Monday, October 17, 2011
Like potatoes in the distillery, these are the days of our lives, a comic fairy pantomime burlesque in three-quarters act
Miss Prunella Vulgaris, The Duchess of Hammer-on-Dulcimer, esteemed member of the Peonage
Juan, The Earl of Valdez, less esteemed member of the Peonage
Alexander Nevsky, part-time Russian folkhero & full-time spectral entity
Benito of the Hamlet, anachronistic blackshirted blackguard
Just Like Che, noted motorcycle enthusiast & muse of hep cats everywhere
Ivan, Russian Bear & camp guard
Wojtek, Polish Bear & prisoner
Bear, bait, & lovable ursine scamp
Non-library, exterior, daytime perhaps but it's difficult to tell because all is grey all the time always including the gruel. The hypnotizing snowy glow of the rat-infested earth is broken by the rambling tamble of shared resignation and righteously dueling indignation, for DUCHESS and EARL are nowhere near the Museum of Palimpsest Oddities, where they still work, and will, forever, but stuck in a Muscovite gulag, having been accused by the Czar himself with attempted robbery of the famed Fabergé Potato.
DUCHESS: Well, here's another fine mess you've gotten me into!
EARL: This was your idea!
DUCHESS (exasperated): Oh, yes, everything is my fault.
EARL: I didn't say that, I said --
A whooshy cloud of spooky manifests in the dusty tumble of their hovel shared with 374 other souls, but since it is so dusty, DUCHESS and EARL assume, incorrectly, that it is dust, but it is not, for if the dust were dust, the play would end right here because acting out a slow, agonizing starvation on stage isn't dramatically gripping enough to recoup production costs.
ALEXANDER: Vill yoo too pipe down? Loud as Russian poorgatory! I um the ghost of Alexander Nevsky! Smiter of Swedes! Gravedigger of Germans! Morgue of Mongols!
DUCHESS and EARL: WTF.
ALEXANDER: Leesen! Czar not keep Russian spirit alive! Yoo must eescape vit objeck!
DUCHESS (feigning ignorance): What object, pray tell?
EARL (whispering): It's a trick.
ALEXANDER (yelling with a fierce ferocity): Englishkanski! Eez no trick! Yoo must neenja past guards, steel objeck, and weeturn to London-Town or vorld go boom!
This haunter of the dark lifted from a half-price penny dreadful vanishes like a glassy smudge does after the vigorous application of Windex.
EARL: I still think it's a trick.
DUCHESS: Don't be daft. I've an idea.
DUCHESS and EARL exit the dusty hovel into the courtyard dusted with snow where a gathering has gathered to watch an epic debate between ideals more extreme than Poochie, a monumental demagoguery of which there will surely be many monuments one day until they are pulled down for photo ops by the next batch of power-mad jackasses.
BENITO (strutting): Fascism! (strikes own chest, manfully)
JUST LIKE CHE (circling BENITO on his motorcycle): Viva la revolución!
DUCHESS (throwing her voice): Hey Just Like Che, you smell like manure!
JUST LIKE CHE (incensed): I keel you!
BENITO (also incensed): Not if I keel you first!
The mother of all fisticuffs ensues, ensnaring not just the prisoners, but the guards, the wardens, their families, assorted camp followers and, tragically, the milkman, with much suing to have followed if there wasn't that whole pesky system of repression, but that's of little import because DUCHESS and EARL see something important, their chance at freedom, and a second important thing, which the audience will see right now.
DUCHESS (incredulous): Bear?
EARL: It can't be! Bear isn't Polish, and besides, he's in the woods, testing that old saw about --
EARL: The Wojtek? Of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps? We must help him!
The just-formed power trio powers their way through the shadows and grit, spitting mostly in contempt but mostlier because of all that grit, and some dust, too, and because of their final obstacle before their final one.
Enter BEAR from who-knows-where, as usual.
To make a long and obvious story short before this turns into a full one-act play, all three bears come to the realization that they are triplets having been separated at birth. Reunited and it feels so good, yet enraged at such duplicity, they immediately proceed to slaughter the guards, free the prisoners except BENITO and JUST LIKE CHE lest they end up fashion statements, and help DUCHESS and EARL steal the Fabergé Potato which they forgot to do and who could blame them because gulag food sucks and they were really jonesing for some bangers and mash and were thus distracted.
EARL: Yippee skip-to-my-Queen Victoria, but how the hell do we find our way back to London-Town? We're in the middle of Russia in the middle of winter --
DUCHESS: -- in the middle of earth.
EARL: Don't be ridiculous, Tolkien hasn't even been born yet.
DUCHESS: Neither has Just Like Che, and Benito is just a baby.
EARL: As if our lives would start making sense now.
To wrap this up, they commandeer a boat from a passed-out-drunk Varangian Guard, everyone says their tearful goodbyes as Wojtek heads to Krakow, Ivan to St. Petersburg, and our English trio back to London-Town where they dismiss handing the Fabergé Potato over to the feds, half-contemplate putting it up for auction because civil service doesn't pay as much as you'd think but decide instead it would look swanky on the mantle since who knows how many agents of Captain Single-eye are out there masquerading as potential buyers. Shit, your humble playwright forgot the burlesque. Next time.