An Evening with Mr Chekhov by Gus Petrakis


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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author’s PRIOR consent


  Hotel suite. Lights out. Evening. 

  Manhattan behind the large frame window.

      A lounge in the middle of the stage, a couch with three chairs
      and table with a telephone. Bedroom at the right side of the stage.
      Entrance is at the left. Door opens with a bang, slams on the wall.
      Indistinct shouting is heard, a hand switches the lights on, and 2-3
      suitcases are thrown inside the lounge.

  Enter Dmitri, tall, blond, age 35. Slightly limping on the left leg.

      DMITRI
      I had enough, Madam. I am not your slave.

      (Dmitri enters more inside, kicks a suitcase and falls on the couch.
      Enter Natalya Arbatova, tall, blonde, age 55.)

      NATALYA
      I am a star, Dmitri, and a star is high up in the sky. Donít forget
      that.

      DMITRI
      I am a star, too.

      NATALYA
      Youíre not anymore. You donít have a sky anymore, dear. Why are
      you acting like this at a moment like this?

      DMITRI
      I didnít want to come to America.

      NATALYA
      You didnít want also London, Paris and Berlin. But Moscow is not
      good for us anymore. You know that.

      DMITRI
      I donít know. But to be away from your fatherland in a time of
      turmoil. I feel like a traitor.

      NATALYA
      I always wanted to play Chekhov on Broadway, Dmitri. That was my
      dream.

      DMITRI
      Weíre Russians. Russians donít dream. Americans dream all the
      time. There is not a Russian dream, only an American dream, they say.
      And what do Americans know about Chekhov?

      (Natalya picks up a suitcase and goes to the back bedroom.)

      NATALYA
      (From the bedroom)
      Dmitri, thatís the mission of the artist. To bring forth the culture
      of his native land to foreign lands. I triumphed at London; I brought
      Paris to its knees. When Natalya Arbatova plays Chekhov, the world
      rejoices.

      (Natalya comes out of the bedroom holding a nightgown in her hand.)

      DMITRI
      Why donít you play Brecht? I think Chekhov is outdated. He was good
      for his times.

      NATALYA
      Dmitri, Chekhov is eternal. And Brecht doesnít have acting parts for
      a star. He refuses Galileoís impersonator his climax. We hear the
      results of the trial from his friends. Brecht hates actors.

      DMITRI
      Play the Good Person of Setzuan.

      NATALYA
      Oh, what are you saying? Me play a prostitute; I am a high class
      actress.

      DMITRI
      I thought that all woman want to act the part of a prostitute. Itís
      the most female fantasy. But you donít like Brecht because he was a
      communist.

      NATALYA
      I donít care for politics. I am an artist. And in Eastern Europe,
      weíre fed up with politics. We need something more now. Gorbi is
      right.

      DMITRI
      We need the Broadway dream.

      NATALYA
      Exactly.

      (Natalya goes inside the bedroom.)

      DMITRI
      Americans canít understand drama. They canít understand human
      suffering. Theyíre looking for profit. Always. There is no profit in
      Chekhov.

      NATALYA
      (From the bedroom)
      Art can transform, can change peopleís minds. Youíll see soon.
      Call the Embassy. Tell Vasilliev that I just arrived.

      DMITRI
      Iím not in the mood to talk to a scumbag. You call him. You talk to
      him.  He is your protector.

      (Natalya comes out dressed in black lingerie, a garter belt, stockings
      and high heels.)

      NATALYA
      Donít start again my love. Ivan is a friend. Maybe there is news
      from Moscow.

      DMITRI
      There is no news from Moscow for years now. Anyway, I think sheís
      gone by now.

      NATALYA
      Oh, donít say that. I still believe. There is always hope.

      DMITRI
      He who lives by hoping dies in shit, Natalya.

      (Dmitri takes notice of the lingerie outfit.)

      Whatís the big idea, love?

      NATALYA
      (as if thirsty)

      I need you inside me, dear.  Deep inside me. The stress is too much.
      Itís the first time that I play in America.

      DMITRI
      Natalya, if you love me, give me a break. I am in a bad mood. And why
      are you dressed like a carnival? Thatís too West. Even sex becomes
      business for capitalism. Itís disgusting.

      (Natalya adjusts her stockings.)

      NATALYA
      I thought men like this underwear. It gives them the hots.

      (Natalya gives her hand to Dmitri to take and he rises.)


      NATALYA
      Please, love, I need it. No man can refuse this to a woman in heat.

      DMITRI
      This is real scary. We have become like them. Like vampires. We
      change.

      NATALYA
      Come on. Itís really nothing. Just some evening sex.

