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FUGUE (full text)

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FUGUE

by Tommy Smith

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Fascinating … A fugue, in music, is a melody repeated in complex patterns; in psychiatry, it’s a dissociative state of mind  – playwright Tommy Smith infuses both meanings into his ambitious new play … the movement, the timing and the brilliant staging of sex, suicide and slaughter make [FUGUE] extraordinary.” LA Weekly

[A] striking innovation … Parallel elements of the three stories are underscored by impressively choreographed simultaneous delivery of words, phrases and, on occasion, orgasms … Playwright Tommy Smith’s drama is elegantly geometric in its construction and viscerally potent in its staging.” – The Los Angeles Times

“Smith leavens his dark, brooding meditation on the mystery of creativity with large doses of wit and humor … at times the same lines are spoken simultaneously in all three of the separate stories, then amplified in counterpoint, with one voice following another, as in a fugue. The result is a play about music which becomes a piece of music itself.” – Total Theater

.“The beauty of this play is that these Echo actors and director have all agreed to come together and explore not only the words, but the subtle idea that creative individuals, in some cases, have elements of craziness that influence their flights of genius … an excellent production.” – OnStageLosAngeles

.“[A] formally virtuosic new play about three visionary composers from the Western classical music tradition … By overlapping and interlacing three historical narratives in which emotional trauma is resolved in a defining work of radical artistic transformation, Smith draws an uncomfortably fine line between our darkest, most sociopathic compulsions and the violent discontinuities that shape artistic discourse.” – Stage Raw

.“[A] mesmerizing meditation on music and madness … one of the most provocative evenings of theater you’re likely to experience for some time to come.” – StageSceneLA

.Harrowing … [FUGUE] may haunt you well after the lights go up … A couple of audience members sharing my row were audibly offended and left at intermission.” – StageHappenings

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© 2015 Tommy Smith. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, performed, produced or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, please click this.

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Late 19th Century Russia:

PIOTR TCHAIKOVSKY

ANTONINA TCHAIKOVKY

VLADIMIR “BOB” DAVIDOV

also plays VOICE

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Early 20th Century Vienna:

ARNOLD SCHOENBERG

MATHILDE SCHOENBERG

RICHARD GERSTL

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Early 17th Century Italy:

CARLO GESUALDO

DONNA MARIA GESUALDO

DUKE FABRIZIO

also plays PRIEST

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1

Vienna, Austria

Early 20th Century

Art Gallery

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Mathilde Schoenberg staring at painting.

Richard Gerstl stands behind her.

After a long beat:

RICHARD

Whadya thinka that?

MATHILDE

Excuse me are you speaking to me?

RICHARD

Yes.

MATHILDE

Oh and what did you say?

RICHARD

I asked you about that painting.

MATHILDE

I suppose I don’t have an opinion.

RICHARD

No? A pretty young thing like yourself with no opinion?

MATHILDE

I’m not young and I’m waiting for my husband.

RICHARD

A young woman waits for her mother.

MATHILDE

Husband.

RICHARD

Don’t let me bother you.

MATHILDE

I’m not letting you bother me.

RICHARD

Because I can bother you if you want.

MATHILDE

No thank you.

RICHARD

Just an offer. I’ll be sitting on this bench admiring that painting. You can look at other paintings but I’ll be sitting here admiring this painting.

MATHILDE

Look, why do you keep talking about that painting?

RICHARD

Because obviously I painted it of course and I’m always seeking a little friendly criticism from women in gloves.

MATHILDE

Oh.

RICHARD

I see you are suitably impressed.

MATHILDE

No, not really.

RICHARD

Hmm.

MATHILDE

My husband has taught me not to be kind to artists.

RICHARD

Your husband’s in the majority.

MATHILDE

I perhaps misspoke when I said that I shouldn’t be kind. It is more that, as a regular Austrian without much education, I have little respect for the arts.

RICHARD

Oh you should talk to my friend.

MATHILDE

Oh yeah your friend?

RICHARD

He’s the man in that painting.

MATHILDE

There’s a man in that painting?

RICHARD

Yes well if you look at it for more than a brief second, if you peel your locks from your brow.

MATHILDE

Huh yes I can see him.

RICHARD

The master composer Arnold Schoenberg.

MATHILDE

He looks like he has a disease. I mean the way you painted him maybe.

RICHARD

I’ve been getting tired of faces so I no longer complete them and sometimes I become tempted to obscure or “slash” the face as I’ve done here.

MATHILDE

And this is your friend.

RICHARD

I think I was talking about him taking issue with your philosophy?

MATHILDE

We maybe left there.

RICHARD

My friend Arnold believes that the entirety of society has been created to benefit the existence of two creatures: Cats and artists.

MATHILDE

Cats and artists.

RICHARD

Cats and artists are the only beings who consume resources and give nothing in return.

MATHILDE

Well I wouldn’t say nothing.

RICHARD

Oh no?

MATHILDE

Pleasure. Artists give pleasure.

RICHARD

Same way a cat lets you pet where her butt meets her tail.

MATHILDE

Da Vinci. I like DaVinci. I get pleasure from DaVinci.

RICHARD

Oh a lady of culture.

MATHILDE

I’ve traveled.

RICHARD

I’ve never left Vienna.

MATHILDE

Oh you should really travel sometime.

RICHARD

The price of paint keeps me an honest homebody and of course intoxicants.

MATHILDE

Yes I spend money on that as well.

RICHARD

Is young miss a drinker?

MATHILDE

Only when it’s dark.

RICHARD

Good answer. Me, my hand too often animates itself to clutch a bottle.

MATHILDE

You shouldn’t be a drunk.

RICHARD

Why not?

MATHILDE

Your wife wouldn’t like it.

RICHARD

What wife?

MATHILDE

Well you’ll eventually marry we all do.

RICHARD

And she oozes with confidence. I think I’m in love with you. I think I’m in love with this girl. Regardless of any promises you might have made to the man you’ve forced yourself to call “husband,” would you like to go to the country with me?

MATHILDE

No I can’t.

RICHARD

Come on we’ll go away just you and I.

MATHILDE

No. I’m sorry. The man in that painting?

RICHARD

Yes?

MATHILDE

That is my husband.

RICHARD

Oh. Arnold is your husband.

MATHILDE

Indeed.

RICHARD

So. You’re Mathilde.

MATHILDE

Pleased. You’re that crazy artist fuck he’s been spending nights with.

RICHARD

Nice to finally meet you, frau Schoenberg.

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2

Vienna, Austria

Apartment of Arnold Schoenberg

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SCHOENBERG

Come in out of the cold.

RICHARD

What have you been doing since last night?

SCHOENBERG

Writing. You?

RICHARD

Drinking. How was the concert?

SCHOENBERG

You weren’t there?

RICHARD

No I was with your wife.

SCHOENBERG

You were supposed to meet me at the concert.

RICHARD

You didn’t notice we had not arrived?

SCHOENBERG

I suppose I was concentrated on the music.

RICHARD

We decided to have a coffee and take a stroll.

SCHOENBERG

Count yourself lucky then you did not make it.

RICHARD

Why?

SCHOENBERG

The keys. They brought out the keys.

RICHARD

Oh dear.

SCHOENBERG

Yes.

RICHARD

What did Loos call the keys? “The mating call of the masses”?

SCHOENBERG

Loos says a lot he’s an art dealer and they all take cocaine.

RICHARD

Well, come on. Don’t spare the details.

SCHOENBERG

Webern was first on the program. The players are not three minutes in when the hissing starts. Actually yelling at the musicians to stop playing. Of course there’s a small minority who actually like Webern, myself included, and we start yelling Fuck you. The audience divides itself. The musicians keep playing but no one is listening. Which was a pity because they played so well, considering the difficulty of Anton’s work.

RICHARD

And considering the screaming mob.

SCHOENBERG

Quite. I don’t understand the idiocy of those people sitting in the seats, paying money to see something they’re just going to hate. They know they’re going to hate the work. So can we please let the poor musicians do their work? But no. Out with the keys.

RICHARD

(blows through hole in his door key)

SCHOENBERG

Yes, but two hundred of them. All at once. The dissonance of the mob.

RICHARD

That’s funny.

SCHOENBERG

What?

RICHARD

You complaining about dissonance.

SCHOENBERG

My dissonance is planned.

RICHARD

Oh, of course it is.

SCHOENBERG

And then at the second piece, which was Berg, they broke into riot. Half the audience stormed the stage. They destroyed the cello player’s cello. Everyone was getting in fistfights. A couple people yelling Let them play! Let them play! But there was nothing to be done. Madness had infected everyone’s minds.

RICHARD

A common trend these days.

SCHOENBERG

We’re getting stupid, friend. As a race.

RICHARD

Not the Vienesse, Arnold. We’re the apex of society.

SCHOENBERG

We’re still Austrians, Richard. We’ll never escape that.

RICHARD

And you say you’re not an Elitist.

SCHOENBERG

I’m not. I just think everyone is an idiot.

RICHARD

What did Loos say? “If you know the definition of intelligentsia, you’re a part of it.”

SCHOENBERG

Loos is a fool.

RICHARD

Loos is your paycheck.

SCHOENBERG

Loos supports everyone because he feels guilty he’s secretly a trust fund shitfuck. But the whole of the Vienna art scene would go under if he went broke.

RICHARD

So how did you escape the riot?

SCHOENBERG

That fucking Loos herded us out the back.

RICHARD

My God.

SCHOENBERG

I wish I’d had my gun.

RICHARD

Just don’t load any bullets. It’s not good to walk around with a loaded gun. They confiscated my gun. The police.

SCHOENBERG

People generally do not tolerate a man walking around an art gallery with a loaded weapon.

RICHARD

I wanted to shoot those paintings but I couldn’t work up enough courage. So I got very drunk and just told stories about the gun. Told everyone the things I’ve shot with it. Pigeons. Chicken. Pigs.

SCHOENBERG

I remember because I paid your bail.

RICHARD

I still owe you for that.

SCHOENBERG

I know you don’t have any money.

RICHARD

Will you lend me your gun?

SCHOENBERG

No.

RICHARD

I’ve got to buy another gun. Will you lend me some money for supplies?

SCHOENBERG

Supplies?

RICHARD

Painting supplies.

SCHOENBERG

No. You’ll have to steal them again.

RICHARD

Not making anything from your compositions?

SCHOENBERG

No. I can’t even afford paper these days. How is the work coming? Aside from lack of adequate supplies.

RICHARD

Slow. I’m … distracted.

SCHOENBERG

You’ll find it. I have faith in your work.

RICHARD

Oh yeah?

SCHOENBERG

You’re the best painter we have.

RICHARD

Ha.

SCHOENBERG

As much as it pains me to give another artist a compliment. Yes, you’re a genius I’d say. And you’re twenty-five. You have plenty of time to become mediocre. “The Demons in Gerstl’s Mind”? What was that one piece where you drew the demon without hands?

RICHARD

No I called that piece, “The Demons in Demon Minds.”

SCHOENBERG

I can’t stop thinking about that piece. I wrote a little strain of music about that painting.

RICHARD

Wanna buy it?

SCHOENBERG

Like I said, I’m broke. But I’ll give you a copy of the sheet music. You can play it in your mind until I can afford to pay musicians again.

RICHARD

I can’t sell a fucking thing.

SCHOENBERG

Oh but you’re getting quite a reputation around town. Your name keeps coming up around coffeeshops.

RICHARD

About my work?

SCHOENBERG

Mostly about your drinking. The Madman, they say. They say you destroyed your own painting.

RICHARD

I can’t deny it.

SCHOENBERG

They say you destroyed it because someone gave it a compliment.

RICHARD

I was trying to make a point.

SCHEONBERG

So you kicked in your canvas.

RICHARD

I was making a point to Klimt about a painting only really being something made of material and therefore of no value.

SCHOENBERG

Wait it was Klimt who complimented you Gustav Klimt?

RICHARD

They wanted to hang his color orgies next to my handless men so instead of being insulted like that I destroyed them.

SCHOENBERG

No wonder you’re always poor.

RICHARD

No I’m poor because I drink.

SCHOENBERG

You don’t need to drink for inspiration, Richard.

RICHARD

I don’t drink for inspiration. I drink so they’ll all shut up.

SCHOENBERG

Who all?

RICHARD

You know your conscience? You know when it speaks to you?

SCHOENBERG

Yes, of course.

RICHARD

I have five or six of those. Your wife says you never smile.

SCHOENBERG

There’s this formula to the music that’s eluding me. If I just didn’t have to spend the whole of my life on this ephemera. These obligations.

RICHARD

Your children. Your wife. I never want that. I never want to be serious like you.

SCHOENBERG

I know I can be serious. But it’s important to be like this. If I don’t go outside prepared to face a public who hates me, I’ll be eaten alive. You’re not a Jew. You don’t understand.

RICHARD

“The Merchant Of Vienna.”

SCHOENBERG

I’m sorry for sounding so melodramatic.

RICHARD

No, no. I like when you get animated. It happens so rarely.

SCHOENBERG

I’m animated. Who says I’m not animated?

RICHARD

Well, your wife.

SCHOENBERG

When did my wife say that?

RICHARD

(coughing violently)

SCHOENBERG

My handkerchief.

RICHARD

Thank you. I’ve been out too late drinking and smoking and smoking.

SCHOENBERG

You should stay away from the coffeehouses. Gossips and flaneurs populate their tables, not artists.

RICHARD

You’re just mad because they despise your work.

SCHOENBERG

Well, someone has to be the most hated composer in Vienna. It might as well be me. And without the rabble of the coffeehouse crowd, I’d have no audience. So out of sheer necessity, I have to surround myself with people who despise me.

RICHARD

Like me?

SCHOENBERG

How’s my wife? You spent the evening with my wife. How is my wife?

RICHARD

Good.

SCHOENBERG

I’ve been at writing all week and haven’t actually seen her … she looks well?

RICHARD

She always looks radiant.

MATHILDE

(comes in, tired, whispers) You’re waking the children.

RICHARD

(whispers) Sorry, are we being loud?

MATHILDE

(whispers) You woke up one of the children.

SCHOENBERG

(whispers) Mathilde, make us some coffee.

MATHILDE

(whispers) It is very late my husband.

SCHOENBERG

(whispers) I am speaking with Richard please bring us two coffees.

MATHILDE

(whispers) Sugar?

SCHOENBERG

(whispers) Black. What are you doing tomorrow?

RICHARD

(whispers) Hn?

SCHOENBERG

(whispers) I am buying a domino set tomorrow and would like to practice. Come over again tomorrow?

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3

Moscow, Russia

Backstage of a concert hall

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TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes a couple reminders before you begin.

