Midget in a Catsuit
Click here to skip past the INTERVAL.
Professor Sir Arthur Midget, also appearing as Tommy the Cat, Arnie the Guard, Carl Schmitt, Albert Einstein, and God
Mary-Jane Hammond, also appearing as Dick Whittington, the Principal Boy
Hermann Goering, also appearing as Mrs Sausagemacher, the Pantomime Dame
Salvador Dalí, also appearing as Adolf Hitler and King Rat, the Villain
Baruch Spinoza, also appearing as Idle Jack, the Lazy Boy
Munich party guests, Auschwitz inmates, Pantomime Rats
LIGHTS UP on an empty space with a recumbent form delineated in light. The recumbent form is a very large CAT, lying on its side with its head in one hand, propped up on an elbow, pensive. Inside the catsuit is ARTHUR MIDGET, baronet, actor, and professional philosopher. He speaks as if explaining a matter to the audience.
MIDGET: As long as the human Mind perceives things from the common order of Nature...
He thinks for a moment.
MIDGET: ... it does not have an adequate, but only a confused and mutilated Knowledge of itself, of its own Body, and of external Bodies.
A sound system crackles into life. Then a voice comes. Monotone. Not very excited.
VOICE: Beginners please. Beginners on stage for Act One please. All Act One beginners please.
No reaction from MIDGET.
MIDGET: Hence we understand that we are simply determined in our ideas—this is the point Spinoza is trying to make—by our fortuitous and haphazard encounter with things in the external world, as my esteemed colleague Professor Perkins puts it. Am I, whom you see before you, to be taken for a cat? A cat certainly—rather than a horse. But if I am to be taken for a cat, am I therefore a cat? Am I, or am I not, ‘really’ a cat—in the world of theater, where cats can speak?
From STAGE RIGHT, MARY-JANE HAMMOND, MJ to her friends, enters, dressed as a boy, in breeches and hair tucked under a cap: as Dick Whittington in the pantomime Dick Whittington And His Cat, in which MJ has the role of principal boy. She stands watching MIDGET. Her voice, when she speaks, betrays her New Jersey origins, and she makes little attempt to disguise this.
VOICE: (as before) Beginners please. Beginners for Act One.
MJ: (fondly) Are you coming, my little monster?
MIDGET: (still to audience) If I say I am a cat, then for the purposes of our story, am I not a cat?
MJ: You’re a cat. Now get up on your paws. Come on.
MIDGET: This person who has just joined us, is he in fact a boy? In reality?
MJ: In reality it’s beginners please, Arthur.
MIDGET: For that matter, am I Arthur?
MJ: Tommy, then. All right? Tommy. Now please get your act together.
MIDGET: Put it this way. Is life not theater—and theater, life? Is there anywhere we cannot go, onstage? Anything we cannot show? But if we show it, will that make it true? What does Spinoza say…
They have been joined, from STAGE RIGHT, by a red-faced HERMANN GOERING, dressed as the PANTOMIME DAME in Dick Whittington And His Cat. He has a strong German accent. Wears a capacious apron and a cook’s bonnet. Carries a floppy rubber rolling pin.
MJ: (explaining to GOERING) Bad cat. Naughty Tommy.
GOERING: Is he sick?
MIDGET: Can we go into the charnel-house of Auschwitz, into the gas chamber itself? And how will we make a true representation of it? May we even try? Spinoza says that a truth means nothing other than knowing a thing perfectly, or in the best way.
GOERING: Tommy Cat, Mrs Sausagemacher the Cook says, Come now. This is ‘the best way,’ Spinoza or no Spinoza. Now, or I hit you with the rolling pin.
MIDGET: But what does Spinoza mean by knowing a thing in the best way?
From STAGE RIGHT, the philosopher SPINOZA enters, dressed as IDLE JACK, the lazy boy in Dick Whittington and His Cat. With him is SALVADOR DALÍ, dressed as KING RAT in the same pantomime. DALÍ’s pointy nose and mustache serve as part of his ratty-ness. His Spanish accent is pronounced. More pronounced than when, in due course he is DALÍ himself.
VOICE: Beginners on stage please. Last call.
SPINOZA: Something wrong?
MJ: He’s philosophizing.
SPINOZA: (interested) Oh good.
DALÍ: You lazy cat, get up. King Rat commands you!
SPINOZA: (mildly) Fuck off, you old poof. He’ll come in his own time.
MIDGET: (still recumbent in same position, still addressing audience) It is of the nature of Reason to regard things as necessary and not contingent. This necessity of things is the very necessity of God’s eternal nature. So, in Spinoza’s mind—
GOERING: (interrupts) Here, Kitty, kitty! Here, Kitty, kitty!
Vexed, MIDGET finally looks over at the waiting group. From his cook’s apron, GOERING produces a seemingly endless string of sausages.
GOERING: See, I have kept for you the worst of the wurst!
MIDGET: (turns away, resumes) So, in Spinoza’s mind—
DALÍ: (interrupts, gently) Arthur. Sir Arthur. We should have gone up five minutes ago.
MJ: Tommy, please.
VOICE: (still a monotone) Will Tommy the Cat kindly move his little arse out of the dressing room and onto the stage.
ALL gaze at MIDGET.
MIDGET: Coming now.
He stands up. As he does so a spotlight shines on MJ. With one hand she shoos SPINOZA, GOERING and DALÍ back across the stage to exit STAGE RIGHT.
MIDGET bounces into the spotlight to crouch, catlike and purring, beside MJ. He rubs himself against her legs.
MJ: (to MIDGET) Now. We can start our play. The play they’ve all come to see. Dick Whittington and his marvellous, philosophizing Cat! Who is sometimes just a wee bit late. Sorry about that, everybody. Were we out on the tiles, tonight, Tommy? (MIDGET gives a faint apologetic ‘miaow’.) Tommy says sorry. Were you hunting for food, Tommy? (MIDGET ‘miaows’, nodding.) He says he went for a fish biryani in the Indian restaurant next door. I don’t believe you, Tommy. Tell the truth, now. Were you out fighting? (MIDGET shakes head, miaows vigorously.) Tommy! Are you lying again? (MIDGET miaows assertively, shaking head) Tommy says this is a false idea, derived from a misunderstanding of Spinoza’s position on the nature of Truth. (MIDGET nods, and bows. MJ, presenting him) Tommy the philosophizing Cat, everybody! Ask Tommy anything you like, he can answer it. He knows his Spinoza! In fact he has a little song about it, don’t you, Tommy? (MIDGET nods an enthusiastic yes) Sing it along with me, Tom.
MIDGET miaows in tune with MJ, and they dance a ring-a-ring-a-rosy as they sing:
MJ: Tommy the tomcat
Knows ‘is Spinozies
His rosies from his rosies from his rosies
‘Cos when he lies his nose is
Redder than a rose is
And his Spinozies fall quite flat
His Spinozies fall quite flat
(Aside) And that’s bad for a cat
His Spinozies fall quite flat.
MJ once more presents MIDGET, who bows.
MJ: Anyone want to ask Tommy a philosophical question? Anyone? Yes, you, sir, and your question is? What is truth? What is truth! A good question! And the answer, Tommy, is... (MIDGET miaows, briefly) ... I see... that perceptual data being but the expression in thought of states of the body as it is affected by the bodies around it, what we call truth is only a relative, partial and subjective picture of how things presently seem to the perceiver. Thank you, Tommy. And thank you, sir, for your question. Anybody else? (A moment’s silence) Tommy, you’ve stumped them again! Tommy the philosophizing cat, everybody! No more questions? No? In that case, let me introduce myself. My name, boys and girls, ladies and germs, as you’ve probably guessed, is Dick Whittington! And I’ve come to this wonderful city of London, where the streets are paved with gold... (MIDGET miaows dubiously)—hush, Tommy—I’ve come to London—to find fame and fortune...
OFFSTAGE RIGHT a yelp (from SPINOZA) and cries of murderous rage (from GOERING) interrupt MJ’s introductory monologue. To MJ’s disbelief, SPINOZA dashes on (as IDLE JACK) chased by GOERING (as MRS SAUSAGEMACHER) waving his rolling pin.
GOERING: You idle, idle boy!
MJ: (to them) No—no!—not yet!—(to audience) Well—that comes later—
GOERING has chased SPINOZA across the stage and OFFSTAGE LEFT.
MJ: ...when I find work with Mrs Sausagemacher, a cook, who has a lazy helper called Idle Jack—
SPINOZA dashes back across the stage, still chased by GOERING.
GOERING: Eat my sausages, will you? You idle, idle boy!
They exit STAGE RIGHT.
MJ: (apologizing to audience) This all comes later—as you’ll see—now, as I was saying, I’ve come to this wonderful city of London, where the streets are paved with gold... (MIDGET miaows dubiously)—hush, Tommy—accompanied by the best ratter in England—show them, Tommy—
MIDGET scampers round the stage, pretending to pounce on rats.
MJ: I’ve come to London to find fame and fortune, from my little village—
Behind her, GOERING and SPINOZA bring on a bench. MIDGET stops pouncing on rats, stands erect, studying them.
GOERING: (less agitated) You idle, idle boy.
MJ: (seeing them) This happens later—(to GOERING)—later!—what is going on?—wait for your cue!
SPINOZA stretches out on the bench to sleep, and GOERING drags him off the bench, chasing him OFFSTAGE RIGHT.
GOERING: You idle, idle...
MJ: (feeling the play disintegrate around her, but trying to hold it together) ... from my sleepy little village somewhere far to the West of London—
MIDGET: (new accent) About five thousand miles to the West of London, kid, to judge by your accent.
MJ: I beg your pardon?
MIDGET’s new accent is distinctly Bronx, and as MJ turns to him she sees to her amazement that MIDGET has removed the cat head and is busily divesting himself of his cat suit.
MJ: (no longer acting) Who are you?
GOERING has returned to the stage, where he is divesting himself of his MRS SAUSAGEMACHER clothes and bonnet. Under these he is dressed as a prisoner of the United States Army of Occupation in 1946. He is now in fact HERMANN GOERING.
MJ: What on earth is going on?
MIDGET has removed the catsuit to reveal the uniform of a soldier in the United States Army of Occupation in Germany in 1946. He brings MJ his catsuit, hands it to her. She takes it, utterly bewildered.
MJ: (beginning to laugh) This isn’t happening.
GOERING brings her his MRS SAUSAGEMACHER clothes and drapes them over MJ’s other arm.
GOERING: Dankeschoen, Fraulein.
MJ: (To herself) Wake up! Wake up!
MIDGET: (now as ARNIE the GUARD) It’s okay, kid, calm down. You’re in the wrong play, that’s all.
LIGHT striped as prison bars has fallen across the bench, where GOERING goes to sit.
MJ: (numbly) Dick Whittington...
MIDGET: (nods) Hippodrome, London 1938?
MIDGET: No. This is Germany. 1946. Off you go now. Scram. Vamoose.
MJ backs away towards STAGE RIGHT.
MIDGET: Not that way.
MJ: (crossing towards STAGE LEFT) This way?
MIDGET: No. Not without a pass. This is a prison. Can’t you see that?
MJ: (A moment, then:) How do I get a pass?
MIDGET: You don’t. Not if you’re in 1938. War hasn’t happened yet.
MJ: What war? I am dreaming!—please—how do I get out?
MIDGET: Same way you got in.
MIDGET: Don’t you know your Alice? Through the audience, of course.
MJ: Thank you.
MJ turns to the audience and picks her way, dazed, out of the auditorium.
MJ: (to audience members) Excuse me—I’m so sorry—excuse me—
MIDGET: So long, kid! (to GOERING, looking round) Where’s my stool?
SPINOZA, still as IDLE JACK, hurries in with a low 3-legged stool.
GOERING: You... idle...
SPINOZA exits hurriedly.
LIGHTS steadily dim, leaving only GOERING and MIDGET lit.
GOERING, the prison bar-striped light falling across his body, turns to MIDGET, stands gazing at him.
MIDGET has sat down on the stool, taken a folded comic book out of an inside pocket and settled down to read.
MIDGET: Okay. Ready?
MIDGET-AS-ARNIE laughs, reading the comic, a raucous ARNIE laugh.
No reaction from a gloomily pensive GOERING.
ARNIE laughs again.
GOERING: It’s good today? What is it?
ARNIE: Katzenjammer Kids.
ARNIE chuckles again.
ARNIE: Yes, Hermann.
GOERING: I don’t want to interrupt you.
ARNIE: That’s okay.
GOERING: What are you reading?
ARNIE: I told you, didn’t I? Just the funny papers.
GOERING: How are they today?
ARNIE: I seen worse. Whaddaya need?
GOERING: You’ve been good to me, Arnie.
GOERING: You’ve brought me delicacies.
ARNIE: No big deal.
GOERING: I need from you one last delicacy.
GOERING: I need some cyanide
ARNIE: Cyanide. (Still reading) You serious?
ARNIE looks up at last, sees that GOERING is serious.
ARNIE: Can’t help you there, buddy.
GOERING: I should have taken the tooth.
ARNIE: What tooth?
GOERING: Himmler had a tooth put in, with cyanide in it. When the Americans caught him he bit into it. I was offered one too. I was too proud. I should have taken it.
ARNIE: Look at it this way. After Tuesday you won’t have to worry about it.
GOERING: Arnie, hanging is a common criminal’s death, not a soldier’s death. I would prefer to cheat the hangman—wouldn’t you, if you had the choice?
ARNIE: Where you think I’m going to find cyanide in Nuremberg? You know anywhere?
GOERING: You go to a chemist…
ARNIE: I don’t speak German, Hermann. How ‘bout some rope?
GOERING: Yes, rope will do. But they will suspect you of helping me, my friend. With cyanide they will think it was a Himmler-tooth.
ARNIE: Either way I’d be risking my job.
GOERING: You could sell your story. The Hermann Goering I Knew. By His Accomplice.
ARNIE: (yeah right) Swell. Sounds like a bestseller.
GOERING: You don’t think so? What can I offer you, Arnie my good friend?
ARNIE: How about some of that Nazi gold?
