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Serving The Revolution
by Douglas Wheeler
CAST OF CHARACTERS
General Espinha: [pronounced "Es-peen-ya"]: Older man, military bearing, hair thinning; sad expression; wears monocle;carries riding crop. Former war hero and Revolution's front man.
Major lago Cravo: Portainials Minister of Social Communications (Information). Mid-to-late 40's (looks younger); casual military bearing; stocky but graceful. Modified crew cut, silver gray hair; summer military uniform.
Sergeant Gomes: Major Cravo's Supply sergeant-assistant in Ministry; older than Cravo; overweight, non-military appearance; unkempt uniform.
Raymond King: Reporter who carries two passports: one British, and one from unidentified country. About Cravo's age--old enough to know what World War II was about but too young to have fought in it. Slim, medium height.
American Tourist: Dark glasses, sneakers; loud shirt; jeans.
British Tourist: Shirtless (shirt tied around waist); jeans, sandals; badly sunburned; blond complexion.
French Tourist: Blue shirt; blue trousers; sandals. Slight mustache.
Jose: Headwaiter, Portainian; Pension Mall de Mer.
Maria: Portainian wait-person; member of radical organization, LU-WARM.
Two other waiters
Portainian Government Tour Guide: Woman, dark hair; early 30s; designer tailored blue jeans; green military fatigue jacket; dark glasses; military boots; buttoms with radical slogans, icons.
Narrator, with deep voice, speaks while on the wall of the Inn restaurant images flicker, against a background of music, Portainian guitar music and the revolutionary ballad, 'Gradola, Vila Morena' sung by a guitarist (who is in shadow) in room. Images are slides, motion picture footage; they depict scenes from a revolution: graffiti, crowds chanting and cheering,demonstrating; soldiers march near a barracks; crowd gives flowers to soldiers to promote idea of peaceful end to a terrible, divisive war far away.
NARRATOR'S VOICE: Our first scene is set in a modest Inn in a country we shall call "Portainia." This Nation had a great but tragic past and faces a troubled present and an uncertain future. Sound familiar...?
Portainia is in the grip of a Revolution. This was an unexpected Revolultion (aren't they all?) which awoke the small southern European country with only-modest resources from its long sleep in the sun; with the Revolution, tourism, the main industry, is in difficulties. Tourist-dependent Portainia resembles a state in Northern New England which is facing a poor tourist season. People try to discover why both time and too many tourists have passed them by.
Now in a radical phase, the Revolution has shaken the people. One group of radicals has taken control from moderates who overthrew the ancien regime, a dictatorship. An opposing group of radicals now struggles to take power. Recent events have sharpened the conflict. During an international car rally (race) held in Portainia, the colorful President, the darling of one group of radicals, is killed in the opening lap of the Rally. Shortly afterwards, much of the country's dwindling supply of gold bullion is stolen by radical oppositionists who, disguised as Rally drivers and having loaded their specially designed cars with the stolen gold, do not return to the Rally stadium but continue driving across a nearby frontier and make their escape.
These sensational developments
attract international media attention. Among many arriving foreign correspoddents
is Raymond King, a star investigative journalist for an important British
paper. He checks into a small inn, Pension Mall de Mer, near the seaside
of the country's graffiti-covered capital city.
Scene I: Dining Room of the Inn, given the name "Pension Mall de Mer" by its proud Portainian owner who has recently returned from a 9 day tour of American shopping malls conducted by a French tour guide. The name was not deliberately a play on words of the French term for seasickness, Mal de mer, but is an innocent if misguided act of an entrepreneur who wishes to demonstrate his worldliness and also to appeal to many foreign visitors he hopes to attract to stay in his charming seaside Inn.
The dining room's decor is spare. There is some graffiti from the Revolution on the walls, including revolutionary posters and there are two large framed pictures. One is a family photograph of the owner or a family member at a young age, perhaps three or four, sucking his thumb. The other is a sign in English, a message from the management to guests:
"OUR MAIN AIM FOR OUR CUSTOMERS IS HOSPITAL."
The room is empty except for four small tables center stage and on one side a large table for the use of the waiters; on the table is silverware, crockery, and other dining equipment. Each table has on it an unlabeled set of two bottles, probably red and white wine, and a small cardboard box with toothpicks, labelled, "Little Sticks," a literal translation to English from the Portainian. Several windows have sea views; there are two doors: an entry way and the kitchen door. When Raymond enters the dining room, three of.the four tables are occupied by other guests: three tourists: American, British and French. Downstage right, standing around the large service table are three waiters and a waitress; they are whispering loudly and gesturing vigorously. The waiters do not have on wait-person uniforms, but like the waitress wear t-shirts and jeans. The t-shirts read: "Question Authority"; "Sex is My Bag;" "Ball State College", and "Charge!"; the waitress' t-shirt reads: "LU-WARM". The waiters each have one arm in a cast and each cast is set in the form of a known political gesture: one is a Fascist salute; one is a Socialist (Communist) salute (right fist upheld), and one is a military salute. All wait-persons are wearing roller-skates.
Pension Mall de Mer, appropriately,
is facing the sea and construction seems to be proceeding in one remote wing.
The proud owner is planning to build an American-style Shopping Mall adjacent
to the Inn. The sounds of the sea blend with sounds of jack hammering,
sawing, and more remotely, the sounds of buses with diesel engines.
Time: 1975, late morning, summer.
RAYMOND KING [enters Inn Dining Room and is greeted by waiter Jose who seats him at a single table next to others]: Good Morning!
JOSE: Goo Morn, Senhor, what you like?
RAYMOND: Just coffee and do you have some Danish?
JOSE: No banish this week?
RAYMOND: Why not this week- you had some last week?
JOSE: No Danish tourists this week, only American, British and French.
RAYMOND: You misunderstood me! I meant Danish pastry not people- you know, rolls, pastry?
JOSE: Danish Pasty? Pasty? Pasty face you mean, Senhor? Yes, it is truth- before they come down south here to our hot Portainian sun, these fair Danish, they have pasty faces.
RAYMOND: No, pastry (raising voice)! Nevermind, Sir, just bring me cafe!
JOSE: Sim, Senhor! Right away!
(exits stage left through kitchen entryway; Maria the waitress approaches Raymond's table, on roller skates, too, with her t-shirt reading, "LU-WARM")
RAYMOND: What do the letters LU-WARM stand for, Miss?
MARIA: LU-WARM not only stands, but it sits and runs and struggles for our rights, our...
RAYMOND: Miss- let me put it another way- what do the letters [points toward her t-shirt] LU-WARM mean?
MARIA [her face becomes very animated]: They stand up for: "LEAGUE OF UN-WED, ARMED, REVOLUTIONARY MOTHERS."
RAYMOND: That just about covers everything.
MARIA: Pardon, Senhor? What you say?
RAYMOND: I meant to say that now that I know what the suggestive acronym stands for I won't have to inquire about your beliefs.
MARIA [irritated]: You make jokes with us, Senhor?
RAYMOND: No, on the contrary, I am not making a joke at your expense. From your organization's name I see too that you aren't joking either.
MARIA: Good, Senhor. You must know that this Revolution is no joking matter.
RAYMOND: In my brief time in your country I have been impressed with the Revolution's seriousness. You have only to read Portainian news recently: five governments in as many months; an unpopular Agricultural Minister nearly drowned by farmers in a wine vat; a besieged cabinet, surrounded by striking workers, goes on strike itself, the first in European history. It has been an eventful Revolution.
MARIA: Yes, and we are serving the Revolution.
RAYMOND: [Pointing to the graffiti and the posters on the wall]: If I may I can offer a handy rule of thumb for Revolutions which begin to take themselves seriously.
MARIA: What rule, Senhor?
RAYMOND: When a Revolution gets serious, the handwriting is on the wall.
MARIA: Very funny, Senhor, but...
JOSE: Enough talking with our guests, Maria, to your place!
[Maria skates over to other waiters by big table.]
RAYMOND: Out of curiosity, why are you all wearing roller skates?
JOSE: Orders of the military Junta. It all began after the great Rally, the one in which our late, much lamented Presidente was foully murdered!
RAYMOND: Why roller skates? Portainia must have have plenty of cars.
JOSE: We had plenty of cars, Senhor, but the Government wisely has banned their use! This is war! The racing dogs of Imperialism were shaken when Portainia banned the use of private automobiles! Decree-Law 1,324,569 ordered that all public eating places provide roller-skates for their employees. The skates must be manufactured in Portainia and the lubricating oil essential for skate maintenance must be produced in this country also. And the rest is History!
RAYMOND: Why not skate boards, or horse and buggy, or bycycles?
JOSE: Roller-skating is a skill familiar to all Portainians from an early age. Next to soccer, court field hockey on rollerskates is our national sport of choice. We field world-class teams in the sport. Last year in the roller-skate world series we tied for honorable third place with our Third World brothers from Siri Punka!
RAYMOND: How will the Portainians who never played court field hockey and who cannot roller-skate get around?
JOSE. At national roller-skating schools the nation is learning to roller-skate con brio, I can assure you! All such schools have licensed teachers and training films. All persons over the age of 10, who cannot pass the national standard rollerskating exam, must enroll in the schools. Soon it will be commonplace to see our streets and sidewalks humming with droves of roller-skaters dodging our brave, nationalized taxis. Only the taxis may use cars, and of course selected members of the Junta of National Salvation.
BRITISH TOURIST: [Has been listening intently]: This is organized mayhem! Can you imagine the skid-lock at roundabouts! [or "rotaries"]
AMERICAN TOURIST: What happens to the old, infirm, and handicapped? Will they have to take the bus? Taxis might be expensive!
JOSE: No, Senhor, they merely need apply for state subsidies to hire licensed roller-skating companions. They are trained to transport such persons in specially-designed, modified baby carriages with safety straps and seat-belts.
BRITISH TOURIST: Modified baby-carriages is right! I must be hallucinating- maybe it was that port-wine binge last night.
[ After the British Tourist's lines, one window in the Inn Dining Room wall suddenly blows open and in blows political flyers and sample ballots, scattering like pulp seagulls, which fall to the floor. One waiter skates to the window and closes it. He then gathers up the papers from the floor and makes rude gestures to indicate his irritation.]
RAYMOND: More paper from the Revolution. What do these say?
AMERICAN TOURIST: This morning I saw piles of political paper on the street- I couldn't read them -they were in Portainian.
JOSE: It's drivel, Senhor! Terrorist trash.
AMERICAN TOURIST: I could care less if it's a translation of the Declaration of Independence- where is my coffee?
[Jose skates past service table through kitchen door.]
BRITISH TOURIST: [Engaging Raymond in conversation]: About the Government banning the use of private cars. Don't believe for a moment that this action is a noble act of innovative self-sufficiency and ecological protection. The banning is a simple act of official counter-terrorism. The regime is trying to catch the Rally drivers who snatched the country's gold bullion and who managed to waste the mad Presidente against an olive tree.
RAYMOND: Applying the roller-skating decree to inside restaurants seems excessive.
BRITISH TOURIST: The true reason behind that action has nothing to do with the Government's explanation concerning saving time and energy- it has everything to do with covering up the evidence of a drastic reduction in tourism! These Ports are past masters at saving face.
RAYMOND: It's not about saving fuel?
BRITISH TOURIST: No, it's about defending the regime's reputation and about 'For the Cubans to see.' It's for show to the political allies who count; I read in a guidebook that in 18th century Portainia they began a saying, 'For the Englishman to see', meaning 'merely for show', to keep up appearances. This is a new Third World solidarity version of 'For the Englishman to see,' but now it's to impress the Cubans who are supporting the Portainian Revolution. England was Big Brother in Wellington's day, now it's Cuba!
RAYMOND: But what do roller-skates in restaurants have to do with keeping up appearances concerning tourism?
BRITISH TOURIST: It's quite logical, in a mad sort of way.
RAYMOND: A good description of all governments' policies!
BRITISH TOURIST: The Portainian Government simply decreed that it could not afford to have outsiders -particularly those who could influence the economic fate of the Revolution- to notice that tourism was dying.
The Government ordered all public establishments to assist them in their coverup campaign. Visitors were not to be able to discern just how empty restaurants were. To accomplish this, the regime ordered the reduction in the number of tables in public eating places. Establishments cooperated, but there was one problem.
AMERICAN TOURIST: Not enough olive oil to lubricate the waiters' roller skates?
BRITISH TOURIST: [irritated expression]: Must you make a joke of everything? There were too many large empty spaces between the few tables remaining- an odd internal transportation and communication crisis! This called for an original Portainian solution. You may have heard that in World World II Portainials capital, Lisport, was a nest of spies as a neutral country. They practiced creative neutrality with business as usual: they sold secrets to all sides simultaneously for the same price!
RAYMOND: So the Government simply extended the roller-skating solution indoors? This would facilitate waiters' efforts to negotiate those awesome spaces between empty tables. Ingenious or- insane!
FRENCH TOURIST. Mon Dieu! Ou est le cafe? LE CAFE?
AMERICAN TOURIST: I can smell the oil on the skates- quite strong. What is it?
RAYMOND: It's olive oil, a national staple.
JOSE [has re-entered
Dining Room from Kitchen]: You are correct, Senhor: olive oil.
We are proud of this national act of self-sufficiency. We have no
BRITISH TOURIST: Oh, my suffering budgets!
JOSE: As for the roller-skates in or out of restaurants it is a filthy imperialist lie that this is 'For the Cubans to see.' The fact is that Portainia is proud to be the first member of the United Nations to ban the use of the private car in peacetime! After the disastrous Rally, our Government banned the use of the private automobile, unless in special emergencies of war-time, under penalty of fines and jail. Some public transportation was retained- buses, taxis, trains and the modified baby carriages.
RAYMOND: You have a real transportation crisis, don't you?
JOSE: The Revolution
sees it as a healthy challenge! All persons who are able must learn
to roller-skate. Although it takes more time to get places on them,
RAYMOND: You have been reading different History books than mine.
MANUEL [leaves service table and skates to center of stage. He is carrying an electric bullhorn. He speaks into it as if he is at a political demonstration.]: Workers of the Hotel and Restaurant Syndicate and honored guests! We must rally and organize more each time, be ever vigilant against the forces of reaction and fascism! We shall now hold a plenary meeting.
AMERICAN TOURIST: Hey, what is this? All I want is my morning coffee, not a pep rally.
MANUEL: Calm down, or you might be denounced as a Social Fascist! We are calling this emergency plenary meeting because our cook informs the Committee of Workers Self-Management that there is no coffee left.
RAYMOND: Sic transit Gloria Mundi!
MANUEL: Without coffee, comrades, the Committee decided that no meal can be properly served nor can the Revolution be served.
AIIERICAN TOURIST: Wait, don't the guests get to say something? I demand my constitutional rights as a young professional!
RAYMOND: Young man, this is Portainia, not Cape Cod, though I must admit that globalization is narrowing the gap between them. Let's listen to what the waiter has to say.
MANUEL: A rational, objective decision must be made by a free vote. Although you are-aliens or foreign nationals and you do not have the right to vote here, the Workers' Self-Management Committee has decided that to serve the Revolution best you shall have a vote if you form a Provisional Guests' Committee now.11
FRENCH TOURIST: Mon Dieu! Le cafe? Le Meeting""
MANUEL: Yes, honored guests, you are participating in a meeting and though you are all members of the exploiting bourgeoisie who have enslaved our country and made its economy peripheral and dependent by means of your multinational monopolies and a filthy robber baron capitalism, we will be generous in the spirit of international fraternity and solidarity. Even aliens' voting serves our democratic Revolution. You will have the vote!
[Over a public address system revolutionary music is played by recordings: the 'Royal Marines March' and 'Grandola, Vila Morena.' High on the wall facing the audience is a rectangular 'Sur-Titles' screen which as in a contemporary opera performance provides both the Portainian and English translation of the song's lyrics (Grandola....). As the 'Royal Marines March' is being played, the Portainian waiters remain still and salute.]
RAYMOND: Why the solemn music?
MANUEL: Orders of the Government. Both songs were our late Presidente's favorite revolutionary music. They are played in all public places in the manner of national anthems several times a day. For a few minutes all activity must stop and the people must pause and show respect. Portainia shall show you what true liberty is. Form your Provisional Guests' Committee now and you can vote about the lack of coffee. [skates to Service table]
[the Tourists huddle over one table quietly, confer among themsleves. Manuel skates back to center stage and speaks into the bull-horn.]
The Workers' Syndicate has voted. Including the cook, the vote is 2 against continuing service without coffee; 2 for; 2 abstain. What is your vote, Provisional Guests' Committee?
RAYMOND: Somewhat reluctantly, our Committee polled itself; our vote is 3 to continue service without coffee; and 1 vote, "Ou est le cafe?' from you know who.
BRITISH TOURIST: How typically French! Never cooperating, always having a selfish agenda, a force de frappe!
FRENCH TOURIST [Indignant tone, understanding English]: I beg your pardon!
BRITISH TOURIST: Oops!
MANUEL: This completes voting in the plenary meeting. Five votes to continue meal service without coffee wins. The cook may resign over this, but freedom is freedom and the rest is...
MANUEL: Serve the meal, comrades, and let there be peace. The vote is the weapon of the people!
MARIA: And a weapon of the decadent capitalist tourist middle class! We should have boycotted the voting. [disgusted, skates to kitchen]
RAYMOND [Taking the bull-horn Manuel placed on the Service table]: Comrades of the Provisional Guests' Committee about to be disbanded! Drink your tea and be merry, for tomorrow we... may not even have tea!
[Stage direction: Waiters bring large teapots, with lemons on side saucers, to each tourist's table; Raymond's last words are quickly followed by sounds of the sea, a distant bus and the clatter of roller-skates without.]
[Stage Directions: Portainia's Ministry of Social Communications, or Information, in Lisport, the capital. Formerly an 18th century royal palace, the building is a historic monument. Major Cravo's spacious office is a museum of a room.]
[Once a reception room and ballroom of a Palace, the room's walls are covered with traditional Portainian blue and white tiles with 18th century hunting scenes. Decrepit, unrestored oil paintings of historic persons are hung over the tiles. The furniture is heavy, dark Victorian-style; a few chairs of dark wood have high backs topped with brass finials. There is a large desk.]
[On the back wall is a motion picture screen. Next to the desk is a large machine-contraption which, combines a computer, motion picture projection/audio board or control panel, and connected with wires, a tread mill. As the scene opens, Major Cravo, Minister of Social Communications, is operating this machine and Sergeant Gomes is wearily walking on the adjacent tread mill. Images from motion picture footage of a car race appear on the wall screen, accompanied by faint motor sounds. Cravo fiddles with the control board wearing ear phones. Cravo's chair is much higher than Gomes' tread mill, giving the appearance of his being in authority over his subordinate.]
[There is a knock at the office door. General Espinha, an older, senior officer in uniform, wearing a monocle and riding crop under one arm enters the room.]
CRAVO: Good day, my General!
ESPINHA: Good day, and how is The Revolution going today?
CRAVO: Walking,not running. [Pause] There were favorable notices in the Albanian press.
ESPINHA [taking his monocle out of his eye and looking pensive]: Albanian opinion is good for international solidarity but you can't eat press notices. What do Portainians think?
CRAVO: Patience, my General! You cannot have a Revolution one day, and the next day expect things to be... well, nomal.
ESPINHA: After a Revolution, 'normalcy' has a variable definition. And 'patience' was the word we used commonly to offer comfort to beggars in our streets. Today we ask Generals for 'Patience.' Soon we Generals will join the beggars in the streets!
CRAVO: No, my General- whatever may happen with your daily role, there will always be a place for you in The Revolution. Without you, there would have been no Revolution at first.
ESPINHA: That's what keeps me awake at night- can't sleep- I started tnings and look how they turned out... I'll be in the streets soon with the beggars; each demotion my desk gets smaller and harder to locate in the Ministry.
So I've decided to retire at a rest home for former Generals across the frontier in Ethspania. I've been on their waiting list for years and now have a place; 'rest assured' they said in the telegram.
