THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH Thornton Wilder

THE SKIN OF
OUR TEETH

Thornton Wilder
Adapted by
Arthur M. Pittis

CHARACTERS (in the order of appearance)
ANCHOR MAN
ANCHOR WOMAN
WEATHER MAN
FEMALE REPORTER
DOOMSDAY MINISTRY PROPHET
SABINA: a sultry maid
STAGE MANAGER
MRS. ANTROBUS
DINOSAUR
MAMMOTH
STAGE HANDS: 1, 2 & 3
GLADYS ANTROBUS: a schoolgirl
HENRY ANTROBUS: a teenager
MR. ANTROBUS
JUDGE MOSES
HOMER
MUSES: 1, 2, 3
USHERS: 1 & 2
GREAT APE
REPRESENTATIVES OF ANIMALS
REVELERS & CONVENTIONEERS
FORTUNE TELLER
BROADCAST CREW: Sound Technician
BROADCAST CREW: Cameraman
SUBSTITUTE 1
SUBSTITUTE 2
SUBSTITUTE 3
SUBSTITUTE 4
Act 1. Antrobus home, Excelsior, New Jersey.
Act II. Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Act III. Antrobus home, Excelsior, New Jersey.

Time: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Act I
[Lights dim; Projection: Classic newsroom w/ two anchors.]
MALE ANCHOR: [On camera.]
Good evening America, Bob Buzley, for WOW News. And good
evening, Tiffany; what’s with that developing story about the
impending end of the world?
FEMALE ANCHOR: [On camera.]
Well, not much. Looks like we’re still here. [Turning page.] Here
in New York the sun rose this morning at 6:32 a.m. just as
expected. Looks like the Doomsday Ministry’s claim that the
world would end at 6:30 a.m. was a dud.
[Cut: Classic weather shot.]
MALE ANCHOR: [Off camera.]
Good thing for us. Well, Mr. Weather Guy, what happened.
WEATHER MAN: [On camera.]
Like she said, Bob, not much. Everything’s pretty normal; in fact,
things are looking up. Remember that ice sheet that’s been
moving south across Ontario? Scientists say it’s slowed,
advanced only 320 miles in the past ten hours.
[Cut: Classic newsroom w/ 2 anchors.]
MALE ANCHOR: [On camera.]
Thank you Mr. Weather Guy; that’s good news. In an unrelated
story, President Wil B. Dunn announced that the US would no
longer export of snow shovels to Mexico. I’m sure some amigos
are not too happy about that.
FEMALE ANCHOR: [On camera.]
Buuurrr-issimo, Bob! We take you now to the Doomsday Ministry
Headquarters in San Diego, California where our reporter
Sunshine Morning has Prophet Klump on live feed.
[Cut: Classic reporter shot. Snow blowing: we can barely see & hear.]
FEMALE ANCHOR: [Off camera.]
Well, Sunshine, how does it feel to have lived through the end of
the world?
FEMALE REPORTER: [On camera.]
Pretty good, Bob; I just bought a new bathing suit. But all joking
aside, I have Prophet Klump here with me. Prophet Klump, how
do you explain the world not ending this morning.
PROPHET KLUMP: [On camera.]
Time zones. When I found myself still in my body this morning, I
looked at my watch and realized that it was made in China.
[Holding up watch.] China, you see, is a whole bunch of time
zones away. My latest calculations . . .
FEMALE REPORTER: [On camera.]
Sunshine Morning reporting for WOW news from San Diego,
California.
[Cut: Classic newsroom w/ 2 anchors.]
FEMALE ANCHOR: [On camera.]
Thank you, Sunshine. And now for our human-interest story, we
take you to the suburban Excelsior, New Jersey, home of George and Maggie Antrobus and their two children Henry and Gladys.
[Cut: videos: Mr. & Mrs. Antrobus before house displaying objects.]
MALE ANCHOR: [Voice over.]
George is the inventor of the wheel, the lever, the garden, and so
many other every day devices we could hardly begin to list them
all.
FEMALE ANCHOR: [Voice over.]
And Maggie is credited with inventing the pot, the spoon, the
needle, and let’s not forget the apron. Like her husband, she
comes from very old stock. Let’s drop in now on her lovely
suburban home.
[Cut: Classic newsroom w/ 2 anchors.]
MALE ANCHOR: [Voice over.]
But who was that other woman in the living room?
FEMALE ANCHOR: [Voice over.]
Oh, that’s the maid, Lily Sabrina.
MALE ANCHOR: [Voice over.]
Hmmm, but given the many useful things we can thank the
Antrobuses for I suppose they deserve a little help.
[CURTAIN.
[Suburban living room. SABINA straw-blonde, over-rouged, is
standing by back center window, feather duster under her elbow.]
SABINA:
Oh, oh, oh! Six o'clock and the master’s not home yet. Pray God
nothing serious has happened to him. If anything happened to
him, we would certainly be inconsolable and have to move into a
less desirable neighborhood.
The fact is I don't know what'll become of us. Here it is the
middle of August and the coldest day of the year. It's simply
freezing; the dogs are sticking to the sidewalks; can anybody
explain that? No.
But I’m not surprised. The whole world's at sixes and sevens, and
why the house hasn't fallen down about our ears long ago is a
miracle to me.
[Fragment of the right wall leans precipitously over stage; SABINA
looks at it seriously until it slowly rights itself.]
Every night this same anxiety as to whether the master will get
home safely: whether he'll bring home anything to eat. In the
midst of life we are in the midst of death, a truer word was never
said.
[Fragment of scenery collapses SABINA is startled dumb with surprise,
so she jiggles her shoulders and starts dusting MR. ANTROBUS' chair,
including the under side.]
Of course, Mr. Antrobus is a very fine man, an excellent husband
and the pillar of the community.
[She dusts MRS, ANTROBUS' rocking chair.]
Mrs. Antrobus is as fine a woman as you could hope to see. She
lives only for her children; and if it would be any benefit to her
children she'd see the rest of us stretched out dead at her feet without turning a hair, — that's the truth. If you want to know
anything more about Mrs. Antrobus, just go and look at a tigress,
and look hard.
As to the children —
Well, Henry Antrobus is a real, clean-cut American boy. He'll
graduate from High School one of these days, if they make the
alphabet any easier. — Henry, when he has a stone in his hand,
has a perfect aim; he can hit anything from a bird to an older
brother —Oh! I didn't mean to say that! —but it certainly was an
unfortunate accident, and it was very hard getting the police out
of the house.
Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus' daughter is named Gladys. She'll make
some good man a good wife some day, if he'll just come down off
the movie screen and ask her.
So here we are!
We’ve managed to survive for some time now, catch as catch can,
the fat and the lean, and if the dinosaurs don't trample us to
death, and if the grasshoppers don't eat up our garden, we'll all
live to see better days, knock on wood.
We've rattled along, hot and cold, for some time now . . .
[Another wall collapses.]
—and my advice to you is just enjoy your ice cream while it's in
your bowl, —that's my philosophy
Don't forget that it wasn’t that many years ago we came through
the credit crisis by the skin of our teeth! One more tight squeeze
like that and where will we be?
[This is a cue line; SABINA looks angrily at the kitchen door and
repeats:]
. . . by the skin of our teeth; one more tight squeeze like that and
where will we be?
[Flustered, she looks through the opening made by the fallen wall then
goes to the window and reopens the Act.]
Oh, oh, oh! Six o'clock and the master’s not home yet. Pray God
nothing has happened to him. Here it is the middle of August
and the coldest day of the year. It's simply freezing; the dogs are
sticking. One more tight squeeze like that and where will we be?
Yes, where will we be? Oh, where will we be?
STAGE MANAGER: [From offstage.]
Make up something! Invent something!
SABINA:
Well . . . uh . . . this certainly is a fine home . . . and —uh . . .
everybody's very happy . . . and —uh . . .
[She suddenly flings pretense to the wind and comes downstage,
indignantly addressing audience.]
I can't do this. I hate this play. I don't understand a single word
of it, anyway, —all about the troubles the human race has gone
through, there's a subject for you.
Besides, the author hasn't made up his silly mind as to whether
we're all living back in caves or in New Jersey today, and that's
the way it is all the way through.
Oh —why can't we have plays like we used to — Thor and the
Giants or The Sound of Music —good family entertainment with a
tune you can whistle when leaving the theater?
God in Heaven!
[ENTER STAGE MANAGER: head through the hole in the scenery.]
STAGE MANAGER:
Ms [actor’s name]!! Ms [actor’s name]!
SABINA:
Oh! Whatever! It'll all be the same in a hundred years.
[Loudly.] We came through the Depression by the skin of our
teeth, that's true! — one more tight squeeze like that and where
will we be?
ENTER MRS. ANTROBUS, in apron
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Sabina, you've let the fire go out.
SABINA:
In a lather:
One-thing-and-another; don't-know-whether-my-wits-are-
upside-or-down; might-as-well- be-dead-as-alive-in-a -house-all-
sixes-and-sevens. . . .
MRS. ANTROBUS:
You've let the fire go out. Here it is the coldest day of the year
right in the middle of August, and you've let the fire go out.
SABINA:
Mrs. Antrobus, I’m giving my two weeks, Mrs. Antrobus. A girl
like I can get a situation in a home where they're rich enough to
have a fire in every room, and Mrs. Antrobus, don't have to carry
the responsibility of the whole house on her two shoulders. And
without children, Mrs. Antrobus, because children are a thing
only a parent can stand, and a home, Mrs. Antrobus, where the
master don't pinch decent, self-respecting girls in a dark corridor.
I mention no names. So you have my notice, Mrs. Antrobus. I
hope that's perfectly clear.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
You've let the fire go out! —Have you milked the mammoth?
SABINA:
[To audience.] Do you understand a word of this play? —Yes, I've
milked the mammoth.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Until Mr. Antrobus comes home we have no food and we have
no fire, You'd better go over to the neighbors and borrow some
fire.
SABINA:
Mrs. Antrobus! I can't! I'd die on the way, you know I would. It's
worse than January. The dogs are sticking to the sidewalks. I'd
die.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Very well, I'll go.
SABINA:
[Even more distraught, sinking to her knees.]
You'd never come back alive; if you weren't here, we'd perish.
How do we know Mr. Antrobus'll be back? We don't know.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Get up, Sabina.
SABINA:
Every night it's the same thing. Will he come back safe, or won't
he? Will we starve to death, or freeze to death, or boil to death, or
be eaten by saber-tooth tigers? I don't know why we go on living.
I don't know why we go on living at all. It's easier being dead.
[She flings her arms on the table and buries her head in them. In each of
the succeeding speeches she flings her head up — and sometimes her
hands — then quickly buries her head again.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
The same thing! Always throwing in the sponge, Sabina. Always
announcing your own death. But give you a new dress — or a
bowl of ice cream — or a ticket to the movies, and you want to
live forever.
SABINA:
You don't care whether we live or die; all you care about is those
children. If it would be any benefit to them you'd be glad to see
us all stretched out dead.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Well, maybe I would.
SABINA:
And what do they care about? Themselves —that's all they care
about.
[Shrilly.] They make fun of you behind your back. They're
ashamed of you. Half the time, they pretend they're someone
else's children. Little thanks you get from them.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
I'm not asking for any thanks.
SABINA:
And Mr. Antrobus —you don't understand him. All that work he
does —trying to discover the alphabet and the multiplication
table. Whenever he tries to learn anything you fight against it.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Oh, Sabina, I know you.
When Mr. Antrobus carried you home from that raid on the
Sabine hills, he did it to insult me.
He did it for your pretty face, and to insult me.
You were the new trophy wife, weren’t you?
For a year or two you lay on your bed all day and painted the
nails on your hands and feet.
And I washed your underclothes and I made you lattes.
I bore children and between my very groans I stirred the cream
that you'd put on your face.
But I knew you wouldn't last.
You didn't last.
SABINA:
But it was I who encouraged Mr. Antrobus to make the alphabet.
I’m sorry to say it, Mrs. Antrobus, but you're not a beautiful
woman, and you can never know what a man could do if he tried.
It's girls like I who inspire the multiplication table.
I'm sorry to say it, but you're not a beautiful woman, Mrs.
Antrobus, and that's the God's truth.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
And you didn't last —you sank to the kitchen. And what do you
do there? YOU LET THE FIRE GO OUT!
No wonder you think it’s easier being dead.
Reading and writing and counting on your fingers is all very well
in their way, —but I keep the home going.
—There's that dinosaur on the front lawn again. —Shoo! Go
away. Go away.
[ENTER baby DINOSAUR: head in the window.]
DINOSAUR:
It's cold.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
You go around back where you belong.
DINOSAUR:
It's cold.
[DINOSAUR disappears. MRS. ANTROBUS begins to calmly exit
when final scenery wall collapses. SABINA throws up her arms &
collapses into tears. ENTER STAGEHANDS 1, 2 & 3 & proceed to
fix fallen scenery. ENTER DINOSAUR & MOMMOTH, sneakily.]
SABINA:
I never wanted this part. That idiot director said it would be
good for me: I would have a break through.