GOERING: If it exists I never knew where it was. Maybe Hitler knew. But not me.
GOERING: I have a few things hidden.
ARNIE: Figured you did.
GOERING: I know you like paintings.
ARNIE: Sure. You got a Picasso I can have?
GOERING: You like Picasso?
ARNIE: Not really.
GOERING: You like Impressionism?
ARNIE: I can live without.
GOERING: How about Salvador Dalí? You like Dalí?
GOERING: He’s big on the market now.
ARNIE: He knows how to draw.
GOERING: He is a great draughtsman.
ARNIE: You’ve got a Dalí?
GOERING: He painted it for me. A personal gift.
ARNIE: No kidding. I like his stuff.
GOERING: It’s called Midget In A Catsuit Reading Spinoza.
ARNIE: Some title. How do I get my hands on it, Hermann?
GOERING: When I get my hands on some cyanide. We got a deal?
Freeze, and cross-fade.
The back of the stage fills with images of Dalí paintings and/or drawings. As LIGHTS FADE on the prison cell area, a VALET, perhaps SPINOZA still as IDLE JACK, brings GOERING a military dress jacket, which he puts on as if for his death. MIDGET-as-ARNIE exits taking the stool, and returns to help SPINOZA-as-JACK remove the prison cell bench, while GOERING arranges the medals on his chest.
As they accomplish this, SALVADOR DALÍ has entered, taking centre stage.
DALÍ: That was 1946. The 13th of October. On the 15th, Hermann Goering, celebrated fighter pilot and Hitler’s designated successor, died of cyanide poisoning. Nobody knows how he managed this. Except Arnie. And me.
Dwarfed by them, DALÍ turns to glance proudly at his creations. With his back to the audience.
DALÍ: My name… but you know it, of course. (Turning back) No? There are some of you who do not? Shame on you. Does this mustache say nothing to you? It is the most expressive mustache in human history. Yes, now you remember. I am Salvador Dalí, the celebrated artist and exhibitionist. Dalí the outrageous. I’m sure you remember: I painted graffiti on the Pyramids of Egypt, and I once danced naked in the Colosseum in Rome, on Christmas Day, surrounded by a hundred crucified heifers—cows—we borrowed them from local slaughter-houses, and painted them blue, using a Maxim gun adapted to fire paint instead of bullets—a magnificent sight and a tribute to suffering creatures everywhere, as well as a commentary on the history of Christianity, and a celebration of Christ’s official anniversary. Anniversaries are so important, aren’t they? I doubt if Hermann Goering was aware of it, but he killed himself on the 11th anniversary of my encounter with my beloved—an event at which he had himself been present. It was the 15th of October, 1935, in Munich, where my exhibition had just opened to, ah, well let us say a mixed reception? It was a bad time and place for great art to thrive. But for me it was a rebirth: the unforgettable rebirth… of love.
Behind DALÍ the cast has assembled, dressed for an opening, drink and canapé in hand. While DALÍ speaks they gravitate slowly from different corners of the stage towards a central point like metal filings towards a magnet, until at last they are all crammed up against each other in the smallest possible space, trying to drink and eat and talk at the same time. Just as slowly and stealthily, their voices rise, until, pressed up against each other in a human cube (an image we shall revisit in grisly circumstances), they are gossiping so loudly that DALÍ and MARY-JANE have to shout to make themselves heard to each other.
Amid the cube of people, right at the heart of the huddle, is a tall man with a formidable if stolid face. It is HERMANN GOERING.
MARY-JANE, one of the guests, is gazing at him raptly, openly, from the edge of the huddle, at STAGE LEFT. She is trying to see whether there is some way that she can reach him. There isn’t.
DALÍ is perfectly placed, outside the huddle at RIGHT OF CENTER, for a view of MARY-JANE’s striking face. Strong features. Remarkable red-gold hair, curly, spilling onto her shoulders.
DALÍ approaches the huddle, joins it, shouts over the hubbub:
DALÍ: Elizabeth Siddal! But greatly restored! Your phthisis is cured? You look wonderful.
MJ: Thank you. Who did you call me?
MJ: What did you say?
DALÍ: You look wonderful!
MJ: Not that. The earlier part.
DALÍ: Your phthisis is evidently gone!
MJ: My physics?
DALÍ: Your phthisis. The disease that killed you, Elizabeth dear.
MJ: You’re confusing me with someone else.
DALÍ: Not really.
MJ: I’m Mary-Jane.
DALÍ: Hello, Mary-Jane. I am Salvador Dalí.
MJ: That’s one hell of a mustache, Mr Lee.
DALÍ: Thank you. It charms the ladies.
MJ: Does it really?
DALÍ: Always. With the ladies you have to get their attention.
MJ: Well, you did that.
DALÍ: You see? Nothing else matters.
MJ: You think? Who’s this Elizabeth you’ve got me mixed up with?
DALÍ: You are the image of Elizabeth Siddal, the famous model who sat for Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and died of phthisis, tuberculosis and malnutrition.
MJ: No wonder you thought I looked better.
They have worked their way through the huddle until they are quite close now. The noise of talk from the huddle grows softer as they get closer.
MJ: Say your name again.
DALÍ: Salvador Dalí.
MJ: I have a friend called Salvatore. We call him Sal.
DALÍ: And you are Mary-Jane…
MJ: …Hammond. From New Jersey.
DALÍ: What brings Mary-Jane Hammond from New Jersey to Munich?
MJ: A man.
DALÍ: Of course. You are in love.
DALÍ: With a German?
DALÍ: Is he here?
MJ: I was hoping he might be.
DALÍ: He is an art-lover?
MJ: (shy but proud) An artist.
DALÍ: You like artists?
DALÍ: You like art?
MJ: (teasing) I know what I like.
DALÍ: You like these paintings?
MJ gives them her attention, probably for the first time.
MJ: Possibly. I don’t know. No.
DALÍ: You know who the artist is?
DALÍ: I thought not. You are speaking with him.
MJ: Why, Mr Lee!
DALÍ: Dalí. You’ve never heard of Salvador Dalí?
MJ: I’m afraid not, Sal.
She glances round at the paintings again.
MJ: (sweetly) But now that you mention it… these paintings are pretty nice.
DALÍ: What kind of paintings does he do, your beloved?
MJ: I don’t know.
DALÍ: You don’t know?
MJ: I haven’t seen his paintings.
DALÍ: But you’ve seen him.
MJ: Oh yes.
DALÍ: And that’s enough.
MJ: It sure is.
She nudges DALÍ.
MJ: Say, that is Hermann Goering, isn’t it?
DALÍ: As you say, Miss Mary-Jane, it sure is.
MJ: I need to meet him.
DALÍ: You do? I can arrange that.
MJ: Oh my God you can? You know Hermann Goering?
DALÍ: As a matter of fact we are on first-name terms. Why would Mary-Jane Hammond from New Jersey want to meet Hermann Goering?
MJ: He knows my… my beloved, to use your word.
DALÍ: Really? And who is your beloved, this mysterious artist?
MJ: Adolf Hitler.
As MJ utters the Fuehrer’s name, it falls into a sudden pit of silence, and rings out so loudly that everyone freezes.
A FEW VOICES: Heil Hitler!
DALÍ and MARY-JANE are staring at each other. Gradually the gossip resumes and reaches a level that permits an appalled DALÍ to say:
DALÍ: You are in love with Adolf Hitler?
MJ: Do you know him? I mean, personally?
DALÍ shakes his head.
MJ: You haven’t met him?
MJ: I haven’t either.
DALÍ: But you’re in love with him.
MJ: Ever since I saw him here in the beer hall. Here in Munich. I didn’t know there would be a political meeting. I don’t go much for politics. But he was so masterful. I fell for him at once.
DALÍ: (almost speechless) This is… quite incredible.
DALÍ: You prefer his mustache to mine?
MJ: I’m sorry, Sal.
DALÍ: To have Hitler as a rival! I can’t believe it. It is a duel of mustaches, one which I will surely win. Hitler! Mary-Jane, you’re crazy.
MJ: You don’t know the half of it. My name isn’t really Hammond. Daddy changed it when he came to America. It’s Hartmann.
DALÍ: You’re Jewish?
DALÍ: I think we need a little air.
MJ: But, Sal–
He pulls her downstage, where a small section of marble balustrade, on wheels, is slid on by a WOMAN dressed in man’s formal attire. Her make-up and figure declare her plainly to be female. She lights a cigarette and remains at the front of the stage, some distance from DALÍ and MJ.
MJ: If Hermann Goering is here, why not Adolf?
DALÍ: My dear, my work is not the kind of work Herr Hitler likes. Now listen to me. (He has one hand under her elbow, guides her downstage) In the first place. Do not advertise so loudly that you are a Jew.
MJ (no sweat) Okay.
They reach the balustrade. Blueish moonlight falls on their shoulders. The huddle behind them are a very soft hubbub now.
DALÍ brings out a cigarette, offers MJ one. She declines. He inserts one into his cigarette holder, and lights it.
DALÍ: (quietly) Adolf Hitler is not the right man for you, Mary-Jane.
MJ: You can call me MJ.
DALÍ: Are you listening to me, MJ?
MJ’s attention has been drawn by the woman who is smoking, downstage.
DALÍ: That is Katya, my bodyguard. Katya—you may join the others.
KATYA withdraws to join the party throng, upstage.
MJ: It’s because he doesn’t like Jews. Right? Hitler. You think he’s wrong for me because—
DALÍ: (interrupts) It’s not so much that he doesn’t like them, Mary-Jane –
MJ: (interrupts) That’s just the point, honey. When I’m through with Adolf, he’s going to love them. I’m going to be his first Jew.
DALÍ: But… what on earth attracted you to the man in the first place?
MJ: (simply) He reminded me of my father.
For once DALÍ can think of nothing to say.
DALÍ: Please don’t do this.
MJ: Why you sweet thing you, you’re concerned for my safety.
DALÍ: Mary-Jane, from the first moment I saw you I knew we could have a future together—
MJ: (sighs, then) From the moment I laid eyes on you, I knew we could not.
She gives him a parting kiss on the cheek.
MJ: My heart is another’s, Sal. And now, if you don’t mind—
DALÍ: Don’t go. My dear, you don’t seem to get it. These people are the sworn mortal enemies of your people. Hitler is now the Head of State, and if he puts his beliefs into practice, there’s no knowing—
MJ: (Interrupts) You’re the one who doesn’t get it, Sal. He’s like people back home who think they hate black people and they’ve never even met a black person. People like my father. They’re afraid of the unknown. Do you think Adolf knows any Jews?
DALÍ: Yes, I think he does.
MJ: I mean, does he know them intimately?
DALÍ: Mary-Jane, for God’s sake…what do you see in this man?
MJ: (straight at DALÍ) There’s a gentleness there. I know there is.
DALÍ: (sighs, then) Do you even speak German?
MJ: A little.
DALÍ: You went to a political meeting where you don’t know half of what the guy said, and you think you’re in love with him?
MJ: Sal, didn’t you say it yourself? You knew at first sight that we could have a future together? That’s what you said. And you don’t know me either.
DALÍ: I know you’re not a dictator with a plan to eliminate all Spanish people with unusual mustaches.
MJ: (a twinkle) One day maybe. (Seeing his unsmiling expression) Hey I’m teasing you, Sal. I’m just a little actress from Hoboken.
DALÍ: And Hitler is a busy man. Which is why—
MJ: Uh uh. He’s not too busy to answer a fan letter. With a photograph of me. I told him I wanted to meet him. And he wrote back and said he—
DALÍ: He wrote back?—No—
MJ: ...Said he would like very much to meet a nice American girl—
DALÍ: Hitler wrote this?
MJ: Why shouldn’t he want to meet a nice American girl?
DALÍ: Did you mention you were Jewish?
MJ: You think I’m nuts? That comes later.
DALÍ: Mary Jane, you are telling me lies, isn’t it so? Fantasies.
MJ: You want to see the letter? (She opens her bag, looks for the letter) They didn’t believe me at the Reichschancellery either, so I showed them—
MJ: The letter...
DALÍ: You went to the Reichskanzlerei and asked to see Hitler?
MJ: He said he wanted to meet a nice wholesome All-American girl—look—(she has found the letter, fishes it out, opens it and hands it to Dalí, reciting from memory in poorly pronounced but confident German)—ich will gern mit einem nietlichen Amerikanischen Fraulein plaudern, die mich befreunden will. With a nice American girl who wants to be my friend.
DALÍ: This is not written by Hitler, Mary Jane. It is written by some flunky who wants to amuse himself and make fun of you. That’s all.
MJ: But it’s signed—look—
DALÍ: Adolf Hitler. Yes. Any fool can write this. It’s a joke.
MJ: I don’t see why it has to be a joke. I think Adolf wrote it.
DALÍ: So he did he ask you in for tea when you arrived with this letter at the Reichskanzlerei?
MJ: (after an instant) They said he was in a meeting.
DALÍ: Did they say to come back another time?
MJ shakes her head.
MJ: I don’t think they told him I was there.
DALÍ: And after you left, they laughed until they cried.
MJ: You’re unkind.
DALÍ: Of course I am. I’m jealous. But I’m also being realistic. To get to see Hitler I think it’s not enough to be a nice American girl who sent him her photograph, I think you need a recommendation or an invitation from someone whom he knows well.
MJ: Like Mr Goering. That’s why I came here.
DALÍ: Ah. It was not for art.
MJ: I’m sorry, Sal. I’m going to go grab fatso there before he splits, okay? It was good meeting you—and if you get a chance, put in a word for me with big Hermann, there’s a doll.
DALÍ watches her go. When she reaches the throng, MJ fearlessly jostles a guest out of the way and takes advantage of the confusion caused by the drink she has made the guest spill, to button-hole GOERING.
We can’t hear their conversation, but it’s clearly animated on MJ’s part. After watching for a moment, DALÍ turns back to us.
DALÍ: Crazy woman. Must be why I liked her. Look, I am not just crazy impulsive Latin lover with a funny mustache. I am Salvador Dalí. I am the greatest artist in the world. I am the greatest artist the world has ever seen. This girl, believe me, has duende. She is the bull that passes so close you can hear your own death whisper to you. She is an old soul. Full of death and craziness and passion. An old soul from Hoboken? Is it possible? I did not think they made them there, but it must be possible.
