April 26, 2006

A Play A Day #12

Extensive Exposition, On The Other Hand, Really Sucks, And, After A While, You Begin To Wish That Something That Hasn't Already Been Set-Up By Earlier "Dialogue" Would Happen - Like An Inside Joke, For Instance

Setting: The Sitting Room inside a very opulent house. There are four chairs. They should be burgandy with a gold brocade along the top, golden tassles hang from the underside of the chairs. There are end tables at the left arm of each chair. They are mahogany and stand 30 inches off the ground. They should each have one green marble coaster on them. On the upstage-right end table sits an opened bottle of Remy Martin XO cognac and a glass with approximately 50 ml of cognac in it. A large marble fireplace in the center back wall of the room contains a roaring fire of cedar and maple logs, giving the room a magnificent odor. Franklin Peavey Wharfington, III sits with a 1944 leather-bound edition of Bulfinch's "Mythology" in his hands. He is on page 74. He wears his blue-striped house pyjamas and a silk dressing robe. He is quite wealthy, most recently earning a salary of $937,515 for a year of work as a regional banking executive. His wife of nearly 20 years, Petra Lucianna Rosevillette-Wharfington, enters from stage left and sits in the upstage left chair. She is wearing a peach-colored cashmere sweater, and long, flowing skirt with a chrysanthemum pattern on it. She is dabbing at her left eye with an expensive linen monogrammed handkerchief. She has been crying. Outside the wind howls against the high Gothic windows. It is 15 degrees Fahrenheit, with sustained winds from the north at 20-25 miles per hour, and gusts reaching 40 miles per hour, making the temperature feel as low as 25 below zero Fahrenheit.

Petra: (Sitting down in upstage left chair and whimpering slightly to get her husband's attention. She crosses her right leg over her left, leans into the chair and sighs again. She is sad and has been crying.) Oh, Franklin Peavey Wharfington, III, my dear husband of almost 20 years. I am sad, and I have been crying.

Franklin: (Looks up from his book and puts down his cognac, gives his wife his full attention. He is polite to a fault.) Yes, my sweet wife of almost 20 years, Petra Lucianna Rosevillette-Wharfington, it does appear that you have been crying. Perhaps, you will be able to explain to me the nature and significance of your crying so that we might be able to gain a better understanding of exactly who you are, as a person.

P: (Looks down. Looks up. Looks down, holds that pose for nearly four seconds. Looks up again. Motions as if to look down again, but, instead, keeps looking up.) Yes, I could do that, Franklin, my kind and gracious husband of nearly 20 years. You are so polite, almost to a fault, and so it pains me to tell you this.

F: (Full attention still on Petra. He nods his head two times to acknowledge hearing what she has said and to encourage her to continue with her explanation of why she has been crying.) I'm sorry that it pains you to tell me why you have been crying, Petra, my loving and caring wife of almost 20 years, but you must be honest at times like these; so that I might better comprehend your motivations for this present episode of crying and also what significance this crying might have in determining any future actions in which you may or may not engage. Also, in telling me what is behind your sadness and crying, we will be able to know more about how we interact as a couple and what the nature of those interactions might mean about where we are today in this marriage, how we got there, and the nature of any fuuture interactions we may have. You must be honest with me, however.

P: (She considers what he has said for nearly ten seconds) I understand what you are saying, my darling husband of almost 20 years, Franklin, but alternately, wouldn't it be possible that I could choose to hide my true feelings from you at this moment. I might, for instance, choose to side-step the real issue, obfuscate my true feelings, lie about the source of my sadness and crying, issue flat denials of feeling truly sad and weepy, or issue a verbal attack against you as a way of displacing the need to tell you the truth of the matter which may be too painful to divulge? Do not people sometimes say things only to disguise the truth of their feelings because of some deep dark wound in a person's past, that might slowly be teased out only after many lengthy exchanges between that person and one or more others.

F: (long pause, approximately five seconds) Yes, that's all quite true, my sweet of almost 20 years. Everything that you just said could possibly be behind anything you might choose to say to me right now. I would not know initially if you were being completely forthcoming with me, necessitating a lengthy conversation in which we may come to understand each other better by challenging the forces and motivations and personal weknesses and character flaws which had led you to not be completely forthcoming initially.

P: Exactly, and that's why I just walked in to the sitting room to speak with you, entering by way of the dining room, not from the other entrance to the sitting room, the library which is off through that door. (she indicates stage right exit)

F: Yes, it is. You've always had a way of knowing such things. That's one of the reasons I wanted to marry you, nearly 20 years ago.

P: Certainly, yes, I remember that now. (Pause. 2.5 seconds should do.) And, you, dearest husband of mine, may remember that I was dabbing my left eye as I walked into the sitting room. I was sad and had been crying.

F: Oh, yes, I do remember that quite vividly, though I had been absorbed in my 1944 leather-bound edition of Bulfinch's Mythology. I was on page 74. It always feels so right to sit in these comfortable burgandy chairs, sipping 100 milliliters of Remy Martin XO cognac. I had finished half of the drink; so I believe the glass only contained 50 milliliters when you walked in. You had been sad and had recently been crying about something. I noticed you were dabbing at your left eye with your expensive linen monogrammed handkerchief, and then you sat down.

