by Brendan Gall
White. A baby sings the highest and lowest audible notes simultaneously for one minute.
Lights fade down. The baby hovers next to an operating Rube Goldberg machine.
(in Basque) This perpetual-motion machine is calculating π.
The baby whistles. A wolf appears.
This is my pet wolf. (petting him) I’m the only one who can do this. (roughhousing with him) I rescued him from hunters so he’s completely loyal to me.
The wolf sits stage-right.
A crow lands on the baby’s shoulder.
This is my pet crow. I found it on the ground one day. I set its wing and nursed it back to health. Now it refuses to leave me.
The crow caws and flies to the wolf’s head.
Does anyone have someone they’d like me to murder?
An audience member points at another audience member, whom the baby kills. Fleeing. Mass panic.
(to the audience member who pointed) It’s lucky you know Basque. It’s a pretty tough language.
One million Grade 8 students enter. A disco-ball lowers. Alphaville’s “Forever Young” plays. The students pair off and slow-dance.
“Forever Young” ends. Everyone has their first kiss, falls in love, and exits.
I’m glad I got to see that.
The upstage curtain ignites and burns, revealing a blue whale swimming in an aquarium beyond. The water catches fire. The flames shine through the aquarium, filling the theatre.
He’ll be fine as long as he doesn’t surface. Blue whales can hold their breath a pretty long time.
Does anyone have any questions? I can speak any language.
The Basque-speaking audience member explains this. The baby fields questions in various languages. The answers are true. Tears. Laughter.
The machine dings and starts to spit ticker-tape.
House lights. A sustained recording of a rabbit screaming.
Rabbit screaming ends. Audience returns. The theatre is filled with ticker-tape. The water still burns. House lights out.
Here’s what happens when you die:
Darkness. A PowerPoint presentation plays across the aquarium.
Lights up. The baby reads out π from the ticker-tape.
The crow eats the wolf.
Inside the aquarium, the blue whale begins to thrash…
Time slows down.
(Pretty Tough was inspired by a stage direction in Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child.” Performance rights inquiries can be made to the playwright through Praxis Theatre.)