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domingo, 10 de mayo de 2009

Sonny[A Play in Three Acts] Lia Karavia

Lia Karavia, Grecia



Sonny
A Play in Three Acts


Characters

Cleo Steven’s wife 45 years old
Sasha Kassinis Leo’s wife, Aris’ mother 55 years old
Aris Kassinis Sasha’s and Leo’s son 30 years old
Steven Cleo’s husband 60 years old
Leo Kassinis Sasha’s husband, Aris’s father 65 years old
Mary Lydakis widow, a schoolgirl’s mother 35 years old

Stage

The front part of the stage serves as an open–air space, at times a café garden with a small table and four chairs, at times a park with a bench.
With minimal changes, the main stage designates three homes. There are two doors: the one on the left is the entrance, the one on the right leads to other rooms. On the central wall in Cleo’s and Steven’s home there hangs a mirror. Indication in the text: (Steven’s Home). On the same spot in Kassinis’ home there hangs the portrait of an ancestor. Indication in the text: (Kassinis’ Home). On the same spot in Mary’s home there hangs a diploma. Indication in the text: (Lydakis’ Home). The furniture consists of a table and three chairs, which change positions. The table stands centre in Steven’s home, on the right in Kassinis’, on the left in Mary’s. There is also a small table with a telephone by the wall on the right, which does not change position. A flower pot may be placed on it in Steven’s home, a telephone book in Kassinis’, a vase with flowers in Mary’s.

The Epilogue, a telephone call from Aris to Cleo, takes place twenty years later. All the furniture is removed. There is only a chair in front of the small table with the telephone. On the central wall there hangs the picture of a rural landscape. Indication in the text: (On the island).

ACT ONE

Scene One (Cleo, Sasha, Aris) (Steven’s Home)

Sasha is sitting on a chair on the left of the table. Aris is sitting on a chair on the left side of the stage with his palms placed on his knees. He remains in that position almost all through the scene. Cleo is standing on the right, holding a tray, on which there is a small jar with preserved fruit, two saucers and spoons and two glasses of water.

Cleo – Shall I serve or will you help yourselves? (She puts the tray on the table).
Sasha – You with your sweets, as always!
Cleo – It’s nothing but a small preserved fig, dear Sasha.
Sasha – There was no need for it.
Cleo – How can there be need of a tiny fig? It is meant to sweeten your mouth, that you may visit me more often. So, will you help yourselves?
Sasha – All right then. (With a spoon she takes a fig from the jar and puts it on a saucer). Go on, Aris dear, it is your favourite preserved fruit.
Aris – (Without turning). There was no need for it.
Sasha – I said so too, but you know Mrs. Cleo.
Cleo – Shall I serve, my boy?
Aris – (Without turning). Thank you.
Cleo – (To Sasha in a low voice). Is that a yes?
Sasha – Yes. (Cleo serves and takes the saucer to Aris). Say thank you, sonny.
Aris – (Taking it). Thank you very much.
Sasha – Perfect manners! (Cleo goes back to the table and sits. The others eat). The fig is delightful.
Cleo – It is from our own garden, you know. Steven plants fruit trees and takes such pride in them that you would think they were his children.
Sasha – We had a garden in Alexandria, too. Tell Mrs. Cleo, my Aris.
Aris – So we did.
Sasha – Fruit, vegetables… you name it. Here, on the balcony of an apartment, nothing more than a geranium. One can hardly digest it.
Cleo – The geranium? Of course not!
Sasha – Life in an apartment, I mean. My Aris feels he is suffocating inside those walls, after his hours of work. Every evening, no matter how tired I may be, I take him for a walk. (She places the saucer on the tray).
Cleo – Why doesn’t he go on his own?

Sasha – It is boring. When we are together, we talk. Half an hour to go, another half to return, time passes smoothly. You don’t go on walks alone, do you?
Cleo – I go with Steven.
Sasha – See?
Cleo – But Steven is my husband, not my son. And I don’t take him for walks. (She laughs). He doesn’t take me for walks either. We go together.
Sasha – Well, we too go together, I and my Aris. It is the same thing.
Cleo – Is it? If I tell Rita I’d like to take her for a walk or I’d like us to go for a walk together, I am sure to hear some unpleasant comments.
Sasha – (Annoyed). Like what?
Cleo – Forget it. You’d better not know how teenagers speak nowadays. Aris is a gentleman; a very dignified one. Isn’t Mrs. Cleo right, my boy?
Aris – (Absent-mindedly). Mrs. Cleo? Oh! She is always right. (He gets up and puts the saucer on the tray). It was delicious. Thank you.
Cleo – But it must have made you thirsty. (She gets up and offers). Water?
Aris – (Taking it). I was rather thirsty, yes. Cheers. (He drinks and puts down the glass).
Sasha – Sit down, my dear. (Aris takes a hesitant step towards Cleo’s chair). You’d better sit on your chair, there, so that we can chat between ourselves, my friend and me.
Aris – Of course. (He returns to his chair and resumes his initial position).
Sasha – (Taking the other glass while Cleo sits down again). To our health. To our children’s wedding. (She drinks).
Cleo – Amen. For my child, however, that day will not come too soon.
Sasha – (Setting her glass on the tray). The sooner, the better.
Cleo – The sooner? She is still a High School student. Shouldn’t she go on with her studies after High School?
Sasha – If she marries well, why should she go on with studies?
Cleo – (Laughing). Don’t let her hear you say such things, because she may withdraw from you personally the warm feelings she has for all of you.
Sasha – That is exactly what I mean.
Cleo – What?
Sasha – That we, too, have warm feelings for her.
Cleo – I know. God bless you. (Aris budges on his seat). Would you like some more water, my boy?
Aris – No thank you. (Silence). Very kind of you.
Sasha – Perfect manners!
Cleo – True.
Sasha – That is how we brought him up. Lucky she who will marry him.
Cleo – (Silence). Aris?
Aris – (Turning to her). Yes, Mrs. Cleo?
Cleo – What do you think of your colleagues at the Bank?
Aris – They are very nice.
Cleo – And the young ladies?
Aris – Very nice, as well.
Cleo – Is there a lady colleague you find more likable?
Aris – All lady colleagues are likable.
Cleo – I mean one that you like specially?
Sasha – (Irritated). Specially? What can the boy tell you? They are working women. Independent. Each already with her character. They are not girls.
Cleo – Why should they be girls?
Sasha – (Indignant). Twenty five plus!
Cleo – But Aris is older than that. He is not an adolescent.
Sasha – (Curtly). That is irrelevant!
Cleo – Irrelevant? How? (Aris does not follow the conversation).
Sasha – A man is not supposed to shape his character after he marries. He must already have shaped his character before marrying; at thirty or forty, whenever he feels mature enough. While a young lady is malleable only when very young. Later it’s over! She is what she is.
Cleo –How young do you want her to be? Our young lady is still a High School student, and she is what she is. She has her own character.
Sasha – (Shocked). You cannot mean that!
Cleo – But I do. She has goals, she knows what she wants, who she wants…
Sasha – (Shocked). You don’t mean… Who can she want at that young age?
Cleo – (Laughing). Tender feelings for the opposite sex start early.
Sasha – God forbid! (Tense silence). How can you consider yourself a good mother if you cannot impose discipline on your only daughter?
Cleo –She imposes discipline on herself. Why should I impose it? She is good in Math and in Physics, excellent in Literature and in History, passionate for foreign languages…
Sasha – Good for her! My Aris speaks French and English fluently. That is how he got a position at the Bank. Do you realise what it means to be a Bank employee? It means having a secure, well-paid job for life.
Cleo – Wonderful! (To Aris). Congratulations, my boy.
Aris – (As though momentarily waking up from sleep). Very kind of you.
Sasha – I am the mother of a son, and still I am constantly cautious not to have him slip. You are the mother of a daughter, and let her have her way? Well, let’s hope nothing goes wrong.
Cleo – Don’t worry. She has no time for slipping. She hurries from school to the sports field, from the sports field to the Language Institute, from the Institute to…
Sasha – Who takes her there and back?
Cleo – Where?
Sasha – To the sports field, to the Institute, wherever she goes. Because… there may be an “if”. If she goes. What if she does not?
Cleo – Do you think she is stupid? Would she miss classes or the training? She will go by all means, even with a little fever.
Sasha – I took my Aris to and from wherever he went till he was twenty five.
Cleo – (Shocked). You mean everywhere?
Sasha – (Hesitantly). That is… for company. I told you, we talked on the way. Thus I always knew exactly where he was and did not worry.
Cleo – Why should you worry? He is such a quiet young man.
Sasha – He is quiet because he has always known that his parents are vigilant. His father too, I dare say. I cannot complain. Leo has also been vigilant. But of late…
Cleo – (Smiling). Of late, Aris has grown up.
Sasha – We have grown older. Our feet ache a bit, our back as well… Anyway, we do not worry any more. His character has been shaped.
Cleo – A young man should be a bit lively, Sasha. (They look at Aris).
Sasha – Don’t think he is like that at home. There he is lively, very much so. He puts a table napkin on his arm and serves us at table pretending to be a waiter. A whole performance. “Monsieur, dame sont servis.” (To Aris). Say it, my Aris.
Aris – (As though waking up from sleep). Say what, mother?
Sasha – “Monsieur, dame sont servis.”
Aris – But… we are not at home.
Sasha – Right. (To Cleo). Performances cannot take place just anywhere!
Cleo – Oh, before I forget. Steven said if you wish, tomorrow, Sunday afternoon, we can go for a walk to the seaside, to breathe some sea air.
Sasha – Wonderful idea! Agreed.
Cleo – But you must ask Leo first, to make sure he agrees, too.
Sasha – Why shouldn’t he? Some sea air will surely be good for him.
Cleo – (Turning to Aris). Aris?
Aris – Yes, Mrs. Cleo?
Cleo – What do you think of a stroll by the seaside tomorrow? (Aris opens his mouth to answer, but is interrupted and falls silent).
Sasha – He is the one who likes the sea best. Will Rita be with us?
Cleo – I doubt it. Every Sunday she has lots of homework to prepare for the following week. I’ll ask her, though.
Sasha – Tell her my Aris will be there, too.
Cleo – I’ll tell her.
Sasha – She may change her mind and leave some of her homework for a weekday.
Cleo – Maybe.
Sasha – I believe she has special feelings for my Aris.
Cleo – We all have special feelings for him. He is loveworthy.
Sasha – Thank you very much. (Silence. To Aris). Aris dear?
Aris – Yes, mother?
Sasha – Shouldn’t you thank Mrs. Cleo for her nice words?
Aris – (To Cleo). Thank you very much.
Sasha – Well done! (She gets up. To Aris). Time for us to go home, isn’t it? Your dad will be waiting for us.
Aris – Certainly. (He gets up). It is time for us to go. Goodbye, Mrs. Cleo. Many greetings to Mr. Steven and Miss Rita.
Cleo – Just “Rita”. Don’t let her hear you address her as “Miss”.
Aris – As she likes.
Cleo – Just “Rita”.
Aris – Greetings to your Rita.
Sasha – Perfect manners! Is that right or wrong?
Cleo – Right, of course. Thank you, my boy. But I must say, she won’t like the possessive, either. She is not Our Rita. She is just Rita. (She escorts them to the door on the left and opens it. She kisses Sasha and Sasha kisses her back. Aris shakes hands with her. His handshake is obviously very loose. Cleo reacts and squeezes his hand. Sasha is already out. Aris smiles to Cleo. They exchange a tender glance. He goes out, too. Cleo closes the door; she goes back to the table at a slow pace and takes the tray. She stays there for a moment looking pensively at the closed door on the left). In Perrault’s fairy tales, the Sleeping Beauty is woken up by a kiss. Now that fairies are difficult to find, let us see who will wake up our sleeping prince. (She shakes her head and exits right holding the tray).

