With all his plays, and films,
Ted was always at all the rehearsals looking over the directors shoulder, rewriting,
polishing, refining, until opening night... Ted's old friend, Jack Berry, directed
"The Secret of the World" in London and ended up playing the lead. I
telephoned Jack this spring, 1997, to ask him about the play. "I first got
into Secret of the World with Ted because I had done the Sartre play in London,"
John told me. "And then he gave me Secret which Oscar Lewenstein would produce.
Ted had written eleven versions. I took all eleven versions and I made a twelfth.
Ted made a thirteenth, and we got together and together we made a fourteenth."
John what it was like having Ted there every day at rehearsals. "I must say
that I directed the play and I found it was no problem at all for me. It was a
great help to me. We had all those discussions. He was never satisfied with the
set, and he was never satisfied with the end of the play. I think he wrote forty
1962.London's Theatre Royal in Stratford East. Late comers shuffle to their seats.
The house lights dim. It is the opening night of...
SECRET OF THE WORLD
house of Samuel Spector is on many levels,
two are all we see.
are three areas downstage. One represent a kitchen;
a living room; and one "Fletcher's Field" a playground at
foot of Mt. Royal, Montreal's mountain in the centre of the city.
there is a park bench.
door downstage leads to SAM and MARIAN's bedroom, O.S.
arch or doorway leads to a hallway, partly seen.
which in turn leads to the O.S. bedroom of the daughter, SUSAN.
staircase leads to the second floor where the bedrooms of the son,
ALEX, THE OLD MAN and brother-in-law BENNY are located.
THE CURTAIN RISES, MARIAN is baking in her kitchen.
father-in-law, the OLD MAN, comes out of a door on the
level, moves down a step or two, and sits.
What city is
MARIAN (she's told him a thousand times)
The one with the women?
The one with the mountain.
Did I eat yet?
Are you hungry?
If I didn't eat, I should eat.
Please find somebody
else to pester today. I cleaned the house spotless so try not to dirty up your
room today. It's bad enough Susan keeps her room like a pigsty.
I'll be dead soon and my
room will be spotless.
You'll outlive all of us.
What city did you say this was?
This time guess.
The one with the mountain.
Give this man
they've been talking, BENNY, Marian's younger brother
been approaching the house, passing the park bench.
is a sharp dresser.
enters and passes them without saying a word,
up the stairs to his room.
pay as little attention to him as he does to them.
will come and go like this often throughout the play.
My brother, Sam, should leave this city. The future will not take
BENNY (appears holding a newspaper. Benny speaks to Old
Did you read it?
What's Sam said about it?
MARIAN (To BENNY)
you asking him for? Sam'll be home soon, he'll tell you. Are you eating here tonight
Would you please tell my sister I made a promise not
to talk to her for a week. I've still got one day to go.
returns to his room)
I thought it was up today. I said his
daughter Bobo was backward and should see a doctor. He got mad. That wife of his
doesn't take care of the kids. You know why he lives here? Every time he finds
her with another man he moves in here. He's found her with four different men
so figure out how many he didn't find her with.
here for the same reason you all live here.
He should take
his two children away from that slut and bring them here and give me the money
he gives her and I'd take care of them.
Where did you get
your diploma for bringing up kids?
I brought up two, didn't
To be in the presence of a living God, that's why he lives
here. Each man needs his own Jesus. It's a human condition.
That's right, Grandpa. Make a speech.
If I play something,
will you drop a penny in the hat?
Go ahead. Play something!
goes into his room. The phone RINGS.
MARIAN (to phone)
Hello, Zelda! How are you? What are
you talking about? Who's having a poker game? You're crazy. I'm not having a poker
ENTERS and listens)
I swear on my children's graves. Would I tell a lie swearing
on my children's lives?
shows her distaste at her mother's lying,
fascinated by the brazenness)
smacks her own face to offset the terrible lie.)
When I have a poker game,
I'll call you. ... Yeah. ...
replaces the receiver,
it up again to dial another number:
Melina! Who told Zelda I was
having a game tonight? She just called. ... Because, I don't like the way she
plays. She never bets unless she's got aces back to back.
sensing SUSAN's presence, turns.)
Excuse me a minute.
You want the phone?
shakes her head and smiles.)
What's so funny?
to you swearing on your children's lives again.
goes to her room.)
Melina, I'm baking. See you tonight.
replaces the receiver and shouts out.)
Susan! I made you a salad! It's in
I don't want any salad.
You said you wanted to eat more greens! Eat now.
RINGS. MARIAN answers)
Hello. ... No, Mr. Spector isn't here. Did you try
union headquarters? Sorry. ... I'll tell him when he comes home.
I don't want to eat
now. I'll eat later. Who was that?
Another newspaper for Dad.
Calling all day.
Eat now! I'm having a poker game tonight.
places salad on table)
I'll eat in my room later. Stop nagging!
Who are you shouting at?
goes to her room.)
OLD MAN has ENTERED by now with his hand organ.
places his hat on the floor.)
winds and starts to play one of
old left wing songs.)
Did you hear the way she shouts at me?
If that man of mine won't teach her how to respect her mother...
Drop a coin.
MARIAN (drops a penny into the hat)
us if he catches us. He hates when you play that.
kills. Nobody dies. Why don't he let me take it out on the street where I can
Is it nice, the father of Sam Spector should
beg on the streets?
I don't beg! I entertain.
pushes the organ back into his room
shuts the door very quickly.
quickly opens it and shouts out.)
The working class can kiss my tukus!
chuckles. The phone RINGS)
Hello. ... No, he's not home yet. Any minute now. I'll tell him.
becoming restless starts to dial,
herself in a mirror,
out a few odd hairs with a tweezers.)
Moll? ... Me. ... Just making sure you're
HER SON, has ENTERED
a suitcase and newspaper)
MARIAN (to phone)
I'll call you back. My
Alex just walked in.
You're home a day early! There's trouble. I have a feeling.
Why does anything unexpected always mean trouble in this family?
They fired you?
Don't worry. You'll get another job. It's not the only newspaper in
I finished my assignment a day early, so I came home.
Is that trouble?
