A PLAY IN THREE ACTS
Mount Rushmore, South
Dakota. DAY. The presidents are murmuring to each other, their eyes,
lips, and heads moving. LOUD, UNRULY CROWD NOISES from offstage. The
presidents crane their necks toward the sounds, which are coming from
the harbor district in New York City.
What’s the hubbub? Lean
back, Abe! I can’t see through you.
(leaning back and
peering toward his left)
They’re coming. Again…
Who? The Africans?
No, by God! It's the
Irish, and –
His voice is drowned
out by the clamor of many voices with Irish accents. Mount Rushmore and
the presidents fade, as the lights come up on the New York docks.
FIRST VOICE (male)
Hurry! Liam, Liam! –
General crying and
Order! Order, all of
you! Move along, there!
Masses of people,
shoving and falling over each another.
SECOND VOICE (male)
Hey there – stop pushing!
A fight breaks out.
Mamma! Mamma, where are
THIRD VOICE (female)
Where’s my boy? Where is
FIRST VOICE (male)
There where all beauty
is; there where strong winds blow; there where the sea pounds furiously;
there where strength and blood breed the verses of the ages…
becomes deeper and more resonant as he recites the last verse of James
Clarence Mangan’s translation of “Kinkora”
(written by the Irish poet MacLiag ca. 1075 A.D., in memory of Brian
Boru and the men who fell at the battle of Clontarf).
I am MacLiag, and my home
is on the Lake;
Thither often, to that
palace whose beauty is fled,
Come Brian to ask me, and
I went for his sake
Oh, my grief! That I
should live, and Brian be dead!
THIRD VOICE (female)
You’re mad, I tell you!
May God grant you die, and not my Brian.
Wake up, you bloody
fool! This is America, not Ireland!
END of Scene 1
Evening. The lights
come up on a table set with generous amounts of food and drink. About
ten adult GUESTS are seated around it, eating and drinking in silence,
quickly and with a hearty appetite. As they eat, three CHILDREN run
around the table, shouting.
I am Erimhon
[pronounced “Arivon”], King of Ireland,
and you must all bow to
I am Chief Sitting Bull,
lord of this land and all of its creatures!
I am President Bush, the
leader of America,
the bravest and strongest
The children start
hitting each other and screaming.
(eyeing the children
and downing a long swallow of whiskey)
Would some kind soul take
pity and tell me why are we favored
with this gracious
his glass from him)
You drunken fool! We’re
at the MacMillans’!
It’s St. Patrick’s Day!
Ah, so it is! Long live
Paddy, the poor slave from Antrim! Good was all he ever did. For his
country. For Ireland. Traveled with dogs to Auxerre, to bring the true
faith to the savages, to put the shield of honor over her, over Mother
(starting to slur his
Not the Romans, not the
Scots, not the bloody English ever conquered Ireland –
More than can be said for
– What great good
fortune! No snakes in Ireland, eh? They’re all over here!
And who is it you’re
calling snakes, you barmy maunderer?
drinking glasses are smashed. AUNTIE SHEILA stands up suddenly,
knocking over her chair.
Shame on you! Shame on
all of you! Have you forgotten your own history? Have you no respect
for our family, for our suffering? Should my grandfather have waited
for the bloody English to set fire to his land as well? To kill him,
and grandmother too?
AUNTIE SHEILA starts
There, there, Auntie
Sheila. Don’t be that way. It’s a holiday, isn’t it? Of course we
respect our past. We carry our wounds in our souls. Let’s not open
them up again. Especially seeing as how for some of us, they’re still
Especially for you –
you’re such a hero.
And just what, Mary me
dear, is that supposed to mean?
(upset, and more than
a little tipsy)
It means that
everyone at this table knows exactly who came to America, and when, and
why. And we remember how Miriam Daly died, and Noel Lyttle.
We remember how Sheila and Hanna were wounded, and what their brothers
did to them. Whose parents were left behind, and whose land was left to
(suddenly very angry)
You don’t know a damned
thing about it, you stupid bitch! And don’t you ever mention Hanna to
Yes, yes – Sunday, Bloody
Sunday. – Did I ever tell you how I joined the Free Derry movement?
Me and Bernadette Devlin, we –
Yes, you did!
At least a hundred
times. And we’re not interested. It’s Ireland we care about, not you
and your –
General tumult and
– Yes, we do care!
– Enough of that, now!
HANNA enters, in a
wheelchair. As they notice her presence, the guests fall silent.
Such a commotion! Must
every party turn into a brawl? The Irish, the Irish! It never changes.
