An interview with the playwright
BY KATHRYN WALAT
KATHRYN WALAT: Your script begins with its setting: "The Internationalist takes place over a period of about 36 hours in an unidentified or imaginary Central or Eastern European country." Was that your jumping off point for this play?
ANNE WASHBURN: Not understanding the language was the beginning point. I had a job with a Swiss insurance company that sent me on a business trip to Zurich, which should be the easiest city for someone like me because everyone knows English--but I hadn't been out of the country since I was a teenager and I had no German at all. It was really interesting how impenetrable the experience was.
Nothing else that happens in the play actually happened to me, except for the story about the narmont and the fox--and then the other story, where you don't know what's going on, except that it involves flippers. I thought that story about cross-species understanding, or non-understanding, was great. And then I thought the story that I couldn't understand was great, too.
So you decided to create a foreign language of your own.
There were two plays that influenced that decision. Madelyn Kent has a play called Black Milk, which has a made-up foreign language. And then Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul has real languages that are very obscure, so when you're watching it there are important moments in which you don't know what's going on.
How did you go about creating the language?
I played a lot of theatre games when I was a kid that had made-up foreign languages, so it's something I'm really quick with. There were three rules: First, the sounds would be one-third Romance language, one-third Turkish or Middle Eastern, and one-third Asian--those were the kind of sounds I was pulling from. The second rule was that it should be as uninflected as possible and spoken as rapidly as possible--not like Italian, where you're singing it. The third rule, which I thought would be sort of elegant, was that there could be little internal rhymes with the vowels.
When we were rehearsing it at the Vineyard, I was doing a lot of rewrites with the language. I wrote some lines, and Ken [Rus Schmoll, the director] said, "I don't think that's the language." I said, "What do you mean, it's totally the language--I wrote it!" He had worked out certain letters that were really rare. The language has almost no "c"s or "d"s or something. So I guess there are more rules than I know.
What experience, with the language, do you want to create for audience members?
I hope that it will intrigue them. When you go to another country and you don't speak the language, you have to use your other senses in those moments--you have to really pay attention all the time.
I also hope that it will be frustrating--that you want to know what's going on, but you can't fully--and that after a period of anger and frustration, you can let go of something and watch in a different way than you would other parts of the play. If you go to see the Wooster Group or Richard Foreman, the pleasure of that kind of performance is that you have to put aside the normal way you have of processing your information.
From what you observed, is that how it worked?
People had all different responses. People who had no theatre going experience, like some of the high school audiences that came to see it, were very comfortable. Others sometimes felt shut out from the play, and that made them angry, because they felt they were being mocked.
Did anyone confront you on that?
(Laughs.) Yes, I got yelled at a couple of times. I felt, my god, how rude. What's key is knowing that you as an audience are not being made to feel stupid--that the goal of it is not to alienate you. Or at least that it's a pleasurable kind of alienation.
In addition to language, The Internationalist is also very much about power and status within the office world, which seems to be a cross-cultural phenomenon.
One idea I had about this country is that it was both very modern and very underdeveloped at the same time--and that this office and this corporation would represent that. Everyone is educated in a certain way to do a certain business, in the same way that in the Middle Ages everyone spoke Greek so that they could communicate.
For much of the play, we're following the character Lowell, an American, w ho is having a great deal of trouble transitioning.
He's so at sea! He's come there to do his job, but he can't do his job. And he's not sleeping, so he's tired, he's cranky, he's not doing anything right--he's pushed to the edge of his limits.
At the very end of the play, he makes a decision. What do you think he chooses?
I think he chooses competence. People want to be in that space where they feel comfortable, where they feel like they're validated. They do terrible things so that they can just stay in that space. I think it's a small decision, kind of a non-decision, but it's a decision.
What made you decide to use your music by your brother, John Washburn?
He's been writing songs since he was maybe 13, and I've always really liked them, and this one ["My Only Friend"] in particular. You can't tell reading it, but it's half Klezmer and half Western--very East-West, a crazed, jaunty, almost shanty-like song. I sat down to write the play, and I had to start somewhere, and I've always wanted that song in something.
Have you been doing any international travel since writing the play?
New Dramatists does an Eastern European exchange, and The Internationalist was done in Hungary. For one month I was in residence with Kretakor, a group of actors. The play was translated, and they did a workshop of it. The director didn't speak any English, nor did most of the actors. The dramaturg--the one who translated it--had English. In rehearsal, they'd all start to have an argument, and then the dramaturg would get involved, and I would have no idea what was going on. It felt very much like I was having the Lowell experience.
Did they translate the invented language?
They kept it--they didn't have time to change it--but one of the first things they said was, "Oh, this doesn't sound like our idea of a made-up language." Their idea of a fake foreign language would sound Slavic and German--those would be the sounds that they would reach for when they think gibberish.
Kathryn Walat is a New York City-based playwright. Her new play, Bleeding Kansas, will premiere in August at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, N.Y.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT Anne Washburn's plays include I Have Loved Strangers, Apparition, The Ladies, The Communist Dracula Pageant and The Internationalist, as well as a translation of Euripides' Orestes. In New York her plays have been produced by 13P, Cherry Lane Theatre, the Civilians, Clubbed Thumb, Dixon Place and the Vineyard Theatre. She has had workshops with Kretakor in Budapest; New York Theatre Workshop, the Public Theater, Soho Repertory Theatre, all in New York; and the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. Apparition is published in New Downtown Now (University of Minnesota Press, edited by Young Jean Lee and Mac Wellman). I Have Loved Strangers will be published in the upcoming edition of New York Theater Review, edited by Brook Stowe. Washburn is currently working on a commission from Yale Repertory Theatre. She is an associate artist with the Obie Award-winning groups 13P, the Civilians and New Georges, and she is a member of New Dramatists. She received her MFA from NYU.
ABOUT THE PLAY The Internationalist received its world premiere from 13P (Rob Handel, managing director; Maria Goyanes, producer) in the downstairs space at the Culture Project in New York in April 2004. The production was directed by Ken Rus Schmoll, with set design by Sue Rees, costume design by Jessica Gaffney, lighting design by Garin Marschall and sound design by Matthew Given. The stage manager was Michele Traub. The cast included Heidi Schreck as Sara, Mark Shanahan as Lowell, Gibson Frazier as Nicol and Guard, Kristen Kosmas as Irene and Anonymous Woman, Michael Stumm as Simon and Paul, and Travis York as James and Bartender. It was produced at the Vineyard Theatre (Douglas Aibel, artistic director) from Oct. 19-Nov. 26, 2006, in New York. The production was directed by Ken Rus Schmoll with set design by Andromache Chalfant, costume design by Michelle R. Phillips, lighting design by Jeff Croiter and sound design by Robert Kaplowitz. The stage manager was Megan Smith. The cast included Annie Parisse as Sara, Zak Orth as Lowell, Nina Hellman as Irene and Anonymous Woman, Gibson Frazier as Nicol and Guard, Liam Craig as James, Waiter and Bartender and Ken Marks as Simon and Paul. The Internationalist was written in, and received its first reading with, Soho Repertory Theatre's Writer/Director Lab (Laramie Dennis and Linsay Firman, 2002-2003 co-chairs). The director paired with the play was Laramie Dennis.
The Internationalist, copyright [c] 2004, 2007 by Anne Washburn. All inquiries regarding rights should be addressed to Val Day, William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019, (212) 903-1192. Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that performances of The Internationalist are subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright Union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound taping, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproductions, such as information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved. Particular emphasis is laid upon the question of readings, permission for which must be secured from the author's agent in writing.
"My Only Friend," copyright [c] 2002 by John Washburn.
The Internationalist: An Elusive Comedy
LOWELL: An American, late 20s/early 30s
SARA: Not American, late 20s/early 30s; also plays WOMAN, 30s/60s
NICOL: Not American, 30s; also plays GUARD, 50s
IRENE: Not American, early 40s; also plays ANONYMOUS WOMAN, 20s
JAMES: Not American, late 30s; also plays WAITER, 30s and BARTENDER, 80s
SIMON: Not American, late 40s/50s; also plays PAUL, late 40s/50s
The Internationalist takes place over a period of about 36 hours in an unidentified or imaginary Central or Eastern European country.
Much of this play takes place in a made-up foreign language. It is crucial that when the characters speak English, they speak it without an accent, regardless of the level of their English skills. The foreign language should be rendered in as rapid and uninflected a manner as possible, also without an accent. A slash (/) is used to indicate a point when a second speaker interrupts and overlaps with the first.
The double casting should be effected with quick costume, wig, etc., changes, which can happen in view of the audience.
The staging is fluid. Sometimes a scene will end, be formally "dismantled," and then a new scene will be presented; sometimes scenes and scene changes will bleed into each other. Sound is important.
The lights on stage are up at half. The house lights begin to dim, very slowly. When they are almost out, the stage lights begin to dim, very slowly. The following song, a kind of antic klezmer shanty, comes up. The music is quite loud.
"My Only Friend"
All hands on deck, this ship is sinking To the longboats, boys, what were we thinking? Sail 'round the world and back again Right now, you're my only friend I'm at the table; I'm at six and seven I count my sins--I might still go to heaven It won't be long now, buried in the sand The straight flush is a dead man's hand Just last night I dreamt I saw you Pilot on a sunken ship You had eyes of fire And skin like green copper Your mouth was moving But you could not make a sound
At this point the stage is totally dark. It should remain dark for a while. Then the lights rise, very slowly.
I'm half asleep and I don't care where I go It's half relief to find out you don't really want to know Circle 'round and back again Right now, you're my only friend Just last night I dreamt I saw you Tangled up in Spanish moss You were struggling And reaching out for me I tried to help you But my legs would not move me All hands on deck, boys, this ship is sinking To the longboats, boys, what were we thinking? Sail 'round the world and back again Right now, you're my only friend.
Sara stands on stage. She is chic and lovely. She is holding a nicely hand-lettered sign. It reads: LOWELL. At the moment, she is looking the other way.
Lowell enters. He is rather weary and crumpled in business pants and a button-up shirt, all unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up, hair slightly tufted.
He has a heavy charcoal greatcoat slung over his arm and a carry-on bag. He is listening to an iPod.
When he sees Sara he stops.
He tugs the earbuds from his ears. The very loud song stops.
LOWELL (Pointing to the sign): That's me.
SARA (Amused; meaning the sign): This is you? Good.
LOWELL: I didn't expect anyone, oh this is great. I feel just a little like a mogul.
SARA: No, they have their own aircraft.
LOWELL: Right. And their own flight crews. They have private insignia. It's the business class, the amenities went to my head. I'm just so happy to see you I thought I was going to have to change money and find a taxi and I have no idea where I'm going, I mean I have an address, and I've been en route for 16 hours and I don't sleep on airplanes.
SARA: Yes, you were in Istanbul.
LOWELL: Yes! What a crazy reroute. We were on the ground for five hours, you know, with the air off, they wouldn't let us deboard and they never told us why, I mean, there was some kind of commotion in coach, they said there was a technical difficulty, obviously it was a lie; I bribed the guy who was restocking the kitchen. I've never done that before. I gave him 20 dollars and said, "Tell me what is happening."
