SYNOPSIS

A dream play in which Katharine Hepburn the Life Force meets Franz Kafka the Death Force and tries to change his attitude.  Set in a sanatorium amid biological warfare. 

Based on the factual Kafka.   The writer who spent his life “earning my grave,” upon arriving there wanted desperately to live, as his final diaries show.  Who better to force the point than Hepburn?  (See “Playwright’s Note” in excerpts.)

In a prologue, Franz Kafka, like his “hero” Joseph K. on the last page of The Trial, is about to be executed by the Guards when, suddenly, a figure appears in a nearby window. In The Trial that figures does nothing. In this play, that figure is Katharine Hepburn and she takes action---“Stop this execution!”---signaling the major dramatic question: Will Kate save Franz? To stop Kate, Guard I, in slow motion, begins the downward plunge of the knife, causing Franz to ask, “Am I in a dream?”---setting up the play’s dream realm.

Act One opens on the terrace of the Sanatorium Ultime, where Kafka, who has come to die, is writing feverishly.  Enter Kate, there to recover from pneumonia and get on with life.  After these icons exchange insults, the emotional factors driving them to engage emerge: Kate exudes the vitality Kafka needs to write his autobiography (“to discover the component parts out of which I will construct myself”), while for Kate the “moody” Kafka is key both to understanding the man she loves, Spencer Tracy, and to play Shakespeare.  Challenged, she announces a plan: to cure his TB---and bad attitude---with a practical regime of rest, food, exercise.  This brings on the Guards, posing as orderlies: They want to finish Franz’ execution and Kate is their obstacle.  (Guard II, named Franz as in The Trial, is smitten with Kate: “Love your work.”)  Spooked, and sensing Kate’s power (“At our innermost core, there is The Indestructible”), Franz relents and follows her to the golf course.  There he reveals the fear “that is my essence.”  Now allies, Kate prods him not only to confront his fear of Father but declare independence from him and embrace his great love Milena.  By end of Act One Kate prevails: Franz fitfully dictates to Kate the love letter to Milena he wrote in real life: “Because of I love you, I love the whole world.  Come to me.”

Act Two opens with a reversal: Franz has collapsed from his sexual fears.  Kate, furious, forces him out of bed, bringing on the Guards.  Reverting to diva, she shams collapse, demanding Franz give her “one brilliant reason to live.”  Franz does so (“Mount your attacker’s horse and ride it!”) and throws a punch at Guard I, who slugs him, causing Franz to spew blood and accelerate his descent to death.  Appalled, Kate goes face-down with guilt.  To restore Kate to her life-loving self, and ensure his own peaceful death (think of the guilt if he’s destroyed The Indestructible, which he sees is destructible), he rises from his sickbed and---who’d believe it?---Franz Kafka becomes the protagonist.  Trying to restore Kate, Franz finally acquits himself: forgiving Milena (for her rejection) and Father.  But: Will Franz save Kate? 

A note: The play’s context takes it beyond celebrity camp.  Offstage a religious war rages, manifested onstage by bandaged bodies.  Citing his story In the Penal Colony, in which the Explorer fails to stop the torture, Franz implores Kate, who earlier “looked out for the other fellow” and held herself out as “counterforce,” to stop the carnage to come.  Will she?

Providing tonic is the play’s wit; its final reversal when Death embraces Life; and---crucial for our volatile times---its final note, in the form of Franz’ real-life “holy fragment,” of “making difficulties” for our inner beast, while treating other human beings “with prayer.”



EXCERPTS

PLAYWRIGHT’S NOTE

The portrait of Franz Kafka that I paint in this play is at variance with his death-loving stereotype but represents the real Kafka, which I discovered in studying his diaries, letters, and fiction.  Kafka set escape hatches throughout, either with a “perhaps” that undermined the bleakness of a passage; or in outright refutation of an earlier position---the repudiation of his death wish when his tuberculosis became terminal, made clear in his last diaries; his conciliatory letters to his parents when he was dying, mitigating the tirade of his famous Letter to His Father; or with images in his fiction that go unremarked.  One such image---the figure who appears at the end of The Trial, whom Joseph K. spots as he is about to be executed---provides my premise.  In his last conscious act Joseph K. wonders of this figure, “Who was it?  Was it a friend?  Was help at hand?”  In my play this figure is Katharine Hepburn, who forces Kafka to return to that novel’s actual first draft, the one Kafka feared to publish, in which Joseph K., rather than submit passively to execution, raised his hand to state, “I have something to say.”  This play imagines what he would say....

