Two-Faced

by Joseph Panzetta

The Players:
Person
Crow
The weather man
The chorus (the three players above)

Lights come up on a mostly empty stage. Tumbleweeds are in a few clusters around the edges. A metal garbage can is downstage left. The first light of day floods in from stage right with red hues. PERSON is sitting center stage on the ground, facing the rising sun, soaking in the rays.

PERSON turns and faces the audience, leaning back, looking comfortably out into the faces as if beholding the most unremarkable thing, something that holds the attention only because it occasionally changes. PERSON then holds the thought of Nameless for a moment before speaking.

PERSON
Nameless. I mean, how funny is that, that her name is Nameless? I guess it makes sense – her name… I don’t think a regular name would suit her. She’s bigger than any name. She is eternally there, on the fucking job, always clocked in. (matter of factly) breathing fire. Nameless. 

It’s she that takes us – according to some schedule we are not privy to or consulted on. Sudden accidents, long illnesses, peaceful departures – they all originate from her… (finding a metaphor) paint brush. She brings us together… in love, in passionate union, in turmoil and conflict… all drawn with… colorful, invisible ink.

Crow enters upstage left, casting long shadows and wearing all black and with a blackfeathered face, her costume accentuated pathetically by a poorly made crows beak that she puts on and/or carries in her hand and eventually loses and then finds again throughout the scene. PERSON notes her arrival and then ignores her, lost in thought. Crow is carrying a step ladder. She sets it and climbs up to rest her hands and chin on the top platform while wiggling her tail feather slowly, which face the sun.

The Weatherman enters upstage right, turns and walks down stage center. Crow and PERSON turn to him with full attention.

THE WEATHERMAN
(Smiling, as if on-air)

Yesterday saw a high of 63 and a low of 53. Dawn was at 7:14 am, and the sun went bye bye, at 8:02. (brief smile) In the sky four nights ago was the last sliver of moon, rising in the east around 3pm. The first (makes quote signs) star you could have seen, right at dusk, was actually the planet, Venus. Okay folks, seeeeeeee you next time. (big smile. Turns and walks off left, immediately mumbling to himself).

As the WM exits, PERSON and CROW both say some variation of “good job”. Then Crow climbs down, walks to the trash can, stretches, and then begins cataloging the contents of the can in neat rows and columns centerstage, and PERSON turns back to the audience, takes a breath, and begins again.

PERSON
I’ve seen her 5 times. When my brother died… I saw her up close. But the 4 other times, she was waaaaaay high up in the sky. Miles away. The size of my pinky finger nail. That’s how most people see her most of the time, of course. We hear about her all our lives, but rarely see her. Until it’s your time, or if you’re near someone who’s time it is. (pause). Then you see her up close. You can smell her. You can feel the vibration and warmth of her breath. Those times I saw her up in the sky we all just stood there and watched her. You know, when she’s way high up there, you might even continue the conversation you were having, but now your eyes are skyward. The ambivalent dragon who cares not for our feelings. Whenever she shows up, people just watch her.

(PERSON pulls a scone out of their shirt and continues, delivering the following lines while eating, crumbs flying from their mouth and down their shirt.)

We live in our lanes. We live in the ruts we create over time. We can’t help it. It’s unavoidable and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, I suppose. But it should be acknowledged. We pretend we have free will. And we appear to have control enough to decide things… which direction to walk in, for instance, or what we want to do. What we want to eat (gesturing). But we don’t…really…have that power of choice. I mean, of course we do make choices, but we are ultimately being propelled forward (pause) by the two-faced train conductor. Carrot, (pause) and stick. One side of his face is all greedy and longing, and the other distasteful and grossed out. (finishing the scone) The conductor drives us, and the ambivalent dragon takes us.

WM has reappeared, and all three actors face the audience and speak in unison but naturally, slowly moving towards each other and downstage.

CHORUS
Long ago perhaps, she became the sun, deciding to burn forth in a radiance of light and warmth. Now her planets cling like babes wanting for milk. For fun perhaps, she becomes grass in the field, feeding deer. Inventing beauty.

The story goes that she swims in the ocean, to its very depths, to its darkest, coldest corners, seeking quiet. And she flies up over the clouds to the thinnest of thin air, to watch the light bend, whispering words we do not understand into the eternal blackness.

Now all three are shoulder to shoulder, down center.

CROW

She wears an evening gown that shows in its folds the silent, dead moon, phasing, pulling our waters.

WM
and then dropping her dress to the ground, she stands there naked,

PERSON
(astonished) and I see she is made of stars,

CROW
breathing fire,

WM
painting with invisible ink.

Weatherman, takes a phone out of his back pocket and is sucked in. the lighting has shifted to afternoon, now coming from stage right more than left.