SARA: I don't think 20 dollars is much for a bribe.
LOWELL: Isn't it? American? I was hoping it was a whole hell of a lot.
SARA: Maybe. Guys who work in airports make a lot of funny money different ways.
LOWELL: Oh but, oh, well. Yeah. Fuck. Well it was my first bribe.
SARA: What did he say.
LOWELL: That they'd apprehended an international jewel thief onboard, and that there was a jurisdictional dispute--we can actually--if you don't mind--we can start to move towards the vehicle--um, Interpol and--
SARA: Luggage claim is that way.
LOWELL: Oh, no. This is it, this is all I've got.
SARA: Just that little bag?
He hoists it, affirmatively.
SARA: You must be a confident packer.
LOWELL: Well I just--yes. I am. Or, optimistic.
SARA: Okay. Great then. Here, you can take this.
She hands him his name sign; he has to juggle slightly to take it from her.
SARA: It can be your first souvenir of many. Car's this way.
LOWELL: Oh hey wait, don't I need to I need to change money first--do I pay you or does the company take care of that. I mean I don't want to be crass but you're going to want a tip, right? I mean there's tipping here (?)
A big weird (to him) beat. Then she starts laughing.
SARA: Oh you know, God, pay me, I thought for a moment you meant "prostitute."
LOWELL: Oh, no. No no no no no no. No, I'm oh my apologies.
SARA: No no no it's ridiculous.
LOWELL: I totally did not mean to imply.
SARA: You did not. I've seen too many foreign pictures lately. With sudden unmotivated bad sex.
LOWELL: No but is that?
SARA: You're blameless. You meant "limo."
LOWELL: I did. I yes completely that's what I meant.
SARA: And I'm not a limo or I would have understood you immediately.
LOWELL: Oh you're / not.
SARA: We were at cross-purposes.
LOWELL: But what are you then?
SARA: I'm Sara, we're colleagues.
He juggles his coat, bag and sign, freeing his right hand to shake hers.
LOWELL: I had no idea, I'm so sorry, I'm so glad to meet you.
LOWELL: And I called you a prostitute. No I didn't.
SARA: You didn't.
LOWELL: I mean in any case, and--what an embarrassment.
SARA: It was a joke really. Not a joke, it's hospitable, but there wasn't the intention to pick you up from the airport. We knew your flight had been delayed and I was in the office late anyway and the airport is not so far away from where I live. It was a whim. Did I get the spelling right?
Lowell gives her a blank look.
SARA: Your name. I shut my computer down and so I didn't have the email to check it against. Is it so many Ls?
LOWELL: Yes, it's that many Ls, it's perfect. Look I'm really. Also I'm rumpled.
SARA: Well that's American style right? I'm teasing you. Come on, my car is this way.
LOWELL: I was really hoping to make a better first impression. I was planning on it.
She's turned to go and he's surreptitiously trying to rub his hair the right way. She turns back, catching him mid-rub, she sees that he feels caught in mid-rub, he sees that she sees.
SARA: But we'll stop so you can change money first. I'm not the only thing here that's expensive. (Laughs) (As she's going, not looking back) Do you want me to take something?
LOWELL (As he's following her): No, no I've got it.
As they leave, the stage fades to black. We hear the sound of cars on wet pavement. Rain? This continues for a period of time.
Irene is yelling at her offstage kid. She alternates between exasperated mutterings and declamations.
IRENE: Ag staiid ast abst du steed stomp need haad. Whaam sai-ad immit dee aiy? Aiy? Aiy?!
There is a kind of minor crash, and gasp. Irene emerges, gesturing furiously with a skateboard.
IRENE: Imst stee ah dahl hala dim eyebah foh ta?!? Yab staih yah? Eh? (Crossing offstage toward her offending kid) Stampt see mi yada ama door kritz!
Lights up on Sara and Lowell at a small table. They each have a small glass with a distinctive looking liquid in it. Lowell is eyeing his apprehensively.
SARA: He was probably lying to you--cheers.
LOWELL: Cheers. Oh that's--that's good. That's interesting. What's it made from?
SARA: I don't know. They make it in Germany so they probably make it from ... Germans. (Shrugging) I think it's herbal. You can get it in New York.
LOWELL: Oh. I'll have to get it again. There. What makes you think he was lying.
SARA: As a story it's very concocted-sounding don't you think.
LOWELL: Well--do you think? The international jewel thief, yes. But the phrase, "jurisdictional dispute," I mean that was his phrase and I don't want to--I mean I'm not unaware that you can, in that society, be someone who is stocking up the pantry and still be highly educated and not have had opportunity, whatever, so you think it was terrorism.
SARA: I have no idea. Istanbul is a long way away, and five hours is a long time on the ground. Unless you were exaggerating.
LOWELL: Uh, no it was--well I was. Four hours and forty-five, forty-eight, maybe fifty-one minutes.
LOWELL: I should have grabbed someone from coach as we were leaving. They're usually My People, they'd tell me.
SARA: It might be in the paper tomorrow. (Getting a waiter) Qui ta me-ad oy fay pempla inst tu dik ni op foi tay. I got us beers is that all right?
LOWELL: No, that's great. Bring on all of your foreign liquor.
SARA: I got us imports. I'm not providing you with a typical experience am I. Well you've got a week.
LOWELL: "Oy fay pempla."
SARA: If you want a beer? "Oy fay pempla inst foi dik."
LOWELL: "Oy fay pempla inst foi dik." Let me write this down. What about the rest of it.
SARA: Indinik uminting oy fay pempla inst foi dik surt anag.
LOWELL: Okay wait, (Writing) "Oy fay ..."
SARA: "Indinik uminting."
LOWELL: But you didn't, wait--that's not what you said, is it?
SARA: You don't want to say what I said.
LOWELL: I don't? Why not.
SARA: It's more feminine.
LOWELL: Oh. Oh, that's interesting. Look I hope you don't think I'm a complete jerk. I would have, uh, definitely at least glanced at a phrasebook but this whole thing happened so quickly. "Idunk ..."
SARA: "Indinik. Uminting. Oy. Fay. Pempla. Inst. Foi. Dik. Surt. Anag."
LOWELL (Writing it down): "... Surt. Anag. If I want a beer.
SARA: If you want a beer.
LOWELL: If I want anything else, I'm fucked.
SARA: Or you could say, "I'd like a beer." Most people have passable English.
LOWELL: Well that's--yes. Really? Everyone at the company obviously. Your English is very good.
SARA: Oh yes, it's impeccable. Better than yours probably. (The beers arrive) Okay ... Shall we say, for the purposes of this toast, that you were almost blown up today?
LOWELL: Yes. Excellent. Let's say that.
SARA: Carpe diem. Carpe diem? Yes. I mix it up with "buyer beware."
LOWELL: Or "beware the dog." I did that in college once. I was blind drunk in the middle of the quad in the middle of the night and I was completely gripped by a sense of revelation and I was shouting out at the top of my lungs, "Caaaaave Canem! Caaaaave Canem!" Oh my God. Geeky on every level.
SARA: Carpe diem.
LOWELL: Carpe diem.
They toast and drink.
SARA: Cave canem.
LOWELL: Cave canem.
They toast again and drink.
LOWELL: So I've been wanting to ask--and then I didn't because I thought is this really American? I want to know what you do.
She laughs at him, briefly and vigorously.
LOWELL: I mean at parties, it's got to come up sometime. It can't all be discussions of you know whatever the soul.
SARA: You want to know if you're in some way the boss of me, or if I'm the boss of you.
LOWELL: I do. I do want to know that. I mean is that really? Because don't tell me.
SARA: We say that at parties, too.
LOWELL: I was sure of it.
SARA: The difference is that we continue the conversation, regardless of the answer.
LOWELL: Okay, no. See that's a prejudice.
SARA: I know, that's what people tell me, they say, / "Go to Kansas it's very different there."
LOWELL: That's a ... a senseless prejudice.
SARA: "... it's very different there."
LOWELL: Kansas, oh. What?
SARA: That's the real America. The rest of that behavior doesn't count. Kansas is your--oh what is it.
LOWELL: Aha. I thought your English was impeccable.
SARA: I wouldn't know in mine. Uh, the place where the blood is, on the ground.
LOWELL: Oh the--what?
SARA: The place where the child dies--that's not, that's Greek it's--
LOWELL: One of those kids? In a mine shaft?
SARA: No, it's sort of a concept oh! Jesus. Kansas is your Jesus.
LOWELL: It's--(Laughing) Your English is not impeccable.
SARA: Kansas dies for your sins.
SARA: Lives for your sins. In Kansas they continue the conversation at a cocktail party, as sincerely as possible, even when they realize that they got stuck with a bum, so that in Hollywood and New York they can just turn and walk away. You know, "No no, it's not true, America still has a heart." It's division of labor. Which is how a nation becomes strong. Here we're a little podunk. We try to each of us take on a lot of human experience, each one of us, so as a result we lose a certain amount of expertise and we all move just a little bit slower.
LOWELL: Do I look inevitably American to you? I'm going to develop a rebuttal, by the way, to that last point, it's just a question of time.
SARA: I know you're an American. So I see you as one. I don't know how it would be if I walked in, if I saw you sitting here. I think I would--(Eyeballing him) Well I would know you were foreign.
LOWELL: Just from looking at me.
SARA: From the way you're sitting. From your presence.
LOWELL: But what if I--yeah, but if I looked as though I knew what I was doing.
She looks at him appraisingly. She looks at his shoes.
SARA: If I come in. You're sitting there with your beer. And you don't look confused. (Beat) I think I still know.
LOWELL: Hmmm. And is that interesting here, to be foreign?
LOWELL: You know, the accent, is that mysterious?
SARA: But we're speaking English so you don't have an accent. If you were trying to speak my language--People are always more appealing when they're unintelligible.
LOWELL (Laughing; he thinks it's an artful misspeak): That's witty.
SARA: Yes, I know.
(Calling out) Yald ain tant amora koi psam psitay ald imitrikts dor ald tioforian korim tic. Seldis umicktrig orit inial tse hambit orderist il rarin di dam tid norris dimit ona alagoric toyfay int timit oil ald harrick mono borin tam pist i sawan taiya t'noiding lola ka dita hiya fimolla naid he tiad ald terrim kimal doi pimmick ori horind dalna imp porrie gala hondick tibald timiharu. Ai be a toman idat tora abala mot. (Looking back at him) I ordered us drinks.
LOWELL: That was ordering drinks?
SARA: There's more than one way to order drinks. Okay.
The Waiter lowers a tray with two really very tiny glasses, like half-shot glasses, brimming with a viscous red-brown liquid.
SARA (To the Waiter): Nad um it orrit imhala tasang al bamadia oritio ib saman. (To Lowell) You might like this. It's local. Very typical. But we don't usually serve it to tourists. Are you certain you're game?
LOWELL: Absolutely. What is it? (Gingerly picks up bauble in toast)
SARA: No I mean really, you're going to have a hard time.
LOWELL: You're joking.
SARA: I'm not.
LOWELL: I'm not at all afraid of a hard time.
SARA: You're not.
LOWELL: No. There's a Latin phrase about that. I forget what. Something about knowledge.
