Adrian Țofei, 2011
Inspired by real events and ideas by Raeesa Aniff and Jonathan Caouette
Genres: Black Comedy, Horror, Monodrama
Note: I translated this English version from my Romanian version back in 2011, when I wasn’t fluent in English, so you might find portions that don’t sound quite natural.
- Character: Adrian Verdes
- The life concept of Adrian Verdes: “What matters in life is to fight for all your rights!”
- The overall objective of Adrian Verdes: “I wanna be free!”
- The objective of Adrian Verdes in relation to the committee: ”I want you to tell me that I am free!”
- The life & death stake: he has the last chance to convince the committee, otherwise he will be detained for the rest of his life, so he decides to risk everything by telling them the truth for the first time.
- The specificity of Adrian Verdes (psychology, composition): he relates to his terrible and destructive acts with the innocence of a child, like they would be wonderful and constructive; he suddenly goes from vulnerability and innocence to threatening rage and vice versa, alternating; he relives the majority of his past events as if they would be happening in the present moment, under his eyes; he has the tic of keep playing with one of his pajamas buttons.
- The stage lights up and we observe in its center an old, ugly, simple chair without backrest. We hear knockings in a door leading into the stage; the knockings repeat for a few seconds, then the door opens and Adrian Verdeș appears in the limelight. He is dressed in pajamas, with the shirt into his pants and the pants pulled up over his hips; he wears cheap, dirty slippers made of plastic. The audience represents the committee of the psychiatric hospital in which Adrian is detained. He looks at the committee with suspicion and hate at firs, but then begins to be increasingly vulnerable. He doesn’t hesitate to stare at them for longer periods of time. He is enthusiastic, happy, extremely innocent and vulnerable when he remembers good things, but suddenly becomes serious and threatening when he remembers situations where things didn’t go as he hoped, situations he is trying to understand, but fails. He has moments when he is aware of his mental problems and struggles to conceal them, to look normal.
Part I. MY WORLD
[The objective of Adrian Verdes: ”I want you to feel what I am feeling, to empathize with me in order to set me free!”]
Hello. Adrian Verdeș, ward 7. (noticing the chair) I will remain standing if you don’t mind… Ok… let me tell you how it all began. I was about 5 years old when one day I dismantled an old device of my grandfather – I don’t remember exactly what it was… a kind of filmstrip projector – and I removed its magnifying glass. It was very, very hot outside, somewhere in July, close to my birthday. (getting down on the floor, showing how he sat) I was sitting on the porch with my legs crossed and my magnifying glass in my hand and I was being very excited because I had just discovered that I can focus the sunlight with the magnifying glass so that I can burn the wooden threshold on the porch. At some point I noticed a little ant and she seemed cute to me… how she was running, that little… and I wanted to give her more sunlight, to warm her; (showing how he positioned the magnifying glass) I was positioning the magnifying glass so that the light would focus in a spot exactly on her, but… she was running… I simply couldn’t hold her still… she was running faster and faster, and at some point she disappeared in a crack in the wood… I still don’t understand why, because I was only being careful with her… I wanted to warm her, to make her feel good. So I waited for another ant to pass and I focused again my magnifying glass on her, but this time I started to move it away; (ascending in pleasure and enthusiasm) she was running and struggling full of pleasure as the spotlight was becoming smaller and hotter, and then she began to sizzle, to fry, she was swelling, she made “pop!“ and then exploded! (laughing, leaving his slippers to fall from his feet, playing with his toes)
(getting up) Later, when I grew up, I began to be fascinated by fireflies… I used to like some sort of little red butterflies with some kind of spots like two big eyes on their wings; my mother had told me that the butterflies will come to me if I dress in bright colors, especially with drawings of yellow flowers, so I went to my room, I searched in the closet, I took a yellow shirt with flowers and went into the yard among the butterflies, but… none of them were getting close to me; I kept trying to catch them, but then they flied even further away… although I was wearing yellow, with little flowers… Then I noticed the windows of the porch and I remembered that sometimes the butterflies are getting stuck there under the curtains; (showing how he caught it, using a curtain or a wall) I entered the porch, I spotted a little butterfly between window and curtain, I pressed the curtain on the window and stuck him, I put my hand under the curtain and caught him, I ripped his wings, I took his body, put him in the anthill and watched him as he was struggling of pleasure, full of ants… I liked when they were biting his eyes! Then I caught more butterflies that didn’t wanna stay, I caught them under that curtain as well and took them all in the attic… I pinned them with needles on a wooden beam; I burned the most of them with the candle, I cut loose some and stuck them in a small bottle filled with soapy water… I shook them till they drowned (reliving with pleasure the shaking of the bottle), but I left the biggest one at the end I watched only him as he stood there, pinned in the needle… I simply watched him die slowly… (advancing enthusiastically towards the committee). I used to have then all the control, all the power, the attic was my world and I was God!
