By Alejandro Ricaño
Translated by Daniel Jáquez
Volume 5, Issue 4 (Fall 2015)
Alejandro Ricaño Rodríguez, born in Xalapa, Veracruz, México in 1983, is a prolific writer, garnering a lot of well deserved attention and recognition in Mexico and around the world. I first encountered his work while reading play submissions for the Lark Play Development Center’s US/Mexico Playwright Exchange program in 2011. For me, it was an immediate stand out amongst all applicants — and we had a very powerful group that year.
Ricaño belongs to the generation of writers – not only in Mexico but in all of Latin America – considered to be the cohort that brought the word back to the center of the drama on the stage. These are theatre makers who write, direct and act in their own creations. They are very aware of theatre that is truthful and reflects the same preoccupation with social justice and meaning that the great writers of the sixties and seventies had. They have, however, also adopted the aesthetics, techniques and physicality of other theatrical forms prevalent in the last three decades in Latin America. These productions tended to be director/producer-driven like dance theatre, image theatre, visual theatre and performance art. This new writing is muscular and inventive and generates theatre with authorship transferred back to the playwright, to the words.
Pork Kidneys to Soothe Despair is one of Ricaño’s earliest works, from a period during which he focused on the great literary figures that influenced him, that he admired. He wrote fictional stories embedded with actual facts about them, and placed his characters and his own life concerns in the middle of these imagined histories, either searching for fame or for young, torturous love or forgiveness.
The first of his plays to be produced professionally and published was Un torso, mierda y el secreto del carnicero (A Torso, Shit and the Butcher’s Secret). It is a work inspired by Alfred Jarry’s life and success. Jarry, who was famous for being famous at such a young age, intrigued the 19-year-old Ricaño. The play was a critical success.
Samuel Beckett was another inspiration for Ricaño. Elements of Beckett’s life were used to create Pork Kidneys to Soothe Despair (or, Riñon de cerdo para el desconsuelo). The blurb I used to describe the play in my workshop was the following, “A dark comedy. Paris 1940s. Fact and fiction intertwine to tell a story of complicated love, artistic obsession and murder. Gustave, a fan of Joyce’s Ulysses, is an unsuccessful writer; Marie is undeniably in love with him. Together they stalk Beckett to protect him and ensure his masterpiece is completed.”
History and fiction are so perfectly entwined in the play that it is difficult to know where one ends and the other begins. It is a thoughtful examination on the failure and frustration of the unsuccessful artist and the difficult amorous relationships he encounters.
This play, which I found to be a very moving love story, is, according to Ricaño, an apology letter to his then girlfriend for having subjected her to life with a brooding, struggling writer. Fortunately for him, this lasted only a couple of years. (Nothing compared with the decades of struggle a lot us theatre artists endure.)
I loved the play upon reading it. The language and the many plot turns, the intense and poignant moments all made me eager to dive into that world. The play spoke to my sensibilities as a stage director and a theatre maker. I saw the potential for high theatricality and beauty. Every time I think about Gustave and Marie’s predicaments, I am reminded of how fortunate I am as an artist, and I count my blessings. There is, however, something delicious about tortured, dysfunctional relationships on stage that attracts me. Siempre hay un roto para un descosido, which means there is always someone tattered for someone unraveled, that’s Gustave and Marie. I also wanted to showcase the dramaturgy from my country and point out that contemporary Mexican playwriting went far beyond the traditional; it is exciting, moving, piercing.
Working on this text was a joy and quite a challenge. The dialog is brisk, but the structure was a bit perplexing at first: narration, dialog within narration, dialog, flash backs, etc. Also, quotidian language is interwoven with certain words and idioms intended to create grammatically awkward, albeit correct, sentences, and, of course, the occasional invented word. In Spanish, this provides the listener with a sensation of time and place and gives a weight to the words that is integral to the characters themselves. So, the challenge was to make sure I preserved the character’s voice and the tone of the piece without sounding as if I’d made poor translation choices or had used language that would bring attention to itself instead of to the character’s actions.
Enjoy Pork Kidneys to Soothe Despair!
Alejandro Ricaño (Xalapa, Veracruz, México, 1983) has a degree in Theatre from the Universidad Veracruzana, where he is currently a professor of playwriting. He is a candidate to receive his Masters Degree in Mexican Literature at the University’s Center for Linguistic-Literature Research. He was a finalist in 2005 and 2008 for the National Playwriting Prize: Gerardo Mancebo del Castillo for his plays Un torso, mierda y el secreto del carnicero, and Riñón de cerdo para el desconsuelo, respectively. In 2009, his play Timboctou received honorable mention from INBA’s National Playwriting Prize. In 2008, he received National Playwriting Prize: Emilio Carballido for his play Más pequeños que el Guggenheim. He won, in 2009, the National Playwriting Prize: Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda for his play Fractales. In 2011, his play El amor de las luciérnagas was awarded INBA’s National Playwriting Prize. He was awarded grants from the Fund for Arts and Culture of the State of Veracruz (2005, 2008); from FONCA’s Young Creators program (2006, 2009); from the Antonio Gala Foundation in Spain (2007); from the Lark Play Development Center in New York (2011); and currently, from Mexico’s National Council on Science and Technology. His work has been seen in several festivals across Mexico as well as in Spain, Hungary, Belgium, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Peru and Buenos Aires. He is the Artistic Director of the theater company Los Guggenheim. Contact: Alejandroricano@hotmail.com
Daniel Jáquez (www.danieljaquez.com) is a NY based freelance director and translator, an Associate Artist at The Miracle Theatre in Portland, Oregon an advisor to Teatro V!da in Springfield, MA as well as an Advisory Board member for The Lark’s US/Mexico Word Exchange. From 2003 to 2006 he was Director-Producer of INTAR Theatre’s NewWorks Lab and he is the co-founder of Calpulli Mexican Dance Theatre in Queens, NY and from 2003 to 2011 was its Artistic Director and choreographer.
His recent translations into English include plays by award winning Mexican playwrights David Olguín, Alejandro Ricaño and Luis Ayhllón. He has served as panelist and/or committee member for the Latina/o Theatre Commons, NEA, TCG, New Dramatists, NYSCA, CUNY, etc. His teaching experience includes: Adjunct Professor at Manhattanville College, Teaching Fellow at Harvard University, Guest Artist/Teacher at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College and many community workshops in dance and theatre.
In 2000 he earned an MFA in Directing from the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater Institute at Harvard University. He is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, of The Latina/o Theatre Commons Steering Committee, of Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab and of NoPassport: a Pan-American theatre coalition.
Daniel grew up in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and studied Actuarial Science at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the University of Texas and was a member of the Society of Actuaries. Contact: Daniel@danieljaquez.com
Note: This translation was commissioned and developed at The Lark Play Development Center, New York City, as part of their 2011 U.S./Mexico Playwright Exchange Program, sponsored by The Lark and the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA.) It was performed as a staged reading directed by Olga Sanchez with Hugh Sinclair and Monica Risi. Additional support for this translation was provided by the Robert Sterling Brown Foundation; the Miracle Theatre in Portland, OR; Halcyon Theatre and The Goodman Theatre in Chicago, IL.
