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A Play in three acts written by Gianni Boscarino  2010

The characters in the play: Alice Sally Larry (Alice’s dog) Gregor Sigmund (Gregor’s dog) A girl Bill Staging: The setting should be stark and surrealistic, ie a bare stage with minimal props and set. The dogs should be played by soft toys with a soundtrack for the barking. The girl and Bill should be played by mannequins, spotlit for their scenes.

ACT ONE Two women sit at a bare table on a bare stage. Sally, a 42-year-old blonde lady with a tall, slim, almost masculine, body and contrived manners, drinks from an (empty) cup of tea, . Her clothes and jewellery are very plain and slightly old fashioned, but classy. Her friend Alice eats a piece of (plastic) chocolate cake with

ostentatious pleasure. Same age, typical Mediterranean features. Her bright eyes are a bit darkened by the few wrinkles that surround them. She’s wearing a lownecked black dress that enhances her curvacious figure. Alice can’t be defined as pretty. Most women would describe her as slightly vulgar, most men find her quite sensual. Beside them peacefully sits Alice’s fluffy dog. Alice: So Sally, how was your weekend in the mountains? Sally: Very nice thanks. I love going away. We haven’t been anywhere for at least 2 months! Frank always at work and me always at home… and when he comes home, he has his dinner and then falls asleep in front of the TV! Alice (laughing): Isn’t that everything a woman needs from a husband? I couldn’t think of a better scenario. Sally (smiling): Of course there are some advantages; but sometimes I think we are almost too happy. Frank has a rewarding job, Anne is doing well at school and I take care of the house and have lots of free time. Everything is so settled! There are no problems to discuss, no arguments… Alice: Oh, I couldn’t live with no arguments! Can’t you just make them up sometimes? Sally (proudly): Off course, I do it constantly. Although it’s not quite the same thing. He’s always so perfectly relaxed and content. It’s nerve-racking! Even when we argue he is always so calm, diplomatic, and so tolerant! It makes me feel like he doesn’t really care! Alice (laughing and still eating): Come on, you’re so unfair on him! Frank is such a good husband. He works hard for you and your lovely daughter to have a good life. And he let’s you do whatever you want. You go out in the evening and you’ve got your tennis and salsa classes… (Pause. Her face becomes more serious and she starts caressing her dog) I wish I could do those things and go out like you do! Sally: I’m sorry, Alice, I know how hard your situation is. I shouldn’t complain in front of you. I only wish there was a way to help you. Alice (detached): There isn’t. Sally: But maybe there is. Alice (somehow complacent): Nope. Sally: But… Alice (proud and quick): Too late, I’m afraid… Sally: I know what you mean. But maybe I should try to talk to your husband. Maybe I can make him… (Alice turns pale) You know, you never let me try… Alice: No, please don’t! It would only make things worse. He wouldn’t even allow me to see you any more. Sally: But if not me, then maybe someone else. There must be someone Robert would listen to! Alice: Sally, you are the only person I have spoken to about all this. If my father hadn’t died, things wouldn’t have gone this way. (With affected dramatic tone) I still remember Robert promising to my poor father that he would take good care of me after his death. Oh, I was so young at that time! Sally: What about your brother? Won’t he help you? Alice: If he only knew half of the things Robert has done to me he would try to kill him! Can you imagine? Sally: I still don’t understand how you can play the part of the happy wife so well, in front of your family and everyone else.

Alice (smug): I’m a very good actress. And I don’t see my family or friends much anyway. Sally: Alice, I don’t know which is the best way forward, but you can’t carry on like this. Is he still violent with you? Alice (with a subtle disappointment): Not as much as he used to be. Only when he drinks. It’s all because of jealousy. Sally: How can he still be jealous? You’re not even going to a supermarket on your own!! Alice (with affected dramatic tone): I know, it’s madness. Sometimes I still manage to cheat on him, but it’s quite hard. You know he always locks me in when he leaves the house. Sally: How do you manage then? Alice: The plumber, the gardener, the painter… Sally: God! Imagine if he didn’t lock you in! Alice: Sometimes the neighbour… Sally: That’s awful, Alice. Why do you do that? Alice: That’s my only revenge on him. That’s what he deserves for having made my life hell. (Dramatic again) How I wish I had never met him! Why was I so unlucky? Sally: Alice, forgive me if I ask you. (Pause) Why did you fall for him? Was he different at the beginning? How did you meet him? Did you like him then? Alice: No, I’ve never liked him. He was already fat and bald. I was only 17! I met him at a party and I was just trying to escape from another boy’s annoying attentions. So I pretended to be interested in Robert. He was the oldest and the biggest guy in the room, so he had no problem in getting rid of that boy. Sally: And you’ve been pretending to love him ever since! You must have realized pretty soon the trouble you were putting yourself in, but still you chose to do nothing about it. You could have broken up with him at any time! Alice: I’ve tried to leave him. But he wouldn’t let me go. Sally: What do you mean? I will never understand how... (Enter Gregor and Sigmund from the left, walking towards them. Gregor looks tall, strong and fashionable) Alice (interrupts): Look! Gregor is coming! (Sigmund notices Larry’s presence and starts barking and growling aggressively. Larry starts barking too and both dogs try to stretch their leash as much as they can, attempting to get closer to each other. Sally doesn’t like dogs and looks very annoyed) Alice: Larry, stop it! Gregor: Calm down, Sigmund, they’re all friends of mine. (Gregor keeps walking towards them and tries to control his dog) Gregor: Hello Sally, hello Alice, sorry about this. Alice: Hello Gregor. How nice to see you darling! Please sit with us. How are you? Gregor: Very well, thanks. How are you ladies? Sally: Not too bad.