SARA: Well then. Caveat emptor.
LOWELL: Buyer beware.
SARA (As Lowell's raising the glass to his lips): It's not like a ... (Thinking of the word) shot, you sip it.
Lowell sips the drink. His face totally screws up.
LOWELL: Oh my God.
SARA: Yeah it's--
LOWELL: Oh my God.
SARA: Try to live through it. Try to just--
His hands are sort of floundering around on the table.
LOWELL: Water. Water.
SARA: No you can't--
LOWELL (Calling out to the Waiter): Water! Water!
SARA: It's a chemical thing. You've got to take another sip. You've got to--(She demonstrates)--See? Sip. It's counterintuitive.
SARA: Take another sip. Take another sip.
LOWELL: Oh no. Water!
SARA: He's not going to bring you water no you've got to, just you've got to, you've got to take another sip.
Take another sip. Believe me.
Lowell takes another sip. His face wrenches up and then clears.
LOWELL: Oh my God.
SARA: Take another one.
He does so. It registers.
LOWELL: That's bizarre.
SARA: Yes it's peculiar.
LOWELL: That's just bizarre.
SARA: You see. Now you take another.
He takes another tiny sip.
LOWELL: What is this?
SARA: Aren't you glad now that you did it? Take another sip.
LOWELL: It's insane.
SARA: Do you like it?
LOWELL: It's really good.
SARA: You have to suffer first. It's a philosophic beverage.
The lights dim slowly to black. A moon cutout glows. The lights come up ever so dimly on a suspended windowpane. Through the window we see a silhouette cutout of rooftops, that moon (all fairly crude), an indigo sky.
The stage is empty.
On the overhead speakers we hear: a breath.
SARA (Very low, almost less than a whisper): Do you want to see something obscene?
LOWELL (Low): Yes.
A shifting sound--cloth and flesh.
SARA (Even lower): Do you want me to say something obscene?
A tiny half moan of assent from Lowell in response.
SARA: Yoi ma i fa ha. D'lal ad na amginck tai.
A sharp intake of breath from Lowell.
SARA: Namal atad imph um hammat.
A half exhale.
A church bell chimes four times.
The lights come up on the office: Nicol, James and Irene. Nicol is on the phone. A guy in a maintenance suit is fastening a framed picture onto the fourth wall.
NICOL: That's my old phone number. (Pause) Yeah but how did she get hold of my old phone number? (Pause) You're going to have to--those letters aren't supposed to exist. Not here they aren't. We don't want them--(Pause) We don't want them here. We don't want to have copies of them; any copies that you have of them, destroy them. (Pause) He doesn't have access to capital to fund those. Or we would have closed already. (Tiny beat) Six years. (Pause) Sure because she doesn't know. It's--it's reviewed by deals I think that it could be a bit of a gray zone, we'll do all these--we bought TorRad, Constellation, this may be splitting of hairs but this is it's one of those things; Joe is a lawyer and he advises--wait I'm sorry, just a second just a second, hold on a second okay? That's my other line and I've got to take it, okay?
He flicks hold. Stares off meaningfully into space.
The maintenance guy has finished fastening the picture and leaves. James and Irene have left off working and are staring quizzically at the picture which we cannot see.
JAMES: What is that, exactly?
IRENE: I don't ... know.
JAMES: They put it up because they're like, it's like: my job may suck, but at least I'm not in a factory.
IRENE: Do you think it's a factory? Maybe they're at a concert or something.
JAMES: The light, the light looks so bright. Like a UFO or something.
Nicol's attention is drawn.
NICOL: That's the new artwork?
IRENE: Yeah, I'm not sure if I like it or not.
NICOL: I know a guy in purchasing. He says there's not a piece this company owns worth under twenty thousand. Try to come at it from that perspective.
JAMES (Not really paying attention to Nicol): They could be at a church. Nicol picks up his call again.
NICOL: Listen sorry to keep you on hold like that, I'm going to have to I'm going to have to stay with this call, it's a bit of a clean-up issue. (Beat) Right. (Beat) Right okay, right right. (Beat) Yeah I understand but I'm--(Beat) Yeah I'm hearing you, listen man I'm hearing you but I've got to take this call. I've got to take this call okay? Okay right, yeah I'll be back with you ... right away.
He hangs up. Irene and James have gone back to doing whatever they're doing.
NICOL: What I like about that is that it's complicated enough no one's going to come into the office and say you know, my kid could have done that.
Irene looks up.
IRENE: Yeah well that would be the hope of good childrearing. Nicol have you kurdia warara tim harbit dolacts anda feed?
Irene goes back to what she's doing. Lowell appears in the doorway. They don't see him and continue their conversation.
NICOL: Dyan wah nahcts tsi forhaba dahl andoi.
IRENE: 'Cam itsala toi imih adig kurutz 'kai ah amit ah umdrafinic onto ki edit.
JAMES: Simph dic amolor al aid.
NICOL: Pemist tioria habid boy ilda embol arrinor cum foi nagritad hamaba ilk iday hilal--Oh my God hello there you're / Lowell.
LOWELL: Lowell. (Stepping forward) Hi. You must be--
NICOL: You just waltzed on in.
LOWELL: I did.
Lowell looks great, crisp and tidy, but he's slept only a few hours in as many days.
NICOL: How the hell did you get in here.
LOWELL: Listen, I apologize
NICOL: No no it's a--
IRENE: It's a security issue.
NICOL: It's good to meet you they didn't detain you at the front desk? (Nicol shakes Lowell's hand)
LOWELL: There wasn't--I thought it was strange but ...
NICOL: No one was at the front desk?
IRENE: But how did you get into the building?
LOWELL: I walked through the door.
NICOL: You just--and it was? (Heading for his phone)
LOWELL (To Irene): I really apologize.
IRENE: No no it's a security issue.
NICOL (Dialing): They're not there to establish good behavior. (Into phone) Tsi amda nic hibour toi a la dinadrot rict mipal--(To Irene: Lock the door) Tor tempor fi atta nad. (To Lowell) Excuse me. (Into phone) Lor morad ti akt pim tsi tseen.
Meanwhile, Irene has moved to the door and locked it.
IRENE: You know this is really just hysteria it's really fine, and so you just wandered around until you found us?
LOWELL: Well I asked / around for your area.
LOWELL: Lowell. You must be Paul.
LOWELL: James. Good to meet you.
NICOL (Still on the phone): Caradit? Pinst eyebit im difal rahadim, dimi lit-sin oral tobor cum nafa holi pigu. Tum ooli a pavi lamala gore adi pur ton dinerat hoofi sim idu.
NICOL: Boram hydit. Imfa Imfa.
They're all listening to him.
NICOL (To them): I'm apoplectic; she's got that attitude; that's fine.
A cool sort of tone comes on the loudspeaker. It's lovely, almost melodic. It repeats three times. The voice, when it comes on, is calm and precise:
LOUDSPEAKER: Tsi aye abba ilda toi cum dad. Hibit tora umkaforia loi nam tumf.
Pause. Nicol turns toward Lowell.
NICOL (To Irene; indicating the door): Til amdoi tempor? (Is it locked?)
IRENE: Oh ix di not. (It is.)
NICOL (To Lowell; when he realizes he's speaking in his own language he switches seamlessly): Yad rah hi-gic porala please excuse me so good, you got in okay after all? You didn't have trouble to find your hotel?
LOWELL (Still disconcerted): It wasn't a problem. Sara met me at the airport.
LOWELL: Yes, with a little sign. Listen is there a badge or something I should get?
NICOL: Sara from here, from the department here.
LOWELL: Yes, I thought she was a limo. It's sort of a story. Or. Not really.
NICOL: That was so kind of her, to meet you there.
A little beat.
LOWELL: I was grateful.
IRENE: And your hotel it's comfortable there, you're at the Moritad?
LOWELL: Um, yes.
IRENE: With the big waterfall in the lobby.
IRENE: Or is that the Donburi--Where are you staying?
LOWELL: I'm at the Moritad.
IRENE: And do you have the waterfall there?
IRENE: Okay I thought it was at the Donburi. I love the waterfall there. I think it is so tacky but I love to go there and have tea by the waterfall. It's so expensive and so tacky but I love it.
JAMES: Yes it's a hullabaloo. And a lot of waiters. (Darkly) Bad men.
IRENE: He doesn't mean wicked, he means--
JAMES: So many noses.
IRENE: Not prompt. A lot of attitude.
JAMES: Yes, that's it. So do you make now that you are here a lot of tourist? Or do you stay in your room at hotel and drink all of the time and order girls?
A brief beat.
LOWELL: Oh (?), I--
Nicol starts to laugh. James looks slightly wounded.
NICOL (To James): Yal koid ammerit imdia tor hinad pol kimmit t'si oraditor pie filoral amdati fidit pilial-ital konduri. / Doi tam dil nal yatst ichor adal gorina.
IRENE (As Nicol is explaining): It's an idiom.
IRENE: It means, um ...
JAMES: Oh goodness. (To Lowell) I am not thinking that.
NICOL: Do you make your own fun, basically.
JAMES: I'm so sorry I mean are you Heavy Metal.
NICOL: Dal norid imala poi conduri timon padoria bicana abatorolia?
JAMES: Kimpst t'si du anad aldadda impri torina cam dil died ikfit.
NICOL: Kambada "Slayer" ada "Blue Oyster Cult" illa freed?
JAMES: Yorimit tor alda goi pim hibil purad argola. Dil hama kur skimimi-ha tix toy fimf shlee zon aka lorbiddiat ill-guile pim di mala-halchor tonlick triack gursin obla toy. Yicks kibbil ipap imap pie e-da.
NICOL: James has had a glorious misunderstanding or a very deep analysis.
IRENE (In a brief aside to James): Kiya ik watta immit i-pie fiorlia.
James sort of laughs at his absurdity / the absurdity of it all, half pleased and half kind of embarrassed.
JAMES (A quick remark back to Irene): Pit fiat ab hidam.
NICOL (While they are asiding): He's asking do you have gravitas.
IRENE (Disputing slightly with Nicol): Are you an independent person.
NICOL: Are you the center of your own world.
IRENE: But not in a weak-looking way, not in a diva with all of the people around her way, not like a person who has the M&Ms sorted out by color for them.
NICOL (Hits on it): Are you enough.
IRENE (Yes): Yes. But I think also there is the idea that if you're enough that's a little too bad. That it makes you stronger, but you're going to miss out of things.
NICOL: But James did not so much intend this.
IRENE: I don't think that he intended any of it. I think what he was saying is that after you work hard all day do you intend to run around and try to see the city and make yourself exhausted and confused or are you a sensible person who will settle into your comfortable hotel room with a good book and a glass of wine and ignore the world.
Nicol's phone rings.
NICOL: Amit-ey? Aft ahn imift ola indee-ick galara pid. (Slight pause, looking at Lowell while he listens) Soi dorin fol gar nald. / Yaght sign.
JAMES: It's very good in my head, or to hear, but I don't speak so much in this language.
LOWELL: Oh, well it's more than I can do, that's for sure.
We hear another series of low cool tones. Everyone pauses briefly to register.
LOUDSPEAKER: Hibit tora umkaforia loi nam tumf. Dhlora tim eyebad imit aida apolkitsa. (The security situation is resolved.)