P: Yes. I sat down. In this chair, to be exact. I'm newly-saddened by your reference to my expensive linen monogrammed handkerchief. (She dabs at her right eye this time with her expensive linen monogrammed handkerchief)

F: My sincerest apologies. I know that I purchased that expensive linen monogrammed handkerchief for you at Christmas almost 15 years ago, when we had been married, at that point, only for almost 5 years. Yes, I remeber it quite clearly because you were quite .... quite.... (he cracks slightly, a two or three semitone change in his voice pitch should accomplish this)

P: Yes, quite big with child! It needs to be said, Franklin. We cannot dance around the subject of Ludwig any longer. Do you remember, Franklin? You must remember... little Wiggie... I will now start crying more forcefully; for it was this memory and the expensive linen monogrammed handkerchief which today has triggered my sadness and crying. (She cries more forcefully, dabbing at both eyes with the expensive linen monogrammed handkerchief.)

F: Yes, Petra, my sweetest blossom on the sweetest branch, I remember Ludwig. He was born just after Christmas, December 27th, almost 15 years ago. He weighed eight pounds and seven ounces and was 22 inches long. He was named Ludwig Franklin Peavey Wharfington, in honor of my great-grandfather who started the family banking interest almost 90 years ago. He was a healthy child who grew up with many loving friends and family in a wealthy family.

P: Yes, but the name, Franklin, remember what your mysterious and reclusive aunt told us about the name?

F: Yes, my love, I remember, that fateful night nearly fifteen years ago when my mysterious and reclusive aunt Frieda came knocking at our door. It was the night after Ludwig had been born. I was alone in the house when the knock came at nearly 10:30 at night. It was a bitter cold night, much like tonight, with winds coming from the north at 15-25 miles per hour making the temperature feel like approximately 20 degress below zero Fahrenheit. She was bundled in an elaborate ermine coat. After inviting her in; she told me that she could not stay, and only had to tell me that we should reconsider naming our son Ludwig. She told me that the name was cursed. She said her grandfather, Ludwig, had been succesful in the banking business only at the expense of his sanity. I dismissed her claims outright because I was certain such warnings were the stuff of interpretation, that my aunt's faculties had already left her years before.

P: (She dabs at both eyes with her expensive linen monogrammed handkerchief) Little did we know how true her dire warning would become. For, even though we live very comfortably, and even though you were already a successful regional bank executive in your family's company, and were well on your way toward earning the generous salary that you earn today, like the $937,515 you earned last year alone, we were, neither of us, prepared for that horrible day almost five years ago, when we were sledding as a family at the Wharfington family estate and our son, Ludwig Franklin Peavey Wharfington, who was almost ten years old at the time, wanted to show us that he could go on the steeper hills by himself. He set off down the steepest hill, and, upon reaching a terrific rate of speed, estimated by some at nearly fifty miles per hour, he was bounced from the sled and sent head-first into a large elm tree. He died instantly from massive head injuries. (She continues dabbing new tears, from both eyes, with her expensive linen monogrammed handkerchief)

F: I remember cursing that damned tree for months after. It had been planted by my great-grandfather, Ludwig, nearly ninety years ago, to commemorate the opening of his first bank. I remember cutting it down secretly one night almost four months after Ludwig's death in a fit of rage. The massive tree put up a good fight, but eventually fell.... (his voice cracks) and crushed the Labrador puppy we had purchased and named Ludwig in our son's memory. I could not see where he was in the pitch black night. He died instantly from massive head injuries.

P: This is why I've come in here tonight to speak with you, Franklin, after nearly 20 years of marriage. I am sad and have been crying remembering Ludwig, the boy, and Ludwig, the dog, but I am also very nervous; because I have new information which I must tell you, and I hesitate because I fear what your reaction to this news might be.

F: Dear, dear Petra, my ever-gracious and even-tempered wife of nearly 20 years, what could you tell me that would provoke such a reaction. Certainly, it would have to be something which I would not be expecting to hear from you at this time and at this point in the development of our intricate and emotional relationship. In some way, you would have to tell me something, which, having been your husband for almost 20 years, would be outside the standard rituals and habitual patterns we use to address one another. Something that would so rend the many layers of swaddling emotions we have wrapped around each other during our nigh on 20 years of marriage, that I would find it somehow shocking or, quite literally, incredible. Surely, this news you wish to impart could not possibly be something so fantastic or tragic. Something that might encompass our son's tragic death nearly five years ago and be of such a strange and unpredictable nature that it would shake the foundations of our time-tested, comfortable lives? Perchance, it would be something that uproots our stable lives, and leads us on individual quests to re-examine who we are as people, leading us to further question the comfort to which we've grown so accustomed, and eventually leading to the dissolution of our life together? Or, perhaps, struggling through our desire to break from one another, we will come to a profoundly new understanding of each other and continue our lives together with a fresh outlook on what it means to be human?

P: Yes. I think it is information of that nature that I must tell you. I've held it from you for too long.

F: (with slight trepidation but confidence that their marriage is solid enough to withstand even the most devestating news) Then, Petra, dearest one to me for nearly 20 years, I must ask, albeit not without some slight trepidation but also with confidence that our marriage is solid enough to withstand even the most devestating news, what do you have to tell me?

P: (Resolving herself to tell him) Very well; I have resolved myself to tell you.

F: Yes?

P: Well, approximately two months ago, on a late night walk, I found myself in a part of town where I normally would not venture. Feeling rather cold and mildly thirsty, I walked into what looked like a friendly tavern. Looking back on what happened that night, I realize how misguided I was in all my decisions. In fact, none of this would have happened if I had had the sense to leave immediately upon seeing that I had just entered "Ludwig's Pub".


No comments: