FA/FSC English Book 3 Play No. 2 (Visit to a Small Planet)

(Last Updated On: February 17, 2018)

Play No. 2

Visit-to-a-Small-Planet-play

Visit to a Small Planet

By

Gore Vidal

Characters

Kreton

Roger Spelding

Ellen Spelding

Mrs. Spelding

John Randolph

General Powers

Aide

Scene

Tock shot: The night sky, stars. The slowly a luminous object arcs into view. As it is almost upon us, dissolves to the living room of the Spelding house in Maryland.

Superimpose Card: “THE TIME: THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.”

The room is comfortably balanced between the expensively decorated and the homely. ROGER SPELDING is concluding his TB broadcast. He is middle aged, unctuous, resonant. His wife, bored and vague, knits passively while he talks at his desk.  Two technicians are on hand, operating the equipment. His daughter, ELLEN, a lively girl of twenty, fidgets as she listens.

Spelding                     (into microphone) … and so, according to General Powers … who should know if anyone does ….. the flying object which has given rise to so much irresponsive conjecture is nothing more than a meteor passing through the earth’s orbit. It is not, as many believe, a secret weapon of this country, Nor is it as spaceship as certain lunatic elements have suggested. General Powers has assured me that it is highly doubtful there is any form of life on other planets capable of building a spaceship. “If any travelling is to be done in space, we will do it first.” And those are his exact words…. Which winds up another week of news. (Crosses to pose with wife and daughter). This is Roger Spelding saving good night to Mother and Father America, from my old homestead in Silver Glen, Maryland, close to the warm pulse beat of the nation.

Technician                 Good show tonight, Mr. Spelding.

Spelding                     Thank you.

Technician                 Yes sir, you were right on time.

Spelding nods wearily, his mechanical smile and heartiness suddenly gone.

Mrs. Spelding            Very nice, dear. Very nice.

Technician                 See you next week, Mr. Spelding.

Spelding                     Thank you, boys.

Technicians go.

Spelding                     Did you like the broadcast, Ellen?

Ellen                           Of course I did, Daddy.

Spelding                     Then what did I say?

Ellen                           Oh, that’s not fair.

Spelding                     It’s not very flattering when one’s own daughter won’t listen toWhat one says while millions of people…

Ellen                           I always listen Daddy you know that.

Mrs. Spelding            We love your broadcasts, dear. I don’t know what we’d do without them.

Spelding                     Starve.

Ellen                           I wonder what’s keeping John?

Spelding                     Certainly not work,

Ellen                           Oh, Daddy, stop it! John works very hard and you know it.

Mrs. Spelding            Yes, he’s a perfectly nice boy, Roger. I like him.

Spelding                     I know. I know: He has every virtue except the most important one: he has no get-up-and-go.

Ellen                           (Precisely) He doesn’t want to get up and he doesn’t want to go because he’s already where he wants to be on his own farm which is exactly where I’m going to be when we’re married.

Spelding                     More thankless than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child.

Ellen                           I don’t think that’s right. Isn’t it “more deadly…”

Spelding                     Whatever the exact quotation is, I stand by the sentiment.

Mrs. Spelding            Please don’t quarrel. It always gives me a headache.

Spelding                     I never quarrel. I merely reason, in my simple way, with Miss Know-it-all here.

Ellen                           Oh, Daddy! Next you’ll tell me I should marry for money.

Spelding                     There is nothing wrong with marrying a wealthy man. The horror of it has always eluded me. However, my only wish is that you marry someone hard-working ambitious, a man who’ll make his mark in the world. Not a boy who plans to sit on a farm all his life, growing peanuts.

Ellen                           English walnuts.

Spelding                     Will you stop correcting me?

Ellen                           But, Daddy, John grows walnuts…

John enters, breathlessly.

John                            Come out! Quick! It’s coming this way. It’s going to land right here!

Spelding                     What’s going to land?

John                            The spaceship. Look!

Spelding                     Apparently you didn’t hear my broadcast. The flying object in question is a meteor not a spaceship.

John has gone out with Ellen. Spelding and Mrs. Spelding follows.

Mrs. Spelding            Ohm my! Look! Something is falling! Roger, you don’t think it’s going to hit the house, do you?

Spelding                     The odds against being hit by a falling object that size are, I should say roughly, ten million to one.

John                            Ten million to one or not it’s going to land right here, and it’s not falling.

Spelding                     I’m sure it’s a meteor.

Mrs. Spelding            Shouldn’t we go down to the cellar?

Spelding                     If it’s not a meteor, it’s an optical illusion… mass hysteria.

Ellen                           Daddy, it’s a real spaceship. I’m sure it is.

Spelding                     Or maybe a weather balloon. Yes, that’s what it is. General Powers said only yesterday…

John                            It’s landing!

Spelding                     I’m going to call the police … the Army. Bolts inside.

Ellen                           Oh look how it shines!

John                            Here it comes!

Mrs. Spelding            Right in my rose garden!

Ellen                           May be it’s a balloon.

John                            No, it’s a spaceship and right in your own backyard.

Ellen                           What makes it shines so?

John                            I don’t know but I’m going to find out.

Runs off toward the light.

Ellen                           Oh, darling, don’t! John, please! John, John come back!

Spelding wide-eyed returns.

Mrs. Spelding            Roger, it’s landed right in my rose garden.

Spelding                     I got General Powers. He’s coming over. He said they’ve been watch this thing. They… they don’t know what it is.

Ellen                           You mean it’s nothing of ours?

Spelding                     They believe it… (Swallows hard)… it’s from outer space.

Ellen                           And john’s down there! Daddy, hot a gun or something.

Spelding                     Perhaps we’d better leave the house until the Army gets here.

Ellen                           We can’t leave John.

Spelding                     I can. (Peers nearsightedly) Why, it’s not much larger than a car.

I’m sure it’s some kind of meteor.

Ellen                           Meteors are blazing hot.

Spelding                     This is a cold one….

Ellen                           It’s opening… The whole side’s opening! (Shouts) John! Come back! Quick…

Mrs. Spelding            Why, there’s a man getting out of it! (Sight) I feel much better already. I’m sure if we ask him, he’ll move that thing for us. Roger, you ask him.

Spelding                     (Ominously) If it’s really a man?

Ellen                           John’s shaking hands with him (Calls) John darling, come on up here…

Mrs. Spelding            And bring your friend…

Spelding                     There’s something wrong with the way that creature looks… if it is a man and not a … not a monster.

Mrs. Spelding            He looks perfectly nice to me.

John and the visitors appear. The visitor is his forties, a mild, pleasant looking man with side-whiskers and dressed in the fashion of 1860. He pauses when he sees the three people, in silence for a moment. They stare back at him, equally interested.

Visitor                        I seem to’ve made a mistake. I am sorry. I’d better go back and start over again.

Spelding                     My dear sir, you’ve only just arrived. Come in, come in. I don’t need to tell you what pleasure this is …. Mister …. Mister ….

Visitor                        Kreton … This is the wrong costume, isn’t it?

Spelding                     Wrong for what?

Kreton                        For the country, and the time,

Spelding                     Well, it’s a trifle old-fashioned.

Mrs. Spelding            But really awfully handsome.

Kreton                        Thank you.

Mrs. Spelding            (to husband0 . Ask him about moving that thing off my rose bed.

Spelding leads them all into living room.

Spelding                     Come on in and sit down. You must be tired after your trip.

Kreton                        Yes, I am a little. (Looking around delightedly) Oh, it’s better than I’d hoped!

Spelding                     Better? What’s better?

Kreton                        The house …. That’s what you call it? Or is this an apartment?

Spelding                     This is a house in the state of Maryland, U.S.A.

Kreton                        In the late 20th century! To think this is really the 20th century. I must sit down a moment and collect myself. The real thing!

He sits down.

Ellen                           You …. You’re not an American, are you?

Kreton                        What a nice thought! No, I’m not.

John                            You sound more English.

Kreton                        Do I? Is my accent very bad?

John                            No, it’s quite good.

Spelding                     Where are you from, Mr. Kreton?

Kreton                        (Evasively) Another place.

Spelding                     On this earth of course.

Kreton                        No, not on this planet.

Ellen                           Are you from Mars?

Kreton                        Oh dear no, not Mars. There’s nobody on Mars…. At least no one I know.

Ellen                           I’m sure you’re teasing us and this is all some kind of publicity stunt.

Kreton                        No, I really am from another place.

Spelding                     I don’t suppose you’d consent to my interviewing you on television?

Kreton                        I don’t think your authorities will like that. They are terribly upset as it is.

Spelding                     How do you know?

Kreton                        Well, I … pick up things. For instance, I know that in a few minutes a number of people from you Army will be here to question me and they … like you … are torn by doubt.

Spelding                     How extraordinary!

Ellen                           Why did you come here?

Kreton                        Simply a visit to you small planet. I’ve been studying it for years. In fact, one might say, you people are my hobby. Especially, this period of your development.

John                            Are you the first person from your planet to travel in space like this?

Kreton                        Oh my no! Everyone travels who wants to it’s just that no one wants to visit you. I can’t think, why? I always have. You’d be surprised what a thorough study I’ve made. (Recites) The planet, Earth, is divided into five continents with a number of large islands. It is mostly water. There is one moon. Civilization is only just beginning …

Spelding                     Just beginning! My dear sir, we have had.

Kreton                        (Blandly) You are only in the initial stages, the most fascinating stages as far as I’m concerned … I do hope I don’t sound patronizing.

Ellen                           Well, we are very proud.

Kreton                        I know and that’s one of your most endearing primitive traits. Oh, I can’t believe I’, here at last!

General Powers, a vigorous product of the National Guard, and his AIDE enter.

Powers                       All right folks. The place is surrounded by troops. Where is the monster?

Kreton                        I, my dear General, am the monster.

Powers                       What are you dressed up for, a fancy-dress party?

Kreton                        I’d hoped to be in the costume of the period. As you see I am aboud a hundred years too late.

Powers                       Roger, who is this joker?

Spelding                     This is Mr. Kreton … General Powers. Mr. Kreton arrived in that thing outside. He is from another planet.

Powers                       I don’t believe it.

Ellen                           it’s true. We saw him get out of the flying saucer.

Powers                       (To AIDE) Captain, go down and look at the ship. But be careful. Don’t touch anything. And don’t let anybody else near it. (AIDE goes) So you’re from another planet.

Kreton                        Yes. My, that’s very smart uniform but I prefer the ones made of metal, the ones you used to wear, you know: with the feathers on top.

Powers                       That was five hundred years ago … Are you sure you’re no from the Earth?

Kreton                        yes

Powers                       Will, I’m not. You’ve got some pretty tall explaining to do.

Kreton                        Anything to oblige.

Powers                       All right, which planet?

Kreton                        None that you have ever heard of.

Powers                       Where is it?

Kreton                        You wouldn’t know.

Powers                       This solar system?

Kreton                        No.

Powers                       Another system?

Kreton                        Yes.

Powers                       look, Buster, I don’t want  to play games: I just want to know where you’re from. The law requires it.

Kreton                        It’s possible that I could explain it to a mathematician but I’m afraid I couldn’t explain it to you, not for another five hundred years and by then of course you’d be dead  because you people do die, don’t you?

Powers                       What?

Kreton                        Poor fragile butterflies such brief little moments in the sun … You see we don’t die.

Powers                       You’ll die all right if it turns out you’re a spy or a hostile alien.

Kreton                        I’m sure you wouldn’t be so cruel.

AIDE returns; he looks disturbed.

Powers                       What did you find?

AIDE                           I’m not sure, General.

Powers                       (Heavily) Then do you best to describe what the object is like.

AIDE                           Well, it’s elliptical, with a fourteen foot diameter. And it’s made of an unknown metal which shines and inside there isn’t anything.

Powers                       Isn’t anything?

AIDE                           There’s nothing inside the ship: No instruments, no food, nothing.

Powers                       (To Kreton) What did you do with your instrument board?

Kreton                        With my what? Oh, I don’t have one.

Powers                       How does the thing travel?

Kreton                        I don’t know.

Powers                       You don’t know. Now look, Mister you’re in pretty serious trouble. I suggest you do a bit of cooperating. You claim you travelled here from outer space in a machine with no instruments ….

Kreton                        Well, these care are rather common in my world and I suppose, once upon a time, I must’ve known the theory on which they operate but I’ve long since forgotten. After all, General, we’re not mechanics, you and I.

Powers                       Roger, do you mind if we use your study?

Spelding                     Not at all. Not at all, General.

Powers                       Mr. Kreton and I are going to have a chat. (To AIDE) put in a call to the Chief of staff.

AIDE                           Yes, General.

Spelding rises, leads Kreton and powers into next room, a handsomely furnished study, many books and a globe of the world.

Spelding                     This way, gentlemen.

(Kreton sits down comfortably beside the globe , which he twirls thoughtfully. At the door, Spelding speaks in a low voice to Powers), I hope I’ll be the one to get the story first, Tom.

Powers                       There isn’t story. Complete censorship, I’m sorry but this house is under martial law. I’ve a hunch we’re in trouble. (He shuts the door. Spelding turns and rejoins his family).

Ellen                           I think he’s wonderful whoever he is.

Mrs. Spelding            I wonder how much damage he did to my rose garden ….

John                            It’s sure hard to believe he’s really from outer space. No instruments, no nothing … boy, they must be advanced scientifically.

Mrs. Spelding            Is he spending the night, dear?

Spelding                     What?

Mrs. Spelding            Is he spending the night?

Spelding                     Oh yes, yes, suppose he will be.

Mrs. Spelding            Then I’d better go make up the bedroom. He seems perfectly nice to me. I like his whiskers. They’re so very … comforting. Like Grandfather Spelding’s. She goes.

Spelding                     (Bitterly) I know this story will leak out before I can interview him.

I just know it.

Ellen                           What does it mean, we’re under martial law.

Spelding                     It means we have to do what General Powers tells us to do. (He goes to the window as a soldier passes by) See?

John                            I wish I’d taken a closer look at that ship when I had the chance.

Ellen                           Perhaps he’ll give us a ride in it.

John                            Travelling in space! Just like those stories. You know: intergalactic drive stuff.

Spelding                     If he’s not an impostor.

Ellen                           I have a feeling he isn’t.

John                            Well, I better call the family and tell them I’m all right.

He crosses to telephone by the door which leads into the hall.

AIDE                           I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t use the phone.

Spelding                     He certainly can. This is my house ….

AIDE                           (Mechanically) This house is a military reservation until the crisis is over: Order General Powers. I’m sorry.

John                            How am I to call home to say where I am?

AIDE                           Only General Powers can help you. You’re also forbidden to leave this house without permission.

Spelding                     You can’t do this!

AIDE                           I’m afraid, sir, we’ve done it.

Ellen                           Isn’t it exciting!

Cut to study.

Powers                       Are you deliberately trying to confuse me?

Kreton                        No deliberately, no.

Powers                       We have gone over and over this for two hours now and all that you’ve told me is that you’re from another planet in another solar system….

Kreton                        In another dimension. I think that’s the word you use.

Powers                       In another dimension and you have come here as a tourist.

Kreton                        Up to a point, yes. What did you expect?

Powers                       It is my job to guard the security of this country.

Kreton                        I’m sure that must be very interesting work.

Powers                       For all I know, you are a spy, sent here by an alien race to study us, preparatory to invasion.

Kreton                        Oh, none of my people would dream of invading you.

Powers                       How do I know that’s true?

Kreton                        You don’t, so I suggest you believe me. I should also warn you: I can tell what’s inside.

Powers                       What’s inside?

Kreton                        What’s inside your mind.

Powers                       You’re a mind reader?

Kreton                        I don’t really read it. I hear it.

Powers                       What am I thinking?

Kreton                        That I am either a lunatic from the earth or a spy from another world.

Powers                       Correct. But then you could’ve guessed that. (Frowns) What am I thinking know?

Kreton                        You’re making a picture. Three silver stars. You’re pinning them on your shoulder, instead of the two stars you now wear.

