Translated from Polish by Magda Romanska
The Theatre of Transition: Bogusław Schaeffer and the Polish Stage of the Brave New World
In 1999, to celebrate the 70th birthday of Bogusław Schaeffer, Jagiellonian University in Kraków organized a symposium devoted to this Polish playwright, composer, and theoretician. The body of speakers included actors, theatre critics, musicologists, and composers. An author of forty plays, seventeen books on modern music, as well as four hundred musical compositions, Schaeffer is the only composer in the Western history with an independent dramaturgical career or the only playwright with an independent career as a composer. He is the author of the first handbook of modern composition, professor at the Salzburg School of Music and at the Academy of Music in Kraków, and the most frequently performed playwright in Poland today. Indeed, in music circles, he is often known only as a composer and in theatre circles, only as a playwright. It is often thought that having two independent professions disrupts both of them, but not in the case of Schaeffer. On the contrary, it seems that his experience as a composer only adds originality to his playwriting and vice versa (Sugiera 7).
Born on 6 June 1929 in Lwów, Schaeffer learned to write at the age of five and began playing the piano at the age of seven. Since his first attempts at writing were discouraged by his father whose own poetic impulses did not bring about the anticipated results, young Bogusław destroyed his early writings and decided to focus exclusively on music. During WWII, separated from his family, Shaeffer devoted himself to studying foreign languages and music theory. After the war, he was reunited with his family, who settled in Opole, where Schaeffer attended the gymnasium with a specialization in math and physics. He quickly became first in his class. At the age of 17, he wrote his first musical composition, soon followed by three hundred more musical pieces. He became a playwright in his spare time as a respite from writing music. Writing a play, he says, comes easily as compared to writing music, which is difficult. For a long time Schaeffer wrote his dramas secretly and without an intention of ever staging them.
His first play, written in 1955, is a twenty-eight-scene opus based on the life of the Austrian composer Anton von Webern. (1883 - 1945). A student of Schönberg, Webern was a discriminating composer whose musical talents were not always appreciated by his contemporaries. Audiences, for the most part, found his music incomprehensible, and musicians often refused to perform his compositions because they were considered too difficult. Webern was practically sentenced to obscurity in 1945, when he was accidentally shot by a U.S. soldier in the U.S.-occupied zone. He left behind barely over three hours of performable music. Webern's influence, however, flourished after WWII, his use of serialism and the emphasis he placed on a single note inspiring many contemporary composers. Schaeffer's play, simply titled Webern, deals with the composer's position as an under-appreciated artist who is forced to face his own unpopularity. Tracing Webern's psychological processes on the ladder to success, Schaeffer constructs a portrait of a man whose only point of reference and source of meaning is himself and his own conviction in the strength of his work. Although Schaeffer and Webern are drastically different in their musical styles and personalities, Webern was ultimately a 26-year-old Schaeffer's alter ego. Written for the drawer, Webern was never performed and, despite a lively interest in the play in Poland, Schaeffer has never made any attempts to have it staged. Followed by thirty-nine other plays written in the span of over forty years, Webern established some of the major aspects in Schaeffer's later dramaturgy: the theme of music, the use of absurd dialogue, characters thrown into antagonistic social and political circumstances, and a uniquely Schaefferian meta-theatricality.
Although some of Schaeffer's later plays have been consistently performed across Poland since the mid-50s (Monologue for One Actor as performed by a leading Polish actor, Jan Peszek, has been running on and off for the last forty years), Schaeffer himself came to prominence only after 1989. Following the Round Table talks that basically ended forty years of communist rule, Polish theatre - always entangled in one way or another in the political struggle - was suddenly left in an ideological vacuum. During the communist era, theatre in Poland had had enormous political power. As a live performance, it was the only medium - unlike radio and TV - that could escape government censorship. Playwrights and actors learned to speak between the lines, using metaphors, symbols, or sometimes just a wink of the eye to communicate their anti-establishment sentiments with their audiences. The comic theatre strategy in the Poland of that time was similar to what Peter Sloterdijk calls "kynicism," that is, subversion of official structures by means of satire and the grotesque, a peculiar form of "pissing against the idealist wind." Idealism in this case represented the ideological façade of the communist regime.
Spectators, for their part, learned to read between the lines, interpreting everything they possibly could as a political statement. For example, in his seminal work on Shakespeare, Jan Kott recalls that in 1956, during a production of Hamlet staged only a few weeks after the Twentieth Party Congress in the USSR revealed Stalin's atrocities, nobody had any doubts to what the lines: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," and "Denmark's a prison" referred. In Poland in 1956, they certainly were not referring to Hamlet's Denmark. The lines at the time gained an ironic undertone and became practically a part of the colloquial vocabulary as a code phrase for the Soviet state. In the same spirit, the 1967 production of Adam Mickiewicz's Forefather's Eve, a national romantic drama dealing with the eighteenth-century partition of Poland, provoked street demonstrations and a string of subsequent persecutions of Poland's intelligentsia, writers, students, and university professors, forcing some of them into permanent exile. After a period of such intense political engagement, the unexpected change of climate in Eastern Europe created an atmosphere in which the role of theatre as the only oasis of a free speech came to a sudden halt. At the same time, with the economic transition to a free market, state sponsorship of theatres also ended, leaving most of them to their own devices as far as the funding was concerned.
It was at this point of ideological and financial shortage that Schaeffer's plays entered the Polish mainstream. In a way, Schaeffer did for Polish theatre what Roman Polanski did for Polish film: he liberated it from what Tadeusz Konwicki calls "the Polish complex." Polanski's Knife in the Water (1963), a black-and-white film about a love triangle, was the first post-war Polish film that did not touch on either WWII or any other national issue. It was also the first film that could be easily understood by somebody without any knowledge of Polish history. In the same manner, Schaeffer's plays are practically void of references to Polish national themes, Polish politics, or Polish history. One can understand Schaeffer's jokes without knowing the quirks and absurdities of life under the communist regime. Indeed, faced with the new economic and political reality of burgeoning capitalism, Polish audiences found in Schaeffer the most acute commentator of the quirks and absurdities of life under capitalism.
Blending grotesque situations, absurd language and dark humor, Schaeffer's plays probe the questions of power, sexuality, blind consumerism, elitism, and contemporary alienation. The meta-theatrical theme tells the story of an actor and the theatre, but it also tells the story of life in a world where, to survive, one has to constantly assume new masks and new poses. Losing themselves between their desperation and their lack of coherent self-image, Schaeffer's heroes suffer from what Bernard Rosen calls "chameleon personality." "[Schaeffer's] hero is often a Multiindividuum, […] undergoing various metamorphoses, and unrecognizable under various masks. The artificiality of the names signalizes the artificiality of their being. They are the abstract elements of preexisting a priori structure. […] It is not important what the character says but in order he says it" (Karasińska 49). The fiction and reality of the stage constantly intertwine, suspending the heroes and viewers in a no man's land of ambiguous values and questionable intentions. In the confused Poland of the 1990s, Schaeffer's plays, always drawing a paying audience, reflected the emotional and social conditions of the people, both the older generation of the post-WWII baby boomers, who were thrust into a new economic reality to which they were often unable to adjust, and the young, who had already forgotten the long lines for bread during communism but who were not yet able to grasp the mechanisms of the capitalist market. The transitional 1990s became Schaeffer's decade on the Polish stage, in every sense of the word.
ALLES is an original play. It has never been performed or published before. This translation is based on Schaeffer's own manuscript. The play tells a story of a Bonny-and-Clyde-style couple, a brother and sister, named Alles and Sorella, who team up to play a con trick on a group of job applicants. For Alles, the driving mechanism is the sense of power and self-importance in relationship to those whom he "interviews" for the position of his butler. The unemployed applicants range from a chemistry professor to a former mathematician, each equally desperate for what Alles presents as a prestigious position. Using random pages from various encyclopedias and scientific journals, Alles tests their knowledge of everything, "starting with the history of Somalia to the rebellion of Eskimo mine workers." Each applicant is utterly humiliated, but with the promise of a large salary and access to the elites, they remain undeterred in their desire to become Alles' butler. As the process progresses and the applicants start to compete with each other, the situation becomes more and more absurd, much like in Samuel Beckett's drama, it becomes both painful and funny to watch. We cringe at the applicants' lack of dignity and their desperation, yet we also pity them. In the context of Poland's skyrocketing unemployment rate, the play becomes a peculiar critique of an economic system that can reduce anyone to begging for a position as a servant to an individual with a questionable criminal record. Alles' self-assured attitude creates an aura of authority which none of the applicants dares to undermine. Although he interviews them in a modestly furnished makeshift office, they never once question his intentions or the validity of his claims. They need to believe in his supposed fortune simply because it is their last chance for a job.
The play is almost a psychological study of both the psychology of a con game and the mechanism of poverty, which creates enough desperation to make people fall for it. Like concentration camp prisoners, the applicants are only recognized by numbers. They are dispensable and clueless. The more they want to play by Alles' rules, the more helpless they become. Like Ionesco's Rhinoceros, ALLES represents a brute force of iron will with neither scruples nor ethical consideration. A blend of Pirandello's self-referentiality, Beckett's grotesque, Durang's absurd cynicism and Vinaver's social critique of corporate structures, the play is an opus on the modern human condition. Schaeffer said about his work: "The reason that my theatre is interesting is that it derives from the music and in music every ten seconds is important." Indeed, in ALLES, every ten seconds is important because every ten seconds can change one's position from servant to a master and vice versa. Without further ado, below is the first English translation of the new Poland's leading playwright.
1. All translations by article author.
Karasińska, Marta. "Dialog, non-dialog of Bogusław Schaeffer," Bogusław Schaeffer: Composer and Playwright. Eds. Małgorzata Sugiera and Joanna Zając. Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka, 1999. 45-70.
Stawowy, Ludomira. Bogusław Schaeffer. Salzburg: Collsch Edition, 1998.
Sugiera, Małgorzata, and Joanna Zając, eds. Bogusław Schaeffer: Composer and
Playwright. Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka,1999. 11-26.
Zając, Joanna. Dramaturgia Schaeffera. Salzburg: Collsch Edition, 1998.
Translated from Polish by Magda Romanska
SORELLA (ALLES' much younger sister)
FIRST (also FOURTH and SEVENTH)
SECOND (also FIFTH and EIGHTH)
THIRD (also SIXTH and NINTH)
(Modestly furnished room, small. Table, a few chairs stage right. Stage left, a comfortable armchair. A clock in front of it. Quiet music in the background)
(Enter the FIRST)
FIRST. (Looks around, approaches some painting, comes back downstage center, murmurs to himself) Hmm, maybe it's not here…
ALLES. (Entering ) Good morning! No, no. It's all right. You're at the right place. My apologies for making you wait.
