Thursday, 14 June 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Act 2 Contentious Minds - one day to go!




Personnalités. - USA. Arsdale. NY. American writer Mary McCARTHY. 1956. - Cigarette, Interior, McCARTHY Mary, Seated, Smile, Smoker, White people, Woman - 45 to 60 years




ACT TWO: Scene one
Laura
Press night at New York’s Martin Beck theatre December 2, 1956.  Lily has gone outside for a smoke.  Things are not going well for the playwright.  Lillian lights her cigarette.  Mary…
Lily (takes out cigarette)
Goddamn it!  (it doesn’t light)
Laura
Lillian lights her cigarette.  Here.  Miss Hellman.  (Follows her.)
Lily
Fuck.  (She can’t light it.)
Laura
Here, Miss Hellman.
Lily
(Jumps.)  Shit, you scared the piss out of me.  I’ve not been the same since the House Un-American Activities Committee put the FBI on my ass.
Laura
(Crosses to Lily.)  I am sorry.  Miss Hellman.
Lily
Call me Lilu.  I hate my last name.  Hell…start with that and add the most troublesome three letter word in the English language.  Man.  How’d you like to go through life with a name like that?  What’s your name, dear?
Laura
Laura.  My name is Laura.  It’s such a pleasure to hear you speak of politics.  The woman I know never discuss…
Lily
…politics or religion or sex and ideas.  Not directly.  The women you know always discuss it indirectly, sotto voce, with their eyes.  Am I right, dear?
Laura
Yes.  You are.  The women I know talk about boys…man and food and the current fashions, but…
Lily
Those are all subjects for the suburbs.  And what do you do Laura.  What do you wish to do?
Laura
I’m an actress.
Lily
(On her guard.)  You mean you’ve studied acting?
Laura
No.  I’ve done summer stock and I worked on a film.
Lily
Really.  A film?  With whom?
Laura
Well, my part was just a small one, but the director was Elia Kazan.
Lily
(In anger.)  Who?
Laura
Elia Kazan, you know.  The one who directed Marlon Brando…
Lily
Oh yes, I know the name.  One of those goddamned men with big noses… You should always beware of men with big noses.  (Thinking.)
Laura
I’m afraid I don’t understand.
Lily
No, you’re too young.  Why are you standing outside the theatre?
Laura
I came to see your new play (Beat) “Candide.”
Lily
Really.  I couldn’t have guessed.  And how are you liking it?  I mean as an actress?
Laura
Well, it’s strange to do Voltaire with music.  The story itself is so funny.  I mean it just gets in the way of the humour when an actor suddenly stops in the middle of being flogged by the Inquisition and turns to the audience to sing.  Don’t you think?
Lily
Yes, I do.  I’m not inclined to musicals.  I’ll never do one again.  Did you find any of the songs memorable?
Laura
I can’t say that I did and I really have a good memory.  Every actor needs one!  Perhaps the only refrain that comes to mind for me is “I am Easily Assimilated.”  How does it go?
Lily
That terrible thing.  I can’t recall a word of it!  My memory is secltive, patchy at best.  I recall what I choose to recall and forget the rest.  In this time of witch trials, it’s best not to remember anything.  (beat) Did you vote for Adlai Stevenson?
Laura
Yes.  And I am glad I did.
Lily
Really?  Tell me why.
Laura
Well, he was once asked to compare St. Paul with Norman Vincent Peale.  Without batting an eye, he said, “I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling.”  That alone would get my vote.
Lily
(Laughing)  You have good instincts.  Of course, I find both Paul and Peale appalling.  And Stevenson is a marshmallow.  I suppose you’ve never heard of the Hollywood Ten?
Laura
Of course I have.  I told you, I worked with Elia Kazan.  I can name them in alphabetical order.  All ten.
Lily
Of course you can’t.
Laura
Of  course I can.  I told you I have a good memory.  In a case like The Hollywood Ten I use the letter method.  It comes in handy with all the memory work an actor…employs.


Lily
Oh really.  Then demonstrate your methods to one whose memory is at times defective.