Behind him, GOERING is detaching himself from MJ, and then moves downstage towards DALÍ at the balustrade, while MJ watches from the huddle, hoping that DALÍ will intercede on her behalf.
DALÍ: How can I help her? How can I save this crazy woman from herself? She is made for me. What do I do? Do I tell Goering at once that she is Jewish? Or does this send her from the frying pan… into the fire?
GOERING: Herr Dalí.
DALÍ: Herr Goering – should I say Reichsleiter? (He gives a little bow) My congratulations.
GOERING: We are here in the empire of art, where titles are irrelevant, nicht?
DALÍ bows again, this time in graceful recognition.
GOERING: So. I have escaped from the American girl. You must look as if you are telling me something of the utmost importance, Salvador. Then perhaps she will not interrupt.
DALÍ: I doubt if this would stop her. But she thinks that I am talking to you about her passion for the Fuehrer.
GOERING: There are many like this, you know, I don’t mean Americans but good German girls who want to make a child with him.
DALÍ: Really? And does he ever… meet them?
GOERING: No. (A moment) He passes them on to me.
DALÍ: Aha. I knew you held a highly responsible and sensitive role.
GOERING: You said it. But you know, the Fuehrer is interested to meet actresses. So perhaps…
DALÍ: Herr Reichsleiter, I have to warn you of something.
GOERING: Oh yes?
DALÍ: The American girl. She’s Jewish.
GOERING: Oh, that’s quite okay.
DALÍ: It’s okay?
GOERING: Of course.
DALÍ: It’s okay with the Fuehrer?
GOERING: Herr Dalí. The Fuehrer is Jewish.
DALÍ: Wait a minute.
GOERING: On his father’s side. This doesn’t prevent him from seeing the Jewish conspiracies that threaten our civilization. In fact it gives him an added insight. And it certainly doesn’t prevent him from enjoying the charms of Jewish company – of the female persuasion.
DALÍ: Good God. Hermann…you have been a good friend to me. You have been the best patron a man could ask. You have brought me here into the lion’s den, so to speak, where happily there are still so many great art-lovers like yourself. I need your help in a different arena. The arena of love.
GOERING: Of love?
DALÍ: Mary-Jane Hammond would not get to see the Fuehrer in person without your recommendation—without your introduction—surely –
GOERING: (at last) Probably not.
DALÍ: I must declare an interest. I am smitten with the girl.
GOERING: With that creature? Um Gottes Willen.
DALÍ: I am asking you to be so kind as to steer her away from the Fuehrer, and if possible out of Germany altogether.
GOERING: And in exchange…
DALÍ: In exchange…I offer you exclusive rights to the proceeds of my sales in Germany, shall we say ten percent?
DALÍ: Very well, fifteen.
DALÍ: Fifteen and I will do a painting specially for you. A present from a grateful artist.
GOERING: And the subject?
DALÍ smiles. GOERING straightens his uniform, smiling.
GOERING: I leave it up to you.
LIGHTS FADE on the scene, and as the guests disperse, talking and laughing, DALÍ steps into a spotlight DOWNSTAGE RIGHT.
DALÍ: It took me a year or two to get round to that painting I had promised Goering. A painting for Hermann Goering? Like promising the devil a child. But the promise haunted me. What should I paint for a monster? Something monstrous. Monstrous...yet instructive. It wasn’t till I came to London and met a man obsessed with the philosopher Spinoza that I had an idea for the painting. Do you know Spinoza? Wonderful man, believe me. Wonderful philosopher too, of course. The God-haunted thinker. God-saturated, you might say. Spinoza is sustained by the belief that God is everywhere at all times and in all things, present in grass and in concrete, in sugar and in vinegar, in cats and in midgets, present at all events human or otherwise. But present in an impartial kind of way. A God uninterested in morality.
SIR ARTHUR MIDGET as ALBERT EINSTEIN, with bushy mustache, enters, walks towards DALÍ
DALÍ: (continuing to explain to the audience) It’s no good asking Him for help...
EINSTEIN: May I?
DALÍ: (looks at him, stares at audience) Why is it that when a man cultivates his mustache, everyone else feels obliged to compete? (Introducing him) Professor Albert Einstein.
EINSTEIN: A God uninterested in morality: exactly. (EINSTEIN’s gaze and gestures address the audience, while remaining aware of DALÍ.) A God no more interested in a man’s fate than the stars are interested in you and me. A God sustaining and sustained by the workings of Creation. Those wonderfully balanced workings. In other words, a reasoning and reasonable God.
DALÍ: Who does not play dice.
EINSTEIN: Precisely. You’ve been reading my lectures. We are God’s plan. All this is God’s plan.
DALÍ: He controls everything?
EINSTEIN: No, he doesn’t control anything. He has set it in motion, that’s all. Everything unfolds, and he is present in all of it.
DALÍ: You’re a deist.
EINSTEIN: Of a kind.
DALÍ: So He is present in cruelty too? In barbarity? In pain?
DALÍ: Is he a sadist, then?
EINSTEIN: Of course not.
DALÍ: He likes to watch? He’s unconcerned? Unmoved?
EINSTEIN: God doesn’t feel, my friend. Or ‘care’. He’s not Papa. He allows it. He delights in the universe, but not in each separate human experience.
DALÍ: Yet he is present in each moment.
DALÍ: Even cruelty. Delighting in it all.
DALÍ: But not in cruelty as such.
EINSTEIN: As such, no.
DALÍ: A subtle distinction.
EINSTEIN: God is subtle. Yes. But not malicious.
DALÍ: I wonder about your serene uncaring God. Spinoza tells me that God abandoned him only once. (Briefest moment.) In Auschwitz.
EINSTEIN: God did not abandon Spinoza. (A moment.) Spinoza ceased to believe. (A moment while EINSTEIN gazes at DALÍ, smiles) We all want a God in our image. Yours probably has a mustache.
DALÍ: And yours?
EINSTEIN: (grins, checks his watch; to audience:) Thank you for your time. I must run.
DALÍ: I thought time was relative.
EINSTEIN: For you. But not for me. That’s relativity.
DALÍ watches him go. Just before passing out of the light, EINSTEIN stops. Slyly:
EINSTEIN: See you around.
DALÍ: See you around, Professor.
As EINSTEIN leaves. DALÍ turns back to the audience:
DALÍ: You know, when I say that Spinoza tells me something, like for instance that God abandoned him, in Auschwitz, I mean it literally. Spinoza is a pal. It came about in a curious way, in 1935. I was in New York, visiting the Public Library. I was there, in fact, to read Spinoza. I was researching my painting. Outside of Princeton the New York Library has the best collection of rare and original Spinoza texts, and I had discovered Spinoza thanks to a man called Arthur Midget. You’ve met this Midget fellow, and you’ll soon meet him again. I met Arthur because... well, you’ve probably guessed. I was chasing Mary-Jane—and she was appearing at the London Hippodrome with Arthur.
Behind DALÍ, as he continues speaking, three PANTOMIME RATS dressed in grey, with DALÍ mustaches, creep furtively from OFFSTAGE LEFT onto the stage, glancing round and hoping to remain unnoticed. They assemble UPSTAGE LEFT and curl around each other, seemingly for protection. But when they settle onto the ground and achieve stillness, we see that they form a single slab of grey, odd-shaped yet distinctive Central Park granite.
DALÍ: Alas, she would not see me. I dreamed of kidnapping her, just as King Rat, the villain in the pantomime of Dick Whittington and his cat, kidnaps Dick Whittington, so that his cat, Tommy, scourge of rats, will come to rescue Dick and be ambushed by my rat army. I dreamed of holding Mary-Jane captive, while I buried my head in the Ethics of Spinoza.
From OFFSTAGE RIGHT, two men enter, unnoticed by DALÍ. They pass behind him, carrying a park bench which they set down CENTER STAGE. Both men are shabbily dressed: one in a hoodie with the hood up, entirely hiding his face, the other in 17th century Dutch artisan’s costume. This is SPINOZA. Both men sit on the bench, fairly close together, with resignation, as if no longer interested in establishing distance between one another. SPINOZA takes a reflective pose, face upwards towards the sun. According to the wishes of the play’s director, he could be young or old or in between.
DALÍ: And so it was that one day I emerged from the Public Library, a little stunned, hoping to catch some sunlight and forget about philosophy for a hour, and walked up to Central Park with my head full of Spinoza, and I saw him sitting there on a bench in the park. Right there in front of me. Spinoza.
In his narration, DALÍ has mimed for us walking past the bench, abstracted, glancing at the two men, then after a moment stopping, astounded, and turning round from STAGE LEFT to gaze at the sunbathing man.
DALÍ: I thought it was a hallucination caused by reading too much of his work. Or at least, a coincidence—a similarity of face which my deluded mind turned into an exact resemblance. But the more I looked... (to SPINOZA) Excuse me. Forgive me for interrupting.
SPINOZA (pleasantly surprised) Salvador Dalí.
DALÍ: You know me?
SPINOZA: By the mustache. Who doesn’t know you? Unless of course you’re a Dalí impersonator.
DALÍ: I was about to ask you the same question.
SPINOZA: You thought I was impersonating you?
DALÍ: Somebody else. You know whom I mean.
SPINOZA: I might do. Who did you think I was?
DALÍ: Baruch Spinoza. (A moment) The great philosopher. Founder of modern thought.
SPINOZA: But he’s been dead 250 years.
DALÍ: All the same… you look like him.
SPINOZA: I know.
DALÍ: I’ve just been reading the Ethics. In the Public Library. All morning, And then to come out and... forgive me for intruding. Do you often dress as Spinoza?
SPINOZA: I do not dress as Spinoza. I am Spinoza.
DALÍ: You’ve been doing this for a while? Playing Spinoza?
SPINOZA: All my life.
DALÍ: My innamorata, Mary Jane Hammond, is playing Dick Whittington in the London pantomime, Dick Whittington And His Cat. So while she plays this Dick Whittington she believes she is a boy. And she is disgusted when I make advances to her.
SPINOZA: Be patient, then. The play can’t run forever.
DALÍ: You mean…unlike yours—if you’ve been playing Spinoza all your life.
SPINOZA: (unsmiling) Many lifetimes, in fact.
DALÍ: Perhaps you are a vampire.
DALÍ: You think it’s possible?
SPINOZA: (considers) The Vampire Spinoza. It’s possible. But I lack the teeth.
DALÍ: Perhaps you’re a vampire with bad teeth.
SPINOZA: Also the sunlight does not harm me. As you can see.
SPINOZA: (no pause) You think I’m an impostor.
DALÍ: Of course.
SPINOZA: You think I’m some fellow playing a part.
SPINOZA: Or a mad fellow, perhaps.
SPINOZA: That’s what everybody thinks. In some ways that’s the worst part of immortality. No-one believes you. Even people I get to know when they’re quite young, and with whom I remain friends, they remain in denial. When they’re old I look the same—but these days they just think I’ve had plastic surgery.
DALÍ: It’s easier to believe. I myself am an immortal-in-waiting. My works will be immortal. And my name.
SPINOZA: What did you think of the Ethics? You like it?
DALÍ: Like it? Next to my autobiography it’s the greatest book ever written.
SPINOZA: The greatest? That I doubt.
DALÍ: You’ve read it?
SPINOZA: I wrote it.
DALÍ: Of course you did.
SPINOZA: I never finished it.
DALÍ: Neither did I, to be honest. So do many people notice the similarity? You make an excellent Spinoza. Do you make money out of it?
DALÍ: Then it must be a bore that people say you look just like—
SPINOZA: (interrupts) Few do, Senor Dalí.
DALÍ: But it gratifies you when they do?
SPINOZA: Yes, because I am Baruch Spinoza.
DALÍ: I see. Well, Mr Spinoza, you look uncommonly well for a 303-year-old.
SPINOZA: Thank you. Pity you don’t believe me.
DALÍ: How could anyone believe you?
SPINOZA: Because it’s true. (With a nod at the HOODED MAN.) He’ll tell you.
DALÍ: Who is he?
SPINOZA: He can tell you, believe me.
SPINOZA nudges the HOODED MAN.
SPINOZA: (to the HOODED MAN) Tell him.
No reaction from the HOODED MAN.
DALÍ: Who is that?
SPINOZA: It’s God.
DALÍ: It’s God? Okay. Just another day in Central Park. I’m Dalí, you’re Spinoza and that’s God. (A moment) And God’s asleep.
SPINOZA: Sometimes He gets bored. Believe me, after only 300 years of this I get bored too. Imagine after 13 billion.
DALÍ: What’s He doing here?
SPINOZA: He goes everywhere with me.
DALÍ: Really? That must be inconvenient, sometimes.
SPINOZA: He’s no trouble. You’re no trouble, are you?
The HOODED MAN gives a faint groan.
DALÍ: Let him sleep, poor guy, whoever he is.
SPINOZA: It’s okay. God never sleeps. Sometimes He dozes. He’s awake. Watch this.
SPINOZA nudges the HOODED MAN, who stretches slowly, with a roaring yawn like a lion. His face is still hidden. At the roar, DALÍ steps back.
SPINOZA: Don’t worry. He’s not malicious. (Taps Him. As to a child.) Would you like to meet somebody famous and interesting?
The HOODED MAN pulls back the hood. It is SIR ARTHUR MIDGET-as-EINSTEIN, as GOD. He sees DALÍ.
EINSTEIN: Oh it’s you.
GOD goes back into his hood and dozing position.
DALÍ: Einstein is your God?
SPINOZA: No. He just thinks He is.
DALÍ: Einstein thinks he’s God?
SPINOZA: God thinks He’s Einstein. Some days he thinks He’s Michelangelo.
DALÍ: Why are you here, if I may ask? You have some fondness for New York?
