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Julius Galacki

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A Shadowed Cross
by Julius Galacki   

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Category: 

Drama



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"…Cross" is based on the notion of setting Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" in the filmnoir genre. It is a partly lyrical - partly humorous, affectionate homage in which a moral yet immoral private detective must maintain his personal code of honor and discover the Truth despite the dangers (and/or pleasures) of a femme fatale, international art smugglers, hostile cops, a lascivious librarian, the ghost of his ex-partner and his brother, a well-intentioned monk.


A SHADOWED CROSS takes the main characters from Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" and sets them loose in a filmnoir setting. It is a comic homage to its sources, but decidedly not a spoof. For, these are real characters with real desires however much the world of the play, and the language in it, is heightened.   This heightening contributes to both the comedy and a vernacular poetry. 

Furthermore while the source materials are both from the cinema and literature, the play itself is highly theatrical, replete with non-naturalistic conventions and even includes a serious yet absurd duel with sabers.
 
As in all filmnoir as well as “…Karamazov”, a moral yet immoral man must maintain his personal code of honor. Or as Ivan Karamazov would say “Everything is lawful” in his überman task of rejecting an ordered universe while still maintaining his own stability. Somewhat along the lines of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern…”, I’m trying to bring a long line of existentialist heroes from the past not into the modern world, but paradoxically into a timeless funhouse world.
 
Knowing the original images that I’m distorting certainly adds to the fun, but it is no way necessary for an audience to have such knowledge to understand or enjoy the events of the play:
 
John Kara, my private detective must discover the Truth despite the dangers and pleasures of a femme fatale, international art smugglers, hostile cops, a lascivious librarian, the ghost of his ex-partner and his brother, a well-intentioned monk.


Excerpt

note that this play has received a number of public readings at the Third Stage in Burbank and the A.N.M.T. in N. Hollywood (as part of the Dramatists Guild's Friday Night Footlights West series) Here is a sample...it is from the opening few pages of the play:

Time: 1946 (more or less)

Place: The Big City

The stage is demarcated by various levels and areas representing the different interior and exterior locations indicated in the play. Foremost of these is John Kara's office which is dominated by his desk. A window frame is seen. While there are indications of the sounds of knocking on doors throughout the script, actual doors on stage are not necessary. Overall, there should be a sense of simplicity and abstraction - even a cubistic feel - to the set.

The actors not appearing in a particular scene, can be visible to the audience - waiting, ready, in chairs to the side of the playing area.

A projection reads “MONASTERY”.

Elias Kara, a novice, is looking at his brother John, who stands in the entrance way of the room.


JOHN
Tell your Father Superior we only need a few days.

ELIAS
Of course, your friend is hurt. There really is no choice. Besides our Abbot is a saintly man. He understands.... Why don't you come into my room?

JOHN
It’s too small. There’s barely enough room for you.

ELIAS
Are you hungry? There’s bread and cherry jam. You like cherry jam. I remember. We make it here ourselves....

JOHN
Nothing. Nothing.... All right, some tea...and your cherry jam.

ELIAS
Thank you. (Slight pause.) I know this is strange to say, considering the circumstances...but I'm happy you're here. It's been so long.

JOHN
Yeah. Good to see you again too, little brother.

(Elias exits. John gingerly enters the room and sits. He closes his eyes. Lights fade out except for a spot on Kara. A second, dim pool of light opens up to reveal Katrina Ivanovna aiming a gun at the Filipino Man. She fires, but the sound is muffled, distant, echoing. The word “HIGANTI” is projected on the screen. Lights out on Katrina and the dead man. The dead man’s face briefly appears on the screen. Elias has re-entered with a tray of food. Lights return to previous levels.)

ELIAS
I've been thinking of you a lot lately.

JOHN
Look, Elias, we don't belong here.

ELIAS
No less than me. I haven’t taken my final vows yet.

JOHN
At least ask me why. Why I've brought a beautiful woman and a man with a bullet in his back into your holy monastery.

ELIAS
I don't need to know. You're in trouble and you're my brother.

JOHN
I never wanted you in this pen and here I am myself. Just stop looking at me. That's why they got them screens. So you don't have to look into the priest's eyes when you confess.... I don't know why I'm making such a fuss. I guess I just need to talk...to someone I trust.... It happened one night. Like any cheap dime story. It happened too many nights.

(Crossfade. John Kara lights a cigarette and walks over to his office. Elias remains in half-light throughout, as he continues to listen to John’s confession.)

JOHN
Thirteen days ago, there was a murder. You can't stop murders.

GHOST
John.

JOHN
I don't believe in ghosts. I only believe in the truth.

GHOST
I'm dead, John.

JOHN
Yeah, I know a knife hole in the jugular when I see one. The cops found your body in a dirty alley in Southside.

GHOST
You gave up on me.

JOHN
Don't blame me for your problems. You were crooked. You got what you deserved.

GHOST
We were cops together.

JOHN
I quit the Force, Justin. Three years ago.

GHOST
How many times did I save your life?

JOHN
Four or five.

GHOST
Yeah, who's counting. We were only partners for thirteen years.

JOHN
Yeah, like a marriage. Like a rotten marriage.

GHOST
Cancer takes time. Especially for a big rat.

JOHN
What is it - heaven doesn't want you and hell is full?

GHOST
There's always room in hell, John.... You haven't been saying your prayers. And you’re the one who has to set things straight.

(Ghost exits.)

JOHN
Of course, I think there's something wrong - something wrong with my head. I’m seeing the ghost of Justin O'Neill. A dead cop who had been on the take. I owed too much to Justin. A man’s partner is forever. Everyone knows that. For him, I had turned my head, looked the other way. But I couldn't go on being a cop and not turn him in. So I stopped being a cop.... He never forgave me for that. And I never forgave him. (A knock on the door.) Come in.

(A beautiful woman in a tight, red dress enters - she always wears red, accented by black accessories. Immediately, she crosses to Kara and shakes his
hand as she speaks. She then sits without waiting to be offered a seat. However she has far too much energy to stay seated for long.)

KATRINA
Good afternoon Mr. Kara. My name is Katrina Ivanovna. (pronounced: Ee-van-ov-na)
I need to hire you.

JOHN
I like the sound of those words.




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