Laudisi: Why did he go there? Amalia: It does seem strange, I mean the man’s beneath him.
Laudisi: At work.
Amalia: Yes, but you know.
Dina: His mother-in-law is here in our block. Down our corridor.
Laudisi: So? The apartment was for rent. Can’t a man rent an apartment for his mother-in-law in the same block (Simultaneous) as someone he works with?
Dina: (Simultaneous) Same floor.
Amalia: Ponza works for my husband, not with him.
Laudisi: And the mother-in-law must pay homage to her son-in-law’s superiors?
Amalia: Not must, no. Not must of course. But … We went to visit her anyway. Dina and I went to say ‘hello and welcome’ … a simple neighbourly gesture and she refused to see us.
Laudisi: So, your husband goes to the Mayor to get a law passed is it? Pre-emptive neighbourliness?
Amalia: We were standing there, in our own corridor - like shags on a rock.
Laudisi: Don’t be … What? A person can’t do what they want in their own home?
Amalia: We were being nice. Friendly. Weren’t we?
Dina: Uncle really.
Laudisi: You were being nosey.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) Nosey?
Dina: (Simultaneous) Us?
Laudisi: Nosey. Yes.
Dina: Well, it is a curious scenario.
Laudisi: If that’s what interests you.
Dina: Who isn’t interested in life? You are always so … Oh well, whatever, however. No, no - If I came in here and right in front of you, just right in front of you, worse actually … scowling like that Ponza man. Scowling and I put a pair of the filthiest pair of the cook’s smelliest shoes, plop down in front of you. Like that. What would you say?
Laudisi: What’s shoes got to do with it?
Dina: Exactly. You are mystified and want to know why, who, what?
Laudisi: Yes, I’m curious but that is a red-herring, Dina my sweet. Doing that is a deliberately baffling act. Are you suggesting this scowling Signor Ponza deliberately plopped his mother-in-law in your block (Simultaneous) just to pique your curiosity?
Dina: (Simultaneous) down the corridor.
Dina: The fact is … he is weird and plainly. I mean, clearly he is weird and doesn’t care what we think but we still do think - everyone in town still thinks. He comes here and rents the gloomiest apartment for himself. Have you seen it?
Laudisi: No. Have you?
Dina: Everyone has. Everyone’s been there to see where he lives because he is … weird. The courtyard is dark.
Dina: Dank. And way up above. It’s a crooked old building, and hanging off the very top floor is a twisted old iron balcony. Strung with baskets and washing.
Laudisi: And …?
Dina: That’s where he keeps his wife.
Amalia: And her mother - his mother-in-law - he’s got here in our block.
Dina: On our floor.
Amalia: A very nice apartment if ours is anything to go by. And the question is why? Why are they kept apart at all?
Laudisi: Perhaps the mother-in-law demanded it. To have some freedom for herself.
Dina: No. No. It’s him. It’s him. Ponza. Everybody says.
Amalia: It must be, Lamberto, really? Yes, a mother and daughter might be glad to be apart once the daughter is married. Of course, yes. But if so? Why then would the poor mother follow her daughter to the town where they are all strangers, all, all … poor things, strangers and then be forced to live apart, alone, apart from her daughter who she obviously loves because she followed her here in the first place. It’s horrible. Horrible. Terrifying (Simultaneous) and -
Laudisi: (Simultaneous) Perhaps there are extenuating circumstances. Perhaps irreconcilable differences.
Dina: Between the mother and the daughter?
Laudisi: Not necessarily.
Dina: Well, yes necessarily.
Amalia: They’re always together see? Him and her.
Dina: The mother-in-law and the Son-in-law. Think about it.
Amalia: Every evening. Here. With her.
Dina: And during the day. Lunch or even twice.
Laudisi: You mean. They might be …? The mother-in-law and the son-in-law are …?
Amalia: No. No. Really. (Simultaneous) Lamberto, please.
Dina: (Simultaneous) She’s older … She’s an old woman.
Amalia: His wife is never with him, that’s all. That’s the thing, he’s over here a lot but he never brings his wife, to see her own mother.
Laudisi: Maybe she’s sick.
Amalia: The mother goes to the daughter’s apartment.
Dina: The crooked old building with the dank courtyard and the twisted balcony. But she doesn’t go in.
Amalia: She’s not allowed in.
Dina: Has to call up from the courtyard. The dank courtyard, poor woman has to crane up staring into the blinding sun as her daughter - her only daughter - leans down into the bottomless dark, calling from the twisted balcony. Imagine how sore the old woman’s neck gets, craning up like that just to see her, just to say hello. To her own daughter.
Butler: Signora Cini.
Amalia: Darling, come in.
Cini: Amalia sweet, I was just mad to see you.
Amalia: Darling of course.
Cini: Frankly I'm desperate. i had to come to you... the fountain of knowledge, thirsting for news.
Cini: Amalia... this new man in the council... Ponza.
Laudisi: He's the talk of the town.
Cini: On everybody's lips.
Amalia: We only know what you know, my dear. No more.
Cini: Have you heard the latest? In the Ponza saga? There is a real, actual, factual reason why the mother is not allowed in to see her daughter.
Amalia: We were just talking about this.
Laudisi: You’ll drive yourselves round the bend.
Dina: The real reason? Well, the son-in-law won’t allow it.
Cini: Worse my sweet. Much (Simultaneous) worse.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) There’s more to it?
Cini: The word is … And I have heard it from the very best sources … Everyone. Everyone is saying: He keeps her locked up!
Amalia: His mother-in-law?
Cini: No, Darling, no. His wife.
Amalia: His wife. His (Simultaneous) wife.
Cini: (Simultaneous) Locked up. Like a prisoner.
Dina: Like a slave. And you say we are wrong to wonder, uncle?
Cini: Who is defending this. Degradation?
Laudisi: I’m not defending anything, all I’m saying is your queries. Your quibbles. All this, is futile.
Dina: But we want to know. We (Simultaneous) want to understand…
Laudisi: (Simultaneous) Know what? How can we ever. Understand? Understand? The only thing to understand is this … What can we really know about others? Who they are? What they are? And why they behave the way they behave? What in any of these musings can be definite?
Cini: We seek: The Facts.
Laudisi: No doubt you do Signora, when the whole town is so clearly oblivious to them.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) Lamberto, really.
