SETTING: An antebellum mansion in the Garden District, New Orleans, Louisiana. We are in the day room overlooking a rose garden. There is a day bed with cushions so soft they invite sleep, and wind-up toys everywhere: racing cars, trucks, planes, an electric train. Paintings of toys in various stages of completion are placed about. A life-size inflatable doll of Edward Munch’s “The Scream” stands center. The effect is of a boy’s dream, the actual furniture being less important than the wonder created. A hood resembling a castle drapes a cage of doves. A snow parrot guards the rear from a coop like a Chinese house.
SOUND: It is raining quietly, one of those late afternoon showers that New Orleans is famous for. Moisture chills the air, preserving the five o’clock cocktails: mint juleps in red glasses, candy hearts, and Valentine cups.
LIGHTS: A mysterious light. The glare casts shadows through the bluish-white blinds. Lights fade up on ROOSTER DUBONNET asleep on the day bed. Center stage is an angelic creature, SHEILA FITZGERALD, surrounded by whirling, rotating toys. She moves as if part of an
SOUND: Footsteps approach from offstage. Sheila leaves. Rooster pulls back the curtain from his day bed. CLAY RICHARDS enters with a medical case. Rooster flicks on the tape deck by remote control.
SOUND: A symphony by Goreski fades on.
CLAY: What’s your fever?
ROOSTER: You can’t expect me to remember all that.
CLAY: Your relapse began when you returned to your mother’s.
ROOSTER: sh, doc! I love this symphony. It expresses a truth about
“la condition humaine.”CLAY
Roo, this is serious.
ROOSTER: I don’t care. As an artist, you focus on the hours you have to peak. The rest’s going to your room.
CLAY: Oh, come on.
ROOSTER: I’m a prince, and this is my castle. It’s not a real castle. It’s a house in the Garden District--
CLAY: You’re full of anger--
ROOSTER: But it’s a kingdom where fantasy reigns and toys are celebrated--
CLAY: Anger’s got to express itself somewhere.
(HE picks up a car and races it.)
ROOSTER: I ordered this hot rod from the Palais Royal Shop in Paris.
I believe some toys have souls, don’t you. You can trust a toy.
CLAY: You’re living with people you don’t feel close to.
ROOSTER: Ha! I’ve a Civil War mentality.
CLAY: A mother who’s nicer to strangers than she is to you.
ROOSTER: I like being kicked around. We live like lords here! (Laughs)
The cavaliers were remarkable for their affection for their
castles. I’ve a sumptuous life.
CLAY: Replete with its small kindnesses and cruelties.
ROOSTER: The past isn’t dead, Clay. It exists in our blood in the things we are heir to—in decades of wealth, passed from one generation
to the next. I’m the big brother of the dynasty.
(SOUND: BUTLER shrieks, “Where’s the maid? Where’s the maid?”)
ROOSTER: My parrot, Commander Butler.(To the bird) Now, now, Butler; No one’s going to catch me and send me away.
CLAY: My grandma wouldn’t let a bird inside the house. Said they
were harbingers of death.
ROOSTER: Butler’s jealous. He doesn’t like your tie because it’s the color of passion, and he wants it all for himself.
CLAY: You need adult activities!
(SOUND: The parrot screams, ”Where’s the maid?”)
ROOSTER: Butler’s seen too much. Too many people cried back here. You can feel the grief in the walls, and you wouldn’t want to walk around here alone at night. . . Sometimes we make it to the slave quarters, where my nephew lives . . . You can stir up a racket, run around nude, and nobody will bother you.
CLAY: (Fingers her tie, with a twinge of panic) Remember when you flew me to Ensenada . . .When you had that episode. We went walking by the water. Counting the seagulls. Stirring up the sand. Hypnotized by the lapping of the waves. (A silence passes between them.)You began painting again. You’ll never leave your mother without feeling guilty. But no one can live with one foot stuck in the present and one in the past.
IRENE DUBONNET enters, wearing pink sunglasses and yelling off-stage at her chauffeur, HUCK. Her eyes are going, and SHE has difficulty adjusting to the change of light. Irene leaves the door open.
IRENE: Huck! Lock the gates. Load the rifles. Huck! It’s a trick to scare off burglars, Doctor.
ROOSTER: Shut the door!
IRENE: I don’t take advantage of my driver. But Huck couldn’t
find the Country Club!
CLAY: Where’re your real glasses?
IRENE: I pitched them in the Mississippi River and started memorizing my house! It’s bad enough my eyes are failing. I won’t lose my
looks, too. I can’t believe I’ve to walk around looking at the floor for toys.
ROOSTER: Don’t let my bird out! Shut the door.
IRENE: Rooster belongs to the International Caged Bird Society. But he can’t make his parrot do a thing.
CLAY: Has Roo taken his medicine?
IRENE: I forget. He orders more and more catalogues for that bird. We must be on some master list of suckers.
CLAY: Eight pills. Four times a day.
IRENE: Butler belongs to the Louisiana Parrot Society. The membership dues are twenty-four feathers a year.
CLAY: What’s Roo’s fever?
When he doesn’t think about it, it goes away. That parrot’s a hundred years old. He used to whistle Dixie. He was raised by a gentleman who kept his plantation up river. If you don’t buy Roo everything, he thinks you’re a bad mother.(Motioning to a box of butterflies)
I ordered pressed butterflies: black and yellow, scarlet, and French blue. For Roo to paint nature . . . I didn’t kill them, Doctor. Toward the end of its short life, the butterfly loses strength. Its wings which had carried it so easily are ragged and . . .
CLAY: Doesn’t it frighten you a bit? That report from the Oschner Clinic. Roo’s treatment is not going as planned. He’s lost touch with his feelings. Epstein-Barr’s a disease that . . it’s based on mental deterioration.
IRENE: Let’s keep the topic to trivial things.
CLAY: Fine! (Angry) But take note. Nothing’s trivial to a psychiatrist.
BUNKY LEGERE struts inside balancing boxes, flowers and a book. Midday champagne makes him defiant. The following lines overlap with enthusiasm.
BUNKY: Gifts for the queen. You can’t visit Granny on Valentine’s Day without bringing something. Reads The Treasury of Clean Jokes for Seniors.
BUNKY: Hi, Doc. All the old babes are soaking up the suds . . .
IRENE: My grandson’s referring to the champagne. Bunky doesn’t
understand polite conversation. The only sound he’s comfortable
with is a grunt.
BUNKY: Oink! Oink!
CLAY: Is Bunky going to a costume party?
It’s stress. He began with the cowboy hat when he started growing his hair. Then he went for the whole outfit. (She waves off BUNKY who struts cowboy-like) Bunky, put up the Valentine petit fours.
BUNKY: (Seizing candy) Red hots, yum!
IRENE: And check under the beds for burglars . . .
BUNKY: Why me? I’m young?
(Bunky grabs a drink on the way out.)
CLAY: I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t have time for small talk.
IRENE: Paper says there’s a minor thug on the prowl. You’ve time for a killer?
(SOUND: The grandfather’s clock chimes.)
IRENE: (cont.)Dinner’s late. The new cook’s probably watching TV.
CLAY: Have you been able to get Roo to eat?
IRENE: Not much. When his fever rises, I sleep in the chair. I cool his hands and forehead with alcohol until it falls.
CLAY: Tell me what you feel, not what you do.
IRENE: I feel that psychiatrists are quacks. Psychiatrists
can’t fix anything. They just jabber away.