Mario Di Donato

 

ONE ACT PLAY:

BETWEEN TWO WOMEN (FRA DUE DONNE)

Takes place in N.Y.C. 1974, in blue collar apt (in an old world immigrant sense)…kitchen….remembering that this kitchen itself was probably in fashion somewhere between the 1920’s-1950’s.

Two women. Ethnic. English being their 2nd or even 3rd language. They are of European descent…. Jews and Italian. The scene begins with Flora 50 plus years old. Her age matters only in that her friend ‘Bella’ from “the old country” also be around the same age (both having been relieved of WW ll in their late teens or early 20’s) where they’d met in an Italian Internment Camp, where Flora served as Bella’s midwife. They have not seen each other (in almost 30 years)…until today when Bella has caught wind, that Flora’s husband Beniamino is dying. Today they break their fast of silence.

 

FLORA is in her kitchen wiping the counter and making sure everything she looks all around her, is in the right place and order. She rearranges a plant by a half an inch, then moves to a rug, pulling it over about 2 inches or so from where it originally lay. She steps out of her apartment door (off stage)…suddenly, the phone rings several times. 

 

A few more moments pass… Flora returns back into her apt basket in hand, filled with clean laundry. She is a moment too late to answer the phone. A bit nervous, Flora begins folding clothes.Doing so…she looks up to a framed photo…she drops everything and quickly pulls from a cupboard a bottle of white vinegar and a non-paper towel and “has at” the frame. She proceeds onto another frame….grazing it with her finger, then changes her mind. 

 

 Flora returns back into her apt basket in hand, filled with clean laundry.She is a moment too late to answer the phone. A bit nervous, Flora begins folding clothes.Doing so…she looks up to a framed photo…she drops everything and quickly pulls from a cupboard a bottle of white vinegar and a non-paper towel and “has at” the frame. She proceeds onto another frame….grazing it with her finger, then changes her mind. 

 

She goes back to the kitchen counter…in thought.. and begins to chop an onion, a tomato. She then pulls a pan out..adding oil to pan, 1st the onion pieces, watching intently stirring them around, then the tomato.. . We (the audience) must hear the saute…(it is important to have the saute be actually cooking..filling the theater with the smell of her home.

She proceeds to crack open two eggs, beats them into the pan until she is satisfied enough to put a plate  over the pan to flip the omelette (frittata). Once this is done, she turns off the stove and moves the covered pan onto the center of the stove. She breathes in its beauty.

Flora goes and looks into a mirror, running back into the bedroom (out of frame)..returning wearing a different dress. She goes back in… then out… with a different pair of shoes to Flora takes a small mirror to the floor to see how the shoes look, to find a small scuff on the one shoe. She lets out a groan, then pulls out a handkerchief from her house dress and wets a section of it with her tongue, then begins to clean the scuff. As she does so…at the doorway appears a woman dressed in black.

This is ‘Bella’ (which means beautiful)…thick black hose, heavy black sweater andhandkerchief to head and a large purposeful worn pocket-book. Bella is frumpy in that she is not concerned about her body-image or sexuality… if anything, she avoids any suchattention. She dresses much like a typical Italian woman in mourning. 

3

“The old country”. Bella is striking in that her hair is full…pulled back and prematurely adeep gray. She watches Flora with the look and the eye of a hawk and the other eye of arascal. Sounds from Flora indicate she is not happy with her progress…she suddenly looksvup ….STUNNED… she sees Bella…and steals a sudden gasp of air..

.

FLORA

Bella!

BELLA

Brutta! (ugly)

Flora quickly gets up…stands in place for a moment.. and goes to Bella. They embrace.. is

is long and strong, more of a desperate release. They take a few seconds to really look at

each other. Flora in disbelief of Bella’s presence…

BELLA

What is it that you are cooking? I could smell ‘life’ itself from the subway!

FLORA

I made a frittata (omellete). I know you love the smell! How long have you been there

laughing at me!

BELLA

Long enough to see I miss you too much….My God. So long. You know, I can not eat eggs

anymore. They make me…

FLORA

I know. I made it because you once said that you loved the smell…it was the first thing you

smelled, that restored your loss of color.

BELLA

Ha! I remember distinctly seeing the brilliance of color through my nose…as if it were my

first time seeing. How do you remember such silliness! Oh, but you will eat it yes? You

wont waste it?

FLORA

No. Never.