      (Dmitri as if hypnotized gets up, takes Natalyaís hand and together
      they
      enter the bedroom. Some time passes. Dmitri comes out dressed in a
      bathrobe. He picks up two suitcases from the floor.)

      DMITRI
      ďTake the suitcases from the living room.Ē The most difficult part
      in a relationship with the woman is the hard labor you have to do.
      Carrying her luggage. Damn. My leg.

      (Dmitri drops the suitcases down and takes a hold of his leg. Natalya
                enters in her nightgown. She runs to him.)

      NATALYA
      Oh my God. You got your cramp again. I am a criminal. I did it. Let me
      kiss it to take the pain away.

      DMITRI
      Natalya, donít get hysterical. I am all right.

      (Natalya kneels down and kisses Dmitriís knee.)

      NATALYA
      Forgive me my love, forgive me. But I was blinded by my rage. Why did
      you screw that bitch back then? Why?

      DMITRI
      Why? If a man makes love to a woman, the woman says: ďHe makes love
      to me.Ē And if the same man goes with another woman, you say: ďYou
      fuck her!Ē ďYou screw her!Ē You donít accept that is also
      lovemaking. It is love only for you and you only.

      NATALYA
      Oh, Dmitri. You canít judge a woman. We are beyond the law. Weíre
      nature.

      DMITRI
      Natalya, what you did that night was a crime. Itís called attempt to
      murder. But I forgive you because youíre a woman. Youíre full of
      vengeance.

      NATALYA
      Hit me. Hit me if you want, but donít harshly judge me. Without me,
      what would have become of you? The Party was going to send you to
      Siberia.

      (Natalya gets up and picks up a suitcase.)

      DMITRI
      Maybe it was bad luck that they didnít send me.  Sometimes to be
      free, itís too much ado about nothing. Iíll go to Kalendinís
      tomorrow afternoon to get a gun.

      NATALYA
      What do you need a gun for?

      (Natalya goes inside the bedroom and comes back.)

      DMITRI
      This is a country of arms. If you donít have one, youíre an
      outcast.

      NATALYA
      What madness is this? Weíre safe. Vasilliev stands high and mighty
      here. You saw him shaking hands with President Bush.

      DMITRI
      Vasilliev is a scumbag, plus he is you ex and he wants my blood.

      NATALYA
      Ivan is fine. And loves me still. He wonít dare to touch you.

      DMITRI
      In love there is no middle ground. You wonít always possess and if
      you donít, you want to destroy. You donít forget. Ivan is a man. A
      man is a born killer. Always. Since we leave Moscow, I donít feel
      well. Something hangs over me. A death threat.

      NATALYA
      Please my love. Whatís wrong with you?  For the love of Christ, will
      you get back in a good mood. Forget the past. Live.

      DMITRI
      I can forget the past, but itís the future that Iím afraid of.
      Things go below. The Party is gonna fall and the union. This story
      with the Berlin Wall is no good my love.

      NATALYA
      But it was the Shame of Europe. The Wall of Shame.

      DMITRI
      Open your eyes, Natalya. At the same time that the wall fell down, the
      Americans invaded Panama. It starts already. Theyíre goiní to kill
      us.

      NATALYA
      Ivan told me that itís alright. Everything is goiní to be alright.
      Wait, Iíll go inside to call him from the bedroom phone.

      (Natalya enters the bedroom. Dmitri makes sure that Natalya is inside
      and dials a number on the telephone at the lounge table. Dmitri looks
      happy and silly as if in love and talking to his girlfriend. Natalya
      soundlessly comes out from the bedroom. Natalya tries to listen to the
      indistinct conversation, but Dmitri is talking in a whisper.)

      NATALYA
      Dmitri, who are you talking to?

      DMITRI
      No one. (To the receiver) Thank you very much. Goodbye.

      (Dmitri hangs up the phone. Natalya is furious now.)

      NATALYA
      Itís a woman. Whoís this whore now? Everywhere you go, you have an
      army of whores waiting for you. I canít stand it no more. No more my
      love.

      DMITRI
      I was calling a cousin of mine. Sergei Mihailovich. He lives in
      Maspeth. You donít know him.

      NATALYA
      You were talking to a woman.

      DMITRI
      Why?

      NATALYA
      You looked silly. You donít have relations in New York. What kind of
      lie is this? What am I? A peasant woman?

      DMITRI
      Donít get hysterical again. I told you, I was talking to my cousin
      SergeiÖLook Natalya, donít forget. Right. You woman, you love men
      for these disadvantages, not for their merits.

      NATALYA
      I am gonna scream.

      DMITRI
      No, please, love. Donít start again.

      NATALYA
      Love, I am goiní to scream. Scream.

      DMITRI
      Please, no. No. People will think that I am killing you.