Alice: Yes, not too bad. (Gregor sits down at their table) Gregor (looking at Sigmund): Isn’t it amazing how what seems like the most intelligent, peaceful and civilized dog can suddenly be transformed into a blind ferocious warrior? And all just by the presence of another peaceful dog! And what’s most unbelievable is that he has no sense of fear. This tiny little puppy wouldn’t hesitate a second to give up his life to fight against a pit bull! And all for absolutely no reason! (Everyone laughs) Sally: Well, I guess that’s the main difference between humans and animals. (A young attractive woman wearing very little appears beside Gregor. He stares at her with an empty look.) Sally (without realising Gregor is not listening any more): They just follow their instinct, whereas we have the chance to think, judge the situation and decide what’s best. We’re privileged. Don’t you think? Are you listening to me? Alice (laughing): Maybe men are not that different from dogs after all! As soon as a certain stimulus comes along their instinct takes over everything else. Gregor (to the sexy woman): Ehm, can I help you madam? (inaudible conversation follows). Sally (laughing): You’re quite right. They say that a dog always resembles his owner! But Gregor doesn’t count, anyway. He’s still so young! Alice: He’s already 33! Sally: Well, he’s still single. Alice: If he was married it would be no different. Men are all the same in this respect. My husband is 55 and is still the same. I’m sure he wouldn’t miss any chance of cheating on me! Sometimes I wish he could find another woman so that he would leave me alone. Sally: My husband never looks at other women. Maybe he’s just too lazy for that. (The girl leaves) Alice: I’d say he is the exception, not Gregor. Gregor (slowly turning towards the ladies): How disappointing! It would be most flattering for me to be considered an exception. Sally (with sarcasm): Look who’s back! Alice: Our most intelligent peaceful civilized friend! Gregor: You must forgive me, ladies. That woman needed some help. She was lost and I had to give her some directions. Alice (sarcastically): Of course! Sally (smiling): Oh, how kind of you! And did you get her telephone number? Gregor: I didn’t. But I left her my business card. Alice: Oh! Is that in case she gets lost again? Gregor: Precisely.

Sally: That’s so thoughtful of you! You see, during your absence we were just talking about how common this “kindness” is among the male population. Alice believes it to be inconveniently common. Gregor: I guess too much kindness is undesirable. Alice: That’s what I think. Sally: You’re too pessimistic. Alice: I don’t think so. But we should listen to Gregor’s neutral opinion. Gregor: Everyone wants to ask my opinion and no one wants to listen to it. Alice: We’d love to listen to it. A successful writer and deep reader of the human mind like you will certainly be able to help us. Gregor: I can read everything apart from my own writing. What is your dispute about? Sally: We were just wondering if a man would ever be able to control the urge of having, let’s say, to “help” such women that look so particularly in need. Gregor (laughing): I certainly wouldn’t be able to, I’ve been brought up as a gentleman. Alice: Yes, we know that. But would it be any different if you were a middle-aged happily married man? Gregor: They won’t need my help any more by that time. They’ll prefer someone younger. Sally: So you’re trying to “help” as many women as possible for as long as you can I guess. Gregor: That’s right. Sally: Gregor, may I ask you when was the last time you had a steady girlfriend? Gregor: That was in primary school. In the first year. Her name was Emma. Sally: Ah very sweet! And how long did that last? Gregor: About 3 months. Sally: And that’s your longest relationship? Gregor: As far as I know, yes. Alice: How did it end? Gregor: She said she needed some time to think. Alice: That’s always a bad sign. Gregor: I also had an imaginary girlfriend for quite a while. I guess I was missing Emma. Sally: How did that one go? Gregor: I broke up with her after two months because she was nagging at me all the time. (The ladies laugh) Alice: Do you think you will ever get married then? Gregor: Yes, I shall get married as soon as I find the right woman. But how to know which is the right one until you’ve tried them all? Alice (laughing): OK I guess you are quite an exception. Let’s take another example then. What about the case of Mr. Rutherford? Sally: Oh I’ve always thought he was slimy. Alice: No you haven’t. Sally: How can a man leave a wife and two children for that stupid 24 year old toilet cleaner!! Gregor: He didn’t, in fact. Sally: What do you mean? Gregor: Technically it was his wife who broke up with him.