ANTONINA

Okay.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Remember to play for your audience. I know you and I have been spending a lot of time with each other alone in the rehearsal room but today we add the audience. And the audience is like a stupid pet. A pet is stupid so you have to trick a pet into doing what you want but because you are always smarter than that stupid pet, you can manipulate its underdeveloped sense of emotion.

ANTONINA

I think I understand.

TCHAIKOVSKY

What I mean to say is that with a performer like yourself it is more about confidence than actually being good.

ANTONINA

You … don’t think I’m good?

TCHAIKOVSKY

My darling Antonina your playing is magnificent for your level.

ANTONINA

Oh.

TCHAIKOVSKY

So I will go out and tell them you are ready?

ANTONINA

No just –

TCHAIKOVSKY

Hn?

ANTONINA

Can you wait here a minute with me?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Nina they’re waiting for me –

ANTONINA

Go then if you need.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I have to introduce the program.

ANTONINA

TCHAIKOVSKY

What’s wrong Nina?

ANTONINA

Can you … look at me?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Can I –

ANTONINA

In my eyes, look in my eyes. Your eyes make me feel good. I’m nervous. I’m nervous I won’t play well. What are you thinking about?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Oh uh. That’s funny. Would you really like to know?

ANTONINA

Yes.

TCHAIKOVSKY

A melody for Bob.

ANTONINA

Who is Bob?

TCHAIKOVSKY

My nephew Vladimir. We call him Bob.

ANTONINA

Why would anyone ever do that? Vladimir is such a nice name.

TCHAIKOVSKY

He spent a month in America.

ANTONINA

Okay.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Americans can’t pronounce Vladimir and so they called him Bob.

ANTONINA

Oh Bob is a dreadful name. Have I met Bob?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I don’t think so.

ANTONINA

Why are you writing him a melody?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Because he’s my nephew and I love him.

ANTONINA

You’re still writing one for me?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, oh … yes.

ANTONINA

Is it beautiful?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I think so.

ANTONINA

Hum it for me.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m not sure if I can yet.

ANTONINA

Just a little bit.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I might as well.

ANTONINA

Oh yes please.

TCHAIKOVSKY

(hums “sixth”)

ANTONINA

That’s lovely.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Thank you.

ANTONINA

Will I be able to hear it, when can I hear that?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Spring. It’s a commission from the Czar. Not something I would normally accept but the pay was good. I hate the rest of the piece. Only that melody is worth anything.

ANTONINA

Don’t do that.

TCHAIKOVSKY

What?

ANTONINA

You don’t need to talk bad about your music. Some people really like it. They really love the sounds you have created for us.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Very well, Nina. The piece I just composed is amazing. It is brilliant. People will listen to it for years to come and worship every note.

ANTONINA

That’s better. After I leave being your student, I mean, this concert is the last time you and I are teacher and student.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You are heading on to a great appointment in the symphony.

ANTONINA

Yes I feel very lucky to be playing in Petersburg but –

TCHAIKOVSKY

I should tell them to start, yes?

ANTONINA

After the concert, I want you to make me a promise? After the concert, after I play good, I’ll play good if you promise to see me after the concert?

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4

Concert Hall

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Tchaikovsky comes on stage.

A VOICE from audience.

VOICE

Good morning.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Do you mind … ?

VOICE

No, no.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I mean, please – I’m about to start rehearsing for the premiere and I can’t have you in here.

VOICE

Yes I know what you were doing.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m sorry you’re – ?

VOICE

I work for the ministry of arts. Where were you?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Mmn?

VOICE

Just now you were gone from concert hall.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I told my assistant to rehearse the orchestra in my absence.

VOICE

Oh yes I excused him.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You … excused my assistant?

VOICE

So where were you?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Visiting my nephew.

VOICE

Well we’ve been rehearsing this new piece in your absence. I hope you don’t mind I tried my hand at conducting?

TCHAIKOVSKY

N – no.

VOICE

“Sixth symphony.” Very depressing.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I do not think that it is.

VOICE

You see I was performing a little compare-and-contrast.

TCHAIKOVSKY

With what?

VOICE

“Swan Lake.”

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes but the players do not know it.

VOICE

The ministry provided copies of the sheet music and I have distributed them to the players in your absence. Do you mind if I show you? I will conduct for you. Players?

Orchestra plays Swan Lake.

Then:

VOICE

Good now yes thank you.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I have not heard that in years.

VOICE

You should know it’s my favorite piece of music.

TCHAIKOVSKY

T – Thank you.

VOICE

Now. The sixth. Players!

Orchestra plays Sixth.

Then:

VOICE

Okay enough, enough. Hear that? Very different.

TCHAIKOVSKY

They’re not getting the transition.

VOICE

The Czar will not like this.

TCHAIKOVSKY

(to players) Yes players please go eat your meagre lunches, thank you! (to Voice) The music sounds strange because they don’t know how to play it yet.

VOICE

Why are you writing this?

TCHAIKOVSKY

What … What kind of question is that?

VOICE

Try.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Inspiration comes from places I don’t understand.

VOICE

But why? Explain to me why.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I don’t think I can do that.

VOICE

Huh.

TCHAIKOVSKY

VOICE

Do you have a good life?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Reasonably so.

VOICE

There is nothing you need?

TCHAIKOVSKY

No.

VOICE

Strange for an artist to live in comfort.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I am lucky to have benefactors.

VOICE

Most composers have terrible lives. Isn’t that so?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes.

VOICE

Beethoven deaf, Wolfgang inna ditch.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Vivaldi.

VOICE

Yes, the “red-haired priest.”

TCHAIKOVSKY

Lusted after nuns.

VOICE

Tisk tisk.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Church kicked him to the street.

VOICE

And his music’s so nice.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Sometimes horrible minds bear beautiful things.

VOICE

And you?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Me?

VOICE

What will be your downfall?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Old age, I hope.

VOICE

No I do not think that will be it.

TCHAIKOVSKY

VOICE

What do you think it will be?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I could not say.

VOICE

I suppose I’m asking you to guess.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Please illuminate me.

VOICE

I suppose it’s a question of legacy.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Is my legacy in doubt?

VOICE

People have a way of forgetting what once was popular.

TCHAIKOVSKY

If they are made to forget.

VOICE

TCHAIKOVSKY

You are here to censor the symphony.

VOICE

TCHAIKOVSKY

So, what?

VOICE

Just a couple questions.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Fine.

VOICE

Your wife.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes Antonina.

VOICE

Where is she?

TCHAIKOVSKY

At home.

VOICE

And where’s home?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I don’t think I need to tell you where I live.

VOICE

No I’m asking you what you regard as home.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Where my wife lives.

VOICE

But you haven’t been there for a week.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes sometimes I stay with my nephew.

VOICE

Your nephew?

TCHAIKOVSKY

My nephew’s is closer.

VOICE

I didn’t ask about your nephew.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes but that’s why –

VOICE

I didn’t ask about it so why are you bringing it up?

TCHAIKOVSKY

That’s enough.

VOICE

What are you – ?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’ve had enough of speaking thank you –

VOICE

You can’t just treat me –

TCHAIKOVSKY

I can’t just treat you like what? I eat dinner with the Czar. I’ll bring you up next time because you march to my music every holiday you pompous cunt.

VOICE

TCHAIKOVSKY

Excuse me.

VOICE

Not wise.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’ve been under stress.

VOICE

Then it is agreed between you and I that I will tell the Czar you will the change symphony.

TCHAIKOVSKY

… Yes.

VOICE

You use a strain from a peasant song of patriotism and loyalty in the second movement.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes.

VOICE

Embellish the melody and make the peasant song its own movement.

TCHAIKOVSKY

It feels like the temperature in this room has changed.

VOICE

Colder?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I cannot tell.

.

5

Naples, Italy

Early 17th century

.

The family palace of Donna Maria.

Donna Maria is dressing.

Carlo Gesualdo stands behind her, watching.

DONNA MARIA

Keep your eyes on the ground.

GESUALDO

Hmn?

DONNA MARIA

Keep your eyes on the ground.

GESUALDO

I was not looking.

DONNA MARIA

I’m changing.

GESUALDO

Donna Maria I did not look.

DONNA MARIA

Stop looking Goodness you’ll make us late for Mass.

GESUALDO

My father is waiting for us outside.

DONNA MARIA

Make him wait.

GESUALDO

The ruler of all of Southern Italy who is my father is not accustomed to the act of waiting.

DONNA MARIA

He won’t mind once he sees what I’m wearing. So you’re almost nothing. Goddamn I can’t get this dress on.

GESUALDO

You are very … You have a peculiar way of expressing yourself

DONNA MARIA

Oh yes I should carry around more fans is it? Wear perfume around the palace halls?

GESUALDO

Women are here to please men.

DONNA MARIA

Yes well we’re here for a lot of reasons aren’t we?

GESUALDO

(shields his eyes) Please will you warn me before you –

DONNA MARIA

Remove my clothing?

GESUALDO

No it is not something I should see.

DONNA MARIA

Why not?

GESUALDO

You are another man’s wife.

DONNA MARIA

Every one of us is a child of God.

GESUALDO

I must respect your husband.

DONNA MARIA

The old man’s off somewhere chasing something with a stick that explodes and then some bunny in the distance falls down dead. I am about to reveal my breast once again.

GESUALDO

Thank you. (shields eyes) We will certainly miss the service now.

DONNA MARIA

I’m afraid I have no control over how fast I change my clothing cousin. Isn’t your father waiting?

GESUALDO

Yes.

DONNA MARIA

He sent you up here to fetch me?

GESUALDO

Yes there’s a carriage.

DONNA MARIA

I love this.

GESUALDO

What?

DONNA MARIA

Power hmm do you think the green or the red brooch?

GESUALDO

The white.

DONNA MARIA

That’s not an option cheater. Today’s looking a little red. Lace this for me, will you?

GESUALDO

No, I should not.

DONNA MARIA

Then we can’t go.

GESUALDO

You stubborn bitch.

DONNA MARIA

I’m just playing like children do with dirt.

GESUALDO

I should not be touching you.

DONNA MARIA

You know what helps? Imagine this is a story. Imagine these are verses from your Bible. You’re worried about desire but there isn’t any of that really. Not here. The laces on my back are just part of the parable. Something happens when they’re laced. Or when someone undoes them.

GESUALDO

Do you have something I can write on?

DONNA MARIA

And he chooses nothing.

GESUALDO

Something just came and I have to write something down rather quick.

DONNA MARIA

What are you writing?

GESUALDO

I need to remember a strain.

DONNA MARIA

It looks like music.

GESUALDO

It’s not music.

DONNA MARIA

You are writing notes on a page so obviously it’s music.

GESUALDO

Quiet.

DONNA MARIA

I didn’t know Princes were allowed to be / so sensitive.

GESUALDO

Could you please be quiet!

DONNA MARIA

GESUALDO

Done. Thank you. I will help you lace your dress now.

DONNA MARIA

I can’t figure out what causes you to do what you do and it is very frustrating.

GESUALDO

Breathe in.

DONNA MARIA

Yes suck in my fat belly huh?

GESUALDO

How does this go?

DONNA MARIA

The rabbit slips through the hole and jumps the fence.

GESUALDO

Yes I see.

DONNA MARIA

What does it say?

GESUALDO

What does what say?

DONNA MARIA

What you wrote down.

GESUALDO

“She who could give me life.”

DONNA MARIA

Cryptic. Tell me then.

GESUALDO

Tell you what?

DONNA MARIA

About your music.

GESUALDO

I don’t know what there is to say.

DONNA MARIA

Just … speak.

GESUALDO

I have … many voices in my head?

DONNA MARIA

Like a madman?

GESUALDO

And there will be these voices that keep repeating a phrase.

DONNA MARIA

What do you mean?

GESUALDO

A voice comes into my head. “She who could give me life”. Another voice repeats the first voice. A third voice repeats the first and second. The fourth voice combines the other three and a fifth moves in the opposite direction, like the underbelly of a wave. But if you can hear them all at once, all the voices at the same time, you’ll hear a sixth voice.

DONNA MARIA

And what’s the sixth voice?

GESUALDO

A voice that isn’t there. The sixth voice is all the other voices speaking as one.

DONNA MARIA

A quintet.

GESUALDO

Sextet. If we had the mind of God we could hear everyone suffering at the same time but all we have are our ears. There. We’re ready.

DONNA MARIA

Yes.

GESUALDO

Time to go to church.

DONNA MARIA

You should come around more.

GESUALDO

I just might.

DONNA MARIA

I could entertain you. I can be … entertaining.

.

6

Church alter

.

PRIEST

And you love her?

GESUALDO

Yes it is a similar feeling to love.

PRIEST

And you plan to wed?

GESUALDO

Well she is wed to another man, and older man, this older man has her kept in her his love and I wish to extricate her from it. Is this clear? Is what I said clear?

PRIEST

You wish this husband of Donna Maria to vanish.

GESUALDO

Just to the North.

PRIEST

He owns land?

GESUALDO

Yes I will own his land now.

PRIEST

As a member of the church you must know that as a representative of the church I must report that the church has no official opinion and will take no official action against this man.

GESUALDO

Understood.

PRIEST

But of course I will send notice of any news of the church relocating his household to the North.

GESUALDO

He is an old man. Old men have no place in this world. You are a young man.

PRIEST

Not so young.

GESUALDO

Did you ever?

PRIEST

Ever?

GESUALDO

Have you ever?

PRIEST

You mean … ?

GESUALDO

Ladies. A woman.

PRIEST

No.

GESUALDO

Nor I.

PRIEST

Prince –

GESUALDO

Like you I have not been with a woman. There are books. I’ve been reading books.

PRIEST

The Bible.

GESUALDO

Always the Bible. But other books.

PRIEST

Books about what?

GESUALDO

Strange subjects.

PRIEST

Such as?

GESUALDO

We made that library. You know the one?

PRIEST

The stone library at the edge of the harbor.

GESUALDO

There are these books they brought from some country I do no know. Translated verses. Some Germanic tribe. There’s a formula for the Devil. There’s a formula for the Devil that reduces the triangulation of the skeleton to a series of pentagrams in the body here. Here. And here.

PRIEST

Careful my … head.

GESUALDO

These pentagrams turn the human body into a tuning fork of the Devil. In men, this ability is muted. With the knowledge of innate sin, men purge the world of evil. But women crave this knowledge. The crucifix of pentagrams affixed to the skeleton of all women – six, six, six – attests to their demon born mind. You can see it when they sleep. You can see it when they promise their love. Six. Six. Six.

PRIEST

Y – yes?

GESUALDO

I’ve been seeing combinations of three sixes. I’ve been putting it backwards into the music. People won’t hear but they’ll know. You lay a voice backwards in the structure of music and you begin to hear another voice. A being. A physical being made manifest in the room.

PRIEST

If you could just unclutch my robe –

GESUALDO

Do you feel this being? This other being in the room with us? Watching. I want to put Him in the music. If I can just put Him in the music then He’ll live in the minds of everyone. What do you think?

