PINK ELEPHANT by Vahe Berberian
(The next day. A soft music is heard as Tzolag makes his way through the curtains and addresses the audience, reading from a piece of paper)
TZOLAG: Ladies and Gentlemen, We apologize for the slight delay. We had not been able to decide whether to go ahead with the performance tonight. As you surely know, our company has been rehearsing this play for a few months now, braving the most difficult political circumstances and the bombing, in order to stage this production today. The latest political maneuverings however, have left us utterly confused. The Committee intended to postpone the play, but according to the wishes of the company, we decided to present the play as scheduled. As you know, the next performances will be tomorrow, Saturday, then Sunday, and every Friday through Sunday; circumstances permitting of course.
We hope the resignation of the prime minister won't give rise to a new crisis, and life will return to normal course... and our boys, our noble theatre junkies, may continue their dedicated work. Thank you. (Exits)
(The curtain goes up with music. The stage is empty. There is only a sturdy gallows made of thick beams. A chair is placed under the noose. Roupen and Vatche enter quickly, and go upstage.)
ROUPEN:(Pointing to the audience)
There they are. I told you they would be here.
VATCHE: It's unbelievable. So they just sit like that and watch?
ROUPEN: Yes. Sometimes they laugh, sometimes they get bored, or sometimes they talk to each other in hushed voices. They cross their legs, or shuffle them, but as a rule they just sit and wait.
VATCHE: It's really strange. Can I take a picture?
VATCHE: (To the audience)
May I take your picture?
ROUPEN: They usually don't answer. (Vatche begins to photograph)
Sometimes they come two or three hours before the proceeding, wait outside for the doors to open, to get the best seats. When the accused is brought in, suddenly there is dead silence. As the executioner reads the crimes, the tension gradually mounts in the hall, then they begin to get angry, they shout and curse, they spit at the accused, throw tomatoes, until the noose is placed around his neck. Then they begin to mutter "Death, death, death, death". It begins as a whisper, then it becomes contagious, until all of them, almost with one voice, and in the same tone, demand that the sentence be carried out. When the chair is kicked from under his feet, the dead silence is resumed. They all wait, breathless for the accused’s last convulsions. Then they applaud and slowly file out. Alright you've taken enough pictures.
VATCHE: Are you troubled?
ROUPEN: Certainly. (Explosion)
VATCHE: The shelling has started again. I hope they'll postpone the execution.
ROUPEN: I don't think so.
(Trumpets are heard. Apo enters in the Executioner's costume, leading Simon, whose hands are tied behind his back. The sounds of applause and general commotion fill the air. When the noise die down, Apo unfolds a piece of paper and reads).
APO: Ladies and gentlemen,
The convict, who will receive his just punishment today, has been accused of defamation of the state, of subversive activities against the state, of inciting antisocial behavior and espousing immoral ideology.
Thus: he has refused on many occasions to swallow the pill. He has used his influence to convince others to refuse the call for national mobilization. He has advocated sexual promiscuity, and has even organized festivities on the evening of the president's death. He has refused to wear a black tie, and finally has declared to have no intention of ever becoming rich or joining the rat race. Such an individual is an undesirable parasitic element in our society and we are certain that the people will unanimously and joyously ratify the death sentence. (Explosion. Applause, shouting and commotion).
Has the accused any last requests?
SIMON: I want to hear the Adagio by Tomasso Albinoni. I want the moon. I want the sun. I want to kiss a woman's neck for the last time. I want to learn to play the violin. I want to be pregnant. I want to have twenty five babies. I want to kiss Virgin Mary's nipple. I want a yellow shirt. I want you to behead me with the guillotine to make people even happier. I want to write a book in four volumes. I want to eat a pomegranate... very slowly, seed by seed. I want to become my nephew's favorite song. I want another Great Flood, so Noah can make another ark, which this time will sink. If your decision is final, I want to commit suicide. I want to long for something. I want...
APO: Be quiet! Enough!
SIMON: I want to get bored.
APO: (Putting the rope around Simon's neck)
SIMON: I want to speak. I want to continue.
(The sounds of displeasure and whistling from the audience. The chant of death, death, death, increases gradually. Simon continues, but his words are drowned. Apo pushes the chair with one quick move, and Simon is hanged. Dead silence. Simon struggles for a few moments, and then stops. Vatche has been taking photographs in the meantime. Suddenly an anguished cry is heard and Nina runs to Simon. Hugs his dangling legs and sobs)
APO:(To the audience)
Believe me, I wouldn't hurt a fly as a rule. When walking, I am so careful not to step on an insect. But, the more the responsibilities one takes on, the more the compromises he has to make. At first I found a job in the prison as an orderly. Then I got married and had boys, twins. I had to find a better paying job. In those days, prison guards were paid a higher salary. I applied and was taken on. Two years later they offered me this position. I gave it some thought, and decided it was a good move. In fact it's not such a compromise. The pay isn't that good, but there is a spiritual satisfaction to the job, that you can't find so easily elsewhere. It's not an easy job. When I first started, I used to hang hundreds of people a day in my dreams. Day and night I searched for ways of easing the pain of the convicted. In time I realized, that mine was a public service. You can not imagine what it feels like to see the crowds enthusiasm. I no longer think of the convict or his family. I just focus on performing my role as best as I can. My boys are so proud of me, they dream of following in my footsteps. They've built themselves little toy gallows and play with them day and night. (Explosion)
I am sure many will find my job despicable, but I am convinced there is nothing wrong with lawful killing. After all, God punishes us all by death, and we worship him. (Explosion. Apo releases Simon from the noose, and carries him to the floor. Nina embraces Simon.)
APO: (To Vatche)
Did you take good pictures?
VATCHE: Quite good. (Strong explosion)
SIMON: (Continues slowly from the lying position)
I want my aunt's brown kitchen apron. I want to be the demonstrator who throws ripe tomatoes at the prime minister's car... (Nina begins to giggle)
I want my mother. (Simon begins to move)
I want to see my mother for the last time...
(Simon continues his muttering, moves away from Nina. The lights begin to fade. When the lights are turned on again, Simon is sitting on the swing hanging from the gallows. Explosion and music are heard. Roupen is standing upstage.)
SIMON: It's impossible Alfonse! No one lives aimlessly. Everyone has a goal, a dream to realize, or at least the hope that sooner or later his wishes will come true. Don't you agree?
(Roupen does not reply. An explosion is heard and the curtain at the back of the stage falls, revealing mount Ararat. The actors on the stage are confused. Khoren runs to confer with Tzolag who is seated in the audience. Roupen, with his back to the audience, speaks to someone backstage. Apo comes onto the stage, as do Tzolag and Khoren. They speak in whispers as Simon tries to continue his performance. Finally Tzolag addresses the audience.
TZOLAG: I am sorry for this interruption but I think we have to postpone tonight's performance. Apparently the political situation has taken a turn for the worse and the cease-fire has been lifted. There is no need to panic, but I must inform you that the hospital has been hit and there are many casualties. We must ask you to return to your homes. Please do so in an orderly fashion, and be very cautious.
One last thing. Those who are able to give blood, please wait outside in the lobby, as the hospital is in urgent need of it. Please do give blood if you can, it will surely save lives. Good-bye and thank you for coming.