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Herman Melville

Gwen Rostand

Copyright 1978 by Robert Red-Baer

Robert Red-Baer offers individuals or theatre groups the production of this play royalty free (profit or non-profit)-- but they must receive permission from Robert Red-Baer.? If interested in producing this play, please click on the following box.

GWEN ROSTAND is sitting on a bench next to the elevator, dozing. She is modestly attired. HERMAN MELVILLE, dragging his whip behind him, enters the elevator lobby. He is dressed like a lion tamer. First he looks at the elevator and then he looks at Gwen. She looks up at him.

HERMAN: Elevator sure takes a long time.

GWEN: Sure does.

HERMAN (after a pause): It's been on the fourteenth floor nearly five minutes now. (pause) That's a long time for an elevator to be on any floor, much less the fourteenth floor. (Laughs. Gwen is uninterested.) You going down?

GWEN (slowly turning): What did you say?

HERMAN: I was wondering if you want to... mean if you were going... Uh... down?

GWEN: I never saw you before. What do you think you are? What do you think I am? You come to me while I'm waiting for the elevator, you come dragging that whip, and you ask me if I'm going down?!!! Well Mister-- you just-- just get all that stuff out of your head.

HERMAN: I just meant...

GWEN: I'm not exactly what you consider a pure prude or anything. I just happen to believe there has to be a right time and a right place...

HERMAN: But...

GWEN: And the right man! And you are certainly not the right man. No sir, Mister, you just keep those perverted going down thoughts locked in your mind. If you can't do that, I'll scream. Do you understand that I will scream!?

HERMAN: I'm just waiting for the elevator.

GWEN: Yeah, I'll bet.

HERMAN: Yes, and I was wondering if you pushed the down button?

GWEN: I didn't have to push it. You already pushed it. You're just making pick-up conversation.

HERMAN (pointing at elevator light): Look! Look!
GWEN: If you think I'm turning my back on you, turning my back on that whip...

HERMAN: The little light's not on!

GWEN: That's the oldest trick in the world, you can't fool me. (pause) What little light?

HERMAN: The one over the button.

GWEN (giving a quick look): So?

HERMAN: Well, that means no one pushed the button.


HERMAN: That means the elevator won't stop here.

GWEN: You're telling me that you didn't push the button?!!!

HERMAN: I thought you did. You were here first.

GWEN: I saw you coming down the hall with standard elevator button pushing eyes. Naturally I assumed you pushed it.

HERMAN: If I had pushed it, the light would be on. How could you possibly assume I pushed the button if the light is not on?

GWEN: Well then, how could you assume I pushed the button if the light wasn't on?

HERMAN: You were standing in front of the button...

GWEN: I was sitting!

HERMAN: You were sitting in front of the button in the elevator waiting positions And nobody assumes the elevator waiting position without pushing the button! Nobody!

GWEN (leaning into his face): I did.

HERMAN: Yes, you did.

GWEN (after a pause): Well?

HERMAN: Well what?

GWEN: Well the light, it's still not on.,

HERMAN: You were here first. You were the one that deceived me. It's only right that you push the button.

GWEN: My dear sir, you are the one that is so profusely concerned. You push it.

HERMAN (laughs): Me? Concerned? You're the one standing there grumbling all over your shoes. You're the one that has to go down. I could care less if that light ever goes on. You see, I'm a lion tamer!

GWEN: Then what are you waiting here for, Mr. lion tamer? Ha ha.

HERMAN: I'm waiting for my lion. I'm not going anywhere, I'm going to wait right here for my lion. You're the one that's leaving. You're getting in the elevator, not me.

GWEN: You're the one that's waiting. It's your lion that's in the elevator. Ha ha. I don't care if you ever see your lion again, ever!

HERMAN: If it ever gets here, it will eat you up, my sweet blossom!

GWEN: Sweet Blossom. (Starts crying.) You called me your Sweet Blossom.

HERMAN: Look, I wasn't serious. He won't eat you. He's sleeping.

