Libretto list

The Consul Libretto

ACT I  


 Scene 1

(The scene is the home of John Sorel, a small, shabby
apartment in a large European city. The apartment is
above the street level and is entered by a door at the
extreme left. A centre window overlooks the street
and an alcove at the extreme right leads the rest of the
apartment. In the recess leading to the window are the
kitchen sink and the gas stove. There is a telephone on
the stool below the cupboard, and a cradle near the
entrance of the alcove.
When the curtain rises, the room is empty and dark. It
is early morning, the windows are open, and the music
of a record played in a café on the street can be heard.
A dim light in the alcove throws across the wall the
shadows of the moving figures within the alcove.)


VOICE ON RECORD
Tu reviendras et voudras
M'enfermer dans tes bras.
Moi il faudra que je songe
A te cacher les sombres
mensonges
de ma Vie, parce-que tu
reviendras...
Ah, pauvre toi,
La verité tu ne sauras
jamais...

(The outer door is flung open and John stumbles into
the room. He clutches at the workbench for support and
upsets it. It falls with a great crash of tools, throwing
John to the floor, Painfully, he drags himself to a chair
and lies across it, gasping for breath, as the record
begins to play again.)


VOICE ON RECORD
Tu reviendras...

JOHN
Magda! Magda!

MAGDA
(Magda rushes in from the alcove, followed by the
Mother. Magda goes immediately to John and helps
him sit in the chair. She kneels, rips open the trouser
leg and examines the wound.)
John! Oh, God! What's happened?

JOHN
I'm, hurt.

MAGDA
Mother, get something quick. John is hurt!

MOTHER
Is it bad?

MAGDA
I don't know. Where is it, John?

MOTHER
(The Mother goes into the alcove, returning
immediately with a basin of water and bandages.
She takes them to Magda)
Fool! fool!

JOHN
Here, it's my leg. It isn't serious, but it hurts.
I had to run on it all the way home.

MAGDA
Mother, close the window.

(The Mother closes the window, shutting out the sound
of the record. As she bathes and cleans the wound)

Is this the only place?
Thank God, it isn't too bad.
But how did it happen? Answer me!

MOTHER
What else for us but sorrow.
You may as well tell us the truth.

MAGDA
Was it the Police? Answer me!
It was the police, wasn't it?

JOHN
Yes, of course.

MAGDA
And they shot at you.
I knew this would happen, I knew it.

MOTHER
Oh, John what have you done?
Oh, John, think of your child!
Haven't we had enough troubles already?
Oh!All this hating will never bring home
but long sleepless, nights.

MAGDA
Oh, John, what have you done?
Oh, John, must all my life be this waiting,
fearing, countingthe hours, dreading theknock at my door?

JOHN
I was given orders to go to Nana's place
for a secret meeting.
Shortly after midnight,
the leader called our names, and we were all there.
I still don't know who could have betrayed us.
Not one among us of that I'm sure.
Sudden in the night
we heard the noise of cars and the screech of brakes.
Out the garret window and down the slanting roofs,
we made our escape.
They shot at us from the street.
Marcus was hit, he fell, rolled down the shingles.
Even from up there we heard the thump
as he hit the pavement.

(Magda helps John remove his raincoat
and hangs it on the wall rack)

MOTHER
Oh, when will all this sorrow end?
Damn you, you and all your friends!
Why don't you men bring homesome bread
and not only fear and blood?
A million dead cannot feed your child.

MAGDA
Oh, Mother, be quiet!
What is the use of wailing like that, what is the use?

MOTHER
(Despairingly, the Mother goes to the window
to keep watch.)
Yes, yes, I shan't say any more.

JOHN
(To Mother)
Do you see anything?

MAGDA
Why, John? Did anyone follow you?

JOHN
I don't know.

MAGDA
Did anyone recognize you?

JOHN
I don't know,
but we must be ready for anything.

MAGDA
(in angry despair)
Oh, bitter love, this love of freedom,
that locks the very air we breathe,
this love that keeps its champions burrowing
in the darkness like moles.

JOHN
Magda, Magda, do not fail me.
The seed needs darkness to spread its bitter roots.
This we must do so that one day
our son may see with innocent eyes
the flower we nourish in bitter darkness.

MOTHER
(From the windows)
Quick, John! The Police!

(For an instant all three are frozen with panic. Magda
instinctively puts her arms protectively around John.
Then he indicates that they must help him to the agreed
hiding place. The two women half carry him into the
alcove, and while the Mother holds the curtain aside,
Magda helps John climb onto the roof The Mother
hurries to right the overturned workbench. Magda
draws the curtains of the alcove and runs to gather up
the basin, the cloths, and the medicine bottle. Carrying
these, Magda goes at help the Mother set the table in
place. The Mother hurries to the bureau, finds some
papers there that must be concealed, finally hides them
under the blankets of the cradle and drags the cradle
over to her chair, into which she sinks heavily. Magda
carries the basin and other things into the alcove and
returns with her sewing basket, seating herself at the
dining table. With feigned calm, the two women await
the entrance of the police. The Mother suddenly sees
the bloodstains on the floor. She signals to Magda, who
tries frantically to wipe them away with her skirt. The
Mother hands Magda the shawl from the cradle. Magda
cleans away the stains, hands back the shawl, for a
moment is too exhausted to move, then forces herself
to sit calmly at the table. The door is flung open and the
Secret Police Agent rushes in, followed immediately by
two plain-clothes men. The Secret Police Agent directs
the two men to search the apartment. They search the
alcove, check the window, emptying out the drawers of
the workbench and the bureau, scattering clothes and
paper all over the floor.)

MOTHER
Shall me ever see the end of all this?
I'm not thinking of us old people,
but of all our children and their sons.
Shall they ever see the end of all this...

MAGDA
Ssh! Mother, please, be quiet!

MOTHER
Yes, I know.
Patience has become the virtue of the young.
But we old people have seen too many tears,
we have seen too much blood,
we have seen too much betrayal.

(One of the men is directed to search Magda, then both
are sent to wait outside.)

We can no longer keep our silence!
Even death seems too slow
in granting us our rest.

POLICE AGENT
(To Magda, from the door)
What is your name?

MAGDA
Magda Sorel.

POLICE AGENT
And the old woman?

MAGDA
My mother.

POLICE AGENT
(The Police Agent questions them with unctuous
courtesy, pacing nervously about the room, kicking
the clothes that have been dumped from the bureau
drawers.)
When did you see your husband last?

MAGDA
Two weeks ago.

POLICE AGENT
Two weeks ago? Do you expect me to believe that?

MOTHER
You heard her!

POLICE AGENT
Yes, indeed,
but we like to give people a second chance.
Where is your husband?

MAGDA
I don't know.

POLICE AGENT
When do you expect him back?

MAGDA
I don't know.

POLICE AGENT
Is this your child?

MAGDA
Yes.

(The Police Agent peers into the cradle, then goes to
examine the wall rack and examines John's raincoat.)

POLICE AGENT
What a sickly looking, baby... and his father away!
Is this his jacket?

MAGDA
Yes.

POLICE AGENT
(spotting some blood in it)
Very interesting... very...
And why don't you expect him back?

MAGDA
I never said that.
I only said that I don't know where he is.

MOTHER
(To Police)
John is a good boy.
What do you want from him, anyway?
Why don' t you leave us alone?

POLICE AGENT
(ironically)
I wasn't speaking to you, Madame.

MAGDA
Yes, Mother, please...

MOTHER
All right, all right...

POLICE AGENT
(resuming his unctuous tone)
Mrs. Sorel, your husband has many friends.
We're interested in his friends,
we would like to learn their names.
Yes, we could leave you alone,
if you would prove to be of help.
Yes, you can help us
crush the enemies of the State.
Well, then?

(alter a long silence, with sudden violence)

Answer me!

MAGDA
I don't know.
I don't know anything...

POLICE AGENT
Mrs Sorel, to be courageous is often a very selfish thing.
You have a mother, and a husband, and a sweet little child.
You love them very much, don't you?

(She don't speaks)

Courage is often a lack of imagination.
We have strange ways to make people talk.
Oh, no at all the way you may think.
All we have to do is
to quicken the beat of your heart.
The heart is a very frail thing.
People like you can disregard pain.
People like you can defy strength.
But not the beat of your own heart...
Think it over, Mrs. Sorel

(He stands over her threateningly, then suddenly
relaxes, takes his hat and goes to the door.)

We shall see each other again.

(The Police Agent exits very quietly and The Mother
moves swiftly at the window.)

MAGDA
(To John)
Don't move yet. Wait.
Have they gone, Mother?

MOTHER
Not yet. Don't move.

MAGDA
John, are you all right?

JOHN
(train his hiding place)
Yes, but haven't they gone yet?

MAGDA
Don't move John, don't move!

(She goes to the door to see if they have gone.)

MOTHER
Here they come!

