A play with pictures
Cast of Characters:
STEPAN IVANOVICH – about 60
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA, his wife
ANYA – 20 years old, their daughter
SISTER – 35 years old, their daughter
SEVA – 40 years old, Sister’s husband
ANDREI – 40 years old
DMITRY – 20 years old
PIROGOVA – 20 years old
BARSUKOV – 50 years old
NIKOLAI – 20 years old, his son
White Rolls-Royces, trolleys and flat-bed trucks race by Mayakovsky, Pushkin and Gogol. Morning airplanes fly above the ponds. Horses, bicyclists and pedestrians jostle with singing Mexicans. Lilac’s bloom, it smells of rain, bread and salt. A huge sun shines over the entire city. Seva and Andrei walk in the direction of the Kremlin.
ANDREI. I got two letters today. One from my grandmother, the other from my sister. Grandmother’s letter was incredibly tender.
SEVA. Hush there. Moscow does not believe in tears.
ANDREI. All my life this city looks at me so cold, as an ice woman. A woman who laughs at me, who never ever offered me a hand, no matter how I whimpered or begged her for a single moment. I’m a stranger to her. I’m no one to her. She doesn’t love me.
SEVA. Just spend some money with her and she’s yours all night long.
ANDREI. If only that could be true…
SEVA. Your head will spin, your ears will ring, and your feeble breast will shake with laughter. You’ll bite your lips and swallow hard – and she’ll beg for more!
ANDREI. I don’t have any money.
SEVA. Moscow is not the world’s bellybutton. Other countries are inhabited, too. Short as Napoleon.
ANDREI. Every year it gets tougher and tougher. This town has stripped me bare. I hate it! (Starts crying.)
SEVA. OK, it’s OK.
ANDREI. I’ve got just a single weary desire left in my head – to lie down here and die. To strip off all these clothes, kick off my wet shoes, free myself of these rags and die naked – right here. Right here on this asphalt in the rain. I won’t say a thing to her; I’ll just think quietly to myself – HOW ABOUT THAT, SWEETHEART? I LOST!
ANDREI. I’m finished!
Enter Pirogova. She runs and laughs and waves photographs in the air.
#1 PIROGOVA. This is Vitya. He’s a pilot. He took me for a plane ride. Up there! Over Moscow! We even flew over your street.
SEVA. I thought I noticed something strange. It was like the
weather went bad on just our street. But it was actually Pirogova
taking a plane ride!
PIROGOVA. We flew high, over the clouds!
ANDREI. What kind of plane does he have?
PIROGOVA. I don’t know. I know nothing about planes.
SEVA. Are you going to many him?
PIROGOVA. What’s that got to do with it? He did propose, though.
SEVA. Accept. Go ahead.
ANDREI. I wanted to be a pilot when I was a kid.
PIROGOVA. When I was a kid I swam as an arrow.
SEVA. I drew swallows when I was a kid.
PIROGOVA. A swallow flew in my window once.
ANDREI. I don’t like it when birds get inside.
SEVA. They say a nightingale flew into my room once.
ANDREI. So many birds flew into my room. I don’t even know what they were.
PIROGOVA. Maybe it was a sparrow?
SEVA. Or something else, maybe.
ANDREI. What are you doing tonight, Natasha?
PIROGOVA. Where do you want to invite me?
SEVA. A greasy spoon.
Pirogova laughs, runs out on high heels.
ANDREI. What did you say that for?
SEVA. You never know what’s going on in her heart.
They approach a small house and open the door. Music is playing inside. Anya, Yelizaveta Sergeyevna and Dmitry are sitting at a table and laughing.
DMITRY. I walk along the street and I can’t do anything about it – I laugh! I love all those people who are walking past me, you know? It’s like I physically love them. I want to kiss every one of them, I want to give them presents, do something nice for them!
SEVA. Home at last.
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. Seva! Andryusha!
SEVA. Let’s love each other physically!
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. Why so sad, Andryusha? You’re probably hungry.
ANDREI. You think that’s what I came here for?
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. Of course not. I just want you never to be hungry.
ANDREI. Thank you. I got two letters today. One from grandma and one from my sister. I decided to read grandma’s first. I figured she’d be criticizing and making fun me. Then I’d read my sister’s letter, to save the best for last. But grandma wrote me such a tender letter I even cried.
ANYA. I think it’s horrible when a man cries.
ANDREI. Yeah. I was walking down the street thinking I’d die if I didn’t have a drink.
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. Did you?
ANDREI. I had to. So I wouldn’t die.
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. It’s opposite with me. I think if I die I’ll never drink again. So I guess I’d better live.
SEVA. That gives you some kind of goal in life anyway.
ANYA. I keep getting love letters from someone in violet ink.
SEVA. How romantic!
ANYA. Do you know anybody with handwriting as ugly as this?