CRAVO: You are leaving Portainia, my General?
ESPINHA: The Revolution isnt what it used to be. I'll be back tomorrow to pack up my things before I leave. Have a nice Revolutionary day.
[slowly walks out of the room]
CRAVO: My General, the same to you.
[mounts the audio/visual editing screen again and turns the control knobs, presses buttons, looks at his wrist watch.]
It's about time for the General's noontime emergency test broadcast- his final legacy to The Revolution.
[Sound over a loudspeaker: "This is only a test. The Emergency Broadcast System of Portainia: You Make Our Revolution, one day at a time." General Espinha's voice making siren sounds to a crescendo then slow fade....]
Well the General deserves credit for taking personal initiative during our energy crisis, on the occasion of the first electrical siren failure during an emergency: when the siren system went down, he substituted his voice to imitate the siren. If he had not done that, the People might have lost heart. Now everyone would miss hearing his siren imitation.
GOMES: My Major, what happens when he retires to Ethspania?
CRAVO: For posterity and to carry on in his absence, we have recorded his voice.
GOMES: A very sound Policy....[winks at Cravo and begins to laugh - grabs his guitar and begins to strum it vigorously]
CRAVO: Gomes! One more pun like that and I'll withhold your wine ration!
[returns to work on the machine, working the controls; sounds of auto race; footage of race scenes on screen. Suddenly, the sound stops and the screen goes blank.]
GOMES: [wearily from his treadmill] What's happened?
CRAVO: A power outage. Not again!
[Knock on the door from without; Raymond King, wearing a safari jacket and slacks; notepad and pen in hand.]
RAYMOND: I am sorry I am late, Major. Got tied up in your... for want of a better word, traffic.
CRAVO: [getting down from the machine, switching off dials]: Yes, I understand. Since the Rally, you do have to watch your step in our streets. You never can tell what you will run into.
RAYMOND: Or what will run into you. Visitors are often warned about dangerous drivers in many countries, but roller-skaters...?
CRAVO: Mr King, my Revolutionary Government would like to apologize for the impromptu voting incident in your pension. We have tried to curb the People's mania for voting on everything. Frequently. You can't blame them, really- during 50 years of a mind-numbing dictatorship we had no free elections. I trust that -.-his unexpected bit of democracy did not ruin your morning?
RAYMOND: Quite the contrary, it made my morning! Years from now, I shall be recounting the story to my grandchildren.
CRAVO: That sudden referendum wasn't too rich for your blood? You are staying at this simple seaside Inn- I have information that you usually stay when you travel at Hiltons or Sheratons.
RAYMOND: Your information is incorrect, Major. I avoid such places- airless, gilded waiting rooms, marbleized cinderblock construction, wall-to-wall loneliness... they all look the same. I prefer more mainstream, simple places- where you can gain perspective on a country.
CRAVO: A marvelous word, Mr.King, 'perspective.' What we in this Ministry want all our important guests, especially reporters, to have. You musn't get the wrong impression of Portainia.
RAYMOND: All Ministers of Information no matter what the country say that: I know that you are an expert at influencing my impression, Major.
CRAVO: Touche. But we want you to feel at home here, to feel like an honored guest.
RAYMOND: I will feel at home, if I am given real freedom to investigate and to report what I see.
CRAVO: Even your country, Britain, Mr. King, lacks total freedom of the press. I have been reading sources which are critical of your remarkable Official Secrets Act. When your Government issues an official "D" or Defense Notice to a newspaper, the material indicated cannot be published, without a severe penalty.
RAYMOND [defensive tone]: Many countries, all, in fact, have their own versions of official secrets acts, Britain...
CRAVO [interrupting]: May I finish your sentence, if you will forgive me, "Britain has the Mother of Free Parliaments, and is the Father of Official Secrets Acts. All of your former colonies seem to have adopted draconian versions of it. Portainia, too; we are a former colony of Britain, you know.
RAYMOND: Now it's my turn to say "touche", Major.
[knock at the door; sounds of voices offstage]
CRAVO [Pressing a button on his intercom at desk]: Mr. King pardon the intrusion and please do not get the wrong impression. What is about to happen in my office is merely one small part of our new efforts in Portainia to make welcomed tourists feel at home anywhere in our historic capital. A Tour Guide will be walking...
[Dressed in a a dark blue, two piece suit with brass buttons on jacket, but with worn jeans as pants, a female Tour Guide enters with three visitors, each carrying airline souvenir shoulder bags each labelled, "Bland Holidays" while one is labelled, "Bonzai Tours." One of the visitors is pushing an airport luggage cart labelled, "Logan Airport," with one exhausted visitor riding on it.]
TOUR GUIDE: Ladies and Gentlemen, comrades! This room built in the Royal Palace in 1716, served as the King's Balls Room!
[BRITISH] TOURIST: Blimey! I wonder where old Kingie kept 'em. [Looks around room]
RAYMOND: "Lo, how the mighty have fallen!"
CRAVO: Don't get the wrong impression- our Tour Guide's linguistically challenged command of English is unfortunate, but...