(From across the way the loud, desperate
wailing of a woman is heard)

They're taking Michael the shoemaker away!

MAGDA
The poor devil! What could he have done?

MOTHER
Who knows!
His wife is crying,
clinging on to his coat sleeve...
They cannot get her away from him.
Oh, I cannot look any longer.

(She closes the window, shutting off the cries. The
Mother moves away from the window towards the
middle of the room. Magda goes at help John out
of his hiding place.)

Oh God,
how long must women cry over man's destiny
Have pity on man,
this bit of clay wet with women's tears.

MAGDA
Have they gone, Mother?

MOTHER
Not yet... Wait. Don't move. Yes, they have gone.

MAGDA
(Magda helps John into the room, then turns to him
suddenly to touch him, frantically and almost fiercely
they embrace.)
And now... What is to be done now?

JOHN
You must be strong.

MAGDA
You're going to leave us, is that it?

JOHN
Yes.

MAGDA
Where will you go, my love?

JOHN
I must try to cross the frontier.

MAGDA
Cross the frontier?
But when?

JOHN
Tonight!

MAGDA
Tonight? Oh, John, no!
Not tonight, John, please!
Where can you go tonight, bleeding and lame?

JOHN
Tomorrow may be too late.
I must not lose this chance.
To wait is to betray my cause...

MAGDA
Look at your feverish eyes.
They'll burn in the darkness and signal to your enemy.

JOHN
This is my only chance:
to go before the hunter's net is laid,
to hide my path and keep the goal unknown
until the work is done.

MAGDA
Oh, no John! Wait!

(As John goes into the alcove, Magda tries to le
restrain him.)

Not tonight! No, John. I won't let you go.
Mother, please don't let him go!

(The Mother embraces Magda.)

MOTHER
Yes, Magda!
John is right... He must go now.
But God will join us again.

JOHN
(John re-enters with more clothes and papers.)
Go to the Consulate tomorrow.
Tell them our story.
Ask them for help.
Tell them what I've done.
They will not bolt their doors
to my wife and my mother and my little son.

MAGDA
(Magda moves about dazedly, attempting at help John,
but scarcely able at believe that he is leaving her.)
To whom shall I call for help if all should fail?

JOHN
No one.
You must not ever call on my friends.
Your every move may be watched.
Their work and their lives may be endangered.
Forget their faces, forget their names.

MAGDA
But how shall I know here you are?
Who'll bring me news of you?

JOHN
(John beckons the two women to him.)
Listen carefully when a child on the street throws a stone
and breaks this window,
that will be a signal.
Call Assan the glasscutter,
and ask for a new pane.
He will bring you news of me.

(John goes to the cradle and kneels next to it. The
Mother stands next to him)

Let me kiss my son.

(Magda goes to fetch John's jacket, and, still holding it
tenderly, slowly walks towards the front of the stage)

Now, oh lips, say goodbye.
The word must be said,
but the heart must not heed.
So, my lips, say goodbye.
The rose holds the summer in her winter sleep.
The sea gathers moonlight
where ships cannot plough
and so will the heart retain endless hope
where time does not count,
where words cannot reach. Now, oh lips... ecc.

MAGDA, MOTHER, JOHN
Let no tears, no love laden tears,
dim the light that charts out way.
Leave the tears to the starless one
who wanders without a compass in the night.
So, within the heart,
let hope be the haven that words cannot reach.
Heart, do not listen, lest you surrender.
Parting turns time into tears,
turns hearts into clocks.
Be like the sleeper
who knowsthat his dream is a dream.

(John embraces Magda, breaks away from her,
embraces his Mother, and leaves as the curtain falls.)

Scene 2

(Later the same day. The scene is the waiting room of
Consulate, a cheerless, coldly-lit room, furnished with
usual benches and wall desks. Downstage, from the
front of the desk extending to the back wall is a heavy
wooden railing with a swinging gate which separates
the space used by the Secretary from the rest of the
waiting room. Upstage, between the side wall and the
railing is the door to the Consul's office. The door
should massive with the upper half of semi-opaque
glass. The cornice could be surmounted by an
indistinguishable coat-of-arms or other official symbols.
The curtain rises. The Secretary is busily typing at
her desk. Mr Kofner, an elderly gentleman with a
slight professional air, and the Foreign Woman, an
old peasant, sit on the benches, waiting to be summoned
by the Secretary)

SECRETARY
(The Secretary rarely looks at the applicants
as she speaks to them.)
Next!

(Mr Kofner gets up quickly and comes at the railing.)

Yes... What can I do for you?

Mr KOFNER
My name is Mister Kofner...

SECRETARY
I believe we've seen you before.

Mr KOFNER
Oh yes, yesterday and the day before yesterday,
and the day before, and every day for oh, so long...

SECRETARY
It isn't our fault if you never bring
the necessary documents.

Mr KOFNER
I know, I know. It isn't your fault.

(He places the documents on the desk as she checks
them off her list.)

SECRETARY
Did you bring your birth certificate?

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
Did you bring your health certificate?

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... and your vaccination?...

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... and your affidavit?...

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... and the statement from the bank?...

(Magda enters and takes a place on the bench.)

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... your passport?...

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... three photographs?

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
But, Mr. Kofner!
These are not the right size,
I told you... they must be three by three.
Besides, this paper must be notarized.

Mr KOFNER
For God's sake!...
When will it be right?

SECRETARY
Well, well, Mr. Kofner.
After all, it isn't our fault...

Mr KOFNER
I know, I know, it isn't your fault...

SECRETARY
(handing back the documents to him one by one)
There is a notary around the corner.
He can do it for you right away.
The photos you can bring tomorrow.

Mr KOFNER
(returning slowly to his seat)
Oh, yes, tomorrow... and the day after tomorrow...
and the day after and every day for, oh, so long!

(Anna Gomez enters. She is young, thin, frantically
nervous. Slashed through her dark hair is a bizarre
streak of pure white. From time to time, her arm is
grotesquely pulled by a sudden tic. She attempts to
disguise the movement by pushing her hand through
the streak in her hair. After a moment's hesitation,
she takes her place on the waiting bench.)

SECRETARY
Next!

(impatiently)

Next!

MAGDA
(To the Foreign Woman)
Go ahead...

FOREIGN WOMAN
(She goes to the roiling.)
Oh, sì, sì... Buon giorno.

SECRETARY
Yes... What can I do for you?

(The Foreign Woman shrugs her shoulders helplessly)

Well, then...

FOREIGN WOMAN
Scusi, Signorina, ma io non capisco...

SECRETARY
Oh dear! You... you «non capisco», eh?

FOREIGN WOMAN
No.

SECRETARY
Is there anyone in this room who can understand her?

Mr KOFNER
(He gets up and comes the Foreign Woman
to translate for her)
I do. I believe I can help her.
Parlate pure. buona donna.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Grazie!
Mio Signor, io vengo per mia figlia, l'unica mia creatura...

Mr KOFNER
It's something about her daughter...

FOREIGN WOMAN
Fuggí da casa con un dei vostri soldati
quando era ancora una bambina...

Mr KOFNER
It seems that she ran away with one of your soldiers.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Per tre anni non ebbi sue notizie; la cercai dappertutto

Mr KOFNER
For almost three year she had no news of her
and couldn't find out where she was.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Avevo ormai perduta ogni speranza
di rivedere la mia Giulia,
ma stamani la lettera é arrivata...

(She produces precious letter from her bosom.)

... e così mi scrive la mia povera bambina.

Mr KOFNER
This morning, at last,
she received a letter from her daughter.

FOREIGN WOMAN
(reading from the letter)
"Mamina, mi sono ammalata, e temo di morire.

Mr KOFNER
It seems she's very ill...
And afraid to die...

FOREIGN WOMAN
Mio marito m'abbandonata..
con un piccino di tre mesi in questo paese straniero"

Mr KOFNER
Her husband left her with a little boy.

FOREIGN WOMAN
"Mamma, vieni! Ho tanto bisogno del tuo aiuto."

Mr KOFNER
She asks her mother to go there
and help her out of trouble.

FOREIGN WOMAN
È proprio così che mi scrive la mia povera bambina.
Immagini la mia pena.

SECRETARY
Well... and what can we do for her?

Mr KOFNER
(To the Foreign Woman)
La signorina domanda che cosa desidera.

FOREIGN WOMAN
"Che cosa desidero?"
Io voglio andar vicino a la mia Giulia
e prendere cura del piccino!

Mr KOFNER
She wants to go to see her daughter Giulia,
and to take care of her new grandson.

SECRETARY
Tell her that first of all,
she must fill out this application.

Mr KOFNER
(To the Foreign Woman)
Deve fare la domanda.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Sì... e poi?

SECRETARY
... and then if it is accepted,
she must apply for a visa.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Ma quando potró partire?

Mr KOFNER
When will she be able to leave?

SECRETARY
It may be a couple of months...