A small café table is brought to the front part of the stage. Four chairs are set round it. Sound of tiny waves lapping on the sands.

Scene Two (Steven, Cleo, Sasha, Leo, Aris)

Steven – (He enters left, followed by the others. Aris follows one step behind everyone). Shall we sit here for a cup of coffee?
Cleo – I would like some mastic candy dipped in a glass of very cold water.
Sasha – Me, too.
Steven – Whatever pleases the girls. What about you, Leo?
Leo – Coffee, medium sweet.
Steven – Me too. (They sit; the Kassinis on the right. Aris stands).
Sasha – (To Aris). Go to the café shop and ask for another chair, my dear.
Aris – All right. (He exits right).
Leo – A gem of a boy!
Sasha – That is due to his good breeding.
Steven – But shouldn’t he perhaps be with a younger bunch, on a Sunday afternoon?
Leo – We are not that old ourselves.
Steven – (Laughing). We? Young lads in their second youth. (Aris brings a chair. He places it on the right, next to Sasha’s, and sits down. She pats his knee).
Sasha – Well done, my Aris. Have you told the man what we wish to have?
Aris – I only said two cups of coffee, medium sweet. He is preparing them. But he is all alone.
Sasha – Let’s hope he will have them ready before dark!
Aris – (Getting up). Meanwhile, I can get the mastic candies for the ladies.
Sasha – That’s my boy! (Aris exits right).
Cleo – He goes back and forth like a ping-pong ball.
Leo – Never mind. He is a lad in his first youth. We are in our second. (The men laugh). Your Rita is always busy studying, right?
Steven – Fortunately not only with studying. Busy with her athletics, too.
Sasha – On weekdays. She could, however, spare a Sunday afternoon for her parents… and their friends.
Aris – (He returns with two glasses of water. Dipped in each one, there is a spoonful of mastic candy). One for Mrs. Cleo, one for Mrs. Sasha. (He offers each a glass).
Cleo – What will you have, Aris?
Sasha – He will have orange juice.
Aris – Right. Orange juice.
Sasha – Without bubbles.
Aris – Yes.
Sasha – Bubbles are not good for him. (Aris exits right).
Cleo – Where is he going now?
Leo – For the cups of coffee, perhaps. He likes being helpful. And waiters do take ages to serve. (The women are slowly having their mastic candy).
Steven – We are not in a hurry. We are by the sea with its light breeze.
Aris – (Returning with two cups). One for Mr. Steven, one for Mr. Leo. (He sets them on the table).
Steven – We are most obliged. If ever you get fired from the Bank, you can be a first–rate waiter.
Sasha – (Irritated). Don’t ever say such things! (Gesture driving away bad luck). Not even in jest! My Aris is an ideal employee. Why get fired?
Cleo – (To Aris). What about your orange juice?
Aris – (Smiling). The waiter is only allowed to serve himself last. (He exits).
Steven – (Laughing). I think we should tip him for excellent service.
Sasha – (Irritated). Steven, please!
Cleo – It was a joke, dear. Don’t you know what a joker Steven is?
Sasha – Such matters are not funny.
Steven – What matters?
Sasha – A prince cannot stoop to become a gardener.
Leo – Is Aris a prince, dear Sasha? He is a Bank employee. And he is neither a gardener nor a waiter. He simply likes to oblige. He does it whole-heartedly. That is a virtue.
Sasha – One would be unable to make a list of all his virtues.
Steven – We absolutely agree. We could even stress the fact. (Aris returns with a bottle of orangeade and a straw). Come, Aris. Sit down, my friend. Your toil is through.
Aris – It was nothing much. My pleasure. (He sits and sips).
Cleo – (To Aris). Rita sends her best.
Aris – Likewise. Please remember me to her.
Sasha – Perfect manners! (Aris sets his empty bottle on the table. Then he places his palms on his knees. Silence). Was your orange juice refreshing enough, my dear?
Aris – Quite refreshing.
Sasha – Now that you have finished drinking, what about a stroll by the sea?
Aris – Right. (He gets up, goes down to the edge of the stage and walks from one end to the other, supposedly avoiding getting wet from the waves. At one moment, he stumbles and nearly falls into the water, that is off the stage).
Sasha – Such young men are a rarity nowadays.
Cleo – As though coming from other times.
Sasha – Exactly.
Steven – Don’t Bank employees organise excursions?
Leo – They sure do. Dances, too. It is pointless for Aris to go alone, but as soon as he is betrothed…
Steven – (Vividly). Oh? Is there any good news on the horizon?
Sasha – What he means is “when”. Whenever it happens. At an unspecified time. We wish for it, of course. Wouldn’t we want a daughter-in-law? We are getting old. A young girl in our home would be of great help.
Cleo – (Startled). Do you plan to live all together, then?
Sasha – Surely! Would we ever let go of our only son? (Aloud). Aris dear?
Aris – (Stopping his stroll). Yes, mother?
Sasha – Are you enjoying your stroll?
Aris – (Approaching). Very much.
Sasha – Let us have you with us for a while. (Aris resumes his seat).
Leo – Mr. Steven was asking whether the Bank organises excursions.
Aris – (With sudden zeal).On weekends which are followed by a holiday, three-day excursions are organised to archeological and historical sites. On the other hand, every Carnival, without exception, a big dance is organised at a dancing club, reserved on that evening exclusively for our employees.
Sasha – (Proudly). Have you noticed his eloquence?
Steven – (To Aris). Do you like all that, Aris?
Aris – It is fine. (He hesitates). I suppose.
Cleo – You suppose?
Aris – My colleagues talk about it for days afterwards; even during working hours. They laugh joyously among themselves, they seem to be full of enthusiasm. However, I believe that such discussions should take place after working hours. We are expected to produce work during working hours.
Sasha – (Proudly). Please notice his vocabulary.
Cleo – Don’t you participate in such events, sometimes?
Aris – The time will come.
Cleo – When?
Sasha – When he finds the right girl and gets engaged.
Cleo – Still, to get engaged he must belong to the groups of his young colleagues.
Sasha – Not necessarily. We said, his lady colleagues are working women; emancipated, as is the expression.
Steven – (He laughs). Finding a non-working woman, in our days…
Cleo – I believe you should participate sometimes.
Aris – Surely. (Sasha looks at him angrily). That is… I hope so.
Sasha – Do you mind calling the waiter for us to pay the bill, Aris dear?
Aris – If you allow me…
Leo – Allow you what?
Aris – I might take the money to him. He is rather old and he keeps the place all by himself.
Cleo – You have a heart of gold, my boy!
Leo – (Taking out his wallet). Will you allow me to treat you?
Steven – Of course not! It was my idea. I invited you.
Sasha – But we came… by mutual consent.
Steven – Well, we did not come by martial law, but it was I who invited you.
Leo – In that case, you will allow me to treat you next Sunday. I invite you at this very moment.
Cleo – We accept with all our heart.
Steven – (Giving Aris some money). Thank you for going to the trouble.
Aris – No trouble. My pleasure. (He exits right).
Sasha – Have you noticed his manners? Impeccable! Or do I sound like a boastful mother?
Cleo – What you say about him is true. The truth should be clearly stated.
Leo – No, no! Do not encourage her, Cleo! (To Sasha sternly). Our ancient forefathers used to say “The gods hate boastfulness”.
Sasha – (To Steven and Cleo). He is right, you know. And there is also the evil eye. The other day, Aris came home very pale, with a headache, surely due to an evil eye. (Aris enters with some change in his hand). Hush! Let us change the subject so he will not hear. (Aloud). Is it all right, my dear?
Aris – Everything is fine. (He gives the change to Steven. They all rise).
Sasha – I do hope that Rita will also honour us with her presence next Sunday. Don’t you agree, my Aris?
Aris – Certainly. I hope so.
Cleo – We shall see. Wishing that we are all strong and healthy till next Sunday. (They exit left. Steven and Cleo go first; Leo comes behind them followed by Sasha, who half-stops to see if Aris follows. Aris comes last seeming quite tired. When Sasha sees him approaching, she exits, too. Left alone, Aris turns for a moment towards the sea, that is towards the public. He takes a deep breath, he smiles absent-mindedly, and he exits).