BELLA

Of course not. (a few beats). It has been too long.

Flora.

FLORA

Too long. Madonna Mia….You don’t change. La stessa faccia..the same face. Almost 30

years.

BELLA

No! Not thirty!

FLORA

Well…It is 1974. The war ended 1946.

BELLA

Thirty years. (Bella quickly puts her hands on Floras cheeks…and takes her in). You look

tired. I know about Benni..your husband… Mrs. Frankle from the butcher-shop told me. I

did not ask. I’m sorry to wait for this time to come see you.

4

FLORA

Si. I didn’t know she knew. I’m glad she told you.

BELLA

How long?

FLORA

Mi hanno detto….due settimani. That is what the doctor said….Two weeks.

BELLA

He is a good man..Beniamino…yes? (pronounced Ben-Yah-Mino).

FLORA

(Flora laughs out loud) Yes. He is good. When Benni dies.. I will be sad. (almost

apologizing). When you die…I will die too.

Bella goes in for better inspection. Staring at Flora and giving her the business…playfully

exaggerating, to lighten up the moment.

BELLA

So serious! Look at that face serious even here…in America. Ma perche (but why)?

FLORA

Mezza morta/half dead…yes…but we made it here ahh? These eyes are tired…(poking fun at

herself) Bella, too much for one life to see. Oh my God, let me get you something to

eat…not fritatta!

BELLA

No, grazie no. Thank you Flora. Honestly, I can not eat until evening.

FLORA

Then I will make you coffee. (She rushes to the percolator). Here, I already have it filled. I

just plug in the percolator. Ecco (There).

BELLA

You reminded me of something.

Bella goes into her pocketbook and pulls out something small…wrapped in a napkin and

tied with string-ribbon around it.

I could think of little more than this day. In Italy I often dreamed of this day. I knew it

would happen and I knew I would come to see this moment I would share this with you

and this day has come.

FLORA

Bella, we are here now. Tell me this is nothing of the past.

BELLA

It is nothing of the past. It was of the future, and the future has come, as the only future is

now. Open it and see.

Flora tries nonchalantly but carefully to open the package..she does so to find a piece of

rugelach. Flora lets out a gasp.

FLORA

Bella, that was the 1st thing I wanted to eat when it was over! The 1st thing….and The 2nd

thing..and

BELLA

…and the 3rd…and the 4th….

 

5

 

Together they laugh

BELLA

I could think of nothing more that I wanted to eat, only sweets, and so I did, and today I

knew I would share this with you.

Flora thinks for a moment

FLORA

Have you held onto it for many years?

BELLA

Yes. Almost 30 years.

FLORA

Honestly (in awe)….30 Years.

BELLA

No. I bought at the bakery it this morning, but all the rest is true. I promise.

FLORA

Bella! You cannot tease me like this. I will believe every word you say. Now, I feel foolish

and happy. Sometimes, I forget and now I find reason to laugh.

Bella is light and playful with Flora

BELLA

But you survived. You have a place to live, you raised your children…and still questa faccia tosta! (this hardened/toasted face)! Perche (Why)?

FLORA

Honestly Bella… not enough babies… only 2 survived…….and me.

BELLA

And mine….because of you.

Floras humility shows she can not take credit for any such thing.

I remember the day, more like a feeling. Flora, I was so tiny…my God…I thought I would

be split in half. You know I had no more God in me than those animals.

FLORA

You must not remember that.

BELLA

Yes. I must remember that. Where you came from that day…I can not tell. My instincts

were so sharp. I could smell any ones intentions within 10 feet of me…… the gift of

involuntary fasting. Yet there you were.

FLORA

Bella, you were tired. When I saw you. You were about to fall…

BELLA

I was not! My water broke. I did not know what to do with my feet. I looked down at my

feet and they were wet. I had the strength to leap…but I could not walk. You came from

behind me.. sight unseen..faster than wind. I knew in that moment that my mother was

dead and that it was she who sent you. That was the first moment I knew God. Do you

remember…

Flora is embarrassed by her own humility.

FLORA

Bella…….sta zitta (be quiet)!

BELLA

Tu sta zitto (you be quiet)! I felt your hands to mine, then onto.. that…that tree…Oh my

God…it was Olive yes? But no olives…no leaves. It looked dead Flora…do you remember?

FLORA

Mi ricordo (I remember) Si Bella…si.

BELLA

That old dry tree held me…by the grace of God. It was smaller than me. I held onto it like I was a child holding onto my mothers legs.

FLORA

But you were.

BELLA

Yes. The strength of that little armless tree..dry and leafless.

FLORA

It was winter…

BELLA

Was it? I did not think I could stand the heat. I was burning …on fire. Your hands were

cold and good.

FLORA

Fever Bella….you were burning up from fever.

BELLA

Perhaps. Listen to you and me….not 5 minute together, and we are in the throws of our former selves. Ahhh. What shall we do besides avoid speaking of death. What shall we do?

My neighbor Tanina makes the Bundt cake. You know what that is…yes?

Flora rushes into a cabinet.

FLORA

Look Bella!

Flora gently pulls out a cotton sack, in it.. pulls out something protected by newspaper and yet another bag…She reveals a Bundt Cake Pan. Bella just stares at it in awe. Almost reluctant to touch it.

FLORA

I can never use it.

BELLA

But why?

FLORA

It is too beautiful and wasteful! And! I already have a pan. (she gets and idea) But I

promise I will use it to make you the Bundt cake. That is how I will get myself to use it!

Aha!! I’m not so dumb!

The two laugh, sharing tiny nuances of intimate struggle only each other could

understand.

FLORA

My children say I am crazy.

BELLA

You still find the joy of children…within yourself.

FLORA

And you too.

Bella gets ready to say something but thinks twice.

BELLA

I do…..when I look at you. I do.

In a funny manner.. Flora rushes over to Bella and points at her own eye.

FLORA

Then why I don’t see it!

BELLA

Well. I don’t show too much… on my face.

FLORA

But you do.

BELLA

Questa faccia tosta! (This hardened face)!

FLORA

(Laughing) Si….Quella Faccia tosta! Yes, that crusty face! Why?

BELLA

You ask…honestly? Or for fun…to laugh.

Flora thinks for a second.

FLORA

You are my gift today…you came to see me…so, you choose.

The two are having fun. Bella takes a moment…as if she’s “coming clean”. Last sounds of

gurgling indicate the Percolator  is done and coffee is ready. Flora pours the two a cup of

coffee on saucers.

BELLA

Honestly. I can never trust a country that permits the men to put their hands into us and pullout our babies.

Flora is thrown a second then laughs..but goes along with it without too much thought.

FLORA

Well, most girls are doing this now. You know they say….

BELLA

Yes.. I know. It is cleaner, more sanitary, less barbaric. Better chance for mother and child to survive. I believe this no more than I believe circumcision is not mutilation. I preserved this race with the dirt from under my feet and the grace of humanity from a stranger…that is you. Who’s internal instinct and not who’s ‘intelligence’ helped…save My race…beginning with my child. With dirt. What is more pure than dirt?

FLORA

Mah perche parla cosi?.. Why Bella do you speak like this… Who is so serious now? Look

at your son…

BELLA

Yes my son! The doctor…embarrassed by his mothers loss of education….would have the senselessness to tell me how to live better.

FLORA

Bella, he is so proud. He wants to help you. You are his mama.

BELLA

And he is a man. Basta (enough)!

There is a silence, but it is not awkward. Flora is empathetic to Bella..completely. She

thinks…and as though she is sharing something sweet…

It is the past that we must let go of…every day. ‘We’ understand the permanence of

impermanence. Men can do things incredibly well, once, twice, even 3 times. They are not gifted so much with ritual…unless it is cigarettes or coffee, or liquor. We understand the permanence of impermanence. Everyday, we can let the past go, or suffer becoming too much like them. Let the past go.

BELLA

And how?

FLORA

Every day the past comes…every day, you must let it go. Learn from your son. He is the future.

BELLA

My son is certain to save the race by circumcising every gentile…in the holy war of modern medicine. The stupidity of American Men. In just one generation. One. They mutilate their sons. And one day, their sons sons will say to their wives “Yes yes, of course we  circumcise. It was good enough for my father, its good enough for my son. Never knowing why they are “branded”. The obvious lie of cleanliness no longer can hold the false truth.  Today men wash their entire bodies…with clear water…some daily. I don’t believe   any of it. (Pause) You know… When the men of the “not so chosen” race ‘obvious’…they pulled the pants down of the men, to see if they were in fact…

FLORA

Zitta! (quiet)…..