(The Foreign Woman tries desperately at
follow the words she does not understand.)

... it may be three... four...
It all depends if and when she's granted a visa.

Mr KOFNER
(To the Foreign Woman)
Forse in un paio di mesi.

FOREIGN WOMAN
(stunned by this information)«Un paio di mesi?
» Ma, signorina, mia figlia è molto ammalata.
Bisogna ch'io vada di lei subito!

Mr KOFNER
Her daughter is very, very sick. She needs her right away.

SECRETARY
(shaking her head to make her meaning clear)
Nothing I can do!

FOREIGN WOMAN
Per piacere, signorina,
abbia compassione d'una povera mamma

(The Secretary hands the Foreign Woman the
application as Mr Kofner leads her away to the writing
desk to help her with it. After a while he regains his
seat, but the Foreign Woman will remain at the desk
painfully filling out the form until the end of the act.)

Mr KOFNER
(To the Foreign Woman)
Bisogna aver pazienza.

SECRETARY
Next!

(Magda crosses to the railing. The Magician enters,
followed by Vera Boronel. They take their places on
the benches The telephone rings. The telephone rings
again.)

Hello?

(The call is obviously not business. She immediately
adopts a babyish voice.)

Oh! It's you...

(She laughs coquettishly)

Yes, but not now... Bye-bye! Yesss...

(She puts down the phone and turns to Magda
again with a cold, efficient voice)

Yes?

MAGDA
May I speak to the Consul?

SECRETARY
No one is allowed to speak to the Consul,
the Consul is busy.

MAGDA
Tell him my name.

SECRETARY
Your name is a number...

MAGDA
But my name is Sorel. Magda Sorel.
The wife of Sorel, the lover of freedom.

SECRETARY
Sorel is a name and a name is a number.

MAGDA
May I speak to the Consul?

SECRETARY
No one is allowed... to speak to the Consul,
the Consul is busy.

MAGDA
Tell him my story.

SECRETARY
And what is your story?

MAGDA
My life is in danger.
They hover like hawks the Secret Police
and the spies over my house.
They leave me no peace.
Our house has been turned into a trap for my husband.
The child and I are the bait,
and the hidden hunter waits
for the heartsick panther to return.

SECRETARY
I don't see how we can help you.
You're not even one of our citizens.

MAGDA
May I speak...

SECRETARY
No one is allowed...

MAGDA
But yes, yes, only he can help me.

SECRETARY
And how can he help you?

MAGDA
My husband secretly fled to your country.

SECRETARY
He has entered our country illegally?

MAGDA
Yes, he did to escape the Police.

SECRETARY
Then he is a criminal case.

MAGDA
No, no... listen... you don't understand.
John is a hero, a lover of freedom.

SECRETARY
An irregular case.

MAGDA
May I speak to the Consul?

SECRETARY
(She gets up, facing Magda with increasing hostility.)
The Consul is busy.

MAGDA
Will you tell him my need?

SECRETARY
And what is your need?

MAGDA
Help me to escape, escape with my child.

SECRETARY
You're not one of our people.
You're not our concern.

MAGDA
But you are our friends,
the friends of the oppressed.

SECRETARY
(She goes to the filing cabinet and takes out
the necessary forms.)
We are at peace with your country.
Their laws are our laws.

MAGDA
I must see my John,
and you, only you, can help me.
May I speak to the Consul?

SECRETARY
(She returns to her desk with the papers and
hands them to Magda.)
I give you these papers.
This is how to begin:
Your name is a number.
Your story's a case.
Your need a request.
Your hopes will be filed.
Come back next week...

MAGDA
And you will explain to the Consul?

SECRETARY
But what is there to explain?

MAGDA
Explain that John is a hero,
that flowers bloom in the blood that was shed.
But the deed will be lost if the hand falls unkissed.
Explain to the Consul, explain!

SECRETARY
But what is there to explain?

MAGDA
Explain that the web
of my life has worn down to one single thread,
and the hands of the clock...
glitter like knives.
Explain to the Consul, explain!

SECRETARY
But what is there to explain?

MAGDA
Explain that the heart of one man
cannot be multiplied nor his life be divided,
that fate can be fixed to its diamond point
by a click of the tongue.
Explain to the Consul, explain!

SECRETARY
But what is there to explain?

MAGDA
Explain that John is a hero, e
xplain that he's my John!
Explain to the Consul, explain!
Tell him my name.
Tell him my story.
 Tell him my need.

SECRETARY
(as though she were explaining to a rather
slow wilted child)
Fill in these papers.
This is how to begin.
Your name is a number...

(Dazed, Magda returns to her seat.)

MAGICIAN
(To Vera Boronel)
I beg your pardon, Madam.
My name is Nicholas Magadoff,
the world-famous magician.

VERA BORONEL
I'm sorry.
I never go to the theatre.

MAGICIAN
Obviously!
Nevertheless, would you mind
if I practised one of my tricks on you?
It will help us both pass the time.

VERA BORONEL
Oh, no, Please!
I'm afraid of tricks.

MAGICIAN
Oh, but there is nothing to it!
Do you see this little ball?
Now you see it... now you don't. Now you see it...

(During the quintet, the sunlight slowly fades, obscuring
the details of the room. At last only the faces of the
figures are visible, caught by the rays of light falling
through a narrow window, high out of sight on the wall
above the Secretary's desk.)

FOREIGN WOMAN, MAGICIAN
Mr KOFNER, VERA BORONEL, MAGDA
In endless waiting rooms, the hour stands still.
The light goes pale and thin.
The heart is dead.
We wait in wide-eyed sleep.
What are we waiting for? Perhaps the creaking
of a door or the light play on the wall.
We wait forever, wait.
The answer comes too late or death too soon.
Oh, give us back the earth and make us free.

(One by one, except for Mr Kofner,
the people rise in place)

It is God's gift to me, this ever flowering earth.
Oh, let all flags be burned and guilt be shared.
My brother's shame be mine and his my fare.
Why must we wait in crowded rooms
while aimlessly are spun the wasted suns
and the forgotten moons?
Oh, leave the doors unlocked and light the lamps within.
The silent looms will sing,
the plough will split the rock...
Oh give us back the earth and make us free...

(Slowly, puzzling over the form she has been given,
the Foreign Woman leaves the writing desk and
goes out through the main door. The curtain falls.)

 

ACT II


Scene 1

(A month later at the Sorel home. It is late afternoon.
As the curtain rises, the Mother is sitting at the table
with her sewing. Magda is just entering through the
door way. Through the open windows the song from
the café can be heard.)

VOICE ON RECORD
Tu reviendras...

MOTHER
Any news?

MAGDA
Nothing. Oh, that song!... again and again!
They drive me crazy.

(Magda crosses to the window and closes it, then
removes her coat and sinks heavily into a chair.)

I'm so tired... so tired.
Day after day, waiting in that office.
The Consul will not see me,
they ask for papers,
and then more papers,
and then all you get is another questionnaire.

(Magda rises angrily and goes to put her purse in the
bureau drawer)

What is your name? Magda Sorel.
Age? Thirty-three.
Place of birth? Oh God, oh God!

MOTHER
Have you told them
that your child is sick and that you must get...

MAGDA
It's no use, Mother, it's no use.
If I only had news of John...
But not a word from him,
not a word since he left.

MOTHER
Oh no, no, Magda, one must not lose heart.

MAGDA
(She goes to the cradle and kneels beside it)
Come here. Look at him, poor little monkey.
Only his eyes are alive. He doesn't even cry anymore.

MOTHER
He will get better, Magda, I'm sure

MAGDA
(Bitterly, she rises and goes into the alcove,
hiding her tears.)
It would be still better if he had never been born.

MOTHER
Oh don't say that, don't say that!

(bending over the cradle)

What is the matter, little lamb?
Why are you so still?

(She kneels beside the cradle and tries desperate
by to amuse the child)

I've never seen a baby so little and sad.
Smile for Granny, little lamb. Come on.
Koo-roo koo koo koo! Say:
"Moo-moo," say "Da-da.
" Koo-roo koo koo koo, Look who's stealing your shoe!
He's my baby boy, Granny's little baby boy.

(She bends of the child, tickling him with her finger and
making one of those absurd noises meant to enchant
children)

I shall tickle you, tickle you.
Tickle... Glu glu glu!
I've never seen a baby so little and sad.
Give me a little smile.

(Suddenly she hides behind the side of the cradle.)

Where is Granny? Whoopee!

(She springs up quickly and repeating the hiding game)

Won't you smile?
Come on, give a little smile to your Granny.
I've never seen a baby so little and sad;
like an old man, so wrinkled and white.

(She picks up the child's ragged toy rabbit)

Won't you ever smile again for your Granny?
 Hoo hoo!

