A simple drama of life
by ed manaban
The Matriarch, everybody calls her ‘mama’; senile, but her memory is sometimes active when talking of her five children;
Willy, the eldest, works abroad, comes home to his family every two, three years
Romano, a retired policeman
Alfredo, on wheelchair, visits the matriarch after ten years, with his six year old kid
Wally, the doctor
Junior, the bachelor of the five brothers
Madela, the niece, Mama’s caretaker
The center of the stage gives a picture of an old verandah of a wooden house. There are pots of plants and flowers that adorne the sides of the verandah. In the lower portion is a garden. There are decorations and hangings because it’s Christmas time; a Christmas light is hung on the sides of the verandah. Slow music is played. Christmas is in the air.
A reunion takes place. The five brothers meet for the first time after so many years. The matriarch is senile, in her seventies, and sick with some sickness her doctor son can not even correctly diagnose. One said it was Parkinson’s.
In this scene, the five brothers are having informal conversations, saying hellos filling in the missing years. The matriarch with Madela enters, coming from one of the rooms of the old house. She’s trembling, her hands are always shaking; Madela tries to massage her both hands. Both are like dancing a lullaby. Madela never takes her hands off the old lady.
EVERYBODY: (To their Mama; everyone kisses the hand of the matriarch; her hands are always trembling though). Mama, Mama, Mama.
MATRIARCH: (To Alfredo’s son who’s playing alone in the wooden floor). Who is this boy?
ALFREDO: He’s my son, Mama.
MATRIARCH: (To Alfredo) Who are you?
ALFREDO: Oh, Mama. Sorry to have left you.
MATRIARCH: You left me?
ALFREDO: Mama… some ten years ago, Mama. But I’m here now.
WILLY: We’re all here now, Mama.
MATRIARCH: (To Willy) And you?
WILLY: (with outstretched hands) Willy… your eldest, Mama. I just arrived from the Middle East. You know Mama, my contract has been extended, for another two years. They really want my services there. I’ll be leaving again in a week’s time.
MATRIARCH: (moves towards Romano) And you?
ROMANO: The golden boy… the policeman, Mama. A man without problems. I never left. My house is just a few meters away. We’re always together.
MATRIARCH: You never left. And this house stays forever.
ROMANO: Forever is a wrong word, Mama. This house will be rotten in a year or two.
WALLY: (Holds the hands of the matriarch, takes her pulse; the matriarch ogles.) How are you, Mama?
MADELA: (To the Matriarch) Your doctor, can’t you remember?
MATRIARCH: Ah yes, my doctor, where have you been all these years?
WALLY: Mama, we’re always together. But sometimes I have to attend to my patients.
JUNIOR: (approaches the matriarch) Mama, do you remember the bougainvillea?
(points to the flower pots in the sides of the verandah)
MATRIARCH: The bougainvillea?
JUNIOR: Yes, the bougainvillea…we planted it, the two of us. Even though I left, that flower stays.
MATRIARCH: You left too?
JUNIOR: Oh, don’t bother Mama. I just come and go. People love me sometimes; sometimes not. So I come and go.
MATRIARCH: Where did you all go?
(Everybody is silent.)
ALFREDO: Mama, I was away for so long because of my sickness.
MATRIARCH: You are sick?
ALFREDO: Oh no, not really… I had an accident a few years ago, you know that, Mama. I’ve been on wheelchair, but it’s okay now… I’m all right now.
MATRIARCH: You had an accident? How did that happen? My sons are all healthy. How did that happen?
ALFREDO: You were there when I was treated in the hospital. You were still strong, with Papa. Can’t you remember? How I miss Papa!
JUNIOR: I miss Papa too.
WILLY: We all miss, Papa.
MATRIARCH: Papa is not here too? Ah… he left me years ago. Where must he be now? He could be sick. Find him, all of you… find him.
MADELA: Mama, Papa died five years ago. Can’t you remember? We visited him yesterday.
MATRIARCH: Madela, Madela … my daughter, Madela.
JUNIOR: Your niece Madela… and you don’t know any of your sons.
MATRIARCH: I remember my sons. Yesterday, they were playing there, there in the garden with Papa. The children, oh…they’re so nice. But, where are they now? Madela, will you tell me?
(Alfredo’s son kisses the hand of her grandmother.)
MATRIARCH: Yes, I remember now… you’re Alfredo.
MADELA: No, Mama, this is Alfredo’s son.
MATRIARCH: Madela, why can’t you recognize your cousin? Alfredo is such a good boy, but you know, he plays hard. Sometimes, he’s hard-headed, he refuses to pray, so I have to punish him. My children are good kids anyway. I taught them how to pray, how to be responsible, how to take care of their loved ones when they get old.
ALFREDO: (Holds the hand of his son) Mama, this is my son.
MATRIARCH: I know, I know …
(touches the head of the boy; the boy’s head shakes, is frightened. Alfredo commands his son to go inside.)
MATRIARCH: (Seems to remember something as she hears a soft Christmas carol being played in the background) What day is today?
MADELA: Mama, it's Christmas time.
MATRIARCH: Ah yes, it’s Christmas time. I remember now, yes, the children are always around during Christmas. Yes, I told them to go to their godparents. They must be here by now.
ALFREDO: Your children are here, Mama.
(Reaches for the matriarch to kiss her. Matriarch refuses.)
MATRIARCH: (looks at Alfredo with an innocent face of a mother) Ha?
WILLY: We’re here because it’s Christmas.