STAGE HAND 1:
A hand here, please.
SABINA:
If I wasn’t getting graded I’d walk out this very minute. [Noticing
STAGE HANDS.]
Agh! Mrs. Antrobus! Mrs. Antrobus! Help! There's strange men
in the house!
STAGE HAND 1:
Mrs. Antrobus, could you stand here, please, just a moment, then
you can get on with the show.
[She accommodates; they work at raising walls. ANIMALS begin to
whimper.]
MRS. ANTROBUS: [To ANIMALS.]
Will you be quiet?
[They nod.]
Young man, have you any fire with you?
[STAGE HAND 2 nods & produces a lighter.]
STAGE HAND 2:
Yes, mam.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Sabina, take this thing and go and light the stove.
[To ANIMALS.]
Have you had your supper?
[They nod. She begins to chat with STAGE HANDS.]
Any news about that wall of ice?
STAGE HAND 3: [He makes a doubtful shrug with his shoulders.]
Heard it’s covered the whole mid-west and closing in on Trenton.
[The ANIMALS cozy up to STAGE HAND 2, leaning against him like
heraldic beasts. Unable to move, he takes an interest in conversation.]
SABINA: [Lighting fire.]
Like I told you, Mrs. Antrobus, I’ve given notice. I hope that's
perfectly clear.
[MRS. ANTROBUS’ phone buzzes; she opens it.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
“Hi: running late. Busy day. Don't worry children about cold just
keep them warm. Burn everything but Shakespeare."
[Pause.]
Men! —He knows I'd burn ten Shakespeares to prevent a child of
mine from catching cold.
[Reads on.]
"Great discoveries today: separated em from en."
SABINA:
I know what that is, that's the alphabet, yes it is. Mr. Antrobus is
just the cleverest man. Why, when the alphabet's finished, we'll
be able to tell the future and everything.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
"Ten tens make a hundred.”
The earth's turning to ice, and all he can do is to make up new
numbers.
[Reads on.]
"Three cheers: invented wheel.”
What’s a wheel?
SABINA:
Haven’t a clue.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
My, this is a long message. Oh, listen to this!
“♬♬♬ ) ann'vers'ry 2 u, )ann'vers'ry 2 u-"
[ANIMALS begin to howl soulfully; SABINA screams with pleasure.]
Dolly! Frederick! Be quiet,
DINOSAUR & MAMMOTH:
"♬♬♬ ) ann'vers'ry, dear Eva; ) ann'vcr’s’ry 2 u.”
MRS. ANTROBUS:
The earth's getting so silly no wonder the sun turns cold,
SABINA:
Mrs, Antrobus, I want to take back the notice I gave you, Mrs.
Antrobus, I don't want to leave a house that gets such interesting
messages and I'm sorry for anything I said, I really am.
Can you believe that line.
[The STAGE HANDS finish their work & gather up tools.]
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Noticing the repaired walls.]
Young men, I'd like to give you something for all this trouble.
STAGE HAND 2:
Think nothing of it, m’am. I don't like to ... appear to ... ask for
anything, but . . .
MRS. ANTROBUS:
What is it?
STAGE HAND 2: [With lowered eyes.]
Well, Mrs. Antrobus. Mrs. Antrobus, can I ask you for some
advice? I have two sons of my own; if the cold gets worse, what
should I do?
SABINA:
Perish, that's what we’ll do. Cold like this in August is just the
end of the world.
[Silence.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
I don't know. After all, what does one do about anything? Just
keep them warm. And don't let your wife and children see that
you're worried.
STAGE HAND 2:
Yes . . . Thank you, Mrs. Antrobus. Well, we'd better be going.
We’re not in the script, you know, and there’s still an awful lot of
the pages left in this play.
[EXIT STAGE HANDS.]
[WOMEN see them out; goodbyes & injunctions to keep warm.]
[EXIT SABINA.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
[Thoughtful; to ANIMALS.]
Do you ever remember hearing tell of any cold like this in
August?
[The ANIMALS shake their heads.]
From your grandmothers, anyone?
[They shake their heads.]
Any suggestions what to do?
[They shake their heads. She pulls her shawl around, goes to the front
door and opening it an inch and calling.]
HENRY. GLADYS. CHILDREN. Come right in and get warm. No,
no, when mama says a thing she means it.
Henry! HENRY. Put down that stone. You know what happened
last time.
[Shrieks.]
HENRY! Put down that stone!
Gladys! Put down your dress!! Try and be a lady.
[ENTER HENRY & GLADYS [They bound in & dash to fire,
flinging their coats on floor.]
GLADYS:
Mama; I’m hungry. Mama, why is it so cold?
HENRY: [At the same time.]
Mama, maybe, it'll snow and we can make snowballs.
GLADYS:
Mama, it's so cold that in one more minute I just couldn't of stood
it.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Settle down, both of you, I want to talk to you.
[She draws up hassock and sits front center before imaginary fire.
CHILDREN stretch our on floor, leaning against her lap. Tableau by
Raphael. ANIMALS edge up and complete triangle.]
It's just a cold spell of some kind. Now listen to what I'm saying:
When your father comes home I want you to be extra quiet.
He's had a hard day at the office and he may have one of his
moods.
I just got a text from him: very happy and excited, and you know
what that means. His temper's so uneven.
[Shriek.]
Henry! Henry!
Why —why can't you remember to keep your hair down over
your forehead? You must keep that scar covered. Don't you
know that when your father sees it he goes crazy.
[After a moment’s despair she collects herself decisively, wets the hem of
her apron in her mouth and starts polishing his forehead vigorously.]
Lift your head up. Stop squirming. Blessed me, sometimes I think
that it's going away —and then there it is: just as red as ever.
HENRY:
Mama, today at school two teachers called me by my old name.
Right out in class they called me Cain.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
[Putting her hand over his mouth, too late; hoarsely.]
Don't say it.
[Polishing feverishly.]
If you're good they'll forget it. Henry, you didn't hit anyone . . .
today, did you?
HENRY:
Oh . . . no-o-o!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
[Still working, not looking at Gladys.]
And, Gladys, I want you to be especially nice to your father
tonight. You know what he calls you when you're good —his
little angel, his little star. Keep your dress down like a little lady.
And keep your voice nice and low. Gladys Antrobus!! What's
that red stuff on your face?
[Slaps her.]
You're a filthy detestable child!
[Rises in real, though temporary, repudiation and despair.]
Get away from me, both of you! I wish I'd never seen sight or
sound of you. Let the cold come! I can't stand it. I don't want to
go on.
[She walks away.]
GLADYS: [Weeping.]
All the girls at school do, Mama.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Shrieking.]
I'm through with you! —Sabina! Sabina! —Don't you know your
father'd go crazy if he saw that paint on your face? Don't you
know your father thinks you're perfect? Sabina!
ENTER SABINA.
SABINA:
Yes, Mrs. Antrobus!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Take this girl out into the kitchen and wash her face with the
scrubbing brush.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Outside, roaring.]
"I've been working on the railroad, all the livelong day ... etc."
[ANIMALS run around, bellowing. SABINA rushes to window.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Sabina, what's that noise outside?
SABINA:
Oh, it's a giant, Mrs. Antrobus. We'll all be killed in our beds, I
know it!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Help me quick. Quick. Everybody.
[They stack all furniture against door: MR. ANTROBUS pounds &
bellows.]
Who is it? What do you want? —Sabina, have you any boiling
water ready? —Who is it?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Broken-down camel of a pig's snout, open this door.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
God be praised! It's your father. —Just a minute, George! Sabina,
clear the door, quick. Gladys, come here while I clean your nasty
face!
MR. ANTROBUS:
She-witch of a goat's gizzard, I'll break every bone in your body.
Let me in or I'll tear the whole house down.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Just a minute, George, something's the matter with the lock.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Open the door or I'll tear your livers out. I'll grind your bones to
make my bread, and Devil take the hindmost.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Now, you can open the door, Sabina. I'm ready.
ENTER. MR. ANTROBUS [The door is flung open. Silence stands there in a fur cap &
blanket. His arms are full of parcels, including a large stone wheel with a whole in the
center. One hand carries a railroad man's lantern". Suddenly he bursts into a joyous
roar.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Well, how's the whole crooked family?
[Relief. Laughter. Tears. Jumping up & down. ANIMALS cavorting. MR.
ANTROBUS throws the parcels on the ground. Hurls his cap and blanket after
them. Heroic embraces. Melee of HUMANS and ANIMALS, SABINA included.]
I'll be scalded and tarred if a man can't get a little welcome when
he comes home. Well, Maggie, you old gunny-sack, how's the
broken down old weather hen? –Sabina, old fish bait, old
skunkpot. —And the children, —how've the little smellers been?
GLADYS:
Papa, Papa, Papa, Papa, Papa.
MR. ANTROBUS:
How've they been, Maggie?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Well, I must say, they've been as good as gold. I haven't had to
raise my voice once. I don't know what's the matter with them.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Kneeling before GLADYS.]
Papa's little weasel, eh? —Sabina, there's some food for you.
Papa's little gopher?
GLADYS: [Her arm around his neck.]
Papa, you're always teasing me.
MR. ANTROBUS:
And Henry? Nothing rash today, I hope. Nothing rash?
HENRY:
No, Papa.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Roaring.]
Well that's good, that's good —I'll bet Sabina let the fire go out.
SABINA:
Mr. Antrobus, I've given my notice. I'm sorry, but I'm leaving.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Roaring.]
Well, if you leave now you'll freeze to death, so go and cook the
dinner.
SABINA:
You heard what I said.
EXIT SABINA.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Did you get my message?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Yes. —What's a wheel?
[MR. ANTHROBUS indicates with glance. HENRY rolling it around.
Rapid hushed interchange:]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
What does this cold weather mean? It's below freezing.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Not before the children!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Shouldn't we do something about it? —head south, move?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Not before the children!!!
[He gives HENRY a sharp slap]
HENRY:
Papa, you hit me!
MR. ANTROBUS:
Well, remember it. That's to make you remember today. Today.
The day the alphabet's finished; and the day that we saw the
hundred —then hundred hundred, the hundred hundred
hundred. —there's no end to 'em.
What a day!
Take a look at that wheel, Maggie —when I've got it . . .
There's a reward there for all the walking you've done.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
How do you mean?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Standing on the hassock, looking triumphantly across audience.
Maggie, we've reached the top of the wave. There's not much
more to be done. We're almost there!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Cutting across his mood sharply.
And the ice?
MR. ANTROBUS:
The ice!
HENRY:
Playing with the wheel.
Papa, you could put a chair on this.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Broodingly.]
Ye-e-s, any booby can fool with it now, —but I thought of it first.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Children, go into the kitchen. I want to talk to your father alone.
EXIT HENRY & GLADYS.
ANTROBUS has moved to his chair up left, unfolds newspaper &
begins to read. The ANIMALS put their paws up on the arms of chair:
MRS. ANTROBUS faces him across the room like a judge.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Well?
MR. ANTROBUS: [Shortly.]
It's cold. —How things been, eh? Keck, keck, keck.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
I know it's cold.
MR. ANTROBUS: [To ANIMALS.]
No messing in the neighbor’s yard, y'know what I mean?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
You can try and keep us from freezing to death, can't you? You
can do something? We can start moving. We can go on the
animal’s backs?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Best thing about animals is they can’t talk.
MAMMOTH:
It's cold.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Eh, eh, eh! Watch that! —
[MRS. ANTROBUS is about to march off when she catches sight of
REFUGEES, who have appeared in back of theatre.]
ENTER REFUGESS, from back of auditorium.
REFUGEES:
Mr. Antrobus! Mr. Antrobus! Mr. An-nn-tro-bus!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Who's that? Who's that calling you?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Clearing his throat guiltily.
Hm —let me see.
[REFUGEES huddle outside window.]
REFUGEE 1:
Could we warm our hands for a moment, Mr. Antrobus. It's very
cold, Mr. Antrobus.
REFUGEE 2:
Mr. Antrobus, I wonder if you have a piece of bread or
something.
[Silence. REFUGEES wait humbly. MRS. ANTROBUS stands rooted
to spot. Suddenly, a short rapid knock, then another & another.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Who are these people? Why, they're all over the front yard.
What have they come here for?
ENTER SABINA.
SABINA:
Mrs. Antrobus! There are some tramps knocking at the back door.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
George, tell these people to go away. Tell them to move right
along. I'll go and send them away from the back door. Sabina,
come with me,
EXIT MRS. ANTROBUS energetically.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Sabina! Stay here!
[He goes to the door, opens it a crack, talks through.]
Just a few minutes longer. It'll be all right . . . There'll be coffee
and sandwiches in a moment.
[SABINA looks out door over his shoulder & suddenly her arm,
pointing, with a scream.]
SABINA:
Mr. Antrobus, what's that?? —that big white thing? Mr. Antrobus,
it's ICE. It's ICE!!
MR. ANTROBUS:
Sabina, I want you to go in the kitchen and make a lot of coffee.
Make a whole pail full.
SABINA:
Pail full!!
MR. ANTROBUS: [Gesturing descriptively.]