[Guide and tourists leave room by main door]
RAYMOND: It's not her command of English which concerns me, it's her grasp of anatomy! How do you get any work done in your offices, do guided tours usually pass through Ministers' offices?
GOMES: Three, sometimes four times a day, on average. Always we get one visitor after the Guide's introductory speech about the room's history who demands to see where in the room the King held his balls.
CRAVO: Gomes! Your wine ration!
[Gomes reacts with another limp salute, slowly]
GOMES: Yes, Sir! Sorry, Sir! But can't I tell our distinguished visitor from Britain about the tourists who try to roller-skate without lessons. Sometimes when they fall the halls ring with ...
CRAVO: Gomes! Enough! Unhook yourself from the treadmill- it is your lunchtime- be back by 5!
GOMES: But, my Major, you forgot- I must attend the Sergeants' Revolutionary Syndicate Plenary- I am Sergeant-at-arms this week.
CRAVO: Alright, but be back no later than 7. Lots of work tonight. How was the Brahms concert last night?
GOMES: Short and not so sweet, Sir.
CRAVO: What do you mean?
GOMES: When the orchestra's clarinets didn't show up, the Conductor stopped the concert and called for an audience and orchestra vote. They voted to go home. Brahms, they said, was no good without clarinets. Like a meal, without wine. Well, what they played at first sounded fine to me. I was having a damn good sleep!
CRAVO: Gomes, go home now! This is an order. If you make your wife wait for lunch any longer, she'll denounce you to the police again as a Social Fascist.
GOMES: My Major, I know who the Fascist in my house is. What is a Social Fascist? My nosy old woman neighbor upstairs in my apartment house is always watching me out her window. My wife says that this lady is very 'social.' Is she a Social Fascist?
CRAVO: Gomes, for the last time- leave! [pushes Gomes out the door]
RAYMOND: What is this machine? Who is the master, you or it?
CRAVO: A gift of the Japanese- the latest model motion picture editing machine with an electronic scanner for altering sound and image. It is our Ministry's answer to the biased media blitz in favor of the Rally terrorists. The treadmill is to provide extra power when the Ministry's generator goes down. Gomes assembled it and finds the exercise beneficial. He's lost two pounds in four months.
RAYMOND: Better than a crash diet- jogging on a treadmill for Revolution and health. My sources tell me that you have another use for this contraption- to detect tell-tale sounds from the film's soundtrack and match them with the sounds of identified vehicles. This way you can try to identify all the vehicles involved in the murderous Rally-bullion bust. Is it true that your Government has arrested many suspects and has requested the extradition of others from Ethspania?
[with notepad, taking notes]
CRAVO: We have arrested many terrorists and a few suspects. The ring leaders remain at large. The crisis has been worsened by the British press campaign against Portainia. You claim that Britain has total press freedom, but you take advantage. There is a difference between freeedom and license, licenses to libel, slander and smear. What is worse, your largely tabloid press- it's a poor counsellor for democracy. Headline thinking. [Taking a newspaper from his desktop] Look at this- a typical example of investigative trashing: the headline from the DAILY TELEGRAM: "ROGUE RALLY ROCKS RURITANIA"
RAYMOND: Our Editors write those headlines. I merely write the story based on what I observe.
CRAVO: There is more- look at your sub-headline: "RACING PRESIDENT LOSES RACE AND LIFE. BULLION SMASH AND GRAB." Your paper sets a biased tone.
RAYMOND: Readers these days want to read something that catches the eye.
CRAVO: Tickles their silly British fancy you mean? Put yourself in our position in a regime in crisis and aware that the people will be exploited by the monopoly international media. In good conscience, we cannot allow such pro-terrorist trash to appear in our papers or even on newsstands for purchase.
[sound of crowd chanting outside: "The People United, Never Defeated."]
RAYMOND: The People? How can the regime presume to know what "tne People" want?
CRAVO: The People know how to serve The Revolution. Foreigners sabotage the Revolution!
RAYMOND: Your Government, not The People, banned the use of private cars, arrested scores of innocent persons and now you want to muzzle your press and the foreign press. Before The Revolution, Portainia was mentioned rarely in the foreign press- most readers forgot where Portainia was! You should be pleased with all this media attention.
CRAVO: Of course, this- how would the Americans put it- 'two-bit backwater of a country' should be grateful for the media coverage, even if we are betrayed in the process.
RAYMOND: "Betrayed?" Your choice of words resembles...
CRAVO [Interrupting]: Resembles your tabloid's language-"betrayed" is the right word when the press undermines its sacred trust with The People. As for being grateful for media coverage, with so little in the past- your media's attitude is a little like that of the pompous stud's view of poor, isolated, old Portainia. The stud will take advantage of older women, who will submit willingly because they don't know if this time might be their last opportunity. Mr. King, [beginning to shout] this is how you are with Portainia, a fourth-rate power. "We should be so appreciative for the royal screwing we from Britain, because, you never can tell- this might be our last time in the spotlight!"
RAYMOND: Major, you exaggerate...
CRAVO: No, Mr. King, you exaggerate- that's what your over-fed, overprivileged readers want- that's how you sell newspapers, that's how you reporters get those big expense accounts.