PORK KIDNEYS TO SOOTHE DESPAIR
MARIE: His arm hung down from the cot to the floor above a small pool of dry bile. He had cut off his hand. Above the bile, swayed a bandaged stump.
GUSTAVE: The fucking Irishman, Marie… Is he well?
MARIE: Heavy-heartedly he put his face between the cell bars and repeated in a weak voice…
GUSTAVE: I’m asking you if he is well.
MARIE: The play is opening, Gustave.
Paris, 1939. Third floor of an apartment building in Montmartre. Gustave and Marie stare at a small tree in the middle of the living room.
MARIE: It’s a pitiful-looking tree.
GUSTAVE: At present. With time, Marie, it will turn into a willow with branches sturdy enough to hang us from.
MARIE: You bought a tree to hang us from?
GUSTAVE: You never know. (Pause.) Get pork kidneys for breakfast.
MARIE: Pork kidneys?
GUSTAVE: A loaf of bread and tea. It will be our way of celebrating Ulysses.
MARIE: Is he coming?
GUSTAVE: Good God, Marie!
MARIE: I just want to know if he’s coming.
GUSTAVE: Get your ass straight to the butcher!
MARIE: I was kidding, you think I’m stupid?
MARIE: You believe that I’m stupid.
GUSTAVE: With all my heart.
MARIE: But I do know who Ulysses is.
GUSTAVE: Stupid nonetheless.
MARIE: Let’s embrace.
MARIE: To commemorate Ulysses.
MARIE: Shall we kiss?
GUSTAVE: Shit, Marie!
MARIE: (Apologetically.) I thought it fitting. (Silence.) I was thinking, Gustave; if you try, you could love me.
GUSTAVE: If I tried.
MARIE: Do you love me?
MARIE: Not even a little?
GUSTAVE: On occasion I feel pity for you.
MARIE: That’s something.
GUSTAVE: It’s pity!
MARIE: And if I were cross-eyed?
GUSTAVE: Don’t say that!
MARIE: Sorry. (Silence.) I saw her with someone.
GUSTAVE: I know.
MARIE: An Irishman.
GUSTAVE: A common Irishman! Did they seem happy?
MARIE: She did.
GUSTAVE: She was pretending! And he?
MARIE: He appeared indifferent.
GUSTAVE: He was pretending.
MARIE: They were at the University. Not that I was there by chance…
GUSTAVE: I know.
MARIE: I wanted to ask if you could still…
GUSTAVE: It was not necessary…
MARIE: Because your poems were…
GUSTAVE: Shit. Yes! I entered the contest.
MARIE: Weren’t you against it?
MARIE: Because “contests are for weak writers…”
GUSTAVE: … One cannot fall so low.
MARIE: … and?
GUSTAVE: Did he submit?
MARIE: The Irishman?
GUSTAVE: You said he was there.
MARIE: Adding his poems to the stack.
GUSTAVE: A useless endeavor. What did you do?
MARIE: I followed them.
MARIE: Rather blatantly, I’d say. They went into the Joyce’s house.
GUSTAVE: Where no one could see them?! You did nothing?
MARIE: Nothing, like what?
GUSTAVE: Make a fuss, you good-for-nothing. Anything, to stop it!
GUSTAVE: Soiled by the Irish pig! We are fucked, Marie.
MARIE: Absolutely fucked, he kept repeating all day. But the following morning we learned that the Irishman…
GUSTAVE: … rejected her, Marie.
MARIE: And that her brain had shriveled up, her wits were gone and she was stiff as a board.
GUSTAVE: Catatonic, Marie!
MARIE: She’s so melodramatic.
GUSTAVE: They promised her off.
MARIE: How inconsiderate. While she was…catatonic?
MARIE: They forced the Irishman?
GUSTAVE: The brother-in-law of somebody’s brother-in-law.
MARIE: How much did they pay him?
GUSTAVE: He did it freely, Marie, until Lúcia lost her sanity. Then he broke off the engagement.
MARIE: He would’ve stuck around for a couple of francs.
GUSTAVE: It’s Samuel’s fault. Fucking, petulant Irishman!
MARIE: You said you noticed something strange in her gaze…
GUSTAVE: Fucking Protestant!
MARIE: … in addition to being cross-eyed,…
GUSTAVE: I am going to slit his throat, Marie!
MARIE: … something to worry about.
GUSTAVE: Prepare the pork kidney.
MARIE: Pork kidney?
GUSTAVE: It was our way of commemorating, now it will be our way of grieving.
MARIE: I am not grieving anything.
GUSTAVE: When the butter begins to sizzle…
MARIE: I’m not grieving anything!
GUSTAVE: Fine, then prepare it and watch me enjoy it!
MARIE: Heartless piece of…
GUSTAVE: … shit? Change the frosting at least, Marie. Repetition makes it meaningless.
MARIE: I’m leaving, Gustave!
GUSTAVE: Far away?
MARIE: To my room.
GUSTAVE: I can’t sleep, Marie, the coughing fits don’t let me.
MARIE: Did you take the codeine?
GUSTAVE: It ran out.
MARIE: I’ll go get some more.
GUSTAVE: It’s ridiculous, Marie. All this… business. You love me, I love Lúcia, Lúcia loves the common Irishman and the common Irishman has his heart up his ass. We should learn to love what we have. You, for example, Marie, are my consolation-prize whore. Do you like the title?
GUSTAVE: It is better than contempt. Show some gratitude.
MARIE: Did you drink what was left in the bottle?
GUSTAVE: I want you to leave.
MARIE: Where to?
GUSTAVE: I don’t care.
GUSTAVE: I am not going to allow you to continue living here at my expense.
MARIE: It’s fine.
(Pause. She gets ready to leave.)
GUSTAVE: Are you not going to beg?
MARIE: What for?
GUSTAVE: For my permission to stay.
MARIE: You want me to beg?
GUSTAVE: Don’t ask me that! It has to come from within you.
GUSTAVE: Yes, Marie.
MARIE: Can I stay?
GUSTAVE: Try a little harder.
MARIE: Please, allow me to stay.
GUSTAVE: Shit, Marie!
MARIE: I beg you, Gustave, I’ll be miserable without you. Allow me to stay!
GUSTAVE: No. Get out!
MARIE: Heartless piece of shit.
GUSTAVE: Ungrateful whore!
MARIE: I’m leaving.
MARIE: Do you want me to stay?
GUSTAVE: Under no circumstance!
MARIE: Do you want me to leave?!
GUSTAVE: No! Yes! It’s all the same! Shit, fuck, shit! You are hideous; you evil careless instigator, you shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up…! (Loses his breath, kneels down covering his face. Cries. She does not understand. She kneels in front of him and embraces him.) I didn’t win, Marie.
MARIE: It’s all right.
GUSTAVE: No, it’s not all right. I worked hard on those poems.
MARIE: Maybe it wasn’t fair.
GUSTAVE: It was.
MARIE: You know the winner?
MARIE: Do I know him?
GUSTAVE: Think, Marie, for a change.
GUSTAVE: That rusty nail ensconced between my shoulder blades.
MARIE: Your play will have much better luck.
GUSTAVE: It requires some polishing.
MARIE: A title.
GUSTAVE: The beginning is lax, the characters weak and I still have no ending.
GUSTAVE: And it needs a title, yes.
MARIE: That’s more than what the Irishman can accomplish.
