Moscow Shadows by Harris Freedman


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


    ACT ONE

      (As house lights dim, WE HEAR PLAINTIVE MUSIC PLAYED ON A
      PIANO - the Russian folk tune “Laugh at my Dreams”)

      (MUSIC FADES OUT as the lights come up on Anna’s apartment.)

      (Moscow.  February 1989.  It is just before 4pm.)

      (ANNA is helping IGOR put on his coat, but he resists her help.)

      IGOR:  I can dress myself, Babushka.

      ANNA:  You’re sloppy.

      IGOR:  I don’t care.

      ANNA:  You can be an artist without looking like that.

      IGOR:  I’m not cutting my hair.

      ANNA:  You’ll scare the tourists the way you look.

      IGOR:  Babushka, please leave me alone, at least I’m going.

      ANNA:  Don’t do me any favors.

      IGOR:  So I won’t go.

      ANNA:  But you like to eat.

      IGOR:  So I’m going.

      ANNA:  Be careful who you talk to.

      IGOR:  I know the routine.

      ANNA:  Be polite.

      IGOR:  I know what to do.

      ANNA:  Don’t stay in one place too long.

      IGOR:  I know, Babushka.

      ANNA:  Don’t give the price.

      IGOR:  I won’t.

      ANNA:  Just convince them it will be much cheaper than the hotel.

      IGOR:  I know, Babushka.

      ANNA:  No single men.

      IGOR:  I know, Babushka.

      ANNA:  Only single women or couples.

      IGOR:  I know, Babushka.

      ANNA:  Be discrete.

      IGOR:  I feel like a pimp.

      ANNA:  Igor Leonovich!  How dare you say such a thing!

      IGOR:  That’s how I feel.

      ANNA:  Bringing guests who pay to stay the night is not pimping!

      IGOR:  I don’t like business.

      ANNA:  Yes, I know, you’re above it all.  Go.  Go, already.

      (Anna tries to push him out the door.)

      IGOR:  I’m going.  I’m going, but I don’t like it.

      ANNA:  Go, already.  Go

          (Igor EXITS.)

                (Calling out, but softly after him.)

          Igor Leonovich be careful, now go, go.

                (Anna closes the door and goes to the window to watch Igor as he
      enters the street.  She talks to herself now.)

          Such language he uses to his own grandmother..Ah, there he goes . . .
      go Igor, hurry . . . he won’t hurry . . . why should he hurry?  He
      thinks he’s an artist so why should he hurry.  Igor, go already . . .
      he’s going . . . such language he uses . . .

      (Anna goes to the memorial candle and adjusts the position, she goes
      to Vladimir’s picture on the piano and straightens it, goes to her
      sewing box and takes out some sewing.  She sits in her armchair to sew
      as she hums the same refrain, “Laugh at my Dreams,” that we heard
      as the house lights came down.)

      (NATASHA ENTERS the Hallway in front of the door to the flat.  She
      knocks.  She is concealing a pot of stew behind her back.)

      (Anna puts down her sewing and goes to the door, listens, and then
      speaks.)

      ANNA:  Who?

      NATASHA:      Who are you expecting?  The KGB?

      (Anna opens the door quickly, pulls Natasha inside and closes the
      door.)

      ANNA:  You have a big mouth.  Do you want to get me into trouble?

      (Anna goes to the kitchen to see if the tea is ready.)

      NATASHA:      Did you forget it was your turn to make the tea?

      (While Anna is in the kitchen, Natasha quietly places the pot of stew
      on the table.)

      ANNA:  No, I didn’t forget.  You’re early.

      NATASHA:      So you sent Igor out again?

      ANNA:  What are you a police inspector?  The tea’s almost ready.
                (She begins to set the table for tea.  She sees the pot.)
      What’s this?

      NATASHA:      Beef stew.

      ANNA:  Beef?
                (She lifts the lid and tastes.)
      MMMMM -  You managed to get real beef?

      NATASHA:      Lean - I cooked it this morning so it wouldn’t spoil.

      ANNA:  (Inspecting the Stew.)  Potatos . . . onions . . . carrots . . .


