[a conceptual play in the form of a poem]

  the beginning  

a distant hollow voice explains 

	the situation

	two old friends have decided never
	to speak to each other again

	they feel that the affection
	and respect they have for each other
	is gradually dwindling away with each word 
	that passes between them

the voice emphasizes 

	the situation is dramatic
	but not melodramatic

another voice explains calmly this is

	a play for two actors
	and two loudspeakers

and that

	the voices on the loudspeakers
	are the voices of the two actors

a third voice specifies   

	stage dark at first
	gradual light reveals
	the two friends seated
	their backs to each other
	one left one right of stage

another voice interrupts and specifies

	loudspeaker over the head
	of each friend

loudspeakers speak alternatively

	loudspeaker left tells why
	friend left will not crack first

	loudspeaker right tells why
	he thinks
	friend right will not crack first

all three voices together chant

	and so on
	and so on

first voice explains 

	while loudspeakers speak
	seated friends react restlessly
	with bodily and facial gestures
	to what is being said 
	above their heads 

second voice emphasizes

	loudspeakers get louder 
	more argumentative
	more aggressive 
	angry and enraged
	as play progresses

third voice explains

	argument  turns to a debate
	it's a competition 
	a trial

loudspeakers together improvise

	words of encouragement
	for friends to remain firm 
	in their silence

loudspeaker left

	tells that the reason
	friend left will not crack
	is because he is a poet
	and poets know 
	silence and solitude 
	poets know that one
	suffers from not suffering enough

loudspeaker right retorts 

	that friend right is an actor
	and actors know how not
	to crack during a play
	actor have control over
	their emotions

loudspeaker L laughs and says

	that friend L
	will not crack first
	once upon a time
	during the great war
	he was tortured
	he was tortured
	because he knew 
	something secret
	something unspeakable
	the enemy tortured him
	but he did not talk
	he refused to talk
	he did not crack
	for weeks and weeks 
	he remained silent in torture
	and silence became for him
	the reverse of torture
	that is why friend L
	will not crack first

loudspeaker R counters by saying

	that anyone 
	in friend L's situation
	would have done the same
	would have found the courage 
	not to crack 
	it's normal it's natural 
	it's the rule when one is being tortured 

loudspeaker R continues

	friend R found much more
	courage for something 
	much more traumatic
	though less melodramatic
	and he was only seven then
	the day his father beat him
	with his belt for no reason
	slashing at his body
	with the leather of the belt
	and even the belt buckle
	and that day friend R swore
	to himself in his pain
	that he would not talk
	to his father for a whole month
	and for a whole month friend R
	did not speak a word to his father
	and he was only seven then

loudspeaker R concludes forcefully

	only a few human beings 
	can find that  kind of courage 
	the happy few yes the happy few
	and friend R was only seven then

after a long silence loudspeaker L declares

	that friend L wants to become
	a serious religious poet
	that is why he can no longer 
	communicate with friend R 
	because he is an actor	
	actors are blasphemous
	especially when they make
	people laugh

loudspeaker R replies

	that friend R can no longer
	look and speak at the sad
	face of Friend L
	because he has just accepted
	a role in the human comedy
	to make people laugh
	night and day

loudspeaker L sings softly

	I am Jesus I am Moses 
	I am Mohammed 
	I am the Holy Ghost
	I am immortal

loudspeaker R declaims eloquently

	I am Hamlet
	I am King Lear
	I am Phedrea
	I am Superman
	I am Gogo and Didi

all three voices together chant

	and so on 
	and so on

first voice explains

	that loudspeakers 
	can improvise
	any time

second voice explains

	as the play progresses 
	it becomes gradually evident 
	that the two silent friends 
	are growing more and more 
	tense restless nervous
	tortured in their bodies and minds

loudspeaker L murmurs

	and I saw a mighty angel
	come down from heaven
	clothed with a cloud
	and a rainbow was
	upon his head
	and his face was
	 as it were the sun
	and his feet 
	as pillars of fire

loudspeaker R recites sadly

	All the old ways led to this
	all the old windings
	the stairs with never a landing
	that you screw yourself up
	clutching the rail
	counting the steps
	the fever of shortest ways
	under the long lids of sky
	the wild country roads
	where your dead walk beside you
	on the dark shingle the turning
	for the last time again
	to the lights of the little town
	the appointments kept
	and the appointments broken
	all the delights of urban
	and rural change of place
	all the exitus and redditus
	closed and ended
	all led to this
	to this gloaming
	where a middle-aged man
	sits masturbating his snout
	waiting for the first dawn to break
loudspeaker L sighs
loudspeaker R laughs
third voice declares 
	while loudspeakers 
	continue to argue angrily
	in a cacophony of words
	the two friends  
	let out a scream 
	at the same time 
	which they keep repeating
	with anguish and despair

friend R & friend L screaming

	say something 
	please say something 
	I can't take it anymore

	say something 
	please say something 
	I can't take it any more 

all three voices together chant
as screams get louder 
loudspeakers more cacophonous

	and so son 
	and so on
first voice states

	stage goes dark

	no applause	
	no curtain call

   	  the end       

Raymond Federman, Copyright 1997