Quills and Other Plays

Overview

Selected early works from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

Throughout his work, Doug Wright has often combined the personal, the social, and the political, in the process unearthing fundamental truths about life and art while casting an unblinking eye on the dark--and darkly funny--side of human nature. Gathered here are three of Wright's early plays, including Interrogating the Nude, a tongue-in-cheek reimagining of the uproar surrounding the debut of Marcel Duchamp's ...

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Quills and Other Plays

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Overview

Selected early works from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

Throughout his work, Doug Wright has often combined the personal, the social, and the political, in the process unearthing fundamental truths about life and art while casting an unblinking eye on the dark--and darkly funny--side of human nature. Gathered here are three of Wright's early plays, including Interrogating the Nude, a tongue-in-cheek reimagining of the uproar surrounding the debut of Marcel Duchamp's work in America; Watbanaland, a satiric dissection of yuppie desire and a haunting look at family and faith; and the Obie Award-winning Quills, which explores the boundaries of artistic expression and the dangers of censorship as they played out in the Marquis de Sade's final days at Charenton Asylum.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A delicious mix of comedy, sex and mystery." --Janice Page, Providence Journal, on Interrogating the Nude

"Creepy, powerful and densely poetic." --Lloyd Rose, The Washington Post, on Watbanaland

"Cunningly structured and gorgeously written, with every phrase turned to a high gleaming polish . . . Superb."--Michael Feingold, The Village Voice, on Quills

"All Wright's plays burst with an outrageous and quirky imagination." --Francine Russo, The Village Voice

"Wright's 1995 play Quills seems like a prescient attack on the hypocritical censoriousness of the right [and works] equally well as a condemnation of left-wing proscriptions of speech . . . Brilliant." --Ed Siegel, Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780571211807
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber
  • Publication date: 11/29/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,100,861
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Doug Wright is the author of I Am My Own Wife (Faber, 2004), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

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Read an Excerpt

Quills and Other Plays

Interrogating the Nude

AUTHOR'S NOTE
IN 1913 Americans caught their first glimpse of modern European art at the Armory Show in New York City. Picasso, Braque, and Brancusi were all represented in the exhibition. The unqualified "hit" of the show, however, was a painting by a little-known French artist named Marcel Duchamp. Its title was Nude Descending a Staircase, and it showed a cubist nude set in motion down a series of steps. Reaction to the painting ranged from ridicule to outright hostility. The public had never before seen the most sacred of art's subjects--the human form--treated with such irreverence. The show was picketed, riots broke out, and Theodore Roosevelt took a loud stance against the painting. Consequently, it sold for a handsome price. Duchamp became an instant celebrity in this country and was later credited as the founder of the New York Dada movement. His reputation as dandy philosopher, and enfant terrible of the art world eclipsed his reputation as an artist.
In exploring the genesis of Duchamp's notorious painting, this play disregards the biographical aspects of the artist's life in favorof his body of work: the art itself. Biographical data has been reordered to serve the plot, and many events are purely fictive, including the play's central metaphor, the murder of Rose Selavy. In short, the play hopes to capture the mystery, morbid whimsy, and sinister wit of Duchamp's world.
 

Interrogating the Nude was originally produced by the Yale Repertory Theatre (Benjamin Mordecai, managing director) in New Haven, Connecticut, on January 10, 1989. It was directed by Gitta Honegger; the set and costume design was by James A. Schuette; the lighting design was by Mark London; and the production stage manager was Joe McGuire. The cast was as follows:

CHARACTERS
THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN

A renowned art historian. He wears thick glasses and is prone to overlong pauses when lecturing, which he does with droll pomposity.
MARCEL DUCHAMP

A slender man with delicate features, a dangerous wit, and a pronounced European flair. He has a cool exterior, with an impish glint in his eyes.
THE INSPECTOR

A hard-boiled gumshoe devoted to truth, the New York Police Department, and his three little girls.
CONSTABLE PUBLICK

An overworked, underpaid rookie who's more fond of gambling in the back room than he is of police work. The "Greek messenger" of the play.
MAN RAY

Swarthy and intense, with all the temperament that comes with artistry. He's most vulnerable when it comes to booze and sex.
ROSE SELAVY

A dark, wily creature of formidable passion. Fond of disguise, mystery, and deception, she has pale skin and a black soul.

TIME
It's 1913. The year of the Armory Show, the first major exhibition of modern European art in the New World. A time caught betweenthe lumbering grind of the Industrial Age and the permissiveness of the Roaring Twenties.

NOTES FOR CASTING
The same actor may double in the roles of THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN and CONSTABLE PUBLICK. In addition, the role of ROSE SELAVY should be undertaken by a male actor, similar in build and appearance to the actor cast as MARCEL DUCHAMP.

SETTING
The majority of the play takes place in a police precinct on the West Side of Manhattan. The station occupies an isolated space downstage. It may be illustrated by a few well-chosen properties: a large, rough-hewn desk, a low-hanging interrogation bulb, and a few stiff chairs. Amber hues spill across the floor, and the air is thick with cigarette smoke. A ceiling fan might turn ominously, casting shadows across the furniture.
During the play's first act, DUCHAMP may transform the areas surrounding the precinct office into other locales by simply opening traps, drawing curtains, and magically introducing selective objects into the space. Like a ringmaster, he guides the action and worlds of the murder story. He may re-create MAN RAY'S apartment by snapping his fingers, and thereby producing a clothesline dripping photographs, a camera atop a tripod, and a cot. His own studio might be suggested by an easel, a bottle rack, and a bicycle wheel mounted on a stool. Large movie lights placed strategically about the stage allow him to focus action as he chooses, in pools of directed light.
In the second act, the prison cell may be indicated by bars, or a gridlike pattern of yellow light. The locales should flow effortlesslyfrom one to the next, and the actors should move about the space with fluidity.
Far upstage, looming above the precinct office, is a large artist's canvas, rippling with the image of a reclining, classical nude. An imposing staircase rips through the canvas, and winds downward to meet the floor. Its steps are large and splintered, jutting out at uneven angles. It's clear that this climb is a perilous journey. The stairs broaden at the base, opening out to form the stage.

Prologue
(THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN speaks in an authoritative voice from behind a podium.)
 

THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN: Like the pilgrims who settled at Plymouth Rock and the gold miners who braved the untamed West, so, too, has the history of American art enjoyed its pioneers. Just as our forefathers washed upon the shore, Europe's dispossessed eager to forge cities in the uncharted landscape, foreign artists came to challenge our aesthetic terrain. One such artist was Marcel Duchamp. Although he grew up outside Paris, in a town as picturesque as any depicted by Monet, at the fledgling age of twenty-eight Duchamp packed his palette and sailed aboard the S.S. Rochambeau arriving in New York on June 15, 1915.
A reticent intellectual who scorned undue attention, the genteel painter was as content playing chess in quiet repose or enjoying a well-blended tobacco in his signature pipe as he was unleashing new designs upon canvas. He was hardly prepared for his reception in the New World. His painting Nude Descendinga Staircase with its curiously disjointed form, angular composition, and altogether strikingly original portrayal of a nude caught in the act of descension, captured the whimsy of connoisseurs and the public alike, and established the young Duchamp as a major force in a country eager to make its own bold strides into art's future. Duchamp spent most of his life in New York, and eventually abandoned painting for philosophy. He died in 1968.
 