Laura
Certainly.  Let’s see.  Hollywood Ten.  No A’s, 2 B’s, 1 C, 1 D, 2 L’s, 1 M, 1 O, 1 S, 1 T.  That’s it.  2 B’s Alvah Bessie, fought in Spain.  Herbet Biberman, Hollywood hack.  1 C, Lester Cole, formerly Cohen.  1 D, Edward Dmytryk, no vowels.  2 L’s, Ring Lardner, Jr., his father was a friend of Scott Fitzgerald, John Howard Lawson, President and founder of the Screen Writer’s Guild.  1 M, Adrian Scott, a man, they were all men.  And 1 T, Dalton Trumbo.  He wrote Johnnie Got Hit Gun.  (Takes a bow.)
Lily
Amazing.  I worked with Lester when we were readers at MGM.  And John Howard Lawson had to be the greatest union president any union ever had.  I was making $2500 a week (Laughing) when thirty per cent of this country was out of work.  Now that’s a union for you!  With money like that, who needs a memory?
Laura
Everyone!  You can do it too.  With my letter method.  Try the Seven Dwarfs.
Lily
Oh please.  Disney was a fascist… Think of Bambi.
Laura
No, no.  See that’s the problem.  You colour all your memories with emotion.  Can’t do that.  Just break it down logically.  1 B.  2 D’s.  1 G.  1 H.  2 S’s.  Try it.
Lily
Oh, I can’t.  This is too fucking silly.
Laura
Yes, you can.  B’s the hardest one.  (She mimes Bashful.)
Lily
Bashful.
Mary
(Enters in shadows.)


Laura
Right.  You see.  2 D’s
Lily
Uh, Doc.
Laura
(Mimes Dopey.)  Go on.
Lily
And Dopey.
Laura
1 G.
Lily
Grumpy.  That’s an easy one.
Laura
1 H.
Lily
Happy
Laura
2 S’s.  (Pretends to sneeze.)
Mary
(Crosses to centre stage.)  Oh, may I play too?  Have a tissue.
Lily
Joseph McCarthy.  Here to review my play?
Mary
(nods)
I share his name, not his opinions.  Were you naming the Seven Dwarfs, Miss Hellman?  I happen to have seen it with my son.  Sneezy and Sleepy.  You were two dwarfs short.  You are?
Laura
Laura Ubanski.  That’s my real name.  My stage name is Laura Maple.


Mary
Mary.  (Beat) McCarthy.
Laura
Oh yes.  I’ve read your story, “The Man…”
Mary
“In the Brooks Brothers’ Shirt.”  So has everyone.  Miss Ubanski.
Lily
(To Laura)  Better watch her.  She’s one of those witch hunters.  Your name is Russian, dear?
Laura
…No, it’s Polish.  But I was born in London.  My father was part of the Polish government in exile.  During the war.
Lily
I see.  So…(She has to think this over.)  He…must be here (As opposed to dead in Poland.) In America.
Laura
He owns Polish Hams Inc.
Mary
Miss Hellman should tell you of her experiences in Poland during the war.  Some time.  Maybe you’ll  read for her next play.  It’s hard to follow up a musical like “Candide” with anything but a melodrama.  What would it be?  Another victim play, but this time set in Washington, the lovely and brilliant heroine is dragged before a pack of loathsome protestant bigots…
Laura
Sounds…interesting…
Lily
To Miss McCarthy…she’s had a series of other last names The House un-American Activities Committee is simply a mild irritation like poison ivy…But for those of us who were actually tortured by them…


Mary
Tortured, Miss Hellman, please.  It was Samuel Dickstein, a liberal from New York, in fairness to the truth, who first got permission to LOOK for un Americans.
Lily
Yes, (Trying to remember.)  Dickstein set up The House Unamerican Activities Committee to monitor the activities of the German-American Bund.  It was a good thing, too.  They were Nazis.  They needed monitoring.
Laura
How interesting.  A Roosevelt Democrat?
Mary
(Overrides her.)  Thet Committee was a bad idea from the beginning.  You can’t put people in jail for their ideas.  No matter how stupid they are.  I come from a family of layers.
Lily
(Makes note.) I’m not surprised.  You write like one!
