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The Cage: a play

    Actor, as Man in the Cage
    Audience members:
        1, as the nagging, critical wife
        2, as the pompous, ceremonial clergyman
        3, as the answerless, armchair philosopher 
        4, as the little child

Audience members 1-4 are seated in a row on stage. Enter the Actor.

Actor: (to Aud. 1-4) Hi there!

Aud. 1: Hi yourself!

Actor: Weíre all here for the same play. Iím the ActorÖ

Aud. 2: Bless you!

Actor: And youíre the audience.

Aud. 3: How about that!

Actor: The playís entitled ďThe Cage.Ē Itís about thisÖ

Aud. 4: Donít tell us!

Aud. 3: Let us guess!

Aud. 2: Itís about thisÖ(faltering)

Actor: (encouragingly) Thatís right. Itís about this character who is trapped inside an imaginary cage.

Aud. 1: And do you play this character?

Actor: Uh-huh.

Aud. 2: They sure picked the right person for the part.

Actor: Thank you!

Aud. 2: Think nothing of it!

Actor: Anyhow, these different people walk by and make fun of his imaginary captivity.

Aud. 3: Wait a minute. Why are you telling us the plot?

Actor: Iím just killing time waiting for the rest of the cast to show up. They were supposed to have been here by now.

Aud. 2: Would you like us to help you out?

Aud. 3: After all, we know the plot now anyhow.

Aud. 1: Please let us help! Just until the regular cast gets hereÖ

Actor: Well, that would be nice of you. Are you sure you donít mind?

Aud. 3: Not at all.

Aud. 4: You just tell us what to do.

Actor: All right. (to Aud. 1) Youíll play my critical, nagging wife.

Aud. 1: Is that a proposal? Why, we barely know each other!

Actor: Remember: you refuse to accept the fact that I have difficulties dealing with lifeís problems.

Aud. 2: Ahem!

Actor: (to Aud. 2) And you can be the pompous, ceremonial clergyman. Aud. 2: Lead me to my robes!

Actor: Keep in mind that youíre too far up in the air to be able to deal with my needs.

Aud. 2: Iíll pray to that!

Actor: Letís see. (indicating Aud. 3) Ah, yes, I need you to play the answerless, armchair philosopher.

Aud. 3: And what am I like?

Actor: Youíre too busy asking questions to realize that you have no answers.

Aud. 3: (rhetorically) I wonder who in history asked the very first questionÖ

Aud. 4: And what about me?

Actor: Ah! You will play the little child.

Aud. 4: (in disbelief) The little child?

Actor: Yes.

Aud. 4: You must be joking! I wonít do it! Iím a grown man.

Actor: No?

Aud. 4: No!

Actor: Then I guess weíll just have to leave that part out.

(Aud. 4 exits to another part of the stage. He turns to speak.)

Aud. 4: Iíll stay and listen, though.

Actor: As you wish.

Aud. 4: (sitting down) But I donít expect to hear much.

Aud. 3: Where are our scripts?

Actor: There are none. Iím afraid youíll just have to make up your own lines as you go along.

Aud. 1: (imitating a stoned hippy) Groovy!

Aud. 2: Where are my robes?

Actor: We donít have any. Youíll just have to pretend youíre wearing them.

Aud. 3: (rhetorically) Where did the significance of robes originate?

Aud. 4: (insistently) Arenít you ever going to begin? I came here to see a play.

Actor: All right, Cast, it is time to begin.

Aud. 1: Yes, Dear.

Actor: No, no! I said a ďcritical, nagging wifeĒ!

Aud. 1: Oh. (pausing) I say there, arenít you ever going to get down to business?

Actor: A bit awkward, but better.

Aud. 2: Not even a clerical collar?

(Actor shakes his head)

Aud. 3: (rhetorically) What relationship is there between clothing and godliness?

Aud. 2: (aside to Aud. 1) Umph! Heís not much of a director, is he?

Aud. 1: Heís not much of a husband, either.

Actor: There! Thatís the spirit! Youíll make the perfect complaining, nagging wife!

Aud. 1: Well, thank you. (pausing) But donít forget: you watch the kids tonight while I go play poker with the boys!

Aud. 4: What a ham!

Aud. 3: (rhetorically) Is there a direct relationship between criticism and truth?

Actor: (near exasperation) Okay, Cast, letís begin!

Aud. 3: Would it hurt the aesthetic appeal and importance of this play if I were to loosen my neck tie?

Actor: (trying to remain calm) Suit yourself.

Aud. 1: Now wait a minute. If you want my opinionÖ

Aud. 4: (pointing from Aud. 1 to Actor) Ha! Ha! How can you tell which one is the director?

Aud. 1: (to Actor after giving Aud. 4 a dirty look) He ought to take his tie off completely. (to Aud. 4 as she removes his tie) There. Now you look disorganized enough to be an answerless, armchair philosopher.

Aud. 3: (mumbling) Thanks, Dear.

Actor: Now may we proceed?

Aud. 1: Certainly. Youíre the boss.

Aud. 2: Do I understand correctly that this is to be a religious play?

Actor: (completely exasperated) Heavens, yes!

Aud. 2: Well, then, shouldnít we pray before we start?

Actor: (desperately) Yes, yes! Would you do the honors?

Aud. 2: Certainly. Let us bow our heads reverently. God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food. Amen.

Aud. 1 & 3: Amen!

Aud. 2: Okay, my children, God bless us as we proceed.

