MICHAEL SMITH’s play about the Cino, “Summer Lightning” is available on a DVD of the Brush Creek Playhouse production for 15 dollars, including Priority Mail postage. Michael’s address is: P. O. Box 1268Silverton, OR97381. Allow as much as a month for delivery.
This play is c 2009.
All inquiries to
P. O. Box 1268
COPYRIGHT © 2009 BY MICHAEL SMITH
“Summer Lightning” was first presented on June 12, 2009, at the Brush Creek Playhouse in Silverton, Oregon, directed by the author with the following cast:
I. F. (Izzie) Rustamov – Jacob Dickson
Kyle Duette/Hippolytus – Alfred St. John Smith
Vito Caldo – Norman Gouveia
Stark Ladd/Theseus – Vere McCarty
Wilma Velp/Phædra Betty Ann Prior
Kevin Baring/Theramenes – Kory Crosen
Marla Vorhees/Œnone – Thia Evans
Milly Deville/Aricie – Alison White
Benny Deville – Tavis Evans
Scenic and lighting design was by the author, with costumes by Karyl Carlson.
“In my work I try to display human effort. Whether or not people are successful, their earnest attempt to communicate with each other is beautiful.” —Chris Elam
CAST OF CHARACTERS
(in order of appearance): I. F. (Izzie) Rustamov – dramatist and flamboyant aesthete
Kyle Duette – critic, unwilling actor; also HIPPOLYTUS
Vito Caldo – proprietor of the Caffè Caldo, indefatigable fount of espresso and good cheer
Stark Ladd – Vito’s roommate, an electrician; also THESEUS.
Wilma Velp – the star of “Summer Lightning”: also PHAEDRA.
Kevin Baring – young actor; also THERAMENES. Marla Vorhees – actor; also ŒNONE.
Milly Deville – actor and waiter; also ARICIE. Benny Deville – Milly’s younger brother
(Stage right a tiny dressing room. Actors face the audience through an imaginary mirror framed with light bulbs; the walls are lined with colorful costumes. The rest of the stage represents the interior of the Caffè Caldo, a picturesque Italian coffee house theatre in Greenwich Village. Twinkle lights and wind chimes embower an espresso machine on a cluttered counter. Behind it, the doorway to the dressing room, a sink in the back corner, the light board in a nook. Downstage center, between the dressing room and the café, is a curtained doorway framed by a Greek portico, downstage of that a projecting “stage” defined by light. At left are one or two small tables with ice cream chairs; more are implied out in the audience. The walls of the café are a dense collage of head shots, production stills, flyers, pictures cut out of magazines, and all kinds of other precious trash.)
(Afternoon. The café is not yet open for business. I. F. RUSTAMOV enters down the aisle of the theatre followed reluctantly by KYLE DUETTE.)
KYLE: I am not an actor. I told you in the first place. How did I get myself into this situation? I hate acting. I hate going out on the stage and pretending to be a different person. I feel like a complete fool. I feel like an idiot. I am trying to be real. I mean in my life.
RUSTAMOV: I know, darling, we all feel that way. But it is good for you. You can’t spend your whole life sitting in the dark watching other people act.
KYLE: I have enough trouble just being myself. I am not like you. I wish I were. Confident, productive, brilliant. Don’t fool yourself that you know how I feel.
RUSTAMOV: You are not human? I kid you not. The moment is pregnant with possibilities. Charles Swift is coming tonight. This could be my time. You are magnificent in the part. Finally. Stop kvetching. Having you in the role is a brilliant coup.
RUSTAMOV: Not everyone I know is poor and desperate.
KYLE (Sarcastic): Why didn’t you have him play it?
RUSTAMOV: He refused.
KYLE: Oh, fine. (Looking around): I don’t think anybody is here.
RUSTAMOV (Loudly): Hello! We have arrived! Vito? The door was open. Darling, where are you? I think you’re right.
KYLE: I am terrible in the part. Admit it. Couldn’t you find anybody else? It is a great role, I’d think actors would be lining up.
RUSTAMOV: If you hadn’t reviewed it yourself you might get a sensible opinion. Get used to it. You are excellent! Calm yourself. Chill, baby. What can I say? I needed you, caro. I didn’t want an actor. The costume can do the acting. (Pause) You are you, that is exactly what I want. Anyway there was no alternative. Stand on the stage. I will turn on your light. You know you love it. Why resist? (Goes to the light board)
KYLE: I am only doing this because I love you and respect and admire you and I think it will make me a better critic.
(Ironically grumpy): O.K., what do you want me to do? But I don’t like it.
RUSTAMOV (Reaches into the booth and turns on a spotlight focused on the “stage.”): Let’s fix your speech at the end of Act I, when you are planning to get into your boat and leave. If you get that, the rest will follow.
KYLE: I had a nightmare last night. I made my entrance, and when I got out on the stage in front of the audience it was the wrong play, with entirely different lines, and I was naked from the waist down.
RUSTAMOV: Every actor has that dream.
KYLE: I am not going out on the stage naked. Just forget it. (In spotlight, gesturing melodramatically) My mother was an Amazon; I sucked wildness at her breast. Reason ripened what nature sowed. If I gloried in my father’s deeds, I blushed at his seductions. Am I in my turn to be the slave of love and stoop so low?
RUSTAMOV: Stop! I have told you a hundred times. Stand still! Just say it! Let the words do the work. Don’t “act,” for God’s sake!
KYLE (Simply): Am I in my turn to be the slave of love and stoop so low? No heroics justify such weaknesses in me.
RUSTAMOV: Do you understand what he is talking about? Can you recognize the feeling?
KYLE: Yes, I can. My proud heart needed to be humbled, but Aricie should never have been the one to tame it. How can I forget my father’s stern command? He forbids a single shoot from such a stock.
RUSTAMOV: That’s it. Like that.
KYLE: Remind me, what am I talking about?
RUSTAMOV: He killed her four brothers when he took over Athens.
KYLE: Oh, right. How terrible! It was not her fault.
RUSTAMOV: It is family. It is fate. Never mind. It is clear enough. The play is a classic, my dear, it cannot fail. I am merely the channel. (Pause): Say “you are too modest.”
KYLE (Laughing): You are too modest. I go to find my father.
RUSTAMOV: Posterity will vindicate me! Go home now. Relax. Eat something. You’ll be fine.
KYLE: I like being Greek.
(Exit up aisle.)
RUSTAMOV (Calling after him): You can, little engine. Be brave. (To himself) Who am I kidding? It is a complete disaster. If I had any sense I would cancel.
(Cross-fade to dressing room. STARK LADD rises from the floor, sits at the dressing table, and stares at himself moodily in the mirror.)
LADD: Your pride condemns you. Your sick soul disdains the blameless fires of lawful love. Only my wife bewitches your shameless eyes.
CALDO (Rising behind him, puts up his hair, then): Phoebe found your tools in the basement next to the meter and put two and two together so I think you had better hook her up too. Can you do that?
LADD: Do you have any suggestions?
CALDO: No, the show looks bellissima.
LADD: I mean about my so-called acting. Theseus is a slimeball, really, scattering broken hearts and bastards all over the eastern Mediterranean, and at the same time a great hero.
CALDO: All of that is coming across. You should act more. That is the irony. It is typical of Izzie, even if it is not his story. I can’t explain it but I know it’s great.
LADD: You will have to give the meter man something extra.
CALDO: How much do you think?
LADD: I don’t know. Twenty bucks a time. Twenty bucks is good. Ten is probably enough. You already give him twenty for the café, right?
CALDO: And a bonus if he looks like he needs it. Everybody is happy except you.
LADD: I am happy. I just look like this.
CALDO: Did I do something wrong? Did I say something?
LADD: I am a moody person. It is no problem if you stay cool. It doesn’t help for you to suffer along.
CALDO: Then I won’t.
(Makes faces at himself in the mirror. Crossfade to café.)
CALDO (Entering café, puts on music, low. To RUSTAMOV): Why don’t you just play the part yourself? You know the lines, and you know what you want. No one else will ever get it right.
RUSTAMOV: Where were you?
CALDO: I didn’t even want to talk to him after what he said about Wilma Velp. Poor ella. How can she go on the stage with him? I will be surprised if she shows up.
RUSTAMOV: What are you talking about? It was a rave.
CALDO: It was a rave for you. Actors don’t care what he says about the play. He said she was “self-consciously inept.”
RUSTAMOV: He meant it as a compliment. You have to admit she has a unique style. That’s what I like about her. And she is fun.
CALDO: She is fun if you like Greek tragedy. Oh, I do, don’t get me wrong.
LADD (Emerging): I am going out.
RUSTAMOV: Who else is here?
CALDO: Don’t go. I need to talk to you.
LADD: I’ll be back.
RUSTAMOV: I thought we were alone.
CALDO (After a pause): Espresso? Cappuccino?
RUSTAMOV: Are you all right?
CALDO: He is just in a bit of a mood. I am too sensitive.
RUSTAMOV (stepping into the spotlight): Am I in my turn to be the slave of love and stoop so low? No heroics justify such weaknesses in me. My proud heart needed to be humbled, but Aricie should never have been the one to tame it. I hate my voice. I am too fat. I am embarrassed to be seen in public.
CALDO: Don’t be so hard on yourself. You have a beautiful voice.
RUSTAMOV: Do I? Of course I do. So do you, darling. But Hippolytus has to be thin.
CALDO: Your public loves you.
RUSTAMOV: Of course they do. I just don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent.
CALDO: Neither do I, but somehow I do. We are still standing.
RUSTAMOV: You need a bigger space.