FIRST. (Resolutely ) You didn't make me do anything. I read an ad and I am here, though I don't know exactly what the position is that you're looking to fill. I have excellent qualifications though I do not know what you are looking for.
ALLES. Good, good, please, calm down. At my place I want you to feel as if it was yours, but I don't want you to behave as if it were your place.
FIRST. What kind of work do you have in mind? I don't have time for pointless conversations.
ALLES. (Looking at the FIRST ) You don't have a job so you do have the time. I shall explain. Right now, we are in a modest room, almost unfurnished. It's not necessary for the moment to lavish it. It is as if - a waiting room. But I am - I have to disappoint you - I am not a simple bureaucrat, but (pause ) a recent heir to a large fortune. I am a man who never has to work again, even though he might one day want to. I am a man who can afford everything, but who wants to start by hiring a trustworthy servant, in other words, a valet. For a large salary, indeed, a very large salary. But from the servant who would be my valet and my personal secretary, I will expect more than is assumed in our world. I feel disgusted just thinking about valets who allow themselves for the ironic smirks, such as you have right now on your mediocre face. It fills me with disgust to think that my friends - and as you can imagine I have a lot of friends right now - that my rich and sophisticated friends - are being served by individuals whom one would never want to meet otherwise. My valet has to look stunning and has to have an exquisite education. Yes - an exquisite education! You know, I am not particularly inventive here. I received an exquisite education in England and I would not want to live on a daily basis with the ignorance that has recently overcome such a large mass of our society. (Looks cautiously at the FIRST).
FIRST. I think I most certainly fulfill all the requirements that you expect from your valet. Here are my papers. I have two doctorates, in chemistry and in philosophy. For a few years, I was the president of the Institute for Advanced Literary Studies and vice president of the Science Academy. Lately, I have worked at the store. Hmm, I am being silly - at the bookstore.
ALLES. And they fired you from the bookstore. But why, if I may ask? You're still relatively young. An ideal age for the valet.
FIRST. Due to false accusations.
ALLES. Ah, yes, false, you're saying. So, do you also have a law degree?
FIRST. I don't have a law degree, but an excellent orientation in legal matters.
ALLES. You must know I would not want to have a valet who would be involved in legal matters. My butler has to be clean. Speaking of which - why did you need doctorate in chemistry if you were working at the Institute for Advanced Literary Studies…? At the store… what did you sell? Laundry detergent? It is chemistry, indeed, but there is no logic in your vita. Please, call in the next person.
FIRST. I won't call anyone until you tell me if I am hired.
ALLES. You must be kidding. But all right. I'll give you another chance. Why don't you come back next week - exactly - in nine thousand EIGHTY minutes.
FIRST. (Touched ) Thank you. Shall I call the next person?
ALLES. The valet does not ask what to do, but does what he's told.
FIRST. (Leaving ) Of course, of course. Good-bye.
(Moment of silence. Enter the SECOND)
SECOND. Good morning.
ALLES. Not for everybody. Your papers, please.
SECOND. Here you go: a letter of recommendation from the president of the bank, three college diplomas, results of all the health tests, and the third edition of my book How to Become a Valet. The two first editions disappeared in an instant.
ALLES. You know what I am looking for…
SECOND. I know precisely. For a valet. He has to have an easygoing personality and an exquisite, well-rounded education. I fulfill both requirements.
ALLES. You think so. You could use a bit less arrogance.
SECOND. I can be modest if there is a need, though I do have a sense of my self-worth. I have saved a life of the president of the bank. With others…
ALLES. I understand there were more of those saviors…
SECOND. No, not at all. I was the only one.
ALLES. You said - "with others." I understood, rightly, that there were a few people saving the president.
SECOND. The president could count only on me.
ALLES. And now he repays you with the reference letter. You saved a life of an idiot. He misspelled your name, and wrote "I recoment" instead of "I recommend. And the last sentence does not have a predicament.
SECOND. The entire letter is a predicament, a predicament about my competence and high qualifications.
ALLES. I don't have time today. I don't like either this letter or your overconfidence. But - you can come the next week.
SECOND. I have heard. In ten thousand EIGHTY minutes. Thank you. (He leaves)
ALLES. You're welcome. You saved the life of the president of the bank. I know this case. One barman told me about it. The president wanted to jump out of his window, and someone yelled: "Mr. President, phone call for you!" The president, like all idiots, had to take the phone so he forgot to take his life.
(Enters the THIRD)
THIRD. Good morning!
ALLES. I didn't call you.
THIRD. No, but I have an excellent intuition. I don't have any doctorates like those morons, but I am of excellent birth. Michael Boggy Prince Lubomirski, on your service.
ALLES. Aha, and the prince came to support his valet.
THIRD. Not at all. It's myself I am here to support.
ALLES. A Prince cannot be my valet. Rather the other way around: I could be a prince's valet; though I don't know what use you would have of me. (Pause ) If at least your name was Benito or Wissarion, but Michael Boggy, I don't know, I really don't know, dear Prince.
THIRD. You shouldn't overuse the expression 'I really don't know.' One never talks like that amongst our class. To admit that one does not know something, to admit one's ignorance? That is too much! You know how many volumes my grandfather's library held?
ALLES. I don't. I really don't … (does not finish his sentence).
THIRD. More than you think. (Pause ) And your library, how many volumes does it have? The dean of our Art Academy has only three: Azerbaijan Cuisine, The Life and Work of Paderewski, and How to Fix Your Car. The hottest reading was Azerbaijan Cuisine, a lot of condiments: savory, estragon, saffron… (Seriously ) Do I get the position?
ALLES. I don't know. I really don't know. I am sorry. I didn't put it right. I ask your Excellency for time. And I ask you, please, to reconsider your candidacy because it puts me in a very uncomfortable situation. Please, send my greetings to your husband!
THIRD. (To himself ) Impertinent. Moron.
ALLES. (Didn't hear the comment ) The pleasure is all mine.
(Lights go down slowly. Music becomes livelier.)
(The same room. There is a new bookshelf, but instead of books it is filled with files. Dark.)
SORELLA. (Entering ) O, how dark it is here. One moment. There is a lamp on the desk. (Approaches the desk and turns up the lamp. Lights up.)
ALLES. (Entering ) I like this lighting. It should be like a real office: cold, dirty but also intimate. Please, go to the kitchen and make me some coffee. I have to be in good shape today. (He exits).
(The client appears. It is the FOURTH. He is played by the actor who also played the FIRST one. He is dressed differently and has a different hairdo. He wears a fancy jacket and glasses. He carries a thick briefcase.)
FOURTH. Good Morning! I am coming here in reference to the ad that I have read in Science News. How long do I have to wait? I don't have much time.
SORELLA. (Indifferent ) They all say so - they don't have time - and later, I see them at the cafe across the street, reading newspapers for hours at a time. There aren't even any fresh newspapers there. The owner is so cheap, he picks up the papers from the garbage cans by the Hotel Grant.
FOURTH. It is very interesting what you're saying, but I really don't have much time. Maybe I can just leave you my papers? (He attempts to take some papers out of his briefcase, but fails. He seems very nervous.)
SORELLA. You can't take anything out of the briefcase this way. What do you have here! You have to take out a few pages first. Then, when there is more space in the briefcase, you can take out the rest. (She takes out everything from FOURTH's briefcase ) Who has time these days for reading all of that…
FOURTH. It'll completely suffice if you just glance at the most important documents. They are marked with a red stripe at the top…
SORELLA. (Offended ) Do you suppose we do not read all the documents carefully? You're absolutely wrong. We read everything very carefully. We have to have the full image of each candidate.
FOURTH. Well, in that case, maybe I'll leave you all of it and come tomorrow. I have a really important meeting now with …
SORELLA. Very well. You can go if you're in such a hurry. In the worst case, I'll come for you to the cafe for you. Well, maybe you can wait here after all…
FOURTH. No, I have a meeting…
SORELLA. I know. Go then.
FOURTH. (Exiting, from behind the door ) The most important ones are marked with the red stripe on the top…
SORELLA. (Looking through the papers) . What an idiot. But his papers are pretty good. Maybe fake? You can get anything fake those days. Even the famous paintings are fake and - what a surprise - sold as genuine. Every expert can be bought. It's only a question of how much.
ALLES. (Entering ) I made myself a coffee. Goethe, son of a bitch, used to add two whole beans to the already brewed coffee…
SORELLA. Little brother! Don't get your head occupied with coffee beans. Here you have the entire dossier. This guy is really something. He looks likes he's living at the bus station, but his papers! What recommendations! Take a look at them and I'll go to supermarket to pick up a few things. Everything's always on my head… (Exits ).
ALLES. (Sitting by the desk and looking at the papers. Clasps his hands ) It's getting better and better. This bastard here is quite an expert, and in a few areas too! In the old days such a client would simply go to the law school, med school or go to get Ph.D. in philosophy. He would become a simple-minded legal parasite, charlatan or an idiot-thinker for the rest of his life. And today? Everyone who has some brains left in his skull knows that you got to train yourself in a multitude of skills. This one here is a real player. At least that's how it looks from his papers. He won a History Contest in which he beat thirty other history experts. He knew everything, starting with the history of Somalia to the rebellion of Eskimo mine workers. Just wait, you little weasel, I'll show you! Just yesterday I pocketed a little book about the partisan fights in the Samara region in 920. Nobody at the bookstore watches over the history shelf. You can literally take whatever you like. The two of us - but with whom? - the two of us could carry out all twelve volumes of Doppelschwatz's History of European Culture if we wanted to and no one would even notice.
SORELLA. (Entering ) There'll be tripe for diner today. There was a large crowd by the ravioli section. I already had a nice piece of lamb in my bag, but a young student dressed up like a chimneysweep stole it from me. So, there is just tripe. We also have the Portuguese wine that you like. I only paid for the onion baguette. I told the poor cashier girl that she had a stain on her sweater and she gave me more change than she should have. I used this trick that you found in a policeman's guide. I held a higher note on the top, but passed the lower one that I had hidden underneath.
ALLES. You can recognize the bills, even just glancing over them.
SORELLA. That's why I painted "zero" next to "five." You always know how to find something useful in those old bookstores.
ALLES. And to think that they used to burn books. You know that this idiot that came in here today won a History Contest. He knew everything! For an award, instead of the money that he was promised, he won a British Encyclopedia. Will he come tomorrow? Good. I'll examine him on some more exotic topics. I have some stuff from the National Library. I tore out a few pages here and there and I am ready. I have questions for everyone who calls himself an expert, ha-ha. The only expert here is me because I am examining them.
SORELLA. What if someone asks you about something concrete? You may know nothing about it.
ALLES. Who would be so bold in our amoral society to do such a thing? They don't even dare to ask how much they'll get paid for serving me. They only know that I am generous.
