Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And So Goodbye

Written for a class and my first attempt at writing a theater piece in over a decade. It's crap, but it documents development... of some sort. Inspired by a one act play written by Tennessee Williams entitled Steps Must Be Gentle that depicts a dialogue between the poet Hart Crane and his mother in the afterlife.

Cast of Characters
Thomas “Tennessee” Williams, a son
Edwina Williams, a mother

Scene: The characters are ghosts. Thomas has a Southern drawl as thick as molasses and, in many ways, is the prototypical Southern gentleman. His sense of humor has a caustic edge that can be shocking to some. Edwina is one of those people. She is a woman of great pretension, very fussy with her appearance, and her sweet criticism of those around her hides a reflex to belittle others. During the play, they move slowly and, as one talks, the other will sometimes stare off into space. They stand at each end of the stage facing one another. The set is some netherworld beyond our own. There are no props, per se. As the action takes place, the stage lights change colors constantly against a black backdrop at the rear of the stage. A thin mist occasionally fills the stage.

They enter from each side of the stage when the play begins.

Thomas: (flatly) Mother.

Edwina: Where am I? I don’t know where I am. Who are you?

Thomas: It’s me, Tom.

Edwina: (sternly; primps her hair a little) Is that you, Cornelius? I’ve got nothin’ to say to you, Cornelius.

Thomas: (smirks) It’s me, Tom, your beloved son. Dad isn’t here.

Edwina gazes around the stage. A baffled look in her eyes suggests she is trying to comprehend her surroundings.

Edwina: (hesitantly) Tom… am I dead? Are we –

Thomas: (interrupting) – dead? Yes, we’re both quite dead, I am afraid.

Edwina: Is this heaven?

Thomas: (smirking) I find it inspiring that you, of all people, should assume that, being dead, you must surely be in heaven amongst the angels.

Edwina: Such an insolent, disrespectful son, even in death. I endured the… impurity of bringing you, your brother Dakin, and your sister Rose into the world, I endured the revolting behavior of your father, and this is my eternal reward.

Thomas: (unaffected; speaking calmly) How funny that you mention impurity, mother. Our hearts can be impure and we can commit foul deeds. But I have found that the lack of forgiveness has its own impurity. We are meant to forgive. Even here, in this place.

Edwina: (fingers her hair nervously) What is it that you want to forgive?

Thomas: (his face softens with emotion) Not what… but whom. You, mother.

Edwina: (genuinely surprised) Well, I don’t understand. Forgive me? What for, Tom?

Thomas: For our broken Rose… how you failed her. The terrible crime you committed against her.

Edwina: Tom, I don’t –

Thomas: (becoming emotional) The mutilation –

Edwina: (horrified) Stop it now! I will –

Thomas: - of her brain!

Edwina: (whispering, almost hissing) You don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re crazy, just like her. It was my cross to bear. Cornelius and his progeny, none of whom would appreciate the refinement I sought in life, and all of whom would come to hate me for merely aspiring to higher things.

Thomas: (amused) Such as submitting your daughter to a lobotomy because she has “scandalized” you? Is that among the higher things you aspired to? I never knew your zest for life was so… versatile.

Edwina: She was full of filth. She behaved in a filthy manner, she said filthy things, and she harbored filthy thoughts. The doctors told me and your father it would stop it all and she would be peaceful.

Thomas: Peaceful? Yes, peaceful, and completely broken, but for what? For expressing her desires! For taking pleasure from life and delighting in her body! If she became dangerous, it was because you drove her to it. And what about me? I was something you loathed and could never discuss. A homosexual.

Edwina: (stiffens) I don’t wish –

Thomas: What you wish is immaterial right now.

Edwina: (indignantly) It was always immaterial, my son. I was a minister’s daughter and I was raised to respect a certain way of life. But my husband brought me nothing but grief with his drinking, card playing and philandering and then my children brought me nothing but crushed hopes! A daughter who changed before my very eyes! You can’t imagine what it did to me. You’re too concerned with yourself to see it!

Thomas: Oh, the indignities you suffered! Your daughter spent her life in institutions, you witch! I kept her comfortable, but it was all I could do. And… I had devils of my own to contend with. (laughs darkly) Promiscuity to ward off despair. Drugs – pills to sleep, to wake up, to shut down, to work, to stagger through the rehearsals and rewrites. The liquor, the endless, brainless gallons of liquor I washed down to bury the promiscuity to ward off despair, the drugs to sleep, wake up, shut down, work, and get through the day. While I was being a brother to what you deemed to be undignified, I lost my way. My glorious life ended alone choking to death on a pill bottle cap in a New York hotel room. I should have died with Rose at my side so I could tell her how I loved her so. The indignity you couldn’t love!

The colors on the backdrop behind the actors begins to cycle through different shades of blue. The stage lights dim slightly.

Edwina: (visibly shaken): Our lives were disasters, it seems. Perhaps I shouldn’t be forgiven. This world is lit by tears and I haven’t paid for my crimes yet. My son, don’t forgive me. Not yet, not even now. (she extends her arms out towards him) I am sorry though. Sorry for the disaster of our family, and I’m grateful for the good times we had. Search for forgiveness, but it doesn’t matter if you find it for me, I’ll be sorry for all of this into eternity, Tom. And so – goodbye.

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