CALDO: I don’t want a bigger space. This is exactly what I want. The stage is small but imagination is infinite. I don’t have to tell you that. Bigger just means more sets, more lights, more money. I don’t want more, I don’t want progress, I want to enjoy what I have!
RUSTAMOV: What do you advise me to do, if I may be so uncool as to inquire?
CALDO: You are doing exactly the right thing, caro. This is your destiny. You are my playwright. I will put on anything you write. My stage is yours to command. If you have to go elsewhere, go with my blessing and my thanks. I love your plays. You know that.
RUSTAMOV: This one is not exactly mine.
CALDO: Where would we be without Classic Comics? (Serves him an espresso): Drink this, bella, it will make you feel better.
RUSTAMOV: I’m fine. I am perfect. The problem is entirely practical. What I need is a rich patron. That would solve everything. God, I hope Mr. Swift likes it.
CALDO: What did you propose?
RUSTAMOV: Five hundred a month.
CALDO: That sounds doable.
RUSTAMOV: It is a lot of money.
CALDO: Not to him. Bah. How do I know how rich people think? They are mostly stingy but occasionally munificent. It is unrelated to reality.
RUSTAMOV: Cross your fingers.
CALDO: I have high hopes. I have high hopes for all of you. If this doesn’t happen something else will.
RUSTAMOV (Takes espresso to table, stirs in two spoonfuls of sugar): Will anyone else come, after that review?
CALDO: If we don’t have an audience we will do it for the room.
RUSTAMOV: You are the best, my dear, you are the best of the best. I may not be getting famous but I am doing exactly what I want. Do you ever say no? Do you ever say hurry up, or that’s too much, you’ve gone too far?
CALDO: Do your thing, baby.
RUSTAMOV: Music to my ears.
(Raises his espresso cup in a toast. Lights fade out.)
(A few hours later. Music: Callas singing “Casta diva,” at full volume. Lights come up on CALDO polishing glasses in preparation for the evening. LADD comes in with a ladder, climbs up it, looks at a light, pantomimes shaking the bulb, etc. CALDO eyes him, seems about to speak, instead dances lyrically and romantically around him. As aria subsides, LADD folds the ladder and exits, pausing for a final ass-wiggle. CALDO goes back to polishing glasses, whistling along. MILLY and BENNY enter down aisle. She sashays over to the counter. CALDO turns down the music.)
MILLY: I made more programs.
CALDO (Kissing her hand): Mille grazie, bellissima. What do I owe you?
MILLY: Nada, they are free. I ran them off at the church.
CALDO (Crossing himself): Praise the Lord.
(Takes money from the cash drawer and gives it to her.): Run across and get the pastries too, if you don’t mind. Six napoleon, six cannoli, a dozen assorted, the usual.
MILLY: I don’t mind a bit.
(Exit. An awkward silence. Slowly:)
CALDO: Lovely evening.
CALDO: Not too hot.
CALDO: Perfect, really.
BENNY: Is it okay for me to come every night?
CALDO: As long as you buy a cup of coffee.
BENNY: I never knew coffee could be so good.
CALDO: You haven’t been to bella Italia?
BENNY: I’m just a kid.
CALDO: I bet your parents travel.
BENNY: They are there right now.
CALDO: So what, then, it’s just you and your sister?
BENNY: Nanny is there, and the cook.
BENNY: Is there anything I can do to help?
CALDO: You could wash those few dishes, if you mean it.
(RUSTAMOV has entered down the aisle, now wearing a cape and a long scarf, with a stuffed parrot on his finger that he variously strokes, kisses, and murmurs to.)
RUSTAMOV (Taking the stage): The snake man was dangerously attracted to my pretty one but the snake was not fooled. Are we ready for tonight to be gala? I need something to take my mind off my troubles. Can you help me, baby? My landlord is a fiend from hell but he will never get me out. I am perfectly happy in my rooms. I intend to die there. Do you have something suitable for a hot Thursday evening?
(CALDO slips him a pill, which he quickly swallows.): Danke, mein freund.
(To BENNY): And who are you? We meet at last.
CALDO: Benny is Milly’s baby brother.
RUSTAMOV: You don’t say. Say hello to Pauline. Say something, Pauline. (Parrot voice): Suck my dick! (Himself): Oh, I do beg your pardon, she is so crude! (To parrot): Naughty, naughty! (To BENNY): What are you doing after the show?
CALDO: Cut it out, Izzie, for heaven’s sake, you’re embarrassing the boy.
BENNY: That’s all right. He is just pulling my leg. It doesn’t bother me.
RUSTAMOV: I have never been more serious in my life. What is it, darling, what is your magical secret?
BENNY: You’re the magician. You have such an amazing imagination. You are like a character in one of your plays.
RUSTAMOV: What is he doing here?
BENNY: I am your biggest fan. Well, maybe not biggest, but big.
RUSTAMOV: How utterly delightful! Well I wouldn’t want to spoil that. Flattery will get you everywhere. Why don’t you come up to my place later and tell me more about how wonderful I am. (Parrot says something.): What’s that? (Puts his ear close, listens.): Pauline tells me you like cookies. What kind of cookies? (Another whisper.): Chocolate chip.
BENNY: How did she know that?
RUSTAMOV: A little birdie told her.
(MILLY returns with box of pastries and puts them away.)
CALDO (Reading the paper): What do you think, will we have an audience or not? Is this review a rave or the kiss of death?
MILLY: It was supposed to be a rave but he didn’t dare.
RUSTAMOV (Reading over his shoulder): “Perverse brilliance?” Well thank you very much! “Self-defeating candor?” “Unhinged inventiveness?” “Inane incandescence?”
CALDO: That doesn’t sound very much like a rave.
MILLY: I know, but it was supposed to be. It is exactly what he likes. He only approves of contrariness. You are supposed to know that.
CALDO: It is not like a review, really, it is more like a stoned soliloquy.
RUSTAMOV: I think you are onto something.
CALDO: Maybe it will bring in an audience, you never know. I hope so. Your show is so beautiful, I want people to see it. Seriously, I am proud of you.
RUSTAMOV: Thank you.
CALDO: I mean it.
MILLY: It is really special.
CALDO: Wilma has never been better.
BENNY: I never knew Greek tragedy could be so much fun.
RUSTAMOV: Well, let’s just give ourselves a big hand, shall we?
(All applaud and bow.)
CALDO (To BENNY): So do you want to help out with the lights, kid? We desperately need somebody to run the lights, and you are here every night anyway. Stark can show you how in about five minutes.
BENNY: I would love that.
MILLY: Good, you need something to do. I don’t want you to be bored.
BENNY: I don’t get bored. Bored is not in my vocabulary. I will be fine. I love to watch you act. You are so beautiful and funny.
MILLY: Thank you but I am not supposed to be funny.
BENNY (To RUSTAMOV): That was not what I meant. I mean, it is funny seeing her up there being another person, an ancient Greek, who is just as real as you and me, maybe more! Do you actually know classical Greek?
RUSTAMOV: Of course. Don’t you?
BENNY: But you are not Greek.
RUSTAMOV: Not really, as we Americans like to say.
CALDO: I thought you were Russian.
RUSTAMOV: No, no, Azerbaijani. Spare me. I don’t know a word of Russian. Why would I? We moved to Kingston when I was two. But I do have an education.
BENNY: Caldo is a real Italian.
CALDO: Si, si. Siciliano, di Syracusa. Syracusa, New York, that is.
BENNY: I wish I was something. I am just, you know, plain. A mix. A mutt.
RUSTAMOV: They are the best dogs.
(Crossfade to dressing room. )
WILMA VELP is at the dressing table wearing a robe, her face stripped of all makeup, her hair tied severely back.
WILMA (Looking at herself in the mirror, thinking aloud): This is the real Phædra. There is nothing glamorous about falling in love with my step-son, but it is not supposed to be really tragic. It is not real life, it is a parable of some kind. I think. Philip is wonderful, I love my life with him. What am I doing here? It is fate. It’s those damned gods. I can’t help myself. That’s the tragedy. But I don’t have to look like shit. (KEVIN comes in, hears this, and laughs at her.) Pardon my French. Where have you been?
KEVIN: I have a life. Don’t you have a life? Why are you always in my face?
WILMA: Sorry. Will you run lines with me?
KEVIN: Of course, darling, I’d be glad to. Where shall I start? (Dramatically): Am I in turn to be the slave of love and stoop so low?
WILMA: Not that. He is not talking to me.
KEVIN: I know. He is talking to me. I just like the line.
WILMA: Are you superior to love?
KEVIN: I wish!
WILMA: It is a gorgeous play but I hate what it says.
KEVIN: The gods, dear prince, if once your hour is come, care little for the reasons that should guide us.
WILMA: That is exactly what I mean. What is he saying!? That everything is hopeless? That our motives are totally irrational?
KEVIN: That’s what it sounds like to me.
WILMA: I want to strangle him.
WILMA: Izzie first, then Theseus and that bitch, and then you.
KEVIN: What have I done?
WILMA: I want to play Medea. My dear, they are all losers. I want to do comedy!
KEVIN: What heart so stout that Venus has not vanquished?
KEVIN: I thought that was comedy.
WILMA: You are very young.
KEVIN: I’m not that young.
WILMA: I’m not that old, but I am old enough to know better. These people are ridiculous. Come on. Let’s run the scene.
KEVIN: You start.
WILMA (She has begun making up in what will become an outlandish operatic style, stylized and vividly colorful, highlighted with glitter. Zipping through the lines.): I hear you leave us, and in haste. I come to add my tears to yours in supplication for my son. Only you can give him the throne of Athens. I fear my hostility has shut your ears against his cries.
KEVIN (Flatly): No such base resentment, Madam, is mine.
