The Fourth Sister | Antigone
in New York
THE FOURTH SISTER
TRANSLATED BY EVA NAGORSKI & JANUSZ GLOWACKI
The stage acts as a room but is not completely realistic. The only
realistic part is a few pieces of furniture, such as a large wardrobe.
In the back, a table stands surrounded by a few chairs, and a mirror,
covered by a towel, hangs on the wall. Somewhere there’s a window,
pretending to be a window. In the very back is the kitchen area, which
consists only of a gas stove and sink. On the right, is a curtain the
height of a person, which separates part of the stage from view. On the
left, near the wardrobe are a few pairs of shoes, slippers and a woolen
cloth to use under shoes.
To the left of the proscenium are some rather odd bits and ends of
furniture, such as a bench. In the middle of the stage, facing the
audience, is a wide bed and a suitcase peers out from underneath. The
bed is covered unevenly with a bedspread.
BABUSHKA and GENERAL sit on the bed, facing the audience. BABUSHKA,
wrapped in a scarf, is somewhere between 40 and 60 years old; it’s
hard to say. On the floor in front of her is a bottle of Kremlovskaya
vodka. She holds an empty mustard jar in one hand, and a jar of
strawberry compote in the other. She curiously looks out and about the
audience. Next to her sits the retired GENERAL, the father of the three
sisters. He wears a gym tee shirt under his unbuttoned army jacket and
civilian pants. His shoes are shined and his head is down.
BABUSHKA: So they said it’d be three hundred dollars?
GENERAL nods his head, keeping his head down.
BABUSHKA: For carrying down?
GENERAL nods his head.
BABUSHKA: From the second floor?
GENERAL nods his head.
BABUSHKA: (shakes her head in disgust) Will your brother fly in from
GENERAL shakes his head, no.
BABUSHKA: The living don’t appreciate the dead. It wouldn’t
hurt for you to shave.
GENERAL: (keeps head down) I went to the barber’s. I walk in and
he asks, “What?” So I say, “What do you mean, what? A
shave.” So he says I have to lift my head. So I tell him to cut my
hair instead. You’re very kind, Akulina Ivanovna, to come here.
You can tell who your real friends are.
BABUSHKA: But you’re like family to me. I’ve lived above you
for over twenty years. You and my dead, deceased husband, together in
Berlin and Kabul, drank, smoked, infected the enemy with venereal
diseases. And your dead, deceased wife was also like family to me. But
three hundred dollars for carrying down from the second floor... (she
shakes her head)
GENERAL: Akulino Ivanovna, may I ask you three questions?
BABUSHKA: Ask, son. Ask.
GENERAL: Who rules here? Where is money? How will it all end? And
I’ll add a fourth:
How should we live?
BABUSHKA: I don’t know. But three hundred dollars for carrying
down one flight of stairs is a sham.
GENERAL: Our country lies in pieces, as though it were torn to bits by
dogs. Sound of a barking dog.
BABUSHKA: That’s my Fiedia. I should go walk him. But with that
vampire running around the neighborhood, it’s scary to walk in the
dark, even with a dog. There’s a fifteen
thousand dollar award for catching him. You remember Anna Pavlovna?
Fifteen thousand dollars!
GENERAL shakes his head, no.
BABUSHKA: Bald, with a red wig?
GENERAL doesn’t know who she’s talking about.
BABUSHKA: So hunched over she looked like an umbrella handle?
GENERAL shakes his head, no.
BABUSHKA: You know her. Last night, the vampire jumped her and took
advantage of her. And he ate her left arm, no, right arm, no, left
arm...and banged her and gnawed on her leg. Well, in communist times,
there was plenty of food. Now, people walk around hungry.
GENERAL: I would let them cut off my arm and leg to help Russia. But
what can I do? My dead, deceased wife died. And you, Akulina Ivanovna,
you didn’t put your slippers on again. And you got dirt
BABUSHKA: I’ll put them on.
GENERAL: My daughters are not married. But only an idiot would marry
them since they could bang them for free.
BABUSHKA: I wouldn’t say that. In my day, Russian women gave their
asses away for free, just out of pity. But now, not necessarily.
