Enigma

The year is 1976 before Perestroika and the demolition of the Berlin Wall. The entire action of the play takes place in a top floor Greenwich Village apartment.  The apartment has been remodeled for use by an artist.  The north side of the room is a floor to ceiling window slightly slanting in at the roof.  One can see the roofs of other buildings when the curtains of the window are drawn.  The apartment is large, (the entire length of the stage); however, it is only one room.  It is divided into two parts, one side where Alex Serov works, and the other where he lives.  His living quarters are furnished very modestly: a sofa-bed combination, a small table covered with books and laundry to be ironed, a small refrigerator, three chairs and a foot locker, which serves as additional seating.  The other side of the apartment is cluttered with paintings, easels, another small table covered with a sheet, paints, brushes, turpentine, etc.  The apartment, although modestly furnished, has a warm and friendly atmosphere produced by the way it is lighted and the relative orderliness of Alex.  As the play opens, Alex is lying on the bed.  The time is 8:00 A.M.  After a moment the alarm sounds, he awakens, turns if off and sits on the side of the bed rubbing his face.  He rises, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and proceeds to put on his pants.  The pants are of the black chino variety and some paint at a distant time was wiped either by carelessness or out of desperation on the upper thigh parts, leaving permanent smudges.  He opens the foot locker and puts on a heavy grey sweat shirt.  He goes to the refrigerator and gets out a half glass of milk, takes a drink, and walks slowly over to his work area.  He pauses in front of an easel, lifts the cover and examines the painting carefully.  After studying the painting for a long time he drops the cover, walks to the window and pulls open the drapes.  He stands in front of the window looking out at the rooftops.  After a moment a knock is heard at the door.

 

 

Alex

Come in, Jay, the door is open. (Enter Jay Powers. He is an American, about 25.                He is also Alex’s friend and next door neighbor.)

 

Jay

Hey, Alex, how did you know it was me?

 

Alex

Well, there were two ways, and both of them very obvious.  First, your fist!

 

Jay

My fist?

 

Alex

Yes.  In sending Morse code that simply means how hard or how soft the sender taps the sending shaft.

 

Jay

How about that!  Have you informed the CIA of this information?  Considering the fact that you defected from Russia!

 

Alex

You silly ass!  (They both laugh.)   And secondly, the way you knock.

 

Jay

The way I knock?

 

Alex

Yes.  You have a very distinctive knock.  

 

Jay

What the hell happened to you last night?  You said that you would meet me at ten-thirty. I waited for nearly forty-five minutes, and then I tried calling, but you didn’t answer.

 

Alex

It’s this damn thing.  (He lifts the cover on the easel.)  I can’t get it right!  I’m supposed to have it finished by Friday for a doctor, and I just can’t get it.

 

Jay

Yeah, I see what you mean.  (Pause)  What the hell does a doctor want with a painting of a partially nude woman? 

 

Alex

I don’t ask my clients personal questions.

 

Jay

(Still studying the painting.)  I see the problem. What you need old buddy, is a model.

 

Alex

That’s exactly what I need, but I can’t afford one.

 

Jay

There you go!  Now if you had come with me last night, I could have introduced you to a half dozen of the most beautiful models in New York.

 

Alex

And demanding fifty dollars an hour.

 

Jay

There are other ways to pay the baker.

 

Alex

What do you mean?

 

Jay

Come on, Alex!  You’ve been in the good old U.S. long enough to have heard of the skin game. 

 

Alex

Skin Game?

 

Jay

Man, you are behind the times, aren’t you?  You guys may be up with us in the space race, but in fast living you’re dragging your feet.

 

Alex

I can’t afford fast living.

 

Jay

Of course you can.  Everyone can afford that.  It just means you pay off with the one commodity that you have full control over.

 

Alex

And what’s that?

 

Jay

Your bod!

 

Alex

Bod?

 

Jay

Body!  Come on, man, this is the twentieth century.  This is New York, Alex, this is where it all starts.  Come on, Alex, play the game.  You won’t be sorry, I promise you.

 

Alex

I don’t think I want to play the game, Jay.

 

Jay

If you don’t, old buddy, they’ll eat you alive out there.

 

Alex

I don’t know…..

 

Jay

Look, Alex, I’ll get you off the hook this time.  If just so happens that I know just the chick.  As a matter of fact, she intends to move into my pad the first part of next week for economic reasons.  After all, we artists have to stick together in a time of need.  Well anyway, this gal is just what the doctor ordered.  (Pause, Alex doesn’t react.)  You don’t get it, do you?

 

Alex

Get what?

 

Jay

Forget it.  Anyway she used to be a model.  She has a fantastic figure, and she’s pretty too.  And just because you’re a friend of mine, I’ll take care of the modeling bill.

 

Alex

Do you think she’ll model for me?

 

Jay

There’s no doubt in my mind.  Let me use your phone and I’ll see what kind of commitment I can get out of her. (He moves to the phone, picks it up and dials.)  Hello ….hello, Renee.  Hi honey, this is Jay. (Pause) Gee, I’m sorry, honey, if I got you out of bed. (Pause)  No, I have not been drinking.  Listen for a minute, will you, honey?  I’ve got this friend…he lives next door to me. Well, anyway, he’s originally from Russia and he doesn’t know many people in town. (Pause)  No, honey, he’s not a Communist, he’s an artist.  Now, before you say anything else, I want you to listen very carefully.  This guy is one of my dearest friends, he needs a model to pose partially nude for a few hours, and you’re just the type that he needs. So for me, and in the name of the Arts, will you help him out?  (Pause)  You will?  (He nods to Alex.)  Honey, I love you.  Can you get over here as soon as possible?  (Pause)  Right!  His apartment is right next to mine. Apartment number two.  Thanks again, sweetheart, see you.  (He hangs up.)  She’s coming right over.

 

Alex

Jay, I don’t know what to say.  How can I thank you?

 

Jay

Don’t say anything, and don’t thank me.