(DUCHAMP enters on a bicycle. He stops parks and approaches the podium. From his pocket he pulls a small tin of black paint and a brush. As the lecture continues, he paints a goatee on THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN's face. When he has completed his work, DUCHAMP returns to his bicycle, mounts it, and pedals offstage.)

After his death, his work was bequeathed to the Philadelphia Museum, where a special gallery now pays tribute to his invaluable contributions to a country forever bent on broadening its horizons.
(Blackout.)

ACT ONE
 

(Lights rise to reveal DUCHAMP standing at the top of the stairs. To the strains of "La Vie en Rose," he lights his pipe and slowly descends. At the base of the stairs, he regards the audience for a moment, smiling.
 

Next, he steps forward to confront THE INSPECTOR, who sits behind his desk. Lights rise to a full glow in the precinct office.)
 

DUCHAMP: Pardon, monsieur, I wish to report a crime.
 

INSPECTOR: Who doesn't? Have you filed a form?
 

DUCHAMP: A form?
 

INSPECTOR: Look, pal, it's a big city. Men get their pockets picked. Women get their purses snitched. Kids get their ice cream licked clean off the cone. So don't waltz in here boasting you've got some crime to report. You fill out a proper form, then you make an appointment, like the rest of 'em.
 

DUCHAMP: I'm afraid it's urgent.
 

INSPECTOR: Of course it is. They always are. What happened? Somebody lift your timepiece? Somebody spit on your shoes?
 

DUCHAMP: A woman's been dismembered.
 

INSPECTOR: What?
 

DUCHAMP: A nude woman, torn apart limb by limb, the pieces hurled down a staircase.
 

INSPECTOR (Blanching.): My God ...
 

DUCHAMP: Perhaps you have an appointment available this afternoon?
 

INSPECTOR: Don't get fresh with me, mister. If some poor girl's been butchered, that's serious business. Only how do I know you're on the up-and-up?
 

DUCHAMP: There's a leg on the landing.
 

INSPECTOR: Hmm. Yes. What say I file a report ...
 

(The INSPECTOR pulls a thick stack of forms from his desk.) You discover the body?
 

DUCHAMP: I did.
 

INSPECTOR: Your name.
 

DUCHAMP: Duchamp. Marcel Duchamp.
 

INSPECTOR: Come again?
 

DUCHAMP: D-U-C-H-A-M-P.
 

INSPECTOR: A foreigner, eh?
 

DUCHAMP: A Frenchman.
 

INSPECTOR: And what do you do for a living, er ... ah ...
 

(The INSPECTOR slips on DUCHAMP's name.)

... Mr. Doo-Champ? Don't tell me. Let me guess. Import, export. Wines, perfumes, ladies' undergarments and the like. I know you Frenchmen.
 

DUCHAMP: I am an artist, Inspector.
 

(The INSPECTOR makes a note.)
 

INSPECTOR: Unemployed. Any idea when the violence occurred?
 

DUCHAMP: Early morning. Half past one.
 

INSPECTOR: That's very good. Very exact. An eye for detail, eh, Mr. Doo-Champ?
 

DUCHAMP: The eye of an artist, Inspector.
 

INSPECTOR: We'll have our man in no time, won't we?
 

DUCHAMP: I expect we shall.
 

INSPECTOR: The scene of the crime.
 

DUCHAMP: Thirty-three West Sixty-seventh Street.
 

INSPECTOR: A residence?
 

DUCHAMP: Mine.
 

INSPECTOR: Is that so?
 

(Pause.)

I want to send a patrolman around to your place. You won't mind if he does a little poking around? Chalk on the floor, some dusting. Standard procedure.
 

(The INSPECTOR calls for CONSTABLE PUBLICK.)

Constable Publick, inside my office. Pronto!
(No answer. The INSPECTOR questions DUCHAMP further.)

Your apartment? Burglarized?
DUCHAMP: Nothing to take, monsieur.
 

INSPECTOR: Any telltale clues lying about the room?
 

DUCHAMP: All about. Arms, legs, feet, ribs, somersaulting down the steps ...
 

INSPECTOR: No, goddamnit, I mean the weapon! The machete. The scythe. The hacksaw
 

DUCHAMP: A palette knife and two paintbrushes. Camel hair.
 

(DUCHAMP presents a small bundle to the INSPECTOR.)
 

INSPECTOR: Nothing else? A hatchet, perhaps? Not even a lousy bread knife?
 

DUCHAMP: Wedged beneath the sofa, crumpled in a heap, I found these.
 

(DUCHAMP holds forth another bundle.)

A feathered hat and some old opera gloves.
(The INSPECTOR takes the bundle and inspects the clothes. The gloves are black and beaded, and the hat is an explosion of dark feathers.)
 

INSPECTOR: Hmm ... Expensive fabric. Possibly imported. Goddamnit, where is he? Constable! Get in here! Now!
 

PUBLICK (From the wings.): Aw, Chief, I got a helluva hand here!
 

INSPECTOR: You heard me!
 

(PUBLICK enters, cards in hand.)
 

PUBLICK: Chief, look! A full house. And I'm in hock up to my elbows! Only thing I got left as collateral is my goddamn badge!
 

INSPECTOR: Remember your post, Constable. You're on assignment. This is Mr. Doo-Champ. Claims he witnessed a homicide around one-thirty in the a.m. I want you to verify his story. Round up the boys and visit this address. Inspect the premises for any disarray. Furniture topsy-turvy. Broken windows. Appendages.
 

PUBLICK: Ah-penda-what?
 

INSPECTOR: Who told you police work was pretty Publick? You want a dainty job, paint pictures. Right, Mr. Doo-Champ?
 

DUCHAMP: Oh, quite right.
 

INSPECTOR: Report back to me with your findings. If necessary notify the coroner.
 

PUBLICK: Dead dogs on trolley tracks. Squabbles in butcher shops. Explosions in orphanages. I get the dregs, you know that?
 

INSPECTOR: Take a bucket, just in case.
 

PUBLICK: I could've played the saxophone. I had the talent.
 

(PUBLICK exits. He can be heard on his way out.)

Cash in your chips, boys, we're on duty!
INSPECTOR: If there's a weapon to be found, he'll smell it out. Kid's got a nose like a bloodhound.
 

DUCHAMP: The killer used brute force.
 

INSPECTOR: Bare hands?
 

DUCHAMP: Without question.
 

INSPECTOR: You said the body was hacked to pieces ... .
 

DUCHAMP: It was ... fragmented.
 

INSPECTOR: What are you telling me, that a human being had the strength to tear limbs like drumsticks? Impossible.
 

DUCHAMP: I was there, Inspector.
 

INSPECTOR: You saw the assailant?
 

DUCHAMP: Oh, yes. Indeed.
 

INSPECTOR: With his bare hands, eh? Well, now. My my. He must've been a mighty big thug. A giant, subhuman son of a bitch. Fire in his eyes, blood on his breath, and fists like cannonballs.
 

DUCHAMP: He was a slender man with a dapper profile and a pronounced European flair. Adored by a few bosom friends, and a well-kept mystery to the public at large.
 

INSPECTOR: That's our man?
 

DUCHAMP: That, Inspector, is he.
 

INSPECTOR: Doesn't sound like a homicidal mangler, if you ask me.
 

DUCHAMP: It's always the quiet ones in the end. The men you least suspect.
 

INSPECTOR: The eye of an artist, you say. Let's put that to the test, shall we? You say you saw the man. What was he wearing? His shoes--did they lace or buckle? Come on, now! Tell me. Were his fingernails clean?
 