And sandwiches . . . piles of them . . . like this.
SABINA:
Mr.An . . . !!
[Suddenly she drops character, speaks to herself out loud in surprise.]
Oh, I see what this part of the play means now! This means
refugees. Oh, great! And what’ll happen to my job then?
[She crosses to the proscenium leans against it & bursts into tears.]
STAGE MANAGER: [Through sound system.]
Ms. [actor’s name]!
SABINA: [Energetically, to the audience.]
This play is so stupid. One minute it’s in the 1930s, then it’s right now,
and then . . . And then this ice-business —why, it’s laughable; every
school child knows the ice age was a long, long time ago.
STAGE MANAGER [Now on stage.]
Ms. [actor’s name]!!!
MR. ANTROBUS:
Even if you don’t care about your grade, there are others who do!
[Renewed knocking on door.]
SABINA:
All right, all right. Go ahead, impress the teacher! Get your lousy
A! Just get off my case. Okay! You win.
ENTER MRS. ANTROBUS.
[One last parting shot to audience.]
Just wait until you see what he’s got in store for you. Macbeth!
[Everyone’s perturbed by mention of the “Scottish play” in theater.]
EXIT SABINA.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
George, these tramps say that you asked them to come to the
house. What does this mean?
[Increasing knocking at door.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Just . . . uh . . . . Just a few fi-iends, Maggie, I met on the road.
Real nice, real useful people . . . .
[Her back to door.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
George Antrobus, not another soul comes in here, over my dead
body.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Maggie, there's an old man, particular friend of mine-
MRS. ANTROBUS:
I don't care if he perishes. We can do without him and whoever
else you’ve picked up on the road.
We can't do without food.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Well, there's the man . . . who makes all the laws. Judge
Moses! . . . Think of Henry! It will be good to have a judge on our
side if the ice melts and we pull through! See he’s all set; he has
laws, chiseled in stone! Right there, see!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Stop shouting, George. [She notices several refugees in particular.]
Who are those women?
MR. ANTROBUS: [Coughs.]
Nine sisters . . . sort of music teachers . . . and one of them recites
and one of them dances and . . .
MRS. ANTROBUS:
That takes the cake. A girl group! Well, take your choice: live or
die. Starve your own children before your very eyes, all for some
American Idol wannabes.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Gently.]
These people don't take much. They're used to starving.
Besides, Maggie, listen: no, listen: Who've we got in the house to
help? Sabina? Look at how she acts —a quitter. Maggie, these
people never give up. They live forever.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
[Walks slowly to the middle of the room.]
All right, let them in. Let them in. You're master here.
Softly.
—But these animals must go. Enough's enough.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Sadly.
All right. Come on, baby, come on Frederick. Come for a walk.
That's a good little fellow.
DINOSAUR:
It's cold.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Yes, nice cold fresh air. Bracing.
He holds the door open.
ANIMALS EXIT.
He beckons refugees to enter.
ENTER REFUGEES typical homeless types.
[They shuffle in and wait humbly & expectantly: JUDGE MOSES
wears a skullcap. HOMER is a blind beggar with guitar; MUSES
dance & sing & recite. MR. ANTROBUS introduces each to MRS.
ANTROBUS who greets each with a regal dip of her head.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Make yourself at home . . . m . . . Coffee'll be here in a minute . . . .
Professor, this is my wife . . . . And: ... Judge . . . Maggie, you know the
Judge. Maggie, you know . . . you know Homer? —Come right in, Judge.
Miss Muse —are your sisters here? [She indicates.] Oh, good.
Come right in . . . .
MRS. ANTROBUS: [With gracious Southern hostess accent.]
Pleased to meet y’all. Just . . . make yourselves comfortable.
Supper'll be ready soon.
EXIT MRS. ANTROBUS, abruptly.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Make yourself at home, friends. I'll be right back.
EXIT MR. ANTROBUS, worried.
[The REFUGEES stare about them in awe, presently several start to
whisper, "Homer! Homer!" All take it up the call until HOMER rises
and strums his guitar, chanting:]
HOMER:
Mênin aeide, thea, Pêlêiadeô Achilêos
Oulomenên, hê muri' Achaiois alge' ethêke,
Pollas d’iphthimous psuchas Aidi proiapson . . .
[HOMER'S face shows he is lost in rhapsodic trance as the words die
away. REFUGEES nod dreamily. Soon some start to whisper "Moses,
Moses!" as an old bearded man rises dramatically and recites.]
MOSES:
Be·re·shit ba·ra e·lo·him; et ha·sha·ma·yim ve·'et ha·'a·retz.
Ve·ha·'a·retz ha·ye·tah to·hu va·vo·hu, ve·cho·shech al-pe·nei
te·ho·vm; Ve·ru·ach e·lo·him, me·ra·che·fet al-pe·nei ham·ma·yim.
[Same dying away of words as REFUGEES nod in remembrance. Some
of them murmuring, “Yes, yes.” Mood broken by abrupt entrance.]
ENTER MR. ANTROBUS & SABINA bearing platters of
sandwiches and a pail of coffee. SABINA stops and stares at guests.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Sabina, pass the sandwiches.
SABINA:
I thought I was working in a respectable house that had
respectable guests. I'm giving my notice, Mr. Antrobus.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Sabina! Pass the sandwiches.
SABINA:
Two weeks, that's the law.
MR. ANTROBUS:
There's the law. That's Moses.
SABINA: [Stares.]
The Ten Commandments-FAUGH!!-(To Audience)
That's the worst line I've ever had to say on any stage.
EXIT SABINA
MRS. ANTROBUS:
The roads are crowded, I hear?
THE GUESTS: [Talking all at once.]
Oh, ma'am, you can't imagine .... You can hardly put one foot
before you . . . people are trampling one another.
Sudden silence.
[All eyes are fixed on him, waiting.]
MISS M. MUSE:
How many children have you, Mrs. Antrobus?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Two, a boy and a girl.
MOSES: [Softly.]
I understood you had two sons, Mrs. Antrobus.
[MRS. ANTROBUS in blind suffering walks toward the apron.]
MRS. ANTROBUS: [In a low voice.]
Abel, Abel, my son, my son, Abel, my son, Abel, Abel, my son.
[REFUGEES move toward her comfortingly, muttering words in Hebrew, Greek, German, etc.]
[A piercing shriek from kitchen: SABINA’s voice. All heads turn.]
ENTER SABINA, bursting with indignation, pulling on her gloves.
SABINA:
Mr. Antrobus —that son of yours, that boy Henry Antrobus —I
don't stay in this house another moment! —He's not fit to live
among respectable folks and that's a fact.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Don't say another word, Sabina. I'll be right back.
EXIT MRS. ANTROBUS.
SABINA:
Mr. Antrobus, Henry has thrown a stone again and if he hasn't
killed the boy next door, I'm very much mistaken. He finished his
supper and went out to play; and then I saw it. I saw it with my
own eyes. And it looked to me like stark murder.
ENTER MRS. ANTROBUS & HENRY shielding him.
[A large scarlet scar in shape of a “C” is visible on HENRY'S forehead.
MR. ANTROBUS starts toward him. A pause.]
HENRY: [Under his breath.]
He was going to take the wheel away from me. He threw the first stone.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
George, it was just a boyish impulse. Remember how young he is.
[Louder, in an urgent wail.]
George, he's only four thousand years old.
EXIT HENRY.
SABINA:
And everything was going along so nicely!
[Silence. MR. ANTROBUS goes back to the fireplace.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Put out the fire! Put out all the fires.
[Violently.]
No wonder the sun grows cold.
[He starts stamping out the fireplace.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Doctor! Judge! Help me! —George, have you lost your mind?
MR. ANTROBUS:
There is no mind. We'll not try to live.
[To the guests.]
Give it up. Give up trying.
[MRS. ANTROBUS seizes him.]
SABINA:
Mr. Antrobus! I'm downright ashamed of you.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
George, have some more coffee. —Gladys! Where's Gladys gone?
ENTER GLADYS frightened.
GLADYS:
Here I am, mama.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Go upstairs and bring your father's slippers, How could you
forget a thing like that, when you know how tired he is?
EXIT GLADYS
[MR. ANTROBUS sits in his chair. He covers his face with his hands.
MRS. ANTROBUS turns to the REFUGEES.]
Can't some of you sing? It's your business to sing, isn't it? Sabina!
[Several MUSES clear their throats tentatively as REFUGEES gather
around HOMER. He strums a few chords, almost inaudibly they sing
“Jingle Bells”, led by SABINA. MRS. ANTROBUS crosses to Mr.
ANTROBUS, and whispering, removes his shoes.]
George, remember all the other times. When the volcanoes came
right up in the front yard.
And when the grasshoppers ate every blade of grass, and the
Nile turned to blood, and then the spring when there were
earthquakes every night?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Henry! Henry!
[Puts his hand to his forehead.]
All of us, we're covered with blood,
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Then remember all the times you were pleased with him and when
you were proud of yourself. —Henry! Henry! Come here and recite to
your father the multiplication table that you do so nicely,
ENTER HENRY
[He kneels beside his father & starts whispering a multiplication table.]
HENRY:
Two times six is twelve; three times six is eighteen —I don't think
I know the sixes.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Wait!!! The fire's going out. There isn't enough wood!
Henry, go upstairs and start breaking up the beds.
EXIT HENRY.
ENTER GLADYS with slippers. MRS. ANTROBUS gestures, “Go
over there and do your best.” REFUGEES shift "Jingle Bells, singing
softly.” GLADYS puts slippers on her father’s feet.]
GLADYS:
Papa ... papa ... I was very good in school today. Miss Conover
said right out in class that if all the girls had as good manners as
Gladys Antrobus, that the world would be a far, far better place.
Look, Papa, here's my report card. Lookit. Conduct: A! Look,
Papa. Papa, you're not mad at me, are you? —I know it'll get
warmer. Soon it'll be just like spring, and we can go on a picnic
just like we always did, don't you remember?
ENTER HENRY with bed pieces
MR. ANTROBUS:
You recited in the school assembly, today, didn’t you?
She nods eagerly.
You didn't make a mistake?
GLADYS:
No!!! I was perfect.
[Pause. MR. ANTROBUS rises, goes to door, opens it. REFUGEES
draw back timidly; song stops; he peers out then closes it.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
With decision, suddenly.
Build up the fire. It's cold. Build up the fire. We'll do what we can.
Sabina, get some more wood. Come around the fire, everybody.
At least the young ones may pull through.
EXIT SABINA
If we do come through this —who knows what we’ll be able to
do? What do you say, Henry? Did you take a good look at that
wheel?
HENRY:
Yes, papa.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Sitting down in his chair.]
Six times two are . . .
HENRY:
. . . twelve; six times three are eighteen; six times four are —Papa,
it's hot and cold. It makes me sleepy.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Gives him a cuff
Wake up. I don't care if your head is sleepy. Six times four are
twenty-four. Six times five are . . .
HENRY:
. . . Thirty. Papa!
MR. ANTROBUS:
Maggie, put something into Gladys' head on the chance she can
use it.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
What do you mean, George?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Six times six are thirty-six.
Teach her the beginning of the Bible.
GLADYS:
But, Mama, it's so cold.
[HENRY has all but drowsed off. His father slaps him sharply and the
lesson continues.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and the
earth was without form and void; and the darkness was upon the
face of the deep."
[“Jingle Bells” starts up again loudly.]
ENTER SABINA with wood.
SABINA:
[After placing wood on fire she crosses down & addresses audience.]
Will you please start handing up your chairs? We'll need
everything for this fire. We’ll heat this planet up so hot we’ll save
the human race. —Ushers, will you pass those chairs up here?
Thank you.
HENRY:
Six times nine are fifty-four; six times ten are sixty.
[From back of auditorium comes the sound of breaking wood. USHERS
rush down the aisles with chairs and hand them up.]
GLADYS:
"And God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night.
"
SABINA:
Anything that will burn, everybody. We need to warm this
planet up and save the human race.
CURTAIN



Act II
[Toward end of intermission, with houselights still up, projected images
of Boardwalk at Atlantic City, NJ.]
[Lights dim: Classic newsroom w/ two anchors.]
MALE ANCHOR: [On camera.]
Good morning America. Bob Buzler here for WOW News. Well,
Tiffany, what’s the “Let’s Feel Good” story for today?
FEMALE ANCHOR: [On camera.]
Wow, Bob, there’s this really awesome convention down in
fabulous Atlantic City, New Jersey.
MALE ANCHOR: [On camera.]
Wow, Tiffany.
FEMALE ANCHOR: [On camera.]
You can say that again, Bob. Let’s drop in on our reporter
Sunshine Morning, broadcasting live from the Die-Hard Fitness
Center on the Boardwalk.
[Cut: Classic reporter shot, towering waves behind her.]
Well, Sunshine; what’s happening? [Off camera.]
FEMALE REPORTER: [On camera.]
The Six Hundred Thousandth Annual Convention of the Ancient
and Honorable Order of Mammals, Subdivision Homo Sapiens!
MALE ANCHOR: [Off camera.]
Wow.
FEMALE REPORTER: [On camera.]