Mary
So when the pendulum swung back, against you and your friends, because make no mistake about it, what the Stalinists sis in 1939, the dock strikes…holding back planes from Britain and France while shipping scrap metal to Japan…
Lily
To keep us out of war on the side of the…
Laura
British…I read that…my father told me the American Intelligentsia was not…very intelligent.
Mary
(To Lily.)  Stupidly…we were on the same side, you and I, against the war.  But closing down weapons plants with strikes while your country is at war, comes pretty close to treason…in my mind…
Laura
Very intelligent…


Mary
I’m ashamed of what I said and wrote against the war in 1941, before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour.  I admit my error.  Mea Culpa.  And you, Miss Hellman?
Lily
I have none to admit.  I was ahead of my time.  Active while you were passive.  You saw my play…
Mary
“Watch On The Rhine.”  I missed it…but I do congratulate you for getting it right that time.  (Pause.)  I despise Joe McCarthy as much as you do, but to compare his crimes to those of Joseph Stalin, the FBI to the KGB, Hoover to Yehzov, the victims of the Blacklist to the slave labor gangs on the White Sea canal?  (Beat)  Tem million dead or tortured to a few thousand jailed for a year…
Lily
Dash was in prison for six months and it broke him!
Mary
As you fled to Franc.  A little time in prison is good for a writer.  Think of Gorky or Tolstoy or even Voltaire!  With your active voice, you managed to sanitize “Candide.”  Like the Soviets!
Lily
It was not my choice to leave out all Voltaire’s little prejudices.  The Prelate and the Jew who shared his Conegonde.  The Turks who raped her over and over.  Or were they Burglars?  Of course, you, Miss McCarthy, have never faced a jail cell in your life, have you?
Mary
I was married to Edmund Wilson for seven years, does that count?  (Catching her breath.)
Lily
Poor Edmund.  He beat you black and blue.  I saw it.  But you ravished him in prose.  (They both stop to light cigarettes considering their parallel mentors.)
Laura
That was my thought.


Lily
(To Mary.)  You have…very high stannards for everyone else, Miss McCarthy.  It’s part of your profession as a critic, if that’s what you are.  In the language of Voltaire:
C’est un mal vivant qui gagne sa vie dire du mal de toutes les pieces et de tous les livres; (Beat) il haut quiconque reusit comme les eunuques haissent les jouissants.”  (Struggles with the French.)
Laura
I didn’t quite…get that.
Lily
Perhaps Miss McCarthy could translate.
Mary
Are you testing me?
Lily
Why yes.  Would you like me to repeat it?
Mary
Oh please, don’t torture us again.  (Repeats the French word for word, then translates.)  £Such a rotten fellow who makes his living attacking plays and books.  He hates success as the eunuch hates sex.”  And my standards are just as high for myself, active or passive voice.  Even periphrastic.  If I could have gone to Europe when…
Lily
When I DID.  You can’t live ALL your life in the subjunctive mood.  Even with critical intent.  Dwell on that.  And so goodnight, Miss McCarthy and Miss…
Laura
Ubanski.  Laura…My stage name’s Laura Maple.  I’ll wait for your next play.
Lily
You’ve come a long way since your umbrella thumping at the Waldorf.  (To Laura.)  You should ask her what she did to JD Salinger, as a critic.  Some time.  In the passive voice.


Mary
Poor Salinger.  He did it to himself.
Lily
(Grabs her arm)  All that envy welling up in you.  Poor Salinger.  You couldn’t stand to see him praised so young for such a popular success:  It just killed you.
Mary
I’m cold.
Lily
All critics are.They just sit back and type.  (digs into her arm).  How private for you.  How passive, while we who write for Broadway are all active voice. (to audience)  Out there.
Mary
You’re hurting me?
Lily
Do you know what it take to put a play on Broadway? (right in her face)  The rewrites, the auditions, the backers, the actors and their quirks?  The unions, the stagehands, not to mention the directors?
Mary
(breaks free)  Are you sane?  (tries to leave)
Lily
(blocks her way)  The lights, the air conditioning, the ads, the ticket sales all out there in public in front of the world.  (to audience).  Aren’t I right about them?  Critics?  How they hide behind their underwoods.