(Suddenly alarmed by the stillness of the child, she
bends and touches him. Seeing that he sleeps, she
sits wearily and rocks the cradle)

I shall find for you shells and stars.
I shall swim for you river and sea.
Sleep my love, sleepfor me.
My sleep is old. I shall feed for you lamb and dove.
I shall buy for you sugar and bread.
Sleep my love, sleep for me.
My sleep is dead..
Rain will fall but Baby won't know.
He laughs alone in orchards of gold.
Tears will fall but Baby won't know.
His laughter is blind. Sleep,
my love, forsleep is kind.

(Magda returns to the room, stands for a moment
watching the Mother, then sits at the table and slowly
lets her head sink on her arms. She sleeps)

Sleep is kind when sleep is young.
Sleep for me, sleep for me.
I shall build for you planes and boats.
I shall catch for you cricket and bee.
Let the old ones watch your sleep.
Only death will watch the old. Sleep, sleep...

(Spreading her shawl over the child, the Mother slowly
backs out into the alcove. Magda stirs in her sleep as
her nightmare begins. A sudden change in the lights
casts an unreal, eerie glow over the entire room. The
door flies open and John enters He is bloodstained
and bandaged, and across his rigid arms he carries
branches and stones. Hovering behind him is the
figure of the Secretary. Her face is subtly changeds.
voluptuous and disturbing, despite her deathly pallor.
There is about her a strange aura of oppressive evil.
The two figures advance into the room. Magda rises
stiffly, her eyes again staring and sightless, goes to
them for a moment, and then, as though compelled,
goes to the cupboard and brings out the cloth for the
table. As she spreads the cloth, John approaches her.
The Secretary remains behind him like a shadow)

MAGDA
John, John, why did you bring me
all these branches and stones?

(The Secretary lifts the branches and stones from
John's outstretched hands and gives them to Magda.)

JOHN'S VOICE
They are to build us a cross and a grave.

MAGDA
John, John,
what are those bandages and what are those stains?

JOHN'S VOICE
Blood on my skin and blood on my clothes.

(Magda takes the branches and stones to the cupboard,
and returns with the plates and bread.)

An through the night like a wolf on a plain,
I've been hunted with bullets and knives.
Bright was the moon and far was my home.

MAGDA
John, John,
who is that woman that you brought back with you?

JOHN'S VOICE
She is my sister, my dear little sister.
You must love her for she's my own blood.
You must give her the keys to our house.

MAGDA
John, John,
you never told me that you had any sisters.

(holding the Secretary protectively)

JOHN'S VOICE
She's my sister, my own little sister.

MAGDA
John, John,
why am I afraid of that horrible woman?

JOHN'S VOICE
Heavy's her hand and cold is her mouth...

MAGDA
(She recoils in horror and dazedly brings the wine
and the glasses to the table)
Send her away...

JOHN'S VOICE
She's my sister, my own little sister.
She must eat with us
and share our bed, salt
our bread, and dig our grave.
Welcome us, Magda welcome us home.

(For one moment Magda draws John apart from the
Secretary, but he turns at once and draws the Secretary
to the table. The Secretary breaks the bread, feeding it
to John, and pours the wine, spilling it across his mouth.)

JOHN'S VOICE
Come, come your supper is cold.
The bread must be broken. The wine must be spilled.

MAGDA
Look... look. The wine has turned black
like blood that is shed.
Look John, look, John! The bread is white
like the flesh of the dead. John, John!
I'm afraid... Her eyes are so hollow,
her laughter is soundless and white!
Oh, John, send her away.
Your sister is death.
She covets my child for a grave.

(John suddenly shrinks from the Secretary and goes
to Magda. For an instant they cling together, then he
breaks away. In the meantime, the Secretary silently
folds the table cloth with all its contents and
disappears)

JOHN'S VOICE
Come, come.
Let us hide from the moon.
I hear the horns calling.
The hunt is still on.

(John turns sharply to her.)

Where is my child? I want to see my child...

MAGDA
He is asleep. Give me your hand.
Walk softly, John, he is asleep.
Walk softly, John.

(As Magda kneels by the cradle, she extends her hand,
and the Secret Police Agent grabs it. Magda turns her
head, and on seeing him, screams with horror. She
tears herself away and collapses on the chair near the
table. Meanwhile the Police Agent disappears. The light
changes so that aspect the room looks exactly as it did
before. As she awakes, Magda is again seated at the
table.)

MAGDA
(screaming)
Mother! Mother!

MOTHER
(The Mother enters from the alcove.)
What is it, Magda? What is it?

MAGDA
A dream... an awful dream.

MOTHER
(trying to calm her)
No, my darling, not like this.

MAGDA
(trying to recall the nightmare)
John... I saw John. He was wounded.
He seemed so strange and so far away.
He asked to see the baby, and... Oh, how awful!

(Magda clings to the Mother in terror.)

MOTHER
Dreams are never true, silly girl...
This is not like you, not like you.

MAGDA
(She goes to the cradle and kneels beside it)
Mother, tell me. Will my baby die?

MOTHER
Why should Baby die?
Why should he?
Why should death claim such a little seed?

MAGDA
Mother, I'm afraid!
Something has happened to John.
I shall never see him again.

(A rock thrown from the street strikes the window,
shattering the glass. For a few moments neither woman
moves. When they speak, it is with almost hysterical
relief)

It is the signal!

MOTHER
The signal!

MAGDA
It is from John. They must have news from John.

(Magda goes at once to the phone and dials a number)

MOTHER
Oh God be praised! At last! at last!

MAGDA
Oh Mother, what shall we do when he comes?
Please tell me... We cannot tell him the truth, can we?
He cannot help us. How could he?

MOTHER
Don't worry!
He surely knows how to help us.
He'll bring us good news.

MAGDA
Hello. Is this Assan the glasscutter?
This is Mrs. Sorel.
Will you please come to my house
to replace a broken pane in my window?
Yes. Yes. Please hurry. It is bitter cold.

(She hangs up)

He'll be right over.
Mother, come... here... feel my heart.

MOTHER
Magda, oh Magda my darling,
What is it you fear?

MAGDA
What shall we tell him?
How much shall we hide?

MOTHER
Magda, my darling, don't...

(A knock at the door interrupts them. The knock is
repeated several times)

Who can it be?

MAGDA
I don't know.

MOTHER
(in a whisper)
He can't be here yet.

MAGDA
Don't answer.

(The Secret Police Agent enters. He is making every
effort to be charming and friendly.)

POLICE AGENT
May I come in?

MOTHER
Shall we pretend that we could keep you out?

POLICE AGENT
The door was open...

MAGDA
My door seems to be open to my enemies
and closed to my friends.

POLICE AGENT
(noticing the broken pane)
Is that why you keep your room so cold?

MAGDA
What do you want? Out with it.

POLICE AGENT
Now, now, Madam Sorel!
Don't get so excited.

(He removes his hat and seats himself comfortably)

We're not in a hurry, are we?

MOTHER
Oh God!

POLICE AGENT
Madame Sorel, I like you very much.
We could be good friends.

MAGDA
What is it you want? More money?

POLICE AGENT
Madame Sorel, you're underestimating me.
I like you so much that I watch you very carefully.
We know that you frequent a certain consulate
and hope to get a visa...

MAGDA
You cannot stop me..

POLICE AGENT
Oh, but we'll never stop you.
On the contrary... we would like to help you.

MAGDA
What is it? More money?

POLICE AGENT
What an indelicate thing to say!

(He stands up, ironically)

My dear lady,
the money you can give me hardly pass
for such a thing as silence.
After all, I'm a family man.
I must earn a living.
And I know a way that we could both be happy.
Your husband has many friends.
They don't come to visit you anymore.
So, we would like to visit them.
And we can make it possible
for you to join your husband...

MAGDA
(With sudden violence, she threatens the Police
Agent, who draws back in fear)
Get out! Get out! You scoundrel! Murderer!

POLICE AGENT
You will regret this.
How dare you, Mrs. Sorel? Mrs. Sorel!

MAGDA
If you come near my house again,
in the name of God, I'll kill you!

(Again there is a knock at the door. Magda, taken
aback, after a moment's hesitation, goes to the door and
opens it. Assan enters, carrying the long narrow box
which holds the new pane of glass.)

ASSAN
Where is it?

MAGDA
Right there.

(He hesitates for an instant, then goes immediately to
the window, ignoring the Secret Police Agent.)

POLICE AGENT
A pane of glass... a very fragile thing.
It is amazing how much
one can see through a pane of glass. A pane of glass...

(very deliberately, he goes out the door, Magda closes
it behind him. During the ensuing dialogue, the Mother
suddenly discovers that the child is dead. Her action
of discovery is very restrained, however, and passes
almost unnoticed by the audience.)

ASSAN
Who is he? What does he want from you?

MAGDA
An agent.
Your names...

(Assan works at the window, replacing the broken
glass as he talks. Magda keeps her eye on the door
during their conversation.)

ASSAN
Why did you call me now?
A foolish thing to do...

MAGDA
I didn't know he was coming.
I had no way to warn you.

