Act III, Scene 1
The Oracle – now called Suringar Singh – is wearing a purple boxer-type robe labeled in gold with name “Suringar Singh” with initials SS below, in the shape like the Nazi SS. Towel draped over her head, she comes up the aisle, clenching her left fist with raised arm like a boxer, but riding a Segway with a rolling-skating individual dressed like a Curler in the Olympics brushing the way before her with a broom. Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” tune playing as she processes toward the stage. Attendants help her up the steps to the stage. They bring the Segway up and place it behind the table, stage left. SS works the room full of miitary brass, with a cameraman following her every move. Flat screen TVs descend from stage left, stage right and center stage, with the results of the filming being shown on the screens. The military men and women are giving obeisance to her. She shakes hands with Chief of Staff Billy Sol Weston, as though congratulating him on the coup d’etat. She sits down behind the table, and the press are seated before her as at a press conference. The military brass are sitting at the table around her, with MPs standing on either side with sidearms.
The cold rain is gone
Blinding dark clouds bring sunshine
What can it ever mean?
– SS, With thanks to Jimmy Cliff
The tweet slowly dissolves, with a new one taking its place.
Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don’t find out til too late that he’s been playing with two queens all along.
– Terry Pratchett
The quote tweet dissolves with a final one appearing
Tweets completed, she puts the phone down and live coverage continues.
SS: First question
She points at a reporter in the front row.
REPORTER 1: Where is the President right now, and are you in touch with him?
SS (thinks for a couple seconds, shrugs, shakes her head, and mutters: Dunno. Next question?
(SS fires up an electronic cigarette, with the same scene of Bob Dylan lighting a cigarette in interview with Time Magazine.
REPORTER 2: Are you the Messiah – the second coming of Christ?
SS (thinks for a moment): I think of myself as a song and dance man (flash of young Dylan saying that to the press plays after SS says that line). By the nature of your question, you apparently have me confused with John Lennon.
SS snaps her fingers and the 30 seconds of John trying to explain what he meant about The Beatles being more popular with youth than Jesus comes on the screen. Video ends and the screen returns to live coverage of the press conference.
REPORTER 3: If you’re not the Messiah, how is it these leaders of our military are following your instructions?
SS stares at the reporter – then the assemblage – then the audience for multiple seconds. Then she begins to speak, with the strains of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” tune without lyrics in the background.
SS: (carefully extinguishing the electronic cigarette), and looking up at the Reporter. I am not to blame: you are. You – the press, Reality TV, Tea Party Republican primary winners and televangelists are the source of the death of your country, through the generation of fear.
Television screen flashes in red the word FEAR, with SS’s Iphone playing the claxon ring tone. She picks up the phone, and changes the ring tone to the marimba standard tone.
REPORTER 4 (patronizing and sarcastic): Could you explain how…
The reporter looks at his notes in his little reporter notebook.
REPORTER 4: How Reality TV, Tea Party primary winners, televangelists and us ..we .. um the press..’killed’ the United States?
The It’s Too Late tune grows a little louder, and the words “But it’s too late baby, now it’s too late” are heard. A photo of the Tapestry album cover briefly flashes on the screen. Then the volume goes down again. Everyone is looking expectantly at SS.
SS ignores the reporter and his question. She rises from the table and climbs on the Segway. She rides it around the stage. As she rides, the reporters take their chairs and leave, stage right. The military men take the tables and chairs and exit stage left. Only the two MPs are still there standing guard. SS stops in the middle of the stage, pointing the Segway towards the audience. She alights from the Segway and addresses the audience. It looks like a town hall meeting, modeled on the old Phil Donahue Show, with a tech running to each speaker with a microphone, a scank mic on his own head. He puts a card on each of them as they speak.
SS addresses the audience and talks to individuals. Heckler 1, Heckler 2 and Heckler 3 are actors planted in the back, middle and front rows, respectively.
SS: Since its declaration of independence in 1776, the United States of America has served as a beacon of hope for all the oppressed peoples of the world. “Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Emma Lazarus wrote those words 138 year ago, paying homage to the Statue of Liberty and everything America stood for. But on September 12, 2001, the lamp beside the golden door dimmed and was extinguished. With the complicity of a frightened nation, the leaders of these United States betrayed everything this country stood for. The result?
Pictures of each item flash as SS states them as a set of rap lyrics.
(SS shakes her head, sadly)
SS: And why? Fear.
(Red sign flashes softly, blinking the word).
Hip hop style lyricism continues
SS: Inchoate, blind, irrational fear. The mightiest country on earth – the last superpower – laid low by 19 Middle Eastern men who thought they were on a mission from God (flashes a picture of the Blues Brothers). Did you really believe…
HECKLER #1, sitting in the back row: Excuse me … excuse me..
Tech runs over and puts the card around her neck that says Heckler #1.
HECKLER #1: Did you say Pee Tee Ess Dee? What is this Pee Tee Es Dee? Is that like the PTA? I was the secretary of the Lincoln Elementary PTA in Cedar Falls for fifteen years. We did a lot of good for those children. You can’t stand up there and criticize the PTA.
MP #1: Uh, ma’am, she said PTSD. That’s post traumatic stress disorder. I suffer from that myself after 4 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The symptoms are flashbacks of combat, nightmares, depression and difficulty sleeping. I take four psychotropic medications daily just to be able to function.
SS pauses as though thinking.
SS: Maybe I can use social media to help you understand.
Security is an illusion…
Truth tellers will be arrested, imprisoned or killed…
Doomsday preppers are always preparing for whatever isn’t going to be the one that comes…
The fight or flight instinct is sharpened when there are too many people and too few resources…
Darwin is alive and well, fully functional in the little time you have left.
Young man stands up from the middle of the audience. He shouts, Hey, woman!
Video tech runs over and puts Heckler #2 card on man, with that written on both sides of the card for audience in front and back of actor.
HECKLER #2:You call yourself an oracle? Did you see things comin’ that really matter? The nuclear war in the Middle East five years ago? Russia’s invasion of Austria and Germany? The winner of last month’s Kentucky Derby? I didn’t see any Tweets from Hashtag Oracle predicting that stuff! Humph…
Pause with a slight grin.
Heckler #2, red-fraced, sits down muttering.
The oracle stands looking straight ahead, as though in a trance. Heckler #3 stands up in the front row center. The tech runs over to put the card on him that says Heckler #3. But the Heckler brushes him off, takes the card and puts it on himself. He stares at SS.
After a full 30 seconds of staring, building the tension for the audience – essentially, wondering which of the two characters will speak first, They engage in the following conversation.
SS: Hey, how’ya doin’?
Heckler #3: I’m doin’ OK. But there’s some stuff I just don’t get about …
There’s a long pause while the actor appears to struggle to find the right words…
Heckler #3: About all this.
SS: Well, let’s see if I can help you understand. You look like an intelligent fellow – let’s rap, as they used to say back in the 70’s.
Heckler #3: That’s cool. OK – first thing – if I ask you a question, you’re gonna answer in iambic pentameter, right?
SS: I shall respond in my fashion, but with words you are most likely to understand.
Heckler #3: OK, first then – you say you aren’t a messiah or the second coming, and yet these military guys were willing to behave outrageously, just based on something you told them. What is the source of this power of yours?
SS: Any power I have comes to me from far beyond. Everything is fixed and I can’t change it.
Heckler #3: But this act of theirs at your behest has upset the natural order of things. It’s just not right to go around trying to kill the President. And now the poor guy won’t come back to work. Don’t you feel bad about that?
SS points her arm at the MPs and military men standing in the corner…
SS: ..have dared to put asunder this diseased, corrupt and useless institution we call the government.
HECKLER #3 (beginning to get frustrated): So then what is to take its place? Don’t we have to have some form of government to prevent anarchy?
HECKLER #3: I was a Tea Party Republican, and I liked the idea of a significant reduction in the size and scope of government. But when the money guys came in, I got turned off to the whole thing. You know what I mean?
SS: I understand…
She hesitates and then nods her head as though making up her mind about something…
SS: Why don’t you come up here? I can’t see you very well because of the brightness of the light.
HECKLER #3 comes up to the stage. He is dressed like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now. The MP brings him a straight-backed chair to sit on, next to SS. He takes the camera from around his neck and snaps pictures of her and the military men, who try to hide their faces. Then he pulls out a video camera and begins to film her at close range. The images appear up on the screen.
There is a pause where there is no dialogue.
HECKLER #3: You quoted T.S. Eliot a few moments ago – from one of my favorite poems, The Waste Land. I believe he was the greatest poet of the 20th century – maybe the world’s greatest poet since Homer. I like that you quoted him.
SS: I believe he was a man who truly struggled in life. And from his struggle came truth. Are you familiar with these lines?
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
HECKLER #3: Yes – The Hollow Men. A dark poem if there ever was one. But the world isn’t going to end…so What are they going to say about you? What? Are they going to say you were a kind woman? You were a wise man? You had plans? You had wisdom? Bullshit, woman!
HECKLER #3 is really beginning to become agitated.
