The Cage: a play
Actor, as Man in the Cage
1, as the nagging, critical wife
2, as the pompous, ceremonial clergyman
3, as the answerless, armchair philosopher
4, as the little child
Audience members 1-4 are seated in a row on stage. Enter the Actor.
Actor: (to Aud. 1-4) Hi there!
Aud. 1: Hi yourself!
Actor: Weíre all here for the same play. Iím the ActorÖ
Aud. 2: Bless you!
Actor: And youíre the audience.
Aud. 3: How about that!
Actor: The playís entitled ďThe Cage.Ē Itís about thisÖ
Aud. 4: Donít tell us!
Aud. 3: Let us guess!
Aud. 2: Itís about thisÖ(faltering)
Actor: (encouragingly) Thatís right. Itís about this character who is trapped inside an imaginary cage.
Aud. 1: And do you play this character?
Aud. 2: They sure picked the right person for the part.
Actor: Thank you!
Aud. 2: Think nothing of it!
Actor: Anyhow, these different people walk by and make fun of his imaginary captivity.
Aud. 3: Wait a minute. Why are you telling us the plot?
Actor: Iím just killing time waiting for the rest of the cast to show up. They were supposed to have been here by now.
Aud. 2: Would you like us to help you out?
Aud. 3: After all, we know the plot now anyhow.
Aud. 1: Please let us help! Just until the regular cast gets hereÖ
Actor: Well, that would be nice of you. Are you sure you donít mind?
Aud. 3: Not at all.
Aud. 4: You just tell us what to do.
Actor: All right. (to Aud. 1) Youíll play my critical, nagging wife.
Aud. 1: Is that a proposal? Why, we barely know each other!
Actor: Remember: you refuse to accept the fact that I have difficulties dealing with lifeís problems.
Aud. 2: Ahem!
Actor: (to Aud. 2) And you can be the pompous, ceremonial clergyman. Aud. 2: Lead me to my robes!
Actor: Keep in mind that youíre too far up in the air to be able to deal with my needs.
Aud. 2: Iíll pray to that!
Actor: Letís see. (indicating Aud. 3) Ah, yes, I need you to play the answerless, armchair philosopher.
Aud. 3: And what am I like?
Actor: Youíre too busy asking questions to realize that you have no answers.
Aud. 3: (rhetorically) I wonder who in history asked the very first questionÖ
Aud. 4: And what about me?
Actor: Ah! You will play the little child.
Aud. 4: (in disbelief) The little child?
Aud. 4: You must be joking! I wonít do it! Iím a grown man.
Aud. 4: No!
Actor: Then I guess weíll just have to leave that part out.
(Aud. 4 exits to another part of the stage. He turns to speak.)
Aud. 4: Iíll stay and listen, though.
Actor: As you wish.
Aud. 4: (sitting down) But I donít expect to hear much.
Aud. 3: Where are our scripts?
Actor: There are none. Iím afraid youíll just have to make up your own lines as you go along.
Aud. 1: (imitating a stoned hippy) Groovy!
Aud. 2: Where are my robes?
Actor: We donít have any. Youíll just have to pretend youíre wearing them.
Aud. 3: (rhetorically) Where did the significance of robes originate?
Aud. 4: (insistently) Arenít you ever going to begin? I came here to see a play.
Actor: All right, Cast, it is time to begin.
Aud. 1: Yes, Dear.
Actor: No, no! I said a ďcritical, nagging wifeĒ!
Aud. 1: Oh. (pausing) I say there, arenít you ever going to get down to business?
Actor: A bit awkward, but better.
Aud. 2: Not even a clerical collar?
(Actor shakes his head)
Aud. 3: (rhetorically) What relationship is there between clothing and godliness?
Aud. 2: (aside to Aud. 1) Umph! Heís not much of a director, is he?
Aud. 1: Heís not much of a husband, either.
Actor: There! Thatís the spirit! Youíll make the perfect complaining, nagging wife!
Aud. 1: Well, thank you. (pausing) But donít forget: you watch the kids tonight while I go play poker with the boys!
Aud. 4: What a ham!
Aud. 3: (rhetorically) Is there a direct relationship between criticism and truth?
Actor: (near exasperation) Okay, Cast, letís begin!
Aud. 3: Would it hurt the aesthetic appeal and importance of this play if I were to loosen my neck tie?
Actor: (trying to remain calm) Suit yourself.
Aud. 1: Now wait a minute. If you want my opinionÖ
Aud. 4: (pointing from Aud. 1 to Actor) Ha! Ha! How can you tell which one is the director?
Aud. 1: (to Actor after giving Aud. 4 a dirty look) He ought to take his tie off completely. (to Aud. 4 as she removes his tie) There. Now you look disorganized enough to be an answerless, armchair philosopher.
Aud. 3: (mumbling) Thanks, Dear.
Actor: Now may we proceed?
Aud. 1: Certainly. Youíre the boss.
Aud. 2: Do I understand correctly that this is to be a religious play?
Actor: (completely exasperated) Heavens, yes!
Aud. 2: Well, then, shouldnít we pray before we start?
Actor: (desperately) Yes, yes! Would you do the honors?
Aud. 2: Certainly. Let us bow our heads reverently. God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food. Amen.
Aud. 1 & 3: Amen!
Aud. 2: Okay, my children, God bless us as we proceed.
