Mad Hatters' Review Issue 10, Fall 2008
<< cover   << federman
 
Drama by
Raymond Federman

Who Will Crack First
[a conceptual play in the form of a poem]

Art by Marty Ison

, the beginning ,

a distant hollow voice explains

the situation
two old friends have decided never
to speak to each other again
they feel that the affection
and respect they have for each other
is gradually dwindling away with each word
that passes between them

the voice emphasizes

the situation is dramatic
but not melodramatic

another voice explains calmly this is

a play for two actors
and two loudspeakers

and that

the voices on the loudspeakers
are the voices of the two actors

a third voice specifies

stage dark at first
gradual light reveals
the two friends seated
their backs to each other
one left one right of stage

 

another voice interrupts and specifies

loudspeaker over the head
of each friend

loudspeakers speak alternatively

loudspeaker left tells why
friend left will not crack first
loudspeaker right tells why
he thinks
friend right will not crack first

all three voices together chant

and so on
and so on

first voice explains

while loudspeakers speak
seated friends react restlessly
with bodily and facial gestures
to what is being said
above their heads

second voice emphasizes

loudspeakers get louder
more argumentative
more aggressive
angry and enraged
as play progresses

third voice explains

argument turns to a debate
it’s a competition
a trial

 

loudspeakers together improvise

words of encouragement
for friends to remain firm
in their silence

loudspeaker left

tells that the reason
friend left will not crack
is because he is a poet
and poets know
silence and solitude
poets know that one
suffers from not suffering enough

loudspeaker right retorts

that friend right is an actor
and actors know how not
to crack during a play
actor have control over
their emotions

loudspeaker L laughs and says

that friend L
will not crack first
because
once upon a time
during the great war
he was tortured
he was tortured
because he knew
something secret
something unspeakable
the enemy tortured him
but he did not talk
he refused to talk
he did not crack
for weeks and weeks
he remained silent in torture
and silence became for him
the reverse of torture
that is why friend L
will not crack first

loudspeaker R counters by saying

that anyone
in friend L’s situation
would have done the same
would have found the courage
not to crack
it’s normal it’s natural
it’s the rule when one is being tortured

loudspeaker R continues

friend R found much more
courage for something
much more traumatic
though less melodramatic
and he was only seven then
the day his father beat him
with his belt for no reason
slashing at his body
with the leather of the belt
and even the belt buckle
and that day friend R swore
to himself in his pain
that he would not talk
to his father for a whole month
and for a whole month friend R
did not speak a word to his father
and he was only seven then

loudspeaker R concludes forcefully

only a few human beings
can find that kind of courage
the happy few yes the happy few
and friend R was only seven then

after a long silence loudspeaker L declares

that friend L wants to become
a serious religious poet
that is why he can no longer
communicate with friend R
because he is an actor
actors are blasphemous
especially when they make
people laugh

 

loudspeaker R replies

that friend R can no longer
look and speak at the sad
face of Friend L
because he has just accepted
a role in the human comedy
to make people laugh
night and day

loudspeaker L sings softly

I am Jesus I am Moses
I am Mohammed
I am the Holy Ghost
I am immortal

loudspeaker R declaims eloquently

I am Hamlet
I am King Lear
I am Phedrea
I am Superman
I am Gogo and Didi

all three voices together chant

and so on
and so on

first voice explains

that loudspeakers
can improvise
any time

second voice explains

as the play progresses
it becomes gradually evident
that the two silent friends
are growing more and more
tense restless nervous
tortured in their bodies and minds

 

loudspeaker L murmurs

and I saw a mighty angel
come down from heaven
clothed with a cloud
and a rainbow was
upon his head
and his face was
as it were the sun
and his feet
as pillars of fire

loudspeaker R recites sadly

All the old ways led to this
all the old windings
the stairs with never a landing
that you screw yourself up
clutching the rail
counting the steps
the fever of shortest ways
under the long lids of sky
the wild country roads
where your dead walk beside you
on the dark shingle the turning
for the last time again
to the lights of the little town
the appointments kept
and the appointments broken
all the delights of urban
and rural change of place
all the exitus and redditus
closed and ended
all led to this
to this gloaming
where a middle-aged man
sits masturbating his snout
waiting for the first dawn to break

loudspeaker L sighs
loudspeaker R laughs

 

third voice declares

suddenly
while loudspeakers
continue to argue angrily
in a cacophony of words
the two friends
let out a scream
at the same time
which they keep repeating
with anguish and despair

friend R & friend L screaming

say something
please say something
I can’t take it anymore
say something
please say something
I can’t take it any more

all three voices together chant
as screams get louder
loudspeakers more cacophonous

and so on
and so on

first voice states

stage goes dark
no applause
no curtain call
, the end ,

 
Edgy and Enlightened Literature, Art and Music in the Age of Dementia
   
to top
 
last update: October 14, 2008