PRIEST

Of what?

GESUALDO

As a priest. Your opinion of me.

PRIEST

I think you need a wife.

GESUALDO

Then get me Donna Maria, eh?

.

7

Vienna, Austria

Concert Hall

.

SCHOENBERG

(to unseen players) Again. And this time, just the notes. The piece has a logic of its own. Respect that the composition may be smarter than you. Just read the note. Play it. Read the next note. Play that. And so on. It is not your job to create. Players are always only interpretive artists. But within this restraint lies invention. Like dancing in a narrow hallway. The shackles of form force creativity. You must imprison yourself to learn what freedom means. So, please. Again.

.

8

Vienna, Austria

Apartment of Arnold Schoenberg

(with)

Moscow, Russia

Home of Piotr Tchaikovsky

(with)

Naples, Italy

Palace Bedroom of Carlo Gesualdo

.

Schoenberg and Gerstl playing dominoes.

Antonina playing Tchaikovsky’s “Fugue for piano in g sharp minor, mvt. 2, Op. 21.”

Donna Maria painting herself with makeup in a mirror.

Gesualdo comes in.

GESUALDO

Wife.

DONNA MARIA

You have returned sooner than expected.

GESUALDO

Yes.

DONNA MARIA

How was your concert?

GESUALDO

Of course they loved it. What have you been doing?

DONNA MARIA

Waiting for you, of course.

GESUALDO

You didn’t take the carriage to my concert.

DONNA MARIA

You said I could wait for the next one.

GESUALDO

What I really meant was I wanted you to come.

DONNA MARIA

But they loved your music anyway?

GESUALDO

They’re my subjects so they say they love it because they think if they lie they’ll lose their situation.

RICHARD

Okay your move.

SCHOENBERG

Finally.

DONNA MARIA

I thought you were staying at your study tonight.

RICHARD

How did the concert go?

SCHOENBERG

Very badly.

RICHARD / DONNA MARIA

What happened?

GESUALDO

I lost the song.

SCHOENBERG

The audience didn’t like the piece so they started screaming so I told them to shut up and listen but someone threw a bottle at me so I leapt through the crowd and kicked a woman in the head.

RICHARD

Ouch.

SCHOENBERG

Accidentally.

RICHARD

Of course.

GESUALDO

I had the song this morning but when I went to put it down on paper I lost it.

DONNA MARIA

That’s nice.

GESUALDO / SCHOENBERG

What brings you out?

DONNA MARIA / RICHARD

What brings me out?

SCHOENBERG

What brings you out into the night and into my home at one in the morning.

RICHARD / DONNA MARIA

I couldn’t sleep.

DONNA MARIA

I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept. These thoughts I keep having and my mind racing and it feels like something’s coming to get me.

RICHARD

I saw a dead man earlier this week. I keep thinking about him instead of sleeping. I was passing in the park and found a dead man on a bench. Homeless. He was clutching a crucifix without a head. It was actually comforting to watch him. So cold and still. I imagined his dead lips whispering

RICHARD / GESUALDO

God has punished us.

DONNA MARIA

Whatever for?

GESUALDO

I have yet to find out.

RICHARD

How’s your wife?

GESUALDO

How’s your Latin?

RICHARD / DONNA MARIA

Good.

DONNA MARIA

The Duke Fabrizio is very good.

RICHARD

I like your wife.

SCHOENBERG

So do I.

GESUALDO

How are the Duke Fabrizio’s lessons?

DONNA MARIA

Very nice.

GESUALDO

Are they difficult?

DONNA MARIA

They are very hard.

SCHOENBERG

That’s really your move?

RICHARD

That’s really my move.

SCHOENBERG

If you play the triple six I’ve got you. Try again.

Tchaikovsky enters.

Schoenberg hums “Oh my dear friend Augustin” throughout:

TCHAIKOVSKY

Nice piece.

ANTONINA

(stops playing) Oh you’re soaking wet.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, I noticed.

ANTONINA

What happened to you?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I fell outside the concert hall on those damn frozen steps.

ANTONINA

Did you walk home?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Help me with this boot.

ANTONINA

I can’t believe you walked all the – Oh dear.  Oh dear.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I think my sock is frozen.

ANTONINA

But the concert was good?

TCHAIKOVSKY

They don’t follow me. The players don’t follow me. My conducting. They can’t follow my conducting. It’s not me. I wrote it, I know how to conduct my own work.

ANTONINA

You’re so cold.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Could you please run a hot washcloth?

ANTONINA

Oh yes, yes.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Thank you.

ANTONINA

What piece did you play?

TCHAIKOVSKY

The First.

ANTONINA

Did they love it?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Of course they loved it.

ANTONINA

You don’t sound happy.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m not. My benefactress did not send a check. We are out of money until my benefactress sends a check.

ANTONINA

Peter?

GESUALDO

Maria?

DONNA MARIA

That is the name people gave me.

GESUALDO / ANTONINA

Can I show you what I did?

ANTONINA

Do you want to know what I did while you were gone because I’ve frankly been very excited to show you what I’ve been doing, can I show you?

DONNA MARIA

If you wish.

GESUALDO / ANTONINA

I wrote something for you.

ANTONINA

A poem.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Oh. Lovely.

ANTONINA

Here.

DONNA MARIA

I don’t read music.

GESUALDO

Just read the words.

RICHARD

What are you humming?

SCHOENBERG

Some children’s song, some stupid little melody that infects your mind like poison.

Schoenberg keeps humming.

ANTONINA

Do you like it?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Well, it’s very romantic.

ANTONINA / GESUALDO

It’s all about you.

DONNA MARIA

“My flesh is yours and my body must die to feel your passion”?

TCHAIKOVSKY

And am I the “quivering cuckoo” or “black stallion”?

ANTONINA

I thought both.

TCHAIKOVSKY / DONNA MARIA

How very –

TCHAIKOVSKY

– poetic.

DONNA MARIA

– lovely.

GESUALDO

You like it?

DONNA MARIA

I said lovely.

RICHARD

You’ve stuck it in my head.

SCHOENBERG

Annoying, isn’t it?

RICHARD

(singing) Oh my dear friend Augustin Augustin, Augustin –

SCHOENBERG & RICHARD

(singing) Oh my dear friend Augustin, everything’s lost.

SCHOENBERG / TCHAIKOVSKY / GESUALDO

(sneezes)

RICHARD / ANTONINA / DONNA MARIA

Are you sick?

SCHOENBERG / TCHAIKOVSKY / GESUALDO

It’s nothing.

SCHOENBERG

Just a leftover cold.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Just this freezing Moscow rain.

GESUALDO

Sometimes my chest burns for no reason.

ANTONINA

You’ve been coughing two weeks straight.

DONNA MARIA

You should see one of your three hundred doctors.

GESUALDO / TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m fine.

ANTONINA

You’ve been sick since our wedding.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’ll be fine.

SCHOENBERG

I don’t have all evening for your process.

RICHARD

I’m thinking.

SCHOENBERG

You don’t have any threes.

RICHARD

You angry about something?

SCHOENBERG

Do I look angry?

RICHARD

You always look calm and sort of angry, yes.

SCHOENBERG

I’m not angry.

RICHARD

I’m not attacking you.

SCHOENBERG

Then stop acting like you are.

RICHARD

I’m your friend, Arnold.

SCHOENBERG

No. You’re young and the young don’t have friends, only acquaintances they haven’t yet disappointed.

GESUALDO

Why are you wearing makeup?

DONNA MARIA

Hmn?

GESUALDO

It’s very late and you’re wearing makeup.

DONNA MARIA

Yes.

GESUALDO

You’re just putting it on?

DONNA MARIA

I’m just putting it on.

GESUALDO

You’re not going anywhere?

DONNA MARIA

I’m not going anywhere.

GESUALDO

But you thought I was asleep.

DONNA MARIA

I thought I’d be in peace.

ANTONINA

It’s our anniversary today.

TCHAIKOVSKY

What?

ANTONINA

Our two-week anniversary.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Happy Two Weeks.

ANTONINA

It’s okay if you don’t remember.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m sorry I’ve nothing planned.

GESUALDO

I’ll take a bath then.

DONNA MARIA

Keep the lights on this time.

GESUALDO

I love it without the lights.

DONNA MARIA

It’s repulsive. Wet water in darkness.

GESUALDO

Like the womb.

SCHOENBERG

Triple six.

RICHARD

Fuck.

DONNA MARIA

You are a bizarre little man.

ANTONINA

Do you think we could –

TCHAIKOVSKY

Not now.

ANTONINA

All right.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Not tonight.

ANTONINA

Okay.

GESUALDO

You are so beautiful, Maria.

DONNA MARIA

That’s just something to say.

GESUALDO

The most beautiful woman in Naples.

DONNA MARIA

God made me.

GESUALDO

It must have been the Devil.

DONNA MARIA

I’m your wife.

GESUALDO

I thought you were too but you’ve also become something else.

RICHARD

Is this your wife here?

SCHOENBERG

That’s our wedding picture.

RICHARD

She’s so young.

SCHOENBERG

Before the children.

GESUALDO

We’re going to church tomorrow, Maria.

DONNA MARIA

Church is tedious.

GESUALDO

Tedious?

DONNA MARIA

It makes me think I’m wrong.

GESUALDO

We’re all wrong.

SCHOENBERG

Mathilde stopped coming to my concerts because she thinks music is a waste of time and surely a waste of money.

DONNA MARIA

You love God over me.

GESUALDO

No. I love my music above all because that’s how I talk to Him.

DONNA MARIA

Oh and does He talk back?

GESUALDO

Not yet –

GESUALDO / ANTONINA

But soon.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Hmn?

ANTONINA

But soon?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Oh. Yes. Soon.

ANTONINA

When?

TCHAIKOVSKY

When I feel better.

ANTONINA

When will that be?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I do not know.

ANTONINA

I heard about it, someone told me about it and I think I want it so do you think you can do that?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I do not know.

ANTONINA

Why not?

TCHAIKOVSKY

It is difficult to say.

DONNA MARIA

Were you going to take a bath or just loom and stare?

GESUALDO

I’m deciding what to do with you.

RICHARD

Your wife is quite striking.

SCHOENBERG

Nn.

RICHARD

In the photo.

SCHOENBERG

You don’t have to say that.

ANTONINA

That washcloth.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Thank you.

ANTONINA

Let me.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Just my neck.

RICHARD

You don’t think she’s beautiful?

DONNA MARIA

Cousin by the look in your eye reflected in this mirror it seems you need something.

GESUALDO

Yes.

DONNA MARIA

Shall I release you?

GESUALDO

Yes.

DONNA MARIA

Which way?

GESUALDO

(handing dagger handle first) Dagger handle.

DONNA MARIA

(grasping the dagger’s cross in her palm) Dangerous.

ANTONINA

Will you play me something?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Such as?

ANTONINA

You choose.

TCHAIKOVSKY

One of mine?

ANTONINA

Of course.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Something new?

ANTONINA

Oh please.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I just finished this at my nephew’s.

GESUALDO

(bent over a chair) I’m ready.

TCHAIKOVSKY

This is from the ending.

Tchaikovsky plays end of “1812 Overture” through:

DONNA MARIA

Here comes the hedgehog –

GESUALDO

(as Donna Maria presses the dagger handle into his anus) Oh fuck.

SCHOENBERG

It’s not my intention to be malicious.

GESUALDO

Oh fuck.

SCHOENBERG

I love my wife. But it’s the truth. I didn’t marry Mathilde because she’s pretty. I married her because she would make a good wife. They’re mutually exclusive qualities.

DONNA MARIA

(slow with the handle) So red.

GESUALDO

Oh FUCK.

SCHOENBERG

I love my wife because she’s not beautiful. Beautiful things have nothing to offer me. I want to go past The Beautiful. But I can’t do it with these damned audiences. They only like the familiar. Nothing innovative or intelligent or daring.

DONNA MARIA

(faster, whispering) Is this what you wanted?

GESUALDO

Nn hn.

SCHOENBERG

Love melodies. That’s what they like.

DONNA MARIA

Oh cousin.

GESUALDO

No don’t stop.

SCHOENBERG

I honestly don’t know why I continue writing.

GESUALDO

Don’t stop.

SCHOENBERG

These half-wits with fat wallets, doctors and lawyers and aesthetic types who demand moronic simplicity from their intellectual superiors.

GESUALDO

Don’t stoahhhrk! –

Gesualdo comes, collapses; Tchaikovsky finishes playing “1812 Overture.”

ANTONINA

Oh, that’s just marvelous.

TCHAIKOVSKY

It’s very noisy, I’ll give you that.

ANTONINA

(kissing him wildly) Oh you’re a genius, a genius.

RICHARD

What does this have to do with your wife?

SCHOENBERG

Was I talking about my wife?

DONNA MARIA

(wiping dagger handle with her dress) All better.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Stop, stop it.

ANTONINA

I’m sorry I’m sorry.

TCHAIKOVSKY

There’s nothing wrong, just don’t do that, thank you.

SCHOENBERG

What are those?

RICHARD

What are what?

SCHOENBERG

You seem to have fresh cuts on your wrist.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Please don’t cry, Nina.

ANTONINA

I’m doing something wrong. I must be doing something wrong.

GESUALDO

Did you see that?

RICHARD

Oh these cuts?

SCHOENBERG

Yes.

RICHARD

I remember cutting myself but the funny thing was the pain made me finish two portraits.

SCHOENBERG

You should really sort out your problems.

RICHARD

I don’t think I could work if I didn’t have problems.

GESUALDO

My shadow –

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m going for a walk.

ANTONINA

You just got home.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I would like to go for a walk.

GESUALDO

My shadow waved at me –

DONNA MARIA

Are you going to pull your pants up?

SCHOENBERG

We’re headed out to the country next weekend.

RICHARD / ANTONINA

Where are you going?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Just a stroll by the Moscow.

SCHOENBERG

To our shack in the country.

ANTONINA

You’ll freeze.

TCHAIKOVSKY / GESUALDO

I’ll be fine.

SCHOENBERG

Did you want to come out to the country?

ANTONINA

Please don’t go.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I really should.

GESUALDO

Look at my shadow.

SCHOENBERG

You need some time away from Vienna and my wife would love you coming to the country with us.

GESUALDO

What does my shadow look like?

DONNA MARIA

A man with his pants down.

ANTONINA

Where have you been sleeping?

TCHAIKOVSKY

At the apartment of my nephew.

GESUALDO

Doesn’t my shadow look like a rooster?

ANTONINA

I don’t like being alone.

RICHARD

I can’t afford the trip.

SCHOENBERG

I’ll pay you.

RICHARD

I can’t just take your money.

GESUALDO

An old rooster? An old cuckold?

