“Heavy Pockets”

Unproduced

Dennis

Dennis Pinette as Baker in a staged reading in the Living Room Theatre

This funny play reflects the good times and confusion of my life in Taos. I had been back at Zuckermann Harpsichords for a year and knew I was stuck there for a while. We were so broke we didn’t have a car for the first year. I loved my wife and two little sons and life was interesting, though there was no way I could do theatre, apart from occasionally lighting the Mystic Paper Beasts. Nothing could stop me from writing, though. I started “Heavy Pockets” in August, when I tore myself away and spent a week alone in my cabin at Charlemont, and I finished it by Christmas. On New Year’s Eve friends gathered and read it aloud.

The story is about three couples, loosely based on myself and Michele and the principals of the Taos Theatre Company, Bill Bolender and Steve Parks, and their wives. They are duking it out with a rival lesbian theatre company, and a suspicious interloper who is trying to take over and stage a D. H. Lawrence festival may have been murdered. One of the characters is writing a play about Lawrence, it’s opening for a Spanish classic, and the tangle of theatrical personalities and Taos weirdness makes for a madcap farce.

Unfortunately I had no way to get it on. Frustrated with the limitations of the Changing Scene, I had deliberately made the play too big for its constricted stage; anyway I couldn’t get away from David to do it there without some source of money. Though I was no longer a presence in New York, there were several theatres where a project of mine would be welcome, but I would have to be there, and I was stuck working nine to five. Because I had been directing my plays myself, I had no relationship with a director. I hadn’t had an agent since the sixties and I am no good at selling myself. I sent the script out innumerable times, and no one even nibbled, much less produced it. I think it’s a marvelous, ingenious play. It would be a romp for the actors and hoot in performance. The trick of the play is that each of the main characters has a sub-character they pretend to be at times, acted in a completely different style. I tried to get Maurie Lord to direct it for Genesis West in Santa Barbara, when we were partners, but he didn’t get it, and I didn’t feel up to both producing and directing it. I still hope someone will do it, or I will get a chance to.

“Heavy Pockets” has actually had two performances, in a staged reading I put together in the Living Room Theatre in Westerly, Rhode Island, in 1982. My wonderful friends acted in it, script in hand, regrettably, and we had an audience of thirty each night, with a party afterwards and plenty of yummy food and drink. Some of the performances were unforgettable—Dennis Pinette as a caveman Segismundo with a fang, lanky handsome Robert Utter in a white suit, face powdered white, as the Ghost.

Heavy Pockets

CAST OF CHARACTERS

(in order of appearance)

DANIELLE — Tall, beautiful, competent, yet rather diffident, and unexpectedly gawky. She owns and runs a successful women’s clothing store. A transplant from Connecticut, she has a shy sense of fun. When she impersonates RITA McGUIRE, she puts on a San Antonio twang and a challenging yet evasive butch manner. Rita is vividly beautiful but impregnable.

FOX — Her husband. Romantically handsome, with a neatly trimmed beard. A writer. When he pretends to be D. H. LAWRENCE he goes stiff, narrows his eyes, and puts on a thick horrible Yorkshire accent, rather losing his natural elegance: he is more like Lawrence in ‘real life’.

BAKER — A virile, even macho actor who took heavy Method training in New York. He is always filthy dirty, mud all over his boots and up his pants, parka filthy and torn, dirty hands and face and hair, scraggy beard. A raffish character. As HILLY (BILL HILL) he is 100 percent Western, a cowboy businessman. A peculiar cold calculating detachment underminds his attempts at openness and friendliness.

EUGENE — A fugitive from the East. He has cut off all his hair and looks scrawny and desperate. He tries to be good-natured, friendly, and supportive, but he feels he has nothing left to give. As T. T. TROWBRIDGE he puts on a grotesque, pathetic limp and a foolish bluff English clubman’s manner and accent. T. T. is more interested in making a success than in being liked.

LOUISE — Baker’s wife. A cellist and former librarian. Otherwise fiercely defensive of her rights, she adores her man with a passionate loyalty and will do anything he asks. She might rather stay home and read. As EVELYN she has a much racier manner, lacing every line with innuendo and punctuating her talk with slightly spastic winks and leers. One eye wanders.

ANGEL (pronounced in American, not in Spanish) — Eugene’s wife, an adorable Colorado baby-doll. She is an earnest artist and the mother of two small boys. As FLEUR FLAGG she speaks in an outlandishly sultry voice and vamps outrageously, striking provocative poses, batting her eyelashes, etc.

HORTENSIO GARCIA — A town policeman. His natural grace and gaiety are never revealed—until he dances in a play. He is always himself.

THE PLAY referred to in the action is La Vida Es Sueño by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

 

Taos, New Mexico, January 1979

 

ACT IFOX and DANIELLE’s kitchen. Late morning of opening night.

ACT II — Scene 1: DANIELLE’s shop, that afternoon

ACT II — Scene 2: A dressing room at the community auditorium, that evening; later, behind the auditorium at dawn

 

For Bill Bolender

 

ACT I

Cool late morning winter sunlight illuminates a large beautiful adobe room, kitchen up a step at one end, towards the other a round table with chairs. Wood stove. Books, flowers, art. Doors to outside and the rest of the house.

DANIELLE and FOX, both tall and handsome, are at the table drinking coffee. DANIELLE is reading from a notebook.

DANIELLE: This would be funny if it weren’t real. The man is dead. So what if we all despised him? Now we will never know. Why was he here? What kept him going? More than one of our lives will be ruined. One of us killed him. Everything is changed.

FOX: Who could have done it?

DANIELLE (Looking up): Did you do it?

FOX: I could have but I didn’t. I was in bed with you. Did you do it?

DANIELLE: I had no real reason to want to.

FOX: In fact we were making love. I remember hearing a shot just before I came.

DANIELLE: I love it when you fuck me in the morning.

FOX: What was he doing out there at dawn?

DANIELLE: He was dueling.

FOX: Sounds more like Baker.

DANIELLE: Yes it does. (They exchange a look.) How’s your play coming, then? Are you still writing about Lawrence?

FOX: I’ve got it now. This is exactly what I needed. Something else had to happen. Why not use it?

DANIELLE: Indeed.

FOX: I wish you would let up.

DANIELLE: Well, every night? Should I date someone else? It’s ridiculous. Now here you go again. I know what it means. It’s months of this play being the main thing you are thinking about all the time, everything else is in the shade of it, including me.

FOX: I wish you would help me with it and get into it.

DANIELLE: You want me to be more like Louise?

FOX: Well no, of course not.

DANIELLE: I don’t want to do it! It isn’t what I want to do! Can’t you get that through your head? I think you’re a ridiculous twit.

(BAKER comes in from outside, very dirty.)

FOX: Well thanks.

BAKER: Do you know what The New Mexican is going to say?

FOX: The usual. Englishman slain in Taos. Police question suspects. Nothing new.

BAKER: Who do they suspect? Us?

FOX: I know what I was doing, but people say that even if they are lying.

DANIELLE: Why not us? Why not you?

BAKER: I didn’t do it. I’m not telling you to believe me, I’m telling you I didn’t do it.

FOX: That sounds weird.

BAKER: It’s perfectly straight. ‘I didn’t do it.’ You both heard me.

DANIELLE: Touchy.

BAKER: Are you going to offer me something?

DANIELLE: Coffee? Sorry.

FOX: A beer.

BAKER: No thanks. Nice of you to offer.

DANIELLE: You didn’t even say hello. Don’t you always help yourself? Don’t you always say hello or good morning or something?

BAKER: You got me confused with somebody else, lady.

FOX: Eugene called. His car suffered some kind of disaster so he is hitching in.

BAKER: Well I will have a cup of coffee. (DANIELLE fixes it.) He doesn’t want to work. He thinks artists don’t have to work.

FOX: You probably think it serves him right.

BAKER: I don’t think it serves anybody right to die. Some people have to be miserable wretches. It’s their bad luck to be born. I think he was heroic. He was a tragic figure. Shakespearean. Dickensian. Hugoesque.

FOX: Wasn’t he getting in your way? Wasn’t he taking away your theatre?

BAKER (After a pause): Eugene isn’t decisive enough to do anything so definite. Thanks. One of the ladies did it, probably dressed up like a man.

DANIELLE: They probably filmed it. Somebody probably has photographs.

FOX: That’s no answer.

BAKER: Why are you questioning me? (Pause.)

FOX: What’s going to happen now? Do you have any idea?

BAKER: We will get the theatre, if we want it, if that’s what you mean. It’s too big for us anyway. I don’t like it.

FOX: I like it.

BAKER: I hate it. I hate this play.

FOX: I love it. I’m having a wonderful time. It’s your character. You don’t have to make him so pitiful and warped.

BAKER: Eugene keeps telling me to shave and cut my hair. He wants me to play him like a clean-cut kid.

FOX: Why don’t you do what he says?

BAKER: It makes no sense. The man’s father has locked him up in a cave like an animal for years!

FOX: The chains were your own idea. The fang was your own idea.

BAKER: Not bad, eh?

FOX: Maybe you are trying too hard.

BAKER: I’m going to work. Fuck Eugene. Fuck you all. (Leaves.)

DANIELLE: The question is, what are they going to do with the pictures?

FOX: Entre nous, Baker did it.

DANIELLE: How do you know?

FOX: He acted strange.

DANIELLE: I didn’t notice anything. It’s opening night. What do you expect?

FOX: I am sure I imagined it. I won’t say anything more about it. (They exchange a look.) Aren’t you going to work?

DANIELLE: Do you want to be left alone?

FOX: I wouldn’t mind. In fact I would love it. I wish you would read one more thing for me before you go. Would you like to do that? This is Rita McGuire. (Finds place in notebook and hands it to DANIELLE.) She’s as tall as you are. She looks a little bit like you in fact, except she’s from Texas and she’s a fierce man-hating dyke. I mean, she’s a man herself.

DANIELLE: I know her. Don’t start.

FOX: Oh no-no-no-no.

DANIELLE AS RITA (Reading): But why do you want to get together? I do not understand. You do what you do and we do what we do. Why mix it up?

FOX: I don’t care about any of that.

DANIELLE: Who are you supposed to be?

FOX: This is actually Rita and me after the meeting with Tommy Twidge and the others at Dori’s a week ago. I told you about it.

DANIELLE: What are you doing? Writing down what people say?

FOX: I am making it up. I am making it all up.

DANIELLE AS RITA: I don’t want to play Lady Brett, I want to play Lawrence. I suppose you are going to play Lawrence.

FOX: Yes I am.