The table and the chairs are removed from the front part of the stage.

Scene Three (Sasha, Cleo) (Steven’s Home)

(Knock at the door on the left. Cleo leaves something she was sewing in the little basket, gets up and opens the door. Sasha enters holding a jar).
Sasha – Good morning.
Cleo – Welcome.
Sasha – I just gave him breakfast and he left for the Bank. I have come to bring you some sour milk. It is what Steven really needs. I will give you the recipe and you can make it yourself. (She hands her the jar).
Cleo – (Taking it). Thanks a lot. Don’t stand at the door! Come in.
Sasha – I won’t stay. I must clean some tiny fish, which I found incredibly fresh. They were almost jumping out of the fishmonger’s basket! I will fry them for him for lunch. He loves tiny fish. Scaling them is quite a job, but I, as a mother… (Silence). Does Rita know how to scale fish?
Cleo – (Laughing). Rita only knows how to fry eggs.
Sasha – That is not very commendable, Cleo dear!
Cleo – I did not think it was. But she is swamped with her duties, so… Shall we keep standing at the door? Do come in to catch your breath.
Sasha – For two minutes only.
Cleo – Whatever. At least we shall be seated. (She goes towards the table).
Sasha – Leo is still asleep. Ever since he got his pension…
Cleo – Before getting it, he went through years and years of hard work. Let him rest now. (They sit).
Sasha – Leo… he is nice and sweet, I’ll give him that, but – honest to God – he lacks initiative.
Cleo – What sort of initiatives? Everything goes like clockwork in your home.
Sasha – That happens because I wind up the clock. Shouldn’t he go out for a walk with his son, to give him some advice?
Cleo – Sasha dear, what kind of advice can he give a thirty year old man?
Sasha – He could do it indirectly, same as me. He would not say, “Sit down, son, and let me give you advice.” Do you realise what world we live in?
Cleo – I do. And I keep learning.
Sasha – In Alexandria things were different. If a couple went to a hotel, both persons had to present identity cards.
Cleo – What does that have to do with anything?
Sasha – Here you just walk in and the manager turns his head the other way.
Cleo – Would you like Leo to advise him not to go to a hotel?
Sasha – You know what I mean.
Cleo – If I knew, I would not be asking.
Sasha – Besides all other things, which are very serious, there is the most serious: the matter of cleanliness. My Aris was brought up otherwise. In Alexandria after washing our hands for a meal, we turned the knob with a handkerchief and pushed away the chair with our elbow.
Cleo – There were probably more microbes there.
Sasha – That is true. I had to wash all the fruit with antiseptic. And when he was little, I spread a sheet on the verandah for him to play and crawl on. (She is moved by the memory of Aris as a baby).
Cleo – Those were other circumstances. Here, when Rita dropped her slice of bread, I picked it up, blew on it and gave it to her to eat. Little children should get used to microbes.
Sasha – Unwise of you, Cleo! Imagine giving her bread picked up from the floor!
Cleo – Well, nothing wrong came upon her.
Sasha – You took chances. Anyway, my son’s health is fragile.
Cleo – I have never known him to get sick.
Sasha – He does not get sick because I look after him. (She looks at her watch). He must have arrived by now, don’t you think?
Cleo – Who?
Sasha – My Aris. At the Bank, I mean. (Silence). May I make a phone call to make sure he has arrived safely?
Cleo – Should you be asking, friend? Take your time. I am going inside for a minute to see how my food is cooking. (She exits right, leaving the door open).
Sasha – (She goes to the phone, picks up the receiver, dials a number and waits). Extension 116, please. (She waits some more. Suddenly her face lights up). Meow, meow, meow! (She waits. She smiles). Meow! Meow! (Fiercely). Hrrr-meow, meow!
Cleo – (Appearing at the door, worried). Hello! Is everything all right, Sasha dear?
Sasha – (Beckoning to her to keep silent and to come in). Grrr-meow, meow, meow! (She waits. She laughs coquettishly). Yes! Well, see you later, Aris dear. (She hangs up. To Cleo who has entered the room and stands puzzled). It is a game between us. (She laughs). I pretend to be a cat and he pretends to be a dog. We act being mild, then wild, and the like. It is very funny. (Silence). It gives him a short interval from his work. Very hard work, you understand. Eight to four. No matter how well-paid those young men and… young women may be, they do get tired.
Cleo – Young people are quite enduring. Don’t you worry.
Sasha – They are just allowed a half-hour break to have a bite at the canteen. Not all employees at the same time. They take turns. But I prepare a sandwich for my Aris, with the best ingredients. Who knows what they use at the canteen? Surely nothing nourishing; perhaps even harmful. He’d better keep away. I use fresh butter, a fresh egg, the best cheese and English ham. He does not need to go to the canteen since he has my carefully prepared snack. It would be ideal if all employees had the like, but… (She has returned to her seat and sits down).
Cleo – Right. … (She sits down, too). However, maybe colleagues chat among themselves at the canteen and for Aris it might be good to…
Sasha – Exactly. They do nothing but chat and gossip. What that lady colleague wears, who so-and-so is going out with, what some other has bought... Dandies and emancipated dames! He had better stay away!
Cleo – He must not stay away from his group, Sasha dear. How will he get some life experience? If he always keeps distances…
Sasha – (Irritated). I have come to bring you the sour milk, Cleo, not to listen to your comments. I have more than enough of criticism from my husband. I come here to find moral support. Are we friends or are we not?
Cleo – Friends are not supposed to be identical. We agree, we disagree, we discuss things, still always positively. That is the meaning of friendship.
Sasha – You speak as though we lived in Paradise. Do you know in what kind of world we live nowadays? (She gets up).
Cleo –You have already asked me. I said I do. And I try to understand what I don’t know yet.
Sasha – (Irritated). Yes, but… see that you do not contradict me, or I’ll hit my head on the wall.
Cleo – Which wall? (She gets up).
Sasha – Whichever happens to be in front of me.
Cleo – (Laughing). I cannot pronounce myself as to the walls of your home, but I can tell you that our walls here are thin and cannot stand headers. Therefore in this house you are not allowed to hit your head on any wall. For the rest, I am not entitled to intervene. Suit yourself.
Sasha – You think that everything is a joke, Cleo. Well, the day will come for you to understand that some things are not funny. They are very serious, not to say tragic. (She exits left. Cleo shakes her head).