Don’t worry about your daughters. They’re good girls. And
Tania is really special. When she walks, she doesn’t walk; she
GENERAL: I’m spending my whole retirement on her dance lessons. I
even quit smoking so that I wouldn’t throw out money on
cigarettes. (takes out cigarettes and lights up, and offers one to
BABUSHKA. BABUSHKA also lights up) Katia finished law and feeds wild
BABUSHKA: Tania will become another Plisieckaja. You’re all going
to live in a palace.
GENERAL: No, we won’t. And Wiera is getting pumped by a married
BABUSHKA: But he’s a politician. No, you will.
GENERAL: No, we won’t.
BABUSHKA: Why not?
GENERAL: I haven’t paid for dance classes in two months.
GENERAL: I got depressed. And when a person’s depressed, he
drinks. And when he drinks, he smokes.
GENERAL: They kicked Tania out but she doesn’t know yet.
GENERAL: No. I can’t get the words through my throat. I tried to
make some money. I auditioned to be a model.
GENERAL: They asked where I did my last cat walk and I said in Kabul.
But they didn’t take me.
BABUSHKA: (pours vodka into two empty mustard jars) To those who died in
GENERAL: If it had been a few years ago, Washington would’ve
talked to us differently. Our army would’ve marched right through
the Balkans. (shakes his head sadly) And now...
GENERAL quickly drinks and BABUSHKA pours him another glass.
BABUSHKA: Between the first and second toasts, a bullet should not pass.
GENERAL: We sold out on our Slavic brothers. Kolia!
KOLIA, a boy of twelve, enters from behind the curtain. He is poorly
dressed and looks frightened. He crosses the stage and disappears.
GENERAL: But there’s one thing. There’s money in America.
BABUSHKA: (referring to the vodka) Let’s chase it with compote.
She opens the compote and pours it into the jars.
KOLIA returns. He drags a large basket filled with starched bed sheets.
He leaves the basket and disappears behind the curtain.
GENERAL: But they change their sheets every two weeks. At my place,
it’s everyday. The world holds itself together as long as
somewhere, there’s a tiny bit of order. Kolia!
KOLIA peers out from behind the curtain.
GENERAL: Wash the floor. Akulina Ivanovna dirtied the whole place again.
Maybe this is all a punishment?
KOLIA prepares to wash the floor by gathering a mop, bucket, and so on.
BABUSHKA: What punishment?
GENERAL: Who the hell knows? Sins or something?
BABUSHKA: What sins? You’re a good man. (points to KOLIA) You even
took in an orphan.
GENERAL: This thing nearly croaked on the street. People differ from
animals. They deserve some attention.
BABUSHKA: You know that gypsy with his horse? He taught the horse to
hardly eat anything. And he says he was close to teaching it to eat
nothing but it died. God is good. He won’t desert you. Look at my
son, Kostia. What I went through... He was twenty six years old, never
drank, never smoked, he didn’t even want to (makes a hand gesture
backwards and forwards to suggest sex). He would only sit in the library
and read, read, read. I almost cried my eyes out. And then a year ago,
the Mafia took him in. Now, he wears a suit all day long. He bought an
apartment on Kutuzowski street, a car, cellular phone. Now, he only
drinks and drives. Drinks and calls. So much happiness!
BABUSHKA’s wipes her tears of joy. We hear a voice offstage. MALE
VOICE: So what’s it gonna be, Ivan Piotrovicz?
GENERAL: (with hatred) Those scoundrels came especially an hour early,
when my daughters aren’t here. What am I supposed to do? I
can’t squeeze three hundred dollars out of my veins.
BABUSHKA: I’ll help you, Ivan Piotrovicz. I can still boast about
my strength, thank God. Because for three hundred dollars... Help has
become so expensive these days.
They pull back the sheets. Only now do we see that the GENERAL’s
wife lays underneath. Except, she is not alive.
BABUSHKA: (makes the sign of the cross and turns to the GENERAL’s
wife’s body) Are you ready, Natalia Pietrovna? All packed? (to
GENERAL) I’ll take the legs. You take the arms.
They take the body by its legs and arms. One leg slips out of
BABUSHKA: (warning) Don’t fool around, Natalia Pietrovna. You
already stirred up
enough trouble in your life.