Who said anything about trouble? M-m-mm,
you're so handsome.
kisses him loudly on the face.
stiffens, but likes it.)
Your paper, the other papers,
phoning all day for Dad. Hungry?
That was quite a
bomb they dropped.
I saw on TV. All the old lies.
Not this time.
How do you know? Don't aggravate your
father, Alex. He's got the election on his head.
I didn't come home to aggravate him. I came home in case he needed me. The Right
Wing are going to use that speech. It could effect Dad's election.
Nobody listens to them.
has appeared, on his way out.
nods to ALEX)
Need any money and anything?
Uncle Benny. Thanks.
BENNY (nods to newspaper)
I told you when he offers money, take it. He just fritters
puts a plate of food in front of him)
Why all the baking?
Ladies auxiliary meeting tonight.
Raising money for the union! Who you kidding?
Don't we raise money for the union? So we also enjoy ourselves in the
bargain. It's the only fun I get these days. I hardly see your father anymore.
He's married to the union. What am I supposed to do with myself. Twiddle my backside?
It's your thumbs you're supposed to twiddle.
MARIAN (putting plate down for Susan)
You twiddle what you twiddle and
I'll twiddle what I twiddle.
and Sister smile warmly.
pushes the plate from her)
What's the matter with it?
I'm not hungry.
Since she met that Andre Leduc nothing pleases her.
The greatest thing ever born. Do I know.
She's never brought him here.
That'll be the day.
Why not? You're ashamed of us?
I don't cook well enough for him?
Who's Andre Leduc?
He's studying physics and goes
to the art classes Jeannie and I are taking.
No wonder she goes so regularly to those art classes.
(looking at newspaper asks ALEX)
Is that why you came home a day earlier?
You think it's genuine?
If it is, Dad will resign from the Party.
You both know so much. Here your Dad is the Party.
the street outside SAM and JACK NAPIER
Los quartos generales
Los quartos generales
NAPIER (joining in)
Los quartos generales, mamita
Mia no pasa nadie,
no pasa nadie.....
Thought you weren't coming home till tomorrow.
you two been drinking?
How can you tell?
What's the occasion?
Great meeting. Your father was in brilliant form.
I have to agree with him.
So we stopped off to belt back a
Did you look at my painting?
I'll look at it now. Come show me.
I brought it back to class.
I asked you to look at it last night.
I forgot. Bring it back.
It's being entered in the
I'll see it in the exhibition. The election will
be over and I'll be able to examine it relaxed and not thinking of a million other
things. I'm sorry, darling. You know how obsessed I get in the middle of a campaign.
The newspapers have been phoning all day.
caught up with me at my office.
What did you tell them?
That I think the speech is a fake. All the old slanders against Stalin
rehashed in a new stew.
What about all these posthumous rehabilitations of hundreds executed
by Stalin! By bloody criminal elements who had worked their way to positions of
leadership. Why can't you believe Stalin had nothing to do with it?
Khrushchev says Stalin was behind it all!
the American State Department is saying Khrushchev is saying. It's an American
propaganda ploy. It's so damned obvious. How can you take it seriously?
Don't you ever have the slightest doubt ever about Stalin, the Party,
a single, solitary doubt ever?
No. Now ask me why?
I'm glad you
climbs on to a chair, and weaves a bit.
rushes to steady him. HE giggles.
Sam! How much did you drink?
Obviously one too many. Why? My
mind is clear.
Why the hell haven't we done this more often? I feel fantastic! Now...
assumes a pose of a public speaker addressing a meeting)
Why do I not have
the slightest doubt about Stalin and the Party? Some men embody their nation;
others, all of mankind. They bring human consciousness to new heights. Moses,
Jesus, Shakespeare, Marx and Engels, Einstein, Lenin, Stalin. Great scientists,
great poets, great philosophers, great statesmen. Scientific socialism, dialectical
materialism, developed by Marx and Engels, enriched by Lenin and Stalin, represents
the most advanced political and philosophical thought of man. It gives us the
key that unlocks every human problem; the scientific basis for eliminating poverty,
wars, racial and religious prejudice, greed, cruelty. Man's highest aspiration
expressed in Utopian myths like the Garden of Eden, is no longer a dream. It is
a reality in Russia. I was there. I saw it.
You saw what they
wanted to show you.
I saw the people! I saw the new socialist
man. Man and woman! I saw a country where men cooperate and do not compete. I
saw the future!
I think you're in for a big, big shock, Dad.
Oh ye of little faith! What did I do wrong, Jack, to have raised
a reactionary son?
I am not a reactionary! I'm worried that your opposition is going to use Khrushchev's
speech and your position denying it and its going to blow up in your face. You've
got to start facing the possibility that it's true. Then what will your position
The opposition is trying to use it, but I wiped the floor
with them, right Jack? That's why we stopped to celebrate.
may be celebrating a bit too soon.
I'd feel better if we had
more word from the Centre, Sam, before we made any more public statements.
Word from the centre about what?
Alex might be right, Sam! We have to wait. There were rumours, about the Old Man,
that he went insane in his later years.
Rumours? There are always rumours! What the hell has gotten into you? My son I
understand. He opposes me on almost everything as a matter of principle. But you?
You? You're sobering me up I tell you.
starts to sing again)
Madrid e bien resistar
Madrid e bien resistar...
Why didn't you tell me you were bringing Jack for supper? I'd
have made something special.
We ate, Marian. When we were celebrating. Thanks just the same.
(MARIAN looks with dismay at her
SAM looks at Napier, "Now what the hell are you trying to tell me? Do you
know something I don't know?"
answers, "All I'm saying is that I think we better wait."
asks Sam, "What are you getting angry about?"
difficult to believe such blindness," says Alex.
Sam retorts "but you're the one who's blind!"
is possible, Dad," Susan asks, "that they had to keep the truth hidden
all this time, and now they feel it's okay to let it out?"
everybody wants to believe it!" says Sam. "Good, honest, dedicated
people - impossible to believe in. But murderous liars - yes, that we can believe!"
Marian asks Sam if he is going to a meeting this
evening. Sam tells her that the meeting is there at the house. Marian complains
that she wasn't told and that she has planned to host a poker game that evening.