Curtain

END OF ACT ONE

ACT TWO

Scene One (Mary, Aris)

A bench has been set at the front of the stage, centre. Noontime. Aris enters left and sits in the middle of the bench. He takes a carefully wrapped sandwich out of his pocket; he unwraps one corner and eats.
Mary – (She enters from the right holding a schoolbag. She sits on the end of the bench. Aris moves to the left to give her more space. She takes a sandwich out of her bag, looks at him and smiles). Are we co-sufferers?
Aris – (Swallowing hastily. Perplexed). What do you mean?
Mary – Are we both hungry after work and still having tons of things to do?
Aris – After work? It would be nice if I had finished work at this time. Several working hours still lie ahead of me.
Mary – You don’t say!
Aris – The Bank closes at half past two for the public, but we employees keep working till four.
Mary – (Laughing). Well, it was your choice. “Bank employee” sounds much grander than simply “Elementary School Teacher”. (She points to the right). We have already finished work, but I take a bite here because, as I said, I still have tons of things to do. (She eats).
Aris – I heard you, but I did not get the meaning.
Mary – (Her mouth full). The meaning is that my daughter has just become a High School student and I must wait for her to finish her classes, then take her to the swimming-pool. One more hour for me waiting there. When we finally reach home, at about the same time as you, try to imagine what I have to cope with. Cooking, a bit of cleaning (mind you I said just a bit), some laundering, perhaps a little ironing, helping Helen with her study, in case she needs help, and tomorrow… well, we start all over again. You, at least, can rest after four in the afternoon, I suppose.
Aris – That is true. But… please, excuse my indiscretion, isn’t there someone in the family who could lend a hand?
Mary – I am sorry to say there isn’t. My husband died three years ago. My people, those who are still alive, are on the island.
Aris – Who are your people?
Mary –Mostly my father. An old man. Even if he were here, he would be unable to help. And my two brothers. Married with children. Two or three children each. They would not be able to help either, even if there wasn’t so much seawater between us. Helen and I are all alone.
Aris – She is already at High School, you said?
Mary – Well, to be fair, I must say Helen lends me a hand. She does her best to help. But she is a child, really. And she has lots of homework. She is a good student in all subjects, you know. But she finds French quite difficult. I cannot help her in that area. And my salary is not such that would allow me to hire a private teacher to coach her in a foreign language. (Aris has finished eating.)
Aris – I could help, if… I don’t know how far your home is. I live with my parents a few blocks down from the State Hospital.
Mary – Our home is just one bus-stop further up. At the Red Cross. But I cannot ask you for such a favour.
Aris – It would be a pleasure; something different to break the daily routine.
Mary – I wouldn’t know how to pay back that debt, though. At my birthplace, people say that one favour deserves another.
Aris – That is a noble thought. I need nothing, however.
Mary – Nothing? Not even a bite from my sandwich? (She stretches out).
Aris – (Smiling). I will accept that favour. (He stretches out and timidly cuts off a small bit. He eats).
Mary – So, when you have some free time, I can bring her to your place and wait for her. She does not circulate by herself yet. I escort her.
Aris – Yes. (He hesitates). Still… (Long silence).
Mary – Is there a problem?
Aris – I think so. Would it be all right if I came to your place? You see, I… I do circulate.
Mary – (Laughing). All by yourself? Unescorted?
Aris – (Smiling sadly). Rarely. When I have the chance. (She thinks he is joking, she laughs, then observes him and stops laughing.)
Mary – No problem. That would accommodate me better. I won’t have to escort her and wait for her. Ideal! So, we live on the central avenue, exactly by the church, Number 21, third floor. The name on the doorbell is still Myron Lydakis. I have not changed it in three years. Somehow, we feel more protected that way. Which day, do you think, suits you best?
Aris – Saturday. Early in the afternoon.
Mary – Perfect.
Aris – My people take a nap three to five and… (Silence).
Mary – What?
Aris – (Hesitantly). I am free.
Mary – No problem. Helen will be crazy about it when I tell her. See what the good God works out? A simple coincidence, a chance meeting (She laughs). a little piece of a sandwich…
Aris – (Laughing freely). That was the favour to repay mine.
Mary – For the moment. On Saturday I will repay your favour with some refreshing drink. What would you have?
Aris – Orange juice.
Mary – That’s easy.
Aris – (Hesitatingly). Without bubbles.
Mary – No problem. (She looks at her watch, gets up and stretches out to shake hands with Aris. A thought crosses her mind). What a shame! I have not introduced myself. Mary Lydakis. (She smiles). Elementary School teacher. Distinguished title. (Sarcastic as to herself). If I tell you what my salary is, you will realise my value.
Aris – If the value is proved by the pay people get, I can tell you I know some totally worthless persons who are extremely overpaid.
Mary – They are sure to belong to some political party, some religious group, some nobility…
Aris – Nobility?
Mary – I don’t mean moral nobility, of course. I mean hereditary privileged people of little personal achievements.
Aris – Except perhaps squandering hereditary wealth.
Mary – (She looks at him in surprise). You have humour. I did not think so at the beginning. I am surprised.
Aris – You can’t be more surprised than I am.
Mary – So I have introduced myself. Your turn.
Aris – (He gets up). Aris Kassinis. (He stretches out to shake hands).
Mary – (Smiling). I know the rest. Bank employee. And, moreover, my Helen’s French teacher. (They laugh, look at each other and shake hands). Glad to have met you.
Aris – Likewise.
Mary –And a thousand thanks.
Aris – Likewise.
Mary – What for? The little piece of my sandwich?
Aris – For various things.
Mary – Mention one.
Aris – The humour I didn’t know I had.
Mary – Now you know. See you on Saturday. Keep well. (She exits right).
Aris – (Left alone).Keep very-very well. Please! (He looks for a few seconds towards the direction Mary has gone. He smiles. Then he exits left, humming a tune).

The bench is taken away.
Scene two (Cleo, Steven) (Steven’s home)

Cleo – (Sitting near Steven). What time is it?
Steven – Dusk.
Cleo – Is dusk a concrete hour on the clock?
Steven. Sure. Depending on the season, of course. Like some holidays without fixed dates. Easter, for example.
Cleo – Could you just look at your watch and tell me the time?
Steven – Half past seven. Rita is a bit late, but don’t worry.
Cleo – I don’t. Why should I worry? She is either at the Institute without Alex, or in the sports field with Alex.
Steven – Therefore out of danger.
Cleo – Exactly.
Steven – Then why did you ask me the time?
Cleo – Because I have to start preparing dinner. Did you think I am Sasha, who has a fit if her sonny is a few minutes late?
Steven – My heart aches for that young man. Unable to stand up to her at his age! Rita is half his age and yet…
Cleo – Rita has inherited my genes. (She smiles cunningly).
Steven – (Pretending to be indignant). Cleo is proud of being headstrong!
Cleo – You named it my strong personality when you wowed me.
Steven – Now that I wow you no more I call it headstrong.
Cleo – Unlucky sufferer! (They laugh). Do you know that poor Sasha would like to have Rita as her daughter-in-law?
Steven – She would murder our daughter before their honeymoon.
Cleo – She might. It’s not a joke.
Steven – I did not say it as a joke, but as something tragic. And don’t say “poor Sasha” again. It is “poor Aris”. He lives in deep frost.
Cleo – I pray that some princess will kiss him and wake him up from torpor.
Steven – I think the story is the other way round.
Cleo – Whatever way round, a miracle might happen.
Steven – Isn’t it a bit too late?
Cleo – The Sleeping beauty was about one hundred sixteen.
Steven – Then Aris has plenty of time ahead of him. (They laugh sadly). How nice it is that my girl still believes in miracles!
Cleo – I would be lost without hoping for some. Please pray for him, too.
Steven – I pray that good God may enlighten Sasha to go visit a psychiatrist.
Cleo – I don’t believe such a miracle can happen. Let me go cook dinner. (She exits right. Steven follows her, smiling.)
The furniture is moved to the right place for the new scene.
Scene three (Sasha, Aris) (Kassinis’ Home)

