a slight modification of an adaptation
BY CHARLES L. MEE
modification by Nasty Shadows
Staged in May 2009 @ Charlotte St. Arts Centre Auditorium, Fredericton, NB
William – Matthew Spinney
Nod – Brad Young
Orestes – Michael Holmes-Lauder
Forensics Expert -> Tapemouth Man – John Ball
Nurse #1 – Rebekah Chassé
Nurse #3 – Emily Carter
Electra – Meghan Loch
Helen (and Hermione) – Elizabeth Goodyear
Farley (voice over) – Scott Shannon
P.A. Voices – Nicholas Cole & Scott Shannon
Menelaus – Ian Murphy
Tyndareus – Andrew Jones
Pylades – Jordan Dashner
HERE magazine article/interview – Charlotte Street audience better keep their heads up for edgy play
Photos by Michael Holmes-Lauder & Meghan Loch.
(CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE)
ORESTES: … so I grabbed her by the ankle, that’s when she fell, if she hurt her back I don’t know.
ORESTES: I thought it was a game, so I ran after her and caught her by the thigh, you know, or foot, whatever, she came down hard, I don’t know what happened then, I don’t remember.
TAPEMOUTH MAN: … the spearhead passing through the bone and into the bladder so that he dropped, screaming, to his knees …
HELEN: Of course, you’re not to blame.
You’re only children.
One blames the gods for this sort of thing.
It’s up to them.
I blame Apollo.
ORESTES: No. No.
You talked about it,
but I committed murder.
That much is clear.
TAPEMOUTH MAN: And uh, uh, so I went to them that night to tell them I was all in trouble again, you know, and could they put me up for the night, you know, and they told me to take a hike and uh so uh, believing that I had the power to kill, uh you know, that was that for them. You know. I mean when family turns you out, that’s a real blow. You know.
FORENSICS EXPERT: We made a circular incision with a sharp razor around the umbilicus, deep enough to penetrate the skin, then from the middle of the pectoral bone a straight, lengthwise incision to the umbilicus, and from the lower region of the umbilicus as far as the region of the pubic bone between the little mounds of the vulva. We found no abdominal abnormalities or complications of the genitourinary system.
FORENSICS EXPERT: Since the subject had presumably been in a warm bath, she hemorrhaged into the warm water and bled out rapidly.
The cause of death was heart failure.
(The Nurses approach the forensics expert in order to apprehend and stop him from continuing. They immediately retrieve him to the floor space, strip him of his labcoat, tie him to the wheelchair and tape his mouth. From time to time he is able to work free of the tape to speak.)
ELECTRA: You could say:
“There is no form of anguish
that human beings
might not have to bear.”
There’s a way of putting things in order.
NOD: Some people say murder is a terrible thing, but then you hear of other things that make you think murder is a blessing.
NURSE 1: Sometimes the worst thing is just to be blindfolded for days on end waiting for someone to tell you why you’re there.
HELEN: But Electra, dear, could I ask you a favor?
ELECTRA: Ask me a favor?
HELEN: Will you go for me to my sister’s grave?
ELECTRA: My mother’s grave?
HELEN: To take an offering of hair and a libation from me.
ELECTRA: I couldn’t bear to see my mother’s grave.
HELEN: Well, I can’t go. I couldn’t bear to show my face in Argos.
ELECTRA: Why not?
HELEN: For fear.
HELEN: And shame.
ELECTRA: Fear and shame.
Right. These are things you feel.
HELEN: Well, of course I do.
HELEN: Do you understand?
HELEN: (In Hermione’s voice) Yes, mommy.
HELEN: There’s a good girl. Go quickly now. Don’t dawdle.
HELEN: (In Hermione’s voice) Yes, mommy.
HELEN: And come right back.
The world has become more difficult nowadays, not as it was when I was a child.
ORESTES: Electra, oh
Where are we now?
ELECTRA: Shall I lift you up?
ORESTES: Just hold me.
ORESTES: … I hate these fucking people with their faces all twisted like they’ve gone totally insane you find yourself hacking at them hacking at them with the butt of your hand, she says to me, you’re seeing someone else, I said I am not, this is a fucking lie, that’s not true at all, she says swear it, I said I do, she said you’re fucking lying you can’t use the bathroom, and it’s dark,
it’s freezing out the fucking car won’t start, the cigarette lighter is broken that’s when I slam the butt of my hand into the dashboard I say goddam you fucker goddam you fucker and she reaches over and touches my leg, that was her mistake, I saw it, just my forearm I saw it moving through the air but it was too late then, so I pushed her out behind the diner with the garbage cans, it seemed a good place at the time.
MENELAUS: Thank you.
We’re happy to be home.
Happy to be home.
Helen and I had a pleasant journey home.
And I couldn’t be happier to be here.
And, at the same time: sad, of course.
The news of Agamemnon’s death reached us on our journey back…
MENELAUS: This is the civil way.
The skilled public man,
like the skilled sailor,
trims his sails in a strong wind,
and wins more by yielding than he ever can by force.
TYNDAREUS: One ought not to say buxom or fragile or feminine or pert or petite or gorgeous or stunning or statuesque or full-figured or in any other way refer to the physical attributes of a woman.
