Monstrification of Eastern Europe

Nina Wieda

Synopsis
While an amateur actress struggles with her job of recording fraudulent news intended to ignite ethnic hatred in Eastern Ukraine, two Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines reflect on the destructive propaganda about themselves, attempt to understand their role in the conflict, and engage in some dark humor.

Characters
NATASHA, an amateur actress in her 30s
SERGUEI, a Ukrainian soldier in his 30s
VIKTOR, a Ukrainian soldier in his 30s
WOMAN, any age

Time
Now.

Place
Eastern Ukraine. A small town contested by Russia-backed separatists and the Ukrainian army.

NATASHA is alone downstage, sitting on her knees in the spotlight, wrapped in a large shawl in a way that is reminiscent of Virgin Mary in Biblical paintings.

NATASHA
(Looking into the audience, speaking mournfully, quietly, visibly stirred by emotion.) There is a square in our town. It’s called Lenin Square. That’s where people gather to talk, to catch up with their neighbors, to learn the news. This is where they got a young woman—a young woman who spoke Russian—and they put her up on a cross. They nailed her to the cross, and when the . . . (Interrupts herself mid-word, squints into the light, listening to the invisible person behind the camera that is filming her. In a regular, calm, loud voice.) What? (Pause.) Not Lenin Square? Pushkin Square? OK, Pushkin Square then. OK. I am sorry—it was Lenin Square in all the other towns. Sorry, OK. I am ready. (After a pause, in a mournful, touching voice, with intensified emotion, with long pauses, slowly.) There is a square in our town. It’s called Pushkin Square.

As NATASHA continues talking, VIKTOR and SERGUEI walk onto the stage behind her. They are wearing large clumsy masks that make them look like robots from a sci-fi movie or like the Terminator. They step and move their arms slowly and heavily, like robots or the Terminator or Godzilla. When NATASHA says “woman,” the WOMAN runs onto the stage, acting out an exaggerated performance of vulnerability and helplessness. The two men grab her violently and slowly—almost in slow motion—push her around and then down, and silently laugh like movie villains, lifting their arms up to the sky.

NATASHA
That’s where people gather to talk, to catch up with their neighbors, to learn the news. This is where they got a young woman—a young woman who spoke Russian—and they put her up on a cross. The only thing she did was speak Russian. (NATASHA emotively reaches out to the audience with her hands.) They took her, and they nailed her to the cross, and then . . . (NATASHA interrupts herself, listening to the invisible person behind the camera.)

VIKTOR, SERGUEI, and the WOMAN upstage freeze, the lights on them dim during NATASHA’s next lines.

NATASHA
(In a regular, loud, slightly irritated voice.) What? A boy? OK, a boy then.

The WOMAN upstage gets up, dusts off her clothes casually, shrugs her shoulders, and gets down on her knees, trying to look like a little boy. As NATASHA speaks her text with yet increasing emotional intensity, the scene with monster soldiers abusing an innocent victim in an epic, theatrical way, repeats—this time, with a boy instead of a woman.

NATASHA
There is a square in our town. It’s called Pushkin Square. That’s where people gather to talk, to catch up with their neighbors, to learn the news. This is where they got a little boy who spoke Russian—and they put him up on a cross. (With emotional intensity.) The only thing he did was speak Russian. (NATASHA emotively reaches out to the audience with her hands.) They took him, and they nailed him to the cross in front of all the people, and there was nothing, nothing! that any of us could do. A little boy, just a little boy who spoke Russian . . .

Lights on NATASHA go out. She lays down on the stage and remains there through the next scene. The “boy” upstage exits. VIKTOR and SERGUEI take off their masks and sit downstage. They are playing cards. While SERGUEI thinks about his next move, VIKTOR looks at his smartphone.

VIKTOR
Fucking bullshit.

SERGUEI
What now?

VIKTOR
They are saying we crucified a boy.

SERGUEI
(Chuckles.) Oh, yeah? Are they saying whether the boy came back to life on the third day?

VIKTOR puts away his phone, visibly irritated, shakes his head in disbelief, and makes his next move.

SERGUEI
(After a pause.) So why did we crucify him?

VIKTOR
Because he was speaking Russian.

SERGUEI
Do they explain how we chose that particular boy to crucify among everybody else who speaks Russian here?

VIKTOR shakes his head, plays silently.

SERGUEI
Hey, don’t you think you should be crucifying me right now? After all, I am speaking Russian to you.

VIKTOR
I should be crucifying myself as well, because I am answering in Russian.

SERGUEI
(Excited at his own joke.) We should crucify each other! Imagine how awesome it will look as a title: “Mutual crucifixion near the village of Selichevka.” (Dramatically, as if quoting an article title.) “Do the fascists know no limits?!”