      NATALYA
      But youíre killing me. Youíre gonna leave me for some young whore
      again. Like in Paris.

      DMITRI
      No, Natalya. You got me wrong.

      NATALYA
      Iím gonna scream.

      DMITRI
      No. No. No.

      (Natalya screams. Instantly Dmitri starts limping on his right leg.
      Natalya is shocked.)

      NATALYA
      Oh, Dmitri. Your leg. My God, what have I done.

      (Limping, Dmitri goes and sits on the couch. Natalya goes and kneels
      before him.)

      DMITRI
      I hate this.

      NATALYA
      Let me kiss it, love. Let me cover it with kisses to ease your pain.

      DMITRI
      Donít act silly, Natalya. I am not a child anymore.

      NATALYA
      No. Youíre, youíre my little boy with a limping leg and a limping
      soul.

      (Natalya tries to uncover the leg, but Dmitri pushes her back.)

      DMITRI
      Natalya, lay off me.

      NATALYA
      Dmitri. I didnít want to harm you. What a dreadful thing to do. What
      a bitch I was.

      DMITRI
      That was a nasty bite my love. I didnít know that love bites so
      deep, my love.

      NATALYA
      I always bite the one I love.

      The telephone rings.

      NATALYA
      Thatís Ivan for sure. Heíll come here to see us.

      DMITRI
      Heíll come here to see you. He canít see me or us.

      (Natalya picks up the telephone.)

      NATALYA
      (To Dmitri) Oh, stop it please. (To telephone) Dear Ivan, how happy I
      am to listen to your sweet voice again. How are you, my dear, dear
      Ivan? Oh, weíre fine. We just arrived. Everything is fine. Just a
      little tired from the shows. Yes, yes. Berlin, Paris, London and now
      at last New York. Oh, Iíll be glad to see you again.

      (Natalya hangs up. Dmitri tries to get up but fails and falls back on
      the couch.)

      NATALYA
      Iíll give you a drink my love. Sit and relax.

      DMITRI
      Fuck it. I donít need nothing.

      NATALYA
      Ivan is downstairs. He will be here at any minute.

      DMITRI
      Now I do need a drink for sure. You could find an excuse and send him
      away. I am not in the mood to see Ivan the Terrible.


      NATALYA
      Letís drink to cheer up.

      (The doorbell rings twice.)

      DMITRI
      Make the drinks for three. The spirit of the party is here.

      (Natalya opens the door and Ivan bursts in. Tall, black hair and past
      his 60s. Ivan carries flowers and a bottle of champagne. They embrace
      each other.)

      IVAN
      My dear, dear Natalya. Just let me look at you. Why do all my ex wives
      look prettier after we divorce?

      (Natalya laughs.)

      NATALYA
      My sweet, sweet Ivan. Always charming and sharp.

      DMITRI
      You avoid answering his question though.

      IVAN
      Who spoke from inside the gutter?

      DMITRI
      Unpleasant to see you as always.

      IVAN
      Same as it ever was. Huh Katov?

      NATALYA
      Now, boys, take it easy. Weíre not in Moscow anymore. Letís be
      civilized.

      DMITRI
      Too late for that my love.

      IVAN
      Stay away from me. I just came to see Natalya. Natalya, you came at
      last to show them what it is to play Chekhov. It is time for the
      Americans to see Natalya Arbatova in flesh and blood.

      NATALYA
      Natalya Arbatova will take over Manhattan, Ivan dear. Iím ready to
      blow their minds.

      IVAN
      (To Dmitri)
      If youíre thinking to say something, donít do it. We donít wanna
      listen.

      DMITRI
      You just block my way. Youíre always ahead of me, Professor.

      IVAN
      Huh, I need an army like you my friend to hold me back. Natalya, two
      exceptional people are coming to see us: Tom Langford of the Lord and
      Trask Company that supports your shows and Lora Stern who works for
      American Stage magazine. Lora will cover your staying in the city. Tom
      and Lora will be here at any minute.

      NATALYA
      Wonderful, Ivan. I am so happy to meet new people all around the
      world, and I know how much New Yorkers love theater.

      DMITRI
      It seems that weíll have a party after all.

      IVAN
      Címon old chum. Letís bury the hatchet for Natalyaís sake. This
      is too big for her. Cheer up. This is the city that never sleeps.

      DMITRI
      But I am a man who wants to sleep. Forever.

      NATALYA
      Stop being so morbid, Dmitri. Ivan is right. New York is so bright.

      IVAN
      Give him some vodka to heat up a bit.

      DMITRI
      Vodka is vodka only in Russia. Here it is not vodka. Itís something
      else.

      IVAN
      Letís drink some bourbon, then.

 

[end of extract]



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