Play for Two, a Moon and Puppets (1995)
The Moon: Constantly changing
(A bench under a park lamp post. Night, illuminated by the silver glimmer of the crescent moon. The light of lamp post is off. Underneath is Nela, with her back turned to the audience. She is whimpering. Her crying is obvious. Toto, an unusual character who seems to be looking for something, passes in front of her. He steps and looks at her, then leaves the stage. He comes back, appearing from behind the bench, closer to the audience).
(Nela stops her wails. She turns her head discretely)
TOTO: Julie, where are you? A..Answer me, Juliana!
(Nela looks at him)
TOTO: Ex..cuse me, have you s..seen a rather s..small, ch..charming th..thing pass by?
(Nela turns forward and bursts into tears)
TOTO: (Surprised) N..no, w..wait. I didn’t w..want to m..make you c…. I j..just wanted to a..ask if you h..have s..seen my Julie. I’ve b..been l..looking for h..her o..over an h..hour now. S..she does it s..sometimes…. r..runs away and h..hides from me. J..just now, an h..hour ago, I w… was s..sitting at home, watching b..basketb..ball on TV and d..drinking blueberry juice, and now… You know, I h..have to d..drink blueberry juice, the doctor says I am very anemic. N..not to me, to m..mother. It’s not t..true, you know. I am n..not anemic at all. (Pause). A..anyway… Julie ran away, w..while I w..was drinking…j..juice.
NELA: (Quietly wiping her eyes). I know her sort. Egotistical bastards.
TOTO: No. p..please. Jule is not an egoist. S..she is j..just fond… of walking… She is f..fr…
NELA: (Impassively). Free.
NELA: And the rest suffer from such freedom lovers.
TOTO: N..no, I don’t believe t..that.
NELA: Sure. Aren’t you suffering now?
TOTO: Who, m..me? God forbid. It’s q..quite pleasant, w..walking around like this in the park. J..just dandy…
NELA: … and you look in each bush, you twitch at each noise, you turn at each shadow…
TOTO: (With interest). H..how did you know?
NELA: (Begins to cry.)
TOTO:D..don’t… please. I’m g..going … (Toto begins to move away)
NELA: (Murmurs something through the tears).
TOTO: (Moves back towards her). W..what did you say?
NELA: (Still crying, more audible). Don’t go!
TOTO: What do you mean. I am here, you are crying, Julie is gone. What will people say?
NELA: (Through tears). There are no more people!
TOTO: S..sure, there are. The park is full of couples. And those who come alone… they are v..voyeurs.
NELA: (Looks at him indignantly).
TOTO: (Startled) N..no .. I am not alone. I am l..looking for Julie. (Turns around, and calls out) J..Juulieee!!!Juliaana! Answer me, honey, p..please!
(Everything remains the way it is. Nela stares at him, he stares at the void)
TOTO: I’ll be going now.
NELA: (She turns towards him on the bench, evidently trying to keep him there) Is she.. Very young?
NELA: What does she look like?
TOTO: She’s dark.
NELA: I think I’m going to cry again.
TOTO: I’m going.
NELA: No, please don’t. It is very scary here.
TOTO: W..well, why don’t you leave too?
NELA: (Sniffling) I am also looking for someone.
NELA: (In a new outburst of tears). Same as you!
TOTO: Y..you are l..looking for Julie too?
NELA: (Still crying, more audible) No. A dark person. Just like you.
TOTO: P..person? I’m not l..looking for a person.
NELA: What do you mean? What are you looking for then?
TOTO: M..mother’s p..poodle.
NELA: Mister, you are rude!
TOTO: How’s that, missy?
NELA: I’m no missy to you, understand!? You mislead me, make me take pity on you, I confess to you… all in a moment’s weakness. I don’t even know you!
TOTO: (Extends his hand). Toto. I mean…Toto to friends. Otherwise, I am officially Theodore. Pleased to meet you.
NELA: (After a lengthy interval in which she calms down, accepts his hand quietly). Antoanella, pleased to meet you too.
TOTO: S..see. No more problems.
NELA: I wouldn’t say…
TOTO: I mean with the introduction. I don’t understand why people have to be introduced at all. I like sitting and talking to people I don’t know. What about you, Antoanella?
(He seats on the bench. She gets up)
NELA: You can call me Nela, Theodore.
TOTO: No Theodore. T..Toto is better. Toto is for people who are close. M..mama calls me T..toto.
NELA: Me, close to you?! But, we’ve only just met.
TOTO: W..what now… we have to go through the introductions again?
