Andrea Pass: Vanishing Senses
Names of characters with the original cast:
ACTOR / ROLES
Szabolcs Hajdu Endre (man in his forties)
Kata Pető Anna (woman in her forties, Endre’s wife)
Andrea Petrik Nóri (Endre and Anna’s 15-year-old daughter)
Adrienn Réti Female Doctor, Maja (Nóri’s best friend), Klári (Endre’s colleague), Teacher, Vica (hairdresser)
Márton Pallag Male Nurse, CJ (Nóri’s boyfriend), Strange Figure
Pál Kárpáti Visitor, Stigma (Nóri’s friend), Editor-in-Chief, Papa (hospital patient), Ferenc (Endre’s colleague), Wild Duck
As the audience arrives, a light onstage flashes occasionally. A low, rumbling noise is heard – a type of white noise, the base murmur of elevators, florescent lights and various hospital machinery. We vaguely perceive a stylized set that seems to grow out of a box on the black horizon. It features a double swinging door. The actors enter and exit exclusively through this box. To one side, there are a few chairs welded together. On the other side is a ping-pong table that seems made of concrete. Upstage is a platform equipped for a band. On the side wall is a large clock made up of florescent tubes. Projected on the back wall, facing the audience, is the text: “January 1998, neurology ward of a country hospital.” Endre, a man in his forties, sits alone in the vibrating light. He is waiting. There is a sports bag at his feet.
After the audience arrives, three characters appear in the flashing florescent light behind Endre. They approach him, weaving back and forth, as though struggling to remain standing onboard a ship being tossed on a stormy sea. They finally arrive beside Endre. The space lights up. By this time, the three figures have taken their positions. Anna, Endre’s wife, stands behind him. Facing Endre are the Male Nurse and Visitor, who has come to see another patient. The Male Nurse holds a plastic cup of coffee. The Visitor grips a plastic food container (for a two-course lunch) still typical of that period. Endre tries to answer questions, but every sentence takes great effort. He speaks brokenly, slowly, and with great concentration. The sentences are only occasionally coherent.
M. Nurse: (to Endre) We’re going to miss you. But a nurse shouldn’t say that, right?
Mr. Editor has so much positive energy... He has such a good influence on everyone. And on himself, too! It’s no surprise he’s recovered so quickly. Really, it’s a miracle!
Anna: (to Male Nurse) That’s no small thanks to you, too.
M. Nurse: (continuing) Such will power… (asking Anna) Did your daughter say?
M. Nurse: How when the editor got sick, he still drove home.
Anna: Well, yes, it’s a miracle we arrived in one piece.
Visitor: (to Endre) I wish you all the best. Papa also wanted to say goodbye, but he’s just fallen asleep. And I’d like to thank you, for all the kind words, how you’d speak with Papa, and the jokes...
Endre is visibly trying to respond. They wait.
Endre:(barely comprehensible) Joke.
Silence, the others don’t understand.
Endre: (somewhat louder, but broken) Joke the whole thing. (more forcefully) The whole thing. Not me
M. Nurse: (tries to understand) You weren’t joking, sir?
M. Nurse: But, of course, you were, Mr. Editor! (to Anna) There was always some joke or silliness... He had all the female nurses in high spirits! They’d even come here from the other wards. Well, we did get the coffee machine last week, but I’d be surprised if that’s the reason...
Visitor: (continuing, to Endre) I’m glad I got to meet you. Though I wish it were better circumstances to congratulate you on your writing...
Endre: (slowly) Very kind, but... (over-articulated) “cir – cum – stan –ces” I said it!
The others laugh.
Endre: (continues with great concentration) … very good. Very! ... No waves....
The sea is calm... But!
Silence. They are riveted on Endre.
Endre: That. (gestures to the florescent light) Storm lamp.
Everyone looks up at the florescent light.
Endre: (painfully) Why flashing? Flashing, right?
The florescent light begins to flash as the actors change their positions. They all move to the other side of Endre like a “mirror image.”
Anna/ M. Nurse/ Visitor: (simultaneously) It’s flashing, sadly.
The light returns. Endre doesn’t understand how they have switched sides.
M. Nurse: (to Endre) I confess, I hadn’t read your articles, but there were a stack of old newspapers here, and well I was surprised... It’s like... I don’t know. Like I was reading some literary work! There’s one article that really stayed with me. The editor wrote how, in his childhood, the old Bastion Street was much more “intimate” with all the poplar trees and belly dancers...