SCHOENBERG

I’m commissioning you then.

RICHARD

What’s the subject?

SCHOENBERG

My wife. My wife in the countryside. You paint my wife in the countryside.

RICHARD

I won’t say no.

ANTONINA

Can you please stop dressing!

TCHAIKOVSKY

Oh, I – are you upset?

ANTONINA

Yes.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Why?

ANTONINA

I do not know.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Then what is it?

ANTONINA

I have been having terrible dreams.

TCHAIKOVSKY

About me?

ANTONINA

I’m playing the violin. I don’t play the violin, I know, but in the dream I could play very well. But no one was listening. The concert hall, this great concert hall with red velvet curtain on all the walls. It was empty. And I played faster and faster and the strings broke off, just whipped right off the instrument, and they cut my forearms and I tried to brush it away, brush the blood away but my fingernails cut my skin and I tried to call out but the space swallowed the sound. But I could hear you. In that silence, I could hear you. I’m coming. I’m coming. But you never did. You never came.

.

9

Apartment of Arnold Schoenberg

(with)

Home of Vladimir Davidov

(with)

Palace Study of Carlo Gesualdo

.

Schoenberg plays opening to Six Little Piano Pieces #2 throughout:

Duke Fabrizio correcting lesson while Gesualdo watches.

Tchaikovsky composing on sheet of paper while Vladimir watches.

TCHAIKOVSKY

The concert was terrible. They don’t like my conducting. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I wrote the piece. I should know how to conduct the damned thing.

VLADIMIR

I loved the piece.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Well unlike my musicians you have taste.

VLADIMIR

Who are they to tell the Great Tchaikovsky how to play his own piece?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Please don’t call me Great Tchaikovsky.

VLADIMIR

Don’t be so sensitive, uncle. Just face it. You’re a great composer. Say it.

TCHAIKOVSKY

This is foolish –

VLADIMIR

I’m a great composer.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m a great composer.

FABRIZIO

She uses her verbs improperly.

GESUALDO

Do you mind if I see the lesson?

FABRIZIO

Let me finish correcting –

GESUALDO

I don’t mind watching in the meantime.

FABRIZIO

Whatever suits the Prince.

GESUALDO / MATHILDE / VLADIMIR

Do you want anything?

FABRIZIO

I am satisfied, Prince.

MATHILDE / VLADIMIR

Do you want anything?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Were you saying something?

VLADIMIR

Do you want something to drink?

GESUALDO

How about some wine from my vineyard?

FABRIZIO / TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, that’s fine.

VLADIMIR

Vodka?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Water.

MATHILDE

Do you want anything?

SCHOENBERG

(stops playing) I’m working on a little something right now so please be very quiet.

MATHILDE

I’m making tea.

SCHOENBERG

I’ll have a cup. (starts playing Six Little Piano Pieces #3, throughout)

MATHILDE / VLADIMIR

I’ll put the kettle on.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Don’t bother.

BOB

Moscow water makes most people ill.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I like parasites.

GESUALDO

I’ve never been to the vineyard but I hear it’s beautiful. There’s so much of my domain I haven’t even seen but my servants tell other servants to tell me that my vineyards are beautiful.

GESUALDO / VLADIMIR

Here you are.

VLADIMIR

One unboiled glass of Moscow water.

TCHAIKOVSKY

The ice kills the bacteria.

MATHILDE

You’ve been tuning that thing all afternoon.

SCHOENBERG

(stops playing) These are new compositions.

MATHILDE

Oh it sounded like …

SCHOENBERG

Like what?

MATHILDE

Like you were tuning the piano.

SCHOENBERG

Do you mind?

MATHILDE

No.

SCHOENBERG

Thank you. (starts playing Six Little Piano Pieces #5, throughout)

VLADIMIR / GESUALDO

How is it?

TCHAIKOVSKY / FABRIZIO

Fine.

GESUALDO

Many say it’s the best wine in Italy, which infuriates the Northerners of course.

FABRIZIO

Of course.

GESUALDO

A filthy Neapolitan Prince bleeding his vineyards into the finest wine of God’s kingdom.

FABRIZIO / TCHAIKOVSKY

It tastes just fine –

TCHAIKOVSKY

– and in fact it may be the best hrgk. Something’s – hrgk! – wrong. I can’t – hrgk! – breathe.

VLADIMIR

Stop that, uncle.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Help! Poison! Murder!

GESUALDO

Would you say that this is the best wine you’ve tasted?

FABRIZIO

It is very delicious indeed.

GESUALDO

I give this wine to the priests in the city. They wave their hands and it becomes blood. You’re drinking the Blood of Christ, Fabrizio.

VLADIMIR

You’re not much of an actor.

TCHAIKOVSKY

That was actually pretty convincing.

VLADIMIR

They’d boo you off the stage.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Harsh critic.

VLADIMIR

Stick to composing.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Uhk, I wish I could quit.

VLADIMIR

Don’t say that. You could write a symphony in your sleep.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You’ve been reading too many newspapers. You make me sound like the Czar.

VLADIMIR

You’re certainly more popular than the Czar.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Just don’t say that in front of him.

VLADIMIR

Why not?

TCHAIKOVSKY

The Czar can be a very difficult man. He loves my music. But he doesn’t like people like us.

VLADIMIR

What do you mean?

TCHAIKOVSKY

What do you think I mean, nephew?

MATHILDE

We might need food, Arnold.

SCHOENBERG

(stops playing) No. No.

MATHILDE

Arnold?

SCHOENBERG

What?

MATHILDE

We need to get some food.

SCHOENBERG

I’m teaching later this week.

MATHILDE

What will we eat for dinner?

SCHOENBERG

Just make anything. I don’t care.

MATHILDE

We don’t have anything.

SCHOENBERG

Just give me a minute, please. (starts playing Six Little Piano Pieces #1, throughout)

GESUALDO

Ask about my wife.

FABRIZIO / VLADIMIR

How is your wife?

TCHAIKOVSKY / GESUALDO

My wife is well.

GESUALDO

She loves your Latin lessons.

TCHAIKOVSKY

We don’t really know each other yet.

VLADIMIR

But you married her?

TCHAIKOVSKY

She was a student and sent me love letters and I didn’t feel the same but she threatened to kill herself so I said yes.

GESUALDO

I compose music, Duke.

FABRIZIO

Yes, your wife said.

GESUALDO

So you’ve heard my work?

FABRIZIO

Unfortunately no.

GESUALDO / VLADIMIR

That is unfortunate.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Why?

VLADIMIR

Living with a stranger.

TCHAIKOVSKY

It’s not so bad as long as I can work here.

VLADIMIR / GESUALDO

Of course –

GESUALDO

– I’m not known as a composer yet because musical composition is a servant’s duty when really it should be our rulers who decide what sounds the people hear. Don’t you agree?

FABRIZIO

I do appreciate music approved by the church.

GESUALDO

Then you would not like my music.

VLADIMIR / MATHILDE

What are you working on?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Opera.

SCHOENBERG

Restructuring the hierarchy of Western tonal scales.

MATHILDE

Will it make us money?

SCHOENBERG

Only idiots write for money.

GESUALDO

Music is prayer. (takes corrected paper from Fabrizio) We speak words but sound paves the true path to God.

FABRIZIO

What do you mean?

GESUALDO / SCHOENBERG / TCHAIKOVSKY

(crumpling paper) Let’s start over.

FABRIZIO / MATHILDE / VLADIMIR

What’s wrong?

GESUALDO / SCHOENBERG / TCHAIKOVSKY

It’s not coming together.

FABRIZIO / MATHILDE / VLADIMIR

But what’s wrong?

GESUALDO / SCHOENBERG / TCHAIKOVSKY

Let me explain it clearly.

SCHOENBERG

My music is not about anything –

TCHAIKOVSKY

My music is a love story that ends badly – (plays a bar from Onegin)

GESUALDO

My music is Latin scripture –

TCHAIKOVSKY

This country girl falls in love with a man from the city – (plays a bar)

SCHOENBERG

(making a diagram for Mathilde) Think of a chessboard –

GESUALDO

(reading from Bible) “All my friends have betrayed me” –

TCHAIKOVSKY

The country girl sends the city man a love letter – (plays a bar)

SCHOENBERG

The rules of chess state that some pieces have more power than others –

GESUALDO

“They have given me vinegar to drink” –

SCHOENBERG

Now imagine every chess piece as a musical note –

TCHAIKOVSKY

But the city man tells her he cannot love her – (plays a bar)

GESUALDO

“They have cast me out amongt the damned” –

TCHAIKOVSKY

Then the man makes a pass at her sister – (plays a bar)

SCHOENBERG

What if every chess piece – every note – was the same?

GESUALDO

“And even the wicked look upon me with hate.”

TCHAIKOVSKY

So her sister’s lover challenges the man to a duel and the man shoots the country girl’s sister’s lover in the heart – (plays a bar)

SCHOENBERG

What if every note had the same power?

TCHAIKOVSKY

It’s a comedy.

MATHILDE

I don’t understand.

SCHOENBERG

Of course not.

MATHILDE

Shit, your tea.

TCHAIKOVSKY

This is from the prelude. (plays prelude to “Eugene Onegin,” throughout)

FABRIZIO

I don’t know those verses.

GESUALDO

Book of Job. Lovely story. A man loves God so much that God kills everything he loves. Here’s a Bible, look it up.

FABRIZIO

Thank you.

GESUALDO

Read it.

FABRIZIO

(uncrumpling paper) Let me finish correcting.

SCHOENBERG

They’re publishing my piece you know.

MATHILDE

That’s nice.

SCHOENBERG

That operatic song cycle.

MATHILDE

Which one?

SCHOENBERG

The Gurrelieder.

MATHILDE

I don’t remember that one.

SCHOENBERG

The king loves his mistress. Remember? The king’s wife is jealous. The king’s wife’s lover captures the lusty mistress. He scalds her to death in volcanic steam. The king finds his mistress’ boiled body. He damns God and in turn damns himself. But the king gets his revenge. He stuffs his wife’s lover in a barrel bristling with nails and rolls him down a hill.

MATHILDE

I never liked that one.

SCHOENBERG

I dedicated it to you.

TCHAIKOVSKY

(finishes playing) Something like that.

VLADIMIR

I can’t wait for the rest.

TCHAIKOVSKY

It just came to me while I was here in your house.

SCHOENBERG

And they’re actually paying me for the score.

MATHILDE

That’s good.

SCHOENBERG

I seem to remember you saying I couldn’t make a living at this.

MATHILDE / TCHAIKOVSKY

Can we talk about something else?

SCHOENBERG / VLADIMIR

What do you mean?

MATHILDE / TCHAIKOVSKY

We’ve been talking about music all day.

SCHOENBERG / VLADIMIR

We can talk about something else.

MATHILDE

You can’t keep having Richard over.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I get so bored talking about myself.

MATHILDE

I was up so late because you and Richard were playing that loud child’s game.

SCHOENBERG

Dominoes is actually very complicated. (plays “Six Little Piano Pieces #2,” throughout)

TCHAIKOVSKY / GESUALDO

What about you?

VLADIMIR / FABRIZIO

What about me?

TCHAIKOVSKY

You look like your father.

VLADIMIR

That’s what they say.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Your father was handsome.

VLADIMIR

That’s what they said.

TCHAIKOVSKY / GESUALDO

You’re really an attractive young boy.

VLADIMIR / FABRIZIO

I’m a man.

GESUALDO

I can see that.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You don’t have a wife yet.

GESUALDO

Did you know I own everybody? Was that made clear to you, Fabrizio? I hope someone explained at some point that I own everything you see. Fields. Rocks. The city. I own the people and the fishermen and the priests. The messengers. People who carry messages to and from this Palace? Even the ones who do it in secret? I own their messages. I own their thoughts.

SCHOENBERG

I invited Richard to the country.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You’re an attractive young man and you don’t have a wife.

VLADIMIR

I haven’t fallen in love yet.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Is that really the reason?

SCHOENBERG

I said it was you who wanted him to come.

MATHILDE

I never said that.

SCHOENBERG

I thought you liked Richard.

MATHILDE

I didn’t say I wanted him to come.

SCHOENBERG / TCHAIKOVSKY / GESUALDO

You blushed just then.

MATHILDE

Why did you do that?

SCHOENBERG / TCHAIKOVSKY / GESUALDO

Why did you blush?

VLADIMIR

I was thinking about this young woman.

FABRIZIO

I was thinking about something difficult to explain.

MATHILDE

Don’t say things I didn’t say.

VLADIMIR

I know this young woman who’s fallen in love.

SCHOENBERG

Don’t you and Richard like spending time together?

MATHILDE

Just us and him alone in the country?

GESUALDO

Look up Job.

VLADIMIR

The young girl has fallen in love with a wonderful man.

GESUALDO

Look up Job.

SCHOENBERG

But Richard likes you.

VLADIMIR

Everyone loves this man and worships his music.

SCHOENBERG

He likes how you look.

MATHILDE

Did he say that?

SCHOENBERG

Looking at our wedding picture.

VLADIMIR

But she just loves him.

FABRIZIO

What’s this?

GESUALDO

What did you find?

FABRIZIO

A letter between the pages.

VLADIMIR

This person just loves this other person.

FABRIZIO

This letter is not mine.

GESUALDO

Yet it bears your name.

TCHAIKOVSKY

What will she do?

VLADIMIR

She wants to kiss him.

GESUALDO

Read it to me.

TCHAIKOVSKY

She should kiss him.

GESUALDO

Read it to me.

TCHAIKOVSKY

She should kiss this man.

VLADIMIR

You’re my uncle.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You’re my nephew.

VLADIMIR

You’re a man and you’re my uncle.

FABRIZIO

“If you remember the knives that I told you about again and again, the knives that lay nestled in the drawer in the cupboard of my husband’s kitchen?

FABRIZIO / DONNA MARIA

At night sometimes I have been caressing my wrists with the soft metal blade of the butcher’s knife –

DONNA MARIA

– my flesh waiting for the hot kiss of pain pealing up my arm. If for some reason you cannot have me then maybe I can finally answer the question I posed to my own body: How much damage must I do to you before you fall motionless? What pain must I inflict to wrench the oyster of my soul from the husk I call me?”

MATHILDE

The sun keeps coming up.

SCHOENBERG

Hmn?

MATHILDE

The sun just rises and sets.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You know what I’ve been saying all day, right?

VLADIMIR

No.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I think you do. This thing I’m talking about. This thing we do by ourselves. You and I. I think you know what it is.

GESUALDO

You look scared.

SCHOENBERG

You look tired.

MATHILDE

I’m awake.

TCHAIKOVSKY

We could do that together.

VLADIMIR

Peter –

TCHAIKOVSKY

I have a secret.

VLADIMIR

What is it?

