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The Doctor - Libretto

The Doctor

Libretto by T.F. Curley
Adapted from Byungkoo Ahn’s version of Chekov’s ‘The Doctor’

Stage is almost bare. There are two doors facing each other. One is on UR facing CL, and the other door is on CL facing the other door. UR door is used as a door in between the drawing room and the outside the house. CL door is used as a door in between the Boy’s room and the drawing room. In between the doors there are a chair and a bed in which the Boy is sleeping. There is another chair right next to CL door. Down stage area is used as the drawing room, and center and back stage area is used as the Boy’s room most of the time. Later, when the scene becomes the graveyard scene, the doors disappear. Then when the scene returns to the house scene, the doors appear again.
The clock tick-tocks, and the bell tolls eight times.
Curtain goes up. There is a period of wordlessness.
The Woman is standing by the imaginary window on DR, and the Man is sitting on the chair by the Boy’s bed. The Boy lies in bed with each hand over an ear and intermittently makes sounds suggesting “please, please, please”. The Man leans forward as if trying to hear. The Woman hears nothing. Soon after the bell stops tolling, the Man gets up and walks out through the CL door as if he were leaving the Boy’s room, and moves into the drawing room where the Woman is. The Man sits on the chair in the drawing room. The Woman stands by the window, rigid, not sobbing.
Without him I am nothing; he is my life, my being, ... if he dies.
(She breaks off, weeping. The bell stops. The Man gets up, walks thru the CL door, and out of the Boy’s room into the drawing room where the Woman stands.)
Vulgar, stupid, brainless, and then ...
Between past and future an impassable gulf.
He was born. To the Foundling Hospital?
Yes. No father, a stupid mother. Yes,
That’s what I thought. No. I did not think,
What am I now? A mother.
Without him, what am I? Nothing.
Between past and future an impassable ...
With him, a mother, without him ...?
And if he dies, can I live?
(She speaks to the Man)
You are silent, but I do not despair
Do not, do not, do not
I was nothing then – nothing, nothing, nothing
I am a Mother now, I can hope.
Yes, hope, for him, his life, his be ...
(Her voice falters, she turns toward the Man.)
Why are you silent?
(Sits with eyes closed, his face without expression.)
Must we despair? Nothing is certain, nothing.
He has a tumor on the brain. Such cases are always fatal.
(Speaks very slowly, as if in prayer.)
Always? Always? Nothing is ...
No, no, nothing is certain.
Why always? How?
Always? Nothing is ...
Listen Olga, spare me a moment’s attention, I must ask ...
(Pause. He closes his eyes)
Never mind, you can’t listen now, I'll come back later.
(Woman continues to weep. Man goes into the Boy’s room. While Man talks to the Boy, the Woman talks to herself.)
Misha, does your head ache?
Not a sound. All day long, never complains, never cries.
Misha ...
I keep dreaming.
What do you dream?
Can nothing be done? Nothing? Nothing is certain. Nicolai, you are a doctor, surely you ...
I keep dreaming the same dream. It fills my head. It never stops. It hurts, it hurts, hurts. It always hurts.
My treasure, my hope, my life.
(Woman sobs, a wordless wail.)
(Holding his head)
Please, please, please.
Olga, Olga.
(Sound of music. The Woman goes into the Boy’s room, the Man goes to the Boy’s imaginary grave. The Boy gets up, walks toward the grave. The doors disappear. Man carries lilies to the grave.)
(Speaking together but not to each other.)
A dead son is not a son A treasure destroyed is not a treasure.
A son yet not a son A wrong A loss.
The impassable gulf between life and death.
A shadow A shadow of a shadow.
No light No shadow A gulf of darkness.
Loss Absence No father No mother.
No son Better a Foundling Hospital.
A child without a name Better that
Than love lost Lost in that gulf
Between life and death Impassable.
Nothing Dark Dark Dark Always.
The unutterable Dark
I am nothing but a mother.
I was vulgar, stupid, brainless.
Between the present and the past, a gulf ...
You are in sorrow, I share it. Such sorrow makes falsehood criminal. Do you still say the Boy is my son? Is the gulf so dark you do not know the truth? For once in your life be true. Is he my son?
He is.
(The Man cries out.)
Your son is dying and still you lie. Two other men admit their fatherhood of him. Have you no shame!
(The Boy disappears into the ground. Woman goes back to window in tears. Man goes back into drawing room. Doors are back in position.)
(Addresses Woman threateningly)
You wretched Woman! You are still lying
As you lied nine years ago. Think you must lie
Or I will not give you money.
Your lying sticks in my throat.
(Pause. The bell tolls twice. He looks at her, shakes his head, saddened by her sorrow.)
What have I said! Olga, darling, forgive me.
I was so hurt I wanted to hurt you.
I love you so! Please, please, tell me the truth.
I forgive any unfaithfulness
If only I can know the truth.
Nikolai, I am not lying. Misha is your child.
God, Olga. How can you? I have your letter to Petrov. You call him a father to Misha.
(Shakes her head no even as she sobs.)
I had no Man. Only the Boy, only the Boy.
I will come tomorrow.
How can I show you?
It can not be that I am ...
That I am father of the dead.
(He goes out of the drawing room as the bell tolls three times. The Woman continues to weep. He crosses stage DR to DL. Alone.)
I cannot make her understand my grief.
My son cannot die like this.
I am not father of the dead.
I am not father of the dead.
She must understand that.
But how, how, how. . .
The boy, only the boy
Ghost Boy:
Life and the dream. The dream… never, never, ever the hurt
Never, ever hurting. Ever, never