SPINOZA (sighs, patiently) In the first place, I’m here because the Jewish Elders of my native city of Amsterdam put me under a cherem, a curse, the worst cherem they ever issued, for maintaining, they said, that good and evil were not fundamentally different and that life and death were not fundamentally different either. For this I was sentenced to live in such a world, where evil was to be understood as an aspect of goodness, and goodness an aspect of evil… life an aspect of death, and death… no death, only life eternal—for me. I was given the role of the Eternal Jew.
DALÍ: That’s tough.
SPINOZA: You said it.
DALÍ: And you say God is always with you?
SPINOZA: I think so.
DALÍ: Keeping an eye on you.
DALÍ: And sometimes He sleeps.
DALÍ: Perhaps He has business elsewhere, while He’s dozing.
SPINOZA: Could be.
DALÍ: And He either looks like Einstein or Michelangelo.
SPINOZA: Oh no. He’s with me in some form or another. He doesn’t always declare himself. He could be a duck, or a stone. He could be you.
DALÍ: Me? But He’s already here.
SPINOZA: So He says. He could be just a lunatic. Disguised as Einstein.
DALÍ: Then what makes you think He is God?
SPINOZA Because there’s always someone watching me. He never leaves me alone. And when I ask if he’s God, He usually admits it.
DALÍ: Usually? But not always?
SPINOZA: Not always, no. So maybe I’m mistaken, some times. Or He’s lying.
DALÍ: Do you talk to Him?
SPINOZA: Oh yes.
DALÍ: About... spiritual matters?
SPINOZA: What else?
DALÍ: About His purpose... for... us? The world? Why we’re here?
SPINOZA: I’ve never asked Him that. Or maybe I have. But not recently.
DALÍ: Not for a century or two.
SPINOZA: Probably. And there’s no point, really. On the big questions, He’s evasive.
DALÍ: But you can get answers on... smaller questions.
SPINOZA: I can get a conversation. Not answers, necessarily. I talk to Him about good and evil, for instance.
DALÍ: That’s a big question. Isn’t it?
SPINOZA: Not really. He says they’re intertwined, that’s all. Can’t have one without the other.
DALÍ: But that’s what you said. That’s what you wrote. And the Elders of Amsterdam cursed you for it.
SPINOZA: He doesn’t think much of the Elders.
DALÍ: But He works for them.
SPINOZA: Goodness no.
DALÍ: Keeping an eye on you.
SPINOZA: I think He does that on his own time.
DALÍ: So why can’t He release you from the curse?
SPINOZA: Non-interference treaty.
DALÍ: Non-interference treaty?
SPINOZA: That’s what He calls it. He’s agreed not to get involved except in extreme cases. Like when the whole world’s going off the rails.
DALÍ: Such as when?
SPINOZA: He won’t say. Otherwise we’re like an experiment that He’s begun and He’s watching to see how it turns out.
DALÍ: But on some occasions He does interfere.
DALÍ: ‘Extreme cases,’ you said. Like when? Does He stop mass murderers? End epidemics?
SPINOZA: You’d have to ask Him. But I think He’ll tell you He has to tolerate a great deal of evil so that there can be great deeds of goodness.
DALÍ: It’s an equal quantity, then?
SPINOZA: More or less.
DALÍ: So evil is good news, because it ensures corresponding acts of goodness. And goodness is bad news, because...
SPINOZA: That’s what I said. In 1655.
DALÍ: (reflective) Yes. I’m wondering—perhaps this isn’t God Himself that follows you around and tells you these things. Perhaps it’s just your God.
SPINOZA: Could be.
DALÍ: And consider this—all you want to do now is die, am I correct?—.
DALÍ: But by keeping you alive in torment, perhaps your God is ensuring some peace for someone else!
SPINOZA: I have tried to see it that way. But I’m fed up now. I think I’ve done my bit for peace and goodness. Shall I tell you what it’s like to live three hundred and three years? First of all, being famous doesn’t help. My Ethics? It’s about as interesting to me as the toy fire engine you played with when you were three years old is to you now.
DALÍ: How did you know about the fire engine?
SPINOZA: Just a guess.
DALÍ: I wish I still had it. I could keep it on permanent exhibition at the Public Library.
SPINOZA: So you’re a world-class narcissist. Even so, how long would you be prepared to spend gazing at it? Or playing with it? I wrote the Ethics so long ago I can barely remember who I was when I wrote it. My youth and adulthood are as patchy a memory as yours is of being three years old—a few things sharp, the rest a blur. The New York Public Library has the only autograph copies of my work. I don’t even recognize the handwriting, let alone the ideas. I’m here in the hope that I wrote something I can show God—something that contradicts the rest, something that admits there really is a difference between life and death.
EINSTEIN: (puts his head out of the hood) If you’re going to talk philosophy I’m leaving.
SPINOZA: So leave.
EINSTEIN: You think you have it bad—(mimicking)—three hundred and three years….
SPINOZA: We know. Go back to sleep.
EINSTEIN: I can’t sleep, you know that.
SPINOZA: Pretend to sleep, then. But don’t always interrupt.
EINSTEIN sits back, closes his eyes.
DALÍ: You can talk to God like that?
SPINOZA: That’s one of the few good things about being this old and not afraid to die, you can talk to God any way you like. So, I was trying to tell you, being ancient is no picnic. First of all, you can’t stand people. You know why? I know who you are just from looking at you. For a time it’s amusing to see how astonished people are, when you tell them what they’re afraid of, what they love, what their secrets are.
DALÍ: You can tell that from looking at people?
SPINOZA: At first you think you’ve developed second sight. It isn’t second sight. There’s a connection between how people look and who they are, and when you live a normal life span you never quite reach the place—you can glimpse it, but you don’t quite get there—where you can read faces like a book. Literally. It’s printed on their cheekbones. In their eyes. Faces are a language. When you realize you can speak it, it’s fun, for a hundred years or so. Then it’s boring. Then it’s burdensome. And soon you don’t want to see human faces at all. They’re like open sewers. Animals still interest me. Birds especially. They’re hard to read. Cats and dogs, they’re too human, even zoo animals, the big cats, the penguins, it’s as if they’re talking to me. I can’t talk back, but it’s still a little too close for comfort. Birds, though—I can read insects better than I can read birds. And landscape. I like landscape. I was a hermit for a hundred and fifty years, a kind of traveling hermit. A bum, if you like. I had a cave in Southern Africa, on the Eastern Cape. Beautiful spot. Lived in New Mexico, in an abandoned trailer. Sixty, seventy years. I tried the jungle. Too many people. I tried Florida, where old Jews go. Too many insects. Maybe the other way around, I don’t remember. Finally I faced the fact that it was life I hated, not people. So I came back to try and address this question of life. How to end it.
DALÍ: D’you think you’re any closer?
SPINOZA: Not really. If I’m the Eternal Jew, which seems probable—I keep trying to trick God into admitting it, but he’s too canny—then I’m around as long as the Jews are around. If you ever cook up a plan to get rid of the Jews, let me know, because I’m in. I’ll be your first disciple.
DALÍ: There’s a guy called Hitler—
SPINOZA: No, he doesn’t want me.
DALÍ: Why not?
SPINOZA: I’m a Jew.
GOD (emerging from his hoodie) The Jews, the Jews. That’s enough for one day. (He stands up) You want ice cream?
SPINOZA: No thanks.
GOD: Not you. Him.
DALÍ: No thank you.
GOD exits, STAGE RIGHT. DALÍ stares at SPINOZA.
SPINOZA: (shrugs) Everyone likes ice cream. Not me. I didn’t grow up with it.
DALÍ: (starts to laugh) This is crazy. You really think you’re Spinoza. Where do you sleep?
SPINOZA: (Nods) the police are used to me.
DALÍ: And in winter?
SPINOZA: At Saint Mark’s, in the crypt. They know me there.
DALÍ: Do you eat anything? Do you ever get sick? Can I touch you?
SPINOZA shakes his head at the first two questions, offers his hand at the last one. DALÍ takes it, shakes his hand then releases it.
SPINOZA: How do I feel?
DALÍ: You feel fine. Dry. Warm. I think you are an actor. A humorist. Like me. An artist.
SPINOZA: I wish, señor.
DALÍ: All right. Let’s suppose you really are Baruch Spinoza.
SPINOZA: Why not?
DALÍ: Looking for a loophole in the curse. Evidence that you believed in death. Couldn’t you just decide to believe in death now?
SPINOZA: It’s not a matter of what I think, my friend. For the Jewish Elders it’s a matter of what I wrote. A man can think whatever he wants. For Jews it’s always about the word—the written word.
DALÍ: So write a refutation of your own work. Lie a little.
SPINOZA What is written now, three hundred years later, interests nobody. It’s what young Spinoza wrote that counts. That is still for so many people a Bible. For the Jewish Elders, a bible of heresy.
DALÍ: But they’re dead, Mynheer Spinoza.
SPINOZA: The curse is alive—look at me. They’re watching, Señor Dalí. The dead know everything. If I could find, somewhere in my writings, a refutation, a hint even, a doubt, if it was there already, even a tiny splinter in the body of my faith that mind and body and this world are one continuous system, on that raft I could perhaps set sail... oh my friend!... and be done with life. But I don’t remember my own works very well. They seem to me to have been written by someone else. And it’s so long ago.
DALÍ: You must come with me to London to meet a great expert on your works, Sir Arthur Midget.
SPINOZA: Who is this?
DALÍ: A British philosopher.
SPINOZA: You say he is a midget?
DALÍ: No. He is small. But a Midget by name before being a midget by nature. The name is French, Migeot [mee-joe, soft ‘j’], a venerable surname from the Limousin district. He is a baronet, a ‘Sir’, by right of birth, and every year he is famous for answering philosophical questions while dressed as a cat.
SPINOZA: Is there some reason why he dresses as a cat?
DALÍ: You have heard of pantomime?
SPINOZA: I don’t think so.
DALÍ: In Britain it is an old theatrical tradition, even older than you. Before it was pantomime it goes back to the commedia dell’arte and before to mediaeval troupes of players, and before them to the Greeks. Every Christmas British theatres are full of children and their parents, watching fairy tales performed by popular performers and other celebrities. In these plays there is always a man who plays a woman, the so-called Pantomime Dame, and a girl who plays a man, the ‘principal boy’ or hero. The pantomime of Dick Whittington and His Cat concerns a young fellow who becomes Mayor of London when his cat, Tommy, catches all the rats, first of all the rats in the kitchen of Mrs Sausagemacher, Dick’s employer, and...then...all the rats of London...
During this, GOERING-as-MRS SAUSAGEMACHER tiptoes on STAGE RIGHT with her rubber rolling pin, while behind DALÍ—who can see MRS SAUSAGEMACHER approaching—ARTHUR MIDGET-as-TOMMY THE CAT tiptoes on, STAGE LEFT, closing in on DALÍ.
SPINOZA: Excuse me, but behind you—
DALÍ: No—behind you—
SPINOZA: An enormous—
DALÍ: Quick, prince of philosophers—behind you—
SPINOZA: Cat! Behind you!
DALÍ: Behind you! Run!
TOMMY lunges at DALÍ, who eludes him and exits, pursued by MIDGET-AS-TOMMY.
MRS SAUSAGEMACHER: There you are, you idle boy!
SPINOZA: I beg your pardon!
MRS S: You idle, idle boy!
SPINOZA: And who on earth are you, pray?
MRS S: Get to work at once!
She swings mightily at SPINOZA with the rolling pin, which SPINOZA ducks, and jumps off the bench.
SPINOZA: She’s crazy!
SPINOZA runs round the bench with MRS SAUSAGEMACHER chasing.
MRS S: Come back here, idle Jack! If I catch you...
As they come back to where they began, SPINOZA halts and surprises MRS S by spinning round to face her and holding up a hand. MRS S stops, rolling pin raised.
SPINOZA: Woman! Do your worst! I am invulnerable!
MRS S: I give you invulnerable, you Katzenjammer Kid!
She beats SPINOZA about the head with her rubber rolling pin –
MRS S: You with your long words—
… until he reels and flees with MRS S in pursuit.
MRS S: Invulnerable, ja? You lazybones!
SPINOZA exits, pursued by MRS SAUSAGEMACHER, OFFSTAGE RIGHT.
Now, after a moment, the PANTOMIME RATS uncurl, as RATS.
DALÍ scurries back on, as KING RAT, from STAGE LEFT.
KING RAT sniffs the air, twirls his mustaches.
DALÍ: They’re coming. At my signal, distract the cat, and run, as fast as you can.
The RATS quickly curl back up together, their grey pelt forming a different rock-like shape.
DALÍ-as-KING RAT hides behind them.
MJ, as DICK, enters LEFT, with his Dick Whittington cap on his head and his worldly belongings in a handkerchief on the end of a stick over his shoulder, as in the opening scene, and MIDGET-as-TOMMY, following.
MIDGET (urgently): Miaow!
MJ: What is it, Tommy?
MIDGET: (as before): Miaow!
MJ: But why should I, Tommy? We’ll never defeat King Rat, and as long as he and his rats make life hell for the people of London, I’d rather be back in my little village in the West.
MJ: (fondly) Oh, Tommy. (To audience) He’s saying, turn again....
MIDGET: Miaow! Miaow!
MJ: (amused) You don’t say! Turn again Dick Whittington—mayor of London?!
MIDGET nods furiously, and miaows thrice, counting off three on his fingers.
MJ: Thrice Mayor of London?! Oh, Tommy, you’re a very sweet cat—but I’ll never be Mayor of London.
SPINOZA-as-IDLE-JACK hurries on, STAGE LEFT, with a bundle on a stick similar to MJ’s, but still dressed as SPINOZA.
SPINOZA: Dick! Dick! Don’t leave without me!
MJ: But, Jack, you belong here, in London. Why would you want to leave?
SPINOZA: I can’t stand it any more, getting beaten in the kitchen every day by Mrs Sausagemacher! I want to join you in your little village in the West!
MJ: There’s no work in my village, Jack. Everyone’s starving. Don’t you see? That’s why I came to London in the first place.
SPINOZA: You won’t take me with you? (He sits disconsolately on the bench) Then I want to die!
MIDGET: (sagely) Miaow! Miaow!
MJ: You’re right, Tommy.
SPINOZA: What’s he saying?
