Okay, so we had a work-in-progress presentation at the Banff Centre a week or so ago. The good people in Banff let us use their theatre, with all the bells and whistles and a gang of wondrous technical folks, so that we could put up a rough idea of the show, and see if it was working. We had some supporters and friends and family out to see it, and they told us what they thought at dinner after the show.
We’re still digesting, I’ll admit. It was a crazed experience putting it up at this stage — three months before we actually open the show for real — but it was absurdly helpful. Okay, so there were some technical issues, and the transitions were slow, and a scene or two that didn’t really work at all. But overall we think we’ve got something that’s going to work.
Here’s the script that we more or less followed. It changed in important ways over the workshop — the elusive ending kind of settled into place — not so much in terms of staging, which was pretty rough (and noisy — the air compressor we used to inflate the balloon sounded like a jet airplane for crying out loud), but the sort of thematic maneuver of the play made itself somewhat clearer — something about this question: is happiness really the point of life? Or is there something kind of deranged and shallow and even hopeless about that prescription? Is there more to it than that? What comes after happiness?
In some ways, I think the show is actually about coming to grips with parenthood. To be more specific, it’s about dudes coming to terms with fatherhood, moving from the stage of life that’s about making yourself happy, to the stage where there’s something much bigger at stake. That’s my theory, anyway. Sometimes these things don’t make themselves clear until very late in the process — the secret struggles that motivate a show burble up and bark at you, and whatever you thought you were doing finally kind of falls into place.
The next version, to my mind, will attempt to clarify the barking burbles. And we’ll probably ditch the scene on the moon.
Here it is, as it was:
ACT ONE: Inside the Cave
1. THE AGE OF IGNORANCE
[The stage is dark. We hear wind whistling, and dripping water. We wait for awhile, and then hear a distant drum booming, approaching; soon we can make out a kind of moaning song and the occasional mournful groan of some tusk trumpet being played. Three shaggy characters enter, wearing furs and ornamented with peculiar artifacts: fetishes made of bone and twigs. One of them bears a flickering torch that provides a dim light, by which we can make out their sloped brows and heavy shoulders and the texture of the cave wall as they pass (this is projected). They light a big fire in the middle of the stage, with great ceremony, for in their minds they are enacting the birth of the universe; they shuffle about, saying preparatory prayers to their heathen gods.]
VIDEO: cave wall, embers flying up
[As the firelight makes them visible, we realize they are men wearing naked suits – old-fashioned union suits with nipples and chest hair sewn on. Their naughty bits are covered by fig leaves.]
[They enact the creation of a prehistoric Adam: one of them begins to moan like he’s having labour pains. He’s wearing antlers strapped to his head, and has two stuffed goat bladders hanging around his neck that look like leathery breasts; he’s also wearing a skirt made of dried grass – he’s Big Mama, the goddess of the deer clan, and she’s about to give birth.]
[The others scamper over in concern and excitement. The labour pains grow frantic – as Big Mama groans, the rest of the tribe echoes (that is, over the sound system), and the third puppeteer extrudes a puppet from between Big Mama’s legs.]
[The puppet lies on the ground. They dance in joy, and one of the puppeteers picks it up and holds it to one of Big Mama’s teats so it can suckle. They coo at the baby in delight.]
MUSIC: NIKOLAI – Merry Wives of Windsor
VIDEO: title card for the documentary – IGNORANCE, narrated by Sir Reginald Chute; performed by the Royal Dutch Paleo-Anthropological Reënactment Society
It’s the year 30,000 BC. We are not yet human beings: all of our marvelous accomplishments – our conquest of the earth and seas and sky, of space and all the plants and animals – are still to come, and we are still no more than animals ourselves. Like animals, we fight for territory, and the weaker tribes have been driven from the fertile warmth of Africa. The exiled ones wandered in all directions, pushed out, and some arrived to Europe. It was a harsh and difficult place, but they managed to live meagerly for awhile, until the Ice Age came. Now they live like trolls in caves, gnawing the pallid bodies of sightless cave-fish for sustenance. Outside, the north wind howls, and ferocious monsters lurk, so the tribe huddles for mutual survival in the dark and smoke and body odour.