WILMA: No one would blame you, Prince. I declared myself your foe, forbade your name to be pronounced, knew no peace while you were near. But I never hated you, and no woman less deserved your enmity. What does that mean?
KEVIN: A mother jealous of her children’s rights seldom forgives the offspring of an earlier wife.
WILMA: Far different is the trouble that devours me!
KEVIN: This is no time for self-reproach. Theseus may still live, his death no more than rumor. Why would Neptune fail him now?
WILMA: Theseus is gone, and yet he lives and breathes in you. My heart— Aside. Oh! I am mad! I cannot hide my passion!
KEVIN: I see the strange effects of love, my dead father living in your eyes. They burn with desire.
(MARLA VOORHEES comes in, quietly takes her place at the dressing table, and begins making up.)
WILMA (Faster and faster): Not for the Theseus who died, the fickle lover and would-be ravisher of Pluto’s bride, rather the proud youth whose charms attracted every heart—so like yourself. He had your mien, your eyes, when he crossed the waves to my father’s Crete, he spoke and blushed like you. Oh, why were you too young to be there? The Minotaur would have perished on your sword. I would have taken my sister’s place and taught you the crooked ways.
KEVIN (Correcting her): The labyrinth’s crooked ways.
WILMA: The labyrinth’s crooked ways. That’s too hard to say. How about the crooked ways of the labyrinth? That’s worse. No thread would satisfy your lover’s fears: I would lead you in and out to safety, or perish in your arms.
KEVIN: Gods! What are you saying? Have you forgotten? Theseus is my father and you his wife?
WILMA: Ah! cruel Prince, too well you understood me. I love you. Dah-dah-dah. Here is my heart. I feel it leap to meet your arm. Strike home. Or if your hand recoils from my polluted blood, lend me your sword. Quick, give it here. Now I wrestle with you over the sword.
KEVIN: You know it perfectly. It is your greatest role.
(LADD enters and roughly rummages through the costumes.)
WILMA: You should be playing Hippolytus.
KEVIN: I wish I could but I don’t think it would be credible.
WILMA: Credible? We’re way beyond that.
KEVIN: I believe you one hundred percent.
WILMA: You’re sweet.
LADD: What did you do with my skirt?
WILMA: Stark, would you mind not bringing everybody down? Nobody did anything with your skirt. You’d think wearing a skirt would make you a little nicer.
KEVIN: It is not that kind of skirt.
LADD: You better watch out.
WILMA: Noble, Stark. Noble. He is a great hero. He is a great seducer of women. He is not a lout.
LADD: Like me, you mean?
WILMA: This is not the real you. The real you is a sweetheart. Let it out, darling.
KEVIN: Why do you hate me?
LADD: I am just looking for my costume.
WILMA: And it wouldn’t hurt you to be a little kinder to Vito. He is under a lot of pressure. Give him a break for a change. He is trying to make you happy. Why resist?
LADD: You don’t understand. (To KEVIN, passionately) If you want to know, I think you are just about the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life. I feel like Phædra. You are driving me crazy. I think about you all the time. I can’t think about anything else.
WILMA: Oh get over it!
LADD: I will, I will, I know, I’m sorry. Forget I said anything. (Kneels): Forgive me.
KEVIN: I thought you hated me.
LADD: It would be better if I did.
KEVIN: No, no, love is better than hate.
LADD (Getting up): Oh so you are wise too! And only seventeen.
KEVIN: I am eighteen.
LADD: Why are you telling me that?!
WILMA: Did you see Kyle’s review? What a jerk!
(MARLA helps LADD look for his costume.)
KEVIN: He meant it as a compliment. He was trying to describe what you do. Your style is… It is very difficult to talk about art, it is so mysterious.
WILMA: Well how am I supposed to feel? You think because I am a tough broad I don’t have feelings?
KEVIN: Of course not. You have more feelings than two of anybody else.
LADD: What did he say about me?
KEVIN: He didn’t mention anyone but Wilma. Most of it is about the script. He thinks Izzie is a genius. So do we all, of course.
WILMA: It takes balls to review a play you’re in, I’ll give him that. (KYLE comes into the café in half-light, quietly greets RUSTAMOV, CALDO, and BENNY, and exits upstage.): He thinks it is clever, I suppose. But it is a little hard to believe we are in ancient Greece when you see those wheels going around behind his eyes. It is not Hippolytus who is thinking about what he is going to say about you in the newspaper.
LADD: Meanwhile you’re thinking about him thinking about something else. Come on, folks, let’s focus. Here it is.
(Holds up the skirt.)
LADD: You better watch out.
KEVIN: I will. Thanks for the warning.
(Exit LADD, glowering.): Is he all right?
(A thump offstage.):
WILMA: I sure hope so!
KYLE (Enters, rattled.): What’s the matter with him?
WILMA: He’s just a little moody.
KYLE: Tell me about it. He practically knocked me down.
(Exit MARLA. KEVIN dresses behind costume rack.)
WILMA: I wish he had!
KYLE: That was not what I meant to say. I totally apologize. I was trying to describe your acting style, which is completely counter-intuitive. It isn’t easy. It throws the whole equation into question.
WILMA: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
KYLE: Everyone knows I think you are brilliant. You astonish me every time I see you.
WILMA: You could have said that.
KYLE: You use the crudest means…
WILMA: There you go again.
KYLE: … and you get the most sophisticated results. It is astounding. What aesthetic are we doing here? What is Izzie’s game? Did he write this play or not? Is it Greek? Or what?
KEVIN (Emerging in Greek costume): It is Greek. It is Roman. It is French. It’s New York 1965 and we’re in it!
CALDO (Entering): Shhh! Shhh! Are you cucaya? The house is open. Everybody can hear you.
KYLE: I’d better get into my costume.
(Goes behind rack to change)
WILMA: Damn right! (Pause): Is anybody here?
CALDO: Charles Swift.
KYLE: Oh, swell!
CALDO: We have a pretty good house. You will be fine. Benny is running the lights. We can go if everybody’s ready. (To WILMA, who is outlandishly made up) Aren’t you going to put on any makeup?
KYLE: Give me a minute.
WILMA: Where is Milly?
CALDO: Waiting tables, poverissima bambina. She can dress during the first scene. I know, I hate it, but I didn’t have a waiter and she needs the tiparonis. I will send her back when I make the announcement. Stark is changing in the john. He is shy. You wouldn’t think it, but he is.
KYLE: What’s my first line?
CALDO: Boca di lupo!
KEVIN: My mind is made up.
KYLE: Oh, right. I can’t stay here.
(Emerges in costume): How do I look?
(CALDO rings a little bell. Crossfade to café. CALDO is behind the counter, BENNY behind the light board.)
CALDO: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Caffè Caldo, home of the best espresso in Greenwich Village. Did everybody get what you wanted? Or something better? We have a specialissimo treat for you this evening. Our resident genius, Mr. I. F. Rustamov—give him a hand—thank you—presents his new play “Summer Lightning,” based on a great classic by Racine, starring the one and only Wilma Velp as Phaedra and the infamous Kyle Duette in his stage debut as Hippolytus, plus other insufferable superstars. Here we go. It’s magic time.
(Caldo rings wind chimes as…)
(Lights up on “stage.” The palace at Trœzen. KYLE as HIPPOLYTUS enters with KEVIN as THERAMENES.)
HIPPOLYTUS: My mind is made up. I can’t stay here. My father has been gone six months. I must go find him.
THERAMENES: I have already searched everywhere. Who knows if he wants to be found? He is probably chasing another woman—
HIPPOLYTUS: Stop right there, my friend. Respect the name of Theseus. Phædra has fixed his inconstant heart and need not fear a rival. Seeking the king is only a pretext; I no longer dare to stay in Troezen.
THERAMENES: Why, what’s the matter, prince? You always loved this place.
HIPPOLYTUS: Happiness ended when the gods sent Phædra.
THERAMENES: A step-mother’s spite is hard to bear, but she is sick and wants to die. How can she harm you now?
HIPPOLYTUS: It is not Phædra’s enmity I fear. I flee from Aricie.
THERAMENES: Do not blame the gentle sister for her cruel brothers. How can you hate her?
HIPPOLYTUS: If it were hatred I would not need to fly.
THERAMENES (Laughing): I see! Is this noble Hippolytus, no fiercer foe to love, who scorned the yoke his father bore too often?
HIPPOLYTUS: My mother was an Amazon, I sucked wildness at her breast, and reason ripened what nature sowed. If I gloried in my father’s deeds, I blushed at his seductions. Am I in my turn to be the slave of love and stoop so low? No heroics like his excuse such weaknesses in me.
THERAMENES: You are too proud.
HIPPOLYTUS: If I needed to be humbled, Aricie should have been the last to do it. My father forbids a single shoot from such a stock.
THERAMENES: What heart so stout that Venus has not vanquished? The gods care little for our reasons. Where would you be had your own mother, so constant in her scorn of love, never glowed with tenderness for Theseus?
HIPPOLYTUS: I go to find my father.
(MARLA enters as ŒNONE, distraught.): But what ails fair Œnone?
ŒNONE: Alas, my lord, the queen has nearly reached the gates of death. A secret malady disorders all her senses. Restless she rises from her weary couch, pants for air, yet guards her misery from company.
THERAMENES: She comes.
HIPPOLYTUS: She shall not be disturbed by me or see a face she hates.
(Exit with THERAMENES. WILMA enters as PHÆDRA.)
PHÆDRA (To ŒNONE): Stay oh stay. Strength fails me and I must rest. My eyes are dazzled by the glare. (Tearing at her hair) These veils oppress me. Who tied these knots?