GUSTAVE: Do you think the Irishman…
MARIE: …writes plays?
GUSTAVE: And if he…
MARIE: I don’t think that…
GUSTAVE: Let me finish!
MARIE: Go on.
GUSTAVE: What was I saying?
MARIE: Nothing in particular.
GUSTAVE: The Irishman!
MARIE: If he wrote plays.
GUSTAVE: With his ass.
MARIE: Must be painful.
GUSTAVE: I mean he writes badly. The Irishman is a solitary man, solitary men don’t write plays, they write poems. The theater requires the capacity to… dialog.
MARIE: How about monologues?
GUSTAVE: Monologues are not theater!
MARIE: So you think that…
GUSTAVE: The barbarian bard is incapable of writing a scene!
MARIE: He cannot screw with us when it comes to that!
GUSTAVE: You’re right, Marie, there’s no reason to give up.
MARIE: Not in the least.
GUSTAVE: Hand to pen!
MARIE: Feet to street!
(He writes. She prepares to leave.)
GUSTAVE: Say something.
MARIE: Something like what?
GUSTAVE: Anything. Something spontaneous.
MARIE: Fine. (She thinks.)
GUSTAVE: Whatever comes to mind!
MARIE: Nothing comes to mind.
MARIE: I’m drawing a blank!
GUSTAVE: Shit, Marie!
MARIE: Give me some direction!
GUSTAVE: The door, you useless piece of trash!
MARIE: I am stupid, Gustave, not the ideal muse.
MARIE: I would not inspire a pig to defecate.
GUSAVE: Not even if its sphincter were torn! For heavens sake, Marie, what made you think you were my muse?
MARIE: I’m not?
GUSTAVE: The door, you filth!
MARIE: Then I’m her?
GUSTAVE: The woman in my…?
MARIE: There are many similarities, now that I think about it.
GUSTAVE: You identified with a character, it happens all the time.
MARIE: And her name is Marie.
GUSTAVE: I borrowed your name. It’s temporary.
MARIE: I suspect I’m her.
GUSTAVE: I said no!
MARIE: How exciting to be a character.
MARIE: It exceeds the title of muse.
GUSTAVE: Go away, Marie.
MARIE: You were the one who stopped me.
GUSTAVE: Indefinitely. Take your belongings.
MARIE: What belongings?
GUSTAVE: Well, fling your ass onto the street, at once!
MARIE: You need me…
GUSTAVE: Not even as the starting point. Leave.
MARIE: Do you want me to beg?
MARIE: I can beg if that’s what you want.
MARIE: Look how I beg: please, please, please!
A bridge. Dusk.
GUSTAVE: You are incorrigible, Marie! I simply cannot abide you, you push me to insult you; you are ungrateful; a misbehaved cretin whore, and… I am prepared, if you promise to make amends, to accept… your apology.
MARIE: You cannot write?!
GUSTAVE: Volumes, but it tortures me thinking of you being destitute on the street.
MARIE: A wealthy family took me in.
GUSTAVE: On top of it, you lie to protect me. My devoted Marie.
MARIE: I live better now.
GUSTAVE: Don’t say another word, I’ll rescue you from that dishonorable life!
MARIE: I said I’m fine where I am!
GUSTAVE: I implore you, come back to me!
MARIE: You’ve not written a thing.
GUSTAVE: Not one word.
MARIE: I’m her, right?
GUSTAVE: Doesn’t it excite you?
MARIE: It used to.
GUSTAVE: Well, let’s rekindle that excitement.
MARIE: But then I thought, if the character is stupid, it’s because Gustave thinks I’m stupid too.
GUSTAVE: I can lie, if that’s what you want.
MARIE: It’s about our lives, Gustave. All the world will know. And the image you paint of me is truly…
GUSTAVE: And if I change your character’s name?
MARIE: You’d do that for me?
GUSTAVE: I swear.
MARIE: And maybe, also, she could be…
GUSTAVE: Less stupid?
MARIE: A bit lovely.
GUSTAVE: I will give it my best.
MARIE: Beg me a little.
GUSTAVE: Say that again.
MARIE: Implore me to come back.
GUSTAVE: Did your brain shrivel up?
MARIE: Do you want me to come back, or not?
GUSTAVE: I don’t feel it.
MARIE: You don’t feel it?
GUSTAVE: I don’t feel it.
(Silence. They think.)
MARIE: Repeat after me.
GUSTAVE: I repeat after you.
MARIE: Repeat Gustave.
GUSTAVE: Oh, sorry.
MARIE: Is an insensitive son of a bitch.
MARIE: (Insisting.) Is an insensitive son of a bitch…
GUSTAVE: Is an insensitive son of a bitch…
MARIE: And regrets having treated Marie badly…
GUSTAVE: and regrets having treated Marie badly…
MARIE: The admirable…
GUSTAVE: Yes, that.
MARIE: Let’s kiss.
GUSTAVE: … (He doesn’t let her kiss him.)
MARIE: (Apologetically.) I thought it fitting. (Pause.) Shall we go?
GUSTAVE: Let’s go.
GUSTAVE: Well, Marie, I will play myself.
GUSTAVE: Who else?
MARIE: A professional actor.
GUSTAVE: And I should find a director as well, right?
GUSTAVE: Under no circumstances! We, the French write, direct and interpret ourselves.
MARIE: What about that gas company employee?
GUSTAVE: Precisely, that’s all he was, a gas company employee. Take the script. You will play Marie.
MARIE: You said you would change the name.
GUSTAVE: Shit, Marie!
MARIE: You promised.
GUSTAVE: It’s a matter of rhythm. Listen (Looks for an example in the script.) Listen… (Reads.) “You’re an ungrateful whorish pig, Marie!”
GUSTAVE: It’s as clear as day!
GUSTAVE: You couldn’t simply say “You’re an ungrateful whorish pig…”
GUSTAVE: I’m searching for a name.
GUSTAVE: (With great effort.) You’re an ungrateful whorish pig… Felicia! You’re an ungrateful whorish pig (Scornful.) Felicia! (Pause.) You see? Your name is brief. Two syllables, unstressed the first, stressed the last.
MARIE: They will know it’s about me.
GUSTAVE: Nobody will even suspect it.
GUSTAVE: You could have disguised it a little!
MARIE: You gave me the note to be myself. Besides, the name…
GUSTAVE: It’s a common name! All the world is named Marie! What made them assume it was about you?
MARIE: The last name?
GUSTAVE: So, what if it was about you?
MARIE: They thought it humiliating.
GUSTAVE: Humiliating? It was an homage!
MARIE: My character was an idiot!
GUSTAVE: I must capture reality. (Pause.) It’s all Samuel’s fault, Marie.
GUSTAVE: And his poems! (Pause.) I stole a copy of his poems.
MARIE: Well, we’ll give it back.
GUSTAVE: You don’t understand.
MARIE: I’ll take the blame. I’ll say I forced you to take it.
GUSTAVE: The comparison, Marie! It tortures me. I cannot write more than a word without feeling insufficient. I write a little, I revise it, then I take his poems from the drawer to compare, and it’s always insufficient.
MARIE: We will lock the drawer.
GUSTAVE: I should have killed him, Marie.
MARIE: A double lock will be best. Kill him?
