Hello everyone and welcome back to Monologue Monday at Unknown Playwrights. This week we bring you monologues from the romantic comedy play Strawberries in January by Quebecois playwright Evelyne de la Chenelière. The English version was translated by Rona Munro.
I’ll be honest, I have neither seen nor read this play. However, summaries abound online. This summary is:
“Francois and Sophie love each other but break up just before their wedding. Francois’ friend, Robert, happens to stay at Lea’s b&b, where they have a one-night stand. Lea has a baby and comes to Montreal in search of her childhood friend, Sophie. Meanwhile, Francois has introduced Robert to Sophie without telling him that she is his ex…Just as things are getting really complicated, Lea arrives, Robert declares his love for her, and Francois and Sophie realise they were made for each other after all…”Strawberries in January” is a delicate, double love story like they don’t make them anymore. It has the bittersweet atmosphere of a French film, and like a film the story is told in a series of intriguingly interconnected flashbacks. The effect is of mirrors within mirrors – totally beguiling.”
One thing reviews keep mentioning is how “frothy” or “bubbly” the romance is. Also, the cinematic nature of the play is emphasized.
This week we’ll look at Romeo & Juliet‘s The Nurse, who is Juliet’s servant, guardian and former wet nurse. In the play, Juliet is supposed to be 13 years old. The action takes place shortly before Juliet’s upcoming birthday.
Imagine being 13 years old and still having to hang out with your old wet nurse.
The Nurse first appears in the poem Romeus and Juliet from 1562, which Shakespeare stole from served as Shakespeare’s basis for his play.
The Nurse acts as a kind of go-between between the two leads. She helps set them up. She also provides a counterpoint to Juliet and Romeo’s idealized spiritual whatever thing they have. For her, love seems to be more about physical pleasure:
“I am the drudge, and toil in your delight, / But you shall bear the burden soon at night” (II.5.75-76)
She’s telling this to a 13 year old.
For an in-depth analysis of The Nurse’s character, there is this video:
And here is the monologue itself:
NURSE: Even or odd, of all days in the year, Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen. Susan and she (God rest all Christian souls!) Were of an age. Well, Susan is with God; She was too good for me. But, as I said, On Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen; That shall she, marry; I remember it well. ‘Tis since the earthquake now eleven years; And she was weaned (I never shall forget it), Of all the days of the year, upon that day; For I had then laid wormwood to my dug, Sitting in the sun under the dovehouse wall. My lord and you were then at Mantua. Nay, I do bear a brain. But, as I said, When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool, To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug! Shake, quoth the dovehouse! ‘Twas no need, I trow, To bid me trudge. And since that time it is eleven years, For then she could stand high-lone; nay, by th’ rood, She could have run and waddled all about; For even the day before, she broke her brow; And then my husband (God be with his soul! ‘A was a merry man) took up the child. ‘Yea,’ quoth he, ‘dost thou fall upon thy face? Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit; Wilt thou not, Jule?’ and, by my holidam, The pretty wretch left crying and said ‘Ay.’ To see now how a jest shall come about! I warrant, an I should live a thousand years I never should forget it. ‘Wilt thou not, Jule?’ quoth he, And, pretty fool, it stinted and said ‘Ay.’
Howdy all! Welcome back to Monologue Monday. As I type this, there’s some jerk nearby playing wank-ballads at an ungodly level. If this post is lesser than previous posts, blame the Wank-Balladeer of Jakarta.
After being kicked out of culinary school, aspiring chef Pax returns to his hometown to regroup. There he happens upon an old friend from high school, Livi, who he learns has forgone a promising acting career to work in a retirement home. Meanwhile Livi’s sister-in-law Reina enrolls in a class about space at the local community college and, much to her husband Barry’s dismay, becomes fixated on the unlikely dream of becoming an astronaut. Pax supports Reina’s aspirations and encourages Livi to revive hers – all while pursuing his own far-fetched dream of opening a restaurant for celebrities in LA.
It certainly sounds like the world of dreams in LaLa Land.
My Father’s Blue Eyes
In this monologue, Livi is remembering when her father actually saw her.