But eventually you get tired of small things. My sister’s cat… I don’t think you can even imagine how bad, how evil was that fucking cat… she just simply hated me! A year before I had also had a cat – a little black kitty; and she liked to play with me! at one time I tied her with the belt from my mother’s pants, I tied her by the neck and to a chair – I turned it with his feet up (happily showing how he played with the cat, using the chair) – and I had a leather glove and I was slapping her over the head with the glove and she was pulling the chair, and I was also putting different objects on the chair for her to pull, and she liked it! I used to say that she’s the horse that pulls the carriage! and she liked playing with me! But this one didn’t… this one just simply hated me! She was sitting only in my sister’s arms and if I also wanted to take her and play with her, she would scratch and bite me, and my sister was encouraging her and she was laughing at me and she didn’t have any rights to do so, especially since I was being the one who was feeding her, I was being the one who was really carrying about her, not my sister! So I decided to give her a lesson! I caught that damn cat, I strangled her with my bare hands and I hung her by her neck above by sister’s bed. It was the first thing she saw when she woke up the next morning!
Since then my sister always said to me that I am a creep. I tried to give her too a lesson, but my grandfather sent me to a psychiatric clinic. (sincere) But I was a smart and good boy – perhaps too good, as my mother used to say – the psychiatrist noticed that and after two months he set me free; he explained to my grandfather that it’s something normal… that all teenagers are like this and he has nothing to worry. I was however forced to do it in secret for a period of time: mice, lizards, even little birds, practically any small being that I could grab without anyone noticing. I used to take them into the attic, in my world… You have an incredible sense of power when you look into something’s eyes while it’s dying – a being – to stare in her eyes while she’s giving her last breath. Try and imagine what would you feel!
Part II. MY MOTHER
[The objective of Adrian Verdes: “I want you to feel what my mother endures, to empathize with her in order to set me free to save her!”]
(he calms down and sits on the chair) I was raised by my grandparents. Well, “raised” as a way of speaking. My grandparents… they met… probably fell in love… they got married and then did what they did and had a child, a very beautiful girl named Ioana.
Everything was pink in their lives, they had a lot of hopes for the future. When Ioana was about 11 years old, a professional photographer passed through our neighborhood and took her a picture. The photo appeared in a children fashion magazine, Ioana was noticed and began to appear in more and more magazines and TV shows for children, and at some point she was called to an audition for a role in a TV series famous in those days. She was very beautiful and talented and she got the role, but never got to play.
At 12 years old everything started to become very sad in her life. She was playing on the roof of the house and she fell. She landed on her feet without bending the knees and remained paralyzed for 6 months. (sarcastic towards his grandfather) In all that time, in those 6 months while she stood in hospital, my grandfather kept thinking and came up with the brilliant conclusion that the paralysis was not real, that it was not physical, that it was only in her mind, and he requested for electric shocks treatment to be done on her brain – as it was common then. I saw it in some pictures; they were putting on her head a kind of helmet with two wet pads, tying her to the bed so that she wouldn’t get hurt from the convulsions, and they were turning on the electricity once every 10 seconds and increasingly in intensity, in progression, for 2 hours. Because the results couldn’t be seen – obviously they couldn’t be seen! – grandpa requested for the treatment to be repeated twice a week, each week… and it was repeated for 5 months. Throughout Ioana remained just as beautiful; I remember a picture… all her hair had fallen and she was very peaky, with some purple spots… she was just as beautiful!
When she finally recovered from the paralyses and everything seemed to come back to normal… the effects of the “treatment“ appeared: she was having the impression that the bright light makes her evaporate… she didn’t step out of the house anymore fearing that she would evaporate from the sunlight, so my grandfather signed again for her to be put in psychiatric hospitals and for other electric shocks treatments. Over a period of 25 years she went through more then 100 different methods of treatment. The doctors were increasingly skeptical about the electric shocks effectiveness, but grandpa kept insisting that she’s crazy… he didn’t want her home anymore. When they released her, in 1985, she wasn’t really her anymore; because of the treatment she had lost her entire personality.