MJ: He says you need to go home.
SPINOZA: (shakes head sadly) My home is in the hands of the Nazis.
MJ: Mrs Sausagemacher means well, I’m sure she does.
MIDGET: (as before) Miaow!
MJ: You must go home.
SPINOZA: To Amsterdam? Alone?
MJ and SPINOZA turn to him, amazed.
MJ: What did you say, Tommy?
MIDGET: Miaow! Miaow!
MJ: He says, No, not alone. With your companion.
MIDGET: (nodding) Miaow!
MJ: (to SPINOZA) Who’s your companion?
SPINOZA: He’s with me. Always.
MJ: Then he must be here.
SPINOZA: Yes, but where?
MIDGET takes off his cat-head. It is EINSTEIN.
MJ: Oh my goodness.
SPINOZA: (rising) Shall we go?
MIDGET: Yes, Baruch. It’s time.
MIDGET-as-EINSTEIN put his arm around SPINOZA’s shoulders and they exit, STAGE LEFT.
MJ: Heavens—what shall I do now without my Tommy?
Behind her, the RATS uncurl. At a gesture of command from DALÍ, they follow MIDGET AND SPINOZA offstage LEFT.
MJ sits disconsolately on the bench. DALÍ, as KING RAT, comes up behind her, and sits.
A moment. She looks closer at him.
MJ: Oh, for goodness sakes, it’s you, Sal. What’s going on? Are you stalking me? We’re onstage.
DALÍ: Are you still in love with Hitler?
MJ looks away.
DALÍ: You’re telling me you can’t forget this awful man? Whom you’ve never even met.
MJ: I did meet him.
DALÍ: When? You’re lying.
MJ: I met him, Sal.
DALÍ: You’d better be lying. If you’re not lying I’ll kill myself.
MJ: Stop it, please. I had tea with him.
DALÍ: (absolute horror) You had tea with Hitler? I’ll kill myself.
MJ: Sal, I forbid you to do any such thing, do you hear?
DALÍ: Then I’ll kill Goering! He promised to keep you away from Hitler—I even gave him a painting! And you had tea with Hitler?
MJ: Yes. It was…it was interesting.
DALÍ: I am going to kill myself. (Walking downstage) What a nightmare. Tea with Hitler!
MJ: It was so exciting when the invitation arrived at my hotel—
DALÍ: Don’t tell me—
MJ: A beautiful card in old-fashioned Gothic script—
MJ: The Chancellor of Germany invites Miss Mary-Jane Hammond…
As MJ continues, the three RATS enter STAGE LEFT in solemn procession, their grey rat-clothes adapted to give them the look of grey-suited Nazi soldiers, bearing two chairs and a round tea-table with teapot, two cups and saucers, milk, sugar, and plates of canapés featuring a blob of red on round slices of pumpernickel bread..
DALÍ turns upstage to watch them.
MJ: …to visit him in a private room at the Vierjahr—Vierjahres-something-hotel, at 3:30—this was written in ink—maybe in his own hand?
MJ rises, comes downstage, still talking.
The soldiers deposit the tea-table CENTER STAGE and dispose of the chairs. While one of the soldiers makes sure that the plates and cups are properly disposed, the other two fetch the bench and remove it offstage, along with MJ’s Dick Whittington bundle of belongings.
DALÍ moves upstage, comes to the table, as if inspecting the distribution of the tea things.
MJ: (during this) The signature was hand-written, I was sure he wrote it himself because it matched the signature in the letter he sent me. I was thrilled—and in a complete panic—what on earth do you wear to meet Adolf Hitler? Especially if you’re a Jew! I tried on all my dresses, in despair—and then—
The two RATS who removed the bench STAGE LEFT return with an expensive box tied in a fancy ribbon, and bring this to MJ. Out of it they produce a dress. An Austrian peasant-style dirndl dress. As MJ speaks, she removes her Dick Whittington cap and unpins her hair.
MJ: The package. For me. From the Fuehrer. A dress!
The 3rd RAT comes to join the other two RATS, forming a bodyguard around and DOWNSTAGE of MJ as she changes, still talking.
DALÍ remains beside the tea-table still facing upstage.
MJ: A funny dress with a flounce skirt and a kind of lace apron, I guess it’s what girls wear in Austria, maybe in Germany too, in the villages. Oops! Don’t look! That’s better. I didn’t know what to do with my hair, I figured he might like it in pig-tails, but in the end I left it down…
The RAT-SOLDIERS stand back admiringly, and the 3rd RAT gives her a small bow of approval.
MJ: Why, thank you, you sweet thing.
The RATS form an escort to lead her to the Fuehrer, and the group advances UPSTAGE and halts.
3rd RAT: (click of heels and salute) Mein Fuehrer!
DALÍ turns to us. While facing upstage during MJ’s onstage costume change he has swept his hair across, and replaced his moustache with a Hitler mustache. Perhaps a small Nazi ribbon is now attached to his grey KING RAT outfit.
MJ curtsies deeply, spreading her flounce skirt.. DALÍ-as-HITLER comes and takes her hand, admiringly.
DALÍ: Delightful. Just as my good friend Goering promised. Only better.
He leads her to the tea-table. The RATS stand guard, at a discreet distance, but close enough to intervene if called on.
DALÍ pulls back a chair for her and MJ sits.
MJ: Thank you, mein Fuehrer.
DALÍ: Shall I be mother?
MJ: Pardon me?
DALÍ: Shall I pour?
MJ: Oh yes of course. Please.
DALÍ: (pouring tea) I hope you have been made comfortable in our little world.
MJ: Oh certainly. Very comfortable. And the dress—
DALÍ: You like it.
MJ: I love it.
DALÍ: It looks charming on you. We will find many nice things for you.
MJ: This is more than enough, mein Fuehrer.
DALÍ: Certainly not. What do you imagine? Now that you are here I shall not easily let you go.
MJ: Oh, that’s… that’s very kind…
DALÍ: Kind? No, it is not kind. You are my prisoner now.
MJ: (is he joking?) Oh. I’m your prisoner?
DALÍ: Yes, Dick.
MJ: (a moment) What did you call me?
DALÍ: But you will be well looked after. Rats know how to entertain an honored, precious guest.
DALÍ: But not mere rats, Dick. You are the guest of King Rat.
MJ stares in alarm, pushes back her chair, stands, as the RATS close in on her.
MJ: Help! Tommy!
DALÍ: Oh, your British Tommy will be here in good time, my dear. In time to fall into our trap.
MJ: Oh no…
The RATS lead MJ back to her chair. She stands for a moment, facing DALÍ. Then she sits, conceding.
DALÍ: You understand now. You are the bait, handsome Dick. Soon Tommy will rush bravely into our lair and we will finish him. Then London will be ours!
With a gesture, DALÍ sends the RATS back to their previous perimeter. DALÍ raises the teapot.
DALÍ: So. More tea?
MJ: No. (A moment) Not for me.
DALÍ: You don’t like my tea, Miss Hammond? I will order something else for you.
MJ: (coldly) It’s ‘Miss Hammond’ now?
DALÍ: Then may I call you Mary-Jane? If not some tea, then perhaps some Kuchen. Or our specialité de la maison, which I shall shortly explain.
MJ is staring at him.
DALÍ: You look a little shocked. Is it because I mention our desire to be better friends with England? And with your native America. Because first, you see… we have to occupy ourselves with Russia. Are you interested in politics, Mary-Jane? No? But at least you are aware that in Moscow my good friend Comrade Stalin has been busy. He has made something called the Museum of the Brain? Did you know this?
MJ shakes her head, faintly.
DALÍ: It was created soon after Comrade Lenin’s death. It has in it many brains of famous people from all over the world, for comparison. But chiefly: Lenin himself. You thought Lenin’s brain was in the mausoleum, along with the rest of Lenin? But it is not. Only the cranium is in the mausoleum. Not the brain. They took it out. This is the reason for the Museum. The purpose was to examine Vladimir Ilyich’s brain, to determine why he was the greatest man in the history of the world. To that end, they extracted his brain and sliced it into 67,000 very thin pieces. Yes. 67,000 slices. To put under the microscope. And did they find out what was so special about Lenin’s brain? No. (Barely stifling amusement) No, it seems that Comrade Lenin had an… extremely average brain. So now what do they do, in the Museum of the Brain, with Comrade Lenin’s 67,000 slices of average brain? What do you think they do, Mary-Jane? Guess. Please. You don’t want to guess? Try.
MJ: I’ve no idea.
DALÍ: I will tell you the answer: Nothing. They do nothing with it. Because who wants all these slices of brain? But I had an idea of something we could do. We have many people there in Russia, Mary-Jane, our people, secret members of the Nazi Party—
MJ: (interrupts) Rats.
DALÍ: (startled) Rats? You would call them rats—because they rat on their Communist bosses? I call them heroes of the National Socialist movement. They are not rats. And with the help of one of these heroes, a technician in the Museum of the Brain, I have obtained a few hundred slices of Comrade Lenin’s brain. Will anyone notice? I don’t think so, do you? With 60,000 slices, who notices a hundred slices here or there?
DALÍ pushes towards her one of the plates of canapés featuring a blob of something red, on pumpernickel bread.
DALÍ: Eat, please. (A moment.) Yes. You are greatly privileged, Miss Mary-Jane Hammond. You are the only person aside from me who will have eaten from Lenin’s brain.
MJ: (horror) Oh no.
DALÍ: You would forgo such an opportunity? I assure you that Comrade Lenin’s brain is delicious.
MJ: I’m not really very hungry.
DALÍ: Just a little bit, Miss Hammond.
MJ: (declining) Thank you—that’s all right—
DALÍ: Ein Kuchen?
MJ: (not wanting to turn everything down) Oh—maybe—
DALÍ: But first some of the specialité de la maison! Nicht? A tiny piece? For me. For Adolf.
MJ: Herr Hitler. I just... I don’t feel like eating a piece of Lenin’s brain right now.
DALÍ: Oh please. You won’t reconsider? (A moment.) You’re wavering? You’re still not sure? Here’s my solution. We will leave it to the audience. (Rising) Dear audience. Should Mary-Jane eat a piece of Lenin’s brain—whether out of sheer curiosity or to please the Fuehrer, I don’t care which. Should she eat? Vote, please. Those in favor? (He counts.) Those against? (He counts.) And the rest of you... neutral? Perhaps you are wondering what it will taste like, Lenin’s brain. You will be surprised at the answer. It tastes like... watermelon. You don’t believe me?
DALÍ signals to his RAT-MINIONS, who come and remove plates of watermelon from the tea-table, bringing them to the audience.
DALÍ: Then I suggest we take a little break. Under the watchful eye of my own personal bodyguards, my guard of honor, you will stretch your legs—this is not a request, this is an order—and visit the facilities and perhaps take some drink along with your... shall we call it ‘watermelon’? And meanwhile—this too is not optional—you should consider what fate would await you if you were to turn down the food set before you by Adolf Hitler, as it seems that Miss Hammond is about to do.
DALÍ turns back to MJ. Pointedly:
DALÍ: Or is it... Miss Hartmann?
A moment. To audience:
DALÍ: Enjoy yourself please, but don’t be too long or you will miss the fun.
As HOUSE LIGHTS rise and LIGHTS FADE on the teatime scene, the Nazi RAT-SOLDIERS begin swiftly—and very politely—to encourage the audience to have some watermelon, asking them if there is anything they can bring them—a cushion?—Ah, dear lady, we have just now run out of cushions—and asking if they can guide individual members of the audience to the rest rooms—Unterscharfuehrer Schulz will be happy to escort you...
DALÍ: (casually, to MJ) We will make of them little revolutionaries perhaps, at any rate little National Socialists, with this eucharist, I think.
Two of the GUARDS-OF-HONOR RATS fetch a tray each of water, to offer to the audience.
3rd RAT: This looks like watermelon, but you have heard the Fuehrer declare what it is.
Meanwhile, a palm court orchestra strikes up, a string quartet of the kind that might perhaps have played at the Vierjahreszeiten Hotel in Berlin, where DALÍ-as-HITLER may be presumed to be treating MJ to tea.
GUARD: You wish to visit the facilities, Madame? Sergeant Steiner will accompany you.
During the interval, HITLER, his MINIONS, the water-melon and the entire tea-table scene have disappeared like a bad dream.
As the audience filters back in, a figure is already waiting for them onstage, front and center. He is CARL SCHMITT (more precisely SIR ARTHUR MIDGET-as-CARL SCHMITT) and he is dressed in the uniform of a high official in the SD, the Nazi State Security police. He is friendly, relaxed, above all charming, impatience showing only in a faint steady tapping of his baton on his boots. LIGHT gradually isolates him on stage, spilling onto an area behind him, which will shortly be occupied by a second figure.
SCHMITT: Ready to begin? Yes? Everyone present, or shall we wait a little longer? No? Good. Then let’s begin. Enough of these pantomime Nazis, meine Damen und Herren, ladies and gentlemen, I am the real thing. My name is Carl Schmitt, my rank or title is Preussischer Staatsrat, adviser to the Prussian State you could call it. I am a jurist. I have been called the ‘crown jurist’ of the Third Reich, the jewel in its legal crown. Also perhaps in its intellectual crown. I am a Professor at Berlin University, lecturing on philosophy and on law. You will be wondering why a Professor wears such a uniform as this. I must confess that this is in fact a costume, it is the uniform of an Obersturmbannfueher in the SD, the State Security police. It belongs to me, but I don’t wear it often. It was sent to me by my patron, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, whom I have to thank for my position as adviser, Staatsrat, to the Reich. At one time he hoped to seduce me from my academic post and enrol me as legal adviser to the Security police, with the rank of Obersturmbannfuehrer. He even sent me the uniform, tailored to fit me, as an inducement. I was tempted. But I declined. I like my academic role. I wear the uniform from time to time, at a dinner party to amuse and perhaps alarm my guests, who think, Mein Gott, all this time he was an officer in the security police? I wear it sometimes when I am in the Reichsmarschall’s company, as I am today, in order to honor his kindness. And to amuse myself. Uniforms are nice, aren’t they? Imagine a world without uniforms. There would be no police. No army. No parades. How would we tell the bad guys, as you call them, from the good guys?
