The Robespierres disappear.)
MAKSIM BRODSKI: Now you see… I'm alone and I'm not alone…
THE FIREMAN: I've had enough of your kind. There's no end to your…
MAKSIM BRODSKI (He hands him the bottle of wine.): Have a drink…!
THE FIREMAN: No, no, I'm fine. (He drinks.)
MAKSIM BRODSKI (He gathers up the props.): I'm leaving right away, I have to go! Immediately! And I'm sorry that I…
THE FIREMAN: That's OK. That's OK… But don't do it again.
MAKSIM BRODSKI: Good-bye!
II. A skeleton in the kitchen.
AVRAM THE SON: Whose skeleton is this?
KATERINA (She is cooking dinner.): It's your father's.
AVRAM THE SON: You mean your husband's!
KATERINA: As far as I know my husband is your father!
AVRAM THE SON: Are you sure about that?
KATERINA: Unfortunately, I have undeniable evidence!
AVRAM THE SON: If you say you have undeniable evidence, why the hell are you dragging home dead replicas of your living husband? Get him out of my sight!
KATERINA: What did you say?
AVRAM THE SON: Exactly what I said!!! Everything smells here, it stinks of the past! You've been digging out ancient skeletons while your living husband has been “artistically engaged,” reciting monologues about the “glorious” French revolution in the streets like a fool…
KATERINA: And what would you want us to do? Sell bananas from third world countries?
AVRAM THE SON: I want you to understand the times you're living in!
KATERINA: You can see what kind of times we're living in. Here I am making dinner for tomorrow and at the same time I'm determining the age of a skeleton from the sixth century BC. From the 29 skeletons brought back from the dig only one offers (she is peeling an onion) the possibility for determining its age according to the length of the thigh bone and the well-preserved skull… Do you understand?
AVRAM THE SON: Don't get so excited. You see, now you've burnt the oil!
KATERINA: What do you mean don't get excited? … What am I supposed to write?.. What kind of scientific conclusions can I possibly draw? How am I going to determine its age… infants, juveniles, adultus, maturus, senilis… Tell me how??? Its lower jaw is only partially preserved… (She stirs the onion in the frying pan.) Do you understand now?
AVRAM THE SON: Yes, I do. Even your cooking stinks of history, of skulls and rotten bones… That's what I understand… I have to live history, eat history, and then puke history, isn't that right?
KATERINA: Do something against history, if you can?
AVRAM THE SON: I don't have any money!
KATERINA: What do you need money for?
AVRAM THE SON: To get some explosives!!!
KATERINA: And then what!?
AVRAM THE SON: And then, we'll see! The important thing is that this present has to be blown up, destroyed…
KATERINA: Go to the toilet, honey, and unload yourself there…
AVRAM THE SON: You just wait and see where I'll go! I'll…
KATERINA: And show some respect. You're in the presence of a man from the sixth century BC.
AVRAM THE SON: I'd like to live for only one day without history, without violence, without coercion, and then I'd like to die in order to remind you that you created me… hopefully, out of love!!! Good-bye! (He exits.)
KATERINA: Wait a minute, son… (stirring the food) … Wait! Where are you off to now?
JANA (She is doing her homework. She hasn't noticed the family argument.): Mom, what's the date of our country's liberation?
KATERINA (She walks toward her.): I don't know, Jana. I don't know anything. I'd have to check…!
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