Dina: (Simultaneous) Uncle, please.
Laudisi: Really Everybody. Please. All the gossip is right.
Laudisi: And wrong.
Laudisi: We are - all of us - many things to many people. So, who can finally say
what is true?
Cini: This is a man who changes willy-nilly to suit the time.
Laudisi: And you don’t? Signora?
Cini: Certainly not, I remain true to myself that is the mark of a citizen. I do not go a-changing.
Laudisi: Neither do I. As far as I know myself. In fact, I would say you can not know me as well as I know myself.
Laudisi: To which I add, it would be a great delusion on my part to presume to know the many faces I present to the world.
Amalia: What are you getting at?
Laudisi: Isn’t it obvious? You’re all bending over backwards to find out who and what these strangers are and yet, if we can’t know our own selves completely? How can you say who or what another person is at all?
Amalia: So the truth is impossible? Heaven help us.
Amalia: That way madness lies.
Laudisi: Don’t let me stop you. Chatter away at this Signora Frola and Signor Ponza and the mysterious woman that binds them. Get to the bottom of it if you can.
Amalia: Lamberto dear? Perhaps you might. Go?
Dina: Shouldn’t you?
Laudisi: No. No, it’s fascinating. I’ll just listen, not a sound. Maybe a squeak. A squeak, as I try to hold in my laughter.
Please. Don’t mind me.
Cini: I thought dear, because your husband is this Ponza man’s boss on the council
you’d … you know?
Amalia: What happens at work, stays at work. Home is sacred.
Cini: Of course, of course. But surely you’ve dropped by to see her, your new neighbour? The Mother-in-Law?
Cini: And …?
Dina: We were not received.
Cini: What? She wouldn’t?
Dina: Twice. Just this morning.
Amalia: Yesterday we waited at the door for fifteen minutes. And the doors aren’t exactly sound-proof if you take my meaning?
Cini: Tut, tut, tut.
Dina: And today? HE opened the door. What a face? A monster
Amalia: A monster in black.
Dina: The whole family’s in black. A cloud around the town.
Amalia: A murder of crows they call it. That’s a fact.
Dina: They are from a little town down South.
Cini: (Simultaneous) Crows.
Dina: (Simultaneous) The whole town was destroyed.
Amalia: Razed. To the ground.
Dina: An earthquake. An earthquake visited on the whole town.
Amalia: Gone. Destroyed completely.
Dina: They lost all their relatives apparently. They are the only three who remain in the whole line.
Laudisi: That might explain the black.
Cini: And you say it was HE that came to the door this morning?
Dina: He. Answered for his mother-in-law.
Amalia: And that face.
Dina: Scowling. (Simultaneous) I’ll never forget it.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) I couldn’t. I didn’t. What could I say? To that man (Simultaneous) I couldn’t say ‘hello’ or ‘how is your mother-in-law?’ Nothing. He just stood in the door. Breathing.
Dina: (Simultaneous) Scowling, ferocious all in black. He gave a little bow.
Amalia: Barely. We were stranded there. Gob-smacked.
Dina: His eyes. Savage and ferocious. An animal’s eyes.
Amalia: Wouldn’t speak at first.
Dina: Mumbled. (Simultaneous) Something.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) His voice … strangled, he offered some. Trifle. ‘His Mother-in-law was sick’ or ‘would have been pleased to see us, but’. Then he just stands there blocking the doorway.
Amalia: The man’s an animal. I bet he has the Mother-in-law imprisoned as well.
Cini: Bold, bold. So rude, to the wife of his superior?
Amalia: Well and my husband took it pretty badly. Went straight to the Mayor to make his complaint.
Agazzi: Which, my dear is now official.
Amalia: Darling, how did it go?
Agazzi: No-one insults my wife and daughter like that. No, no, no.
Cini: Rightly so.
Agazzi: Straight to the Mayor. I’ve just come from there.
Amalia: Victory. A victory.
Cini: Such behaviour?
Agazzi: He’s looking into it.
Amalia: He must. We’ve just heard, dear? This Ponza? He’s imprisoned both his women.
Laudisi: Hang on. No-one said anything about the mother-in-law. You can’t go saying she’s imprisoned, as well.
Agazzi: Ask her yourselves, ladies. She’s coming over soon.
Cini: How exciting. How fantastic. How...
Amalia: (Simultaneous) Another victory.
Agazzi: The mayor was glad to have my report.
Amalia: No doubt, no doubt.
Agazzi: He’d heard the gossip. He thinks it’s time we get to the bottom of this. (Simultaneous) The truth. Laudisi is laughing over the end of this. What’s so funny?
Amalia: HE thinks we’re chasing our tails.
Butler: Signora Frola.
Agazzi: Send her in.
Signora Frola enters. Silence.
Frola: I’ve been so negligent. So … remiss. And then both, you both so kindly come to me and … and yet I should’ve been the one. Excuse me. Please, I beg you.
Amalia: Signora Frola, really. It’s nothing. Between neighbours. Nothing at all to be troubled by. We only stopped by, thinking of you all alone, a stranger in town. We were worried for you. (Simultaneous) That’s all.
Frola: (Simultaneous) Thank you. Thank you.
Cini: So difficult to be all alone in a strange town.
Amalia: Alone, with no-one.
Frola: No. No my daughter is here as well, With her husband. My husband is the secretary at the council working under you Signor. On that count alone I should have made the effort. (Simultaneous) my apologies.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous) Well I was a bit.
Agazzi: It’s nothing. Of course.
Frola: No, you are right to be … my son-in-law, all of us … we’re all still. In shock. (Simultaneous) you see.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) Shock? Why?
Agazzi: The earthquake?
Frola: Yes. Yes. Exactly. Yes.
Dina: Did you lose … people?
Amalia: Friends? … Relatives?
Frola: We are the last three. Our village was destroyed. (Simultaneous) Whole.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) Imagine.
Agazzi: We heard. Something about all that.
Frola: I lost my Sister and her husband and their daughter, my niece. For Ponza. My son-in-law? It was catastrophic. His mother, two brothers, his sister, her husband, their children and his cousins. Everyone. Everyone, crushed.
Amalia: Good heavens.
Cini: A massacre.
Frola: Our whole life. All those lives. Destroyed.
Dina: In the blinking of an eye.
