Horatio and Algernon

My transcript of Horatio and Algernon, a play in one act by Steven Stern and Andrew Clateman, written for The Brick Prison Playhouse and originally performed by the authors, February 1983.


The drawing room of HORATIO. Horatio is painting, or sculpting, or something. Enter ALGERNON.

ALG. Horatio, my loquacious one. I left as soon as I got your wire. It sounded so urgent. Is something wrong? Are you ill?

HOR. No, no, dear Algernon. It is simply that I have finally put down on paper that which I have felt my whole life, but have been unable to express.

ALG. A poem?

HOR. Yes, a brief one, but all the more profound for its brevity.

ALG. I am all ears.

HOR. [reads from a paper] “A woman is like a ship/She floats/Runs into rocks/And is made in a factory.”

ALG. [long pause] I — like your poem, Horatio. Er, very much. Your analogy of a woman to a ship is, er — brilliant. I did have some trouble, however, interpreting the concept of a woman floating. Did you perhaps mean that, like a ship, a woman floats from man to man, as if from harbor to harbor?

HOR. No, I merely meant that a woman, much like a ship, is buoyant in water.

ALG. I see. Then the phrase, “A woman runs into rocks” means not that a woman throws herself constantly into peril, but that a woman collides bodily — regularly — with rocks.

HOR. Precisely so.

ALG. Horatio, although a woman may, if she so desires, “run into rocks,” I doubt that it is an occurrence frequent enough to glorify as one of the three quintessential qualities of womankind.

HOR. Mmm, perhaps.

ALG. And your final image is the most beguiling. What was it? [Retrieves paper] Ah yes — that a woman, much like a ship, is made in a factory. Horatio, I thought it was common knowledge that women are born of their mothers’ wombs. Women are not made in factories. None of them. Ships are made in factories. But the origin of women and the origin of ships are different. They are dissimilar. To imply by direct comparison that dissimilar entities are similar proves to be an obvious flaw in logic.

HOR. Mmm, perhaps.

[Algernon exits and returns with a FLOWER GIRL from the street.]

GIRL. Look ‘ere, lay off.

ALG. This is a woman.

GIRL. Well oy ain’t an ‘addock.

[Algernon spots a model ship on the mantle and retrieves it.]

ALG. This is a ship. Woman, ship. Ship, woman.

HOR. [pointing, hesitantly] Woman… ship.
Ship… woman.

ALG. Ship, woman, woman, ship.

HOR. Ship, woman, woman, ship.

[Algernon points randomly at the woman and the ship in turn. He and Horatio recite their names in unison with increasing rapidity.]

HOR + ALG. Woman, woman, ship, ship, ship, woman, woman, woman, ship, woman, ship, ship, woman, ship, woman, ship, woman, ship, ship, ship.

ALG. [points to ship] A man would not send flowers to this. [points to Girl] A man would not sail to Normandy on this.

GIRL. Bloody right!

ALG. That will be all.

GIRL. When moy ‘usband ‘ears about this ‘e’ll ‘ave both yer arms broke, ya long-‘aired poof!

ALG. Here’s two quid for your silence.

GIRL. Oscar Wilde gave me six crowns! [Exits]

HOR. A woman is not like a ship?

ALG. Not literally. Metaphorically, a woman can be likened to a ship much as she can be likened to almost anything.

HOR. [excitedly] Anything?

ALG. Metaphorically.

HOR. “A woman is like a diamond/She is valuable/Made of compressed carbon molecules/And is one of the four suits in a deck of playing cards.”

ALG. Er, no.

HOR. “A woman is like a light bulb/She has a glass shell/And a tungsten-fiber filament.”

ALG. Er, no.

HOR. “A woman is like a wall/She is made of either bricks, cement or wood/And divides rooms.”

ALG. Er, no.

HOR. “A woman is like a man/She has a low voice/Facial hair/And external genitalia.”

ALG. [preparing to leave] Farewell Horatio. I can see that there is no hope for your future as a poet.

HOR. Wait, wait! “A woman is like a flower/She is delicate/A delight to the senses/And with age, she blossoms with beauty.”

ALG. Simple, but a good start. Best of luck, Horatio. [Exits]

HOR. “…And in the Spring/The bees land on her and have to be killed with insecticides.”


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