Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Let Dogs Lie, Part 3

Podcast.

Vandergraf enters the room with Joli. Vandergraf is holding a handful full of receipts. Joli is carrying a handful of scarves and a globe of the earth.

VANDERGRAFT

Ever since I started shopping in the menswear department, I've gotten compliments on my cooking.

JOLI

Picasso would not have admired your need for unity.

VANDERGRAFT

Gray socks are more versatile than the others. Men's shoes are too predictable. I see the disorder in the most careful arrangement.

(Pause.)

Reality is a three-piece suit.

(Pause.)

That's the trendy way to say it.

(Pause.)

Really, all I'm doing is trying to dehumanize art. That's not new. It's irresponsible.

JOLI

Rehumanization is equally irresponsible.

(Pulls out a scarf and ties it around his left arm.)

Look.

(Pause.)

An armband.

(Pause.)

Or a tourniquet.

I'm either mourning a life lost or attempting to save my own. What difference does either make?

VANDERGRAFT

Tourniquet? Armband?

(Sits at table noisily. RENSSELAER and Grizz do not pay attention. Now they are looking at each other, holding each other's hands.

Fashion. Life is fashion. Plague or its symbols are thrill-seeking.

JOLI

More definitions.

VANDERGRAFT

Art?

(Picks up box. Looks at it slowly.)

A cheap engineer. Tinguely's destruction machines never worked right. And they called that art.

(Picks up a beer can, takes a long drink.)

The real artists never get the credit.

JOLI

When I surgicate the dogs, that's art.

MOUCHIE

Surgicate? What kind of language is that?

MALLARME

He means "operates on and mutilates." They used to call it vivisection. Civilized countries outlawed it.

MOUCHIE

And it's legal here?

MALLARME

Of course. The government even gives universities, corporations and not-for-profits a lot of money to do it.

VANDERGRAFT

Jean Tinguely made all those sculptures that would blow up. I don't see how working in the dog lab is art.

MOUCHIE

I wish she'd shut up.

JOLI

Tomorrow I'm doing open-heart surgery on a couple of labs. I'm gonna make them infarct--

VANDERGRAFT

Give them heart attacks?

JOLI

--then sew them back up & stick them back on the treadmills. I want to see how long it takes them to have another heart attack.

VANDERGRAFT

That's about the most obvious kind of research I can envision. What's the point? Isn't it obvious? Do you learn anything at all that's new?

JOLI

No. Of course not. But it gives us pre-meds a lot of practice in the OR.

(Pauses.)

That's what makes it art.


MOUCHIE, MALLARME, MONTAIGNE, AND MACHIAVELLI

(Sit up. Look appalled. Speak lines separately and in unison.)

I'm going to be sick. How can they do that?

Why don't we bite them to see how quickly they bleed to death. That will teach us something about dogs. Right?

That's assuming we want to say that human bleeding is a key to all animal bleeding. But humans are different.

Won't anyone stop them?

I'm going to be sick.

VANDERGRAFT

Oh. I get it now.

That's really cool.

(Pauses.)

I love art.

JOLI

Salt. Pepper. Box. Pandora.

(Pauses.)

False groupings. A mistake. A false positive i.d.

Language loses its flavor.

It has to be opened up.

(Pause.)

Pandora.

Now that's one archetype that won't go away.

(Vandergraft looks down at the table -- won't look at Joli.)

That's really what happened, isn't it. That's why you're here now.

VANDERGRAFT

Why don't you stop?

(moves box across the table.)

Wasn't it enough to pretend you loved me? It makes me sick to think about it. I didn't want to live. I felt so ashamed.

(Looks at Joli.)

Ashamed!

Don't you know what that is?

JOLI

Of course.

(Puts hand to face. Watches Vandergraft, who is very uncomfortable.)

I'm not going to let you play "wise woman" to my "foolish young pup" role.

(pulls up chair closer to table.)

If you had been more in reality instead of in your fantasy, delusional world, maybe you could have convinced the cops that the person who ID'd you was wrong.

VANDERGRAFT

No one believes an old woman.

