The Poison Tree by Anna Cates


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THE POISON TREE

      Characters

      The Moth Queen:  a mysterious agent of divine retribution
      Singing Flower 1:  a blue-petaled anthropomorphic aster
      Singing Flower 2:  a yellow-petaled anthropomorphic aster
      Singing Flower 3:  a rose-petaled anthropomorphic aster
      Singing Flower 4:  a white-petaled anthropomorphic aster
      Hans:  a 15-year-old Hitler Youth member
      Fritz: a 15-year-old Hitler Youth member
      Herr Wolf:  a Hitler Youth leader, 30ís
      Diogenes of Sinope:  the classical seeker in toga and garland
      Magic Mushroom 1:  an anthropomorphic magic mushroom
      Magic Mushroom 2:  an anthropomorphic magic mushroom
      King Elwin:  the Elf King
      Elder Glorimer:  the Elf Kingís mage-like senior adviser
      Darla:  the Elf Kingís daughter
      King Twinklebee:  the Fairy King
      Buttercup:  a consort of the Fairy King
      Bluebell:  a consort of the Fairy King
      Fawn:  a consort of the Fairy King
      Trixie:  a runaway consort of the Fairy King
      Babik:  a dancing bear from Punjab, Trixieís new companion
      Pastor Braun:  an overburdened pastor, 50ís    
      Dieter:  a jewelry thief
      Sven:  a jewelry thief
      Lust:  a shadow in the woods
      Fear:  a shadow in the woods
      Despair:  a shadow in the woods
      Greed:  a shadow in the woods
      Malice:  a shadow in the woods
      Pride:  a shadow in the woods  

      Setting

      Nazi Germany, the Black Forest, and a parallel fantasy land.

      *

      Act I, Scene 1

      A Hitler Youth camp near the Black Forest.  Hans and Fritz, in Hitler
      Youth uniforms with swastika armbands, sneak to the forestís edge.
      Hans peers behind him then furtively removes a pack of cigarettes from
      his pocket.  He lights one, takes a puff, then hands it to Fritz, who
      also takes a puff then coughs uncontrollably.  Hans laughs.

      HANS:  Try not to die, Fritz.  Itís only a cigarette.

      Fritz hands the cigarette back to Hans.

      FRITZ:  You can have the rest.  I donít care much for tobacco.

      HANS:  Suite yourself.

      FRITZ: (peering into the forest) Gee, itís dark in the woods.

      HANS:  Perhaps thatís why they call it the Black Forest.

      Hans takes another puff of the cigarette. 

      FRITZ:  Why do you suppose they donít want us going in there?

      HANS:  Who knows?  Could be erlkings, bad fairies. 

      FRITZ: (mildly alarmed) Bad fairies?

      HANS:  That was a joke, dummy.

      FRITZ:  Well, my grandmother really believes in fairies.  Her
      grandfather used to hang a star on the barn to ward them away.

      HERR WOLF: (approaching from behind) Hans!  Fritz!

      HANS: (looks back, alarmed) Itís Herr Wolf!

      Hans throws his cigarette pack into the bushes then crushes the lit
      cigarette beneath his shoe.  He swats the air to dissipate the smoke
      then moves to another spot. 

      HERR WOLF:  What are you two doing down here?  You were told not to
      enter the woods.

      FRITZ:  We were just looking around to seeó

      HANS: (cutting off Fritz) We came down here to ďanswer the call of
      nature.Ē  The latrines are so crowded near suppertime.

      FRITZ: (laughing nervously) Yes, that was why.

      HERR WOLF:  Well hurry up then, if you havenít already.  But stay
      near the field, just inside the trees.  Then hasten back to camp.
      Some British boys on vacation disappeared near here a few years ago
      and were never heard from again.  (Herr Wolf thrusts out his hand.)
      Heil Hitler!

      HANS: (returning the salute) Sieg Heil!

      FRITZ: (returning the salute) Sieg Heil!

      Fritz watches Herr Wolf walk back to camp, while Hans retrieves his
      cigarette pack from the bushes and pockets it.

      FRITZ:  Heís gone!

