Play #63: Dancing in the Darkroom

The play is set in a small, cramped darkroom in the basement of the suburban home of high-school teacher and hobbyist photographer, John Squint.  It is the summer of 1947.  When the play opens, John is developing some pictures, attentively—if not adoringly—watched by and his longtime girlfriend, Anita Pinch.

John (fishing a print out of the rinse-bath):  There!  It’s you, all head-and-shoulders of you.

Anita (gazing at her dripping image): Look at me—I’m dull!

John (consoling her): No you’re not.

Anita: I am too. [she points at herself] Look at this stupid flowered blouse!

John: You don’t like your blouse?

Anita: I thought it was okay until I saw it in the photograph.

John: Blouse and photograph, they both look the same to me.

Anita: They are the same. They’re both incredibly dull.

John:  Well, why don’t you take it off then?

Anita (horror-stricken):  John!!

John (quickly): I meant change into another blouse.

Anita: Why bother? [she points at the photograph]  The damage is done now.  You’ve taken the photograph and now I’m dull for all time.

John:  Poor Anita.

Anita (shyly): If I do take my blouse off, will you take a more exciting photograph of me?

John (Encouragingly): I don’t see how I could fail to.

Anita (suddenly dispirited again): No, it’ll still be dull.

John:  How could it be?

Anita: Because I just remembered that my bra is even duller than my blouse.

John (smiling warmly at her):  We’ll think of something.


Play # 62: Inside the Dog

The play is set in a rehearsal hall, where a young director is guiding two actors, a man and a woman, through a tiny haiku-like play called Inside the Dog. 
I first heard the joke—around which this ambitious play is constructed—from a friend named Geoff Webster, at a coffee shop here in Napanee.  He says he heard it from some woman he knows.  

Director:  Alright, Lawrence, you turn now to Nadine and deliver the first line of the joke.

Lawrence (muttering darkly): This stupid joke.

Director (irritably):  Never mind that, just say the line.

Lawrence:  “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.”

Director (pleased):  And now, Nadine, you reciprocate by delivering the second line of the joke to Lawrence.

Nadine (muttering darkly):  This dumb joke.  Ibsen never wrote anything this silly.  Nor Beckett neither!

Director (impatient):  Never mind, just say the line.

Nadine (reluctantly, lifelessly):  “And inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read anyway.”

Director (giggling):  Great! 

Lawrence (frustrated): How do you get inside a dog?  Nobody’s ever been inside a dog!

Nadine (to Lawrence, in her smarmiest, least helpful manner):  Jonah ended up living inside a whale!

Lawrence (at the end of his rope):  But a dog is too small to get inside of!!

Director (to Lawrence, gently):  I think perhaps you’re being too literal, Lawrence.  It’s really just a little play on words.

Nadine (with brutish decisiveness):  You’re so stupid, Lawrence!

Lawrence (outraged):  Oh yeh, well let’s see you try to crawl inside of a dog!  And you’d have to carry a book too! You won’t think it’s so damned funny then!

Director (soothingly): Lawrence, it’s just language!

Lawrence (furious):  You don’t say!!


Play # 61: Cyrano Leaves the World

The play—for which much of the historical material has been gratefully lifted from Marjorie Hope Nicolson’s noble book, Voyages to the Moon (1948)--is set in the apartment of Cyrano de Bergerac, where he and his friends are discussing theories of space travel and the constitution of the moon.  The year is 1640.


CYRANO (with great conviction): I maintain that the sun and the moon are no great mysteries, gentlemen.  And certainly not mysteries that can withstand the focus and impress of our imaginations!

FIRST FRIEND:  Tell us more, then, of the relation between the sun and the moon, O Pixilated One!

CYRANO (with even more conviction): The Moon is a world like ours, to which this world of ours serves likewise for a moon!

There is great merriment among the company, and a consequent recharging of their glasses.

CYRANO:  You make merry, you amiable doubting Thomases, but I am telling you the plain truth!