And it has just re-elected its president Mr. George Antrobus of
Excelsior, New Jersey to another term.
[Applause.]
Here comes Mr. Antrobus and his charming wife towards the
podium where he’ll make his acceptance speech.
MALE ANCHOR: [Off camera.]
Remember, you saw it first here on WOW TV.
[Applause.]
CURTAIN OPEN
[A platform with bunting & podium; upon platform sit representatives of the
various Phyla of the Animal Kingdom. A large Ape is speaking through a
synthesizer & gesturing in eurythmic sign language. Behind platform are the
Boardwalk shops & hotels: Slots, Fortune Teller, Chapel of Love, Bingo.
There is a beach cabana. Above scenery is “Armaggedon Tower”, atop which
are four lights that will light one by one during act. ONE ON]
GREAT APE:
Fellow mammals (and delegates from all the esteemed Phyla and
Classes and Orders of the Animal Kingdom), it is my honor to
introduce to you President George Antrobus and his gracious
and charming wife, Maggie, both of them every gene a mammal.
[Applause.]
As we all know, Mr. Antrobus has had a long and checkered
career, and credit must be paid for his many useful enterprises:
introduction of the lever, the wheel, the knife, the net, and the
brewing of beer. Where would humankind be without him!
[Applause.]
Credit must also extended to President Antrobus' gracious and
charming wife, whose many practical accomplishments include
the needle and thread, the pot and frying pan, discipline and
responsibility, and plates and cutlery.
[Applause.]
Fellow creatures! I give you President Antrobus!
[Applause.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Fellow-creatures, fellow-vertebrates, fellow-mammals, fellow-
humans, I thank you. Little did my dear parents think, —when
they told me to stand on my own two feet, —that I'd be standing
here.
My friends, we have come a long way,
[Applause.]
During this week of happy celebration it is perhaps not fitting
that we dwell on some of the difficult times we have been
through, but how else can we appreciate all we have achieved in
our struggle for survival?
[Applause.]
True, some of our ancestors are extinct, but the ice has retreated.
[Applause.]
I ask you: was the Ice Age really what we needed? No.
[Applause.]
Mammals need warmth, so when our survival was threatened,
who stepped up to the plate? The human race! It was men that
put their backs to the wheel and made fire. We burned whatever
we could get our hands on and raised the planet’s temperature
until the ice retreated!
[Applause.]
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Sneezes, laughs prettily, and murmurs.]
I beg your pardon.
MR. ANTROBUS:
In our memorial service yesterday we did honor to all our friends
and relatives who are no longer with us, by reason of cold,
earthquakes plagues and . . . and . . . [Coughs.] . . . differences of
opinion.
As Charles Darwin so ably said . . . uh ... so ably said . . .
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Through closed lips.]
Gone, but not forgotten.
MR. ANTROBUS:
“They are gone, but not forgotten.”
I think I can say; I think I can prophesy with complete . . . uh . . .
with complete . . .
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Confidence.
ANTROBUS:
Thank you, my dear. —With complete lack of confidence, that a
new day of security is about to dawn.
The watchword of the closing era was: Work and Survive. I give
you the watchword for the future: Enjoy Yourselves.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
George, sit down!
MR. ANTROBUS:
Before I close, however, I wish to answer one of those unjust and
malicious accusations that were brought against me during this
last electoral campaign.
As I told that cute little reporter from WOW TV, I do not deny
that I once hesitated between . . . uh . . . between pinfeathers and
gill-breathing, —and so did many of us here, —but for the last
million years I have been viviparous, hairy and diaphragmatic.
[Applause as MR. ANTROBUS sits. Cries of "Good old Antrobus,"
"Georgie!"]
GREAT APE:
Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Antrobus. Now I know
that the delegates will wish to hear a word from that gracious
and charming mammal, Mrs. Antrobus, wife and mother, —Mrs.
Antrobus!
[MRS. ANTROBUS rises, lays her program on her chair.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Dear friends, I don't really think I should say anything. After all,
it was my husband who was elected and not I. Perhaps, as
president of the Women's Auxiliary Bed and Board Society, —I
had some notes here, oh, yes, here they are.
I know everyone is interested in the answer to one of the pressing
questions of our time: is using black crayons good or bad for the
developing child before the age of nine? I know all you who are
interested in education have been following this debate with
closest interest. But I am sorry to say that opinion is still
polarized on this question. It does seem to me that . . . Well, I
could go on talking forever. Thank you.
[She turns to sit.]
GREAT APE:
Oh, Mrs. Antrobus!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Yes?
GREAT APE:
We understand that you are about to celebrate a wedding
anniversary. I know our listeners would like to extend their
felicitations and hear a few words from you on that subject.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
This Spring Mr. Antrobus and I will be celebrating our five
thousandth wedding anniversary. I don't know if I speak for my
husband, but I can say that, as for me, I regret every moment of it.
[Confused laughter.]
I beg your pardon. What I mean to say is that I do not regret one
moment of it. We have two children. We've always had two
children, though it hasn't always been the same two. Yes, Mr.
Antrobus and I have been married five thousand years. Each
wedding anniversary reminds me of the times when there were
no weddings. We had to crusade for marriage. Perhaps there are
some women within the sound of my voice who remember that
crusade and those struggles; we fought for it, didn't we?
[Applause.]
A few men helped us, but I must say that most men blocked our
way at every step: they said we were unfeminine. But we fought
hard, and at last we women got the ring.
I only bring up these unpleasant memories, because I see some
signs of backsliding from that great victory.
Oh, my fellow fe-mammals, keep hold of that. My husband says that
the watchword for the era is Enjoy Yourselves. I think that's very open
to misunderstanding. My watchword for the year is: Save the Family.
It's held together for over five thousand years: Save it! Thank you.
[Applause.]
GREAT APE:
Thank you, Mrs. Antrobus.
Well, my fellow creatures, that about wraps up our formal
proceedings. So thank you all for coming; and now, as President
Antrobus so wisely proclaimed: “Enjoy yourselves!”
[Shouts of “Party Time!” “Let’s boogie!” “Rock’n’roll, dude!” etc.]
CURTAIN CLOSE
CURTAIN CONVENTIONEERS [Casino noise; revelers careen across apron.]
CURTAIN OPEN
Gypsy FORTUNE TELLER sits at her shop door. Revelers careen back
& forth. There is a tower behind set with four lights. The front of the
Fortune Teller shop shudders, rises a few feet ill the air and returns to
ground trembling.]
BINGO CALLER: [Voice off.]
A-nine; A-nine. C-twenty-six; C-twenty-six.
A-Four; A-Four. B-Twelve.
WINNER: [Voice off.]
BINGO!!!!
FORTUNE TELLER: [Mechanically, to the unconscious backs of
passerbys.]
Cancer! Your partner's deceiving you in that deal. You'll have six
grandchildren. Avoid high places.
She rises & shouts after another.]
Cirrhosis of the liver!
ENTER SABINA from Bingo Parlor. She hugs about her a blue
raincoat that almost conceals her red bathing suit, She tries to catch the
FORTUNE TELLER'S attention.]
SABINA:
Ssssst! Esmeralda! Ssssst!
FORTUNE TELLER:
Keek!
SABINA:
Has President Antrobus come along yet?
FORTUNE TELLER:
No, no, no. Get out of here. Hide yourself.
SABINA:
I'm afraid I'll miss him. Oh, Esmeralda, if fail in this, I'll die. I'll be
his wife! If it's the last thing I'll do. —Esmeralda, tell me my
future.
FORTUNE TELLER:
Keck!
SABINA:
All right, I'll tell you my future.
[Laughing dreamily & tracing with one finger on palm of her hand.]
I'll take President Antrobus away from his wife. Then I'll take
every man away from his wife. I'll turn the whole earth upside
down.
FORTUNE TELLER:
Keck!
SABINA:
When all those husbands just think about me they'll get dizzy.
They'll faint in the streets.
FORTUNE TELLER: [Furiously.]
Shut your foolish mouth. When Mr. Antrobus comes along you
can see what you can do. Until then, —go away.
[SABINA laughs. As she turns to go inside a group of CONVEENERS
approach & smother her with attention.]
SABINA:
Go away, boys, go away, I'm after bigger fry than you are. Why,
Mr. Simpson!! How dare you!!
EXIT CONVEENERS, [Squealing with pleasure & stumbling.]
EXIT SABINA [Into Bingo Parlor.]
The FORTUNE TELLER rises, adjusts her clothing & approaches
audience, swinging her hips like a young woman. Revelers cross stage.]
FORTUNE TELLER:
I tell the future, Keck, Nothing easier. Everybody's future is in
their face, Nothing easier.
But who can tell your past, —eh? Nobody!
Your youth, —where did it go? It slipped away while you
weren't looking. While you were asleep, or distracted? Puh!
You're like our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus; you lie awake
nights trying to know your past. What did it mean? “What
should I have done differently?”
Think! Think! Split your heads, I can't tell the past and neither
can you. But I can tell the future,
A stroke! [Barking at a passer-by, then returns to the audience.]
Nobody listens. —Keck! I see a face among you now —I won't
embarrass him by pointing him out, but, listen: Death by regret.
Next year you'll decide you should have lived for pleasure, but
it’s too late. Death by regret, —Type A . . . Avoid mirrors.
[Far forward, confidentially.]
And now what's the immediate future of our friends, the
Antrobuses? Oh, you've seen it as well as I have, keck, —that
Great Man dizziness? The inventor of beer and gunpowder. The
sudden fits of temper and then the long stretches of inertia? "I’m
a sultan; let my slave girls fan me?"
You know as well as I what's coming. Rain. Rain. Rain in floods.
Oceans rising. The deluge. But first you'll see shameful things —
shameful things. Soon some of you will be saying: "Let him
drown. He's not worth saving." I can see it in your faces. But
you're wrong. It’s you who won’t get a place in the boat.
Again there'll be the narrow escape. The survival of a handful.
From destruction —total destruction.
[She points sweeping with her hand to the stage.]
But a few will be saved: two of each kind, male and female, two
of each kind.
ENTER CONVEENERS Heads appear about stage & wings, jeering.]
CONVEENERS:
Charlatan! Madam Kill-joy! Mrs. Jeremiah! Charlatan!
FORTUNE TELLER:
Yes, stick out your tongues. You can't stick your tongues out far
enough to lick the death-sweat from your foreheads. It's too late
now —you’re bailing out the Titanic with spoons.
CONVEENERS:
Enjoy yourselves!!!
EXIT CONVEENERS:
[FORTUNE TELLER puts her fingers to her lips.]
FORTUNE TELLER:
They're coming-the Antrobuses. Keck. Your hope. Your despair.
Your selves.
ENTER MR. & MRS. ANTROBUS & GLADYS.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Gladys Antrobus, stick your stummick in.
GLADYS:
But it's easier this way.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Well, it's too bad the new president has such a clumsy daughter,
that's all I can say. Try and be a lady.
FORTUNE TELLER:
Aijah! That's been said a hundred billion times.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Goodness! Where's Henry? He was here just a minute ago.
[Sudden violent outburst off stage]
Henry!
ENTER HENRY [Slingshot in hand.]
HENRY:
I'll put your eye out. I'll make you yell, like you never yelled before.
Mr. ANTROBUS / MRS. ANTROBUS:
Henry! What is this? Put down that slingshot. / Henry! HENRY!
Behave yourself.
FORTUNE TELLER:
That's right, young man. There are too many people in the world
as it is. Everybody's in the way, except one's self.
HENRY:
All I wanted was some fun.
EXIT SABINA
MR. ANTROBUS:
What were you doing, Henry?
HENRY:
Everybody's always getting mad. Everybody's always trying to
push you around. I'll make them sorry for that.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Give me that slingshot.
HENRY:
I won't. I'm sorry I came to this place. I wish I weren't here. I wish
I weren't anywhere,
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Now, Henry, don't get so excited about nothing. I declare I don't
know what we're going to do with you. Put your slingshot in your
pocket, and don't try to take hold of things that don't belong to you.
MR. ANTROBUS:
After this you can stay home. I wash my hands of you.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Come now, let's forget all about it. Everybody take a good breath
of the fresh desert air — my, it smells like sea air — and calm
down. Maybe we’ll see some whales.
*+
HENRY / GLADYS:
Papa, can we play Bingo? / Please, Mama, this is no fun; we’re so
bored.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
We have no money to waste on such foolishness. If you’re bored,
just read your book.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Oh, Maggie, let them have some fun. It's one of the things you do
on the Boardwalk.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Oh, is it? I tell you it's a miracle my children have shoes to stand
up in.
MR. ANTROBUS:
We’re on a vacation, aren't we? We have a right to treat ourselves
if we like. Oh Maggie, you’re no fun.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
All right, go. I'll just sit here and laugh at you. Mark my words, a
rainy day is coming.
ENTER CONVEENERS [Swerving.]
I feel it in my bones. Go, throw your money around. I can starve.
I've starved before. I know how.
CONVEENER: [Passing close, speaks w/ raised eyebrows.]
Hello, George. How are ya? I see where you brought the WHOLE
family along.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
And what do you mean by that?
