The Wedding Night was a Heideman Award finalist, and won 6 Women Playwriting and Santa Fe Playhouse Benchwarmers competitions. It has been produced at Dobama Theatre, Santa Fe Playhouse, and the Louisa Performing Arts Center.
NOTE: this play is available without royalty, but Deborah Magid must be credited as playwright. It may NOT be published in any form without a duly executed contract with the playwright.
‘Blending families’ takes on a whole new meaning.
Cast of Characters
Mae, a Jewish grandmother, very proper
Max, a Jewish grandfather, a bit of a flirt
The action occurs late one evening in the 1990s, in an Atrium in the Plaza Hotel, New York City.
MAE sits quietly with a glass of Champagne. She wears a formal dress with long-but-loose-sleeves. From time to time, MAE fiddles with her delicate diamond bracelet. MAX enters from the ballroom, along with earsplitting levels of dance music that recede as the door closes.
MAX: May I join you?
MAE: Be my guest.
MAX: The decibel level in there, no wonder the 40-year-olds are wearing hearing aids.
MAE: If you had one, you could turn it down!
MAX: And what passes for music. (making a joke) No piano, no piano.
MAX pulls out a toothpick and works at his back teeth.
MAE: The chopped liver?
MAX: I hate to say, a little tough.
MAE: Nobody’s mother made that.
MAX: It tasted like beef.
MAE: If that was schmaltz, I’m Eleanor Roosevelt.
MAX: Such a day. Such a night!!!
MAE: A beautiful wedding. She’s lovely, your granddaughter.
MAX: Apple of the apple of my eye. Who knew that shiksa my Myron married could produce such a mensch.
MAE: And such a ritzy name.
MAX: Tiffany is as Tiffany’s named. From her mother’s mouth to God’s ear.
MAE: If she could live with maybe Zales for a while, this would also be good. Terrible times, the economy. Nathan is a good boy, he’ll do his best for her, but.
MAX: Your grandson is a fine young man. They’re lucky to find each other.
MAX: Mazel tov!
MAE: All the way from California they brought me. Such an expense!
MAX: You’d have missed it?
MAE: Thousands they spent just on me! A room in this hotel, bigger than my house almost.
MAX: You look like you belong here.
MAE: The whole megillah! The catering! I could have made chicken with stone fruit, saved them ninety percent.
MAX: If you don’t mind my saying, I’d like to sample your cooking. Even skinny-Minnie Tiffany raves about your kugel.
MAX: How long will you stay in New York?
MAE: Don’t get fresh!
MAX: We could have chaperones.
MAE: The children will be on their honeymoon. Should be already, maybe an hour ago, you saw them carrying on?
MAX: You could cook a meal while you’re here, the whole family. Myron has a beautiful kitchen. The shiksa‘s never used it herself, but it’s state-of-the-art. The only thing the in-laws have in common is negotiating over the wedding bills, you could bring them together!
MAE: They should have a good relationship, all of them. They won’t, but they should.
MAX: And you wouldn’t have come if they didn’t bring you?
MAE: I’d have hitchhiked.
MAX: I thought.
MAE: My flesh? I’d have beam-me-up-Scottie.
MAX: And Nathan’s grandfather?
MAE: I made a good home for my Nachum, l’shullum.
MAX: They named the boy for him? (MAE nods) You lost him when.
MAE: He knew they were expecting, but he never saw the boy.
MAX: He gives and He takes away.
MAE: They named the boy. For a daughter-in-law, I don’t have so much to complain.
MAX: That’s saying something!
MAE: You said it!
They sit in companionable silence for a moment.
MAX: California, nu?
MAE: Nachum, l’shullum, was a nutritionist. Who knew from that in Pittsburgh?
MAX: All that sun, how do you stand it?
MAE: You can get used to anything.
MAX: Even sunshine. (pause) Lentvaris? Elektrėnai? You sound like maybe a Litvak. Vilnius?
MAE: You have a good ear. Like “My Fair Lady.”
MAX: You like music? I played oboe for a living until I retired.
MAE: A musician? And you made enough to raise a family!
MAX: Tough at first. I tried a bunch of jobs but my playing was better than my English.
MAE: It’s pretty good now.
MAX: Fifty-sixty years later, I should hope.
MAX: Stone fruit. Like prunes, apricots? (MAE nods) Dried or fresh?
MAE: You cook?
MAX: I’m what Tiffany calls an end-user.
MAE: Watch your language.
MAX: It’s the computer lingo. Dried or fresh?
MAE: (Flirting a little) Have a guess, Einstein. There’s more to food than flavor.
MAX: Odor? Or aromas I mean.
MAE: Not such an Einstein?