Agazzi: You could lose your mind.
Frola: You can imagine. How difficult it is to concentrate on the little things. The politeness. Even just the politeness which would come naturally. Just even that? Being a good neighbour. These things. It’s hard to remember to. Connect with everyone. How to. Even. My Son-in-law. We were rude without even realising it. I’m so, so sorry councillor.
Agazzi: No, no. Of course. Don’t worry yourself.
Amalia: I’m sure that’s why we felt that we would come round. Dina?
Dina: Yes, exactly, knowing you were all by yourself. Alone. In the apartment. Neighbours, good neighbours.
Cini: Signora …? You say you have a daughter here in town. That the three of you suffered this tragic loss. Why don’t you all live together? You know. For support?
Frola: Because I am in this flat? And they …?
Amalia: It would seem, though. To be together …?
Frola: A mother’s place. Her daughter marries. I believe the mother should give the couple privacy. Not be too tangled up in their lives. See? Even … well …
Laudisi: There’s an answer. Makes sense of everything. Simple.
Amalia: But to exclude the mother from relations with (Simultaneous) the daughter?
Laudisi: (Simultaneous) Who said exclude? We have here a mother who has
accepted her daughter’s need to grow. Isn’t that simple enough?
Frola: That’s it exactly. Simple. Enough.
Dina: Do you and your daughter … maybe you go to the markets together or she comes over of a morning?
Frola: That’s right, yes.
Amalia: What I’ve heard. No, no. They say in town my dear Signora Frola. I’ve heard your daughter never leaves her house.
Cini: Children. Little children. Children perhaps?
Frola: I wish I could say … No. Not yet. Maybe not ever. They’ve been married seven years and … What it is? It’s very normal. What it is …? She always has a lot to do around the house. Because you see? We women from small villages? We don’t go much for going out or … We stay at home. (Simultaneous) That’s what …
Dina: (Simultaneous) Even if your mother lives on the other side of town?
Amalia: But Signora Frola perhaps … you probably visit your daughter.
Frola: Of course, yes. Twice a day.
Amalia: You climb all those stairs? Twice a day?
Cini: To the apartment.
Frola: Um … no. I don’t go up. I. To tell the truth. More …Your right. I don’t go up. She … um. Comes out and we talk like that.
Agazzi: She comes down? Or you’d never see her.
Dina: Exactly. As a daughter I can see that she wouldn’t want you climbing all those stairs. Ninety stairs. So she must come down. I would, just to be near my mother.
Frola: Well that’s right, yes. Exactly. But don’t think ill of her. Of us. A thousand steps would not prevent me from hugging her to my heart. But.
Agazzi: Your Son-in-law? Ponza?
Frola: Oh. It’s very difficult. It’s not. He is a good boy. A good man. Everyone thinks him difficult, but. He is a good, loving husband. A real man. Filled with tenderness and … towards me he is so, very ... And my daughter he adores. He worships her. A mother could not hope for a better husband for her daughter.
Agazzi: And …?
Cini: He’s not the problem … then?
Agazzi: A good husband. A loving husband wouldn’t stop his mother-in-law from seeing her own daughter.
Frola: Stop? No. He’d never … no. What it is, Councillor Signor Agazzi. Councillor? My daughter and I refrain from seeing each other out of consideration for him. We choose to, see? … out of.
Agazzi: No? Why? (Simultaneous) What?
Frola: (Simultaneous) His feelings. Feelings. Feelings, Signor are strange. And his - out of consideration which is hard to grasp at first but once you understand. You think, of course. Who wouldn’t? It’s a small sacrifice for my daughter and I in the scheme of things.
Agazzi: It all seems a little irregular.
Amalia: People are curious.
Agazzi: People. Are suspicious.
Frola: No, no. Nothing. No, really councillor. Nothing’s wrong. To suspect? No. We’re all very happy. Very happy. Apart from how sad we are at our great loss. And … But this arrangement? No. Happy. All of us. Me? My daughter? All of us.
Agazzi: I smell Jealousy.
Frola: Jealousy. Of me? Mine? No … I think more. Less? The situation. Is much. Simple. He feels. He wants my daughter’s love in its entirety and so even that love which she must feel for her mother, which he concedes and supports of course, of course – who wouldn’t? But even so, that love - he feels - would be better channelled through him to me. (Simultaneous) You see?
Agazzi: (Simultaneous) Savagery.
Frola: Not at all. No. It’s … Something else. A natural. A great … A fullness. An over-abundance of love and passion. That is more the idea. This massive. Love. That she lives within and cannot leave and others cannot enter. Expect to enter. This massive.
Dina: Not even you?
Cini: Heartlessness. Brutality.
Frola: You say that. And from the outside perhaps but, from their perspective? It would be heartless, brutality to burst in on this wonderful … Universe. A universe where my daughter is adored, central. In all honesty? I should be so lucky that my daughter is this happy. I see her. I talk to her. We live well. Every day I go to the courtyard and we exchange a note. She lets down a basket and in it is a letter with the news of the day, always bright - alive with joy and happiness. I call up to her. She’s always smiling, joyous. Yes, I was sad for a while at this strange new world. But now I am glad for her, in her peace.
Amalia: You’re happy.
Frola: We’re all so happy. He’s such a good man. A great, loving. A world of love. Most importantly – the point of my visit is to beg your forgiveness. Forgive me for being so remiss, we’ve suffered much lately. And. I look forward to being your neighbour. Really. So. Until the next time.
Cini: Well, well.
Agazzi: A likely story.
Amalia: The woman was on the verge of tears.
Dina: And the poor daughter …?
Amalia: My heart nearly broke when she said a thousand steps. A thousand steps
she said. A thousand steps she’d climb.
Agazzi: I tell you.
Butler: There is a Signor Ponza, virtually stamping at the door.
Dina: What an afternoon.
Amalia: What does he want?
Cini: God. To be so close to this monster.
Agazzi: Look relaxed. Send him in.
Ponza: I’ll be brief sir.
Agazzi: Would you rather just the two of us? Man to man?
Ponza: Not at all. I owe everyone an explanation. I know it. What it is, Councillor? It is not that my Mother-in-law is rude, she would certainly have stopped by but … I had to stop her. See? I really cannot allow her to pay or receive visits.
Agazzi: On what grounds?