MATRIARCH: You’re back?
JUNIOR: Yes, to give you a present. It’s Christmas time.
WALLY: (chuckles) When did you give a Christmas present to Mama?
JUNIOR: And you… always busy with your patients, never to your mother.
WALLY: You can say that! You, good for nothing … you come and go... (laughs) the bachelor. Someday I’ll treat you if you already have Aids.
JUNIOR: Ha! Aids is nothing … but I’d rather die than having you treat me.
WILLY: You stop it, you two. We’re here for a reunion… to make mama happy.
MATRIARCH: Your mama is happy… yes she’s happy without her children.
ALFREDO: We’re here for you Mama.
MATRIARCH: For me? Don’t say that. Soon, my children will come home. I don’t need you. You’re not my children. They are wonderful kids … loving, obedient, religious kids. How I miss them!
ROMANO: Mama, your children will never come back. They’re happy with their wives and children. They’ll never come back.
WILLY: (to Romano) Stop it!
ROMANO: Stop it? Why? I’m stating a fact. Her children are not children anymore. They are people with needs.
WILLY: Needs, like what?
ROMANO: Oh you know… we have to take care of our children. Your grandchildren, Mama. Even though I’m a retired policeman, my pension is not enough for the family.
WILLY: Ah, see, always the Romano who needs money... the golden boy who doesn't have a problem. And you want Mama’s pension for your children, eh? What about your cocks? Aren’t you winning?
MADELA: (interrupts) Her pension is not even enough for her medicines. So expensive.
ROMANO: (Gets up from his chair and confronts Willy).
I’m asking for what is mine. You can take yours. I’m not after the pension.
WILLY: And what are you after? The land? This house? The prodigal son wants to take his portion of the land.
ROMANO: Speaking of prodigal son. I'll accept it if you say prodigal sons. No exception. Well, elder brother, we can sell the house anytime.
WILLY: And where will Mama go?
ROMANO: She can live with me.
MADELA: Your mother doesn’t like children.
ROMANO: What do you mean she doesn’t like children? They are their grandchildren anyway.
MADELA: Her tremors get worse when there are children around.
ALFREDO: (To Romano) Stop this nonsense, will you? We’re here for Mama and you’re talking of money.
WILLY: (Still to Romano) This land, this house stays. For Mama, for us. When we come home, like this one, we have a place where we can talk or have a reunion.
ROMANO: You can visit Mama in the house.
WILLY: Ah, in your house… and where is your wife? She’s not even here now when it’s Chrismas time. Where’s the family Romano?
ROMANO: They’ll be here soon. My wife Minda will be here, and the children.
MADELA: Mama’s tremors get worse when the children are here.
ROMANO: Will you stop saying that Madela? My children, my family … they all love Mama.
WILLY: All right… all right, that is enough. I would like to state here further Romano…as the eldest in the family, my decision is clear… nothing gets sold.
ROMANO: That’s for you. What about me?
WILLY: Yes, what about you?
ROMANO: I want my share. Now!
JUNIOR: Well, well … we can sell this house anytime.
WILLY: Stop it. You’re not in the position.
MATRIARCH: (Tries to sit down, Madela aids her. As she sits, her tremors get worse, the seat also shakes.)
WALLY: (Checks the matriarch) What is it, Mama?
(To his brothers) Will you stop your argument? Her sickness gets worse.
(Everybody is silent. They watch the matriarch.)
MATRIARCH: You want to sell this house? You want to sell it Romano?
ROMANO: Mama, now, you recognize me.
MATRIARCH: Romano always wants to sell this house.
ROMANO: Mama, it’s because you’re all alone with Madela. Your loyal Madela …
You can’t live in this big house. Someday, it’s going to give up. We better sell it, the earlier the better.
ALFREDO: And where will she and Madela live?
ROMANO: She can live in my house. It’s time I take care of her.
ALFREDO: What do you mean you take care of her?
ROMANO: My wife, my children, they all want to take care of her.
MADELA: Yes, you take care of her, and I go.
MATRIARCH: You will leave me also, Madela?
MADELA: (whispers to the matriarch) No, Mama.
ROMANO: You can go, if that’s what you want.
MADELA: Yes, you’ve always wanted me to leave. If it’s not for your mother, I would have left this house long ago.
ROMANO: Ah, that’s not true, Madela. You always wanted this house.
MADELA: That’s what you’ve always thought of me, a greedy spinster wanting to own this old house. Romano, you’re such a selfish and inconsiderate son to your Mama.
ROMANO: Ah, you can go Madela. And don’t call Mama your mama. She’s just your aunt.
MADELA: Yes I will, just wait. I will…
(releases her hold of the matriarch and now confronts Romano) My own mama is still alive, Romano… but I still serve your mama not out of any money consideration. Just imagine… just imagine if I don’t take care of her … will she live with you and your family taking care of her?
MADELA: (To the matriarch) Mama, mama … the five brothers never agree … your sons never agree.
MATRIARCH: (Shakes hard. Wally attends to her, gets her blood pressure.)
My sons, my sons … but my sons not any longer.
WALLY: It’s time for her to rest. Stop your nonsense talk.
MADELA: I’ll take her to her room.
(Curtains close. The curtain opens again for the right side of the stage, which shows a room where the matriarch is lying; the five brothers surround her, silent; Madela is attending to her, holds the hands of the old woman; Wally examines her mother. Even though the matriarch is lying down, she still is shaking; the bed shakes with her.)
I love you, Mama... we all love you.
(to be continued)