GUSTAVE: Lúcia went mad because of him and he’s driving me insane as well!
MARIE: Kill him?
GUSTAVE: With the indifference with which one kills a rat!
GUSTAVE: Here, you will slide this telegram through the mail slot in his door; it says his father died.
MARIE: His father died?
GUSTAVE: It’s a fake telegram, of course.
MARIE: We shouldn’t mess around with those things; it’s bad luck.
GUSTAVE: Don’t be superstitious, Marie. It’s the only way he’ll leave the house.
MARIE: How will you get in?
GUSTAVE: I’ll force the door open.
MARIE: You are too weak, you’ll break your bones.
GUSTAVE: Fine, I’ll wait in the hallway! When he leaves I will thrust a piece of cardboard in the door before he closes it. He will be so distraught; he will not notice my presence.
MARIE: And when he finds out the news is false?
GUSTAVE: He will come back to his house. And I will be there, waiting behind the door. And when he comes in…
MARIE: He would stab him in the back. But, coincidentally, Samuel’s father had died that morning. So he never went back.
GUSTAVE: I waited for him behind the door for hours, holding the knife over my shoulders. Until I fell asleep.
MARIE: He called home from the train station a few minutes before they would have delivered the real telegram. And his mother simply reflected on the efficiency of the Irish General Post Office.
GUSTAVE: I was awakened by the real telegram hitting me on the head. (Silence.) How does a common Irishman live? Cautiously, I walked the narrow hallway that led to his bedroom. In a corner was an arching lamp upon a desk. (Silence.) I wish I’d never crossed that hallway.
MARIE: Drenched in the morning breeze, he returned home. Stood by the door. Then got on his knees and wept. Come in, you’re freezing.
Inside of a tub, pale and trembling, Gustave embraces his knees. Close to him, siting on a stool, Marie pours water on his hair with a saucer.
MARIE: Your clothes were clean.
MARIE: You didn’t have the knife with you.
MARIE: It’s important, Gustave. Do you remember where you left it?
(He cries. She kisses his forehead.)
MARIE: It’s all-right my dear. It’s all-right.
(She wets a sponge and scrubs his back.)
MARIE: Was someone else there?
GUSTAVE: Only Godot.
MARIE: And Samuel?
GUSTAVE: He never came back.
MARIE: So you didn’t kill him?
GUSTAVE: I couldn’t. I would have never forgiven myself.
MARIE: And Godot?
GUSTAVE: There, alone, lit by the only lighted lamp in the room. (Pause.) Left behind on purpose, Marie. He knew that would save him.
MARIE: A… prostitute?
GUSTAVE: A play, Marie. The fucking Irishman also writes plays. He wanted me to know. He left a draft on the table so I could find it. To fuck with my peace of mind forever. (Silence.) And surely I killed his father.
MARIE: After his father’s funeral, Samuel went into hiding for a couple of days in London before returning to Paris. Around that time Gustave left the apartment with a typewriter under his arm.
GUSTAVE: I needed to have Godot with me. I went back to his apartment to transcribe it. I could now read it every single night and sleep in peace. And I could memorize it in the event it got lost.
MARIE: What’s it about?
GUSTAVE: Well, there are…two men. Waiting for someone who never arrives.
MARIE: That’s all?
GUSTAVE: Well, yes, but they’re under a weeping willow, see?
MARIE: A weeping willow?
GUSTAVE: Very desolate, leafless.
MARIE: Waiting for someone?
GUSTAVE: Who never arrives.
GUSTAVE: You’d have to read it, Marie! It’s so… (He leans on his hands.) So… (He can’t find the right word.) Wouldn’t it torment you to suspect that you were waiting for someone that may not arrive?
MARIE: Well, I would stop waiting for them.
GUSTAVE: Shit, Marie, exercise your mind a little!
MARIE: Who waits for someone who will not come? You have to be stupid.
GUSTAVE: It’s a metaphor, Marie! A metaphor of… of… all this! Understand? In the end, if you think a little, life is but waiting.
MARIE: For what?
GUSTAVE: Death, Marie. What else. It’s always a matter of… Shit! Shit!
MARIE: He grabbed his coat and walked out saying: Shit, Shit. Where are you going, I shouted from the window, but he was already halfway down the street, saying…
GUSTAVE: Shit, Shit! The title was unfinished. I went back to his bedroom to make the necessary adjustments.
MARIE: Waiting for Godot?
GUSTAVE: Godot was not enough.
MARIE: He’ll notice the change.
GUSTAVE: He’ll find it satisfying and will stop searching for an explanation. Besides, I emulated his handwriting to a T.
MARIE: He came back this morning.
GUSTAVE: From London?
MARIE: Perhaps right after you left his apartment.
GUSTAVE: Fine. (Pause.) Fine. Nothing to be done, just one more denizen of Paris. We shouldn’t give it much importance.
GUSTAVE: I’m going to sleep.
MARIE: It’s the middle of the day.
GUSTAVE: Well, I’m sleepy in the middle of the day!
MARIE: He didn’t leave his room until midnight, and only then to repeat that it truly wasn’t important that Samuel had come back. Then locked himself up again. (Pause.) Never would we have imagined what would happen at daybreak.
MARIE: Gustave! (Pause.) Wake up, Gustave!
MARIE: They tried to kill him.
MARIE: They stabbed him on a pier on the Seine.
GUSTAVE: Is he dead?
GUSTAVE: Where is he?
MARIE: Nearby, in the hospital with the red flowerpots.
GUSTAVE: Who did it?
MARIE: A drifter.
GUSTAVE: Did they arrest him?
MARIE: I believe so.
GUSTAVE: Believe so?
MARIE: Get dressed, you must go see him.
GUSTAVE: I should’ve been paying attention, Marie. I should’ve predicted something like this would happen.
MARIE: You couldn’t have known.
GUSTAVE: It’s my fault, Marie.
MARIE: It is not.
GUSTAVE: I should have protected him.
MARIE: It wasn’t your responsibility.
GUSTAVE: Shit, shit, shit!
(He slaps his face. She stops him.)
MARIE: Hurry up.
MARIE: Offer him your assistance.
MARIE: But soon after he left, looking out the window, I saw him coming back. He was dragging a bouquet of flowers.
GUSTAVE: Fucking Irish.
MARIE: How is he?
GUSTAVE: He has a punctured lung.
MARIE: Did he accept your help?
GUSTAVE: Mr. Joyce had taken charge. (Pause.) And there was somebody else there. A woman.
MARIE: A nurse?
GUSTAVE: Suzanne. He called her Suzanne, with a certain… fondness.
MARIE: Maybe she’s only a relative.
GUSTAVE: It seems to me they have spent too much time together.
MARIE: She’s attractive.
GUSTAVE: You think so?
GUSTAVE: Perhaps she is, a little, but Lúcia, even with… well, her eyes are… Don’t make me say it!
MARIE: We moved to the fourth floor of a building near Samuel’s home. Suzanne had now moved in with him. We could see them over a pair of rooftops.
GUSTAVE: Did he cough?
MARIE: I don’t know.
GUSTAVE: It’s his lung, Marie. It didn’t heal completely. I think he should go back to the hospital.
GUSTAVE: He coughed again! What do I do, Marie?