DANIELLE AS RITA: I don’t know what I am going to be doing next summer. He is not going to give us the theatre. He is going to keep it for himself. We are all being fucked. He wants everybody to get together under his control. He won’t let us do anything we want to do. He will burn down the whole scene before he sees me play Lawrence. (Hands FOX the notebook.)

FOX (Reading_—_but he knows it): You can’t play Lawrence. You could put on a beard but you don’t have any of the right attitudes. (Hands back the notebook.)

DANIELLE AS RITA: He wants Lawrence for himself. He has a plan. He won’t let you have Lawrence either. Don’t go along with him. It is suicide.

FOX: What do you suggest? Murder him?

DANIELLE AS RITA: I don’t give a fuck. We can do our season at the Shady Grove. The space is better anyway. Unless he gets control of that too, which is not impossible.

FOX: The thing is, I want you to play Brett.

DANIELLE (Looking up): Who? Her? Or me?

FOX: Her. Rita. Read. This will amaze you.

DANIELLE AS RITA AS LAWRENCE (Improvising, with a fresh intensity, English accent): Not to be stopped by any man’s view of what is right and possible, the bitter coils of destiny, because of what one was born, the place, the time, the ambiguous intentionality of conception, still the spirit within each one is infinite, like the air above the valley of the Rio Grande, clear to the limit of sight. I am the not-just-I only because of what I see and say. This place might let me be. I might sit at this table in the silent winter sunlight with my notebooks by my fire and be entirely free one little hour at a time, this moment, and everything come to me. I want you to be happy, my darling, and leave me alone. Do you understand? (As herself, DANIELLE) What is he talking about?

FOX: That is what I mean. She could play Lawrence. Well, never mind. Thank you. (Takes and closes notebook.)

DANIELLE: I love your work. You know I do. And I love to read it aloud. That’s not it at all.

FOX: I know.

DANIELLE: I had better go. Dylan will be home at one.

FOX: I’ll be here.

DANIELLE: Call me if the police call you.

(She has put on her coat. She kisses him and leaves. FOX grabs his notebook and writes in it as fast as he can. The phone rings and simultaneously BAKER comes in from outside followed by EUGENE. BAKER answers the phone.)

BAKER: Hello… Just a minute. (Hands phone to FOX.) It’s for you.

FOX: Hello. (Listens.)

EUGENE: Isn’t it a little cold? I don’t mean to complain.

BAKER: We can work for twenty minutes and then come warm up. You should saw the triangles. You seem to know how to do it. After lunch the sun will be on us. Louise is bringing lunch.

EUGENE: Tell me what happened.

BAKER: Somebody shot Tommy Trowbridge in back of the auditorium at dawn. Fox heard the shot from here. It seems to have been a duel.

EUGENE: Is he all right?

BAKER: He’s dead.

EUGENE: God! Who was dueling with him?

BAKER: You think I know? A duel in the eye of the law differs nothing from an ordinary murder.

EUGENE: I wonder who did it.

BAKER: You wanted his job.

EUGENE: You hated him. He was blocking Fox’s play. How could I want his job? He wasn’t even being paid! The theatre is horrible.

BAKER: We have to have a theatre.

EUGENE: I would want the job if it paid a salary. How am I supposed to work for no pay? I have a wife and two little children to support.

BAKER: Don’t tell me how broke you are. I’m doing the best I can.

EUGENE: I know you are. Did Louise find a job?

BAKER: She doesn’t want to work.

EUGENE: Neither does Angel. She thinks the children and housework are work enough, which they are—but I am failing to support us. I don’t want to work either.

FOX (Into phone): You want the artistic director. (Hands phone to BAKER.) It’s for you. (Writes in notebook.)

BAKER (Into phone): Hello. (Listens.)

EUGENE (To FOX, who keeps writing): What a disaster! I cannot be the killer. I was stuck in Lower Ranchitos. Somebody smashed in the rear window of the Mustang with a baseball bat and apparently sideswiped it and apparently that made them so mad they pushed it across the road in Park and probably ruined the transmission. The battery is dead at least. I can’t possible get it in and out of the driveway in all this ice and mud.

FOX: It’s the wrong car.

BAKER (Into phone): You want the president. (Hands phone to FOX, who listens.)

(BAKER and EUGENE go out. Intermittent sound of electric saw through following scene.)

FOX (Into phone): You may be right, Fleur. But what does it matter? In my opinion you are mad because she has the bigger part. (Listens.) It is only my opinion. I know you have lots of other things to say. (Writing) Mmm. Mmm. Mmm… the other gun. What? No one has said anything about the other gun. There was one of a pair of pistols there beside him in the snow. Where were you at six o’clock this morning?... What?!... Was anybody with you?... I see… I see… Interesting if true. (All the time he is writing.) Mmm… Mmm… I see…  (etc.)

(LOUISE has come in carrying a pan of soup and a bag of sandwiches. She goes to the stove and begins heating the soup and frying the sandwiches.)

LOUISE: That bitch expects me to pick up her sweaty dress of the floor.

FOX (Into phone; writing): What did he say?... Mmm… What time was that?

LOUISE: I don’t even remember why I’m so mad at her.

FOX (To LOUISE): Listen to this. Fleur was going to the theatre at 7:15 for her tai ch’i class and she saw Evelyn’s van parked in front of Danielle’s shop. (Writes; into phone) Mmm…

LOUISE: It is actually making me sick. I don’t know how to run lights. I have an actual ulcer. I am in pain. I can’t even drink. It makes me terribly tense to run the lights. I can’t even talk to him about the costumes. He hates everything I am doing but I am doing the best I can. There isn’t any money and there isn’t anybody but me to work on them. She can’t do it. He is lucky to have any costumes at all. He has no regard for reality. Why can’t he make simple light cues? On, off.

FOX (To LOUISE): Just a minute, Louise. (Into phone) Mmm. When? All right. (Hangs up.)

LOUISE: I didn’t do it. Hilly did it.

FOX: I thought Baker did it.

LOUISE: No, he didn’t do it. He will tell you himself. I wasn’t here.

FOX: Where were you?

LOUISE: I was in Santa Fe.

FOX: Swell.

LOUISE: Hilly did it. He wants his power back. He has been crazy since he got back from New York. Everything has turned to jello. He is losing money on the movies. He is trying to sell his movie theatre but nobody wants it. Prices are high but nobody is buying. He knows he would blow it in New York producing a flop.

FOX: You don’t like him.

LOUISE: Who could like him? I mean you do like him, but he is still a slimy bastard.

FOX: You should have killed him.

LOUISE: You’re crazy.

FOX: You should talk.

LOUISE: I am doing what I’m told.

FOX: Which of their parts did you want?

LOUISE: Parts? What are you talking about? I hope you’re having fun.

FOX: She is really in love with Baker, not me. These are our roles.

LOUISE: I don’t mind, but I think you are kidding yourself. Tell them lunch is ready.

BAKER (Sticking his head in): Hi, babe. Is lunch ready?

LOUISE: Lunch is ready. (Phone rings.)

BAKER (Out the door, to EUGENE): Lunch is ready.

FOX (Answering phone): This is Fox.

LOUISE: I need to talk to all three of you.

BAKER (Washing up): Please, babe, not while we’re eating.

FOX (Into phone): I have no idea. I mean, I have too many ideas? One of the ladies? Here he comes now. (Hands phone to EUGENE as he enters from outside.) Angel is on the telephone. (FOX goes off into the other part of the house.)

EUGENE (Into phone): I just came in the door… I don’t know. Sure, come on over… Me too. I mean me you too. (Hangs up.)

LOUISE: Sit down, it’s on the table.

EUGENE: Ah, my favorite sandwiches. What kind of soup is it?

LOUISE: Beef barley. It’s one of the manhandlers.

FOX (Returns, picks up phone and dials. To LOUISE): Did you make me some lunch? Are you having some? (Into phone) This is Fox. Give me Danielle, please. (To LOUISE) This will take only a minute.

LOUISE (Dishing it out): I am giving you some soup.

FOX (Into phone): Have you seen Lawrence’s pistols? They are not on the shelf. When did you last see them?... I don’t remember… You should be here. We are having a very nice lunch party. Do you want me to bring you something? All right. (Hangs up. All at table. Writes in notebook. To others) They are not really Lawrence’s pistols, I suppose, but this really is Lawrence’s house, you know. This is the house he stayed in the first time he came to visit Mabel Dodge, before she gave him the ranch and he brought Frieda and Brett.

EUGENE: How come you have it?

FOX: The pistols were here.

BAKER: Ace pistols.

FOX: Baker and I shot them last week out on the mesa. They shoot lead balls. There was a whole kit of equipment, powder, balls, wadding, primer. They are flintlocks. They worked like a charm. Fleur says the pistol they found was loaded and cocked but had not been fired. It sounds like one of these.

LOUISE: How does she know?

FOX: She was there. She was going to her tai ch’i class and she found him and called the police. One of the cops is a friend of hers.

BAKER: Which one?

FOX: Hortensio Garcia.

BAKER: She could have done it. He probably tried to fuck her.

FOX: Who, the cop?

(Bells ring outside the house. BAKER leans over and pulls the door open. ANGEL enters, adorable.)

LOUISE: There is no more soup.

EUGENE: You can have my soup.

LOUISE: There’s no more sandwiches.

BAKER: You can’t have my sandwich.

LOUISE: Nobody told me you expected lunch!

ANGEL (Bursting into tears): Why is everyone so hostile? What have I done? Why do you all hate me? I don’t understand. Aren’t I always friendly and polite? I actually like you, Louise. I didn’t come for lunch. I just came over to be friendly. There isn’t even any chair for me to sit on. Fleur can have my part. I don’t want it. (Leaves. EUGENE rushes out after her.)

LOUISE: What did I say?

FOX (Writing): What keeps anyone going?

BAKER: I hate that line.

FOX (Reading): ‘Now we will never know. Why was he here? What kept him going?’

BAKER: He was here to spoil everything for us. He kept going until he found a way to finish us off cleanly.

LOUISE: You can’t believe that.

BAKER: Nothing personal, mind you. He didn’t even have to know us. It is more blind mischief of fate.

FOX (Eating): To me that’s a useless point of view. (ANGEL and EUGENE return.)

BAKER: I am not talking about use, I am talking about truth. Use is getting back to work if you would please finish your lunch. (This last to EUGENE)

FOX: Here, Angel. I am just getting up. Lovely lunch, Louise. (To ANGEL) We have some excellent gazpacho if you would like some.

ANGEL: I would love that. I love gazpacho.