 

CHARACTERS

KATHARINE HEPBURN---mid-30s, in her Philadelphia Story persona

FRANZ KAFKA---40, the age he died

GUARDS I and II---from Kafka’s novel The Trial

 

SETTING

 The Sanatorium Ultime, located in the mountains of an unnamed country.


TIME

 Today (post-9/11)

 

 

EXCERPT I: Scene 1, Act One


Setting: The terrace of the Sanatorium Ultime.  It is sunrise.  A BODY completely swathed in bandages lies in one of several deckchairs.

At rise: FRANZ KAFKA sits at a table upstage, in shadow, trying to write.  MUSIC [from the Prologue, Noel Coward singing his song “Twentieth Century Blues”] continues.

 

FRANZ

[German]  Schreien, Schreien----  [English]  Silence!  No radio!  This is a sanatorium!

 

MUSIC OUT.  FRANZ tries again to write.

 

FRANZ

No use.  (Moans and puts hands over ears)  It’s monkeys in treetops---again.

 

Enter KATE with tray piled high.  She wears the white terry-cloth robe [from “The Philadelphia Story”].

 

KATE

Hello, everyone----  Oh: thrilling sunrise!  Look, peeking over the mountains.  Golly, paradise.

 

Groaning, FRANZ glares at KATE during:

 

KATE

I like breakfast e-normously---big ones.  Food is vital to getting well---vital.  And---divine thought---there’s a second breakfast.  When is it?  (Sits; reads Order of the Day)  Eleven o’clock.  Preceded by...: “Wake-up, 6 a.m., wake-up stretch”: Three sets I did.  Then, “first breakfast”---for which (shouts off): Bravo, kitchen, bravo!  Next, “sport of choice.”  Good: Exercise is likewise vital to getting well; heals the lungs.  I’ve a touch of pneumonia, you see---one lung, nothing serious.  Hate operating at half-power, but I’ll be full-power again with this splendidly practical regime, whose next step following exercise is...: “rest cure.”  Indeed: A good rest cures whatever ails us.  Then of course: There is attitude.  They don’t mention attitude because that you bring yourself.  Attitude---that is to say, volition---is the most vital thing to blowing this place.  I mean, the Sanatorium Ultime is the ultimate, though they are a tad bureaucratic, and the extracurricular activities---concerts, lectures: (sighs) banal; I’ll have to scare up something.  But, no matter: I’m going to get well and leave soonest so I can----(catches herself) attend to something.  Oh delicious muffins!  What’re you in for, may I ask?

 

FRANZ

You’re very noisy, every word’s a punch in the eye, how can one person make so much noise?

 

KATE

Excuse me, I can’t see you.  You’re sitting in the shadow.

 

FRANZ

I live in the shadow.

 

KATE

Oh dear: another moaner [moanuh].

 

FRANZ

Well, this is a sanatorium.  Please: I am trying to write, and the rule is: Eat in the dining hall.

 

KATE

Silly rule.  Wouldn’t you like something?  (To bandaged body)  Would you, sir?

 

FRANZ

He doesn’t eat, you flouter of rules.  Neither do I.

 

KATE

Boy, you certainly got up on the wrong side of the bed.

 

FRANZ

Apart from the war going on----!  There is no right side to the bed because: I do not sleep!

 

KATE

That’s exactly---what a friend of mine says.  You two state it like principle.  “Listen to the song of life”: That’s my family’s motto.

 

FRANZ

Listen to the song of life and you’ll hear shrieking.  Life is squandered earning one’s grave.

 

KATE

Oh no.  We must progress, develop, improve ourselves.  Volition.

 

FRANZ

My life has “progressed” only as decay progresses in a tooth.  Fate.

 

KATE

Oh bore [boah].  With that attitude, you’ll never get out of here.

 

FRANZ

I haven’t come to get out.  I’ve come to die.

 

KATE

To get well!

 

FRANZ

To die.

 

KATE

Have it your way.

 

FRANZ

I’m afraid I will....

 

KATE

Another Gloomy Gus.  You sound like that Franz Kafka: death, decay, death-death-death----

 

FRANZ rises into the light, bows, and sits.

 

KATE

Well!  As  I live and breathe....

 

FRANZ

And you are Katharine [KATrin] Hepburn, the American comedienne.

 

KATE

Actress.  Mr. Kafka, scoot into the light----

 

FRANZ

(Ignoring)  What brings Miss Spunk to a sanatorium: volition?

 

KATE

An excess of fun---a sensation alien to you.  I adore swimming in the ocean---especially in a high wind.

 

FRANZ

Mein Gott, why?

 

KATE

Punishment---a sensation you know too well.  But I do it to build character, which I believe can be developed but which you as Mr. Victim don’t----  Mr. Kafka, you need to come into the light.

 

FRANZ

And you need to come into the dark.

 

KATE and FRANZ

(Beat)  How is it you know my work?

 

KATE

I’ll tell Mr. Author---if he comes into the light.  He’s giving me a crick in the neck.

 

FRANZ

(To self)  Perhaps the Answer prowls around the Question....?

 

Clutching his manuscript, FRANZ scoots into the light, but at a distance from KATE.

 

KATE

There you are.  Not so scary.

 

FRANZ

Just don’t ask me to smile.  Ach, Hollywood has infected the world with its smile----

 

KATE

Speaking of: Which of my pictures did you like best?

 

FRANZ

The Philadelphia Story: from goddess to human being---delightful fantasy.  And that piece of amusement you did with Spencer Tracy, Woman of the Year----

 

KATE

Wasn’t Spencer [Spensuh] wonderful....?

 

FRANZ

Ja.  I feel a certain affinity with him.

 

KATE

You?  Huh, you two are totally unlike.  Totally.

 

FRANZ

That scene where you two go to a baseball game and you understand nothing.  It was a pleasure to see you confused.  You are always so definite.  (To self)  And so alive....

 

KATE

I’m confused right now.  I don’t know if I should ask you to join me.  You’re a complicated person, Mr. Kafka, and complicated people give me melancholia.  The worst problem I want is carrying two pails of milk over a fence.

 

FRANZ

As if you could choose your problems!

 

KATE

That’s exactly---what my friend says.  In his moods.

 

FRANZ

Which doubtless is the thing you’ll “attend to”: “Cheer up, cheer up!  Just what he needs----

 

While FRANZ surreptitiously checks his pulse:

 

KATE

He does----!  Dammit: See here, Mr. Kafka!

 

FRANZ rises abruptly with his manuscript.

 

FRANZ

I am working on my autobiography.  More precisely, they’d be autobiographical investigations, to detect the component parts, out of which I’d then---construct myself.  I need to set my soul in order---soon---since the end is near.  This is the vital business.

 

KATE

Indeed.  How far have you gotten?

 

FRANZ

I’ve only just started....

 

KATE

Well, Mr. Kafka, there are two e-normous contradictions, which in your trademark confusion you’ve failed to see: How can a man write his autobiography if he has not constructed himself?  And how can he possibly write a book, a project which takes time, if he’s come here to die, which, as he’s not eating, will happen in very short order?

 

FRANZ

Perhaps he could produce a fragment....?

 

KATE

Not without rest, food, and exercise.  And volition.

 

FRANZ

You’re skilled at finding the internal contradictions.

 

KATE

A more practical mind would have spotted it instantly.  You want to die but you want to live: quite a large contradiction, that.  E-e-e-normous.

 

FRANZ

Only slightly smaller than the motif you’ve been developing---none too subtly.

 

KATE

I don’t follow.

 

FRANZ

“My friend”?  You refer to Spencer Tracy.  You’re mixed up with him.

 

KATE

Excuse me?!  (Spreads marmalade on her eggs)

 

FRANZ

Talk of e-normous contradictions: Spencer Tracy’s very complicated and you’re not.  Spensuh” and I are a lot alike.  You might learn from me---starting with “Perhaps.”

 

KATE

(Rising)  And you both might learn from me---starting with grit!

 

FRANZ

Oh God, you’re not---leaving?

 

KATE

(Beat)  Not.  On.  Your.  Life.  (Sits)  You are dangerous.

 

FRANZ

So are you.  (Beat)  Actually, I like the cinema---though it impedes the imagination.

 

KATE

If it impedes yours, good.  You’ve saddled the world with a distinctly creepy brand of anxiety.

 

FRANZ

More guilt!  I need to sit---somewhere....  (Moves reluctantly toward his table)

 

KATE

You may sit at my table---if you eat.

 

FRANZ

It’d just make for heavier shipment out.  But perhaps I’ll reconsider....  (Sits at KATE’S table)  You spread marmalade on your eggs.  Is that usual?

 

KATE

Old Yankee custom.  Now: Why are you here?  As you’re a walking case like me and not a bed case like that poor fellow (indicates bandaged body), your physical ailment can’t be too serious, unlike your considerable mental ailment. 

 

FRANZ

I have tuberculosis.

 

KATE

Oh; I’m so sorry.  Here: Drink milk (pours).  Milk’s the thing for T.B., heals the lungs.  You’ve hemorrhaged, coughed blood?  (Pushes glass toward FRANZ)

 

FRANZ

(Ignoring milk)  Yes!  Once.  Back in Prague.  It was extraordinary.  Usually I have insomnia, very bad.  But after the hemorrhage---which lasted ten full minutes---I went to sleep!

 

KATE

Cheered by your impending death, I’m sure.  Mr. Kafka: You have a 50-50 chance of getting well.  Your T.B.’s only first-stage; drink.  You know, with first-stage, you could be at home with your family.

 

FRANZ

I---am not at home---with my family.  Miss Hepburn: Are you licensed to practice medicine?

 

KATE

I’m a doctor’s daughter.  I know lots in the physical department.

 

FRANZ

Though not much in others.  Certainly not in subtext.

 

KATE

You mean the basement.  Ugh!

 

FRANZ

Where Spensuh dwells.  You know, Katharine of Arrogance, if you wanted to, you could be as sick as the rest of the human race.

 

KATE

Oh boy, is this place big enough for the both of us?  Mr. Kafka: Do you live to live or do you live to die?

 

FRANZ

We’re forever stumbling through unfinished suicides, give it up!

 

KATE

Your attitude offends me in the extreme.  Leave this table!

 

FRANZ

Forgive me but: You love a suicidal man.  I imagine Spencer drinks---and it isn’t milk!

 

KATE

What a nerve!  I withdraw my offer (retrieves the milk).

 

FRANZ

And I withdraw myself---like a fist!---of my own volition.

 

FRANZ returns to his table with his manuscript.  HE tries to write, but can’t.  Beat....

 

KATE

Why would the famous intellectual writer read the lying Hollywood gossip columns....?

 

FRANZ

(To self)  Saviors can’t help themselves....  (To KATE) Simply: I can imagine.  Also I study the movie posters, look at the actors’ faces, imagine their lives.  The poster of Woman of the Year: You and Spencer gazing at each other: very powerful.  It reminds me of someone.

 

FRANZ checks his pulse, which KATE sees.

 

KATE

You check your pulse.

 

FRANZ

It’s just habit.

 

KATE

It’s life, Mr. Kafka!  LIFE!  Which you need for your autobiography---and this “someone.”

 

FRANZ

You remind me of her....  (Rising)  Perhaps I will have a little coffee.

 

KATE pours a few drops of coffee into his glass of milk.  She rises to hand it to him.

 

KATE

A “little” coffee---with masses of healing milk.  You smile....  (Sits)  Now: this “someone....”

 

FRANZ

She’s so far above this hellhound....(sits).  Please, before you attack again: How do you know my work?

