Fathom 2000



Inside Cover



Vicki Combden (2)
Maud Alexandra Arthur (2)
Jennifer Lyn Durkee
David Lee
Ritu Malhotra
Kent Fraser
Cameron Thorne-Humphrey (2)
Gina M. Granter


Shawna Ferris
Jane Affleck
Phil Neville


Shawna Ferris



Intermission of Desire

This piece is written in response to Nick Mancuso’s one-man, one-act play, Hotel Praha: Sawdust Dreams In An Old Commie Hotel, which played at Theatre Passe Murialle in Toronto in early June, 1999. The play is just under seventy minutes long and has no intermission. One man stands, sits, drinks, paces, and kneels in one shabby hotel room in Prague. This one man - played by Mancuso himself - speaks for seventy minutes as he attempts to leave the room to go to the funeral of a woman.

His lines delivered in a stream-of-consciousness prose, he tells us that she haunts him. He recounts dreams of her, cries for her, shouts out her politics. He explains her love, her religion, her views on poverty, loss, hate, age, and sex. He grieves and introduces this woman - a character so multi-faceted that she begins to slide away from us as we lose her in conflicting details, his medium and message mix­ing together, convoluted, folding in on each other.

Wailing for the cold reality she knew and lived, he recalls her disdainful dismissal of naiveté. We forget and remember - as he leads - her prostitution, her many lives, and her death. “She was a communist,” he tells us, “Loathed any man’s dreamlike denial of harsh realities like death and toothaches.” He cannot go to her funeral. He is broken, drinking, crying, hearing footsteps, ringing telephones, seeing night­marish visions. Her character remains dark, unattrac­tive, incomprehensible amid the drama of his grief. One thing is clear: He cannot leave. He cannot leave the room.

This man faces this woman’s death as an innocent child, an arrogant man, a demanding customer to whom she submitted when she chose - or when she needed money. “This woman is too many women there. Naked and beautiful. A silent shout, curved and full. Young, pouty lips unsmiling, face chiselled, steady eyes gazing, expressionless.

     Fifteen silent seconds
     framed in ghostly light
     as our eyes rush over her,
     drink her in,
     and the room is wanting, longing, desire

And she disappears again. A crackle runs through the theatre. Fifteen seconds regains the attention of this shifting, coughing audience. Nipples and cocks stiffen momentarily - and sex later promises to be hot and wet. She is the charge that fires the final moments of this one-man play. She has no lines.

Is this the dark woman? The woman of powerful voice, gritty realism, back-to-the wall prostitution; the character about whom I have heard so much? How much do politics matter to me now? His thoughts, his ‘quotations,’ regarding the evils of communism, the foggy details of dreamy capitalism, fade into the desire. His reality, his message too blatantly cloaked in... if I could have just one clasp of her breast, one suck on magnificent nipple, one lick, one taste of treasures promised, and glistening between shining, white thighs.

When she appears, the politics disappear. As she disappears, he attempts to bring them back. I’ll listen to him now, dissect his lines in order to find my way back to those fifteen seconds. Around me, others appear willing to do the same. We burn and lean forward in anticipation. Mancuso’s play - one man, one act - becomes an instant success.

I check the playbill for his name and for the other details behind the naked woman I remember. His face, his message, his voice, so [three unclear words] lit thighs, the soft triangle of pubis, the luscious excesses of breasts, the nipples beckoning. An inter­mission of desire fuelling his last words and prolong­ing the applause at his finish - applause that becomes an ovation when she appears, clothed this time, to bow in the final seconds before darkness envelopes the stage.


last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul