Translated by Karen Rosenbecker
Volume 6, Issue 1 (Spring 2016)
Pre-Modern Austerity Measures: The Capricious Economy of Aristophanes’ Wealth
Aristophanes’ Wealth (Πλοῦτος, often Anglicized as Ploutos or Plutus) lampoons the endemic poverty suffered by the citizens of ancient Athens after the disastrous end of the decades-long war their city waged against Sparta and her allies. The play’s episodic plot involves an average citizen who, upon discovering that the god Wealth has been blinded, hatches a plan to restore the god’s sight, so that the deity will be able to avoid the greedy and to dispense riches to the virtuous poor. Of course, given the generic kinship between Aristophanic comedy and satire, it’s not surprising that a great deal of the play’s humor and social commentary is generated by juxtaposing criticisms of the unprincipled rich with implications that the virtuous poor, once given money, will become avaricious and corrupt themselves. Wealth was first performed in Athens in 388 B.C. and although we do not know how the original audience received it, we do know that for most of its history, Wealth has been an also-ran in terms of garnering consideration from scholars of Classics. In addition, records of productions of Wealth on the Anglophone stage are scarce, especially in comparison to productions of Lysistrata or Frogs; this dearth also stands in stark contrast to a continuous tradition of production of Wealth in modern Greece. In recent years, however, Anglophone theatrical interest in Wealth has increased precipitously. Given this burst of modern attention, it is fair to say that Wealth, in terms of its popularity, is having a moment on the American stage in particular.
But why is Wealth having that moment right now? The simplest answer is that the play’s depiction of an economic downturn caused by war hits very close to home for many people in the U.S., because the parallels to the effects of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and to the impact of the Great Recession are so obvious. But there is also a deeper connection between the on-stage world of ancient Athens and the real world of the 21st century U.S. than just the shared background of an economic “crash.” This connection has to do with the impulse to imagine our past in contrast to our present. We seem, if only atavistically, to share a collective memory of “the good old days,” when things were simpler, when money was not so tight, and when life was easier for everyone. These are rose-colored glasses, to be sure, but it is worth pointing out that in the U.S., we are only two decades removed from the economic boom-years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and yet now more wealth rests in fewer hands than at anytime before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. In this same vein, Wealth gives us a look at an ancient Athens that has squandered unthinkable amounts of wealth and natural resources in pursuing war with Sparta, and has thereby condemned her citizens to the poorhouse. As the characters on stage complain about the current poverty and recall the former prosperity, modern American audiences are hard-pressed not to see a reflection of our current situation and our own thoughts about it.
For other nations, this cycle of millennial boom and twenty-tens bust is also a familiar one, especially—and ironically, in this case—for Greece, which has gone from seeming an economic dynamo to tumbling into a financial abyss all in the span of a decade, and now must also cope with the economic and social pressure of the Syrian refugee crisis. And here I should call particular attention again to the fact that if Wealth can be said to have a modern tradition of active performance and translation, it is in Greek theater; moreover, there are also records of a notable presence of the play on the German and Italian stage since World War II, as well. When we consider the comparative lack of productions of Wealth on the modern Anglophone stage, its absence is even more notable because early records for performances of Wealth show that the play was in fact a favorite in Jacobean England, and that it enjoyed another spike in popularity in Victorian England. How, then, did Wealth fall out of “heavy rotation” on the British stage and garner only a small presence on the American one prior to the economic contraction of the Great Recession? Early English adaptations of the play were said to have eliminated the problematic, and at times illogical, relationship of merit to reward that runs throughout Aristophanes’ script; in these adaptations, material wealth came to those who were virtuous, and the play then became a straightforward moral allegory of virtue rewarded. If this is true, those early Anglophone adaptations and performances chose not to include a large portion of the original’s ability to explore the timeless concerns of the human condition, something Greek drama excels at. To be sure, this philosophical level of Greek drama is more obvious in tragedy when, for example, Sophocles’ Oedipus is asked “who are you?”, but Aristophanes is no slouch at finding ways to explore existential conundrums. In particular, Wealth raises pointed questions about the reasons for the unequal distribution of material and monetary resources, a line of inquiry foregrounded in the prologue when the main character asks the Oracle of Delphi: “Why do the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer? Why is it so hard to get ahead, no matter how hard I work? Why do I get punished for playing by the rules while others get rewarded for breaking them?” With so many people world-wide coping with chronic poverty, un/underemployment, and crippling debt, and with our heightened awareness of how the “flat world” of Thomas Friedman links us all in a financial symbiosis, it is understandable that questions of economic justice and fairness feel more urgent to answer than the riddle of the Sphinx. And, in a world in which social media and the 24-hour news cycle connect us with such potent immediacy, it is also harder to maintain the illusion that possession of wealth is a sign of moral virtue, rather than an accident of birth or the result of a corrupt system.
To turn from stage to page, why had Wealth been languishing in comparison to most of Aristophanes’ other comedies, in terms of modern scholarly attention? Part of the answer has to do with the condition of the play, part with how different Wealth seems from the other comedies, and part with established consensus. Although the text of Wealth is complete, it is not whole; the choral odes are missing, including the parabasis, the central choral episode that in other comedies introduces Aristophanes’ views on matters ranging from politics, to religion, to pop culture. In addition, Wealth, with its focus on post-war poverty, seems to retreat from the larger world of the demos, the public sphere, and into the smaller world of the oikos, the family home. The play does not feature a prominent or troublesome political figure, like Socrates in Clouds, and it seems to eschew criticizing problematic social institutions, like the ineffectual lawcourts of Wasps. In terms of 20th century scholarly assessments of the play, American and British scholars in particular level some criticisms so brief and blunt that they feel ripe for a platform like Twitter; one in particular, that Wealth is so weak Aristophanes must have written it after a stroke, remains my all-time favorite. Other discussions point to the play’s lack of logic in framing the debate about the merits of virtue and effects of material wealth, to its humor, which feels hackneyed compared to the deft political satire of earlier works, and to the concept of a blind Wealth, which has been judged as uninspired compared to the lively magical realism of other plays.
In part, the relative dearth of treatments of Wealth, both on the Anglophone stage and within Classical scholarship, reflects a larger trend in working with Greek drama as a whole. Although the genre of Old Comedy was a major part of theatrical festivals in ancient Athens, only eleven comedies, all by Aristophanes, have made the journey into the post-modern world. Perhaps more importantly, modern translating of Aristophanes in English began in earnest first in the 1960’s, with the “Chicago Aristophanes” series helmed by Douglass Parker and William Arrowsmith, and here I should qualify this statement. There are English translations of Wealth that date back to the 19th century and beyond, but the revolution of the “Chicago Aristophanes” series was to popularize the comedies, to bring them to a general audience in a format that was accessible to modern readers, and to translate them in a way that reflected their content, even the objectionable elements. Aristophanes’ facility with obscenity, with sexual hijinks, and with toilet humor has flummoxed commentators for centuries in part because all the swear words and dick jokes seem so incongruous with the decorous speech of tragedy, but also in part because of the translators’ own cultural taboos. As a result, many earlier commentators—and this is true not only for scholarly works in English—simply ignored such humor, some chose to discuss the off-color ancient Greek only in Latin, and others chose to edit out such lines entirely. The effect is not only to neuter the comedy, but also to keep full access to the text in the hands of a small group. I do not think it is a coincidence that the first modern scholarly discussion and analysis of homosexuality in ancient Greek culture and the first systematic discussion of obscenity in Aristophanic comedy were both released after the “Chicago Aristophanes” series popularized an Aristophanes who seemed more a contemporary of Lenny Bruce than of Euripides.
In terms of Anglophone theater, productions of any Aristophanes’ play prior to the 60’s were infrequent and, when produced, heavily edited. It is even rare to find records for pre-World War II productions of Lysistrata, a play that is now regarded as canonical and is widely adapted and performed. And here, again, part of this trend stems from the predominance of tragedy. As a genre, tragedy is accorded an immense amount of cultural and intellectual capital thanks in no small part to Aristotle’s Poetics and the conceptual framework it provides. We do not have Aristotle’s promised work on comedy, and perhaps that is a good thing, because speculative reconstruction of “On Comedy” has it looking like a cut-and-paste of his discussion of tragedy, with key words and phrases altered to reflect funny plays instead of serious ones. But Aristophanes’ comedies exhibit many more differences from Greek tragedy than they do similarities. On an Aristotelian level, comic heroes have no character arc; they don’t err in word or deed, they don’t recognize their mistakes, they don’t engage in self-discovery, and they don’t help to reveal a poignant truth about the human condition through their downfall. Their jokes hinge on obscenities, taunting, and even ethnic humor; they often break out the “old chestnuts” from prior plays, lamenting that the audience will groan to hear them and then quickly adding that they will go away disappointed if they don’t. Their debates traverse the space between the mind and the phallus, seguing in flash from sophisticated criticisms, to simplistic talking-points, to “splaining” with their fists. Aristophanic comedy also does not hide behind the veil of myth the way tragedy does. Although the gods appear, comic heroes often best them and are freed from following established mythic storylines, as Agamemnon or Medea must; comic heroes also move in and out of a version of Athens that balances real world concerns with a touch of magic. As a result, they can spout populist rhetoric and contemporary references, all while singing with frogs or dancing with birds. In fact, it’s tempting to suggest that instead of some sort of comic version of Aristotelian catharsis, Aristophanes’ plays hinge on something closer to Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, in which the audience is prompted, through episodic plot structure and the breaking of the fourth wall, to distance themselves from issues and topics, and to engage in active and critical spectatorship. Perhaps another analogy for the holistic structure and effect of these comedies might be an American Vaudeville review, with its interactive and presentational style of performance that swings between set-pieces and musical numbers, all designed to keep the audience entertained, engaged, and in their seats.
Having said all that, I should take a moment to note that Wealth is one of the tamer plays in terms of obscenity and sexuality, and even this garnered it criticism from those who prefer the glee with which characters in other plays swear, fart, and fornicate. But there is one facet in which Wealth outshines the other comedies, and that is in reflecting the concept of thalia. When capitalized, Thalia becomes the name for the muse of comedy, but the word itself describes a blooming, an awakening of the earth after the dormancy of winter, the end of one state and the beginning of another. Aristophanic comedy is intimately connected with the idea of rebirth and revolution, with the chaos of change. But thalia also implies that change is cyclical, that while spring may be glorious, it also means that winter is coming. In Wealth, there are many signs that the poor, in crafting their escape from poverty and redistributing resources, are doomed to repeat it all again some day. That friction undercuts the celebration, problematizes it, and makes Wealth more than an allegory about virtue rewarded and deeper than a fantasy about the ancient equivalent of hitting the lottery. Ultimately, tragedy may be more accessible, it may seem more circumspect and wise, but as Aristophanes himself points out in the Acharnians, comedy knows what’s right, if you’re smart enough to listen.
When I began adapting Wealth for the stage, I knew I wanted to create something that was not a “straight” translation meant to accurately reflect the target language; there are many wonderful literary translations that do exactly this and that are fun to read as well. I also knew I did not want to adapt a script-for-performance that stayed close to the original in terms of its on-stage action, since there is a delightful version that does so admirably. And I made these decisions not because I felt that faithfulness to the original was boring or an unnecessary consideration, but because I felt that to adapt the ideas and themes of Wealth into a new culture would sharpen certain aspects of the play’s criticism of what happens to those who control money and to those who do not, and so I chose to “localize” the adaptation, by channeling ancient Athens through post-Katrina New Orleans. The devastation to the on-stage world at the outset of Wealth, the topsy-turvy carnival nature of the action, and concern for basic fairness that is both individual and universal, all these considerations felt to me as if they highlighted an on-stage world that blended two “cities that care forgot.”
Between 2005 and 2015, New Orleans suffered the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, the environmental and economic problems created by the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, and the on-going fiscal erosion of the Great Recession. These major blows to the city’s economy and infrastructure, along with ongoing concerns about violence in the city and corruption in its administration, have cast New Orleans as a stereotypical and familiar representative for a city suffering the effects of a vicious turn in fortune. But, much as Aristophanes chose to show the effects of the war but not have his characters discuss it, in this Wealth the damage to the on-stage Athens-as-New Orleans is signaled by the environment, by the presence of blue tarps, which are ubiquitous in the Gulf South as markers for damaged homes, by the background of boarded-up houses signifying foreclosure or abandonment, and by trash on the stage to underscore that the city had in effect shut down.
However, in re-presenting Athens as New Orleans, I also wanted to foreground two other fundamental aspects New Orleans culture that highlighted important themes in Aristophanes’ original. One was the desire to give voice to the anger and frustration of city’s residents, especially the women who have suffered and continue to suffer a disproportionate level of economic hardship in the wake of these disasters, and who continue to suffer an income equality gap nationwide. When I first began writing the adaptation for the script, I was serving jury duty for the Orleans Parish criminal courts. Jury duty is a universally trying circumstance, but it is perhaps more so in Orleans Parish, which requires eight days of service for criminal court and provides little by way of compensation or amenable setting for such hours. One day, my group was held an extraordinarily long time while a judge and a lawyer played a game of legal chicken as to whether their case would go to trial. As the clock ticked past 5:00 PM, one of my fellow jurors, a woman whose family had been in New Orleans since time immemorial and had weathered the Depression, the Jim Crow South, Hurricane Betsy, and Hurricane Katrina, finally broke. She stood up in the jury-room and with great authority announced, “Enough! I’ve had enough!” She then proceeded to tell her fellow jurors, the jury clerks, and the deputies who leaned in to listen, that she was tired of being punished for doing the right thing while others were rewarded for breaking the rules, that she was tired of being played for a fool as she squandered her time and money sitting here, when others had ignored the court’s summons and were out making money for bills. Her frustration at this lack of basic fairness felt like a rallying cry for Aristophanes’ impoverished characters in Wealth, and I adopted her initial expression (“Enough! I’ve had enough!”) as the opening line of the play and as a touchstone for characters throughout. In light of that moment, I also knew that part of the “localization” would be to reverse the genders of many of the characters, taking Aristophanes’ impoverished farmer-men and turning them into underemployed women who were scrambling to make ends meet. This recasting of genders led also to a female goddess Wealth, who begins the play homeless and marginalized, and a male god of Poverty whose penchant for repeating financial talking-points and coining sound bites mark him as a serviteur of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand and a symbol of corporate entitlement. As the characters form their plans and move to defeat Poverty, the audience is confronted by the income inequality gap that still exists between men and women.
The second aspect was the city’s annual ritual of Mardi Gras, which I hoped would be a distinct and accessible modern parallel for the dramatic festivals of Dionysus in ancient Athens. The City Dionysia and Mardi Gras represent, for their respective cities, a time when business ceases, parties abound, and public spectacles involving parades and performances occur throughout the civic space. Like the City Dionysia, Mardi Gras celebrates the idea of thalia, the flourishing that will be followed by scarcity (in this case, by Lent), but it also touches at a theme integral to Wealth, in particular the idea of reversals of fortune. During Mardi Gras parades, krewe members enjoy an elevated, even superhuman status. Many parades feature extended royal courts, and riders dress in a manner that both adorns their person and conceals their identities, the latter being a point of law. As the ornate and elevated floats roll along, krewe members dispense glittering throws and baubles to the spectators who clamor below. And part of the fun is knowing that today’s spectator may be the queen of the parade that will roll tomorrow, that those now dancing on the edge of the crowd will be marching in the center later. Thus it is too with the characters of Wealth; as much fun as it may be, their parade will end, and questions as to whether or not they deserve to hold on to their riches, or whether they even deserved them in the first place, are left for the audience to decide.
There are other alterations made in adapting Wealth, ones not prompted by localizing the play to New Orleans, that I should mention because they are significant departures from the original. First is the abbreviated quality of the adaptation. The Athenians loved to listen to debate and oral performance; this proclivity is amply attested to by the extended forensic and competitive dialogue in drama. But in adapting Wealth, I wanted to emphasize the rapidity of changing fortunes and to highlight the sense that the characters were rushing pell-mell towards a future none fully understood. With this in mind, much of the dialogue is pared down in comparison with the original, and this version of Wealth has no intermission and bears a running time of approximately 75 minutes. Second, the other major change is to the content of the agon, the formal debate, between Poverty and the main character, Inida. Although I have allowed some of Poverty’s points to go unanswered (as they do in the original), I have given Inida a chance for a more organized response than Aristophanes allowed her counterpart, Chremylus. I made this choice because, while I do appreciate the combination of chutzpah and fairy-tale sweetness in Chremylus wishing Poverty away so forcefully that the deity leaves, I think that it is important, at this historical moment, to be able to give an accounting of the case against the financial powers-that-be, even if such ideas are contained in comedy and therefore shaped by that consideration. Finally, Aristophanes’ love for lists of material things, and especially of good food, has found a convenient parallel in New Orleanians’ passion for their favorite restaurants, and here the state of wealth could be no better described than access to one’s favorite dishes taken from a laundry list of favorite restaurants. What remains are assorted updates of Aristophanes’ penchant for throwing in tired jokes now and then for the audience to roll their eyes at while enjoying them nonetheless, and much breaking of the fourth wall, in part to bring across the metatheatricality inherent in Greek drama, but also to honor the holes in Aristophanes’ script, to allude to the idea that the play is a bit undone, and that perhaps even the actors don’t quite know where this is all heading or how their fortunes will turn out, not unlike those of us in the audience.
Loyola University New Orleans
Aristophanes (c. 446-386 BC) is the only writer of Greek Old Comedy for whom we have complete plays. He lived and wrote in an ancient Athens beset by the ravages of war with Sparta, but also one in which theatrical performance nonetheless formed the heart of civic celebration and religious ritual. Through a deft mix of social criticism, raucous obscenity, and magical realism, his eleven surviving comedies skewer and satirize the quotidian irritations and monumental failures perpetrated by those who ran his city. His oft-adapted Lysistrata has become canonical not only for its ability to speak truth to power, but also for its ability to show the importance of theater within a community.
Karen Rosenbecker holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Pittsburgh and is currently an Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at Loyola University New Orleans. Her work with Aristophanes’ Wealth also includes an article in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology on Aristophanes’ re-presentation of the norms of profanity (“Just Desserts: Reversals of Fortune, Feces, Flatus, and Food in Aristophanes’ Wealth”; volume 108), and a discussion of staging of Wealth in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (“Currency Exchange: Staging Aristophanes’ Wealth in New Orleans”; Didaskalia 11.5). Currently, she is exploring how one might use film clips from American Vaudeville acts to illuminate performance practices in ancient Greece and Rome.
Inida: A middle-aged woman, her name is pronounced “I need a”
Carry: Inida’s close friend, a younger woman
Wealth: Goddess in exile
The Working Girls: Three in number
Faith: Neighbor of Inida
Poverty: God of Economics
Just Citizen: Who has experienced a reversal of fortune
Mortgage Broker: Who has also had a reversal of fortune
Boy Toy: A former gigolo
Old Cougar: His former employer
Hermes: God in transition
Priest of Zeus: Who is seeking new employment
A deserted street lined with shotgun-style homes. The one in the middle, Inida’s house, is covered with a blue tarp, a familiar sight in the Gulf South for indicating a damaged home. The other houses also look a bit shabby; one is boarded up, its X-Code search marker from Katrina faded but still visible. Overflowing garbage cans wait in front them at the curb, as if pick up has been delayed, or forgotten.
Wealth enters. She is unappealing, hunched and stooped, wearing grotty clothes. She fumbles through the garbage cans muttering to herself, nothing coherent. There is something feral about her.
From the opposite side of the stage, Inida and Carry enter. Both women are dressed in faded garments and have wilted garlands on their heads. Huddled close to one another and whispering they watch Wealth forage from a safe distance. Eventually, Carry shakes her head, stands back from Inida.
Carry: Enough! I’ve had enough!
Carry: It’s bad enough you drag me all the way to the oracle of Delphi. And look at these pathetic excuses for garlands they gave us! The whole place is like a ghost town now…not even the bars survived. It gave me the creeps, and then….
Carry: And then you blow your question to the oracle!
Carry: And now I’m following a crazy lady…no, make that following two crazy ladies, and I’ve had enough and I’m going home!
Inida: (whirling around on her, setting a hand on her mouth) SHH-SHHH-SHHishy Shish! I asked the oracle exactly what I wanted to and now I’m doing exactly what it told me to, and that was to follow the first person I met on the street, and that is her.
Both turn to look at Wealth, who is doing something with her garbage treasures.
Carry: Outstanding. And they wonder why no one goes to Delphi for advice anymore. Think it’s too late to get a refund?
Inida: No, it’s not that. It’s just…look at her.
Carry: Yeah, I can see her just fine. I just wish I didn’t have to smell her, too.
Inida: I mean, it can’t be a coincidence that she’s the first person I meet.
Carry: Ok, tell me one more time exactly what you, in your infinite wisdom, decided to ask the oracle.
Inida: Yeah, yeah. I know we agreed I’d ask for the winning lottery numbers, but….But when I got to the oracle and went back into the temple, the outside world seemed to just fall away, somehow. It was like the marble columns came to life and created a path for me back into the holy place. The poets say that, once upon a time, Apollo slew a dragon on that very spot and freed us from the fire and chaos of the elder gods. And for a minute, when I was standing there, I could still feel that power and glory, like it must’ve felt in days of yore, when it really meant something to stand before a god. And so I wanted to ask a question that really meant something, too.
Carry: Ok, and so what exactly was the really meaningful thing you asked?
Inida: Why do the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer? Why is it so hard to get ahead, no matter how hard I work? Why do I get punished for playing by the rules while others get rewarded for breaking them?
Carry: And in answer to that, the really meaningful god of yore said, “Follow the first person you meet?”
Inida: Yeah. But hey, it could have been worse, he could have told me I’d kill my father and sleep with my mother.
Carry: Yeah, poor Oedipus. How’s he doing?
Inida: I don’t know, it’s like he wants to disappear…he’s even stopped using Snapchat.
Carry: Oh, that is bad.
Both women turn back to Wealth.
Wealth does something big and comic with her garbage treasures.
Carry: Ok, enough is enough. Let’s find out who she is that the oracle sent us to her. Excuse me, ma’am…ma’am?
Wealth: FUCK OFF!
Carry: Well, that’s a good start.
Inida: Ma’am, we’d just like to talk with you.
Wealth: AND YOU CAN FUCK OFF, TOO!
Carry: Oh, yeah. This really is the meaningful wisdom of Delphi in action.
Inida: Ma’am, my friend and I are just wondering if we can help you, maybe help you get back to your family? If you tell us your name?
Carry: Wanna bet it’s “Fuck Off”?
Wealth: No, no, no! Just go away, leave me be!
She stumbles over a garbage can. Inida and Carry step in to help her up.
Inida: Oh, dear! Here, let us help you.
Carry: Yeah, you really need to watch where you’re going…I mean look after yourself…I mean…
Wealth: I know what you mean! And yes, I am blind. Oh, the Sophoclean irony of your comments!
Inida: Please, won’t you tell us who you are?
Wealth: Oh, no, no, no…and even if I did, you wouldn’t believe me.
Inida: Try us.
Wealth: I…am Wealth.
Wealth: I told you you wouldn’t believe me.
Inida: You’re Wealth? The goddess Wealth?
Wealth: Yes. Now please, just let me go.
Inida: Wealth, the goddess? Living on the streets and blind?
Carry: Hey! I thought Love was blind?
Wealth: Oh, no! That bastard enjoys seeing the damage he does.
Carry: This is crazier than I thought.
Inida: But Carry, don’t you see? This all makes perfect sense! Wealth is blind, and that’s why she can’t control where she goes! That’s why we’ve all gotten so poor!
Carry: Hey! That would explain a lot.
Wealth: It’s true. I’ve been wandering like this for years. And I’ve learned the hard way not to trust anyone! Every time some smooth talker lures me into his clutches, I wind up felt up and passed around until I’m all but used up. And the richer they get, the shittier they treat me. Back before the war, the great general Perikles kept me in the women’s quarters as his concubine. During the war, his successor Cleon locked me in a chest like a coin collection. And now that everything has gone to Hell, this congress ordered a coffin, and I knew what was in store for me. I just barely escaped with my life.
Inida: Well, now your worries are over. We won’t lock you up. We can help you and…
Wealth: Noooo! Oh no, you don’t! I’ll take my chances on the streets!
Carry: But, don’t you want us to help you? You can’t possibly want to live like this.
Wealth: But at least I’ll be alive!
Inida: I don’t understand. What are you so afraid of?
Wealth: What am I afraid of? What you both would be afraid of if you had any sense: The Wrath of Zeus!
There is an audio/visual tag here, something ominous and obvious, like a roll of thunder and a flash of lightning.
Carry and Inida look up and around at the sound. Both are puzzled.
India: O…K. Ok, but if we could help you regain your sight…
Wealth: You two are dumber than a barracks full of Spartans! How do you think I got blind in the first place?!
Carry: Was it (pause)…the Wrath of Zeus?
Audio/visual cue again. Again they look around.
Carry: (off to the techs) Ok, is that going to happen all play, because it’s already not funny anymore.
Inida: (glaring offstage) I’m not sure it was funny the first time. (back to Wealth) What I’m trying to ask you is this: If we can restore your sight, would you visit the poor, the decent, hard-working folk who have suffered so much?
Wealth: Honey, that’s why Zeus blinded me in the first place.
Inida and Carry: What?
Wealth: Mmm hmm, he hates mortals.
Inida and Carry: What?!
Wealth: And decent, hard-working ones in particular.
Inida and Carry: WHAT??!!
Wealth: Mmm hmm. Can’t stand any of you and hated me for feeling the opposite. (parsing this next bit carefully) That’s why, in his wrath, Zeus…
All pause for same audio/visual cue, none comes. All look relieved.
Wealth: (continuing) That’s why he got angry and blinded me. To hurt you, to hurt me. To keep control of all the world’s wealth for himself and for people like him.
Inida: Of course! This is why Zeus is the king of the gods! Not because he’s the most just, not because he’s the wisest or even the most powerful, but because he’s got the most money! And how things work here on earth, it reflects that same order! Our leaders, they’re not the best, the truest servants of the democracy, they’re just the richest. Like the old saying goes, those who have the gold make the rules!
Carry: Well, I’ll be damned.
Wealth: And thanks to Zeus, you already are, and you will continue to be. You’ve only now figured out just how screwed you are. This world of poverty, this is Zeus’ plan for you, for me, and for everyone, forever and ever. Now please, just let me go.
Inida: Wait! I think I know how we can change this, undo it, make things make sense again!
Wealth: No, no…it’s hopeless!
Inida: Wouldn’t you like to see again, to be able to give everyone what they truly deserve?
Wealth: Yes. Yes, child, I would.
Inida: Well then, just leave everything to me. Come on, let’s get you off the street and inside my house.
Wealth: But…but I don’t know you. How can I be sure you won’t abuse me and hoard me away like the others?
Inida: Because you’ve never had a woman look after you before. And of all the women in the city, you won’t find a more clever one than me. My name is Inida.
Carry: But her friends call her Needy.
Wealth: I’ll bet they do.
Carry: But Needy, I don’t understand. How are we going to…?
Inida: (hustling Wealth under the tarp and into the house) Just get the Working Girls together and explain it to them.
Carry: Explain what?!
Inida: Oh, Carry! Don’t you see? This is like winning numbers for the lottery. No, it’s better than that. It’s like all of us having a winning ticket. Because once we restore Wealth’s sight, we are all going to be rich!
Exit Inida and Wealth into the house.
Enter the Chorus of Working Girls. They are three in number, dressed in clothes that indicate they are minimum wage workers. They move slowly and are obviously tired. Initially, they are disinterested in conversing with Carry.
(1) Oh, Lord! I am so tired! How long can this go on?
(2) That’s what I keep asking myself.
(3) Even through there’s never an answer.
Carry: Come on, my sisters in labor. My friends in need? Hurry up! There’s no time to lose!
(1) Huh! Time is all we got! Time to work one job, two jobs,
three jobs. Ain’t that fun?!
(2) Except when we lose those, and then there’s none. And
then again, all we’ve got is time to find the next run, the next
big old pile of shift work.
(3) But why have you called us? Can’t you see we’re:
(1) on a break
(2) heading to the next job
(3) going to turn in an application
Carry: But that’s what we’re trying to tell you. All this can stop now. She has come to set us free. No more endless labor for rewards that never begin!
(1) What are you talking about?
(2) What’s going on?
(3) Where’s Inida?
Carry: She’s inside with HER. She’s old and bent and much abused, and you can smell her coming a mile away, I’ll grant you that. But, oh, if she is who she says she is, all our troubles are over!
(1) What the Hell are you talking about?
(2) Inida’s working from home?
(3) Trafficking in homeless people?
(All) We don’t understand.
Carry: As a matter of fact, she reminds me of you! All sour faces and pessimism, not even willing to imagine things could change, not even able to remember that things used to be different.
(1) You’re one to talk! All you’ve ever done is hide behind
(2) And encourage her in all those crazy get-rich-quick
schemes that never work.
(3) Wait! Is this another football pool?
[All dissolve into crosstalk despairing of the Saints]
Carry: No, it’s not about the Saints, it’s not about anything like that at all! Oh, you wouldn’t guess in a million years!
(1)Then quit calling us out here! We’ve got work to do!
(2) And to look for.
(3) And to dodge.
[They turn to go]
Carry: No, no, no, wait! I won’t keep it a secret any longer! Inida’s found her, found in the last place you’d expect and by the last person you’d expect, that’s for sure But it’s her, it’s Wealth. Inida finally has found Wealth. I mean the real, honest-to-Olympus goddess Wealth.
(All) We have to get back to work…
Carry: But that’s what I’m trying to tell you! You don’t need to work anymore! You’ve worked enough and now you’re going to be rich!
(1) If, if what you’re saying is true…
(2) You mean we can really be rich?
(3) We don’t have to work like we do?
Carry: No! It will be like it was in the Golden Age, when Old King Cronos ruled! All of humankind at one big perpetual feast! The world in a constant state of celebration! Just picture it! Our tables groaning with food that cooked itself! Cakes that walk up to you and pop themselves right into your mouth! Everything from olives to eels swimming in sauce and washed down with vintage wine! And on our land, fruit that hops off the trees and brings itself in from the orchards! Sheep that herd themselves!
(1) A chance to bring in the harvest in peace, seeing our men
stripped to the waist and working the threshing floor…
(2) Not girding up their armor and marching off, or sailing
away to seek fortune on foreign shores…
(3) Oh, to be able to sleep in with your beloved, and then
wake up to find a problem no bigger than an overturned wine
jar and last night’s dirty dishes…
Carry: That’s it! That’s it exactly! You remember!
(1) Yes, yes, we do. There was a time when it was fair, when it
(2) But who, who made it otherwise? Who took that from us?
(3) Those days are gone forever, we should just let them go,
(All) We’ve got to know.
Carry: Zeus, it was Zeus. He ended the Golden Age with the Golden Rule. He who has the gold…
(All) Yeah, we know… “he who has the gold rules.”
Carry: So, then, the only question is, what are you willing to do about it?
Pause. The Chorus looks at one another, nodding, coming to agreement.
(1) We say, enough!
(2) We’ve had enough!
(3) Let’s hang the jerk who invented work!
Carry: Yeah! Let’s us be the bosses!
(1) Just like the story of Odysseus with the Cyclops! When he
ground their bones to make his bread, they didn’t just take it,
they went on strike! They organized their labor base and
blinded the monster!
Carry: And when Circe tried to co-opt them, to change them into pigs…
(2) They didn’t give up! They seized her by her means of
production, hung her up like a goat, and fed her the same
bullshit she fed them!
Carry: And that’s what we need to do, too!
(3) We’re ready! Tell us, just tell us what we need to do.
Inida emerges from the house. The Working Girls immediately gravitate to her.
Inida: Comrades, to thank you for coming sounds too formal, we’ve been friends for so long, but formality is necessary at the beginning of such an endeavor.
(1) We know.
(2) We’ve heard.
(3) We’re with you.
Inida: Every step of the way?
(All) To Olympus and back again.
Inida: Then let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Come on inside so that you can meet her and we can all…
Carry: Oh, no! Here comes Faith!
Inida: Ugh, that gossipy bitch again? Quick, inside! I’ll take care of her.
Carry and the Working Girls push inside the house. Enter Faith. Her clothing, too, is drab, but she herself is painfully perky, even her voice is annoying.
Faith: Hiya, Inida!
Faith: When I heard you call for us, I came just as fast as I could. Zeus knows, I do like to be here when something goes wrong…er…so that I can help my friends, I mean.
Inida: But that’s just it, Faith. It’s not that things have gotten worse, in fact they’re about to get better, to change for the better forever!
Faith: Oh, Needy, is it as bad as that?
Faith: That you’ve finally turned to a life of crime. I always knew you were desperate, honey, but I just can’t bear the thought of you in the Big House.
Inida: No, it’s not that, it’s…
Faith: I just want you to know, I’ve got your back, girlfriend.
Inida: Thank you. Wait…no…
Faith: And when the judge asks me about all this, I’ll say, “no, your honor, I had no idea what was going on. Inida was always such a quiet girl, she wouldn’t hurt a fly…or so we thought.”
Inida: Faith, so help me if you don’t shut up…
Faith: Ooh! Do you think you’ll do hard time? Be locked up with a bunch of desperate, dangerous, rough men…stuffed into hot, dark, tight cells, their bodies all glistening with sweat from lifting weights in the yard?
Inida has become unfocused and aroused listening to this, abruptly she snaps out of it.
Inida: Wait a second! Faith, you hijack everything! I called you here because it’s good news, for once I’ve got good news to share!
Faith: Oh, well, that’s nice too, dear.
Inida: It’s better than nice, it’s…it’s…revolutionary.
Faith: Well, I don’t want to get involved with anything too radical. But I guess you’ve always had less respect for the state than I do. Are you running a sleeper cell or is this theoretical treason?
Inida: No, it’s not radical like that, it’s…it’s…Oh, Faith, I’m going to come right out and tell you. I’ve got Wealth inside!
Faith: Oh, is that all?
Inida: Is that all? Why, it’s more than all, it’s everything! Faith, you don’t seem to understand.
Faith: Yes, Needy, I think I do. You’ve had a good month and you don’t need to hold a rent party.
Inida: No, I don’t need to have a rent party or a plate sale ever again, and neither do you.
Faith: Well, I never have. I just don’t pay the electric bill on the months I’m short because legally the city won’t let them cut you off before….
Inida: Faith, I’ve got the goddess Wealth in my house.
Faith: The goddess?
Faith: In your house?
Faith: I need to sit down.
Inida: And she’s going to make us rich, and she’s going to make all the decent, hard-working people like us rich, too, and she’s going to punish the wicked and….
Faith: And when does she start?! Oh, Needy, I always knew someday one of your crazy schemes would work.
Inida: Thank you.
Faith: I mean, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Inida: Thank y….hey!
Faith: Of course, honey. Now let’s get her out here and start worshipping for dollars.
Inida: Wait, wait, you’re still not listening. It’s not going to be that simple.
Faith: Uh-oh, here we go. Is this the punchline?
Inida: Faith, I’m not trying to be funny.
Faith: And we really should be, because our director told them this play would be funny and educational.
Inida: Faith, she’s blind!
Faith: Who? Our director? Say, that would explain a lot.
Inida: No, you idiot! Wealth! Wealth is blind!
Faith: Oh? Ohhhh! Now I get it! So that’s why I’ve never seen her.
Inida: No! She’s blind, not invisible! She’s never seen you, she’s never seen any of us. That’s why we’re poor. That’s why she keeps getting kidnapped. She can’t see where she’s going or who’s got her.
Faith: Holy Demeter, that makes sense! Well, at least as much sense as the actions of the gods ever do.
Inida: You know that’s right. So, all we need to do is restore her sight and we’re in the money, honey.
Faith: Alright, I’m in. Who do we contact first? The head of our local phratry? The demarch in charge of our neighborhood? Ooh! All the way to the assembly? I’m not sure I’ve got the dress for that anymore.
Inida: No! We are keeping this “in house,” just us. This is too good of an idea to…
Faith: No, Inida, that’s a bad idea, and I don’t mean bad like it’s good…
Inida: Oh, Faith, you don’t know what’s good for bad! We are going to do this ourselves. And first we need to…
In bursts Poverty; he has all the markings of the business world elite (good suit, tie, new shoes) which stand in sharp contrast to the drab world we’ve seen so far. His face is made up, there is a sheen about it. The charts and graphs he brings with him are bright, outsized, their graphics nonsensical.
Poverty: Hold it right there, ladies!
He sets up his charts with a flourish.
Inida: Excuse me? Who are you?
Poverty: I’m from Olympus and I’m here to help.
Faith: And I’m outta here.
Inida: Faith, don’t leave me. I need you to help me deal with this guy.
Faith: A middle-aged businessman setting up a presentation? You’re right you’re going to need help…help staying awake.
Inida: More like I’m going to need help getting rid of him, if he is who I think he is.
Poverty: (finishing adjusting his charts, etc.) I got here just in time, I see.
Inida: Just in time for what?
Poverty: Why, to save you from yourselves, of course. You ladies are tampering with forces you can’t possibly understand.
Inida: Is that right? And who are you that you understand everything?
Poverty: Ladies, I am Poverty.
Faith has been backing up and creeping off stage this whole time.
Inida: Of course you are! I knew it! Why you son of a… (realizes Faith is edging away) Faith, get back here! Remember the part about having my back?
Faith: But it’s Poverty, the most pernicious, nasty, cruel god of them all!
Inida: Which is exactly why I need you to help me. We can’t let him bully us into surrendering Wealth.
Faith: But it’s Poverty! The only thing to do is run and hide from him!
Inida: Does that work? Has that ever worked?
Faith: No, but…
Inida: Then maybe it’s time to confront him!
Poverty: Ladies, if I could have your attention.
Faith: Ok, but don’t expect any help from me.
Inida: Typical Faith.
They turn towards Poverty.
Poverty: Thank you. Now, it has come to my attention that you two have, by some incomprehensible set of circumstances, managed to locate and detain the goddess Wealth.
Inida: And if we have?
Poverty: If I may finish. And that you two are about to concoct some sort of hare-brained scheme to restore her sight.
Faith: Her scheme, not mine.
Inida: And if we are?
Poverty: Then you should be grateful I am here, just on the off-chance you might have succeeded and thereby ruined the economy.
Inida: Ruined the…?
Faith: Exactly how much worse could it get?
Inida: More to the point exactly how would healing Wealth destroy anything?
Faith: Yeah, wouldn’t it do the opposite and fix everything?
Poverty: Why, of course not. In fact, it would create even more problems.
Faith: Oh, so it would do the opposite of the opposite.
Inida: Don’t listen to him, Faith. He’s trying to trick us.
Poverty: No, you ladies misunderstand me and who I am. I have always been and will always be your benefactor, your ally, your patron divinity.
Inida: But a self-appointed one! We don’t want you, we don’t need you, never have and never will.
Poverty: Alright, alright. I understand that economic theory is sometimes confusing for you people.
Inida: “You people”?! Just what the…
Poverty: So I will make you a proposition, a “deal” if you will.
Inida: I know what “proposition” means!
Faith: I didn’t.
Poverty: Debate me. And if I can’t convince you that I’m responsible for all the good in both the economy and the world, I will depart willingly and gladly leave you to your folly.
Poverty extends his hand to her by way of sealing the deal.
Faith: Go on, Inida. You can take him.
Inida: I don’t know, Faith. They say you can’t shake the devil’s hand.
Poverty: Well, ladies. Do we have a deal?
Inida takes a deep breath, steps up and shakes his hand.
Inida: You’re on. Get ready to get packing because by the time I’m done, no city in Greece will have to tolerate you anymore.
Poverty: I understand you may feel that way because you haven’t been properly educated about my importance. Rest assured that once I’ve broken it all down in a way you can understand, you will be among my most avid supporters.
Faith: Oh, he really does need to have every square inch of his ass kicked. Go get him, Needy.
Inida: Alright, let me “break this down” in a way you can understand. Let’s begin with the obvious. It’s only fair that the good people should prosper while the wicked experience the opposite. That’s all we want. And now we’ve finally found a workable plan to achieve just that. If Wealth regains her eyesight, she will be able to visit the good people and she will be able to shun the wicked. As a result, everyone will be good because everyone will want Wealth.
Faith: Oh, that’s just so smart, Needy. Who could come up with an idea better than that?
Poverty: This is worse than I’d feared. You two have been sold a bill of cut-rate goods and shoddy socio-economic theory. Let’s just start with the basics. Under the system you’ve delineated, who will plow the fields, build the ships, or run the forges and foundries that keep this city going?
Inida: That’s nonsense. The same people who always do…the farmers, the shipwrights, the blacksmiths.
Poverty: But they won’t. They’ll have money, so why will they need to work?
Inida: Well, we’ll get it all imported, then. From Thessaly, or Egypt…or from China, if needs be.
Poverty: But that won’t work either. Once you release Wealth, you don’t think she will only affect the local economy, do you? The world is flat, ladies. Once you put her back in circulation, she will go everywhere.
Faith: I thought the world was round.
Poverty: And even if you could keep her just in Athens, who would want to run the risk of being in the shipping business? Remember, all the people who now run import companies won’t need to anymore. They’ll be rich.
Faith: Wow, he sure seems to know his stuff. And look at all those graphs and charts. I don’t know what they mean, but they’re sure impressive. Maybe we…
Inida: (to Faith) Shhh! (to Poverty) You about finished?
Poverty: Oh, not at all. Consider what happens when the things you now own wear out. You won’t have any bedding, because no one will want to weave it. You won’t have any pots, because no one will want to throw them. You won’t have any bread, because no one will want to bake it. In fact, it’s only thanks to me and what I compel humans to do that anything gets accomplished at all.
Think about it.
Why did the first fire get lit? Because of me.
Why did the first wheel get turned? Because of me.
Why did the first ships ply the seas? Because of me.
Why do humans till the soil? Because of me.
How did Athens become a great state from a tiny city?
Because of me.
The Acropolis, the Law Courts, the Theater of Dionysus, Tragedy and Philosophy, Politics and Comedy, Democracy itself.
It’s all because of me.
I, Poverty, am the Invisible Hand that has goaded and guided humankind down from the trees and up off your knees to stand as masters of this planet. Without me, even if you have the world’s wealth, you will wind up scratching in the dirt like savages, surrounded by your money and your own filth.
Faith: Needy, I think…
Inida: No, Faith, no, you don’t. (to Poverty) And you. All you’ve done is convince me that my plan is not only right, it’s morally necessary. Because, men and women want to work. It helps us define ourselves, it gives our lives meaning and dignity. The world of the unchained Wealth will be one in which we work because we enjoy it, because our arts and skills bring pleasure to ourselves and others.
Because we are called to teach,
To inject some virtue into the body politic.
We are at our best when we do what inspires us, and then share that inspiration with others. And that is what we’ve done all across human history, not because of you, but in spite of you. You’re taking credit for things accomplished by pride, and by drive, and by love. And you think that because you have been present throughout human history, you’ve somehow controlled it. But that’s like a rooster believing that his crowing brings up the sun every morning. Once Wealth has been restored to us, you’ll see how truly inconsequential you are. You’ll see, when humanity’s natural impulse to create and to share is set free from the shackles of money, when all of us are free to make what we really want, and to take what we really need.
Faith: Oh, wow! That’s beautiful, Inida. It’s like poetry.
Poverty: Yes, yes! Bravo! It is poetry you’re talking. Empty-headed nonsense based on fanciful thinking and divorced from the reality of economics.
Inida: Oh? And just what is economics based on?
Poverty: On the unassailable logic of rational and enlightened self-interest.
Faith: But, if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be in everyone’s enlightened self-interest to be rich?
Poverty: Ladies, please! You’re deliberately missing the point!
Inida: No, I think she’s right on it. You tell me, what would be the problem with every full-time job paying a living wage?
Poverty: Why, if every full-time job had to provide a living wage, unemployment and underemployment statistics would skyrocket, businesses would go bankrupt, and economic growth would be stifled!
Faith: Sounds like that’s what’s going on anyway.
Inida: And why is it that women still—even after two wars and decades of economic growth—women still make less than what men do?
Faith: We do?
Inida: Mmm-hmm. 77 obols to his drachma.
Faith: But we work 77 times as hard!
Poverty: Ladies, ladies, please! You have to look at this situation rationally!
Inida: Which is code for “see things my way.”
Faith: Yeah, with him it’s “my way or the highway.”
Inida: Ooh, good one, girl.
Faith: Thanks. I thought it might be a little old school.
Inida: No school like the old school.
They exchange high fives.
Poverty: Enough!!! I’ve had enough!! This world you envision, this land of plenty, simply can’t exist. There can’t be a place of peace and prosperity without there also being a place of conflict and deprivation. Some have to suffer so that others can thrive.
His outburst has been loud enough to bring the Working Girls out of the house.
Inida: Ah, I see. So it’s down to “Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?”
Poverty: Don’t put your Dickens in my mouth! He was writing about abject beggary and a complete lack of resources. I’m talking about the natural fluctuations of the market. Ladies, there is no easy was out of this economic mess. You’ve got to understand that unleashing Wealth upon an unsuspecting populace is not the solution. Austerity measures are necessary because you have to shrink the economy in order to grow it again. You people at the bottom just need to wait for capital to work its way down the ladder to you. Be patient and remember, a rising tide floats all boats. The market will eventually reward you for your labor.
(1) And just how does “the market” give me recompense for
the time I’ve missed with my children?
(2) And how does it pay me back for the pain of sprained
wrists and aching knees?
(3) And how does it give me back the joy I’ve missed because
I don’t have time for a life outside my jobs?
Inida: You see, neither you, nor your corporate master Zeus, nor the “all-powerful market” can fix any of that. The only one who can is Wealth.
Faith and Chorus: Yeah!
Inida: Only she can set things right. Only she can restore to us what is rightfully ours.
Faith and Chorus: Yeah!
Poverty: Ladies! You’re making a mistake of epic proportions!
Inida: Oh, there’s no such think in comedy, honey.
Poverty: You’re wrong! You’re unleashing forces you don’t understand and can’t control!
Inida: That’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Poverty: But you’re taking it for everyone everywhere! Please, try and think. If Wealth makes everything the opposite of what it is now, what will that make you?
Inida, Faith, Chorus: RICH!
Poverty: No! Wait! You’ve got to see that you can’t spend your way out of inequality. Money doesn’t magically make everything better. Ladies, please, you can’t buy a stairway to heaven!
All pause and pull back.
Faith: Did…did he just quote Led Zeppelin?
Inida: Then let’s get on with this before someone starts shouting for “Freebird.” Time for a little economic stimulus, ladies!
(All) Let’s take out the trash!
They grab him by the shoulders, the seat of his pants, and rush him off the stage.
Faith follows with his charts, which she gleefully tosses off after him.
Faith: And don’t forget to recycle!
Inida: Now all we need to worry about is…
Carry emerges from the house, very excited.
Carry: Inida, Inida! I’ve got it! I know how we restore Wealth’s sight! Listen!
They gather together around the stoop, as Carry narrates her plan.