Mary
I use a Remington!  And I don’t hide.  Salinger hides.  (tries to flee)
Lily
The playwrights you demolish with your ice cold prose; the ones you call oily, like Saroyan and Odets and ME (overlap) while truck drivers lined up on Broadway to buy tickets to my plays…
Mary
I did say that one (oily).
Lily
It’s out of envy, a deadly sin. We are out there naked and alone…Jumping up and down before the crowds. (to audience) It’s true, Isn’t it? (holds her with umbrella) Up and down we go on our Pogo sticks of existence balanced on the third rail…ACTIVE VOICE..while you…Miss McCarthy…wait in the darkness, hiding behind your adjectives ready to pull the switch. (pushes Mary out into the audience) So go out there and see how you like it! I’m don. (exits grandly)
Mary
(regaining her composure) Yes you are. You’re a bit of a mixed metaphore…(to audience) Or am I misstating? (shouts) No one asked you to be a playwright!
Laura
She’s not well, that one. She has a very bad cough.
Mary
And selective memory. I’d stay clear of her and her brand of theatre. In the vernacular Horace. Ars Pecuniae. Art for money’s sake, well, at least you taught her the seven Dwarfs.
Laura
(Laughs). You’d think she’s see the humour in it.
Mary
She’s so much like Grumpy!
Laura
Do you think, at her age, she still has a few good plays in her?
Mary
Out of spite, I suspect. Playwrights like Miss Hellman have monsters in their heads. Give her an adversary and she’ll have a play. I’m sure she still has an attic full of enemies alleged, illusionary, or simply fictional…maybe Me! I’m on guard against her flashbacks!
Laura
I’m not sure she takes you seriously…Yet. If you were my age…Miss McCarthy…twenty-three and just starting out, where would you begin? In New York?
 Mary
Italy, but that’s just me…I’d make my way to Venice in search of Giorgione.
Laura
Who? No, seriously…
Mary
How’s your father’s ham business? (Takes out a pad and begins to write)
Laura
He’s making a fortune. I did (humbly) win the foreign language prize at Sarah Lawrence…
Mary
You were at Sarah Lawrence when I was teaching there? When I caught Miss Hellman in a lie?
Laura
I was. I never had a class with you, but friends who did could not decide if you were Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina. Miss Hellman, that was, was Lady Macbeth.
Mary
There are times I can’t decide if it’s hatred for her lies that drives me or simply her success. What are your languages? French or Italian? (With vague interest.)
Laura
Both…and…Polish. Russian and Hungarian. My mother was born in Budapest.
Mary
(Impressed.) Brilliant and beautiful too. (Aside). I know the landscape. In that case, (continues writing) I might make a suggestion. First, why would you want to be an actress?
Laura
The glamour, the fame. Elia Kazan…
Mary
The money. My first husband was an actor. It’s harder than you think. He barely made a living and was dead at 34.
Laura
I’m sorry.
Mary
We’d been divorced for years. Well than, Miss Ubanski, since your father is so prosperous in hams, I’d try for a start. (Begins writing). Here are a few names you might look up in France. (Hands her a paper). A friend mine runs the Comedie Francaise…perhaps this summer we could have tea at eh Crillion. All this grunting and groaning on the American stage these days when there should be Chekhov or Ibsen or Moliere. How would you like to study in Paris? The French are not afraid of beautiful women with brains. There’s Simone Signoret and Francoise Sagan. What do you say, Miss Ubanski?
Laura
Well (considering then smiles). I’d still like to be an actress.
Mary
Any woman with style or beauty or both can be actress. Its just part of being a woman. To have standards and intelligence and opinons, that’s something more substantial, something frightening to men! (Begins to exit as Laura does.)
Laura
Why would I want to be frightening to men?









Act Two: Scene Two
Laura
It’s mid-December, 1962 at a well known English bookstore close to the Paris Opera. Laura and Mary, now close friends rush in to buy a few last minute gifts.
Laura
(In sixties Paris attire and pregnant.) It was a lovely wedding.
