Constitutional Divide (1983)

[SCENE: Two leaders standing, each dressed in a single color that is the opposite of what the other is wearing; and four members seated, wearing T-shirts with optical illusions or appropriate titles such as "The Man with Two Brains," "Psycho II," etc.

[Together, the two leaders constitute a sort of two-headed beast, one "head" always contradicting the other. Their speech should overlap to some extent without becoming unintelligible.]

(Simultaneously to group:)
1st LEADER: Good morning. Welcome to our first meeting.
2nd LEADER: Good evening. Welcome to our second meeting.

2nd LEADER (to 1st): The next meeting was last week, wasn't it?

1st LEADER (to 2nd): That's what I said!

(Simultaneously to group:)
1st LEADER: Please be seated.
2nd LEADER: Please remain standing.

1st MEMBER (to no one in particular): It seems like there were twice as many people here last time.

2nd MEMBER: That's because you weren't here.

3rd MEMBER (alienated): I keep hearing voices around me.

(Simultaneously:)
1st LEADER: The secretary will now read the minutes from the first meeting.
2nd LEADER: The secretary will now read the minutes from the second meeting.

1st LEADER (to 2nd): I thought we didn't have a secretary.

2nd LEADER: You're not talking to me!

1st LEADER: Yes, you are!

(Simultaneously to group, pointing to each other:)
1st LEADER: Will you listen to him/her?
2nd LEADER: Don't listen to him/her!

[Each leader walks up to one of the two nearest members and hands that member a sheet of paper.]

(To the respective members:)
1st LEADER: Please pass this around so that everyone can see it.
2nd LEADER: Please hold on to this and don't let anyone see it.

[As the leaders return to their original positions, the two members with sheets of paper each do what the other leader said. Thus, we see one paper being passed among three members, and the fourth member holding on to the other paper. The three members passing the paper do not take time to look at it, nor do they stop passing it after it has already been around once. Meanwhile the fourth member quietly begins reading the other paper.]

(Simultaneously:)
1st LEADER: Now then, let's see...
2nd LEADER: Let's see; now then—

[The leaders stop abruptly when they notice the one member reading. The 2nd Leader walks over to that member, takes the paper from the member's hand and turns it right side up before returning it to the member. As the leader returns, the member looks at the leader resentfully and goes back to reading the paper upside down.

[Meanwhile, the other paper is being tossed around faster and faster and more carelessly and is becoming damaged.

[Finally one member, in a frenzy, tears the paper in two, keeping the larger piece and passing the smaller.

[The next member does the same thing.

[The next member tears off a piece about the size of a postage stamp and hands it over to the last member, who was reading.

[The last member pulls an envelope out of a pocket and uses the scrap of paper as though it were an actual stamp.

[On cue, a letter carrier enters from stage left and crosses the entire length of the stage, picking up the letter before exiting left.

[The last member, who still has the second sheet of paper, now neatly tears it in half several times and puts the stack of torn pieces into a shirt pocket.

[Suddenly the action stops.

[During the foregoing, the leaders had been consulting with each other inaudibly. They now address the group.]

(Simultaneously:)
1st LEADER: Does anyone have any questions?
2nd LEADER: Does anyone have any answers?

(Simultaneously, raising their hands:)
2nd MEMBER: I have a question!
4th MEMBER: I have an answer!

(Simultaneously:)
1st LEADER (pointing to 2nd Member): You go first.
2nd LEADER (pointing to 4th Member): You go first.

(Simultaneously, to each other:)
2nd & 4th MEMBERS: After you.—All right.

(Simultaneously, ad lib—completely unintelligible:)
2nd MEMBER: When this group was formed, it was supposed to be made up of people who are unable to perceive reality, but I don't see anything like that taking place. How come?
4th MEMBER: It seems to me that the workings of society at large are not being given adequate attention with respect to the functioning of this group. Don't you agree?

(Simultaneously:)
1st LEADER (to 2nd Member): Yes.
2nd LEADER (to 4th Member): No.

4th MEMBER (to 2nd Member): What did I tell you?

2nd MEMBER: That's not true!

4th MEMBER: Yes, they did!

2nd MEMBER: To you, maybe!

(Simultaneously to both Members:)
1st LEADER: Let's keep it down, okay?
2nd LEADER: Would you talk louder, please?

3rd MEMBER (to 4th Member): What you said just now was interesting, I think. This group is becoming a little bit too removed from other groups that may exist. We need to try to understand the outside world a little better. Isn't that what you're saying?

[There is an awkward silence, then all five of the others ad lib, "Huh?" "Wha?" "What is (s)he talking about?" "I don't understand," etc.]

1st MEMBER (pointing at the Leaders with both hands): It's at the top where the problem lies, if you ask us. You four are planting the seeds of confusion among us. We need new leadership!

(Simultaneously:)
1st LEADER: Nonsense.
2nd LEADER: Well, of course.

2nd MEMBER: You give us all conflicting messages.

3rd MEMBER: It's always the same!

4th MEMBER: We never know what to expect!

1st MEMBER: We all knew this would happen someday.

[The Leaders look at each other for a moment; then, for the first time, talk in unison.]

BOTH LEADERS: Well, all right, we'll try talking the same and see what happens.

[Immediately the four Members freeze, wide-eyed, where they sit. Any objects they may have been holding—pens, papers—drop to the floor. The Members remain completely immobilized as the Leaders, talking in unison, stroll among them casually.]

BOTH LEADERS: We think you might find, however, that the group operates a little differently under this new experiment. We are concerned that by presenting a single mode of thought, we might close the door on the communication that is so necessary to keep the group fresh and spontaneous.

[They pause to look around at the paralyzed members.]

BOTH LEADERS: On the other hand, this would seem to make things a lot easier on us.—(To each other) Don't you agree?—(To group) Yes, this seems like a much simpler way to run things. We thank you for your suggestion. We will remain open to any further suggestions you may have... (Looking around) ...whenever you feel the urge.—(To each other) Yes, I rather like this. I always knew you and I could get along. Things will be much easier from here on. Let us be as one always.

[They approach each other congenially and reach out to shake hands. The instant their hands meet, they too become paralyzed, smiles frozen on their faces.

[Stasis is achieved.

[Everyone remains motionless for about 30 seconds.]

BLACKOUT

 

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