SORELLA. Where do they get that from?
ALLES. I tell them so they know. That's how it has been for years. People believe everything, except what does not suits them. They thrive on their own stupidity and their own silly dreams.
SORELLA. You're right. I heard just today that the valet's salary could be five times the president's salary.
ALLES. Well, when you're a valet you can always steal something, but when you're a president you're always watched. You have to have clean hands.
SORELLA. I know a man who has such a beautiful hands. Something you can really look at. Beautiful! Not the kind that some actors have - fat fingers, spider veins…
ALLES. And then the actress has to declare to such a type: "Ach, you've got such a beautiful hands." Eh, films went completely to the dog's house too.
SORELLA. But dogs in films are so touching. They can say more than even the best actors sometimes can.
ALLES. Maybe because dogs don't speak at all. They only look touchingly down on you from the screen.
SORELLA. (Exiting ) The actor too can look touchingly down from the screen, but then again, everyone will think that he's gay.
ALLES. Indeed, actors don't have any chance against dogs. They're like my wannabes valets (exits).
ALLES (Sitting in a comfortable armchair ) Yes. We already have four candidates. (Pause ) But, there should be forty of them, four hundred of them. But, at least they all are different! When I was still working, once in a while someone would disappear or be thrown out, but in his place someone new would quickly appear. And what kind of person was the newcomer? He was exactly like the rest of us. I could safely assume that all the idiots that worked with me were exactly alike. Why would I be interested in them? I recognized them by their voices. Maybe one was smaller than the rest, or knew something that the others didn't: where to buy something cheaply, for example. But spiritually and intellectually, they were all alike, virtually indistinguishable.
(Enter FIFTH. He is played by the SECOND, but he looks completely different. He is dressed like a hunter, wears a hunting hat and carries a hunting riffle.)
FIFTH. Greetings to you sir. I am here just in passing. We were hunting with the Count Prepolish. He subscribes to various magazines that he takes with him while he's hunting. The hunting itself, he says, bores him. So, I looked in one of them and there it was - your ad - so I thought…
ALLES. I know what you thought. And of course, you have a recommendation letter from the Count.
FIFTH. You're absolutely right. I do have it! He recommends me wholeheartedly.
ALLES. I am very happy about it, but maybe you could put away your riffle. You won't need it.
FIFTH. But I never separate from it.
ALLES. What kind of rifle is it?
FIFTH. Double-barreled. An old pre-octoberian made it. He even gave me a warranty card that I always carry on me.
ALLES. I don't need it. I need your servitude and knowledge. If you indeed become my valet, we won't talk about hunting and rifles. We'll talk about the mysteries of being and of science, about historical events and geographic discoveries, about little known theatrical pieces and worthwhile musical compositions, about everything that should absorb a man of science and culture.
FIFTH. That suits me just fine. I am always at the theatre. I virtually never leave it. And music has been preoccupying me since very early childhood. Last month, when they played Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at the theatre and Schonerg's Third Quartet at the Symphony at the same time, I thought I am going to hang myself.
ALLES. You could have shot yourself. You have a rifle.
FIFTH. The Count must be joking.
ALLES. I am not.
FIFTH. Whoops, I am sorry. I am constantly surrounded by people of the highest birth, that's why. You very much resemble Count Kordecki.
ALLES. You won't find Count Kordecki in any baronage.
FIFTH. Sorry, I meant Count Kornecki.
ALLES. The people of the highest birth associate the name of Kornecki only with a funeral home, dear Mr. Liar. The Kornecki family, as you know, liked to bury the rich. They even kept a choir of Cossacks. They have the highest pitch, as you can image, d-moll. (Pause ) Well, I don't know. I know you're a liar, but there are many liars out there like you. So, I'll give you a second chance. Come back in ten days. Write it down or carve it on your rifle, in ten days. I'll examine you thoughtfully and maybe you'll convince me. Bring your rifle with you; it'll be your signal prop. I can't, after all, remember all the applicants.
FIFTH. Of course, I will certainly come with my beloved rifle. Thank you.
ALLES. Nothing to thank me for. Or rather, there is plenty to thank me for. I hate liars. But your lies are so transparent that they have a certain charm. My friends, I am sure, would be amused by it. See you later then.
FIFTH. (Bends in half, servile and clumsy. The rifle falls down on the floor and goes off making a horrible noise ). I am sorry. My little darling rifle is unruly, whoops, very so unruly.
ALLES. Maybe you should leave it at home after all. I'll recognize you by your hunting hat.
ALLES. … or by your stupid face.
SORELLA. (Entering ) What noise was that? Little brother! You don't go as far as violence, do you? There is another applicant waiting in the hallway. It's enough to glance at him via the peephole to see how elegant he is. He smells of elegance. But I can tell him to come later on in the evening if you'd like.
ALLES. Elegant… son of a bitch. You're right. Make him wait. If he gets nervous, maybe he'll get over his elegance. The valet has to look plain.
SORELLA. He has beautiful eyes, exactly like Derrick on TV.
ALLES. Derrick has goggle eyes. He always stares straight ahead, so it seems that he's so pensive. My valet cannot be pensive. He has to be vigilant, like a dog. And educated, that's what's most important.
SORELLA. Dogs cannot be educated. They can be, at the very best, well trained.
ALLES. This elegant here, I can train well. Let's hope that he knows something. Wait, I'll note it down. It's our sixth candidate. You'll be nice to him, but I'll train him. In school we had a guy who had rich parents and would always dress so nicely, elegantly, damn it. We hated him and everyday, by the end of the day, someone would manage to shit into his elegant briefcase.
ALLES. Necessary. Nothing's more necessary for a man than to give a lesson to an elegant s.o.b. Check if he's still there.
SORELLA. (Returning in a while ) Still there, talking with the janitor.
ALLES. Go and listen to what they are talking about it. (SORELLA disappears for a longer while; in the meantime, ALLES looks through his notes ). Trash, trash. But the best ones always come at the very end. They think it through and only after some thought finally decide to apply.
SORELLA. (Returning ) The janitor is explaining to him that you're a mysterious man. He is telling him that he even went to the police, but the deputy told him not to bug into the private lives of the tenants.
ALLES. I like this deputy. Listen, if he would come, I'd give him a chance.
SORELLA. But I am sure he likes his current job. Why would he want to be your butler?
ALLES. Let the moron in.
SORELLA. I am sorry, I didn't get it.
ALLES. The one who's waiting outside, the elegant one.
(SORELLA exits and returns in a minute)
SORELLA. He's not there. He left. Simply given up.
ALLES. Don't cry.
SORELLA. I don't cry.
ALLES. It's just a courtesy. There's nothing to cry about. He left, you say, but he'll be back. If he pinned down the janitor, it means it's important to him. If it's important - he'll be back. When he's back - I'll show him.
SORELLA. (Laughing nicely ) Will you shit into his briefcase?
ALLES. No. I'll destroy this liced elegance of his. Maybe I'll even call the deputy to arrest him as an unwanted solicitor. Good, ain't it? What do you think?
(Lights down, music. After a while, you can see a shadow of someone. SIXTH, he is played by the THIRD, only slightly changed. He carries a large painters portfolio. Music slowly goes down.)
SIXTH. I don't know if this is a room, or an anteroom. In any case, it is not a living room.
SORELLA. (Entering ) It is a so-called client room. The apartment is on the other side. I let you in because you looked like you were one of the clients.
SIXTH. (Resolutely ) Please, don't treat me like one of your clients. I am a painter, an exquisite painter. I wanted to see what this is all about. One of my friends was here. He told me about his efforts; nothing came of them. I ask why. He has a beautiful mind. Talking to him - it's a pure pleasure. He is extremely well read, a rarity in our times. I think he is someone who should have someone else serve him, not other way around.
SORELLA. (Also resolutely ) I understand that you want to support him. You can give up. Nepotism is useless here.
SIXTH. We'll see. People respect me. They have to respect me. (Pause ) Will I have to wait here for a long time?
SORELLA. You'll wait for as long as everyone else (she leaves).
SIXTH. What a beast! Women always keep quiet around me. I don't know why, but they do. And this one here, she allows herself such vulgar comments.
ALLES. (Entering ) Good morning. (Stops. Does not go to the armchair as usual).
SIXTH. How did you get here? (Looks carefully at ALLES ) You know, I'll tell you honestly, you don't stand a chance. I am a painter, a portrait painter, if you want to know. You are - no offense - very average, banal I would even add.
ALLES. Banal, you say. And one has such a good image of oneself. When I looked into the mirror…
SIXTH. What about the mirror? In the mirror you see the same thing: naked truth -that is, your banality.
ALLES. Are you stuck on this banality, well? You know one word and you repeat it like a retard. I will also tell you something honestly: You also don't stand a chance. Who needs a portrait painter these days when we have digital photography?
SIXTH. And here you're wrong, you asshole. With the brush, I can portray man's whole being. With photography, all you can portray are pimples and dandruff.
ALLES. Photography does not lie.
SIXTH. Bullshit, it lies.
ALLES. (Calmly ) I see that you have a lot of arguments. With the ease of a true virtuoso, you call your opponent the juicy name of 'an asshole', supporting your arguments with another wonderful word: 'bullshit. And your are endowed with so much intellectual depth and vigor, that you want to be hired as my valet. I have to admit, you have a lot of nerve.
SIXTH. (Not knowing what to say ) I … I … what? I didn't know it's you. I take back the 'asshole' and 'banality.' You know, I am a painter. I have an artistic temper.
ALLES. I don't need your temper. I need your sophistication and your knowledge, both of which you don't have.
SIXTH. When I have to have it, I have it. I know how to be sophisticated. Maybe others don't know but I really do. Wait a moment! I didn't say it right. 'The others do not know' - that's how you say it. You see, you irritate me and I make the simplest grammatical mistakes.
ALLES. Grammar. (Pause ) I won't ask you to come in a week. Goodbye.
SIXTH. (Doesn't leave for a long time ) You're wrong. You're fundamentally wrong. I came here on behalf of one of my friends. (Very politely ) You were so kind as to announce to him that he has no chance, 'very little chance', that's how you said it. But he has the most engaging mind that I know. He has two doctorates.
ALLES. I know very well whom you're talking about. He's a simple minded, conceited moron. I told him to come the next week because I know that he is in need. Maybe I'll let him clean up the basement. But first, I will check his knowledge in a few areas that he listed as his specialties. He should prepare himself to be examined in the physics of liquid substances and in rats. Everything: what breeds there are, their habits, intelligence level - aha! You're a painter - would they be able to paint abstractions, and if so, what kind? Goodbye.
SIXTH. (Hesitating ) One more thing. Could you tell me what the valet's monthly salary is?