Mary
 Yours too. I’m on my fourth husband. I think this time I’ll get it right.
Laura
(Picks up book.) VENICE OBSERVED! If I buy a copy for Alexie, would you inscribe it?
Mary
You know I hate doing that. H.L Mencken used to send his enemies Gideon Bibles with a note card marked, “signed by the author”. (Beat.) What’s the current (Fr.) scandal at the Embassy? James tells me nothing.
Laura
Haven’t you heard? It’s all in the papers. Hurricane Hellman blew into town mad as hell at guess who?
Mary
I haven’t looked at France Soir for a week. Do tell.
Laura
Madame Simone Signoret. Mrs Yves Montand. There’s a new production of ‘The Little Foxes’ with Simone as Regina. The first in French. Simone raised the money and did the translation Miss Hellman was thrilled. Everything was perfect until the curtain. What a drama. Talk about femme fatales. (Looks around.)
Mary
Please go on. Tell me all of it.
Laura
Well, there was poor Simone as Regina, only French. She’d begged Miss Hellman for advice. Anything…But Lillian believed in her….completement. Everything would be just fine. And then the curtain went up. When it came down, Miss Hellman descended on the cast…
Mary
(Laughing) No
Laura
There was an explosion on divas…The sets were wrong. Simone’s translation was terrible, as if Lillian could tell. She hated the lighting, the costumes, the music, and of course Simone was too…
Mary
Fat. After Tallulah, who wouldn’t be?
Laura
They clashed at Hellmans’ Hotel. In the restaurant, a pastry chef was firing up a crepe suzette just as the two madams went at it. The poor man set a Baroness on fire. They had to put it out with Perrier. Next day, Simone came down to the Embassy with Hellman howling profanities behind her. “Don’t give that bitch a visa! Her husband was fucking Arthur Miller’s wife. Ex-wife. Marilyn Monroe. Till she committed suicide.” She jumbled it all up in her head. As usual.
Mary
All her truths are built on lies. (choking with laughter) Did Simone receive her visa?
Laura
It was touch and go there for a while, but the US State Department has as much love for Miss Hellman as it does for Mussolini. (Drops book.)
Mary
Aren’t you glad you gave up acting? (They both laugh so hard they choke).
Tom
Are you ladies finding what you need? (Picks up book)
Laura
I think my friend could use a glass of Perrier.
I read the last two chapters of your new novel, Escoude…
Mary
Wait. I’m still laughing.
Lily
(Enters briskly in fur coat, then stops.)
Laura
Well…(coyly) speaking as a female reader…
Mary
Yes…
Laura
It will be a triumph. So really…real. Not a ladie’s book, at all. Women speaking as women speak about themselves and men. Men…duds like Norman Mailer will feel completely left out. As we do when we read war novels.
Lily
(Breaking in) I was a book reviewer long ago, before I started in theatre. I’d love to review your new book, Miss McCarthy. What’s the title?
Mary
(Defensively) It’s still without one. In English. Besides, Miss Hellman, reviewers are paid so poorly, and you are paid so well.
Lily
Oh, I’d review it for nothing if I had the chance. The shoe would be on the other foot. In one of those magazines YOU write for like the YOU REVIEW MY BOOK, I’LL REVIEW YOUR BOOK REVIEW. (Looks at Laura) You again Miss….
Laura
Laura Maple Ubanski
Mary
Mrs Ivanov
Laura
I was there at the Embassy when you…exploded.
Lily
…at the Ambassador. Yes. (Composed). I am having a terrible week in Paris. Paris for me has become THE most disagreeable city.
Mary
I haven’t read France Soir yet, but setting a Baroness on fire…
Lily
That’s a complete lie. That fascist rag. I’ve had problems with the French before, but never with translation. When will the French learn English?
Mary
(Holding her arm). I’ve heard, Miss Hellman, the only French you know is on the menu at the Carlisle Hotel, while Simone Signoret speaks passable English.
Lily
That bitch. What a botch she’s made of everything…Her translation was laughable.
Laura
I bet you didn’t laugh.
Lily
Wait till the translators here get hold of your book, as yet untitled. They’ll turn it into…drek…merde.
