Though I don't turn my nose up at the thespian arts (unless I have a nosebleed of course), reading plays has never been my cup of tea or coffee or even a nice, soothing mug of beef bouillon, especially after my landlady has locked me out of the rooming house on a cold winter day because she thinks I've been peeing all over the toilet seat. Plus a play, in print form, is usually very meager in the page department and thus not very good for crushing silverfish unless you get a good flex to your downswing, in which case sometimes the damage is even greater and more satisfying than say, from an encyclopedia volume or large print edition of War And Peace. Waiting For Godot? I think not. More like Waiting For Silverfish. But that's neither here nor there because in the end the play's the thing and if anyone has broken a leg on the theatrical stage it's my good friend and brother-in-law, Schmeltzy Gimmeldick, philosopher and owner of Gimmeldick's Hardwood Flooring Outlet. Well, he can now add dramatist to his well-rounded resume after the play he's so recently penned is ready to be put through its paces and whose pages he rushed right over to me, the paper still warm from his inkjet printer. A freshly born and swaddled baby couldn't have been more comforting, inspiring or better smelling.
"Shakespeare was a jackass," Schmeltzy informed me, pushing my pile of word searches off the bed to make room to sit down (I find that word searches sharpen my mind and keep me honed and better prepared to detect the subtler nuances in the great literary works that I rarely, if ever, read). "I mean I read this Hamlet shit back in high school and his two best characters, those Rosenblatz and Goldenberg guys are just wasted, playing second fiddles to all those other boring jackasses. I know 'cause I Googled it and what I saw didn't make me too happy. So I decided to remedy that situation. I mean if I were Shakespeare and knew which side my bread was buttered on, I would've made these two guys front row and centre but I guess that's why I'm a hardwood flooring king and he's just some old dead guy with a fancy collar who couldn't get no royal pussy and died of syphilis in an outhouse on the outskirts of Salisbury. And then this Tom...Tom...I don't even know his fucking last name but I think it's that guy who hosts America's Funniest Home Videos and that shit-ass Dancing With The Stars show, he decides to write a play focusing on these two schmoes but he gets it all wrong making them all funny and cute instead of being the backstabbing son-of-a-bitches that would fuck your sister behind your back and then make you sniff their fingers fresh from your sister's ass though you don't know that's where they've been before going off to maybe kill your cat or salamander or whatever the fuck kind of pet you have or love to death. I mean, I wouldn't hire that guy to sell hardwood flooring to overweight bingo-callers strapped to mall scooters in Sudbury, let alone write a play that people might like and recommend to their friends and family not to mention getting a little goddamn historical accuracy because that kind'a shit matters if you wanna be a playwright. Am I right? Eh? Am I right or not? Oh yeah, and he covers up the fact they're Jews. Both him and Shakespeare, coupl'a anti-Semites goosestepping their way through some crappy barbaric finger-sniffing sister-banging century if you ask me."
I didn't want to tell Schmeltzy that he had the wrong Tom and that I believed he meant Tom Stoppard, a British playwright whose works I'm well not acquainted with but who did host a TV game show on the BBC called Name That Meat Pie in which contestants had to name the meat filling of various pies for cash prizes and/or dental work. Of course that was well before he made it big with his absurdist plays and his Tom Stoppard fashion line of men's hosiery and undergarments (the play-writing business unfortunately doesn't pay big money so Mr. Stoppard, instead of putting all his eggs in one basket, put some into cheap knock-off socks and underwear that he has manufactured in sweatshops and then ships over to London where he jacks the price and puts his logo-TS-on the packaging and when people ask him what TS stands for he smirks and says, "tits and socks," which leaves people bewildered but gets them talking and buying his product and every year, in conjunction with the London Royal Repertory Theatre's Production of Shakespeare's Frights, Fights & Delights, a review of Shakespeare's greatest hits from his best plays set to music and with laser lights, Stoppard puts on his own variety show he calls Stoppard's Cock-Of-The-Walk Cavalcade Of Tits & Socks, which allows him to market both his designer line and his thought-provoking plays so someone's laughing all the way to the bank and it sure as hell isn't Shakespeare even though he's dead so it's a moot point but if he were alive a bank would be the furthest place from where he'd be, especially with Tom Stoppard standing there counting all his moolah, licking his absurdist chapped lips and holding up the line. Either way, Schmeltzy was happy that I was in complete agreement with his Shakespearean theories (I know which side my bread's buttered on and mine comes with a frozen entree), and it was then that Schmeltzy persuaded me to make a run-through reading of his play and I agreed because I'll pretty much do anything for a heat'n'serve Salisbury steak with instant mashed potatoes, peas, carrots and gravy, all beautifully compartmentalized in its own foil serving tray. To me it's like being on an airplane taking off on a soul-searching and adventurous journey without having to leave the comfort of my lumpy bed or feeling homesick for the warmth and comfort afforded by the rooming-house odours of moldy dishtowels, boiled cabbage and mouse feces.