This is the world into which our hero has been born. The tribe is ecstatic: this is one, tiny, fragile step away from extinction.
But once he is born, there is nothing they can do for him; everybody is on their own in this life.
Only one thing saves him from the spectre of hopelessness. He has a very small brain, and so he cannot conceive of anything better. He is happy simply to be alive.
Welcome to the Age of Ignorance.
2. HAPPINESS TODAY
So many thousands of years later, even though we have everything we could possibly want, we are not nearly so happy. Most people experience only occasional whiffs of contentment, and a surprising number of us are altogether miserable; in fact, by the time this show is over, fourteen people will have jumped off of bridges in North America alone, and twice that number in Finland, where they don’t even have that many bridges. What’s gone wrong? How has happiness slipped from our grasp?
VIDEO: the Zoo
[Enter a modern child. He is at the zoo, and is looking at all the animals. He’s a bit of a melancholic child. Enter his father – an enormous pair of legs, since he’s being seen from the kid’s eye-level. Dad gives the kid a happy face balloon he’s just bought from a clown we saw passing in the projection.]
[The kid takes the balloon, and Dad wanders off. The kid plays with the balloon a bit, kind of pleased. He notes that it floats, and looks up into the sky. He lets the balloon go, and watches in wonder as it floats away.]
[But then he realizes that his balloon is gone. The kid begins to cry.]
MUSIC: Clementi – Sonata in G Minor, “Didone Abbandonata” op.50 no.3 – I. Introduzione: Largo patetico e sostenuto – Allegro, ma con espressione 8:30
3. FIGHT OR FLIGHT
THE NARRATOR a:
Our prehistoric ancestors were driven purely by instincts. Instincts are nothing more than evolved behaviours that help the species proliferate; if the behaviour works, it gets hardwired into a creature’s very being.
Mother Nature encourages that behaviour through neurochemicals. When a beast’s biology needs food, something squirts in its brain that makes it feel hungry, and when it eats, another thing squirts, and it feels content. There’s no need to think about it – millions of years of evolution have done the thinking already. When it’s hungry, Mother Nature’s in charge – it’s time to eat.
[The puppeteers bring forth ugly little bat puppets made from soot-blackened leather and teeth tied to branches, and make them flap about like it’s a Disney movie; Adam is delighted, and he coos at them. Then he realizes that he’s hungry, and tries to catch the bats to eat them.]
THE NARRATOR b:
Might those bats make a good dinner?
[Adam discovers a sightless cave-grub inching along one of the prongs, and tries to sneak up on it; it squirts him with some revolting bug-juice. He’s delighted by his new friend.]
THE NARRATOR c:
What about that sightless cave-grub?
[Enter two sabre-toothed cave-rats, which are puppets made of the skins of real sabre-toothed rats worn as slippers. Adam chases them but they are too fast; he chases them around the fire but they escape, even though he doesn’t realize it, and he keeps running around the fire until they squeak at him mockingly.]
THE NARRATOR d:
Or those sabre-toothed cave rats? That might seem like a revolting prospect for us, but remember — fine cooking hasn’t been invented yet. Our simple friend would consider them a delicacy!
[He can’t catch anything at all.]
[Adam sits, humming cheerfully to himself like a simpleton. Enter Eve, another puppet, snuffling and grubbing about. Adam’s puppeteer makes squirty sounds.]
THE NARRATOR e:
Look! A shapely female has appeared. Hear that? It’s the sound of neurochemicals squirting!
[They see each other, and are initially suspicious. Soon, though, they approach each other. They share in a touching scene of first love.]
MUSIC: What is a Youth
THE NARRATOR f:
Uh oh… what’s this? It looks like an old alpha male. And he doesn’t look like he wants to be friends… with another male, at least.