      Diogenes, dressed in a white toga and green garland, and carrying a
      lamp, walks through the trees then disappears from sight.

      HANS:  I see someone in the woods!  A man in a white robe, carrying a
      lantern!

      FRITZ: (turning) Where?  I donít see a thing.

      HANS:  Iím sure I saw somebody.  Letís find out who!

      Hans starts to move forward but Fritz grabs him.

      FRITZ:  Are you crazy?  Didnít you hear Herr Wolf?  We canít
      wander into the forest.  Camp rules!

      Hans jerks himself free.

      HANS:  So what?  My grandfather used to say, ďWho you are depends on
      whether you break the rules like matchsticks or wild horses!Ē

      FRITZ:  Whatís that supposed to mean?

      HANS:  Iíve no idea, but it has a nice ring.  (laughs) Letís go!

      Hans heads into the woods.  Fritz, huffing and puffing and flailing
      his arms in protest, reluctantly follows.

      FRITZ:  I canít believe Iím letting you talk me into this.  You
      always get me into trouble.  Theyíll skin us alive!  Or worse!

      HANS:  Quit bellyaching, you dumb sissy!  We need to find this
      trespasser out.  Could be somebody weíll need report.

      FRITZ: (horrified) A bolshevist? 

      HANS:  Who knows?  Thatís what weíre going to find it.

      FRITZ:  Maybe you just imagined it.

      HANS:  I know what I saw:  a man in a white robe.

      FRITZ:  It was probably just some old farmer.

      HANS:  In a white robe?  Farmers donít wear white robes, Fritz.
      They work with the soil, with manure.  They get dirty.  Can you
      imagine slopping hogs in a white robe?  Just think for a change!

      FRITZ:  Maybe it was a ghost of the Great War.

      HANS:  I donít believe in ghosts.

      The light dims them resumes.  Deeper in the woods, the boys pass
      cautiously from tree to tree, looking about.  They stop at a clearing
      with two giant mushrooms, grinning playfully.

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 1:  Eat me!

      HANS:  Who said that?

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 2:  Eat me!

      FRITZ:  Mushrooms!

      The boys draw closer to inspect their find.

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 1:  Eat me!

      HANS: (to Magic Mushroom 1) Iím not taking a single bite of you!
      Youíre probably poisonous.

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 2:  Eat me!

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 1:  I know Iím a pretty big mushroom, and youíd
      probably have trouble even fitting me in your mouth.  But donít let
      that discourage you.

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 2:  Eat me!

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 1:  Eat me!

      HANS:  Not a chance.  Youíd probably kill me.  My dad warned me
      about poison mushrooms.

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 1:  Iím not poison.  Iím magic!  Eat me!

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 2:  Eat me!

      Fritz approaches Magic Mushroom 2 and eats a piece of him.

      HANS:  What are you doing, idiot?  We donít know these mushrooms!

      FRITZ:  Too late.  I already popped one into my mouth a few trees
      back, and it was pretty good too.  You should try one. 

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 1:  Eat me!

      MAGIC MUSHROOM 2:  Eat me!

      Fritz pieces off another bite of Magic Mushroom 2.  Hans approaches
      Magic Mushroom 1, picks off a piece of mushroom top, sniffs it,
      wrinkles his nose, then, warily, tastes it.

      HANS:  Youíre right, Fritz.  These are pretty good.

      Magic Mushrooms 1 and 2 giggle as Hans and Fritz stumble forward,
      intoxicated from the hallucinogenic shrooms.  Hansí eyes swim over
      the constellations.

      HANS: (stupefied) Oh, mein Gott!  Such stars in the heavens!  The hazy
      moon aglow!

      FRITZ: (amazed) Fairy dust sifting down through the trees!

      The mushrooms giggle as the boys fall to the ground in an aura of
      pixie dust.

      (Blackout)

      *

      Act I, Scene 2

      The Elf Kingís palace in the woods:  King Elwin sits on his throne
      beside a table, staring into a wine goblet he is stirring into a
      swirling motion with one hand.  He appears troubled, confused over the
      cupís boding. 

      Elder Glorimer, his senior adviser, enters the room. 