 

KATE

I read, Mr. Kafka.  Sophocles, Shakespeare, Ibsen: all the fighters of former centuries---unlike the puny types of today.  It was in college---Bryn Mawr---where I was forced to read you.  My life was so thrilling I couldn’t concentrate, and in my progress my grades weren’t doing well---they were nonexistent actually---so if I was to continue in theatricals ---by then, you see, I’d decided to become an actress---I had to improve my academic performance.  So, for my thesis---the theme was “a major influence on the Modern Era”---since the list had been picked over---nobody wanted you---and since I’d yet to make my mark and couldn’t pick myself---I’d a wild desire to be a star, to fascinate---I was forced to pick you, Franz Kafka, the man with a wild desire to be absolutely revolting.  I read your comparatively small and exceedingly dreary body of work----

 

FRANZ

Which I wanted burned, if my friend Max had followed my instructions.

 

KATE

You don’t know the business end of a match?  Mr. Kafka: Why can’t you write books that rouse us up?

 

FRANZ

Books should be axes for the frozen sea within us, books should wound!

 

KATE

Samuel Johnson said books should enable us to enjoy life or endure it better.

 

FRANZ

A pacifier!  (Beat)  Wait a minute, how would you know about Samuel Johnson?

 

KATE

Br-r-ryn Mawr.  Good God, your story about the fellow who wakes up as a bug---ugh!

 

FRANZ

Yes: exceedingly repulsive.

 

KATE

You agree?  Is this your famous ambiguity, or is it irony?  I get the two confused.  Never mind.  And that fellow who’s a circus act with his fasting: sounds autobiographical to me.

 

FRANZ

I would have eaten, if I’d found the food I liked.

 

KATE

Hang on: If you work is autobiographical, why write an autobiography?

 

FRANZ

My books are botched, unfinished, loathsome----

 

KATE

Especially In the Penal Colony: that torture machine!

 

FRANZ

There I disagree emphatically!

 

KATE

---and The Trial: Joseph K. drives me absolutely mad.

 

FRANZ

Good!

 

KATE

Not your mad, my mad.  (Beat)  Strange: Recently I had one of my rare nightmares and it was about him.  Joseph K. so infuriates me, submitting to execution, that I woke up shouting, “Make difficulties, make difficulties!”  Some protagonist.

 

FRANZ

Then, that was you....

 

KATE

I don’t follow.

 

FRANZ

In the innermost heart of every individual, there is The Indestructible....

 

Unseen by Franz or Kate, THE GUARDS, still in top hat and tails, lean into the scene, GUARD I glaring at Franz, GUARD II swooning at Kate.

 

KATE

Why, that’s lovely---lovely.  But: we don’t see “The Indestructible” in your work, do we.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful, not to mention miraculous, if we did.

 

Alarmed, GUARD I grabs GUARD II and exits.

 

FRANZ

So much penance on my account, and all for college theatricals.  What was the prize role? 

 

KATE

Pandora.

 

FRANZ

(Scoffs)  Delightful woman!

 

KATE

Nobody remembers, least of all you, that what remained in Pandora’s box was Hope.

 

FRANZ

HOPE?!  In these singularly dreadful times?  The tribal wars I foresaw rage now in every corner of the globe.  People drag their sacred trinkets from overheated attics, shoot their neighbors.  It all starts with flags and salutes and newsprint---and ends with pillage and blood, brought to high boil by Religion, which gets as lost as people do!  All this carnage (indicates bandaged body)---it stems from a monstrous lack of imagination: man so beset by his demons that he can’t imagine the suffering of others. Ah, but he can imagine ever more efficient torture machines.  The most recent?  Lungs vaporized by chemicals!

 

SOUND of train whistle.

 

FRANZ

Ach, another trainload.  Carnage without end!

 

KATE

I agree the outlook is not sunny.  But what, Mr. Kafka, is your solution?

 

FRANZ

As a writer I can only represent the negativity of my age, not fight it.  Counterforces do exist, but they are disorganized and pitifully weak.

 

KATE

Not weak, dammit.  NOT weak!

 

The GUARDS, dressed as orderlies, enter.  GUARD I, with KNIFE drawn, goes for FRANZ.

 

GUARD I

Let’s finish off those lungs of yours, Frantisek [Fron-tichek].