Ponza: I know she’s been here. I know. Talking about her daughter. How I’ve forbidden them to see each other.
Amalia: She spoke very highly of you.
Dina: Very generous.
Cini: Well, honestly...
Amalia: She made it sound … voluntary. Out of regard for your feelings.
Agazzi: Which strikes us as pretty. Damned odd.
Agazzi: Cruel. Odd. Odd. It seems. It does.
Ponza: Councillor. I am brutally aware of how this all looks. And the sorrow … The sorrow within the family. In my own heart … Signora Frola. Is mad. (Simultaneous) Frankly. Yes.
All: (Simultaneous) Mad?
Ponza: These last four years.
Amalia: Poor Soul.
Agazzi: She didn’t seem mad.
Ponza: No. No. She seems. She acts. But she is. She believes I don’t want her to see her daughter.
Agazzi: She made it (Simultaneous A) sound -
Ponza: (Simultaneous A) Her daughter. Has been dead for (Simultaneous B) four years.
Dina: (Simultaneous B) Dead?
Cini: (Simultaneous B) I can't believe it. Dead?
Agazzi: (Simultaneous B) Daughter? Dead?
Amalia: (Simultaneous B) Her daughter …?
Laudisi: (Simultaneous B) Fabulous.
Ponza: Four years ago.
Amalia: But your wife?
Ponza: She’s my second.
Dina: What …?
Cini: Second wife?
Ponza: Yes. There’s a blessing in it. When my first wife passed, Signora Frola, fell into a great, deep depression. She had to be kept under supervision. One day, two years later she saw me talking to my second wife. My new wife. Saw me through her window and she ... They say she started laughing and calling and praising God. She became quite. Very. Very agitated. When the sedation wore off she was convinced her daughter was still alive and has in fact, you see? Through this simple self-deception has in fact become sane again on every other level. I keep them apart of course, to protect Signora Frola’s fragile grip on reality. To all intents and purposes she is sane. Except her fundamental belief is a delusion.
Agazzi: She seemed. (Simultaneous) We thought.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) She was very.
Ponza: Yes. But. No. She is. Look, she’s fine to me, nice enough and functions relatively well in this belief. She thinks that in some way all the distance I put between her and my second wife is a sacrifice she makes for my fragile emotional state. But it is we, my second wife and I who make the real sacrifices. I have to keep two households. And my second wife maintains this charade. Talks to her from the balcony, writes to her. She’s actually learnt to write like my first wife. I can’t let them near each other. I’m not sure how deep the delusion runs but the Mother-in-law may recognise that it is not her daughter or worse really much worse, we fear – my second wife and I - fear … starved for love for four years now the old woman would smother my second wife and then, imagine the horror of that? All that mothering and kissing and … the horror of a mad old woman’s desperate affection. Her lips … (Simultaneous) Caresses …
Dina: (Simultaneous) How terrifying.
Amalia: So … your second wife chooses to be locked up?
Ponza: Councillor. You see my situation?
Agazzi: Well, yes. I suppose. Yes. I mean. Yes.
Ponza: I am a man, plagued by sorrow. I had to allow my Mother-in-law to come to you but you see I also had to. Explain. This does not affect my work, Councillor. I’m a diligent and responsible man but you can see. My situation, strikes people as odd and then. I have to explain. I’m not the man my mother-in-law says. Jealousy? No. Under any other circumstances I would never. But … My apologies. Now ladies. Gentlemen. Excuse me, I must get back to my dear wife.
Amalia: So … ? She’s mad? Is that it?
Dina: With grief.
Amalia: Poor thing.
Agazzi: She was very lucid.
Laudisi: Who’d have thought?
Agazzi: I don’t know. She was so. She seemed so able to make sense of the situation.
Laudisi: Madness by definition.
Agazzi: She’s convinced herself. Perhaps …
Amalia: It made sense.
Dina: If she weren’t mad she would never tolerate the situation, really. If you think about it, what mother could stand to be separated from her daughter because her Son-in-law’s passion was too strong? It’s ridiculous. If you think about it. It’s a mad excuse. I think Signor Ponza is telling the truth. Uncle?
Laudisi: He is. But clearly, as far as she is concerned so is Signora Frola.
Cini: But that just... That means we don't know anything still. Definitely.
Amalia: No. It’s her. She’s mad.
Laudisi: You didn’t think that an hour ago.
Butler: Signora Frola is back.
Amalia: We’ll never be rid of her. You know, mad people can be so … dogged.
Agazzi: They just don’t know when enough is enough.
Amalia: What more can she tell us?
Agazzi: Who knows? Thing is? I’m not a hundred percent convinced she’s insane.
Cini: Let her in please. I want to know...
Dina: As long as she remains calm. And we don't, you know...?
Agazzi: Send her in.
Agazzi: Everyone look relaxed. Don’t let on that we know she’s mad, it might … Well. Look calm.
Amalia: I’m not very good with mad people.
Signora Frola enters. Silence.
Frola: Excuse me.
Amalia: Signora, imagine. Come in, come in. Sit down, sit down. Can I get you anything? Tea?
Frola: I know what you’re thinking. I can see it. All of you.
Amalia: Thinking? Us? No, no, Signora. Nothing.
Frola: Better to have been rude. Why did I get involved in this? I knew, I could see what everyone would think. You spoke to my son-in-law? Ponza?
Agazzi: We did. Of course … Council business.
Frola: Council business? (simultaneous) I know, I know …
Agazzi: (Simultaneous) Signora, really. No. Just the usual.
Frola: Was he calm?
Agazzi: Calm of course. Wasn’t he?
Agazzi: Official business. Tends to be. Calm. Dull. At times.
Frola: What I said. I would never have said. Nobody believes. We are forced to tell stories that nobody believes. But can I tell you the truth? Or should I just … concede. Is that what I’ll do? Say that my daughter has been dead for four years and that I am just a poor, old, mad-woman who believes her daughter still alive and is kept in the dark by her son-in-law and his new wife for her own mental health. Is that going to work?
Agazzi: So? Hang on? You know that your daughter is not actually your daughter?
Frola: That’s what he told you. Didn’t he?
Dina: Well …
Cini: To tell the truth...
Amalia: He did. Yes.