      ELDER GLORIMER:  Hail, King Elwin, sovereign of the elves!  Might I
      have a word with you?

      KING ELWIN:  Elder Glorimer?  What brings my senior adviser and most
      trusted confidant into my presence at this hour?

      ELDER GLORIMER:  Portentous dreams.  Peculiar visions.  I bring you
      news, Your Grace, unfortunately, of an unpleasant variety.

      King Elwin, attentive, leans forward and places his goblet on the
      table beside his throne.

      KING ELWIN:  Bad news?  I should have known.  The wine has turned
      murky and deep, troubling yet indecipherable.  Speak on, Wise One. 

      ELDER GLORIMER:  Strangers from the mortal world have trespassed our
      borders.  Two older boys in military uniforms.  Iím afraid they
      might step on the flowers.

      Upset, King Elwin rises and begins pacing the floor.

      KING ELWIN:  This isnít good.  This isnít good at all!  And I know
      whoís to blame.

      ELDER GLORIMER:  Your Majesty?

      KING ELWIN:  The Fairy King!  King Twinklebee!  His kingdom borders
      the mortal world, not mine.  Itís his responsibility to curtail
      invasions.

      ELDER GLORIMER:  I grieve to see you so upset, Your Grace.  How might
      I council you?

      KING ELWIN:  This news disappoints but doesnít surprise me.  Iíve
      grown to expect this from Twinklebee.  When a fairy man canít manage
      his own family, how can he manage the affairs of state?

      ELDER GLORIMER:  He hails from a long line of wayward sprites, nearly
      as incompetent as our throttlebottoms, posing as emissaries.   

      KING ELWIN:  Twinklebee has yet to properly wed any of those fag hags
      he calls wives.  And now, the eldest has forsaken him for a dancing
      bear from Punjab, escaped from a traveling circus!

      ELDER GLORIMER:  Aha!  The wine. 

      KING ELWIN:  I should have seen disaster looming.

      ELDER GLORIMER:  The boys have eaten magic mushrooms, and God only
      knows where that might lead them.

      KING ELWIN:  I am not responsible for the wellbeing of those boys.  If
      they venture into the swamps, if they provoke the Moth Queen . . .  I
      am not accountable for their fate.

      Darla, the Elf Kingís daughter, peers into the room. 

      ELDER GLORIMER:  The boys wear a strange insignia on their arm, a
      broken cross.  When I saw it in my dream, I felt a negative tingle.

      KING ELWIN:  I want those miscreants out of our woods.  If Twinklebee
      wishes to tolerate such misguided souls, he may do so.  As for me, I
      wonít see the adulteration of my people or the downfall of our
      civilization.

      ELDER GLORIMER:  What is your bidding?

      KING ELWIN:  Send out scouts.  Monitor their steps.  If those boys
      cross the line, arrest them and bring them to me at once.

      ELDER GLORIMER:  Certainly, Your Majesty. 

      Elder Glorimer bows then leaves.

      Darla approaches her father. 

      KING ELWIN: (surprised) Darla, why arenít you attending to your
      studies?  I hear youíre struggling with astrology.

      DARLA:  Father, why canít mortals ever enter our lands?  King
      Twinklebee allows his kindred on occasion, under certain
      circumstances, to consort with them.  Iíve seen them together in the
      fields, dancing around bonfires under the moonlight.

      KING ELWIN:  They turn men into ass-heads for their own merriment!  We
      elves have at least some scruples.

      DARLA:  Do you mean that, but for a few toys for children at
      Christmas, we largely ignore them?  We could do more to influence
      mortals. 

      KING ELWIN:  Sway them from their wicked ways?  Donít be naÔve,
      Darla.  If they wonít listen to God, why would they listen to an
      elf?

      DARLA:  And yet, King Twinklebeeó

      KING ELWIN: (cutting Darla off) Enough with King Twinklebee!  Youíd
      compare me to that disgraced liege?

      DARLA: (amused) Oh, mercy me!  Trixie, the naughty pixie, caught in
      quite a bear trap, a snare of forbidden love!

      Darla laughs, shaking her head. 