DUCHAMP: Cordovans, tightly laced. Flecks of paint wedged beneath his nails. Slight, ethereal, and fond of good tobacco.
 

(DUCHAMP pulls a pipe from his breast pocket and begins filling it from a pouch.)
 

INSPECTOR: That so?
 

(The INSPECTOR stares at DUCHAMP for a moment, then begins circling him slowly.)

How tall would you say he was?
DUCHAMP: My height, I should say.
 

INSPECTOR: Is that right?
 

DUCHAMP: In these shoes.
 

INSPECTOR: Catch wind of the fella's voice? An accent, perhaps?
 

DUCHAMP: Decidedly Français.
 

INSPECTOR: That's downright chilling, isn't it?
 

DUCHAMP: Chilling.
 

(DUCHAMP lights his pipe and begins to puff.)
 

INSPECTOR: You're an artist, eh?
 

DUCHAMP: I confess. I am.
 

INSPECTOR: The tools of the trade, that would include ...
 

DUCHAMP: A palette knife and some camel brushes.
 

INSPECTOR: Let me see your fingernails.
 

DUCHAMP thrusts out his hands.)

I think, Mr. Doo-Champ, that we've found our man.
 

DUCHAMP: Yes, Inspector, I believe we have. Will you be notifying the papers, or should I?
 

(With amazing speed, the INSPECTOR pushes DUCHAMP into a chair. There is an abrupt change of lighting; the interrogation bulb glows whitehot, and illuminates the two men while the surrounding stage is plunged into darkness. The INSPECTOR is hunched and sweaty; DUCHAMP shifts in his seat. It's as if the interrogation had been going on for hours.)
 

INSPECTOR: I'll teach you to play games with the N.Y.P.D.! So you're a killer, are you?
 

DUCHAMP: Only when provoked, monsieur.
 

INSPECTOR: Let's start from the beginning. The night of the crime, you and the victim were alone together in your apartment. Correct?
 

DUCHAMP: Very much alone.
 

INSPECTOR: At approximately half past one you slit the victim's throat with the palette knife from beneath your easel, and then you proceeded to subdivide her.
 

DUCHAMP: Precisely.
 

INSPECTOR: With your bare hands.
 

DUCHAMP: Precisely.
 

INSPECTOR: That's hard to believe. You're a slight man.
 

DUCHAMP: Perhaps she was a slight woman, Inspector.
 

INSPECTOR: Who was she?
 

DUCHAMP: Ooh, a dangerous question ...
 

INSPECTOR: Maybe you didn't know her name. Won't be the first time I've seen it happen. Rosy nameless farm girl comes into the big city. She's got stars in her eyes, you've got bloodlust in yours. Poor girl winds up buried in a hat box. Wouldn't surprise me at all if you never even thought to ask after her name.
 

DUCHAMP: Eros is eros is a Rose.
 

INSPECTOR: Huh?
 

DUCHAMP: Rose. Her name was Rose.
 

INSPECTOR: She got a last name?
 

DUCHAMP: Selavy. Rose Selavy. Eros c'est la vie!
 

INSPECTOR: French, was she?
 

DUCHAMP: Of course!
 

INSPECTOR: One of your own, eh? My God, buddy you're a bona fide cannibal, aren't you? Now what, may I ask, was the little lady's profession?
 

DUCHAMP: My muse. My Mama Dada.
 

INSPECTOR: Come again?
 

DUCHAMP: An artist's model. She posed for me in my studio.
 

INSPECTOR: I've heard that one before. Model. Actress. Chanteuse. All means the same in the end. Five dollars and a cheap hotel. Just how did she pose, Mr. Doo-Champ?
 

DUCHAMP: With composure.
 

INSPECTOR: No, I mean ... how? What did she wear ... when she posed?
 

DUCHAMP: She was nude.
 

INSPECTOR: Of course. You're a healthy man, eh, Mr. Doo-Champ? And this Rose. She's a hearty woman ... .
 

DUCHAMP: What are you suggesting?
 

INSPECTOR: Let me see if I got this down. She would stand at one end of the room, in the buff, à la naturale naked under the eyes of God, and you would stand at the other, all by your lonesome, hidden behind an easel, twiddling your brush. Well?
 

DUCHAMP: I have a small apartment, Inspector. The easel and the bed, they are side by side.
 

INSPECTOR: Aha! Good. Thank you. So it is, in fact, fair to suggest that your relationship with Miss ... er ...
 

(The INSPECTOR trips on the name.)

... Sellavie extended beyond professional.
DUCHAMP: I suppose so.
 

INSPECTOR: Way beyond.
 

DUCHAMP: Perhaps.
 

INSPECTOR: That you were, in fact, party to certain acts, private acts, possibly even perversions.
 

DUCHAMP: Please, Inspector.
 

INSPECTOR: Painting's not your only pleasure, is it, Mr. Doo-Champ?
 

(DUCHAMP is silent.)

Come now. I'm a man's man. No need to be shy.
DUCHAMP: We fucked, Inspector, like machines. Together, grinding, pounding with the relentless tenacity of steam engines. The mice beneath the mattress would scurry for their very lives. Afterward, we would sleep for days, our bones gelatinous and our skins chafed, so great was our exhaustion. We would forget to eat for weeks at a time, until we noticed our ribs arching outward beneath our naked skin. Then we would refuel, only to continue our recklessness. Sometimes I would abandon my canvas and paint Rose, her lips a fiery slash and her nipples sunbursts. I would create landscapes on her belly and portraits on each cheek of her great white ass. Now are you satisfied, Inspector?
 

INSPECTOR (Scribbling madly.): Great ... white ... ass ...
 

(The INSPECTOR pauses for a moment and rereads what he has written.)

I can't put this filth in my report! I'd be discharged! ... Sunbursts, eh?
DUCHAMP: Ablaze.
 

INSPECTOR: Those paintbrushes of yours should be burned. Profaning human flesh like that.
 

(The INSPECTOR makes a few more hasty notes.)

What about her family, eh? I've got to polish my brass and stand tall, and tell some poor parents that their sweet baby's been pulverized. Any of her people living in this country?
DUCHAMP: Only me.
 

INSPECTOR: Blood relatives, Mr. Doo-Champ.
 

DUCHAMP: Rose was my twin.
 

INSPECTOR: What?
 

DUCHAMP: We shared the same umbilical cord, Rose and I. For a while, it was feared we shared the same heart.
 

INSPECTOR: You and this Rose, this tart with the fire on her titties and the faces on her ass, you had the same father? The same mother?
 

DUCHAMP: We were joined at birth.
 

INSPECTOR: Sure, sure. Like dogs in jars at Coney Island.
 

DUCHAMP: Even in the womb, we cuddled. It was predestined, before we entered the world. What could be done, Inspector? Try and resist fate.
 

INSPECTOR: I shouldn't be listening to this pornography. I've got a wife and three little girls at home. Brother and sister; it's a fact?
 

DUCHAMP: Fact or fiction, that's your department, not mine.
 

INSPECTOR: This Rose. Did she pose for other artists, too?
 

DUCHAMP: I flattered myself that Rose and I were inseparable.
 

INSPECTOR: Were you?
 

DUCHAMP: Apparently not.
 

INSPECTOR: She double-crossed you, did she?
 