[Big booming drumbeats and howling interrupt them. They panic, and scamper to hide. Enter King Gog, the alpha male of the tribe; he is huge and primitive, closer to ape than Adam and Eve; the puppet looks like a big boulder strapped to the puppeteer’s belly. He is dragging the half-eaten carcass of a sightless cave-fish.]
[King Gog pounds his chest and bellows, for he has brought dinner for Eve. He hurls the carcass to the ground, and plucks a bit of something nasty from the fish’s skull, and shoves it towards Eve to eat. She gobbles at it on the floor.]
[Adam creeps up to try to have a bite, but Gog swats him away. Gog is pleased with himself, and feeling amorous; he grabs Eve by her body hair, and begins to drag her off; Adam shrieks and waves his arms to try to stop him, but Gog roars a terrible roar (assisted by the sound system), and Adam is cowed.]
THE NARRATOR g:
He’s not going to argue with that! His instincts serve him well – he knows when to fight, and when to flee.
[Exit Gog, dragging Eve, who reaches out to Adam as they go. Adam is too scared to reach back.]
THE NARRATOR h:
And when to just find a nice cozy place to sleep.
[He shuffles mournfully to centre-stage, although he quickly forgets what happened; he scratches his arse, and then settles down to sleep in a corner.]
VIDEO: cave wall
4. MOTHER NATURE’S MISTAKE
VIDEO: elevator buttons blinking as the elevator goes up
SOUND: elevator muzak, ding, traffic sounds
Fleeing when there’s trouble is a good evolutionary strategy – it keeps our species alive and reproducing. But feeling miserable doesn’t seem like a very good evolutionary strategy. How could it be good for our species if some of us are so miserable we want to die? Shouldn’t that gene have been erased long ago? Mother Nature seems to have made a mistake!
[The projector shows a downtown skyline. A puppeteer brings out a building with a window with a ledge – we’re high up. Another puppeteer brings out a big industrial fan, which sits on the floor below the ledge. Two pigeons bobble on the roof.]
[A man can be seen behind the window; he opens the window, and looks out. He has tear-stained cheeks. He produces some papers (divorce papers or something) and tears them up and throws them out the window (they scatter in the fan’s wind, out into the audience).]
[He steps out onto the ledge; wind makes him sway dangerously. The man looks down off the ledge; traffic noise from below. He’s not totally sure he wants to jump; after awhile of working himself up, he almost does it, but changes his mind at the last minute, and starts to climb back through the window; but then depression overwhelms him again, and back to the ledge he goes. He stares down at the traffic, and weeps, and gets ready to jump again, takes a deep breath, changes his mind, thinks about going back in, changes his mind, ponders his misery, steps to the edge, takes a deep breath, when the Happy Face Balloon from before floats by. He brightens, wiping away his tears, and reaches for the balloon; he manages to catch it, and floats up into the sky – the building rolls back where it came from, and now the video screen shows clouds.]
[The man looks around him, and then realizes he is held up only by the meagre flotation provided by the balloon. He falls, with the fan making his tie flap and the balloon, still clutched in his hand, flaps about, and then flies from his hand.]
But what if Mother Nature hasn’t made a mistake? What if being miserable is precisely what makes our species successful?
MUSIC: Pescatori de Perli 3:52; Thomas Tallis – Lamentations I 8:59
VIDEO: downtown skyline, clouds, scrolling past as the guy falls
5. THE INVENTION OF IMAGINATION
[It’s night in the cave. Adam is asleep stage right. He snores quietly.]
It is night in the cave. The tribe is asleep, tucked away snug in their ample body hair.
But there is one who cannot sleep. She can smell something strange in the wind – something marvelous is about to happen. Something marvelous, and something dreadful.