I was fourteen. For some reason, my guidance counselor took an interest in me. Who knows what she saw in me – wearing Barry’s hand-me-down rugby shirts… But she entered me in a local beauty pageant. Bought me a nice dress, and some makeup and everything. Got me all dolled up…. (Beat) It’s a silly story. (Pax tells her to “go on”) (Beat) Well, the night of the pageant came – and she tried to get my dad there. But of course he wouldn’t… And then…I won. I won. I couldn’t believe it. And they gave me this tiara. I remember getting home and being so proud – and there was Dad, sitting on his Lazy-Boy, watching something funny on TV, ’cause he was laughing – just really in a good mood. Well, I just waited, patiently, until the commercial. Then I walked up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, ever so lightly, and showed him my tiara – my crown. (Beat) And this part, I’ll never forget, he actually smiled at me – he touched my face – and he said “Are you my Miss America? Are you my little Miss Universe?” At that moment, I had his attention. He was looking right at me. And I remember, thinking it was really weird, because I’d never noticed how blue his eyes were before.
Let’s see what the actors on YouTube have cooked up:
Now Livi is talking to Pax, telling him how her dream died. You can find the monologue here.
I remember how everyone got quiet, okay?
Quiet…and still. Like they were all connected to me. All a part of me. Even Dad and Barry – I looked out, even they were…seeing me. I mean, really seeing me. And at the end of the show, when I stepped forward to take my bow the applause was—was— It was deafening. In a little high school auditorium. It was deafening and — Dad and Barry were applauding with the rest of them. They had these big smiles on their faces.
Afterwards Dad took us out to dinner. And I was thinking, this is it, ya know. He’s finally seen what they all see. We sit down. The first words out of his mouth are “Sure, you were OK, but I’m not really sure you’ve got the movie star look. Take Annette Benning – she’s real tall, isn’t she, Barry?” “Oh yeah, Liv,” Barry says, “movie stars are real tall.” So I’m like, “What about Marilyn Monroe? She was short.” And Dad just looks at Barry and says “Now she thinks she’s Marilyn Monroe.” And they just laugh and laugh.
Dad wanted me to come work at the Techno-Hut. He didn’t want me to leave.
You ask me if I’m truly happy having stayed? I don’t know. I live a good life here.
Let’s see how our brave YouTube mono-thespians did!
Here is something really special. An Australian actress documented her journey working on this monologue. It’s pretty cool. It’s also fun seeing her adopt a fairly believeable American accent.
Barry’s Monologue/Best Lazy Boy Recliner
Lest all the women have all the monologues, Barry gets a monologue where he talks about the nature of men and the best Lazy Boy in space.
You know why men are constantly fighting instead of working together to survive?
Simple. Man is mainly motivated to sit on his ass. Our greatest inventors are busy right now finding more ways for us to sit on our ass better. And when they make it, men will kill to sit on it.
Wars will happen because every man wants the best Lazy Boy Recliner in the galaxy. AND I SELL IT.
I sell a deluxe Lazy Boy outfitted with massagers, heating pads, a cooling unit for drinks – it’s the closest experience of comfort a man can get on earth short of climbing back through his mother’s hoo-ha into the womb.
If it’s a choice between that and helping you colonize space? No contest.
Let’s see how the YouTube actors fared:
Where are you trying to run to?
Livi calls Pax out on his nonsense. You can read the monologue here.
Where are you trying to run to, Pax? Can’t you just stop and enjoy life while you’re here—lucky to be alive and breathing? I mean, there may be no tomorrow and you may have missed today in some desperate, frenetic, striving frenzy.
I like the people at the retirement home. Their time is limited and they know it. They have a palpable sense of their limits. And they know how to enjoy the moment. There’s an old couple there, that I aspire to. They sit together, all day, hand in hand, just breathing, staring at the TV.
Yes Pax … like just two bodies…sitting there. Yes. “A sitting-down love.” They have “a sitting down love.” You think love should make you stand up, jump up…achieve your greatest heights. Sure, yes love can do that but it can also make you calm, centered, at peace, contented.
Is that really what I want for us? You call it “A life in retirement.” I don’t know, Pax. I just want us to be fulfilled. Yes, I know you want that too. So why can’t you accept things the way they are?
It’s not “giving up.” It’s … giving in. Surrendering. Being .. at peace. You say you want to “fly on the stars and never look back.” But Pax … Sometimes falling can feel like flying.
Look we … we don’t have to solve this tonight. Tonight we can just take a breath. Take a step back. We can retire … to bed. Not retire forever. Not give in forever. Just give in … for tonight. Retire … for tonight.
Come to bed. Pax … just … come to bed.
Let’s see what our YouTube acting heavyweights can do with this monologue:
There we have it. Thanks for stopping by. I hope everyone stays safe during the Covid19.
For fun, while researching this I found a song with the exact title of My Father’s Blue Eyes. For novelty’s sake I’m posting it here.
