NIGEL & MARY & THE VASE
by DF Lewis
“The Playwright’s shy, gracious wife would have placed vases of flowers through the house, including the guest bedroom.
‘Flowers make people feel welcome. Like they’re wanted.’
He was filling vases with water…”
from ‘Blonde’ by Joyce Carol Oates.
Scene: A large room, well-furnished in a retro-Fifties style, with a panoramic window overlooking a distant airport beyond a sea of rooftops. Nigel and Mary are preparing vases of flowers in various strategic positions. They appear to be preparing for a large party, fancy-dressed as film stars, Nigel as Marlon Brando, Mary as Marilyn Monroe, in their heydays. They have not yet started acting their parts.
Mary: They’ll all be here soon. Flowers make people feel welcome. Like they’re wanted.
Nigel: I wonder who Joyce will come as?
M: She may not even remember.
N: I often think of games we can play. It’s no point just talking to some of them. They’re awfully boring people, even when playing their roles. What games can we play?
M: I’m more concerned with getting everything else right. Like the food… (she makes as if to depart off-stage).
N: Wait! A charter plane’s landing. That must be them.
M: That damned place is getting busier and busier. Traffic control must have the devil of a job. And the planes since we’ve lived here seem to be getting bigger and more modern, as well as more frequent. If we jump ahead, I reckon they’ll be having spaceships landing there, shuttles and rockets with cones and fins. I often dream of things like that landing there.
N: Yes, I’ve noticed you tossing and turning lately.
M: Yes, dreams seem more than the sleep they fill.
N: That sounds like a quote! You’re not supposed to be Marilyn yet, Mary!
M: Ooooh, Meester President. (She laughs and leaves for the kitchen)
N: (Noticing she had left but talking as if she were still present and as if to give excuse for performing a sort of confessional soliloquy…). I think we are nearly ready. Just a few more flowers. Any more gloxinia? What is this vase I see before me? (He picks up an as yet empty vase). What games we two play? I know how we can pass the time when they all arrive. Give out our guesses to the guests as to what sort of fish or sea-life each film star represents. ‘Caught on the Waterfront’! That’s a good name for the game. If Joyce comes as Joan Crawford, I reckon she’ll play her like a shark. George as a raft. (Laughs). Me? I’ll be a monkfish playing as if plugged up by fisherman’s bait. You, Mary. I reckon you’re Moby Dick. Your big white body ever hunted through the dangerous seas of filmdom. Yes, I’m really rather pleased with that vision of your film star …. what shall we call it? … that symbol of you, Marilyn.
M: (Returning with a plate of nibbles). What’s that you saying, Nigel?
N: Just rehearsing a game.
M: What game?
N: A fish game. Comparing fish and sea creatures with film stars.
M: Sounds silly to me. By the way, do you remember Monkey’s Walk?
N: That’s a bit of a ‘non sequitur’, isn’t it?
M: Not really. It was sort of like catching fish. We first met along Monkey’s Walk, of course. Each Sunday morning, young people would promenade along Monkey’s Walk simply to meet up. Many marriages started from walking along Monkey’s Walk on a Sunday morning. They don’t do that any more. They don’t need to cuddle in the back rows of cinemas, either. Kids these days don’t need excuses. They just pair off as soon as look at each other.
N: Its real name wasn’t Monkey’s Walk, was it? Why did we kids call it Monkey’s Walk? I can’t remember.
M: A sort of tradition. It went back years.
M: I think your fish game is a bit silly.
(It is darkening outside the window. The flashing lights intermittently bloom and lessen as each plane takes off or lands).
N: I bet Clive will come as Robert Mitchum. Dodie as Bette Davis.
M: Can’t think of fish for them. …. Have you finished the vases? Why are you holding that empty one?
N: Hmmm. A bass and a rayfish?
M: Do you mean a crayfish?
N: You know, Mary, you used the word ‘cuddle’ just then. I like that word. Seems just right for Marilyn to use, but you’re not Marilyn yet, are you? … I think I need one of those cuddles now. Before the others come.
M: What, here? You’ll need to pull the blinds.
N: It’s more exciting here than in the bedroom. (He pulls the blinds).
M: Wait till I’ve done this vase. (She takes it from Nigel). Well, I don’t know, I think we’ve used up all the flowers. I’ll have to put this one back in the cupboard.
(They pull together, the vase between them, and cuddle standing up. A huge flash abruptly comes from behind the blinds, followed by an enormous roar).
“She was so earnest, saying, ‘It’s so scary, how a scene with actual people just goes on and on? Like on a bus? What’s to stop it?’ And, that wistful little-girl look in her face. ‘D’you ever think how hard it is to figure what people mean when probably they don’t mean anything? Not like a script. Or that the point of something happening is when probably there’s no point, it just “happened”? Like the weather?’ […] … like they were two kids together in this predicament maybe fifteen years old somehow waking up married. In that instant her body seemed to him not a woman’s beautiful voluptuous body but a responsibility they jointly shared, like a giant baby.”
From ‘Blonde’ by Joyce Carol Oates