IRENE: Yam stybit im deeda poredakakt larga. (James laughs) Mim inia terec.
JAMES: Sam sorlia nee tegloria frect.
NICOL (To Irene): Dee staft tan imdia pimal-am daloc nong tac frahd.
Simon opens the door to the inner office. He is fairly unassuming.
SIMON: So it's safe to emerge, I assume.
IRENE: But Simon when did you get in? I knocked twice.
SIMON: You may have. Someone did. I was busy. Lowell, glad you finally made it.
LOWELL: Simon. Good to meet you. You're much less erratic looking than you were over the videoconference feed. (Tiny pause) Not so much suddenly turning into a blur and, ah, less time lapse. (Tiny pause) Oh God. Please excuse me. Jet lag.
SIMON: Yes. So your flight was comfortable?
LOWELL: Yes, more or less.
SIMON: Very good. I was just looking at the conversion rates on the substructuring for Pimnol and the back-indexing on the prorate levels.
Sara has entered, dressed in different clothing, but in the same polished style as the night before.
LOWELL (Orienting): The monitored PFAF (Pronounced "Faf") menta? Right. I was looking at that on the plane ...
IRENE: Sara, you look fabulous!
Lowell turns around.
A mini beat.
SARA: Thank you.
IRENE: You look just great.
NICOL: Now that's Executive Style--(To Lowell) She's always in jeans and tennies, this one. You'll have to watch your back, Simon, she's gunning for your job. (To Lowell) "Gunning," right? (Without waiting for his response; to Simon) Gunning.
SIMON: This is ... Sara. She helps us with our filing.
SARA: Yes we've--
LOWELL: We have met.
IRENE: All right, Nicol.
NICOL: I'm just impressed. (To Sara) Must be some date tonight. I've got a packet of new deal memos on my desk--ASAP okay? I've sorted it by area so you shouldn't have any difficulty.
SIMON: Look why don't you come into my office; I was hoping you'd be in yesterday afternoon and we have a lot of ground to cover fairly quickly.
LOWELL: Yes I'm sorry about that.
SIMON (Responding to Lowell): Oh goodness no, you certainly aren't responsible. But ah--you don't need (Gesturing toward Sara) coffee or anything do you?
LOWELL (He does): No no, I'm fine.
SIMON (Closing the door behind them): Well then good, let's get started.
We'll have the others join us in a bit.
NICOL (Regarding Simon): Shitfuckcock now that was fucking elegant.
IRENE: Please, Nicol.
NICOL: He just--I'm very kind to animals, why does that count for so little /--why is that--
IRENE: Is that the choice, animals or the language?
NICOL: It's about being bottled up but James, the man is a specter. I mean right? I mean come on Irene.
IRENE: I'm not prudish but I've got a twelve year old at home.
NICOL: He just effortlessly kind of transcends--so what?
IRENE: I need a rest from that kind of energy. You don't even own an animal, any animals you're kind to that's on your spare time. I'd like to see how kind you are 24/7.
NICOL: I'm a sweetheart!
IRENE: If you were actually responsible for something you'd have moments where you'd come so close to wanting to smash its head in. Then you wouldn't feel comfortable bragging about your humanity.
JAMES: Animals or twelve-year-old boys?
IRENE: With twelve-year-old boys the sensation is much more vivid but the principle is the same.
NICOL: Okay but do you know what I'm saying. It's that far beyond management manuals that's it's oriental philosophy: "Command by appearing from nowhere."
IRENE: I knocked twice. I went in. He wasn't in there.
IRENE: When I got in, at 7:30, because he's sometimes--
NICOL: I know. That's part of it. Sometimes he does not leave.
IRENE: No he just gets in really early.
NICOL: No he doesn't leave sometimes.
JAMES: That's true. It's the same clothing.
IRENE: He wears the same clothing. He goes home and he puts it back on again.
JAMES: I think he rinses his armpits in the sink.
IRENE (Lowers her voice even more): You didn't see that.
JAMES: God no.
NICOL: That would be primal.
JAMES: I was in the toilet. I think I heard it.
IRENE: It's not a characteristic sound.
JAMES: Yes but you know what else could it be? It's quite early, no one else is in yet, he's not pissing, he's not washing his hands, there's water running and a little bit of splashing, and I hear the soap dispenser, and a little bit of splashing, and then I think I hear like a shirt, you know, I don't know, I hear, like, fabric moving around and there's something going on but it's kind of quiet. And then there's more splashing. And then the action is repeated.
IRENE: But you didn't see anything.
JAMES: I can't see anything and also I close my eyes.
NICOL: Oh yeah. If you made if you even just through the gap in the stall if you made eye contact with him, in the mirror, while he's washing his armpits at the sink? I mean that would be. You could never. You would just you would walk past. You wouldn't say a word. You'd go to your desk and you would take only the essentials and you would leave and you would never return. Shit. (To Irene) Sorry.
IRENE: But he knows you're there.
JAMES: No. I'm completely quiet and also when he comes in I lift my legs up, so he can't see my feet under the stall.
Bit of a pause.
JAMES: Oh yeah, I always do that.
NICOL (Implicated): You always lift your legs.
JAMES: Oh yeah.
IRENE: That sounds uncomfortable.
JAMES: I don't know it's sort of an instinct I guess. Predators.
NICOL: Fuck you. My God.
JAMES: I do sometimes hear things I guess I shouldn't but I'm discreet.
Simon opens the door to his office.
SIMON: Nicol, James, Irene could you join us? Where's Paul?
JAMES: He hasn't called in so I don't know.
SIMON: We'll have to begin without him.
They're inside. The door shuts. Sara emerges from the offstage filing area with a pile of file folders. She picks up the stack of papers from Nicol's desk and proceeds to file them into the folders, stamping the pages or tabbing them, applying stickers and checking off a spreadsheet as she goes.
As the lights fade or switch we hear a muttered conversation on the loudspeaker. The sound rises just enough so that we can make out that it's Sara and Lowell. They're speaking casually, but intimately. This is Sara's fantasy.
SARA: Lowell, what are you doing here?
LOWELL: That's a terrible greeting!
SARA: Yes but you're a complete (Kissing) mmmn shock. A Complete Shock deserves a--(Kiss) terrible greeting, you said you were getting back tomorrow, right? Did I just--
LOWELL: No, the meeting finished up ahead of the time.
SARA: Why didn't you call me?
LOWELL: Because I thought it would be elaborate to make up a surprise. Happy anniversary.
LOWELL: See now you're a surprise. Don't say to me that you do not have an attractive present for the me.
SARA: I do but it isn't wrapped yet. I'm counting our anniversary as tomorrow.
LOWELL: No no. That's very wrong. It's one year the day--
SARA: You're counting from the little sign.
LOWELL: Yes the moment I saw you limo. That's my count.
SARA: And I'm counting after midnight, so, the next day. The office. And then that evening, which was an improvement.
LOWELL: Wait. That evening ... was a wristwatch? / No.
SARA: No. /
LOWELL: Was a--/
SARA: It was an improvement. Improvement. It went much better.
LOWELL: Yes it was.
She smiles. Continues to work.
The lights fade or change.
Lunch. Takeout-Chinese-food containers.
Everyone but Sara, Simon and Lowell. Paul has joined them.
IRENE: It's right against a patch of forest and there are a lot of foxes in that neighborhood. My boyfriend and I (Lowell enters) our apartment looks out over the garden--oh hello Lowell you look exhausted! Simon was very thorough?
LOWELL: His attention to detail is really something.
NICOL: Pull up a container, we have extra for you. Are you good with chopsticks or do you need a fork?
LOWELL: I'm fine with chopsticks, thanks.
NICOL (A little dry): James is a chopstick expert. He spent six months in Japan as an exchange student.
JAMES: It is an art. But don't worry, I don't mind how other people do it.
NICOL: We have a very good Chinese food restaurant in the south district. Not this, but actual cuisine, court food, it's something special. We'll take you there tonight. Irene can't do it because of her kid and Paul you haven't met--
Paul and Lowell lean over and shake warmly.
LOWELL: So many e-mails later.
PAUL (A clipped British accent): Good to finally meet you.
NICOL: Paul is otherwise engaged but James and I will show you the town a little.
LOWELL: Oh, tonight?
NICOL: Unless you have other plans.
LOWELL: Ah, I do, I do have plans. But any other night would be great.
NICOL: Oh. (A moment of comprehension) With Sara?
LOWELL: Yes, just for a quick bite. It was very kind of her to pick me up last night. At the airport.
NICOL: That's wonderful, I'm pleased our department is showing such a good example of hospitality, but please Irene, continue with your story.
IRENE: With my?
NICOL: You were speaking about your apartment.
IRENE: Oh. Yes. How did we develop this topic? (To Lowell) This was when I had an apartment up against the forest and we had foxes that would just wander in, from the forest.
NICOL: They're very sweet looking but they carry a lot of diseases.
NICOL: They're like cockroaches in that regard.
IRENE: I don't believe it for a minute but in any case.
NICOL: You can consult a zoological professional.
IRENE: One night, it's late, we're both asleep--my boyfriend and I--we're both asleep in our bed, and we hear this, terrible noise, in the garden. And at first I think--because I'm just awake you know--I think that it is a baby and that someone is killing it in the garden. And so I run to the window and I look out and there is some moonlight and I see in the shadows that a fox has my kitty--I had at the time a speckled kitty, it had a terrible temperament but I had a great affection for it and the fox has it and is trying to drag it away but the kitty is putting up a tremendous fight. And so my boyfriend and I we bolt out--and we sleep in the nude you know and we don't stop, to put on anything--and we run out into the garden and there's our cat, fighting furiously with a fox and there's all of this screaming and I don't know what I was thinking because I'm not brave but I ran straight at them and I grabbed--I grabbed the kitty from behind and I tugged. And the fox is holding on to the cat for dear life and I'm tugging at the cat and the fox is tugging at the cat and my boyfriend I think he's literally jumping up and down and he's yelling something and I'm tugging and the fox is tugging and then all of the sudden the cat comes loose into my hands and I just I look down and I realize, that I'm holding, a narmont!
LOWELL (All but not quite interrupting the flow of the story): What's a narmont?
NICOL: It's like a, weasel.
IRENE: So the narmont is looking at me, and it is completely astonished, and the fox is looking at me and it's astonished. And then the narmont looks at the fox and the fox looks at the narmont and then they both look at me, at the naked human. Everyone is looking at everyone else. It's a very surreal moment.
And by this time the neighbors are awake and I see them in their windows, they're looking at me and my boyfriend hopping around naked in the moonlight with a fox and a narmont.
IRENE: Their faces! I wish I could have a picture.
We go back into the apartment and the cat is fast asleep in a chair on the balcony. Fast asleep. I wanted to give her a whack.
NICOL: And you call yourself an animal lover.
IRENE: When you care for something Nicol. You'll know what I'm talking about some day.
LOWELL: What happened to the narmont and the fox?
IRENE: Oh well I drop the narmont immediately and it slinks away, and the fox slinks away. In the opposite direction. The fox was a small fox and it was a really big narmont and I think they both thought they were on the losing end of the fight so it was a relief I think really for both of them.