DUCHAMP: Rose would lick my eyelashes with the tip of her tongue and promise in a low voice to pose only for me. Only I was privy to every curve, every follicle. Only I could breathe her breath, taste her hollows, reproduce her form--
 

INSPECTOR: Answer the question.
 

DUCHAMP: Yes. She double-crossed me.
 

INSPECTOR: So there were other men.
 

DUCHAMP: One. Another artist. If she'd betrayed me with countless others, it would have been easier. Better her heart be splintered in a thousand shards than two equal halves.
 

INSPECTOR: Now this, ah, third party, was he--?
 

DUCHAMP: No relation.
 

INSPECTOR: Thank God! But you knew him ... .
 

DUCHAMP: He's a photographer. Nudes are his specialty. "Nudescapes," he calls them.
 

INSPECTOR: "Skintypes," I call them. He took nudie pictures of your twin sister?
 

DUCHAMP: Made me a cuckold. A clown.
 

INSPECTOR: And just what does this photographer do with these skintypes of his?
 

DUCHAMP: Many sell at fashionable galleries, at fashionable prices.
 

INSPECTOR: And the shots of your sister--he sold them to strangers?
 

DUCHAMP: The pictures of Rose are his private stock. He hoards them the way a greedy child stashes sweetmeats. I've heard he keeps them locked in a birdcage, beneath his bed.
 

INSPECTOR: So tell me. This pornographer, does he have a name?
 

DUCHAMP: He calls himself Man Ray.
 

INSPECTOR: An alias if ever I heard one. We'll need a description to track the son of a bitch down for testimony.
 

DUCHAMP: By day he's a man's man, swilling beer, wine, and whiskey in a single glass, spouting dirty stories in the middle of an arm wrestle.
 

INSPECTOR: But by night ...
 

DUCHAMP: He fancies himself a ladies' man, going through models the way most artists go through paint, teasing them with his lens, then throwing them away like torn celluloid or spent cigarettes.
 

INSPECTOR: Or faded Roses, eh, Mr. Doo-Champ?
 

DUCHAMP: Some have a weakness for bonbons. Others for gadgets and automobiles. But Man Ray impulsive and heedless, Man Ray had a penchant pour la femme.
 

(DUCHAMP stands, steps away from the precinct office, and pulls open a trapdoor. A red light glows from beneath, suggesting a darkroom.)

He once told me:
(MAN RAY emerges from below.)
 

MAN RAY: Christ, Duchamp, you've got me pegged all wrong. It's got nothing to do with lust. It's technique! To get a girl on film, I've got to know her body firsthand. Hell, Cézanne squeezedpears before sketching them, didn't he? It's symmetry. It's proportion. You understand. I use sex to compensate for a bad eye.
 

DUCHAMP (To the INSPECTOR.): I'll never forget the night he confessed the hope that Rose might join his celluloid harem. It was well after midnight; we'd emptied a bottle of pirated booze and took turns sucking on it for flavor. He broached his scheme with due caution; his boorishness had driven all other prospects away.
 

(Lights rise on MAN RAY's apartment. DUCHAMP enters the space. While MAN RAY hangs fresh photos on the line, DUCHAMP fiddles with the pieces on a nearby chessboard.)
 

MAN RAY: I've had it, Duchamp. The last straw.
 

DUCHAMP: What now?
 

MAN RAY: Look at me. Am I such an almighty, ever-loving pig?
 

DUCHAMP: Another model, flown?
 

MAN RAY: Bernice, the barmaid, works at the Pepper Pot. Two beers and a lobster dinner. I take her back to my place, pull out my camera, and you know what she says to me? "Portraits only, from the neck up!"
 

DUCHAMP: So?
 

MAN RAY: So, if I want headshots I'll snap my own! But I butter her up. "In a photograph," I tell her, "you can live forever. No wrinkles. No liver spots. Let me stitch you forever in the fabric of time."
 

DUCHAMP (Aside, to the INSPECTOR.): Under duress, the photographer turns poet!
 

MAN RAY: Pearls before swine! "Listen here, ace," the tart starts shouting. "when I said I'd come back with you, I never promised a souvenir program!" I offer money--that really lights herfuse. "Oh, hooray! Mr. Vanderbilt! Quick, I'm gonna book myself a cruise!" She heads for the door. "In Paris," I say, "even aristocratic women are dying to pose. On their knees, they beg men like me."
 

DUCHAMP: And did she?
 

MAN RAY: "Vive la France!" she says, and slams the door.
 

DUCHAMP: You've been chasing nudes for months. Try something new.
 

MAN RAY: Like what? Bowls of fruit?
 

DUCHAMP: An apple or a melon might weather your insults better than a woman.
 

MAN RAY: I should photograph Rose.
 

DUCHAMP: Who?
 

MAN RAY: Your sister. Rose. She's been kicking around inside my head for weeks. You say she's exotic ... that she bristles with mystery.
 

DUCHAMP: Rose--my Rose--in your apartment, on your couch, pinned beneath your camera? No. Why, it's absurd.
 

MAN RAY: Photographs. That's all I want from her.
 

DUCHAMP: I know you better than that.
 

MAN RAY: She's your sister! Private property. Look, if you'd feel safer, I'll tie my hands behind my back and pull the birdie with my teeth, eh?
 

DUCHAMP: You've never even seen her. She photographs poorly, I guarantee.
 

MAN RAY: She's your twin, isn't she? People give you the eye; I've seen it. Women, sure, but men, too. Your sister must be--howdo you say it?--a femme fatale. So at least ask her. A little favor between friends. What's to lose?
 

DUCHAMP: Impossible. Even the suggestion is shocking ... beyond remarkable ... .
 

MAN RAY: Let her speak for herself. Who knows? She might like me. Some women have.
 

DUCHAMP: Rose has little in common with your downtown girls.
 

MAN RAY: I'm through with tarts, once and for all. All those big, lazy bodies dripping off stools. I want a woman with a mind to expose as well as a chassis! Push past the flesh to capture the subconscious! Let the camera penetrate the mysteries of the mind. Shoot what's inside a woman's head. What beats in her chest.
 

DUCHAMP: And Rose is your first candidate?
 

MAN RAY: Yes!
 

DUCHAMP: Pity.
 

MAN RAY: What do you mean?
 

DUCHAMP: She'll refuse, of course.
 

MAN RAY: How do you know?
 

DUCHAMP: Rose is private by nature. She would never put her dreams on exhibition.
 

MAN RAY: A thought passes across her forehead. A look. A gesture. Snap! I've got it on film. She'll never know what hit her.
 

DUCHAMP: Rose will know. She may turn the camera on you instead.
 

MAN RAY: Trust me. I can handle her.
 

DUCHAMP: You say you want to peel her apart ... .
 

MAN RAY: In a photograph ...
 

DUCHAMP: To expose her core ...
 

MAN RAY: Landscapes of the mind ...
 

DUCHAMP: Hmm ... Fascinating!
 

(Pause.)

No. Absolutely not. Never.
MAN RAY: Why the hell not?
 

DUCHAMP: You'll thank me in the future.
 

MAN RAY: Don't be an ass! Just ask her. What harm could come of it?
 

DUCHAMP: Harm? What harm indeed ...
 

(DUCHAMP breaks free from the scene and returns to the INSPECTOR. The lights in MAN RAY's apartment fade.)
 

INSPECTOR: This Man Ray fellow. Went behind your back, did he? Led your sister down the wayward path.
 

DUCHAMP: No, Inspector! It was she who approached him. A born strumpet, Rose. The secret trysts. The midnight assignations. She orchestrated them all.
 