[Enter Eve, sneaking from the depths of the cave, where Gog had dragged her. She peers back to make sure he’s asleep, and we hear him snoring. She sniffs her way in the dark, looking for Adam; she finds him, and prods him gently (and then more vigorously) to wake him up. He wakes up, and stands, frightened – he’s worried about Gog. He goes to see if he’s coming (we hear snoring), and then crosses to stage left to be as far away from Eve as possible. He gestures for her to leave, and then goes back to sleep, covering his eyes with his hair.]
[Eve goes to him and prods him again; this time he gets snippy about it, shooing her away.]
[Eve goes to stare out at the world from the edge of the stage. She sings a weird little plaintive song.]
[The wind grows more fierce. A wild gust blows in through the cave mouth. The fire surges and then goes out.]
The moon is rising over the icy mountains outside. It casts a feeble light through the cave mouth, creating shadows on the rock wall.
[Weird moonlight fills the cave. Eve sees her shadow on the rock. She sees the connection between her movements and the movements of her shadow-self; she tries waving her hands and jumping up and down. Then, the shadow of a bat – Eve looks around for the real bat, and we see it flapping by. And then: the shadow of a Monster. Eve looks around, terrified – but there’s no monster. The Shadow Monster speaks weirdly, and conjures the shadow of a stark and leafless tree; an apple (which is red, not shadow) grows on a branch. The Monster offers the apple to Eve’s shadow, who plucks it. She eats it, and suddenly green leaves grow on the tree; the sun comes out in a blue sky, and the shadow of Adam enters and takes a bite as well. The shadows embrace.]
[The shadows dissolve into the shape of the Monster, beckoning. It disappears.]
[Eve is flabbergasted. She’s just been the first human in the world to imagine something. She scampers over to the wall where the shadows were, and touches it, longing.]
The female has just been the first animal in the world to imagine something. There is a new and squishy thing in her head: she has grown a prefrontal lobe. The prefrontal lobe is the part of the brain that imagines things; at first, it wasn’t as well integrated into the rest of the brain, so her own thoughts seem like they’re coming from the spirit world. Now, we are accustomed to imagining things, but early humans were overwhelmed by the power of it. Somehow dimly she can perceive something existing in some way that does not exist in concrete form, something that has never existed before: a possibility. And the invention of possibility is about to change absolutely everything.
[She goes to tug at the snoring Adam. He wakes.]
[She sings weirdly to him, but he doesn’t understand a damn thing. She has an idea: she grabs a burnt stick from the fire, and uses it to draw on the cave wall – this is accomplished by projecting the drawing as she draws it. She scribbles out a rough version of the tree, with the apple; it’s working! Adam is grunting as if he understands. She goes to work furiously, producing a stick figure of herself and Adam holding hands. She gives them happy faces.]
Adam’s excited. He scampers over to try to eat the apple, but he’s surprised when he runs into the wall. Eve is slightly exasperated; she tromps over to the front of the stage, and beckons to him. She wants to leave with him to go find her Paradise.]
What exactly has she seen in her vision? Perhaps, somewhere deep in her bones, she still remembers the warm sun and fertile trees of Africa. She wants to go home.
VIDEO: animated segment #1: shadow Eden, Eve drawing
6. A WORLD OF WONDERS
With the invention of possibility, humanity is freed from the bonds of reality. The world is not how it is, anymore; the world can change, to be different, to be better. A round rock can become a wheel; a tree can become a house; a law can be written, and a map can be drawn of Heaven. We can thank the prefrontal lobe for the world of wonders we inhabit today. Now, humankind is master of his domain!
[A city curb. A car drives in and parks – it’s one of those little cars you give to kids to paddle around in, with a puppet driving it. A guy in a black leather turtlenecked unisuit and thick-rimmed glasses (a German existentialist) is driving it; he’s got thumping music playing on the stereo. He drives in, and parks, turns off his car (the stereo cuts out) and gets out. He pauses to activate the car alarm with his keychain, so it goes bloop-bloop.]