Laura
Mary’s fluent in French. She’ll do her own translation.
Lily
Not in the argot, I bet. But what do you care, Miss McCarthy. On this one, your adies’ book, you’ll finally make money. I’ve heard the advanced blah blah blah. A commercial hit to be. You’ll get your puffed sleeves dirty. (Grabs one). There’ll be an advertising campaign. Agents. Movie deals. Charles Feldman, interviews with brain dead journalists like Barbara Walters. Fame. Glory. Norman Mailer. Film rights. Your whole (pulls her close and closer) life will be dredged up like dirty clothes from a secret attic closet…with all those old boyfriends and husbands hanging around on clothespins…talking and talking about you instead of the other way round…
Mary
(Pulls free). Miss Hellman, you’re making a scene.
Tom
(Pokes his head in). Could I be…of help?
Lily
You bet I am. Have a Mickey Spillaine. (Throws it at her). I hate this goddamned city. It makes me dry in the mouth.
Laura
I’ll get you a Perrier…(she exits)
Lily
Fuck Perrier. Where was I?
Mary
In Paris
Lily
In Paris…everyone is rude. In Paris, everyone is rude to me! In Paris they don’t know what water is, and everyone is so secret about what they did in the war. To hear them tell it, they were all in The Resistance. Even the faggy dress designers. Stabbed the Nazis with their hairpins! But they do like you Miss McCarthy. You’re their type.
Mary
They tolerate me. They study me…from a distance…apprete Sarte and Simone de Beauvoir.
Lily
You’re their kind. You speak their language. Yes, you do. Read Nathalie Sarraute in French.  A book about a hole in a bathroom wall. Quaint metaphor for France. You’ve slept with Clem Greenberg, I’ve been told, so you know the art world inside out!...
Laura
I think we should go now…
Mary
No wait. Just a few more moments for gossip…
Lily
Gossip? Isn’t that the point. The way you wrap a novel around it. All that envy spewing out into prose. I’ve done some checking on you, Mrs West. Left your first husband for a man named Potter…
Mary
John Porter
Lily
Killed himself in Peru.
Mary
He died of typhoid in Mexico.
Laura
Mary…
Mary
(Holds her arm) Wait!
Lily
And then there was that man you left poor Edmund for…Bathwater….
Mary
Broadwater…is there a point to this?
Lily
(Rage begins to burn). Telling all of New York I wrote melodramas for audiences over seventy.
Mary
I never said that…
Lily
Not in print but behind my back you did. As if “Death of a Salesman” wasn’t a melodrama. Well….I’LL REVIEW YOUR BOOK for nothing!! I’ll do it for Edmund and Bathwater and Potter, whoever the poor slob was. (Knocks off a whole row of books.) You think I’ve forgotten that long afternoon at Sarah Lawrence?
Tom
Madame, I’m sorry. You’re making a scene.
Lily
You think I’m making a scene? (Smacks him in the face). I haven’t begun to make a scene.
Tom
(Picks her up from behind as she flails her feet) Madame, please….
Mary
She’s Lillian Hell man.
Tom
(Looking down at her). My God. (He drops her)
Lily
(Staring into the audience). And what are you all staring at? Haven’t come face to face with an outraged playwright before? (Throws two books at them.) Well, now you have! (Descends into audience and looks at one member particularly.) There is a first time for everything, right? Stand up. Say something. Sitting comfortably in your seat at the LILLIAN Theatre. I know audiences!
Tom
(Picks her up and carries her backstage). We have a little office right back here where you can…(Carries her off)
Laura
Shes tough, that one. Like the Rocky Mountains.
Mary
(Calmly.) I’m beginning to see the cracks in her geology. Follow the dotted line of lies across her face. That’s where she’ll break.
Laura
And to think, I taught her the Seven Dwarfs.
*(Exit together as the lights go down)Act Two: Scene Two
Laura
It’s mid-December, 1962 at a well known English bookstore close to the Paris Opera. Laura and Mary, now close friends rush in to buy a few last minute gifts.
Laura
(In sixties Paris attire and pregnant.) It was a lovely wedding.