SS (looking surprised): But it is so, my darling. It is so. The end of your world has now come. The end of my world is also come. Now.
SS (gently): I’ve been trying to tell you ..
SS looks up at the audience and speaks to everyone…
SS: I’ve been trying to tell all of you that the sixth extinction is at hand. All of you are going to die very soon. Only one male and one female will live to begin the life process over again. She is just born, in a hospital in Ames, Iowa. She will be named Eve. She will be taken to Iowa City by her grandparents to find her Adam. You must understand. It is too late to change it. You must accept it. But the good news is that humanity will go on. It will renew itself and rebuild a species that will last another millennium. But just as Sodom and Gomorrah had to die, so you must as well. Sin and corruption must be and will be extinguished!
Heckler #3 (twitching with excitement, delivering a death sentence): Suringar Singh, you are a dangerous person. You make people afraid for no reason. It is my responsibility to rid the earth of dangerous people like yourself. I have come from far away, on a quest to stop you. Now you must be killed, before you can do more harm.
HECKLER #3 turns his card over so instead of saying Heckler #3, it says ASSASSIN. The sign flashes red ASSASSIN, and the claxon sounds again. He drops the video camera, and the image bounces on the screen. SS sits calmly in her chair, her eyes closed. Heckler #3 removes an automatic pistol from his vest pocket and shoots SS six times in the chest at close range.
Dye packs explode all over her chest. She slowly sinks to the floor and haltingly sings:
…We really did try to make it,
Something inside has died,
And I can’t hide
And I just can’t fake it..
It’s too late, baby,
It’s too late, now darlings,
It’s too late.
She drops to the stage with her assassin standing over her.
Stage goes dark. Actors leave stage. The bridge portion of It’s Too Late plays while the set is changed.
We’re back in the living room of the Iowa farm family.
Act III, Scene 2 -Denouement. Setting: Farmhouse in Ames, Iowa
The curtain opens. The father is still sitting in the same chair he was in when we left him in Act II, Scene 3. The flat screen tv’s are showing images of war, looting, fire and nuclear explosions. There is a knock on the door. Father does not answer the door. It opens. Reverend Thorne enters the living room.
REV. THORNE: Hello? John? Anybody home?
The minister looks around and sees the father sitting in his chair, just as he’d been the day before.
REV. THORNE: Uh, I came to see how you’re doing. There’s chaos in town. Fires are burning, people are looting and shooting at anything that moves. I was afraid for my life. Then I remembered you and your family, and how kind you’d been to me all these years. Do you mind if I stay with you for a while – just until things in town calm down?
FATHER (in flat tones): My mother is dead. She died yesterday. The girls have gone to the hospital…the baby … it’s probably a false alarm, but you can’t be too sure.
REV. THORNE: Your mother has passed on to the great beyond? Where are her … remains?
FATHER: She’s still in her bedroom. I don’t seem to have the capacity to move from this chair. But probably we need to do something with her … remains. Can you help me?
Reverend Thorne goes into the grandmother’s room. He comes back within a few seconds.
REV. THORNE: Uh, she’s starting to get a little bit ripe. Have you called Ames Mortuary?
FATHER: They were contacted. I don’t know why they haven’t come yet. Maybe there are a lot of other calls they need to make. Do you think that’s it?
REV. THORNE – I don’t know – I’ll call them again.
Rev. Thorne goes over to the phone and dials and listens. The television sound gets louder, flashing scenes of the war, explosions and dead bodies everywhere and saying it’s the beginning of the end of the world. Reverend Thorne returns to the living room.
REV. THORNE – There’s no answer. I just got their answering machine, saying they have sold out to a conglomerate and won’t be providing any services until the agreement is finalized. We’ll have to call somebody else. Do you know any others? I’ve never had to call for any mortuary services. I just officiate at funerals.
FATHER (in a dead voice): Mama, what have you got there?
The mother hands the bundle to the father. He looks at it. It’s the baby, which begins to cry in soft tones.
Father looks up quizzically at the mother.
MOTHER: It’s a girl. She was born at 2:30 this morning.
Baby begins to cry more loudly.
MOTHER: She’s probably hungry. I don’t have anything for her.
FATHER: Well, where’s her mother? She hasn’t taken off after that loser teacher, has she? I should have killed him when he was here.
Mother hesitates, swallows hard and then speaks softly with words the father doesn’t understand.
Father: What, mother? What did you say? If she’s gone off with that guy, I’ll…
MOTHER (abruptly) No, Papa. No. Our daughter is … our daughter died in childbirth. Dr. Samuels did all he could, but the hospital staff was on strike and he just couldn’t stop the bleeding. There was so much blood…I’ve never seen so much blood, even when you slaughter one of the pigs. It was terrible.