[Next, another car; driven by an ancient lady in floral dress and cardigan, wearing a Bluetooth receiver on her ear; she’s prattling away as she parks, gets out of the car, walks away, boo-bloop.]
[The two cars are parked so that there’s almost, but not quite, enough room for a car to parallel park in between them.]
[Enter a guy dressed as a clown in a jalopy. His car is full of the happy-face balloons he sells at the Zoo.]
[He sees the parking spot, turns on his blinker, and tries to get into it. It’s almost impossible. He backs in, doesn’t quite make it, pulls back out, tries again, fails, tries again, fails, as his ability to contain his frustration mounts. Somebody somewhere behind him starts to honk. Finally he bumps into one of the other cars, and the car alarm goes off, and even so is still parked shittily. He freaks right out, getting tangled in his balloons. He’s banging his head against the steering wheel when suddenly the guy who fell from the ledge lands on the clown’s car (from a drop-box in the grid).]
[The clown drives away. Lights down, while puppeteers clear the remaining cars.]
[The balloon floats in, and finds the man’s corpse. It huddles sadly next to him.]
MUSIC: Thump-Thump; Carmen Miranda – Tico-tico no Fubá 2:37
7. ESCAPE FROM THE REAL WORLD
[Adam and Eve stand in their positions from the scene before – Adam by the wall, confused, and Eve, beckoning for them to escape. We hear a gigantic roar from offstage. Enter Gog, angry that they are trying to escape. He goes to grab Eve, and drag her back to the depths of the cave.]
The imagination is a significant evolutionary advantage. But the brute strength of our animal antecedents is still something to contend with. The imagination can be a dangerous thing – there’s always going to be a big difference between our dreams, and what’s real – especially when reality is large and hairy and angry.
[Adam leaps to her defense. Gog is enraged, and attacks Adam. He brutally bashes him about. The puppeteers are shrieking like monkeys. It’s an epic battle, but Adam is severely outmatched. Gog is gigantic and fierce, and he beats Adam into a heap. Gog stands behind the fire to roar his victory roar.]
But we all know how this story ends. The prefrontal lobe wins the day. The brute and all his kind will end up caged, obedient, or slaughtered.
[Eve has an idea: crazed music plays, the lights change, and magically a cave drawing is made behind her on the wall, which shows Gog being bonked by a club. Eve has invented the club.]
[Eve finds a club in the fire-pit, and she clobbers Gog from behind; he falls into the fire. The flames leap up, and he screams as he is burned – this we accomplish by having Gog stand against the projection screen, with flames projected behind him. The whole stage is filled smoke; as the flames on the screen grow more ferocious, Eve runs to carry Adam, insensate, from the cave. They exit, and the puppeteer manipulating Gog sneaks out, so that when the stage is clear, we see Gog’s charred remains projected amongst the flames.]
But is it the weapon that wins the war, or the dream?
[The charred remains crumble.]
MUSIC: Liszt: Totentanz
VIDEO: flames consuming the cave, Gog’s charred remains
8. THE INSATIABLE BRAIN
So dreaming is our chief evolutionary advantage. But what makes us strive to achieve our dream? Why not just imagine something beautiful, and leave it at that? An animal that laid around dreaming all day would surely starve. So our brain secretes a neurochemical that makes us long for the dream to be real – to feel like we’ll only be happy if we have what we want. We’re not designed for happiness. We’re designed to be eternally, insatiably, dissatisfied.
[A balloon factory: a machine, a table, a conveyor belt, leading to a box with a big happy face on it. A forlorn woman in coveralls stands behind the table. The machine rumbles and smokes and pushes out an inflated balloon. The woman gets it and draws on a happy face, then deflates it, puts it on the conveyor belt, cranks the conveyor belt, which deposits the deflated balloon into the waiting box. Another balloon, draw, deflate, crank, drop; and then another. She’s not fast enough, though, so the balloons start to pop out before she’s done, and the machine is getting faster, too. Balloons are firing at her as she frantically stamps and deflates, and balloons start to pile up and float off into the audience and cause chaos.]