EXIT CONVEENERS [Hurriedly.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Maggie, I tell you there's a limit to what I can stand. God's
Heaven, haven't I worked enough? Don't I get any vacation? Can't
I even give my children even a little fun?
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Putting hand out for raindrops.]
Anyway, it's going to rain soon and you have your broadcast to make.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Now, Maggie, I warn you, a man can stand a family only just so
long. I'm warning you.
ENTER SABINA from Bingo Parlor: she is in flounced red silk
bathing suit, circa 1905: Red stockings, shoes, & parasol. She bows
demurely to MR. ANTROBUS who bows gallantly. CHILDREN stare
in wonder.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Why, George Antrobus, how can you say such a thing! You have
the best family in the world,
MR. ANTROBUS:
Good morning, Ms. Fairweather.
EXIT SABINA into wings, looking back & spinning parasol.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Who on earth was that, George?
MR. ANTROBUS: [Complacent; mock-modest.]
Hm . . . III . . . just a . . . solambaka keray,
MRS. ANTROBUS:
What? I can't understand you,
GLADYS:
Mama, wasn’t she beautiful.
HENRY:
Papa, introduce me,
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Children, will you be quiet while I ask your father a simple
question? —Who did you say, George?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Why —uh . . . a friend of mine, Very nice refined girl.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
I’m waiting.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Maggie, ah, I remember now; she’s that's the girl I just gave the
prize to in the beauty contest, yes: Miss Mammal 2012.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Hm! She looked like Sabina to me.
HENRY:
Mama! she’s the one who was sitting on the life-guard’s lap, remember,
you said she looked like . . . [Rising & drifting after SABINA.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Henry, come here. —She's a very nice girl in every way and the
sole support of her aged mother,
MRS. ANTROBUS:
SO was Sabina, so was Sabina; and it took a wall of ice to open
your eyes about Sabina. —Henry, come over and sit down on this
bench.
MR. ANTROBUS:
She's a very different matter from Sabina. Ms. Fairweather went
to a college that changes lives.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Henry, you sit here by mama. Gladys—
MR. ANTROBUS: [Sitting.]
There isn't a girl in the world with higher principles.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Well, let's not talk about it. How I wish I’d see a whale.
HENRY: [Pointing at the “Armageddon Tower”.]
What’s that, Papa?
MR. ANTROBUS:
What? Oh, that's the Armageddon Center. One light means
Heavy Rain; two means Hurricane; three means Costal
Evacuation; and four means the End of the World.
[As they watch, a second lights comes on.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Goodness! I'm going to buy us all some raincoats.
GLADYS: [Putting cheek against her father’s shoulder.]
Mama, don't go yet. I like sitting here and watching the surf roll
in. Have you ever seen waves that big?
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Rising.]
Now I'm definitely going to buy those raincoats. That sky’s
looking worse and worse. I hope it doesn't come before your
broadcast. I should think we have about an hour or so.
HENRY:
I hope it comes and zzzzzz everything before it. I hope it —
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Henry! —George, I think . . . maybe, it's one of those storms that
are just as bad on land as on the sea. When you're just as safe and
safer in a good stout boat.
HENRY:
There's a boat out at the end of the pier. Look at the size of that
thing! It’s as big as an aircraft carrier!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Well, keep your eye on it, Henry. George, you shut your eyes and
get a good rest before the broadcast.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Thundering Judas, do I have to be told when to open and shut
my eyes? Go and buy your raincoats.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Now, children, you have ten minutes to walk around. Ten
minutes. And, Henry: control yourself. Gladys, stick by your
brother and don't let him go near the water.
EXIT HENRY & GLADYS
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Will you be all right, George?
[CONVEENERS stick their heads out of the Bingo Parlor.]
CONVEENERS:
George. Geo-r-r-rge! George! Leave the old hen-coop at home.
George. Do-mes-ticated Georgie!
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Shaking umbrella & rising to leave.]
What's the matter with a family, I'd like to know. What else have
they got to offer?
EXIT MRS. ANTROBUS
[MR. ANTROBUS has closed his eyes.]
ENTER FORTUNE TELLER from her shop; leans against
proscenium, watching for SABINA quizzically.]
FORTUNE TELLER:
Heh! Here she comes!
ENTER SABINA from Bingo Parlor.]
SABINA: [Loud whisper.]
What's he doing?
FORTUNE TELLER:
Oh, he's ready for you. Bite your lips, dear, take a long breath
and come on up.
SABINA:
I’m nervous. My whole future depends on this. I'm nervous.
FORTUNE TELLER:
Don't be a fool. What more could you want? He's forty-five. His
head's a little dizzy. He's just been elected president. He’s ripe for
picking.
SABINA: [Still whispering.]
I don't know why it is, but every time I start one of these I'm
nervous,
[FORTUNE TELLER stands center, watching.]
FORTUNE TELLER:
You make me tired.
SABINA:
First tell me my fortune.
[FORTUNE TELLER laughs drily with gesture of brushing away a
nonsensical question. SABINA coughs.]
Oh, Mr. Antrobus, —dare I speak to you for a moment?
MR. ANTROBUS:
What? —Oh, certainly, certainly, Miss Fairweather.
SABINA:
Mr. Antrobus . . . I've been so unhappy. I've wanted . . . I've
wanted to make sure that you don't think that I'm the kind of girl
who goes out for beauty contests.
FORTUNE TELLER:
That's the way!
MR. ANTROBUS:
Oh, I understand. I understand perfectly.
FORTUNE TELLER:
Give it a little more. Lean into it.
SABINA:
I knew you would. My mother said to me this morning: that fine
Mr. Antrobus gave you the prize because he saw at once that you
weren't the kind of girl who'd go in for a thing like that.
FORTUNE TELLER:
Now you've gone too far.
MR. ANTROBUS:
My dear Miss Fairweather! There, there. There's . . . uh . . . room
for all kinds of people in the world.
SABINA:
How wonderful of you to say that. How generous! —Mr.
Antrobus, have you a moment? . . . I'm afraid I may be a little
conspicuous here . . . could you come over, for just a moment, to
that poolside cabana . . . ?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Why —uh ... yes, certainly ... for a moment ... just for a moment.
SABINA:
There's a chair there. Because: you know you do look tired. Now
isn't it true, Mr. Antrobus: you work too hard?
FORTUNE TELLER:
Bingo!
EXIT FORTUNE TELLER into her shop.]
SABINA:
Now you will just stretch out. No, I shan't say a word, not a word.
I shall just sit there, —privileged. That's what I am.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Taking her hand.]
Miss Fairweather . . . you'll . . . spoil me.
SABINA:
Just a moment. I have something I wish to say to the audience. —
Ladies and gentlemen. I'm not going to play this next scene. It's just a
short scene and we're going to skip it. But I'll tell you what takes place
and then we can continue the play from there on. Now in this scene—
MR. ANTROBUS: [Between his teeth.]
But, [actors’ name]!
SABINA:
I'm sorry. I'm sorry. But I have to skip it. In this scene, I talk to Mr.
Antrobus, and at the end he decides to leave his wife, get a
divorce and marry me. That's all.
MR. ANTROBUS:
[Stage manager’s name]!
SABINA:
So that now I've told you we can jump to me end of it, —where
you say:
ENTER STAGE MANAGER in a fit.]
STAGE MANAGER:
Ms. [actor’s name], we insist on your playing this scene.
SABINA:
I'm sorry, [stage manager’s name], but I can't and I won't. I've told
the audience all they really need to know and now we can go on.
ENTER OTHER ACTORS listening.]
STAGE MANAGER:
And why can't you play it?
SABINA:
Because there are some lines in that scene that would hurt some
people's feelings and I don't think the theatre is a place where
people's feelings ought to be hurt.
STAGE MANAGER:
Ms. [actor’s name], you can pack up and go home. I shall call the
understudy and you will get an F for this block.
SABINA:
I sent the understudy to Buddy’s for coffee and if you try to flunk
me I'll drag the case right up to the Supreme Court.
STAGE MANAGER & MR. ANTROBUS:
Why can't you play it . . . what's the matter with the scene?
SABINA:
Well, if you must know, I have a friend in the audience tonight.
Her life hasn't been exactly a happy one. I wouldn't have my
friend hear some of those lines for the whole world. I don't
suppose it ever occurred to the author that some women might
not want to see such a scene played out before their very eyes.
STAGE MANAGER:
[Actor’s name], your friend will forgive you. We must play this
scene.
SABINA:
Nothing, nothing will make me say some of those lines . . . "a
man outgrows a wife every seven years" and . . . or . . . well . . .
Horrible, simply horrible.
STAGE MANAGER:
[Actor’s name]! Get off this stage. I'll read your lines.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Let’s just skip the scene.
SABINA:
Thank you. I knew you'd understand. We'll do just what I said.
So Mr. Antrobus is going to divorce his wife and marry me. Mr.
Antrobus, you say: "It won't be easy to lay all this before my wife,
"
EXIT STAGE MANAGER & OTHER ACTORS
[MR. ANTROBUS paces about, hand to his forehead.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Wait a minute. I can't get back into it as easily as all that. "My
wife is a very obstinate woman.” Hmm . . . then you say . . .
hm . . . .
SABINA:
Listen, just skip to where I say: “Come here!”
[She moves close. They embrace.]
So.
Now when your wife comes, it's really very simple; just tell her.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Lily, Lily: you're a wonderful woman.
SABINA:
Of course I am.
EXIT MR. ANTROBUS & SABINA into cabana. Distant thunder.
A third warning light lights. More thunder, closer & louder.
ENTER MRS. ANTROBUS carrying parcels. She looks about, seats
herself on bench, fans herself with her handkerchief!
ENTER GLADYS opposite, followed by two CONVEENERS. She is
wearing red stockings.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Gladys!
GLADYS:
Mama, here I am.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Gladys Antrobus!!! Where did you get those dreadful things?
GLADYS:
Wha-a-t? Papa liked the color.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
You go back to the hotel this minute!
GLADYS:
I won't. I won't. Papa liked the color.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
All right. All right. You stay here. I've a good mind to let your
father see you that way. You stay right here.
GLADYS:
I . . . I don't want to stay if . . . if you don't think he'd like it.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Oh . . . it's all one to me. I don't care what happens. I don't care if
the biggest storm in the whole world comes. Let it come.
[She folds her hands.]
Where's your brother?
GLADYS: [In a small voice.]
He'll be here.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Will he? Well, let him get into trouble. I don't care. Where is your father?
[Laughter from the cabana.]
GLADYS: [Looking around.]
I think he's . . . Mama, he's talking to the lady in the red dress.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Is that so?
[Pause.]
We'll wait till he's through. Sit down here beside me and stop
fidgeting . . . what are you crying about?
[Thunder & lightning. MRS. ANTROBUS covers GLADYS with raincoat.]
GLADYS:
You don't like my stockings.
ENTER FEMALE REPORTER, CAMERMAN & SOUND
TECHNICIAN with broadcast equipment
ENTER FORTUNE TELLER at door of her shop. Other characters
gradually gather.
FEMALE REPORTER:
Mrs. Antrobus! Thank God we've found you at last. Where's Mr.
Antrobus? We've been hunting everywhere for him.
SOUND TECHNICIAN:
It's about time for his broadcast.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Calm.]
I expect he'll be here in a minute.
FEMALE REPORTER:
Mrs. Antrobus, if he doesn't show up in time, I hope you will
consent to broadcast in his place. It's the most important
broadcast of the year.
ENTER SABINA & MR. ANTROBUS.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
No, I shan't. I haven't one single thing to say.
SOUND TECHNICIAN:
Then won't you help us find him, Mrs. Antrobus?
CAMERAMAN:
A storm's coming. A hurricane.
SOUND TECHNICIAN:
A deluge!
CAMERAMAN:
Here he is.
FEMALE REPORTER:
You're on the air in five minutes.
SOUND TECHNICIAN:
We need a sound check? If you just please begin the alphabet
slowly.
[MR. ANTROBUS, with set face, comes ponderously forward. He
speaks authoritatively to broadcasters.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
I'll be ready when the time comes. Until then, move away. Go
away. I have something I wish to say to my wife.
FEMALE REPORTER: [Whimpering.]
Mr. Antrobus! This is the most important broadcast of the year.
[Broadcasters withdraw to the edge of stage. SABINA glides up behind
ANTROBUS.]
SABINA: [Whispering.]
Don't let her argue. Remember arguments have nothing to do
with it.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Maggie, I'm moving out. In fact, I'm moving out for good. I'm
going to marry Miss Fairweather. I shall provide generously for
you and the children. In a few years you'll be able to see that it's
all for the best. That's all I have to say.
FEMALE REPORTER / BINGO CALLER:
Mr. Antrobus! I hope you'll / A-nine; A-nine. D-forty-two;
be ready. This is the most / D-forty-two. C-thirty; C-thirty;
important broadcast of
/ B-seventeen; B-seventeen. C-forty;
the year.
/ C-forty-two.
GLADYS:
What did Papa say, Mama? I didn't hear what papa said.
SOUND TECHNICIAN:
Mr. Antrobus. All we want to do is test your voice with the
alphabet.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Go away. Clear out.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Composedly with lowered eyes.]
George, I can't talk to you until you wipe those silly red marks off
your face.
MR. ANTROBUS:
I think there's nothing to talk about. I've said what I have to say.
SABINA:
Splendid!
ANTROBUS:
You're a fine woman, Maggie, but . . . but a man has his own life
to lead in the world.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Well, after living with you for five thousand years I guess I have
a right to a word or two, haven't I?
MR. ANTROBUS: [To SABINA.]
What can I answer to that?
FEMALE REPORTER:
Mr. Antrobus, the hurricane signal's gone up. We could begin
right now.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Calmly, almost dreamily.]
I didn't marry because you were perfect. I didn't even marry you
because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a
promise.
[She takes off her ring and looks at it.]
That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave
you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it
was the promise that made the marriage.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Maggie, . . . I was only nineteen.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
[She puts her ring back on her finger.]
And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that
protected them; and it wasn't our love, that protected them —it
was that promise.
And when that promise is broken —this can happen!
[With a sweep she removes raincoat, revealing GLADYS' stockings.]
MR. ANTROBUS: [Stretches out arm, apoplectic.]
Gladys!! Have you gone crazy? Has everyone gone crazy?
[Turning to SABINA.]
You did this. You gave them to her.
SABINA:
I never said a word to her.
MR. ANTROBUS: [To GLADYS.]
You go back to the hotel and take those horrible things off.
GLADYS: [Pert.]
Before I go, I've got something to tell you, –it's about Henry.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Claps her' hands peremptorily.]
Stop your noise, —I'm taking her back to the hotel, George.
Before I go I have a letter . . . I have a message to throw into the
ocean.
[Fumbling in handbag.]
Where is the plagued thing? Here it is.
[She flings a bottle over the audience into side aisle.]
It's a bottle. And in the bottle's a letter. And in the letter is written
all the things that a woman knows.
It’s never been told to any man and it's never been told to any
woman, and if it finds its destination, a new time will come.
We’re not what books and plays say we are. We're not what
advertisements say we are. We're not what you hear on the radio or
see in the movies or on television or the internet, for that matter.
We're not what you're all told and what you think we are:
We're ourselves. And if any man can find one of us he'll learn
why the whole universe was set in motion. And if any man harm
anyone of us, his soul—the only soul he's got —had better be at
the bottom of that ocean, —and that's the only way to put it.
Gladys, come here. We're going back to the hotel.
EXIT MRS. ANTROBUS [dragging GLADYS firmly off by the hand.
GLADYS breaks away & comes down to speak to her father.]
SABINA:
Such goings-on. Don't give it a minute's thought.
GLADYS:
Anyway, I think you ought to know that Henry hit a man with a
stone, and the man's very sick. Henry ran away and some
policemen are looking for him. And I don't care a bit if you don't
want to have anything to do with mama and me, because I'll never
like you again and I hope nobody ever likes you again, —so there!
EXIT GLADYS MR. ANTROBUS starts after her.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
I . . . I have . . .
SABINA:
You stay right here. Don't you go now while you're excited.
Gracious sakes, all these things will be forgotten in a hundred
years. Come, now, you're on the air. Just say anything, —it
doesn't matter what. Just a lot of birds and fishes and things.
FEMALE REPORTER:
Thank you, Miss Fairweather. Thank you very much. Ready, Mr.
Antrobus.
MR. ANTROBUS:
What is it, what is it? Who am I talking to?
FEMALE REPORTER:
Why, Mr. Antrobus! To all of creation, vertebrates and
invertebrates alike.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Raising his head.]
What are all those birds doing?
FEMALE REPORTER:
Those are the delegates to our convention, —two of each kind.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Pointing into the audience.]
Look at the water. Look at them all. Those fishes jumping. The
children should see this! —There's Maggie's whales!! Here are
your whales, Maggie!!
FEMALE REPORTER:
We’re almost ready, Mr. Antrobus.
MR. ANTROBUS:
And look on the beach! You didn't tell me these would be here!
SABINA:
Yes, George. Those are the animals.
FEMALE REPORTER:
Yes, Mr. Antrobus, those are the vertebrates. We hope the lion
will have a word to say when you're through.
SOUND TECHNICIAN:
We're ready to go live Mr. Antrobus. We'll just have time before
the storm hits.
This is . . .
Pause. In a hoarse whisper:
They're wait-ing.
[Stage dark except for spot on MR. ANTROBUS. A high whistling
noise, strange veering lights start whirling about the stage. FOURTH
WARNING LIGHTS FLASHES.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Friends. Cousins, Species All. Four score and ten billion years ago
our forefather brought forth upon this planet the spark of life . . .
[He is drowned out by thunder: When thunder pauses FORTUNE TELLER
seen standing beside him. Increasing thunder, lightning & howling wind.]
FORTUNE TELLER:
Antrobus, there's not a minute to lose. The Tsunami’s coming.
Don't you see all the lights are flashing? Get your family into that
boat at the end of the pier.
EXIT BROADCAST CREW clutching equipment.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
My family? I have no family. Maggie! Maggie! They won't come.
FORTUNE TELLER:
They'll come. —Antrobus! Take these animals into that boat with
you. All of them, —two of each kind.
SABINA:
George, what's the matter with you? This is just a storm like any
other storm.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Maggie!
SABINA:
Stay with me, we'll go . . .
[Losing conviction.]
This is just another thunderstorm, —isn't it? Isn't it?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Maggie!!!
ENTER MRS. ANTROBUS & GLADYS [She stands beside him.]
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Matter-of-fact.]
Here I am and here's Gladys.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Where've you been? Where have you been? Quick, we're going
into that boat out there.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
I know we are. But I haven't found Henry.
[She wanders off into the darkness calling "Henry!”]
SABINA: [Low urgent babbling, only occasionally raising her voice.]
I don't believe it. I don't believe it's anything at all. I've seen
hundreds of storms like this.
FORTUNE TELLER:
There's no time to lose. Go. Push the animals along before you.
Start a new world. Begin again.
SABINA:
Esmeralda! George! Tell me, —is it really serious?
MR. ANTROBUS: [Suddenly very busy.]
Elephants first. Gently, gently. —Look where you're going.
GLADYS: [Striking animals on the back.]
Stop it or you'll be left behind!
MR. ANTROBUS:
Is the Kangaroo there? There you are! Take those turtles in your
pouch, will you?
[To some other animals, pointing to his shoulder.]
Here! You jump up here. You'll be trampled on.
GLADYS: [To her father; pointing below.]
Papa, look, —the snakes!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
I can't find Henry. HEN-RY!
MR. ANTROBUS:
Go along. Go along. Climb on their backs. —Wolves! Jackals,
whatever you are —tend to your own business!
GLADYS: [Pointing tenderly.]
Papa, —look.
SABINA:
Mr. Antrobus-take me with you. Don't leave me here. I'll work.
I'll help. I'll do anything.
ENTER THREE CONVEENERS, marching with a banner: “FUN
FUN FUN!!!”]
CONVEENERS:
George! What are you scared of? —George! Fellas, it looks like
rain. —"Maggie, where's my umbrella?" —George, starting a
circus.
MR. ANTROBUS:
[Again catching his wife's hand.]
Come on now, Maggie, —the pier's going to break apart any
minute now.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
I'm not going a step without Henry. HENRY!
GLADYS:
Mama! Papa! Hurry, The pier's cracking, Mama, It's going to
break.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Henry! Cain! CAIN!
ENTER HENRY dashes on, joins his mother.]
HENRY:
Here I am, Mama.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Thank God! —now come quick.
HENRY:
I didn't think you wanted me,
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Quick!
[She pushes him down before her into aisle.]
SABINA:
[All the ANTROBUSES are now in the theater aisle, SABINA stands
on the stage beseeching them.]
Mrs, Antrobus, take me, Don't you remember me? I'll work, I'll
help, Don't leave me here!
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Impatiently, but as though of no importance.]
Yes, yes. There's a lot of work to be done. Only hurry.
FORTUNE TELLER: [Dominating stage. To SABINA with grim smile.]
Yes, go —back to the kitchen with you.
SABINA: [Half into aisle. To FORTUNE TELLER.]
I don't know why my life's always being interrupted —just when
everything's going fine!!
EXIT ANTROBUSES & SABINA up the aisle.]
ENTER CONVENEERS w/ musical instruments, doing a serpentine
dance, pretending to paddle. They jeer at FORTUNE TELLER.]
CONVEENERS:
Get a canoe —there's not a minute to lose! Tell me my future, Mrs.
Croaker.
FORTUNE TELLER:
Paddle away, boys —enjoy yourselves.
BINGO CALLER:
A-nine; A-nine. C-Twenty-four. C-Twenty-four.
CONVEENERS:
Rub a dub dub / Three men in a tub / a butcher, a . . .
FORTUNE TELLER:
Go back and climb on your roofs. Put rags under your doors. —
Nothing will keep out the flood. You've had your chance. You've
had your day. You've failed. You've lost.
BINGO CALLER:
B-fifteen; B-fifteen.
FORTUNE TELLER: [Shading her eyes, looking out to sea.]
They're safe. George Antrobus! Think it over! A new world to
make —think it over!
CURTAIN





ACT III
[Just prior to curtain, two cracked bugle calls are heard.]
CURTAIN
[Set largely as Act I, helter skelter, irregular gaps. The doors &
windows frameless & out of line. Off-stage fires. Bugle call repeated.]
ENTER SABINA through tilted door: She is dressed as Napoleonic
camp follower, "la fille du regiment,” in begrimed reds & blues.]
SABINA:
Mrs. Antrobus! Gladys! Where are you?
The war's over. The war's over. You can come out. The peace
treaty's been signed.
Where are they? —Hmpf! Are they dead, too? Mrs. Annnntrobus!
Glaaaadus! Mr. Antrobus'll be here this afternoon. I just saw him
downtown. Huuuurry and put things in order. He says that now
that the war's over we'll all have to settle down and be perfect.
ENTER STAGE MANAGER followed by Whole Company, who
stand waiting at edges of stage. He tries to interrupt SABINA.]
STAGE MANAGER:
[Actor’s name], we have to stop a moment.
SABINA:
They may be hiding out in the back.
STAGE MANAGER:
[Actor’s name]! We have to stop a moment.
SABINA:
What's the matter?
STAGE MANAGER:
There's an explanation we have to make to the audience. Lights,
please.
[To actor playing MR. ANTROBUS]
Will you explain the matter to the audience?
[Lights up.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Ladies and gentlemen, an unfortunate accident has taken place
back stage. Perhaps I should say another unfortunate accident.
SABINA:
I’m sorry. I'm sorry.
MR. ANTROBUS:
The class all feels that you are due an apology. Seven of our
classmates have . . . have been taken ill. Apparently, it was
something they ate. I'm not exactly clear what happened.
[EVERYONE start to explain at once. ANTROBUS raises hand.]
Now, now —not all at once. [actor playing stage manager’s
name] do you know what it was?
STAGE MANAGER:
I think they had breakfast together this morning, and something
that disagreed with them.
SABINA:
Disagreed with them!!! They have food poisoning. They're down
at the emergency room this very minute having their stomachs
pumped, in perfect agony.
[Cell phone rings. Light technician answers & shouts to the stage.]
LIGHT TECHNICIAN:
They’re going to be okay . . . but they have to stay for observation.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Well, so you can see that they're in no condition to take part in
this performance.
STAGE MANAGER:
Naturally, we haven't enough understudies to fill all those roles;
but we do have a number of splendid volunteers from the stage
crew who have kindly consented to help us out. They’ve been here
for all the rehearsals, and they assure me that they know the parts
perfectly.
ENTER FOUR SUBSTITUTES, bow modestly.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Now this scene takes place near the end of the act. And I'm sorry
to say we'll need a short rehearsal through. Those of you who
wish can . . . well, just wait patiently; feel free to talk quietly
among yourselves. Thank you. Now will you take it over, [stage
manager’s name]?
STAGE MANAGER:
Thank you. —Now, at the end of this act, the men have come
back from the War and the family's settled down in the house.
And the author wants to show the hours of the night passing by
over their heads, and the planets crossing the sky . . . uh . . . over
their heads. And he says — this is hard to explain — that each of
the hours of the night is a philosopher, or a great thinker. Eleven
o'clock, for instance, is Aristotle. And nine o'clock is Spinoza.
Like that. I don't suppose it means anything. It's just a kind of
artsy effect.
SABINA:
Not mean anything! Why, it certainly does. Twelve o'clock goes
by saying those wonderful things. I think it means that when
people are asleep they have all those lovely thoughts, much
better than when they're awake.
SUBSTITUTE 1:
I agree with [actor’s name], I mean Sabina: just like the hours and
stars go by over our heads at night, in the same way ideas and
thoughts are in the air around us all the time and they're working
on us, even when we don't know it.
STAGE MANAGER:
Well, well, maybe that's it. Thank you, [Substitute 1’s name].