BAKER: But it won’t work. We will have our own theatre within a year. I didn’t want his theatre. I didn’t want anything to do with the man. I wouldn’t kill him. I wouldn’t dirty my hands.

FOX: And there is bread and butter. I made the bread. So you won’t go hungry. (Serves ANGEL.)

ANGEL (To LOUISE): Excuse me please for everything I say and do. I am insanely nervous and I’m sure I am a beast to be around but I wish you would just be extra nice to me anyway. It doesn’t have to be sincere. I know you don’t like me but act like you do until the play is over if you don’t want me to die.

LOUISE: I do like you.

ANGEL: You hate me in the play. (To EUGENE) I am no good, am I.

EUGENE: To me you are fabulous. I have never seen anything like your acting. You are so brave! I have no idea whether anything is working or good or anything. Nothing is coming out the way I wanted it. It has this other life. I have lost control completely. Thanks for the lunch, Louise.

BAKER: Great lunch, babe. (He and EUGENE go out.)

FOX: And may I say that it is truly exciting to act with you and Fleur on the same stage at the same time. There is no telling what is going to happen next.

ANGEL: I think you are all tacky.

FOX: That’s not very nice.

ANGEL: Not Louise. I mean you men and Fleur. And you have ganged up on Eugene because he won’t play. It makes me sick.

FOX: What are you, some kind of prude? Defender of marriage, upholder of the public virtue, lady respectable—I don’t get it. This is not the real you.

ANGEL: We are leaving as soon as the play is over.

FOX: What?

ANGEL: We are moving back to New York.

LOUISE: This is a surprise. We will miss you.

ANGEL: You’re not glad?

FOX: No, of course not. I’m sorry. (Looking out the window) They are talking to the fuzz.

LOUISE: Where was Hilly?

FOX: No one seems to know.

ANGEL: Someone should talk to what’s her name, Rita.

LOUISE: I am not going to call her. I don’t even know her.

ANGEL: I am certainly not going to call her. (Goes to phone and dials.)

LOUISE: Eugene can call her and tell her he is covering the story for the paper and ask her what she knows.

ANGEL: He quit the paper.

LOUISE: She doesn’t necessarily know that.

ANGEL (Into phone): Mother? Are the boys all right? Are you all right? Can you stand it? All right, I’ll be there soon. (Hangs up. To FOX) I don’t care. I’m just bored. You should call her and tell her you are covering the story for the New Mexican. I’m sure she could tell you something you don’t know.

(A knock at the door. FOX opens it.)

FOX: Hello. Come in.

HORTENSIO (Entering): You expected me?

FOX: I saw you out the window. (Saw sounds off.)

HORTENSIO: I have to ask you some questions.

FOX: Would you two go into the other room?

LOUISE: Why don’t you two go into the other room? I have dishes to wash.

ANGEL: I don’t want to go into the other room with her.

FOX: All right. (He and HORTENSIO go off into the other part of the house.)

ANGEL: Please, Louise. I was trying to make a joke.

LOUISE: It’s no joke. I’m sick. Your father has been taking care of me. It is a good thing we have a doctor in the cast. Fleur is pregnant, you know. I’m sure she is.

ANGEL: That’s what I thought.

LOUISE: I can always tell.

ANGEL: So can I.

LOUISE: It’s not my problem. I have an ulcer.

ANGEL: Who did it? I mean, whose is it?

LOUISE: Do you know what it is like to have an ulcer.

ANGEL: No, but I know what it’s like to be pregnant with no husband.

LOUISE: No, she wants to have it.

ANGEL: What makes you think so?

LOUISE: We had a whole conversation about single parenting. It is not a subject I am interested in. I would never in a million years want to do that. It goves me the shivers.

ANGEL: Yeah, well…

LOUISE: Maybe it’s his, you know. That would be fitting.

ANGEL: Can you imagine?

FOX (Returning with HORTENSIO, in mid-sentence): ... down in this notebook. I have been asking everyone to tell me everything they know and writing it all down in this notebook in the form of a play.

LOUISE: So you should be nice to her.

ANGEL: Well why is she such a bitch to me?

FOX: Please, ladies. (To HORTENSIO) I mean I really know quite a bit about what happened. (Leafing through notebook.) Louise, you can be Evelyn. And Angel is Fleur. I think you know Fleur. Go on, pretend to be Evelyn and Fleur.

(LOUISE practices acting butch and elegant and cross-eyed, smoking an unlit cigarillo. ANGEL acts exaggeratedly sexy-vampy, wiggling her ass, batting her eyes, and speaking in a throaty drawl. These sub-characterizations are broad and incessant; the sub-characters are distinctly different in psychology as well.)

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I don’t believe we have ever spoken to one another.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: No, I don’t believe we have met.

FOX: Yes you have. I have it right here.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I didn’t realize you were writing it all down—I would have been more clever. (To LOUISE AS EVELYN, extending a hand) I’m Fleur Flagg.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I know who you are. I don’t know what you are doing here.

FOX: Stop improvising. (They are wandering around.) Here, Hortensio, sit on this stool. They are in the ice cream parlor. There is a part for you later on. (Hands notebook to LOUISE AS EVELYN.) I’m sorry there is only one script. You will have to pass it back and forth. This is yesterday afternoon about four.

(ANGEL AS FLEUR sitting over coffee. LOUISE AS EVELYN approaches.)

LOUISE AS EVELYN: May I join you?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Please do.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: How do you like working with Eugene?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: He is a dear boy and a genius. Why do you ask?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I worked with him. I was his A.D. on ‘West Side Story.’

ANGEL AS FLEUR: What does that mean? A.D.?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I heard you were an experienced actress.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I don’t believe we’ve met. (Extending her hand.) I’m Fleur Flagg.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I know who you are. I don’t know what you are doing here.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I am acting in a play. We open tomorrow night. What are you doing here?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I work here. I am the waitress.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Get to the point. Sit down.

LOUISE AS EVELYN (Sits): As you may know I am the co-director of the Second Story Players.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Yes?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: As far as I am concerned Eugene doesn’t know his ass from a sweet potato. He couldn’t direct his way out of a jar of strawberry jam.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Of course you are entitled to your opinion but I certainly do not agree with you. I have complete confidence in him.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Well you have to say that, but pretend he is not directing you in a play and we can speak frankly.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Why should I trust you?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: And the Englishman is worse. What is he doing here, that’s what we would like to know.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I believe he is planning a festival in honor of D. H. Lawrence.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: And in the meaning he has taken over the auditorium, and Eugene Pig has taken over Speedy’s job, and all of a sudden we do not have a spring production.

(BAKER and EUGENE come in to warm up.)

FOX: Don’t say anything.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I understood your friend Speedy no longer wanted the job.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: That is not the point.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: What is the point? Anyway there is no job after this play.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: And why is there no job?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Well I suppose it is because Tommy Twowbwidge is such a fuck-up and there is no money to pay anyone. You can as well blame Bill Hill for going off to New York. It isn’t doing Eugene any good.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: He got his play on. Hilly would never have done his play.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Well, Hilly is not going to take his job back as long as T. T. Trowbridge has it.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Exactly. That’s the point. (To FOX, as herself) Now here’s Hilly. I don’t see what this proves.

FOX (To BAKER): Will you be Hilly? It’s just a few pages. Do this thing for me. Give yourself a break. (Ties dish towel around BAKER as sling for broken arm.)

BAKER: I don’t want to be Hilly.

FOX: Do it for Hortensio.

(BAKER puts on a cowboy hat, puffs on a big cigar, and swaggers like a bantam cock. LOUISE AS EVELYN hands him the notebook.)

BAKER AS BILL HILL (Reading): Howdy, Evelyn. Long time no see.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Hello, Hilly. Welcome back. I heard about your wreck. How are you?

BAKER AS HILL: Better. I haven’t met your friend.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Fleur Flagg, Bill Hill. ‘My friend’ may be putting it a little prematurely. Fleur has not consented to join our company yet, but we hope to win her to us.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I have heard big things about you, Mr. Hill. You’re a popular man.

BAKER AS HILL: Am I? I thought everybody hated my guts. Evelyn does, and that whole crowd. Baker hates me, and them. The rest are pitiful. They were glad to see the last of me, and likewise, I’m sure. Oh it was a nice farewell party but did you notice nobody was talking to me?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Nonsense. You’re their hero. You’re the savior. You produced a hit!

BAKER AS HILL: But did you notice who was not there? (To LOUISE AS EVELYN) None of your friends were there. You only came to do your song. (To ANGEL AS FLEUR) None of your friends were there except Eugene, and I was paying him. You know who was there? T.T.T. was there gushing all over my plaque.

HORTENSIO: This doesn’t sound very much like Bill Hill.

FOX (To BAKER): Couldn’ you please act a little more like Hilly? Get inside him. You know how he is. Cool. We all know you don’t like him.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: What happened to you in New York? I thought you had big plans.

BAKER AS HILL: Aren’t you the waitress here? I came in for a cup of coffee. (LOUISE AS EVELYN gets up. He takes her chair. They have been passing the notebook back and forth more or less on every line.)

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Sit down, Mr. Hill. I was just leaving.

BAKER AS HILL: Thanks. I will. (He puts down the notebook, opens a newspaper, and reads. Long pause.)

ANGEL (To FOX): What happens now?

FOX: You leave. (To EVELYN) You bring him coffee. And catch every word.

ANGEL: Just like that? Don’t we have a scene together?

FOX: Not now. Later.

LOUISE (Pouring coffee): This is just like real life.

ANGEL: I have to go anyway. Mother said she could only keep the children for an hour. I have to walk over there. No car.

FOX: Let me drive you. I don’t have to be here for this scene. Eugene, you read Tommy Twidge for Hortensio. When I get back I will read the scene where I play Lawrence.

BAKER (Behind paper): I can’t wait.

EUGENE (To ANGEL): I can walk over to your mother’s when I get through working.

ANGEL: Was I good as Fleur?

EUGENE: You were fabulous.

ANGEL: Tell me I’m a better actress than she is.

EUGENE: I think she is a very good actress. I like you better personally, if that’s what you mean. (Starts limping across the room, turning into T. T. Trowbridge.)

FOX: Come on, Angel. (They leave.)

BAKER (Putting down the paper): Could we do this later? Right now is our only chance to get any work done this whole week.

EUGENE: Anything you say, boss.

HORTENSIO: What are you working on?

BAKER: I am building a dome in Talpa. Don’t you live right down the road there? You must have seen the skeleton.

HORTENSIO: What are you doing over here?

BAKER: We are making the plywood panels in the garage and then we truck them to the site. The skin takes four sizes of triangles. They all have to be pieced with fiberglass. As soon as we have all the triangles made we can close it in.