BELLA

And if they were….They were sometimes shot on the spot. And so….for preservation. Let all men be branded, cut from as a blessing to our men who shall no longer be identifiable and suffer possible persecution, bris them and spite them secretly. Let them think it is their idea. Is it not hell to have another force their tradition…their religion…or their rights onto another? Even when it is done smoothly…in secrecy. Blood is still shed. This is the “future” of  tolerance!

FLORA

Bella, there is truth in the saying “ Bless them..for they know not what they do”…

BELLA

No!!! They know of what they do. This slow annihilation surpasses race. What will come of us? Flora, how many babies have you delivered? 

Flora is no match for Bella and is somewhat bewildered.

FLORA

What you say? Ahh Bella….I don’t know exactly. There were about oh…maybe..

(somewhat frustrated) many babies I bring into this world.

BELLA

How many survived?

FLORA

All but one….one was stillborn; two did not get to a year of age.

BELLA

Then how is it that they continue to mutilate?

FLORA

Who?

BELLA

The doctors. They…the men…are actually ‘planning’ when the mother will deliver! How the hell do they know when a baby is ready…the men….who play God and are God-less.

FLORA

Yes, perhaps they do this….(deeply pondering) without love. You ask “What will become of these babies? I did not think about it before. I don’t think I want to see this…before now

BELLA

Flora. Sooner or later there will be no babies. When men take the place of God….history does not change. Europe was destroyed, you saw what happened. We will not survive another war.

FLORA

Do you think it is possible? The men are very intelligent in America.

BELLA

They appear to be. The police. Their uniforms are not so different than the ones we saw..only  their uniforms are a blend of material…more synthetic…less natural..like what we are becoming. They are there, silent, but a reminder to us.

FLORA

Do you really think so? Bella, a reminder…of Na..? Stop before you make yourself bad.

BELLA

Bad?

FLORA

Mad! Before you make yourself sad. Before you make yourself ‘SAD’!

BELLA

Bad? I have been called a bad Je…

Flora cuts off Bella not wanting to hear her to finish her sentence.

FLORA

You are not bad Bella! I mean to say that I don’t want you to…’hurt’….anymore than you must.

BELLA

And I love you for being a reminder that within this world, something as ‘right’ at you can possibly be. I sometimes avoid the thought of you because I believe you are contrary to the lies we are living and feeding. Somehow , you survive. Too few are you, Flora. Only one.

FLORA

Bella. I care for you like my eyes. I don’t always understand your words, but I understand your heart. You cannot build your own trap in this life. I don’t think that is why you survive. We cannot exist to “beware” alone. We are good. We are good.

BELLA

And…the future?

FLORA

Yes?

BELLA

How do you see the future?

FLORA

(bragging)

I am hopeful of a good future…with education…science and medicine..

BELLA

I do not agree. I see medicine and science and religion having the same face.

FLORA

With what respect?

BELLA

With no respect. Everyone speaks….”Well, the doctor said..The doctor feels…The doctor wants”…I think we are heading for a world of educated idiots among one brain. Dangerous because it is pure arrogance. The arrogance of those in command, and the sheep, those who follow blindly and unknowingly still…with soft, entitled arrogance.

FLORA

Say more….that I may better understand.

BELLA

In the camps. In our silent rage for survival…we saw many victims among us become our

very perpetrators…for so many reasons I can’t even count…Many of us..thanking our

oppressors for our still being alive, although we were half dead…knowing we could be

killed at any given moment…to take on the very hate boiled onto us, and use it on our own,

maybe to forget that we had not a feather of control in our given circumstances. Our

future…is a future of hiding behind diplomas …what they call ‘degrees’ and self appointed

aristocracies..Status being the false prophet of God. Where the rabbi/ and priest have

fallen…the doctor will (rise) have taken command. It’s not medicine I fear. I fear the ones

‘governing’ medicine health and welfare. Guilt, or fear of hell will no longer keep people

controlled. Fear of appearing ignorant or unintelligent, will keep people controlled. The

more brilliant the mind, the weaker the heart, the smaller the God.

 

Flora is respectful and taking in all that Bella is giving. So much to digest.

FLORA

I can see it. In many ways, you are right. I see it. But how Bella. How could it be worse?

BELLA

You are serious…you don’t see?

FLORA

Don’t see what?

BELLA

Why you don’t bring baby into world anymore. You don’t make no more, midwife?

FLORA

I’m too old.

BELLA

Too old?

FLORA

Yes. I’m afraid now.