Sally: Of course! Because she found out about his affair. What was she supposed to do? Ask the girl to move in with them? Gregor: I don’t know, I’m not judging her. I’m just saying it was her who chose to break up the family, not him. Sally: Well all this wouldn’t have happened if he was a man rather than an animal. No sense of responsibility! And why can’t he understand that the girl is only interested in his money? Alice: We don’t know her. Maybe she genuinely loves him. Sally: There’s nothing genuine about our Russian immigrants. Alice: Come on, don’t be racist! Sally: Who’s talking about race? I’m talking about cultural and social differences. And I believe that opportunism is very common in people who have been living in miserable conditions and left their post-communist country to come here in order to try and get a better life. And Mr Rutherford is just the first fool she found. I’m sorry but I have much more respect for Sigmund than for those two. Alice: Animals are always better than humans. But our point wasn’t about putting Mr Rutherford on trial. What we were arguing about is if other men in the same situation would have behaved differently. Gregor, what do you think? Gregor: Well, I’ve seen Jelena and I can tell you that any man who claims he would have behaved differently is a liar. Alice: And that’s exactly what I thought. Sally: Gregor, how can you talk like that? I only forgive you because you’re still young and you don’t know what you’re talking about. Gregor: Obviously that was just my humble opinion. Sally: You’ve never been humble, Gregor. You’re actually very conceited and if every man was like you there would be no families left. Gregor (looking embarrassed): That is not true! Sally: Oh yes, unless the woman decides not to give any importance to her husband’s faithfulness. Maybe that’s what you wish women would do. Sorry my friend, but I have no sympathy for this. A grown-up man should behave according to his responsibilities and not according to his animal instincts. Gregor: You must agree with me that most middle-aged married men would never be in the position of having to try to resist to Jelena’s seductive weapons. He’s been particularly lucky. Or maybe unlucky, I forget which. Alice (laughing): Sorry, Gregor, but that doesn’t really make it any better. The point is that as soon as a strong enough temptation comes along, no matter how uncommon this might be, men are totally helpless. Sally: How can men be such weak creatures? Gregor: Everyone has his weakness. Can you resist the temptation of buying expensive things that you don’t need? Sally: No. But that’s totally harmless. Gregor: The harmless things are the most dangerous. Consumerism is the worst disease of modern society. Sally: I’m talking about temptations that can lead you to damage other people’s lives. I don’t understand how you can justify such behaviour. Those people should be castrated. Gregor: Moralism has never helped anyone. If a branch was to fall upon someone’s head would you consider the tree to be immoral? Or would you want to punish a wild animal for having bitten someone?

Sally: What’s this nonsense all about? We’re human, we make choices and we shall be responsible for them. Gregor: Free will is only an illusion. Our choices are influenced by factors we haven’t chosen. Our genes, parents, society, friends. Chance is our lord, we are not free at all. Sally: Is that all you think we are? What about our soul? Gregor: You see you were talking about reason and rational choices. Now you have moved onto metaphysical soil. Maybe we do have a soul, but there is no proof. Now is it fair to judge and wish for punishment when all our judgements are only based on a metaphysical hypothesis? Sally: That’s sounds like anarchy, or apathy. Gregor: My question is, why would anyone do the wrong thing if he really had a choice? Alice: That’s because we don’t know we’re doing something wrong. If I could start my life again I would change everything! I really wish I could! Sally: If you are thinking of stabbing someone is it that difficult to understand that you’re going to hurt him? And Alice, you can still change things if you only had the courage! At any time! (Alice starts crying and tries to cover her face) Gregor (embarrassed): Ehm, this conversation is getting too personal, I think I should leave. Alice: I’m sorry, Gregor, I’m OK, you don’t need to leave. Gregor: Actually I’m running late, I really need to rush. It was good to see you ladies. Alice: See you soon, Gregor. Sally: Take care. Gregor: Goodbye. (Exit Gregor) Sally: Are you OK, Alice? Alice: Yes I’m fine, don’t worry. Sally: Don’t mind what Gregor says. He has some really abstract ideas. He’s only good at writing novels. In real life matters he is totally inept. He dates a different woman every week. He has never been able to be in a relationship and he never will. And have you noticed how he was looking at your cleavage? Alice (laughing): Most men do. I don’t mind it. I like Gregor, he’s a very interesting guy. (Long pause. Her expression gets serious) Sally let’s go out tonight. I really need it. Why don’t we go dancing and stay out all night? Sally: What will you say to Robert? He will be furious! Alice: It wouldn’t be the first time. I might as well give him a real reason for his anger this time. Sally: Alright then. It would be a great night. You can sleep at mine. We’ll tell him you’re sick and don’t feel able to drive back home. (Enter Bill, expensively dressed)

Bill (with an American accent): Can I buy you ladies some champagne? Sally (hesitating): Actually we were about to‌ Alice: Of course! Please take a seat with us. (Bill joins the ladies. Stage lights out.) Sally and Alice (clinking glasses with him): Cheers. END OF ACT ONE --------------------------------------------------

ACT TWO (Alice is sitting on a sofa. She is looking enraptured by the taste of her drink while Sally is walking up and down the room – demarcated with masking tape on the stage floor and a stand-alone door – with ostentatious anxiety) Alice: Sally, why don’t you sit down, you’re making me feel anxious. Sally: It’s been a very stressful time. I can’t even sleep. (Walks towards Alice and notices marks on her body): What are these? Alice: Nothing. Sally: Robert has been hitting you again! Alice: It’s nothing serious, just a few bruises. It’s been worse. Sally: This is awful. Alice: You didn’t expect him to believe the story of me being too sick to drive back the other night, did you? Sally: I’m so sorry! (Walks up and down the room again) It’s all happening so fast! Alice: Sally, would you sit down? Sally: We need to make a very difficult life-changing decision. Alice: I know and I’ve made up my mind. Sally (stops walking and looks at her): Oh I’m glad to hear that! We need to be strong and face reality. Our marriages have been a failure and we need to move on. Alice (Looking very surprised): Sally! How can you say such a thing! You have a very caring husband and a lovely young daughter! Yours has been a happy and successful marriage which I’ve always envied. Sally: No, Alice. I only thought I was happy. But now I can see my relationship died a very long time ago. It died very slowly, day by day and we just didn’t notice it. I didn’t know what true love was. No one has ever made me feel so special like Bill does. Alice: Sally, what has happened to you? This can’t be true! Please think of Frank and Anne! What will they do without you? Sally: Anne is already 17. She doesn’t need me anymore; she gets on very well with her father and she should be old enough to understand my decision. And for Frank it won’t make any difference. As I told you our love died long ago. I don’t even remember the last time he told me that he loves me. It has been a very difficult decision and I thought a lot about it. Alice: Maybe you thought too much. Sally: The other day I asked him to go dancing with me, just for once, just to make me happy. Was that asking too much? Obviously he said he doesn’t like dancing, he’s tired, he has to wake up early in the morning and I should go on my own. (Pause) He saw me crying a few times and he just kept asking (mocking a retarded masculine voice): ‘What is it? What are you crying about?’ No words of compassion. He just thinks I’m a spoilt neurotic who is crying for no reason. Alice (Sarcastically): Oh, I wonder where he got that strange idea from? Sally: I don’t know. He just doesn’t understand me! Alice: Imagine if he did! Sally: The other day I told him that I was considering a divorce. Alice: Oh my God!