ALLES. My cashier is British so we pay weekly. But it is a secret. Amongst gentlemen, one doesn't talk about money. A gentleman does not talk about money, a gentleman has the money. Goodbye. If I am not mistaken, for the third time: Goodbye.
SIXTH. (Waiting for ALLES to say something else ) British, you're saying. And you talk to him in British?
ALLES. We talk in many languages. (Pause ) And what do you have in this folder? Reproductions?
SIXTH. Recommendation letters, magnified EIGHTH times. The guy, you see, that I am going to see, has a seeing problem. He has to have everything magnified EIGHTH times so he can see all that he has to see.
ALLES. Nicely said. Goodbye.
SIXTH. (Not moving ) His wife wants me to paint his portrait. She already has the frame - gorgeous! The one thing she is missing is the portrait.
ALLES. I hope the frames are sufficiently large.
SIXTH. What? Why? I don't understand…
ALLES. There is no need for you to understand. Why don't you paint him EIGHTH by eleven and just Xerox copy it EIGHTH times enlarged.
SIXTH. Great idea. You have a brain. Let's just hope that he'll agree to the portrait.
ALLES. Good point. (Pause ) Do you want to move in with us?
SIXTH. No. Why? (Thrilled by his thought ) What? Am I hired as your valet?
ALLES. No, no. Not at all. Don't forget: physics and rats. Everything, including a detailed bibliography: author, title, year of publication, publisher, city where it was published, how many copies were printed, reprinted. Details, no generalities.
SIXTH. Goodbye, Sir. My deepest regards. (To SORELLA ) Is someone else waiting outside?
SORELLA. (Entering ) He brought flowers, the weasel. Withered ones too.
ALLES. He probably ripped it off from some church.
SORELLA. What kind of language is that? It's the influence of all that white trash that comes here. Well, the one that brought the flowers is very polite. Maybe even subtle. He evokes pity.
ALLES. What pity… Did anyone ever have any pity on me? I was constantly humiliated at work. Once, I even hid away in the toilet and cried. Let him in only when he starts crying. Talk to him in the doorway. Irritate him. Don't give him any chance. I know you can do that.
SORELLA. I don't know if I can be so rude.
ALLES. There is a self-help manual, How to Get Ahead, on the shelf in the hallway. Read it first. He can wait. After you finish reading, stand in the doorway and give him a sermon at the appropriate time. If it's possible - one with a moral. If he won't be truly taken by it, I don't want to hear about him ever again. The flowers - you can return them to him. Go!
SORELLA. Yes, Sir. (She exits laughing)
(The SEVENTH and the EIGHTH appear. They are played by the FIRST and the SECOND. They both look somewhat alike. They can be dressed in the same extravagant jackets in the same neon color, or they can both carry similar umbrellas, hats and briefcases. They come from opposite directions, but not simultaneously. It should almost look as if it is same man wandering aimlessly on the stage: the same entrance, the same gestures, and the same body language. They start speaking only after this half-minute long 'enter/exit' choreography.)
SEVENTH. Oh, what a nice place! Nice, bright room, clean. One feels at home. That's a good sign. (Pause ) Ah, a good sign; that's a vital sign; when he says 'yes,' I'll be speech-less. (Thinking ) I feel like a crap and that's a fact; when there's a lack, I feel like a crap. (He exits repeating 'when there's a lack, I feel like a crap.' )
EIGHTH. Oooo, what a nice place! Nice, bright room, clean, comfy, stuffy, horrible, disgusting, moldy, atrocious room. Ha-ha, I don't feel at home. My favorite newspapers aren't on the table. There are any of the flowers that I like so much. Instead, though, there is a large ashtray full of cigarettes butts. They were nervous, bastards, so they chain-smoked. I do not smoke. O, there's even a 'No Smoking' sign there. That's a good sign. (Pause ) Ah, a good sign that's a vital sign; when he says 'yes,' … (stops ) I'll be speechless. (Inspired ) I feel like criap and that's a fact; when there's a liack, I feel like a criap. (Pause ) Yap, yap. (Pause ) Yap. (Enter SEVENTH ) Oooo, we have a guest. Wait a moment! Why did you dress exactly like me? You have an identical umbrella. And an identical briefcase! They told me at the store that I was buying a unique model, couture, they said.
SEVENTH. (Looks at the EIGHTH for a while ) You dressed like me, not the other way around!
EIGHTH. Hold it right there! I was here before you came. You are the one who changed. A'propos, it didn't take you too long.
SEVENTH. What are you talking about? When I got here, the room was empty, so I was first. You came in when I was in the toilet. Unfortunately, I don't have your vulgar nature. I get nervous, and before you know it, I have to go to the restroom. (Lights go off ). Ooops, the lights went off.
EIGHTH. I see that the seclusion sharpened your perception. But let's get back to the subject: Why did you dress exactly like me? I dressed so weirdly on purpose because I noticed that all the applicants are very alike. I wanted to stick out from the horde and here you are - my exact copy. I see that you even have the very same dusty pink tie.
SEVENTH. How can you see what color is my tie when it's dark?
EIGHTH. I am like a cat. I can see in the dark.
SEVENTH. And I am like a dog. I can smell your trick. You want to look exactly like me. I have an excellent sense of smell. You sprayed yourself with the same Schwarzkopf cologne that I did. I am not intimidated by the darkness.
EIGHTH. Me neither. I've already said it: I see very well in darkness. I see that my resemblance to you does not suit you. But, after all, I won't go to change just because you dressed like me. I have to go in first because if I came after you, he would assume that I am playing an idiotic joke and he would kick me out before I could utter a word.
SEVENTH. Then why don't you start from the sentence instead of a word.
EIGHTH. Do you know who you are? Who are a real…. A spectacularly real…. (Light comes up)
ALLES. O, twins! That's something new. I was becoming bored by all these single copies. And here we have twins, and identical too.
SEVENTH and EIGHTH (Together, trying to out yell each other ) I am not a twin. He dressed like me. That's not true, he dressed like me. I don't have a brother. Me neither. I have three sisters. He went to the toilet and changed, that's an old trick. See, even the same umbrella, the same brand and the same logo. I know this bastard: he's an exhibitionist. What do you need a pervert for? He's a pervert; just take a look how he dressed. He unbuttons the coat and shows what he has there to poor women and girls. Not much, he's got, I assure you. He's a well-known client in the gay bars. They arrested him twice for showing it in public, and he still hasn't had enough. Do you know what they call him in these bars? They call him….
ALLES. (Yelling ) Silentium! Ruhe! (Suddenly calm ) Where are your recommendations?
SEVENTH. (Stuttering ) I… I… I have….
ALLES. (Interrupting him ) What's your name: first and last. That's what I am interested in for the time being. My secretary will check the rest. My secretary is my sister, for your information. So? What is your name?
SEVENTH. (Quiet ) Valentine.
ALLES. (To the EIGHTH ) And yours?
EIGHTH. (Hesitating ) You know, how shall I put it…
ALLES. (Yelling ) Whaaat? You don't know your own name?
SEVENTH. In those bars they call him…
ALLES. (Fervently ) Shut your trap, you clown.
EIGHTH. (Laughing hysterically ) Ha, ha, ha, ha…
ALLES. Why are you laughing, you moron?
EIGHTH. It's nervous laughter.
ALLES. Well, what is your name?
EIGHTH. Al … al (quiet ) Al…
ALLES. Al? Al, what? Louder!
EIGHTH. Also Valentine.
ALLES. If I hire both of you, I'll give you different names. (Points with his finger ) Valentine, Calantine. All right?
SEVENTH and EIGHTH. (Together ) All right.
ALLES. Do you know where your name comes from?
SEVENTH. (Politely ) Valentine (thinking ) comes from volens - nolens - valens. In Italian, valente means valuable, dear, expensive, and respectable because what's valuable is always respected. In Spanish, valeroso means also valuable. In Catalonian, the word also…
ALLES. That's enough. You got everything wrong, but not a bad answer. (To the EIGHTH ) And you Calantine, where do you come from?
EIGHTH. (Very taken, to the SEVENTH ) Can you tell me…
SEVENTH. Shit, I'll tell you. He won't hire both of us…
EIGHTH. He did say "if I hire both of you"…
ALLES. What are you whispering there among yourselves? (As if to the audience ) Those two bastards are twins. (To the EIGHTH ) Well, what's your answer?
EIGHTH. Calantine, God, I don't know. It does not come from 'quarantine', does it? Calantine, Calantine… calamity…cretin… (SEVENTH leaving)
(ALLES does not say anything; he looks at the EIGHTH for a long time)
EIGHTH. Maybe I'll go now. I won't take more of your time. Regardless of everything, please, do keep me in mind. My deepest regards… (He leaves )
ALLES. (To SORELLA who's backstage ) Did you hear that?
SORELLA. (From backstage ) Sure, I heard it.
(Music, first very quiet, then it gets louder; lights go down, music remains)
(Lights down, different music)
SORELLA. Eight candidates. I don't know if you're doing it right. Why do you need so many of them?
ALLES. There should be more of them, many more.
SORELLA. Maybe you should really just get to those that you have already ordered to come back. They are very different. You have the whole array of conceited morons with diplomas and references. Get to those ones.
ALLES. I'll get to them, all right. I'll get to them like no one has ever gotten to anyone.
SORELLA. (After a while ) Great. We've already received a first hate mail letter. It's full of threats.
ALLES. Don't read everything, only the important sentences.
SORELLA. Here it starts. He writes: 'I have to get this job. What do I care about the others? You can examine them if you'd like, but not me. You cannot, you idiot, not respect Count Prepolish's letter. The Count has a pen… phobia; so when he decides to write a letter of recommendation, you've got to, idiot, respect it. When I'll come to you in a few days, you shall treat me with special rules.'
ALLES. Of course, I'll treat him with special rules. Go to the university library, darling, and tear a few random pages from comparative paleontology, history of Belarus and insecticides, something about Ricardo, nephrons, Prianishnikov and the city of Prince George, something to do with chemistry and something about the construction of benzene.
SORELLA. God, you know so much…
ALLES. I don't know anything, but I will when I read about it because I do have a good memory.
SORELLA. How do you even know about the history of Belarus, or the construction of benzene?
ALLES. I read it in the pages that you brought last time, but that's not enough to really shine in front of a candidate. After all, some of these bastards could be well prepared. I don't care about their doctorates and recommendations. I can always tell them that they have bought them or falsified them. But when we are discussing something that one of them might know this and that about, I have to be far above him.
SORELLA. Who's that Ricardo? An opera singer?
ALLES. I don't know but I saw this name somewhere and it stuck with me. It sounds very juicy.
SORELLA. Maybe it's a first name. You could humiliate yourself if you won't know.
ALLES. Don't worry, I won't humiliate myself. You didn't know that a person can have the same first and last name? You could be called Adam Adam if your parents had a sense of humor. I don't know who Ricardo is, but I will know when you bring me a page from the encyclopedia about him. It has to be large…
SORELLA. The page?