RAYMOND: Expense accounts? The Telegram provides only modest salaries and mean expense accounts. I am better paid than many colleagues but that's because I've been at it for 20 years.
CRAVO: That's your sterling reputation, eh? Pound for pound, you smear with the best!
RAYMOND: Flattery, Major, will get you nowhere. Our conversation has deteriorated. I can assure you that I have not learned any national secrets to speak of...
CRAVO: You'll discover no secrets here. We have nothing to hide. [takes large cigar from humidor on desk and takes another to offer to King] Would you care for a Cuban cigar?
RAYMOND: No thank you. Never got hooked. Cigars are even larger coffin nails than cigarettes. Are these special delivery from Havana? Is this yet another case of 'for the Cubans to see?'
CRAVO: Portainia is grateful to Cuba for Third World solidarity and for nelping The Revolution, but we owe them nothing. There are no secrets here. Secrets are for spies to ferret out, for moles to burrow toward- are you a spy, Mr. King, like so many of your fellow journalists? Are you merely internationally accredited spies?
RAYMOND: Again, you flatter me, Major. You overestimate my abilities. To continue our strange interview- let me ask you, Who was with your Presidente in the Rally when he had his fatal accident? Who was the ring leader of the Rally drivers who fled with Portainia's bullion?
CRAVO [appears more nervous, smokes faster]: I cannot answer your questions now. It is getting late. Before you go, are you sure that you wouldn't like at least a "king-size" American cigarette? It would suit you.
RAYMOND: No thanks,again. [Cravo blows cloud of smoke toward him] Do you provide gas masks to nonsmoking visitors?"
CRAVO: Like most Europeans, we Portainians are great smokers. Maybe it's that we know that life is short.
RAYMOND: Smoking will make it shorter. You should...
CRAVO: Stop, Mr. King? I cannot. Smoking allows me a little respite from The Revolution and time to think about our great but tragic history. Thinking about our past is perhaps a greater vice than smoking, for it affects our soul. But we cannot tax this vice, unlike smoking. We have the Vice of history. Even those who hated him often still think of our late dictator, Dr. Sanches, our "Captain of the Past," legend on his own time.
RAYMOND: I've read about him . Nearly 50 years in office. It's good to know that he was a legend on his own time and not on mine.
CRAVO: Our History is like The Revolution- no joking matter. We'll continue our conversation tomorrow. As Director of Portainia's National Emission, I will be broadcasting to The People in 15 minutes.
RAYMOND: Just one more question. How long has your Government known that your brother is the ring-leader of the Rally terrorists?
CRAVO: How did you... ? It's a lie! [Pause] Who else knows this?
RAYMOND: I am the only reporter who knows. I overheard a conversation in the room next to mine in Pension Mall de Mer. How I will handle this information I can't say now, but I must report by phone to my Editor soon.
CRAVO: Mr. King, whatever you have discovered, don't get the wrong impression. You need perspective. If you must know, I have no brother- I lost him in the colonial wars in Africa. What you heard is an unfortunate rumor- they must be stopped! They are a threat to the unity of this nation and to The Revolution.
RAYMOND: Who was it who said, 'One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter'? Isn't what you call terrorism simply a normal reaction to your Revolution's new tyranny? I am convinced that every revolution gets the terrorism it deserves.
CRAVO: Rubbish! Does Britain deserve IRA terrorism?
RAYMOND: Britain has no Revolution! Is yours a rhetorical question or do you really want me to answer that?
CRAVO: I should order your arrest, Mr. King. Instead, I will ask you a personal favor not to reveal what you learned at your Inn. Our interview is over.
[Major Cravo's office, two days later. Late morning.]
[Cravo is seated high on his machine. The motion picture projector is running with a film of the Rally. Sounds of car race, engines, screeching tires, crowds. Sergeant Gomes, with a large cigar in his mouth, is seated nearby, not on the treadmill, playing a guitar. He is singing a sad melody.]
"Little ship from shoreside wharf,
Little ship, ou know so well.
CRAVO: Gomes, you know that singing those maudlin songs of our reactionary past is forbidden since the Revolution. You're pleasing the ghost of Dr. Sanches. Besides these ballads- they are like the Church- the drug of the People.
GOMES [puts his guitar on the desk and gives a limp salute]: Your smoking is your respite from The Revolution, Sir, but singing is my respite from all this infernal confusion. If I can't sing, even for old time's sake, what hope do I have?
CRAVO: No more singing Gomes- at least not in the Ministry. People will talk. Send me a memo if you want me to reconsider this.
GOMES [Saluting again]: You'll recall that I forgot how to read and write. I can run the machine but only the way you taught me. Slowly. Can I make a verbal request?
CRAVO: Gomes, the
generator is losing power today- back to the treadmill! That's an order.
[Gomes leaves the room. Sound from an intercom
RAYMOND: Major, I am pleased that you could spare me a few minutes before I catch my plane for London.
CRAVO: I knew that you would be returning soon- you have a fresher, juicier story in your own backyard now. How long have the Irish Freedom Fighters been holding your Queen's plane?