INSPECTOR: All the while, pulling the wool over your eyes.
 

DUCHAMP: Oh, I knew, Inspector. I knew. In his apartment, in his studio, on backstreets. I was never far behind.
 

INSPECTOR: Hot on their trail, were you? An amateur detective? A Peeping Tom. Learned more than you bargained for, I'll hazard.
 

DUCHAMP: My suspicions were confirmed, my darkest fears made palpable.
 

INSPECTOR: Just what went on behind closed doors?
 

DUCHAMP: Why, Inspector. I'm surprised. Your wife and your three little girls ...
 

INSPECTOR: I'm not here to tickle my jollies, Mr. Doo-Champ. I mean business.
 

DUCHAMP: Then prepare yourself. I'll spare no details.
 

INSPECTOR: By all means.
 

DUCHAMP: What follows may unnerve the faint of heart.
 

INSPECTOR: My heart's granite, Mr. Doo-Champ. Stone.
 

(As DUCHAMP launches deeper into his confession, his voice rises in and out of fever pitch, his story a blend of farce and Grand Guignol. He draws a red silk curtain behind the INSPECTO's desk. Translucent, behind the curtain, ROSE appears, alternating in the light between nudity and silhouette. DUCHAMP begins his litany, and ROSE follows instructions. The INSPECTOR watches with all the salacious enthusiasm of a peep-show devotee. "La Vie en Rose" wafts into the room.)
 

DUCHAMP: I remember the night of their first meeting. I watched from the bed, feigning sleep, while Rose enacted her ritual. Composing herself before the mirror. The soft pink palette of Fragonard. Her Botticellian hips. Pivoting before the glass, tripling her reflection, like Raphael's Graces in a hedonistic dance. She peeled off her nightdress and the air caressed her shape. She powdered her body till the skin shone like bone, parched and smooth.
 

(ROSE powders herself with an oversized puff.)

She painted her lips violet. Violent violet.
ROSE applies lipstick.)

Silk stockings like second skins.
(ROSE slips on stockings.)

She stepped into shoes with sloping heels and beady-eyed buttons.
ROSE steps into a pair of high-button black shoes.)

Gloves to cover the hands that would tousle his hair and plow the furrows of his back.
(DUCHAMP gingerly unfolds the gloves, which lie atop the INSPECTOR's desk. He fondles them gently as ROSE pulls on an identical pair that extend to her shoulders.)

And then, a crown of magnificent plumage.
(DUCHAMP considers the hat, while ROSE places the same hat on her head.)

Ostrich and peacock feathers sprouted from her temples, swooping down in the back to bob at her waist. Finally, she slid into a cloak as black as her soul.
(ROSE pulls on a stunning black cloak, dripping beads and bursts of vulture plumes. She admires herself, posing for the mirror.)

At last the masking was complete. "Where are you going, ma chérie?" I called from beneath the covers.
(ROSE pulls the red curtain aside and steps into full view.)
 

ROSE: Out.
 

DUCHAMP:--she replied. With that, she crept from the apartment, confident that she'd left me behind. I hid in her shadow; our footfalls synchronized.
 

(ROSE slips from the precinct office; DUCHAMP follows her. Together they slip in and out of darkness. ROSE casts furtive glances over her shoulder, and DUCHAMP quickly conceals himself in response. They play cat and mouse. The INSPECTOR watches every move.)
 

Together we dodged the abandoned streets. Finally, she knocked on his door.
 

(They arrive at MAN RAY's apartment. MAN RAY is asleep, tangled in sheets. ROSE pounds madly. DUCHAMP slinks into the shadows to observe.)

I lodged myself beneath an open window, out of sight but not of sound.
(MAN RAY tosses and turns.)
 

MAN RAY: Oh God ... Oh shit ... Hey, Whoa, Shut up! Nobody's home! Get back on the streets where you belong!
 

(ROSE pounds harder.)

I'm too drunk, baby. And besides, I'm broke! Finis! Kaput! Try the Russian downstairs!
(MAN RAY wraps stray bedding around his waist, then goes to the door. When he swings it open, ROSE wafts into the room.)
 

ROSE: A gracious welcome, monsieur.
 

MAN RAY: Christ, I thought you were someone else. Who are you?
 

ROSE: Close the door.
 

MAN RAY: Are you lost? Big night on the town, too much juice--now you're all turned backward? You remember the name of the bellhop but not the hotel?
 

ROSE: You American men are all the same. Every woman you meet is a potential prostitute.
 

MAN RAY: Optimists, all of us. Look, ah, lady. Strangers don't usually drop by in the middle of the night.
 

ROSE: No? It sounds as though you are quite accustomed to strange ladies banging down your door. Turn out the lights.
 

MAN RAY: Do I know you? Have we met before?
 

(ROSE turns out the lights. The moon spills across them.)
 

Wait a goddamn minute! With all due respect, this is my apartment! You can't barge in here like a fucking locomotive!
 

ROSE: Shh! We'd better speak softly. I thought I heard someone behind me in the dark. There'll be trouble for us both if he discovers my whereabouts.
 

MAN RAY: Maybe you've got the wrong address.
 

ROSE: Don't toy with me, please.
 

(MAN RAY opens the door and sticks his head outside. DUCHAMP, lurking in the shadows, skirts out of sight.)
 

MAN RAY: Hello? Anybody there? Yoo-hoo! Hey, anybody lose a pretty lady with a big black hat--?
 

ROSE: Don't shout! You mustn't!
 

MAN RAY: All's clear. Street's empty.
 

ROSE: Vive Dieu! Perhaps it was the echo of my own footsteps.
 

(ROSE tugs seductively at her garter.)
 

MAN RAY: Miss, look at me, eh? I'm tired. I'm tanked. Hell, I'm wearing nothing but laundry. How 'bout we meet for breakfast instead--
 

ROSE: But you are Man Ray, no?
 

MAN RAY: How do you know my name?
 

ROSE: I know much more than your name, monsieur.
 

MAN RAY: Oh, my God. It's you, isn't it? He said you'd never come! He said it was impossible, you'd be insulted ... .
 

ROSE: Marcel pretends to know who I am and what I want. That pesky little man is always putting words into my mouth.
 

MAN RAY: God knows what I expected, but I didn't expect--
 

ROSE: Rose disappoints you?
 

MAN RAY: I didn't say that.
 

(ROSE heads for the door, ready to depart.)
 

ROSE: Perhaps I am not the woman you hoped for. Perhaps your bottle is better company.
 

(MAN RAY intercepts her.)
 

MAN RAY: Don't go. Not yet.
 

(DUCHAMP turns to the INSPECTOR and makes a remark.)
 

DUCHAMP: They were attracted to each other with the pungency of alley cats.
 

MAN RAY: You came to pose?
 

ROSE: That depends, monsieur. If I consent to pose, what will I receive in return? Surely you don't expect me to sneak out of the apartment at absurd hours, incognito, and come all the way here in blinding cold only to shiver naked in front of machinery?
 

MAN RAY: Ah ... what did you have in mind?
 

ROSE: Equitable treatment. The same attention you grant your other models.
 

MAN RAY: My other models all come from the Bowery. I could never treat a lady the way I treat a whore.
 

ROSE: Why not, if the lady prefers it?
 

MAN RAY: Then she's no lady.
 

(Again, DUCHAMP makes an aside to the INSPECTOR.)
 