ŒNONE: You bade us hide you from the sun.
PHÆDRA: Glorious author of a hapless race, I will never see you more.
ŒNONE: Can you be still in love with death?
PHÆDRA: Let me sit in the shade and gaze on the dust of his glorious chariot.
PHÆDRA: What did I say? Where am I? Ah, the gods have made me mad. I have let you see my shame too clearly.
ŒNONE: Blush instead for your silence and resistance to my care. Take pity on yourself. Sleepless, fasting, no wonder you are faint. Dying, you offend the gods, prove false to Theseus and your marriage vows, and betray your children. Motherless, they will fall to your proud enemy, the Amazon’s son, I mean Hippolytus—
PHÆDRA: Ye gods! You speak his name!
ŒNONE: His name should arouse your rage! Love and duty command you to resist this son of Scythia, who is crushing your children and scheming to steal the Athenian throne. Let fury restore your shattered strength.
PHÆDRA: Too long have I suffered in guilt and shame.
ŒNONE: But why? Your hands have done no harm.
PHÆDRA: Would that my soul were as clean!
ŒNONE: What mad fantasy haunts your soul?
PHÆDRA: I have said enough. I would rather die than speak the truth.
ŒNONE: Die then. Keep your inhuman silence. But find another hand to close your eyes. When have I ever betrayed you? You are unjust!
PHÆDRA: Your blood would freeze.
ŒNONE: What can horrify me more than to see you die before my eyes?! By all the tears that I have shed for you, relieve my tortured mind!
PHÆDRA: If you insist…
PHÆDRA: Heavens! How shall I begin?
ŒNONE: Dismiss your fears. You wound me with distrust.
PHÆDRA: O fatal animosity of Venus! Into what wild distractions did she cast my mother!
ŒNONE: Be they never again recalled.
PHÆDRA: My sister Ariadne, too, betrayed by love to death, forsaken.
ŒNONE: What pain wakes these echoes?
PHÆDRA: By the will of Venus I too perish, unhappiest of a wretched family.
ŒNONE: Are you saying you are in love?
PHÆDRA: I burn with love’s mad fever.
ŒNONE: I see at last. Who with?
PHÆDRA: I love— My lips tremble too much to say his name.
ŒNONE: Tell me!
PHÆDRA: The Amazon’s son I have so long resisted…
ŒNONE (Astounded): Hippolytus?! Great gods!!
PHÆDRA: You have named him.
ŒNONE: O despair! O cursèd race! Ill-omened journey! Why did we come here?
PHÆDRA: Scarce had I married his father, peace and happiness finally mine, when Athens showed me my proud enemy. My blood ran cold, then burned like fire. My eyes blurred, my voice shook. Venus, whose fury had pursued so many of my race, seized my fevered frame. Seeking to escape her torments, I built her a shrine, but even as I invoked the goddess, my heart adored Hippolytus. I fled his presence but found him again—o crowning horror—in his father’s face. Revolting against myself, I persecuted the enemy I loved, donned a step-mother’s cruel manner, and clamored for his exile till I had torn him from his father’s arms. When he was far away I could breathe more freely. Submitting to my husband, I hid my grief and cherished the fruits of our marriage. But all in vain! His father drew him home, and the wound bled afresh. My resistance has collapsed. Venus seizes her prey. I hate my life and hold my love in horror. Only the grave can cure my passion and my guilt. There. I have told you everything. Do not vex me with reproaches or try to snatch me back from death.
ŒNONE: Oh my lady!
HIPPOLYTUS (Enters, not having heard this): Madam, I know you hate me. Now you will hate me more. A ship from Epirus brings frightful news: Theseus is dead.
PHÆDRA: Ye gods!
HIPPOLYTUS: Athens is divided. Some would have your child for master; others, disregarding law, demand my rule; a third party would crown Aricie, last bearer of the fatal name of Pallas. I am on my way. When I show myself in Athens, the fickle mob may give the throne to me.
ŒNONE (Coldly): The queen has heard you and is warned. (Exit HIPPOLYTUS. To PHÆDRA): I was ready to follow you to the underworld, but this changes everything. Theseus is dead; you have to take his place. If you die, your son will be a slave; if you live, a king. Live and your guilt is gone. Your husband’s death dissolves the bonds that made your love a crime. Hippolytus, convinced of your aversion, leads the rebels. Undeceive him, soften his callous heart, bend his pride. His kingdom is here in Troezen. He knows the law gives Athens to your son. Aricie is your common enemy; unite with him in opposing her.
PHÆDRA: If I have the strength, I will.
(Lights fade on “stage.” End of scene.)
(Lights come up low on café, RUSTAMOV and CALDO at a table, BENNY in the light booth; and also on KYLE in the dressing room. WILMA enters wildly. Whole scene in stage whispers.)
KYLE: That was great! You are cooking tonight!
WILMA (Hisses): Inept?! Inept?! How could you?!
KYLE: That’s not what I meant!
WILMA: Then why—
KYLE: I love you! I mean I love your acting! I hate good acting! It always looks so fake! You are a real woman out there!
WILMA: You love me?
KYLE: We can talk about it later!
WILMA: I am married!
KYLE: So am I!
BENNY (Overlapping): This is so exciting! What’s going to happen next?!
RUSTAMOV: You know perfectly well. You have seen it five times.
BENNY: I can’t believe these people! They seem so real! I feel like I know them, but they are kings and queens and heroes. It makes me feel noble.
RUSTAMOV: Do you believe in fate? I do. Everything that happens is inevitable. Our wishes are nothing. We are the playthings of the gods.
BENNY: Do you really think so?
CALDO (To RUSTAMOV): What’s happening?! You can’t have such a long break between the scenes.
RUSTAMOV (To BENNY): Go.
(Lights up on “stage.” MILLY as ARICIE is alone.)
ARICIE: Hippolytus is coming to see me. Will he be kinder than his father? Can Aricie alone be exempt from his contempt for womankind? He keeps avoiding me, but I have caught him following me with languid eyes. Looks can betray what the tongue disowns. Could he love me? I alone of my royal race survived war’s fury. No heart is allowed to sigh for me, lest by a sister’s flame the brothers’ ashes be rekindled. The king’s injunction confirmed my own inclination until I saw his son. His beauty he owes to nature’s bounty. I prize his rarer riches, the virtues of his sire without his faults, a pride that never stooped beneath the amorous yoke. Phædra wins little glory from a lover so lavish with his sighs. I am too proud to enter where the door is always open. But to win one over who never yielded, to pierce a heart of steel—that piques my ardor. Here he comes.
HIPPOLYTUS (Enters. Stiffly): Before I go, Lady, duty bids me tell you of your change of fortune. Death as I feared explains my father’s silence. One change only soothes my sorrow. Here in Trœzen I am now acknowledged king. Lo, I revoke the law that held you captive and untouchable. You are free.
ARICIE: Your kindness overwhelms me.
HIPPOLYTUS: You know that Athens, uncertain how to fill the throne, speaks of you, anon of me, and then of Phædra’s son.
ARICIE: Of me?
HIPPOLYTUS: The strict Greek law reproaches my foreign mother, but if my brother were my only rival, my rights prevail. Your claim is just, and I yield my place to you, or rather, own that it is yours by right. I rule in Trœzen. Phædra’s son has Crete. Athens is yours.
ARICIE: Am I awake? I thought you hated me—
HIPPOLYTUS: Hate you? What savage temper could possibly resist your charm?
ARICIE: Why, what is this?
HIPPOLYTUS: I have said too much not to say more. Prudence is no match for passion. Unhappy prince of hasty pride, I mocked love’s fetters and despised its captives. Six months now I have been struggling in its snare. Shunning you, I always find you near. I see your form in forest shadows. Daylight focuses on you. My bow and javelins are idle, my chariot and fiery steeds forgot. Instead of joyous shouts the woods echo with my lovelorn sighs. (Kneels) I offer you my heart. This language comes strangely to my lips. Reject not vows expressed so ill, which none but you could ever hear.
THERAMENES (Enters): Prince, the Queen approaches.
HIPPOLYTUS: I have to go.
THERAMENES: She wants to talk to you before we sail. She is your enemy, but pity her tears.
HIPPOLYTUS (To ARICIE): We cannot part like this. Will you leave me not knowing if my boldness has offended the goddess I adore?
ARICIE: Let me go, Prince, while you pursue the schemes your generous soul dictates. All your gifts will I accept, your heart more dear to me than Athens’ throne.
HIPPOLYTUS (To THERAMENES): Go too, see the vessel trimmed, bid the crew aboard, and hoist the signal, then quickly return and deliver me from this irksome interview.
PHÆDRA (Entering with ŒNONE: There he is. My blood forgets to flow. What have I come to say?
ŒNONE: All your son’s hopes depend on you.
PHÆDRA (To HIPPOLYTUS): I hear you leave us, and in haste. I add my tears to yours in supplication for my son. Only you can give him the throne of Athens. Do not visit on him the hatred my hostility has earned.
HIPPOLYTUS: No such base resentment, Madam, is mine.
PHÆDRA: No one would blame you, Prince. I declared myself your foe, forbade your name to be pronounced, knew no peace while you were near. But if hatred draws hatred in return, no woman less deserved your enmity.
HIPPOLYTUS: A mother jealous of her children’s rights seldom forgives the offspring of an earlier wife.
PHÆDRA: Far different is the demon that devours me!
HIPPOLYTUS: This is no time for self-reproach. Theseus may still live, his death no more than rumor. Why would Neptune fail him now?
PHÆDRA: No man returns from the mansions of the dead. And yet I think he lives and breathes in you. My heart— (Aside): Oh! I am mad! I cannot hide my passion!