Act I. Curtain goes up on a delicatessen setting where two men are sitting at a table.
Rosenblatz: Why did you order the double meat?
Goldenberg: Are you crazy. I always order the double meat. How many years have we been coming here and you ever see me order anything but the double meat? You got Alzheimers of something?
R: You've ordered the kishka before.
G: I've never ordered the kishka here. You must be thinking of the kasha. One time, what, five years ago, I had an upset stomach so I ordered some kasha. So, sue me. A man orders kasha once, from that day on it's just kasha, kasha, kasha. Do I look like a kasha eater to you? Granted, my grandparents were big kasha eaters back in Russia in the shtetl but they didn't have much else to eat after the Cossacks made off with all their wives and goats and sheep and fire-making tools. But me, hey, I haven't done too bad as a zipper manufacturer. Who wants kasha when you can have pastrami or corned beef or even a smoked tongue sandwich, especially with the kind of money I make.
R: Hey, I make just as money as you with my button factory and you never hear me complaining about having a nice plate of kasha from time to time. Nothing wrong with a little kasha. Once I was over at Hymie's place and he put out a big platter of pickled herring and smoked whitefish but I said, "Hymie, I don't mean to be rude but you wouldn't by any chance maybe have a little kasha to go with this?" Hymie understood. He's a kasha man. Kishka too. Hymie would never turn down a plate of kishka.
G: Kasha, kishka, kasha, kishka, who th'hell cares? I didn't order it, I'm not eating it, I don't wanna talk about it anymore. Now how about this Hamlet guy. This is something we need to discuss. He's been underselling me with his own zippers, cheap zippers, such crap you wouldn't believe. I wouldn't put them on my grand children's pants. He's giving the zipper industry a bad name. I mean people think a zipper is a simple thing. Oh yeah, go ahead and make them cheap. What is it anyway? Just a bunch of little metal teeth with a thingamajig that zips them up, how hard could that be? Well, I'm telling you, my friend, this from a man who has devoted his life to zippers. They're more complicated than nuclear fission, anti-gravity machines, toaster ovens for God's sake. And this, this gonif thinks he can take business away from me. You know what I say? Eh? It's time to murder this son-of-a-bitch. Kill this Danish prick and his family if we have to.
R: (sleepily), Danish? Mmm, what kind? Lemon or poppy seed? I like a nice danish.
G: Not that kind of danish, you putz. This Hamlet guy, he's from Denmark. Anyway, are you up to killing this thieving son-of-a-bitch or do I have to do it myself?
R: Yeah, yeah, what's your hurry. Let me finish my corned beef first. It's not like he's leaving the country. Oy, I think I've got gallstones. Or kidney stones. Can you get stones in your kidneys? I don't even know. Maybe I should go to the doctor. Have you seen my walker? I can't kill anyone if I don't have my walker.
G: You know, maybe you should take it easy. Stay here, have some nice rice pudding, my treat. I'll take care of things (looks offstage to a suggested figure working the deli counter). Hey, Moishe, you busy for the next few hours. I gotta go kill somebody and I could use a little help. Nothing big. Kill a guy, maybe his wife too, he's got a Cadillac, it's yours if you tag along.
(from offstage comes Moishe's voice)
M: Sure, sure, just give me a second. I've gotta get this brisket out of the oven. A Cadillac, eh? What colour?
M: Maroon. I love that colour. And it rhymes with macaroon. And raccoon. I love raccoons, especially the way they wash their food. I once saw a raccoon wash a kreplach in a pail of dirty water and cooking oil in the alleyway out back of the deli. It broke my heart. And I still have my old maroon leisure suit hanging in the back of my closet. You wouldn't believe how much pussy a schmekel like me could get with a maroon leisure suit and a pound of pastrami. I'll tell you all about it later after we kill this Nazi Danish son-of-a-bitch and we're driving back in my new Cadillac.
Lights dim. Curtains go down. End of the first act.