GUSTAVE: That woman does nothing but play the piano. (Pause.) What is he doing?
(He takes his hat from the stand and goes to exit.)
MARIE: Where are you going?
GUSTAVE: He went out. (Exits.)
MARIE: He started following him everywhere. Soon after, we moved into their building, the apartment above. When they were not there, Gustave would take the opportunity to drill small holes through their ceiling.
GUSTAVE: (Lying down with one ear on the floor.) Two sneezes more than yesterday! It’s that damn dusty piano, Marie. I’ll go down and clean it tonight.
MARIE: He kept count of his sneezes. The number of trips to the bathroom. The number of…
GUSTAVE: Insatiable whore! Does she want to kill him? Had I not oiled the bed, Marie, I wouldn’t need to press my ear to the floor to hear them.
MARIE: Until one morning when the newspapers carried a report that should have worried us more than Samuel’s well being.
MARIE: I am worried, Gustave.
GUSTAVE: About Sam?
(She hands him a newspaper.)
MARIE: The Germans invaded Poland.
GUSTAVE: What does that have to do with Sam?
MARIE: There will be another war, Gustave. I just know it.
GUSTAVE: What are you talking about?
MARIE: The British will declare war, and then we’ll have to do the same.
GUSTAVE: For heaven’s sake, Marie, stop predicting tragedies! It’s just an inconsequential fact. There will be no war.
MARIE: You promise?
GUSTAVE: On your mother’s grave. How many sneezes this time?
GUSTAVE: Fine. Let’s eat. (Pause.) A war! You are grim, Marie.
GUSTAVE: You read it somewhere!
GUSTAVE: Liar! How could you have predicted there would be war?
GUSTAVE: A feeling! Pshaw.
MARIE: What are we going to do?
GUSTAVE: Stay here. I have a medical waiver because of my myopia. The army will not enlist me.
MARIE: And me?
GUSTAVE: I don’t know, wait for your “intuition.” (Pause.) Samuel left for Ireland, at least I won’t have to worry about him.
MARIE: But a General who was doing who-knows-what in London, called for all French citizens to join the Resistance and continue fighting. Samuel must have heard him.
GUSTAVE: He’s not even French, Marie! Why the devil did he come back?
MARIE: “War has a meaning and a purpose, and all French citizens…”
GUSTAVE: You memorized the speech?
MARIE: Part of it. I thought I would impress you.
GUSTAVE: Yes, Marie, an uplifting speech.
MARIE: Isn’t it?
MARIE: Samuel’s faction was betrayed. He and Suzanne managed to sneak out of their apartment only a few hours before the Gestapo arrived. That evening, we found them lying on a park bench. Gustave pretended not to see them.
MARIE: Was it them?
MARIE: Samuel and Suzanne. In the park.
GUSTAVE: I don’t think so.
MARIE: It’s just that I do believe it was them. I’m sure.
MARIE: We should help them.
GUSTAVE: What do you suggest?
MARIE: I don’t know.
GUSTAVE: Fine, give me your coat.
GUSTAVE: I’m giving them your coat.
GUSTAVE: Then they’ll freeze to death!
MARIE: I was thinking of something else.
MARIE: Invite them to sleep here.
GUSTAVE: They don’t even know us.
MARIE: It would be the perfect occasion for them to meet us.
GUSTAVE: I’d rather give them your coat.
GUSTAVE: Your damn coat!
MARIE: I said no!
GUSTAVE: So heartless!
MARIE: He cooked pork kidney and toasted some bread. With my coat under his arm and a basket of food, he headed to the park at midnight.
GUSTAVE: I felt embarrassed for them. Samuel and Suzanne sleeping on a bench, like two homeless drifters. (Pause.) It would have been heartless not to take them home. (Pause.) But then a miracle occurred. A tear rolled down his cheek and clung to his chin. The filthy Irishman was crying, crammed on a park bench with his woman lying on his lap. (Pause.) I put Marie’s coat on over mine, and sat down to consider his suffering as I enjoyed the kidney right in front of them. When finished, I licked my fingers. (Pause.) I had forgiven him, after all.
MARIE: Gustave returned in a rush that morning. You’re sweating!
GUSTAVE: Like a damn pig!
MARIE: You’re wearing both coats?!
GUSTAVE: They went to the train station, Marie. They’re leaving.
MARIE: Where to?
GUSTAVE: I don’t know. Heading south. I must go with them.
MARIE: (Not satisfied.) Must?
GUSTAVE: Think, Marie. Without my company they’d be completely unprotected.
MARIE: They’ll work it out on their own.
GUSTAVE: Pack my bag. Quickly.
MARIE: Don’t you know what day tomorrow is?
GUSTAVE: Wednesday. No Thursday!
MARIE: My birthday!
GUSTAVE: Good God, Marie, can you stop thinking about yourself for once!
MARIE: I never think about myself! It’s always about you, Samuel, or anybody else. My only concern should be you. And… It’s fine, it doesn’t matter (Pause.) I’m going to pack your suitcase.
GUSTAVE: Leave it!
MARIE: (Excited, hopeful.) You’re staying?
GUSTAVE: I will pack my bag myself. You do enough already.
MARIE: Go to hell!
GUSTAVE: I dragged the suitcase all the way to the station and took the train heading to Bordeaux.
MARIE: I went into the street to follow Gustave, but the fleeing crowds dragged me in another direction. Among the crowd I recognized the Joyces, burdened with suitcases and one catatonic Lúcia, as if she were just another bag. I decided to follow them thinking they would go in the same direction…
GUSTAVE: Upon arrival in Bordeaux, Samuel and Suzanne headed east with another group of French refugees.
MARIE: In Zurich I learned I had strayed a little. They deported me to Ireland, where someone had heard that Samuel was in a small town east of Bordeaux working on a farm with Suzanne.
GUSTAVE: Marie showed up one morning amid the wheat fields, on a mule led by a child.
MARIE: We stayed in a small cabin near the farm that gave sanctuary to Samuel and Suzanne.
GUSTAVE: So, you were in Ireland?
GUSTAVE: They remain neutral?
MARIE: Up to now.
GUSTAVE: Does anybody read Ulysses in Dublin?
GUSTAVE: And the intellectuals?
MARIE: They are interested in a young Czech.
GUSTAVE: A Czech?
MARIE: Kafka. I believe.
GUSTAVE: I have never heard of him.
MARIE: Wrote something about a cockroach.
GUSTAVE: About a…! Well.
MARIE: Mr. Joyce died.
GUSTAVE: In Zurich?
MARIE: He had peritonitis. I’m sorry.
GUSTAVE: Find some pork kidneys.
MARIE: I brought some from Ireland. They’re on the table.
GUSTAVE: Good. Prepare some tea and bread, well-toasted ple/(ase.)
MARIE: They’re next to the kidney.
GUSTAVE: I’m going to sleep.
MARIE: Yes. (Pause.) Yes.
MARIE: Devouring pork kidney, well-toasted bread and plenty of tea, we commemorated Ulysses on the 16th of June those three years we stayed in Rousillon, hidden from war. At night, Gustave would sneak into Samuel’s barn and borrow the play to make small corrections…
GUSTAVE: Bashful or… annoying?
GUSTAVE (Making the correction.): Bash…ful.