GWEN (with tears): My little Lovenester used to call me Sweet Blossom. He used to roll over in that big bed and say, "My Sweet Blossom". (sighing) My Sweet Blossom.

HERMAN (seeing a chance to move in): Lovenester. Lovenester? Did you really say Lovenester?

GWEN: Yes. Yes, he was my only dear Lovenester.

HERMAN: Oh my God! Oh God!

GWEN: What? What is it?!

HERMAN: My first love-- her name was Sweet Blossom and she called me Lovenester. I have never brought myself to love anyone since. (They look at each other.)

GWEN: Lovenester!

HERMAN: Sweet Blossom! (They embrace. Herman drops his whip.)

GWEN: He was the kindest, bravest loveliest and most gracious man I ever had kiss my blushing face. (He kisses her face.) He was so gentle and soft when he caressed me. (caresses her) We did so many things-and we did everything in the name of love.

HERMAN: Love. (Unbuttons her blouse with no resistance.)

GWEN: Whenever we would start to get intimate, he would murmur in my receptive ear, "My Sweet Blossom"...

HERMAN: My Sweet Blossom.

GWEN: Oh yes, yes! When he breathed that beautiful name in my ear, I could feel the wisps of his gentle words lightly lifting the blossoms of spring from my shoulder. (He slowly pulls her blouse off as she moves her arms to make it easier.) Everything so perfect and... and sweet and innocent and nice. There was no one in the world but us... Me and my little Lovenester. (Herman has been working on other things.)

HERMAN: My Sweet Blossom. My Sweet Blossom. (Continues Sweet Blossoming and removing clothing. (Pause.) She looks at him, looks at her clothes, looks at what she is wearing, if anything. She is very surprised. Herman is frozen. He makes one last pleading gesture.) my Sweet Blossom...

GWEN: You're no Lovenester! You took advantage of my love for Lovenester. You just lied to me. My God! Look what you've done to me.

HERMAN: I never said anything About...

GWEN: Shut up you... You rapist! Masher! Sneak feeler! You are polluted crud of the earth--a perverted blouse puller-offer. (Slaps him around with her clothes as she gathers them up.) I know you. You are scattered all over sinful society, a crumpled bit of the devil's litter. You ought to be ashamed of your ugly perversions, running around yanking on innocent blouses, tearing them from unsuspecting backs! (Pause. She can also start putting. her clothes back on.) My God, don't you have any pride?! How the hell can you live with your dirty self?! So pitifully disgusting. Ugh... and you call yourself a lion tamer!

HERMAN: Please, I... (falls to his knees)

GWEN: Don't please me! You don't please me! Look at what your selfish perversion has done to me, Just look! Standing here, practically naked in a cold lobby, God looking down on me. I've been degraded, trampled in your filthy mind, my innocence sucked away, my integrity pulled below my ankles. (Pause) I've been made into a cheap whore!

HERMAN: Oh, please...

GWEN: My poor virtue stripped from my back and you say please. You fall on your knees and cry and say please. Well take your please and your knees and crawl to hell. You've already dragged me through it's dirty dust. I just hope you're happy. (She walks away and finishes fixing her clothes. Herman is broken down on the stage. Gwen starts feeling sorry for him.) Lion tamer, hah! (Pause) I never knew any lion tamer to act like you. (Pause) Maybe you should see a psychiatrist or something.

HERMAN: What do you want me to do?

GWEN: What?

HERMAN: I've practically ruined you. What do you want me to do to make you feel better?

GWEN: You could leave me alone. Just don't bother me anymore. (Turns her back to him.)

HERMAN: I ... I'm sorry. I'm a liar. I never heard the name Lovenester until you mentioned it. I was excited at the thought of loving you and was more than willing to lie for it. (Pause) I really wanted to love you. It's the only way I knew how. It's something like the way I tame lions, I have to lie to them, too",

GWEN: Why do you lie to your lions? You don't try to seduce them, do you?

HERMAN: No. I make them obey and people pay to watch me make them obey me and it makes me feel good! They think they have it made in their cage. They think that that life is the best life and that's what I lie to them about. Because if I didn't lie they would find out the truth. And then they would eat me.

GWEN: What's the truth?

HERMAN (looking around cautiously): You don't see any around, do you? They'll eat me up if they ever find out. They probably won't even spit my bones out. I'd be gone in two swift gulps.

GWEN: I don't see any around. You can tell me.

HERMAN: The truth is, they don't know about Africa. They don't know about the-grassy plains and the freedom that goes with it. They don't know that they have cousins rolling around in it right at this moment. And to top this truth off, they wouldn't know what to do with the freedom if they had it. They would all die.

GWEN: You still lied to me. No matter what you say about the lions, you still lied to me.

HERMAN: I did, didn't I? I'll wait around the corner until you are gone. (Starts to leave.)

GWEN: Wait.


GWEN: Just keep your lies for your lions. That's all I ask.

HERMAN: I will. I really will. (pause)

GWEN: What's your name?

HERMAN: Herman Melville. Herman the lion tamer.

GWEN: Herman the lion tamer. Mine's Gwen Rostand. Gwen the free.

HERMAN: I like that name-- Gwen the free.

GWEN (picking up and handing him his whip): Here you go, Herman the lion tamer.

HERMAN: I almost feel naked without this anymore. I feel chill winds without it, very chill winds.

GWEN: You know, this isn't such a bad lobby.

HERMAN: No. No it isn't. And that's one of the neatest benches I've ever seen in an elevator waiting lobby.

GWEN: Yes.

HERMAN: None of that fancy stuff.

GWEN: Yes, it is pretty simple.

HERMAN: Sure is. (pause) Nice clean lines on that bench.

GWEN (sitting): Not a bad sitting bench, either.

HERMAN (sitting): Can you ever forgive me? I wouldn't want you to keep a grudge. I couldn't stand it.

GWEN: Only people with loose minds keep grudges. That's why we have so many wars-- all those loose minds.

HERMAN: Then you forgive me?

GWEN: I don't look like a loose mind, do I?

HERMAN: No. Of course not. Not at all.

GWEN: Did you ever see a loose mind?

HERMAN: I don't... Not that I remember.

GWEN: Well, the world is littered with them. They are an ugly sight and a terrible sound. They're always bouncing around knocking skulls out of shape. The insides of skulls full of ruts and bumps from their loose minds.

HERMAN: Can you see one?

GWEN: Yes.


GWEN: You look deeply in the person's eyes. (She looks into his.) You can see it rattling in their head, like a loose rock in a tin can. Shake your head.

HERMAN: Do I have to?

GWEN: You're not afraid, are you?

HERMAN: Well... No. But what if a mind is loose. I mean, can it be tightened?

GWEN: Yes, but it's not very common. Most people with them seem to enjoy them rattling
around in their head. Go on and shake it, Herman. (He does.)

HERMAN: Is it... is it firmly in there?

GWEN: I couldn't tell. You'll have to shake it again. (He does. She stands and moves away, pitying Herman.)

HERMAN: You mean... How bad is it?

GWEN: It was... Nothing.

HERMAN: Tell me the truth.

GWEN (trying not to look at him): I never expected it to be loose, Herman.

HERMAN: I want to know how bad it is! (Walks up and shakes her.) Tell me Gwen! I have to know.

GWEN: It's not completely hopeless.

HERMAN: Tell me exactly what you saw. Why did you have to take a second look?

GWEN: I had to look again because... Because I couldn't believe what I saw the first time. I've never seen anything like it.

HERMAN: What is it?

GWEN: Oh Herman, it was like looking at a grain of sand in an empty gas can. (in tears.) If you blow your nose too hard, you'll loose your mind completely. You don't even need a gun to blow your brains out. Oh Herman. (Sobs on his shoulder.) I was a fool to look. I was a total fool.

HERMAN: It's that bad? A grain of sand. (Walks away from her and summons his lion taming spirit.) Well a grain of sand is bigger than a grain of salt. Probably twice as big. My. mind is twice as big as a grain of salt!!!