TYNDAREUS: I can accept all this with equanimity.
And yet, one can commit murder and find the words to justify it.
This is your sort of civilization, then. It speaks nicely and behaves barbarously.
Indeed, it thinks that speaking well, putting a nice face on things, will transform the very stuff of life on earth.
WILLIAM: (Rising in his bed.)
One time I looked through a telescope and saw the words: “two of each of anything, one facing toward the other, put up as mirror images, to mark and mock a terminus.”
WILLIAM: As I filed in through the door with them
a terrible stench, of some unknown origin,
filled our lungs.
I was overcome with nausea,
and the captain said to me:
It’s a nightmare, really.
PYLADES: I’m your friend, Orestes.
People know we do things together.
Times like these are the test of whether a person has any capacity for friendship, love, loyalty. If I pass this test I won’t care what other
judgment anyone makes of me.
I’m here to take care of you.
ORESTES: But my mind–you know,
the way that it goes off–
if I were to start all at once to:
go off the subject.
PYLADES: I’ll be with you.
ORESTES: Thank you, Pylades.
We’ve become good friends, you and I.
TAPEMOUTH MAN: In tort law, rulings about product liability first began with objects that entered the human body such as food and drink, or were directly applied to the body’s surface, such as cosmetics, soap, before being extended to objects in less immediate relation to the body–as, for example, the container for food.
And the most obvious, continuous manifestation of the degree to which body and state are interwoven is the fact that one’s citizenship ordinarily contains physical presence within the boundaries of that country.
TAPEMOUTH MAN: There is a literalness about this, about the way the nation inscribes itself in the body, the literalness with which the human body opens itself and allows the nation to be registered in the wound.
NURSE 1: For me, I’m turned down 70% of the time I want sex now. It’s been two years since I had as much sex as I want and I keep trying to adjust to less sex. Doing porno films really helps satisfy my appetite.
NURSE 3: No, well, they have to move, that’s the whole trip. When I was a lot younger my girlfriend and I would hitch over to the Gold Cup Restaurant, dressed up in male costumes. I had short hair then and we’d trap some young gay guy and we’d take him home and just flip him out. He’d scream. One was totally terrified when he found out we were really women.
NOD: I’m not one of these guys who thinks you ought to hunt somebody down. But, you hear what some of these guys say who are coming back now.
WILLIAM: about what they saw on the ground–
NOD: the atrocities, the horror stories you hear, I forget,
WILLIAM: and about one of our guys who was captured and dragged through the streets, and you’ve got to believe the people who actually perpetrated these tortures are going to be held accountable.
NOD: their neighbors know who they are.
WILLIAM: Right, and people who protect them who will probably just get a little tired of protecting them.
NOD: Because there’s only so long protection can be an obligation before it’s easier not to make the effort.
WILLIAM: You mean basically the same thing as I just said.
NOD: I think we’re going to get satisfaction on the whole war crime aspect.
PYLADES: Think it through.
Let’s say, after we kill her,
we kidnap her daughter.
ELECTRA: (Musing.) Hermione.
PYLADES: Lure her to us, hold her as a hostage.
ELECTRA: (Coming alert.) Use her for safe passage out of town.
PYLADES: For all three of us.
ELECTRA: This is the way to save your life, Orestes.
PYLADES: This is the way to save your sister’s life.
ORESTES: I don’t know.
I’m not thinking clearly now.
We need some time.
PYLADES: There wasn’t time
after you made your first move!
This is it.
Make your next move.
ELECTRA: Let’s do it.
Let’s do this.
PYLADES: (Quietly.) What kind of man would throw away his sister’s life?
ORESTES: (Quietly.) I’ll go along with it.
TAPEMOUTH MAN: But uh, back to the original subject of forgiveness. If I forgive myself I’m forgiven. You know that’s essentially the answer. I’m the captain of my own ship. I run my own ship.
Nobody can crawl in my ship unless they get permission. I just (he nods) “over there.” You know. “I’m forgiven.” You know. Ha-ha. You know. (Laughs.) It’s as simple as that. You’re your own priest, you’re your own leader, you’re your own captain. You know. You run your own show, a lot of people know that.
NOD: And masks that he had made by peeling the faces from the skulls of different women. Of course they had no eyes, just holes where the eyes had been. But the hair was still attached to the scalps.
A few were all dried out, but some of them had been treated with oil, to keep the skin smooth and lifelike, and some had lipstick on their lips. If you had known them, and you had seen their masks, you would have recognized them.
I killed and burned her!
Now your wife: that’s another matter.
I’m going to cut her throat right before your eyes unless you arrange to get us out of here.
TAPEMOUTH MAN: Perhaps I seem trivial to you. So many matters of import surround you.
ORESTES: Those matters are exactly why I should leave and since you sit here worthless–
TAPEMOUTH MAN: We wait quietly in this place and that wait renders elusive but penetrating tracks in our carcass. There is a loss to the body for any scar.
ORESTES: Indeed there is.
(Orestes grabs scalpel off of corpse table and slits T.M.’s throat, killing him.)
WILLIAM: I’m not myself any more.
My head wrapped in bandages.
More like Lazarus gone into the tomb instead of leaving it.
Photos by Michael Holmes-Lauder & Meghan Loch.