Frola: I know the story. Of course I know the story of the mother mad with grief. I know he hates to say it of me. I know the pain it causes him, Councillor. And he has suffered ... Of all of us, yes. And we have all suffered. And we live the way we live which is scandalous everywhere we go. The scandal follows and takes over our lives. Again. Again and Again. But, he is a good worker. He is a great asset to any council. You can vouch for that Sir?
Agazzi: Well, I don’t really know. No. I’ve hardly (Simultaneous) had the …
Frola: (Simultaneous) He is wonderful employee. A diligent, responsible - forget what might seem to be. The appearance, our life might seem. But his work is good. That’s what matters. Why should he keep suffering for a past which I sincerely believe he has put to rest and learnt to. Incorporate as best he can. Without affecting his reliability?
Agazzi: No-one is. There is no … His work will speak for itself, I’m sure.
Frola: Then why are we all forced to explain the way we live? If it has no bearing on his prospects? And we tell these stories to avoid the. My daughter is dead? I am mad? This other woman is his second wife? I mean, really. But. To afford him confidence. Peace of mind. Socially. We say, we all try and stick to the story. But each new town. Each new life … and the lie wears thinner. He becomes agitated and anxious, I become fraught. God help us.
Agazzi: So he is the mad (Simultaneous A) one?
Amalia: (Simultaneous A) This is. What?
Laudisi: (Simultaneous A) Really …?
Dina: (Simultaneous A) How terrible.
Agazzi: You need to sort this out.
Frola: You see? No, please. It’s just a little. It’s just one simple. All we need to do is agree to. Set aside the interest in this one tiny aspect of his life. Our life. If he was mad, would I allow my daughter …? My own daughter? And in the office? Councillor? Is that the work of a mad man?
Agazzi: Signora? Sorry. We have to know now. What is the truth? Are you saying the story of your madness and the second wife is a fabrication of your son-in-law’s? Is that what you are saying?
Frola: Yes. But I beg your understanding.
Agazzi: So your daughter is not dead?
Frola: No. No. Never.
Agazzi: So … Ponza is the mad one?
Frola: No. No (Simultaneous) not like that.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous) Come on, woman.
Frola: You’ve met him. He isn’t mad. But. He is a passionate man. A really. Very. When he married my daughter he was. He became deeply impassioned. To such a degree. My daughter is a delicate girl, see? And Ponza’s passion. His … Desire was unquenchable. He is. That’s the way he is. A doctor was consulted - my daughter, it was terrifying. My daughter was emaciated. Emaciated and … it was as if she were … disappearing. The doctor said that unless some respite were given her, she would be Consumed. Late one night - we had to steal her away from him while he slept. Late one night, we stole her away. She was put into an asylum. To recover. For her health.
When he awoke … well, he was already very troubled by his passion. Yes. When he realised she was gone. Well … He wouldn’t listen to reason, he was convinced she had died, he went … he was wild. Wild. Nothing would convince him otherwise, he was rigid with it. Even when she returned the next year fully recovered he was convinced it wasn’t her. No, no. No. He knew but … he would NOT acknowledge it. He would almost and then no. He just couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t bring himself to see what he had driven her to. Us all to. The solution we came up with was this second wedding idea.
Not mad. Though. No. His passion. And he’s very aware. And … Because he knows as well. He knows, and we all know he knows. He knows but daren’t broach the subject. See? So we all play the various roles in the charade and that allows him his. His? His dignity. His. He doesn’t have to dwell on what really happened. You see? And my daughter is happy. And I am happy. And this way, is the way it works best for us as a family.
Which is what we are, finally.
I am so sorry for all this coming and going and … so on.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) Good day.
Cini: (Simultaneous) Bye bye.
Dina: (Simultaneous) Bye.
Signora Frola leaves.
Laudisi: So, who is Signora Ponza?
Laudisi looks in a mirror.
Laudisi: Ah. There you are. Is that you, me, you? … Me? If I were mad, would you be as well? Are we, in fact, and just don’t know it? Perhaps? He adjusts his moustache. Touches the mirror. I reach out to you and you reach right back at me. But while we’re here, just the two of me … of us … Come on, we know each other pretty well, wouldn’t you say? About as well as a person could know another, wouldn’t I say?
Problem? You don’t see me exactly the way I see you, do you? And then what of all the others? Others? And so what do we know? What does that make us? Shadows? Ghosts? Bits? I think you have to face it. I do at least. We are all bits and pieces and those lunatics … furiously convinced there’s no shadow in them. What do they think? They’re solid rock? Unmoving? Stone? Don’t they know they carry all those others inside them? They pursue the shadow in strangers but can’t see the shadow in their own stone.
The Butler is a little surprised to see Laudisi talking to the mirror.
Butler: Sir... Signora Cini is here.
Cini: Darling. May I?
Laudisi: Sweety. Please.
Cini: I just thought I’d -
Laudisi: Hang around for Signora Frola?
Cini: No, no. Your Sister.
Signora Frola. Is coming over?
Laudisi: Conveniently. Signora Frola is being lured here by my Sister as we speak.
Laudisi: They’ve concocted a plan. What a scene. What a scene. Right here.
Cini: A scene here? What?
Laudisi: An Accidental encounter. Planned to the last detail by Agazzi and his wife, my sister Amalia. Genius. Agazzi is bringing Ponza here on the pretext of some official business. Meanwhile Amalia will lure Signora Frola over for a neighbourly luncheon. Yes. The dining room is being prepared as we speak. The chance encounter between the two, will erupt, before our eyes. Genius.
Dina: Uncle, I am so glad you are here.
Laudisi: Entertaining Signora Cini.
Cini: Well, I just came to see...
Amalia: Signora Frola, I bet.
Cini: So Signora Frola is joining us?
Amalia: She is a poor, dear thing.
Laudisi: Who? Me? Signora Cini? Who?
Amalia: Signora Frola. Signora Frola is a poor, dear thing.
Dina: She’s not mad. A lovely clean house (Simultaneous A) everything in it’s place. No sign of madness.
Amalia: (Simultaneous A) Dishes all done, nice clean doilies on the furniture.
Laudisi: No shopping trolleys? Piles of newspaper?
Amalia: She showed us the letter. The (Simultaneous B) letters from her daughter.
Laudisi: (Simultaneous B) Letters, really.
Cini: He was saying... They might well be forged.
Dina: You haven’t even seen them.
Laudisi: But things can be fake.