MARIE: Then small corrections turned into radical changes.
GUSTAVE: I am incorporating a character, Marie, a boy. He’ll be a kind of messenger.
MARIE: He rewrote the text every night during those three years. He’d secretly take it, then return it before dawn. (Pause.) One night, I remember, I saw him put his name on it. He placed it on the table and stared at it for hours. Then, just before sunrise, he erased his name and changed it back to Samuel’s.
MARIE: Is it a radio?
GUSTAVE: It was in the barn.
MARIE: Does it work?
GUSTAVE: It worked moments ago. The Germans are losing hold.
MARIE: When will all this end?
GUSTAVE: The war?
MARIE: Us and Samuel. When are we going to stop following him?
GUSTAVE: When we finish writing the play.
MARIE: It’s not finished?
GUSTAVE: Needs polishing.
GUSTAVE: Tshhh! (Succeeds in tuning the radio.)
GUSTAVE: Good news, I hope.
LOCUTOR: “…the Allied forces took part in the largest amphibious invasion to date. Close to 152 thousand men crossed the English Channel on board of more than 25 hundred vessels towards the beaches of Normandy which were taken by assault. With this we accomplished that…” (The radio loses signal.)
GUSTAVE: What, what? (Hits radio.) Accomplished what? (Shakes it over his head.) Move away, Marie, you’re causing interference!
MARIE: Then, one morning, just like that, the war ended.
GUSTAVE: The Germans couldn’t stand the snow. We can go back to Paris.
MARIE: Snow? What does that have to do with anything?
GUSTAVE: Samuel and Suzanne are on their way to the train station.
GUSTAVE: I saw them go out an hour ago.
MARIE: I’ve never heard of snow ending a war.
GUSTAVE: The return to Paris was bleak.
MARIE: The Allied forces had occupied the streets of Paris.
GUSTAVE: We walked under the Arc de Triomphe next to a group of German soldiers.
MARIE: They were forced to walk with their arms in the air.
GUSTAVE: You don’t have to raise your arms, Marie!
MARIE: I feel sorry for them!
GUSTAVE: Traitors were tied to posts and executed in public.
MARIE: The women were simply forced to shave their heads and walk in their underwear.
GUSTAVE: What are you doing, Marie?
MARIE: I spit at the traitors!
GUSTAVE: Good God, Marie, that woman has cancer!
MARIE: French flags waved everywhere.
GUSTAVE: And there were many soldiers from the United States riding their tanks through the streets of Paris.
MARIE: It didn’t matter who had liberated us. It was a day of celebration, after all.
Gustave and Marie’s apartment, right above Samuel and Suzanne’s.
GUSTAVE: Marie! He’s in danger!
GUSTAVE: Who else? An American soldier wants to assassinate him.
MARIE: The Americans are gone.
GUSTAVE: Precisely. There is no other reason for him to be here. Germans were expelled, traitors were executed, The Resistance dissolved. I have not seen any other soldiers.
MARIE: He might be on vacation.
GUSTAVE: No, Marie, he’s here to kill him.
MARIE: Why would he want to kill him?
GUSTAVE: I don’t know, literary envy, their playwrights are hopeless.
MARIE: It’s absurd, Gustave.
GUSTAVE: I don’t trust him, Marie.
MARIE: He would spend all day at the window keeping an eye on Samuel’s apartment.
GUSTAVE: It’s him!
GUSTAVE: The American, in the street.
GUSTAVE: Right in front, see him?
GUSTAVE: He’s next to that nurse, Marie!
MARIE: The one with the flowers?
MARIE: He’s handsome.
GUSTAVE: They send the attractive ones to avoid suspicion.
MARIE: You see? He’s leaving.
GUSTAVE: Clearly waiting for a more favorable occasion.
MARIE: We took the bed out of the bedroom and placed it next to the window to keep an eye on Samuel’s apartment. If Gustave managed to fall asleep, he would immediately wake up cursing the American. Finally, after the sixth night, he decided to put an end to the matter.
GUSTAVE: His undone bowtie fluttered over his shoulder. From a deserted bridge at early dawn, the American gazed distractedly at the Seine.
MARIE: He silently stood up and remained standing at the window. Then, he grabbed his hat and left. After a while, I went down to wait for him at the front door of the building.
GUSTAVE: I crossed the bridge, like an ordinary passer-by. Slowly. Imperceptible. When I got by his side, I turned to him. Violently.
MARIE: I could make him out through the fog at the end of the alley. He was running, gripping one hand to his chest.
GUSTAVE: I buried the knife in his back exactly where his lungs should be, thinking this would be enough. Alas, it wasn’t.
MARIE: He stood in front of the door for a while without saying a thing. Come in, I said, you are soaking wet.
GUSTAVE: He fell in the river and swam to the edge, bleeding. I had to jump off the bridge and swim to him.
MARIE: I heated some water for a bath.
GUSTAVE: I covered his mouth pushing until his head was buried in mud.
MARIE: His shirt was soaking, covered in sludge. Sleeves mangled.
GUSTAVE: Marie was waiting at the door of the building.
MARIE: He shivered in the tub as I washed the splattered blood out of his hair.
GUSTAVE: I had to do it, Marie.
MARIE: I know.
GUSTAVE: Samuel was in danger.
MARIE: What happened to your hand?
GUSTAVE: The American took a bite out of it.
GUSTAVE: Shit! What?
MARIE: He was the nurse’s lover!
MARIE: The American. He didn’t want to kill Samuel, he was the nurse’s lover, that’s why he was still here.
GUSTAVE: You are making assumptions.
MARIE: Her husband dismembered her.
GUSTAVE: There was a husband?
MARIE: The butcher. He cut her up, then hung her torso next to the carcasses and started to scream from the entrance “whore meat for sale.”
GUSTAVE: Did he sell any?
MARIE: For heaven’s sake! We all felt sorry for him. When the police arrived, he embraced the torso and started crying like a child. It took an hour to pull him off.
GUSTAVE: Fine. Well, he was the nurse’s lover and wanted to kill Samuel. One thing does not preclude the other.
GUSTAVE: I have not been able to sleep in days, Marie.
MARIE: It’s the coughing fits.
GUSTAVE: It’s my hand. I think it’s rotting.
MARIE: Your hand is fine.
GUSTAVE: What do you know of rotting hands!
MARIE: Look at it yourself.
GUSTAVE: It’s rotting from within! It’s because of the American.
MARIE: There’s nothing wrong!
GUSTAVE: It’s God, Marie. God does not like the French. He abhors us. The Americans are now his favorite. It’s obviously a form of punishment, Marie. (Pause.) I can’t stop seeing the torso of that nurse twirling in the butcher’s shop. (Pause.) And the butcher… You said he cried like a child? I cannot stand it, Marie. I will end up rotting completely if I don’t confess.
MARIE: I’ll go get a priest.
GUSTAVE: No, Marie. I want to turn myself in.
MARIE: A priest will do.
GUSTAVE: I want my punishment.
MARIE: We crossed Paris in the haze of dawn to the police station. Gustave showed them his hand as evidence of his crime, but there was nothing wrong with his hand. No one understood a thing.
GUSTAVE: It’s a conspiracy to torture me, Marie!
MARIE: They’ll make room in a prison cell for you.
GUSTAVE: They should hang me this instant!