[Finally a buzzer sounds, indicating the end of the shift. The woman stops working, and sighs. She exits, just as an identical puppet enters from the other side of the stage. The buzzer goes again, and the machine starts up again. The projector shows a video of the same scene – an identical woman standing ready at the machine. The image multiplies and multiplies like that trick with two mirrors until there are millions of identical women standing by their machines (that is, we’ve filmed the scene beforehand). A million balloons extrude from a million machines. Fade to darkness.]
But there is no mechanism in our brain that says ‘enough.’
MUSIC: Orkest zonder naam – Als na regen de zon schijnt 3:05
VIDEO: millions of balloon factory workers
END OF ACT ONE
(except there’s no intermission)
ACT TWO: Outside the Cave
9. THE DECEPTION OF THE IMAGINATION
[The world outside the cave: snow blows and cold winds howl.]
Our heroes have escaped the cave. But where’s the warm sun and trees and delicious fruit? This is no Paradise! What have they done? Is it possible that the prefrontal lobe has been… lying?
[Our heroes are cold and desperately hungry. Eve is disappointed to discover that there are no fruits handily hanging as was promised by the vision.]
[Huge booming steps are heard from offstage. Enter the Mastodon, which is gigantic. Adam and Eve cower as it passes, and finally exits.]
In fact, it has been. The prefrontal lobe is designed to make you strive, but never achieve. It’s not important, from Mother Nature’s perspective, if the dream can ever be real; in fact, the more preposterous the dream, the better.
[Eve has another idea: a cave drawing of Adam killing the Mastodon with a spear magically appears in the sky.]
[Eve scampers over to the fire pit, where she whittles away out of view. She produces a spear, and hands it to Adam. Adam doesn’t understand what it’s for; he tries to eat it, but it’s not very tasty. Eve pushes him to go kill the Mastodon, and he reluctantly goes off in search of it. Just as he leaves, he tosses the spear away, and then makes a show of how he’s going to attack it with his bare hands.]
[Exit Adam in search of the Mastodon. The sound of him attacking it, from off; a terrible trumpet; enter Adam at speed, chased by the Mastodon. They circle the stage and then chase off.]
[Enter a smaller version of both puppets, chasing along a prong-hilltop that leads to a cliff. Adam is screaming. The Mastodon bowls Adam over but then can’t stop itself from plummeting over the cliff to land with an ugly crunch below.]
[The Mastodon is still alive, groaning; Adam runs off, and returns pushing a huge rock. He struggles with it, slowly approaching the cliff edge, as the Mastodon groans. Finally he reaches the cliff edge, and pushes off the rock, which misses the Mastodon completely. He scampers back, and climbs his way down to the Mastodon. He heaves the rock above his head, and drops it on the Mastodon, which stops groaning… but then starts groaning again. Adam bashes it again; still not dead. And again, and again, and again. Finally it dies.]
[Cross-fade to Eve, full-size, waiting anxiously by the fire she’s made. Enter Adam, full size, dragging a huge haunch, heroically. Eve is delighted and impressed. They heave it onto the fire, and are about to feast – but they hear horrible howls and barking.]
[Enter four Dire Wolves (which are jawbones held upside-down to look like snouts, draped in fur to make their bodies), who growl and threaten and surround them; they must escape, and leave their hunk of meat.]
What makes our species thrive is that we struggle our whole lives, trying to reach a mirage that is forever further & further away.
10. THE HIDEOUS TRUTH
[The balloon’s POV, projected; maybe from within the balloon, so we see its smiley face. Earth, receding. The balloon spins, and now sees outer space; in the distance we can see other balloons floating away into the heavens. Now it sees the moon, and approaches it – we can make out some kind of sci-fi cave entrance gate, if that makes sense.]