ASSAN
I must not stay long.

MAGDA
How is John?

ASSAN
Still hiding in the mountains.

MAGDA
Hasn't he crossed the frontier yet?

ASSAN
He will not cross it unless he knows
you can join him there.

MAGDA
Tell him he must not come back.
Tell him the house is watched.
Tell he must cross the frontier as soon as he can.

ASSAN
But you must hurry, hurry!

MAGDA
Tell him everything is ready.
Tell him we'll join him soon.

ASSAN
(He hesitates before asking her.)
Is it the truth?

MAGDA
(after a short silence, with a choking voice)
Oh no. He mustn't know the truth.

ASSAN
Is there anything you want to send him?

MAGDA
Yes, just a second.

(Magda goes into the alcove as Assan begins to collect
his tools)

MOTHER
Assan!

(Assan goes to her. The Mother uncovers the face of the
child. Assan stares unbelievingly at the dead child and
then looks at the Mother.)

Don't tell John...

(Assan once more stares quickly at the child, crosses
himself and then goes back to the window to gath tools
as Magda re-enters the room.)

ASSAN
Well, now I must go

MAGDA
(Magda hands him a small packet for John.)
Oh, don't go yet! Please wait.
When shall we see you again?
Tell John I send him my love.

ASSAN
I must not stay too long.
I shall come back when I have more news for you.
Goodbye.

MAGDA
Goodbye.

(Assan hurries from the room. Magda goes for her
coat, crosses to the door, and turns to speak. Only then
does she realize that the Mother has been completely
still and silent during the previous scene. After a long
pause, she finds the courage to speak.)

Mother, why are so still, Mother?
Why don't you rock the cradle?
Why don't you sing?
Mother, why are so still, Mother?
Is my baby dead?
Shall I call the carpenter and the priest?
Shall I unfold the white silk coverlet?
Shall I go to market to buy white roses?
I cannot look at him, Mother,
but tell me that he smiles...

(The Mother weeps.)

Oh, no! Not that!...
It is too soon to cry.
He may still hear us... Ssh, Mother... Ssh...

(Slowly, dazedly, Magda turns away. Scarcely
conscious of her actions, she removes her coat
and hangs it carefully in place.)

MOTHER
I'm not crying for him,
not for us but for John,
who will never see his baby again;
but for John, my son,
whom I shall never see again.
For John, my son, whom I must leave.
I'm too tired to wait or to help.

(Magda takes a green branch from above one of the
pictures on the wall and lays it across the cradle.)

When a heart is as old and worn
and patched as mine,
lesser things can break it
than the death sigh of a child.
Old people live for simple things:
to see a birth, to bury the dead.
But they themselves are dead.
They live on borrowed breath,
and once the thing is done,
they quickly crumble into dust.

(Magda lights a candle and places it at the head of the
cradle, then she sinks to the floor beside it)

Now let me fold my things and lock my doors.
I leave behind me nothing but sorrow,
but I believe that God receives with kindness
the empty handed traveller.

(The daylight has slowly faded from the room. The
last bit of light still catches the walls of the house on
the street seen through the window But within the room
nothing remains but a circle of light from the candle at
the head of the cradle. Now Magda, too, breaks down
and weeps. The curtain falls very slowly)

Scene 2

(A few days later at the Consulate. As the curtain rises,
the secretary is standing at the file cabinet, searching
for a particular folder. At the railing stands Anna
Gómez. She is exhausted and frantic, and though she
tries at control herself, from time to time the tic pulls
at her arm and her thin hand crosses the garish white
streak in her hair. On one of the waiting benches sit the
Magician and Vera Baronet On the other sit Mr Kofner
and the Foreign Woman)

SECRETARY
What did you say your name was?

ANNA
Anna Gómez.

SECRETARY
Oh, yes, here it is.

ANNA
Is there any hope?

SECRETARY
Three years in concentration camp.
Husband... prisoner.
Whereabouts... unknown. No documents!
I don't see what we can do for you.

ANNA
But something must be done!
I have to leave the country at the end of the month.

SECRETARY
Why?

ANNA
My permit has expired. Where am I to go?

SECRETARY
Try another consulate.

ANNA
I've been to every consulate in town.
Everywhere the answer is the same.
They don't know what to do with me,
and nobody cares...
Still, there must be a place for me
somewhere in this large world.

SECRETARY
Perhaps you should go back to your country.

ANNA
(hardly believing what she has just heard)
Do you realize what that would mean for me?

SECRETARY
(a little embarrassed)
Well... I'll see what I can do.
Fill in this paper and come back tomorrow.

(The Secretary mechanically hands her a printed form)

ANNA, VERA, KOFNER
Oh, yes, tomorrow,
and the day after tomorrow and every day.

(Wearily, Anna Gómez sits down beside Vera Boronel)

SECRETARY
Next...

(The Magician rises and starts to take his place at the
railing. At that moment, Magda rushes in and bumps
into him, trying to reach the desk. With his arm he
attempts to hold her back.)

MAGDA
(Magda brushes past the Magician and goes to the
railing. To the Secretary)
Please... Can I speak to you?
Can I speak to the Consul?
I must get to see him right away!

SECRETARY
I'm sorry, Madame. You must wait in line.

MAGDA
But please, just, let me explain.

(turning to the Magician)

I'm sure the gentleman wouldn't mind.

MAGICIAN
But I do mind.
This is the seventh time I've come here, Madame.
I'm always at the end of the line.
I wait patiently for hours and hours.
When my turn finally comes,
it's time for the Consulate to close.

MAGDA
Oh, please, if you only knew...

MAGICIAN
(The Magician stores into her eyes and takes pity on her.)
Well, if you're not too long...

SECRETARY
(as Magda turns back to the desk)
I'm sorry, but I cannot make an exception.
There are other people waiting in line.
It would upset our system!

(Magda gives up and marches angrily to the exit but
is restrained by the Magician and Vera Boronel.)

Next, next!

(The Magician comes to the railing and presents the
Secretary with a bouquet which he produces out of thin
air.)

Oh, thank you!

MAGICIAN
My charming Ma'moiselle, you have the honour of speaking
with no other than Nika Magadoff.

SECRETARY
Who?

MAGICIAN
Yes, remember, Nika Magadoff!
Illusionist, telepathist, and prestidigitator,
hypnotist, ventriloquist, electro-levitator,
in short, the great magician! A vase? Water?

(Having snatched from Mr. Kofner the newspaper he's
reading, the Magician produces water from it and
pours it into the vase.)

SECRETARY
How did you do it?

MAGICIAN
How did I do it?
After all, I'm Nika Magadoff!
The one and only Nika Magadoff! Do you mean to say
that you never heard of Nika Magadoff?
How can it be true
that you never heard of Nika Magadoff?
I'm known throughout the world,
I have often performed for
the Prince and the Princess Yusoupoff,
and the Duke of Alba,
and the Queen of Belgium, all the finest,
all the richest, all the noblest, all the brightest,
all the greatest people in the world!
You must have heard of me.

(He hands her his visiting card.)

SECRETARY
And what can I do for you?

MAGICIAN
My charming Ma'moiselle,
I need a visa, a simple little visa.

SECRETARY
A visa, my dear sir, is not a simple thing.

MAGICIAN
And why should it be difficult?
Your country should be glad
to receive a great artist like me!

SECRETARY
Do you have a labour permit?

MAGICIAN
A labour permit!
Why should I have a labour permit?
After all, I'm Nika Magadoff,
the one and only Nika Magadoff.
Oh, how could it be that you haven't heard of me?
Isn't my art a document?
After all, I've performed...

SECRETARY
May I see your documents?

MAGICIAN
What! You need to see my documents?

SECRETARY
How many times must I say it! But really!

MAGICIAN
Oh, my charming Ma'moiselle,
why care about such things?
Don't you know?
Art is the artist's only passport.
Nevertheless,
if you're not convinced that I am Nika Magadoff,
I shall prove it to you!
Prestidigitation!

(To Mr Kofner)

May I please borrow your watch?

(He takes the watch from Mr Kofner and quickly wraps
in it a handkerchief, then bangs it on a table and makes
it à disappear, to the amazement of everyone in the
room.)

ANNA, VERA
The man is truly an artist!
He makes life seem so easy!
But I would never trust him!

Mr KOFNER
Oh, my watch! What did you do with my watch?
Give me back my watch!

MAGICIAN
Just a moment. Don't worry.

ANNA, KOFNER, VERA
What is he up to now? We must not let him fool us.

(He performs another trick. Crossing quickly to the
Foreign Woman, he produces the watch from her
bosom)

Oh, what a great magician! He truly is an artist!

MAGICIAN
(to the Foreign Woman, who is astonished
and outraged)
Don't tell me you're offended!
After all, I've performed this for the Prince...

SECRETARY
I've had enough of this! Where do you think you are?

MAGICIAN
You're not convinced yet? Hypnotism!