Sasha – (Standing). Time for a siesta. (She waits for some response from Aris, who is reading, seated at the table). Your father has already gone to take his nap, while I tidied the kitchen. (She waits). Are you coming?
Aris – (Without looking up). I have some work to do.
Sasha – Do they give you work to do at home on a Saturday, as if you were schoolchildren? I don’t believe it! You have three diplomas.
Aris – I don’t have to do homework, mother. There is something that I want to read.
Sasha – Good for you! You have always been studious! But don’t take too long. Give yourself time for a nap. (Moving to the right). You know that a siesta is beneficial to the health, especially to those who are… fragile.
Aris – I am not sleepy. When I am through reading, I shall go for a walk.
Sasha – (She stops abruptly, turns round and scrutinizes him). What for?
Aris – No reason. I just want to take a walk. (Silence).
Sasha – Fine. (She moves to exit, stops, turns round). For how long?
Aris – Not too long.
Sasha – All right then. (She moves to exit, stops, turns round). When you come back, wake me up if you need anything.
Aris – I will not need anything. (He goes on reading).
Sasha – You never know.
Aris – But I do, mother.
Sasha – (Approaching him and looking at him with curiosity). Strange!
Aris – Not strange at all. If I feel thirsty, I shall get a glass of water. I am not a baby.
Sasha – (In a mellow tone). The way I have pampered you both, you are like babies, your father and you. You never had to move a muscle.
Aris – It is high time we move our muscles and take care of ourselves, to offer Mrs. Sasha some rest. (Silence).
Sasha – (Severely). I don’t like secrets.
Aris – (Looking up, somewhat ill-at-ease). What secrets?
Sasha – (Sitting down near him). Has the doctor confided something to you?
Aris – Which doctor, mother?
Sasha – The cardiologist I visited the other day.
Aris – You did not tell me that you visited a cardiologist.
Sasha – I did not want to worry you.
Aris – Is that so? Well, I don’t like secrets, either.
Sasha – (Vexed). Are you repeating my words in irony? (Silence). Well, speak! Is there anything seriously wrong with me?
Aris – How should I know? Which cardiologist was that? I have no idea.
Sasha – Never mind. Forget it.
Aris – Forget what, mother? What was the reason you visited a cardiologist?
Sasha – I had some arrhythmia.
Aris – (Worried). So, what did he say?
Sasha – He said I should not get upset.
Aris – You did not need a cardiologist to tell you that. Father repeats it non-stop. “Take it easy, Sasha. Do not get upset.” (He looks at his watch). So, that is that.
Sasha – And he said I should not be left alone for long. (She looks at him with expectation).
Aris – There is always father.
Sasha – When? (Silence). He is asleep now.
Aris – He will wake up in case you have… arrhythmia. (Silence).
Sasha – (Coldly). He probably will. (Silence). And he probably won’t. (She gets up. Aris pretends to go back to reading). So… (She coughs. Silence). When you finish reading, have a good walk. (Indignant). That early in the afternoon! Lord! (She goes right. She stops). And don’t be late, I said.
Aris – All right. (As soon as Sasha exits, he puts down the paper he is reading. Sasha returns. He picks it up again hastily).
Sasha – Aris!
Aris – (Pretending to be reading). What?
Sasha – Don’t forget to wear your hat. Agreed?
Aris – But I don’t think that…
Sasha – (Hysterical). I won’t have you raise objections! (She controls herself). The doctor said I should not get upset. (Moving to exit). Hah! He wants to go for a walk! At this time of the day! (She exits).
Aris – (To himself). Let us see, will she come back? (He waits, ready to put down the paper he is reading).
Sasha – (Returning). And remember the doctor said I should not be left alone for long.
Aris – Why do you repeat it? Don’t you know you have just said so?
Sasha – I know what I’ve said. I don’t know if you have understood.
Aris – I have. You have father. (Sasha exits right. Aris waits a few seconds, glancing towards the door. Then he puts down the paper and looks at his watch). With some small delay! (He gets up with a sigh). Better late than never! (He smiles). Mieux vaut tard que jamais! (He goes to the left. He stops). A hat? Of course not! It would be funny to meet Helen for the first time wearing a hat! (He exits on tiptoe, closing the door behind him).

The furniture is moved to the right place for the new scene.

Scene Four (Mary, Aris) (Lydakis’ Home)

(A knock at the door on the left. Mary enters hastily from the right).
Mary – (Opening). Hello and welcome. Do come in.
Aris – (Entering). I am somewhat late, though. Sorry!
Mary – (Laughing). We will reduce your pay! Come on. Helen is waiting for you. She has laid her books and notebooks open on her desk. But it is the first time she is having private tutoring and she is a bit jittery.
Aris – (Confidentially). Same here.
Mary – Don’t let her see it. Be cool. (She points to the right). And I shall bring your orange juice right away. (She smiles).
Aris – Because one favour deserves another, as people say on your island.
Mary – Sure. Orange juice without bubbles. Right?
Aris – Without. Excellent memory!
Mary – Teachers need it. Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore…
Aris – Erato, Polymnia, Urania, Calliope.
Mary – (Laughing). Both of us get an A.
Aris – Concerning the Nine Muses.
Mary – Concerning other subjects, too. Which Muse do you like best?
Aris – Cleo.
Mary – Therefore you are interested in History!
Aris – I am, but… Mrs. Cleo is a family friend. (Silence). She is very kind-hearted and understanding
Mary – The heart comes first. Knowledge follows. You are right. (She points right). After the lesson, tell me if all went well, if she was attentive. I have promised to take her to the cinema this evening, if you are satisfied.
Aris – Evaluating students cannot start before the second lesson.
Mary – One can foresee at daybreak if the day will be good. (Silence). We would invite you to the cinema… (She laughs). As one more effort to repay a favour by another, but the film is strictly unsuitable for adults. Asterix! You see, Helen is still interested in movies for the young.
Aris – (Smiling). Me too. I have the whole series of Asterix books. I can lend them to her, if she wants.
Mary – Well, in that case, we do invite you. (Long silence).
Aris – I am afraid that… there may be a problem there.
Mary – (Puzzled). Like what?
Aris – I should not be bothering you with my family matters.
Mary – You can bother me as much as you please.
Aris – It is that… my mother has some arrhythmia and… she’d better not be left alone for too long, the doctor has said.
Mary – Do the two of you live alone?
Aris – There is also my father, but he is not a young man and…
Mary – Does he have arrhythmia, as well?
Aris – Not at all.
Mary – That’s good! (She laughs). Excuse me for laughing, but arrhythmia reminds me of my mother. Whenever I tried to take a step forward, she had a fit of arrhythmia; coincidentally. When I got engaged to Myron, arrhythmia was not enough. She nearly had a stroke to dissuade me.
Aris – He was not to her liking?
Mary – He was to her liking under conditions. He should stay at our home; we should both be posted in our village, so that she could be in control.
Aris – Control of what?
Mary – Of our lives. She should be the one to guide our steps. But of course neither Myron nor I… (Silence). I should not be bothering you with my stories.
Aris – You can bother me as much as you please. (They laugh).
Mary – Your decision. So we got married and moved here, to the city. And if you must know, my mother did not get a stroke, not even arrhythmia. People adjust to new realities. She was proud of her grand-daughter, till her death, two years ago. Leukemia. Irrelevant to strokes and arrhythmia.
Aris – I believe, however, that if a person whole-heartedly decides to inflict illness upon himself…
Mary – In order to revenge himself on some unruly or revolted person...
Aris – Exactly. I believe that he can provoke arrhythmia, and a stroke, and perhaps his own death.
Mary – Perhaps. But each one of us is responsible for himself. We cannot ask others to sacrifice themselves so that we may go on living. (Silence). Well, here we are, chatting and chatting, while poor Helen is expecting her Messiah of French in her room. (She leads Aris to the right, opens the door on the right and shows him into Helen’s room).
Aris – (Hesitating, he smiles timidly). A sin confessed is no more a sin. Right? Well… I do feel a bit jittery.
Mary – Keep cool, we said. Even if you have to put on cool behaviour.
Aris – (He exits right. Almost immediately, he reappears at the door). What time will you be setting out for the cinema?
Mary – At about half past seven.
Aris – Fine. (They smile.) We’ll talk after the lesson.
Maria – Before, during, after, Whenever we have a chance. To fight solitude.
Aris – You have your daughter. Do not complain. (He exits right).