There’s a wasp that makes zombie cockroaches. It burrows its way inside the head of the cockroach, and commandeers its simple neurons, so it can make it go the direction the wasp wants. The wasp wants to get the cockroach home, so the wasp babies have something to eat when they hatch inside it. That’s really scary, but it’s kind of what the prefrontal lobe has done to us. We used to be simple beasts, minding our own business, and now something heartless is using us to feed itself, and to reproduce. And we’ll do anything for our prefrontal lobe… even die.
[The video fades to black, and now we are in the moon-cave. On the projection surface we see one of those screens like the one on the bridge of the Enterprise, where you can see out onto the surface of the moon, but also get transmissions from people sending transmissions.]
[Enter the balloon, floating with strange purpose. Another couple balloons appear, and then a bunch of them (these are attached to a clever helmet and shoulder-pad contraption worn by one of the puppeteers). The balloons hover about, communicating with each other with weird balloon squeaks.]
[The screen flickers, and there is a short burst of pan-flute music: it’s a transmission from their leader, MoonLord Zamfir (who is green, has eyes on stalks, and wears a silver space-suit – he’s gigantic in the screen). The balloons scamper into formation, and bow, chanting.]
Excellent, my minions.
More and more earthlings have succumbed to our control. Soon our invasion will be complete! Ha ha ha ha ha!
[One of the balloons floats up from the crowd. It squeaks something.]
But maybe we should be nice to the humans…?
No! We will never show the earthlings mercy! I do not tolerate insubordination. Seize him!
[The balloons gently float over to the one that spoke, and bump up against him.]
[Enter MoonLord Zamfir in his space chair. He’s actually tiny. He drives over to the disobedient balloon, and pops him with a Hyper Deflator.]
Have this scum thrown out with the space garbage. Now go, my minions! Go forth and conquer!
[Stage goes dark; back to video: and now the moon recedes, for the balloon is falling back to Earth as it deflates.]
MUSIC: Mass in G. 5. Benedictus 4:12
VIDEO: animated segment #2 the balloon’s trip to the moon (and back)
[Night-time. They huddle for warmth. Their bellies rumble. Our heroes are miserable.]
And now there is no return. Our heroes are lost in the howling wastes, with nothing to eat, and the cold is merciless. Without food, without shelter, they cannot rest. They must trudge ever onward, though the promised paradise grows more distant with each faltering step.
[Adam is angry that they left. He sees visions of Gog moving in the fog (projector), and believes they are haunted by Gog’s ghost. He barks and grumbles at Eve, and they begin to smack each other and growl – when suddenly they discover that she is pregnant. Of course they don’t understand why this happens, but they recognize that something miraculous is occurring.]
[Adam is delighted, and ashamed of himself for being angry. They draw strength by singing a warbling duet, and press on. They exit.]
[Way offstage we see Adam and Eve, in miniature, trudging. The puppets are held like ice axes, and the puppeteer grunts and wheezes as he pulls himself along the floor with them, as if he is climbing a frozen horizontal waterfall along the floor. A puppeteer lays out a big whitish fur rug, as the puppeteer working Adam and Eve crawls towards it; it looks like a miniature snow-covered hill. This is all videoed live from a tiny invisible camera, and projected, so that it looks on the screen like they are on a vast tundra. Finally they arrive at a tree – it’s the same tree from Eve’s visions, except that it’s barren and bleak.]
But they no longer have the strength to continue. The invention of the imagination is also the invention… of despair.
[They collapse, unable to continue.]
VIDEO: Gog’s ghost in the fog, blizzard
12. THE INVENTION OF HEAVEN
Home is a half-remembered dream. The only rest is the final rest. Life is suffering, because we have been cursed by our own evolutionary success. If you don’t believe me, let’s try an experiment, right now. Just for a moment, let’s all be in complete acceptance of the perfection of the universe. Ok? Nothing could possibly be better. This is the best moment of your life.
[The theatre is dark. A huge happy face appears on the screen.]