DUCHAMP: Bravo, Man Ray! He'd hit the nail on the head!
 

MAN RAY: You've been here two minutes and already we're in hot water. Hell, Duchamp's my best friend. I swore up and down ... I couldn't possibly.
 

ROSE: Ah! I see now. You're afraid of me.
 

MAN RAY: Don't be stupid.
 

ROSE: You've never been afraid of a woman before. They've always been afraid of you, yes?
 

MAN RAY: Nothing personal, but you move faster than sparks through wire.
 

ROSE: All I ask is to be kept warm.
 

MAN RAY: You understand, of course, that in my line of work indiscretion is an occupational hazard. It's not easy doing what I do. Arranging the model. Assessing every curve. It's true, I'm an artist, but I'm also a man. Every photograph I take is a triumph of mind over body. Of, ah ... art over urge.
 

ROSE: It's what renders them provocative, monsieur.
 

MAN RAY: Just so I don't alarm you.
 

ROSE: C'est impossible.
 

(MAN RAY ushers ROSE to the bed.)
 

MAN RAY: Your charm's downright dangerous. It may melt the lens clean off my camera.
 

(ROSE primps on the bed.)

We'll begin with a simple portrait. Nothing racy, nothing rude. Now, if you'd be so kind--
(MAN RAY adjusts his camera, then flips on a lamp to illuminate ROSE's face. He stares at her for a second, then recoils.)
 

Oh fuck ...
 

ROSE: My brother and I are bookends, are we not, monsieur?
 

MAN RAY: Bookends! I might as well seduce Duchamp.
 

ROSE: Prints from the same negative. I've been known to hide in my brother's profile.
 

MAN RAY: Let's forget the whole thing. Tonight never happened. Understood?
 

ROSE: Do you know what I risked coming to see you this way? You're not tossing me back onto the street!
 

MAN RAY: Think of Duchamp. He'd hate us both. We can't do that to him, can we?
 

ROSE: I'm not his property. I do as I please.
 

MAN RAY: It's no use! I look at you, but I see him!
 

ROSE: Perhaps you'd prefer his company. I've never seen two men so enamored of each other. Together at all hours, boozing, carousing. God knows how you pass the time.
 

MAN RAY: It's late. I'm warning you. Run along home.
 

ROSE: You're blushing!
 

(ROSE swivels the camera to capture MAN RAY's crimson expression, then dissolves into giggles.)
 

MAN RAY: You're shameless!
 

ROSE: I'd envisioned you to be so many things, but a coward wasn't one of them.
 

MAN RAY: Is that a challenge?
 

ROSE: Perhaps you're only capable of shooting with your camera.
 

MAN RAY: Who else do you tease behind his back? The milkman in the morning? The postman in the afternoon?
 

ROSE: Tell me, does this pass for wit on the Bowery?
 

MAN RAY: How about the policeman on the corner when Duchamp ducks out for the evening paper? Or the dogs who come up the back stoop begging for soup bones?
 

ROSE: Tu es un homme dégueulasse!
 

MAN RAY: I won't be the first to pluck you, Rose!
 

(MAN RAY climbs into the bed and plants a passionate kiss on ROSE's lips. He loosens the sheet around his waist and, with a flourish, covers them both. DUCHAMP gasps and puts his head in his hands. The INSPECTOR rushes forward to halt the action.)
 

INSPECTOR: That'll do! Yes. Thank you. That's sufficient. The gist of the matter, it's very clear.
 

(Lights fade on MAN RAY's apartment.)
 

DUCHAMP: He violated every inch. He blackened every orifice. Then he photographed her for hours. Each fragment, each limb. Her backbone, her throat, her belly--a positively encyclopedic array. And he didn't stop there, Inspector. Oh, no. He photographed the two of them together, suspending his camera to immortalize their coupling. She never protested once.
 

INSPECTOR: Does this room seem warm to you? Look at me. I'm sweating like a pig.
 

(The INSPECTOR offers DUCHAMP water from a pitcher on his desk.) Water?
 

DUCHAMP: Merci.
 

(They drink.)
 

INSPECTOR: So how long did the two of them continue to meet?
 

DUCHAMP: Days. Weeks. On into months.
 

INSPECTOR: And you knew all along?
 

DUCHAMP: Rose knew she could never deceive me. We shared the same breath, the same heartbeat. She did it to torture me, to prove her independence.
 

INSPECTOR: Why didn't you call the little lady's bluff?
 

DUCHAMP: I thought I could torture her by feigning indifference! I proved a poor actor.
 

INSPECTOR: Months of pent-up rage, disrupting the ebb and flow of the body's humors. Building to explosive levels. A walking time bomb, eh, Doo-Champ? Describe the moments that preceded her murder.
 

(DUCHAMP stares at the INSPECTOR for a moment. The INSPECTOR coughs, then barks).
 

Accuracy and detail, sir! Those are my interests!
 

DUCHAMP: It was late, almost midnight. I sat in one corner of the room, hunchbacked over my easel. Rose stood across from me. The moon spilled through the window and glazed us both. It was pagan, Inspector, in the extreme.
 

(DUCHAMP swivels a nearby light to reveal ROSE, posing in a loose dressing gown. She stands astride a chaise longue, decked in pillows. An easel stands nearby. DUCHAMP enters the scene. Together they play the following sequence with melodramatic furor, occasionally glancing over shamelessly to gauge the INSPECTOR's response.)

I dabbed, dipped, scraped, and stroked. I noticed how, with each passing minute, she grew restless, until at last she erupted, a full-blown symphony of nerves. Her toes tapped, her fists contracted, and her eyes darted back and forth like anxious little fish in big glass bowls. I could no longer paint her. She was flickering like a Vitagraph.
(DUCHAMP turns on ROSE.)

Still, goddamnit! Aha! See there! You're twitching! Why so fretful? Am I keeping you from something, Rose?
ROSE: At this hour? Yes, Marcel. From bed.
 

DUCHAMP: Whose?
 

ROSE: What are you suggesting?
 

DUCHAMP: I hear you unlatch the door in the middle of the night. I watch from the window as you skulk down the alley. Seems I'm tending a nocturnal Rose.
 

ROSE: Yes, Marcel, you've found me out! Every night at this hour I go down to the shipyards to visit the sailors. Goodness, is it after midnight? The crew will be frisky. They'll be eager to dock their vessels. Joe carries a heavy cargo, and Freddy is quite the rear admiral. That's what you want me to say, isn't it? Anything to justify your suspicions, to make your anger rightful.
 

(ROSE adjusts the pillows on her chaise, then reclines. She tosses open her dressing gown, revealing her backside, à la Ingres's Odalisque.)
 

DUCHAMP: I added a touch of bitumen to her joints and smeared her belly in pale ocher. My own body was primed, every fiber pulled taut. I could feel the veins encircling my heart like coiled wire. I contemplated Rose from the rear--the way her hair met her shoulders in tendrils, the small scoop of her back, the pink undersides of her kneecaps. I hated the very bones that slid up and down beneath her skin.
 

(DUCHAMP reclines beside ROSE and spits his accusation in her ear.)

You've been posing for him, haven't you?
ROSE: For who? Who are you talking about?
 

DUCHAMP: He's captured every wrinkle, every pore on film, hasn't he? Those photos hanging in his darkroom are flaps of your hide!
 

ROSE: Listen to yourself. It's revolting.
 

DUCHAMP: He never captures the whole, does he? No. Oh, no. He only photographs the pieces. A sloping neck. An ass. Arms that float. He chops you up with that canvas of his, doesn't he?
 