Anna: Belly dancers?
Visitor: You mean the organ grinders?
M. Nurse: You read it, too?
Endre: Not dancers.
M. Nurse: No?
Anna: (gently correcting) Musicians. (to Male Nurse) Organ grinders.
M. Nurse: Oh, how stupid of me.
Endre: (to Male Nurse) Stupid.
They look at Endre, surprised. He continues.
Endre: ...I’m stupid.
Visitor: My mother used to go to those community club parties where the editor sang.
M. Nurse: Now, you see. All the threads come together…
Visitor: Were those Young Communist parties or what?
The band enters in 70s clothing. They sit at the instruments on the upstage platform.
Anna: (upset) At that time, yes. If anyone wanted to make music, they needed special permission and a permit... Right, Endre?
Visitor: What was the band’s name?
Anna / Endre / Band: (simultaneously) Global.
Visitor: Global! Well, yes... I wish you good health and a long life.
The band starts to “tune up.”
Endre: (rising with difficulty, clings to Anna) Tell Papa... (with great concentration) I think of him fondly. If... all good here, (gestures to his head) I won’t forget.
Visitor: I’ll tell him.
Visitor exits. Endre sits back down.
Endre:(asking Anna) Nóri?
Anna: At school. It’s still early.
M. Nurse: (to Endre) I must also say goodbye.
Endre: Thanks… You helped me!
M. Nurse: Oh, come now. That’s why I’m here.
He starts off, then turns back. The light flashes once. The band’s tuning up grows louder.
M. Nurse: Now, for instance, I have to sew the curtain. It separates the patients when... well, when the time comes. (sits back down beside Endre) One patient struggled so much, she grabbed onto the curtain. And she hadn’t moved for days. Now, that, too, is a miracle! Somehow, in the last moment, she grasped on to the curtain, and her muscles tensed up. And that’s how her hand stayed, clinging to the curtain in a tight grip. Old Lady Dawn.
Anna: Did she die, poor thing?
M. Nurse: Six this morning.
The Male Nurse shakes Endre’s hand.
M. Nurse: We all must go sometime. The final curtain.
M. Nurse: (louder) Well, somebody’s got to sew that curtain. (in parting) I’ll read you in the papers.
M. Nurse exits.
Endre:(to Anna) We going?
Anna: We should wait for the doctor. Are you hot? (wipes his forehead)
Anna: I have water and some fructose...
Endre: I’m fine.
Anna: Do you need to go to the restroom?
Anna: Tell me, if you…/
Endre: (interrupts) Nóri’s not here?
Endre: Is she coming?
Anna: She’s still in school. You know that.
Female Doctor arrives. She has gray hair, but is very attractive. She holds a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
F. Doctor (to Endre) It’ll be good to go home, right?
Endre: (collects himself) How pretty you are, doctor! (rises) Again.
F. Doctor: (to Anna) My goodness... Who’s going to give me compliments from now on?
Endre: Only… (gestures to the cigarette, cannot think of the word) Why that?
F. Doctor: (hides the cigarette behind her back) I’ll switch to a weaker one if you promise to rest! You can just sleep through January. Get nice and strong. (gently seats Endre back down in the chair) And come spring, you could be writing about the elections.
Anna quietly draws the Female Doctor to one side. Endre remains alone. The low hum of the lights grows stronger.
Anna: Thanks for everything. (passes an envelop to F. Doctor, who pockets it)
F. Doctor: Endre really must not strain himself now. It’s fantastic. Here we are after three weeks. But it’s still a stroke.
Anna: (setting off with Endre) Someone mentioned going to a natural health specialist, unless you advise against it.
F. Doctor: Look, it’s very fashionable now. In theory, it couldn’t hurt.
Nóri enters from upstage. She is Endre and Anna’s 15-year-old daughter. She moves slowly downstage in a corridor of light. She wears baggy pants and an “I know who killed Laura Palmer” T-shirt.
Nóri: I take one step.
F. Doctor: (to Anna) When he came here, your husband could barely speak. A doctor’s not supposed to say this, but what happened to him truly is a miracle.
Nóri: I take two steps.
Endre’s steps draw him to the right. He exits very slowly with Anna diagonally.
F. Doctor: (to Anna) The most important thing is to be very patient with him.
Anna and the Female Doctor exit through the swinging door. Endre remains in front of it, his back to the audience.