      KING ELWIN:  You shouldnít laugh, Darla.  Some mortals are so
      ignorant, they canít tell a fairy from an elf.  These scandals ruin
      both our reputations.

      DARLA:  Youíre so cynical, Father.  Some mortals do gain
      understanding and come to the light.

      KING ELWIN:  Very few, my peach.  Very few.

      DARLA: (with a huff) Why must you always patronize me?

      Darla stomps away.

      KING ELWIN:  Darla! 

      (Blackout)

      *

      Act I, Scene 3

      The Fairy Kingís palace:  King Twinklebee, sitting on his bed in
      stockings, rings a bell then sets it back on the nightstand.

      KING TWINKLEBEE: (impatiently) Wives!  Wives!  Where are my wives?

      Buttercup enters the room.

      KING TWINKLEBEE:  Buttercup.

      Bluebell enters the room.

      KING TWINKLEBEE:  Bluebell.

      Fawn enters the room.

      KING TWINKLEBEE:  Fawn.

      BUTTERCUP/BLUEBELL/FAWN:  Here we are, my Twinklebee.

      KING TWINKLEBEE: (standing) Weíre missing somebody.  Trixie hasnít
      returned?

      BUTTERCUP: (flirtatiously) No, My Love.  I fear Trixie may be gone for
      good, but Iím here.

      BLUEBELL:  Trixie may yet return.  What life can she find with that
      circus beast?

      FAWN:  I agree with Buttercup.  I donít expect weíll ever see
      Trixie again.  She always had a soft spot in her heart for animals.

      KING TWINKLEBEE:  Then that will be her undoing, though I blame him
      mostly, and I will be avenged for this humiliation.

      BUTTERCUP:  What are you going to do, My Love?

      BLUEBELL: (to King Twinklebee) Let the vagrancies of the woods have
      their way with them.  Surrender them to fate.

      KING TWINKLEBEE:  I never surrender!

      FAWN: (to King Twinklebee) Let Trixie go.  Forgive.

      KING TWINKLEBEE:  Never!

      BUTTERCUP:  I see blood in your eyes, My Love.  What are you going to
      do?

      KING TWINKLEBEE:  Track them down.  Iíll place a bear trap beneath
      every tree in the forest if I have to.  When I get my hands on that
      flea-bitten rag of fur from Punjab, Iíll . . .  Iíll . . . (He
      begins struggling for words.)

      BLUEBELL: (to King Twinklebee) Heíll make a lovely flokati rug.

      KING TWINKLEBEE: (to Bluebell) Heíll make an ugly one, but heíll
      make one nonetheless.  (looking around) Boots!  Boots!  Where are my
      boots?

      FAWN:  Perhaps you left them in the mudroom.

      KING TWINKLEBEE:  You all are taking this rather well.

      BUTTERCUP:  And will you summon your huntsmen to help you track them
      down?

      KING TWINKLEBEE:  Not at all.  This is a private matter and must be
      resolved privately, within the family.  None should know of Trixieís
      wanton flight but us.  Think how the elves would talk!  No, my dears,
      Iíll bring you with me instead.

      BLUEBELL:  Us?  Must you involve us in your violent retribution?

      FAWN:  Iíve got it!  Why not banish them to the mortal world?
      Thatís where that bear came from anyway.  If Trixie loves him that
      much, let her go there with him.

      BUTTERCUP:  Wonderful idea!  Why suffer their blood on our hands?  The
      mortal world is punishment enough.  There wars rage. 

      BLUEBELL:  People get sick, grow old, and die. 

      FAWN:  An aura of insanity pervades the mortal world, unlike here.

      KING TWINKLEBEE: (reflecting) You persuade me.  Still, we bring our
      bows and arrows, and plenty of pixie dust for the spell.

      BUTTERCUP:  Then it is decided.

      KING TWINKLEBEE: (spotting his boots under the bed) Aha, my boots! 

      He sits on the mattress to shoe himself then peers up. 

      KING TWINKLEBEE: Go!  Get ready for the hunt!  Why do you just stand
      there?  What are you waiting for?  A total eclipse of sun?  Go!

      Buttercup, Bluebell, and Fawn hurry off.

      (Blackout)


[end of extract]




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