Aud. 4: (clapping his hands) Two hams! What a comedy!

Actor: (somewhat calm now) Now, as the play opens, Iím supposed to be standing here discussing my problems with the audience.

Aud. 1: That husband of mine! If he isnít always complaining, and to total strangers at that!

Aud. 3: (sympathetically) You do have problems, donít you?

Aud. 2: Say, I think I have a prayer to cover that.

Actor: Well, thanks, but IÖ

Aud. 3: What you really need is to get away from here for a while and do some serious thinking.

Aud. 4: (heckling) With whom? Ha! Ha!

Actor: But itís not in the play.

Aud. 3: That doesnít matter. Come on. Just for a few minutes.

Actor: Well, they are making me a bit nervous.

(Actor and Aud. 3 exit to the other side of the stage. Aud. 1 & 2 carry on quite an animated silent conversation.)

Aud. 3: See. Now isnít this better? You can just stretch out in the sunÖ

Actor: But the sun just went behind a cloud.

Aud. 3: (sighing) Ah, well. Tell me: is your life meaningless?

Actor: Yes, that does seem to be part of the problem.

Aud. 3: And does the thought of death and the hereafter concern you?

Actor: Have you seen this play before?

Aud. 3: Do you worry about the constant struggle between good and evil in this world?

Actor: Stop! I feel the cage closing in on me!

Aud. 3: Really?

Actor: Yes, really. Iím beginning to feel quite depressed.

Aud. 3: Is that in the play?

Actor: Yes, it is.

Aud. 3: So whatís the problem?

Actor: You make it seem so real.

Aud. 3: Look. Do you want my help? We can try logic and reason, mind expansion, eastern meditation, New AgeÖ

Actor: Do any of these things really work?

Aud. 4: (heckling) Canít you see how stable and secure he is?

Aud. 3: No, not a bit. To tell you the truth, Iím starting to see those cage bars myself.

(Enter Aud. 1 from across the stage.)

Aud. 1: Well, here you are! Some husband you are to leave your wife just standing there like some fool in front of the clergyman!

Aud. 3: (rhetorically) Why did sin originate with the female of the species?

Actor: Please. Canít you see how upset Iíve been?

Aud. 1: How upset? Is that any excuse for walking out on your sweet, loving wife?

(Enter Aud. 2 from across the stage.)

Aud. 2: My, my! Do I hear a request for marriage counseling? Iím sorry, but Iíve time now only for a prayer.

Aud. 1: (too sweetly) Mind your own business, Father.

Aud. 2: (meekly) Yes, Dear. (mumbling) Now I lay me down to sleepÖ

Aud. 3: (to Aud. 2) Why do you keep mumbling foolish prayers?

Aud. 1: (to Aud. 3) And why do you keep asking so many answerless questions?

Actor: (to Aud. 1) And why do you keep nagging and criticizing so much?

Aud. 2: (to Aud. 3) Well, thereís a kind of peace in rote repetition.

Aud. 3: (to Aud. 1) And a kind of peace in repeating questions which cannot be answered.

Aud. 1: (defensively) Me nag and criticize? Why does everyone keep picking on me? Oh! The walls are closing in on me.

Aud. 4: (approaching Actor and Aud. 1-3) Stop it! You four act as if you were hopelessly trapped in this cage of yours!

Actor: (with contempt) Huh! Youíre not even in the play.

Aud. 4: I wasnít, true. But if we leave out the little childís part, the play must go unfinished, and your problem will still be unsolved.

(Actor and Aud. 1-3 turn away) (to Aud. 3) Youíve been too busy asking questions to listen for answers.

Aud. 3: (turning halfway towards Aud. 4) Have I?

Aud. 4: (to Aud. 2) And youíve been too busy going through the motions of religion to discover the realities of it.

Aud. 2: (turning halfway and crossing himself awkwardly) Thank God Iím not a sinner like him.

Aud. 4: (to Aud. 1) Youíre miserable, and yet you keep projecting your misery on others.

Aud. 1: (turn to face Aud. 4 squarely and points to Actor) My husband does that, but never me.

Aud. 4: (to Actor) And youíve become all the more entrapped by trying to get other captives to free you.

Actor: (pauses and turns slowly) So? Whatís your answer?

Aud. 1: What does he know? What does a little child know?

Aud. 2: How can a little child know the answer?

Aud. 3: How can a little child understand the questions?

Aud. 4: It says, ďA little child shall lead them.Ē

Actor: Does it really say that?

Aud. 4: Yes, and it also says, ďThe Truth shall make you free.Ē

Actor: We do want so much to be free.

Aud. 1-3: We want to be free.

Aud. 4: Then listen to the one and only Truth: God has already opened the door to your cage. All you have to do is to believe he has. Then youíll become free.

Actor: But thatís too simple.

Aud. 1-3: Way too simple.

Actor: There must be another solution.

Aud. 1-3: Yes, some other solution.

Aud. 4: There is only one. You can accept it or notÖ

(Aud. 1-3 and Actor turn to face the real audience)

Actor: Hi there!

Aud. 1: Weíre all here for the same play. Weíre the actorsÖ

Aud. 2: And youíre the audience.

Aud. 3: The playís entitled ďThe Cage.Ē

Actor: Itís about these characters who are trapped inside an imaginary cage.

(Actor and Aud. 1-3 freeze in position)

Aud. 4: (sadly) They sure picked the right people for the part.


Roger E. Bruner