(He goes first to Mr Kofner)

Look into my eyes, look into my eyes,
you feel tired, you want to sleep, breathe deeply!
 Breathe deeply!

(As Mr Kofner fails asleep, the Magician turns to Anna
Gómez and Veto Boronel and puts them to sleep. Magda
is the next at be hypnotized.)

Look into my eyes...

(Finally, he hypnotizes the Foreign Woman.)

Guardami negli occhi, tu sei stanca e vuoi dormir!

(to the Secretary)

They are gone.
What shall we make them do?

SECRETARY
Oh, I don't know. This is most irregular!

MAGICIAN
Watch me:
Oh, what a lovely ballroom this is!
Look how the floor shines with precious marble.

(They all stir, lift their heads, and begin to smile.)

Look how the light falls bright
and clear from twenty crystal chandeliers!
Look at the crimson walls hung with golden mirrors...
Ah, listen! the music has begun!
Ah! How you'd love to dance with your loved one...
But where is he?
But where is he she?
There, there he is, he's bowing to you!
Look! there she is!
Bow to her!
What are you waiting for?
The floor is empty, the music sweet.
The dance is on!

(In a mechanical, tick-tock fashion, they begin to dance.
Vela Boronel and Anna Gómez dance together. Magda
dances alone. Mr Kofner dances with the Foreign
Woman.)

MAGDA, VERA, ANNA
Oh, what a lovely dance!
Oh, the light so bright and the music sweet!
Oh, my love keep dancing,
don't ever wake me, do let me sleep!
When the heart is taken away, taken away!
When feet learn to follow lightly your way,
when music uncoils the day...

KOFNER, FOREIGN WOMAN
Balla, balla e non pensare, sonno e morte son con noi...

SECRETARY
I've had enough of this!
Where do you think you are? In a circus?
If you don't hurry and show me your documents,
I'll have you thrown out!

MAGICIAN
Oh, please, don't he angry, just a moment...

SECRETARY
Oh dear me!

(The Magician begins to search his pockets and
desperately, producing a complete confusion of scarfs,
cards, folding flowers and other tricks, which fall
to the floor, making a hopeless litter at his feet.)

Wait! I'll find them. I know they must be here.
Just a moment!

SECRETARY
I've never seen such confusion.
I want to see your documents.

MAGICIAN
(He suddenly hands her a rabbit from his pocket)
All right! Hold this!

SECRETARY
And what am I supposed to do with it?

MAGICIAN
Hold it.

SECRETARY
Look what you have done now!

MAGICIAN
Just a moment... just a moment...

SECRETARY
Can't you stop those people?

(The Secretary picks up his wand, which he has placed
on the desk, and it explodes, shooting a racket into the
air.)

Oh! Good heavens! Stop it!

MAGICIAN
(The Magician is still searching for his papers,
scattering all the paraphernalia from his pockets
over the floor)
Wait! I'll find them.
I know they must be here. Be patient, please...

SECRETARY
How long am I supposed to hold this?

MAGICIAN
Just a minute! Just a minute!

SECRETARY
Stop those people!
They drive me crazy!
Stop them! Help! Help!

MAGICIAN
Please don't get excited!

(He rushes from one dancer to the other, awakening them)

Wake up! Thank you very much!

(to the Foreign Woman)

Svegliati!

(In complete bewilderment, the awakened people slowly
resume their seats.)

SECRETARY
Hurry, hurry and gather up those things!
What if the Consul should come in! Oh, what confusion!
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Don't you know how to behave in a consulate?

MAGICIAN
(gathering up his tricks from the floor, he
trails out pathetically)
Even a great,
great artist must find a way to make a living.

SECRETARY
(desperately)
Next!

MAGDA
Any news for me?

SECRETARY
What is your name?

MAGDA
Don't you remember me?

SECRETARY
And why should I remember you?

MAGDA
But my name is Sorel.
Magda Sorel!

SECRETARY
(The Secretary crosses to the filing cabinet.)
Sarenson... Seligman... Sokoloff...
Oh, yes, here it is... Sorel... I remember now.

(She comes back to the desk.)

Did you bring the missing documents?

MAGDA
But I've already told you.
I cannot possibly get all those documents you want.
They won't give them to me.

SECRETARY
What do you expect us to do, then?

MAGDA
(She grows more frantic as the scene progresses.)
But surely there must be a way you can help me.
Documents or no documents!
 I must get away.
The Secret Police are after me.
Day after day they come to my house,
questioning, threatening.
I am too alone to fight any longer.
Can't you see, you've got to help me!

SECRETARY
We're very interested in your case, believe me.
But first you must get all of your papers.

MAGDA
But surely the Consul could make an exception.
Please, please, just let me speak to him...

SECRETARY
It would be useless, Mrs. Sorel.

MAGDA
But I must speak to him!

SECRETARY
It would be useless, Mrs. Sorel, believe me.

MAGDA
Let me explain to him. He'll understand.

SECRETARY
You're not the only one, Mrs.
Sorel, there are thousands of cases like yours.

MAGDA
Must we all die, then,
because there are too many of us?

SECRETARY
All I can promise is that we'll do our best.
We'd like to help you, but we need time.

MAGDA
If you can help me, it must be now, today!

SECRETARY
That is impossible. We must have time to think.
Your case is difficult, and most irregular!

MAGDA
(with sudden violence, almost startled by her own
outburst)
Liar! Liar!

SECRETARY
Mrs. Sorel! Mrs. Sorel!
If you behave like this
I must ask you to leave!

MAGDA
To this we've come:
that men withhold the world from men.
No ship nor shore for him who drowns at sea.
No home nor grave for him who dies on land.
To this we've come:
that man be born a stranger upon God's earth,
that he be chosen without a chance for choice,
that he be hunted without the hope of refuge.
To this we've come.

(To the Secretary)

And you, you too shall weep!
If to men, not to God, we now must pray,
tell me, Secretary, tell me,
who are these men?
If to them, not to God, we now must pray...
Who are these dark archangels?
Will they be conquered? Will they be doomed?
Is there one, anyone behind those doors
to whom the heart can still be explained?
Is there one, anyone, who still may care?
Tell me, Secretary, tell me!

(She questions the Secretary in desperate earnestness,
with almost a touch of madness in her voice.)

Have you ever seen the Consul?
Does he speak, does he breathe?Have you spoken to him?

(She breaks down and turns away to control herself.)

VERA, KOFNER
Oh, do we hope and wait in vain?
Secretary speak! Is there no one in that room?

SECRETARY
I don't know what you're talking about!
Of course you can see the Consul.
But he's a very busy man.
The appointment must be made in advance.
You can begin by filling out this form,
and then I'll see what I can do for you.
Sign here. I said, sign here!

MAGDA
(Magda snatches the paper from her hand.)
Papers! Papers! Papers!
But don't you understand?
What shall I tell you to make you understand?
My child is dead. John's mother is dying...
My own life is in danger.
I ask you for help, and all you give me is... papers!
What is your name: Magda Sorel,
Age: Thirty-three.
Colour of eyes?
Colour of hair?
Single or married?
Religion and race?
Place of birth? Father's name?
Mother's name?
Papers! Papers

(Tearing the paper she holds in her hand, Magda rushes
to the desk, takes up a great stack of papers from there,
and begins to hurl them about the room.)

Papers! Papers! Papers!

(after a very long pause, to the Secretary)

Look at my eyes. They are afraid to sleep.
Look at my hands, at these old woman's hands.
Why don't you say something?
Aren't you secretaries human beings like us?

(with mounting anguish)

What is your name: Magda Sorel.
Age: Thirty-three.
What will your papers do?
They cannot stop the clock!
They are too thin an armour against a bullet!
What is your name...
What does that matter?
All that matters is that the time is late,
that I'm afraid and I need your help.
What is your name?...
This is my answer:
My name is woman.
Age: still young.
Colour of hair: grey.
Colour of eyes: the colour of tears.
Occupation: Waiting! Waiting, waiting, waiting!
Oh, the day will come I know,
when our hearts aflame will burn your paper chains!
Warn the Consul, Secretary, warn him!
That day neither ink nor seal
shall cage our souls. That day will come...

(She stumbles bock at her place on the bench.)

SECRETARY
(for the first time moved and disturbed)
You're being very unreasonable,
Mrs. Sorel... Now... .now...
it is possible that the Consul
may be able to see you for just a minute.
I'll go and ask him.Wait here.

(The Secretary goes into the office of the Consul.)

ANNA, VERA, KOFNER
Oh, do we hope and wait in vain?
Secretary speak Is there no one in that room?...

(Magda, hardly able to believe what she has heard,
moves to the desk to retrieve her handbag)

Oh, if the Consul be of flesh, Secretary, warn him:

(She stands there stolidly or a moment, then returns
nervously to sit again.)

One day neither ink nor seal
will cage our hearts.