This apartment, when I live in this apartment also it is a very strange place. (A tiny pause. Then to Lowell) This is no the same apartment. It is in the building also. But at a different times. Isn't that strange? When we meet the first time I am asking him where he live and he tell me and I say, "I know exactly where you live." But this building, I think this building is very strange. A lot of thing happen to me in that apartment.
JAMES: One time, it is in the winter, and it is so cold and, it is late night and I go to the front door and, uh ... (Setting out on what he originally intends to be only a slight explanation in his own language) ... bied dixatot pilia nam oritan aba deed formla ipatoriat. Toi anadod argula tir "impst agha miarad" ed pimilia yahn cora noi-leea gore purid tat. Fahn-ad "elio tim adda pro kimit-til, duria surn hor alda bill" tli ext "garia-fred."
JAMES: Koi hemmersend ally hildy adtarrit murhor bixt pintia kimboo pai-na. (Looks at Lowell; for his benefit) And I look down and he is wearing, ah, (Does a brief hand-flapping mime) surgurnil ...
JAMES: Flippers! Dimit reehall garan ab morekon veeit lall eyeda tabba mixt fruek. Lorlia tora im adura timp kimmel pen deer eeday lil ganna dona pad di veno til orlana bib durit. "Gimfia lil dansk." "Amsta deeg fidol ib abat ama hiyad inal timtoi akeyed dis bindur kor ladal feed." "Agana ten." Tsad tsay door gurinam fia hengst.
IRENE: Well no wonder, with the flippers!
JAMES: Epst until indi orlia kam habenfay dala bi coria timt undu igadha dimi nadla-ra-di.
James looks around with satisfaction.
JAMES (Does a little hand gesture): "Aga daad lorin tabba pashkafrect."
Satisfied spatter of laughter.
PAUL: Do you speak a little?
LOWELL: Not at all.
PAUL: Oh that's a pity. It's a great language really. Much more workable than English.
LOWELL: Yes, I'd like very much to learn it. Or at least. If this hadn't all been so sudden I would have gotten a phrasebook. Or is that one of those things, is that annoying here--I mean in France? Or is it--do I get points for making an effort.
PAUL: Just don't try to greet people you'll get it wrong. Otherwise I'd say make the attempt.
LOWELL: It seems as though, in general, most people have a fair amount of English.
PAUL: Oh yes, they have it. They're not happy about it though. English is such a Frankenstein monster of a language you know it's French patched together with German with pieces of Russian, Arabic--so there's a perpetual inner tension all on its own, a continual slow process of cultural indigestion if you ask me--when I speak it for a long period of time I find I become a little uncomfortable. Did you know that about your language? I'm just curious.
LOWELL: I did.
PAUL: I'm always curious about what Americans know and what they don't know.
LOWELL: Educated people know that. But okay here's the thing, I mean we have a very big vocabulary, right? I mean it's very large. I would think we'd get points for that, like, you know, it's a tool set, we have a lot of tools, I mean maybe we're not sophisticated, maybe we're not total artisans, but ... that's a lot of tools. Tools are impressive.
PAUL: To me that's as if one says: "I have an enormous army with a lot of men"--but if they're all Italians then where does that get me you know.
JAMES (Cheerfully): Oh, I have a question. Do you know that what you did to the Indians was very wrong?
LOWELL: We do know that, yes.
JAMES: I am glad to hear that. Because we're very sorry for them here.
LOWELL: We're sorry for them there, too.
JAMES (Satisfied): Okay.
James turns back to his conversation with Nicol and Irene.
Bit of a pause.
LOWELL: So, how long have you been here?
PAUL: In this department?
LOWELL: In the country. It seems like you're fluent.
PAUL: Oh. No. I'm native here, this isn't my accent. This is my language tutor, when I was a boy, this is his accent. I'm quite lucky actually, my parents were a little naive. Can you imagine if he'd been from Liverpool, or Manchester? I'd have to endure a totally different level of conversation from English speakers.
NICOL: You know I was watching on TV just the other night a special on the American medical system, it was quite astonishing.
LOWELL: Oh. Yes?
NICOL: Really, I was riveted. We have a very good health system here. We don't allow people to fall through the cracks. Someone like Sara for example, in America she'd probably be on the street missing all her teeth.
IRENE: Nicol, James says you've already done the conversion on the traunche levels for Pimnol.
NICOL: We have very good programs to integrate the people into the society. (To Irene) Yes, I cc'd you on that.
IRENE: You did not. And I've been working on those numbers all morning.
NICOL: Stam dilla freed oka toi biman galahal psi edic nan.
IRENE: Qel ayema yin torrin dist eel borhan gar walla shell bigur ti. Biman dahl agar oi-dan mimpst fee day.
PAUL (Glancing at his watch): I've got 1:30.
Everyone immediately rises, clears their mess and heads toward Simon's office. Paul knocks first as he enters. Nicol and Irene continue to bicker.
NICOL: Yell amin oiya tad.
IRENE: Ahnt fez ibit skool illill morad nama torin ta ha frad kibil oidan--tim toran cillia finta feed nimmit tay. Agit meenam.
NICOL: Sant ikle akatanfradihat bisti peela toid.
Nicol is the last one in. Empty stage.
Sara enters, clears away the remainder of the lunch things, and begins processing documents. Nicol emerges from Simon's office, picks something up from his desk and leans against the shelving unit. He looks at Sara. She looks at him, looks away, looks at him.
NICOL: That's an excellent job. You're doing an excellent job.
NICOL: No I mean it. I'm being sarcastic. I'm making conversation.
SARA: It's a job which requires a great deal of concentration.
NICOL: It does I thought so.
SARA: It involves color recognition. A firm grip on the alphabet. And the voices are distracting.
NICOL: Do you hear voices?
SARA: I'm pretty much at their command. But they're not interested in the shelving, unfortunately. "That one goes there, that one there."--that would be relaxing. "Slit Nicol's throat." "With what?" "I don't know, improvise." Distracting.
NICOL (This is a serious question): Do you really hear voices?
She looks at him.
NICOL: I know it's a personal question. Did you. Before the medication.
SARA: What medication.
NICOL: You're on medication aren't you?
NICOL: Did you hear voices?
She looks at him.
NICOL: I used to.
SARA: You did.
NICOL: I heard voices.
NICOL: I heard--from specific places. From the radio. From the TV. Not from the toaster or a ... couch. I only heard voices from things that can speak. And then a dog said something to me, made a kind of remark and I thought that's insane, dogs don't speak. That seemed very wrong. I didn't have a problem with the TV, even though it was off. The dog gave me the shivers.
I marched into the doctors I said medicate the fuck out of me. I'm on something that will destroy my liver by the time I'm forty-five. Guaranteed. I'm already on a slow list for transplantation; you have to have your name down ahead of time.
So I. So. I was thinking of you.
NICOL: You should really say something.
SARA: I'm thinking about your salary. How very much larger it is than mine. I'm wondering about Simon and what his dark secret is. A lobotomy.
NICOL (Big grin): You're hard. You're really a bitch.
He pulls a project binder from the cart, flips it open randomly.
NICOL: Project Pericles. This was a good time. I remember it well. I had to go mano-a-mano with Phil on it. You remember Phil?
NICOL: I'd give anything to be a woman. You're so beautiful so I care, so I care about you. Can you believe it? I look at you and I think: I'd like to rescue her from burglars. Please God send in a man with an uzi so I can ... some kind of a karate chop, what am I thinking.
But you know, men would be less violent towards women if they had more violence to rescue them from. That's my theory. Okay. Enjoy the whatever the fuck, the color-coding.
Nicol stalks back into Simon's office.
Lowell and Sara at dinner. It's awkward. He is picking at his meal. Long pause.
SARA: So. Where did you go to school? Where is this quad--the one you were drunk in the middle of.
LOWELL: Are you familiar with American schools?
SARA: With some of them.
LOWELL: It's--well I did my advanced work in Boston. I was drunk at, well that night I was drunk at my undergrad. You probably don't know about it, it's not distinguished.
Bit of a pause.
SARA: Can't you eat that?
LOWELL: I can't, no. I mean it's parts, right?
SARA: Everything is parts.
LOWELL: Parts that are unusual to me.
SARA: We don't eat wholes often. Eggs. Everything else we eat is parts of this, parts of that. By "we" I mean you, also. It's a universal.
LOWELL: Um right. Yeah. That's true. I think these are I think this is meat that's not familiar to me. Intestines, right?
SARA: Ah, no. There shouldn't be. In that dish it's part of the side, it's pork, and some mushrooms. The sauce might be unusual.
LOWELL: It's the texture. Something about it is spongy.
SARA: They cook it for a very long time to make sure that it's tender. It's a specialty.
LOWELL: I can't eat it. I'm sorry. I'm sure it's great.
SARA: Here let me try. (Forks over a bite) It's okay, for this dish, it's fairly typical.
LOWELL: It's just not to my taste.
Long uncomfortable pause.
SARA: There's an old observatory we should go to. It's a bar, you can see over the entire city. The man who works the bar there--it's a great story--he's worked there for over 50 years. He worked there during the war, when he was just a kid, very tall, handsome. The Nazis loved this bar, it's such a great view. There's a round, uh, skylight in the ceiling where the telescope used to go and it's the tradition in this bar at one point during the evening all of the lights are extinguished and everyone they always stop talking and everyone is holding their drinks and looking upwards. Of course you can't see anything now really with the light glare unless it's a very cold clear night in winter. In any case every now and then he would poison a Nazi. Just every now and then. It was slow-acting, they'd die a few days later and each time a different way. They didn't catch on until towards the end of the war, apparently they got suspicious, came in and were asking him a lot of questions. People told him you've got to leave you've got to go into hiding but he refused. I think it's a question to this day was he a daring patriot or a kind of a sociopath. But he's a very handsome man; terribly old but he still has cheekbones and he's, you know, he's very dressed. He makes very traditional cocktails. It takes him forever to make them but they're absolutely perfect. We could go there next.
LOWELL: I think I'm going to head back. To the hotel.
SARA: Ah yah?
LOWELL: Yeah, I think so.
SARA: Do you want company?
LOWELL: I'm, ah. No. I'm exhausted Sara, really. I think I'm going to need to just sleep. You know. For once.
A bit of a pause.
SARA: You'd be doing me a real favor to speak to me truthfully. You have no idea. Don't think of it as a task, or, a labor or even as something you're doing for me think of it as like an act of devotion to something enormous and higher. (Mini beat) I'm not talking about God. I don't think I'm talking about God. You couldn't possibly take me seriously if I were--I wouldn't. But think of it as like an offering to--I'm trying to think of a non-jargon phrase for this--to the better part of yourself. Or to Truth, as an abstract idea, not to me. It's an offering that you leave. On the side of the road. As you pass through a strange country. (Beat) A very wonderful gesture.
A bit of a pause.
LOWELL: Listen, you're a great girl. I'm so wiped I can't even see straight.
SARA: Yes you must be tired.
LOWELL: I had I guess maybe three hours on the flight. And last night, I don't know. Three hours.
SARA: Something like that.