VIKTOR
I think the point is that it should be Ukrainian speakers doing the crucifying. It’s not quite the same if two Russian speakers crucify each other.

SERGUEI
Maybe we could speak Ukrainian while doing the crucifying?

VIKTOR
Right, but then we would be crucifying Ukrainian speakers, too, see?

SERGUEI
Yeah, it’s tricky, right?

They play silently for a while.

VIKTOR
Can you even speak Ukrainian?

SERGUEI
(Tentatively.) Yeah . . . well, OK. It’s not really Ukrainian that I speak. My sister-in-law—now, she speaks beauuutiful Ukrainian. She likes literature and shit. You should hear her talk—real nice. What I speak is . . . well, kind of Ukrainian, I guess. A mishmash. You know, like most of us.

VIKTOR
Are you even Ukrainian?

SERGUEI
I am a citizen of free and undivided Ukraine!

VIKTOR
So Russian, then?

SERGUEI
Well, quite frankly, Jewish.

VIKTOR
(Looks up from his cards, excited.) Jewish?! What are you doing here then? Why aren’t you somewhere in Brighton Beach, living the good life?

SERGUEI
Ah, Brighton Beach. . . . What’s there for me? My cousin Misha went there through the Jewish emigration. Started driving a truck. His wife, in the meantime, learned English and left him for some Latino stud.

VIKTOR
(Chuckling.) Latino, eh? Antonio Banderas?

SERGUEI
(Waving him off.) No, Gabriel Garcia Marquez . . .

Lights dim over VIKTOR and SERGUEI. Spotlight on NATASHA. NATASHA sits up and speaks mournfully and tragically. As she speaks VIKTOR and SERGUEI get up, put their masks on, and start moving in a slow, heavy, monumental Godzilla-like way, as before. The WOMAN enters and walks up to them; they act out the scene NATASHA is describing.

NATASHA
The boy’s mother could not see her boy crucified like that. She threw herself at the soldiers’ feet, but they only laughed. They took her by the hair and dragged her around. They dragged her all the way around the square, and she screamed and cried, “My boy! My little son!” Then they tied her to a tank.

Lights dim on NATASHA. NATASHA lies down. VIKTOR and SERGUEI take off their masks and sit down where they played before, with cards in their hands. VIKTOR is looking at his phone.

VIKTOR
Fucking crazy bullshit.

SERGUEI
What now?

VIKTOR
We tied a woman to a tank and dragged her around the central square until she died. (Spits in irritation.) This is just fucking crazy. Does anyone believe that?

SERGUEI
It’s from The Iliad.

VIKTOR
What?!

SERGUEI
The scene. After a hero—Hector, I believe—was killed, they tied his body to a chariot and dragged it around the walls of Troy as his parents stood on the walls and watched. It’s like—worse than death. Taking the offense further than death. It’s an eternal thing in the history of wars. The kind of stories people tell to commemorate them.

VIKTOR
(Aloof.) I haven’t been to college.

Lights dim over them. Spotlight on NATASHA, who is sitting up.

NATASHA
(In a regular voice.) I don’t really want to do that. What if, in the future, a man I date sees that? I don’t want him to think I was raped. Can I say it was a neighbor? (Pause.) Well, a sister, maybe? (Pause.) What? (With growing irritation.) That’s crazy. Who would believe that? Why would anyone rape an elderly woman? (She unwraps the shawl and throws it down.) You know what—I’m done here. Goodbye. I am not going to say they raped my mother.

NATASHA storms off. Spotlight on VIKTOR and SERGUEI. VIKTOR is looking at his phone.

VIKTOR
That’s fucking bullshit.

SERGUEI
What?

VIKTOR
My buddy was held hostage. They beat him. Held him in a basement. Made him write stuff on the wall with his own blood.

SERGUEI
With his blood? It’s a little . . .

VIKTOR
(Interrupts, with growing anger.) No! He is not lying. He’s my homeboy, we went to school together. He wouldn’t lie.

SERGUEI
(Softly.) Viktor . . .

VIKTOR
(Jumping up, walking around nervously.) That’s bullshit! I understand the freaking oligarchs are dividing how much land they are going to control. I understand—oil, gas, trade unions, information war, geopolitics. I understand I have to be here—where am I gonna go. But writing in his own blood? What the fuck?

SERGUEI
Viktor . . .

VIKTOR
That’s fucked up. He doesn’t deserve it. They are fucking monsters.

VIKTOR picks up the mask, puts in on, and walks off-stage in his slow, heavy Terminator stride. SERGUEI remains sitting, looking down at cards in his hands.

CURTAIN

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