SECOND FRIEND:  Talk, as they will say in the future, is  cheap, Cyrano. What we desire is experiment, enactment, engagement, recounting! 

CYRANO (exitedly):  And you shall have it all, my friends! Tomorrow morning, while you are all sleeping off this robust wine, I shall be on my way to the skies!


SCENE 2:  A forest glade, not far from Cyrano’s home.  It is five a.m.  The sun is rising.  The world is wet with dew.

CYRANO (carefully, logically):  It seems to me [he plucks a leaf from, a tree and shakes away the dewy liquid] that since the morning sun sucks up the dew engendered by the heavy night, that if a man—that is to say, if I—were to fasten about myself a number of glass vials filled to the brim with dew, why then should I not also be sucked up high into the air?  Why not?  How could it be otherwise, dew being dew and the sun being the sun?

[he leaves the stage, to repair to his workshop at home] 

SCENE 3: The forest glade again.  It is the next day, and Cyrano is back with the equipment he has devised for space flight.

CYRANO (both careful and eager):  And now for the great ascension! 

[He checks the details of his space costume—which consists of a tight-fitting suit of leather, to which is affixed a hundred small glass vials.  The sun is rising rapidly and hotly]

CYRANO (with great excitement):  And now, Venerable Sun, do your evaporative work and lift me to the heavens! 

]And much to his delight—and, if truth be told, amazement—he begins to rise slowly into the air….]

SCENE 4:  Cyrano’s apartments, six months later.  He is with the same crowd of carousers as before]

FOURTH GUEST:  And so the drying dew did lift you into the air?

CYRANO (proudly):  It did indeed.  And my rise was so rapid, I quickly found myself in the middle air with the clouds, and I was now being hurried up higher with so much rapidity, I felt sure I should bypass the moon altogether!!….

FIFTH FRIEND (breathlessly curious):  And so, what did you do??

CYRANO (smugly):  I began breaking vials, thereby adjusting, as best I could, the forces of attraction and gravity in order to make a safe landing in the moon.

THIRD FRIEND:  And so you actually got to the moon!!

CYRANO (smiling ruefully):  Alas, no.  You see, in my zeal to attain the moon, I broke too many  of the dew-filled vials, and, earth’s gravity being what it is, I found myself back on our own dear planet—but on the other side of it!

SECOND FRIEND: And was this part of the world inhabited?

CYRANO (highly amused to recall his adventure):  Yes, indeed it was. This place was peopled by savages, and they all spoke French!

FIRST FRIEND (astounded):  French!!!

CYRANO: Yes, apparently I had drifted down into New France!

THE FRIENDS (uncomprehending): New France??

CYRANO:  Yes.  In Canada!


PLAY # 60: The Deferred World

The play is set in the study of the mercurial and explosive adventurer, Professor Challenger—the outrageous protagonist of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, 1912, (and other gripping tales of the inexplicable such as The Poison Belt and The Land of Mist).

When the play opens, Professor Challenger is standing before the vigorous fire, blazing in his fireplace, and is in deep, annoyed discussion with writer Percival Crestfall, whom Challenger had invited to go along on his upcoming trek into danger.

CHALLENGER (thundering at his guest):  So you won’t accompany me?!!

CRESTFALL (defensively):  Up the Amazon in search of giant prehistoric creatures that ought to have died off millions of years ago?  No, sir, I won’t!!

CHALLENGER (impatient):  But aren’t you curious to actually gaze upon creatures which were supposed to be Jurassic in the living flesh—prodigious monsters that would swallow our largest and fiercest animals for afternoon tea?

CRESTFALL (abashed):  In all honesty, Professor, no, I’m not that curious.   I say let sleeping dinosaurs—if dinosaurs they be—lie.

CHALLENGER (horrified): Where’s your backbone, sir!!??

CRESTFALL (managing a weak smile):  It has evolved away, Professor Challenger—over these past five minutes.