 

KATE

(Jumps up)  What the devil?!

 

GUARD I

Close, Miss Hepburn.  (Seizes FRANZ by one arm)  Very close.

 

GUARD II

I could be close to you, Miss Hepburn.  Love your work.

 

KATE

Ugh.  (To GUARDS)  Hmmm: I’m on to you two.  Mr. Kafka: There is a solution.

 

GUARD I

Your prescription, “Doctor” Hepburn?

 

KATE

To look out for the other fellow----

 

GUARD I

Yeah, look out for him, he’s “a swamp”---like Frantisek says.

 

KATE

...to look out for the other fellow and dismantle the torture machine.  One firm No does it.

 

FRANZ and the GUARDS guffaw.

 

FRANZ

You’re the fictionist, Miss Hepburn, not I.  The torture machine runs of itself----

 

GUARD I

---on fear.  We’re not your usual antagonist you can win over at the sentimental happy ending.

 

KATE

But....  It’s so nice to have the man and the woman together at the end....

 

GUARD II

(Whispers to KATE)  We could be together, “Kate”----

 

KATE

That does it!  Mr. Kafka: I am going to save you.  I’m going to get you well and stop your nightmares and spare the world another of your dreary books.  I adore a challenge and you three are the biggest I know of---here, that is.  Come, it’s off to the golfcourse.

 

FRANZ

But I’m to lecture in 30 minutes, I am one of the “activities.”  Und mein Englisch ist nicht gut.

 

KATE

Cancel the lecture.  And our battle’s basic, your English is good enough.  Who knows, Mr. Kafka: Maybe you’ll enjoy yourself---and write a happy autobiography.

 

FRANZ

Happy?  That would negate all my books, all my books have been in the service of the Devil!

 

GUARD I

(Motioning GUARD II to take FRANZ’ other arm)  He hates revising, Miss Hepburn.

 

KATE

Then your books do serve as your autobiography---and your soul is totally, totally at peace.

 

FRANZ sags.  The GUARDS tighten their hold.

 

KATE

Come on, Mr. Kafka: Contradict yourself.  (Shakes head)  Oh boy, this is getting fancy.

 

GUARD I

Head games.

 

KATE

Isn’t it always....?  Mr. Kafka, we’re waiting....

 

FRANZ

(Beat)  It may be possible---for a man who has conquered his fear, his chaos (looking at GUARDS)---to begin to write.  (To KATE)  Those would be holy books.

 

KATE

“Holy books”: Beautiful!  I knew you had it in you, Mr. Kafka.  I knew it!

 

GUARD I

“To invent words pungent as corpses”: That’s in him too.

 

KATE

No doubt.  (To GUARDS)  A train needs unloading....

 

GUARD I

We’ll get our man yet.  (Exits with GUARD II)

 

KATE

So will I---(to self) I hope....

 

FRANZ

Such power you have.

 

KATE places FRANZ’ finger on her pulse.

 

FRANZ

Your pulse: It’s racing---like mine.

 

KATE

Acting.  Here: Drink your milk.  I’ll have some too.  You wear my brains out (drinks).

 

FRANZ

Me getting better: a contradictory, yet (drinks) wonderful idea.  But, Miss Hepburn: It’s a labyrinth out there.

 

KATE

We’ll just follow the signs, Mr. Kafka.  We’ll just follow the signs. 

 

[END OF SCENE]

 

EXCERPT II: Scene 4, Act Two

 

[Preceding action: Act One ends with Kate pushing Franz in her get-well regime to write his great love Milena, “Come to me.”  Act Two opens with Franz collapsed from sexual fears and Kate forcing him out of bed, causing him to hemorrhage massively.  In Sc. 2, the dying Franz recognizes he wants to live, the guilt-ridden Kate declares she wants to die---a reverse of their original positions.  To ensure his own peaceful death, Franz must acquit himself as he never has (and becomes the protagonist).  In Sc. 3 he forgives Milena for rejecting him.  In this scene he forgives his parents, his former “persecutors.”  His overall objective, which he pursues to play’s end, is to restore Kate to her life-loving self.]

