The action takes place in a waiting room, an anteroom without windows somewhere on the third, fourth or fifth floor, with two exits and two sets of stairs that go down to somewhere unseen.
On stage from the beginning, NICOLLO sits dozing on a chair near the imposing door centre stage, the door which is the axis of symmetry for the play.
NICOLLO could be dressed in clothes that appear hired; an old fashioned suitcase lies abandoned in the middle of the room. Finally, stuck to the door, an announcement giving details of forthcoming auditions to hire an "old clown".
The sound of footsteps climbing first left, then right, then again left. NICOLLO pricks up his ears, listens, gets excited, stands and begins arranging himself.
Enter FILIPPO. He wears a dark suit, possibly hired. He drags a heavy, old fashioned suitcase behind him which he leaves on the doorstep. Exhausted, he glides towards the first chair and throws himself down. He fans himself with his hat, panting.
NICOLLO sits, disappointed.
After a pause, FILIPPO stands, goes to the door and listens. He turns to stare at NICOLLO.
FILIPPO: Is somebody in there?
NICOLLO: (With his eyes closed) No.
NICOLLO loudly blows his nose. FILIPPO continues to stare at NICOLLO. After a while he decides to knock softly on the door. No answer. He stares again at NICOLLO who opens his eyes, irritated.
FILIPPO: (Quickly) That means you're first.
FILIPPO: Then that means I'm second.
Irritated, NICOLLO sits hunched on his chair. FILIPPO begins to investigate the room.
FILIPPO: (Sniffing) Have you been smoking in here?
FILIPPO: There's a lot of smoke in here. (Pause) Can you smell smoke?
NICOLLO: (After a pause) No.
FILIPPO: Well there is smoke. (Pause) There should be a window open.
Pause. FILIPPO, irritated, also sits.
FILIPPO: And they've left no word?
FILIPPO: That means that it isn't six o'clock yet.
NICOLLO: No, it's not.
FILIPPO: Let's hope they still come at six.
They steal a glance at one another.
FILIPPO: I take it you're here for the same business.
NICOLLO: You mean the advertisement?
Pause. Their glances become more apparent. NICOLLO blows his nose again loudly.
FILIPPO: I think the smoke should be let out. (Pause) Strange there are no windows. If they had windows the smoke would go straight out.
Pause. No answer. FILIPPO sighs and goes to fetch his suitcase. As he returns, their eyes meet. FILIPPO stops dead. He begins to tremble. NICOLLO stands. He also begins to tremble.
FILIPPO: (Overcome with emotion) Nicollo!
NICOLLO: (Overcome with emotion) Filippo!
FILIPPO: Nicollo, is it you?
NICOLLO: (Lost) Filippo! Filippo!
FILIPPO: (Opening his arms wide) I don't believe it! It can't be true!
NICOLLO: (Opening his arms wide) It's me! It's me!
FILIPPO: Christ! Nicollo! It can't be true!
NICOLLO: (With tears in his eyes) Me! Me!
The two embrace fiercely.
FILIPPO: (Gradually recovering himseo) Is it you? Really you?
NICOLLO: It is me! I swear it! Me!
FILIPPO: But how? But why?
NICOLLO: That's life!
FILIPPO: God, I'd never have recognised you. If you hadn't blown your nose I'd never have recognised you.
NICOLLO: Oh, get away with you! You'll make me cry.
FILIPPO: As soon as you blew your nose I felt a shiver. I felt you right in my soul. I smelt you. I said to myself that's him, the bastard! Nobody else snorts like that. (He hugs NICOLLO again and kisses him) You old devil! All your life you've been snorting like a trooper!
NICOLLO: (Wrenching himself away from the lewd embrace) Stop it! That's enough, you're ruining my face.
FILIPPO: (Wiping his mouth) What the hell is that? What the hell are you putting on your face?
FILIPPO: No wonder you've got so many wrinkles if you put that shit on your face!