Andrea Petrik – Nóri (15)
Adrienn Réti – Maja (16)
Pál Kárpáti – Stigma (16)
Márton Pallag – CJ (18)
Nóri: Again. I take one step…
On the back wall appears the text: “Two months earlier”
Nóri: It was interesting. On the way here I wasn’t thinking how my dad only let me out for 2 hours again, so that’s all the time I’ve got to get smashed. I thought of my steps. I was paying attention to my steps, and I saw how the wind was blowing all sorts of litter at my feet. And the sound was so nice, how the wind made the trash roll. Anyhow, it’s strange to have such warm wind in November. And how it’s six at night, and no one’s on the street. It was all quiet. You could only hear the trash. And then I noticed some snapping sound that only got louder as I reached the National Savings Bank. I stopped in front of the bank, and – I have no idea why – I looked up, and above my head was a black flag blowing in the breeze. I got a lump in my throat... (sits on top of the ping-pong table) And there was this pain in my chest…
Maja enters from upstage.
Maja: You think you may have depression, Nóri?
Nóri: I don’t know. Not yet.
Maja: (crosses downstage) Seriously, you have to be home by ten?
Nóri: Uh-huh. Barely time to get drunk, and I have to sober up.
Maja: Oh, going home drunk is no big deal. That’s when I have really good conversations with my dad. (sits beside Nóri) Are you still not talking to your father?
Nóri: Simple sentences...
Maja: What the fuck’s your problem with him?
Nóri: I don’t know. He’s pressuring... he snoops on me. He reads my letters...
Maja: He goes through your bag??
Nóri: Well, not that... I left them out in the bathroom.
Maja: Really smart. And who were you writing to?
Nóri: To you.
Maja: Jesus… What about?
Nóri: Like who you want to make out with on the weekend.
Maja: Oh, fuck! And I’m really into your dad. (realizes what she said) No, not that way! Remember when he cooked for us? Those really good fries and the breaded cheese, almost in the shape of a heart?
Nóri: He still does that.
Maja: Well, it is damn strict. I mean, look at you! You’re fifteen! Is he the one making you depressed?
Nóri: No. It’s because of Crime and Punishment
Nóri: It’s a book, you know. Fucking great, just really gets me down.
Maja: Is it required?
Maja: Then why read it?
Nóri: I liked the title.
Maja: Well, relax. You can’t get depression from a book. How are you with CJ?
Two rapper boys, CJ and Stigma, enter, approaching the girls. CJ drops a beat, trying out “tricks,” while Stigma messes with a nitrous oxide cartridge. The band plays some hip-hop measures.
CJ: It’s high fucking time, bro.
Stigma: What? You haven’t scored yet?
CJ: Shit. I can’t manage it. Her father never lets her go anywhere. For real! Can’t we come to your place?
Stigma: What for?
CJ: So I can screw Nóri.
Stigma: At our place?
Endre turns to face the audience. He wears glasses and sits on the row of chairs upstage.
Stigma: Why our place?
CJ: ’Cuz I can’t at my place. I got my brother at home.
Stigma: Well, I got my mother at home.
CJ: Not in your room.
Stigma: And what’ll I say to my mom? What are the two of you doing in my room?
CJ: Well, fine. You can come, too.
Stigma: And what’ll I do? Watch you two?
CJ: Well, then keep your mom company in the living room.
Stigma: Why not send your brother out to your mom in the living room?
They cross to the girls.
CJ: Hey, girls. Whippit?
Stigma: (to Maja) What’s up, you hot raver bitch?
Stigma takes a hit from the cartridge and collapses.
CJ: We got a joint, too.
Nóri: No, thanks.
CJ: What’s up with “no, thanks”?? It took me a month to get this shit!
CJ sits beside Nóri.
Nóri: It makes everything swell up. It creeps into my aura...
Maja: She smoked too much on the student exchange in Holland. Ever since it makes her see things.
Nóri: Well, I smoked a bong this big on my own.
Stigma: (comes out of his stupor) Guys, fuck, last night I went into the closet!
Maja: What’s that??
Stigma: I was lying in bed when it hit me. I had to go out to piss. But I was so fucked... I didn’t open the door, I opened the closet, and I went inside...
Maja: But why?
Stigma: ’Cuz I thought it was my bedroom door, baby.
Stigma: And I didn’t think, “You stupid fuck, you went out the wrong way.” I thought, “Who pushed the closet in front of the doorway?”
Nóri finally takes the joint from CJ and inhales.
Endre: (calls to Anna) Have you seen my jacket?