      NATASHA:      Black peppers, paprika, salt.

      ANN:  It must have cost.

      NATASHA:      It’s for you.

      ANNA:  It’s too expensive - take it back for you and Alyosha.

      NATASHA:      In memory of Vladimir Andreevich, may he rest in peace, you
      must take it.

      (Anna hugs Natasha who has little patience for sentiment.)

      ANNA:  Thank you, Natalia Ivanovna, but we will share - the four of us
      tonight.

      NATASHA:      It’s for you and Igor.

      ANNA:  I hope nothing happens to him.
      (Anna places a clean table cloth on the table and begins to arrange
      it.  Natasha helps her.)

          He didn’t want to go.

      NATASHA:      At least he has some common sense.

      (Anna goes to the side-board followed by Natasha - during the ensuing
      dialogue they bring cups, saucers, spoons, serviettes, sugar, and
      biscuits to the table before sitting down to tea.)

      ANNA:  He said he felt like a pimp.

      NATASHA:      Anna Petrovna, what have you been doing to your guests?

      ANNA:  Natalia Ivanovna!

      NATASHA:      I didn’t know you were such hot stuff.

      ANNA:  I hope he’s careful.

      NATASHA:      Why should you have to worry in such a wonderful country?

      ANNA   You’re lucky you’re not already in a labor camp the way you carry
      on.

      NATASHA And what about you?

      ANNA   (Gestures with disgust.)  Ahh!

      (Anna goes to the Samovar and fills the teapot.)

      NATASHA Who sent Igor Leonovich out you or me?

      ANNA   So I sent him out, so what.  I just hope he’s careful.

      NATASHA Anna Petrovna Ostrovskaya you’re a hypocrite!

      ANNA   Natalia Ivanovna Dubrovskaya you’re a capitalist!

      NATASHA And you’re not?

      ANNA   No.

      NATASHA Of course not!  You send Igor to bribe the clerk at the hotel
      so she will send you a few desperate travellers who want a cheap
      room.

      ANNA   It’s not so cheap.

      NATASHA It’s cheap.

      ANNA   So maybe I should raise my prices.

      NATASHA You see!

      ANNA   See what?

      NATASHA You take their dollars, that’s why you’re a hypocrite.

      (Natasha sits at the table.)

      ANNA   You’re the one to talk.  You make a business out of everything.
      You’re even selling ikons now!

      NATASHA It’s good business.

      (Anna brings the teapot to the table and sits.)

      ANNA   A Jew selling ikons!

      (During the ensuing dialogue they will drink their tea by pouring it
      from the teapot into their cups and then from their cups into their
      saucers.  Before drinking they place a piece of sugar between their
      teeth and suck the tea through the sugar.  They make sounds of
      satisfaction as they drink in this way.)

      NATASHA That’s perestroika!

      ANNA   You always complain about the system, about everything!

      NATASHA That’s glasnost!

      ANNA   You’re the capitalist.

      NATASHA So what do you call renting your room out illegally?

      ANNA:  It’s part of the system.

      NATASHA If it’s part of the system why is it illegal?  Why are you
      afraid of the KGB?

      ANNA   That’s part of the system too.

      NATASHA What about when you take the dollars your lodgers pay and you
      bribe the butcher for some good meat so you don’t have to wait in the
      queue with the rest of your comrades?

      NATASHA and ANNA:  That’s part of the system.

      NATASHA Yes, I know, and the queues are also part of the system, but
      only for those poor comrades of yours who can’t manage to get their
      hands on some dollars.

      ANNA   (Indicating the Stew.) Look who’s talking about bribes for the
      butcher!

      NATASHA I don’t pretend to be a good socialist.

      ANNA   People like you give all of us Jews a bad name.  Try the biscuits
      - I made them this morning.

      NATASHA (Takes a biscuit, but doesn’t eat.) And anyway, since when do
      Jews have to earn a bad name?  Jews automatically have a bad name.
      Here in Russia if you’re a liberal you’re accused of being a Jew, and
      in the West if you’re a Jew you’re considered either a communist or a
      banker.