Crow and PERSON pose for a selfy facing upstage from center stage, framing the shot by looking back at the audience a few times. Then they break. WM leaves. PERSON folds their arms and faces the audience thoughtfully for a moment.

PERSON
The two-faced train conductor pulls relentlessly on my sleeve. Relentless motherfucker. Always. Pulling. On my fucking sleeve.  (Pause. Absent mindedly.) And I forget about her.  I’m a sleep walker, after all.  Just awake enough not to bump into things… most of the time. (deep in thought) Sleep walker. (present again) I see, in moments, that I’m sleeping, but then… f a l l (yawn) back… into…

CROW
(cataloging the garbage again)
Did you hear the news?

PERSON
(slightly startled but then indifferent)
No. What’s that?

CROW
About Bob down the street…

PERSON
(eventually looking at Crow like, “yeah..?”)
……..what about him? 

CROW
(pausing her work to tell the story)
He works at that one restaurant downtown, you know, and he said it was just like any other day at work, like nothing different was happening, like he was making salads and dessert plates like he always does – he works at the salad and dessert station, you know – and then he ran out of something, and had to refill some container, to pour something in, and so he went into the kitchen for a minute, and there’s a walk-in fridge there, and he opened the door and went in, and the door closed behind him – but it was okay because there’s the thing you push that opens the door again – and he moved some 5 gallon buckets around and found what he needed, and refilled his thing, and put the lid back on the bucket, and pushed the door thing, and went back to his work station, and finished what he was making. (nodding).

PERSON
(pause)
Fascinating.

CROW
Yeah, he told me about it.

PERSON
(pause)
I bet you two have great conversations.

CROW
(back to cataloging the trash)
Ah huh.

PERSON
What are you looking for?

CROW
I’ll know when I see it. Oh my God! (reaching into the can) This is it! What I was looking for!

PERSON
What is it? What’d you find?

CROW
It’s a… (struggling to acquire the prize in the bottom of the can) …it’s a… (reaching further in. Now her head and shoulders in the can) …I think it’s…a… (falls in the can and knocks it over onto its side and yells, and then lies unconscious, half in the can).

PERSON
What the fuck!? What the… are you?… ah (waves her off). Whatever.

Weatherman enters stage left and carries 2 folding chairs under one arm. With his free hand he counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. over and over. Reaching downstage center, he sets the chairs with some space between them and takes a seat.

WM
(Sigh)
What a fricken’ day it’s been.     

PERSON
Oh, yeah? 

WM
(Sighs again)
Yeah… ah, man. I just… it’s hard to explain. I, ah, well… (giving up) Ahhhh.

PERSON
Sounds bad.  

WM
There’s this thing at work. And to be perfectly honest, I’m just done. I’m just done. It’s been going on forever, and it’s not gonna change, and I do my best with it, but… it sucks, really.

PERSON
Sounds bad.  

WM
Yeah, and then I get home and it’s more of the same, in a different context, but it’s the same, really. I mean… I work fricken’ hard all day. That’s not what I need when I get home. And it just seems like the whole fricken’ country is falling apart in the meantime. I mean… what the fuck?

PERSON
…Sounds… bad.

WM
Yeah. Fuck. But I’m good. Honestly. I’m good. ‘Cause, you know… what are you gonna do, right? (laughing) But make lemonade, right? Or de-pit the cherries in the bowl of life or whatever that expression is. What’s that expression?

PERSON
… You mean, “If life is a bowl of cherries, why am I in the pits?”

WM
Yeah! That one. I mean what the fuck? But, it’s all good. …Really.

PERSON
…Good.

WM
How are you.

PERSON
Oh… I’ve been contemplating the fabric of life, and finding that there are parameters we work within, that we have little control over, which dictate our limited scope of interpretation, …all based on accumulated conditioning and an interrelated web of existence that is driven by attraction and aversion. And… I have mixed feelings about it all.

WM
…Good.

Crow awakens and emerges and shakes it off. She moves and sits cross legged on the floor between the chairs. Person shrugs like “why not?” and takes the other seat. They sit in silence. Crow preens her facefeathers with her fingers, which are also adorned with feathers – 1 for each finger. Her beak is next to her somewhere.

They settle down into a largely stationary position, each with a look on their face. WM has slowly evolved into a resting smile-face, that looks more than slightly inauthentic. Crow is blank-faced. Person is pensive.

PERSON
I saw your beak the other day, by the edge of the yard… by the gate… next to that little shrub… the last in a line of little shrubs… all in a line… by the edge of the yard… along the fence… where poppies propagate and cats travel through, on route to espionage.

Silence

PERSON
…so I picked it up and left it on the porch, hoping you’d see it there. Looks like you found it? Or is that a replacement?