Mary
 Yours too. I’m on my fourth husband. I think this time I’ll get it right.
Laura
(Picks up book.) VENICE OBSERVED! If I buy a copy for Alexie, would you inscribe it?
Mary
You know I hate doing that. H.L Mencken used to send his enemies Gideon Bibles with a note card marked, “signed by the author”. (Beat.) What’s the current (Fr.) scandal at the Embassy? James tells me nothing.
Laura
Haven’t you heard? It’s all in the papers. Hurricane Hellman blew into town mad as hell at guess who?
Mary
I haven’t looked at France Soir for a week. Do tell.
Laura
Madame Simone Signoret. Mrs Yves Montand. There’s a new production of ‘The Little Foxes’ with Simone as Regina. The first in French. Simone raised the money and did the translation Miss Hellman was thrilled. Everything was perfect until the curtain. What a drama. Talk about femme fatales. (Looks around.)
Mary
Please go on. Tell me all of it.
Laura
Well, there was poor Simone as Regina, only French. She’d begged Miss Hellman for advice. Anything…But Lillian believed in her….completement. Everything would be just fine. And then the curtain went up. When it came down, Miss Hellman descended on the cast…
Mary
(Laughing) No
Laura
There was an explosion on divas…The sets were wrong. Simone’s translation was terrible, as if Lillian could tell. She hated the lighting, the costumes, the music, and of course Simone was too…
Mary
Fat. After Tallulah, who wouldn’t be?
Laura
They clashed at Hellmans’ Hotel. In the restaurant, a pastry chef was firing up a crepe suzette just as the two madams went at it. The poor man set a Baroness on fire. They had to put it out with Perrier. Next day, Simone came down to the Embassy with Hellman howling profanities behind her. “Don’t give that bitch a visa! Her husband was fucking Arthur Miller’s wife. Ex-wife. Marilyn Monroe. Till she committed suicide.” She jumbled it all up in her head. As usual.
Mary
All her truths are built on lies. (choking with laughter) Did Simone receive her visa?
Laura
It was touch and go there for a while, but the US State Department has as much love for Miss Hellman as it does for Mussolini. (Drops book.)
Mary
Aren’t you glad you gave up acting? (They both laugh so hard they choke).
Tom
Are you ladies finding what you need? (Picks up book)
Laura
I think my friend could use a glass of Perrier.
I read the last two chapters of your new novel, Escoude…
Mary
Wait. I’m still laughing.
Lily
(Enters briskly in fur coat, then stops.)
Laura
Well…(coyly) speaking as a female reader…
Mary
Yes…
Laura
It will be a triumph. So really…real. Not a ladie’s book, at all. Women speaking as women speak about themselves and men. Men…duds like Norman Mailer will feel completely left out. As we do when we read war novels.
Lily
(Breaking in) I was a book reviewer long ago, before I started in theatre. I’d love to review your new book, Miss McCarthy. What’s the title?
Mary
(Defensively) It’s still without one. In English. Besides, Miss Hellman, reviewers are paid so poorly, and you are paid so well.
Lily
Oh, I’d review it for nothing if I had the chance. The shoe would be on the other foot. In one of those magazines YOU write for like the YOU REVIEW MY BOOK, I’LL REVIEW YOUR BOOK REVIEW. (Looks at Laura) You again Miss….
Laura
Laura Maple Ubanski
Mary
Mrs Ivanov
Laura
I was there at the Embassy when you…exploded.
Lily
…at the Ambassador. Yes. (Composed). I am having a terrible week in Paris. Paris for me has become THE most disagreeable city.
Mary
I haven’t read France Soir yet, but setting a Baroness on fire…
Lily
That’s a complete lie. That fascist rag. I’ve had problems with the French before, but never with translation. When will the French learn English?
Mary
(Holding her arm). I’ve heard, Miss Hellman, the only French you know is on the menu at the Carlisle Hotel, while Simone Signoret speaks passable English.
Lily
That bitch. What a botch she’s made of everything…Her translation was laughable.
Laura
I bet you didn’t laugh.
Lily
Wait till the translators here get hold of your book, as yet untitled. They’ll turn it into…drek…merde.
