Study from Blue

by Johanna Miklós

part 1 of 2


CHARACTERS:

ROBERT: A confused young man

KATI: A very curious young woman, Robert’s stepsister

DUCHESS: Mother to Robert, stepmother to Kati

COUNT: Lover of the Duchess and father of Charles

CHARLES: A confused young man, son of the Count

MAGDA: A very frightened maid

JEANNE: Decadent friend of the Duchess, a woman posing as a man

SERVANT

THE TIME

Always the present although the characters sometimes speak pseudo-Restoration English.

THE SET

Exterior: a blue bench, a blue hedge and two blue trees. Later this is transformed with blue curtains into an interior.

COSTUMES

All characters are dressed in blue modern clothes with one piece of period costume each that combined creates a complete costume.

MAKE-UP

Each of the characters’ faces has a different area shaded in blue (cheek, neck, forehead, nose, chin) together, they make up one face. The lips of both men and women are painted bright, fluorescent red.

* * *

House and Set are dark.

The three traditional knocks announcing the commencement of the play turn to drumbeats that become frantic heartbeats as the cadence of the spotlights increases.

The characters are hiding behind poster-sized photographs of the part of their face that is in blue.

The spotlight illuminates each character in turn and blacks out while shifting focus from one photograph to the next.

After the spotlight has shone in turn on all eight photographs, it repeats the sequence in rapid succession until final blackout.

The drumbeats cease.

Lights up on the complete face held together by the characters to form what looks like a painting from Picasso’s blue period.

Synthesized music swells as the lights slowly fade to blackout. Then the music fades slowly.

Set remains dark.

Approaching footsteps on gravel and the rustling of silk.

The lights come up revealing the blue garden and ROBERT seated on the bench reading a small blue-covered book.

Kati

Robert? Robert! Where is he now? I’ll find you!

KATI enters.

Kati

Robert! Enfin! What art thou reading?

Robert

’Tis but philosophy, dearest sister!

Kati

By one I know? Come, come! Show me this ‘philosophy’!

ROBERT tries to hide the book.

Robert

Not all we — men! — read is fit literature for tender eyes such as thine.

Kati

(Snaps her fingers) De Sade! I wager what thou willst! It’s the Marquis de Sade thou art devouring with those lusty eyes.

Robert

If our mother heard thee! Be still!

Kati

Mother should hear! Your mother must know ever more about her precious son! Robert’s reading de Sade! Robert’s reading de Sade! Listen Everybody! The whole world!

The servant enters and bows to Kati.

Robert

Be quiet, wench! His is not a name for thine sweet lips. (Waves away the servant.)

Kati

The duchess, your mother and my step-mother in one, would bite thine pretty ears for reading such abominable filth.

The servant shrugs and exits. Kati tries to bite Robert’s ear. They wrestle.

Robert

Would you cause me pain, minx! Nibble my ear! Really! Hardly the way a noble woman behaves. Where are the sighs? Blushing cheeks? Huh? Eyes cast demurely to the ground? I find none of these signs of virtue with thee.

Kati

Thy choice of lecture is not fitting for a nobleman either! Hast thou grown tired of Greek ethics? Finding good French meat more stimulating?

Robert pins her down.

Robert

There are defendable thoughts to be found in the Marquis’ lines. Thoughts free men toy with and young ladies must ignore.

Kati

I found but chastity corrupted and contorted limbs in his works.

Robert

My little sister has read the Marquis de Sade?!

Kati

Was it not my studious brother who handed a copy to my maid? Clever little present! And so seemingly innocent a gift. Just a book. Words on paper. It was from you — wasn’t it? I can’t suspect the dullest of all men, our friend Charles. Never! This bears Robert’s hand. Educating Magda. Is that thine aim? Is it in preparation? We did fill a rainy hour attempting to sketch what proved absolutely impossible to do with our own bodies.

Robert

Blush, Kati! You should be ashamed of yourself! Why make fun of Charles? He’s devoted to you.

Kati

He’s too studious. Though, I must say, thou wouldst be better served by the study of Aquinas! Handing de Sade to my maid! Honestly! What didst thou have in mind? Or was it done without thought? There is certainly none of Pascal in such actions.

Robert

The child professed to be tired of psalms and songs. I can well understand! She begged me for some literature.

Kati

(Laughs) You take me for a simpleton, Master Robert. Didst thou not hope she would hasten to thee to add to the theory? To investigate variations? Fie!

Robert

It may have flitted through my thoughts.

Kati

Primitive! And I, the more one, for having placed my adored brother first in my innocent heart!

Robert

(Confused) Is this the blush of jealousy I see on thine quivering throat?

Kati

What, no! Me? Jealous of Magda? Can her roughened hands compare to my lily fingers? Her peasant body with my aristocratic shape? Her uncouth speech with my phrasing? Dear brother, you’re joking! Are you and I not one mind? Born but four seasons apart. Stud and dam widowed and married to raise two bodies for one soul? Were you not bred to favor elegance as do I? What see you in that peasant?

Robert

The fruit of thine latest lecture. What passion! Quite unexpected and... and most delightful! Come to my arms!

Robert opens his arms to embrace Kati.

Kati

Fie! You are my brother! If not by blood, then by name! My purpose is quite another.

Robert

Well, my beauty ... thou art a tease! What is your purpose then? Pray tell.

Kati

Strife between your mother and the Count of Five-and-Seven.

Robert

A recurring tale.

Kati

With a new twist, my dear.

Robert

A new twist? I think, we’ve seen every variation on the theme! Since your father took to the seas, there to escape from my mother’s demands and clinging arms, a true parade of pantaloons and panoplies has graced our humble home. This wrinkled count is but the latest, and I wager, not the last.