JOLI

I believe you. Doesn't that count?

VANDERGRAFT

No. You're supposed to say, "But Graffi, dear, you're not an old woman -- and you especially weren't when that happened. You're a vibrant, alive, alluring mature woman.

JOLI

You care more about that than if someone believes you or not?

VANDERGRAFT

People always believe the seductive charmers.

JOLI

Or they never believe them.

RENSSELAER

What do I have to make you believe I love you?

GRIZZ

Honey, a lot more than you're doing now.

RENSSELAER

I hate you, you cold-hearted wretch!

(Bursts into loud weeping and rises from table.)

GRIZZ

And I'm supposed to believe that you love me now?

(Picks up the box and throws it on the floor.)

You torment me to no end, woman!

(Exits stage.)

RENSSELAER

(Picks up box and puts it on the table.)

I'm so sick of having to prove myself!

(Resumes weeping and exits stage.)

(Softly, between sobs.)

Play chess.

Study moves.

Memory, memory, memory.

MALLARME

I want to bite the tar out of that monster who is so proud of his vivisection. Surgicate! I want to surgicate his throat!

(whines.)

Would it be okay?

MONTAIGNE

We've gotten rid of two witnesses. Now if we can get rid of this woman, we can do it.

MACHIAVELLI

Who cares if we have a witness.

MONTAIGNE

You want to be put down?

MOUCHIE

Like put to sleep?

MACHIAVELLI

Like offed?

MALLARME

Like killed?

MONTAIGNE

Right.

VANDERGRAFT

They said I was the one who killed the sign painter and put her hands in a box, packed in salt.

JOLI

Someone had been reading too much Arthur Conan Doyle or Edgar Allan Poe.

VANDERGRAFT

What could I have against signs, anyway?

(Pause.)

I think they all disrupt themselves without any help from the local vigilante amputator. (Pause.)

I see this box, and I, like everyone else, expect it to contain someone's head, an ear, or a set of hands.

Unopened, the box is redolent with symbolic promise.

(opens the box. Turns it upside down. Something wrapped in gauze falls out.)

JOLI

Tomorrow, I'm surgicating the two dogs we got in last week from a man who said he had a few left over from the litter his beagle had last summer.

(Pause.)

I can't wait to operate on a small dog.

VANDERGRAFT

(Unwrapping the gauze.)

I can't believe I was so intoxicated by your flattery, and what I thought was your human warmth.

This will obviously tell me something about betrayal.

Amputation.

Metonymy for abandonment? Betrayal?

(Pause.)

Being cut off?

(Pause.)

I'm sorry. There was not call for that pun.

JOLI

It's too late.

The rehumanization of art is irresponsible.

We don't need someone to glue some bad attitudes onto art and call it "culture" or "wisdom."

VANDERGRAFT

Was this really necessary?

(Holds up a small paw. A dog's paw. The gauze lies heaped up on the table.)

JOLI

Ah, the resurrection motif.

I love it.

(Vandergraft exits stage left. Her exit is almost soundless.)
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^continued in Part 4

LET DOGS LIE - Part 3
A play in one act

by Susan Smith Nash

copyright 1996 by Susan Smith Nash, all rights reserved

Please register all performances in advance by contacting Susan Smith Nash at susan@beyondutopia.com Also, please inquire about scholarships, grants, and prizes available for those who perform this play and provide information about the performance (reviews, photographs, copy of the program, etc.) Special incentives / prizes available to repertory groups using high school and undergraduate students. Please note that this play and others are collected in catfishes & jackals, published by potes & poets press, and available through Small Press Distribution. http://www.spdbooks.org

Performance history: This play was first performed in February 1997 at St. Gregory's College in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The play was directed by Dr. Susan Procter. Many thanks and fond memories to everyone at St. Gregory's College, and to Father Lawrence, Father Victor, Sister Veronica. The wonderful people of St. Gregory's blessed my life in many ways -- ways I'm still discovering. The play was also performed at DC Art Center in Adams Morgan, Washington, DC, in April 1997.

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