Sam apologies and chastises himself. Marian says it's no big deal. She'll move
the game next door to Mrs. Appleby.
sorry, baby." says Sam. "I'll make it up to you."
not a tragedy," says Marian. She gives him a hug. He mimes that he's being
crushed in her embrace, and she remarks that he reeks of whisky. "Chivas
Regal," he says. "Only the best."
hurries out. Sam looks at the table and takes in the extent of all of her baking.
"Damn," he says.
Susan reassures her
father that its okay, that Mrs. Appleby will be delighted and that not one cookie
will be wasted. She takes a cookie and begins to chew. Alex asks his sister, Susan,
if she'd like to go to a movie. They leave.
left with to his colleague, Napier, remarks "Isn't that a gorgeous looking
girl?" but then complains about his son, about how "he's turned out
to be a real opportunist. I had so many hopes for him."
this point the Old Man comes out of his room again like a mechanical clock. "Ah!
Marx and Engels have arrived," he says.
laughs, but cautions his father, "Please stay in your room tonight, okay
Pa? We're having an important executive meeting."
warned Napoleon not to enter Moscow," The Old Man says.
run on a bit but he'll tire himself out," Sam says to Napier. "Right,
And the Old Man runs right on. "What's
with the cosmopolitans and the Jewish doctor's plots? They were supposed to have
wiped out anti-Semitism in Russia, weren't they?"
Pa, no more heckling. Tomorrow."
says the Old Man. "The world moves without you! I helped organize the first
electrical workers union in this country!"
know that, Mr. Spector. You represent a great tradition for us."
go to your room, Pa, and remain a great tradition."
can all kiss my ass."
"Twice," says his father.
"Very nice, using street language like that
in the house. Very, very nice."
muttering the Old Man returns to his room.
remember him when I was a boy," says Napier. "He was great!"
"Yes. He's still a howl," says Sam. Sam
stares at Napier, and then asks, "What did you mean implying that the speech
could be true, "the Old Man insane"?"
just saying we better wait. We may be in for some big shocks."
may be in for some big shocks, Jack."
Old Man reappears on the landing with a telescope which he brings to his eye to
scan the living room. "Hurricanes moving westward! Africa! Come back, Africa!
By gad! We just lost Africa!" Napier and Sam laugh.
Pa," say Sam. "The performance is over. Please, no entertainment when
the meeting takes place."
marching backwards to the future!" proclaims the Old Man. He returns to his
Sam picks up the newspaper, looks at it,
then at his friend Napier, and shakes his head, puzzled. Sam starts to write out
an agenda for the meeting.
Napier calls Sam's attention. "There was a phone call from the Centre when
you were making your speech this afternoon. What they're saying about Stalin is
true." Sam has stopped looking puzzled and stares hard at Napier. "There's
bound to be some panic," Napier continues.
remains silent. Then he stands up, and goes to the phone. He dials.
Old Man enters and sits at the top of the stairs as Sam speaks into the phone.
"Hello. What's this you told Napier this afternoon?" Sam listens. "But
why are you so positive it's the truth?" He listens in shock. "How do
we know they aren't slandering him for reasons of their own?" Sam listens
and then replaces the receiver without another word. He is dazed. He dials the
phone again. "Jimmy... call everybody and cancel tonight's meeting... Just
say I said to cancel it," he says sharply. He replaced the receiver.
"He destroyed everybody who disagreed with
him," says Napier.
Sam starts to sing.
"Los quartos generales, los quartos generales, los quartos generales, mamita,
Mia no pasa nadie, no pasa nadie." He pauses. "What?"
everybody who disagreed with him," says Napier. "Also anti-Semitic.
Went mad with power."
Sam starts to laugh.
Doubles up with laughter. He tries to speak through his hysteria. "Now...
if this is true... I'm not admitting it is, but if it is... it's the goddamnedest
funniest thing that's ever happened in the history of the world!"
can't stop laughing. Napier stares at him. The Old Man watches him. Marian enters,
and also watches him, as the stage light fade and blackout.
ACT ONE, Scene Two, the park bench in Fletcher's field. Sam and Napier discuss
Sam's resignation from the party. His resignation has created a situation in which
he plans to run for union presidency as an independent candidate. This will split
the left-wing vote, but Sam explains that he feels that this is something that
he must do.
ACT ONE, Scene
Three, Sam campaigns in adversity. We watch the glue that holds the Spector family
begin to dissolve.
Susan advises her father
that he better be prepared for surprises. The voters in his union, everyone is
confused, she tells him.
ever surprise me again, darling," he reassures her. "But I still think
I'm going to win because the workers know me and trust me."
love you," says his wife, Marian. "They have always loved you."
"They may be very confused now, Daddy,"
Susan cautions, "so just be prepared is all I'm saying."
grins. He's delighted with his daughter. "Gizakiss," he says, and then
announces, "Behold, the woman of the future!" He holds out his arms
to her and she rushes to kiss him. Her mother, Marian, looks on and beams.
After a quick embrace, Susan breaks off and turns
to leave. "Where are you going so late?" asks Marian.
sighs. "I'm meeting a friend, Jeanne, for coffee. Have I your permission?"
"No," says Marian teasing, and Susan simply
leaves. "She's so beautiful," says Marian. "Why doesn't she have
"She's a remarkable
girl," says Sam. "We've produced some remarkable children. Looking at
you I don't understand it."
jokes like that that make her talk to me the way she does," Marian complains.
And Sam sings, "Oh I picked a lemon in the
garden of love where they say only peaches grow."
serves him with a cup of coffee, stirring his sugar for him. Wistfully she asks,
"You used to love me, Sam. What happened?" They look at each other.
"When did you stop loving me?" Sam doesn't answer. "I'm asking
you a question," Marian demands.
never stopped loving you. You know how busy I've been, how confusing everything's
been since the revelations. But when these elections are over..."
know," Marian interrupts with resignation. "We go to Mexico."
"I may surprise you one of these days."
