- FLORELA, spirited, impulsive, intelligent young woman
- RICARDO, steadfast friend to Florela and Alejandro
- ALEJANDRO, Florela’s impetuous, somewhat neurotic, handsome fiancé
- CAMACHO, a young man of quicksilver energy, a messenger, fool, and trickster
- LAURA, confident, poised, intelligent young woman of slightly giddy, neurasthenic energy
- FINEA, her plainspoken confidante
- PARIS, Laura’s charming, ardent suitor, a dandy in the Wilde-an sense with rock star energy
- ESTACIO, his loyal assistant
- DUCHESS (of Ferrara), Laura’s mother, sly and elegant, a gracious politician
- A world of mirrors and transformation.
- Simple, elegant and somewhat ornate in design.
- A playing area that is open, but can suddenly become obscured.
- There is the possibility of magic here and of getting lost.
While anchored in a classical world, the approach to playing should be fresh, immediate, bold, and contemporary. This play is in the now.
Enter Florela and Ricardo.
I will kill myself.
What use has reason in love?
Love has no reason.
Give me your knife.
So I can plunge it straight into my heart.
Forget him, Florela.
That’s not possible, Ricardo.
Because he…took advantage of me…he lied to me.
Alejandro’s hardly the first man to lie in love.
Nor will he be the last,
Is that what you mean?
I only mean—
He swore he’d marry me, Ricardo. And now he wants to marry her.
It’s outrageous. I know.
It’s shameful. That’s what it is.
I give him my body and soul, and he gives me…lies.
Men tend to break their promises
once they have satisfied their desires.
Are you defending him now?
I speak true. That’s all.
Would you rather I lie to you?
I’d rather there was a way I could stop him from pursuing her.
If his desire for marriage
Were only driven by love,
I’m sure we could find a way to stop him,
But there is the matter of his
Coming into quite a bit of money
If he does manage to marry Laura.
Her poor mother is desperate to marry her off before she dies;
If not, she’ll lose her inheritance.
Do you mean to say—?
Alejandro will go to Ferrara
To seek his fortune,
As well as a wife.
And a pretty wife too, am I right?
Rumor has it.
Rumor has it she’s witty too, is that true?
I’m afraid to say…Laura is Ferrara’s shining star.
But is she…smart?
She’s not your equal;
In matters of learning,
But she holds her own well enough.
I’d like to see her.
I’d like to meet a beautiful and intelligent woman like her.
Whatever it is you’re thinking of doing, it won’t end well.
I’m not thinking of anything.
I’m just afraid she’ll fall in love with him, that’s all;
Alejandro can be very charming.
He’s not the only one who’s courting her.
She may not end up with him in the end.
Let’s leave this now;
We’ll speak no more about it.
All I ask is that you help me.
To do what?
Will you help me, Ricardo?
Of course. As long as you stay here.
If Alejandro is going off to
Seek his fortune in Ferrara;
I’ve no choice but to follow.
Fall out of love, Florela.
You are an intelligent woman,
With a blazing gift for poetry,
Astronomy, and philosophy.
You’ve outshone the brightest of scholars, haven’t you?
Well, then, temper love’s fury.
Find solace in your own talents,
Your own gifts,
Your own radiant beauty.
What is it all good for?
What has all the learning in the world made me fit for?
Love’s riddles cannot be solved with books.
I can’t stop loving him (as the song goes).¹
And after what he’s done to me,
I won’t just stand by and watch while
He marries another.
And if he finds you in Ferrara?
Let him find me. I’m not afraid of him.
I fear nothing, not even death.
Think of what people will say!
Let them say what they like.
You’ll be the stuff of rumor and gossip.
They can cackle all they want about me,
The loose tongues and the scolding eyes
With their noses pinched in disapproval.
Let them be heard for miles. They can’t destroy me
Nothing they can say will destroy me.
But to lose him—
Yes, that would…
I must stop that marriage.
What will I—?
Tell them I had to go to Loreto.
On a spiritual quest.
I will keep your secret. I promise.
You’re a good friend, Ricardo.
(What good it does me.)
Will you check to see if he’s gone yet?
Right away. …Heaven help you.
I’ll need all the help I can get.
Just keep your wits about you;
You’ll do fine.
Ricardo walks away.
Fine, he says.
May his gracious heart be true,
For I am headlong in pursuit.
Alejandro enters, followed by Ricardo.
She can chase me all over town
If she likes,
As long as she doesn’t
Follow me to Ferrara.
I think that wherever you go,
She’s bound to follow.
She’s a woman in love.