As all hustle into the house in a huddle of conspiracy, stage hands clean up the garbage. They then remove the blue tarp to reveal not the iconic New Orleans shotgun home, but the façade of a temple with the word “Wealth” carved on the pediment. Audio/visual effects interlude: colored lights flash across the temple, the sound of a slot machine paying out a jackpot.
After a pause, Faith emerges from the house. Her costume has some color to it, as does her makeup.
Carry come running, rushing, stumbling onstage. Her face, too, has color, her costume less drab, the garland she now wears is full of blooming flowers.
Carry: Water, give me water. No, it should be wine! It should be champagne! It should be liquid gold! And soon it will be!
Faith: Carry, here, sit! Deep breaths, honey, deep breaths. Now tell me, what happened?
Carry: Wealth…can see again!
Faith: Oh, Carry! How did you do it? How did you manage it?
Carry: Medicare fraud.
Faith: What? You mean you really?
Carry: Sure. It was easy.
Faith: But isn’t that…?
Carry: Brilliant? Visionary? Inspired?
Faith: Lying? Cheating? Stealing?
Carry: Look at it this way: if it helps everyone, is it wrong?
Faith: I guess not, when you put it that way.
Carry: But let me tell you how it worked.
Carry: Picture the Temple of Asclepius, god of healing, high a top the Acropolis.
Faith: Ooh, the one with all the columns?
Carry: All the temples have lots of columns, Faith.
Faith: Oh, ok. I’m picturing it anyway.
Carry: Ok, so there we were, me and Wealth and Inida, lurking behind the altar.
Faith: Waiting for the god?
Carry: No, waiting for the right patient.
Carry: We had just about given up hope. It was a long wait and the temple was slammed…. chock full of veterans sick of waiting at the VA, women with the nerve to ask for birth control pills….
Faith: Those sluts!
Carry: But, no one with vision problems. Until, who should tap-tap-tap his way in but Neoclides.
Faith: The blind congressman from the Piraeus district?
Carry: One and the same! Apparently he goes to the temple at the start of every month looking to be healed.
Faith: How can he afford it?
Carry: It’s that government health insurance he gets.
Faith: Geez, must be nice!
Carry: So in he tap-tap-taps, bellowing like a sacrificial ox, “Nurse! Take me to the front of the line and help me dedicate this rooster to the god!” But there was no nurse handy, they were all busy with other patients.
Faith: So what did you do?
Carry: So I pop up from behind the altar and pretend to be the nurse! I coo and fuss over the old walrus, telling him what an honor it is to serve him and blah blah blah. All the while I’m spinning him round and round until I’ve gotten the robes off his back and the rooster out of his hand. Then I tell him the altar’s been moved and I lead him to the back of the line!
Faith: No! Then what?
Carry: Then we put the robes on Wealth, stuck the rooster in her hands, and shoved her to the front of the line!
Faith: You line-jumped and no one said anything?
Carry: No. They saw the robes and thought she was Neoclides.
Faith: Sounds like everyone there needed their eyes examined!
Carry: But wait, it gets better! When we get to the altar to sacrifice the rooster…
Faith: You know, we keep talking about roosters and yet no one’s made a cock joke.
Carry: Hello, we don’t want people thinking we’re doing Lysistrata.
Faith: Those sluts!
Carry: Ok, anyway, we sacrifice the rooster and poof! The god himself appears in the smoke form the altar, all shining in sparkling white robes, his divine daughters trailing along behind him, and he says, “Neoclides, in return for your faith, I restore the light to your eyes.”
Faith: He didn’t even notice it was a woman?
Carry: No, you know that HMO’s only let doctors see you for like ten minutes now; he didn’t have time.
Faith: Those…wait, sorry, wrong line…So he healed her?
Carry: Yes, but that’s not the best part. When he worked his way down the line to the real Neoclides, he didn’t recognize him. He saw him standing there in his underwear with no offering and he said, “If you are too poor to respect this temple, it is your manners that need healing, not your eyes.” And he gave him a face wash of vinegar and lemon juice. And that only made Neoclides all the blinder!
Faith: But Wealth, what about her?
Carry: Oh, it was magical. When the altar attendants saw that the god favored her, they bathed and dressed her, fussed over her, and then returned her to Inida. They’re on their way back now. I came on ahead to warn you. There’s quite a crowd coming.
Carry: Naturally; once Wealth could see, and everyone could see her, they knew right away how holy she was.
Faith: Oh, look! I see them coming now! Wow, who would have thought there were that many just people in Athens?
Enter Wealth. She is nothing like we remember. Tall in her gleaming white robes, crowned with laurel, her face shines as if lit from within. As she leads the processional, she showers the audience with Mardi Gras coins/throws. She is followed by Inida, likewise in white and garlanded with a splash of color on her face. After them trails along a crowd that includes the Chorus and various extras.
Wealth: (upon the steps of her temple) First, I bow to the sun, grateful to see his radiance again, then to the famous soil of Pallas Athena and all the land of Cecrops which has received me, a weary wayward wanderer, come back to her own native shore, to the glory that is Greece and the grandeur that is home.
The Chorus and extras press up to the steps.
Inida: Shoo, shoo! Get back! Don’t crowd me! Lord, don’t long lost friend and distant relations appear when you’re successful! You’d think I was Wealth and not her.
Carry: Well, you might as well be, Inida. You found her, you got us to help you, you fought off Poverty.
Wealth: And so you shall be the first to receive my benefits. I shall enter your home with my sight restored and make it the fountainhead from which all the good and decent folk of Athens receive my blessings. Come, my steward, escort me to your hearth.
Faith: Oh, this is so exciting!
Inida and Wealth link arms and parade into the temple. Maybe this reminds us a bit of a wedding ceremony. Carry and Faith trail up afterwards. Then everyone else.
More audio/visual effects of enrichment play across the temple.
After that interlude, Carry enters from the house, she has a bottle in one hand, her clothes should reflect her enrichment: she is in more color, her make up more extreme.
Carry: If those of you in the audience haven’t had the pleasure of living without expenses, let me recommend you try it. This house is exploding with goodies, even though we’ve done nothing wrong…well, sort of. Getting wealthy this way has been a piece of cake, which, by the way, Inida lets us eat. Oh, and the wine barrels are full of the dark, sweet stuff. Our purses are so heavy with gold and silver, the straps break. Our well out back is full of olive oil. We’ve so many bottles of perfume we’ve started bathing the dogs with the stuff. Our attic is full of figs. Our dishes have become gilt and our whole kitchen is carved from a gigantic piece of ivory. We’re now using Athenian silver staters for pieces on our checkerboard, and, and…. we’ve got a gold-plated outhouse with silk on the roll instead of Charmin. Beat that, if you can! And if you can’t, you probably deserve what little you’ve got! Ha, ha, ha…Suckers!
Enter Just Citizen, with a glowing complexion, well dressed and groomed, but carrying a tattered set of clothes and beat-up shoes.
Just Citizen: Oh, noble lady! I am come to visit the Goddess.
Carry: And who are you?
Just Citizen: I once was lost, but now I’m found….
Carry: …was poor, but now we’re rich. Yes, I can tell just by looking at you, you’re one of the good ones.
Just Citizen: That’s right, and I’m here to thank the goddess for the blessings I’ve received. You see, I was a paragon of fiscal responsibility. I saved, I scrimped, I budgeted.
Carry: And how did that work out for you?
Just Citizen: It didn’t. I did everything they told me I should, and I still never had enough. But then, I was told I could somehow afford a home, and I thought it was a miracle, that all my hard work and responsibility had finally been recognized. But it turns out what they gave me was an…
Carry: Let me guess.
Both: Adjustable Rate Mortgage.
Carry: And then you were ruined.
Just Citizen: Exactly right. And when I went broke, I was naïve enough to think that all the people I helped out when they were broke would return the favor. But oh no, they turned their backs on my, just like I was a stranger to them.
Carry: Bet they gossiped about you, too.
Just Citizen: Oh, you know that’s right. It’s like they enjoyed seeing bad things happen to me. And so I lost my house, my dignity, my self-confidence, (tremulous pause) my sex drive.
Carry: Whoa, now you’re over-sharing, pal. But what’s up with the dumpster rags?
Just Citizen: These? These are dedications to the Goddess. Just as in times of yore, when sailors were rescued from the chill, indifferent waters, they would dedicate plaques commemorating their salvation to the sea god Poseidon, so too have I brought tokens of my economic survival to the goddess Wealth.
Carry: You wore these?
Just Citizen: Through all the hard times. Now they bear witness to my reversal of fortune.
Enter Mortgage Broker. His power suit is dirty, perhaps looking like he’s been in a bar fight and slept all night on the barroom floor afterwards.
Carry: Speaking of which, look at him!
Broker: Yes, look at me! Just look at me! I’m ruined! I’m cursed once, twice, three times over, infinity times over!
Carry: And just what have you suffered?
Broker: You tell me! I’ve lost everything! My house and my car are gone! My whole portfolio is in the toilet! All thanks to that Goddess who is going to be blind again if I have anything to say about it!
Broker moves menacingly towards the temple; Just Citizen and Carry move between him and the door.
Just Citizen: Whoa, whoa! I think I know what’s going on here! Our visitor has lost his wealth, but like the proverbial bad penny, he himself just keeps turning up.
Broker: Where is she?! Where’s the one who promised that we’d all be rich if Wealth regained her sight? Because the fact is that she’s ruined us instead!
Carry: So, you were one of the unjust, predatory trouble-makers!
Broker: (pointing at Carry) And you, you must be the one who has taken all my wealth! My clothes, my house, my car, my fancy things, you’ve got them all now!