LOWELL: And a lot of alcohol. I mean I can barely walk. From the exhaustion, not the alcohol.
SARA: Well you should go back to your hotel. You should get some rest.
LOWELL: Yeah I think I should probably (Yawns) I should probably do that. (Pulls out a livid-looking bill) Listen will this cover it?
Bit of a beat. They look at each other.
LOWELL: The meal? Is this enough for the meal.
SARA: That's far too much, they won't want to make change. Here, let me--(She takes his wallet and rummages through it briefly) Give them this. And I'll put this in. (She pulls money from her coat)
LOWELL: Oh, no, this is my treat. I'll get this.
SARA: No I'll put in for my own.
LOWELL: Let me, it's all company money anyway.
SARA: I couldn't possibly. (This isn't true:) It's against custom.
LOWELL: Is it? Oh. Well, okay.
She lays money on the table, slips her money in his wallet and returns it to him.
SARA: Yes this is fine.
LOWELL: Did we tip? Is there tipping here?
SARA: There's a little something. It's fine.
LOWELL: I'm going to, ah, run to the men's room. And then I'll, then I'll walk out with you.
SARA: All right.
He goes. She waits a bit. She gets up. She goes. He returns. She isn't there. He's outside. We hear the low sound of cars on the street. He puts on his coat. Nearby is a woman who is probably a prostitute. She's dressed in a demure sophisticated way, but she has a fancy corset cinched tight on the outside of her nice trench coat. Her heels are quite high.
He stands. He waits. He rocks on his heels a bit. He looks over at her. He looks out. He looks over.
LOWELL: Shtam sa.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Amstai da?
LOWELL: Shtam sa?
ANONYMOUS WOMAN (Not understanding): Ah ...
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Uh-huh.
LOWELL: Good evening.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Yes.
Little pause. He considers, reconsiders, considers.
LOWELL: Do you know if I can, uh, get a taxi here?
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Where are you going?
LOWELL: I'm at the hotel Moritad, do you know where that is?
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Very well.
LOWELL: So, um.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Do you want a cigarette?
LOWELL: I don't smoke.
She shakes one from her pack.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN (Matter of fact): You could hold it. I like a man holding a cigarette.
He takes it.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: I like it better if it's lit.
He gestures for the lighter, lights the cigarette in an assured fashion, returns the lighter.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Okay you smoke.
LOWELL: Only at bachelor parties. I go to a lot of bachelor parties.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: I don't know what kind of party that is.
LOWELL: Oh it's a, when a man is about to get married, you know, the night before, he gets together with all of his buddies and they have a blow out, a, it's his last chance, in theory, to act like he's free. Booze and cigars and his buddies and women.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Okay yes, I know that party.
Pause. She looks at him.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: So we can have a batchlur party at the Moritad. Only without all of the buddies. And no cigars. I don't like them.
LOWELL: Then we won't have them.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: I have to call Morris.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN (As she dials): He's actually across the street talking with his guys but I don't like to yell. What are we, 40 feet away? (Puts the phone to her ear) Cell phones are ridiculous. (It's ringing ... To the distant Morris) Yes, that's right, there's a sound. Where is it coming from? Is it? That's right. It's coming from your pocket. Maybe you should answer it. (Morris does so) I'm with a gentleman. (After a moment she waves) Hello. (Hangs up and folds her phone; to Lowell) He's coming right over he says.
LOWELL: But wait who is he?
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: He comes with me.
LOWELL (Startled): He comes with us? Into the ...
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: No. He waits outside. But you know what--Look at him. He's making his big point. And you know what they're talking about it's sports. But he moves his hands like he's the president. And he's going to keep making his point until he loses, and then he's going to say, "I don't have time for this, I have business to take care of." That's right, you do.
But you know what Morris has a problem with the Moritad, we're going to have to go somewhere else. (Dialing again)
LOWELL: But the Moritad is great.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN (As it's ringing): It looks like a very classy hotel but there are some confused people running it there. I don't have a quarrel with the management, actually I think it is only a staffing problem. You can't always hire the right kind of people to work night shifts. (As the phone is answered) Morris--(She listens briefly. Shuts her phone) That was rude. (She gestures rudely toward the offstage Morris who presumably has his back to her) Anyhow he can't go inside there. It's okay. There's a good place we can go. Morris has a car.
LOWELL: I don't want to be rude.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: What? You're not rude. Morris is rude, you have to excuse him.
LOWELL: I think I'd rather, I'd feel more comfortable if I select the location.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN (Challenging): Is this new, with you, to be with a girl this way?
LOWELL: This way? (Little beat) Yes.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN (Genuinely surprised): Oh, really? I thought you have all these parties.
LOWELL: That's different. And also half the time these days it's just, like, a wine tasting.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Really this is your first time?
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: There's all kinds of strange rules I don't have the time to explain to you. It's very fun, right. We do a lot of crazy things together. But you have to relax. You have to go along with the ride. Okay? This is your first time? You'll like it. It's very different. You're going to feel free.
For the first time she touches him. She places her hand confidently and comfortably, not on his groin, but on the outside of his hip.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: You're going to like that. (Little beat) Okay?
LOWELL: Okay. Yeah.
She drops her hand and turns toward the street.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN (Calling out): Mooorris! (After a moment) Okay it looks like he brings his friends. That's okay, he gets bored if he waits outside alone. You can see he's a very social person. But if there's a lot of guys there's no space in the car.
After a moment:
LOWELL: Okay, no.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: What? But we have an agreement.
LOWELL: I'm sorry.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: All this time we've been talking. Morris!
She drops neatly to the ground, and raises her hands as though injured and warding him off.
He steps forward, then back. She screams, in anguish:
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: Morris!
Lowell takes off running.
The lights go out.
We hear the sound of a shower, overlaid with the sound of a toilet flushing, overlaid with the sound of tooth brushing, very magnified.
Behind these sounds we hear a kind of half-garble of unintelligible speech, faint light, high angelic singing.
The lights rise.
The sounds fade out except for the tooth brushing, which continues through scene at a subdued volume.
Lowell stands looking into a mirror on the fourth wall. He's in darkness except for the dim mirror light. He has a toothbrush clenched in his fist but he does not pantomime the activity. He leans toward the mirror.
LOWELL (Without raising his voice): Has it occurred to you that this capacity for the subtleties of life is defeatism? Because you are, you're a defeated people. I mean of course you are, over hundreds of years, during history, you're not going to be a winner every time. You're long-term periodic losers. And what do losers do? They develop philosophies, they refine their appetites, they acquire an appreciation of their family, their friends, of the moment ... because there's nothing for them in the future. They make the present as distracting as possible, so they don't have to think about the fact that everything that happens next happens without them.
And I'm not saying it's any more than luck, it's luck it's all it's dumb luck, well, geography, perseverance, but luck, whatever, circumstance, we've never been defeated, we've never lost.
An Imaginary Sara appears upstage in the shadows, her back to him.
LOWELL (A slight correction): On our own soil. We never had that thing where you're on your own farm and enemy soldiers are running around breaking the babies open and raping all the women. We've been humiliated, but we've never been powerless.
Luck is a virtue. Lucky people are brave, and they're hopeful. Winners believe in goodness, they believe in fairness, and someone's got to believe in goodness and fairness, someone has to be innocent.
You'd be just like us, if you could be.
Sara turns to face him.
SARA: If you don't know how to lose, then how do you know how to be. When your luck runs out.
She melts back into the shadows.
LOWELL (Harshly): I have an answer for that.
I have an answer for that.
He gets dressed.
The lights brighten. He is in the office and it is the next day.
James finishes a phone call. Irene and Nicol are all but shouting at each other.
Lowell stands to the side.
IRENE: Yago na gandin noi. Yab habbin hama aga lanali pana dad. Pootrika kama hala ag nad. Needoria.
NICOL: Pan laggit agma hee tori foria pada--
IRENE: Mixt nee du t'si! Fam ip teeda dai eeg da!
NICOL: Yil tommot dana horrin kimi fulsi.
IRENE: Eela dima pwan!
NICOL: Dim hammel kaba / kitsi dorin forad gimittsi him atal dal hiya corriant eeg da.
IRENE: Tel kolit illa kad hala ad--
IRENE: Al baad, heel baad. Ninxt orrit.
NICOL: Immidia ama afad. (Irene gestures with the papers) Eenan.
IRENE: Yam diala fim afran alal torad.
Irene walks into Simon's office, knocking on the door as she does so, and closes the door behind her. Nicol stalks offstage to look for something in the filing area.
James pauses. He looks very deliberate. He holds his hands out about six inches apart.
JAMES: We have some maneuvering to do.
He looks at Lowell significantly.
James is perturbed that his hasn't communicated. He concentrates for a moment.
JAMES: Dimlaftia. Yes? You understand this?
JAMES: Dimlaftia. It is technical.
LOWELL: No, I don't know that word.
James looks seriously annoyed.
JAMES: You must a--for the words. That book. That word book.
Irene comes whipping out of Simon's office mid-sentence. The phone rings.
IRENE:--tard ippit imi ga-la intufrindnila pana-ba yal myo tim tada importat ginic pif ad tid die ar haf nordin pee worrit--(Answers the phone) Nan doyit nam pilian andorian. (Hangs up) Foi adda mimk neena dil abai hindania ecolotoi mor hoarai pimpt eefas haga ma eeyad biloi itat. Madra tam noi don kaladit fied.
(To Lowell) I'm sorry. I'm very. I'm in a state. I can't think of any of the words. Fifty-four millions.
JAMES (To Lowell): Sixty-two millions. (To Irene) Sunfish.
IRENE (To James): Tan lie ihad. (To Lowell) Do you know this deal, Sunfish? (Continuing without pausing) We can't locate the files, Sara is not here. And no one can locate Paul, do you understand. Without Paul we have really only half the picture. (To James) Haf gynig Nicol itad? (James gestures offstage; she yells toward offstage) Nicol daw aid-aid tik-ait et fammat mimmitori kel had oriosohosifat pimpt immel gidic.
Bit of a pause.
NICOL (From offstage): Fim eeda ti qora danahad atat ali.
IRENE: Pigdagit tim suria inxt lmmil gorforitag hi sorrya wang Sunfish diu ami adrat cor filim tu habba rae was tiu kiln ayeka vee drun yilo.
Bit of a pause. Nicol emerges.
JAMES: Imiac tora tem dorrid pemptor miya ahala anant.
NICOL: Aywas mim pie itad. Sara mingst imifit anoridar?
IRENE: Noid orin.
NICOL (Looks at his watch): Immick alootin scorifa Sara moripsht lee amadid. (Goes back offstage)
IRENE (To herself): Emphiat yil ganac dim ora nanit lad horat. (To James) Etst leedin lee hamma tam rihad bela dow.
This exchange is dispassionate, technical. The phone rings, nobody answers it.
JAMES: Dar haddin feed em tee kibin raal inand tord fie lan bag addit ipst-tattin-frad gif veluciatad cora lam agga wat.
IRENE: Yem mia had freea--
JAMES: kam ladda toll ad wana pala tora nod.
IRENE: Ag soi del icarin pint suli oranatat wana pala ki feenin?