NICOLLO: Where have I got wrinkles? Where do you see wrinkles?
FILIPPO: Oh, it doesn't matter. You could at least be happy to see me!
NICOLLO: What? Not happy? I'm happy.
FILIPPO: Say something then, you miserable old git, tell me how you are. Don't you feel crazy? I feel like I'm completely crazy! I never thought I'd see you again.
NICOLLO: Why wouldn't you see me again? Why shouldn't you see me again?
FILIPPO: Well, a while ago there was a rumour going round that you were dead. How did you manage that?
NICOLLO: Who told you I was dead? I've been working at the Fantazio. Why would I be dead?
FILIPPO: I heard you were in Perugia. In the asylum. Are they all raving bonkers there? Did they let you out?
NICOLLO: Well, that's the limit! I've never been to Perugia in my life! I've been working at the Fantazio. Have you never heard of the Fantazio?
FILIPPO: Good God, how thin you've got! How much do you weigh? You must've had your rations swiped in there, I reckon. Hey, sit down.
NICOLLO: (Agitated) I will not sit down!
FILIPPO: I never expected to find you in this state. Would you like some biscuits?
NICOLLO: I don't want any biscuits! Have you really never heard of the Fantazio?
FILIPPO: (Rummaging in his pockets) Would you like some nuts? You can have all the nuts I've got. I can see you haven't been looking after yourself. Just look at those awful ulcers on your tongue.
NICOLLO: You... well, I see a huge wart on one of your fat chins.
FILIPPO: I heard that they took off one of your testicles too. Is that right?
NICOLLO: Shameless bastard! You haven't changed a bit.
FILIPPO: Are you embarrassed about losing a testicle? Don't be embarrassed. Don't you ever feel embarrassed about anything in front of me! Never!
FILIPPO: Now when was it I saw Peppino? Last week I met Peppino and he told me about You... What he told me was that you were a wreck. And I didn't believe him and here you are, a wreck!
FILIPPO: He said: "He has the filthiest dirtiest skin!" and just look at how dirty your skin is... And you've got some disgusting scabs under your eyes...
NICOLLO: You can talk! You lump of old lard with those awful gums of yours... just get a whiff of yourself! Have you any idea how much you stink?
FILIPPO: Nicollo, old son, you need some hot food, understand? Something warm in your belly and a glass of red wine. Here's some money, Nicollo, my shout.
NICOLLO: Shove your money, you jealous sod! I've got money. I don't need your money. (He shakes a banknote triumphantly) Look!
FILIPPO: Where did you get that?
NICOLLO: I work at the Fantazio!
FILIPPO: (Still deaf to the name Fantazio) You've got yourself involved in some scam have you?
NICOLLO: I work, I'm on top form. I want for nothing... I get up at five o'clock every day.
FILIPPO: They'll catch up with you one day!
NICOLLO: I'm supple, I work out. Watch this! (Does two knee bends) I look after myself, I've still got what it takes... (He stands on his head) Eh?
FILIPPO: Stop that for God's sake! Do you want to keel over right here in front of me?
NICOLLO: (Flexing his arm) Feel it... see? It's all muscle, not an ounce of fat!
FILIPPO: That's bone not muscle.
NICOLLO: It's pure muscle.
FILIPPO: Look at your nails! Your nails'11 drop off. That's because you've no flesh on you.
NICOLLO: You're just jealous, you old git!
FILIPPO: Whimp! I'm surprised you managed to climb the stairs.
NICOLLO: Well, my little dumpling! Try this for size, if you're man enough.
FILIPPO: Look, you're ruining your suit, they won't let you borrow it again.
NICOLLO: (Landing on his feet, exhausted) The suit belongs to me.
FILIPPO: (Brushing the dust off NICOLLO) You want to pay for it twice?
NICOLLO: (Shielding himself with both hands) Mind your paws! The suit belongs to me.
FILIPPO: Come on, you little liar! Who do you think you're fooling?
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