ROSE: Paint fumes have melted your brain.
 

DUCHAMP: Is the butcher waiting for you now? Is he blowing hot air on his lenses, polishing them with your discarded drawers?
 

ROSE: Tell your stories to the mirror. Don't waste your breath on me.
 

DUCHAMP: Are you too late? Have I kept you too long? Is he all alone with his birdie and nothing to shoot?
 

ROSE: Stop it!
 

DUCHAMP: How could you?
 

ROSE: God, yes, Marcel! That's all I am! Your empty-headed puppet, your porcelain Rose! And now Man Ray has stolen the strings!
 

DUCHAMP: So it's true ... .
 

ROSE: I ran to him in the middle of the night and gave him every curve, every follicle. Da Vinci smile. Botticellian hips. With every flash of his camera, he locked me in time.
 

DUCHAMP: You're over there now, aren't you? Caged in his little black box. Scorched onto his film! He's got you dangling in his darkroom, staring at him from a thousand tiny frames--
 

ROSE: Yes! I've spawned myself a hundred times! Man Ray taught me how! Thanks to him, my soul has been squared! Now, Marcel, am I painting the proper picture?
 

DUCHAMP: He touched you, didn't he?
 

ROSE: Yes! Yes, he did! Look, Marcel! Here's where he kissed me! And oh--here is where his nails dug into my back! What else can I show you, hmm?
 

(DUCHAMP lunges toward ROSE and attacks her.)
 

DUCHAMP: I took her face in my palms, like wood in a vise waiting to be splintered. I circled her neck with my right arm, using myfree hand to find the palette knife hidden in my smock. She let out a squeal, and in a spasm broke away and ran from the room. On the landing, I lunged after her, grabbing her ankle. She slid forward and together we tumbled down the steps, and then ... Oh God, forgive me ... I was upon her ... .
 

(DUCHAMP trembles for a moment, then breaks free. ROSE recedes into darkness.)

I'm sorry. I can't go on.
INSPECTOR: Good Lord, don't stop now!
 

DUCHAMP: She ... I ... It ... No!
 

INSPECTOR: Goddamnit, Frenchman, I need a full report! You can't stop short of the crime itself!
 

DUCHAMP: I've told you enough, Inspector. Deduce the rest!
 

INSPECTOR: What's the matter, Doo-Champ? Story frozen in your throat? The thought of your poor sister, all piecemeal, turning the carpet crimson--
 

DUCHAMP: Don't, please!
 

INSPECTOR: She's gone forever, erased, finished, thanks to you. Takes the wind out of your sails, doesn't it? Doesn't it?
 

DUCHAMP: Stop. I beg you.
 

INSPECTOR: Pity we can't turn back the clock, eh, Doo-Champ? Pity we can't pick up the pieces?
 

DUCHAMP: Leave me alone!
 

INSPECTOR: Can't finish what you started, can you? Last night, when you were tearing up the poor girl, it almost felt good, didn't it? Didn't it? Blood pumping. Muscles popping. Heat rising out of your pores. A new feeling, eh, Doo-Champ? Enough to turn a slight man into a giant?
 

DUCHAMP: Mon Dieu!
 

INSPECTOR: But this morning it hurts, doesn't it? This morning you're all alone. No more Rose. No more cheeky portraits. No more sunbursts. No one to blame but yourself. Funny thing about regret. Always arrives too late.
 

(DUCHAMP picks up the feathered hat from the INSPECTOR's desk. He strokes it gently. There is a long pause.)

Sad son of a bitch. Railroaded your way in here for a reason. Carrying an ugly secret around for hours, weighing you down, breaking your back, making you crazy. Do yourself a favor. Lift the load. Out with it.
 

DUCHAMP: Swim about in my nightmare, sir, and I guarantee it will soak through your skin. However, if you insist--
 

INSPECTOR: I insist.
 

DUCHAMP (Calmly.): Very well. Rose kept wriggling in an effort to crawl down the stairs. Her skin turned to canvas beneath me, rough in texture and drawn tight, its surface crusted with ancient paint. With my palette knife, I carved out her da Vinci smile. A single quick motion ripping through cloth and, lo and behold, I'd severed her head.
 

(DUCHAMP drops the hat. It lands on the floor.)

I disarmed my Venus.
 

(DUCHAMP takes the opera gloves from the INSPECTOR's desk, unfolds them, and lets them billow to the floor.)

With a loud creak, I tore apart her frames at each jointure.
(DUCHAMP cracks a pencil in half for emphasis.)
 

INSPECTOR: My God ...
 

DUCHAMP: Her legs jerked back and forth and back and forth, like pendulums in manic tempo. Her hips swiveled joyously likegears set free. Like a marionette cut loose from its wire, her limbs fell willy-nilly into blackness. And that, Inspector, was that.
 

(The INSPECTOR pauses, staring at DUCHAMP for a long time.)
 

INSPECTOR: Monster.
 

DUCHAMP: You've heard the truth, Inspector. The mystery is solved. Now, I suggest you notify the papers. I'll be happy to receive interested reporters in my cell. The whole story, uncensored. I'm prepared to repeat it all.
 

INSPECTOR: The hell you will.
 

DUCHAMP: Please, Inspector, there isn't much time! Tomorrow's edition must go to press. You'll be wanting recognition for your outstanding efforts in this case, I'm sure.
 

INSPECTOR: If I had my way, Frenchman, you'd hang without a word.
 

(CONSTABLE PUBLICK enters. He is carrying a large flat canvas.)
 

PUBLICK: Yo, Chief. You positive you gave me the right address: 33 West Sixty-seventh?
 

INSPECTOR: Quick. What did you find?
 

PUBLICK: That's just it, sir. Nothing.
 

INSPECTOR: What?
 

PUBLICK: A few things, sure. A bicycle wheel. A snow shovel. A bottle rack.
 

INSPECTOR: That's it?
 

PUBLICK: And this. It's a painting of some kind. Me and the boys, we couldn't quite figure out what it's supposed to be.
 

(PUBLICK holds the canvas up for the INSPECTOR. Until the close of the play, the painting is always held so that it faces upstage, concealed from the audience's view.)
 

DUCHAMP: Constable, please! You have my life in your hands.
 

PUBLICK: Reilly said he thought it was a cello filled with dynamite. Magruder said it looked to him like a fire in a cardboard factory. Me, I just call it ugly.
 

INSPECTOR: Did you look for bloodstains, did you check under the floorboards, in the closets?
 

PUBLICK: I'm telling you, Chief, there was nothing. No appendages, not even a finger or a toenail. For this, I lost a full house.
 

INSPECTOR: Constable Publick, your job is riding on this case. Now, are you absolutely sure the place was clean?
 

PUBLICK: Come on, Chief. If there'd been a human head on the doorstep I think I would've noticed.
 

INSPECTOR: Goddamn you, Doo-Champ. What the hell are you trying to pull?
 

PUBLICK: Pardon me for saying it, Chief, but it looks like you've got another half-wit on your hands.
 

INSPECTOR: Nobody asked you, Publick.
 

PUBLICK: I mean it. Probably wandered in here from Bellevue, just aching to spill sick stories into somebody's ear.
 

INSPECTOR: And I'm the man idiot enough to listen, is that it?
 

