Play #48: The Life of Man (after Leonid Andreyev)

The play is set in an operating theatre at the outer rim of the known world.  The operating room is full of seals, penguins, otters and narwhals. There is a grey-skinned man, almost anesthetized, on the table.  He is being operated upon by a doctor dressed in leopard-skin shorts, a flamboyant Hawaiian style shirt and a yellow pith helmet. Four gigantic, stringless marionettes shuffle about the operating table, hoping to be of assistance.

PATIENT:  I can’t think clearly.

DOCTOR:  Neither can I.

PATIENT: But you’re the doctor.

DOCTOR:  You think so?  Okay, let’s agree on that.  And so that makes you the patient.  You’re supposed to be experiencing the focus illness always brings to the sufferer.

1st MARIONETTE:  How about having the patient provide a birth scream?  Just to get things underway.

DOCTOR (to Patient):  Can you manage that?

PATIENT:  I’ll try.  [he screams]


DOCTOR (enthusiastic):  And the dawn came up like thunder!!  [looks down admiringly at the patient]  Can you keep it up for awhile?

PATIENT (turning purple in the face and gasping):  Why  why why?

 DOCTOR: I want your birth scream to last until your death—which should be [checks his watch] in about twenty minutes or so.  Then the one sustained scream will serve both as your birth scream and your death agony.  You think you can do that for me?

PATIENT:  I’ll try [begins screaming loudly again).


[The patient expires]

DOCTOR (to the four Marionettes):  He was good, didn’t you think?