"I may surprise you," says Marian, "and
later, in another conversation between Sam and Marian, Sam states that he's not
ashamed of what he fought for and believed in, but he is ashamed of some lies
and some things he did in the name of progress.
things did you do? Sacrificed your life? What things did you ever do you have
to be ashamed of?"
"There are things
I did, Marian, that I've never talked about."
"And still don't want to talk
about. It's too painful to remember. Go to your game, darling. Yes, Marian. I
did things I was ashamed of. Criminal things."
don't believe it!"
"I love you, Marian!
You never doubted I was perfect, did you?"
never thought you were perfect, Sam. But I know you're a good man, a great man.
Nobody's perfect, not even great men."
that's a comfort. Have a good game."
embraces him and they kiss. "I love you so much, Sam. Susan, Alex adore you.
How can anybody be loved like you and not be happy?"
Sam and his father, the demented Old Man (who functions as a Greek Chorus) ruminate
together, and in a dreamlike moment Sam recites Ted's poem. "Sleep, sleep,
come veil the ugly day. The world has gone around the world and must of lost its
"Strange thing to come out
of me," says Sam. He pours himself another drink and empties the glass, as
the stage lights dim to end scene three.
ONE, Scene Four, the election results. Sam finishes a distant third to the winning
centralist candidate and to Napier, the official Party candidate. Sam, undaunted,
says he'll regroup. "I'll need a month to organise a base, set up an efficient
organization. Then we go to Mexico!"
of Susan's friends are in the room. They include Andre Leduc, the young man whom
Susan is keen on. Sam excuses himself: he's exhausted, he must rest. He goes to
"Wow!" says Alex, Sam's
son. "Bottom of the poll."
friends, except for Andre, leave, leaving Marian, Susan, Alex, Andre on stage.
The Old Man appears suddenly like a ghost in his doorway, a sheet over his shoulder
like a toga. "Jehovah is perfect!" he says and disappears back into
his room and shuts the door.
right," says Marian. "The working class can kiss my..."
Susan interrupts her just as Sam reenters, this time under an Olympian cloud of
gloom. "Somebody, make a joke, quickly. I'm feeling terrible. The cat killed
my canary." He shows them a feather. "I caught it eating it up. Imagine,
the little bird singing away and the cat just goes and kills it. Such stupid cruelty.
Marian, uncomfortable with this tension,
goes to the phone and dials leaving Susan's friend, Andre, to answer Sam. "It
has nothing to do with cruelty. The killing of one species by another is an imprinted
habit and can be reconditioned."
now, Andre," says Susan.
speaks on the phone. Upstage Sam confesses "I loved that little bird."
He holds the feather reverently.
The Old Man
suddenly reappears in his doorway. "We have a fascist cat." He disappears
again into his room, prompting Susan to comment to Andre, "You still have
to meet Uncle Benny. In between jobs as a mechanic, he deals cards for a living,"
while the sound of the Old Man's hand organ comes through the door from his room.
Sam is suddenly infuriated. "Stop that
bloody noise!" He rushes to his father's door and opens it. He yells furiously.
"Stop playing that damned thing in this house! Stop it or I'll break the
goddamned thing! Your hear?"
it easy, Dad," says Alex.
Sam turns on
his son. "You! You go write another article about your father and his fellow
dupes. This time you can tell them how I behave at home."
Old Man has come to his doorway. Sam redirects his anger away from his son and
back to his father. "I don't want that noise in this house anymore!"
The Old Man shuts the door.
tries to quiet here husband. "Sam. Please."
sorry. I'm sorry. He left that cage open, damn him." Sam starts to go back
to his own room, but stops to address Andre. "Sorry about that show of temper,
Mr. Leduc. Please accept my apologies."
men have big tempers, Mr. Spector."
men control their tempers, Mr. Leduc," says Sam.
curtain falls on ACT ONE.
TWO: Scene One: Sam is setting out to start work on the factory floor. Though
his family have told him he could get any executive job he wants in this town
now, Sam feels it is a matter of integrity, of solidarity to be working side by
side with the rank and file. On the way to work Sam is involved in a minor motor
vehicle accident and in this and the ensuing scenes Marian, in frustration, tries
to get Sam to milk the insurance company. We find Marian alone on stage as Uncle
Benny comes in to ask, "Was the claims man here yet? Did you sign anything?
I hope you didn't sign anything."
"A man is coming,
a Mr. Hubbard. My millionaire husband isn't sure it's right to take money from
"I just saw Louis Baxter. He says it could
be worth two, three thousand dollars."
"You hear, Sam?"
says Marian. Sam enters the room with a slight limp. "We're going to be rich
after all. Two, three thousand dollars."
four, five thousand," says Benny enthusiastically.
a broken back, maybe," says Sam, "but a bruised leg is a glut on the
market. You're all beginning to make me feel sorry I didn't fracture my skull."
The Old Man wanders through. "I better wind
the clock and put out the cat out for the night," he mumbles. "Come,
kitty, kitty. That's a good little kitty."
isn't night yet," Marian informs him, but the Old man continues, "Come,
kitty, come, kitty," and wanders off.
tells Sam to, "Leave it in Louie's hands. He'll sue the bus company and they'll
settle out of court."
When I asked him to defend me during the 1947 strike, he was too busy..."
"This case he thinks he can win," says
"Baxter is a crook!" says Sam.
"Good! That's what we need. He happens to have
good connections. He'll get you maybe five thousand dollars."
don't want any lawsuits."
been out of work for months now," Benny reminds him.
snaps back, "What's that got to do with it?"
sick and tired of lending this family money. You have a chance to be on easy street.
You know what this family could do with six, seven thousand dollars?"
"Mrs. Pavlou's candy store is for sale,"
says Marian. "We could open a little business until socialism comes."
"I'll pay you back every cent I owe you,"
Sam answers Benny.
"How? How will you pay
"Stop pestering me, all
of you. I'm not going to become a petty crook to please you."
have a chance to make six, seven thousand dollars!" Benny insists.
adjuster arrives and in the ensuing conversation Marian exaggerates Sam's injuries
while Sam belittles them. The adjuster speaks to Sam. "That must have been
rather painful," he says amiably. Sam concurs, "Yes. It was, but I won't
be crippled for life."
Marian gives Sam
a look of disgust. "How do you know?"
adjuster chuckles. "Well, I'm relieved to see you're being intelligent about
this matter, Mr. Spector."
shouts Marian, astounded. "That's intelligent?"
"Inasmuch as it was no one's fault that it rained that day and the streets
were slippery," Mr. Hubbard, the adjuster, continues; "inasmuch as it
was not a question of the bus driver's negligence, there really isn't much of
a case. I am authorized to offer you what the company feels in fair compensation,
a sum of two hundred dollars."
believe what she is hearing. "What did he say?"
hundred dollars, plus, of course, the doctor's bills. We'll pay for that."
Marian turns to her husband. "Sam, get back
"Go back to bed! And you look here, Mister!
Inasmuch as it was not my husband who skidded into your bus, but the other way
around! And the fact is he won't be able to work for months inasmuch as he can't
"We understand Mr. Spector
had been unemployed for some time prior to the accident."
is outraged. "That gives your company the right to hit him with a bus because
he's not working? Besides, he was on his way to work. First day."
believe our offer to be a fair one..."
crippling a man for life fair," asks Marian.
not going to be crippled for life!"
you told my husband in his present state of mind that there was a dent where the
bus hit him, and you expected him to get it fixed, he's consider that a fair offer,
so don't ask him anything!"
Marian. I'll think it over, Mr. Hubbard."
Sam goes to his room.
Susan, who has been observing all this time - Marian
wanted her on hand as a witness - announces, "I have work to do. Enough,
"You stay here!" Marian
The claims adjuster begins again.
"We've made a fair offer, Mrs. Spector."
we don't accept it."
"You do as you
see fit. I don't want to influence you in any way."
much," spits Marian.
"I'll leave my
card. If you change your mind, you can phone me."
send you my lawyer's card. If you change your offer, you can phone him."
"Well, goodbye," says Mr. Hubbard, and
he calls out, "Goodbye, Mr. Spector," and in a quieter voice, "Miss
Spector. I hope your father will be on his feet soon."
crutches he'll be on his feet soon!" says Marian.
claims adjuster leaves. Marian goes to the other doors to call, "Grandpa!
Benny!" They appear. "Two hundred dollars! And he was going to take
it!" Sam reenters, and Marian asks him, "How come you didn't do a dance
"It wasn't the bus driver's
fault, I told you. I wasn't looking where I was going. I was on the street, not
the sidewalk. He skidded"
driver isn't the one who pays the damages. The insurance company pays it. You're
worried about the insurance company. Susan, am I wrong?"
do deserve damages, Daddy," Susan concurs.
She agreed with me on something," Marian harps. "You know damn well
if they're offering two hundred, it means they're expecting to pay more."
"Leave it in the lawyer's hands," advises
Benny. "He'll sue and they'll settle out of court."
got a medical report," Sam answers. "They know it wasn't a fracture."
"Slip the doctor ten, fifteen bucks, he'll
fracture it for you," says Benny.
bus could have killed you," Susan observes.
has such luck?" Marian jokes bitterly. "You're doing this just to spite
me. No other reason. Just to spite me."
Christ," says Sam. "How did I ever marry you?"
was beautiful! That's how! You big prize! What did you do for me? You ran off
to fight in Spain when I was six months pregnant with Alex!"
that again. Please!" Susan complains at her mother, while Sam retorts, "Stop
"Stupid? You were
saving the world. You now have a chance to save your family and what are you doing?"
Suddenly Sam shouts, "Will you stop! Will you
stop!" He turns on Susan. "And you, button up your blouse! The way girls
dress these days!"
Susan is puzzled, but
she buttons her blouse.
And the Old Man says,
"Sam, why don't you be a good boy and listen to your mother?" We will
learn that Sam's mother told him that it were better he should kill himself then
not believe in God.
Sam ignores the Old Man,
and announces, "I've decided to settle for two hundred and fifty dollars.
I consider that fair."
"He's so noble,"
Marian taunts. "He doesn't fool me! He's afraid to go into court unless the
Party holds his hand."
Shut up!" Sam bursts out. "You're just a primitive, uneducated bitch,
and I can't stand listening to you any longer!"
are being a bitch, Mom," Susan joins, "and you do nag the life out of
"You hear what you've got her
calling me?! You're going to let her get away with that? Not going to hit her
"How dare you talk to your
mother that way!"
Susan is astounded. "How
dare I? She is a bitch! And what do you call her?"
my wife, but she's your mother, and nobody has a right to talk to her mother that
way!" He slaps Susan hard across the face. "You apologize."
Susan stares at him, horrified, holding her face.
She runs to her room and can be heard sobbing off-stage."
didn't have to hit her so hard," says Marian.
turns on her. "Die, will you? Why don't you die?"
glare at each other in a moment of stunned silence. Then Sam turns to return to
his room as Marian starts to rave. She's going to get a divorce! "You hear
me!?" She's not going to live with him another minute! She never knew he
could be like this. She'll go to the States. She'll stay with Alex. She's still
young. She'll get married again."
needs you there, yeah," says Uncle Benny.
cook for him and take care of the apartment for him. Oh! To hit her across the
face like that!"
"You told him to
"I didn't think he would.
He never did before. I better go talk to her."
leave her alone," says Benny just as Susan reappears dressed to leave.
"Where are you going," Marian asks.
"I'm leaving. He gets through calling her a
bitch, a slut, anything. I call her bitch, and he hits me. That's the end. I don't
have to stay in this madhouse!"
not going anywhere," says Marian. "You're still a baby, and you're still
in my care. Now go to your room."
leaving this house."
Sam comes top his
doorway to speak to Susan. "I'll never forgive myself for having done that."
"He always winds up the good one," Marian
"I'm not living in this house anymore."
"You know my stupid temper."
You're drunk most of the time!" Marian sallies.
you out to destroy me?" Sam yells. "Why are you doing this?"
"Leave him alone, Marian," says Benny.
"Didn't you just say he could get thousands
of dollars damages?"