But… she somehow managed to overcome all this and in 1986 she fell in love with one of her neighbors, a boy with whom she was doing silly things when she was little, Octavian Verdes. They married, he moved to her parents and everything was great until he started drinking with grandpa… but he was not a drunk! grandpa lured him to drink! He made cirrhosis from drinking; my grandmother told me that one day he vomited a lot of blood in a bowl and died. Ioana remained with two small children: with me and my sister.
After the revolution, in 1990, my grandparents opened a small shop. When the shop caught fire and they lost their business, grandpa considered that he doesn’t have enough money to raise me – although he had! – and sent me to an orphanage. He kept my sister… From the orphanage I don’t remember much (not wanting to remember); I know that at some point I was tied to the bed, like this… (restoring the position) and some images come to my mind, with a woman that was hitting me with a kind of cord…
But after 2 years my mother managed to impose herself in front of grandpa, to prove to the authorities that she is capable of raising me and she came to take me home. At that time the orphanage was at 25 km away from the town and we went by bus. I remember how happy she was to see me… she was so excited! she was crying and kissing me all the time… “my baby“ she kept telling me… at one point some people showed themselves bothered… they ware saying the she is too noisy, but then she began to manifest event louder! They thrown us out in the field. By what right? she wasn’t bothering anybody… she was simply happy to see me after all that time… I remember that a man took us in his car, it was a red car, after which I don’t remember much from that day… (not wanting to remember) I was about 5 to 6 years old… just recently I found out from my grandma that that man raped my mother in the field. (furiously rising from his chair). But what I remember very well is what my grandfather was doing to her the next day when we arrived home: (furiously imitating him) “Who the hell made you get in that car, what, couldn’t you come on foot? For this I worked an entire life, for you to shit my money on the roads? The devil fuckin’ made you bring him again on my bed… to feed him with my money! I should have left you in that fuckin’ hospital to fuckin rott in there! you wouldn’t have made me this fuckin’ prick… he’s exactly like you!“ and he starts hitting her!
(towards the committee): Please, I really need to go back home to make justice!
Part III. I HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE!
[The objective of Adrian Verdeș: “I want you to tell me <You did very good that you killed her! You are free!>”]
I’m gonna be honest with you this time. I’ve always been a loner; I had no friends, neither at home, neither at school, neither in high school, neither in college!
I remember how it was in kindergarten. I wasn’t daring to get close to the toys that my classmates were playing with, and for several days I kept looking at one of them, a plastic sewing machine; I was lurking it. It was yellow, the same as the shirt that I was wearing when I caught the butterflies behind the curtains! It was sitting on the windowsill when it was not in the hands of my classmates, but this was happening very rarely and for a short time because someone would have taken it immediately . But one day I took courage, I lured the moment, I saw that seconds are passing and no one is getting near it, I got closer and I reached out, (reliving the moment) but immediately “bang!” – a classmate hit me over my hand… then all my classmates gathered around me and started screaming at me and hitting me… I wanted then to take them all into my attic, to pin them with needles on the wooden beam and watch them die slowly, just as I was doing with the butterflies. (showing how he would have pinned them, living the moment as it would happen)
Then came the first day of school. (sitting down on the chair, reliving the moment) In one of the breaks I was sitting in my desk and a little boy came to me and told me to get up from my desk; I got up and he told me to get in front of the class, otherwise he beats me… and I got in front and then he told me to take my pants off and sit down on my knees, otherwise he punches me in the head… (taking his pants off and sitting down on his knees) I did as he said and then all my classmates started laughing; (happily noticing a girl in the last rows) besides a girl from the last desk … Iulia, who intervened and saved me! I don’t remember what she said to that boy, but she made him leave me alone. Then the teacher put us in the same desk… her skin was slightly coffee-colored, she was so cute! I remember that I kept hugging her! she kept struggling, showing me that she didn’t like it, I kept insisting, she was struggling even harder – in fact she was enjoying it, but pretending not to enjoy – I was laughing of her and telling her that she struggles like a fish on dry land. I remember how I was walking day after day through the yard or through the house, imagining exceptional circumstances that would have brought us together. For example, around 12 midnight, while walking through my yard, I was imagining how it would be like if she had an accident in front of my gate, to somehow hurt a leg, and me, being the only one out there at that hour, to help her, to save her, to bring her in my home, to take care of her, to sleep overnight together, to be her hero! In the second grade she moved from my desk… she left me. She had no right to do that, to leave me, because I loved her and she was the one who had made me love her! (firmly) Since then I haven’t liked girls anymore. Not even one.