ANDREI. No, I don’t. What are you drinking? Wine?
ANYA. Yes. Dmitry arrived.
SEVA. For long?
DMITRY. Yes, if there’s no war.
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. Whenever I see those boys I feel so sorry for them. I want to do something for them. I want to help. I want to go to them and say “Everything is going to be all right.”
ANYA. He’s not one of them.
DMITRY. I’m happy.
ANYA. He smiles in the bus at unknown mature women.
DMITRY. I like life. I think I can do anything I want.
ANDREI. He looks like a hero.
ANYA. That’s what they say.
SEVA. Welcome home!
Everyone laughs and drinks.
#3 DMITRY.Moscow has completely changed. I went into the post office and a pretty girl was eating grapes. She smiled at me, stamped my envelope and laughed. That didn’t used to happen.
SEVA. Girls didn’t used to smile at you?
SEVA. (Laughs) There it is — the honest face of youth!
ANDREI. What else have you noticed in our city?
DMITRY. They are planting trees everywhere.
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. They plant trees and paint the buildings and fix the roads. Then it will be just like before the war.
ANYA. I hope it happens soon!
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. Those were the days! How we danced! I used to lose five kilos after every dance! Five? Hell – ten!
ANDREI. What a nice past you had.
SEVA. Maybe we should dance?
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. I’ve probably forgotten how.
SEVA. I don’t believe you! (Grabs Yelisaveta Sergeyevna.)
ANYA. Careful, Seva! Careful!
Anya and Dmitry drink wine, dreamily looking out over Moscow, its lights, streets and cars. Andrei re-reads his letters.
DMITRY. Everything is so beautiful! You are beautiful. Moscow is beautiful.
ANYA. I madly want to be so incredibly beautiful that everyone will lose his head!
DMITRY. In that case you are just as beautiful as Moscow.
ANYA. No! Moscow is old!
DMITRY. But you are incredibly beautiful. (Anya laughs.) How was it here without me?
ANYA. I’ve already forgotten how old you are.
DMITRY. I’m twenty. I’m already a full-grown young man.
ANYA. I’m twenty and I’ve never been abroad.
DMITRY. There’s no winter there.
ANYA. I don’t like winters.
DMITRY. I didn’t think of anything but you.
ANYA. When you left you looked like a chicken.
DMITRY. What about now?
ANYA. Now, too.
DMITRY. Now I look like a hero. That’s what everybody says. (Anya laughs.) I wandered down the boulevards all night long. It was dark and quiet and everybody was kissing at the benches – the love was all around! In the daytime flowers are everywhere.
ANYA. Didn’t it used to be like that?
DMITRY. I want to buy flowers and give them to girls all the time.
SEVA. Pirogova says that’s all men are good for.
DMITRY. I saw her yesterday.
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. Did you give her any flowers?
DMITRY. No. She disappeared too fast.
SEVA. Maybe she got scared.
DMITRY. Yeah. I shouted really loud and kissed her really long.
ANYA. I bet she hadn’t kissed anyone in a hundred years.
DMITRY. What about you?
ANYA. What about you?
DMITRY. You cried when I left.
ANYA. I always cry when someone leaves.
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. Let’s have some tea or coffee!
SEVA. Tea or coffee?
ANYA. Or coffee?
#4 They laugh and rise the cups.
DMITRY. I’ve been dreaming of this city for so long! Just to be able to stand somewhere and wait for a trolley – and nothing more. So my heart would feel joy and my soul would exult! To stand in a quiet snow or under the rose sky, to watch girls dancing and dogs running down the road. I really wish winter would come!
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. I don’t want winter to come.
DMITRY. I really love this city.
ANDREI. I love this city too.
DMITRY. I love my country.
ANYA. I love it too. So what?
SEVA. That’s good.
DMITRY. I was afraid maybe you’d quit loving it. But you… You’re just like… You’re like you were before… You’re just like then…
ANYA. No. I’m happy my childhood has passed.
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. I spent my whole childhood riding my bicycle in Petrovsky Park!
ANDREI. I had an orange cat when I was a kid.
ANYA. I had a pink cat.
DMITRY. When I was a kid I lost a game of Ping-Pong to my girlfriend.
SEVA. My girlfriend taught me to light matches.
DMITRY. Back there everybody was asking me. “Where are you going?”
SEVA. To Moscow.
YELIZAVETA SERGEYEVNA. And they said, “Oh…”
DMITRY. I’d say – MOSCOW ISN’T AS FAR AS YOU THINK YOU JUST HAVE TO WANT TO BE THERE.
ANDREI. But Moscow doesn’t love everybody. It doesn’t welcome everybody. It doesn’t forgive everybody.
DMITRY. It welcomed me. With a big, happy smile.
ANDREI. You think so?
DMITRY. I know so. I can feel the sun shining up ahead.