Carry: Aw, what’s the matter? Can take it, but you can’t dish it out?
Broker: This isn’t funny!
Carry: That’s what we tried telling the writer, but she wouldn’t listen.
Broker: I demand my things back! I demand my money back. You…you STOLE it from me!
Just Citizen: Oh? And did you do any different to us with your complex and vexing contracts?
Carry: Yes, signing things in triplicate, in quantooplicate, adjustable rates, balloon payments, interest reproducing like rabbits….
Just Citizen: Then, when you call for help and explanations….
Carry: You get transferred to some call center in India where it’s all Greek to them.
Broker: Don’t blame me for your poor judgment. I was doing my job and offering you what the market dictated.
Carry: (German accent) You veer just falloving orderz, ja?
Just Citizen: And how many times did you following orders put families out on the street?
Broker: And putting me out on the street makes it all better because?
Carry: It’s poetic justice!
Just Citizen: It’s all kinds of justice!
Broker: How is any of this remotely just? You all become rich, I become poor, all for no reason other than someone decided that’s how it should be?!
Carry: Pretty much.
Just Citizen: Funny how he was fine with it when he was on the other side of the equation.
Broker: Listen, just please, listen. Before the goddess regained her sight, you two were both activists against the ravages of Poverty, weren’t you?
Carry and Just Citizen: Of course.
Broker: And you would have said no one deserves to suffer the indignities of poverty, right?
Carry: Of course, sure….
Just Citizen: Living in poverty is a violation of basic human rights….
Broker: Yes, it is. What does poverty do for a city other than produce legions of hollow-eyed children, raised up to be fodder for their own lice and ticks? Other than sit like a stone on the backs of fathers who cannot work hard enough to support their families? Other than hobble our elderly long before Old Age ever catches them?
Carry: A tragedy it is, when Poverty makes your city his home.
Just Citizen: Poverty robs us of joy, dims the fire of our hearth.
Broker: It cripples us all.
Just Citizen: Yes. But Wealth emancipates, gives us wings to be our best selves.
Carry: True dat!
Broker: Then, don’t I deserve to be rich again, too?
Carry and Just Man look at each other; long, pensive pause. Then both break into mean-spirited laughter.
Just Citizen: OH, HELL NO!
Broker: Really?! Really?!! How am I any different than….
Carry: Because some animals are more equal than others.
Broker: …But you just said…
Carry: Enough! I’ve had enough! Get on out of here before I call security!
Carry and Just Citizen move threateningly toward Broker; he hightailis it offstage, still sputtering.
Carry: Wow! Who knew poor people could be so annoying? Come on inside, I’ll introduce you to Wealth.
She takes the Just Citizen’s arm and they enter the temple.
Interlude indicating more enrichment of the house, greater display of colored lights, increased sounds of slot machine ringing up a jackpot.
The Three Working Girls exit the temple with clownishly big wine cups. They too are dressed to reflect their enrichment—but it is starting to veer towards the tacky, their clothes over-bright, their make up and hair overdone.
(1) So full! Can’t possibly eat anymore.
(2) Inida conducting a triple sacrifice, a ram, a goat, a pig.
(3) So much smoke, so much meat, so much wine.
(1) Too much?
(2) No, never.
(3) Well, at least not yet.
They clink their glasses together and drink.
Enter Old Cougar. She is well dressed and in a way that disguises her age for the moment.
Old Cougar: (her voice has the affect of youth) Is this the temple of the New Wealth, or have I made a wrong turn somewhere?
(1) No, you’ve found it. Welcome to Nouveau Rich Street,
conveniently located between Poor Taste and Self-Absorption.
(2) But, sweetheart, you’re too young to be out here all by
yourself. Where’s your….
Old Cougar removes her veil and hat, and her true age is revealed.
(3) OH, MY GOD.
(1) Where did the young girl go?
(2) Is that a monkey in make-up?
(3) No, that’s an insult to monkeys everywhere.
Inida: (enters from temple, she is also tackied-up, bright colors, make up overdone) What in the name of Wealth the Savior is going on out here?
(1) We don’t know.
(2) We don’t want to know.
(3) We’re out of here.
All push back into the temple.
Old Cougar: (finally finished futzing with her clothes and hair, now that her age is revealed, her voice becomes that of a crone, as well) Are you the one responsible for this?
Inida: You mean, for you being embalmed while you’re still alive?
Old Cougar: That’s not funny.
Inida: Everyone’s a critic!
Old Cougar: Your meddling has cost me everything!
Inida: But you don’t look as if you’ve become poor.
Old Cougar: There are things more important than money.
Inida: Like what?
Old Cougar: Like true love.
Inida: Oh, so your dog ran away?
Old Cougar: No, my boyfriend.
Inida: (sotto voce) Would’ve though they’d be one and the same.
Old Cougar: You’ve cost me the love of a handsome young man.
Inida: Ah, I think I get it now. He’s become rich and…
Old Cougar: And I’ve become forgotten. But before all this, he used to be banging on my door day and night, wanting to see me.
Inida: Wanting to see you write a check, you mean.
Old Cougar: No, he’d only ask for what he needed.
Inida: And doubtless his needs were specific and highly personal.
Old Cougar: Oh, yes. He knew what he wanted: a team of horses, a fur coat, a trip to Mykonos.
Inida: Yes, it’s easy to be decisive with other people’s money.
Old Cougar: But this morning, he sent me something odd. A funeral arrangement with a card saying: “The Athenians once ruled the world.”
Inida: Well, maybe he thinks your affair is like what happened between Athens and the other cities when they formed the Delian League. Athens came first, the others not at all, and when the money ran out, it was all over but the crying.
Old Cougar: But he and I had a deal. He promised he’d love me until I died, and contrary to popular belief, I’m still alive. How has Wealth treated me justly if she allows him to break our contract?
Inida: Let’s ask the man himself.
Enter Boy Toy, drunk and dressed in loud, flashy clothes. He is decked in multiple garlands of flowers and is carrying a torch–the two hallmarks of being in the middle of a komos, the ancient Greek equivalent of a bar crawl.
Boy Toy: (to the audience) Whazzup, One Percenters!?
Inida: They say money can’t buy taste. Well, here comes your proof.
Boy Toy: (shudders in shock upon noticing Old Cougar) Ugh! Damn, baby. When did you become such a butter face?
Old Cougar: What do you mean?
Boy Toy: Well, you got a hot wallet…
Inida: (getting the joke) …but her face!
Old Cougar: Will one of you please explain what’s going on?
Inida: I think the wine has sharpened his eyesight.
Old Cougar: No, he’s always been keenly observant.
Boy Toy: Mmm-hmm. I always see where she puts her purse, her wallet, her checkbook. But now my love (turns to tease Old Cougar), all I can see is (brings torch close to her) how damn many wrinkles you got.
He and Inida laugh and exchange high fives again.
Old Cougar: Ugh! Keep your torch and your insults to yourself.
Inida: She’s right. She’s got enough make-up and oil on her skin that she’d burn up like the Deepwater Horizon!
Old Cougar and Boy Toy are shocked. Breaking character.
Old Cougar: Oh my god, really? Really?! Weeks of rehearsal and that’s what you’re going with?
Boy Toy: Yeah, seriously, what’s next? Katrina jokes?
Inida: (out of character too) Ok, sorry, my bad…. I was just trying, you know…to do some improv…to add more local flavor….
Boy Toy: Besides, you know, all that oil in the Gulf…they’ve cleaned it all up, now, right? They said they cleaned it up…it’s not, you know, still floating around out there…
Inida: No, yeah. I mean, I’m sure it’s…it’s all fine now…we don’t need to pay it anymore attention…just… everything’s fine….
Awkward pause and silence
Old Cougar: Ok! Anyway, let’s get back to what’s really important, the facts of my complaint. I have only one.
Boy Toy: That’s also how many teeth she has!
Inida: Ooh, burn!
Old Cougar: You bastard! Would you insult me, expose me in front of all these people!?
Inida: No, by Hades, no! No exposing! Keep your clothes on, madam!
Boy Toy: You know what, dog? She’s right. (to Old Cougar) You deserve better than this. Which is why I’m giving you to her.
Old Cougar: What?!
Boy Toy thrusts Old Cougar towards Inida.
Boy Toy: (mock Shakespearean) Yea verily, greater love hath no man. I yield her unto you. Crush not, dear lady, the darling buds of May.
Inida: (pushes her back) But I have no use for her!
Boy Toy: (pushes her back) Well, then give her to your brother.
Inida: (pushes her back) No!
Boy Toy: (pushes her back) Your Uncle?
Inida: (pushes her back) No!
Boy Toy: (pushes her back) Your Grandfather?
Old Cougar: (pushing at both of them) No!!!
Inida: Enough!! I’ve had enough! By Zeus Almighty, I would have thought Wealth would have made you better people, but since she hasn’t, let’s settle accounts as they stand. (pointing at Boy Toy) You! You still have to pay the bill in the currency you agreed upon in your contract.
Boy Toy: But, but I’m not using the services anymore!
Inida: Well, you used them in the past, and like many bills, this one has turned out to be larger than you budgeted for.
Boy Toy: But when am I going to be done paying it?
Inida: When Wealth stamps you Paid in Full.
Boy Toy: In that case, I’d better get in there and dedicate these garlands to her.
Old Cougar: Let me help you with that.
Boy Toy: (to Inida) Think I can restructure my debt, maybe refinance things?
Inida: Not in this economy.
Boy Toy: Man, those minimum monthly payments are the road to ruin.
Inida: You should have thought of that before you took out the loan.
Boy Toy: That’s cold, dog.