SCHMITT: And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what I want to speak to you about today. Telling the bad guys from the good guys. There are people, even perhaps some people here in the audience, who like to imagine that sometimes they are one and the same. Bad guy and good guy. In the same person. If this is you, if you are one who thinks this way, then you are a person who cannot tell an enemy from a friend. Such a person we call a ‘liberal’. Yes, you are amused. But it’s not funny at all. You are lying to yourself, wishing to believe that everybody loves you, even if they show otherwise. Deep down, they love you. Now, you are either a fool, or a coward, or you insist on lying to yourself. You know as well as I do that in your private life you have known people you believed were friends. They acted like friends, or so you thought. But you were not looking carefully, were you? You were not on your guard. And where did this lack of vigilance lead? One day this friend revealed himself as no friend at all. And, oh the pain. You had let this enemy inside the gates of your life, your home, your psyche. Only to be betrayed. Is it any difference in the public world? You liberals don’t want to believe that your country has enemies. We must talk to them, you say. We must negotiate. They are human beings, just like us. And yes, in fact they are. They are human beings just like you. Predatory, opportunistic, ambitious, greedy. As you know yourself to be. This is humanity. So I invite you to decide. Will you be honest with yourself, and arm yourself against this predatory and opportunistic human nature, or will you go on living in a fantasy? Will you say, come on in, my enemy, take me over, take my house, take my food. Take my women. Take my country. You, you liberals, who look with such scorn on those who guard your country, you who have such high-minded scorn for those who dirty their hands with your defence, what will you be saying when the enemy marches in, and thanks to you his victory is a fait accompli?
SCHMITT: Enough. If you don’t understand this already, you will always and forever form part of that bien-pensant, high minded intelligentsia who live in dreams. The rest of us must fight to preserve your little Eden, the fool’s paradise in which you preach goodness to all, pacifism, forgiveness. We are the good people, you tell yourselves. If the world were good, my dear liberals, I would be happy to be good along with you. But it isn’t. So wake up, or perish—sooner or later. You suffer from what historians call decadence, which attends every empire in decline. Rome, Britain... yes, Germany too, one day. I am not one of those who believes in the thousand-year-Reich, along with our leaders. I permit myself to disagree. And they permit me to disagree. You would be surprised to know how much freedom we allow our citizens. Those who do not wish to serve in a particular capacity, or those who dispute some point of party doctrine, they are not sent to the Russian front. We are not barbarians. I am regarded with a certain fond amusement as an intellectual, and my differences with National Socialism—for instance, I am not in favor of the annihilation of the Jews—are tolerated. I have no love of the Jews. I would be happy to see them gone from the borders of the Reich. But this fanatical hatred seems to me—and I think Reichsmarschall Goering shares my views on this, although he keeps it quiet—to be a pathological symptom. More to the point, it is a simply dreadful waste of money and manpower, this business of trying to kill them all. The slave labor at least repays the investment, to some degree. But where is the benefit in simply killing them? Even the slave labor fails to harness the true powers of the Jew, which are intellectual, not physical. They are thinkers, not doers. Thinkers—like Baruch Spinoza, for instance. Which is what brings me here to Auschwitz today.
A moment. Amused:
SCHMITT: There is a man, apparently of some likeness to the portrait we have of the great Spinoza, who surrendered to the Gestapo in Amsterdam, announcing that he was Spinoza himself. Obviously, if he believes it, he belongs in a lunatic asylum. And if he doesn’t believe it, what does he think to gain from this imposture? It would be of no interest, certainly not sufficient interest to bring me all the way from Berlin—into Poland, not my favorite spot in all the world—admittedly in a limousine most comfortably outfitted by Reichsmarschall Goering—and I wouldn’t be here if it were not for the Reichsmarschall’s personal invitation, which I rarely decline. He has summoned me—(chuckling)—as an expert on Spinoza—can you believe this?—to interrogate Spinoza himself, in order to find out if he is Spinoza. After three hundred years of life. Goering wants a little fun, to see how plausible the impostor is. Put him together with Schmitt, the Spinoza expert, Goering thinks, and we shall have some fun to see who knows his Spinoza better. It’s too stupid, and it would not happen, except for one thing. Goering puts great faith in a ridiculous man, the surrealistic painter Salvador Dalí, a creature of utmost decadence, who has somehow persuaded the Reichsmarschall—my friend Hermann has a secret weakness for such eccentric people—that this Spinoza impostor, whom he knew personally before the war, truly is Spinoza, the great Spinoza. And this man Dalí has begged the Reichsmarschall to save his life.
SCHMITT: Well, why not? Perhaps if he is a good enough Spinoza impersonator, as I shall swiftly discover, he would be an amusing person to keep for... I don’t know... if he looks so like Spinoza I could put him as a cleaner, what you call a janitor, in my philosophy department in Berlin, and bring him out, in costume, for debates. Well, that’s foolish. I am here at the behest of the Reichsmarschall, and that’s all there is to it.
SCHMITT: Yet not quite. You see, it is of the utmost importance that you, my liberal friends from America, should understand the poison that Spinoza’s thinking has brought into your life. This self-destructive impulse that is liberalism begins in the soul; in childhood; in fearfulness, in a thwarted hope for love without a struggle, leading to that frightened spirit that you all hide beneath a covering of virtue. There will always be such weaklings. But what sustains you, my poor friends, is a network of ideas without which your fearfulness would find no nourishment and would wither in secret shame. What allows you to proclaim yourself and to join with others in proclaiming your absurd beliefs—and they are absurd, are they not, as absurd as imagining that everyone around you really loves you, deep down—what clothes you in language and provides an armor for your vainglorious entry into the public arena is: a philosophy. And it begins... with the man Spinoza.
Uniformed men, barely visible, shove SPINOZA roughly onto the stage behind SCHMITT. SPINOZA is in Auschwitz inmate clothing, with the dreadful clogs, to which his feet have not yet adjusted. Every step is an agony for his blistered toes and heels. He is exhausted, and the shove he receives is enough to send him tottering in the LIGHT spilling over from SCHMITT, who ignores him entirely. Gradually, as SCHMITT continues his lecture, SPINOZA manages to steady himself after wobbling a little loopily around, UPSTAGE, and come to a halt, where he stands staring offstage, in profile, motionless, as if switched off, like Beckett’s Lucky, but a Lucky attached to his master only by invisible strings.
SCHMITT: You see, Spinoza liked to see God in everything. God everywhere. God in you and me, regardless of our moral qualities. God in the grass, in the trees and the sky. God in life and God in death. How comforting! Isn’t it? God everywhere—Spinoza is what people call a pantheist. In the trade we call this an idiot. If only we could all live the life of a modest, happy lens-grinder in 17th century Amsterdam, laboring in our workshop, unthreatened by war or poverty. So of course for him God is everywhere. He was lucky; God loved him, or so it must have seemed to him. God loves a modest lens-grinder! If he can love humble Spinoza, then he must love everything, everywhere. And if God is everywhere, he must be in war and poverty too. God is nature. Nature is in everything. It all fits! So we must not hate, we must not fight, we must not protect ourselves, because what is there to protect when God is in our enemies no less than in us, when they are us, and even as they drive a pikestaff through your body, why, God is in the pikestaff too, so you can die with a smile on your face. A face that is averted, we may hope, from the fate being undergone by your wife and daughter in the next room.
Cries of ‘Heil Hitler!’ from OFFSTAGE. Boots heel-clicking.
SCHMITT turns upstage, expectantly.
GOERING enters, followed by a GUARD, who takes up a position on the edge of the stage.
GOERING: You may leave us.
GUARD: (protesting) Herr Reichsmarschall—
GOERING: You may leave us.
The GUARD salutes and goes.
At STAGE RIGHT, SPINOZA has turned to face GOERING.
GOERING: (to SPINOZA, amused) Do they think you might have a weapon? Or that you will overpower me? Are you a dangerous man?
SPINOZA stands, silent. GOERING studies him, as does SCHMITT from downstage.
GOERING: So... (he glances, at SCHMITT, then back to SPINOZA, amused) you are Baruch Spinoza?
GOERING: You know who I am?
GOERING: Do you know why I’m here?
No reaction from SPINOZA .
GOERING: You think perhaps I’m visiting this place? No? You doubt that? You’re right. I have no business being here. I am not a policeman. I am a military man. A friend of yours wished me to help you. To have you released.
Still no reaction from SPINOZA.
GOERING: On certain conditions. Very stringent conditions.
GOERING: Wouldn’t you like to hear what they are, these conditions?
SPINOZA: I don’t wish to be released.
GOERING: (studies him) Oh? Really? You don’t wish to be released. But this is not a rest home, my friend. It’s not a refuge. Don’t you know what happens, in time, to those who remain here?
GOERING: (Sighs, then) Jew, I have come a long way, to do this in person. For your friend. Who is also my friend—but this is not why I came. Your friend says you are three hundred years old. A man three hundred years old you don’t meet every day. That’s old, even for a Jew. Your friend says he believes you are three hundred years old. He is a superstitious man. An artist. He believes you are the philosopher Spinoza. Is he correct?
GOERING: Interesting man, Spinoza. I was reading about him last night, so that I would be prepared. I imagine you do a remarkable impersonation of this thinker from the sixteen hundreds. I am looking forward to seeing it, but in these clothes you are wearing, how convincing can it be? All the same, give us a little show, as a reward for coming so far. I have a fine appreciation of good art, including theatre.
GOERING: Our aim, you see, is to discover how good is your performance. Perhaps it is a performance which should be taken on the road, instead of being sent into the gas chamber. (Nodding towards SCHMITT) This is Staatsrat Carl Schmidt. You know his work, I am sure, since he is the foremost commentator on Spinoza of our time. And the Reich’s principal critic of your oeuvre. He is also, I am proud to say, a good friend of mine.
GOERING: Where shall we begin?
SCHMITT: (moving into a better position to debate SPINOZA) If I might suggest…
SCHMITT: Since we are considering the commutation of a death sentence…let us discuss the paradox of toleration. (To SPINOZA) Would that suit you?
SPINOZA: (the what?) The paradox...
SCHMITT: Of toleration. Surely you remember. (A moment) As first expounded by Augustine.
SPINOZA looks blank. SCHMITT glances at GOERING, then back to SPINOZA.
SCHMITT: Let me give you a hint. The problem about toleration is that we can only seek to tolerate something which is prima facie intolerable. Otherwise we would need to try to ‘tolerate’ it. I tolerate both blond and brown hair, yet this is not truly toleration because I find nothing intolerable in either hair color. So, if we can identify something intolerable to tolerate, it is already, by definition, not tolerable but rather intolerable. What is more, to tolerate is to acknowledge that the very thing we find sufficiently repugnant that we must ‘tolerate’ it is something we have already stigmatized by identifying it as a potential object of toleration. You are with me, I’m sure. Thus the question arises, why tolerate it, when all you are doing is isolating it and identifying it as intolerable? Why not simply eradicate the intolerable? Why ‘tolerate’ it, at all?
SPINOZA: This is a good question.
SCHMITT. Yes it is. (A moment.) So far we are in agreement, then. So tell me, what would have occurred in June of 1934, if the Fuehrer had not confronted Roehm and purged the SA? You know perfectly well what would have happened, sooner or later. Civil war. Isn’t it so?
SPINOZA: Yes. Yes, that sounds right.
SCHMITT: So where would have been the virtue of your famous liberal principles of compromise and toleration? Hah? Bloodshed. Catastrophe.
SPINOZA: That’s true.
SCHMITT: You agree? You have no counter-argument? (A moment) Herr Spinoza, do you have nothing to say for yourself? No argument to make at all?
SPINOZA: I can’t think of one, no.
SCHMITT: Have you changed your mind on this issue? Murders were committed by the Fuehrer’s supporters, crimes which had little or nothing to do with curbing the brownshirts, you would surely argue, would you not?
SPINOZA: Yes. I could.
SCHMITT: And you may recall that I challenged the Fuehrer, on this very matter, to back up the rule of law especially when drastic extra-legal measures had had to be taken to preserve the state itself and ensure less bloodshed. Perhaps you haven’t been following my career. (A moment) Of course this Night of the so-called Long Knives was not only necessary but was in reality a timeless breach in history, a state of exception where the future is halted. Outside the framework of normality. (Studying SPINOZA) I seem to have lost you.
SPINOZA: (softly, in private) Are you God?
SCHMITT: What did you say?
SPINOZA: Are you God, in disguise?
SCHMITT: God, in disguise? Excuse me, have you been listening to me?
SPINOZA: Yes, of course.
SCHMITT: Then may we continue our conversation without bringing God into it? At least tell me how your ideals of toleration are standing up these days after three centuries of strife between nations. Do you still believe that toleration is worth the price a nation pays to lay itself open to insurrection or foreign conquest?
SPINOZA: Well… I’m not sure. Perhaps not.
SCHMITT: That’s it? You’re not sure? Are you not the great thinker and apostle of liberalism, Baruch Spinoza?
SPINOZA: I am Baruch Spinoza.
SCHMITT: You are a very sad apology for that resolute idealist, I think.
SCHMITT stares at GOERING in bafflement.
SCHMITT: (to SPINOZA, once more) Perhaps you have learnt wisdom from seeing the consequences of political toleration. What about worship? You turned Leviathan inside out in your Tractatus, my friend. Instead of the state prescribing worship, and the individual privately making accomodation with his own choice of deity, you made the individual’s choice the basis for civilized existence, and the state’s requirements only a secondary consideration. Did you not?
SPINOZA: If you say so. I don’t recall.
SCHMITT: You don’t recall? What does that mean? Do you dispute my analysis? This was the basis of your liberal accomodation with compromise, leading to a lack of supervision and even of vigilance regarding enemies within the state. Is that not true?
SPINOZA: It may be.
SCHMITT: For goodness’ sake, man, it is. From you comes the entertainment of devils, the undermining of the state’s integrity, the throwing open of the gates to the forces of subversion—all to please your passion to forgive. And the meaning of this—shall we face it directly, Herr Spinoza? A passion to forgive is simply the passion to be forgiven. In order to obtain forgiveness, you grant it to others in advance, hoping that this blank check will move the Almighty to grant you a free pass in return. Your politics, like all liberal politics, is nothing but the politics of guilt.