The furniture is moved to the right place for the new scene.
Scene Five (Sasha, Aris, Leo) (Kassinis’ Home)

Sasha – (Seated, she looks at her watch. Severely, to Aris who enters left). You are late!
Aris – We had not fixed the time.
Sasha – We had agreed you would not be late. Meaning you would be back before we got up from our nap.
Aris – That is not some fixed time either. It may be a longer or a shorter nap.
Sasha – Your father was out of his mind. You took a walk right after lunch for two whole hours! He is no longer a young man. He is a pensioner.
Aris – Lucky him!
Sasha – Keep the irony to yourself.
Aris – What irony? I envy him not having to work for eight hours daily.
Sasha – A pension does not come without bringing accompanying problems. It brings with it high blood pressure, arrhythmia…
Aris – (Smiling). Arrhythmia? Father, too?
Sasha – In future perhaps. I have heard of many such things happening.
Aris – Let us not presage disasters. (He sits down. Silence).
Sasha – (Getting up). Would you like me to get you some fruit? Some juice?
Aris – I am all right.
Sasha – How come? You always have something at this time of the day.
Aris – I have had some orange juice.
Sasha – (Looking at him with suspicion). During your stroll?
Aris – Without bubbles. (Silence).
Sasha – (Sitting down). Unheard of! Absolutely unheard of!
Aris – What is?
Sasha – You know that you can have natural fruit juice here, and you prefer some bottled concoction.
Aris – It is not harmful.
Sasha – It is not beneficial to the health either. (Long silence. She looks at him fixedly). Is anything the matter?
Aris – What could the matter be?
Sasha – You are suddenly standing up against me today. A string of objections.
Aris – No objections at all.
Sasha – I know what I am talking about.
Aris – Where is father?
Sasha – Inside. He is getting ready. We are invited for dinner at Cleo and Steven’s. I hope Rita will be there, too. Go get ready.
Aris – I… I prefer not to come. (Electrified silence).
Sasha – You prefer not to, or you refuse to?
Aris – (Hesitantly). I have a slight stomach ache.
Sasha – Due to the concoction you drank, surely. Who knows what rotten fruit they use? Why don’t you get a digestive pill?
Aris – It will pass. As long as I eat nothing while I feel this way.
Sasha – Come along to Cleo’s and don’t have any food.
Aris – I prefer to stay.
Sasha – Alone, here at home?
Aris – If I get bored later on, I may go to the cinema. (Long silence).
Sasha – (Shrill shouting). Leo! (She waits for an answer). Leo, I said!
Leo – (He appears at the door right, trying to make a knot in his tie). Something is wrong with this tie and I can’t make a proper knot.
Aris – (Getting up). Let me help.
Sasha – Leo! Forget the tie and listen to me. (Leo comes into the room). Your son…
Leo – (Worried). Is anything wrong?
Sasha – What is wrong is that he does not want to come with us to the dinner. He prefers to stay here alone. (Hysterically). Or go to the cinema!
Leo – (To Aris). What is on? Anything good?
Sasha – Is that all you mean to ask him? (Mockingly). “What is on? Anything good?”
Aris – Asterix.
Leo – (Laughing). Our sonny refuses to become a grown up!
Sasha – (Astounded). Asterix?
Aris – You know. And Obelix.
Sasha – Lord! I am getting palpitations!
Leo – But why get upset, dearest? Don’t we ourselves feel nostalgic sometimes? Didn’t we go to the cinema to see Dickens’s “Oliver Twist” again, the other day?
Sasha – That is a classic. It is Dickens. And we went as a family.
Leo – Do you feel like going as a family to Asterix?
Sasha – By no means. I feel like going to Cleo’s dinner; as a family.
Aris – Sorry, I do not feel up to any dinner. I told you that I have some stomach ache.
Sasha – That is what comes to him who roams around without taking a nap.
Leo – He will lie down a bit now and feel better. (To Sasha). Go get ready. Is this the way you will appear at Cleo’s?
Sasha – There is plenty of time.
Aris – (Making a knot in his fathers tie). Give them my love.
Sasha – Nice love indeed!
Leo – (To Aris). See that you enjoy your young age, for when you get to your mid-sixties…
Sasha – What kind of advice are you giving him, Leo?
Leo – Fatherly advice.
Sasha – Keep your advice to yourself and leave him to motherly advice. (To Aris). Shall I make you a cup of chamomile for your stomach ache, dear?
Aris – No. Thank you very much. (Silence).
Sasha – (Very suspicious). Something is really wrong with you.
Leo – Well, he told us he has stomach ache.
Sasha –It’s another thing. Can’t get it out of my mind. Motherly intuition.
Leo – Forget intuitions and get ready. Come on! (He exits right).
Sasha – A real tyrant! It was for your sake that I tolerated him for so many years. If it were not for you… (She exits right).
Aris – (He sits, leans his elbows on the table and his chin in his hands. He looks towards the public dreamily. He then acts the scene in Helen’s room). “Monsieur Aris, ma mère… peut-elle venir ici… à la leçon, avec nous ?” (He smiles). “Mais oui, Hélène! Pourquoi pas? Ta mère peut suivre toutes nos leçons, si elle veut.” (He claps twice). “Ô elle veut ! Elle aime le français. Elle aime les langues, mais… au village…” (He stops acting). Ah, she is a wonderful kid! So, beginning next Saturday, I’ll have two students instead of one!
Sasha – (Appearing at the door with a necklace in her hand). What was that?
Aris – What was what?
Sasha – You were speaking.
Aris – Was I? I might have been speaking to myself.
Sasha – I’ve never heard you speak to yourself. Nor speak much in general, for that matter. You’ve always been a person of few words. Since when have you become chatty? Many sudden changes! Our Aris will become talkative now! (Silence. She walks into the room). Could you help me?
Aris – With pleasure. (He gets up).
Sasha – Can you fasten this necklace of mine?
Aris – Sure. (He does so).
Sasha – You will be bitterly sorry about tonight.
Aris – I will not; neither bitterly nor sweetly.
Sasha – Is that so? Have you any idea how fond of you Cleo is?
Aris – I am sure she is. It is reciprocal.
Sasha – It is reciprocal, but you prefer Asterix and that other one. What is his name?
Aris – Obelix.
Sasha – Whatever. (She moves away). Thank you. I shall explain to them that you… (Suddenly hysterical). Tell me what lies I must tell them to explain your absence.
Aris – No lies. Not even that my stomach hurts a bit. Just say I was unable to come, despite my love for them. They are sure to understand.
Sasha – (Moving to exit right). How can they understand? Since your own mother does not!
Aris – Mrs. Cleo will.
Sasha – You think so.
Aris – I am certain.
Sasha – Oh? Do you have a secret code with Mrs. Cleo, then?
Aris – (Laughing). You are fond of imagining spy stories!
Sasha – I asked if you have a secret code and the stomach ache is perhaps a kind of a signal.
Aris – But I asked you not to mention my stomach ache.
Sasha – Shall I tell them about Asterix?
Aris – If you wish.
Sasha – Maybe Asterix is the secret code. Or the other one, what’s his name.
Aris – Obelix.
Sasha – Whatever the signal may be, my intuition tells me that Cleo knows more about you than I, your own mother.
Aris – There is nothing to know. Besides the fact that I am very fond of both her and Mr. Steven.
Sasha – No doubt about that. (Leo’s voice is heard from the right).
Leo – (Off stage). Sasha! Don’t be late, please!
Sasha – (Shouting to the right). I am coming. (To Aris). A real tyrant! How have I managed to stand him all those years? If it were not for you and my being patient for your sake…
Aris – Please, mother!
Sasha – Please what? You can ask me for favours. Who can I ask for favours, though? Tell me that! (She stalks angrily to the right and exits).
Aris – (Smiling to himself). I could lay a wager that Mrs. Cleo will understand.
Curtain

END OF ACT TWO

ACT THREE

Scene One (Sasha, Cleo) (Steven’s Home)