Sally: Just to see his reaction. And do you know what he said? That I wouldn’t be able to make it on my own. That I have never worked, I am used to spending all my money on silly things, and so on. Alice (very sarcastically): Oh, what a negative character! So discouraging! Sally: And then in the evening he came up with this silly list. He wrote down all the expenses I’d have if I was to live by myself, he added them all up and wrote how much I’d have to earn. How pathetic! ‘Where are you gonna go?’ he was saying, ’you won’t find another man like me!’, ‘you have everything, you live in a nice house, you don’t need to work’, blah blah blah. This is all he can come up with to persuade me to stay. As if I cared about money. Love is what a woman needs! If he only knew I’m about to go to Las Vegas with a millionaire! Alice: Are you definitely going then? Are you sure? Sally: Yes; and it will be fantastic! The four of us going around the world and starting a new life with our new lovers!! Alice: Who said I am coming too? Sally: Come on, don’t be silly, of course you’re coming. Alice: I’m serious. I’m not going anywhere and I told Michael already. Sally: You must be crazy!! This is your only chance of getting out of all this misery!! Alice: Sally, you’ve made your decision and I respect it. I’ve made mine and I’m not going to change my mind. Sally: No! You have to change your mind! Please be rational for once in your life. You have got absolutely no reason to stay here. Alice: This whole thing is crazy! We went out, we had a lot to drink, we met two charming guys and we spent a wonderful night with them and that’s it. For me that’s the end of the story. Sally: But Michael is a lovely guy. I thought you liked him. Alice: He seems like a great guy but I don’t know him at all and I’m married. If I was single it would be a different matter. Sally: Alice, you’re married to a low-life and a dangerous maniac who keeps you locked in his house most of the time and beats you up every time he gets drunk. You have no children, no job and no social life. You’ve always complained about how miserable your life is and that you couldn’t get out of it because you were alone. Now you have a chance to escape. Even if you are not sure about your feelings for Michael yet, at least let him help you to get out of here. Like when you let Robert help you to get rid of your first stalker. Give Michael a chance. You have nothing to lose. Alice: Robert needs me. I can’t leave him. He is very fragile, he has a drinking problem, and God knows what he would do! He could try to kill me or try to kill himself. Sally: Alice, your relationship is sick and harmful for both of you. Just consider yourself lucky that you don’t have children and leave. Alice: But I have Larry. I can’t separate from him! Sally: Larry? (Hysterical laugh) Larry is just a dog! Alice: He’s not just a dog. He’s my dog. I love him. Sally: All dogs are the same. They bark, bite, run around and urinate all over the place. That’s all they do. You can get another dog as soon as you settle down in a new home with Michael. Alice: You’ve never liked animals. You just can’t understand and there’s no point in me even trying to explain it to you. Just go away with your Bill and leave me alone.

Sally: Animals are selfish, they just do what they want, they can’t think. But we can! That is our privilege and responsibility, and you must think about the mistake you’re making. Alice: Larry would never abandon me for no reason. Sally: That’s just because he expects you to feed him. Alice: The only one who’s being selfish is you, Sally. Can’t you see it? Aren’t you behaving just like Mr. Rutherford? Sally: Don’t you dare to compare me to that pig! I’m leaving because I eventually found true love, I’m not after a slutty Russian toilet cleaner. Alice: I guess a millionaire sounds more like your type. However, only two weeks ago you were preaching about family and responsibilities. And now you’re talking about a life-changing decision. Is it really a decision? Sally: The truth is you are only jealous. You have an opportunity to change your life, but you don’t have the courage to take it. Therefore the only thing that’s left for you is to try to stop me from taking it. That would make you feel better, wouldn’t it? Alice: No, you can do what you like. But stop your bloody preaching. It takes more courage to stay, than to run away. The truth is that you know you are doing something wrong and you hope for me to make the same mistake as you so that you can feel less guilty. Sally (raising her voice): I was only trying to help you because I feel sorry for you. But it seems like you don’t want to be helped at all. And do you know why? Because you like being the victim. This is the origin of all your troubles. You like to think you’ve just been very unlucky, but it’s time for you to face the fact that it is all your fault. You chose to marry a psychopath, you do things to provoke his anger and you are not willing to give up your game. It’s a very dangerous one and I fear that you may only realize it when it is too late. Alice (starts to cry): Please just leave me alone. Sally: As you wish. Good luck! Alice: Good luck to you! (Sally leaves the room via the stand-alone door and sees Gregor walking towards her) Sally: Gregor! I was just about to call you. Gregor: Good evening, Sally. Sally: What are you up to? Gregor: Just walking and looking around. That’s a big part of the life of an artist. Sally: I know! Nowadays everyone who is incapable or unwilling to do anything has gone into the arts. Gregor: Not everyone! Only the most talented ones. The other ones may be housewives. Sally: You would be surprised if you knew what hard work it is being a housewife, but obviously you don’t have a clue. Gregor: Well I shall leave you to your busy hard tasks then. Sally: No wait, I need to talk to you. Gregor: How can an artist be of any use to such a busy woman? Sally: In fact it’s not about me. I am worried about Alice. Gregor: What’s wrong with her?