Aud. 4: (clapping his hands) Two hams! What a comedy!
Actor: (somewhat calm now) Now, as the play opens, Iím supposed to be standing here discussing my problems with the audience.
Aud. 1: That husband of mine! If he isnít always complaining, and to total strangers at that!
Aud. 3: (sympathetically) You do have problems, donít you?
Aud. 2: Say, I think I have a prayer to cover that.
Actor: Well, thanks, but IÖ
Aud. 3: What you really need is to get away from here for a while and do some serious thinking.
Aud. 4: (heckling) With whom? Ha! Ha!
Actor: But itís not in the play.
Aud. 3: That doesnít matter. Come on. Just for a few minutes.
Actor: Well, they are making me a bit nervous.
(Actor and Aud. 3 exit to the other side of the stage. Aud. 1 & 2 carry on quite an animated silent conversation.)
Aud. 3: See. Now isnít this better? You can just stretch out in the sunÖ
Actor: But the sun just went behind a cloud.
Aud. 3: (sighing) Ah, well. Tell me: is your life meaningless?
Actor: Yes, that does seem to be part of the problem.
Aud. 3: And does the thought of death and the hereafter concern you?
Actor: Have you seen this play before?
Aud. 3: Do you worry about the constant struggle between good and evil in this world?
Actor: Stop! I feel the cage closing in on me!
Aud. 3: Really?
Actor: Yes, really. Iím beginning to feel quite depressed.
Aud. 3: Is that in the play?
Actor: Yes, it is.
Aud. 3: So whatís the problem?
Actor: You make it seem so real.
Aud. 3: Look. Do you want my help? We can try logic and reason, mind expansion, eastern meditation, New AgeÖ
Actor: Do any of these things really work?
Aud. 4: (heckling) Canít you see how stable and secure he is?
Aud. 3: No, not a bit. To tell you the truth, Iím starting to see those cage bars myself.
(Enter Aud. 1 from across the stage.)
Aud. 1: Well, here you are! Some husband you are to leave your wife just standing there like some fool in front of the clergyman!
Aud. 3: (rhetorically) Why did sin originate with the female of the species?
Actor: Please. Canít you see how upset Iíve been?
Aud. 1: How upset? Is that any excuse for walking out on your sweet, loving wife?
(Enter Aud. 2 from across the stage.)
Aud. 2: My, my! Do I hear a request for marriage counseling? Iím sorry, but Iíve time now only for a prayer.
Aud. 1: (too sweetly) Mind your own business, Father.
Aud. 2: (meekly) Yes, Dear. (mumbling) Now I lay me down to sleepÖ
Aud. 3: (to Aud. 2) Why do you keep mumbling foolish prayers?
Aud. 1: (to Aud. 3) And why do you keep asking so many answerless questions?
Actor: (to Aud. 1) And why do you keep nagging and criticizing so much?
Aud. 2: (to Aud. 3) Well, thereís a kind of peace in rote repetition.
Aud. 3: (to Aud. 1) And a kind of peace in repeating questions which cannot be answered.
Aud. 1: (defensively) Me nag and criticize? Why does everyone keep picking on me? Oh! The walls are closing in on me.
Aud. 4: (approaching Actor and Aud. 1-3) Stop it! You four act as if you were hopelessly trapped in this cage of yours!
Actor: (with contempt) Huh! Youíre not even in the play.
Aud. 4: I wasnít, true. But if we leave out the little childís part, the play must go unfinished, and your problem will still be unsolved.
(Actor and Aud. 1-3 turn away) (to Aud. 3) Youíve been too busy asking questions to listen for answers.
Aud. 3: (turning halfway towards Aud. 4) Have I?
Aud. 4: (to Aud. 2) And youíve been too busy going through the motions of religion to discover the realities of it.
Aud. 2: (turning halfway and crossing himself awkwardly) Thank God Iím not a sinner like him.
Aud. 4: (to Aud. 1) Youíre miserable, and yet you keep projecting your misery on others.
Aud. 1: (turn to face Aud. 4 squarely and points to Actor) My husband does that, but never me.
Aud. 4: (to Actor) And youíve become all the more entrapped by trying to get other captives to free you.
Actor: (pauses and turns slowly) So? Whatís your answer?
Aud. 1: What does he know? What does a little child know?
Aud. 2: How can a little child know the answer?
Aud. 3: How can a little child understand the questions?
Aud. 4: It says, ďA little child shall lead them.Ē
Actor: Does it really say that?
Aud. 4: Yes, and it also says, ďThe Truth shall make you free.Ē
Actor: We do want so much to be free.
Aud. 1-3: We want to be free.
Aud. 4: Then listen to the one and only Truth: God has already opened the door to your cage. All you have to do is to believe he has. Then youíll become free.
Actor: But thatís too simple.
Aud. 1-3: Way too simple.
Actor: There must be another solution.
Aud. 1-3: Yes, some other solution.
Aud. 4: There is only one. You can accept it or notÖ
(Aud. 1-3 and Actor turn to face the real audience)
Actor: Hi there!
Aud. 1: Weíre all here for the same play. Weíre the actorsÖ
Aud. 2: And youíre the audience.
Aud. 3: The playís entitled ďThe Cage.Ē
Actor: Itís about these characters who are trapped inside an imaginary cage.
(Actor and Aud. 1-3 freeze in position)
Aud. 4: (sadly) They sure picked the right people for the part.