Love sharpens one’s senses.
Hers have always been sharp.
You see what I mean?
Well, she’s not to follow me another step
Do you understand?
You’re out of love, then?
It’s not that I don’t love Florela.
I love her as I love myself.
Circumstance is to blame. That’s all.
How was I to know I’d be faced with having to choose
Between two very different women?
One of them, my equal in most things,
Except class, which is a drawback, I admit,
Though I suppose I could live with it;
But what really gets me about Florela
Is that she is too clever by half—
Really, she makes me feel quite stupid sometimes.
I don’t cherish feeling like a dim-witted fool
Next to her shining brilliance,
As much as I admire it.
(And there is much to admire in Florela. I admit that.)
On the other hand there’s Laura:
Who is not only modest and charming,
But graced with a radiant, classical beauty.
Do you see my dilemma?
It’s as clear as day,
Especially when you consider
That whoever marries Laura
Will come into quite a fortune.
But such considerations are not part of love’s design.
You should let your passions hold sway
And not merely your ambition.
I owe it to myself to seek what is best for me.
Florela can cry all she wants to (as the song goes).²
I’m off to Ferrara. Nothing, not even her tears, can stop me.
(Off) A message from Ferrara, sir!
We’ve been waiting for you. Come in!
(Enters on bicycle) I can see your Excellency
Was expecting a more distinguished emissary from the court;
Well, I’m afraid you’ll have to make do
With this sweaty mass of aching bones before you.
Camacho’s the name, if you must know. Plain ol’ Camacho.
Don’t think you would have known my family. Not your type.
But we’re all the same in the end, eh?
When to dust we are turned, it doesn’t matter what family we came from.
We’re dust all the same. Isn’t that right?
Not that I am reaching the end of my days just yet…
Figure of speech, you understand, turn of phrase.
I sure am thirsty.
You wouldn’t be able to spare a drink for a kindly messenger?
I was in such a hurry to find this wretched place
I haven’t had a drop. That’s the truth.
I haven’t had a bit of rest.
You’ll have plenty of time to rest after I’m gone.
Oh, you’re feeling poorly?
I’d hate to think you’re reaching the end of your days.
What are you talking about?
I haven’t said a thing.
Have I said anything, Ricardo?
My mistake, then.
It’s good to know you’re all right. Good to know you’re in your prime.
Yes. The letter, Camacho.
May I have the letter?
You can have whatever you want
As long as you let me rest.
I tell you, I have pushed myself to the limit,
Do you understand? To the max, as they say.
By the way, I will need a new pair of shoes.
These are absolutely wrecked.
I tore them, you see, on my way here,
So technically they’re your responsibility;
Well, not technically
But in actuality, actually.
Good pair of shoes, too. Really liked them.
Had them for years. Trusty pair.
And now? Wrecked. You see my dilemma?
It isn’t right. A man needs his shoes.
They mark your place in the world.
What’s a man without shoes?
A man without a sole. That’s the truth.
Sorry state for any man. Pitiable, sorry state, if you must know
Christ, my ass hurts!
No polite way to say it, I’m afraid
(And what does politeness get us anyway?
Smiles and hypocrisy. Not much else that I know.)
I broke my ass riding that shitty bicycle.
Being a messenger isn’t what it used to be, that’s for sure.
In the old days…so I’ve heard…
Messengers had luck on their side,
And plenty of comforts.
What comforts do I have?
Thirst, hunger and a broken ass.
(Reading letter) I can’t believe this.
Believe every bit of it.
Nothing but the truth in that letter.
(Oh, I gave it a look a bit earlier.
Had to do something on the road.)
Everyone is after our dear Laura.
No surprise, really.
She’s a beautiful woman.
And her mother, the duchess,
Could meet her Maker any second.
I wouldn’t give her more than a few days myself
I don’t mean to be indiscreet; I’m just telling it how I see it.
No harm intended, if you know what I mean.
There are plenty of men interested in Laura.
I can’t think of a man who isn’t.
Men of wealth and prestige, too.
Laura has her pick. That’s the truth.
She’s in a quite a position.
Why, if I wasn’t so tired,
So damn hungry, and thirsty and wrecked
By my travels,
I could tell you about all the different kinds of men
That are after our dear Laura
(and she is dear. Oh how dear she is.
If I wasn’t who I am;
In my station, as you see,
I, too, would pursue Laura. Make no mistake.)
But such as it is, I can only tell you about…
Well now, I’ve forgotten.
See? I’m so exhausted I can’t even tell things straight.