HORTENSIO: What time did you get here today?

BAKER: Nine or nine-thirty.

HORTENSIO: Which one?

BAKER: Ten.

HORTENSIO: Did you come straight here? You live in Talpa now, is that right? I believe you rent a house directly across the arroyo from Dr. Vining’s compound where the deceased was renting a guest house. Is that correct?

BAKER: That is correct. You know where I live and I know where you live. In fact we are neighbors. I stayed up till all hours watching a movie on tv. My wife was in Santa Fe so I was alone and I drank myself into oblivion.

HORTENSIO: What was the movie?

BAKER: ‘Baker Street’ with Basil Rathbone. We can’t really work until it warms up a little anyway. (Puts wood in stove.) I came straight here. I noticed nothing except the morning light on the mountain. Fox told me what had happened.

HORTENSIO: Do you know someone named Rita McGuire?

BAKER: Yes.

HORTENSIO: Tell me what you know about her.

BAKER: You know her. She drives a blue and white ‘56 Dodge three-quarter ton. She is one of the leaders of the theatrical lesbians. They are building a house in Ranchitos out of old tires.

HORTENSIO: Ah.

BAKER: Rita is the tallest, most beautiful one. They all come from San Antonio.

EUGENE: She’s incredible.

BAKER: We asked her to be in our next play.

EUGENE: She says she will but she has her company and Baker has his company and I don’t see how they can get together.

BAKER: This is not important.

EUGENE: The Englishman was trying to get everybody together but they none of them want anybody to have any control over them. They are incapable of working for anyone. That’s why they are here in Taos.

HORTENSIO (To BAKER): Did you see her truck? Don’t you usually drive around that way? It doesn’t matter, it was too late anyway.

BAKER: No, I came up the highway.

EUGENE: Otherwise he would have seen my car trashed and turned sideways to the road.

BAKER (To HORTENSIO): Look, amigo, we really have to get to work.

LOUISE (Having washed the dishes): Can I go home?

HORTENSIO: A few questions, please. (To Baker) You can go. I want to ask your friend a few questions. (Meaning EUGENE. BAKER leaves. To LOUISE) You were where at six o’clock this morning?

LOUISE: I was in Santa Fe. I had an appointment at 8:30 this morning so I drove down after the dress rehearsal last night. Total madness. I slept in the house of a friend who was out of town, except I was too tired to sleep. After the point I drove straight home to Talpa to make lunch for the men. It was the most beautiful morning. The light on the mountain was extraordinary. It must have been even more beautiful a few hours earlier.

EUGENE: You could have shot him and driven down afterward in time for the appointment.

HORTENSIO: A doctor’s appointment? Are you sick?

LOUISE: No, but yes, I am sick. I am on medication for an ulcer. I can’t drink. I can’t sleep. It is all because of this play. Dr. Janus is in the play, you know. We are opening tonight.

HORTENSIO: What kind of appointment?

LOUISE: A lawyer.

HORTENSIO: Why did you need a lawyer?

LOUISE (Glancing at EUGENE): I’d rather not say.

EUGENE: Why does it matter? It’s no good as an alibi anyway.

HORTENSIO: Ah.

LOUISE: Whose side are you on?

EUGENE: I didn’t know there were sides. On the side of truth and beauty and art. You are actually hiding something from me. It’s because I am leaving. Leaving makes me the enemy. What have I ever done to hurt you? Why don’t you want what I want? I am the director. I should have everything exactly the way I want it. You should be happy to help me get what I want. It’s our only hope. Instead you oppose me at every turn. You assume my desires are arbitrary and frivolous and self-indulgent. Baker is just as bad. You make quite a team. He is cold and surly and perverse and you cringe. Swell.

HORTENSIO (To LOUISE): How did you learn about what happened?

LOUISE: What happened?

HORTENSIO: The death.

LOUISE: Could it have been an accident?

HORTENSIO: We will have a report from the medical examiner. Dr. Janus, as a matter of fact. We are assuming the man was murdered.

LOUISE: I found a note when I got home to make lunch.

EUGENE: He left you a note?!

LOUISE: Yes, here it is.

EUGENE: He said Fox told him!

LOUISE: By telephone, I assume.

HORTENSIO: Ah. You may go.

LOUISE: I can leave?

HORTENSIO: Fine. Go. Do not leave the county. Thank you for your cooperation.

EUGENE: I’m sorry, Louise. I know you are doing the best you can. It’s a problem of style and pride. I am not going to change myself into a different person to suit you. Baker understands that. (LOUISE leaves.)

HORTENSIO: What is your name?

EUGENE: I need their help but they do not need my help. It’s all falling apart anyway. I can say that because I’m leaving. My existence here comes to an end once this play opens, which is tonight, but it isn’t supposed to be their last show. They won’t change anything for me. Why should they? All I can do is pull together what they let me have. I might as well spare Louise and run the lights myself. I won’t make mistakes. I won’t get an ulcer.

HORTENSIO: Your name.

EUGENE: You know my name.

HORTENSIO: What did you do before you came to Taos?

EUGENE: I taught acting in New York. I directed several Off-Broadway plays.

HORTENSIO: Did you expect to make a living doing that kind of thing here? This is a small town, you know, and no one has very much interest in that kind of thing except the Anglos.

EUGENE: I didn’t expect to make a living doing anything like that. I was trying to make a change and leave all that behind. I don’t know what I expected. I thought something would work out. It doesn’t matter. We’re going back to New York.

HORTENSIO: You might have taken over the auditorium if it hadn’t been for the Englishman. Hill was gone.

EUGENE: I decided not to. Good things happen but it makes no difference. They should give it to the town. Anyway there was no money. I would have had to raise money to pay myself. I can’t stand that. The Englishman could afford to do it for free. He said he had money from selling a business overseas. He couldn’t go back to England because of taxes. The auditorium could make money but there is no front money and we can’t even go on living without some money coming in every week. I have a job back east. All I have to do is get there.

HORTENSIO: Where were you this morning at sunrise?

EUGENE: I was in my bed. I was fully awake. I got up and started a fire and got back in bed and watched the sun rise over the viga. The light was exquisitely soft and pink. I will miss that view. My big little boy woke me up when he climbed into bed with us. My car was trashed in the night. How can I have gone anywhere?

HORTENSIO: You are married?

EUGENE: You know my wife’s father, Dr. Janus, the medical examiner.

HORTENSIO: Ah.

EUGENE (After a pause): Do you have any idea what happened?

HORTENSIO: Any one of you could have done it. But which one? You didn’t do it. Each person I talk to didn’t do it.

(FOX comes in.)

FOX: What happened? I thought you were doing the scene. Do the speech for him, Eugene. This is very interesting. I want to show you my Lawrence get-up. There is a part in it for you, Hortensio. I mean, it is a part you actually could play. We are going to do my play about Lawrence at the auditorium this spring. You do want to be in a play, don’t you?

HORTENSIO: I want to dance. I want to be in a musical.

EUGENE: So we’ll put in some singing and dancing. Every play ought to have singing and dancing.

FOX: There is no singing and dancing in this play.

HORTENSIO: I can’t sing. All I can do is dance.

EUGENE: Stand up. Start dancing.

FOX: Come on, guys. You have to do dialogue.

EUGENE: You’re only the writer.

FOX: You’re only the director.

EUGENE: You will have to direct it yourself.

FOX: No, I want to play Lawrence. It’s too much to do everything. Baker can direct if you won’t. (Finding place in notebook, he gives it to EUGENE.) You could imagine that he is being interviewed by you, or that he is talking to himself. It is a combination interior monologue and dream sequence.

EUGENE: In the ice cream parlor?

FOX: Why not? It’s a perfect setting for a nightmare. Sit down, Eugene. The monologue follows the scene we saw but we are leaving out the scene between you and Hilly and me as Lawrence because Baker insists on working.

HORTENSIO: No, I want to hear it. I will sit in for Hill. (Sits where BAKER was, picks up newspaper, reads.)

FOX: Oh good!

(FOX puts cowboy hat on HORTENSIO’s head. EUGENE turns back a few pages in the notebook, then as he crosses the room goes into character as TROWBRIDGE, affecting a heavy limp; when he starts to speak he has an explosive stuttering British accent. The effect is grotesque.)

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Bill, old man, I need your help. May I join you? (HORTENSIO AS HILL grunts and shakes the paper.) The most grotesque situation has overtaken me. You know I am living in the guest quarters in Dr. Twining’s compound in Talpa. You know the set of rooms I mean. Primitive and rich, mud walls, blazing fires in the corners, savage paintings, Navajo rugs. To me it is exotic and dramatic. I have never been more happy in my life. (He has with difficulty maneuvered himself into a chair. Out of character, proffering script) Now you speak.

HORTENSIO (Puts down paper, takes notebook, reads; as HILL_—flat, though, with no characterization): Well I’m glad to hear that. (Passes back the script—_they pass notebook on each line.)

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: It is thanks to you I have all this. You could have said no.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: Ah but why?

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: One expects to be turned down

HORTENSIO AS HILL: Why are you lying? You hardly came all this way to be turned down.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: You encouraged me.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: How could anyone resist you? As it happened you were just what I needed. I wanted to go to New York.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Bloody shame that fell through.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: Speedy could handle the movie theatre but I needed somebody to front the auditorium. It is quite a confusing situation. Eugene needed money and anyway he’s too subjective. You were perfect.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: It has turned out well, don’t you think, everyone so kind?

HORTENSIO AS HILL: However, as things turned out I did not stay in New York as long as I had expected.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Bloody shame that fell through.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: And you dropped the ball. Everyone is furious about one thing or another. The Lawrence festival looks like some kind of joke. Nothing is booked. No money is coming in. You can’t even pay someone to turn the lights on. Eugene is leaving town. Admittedly he did a rotten job.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: So it seems.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: I will help you. Tell me, what is this situation you call grotesque?

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: The plumbing is inadequate. Something breaks and it turns back into a miserable mud hut in poor country in the winter. The man is a well-known lunatic and drunk. When everything works it is utter heaven. I was having a bath this morning, lying in the hot water washing myself, and he walked right in the door with a drink in his hand.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: What did you do?

EUGENE (Dropping out of character; to FOX): Where did you get this?

FOX: I made it all up.

EUGENE: No, seriously.

FOX: From Evelyn. She listens to everything anybody says in there.

EUGENE: I don’t believe it.

FOX: Well maybe she doesn’t hear everything exactly right, and I couldn’t exactly remember what she had said. Hortensio, you should act. You know how Hilly acts. Act like Hilly.