 

Setting: Franz’ room.  FRANZ, dressed in a sanatorium nightgown, weak, lies in bed. 

At rise: KATE enters.

 

KATE

Franz, your parents are in the lobby.  They want to see you.  Seems the Authorities notified them of the---change in your condition.  I’ll bring them up?

 

FRANZ

Father!!  Oh God, Father---here....?

 

KATE

And your mother.  She seems sweet.  She has some preserves for you.  I’ll get your robe.

 

FRANZ

Who will be my advocate [vis-à-vis Father]?  As you’re useless, it seems I must be my own advocate....

 

KATE

(With robe)  Here you go.... 

 

FRANZ

Oh Katrin, what’s there to light up a father’s eyes?  A son who’s unloving; incapable of marriage; pensioned at 39 because of a disease that was his own fault; obsessed with his weird writing----

 

KATE

Not “weird”; you were wounded.  I’ll brush your hair too.

 

FRANZ

I made too much of the wound!  Wounds can be cauterized [as KATE earlier argued].  Ach, this is a son to rave about!

 

KATE

Your father is a large man.  From a child’s point of view, he must’ve been terrifying.  Yet right now he seems---very small.  Hmm, paradox: Now I get it....

 

FRANZ

The huge man: small....?  (To self)  The longer one hesitates outside the door, the more estranged one becomes....  Katrin: I am canceling the trial between Father and me.

 

KATE

Wonderful, Franz.

 

FRANZ

After all, he was in his turn as I am in mine: errant brother, scapegrace son.  This negative heroism---defying parents---it’s over so little, yet it cuts us off from so much.  Not long ago Mother kissed me good-night, and I said, “That’s nice,” and she said, “You liked it?  I liked it too.”  All those kissless years....

 

KATE

Well, let’s get started.

 

FRANZ

But Katrin: I’m----  I’m not going to see them.

 

KATE

What?  But they’re asking for their Frantisek.

 

FRANZ

I can’t foist this---corpse on them.  (Laughs)  The first thing parents notice is your physical state.  You could win the Nobel Prize and they’d say, “Looks a little pale, doesn’t he?”

 

KATE

But they should have the joy of this reconciliation.

 

FRANZ

It’s already taken place, no need to re-enact it.  But: I will put it in writing.  Would you?

 

KATE

Ohh, very well (moves to desk).

 

FRANZ

Besides, it’s my style.  They’ll---they’ll understand....  “Dear Parents, about this visit: It would be so nice.  We haven’t been together for such a long time.  But, I’m not a pretty sight.  I am making my way with the aid of a new friend.  She’s been of e-normous help---though don’t imagine me giving parties yet.  However, as I cannot show important visitors such as you undeniable progress, I think, dearest parents, we should just let it be.  Signed: Your loving son, Franz.”

 

KATE

Beautiful.  This makes me even sadder.

 

FRANZ

Just as I thought: In my capacity for understanding, I go from child to white-haired ancient.

 

KATE

I’ll go down now.  Your parents do have a son to rave about.

 

FRANZ

Thank you.  Then come right back.  You and I have something to do.

 

KATE

What is that?

 

FRANZ

We’re going on a picnic.  I do want to give a party---for you---at the Castle.  The view will be good for the perspective....

 

KATE

Absolutely not!  It’d be suicidal.

 

FRANZ

One lives one’s life, but enjoys only one hour.  I want my hour before I die.  Time’s a-wasting....

 

KATE

But, what if you hemorrhage again?  My guilt.....!

 

FRANZ

Go.  Take the letter to my parents, then hire a car and come back for me.

 

KATE

I’m doing this against my will.

 

FRANZ

And I’m exercising mine---for the first time.  Katrin: Kiss Mother---and (beat) kiss Papa for me....

 

KATE

I will. Your parents have a son who’s stark raving mad.  (Exits)

 

FRANZ

Finally....: I am born.

 

[END OF SCENE]

 

[Note:  All material in the above scene relating to his parents is fact, as are the recognitions, “In my capacity for understanding, I go from child to white-haired ancient” and “One lives one’s life, but enjoys only one hour.”]


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