Play # 56: MARXMEN

The play is set in the British Museum Reading Room.  It is a warm June afternoon in 1860, and Karl Marx is sitting at a table, making notes towards what will become Volume One of Das Kapital.  He is suddenly disturbed by a ruckus in the otherwise sepulchrally quiet room—a caterwauling traceable to the entrance into the Reading Room of the three Marx Brothers, Groucho, Harpo and Chico (Zeppo has already dropped out).  Given that none of these three comedians will be born for at least another thirty years, it is reasonably hard to explain their presence in the British Museum in 1860—too hard, in fact, to bother about.

KARL MARX (scribbling diligently in a notebook and intoning the words as he writes):  “A commodity is primarily an external object, which by reason of its qualities satisfies some sort of human want….”

]The Marx Bros. having entered the Reading Room, have now found their way to Marx’s desk]

GROUCHO (reading over Marx’s shoulder):  It’s a good question!  What does a human want?

KARL MARX (sternly):  It wasn’t a question.

GROUCHO:  Oh don’t be so hard on yourself, my good fellow!  You’ll think of one eventually!

CHICO:  Okay, atsa fine, but here’s a question and (turning to Marx) I give it to you right now—and I only charge you one dollar for it!  What does a woman want?

KARL MARX (irritated):  Women do not interest me.

GROUCHO (scandalized):  Don’t let Sigmund Freud hear that, you…you…you…

CHICO: You Hegelian!!

GROUCHO (pleased): Exactly!  Say, what is a Hegelian anyhow?

CHICO: Atsa guy who never accepts the first offer.  He’s a guy who likes to hegel over the price of things!

GROUCHO: Like Cousin Morty!

[Harpo honks his bicycle horn for emphasis, bringing down upon his head a loud chorus of shhhhs from all around the room, like the wind rattling the dry autumn trees]

CHICO (to Marx): Where’s my dollar?

KARL MARX:  I will give you no dollar at all!  I didn’t ask your question!

GROUCHO (with mock melodrama):  And you will rue the day you didn’t, my good fellow!

KARL MARX (impatient):  Listen, you must excuse me gentlemen.  I have a great deal of work to do.

CHICO:  That doesn’t sound like a great deal to me.  Atsa terrible deal!  When you gonna relax and have fun?

KARL MARX (loftily):  Not until the class struggle leads necessarily to the dictatorship of the proletariat!

CHICO (patting Marx on the shoulder):  Atsa fine.  You go duct-tape your prolefariat all you like, you gonna wait a long time for a day off!

[Harpo, nodding in manic agreement, squawks his horn]

GROUCHO (suddenly sitting on Marx’s lap):  But just remember this, Bushy Beard It’s better to have dictated the proletariat and lost, than never dictated the proletariat at all!!

MARX (angry): Good day, gentlemen.

GROUCHO (to Chico and Harpo):  I think our work is done here, boys.  Let’s go visit Darwin!