Anna: I think it’s out in the front room. Aren’t you coming to bed?
Endre: I’m going out for a walk.
CJ, Nóri, Maja, Stigma
CJ: (to Nóri) Don’t panic. You can’t hallucinate on weed. Especially not that.
It’s from Eger.
Nóri: I gotta get home by ten.
CJ: Come on! What’s with this Commie dictatorship? You want me to speak to your pop?
Nóri: He’s not a Commie. I told you.
Maja: He’s President of the Scouts. [“Pioneers” before the change]
Nóri: He was, but that doesn’t make him a Commie.
Maja: Course not! And he writes great stuff for the paper.
Nóri: You read it?
Maja: Uh-huh. Like it was really beautiful what he wrote about that homeless guy who would go through your trash bins only to freeze to death last Christmas.
We hear a police siren. Nóri hides under the ping-pong table. The others exit in a rush.
Endre: (calls to Anna) Won’t you come with me? We can sit out on the Danube bank.
Anna enters, holding a pregnancy test.
Anna: Now? It’s nine-thirty.
Endre: Why don’t we go to a pub?
Anna: What do you mean? … Just the two of us?
Endre: Or revisit our old haunts? How about going to the Old Sailor’s?
Anna: … We could go sometime.
Endre: Let’s go now! It’s a warm breeze for November... Isn’t that interesting?
There is a quiet pause.
Anna: Were you fired?
Endre: Not yet. He can’t send away his old professor so quickly...
Anna: He’s a nobody. I know. It’s humiliating how he talks to you. But never mind. He won’t be editor-in-chief for long.
Endre: His aftershave is so smelly. I can barely breathe.
Anna: Why don’t you close your office door?
Endre: I still smell it.
Anna: Those glasses look good on you.
Endre: Really? I like them, too.
Anna: But didn’t you get them for reading? If you wear them all the time, you won’t be able to see far anymore.
Endre notices the pregnancy test in Anna’s hand.
Endre: What’s that?
Anna: A test.
Endre: What kind?
Anna: For pregnancy.
Anna: Calm down. It’s negative. I was about to throw it out.
Endre: Good Lord.
Anna: (sweetly) I said it was negative.
Endre: Why didn’t you tell me?
Anna: I didn’t want to worry you needlessly…
Endre: How long have you known?
Anna: What? That my period’s late?
Endre: That she’s sleeping with someone!
Anna: Jesus, Endre… This is my test!
Anna: Let’s go to bed.
Endre: I’m waiting for Nóri.
Anna: On the shoe cupboard?
Endre: (staring off) Last year she’d still hold my hand on the street.
Anna: Who? Nóri?
Anna: Well, I’m glad you no longer walk hand in hand... You’d think she’d have grown out of it... or found it icky.
Endre: Why? Because I have the plague?
Anna: No, it’s just... Is she speaking to you again?
Endre does not reply.
Anna: Then, I say, wait for her in the living room.
Endre: How come?
Anna: Why sit there in the door? She’ll get a shock when she comes in.
Endre: From me?
Anna: Fine. As for me, you can wait here on the doorstep.
Just then, Nóri enters. She is visibly drunk, but tries to hide it.
Nóri: What? You two? Are you waiting for someone?
Nóri teeters into the room.
Endre: (asking Anna) Is she drunk?
Anna: (appealing to Endre) Leave it!
Endre: (starts after Nóri) Is she drunk??
Anna: (follows him) You drank at that age, too. So did I... She came home.
That’s the point!
Endre stops at the door. He knocks.
He bangs until Nóri appears.
Nóri: (stops in front of the door) What’s with the glasses?
Endre: I’m getting old.
Nóri sits on the floor and hiccoughs.
Endre: Is everything all right?
Nóri: Yes. Why?
Endre: You’re sitting weird.
Nóri: Sorry. I’ll sit at attention. (she tries to sit up straight, but fails) It’s just my head really hurts.
Endre: Mine, too. For a week now. And I’m not the headache type.
Nóri: So you got something to say?
Endre: Would you like to come with me to the theatre? Tomorrow’s the premiere of Cherry Orchard. I have to write about it, and I’m sure you study it in school.
Nóri: We haven’t got to Checkoff yet.
Nóri: Yeah, that.
Endre: And what about the match? Are you coming Sunday?
Nóri: What match?
Endre: Our football match. Journalists against the graphic designers.
Nóri: Well... that doesn’t light my fire...