SECRETARY
(re-entering from the Consul's office)
Mrs. Sorel,
the Consul has a very important visitor with him.
A very important visitor.

(re-entering from the Consul's office)

As soon as he leaves, you may go in.
You won't have to wait very long.
I believe he's just about to leave.

(Magda returns to her place, hastily trying to straighten
her hair and clothes. Suddenly a light shows through
the glass panel of the door leading to the Consul's
office. Upon the glass appear the sinister shadows
of two men, bowing ceremoniously to each other. An
oppressive tension fills the room as all eyes focus on
the door. Magda rises and forgets her handbag. The
door opens. The departing visitor backs through the
door, still bowing to the unseen Consul. Magda starts
forward but goes back to get her handbag. Just as she
reaches the gate of the railing, the figure turns)

SECRETARY
(spoken, in a very loud voice)
Mrs. Sorel, you're next!

(The departing visitor is the Secret Police Agent. Magda
stares for an instant in complete terror and disbelief.
Their eyes meet... he stumbles back... and faints. As the
Secret police Agent exits, the others rush to Magda to
help her, the curtain falls.)


 
ACT III

Scene 1

(Several days later at the Consulate. The curtain
rises. The Secretary is at the filing cabinet. Magda
sits woodenly on one of the benches in the otherwise
deserted room. She holds her handbag and some papers
in her lop.)

SECRETARY
(after a long silence)
How often must I tell you, Mrs. Sorel...
the Consul will not be here today...
There is a reception at the Turkish Embassy, you know...
No point in your waiting...
Besides, in ten minutes we close...
Why don't you go home?

(Magda remains motionless, staring straight ahead,
evidently oblivious to the words of the Secretary who
sits and goes on with her work. Vera Boronel enters
and crosses to the railing.)

VERA BORONEL
Good evening.

SECRETARY
What is your name?

VERA BORONEL
Vera Boronel.

SECRETARY
(quite cheerful, for the first time)
Oh, yes, Vera Boronel.
I have good news for you...

VERA BORONEL
Have my papers gone through?

SECRETARY
They're practically ready.

(She goes to the filing cabinet to get the folders)

VERA BORONEL
Oh, I can't believe it!
If you only knew how happy I am. Thank you.

(Vera Boronel turns to Magda to share her jay but is
immediately frozen by Magda's despairing and accusing
stare. She is jolted back by the Secretary's voice.)

SECRETARY
(The Secretary takes from a folder an
impressive stack of documents.)
Here we are.
Sign your name at the bottom of this page.

VERA BORONEL
At the bottom of this page...

SECRETARY
Sign it again at the bottom of this page.

VERA BORONEL
At the bottom of this page...

SECRETARY
Sign the original and all the duplicates.

(Crisply and efficiently, the Secretary turns the pages,
stamping each one with the necessary seal. Vera
Boronel falls into the rhythm as she signs the pages.)

VERA BORONEL, SECRETARY
All the documents must be signed.
Seas go dry and suns grow cold,
but all the documents must be signed.
And don't forget that questionnaires must be answered.
Love may die and truth grow old,
but every questionnaire must be answered.
One must have one's papers, one must have...

(Assan hurries in, not seeing Magda in his haste.)

ASSAN
(to the Secretary)
Have you seen Mrs. Sorel by any chance?

MAGDA
(Magda gets up and comes to him.)
Assan... is it about John?

ASSAN
Oh, I didn't see you.

MAGDA
What is it, what is it?

ASSAN
We must be careful. Wait...

(The secretary and Vera Baronet watch them with
curiosity. Assan forces Magda to return to her seat.
He sits down beside her.)

MAGDA
It is about John, isn't it?

ASSAN
Yes, it is about John.

MAGDA
Why, what has happened?

ASSAN
We're very worried.

MAGDA
But why, why?

ASSAN
We heard that he wants to come back.
That he's about to cross the frontier.

MAGDA
But he can't, he mustn't'!

ASSAN
I know.

MAGDA
They'll get him.

ASSAN
He heard about the baby.

MAGDA
But who told him?

ASSAN
I don't know. He heard about his mother.

MAGDA
Oh, poor John.

ASSAN
He's desperate. He wants to see you.

MAGDA
(She cries out, and Assan again quietens her.)
Oh, no, no, we must stop him!

SECRETARY
Here's some more.
Sign your name at the bottom of this page...

VERA BORONEL
At the bottom of this page...

MAGDA
What can we do?

ASSAN
I don't know.

MAGDA
Doesn't he know that the house is watched?

ASSAN
We told him, but he won't listen.
All he says is that he must come back to see you again.

MAGDA
Have you told him that every move I make is noted?

ASSAN
We told him everything. There is no reasoning with him.

MAGDA
But we must try to stop him.
Help me, Assan! Help me!

(Magda breaks down. Assan watches
the desk nervously, quieting her.)

ASSAN
If he's arrested, it is the end of us all.
It is the end of everything.
You must do something, Mrs. Sorel.
You must find a way to stop him.

MAGDA
Yes, yes, I have an idea.
I've had it for some time. Wait.

(Laying her handbag on the bench and giving her
papers to Assan, Magda goes to the writing desk,
takes paper and pen, and after a moment begins to
write. Assan goes into the hallway, looks nervously
both ways, then comes and sits again.)

SECRETARY
(still busy with Vera Boronel's documents)
Don't forget to sign...
First your name, then the date, on the dotted line...

(As though heeding the instructions, Magda signs the
note, folds it carefully, and returns to her place on
the bench.)

MAGDA
(handing the note to Assan)
Here it is.

ASSAN
What will this do?

MAGDA
I assure you, Assan,
that this note will convince John
that there is no more reason for him to come back...

ASSAN
But why, what does it say

MAGDA
Don't ask, Assan, don't ask me.
Hurry on. We have no time to lose.

ASSAN
Oh, Mrs. Sorel,
if this works, we'll all be saved.

MAGDA
It will work. You shall all be saved.

ASSAN
(He hands her back her papers and goes out quickly.)
Goodbye.

MAGDA
Goodbye.

SECRETARY
(handing the papers to Vera Boronel)
This is the end.

VERA BORONEL
Is it all over?

SECRETARY
It is all over.

VERA BORONEL
God be praised. It is all over.

(Magda rises stiffly and goes out. Papers spill from
her lap onto the floor.)

SECRETARY
Now let me give you all your papers.

VERA BORONEL
It is all over. All of my papers!

SECRETARY
There you are.

VERA BORONEL
Thank you. It is all over.

SECRETARY
I imagine you'll be leaving the country very soon.

VERA BORONEL
Yes, of course, very soon.

SECRETARY
I wish you a happy journey. Goodbye.

VERA BORONEL
Thank you. Goodbye.

(Vera Boronel starts out, then discovers the handbag
Magda lek on the bench.)

Oh, that woman forgot her handbag!

SECRETARY
Call her. Mrs. Sorel!

VERA BORONEL
Mrs. Sorel!

(A very long pause.)

SECRETARY
Mrs. Sorel...

VERA BORONEL
She's gone...

(Vera Boronel comes back into the room and takes the
handbag to the Secretary's desk, then hurries out.)

SECRETARY
Oh, well, she'll be back tomorrow. Goodbye.

(The Secretary puts out the lights in the waiting room,
leaving only the small light on her desk shining, and
prepares to leave. Suddenly she starts, as though she
stillsaw the applicants seated on the benches.)

Oh, those faces! All those faces!
They hang from the ceiling and the walls.
They wait for me all day long.
They still will be here in the morning,
boneless, pale in the dusty sun.
One must try not to remember, one must not think.
Otherwise how can one do any work?

(She stumbles back to her desk, only to be confronted
by the lists of names.)

Oh, those names! All those names!
Why must there be so many names?
Their cases are all alike.

(Dropping the lists into the drawer, she closes it,
and crosses to put on her coat.)

It's getting late.
I must hurry or I'll miss the pictures. Ah, those faces!
All those faces! It's cold in here.
I must complain to the janitor.

(The Secretary goes to the mirror on the side wall. At
that moment John Sorel appears in the hall. John looks
behind him to be sure he is not followed, then steps
suddenly into the room. The Secretary sees John in the
mirror and turns quickly to face him. For an instant
neither person moves.)

SECRETARY
Who are you?
How did you get in?

JOHN
Have you seen my wife?

SECRETARY
Your wife? Who are you?

JOHN
John Sorel! Haven't you ever heard of me? John Sorel.

SECRETARY
Mr. Sorel! Oh, my God!

JOHN
Where is she?

SECRETARY
She left here a few minutes ago.

JOHN
Oh, no, no!

SECRETARY
If you hurry, you may catch up with her.

JOHN
But I can't, don't you understand?

SECRETARY
But why, why can't you?

JOHN
Why? Because it is too late!
They've tracked me down.
They're outside the building waiting for me.
Here I am safe.

SECRETARY
But we are closing now. I cannot keep you here.