JAMES: Yempst fol tan kandor umpuliac gana hadar porin keefa simulia dorit heec. Laranadat di fradin gor jur pritad qel nimic rorliao forintam.
IRENE: So dab--
JAMES: In-imac ala we nor (Irene's nodding in agreement) gamana hac sortil.
IRENE: Feed keegen alda tor meehab glim vira tulle. Paranadat--
LOWELL (This is a wild guess): These are pull margins?
IRENE: What? No. This is the Pendurifar deal--
IRENE: Sara. (Calling offstage) Torma tai dee haven adal--Nicol! Amatied Sara--(To Sara, starting to explain something) Dill hall agan fin dolra tir habadafra kill al worin tuti ebol pimada gimli binda frat--
Nicol enters. Sara is twenty minutes late and he needs her to help him find something in the filing room.
NICOL (Furious): Sim di at adda frat kimla anan?! Horft habin pora dim too. Nilc onda ext ibbit ibalia mollit ibbit fry--
IRENE: Lim nornda, Nicol. (Cool it, Nicol.)
NICOL (Not exactly to Irene but not to Sara): Paam. Horrin gafada dit si freed. (To Sara, witheringly) Dim high nagda sol daminal. Sara stands, frozen.
NICOL: Hormada heeya friat? Cor dib pala quil tumpst dorida. Yamp kammit?
SARA: Elga foi.
NICOL (Rattling off a list of files which need to be pulled): Heenat ada mora rorit gamma iyat: Pilst, agala store dor con bilda giyatada femmel koi arat--hamdarit Indorinpot alda: Sunfish, Sorfundi--
SARA: Emp tida ala hayat.
She gestures for a pen to write this down. She heads toward James's desk. Nicol continues on mercilessly:
NICOL: Dimic-Tod, Yahtatz, Pendurifar, Camin, el gemmic horda tie Qwen, Circus-Freak, Heldamenyit, Tenabot, Irene hands Sara a pen. Sara grabs a piece of paper from James's desk. He protests and scrambles for a useless scrap for her, she's got one. She starts writing this down:
NICOL: Diriltorin, Picor. Efee ilda gortina wor quam bixt eelay dihalia gamma had bi needan kem tinc simidl--
SARA: Yahtatz, Pendurifar?
NICOL: Yilt Ganda. Mill tic eyemit hapst du si. Panta duricat boll est eyed tam.
Sara turns and goes to the offstage area. As she's exiting she and Lowell have a brief, nonspecific moment of eye contact.
NICOL (Not related to what's just happened): Gaffa hedda dintorim roha orliatorin madat.
JAMES: Lilia tor namahimdit horta.
IRENE: Dimpft eye.
JAMES: Held hordar arat.
Nicol dials his phone. Simon opens the door.
NICOL (Into phone): Tsor ampft guli nian Nicol imtric. (Puts the call on hold and speaks to Simon) Nye feeran imal had ibin stin foliotz noydit ariatim.
SIMON: Torimsht ilda koifad?
NICOL: Pendurifar. Talatad sim hina lorit. (He reengages the call)
SIMON: Paam stab ah. Kimia warrit Irene damaha doolia stum James aadakihad. Lowell we'll be bringing you up to speed in a moment. Qui hic afal.
James shuffles the papers on his desk for a moment, then joins Irene in Simon's office.
Meanwhile, Nicol is on the phone, his manner absolutely reversed. He radiates a laid-back serenity.
NICOL: Patchtada pica hem frad! Yampst dul he ku. (Listens briefly) Dalla gana tir dee freehal tana katst. Bit tori had. Empst Tsi? (Listens for a bit, chuckles low) Kamdata kur noidatta tan paco a "Lipsti Lipsti." (Laughs. Listens) Amgada ta fradda.
He listens for a while. In reaction, repeating something the other person has said:
He makes an approving noise, listens, looks toward Simon's office--wants to get to the point--can't yet--listens--not at the point yet:
NICOL: Yemsti adala gana had moriit yul ham du ... tonroriac?--gam-fits, imic hee baba, el gatso, el gatso, pauta freed. (Listens briefly) Nor harrit bist--
He places his hand, half-covering the receiver, and calls out, as if Irene were in the room and wanted a piece of information:
NICOL: Yam aga nada, Irene? (Into phone) Hum adla (To the air--to the imaginary Irene) Pri haegan im deela? (Into phone) Di narrid pang gana Irene. (To the air, again half-covering the receiver) Jur himla ti darak? Okay yes. Pendurifar? (Into phone) Pendurifar. Nim kydic ahm horin har. Gim kitsel la?
He listens. Has the pen poised to write, starts to jot something down, stops, listens, finally puts his pen down.
NICOL: Am dia di a? (Listens) Ag dac. Helborin Irene du hitst. (Calls out to the imaginary Irene) Irene, nag dafa peiltoi. (Changing topic, rougishly) Tor hinan roin bil dada gor witst? (Laughs a long time at the answer) Nim hiyda fin gurmachtshta rid siapft hagala umdiada fi ondio--(As if his other line is ringing) Ack--Kimgia ama say--talga umsit? Peebana fra me ad.
He hits hold. Sara has been standing by him for a bit, holding a small pile of color-coded folders. He registers her and motions to her to wait a moment.
He stares vacantly into space a moment. Then hits hold again. He's going to pretend he has to take the other call.
NICOL: Wee aft wee ah? Pendana. See agd bact url hara tor immada ga neo frint. Kim peest ta? Semdada.
He hangs up. Stares into space a moment. Looks up at Sara.
NICOL: She apst e alia a?
SARA: Tura kada.
He takes the folders from her, looks through them briefly.
NICOL: Ditia pinanda algorad imfi Sara temada gar korin shti ayn--(Stops abruptly when he thinks he sees something of interest, but he doesn't, continues) Yil otrin viva pimpt eet ah wurt ah. (A mini beat. He looks at her. An apology) Bipst eeda nan.
SARA (Accepting but not really accepting): Gimpst fiat.
NICOL: Fell harrin addit ti, wana horra ti, kol plana ixt ween ta?
SARA: Ebt lie ooh har.
NICOL: Impt teed.
SARA: Sud hala tad.
Sara takes the folders and goes to the offstage filing area.
Nicol stares into space briefly. He rouses himself.
NICOL (Looks over at Lowell, laughs): Welcome.
Nicol heads off to Simon's office.
Lowell looks after him. Waits. Sara enters. Stops. She looks at Lowell. He looks at her. She exits again. Lowell waits. Simon opens the door to his office.
SIMON: Lowell. Why don't you take this opportunity to sightsee. We'll convene with you in the morning.
Noon. A cotillion of church bells.
A shaft of stained-glass light.
Lowell is scanning the fourth wall, at a distance above his head.
LOWELL: The things they did to saints. Astonishing. The saints must have been really really annoying.
The shaft of light cuts out. Dim alcove lights come up. Lowell consults his guidebook, squinting:
LOWELL: "You are standing in the deepest, oldest part of the church. You are standing in the sanctuary. You are standing in the darkest oldest most primitive part of the worship, on very old stones, a place of peril, and a refuge from peril originally a hut of twigs how wild is the wood, and the thick wind that stirs it where the priest would go sometimes to sink down his weary head which is abuzz with the spirituo-political controversy of the day. There is always change in the air, and we wish always that time would simply stand still.
There are bones here, encased in the walls, their names have been lost."
He thinks this is a peculiar translation. He checks the back cover of the guidebook--Is it low-rent? A Woman approaches him.
WOMAN: Yampst olio dag horanan?
LOWELL: I'm sorry?
WOMAN: Dag horanan alda tig mihi garrault.
LOWELL: Oh no, I don't, I don't--(Fumbling with his phrasebook)
WOMAN: Doranz fabla nimi hicat at orad?
LOWELL (He's found it): Wait wait, I don't, I--
The Woman continues as though in perfect confidence she's being understood. She doesn't give him the space to say his piece.
WOMAN: Liac duran torim hardit pimkst iy-aln namora pim titst? Wist wist wiya dit ola ham tal--kama bidran pilift him ana teed. (Laughs)
LOWELL: Dam gurinact gel rahalio.
WOMAN: Tsoi fipft?
LOWELL: Dam gurinact gel rahalio.
WOMAN: Amkt toric mohalin fi warana pil deead.
She takes his phrasebook, looks at it.
WOMAN: Bimpst deead forit?
She looks around in alarm.
WOMAN: Foranam soolia dil ranada hab torin ixtia fritz!
LOWELL: What? No.
WOMAN (There is a source of danger all around them; they must be cautious): Ift eye-dit pilim teed. Doric hum timil dad. Kama tim tor tim taad--alohora gip.
LOWELL: Could I just ...
He reaches for the phrasebook; she yanks it away.
WOMAN: Ampst! Deed guy im nalad!
LOWELL: I only speak English. English. I only speak English. Only English.
She stares at him blankly.
LOWELL: English? American.
She doesn't understand. A moment.
WOMAN: Aamkey orrit feelia tera si palaptatafra. Im abda ga daang.
LOWELL: Bilpst tabda--
He reaches again for the phrasebook--again she yanks it away.
LOWELL: Eft eeyda lila saracht urdric palffa adda kebdahla ontorio.
WOMAN: Nampk, ita ud fryn.
LOWELL: Lemo hoido tsar ti tin faat lald ha kamptistra atta faad nil sifon atta primsi washan oil dim quor--
WOMAN: Gamalic dir hursit frill pict kimmil dist rolio gurd hamit hanan eyel freet sorat pul dact raat:
LOWELL: Yam khoric umla tyenda psee.
WOMAN: Yill tibish undaria--
LOWELL: Onfikor bindilit pimmil scarario ri pamalitad
WOMAN: Bordoric gab haddat! Pso quorin mamda--
LOWELL: Hib gara darga lalita fan pororrit sili-its tal hib.
WOMAN (Low): Korhybda ri sil alwit hordica panchta kil imial scada tilunk.
GUARD (Offstage): Sirs.
The lights go out.
In the blackout:
GUARD (Offstage): Sirs.
The lights come up on Lowell, in the same place, sitting groggily in a small, wooden folding chair. A Guard is with him. The Woman is gone.
GUARD: Sirs, there is not sleeping here. In the sanctuary. There is not rest in this place.
LOWELL: Right. No.
We hear washes of sound: Paul singing (while shaving) "As I was a walkin' one morning for pleasure"; a rubbery pigeon sound; a large mechanical object rotating back and forth.
The observatory bar. Daylight shines through a shaft from above. Lowell turns and addresses himself to the incredibly ancient Bartender:
LOWELL: Du aig-ast olim freet pacada tsi hul amda.
The Bartender considers him quizzically.
LOWELL: Du aig-ast olim freet pacada tsi hul amda.
THE BARTENDER: Of course, sir.
Paul is standing at the other end of the bar and raises a glass to him.
Bit of a beat.
LOWELL: They're looking for you. At the office.
PAUL: I'm sure they are.
LOWELL: Apparently it's urgent.
LOWELL: I don't know why they're looking for you, but it sounds important, I mean they're in meetings right now. They haven't been able to get hold of you.