(fascinated, hypnotized by her memory) But when I was in college, she appeared… her first name was also Iulia… and she had the same second name as mine: Iulia Verdes! She was studying acting in college. She was so beautiful… like my mother. She had chocolate hair, so silky… it was sliding over her back so smoothly… I have a picture of her! Can I show you? (he takes the picture out of his chest pocket and heads towards the committee with the intention of showing it, but realizes that it isn’t a good thing and stops at the last moment) No, no, no… it’s mine!
I saw her for the first time in a theatre show when I came to college in Bucharest; God, she was so natural on stage, so vulnerable in front of me… at one point she came to the edge of the stage and she started crying, but she wasn’t faking it, she wasn’t playing theatre, she was truly living it! on stage, towards me, she was more vulnerable then to anyone else in her real life, she was opening her heart to me in a way that she certainly wasn’t opening it even to her best friends! In the end, at the applause, she kept looking into my eyes; she had emerald sparkling eyes, just like my sister’s cat eyes! She was tall and so sensible… had a very provocative walk, very organic… (imitating her walk with pleasure) She was wearing a white laced skirt above the knee, (showing how the skirt was like) it was bouffant, with round pleats, with the bottom edge bent inward; she was moving in a provocative way and kept looking at me, but she was doing all very, very subtle, so that only I could notice out of all the spectators!
I got home – well, in my hostel room, because I was staying in a student hostel – and I found myself imagining how it would be like if I went on vacation to Putna and climb to the cross on the mountain near the monastery, as I had been climbing a summer ago, and to find her right there… to happen for her as well to come on vacation to Putna, to climb to the cross out of coincidence exactly the moment I am climbing there… only the two of us on the pick of the mountain, under the cross… the same way I was dreaming when I was a little kid with Iulia! then I would have liked to imagine that Iulia is having an accident on the mountain and I am saving her, but I didn’t do it! I stopped the imagination I and took action this time: I searched the Internet from my roommate’s PC, because I had no computer, and I found her Facebook profile! I asked her to add me as a friend and she gave me accept immediately!
First I commented on two pictures… she was an angel in real life and those pictures weren’t highlighting her true beauty… her skin was slightly coffee-colored, the same as Iulia – my love from the elementary school, she was a coffee-colored angel and incredibly charming this way, and those pictures that she had uploaded were depriving her of exactly this quality, because they were black-and-white! I told her to delete those damn pictures because she looks inhuman, I told her that she looks like Michael Jackson after he had become white! The following day I realized that I could not comment on her pictures anymore. I don’t know why… I wanted to help her, not to hurt her, I’ve been so honest with her, I’ve been vulnerable to her the same as she had also been to me on that stage…
(advancing enthusiastically towards the committee) But I took courage and I sent her a message! I told her that I liked very much how she played, how natural she was, and the following day I found an answer: she wrote me “thank you!” (he relates to that “thank you” as she would have told him “I love you”). God, I was so happy then! and I knew that that is the moment to tell her what I really feel for her; I sent her a new message in which I wrote her like this: „Iulia, I know that we don’t know each other directly, but you are the kind of person that I can know at an intuitive level, without being able to explain… those glances, then, on the stage, were enough for the two of us to know each other for a lifetime!” And at the end I wrote her very honestly, very straightforward: I wrote her “I love you!” and waited for a response. But… I didn’t receive anything from her… I sent her the message again… nothing… I sent it to her day after day with copy-paste, for a period of two months, but… she didn’t respond to me anymore…
So, after a show, I took courage and decided to meet face to face to talk to her, to resolve the situation! I waited for her at the actor’s exit, but… she came out holding another boy’s hand; she kissed him in front of me… she was mocking me… the I heard her talking to him… she said “Look, this is that creep on Facebook!” Nobody had any right to say that I am a creep! (threatening and furious, towards the committee) Absolutely no one had any right to mock me!! Especially her!! Especially her of all the girls in the world had no right to mock me, to tell me that I am a creep!!