That’s the burden of the job I’m in.
Lapses of memory. One day I won’t remember anything.
…No, wait, there is someone.
Yes. Yes. Someone indeed. Marseilles.
Well, which is it?
Is it Paris or Marseilles?
Paris, of course. What kind of stupid name is Marseilles?
I did not say Marseilles.
You must be hearing things, sir.
It’s not a good sign to hear things.
Once the senses start to go, well…
No polite way to say it, but it’s straight to the crapper.
Shit hole in the earth, bone-yard, grave, you get my meaning?
Best watch yourself, or you won’t even get to Ferrara
To meet our beautiful Laura.
Not at this rate.
I’m fine, Camacho.
Glad to hear it. Young, handsome devil like you:
It’d be shame if you were out of circulation.
So, his name…this suitor…
Yes. Paris. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.
He’s a very smart fellow.
Always has the latest fashion on. Well-groomed too.
He’s a real hit with the ladies.
And after Paris, there’s Leonardo the Frenchman,
Balduino the Italian, Octavio, Lisandro, and….
That’s enough. You’re depressing me.
I’m just telling the truth.
Yes, well…some truths are…
Not worth hearing.
I’ll go to Ferrara,
And when I arrive, those who fawn over Paris
Might just find themselves fawning over me.
I’m worth it, after all.
You’ve cash on you?
Then you’ll be fine.
It always takes a bit of cash
To get people on your side.
Clever fellow, aren’t you? Where are you from?
A sus ordenes, se~nor.
Just a lowly messenger. That’s me.
I work for old Clarindo.
He hired me after I left University.
I earned my bachelor’s degree,
But what good does it do me?
Everybody’s gone to University these days.
The world is populated with graduates
Who don’t have a pot to piss in.
Sorry to be blunt, but that’s the truth, sir.
Nothing but fancy degrees in our pockets,
And no proper jobs to speak of.
Would you like to work for me?
Ol’ Clarindo wouldn’t mind watching me go.
That’s the truth. He’s never had much real use for me.
Then, it’s settled. Let’s go.
About my salary…
Don’t worry. There will be plenty of perks.
Heaven knows I could use some perks.
I haven’t had a perk in a good long while,
If you know what I mean?
Yes, sir. It’s a miracle.
I don’t know what it is,
But they’re cured all of sudden.
Wonder of the world, eh?
If Florela comes looking for me,
Tell her that wherever Laura is,
that’s where she can find me.
Exit Alejandro and Camacho in one direction, Ricardo in another.
Enter Laura and Finea.
I’m not going to find anyone who can please me.
I don’t see why not.
I do. I see it all too well, Finea. I just can’t put it into words.
I’ve never known you to be shy.
But there are too many men, Finea.
So many men…
To have all these men chasing after me
Just makes me want to be alone.
Besides, I’ve never taken to men
Whose interest in me
Had more to do with my mother’s wealth
Than with my honest love.
What do you expect?
You’re never going to find
Someone who’s truly worthy of you.
Such a man doesn’t exist.
It’s best if you concentrate
On who you really want.
Let desire guide you.
You’ll have more fun that way.
Anyway, being rich
Isn’t such a bad thing,
(what I wouldn’t give…)
So, who is it that gets your heart racing?
Is it Paris? Is it? Come on. Admit it. He’s a looker.
He’s handsome. Yes.
Rumor has it he’s your favorite.
Rumor has it wrong. I don’t have a favorite.
Every time I see someone whom I think
“Well, maybe, he’s the one,”
I can see their eyes
Sparkling with lust
For my mother’s estate.
You want romance, eh?
You’re such a softie.
I’m not excessively tenderhearted.
You can’t stand the idea of marriage
As a simple business transaction,
Which is what it is, after all.
No. You’d rather be wooed and won.
What of it?
I’ll not give any man my heart
Until he shows me he deserves it.
I need to be loved for who I am
And nothing more.
My happiness depends upon it.
Florela appears, somewhat disguised.
(Aside) Your happiness and mine.
Dear lady, you don’t know me
But I’ve traveled far
to get a mere glimpse of your beauty,
and be able to delight,
in your wit.
I hope you will see fit
To allow me the honor of your presence,
If only for a moment.
A moment and more
If you continue to please me with such exquisite words.
I’ll do my best to please you.
Would you give me your hand?
Only my hand?
Were I the sun,
I would give you my rays,
For I could never compete
With the light that shines
So gently from your eyes.
Please, don’t say such things,
For it is I who am humbled by your radiant beauty.