Amalia: Ridiculous. A mother would know her daughters letters.
Laudisi: Unless, as Signor Ponza claims, the second wife had learnt to forge them.
Butler: Should I see Signora Frola in to the parlour?
Cini: Oh my God... She's here?
Amalia: Please, yes. Just through there.
The Butler exits
Amalia: My husband has set up a meeting.
Laudisi: Accidentally on purpose.
Amalia: It seems wrong now … I do feel for the poor dear woman. There really is no need to put her through this. She is clearly not the problem.
Laudisi: So send her home?
Amalia: No. We must put this to rest.
Cini: It's him. He's mad.
Laudisi: And if she is the mad one?
Amalia: Stop this. We know. How would you know?
Laudisi: You’re all so sure it’s him. It may well be her.
Dina: He’s just being provocative.
Amalia: Come on ladies, we should be there for her. Just come through to the parlour.
Dina: What? No. You’re being …
Laudisi: Close the door then. If you don’t need the proof.
Dina: Daddy asked for the door to be left open. To make the final point.
Laudisi: But if you are all so sure. He’ll believe you of course he’ll believe you. Then you can save her the grief of the encounter. Close the door.
Dina: You’re being tricky, but I know what I know? I know Signora Frola is not mad, but daddy needs the proof. It’s what he asked for.
Laudisi: I’ll close it then. Blame me.
Dina: Blame you?
Laudisi: Even though I’m not convinced.
Dina: Join us in the Parlour then. Hear her talk for yourself. Then you’ll know.
Laudisi: I’ll join you. And I’ll close the door.
Dina: See? You know I’m right.
Laudisi: Not at all. Not at all. I know, right this instant your father is certain. Certain that Ponza is not the mad one because he is talking to him as we speak. So I’ll shut the door to keep your father’s beliefs in tact.
Dina: No. Don’t. We should do this final test.
Laudisi: So you’re not sure? Then?
Dina: For Daddy. He asked. It’s his plan.
Laudisi: And Daddy will want it open to prove that Ponza is the sane one to you.
Dina: Listen... That’s her. Playing the piano.
Laudisi: The mad woman?
Dina: Uncle. Don’t. She said this is a tune her daughter loves to play. Come on, come in. And leave the door open.
Laudisi: For Daddy.
Quiet. Ponza enters.
Agazzi: Please, Signor Ponza. Have a seat … You came for the documents... Yes. Yes. Where are they? Here they are.
Ponza: What’s that music?
Agazzi: Sorry (Simultaneous) What?
Ponza: (Simultaneous) I know that song.
Agazzi: Lovely isn’t it? As I was saying it’s a very complicated matter that’s been in and out of council for years.
Ponza: What is she doing here? (Simultaneous) This must end.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous) Sorry? What? End what?
Ponza: Signora Frola. STOP THIS, THIS INSTANT.
Music stops. Silence.
Agazzi: Signor? I …
Amalia: What’s (Simultaneous) all this …?
Dina: (Simultaneous) Who’s that?
Cini: What's happening here? Oh my God.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous) Everybody please.
Ponza: What are you doing? What are you all doing? Can’t you see? She must not receive visitors. This must not be encouraged.
Dina: She plays beautifully.
Amalia: She says her daughter Lina plays it better.
Cini: She says it’s Lina’s favourite (Simultaneous) tune.
Ponza: (Simultaneous) Signora Frola? What? What? What do you think you are doing?
Signora Frola enters.
Frola: I just …
Ponza: What? More of this?
Frola: Nothing. That’s (Simultaneous) all. Nothing.
Ponza: (Simultaneous) NOTHING? I heard you. We all heard you. Your daughter’s favourite tune. A tune she loves to play. Lina’s favourite tune. But she is dead. She’s been dead for four years.
Frola: Yes dear. Yes. Sorry.
Ponza: She’s not allowed to play anymore? Is that what you say? SHE’S DEAD, WOMAN. (Simultaneous) D. E. A. D.
Frola: (Simultaneous) Yes. Yes, yes. I said that. Didn’t I?
Ponza: SO? Why are you going over it all, turning it over all the time? Why? I destroyed the piano because your daughter is dead. Because my new wife cannot play the piano. Because. That time. That time. IS dead.
Frola: No. She doesn’t play. That’s right.
Ponza: And the name? The name of this woman who loves to play this non-existent piano that I don’t let her play? You said Lina didn’t you? I heard you say Lina. Lina is your daughter’s name. So who. WHO? Is this woman I will not allow near the piano because she can’t play the piano. What is her name? Say it. Tell them. My second wife. Say it.
Frola: Julia. (Simultaneous) Julia. Yes. Yes, Julia.
Ponza: (Simultaneous) JULIA. JULIA. Julia. And stop all the winking and eye-rolling and ‘don’t mind him he’s mad.’ STOP IT NOW.
Frola: Me? No. No I Wouldn’t. No. I didn’t.
Ponza: I saw you. I saw you. You are ruining me … ruining my reputation. Telling these people that I have locked up your daughter. Keeping her all to myself. And you don’t think. It grieves me, too?
He bursts into tears, shaking with rage and sorrow.
Frola: No, no. No. Dear man. No, I never did. I don’t. Ladies help me. (Simultaneous) Dear sweet man. No.
Amalia: (Simultaneous) She never said that.
Dina: (Simultaneous) Of course, Signora. Never.
Cini: She never said she was alive.
Frola: That’s right. That’s right. And I’m a fool. And I always say. I make a point of what a wonderful man (Simultaneous) you are … always.
Ponza: (Simultaneous) What do you TAKE ME FOR? Going into other people’s houses. Stranger’s houses and playing the piano. Claiming your daughter is a better pianist if only I’d let her. Claiming I would stop Lina. That I would ever stop Lina? How would I stop Lina. Lina is dead. Gone. Dead.
Frola: Yes. No … Yes I know.
Ponza: NEVER. You must never play the piano again if it brings all this. Delusion upon you. Never.
Frola: Yes. Never.
Ponza: NOW, go. GO.
Frola: Yes. Yes … Sorry. Yes.
Signora Frola goes. Silence.
Ponza: Jesus God help us. So sorry to put you all through that. Spectacle. It had to be. That’s the only way to … prevent the poor old thing from slipping back into her melancholic derangement. Of course you weren’t all to know but, in a way what you exposed her to, is the very brink of her sanity.