HIPPOLYTUS: Do I see the strange effects of love, my dead father living in your eyes? They burn with desire.
PHÆDRA: Not for the Theseus who died, the fickle lover and would-be ravisher of Pluto’s bride, but the proud youth whose charms attracted every heart—so like yourself. He had your mien, your eyes, he spoke and blushed like you. Alas, you were too young to come with him to Crete. The Minotaur could have perished on your sword. I would have taken my sister’s place and taught you the labyrinth’s crooked ways. No thread would satisfy this lover’s fears: I would lead you in and out to safety, or perish in your arms.
HIPPOLYTUS: Gods! What are you saying? Theseus is my father and your husband!
PHÆDRA: Do you think I can forget?
HIPPOLYTUS: Madam, forgive me. I misconstrued your innocent words. I am ashamed of myself. Let me go—
PHÆDRA: You understood me, cruel prince, too well. I said it plain. Guilty of desiring you, I am not so detestable to you as to myself. Trying to make you hate me I only loved you more. The gods take barbarous delight in leading human hearts astray. Look at me. You will see it all. Ah, this vile confession is not what I came to say. I meant to beg you not to hate my son, but my heart is too obsessed with lust for you to speak of anything else!
(Terrified, he draws his sword.): Punish my odious passion! Be your father’s son and slay this monster! Here is my heart. I feel it leap to meet your arm. Strike me here. Or if my polluted blood offends your hand, lend me your sword. Quick, give it to me!
(Grabs his sword.)
ŒNONE: Someone is coming. Run! You can’t be seen like this.
(Drags her off.)
THERAMENES (Entering): Is that Phaedra I see hurrying away? What’s the matter? What happened to your sword?
HIPPOLYTUS: Ye gods! I am confounded with astonished horror. Phaedra— No, let this awful secret die unspoken.
THERAMENES: The ship is ready, but Athens has already voted. Your brother is elected. Phaedra wins.
THERAMENES: Her son is king.
HIPPOLYTUS: Gods, you know her! Do you reward her virtue? Come, let’s go.
PHÆDRA (Entering with Oenone): I don’t want these honors. Why do I have to see them? Can flattery cure my dying heart? My madness overflowed and I spoke what he never should have heard. He only wanted to run away. Why did you stop my hand? I wanted to be dead. He didn’t even try to snatch back his sword. Had my touch defiled it?
ŒNONE: Brooding only fans the fire. Be worthy of your blood. Defy the wretch who flies from what he hates. Mount the throne and reign.
PHÆDRA: Reign? I can no longer reign myself. I can scarcely breathe. I am dying.
ŒNONE: Come, fly.
PHÆDRA: Too late! He knows my frenzy. I have flaunted my shame before his eyes. Hope stole into my heart against my will. You yourself revived me and told me I could love him.
ŒNONE: Don’t blame me, I was trying to save your life. How can you pardon his contempt? The way he looked at you cowering at his feet? I hate his savage pride. I wish you could see him through my eyes.
PHÆDRA: Disdain may yield to time. The rudeness of the forest clings to him. Love is a word he never heard. The surprise may have stunned him, or I was too vehement. His mother was Scythian, but she learned to love.
ŒNONE: He hates all women.
PHÆDRA: Then I have no rival. Serve my madness, Œnone, not my reason. His heart is closed to love; we will attack where he has more feeling. He cares about power. Let him teach my son to rule and have both son and mother. Go. Urge him with groans and tears. Show Phædra dying. My life depends on your success. Do it! (Exit ŒNONE) Implacable Venus, I am humbled enough. Cupid’s arrows pierce my soul. Now go for bigger game. Hippolytus scorns you. Attack him too in our common interest: avenge yourself by forcing him to love. But what is this? Œnone, back so soon? (Enter ŒNONE) He hates me then, and will not hear you?
ŒNONE: Madam, forget this fruitless love, resune your former virtue. Theseus has landed here alive. The people rush to greet him. Carrying your offer to the prince I found the harbor wild with acclaim for his resurrected father.
PHÆDRA: Alive again? Say no more. I have dishonored him.
PHÆDRA: I told you but you wouldn’t hear. Dying this morning, I would have earned compassion; I listened to you and die dishonored.
PHÆDRA: The witness of my adultery will watch my face as I greet his father. He scorned my sighs, gazed dry-eyed on my tears. He may not denounce me, not to disgrace his father king, but can he hide his dread of me? These
PHÆDRA (cont.): walls accuse me. Can it be so bad to die? My only regret is the shame I leave behind. What a sorry legacy for my sons!
ŒNONE: Why do it to them then? Why accuse yourself? Dying, you lend Hippolytus’s charge support. Can you still love him? How now do you see this contemptuous prince?
PHÆDRA: As a terrifying monster.
ŒNONE: Why give him an easy victory? Accuse him first, with his charge against you. Who can say it is false?
PHÆDRA: You want me to slander innocence!
ŒNONE: I will do it. I will speak. However enraged, Theseus will do no more than banish him again. A father will always love a son. Even if innocent blood must flow, your honor counts for more. Someone is coming. It is Theseus.
PHÆDRA: And Hippolytus, my ruin written in his eyes. Do what you will; I trust my fate to you; I cannot help myself.
THESEUS (Enters with HIPPOLYTUS and THERAMENES.): Fortune no longer fights my wishes, madam, and restores me to your arms.
PHÆDRA: Stop, Theseus! I am unworthy of the old endearments. You have been wronged. Fate stabs you in the back. I cannot welcome your embrace. I can hardly bear my shame.
(Exit with Œnone)
THESEUS (To HIPPOLYTUS): What welcome is this? What does she mean?
HIPPOLYTUS: Only Phædra can solve that mystery. If a son’s wish can move you, let me never see her again. Let Hippolytus disappear forever from the presence of your wife!
THESEUS: What, son? Leave me?
HIPPOLYTUS: You left me in Trœzen to protect the queen and Aricie. What keeps me here now? May I not be done with easy life? When you were my age your sword ran with monsters’ and tyrants’ blood. You cleared the coasts of pirates. Travelers were safe. Hercules relied on you and rested from his labors. Even my mother had done more. Give my courage scope to act. Let me bring you glorious spoils; or let the memory of death faced nobly keep my name alive and prove to the world I was your son.
THESEUS: If I am so feared, so little welcome in my family, why did Heaven release me from the dungeon? Six months I schemed, escaped the watchful guard, slew my foul foe, and hastened home to all that is most precious. My only welcome is a shudder, my embrace rejected, and a hasty flight. I wish I were still a prisoner! Phædra said I have been wronged. Who has betrayed me? Speak! Why was I not avenged? Greece owes me too much to shelter him. Nothing to say? Is my own dear son confederate with my enemies? I am going in. I have to know the culprit and the crime. The suspense is unbearable. Phædra must explain her troubled state.
HIPPOLYTUS: What will happen now? Brrr! Will Phædra accuse herself and seal her doom? What will my father say? Gods! What poison love has sown! He finds even me fired with a love he hates, changed from the son he knew. But innocence has nothing to fear. Come, let us consider how I may move my sire to tenderness and tell him of a flame vexed but not vanquished by a father’s blame.
(Exit with THERAMENES)
(Curtain on Act I)
THESEUS (Enters in a fury with HIPPOLYTUS’s sword, closely followed by ŒNONE.): What are you saying?! My son has disgraced his father?! Abominable! You say he used violence to have his way with her? I gave him this sword for nobler use! Could not the sacred ties of blood restrain him? Phædra refuses to talk about it. Is that to spare the villain?
ŒNONE: No, to spare his father. Phædra wants to die of shame. I saw her raise the sword against herself and ran to save her. In pity for you both, against my will have I interpreted her tears.
THESEUS: So it was fear that made him tremble when he saw me. I wondered that he showed no pleasure. Was this passion declared before I banished him from Athens?
ŒNONE: Remember how she urged you on?
THESEUS: And then the fire blazed up again at Trœzen.
ŒNONE: I have said enough. The Queen is alone with her grief and needs me.
THESEUS: Here he comes. Great gods! His bright nobility might fool another eye. Shouldn’t the darkness of a traitor’s heart show dully on his face?
HIPPOLYTUS (Entering): What cloud darkens my father’s majestic countenance?
THESEUS: Traitor! How dare you show yourself?! Your brutal lust has befouled my marriage bed! Get away before I kill you! I am disgraced enough for fathering so vile a son without your death besmirching the record of my noble deeds. Fly in haste! Rid my realms of your atrocious presence. (Kneels and prays) Great Neptune, hear my prayer. Even in prison I did not invoke your promised aid, saving the privilege for my utmost need. The time has come. I ask you now. Avenge me! and by your fury Theseus will know your love!
HIPPOLYTUS (Aside): Phædra accuses me of lawless passion!? I am dumb!
THESEUS: Did you believe that Phædra would not tell? Your sword condemns you. You could only have silenced her with blood.
HIPPOLYTUS: Your honor forces me to hide the truth. Be glad that reverence shuts my mouth. Only examine what my life has been. Crimes are not single. Innocence doesn’t suddenly sink to the depths of depravity, virtue in a day turn traitor. Nursling of a chaste, heroic mother, beyond all else I have abhorred what you accuse me of, so continent that I am deemed austere. All Greece knows my abstinence. Daylight is not purer than my heart.
THESEUS: Your pride disdains the blameless fires of lawful love. Only my wife could bewitch your shameless eyes.
HIPPOLYTUS: No, father, I have hidden it too long. I now confess my real offense: I love in truth where you forbid me: Aricie, last living child of Pallas, has subdued your virgin son. Against your fierce decree, I adore her and I sigh for her alone!