NELA: (Smiles for the first time) No. That’s not what I meant. I meant that here you are, I’ve met you for the first time, and you are so free. I didn’t mean to insult you.
TOTO: D..doesn’t matter. I am like that. M..mother says I make friends easily. I don’t know.
NELA: Do you have many friends, Toto?
TOTO: O-ho! S..sometimes I can’t get rid of them.
NELA: Lucky you!
TOTO: Y..you don’t?
TOTO: No one?
TOTO: No what? Do you, or don’t you?
NELA: (Burst into crying) I don’t knooow!
TOTO: Don’t cry… please, Nela. I c..can’t stand such cries. I e..even
chase away cats in F… February when they m..mate. (Looks at her). W..what do you mean, you don’t know?
NELA: He was the only one I had… until yesterday.
TOTO: The b… black p…
NELA: (Nervously nods her head in confirmation)
NELA: What he-poodle, damn it!!
TOTO: I have Julia, a she-poodle, and you have Him, the he-poodle.
NELA: (In a wave of tears). Fiancee, Toto!. I wasn’t abandoned by a dog. I was abandoned by my fiancee!!
TOTO: (Coldly). Yup, the s..same thing. A dog!
NELA: No, Toto, I swear. He was a good man.
TOTO: Yeah, was. I was a m… manager of a company, but l..look at me now! It’s all the same!
NELA: But he loved me.
TOTO: H..he u… used you!
TOTO: He used you and then he d… dumped you!
TOTO: L..listen to me. W..where is your… … b..boyfriend now, huh?
NELA: You are trash!
TOTO: (Calmly, with certainty). Y..you are the ram!
NELA: And you an elephant!
TOTO: Excuse me, but that’s not a zodiac sign.
NELA: Oh, that! No, I am a Pisces.
TOTO: (With conviction) No way, honey. An Aries!!
NELA: How do you know?
TOTO: (With an air of flaunting) I am an a… astrologer and a p..palm reader.
NELA: Truly, Toto?
TOTO: No, I am kidding you!
NELA: How did you guess then?
TOTO: Oh, that. Easy, I saw your pendent (points to the chain on her neck).
NELA: (Disappointed) So much you know!
TOTO: (Emphatically) It’s all written in the s..stars!
NELA: (Ironically) … and on pendants, right? (with a change in tone) He was a Pisces! On a silver chain.
TOTO: He is a Taurus!…
NELA: (Genuinely surprised and admitting) Yes, how did you know?!
TOTO: (Fiery still) I mean a bull, a stack, a horse… A stud!
NELA: Don’t say that, Toto. I love him.
TOTO: Yeah, right. Only a s… stud could do such a thing to you… You are quite a girl, N… Nela.
NELA: You think so?
TOTO: You bet.
NELA: He was very gentle with me, Toto.
TOTO: I know.
NELA: How do you know?
TOTO: Well, a Taurus and an Aries. They complement each other.
NELA: You mean, because they both have horns?
TOTO: No, Nela. Because of the s..stars.
NELA: Oh, that.. (silent and then in tears again) He sure did stick his horns. With my best friend. People told me, but I wouldn’t listen. Until I caught them in the act. Last night. On this very bench. I made a scandal. All the things I told her…
TOTO: What about him?
NELA: (With contempt) I didn’t even look at him!
TOTO: S..so, he l..left j..just like that?
NELA: No. He slapped me first.
NELA: (Tenderly) I can still feel his hand on my cheek.
TOTO: He s… slapped you that hard?
NELA: (Crying) No, fool! That’s how much I love him.
TOTO: Oh, that! It’s no good Nela. He doesn’t deserve you!
NELA: I know, but I can do without him. We worked together. He was my boss.
TOTO: Hey, y..you are a secretary?
NELA: A puppet maker!
TOTO: W… what?
NELA: I make puppets. For the theater. He is the director of a puppet theater. If you only knew how many puppets I’ve made!
TOTO: (With admiration) You are a d..doll, Nela!
NELA: (Enraged) Listen you, I don’t need your compliments and I don’t need you flirting with me, got that?
TOTO: I m… meant, he was p..playing with you like an ordinary p..puppet, Nela.
NELA: That… is true. Do you know how well we got on together?
NELA: … I was in seventh heaven! With him, I lived in a story. In all the fairly tales we played at the theater. Toto, I gave all I had to each puppet. I swear it!
TOTO: I c… can see that!
NELA: I was thinking, make it as pretty for him as you can. He deserves it. Put a part of you in the puppet. He will give it life. The puppet or me… it’s the same. He breathes life to us both.