"I don't want
to get involved in a court case on an issue like this," says Sam. "What
I'll do? Come into the court on crutches?"
a stretcher if necessary," says Marian.
was once a respected man in this city."
is true," says Marian. "Get yourself a few thousand dollars and everyone
will respect you again." She turns to Susan. "Take your coat off. You're
not going anywhere."
to have to forgive me, Susie," Sam pleads to his daughter. "And not
only for that."
Susan tries to control
her anger. "What's happening to you, Daddy? Are you really becoming an alcoholic?"
"Yes!" says Sam. "Not socialism but
alcoholism is his new creed! "It helps me face the truth about myself. It
allows me to see what a coward I was. How full I was of Jewish self-hatred! Did
you know that? Can you face that?" Sam becomes distracted. "Take a few
drinks, it'll make it easier to face. A little secret I've kept from myself. I
never dared let on I knew. I needed a miracle and thought I'd seen one in the
name of truth and science. I had to believe that they had found the cure for anti-Semitism.
I had to believe that! Where was I? I have to tell you something."
proceeds to tell them a version of the episode in Spain where Ted denounced, or
rather, failed to vouch for Harry Moscovitz, the Trotskite. For all Ted knew Moscovitz
could have been shot. Sam makes this same confession and asks his families forgiveness.
They forgive him, and through this they are reconciled.
TWO, Scene Four: we learn, second hand, what we have begun to see, that Sam is
"Dr. Gillford dropped in this
morning," says Marian. "He said it might be a good idea for Daddy to
join AA or go to a sanatorium for a cure."
Dr. Gillford know about Dad?" asks Susan.
sees him drunk on the street, raving and talking to himself."
a great way to make a diagnosis!" says Susan. "What did he use? A telescope."
"AA isn't a bad idea," says Alex.
"I suggested AA," says Marian. "He
laughed. He said he's through joining anything."
Later during this
scene we learn that Sam has made himself a little box in which to keep the secret
of the world.
Scene One: Susan is sketching, drawing her mother. They chatter. Marian says,
"He hasn't mentioned the secret of the world for some time now." She
looks upwards. "If he's better," she tells the heavens, "I'd like
to take back some of the things I said. But only if he's better." Then she
turns to Susan. "Is it true an art gallery took your painting? How come I
had to hear about it from Andre?"
"You think you two will get
"I don't know."
"Do you love him?"
"That's a good daughter.
The Old Man appears
in the doorway. "It's Montreal," says Marian.
in a backward country is backward socialism," says Grandpa.
was funny the first time," says Marian.
no joke," says the Old Man.
THREE, Scene Two: Fletcher's Field beneath the mountain. Sam stands on the park
bench, displaying his little box. No one is there except his father with his hand
organ (in the version we are presenting here - which is the last version - the
final rewrite. In 1962 at East Stratford there was a "crowd" on the
stage at Fletcher's Field. And yes, we've visited this scene before in an excerpt
from "The Minstrel Boy" where Ted described his "breakdown"
after the 20th Congress. There the protagonist was called Martin. Here, in "Secret..."
he is Sam.) Sam raves: "Now for the second time in history the father and
son appear to reveal the secret of the world. Play! Father Noah." The Old
Man starts to grind out a song on his organ. "I have it here in this little
box," Sam announces, "and charging one little dollar for a look. Two
looks, a dollar and a half."
been standing on the side, and now comes closer. To the Old Man she says, "You're
crazier than he is." And then to Sam she says plaintively, "Nobody's
here. Let's go home."
here," Sam answers. "All the comrades and fellow dupes and all the sound
and fury of my fellow idiots! Can't you see them?"
enough! Enough! Nobody's listening to you."
you hear the box cars bringing them across Europe to the camps? Can't you hear
We, the audience, hear the moans
and crying and the sound of box cars.
Sam, I hear them. Come home, Sam. I've got a nice supper waiting. I made something
you like. Come home."
"Pain is born
when life is born," says Sam. "I am finally in touch with the first
explosions and they were cruel. It is even possible I am Christ returned."
"Anything is possible," says Marian. "So
what will you do if you find out you're Jesus Christ? Will you become a Catholic?"
Sam smiles. "Who knows?"
have such a beautiful smile, Sam. Come home and I'll hug you like we used to.
Sam sings, "Ye banks
and braes o bonny doon, How can ye bloom so fresh and fair, How can ye chant ye
little birds, When I'm so weary full of care? Ye'll break my heart ye warbling
Marian bursts into tears. "Sam,
get well again. We can walk on the mountain and pick flowers again. Remember how
we loved each other. I loved you so much."
says Sam. "Dead they speak of him as, and not a smell of rot to show the
way, yet. Blow, blow, the breezes blow..."
is there anything I can do for you?" Marian begs.
Devourer! Rrrrr," Sam growls like a dog.
didn't you leave me, Sam, if you hated me so much?"
couldn't. The kids. There were the kids. And didn't we love each other or something?
"I thought we did. We could have
so much fun yet."
"It's too late,"
says Sam. "They're planning to burn us." He looks about, anxiously,
distracted, and starts to leave.
are you going? That's not the way home."
knows?" says Sam, touching his temple. "Who knows the way?"
I remember this scene from the opening night. I remember John Berry as Sam capering
and raving on the mountain, heart-rendering and memorable.
THREE: Scene Three. The final scene, the final act, Sam kills himself xxxxxxxxxx
rewrite - Sam fails to kill himself. He tries, he stabs himself, but "The
jokes still on me," he says. "I can't even kill myself properly."
xxxxxxxxxx Sam shoots himself, dead. xxxxxxxxx rewrite... Sam starts to get up.
They help him towards his room. Susan asks, "What does it all mean."
Sam answers her: "When you find out, put it in a little box."
exit into the bedroom. Marian returns alone, looks at her father-in-law, the Old
Man, who has been standing there silently. Marian fills a pail of water and starts
washing the blood from the floor. There is a sound of thunder. Marian looks up.
"Why don't you quit and let somebody else take over? You've done a lousy
job!" she tells the sky. She scrubs the floor furiously. There is another
crack of thunder. The Old Man looks up ruefully. Marian shouts again, "You
don't scare me anymore! What more can you do to me?" The thunder rolls again.