Powers                       (Startled) That’s right. I was thinking of my promotion.

Kreton                        If there’s anything I can do to hurry it along, just let me know.

Powers                       You can. Tell me why you’re here.

Kreton                        Well, we don’t travel much, my people. We used to but since we see everything through special monitors and re-creators, there is no particular need to travel. However, I am a hobbyist. I love to gad about.

Powers                       (Taking notes) Are you the first to visit us?

Kretin                         Oh, no! We started visiting you long before there were people on the planet. However, we are seldom noticed on our trips. I’m sorry to say I slipped up, coming in the way I did … but then this visit was all rather impromptu. (Laughs) I am a creature of impulse, I fead

AIDE looks in.

AIDE                           Chief of staff on the telephone, General.

Powers                       (Pick up phone). Hello! Yes, sir. Powers speaking. I’m talking to him now. No, sir. No, sir. No, we can’t determine what method of power was used. He won’t talk. Yes, sir. I’ll hold him here. I’ve put the house under martial law … belongs to a friend of mine, Roger Spelding, the TV commentator. Roger Spelding, the TV …What? Oh, no, I’m sure he won’t say anything. Who … oh, yes, sir. Yes, I realize the importance of it. Yes, I will. Good-bye. (Hangs up) The president of the United States wants to know all about you.

Kreton                        How nice of him! And I want to know all about him. But I do wish you’d let me rest a bit first. Your language is still not familiar to me. I had to learn them all, quite exhausting.

Powers                       you speak all our language?

Kreton                        Yes, all of them. But then it’s easier than you might think since I can see what’s inside.

Powers                       Speaking of what’s inside, we’re going to take you ship apart.

Kreton                        Oh, I wish you wouldn’t.

Powers                       Security demands it.

Kreton                        In that case my security demands you leave it alone.

Powers                       You plan to stop us?

Kreton                        I already have … Listen.

Far-off shouting AIDE rushes into the study.

AIDE                           Something’s happened to the ship, General. The door’s shut and there’s some kind of wall all around it, an invisible wall. We can’t got rear it.

Kreton                        (To camera) I hope there was no one inside.

Powers                       (To Kreton) How did you do that?

Kreton                        I couldn’t begin to explain. Now if you don’t mind, I think we should go in and see our hosts.

He rises, goes into living room. Powers and AIDE look at each other.

Powers                       Don’t let him out of you sight.

Cut to living room as Powers picks up phone. Kreton is with john and Ellen.

Kreton                        I don’t mind curiosity but I really can’t permit them to wreck my poor ship.

Ellen                           What do you plan to do, now you’re here?

Kreton                        Oh, keep busy. I have a project or two … (Sighs) I can’t believe you are real.

John                            Then we’re all in the same boat.

Kreton                        Boat? Oh, yes! Well, I should have come ages ago but I … I couldn’t got away until yesterday.

John                            Yesterday? It only took you a day to get here?

Kreton                        One of my days, not yours. But then you don’t know about time yet.

John                            Oh, you mean relativity.

Kreton                        No, it’s much more involved than that. You won’t know about time until … now let me see if I remember … no, I don’t, but it’s about two thousand years.

John                            What do we do between now and then?

Kreton                        You simply go the way you are, living you exciting primitive lives … you have no idea how much fun you’re having now.

Ellen                           I hope you’ll stay with us while you’re here.

Kreton                        That’s very nice of you. Perhaps I will, Though I’m sure you’ll get tired of having a visitor under foot all the time.

Ellen                           Certainly not. And Daddy will be deliriously happy. He can interview you bt the hour.

John                            What’s it like in outer space.

Kreton                        Dull.

Ellen                           I should think it would be divine!

Powers enters.

Kreton                        No, General, it won’t work.

Powers                       What won’t work?

Kreton                        Trying to blow up my little force field. You’ll just plough up Mars. Spelding’s garden.

Powers snarl and goes into study.

Ellen                           Can you tell what we’re all thinking?

Kreton                        Yes. As a matter of fact, it makes me a bit giddy. Yours minds are not at all like ours. You see we control our thoughts while you … well, it’s extraordinary the things you think about?