Sally: Her husband is extremely abusive. You’ll seen her in a minute, she has marks all over her body. He’s an alcoholic and we don’t know how far this situation might go. She doesn’t want to leave him. I’ve tried to convince her but she wouldn’t listen to me. Would you try talking to her? Gregor: Why me? If she hasn’t listened to you, what makes you think she would listen to me? Sally: She would never listen to me because we are too close. I’m too involved in her life. Whenever I make a suggestion that she doesn’t want to consider, she’ll just insinuate that I’m making it for my own sake. Or she’ll say that it’s influenced by my point of view, which she obviously knows very well. In other words my opinion is not neutral. Gregor: No one’s opinion can be neutral. Sally: Well then, let’s just say that you are as neutral as it can get. Furthermore you may have some useless ideas but you are quite good with words. Also she seems to like you. The other day she said your ideas were interesting. If she can listen to that nonsense then she should listen even more now that you have something obvious and practical to say. Gregor: Nonsense is the only thing worth listening to. I can talk to her but I don’t think it will help. Sally: It’s worth a try. Even if she won’t change her mind it would be good if you kept an eye on her. Nobody else knows about this and I’ll be away for a while. Gregor: Where are you going? Sally: That’s none of your business. One last thing. Please don’t mention I told you about this. She would be furious. Just go to visit her with an excuse and then pretend you’re guessing from her bruises. Good luck! Gregor: Thanks. Goodbye. (Exit Sally. Gregor knocks at Alice’s door. Alice opens the door) Alice: Gregor! What a surprise. Please come in. I was just about to call you! Gregor (surprised): Were you? (Gregor comes in and they go and sit on the sofa) Alice: What are you up to? Gregor (Coughs with embarrassment): Nothing, just passing by, looking around… Alice: I need to talk to you. It’s very important. It’s a very serious matter. Gregor (serious and proud of being helpful): I’d be very happy to help you. Tell me. What’s bothering you? You know you can trust me. Alice: Actually it’s not about me. Gregor: Is it not? Alice: It’s about Sally. She’s gone out of her mind. Gregor (surprised): What do you mean? Alice: The other night we went out together and she met someone. Now this rich guy is corrupting her soul with expensive presents, promises and cheesy love letters. So she’s about to abandon her family and leave with Bill for a trip around the world. Gregor (enthusiastically surprised): Wow! What a story! Who would have thought? She wanted to be Mrs Right and she ends up selling her soul to Mr Bill! That would

make a great novel! No matter how hard I try to stretch my imagination, reality is always far more inventive and unbelievable. Alice: Gregor, there’s no time to lose. She’s meant to leave on Monday for Las Vegas. We only have a week to try to stop her. I’ve tried to talk to her but… Gregor (interrupts): But she didn’t listen to you. Alice: Exactly, no matter how hard I try she wouldn’t listen because we… Gregor (interrupting): You’re too close friends and your opinion is considered biased. Alice (very surprised and enthusiastic): Yes!!! How did you know? Gregor: I don’t know, just had a déjà vu. Alice (very impressed): Ah, you are such an intelligent, sensitive soul! You have to talk to her! You are the only person who can help her because… Gregor (interrupting again with a resigned tone): Because I can give her a neutral opinion that she would be more inclined to listen to. Alice: Yes!!! Gregor (raising his voice): No! (Alice looks at him shocked) Gregor (slightly defensive): No one wants to listen to people’s neutral opinions! Neutral opinions are abusive! Unqualified! Pretentious! Corny! Everyone likes to give them but no one wants to hear them. Alice (looking confused): But you are different. You are so wise and understanding, anyone would be happy to learn from your advice! Gregor: Certainly not, Sally. Furthermore why should I try to change her mind? She has the right to do what she wants. Alice: There’s a child involved. Gregor: Between having a mother in America and having a mother at home who doesn’t want to be there, I wouldn’t know what’s worse. It’s too late, Alice. She will do what she feels is best, like we all do. But maybe I can still help you. What are these marks on your body? Alice: That’s none of your business! Gregor: You see! How am I supposed to help people? (pause) It’s your husband, isn’t it? Alice: Listen, if you’ve been sent here by Sally you’re wasting your time. Gregor: Does it make any difference why I am here? Why don’t you tell me what’s going… (Alice kisses him passionately on his mouth) Gregor: What are you doing? Alice: Forget about my husband! (Alice hugs him, kisses him and starts to slowly open the buttons of his shirt. At this point Sally enters carrying a huge suitcase) Sally: What’s going on here? Gregor what are you doing?