ALLES. No, the encyclopedia. Go, and I'll read something about the early works of Max Ernst and about trypanosomes.
SORELLA. Don't overwork yourself.
ALLES. You be careful at the library. Maybe spill ink on one of the manuscripts. Wait until they notice and start cleaning it up. Then, do what you need to do.
SORELLA. That's an old trick that nobody falls for anymore. I'll go to the bookshelf, drop a few books and when they will be put them away, I'll do what I came there to do. What would you like for dinner? We have tons of caviar and a few pieces of pink salmon that I picked up a few days ago. Maybe I'll bring some baguettes, the long ones, some ham and wine. Don't worry. I will pay for baguettes.
ALLES. I would prefer that you do both actions separately. You might be unlucky and when they check you out at the supermarket, they'll see the torn library pages. Who carries torn pages in their purse?
SORELLA. I do. Right! Here are some left over pages from the last action. From various areas.
ALLES. Great! All material is good. My area is like that - universal. I can examine those idiots from every discipline. Isn't it wonderful? Someone's knocking; impatient. Impatient valet - that's ideal! Let him in!
(Enter the NINTH. It is the THIRD dressed like a moving worker, overalls, etc. )
NINTH. Aaalll right, we've got something for you.
ALLES. Why were you pounding on the door like that? Is this a public bathroom? Can't you knock softly, or do you simply not know how? How can such a barbarian even think he can be my valet? A valet with an exquisite education and sophisticated manners?
NINTH. I don't know what are you talking about. We have a piano for you. Heavy as devil himself. If you won't help us, the three of us won't be able to bring it here.
ALLES. Now I don't know what are you talking about. What piano? I didn't order any piano. We're poor…
NINTH. That's not my business. If you're so poor why did you buy a piano?
ALLES. I didn't put it right. We are not poor. On the contrary. But I didn't order a piano.
NINTH. (Yelling ) Eeeed, he does not want the piano. (To ALLES ) We dragged this little thing to the first floor already. What then - should we turn around and take it back? (Leaves)
NINTH. There is a letter taped to the piano. Maybe a bill.
ALLES. Show it to me. (Reads ) 'Dear Sir… etc. etc. Please, accept this modest gift. It is a piano of the highest quality: vintage Bosendorfer. Supposedly, Rubinstein himself played on it. My mother was a piano teacher. To me, a piano does not say anything….'
NINTH. (Shrugs ). And what is a piano supposed to say…
ALLES. Don't interrupt me. Can't you see that I am reading…? 'To me, a piano does not say anything, but I am very well versed in music. I know the entire oeuvre of Vivaldi, etc.,' here it comes: 'I am applying for the job…' - aha! - ' I am applying for the job'!
NINTH. To tell the truth, I am only bringing you the piano by the way. I came to ask about the job opening for a valet…
ALLES. Do you have someone in mind?
NINTH. Who? Myself! I can be your valet.
ALLES. (Laughing ) You're joking.
ALLES. Of course, yes.
ALLES. Certainly, you can't be my valet.
NINTH. Rich people have a peculiar lack of imagination.
ALLES. Who do you have in mind?
NINTH. You, who else am I talking to? You, of course. (Loud ) Eeeedi, (backstage: "What?" ) wait a minute with this piano. I have to take care of some business here. (To ALLES ) Imagine, dear sir, a revolt, a war: our fundamentalists demand their fucking rights, and you have to run away. Fortunately, you have with you your obliging and loyal valet who finds a trolley and pulls everything that we can pack up North where they offer us political asylum. What use do you have with a weakling who's educated up to his ears? None. And here, (he shows ) muscles like Schwarzenegger's, and loyal like a dog. I also so well at selling the most useless things. I am very resourceful.
ALLES. Well, I don't know. Why don't you come back in exactly a week, but without the piano.
NINTH. I almost forgot, I also have two doctorates. Fake, but they look fantastic. Goodbye. (Leaves ).
(Atmosphere similar to SCENE I)
ALLES. (Entering ) Come on in, come on in. Yes, I remember you. You were here last week.
FIRST. You asked me to come to see if I was hired.
ALLES. Here I have to correct you, double correct you. First, I didn't ask you because I don't ask anyone for anything. Second, I didn't examine you yet. (Looks in his papers ) Despite your young age, you have two doctorates. Recently, you have worked at the bookstore.
FIRST. I am also a vice president of the Science Academy.
ALLES. That's irrelevant. What is relevant here, are your qualifications as a butler. On which side should one serve a plate?
ALLES. You don't know. Very well.
FIRST. Very well? Not very well for me. I don't remember. I haven't been in a restaurant in three years. That's a rugged long time.
ALLES. I would prefer if you didn't use such primitive words.
FIRST. What did I say?
ALLES. You said: rugged long time. Disgusting, esthetically displeasing word. A few more expressions like that, and I will not - despite your two doctorates - give you any chance. Well, where does the word 'rugged' come from?
FIRST. Nowhere. It is our own native word. That's how we say it, and it means, if you ask me and do not know, it means, metaphorically, a part of space. In my case, a space-time, that is, the above mentioned three years.
ALLES. If that's such an innocent word, why do we call tabloids the rugs? Why do we call our newspapers, which I am sure you read the first thing in the morning, the rugs?
FIRST. (Fervently ) Rugs, or tabloids, are newspapers designed to satisfy the lowest common denominator. Tabloids represent a very low literary level and deal predominantly with sensationalist news such as murder in the family, robberies, assaults, gossips about the idiotic excesses of movie actresses, who behave like regular (lower ) wh-res.. scopes, horoscopes, sport news, and most of all, political gossips.
ALLES. One can tell right away that you worked at the Institute for Literary Studies. Your answer is correct. Who played on the left wing of SV Hamburg soccer team in the early seventies?
FIRST. (Thinking ) On the left wing? (Starts singing idiotically ) On the left wing, the angels have a tattoo, a sign that they belong. On the left wing, the airplanes have the same signs that they have on the right wing, except Korean war planes, which don't have anything, tattooed to mislead the enemy. Some insects have two pairs of wings. Cormorants move their left wings much slower than the right ones. That is why, during the flight, they turn left more often. We say: the wings of fantasy, or the wings of dreams, and you could even say metaphorically, the wings of fame. (Speaks ) Instead of taking me under your caring wings, you cut my wings. That is, to say it more humanly, you destroy my enthusiasm for being your valet with questions that have no answer. (Tired, almost falls off the chair).
ALLES. The answer is: Alberto Camanzoni, the soccer king of Southern Italy in 1972.
FIRST. But you said something about Hamburg.
ALLES. It is, as we all know, a social game. We remember it because Camanzoni broke a leg in 58th minute.
FIRST. That's horrible. And to think that I missed it! Yes, I remember now, he was seriously hurt.
ALLES. He broke the leg of the German goalie, Hans Messerschmidt, not his own. He was a simple Sicilian, but he wasn't an idiot. (Looks into his notes ) Ph.D. in chemistry. A few formulas for auksochromic carbylamines might give me some notion of your expertise in the area.
FIRST. (Thrilled ) N (CH3 ) 2! (Speaks ) Minus 'N', bracket, 'C','H', three, bracket, two!
ALLES. Those are alkiloaminine dies. (Pause ) Well, doctor, what's that under your cap? A few things flew out.
FIRST. (Recalling ). I've got it! Minus 'N' - 'H', period, 'C' five, 'H' six.
ALLES. (Severe ) C six, H five, you moron. Not well, not well. I think that sitting in this bookstore with travel guides and cookbooks that don't interest anyone made you completely stupid. You could be a portiere at the chemical plant, but there is nothing for you to do here. Call up the next one, please!
FIRST. I won't call you up anything. (Vulgar ) Call up your ass. (Pause ) Why the hell do you need a chemist?
ALLES. I have a few friends who are top chemists in their areas. If the conversation would lead to the practical application of modern chemistry, you - pouring me some punch, which I adore so much - would whisper some new chemical idea to me. But that I can't expect from such an undereducated man like you.
FIRST. You offend me. I'll tell the next person what kind of weasel you are. Or not! Better yet, let the son of a bitch experience the shock himself. It'll do him well. (Leaves)
SECOND. (Entering ) Good morning. Can I ask who that gentleman was who was running away so fast with his tail between his legs?
ALLES. Some alchemic. Ignorant in the highest degree. Tail between his legs, you say …. I showed him off, the jerk.
SECOND. Rightly so. A valet should not be too tall. The servant should look up to his master. I wrote about it in my book.
ALLES. (Pensive, looks through his notes ) What do have we here? Arrogant, conceited, saved the bank president from seppuku, or something equally displeasing. The president wrote him, in his crooked handwriting, a recommendation letter. (Looks at the SECOND ) Three diplomas, I have here noted. What kind of diplomas? Do you recall?
SECOND. (Calmly ) History, legal medicine, and a barber certificate.
ALLES. Barber, you say. And history too, oh la-la. Why don't you tell me then: in our century, what great men wore mustache?
SECOND. Hitler, Stalin, Franco Bahamonde, Pilsudski, Göring, Chamberlain, Kemal Ataturk.
ALLES. No. Neither Göring, nor Ataturk. To have a mustache, you have to first grow it. As a barber with a barber certificate, you should know that. Neither grew anything under their noses. What else do we have here… legal medicine. Who and when discovered the cause of beriberi?
SECOND. (Does not know )
ALLES. Think. It was exactly one hundred years ago. You don't know. It doesn't look good. (To SORELLA, loudly ) Listen, this moron who has a diploma in legal medicine does not know who discovered beriberi. (Chuckles with laughter).
SORELLA. (Backstage ) A Dutch doctor, Christian Eijkman, a professor of legal medicine at the University of Utrecht.
ALLES. (Yelling ) Don't be a smarty-pants. (To the SECOND ) You see, a simple secretary, but she knows. And you are what? (Yells ) A professor of legal medicine, idiot, with the same diploma that Eijkman has, except that yours is a fraud. Get out, you fraud! Get out! Right now! (Calm ) Why are you laughing?
SECOND. It's a nervous tick. I can't help it.
ALLES. (Vile ) I'll make sure that your book gets in the index. You'll be excommunicated, you'll see!
SECOND. I am an atheist. They can't do anything to me. And your sister isn't a simple secretary. I talked to her. She's a young, very intelligent and helpful girl.
ALLES. (Yelling to SORELLA ) You talked to this fool? What about?
SORELLA. Don't yell. You'll get a sore throat.
ALLES. I already have a sore throat. (To the SECOND ) Goodbye. Please, don't come here any more.
ALLES. (Looking at the papers, he speaks to approaching SORELLA ) This is great stuff. I have a good day so far. Who's been scheduled for today?