Anyway, are you ready? Ivy, can you be eleven o'clock? "This
good estate of the mind possessing its object in energy we call
divine." Aristotle.
SUBSTITUTE 1:
Certainly. I know that and I know twelve o'clock and I know nine
o'clock.
STAGE MANAGER:
Twelve o'clock? [Substitute 3’s name], the Bible.
SUBSTITUTE 3:
Yes.
STAGE MANAGER:
Ten o'clock? [Substitute 1’s name], Plato?
[Actor nods eagerly.]
Nine o'clock, Spinoza, —[Substitute 4’s name]?
SUBSTITUTE 4:
Yes, sir.
[SUBSTITUTES pick up gilded cardboard Roman numerals. STAGE
MANAGER strikes his forehead.]
STAGE MANAGER:
The planets!! We forgot all about the planets.
SABINA:
O my God! The planets! Are they sick too?
[Everyone nods.]
STAGE MANAGER:
Ladies and gentlemen, the planets are eurythmists and tone-
chanters. Of course, we can't replace them, so you'll have to
imagine them. They are spread all around the auditorium. Tz-tz-
tz. No, really; tt's too bad; it all makes a very fine effect.
However! Ready-nine o'clock: Spinoza.
SUBSTITUTE 4: [Walking slowly across stage, speaking softly.]
"After experience had taught me that the common occurrences of
daily life are vain and futile . . ."
STAGE MANAGER:
Louder, [Substitute 4’s name]. "And I saw that all tile objects of
my desire and Fear—“
SUBSTITUTE 4:
"And I saw that all the objects of my desire and fear were in
themselves nothing good nor bad save insofar as the mind was
affected by them —"
STAGE MANAGER:
Do you know the rest? All right. Ten o'clock. [Substitute 1’s
name]. Plato.
SUBSTITUTE 1:
"Then tell me, O Critias, how wiII a man choose the ruler that
shall rule over him? Will he not —"
STAGE MANAGER:
Thank you. Skip to the end.
SUBSTITUTE 1:
" . . . can be multiplied a thousand fold in its effects among the
citizens."
STAGE MANAGER:
Thank you. —Aristotle, [Substitute 2’s name]?
SUBSTITUTE 2:
"This good estate of the mind possessing its object in energy we
call divine. This we mortals have occasionally and it is this
energy —"
STAGE MANAGER:
—good! All right, everybody. You know what you have to do. —
Curtain. Lights. Act Three of THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH.
EXIT COMPANY. [As curtain closes he is heard saying.]
Just wear what you have on. Don't try to put on the costumes
today.
[Act begins again. Bugle call.]
ENTER SABINA.
SABINA:
Mrs. Antrobus! Gladys! Where are you? The war's over. —You've
heard all this —
[She gabbles main points.]
Where—are—they? Are—they—dead, too, et cetera. I—just
saw—Mr.-Antrobus—down town, et cetera.
[Slowing down.]
He says that now that the war's over we'll all have to settle down
and be perfect. They may be hiding out in the back somewhere.
Mrs. An-tro-bus.
EXIT SABINA wandering.]
[Growing light. Trapdoor cautiously opens in wall. MRS. ANTROBUS
puts head into room, listens. She is disheveled & worn; dress tattered,
shawl half covers her head. She speaks to someone behind her.]
ENTER MRS. ANTROBUS cautiously, speaking into trap door.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
It's getting light. There's still something burning over there.
Newark, or Jersey City. What? Yes, I could swear I heard
someone moving about. But I can't see anybody. I say: I can't see
anybody.
[Moves about. GLADYS' head appears at trapdoor, holding BABY.]
ENTER GLADYS
GLADYS:
Oh, Mama. Be careful.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Now, Gladys, you stay out of sight.
GLADYS:
Well, let me stay here just a minute, I want the baby to get some
of this fresh air.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
All right, but keep your eyes open, I'll see what I can find, I'll
have a good hot bowl of soup for you in no time! Do you know
what I think I see? Old Mr. Hawkins sweeping his driveway.
Why, he must have gone crazy, like the others! Some other
people moving about, too,
GLADYS:
Mama, come back, come back,
[MRS. ANTROBUS returns to trapdoor but listens.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Gladys, there's something in the air. Everybody’s movement’s
sort of different, I see some women walking right out in the
middle of the street.
SABINA'S VOICE: [Off.]
Mrs. An-tro-bus!
MRS. ANTROBUS AND GLADYS:
What's that?!!
SABINA'S VOICE: [Off.]
Glaaaadys! Mrs. An-tro-bus!
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Gladys, that's Sabina's voice as sure as I live.
ENTER SABINA.
—Sabina! Sabina! Are you alive?!!
SABINA:
Of course, I'm alive. How've you girls been? —Don't try and kiss
me. I never want to kiss another human being as long as I live.
Sh-sh, there's nothing to get emotional about. Pull yourself
together, the war's over. Take a deep breath, —the war's over,
MRS. ANTROBUS:
The war's over!! I don't believe you. I don't believe you. I can't
believe you.
GLADYS:
Mama!
SABINA:
Who's that?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
That's Gladys and her baby. Gladys, Sabina says the war's over.
Oh, Sabina.
SABINA:
[Leaning over BABY.]
Goodness! Are there any babies left in the world! Can it see? And
can it cry and everything?
GLADYS:
Yes, he can. He notices everything very well.
SABINA:
Where on earth did you get it? Oh, I won't ask. —Lord, I've lived
all these seven years around camp and I've forgotten how to
behave. —Now we've got to think about the men coming home.
—Mrs. Antrobus, go and wash your face, I'm ashamed of you.
Put your best clothes on. Mr. Antrobus'll be here this afternoon. I
just saw him downtown.
MRS. ANTROBUS & GLADYS:
He's alive!! He'll be here!! Sabina, you're not joking?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
And Henry?
SABINA: [Dryly.]
Yes, Henry's alive, too, that's what they say. Now don't stop to
talk. Get yourselves fixed up. Gladys, you look terrible. Have you
any decent clothes?
[SABINA pushes them towards trapdoor.]
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Half in.]
Yes, I've something to wear just for this very day. But, Sabina,
who won the war?
SABINA:
Don't stop now, —just wash your face.
EXIT MRS. ANTROBUS
GLADYS: [Half in.]
Sabina, how soon after peacetime begins does the supermarket
open?
SABINA:
As soon as someone grows some food. Give them some time,
dear.
EXIT GLADYS.
[SABINA shakes head, sits by trapdoor, speaking into hole.]
Mrs. Antrobus, guess what I saw Mr. Antrobus doing this. You'll
die when you hear: he was tacking up a recipe for grass soup that
doesn't give you the diarrhea. Still thinking up new things. —He
told me to give you his love. He's got all sorts of ideas for
peacetime, he says. No more laziness and idiocy, he says. And oh,
yes! Where are his books? What? Well, pass them in. He says
everything he needs is in them. Everybody's going to be beautiful,
he says, and diligent, and very intelligent.
[Hand reaches out with two books.]
What language is that? Pu-u-gh —mold! And he's got such plans
for you, Mrs. Antrobus. You're going to study history and
algebra —and so are Gladys and me —and philosophy. You
should hear him talk:
[Two more volumes.]
Well, these are in English, anyway. —To hear him talk, seems
like he expects you to be a combination, Mrs. Antrobus, of a saint
and a college professor, and a dancehall hostess, if you know
what I mean.
[Two more volumes.]
Ugh. German!
[Lying on floor; one elbow bent, cheek on hand, meditatively.]
Yes, peace will be here before we know it. In a week or two we'll
be watching TV and learning how to become happy with a new
deodorant. Then we’ll drive over to the mall and buy hundred
dollar flip-flops and thousand dollar designer jeans and —all that
will begin again. Oh, Mrs. Antrobus, God forgive me but I
enjoyed the war. Everybody's at their best in wartime. I’m sorry
it's over. And, oh, I forgot! Mr. Antrobus sent you another
message —can you hear me? —
ENTER HENRY, blackened & sullen, wearing torn overalls, has one
dangling gaudy admiral's shoulder epaulette, vestiges of gold & scarlet
braid. He stands listening.]
Listen! Henry's never to put foot in this house again, he says.
He'll kill Henry on sight, if he sees him.
You don't know about Henry??? Well, where have you been?
What? Well, Henry rose right to the top. Top of what? Listen, I'm
telling you. Henry rose from corporal to captain, to major, to
general. —I don't know how to say it, but the enemy is Henry;
Henry is the enemy. Everybody knows that.
HENRY:
He'll kill me, will he? I'll kill him so fast. I've spent seven years
trying to find him; the others I killed were just substitutes.
SABINA:
Goodness! It's Henry! —
[He makes angry gesture.]
Oh, I'm not afraid of you. The war's over, Henry Antrobus, and
you're not any more important than any other unemployed veteran.
Go away and hide yourself, until we calm your father down.
HENRY:
The first thing to do is to burn up those old books; it's the ideas
he gets out of those old books that . . . that makes the whole
world so you can't live in it.
[He reels forward, kicking books, then suddenly collapses onto sofa.]
SABINA:
You leave those books alone!! Mr. Antrobus is looking forward to
them. —Gracious sakes, Henry, you're so tired you can't stand up.
Your mother and sister'll be here in a minute —
HENRY:
—What did they ever care about me?
SABINA:
There's that old whine again. Always thinking you're not loved
enough, that nobody loves you. Well, start being lovable and
we'll love you.
HENRY: [Outraged.]
I don't want anybody to love me. I want everybody to hate me.
SABINA:
Mrs. Antrobus! Henry's here. He's so tired he can't stand up.
ENTER MRS. ANTROBUS & GLADYS, with BABY, dressed as in
Act 1. MRS. ANTROBUS carries some objects in apron, & GLADYS
has blanket over her shoulder.]
MRS. ANTROBUS AND GLADYS:
Henry! Henry! Henry!
HENRY: [Glaring at them.]
Have you anything to eat?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Yes, I have, Henry. I've been saving it for this very day, —two
good baked potatoes. No! Henry! One’s for your father. Henry!!
Give me that other potato back this minute.
[SABINA sidles up behind him & snatches other potato away.]
SABINA:
He's so dog-tired he doesn't know what he's doing.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Now you just rest there, Henry, until I can get your room ready.
Eat that potato good and slow, so you can get all the nourishment
out of it.
HENRY:
You all might as well know right now that I haven't come back
here to live.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Sh . . . . I'll put this coat over you. Your room's hardly damaged at
all. Your football trophies are a little tarnished, but Sabina and I
will polish them up tomorrow.
HENRY:
Did you hear me? I don't live here. I don't belong to anybody.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Why, how can you say a thing like that! You certainly do belong
right here. Where else would you want to go? Your forehead's
feverish, Henry, seems to me. You'd better give me that gun,
Henry. You won't need that any more.
GLADYS: [Whispering.]
Look, he's fallen asleep already, with his potato half-chewed.
SABINA:
Puh! The terror of the world.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Sabina, you mind your own business, and start putting the room
to rights.
[HENRY slouches into sofa. MRS. ANTROBUS gingerly puts revolver
in apron pocket, helps SABINA tidy room to condition of Act I.]
SABINA:
That's all we do —always beginning again! Over and over again.
Always beginning again. [Meditatively.] How do we know that
it'll be any better than before? Why do we go on pretending?
Someday the whole earth's going to have to turn cold anyway,
and until then it will be more wars and more walls of ice and
floods and earthquakes.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Sabina!! Stop arguing and go on with your work.
SABINA:
All right. I'll go on just out of habit, but I won't believe in it.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Aroused.]
Now, Sabina. I've let you talk long enough. I don't want to hear
any more of it. Do I have to explain to you what everybody
knows, —everybody who keeps a home going? Do I have to say
to you what nobody should ever have to say, because they can
read it in each other's eyes?
Now listen to me:
I could live for seventy years in a cellar and make soup out of
grass and bark, without ever doubting that this world has work
to do and will do it.
Do you hear me?
SABINA: [Frightened.]
Yes, Mrs. Antrobus.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
So we'll start putting this house to rights. Now, Sabina, go and
see what you can do in the kitchen.
SABINA:
Kitchen! Why is it that however far I go away, I always find
myself back in the kitchen?
EXIT SABINA
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Still thinking over her last speech, relaxes, says
with reminiscent smile.]
Goodness gracious, there! I've gone and almost waked Henry up.
HENRY: [Talking in his sleep, indistinctly.]
Comrades . . . what have they done for us? . . . Blocked our way
at every step. When are you going to wake up?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Sh, Henry. Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go to sleep. —Well, that
looks better. Now let's go and help Sabina.
GLADYS:
Mama, I'm going out into the backyard and hold the baby right up
in the air. And show him that we don't have to be afraid any more.
EXIT GLADYS to kitchen.]
EXIT MRS. ANTROBUS after, glancing at HENRY, who thrashes
about in his sleep.
ENTER MR. ANTROBUS, w/slight limp, arms full of bundles,
chewing end of carrot. Wearing ACT I suit & too large, its skirts
trailing. Lets bundles fall, stands looking about, attention fixes on
HENRY, whose mumbling grows clear.]