HORTENSIO: I can’t act.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE (From script): What could I do? I had a conversation with him. We spoke about the mountain. One can see the mountain from the bathtub. We could see the face of the Indian in the snow. I often see him with a drink in his hand standing on his terrace looking up the valley at the mountain.

(FOX slips out of the room.)

HORTENSIO AS HILL: What mountain?

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Not just the mountain, the whole of the Sangre de Cristo from here to Colorado. Lawrence is up there in his grave. (Dropping his voice.) I am in love with one of the lesbians.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: Which one?

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Evelyn.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: Ah.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: She came to my acting class. She was the strangest and the strongest. We all spoke about our lives. Rita is not interesting. Her mind is not active. It was Evelyn who took my heart and wrung it like a stone.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: She despises you.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: She despises everyone.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: Why are you telling me this?

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: I thought you should know.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: I can’t help you with any of this.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: What can you do?

HORTENSIO AS HILL: Relax, man, it’s just your life. Hilly is here. Everything is about to work out fine. Let’s talk about the Lawrence thing.

(FOX comes in dressed as D. H. LAWRENCE and acting LAWRENCE in his strained but not unattractive fashion.)

FOX AS LAWRENCE: If I might be included in this conversation I would be not ungrateful. (They do not acknowledge him_—he is a spirit—_but he sits with them and joins in conversation unfazed.)

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Winston Fitts will read a paper on Lawrence as a symbol.

FOX AS LAWRENCE: Fitts is an excrescence.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Larry sent regrets but Sir George has agreed to organise the English actors’ evening from London, which ought to be a marvelous opportunity for the locals to learn something about their craft. Several scholars have expressed an interest in observing the Indians.

FOX AS LAWRENCE: You must get up before the dawn, when you sense the first expectancy of dawn. Throw up a fire to warm the house and get right into your clothes and go out when you can still see stars. They fade at once. Walk away from the house, through the fence and out across the ditch where the valley falls away into dark infinitude as the land awakens from the nothing under sky full of light. It fills me. I must keep moving to keep warm.

HORTENSIO AS HILL: Why not drink? I can’t drink at all. Something is wrong with my metabolism. I turn into a monster.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Hold on. Wait a minute. This isn’t — I can’t — I don’t — (The character disintegrates.)

HORTENSIO: What?

EUGENE (To FOX): This is not the time to read your play. I am supposed to be working. I said I would work. I don’t want to cop out on Baker. Pardon the expression. (To HORTENSIO) You are supposed to be working too. You are supposed to be finding out who killed Tom Trowbridge, although I suppose there is no hurry. It won’t bring him back to life, and as far as I know no one is leaving town except me. I don’t know who would want him to come back to life. Anybody? Did he have heirs? Was he rich? Did he have a wife somewhere or something? Was he gay? I can’t direct this play. I can’t afford to direct another play. I’m going back to New York where I fit in. (To FOX) Aren’t you supposed to be working? Don’t you work?

FOX: I am working on my play.

EUGENE (To HORTENSIO): May I please go back to work?

HORTENSIO: Go. (When he is alone with FOX.) What is all this about Lawrence?

FOX: D. H. Lawrence. The writer.

HORTENSIO: We know about Lawrence.

FOX: He was obsessed with him. It was his one idea, to put on a Lawrence festival here and bring over a bunch of English actors and scholars. English people love Taos.

HORTENSIO: So do Texans.

FOX: So do I.

HORTENSIO: So do people from Chicago. Go on about Lawrence. What does it have to do with you?

FOX: I am writing a play about Lawrence. I play Lawrence. Did you know this was Lawrence’s house?

HORTENSIO: Ah.

FOX: Apparently it was one of Lawrence’s pistols that fired the fatal shot.

HORTENSIO: What are you suggesting?

FOX: Nothing. Only that Lawrence does have a certain presence here. A certain appetite. Excuse me, I am really thinking about my play. Listen. (Reads from his notebook, as LAWRENCE.) I have a vision of life on another level. Men and women no longer fear themselves. Artists and working men and women earn a common respect for their labors. All join together for the sunrise.

HORTENSIO: There are no working people here. There is no work. You be the writer and I will be the cop. You chose to come here. You can do what you like, it doesn’t so much matter, you know, to me.

FOX: What was Tommy Twidge supposed to be? Do you know who killed him?

HORTENSIO: Lawrence, apparently.

ACT II

Scene 1

DANIELLE’s shop, an hour later. The shop occupies another adobe building, most charmingly and stylishly fitted out as a sophisticated western post-hippie ladies’ boutique. Shelves of sweaters, etc., racks of dresses, blouses, etc., a rack of bras and panties, etc., scarves, plants, rugs, mirrors. DANIELLE is behind a glass showcase, arranging jewelry inside it, talking to LOUISE, who is slumped in a chair. ANGEL is trying on clothes. She comes and goes from a dressing cubicle behind a screen in a succession of pretty things.

DANIELLE: Tell me about it. We are sisters. I will not betray you. I need to know what is going on. Nobody will say anything until they have worked out a non-embarrassing explanation but by then it’s too late. I want to be in on the process. That’s where the life is. I need it… I don’t even know what is happening in my own life. Am I losing Fox? Am I driving him away? I must want to do what I am doing. I am holding myself back, pulling back. Or is he running away from me? I don’t know what is happening, and I am doing it. There is nothing for me in their theatre. It is his scene with Baker, like his scene with me is love-home-family, which I am not very interested in. I don’t expect him to work in my shop. I don’t even want him.

LOUISE: Naturally.

DANIELLE: We are stupid to be so shy. We act like men. We play sidekicks to their fake cowboys.

LOUISE: Baker is not a fake.

DANIELLE: No, I suppose not, but the others are. We are slaves to the style.

LOUISE: Nothing is happening. It is business as usual. It’s only that right now everything has piled up at once. It is too much to be building a house and putting on a play at the same time. We can’t afford either one.

ANGEL (Emerging): Eugene says the whole county is so poor there is no way we can make a living.

LOUISE: We have incorporated without him. Forget I said that.

ANGEL: Well I hope you have good luck. I mean it.

DANIELLE (To ANGEL): That’s very pretty.

LOUISE: They are the principals and I do all the work and that’s the way it has to be.

ANGEL: You are not doing all the work. You are not doing hardly any of the work on the house. All you do is make sandwiches and you act like that’s a big deal.

LOUISE: I am doing all the fiberglass which is the worst part.

ANGEL: You didn’t do any work on the set. You didn’t put up the lights. Eugene put up the lights. Eugene put up the framework of your house.

DANIELLE: Now, ladies, I know you are nervous. You will both be fine. So what if the play is a disaster? Don’t lose your perspective.

LOUISE: I am not nervous, I am sick. You want me to level with you but you don’t really. You don’t want another tale of woe. It is too depressing. I don’t even want to think about how depressed I am. How did I get myself into this? It makes no sense. The whole situation is hopeless. So what if we have a beautiful view. You can’t eat a view. You can’t sleep in it. That bitch sits down in Fort Worth and mails us legal notices. We were supposed to be out by Christmas but God knows we can’t move into the dome. Have you been up there? The floor is frozen mud. It’s been horribly cold but when the sun shines it melts the floor and the mud sucks on your boots so you can hardly walk. Eugene won’t work anymore. We can’t affird to pay anybody anyway. The latest is we spend four hundred dollars incorporating the theatre. Baker is thrilled but it makes no sense to me. It’s all mud. The cars get stuck in the mud. There is mud on your boots and all over your clothes. There is mud all over the house. There is mud in the bed. The house is made out of mud. I find mud on my face. What do you do about mud?

DANIELLE: What mud?

LOUISE: Baker comes in covered with mud and has me spend four hundred dollars and drive to Santa Fe in the middle of the night to incorporate his theatre. Granted two hundred of it was yours. You make money.

DANIELLE: I make money because I work. Do you think I am some different kind of person?

LOUISE: You seem happy.

DANIELLE: I am excited. I feel we are approaching the crisis.

LOUISE: It’s just another opening night.

DANIELLE: Fox is happy and that makes me happy even though we are at odds and talking about splitting up.

ANGEL: You’re not!

DANIELLE: He has been staying in his magazine office for the past week. It is perfectly amiable. He spends the days the usual ways.

LOUISE: How do you feel about it?

DANIELLE: How do you think?

ANGEL: Where is his office?

DANIELLE: Upstairs.

LOUISE: Evelyn’s truck was parked out front this morning at about the time of the shooting.

DANIELLE: So what?

LOUISE: Fox told me himself. Fleur saw it on her way to tai ch’i.

DANIELLE: He was with me. We are still lovers. It’s not that. Sex gets better and better exactly when everything else is falling apart. Did you ever notice that?

ANGEL: Eugene is miserable.

LOUISE: Whose fault is that? It’s not my fault.

ANGEL: It’s not my fault.

LOUISE: It’s his own fault.

DANIELLE: No theatre talk, please. Here, put these on. (Earrings.) Oh, they’re nice. Try on this skirt with that. Louise, you need some clothes. Everybody needs new clothes once in a while. Come in the back. I have a dress for you. (DANIELLE and LOUISE go off. As they leave) I have been saving it for you. (ANGEL goes into dressing room.)

ANGEL (Off, practicing her lines): You stupid beast! You must have sprouted wings and lost your mind to the wind! Unnatural thing, monster of all the elements, where is the sense you were born with? (EUGENE comes in from the outside.) Bolting into these twisted awful rocks you’ll try to fly across a gorge. Do it, then. Stay here. Turn fabulous.

EUGENE (Much more emphatically): Do it, then! Do it! You are furiously angry. You are not spouting poetry. The stupid beast threw you off and flew away. Literally flew. It is not even a horse anymore. You are completely fucked. You are lost. Lost in Poland. This happened a moment ago. You jump up. It is not as though you’d been chasing the horse for half an hour. Something magical has happened, and you accept it. Do it. Turn fabulous. Excuse me. I will go get the boys and come back. (Leaves. ANGEL emerges in a sensationally foxy outfit.)

ANGEL (Melodramatically): So this is the welcome Poland gives a stranger. I’ve signed the border with my blood. (Falls to her knees.) Oh where in the world is pity found for misery like mine?

DANIELLE (Entering): Angel, I really don’t want you rehearsing in my clothes. Forget the play a little while. You know your lines. That’s all that matters. The audience will give you the rest. Save yourself. Save it for the performance. Believe me, I know whereof I speak. I know all about opening night nerves.

ANGEL: Sorry.

DANIELLE: And please work it out with Louise. She is really suffering.

ANGEL: She doesn’t have to give a performance. She should work it out with me.