SORELLA. (Holding a coffee ) I don't know him very well. That is, I don't know what diplomas and recommendations he has, but it's your third client. He even introduced himself: 'I am Boggy Lubomirski, you have a beautiful eyes' - he said.
ALLES. Nice. The impertinent Prince. But I want to see him despite his impertinence. Or perhaps because of it, ha-ha.
SORELLA. You have strange caprices.
ALLES. Yes, I also noticed that. One moment. Let's welcome the Prince with grace. Take out this horrible coffee pot and bring us some coffee in these three Chinese cups that you picked up recently. On the tray. Three, because I want you to join us. We will welcome him with all due dignity. (SORELLA leaves).
THIRD. Good morning…
ALLES. Oh, Prince… Welcome, welcome. Let me help you with your coat and hat. Oh, a Hikel hat. No one wears them any more. What a pity.
THIRD. That would be too much. In our circle, we wear Hikels to accentuate our elitisms.
ALLES. And there is something to accentuate.
THIRD. (Looks carefully at ALLES ) Indeed, indeed. (Looks around ) It's nice in here. I could use some coffee. I went to the cafe across the street a minute ago, but they had such a crowd in there. Do we have some national holiday today? Why aren't the plebes at work?
ALLES. Plebes, dear prince, go to cafes everyday. They pass half their lives at cafes. The more interesting half of their lives.
THIRD. I see that you like the plebs. (Noticing SORELLA ) O, here you are. And - the coffee.
ALLES. We try to fulfill the prince's every wish. It's my sister. She's very handy.
THIRD. I am thinking about how we will work it out. How will you call me when I become your valet?
ALLES. Oh, let's not talk about it. We will work it out somehow.
THIRD. But how we will work it out? I would like to know. After all, you won't call me Michael in front of people. If you do so, I'll order my valet o whip you.
SORELLA. How does the prince deal with servants? They're so unruly these days. I was standing in line for the cashier the other day, and I completely forgot to take out my purse. I am never really interested in money, you understand. And this crow yells at me that I fumbled with paying. 'What people!' - she said. (Pause ) She called me 'people.' Isn't it horrible?
THIRD. (Politely ) That's outrageous. (Pause ) Great coffee. I haven't had such a good coffee in a long while. Great, not too strong, but great aroma. You can examine me now!
ALLES. I would like to know the Prince's aesthetic preferences: literature, music, and painting. These are the main subjects of conversation during our parties. Obviously, not sport or politics.
THIRD. I don't want to worry you, but those are rather conservative topics. My father didn't even approve of Mendelssohn. You know, the one from the wedding march. When I would allow myself to so much as listen to Liszt's Concerto s-dur, he yelled at me and cut off my pocket money. As far as painting goes, I love Böcklin.
SORELLA. Who's Böcklin?
ALLES. Some Swiss mediocrity. Maybe we could hang a landscape of his in the restroom, but I doubt it.
THIRD. Arnold Böcklin was a genius.
ALLES. Well, we differ in our opinions. Well, I don't know, I really don't know. Could you enumerate a few contemporary Lithuanian writers?
THIRD. I couldn't. Do they have any literature there? (Laughs idiotically ) What else could be written there after our Adamius Mickiewiczius? (Laughs at his own cleverness ) Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
ALLES. (Furious ) Why are you laughing at, you cretin! Someday, these will be big names: Bradunas, Brazdzionis, Nyka-Nillignas, Katilskis, Radauskas, Mackus!!! (Starts coughing)
THIRD. (To SORELLA ) This man called me a cretin. Did you hear it? Cretin!
SORELLA. Don't get carried away, Prince. My brother hates ignorance. In any discipline. And in art and literature - the most. Maybe I'll ask the Prince about something because I suspect that my brother won't be able to speak for a while.
ALLES. (Really is not able to speak ) Do - I say - do - I - couldcouldcoucou…
SORELLA. You see. You brought a man who is was so kind to you to paralysis. One doesn't do that, even in the worse spheres…. You mentioned Franz Liszt. He was surrounded by the highest society of his times. Did any of your ancestors attend one of his concerts? As we know, he invented piano recitals: without the singers, without violins. Two hours - only him and the piano.
THIRD. (Calmly ) As far as I am informed, none of my ancestors graced any of the concerts of this petty climber. My maternal grandfather, indeed, once attended a concert of the xylophone player, Buttonikov. The grandfather talked about it all the time. Very much to his liking. The player, of course. Not the music, no. He was completely deaf. During hunting, some idiot fired a rifle right next to my grandpa and grandpa went totally deaf ever since. Once, he didn't hear when someone called "Stop" and fell down into a hole filled with the manure. He didn't left the washtub for two weeks. They didn't have regular tubs then. (To ALLES, politely ) I think I might have read something by this Katilskis. He is indeed great stylist. (Saddened ) What are my chances? Maybe I should come in a week when you calm down?
SORELLA. Yes, why doesn't the Prince visit us in a week. (Looks into the calendar ) It'll be Monday, the 13th. The Prince isn't superstitious?
THIRD. Nah, not a'all, as our folks say. (To ALLES ) Why don't you calm down? I take Prozac when I am nervous. One pill and I am relaxed right away. (To SORELLA ) See you in a week! (He leaves)
ALLES. (Calm ) It's a good thing you brought this page with the Lithuanians. I knew it would work. If you could bring me (thinks ) something about the literature of such countries like French New Guinea, Tanzania and Nepal. Avard-garde music in Uruguay and Ireland also could work. Painting? Take whatever you can grab, but be careful, the librarians are particularly sensitive about the albums. They guard them like dogs.
SORELLA. I don't want to interrupt, but what do you intend to do with the twins? They were here already yesterday when you were interviewing this barber. They came dressed identically. Again. Pseudo-twins!
ALLES. I'll de-twin-size them! I'll bait them against each other. They said in school that I was the first man in this business.
SORELLA. You went to school? You didn't tell me anything about it!
ALLES. Because, fortunately, you are much younger than I am, and I don't like bragging about things like that.
SORELLA. I wouldn't say so.
ALLES. So don't say so! Did you write everything down? French New Guinea…
SORELLA. Yes! I wrote everything down. Don't yell at me. Leave some energy for your clients.
ALLES. Indeed. It requires a lot of energy: quietly, politely and then - boom! And the guy shits in his pants.
SORELLA. Remember that you torture the unemployed.
ALLES. Remember, that the only people who come here are megalomaniacs. One is obliged to abuse them. One day, I'll have a monument erected in my honor for this.
SORELLA. No one erects monuments any more. Unless, it's for the victims. (She leaves)
ALLES. (Brings the FOURTH to the room ) From your file, I see that you are an expert in the history of countries that no one ever heard of. (Stops ) I have carefully read the report about your contests, but you don't impress me much.
FOURTH. What does impress you, if I may ask?
ALLES. The knowledge of the truth. You knew everything about the uprising of Eskimo mine workers, everything. That's, at least, how it looks from the report on your performance. But how am I supposed to know that you didn't make up your answers and the jurors - not wanting to compromise themselves with ignorance of the details - preferred to give you the highest score?
FOURTH. The jury consisted of experts of the highest order.
ALLES. Such as you, probably.
FOURTH. I am an expert of the highest order.
ALLES. Who was a leader of the workers before the uprising?
FOURTH. Knut Erik Hamerjeppesen.
ALLES. Not true. You made that up. It was Hendrik Bo Brekke. During the uprising two policemen were tied up and died with their heads stuck into the snow. What where their names?
FOURTH. They were simple policemen, no one significant.
ALLES. But they had names. And you don't know them. (Yells to SORELLA ) Tell him, but quietly so I won't hear.
(Backstage, something that sounds like "kirstnsn and hohakisn sonbitchsen")
FOURTH. (Whispers ) Louder! (Backstage: "kirstnsn and hohakisn sonbitchsen")
FOURTH. (Looks helplessly at ALLES)
ALLES. You're deaf too. Deaf butler, deaf butler. I am trying to figure out what service I can get from a deaf butler. Mute - that would be something. He does not say anything, but understands everything and serves beautifully.
FOURTH. (Bravely ) But he can't pick up the phone.
ALLES. That's true. You're very perceptive. (pause ) I am trying to figure out what service I can get from a perceptive butler. None.
FOURTH. (Bravely ) He will notice that the organ player, who comes with the priest after Christmas, is a thief. He'll know it because he'll be able to leer all over.
ALLES. According to you, an organ player does not have a need to leer all over? He rides with his fingers on four manuals, wiggling his legs up and down? Not perceptive, not at all! There are also registers on both sides of manuals. The organ player has to leer all over, to the right and to the left. Your logic is not very strong. From your papers it looks like you're also a mathematician. A mathematician also has to be a logician. In multiplicity theory, how does one explain the bold man's paradox?
FOURTH. You're pulling my leg. There isn't anything like that.
ALLES. There is. I see you haven't read Peter Vopenka's Mathematics In Alternative Set Theory. A Czech mathematician who created a theory of sub-sets. A sub-set is a set without being a set. You mathematicians have to have everything explained.
FOURTH. (quietly ) I am resigning from the position of your valet.
ALLES. No, it's me who's resigning from your services. I don't trust ignorance.
FOURTH. I am not ignorant.
ALLES. Then, all right, you are a 'rant'. Logic. Pure, simple logic. (To SORELLA ) Mr. Rant would like to leave. Show him the door. I would give you Vopenka's book as a consolation, but you know, it's my favorite.
FOURTH. (Vulgar ) How… in bed?
ALLES. Who? My sister?
FOURTH. No, Vopenka.
ALLES. (Intimately ) I fall asleep right away. (FOURTH leaves. FIFTH enters. It is the same actor who played the SECOND - the hunter)
FIFTH. (Unabashed ) I come straight from the hunting game. We didn't catch too much, but we had a lot of fun. The dogs barked lively…
ALLES. Wait a moment, how did you enter here?
FIFTH. Normally, like at a dentist's. The last one left so I understood that it was my turn.
ALLES. Could you put aside your rifle? Is it on?
FIFTH. I don't know. Count Prepolish played with it. (Calmly ) Maybe it's on.
ALLES. Why don't you at least point it at the window?
FIFTH. Why is that, dear sir? I hold it properly, in front of me, so to speak. I could use a cup of tea with rum.
ALLES. Ok, all I have here is a crinkled recommendation letter. It praises you, though I am not sure what for.
FIFTH. Oh, dear, the Count didn't include his signature. I forgot to tell him about it. You have to explain everything to the riches like children. He didn't sign it, son of a bitch. What's your advice? I don't want to bother him with such a trifle. After all, he's a Count. As you know he subscribes to every magazine, the maniac. In one of them…
ALLES. I know. You told me this already.
FIFTH. I told you this already? You may be mixing me up with someone else.