Agazzi: What? Hang on. You were acting. That?
Ponza: I’ve had a lot of practice. I tell you. I have to drive it hard like that for her to think … to kid herself into thinking that I am in fact the mad one. You see?
I’m sorry. It seems harsh but really if she can’t think to herself that I am mad then it is a short step from there, to gazing into the pit of her own delusion.
Madness is a deep, deep pit. Now. I better go and see to her. Excuse me.
Laudisi: Now? Who can say now?
Agazzi is fussing with paper, Laudisi is laughing.
Agazzi: What’s so funny?
Laudisi: The women are in the headquarters’ gossiping.
Ponza and the Butler (who has transformed into the Mayor) burst in.
Agazzi: Your Excellency.
Laudisi: Who’s this?
Butler: I’m the Mayor.
The Butler sits down.
Laudisi: Are you?
Agazzi: Lamberto really. I’m sorry (Simultaneous) your Excellency. My Brother-in-law relishes chaos.
Laudisi: (Simultaneous) Stranger and stranger.
Agazzi: Thank you both for coming. Your Excellency, thankyou … Now, Signor Ponza … Are you alright?
Ponza: Just to say. Just to say. Consider it official. As of today I request a transfer, effective (Simultaneous) Imm .. As soon as –
Butler: (Simultaneous) No, no. really. There’s no need to get all –
Ponza: I have been brought here. A target of malicious slander. Your Excellency.
Butler: Not at all. You know where I stand.
Agazzi: Are you suggesting I have (Simultaneous) persecuted you?
Ponza: (Simultaneous) Suggesting? No. You have Persecuted, exactly. Persecuted me relentlessly. So I quit. I quit your Excellency because I cannot bear it, this relentless Inquisition. And to what end? My life is my life. And (Simultaneous A) even if it were not as I say it is. WHICH IT IS – But even if it were not … do you understand what a delicate balance you are jeopardising? Regardless of my own great sorrow and loss, regardless of all that it has cost me PERSONALLY. Can’t you see the damage to her? The jeopardy (Simultaneous B) you are putting my poor dear Mother-in-law in. A woman whom I adore as if she were my own dear mother. And you saw yesterday how I have to treat her to keep her fragile illusion from collapsing. And when (Simultaneous C) I returned to her last night she was at the very edge. The very edge of the abyss, the pit yawning up at her.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous A) No-one is denying you that.
(Simultaneous B) You say this about your mother-in-law.
(Simultaneous C) You are the one Signor.
Excuse me? Excuse me? All I have to say to that? Pretty simply? Is she ... You, in fact. You are the one that comes across as. At some edge or pit or other. She quite on the contrary (Simultaneous) is the gentlest.
Ponza: (Simultaneous) And what would you expect with all that you make me suffer?
Butler: Calm down Ponza. I’m here. You know I appreciate your side of the story.
Ponza: I do. I do and I … I don’t know what I would do without your express support but even so, this man and his family have inflamed the whole town. The whole town and I can’t move. I can’t get on with the life. Difficult enough as it is. I can’t …
Butler: You say you adore your mother-in-law (Simultaneous). Well these are her neighbours, they just want to know. To understand to make sure, everything is really for the best.
Ponza: (Simultaneous) I do. But this is how the damage is done your Excellency. Which I’ve told them repeatedly. Over and over.
Agazzi: We look forward to understanding and then happily we will. Happily. Happily we will leave you to your own … ways. We just need it all. Sorted out.
Butler: They have a simple request.
Ponza: Are you … taking their side (Simultaneous A) now …?
Butler: (Simultaneous A) Not at all. Only. Only in so far as they are. Anxious and need relief.
Ponza: They never believe me. No-one (Simultaneous B) ever believes me. Anywhere. Ever.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous B) Not at all. Now listen here. I told you this Excellency. When he came and first told us his Mother-in-law was deranged? It seemed odd, it did - but we accepted it. But then she returned and (Simultaneous C) the whole thing turned on its’ …
Butler: (Simultaneous C) Yes, yes, I know. We all know the twists and turns.
Agazzi: Well, we need some final. Arbitration. Arbitration Excellency.
Butler: I have conceded that.
Agazzi: Arbitration. (Simultaneous D) A third party.
Ponza: (Simultaneous D) What? What? Who?
Butler: We call your wife. Signora (Simultaneous E) Ponza.
Ponza: (Simultaneous E) My wife? My wife? Are you mad? Excuse me Excellency but not on … Never.
Butler: I beg your pardon?
Ponza: Bring my poor wife into this. Deeper into this. Web?
Butler: And why not?
Ponza: But Excellency. Please, no. Just this is all I beg the privacy. My own dear wife. Please, please Sir?
Butler: If you’ve nothing to hide.
Agazzi: This is what I mean. Won’t let his mother-in-law near us. Now won’t let us ask his wife. I mean really, who wouldn’t wonder what he’s hiding in there?
Ponza: What do you people want from me? In the name of God. The damage done to my poor Mother-in-law. What is this? Blood sport? And I can’t believe you, Excellency, you who I have … the only one who I have had any kind of. And you too …? No. No I will not subject my dear, dear wife to this torture. No. My resignation is (Simultaneous) official. I –
Butler: (Simultaneous) I beg your pardon Signor Ponza. How dare you take this Moral Tone in front of your superior? And. And then deny my arbitration. No Signor Ponza. No. I have treated you with every courtesy and respect and I am sorry young man but. Really. This refusal to concur with our investigation speaks only. ONLY of guilt to me. It is in your interest to undertake to deliver your wife to us for questioning.
Agazzi: Bravo. Bravo. Wise Council. Arbitration Excellency is all we ask.
Ponza: This is an order then?
Butler: In your own interest, Signor Ponza.
Ponza: I’ll say now. Now … I’ll say. I will say ‘yes’. As. As. As a man who works and will seek … yes to continue to endeavour to make some kind of. Life. Yes. But.
Yes, I will bring my wife here, to you and this will settle whatever it settles. Yes. But you must. You all must. You must make sure Signora Frola is kept away. You must not. You must not allow this to get. To go … To get. All over the place.
Ponza goes. Quiet.
Butler: OK, well. OK. I have to say. I didn’t think he’d get so. High and mighty.