I beg you: please, don’t look at me,
For if you do, I’ll have to look away,
Or else let myself be blinded by your splendor.
Everything I’ve heard is true:
You’re nothing short of a miracle.
Such kind words from such a kind person…
You must be wondering who I am.
I can’t say I’m not curious,
For that would be a lie,
And I do not care for lies.
Nor do I.
We’re in agreement.
Good. I like that we think alike.
Tell me everything about you.
There’s nothing much to tell.
I was on my way to Loreto
When I came upon your door.
I’d heard so much about you,
I couldn’t go on without seeing you
With my own eyes.
My story is small,
And insignificant in the world’s grand design.
But there it is:
I’m merely a woman,
Loyal and true,
Who would like to serve you,
If you’ll let me.
You see, I am noble of heart, but not of blood.
And your name…?
Only your humble servant. Nothing more.
And you’re not otherwise engaged?
If I were, would I offer myself so freely?
I thought you were on your way to Loreto.
I was. I am. But…things change.
As the moon changes?
You’ll find me true. I promise you.
My changeable being is only reflected in my name: Diana.
Everything else about me is fixed,
And anchored to you.
I am your ship, then?
If you like.
Stay with me.
If you do,
I’ll offer you all that I have:
my very self.
I don’t know how to thank you.
I came here in hope that I could serve you,
But to have my hope become a reality
Is a true blessing.
I promise I’ll do my very best.
I’ve no doubt.
Indeed, I think you’ll find me more than capable.
For I’ve gifts that—
Your cleverness will
Make you a most valued friend.
I could also be your secretary, if you wish.
I am fluent in several languages,
And my wit is known to be quite keen.
Your talents are clear.
In fact, I’d like you to help me.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but
I’m facing quite a difficult decision
In my life right now,
I need the guidance of someone I can trust,
Someone who is impartial to my circumstances,
And who can be absolutely discreet.
Do you understand?
You see, my mother is obsessed
With marrying me off before she dies.
She means well. Make no mistake.
She’s had men come here from all over
And letters arrive every day as well.
Oh. You know. Love letters.
Oh. Yes. Hundreds of them.
Of course. Who else?
They’re sweet, most of them. You know, the usual stuff:
“I can’t wait to meet you, I dream about you…”
On and on and on.
But some, well,
—How can I put it?—
Some write rather shocking and inappropriate things.
Not my style, really.
So, I’m not sure how to reply.
I mean, I should reply, right?
Well…it depends on the letter…
I just need someone I can count on. You see?
You must guide me, Diana;
You must guide me, like a star,
Through this labyrinth,
So I can make the decision of my life.
It’d be an honor to do whatever I can to guide you.
I’ve heard of your dilemma.
I even know some of the men involved;
Know of them, I should say. Their reputation precedes them.
Of course, you’ll need help replying to letters and the like.
I’ll be happy to handle your correspondence.
Whatever you need, you can count on my discretion.
I trust you won’t be shy about giving me
Your advice as I consider my options.
Not at all. I’m nothing, if not forthright.
And we’ll talk for hours and hours, yes?
Whatever you wish.
It’ll be good to talk
And distract ourselves
From sorting through all these suitors,
All these men…
They’re such a bore.
That’s because none of them are worthy of you.
There will be one who is, though. I’m sure of it.
Oh, would you just look at them?
They’re so delicious.
What are you going on about?
The men, Florela. The men.
They’re all out on the terrace! See?
[The suitors—Paris with Estacio, Ricardo as Infante, Alejandro with Camacho, etc.—can be seen as if on a fashion runway. All strut and pose. A blast of David Bowie’s “All the Young Dudes” or the like plays. Once they’ve made their exit…]
What do you think, Diana?
It’s your choice.
I’ll have whomever you think is worthy.
It’d help me if you could tell me
What you were looking for.
You know what I want.
You know me.
Well, not really…
Yes, you do.
Your wishes are my wishes. Don’t you see?
Dear Diana, from now on my life will revolve
Around our friendship and love.
Then, as Diana, I am moon to your sun.
Whatsoever shines in me is merely a reflection
Of your beauty and constancy.
And whatsoever shines in you
Is testament to my happiness,
For you have restored my faith in life again.
Laura and Finea walk away; Florela stays behind for a moment.
(Aside) Oh Alejandro,
The moon will come crashing upon the earth
Before you ever marry Laura.
¹ The song “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was a hit for Ray Charles and other singers. Throughout the text there are references to other pop songs that inform the world and emotional register of this piece.
² The song “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To)” was a U.S. pop hit for Lesley Gore.