      ANNA:  Taste it.

      NATASHA:      What?

      ANNA:  The biscuit.  The biscuit.

      NATASHA:      (Tastes)  Real butter?

      ANNA:  So.

      NATASHA:      Where?

      ANNA:  The usual place.

      NATASHA:      You didn’t tell me they had butter.

      ANNA:  You weren’t around.

      NATASHA:      You probably overpaid.

      ANNA:  I didn’t.

      NATASHA:      How much?

      ANNA:  Never mind - eat.

      NATASHA:      You overpaid.  (Eats.)  Not bad.

      ANNA:  They were Vladimir’s favorite.

      NATASHA:      Did you hear about what happened to Korotich?

      ANNA   Who’s Korotich?

      NATASHA Some socialist you are, you don’t even read Pravda.  Korotich,
      the editor of the magazine Ogonyok.

      ANNA   The liberal one.

      NATASHA Yes, so the nationalist maniacs who call themselves Pamyat
      went to a meeting where Korotich was speaking, and shouted
      anti-semitic insults at him and called him a Jew and a Zionist agent
      because for them he’s too liberal, and there was a fight . . . Anna
      Petrovna, Korotich is from the Ukraine and he’s not even a Jew!

      ANNA   I don’t like the Pamyat.

      NATASHA Why not?  Your beloved communist party recognizes them.
      They’re already an official organization.

      ANNA   I don’t believe it.

      NATASHA You don’t remember last September?  I was there.  The police
      stopped a peaceful demonstration against Pamyat!  So much for your
      glasnost.

      ANNA   You’re too old to get mixed up in demonstrations.  You’ll get
      into serious trouble.

      NATASHA I went to see with my own eyes.  Do you think I’m going to
      depend on newspapers and politicians for my information?

      ANNA   Anyway Pamyat has so few members, nothing to worry about.

      NATASHA Nothing to worry about!  You’re a complacent old cow!  They
      openly wear black shirt uniforms like the fascists - and they’re not
      the only extremist group - Never mind.

      ANNA   Communism will cure all that.

      NATASHA Cure?  Russia is almost brain dead because of communism!

      ANNA   Communism is humane.

      NATASHA:      Why is Olga Alexandrovna waiting more than two years for
      permission to live only a few hundred miles away?

      ANNA:  You don’t understand.

      NATASHA:      No, I don’t.

      (Clock chimes 4 p.m. Anna gets up and goes to the window.)

      ANNA   Igor Leonovich should be back soon.

      NATASHA If the humanitarian KGB don’t take him away.

      ANNA   Igor doesn’t care about politics.  He just wants to paint.  He
      says all of his friends are the same.  I don’t understand the young
      people.  They don’t seem to believe in anything.  They should be
      excited by the reforms.

      NATASHA Why should they be excited?

      ANNA   There’s more artistic freedom now.  Even Vladimir Horowitz came
      and gave a concert here.

      NATASHA More freedom today, less freedom tomorrow.

      ANNA   I hope he’s careful.

      NATASHA Watching won’t bring him any sooner.  Sit and drink your tea.
                (Anna goes back to her seat at the table and resumes the ritual of
      drinking tea.)
          I just got a new batch of ikons.  You should see them.

      ANNA:  You have them in your flat?

      NATASHA:      What are you a police inspector?

      ANNA:  I’m just asking.

      NATASHA It’s better you don’t know.

      ANNA:  It’s not safe having them in your flat.

      NATASHA:      I’m not going to talk about them.

      ANNA:  Religion is the opiate of the masses.

      NATASHA:      So why do you light Shabbat candles in secret every Friday
      night?
                (Pointing to the memorial candle.)
      Why do you light a memorial candle for your Vladimir every year?

      ANNA:  It’s not religion.  It’s tradition.

      NATASHA:      So it has no real meaning to you?

      ANNA:  Don’t be so smart.  If you’re so smart, how come your Alyosha
      doesn’t listen to you?

      NATASHA Alexei Isaevich will come to his senses.

      ANNA:  He has such a high position at the Ministry - you should be
      proud.