GWEN: Oh, it's so wonderful you see it that way! You're such a brave man!

HERMAN: I have to be. It's all part of being a lion tamer!

GWEN: That's the old taming spirit, Herman the lion tamer!

HERMAN: Now tell me how to get it tightened.

GWEN: It's not very common...

HERMAN: But it has been done!

GWEN: I really don't know how to go about doing it. I've just heard that...

HERMAN (raising his whip): You told me it could be tightened.

GWEN: Yes, but in your case.... Your mind is just too small!

HERMAN: I am a lion tamer and my lion is sleeping in that elevator. All I have to do is press that button and wake my lion up when these doors open. My mind is twice as large as a grain of salt and I know you can tighten it! (Cracks whip.)?lion2.jpg

GWEN: You smart assed lion tamer, did you ever try and tighten a grain of salt?! (Herman misses her with the whip.) Did you?!!!

HERMAN (dropping his guard for a second): Why, I never thought of doing that. Why would I do that? (She grabs whip from him.)

GWEN: That's why! Ha! What do you take me for? Go on-- Get back! (Cracks whip.) Back! Back!

HERMAN: All I want is for you to help me. I don't like walking around with my mind rattling.

GWEN: You're always lying to me. Always lying.

HERMAN (freaking out): I'll get chills without my whip. The air is getting chilly around me. Please give me my whip. I'll do anything for you. You-- Gwen the free. I'll give Gwen the free anything. (Tears.) Oh God, give me that whip, I'm freezing to death!

GWEN: You dumb lion tamer, stop crying. I'll give it to you. I can't stand watching a big lion tamer like you cry.

HERMAN (crawling, begging): Oh yes. Give. Give it to me.

GWEN: Promise you won't hit me with it.

HERMAN: Give. Please. Freezing to death.

GWEN: Promise!

HERMAN: I do. I promise. Hurry please. (She throws the whip to him. He grabs it and jumps up and cracks it in the air. Then he threatens.) You won't get this again. You'll never get it again. No woman will ever touch my whip again. Never again. Never!

GWEN: Now, you promised not to whip me.

HERMAN: You called me a liar. You know I'm a liar. You're a fool!

GWEN: Degenerate!

HERMAN (presses button): My sleeping lion will. be here shortly and I won't even have to whip you. I'll just wake him up and toss you to his waiting jaws. My pet is your death!

GWEN: It's about time someone pressed that button.

HERMAN: Haa ha. You don't have to wait any longer. (Elevator door opens. If possible snoring can be heard. It is pitch black in the elevator.)

GWEN: So you're going to throw me to the lion.

HERMAN: Only if you can't tighten my brain.

GWEN: Absolutely impossible Immmposible! (He grabs her.)

HERMAN: He won't even bother to spit out your bones. (Pulling her into elevator.) We'll just wake him up for this tender meal.

GWEN (they are unseen inside the elevator): What makes you think he won't gobble you up?

HERMAN (after a short laugh): Because I am the lion tamer! Wake up my little beast. (Snoring stops.) Wake upsy daisy. I want you to meet your meal. Ready,.. (A loud roar is heard. Gwen comes jumping out of the elevator. Herman follows.)

GWEN: Wait! Wait a minute!

HERMAN: I knew you would change your mind when you saw his roar. You do know how to tighten up my mind!

GWEN: I don't. I honestly know it is out of the realm of all possibility in the whole universe.

HERMAN: (pulling her back into elevator). Well don't delay me, then. Or rather, don't delay my lion.

GWEN: I want a last request.

HERMAN: Sorry.

GWEN: I just want to whisper in the lion's ear before he devours me. Come on, I gave you your whip back,

HERMAN: Well, okay. Just make it short. Lion, I want you to devour her the second she finishes whispering. (Whispering is heard, then a giant roar and a struggle. A bone comes flying out of the elevator. Then Herman's hat and then Gwen comes walking out. More bones are flying out as she walks downstage.)

GWEN: I just told the lion the truth, that's all. (Whip comes flying out of the elevator.)


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