DIALOGUE WITH A STRANGER By Teresa Gargano
DIALOGUE WITH A STRANGER
By Teresa Gargano
I prize- Section Theater of VIII Edition
A young actress and an older one, bearing a very good likeness, play the roles of mother and daughter. They both look at themselves in a big mirror. They put on some makeup. Beyond the mirror the images of the two women are reflected, performed by two other actresses. The woman of full age reflects herself as the younger woman and the other one as the fourth and more mature actress. It’s like if an exchange between the reflected images had happened, so that the mother sees the reflection of the daughter instead of her own image and vice versa. The mirror is placed frontally towards the spectator, the leading actresses facing backwards while the reflected and unmatched images can be clearly seen. These last move their lips, but the voices come from the other actresses. The voice does not correspond to the image the spectator is viewing. The younger woman will have a deeper and more mature voice than the older one and vice versa. Throughout the whole dialogue they won’t look at each other, but will keep facing backwards and staring at their alter ego.
Daughter – This new shade of lipstick really suits you, mom
Mother – Do you want to try it? (offering the lipstick with a quick gesture, but without taking her eyes off the mirror)
Mother – I see you are wearing the jeans I gave you, they look like those I had when I was a girl
Daughter – Yes, mom, it seems to me they’re like those you wear in that photo I’ve seen in your diary
Mother – Oh, you still remember it? I wonder where it is now
Daughter – I took it (absent-mindedly, still without averting her gaze from the mirror)
Daughter – Alright, pass me that lipstick (quick changeover)
Mother – Apply it more centrally, or you will go out of the contour, why did you take the photo?
Daughter – I put it in my diary, close to the one of me that was taken during the demonstration
Mother – Oh, the one you showed me?
Daughter – Yes, mom, I put one next to the other because we’re the same
Mother – Well, you have my eyes (putting mascara on her eyelashes and lingering over the image in front of her, which in fact is the image of her daughter)
Mother – When I met Prof. Boldini he told me how striking is our likeness
Daughter – Yes, he always says I’m the same as you, sometimes he calls me your name and laughs for itself; I don’t get what’s so funny, but he’s a little crazy
Mother – Yes, he is a little crazy, I always thought that too, he wasn’t that different when he was young
Daughter – Neither you, mom, in the end we’re not that different
Mother – Thanks darling, but I’m still not blind, I can see the wrinkles around my eyes
Daughter – Come on, mom, you’re the only one who sees them, I don’t see them at all
Mother – Of course you don’t, you’re looking at your face
Daughter – No, mom, I was looking at you, at least I guess. It’s easy to get confused
Mother – As the Prof. does?
Daughter – (laughter, a little forced) He does it on purpose, but once he was absent-minded he kept calling me Margherita, he even examined me orally still calling me like that
Mother – Didn’t you tell him, didn’t he realized?
Daughter – I didn’t say anything. I don’t know why, even the others didn’t say anything, nobody really noticed, and after a while I did not myself. Maybe I didn’t dislike being you
Mother – I can assure it’s not funny at all, being me, not funny at all
Daughter – It wasn’t funny, but maybe reassuring, I don’t know. I just know I broke that strange charm. Do you think these earrings suit me? Aren’t they a little kitsch?
Mother – No, a little old fashioned, but they’re not that bad. I had a similar pair, but I don’t remember where I put it
Daughter – Mom, you don’t remember because these are yours, I found them in a drawer of the cupboard
Mother – That’s why they looked so familiar! You got possession of them, I see?
Daughter – If you want them, I’ll give them back
Mother – No, keep them, I haven’t been wearing them for years, I didn’t even remember their existence…
Daughter – It’s better that way, I think they’re nice, at the beginning I had doubts, but now I think they’re beautiful, and evocative (turning her head a little on the right and then on the left side)
Mother – Fix your hair, a little backwards, you look better this way, also the earrings stand out
Daughter – Maybe I should change my hair color
Mother – Absolutely not, it’s so beautiful, people dye their hair to have such a shade of blond!
Daughter – Yes, but I’m tired of being blond, maybe I want to change
Mother – Don’t even think about it, you look great like this
Daughter – Yes, but I want to change, maybe a darker shade, auburn or something similar
Mother – No, my little blond head like her mother’s!
Daughter – Precisely, it’s time to distinguish myself a little
Mother – Why did you say you didn’t dislike being me?
Daughter – I said it was reassuring, but it wasn’t funny. Maybe I liked the fact that I didn’t have to take a stand, to create a new character, but I could go on carrying out an already known one, at least to Prof. Boldini
Mother – Is he so important in the end, this Boldini? What’s it to you!!!
Daughter – Boldini or anyone else is not the question, it’s just I want to change, what’s wrong with it? He’s right when he laughs calling me Margherita, it’s ridiculous, a ridiculous thing being someone you’re not.
Mother – But what are you saying? You are yourself and that’s all, what does this story have to do with it, now you’re being influenced by a crazy guy like he is
Daughter – He made me think… (lifting her hair with a hand, holding it flat on her head, turning her face aside) Think that not necessarily I have to be exactly how I am, that it is possible to change, to distinguish oneself, maybe I’m tired of being how I am. Or maybe I don’t want to stand out neither being called Margherita or in any other way; passing unnoticed, totally unnoticed
One of the many, who could be the daughter of anybody or nobody, indeed nobody.