Laura
Mary’s fluent in French. She’ll do her own translation.
Lily
Not in the argot, I bet. But what do you care, Miss McCarthy. On this one, your adies’ book, you’ll finally make money. I’ve heard the advanced blah blah blah. A commercial hit to be. You’ll get your puffed sleeves dirty. (Grabs one). There’ll be an advertising campaign. Agents. Movie deals. Charles Feldman, interviews with brain dead journalists like Barbara Walters. Fame. Glory. Norman Mailer. Film rights. Your whole (pulls her close and closer) life will be dredged up like dirty clothes from a secret attic closet…with all those old boyfriends and husbands hanging around on clothespins…talking and talking about you instead of the other way round…
Mary
(Pulls free). Miss Hellman, you’re making a scene.
Tom
(Pokes his head in). Could I be…of help?
Lily
You bet I am. Have a Mickey Spillaine. (Throws it at her). I hate this goddamned city. It makes me dry in the mouth.
Laura
I’ll get you a Perrier…(she exits)
Lily
Fuck Perrier. Where was I?
Mary
In Paris
Lily
In Paris…everyone is rude. In Paris, everyone is rude to me! In Paris they don’t know what water is, and everyone is so secret about what they did in the war. To hear them tell it, they were all in The Resistance. Even the faggy dress designers. Stabbed the Nazis with their hairpins! But they do like you Miss McCarthy. You’re their type.
Mary
They tolerate me. They study me…from a distance…apprete Sarte and Simone de Beauvoir.
Lily
You’re their kind. You speak their language. Yes, you do. Read Nathalie Sarraute in French.  A book about a hole in a bathroom wall. Quaint metaphor for France. You’ve slept with Clem Greenberg, I’ve been told, so you know the art world inside out!...
Laura
I think we should go now…
Mary
No wait. Just a few more moments for gossip…
Lily
Gossip? Isn’t that the point. The way you wrap a novel around it. All that envy spewing out into prose. I’ve done some checking on you, Mrs West. Left your first husband for a man named Potter…
Mary
John Porter
Lily
Killed himself in Peru.
Mary
He died of typhoid in Mexico.
Laura
Mary…
Mary
(Holds her arm) Wait!
Lily
And then there was that man you left poor Edmund for…Bathwater….
Mary
Broadwater…is there a point to this?
Lily
(Rage begins to burn). Telling all of New York I wrote melodramas for audiences over seventy.
Mary
I never said that…
Lily
Not in print but behind my back you did. As if “Death of a Salesman” wasn’t a melodrama. Well….I’LL REVIEW YOUR BOOK for nothing!! I’ll do it for Edmund and Bathwater and Potter, whoever the poor slob was. (Knocks off a whole row of books.) You think I’ve forgotten that long afternoon at Sarah Lawrence?
Tom
Madame, I’m sorry. You’re making a scene.
Lily
You think I’m making a scene? (Smacks him in the face). I haven’t begun to make a scene.
Tom
(Picks her up from behind as she flails her feet) Madame, please….
Mary
She’s Lillian Hell man.
Tom
(Looking down at her). My God. (He drops her)
Lily
(Staring into the audience). And what are you all staring at? Haven’t come face to face with an outraged playwright before? (Throws two books at them.) Well, now you have! (Descends into audience and looks at one member particularly.) There is a first time for everything, right? Stand up. Say something. Sitting comfortably in your seat at the LILLIAN Theatre. I know audiences!
Tom
(Picks her up and carries her backstage). We have a little office right back here where you can…(Carries her off)
Laura
Shes tough, that one. Like the Rocky Mountains.
Mary
(Calmly.) I’m beginning to see the cracks in her geology. Follow the dotted line of lies across her face. That’s where she’ll break.
Laura
And to think, I taught her the Seven Dwarfs.
*(Exit together as the lights go down)

Act Three: Scene One
Laura
A cemetery in the vicinity of Hamden, Connecticut. It’s December 7 1975..This one was my idea. (Softly.) Death is the ultimate theatre.
Mary
It all seems like a dream for me. Two funerals in two days. Thanks for driving me up here. (beat.) So? Do you miss it? (It begins to rain).