DANIELLE: She feels she does. It is just as much of a performance backstage, except you don’t get the thrills and glory. What is the problem between you two anyway?

ANGEL: Don’t you know anything?

DANIELLE: Did Eugene kill Tommy T.?

ANGEL: No.

DANIELLE: You suspect he did, somehow, don’t you? What happened?

ANGEL: Where’s Louise?

DANIELLE: What happened?

ANGEL: I don’t know what happened. He was not there in the night. I tried to talk to him after we went to bed and he got mad and put his clothes back on and went downstairs.

DANIELLE: Where did he go? Where could he go?

ANGEL: He never goes anywhere. I lay awake a long time but heard nothing. The next thing I knew the sun was rising behind the mountain and he was coming back to bed. The children usually get me up but last night there was not a peep. The house was warm for a change. He was freezing cold and shaking. He got in bed in his clothes and made me hold him for a long time.

DANIELLE: Are you getting along?

ANGEL: I just wish he would take care of me and help me a little bit with the children and the house.

DANIELLE: Complaining never does any good. (LOUISE comes in wearing a stylish tweed suit, in which she looks rather like a young Gertrude Stein. She regards herself in the mirrors.) Well it looks marvelous, Louise, it really does. This is a way you could dress that would serve you very well. I suppose you feel a fool, but there are legitimate alternatives to jeans and pullovers all the time. You are always in your work clothes. Anyway you could do almost everything you do in a suit like this. You would be amazed how much more together it would make you feel. It’s up to you. Maybe you don’t want to change. You could take the position that you can run the lights instead of insisting that you can’t. It is really quite simple. I used to run lights in college, and we had three or four times as many of them. You could have at least tried to give Eugene the costumes he wanted. You resisted everything. You decided he was asking too much. Nobody asks enough, if you ask me. Why are you all so helpless? Costumes are not difficult. I mean of course it is difficult—the whole thing is difficult. I don’t know why he didn’t ask me. Why didn’t you ask me?

ANGEL: You? I thought you hated the theatre.

DANIELLE: Do you want to see my D. H. Lawrence costume? I am making it for Rita McGuire for a drag dance next week. She likes it so much I hope she will dress that way more and more. It is a good look. We are exactly the same size. I will show it to you. (Goes out.)

ANGEL: Why didn’t you ask her to do the costumes?

LOUISE: Why didn’t Eugene?

ANGEL: She’s your friend.

LOUISE: That’s not the point.

ANGEL: He hates being turned down.

LOUISE: She would have, too.

ANGEL: You look marvelous.

LOUISE: So do you.

ANGEL: I am going to wear it in the third act.

LOUISE: What?! What about the tunic I made for you?!

ANGEL: You know it isn’t right. It is too flimsy. It looks cheap. Please, Louise. I have to wear something I like.

LOUISE: No you don’t. It is not about what you like.

ANGEL: I am so freaked out. Tell me I am good. Tell me you love me.

LOUISE: I love you, Angel.

ANGEL: No you don’t. You hate me.

LOUISE: No, really, I want to love you, but you keep kicking me into the corner and spitting on me.

ANGEL: You’re a beast.

LOUISE: You are not the only one with feelings. Feelings—all I hear is feelings. Doesn’t anyone have any thoughts? I am sick. I am literally doubled over with pain backstage and you tell me your costume feels funny.

ANGEL: That is not what I said. I said I do not like it. Eugene does not like it either but he cannot say anything for fear of hurting your feelings.

LOUISE: My feelings?

ANGEL: It is not something the woman would wear. It is not something anyone would wear. It looks like a costume. I am not supposed to be an actress, I am supposed to be a noblewoman!

DANIELLE (Returning): It’s gone!

LOUISE: What? What are you talking about?

DANIELLE: The Lawrence outfit. I can’t imagine where it could be. I had it all together on hangers. It had just come back from the cleaners. She was not supposed to pick it up till next week. It is nothing but a tweed jacket and a shirt and tie and a cashmere sweater and flannel trousers, but it fits wonderfully. It feels like a million dollars. You keep feeling the way it feels, that easy elegance. You stand and sit more beautifully. And it’s warm. You see why men like to dress that way. There are pockets everywhere. You might have anything in the pockets. Anything you need. Thin packets of money or dope. A thin flask of Armagnac. Keys. A knife. Thin notebooks and pencils and pens. A checkbook. Anything. Thin books. Photographs. It has inside breast pockets, ass pockets, and pockets along the things, besides the ones you see. It has pockets inside the pockets. It is simply luxurious. I put together another outfit like it for my man. He is writing a play about Lawrence, you know. That was the inspiration. No, ‘The Rainbow’ was the inspiration. He looks so handsome and sexy in it I practically fall over with lust. Rita’s has a beard. That’s all it takes. They look exactly alike.

 

Scene 2

A dressing room backstage at the community auditorium. Six o’clock in the evening of the same dayopening night. Makeup mirrors with lights. A lively clutter of costumes and props. A sink. A large screen makes privacy in one corner. Doors to a toilet and to the stage.

EUGENE and ANGEL come in, turning on the lights.

ANGEL: Are we the first ones here?

EUGENE: It looks that way.

ANGEL: I thought Fleur would be here doing tai ch’i.

EUGENE: I thought Baker and Fox would be here finishing the set.

ANGEL: Are we really alone?

EUGENE: I feel as though I haven’t seen you in days. Weeks, except driving the boys back and forth to Bertha’s. And then either they are awake or we are asleep. I’m sorry I have been so obsessed.

ANGEL: It’s only us.

EUGENE: Do you want to make love?

ANGEL: I do.

EUGENE: I need you so much.

ANGEL: Do you still love me?

EUGENE: Oh I do, I really do. I love you more than ever, right this minute. You are one of the dancing girls in Paradise. You are too much, my Angel, my beloved. Can I really possess you? Sexually, I mean.

ANGEL: I want you.

EUGENE: I am yours. I wish we could lock the door.

ANGEL: Let’s go… um… not int the bathroom… behind the screen anyway.

EUGENE: I don’t want to embarrass your father.

ANGEL: He’s in the other dressing room.

(They go behind the screen, where they are completely hidden from view. After a moment the door opens and BAKER comes in carrying his fur costume on a hangar. He hangs it up and then spends some time meticulously arranging his things at the dressing table. He talks to himself.)

BAKER: Oh that this too too— Where did I put my fang? I am such a beast. I hate myself. Why am I chained to this wretched beastly life? What is the world? Is it all jagged rocks and broken towers and men in chains? Is it all cold mud? Clotaldo tells him stories that sound like dreams. He dreams of dreams. But this is all he has ever seen. No, not the whole world is condemned, but only himself. What sense in that? I don’t know that, though. I only imagine,—but can it not be true that everything imagined therefore exists or has existed or will exist, as real as anything? He read that somewhere. Whatever he thinks must be true, as true as anything. The books are proof of everything else.What do I want with a theatre? It’s bad enough just existing without tangling myself up with all that. Other people! Infinite possibilities! That is the nightmare. Everything collapses. There is too much of everything, not too little. Sigismundo is the luckiest of men, chained to his practice. (Reads from a piece of paper.) Black despair wraps its wings around him like a priest in feathers holding him fiercely, tenderly in his arms. (He puts in his fang, one long tooth peeping through closed lips, and considers himself in the mirror.)

ANGEL (Enters as FLEUR, colorfully draped and moving fast): Darling, have you heard anything new? I thought we should cancel the performance. I would hate to of course. Have you seen Fox?

BAKER: No one.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Have they arrested him?

BAKER: We are doing the performance, if that’s what you mean. I have never cancelled a performance. When we announce a performance we do the performance not matter what. What good does it do him to cancel a performance? I have no sympathy at all for that.

ANGEL AS FLEUR (Going to him): Sorry, darling. Forget I said anything.

BAKER: I thought they would have arrested you, for lewd behavior.

ANGEL AS FLEUR (Hurt): How can you say a thing like that?… You know Angel is not ready.

BAKER: We are as ready as we ever will be.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I don’t know if she can make it. What is the monologue supposed to be? She goes on for ten minutes, not making a lick of sense. I do not know how you can sit there.

BAKER: I incline to the opinion that he arranged it himself. It was some bizarre suicide gesture gone wrong. No one was buying his Lawrence festival. What could he do?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: There is always something to do. But you are right. I know what happened.

BAKER: You do? How do you know? (LOUISE comes in.)

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I know because Evelyn as much as told me. She was both of the seconds.

BAKER: Why did she tell you?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: She is attracted to me. Sexually, I mean. She intends to win me to lesbianism.

BAKER: Well why not?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Indeed. You’re all married. It’s all politics around here. You don’t have to insult me. I may not be the answer to all your problems but I am not the cause of them either.

BAKER: Excuse me, did I say something too unbuttoned? Fleur, believe me, I appreciate you. You are an admirable actress and a valuable addition to our company. Frankly the problem is not you and Evelyn or you and Louise or you and Angel or you and Fox or Fox and Danielle, the problem is Eugene. He is leaving town because he cannot commit himself to our theatre. It is pitiful. I have asked him to direct every one of our plays, and he thinks it is a shoot-out, him or me, like Hilly and our late friend. I do not intend to die.

LOUISE: Hilly can’t shoot. He has a broken arm.

BAKER: That’s what is wrong with this play.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Darling, it is one of our triumphs!

BAKER: They actually had a duel?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: The snow was completely trampeled. She seriously fancies herself as Brett, surely you realize that.

BAKER: Who?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Evelyn. Rita would have her as Brett, too, or so she imagines. It looked as though a whole crowd had been there.

BAKER: A movie crew?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Of course it hasn’t snowed for several days. There never has been a movie crew. That’s just a fragment of your imagination.

BAKER: And presumably yourself as Frieda.

ANGEL AS FLEUR (To LOUISE—a moment of sympathy): I know, Louise.

BAKER: But I have previously cast Louise as Frieda. I will have to direct the thing myself. Just what I need.

LOUISE: I do not want to do it! I do not want to be in it! Can’t you hear me? Let Fleur play Frieda. She wants to be an actress. The last thing I want to be is an actress!

ANGEL AS FLEUR: We are not talking about the cast of the play, we are talking about the party.

BAKER (Very flamboyant): An actor. You are an actor. What is more noble? You are the lover, the queen, the slave, the entertainment. Without you… (Dramatic pause) …nothing!

LOUISE: What party?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: The beaux arts ball. You be Evelyn as Brett and I will be Frieda. Or is that too confusing?

BAKER (Turns to reveal full monster get-up): We are the beaux arts!