Marian sticks her tongue out and gives the heavens a raspberry. She continues
washing up the mess. The Old Man crosses the stage and says, "I better wind
the cat and put the future out. Come little future, that's a good little future.
Come little future, that's a nice little future..." The Old Man exit. The
course, part of the ritual of opening night is waiting up for the reviews. The
morning newspapers come out in the early hours, between one and three a.m. What
will the serious, respected critics think. Good reviews don't necessarily guarantee
a success, but poor reviews can kill you! The important critics included Ken Tynan
of the Observer, Bernard Levin of the Daily Express, Harold Hobson of the Sunday
Ken Tynan did not review the play, and
his stand in didn't particularly like it, but Bernard Levin's headline banner
cried: "IT'S BEEN A LONG WAIT."
long, long months of waiting were worth it," Levin's review reads. "In
one huge gust of a play, Mr. Ted Allan has swept from the memory all the empty,
sterile rubbish that has served for so long to take curtains up and down in London.
This is the best contemporary play I have seen since Mr. Robert Bolt's "The
Tiger and the Horse" 600 terrible days ago. It has faults galore, and some
of them are big ones. But the play has stature, passion, above all SIZE. It is
a play to measure other plays by. ... Mr. Allan has hewn this play, live and bleeding
out of reality. Not the trivial reality of events, but the hot reality of human
beings trapped in nets of their own devising.
Allan whirls his characters around his head and hurls them at us, and when they
land in our faces we forget that the play contains occasional clichés of
language and far more clichés of thought. We forget too that Sam Alexander
(3) should not have needed Khrushchev to tell
him that Stalin was a murderer. We remember only that we are seeing a play. ...
" "Trotsky was wrong," says Sam Alexander,
"but we didn't need to split his head open for it." That is the terrible
question that his mind cannot answer, and from a mind's failure Mr. Allan has
fashioned a play that shall do any man's heart good to hear him roar.
him roar again! Let him roar again!"
"Wow!" I can hear Ted, sitting up with his friends and coffee and cigarette
and whisky. "Not bad. Wow!"
The Sunday Times, March 11, 1962, Harold Hobson: "A MAN AND HIS DESTRUCTION":
"In a Lilliputian theatrical season of shoddy
revue and trivial comedy, Ted Allan's The Secret of the World towers uncertainly
like a maimed giant. ...
" ... Mr. Allan
has taken to himself a tremendous theme, and he has grasped the dimensions of
its meaning in terms of the human and the superhuman. ... it is an exciting thing
in the theatre to come once again upon the old Greek rebellion against fate, and
to contemplate in awe and wonder the repeated and pitiful, the shattering yet
not entirely disheartening fall of man. ...
motivation, as Mr. Allan presents it, seems as inadequate as Lear's; but like
Lear's, it is fine, purifying, and frightening. The scene in which this wretched
man is found to have exchanged all his little wealth against a heap of useless
buttons is deeply sad and touching, and the episode that exposes him to the taciturn
contempt of a mindless crowd ... stretches pathetic hands into a world of poetry.
"In gravitas and development "The Secret
of the World" is a tragedy, but it has many scenes of comedy. The antagonism
between the young Jewish daughter (4) and
her mother is rendered with a sharper edge and keener comic sense than is customary
is stage versions of family disagreements. ...
Allan asks us to look at a man who did not think for himself, and whose destruction
was absolute. Yet there is little in this play to dismay or weaken, and much that
should comfort and quiet us. ..."
Hobson's was a very enthusiastic, but a mixed review, and Ted would have received
it with an matching ambivalence. Clancy Sigel's review was even more hot and cold:
"At first glance Ted Allan's play seems no exception to the general rule
that contemporary stories of political people are notoriously difficult to get
off the ground. The usual over-expository first act and I was ready to write it
off as an earnest failure redeemed by lyrical touches of small truth and stocky
grace. But then I saw that the secret of The Secret of the World lay in
its stubborn cumulativeness, a gathering force that in the face of ... a swaying,
ill-disciplined structure made itself felt as a crescendo of raw emotion surrounding
the collapse of its protagonist. I don't think we've ever quite seen anything
like Mr. Allan's play. It is neither a conventional success nor failure but exists
as powerful and upsetting theatre. ...
Secret of the World is a primitive scream of pain at the loss, the purloining
of ideals. It must not go unheard."
And then, too, there were some enthusiastic rave reviews, reviews to die for:
- Muller, "BANG AND INTO A DISMAL SEASON COMES A FINE PLAY AT LAST:
A play at last! Into a dismal season Mr. Allan's powerful new drama - finely written,
moving and dynamic - exploded last night like a shower of fireworks. ... this
is a play that cries out to be seen. Let those of you who claim to love the theatre
stand up now and be counted."
Mervyn Jones, Tribune, "THE ONLY REAL PLAY: If, within a week from now, you
meet someone who claims to be seriously interested in the living drama, and who
has not been to Theatre Royal, Stratford, to see Ted Allan's play Secret of the
World, I encourage you to call him a liar."
play "would have been perfectly comprehensible to Sophocles and Shakespeare
if they had risen from their graves for a night to join the audience in Angel
Lane. By this I do not mean that The Secret of the World is to be compared, in
terms of achievement, with Oedipus Rex or King Lear. I do mean that in all three
cases, the writer's conception of his job and his purpose is the same. Thus, what
we have here (in a miserable season, and with Luther soon to close) is, strictly
speaking, the only real play on the London stage. ...
Graham Samuel: "IN THE VERY FIRST CLASS: ... "The Secret of the World,"
at the Theatre Royal, Stratford E., is a tragedy not much smaller in conception
that "King Lear," which it resembles in many ways. I, at least, am completely
unable to assess it as a possible masterpiece on just one sight. I suspect that
it is a great play, but I am sure its full weight cannot be measured without seeing,
and perhaps reading it many times. As it is one can safely say "The Secret
of the World" has a scope and size that dwarf most of the self-consciously
sociological products of the contemporary theatre. ...
Alexander, a part of parts, is acted by John Berry with a dynamic power that positively
stuns. This American actor-director ... is new to me. If ever there was a discovery
in the theatre, this is it.