CROW
I did find it there. Thank you. I went to retrieve it by the edge of the yard, by the gate, next to that little shrub, the last in a line of little shrubs, all in a line, by the edge of the yard, along the fence, where poppies propagate and cats pass through on route to espionage, but found it not there.  I looked immediately to the house, and saw it was on the railing, by the corner of the house, where the drainpipes intersect, above mossyville – which thrives beneath. I realized at once that it must have been you, who had come upon my beak by the edge of the yard, by the gate, next to that little shrub… you know… the last in that line of little shrubs, all in that line, (gesturing) by the edge of the yard, along the fence, where those brilliant, deep red poppies propagate in clusters… and you must have thought… oh my, it’s crow’s beak, here on the edge of the yard, in the dark, by itself, and she might not know it’s here, and I should intervene for her own good, and place it somewhere she will likely see it, and ingeniously thought of the spot at the end of the railing, where the perpendicular… um… yeah. Thanks for that.

Long pause

WM
(snaps out of smile-face and speaks naturally)
My cat used to travel through there. She was a serious hunter. Mostly rats and mice. She patrolled the alley along with the other neighborhood cats, and she’d bring them back alive to the yard right behind the deck. (pause) Usually started with the heads. I was sitting out there once reading, and then heard this crunching sound…

CROW
I’m not enjoying this conversation.

WM
I’d often come home, and find disemboweled thank you nots, along with an occasional rear foot or piece of tail. There was that time when I woke up to the sound of a very small scream. I jolted awake and tuned on the light to find her with a live rat in her mouth, that she had brought through the cat door. I picked her up, and thankfully she kept the rat in mouth as I tossed her outside and locked her cat door. She would have to meow to get in from there on out.

CROW
Heath, who lives past the strip mall, he told me the other day that he was walking down the sidewalk and came upon a single blooming somethingerother, just all proud and glorious in a bath of sunlight, dancing slightly in the breeze, and that he had the thought that it would be good to be able to just bloom the way this flower was blooming. That all the work he’s done over his entire life, all the effort to create this and that, all the time, energy and money he’s spent on certifications and degrees and advancement, all the seeking of knowledge and acknowledgment, all the effort to be legit, and liked, and well thought of, and successful… all that shit, that it was all for naught, and that really the best, most impactful thing he could ever hope for, would be to bloom like that little somethingerother, right where he was, for the short time he had, and to bring beauty into the world for all those who encountered him.

(pause)

But I do not really understand these words he spoke. I understand the framework of what he’s saying. But only with understanding akin to a summer frog to a slug. They see each other around the neighborhood and largely keep at a distance, but on occasion find themselves occupying the same space at the same time, and they hear each other’s words in these times, like overhearing a conversation from the campers in the tent next door, who are from Freiburg, and who are like – in the camping space next to yours, and they’re speaking German, while lighting their lantern, citronella in the air, last day light lingering gently, and you don’t understand German, or the slug doesn’t understand summer frog, maybe a little tadpole and spring singer song, but not summer frog song. In that way, when Heath told me that story about wanting to bloom like that flower he saw, I got it, but… I kinda don’t get it. (pause) But I kinda get it.

The Sun is now setting, stage left, casting long shadows.

WEATHERMAN
(Stands. Delivers the following emphatically. Earnestly. Dropping the “on-air” persona and sharing from the heart as CROW and PERSON start singing quietly and snapping their fingers. “Loves me like a rock. Loves me like a rock, oh baby. Loves me like a rock…”

The day before yesterday had a high of 62 and low of 59. Sunrise was out of the west at never-never time, and that light precipitation you may remember happening, that was due to moisture collecting in the air, slowly condensing in on itself and forming drops of water, that formed inside the density of clouds, their weight becoming more than the birthing sky could hold, and they dropped, and collected into little threads of streams, and sizable, legitimate streams, nice, healthy streams that run all day and all night, (crying now) and which collect into creeks with swimming holes, where farmed trout live for a season, before being caught on a hook by a person wearing waiters, with a fishing license pined to their $140 hat.

(inauthentic smile back on)

And in other news, dogs were dogs and cats were cats.

Weatherman takes out his phone and becomes engrossed, slowly walking off right. Crow and PERSON start laughing and crying uttering variations of “good job,” and then take out their phones and become engrossed. PERSON slowly exits right, flipping through a series of somethings, mumbling about what they see quietly. Audibly liking this, and not liking that. Crow has stood up but not moved. She is creating a calendar event. Lights begin to fade

CROW
Okay, Friday, June 14th
But wait isn’t that… oh shit… (flipping over to email to search for an email pertaining to this endeavor) alright, let’s see… so…

lights are out. Total blackness other than Crows phone light, illuminating her face.

(To the audience, no longer looking at the phone.) I can’t help but do it, whatever it is. I can’t help it. The two-faced conductor says, “Take it, now, bitch!” I wonder if he drives Nameless or she drives him? Either way, eventually, she’ll just take my ass.

Turns phone off.