BELLA

Why you afraid?

FLORA

Of doing something wrong. Maybe the baby dies, or mother dies too. You can not be too careful. Today, we have the beautiful hospitals, that is why we have doctors. We have no future if we cannot breed and have our own babies. Soon we will have no right to birth babies, it will become law. The doctor tells mother when she can have a baby! When it is convenient for him? He makes the appointment and rips out baby from mother. What is to become of these children?

FLORA

You sound as though you speak of …..abortion.

BELLA

It is different only in that the baby is dead, alive or otherwise used for unknown purpose.

The sentiment is the same. Doctor is present because regardless, all three have a dollar on

their heads… mother, new baby, or dead baby. These Men have secretly agreed among

themselves, that this practice is beyond the common or even the honorable, for they

themselves are the elite and have no law to follow, but make laws to insure their

investments! You and I are made idiots because the doctors have decided that we are unfit

and unqualified to birth babies. How is it possible that someone outside of my own body

has made law as to where and how I shall birth a baby from my God! Why do they let us

keep them at all…if we can not be trusted with birthing among ourselves, a child being born

as it should, between 2 women. Why do we even have this Goddamned discussion; like

orphaned children under the house of their benefactors.. we continue being tortured by the

those in command! How is it different!

FLORA

Bella, easy….please…..

BELLA

How is it different from what they did in Europe? They dissected many of us….their

 

12

 

‘experiments’…. and now this…this practice in America…not even in the lie: in the name of

the sickness of the advancement of humanity. How is it different here… Medicine…and its

desire to sterilize. What is Ethnic cleansing?….for nothing more than Control and the dirty

dollar.

FLORA

Bella…calmate…calmate (calm yourself).

BELLA

Non posso Flora….I can not. I see a world becoming worse here. I see murder on many

levels. I see it and I know it. As humanity gets cleaner, we will surely be self sterilized. As

we get cleaner/smarter/better, God will become a dirty ‘thing’..useless if not, only for the

ignorant, like the belief of a child in Santa Claus. My sons eyes mock me because he

believes I am that very child…but I am afraid that I am losing that child, here… in America.

Flora paces around several times…in thought.

FLORA

And you can not see anything…good.

Bella takes a long honest beat.

BELLA

I cannot.

FLORA

Not in anyone.

BELLA

Not even in myself. Only in you.

FLORA

Flora stares at Bella for a long while. Both women silent…..Bella finally speaks….

Then if that is true…and I know it is. You….must go away from me.

Bella silently shudders to Flora’s words.

BELLA

Flora. You don’t ‘play’ with talk like this.

FLORA

Bella….my Love…my sister….I could not play with such words. I say them because I’m

certain of them.

BELLA

What do you say this for? What are….mah che dici? (what are you saying)?

FLORA

I can not be the only person who can believe there is something good. I have too much love

for you …it makes me weak, and if you see my good and are not still infected by it

secretly…despite yourself…Then, I will be forsaken..for then my weakness will fall into

you….and I do not wish that onto myself or anyone…anyone. I know what you say is pure

as is evil, and too…it is truth…but I can not exist in it. I must remain

uninformed. Unintelligent…as you see me….to save the only heart I know, I will not have

survived alongside you …..to die of my own self-betrayal.

Bella

Nooooooooo!

FLORA

Bella. You go now.

BELLA

I will not go!

FLORA

Bella….you must go NOW!

Flora aggressively takes Bella by the arm. Bella violently pulls away.

BELLA

This is what I speak of. This is America. This is what is being done to us!….when one

sister of the heart…My sister in truth…can throw out another? This is the new world of

prosperity of milk and of honey…while we slowly rot in our insides while smiling the

tortured smile of a presidents wife.

Flora lunges at Bella and strikes her in the face. Bella..shocked into silence.

FLORA

You don’t know what you are saying…you talk like ‘devil’…Bella auitami (help me)!

What do you want from me!!!!! I can not make babies anymore than I can bring them into

this world. It is the law, and I will follow it and make that sacrifice so that I can walk a

street at any moment I choose..safe..and in peace. We all make agreements, and I made

mine. Don’t come here again and speak of race or of babies or the hell of this civilization.

BLACK.
Bio:

Mario Di Donato is a first-generation  Italian-American 1st generation and the father of four sons.  He has made his living in the arts, and now is interested in writing for the theater, in particular.

Advertisements