You probably don’t think this is the best moment of your life. Just a guess. You’re still imagining a better world, one with more comfortable theatre seating, or bar service while you watch. You’re wondering what’s on another channel. But here’s the weirdest thing: this actually is the best moment of your life. Every moment is the best moment of your life.
A cloudy day. The balloon falls from the sky, shriveled, and lands limply on the ground.]
[An old man approaches, shuffling. He’s wearing a nametag that says ‘if lost, call this number.’ He’s dressed in a housecoat and slippers, and his hair is askew. He shuffles painfully slowly up to the balloon, and discovers it. He bends over, creaking, and picks it up. He looks at it, and for a moment we see an old 8mm film of him as a boy at the zoo with a happy face balloon. It flickers like a projector at the end of the roll, and then is gone.]
[The old man painstakingly puts the balloon back on the sand, and then continues on his way. He gets partly across the stage, when we hear from off somebody calling for him: Mr. Kowalchuk! Mr. Kowalchuk! He grunts and turns back around, to escape the nurse who’s looking for him. Of course his escape is hopeless, since he’s so absurdly slow. But he comes upon the balloon again, and discovers it as if for the first time. He’s breathing hard, though, from his exertions. He picks it up, and the film plays again.]
[He has a heart attack, and dies.]
[The film continues to play. The boy lets the balloon go, and we watch as it floats off into the sky.]
MUSIC: The Last Rose of Summer 2:53
VIDEO: 8mm film of boy with balloon, grey sky or rain, maybe the beach
13. THE BIRTH OF HAPPINESS
[A pile of snow (accomplished using the tundra rug from before). It rustles, and Adam emerges from beneath it. He finds Eve’s insensate body next to him, and clears the snow. He tries to wake her, but she will not revive. She moans softly – at least she’s alive.]
But what if happiness isn’t actually the point? Could it be that we’re meant for more than mere contentment? What if the pursuit of happiness upon which our entire society is based is both hopeless and… shallow?
[And now from the shadows the Shadow Monster emerges, speaking weirdly like before in the cave. It is a scary creature made of bones, with flames flickering in its eye-sockets.]
[Adam sees it, and runs away to hide. The Monster slithers in, sniffing and whispering, and it is about to eat poor insensate Eve, when Adam shrieks at it – he’s trying to distract the Monster.]
[The Monster hisses, and now it means to eat Adam. They circle the firepit; Adam attacks, but the Monster strikes, and clenches its jaws around Adam’s belly; Adam screams, and when the Monster withdraws we see that he has been horribly mangled (the puppeteer has produced a scrap of leather painted red from within his sleeve, which looks like a wound). Adam staggers away, groaning; the Monster hisses triumphantly.]
[He has an idea. He’s never had an idea of his own before. A magical cave-drawing appears in the clouds behind him, of the spear flying through the air to kill the Monster. He picks up the spear, and he throws it! A puppeteer makes it look like it’s flying through the air, and then like it has lodged in the Monster’s belly; the Monster shrieks, and staggers off, dying. The Monster has been vanquished!]
[But Adam is mortally wounded. He staggers over to Eve, and collapses next to her. He dies.]
[She awakes, and (not realizing he is dead) pokes at him. He doesn’t awake; she realizes he is dead, and weeps. Her weeping turns to sniffing, and then a lick; she pulls the red leather from Adam’s body, and eats him, singing her plaintive song.]
[And then, suddenly, with the new nourishment, Eve has a contraction. And then another. And another.]
[She scrambles to get into position, and (as the puppeteers grunt and shriek in support) she begins to give birth to a wrinkled thing… it begins to glow, and expand, and we slowly realize that it is a celestial happy-face balloon, glowing from within, looking like the moon. It gets bigger and bigger and then absurdly big.]
What if there’s more than bliss that awaits us?
[The three puppeteers gather around the glowing orb in wonder.]
[Hopeful music plays.]
MUSIC: Purcell Ode. 2 Welcome to all the pleasures 0:42