Family Etude

black servantACT I SCENE I

STAGE

INTERIOR: Decorations in the backstage represent a kitchen interior of an American house of the middle 50s: gas oven, cupboard, sink, old refrigerator with rounded edges, checkered tile floor. In the center of the stage stands a square table. The stage is lit only by a lampshade hanging from a ceiling above the table.

MAIN CHARACTERS:

MR. JACK WHITE – a good-looking man in his 40s. Wears a white shirt and checkered trousers with suspenders. Has an annoying habit to run his hand through his hair every five minutes.
MRS. EMILIA WHITE – a nervous, slim blond with an angular face and anxious eyes—Mr. White’s wife. Has a high piercing voice, fouled-up because of regular hysterics on any suitable occasion.
NOAH and JANE WHITE – Jack and Emilia’s children. Twins.
MISSOURI – an attractive black housemaid.

The Whites are sitting around the table, eating supper. Each family member occupies their own side of the table. The family is keeping tense silence; each person is looking at their own plate. Mr. White stretches his hand trying to reach a salt shaker, but no one passes it to him, so in a couple of seconds he lowers his arm. Emilia is using her knife and fork too actively; she heatedly slices meat and makes spasmodic sighs from time to time. Jane and Noah can’t stand the atmosphere anymore; they push away the plates with food on them and leave the kitchen. Mrs. White keeps silent for a moment and then starts to cry.

Mr. White gets up, pours some orange juice into his glass, sits back, and unfolds a newspaper with a grim expression on his face.

EMILIA: Don’t you want to tell me something?

Mr. White glances at her, but keeps silent.

EMILIA: No? I bet you do (Waits for his reaction, but he does not respond. Then she continues her speech). You are ashamed, that’s what. Or no (she makes a contemptuous expression). You are afraid.

JACK: No, I’m not.

EMILIA: Oh yes, you are. You are a coward, Jack. And you always were.

Mr. White looks at her with disgust. At this moment, Missouri enters the kitchen. She quickly glances at the Whites, and approaches the table to clean it; Jack mumbles and sends her away with a nervous gesture, and she leaves quickly. Emilia watches them with her arms crossed on her chest, grinning.

EMILIA: How could you? Not Sally, or Carla, or at least that Irish randy, Molly. But Missouri!

JACK (snarling): What about Missouri?

EMILIA: She’s black! I mean, look at her!

JACK: She is as much a woman as you are.

EMILIA (raising her voice): You know what, Jack White, don’t dare compare me with that black woman! (With hysterics) As if cheating on me with her was not already too much! Aren’t you feeling guilty at all?!

JACK (in a deliberately calm tone): No.

EMILIA (wringing her hands): I’ll fire her!

JACK: No, you won’t.

EMILIA (floutingly, but with despair in her voice): Or else?

JACK: Or else I’ll tell everybody about your affair with Sanders.

Emilia’s eyes widen. She covers her mouth with her hand in horror.

JACK (still in a deliberately calm voice): You thought I noticed nothing? Come on, it was so obvious. You can do what you wish though.

He keeps silent for a minute. Then he continues, but as if speaking to himself.

JACK: What is curious about white Christian culture is that women who cheat on their husbands are usually treated much worse than husbands who cheat on their wives. Don’t you think so, honey?

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