(he gets the chair closer to the committee and sits on it) She was playing at the Cassandra Studio, in the old center of Bucharest, on Franceza Street. I knew where she was going home because I had followed her from the beginning… I was walking every day at a few feet behind her. At some point she was turning on a darker street, so I rented an apartment right there, on that street. I knew that she was going to play that evening because I knew her program by heart and I knew that her boyfriend isn’t coming after her because I knew his program as well. I watched her from the window, I waited for her to pass through the front of the building’s entrance, I snuck up behind her, I caught her and quickly shoved on her face a rag full of chloroform; she began to struggle, but I held her tight, (reliving, getting up) then she lean into my arms, I took her quickly into my room and I laid her on the bed.
(fascinated, sincere, with the sexuality of a virgin in love) God, she was so beautiful, so gentle, so calm, so serene, so vulnerable lying there on my bed… that I undressed her: (reliving) her blouse… her pants… her bra… her panties… I tied her to the bed and I… I watched her… I spent all the night watching her sleep… I simply watched her sleeping… all the night. She woke up the next day in the afternoon and started screaming… but she was screaming like a fool because I was talking nice to her! I kept saying how beautiful she is, how much I care about her, how much I love her, but she just simply didn’t wanna listen to me and she continued to scream ans she was screaming louder and louder; the more I was being vulnerable to her, opening my soul to her, the louder she was creaming! so I was forced to take her pants and shove them in her mouth.
(he advances a lot towards the committee with the purpose of sharing them something intimate, with sincere emotion, joy and innocence) In the following days… we made love… we both made love for the first time… and she was struggling and moaning and crying of pleasure, she was really enjoying it, she was truly impressed! She couldn’t speak because she had her pants in her mouth, but she was looking into my eyes and was moaning, showing me that she likes it… We were both very tired afterwards, but we were truly happy! (sincere) It was the happiest moment of our lives.
I cooked her the best meals that I knew my mother was cooking at home when I was a little boy, I searched for my mother’s recipes and I made her cookies like those that my mother made me for Christmas, I fed her very carefully every day, I washed her, I took her to the toilet, I bought her beautiful clothes from the mall, the most beautiful and expensive clothes that she wanted, I dressed her… I downloaded her favorite movies from the internet, we watched them together, I downloaded music on the laptop, we listened to her favorite songs together… God… I treated her like a princess! because she was a princess, she was my princess! I did everything possible for her to be happy! Any girl would have been more than grateful for all this attention that I offered her! Do you know what I got from her, from the being that I loved the most in the world? On the last night, while we were making love, she bit me, she bit my… (reliving, realizing the she had been fooling him all the time) And she made a run for the door. So I got her, I took her pants, (intensely reliving, visualizing her, remaking the movements) wrapped them around her neck and squeeze! I looked into her eyes while she was giving her last breath! Fuckin’ bitch!
After a few seconds she started breathing again. I hadn’t killed any person until then and I didn’t know that when you strangle someone, because he still has air in his lungs, you need to keep squeezing a little even after he stops breathing. She came back and started begging me to let her go, but this time she wasn’t screaming anymore; she was talking so nice to me and she had such beautiful tears… I sat beside her… I watched her and listened to her for about half an hour, then I grabbed the pants again and I made sure that she is not waking up this time. (small trace of remorse, which makes him feel week)
Part IV. DELIVERANCE
Why are you just sitting there like you’re watching a show? Yea… enjoy yourself, have fun! (getting closely to a person from the committee that has an obvious reaction) [improvisation based on the spectator’s reaction] Come on, laugh! I said laugh!! yea! louder!! come on!!!
When I first saw you, I hated you… I hated all these asshole faces of yours! Yea… laugh! it’s good to be an asshole, right? But now… I’m glad that I could tell you all this, I’m really glad that I managed to be honest, vulnerable… now I feel that I know you… it’s completely different… (passing suddenly from one state to another) I think I… am beginning to love you… And… I think I know why I’m feeling this… You will set me free this evening, isn’t it? (noting that no one says anything) You will release me tonight, right?
[improvisation based on the audiences reactions, who are now becoming aware that they play the role of the committee] (he notices someone who answers yes, but most of them respond negatively or remain silent; he desperately seeks a way to escape, he finds it, calms down without releasing the tension and firmly expresses his decision) I’m gonna leave. I’m gonna exit now through that door and I’m not coming back.
[he passes slowly, with fear, but decided, with dignity and dangerous through the audiences, heading towards the opposite door to the one he entered, representing the institution’s exit]
Thank you! (he exits, leaving the committee accomplice to his escape)
[The stage suddenly darkens.]
END OF PLAY