HENRY:
All right! What have you got to lose? What have they done for
us? That's right-nothing. Tear everything down. I don't care what
you smash. We'll begin again and we'll show 'em.
[MR. ANTROBUS takes out revolver, holds pointing downwards.
Backs toward apron. HENRY'S voice grows louder; he wakes with a
start. They stare at each other. Then HENRY sits up quickly.
Throughout following scene HENRY is played, not as
misunderstood or misguided young man, but as representation of
strong, unreconciled evil.]
All right! Do something.
[Pause.]
Don't think I'm afraid of you, either. All right, do what YOU were
going to do. Do it.
[Furiously.]
Shoot me, I tell you. You don't have to think I'm any relation of
yours. I haven't got any father or any mother, or brothers or
sisters. And I don't want any. And what's more I haven't got
anybody over me; and I never will have. I'm alone, and that's all I
want to be: alone. So you can shoot me.
MR. ANTROBUS:
You're the last person I wanted to see. The sight of you dries up
all my plans and hopes. I wish I were back at war still, because
it's easier to fight you than to live with you. War's a pleasure; do
you hear me? —War's a pleasure compared to what faces us now:
trying to build up a peacetime with you in the middle of it.
[MR. ANTROBUS walks to window.]
HENRY:
I'm not going to be a part of any peacetime of yours. I'm going a
long way from here and make my own world that's fit for a man
to live in. Where a man can be free, and have a chance, and do
what he wants to do in his own way.
MR. ANTROBUS:
[His attention arrested; thoughtfully. He throws gun out window &
turns with hope.]
. . . Henry, let's try again.
HENRY:
Try what? Living here? —Speaking polite to old men like you? Standing
like a sheep at the corner until the red light turns green? Being a good
boy and a good sheep, like all the stinking ideas you get out of your
books? Oh, no. I'll make a world, and I'll show you.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Hard.]
How can you make a world for people to live in, unless you’ve
put yourself in order first? Mark my words: I shall continue
fighting you until my last breath as long as you mix up your idea
of liberty with your idea of hogging everything for yourself I
shall have no pity on you. I shall pursue you to the far corners of
the earth. —I hear your mother's voice in the kitchen. Have you
seen her?
HENRY:
I have no mother. Get it into your head. I don't belong here. I
have nothing to do here. I have no home.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Then why did you come here? With the whole world to choose
from, why did you come to this one place: 216 Cedar Street,
Excelsior, New Jersey . . . Well?
HENRY:
What if I did? What if I wanted to look at it once more, to see if —
MR. ANTROBUS:
Oh, you're related, all right. —When your mother comes in you
must behave yourself. Do you hear me?
HENRY: [Wildly.]
What is this? —Must behave yourself. Don't you say must to me.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Quiet!
ENTER MRS. ANTROBUS & SABINA
HENRY: [Ranting to himself.]
Nobody can say must to me. All my life everybody's been
crossing me, —everybody, everything, all of you. I'm going to be
free, even if I have to kill half the world for it. Right now, too. Let
me get my hands on his throat. I'll show him.
[He advances on MR. ANTROBUS. Suddenly, SABINA jumps
between them and calls out, breaking character.]
SABINA:
Stop! Stop! Don't play this scene. You know what happened last
time. Stop the play.
[They fall back, panting. HENRY covers face with hands.]
Last night you almost strangled him. You became a regular
savage. Stop it!
HENRY: [Breaking character.]
It's true. I'm sorry. I don't know what comes over me. I have nothing
against him. I . . . I . . . he’s my friend. But something comes over me
in this scene. It's like . . . this is hard: my own father used to whip me
and lock me up. I never had enough to eat. He never let me have
enough money to buy decent clothes. I was ashamed to go out. My
father and my uncle put rules in the way of everything I wanted to do.
They tried to prevent my living at all —I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Quickly; breaking character.]
No, go on. Finish what you were saying. Say it all.
HENRY: [Breaking character.]
This scene: it's like it opens up some big emptiness inside me, —the
emptiness of being hated and blocked at every turn. And the
emptiness fills up with one thought: strike out and kill. Listen: it's as
though you have to kill somebody so you don’t end up killing yourself.
SABINA: [Breaking character.]
That's not true. I knew your father and your uncle and your
mother. You imagined all that. Why, they did everything they
could for you. How can you say things like that?
HENRY: [Breaking character.]
They did. They did. They wished I hadn't been born.
SABINA: [Breaking character.]
That's not true.
MR. ANTROBUS: [Breaking character: self-condemnation but cold &
proud.]
Wait a minute. I have something to say, too. It's not wholly his fault
that he wants to strangle me in this scene. It's my fault, too. He
wouldn't feel that way unless there were something in me that
reminded him of all that. He talks about an emptiness. Well, there's an
emptiness in me, too. Yes, —work, work, work, that's all I do. I've
ceased to live. No wonder he feels that anger coming over him.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Breaking character.]
There! At least you've said it.
SABINA: [Breaking character.]
We're all just as wicked as we can be, and that's the God's truth.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
[Nods a moment, then comes forward; quietly.]
Come. Come and put your head under some cold water.
SABINA: [In a whisper.]
I'll go with him. I've known him a long while. You have to go on
with the play. Come with me.
[HENRY starts out with SABINA but stops at curtain line & speaks to
MR. ANTROBUS.]
HENRY:
Thanks. Thanks for what you said. I'll be all right tomorrow. I
won't lose control in that place. I promise.
EXIT HENRY & SABINA
[ANTROBUS fastens door. MRS. ANTROBUS places chair at table.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
George, do I see you limping?
MR. ANTROBUS:
Yes, a little. My old wound from the other war. I can manage.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Looking out of window.]
Some lights are coming on, —the first in seven years. People are
walking up and down looking at them. Over in Hawkins' open
lot they've built a bonfire to celebrate the peace.
MR. ANTROBUS:
A bonfire! As though they hadn't seen enough things burning. —
Maggie, —the dog died?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Oh, yes. Long ago. There are no dogs left in Excelsior. —You're
back again! All these years. George, sit down, you're tired,
MR. ANTROBUS:
No, you sit down. I'm tired but I'm restless.
[Suddenly, as she comes forward.]
Maggie! I've lost it. I've lost it.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
What, George? What have you lost?
MR. ANTROBUS:
The most important thing of all: The desire to begin again, to
start building.
MRS. ANTROBUS: [Sitting in chair.]
Well, it will come back.
MR. ANTROBUS: [At window.]
I've lost it. This minute I feel like all those people dancing around
the bonfire —just relief. Just the desire to settle down; to slip into
the old grooves and keep the neighbors from walking over my
lawn. —Hm. But during the war, —in the middle of all that blood
and dirt and hot and cold —every day and night, I'd have
moments, Maggie, when I saw the things that we could do when
it was over. When you're at war you think about a better life;
when you're at peace you think about a more comfortable one.
I've lost it. I feel sick and tired.
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Listen! The baby's crying.
I hear Gladys talking. Probably she's quieting Henry again.
George, while Gladys and I were living here —like moles, like
rats, and when we were at our wits' end to save the baby's life the
only thought we clung to was that you were going to bring
something good out of this suffering. In the night, in the dark,
we'd whisper about it, starving and sick. —Oh, George, you'll
have to get it back again. Think! What else kept us alive all these
years? Even now, it's not comfort we want. We can suffer
whatever's necessary; only give us back that promise.
ENTER SABINA with lighted lamp, dressed as in Act I.]
SABINA:
Mrs. Antrobus . . .
MRS. ANTROBUS:
Yes, Sabina?
SABINA:
Will you need me?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
No, Sabina, you can go to bed.
SABINA:
Mrs. Antrobus, if it's all right with you, I'd like to go to the
bonfire and celebrate the war's end. And I hear they’re reopening
the movie theater; we could all go.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Well, Sabina, I haven't seen any money for quite a while.
SABINA:
Oh, you don't need money. They're taking anything you can give.
And I have some . . . some . . . Mrs. Antrobus, promise you won't
tell anyone. It's a little against the law. But I'll give you some, too.
MR. ANTROBUS:
What is it?
SABINA:
I'll give you some, too. Yesterday I picked up a lot of . . . of beef
cubes!
[MRS. ANTROBUS turns & speaks calmly.]
MRS. ANTROBUS:
But, Sabina, you know you ought to give that in to the Center
downtown. They know who needs them most.
SABINA: [Outburst.]
Mrs. Antrobus, I didn't make this war. I didn't ask for it. And, in
my opinion, after anybody's gone through what we've gone
through, they have a right to grab what they can find. You're a
very nice man, Mr. Antrobus, but you'd have got on better in the
world if you'd realized that dog-eat-dog was the rule in the
beginning and always will be. And most of all now.
[In tears.]
Oh, the world's an awful place, and you know it is. I used to
think something could be done about it; but I know better now. I
hate it. I hate it.
[She approaches slowly & takes some cubes from bag.]
All right. All right. You can have them.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Thank you, Sabina.
SABINA:
Can I have . . . can I have one to go to the movies?
[MR. ANTROBUS, in silence, gives her one.]
Thank you.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Good night, Sabina.
SABINA:
Mr. Antrobus, don't mind what I say. I'm just an ordinary girl,
you know what I mean. But you're a very bright man, and of
course you invented the alphabet and the wheel, and, my God, a
lot of things . . . and if you've got any other plans, my God, don't
let me upset them. Only I've got to go to the movies. I mean my
nerves can't stand it. But if you have any ideas about improving
the crazy old world, I'm really with you. I really am. Because
it's . . . it's . . . Good night.
EXIT SABINA
[MR. ANTROBUS starts laughing softly with exhilaration.]
MR. ANTROBUS:
Now I remember what three things always went together when I
was able to see things most clearly: three things:
[He points to where SABINA has gone out.]
The voice of the people in their confusion and their need. And
the thought of you and the children and this house. And . . .
Maggie! I didn't dare ask you: my books! They haven't been lost,
have they?
MRS. ANTROBUS:
No. There are some of them right here. Kind of tattered.
MR. ANTROBUS:
Yes. —Remember, Maggie, we almost lost them once before?
And when we finally did collect a few torn copies they ran in
everyone's head like a fever. They as good as rebuilt the world.
[Pauses, book in hand, & looks up.]
Oh, I've never forgotten that living is struggle. I know that every
good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment
on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for —whether
it's a field, or a home, or a country. All I ask is the chance to build
new worlds and God has always given us that. And has given
us . . .
[Opening book.]
. . . voices to guide us; and the memory of our mistakes to warn
us. Maggie, you and I will remember in peacetime all the resolves
that were so clear to us in the days of war.
[Standing by table, turning leaves of book.]
Sometimes out there in the war, — standing all night on watch —
I'd try and remember some of the words in these books. Parts of
them and phrases would come back to me. And after a while I
used to give names to the hours of the night.
[Sitting, hunting for a passage in book.]
Nine o'clock I used to call Spinoza. Where is it: "After experience
had taught me —"
ENTER SUBSTITUTE 2 w/numeral. MRS ANTROBUS sits by table,
sewing.]
SUBSTITUTE 2:
"After experience had taught me that the common occurrences of
daily life are vain and futile; and I saw that all the objects of my
desire and fear were in themselves nothing good nor bad save in
so far as the mind was affected by them; I at length determined to
search out whether there was something truly good and
communicable to man.”
EXIT SUBSTITUTE 2; ENTER SUBSTITUTE 1, immediately, carrying
large Roman numeral X.]
ENTER GLADYS at kitchen door, moves toward her mother's chair.]
SUBSTITUTE 1:
"Then tell me, O Critias, how will a man choose the ruler that
shall rule over him? Will he not choose a man who has first
established order in himself, knowing that any decision that has
its spring from anger or pride or vanity can be multiplied a
thousand fold in its effects upon the citizens?"
EXIT SUBSTITUTE 1 & ENTER SUBSTITUTE 2, as XI]
SUBSTITUTE 1
"This good estate of the mind possessing its object in energy we
call divine. This we mortals have occasionally and it is this
energy which is pleasantest and best. But God has it always. It is
wonderful in us; but in Him how much more wonderful."
ENTER SUBSTITUTE 2, as he starts to speak, HENRY appears at
the edge of scene, brooding and unreconciled, but present.]
ENTER HENRY
SUBSTITUTE 3:
"In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth; And
the Earth was waste and void; And the darkness was upon the
face of the deep, And the Lord said let there be light and there
was light."
[SUDDEN BLACKOUT & SILENCE, except for last strike of midnight bell.
EXIT ALL
ENTER SABINA
Suddenly lights go up, & SABINA as at opening of play.]
SABINA:
Oh, oh, oh! Six o'clock and the master’s not home yet. Pray God
nothing serious has happened to him.
But I’m not surprised. The whole world's at sixes and sevens, and
why the house hasn't fallen down about our ears long ago is a
miracle to me.
[She comes down to the apron’s edge.]
This is where you came in. We have to go on for ages and ages yet.
You go home.
The end of this play isn't written yet.
Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus! Their heads are full of plans and they're
as confident as the first day they began, —and they told me to tell
you: good night.
CURTAIN

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