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Libretto

BEGINNING

an opera in one 20-minute act 
 

At opposite sides of the stage or screen are two transparent enclosures (think bubbles, cubicles, string houses), each with a projection surface. Alongside the first stands Gaby, inching warily along its circumference, palpating its (real or suggested) surface with a finger. She speaks into a headset.

GABY

It's almost time.

Sean enters or appears, a potted plant under one arm, a wine glass in his hand. He responds into a headset.

SEAN

I need to see you.

GABY

(pushes a button)

There. Better?

Gaby's image is projected onto or near Sean's enclosure. Sean's image is projected onto or near Gaby's enclosure.

SEAN

(paces gingerly inside his enclosure)

It's not so bad, is it? On the inside.

GABY

I suppose it's whatever we make it.

Gaby retrieves an artist easel and places it in her enclosure.

SEAN

We can see out, at least.

GABY

What's left to see?

SEAN

Worlds. Galaxies. Your face.

SIRENS. A loud, commanding voice broadcasts from an undefined source, startling the couple:

 

"Citizens, at the sound of the tone you will shelter within your hermetically sealed Plexi-Sans and remain inside until further notice. Rest assured that we are doing everything in our power to defeat this invisible enemy and restore peace and prosperity to our beloved city-state."

An ANTHEM plays in the background. The broadcast continues.

 

"Prepare your Plexi-Sans. The countdown begins... NOW. Ten. Nine. Eight..."

Gaby and Sean, looking panicked, race to arrange their few things.

 

"Seven. Six. Five..."

SEAN

I don't think I can do this. I'll die in here.

GABY

I won't let you. Breathe. Take my breath, my lungs... let my heart beat for us both.

 

"Four. Three. Two..."

SEAN

If only I could touch you!

 

"ONE. Doors shut! You will hear from us again, again, again..."

The broadcast devolves into gibberish, then white noise.

GABY

Sean?

SEAN

Gaby. Do you realize? Today is our two-week anniversary.

GABY

(begins to paint)

I love that about you — the Sir Galahad factor.

SEAN

Two weeks ago today... I was sitting in the cafe opposite your flat —

GABY

And I stepped out onto my balcony —

SEAN

In your bathrobe —

GABY

It was a kimono —

SEAN

You were naked underneath it.

GABY

How did you know?

SEAN

I just did. A breeze swept in from Africa and parted your robe —

GABY

Kimono.

SEAN

Just a little. A flash of thigh, and you turned and gazed down at me.

GABY

You were squinting.

SEAN

I had taken off my Ray-Bans to get a better look. At any moment you might have vanished into your flat, and I'd spend my next ten lifetimes searching for you, or worse, wake up and realize I'd only dreamed you.

GABY

So poetic.

SEAN

You took out a lipstick and wrote your cell number on the window —

GABY

And you texted me: "One day we'll sit together at this cafe and tell each other secrets that will lay bare every yearning known to humankind."

SEAN

(tends his plant)

We will.

GABY

Yearning — that's so, like, nineteenth century. I'm just happy... that our story has a beginning.

SEAN

Beginnings are the best part. I don't like middles.

GABY

Endings make me weep. Even happy ones.

SEAN

No ending then. I was sitting in the cafe opposite your flat —

GABY

When I stepped out onto my balcony —

SEAN

And a hidden scourge descended on the planet.

GABY

(stops painting)

I don't like that part. Delete it.

Gaby pushes a button and quirky DANCE MUSIC plays. She dances.

GABY

Dance with me?

SEAN

Not now. Not caged.

GABY

That is so, like, Tennessee Williams. Dance! I want to feel your two hands on my ass.

Sean closes his eyes and begins to dance, timidly at first, gradually loosening up.

SEAN

You're heavenly.

GABY

Grind those killer hips.

They dance, softly moaning with pleasure. Their idyll is abruptly interrupted by the sound of SIRENS, followed by this broadcast:

 

"Citizens, it has come to our attention that some non-essentials may be feeling useless, unworthy, parasitic ... We get it: You're sitting idle in your Plexi-Sans, growing flabbier by the second. No purpose. No paycheck. Not much going on between the sheets..."

Devolves into gibberish.

SEAN

BE MY SOUL-MATE IN THE PLAGUE

THOUGH OUR PROSPECTS MAY BE VAGUE

BE THE QUEEN OF MY LAST SIGH

HELP ME LIVE BEFORE I DIE

GABY

BE THE GARD'NER WHO BRINGS LIFE

IN THIS NEVER-ENDING STRIFE

SHARE MY RAGE AND RAISE A FIST

TO NIGHT PASSIONS WE'LL HAVE MISSED

SEAN

I PLANT SEEDS, I MAKE THINGS GROW

GABY

I PAINT PICTURES HUNG IN SHOWS

SEAN & GABY

AS WE BEGIN SO DOES THIS STRANGE... HUNGER

STILL, THERE'S MYSTERY AS LIFE SHRINKS

RAW, WE EDGE CLOSE TO THE BRINK

REACH FOR GRACE AS STRANGENESS PULLS US UNDER

FOGHORN. Command Central broadcasts:

"Citizens, stay calm. All non-essential workers will remain in their Plexi-Sans. All essentials will report immediately to Command Central. As of tonight, we will observe a blackout, effective immediately."

BLACKOUT

SEAN

Gaby?!

GABY

I'm still here, my love.

LIGHTS PARTIALLY UP

SEAN

BE MY ANCHOR IN THE STORM

KEEP ME WISHING, KEEP ME WARM

SPEAK THE PRAYER THAT FANS LIFE'S SPARK

WHILE THE WORLD WE KNEW TURNS DARK

GABY

PLANT A GARDEN IN MY SOUL

TAKE WHAT'S BROKEN, MAKE IT WHOLE

BE THE PRINCE OF DREAMS RESTORED

OPEN-ARMED ON LOVE'S FAR SHORE

SEAN

I SURRENDER TO THIS TRANCE

GABY

THAT'S THE WAY OF DOOMED ROMANCE

SEAN & GABY

LIVE THE MOMENT WITH ITS MERRY... DANGER

STILL, THERE'S BEAUTY AS LIFE FADES

WHAT A STUNNING MESS WE'VE MADE!

COULD IT BE THAT WE WERE NEVER STRANGERS?

NEVER STRANGERS

 

GABY

NEVER STRANGERS

CONTINUES...

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