MARIE: He underwent a number of interrogations. But Gustave would only talk about how the French had been betrayed by God.
GUSTAVE: The nurse is dead, the butcher lost his mind and they think I manipulate you to say what I want. Nobody can corroborate the crime, Marie.
MARIE: Did you tell them where you hid the body?
GUSTAVE: Somebody must have moved it. They said there was nothing.
MARIE: Maybe he wasn’t dead.
GUSTAVE: They are transferring me to a mental institution, Marie.
MARIE: Then, a woman’s pig in Rouen found the body at the edge of the river. The American had drifted all the way from Paris. The woman, thinking it was a German soldier, allowed the pig to have his fill.
GUSTAVE: God bless that pig, Marie!
GUSTAVE: We’ve made our peace.
MARIE: How did they find out it was the American?
GUSTAVE: The pig didn’t like the United States’ insignia.
MARIE: The court meets the middle of next month, Gustave, perhaps there is room to hear your case.
GUSTAVE: Which lasts two days.
MARIE: The jury returns with a verdict.
GUSTAVE: Only one reporter.
MARIE: From the Rouen local newspaper.
GUSTAVE: Just a boy.
MARIE: Do you have a verdict? Asks the judge of the foreman.
GUSTAVE: Yes, your honor. Answering as he stands.
MARIE: Guilty on the charge of the murder of…
GUSTAVE: Arthur Miller? Like the playwright? I killed Miller’s namesake?
MARIE: Do you have the sentence?
MARIE: Do you pardon him?
GUSTAVE: Death Penalty, your honor.
GUSTAVE: A death sentence for murdering a soldier with the name of a playwright. Climb the gallows, fall through the trapdoor and squirm until the very last breath.
MARIE: “The death penalty,” he repeats to be perfectly clear.
GUSTAVE: I warned you, Marie; the fucking American playwrights had something to do with this, one way or another!
MARIE: Are you shaking?
GUSTAVE: Am I?
MARIE: No. It’s only your hand. It’s trembling.
GUSTAVE: It’s the damn rot, it’s crept up the forearm.
MARIE: Your hand…
GUSTAVE: Don’t say it! You incredulous tramp.
MARIE: They transferred him to death row. At daybreak they notified me that Gustave had attempted to cut off his hand.
GUSTAVE: It’s more painful than you think, Marie.
MARIE: I know.
GUSTAVE: I lost courage. I should have done it in one precise cut.
MARIE: They are producing the play, Gustave.
MARIE: Waiting for Godot. They are producing it.
GUSTAVE: It’s not finished.
GUSTAVE: I told you it needed polishing!
GUSTAVE: You have to delay the production, Marie.
GUSTAVE: I need to fix the text.
GUSTAVE: No, your mother, with a pencil strapped to her ass! Go into his apartment and bring the script. We have a key at home.
MARIE: That same night I went into Samuel’s apartment. The following morning I came back with the script.
GUSTAVE: Let’s see…
MARIE: He re-read it three or four times, a pencil in his mouth…which he never used. (Pause.) There were no more corrections to be made. (Pause.) He sighed with disappointment. He then took the pencil and put it in the shirt pocket over his heart.
MARIE: He finished it?
GUSTAVE: It looks that way. (Silence.) Well, Marie, we have to turn our attention toward the production.
MARIE: The production? A production didn’t exist. Seeing him in the corner of the cell, his hand half mutilated; I didn’t know any other way to cheer him up. And now I didn’t know how to keep the lie alive. I was hoping for a miracle.
GUSTAVE: On Friday, Marie came back with details of the production.
MARIE: They found a theatre!
GUSTAVE: Which one?
MARIE: The Babylon.
GUSTAVE: The Babylon? The Babylon!?
MARIE: (Fearful.) …Yes.
GUSTAVE: Fine. Fine. The Babylon is good.
MARIE: And they have a director.
GUSTAVE: Do you know the name?
GUSTAVE: Blin? (She nods.) Could have been worse.
MARIE: Blin found the play in his mailbox. When he called Samuel wanting to direct it, Samuel sent him another copy. Blin never understood why he received two manuscripts; he didn’t care to find out. (Pause.) I thought nudging the miracle along was not a bad idea after all.
GUSTAVE: Do they have a cast?
MARIE: I wrote down their names. (Pulls out a wrinkled piece of paper. Unwrinkles it. Reads.) Pierre Latour, Lucien Rai…
GUSTAVE: I want to know who they’re playing!
MARIE: … (Looks at the paper. Flips it over.) Lucien… will play Estragon, and Vladimir will be played by… Pierre Latour.
GUSTAVE: Lucien, Estragon? Latour would be better as Estragon!
GUSTAVE: Go on.
MARIE: Lucky… Jean Martin. And Pozzo… (Searches.) I didn’t write it down? (Looks on the front.) Oh, here it is. Pozzo will be played by Roger Blin.
MARIE: (Double checks.) Blin, yes.
GUSTAVE: It can’t be.
MARIE: Is he bad?
GUSTAVE: He’s a stutterer!
MARIE: It can’t be.
GUSTAVE: I’m telling you, he stutters.
MARIE: I saw him rehearsing with the other actors.
GUSTAVE: At a distance. You saw him rehearsing at a distance, but you didn’t hear him. We’re fucked, Marie.
MARIE: I will make an actor accidentally appear at a rehearsal.
GUSTAVE: I don’t trust the kind of actor you might find.
MARIE: I’m scared.
MARIE: I’ve been reading. The fall breaks your neck and it takes up to ten minutes to die.
GUSTAVE: Shit, Marie!
MARIE: That’s why I brought you this.
GUSTAVE: A teaspoon?
MARIE: The handle is sharpened. It will be less painful if you slit your throat.
GUSTAVE: You want me to kill myself!?
MARIE: Very gently.
MARIE: You won’t feel a thing.
GUSTAVE: Fine. Here. You do it.
GUSTAVE: Don’t hesitate.
(Pause. She tries to cut his throat.)
MARIE: You asked me to cut your throat.
GUSTAVE: To illuminate that it isn’t easy.
MARIE: It is.
GUSTAVE: Put that away.
MARIE: I don’t want them to hang you.
GUSTAVE: Are you crying?
MARIE: I’m sorry.
(She dries the tears.)
GUSTAVE: Forget about it now.
MARIE: I have to go.
GUSTAVE: Yes, Marie.
MARIE: Should I… leave the teaspoon?
GUSTAVE: Yes, Marie, leave the teaspoon.
MARIE: I got Latour to play Estragon. Blin stopped stuttering while he was acting, it was a miracle. Gustave would write short notes for the actors that I would accidentally drop on the stage so they could find them. Then one day, opening night was set. That same afternoon I went to visit Gustave and was informed that the execution date was also set.
GUSTAVE: I couldn’t avoid it, Marie. I needed to end the putridness…
MARIE: He was lying down. His arm hung down from the cot to the floor above a small pool of dry bile. He had cut off his hand. Above the bile, swayed a bandaged stump.
GUSTAVE: The fucking Irishman, Marie… Is he well?
MARIE: Heavy-heartedly he put his face between the cell bars and repeated in a weak voice…
GUSTAVE: I ‘m asking you if he is well.
MARIE: The play is opening, Gustave. They have a date.