Did you know that before it was an observatory this structure was a tower, a military tower? I suppose what you'd call a castle although with no grandeur in the way that we think about it now. This was a time when fortification was a nasty, unpleasant business, when you protected yourself at a real cost to your comfort. This would have been a narrow--well it is, you can imagine, 100 men, 200 men, imagine the latrine system, just the stench of it, the crowding. The windows, of course, are unglazed, storage space is at a minimum so firewood is precious; you spend a lot of your time freezing on your feet with the raw cold just streaming in around you. Also, I expect you have dysentery.
He holds up his glass.
PAUL: It's very nice here right now. It's so quiet. Listen. Just such ordinary sounds.
A serene silence.
PAUL: The pigeons scrapping about on the roof ... you can't hear them right now. Cars.
He taps the side of the glass to indicate the liquid in it; he taps further up to indicate the heavy glass. He looks around.
PAUL: There's no doubt. I'm a cynical civilized man so of course I think our life is shit, and very badly managed, and that our ideals are hypocritical and deadly, but civilized men always have, and still haven't understood what amuses the future ...
What is the future seeing right now? We have a big "I am a boob" sign pasted to our backs. Why are we so hilarious? What is it exactly that we are failing to understand? We're going to go down in history as chumps, you and I, and we have no way of knowing why. Of course the future will itself be judged, just as condescendingly.
LOWELL: I don't believe in the future.
PAUL: No? You think these are end-times.
LOWELL: Yes. Don't you?
PAUL: It's never been the end of time before. Of a time. But not time itself.
LOWELL: Any day now I expect to be duking it out on a post-apocalyptic rubble heap for a woman.
Paul half-coughs and almost spits out his drink.
LOWELL: You wouldn't think, right? But who knows. I might come out all right. Thank you.
The Bartender has brought his drink. A martini, with an olive. He drinks half of it at once.
LOWELL: I'll need to invent a different past. A tougher one. I'm sure everyone will anyway. Paul I can't say that I haven't seen you.
PAUL: It's all right. You can say that I had a gun--I do, although I'm not going to wave it around. I did remember the gun? (Opens the briefcase which has been sitting on the floor near him) Yes. It's only a sentimental gun but it will make for a better story and it is loaded so you couldn't have stopped me by force even if it had occurred to you to try--and it didn't. By the time you make a phone call--what I was saying about this structure is that there are ways out of it.
I'll be gone before anyone can get here. I'll be out of the city by nightfall. I'll be out of the country by dawn. And I'll be where I'm going the day after that.
LOWELL: Paul. (...) What did you do.
PAUL: Something really elegant. I think you'll appreciate it, when it comes to light. It was probably, the wrong decision. In the past week, I can't tell you how precious my life here has seemed to me. Even just the ordinariness. And my friends. They are a desperately imperfect people, nitwits actually, a lot of them, and they don't provide everything I need and they fail me with their inadequacies. But in the past few days when I've been with them, I look at them, and I know the way I'm going to remember them. It's going to look like a movie, like a dreadful movie--gold light and slow motion, and it will always be set in the spring with flower petals showering down in the rain and all of their virtues, their kindnesses, their wit, all sort of parading around. I know that they're going to haunt me, for the rest of my life. Do you know you are the last person who I will not lie to? At the moment I feel such tenderness for you. Such pleasure that we were colleagues, however briefly. Such respect.
He laughs at that and polishes off his drink.
PAUL: I hope you enjoy your time here.
He picks up his briefcase and exits.
The Bartender emerges to take the used glass.
LOWELL: Can I have a--(Polishing off his drink) No, wait, please, indulge me, please:
Du aig ... ast. Du aig-ast. Du aig-ast olim free ... d? Wait wait don't tell me. Sorry. But don't tell me ... I can do this. It's just, this is like, an underwater fantasyland. I'm sorry, please indulge me, I'll tip you well there is tipping right? Yes, wait, that's right--okay. (Glances briefly at his book) Damn. (To the Bartender) Du aig-ast olim freet pacada tsi hul amda.
The Bartender regards him gravely.
THE BARTENDER: Insomnia, sir? I have a beverage that might be of assistance. It's a concoction of my own. It has sedative-functioning, but you won't feel the effects immediately, no, you'll be able to go through your day, as you like, completing your tasks, but when you sleep you'll sleep most soundly. I can't say that I understand the chemistry; I believe it affects the nervous system. I can assure you, it has given satisfaction.
LOWELL: Oh my God. No. I mean. Thank you. But no. Here, I'd better ...
Lowell fumbles in his wallet. He holds up a bill, examines it closely.
LOWELL: Here. The Bartender takes the bill.
THE BARTENDER: I'll bring your change.
LOWELL: No, I know it's a lot but I want to--like a reverse souvenir. So that there's always, like, a part of me, in this place. What am I saying. Good-bye. Good-bye. Good afternoon. Good-bye.
Car horns, then the sound of a waterfall.
The Office. Sara is alone. Lowell appears in the doorway.
LOWELL: I showed them my badge, it's okay.
LOWELL: Up front. You looked so surprised.
SARA: I thought you were gone / for the day.
LOWELL: Oh no wait you don't--
SARA: They're all still in that meeting.
LOWELL: I came to see you actually. I came by. This is the only place I know to go to. But that's not why I came.
SARA: You look terrible.
SARA: Yes but don't let Simon see you like this. He's genial but it's a mistake to assume that he's ... gentle.
LOWELL: I'm ... (Sort of tucking things in a bit) I'm okay.
SARA: You look like shit.
LOWELL: Well I'm only here for a moment.
SARA: Yes, you said you were here to see me.
LOWELL: I did. Yeah.
Bit of a pause.
LOWELL: I thought maybe if your schedule is sort of flexible. There's a hotel I think it's in this area where they have a waterfall and an afternoon tea.
SARA (Looks blank for a moment): Oh. The Donburi. That's a terrible place. It's incredibly expensive and it's run by the mafia.
LOWELL: I thought it might be fun.
SARA: They never clean out that waterfall. When you look closely it's filthy.
LOWELL: Or something else.
She looks at him.
SARA: I'd have to check in with Simon. I'll have to stick my head in, and interrupt the meeting, and say, "Listen, Lowell wants to take me out somewhere, is it all right if I take the afternoon off?" Would you like me to do that?
LOWELL: I don't want to make him frantic. I thought maybe you could slip away.
SARA: I can't, no.
LOWELL: I could, well we could meet up later if you want to suggest a place.
SARA: No, I don't think so.
LOWELL: You said, last night at dinner that it would be a gift for me to speak to you truthfully.
SARA: Oh no, don't. I wanted you to be truthful then, at that moment, but it wasn't a carte blanche.
Irene sticks her head out.
IRENE: Yad naddit amil tain. Oh Lowell, it's you, I thought I heard voices I thought it was Paul. No word from Paul? Dammit.
She sticks her head back in.
SARA: I'll say you were looking for directions. You couldn't work out ... how to get hold of a city map, or, you were confused about the transportation zones, that's less idiotic. I'll say you seemed optimistic.
LOWELL: The thing you said about Americans segmenting or specializing but here you sort of try to cope with all of it. I thought out a rebuttal, late last night.
SARA: What? Oh.
LOWELL: We were talking about Kansas.
SARA: Yes, I remember that.
LOWELL: I wrote it down and I put it into my pants pocket because I knew I'd forget it otherwise.
He pulls out a piece of hotel stationery. He tries to read it, partially succeeds.
LOWELL: Oh my God this is complete nonsense. Fuck. It made total sense at the time.
Listen I was thinking we could go someplace, we could get out of this place and we could go someplace and then we could go back to your place and you could hold me and I would nap.
LOWELL: It's a little sleep. In the afternoon. It's a ... siesta. Wait that's Spanish.
SARA: I know what a nap is.
LOWELL: I really am only talking about sleeping although it might be more soothing if we were naked.
SARA: Oh my God.
LOWELL: Is that awful? You've got such soft skin, I remember that, I remember thinking, but I didn't want to say anything about it because it seemed to me it seemed at the time really intimate and that seemed inappropriate. (Laughs) We could just curl up together like soft naked animals and fall fast asleep.
SARA: You've got to leave. If Simon sees you like this he won't be kind.
LOWELL: This is what I remember: "Am foi, ah nan. Am foi, ah nan."
SARA: Yes, but I didn't know anything about you then. You could have been anyone. Now I know who you are.
LOWELL: You don't. No.
SARA: I know, I haven't plumbed the depths. But I can't plumb everyone's depths. There isn't really there isn't the time in the day.
SARA: Sit down. Sit. Sit.
SARA: Listen carefully. I'm going to tell you the truth.
This isn't a confession of love; it's probably not even so much about him. But it's emotionally raw, strikingly naked.
SARA: Dim tia. Hag alla pom timin tee fay. Yil seeva saan amhalio pro bimin fee karal nee--sits yee amb hen dockt. (Beat) Gim see fa heyal adana mimca cray duelits manda eyeb saat, gaha neen tomil farlio pit surhanio warra gee sal. (Mini beat) Kilt foit darca bear hantfidia qin garrio sora niy koral hibinimatia dor kand lor. Kamul eets beddic. Lihurin rol circumstat binda pint. Fits toi, toya harric, fits harric guradat empt ill inst deen.
LOWELL (Gently): What was that.
SARA (Knowing he hasn't): Did you understand any of it.
SARA: Do you remember any of it?
LOWELL: No. Of course not.
SARA: Not even, the littlest word?
LOWELL: Tsi--norrid something.
SARA: Nothing else?
SARA: That's a conjunctive.
LOWELL: All right.
SARA: I'll never repeat it. Everything that I said is disappeared forever. Dissolved into the air. But I meant it. Now it's your turn.
LOWELL: I don't have a way to speak unintelligibly.
SARA: Is it really a national difficulty?
LOWELL: It's the political system. It is. (Taking her hand) I can act unintelligibly. If you want me to. I'll interrupt the meeting, I'll tell Simon I want to--what will I say exactly? What did you want me to say?
SARA: Tell him you need a tour guide.
LOWELL: I do. It's so true.
SARA: And that you want to go around the city with me. You'll need to say it in front of everyone.
LOWELL: Okay. I will.
LOWELL: Do I look?
She raises an eyebrow.
She slaps her face lightly, both cheeks.
He repeats the gesture, more vigorously, on his own face.
LOWELL: More alert?
LOWELL: Okay. I'm going in.
He goes to the door to Simon's office. He knocks briskly.
He steps into the room, closes the door behind him.
Nothing happens for a very long time. For at least a minute and a half, maybe two minutes.
Irene emerges. She shuts the door behind her, but stands right by it.
IRENE: Sara? Lowell thinks he can help us piece together a few of the accounts but I think he could use some coffee. Would you mind getting him some? If they're still serving espresso make sure it's a double, otherwise just bring a large and some little cream containers.
Sara doesn't move for a moment.
IRENE: It won't be a problem will it?
Irene turns toward the office, turns back.
IRENE: No word from Paul I assume?
IRENE: The moment he calls, just barge on in. Thanks.
Irene goes back into the office.
Sara exits offstage.
Although it might not be immediately apparent, this is the end of the play. In a bit, "My Only Friend" comes on. And everyone can come out for their bows.
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|Date:||Apr 1, 2007|
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