TCHAIKOVSKY

(removing Bob’s coat) I have to whisper.

SCHOENBERG

(stops playing) You’re acting strange today.

MATHILDE

It’s nothing.

SCHOENBERG

You’re sure?

MATHILDE

Yes.

VLADIMIR / FABRIZIO

What will you do?

GESUALDO

Nothing yet.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I can show you how.

VLADIMIR

How do you show me?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’ve tried it.

VLADIMIR

How do you try it?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Like this. (kissing Bob’s neck)

GESUALDO

What will you do?

FABRIZIO

Nothing more.

SCHOENBERG

Do you mind if I – ?

MATHILDE

No, keep playing.

SCHOENBERG

Thank you. (continues playing Six Little Piano Pieces #2)

GESUALDO

This weekend I’m hunting stag.

FABRIZIO

Noble game.

GESUALDO

When I return you’re gone.

FABRIZIO

As you wish.

GESUALDO

We’ve had enough of your lessons, Duke. You are excused.

FABRIZIO

(kisses Gesualdo’s hand) Prince. (goes)

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m sorry about the beard.

VLADIMIR

I like the beard.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I could be your father.

VLADIMIR

I don’t like my father.

MATHILDE

I suppose I’ll see what the children are doing.

SCHOENBERG

Thank you.

MATHILDE

Let me know when you want dinner.

.

10

Country Home of Arnold Schoenberg

(with)

Home of Piotr Tchaikovsky

(with)

Palace Bedroom of Carlo Gesualdo

Rain.
Mathilde & Gerstl in bed.

Donna Maria & Fabrizio in bed.

Antonina at piano; Tchaikovsky stands over her, watching.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Let’s hear that last piece again.

ANTONINA

Yes of course. (plays Tchaikovsky’s “Chanson Triste,” throughout)

MATHILDE

I told myself this can’t be happening. It can’t be happening. I’m not going to let it happen again, Richard. I’m sorry but I’ve been lying here thinking about it all and I don’t feel comfortable around you. I’m sorry for saying that like this but there it is. I feel very committed to this feeling. So you’re going to have to get up and go back to Vienna. You hate the countryside anyway. I told Arnold but he didn’t believe me, he didn’t believe you hated the country but you do. You hate it here.

MATHILDE / FABRIZIO

Are you awake?

RICHARD

No.

DONNA MARIA

Yes.

FABRIZIO

What are you thinking?

DONNA MARIA

Nothing.

FABRIZIO

I can feel you thinking.

DONNA MARIA

Oh yes?

FABRIZIO

I can feel your thoughts.

DONNA MARIA

Imagine my husband. Right here. Scribbling the sounds. Our screams, our moans.

FABRIZIO

But he’s gone.

DONNA MARIA / MATHILDE

I’m a whore.

FABRIZIO

You’re not a whore.

DONNA MARIA / MATHILDE

Do you think I’m a whore?

RICHARD

You’re not a whore.

DONNA MARIA / MATHILDE

I’m a whore.

RICHARD

I can give you money if it would make you feel better.

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

Did I say I was upset?

FABRIZIO

No, but its something, yes?

DONNA MARIA / MATHILDE

Sometimes it helps to know exactly what you are.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

Come here.

DONNA MARIA

Yes.

MATHILDE

No.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

Come here.

DONNA MARIA

Yes.

MATHILDE

Oh God.

They come together.

RICHARD

You’re so warm.

MATHILDE

The oven’s warm. The sun is warm.

RICHARD

Your armpits are warm.

MATHILDE

Stop that.

RICHARD

Just a little spider crawling up your armpits.

MATHILDE

Stop that!

RICHARD

But you’re smiling.

MATHILDE

I’m not smiling.

RICHARD

But yet your lips puncture your cheeks. I’m sleeping. I’m still asleep.

MATHILDE

You’re awake, Richard.

RICHARD

I’m dreaming about you.

MATHILDE

Come on. He’ll be back from town soon.

RICHARD

I’m dreaming about your face. I don’t know what it looks like. I’m trying to dream about your face but I can’t hold on to it. It fades every time I look and only when I look away do I catch a glimpse.

MATHILDE

Stop speaking madness.

RICHARD

I’m speaking about love, darling.

MATHILDE

It sounds like madness.

RICHARD

There’s a difference?

MATHILDE / FABRIZIO

What are we going to do?

DONNA MARIA

I don’t know.

FABRIZIO

He seemed angry like he might harm us or at least me.

DONNA MARIA

He can’t do that.

FABRIZIO

I don’t think you realize what he’s really like.

DONNA MARIA / MATHILDE

He doesn’t know.

RICHARD

He may not think he does. But he’s very a smart man. On some level –

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

– he’s figured it out.

DONNA MARIA

The letter?

FABRIZIO

Yes.

DONNA MARIA

I’ll merely convince him I was practicing my Latin.

FABRIZIO

I’m going home.

MATHILDE

You’re going home.

RICHARD / DONNA MARIA

Why?

MATHILDE

Sometimes I need you but I don’t need you now.

FABRIZIO

This has to be the last time.

RICHARD / DONNA MARIA

You don’t appreciate my company?

MATHILDE

You can have me again in the city.

DONNA MARIA

Such a troubled forehead.

FABRIZIO

Yes.

DONNA MARIA

Let me straighten those wrinkles. (kisses Fabrizio.)

FABRIZIO

(whispers) You taste sweet. Your lips are sweet. Your tongue tastes sweet.

DONNA MARIA

That’s enough.

FABRIZIO

What’s wrong?

DONNA MARIA

No flattery, Duke.

FABRIZIO

How about this part? Can I flatter this part of you?

DONNA MARIA

I like it when you flatter that.

FABRIZIO

Can I flatter it some more?

DONNA MARIA

Go on. Flatter me.

Fabrizio disappears underneath her dress.

Richard swigs from a bottle.

MATHILDE

It’s early.

RICHARD

It certainly is.

MATHILDE

You’re drinking.

RICHARD

I certainly am.

MATHILDE

Not even the afternoon.

RICHARD

Keeps my compass calibrated.

MATHILDE

I really don’t like you very much Richard.

RICHARD

Oh?

MATHILDE

I really dislike you.

DONNA MARIA

Oh God.

RICHARD

Then tell me to leave.

MATHILDE

I want you to leave.

RICHARD

I’ll leave then.

MATHILDE

Good.

RICHARD

Do you have any money?

MATHILDE

No.

RICHARD

Just give me a little money for little something at the station.

MATHILDE

I don’t have any money.

RICHARD

I know where you have some.

MATHILDE

Get your hands off.

RICHARD

You have it hidden.

MATHILDE

Not there.

RICHARD

Down here? Is it down here? Don’t say anything if it’s down here.

MATHILDE

It’s there.

RICHARD

I told you not to say anything.

MATHILDE

I broke the rules.

RICHARD

Bad girl.

MATHILDE

What are you going to do?

RICHARD

I’ll show you.

DONNA MARIA

Touch Me.

MATHILDE

Don’t touch me.

DONNA MARIA

Touch Me.

MATHILDE

Don’t touch me Oh God.

DONNA MARIA

Oh God.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Oh God.

ANTONINA

What?

TCHAIKOVSKY

You’re not … the piece is fine it’s just you’re not getting the spirit of it really.

ANTONINA

What’s wrong?

TCHAIKOVSKY

The technique is there but you’re missing something.

ANTONINA

What am I missing?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Oh dear –

ANTONINA

What would you like me to do different?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Look at the time.

ANTONINA

You’re going out again?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I have a dinner.

ANTONINA

With whom?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Some players from the orchestra.

ANTONINA

Some dinner with some boys.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes.

ANTONINA

Would you mind if I came?

TCHAIKOVSKY

We’re just talking about the symphony.

ANTONINA

I’m a musician.

TCHAIKOVSKY

These are actual players

ANTONINA

I’m an actual player.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Really it’s not the best idea. Maybe some other night?

VLADIMIR

(enters) Good evening.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Hello Vladimir.

VLADIMIR

It’s gotten colder outside, if you can imagine that. Every year this place drops a degree. Hello there.

ANTONINA

Hello.

MATHILDE

(low) Fuck you.

VLADIMIR

Do you want to come with us?

ANTONINA

What?

VLADIMIR

To dinner. Surely we can fit in another.

DONNA MARIA

(low) Oh my God.

ANTONINA

No, that’s all right.

TCHAIKOVSKY

It’s funny you both here.

ANTONINA

Really?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes. It’s really very odd. I’ve never seen you both in the same room.

ANTONINA

Our wedding.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes.

VLADIMIR

Are you all right, uncle?

DONNA MARIA / MATHILDE

Mary.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes. I’ll be right back. You’ll be all right?

ANTONINA

Yes.

VLADIMIR

Yes.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’ll be right back. (exits)

ANTONINA

Hello, Bobdimir.

VLADIMIR

Hello.

ANTONINA

I’m Antonina.

VLADIMIR

Yes of course I know that.

ANTONINA

I thought I would remind you who I was.

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

(coming) Fuck you Mary fuuuuCHRIST Jesus Christ.

ANTONINA

We don’t have to speak.

VLADIMIR

All right.

Antonina plays “Chanson Triste”; Vladimir stares out window.

Calm.

Then:

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

You’re very good at that.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

You’re welcome.

RICHARD

One of my skills.

MATHILDE

Your slender finger.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

You smell good.

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

Do I?

RICHARD

You don’t normally smell so good.

MATHILDE

Richard.

RICHARD

You usually stink of the city.

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

What do I smell like?

FABRIZIO

Crushed dandelions.

RICHARD

Rain water.

MATHILDE

Rain water.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

That’s a compliment.

FABRIZIO

Everyone loves roses but you smell like the acid of the earth.

DONNA MARIA

Aren’t you my lover?

FABRIZIO

Of course.

DONNA MARIA

Aren’t you supposed to praise more?

FABRIZIO

Well I don’t know how this works, do I?

DONNA MARIA

How what works?

FABRIZIO

Seducing the Prince’s wife.

DONNA MARIA

I’m a Princess.

FABRIZIO

You certainly are.

MATHILDE

What does rain water even smell like?

RICHARD

You never smelled it?

MATHILDE

No.

RICHARD

You should try it.

MATHILDE

What does it smell like?

RICHARD

A handful of sky.

FABRIZIO

I never thought I would be here.

VLADIMIR

It’s raining again.

MATHILDE

You’re occasionally charming, you know that?

RICHARD

I know that.

MATHILDE

Modesty, huh?

RICHARD

On an artist budget pride’s the only thing I can afford.

VLADIMIR

Do you mind the rain?

FABRIZIO

I never thought I would be in your bed.

DONNA MARIA / MATHILDE

Are you proud of me?

FABRIZIO

I watched you so long.

MATHILDE

Are you proud you got me?

RICHARD

It makes me sad.

MATHILDE

Snatched me from Arnold.

RICHARD

It makes me lonely.

VLADIMIR

I don’t mind the rain.

FABRIZIO

So many nights I fell asleep with you next to me, your shape always with me.

DONNA MARIA

But now I’m here.

FABRIZIO

Yes. Now that you’re real I don’t know what to do with you.

MATHILDE

He doesn’t care.

VLADIMIR

I could look at rain all evening. But I wouldn’t like to be outside. I’m very glad I’m inside your warm apartment.

MATHILDE

We’re doing this because he doesn’t care.

RICHARD

I’m not religious but still feel a residue of religious guilt.

VLADIMIR

Is something the matter, Antonina?

ANTONINA

Everything’s fine.

FABRIZIO

We should not continue with him knowing.

DONNA MARIA

My husband only cares about music.

FABRIZIO

He’s fixed on you.

DONNA MARIA

I’m just his pretty distraction.

FABRIZIO

I’ve been telling Jesus about what we do but he doesn’t speak back.

DONNA MARIA

He’s not there.

FABRIZIO

You can’t say that.

DONNA MARIA

Why not?

FABRIZIO

It’s against God to speak against God.

DONNA MARIA

I keep having these visions of Mary and I want to see the look on her face when she sees you and me pressing into one single thing and I want to ask her where she thinks our God might be.

ANTONINA

(stops playing, cries) Oh Jesus.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

Did you hear that?

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

No.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

Someone’s coming.

VLADIMIR

What’s wrong?

ANTONINA

I’m fine.

FABRIZIO / RICHARD

I should go.

MATHILDE

I agree.

DONNA MARIA

No, stay.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

Where’s my shirt?

VLADIMIR

Why are you crying?

ANTONINA

I’m just … crying.

VLADIMIR

Do you … need anything?

ANTONINA

What would I need?

VLADIMIR

I could walk out in the rain and get something if you needed it. Food. Some … drugs. I don’t know.

ANTONINA

Why are you being nice to me?

VLADIMIR

You’re my aunt.

ANTONINA

Don’t call me that.

VLADIMIR

Call you what?

ANTONINA

I’m no goddamned aunt.

VLADIMIR

I’m sorry.

ANTONINA

I’m younger than you.

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

Wait.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

What?

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

Don’t go.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

I should go.

VLADIMIR

Do you know why Peter married you?

ANTONINA

Because he loves me.

VLADIMIR

Did he say that?

ANTONINA

I’m his muse.

VLADIMIR

He didn’t tell you.

ANTONINA

Tell me what?

VLADIMIR

You don’t know?

ANTONINA

Know what?

VLADIMIR

He should have told you.

ANTONINA

Told me what?

VLADIMIR

He lives with me.

ANTONINA

Did you say something?

VLADIMIR

Peter lives with me.

ANTONINA

But he lives here with me.

VLADIMIR

Peter lives at my house.

ANTONINA

But my husband lives here with me here.

VLADIMIR

No, I’m sorry.

ANTONINA

No, that’s not right.

VLADIMIR

You must have known.

ANTONINA

Goddamn you it would have worked fine if nobody said anything. If everyone shut up and minded their own business and not spread rumors about him. Because they’re jealous he found me and overcame his proclivities. That’s all in the past and you come into my home and dredge up this business in the past and tell me you love him, your uncle, he’s your uncle, he’s your uncle. It’s sick and I won’t stand for this kind of sickness because I am a lovely young girl and I’m very attractive, he said so, he said any man would be lucky to have me as a wife but I’m his wife and he’s my husband and that’s the end of it. He’s no longer … he doesn’t like to … there’s not even a word for it. We don’t have a word for it. Because it’s not happening. This is not happening. Nothing just happened. How is your mother?

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

Stop.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

I’m going.

VLADIMIR

My mother’s … fine.

ANTONINA

Good. All settled. Was there anything else you needed?

VLADIMIR

No.

ANTONINA

Good.

MATHILDE / DONNA MARIA

Why are you looking at me like that?

RICHARD

Like what?

MATHILDE

You’re looking at me like that.

FABRIZIO

I forgot to go to church today.

DONNA MARIA

You don’t need church.

RICHARD

How am I looking at you?

MATHILDE

Like you want something.

RICHARD

What could I want?

MATHILDE

I don’t know.

DONNA MARIA

You may kneel before the altar but you worship on a softer stoop.

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

I’ll show you what I want.

MATHILDE

You know, Richard, I really –

RICHARD / FABRIZIO

Let me show you.

MATHILDE

I really really hate you –

FABRIZIO

Oh Maria why do you tempt me?

DONNA MARIA

I don’t tempt.

FABRIZIO

No?

DONNA MARIA

I gave you a choice.

FABRIZIO

That’s what The Devil says.

DONNA MARIA

You think I’m The Devil?

MATHILDE

Don’t touch me.

FABRIZIO

Perhaps.

MATHILDE

Don’t touch me…

DONNA MARIA

But you love me?

FABRIZIO

Yes.

DONNA MARIA

You love The Devil then.

FABRIZIO

Yes.

DONNA MARIA

You love the Devil.

Donna Maria kisses Fabrizio as Mathilde kisses Richard.

Schoenberg appears in a doorway.

Gesualdo appears in a doorway.

Tchaikovsky – dripping in water – appears in a doorway.

Faintly, Gesualdo’s “Moro Laso” becomes audible.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Could someone help me?

ANTONINA

What happened?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I went for a swim in the river just now.

ANTONINA

Oh no.

TCHAIKOVSKY

It was the strangest sensation.

ANTONINA

Oh, Peter, you’re blue –

TCHAIKOVSKY

So very nice …

VLADIMIR

We need to get you to the doctor.

ANTONINA

Oh, Peter, that was so very stupid, you’ll kill yourself.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, I believe that was the idea that originated such an action.

ANTONINA

W – Why?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Because when I saw you both I realized that I’m only in love with my nephew.

ANTONINA

Oh God.

MATHILDE

(seeing him) Arnold.

DONNA MARIA

(seeing him) Carlo.

SCHOENBERG

What’s happening?

ANTONINA

Oh God.

GESUALDO

What is this?

RICHARD / TCHAIKOVSKY / FABRIZIO

It’s not what you –

GESUALDO

Shut. Up!

MATHILDE / VLADIMIR / DONNA MARIA

I love him.

SCHOENBERG

I won’t accept this.

ANTONINA / GESUALDO

I won’t allow this.

ANTONINA / SCHOENBERG

I won’t accept this!

DONNA MARIA

Carlo –

ANTONINA

I’ll kill myself –

TCHAIKOVSKY & VLADIMIR

Nina –

RICHARD

Arnold –

SCHOENBERG / ANTONINA / GESUALDO

What?

RICHARD / TCHAIKOVSKY / FABRIZIO

I didn’t mean this.

SCHOENBERG / ANTONINA / GESUALDO

No –

DONNA MARIA / MATHILDE

Your music is shit.

FABRIZIO / VLADIMIR / MATHILDE

We should go.

ANTONINA / GESUALDO

No.

SCHOENBERG

Say goodbye dear friend.

MATHILDE & RICHARD

Goodbye.

DONNA MARIA

God will forget you.

GESUALDO

(whispers sweetly) Whores go to hell.

Gesualdo pulls a rifle to his shoulder.

DONNA MARIA

What are you going to do? Shoot us?

A loud shot goes off.

Flash of light.

Fabrizio jerks back, clutches his face, dimly-lit blood spraying in the air.

Fabrizio wails.

Gesualdo pulls out a very long knife.

GESUALDO

Shall a Gesualdo be made a cuckold?

He slits Fabrizio’s throat.

Blood pours.

DONNA MARIA

Husband!

He jams the knife in Donna Maria’s belly, tosses her body on bed.

GESUALDO

I can’t believe she’s dead.

DONNA MARIA

For the love of God.

GESUALDO

I can’t believe she’s dead.

DONNA MARIA

Please, for the love of God, husband –

Gesualdo slides the dagger into Donna Maria, making love to her with dagger, gently pushing it back and forth into her, whispering in her ear:

GESUALDO

I can’t believe she’s dead. I can’t believe she’s dead. I can’t believe she’s dead …

As Gesualdo finishes Donna Maria, he begins to listen to “Moro Laso,” enraptured and entranced by the gorgeous sound. As the voices crescendo, Gesualdo brings a hand to his forehead, wipes a long bloody handprint over his face. Then, softly:

GESUALDO

I have it. I have it now.

.

11

SCHOENBERG

Reduce your expectations. There is this terrifyingly dull idea floating the circles of critics that a piece of music should culminate in a crescendo. This is an idea that is absolute garbage. This is an idea espoused by philistines who equate the narrative with their own limited understanding of their own pitiful orgasms. As if the act of creating music, like love-making, should peak after four minutes with the subsequent thirty seconds of reflection. The way in which one writes is the way in which one fucks. So I would like for you to keep that in mind as you play this next piece. The middle builds to the children’s song but there is no second crescendo. It just … ends. So let it end.

RICHARD

Mathilde?

MATHILDE

(offstage) I’m in the bathroom.

RICHARD

What time is it?

MATHILDE

(offstage) It’s morning.

RICHARD

Good morning then.

MATHILDE

(offstage) Everything’s settled.

RICHARD

Mmm.

MATHILDE

(offstage) I mean we’re together.

RICHARD

Yes.

MATHILDE

(offstage) I feel good today.

RICHARD

Oh yes?

MATHILDE

(offstage) Yes, I feel very happy now.

RICHARD

Good.

MATHILDE

(offstage) How was your sleep?

RICHARD

Fine.

MATHILDE

(offstage) Would you like a coffee when I get out?

RICHARD

Thank you, yes.

MATHILDE

(offstage) Nice out.

RICHARD

Mm.

MATHILDE

(offstage) Should we go out?

RICHARD

N?

MATHILDE

(offstage) Of your attic?

RICHARD

I suppose we’ve been in bed for days.

MATHILDE

(offstage) When do you ever paint?

RICHARD

When I’m alone.

MATHILDE

(offstage) Put on a record, would you?

RICHARD

Which one?

MATHILDE

(offstage) You choose.

RICHARD

(putting on Beethoven’s “Prometheus Overture,” which plays throughout following action) Home town hero.

MATHILDE

(offstage) When I get done in here can I come in and have you?

RICHARD / VLADIMIR

I’m ready whenever.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Let me put on my glasses.

VLADIMIR

Okay but we only have an hour til they close the post.

TCHAIKOVSKY

(reading letter) “To the Most Excellent Czar Alexander. Your letter today gave me such joy. What boundless pleasure that, in reading the sheet music to my Sixth Symphony the other evening, you experienced the same feelings that filled me when I wrote it. You asked me about my inspirations. But how can I convey the vague sensation of composition? Composing is a musical cleansing of the soul, a boiling over that naturally seeks its outlet in tones, just as a lyric poet will express himself in verse. But music possesses an infinitely more powerful and subtle language for expressing the myriad shifts and shades of our spiritual life. The kernel of a new work usually appears violently, in the mind of the composer. If the soil is fertile, this seed will sprout roots with irrepressible strength and speed, breaking through the ground, sprouting branches, leaves, twigs, and, finally, blossoms. This spark of inspiration often occurs at a breaking point in the composer’s life, a point when past regrets collide with an uncertain future, the music reassembling the jagged pieces of the artist’s soul. But what delight, this creation! Emotion coursing through your body. You forget everything, all your insides quiver and throb, you become a madman, a sheer madman! So if that state of the soul called inspiration continued without interruption, one wouldn’t be able to endure a single day. The strings would break, and the instrument would shatter into smithereens. And that, my dear Czar, is all I can tell you about the symphony. Of course, it’s neither a clear nor complete explanation. But the nature of instrumental music naturally resists detailed analysis. Or, as Heine put it, Where words fail, music speaks.”

Beethoven fades through:

TCHAIKOVSKY

… So?

VLADIMIR

So.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You think old Alex will like it?

VLADIMIR

The Czar doesn’t have any imagination so yes of course he will.

TCHAIKOVSKY

But I suppose what I’m asking is Do you think it skillfully obscures the real reason I wrote the piece?

VLADIMIR

You were the one who wrote that inscription.

TCHAIKOVSKY

And now they’re wondering –

VLADIMIR

We’re fine, uncle.

TCHAIKOVSKY

(sealing the letter) It will have to do.

VLADIMIR

(snatching letter) I’ll go drop it in the mail.

TCHAIKOVSKY

No not yet.

VLADIMIR

Okay.

TCHAIKOVSKY

There’s something I need you for.

VLADIMIR

Okay what is it?

TCHAIKOVSKY / MATHILDE

It’s over here in the bedroom.

RICHARD

I can see the sunrise from the window.

MATHILDE

Come on drunky come with me to the bedroom.

RICHARD

What’s in the bedroom?

MATHILDE

Me.

RICHARD

Yes I should lie down with you now.

MATHILDE

You left me here.

RICHARD

Hn?

MATHILDE

Last night I woke up and you weren’t here.

RICHARD

I’ve been wandering around all night.

MATHILDE

This is my first week in your apartment and you know I don’t like strange places.

RICHARD

Let me comfort you a little then.

MATHILDE

You’re a little too drunk to hoist the sail Richard.

RICHARD

Shipwreck.

MATHILDE

Should we take off our clothes now?

RICHARD

I’m a shipwreck.

MATHILDE / VLADIMIR

I’m going to take off my clothes now, okay?

TCHAIKOVSKY

There’s no need to ask my permission Bob we’re in our apartment.

VLADIMIR

Is something bothering you Uncle?

TCHAIKOVSKY

There was a man at my concert earlier. His eyes closed and swaying back and forth like his mind composed the notes, like the orchestra conducted the rhythms of his body.

VLADIMIR

A man enjoying the music.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Presuming the greatness before realizing it’s shit.

VLADIMIR

How would you prefer your audience act?

TCHAIKOVSKY

They should just listen.

VLADIMIR

Everyone does that different.

TCHAIKOVSKY

They should listen how I want them to.

VLADIMIR

And how’s that?

TCHAIKOVSKY

In silence.

VLADIMIR

Oh please –

TCHAIKOVSKY

I hate my music and everyone who loves it.

VLADIMIR

I love it.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Well I hate you too.

VLADIMIR / MATHILDE

I’m drawing a bath would you like a bath?

RICHARD

Do I need one?

MATHILDE

You smell like a farm.

RICHARD

But it’s sort of attractive in a rustic way, yes?

MATHILDE

No.

RICHARD

Okay yes then.

MATHILDE

If we’re going to –

RICHARD

Yes.

MATHILDE

If I’m going to live here.

RICHARD

Yes.

MATHILDE

(offstage) I’ll be in the bathroom starting the water.

RICHARD

Mm.

MATHILDE / VLADIMIR

Good morning, by the way.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Is it morning?

VLADIMIR

The sun is coming up.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Have we been drinking since –

VLADIMIR

Yes all night we have been drinking

TCHAIKOVSKY

Tonight I have a performance.

VLADIMIR

Another then bed?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, why not?

VLADIMIR

Double it maybe?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, why not? You’re only young once.

VLADIMIR

Or maybe two or three times.

TCHAIKOVSKY

This room is at times spinning, but then jumps into remarkable clarity.

VLADIMIR

I’ve had more than you, uncle.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Don’t –

VLADIMIR

What?

TCHAIKOVSKY

“Uncle.”

VLADIMIR

Yes, of course.

TCHAIKOVSKY

We’re beyond –

VLADIMIR

Yes.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Categories of –

VLADIMIR

Yes I know.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Lover.

VLADIMIR

I like that word, lover.

TCHAIKOVSKY / MATHILDE

Come here, lover.

RICHARD

No I’m still sleeping.

MATHILDE

But I want it.

RICHARD

It is not available at the moment.

MATHILDE

Do you mind if I do it myself?

RICHARD

No, please.

MATHILDE

I’ll just be in the bathroom.

RICHARD

I don’t think I see color anymore.

MATHILDE

(offstage) You’re colorblind?

RICHARD

No, I see it, I register that something is blue but I don’t actually see it as blue, it doesn’t make me feel one way or another. What do you think that means?

MATHILDE

(offstage) It means you should get a job.

RICHARD

I have a job.

MATHILDE

(offstage) Painting is not a job.

RICHARD

Well it keeps me occupied.

MATHILDE

(offstage) We are almost all out of money.

RICHARD

I wonder what Arnold’s doing.

MATHILDE

(offstage) What?

RICHARD

Do you ever think about Arnold?

MATHILDE

(offstage) … sometimes.

RICHARD

I think about the look on his face.

MATHILDE

(offstage) Oh Jesus.

RICHARD / VLADIMIR

I think about it all the time.

TCHAIKOVSKY

This dream you had of me.

VLADIMIR

Yes in the dream I’m sitting naked on all this rotten meat.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You sat naked on meat?

VLADIMIR

In the dream you placed me naked in a bed of rotten meat.

TCHAIKOVSKY

What you dreamt is not me, Vladimir.

VLADIMIR

But you’re the cause, Uncle.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Nonsense.

VLADIMIR

Something in you causes this.

TCHAIKOVSKY

How can I defend myself?

VLADIMIR

You can’t.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Then what can I do?

VLADIMIR

Nothing.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You sound like Nina.

VLADIMIR

What did you say?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I said you sound like Antonina.

VLADIMIR

I am nothing like that woman.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Bob I didn’t mean to –

VLADIMIR

I am taking my coat and going –

TCHAIKOVSKY

Please it’s near freezing out.

VLADIMIR / SCHOENBERG

Stay away from me.

RICHARD

It’s a public street.

SCHOENBERG

I do not wish to speak with you.

RICHARD

I heard the piece.

SCHOENBERG

Richard you cannot keep showing up on concert hall steps.

RICHARD

I was inside just now, I snuck in and I heard it and it’s really … it’s very terrifying.

SCHOENBERG

…. Thank you.

RICHARD

Another riot-starter.

SCHOENBERG

I’m only writing for myself now. You know I recently finished an opera?

RICHARD

What’s it about?

SCHOENBERG

A woman searches for her lover in the forest. Right when she gives up hope she finds her lover’s corpse rotting in a pile of maple leaves.

RICHARD

Hn.

SCHOENBERG

Why do you keep coming here?

RICHARD

I … brought my domino set?

SCHOENBERG

Richard you live with my wife.

RICHARD

Yes.

SCHOENBERG

Do you understand that you live with my wife?

RICHARD

Yes.

SCHOENBERG

Do you understand that this negates us playing dominoes?

RICHARD

We are so much better for each other now.

SCHOENBERG

What?

RICHARD

Because I did this.

SCHOENBERG

Wait –

RICHARD

You always complained about inspiration and now your work is so much better now.