      NATASHA:      I’m proud.  I’m proud.  But if he wasn’t a Jew he would be
      the Minister.

      ANNA:  You’re endangering his career by keeping ikons in your flat.

      NATASHA Just being a Jew endangers his career.  Let me worry about my
      own son.  The less you know the better.

      ANNA   You don’t trust me!

      NATASHA:      I trust you.  I trust you.  But what if they threaten to send
      you to Siberia?  You’d tell them everything about everyone.  You’d
      sing like a canary.

      ANNA:  No I wouldn’t.  I could visit my Sonya in Siberia.  I miss her.

      NATASHA:      Nothing like being a Jew in Russia.  You get to live in such
      exotic places.

      ANNA   Sonya’s not happy there.

      NATASHA Why not?  Sergei Borisovich is building roads and towns in the
      exciting frozen wilderness.  Nothing like advancing ones career in
      Siberia.

      ANNA:  We were so close.

      NATASHA:      You used to argue.

      ANNA:  We did not.

      NATASHA:      Anna!  Who are you talking to?

      ANNA:  Mother’s and daughters always have some friction.

      NATASHA:      Friction!?  What about the boys she used to bring home?

      ANNA:  Sergei Borisovich is good to her and he’s a talented engineer.

      NATASHA:      But you opposed the wedding.

      ANNA:  I wanted her to marry a doctor.

      NATASHA:      You’re lucky she didn’t marry that bohemian poet.

      ANNA:  She was never serious about him.

      NATASHA:      She almost ran away with him.

      ANNA:  My Sonya?  Never.

      NATASHA:      You’re lucky I introduced her to Sergei.

      ANNA:  Lucky?  Taking her to Siberia is lucky?

      NATASHA:      You begged me to find someone to get her away from that
      bohemian.

      ANNA:  I didn’t beg.

      NATASHA:      You thanked me for finding Sergei.

      ANNA:  I never liked his mother.

      NATASHA:      She didn’t like you either.

      ANNA:  She always bragged about her sons.

      NATASHA:      And you always bragged about Sonya.

      ANNA:  My Sonya is talented, intelligent and beautiful.

      NATASHA:      Not bad.

      ANNA:  Natalia Ivanovna!  You always admired Sonya.

      NATASHA:      I’m teasing.  Don’t be so sensitive.

      ANNA:  I’ve only seen her twice in ten years.

      NATASHA:      Three times.

      ANNA;  Twice!

      NATASHA:      Three!

      ANNA:  Twice!

      NATASHA:      Three!

      ANNA:  I know how many times I’ve seen my own daughter.  Twice.

      NATASHA:      You went once and she came here twice.  That makes three.

      ANNA:  I forgot about my trip.

      NATASHA:      You see.

      ANNA:  So I forgot.  You never forget?

      NATASHA:      Forget a trip to Siberia?  Are you crazy?

      ANNA:  At least they permitted Igor Leonovich to come to Moscow to
      study art.  At least I have Igor with me.  Sonya was so worried about
      him . . . she’s a good mother . . . I don’t know how she can live
      there.

      NATASHA:      The system provides such wonderful opportunities!

      ANNA:  Vladimir Andreevich would never have permitted it.  Never.

      NATASHA:      He couldn’t have done anything about it.

      ANNA:  Vladimir Andreevich would have tried to stop it.

      NATASHA: Anna Petrovna I want to hear some music.

                (Anna finds a Russian waltz tune, and begins to sway with the music.)

      NATASHA: Turn it off.

      ANNA:  You just told me to turn it on.

      NATASHA:      I changed my mind, now turn it off!

      ANNA:  One dance Natalia Ivanovna.

      NATASHA I don’t want to remember.

      ANNA   One dance.

      (Natasha goes to the record player and turns it off.)

      NATASHA Off!!

      ANNA   Natalia Ivanovna!

      NATASHA I don’t want to remember!

      ANNA   Why not?  There are so many wonderful memories.

      NATASHA Except for the end.

      ANNA   Let’s not think about the end.

      NATASHA I don’t know how to remember without thinking about the end.

[end of extract]



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