Kati

You should read Aquinas: truth is reality! Dear Robert, would I tell an untruth? Let me serve it in a riddle.

Robert

A prize if I solve it! I must have a prize! And, you have a nobleman’s word, I accept the punishment of thine choosing, should I fail to solve your riddle.

Kati

My choice? Very well. But I also choose — ladies’ privilege! — your reward should you solve the puzzle.

Robert

Should I however guess it... I shall take more than a kiss from my sis’.

Kati

You’re incorrigible! Fine. Listen closely! Who served repast and left afore we ate? Who scorns the sherry and hunts the grape?

Robert

Scorns the sherry... scorns the sherry... scorns the sherry! The Count and Magda! This beyond any doubt? Not a figment of thine new versed mind? Rats! Bats! Has she given in to his pursuit?

Kati

Neither can be found. I’ve searched castle and ground.

Robert

(Aside) Is he to harvest what I sowed?

Kati

It seems neither sowing nor harvesting are yours in that virgin soil.

Robert

Oh, thy wit!

Kati

’Tis but thy conceit that lies wounded! (Cries out) Why stray to servants’ quarters when ladies’ chambers are yours for the entering? What is the appeal of this unschooled wench? I’ve scores of delightful friends — none would scorn...

Robert

(Places a kiss on her head) Be calm, my lovely beauty. I must find... the count. Perhaps the worst can yet be averted. Come, there is no time to be lost.

Kati

Your prize... is in my chamber...

Robert

Later! Look you again in the rooms, Kati. I meanwhile search the domain. Go on! Do as I bid thee. We must find Magda.

Kati

To protect her innocence so you can rob her of it later? You take me for a fool!

Robert

I spoke in jest, earlier. Really, I have no lusty designs on your maidservant. See you not, my dear Kati, she is but a child? My thoughts are with our mother. It is one thing for mother to scorn and toss off a lover — quite another for her to be betrayed! Mother’s happiness depends on our preventing this most awful deed! And should we succeed , (Aside) which we must! (To Kati) When we have prevented what must never occur in your father’s house, then...

Kati

What then, my handsome friend?

Robert

Then... We shall explore the defendable in the Marquis’ philosophy... in a Lady’s chamber.

Kati

(Aside) He really must be wed — and fast! Robert! Care you not for your prize?

Robert

Hurry! We must not waste another breath! There’ll be time for talk and prizes later. I promise!

Kati exits reluctantly, always turning back to Robert who waves her off.

Robert claps and the servant appears.

Servant

At your service.

Robert

Where’s the wench?

Servant

Sir?

Robert

Find Magda! There’s a generous reward for finding the girl. And a little extra for discretion!

BLACKOUT

Approaching footsteps on gravel.

The lights come up on CHARLES reading the book left behind by Robert.

JEANNE enters carrying a dish of burning incense.

Charles jumps up to greet her with a bow.

Jeanne

You must be the only man not in motion, dear Charles. Have you taken note of the activities? A scandal involving your father and some serving wench.

Charles

Jeanne! I thought myself alone in this magical garden. I needed a moment of rest from the fury of the castle.

Jeanne sets down the bowl of incense and sees the book on the bench.

Jeanne

Ah, de Sade! Is he so absorbing or my tread so light? You fairly jumped at my approach!

Charles

I found it here... moments ago. It... it... must have been dropped... by... by some other reader.

Jeanne

The book arrested your stride.

Charles

In a manner. I... I... find all books of interest. Closed, they are like... like a face I see passing by a... by a window. Opened, it’s an introduction! A potential new friend...

Jeanne

And after reading? What happens when you have been introduced? (Pause) What happens then, Charles?

Jeanne sits down and begins to read.

Charles

I hope to know them well. Good books become part of my history. I’ve traveled to Arabia — yet never set foot on a ship. I’ve built castles — yet never swung an axe. I’ve slain dragons and bears — yet will not harm a mouse. Good books are teachers I respect, companions who enrich my life.

Jeanne laughs at what she is reading.

Charles

This is quite... quite different from anything I... have read before!

Jeanne

I do believe you. Ah, yes! The Marquis is not what your College would recommend as fit food for a young man’s mind. Are you hoping to win the tempestuous Kati with this... aid?

Charles

I must blush at such a suggestion! Kati’s a romantic child. She requires patient courting. The... the methods of the Marquis de Sade would... would horrify my lady Kati. And... And justly so! I am man enough to know... to know the difference between.... between wooing a young Lady and... and taking a maid!

Jeanne

The loose noose permits the prey to flee the hunter.

Charles

The blunt axe tears the pelt one wishes to conserve.

Jeanne

(Laughs) You blush with indignation, Charles. You are your late mother’s son. You must be. Nothing about you reminds me of the romping Count of Five — and — Seven. And yet — you claim to be a man already. If so, do the Marquis de Sade’s tales not bring your blood to...

Charles

Hush!

Jeanne

(Checks his pulse) Your cheek is soft... your limbs are strong. Balancing on the threshold to manhood. Will you make the leap?

Charles

We could be seen. If Kati heard you! She would think I’m betraying...

Jeanne

What fears you have. What young fears. Kati will only know what you tell. I have no wish for my romps to be made public. There’s hot spice in secrecy. I know of a place...

Charles

Say no more! I must refuse... I must reject... Kati’s my object of desire... I mean: object of love... Confound you! You’ve confused my tongue!

Jeanne

Love is noble, dear friend. One as young as you must believe in love. You must choose love, Charles. C’est bon. Neither de Sade nor I speak of love. Curiosity, perhaps. Extremes, certainly.

Charles

Complete secrecy? Where?

Jeanne laughs victoriously and runs off with Charles. Kati steps out from behind the bush.

Kati

Methinks he did not protest enough!

BLACKOUT


Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2012 by Johanna Miklós

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