JOHN
You're not going to send me outside.

SECRETARY
I have no authority to keep you here.
I'll get into trouble.

JOHN
But where can I go now?

SECRETARY
Back there, there is a door leading to an alley.
No one will see you go out from there.

JOHN
But tell me, where is my wife? What did she say?

SECRETARY
Nothing. She was here... forgot her handbag.

JOHN
Her handbag? Where is it? Give it to me!

(John opens the handbag to find only a crushed
handkerchief. He closes it again and clasps it tenderly.)

SECRETARY
You must go now. Please, Mr. Sorel.

(Out of sight in the hall, voices are heard barking
sharp, urgent orders. John drops the handbag, digs
frantically for his gun, and starts toward the hall. The
Secret Police Agent rushes in and knocks the gun from
John's hand. The two Plain-clothes men block the hall.
John runs into them and is kicked in the groin and
dragged back into the room.)

You cannot arrest him here.
It is against all international rules!

POLICE AGENT
(At a signal from the Secret Police Agent, the men
release John. He falls to his knees.)
We're not arresting him.
Mr. Sorel will come with us of his own free will.
Isn't it true, Mr. Sorel?

JOHN
(after looking at the guns pointed at him)
Yes. Of my own free will.

(The Secret Police Agent picks up the handbag and
offers it to the Secretary. She indicates that it belongs
to John. John moves to take it, but the Secret Police
Agent holds on to it.)

At least allow me to call up my wife.

POLICE AGENT
You can do it at headquarters.

(After signalling to the plain-clothes men, he exits. The
plain-clothes men prod John with their guns, and he
slowly gets up and heads for the exit. The Police follow
him ignoring the protests of the Secretary.)

SECRETARY
Don't be afraid, Mr. Sorel.
Something will be done about this.
I'll speak to the Consul first thing tomorrow morning.

(The Secretary goes to the phone and frantically
signals the operator.)

Don't lose heart, Mr. Sorel.
I'll call your wife myself.

Scene 2

(The Sorel home, immediately following the previous
scene. The cradle has been removed, as has most of
the other furniture. The curtain rises on the deserted,
darkening room. The phone rings four times. Magda
walks automatically into the room, and as she picks
up the phone, it goes dead. She seems dazed, moving
like a sleepwalker, but there is a terrible sureness and
determination about her movements)

MAGDA
I never meant to do this...

(She takes a coat of John's from the wall rack and
uses it to close the crack at the base of the window.)

Forgive me, John, I never meant to do this.
Oh, God, forgive me.

(Taking off her own coat, she uses it to close
the crack below the door.)

I never meant to do this...
Oh God... forgive me...

(She carries a chair over to the stove and fetches a
black shawl from the chest of drawers. She returns to
sit in front of the stove. After a moment of hesitation
she opens the gas jets. Unfolding the black shawl, she
draws it over her head and bends over the open jets of
the stove. Slowly the light fades from the room, leaving
only a strange, murky glow around the stove. The
Secretary starts calling, 'Next.' With each repetition
of 'Next', one by one, the ghostly characters of Vera
Boronel, Anna Gómez, the Foreign Woman and Mr
Kofner appear, followed by John and the mother
dressed as bride and groom.)

FOREIGN WOMAN, ANNA, SECRETARY,
VERA, MOTHER, JOHN, KOFNER
Hold!
Death's frontiers are open.
All aboard! Burn your papers, lock your bags.
Bid farewell to benches and inkwells.
Death's frontiers are open.
There's no bar nor chain to cross.
There's no flag nor flight,
There's no clock nor numbered nights.
Horizons, horizons!
There's no guard to bribe or beg,
Death's frontiers are free!
There's no guard to kiss or kill.

MAGDA
(Magda rises from the stove, dropping the shawl from
her head. She is aware of the voices but sees nothing.)
John, John, where are you... is it you?

POLICE AGENT'S VOICE
What is your name...

MAGDA
Magda Sorel!

(Magda stiffens and shrieks her replies to
the unseen inquisitor.)

POLICE AGENT'S VOICE
Age?

MAGDA
Thirty-three.
John... John... I can hear you...Where are you?...

POLICE AGENT'S VOICE
What is your name...

MAGDA
Magda Sorel...

POLICE AGENT'S VOICE
Age?

MAGDA
Thirty-three.
John? Or is it you, Mother...
Mother?

POLICE AGENT'S VOICE
What is your name...

MAGDA
Magda Sorel...

(She turns suddenly and for the first time sees the
figures. She moves toward them. They advance into
the room, moving stiffly, their eyes fixed and sightless.
Magda, frightened, retreats before them. The Magician
suddenly appears before the Chorus. Magda breaks
away against the wall in terror.)

MAGICIAN
Choose your partners! The dance is on!

(The figures begin a solemn macabre waltz. Vera
Boronel dances with the Secretary, Anna Gómez with
the Magician, Mr Kofner with the Foreign Woman,
and the Mother with John. Suddenly the dance breaks
and the dancers rush toward Magda. She turns her
face to the wall. As she hears the Mother's voice,
Magda turns, hands outstretched, and the figures,
all except the Mother and John retreat before her,
disappearing through the wall.)

MOTHER'S VOICE
Magda, my dear, don't stand alone.
Why don't you come here and join our dance?

MAGDA
Mother, I thought that you were dead.
You look so young, I feel so old and sad.

MOTHER'S VOICE
White is my gown, and white my gloves.
This is the dawn of my wedding day.

MAGDA
Mother, oh, Mother whom will you wed?

MOTHER'S VOICE
I'll wed your John. He's pledged himself to me.

(The Mother and John slowly fade through the wall, as
the Secretary and Vera Boronel appear from the other
de side. Magda recoils from them.)

SECRETARY, VERA BORONEL
It is the end. It is all over.
Now I must give you all your papers.

MAGDA
Why do their words
weigh like stones on my heart?
It's only a dream, it's only a dream!
God, let me dream it through quickly and wake!
Oh, if only I could wake, wake!

(John enters silently and accusingly behind Magda.)

JOHN'S VOICE
Where is our child?

MAGDA
Our child is dead.

JOHN'S VOICE
Oh, Magda, why did you let him die?

MAGDA
He died of hunger, he died of cold.
I thought you knew, I thought you had been told.

(He advances and Magda retreats before him.)

JOHN'S VOICE
Oh, Magda, Magda, your dead are home.
No one to hide from now, no one to wait for!

(Magda falls weeping to her knees as John slowly vanishes.
The Secretary and Vera Boronel appear again, and Magda
flees before them.)

SECRETARY, VERA BORONEL
It is the end...

MAGDA
Why do their words weigh like stones on my heart...

(The Mother and John suddenly appear in the space of
the alcove.)

JOHN'S AND MOTHER'S VOICES
Are you prepared?

MAGDA
Why must I be?

JOHN'S AND MOTHER'S VOICES
Heavy are the flowers you're soon to wear.

MAGDA
I'm uninvited, no one will call for me.

JOHN'S AND MOTHER'S VOICES
Are you prepared?

(come forward, forcing Magda back.)

MAGDA
Why must I be?

JOHN'S AND MOTHER'S VOICES
Where is your purse and where are your gloves?
I hear the carriage outside your door,
I hear them cry for you.
The time has come when we must say goodbye...

(Then very slowly the Mother and John begin to move
back toward the open wall. The movement is hardly
perceptible. We are only conscious of the ever
widening space between the two figures and Magda)

MAGDA
Mother, John, wait... please don't go yet...
Wait for me... I won't be long.
Please give me time to get ready...
I'm coming with you...

JOHN'S AND MOTHER'S VOICES
The time has come when we must say goodbye...

(Magda rushes to the bureau, takes up an old bag, and
begins to pack it with masses of papers from the bureau
drawers. She mumbles and cries without ceasing as she
tries to hurry. As she hears their voices, Magda is
frozen in place.)

The time has come...
The time has...

(he comes in. At the sight of him, Magda is stopped.
Holding her gaze, he slowly removes the bag from her
hand. He raises his hand and begins to guide her slowly
back towards the stove.)

MAGICIAN
(He comes in)
Look into my eyes...
You feel tired, you want to sleep.
Breathe deeply, breathe deeply.

FOREIGN WOMAN'S, ANNA'S,
SECRETARY'S, VERA'S, MOTHER'S,
JOHN'S, KOFNER'S, VOICES
Horizons, horizons!

MAGICIAN
Look into my eyes, look into...

(The Magician steps behind her, draws the shawl
once again over her head, and taking the bag of
papers, disappears)

OTHERS EXCEPT MAGDA
Horizons, horizons!

(The gasps of Magda's heavy breathing are the
only sound in the room. As the telephone begins
to ring, the room is restored to reality. Magda
hears the phone and stretches out one hand
in a last desperate attempt to reach it. The shawl
 falls train her head. Suddenly the body fails slack
across the chair. The telephone rings. The curtain fails.)