Play #69: The Spirit Made Pizza

The play is set in the prep-kitchen of a large, glossy, New York-based food-and-style magazine.  Two chefs—a Master Chef and his Sous-Chef—are fussing about with freshly rolled planes of pizza dough and vessels bearing assorted kinds of comestible decoration—pots of tomato sauce, bowls of grated mozzarella, grated Parmesan, chunks of feta cheese, wedges of provolone, plates of prosciutto strips, slices of eggplant, assorted sliced mushrooms, piles of cilantro leaves, scallions, black olives, chunks of tuna, fillets of anchovy, a gathering of asparagus spears, marinated artichoke hearts, bits of crumbled lamb sausage and…well…suffice it to say, it’s an opulent gathering of potential toppings.   The chef—whose name is Fabrizio da Ponte—seems agitated, and grows more so as the play proceeds.  His Sous-Chef, Mimmo Castiglione, is rapid, breezy, sufficiently assured to irritate Fabrizio beyond measure.

Mimmo (boyishly):  This is exciting!

Fabrizio (glumly): You think so?  Making pizzas look like the paintings of the great masters?

Mimmo (gaily):  Sure, it’ll be fun!

Fabrizio (near despair):  That’s what the editors say too.

Mimmo (tittering):  Fresh ideas!!

Fabrizio (furious): This is a joke to you, yes?  Making a pizza look like a painting by Kandinsky?  Kandinsky, who wrote On the Spiritual in Art?

Mimmo (absently):  I never read it.

Fabrizio (contemptuous): No, you wouldn’t have.

Mimmo (cooly):  Don’t you think we’d better get started?  The photographers will be here in a couple of hours.

Fabrizio (half resigned to his fate):  Okay okay, fine.
Who do you want to begin with?  Jackson Pollock?  De Kooning?  Rothko?

Mimmo (peeking up his ears):  Who was that last one?

Fabrizio:  Mark Rothko.  He made big paintings of soft hovering lozenges of colour.  Very slow, very contemplative, very mystical. [turning savagely to Mimmo]    
Perfect for translating into pizzas, right?

Mimmo (offhandedly): It’s all the same to me.

Fabrizio (dyspeptically):  I’m sure.

Mimmo: So I guess I’ll start with a Pollock-piza.

Fabrizio (contemptuously):  Sure, just throw everything around, right?

Mimmo (grinning):  Yeh. It oughta take me about thirty seconds!  Who are you going to do?

Fabrizio (glumly):  Rothko I guess.  They want a Rothko upstairs, so I’ll make them their Pizza-Rothko.

Mimmo (carefully): Didn’t he commit suicide?  Is that the guy?

Fabrizio: Yes, Mimmo.  And to tell you the truth, I think I know how he may have felt [he then begins to ladle tomato sauce onto the flesh-white field of the waiting pizza dough]

Play #68: Snow on Snow

The curtains open to reveal a snowbound front yard.  A woman—her name is Violet Bix—is swaddled about by an enormous overcoat and muffler, and is vigorously shovelling away as much of the snow as she can manage.  Her husband—a poet named Adrian Bix—is standing on the front porch watching her.

Adrian: Heavy lifting?

Violet:  Um.

Adrian:  Hard to believe it’s just two gasses mixed together and then frozen.

Violet (shovelling):  Very hard.

Adrian:  Like acres of gelato!

Violet (shovelling):  Hmm.

Adrian:  Listen, you want a cup of tea or something?

Violet (continuing to shovel):  Nowhere to set it down.

Adrian:  Astonishing thing, the snowflake.

Violet (shovelling): Is it?

Adrian:  Yes.  See, it’s basically nothing at all!

Violet (putting down her shovel and fixing him with a high-beam stare):  Nothing?  Well, let me assure you, Adrian, a shovelful of this nothing snow seems to weigh quite a lot!

Adrian:  An illusion!

Violet:  An illusion? [she puts down her shovel] Do you remember that Christmas carol, In the Bleak Midwinter?

Adrian:  Yes, with exquisite words by Christina Rossetti!

Violet:  Yes, and Christina Rossetti says “In the bleak mid-winter / Frosty wind made moan, / Earth stood hard as iron, / Water like a stone….”  Water like a stone, Adrian!

Adrian:  Come on back to the house.  You need to take a break, Violet.

Violet [plunging her shovel into a snowbank].  I think I will.

Adrian (holding the door open for her): I’ll make tea.

Violet (breathlessly, as she passes by on her way to the kitchen):  Water like a stone, Adrian.  Like a stone!

[Note: normally the curtains would close, but the mechanism has frozen]

Play #67: Jenny Kissed me.

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
Leigh Hunt

The play is set in the London, in a small, dingy flat on Dean Street, occupied, for the moment, by Karl and Jenny Marx and their children.  There are, however, only three characters in the play: Karl, Jenny, and Marx’s frequent collaborator, Friedrich Engels.  The year is 1850.

As the play begins, we discover Marx and Engels deep in conversation.  Jenny reluctantly interrupts them.

Jenny:  Hello, Friedrich.  Karl, are you very busy just at the moment?

Karl:  Hello Jenny.  Well I am trying to effect The Permanent Revolution….

Jenny: I know you are, dear, but the chemist, the butcher, the baker and the milkman are busily fomenting a revolution of their own, the first act of which is to leave off providing for us!

Engels (smiling encouragingly):  We are every day expecting a royalty cheque from articles we published recently in the Neue Rhenische Political Economy Review.  I’m sure that will help.

Jenny:  It will be too little too late, I’m afraid, dear Friedrich!  

Karl:  I‘m sorry, Jenny, but you’ll just have to try to put our creditors off for a little while longer.  In the meantime, I’m sending a piece to the editor of The Spectator about how we’re always being spied upon!

Engels (beaming boyishly):  Here’s an excerpt [he reads]: “Not only are the doors of the house we live in watched by more than dubious-looking individuals who impertinently take notes when anyone ethers or leaves, but we cannot take a single step without being followed by them….”

Karl (proudly):  What do you think of that, my dear?

Jenny: Maybe it’s the chemist, the butcher, the baker and the milkman who are watching you and taking all those notes!

[whereupon she flounces angrily out of the room]