(ANGEL AS FLEUR shrieks and simultaneously DANIELLE enters dressed as Lawrence; however, she is not play Lawrence but RITA—Texas accent. FOX follows her in and observes the following scene without saying anything.)

DANIELLE AS RITA (Entering right into the preceding conversation: to LOUISE, who becomes EVELYN): You are not tall enough. Lady Brett was four inches taller than he was. Neither can I see you as Lawrence, I purely cannot. I mean I can hardly play Brett to your Lawrence.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I don’t want to play Lawrence. You play Lawrence.

DANIELLE AS RITA: All right, I will.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: May I be Brett?

DANIELLE AS RITA: How far will you dare to go with me? I do not care how tall or short you are, how thin or fat or graceful or clunky or repellent or ravishing or what. Will you be my ally or do I have to deal with your own boring ego all the time?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: What do you mean?

DANIELLE AS RITA: I do not mean between the sheets.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I know you don’t.

DANIELLE AS RITA: That is all over. We are way beyond that now. No more moist looks and tentative caresses. Do not fawn. Do not adore me.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Are you talking about real life?

DANIELLE AS RITA: Yes.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: What do you want me to do.

DANIELLE AS RITA: Squash a bug.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: You are mad.

DANIELLE AS RITA: How are we to have a season? I am responsible for the company. This man cannot remain in Taos.

BAKER: Who are you, the Blue Mother?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I think you are being completely unfair. I kind of like him.

DANIELLE AS RITA: He flatters you. He tries to flatter everyone. It is patronizing. It is not sincere. He has no sense that we are anyone at all. We do not exist except as part of the local machinery. Oh he tells us he will use us, he could do nothing without us, but what he wants is luminaries from London and the East. Mark my words.

BAKER: No, she’s right.

DANIELLE AS RITA: It is too insulting. It perverts everything we are trying to do.

BAKER: Why don’t you go back to San Antón?

DANIELLE AS RITA: Why don’t you go back to New York? There is plenty of room for both of us here. There is just no room for him.

BAKER: Hilly made all this happen. Hilly should straighten it out. (Exit into bathroom.)

LOUISE AS EVELYN: I want no part of it.

DANIELLE AS RITA: Brett left her whole life behind. She changed everything. She took risk without limit to follow Lawrence here. Of course it all catches up with you eventually. Of course it is not me he is challenging.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: He hardly notices how strong you are.

DANIELLE AS RITA: It is Lawrence, and Lawrence will answer for himself. It was his own idea. He will duel Lawrence. If he wins, Lawrence is his and we give him this year. If he loses, he leaves the county. He can do his festival in Santa Fe.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: What if he wins?

DANIELLE AS RITA: I do not intend to die.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Rita, I trust you. I have always trusted you.

DANIELLE AS RITA (Only now noticing ANGEL AS FLEUR, who has been getting ready for the performance): Here’s Fleur.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Hello, Fleur. Have you met Rita? This is Rita McGuire, the director of our company and the next D. H. Lawrence. Fleur Flagg.

DANIELLE AS RITA: How do you do?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Don’t you think she would be the perfect Frieda?

DANIELLE AS RITA: There are several other candidates who may be as well or better qualified.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: May I audition? I certainly hope you are having open auditions.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: We are not talking about the play, we are talking about the party.

DANIELLE AS RITA: I am not talking about the party, I am talking about the duel. Frieda need not appear.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: What duel?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Oh nothing.

DANIELLE AS RITA: Will you do it?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Yes.

DANIELLE AS RITA: What I have in mind for you, Fleur, is the singing lead in ‘Babes in Toyland.’ Can you sing?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I am a singer primarily.

DANIELLE AS RITA: Can you dance?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Can she dance!

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I do dance, actually. I also do impersonations, regional and foreign accents, animals, trapeze and balancing, and makeups for old age and radical infirmity.

DANIELLE AS RITA: Good. We can use you.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I am already being used.

DANIELLE AS RITA: Do you have a contract? Are you married?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Well no, I’m not.

DANIELLE AS RITA: Then what are you worried about?

ANGEL AS FLEUR: I am not worried about anything. Will you excuse me? It is time for me to do my warm-up.

DANIELLE AS RITA: We will keep in touch with you.

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Fine. (Exit to stage.)

LOUISE AS EVELYN: You did not make a very good impression.

DANIELLE AS RITA: You have frightened her. She thinks if she joins our company she has to sleep with you.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: That is a grotesque thing to say.

(BAKER AS BILL HILL sticks his head in the door. This is HILLY in the here and now: he accepts DANIELLE as RITA but sees LOUISE as herself. BAKER is straightforwardly transformed—he has changed makeup and costume.)

BAKER AS HILL (To LOUISE): Can we open the house? You have Spanish people in this audience and they always come an hour early. And it is snowing.

LOUISE: Not for another twenty minutes. Fleur is doing her tai ch’i.

BAKER AS HILL: May I come in?

FOX (When neither woman answers): Please do. Hello, Hilly. Welcome back.

BAKER AS HILL: Hello, Rita. Fox. You are just the people I wanted to see. Do you have time? Can we talk for a minute?

FOX: I am all right. I am the only one in it.

LOUISE: I take it you are taking over the auditorium again.

BAKER AS HILL: Do you want it? Take it. You could do it. I will propose you to the board. I will help you with the paperwork. If you can get the N.E.A. development grant renewed you can pay yourself a salary. At the moment there is nothing. Our friend had dropped the ball.

LOUISE: Why do you want it?

BAKER AS HILL: Somebody has to want it. Look, let’s not argue about nothing. We all know what happened. (To FOX) I don’t know why you don’t take it. You would be perfect.

FOX: Thanks, but I don’t believe you mean that.

LOUISE: Baker doesn’t like the space. It isn’t just you.

BAKER AS HILL: Bullshit. What do you mean it isn’t just me? Baker doesn’t care a thing about space, any more than I do.

FOX: We want our own theatre.

BAKER AS HILL: Well I hope you get it. In the meantime I have read your play, what there is of it.

FOX: Good. Did you like it?

BAKER AS HILL: I like it quite well. Some of it is quite funny. I am not sure I know what you are trying to say. Some of the language has to be toned down.

FOX: What?!

BAKER AS HILL: The characters are quite crisp, and I like the plot. I am not at all sure who it is for. Who is supposed to go for it?

FOX: Everybody will go for it. Give me a chance. What was that about the language? You want me to tone down my language?

BAKER AS HILL: There are lots too many fucks in the first few pages.

LOUISE: You don’t need me. (Exit.)

BAKER AS HILL (To RITA): Can’t you talk?

FOX: Are you serious?

BAKER AS HILL: This is a conservative town. Believe me, it is not appropriate language for the community auditorium. We can’t have somebody pissing on stage. People would not like it.

FOX: Are you telling me I have to change my play to suit your opinion or I can’t put it on here?

BAKER AS HILL: You can’t put it on here anyway. The ladies are doing ‘Babes in Toyland’ in March, which they start building tomorrow. You don’t mind if they take some measurements before we open the house, do you? Of course not. Then I have booked a series of concerts on weekends in April, and right after that we start rehearsing ‘Guys and Dolls,’ which will run right through into June. So I do not see where you would fit in anyway. I mean, you’ve had your shot for this season. Don’t feel funny about it.

FOX: How am I supposed to feel? You just rejected my play. I feel like I am going to die.

BAKER AS HILL: Then most of the summer goes to the D. H. Lawrence festival.

FOX: Are you serious? I thought surely that was kaput. Clearly the poor fellow lost his challenge or duel or whatever it was. The festival never had any reality outside of him.

BAKER AS HILL: It was my idea.

FOX: No. No. Really? I do not believe it. Are you serious? I am astounded.

(During this exchange FOX has been changing his clothes, putting on his costume as a ridiculous-looking Prince: pink tights, flamboyant tunic, and a preposterously long feature in his hat. Actually he looks sensational.)

BAKER AS HILL: I could never do it on my own. I have no contacts outside this town and western Nevada. He gave it bankability. Now I can do it as a kind of tribute to Trowbridge. Everybody will come. He had a whole list.

FOX: What happened in New York, if you don’t mind my asking? You should do my play in New York.

BAKER AS HILL: I am not ready for New York. Well, have a good performance. I have laid in a case of champagne for afterwards. We will drink to our benefactors, whoever they may be. (Exit.)

FOX: Good lord!

DANIELLE (As herself, no longer RITA): Fox, sweetie, maybe you need a break. We should go to Mexico after this play is over. We can stay awail till spring. Wouldn’t you like that?

FOX: I thought you could not leave your shop.

DANIELLE: That was the first two years. I told you how it would be. Now I can afford to pay Linda. You don’t have to write or anything. Take some time off.

FOX: I don’t want to take time off. I want to work.

EUGENE (Emerging from behind screen with his sweater on backwards, to FOX): Excuse me, can I give you a note?

FOX: Yes, please do. What?

EUGENE: When the king comes in you should go down on your right knee. The cape goes back over your right shoulder, and with the sword it is very flattering to your legs in profile. The way you have been doing it the whole scene is ruined.

FOX: All right.

EUGENE: In classical style you always go down on the downstage knee.

DANIELLE: Your sweater is inside out.

EUGENE: Oh, thanks. (Takes it off and reverses it.) What are you doing here?

DANIELLE: I really do not know. Magic. Electromagnetism.

EUGENE: I have to talk to Fleur about her limp.

FOX: Oh don’t take away her limp. It is all she has.

EUGENE: Limping is funny like crossed eyes are funny.

FOX: You never gave her anything else.

EUGENE: I couldn’t think of anything else. All right, I won’t. But I still want to talk to her. (Exit.)

DANIELLE: Your play is not plausible. Your theory about the duel is ridiculous.

FOX: I adore you, Danielle. You are so beautiful. Please don’t put me down.

DANIELLE: I am not. You know I love your plays. You should write much more. Practice your technique. I am a rich woman. Let me take you to Mexico. You are such a handsome man. I will adore you in Mexico. There is nothing as sexy as a handsome writer. In Mexico we will be warm and make love. You can write as much as you like. We can take a tent for Dylan and be a family. Forget all this.

FOX: Fine. Just let me finish these two plays. Bear with me for the run of this one. My Lawrence play is all but finished.

DANIELLE: Who did you decide did it?

FOX: We can’t leave town, you know, any of us, anyway.

DANIELLE (Suddenly wild): Leave! You should leave! Ask permission to leave and leave now. They will not refuse.

FOX: Well they might. They have to arrest somebody.

DANIELLE: Take the pressure off. You know, I don’t actually remember making loving with you this morning.

FOX: You don’t?

DANIELLE: Why do you think they might arrest you?

FOX: They won’t arrest me. I was kidding. It is all worked out.

(The door is flung open and EUGENE comes limping in fast as the GHOST OF TROWBRIDGE in a dudgeon.)

EUGENE AS GHOST: The bastard lies, you know! Dead, I see it all! What a fool I was to come here with an open heart, imagining the best of everyone. Free of everything, I understand too well too late!

FOX: Who are you?

EUGENE AS GHOST: The ghost, come back to tell the truth.

FOX: What is the truth?

GHOST: Lawrence was here the same eleven months.

(DANIELLE puts on Lawrence beard.)

FOX: Who killed you?

GHOST: You. You did, taming the distances to your imagination. Every one of you did, looking up at the mountain in the morning. Beauty excuses everything. Far from it. Beauty punishes. Hill did, never looking up. The mountain belongs to the Indians.

FOX: No, be serious. I need to know. Was it your idea or his?

GHOST: It was what I was doing!

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: Except for my imagination the distances would be nothing. You would never see them. They would not exist. You would not be here. Distance is nothing but the nothing in between people and things. Don’t give me that second-hand romantic blather. Without imagination the landscape would be nothing but obstacles and inconveniences.

FOX: Take down this set. I want to see it. (He folds up the screen. ANGEL is revealed.) Oh, excuse me, Angel.

ANGEL: I’d better get ready. (Exit.)

LOUISE (Sticks her head in): Ten minutes. The house is open.

FOX (Rolling the costume rack off stage): Who is here?

LOUISE: Nobody but Spanish people.

BAKER (Entering in his monster costume): This better be good.

FOX: Help me here, will you both? (He and LOUISE and BAKER fold up the set. To LOUISE): How are you doing? Are you going to make it?

LOUISE: I am up for it. Barely.

(The dressing room set folds up into a unit representing the exterior of the stage house of the community auditorium in forced perspective, a plain fake adobe shape against a cloudless sky. Behind it, a panorama of Taos Mountain.)

BAKER (To EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE and DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE, who—both spirits—are somewhat bemused): You two stand here, in the middle of the stage. That’s it. No, a little farther apart. (They do what he says.) That’s it, that’s fine.

(As the set is folded up, HORTENSIO is revealed, in policeman costume.)

HORTENSIO: Is it time for me to dance?

FOX: Yes it is. Just… begin. Begin dancing. (HORTENSIO begins dancing and dances in silence upstage of the action. FOX continues without pause. To DANIELLE) I don’t know how you get to be Lawrence.

DANIELLE: I have given in. I have given myself again. Tell me that lifts your heart.

FOX: It does. I am enthralled. I am yours. I adore you. We will be gone in the blink of an eye. Hasta la vista everything!

ANGEL AS FLEUR (Entering in Princess costume, limping and using a cane): Hello, darlings. Here we go.

FOX: Good heavens, Fleur. You look fabulous!

ANGEL AS FLEUR: Well what did you expect, love? I feel so fortunate to be acting with your company. I am honored to be sharing a stage with you gentlemen. This is one of the happiest moments of my life.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Bravo, I say. Bravo!

LOUISE: Places, please.

(FLEUR, FOX, and BAKER withdraw from the action. The lights change. LOUISE transforms into EVELYN, putting on the schticks. HORTENSIO continues to dance, upstage. The dawn lighting is limpid and exquisite.)

LOUISE AS EVELYN: You understand the rules.

DANIELLE (AS RITA, perhaps) AS LAWRENCE: How many paces?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Do you want to kill each other? Do you want to kill him? Do you want him to kill you? Do you want to die this morning? Do you both want to die? Would that satisfy everything?

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Ten will suffice. You walk away and turn and fire. It is not mechanical or difficult. It is an opportunity for will. In the moment you turn you choose what you do… though you may not have time to do it.

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: We know about duels.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: He might shoot you in the back, if he really wanted you dead.

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: I do not want him at all.

FOX: Just a second, Eugene. (To HORTENSIO) Hortensio, my friend, are you taking this in?

BAKER: Let them do it, man. Let him get into it. You writers cannot forego coming on like maniacs. It is the actors who have got to do it.

FOX: Hortensio, I mean it. Keep dancing, but pay attention. I am laying it out here plainly. (To actors) All right, go on.

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE (After a moment’s pause): I do not want you at all.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: That is hardly true. You conspired with the mountain. You called me. You brought me here. In the person of Mr. Hill you allowed me to understand I could be useful, appreciated. You insinuated yourself into my nights, my dreams, my thoughts in the middle of sex. You took me away. You set me up as your victim when you needed a victim. Who will your next victim be?

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: You are mad.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: It is true, though. This is no place for sincerity. We are burned up cases, you and I.

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: I am not. I am not burned up. I am fresh as a daisy. I am just coming into my own.

FOX (To HORTENSIO, who gradually stops dancing): I am not suggesting you should do anything about it. I think you should let her be. Things are better now. You can’t prove anything. Baker has his house to finish. Eugene is moving back to New York. Danielle and I are going to Mexico as soon as the play is over. We will get back together in the spring. We will do my play in the summer in the Armory. You are a great dancer, compadre. We want you to be in it.

HORTENSIO: Yeah, I dig your play but I don’t have the time. However, thanks for your help with the investigation. I now know who killed Tommy Twidge.

FOX: Right. That’s the whole point.

HORTENSIO: The boy from New York did it.

FOX: What?

HORTENSIO: You have all been protecting him.

FOX: No, Hortensio, wait. I am showing you who did it.

EUGENE: Are you serious? You can’t be serious.

HORTENSIO: You could not believe there was no money. You thought some heavy pockets would come along and save you.

EUGENE: Well that’s true enough.

HORTENSIO: You thought Bill Hill was finished here. After that farewell performance you never imagined he would have the gall to take the auditorium back again.

EUGENE: That is true.

HORTENSIO: You have been unable to think straight for months. You are completely crazed and out of control. The situation is so miserable that you can’t think of anything to do but make it worse. Maybe it will self-destruct.

EUGENE: What?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: The pistols.

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: Give me my pistols.

(FOX hands LOUISE AS EVELYN the pistol case. She opens it and presents them in turn to DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE and EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE.)

HORTENSIO: So you get what you wanted. I am putting you under arrest.

EUGENE: What? You must be kidding.

FOX: Hortensio, my friend, you are completely off the tracks.

HORTENSIO: I do not believe I am.

EUGENE: Don’t come any closer. This gun is loaded.

HORTENSIO: I don’t believe you.

FOX (Restraining HORTENSIO): Please! I beg you! You are making a ridiculous mistake. Watch what I have to show you. It is just another couple of minutes. (To actors) Go on. Please, go on!

HORTENSIO: All right. All right! Do it!

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: I am finished here. Where am I to go? Back to England? What hope can there be in England?

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: Go higher into the mountains. Spare us your despair.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: You went away.

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: It is not more virtuous to stay in one place than to move about. It pulls the heart, always to be leaving what you love. It must be better than always returning to what you hate.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Don’t go on like this. I cannot bear it. I love you both and I cannot put up with it another minute. Go on, kill yourselves!

BAKER: Do it. Do it.

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Back to back.

FOX: Wait, I wrote another page of dialogue.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Is the camera…?

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: The light is ready for us. The light will not wait for us. The sun is coming up to meet us now.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE (To EVELYN): You love me?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Of course I do, you fool. What a ridiculous situation. Go ahead and do it and shoot in the air and let’s go back to bed.

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: Good luck with your festival.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: I cannot believe you are saying that.

LOUISE AS EVELYN (Impatient): Places.

DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE: I like your festival. Why would I not?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Roll camera. O.K., action.

(Pistols raised, EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE and DANIELLE AS LAWRENCE begin walking away from each other towards the wings, TROWBRIDGE limping violently. HORTENSIO intervenes, confronting EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE and taking the pistol. DANIELLE AS RITA DRESSED AS LAWRENCE continues walking right off the stage.)

HORTENSIO: I am sorry to do this in the middle of the reading but if I wait any longer you may be gone. (An off-stage gunshot.) What was that?

LOUISE AS EVELYN: Boys shooting dogs.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE (Weirdly dazed): What? What is this?

HORTENSIO: You are under arrest for the murder of Thomas Trowbridge.

EUGENE AS TROWBRIDGE: Please, help me! (He crumples into HORTENSIO’s arms.)

ANGEL (Runs in screaming, disheveled in FLEUR’s Princess costume): My God! What have you done to him?

HORTENSIO: Stay back. (EUGENE is limp in his arms.)

BAKER: Not now, Angel.

ANGEL: What? Oh shit. Sorry.

BAKER: You always do that.

ANGEL: I know. What’s happening?

FOX: This ass-hole is arresting Eugene for killing Tommy Twidgy.

ANGEL: He can’t have done it.

FOX: Isn’t it beautiful, though? I love this moment. I feel so sorry for him. It is all so pitiful and beautiful.

ANGEL: I will tell my father.

EUGENE (Reviving): No, please, don’t say anything to anyone till after the performance. You still have to do the second act. I will be all right. Come over to the police station when you get through. They are not going to torture me.

ANGEL (To HORTENSIO): Can I kiss him?

HORTENSIO: Don’t do anything funny.

ANGEL (Softly): I love you so much.

LOUISE: Places. Act two.

HORTENSIO: Excuse me.

EUGENE (As HORTENSIO takes him out): I am innocent. I am completely innocent. I am an innocent person.

ANGEL (As FLEUR again): Oh, and look at me! Darlings, give me one wee moment and I will be good as new. (Exit.)

BAKER (To LOUISE): How you doin’, babe?

LOUISE: You think I am tense and self-indulgent but I am not, I am sick. Why am I not allowed to be sick?

FOX: I sympathize, Louise. I really do. I am really sorry you feel bad.

LOUISE: Really?

FOX: Really truly. I am really sorry that you feel bad. Does that make you feel a little better?

LOUISE: A little, but I am still sick. (Exit.)

FOX: Fleur knows that happened but Angel actually does not. I found the other pistol, did I tell you?

BAKER: Found? No duel, you mean. Hm.

FOX: I am keeping the duel. I like the duel. Eugene did not do it, of course. Rita did. My play is the real story. Hortensio is misled.

BAKER: Who has the film?

FOX: Helped him do it, I should say. I destroyed the film.

BAKER: Poor Eugene.

FOX (As he exits to stage): I don’t care what anyone says. I am having a great time.

BAKER: Me too, man. (Puts in his fang.) Let’s do it. (Exit as the curtain falls.)

Copyright© 1980 by Michael Smith. All rights reserved.