RAYMOND: Irish terrorists, Major, terrorists. It's been ten hours now.
CRAVO: It seems that our Revolution is not alone in combatting terrorism. About the information you acquired regarding my alleged brother- when will it appear on the frontpage of The Daily Telegram?
RAYMOND: You won't be seeing it in my newspaper.
CRAVO: What have you done?
RAYMOND: I decided not to use it.
CRAVO: Mr. King, I am deeply touched by the perspective you have brought to this story. Personally, I must...
RAYMOND: There is nothing personal about it. My Editor has enough to worry about with terrorists holding the Queen in her plane at Heathrow. Portainia's impossible Revolution is not news anymore- it's been superseded. It's History. Still, I shall miss this lovely little country, The Revolution, the roller-skating, the lack of car traffic. You might have something there.
CRAVO: We don't plan to export our Revolution. America's auto industry is worried that we will export the policy of banning private car use. Yesterday an officer of the Fard Motor Company from a city called Detroit, visited me. He was angry but, above all, he was frightened.
RAYMOND: Why should he be upset? Fard has enough to buy your Revolution many times over!
CRAVO: He came prepared to bribe me. He offered me many millions of dollars and he said that we could call it a taxfree contribution to Portainia's social security system. When I refused to consider his proposition and when he persisted in talking about his so-called job of international public relations, I asked him to leave my office. Before he left, he recited a parody of Shakespeare's famous 'All the world's a stage' line in defense of ownership of private cars:
"All the world's a Rally,
The Fard Motor Company Vice President was especially agitated about our Revolution's new law which requires the remaining private cars on the streets- for the handicapped- to carry warning decals.
RAYMOND: Warning decals about what?
CRAVO: It is an idea whose time has come and Portainia can claim a first here- we should be in the Guiness Book of World Records regarding the perils of cars. The warning decal on cars must read:
"The Ministry of Transport and Health has determined that driving this car may be hazardous to your health."
RAYMOND: Your Revolution may endanger the very foundations of the civilization of the automobile as we know it. Detroit should be trembling! If your contribution to Western civilization catches on, Detroit will soon be competing in an empty rust bowl.
CRAVO: Put your investment in roller-skates and olive oil, Mr. King. Take it from us.
RAYMOND: I may
be ready for your Revolution, Major, but I dont think Portainia or the rest
of the world are ready.
CRAVO: It's their loss. Portainia is glad that it banned the private auto industry. It's a creative way of solving our eternal parking problem and the fact that after The Revolution our police did not give out parking tickets.
[Announcement over loudspeaker from intercom on Major's desk: "The Revolutionary Junta of National Salvation regrets to announce that today Major lago Cravo, Minister of Social Communications, Director of National Emission, has submitted his resignation, effective immediately,if not sooner. For personal reasons. In an unrelated development, the Rally terrorist Jose"Cravo made a full confession of his nefarious role in the Rally. His closed trial will open tomorrow."]
[Cravo shuts off intercom]
RAYMOND: Major, I hope you don't think that I told anyone about what I overheard at the Pension.
CRAVO: No, the Junta learned about my brother, his role and his whereabouts from other sources. I am grateful to you for not printing the story in Britain. In Portainia, as you may have discovered, it is impossible to keep secrets.
RAYMOND: I'll be leaving now. Major, you look tired. Take a long holiday abroad. There is still space on my flight. They say Scotland in September is...
CRAVO: Cold. I prefer a warmer place, perhaps Detroit. I have a standing offer of a free trip there.
RAYMOND: With your track record, Major, Detroit might prove too warm for you.
CRAVO: Will we see you again in our country?
RAYMOND: Of course. And I promise not to ask for free rollerskating lessons. [Cravo laughs] I need to get a lot more perspective on what happened here, Major. I love your sun, the sea, the clarity of the light. Here I can gain perspective on the grey, grey world of London.
CRAVO: Per-spective. It isn't an easy word for Portainians to pronounce, much less understand.
RAYMOND: 'I'hen there is the word "REVOLUTION''- not an easy word to understand. Neither for a foreigner nor a native in any country.
CRAVO: And Portainia, my friend, is not just any country.
[Cravo's words trail off, the scanner machine flips on and Rally footage with sounds begin. Cravo moves to turn off the machine, when the Loud Speaker (over intercom) begins to play the Royal Marines anthem. Cravo stops and comes to attention slowly but deliberately, a smile of resignation on his face. King, who had been seated, rises slowly and stands beside Cravo. King gives a stiff salute and smiles.]
[Gomes shuffles into the room. With his guitar, he sits in another chair by the desk, center stage. He begins to sing.]
[machine audio down]
"Little ship from shoreside wharf,
[Lights down. Curtain.]
Douglas Wheeler retired from teaching at the University of New Hampshire, Durham in July 2005; he is writing books and researching in his field and is currently on a research jag related to the loss of famed actor-director Leslie Howard (1893-1943)'s plane in WWII on his return from Portugal; solving the mysteries of 'why' the Luftwaffe shot down his unarmed, scheduled civil airliner....
"Serving The Revolution" was staged as the feature show in the UNH Playwrights inaugural production in 1998.
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