The mother retrieves the baby from the Father and looks fondly down at the baby, who is now softly cooing.
MOTHER: Before she died, our daughter said she was visited by a blue angel. The angel told her she was about to die. The angel instructed her to name the baby Eve. She said Eve would be the mother of a reborn world that would last a thousand years and be filled with goodness and mercy. Papa, do you think that’s possible?
Rev. Thorne (eyes rolling back in his head): Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Armagedden has begun. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all damned…all of us will die very, very soon.
Reverend Thorne begins to babble. Mother takes his hands and soothes him by showing him the baby. Mother takes father in hand to calm him, while Rev. Thorne is holding his Bible and mumbling incoherently. Father calms himself looking fondly on the baby in his wife’s arms.
The television image changes from war scenes to a Civil Defense logo. The sound is muted. Then a pianofirst, then piano and bass begin to play the intro to Comfortably Numb, quietly in the background.
MOTHER (looking earnestly at the Father): I heard on the radio coming back here, Suringar Singh is dead…she was assassinated. But the radio said before she was killed, she predicted the world would be saved by a newborn…a newborn from Ames – from here! The baby would be called Eve, and her grandparents would take her to Iowa City to find her Adam. Papa, that’s us. That’s what we must do. Soon there’ll be no food or water here. This is hell. We must go find heaven in Iowa city. We have to go and find an Adam for our little Eve.
Mother and Father stare at one another. Mother is nodding encouragement. Father begins to nod his agreement. Music is now loud enough for the audience to hear.
Mother hands the baby to Rev. Thorne – temporarily coherent – and takes Dad’s hand. Audience will sense the tune is familiar, but they won’t be sure what it is because of the piano rendition.
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?
Come on now
I hear you’re feeling down
Well, I can ease your pain
And get you on your feet again
I’ll need some information first
Just the basic facts
Can you show me where it hurts?
While she sings she’s picking Father up and encouraging him. He sings in return:
There is no pain, you are receding
A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying
Then the two of them begin to sing in unison with harmony
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I’ve got that feeling once again
I can’t explain, you would not understand
This is not how I am
Then Father alone, frantically:
I have become comfortably numb
Mother leads him until he perks up and they perform an exquisite slow dance to the guitar riff after the first verse of Comfortably Numb. At end of the dance, Mom takes baby from Rev. Thorne and Dad picks up the suitcase. They hug Rev. Thorne and wish him luck – They exit.
CURTAIN FALLS but music immediately begins and plays eight bars of the second guitar riff to Comfortably Numb to signal to the audience it’s not over yet. Comfortably numb fades out.
The curtain opens partially and the Oracle is sitting in the peacock chair, drinking a glass of wine. The card saying Oracle now hangs around her neck. She looks up, surprised to see the audience. The television set in the background portrays images that comport with what the Oracle says.
ORACLE: Oh, you’re still here – pretty foreboding, eh? We portrayed our world at an end, but the play is set in the future. It doesn’t have to turn out this way. We can change things, and we can change them before it’s too late and we have to rely on another Adam and Eve to begin again. WE all know what to do. Don’t support GWDs – no, not God Wars Dungeon players – global warming deniers. Reduce your carbon footprint: if we all did that, starting now, we’d give our home more time to recover from the damage she’s already sustained. Eat less red meat – it’s better for your health and frees up land to grow healthier crops. Vote for forward thinking leaders, not fear mongers living in the past. Your country will thank you, and maybe we’ll go back to being that beacon of hope for generations to come.
Whatever you do, don’t be afraid. Marie Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Don’t give up. Encourage your loved ones to work with you to make things better. Maybe in the process you’ll strengthen those family bonds – that’s never a bad thing. In the last year of his life, John Adams told Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Would to God there was more ambition in the country. I mean ambition of that laudable kind – to excel.” Then our favorite historian David McCullough added, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could reinstate through what we do as parents, grandparents, as teachers, as legislators, that old noble ambition to excel.”
TV screens have these words written on the screen as the Oracle says them.
ORACLE: Don’t let the world end with a bang or a whimper. Let us strive to excel, and in the process, save our mother.
Then the screen changes to pictures of the earth.
The curtain opens fully to the opening bars of The Captain and Tenille’s Love Will Keep us Together. The cast is dancing on the stage. One by one they come forward for curtain calls with joyful exuberance. After the last case member bows, the audience is encouraged to dance as cast members stream out into the audience and proceed to the rear of the theater for the remainder of the song. Curtain slowly falls as they leave.
End of Play