SPINOZA: I believe you are quite correct.
SCHMITT: This is too easy a victory. You’re mocking me.
SPINOZA: I am in no position to mock, sir.
SCHMITT: You’re in no position to do anything else. But I am not amused. By conceding every point you fail to show that as a Spinoza impersonator you have even bothered to familiarize yourself with his philosophy. You’re a joke, man, a bad joke.
SPINOZA: There I agree entirely.
A moment. They stare at SPINOZA.
SPINOZA: I’m sorry.
SCHMITT: (furious) You’re sorry. (A moment.) Herr Reichsmarschall, I cannot take this imposture seriously. I will no longer intrude upon your judgement in this matter, and since there is no intellectual debate to be had with this poor fish, I will see you outside. Heil Hitler.
SCHMITT exits. A pause.
GOERING: (at last, wearily) For God’s sake, man, as one Jew to another, save yourself.
SPINOZA: As one Jew to another? You are a Jew?
GOERING: Not by blood, but by sympathy, Herr Spinoza. My godfather, whom I loved above all other men, was of Jewish descent. But he, like you, was a superior sort of Jew. Not like the rest. Whoever you really are, I assume you’re a Jew. Why do you call yourself Baruch Spinoza?
SPINOZA: I call myself that because I am Baruch Spinoza.
GOERING: You are Baruch Spinoza, but you have forgotten everything except your name. Why do you imagine you are still alive, after 300 years?
SPINOZA: It’s a mystery.
GOERING: It’s a foolish nonsense. I want to know why you came to Amsterdam and brought yourself to the attention of the Gestapo – you, whoever you are—until you were arrested and deported and brought here to die. Since you are a man of no interest to the world, a self-professed philosopher who cannot philosophize but who claims he is one of the great thinkers of human history, why choose to sentence yourself to death? If this is a gesture, who will care?
SPINOZA: I care. It is as a Jew that I am under a curse. It is the intention of your government to eliminate the Jewish race. I want... I hope... that by doing this you will give me rest at last.
GOERING: So... all we have here is a crazy person. A crazy Jew. Jew, I cannot have you released. You are too crazy, and we don’t need more crazy people in the world. You may have your wish. I will leave you in peace.
SPINOZA: Thank you. (Falls to his knees) Thank you!
GOERING: Get up.
SPINOZA: (weeps) Thank you.
GOERING watches as SPINOZA is gradually transformed by inspiration – by memory—kneeling, and recalling:
SPINOZA: (Inspired; remaining on his knees) God and Creature are two things, you say. God, and Creature. Creature here, God there. But how do we know God, except as Creatures? His Creatures, as you yourselves say. And our God, as you yourselves say. How could we know God if we were not a part of Him, and He a part of us? We know Him as our God. With good reason we give him a human face. He is our God, and he is not the God of the grass. You say he is. You say he is the God of all. But have you heard this from the grass? I don’t think so. The God of the grass is some great green blade inscribed deep in the soul of grass. We too are grass, we are one thing with the grass, we are grass that dreams, and our Creaturely dream is a Creature God. Where then are the two things?
As SPINOZA speaks – he is speaking to his judges, the Jewish Elders of Amsterdam – light fades gradually on the scene and on GOERING, until the kneeling SPINOZA is alone in light, in memory.
SPINOZA: But you say: so, Spinoza... who created your one thing? Where did it start? What was before your one thing was? Whatever it is, it is a second thing. And I say, no, there is no ‘before’. Because: how can there have been one thing, waiting in nothingness to make another thing? Without the other thing—this thing within-and-all-around-us that is everything, that is forever now—how could there be anything in the nothingness? In nothingness there can only be nothing. There can, in fact, never be nothingness, much less nothingness with a patiently waiting God in it: it would not then be nothingness. How does it all start, then, you ask? I say: it doesn’t. It neither starts nor ends.
SPINOZA: Then be that, you said to me. Be... that. Be forever now. Be without end. Be the Jew who cannot rest his head. See how you like your universe then.
As LIGHTS FADE, GOERING, with SPINOZA’s consent, helps SPINOZA to his feet and escorts him out.
Two Dalí paintings, hugely projected, behind the actors. A third, on an easel upstage center, also large but as yet invisible, shrouded in a sheet.
Enter DALÍ and MARY-JANE from upstage right, MJ first with DALÍ following. DALÍ in a splendid grey trench coat, MJ in a sexy, boyish outfit. MJ halts, gazing downstage left but wide of the audience, with DALÍ five feet behind her, at the same angle, gazing at her, both of them standing calmly in the classic posture of Shakespearean lovers—or those in Antonioni movies.
While they are still in motion:
DALÍ: Mary Jane, Hitler is the question—and I am the answer.
They have come to a halt.
MJ: (without turning to him) Hitler’s no longer the question, Sal. He’s dead.
DALÍ: (turns to us and comes downstage, opening his arms to confide in us) Is 1946. Hitler is dead and we’ve survived. But the dead are the ones who give us the most trouble, are they not? This Freud understood. Mama and Papa—why won’t they go away? They’re dead, and they’re here, more than ever before. The past requires an an answer. For me America is the answer—the golden land, home of fixations, obsessions and unreality, where everybody loves me. Everybody except Mary-Jane.
MJ: That Hitler. I was nuts to think I could get him to like the Jews all by my little old self. Besides, he was a pervert.
DALÍ: That’s the first nice thing I’ve heard about him. How do you know he was a pervert?
MJ: First-hand experience, Sal.
DALÍ: I was afraid you’d say this.
MJ: I never told anyone else.
DALÍ: I don’t care to hear.
MJ: He wanted to draw me.
DALÍ: That’s all?
MJ: He asked me to open my legs.
DALÍ: That’s enough, please.
MJ: Sal, he just wanted to look.
DALÍ: And that’s it?
MJ: That’s it.
DALÍ: And that you call a pervert?
DALÍ: In New Jersey, maybe, this would count as perversion.
MJ: In New Jersey it’s a misdemeanor.
DALÍ: So you never discovered Adolf’s little secret?
MJ: What secret was that?
DALÍ: That he was a woman.
MJ: Hitler was a woman?
DALÍ: You didn’t notice the sweet plumpness of his flesh, how it strained against the leather cross-straps on his chest, how his breasts bulged under his tunic? He was a woman all the way through—and a masochist. Before it ever began I knew he would go to war in order to be defeated, so that he might achieve his pleasure—to be raped by the hammer and sickle, and sodomized by the stars and stripes!
MJ: You’re nuts, Sal.
DALÍ: (shakes his head) My dear, if you would only receive my advances, you would discover that there is one difference between a madman and myself—I am not mad.
MJ: Mad or not, you’re a pervert, just like Hitler was.
MJ: (as he advances on her) Keep away. You admit you’re a pervert!
DALÍ: (still pursuing her) In Hitler you loved it, but not in me? Why did you consent to come here to my studio? I am not just a pervert, Mary Jane, I am the world’s leading pervert.
MJ: They say you’re obsessed with masturbation.
DALÍ: Every man should have a hobby.
MJ: You and Hitler both.
DALÍ: (To the audience, while MJ watches, skeptical but amused) Let’s be honest, shall we? What every man needs is a fetish. Panty-sniffing, bestiality, self-flagellation. Anything will do. Foot-fetishism, coprophagy, urolagnia. Find one that suits you. A man needs this, not for his own but for the woman’s sake. A woman’s interest in sex is always secondary to her interest in power. This is why women love it so much when you reveal your fetish. She can be your partner in your fetish. Or your observer, if your fetish is solitary. No matter how solitary it is, she can still be your accomplice. And she wants to be. You need to set a fire to achieve erection? She’ll bring the matches. She has to wear the uniform of a parking attendant so that you can reach orgasm? She’ll buy the outfit. How often, in your experience, is a woman shocked and horrified at her partner’s perverse desires? How often does she run out of the door? Not often, isn’t it true? Is not only in the annals of crime, where men who kidnap and abuse women are frequently aided in this enterprise by a female partner, is no less true in the annals of the bedroom that the man who delights in being stripped and beaten and tied to the bedposts, with an orange stuck in his mouth, must have a woman who will minister to these needs, and does so willingly. Have you never wondered why? You thought you were the only one who was so lucky as to find a compliant, indeed complicit mate? No, dear gentlemen. To a woman, all fetishes are welcome. To a woman, in her wisdom, the fetish is the sign of the human being—the price, if you will, of being human. What twisted paths, in the cerebral cortex, have led us here, to be the strange upright creature who speaks, who builds cathedrals and concentration camps? Who could possibly imagine that when this creature takes his pleasure, he will be an angel of simplicity? Ridiculous. Women know this. For the sake of power over you, they are willing to assist you in the perversity natural to the human animal, to the male of the species whose erection requires a thrall, a spell, an incantation, a spirit journey into the labyrinthine psychic architecture of the modern Eros. Because, my God, what are we now, as a species? We who have tortured and killed our fellow humans and yet must find the will to make more in our own image? How may we somehow back into the presence of this Medusa? What rites of self-forgetfulness must we perform, in order to perform? Every man his own Minotaur, in the dripping darkness of the cave, putting on the bull’s head. All perversions are acceptable here, from the mildest upwards. Troilism, role play, exhibitionism, spanking, bondage, dominance, algolagnia, any and all forms of sado-masochism, transvestism, klismaphilia—I beg your pardon? No, no this is not the love of klesmer music but—yes?—(to another audience member) you know this? yes, a passion for enemas—and many other passions...
He turns to MJ, questioningly. She begins tentatively, grows more confident.
MJ: Peanut butter.
DALÍ: (mildly surprised) Peanut butter?
DALÍ: Ah now. Hitler as your father.
MJ: (ignores this) Amputees.
MJ: Water sports. Gerontophilia. Vampirism. Homosexuality. Leather fetish.
MJ: Religion is a sexual perversion?
DALÍ: What else?
MJ: (okay, fine) I see.
DALÍ: (no pause) Wax.
DALÍ: Is better than peanut butter, believe me.
MJ: (going for it, no holds barred) Okay: ropes, plugs, gags, whips, rough stuff. Rings through the penis. Asphyxiation.
MJ: You’re saying that asphyxiation is chicken?
DALÍ: No, I’m talking about a chicken.
MJ: We already covered bestiality.
DALÍ: Yes but this is chicken with the neck held firmly in the drawer of the bureau—
MJ: Oh...I don’t want to know—
DALÍ: And then you do it with the chicken—
MJ: I told you, I don’t want to know—
DALÍ: And just as you ejaculate—
DALÍ: You slam the drawer shut, decapitating chicken—
MJ: Oh for God’s sake.
DALÍ: Causing in the chicken exquisite convulsions—spasms which—
MJ: I did not wish to hear this. Are you deaf?
DALÍ: (waits her out) Increase the pleasure.
She stares at him, defeated.
DALÍ: (pleads innocence) It is said. Now, don’t forget trepanning.
MJ: There’s more?
DALÍ: What ‘more’? There’s a whole universe.
MJ: Trepanning? Like—drilling a hole in the skull?
DALÍ: Decrease the pressure. Let the brain out. Let the body in.
MJ: This isn’t sex.
DALÍ: Have you forgotten? (Taps his skull) Sex is here. (Continuing:) Atlanteanism.
MJ: Say what?
MJ: What’s that? Underwater sex?
DALÍ: Occult sex, Mary Jane. The hidden rites. The sexual dance of eels, whose congress no man has ever seen.
MJ: (not sure) Eels hunh.
DALÍ: Vegetarian sex.
MJ: I know that one. Things you can do with a cucumber.
DALÍ: Dear me no. I mean the purification of the semen, through diet.
MJ: Got you.
DALÍ: Immemorialism. Sex with the blinds drawn and all clocks smashed, sex without light or time, without duration, without limits—
MJ: (a memory; taking Dalí’s hand) You can do that at the Holiday Inn.
DALÍ watches her stroke his hand, unmoved.
DALÍ: Frotticide. Death by masturbation. The prisoner’s last resort. Erotic excoriation, where you flay your partner alive. Sometimes you chew the skin. Necrophilia.
DALÍ raises MJ’s hand to his lips. She withdraws her hand first.
DALÍ: But necrophilia is not to be confused with cannibal sex, where flesh itself is the feast.
MJ: Well, you know a lot about sex, I’ll say that. Perversions anyway.
DALÍ: All are welcome—
MJ: (final thought) Obscene telephone calls?
DALÍ: —except the worst, the unacceptable perversion. Straight sex. No woman can respect a man who is a child, a man whose fetish is straight sex. Grow up! Discover history. Become a pervert and join the human race.
MJ: I think I’m in love with you.
DALÍ: Of course. But that’s just foreplay.
MJ: Leading to what?
MJ: I have to worship you?
DALÍ: As I you. Our love will be a four-buttock continuum, the expression of perfection on earth. I will wash your body in the alchemical saliva of my passion. You will be super-gelatinous all over, thanks to my special co-efficient of angelic viscosity.
MJ: That’s a little excessive, Sal. I like a bit of saliva—
DALÍ: You see?
MJ:—but does it have to be all over?
DALÍ: It’s how an artist makes love. We shall create a passion equal to the writings of Proust, which is to say that our love will be like a shrimp bisque, impressionistic, super-sensitive and quasi-musical.
MJ: I don’t like shrimp.
DALÍ: We’ll hold the shrimp. I shall lose myself in the luminous and Venetian corpuscles of your body. We shall live for ever. I say this in a scientific spirit and not merely as a poetical rapture. If we could only make our excrement as fluid as liquid honey our life would be extended indefinitely, because excrement, you see, is the thread of life, and each interruption, or fart, is a moment of life flying away.
MJ: I’m from Hoboken, Sal. (A moment.) I don’t think I want to spend my life on the toilet in the hope of living longer.
DALÍ: (to the audience) I had an aunt who lived in mortal fear of breaking wind. She claimed that she had never farted in her life. She understood that a fart is like when the Fates snip with the scissors and cut the thread of existence.