Mother – Well, if you’re going to make of it a matter of principle, go on and change your hair, it seems to me you’re exaggerating…
Daughter – It’s you, you want me to be into your own image and likeness
Mother – What? Now you’re really going too far
Daughter – Because I say what you don’t dare to admit? You want me to be you, or, better, what you would have wanted to be
Mother – Look, my life is largely sufficient to me, so I don’t really want another one, keep your life for yourself, with the color you like, the people you like, I never felt being that intrusive
Daughter – You don’t do it on purpose, but yes, you are intrusive, intrusive is your ghost in our school, intrusive your desire of me being like you, but I’m different from you
Mother – Of course you’re different from me, it’s obvious, I never claimed you were not
Daughter – You never did so because you always considered it natural for me to follow in every inch your way in life, and now I have a professor calling me your name during the whole class without noticing at all
Mother – What are you saying? Now it is my fault if Boldini is completely out of his mind?
Daughter – You stole an hour of my life, in fact almost 2. You stole them to me, and they’re never coming back
Mother – On the contrary I gave you the life you have, I didn’t steal anything, and it’s me, I bore the consequences
Daughter – Here is what you really think, that I took you away from your bright future, and because of that you think you have a sort of right of decision upon my life! (in a low-pitched and angry tone)
Mother – Emma, you’re really going too far (without taking her eyes off the mirror, making just a small gesture of exasperation, repeated by the alter ego with an imperceptible delay)
Daughter – Maybe, I happen to talk nonsense when I’m in front of the mirror, I don’t know any more if I’m speaking to myself or to the image reflected on this mirror
Mother – You’re talking to your mother, don’t forget it
Daughter – Or maybe I’m talking to the image reflected by this mirror, the image of my mother
Mother – If you want to think so…
Daughter – I didn’t mean to offend you, I just wished to change, starting from the color of my hair, starting from this figure which sends me back a dull glance
Mother –The glance it sends you back is precisely yours
Daughter – I’m not very sure about this anymore, maybe it is the glance you all expect from me, maybe it’s that glance without deepness which does not scare anybody
Mother – You are talking nonsense, who would you like to scare, what kind of talk is yours!
Daughter – Mom, strangers scare, I want to become a stranger
Mother – Then start being one, I do not recognize you in such words
Daughter – You don’t recognize me because I’m talking as if I was addressing your image, not you. Now I can tell the truth, I can tell to your reflection that I am not her, that I don’t want to become her, because I have the right to be something else
Mother – You are already something different…
Daughter – Not enough
Mother – I think that after all a darker color would suit you
Daughter – Do you really think so?
Mother – Yes, if I’m addressing the image of my daughter and not my daughter
Daughter – I’m not into kidding
Mother – I’m not kidding
Daughter – There’s nothing to object, I told it to myself thousand times when Boldini laughed, and laughed after having me called Margherita
Mother – No, there’s nothing to laugh about it
Daughter – But why then are our images laughing?
Mother – Maybe they are laughing at us, maybe they laugh at you and at your talking nonsense.
Daughter – I’m not talking nonsense, perhaps it is the first time in my life that I’m not talking nonsense at all, maybe it is the first time in my life I say something making sense
(In the middle of the sentence the two images exchange their position and the voice begins to correspond to the reflected image, all of this thanks to a lowering of the lights which become more suffused)
In fact it seems to me that I have never spoken till this moment, that I was always silent without confirming, without replying, without asking. As when I let Boldini call me Margherita. But now things changed. I changed and I know that I can express my opinion
Mother – You always had the freedom you wanted.
Daughter – This is not a question of freedom, what has freedom got to do with it? Of course, I had the freedom to speak, to do, to change, but I never did it. I have always been satisfied with the comforting idea that I could go out and wherever I wanted and with whom I wanted without telling you, but I never did it. You subscribed a bank account for me and told me I could do with it whatever I wanted, but I never spent any money without you. I have always been satisfied with the idea I could go on a travel by myself, but I did never put that into practice. Look, I have always hidden myself in a corner with the comfort of knowing I could move along and go wherever I wanted. But the legs, the soul get atrophied in this comfort. Tell me I can’t, give me boundaries to trespass, give me a barricade to throw down! If I don’t have anything against which I can rebel I can only stay motionless
Mother – Don’t talk like that, you are talking in this way because you don’t know what is a protest, a real one. You don’t know what it means to clash with your own family and to be always hindered
Daughter – I don’t know, mom, maybe it’s the time for me to discover it
Mother – Rebellion makes no sense anymore, you don’t need it! (exasperated voice)
Daughter – And this is the reason why I am a slave
Mother – But what are you talking about, a slave of what?
Daughter – Slave, slave of what I have and how I have it, of the way it is given to me… one who does not rebel as me is a slave. I am slave of freedom, of the easiness that allows to do with my life what I want to. Maybe this is the reason why I don’t want to want anything anymore. And yes, maybe it’s because of that that I don’t even want to distinguish myself, but to humble myself
Mother – You scare me
Daughter – I told you that strangers scare
At this point the actresses facing backwards turn to the audience and speak to it. They look very different from their alter ego, lights had been hiding the details.
Mother – We are all strangers.
Daughter – Even looking at the mirror.
September 26, 2021