THESEUS: You love Aricie?! Gods, what next?! But no, I see the trick. You conjure another crime to hide behind.
HIPPOLYTUS: For six months I shunned her, yet I love her still. Trembling, I came to tell you. Can nothing correct your ghastly mistake? What oath will convince you? By heaven and earth and all the powers of nature—
THESEUS: The wicked never shrink from perjury. Cease! Spare me these irksome protestations.
HIPPOLYTUS: Phædra knows the truth.
THESEUS: Spare me!
HIPPOLYTUS: To where and how long then am I banished?
THESEUS: Beyond the Pillars of Hercules would be too close.
HIPPOLYTUS: What friend will stand by me when you accuse me of so vile a crime?
THESEUS: Look for friends who applaud adultery and incest. The lowest scum are fit protectors for such a worm.
HIPPOLYTUS: Incest? Adultery? I hold my tongue. Yet think who Phædra’s mother was. Her blood, not mine, is tainted with those horrors.
THESEUS: Have you no shame? For the last time, get out of my sight! Don’t make me hurt you. (Raises sword. Exit HIPPOLYTUS.) You cannot escape your fate. Neptune has sworn to avenge me. I loved you, and I fear for you. But you deserve your doom. No father has greater cause for rage. Gods who see my grief, why was I cursed with such a son?
PHÆDRA (Rushes in): Hearing the fury in your voice I fear that deeds have followed threats. Spare him! Spare me the guilt of having caused a father’s hand to shed his blood!
THESEUS: Here is my hand, Madam. There is no such stain. But the wretch has not escaped me. A god is charged with his destruction. Neptune owes me, and you will be avenged.
PHÆDRA: Prayers said in anger—
THESEUS: Join yours to mine. Paint me his crimes in all their blackness. Fan my fury. You don’t know all his infamy. He kissed you with a lying mouth. It is Aricie who owns his heart and soul. She is the one he loves.
THESEUS: He said it to my face! I go to pray at Neptune’s altar that his justice will be swift.
PHÆDRA: What did I just learn?! Gods, what fatal stroke is this?! Hippolytus can feel, but not for me?! I was ready to confess the truth and accuse myself to save him. Ye gods! When he was deaf to my sighs and armed his eye with scorn, I deemed his heart impregnable to love. But he loves someone else! His heart has melted and I am the only one he hates. Why should I defend him? (Enter ŒNONE) Guess what I just learned!
ŒNONE: I have no idea. What did you say to Theseus?
PHÆDRA: I have a rival.
PHÆDRA: Hippolytus, the tiger that scorned to be admired, fawns on a hand that has subdued his pride. Aricie holds his heart.
PHÆDRA: This is worse than anything. They love each other! How did they deceive me? Where and when did they meet? You knew and never told me! Were they hidden in the woods? They ran free, while I hid from the bright day.
PHÆDRA (cont.): All I wanted was the grave’s release. I could not even weep but had to check my tears, and smile.
ŒNONE: They wiil not be together to enjoy their love.
PHÆDRA: Their love will last forever. Even as I speak, they laugh at my distracted heart. Exile soon may part them, but meanwhile they are closer than ever. How can I bear this insulting happiness? Help me to destroy her. I will revive my husband’s hatred of her family: the sister is guiltier than the brothers. What? Am I mad at last? Will jealous Phædra go to Theseus for help? I burn for another. Whose heart is this? I horrify myself. My hands itch for innocent blood. How can I face the holy sun? My father is the judge of all the ghosts in hell. What will he say when he sees his daughter brought before him, forced to confess such a crime? A cruel goddess has destroyed our race; in my madness recognize her rage.
ŒNONE: You are in love. Is that a marvel without precedent? Weakness is natural; submit to being human.
PHÆDRA: Alas! My aching heart has reaped no pleasure from my sin.
ŒNONE: The gods themselves have burned with lawless fires.
PHÆDRA: What counsel is this? Will you still pour poison in my ears? You have destroyed me. You brought me back from death, persuaded me to see Hippolytus and confess my crime, then wickedly slandered his blameless life to his father. Not another word! Go, hateful monster, away! May your punishment be a warning to all who feed the weaknesses of princes, push them over the precipice to which their heart inclines, and smooth the path of guilt. Such flatterers does the wrath of heaven bestow on kings as its most fatal gift.
ŒNONE: Oh gods! To serve her what have I not done? This is my reward.
ARICIE (Enters with HIPPOLYTUS): How can you keep silent? Your father loves you. Defend your honor. Tell him the truth.
HIPPOLYTUS: I can’t. Accusing her would shame him. You are the only one who knows. I can have no secrets from the one I love. But never tell. The gods are just; for their own honor they will clear me. Trust them to punish Phædra. Come away with me to Argos or Sparta. Our friends will not let Phædra hound you from the throne. You hesitate. I am fire but you are ice. Are you afraid to follow a banished man?
ARICIE: Oh to share your exile forgotten by the world! But we are not united. Honor forbids me to steal away.
HIPPOLYTUS: No, no, your reputation is as dear to me as you yourself. Torches do not always light the face of Hymen. Heaven’s curse frees us to marry ourselves. Outside the city gates, among the tombs of princes of my line, stands a temple where no mortal dares to lie, for instant death befalls the false. Come, if you consent, and we will swear to love forever. The guardian god will witness our solemn oath and be our father. I will invoke the holiest powers—chaste Diana, and the Queen of Heaven. The gods who know my heart will guarantee my sacred promises.
ARICIE: Here comes the king. Go quickly. I will linger to hide our intent. Go, and leave me a trusted guide to lead my timid footsteps to your side.
THESEUS (Entering): Gods, dispel this darkness in my mind. Show me what is true.
(To ARICIE): You blush, you blanche, you seem confused. What was your business with my son?
ARICIE: We bade farewell forever.
THESEUS: Your eyes have tamed his stubborn pride. His first sighs ever are for you.
ARICIE: He has not inherited your hatred and injustice. He does not treat me like a criminal.
THESEUS: You mean he swore eternal love. Do not trust him. He has sworn as much before to others. How could you bear so vile a partnership?
ARICIE: Have you so little knowledge of his heart? What mist blinds you to his virtue? What false tongue has defamed him? Call back your curse, lest the god hate you enough to grant your prayer.
THESEUS: Your love is blind to his depravity, but I have a witness. I trust her tears.
ARICIE: My lord, your hands have rid the world of countless monsters, but all are not destroyed. One still lives. Your son forbids me to say more. Respecting his respect, I imitate his reverence and silently depart.
THESEUS (Alone): What did she almost say? Are they conspiring to deceive me? And still, despite my stern severity, a secret pity cries within my heart. Guards, bring Œnone, and alone.
THERAMENES (Enters): Œnone has thrown herself into the sea, none knows why.
THESEUS: What are you saying?
THERAMENES: Her death torments your lady even more. Death’s pallor is already on her face. She clasps her children close and bathes them with her tears; then suddenly thrusts them away in horror and wanders, stumbling, with vacant eyes. See her, Lord, whatever she has done, and try to help her.
THESEUS: Œnone dead? And Phædra bent on dying too? Call back my son. Let him defend himself. I am ready to hear him. Neptune, don’t do anything—forget my prayer. My anger spoke too soon, believing lies. What are these further tears?
THERAMENES: You are too late. Hippolytus is dead.
THERAMENES: The flower of mankind is cut, and none deserved it less.
THESEUS: No! No! My son!! I was reaching out for him. How did it happen?
THERAMENES: He passed out of Trœzen’s gates surrounded by his guard, silent in his chariot. Turning his horses onto the shore road to Mycenae he let the reins lie loose on their backs. Usually so ardent, they seemed to share his sorrow. Then a sudden discord issued from the deep, and the earth answered with a groan, freezing our blood. The horses stopped with bristling manes. Upon the watery plain arose a rolling billow with a crest of foam. As it broke it vomited a furious monster, its body plated with yellow scales, in front a savage bull, behind a dragon writhing in rage. Its bellowing shook the earth. Its breath poisoned the air. Everyone fled into a nearby temple except Hippolytus. Your worthy son stayed his steeds and hurled a spear into the monster’s flank. In rage and pain it sprang upon the horses belching flame and blood and smoke. They ran in terror, dragging the chariot over jagged rocks that smashed the axle tree. Still trying to calm them, Hippolytus fell tangled in the reins and was dragged by the horses his hands had fed, powerless to check their mad career, his cries only adding to their fright. Finally they stopped, not far from the royal tombs. I ran to him, and after me his guard. His voice was faint. I heard him say, “The gods have robbed me of a guiltless life. Take care of sad Aricie. If my father mourns a son’s unhappy fate, beg him to treat his captive tenderly—” His breath failed. My arms held a mangled corpse, piteous trophy of Neptune’s wrath, so changed his father would not know him.
THESEUS: Alas, my son, my heart! The ruthless gods have turned my will against us.
THERAMENES: The light is gone. I have come in darkness to do my duty and deliver his last request. But here comes his mortal enemy.
THESEUS: Madam, you win. My son is dead. Accept your victim, rightly or wrongly slain. Rejoice. You accused him, and I believed him guilty. His death is cause enough for tears without a search for further light that cannot bring him back. I will turn away from you and the image of my mangled son. I wish I could leave the world; my very glory makes it hard to hide. All the favors that the gods have granted me I mourn and hate; I will never pray again.
PHÆDRA: Theseus, Let me speak. I must repair this wrong. Your son was innocentl
THESEUS: Your word condemned him!