Inida: That’s business, dog.
Old Cougar: (as she is pulling Boy Toy into the temple) Come on, sugar. Let momma help you.
Boy Toy: Oh, gods! She’s insatiable, like a fury dragging me to Hell!
Inida: (following them into the temple) Well, then don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way down.
She shoves Boy Toy in. The door closes. Another interlude of enrichment occurs, more colored lights and a more insistent jackpot sound.
Enter Hermes, dressed in a toga that is wrinkled, stained, and a bit too short. The garlands about his head are withered. He knocks at the door of the temple.
Carry comes out of the temple, large pimp-cup style tankard in one hand. She is now obviously drunk. Her outfit, hair, and make-up much more over done, veering to clownish, a sort of kewpie doll’s face.
Carry: What the…? Who’s trying to crash the party now?
Hermes: It is I…the, uh…the god Hermes.
Carry: You mean Hermes, the Errand Boy of his corporate master, Zeus?
Hermes: No, the young and dashing god of Luck and Merchants, and I’ve come—
Carry: You’ve got to be kidding! I thought you were gone for good. I haven’t seen you since the crash of 2008.
Hermes: And I’ve come to tell you Zeus is angry. You and your girlfriends are messing with powers you can’t possibly control. Change your ways or you will all feel…THE WRATH OF ZEUS!
Hermes looks around, waiting for the familiar, ominous roll of thunder and flash of lightning to back him up. None comes. Carry, too, waits for the sound, looking unimpressed.
Carry: Looks under control to me.
She starts to go back inside
Hermes: Wait! Please! You don’t know what you’ve done. You don’t know what it’s like on Olympus now.
Carry: Really? So tell me, how bad are things up on the Big O?
Hermes: It’s terrible. No one sacrifices anymore, no one offers anything to the gods. We’re ruined, utterly ruined.
Carry: Serves you all right. If you all had taken better care of us back in the day, we might not have abandoned you now.
Hermes: But Carry, baby, I was always there for you.
Carry: Yeah, there to help me get into trouble, but never there to help with the consequences.
Hermes: But honey, it’s unseemly for a god to be punished along with his mortal worshippers. That’s the way the game is played, you can’t blame the player for that.
Carry: Oh, but we can change the rules. And that’s just what’s happened now. So you better learn the new game or get used to going hungry.
Hermes: Please, baby, come on, please just let me inside to get something to eat. It…it smells like you’ve got barbeque in there…(sniffing) from McClure’s (sniffing)…or Corky’s?
Carry: Yep. Both.
Hermes: (sniffing) And…and…tuna searing on the grill, like they do at….
Carry: Yes, indeed. We’ve got it all: butterfly catfish from Mittendorf’s, sweet baby backribs from Rocky and Carlo’s, onion rings from College Inn, oyster po’boy’s from Guy’s, barbeque shrimps from Pascal’s…
Hermes: Anything from Coquette?
Carry: Just their salt shaker.
Hermes: ‘Bout time someone took that away. But I am ravenous for the rest! I’m dying of hunger…and of thirst! I bet you’ve got a full bar, too!
Carry: Top shelf all the way round.
Hermes: Oh, by Zeus, this is so unfair!
Carry: Mmmm, it is so good to hear other people have to say that! It never gets old.
Hermes: Alright, alright then, teach me the new rules. I want a job at the Temple of the New Wealth.
Carry: (affects a recorded voice) I’m sorry, there are no positions available at this time, and we are no longer accepting resumes or keeping contact numbers on file. We recommend you check back with Human Resources in six months. Good-bye.
Turns to go inside.
Hermes: No, no, no! I can’t go back. Zeus will kill me. Please! Where will I go? What will I do?
Carry: Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Hermes: Please, I’m begging you. There’s got to be some job I can do. Some way I can earn my keep.
Carry: Hmmmm…ok…stand up.
Carry: Turn around.
Carry: You want a position or don’t you?
Hermes: Well, yes, but…
Carry: Then do it.
Hermes: Umm, ok.
Carry: Nice. Nice. Now, take it off.
Carry: You heard me. Take it off. I want to see what I’m buying.
Hermes: You can’t…
Carry: Oh, but the market can bear whatever it can bear. Now, take it off. Here, I’ll make it easy for you.
She throws money at him.
Hermes strips down to his boxers.
Carry: Now get inside and get to work.
She slaps his butt as he walks past her into the temple.
Hermes enters to a howl of ravenous female catcalls and a stripper’s bump and grind track. He burst from the doors in a vain attempt to escape but is pulled back in by an anonymous group of hands.
Interlude, still more enrichment of the house, lights and the sound of a slot machine paying off an enormous jackpot.
Enter Priest of Zeus (PoZ). PoZ has unnaturally combed-over hair, a good suit, brief case, smug attitude, and other self-important trappings of the corporate raider. PoZ knocks officiously at the temple door.
Inida: (emerging from the house; she too is now clownishly colorful, a full mask of make up) Well, what in Zeus’ name is it now!?
PoZ: Yes ma’am, that’s it exactly. I am here in Zeus’ name. I am the liaison for all his affairs here on earth. (hands her a business card)
Inida: Affairs is the right way to put it. All those poor girls he ruined…and boys, too, come to think of it.
PoZ: And affairs have gone very poorly since Wealth regained her sight, a hostile takeover for which Zeus holds you, madam, directly responsible.
Inida: Well, if he’s so upset with me, why didn’t he come himself, why did he send you?
PoZ: I can tell you’re new to this game. Your beginner’s luck can’t last long, though. Which is why I’ve come to offer you my services.
Inida: What!? You’re…you’re defecting from your priesthood?
PoZ: I prefer to think of it as shopping my talents to a new and rising company with a different vision for the success of the corporate model.
Inida: You can pretty it up all you like, honey, but when push comes to shove, you’re deserting your god.
PoZ: Please, you don’t know how bad it’s been.
Inida: And here we go, again.
PoZ: No one offers sacrifices we can use anymore, and as a result we priests are broke, and starving.
Inida: I can’t imagine why you’re surprised. Hang on, you said, no one offers sacrifices you can use? Does that mean people are in fact still coming to the temple?
PoZ: Yes, but…but they don’t come to offer gifts to us.
Inida: Well, what are they offering?
PoZ: Oh, god. They come in droves, it’s incessant….
Inida: But what’s driving them to come if they’re not…
PoZ: They’re using the temple as a bathroom, ok? Get it? They come when they need to go. There, I said it. Happy now?
Inida: Well, it serves you all right. You’ve been dishing out crap to us for so many years, and now it’s finally all come back to you.
PoZ: But that doesn’t solve my problem. How am I supposed to make a living when I keep getting handed shit?
Inida: I don’t know, but you’d better figure out how. In the world of the New Wealth, you’re stuck with what the Goddess has given you.
PoZ: I mean it’s not like we can eat it.
Inida: Oh, don’t temp me. Well, you’ve just got to figure out how to turn lemons into lemonade.
PoZ: Ha! There aren’t enough lemons and sugar in the world to sweeten this latrine.
Inida: That’s it! That’s it! Don’t you see? You can convert the temple into a public bathroom!
PoZ: Yes…yes! That’s so crazy it just might work! Pay Toilets! I know they’ve fallen out of style in the rest of Europe, but someone has to lead the charge backwards!
Inida: That’s the spirit!
PoZ: I can see it now! Multiple locations, frequent dumper discount cards, franchises!
Inida: T shirts, bumper stickers, ball caps, all proclaiming “I ‘went’ at Zeus”….
PoZ: And we could grow and expand until we were big enough for a, for a…
Both: A theme park!
PoZ: Now I see it. This world of shit, it isn’t Wealth’s revenge, it’s the Promised Land!
Inida: Just remember to stock up on the air freshener!
PoZ: Yes! And…and now that I’ve seen the light, do you think I might come inside, come in and see her?
Inida: What about your former boss?
PoZ: I can’t worry about him.
Inida: Nor should you. He actually snuck in the back door with a bunch of stage hands about two scenes ago.
PoZ: You mean, the big guy himself is inside?
Inida: Sure, who do you think we’ve got tending bar?
Cue same ominous roll of thunder and flash of lightning; but this time, all nod in agreement at the sound.
PoZ: Well in that case. Is it still happy hour?
Inida: Oh, honey. It’s always happy hour now.
PoZ: Then what are we waiting for?
Inida: Let’s get you a go-cup because we are just about to escort Wealth along the parade route to the acropolis and then dedicate her as our new Patron Goddess!
Whole cast piles out of the house. All are decked out for a second line/Mardi Gras parade. All are in half-masks, some in candy-colored wigs; feather boas, parasols, and beads abound. Someone hand PoZ a go-cup.
Inida: Everyone settle down, settle down! We need a basket-bearer to get this processional started off right!
Old Cougar: Oh, Miss Inida! I’ll lead us as long as you promise my boy will come to me tonight.
Inida: It’s all been arranged.
Old Cougar: Then Wealth’s will be done! (She seizes the basket with unseemly haste)
Inida: (to the audience) They say everyone loves a lover, but in this case we’ll make an exception.
The iconic parade song, “Do Watcha Wanna,” starts to play. The doors to the temple open to reveal the last iteration of Wealth, this time in carnival colors and fully masked, her former beneficence hidden behind the flat white of the krewe rider’s mask. Her worshippers turn and bow to her, then all assemble. Wealth leads them off, but this time there are no Mardi Gras throws for the audience, her worshippers dance madly behind her as if in a second line behind a parade or a funeral processional.
The following translation/adaptation of Aristophanes’ Wealth is copyrighted to Karen Rosenbecker 2013.©