ALLES. I didn't mix you up with anyone else. Do you think that a lot of hunters apply for this position? (Pause ) You don't have any qualifications, but you're naive and straightforward. You can bring a significant dose of humor into our social life.
FIFTH. Oh, here, I must protest. Count Prepolish didn't imagine me for such a job. Am I to be your clown?
ALLES. You told me you like the theatre. I don't see anything wrong with being a clown, it's a job as any other. But it you're not interested….
FIFTH. I don't know. I don't know.
ALLES. You think it through and I, in the meantime, will go get the next one. Pardon, I'll ask in the next one. (With disgust ) "Get" - that's the influence of this hunter. Who's next?
SORELLA. (Voice from backstage ) This elegant.
ALLES. Ooo, the one who smells of elegance…. You see, the loser came back. He checked everyone: the janitor, police chief, and he crawled right back. Let him wait. I'll tell him that I am interviewing Count Prepolish…
FIFTH. That's not appropriate to lie like that…. not appropriate. Count Prepolish would never have applied for the position of a valet even for you, sir... He's a man of honor.
ALLES. But I need a man of honor. I won't settle for anything less. Why don't you tell him that he has a great chance to get a job. And since he's subscribing to magazines, even greater. (Glances into the hallway ) What's the situation with this elegant? Is he still there?
SORELLA's voice: He told the janitor that he'd probably leave… But let him go. O, he looks into the peephole, can't see anything - how indeed could he? - backs away, shows a rude gesture and leaves. And …. he's already on the stairs, gone....
ALLES. Go to him, catch him by the sleeve and tell him that we don't like solicitors, and that we will call the chief deputy if he shows up again.
SORELLA's voice: Ok, I am going.
ALLES. You see, this is efficiency.
FIFTH. You're not curious what he had to say?
ALLES. Considering the gesture that he just made - no.
FIFTH. I'd better be going.
ALLES. I advise you to think it through. I am not saying that I need you but you might come in handy, which is a lot.
FIFTH. A lot, a lot of what, I would like to know. Where is my rifle? If you want, I can scare the gesturing guy with it. What does he look like?
ALLES. You'll recognize him by his well-pressed pants. Goodbye.
(the FIFTH leaves. Music)
SORELLA. (Holding a bunch of papers ) Well, today, I had a great day. The library chief who has the ability to jump on you from nowhere is seriously ill. This young guy who's not quite together replaces him. He never knows in which direction he should go - which by the way - might be dangerous. Those two cows secretaries constantly gossip with each other and the library is their last concern. It's enough to drop some stupid girl trash paper next to them and they tear it apart just to get a glimpse of the nonsense that some other female morons, slash, redactors, write. Today, I slipped them some of this garbage and in a minute they were totally immersed in this literature. I told the young man who never knows which direction to go that, I am not sure, but I think that they need his advice in the bindery. I had fifteen minutes to take anything I wanted. You wouldn't know how many pages you can tear out during that time.
ALLES. Plenty. I know something about it. You can also add to it a few manuscripts that one can sell for nothing but with significant profit on e-bay. I see you had a good day today. I would like to ask you for something. With the more complex subjects, also take a front page because I might like a fragment of something, but if I don't know where it comes from, then, it's no use for me. This one for example, it seems like quantum mechanics, but if I was wrong, I could compromise myself in front of any idiot.
SORELLA. You and compromise! You're genius, don't you forget that! Those clients are a simpleminded horde. They have diplomas, but that's all.
ALLES. Up to a certain point. Even specialists cannot know everything. A'propos, today is Calantine's turn. It's one of those twins, the snob who can't say 'yes' but has to say it with British accent - 'yeas' (parodies ). The world is full of such ridiculous jerks, but why do they all have to apply for a valet position with me? O, I hear his knocking. In the English style. Let him in. If this elegant is with him, tell him to wait.
EIGHTH. (Entering ) Good morning! Do you know what time is it now in England?
ALLES. The same only different.
EIGHTH. Great answer. Worthy of a true gentleman.
ALLES. I am a gentleman.
EIGHTH. I don't know. If I were you, I wouldn't be so sure of it. A week ago, you called me Calantine. A gentleman does do such things.
ALLES. Ok, lets leave the gentlemen and get to work. You didn't leave me any papers last week, did you?
EIGHTH. I didn't. None.
ALLES. You see, people who apply to work for me leave me various papers, diplomas, recommendation letters, sometimes much telling attachments in the envelopes. And you what? You come and ask what time is it in England. You love England. Let's see if it is a mutual affection. How many countships does England have? England, not Great Britain.
EIGHTH. You must be kidding me. Thirty-seven nominal countships and seven metropolitan countships.
ALLES. What countries have English as their language? Official language that is.
EIGHTH. Besides the Great Britain - God save the Queen - the United States, improperly called America, next, New Zealand and Australia. English is also an official language in Canada, Ireland and fifteen other African countries.
ALLES. You are well prepared, I must say. What are the English horses of noble breed used for?
EIGHTH. What do you mean what for? For improving the breed of other horses.
ALLES. What is the English herb?
EIGHTH. English herb, English herb….
ALLES. Why don't you, Calantine, stop repeating the question like an idiot and answer it. Calantine doesn't know. Why don't you then tell me how many parts are in the thirteenth century poem, "The Owl and the Nightingale"? (Looks at the EIGHTH ) Calantine does not know. Who was the leader of the so-called Oxford movement at the end of nineteenth century?
EIGHTH. The theologist, philosopher and cardinal John Newman.
ALLES. Wrong! The theologist, cardinal and philosopher - in that order. You use very shallow sources. What is the English garden style and what are its main characteristics?
EIGHTH. The English garden style includes spread-out meadows and winding paths. It does not accept any flowers.
ALLES. And I don't accept your answer. You didn't say anything about ruins and wreckages. In English theatre, when did the actresses start performing? And if late, why not earlier? You know nothing! English herb is nothing more but a pigment, dried up unripe fruits of a pigment three. It is often used as a condiment, especially for meats.
EIGHTH. I am a vegetarian.
ALLES. It doesn't matter. You're also an inadequate valet.
ALLES. You also don't deserve the noble name of Calantine.
ALLES. But, I have a favor to ask you. In the hallway, in the closet, there is a valet uniform. Put it on and call in the elegant gentleman who is chatting so nicely with the janitor. But like a real English butler, dignified and dry, with English phlegm and such - distance. I know a very English way to distance yourself from your interlocutor. You let him know that you don't know what the hell he's talking about.
EIGHTH. I understand. I understand that I got my dream job. Despite the holes in my education. I swear I will catch up quickly.
ALLES. Don't swear. Go get changed.
EIGHTH. (Leaving ) I'll show him. I'll say: get out of my way, you trash! I have a heavy hand, if there's a need.
SORELLA. (Entering ) Why trash? He is the most distinguished guy that came here.
ALLES. Distinguished can also get slapped. A heavy hand does not choose. A heavy hand punches in the face and only afterwards, thinks who it had pleasure to punch.
SORELLA. What a wonderful style.
ALLES. It's the influence of all this scientific literature. Or maybe it's this piano guy. Yes, that's his language.
(Backstage fight and yelling: "You're only a servant! And you are merely a candidate for one. He told me to wait. Nobody yet told me to wait for so long. We beat solicitors with baseball bats. Do you understand you shithead? I have diplomas and recommendations, you weasel. You know where you can put them?")
(Sound of someone hitting something, glass breaking, some kind of shot from a pistol)
SORELLA. Maybe I should take a look at what is happening there?
ALLES. (Calm ) No… Let them get it out. It's simple frustration. Contemporary psychology has an explanation: in the condition of tension or emotional stimulation caused by an emergence of obstacles that prevent one from reaching one's goal, a person has a tendency to aggression, or rather develops a tendency to aggression. (Loud noise, slaps ). It's a simple case of frustration directed to the outside.
(Backstage: "You tore my uniform, asshole". Quiet, peace, music)
Stage in half-light, music
ALLES. (Paces around the room, picks up some papers discouraged, think. Music gets lower. Lights up ) Why don't you come on in! Don't stand there in the door and look at me. I don't like it when someone looks at me for too long. (Enter SIXTH, played by the same actor who played the THIRD ) The butler should look ahead of himself, as if he doesn't see anything or anyone. The butler should be all ears, not all eyes.
SIXTH. Right. Let me point out that you are right.
ALLES. It's not necessary. The complements bore it out. Even your voice changed. (Livens up ) It's our painter! Portrait painter! Our genius! Who would have thought? (Approaches the SIXTH ) What has happened to you? You were so haughty, arrogant, even vulgar I would add. And here what we have - pure humility. I remember you called my face banal. One does not forget such an adjective. You pretended you were not applying for the job, merely supporting your friend, ha-ha.
SIXTH. I lied which I regret immensely. I don't have any - friends. Who today would want to befriend a petty painter.
ALLES. I see that you are a born artist. You easily fall into extremes. Only failures, right? So your ass did soften up…
SIXTH. I came to apply for the position of your valet. I don't want to brag, but I have a good eye, good sense of space and a deft hand. I won't spill coffee on anyone's laps.
ALLES. (Furious ) How did you enter here?
SECOND. Like all the others. Through the door. They were half-open.
ALLES. That's how the thieves enter. Doors are half-open so why not, let's get in.
SECOND. I am not a thief. You told me to come in a week, that is, in ten thousand eighty minutes. (Looks at his watch ). So here I am.
ALLES. (Mad ) So what?
SECOND. Nothing. I report myself exactly after one week. Maybe I should remind myself. I have a broad education and I saved the president of the bank from suicide.
ALLES. (Suddenly changed and thrilled ) Oh, it's you! You yelled: (imitating the SEVENTH ) 'Sir, Mr. President, a phone call for you…
SECOND. (Laughing ) …and the president, like every idiot, had to take the phone so he forgot to take his life.
ALLES. (Mad ) Why do you interrupt me in mid sentence? Are those your qualifications for a valet? (Furious ) And you have dirty shoes! (Even more furious ) You enter into my room in those dirty shoes without giving it a second thought!
SIXTH. Indeed, a big faux pas.
SECOND. (Quietly but clearly ) Shut your potato trap, jerk. Why did you crawl back in here?
ALLES. (Pretending he hasn't heard the SECOND's last words ). And your dirty coat, disgusting!
SECOND. Someone sneaked in front of me at the door downstairs. I pushed him away. I sensed right away that he was also a candidate. There was a large mud puddle outside the door. Probably, all drunks relieve themselves there whenever they feel like it. I grabbed the weasel by the collar and stuck my leg out. But he didn't trip. Instead, I fell down into the puddle. You can see the effect. I'll go to the bathroom to wash my face and hands at least. (He leaves)
SIXTH. Where is your opponent?