PHÆDRA: Listen, every minute counts. I was the one who cast the eye of passion on chaste and dutiful Hippolytus, and detestable Œnone did the rest. Fearing that Hippolytus would tell you of my madness, she accused him first, then threw herself into the waves to escape my wrath. The sword would already have cut my thread of life, but slandered innocence held me back and I resolved to die more slowly, confessing my penitence to you. A poison brought to Athens by Medea is already running through my veins. I feel the venom infusing a strange and fatal chill. I see you as through thickening mists. Death will restore to the heavens’ light the purity my eyes defiled.
THERAMENES: My lord, she dies!
THESEUS: Ah, disabused too late! Would that the memory of her disgraceful deed could perish with her! Come, let us go, and mingle our tears with the blood of my unhappy son. Let him be honored as he deserves; and to appease his offended ghost, whatever her brothers’ guilt, Aricie shall be my daughter from this day.
(Lights fade out, then up on curtain call: they all take bows, to recorded scattered applause.)
(Lights up on café, after the show—RUSTAMOV at a table, CALDO at the coffee machine. Background music: Callas, “Ah! Quando rapito in estasi” from “Lucia.” BENNY goes up the aisle and returns with a note for RUSTAMOV, which he delivers.)
BENNY: Was that okay? Did I screw anything up?
RUSTAMOV: It was a sublime performance but you need to practice your fades. I need them to be smooth. The light should rise like the morning sun and fade to nothing like falling night.
CALDO: Talk about it to Stark. He will show you how to do it. He is a lighting genius.
BENNY: Could you ask him for me?
CALDO: He won’t bite. Well, he may bite, but it won’t hurt very much. You’re a big boy. Do it now. Go on.
RUSTAMOV (Having read note, calls to the back of the audience): Thank you so much, I would love to come to lunch on Tuesday and discuss my proposal. May I bring my bird? Ha ha. Seriously, thank you so much for coming, I am so glad you liked my little show! Bye bye. Bye bye. See you Tuesday. Bye bye.
CALDO: Alone at last.
RUSTAMOV: Did I sound completely phonacca? Did I make an utter fool of myself again? I should never have brought Pauline into it. Sorry, darling. Do you think I blew it? Now he knows I am a lightweight. But I meant every word I said. This is serious. It’s about money.
CALDO: He didn’t say no.
RUSTAMOV: The cavalry is coming to the rescue. I can hear them.
(Imitates distant trumpet. BENNY and LADD come in, go to the light board, and practice fading a “stage” light up and down.)
CALDO (Quietly): Permesso, do you need a few dollari ?
RUSTAMOV: Can you do … forty? I’m terribly sorry. That makes the rent. Can you do fifty? I am living on your cannolis.
CALDO: That doesn’t sound very healthy.
RUSTAMOV: It isn’t very healthy. Thank you. I will pay you back.
CALDO: I know you will. Your precious talent is a priceless gift, but I will take the money too, when you can. I believe in you, darling. I know that one day these troubles will be fond memories, but I am not sure it helped your cause to put your best critic in the play.
RUSTAMOV: Isn’t he wonderful though? He is perfect as Hippolytus. He hates being a critic. I am releasing his inner actor.
CALDO: What are you going to do next? Another classic, I hope not? You must know that I prefer your original works.
RUSTAMOV: You can’t be serious. More than Racine?
CALDO: It is great but what is the point?
RUSTAMOV: The point is, I love it. Be here now, to be sure, but the great ones are no longer with us. How can you really care if it’s new or not! Weren’t you transported? Anyway, it is original, I reworded it significantly. It may be antique but the feelings are with us every day. We are still blind fools.
(Crossfade to dressing room. WILMA kissing KYLE.)
WILMA: I have been wanting to do that all week.
KYLE: Is this still part of the play?
WILMA: No, you fool. I am kissing you.
KYLE: But why?
WILMA: Am I so ridiculous? Don’t you have any feelings for me at all? You do. I know you do. I have seen you looking at me out of the dark when you thought I couldn’t see you. Why else are you doing this play?
KYLE (Getting out of his costume): I look at actors. That’s what I do. I am doing Izzie’s play because I love it and believe in him. I love the lines I get to say.
WILMA: Sure, sure, everything for art. Give me a break, honey. Let’s be a little honest here.
KYLE: You are an attractive woman.
WILMA: Thank you! You are an attractive guy.
KYLE: Especially when you are angry. Nevertheless.
WILMA: Nevertheless what?
KYLE: Which is not my thing, by the way. Your husband—
(MARLA enters, sits at dressing table, takes off her makeup.)
WILMA: My husband is a saint. He is an angel. He is a god. He lets me do this. He encourages me. He doesn’t mind. That is very rare, honey, take my word for it. My first two husbands made me choose. I am a lucky woman. On the other hand, he is hardly ever around. I don’t mind. Ha ha. Exhibiting myself before an audience is better than sex, face it. Still—
KYLE: Try not to take it personally, darling, but I am in love with someone else. Sorry.
WILMA: Who said anything about love? Oh never mind. Next time I want to play Medea. She hates men. It would be so much simpler!
KEVIN (Sticks his head in): May I come in?
KYLE: Please do.
WILMA: You can always come in, honey. It is your dressing room. We are brothers and sisters. We have nothing to hide.
KEVIN (To WILMA): How did you think it went?
KYLE: You were terrific.
KEVIN: Really? Was I really?
KYLE (Dressing): I try not to be a critic while I am acting but I can’t shut it off. It’s like having two brains in parallel. I think I am tracking them both perfectly. Then I stumble over a line and remember that I have to concentrate. It is educational, at the least.
WILMA: I’m glad you are enjoying yourself.
KYLE: I love to play with you on stage. You are great. You are so bold! It makes me want to just … let go.
WILMA: Do it! Let go!
KEVIN: I thought you hated acting.
KYLE (Dressed): I don’t know anymore. Maybe not. Maybe I am hooked. Time will tell.
(Leaving the room): I am not running out on you, I am just going out front.
WILMA (Addressing herself in the mirror): Who are you really? You don’t want to know.
(To KEVIN): Well, are you learning anything useful? Is this what you expected? Are you sorry you ever set foot in this place?
KEVIN: It’s O.K.
WILMA: Get real, honey. There is no place else. You think the Caffè Caldo is a dump, you think Vito is an amateur, we all are, but I have to tell you it doesn’t get any better than this. Broadway is a factory. Movies are a business. TV is nothing but hype.
KEVIN: I don’t believe that.
WILMA: Neither do I. Give me a part, I’ll go, I’m there. I have my own trailer. Come in. Sit down. Have a drink.
KEVIN: No thank you.
WILMA: Well aren’t you polite!
KEVIN: You want me to be rude?
WILMA: I want you to show some gumption. You don’t have to be so nice all the time.
KEVIN: It is my character. I am his sidekick. Not like your sidekick, who meddles and has opinions and makes everything so much worse she has to kill herself. I am just trying to get along.
WILMA: I know you are, but what about you?
KEVIN: This is it. What you see is what you get.
WILMA: Oh that is so naïve! This is your moment, darling! Make something of it!
KEVIN: Can you be more specific?
WILMA: I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything. Ask Izzie. He is the director. I was talking about reality, or at least trying to. Everybody is half awake. Come on!
KEVIN: Well what do you expect? It is practically midnight.
WILMA: This is the city that never sleeps. Why should I? Never mind, you are not the one.
CALDO (Entering): Neither am I, but we are all you’ve got. Bella, you were divine tonight. I wept! You are the Sarah Bernhardt of the Caffè Caldo. No, the Eleanora Duse. That is what he should have said. (To KEVIN): Have you seen Stark?
KEVIN: Why? No. I mean, why are you asking me? It is not my fault. I didn’t take it at all seriously.
CALDO: What, did he come on to you? He should be embarrassed. What a lunacca!
(MILLY enters and comes to dressing table): There you are. I need to show you how to check out.
MARLA (Hanging up her costume; to WILMA): Was that better?
WILMA: You were brilliant. I feared and hated you, and then I pitied you. What a wrenching experience!
KEVIN: It could be a tragedy about you.
WILMA: I wouldn’t go that far!
MARLA: Did I overdo it? She is trying to help you, and when you turn on her, it is a sickening sensation—I want to jump out of my skin.
WILMA: Maybe you are letting it get a little too real.
MILLY (To CALDO): How was my waitering?
CALDO: The job is yours if you want it.
MILLY: I love being here, but I need to make it pay somehow. My parents are paying for NYU, but I want some income of my own so I can move to the Village. I have to get out of Park Avenue—I am starting to feel like an alien.
CALDO: Business will pick up in the fall. It always does. Sometimes it is allegro vivace con brio. Sometimes it gets completely dementa. Can you handle that?
MILLY: I just want to be here and help.
CALDO: Your kid brother seems pretty starry eyed.
MILLY: Theatre is in our blood. We have aunts and uncles who are nothing like our stuffy parents. He thinks this scene is too cool for words. Which it is! He wants to be part of it.
CALDO: Well we certainly need help. He can run the lights for this show, if he wants to. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him, though. Don’t worry about Izzie. He wants acolytes, not sex-slaves. I am more worried about Stark.
KEVIN: Aren’t you going to protect me?
CALDO: Do I need to?
KEVIN: He propositioned me! I probably shouldn’t have told you.
CALDO: That is entirely your own finessa, no? He is not going to force you. He doesn’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do. I know him very well.
KEVIN: Are you mad at me?
CALDO: Oh please, Mary! This is the show business! We are here to entertain!
MILLY: Mom and Dad won’t let him out once school starts. Dalton is intense.
CALDO: That’s cool. He can come on weekends though. He has the makings of a light man.
BENNY (Entering): Are you talking about me?
CALDO: Am I right? Have you discovered the magic of light?