As the curtain rises, a poor, dusty shop with its dirty window obscuring the dark hos-tile night, with its mean little counter, and with its juke box glaring vulgarly from the side, the storekeeper is taking inventory. The door is flung open, letting in a lithe young black man, weirdly gotten up in a soft, high-crowned hat, sunglasses, a cape, short slacks and sneakers. Mr. Hanley calls this act Pas de Deux. In this dance for two, the characters make hesitant approaches, circle, feint, threaten each other with gun and ice pick but scarcely make contact. The young man is obviously a hunted man. Through the circumlocutions of his odd mixture of jive talk and fancy literary allusions, there pants a sense of terror. The storekeeper is a non-Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, is close-mouthed, suspicious, anxious to avoid self-involvement. In the second act, the Pas de Deux becomes Pas de Trois. The third dancer is Rosie, an eigh-teen-year old from Riverdale, has wandered into the shop after losing her way while looking for the address of an abortionist. Rosie has no illusions about her homeliness or about the encounter that has led to her troubles. The laconic German and the flowery young man react to her with a sensitivity and concern that seem to diminish the furies within them. But not for long. Finally the German is driven to revealing the truth about himself as the young man, at last, in the third act, faces his inexorable fate out there on the killing ground.
It looks like they haven’t updated the synopsis since ’64, either. Hehe.
Rosie: If you knew me better, you’d see that this is exactly the kind of thing that’s likely to happen to me. Getting knocked up, I mean. The point is it was my first time, I was a virgin before that. Wouldn’t you know it, I’d get caught? Aside from everything else, I’m not lucky, either. You see, if I was lucky, Harold and I could’ve succumbed to our silly little passion and that would’ve been that, the end of it. And New Rochelle, of all places. At least if it’d been in some nice apartment in the Village, say, with the sound coming through the window of traffic and people, the breeze blowing the curtain over the bed, like in the movies. But no. I lost my virginity in the attic of an old house in New Rochelle. Harold’s grandmother’s house. On a rainy day in spring on the floor of the attic in his grandmothers house, listening to the rain on the roof, breathing the dust of old things…And what comes next but his grandmother who was supposed to be in the city for the day. But instead, she’s suddenly standing there, screaming: “Stop that! Stop that this instant!” Needless to say, it was out of the question. Stopping. At that particular moment. I mean, sex is like a flight over the sea, one reaches the point of no return…I guess it sounds funny now, but you know, at the time…it was pretty rotten. Sordid, I mean…it wasn’t at all the way it’s supposed to be. And Harold, of all people. A girl finds herself in this predicament, this condition, she’d at least like to think the cause of it was some clever, handsome guy with charm and experience, just returned from spending a year in Rome, say, on a Guggenheim fellowship. But Harold. Harold is six foot two, about a hundred and twenty five pounds, tops, and an Economics major at CCNY…That’s about the best I’ll ever be able to do, I know it. Ever since I found out I was pregnant I’ve been walking around with a face down to here and my mother kept saying, “What’s the matter with you, anyway? I just don’t know what’s gotten into you lately.” So, finally, I told her: a kid named Harold, as a matter of fact.
Glas: But I had a wife…
There is a male monologue in the play. And it might be a decent one for an older actor. Glas’ character survived the Holocaust.
He talks about those days, being a Gentile married to a Jew.
And there we have Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.
The second play is about that age old concept of karma. The play is about a millipede.
We’re not really told why/how this millipede ended up at its karmic destination, but we don’t really need to be, either.
I live. I live. I eat. I live. I hunt. I eat. Eat what is in front of me. Navigate the surface.Always moving forward. Across the surface. Surface down. Surface across. Surface up. This is up, I am up, I live, I move, move unencumbered up. Vast plane of nothing, no food, no dark, but safe. Safe, I am, from beings, impossibly large beings, gigantic meatsticks, the great dangers. Also giant, but less so, the beasts who torture, crush, consume. Up surface they cannot go. But no food, I live. I eat, must eat. So, to the surface, with obstacles, surfaces smooth, surfaces nubbly, moving to catch, consume, sate, moving on. I was. I was. I recall. A meatstick once, once giant, a giant meatstick, with, I had, my, the way the world was, to me, mine, I understood. Understood. Understood me. A youth, young for meatstick, very old for me, turns of dark, numbering in the hundreds. A child? A child, curious, thoughts, ideas, catching, hunting, pinching, one like me, separating me, part by part, separated, causing chaos, call it pain. Ending life. I was. I was not. No longer child, now me. To learn. To truly understand.
That’s it. I’ve known several meatsticks in my life and many of them would be better off as millipedes.