Ellen                           Oh, how awful you can tell everything we think?

Kreton                        Everything! It’s one of the reasons I’m here, to intoxicate myself with you primitive minds … with the wonderful rawness of your emotions! You have no idea how it excites me! You simply seethe with unlikely emotions.

Ellen                           I’ve never felt so sordid.

John                            From now on I’m going to think about agriculture.

Spelding                     (Entering) You would.

Ellen                           Daddy!

Kreton                        No, no. You must go right on thinking about Ellen. Such wonderfully purple thoughts?

Spelding                     Now see here, Powers, you’re carrying this martial law thing too far …

Powers                       unfortunately, until I have received word from Washington as to the final disposition of this problem, you must obey my orders: no telephone calls, no communication with the outside.

Spelding                     This is unsupportable.

Kreton                        Poor Mr. Spelding! If you like, I shall go. That would solve everything wouldn’t it?

Powers                       You’re not going anywhere, Mr. Kreton, until I’ve had my instructions.

Kreton                        I sincerely doubt if you could stop me. However, I put it up to Mr. Spelding. Shall I go?

Spelding                     Yes! (Powers gestures a warning) Do stay, I mean, we want you to get a good impression of us …

Kreton                        And of course you still want to be the first journalist to interview me. Fair enough. All right, I’ll stay on for a while.

Powers                       Thank you.

Kreton                        Don’t mention it.

Spelding                     General, may I ask our guest a few questions?

Powers                       Go ring ahead, Roger. I hope you’ll do better than I did.

Spelding                     Since you read our minds, you probably already know what our fears are.

Kreton                        I do, yes.

Spelding                     We are afraid that you represent a hostile race.

Kreton                        And I have assured General Powers that my people are not remotely hostile. Except for me, no one is interested in this planet’s present stage.

Spelding                     Does this mean you might be interested in a later stage?

Kreton                        I’m not permitted to discuss you future. Of course my friends think me perverse to be interested in a primitive society but there’s no accounting for tastes, in there? You are my hobby. I love you. And that’s all there is to it.

Powers                       So you’re just here to look around … sort of going native.

Kreton                        What a nice expression! That’s it exactly. I am going native.

Powers                       (Grimly) Well, it is my view that you have been send here by another civilization for the express purpose of reconnoitering prior to invasion.

Kreton                        That would be you view! The wonderfully primitive assumption that all strangers are hostile. You’re almost too good to be true, General.

Powers                       You deny your people intend to make trouble for us?

Kreton                        I deny it.

Powers                       Then are they interested in establishing communication with us?

Trade? That kind of thing?

Kreton                        We have always had communication with you. As for trade, well, we do not trade … that is something peculiar only to you social level. (Quickly) Which I’m not criticizing! As you know, I approve of everything you do.

Powers                       I give up.

Spelding                     you have no interest then in …. Well, trying to dominate the earth.

Kreton                        Oh, yes!

Powers                       I thought you just said your people weren’t interested in us.

Kreton                        They’re not, but I am.

Powers                       You!

Kreton                        Me … I mean I. You see I’ve come here to take charge.

Powers                       Of the United States?

Kreton                        No, of the whole world. I’, sure you’ll be much happier and it will be great fun for me. You’ll get used to it in no time.

Powers                       This is ridiculous. How can one man take over the world?

Kreton                        (Gaily) Wait and see!

Powers                       (To AIDE) Grab him!

Powers and AIDE rush Kreton, but within a foot of him, they stop stunned.

Kreton                        You can’t touch me. That’s part of the game. (He yours) Now, if you don’t mind, I shall go up to my room for a little lie-down.

Spelding                     I’ll show you the way.

Kreton                        That’s all right. I know the way. (Touches him brow) Such savage thoughts! My head is vibration like a drum. I feel quite giddy, all of you thinking away. (He starts to the door; he pauses beside Mrs. Spelding) No, it’s not a dream, dear lady. I shall be here in the morning when you wake up. And now, good night, dear wicked children …

He goes as fade out.

CURTAIN

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