BENNY: I love running lights. It is amazing. I have control of the power. Stark says light is the medium of performance, as water is to swimmers or air to birds. And it’s true.
(He flicks a switch and the dressing room goes dark; everyone freezes. Lights up on the café, RUSTAMOV at his table, LADD just entering with the ladder. Music soft.)
RUSTAMOV: There you are, Stark. Thank you for the beautiful light. Every night it looks more stunning.
LADD (Climbing the ladder and fixing a light down center): You always hear about the light in Greece. I am trying to make it look like those postcards you showed me. I don’t have much to work with, but I am getting four more instruments tomorrow.
RUSTAMOV: Is business that good?
LADD: St. Amy’s got a grant and bought new lights so no one uses the old ones anymore anyway. Seriously, how was it?
RUSTAMOV: I adore your Theseus.
LADD: Tonight I was word perfect.
RUSTAMOV: About time.
LADD: It was a lot to learn!
RUSTAMOV: Why do actors have so much trouble learning their lines? Didn’t you learn to memorize when you were a child? My father knew the entire Koran by heart. Every week he would recite another sura so every two years we heard the same verse again. I never learned them all but I know quite a few.
LADD: There was none of that in my family.
RUSTAMOV: We did nothing else in school.
LADD: School was hard. Everything is hard.
RUSTAMOV: What is the alternative? Factory work?
LADD: I am doing my best.
RUSTAMOV: I know you are. And I really appreciate it.
LADD: Thank you for saying so. Why is everybody so scared of me? Do you know?
RUSTAMOV: They don’t know what to make of you.
LADD: I am just a regular guy.
RUSTAMOV: To us that is so exotic. You are like another species. We have never known anyone so normal.
LADD: Exotic? You really are a freak, you know that?
RUSTAMOV: I beg your pardon?
LADD: Never mind.
(He starts to take the ladder out but runs into KYLE coming in.): And you are even worse. You are a snake dressed up as a dachshund.
KYLE: I beg your pardon?
LADD: You are all so freaking precious. This is stark stuff.
KYLE: What did I do? Are you so insecure that you have to start attacking the other actors? We are all in this together, Stark. I am not your son, I am your friend.
LADD: You are no friend of mine.
KYLE: I am too! We both love Vito and his beautiful room. We both love this prize buffoon. If that doesn’t make us friends, it is not a world I want to live in.
RUSTAMOV: No criticism of the other actors, please! That is an absolute rule. This is my show and you are both brilliant in it!
KYLE: My actual father was a lot like that. I don’t mean about the other women, but I can see him slashing up monsters and tyrants. Sometimes he smelled of dragon’s blood.
(To LADD): So it is O.K. for you to be a little scary.
LADD: Well thank you very much!
KYLE: What did I say?
RUSTAMOV: Don’t worry about it.
(BENNY switches the lights back on in the dressing room, and everyone unfreezes. Café remains lit. Music unobtrusively continues.)
CALDO: Don’t do that! It is too weird!
BENNY: I was making a point.
CALDO: We get it!
CALDO: It’s O.K., just don’t get carried away. Stick to the cues.
BENNY: Sorry! Jeez!
LADD (Entering, squeezes through to mirror): How do I get this stuff off?
WILMA: I would keep the eyes if I were you.
CALDO: I don’t mean that. I don’t know why I said it. Do whatever you like!
MILLY: Just pay attention.
KEVIN: We’re all tired.
BENNY: You don’t have to tell me to pay attention.
CALDO: I am not a bit tired. Stay and rehearse all night, and I will make you breakfast when the sun comes up.
BENNY: Am I missing something?
LADD: I have a better idea.
(Pulls CALDO close and whispers something in his ear, looking at KEVIN. Meanwhile, KYLE has sat down at the table with RUSTAMOV)
KYLE: Were you pleased with the show? It felt pretty good tonight. It was starting to flow.
RUSTAMOV: Darling, I really am not up to having this conversation. I go through it with you every time, the highs, the lows, the whole meshugina, and by the end I am a dishrag. Maybe you still have the adrenaline thing going, I know how it is, but I am finito. I shouldn’t even be here. It is too late to fix anything. Nobody listens to the director after the show opens. I feel like yesterday’s balloon. What’s that? Pauline says it is time for us to shimmer off.
KYLE: Me too. I told Louise I would come straight back after the show. She has an important interview in the morning.
RUSTAMOV: I wish I had somebody to go home to. No I don’t. They would come between us. Nothing must ever come between us.
CALDO (To KEVIN): Stark and I wondered if you would care to come over to our place for a bit. It is barely eleven. You can’t go home yet. It is nowhere near bedtime.
LADD: We have some pictures that might interest you.
MARLA (Going out): Goodnight, everybody. Great show.
(Exit. She reappears in the café and exits up the aisle.)
MILLY (To BENNY): I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.
BENNY: No, that’s O.K. I get carried away.
MILLY: No one is judging you.
CALDO: I am judging him. I think he is a terrific kid and a great addition to the room and I hope he will stick around.
WILMA (Gathering herself to go): I am going over to Myra’s for a drink. If anybody wants to join me, great. Otherwise I can always pick up somebody at the bar.
KEVIN: Do you do that? With a stranger?
WILMA: I mean to talk to, honey, share a moment, buy each other a round, maybe bump our heads.
KEVIN: I have never even been inside a bar.
WILMA: Well you will love it, honey. It is so sweet!
CALDO (To MILLY): Come, you have one more thing to do.
(MILLY follows him out.)
WILMA (Entering café): What is this, a conspiracy?
KYLE: Sorry, what are we conspiring about?
RUSTAMOV: Taking over. The theatre, I mean.
KYLE: Oh I don’t think so. It is a big world out there. I am for you, you know that, and you for me, but each in his place. Or are we kidding ourselves completely?
(CALDO has entered café, followed by MILLY and BENNY. He puts on music: Callas, “Orphée.”)
WILMA (To KYLE): So, hot stuff, you want to change your mind?
KYLE: I’ll pass this time, though not without a pang.
WILMA: What a buncha sticks! What are you afraid of, a little variety? Let go for once, don’t be so damn smart all the time. You think too much. (To RUSTAMOV) Come on, baby, dance with me.(Pulls him up.)
RUSTAMOV: With the utmost pleasure, princess. No sense letting a ballroom go to waste. Don’t you just love the Austro-Hungarian Empire? (They dance, with parrot.): Don’t fret yourself over Kyle Duette, sweetie. He is a lovely boy but a terrible tease.
WILMA: Oh I’m not. Don’t be ridiculous.
RUSTAMOV: I had a crush on him myself. Pauline can tell you all about it. He was perfectly sweet about it but that was as far as it went. And that was perfect, anything else would have been a mess. We don’t want to make ourselves unhappy, now, do we?
WILMA: Darn tootin’!
RUSTAMOV (Staggers): Oh help me.
(Leans on counter): That’s it, I am afraid. I am afraid I am done. Regrettably, my dancing days are over. I used to be quite a smoothie.
WILMA: You still are. Your words dance, which is better than a tango, or a snuggle. I take that back. A snuggle is better than anything. But that is another story.
(Kisses him): Good night, my darling. Take care of yourself.
(To KYLE): You too, hon. (Kisses him) See you tomorrow. On with the show!
CALDO (To MILLY): Sometimes there are other people and you have to split the tips but tonight you can keep them all. How much did you get?
MILLY: I got fifty dollars, believe it or not. One guy left me a twenty, I don’t know why.
CALDO: Because you are so beautiful, why do you think?
MILLY: I already added up the tickets.
CALDO: Just clip them together with the tape.
(Meanwhile in the dressing room)
KEVIN: Where do you guys live?
LADD: We have a loft on Bleecker Street. It’s a nice walk. It’s a nice night. It’s nice once we get there.
KEVIN: Is this your idea or his?
KEVIN: To, uh, invite me over. Just asking.
LADD: Mine. I told you how I feel. I bared my soul. Vito doesn’t mind. He likes you too.
KEVIN: I am flattered, highly flattered, in fact, but if you don’t mind too much I think I will go on home, if you don’t mind too much.
LADD: Are you offended? Do you hate me?
KEVIN: Don’t be silly! I think you’re a cool guy. You’re practically my dad, for God’s sake. I’ve just had a long day. See you.
(Exit. LADD looks at himself in the mirror. KEVIN comes into the café.): Well, I’m on my way.
(Aside to CALDO): I changed my mind about tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.
KYLE: Can I walk you to the subway?
KEVIN: Sure. Come on.
(Starts out, up the aisle)
RUSTAMOV (Rising): I’ll come with you if you’re not in a hurry.
KYLE (Following KEVIN, pauses on steps): I have all the time in the world. I am never in a hurry. What is the point? (Continuing up aisle): Time is a river, etcetera, etcetera. Home, home.
RUSTAMOV (Hugging CALDO): Be brave. He really loves you.
CALDO: Thanks. I know. But I sometimes wonder, is love enough?
RUSTAMOV: What else is there? (To BENNY) Ciao, cutie pie. (Parrot voice): Where’s my cracker? (Himself): We’re going. We’re going. Goodbye.
(Exit with KYLE and KEVIN. LADD has turned off the lights in the dressing room, comes into café, goes to light board.)
MILLY: Here it is. I hope it’s right.
CALDO: It never comes out exactly right. No problema.
MILLY: Come on, Benny, let’s go home.
LADD: Just stand over there in the light for a minute before you go, will you? I want to look at something.
(MILLY and BENNY stand together on the “stage” as all the other lights fade out.)
BENNY: Don’t you just love the theatre?
MILLY: I do. I really do.
(CALDO rings the wind chime. Fade to black.)