(Curious, leaves following the SECOND. In a minute, the SEVENTH - actor who played the FIRST and the FOURTH. The SEVENTH is dressed like the "twin" ) Greetings, dear sir. We have a wonderful weather today, warm and snowy! A new combination. They promised more of it on the weather channel.
ALLES. (Calmly ) Can you remind me who I have pleasure talking to?
SECOND. I am Valentine. One of the pseudo-twins. The other one was Calantine, the one from calamity.
ALLES. Valentine. Yes, I recall vaguely. Calantine's not here. I counted on your duo. That's how I imagined that.
SEVENTH. I can work for two. Even for three. I haven't been working for a few years now so I am really starved for work. Work will be a pure pleasure for me, even the hardest. The hardest job enriches the head, dulls the brain, sweats the armpits, brings back the faith; when the plate is full, everything's cool; I play a clown when I fall down…
ALLES. Stop it!
SEVENTH. That's a good thing you interrupted me because I was running out of ideas. I feel like a queer, when my muse is not here; when there's a lack, I feel like crap.
SIXTH and SEVENTH. (Entering together ) Ach, that's this doggerel master. Did you already found your own poetry club?
SEVENTH. (To ALLES ) Do you want to hire them also?
ALLES. (Dignified ) Gentlemen. Hiring someone for one's valet requires reason and caution. Today, I don't yet feel fully satisfied with the intellectual level that you gentlemen presented here for me. It's absolutely insufficient. It appears that recommendations from the Science Society and doctorates do not prove anything. In your cases - they prove nothing! I had a chance to test it myself, examining you from various disciplines that you have listed as your specialty, supporting your qualifications with various documents. (Energetically ) Can you imagine that a doctor of chemistry could not remember the formula for auksochromic carbylamines, and no one - literally no one - knew anything about the city of Prince George, about nephrons, about famous Priashnikov, or about Vopenka who created a mathematical theory of sub-sets. I expect from my velet a good appearance, flawless manners and wide knowledge. Enthusiasm alone is not enough. Goodbye, gentlemen. (He leaves. They follow him, bent down and sad. Sad music ).
After twenty years
(Music. The same modest room. SORELLA enters carrying a lot of papers. She is followed shortly by ALLES)
ALLES. Yes, it's this room. After twenty years it hasn't changed much. I am surprised…
SORELLA. Some student lived here. He wasn't doing very well, trying various jobs. When I was dropped by, he told me about some people who came here asking about a man who wanted to hire a butler. He didn't have anything to tell them, but I didn't want to tell him the whole story. I was under police surveillance myself at the time. Can you imagine that they thought I was a thief? I was suspected of shoplifting, including books in the library. Imagine that.
ALLES. I don't have to imagine anything. I know what you did. I myself sent you to get the necessary materials. You see, after twenty years, I can't understand why I was behaving this way, torturing the poor men. Why did I have to prove to everyone - and I mean everyone without the exception - his ignorance.
SORELLA. They were ignorant. Ignorant and stupid. Remember this pseudo-prince and pseudo-chemist who didn't know anything about Vopenka?
ALLES. What Vopenka?
SORELLA. The one who created mathematical theory of sub-sets.
ALLES. I don't know anything about him. (Joyously ) But back then, I was thoughtfully prepared. I even beat the experts.
SORELLA. Because you were much better than they were. You had to find a way to prove it, so you came up with the hunt for the valet. Only the elegant didn't show up, and the other one, the chief of an Amaprick sect whom you didn't let in for obvious reason.
ALLES. Dear sister, we went thought a lot during these twenty years. I became an intelligence expert, like your ex husband that was killed by this ambitious singer. And now, we really have inherited a fortune, with which we don't know what to do. A'propos, couldn't you give up your not-so-appealing hobby? Why do you spend so little at the market when we now really have enough?
SORELLA. You know why.
ALLES. I know, I know. It's your addiction, but perhaps we could cure it somehow. There must be some sort of therapy?
SORELLA. There are. I asked. They are very expensive.
ALLES. You asked about it when we were poor and had to work hard for the money. Ask now! No, don't ask. What for. You don't remember why we came in here?
SORELLA. We came to recall the memories.
ALLES. (Seriously ) I would like to somehow make up to those men who came here twenty years ago. I won't apologize to anyone for anything. There is no need. But I want to help them somehow. Just think, how hard they all tried… The not-so-bright poet, remember? Do you know that he had memorized almost all the poems of all the Norwegian poets? Some of them he even translated himself, even though he didn't know the Norwegian. That's how important the job was to him.
SORELLA. He died very young. He was spanning the political and social newspapers with his translations and one of the more brawny redactors threw him down the stairs. He died at the hospital. His last words were: "to become the valet"….
ALLES. It sounds like a consignment.
SORELLA. What has happened with the one who three times brought in and carried out the piano? He was always so sweaty.
ALLES. No wonder. He had a sweaty job.
SORELLA. I heard that he brags at the bars that he will some day get even with you.
ALLES. I don't remember any 'even.' I know that once, someone poured a whole bucket of tomato soup on me. I gave the coat away to the dry cleaner and it came back like new. Aha, once, some gentleman on the street challenged me to a duel. An old-fashioned kind of guy who read too many romantic novels. I told him he must have mistaken me for someone else so he left me alone. He never returned so he didn't recognize me, but I knew that it was the only way to make him give up the dueling idea. I did ask out of curiosity: on pistols or on swords? And he replied: 'On knowledge, but maybe it really isn't you. The other one - he said - has to be an exceptional s.o.b and you look too banal.' Such an impertinent!
SORELLA. After twenty years, you get nervous because of some idiot?
ALLES. You know, this short conversation already proved that he would be an ideal butler. He had a great presence and strong, piercing eyes. I suppose he was well read because he expressed himself eloquently and in a very sophisticated manner. I see him somewhere high on the spiritual ladder of our deprived society. Do you know perhaps what has happened to the chemist who was the president of the Institute for Literary Studies?
SORELLA. He was no president of any Institute. He got the note from the guy who was the president at the time for a small favor. The chemist made him an ideal poison that the president put into the coffee of his opponent during the meeting of the Translators' circle. He fell down in apoplexy with the speed of a well-greased guillotine, hitting his hand on the conference table.
ALLES. Who? The chemist?
SORELLA. What chemist? The writer.
ALLES. Do you know anything about the hunter?
SORELLA. Supposedly, he went into the dark forest one day and disappeared. No one has ever heard from him again.
ALLES. Yes, the good old days.
SORELLA. Now, they're a lot different, that's true.
ALLES. You know, let's stay here for a while longer. Let's talk about the old days. You were shoplifting and I with pleasure tortured probably nice guys. How can we make it up to them? I'll look through the papers. Maybe there are some addresses. You go get the champagne and two glasses. But pay for them! Do a good deed: pay like everyone else.
(SORELLA exits, Music, light down. Enter SIXTH - played by the actor who played the THIRD)
SIXTH. Oh, it's good that I found you here. You're the same son of a bitch that examined us. Me - the distinguished painter. And in what? In grammar. I said 'they known' instead 'they knew' and you laughed in my face. I showed you - with trust and confidence -reference letters enlarged eight times. They were enlarged because there was a gossip in town that your Excellency, the churn, does not see very well…
ALLES. You say: in grammar, not grammar…
SIXTH. And you asked me to prepare in the physics of liquor substances…
ALLES. Liquid not liquor….
SIXTH. Do I correct you? I was to prepare in the physics of liquid substances and in rats. I studied like an idiot. The children and hookers quizzed me. And you run away, evaporated. But how? And Why? You had your own room here, your own hallway, even your own closet. It smelled, that's true. Maybe that's why the guests got very nervous waiting in there.
ALLES. You know, I thought about it long and decided that all in all, I don't really need a valet. That is, he could hang around my apartments but what for?
SIXTH. To survive a difficult time in his life, you brainless idiot, to feed his family, you liced moron, to be a respected member of the society not its left over. Do you know how many of your clients hanged themselves? And they didn't really feel like it. In desperation, they threw themselves off the bridge. I didn't even try. I have a tough spirit and strong character. But I promised myself to get even with you. I knew that one day you would show up in here. The criminal always returns to the place of his crime. People would wonder why I set up my easel and painted in front of this building. I was waiting for you.
ALLES. Indeed, I noticed someone painting in front of the gates. It was you!
SIXTH For twenty years I was waiting for you, you raaat…
SIXTH. All right, rat. And now I will pay you back for everything that you did to us. There isn't any physics of liquid substances. There is a physics of hard substances. (Grabs ALLES by his collar ) Now, I will examine you in anisotropy. Give me Schroeder- Bochenski's fourth formula, full, no abbreviations. If you won't tell me, I'll cut your throat. During the evenings, when I wasn't waiting here, I worked at the butcher shop. I learned many good things, not just stirring the hot blood. It was a good school, though an evening one. Well, I am listening… Schroder-Bochenski's fourth formula.
ALLES. (In a tight voice ) I don't know.
SIXTH. Well, then the third one. It's simpler.
ALLES. I don't know.
SIXTH. Then the second one or the first one. They both are really banal.
ALLES. I came here to make it up to all of you. To pay you back for your sufferings.
SIXTH. I don't give a shit about that. You don't know the formula, you'll die. Think. (Pause. He is squeezing ALLES's throat ). Admit that you never knew those four formulas. You had to know them. The chemistry professor left your room crying. The one with the rifle - dead now, supposedly shot himself by the accident - the one with the rifle swore at you. You know how he swored at you? I can repeat it to you word for word.
ALLES. (Choking ) 'Swore,' not 'swored'…
SIXTH. Shut up! Pull away your hands. You are interfering with my work.
ALLES. I beg… (Choking ) I beg the author to give me a happy-ending.
SIXTH. I'll give you a happy-ending.
(Enter SORELLA. She stands still and raises her hands up)
SORELLA. Dear author, I beg you…
(Music, nice and pleasant for a while)
SIXTH. (In epiphany ) You're here… I waited for you my whole life. Ah, yes, you are his sister - I have been told so - but SO much grace, SO much goodness…(let's ALLES go ) Oh, here, your tie is askew (gently ) let me fix it for you. (Fixes ALLE's tie ). The hell with Schroder-Bochenski's formulas. I shit on them…
SORELLA. (In ecstasy ) Beloved…
SIXTH. Beloved… (Uplifted approaches SORELLA )
ALLES. (Dryly ) You would be so kind as to remember that here you are only a valet. Educated and talented, but nonetheless only a valet. And I ask you kindly never again to call me a moron.
SIXTH. I won't, I swear.
SORELLA. He keeps his promises. He's a gentleman in every way.
ALLES. In some ways, but today, it's so hard to find a good servant.
(Music, nice and pleasant)
© Boguslaw Schaeffer
© Magda Romanska