Dramatic Texts >> Perch Zeytuntsyan >> The Saddest of Sad Men
THE SADDEST OF SAD MEN by Perch Zeytuntsyan, translated by Daniel Weissbort
 
DRAMATIS PERSONAE (in order of appearance)
AUTHOR
STRAUD
GEYA
HERA
BULLY
JUDGE
FIRST JUROR
SECOND JUROR
STRAUD'S MOTHER
GAOLER
PRIME-MINISTER
PRESIDENT
MINISTER OF JUSTICE
MINISTER OF COMPLICATED SITUATIONS
MINISTER OF DELICATE SITUATIONS
MINISTER OF SINCERITY
SCHOLAR
JOURNALIST ONE
JOURNALIST TWO
JOURNALIST THREE
YOUNGER STRAUD
 
ACT I
 
SCENE 1
 
AUTHOR
Each age has its own most brilliant man, its most-bold, most long-lived, most... In a word - most most. I'd have liked to tell you about the most cheerful. . . since we all love cheerful stories. And can you blame us! But I haven't managed to discover who it is. So, today I am going to tell you about the saddest man of our century. To start with, he's easier to track down. A lot easier. . .
This story is documentary, based on fact. The hero and the circumstances surrounding him are real. At first, though, the author kept so close to what actually happened, that his story simply stopped being believable. And then he wrote a contemporary story, ignoring the details, changing a few things, even exaggerating a little. And at once a more or less believable story resulted.
Its action takes place in the country of Alkatraz, which you won't find on any map. On the other hand, the dates are exact, which doesn't matter in the least, and so, of course, is the century, which matters a great deal.
 
Geya's room. Geya, a beautiful thirty-year old woman, is lying on the bed. A knock at the door. Geya struggles awake. Another knock. Geya gets up reluctantly, opens the door. A young man, Straud, enters.
They are both silent, as though they were waiting for someone else. And, in fact, 12 men appear, each one with a chair. They take their seats on the edge of the set, forming a square around Geya and Straud.
Until the end of the Geya-Straud encounter, they remain on stage like so many silent witnesses. 12 men and two dramatis personae, neither group connected with the other.

 
STRAUD
(Resolutely but also somewhat confused) I ... I've come to ask you to marry me.
 
Immediately after these words, the witnesses start moving their chairs towards the center. The square around Geya and Strand grows smaller. This same movement will be repeated at the more significant points in the conversation.
 
GEYA
So soon? What do you want me to say?
 
STRAUD
Whatever you wish. . . That is. . . Say, alright. . .
 
GEYA
(Indifferently) Alright.
 
STRAUD
Why are you making fun of me? (With conviction) I'll be a good husband . . . the best in the world. . . And you will love me. . . Because . . . how could you not love me then? . .
 
GEYA
(With a faint smile) But why have you kept quiet till now? We've known each other a whole year. For a whole year you've been calling on me. Haven't you kept this a secret for too long? I'd almost come to believe that a man and woman could be like brother and sister. . . Now you've spoiled everything.
 
STRAUD
(Confused) But didn't you realize? . . Did I really have to spell it out for you?
 
GEYA
It's been a long time since I could read men's minds. For me, you all look at things the same way, speak the same way, think the same thoughts, smell the same. Only the words are different. But it's only the words I believe. No, I don't believe. . . I just understand. No, I don't understand. . . I listen. (In a monotone, but anxiously) Five o'clock. . . Nice weather we're having. .. I love you. . . The room's got four walls. . . Wait for me tonight. . . Have you got any cigarettes? .. Give me one. . . Straud (Firmly, with confidence): I'll teach you. . . I'll make sure we understand one another without having to say a word. I'm not promising money, riches. . . We'll always be penniless. We'll always be poor. But there's one thing I can promise you, and that's to hold my tongue and understand you. You can be sure of that! Now I know what you need. . .
 
GEYA
(Smiling faintly) How old are you?
 
STRAUD
(Animatedly) I want you to be happy. You simply have to be happy. Sometimes so little is needed for happiness. . .
 
GEYA
How old are you?
 
STRAUD
Nineteen.
 
GEYA
If we are going to be poor, we won't be able to hold our tongue and understand one another. For that you need money. If we are going to be rich, we'll also not be able to. It's impossible with money. So put it out of your mind. You won't be able to hold your tongue with anyone. You'll talk, and talk and talk!
 
STRAUD
I know you despise me. Just because you're thirteen years older than me, do you think that gives you the right to despise me? And I know why you despise me. Because I'm not like others. The others are real men. They don't waste time. They can explain everything. But I come to you each day and each day I'm determined I'll be like them. And I can't. (Long pause. He looks at Geya with hatred. Suddenly) Do they give you money?
 
GEYA
(Tensely) What do you mean, money?
 
STRAUD
Money, money, to go to bed with you! Do they give you money?
 
GEYA
(Tensely) Of course. Although, if a man appeals to me, I don't ask for anything.
 
STRAUD
(Uncertain as to whether he wants to insult her, or is simply curious) Would you take it from me?
 
GEYA
(Tensely) Maybe.
 
STRAUD
(In a whisper) How much?
 
GEYA
How much have you got?
 
STRAUD
No, you say, how much?
 
GEYA
Now I like you. I knew I would. Tonight you can stay with me, and in the morning you'll look
around in amazement, not knowing where you are, who's sleeping beside you. Hurriedly you'll throw on a few clothes and slip away in silence. And that'll be fine.
 
STRAUD
And what do they whisper to you at night? What do they say?
 
GEYA
I don't remember. I don't pay attention.
 
STRAUD
(Obstinately) What do they whisper? What do they say?
 
GEYA
(In an anguished voice) What do you want of me?
 
STRAUD
(Explosively) I want to learn. I want to be able to say the same things. I want to be like everyone else. Tell me what they whisper to you?
 
GEYA
See, you've already got the idea. But if you want to marry everyone you feel like spending the night with. . . (Starts to laugh.)
 
STRAUD
I want to marry you!
 
(Again Straud has sounded unexpectedly sincere. And so the 12 men again move their chairs. The square around Geya and Straud grows smaller.)
 
Geya (Softly): That'll do for now, I'm tired. It's getting on my nerves. I don't like virgins. They complicate things. You don't know what to expect from them. Gentle, cruel. They can be both at the same time and just as sincerely. Good, and bad. But usually - bad. And if they ran the world! God help us. . . (Quite unexpectedly, without any logical connection) It's all your fault. . . It's my fault. . . I don't know whose fault it is. . . It's your fault. . . When men came to me, you talked to them politely. . . You were neat, handsome … nicely dressed. . . Poor but nice. . . And do you know what you smelt of? . . Cleanliness and uprightness. It took one's breath away, it was a real joy. . . One felt like hugging you, looking after you, telling you stories with a happy ending. . . And you said clever things. . . So calm, so sweet. . . With your three years of school. . . I felt ashamed for you, each clever interesting thing you said. . . I felt insulted. . . That's also typical of poor folk. . . O, I can tell them from a mile off. . . I can always tell them. . . Illiterate but with a natural intelligence. . . Knowing how to behave . . . knowing how to dress. Poor but neat. . . It's all so phoney. . . Illogical. . . And then you got up, found some idiotic reason and left. . . And do you know what you did as you said goodbye? You shook hands with them! Why? Why did you talk with them? Foolish boy! Why did you let them treat you so rudely, when you were so polite to them? . . . That way you made yourself small . . . It's where you suffered a defeat. . . You were routed! . . . And they'll tear you apart! . . . You won't be able to bear it. . . Why are you so polite to them, why do you let them treat you so rudely . . . (Maliciously) It's all over. There's nothing you can do about it. You've given in, that's all there is to it.

(To the author who has been standing to one side, while this was going on)

And you, what are you eavesdropping for? What are you interfering in our lives for? What can you know? Can you do anything about it? Well, can you? If you can't, just clear off, wait your turn!
 
The author leaves the stage silently.
 
GEYA
And they know how to ... how to put us down, to crush us. . . That's why the next day you were even more polite with them and even more pathetic with me. . . But I'm not one of them. . . Do you want me to solve this puzzle? (Distinctly) I'm like you.. . (A short pause. In a completely different tone of voice - softly, wearily) Yes I'll let you in on a secret. . . I'm a virgin too. Don't be surprised. . . The Lord protect us from virgins. . .
 
STRAUD
I love you.
 
The witnesses move their chairs again, and the square grows smaller.
 
GEYA
I love you too. I really do. You could teach me. But be gentle, slow. . . Look, please. . . If you just whispered it quickly in my ear ... if you spoke your mind. . . Don't hold back. . . Just say what you have to say. . . Even if it's ordinary. . . So much the better. . . It will still be better than anything I've ever heard before. Will you? You wanted to. . . Let's just be silent. . . One minute's silence. . . Maybe, we'll really understand everything. . .
 
They are silent.
 
STRAUD
We'll leave town. We'll follow our noses. If we're together - the two of us that is - it'll give us strength. On the other hand, though, why should we leave, Geya? Run away? Why? We've still got unfinished business. With them. All those who have insulted us. We shan't let them get away with it so easily. . .
 
GEYA
That's right, Bob. . .
 
STRAUD
(Excitedly) We'll have lots of children, and we'll raise them. . . We'll teach them that children mustn't interrupt adults when they're speaking. . . And lots of other important rules too! And if I punish one of them, don't you try to defend him. .. Don't play up to them. . . Because that's the way to spoil them. . . Hold your tongue even if you can see that I'm in the wrong. . . (His face lights up, he speaks in a staccato manner, as if the excitement and happiness were choking him) In the morning we'll all have our tea together, the whole family, and our well-brought up children won't chatter and be naughty at table. That will be our revenge, yours and mine. Our revenge for everything. You know what I mean, for everything.
 
GEYA
I know what you mean, Bob. I do.
 
Straud, happy now, moves towards Geya. Geya waits for him. They are both eagerly looking forward to this moment.
 
GEYA
(Abruptly) Just a moment, Bob. Don't.
 
Straud (Surprised): Why not?
 
GEYA
No, no, don't.
 
STRAUD
But why not?
 
GEYA
Honestly. It'll only make things worse.
 
STRAUD
I don't understand, Geya. Why?
 
GEYA
Believe me. It'll make things worse.
 
STRAUD
Geya. . .
 
GEYA
I'm telling you, nothing will come of it. I know that nothing will come of it. (With sad irony) After all, I'm thirteen years older than you.
 
The circular stage revolves. Geya remains in the same spot, outside the circle, but Straud is now on the other side of the stage, though also in the same position as before.
 
BLACKOUT
 


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