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Plays

The Fourth Sister | Antigone in New York

Hunting Crockroaches


 

 

 

HUNTING COCKROACHES

 

 
The present. New York. A squalid, shabby apartment during the night. A map of America hangs on the wall. ANKA (30s-40s), a Polish émigré actress, is sitting on the bed looking quizzically at the audience. HER husband, JAN, is lying next to HER asleep. HER monologue opens the play.
 

 
ANKA: (Recites from MACBETH and look at HER hands): Yet here’s a spot ... Out damned spot! Out, I say! One - two - why then ‘tis time to do’t! Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard! ... What, will these hands ne’er be clean? No more o’ that, my lord, no more o’ that; you mar all with this starting. ... Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! Oh! Oh! ... Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so pale. I tell yet again, Banquo’s buried; he cannot come Out of the ave... To bed, to bed; there’s knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed.

 
[JAN: Turn off the light.]

 
ANKA (To audience): My name is Anka. I can’t sleep. I’m a nervous wreck. I’m Polish. I’ve been in New York for three years. For the past three months I can’t get any sleep. I mean, at first I couldn’t sleep for something. like a month, then I could, and then I couldn’t and then I could again. Now for the past forty-two days - or maybe it’s twenty-two days - I can’t sleep at all. (Studying the audience) I’m an actress . . . I can’t get any parts due to my accent. They say I have an awful accent.., do I? That’s my husband, Janek . ... (Points to him) He can’t sleep either. He’s just pretending he’s asleep . ... (Smiles) I know it. He can’t fall asleep without his pills and I hid them. (Looks around, pulls a bottle of pills from under the mattress, and shows them to audience) See! (Smiles triumphantly) To tell the truth the pills don’t help him any, but he loves searching for them. He’s a writer .... He was very famous in Poland... a novel of his came out in Paris .... One of his plays was produced in New York,. (Looks around the audience) His name is Krupinski, Jan Krupinski. (Pauses for a moment; spells it out) K-R-U-P-I-N-S-K-I .... Never heard of him? It’s a good thing he’s asleep. I mean, he’s pretending .... Look, I’ve got a whole bunch of reviews. He got a very good one in The New York Times, and a real bad one in The Village Voice. I got an award for my interpretation of Lady Macbeth in Warsaw. I know it’s completely moronic but here in America you have to praise yourself, right? If you don’t have any confidence in yourself, who’s going to. Do I really have an awful accent? I did some work for an art critic from Poland who’s well connected, he works in an Italian restaurant at Second Avenue and 88th Street. He got me a temporary job at the Museum of immigration. I’d appear every noon dressed as a nineteenth-century Polish emigrant. (Ironically) You know the ou it... babushka, boots. But now the museum is being repaired .... (Throws up HER hands as if to say. “What can I do?”) Isn’t he good at pretending he’s asleep. I taught him how. If it gets out he can’t sleep, we’re finished. In New York everybody knows how to sleep. I’m trying to get him to pretend he’s happy. In New York everybody’s happy. (Jan groans) In the daytime he usually sits in front of the map. (Points to the map hanging on the wall. SHE gets up and goes over to the map for a while in silence) Then he says: “What a strange country!” That’s all. “What a strange country!” I told him he’d never make it here because he doesn’t have a sincere smile. Everybody here has a sincere smile. And he’s got a nasty one. He took it very hard. In Eastern Europe nobody has a sincere smile, except drunks and informers. (Smiles) Yesterday he sat in front of the map and practiced the art of the sincere smile, checking it every so often in the mirror. I told him he should write a play about Polish émigrés, but he said the subject is boring, either you make it or you don’t.
(...)
 

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