(hurrying over to her)
Hanna, my dear! I’m so
very glad to see you.
Is that a fact, now?
(turning to Mary)
Don’t think you’re
fooling anyone. All that sympathy and understanding. In my book it’s
nothing but spite!
What is it you’re saying,
then? That my brother and Sheila’s are to blame for what happened to
us? Is that what you’re saying? Speak up, now!
For the love of heaven,
girls. Everyone knows it was the British loyalists, and not our
brothers, who –
There’re no “buts” about
it. That’s the way it was.
I was there, and you
Every time we get
together there’s a fight. Why is that? I’ll tell you why. Because we
all love Ireland, but each one of us thinks his love is the only real
love. That his own memories and his own suffering are the only ones
worth a mention. Well, we’re all wrong. And we’re all right. We all
remember the soft rains and the green hills of Ireland – we all long for
our lost homes. But we’re still at each other’s throats.
The problem is, we don’t
know how to talk to each other – or even to listen to each another. The
problem is, we’re powerless and we don’t know what we want. The problem
is, when we’re talking about the same thing, we’re not thinking about
the same thing. The problem is, every one of us thinks that everyone
else is… the enemy.
All right then, that’s
enough of that. Hanna, my dearest, how are you keeping yourself? We
hardly ever see you –
We really should get
together more often.
No, we shouldn’t. Bad
enough I have to put up with myself, let alone listen to your bullshit.
You’d like to get together, sure – not because of me but for your own
sakes. You’d like to confide in me and to lecture me, ask me for
advice, parade your ideas past me. So what does that make me? Your
That’s our Hanna –
nothing cynical about her, is there.
That’s enough. Dear
cousins, I’m so glad you came. Please honor us again next year.
And have a pleasant
Are you telling us to
Telling you? Not at
all. Purely a suggestion.
Good night, good night,
The visitors take
their leave, grumbling. Only HANNA and JOHNNY are left.
Tell me again: You
invited them… why?
You know that mother and
father would have wanted it.
To gather the family, on
one holiday at least.
Family? What are you
talking about? Out of all that lot, who do we have anything in common
with? Who do we feel close to, in any sense of the word? And since
when does “family” mean anything to you? Jesus and Mary!
Hanna, please. I’m in a
and you know I’m not
talking about you.
So I don’t want us to be
cut off completely – from our homeland…
our past… our traditions.
Well, so what? Are we
better off for surrounding ourselves with a
gaggle of odious people
simply because they happen to be related to us?
Let it go, Hanna. I
don’t want to argue with you.
something else I want to tell you.
You know about the
You know I’m trying to
help people in countries where there are wars…
Yes. What of it?
Well, you know there’s a
war in Bosnia…
And… Well, people are
leaving there and coming to America ...
Well, there are some
people, women actually, who came here. One of them is named Hana Jov…
Jovani… – something. She hasn’t any family. She’s a Muslim, and
they’re the ones being hit the hardest over there, but her husband was a
Serb. They’re the ones doing all those terrible things. According to
her, he’s a decent fellow, but he’s still in Bosnia.
wheelchair toward the door)
Spit it out, right this
instant, or I’m leaving.
I brought her here.
You did what?
Hanna, please, listen to
me. She seems nice, and she seems lost.
She needs help.
And you’re just the one
to give it to her?
Is that it?
Sure. Why not? Have you
forgotten how it felt when we came here,
and what we came from?
If it hadn’t been for Patrick –
– never mind our own dear
If it hadn’t been for
Patrick, I don’t know what would have become of us.
I could have turned my
head away and said, It’s no concern of mine –
As indeed it isn’t!
But it is. And yours,
too. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean.
I know what you’re
thinking, and in that way you’re a lot more hard-headed I am.
You just want to –
To what? Make problems?
Look, I don’t want to
argue. This is my house, too, and the woman is here.
Besides, I know you’ll
like her, and it’ll help...
Help what? Your notion
of yourself as a humanist on the grand scale?
Or will it ease your
conscience and lighten the burden of having a sister like me?
In truth, it’s all of
that, and more.
I like the woman.
Ah-hah! And what is it
you want from me?
Just a little good
will,. Which I know you have.
(he pauses, then calls
to someone offstage)
HANA J. enters,
Hana, I’d like you to
meet my sister.
Charmed, I’m sure!
She spins her
wheelchair around and exits in a huff.
Don’t mind her. She
doesn’t really mean it.
She’s just a bit taken by
I hope that’s all it is…
END of Scene 2
Translated from the
Bosnian by Colleen London
Revised and adapted
for the American stage by H.B.J. Clifford