Sasha – (She is sitting with a handkerchief in her hand, sobbing). There is… He told me himself… In cold blood… He himself…
Cleo – (Standing by her). Let me get what you are saying. Himself who?
Sasha – My Aris.
Cleo – He told you that there is what?
Sasha – (Hysterical). A child!
Cleo – (Astounded). Aris has a child?
Sasha – No! Not Aris! She whose name I will never pronounce.
Cleo – Where did she get it?
Sasha – Where do we get children? She has given birth to it. (Louder sobs).
Cleo – She has given birth to a child right now?
Sasha – Twelve or thirteen years ago. When my Aris was still a High School student.
Cleo – And then what?
Sasha – Then she became a widow.
Cleo – Unlucky woman!
Sasha – It was my bad luck, not hers!
Cleo – Don’t say such things. We are lucky to have our men, to have our children grow up with their father by their side. Isn’t it our good fortune?
Sasha – (Stops crying). Perhaps. (Stubbornly). It is supposed to be. But it was I who brought him up. His clothes all clean and ironed. Have you noticed his teeth? Like pearls! I had him brush them after every meal. I fought microbes like an awesome warrior. Has my Leo done as much?
Cleo – I don’t know.
Sasha – He did not. I raised him as a prince. Was I preparing him for her?
Cleo – For her? She does have a name though.
Sasha – “She”. Just as you said it. “She” is the word I will use for her till my death. She who is taking my Aris away from me. (She sobs). The wicked one. The one I will always throw curses upon.
Cleo – She may be a good woman, for all we know. (She pats her back). She may pamper him as much as you yourself have.
Sasha – Don’t tell me such things or I will hit my head on the wall.
Cleo – There we go again! Which wall?
Sasha – Whichever.
Cleo – (Laughing). We said, not mine.
Sasha – Cleo! If you were a true friend…
Cleo – Am I not?
Sasha – I will not have you laugh at tragic things or try to defend her! There are many horrors you don’t know about.
Cleo – Inform me then.
Sasha – If you were a true friend, you would go tell her…
Cleo – It is not my business to say anything to an unknown woman.
Sasha – That is just what she is. Unknown. Foreign this to part of the world.
Cleo – Do you mean she comes from another country?
Sasha – From an island.
Cleo – An island of our country? Is that the horror I should get to know? Islanders are said to be good people. Young women, too, of course.
Sasha –Young women? Wake up, Cleo! She is not young.
Cleo – What is she?
Sasha – An ageing woman. Yes, dear. That is the most horrible thing in that story. (Between sobs). Much, much, much older than he.
Cleo – How much?
Sasha – Five or six years! (Silence). There! (Hysterically). Speak now!
Cleo – All right, I will. Leo is over ten years older than you. And Steven is fifteen years older than me. Therefore, age…
Sasha – In our case, Cleo, the difference is on the right side. In her case, it is on the wrong side.
Cleo – Sorry. I did not know that ages have a right and a wrong side.
Sasha – Don’t pretend to be naïve. My mother was twenty years younger than my father. Has it bothered you?
Cleo – Me? Why should it bother me?
Sasha – It bothered nobody at all.
Cleo – Perhaps it bothered your mother, who spent half her life as a widow, as you have told me.
Sasha – Exactly. A widow who did not replace her husband with a beardless young man.
Cleo – Are you referring to Aris as a beardless young man? He is over thirty.
Sasha – He is inexperienced.
Cleo – Don’t use that word as praise.
Sasha – A virgin.
Cleo – Stop it, Sasha! Mothers cannot know such things.
Sasha – But I do. I have kept him immaculate.
Cleo – I don’t like that word. It depresses me. (Silence). No matter how you have kept him, I can’t believe you have kept him for yourself. Some woman would take him, some day. What do we hope as parents? To grow old and leave our children behind us all alone, without a companion in life? Would you have him… immaculate till your last breath?
Sasha – If it were not a widow with a child to take him away from me, but some inexperienced innocent girl, it might be different; a girl from a good family, whose parents we knew. (Silence). Like your daughter.
Cleo – My daughter is about fifteen years younger than Aris.
Sasha – The difference is not great. And it is on the right side.
Cleo – Why are we discussing Rita, dear Sasha? She is to be engaged soon.
Sasha – (With a scream). Oh? Are you insensitive? She is just finishing High School and she is getting engaged? And do you know who he is?
Cleo – For us, “he” has a name. And he is a fine young man, a student of the Faculty of Medicine. By the time he gets his degree, she will be near the end of her studies. Medicine, as you know, requires long years of study. And when they graduate from their Universities, they can get married.
Sasha – After years and years of engagement! God help them!
Cleo – At present they seem happy. They seem to know what they want. Of course life is full of reversals.
Sasha – Pray that a reversal may take place in the life of my Aris!
Cleo – It is another thing to be eighteen or twenty years old and another to be thirty or thirty five, with a mature mind.
Sasha – Mature? I am telling you, there are so many horrors you do not know about. (She weeps). Do you know how the romance started?
Cleo – How?
Sasha – With Asterix!
Cleo – (Astounded). Asterix?
Sasha – Exactly. And that other one, who is even worse. Obelisk, what’s his name.
Cleo – You mean Obelix?
Sasha – Whatever. What do you think of that?
Cleo – It sounds strange.
Sasha – Unnatural! They took her daughter to the cinema to see it.
Cleo – (Laughing). So! It was for the little girl! That seems natural to me.
Sasha – (Enraged). Whose side are you taking?
Cleo – I was not thinking of sides. I did not think there was a war. Whose side is Leo taking?
Sasha – (Menacingly). Let him take her side, if he dares. (Silence). We will not go to their wedding or to their home. Ever!
Cleo – Leo either?
Sasha – If he dares do it, I will poison myself.
Cleo – Oh? I thought your preference was hitting walls.
Sasha – (Engulfed in her pain, she does not hear Cleo). And if you intend to go to their wedding, you should know I’ll never speak to you again.
Cleo – My going to their wedding or not is of little importance. All I want is that Aris be happy. I don’t have to be there to see it.
Sasha – How can he be happy in the company of the devil?
Cleo – (Jokingly). Don’t mention the name of the King of Hell in here! An aunt of mine, in old times, opened the window every time his name was mentioned, for him to go away and not stay within our walls.
Sasha – (Her voice at a higher pitch). Yes! In the company of the big devil, and the little one.
Cleo – (She opens her mouth to protest but Sasha screams hysterically). Calm down, Sasha. And don’t talk that way. One day you will repent it.
Sasha – Never! I don’t want to know him any longer.
Cleo – Can you erase more than thirty years in one day?
Sasha – Is it I who erases them or is it he?
Cleo – No matter how an offspring behaves, a mother remains a mother.
Sasha – But I am no longer a mother. All of a sudden, I have become a grandmother! (She weeps).
Cleo – (Softly). Sasha dear, you must see to your nerves. How can you live on with a broken-down nervous system?
Sasha – He should have thought of it before having that disastrous relationship. (Silence). I will jump off the balcony.
Cleo – Our balcony is only one and a half meter above the ground. You will not even break a limb.
Sasha – I mean the balcony of our home.
Cleo – That is a third alternative! Why don’t you think of all the good things life has offered you? You have your husband. Isn’t he good? (Silence). Has he not been good to you?
Sasha – (Wiping her tears). He has. He respected me for three days. (Cleo looks at her totally perplexed). Three days after our wedding. You understand what I mean.
Cleo – I am not quite sure.
Sasha – What about Steven?
Cleo – What about him?
Sasha – Didn’t he respect you?
Cleo – I think… he still does. And Leo surely respects you to this day. Do you want to break his heart? Has he not been good for you, all in all?
Sasha – He gave me Aris. (Loud sobbing). Who, evidently, did not respect the unnamable one; not even before their wedding!
Cleo – Forget it, Sasha! You need to calm down. Unfortunately, I do not have a tranquiliser to give you.
Sasha – I don’t need one traquiliser. I need the whole bottle.
Cleo – That is the fourth alternative!
Sasha – We may have bottles of tranquilisers at home. (She gets up).
Cleo – Don’t be silly. Go wash you face with some cool water to feel a bit better. (She gets up).
Sasha – I don’t want to feel better. If I die now, they will have to postpone the wedding.
Cleo – For a while. If two persons wish to live together, they will manage, sooner or later. Go wash your face.
Sasha – (Stretching out and fumbling around blindly). Help! I cannot see. I have gone blind!
Cleo – Your eyes have been clouded by tears, Sasha dear! Come on! Go to the bathroom and freshen up.
Sasha – May I lie in your bathtub?
Cleo – What for?
Sasha – To drown there.
Cleo – A fifth alternative! You are very inventive, indeed. (Teasingly). No, dear. You cannot lie in our bathtub to drown. And do you know why?
Sasha – I don’t know.
Cleo – For the simple reason that we are trying to cut down on water. If one uses more than allowed, one is fined heavily by the wicked Water Supply Company. We must water our garden regularly, and yet we hesitate. We have become stingy as to water.
Sasha – Don’t you ever pretend to be my friend!
Cleo – I am not pretending. I am your friend. But you can use my bathroom only to wash your face with some cool water. Do me the favour, dear!
Sasha – Leave me alone! (She gets up).
Cleo – That’s exactly what I want to do. (She shows her out, right. She closes the door. She becomes serious, goes to the telephone and hastily dials a number. She waits). Leo? Please come over and take her home. She is in very bad shape. She is hysterical. (She listens). I’ll keep her calm till you come. But be careful afterwards. She has mentioned five alternatives of suicide. She may even think of a sixth one. Be very careful, right? (She listens). Yes, we shall all help. Steven too, as soon as he comes home from work. Come as quickly as possible? Hurry, please! (She puts down the receiver and exits right).

