Thursday, September 29, 2005

Endangered: A Play in One Act (Part II)


(Enter Mandolin. She is wiping her face with a handkerchief -- has obviously been weeping. She is wearing a huge t-shirt that has words stencilled on it:




She is lost in thought.)

MANDOLIN: My mother wasn’t any kind of role model at all.

(Boethius runs toward the bars of the cage, does a little flip, hits the ground and rolls on the ground hysterically.)

DANTE: (whispering) Boethius. Come on. Snap out of it.

(Boethius is still sniveling, weeping)

MERCK: Those leopards are starting to scare me. I wonder if they’re psychotic.

(Goes to EMERGENCY ONLY phone box at side of cage. Lifts up receiver.)

Hi. I want to report that the leopards have gone berserk. They’re about to maul something. One is acting crazy & I’m scared --

Thanks. But I don’t want to go to another exhibit. I came here today to look at the FABULOUS FELINES. I read about it in the paper.

Is this the way they act in their natural habitat?

(Boethius does a mock charge toward Merck)

Oh my God! (Hangs up phone and backs away from cage)

DANTE: BOETHIUS!!!! Get a grip!!!

BOETHIUS: Tranq me! Go ahead ! Tranq me! Existence is too painful!

MERCK: This leopard is acting weird. (to Boethius) Hey kitty, kitty -- calm down -- it’s going to be a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

MANDOLIN: My father left home before I was 3. I don’t remember him.

And now they talk to me about patriarchy, male-domination, oppression.

Everything’s so literal. Where did the concept of metaphor go? Doesn’t

anyone have the ability to think in figurative terms any more?

DANTE: (perking up -- has been listening) No! Of course not! You lost that privilege, honey, when you and your kind started killing off the endangered & calling it a “fashion statement”!!

MERCK: I’m going to call the zookeeper about this. They look dangerous. I wonder if they have rabies.

BOETHIUS: I used to be beautiful and now look at me! I try to say I’m happy I’m not someone’s coat, but really I don’t care. Sometimes I wish they had taken me down. At least it would be over -- this suffering ---

MANDOLIN: Now extinction is a good example. Extinction is more a state of mind than a reality, isn’t it. I mean, things are always dying, being born, dying --

(pause) even dying out.

It’s not healthy to think of extinction as literal. Only figuratively. As part of the great chain of being. Metamorphosis. Transformation.

BOETHIUS: I’m dead either way. Either they take me for my skin. Or they tear up my home and kill my family. Or I get the slow death of being here in this cage -- every day a humiliation.

MERCK: Here kitty -- HAPPY CAT -- can you say that? I’m a HAPPY CAT.

BOETHIUS: (skips around the cage) This is NOT Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. No I CAN NOT pronounce “happy cat” -- are you happy with your fut hat? Can you say HAPPY HAT?

(yowls in a sing-song tone)

Happy happy HAPPY oh H A P P Y oh HAPPY -- Can you say happy HAG? Hee-hee-hee. (Laughs hysterically while prancing around the cage.) Happy HAG! I’m a hag, you’re a hag -- we’re all hags here!

DANTE: Boethius! CALM DOWN! You are going to bring bad things on us!

BOETHIUS: What do you mean -- “going to bring” -- isn’t this bad enough?? (Yowls)

MERCK: (looking at Mandolin) Mandolin? Is that you?

MANDOLIN: (startled) Merck? Is that you?

MERCK: What are you doing here?

MANDOLIN: Nothing.

MERCK: Nothing?

MANDOLIN: Well, not exactly. I thought this would be a good place to collect my thoughts. I’ve been kind of depressed lately.

MERCK: Look at those leopards.

(Boethius, who has been skipping and prancing around the cage turns and taunts Dante. Dante runs up and tries to restrain Boethius.)

MANDOLIN: They’re not leopards. They’re cheetahs.

MERCK: I think they’re psychotic. Or rabid.

MANDOLIN: They’re worked up about something, all right. Maybe they haven’t been fed.

MERCK: What have you been depressed about?

MANDOLIN: Thinking too much. Just that.

MERCK: Have you seen Ulfie?