Endre: I recorded Twin Peaks for you. Now I know why you’re crazy about it.
Nóri: (surprised) And you watched it?
Endre: I accidentally switched it on last week.
Nóri: (tentatively) And you liked it?
Endre: Not so much the story, but the characters.
Nóri: For instance?
Endre: … There’s the cop who always cries when he sees a corpse. And the Log Lady is really cool.
Nóri laughs hard.
Endre: What? Did I blow it?
Nóri: No, that’s it. (hiccoughs)
Endre: That David Lynch sure has some noggin.
Nóri: (laughs again) “Noggin”??
Endre: (embarrassed) Well, you know... if you like, I’ll print out some articles about him... We’ve got internet in the press room now.
Nóri: Okay. And a big picture, too, please.
Endre: Of what?
Nóri: Of Lynch.
Endre: He’s not so young, you know.
Nóri: (regards her father) Relax. I don’t want to get with him.
Endre: Course not.
Endre: I’m so glad you’re here!
Endre embraces Nóri.
Endre: (sheepishly) I love you so much.
Nóri: (alarmed) Papa…
Nóri: I’d like to go to bed.
Silence. Endre releases Nóri.
Endre: Sleep tight, little one.
The florescent light flashes and begins to hum. Endre goes toward it. There is a chair below the florescent tube.
Behind Endre, the Strange Figure enters (earlier the Male Nurse played by Márton Pallag). He’s wearing exactly the same clothes as Endre. He has a sports bag on his shoulder and a large soup bowl in his hands. For a while, he follows Endre, then he goes to the table and sets down the bowl. He is about to eat soup from it when Endre notices him.
Endre: Who are you?
S. Figure: (looks over himself)Whoo, if we’re not dressed alike! (points behind himself)The bedroom’s that way.
Endre: What do you want here?
S. Figure: To check out the lights.
The Strange Figure goes to a light under which Endre is standing. He holds out the sports bag to the man.
S. Figure: It’s no wonder you got lost in this half-light. (gestures to the flickering florescent tube)No money to replace them, I’m afraid. Though that’s one thing I can really under... (the word doesn’t come to mind)Under... under... under... Hm! It was on the tip of my tongue… And such a simple word. Not “accept”, but... Help me out!
S. Figure: Thank you kindly! (steps up on the chair to reach the florescent tube)So I can understand there’s no money for it.
He snaps at Endre, who removes a screwdriver from the sports bag and hands it over to the Strange Figure.
S. Figure: Just think of it! How many florescent tubes in one hospital? Or in a single hospital... oh, there I go again. (searches for the word)Long, narrow... What you’re standing in!
S. Figure: Corridor! (the light flashes)But it’s no use my changing the flickering tubes.
The flashing stops.
S. Figure: Right away another one goes out.
The florescent clock on the wall goes out.
S. Figure: Well, here in Neurology, anyway, we don’t talk politics.
He snaps at Endre, who removes a wallet from the bag and hands it to the Strange Figure.
S. Figure: Even less the ones that got strokes or, you know, magnificent... magnification... No, don’t help me... (tries again)MA – LIG – NAN – CIES. (the word echoes a long time)I mean, once they’re at stage four, what do they care? Think about it, Endre. (he removes Endre’s identification from his wallet and pockets it)When they tell you, “Sir, you’re going to die,” what’s your biggest problem? That the lights are flickering? Or that you haven’t believed enough?
Endre reaches for his wallet. When he touches the figure, it’s as though he receives an electric shock. Meanwhile, the Strange Figure tries to say the word “believed” again.”
S. Figure BEEEEEE-LIVED! Though I suppose those informed of their death would be less hung up, strung up, and stressed out than people who don’t know. Me, for example. (steps down from chair)I could die any time.
The Strange Figure suddenly collapses. Endre catches him.
The acting space very gradually goes dark while the florescent buzz grows stronger.
We tend to forget that. Or we get hung up, strung up over it in secret. ’Cuz it just comes to mind. That one day we’ll simply go out. And we’ll be all alone. Or with others, but still alone. Let’s say in the dark.
The Strange Figure removes a coffee cup from his pocket. He drops in two cubes of sugar and mixes it with a teaspoon. As he raises the cup to his mouth, the stage and auditorium are plunged in complete darkness.
Or in hospice. Oppressed. Captured. Curtained. I’ll see you in the papers.
The florescent buzz becomes increasingly loud, supplemented by the band, until the noise is practically ear-splitting.