MAX: Mouth feel?
MAE: That better be another lingo thing.
MAX: Sorry, I watch the cooking shows.
MAE: Finally! One more swing and you’re out!
MAX: But I made it. Safe at second.
MAE: First base, thank you very much, we only met today.
MAX: Because fresh would go all mooshy, right?
MAE: OK, second base.
MAX: Maybe Vilna?
MAE: What about you? Where were you from, before?
MAX: What makes you think I was there? (MAE doesn’t answer) Before, or before before?
MAE: I thought so.
MAX: Our age, it’s to be expected. (MAE doesn’t answer). And?
MAE: (Unwillingly) Vilna. So much forgetting to do. Which I did.
MAE: You seem (searches for the word) carefree.
MAX: It’s all an act. “Whistle a Happy Tune.”
MAE: “The King and I.” Siam, Burma, more killing.
MAX: So how do you forget?
MAE: One moment at a time. Or almost a moment, every second ’til the last.
MAX: When you remember.
THEY sit quietly for a moment.
MAE: Did you play in the pit?
MAX: Excuse me?
MAE: All these musicals you’re saying.
MAX: I did. Funny word to hear you knowing.
MAE: I been around. We have shows in California, it’s not just on Broadway.
MAX: Not just Broadway. But I saw the greats, or at least I heard them. (refers to the stage above the orchestra pit) And their feet.
MAE: What a life. Your wife was “Bessie”? How long?
MAX: Three years.
MAX: I learned from her to pretend. She said I “brought her down,” so I learned to bring her up.
MAE: The opposite it sounds.
MAX: The opposite it was.
MAE: Long life.
MAX: What happens, happens. A toast to the bride and groom.
As MAE raises her glass to sip, her bracelet falls to the ground.
MAE picks up the bracelet to put it back on, and the number tattooed on her forearm is clearly visible. MAX starts to wheeze.
MAE (continued): You alright? You need some water?
MAX: No. Yes, no.
MAE: You knew. Auschwitz. Before.
MAX: I know.
MAE: Your tie. (MAX does not answer) Your tie. Let me.
MAE reaches over to loosen his tie, and MAX grasps her wrist.
Please. It’s one thing to forget by mistake, another to remember on purpose.
MAX: The number.
MAE: I know. Let go my arm.
MAX: The number.
MAE: Maybe you need Myron, you’re a little farblunget.
MAE: Max, my arm.
MAX: My number.
MAE: It’s time to forget on purpose.
MAX: No. My number. Is the. Next. Number. (Pause) My. Number.
A long moment.
MAX hears the concentration camp guards in his mind.
MAX: Ladies first, they said. I wouldn’t let go your hand.
MAE: You wouldn’t let go.
MAX: I wouldn’t let go, but you went first.
MAE: They made you. They pulled you away.
MAX: I yelled at them and they kicked me and kicked me onto the ground.
MAE: Such fear. And crying already without sound.
MAX: So they wouldn’t notice you.
MAE: So they wouldn’t kick me, too. I was a coward.
MAX: Your eyes. They haven’t changed.
MAE: The oboe. But it couldn’t have been.
MAX: Malka. My Malka. My beautiful bride.
MAE: Two lifetimes ago.
MAX: Bashert – meant to be.
MAE: Two lifetimes, Moishe. Two.
MAX: And you learned to cook!
MAE: A balabusta I’m not. Nachum, l’shullum‘s mother whipped me into shape in Pittsburgh. When we lost her, then was California. A good life we had. A wonderful son. A lifetime.
MAX: Maybe we’re cats?
MAE: Now you’re an optimist? Bessie must have been a saint.
MAX: I looked. I searched. For years.
MAE: You searched. I searched.
MAX: I couldn’t have a life because I lost yours.
MAE: But Bessie helped.
MAX: She danced.
MAE: Mr. Klutznik?
MAX: Two left feet, but my oboe was right on the money. (Pause) She danced all the time, and she made me dance. And something melted. (Pause) Let’s not tell.
MAX: No. Not tonight. Myron will have us over tomorrow, you’ll cook, then we’ll tell.
MAE: Because it’s the children’s night, their wedding night.
THEY touch each other’s faces.
MAX: My Malka.
MAE: Bashert and bashert again?
MAX: From your mouth.
balabusta perfect housewife
bashert meant to be
kineahora a magical phrase to ward off the evil eye
kugel a noodle dish
l’chaim to life!
l’shullum rest in peace
mazel tov good luck
megillah a long, boring, tediously detailed account
mensch an admirable person
nu well, so, do you think (not truly translatable)
oy oh, dear!
piano quietly, in music
shiksa non-Jewish woman