MJ: Sal.... what do you see in me? And who are you really, behind all this talk of how an artist makes love? Who are you, Sal, behind the mustache and the show-off bullshit? And why do you think you love me? You don’t know me, you just stalk me. You’re my celebrity stalker. Why? Why me?
DALÍ: You are Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s muse, reborn in America, waiting for me. You are America, the new-found-land, the body as illusion, delicious plastic. You are my filmy star. Marry me, Mary Jane.
MJ: I’m delicious plastic? You are crazy.
DALÍ: At our wedding the music will be the castration-torture of five hundred fifty-eight pigs against the sonorous background of three hundred motor-cycles with their motors revving, while live swans, filled with pomegranates, explode!—
MJ: (appalled) Oh please—
DALÍ:—registering stroboscopically the visceral lacerations of their half-alive physiology!
MJ: I guess you’re not an animal lover.
DALÍ: On the contrary, I love many animals. My favorite is filet of sole. Picture, against this background of exploding swans, our mystical and ammoniacal union—
MJ: Our maniacal union?
DALÍ: Ammoniacal, dear Mary Jane. Ammoniac. That faint scent of ammonia in our sweat, like the fermenting of a heavenly cheese—the cheese of our love.
MJ: The cheese of our love. (Shaking her head) The things you come out with. And what’s with your art, Sal? Everyone tells me it’s great. (Turning to the pictures above and behind them) But to me it looks sick. Weird and sick.
DALÍ: That’s good. Because if you had to choose two adjectives to describe our world, the world of Auschwitz and Hollywood, plastic surgery and genocide, which two adjectives would you choose?
MJ: But who wants weird and sick on their wall?
DALÍ: Better than in their closet.
MJ: I don’t know, Sal, I just wish I understood what they were trying to tell me. What’s that one about?
DALÍ: Is called Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing A Grand Piano.
MJ: Well, I can see that. Kinda. But why is a skull sodomizing a piano?
DALÍ: Isn’t a piano where the dead live? Beethoven, Bach, still infiltrating the keys when no-one’s looking?
MJ: The skull looks... well, the shape of it—
DALÍ: (interrupts) Is not entirely human. No, is a rhinoceros skull. I prefer the rhinoceros to the human being, so it is my compliment to the great composers.
MJ: If you say so. But why ‘sodomizing’?
DALÍ: Today an artist must confess the worst about himself, Mary Jane. He must confess his worst fears and, harder still, his worst desires, whether it is to spit on the portrait of his mother, or to sodomize his sister, or to eat his lover’s excrement.
MJ: Those are some of your desires?
DALÍ: I have nicer ones too. I save them for you.
MJ: Sal, you’re cute. You are. I liked you right away.
DALÍ: You never showed it. Eleven years now…
MJ: I’m not a fool, Sal. Even in New Jersey we know about not giving away your power. So yes, I like you, and life with you would not be dull, that’s for sure. I’ll be your Miss America. But all this stuff with sodomy and excrement ... I mean, I don’t want some kind of simpering romance, and I know not everyone can be Romeo and Juliet—
DALÍ: But they can! Of course they can! MJ, we are Romeo and Juliet, don’t you see? This is romantic love in the age of Hiroshima.
It’s too much for her: MJ cracks up, laughing.
MJ: You know, Sal, you’re a hoot. Tell me, what’s this one called?
DALÍ: That is entitled, Debris Of An Automobile Giving Birth To a Blind Horse Biting A Telephone.
MJ: What does it mean?
DALÍ: What does your nose mean?
MJ: My nose. You mean, the meaning’s right under my nose? It’s as plain as my nose?
DALÍ: Your nose is not plain. Is beautiful.
MJ: Well thank you. So... the automobile is replacing the horse—right? Which gets its revenge... by biting a telephone?
DALÍ: Mary Jane, you make too much sense. Leave to the dream what belongs to the dream. The goal of art is only this—to discredit as fully as possible the world of reality.
He gazes at the painting. So does she.
DALÍ: But yes... our mechanical civilisation will eat itself, in the end.
MJ: Are you really a genius, Sal? Or just a fraud with great technique and a hell of a lot of nerve? Because you want to know the truth, Sal? That’s pretty much what people say about you.
DALÍ: Yes—and I hope they continue to do it. Notice please that they say this about me, but not to me. To my face they treat me like a god. And this is not hypocrisy, Mary Jane. Is life. We have a choice, and it is the same choice for every one of us: you can be a person of whom people speak well… but treat like mierda, you understand? Like merde; like shit. Or you can be the person of whom people speak badly behind their back but to their face treat with respect. These are the only two kinds of human beings. The loathed but respected, and the liked but despised. Two tribes living beside each other in the jungle of civilized life, passing like shadows and pretending not to notice one another. But to answer your question, my dear, I am certainly not a fraud. I began by calling myself a genius to impress people, and ended up being one. You’d be surprised how easy this is. We all become what we proclaim. (Slipping an arm around her) Even if takes a long time... As when I proclaim myself to be your lover...
He kisses her shoulder, attempts to embrace her.
MJ: Quit it, Sal.
DALÍ: (continues kissing her) Even if I have to kidnap you…
MJ: (amused) You’re going to kidnap me?
DALÍ: Why do you think you are here?
MJ: Just try it. (Studying him, sighs) Somehow I don’t see myself taking you home, Sal. Here’s this famous artist, he thinks I’m Miss America.
DALÍ: (nuzzling her) Not Miss America. America.
MJ: That tickles. (She pushes him away coltishly) Not now, Sal. Quit it.
(Pointing to the shrouded canvas on the easel.) Aren’t you going to show me this painting? Is it a new one?
DALÍ: Is an old one, my angel. I painted it for you.
MJ: For me? You painted it for me?
DALÍ: You could say this. And now I bought it for you.
MJ: I don’t understand... you bought it back?
DALÍ: Exactly, yes. I bought it back. Was a man called Arnie Schwarz, from the Bronx, who had it. He got it from Hermann Goering. An interesting story. In exchange for a cyanide suicide pill, Goering gave this Arnie Schwarz my painting. If he was smart, Arnie would keep it. But he wants quick money now so he went to the auction houses, and when they told me, I bought it myself. To give to you. Originally I painted it for Goering and I gave it to him.
MJ: You said you painted it for me.
DALÍ: For both of you, my dear. I gave him the painting as a bribe. So he would keep you away from Hitler.
MJ: It was a bribe?
DALÍ: But he lied. He let you come to Hitler.
MJ: They were both douchebags, Sal. (Flirtatious) May I see my painting?
DALÍ: Now you like me again. Yes. You may see it.
He unveils the painting.
MJ: It’s Arthur—as my cat!
DALÍ: Yes, is called Midget In A Catsuit—can you see what he is doing?
MJ: And this here—these—these lines—
DALÍ: What do they look like to you?
MJ: Like a waterfall. (Hesitant) Is that me?
DALÍ: Of course is you. My waterfall. You are mine now, Dick. My Niagara.
A moment, then, tenderly:
MJ: Oh, Sal.
DALÍ: Yes, Dick Whittington. You have fallen into my trap.
MJ: (laughing) Is this our little perversion, Sal? Our own folie à deux?To reconstruct a pre-war pantomime? Are you so nostalgic for our young love?
DALÍ whistles, calling on his minions. Behind him the projected paintings turn to black and white cellar-wall images of rock
MJ: (still unimpressed) You’re not… naked beneath that trench coat, Sal?
Two rats enter and remove the painting and the easel.
DALÍ: Not quite, my dear.
He opens the trench coat, draws out a whip.
MJ: Ah, sado-masochism. Was that on our list?
DALÍ: (cracking the whip) Now – behave!
MJ: You’re so masterful, Sal.
She catches the whip and reels him in, spinning him until he is wrapped and roped, at her mercy.
MJ: (softly, to him) Now you’re mine.
DALÍ: (calling for help) Help me!
VOICES: (off) Dick! Dick! Are you all right?
MJ: (sweetly) You are my captive from now on. (Purring like a Shavian heroine) Mrauuu…
MRS SAUSAGEMACHER and LAZY JACK enter, STAGE LEFT with one of the rats on a rope. From the other side of the stage, the CAT comes on, leading the remaining captive rats.
ALL: Hail Dick Whittington, slayer of rats! Hail Tommy his cat, prince of ratters! Hail Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor of London! Hail! Hail! Hail!
The cast moves towards a portrait-grouping as for a final curtain-call tableau, with DALÍ/KING RAT and his minions tumbled into a defeated pile upon which TOMMY sits gloating.
MJ/DICK strikes a hunting-trophy pose with one foot on DALÍ/KING RAT’s head, and MRS SAUSAGEMACHER and LAZY JACK crowd in as for a team photograph.
As they move into these positions and just before they achieve the applause-begging tableau, the same voice as in the first scene comes clearly but tinnily from the public address system (or ‘tannoy’ as it would have been called, at the period), disbanding the actors and preventing audience applause. For an instant, after the voice comes, the cast creates the tableau nonetheless, briefly ignoring instructions.
VOICE: That’s okay, we’ll run the curtain calls tomorrow, thank you cast, well done, dress run two p.m. tomorrow don’t forget, keep the energy up please, but get some good rest, notes in the green room in twenty minutes, thank you everybody...
During this (and any appropriate ad libs from the VOICE… please everyone for the last time watch out for Tommy’s tail, you step on it and he walks off and rips the costume beyond repair your salary will pay for the replacement…) the cast break away from the very briefly held tableau, wearily yet at the same time energized by performance, and begin to take off their costumes. This may be the first time we see the real face of PROFESSOR SIR ARTHUR MIDGET.
Now follows a further ad-lib passage – its tone and quality introduced by the ad-libbing VOICE on the ‘tannoy’ system – in which, as they undress, the cast exchange remarks about the performance and any close calls or humorous misadventures during the show, along with requests to play it differently or provide quicker or slower cues at the next performance.
As the cast approach nakedness, the ad-libbed conversations morph from the seemingly harmless – They said to be sure to remember where we put our clothes – What about all the things in our pockets? – What things? – Valuables – Do you think they’ll be stolen while we’re in the showers? –
… into the chillingly ominous: They promised us coffee afterwards – Coffee?! – And you believed them? – Since when did the SS make coffee for Jews? – Maybe just this once? – Some coffee they’ll give us – I don’t care, I’m dying for a cup of something hot, no matter what it tastes like – what you need is a shower, I can tell you that – You think you don’t stink like a sewer rat after two days in the cattle trucks? – Two days? We came a week, from Galicia – Ten days, from Crete – You’re from Crete? There are Jews everywhere —You know who you look like? Baruch Spinoza! Look everyone, the philosopher Spinoza has come to join us – Welcome, philosopher!
No change of lighting from the previous scene.
Until a blueness slowly fills the air.
All- the whole cast—are now naked, shivering. Gazing up, waiting for the shower heads to send down water.
All surround SPINOZA, who speaks, as the air goes blue and they mime the dreadful rites of asphyxiation, trying to climb on each other to get higher and find the last threads of air, clawing at each other, screaming (silently), tearing, crushing each other.
SPINOZA is the tree they are trying to climb.
SPINOZA: No-one remembers as we do. No-one but I and a few others, a select few... lived... that were there in the blue light of the gas. And the screaming, oh the screaming.
They fight on, to the death. After the terrible rending struggle, they begin to fall, gasping, dying, to the floor.
It takes a while. Music ends.
At last, when SPINOZA stands alone among the naked dead, slowly, quietly, in terrible calm:
SPINOZA: What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
SPINOZA: (sings, as MJ did in Scene 1, but faintly and with numb despair instead of cutesy-ness, and as if possessed by memory:)
Tommy the tomcat
Knows ‘is Spinozies
His rosies from his rosies from his rosies
‘Cos when he lies his nose is
Redder than a rose is
And his Spinozies fall quite flat
His Spinozies fall quite flat
(aside) And that’s bad for a cat
His Spinozies fall quite flat.
The doors open behind him. All we see is a blinding light. Through it comes a man in uniform. He gazes at the corpses, then sees SPINOZA.
Comes slowly to him, speechless.
Long pause as they stare at each. Finally:
KAPO: You were in here?
KAPO: You survived?
SPINOZA: It seems that way.
KAPO: No-one survives.
SPINOZA: What about you?
KAPO: I’m a Kapo. I come in afterwards, to clean up. (He starts to undress.) Here, put on my clothes. They’ll think you’re a Kapo too.
Under his Kapo uniform, the KAPO has long, dirty winter underwear and a long-sleeved vest, equally dirty.
SPINOZA stands holding the KAPO’s uniform.
SPINOZA: But your clothes... how will you explain...
KAPO: I’ll think of something.
SPINOZA still standing, unable to move.
KAPO: Come on, man. D’you want to go through this again?
They gaze at each other.
SPINOZA: Are you God?
SPINOZA: Are you sure?
KAPO: I’m the chief Kapo. I’m God around here.
SPINOZA puts on the KAPO’s uniform pants and top.
SPINOZA: You were on the train with me.
KAPO: You’re mistaken. Now come on, help me drag the bodies out.
While the KAPO starts to drag the bodies out one by one, SPINOZA addresses the audience.
SPINOZA: That’s how I became a Kapo. It was a job that would turn your heart to stone, if it wasn’t stone already. I was sorry that God had to see it. To know that his plan included this. Of course, God takes the long view. You’d have to, if you were God.
SPINOZA: And after something like this you’d want to lie low, for a while. Many people wanted to put God on trial. For such people, the trial took place in their heart. God was found guilty of permitting the ultimate horror; or perhaps simply for permitting one horror too many, he was sentenced to death. No more God. Witnesses were not called.
SPINOZA: And yet…we’re still here, among you. The witnesses.
SPINOZA: I could have told the court that, like me, God would survive. You see, there has to be a reason for this. God is that reason. The human race always needs someone to take the blame.
The KAPO has dragged all the bodies out except two. As he returns to take the last ones, SPINOZA joins him and together they drag the last two bodies offstage, as the lights slowly fade.♦