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Theater 30.2 (2000) 104-111
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The Idiot Variations * - [PDF]
The stage is strewn with orange electrical cord. Three bright yellow work lights stand at the downstage edge of the space. A straight-back wooden chair stands just left of center. It is painted electric blue. A seven-foot metal pipe is leaning at a slight angle on the back of the chair. A clip light is attached to the end of it pointing down like an interrogation lamp. A baritone horn sits on the seat of the chair. To the left of all this is a small black guitar amp with a small crude-looking guitar leaning against it. Hanging over these is a light bulb with a green glass shade. Further downstage in the center stands a Boy Scout drum. Stage right of everything a red accordion is placed on the ground.
He is barefoot, wearing a simple skirt over leggings and a canvas vest with large pockets over an untucked linen shirt. On his head he wears a burnt-orange skullcap.
Around his neck, four cowbells hang by leather straps, clanging together as he walks.
His gait is slightly shambling.
He wanders a bit. He peers at the instruments. He feels the wires with his feet. He stops and looks off.
The stage goes dark.
He begins playing a kind of aria on a slide whistle. [End Page 105]
The light comes up.
The aria ends, he discards the whistle, throwing it to the floor. He takes off his bells and casts them down.
He addresses the audience. His accent is Irish, although not authentic. He pronounces "idiot" "Eedjut" after the Irish.
This is how it begins. . . . the idiot in the dark
unaware he is being watched.
It ends with the tolling of a single bell;
but that is much later.
And just so there's no mistake about it, the bare feet are not so much symbolic as they are a simple comfort to me.
And on ground such as this, with no stones or nothin', it seems a reasonable alternative.
As for the outfit, it appears to me to be quite elegant.
But that is one of my grave failings.
It will have to be said of me: "He stopped to admire himself in the glass and completely lost his way."
Ah, but that is much less true than it appears.
He picks up the accordion. He begins a halting waltz. As he plays, the waltz becomes surer. He begins singing in ecstatic bursts.
The waltz turns into a quick repeated pattern. The singing is still wordless but now continuous, stentorian, and operatic. He stops abruptly, moves to the chair, picks up the horn, and sits, the horn in his lap.
He begins making faces and odd little sounds. It is a weird pointillistic variation of the waltz he's just played. It ends in a strong falsetto. He plays the horn for a while. He stops, stands, and addresses the audience again.
I promised myself I wouldn't speak like this.
I told myself over and over not to speak at all.
"How elegant, the wordless illumination of the poor soul
or the saint by the road, one tainted, one touched by God,
both struck dumb as a post."
But that's pure willfulness on my part, or stupidity. I don't know what it is that makes me want to speak to you all in this way.
Some half-remembered voice of a poet, I suppose.
Or perhaps I suspect my own voice to be a little flat and uninteresting, lacking conviction, and depth of purpose. No daring to it at all, a plain little house with no spare rooms built on a rock in the middle of nowhere.
I'm actually half-Norwegian or -Swedish or some such thing. But I can't speak a word of any of it.
But that's neither here nor there and has nothin' to do with this here idiot and his multifarious nature.
As he speaks he places the horn back on the chair. He...