TOTO: Enough, Nela. I c… can’t listen to you anymore. He ruined you, and on top of it all, you still adore him him.. You are a true ox, Nela.
NELA: And you are a real elephant, Toto. What do you want from me? (She looks at him suspiciously). Do you think I am one of those cheap broads that roam the park at night, chasing men with tear jerking stories?
(She gets up to leave)
(The moon changes the light. The lights on the stage fade down getting a strange, almost blue shine. The leafs rustle under the strengthened wind.)
TOTO: Y..you are a princess, N..Nela!
(She stops in place and turns towards him. Both are silent).
TOTO: (Confused) I am s… sorry. It s..slipped out.
NELA: You are a good man, Toto. Forgive me.
TOTO: (In a better mood) H..hey, t… there’s nothing to forgive. Nela, you need people. You mustn’t be alone n..now. You should talk, laugh, relax, Nela.
NELA: (With an empty state) I have no one left, Toto. Do you want to know why I really came here?
TOTO: T..to find h..him and to…
NELA: (Cuts in coldly) I came to kill myself,
Toto. I want to hang myself. Here, look! (She pulls a rope from her bag). I even picked the tree. It’s that one there, under the second lamp post. So they would find me sooner. I don’t want to hang there too long. (Pause, then…) I lied, Toto. He didn’t leave me the other day. He left half a year ago. He left me dumbfounded on this bench. There was no one else. I made everything up. (Crying) Because I was o-old! Because he wanted children, and I couldn’t have any. What does he know, the rotten bastard! How can he know!
TOTO: N..Nela! What are you saying, Nela!
NELA: Yes, I should have been hanging by now. You stopped me. An accidental and lost passerby. A boring chatterbox.
TOTO: (Confused) I, I am s..sorry. I didn’t want…
NELA: Come on, go. Go now. We had a chat, you passed the time, what else do you want? There, now you know it all. Instead of basketball on TV, you saw a crazy woman in the park. Go, go to Mama, go to bed. Maybe your bitch is back too. Go on, get on home, have some blueberry juice and live happily ever after, just like in the fairly tales!
TOTO: Why are you sneering at me Nela? Did I insult y… you in any way? We were talking so nicely.
(Nela, confused and beside herself, is staring at him).
TOTO: Give me your hand, Nela!
(Nela mechanically hands out her hand. Toto takes the rope and puts it in his pocket).
(The moon changes the light again. The stage is enlightened by an unreal silvery moonshine)
TOTO: (Opens her palm and looks into it; with a change in tone) No, you won’t hang yourself. Not tonight, nor any other night. You have a long life line. You will live to an old age and have a fulfilling life.
NELA: Tonight, I will kill myself.
TOTO: That’s not the way it’s written. I see your whole life. Clearly. More clearly than you can imagine. You grew up with you mother. Your mother was a puppet maker. Your father was an actor in the puppet theater. You don’t remember your father. He left you soon after you were born. She died early. You grew up alone. Their lines join. You will be both. A puppet maker and an actress. You will create beautiful spectacles They will free you from your fatal ties. You will break your mother’s dark circle and you will open your own, new and beautiful one.
NELA: You’ve stopped stuttering.
(The moon changes again to its old yellowish color)
TOTO: (In the old tone of voice) Y… yeah right.
NELA: You didn’t stutter once.
TOTO: It h..happens sometimes. When I get c… carried away.
NELA: And all that is written here?
TOTO: O-ho, and much more.
NELA: Why are you lying to me Toto?
TOTO: Why don’t you get back at him, Nela!
NELA: Me, at him! He drove me crazy Toto. Look at me. He’s ruined me! How can I get back at him!
TOTO: Have a child, Nela. Not one, many children. He left you because he was afraid you couldn’t have children, right? Show him, Nela. Teach him a lesson. Show him what you can do. Make the best puppet show. Better than any he ever made. Alone. All alone. Let the bastard see what he lost.
NELA: I can’t have children Toto. Because of him. He made me have abortion. “Why do we need children”, he said “look how many of them we have in the theater”. I can’t produce children now.
TOTO: Produce puppets, Nela. Give them l..life!
(Nela is staring at him. Then, engrossed in thought, leaves. She turns back)
NELA: Toto, are we going to see each other again?
TOTO: A..any t..time you like, Nela. I am always h..here.
(She is still overcome by what Toto has told her. She leaves. Toto sits on the bench, with his back to the audience and looks at the crescent moon. The silver half of the moon moves and fades away. Stars twinkle on the sky).
TOTO: The Morning Star is in the Little Dipper and Julia is still missing.