The furniture is moved to the right place for the new scene.
Scene Two (Leo, Steven) (Kassinis’ Home)

Leo – (Seated, he continues his talk with Steven). How could I have known? I saw a beautiful young woman, well-educated, from a good family of Alexandria. How could I have known how highly-strung she was?
Steven – Forget old times. Let us try to face this day.
Leo – She will never relax. As soon as she is contradicted, she hits her head on the wall. She may go blind, the doctor has said. Concussion is the least. She may get cerebral hemorrhage.
Steven – Well, she has not. (He laughs). She is hard-headed.
Leo – Very hard-headed. Perhaps that is what has saved her life.
Steven – Cleo was worried, because Sasha kept talking of poisons, of swallowing handfuls of tranquilisers, of drowning, and the like.
Leo – Drowning?
Steven – (Smiling). In our bathtub.
Leo – Oh! (Sadly). She just says all that to exercise pressure on us. She does not realise such threats. But she does hit her head quite often. And this time she has managed to create a serious problem.
Steven – It is not serious, believe me. Tomorrow she won’t be feeling dizzy.
Leo – It is more than dizziness, Steven. She is lost. She is asking for kakadee, a cold drink we had in Alexandria, not to be found here. She imagines she is elsewhere, at another time perhaps.
Steven – She will recover. The doctor said she only needs to lie in bed and keep calm for a couple of days.
Leo – How can she keep calm? She has always clung to Aris and now that things change …
Steven – She will loosen her grip. We shall take turns in watching her, Cleo, you, me. In forty-eight hours she will be out of danger.
Leo – And who will keep her from hitting her head again, after forty-eight hours?
Steven – Nobody. (Silence). Can you listen to me?
Leo – Isn’t that what I am doing all this time?
Steven – I mean can you open your heart to what I am to tell you? Our life, yours, mine, our wives’, has been flowing in its riverbed. Our children are now digging to create a riverbed for their own life to flow in. Push aside Sasha’s problem and support your son.
Leo – You would not be speaking like that if you were the one involved.
Steven – But I am involved. I am bringing up a child, too. Our children need patience, understanding, even self-denial on our part. Aris has found his life-partner. Do not kick away his happiness.
Leo – You are telling me to have Sasha kick against me. If I am not her ally, I become her worst enemy. She will destroy me, before she finally destroys herself.
Steven – And you will surely believe that I am your worst enemy if I tell you I am less interested in you two than I am in Aris. You have given him life not to have him as a stick to lean on, not to castrate him and curse him when he tries to flourish, be it with great delay. Sasha thought he would remain a son by her side eternally. She cannot see him as someone’s husband. I know you can. You, at least you, Leo, please stand by him.
Leo – You would not be speaking like that if you really knew Sasha. You are asking me to murder the girl I fell in love with thirty-five years ago. She is not a monster. She is suffering. She is trapped in her character. She cannot break out of it and breathe.
Steven – I am asking you not to murder your own son, who has come to know love for the first time after his thirty years of age. Have mercy on him! If you do not go to his wedding, at least send them a wedding present, even if you have to do so in secret. Pour balsam in his heart.
Leo – You are telling me to pour poison in Sasha’s heart. I feel it as betrayal. The foremost duty of a husband is…
Steven – Stop it! Think of what a father’s foremost duty is. It is to the future, not to the past. To the child he has brought to life.
Leo – Therefore, I should tell him some encouraging words in secret. I should send them a wedding present behind her back. You would know and they would know, but she wouldn’t. And that would not be a conspiracy then, you think?
Steven – Do you prefer to feel comfortable with your own conscience while your son’s heart is bleeding? Support him. Give him a hand so he won’t feel orphaned from both parents. Then you can writhe with pain.
Leo – Forget me. Have her crumble and writhe with pain, you mean. I cannot do it, Steven. My heart aches for Sasha, though she has been tyrannical during all our life. She has been still more tyrannical to herself. I wish you could understand that.
Steven – I do. But my priority is Aris. Anyhow, my priority is of little interest. The healing process must come from you. “Only he who has caused the wound can heal it,” the ancient doctors, the Korybants, used to say. It is you who must give him comfort and joy, if Sasha is trapped in her character and cannot do so. You must pronounce Mary’s name. It is not “she”. Her name is not unpronounceable. She is the woman who will share her life with him, his wife-to-be. Can’t you understand that? (Long silence).
Leo – I understand. It will be our death to give him life.
Steven – Why death? I don’t believe it. I hope not. For him it will surely be a blessing to have his own family, to stand by Mary’s daughter, to bring her to womanhood and prepare her to dig her own riverbed of life. Do it, my friend! (Long silence).
Leo – I cannot. If Aris feels orphaned, it is due to his own choice. What is happening to us is not due to our choice. We were struck by a thunderbolt when we lost our son. (Steven reacts but remains silent). It is a terrible bereavement to lose one’s only child. (Silence). It would be good for us if Cleo and you stand by our side in our mourning. However… if you condemn us, it is all right. We shall live on, all alone, childless and friendless.
Steven – We condemn no one, Leo. I just want to tell you that you always have a choice. Believe me, you do. It is only when faced with death that we have no choice.
Leo – We can only choose what is possible for us. Nobody chooses the impossible. For me it is impossible to abandon my wife in her terrible distress.
Steven – It is your decision, my friend. (They remain immobile).

Curtain

END OF ACT THREE

EPILOGUE

Aris – (On the island). (Aris is sitting by the telephone and speaks in the receiver. His hair is gray). Yes, Mrs. Cleo, it is me. (He smiles). Like every New Year’s Day. I am calling to wish you Happy New Year and to chat a while. It gives me great joy to talk with you. It takes me twenty years back; it makes me feel I am near you. (He listens). Of course I do not forget you! Mrs. Cleo is unforgettable. As long as I exist, I will call you every New Year’s Day. Not out of politeness. Wishing to make contact. (He listens and smiles). All right, as long as we exist. We don’t know who will go first. I am growing old, too. My hair is graying. And I have become a grandfather. What do you think? (He listens). Yes, Helen has given us a granddaughter eight months ago. She is charming. (He listens). Thank you. I knew you would be happy about it. We christened her in October. (He listens). What name? Mary – Alexandra. We wanted to honour my mother, as well. I wish my parents were alive to see her. I hope they would nor refuse to do so. I want to believe they would have mellowed with the passing of time. (He listens). Yes, I know. She loved me. Too much, unfortunately. Too great a love is suffocating, Mrs. Cleo! We, Mary and I, have set that goal: to love and not to suffocate our beloved. And we practice it daily. (He listens). Dependence, yes; I know it was that. Name it as you like. (He listens). She was a good woman, though. She deserved to live happily, but something prevented her from doing so. I did my best, as long as I could. (He listens). I know, Mrs. Cleo. You stood by both of them. And you also stood by Mary and me. We always felt we had moral support from Mr. Steven and from you. (He listens). Yes, I have heard about it. I have already told you how deeply sorry we were for his loss. Not just sorry; bereaved. We felt you two were our own people; more than just friends. Like family. Somehow like… parents. Mary became an orphan at a young age. We had no one. Mr. Steven… (He puts his palm on his mouth to stop a sob). I can imagine how you miss him. You have Rita and her family, of course, but a life companion is another thing. If ever I lose Mary… (He listens). Right. We don’t know who will go first. (He listens). Yes, loneliness is better than clinging. Rita was your only child, but you did not impede her. We consider the man Helen has chosen as our own son. (He listens). A wonderful young man. The son we never had. (Silence). Mary keeps saying you should come to the island if you can. We have a room for you, for as long as you wish. (He listens). What seventy, Mrs. Cleo? You will be upstanding till ninety. (He listens). Thank you. Our best wishes to Rita, to her husband, to your grandsons. Mother of boys, your Rita, eh? (He listens and laughs). Boys are all right. All God’s children are a blessing. A man who remains childless and friendless is indeed to be pitied. (He listens with surprise). My father? Did he? To whom did he say that? To you? (He listens). Oh, to Mr. Steven! In exactly these words? (He listens). “Childless and friendless.” Well, we had the same genes. We do not inherit only similar features. It seems we also inherit… linguistic similarities. (He listens and laughs). True. We shape our character by ourselves. Though… it is also a matter of coincidence. If Mary had not sat on the same bench by me one day, at noontime, years ago… (Silence). I don’t even want to think of it. (He listens). My father? Yes, possibly. If he were by himself, I believe he would. It is a pity that we did not have the time to become friends, my father and I. If Helen gives us a boy, a grandson, I hope they will name him after my father: Leo. May their soul rest in peace. (He listens). We are in fact looking ahead, Mrs. Cleo, but nostalgia remains. Well, if you do not manage to come to us during this New Year, I’ll call you again on January first, next year. (He smiles). I will call you as long as we exist. Happy New Year to you all. (He remains immobile).

Curtain

END OF THE PLAY

On the cover: Margit Covács “Mother and her Child” (statuette). Hungary, 1935

Lia Karavia
Sonny
A Play in Three Acts

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Lia Karavia, Grecia, poeta, escritora, narradora, dramaturga. políglota. Su obra ha sido traducida a más de veinte idiomas, y publicado más de setenta libros. Leer más en: Artepoética-Rostros y Versos y en Laberinto del Torogoz.

BILATERAL 2009