SCHOENBERG

Should I thank you?

RICHARD

Yes.

SCHOENBERG

You want me to thank you?

RICHARD

Yes.

SCHOENBERG

Thank you. (shaking his hand) Thank you, Richard.

RICHARD

Arnold, I –

SCHOENBERG

What is it?

RICHARD

I’m … I’m your friend.

SCHOENBERG

Are you really?

RICHARD

I was your friend.

SCHOENBERG

Were you?

RICHARD

Yes, I … I thought we were … Why can’t we simply … It can’t be finished, this shouldn’t end our –

SCHOENBERG / ANTONINA

Let go of my hand.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Oh, uh –

ANTONINA

I understand that you mean to comfort me by slipping your hand over the dinner table and touching my hand but I have to warn you that I have been very emotional over the course of the last month and do not wish to be touched right now.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I just want to make sure you’re going to be okay on your own.

ANTONINA

I’m fine.

TCHAIKOVSKY

How is your sister?

ANTONINA

I’m sorry it’s loud in here with all the people talking could you please repeat what you just asked me?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I said how is living with your sister?

ANTONINA

Oh it’s very lovely.

TCHAIKOVSKY

That’s good.

ANTONINA

This is a nice place.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I dined here with Czar Alexandar.

ANTONINA

So many people around.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, well, let’s have a nice meal now.

ANTONINA

I spied something with the tip of my eye, Peter.

TCHAIKOVSKY

There is roast duck on the menu.

ANTONINA

Roast dick. A roast cock.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m having the lamb.

ANTONINA

Don’t you want to know what the tip of my eye spied, Mister Peter Tchaikovsky?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, of course Antonina.

ANTONINA

Your hand and your cousin – er – brother – no – your nephew’s hand. Where is my mind today?

TCHAIKOVSKY

You saw our hands.

ANTONINA

And they were touching.

TCHAIKOVSKY

And?

ANTONINA

They were holding each other.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You didn’t actually see that.

ANTONINA

Oh but I did, Peter.

TCHAIKOVSKY

No, Antonina, you’re mistaken.

ANTONINA

Oh, but Peter I stood outside your window, your apartment window, with a little bag of nuts and ate the little nuts one by one waiting for something to appear and finally your fingers crept close in candlelight and met much younger fingers with your own blood in them, the same blood running through both hands.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Nina, there are people who if they saw or heard this might infer suspicion on the part of our marriage and ask people who have influence on the course of our lives to have influence on the course of our lives.

ANTONINA

They have borscht on the menu.

TCHAIKOVSKY

What?

ANTONINA

I think I will have the borscht on this menu.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Did you listen to what I said, Nina?

ANTONINA

A funny thing for fancy place to have borscht on the menu.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Nina, it is very important – You cannot tell anyone. My work – You have to forgive me.

ANTONINA

Forgive you?

TCHAIKOVSKY / GESUALDO

Forgive me.

GESUALDO

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.

PRIEST

What is your sin?

GESUALDO

Murder.

PRIEST

Have you murdered someone, Prince?

GESUALDO

Yes.

PRIEST

Who have you murdered?

GESUALDO

My wife.

PRIEST

You – ?

GESUALDO

And her lover.

PRIEST

I see.

GESUALDO

How will I be punished?

PRIEST

There will be no punishment.

GESUALDO

It seems sensible that I should be punished.

PRIEST

You are forgiven, Prince.

GESUALDO

Father –

PRIEST

The church forgives you.

GESUALDO

No.

PRIEST

As if she was living.

GESUALDO

But she is not.

PRIEST

But in the eyes of the church, her death or life is the property of your royal household.

GESUALDO

It’s very strange Father. Ever since … Ever since that night. My music. My music is beautiful now. I think of her blood and I can write the most beautiful music.

PRIEST

Then that is what you should commit yourself to doing.

GESUALDO

Writing music?

PRIEST

The Church agrees with the general public in that perhaps it is best that you stay inside your palace for some time.

GESUALDO

Yes then I will stay in my household and write.

PRIEST

As long as you make the attempt to keep your thoughts pure.

GESUALDO

I keep imagining the face of the Devil. It looks like every living person. People are a hive forming face of the Devil.

PRIEST

Prince –

GESUALDO

The Devil is just a wave and we’re the drops of water broken on the rocks.

PRIEST / MATHILDE

You can not think such things.

RICHARD

Why not?

MATHILDE

Are you really thinking about … ?

RICHARD

I went down to the water. I stood at the edge of the water. When I looked left there was a crow. Hopping down the shore. It seemed a sign. It seemed like I should walk into the water with stones in my pants.

MATHILDE

You can’t think like that.

RICHARD

I didn’t end up doing it of course.

MATHILDE

You have to promise me.

RICHARD

Promise you what?

MATHILDE

Promise when I’m gone you won’t hurt yourself.

RICHARD

Oh you’re, you’re headed out?

MATHILDE

Yes I’m heading out.

RICHARD

Buy some beer will you?

MATHILDE

Do you promise me?

RICHARD

Have you heard from him?

MATHILDE

No.

RICHARD

Nothing in the post?

MATHILDE

It hasn’t come.

RICHARD

I sent him a letter. It should have come by now if he sent a letter. I can’t stop thinking about him reading that letter.

Tchaikovsky music plays on a phonograph.

SCHOENBERG

He sent me a letter.

MATHILDE

Yes he told me.

SCHOENBERG

I am returning it to you now.

MATHILDE

Did you read it?

SCHOENBERG

No. I also have your check.

MATHILDE

Thank you.

SCHOENBERG

Is it enough for basics?

MATHILDE

It’s actually quite a lot, Arnold, thank you.

SCHOENBERG

My work has been selling. Did you order yet?

MATHILDE

Yes I ordered two coffees.

SCHOENBERG

That sounds fine.

MATHILDE

Black no sweet.

SCHOENBERG

That sounds fine.

MATHILDE

Good.

SCHOENBERG

MATHILDE

Richard tells me you invented something.

SCHOENBERG

Richard.

MATHILDE

“A new way of music.”

SCHOENBERG

I explained before.

MATHILDE

Yes, well …

SCHOENBERG

The twelve tone technique.

MATHILDE

Okay.

SCHOENBERG

A map of composition that favors no note above the other so the act of creation follows a theoretical structure.

MATHILDE

So it’s just a bunch of notes.

SCHOENBERG

More or less.

MATHILDE

I think I get it.

SCHOENBERG

You do?

MATHILDE

Yes I think so. How did you find it?

SCHOENBERG

I tried to distract myself from the images in my head. You and my friend Richard. But then it just came. The pattern. The pattern saved me from having to think. What is that noise?

MATHILDE

This place has a phonograph.

SCHOENBERG

Tchaikovsky.

MATHILDE

If you’ll excuse me I’m also ordering wine.

SCHOENBERG

(mocks the melody in a high pitched voice)

MATHILDE

Will you have a glass with me?

SCHOENBERG

I wonder if we can get them to shut that shit off.

MATHILDE / VLADIMIR

Will you have a glass of wine with me too?

Tchaikovsky music stops.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes just a little to take off the chill.

VLADIMIR

We are down to our last bottle.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’ll have more sent over. Here.

VLADIMIR

What’s this?

TCHAIKOVSKY

A cheque.

VLADIMIR

For what?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m renting your spare room.

VLADIMIR

You’re not serious.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m renting your spare room to work. That’s what we should say. In case people ask.

VLADIMIR

I can’t take your money.

TCHAIKOVSKY

It’s not my money.

VLADIMIR

No?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Benefactors.

VLADIMIR

I’ll pay for dinner then.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Oh are we going to dinner?

VLADIMIR

Remember we have dinner plans?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Hmn?

VLADIMIR

At the conservatory, remember?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, we shouldn’t do that.

VLADIMIR

I think they’re serving something French.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I don’t feel like going outside tonight.

VLADIMIR

Peter –

TCHAIKOVSKY

You can go if you like.

VLADIMIR

I want you to come with me, naturally.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I don’t think we should be seen.

VLADIMIR

As in?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Together, we can’t be seen together.

VLADIMIR

Oh.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Just until Nina –

VLADIMIR

You saw Nina?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Just to make sure she’s quiet.

VLADIMIR

You saw Nina and you didn’t say anything to me?

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m telling you now.

VLADIMIR

We’re … completely normal in public.

TCHAIKOVSKY / SCHOENBERG

But now we have to be quiet.

RICHARD

Oh yes right the children.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Okay now round the corner here.

RICHARD

Arnold where are you taking me?

SCHOENBERG

Just a little further.

RICHARD

Can I open my eyes now?

SCHOENBERG

When I tell you.

RICHARD

It smells like cigarettes we’re in your study, yes?

SCHOENBERG

Yes now stay right here.

RICHARD

Thank you for inviting me into your home I mean I never though I’d be back here in my life.

SCHOENBERG

Oh, this will be brief.

RICHARD

Oh uh – What uh – What is this? What are we doing?

SCHOENBERG

Your paintings.

RICHARD

I’m a painter, yes.

SCHOENBERG

They have been selling well?

RICHARD

Yes.

SCHOENBERG

An anonymous patron.

RICHARD

I suppose the rich are good for something.

SCHOENBERG

Open your eyes.

RICHARD

My … work.

SCHOENBERG

Yes.

RICHARD

How did you … ?

SCHOENBERG

I bought them.

RICHARD

You have covered the walls of your study with my paintings of your wife.

SCHOENBERG

All I could find.

RICHARD

These are not for you.

SCHOENBERG

Actually I legally own most of your work. My compositions have been selling since my wife left. So I used that money to buy all your paintings. And I placed all of your paintings here in my study. Facing me. Her. How you see her. Facing me.

RICHARD

You … shouldn’t have these.

SCHOENBERG / DONNA MARIA

But they’re mine now.

RICHARD / GESUALDO

I can’t breathe.

PRIEST

Prince?

GESUALDO

Water please Father I cannot breathe.

PRIEST

You were crying in your sleep.

GESUALDO

Do you not see her?

PRIEST

See who?

GESUALDO

The woman in the room …

PRIEST

I see nothing, Prince.

GESUALDO

She’s … She’s gone.

PRIEST

You saw a woman?

GESUALDO

What time is it?

PRIEST

Just past midnight.

GESUALDO

This was the time.

PRIEST

The time?

GESUALDO

When I … When she … That man was here. He was over by her. And I called something into the air and then they did not move. I kept poking them but then they did not move.

PRIEST

May I … be dismissed?

GESUALDO

No, please, stay.

PRIEST

Very well.

GESUALDO

Do you remember my wife?

PRIEST

Yes.

GESUALDO

She was so beautiful. She was an angel. Don’t you agree?

PRIEST

Yes.

GESUALDO

You don’t think she deceived me?

PRIEST

… No.

GESUALDO

She did. She planted horns in my skull. And she’s always smiling at me. Cuckold. Cuckold. Cuckold! Come here.

PRIEST

What do you want?

Gesualdo throws a dagger on ground.

GESUALDO

Hand me that dagger.

PRIEST

Why?

GESUALDO

I am your Prince. I do what I please.

PRIEST

(gives) Prince.

GESUALDO

Such a nice instrument. Now. I’ve thought this through. I want you to beat me.

PRIEST

What?

GESUALDO

I want you to beat me.

An orchestra playing opening of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth begins to play, low at first, rising throughout:

GESUALDO

Don’t worry. I’m not worried about the pain. Don’t hit my head. And my hands, I need my hands to write. But anywhere else is fine. If you just started wanting to beat me, if you just went ahead and beat me that would be fine with me. You can go ahead and do it. I’m not going to hurt you. Don’t worry about the dagger I’m holding. You are my subject. You don’t defy my word, everyone knows this, you don’t go against me. I can put this knife into people. And people don’t mind. No one says anything. Put a knife into someone. Pull it out. Wipe the blade. Do it. Go on. I won’t resist. Do it. Please. DO IT!

PRIEST

Stay back!

The Priest strikes Gesualdo.

Gesualdo falls.

GESUALDO

Why did you strike me?

PRIEST

You told / me to –

GESUALDO

You actually struck me.

PRIEST

I’m sorry.

GESUALDO

You’re surprised?

PRIEST

Yes.

GESUALDO

Have you ever been struck?

PRIEST

Yes.

GESUALDO

How did you feel?

PRIEST

It hurt.

GESUALDO

Not excited?

PRIEST

No.

GESUALDO

It did not excite you?

PRIEST

No.

GESUALDO

Well, again.

PRIEST

Prince –

GESUALDO

Again.

PRIEST

Please, stay away.

GESUALDO

I know you.

PRIEST

Prince Don Carlo, please, lower your weapon.

GESUALDO

I know you. You’re him, aren’t you? You’re not really here, are you? Yes. I could put my hand right through you. Because you’re him. You’re the man who was here. You’re the man with my wife. My wife doesn’t love you. She tells me in my sleep. She whispers in my ear. Death … Death … Death … DEATH!

The Priest strikes Gesualdo harder.

Gesualdo falls.

GESUALDO

There’s music playing. Do you hear that music?

The Priest kicks Gesusaldo in the ribs.

GESUALDO

I must write. I must … write it down.

PRIEST

You are the devil, sir.

GESUALDO

No, I’m much worse.

GESUALDO / ANTONINA

Such beautiful music.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Nina.

ANTONINA

Hello Peter.

TCHAIKOVSKY

(waving orchestra to stop) Gentlemen, gentlemen.

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony stops.

TCHAIKOVSKY

(to players) Very good. It’s coming along. Let’s take an early dinner, thank you.

ANTONINA

I don’t mean to interrupt.

TCHAIKOVSKY

No no I just … thought you were in the country.

ANTONINA

I saw the program. The inscription. “For Bob.”

TCHAIKOVSKY

Did you … get better? Have you gotten better?

ANTONINA

Yes. The country is calming. There’s a piano. I get to play the piano. I know all your work now. I learned it all. I don’t need to read the notes. They’re in my head now. You’re here in my head.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I suppose I should say that I am flattered.

ANTONINA

You look well.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Don’t lie.

ANTONINA

You’ve aged suddenly.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, it’s happening fast. I get … sick easily.

ANTONINA

From when you tried to drown yourself?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes.

ANTONINA

From when you told me / about your –

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, that’s when it happened.

ANTONINA

You probably deserve it.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Why would you say that?

ANTONINA

I don’t know. You might deserve hearing that from me because I have the right to say anything to you. I’m still your wife.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes, but we’re not really …

ANTONINA

You were mine. I had you once.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’m sorry but I / should be going –

ANTONINA

I felt I should tell you. In case anyone asks.

TCHAIKOVSKY

What is it?

ANTONINA

In the country some men came. Some of the Czar’s men. They asked me questions.

TCHAIKOVSKY

What did you say?