PUBLICK: No offense meant, but it's happened before. Remember that crackpot from the pet shop on Park? Three victims, he said: Mabel, Mattie, and Moe. Said he'd strung'em up with fishing wire in the basement under the store. You book him on three counts of murder, find out later they was all Pekinese. Outside, all around, true-blue crimes are being committed, and here we are busting our chops over some Joe who's knocking off pups in the cellar!
 

INSPECTOR: Do me a favor, Constable. Stick to your job, so I can do mine.
 

PUBLICK: But if the man's a loon--
 

DUCHAMP: What would I gain by telling lies? The motive for murder, it's clear, but the motive for spinning idle stories?
 

PUBLICK: I'm telling you, Chief, he'll make us look like morons.
 

INSPECTOR: But goddamnit, suppose he's telling the truth! Suppose the victim's here, somewhere in the city, buried in the park or stuffed in a suitcase? We sense a smirk at our expense, and we send him home, scot-free, the charges dropped. The man's confessed a crime and we've said, "No, thank you." Next week her head arrives by post in Des Moines. The week after, her feet in Fort Lee. How will we look then, Constable? Eh? I don't want her blood on my hands! This man is guilty until we prove him innocent! Understood?
 

PUBLICK: Yes, sir.
 

DUCHAMP: Who is more frightening, Inspector? The man who once in his lifetime commits a crime, or the man who dreams daily of committing a million crimes?
 

INSPECTOR: Listen, you. I want some hard-boiled evidence, and I want it now! Unless you can back up your ten-dollar boasts, I'm going to dismiss this case.
 

DUCHAMP: What would you like me to tell you, Inspector?
 

INSPECTOR: The truth, for Chrissake!
 

DUCHAMP: My truth, or your truth?
 

INSPECTOR: All right, you spindly little charlatan. I won't be made to look like a dolt. I've spent thirty years here at the N.Y.P.D., and I'm not bending over backward to satisfy the sordid fetishes of a foreign pervert! When I say hard-boiled, I mean hard-boiled!
 

DUCHAMP: The painting. I offer you my painting. Solid evidence, no? Canvas, a wooden frame--
 

INSPECTOR: What's your painting got to do with anything?
 

DUCHAMP: You wish to see the body of the victim? There it is.
 

PUBLICK: Aw, Chief, here he goes! Don't swallow the same bad egg twice!
 

DUCHAMP: All that remains of my precious Rose is now on that canvas.
 

INSPECTOR: What the hell are you talking about?
 

DUCHAMP: After I killed her, her body became my palette. I dipped my brush into her veins to find the crimson hues. The black tones I owe to the vitreous liquid of her eyes, which I split open like plums. To achieve the lighter shades, the yellow and the beige, I crushed her bone with mortar and pestle and ground the powder with the grease from her fat.
 

INSPECTOR: You smeared the victim all over that slab?
 

DUCHAMP: Rose is now in my oeuvre forever! The painting was born of her spirit. Listen, and you'll hear it breathe ... .
 

PUBLICK: Chief, you're following him like a dog with a bone tied to the end of its nose! Don't you see, that's what he wants?
 

INSPECTOR: The truth, you son of a bitch, the truth!
 

DUCHAMP: Buried in the park. Stuffed in a suitcase. Lost in the post. That's what you'd like me to say, isn't it? That, you'd believe!
 

INSPECTOR: Go ahead. Make it difficult. Make it ugly. We're not leaving the room until the truth gets told.
 

(Silence. The INSPECTOR stares at DUCHAMP. DUCHAMP looks straight ahead without flinching. CONSTABLE PUBLICK rocks back and forth on his heels. Seconds tick by.)
 

PUBLICK: Yo, Chief.
 

INSPECTOR: Now what?
 

PUBLICK: One thing you should know. While I was there, in his apartment, Mr. Doo-Champ had a visitor. Fella nearly knocked me down, he was pounding so hard.
 

DUCHAMP: Zut alors!
 

PUBLICK: I open up the door and he starts shouting, "Where is he? Where the hell's Doo-Champ?" "Who wants to know?" I says back to him.
 

DUCHAMP: What did you tell him? Please ...
 

PUBLICK: The truth, what else? I told him you were here, sipping tea with the New York Police Department. That's what I told him!
 

DUCHAMP: Pourquoi lui? Pourquoi maintenant?
 

INSPECTOR: Quiet, Frenchman! Publick! Did you get the man's name?
 

PUBLICK: He was down the stairs and out the door before I had the chance. A real suspicious character, Chief. I'll wager he wanted more than a cup of sugar.
 

(MAN RAY bursts into the INSPECTOR's office. He spies DUCHAMP instantly.)
 

MAN RAY: There you are! I've been up and down the whole West Side. Hey, sport, what the hell are you up to?
 

(DUCHAMP turns away from MAN RAY.)
 

INSPECTOR: Just one minute there, mister. You can't just bust in here! This is a highly confidential criminal interrogation. Make an appointment!
 

PUBLICK: Chief, it's him! He's the one!
 

INSPECTOR: Mr. Doo-Champ, do you know this man?
 

DUCHAMP: I've never seen him before in my life.
 

MAN RAY: What?
 

INSPECTOR: All right, you. Your name. For official police records.
 

MAN RAY: Man Ray. What's it to you?
 

INSPECTOR: You're the pornographer?
 

MAN RAY: Photographer!
 

INSPECTOR: Whatever! You're him?
 

DUCHAMP: Constable Publick, show this man to the door.
 

INSPECTOR: Don't move, Publick!
 

(The INSPECTOR towers over DUCHAMP and places his billy club over DUCHAMP's throat.)

Maybe Mr. Ray here knows where you stashed the body. Maybe that's why you don't want him interrupting our little tête-à-tête. How about that, eh?
 

MAN RAY: Body? What body? Whose body? For the love of Christ, what the fuck is going on?
 

INSPECTOR: Your friend here is under arrest for the murder of Miss Rose Sellavie.
 

MAN RAY: What?
 

DUCHAMP: It's true, Man Ray. Forgive me.
 

MAN RAY: That's rich! God, that's good. Tell me, Inspector. What was the weapon? Charcoal? A paintbrush?
 

INSPECTOR: Perhaps the pornographer knows too much!
 

MAN RAY: This is ludicrous!
 

INSPECTOR: Maybe. Maybe not. Husbands shoot their wives. Parents shoot their children. Twins shoot each other. Every night I go to bed sure I've seen it all. Every morning I rise to a world ripe with grisly possibilities.
 

MAN RAY: Christ, can't you feel your leg being pulled?
 

INSPECTOR: Murder is no laughing matter! He's already confessed to the charge. What the hell. We'll lock him up.
 

DUCHAMP: Man Ray, please. You had no business finding me here. Get out. Go home. Leave us alone.
 

MAN RAY: Duchamp, listen to me. A game's a game, but you're playing with fire. These bumblers swallow your story, they'll lock you away for life.
 

DUCHAMP: Go. Please. It's the last favor I'll ever ask of you.
 

INSPECTOR: Nobody leaves!
 

MAN RAY: I'm telling you, Inspector, it's all a hoax!
 

INSPECTOR: Look at them, Constable. They're both raving.
 

MAN RAY: There's been no murder!
 

DUCHAMP: Don't, Man Ray! You mustn't! Please!
 

MAN RAY: Rose Selavy is alive and well!
 

(Blackout, fast.)
Copyright © 2005 by Doug Wright

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Table of Contents

Introduction : willful misbehavior
Interrogating the nude 1
Watbanaland 81
Quills 159
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