MARIE: At the end of the month.
GUSTAVE: Fine. Fine. (Pause.) I’m a mess, Marie. My liver must be rotting. God wants to kill me before I climb the gallows.
MARIE: There will be no gallows, Gustave.
GUSTAVE: And where do they think they’ll hang me from?
MARIE: They asked me to convince you; it won’t be the noose, but the guillotine that will break your neck.
GUSTAVE: The noose?
MARIE: The guillotine. A blade to decapitate…
GUSTAVE: I know what a noose is, Marie! It’s just that I wasn’t informed of the change of plans.
MARIE: It has always been the guillotine. But they say you refuse to listen.
GUSTAVE: They never said it was to be the noose.
MARIE: The guillotine.
GUSTAVE: That’s what I said, the noose!
GUSTAVE: They will cut off my head?
MARIE: In one swoop.
GUSTAVE: I always thought I’d die hanging. Sam would have preferred it that way.
GUSTAVE: You don’t remember?
GUSTAVE: The willow.
MARIE: Sam has a willow?
GUSTAVE: Did you read the play, Marie?
MARIE: From beginning to end.
GUSTAVE: What did you think of Godot?
MARIE: Very well drawn.
GUSTAVE: Godot never arrives!
MARIE: It was two people waiting; why would I read it!
GUSTAVE: I’m scared.
MARIE: Me too. (Silence.) Gustave.
MARIE: They set your date.
GUSTAVE: As well?
MARIE: Yes, Gustave.
MARIE: At the end of this month.
GUSTAVE: Same as Godot.
GUSTAVE: What… almost? When?
MARIE: One day before.
GUSTAVE: One day?
MARIE: I’m sorry.
GUSTAVE: One day, Marie!
MARIE: I couldn’t do anything. I tried everything, but I couldn’t do anything.
GUSTAVE: Of course you couldn’t do anything. (Silence.) I will never know if it was worth it, Marie. All this… sacrifice. I’ll never know if it was worth it.
MARIE: I’ll come the day of… (Pause.) I’ll tell you how the dress rehearsal went.
GUSTAVE: What for?
MARIE: I thought that…
GUSTAVE: Go, Marie. Out! LEAVE!
MARIE: And that is how we got here. Tomorrow is the opening of Godot. Today they decapitate Gustave. (Pause.) This afternoon I visited our willow and recalled the morning that Gustave asked me to cook pork kidney for breakfast. Gustave thinks it’s stupid, but tonight, I’ll dress up and go visit him.
MARIE: I could not see the dress rehearsal. They found out I didn’t work at the theatre.
GUSTAVE: I told you it didn’t make any sense. The dress rehearsal means nothing.
MARIE: They told me you tried to cut off your arm.
GUSTAVE: And they took away my teaspoon.
MARIE: I read the play, Gustave.
MARIE: I think I realized something: They are waiting.
GUSTAVE: You are quite observant, Marie.
MARIE: Together, Gustave.
GUSTAVE: You never cease to amaze me.
MARIE: And they couldn’t do it, one without the other. That’s why Gogo tells Didi…
(She doesn’t remember. Silence.)
MARIE: I wrote it down on a piece of paper because I knew I was going to forget. (Takes out a crumpled paper, smooths it out against her thigh. Reads.) It says… (Pause.) I can’t read my own writing… It was something nice, I’m sure. (Tries one more time. Desists.) What I’m trying to say is that they depend on each other, Gustave, that’s why, when they think of hanging themselves from the willow to kill time, Didi says to Gogo that he doesn’t want to hang himself after him, because being heavier, he will end up breaking the branch.
MARIE: He would be alone, Gustave! (Silence.) That’s what’s going to happen to me. What is going to happen to me, without you? What am I going to do today, after you die? I will wake up every day and sit on the corner of the bed not knowing what to do.
GUSTAVE: Shit, Marie! Not tomorrow. Tomorrow you must be strong.
MARIE: I can’t!
GUSTAVE: You have to go to the opening of Godot.
MARIE: I am going to hang myself from the willow.
GUSTAVE: Devour pork kidney.
MARIE: What for?
GUSTAVE: To commemorate, to grieve, it doesn’t matter! Let it fill your throat and impede the tears from coming. We did not sacrifice ourselves for you to bungle it up with your weeping.
GUSTAVE: Make an effort not to appear so unattractive and go to the theatre. Don’t take anybody’s seat, stay standing in the back of the house.
GUSTAVE: Laugh when the play calls for it, so the audience will follow. If people don’t understand the ending, start to applaud. Not immediately, give them a breath.
GUSTAVE: Shit, Marie! You’re already crying?
GUSTAVE: You are crying!
MARIE: I am not crying!
GUSTAVE: Find Samuel at the end of the performance. Try not to overwhelm him. Just tell him a little about us. Not of what we did for him, you shouldn’t make him uncomfortable on his night.
MARIE: It is also our night.
GUSTAVE: Someone has to make a sacrifice, Marie. The least gifted ones. And it’s alright.
MARIE: And if he asks for you?
GUSTAVE: He won’t ask for me.
MARIE: I know, but if he asks?
GUSTAVE: Apologize for me. Say I could not make it.
GUSTAVE: You know why!
MARIE: Yes, but if he wants to know why?
GUSTAVE: Tell him… Anything! Shit, Marie, can’t you make up an excuse?! You are stupid, stupid and detestable! Tell him… (Pause.) Make an effort! Just say… Tell him that… (Silence.) I don’t know what you can say.
GUSTAVE: It’s only a play, Marie. Nobody will know we sacrificed ourselves for it.
MARIE: We will.
GUSTAVE: It doesn’t even belong to us.
GUSTAVE: It is over, Marie. I want you to leave.
MARIE: Do you love me?
MARIE: Insult me.
MARIE: I want to feel something.
GUSTAVE: I have run out of insults, Marie.
MARIE: Insult me!
GUSTAVE: I don’t want to.
MARIE: I’m going.
MARIE: Do you want me to stay?
MARIE: You don’t want me to stay?
MARIE: Ask me to beg you to stay.
GUSTAVE: I don’t want you to stay, Marie.
MARIE: Fine, let’s go.
MARIE: Let’s go.
GUSTAVE: Damn you, don’t bother me!
MARIE: We go down the stairs…
GUSTAVE: Shut up!
MARIE: … and we go out on the street!
MARIE: Then we walk to the theatre.
GUSTAVE: I beg you…
MARIE: The fucking Irishman is there. He’s smiling. Do you see him? The fucking Irishman is smiling. We walk up to him. We tap his shoulder, he turns and we introduce ourselves. Such a pleasure, fucking Irishman, my name is Marie and he is Gustave. We are going to die for you.
GUSTAVE: You are not going to die.
MARIE: You don’t have to thank us for anything. We just wanted you to know.
GUSTAVE: I do want him to thank me.
MARIE: We’ve changed our mind. We want you to thank us, pig.
(They laugh. Silence.)
GUSTAVE: Can you stay a while?
MARIE: Do you want me to?
GUSTAVE: Don’t ask me, it has to come from within you.
MARIE: I want to stay a while.
GUSTAVE: That’s fine.
MARIE: What do we do now?
MARIE: Godot will come.
GUSTAVE: Godot will come.