ANTONINA

I’m not sure. I wasn’t feeling well so I said a lot of things about you, about what I saw and what went on in the household and why he wasn’t visiting me if he was my husband. And I might have alluded to something I maybe shouldn’t have. I think I did it. I think I did do that.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Don’t do that!

VLADIMIR

What?

TCHAIKOVSKY

Don’t hold my hand!

VLADIMIR

I thought I was allowed.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Not here, not –

VLADIMIR

We’re at home.

TCHAIKOVSKY

There’s nothing we can – They will kill us they might send men to come here and kill us or poison us, maybe we’re poisoned already and Oh my God I don’t –

VLADIMIR

Please be calm I don’t like this.

TCHAIKOVSKY

We should save the music I mean I should do something to save the music.

VLADIMIR

Uncle you’re scaring me, you –

TCHAIKOVSKY

Turn the lights out.

VLADIMIR

Peter –

TCHAIKOVSKY

Turn out the lights!

VLADIMIR

Yes okay.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Yes better.

VLADIMIR

We can’t see anything.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Good.

VLADIMIR

Total darkness.

TCHAIKOVSKY

That’s how we’ll do it. That’s how we’ll live. We’ll live right here. We’ll never change from this moment.

TCHAIKOVSKY / RICHARD

This is the rest of our lives.

RICHARD

Sitting in the attic. Staring at each other’s faces. I can’t imagine you older. Can you imagine me older? I’ll be dead before I’m older.

MATHILDE

Richard God you’ve got to let me sleep.

GERSTL

Your … children.

MATHILDE

Yes?

GERSTL

They are … with Arnold?

MATHILDE

Yes.

GERSTL

Your two children.

MATHILDE

I had almost forgot.

GERSTL

You are welcome.

MATHILDE

For what?

GERSTL

I have blown your life full of amnesia.

MATHILDE

Don’t flatter yourself so much Fuck now I’m awake.

GERSTL

You’re a mother.

MATHILDE

Yes, you don’t need to keep reminding me.

GERSTL

That man was on top of you and his hips filling your hips then later something with arms crawls out the slit in your legs, pulling your skin apart with his little bloody fingers and screaming fills his lungs with air. I was there once. You were there.

MATHILDE / SCHOENBERG

It is very late.

RICHARD

I don’t see the point.

SCHOENBERG

It is very late and you are on my doorstep.

SCHOENBERG

To what?

RICHARD

Living anymore.

SCHOENBERG

Always the same tune with you.

RICHARD

Same places, same colors, same arrangement of colors and shapes, same sayings and attitudes and phrases arranged in the same manner. I don’t see the point.

SCHOENBERG

I’m having a concert tomorrow and I would have invited you but I made all the invitations secret so you would never find out about it because I don’t want you to come.

RICHARD

Okay.

SCHOENBERG

Please leave.

RICHARD

I am so sorry, Arnold.

SCHOENBERG

Everyone upstairs is sleeping so I need to close the door on you now.

RICHARD

I feel very terrible and I would like to do something for you.

SCHOENBERG

Kill yourself.

RICHARD

D – Don’t say that.

SCHOENBERG / MATHILDE

I think you should kill yourself.

RICHARD

That’s what he said.

MATHILDE

It doesn’t sound like Arnold.

RICHARD

Well he said it where did you put my supplies? Where are my brushes, my fucking brushes? You hid them, didn’t you? Cleaning up like a puttering wife.

MATHILDE

They’re right by the door.

RICHARD

I just want to get this painting done. Arnold gave me money for this painting and I really should finish it for him. Freeze. I said freeze. There. Stay still. Stay there. Now tilt your head back. Back, tilt your head back!

MATHILDE

Ow, Arnold, stop it, stop pulling my hair!

RICHARD

You called me Arnold.

MATHILDE

I did not.

RICHARD

I heard Arnold you called me Arnold.

MATHILDE

You’re imagining things, Richard.

RICHARD

I need you to go now.

MATHILDE

Why?

RICHARD

I need to finish this painting for Arnold so you need leave now.

MATHILDE

It’s the middle of the night.

RICHARD

You are not going to want to watch what I do now, Mathilde.

MATHILDE / SCHOENBERG

What are you doing?

RICHARD

Watch.

MATHILDE

Can I come in?

SCHOENBERG

Um ah.

MATHILDE

I’ll just stand inside our doorway your doorway.

SCHOENBERG

You look … terrible.

MATHILDE

Richard’s gone mad. You probably don’t care to hear this. Tell me if you want me to go. Just tell me to go and I’ll go. I’m going to stand here and talk if that’s fine with you.

SCHOENBERG

I just put the children down again.

MATHILDE

… his paintings?

SCHOENBERG

Yes?

MATHILDE

He just started … destroying them.

SCHOENBERG

What do you mean?

MATHILDE

He wanted me to leave but I wouldn’t leave so he just very calmly picked up a really beautiful painting and ran a razor blade across the canvas. I told him to stop but he got … very angry. When I left he was stuffing his work in the burning fireplace.

SCHOENBERG

Well you can’t go back.

MATHILDE

No.

SCHOENBERG

You can stay here the night.

MATHILDE

The … night?

SCHOENBERG

We will get you a hotel tomorrow.

MATHILDE

I was thinking um.

SCHOENBERG

Yes?

MATHILDE

There’s that … side room?

SCHOENBERG

You mean in this apartment?

MATHILDE

Where we store the baby clothes and.

SCHOENBERG

What about it?

MATHILDE

I could … clean it and … live there?

SCHOENBERG

You want to live here again?

MATHILDE

Yes.

SCHOENBERG

You really want to live with me?

MATHILDE

I can resume care of the children.

Schoenberg pulls out notepad and pencil.

SCHOENBERG

Would you … mind telling me?

MATHILDE

About?

SCHOENBERG

You and Richard.

MATHILDE

You do not need to know that.

SCHOENBERG

Please.

MATHILDE

Really.

SCHOENBERG

I might as well know now.

MATHILDE

Okay we … barely kissed?

SCHOENBERG

(writing) And?

MATHILDE

He would put it in too soon … and finish too soon.

SCHOENBERG

(writing) And then?

MATHILDE

Sometimes he would … pass out in the middle.

SCHOENBERG

(writing) What was the worst part?

MATHILDE

He … said your name once.

SCHOENBERG

As in?

MATHILDE

During.

SCHOENBERG

(writing, to himself) So … wonderful.

Schoenberg puts away notepad and pencil.

SCHOENBERG

I have a single condition for your return.

MATHILDE

And what’s that?

SCHOENBERG

That you allow me to go to him and tell him everything we just said.

MATHILDE

No.

SCHOENBERG

He wants it this way.

MATHILDE / VLADIMIR

Don’t do it.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I bought the tincture.

VLADIMIR

It’s poison.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Very inexpensive. Just two drops on the tongue.

VLADIMIR

I can’t believe you’re doing this.

TCHAIKOVSKY

No I would like you to do it for me Bob.

VLADIMIR

Uncle no.

TCHAIKOVSKY

I’ve been summoned to the wilderness. A prison in the woods. Hard labor. But I have a choice. They said I have one other choice. Here’s the dropper.

VLADIMIR

No.

Singers begin singing Gesualdo’s “Moro lasso,” low at first, rising throughout:

TCHAIKOVSKY

They’re going to destroy my music. Would you want that? Gone. Forever. The only reason I lived. They’re going to burn / it all if I don’t –

VLADIMIR

(quiet) I’m not going to kill you.

TCHAIKOVSKY

You don’t have to do anything. You just bring the dropper to my mouth. It’s really very easy. Not like drowning yourself. What was I thinking? Drowning myself. Drama. I’m not like that anymore. I will sit across from you and look into your eyes. Because this is the best way for both of us. They know who you are. They know what we do. They’ll do the same thing to you. And Antonina. Everyone will know. And my music will be forgotten. Like it was never there. I’m sorry it has to be like this. We weren’t meant to be alive.

Vladimir brings the dropper to Tchaikovsky’s mouth.

He drops in two drops.

Vladimir sits across from Tchaikovsky, holding his hand.

He sits and watches him die.

GESUALDO

Marvelous. Just marvelous.

FABRIZIO

Who are you talking to?

Gesualdo’s “Moro lasso” fades.

GESUALDO

Don’t you see those people?

FABRIZIO

No.

GESUALDO

Those people singing.

FABRIZIO

We are the only two people here.

GESUALDO

I could have sworn I heard them singing.

FABRIZIO

Maybe you would like to write down what you heard?

GESUALDO

Oh, yes.

FABRIZIO

Write on this.

GESUALDO

Thank you.

FABRIZIO

Write with this.

GESUALDO

Thank you.

FABRIZIO

I will sit here in bed with you and watch you write.

GESUALDO

That is very kind of you.

FABRIZIO

You are bruised quite badly.

GESUALDO

(writing) It’s just the beatings.

FABRIZIO

Ah.

GESUALDO

I notice you too are bleeding quite heavily.

FABRIZIO

I had not noticed.

GESUALDO

(writing) I could bring you a cloth.

FABRIZIO

I don’t mind if you do not.

GESUALDO

(writing) No?

FABRIZIO

No use wasting a cloth.

GESUALDO

(writing) I suppose you are correct.

FABRIZIO

I woke up in a cold place …

GESUALDO

(writing) You seem upset.

FABRIZIO

I am not entirely here yet.

GESUALDO

(writing) Your voice is so cold.

FABRIZIO

Why are you crying?

GESUALDO

(writing) I am very afraid, Duke.

FABRIZIO

You are the Prince and therefore afraid of nothing.

GESUALDO

(writing) That’s right.

FABRIZIO

You are above the Sovereign Laws of God and man and therefore have nothing to fear.

GESUALDO

(writing) Yes, that’s right.

FABRIZIO

You are the magnanimous –

GESUALDO

Could you – ?

FABRIZIO

What is it?

GESUALDO

Could you move a little away?

FABRIZIO

What is wrong?

GESUALDO

You’re just very close to my face and my sheets –

FABRIZIO

Oh yes.

GESUALDO

The blood on the sheets.

FABRIZIO

The blood. On your sheets.

GESUALDO

Yes, we replaced them already.

FABRIZIO

The sheets. Stained with blood.

GESUALDO

Yes, as I said –

FABRIZIO

Whose blood?

GESUALDO

Well –

FABRIZIO

Whose blood?

GESUALDO

I don’t know how to say it –

FABRIZIO

WHOSE BLOOD?

GESUALDO

Yours, yours and my wife.

FABRIZIO

Oh. Yes. Thank you. I remember.

GESUALDO

Will you … take me now?

Players begin playing Schoenberg’s “String Quartet #2.2,” low at first, rising throughout, starting at 1:43:

FABRIZIO

Take you?

GESUALDO

Will you take me with you?

FABRIZIO

Where will I take you?

GESUALDO

Where you … where you came from?

FABRIZIO

I came from down the hall.

GESUALDO

Before that.

FABRIZIO

Before that the lawn. Before that the field. Before that the river. Yes. That was the first thing. The river. I woke up in the river. And I missed everything. I missed the light in the morning. I missed the wind. You can’t see it but it moves the branches. It moves the grass in waves with an invisible hand. Like me now. Like me brushing your hair with my hand. My hand is the wind of the wave that brushes through your hair, brushing the grass and the leaves and the branches like your hair brushing my hand … (grabs Gesualdo’s face) She’s coming.

SCHOENBERG

She’s never coming back.

RICHARD

I understand.

SCHOENBERG

And you’re not mad?

RICHARD

This is what I always wanted for you.

SCHOENBERG

All right then.

RICHARD

I keep an idiot in my head.

SCHOENBERG

I’m leaving now.

RICHARD

I sometimes let him make decisions.

SCHOENBERG

Will you say goodbye to me?

RICHARD

I sometimes let this idiot decide. Don’t worry, this is an art experiment. (stands on a chair)

SCHOENBERG

What are you doing?

RICHARD

An art experiment. (pulls a noose down around his neck during) You once said this thing about my paintings. My hands. I couldn’t do hands. They were always deformed. And you were right.

SCHOENBERG

Richard –

RICHARD

I don’t why I did that. I don’t know why I made all the hands all deformed. (pulls out a large knife) I don’t even remember doing it. Now you have everything. (He stabs himself in the heart.)

SCHOENBERG

Richard NO –

Richard’s body falls back.

The rope catches and snaps his neck

Schoenberg’s String Quartet #2.2” continues through:

Gesualdo enters pulling a gigantic pail of water.

He hums to music in his head.

He begins to bathe himself in darkness, moonlight reflecting off the water, casting waving blue shadows.

Donna Maria approaches.

DONNA MARIA

Hello?

GESUALDO

Finally.

DONNA MARIA

Your face is bruised.

GESUALDO

I made them bruise me.

DONNA MARIA

Someone beat you?

GESUALDO

I made them beat it.

DONNA MARIA

You are so near death, Prince.

GESUALDO

Your eyes. I forgot your eyes. They’re so black. Like stones.

DONNA MARIA

Stones sink to the bottom.

Donna Maria pushes Gesualdo’s head under water.

A long moment passes.

Gesualdo bursts from water.

GESUALDO

Let me breathe, let me breathe! No. Please. Don’t make me –

She drowns him again.

A long moment passes.

Gesualdo bursts from water.

GESUALDO

Show me your eyes!  Show me!

DONNA MARIA

There.

GESUALDO

Yes.

DONNA MARIA

I want you to suffer.

GESUALDO

They already beat me.

DONNA MARIA

Not enough.

GESUALDO

I’m frightened, Maria.

DONNA MARIA

Don’t worry, Carlo. I’m here with you.

GESUALDO

Oh, Maria.

DONNA MARIA

You’re the only rooster in the hen house.

She drowns him again.

A long moment passes.

She releases her hand on his neck.

He slowly raises his head from underneath the water.

GESUALDO

Am I dead now?

DONNA MARIA

nods yes.

GESUALDO

Oh thank God thank God.

DONNA MARIA

Shh.

GESUALDO

Your hands. I love your cold hands.

DONNA MARIA

Do you hear that?

GESUALDO

You’re with me.

DONNA MARIA

Listen.

GESUALDO

You’re with me now.

DONNA MARIA

Listen.

They listen.

Schoenberg’s “String Quartet #2.2” rises:

SCHOENBERG

(sings along to the children’s song embedded midway through “String Quartet #2.2”)

Oh my dear friend Augustin

Augustin, Augustin

Oh my dear friend Augustin

Everything’s lost.

Schoenberg waves to the players.

SCHOENBERG

Let me just – Players, yes? Players! Please halt.

Schoenberg’s “String Quartet #2.2” stops.

SCHOENBERG

You are excused for the day. That was much better. Thank you.

Lights fade on all.

End of play.

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