(Gregor and Alice look at Sally speechless and embarrassed while Gregor quickly closes his shirt) Gregor: (cough): I was just trying to help her and then… Sally: And then you decided to help yourself! Gregor: What are YOU doing here anyway? Sally: That’s none of your business. Please go away, I need to talk to Alice. Gregor: What? You should be the one leaving! Can’t you realize you arrived at the most inconvenient time? Sally: Better me than Robert. If it was him who surprised you he would have killed both of you. Gregor, you must be very careful here. And now please leave, I’m in trouble and I need Alice’s help. Alice: Let him stay! He may be helpful too. Sally: I haven’t got time for his abstruse speculations. I need your help, Alice. Gregor: OK, I’ve had enough of you two and all your problems. You sort yourselves out. Goodbye. Alice: Goodbye Gregor. Please come back soon! (Exit Gregor) Alice: So what is it? Why are you carrying that suitcase? Sally: Frank kicked me out of the house. He read all my correspondence with Bill. When I went back home I found this note and the suitcase just outside the door. (Sally hands out a piece of paper to Alice) Alice (reading aloud from the note):’My dear sweet wife, I have just found out about your imminent trip and because I love you, I decided to save you from all the packing and put all your things in this suitcase’ (smiles) Oh, that’s so sweet of him! (Keeps reading): ‘I will send you the rest of your stuff as soon as you let me know your new address. Enjoy your trip with Bill and have a good life. Your beloved husband’. (Alice gives the note back to Sally and smiles): Well it’s nice to read that he still loves you, isn’t it? I always said he’s such a gentleman! (Changing her tone of voice): Anyway, now may I ask you what the hell are you doing here? Sally: I haven’t got a place to stay tonight. Alice: Oh, haven’t you? Sally: No, I haven’t. Alice (Sarcastically): Oh, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Sally: Yes it is. Alice: Well, then you better find a place soon. Good luck, my friend, let me know how you get on. Sally: Alice, please be serious. I have nowhere else to go. Alice: So after all the things you said to me, now you expect me to host you here for a week? Sally: Whether I was right or wrong, everything I said was just a genuine attempt to help you and now I need you to help me. Alice: Oh, do you? Then listen to this. Take your suitcase, go back home, apologize to your husband, promise him you are going nowhere and cancel your flight. That is the best help I can offer.

Sally: I don’t want to see him any more. And even if I went back and apologized it wouldn’t help. I know Frank, he will never forgive me. He’s too proud. Alice: He loves you and he has always been very tolerant and understanding. I’m sure he will give you a second chance if you ask him. Sally: It’s all over! (Cries): and it’s his fault! I told him I wanted to leave and what did he do? I only wanted to hear that he loved me and couldn’t live without me! I wouldn’t have gone anywhere!! He just kept patronising and that made me want to leave even more! Alice: Please try one last time. What have you got to lose? You can’t stay here till Monday anyway. Robert wouldn’t let you. Sally: I’m too shocked to do anything. But I promise you I’ll think about it. Please let me sleep here at least for tonight and tomorrow we’ll sort out what to do. Alice: OK. It’s partly my fault that you met Bill anyway. You can sleep here tonight. (Sally cries and hugs Alice)




(Alice lays in a bed on a bare stage. She has several broken bones. Sally enters the room) Alice: Sally! What a surprise! (big hug) Sally: I came as soon as I found out. Alice: It’s so nice to see you! It’s been ages! Sally: I know! Almost five years. So, what happened? Alice: I just fell down the stairs. Nothing to worry about. Sally: It looks a bit more serious than that. Alice: I fell backwards. It’s been a very bad fall. It could have been much worse actually. How did you find out? Sally: From Gregor. He should be here soon. Alice: Have you kept in contact with him? Sally: No, I haven’t been in contact with anyone. I don’t even know how he managed to find me. Have you been in touch with him? Alice: No, not really. How have you been anyway? Sally: I went through a lot, but I’m fine now. Alice: How is your Bill? Sally: Oh my “bill” has been paid off. And maybe in part I’m still paying for it. Alice: What do you mean? What happened? Sally: We only lasted two months. At the beginning it was great. I felt like I was twenty again. But after a while our relationship got worse and worse. Bill started to accuse me of being too serious and too boring and we had a big fight. And so he broke up with me and left me there with no money and nowhere to live. Alice: I’m so sorry to hear that. Poor you! Sally: Well, I should have known better. It was all a big mistake. Alice (Sarcastically): Was it? Who would have thought! Sally: How is your marriage going? Alice: Up and down. Same old story. How did you manage after Bill left? Sally: You don’t want to know what I did. I was on the street, alone with no money, no work experience and unable to speak Portuguese. Alice: Poor you! Why didn’t you just contact someone here to send you some money for you to come back ? Sally: Who could I ask? My departure disappointed and upset everyone. I left with no goodbye and no explanation. It’s my mistake and I have to pay the price. I was and I still am too ashamed to see anyone. I only convinced myself to see you because of these extreme circumstances and I will fly back tomorrow morning. Alice: Don’t you even want to see your daughter? See how she is doing, if she misses you, if she needs anything? Sally: I wouldn’t be able to look her in the eyes. Alice: I think you are being too hard on yourself. I tried my best to stop you from leaving and I still feel guilty for my failure. But maybe I’m still in time to help you. Would you listen to me now? Cancel your flight and go to see all your family. Sally: I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you and I appreciate the fact that you tried to warn me and that’s why I came to visit you. But now it’s too late.

Alice: You have to try. There might still be room for understanding and forgiveness. Sally: I don’t deserve to be forgiven. Alice: You should leave the decision to them. Sally: I don’t feel ready for it. Maybe in the future… but I’ll think about it. (Enter Gregor) Gregor: Good morning, ladies. Alice: Good morning! Sally: Hello, Gregor! It’s nice to see you. Gregor: (kisses Sally on the cheek) Nice to see you too. How are you? Sally: I’m good. I heard your last novel was a great success. Congratulations! Gregor: Thanks. Will you read it? Sally: What is it about? Gregor: It’s the story of a writer called John who starts to write a great novel but somehow is unable to finish it. Some people have already read the chapters he has completed and everyone has great expectations. A few publishers have shown interest and are just waiting for him to finish it, confident of the fact that it will be a best seller. Every week he comes up with an idea and starts writing with great enthusiasm, but after a few days he decides that it’s not good enough and bins it. Alice: Is it autobiographical? Gregor: No, not at all. I’m very good at finishing my books. I may have long periods where I don’t write anything, but as soon as I am on to something my life stops. I lock myself into my studio and I get it finished very quickly. I sleep very little; sometimes I even forget to eat. Alice: So why is this guy not able to finish his book? Gregor: To be honest, I have no idea. I never fully understand my characters. What most critics have said is that the guy is too much in love with what he has already written. He knows it’s incomplete and he feels the need to finish it but at the same time nothing anyone could ever write would be a good enough ending. Sally: Maybe the fact that it’s incomplete is what he really likes. Gregor (somehow intrigued and distrustful at the same time): What do you mean? Sally: The story is only half way through so it can still take many different paths. And he is the one who has the power to choose where the story is going to go. And that’s what he likes. As soon as he starts writing something else he realizes that whatever direction he has chosen is preventing him going into all the others. Alice: Yes, this makes a lot of sense. It’s a bit like a teenager who can’t decide what he wants to study or what kind of career to take. Very often in life we have to choose among things we don’t know. It’s a real gamble. We have to buy without trying and there’s no return policy. So sometimes we get stuck in a shop and try to delay the decision for as long as possible. Sally: It would be so much easier if we knew we could just go back and change every time we realize we made a mistake! Gregor: I don’t think it would make things any easier. Life is like a chess match between an amateur and a master. No matter how many times we allow the amateur to go backwards and correct his moves, he will still keep finding himself in disadvantaged situations. The match would become pointless and never-ending, like John’s book. Alice: How does your book end?

Gregor: He gets in debt so has to give up his book and starts to work in a factory, spending the rest of his life in the illusion that one day he will finish the book. His wife leaves him and everyone else loses respect for him. Alice: That’s so sad! Gregor: It reminds me of Buridan’s donkey now that I think about it. Sally: What’s that? Gregor: It’s a famous paradox that satirises a French philosopher called Jean Buridan. There are two identical stacks of hay in front of a donkey who eventually starves to death because he is unable to make a rational choice between them. My character has a similar destiny. Sticking to any of the things he started to write would have been a much healthier choice than to keep going backwards to start again. So from this point of view the fact that in real life we don’t have the possibility to go back in time is probably an advantage. Alice: I still wish we could go back at least once. Just to change our biggest mistakes. Sally: That would be great! Gregor: Focusing on our past is our biggest mistake. Our actions are a mirror of our being. Sally: What do you mean? Gregor: Think of how unpredictable the movement of a ball flying in the air seems to be. At any instant the ball may change direction because of the spins. In reality though the whole trajectory is determined by the way the ball has been kicked and its interaction with the wind. Sally: I just wonder where you get these weird ideas from. Gregor: From Sigmund. Sally: You learn your ideas from your dog? That explains it. Gregor: Sigmund is much freer than all of us. He never questions his past nor his future, he lives for the present. He always does what he wants and never regrets it. And we respect him for this, we accept him for what he is. We know he doesn’t have any sense of morality and therefore nobody would make a moral judgement about what he does. Alice: So how is that applicable to us? Sally: I think Gregor is spending too much time with his dog. Gregor: For us the wind is blowing harder. What we want to do may often be in contrast with some of our feelings or with what is socially acceptable. Sally: Then you should have the advantage since you’ve got no sense of morality. Gregor: Don’t say that! Alice: Well, we can’t deny Gregor is in a better position than us. I’m stuck in a hospital bed, Sally is stuck in a voluntary exile, while Gregor is having an exciting life full of lovers and satisfactions. Sally: That might be true. So you have a sense of morality, Gregor? That contradicts everything you have said so far. Gregor: No one can ever fully escape from his own moral inhibitions. And even if you were able to overcome all of them, you would still have to face other people’s judgements in everything you do. Sally: You don’t seem to care too much about people’s opinion. Gregor: I care a lot, but not to the point of being stopped from doing what I want to do. People still try though. Conformists haven’t got the strength to be themselves and they find consolation if they can at least have the power to change others.

Alice: Who has tried to change you? Gregor: Many people. My parents tried harder than anyone else, but they didn’t get anywhere. Alice: I thought you would have been an ideal son. Gregor: I wasn’t born a successful writer. In my teens I was just a weird kid who wasn’t particularly worried about his future and was spending most of his time reading, listening to music and writing poems that didn’t make any sense to anyone. I had a terrible relationship with my parents and some of my teachers. I left home and school when I was 16. Alice: How did you get to university then? Gregor: I won a scholarship just after some of my books got published. Sally: Are you in contact with your parents now? Gregor: We tried a few times to recreate a relationship but it didn’t work. I think they never forgave me for having run away from home and I haven’t managed to forget the fact that they never accepted me for what I am. They wanted me to become a lawyer. Alice: Aren’t they proud of you now that you’ve made it? Gregor: They might boast about it with their friends, but they’re only proud of my success, what I do in itself has no value for them. We speak on the phone every now and then but we haven’t seen each other in years. Sally: Oh that’s a pity, you must feel lonely. Gregor: I only felt lonely living with them. Alice: I guess you’ve got all your lovers. Gregor: (smiles, then gets serious) Actually they don’t mean much to me. It’s more an addiction than anything else. Alice: Did you ever fall in love? Gregor: I constantly fall in love! At least three times a day. But then it never works out. It always turns out to be a disappointment. Alice: You had the most beautiful girls, how is it possible that none of them were right? Gregor: They go out with me because I’m confident and a bit cheeky. I go out with them for their looks. It’s a dreary deal actually. Sally: As long as everyone knows how things are, it’s fair enough. Gregor: They know I’m only after their looks and they don’t mind it. They are proud of their beauty. It’s only when I break up with them that they feel used. For me it’s very different. I feel used from the very start. Sally (sarcastically): Oh, what a sensitive soul!! Gregor: I can guarantee that if I was the most stupid and evil man in the world, to them it would make no difference, as long as I’m confident. Alice: Confidence is important. Gregor: Only for shallow people. Alice: Every women wants her man to be confident. Gregor: Exactly. And what does that say? Sally: That you’re an arrogant male chauvinist. Gregor: Thanks. Sally: You’re welcome. Gregor: As you might know, lots of young writers ask me to help them to get their work published. Now if I were to judge their talent from their confidence I'd be very