Agazzi: He can be a handful. I pity the wife, he’ll be barking at her and bending her to his will.
Butler: I’ll get to the bottom of this.
Agazzi: He gets very worked up.
Butler: He’s protective of his wife. That’s normal for a young man.
Agazzi: Protective? He has her imprisoned.
Butler: Imprisoned. Don’t exaggerate.
Agazzi: Impartial Sir. You have to be impartial.
Butler: Excuse me?
Agazzi: Sorry. You defend him. I fear because he has been in your ear, but you see what an animal he can be. That’s all. We need to be impartial.
Butler: We do.
Agazzi: Of course. You are. Always. I’m just … thinking … Sorry. (Simultaneous) Excellency.
Butler: (Simultaneous) Yes. Yes.
Agazzi: It’s just too much I mean. Even just for our normal lovely town that this man has a woman, trapped, what? Even only working his house for free. Like a …
Butler: He has two households to run.
Agazzi: But you see my point? It’s all so …
Butler: Granted. But all will be explained by her and my guess is, his jealousy will be the root cause. Madness or no madness. He is a passionate fellow.
Laudisi: Impartial? What do you think will be revealed by this woman? Signora Ponza? If she even exists.
Agazzi: Don’t be ridiculous. Why would there be all this fuss if there wasn’t a wife imprisoned?
Laudisi: You say no-one’s seen her.
Agazzi: Like I say. Imprisoned.
Laudisi: How can you be sure? My bet is we’ll see a ghost. Another (Simultaneous) fragment.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous) A Ghost. Ridiculous.
Laudisi: You’re both expecting after all this, that Signora Ponza will be a normal … a readily identifiable woman? (Simultaneous A) But assuming there is a woman there at all, how could she be ordinary? If (Simultaneous B) anyone ever could be?
Butler: (Simultaneous A) Of course she is.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous B) Don’t be so perverse. All day.
Laudisi: Let me finish. I say: expect a ghost. The ghost of a second wife if Signora Frola is to be believed and the ghost of a daughter if Signor Ponza is right. I can’t see how you could expect any thing else.
Signora Frola enters.
Amalia: Signora Frola. Signora Frola. All … (Simultaneous A) Quite. Really quite.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous A) Signora Frola. No. No. Get rid of her.
Amalia: She burst in.
Agazzi: Who said she could?
Amalia: No-one. She just. (Simultaneous B) Burst …
Agazzi: (Simultaneous B) Get rid of her. Rid (Simultaneous C) of her. Now.
Butler: (Simultaneous C) You have to ask her to go.
Agazzi: This is a disaster. He’ll. They’ll. What’ll?
Signor Frola piles in, weeping, wailing. At the very edge …
Frola: Help me. Help us. Help me. What …? Please? Could. Help?
Agazzi: You have (Simultaneous A) to go. Now.
Butler: (Simultaneous A) We can’t help you.
Frola: Why? Why? Amalia I beg you, as my neighbour who has been so concerned (Simultaneous B) for me and my …
Amalia: (Simultaneous B) No. No, no, no. You have to. The Mayor said.
Frola: The Mayor. My poor, dear Son-in-law, I need to talk to (Simultaneous C)
you about my …
Butler: (Simultaneous C) There’s no time. Go. Go, Leave. (Simultaneous D) I will see you later.
Frola: (Simultaneous D) I will go. I am leaving. I will leave this town but please -
Agazzi: SIGNORA. Go back to your apartment.
Frola: I will leave this town. For him. For my dearest. (Simultaneous E) I will make the sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice, I will give up seeing my daughter. (Simultaneous F) If I must, I must. I MUST but, Please Excellency, please let me put in a final word for my Son-in-law. Please, Excellency.
Agazzi: (Simultaneous E) Just your apartment. Now.
Amalia: (Simultaneous F) You don’t have to do that.
Frola: I will leave but help him.
Dina calls, pointing excitedly at the top of the spiral.
Dina: MOTHER! (Simultaneous G) MOTHER. LOOK.
Laudisi: (to the audience) Look. Look. Look.
Butler: Heaven help us.
Everybody is stunned, looking at the top of the spiral.
Signora Ponza is making her way to the stage.
Dina: Is that …?
Amalia: That’s …
Signora Frola stands up with a frantic shriek of Joy.
Frola: LINA … LINA … MY Darling, darling Lina.
Ponza: JULIA … Julia. MY ONLY DARLING … JULIA! What have you done you treacherous cowards? What have you ALL DONE?
Signora Ponza reaches the pedestal.
Signora P: Don’t. Don’t. Don’t be afraid. Always so afraid. Both so afraid. Don’t be afraid. Leave. Leave. Leave now, both of you. Go. Go, now.
Ponza: Yes. Yes …
Ponza and Frola exit.
All eyes are on Signora Ponza.
Signora P: What do you want of me? What now do you want of me? A terrible thing happened, a great, an Unspeakable Misfortune. And it cannot be talked about, because there are no words. And it must be kept hidden, because that is the only way for a semblance of life to continue. Because this is what compassion demands.
Dina: Of course we do, Signora. Only tell us …
Signora P: Tell you what? The truth? The truth is simply this: I am Signora Frola’s daughter.
The waiting group exclaim their relief.
Signora P: And. I am Signor Ponza’s second wife.
The group express their confusion.
Signora P: I am both and – alone. In my tower - I am Nobody.
Amalia: But really Signora … Really. No, you are one or the other.
Signora P: I am neither, I am either, I am no-one, I am any-one. I am who-ever you believe me to be.
Laudisi: The voice of truth. Are you happy now?
He takes his moustache off, laughing …
Adapted for Francesco Vezzoli by Andrew Upton
Eine Nacht in New York - die Performance von Francesco Vezzoli:
Die Edition 46 - Künstler gestalten ein SZ-Magazin
"Ich will anderen ihre Persönlichkeit stehlen" - Francesco Vezzoli über seine Arbeit
Vezzolis Geheimnis -
der Philosoph Bernard-Henri Lévy über Vezzolis Theorien
So ist es (wenn es Ihnen so scheint) - Bilder der Performance
Großes Kino - Alle Darsteller auf einen Blick.
Luigi Pirandello - Der Autor des Stücks "So ist es (wenn es Ihnen so scheint)"