"If the London
theatre is not in the mess some pessimists think it is, "The Secret of the
World" will undoubtedly transfer to the West End. I look forward to seeing
it again then."
did not transfer to the West End, but Ted took all these literary, dramatic assessments
to heart. He knew that he had written an important play in scope and size, and
he knew that it had its faults. He spend the next thirty years, between his other
works and assignments, rewriting and attempting to perfect "The Secret of
the World". Many many of the tapes that I have, that Ted left us, contain
ruminations on, and rewrites of this work. Should Sam, in the last act, live or
die? Those parts of the play that I have quoted above, are from his last draft
of the play in the nineteen nineties. To the end it was a work in flux.
At dinner at our favourite Chinese restaurant, Buddha's Vegetarian Delight, my
friend Johanna and I are talking about Secret of the World. Ted over the thirty
five, forty years he wrote and rewrote "Secret" had difficulty deciding
how to work the ending. Did Sam live, or did he die?
I have just mentioned, Ted left dozens of "micro"tapes. I am working
my way through these. Some are dictations about his work. Many are reflections
for his projected autobiography - though these often tend to be lists of names
or notes such as, "I must tell the story of (this or that) in the autobi".
Probably the major theme, though, is The Secret of the World: rewrites... On one
of the tapes he is dictating corrections of draft of the version I have reproduced
above, the final stage version - finalized by the death. And in one of the drafts,
one of the tapes, Sam not only lives, but he triumphs this time not as the shell
of a man - no! - he decides to go off to Latin America and join up with the guerrilla
freedom fighters there a la Guevara.
has no doubt how the play (or the film) should end. Sam is dead. Whether he lives
or dies he is a burnt out shell. To all intents and purposes he is spent, so for
the clarity of the narrative he should die. "But he should leave some hope
behind him," says Johanna. "Something that's gonna live in his children
and might bloom in their future. That's a happy ending. If he lives, he's dead
already and he failed."
I wanted to talk to John Berry about working with Ted during rehearsals. After
much telephone tag I finally caught up with John this Sunday last (11th May, 1997).
John still lives in Paris. Over the phone I asked him how he first got involved
with "Secret", and did he remember anything about the Sunday Observer's
review, and did he remember waiting up for the reviews on the opening night. No,
he didn't. "We must have gone back to Ted's," thought John. "He
was living at, where was it, the flat on the river?"
Rd. Putney," I supply.
and I was staying there with him. We were working on the play. Ted and I got into
such discussions, such dues, that people on the street would hear and on some
occasions they called the Bobbies." John starts to laugh, and switches stories.
"I was taking vitamin shots at the time and Ted said he could do it and he
used to inject me in the ass. We were getting a new secretary and she came in
when I had my trousers down and it took a long time before we could convince her
we weren't homosexual running a den of iniquity."
steer John back to my story line: the play. "Ted was at the rehearsals every
day. We couldn't find anyone to play the part of Sam. We tried a few and weren't
satisfied and I think it was Ted who suggested I could play the part. So I did."
"Do you know why the play didn't transfer to
the West End?" John asked.
assumed it was Oscar's (the producer's) decision," I answered.
John pondered. "No. Ted wouldn't allow it to transfer. He said it wasn't
ready. The play wasn't ready. I think he was jealous because I got good notices,"
"I was really terribly disturbed
that we didn't transfer. That would be typical of Ted's ability to screw things
up," this last said lightly, a joke.
big problem," said John, "was when Ted and Oscar cut out the scene where
he went mad."
"The scene on the mountain?"
"No, they wanted to take out the
scene in which he begins to talk to himself, and because I was acting in it I
let them convince me."
"As you know
I was staying at Ted's. We were having a problem solving the last act. We worked
at it, worked at each other into the night. We could be very savage with each
other. And I had an idea in the middle of the night. I burst into his room; threw
open the door. He grabbed the telephone from beside his bed, and he said, "If
you take another step I am going to crack your skull open."
said, "Ted. What are you doing?""
said he was identifying me with his father."
said it was probably time for me to move out."
John loves to tell the story about his first meeting with Ted. It was in L.A.
in 1945. "Some one in the Party called and said there was this wonderful
Canadian writer who needed to met some people, so I thought I'd invite him to
play baseball with the guys. You've got to know about baseball in Hollywood. There
was the young Jules Dassin (5), the captain
of one team, and I was the captain of the other. The importance of softball in
Hollywood, it was almost as important as getting a movie made."
asked Ted if he had ever played, and he said "some". We were coming
up to the last inning. The game was tied, or we were one run behind, and I insisted
that Ted get into the game. The guys complained, but I insisted that Ted get to
bat. Well he got a hit, but he thought it was so funny he started to laugh and
he fell down. And I was there screaming at him to get up. "Get up, you bastard!"
I kicked him towards first base and he just laughed more." John guffaws as
he tells this story.
we were doing the play," John continued, "Ted called me up to say, "I've
got to stop doing this..." always looking for the ideal woman." And
John told his favourite John-Ted-and-the-girls story. Ted was living with some
woman at Deodar Rd., Putney, Lucy Carp, did I remember her. "No," I
said. Well, they got a call from another lady, Alice. She'd come over from New
York, and she'd been given Ted's name to look up. "She came over. Dinner
got more hazy and tense. What were we going to do with her? I ended up with her
on the couch. Ted never forgave me." (Shades of Brecht.)
there was Boris Menschvick's divorced wife. Ted finding the woman of his life."
John and I thrashed around for the name. "That must be Lucille Little,"
I was finally able to suggest. "Right," said John. "They were going
to get married. They bought all the silverware and they took the boat to New York.
They took five days on the boat and when they got there they broke up."
I directed John back to Secret of the World asking him what it was like working
with Ted during rehearsals. As I reported above, he answered with an, "I
must say that I directed the play and I found it was no problem at all for me.
It was a great help to me. We had all those discussions. He was never satisfied
with the end of the play. I think he wrote forty five versions." Then John
continued with the comment, "At one time Sean Connery was going to direct
it in New York. Did you know that?"
"Well, that's what he told me."