MANDOLIN: What’s so real about an action? An action is only a gesture. A gesture is the cousin of the sign. All gestures are signs. They symbolize something else. So, it’s wrong to think about things literally.

MERCK: Like you literally seducing my fiancé?

MANDOLIN: Fiancé? He was a boyfriend.

MERCK: He would have married me.

MANDOLIN: Action. Gestures. Names. Labels.

MERCK: I had already planned our wedding. You wrecked my future.

MANDOLIN: Just because you give something a label, doesn’t make your designation correct.

MERCK: Quit trying to play mind games.

MANDOLIN: If you look at it that way, you’re missing the point.

MERCK: What point? That you just wanted to steal him away from me. Just for the sport of it. Once you knew you had him, you decided to throw him away. Right?

(Boethius and Dante are struggling with each other).

MANDOLIN: That entire episode was an extended metaphor -- a metonymy, if you will -- of the Wheel of Fortune.

MERCK: Vanna White?

MANDOLIN: You are Lady Philosophy, so you spin the wheel. Whatever comes up, you have to buy.

MERCK: I already did. I bought a big pain in the ass. (pauses) You.

MANDOLIN: I’m only speaking for your own good, Merck.


Plus, I did you a favor. I liberated you from your captivity. Ulfie isn’t right for you.

MERCK: Don’t you think I know what’s good for me?

MANDOLIN: We often don’t know what’s good for us. That’s why someone else has to take charge. Take care of us.

MERCK: Take away everything we care about?

MANDOLIN: All I know is that I am more attuned to the universe than most people -- most people are afraid to stop and look around them.

MERCK: Do you know how arrogant you sound? You like to patronize everyone else.


MERCK: Yeah. You. You say you’re an artist. But, you’re so cool, you pretend you’re some sort anti-artist. DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL. Hah!

MANDOLIN: I’m starting to hear a little hostility in your voice, Merck.

MERCK: (tauntingly) I’m starting to hear a little FEAR in your voice, Mandolin. (charges toward Mandolin. Mandolin jumps back).

MANDOLIN: Hey. Calm down. They’ll throw you out.

MERCK: Or lock me up in a cage??? For wanting to be an artist like you?

(tone changes -- speaks with resignation)

I wanted to take some pictures of the FABULOUS FELINES and make a series of greeting cards. But the cats have gone whacko. Plus they’re all mangy. Who wants to look at mangy wildlife for Christmas? It’s enough to turn your stomach.

MANDOLIN: Captivity of any sort is enough to make you sick.

MERCK: It’s all a state of mind, though. Right? That’s what you’ve been telling me.

MANDOLIN: That’s not the same.

MERCK: So if I say, hey, you’re a freak ‘cause you look so freaky & you think you’re cool but we all know you’re just making a cheap bid for attention -- and --

MANDOLIN: I’m hearing that you’re upset with me, Merck.

MERCK: Stop patronizing me! You “artist types” - you think you’re so cool. You can insult and trample anyone’s feelings, steal their boyfriends, ruin their future -- and then if anyone complains, you just say, “I have to have my freedom of speech!”

MANDOLIN: You’re twisting everything around. I’m more likely to be locked up like one of these cheetahs -- called crazy and put away -- or zombied out on Haldol or some high-powered tranquilizer that makes me stupid, but keeps me in my place.

(Boethius and Dante go back behind the rocks. They hide.)

MERCK: Look at the cats. They’re waiting to get us. They’re trying to trick us.

(Ulfie comes up carrying tranquilizer gun.)

ULFIE: Trouble here?

(As he approaches he recognizes Merck & Mandolin).

ULFIE: What are you two doing here? Haven’t you caused me enough problems? What are you doing to the cats?

MERCK: You never told me you WORKED here.

MANDOLIN: Ulfie, you’re doing it again. Remember what I told you? Deception is only self-deception.

ULFIE: Oh. You’re still into your Zen-Master phase. I don’t need your fake-philosophy sound bites.

MERCK: She’s done this to you, too?

ULFIE: Where are the cheetahs?

MERCK: I thought we were at the leopard cage. I don’t see any monkeys.

MANDOLIN: What did you ever see in her?

MERCK: What we do is not relevent to each other -- only to the frame. The frame keeps us inside. The frame relates us to each other.

MANDOLIN: Frame? Bars of a cage?

ULFIE: Outside the frame, spiritual transformation is possible.

MERCK: You’re wrong. It all goes on inside the frame.

ULFIE: What about those outside, looking in?

MERCK: Like us looking at the cats?

ULFIE: And the cats looking at us.

MERCK: That’s not the same. They can’t get out.

ULFIE: And we can?

MERCK: As soon as the artist thinks she or he is outside the frame -- well, it’s not art any more. Art is inside the frame, too.

ULFIE: Inside the cage?

MANDOLIN: You two don’t know what you’re talking about.

MERCK: If you’re such an artist, you go into the cage.

ULFIE: Hey. Don’t do that. Can’t you read the sign?

(Boethius and Dante pop up from behind the rocks.)

BOETHIUS: Surely she’s not going to come inside here.

DANTE: That’s great. Zoops inside AND outside.

BOETHIUS: (sighing) Well, I guess I’ll just be forced to maul her.

DANTE: Look. He’s got his gun.

BOETHIUS: Forget it. I’m having some fun with this Zoop. She’s been getting on my nerves.

DANTE: Boethius!

MANDOLIN: I’m going inside. I’m talking to them. I understand their pain better than they do --

ULFIE: Mandolin!

(Mandolin sticks arms through bars of cage. Boethius runs toward her, yowling and roaring.)

BOETHIUS: Yah, yah, yah! Does this scare you? I’m a pacifist, you know -- I’d never hurt you.

(runs forward)

All my rage is directed inward. That’s why my fur is so ratty.

MANDOLIN: Merck! Photograph me while they shred me and gouge out my eyes. It will be my final artistic statement.

ULFIE: I don’t want to have to do this! (raises gun) Get away from the cage! I’m going to have to tranq the cat.

(shoots tranquilizer gun -- hits Mandolin by mistake. Mandolin falls to ground, arm inside cage)

BOETHIUS: Damn it! You missed me! I was looking forward to being tranqued out for the afternoon!

MANDOLIN: I’m dying -- I’m dyyyyiiiiinnnng.

ULFIE: No you’re not. You’re going to be sedated for a few hours. I told you to move out of the way, didn’t I.

MERCK: Will she be okay?

ULFIE: Oh, just a little dazed for a while, that’s all. Probably shouldn’t drive.

MERCK: What are you going to do about the cats?

(They look at Boethius and Dante. The two cheetahs are sitting down, looking very dejected.)

BOETHIUS: Dante, what’s going to happen to us?

DANTE: I don’t know.

ULFIE: People torment the cats all the time. I don’t know why they do it. I guess they think it’s fun to see them get angry.

MERCK: It’s cruel.

ULFIE: The more “natural” the habitat, the more we can blind ourselves to our insensitivity and arrogance.

MERCK: Can we let them go? Give them their freedom.

ULFIE: Of course not.

MERCK: Are you going to have them put down? Killed?



ULFIE: I’m going to give them bigger rocks to hide behind. Then I’m quitting.

MERCK: What are you going to do?

ULFIE: Will you marry me?

MERCK: I knew I wasn’t imagining things -- we DID have something together.

ULFIE: We always have --

MERCK: What about her? (gestures to Mandolin, who is seated on the ground, humming the theme to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s CATS, but it’s very offkey)

ULFIE: What do you want to do?

MERCK: Take her picture. (Takes her picture with a Polaroid. Places photo next to Mandolin). Well Mandolin. Here’s something for you. Hope you like it.

ULFIE: Let’s go -- I need to get rid of this tranquilizer gun.

MERCK: Wait. (Takes off sweater. Underneath is a baggy t-shirt which reads:)


Real Life

ULFIE: Good idea. (Takes off Zoo Security t-shirt. Underneath is a different t-shirt with the following word on it.)


MERCK: I love you, Ulfie.

ULFIE: I love you, Merck.

(They walk offstage.)