silly. You'd be surprised how often the most confident ones turn out to be the worst writers. Alice: Why is that? Gregor: Their confidence is just a consequence of their ignorance. They think their book is good because they don’t know what a good book is. When women see someone acting with confidence they assume he must be experienced and have a strong character. By the time they’ve realized he’s the opposite they’ve already had three children with him. Sally (Witty): It shouldn’t take that long. It only took me a few minutes to realize how weak you are! Gregor: I appreciate your skills, Sally. But often even when they realize their man’s confidence is just a mask, it doesn’t seem to bother them. As long as the mask is there, no one else will know he’s a wimp. And that’s what counts. (pause) Actually I’ve just been very unlucky. I’ve mostly met superficial women. But one day I’ll find the right one. Sally: (sarcastic) Yeah, keep dreaming… Alice: In what way are they shallow? Gregor: There’s nothing interesting about them. They do jobs they don’t even like themselves, they watch silly TV programs and Hollywood movies, listen to mainstream music, go to the gym, read celebrities magazines and they like going shopping, dancing and dating men like me. That's all. They are all the same. Just slight variations of the same girl. A shallow girl I have nothing in common with. Sally: Are you sure you don’t? Alice: Were they really all like that? Gregor: Of course not. But the few interesting ones I met had other problems. (serious) Too clingy or too neurotic, too cold, too fussy… Obviously I’m not an easy person to be with. I have a very unusual life style and I always put literature over everything else. Not many women can cope with this and it’s perfectly understandable. I don’t blame them. Alice: Is there one among all your past girlfriends who was slightly better then all the others? Gregor: Yes, that was the imaginary one! It was a mistake to split up with her. Sally: Maybe you should try to get back with her! Gregor: I’m afraid I’m too old for her now. Alice (laughing): Wasn’t she complaining all the time? Gregor: She was! But not as much as the other ones! Again, reality always exceeds my expectations. Alice (laughing): We can be quite annoying when we want to be. Gregor: I know!! Some men don’t mind it too much. I can't stand it. Sally: I think you’d better get used to it if you don’t want to be single for the rest of your life. Gregor: I don’t care. I don’t have time for that. What’s the use of nagging anyway? You can’t change a man. Sally: If we weren’t nagging at our man they would just forget about us. I guess it’s just our way of getting attention from you. Gregor: If a woman had something interesting to say she would easily get her man’s attention. Sally: Gregor, you’re just being arrogant. You are too cold and self-absorbed. You don’t show them enough love. They try not to think about it but then they can’t help

feeling a bit worried or angry about it. Sooner or later those feelings will have to come out somehow. Then if you show that you’re willing to spend an hour to listen to their rants, it means that maybe you care. Otherwise you’ll just confirm their worries about your feelings, which was the main problem in the first place. Gregor: This to me sounds so pathetic and counterproductive that it can only be true. Sally (angry): Gregor, your arrogance is pathetic and counterproductive! Why don’t you think about… Gregor (embarrassed): I know… I promise you I’ll think about it. Now it’s time to leave, I’m afraid. I’m already running late. When will I see you next, Sally? Sally: I don’t know. I’m going back to Brazil tomorrow morning. Gregor: Already? You must really like it over there? Sally: It’s not too bad nowadays. I have learnt the language and I’ve found a job. Gregor: So no plan of coming back? Sally: I will think about it. Gregor: Please do. (Gregor hugs Sally) I hope to see you soon. Sally: Me too, it was nice to talk to you. Gregor (kisses Alice on her cheek): I’ll come back to visit you in the next few days. Take care! Goodbye, ladies. (Exit Gregor) Sally: Well, I think I have to leave soon as well. Alice: I really appreciate your visit. I hope you will come back soon. Don’t disappear again. Sally: I’ll be in touch. (hesitating): By the way, Alice… Alice: Tell me. Sally: This wasn’t an accident, was it? You don’t expect me to believe it, do you? Alice: (Uncomfortable): No, it wasn’t an accident. I’ve been thrown down the stairs. Sally: He nearly killed you and you’re still protecting him. What more can he do for you to understand that he is not the “perfect” husband? Alice: He begged me to forgive him. He promised me he will never hit me again. He was crying like a baby. He was very worried. He said if I had died he would have killed himself because he can’t live without me! Sally: I know that he really means it, I have no doubt about that. But I don’t think he will be able to keep his promise, no matter how much he wants to. Alice: You should have seen how apologetic he was. I think he has changed, Sally. Sally: How can you… Alice: He said he loves me. I want to give him one more chance. Just one more chance. (Sally looks at her speechless with a sad expression, then she looks away and takes a deep breath) THE END

Sigmund's Free Will  

A play in three acts. Commentary by the playwright: Two married ladies in their forties and a young writer confer with each other about th...

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